Around the fourth century the epistles of James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2, 3 John, and Jude, were given the title of The General Epistles. Historians differ but there seems to be a general consensus that the designation appears originally to have meant an epistle directed not to one Church but to all. …
We believe a more suitable designation for this collection of writings is The Hebrew Epistles. We do not question the motives of those who assigned the title General Epistles, but down through the centuries it has clouded a very important distinction originally established by the Holy Spirit: Whatsoever God has separated let no man join together. We must always distinguish between Paul’s Gentile epistles written to the Body of Christ, and the Hebrew Epistles, including the Book of Revelation, that were addressed to the circumcision. …
These epistles contain specific instructions regarding the last days of Israel. While we are accustomed to turning to Paul’s epistles for the commands of Christ today, the future Tribulation saints will turn to the Hebrew Epistles for their marching orders. — Sadler, page 12.
After God’s gracious offer of the kingdom was rejected by the aristocracy in Israel, Peter wrote to those of the dispersion who had received their Messiah. The purpose of his letters was to remind his countrymen that even thought Israel was set aside nationally for the time being, “the Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). — Sadler, page 13.
This letter was addressed to the members of the Divine Election out of the Dispersion sojourning in Asia Minor, and was written shortly before the Coming of the Lord in wrath upon Jerusalem, as predicted in Matthew 24:2 and Luke 19:44. James … wrote to all the Tribes at the same period of time; for God still maintained relations with Israel and acknowledged them as His people and the Temple as His House (John 1:11 and 2:16). These relations were broken when the judgment fell; but they will be resumed in the near future, and the believing Remnant of the nation in that future day will be fortified by these letters, for the moral conditions then will resemble those of the days in which the Apostles wrote.
The believing members of the Dispersion were confounded and discouraged because they were so few in number and so fiercely persecuted. The Apostle animated them by reminding them that though the Messiah Himself preached by His Spirit in Noah for a hundred and twenty years (3:19) heralding the approaching judgment, yet the whole world disbelieved Him, and only eight persons were saved in the baptism of the Ark. As to their sufferings, they as servants were appointed to share their Master’s rejection and to fell the bitter hatred of the world. The Coming of the Lord was to be their home then (4:7), as it will be to their suffering brethren of the future (1:7 and 13). — Williams, page 998.
The opposing view is offered by Guthrie and Motyer:
Some have argued from the language of 1:1; 2:6-10 and the use of the Old Testament that it was written to Jewish believers. There is, however, plenty of other evidence (see 1:14, 18; 2:9, 18ff,; 4:3-5) that the writer had Gentiles in mind, and it is most unlikely that at this stage in the area in question there would have been separate Jewish and Gentile churches. — Guthrie, page 1237.
Even a surface survey of the verses Guthrie referenced to indicate Peter wrote to Gentiles show no such proof. And whether or not there were separate churches is irrelevant—there were Jewish Kingdom believers and Gentile Grace believers.
There are two inescapable proofs that Peter was writing to Kingdom Jews.
First, he said he was writing to Jews in 1:11—the Dispersion wasn’t just a loose reference to some Jews who lived in Asia Minor. It was an actual historical scattering of Jews. The name refers to a specific event, much like “the Depression” or “the Revolution” in the United States.
Second, in Galatians 2:9, we read this: “And when James, Cephas [Peter], and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me [Paul], they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.” The “circumcised” were the Jews. This verse says clearly that James, Peter, and John would confine their ministry to the Jews of the Kingdom, and there’s no verse in Scripture that indicates that ever changed.
There are plenty of other proofs, but I’m pretty sure they’ll show up in this study.
I’m using the following commentaries for this study. In quotes in future posts, I’ll simply refer to the author and page number.
First Peter in the Greek New Testament, by Kenneth S. Wuest. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (1942)
The Life and Letters of the Apostle Peter, by Paul M. Sadler. Berean Bible Society (2004)
The New Bible Commentary, edited by D. Guthrie and J.A. Motyer. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (1970)
Williams’ Complete Bible Commentary, by George Williams. Kregel Publications