Who are the “the peculiar people” in 1 Peter 2:9? Are they the Jews or the Gentiles?
Some Bible versions translate certain Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek words slightly differently. The differences are usually within the semantic range of the original word. That is, some Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek word may not always be translated exactly the same from one language into another. Therefore, different words might be used in an attempt to capture the original meaning in the King James Version, New American Standard, and New International Version Bibles. 1 Peter 2:9 is one such example. Here are three different Bible versions of 1 Peter 2:9.
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light . . . 1 Peter 2:9 (KJV)
But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; . . . 1 Peter 2:9 (NASB)
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)
A quick reading of each passage reveals that the phrase in the King James Bible, “peculiar people,” is also translated as “a people for God’s own possession” in the NASB or “a people belonging to God” in the NIV. The actual Greek states, “people for possession.” Now we want to ask, “What does this phrase mean?” The Greek word for peculiar is peripoiesis and it can mean “keeping safe, preservation, possession, property or reserve.” It has a broad semantic range. The English word peculiar can mean “restriction to an individual or group” and that was the meaning of the word in A.D. 1600 when the KJV was created. That explains why peculiar was used in the KJV Bible. Today, possession or belonging is a clearer translation.
The answer is found in the words that came before this verse. Verses 1-2 reveal that this was written to people who had believed in Jesus Christ. They were encouraged to grow “with respect to salvation.” That is, they were “saved” from their sins and declared to be righteous. They were Christians. In verse 5 we read that they were “living stones” and each one was a member of the “holy priesthood.” That is, they no longer needed an earthly priest. They were already regarded to be “holy” because God had declared to be righteous, and regarded to be priests. In verse 7 we find that they had “believed” in Jesus Christ. In conclusion, they were believers. Therefore, verse 9 tells us that these Christians were a “chosen race,” “a royal priesthood,” “a holy nation,” and a people whom God owned. Christians include Jews and non-Jews or Gentiles – everyone who believes in Jesus Christ as their God and Savior.
The conclusion in verse 9 calls us to tell others about Jesus Christ because Christians are those things. We are not spiritually perfect individuals, but God considers us to be holy for the purpose of salvation. You may find the concept of “Position versus Practice” to be helpful. You are encouraged to read it.
Suggested Links:Seated In Heaven!
Searching for God
Believers Are A Holy Priesthood