4 Πρὸς ὃν προσερχόμενοι, λίθον ζῶντα, ὑπὸ ἀνθρώπων μὲν ἀποδεδοκιμασμένον παρὰ δὲ θεῷ ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον 5 καὶ αὐτοὶ ὡς λίθοι ζῶντες οἰκοδομεῖσθε οἶκος πνευματικὸς εἰς ἱεράτευμα ἅγιον, ἀνενέγκαι πνευματικὰς θυσίας εὐπροσδέκτους θεῷ διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ· 6 διότι περιέχει ἐν γραφῇ· Ἰδοὺ τίθημι ἐν Σιὼν λίθον ἀκρογωνιαῖον ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον, καὶ ὁ πιστεύων ἐπʼ αὐτῷ οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ. 7 ὑμῖν οὖν ἡ τιμὴ τοῖς πιστεύουσιν· ἀπιστοῦσιν δὲ λίθος ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες οὗτος ἐγενήθη εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας 8 καὶ λίθος προσκόμματος καὶ πέτρα σκανδάλου· οἳ προσκόπτουσιν τῷ λόγῳ ἀπειθοῦντες· εἰς ὃ καὶ ἐτέθησαν.
9 Ὑμεῖς δὲ γένος ἐκλεκτόν, βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα, ἔθνος ἅγιον, λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν, ὅπως τὰς ἀρετὰς ἐξαγγείλητε τοῦ ἐκ σκότους ὑμᾶς καλέσαντος εἰς τὸ θαυμαστὸν αὐτοῦ φῶς· 10 οἵ ποτε οὐ λαὸς νῦν δὲ λαὸς θεοῦ, οἱ οὐκ ἠλεημένοι νῦν δὲ ἐλεηθέντες.
v5 εἰς. The Textus Receptus and a few late uncials exclude the word, possibly in relation to v9. The presence of the word is strongly attested by external evidence, i.e. strong and earyl manuscript evidence. This is the only significant textual issue in the passage.
To whom coming, the living stone, rejected by men but in regard to God elect and precious, you as well, as living stones, are being built up [as] a spiritual house, into a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices pleasing to God through Jesus Christ; therefore it stands in Scripture
Behold, I lay in Zion a stone, chosen and previous
And the one believing in him will never be put to shame
Therefore the honour is for you that believe; but to those that do not believe,
The stone which the builders rejected
This has become the corner-stone
A stone of stumbling
And a rock of occasion-to-sin
They stumble, disobeying the word, unto which also they were appointed. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for possession, so that you might proclaim the excellencies of him that called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. [You were] once not a people, but are not the people of God, had not received mercy but now have received mercy.
This passage offers some of the more memorable material from 1 Peter, and establishes Peter’s theological bent towards ‘ecclesiology’. The use of the relative ὅν in verse 4 connects this material back to v3, and in light of the understanding of the antecedent in the rest of vv4-5, secures an interpretation of ὁ κύριος in v3 as referring to Jesus. The use of the participle here is adverbial, and provides background information relating to the main verb, delayed all the way down to v5, while its meaning, “coming”, seems to have been occasioned by LXX Psalm 33:6, προσέλθατε πρὸς αὐτὸν καὶ φωτίσθητε, καὶ τὰ πρόσωπα ὑμῶν οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ. Christ is described as “[the] living stone”, an identification also found in Peter’s speech in Acts 4:11-12, in 3 Synoptic parallels on the lips of Jesus (Mk 12:10-11, Mt 21:42-44, Lk 20:17-18), and in the other two uses of the OT ‘stone’ passages apart from this one, Rom 9:23-33, and Eph 2:20-22, the referent is Jesus. It seems clear that within earliest Christianity this interpretative pattern was well-established, and may be referred back to Jesus’ own teaching.
Christ as stone is characterised by a point-counterpoint description in 4b, “rejected by men, chosen [and] esteemed by God”. This anticipates both the pattern of Peter’s theology and exhortation, Christ as exemplar for Christians, as well as one of the main motifs of the letter: shame, disgrace, and rejection in regards to human beings, election and honour in regards to God. ἐκλεκτόν here echoes 1:1. Verse 5 completes that pattern, making explicit that believers are also “living stones”, and now the participial idea of “coming to him” is completed with “being built into a spiritual house”. This building is given a double purpose, one expressed with εἰς + noun phrase, the other with an infinitive of purpose.
The first of these purposes is to be, or to become, a “holy priesthood”. In Christ, believers are constituted into a particular kind of ‘body corporate’, that of priesthood. I will have more to say on this concept in connection with verse 9 below. The second purpose essentially flows from the first, “to offer spiritual sacrifices pleasing to God, through Jesus Christ”. On the one hand nothing could be more natural that priests should offer sacrifices, but it is notable that throughout this section almost everything that is drawn from material or else OT language is modified by adjectives: stones are living, priests are holy, and sacrifices are spiritual. In a broader canonical context, Peter’s use of adjectives here reconfigures our understanding of the way in which believers constitute a renewed ‘priesthood’, it is “spiritually”, not physical, material, sacrifices either of the temple, or of pagan practice. Indeed, given the readers’ physical and social context, it could hardly be the former at all. In light of 1:15-16, it seems best to read ‘spiritual sacrifices’ as referring to believers way of life as an offering to God, a reading that aligns with Paul’s use of sacrificial language in Romans 12:1-2. Furthermore these sacrifices are rendered to God “through Jesus Christ”; the mediation of our priestly work is through Christ, for we are living stones only as and because he is the Living Stone.
In verse 6 we get the first citation of three OT ‘stone passages’. I will provide each text in Peter, along with its LXX version.
Ἰδοὺ τίθημι ἐν Σιὼν λίθον ἀκρογωνιαῖον ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον,
καὶ ὁ πιστεύων ἐπʼ αὐτῷ
οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ.
LXX Isaiah 28:16 (vid quoque Romans 9:33, 10:11)
Ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἐμβαλῶ εἰς τὰ θεμέλια Σιων λίθον πολυτελῆ ἐκλεκτὸν ἀκρογωνιαῖον ἔντιμον εἰς τὰ θεμέλια αὐτῆς,
καὶ ὁ πιστεύων ἐπʼ αὐτῷ
οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ.
לָכֵ֗ן כֹּ֤ה אָמַר֙ אֲדֹנָ֣י יְהוִ֔ה הִנְנִ֛י יִסַּ֥ד בְּצִיּ֖וֹן אָ֑בֶן אֶ֣בֶן בֹּ֜חַן פִּנַּ֤ת יִקְרַת֙ מוּסָ֣ד מוּסָּ֔ד הַֽמַּאֲמִ֖ין לֹ֥א יָחִֽישׁ׃
The LXX version is interesting because of the way it turns the MT’s הַֽמַּאֲמִ֖ין, “one who believes” into ἐπ᾿ αὐτῷ, which while possibly simply in agreement with λίθος, is perhaps more likely part of a trend to treat this passage, as the other ‘stone’ passages, messianically. The use of ἐκλεκτόν and ἔντιμον provides the background for Peter’s prior use of the two terms in v4. The only other use of this particular OT passage in the NT is Romans 9:32-33, where the focus is on “stumbling” and “offense”. Here, however, I want to suggest that the import of the three passages is to establish a shame/honour, rejection/acceptance paradigm for Christ/Believers in Christ. Verse 6 presents Christ as honoured, in regards to God, and attaches the promise that whoever believes in him will also not be ashamed.
The second citation comes in v7
λίθος ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες
οὗτος ἐγενήθη εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας
LXX Psalm 117:22 (Eng 118:22)
λίθον, ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες,
οὗτος ἐγενήθη εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας,
אֶ֭בֶן מָאֲס֣וּ הַבּוֹנִ֑ים הָ֝יְתָ֗ה לְרֹ֣אשׁ פִּנָּֽה׃
In terms of the honour/shame dimension that the second citation adds, it adds a temporal movement to Christ as Stone. When he was ‘placed’ in v6, he was honoured in regards to God, but in this verse he was disregarded, or considered with shame, by ‘the builders’, but turns out to be the ‘chief cornerstone’. Thus, there is movement from shame to honour.
Within the context of the psalm, the following verses give a salvific context. And in light of the following citation, the Messiah is the one upon whom eschatological honour or shame depends.
καὶ πέτρα σκανδάλου·
καὶ ἐὰν ἐπʼ αὐτῷ πεποιθὼς ᾖς,
ἔσται σοι εἰς ἁγίασμα,
καὶ οὐχ ὡς λίθου προσκόμματι συναντήσεσθε αὐτῷ
οὐδὲ ὡς πέτρας πτώματι,
ὁ δὲ οἶκος Ιακωβ ἐν παγίδι,
καὶ ἐν κοιλάσματι ἐγκαθήμενοι ἐν Ιερουσαλημ.
וְהָיָ֖ה לְמִקְדָּ֑שׁ וּלְאֶ֣בֶן נֶ֠גֶף וּלְצ֨וּר מִכְשׁ֜וֹל לִשְׁנֵ֨י בָתֵּ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ לְפַ֣ח וּלְמוֹקֵ֔שׁ לְיוֹשֵׁ֖ב יְרוּשָׁלִָֽם׃
The first notable thing about the third citation is that the context in Isaiah 8 seems, in v13 and 17, to treat the pronoun ‘him’ as a reference to God. And yet there is good reason to regard the text as having Messianic import. It is also the verse that Jesus himself cites (Mt 21:42, Mk 12:10, Lk 20:17) to characterise his rejection by the leaders in Jerusalem. Here the rejection is broadened to the greatest extent, one’s relationship to Jesus as Stone is determinative.
This is where Peter develops his thoughts in 8b, taking προσκόμματος and depicting the action of those who reject Jesus as προσκόπτουσιν. The participle here is adverbial and causal, because they are disobedient to the Word. In what sense is ‘the word’ meant? Comparison with 3:1 and 4:17 suggest that it is a shorthand expression for “rejection of the Gospel message”.
More intriguing is the next clause, “unto which they were appointed”. Peter does little to elaborate here, which we may wistfully regret since at face value it seems a clear statement of some kind of doctrine of God’s predestination to disobedience. While undoubtedly any interpretation of this verse will interact, and possibly rest upon, broader theological commitments, it seems difficult to evade the a priori force that God establishes the destiny of those who come to Christ, as well as those who do not. Peter’s encouragement for believers is that, as Christ was honoured in respect to God, dishonoured in the world, but ultimately vindicated by God, so too his readers who have been elect of God, and are now experiencing shame, disgrace, and perhaps persecution in this world, can expect vindication and honour in the eschaton.
The final two verses of this section, 9-10, are packed with OT references and allusion, and weave a complex web that represents the ‘counter-destiny’ of God’s elect. Verse 9 commences with a series of phrases. The primary background of v9a is undoubtedly Exodus 19:5-6. In that context God speaks with Moses for the first time on Mt. Sinai, as prelude to the Decalogue in Exodus 20, and God’s speech holds this pattern. Firstly in verse 4 God reminds Israel of what he has previously done, namely Judgment on Egypt, Salvation for Israel. Then in v5 God makes his covenant proposal, which will entail obedience, but also entails a new relationship between him and Israel. We find the elements of ‘treasured possession’ (which cf. with Dt 7:6), and the collocation of “kingdom of priests” and “holy nation”.
It seems to me that the best way to analyse this collocation is to recognise how both terms intermix two spheres of discourse:
A (Political) “kingdom” “nation”
B (Religious) “priests” “holy”
In doing so it overlays and intertwines these two realms of interaction. As we consider the essentialisation of these concepts, we may reflect on how they operate both within ancient Israel, and then without ancient Israel.
The essence of kingship is expressed through rule, and so the person of the King. In Israel it is clear from the start that God is their King, and the advent of a human king causes troubles precisely because it comes as a rejection of God’s Kingship. This is later alleviated, theologically, by the understanding that God the King rules through Israel’s King, and the development of ‘Son of God’ language as a designator for the King.
As for priesthood, the concepts in view include sanctification, mediation, and sacral presence. The priests within Israel mediate their relationship between God and the nation, and specifically the presence of God through the Tabernacle/Temple.
In Exodus 19, then, is an offer that as the King and Priest are within Israel, so Israel shall be to the other nations. Through Israel is expressed God’s rule in the world, and through Israel is expressed God’s presence in this world.
It is this understanding that can then be read redemptive-historically through other key texts that utilise this collocation of political and temple spheres of discourse. For example, Beale’s work on Genesis leads me to suggest that this dynamic appears in the Garden, where God’s rule and God’s presence are expressed through Adam and Eve, and through the Garden to the world outside the Garden, at least theoretically. In Christ we see, in traditional categories, God as King and Presence come Incarnate. And looking forward to Revelation 1:6 this collocation is given an eternal perspective and standing in terms of the Church.
To return, then, to 1 Peter 2:10, in this verse, Peter does no less than give a biblical theological account of what it means to come to Christ the Stone and to be built into the House, the Temple, of God as living stones. It is a veritable blueprint for ecclesiological identity and activity.
This is only further inhanced by the purpose clause introduced by ὅπως, drawing upon Isaiah 43:20-21, especially the LXX. Indeed, the LXX of these verses links back to the opening of v9, with the phrase τὸ γένος μου τὸ ἐκλεκτόν in Isa 43:20. This context is not Exodus, but Exile, and so connects the theme of redemption to both the ‘First’ Exodus and the ‘Second’ Exodus, both functioning typologically for the Antitype of ‘Exodus’ in Christ. Then in Isa 43:21 we have the call to proclaim God’s ἀρετάς. “Excellencies” is probably the best translation of the term, but its context in Isaiah refers to God’s mighty deeds of salvation, and the usage in 1 Peter 2:9 seems to support a similar meaning, since it is linked directly to being called out of darkness into light. One cannot help being reminded of Paul’s words in Colossian 1:13.
Verse 10 is an allusion to Hosea 2:23 (LXX 2:25). In the context of Hosea there is judgment upon Israel for their covenant failure, which had led to the reversal of the very kinds of blessing mentioned in v9, and so to revocation of their status as God’s people, as those that had received mercy, but Hosea 2 holds out a promise of restoration, of the reversal of that not-people, not-mercied status. Peter takes up that promise and applies it in a new way, so that it is applied more broadly, i.e. to Gentiles as well, as a promise of messianic inbringing-of-the-nations, even as it implies the restoration and fulfilment of God’s people as (new) covenant people. This is part of Peter’s broader strategy to reappropriate and reapply the OT categories for God’s NT people. In all this, it is as believers “come to Christ” that they are (re)constituted as the people of God, never to be put to shame.