Challenging some peculiar ideas about peculiar people
“LOL, ROFL” ok, got it out of your system? As tired as this old cliché is, I think it is high time we bury it. I understand that it can be fun sometimes to play on misunderstandings of words, but when I hear people in a Gospel Doctrine setting or church talk perpetuate the peculiar = weird idea as doctrine I think we need to get our heads out of the cartoons for a while.
By continuing to perpetrate the idea that ‘peculiar’ means ‘odd’ or ‘weird’ we not only teach false doctrine, we corrupt our own understanding of the precious truths that the scriptures are seeking to convey.
What Does Peculiar People Really Mean?
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:
This verse should be familiar to most Latter-day Saints, especially the words “peculiar people”. Whenever I hear these words, most people use them in the context of us being a “weird people” due to the misunderstanding of what the word “peculiar” means, or rather, what it meant before our culture altered its meaning. Once again, many of us are victims of a language that has been corrupted over time resulting in a terrible illiteracy in the things of God.
Thankfully we can overcome these corruptions because we have been blessed with many tools to do so. Using a Strong’s Concordance, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary and the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord, we can see clearly. First, let’s find out where we have it all wrong.
Pull up a modern dictionary and the first definition for peculiar is “strange; queer; odd“.
Pull up the Webster’s 1828 dictionary (where the definitions are actually based on Biblical meanings) and the first definition for peculiar is “Appropriate; belonging to a person and to him only.”
Wow, now that changes things doesn’t it? So in misinterpreting this one word, we lose a sense of what Peter is trying to teach here in this verse. To show that the 1828 dictionary is actually more correct, let’s look at the Greek word that is being translated as “peculiar” and what it means.
Peculiar = peripoiesis – acquisition (the act or the thing); by extension, preservation:–obtain(-ing), peculiar, purchased, possession, saving.
This definition for peripoiesis confirms the idea of ownership of something and has nothing to do with being ‘strange’, ‘queer’ or ‘odd’. So I rest my case on this point. So what is Peter trying to say then?
In Deuteronomy 26:18 we read:
And the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments;
Here the Hebrew word for peculiar is cgullah and means:
Peculiar = cgullah – to shut up; wealth (as closely shut up):–jewel, peculiar (treasure), proper good, special.
So again, we have the idea of peculiar meaning something possessed, but here in the Hebrew the word indicates that the thing which is possessed is wealth or a jewel, treasure or something of special value.
So in one instance, we can ascertain that we are God’s treasure and as Christ taught “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12:34)”. So God’s heart is with us and directed toward us in every way. But why? Is it just because He ‘made’ us and we are nothing more than property to Him?
What or who is this “Chosen Generation”
Let’s go back to Peter’s comment about us being a “chosen generation”. The word “chosen” in Greek means pretty much what it means in English, it’s eklektos and means “select; by implication, favorite:–chosen, elect.”
But it’s the word “generation” that interests me the most. The modern definition that we would probably be familiar with goes something like this:
Generation: the entire body of individuals born and living at about the same time
The Greek word used in the verse is “genos” and means:
Generation = genos – “kin”…nation, offspring..
Another resource describes the Greek word genos as:
Genos (γένος) (plural gene (γένη), “clan”) was the ancient Greek term for kind; race; family; birth; origin which identified themselves as a unit, referred to by a single name
See where I’m going with this? It is not just that Peter is saying that the particular individuals born at that time were a “chosen group” but that they were “chosen members of a family under the name of Christ”. How does one take upon themselves the name of Christ?
Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name? For by this name shall ye be called at the last day; (3 Nephi 27:55)
And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end. (Moroni 6:33)
And those who did belong to the church were faithful; yea, all those who were true believers in Christ took upon them, gladly, the name of Christ, or Christians as they were called, because of their belief in Christ who should come. (Alma 46:15)
And it came to pass that there was not one soul, except it were little children, but who had entered into the covenant and had taken upon them the name of Christ. (Mosiah 6:22)
And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ. (Mosiah 5:99)
And now there were seven churches in the land of Zarahemla. And it came to pass that whosoever were desirous to take upon them the name of Christ, or of God, they did join the churches of God; (Mosiah 25:23)
That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you. (Alma 34:38)
And finally, we have this beautifully perfect verse:
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel. (2 Nephi 31:13)
Summing it all up
It is by baptism that we take upon ourselves the name of Christ to become ‘born again’ into the seed of Abraham, or in other words, the family of God. We are now Christ’s peculiar or purchased people, acquired through His infinite atonement. This is what Peter is trying to say, he isn’t speaking to just the ‘generation’ of people living at the time, he is talking about all those who are of the family of Christ by virtue of repentance and baptism by water and fire.
We are not weird. Maybe to the world we are, but looking past modern corruptions of words we find that we are priceless treasures to God. Not a cold, material treasure, but His family, His offspring, His descendants, His living posterity who He desires to bless with all that He is.