Strangers

In his Manna Fest program entitled “Your Fiery Trial – Know the ‘E’ Factor” (3/21/2021), Perry Stone, citing 1 Peter 1:1, began by stating that the word “strangers” (parepidēmois, or παρεπιδήμοις, in Greek) used there referred to those of other nations; “pilgrims”, or Gentile believers living throughout the nations. This is a perfect example of someone with little to no theological training trying to explain meaning. The fact of the matter is that the writer of 1 Peter, whoever he really was (and it may have been Peter) was not addressing his letter to Gentiles who lived among Gentiles. But that is the inference made by Mr. Stone here. It is not a logical inference, but that never stops any televangelist from spouting any sort of nonsense they desire, after all. No, in actuality, the writer was addressing the same people that the first evangelists always reached out to – former Gentile proselytes to Judaism. At no time did any of them ever reach directly out to non-Jewish persons.

But, most who have studied this won’t tell you that. Look, even some of my former professors, whom I greatly respect, will dispute me on this. But the real truth is that everywhere any of the apostles went, they focused their attention on those who were already a part of Jewish Synagogues. They went into what is known as the Diaspora and sought converts from among those, mainly focusing on proselytes to Judaism from among the nations. So, in effect, Mr. Stone almost had it right, but just didn’t have it quite right. Jewish people who lived among the nations were often referred to as “strangers” or “sojourners”. Frankly, even into late medieval times people from other “nations” were still referred to as “strangers” when they settled into England (some of my own ancestors among them). They didn’t have to be Jewish; they just had to be “other”.

Now, one may try to counter what I have stated here by pointing out that Peter himself, according to the book of Acts, did go to the Roman Centurion, Cornelius. Surely, one might say, he was not Jewish, right? Well; wrong. The passage in Acts actually explains, for those who understood when the book was actually written, that Cornelius was, in fact, a proselyte to Judaism. How so? This is done by referring to him as a “God fearer” and emphasizing all of the good works he had done. The very term “God fearer” simply meant that he was a proselyte to Judaism.

Well then, someone else may counter, what about Paul’s visit to Athens? Surely, one might say, the people he encountered there were not Jewish. After all, they seemed to better fit the mold of Greek philosophers. And, in fact, that is exactly how they are portrayed by the writer of Acts. However, one can see, by reading the passage, that Paul had not sought them out, but just happened to be out in the public square, if you will, when he encountered them. The place where they were gathered – the Areopagus – was exactly the area where anyone would go to promote one’s own philosophy and hope to gain followers. It would also have been the one place anyone would go for any sort of entertainment, or to take part in certain court hearings. In so many words, it was, naturally, the place where people gathered. Paul would have certainly gone there. All that being said, I consider this event to have been entirely made-up by the writer to explain how Paul got from Northern Greece and Macedonia to Corinth. He could hardly have avoided Athens, after all, right? But, I don’t believe he actually ever went there because of one critical factor. As I explain in my first book, Apocalypse and Armageddon, he made no attempt to establish a church there as he had done everywhere else he went before he was imprisoned. For me, that demonstrates that this event was an invention of the writer.

In the end, one has to eventually come to understand that the entire scenario of Paul, or any other apostle, going around the empire reaching directly out to Pagans is a myth. That is simply not what happened, and one can see it simply by reading the very book of Acts. In every single case, even after Paul swore he would never go into Jewish Synagogues in the Diaspora again, that is exactly what he did in the very next instance. That proselytes were easy fruit to pick, so to speak, since they had not yet fully converted to Judaism (it was a process that took time and effort) seems obvious. Regardless, Jewish people in the Diaspora were habitually referred to as “strangers” or “sojourners” because they were not seen as permanent residents, so this is in no way unique to whoever wrote 1 Peter and it in no way refers only to Jewish proselytes from among the nations. It refers to any Jewish person who was living among the nations – anywhere.

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