1 Peter 2:4-8—A Stone for Building and Stumbling


1 Peter 2:4-8


The image of a stone in various forms tells the story of the rejection and calling of Jesus and his followers in miniature.


Here the author of 1 Peter weaves together a series of Old Testament quotations centered on the word “stone” to describe the new life found in Jesus. [It is noteworthy that the name “Peter” (petros in Greek) means “rock.” Cf. Matt 16:18] The passage begins with an allusion to Mt. Sinai and Exodus 19:23 in which the mountain was set apart because it was holy. On account of its holiness, the people were not allowed to approach the mountain. The author of 1 Peter gives this story an ironic twist: the people did not approach the holy mountain, and they did not approach Jesus, the holy, living stone, but instead rejected him. Their rejection, however, did not diminish his holiness and the author calls on Jesus’ followers to draw close to Jesus instead of setting themselves apart. 

The Old Testament quotations that follow play on this theme. First, the author shifts from one mountain (Sinai) to another (Zion) and quotes Isaiah 28:16 to illustrate Jesus’ role as the cornerstone on which the faith of his followers is built. Building on the idea of a cornerstone, a quotation from Psalm 118:22 is used to once again highlight the rejection and acceptance characteristic of the life of both Jesus and his followers. Though Jesus was a stone that the Temple and its priests rejected, God has set him up as the true cornerstone of a spiritual temple and priesthood. This line from Psalm 118 is blended together with another quotation from Isaiah, in which Jesus transforms from the glorious cornerstone of the Temple to a rock in the road that causes unbelievers to stumble (Isaiah 8:14). In wrapping up his wordplay, the author of 1 Peter reminds his readers that stumbling over the stone of Jesus is a matter of faith; those who do not believe in the Word trip over it.