The Use of Stone Imagery in the Portrayal of Christ, Believers, and Unbelievers: Exegesis of 1 Peter 2:4-10

capstone

Introduction

The epistle of first Peter is one of the New Testament (NT) letters that has instructed, challenged, and encouraged Christians across centuries as they live their faith in an unfriendly world. Evidently, this letter was addressed to Christians in the Greco-Roman world who were suffering because of their faith in Christ.[1]With numerous quotations and allusions to the OT and reference to the life of Christ, the author of 1 Peter brings hope to believers in distress. The same letter remains much relevant today to Christians facing rejection, persecution, and suffering because of faithfully living their faith in a pluralistic world.

The author of 1 Peter uses the stone imagery in 1 Peter 2:2-10 and quotes other “stone” passages in the Old Testament (OT) to show what Christ is to believers; to instruct believers on their new status and position of honor in Christ, and to remind them of unbeliever’s impending downfall. Therefore, this exegetical study of 1 Peter 2:4-10 explores on the use of stone imagery in depicting Christ, believers’ identity, and unbeliever’s miserable destiny. Believers have an initiate relationship with Christ and also they have been given a new identity and life through Christ; while, on the other hand, unbelievers shall eventually experience shame and destruction because of their unbelief. The next section briefly deals with the background information concerning the letter of 1 Peter.

Background Information of First Peter

Authorship

Internal evidence (1:1) identifies Peter, the prominent apostle of Jesus Christ, as the author of 1 Peter. But this position has been challenged by some section of scholars. Basically, these scholars in their arguments raise four objections against Petrine authorship; claims that have also been largely refuted. First, they argue that the polished Greek, the rhetoric, and the extensive vocabulary of the letter is far too high for a Galilean fisherman who in Acts 4: 13 was described as ἀγράμματοί εἰσιν καὶ ἰδιῶται (lit. uneducated and unskilled).[2] These scholars argue that due to this drawback Peter must have received some help from Silas (5:12); but Clowney notes that the Greek in 1 Peter is not as polished in style as has sometimes been argued.[3] Also, the bilingual culture in Bethsaida in Galilee is always not considered in these arguments[4] Clowney 20. On another front, if Peter was formerly not educated, it does not mean that he remained the same over the years without the desire to learn the lingua franca of his time.

Secondly, opponents of Petrine authorship claim that the persecution alluded to in the letter did not occur till after Peter’s death.[5] This objection assumes that the persecutions experienced by Christians were official and general; the opposite could also be true, that the oppressions or persecutions might have been local, unofficial, and sporadic.[6] It could just have been unofficial harassment here and there rather than organized state initiative.

Thirdly, these scholars, against Petrine authorship, claim that the letter is much like Pauline writings. On this, it is worth noting that apostles in their writing generally followed a common tradition, a pattern of sound teaching.[7] Therefore, expectedly, themes and expressions are prone to overlap.

The fourth argument maintains that the letter contains traditional teaching materials from the early church that makes it improbable to have been written by an apostle during apostolic age. Clowney clarifies this idea by arguing that Peter, in the letter, was not giving a personal testimony or narration of the life and works of Jesus because that had been done in the gospel accounts, but giving an interpretation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.[8] These and other objections, remain insufficient to disqualify the traditional attestation and the biblical claim of Peter’s authorship. Therefore, Peter, as one of the eyewitnesses to the earthly life of Jesus, gives us a solid interpretation and implication of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension.

Audience

In the first verse of the letter (1:1) the readers are identified, “to God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” Geographically, these areas covering Asia Minor, most of modern Turkey, can be best construed as regions than official provinces.[9] From the letter, the churches in these regions comprised both Jews and Gentile believers.

Place of Writing and Date

In chapter 5:13, Peter sends his greetings from “Babylon”. This may not be necessarily the Babylon in Mesopotamia because severally in the Bible, Rome is symbolically called ‘Babylon’ (16:19; 17:5; 18:2). It is highly possible that Peter used it symbolically to be in line with his message of depicting Christian believers as being resident aliens.[10]

The assumption that Peter is the author of the letter, situates the date of writing the letter at AD 62-63. Tradition records that Peter was in Rome only at the end of his life; and since there is no mention of Paul in the letter, it is likely that Peter wrote the letter after Paul had been released from his imprisonment in AD 62, but also before Nero’s persecution (AD 63).[11] Also, noting that official persecutions had not yet broken out, the approximate dating of this letter would be AD 62-63.

 

The Literary Context of 1 Peter 2:4-10

The preceding context (1:13- 2:3) of this pericope has a doxology directed to God the Father for the “new birth” he has given believers into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1:3). Also, the preceding context presents an exhortation to believers (also portrayed as strangers) to live holy lives (1:13-16), that is, lives that are consistent with God’s holy character. The first three verses in chapter two of the letter is an admonition for believers to grow up in salvation. Notably, verse 3 ends with a quotation from Psalm 34:8, “now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” Therefore, the author discusses the pericope at hand in light of the “new birth” (1:3) or in other words, believers having tasted the Lord and found Him to be good. The author now expounds on the relationship between Christ and believers, believer’s identity, and the destiny of the unbelievers. The subsequent section after 2:10 continues the theme of Christian living as aliens and strangers; and is followed by an admonition to submit to every authority.

“Stone” Passages in the Bible

This passage (1 Peter 2:4-10) begins with the use of stone imagery to depict the relationship between Christ and believers. It is worth noting that the metaphor employed in this passage is not exclusive to apostle Peter. The stone metaphor is an imagery borrowed from the OT (Ps. 118:22-23; Isa. 8:14-15; 28:16); and significantly, all these three passages are quoted in 1 Peter 2:6-8.

In the New Testament, Jesus identified himself with the rejected stone (Mk. 12:10-11; Matt. 21:42-44; Lk 20:17-18). In Acts 4:11, the stone that builders rejected is identified by apostle Peter as Christ. The stone image is also employed in other epistles (Rom. 9:32-33; Eph. 2:20-22). Jobes notes that,

Peter uses the traditional Jewish understanding of the stone metaphor, but applies it to Jesus Christ, as Jesus himself had. He finds in the stone imagery an expression of both the rejection and exaltation of Jesus Christ, a soteriology based upon divine election, an ecclesiastical mandate for believers, and a basis for judgment of those who reject the Stone.[12]

The exegesis of this passage and explorations of the quotations will be helpful in understanding the use of this imagery in 1 Peter.

 

Verse by Verse Exegesis of 1 Peter 2:4-10

A. Christ as living Stone and believers as living stones (Verse 4, 5a)

Greek text, Verse 4: πρὸς ὃν προσερχόμενοι, λίθον ζῶντα, ὑπὸ ἀνθρώπων μὲν ἀποδεδοκιμασμένον παρὰ δὲ θεῷ ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον.

Translation of Verse 4: As you come to Him as to a living stone, rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious.

Verse 4 of 1 Peter 2 makes a complete shift from the metaphor of Christians as infants in the preceding verses to a stone metaphor. Peter begins this pericope with the phrase πρὸς ὃν προσερχόμενοι[13], (as you come to him); this refers to believers coming to the Lord, Christ. Specifically, believers come to the λίθον[14] ζῶντα[15] (living Stone); who is Christ, identified in verse 3 as ὁ κύριος. Generally, a stone is lifeless thing, but here Peter qualifies it with the adjective ζῶντα in order to apply it to Christ who is the living God. It has been noted that this participle (ζῶντα) is a “characteristic Petrine signal”[16] that shows that the author is using the word “stone” in a metaphoric rather than literal sense.

This living Stone was ὑπὸ ἀνθρώπων[17] μὲν ἀποδεδοκιμασμένον[18] (rejected by men). Here, Peter generally identifies those that rejected the living Stone as ἀνθρώπων (men) without further specification. The next part of the verse is joined by a contrastive conjuction δὲ; it reads, παρὰ δὲ θεῷ[19] ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον[20] (but in the sight of God chosen and precious). That is, the very stone that mankind (as builders) rejected as unfit is the stone was ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον (chosen and precious) in God’s eyes. The verb ἀποδεδοκιμασμένον is contrastively held in parallel with ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον; while ἀνθρώπων is contrasted with θεῷ. God’s approval of this Stone (Jesus) brings into mind a similar affirmation during the transfiguration of Jesus, “this is my Son whom I love; with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.”(Matt. 17:5c). Jesus in his earthly life was rejected as had been prophecied; and precisely, the cross experience was in itself a sign of rejection. From this verse we can note that one can either reject or come to this chosen and precious Stone. But each case has some implications as we shall see in the subsequent verses.

Notably, the first part of verse 5 completes the idea in verse 4, of believer’s relationship with Christ. Believers (identified using the pronoun and nominative subject αὐτοὶ- they) come to the living Stone (Jesus), ὡς λίθοι[21] ζῶντες[22] – as living stones. Significantly, believers share the life of Christ, and share the same identity with Christ as stones.

 B. Believers as spiritual house and Christ as the cornerstone of the house (vv.5b-6a)

Greek Text, Verse 5: 5 καὶ αὐτοὶ ὡς λίθοι ζῶντες οἰκοδομεῖσθε οἶκος πνευματικὸς εἰς ἱεράτευμα ἅγιον, ἀνενέγκαι πνευματικὰς θυσίας εὐπροσδέκτους θεῷ διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

Translation of Verse 5: you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

In addition, “coming to him” is part of God’s grand agenda because believers οἰκοδομεῖσθε[23] οἶκος πνευματικὸς (are being built up as a spiritual house). The phrase οἶκος πνευματικὸς is a predicate nominative. Elliot comments that a ‘spiritual house’ is “a metaphor for the community where the Spirit of God dwells.”[24] A “spiritual house” is therefore, God’s goal in building a community/house with each individual stone. By coming to him, believers are being built up εἰς ἱεράτευμα ἅγιον, (to be a holy priesthood). The construction in this phrase as introduced by the preposition εἰς and an accusative is an example of accusative of termination with focus on status. The identiy and nature of the priesthood under the spiritual house is to be holy. The adjective ἅγιον here serves to modify ἱεράτευμα.

The function of this holy priesthood under the spiritual house is depicted by the purpose infinitive (ἀνενέγκαι- to offer); and what is offered is πνευματικὰς θυσίας[25] (spiritual sacrifices). The adjective πνευματικὰς qualifies the direct object (θυσίας). It has been suggested that ‘spiritual sacrifices’ may be “all behavior that flows from a transformation of the human spirit by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit (1:2),”[26] or “the whole of life is the offering up of sacrifice.”[27]It more probable, in light of Romans 12:1, that ‘spiritual sacrifices’ refer to offering of oneself to God for His purposes.

The quality and suitability of what is offered up is based on God’s terms εὐπροσδέκτους[28] θεῷ[29] διὰ Ἰησοῦ[30] Χριστοῦ[31] (acceptable to God through Jesus Christ). A single adjective (πνευματικὸς- spiritual) has been used to modify the house (οἶκος) and the nature of sacrifices (θυσίας) to be offered in that particular house. Admittedly, Peter is using a spiritual language with the priesthood and temple background and functions in perspective. This is a view that Mbuvi argues when he comments that 1 Peter exibits “reshaping and re-appropriating the institutional elements of the OT cultus within a new framework of Christian experience.”[32] Peter uses the temple language to show that believers, are now given a new status and identity in Christ which was previously enjoyed by Israel. Structurally, the first part of the next verse completes the though that has been taught in verse 5.

Greek Text, Verse 6: διότι περιέχει ἐν γραφῇ, Ἰδοὺ τίθημι ἐν Σιὼν λίθον ἀκρογωνιαῖον ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον, καὶ ὁ πιστεύων ἐπ’ αὐτῷ οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ.

Translation of Verse 6: For it is contained in Scripture: “Behold I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen (and) precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will not be put to shame.”

With the use of OT passages Peter shows that in the spiritual house that belivers are being built up to be holy priesthood and to offer sacrifices acceptable to God, Christ is the very cornerstone of the house. The verse begins, διότι περιέχει[33] ἐν[34] γραφῇ[35] (for it is contained in Scripture).

From verse six to verse eight, the author quotes or alludes to six LXX passages: Psalm 118:22 (117:22 LXX); Exodus 19:5-6; Isa. 8:14; 28:16; 43:20-21; and Hosea 2:23 (2:25 LXX). Apparently, he quotes from all the major sections of the OT: Torah, Writings, and the Prophets. These extensive quotation and allusions from the OT undoubtedly reveals the centrality of God’s word to Peter in his reflections on the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ.

What is it that is contained in Scripture? In Zion, God has laid a stone, chosen and precious cornestone, (τίθημι[36] ἐν Σιὼν[37] λίθον ἀκρογωνιαῖον ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον). The two adjectives (ἐκλεκτὸν and ἔντιμον) are the same adjectives used in verse 4, perhaps for emphasis on the centrality of Christ in God’s building project. Jesus in verse 4 is depicted as living Stone, but in relation to the spiritual house that believers are being built into, Jesus is the foundational stone, the cornerstone (ἀκρογωνιαῖον).

C. Believer’s honor (vv.6b-7a); and unbeliever’s and stumbling and sownfall (7b-8)

The second part of verse 6, which is a quotation from Isaiah 28:16 shows the consequences of coming to Christ (verse 4) or trusting in the living Stone, the Cornerstone of the spiritual house. This part begins, καὶ ὁ πιστεύων[38] ἐπ’ αὐτῷ (and the one who trusts in him). Those whose come to him trust in him. To these people, they οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ[39] (will not be put to shame). Through this quotation, Peter wants his readers to know that they shall never be put to shame rather they shall be honored because they have trusted on the one who God has approved.

The Isaiah 28:16 context is a judgment against the house of Ephraim, but verse 16 and the following verses speaks God’s pronouncement of hope to their distressful situation. When compared with the LXX, 1 Peter 2:6 raises several textual issues that we should observe. Peter omits the first part of the verse in LXX (διὰ τοῦτο οὕτως λέγει κύριος – “therefore thus says the Lord”[40]) and replaces it with διότι περιέχει ἐν γραφῇ (for it is contained in Scripture). The LXX has ἐγὼ ἐμβαλῶ (I will lay) but Peter chooses a different word- τίθημι, in the present tense to replace ἐμβαλῶ which is a future tense. He also omits the pronoun ἐγὼ, perhaps relying on the morphology of the verb. Peter omits εἰς τὰ θεμέλια (“for the foundation”) in LXX and MT and adds the preposition ἐν before Σιὼν. Also, on LXX, Peter also omits πολυτελῆ (“precious”) and εἰς τὰ θεμέλια αὐτῆς (“for its foundations”). From these observations, we can conclude that Peter might have been quoting the LXX from memory or expressing the Isaiah quotation in a freer way. Now, do these variations affect the meaning? I don’t think so. Also, Beale agrees that the meaning of the passage remains intact.[41] Peter understands that Jesus fulfiled the prophecy by Isaiah, that he is the cornerstone that God has laid in Zion. So Peter assures his audience that those who put their trust in Jesus will never be put to shame. Verse 7 continues to describe the honor that believers shall receive by quoting Psalm 118:22.

Greek Text, Verse 7: 7 ὑμῖν οὖν ἡ τιμὴ τοῖς πιστεύουσιν· ἀπιστοῦσιν δὲ λίθος ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες οὗτος ἐγενήθη εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας.

Translation of Verse 7: Now, this stone is honor, to you who believe. But to those who do not believe, “The stone which the builders rejected, this has become the very cornerstone,”

The first part of verse 7 directly addresses those who believe τοῖς πιστεύουσιν[42] ὑμῖν (to you who believe), to them this stone is  ἡ τιμὴ[43] (honor/precious). In light of verse 4, we can say that those who believe have come to see the Stone through God’s perspective, as precious (ἡ τιμὴ). It has been widely noted that the in Mediterranean culture honor and shame were contrasted; honor “concerned the positive social standing, reputation, and status rating of individuals and groups in the opinion of others and of God,” while shame “…entailed sensitivity regarding loss of honor or the actual loss of honor.”[44] Although Peter’s audience sufffered rejection and shame in their present context, the promise to these believers is that in God’s sight are honored.

The second part of the verse is introduced by the contrastive δὲ and addresses ἀπιστοῦσιν[45] (the unbelieving). He writes, λίθος[46] ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν[47] οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες[48] ({The} stone which the builders rejected). He says οὗτος ἐγενήθη[49] εἰς κεφαλὴν[50] γωνίας[51] (this has become the very cornerstone). Speaking of the cornerstone, in this verse, the author chooses to use a phrase (κεφαλὴν γωνίας) as opposed to ἀκρογωνιαῖον in verse 6. Believers (as builders) embrace this rejected stone but those who do not believe realize that the stone they rejected has become the Cornerstone. By implication, those who do not believe in the foundational Stone (the cornerstone) find themselves building without a long-lasting foundation.

The quotation from Psalm 118 (117:22 LXX) was a psalm sung by Levites during the Passover feast, celebrating deliverance. In their singing, they remembered God who has become their salvation. The LXX rendering of MT in this verse raises no textual issues. It suffices to only note that the words “cornerstone,” or “capstone” are a true rendering of the Hebrew לְרֹ֣אש פִּנָּֽה (the head of the corner) and LXX phase εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας.

The next verse (vv.8), connected by καὶ is another OT quotation that looks at the destiny of those who do not believe by quoting from a section of Isaiah 8:14.

Greek Text, Verse 8: καὶ λίθος προσκόμματος καὶ πέτρα σκανδάλου· οἳ προσκόπτουσιν τῷ λόγῳ ἀπειθοῦντες, εἰς ὃ καὶ ἐτέθησαν.

Translation of Verse 8: and, “A stone that causes stumbling and a rock of offense,” for being disobedient to the word, into which they were also appointed.

The cornerstone that has been rejected by men in their unbelief, according to verse 8, has become λίθος[52]προσκόμματος[53] (a stone of stumbling). This thought is synonmously parallel, with the next section connected by καὶ, πέτρα σκανδάλου (a rock of offense).

The second part of vere 8, after the quotation, gives the reason for the stumbling. In verse 4, the unbelievers reject the foundation stone, in verse 7 their reason for rejection is due to unbelief, but additionally in verse 8, they προσκόπτουσιν[54] τῷ λόγῳ[55] ἀπειθοῦντες[56] (they stumble for being disobedient to the word). And εἰς ὃ καὶ ἐτέθησαν[57] (into which they were also appointed or destined for).

One notable variation between MT to the LXX is the fact that the MT explicitly identifies Yahweh as the stone that causes people to stumble and fall. But the LXX rendering makes it ambiguous, (“and you will not ecounter him as a stumbling stone caused by a stone, nor as a fall caused by a rock”). But Peter in his quotation, bypasses the LXX and reverts to the idea in the MT thus depicting Christ as the one who causes stumbling. So in rendering this verse, Peter exercised some amount of freedom in reverting to the MT whenever he saw he saw some sort of ‘misrepresentation’ in the LXX.

McKnight reflects on verse 7and 8 and comments, “God’s act of appointing Jesus as the living Stone has become both honor for believers and judgment for unbelievers; this was God’s design, and everything happens according to his will.”[58] Emphatically, those who believe in this living Stone rise and those who dont believe in him stumble and fall.

D. Believer’s new status and calling (vv.9-10)

Verse 9 highlights the newfound identity of believers in Christ and their reason for their calling. Verse 10 compares the present status of believers to their former state of unbelief. These two verses contain allusion to Exodus 19:6 (in the Sinaitic context when the covenant between God and Israel was cut); and Isaiah 43:20-21 (in the context of God’s promise to embrace his people after the exile experience). In verse 10 he also makes an allusion to Hosea 2:25 (referring to Israel who had become wayward according to the covenant terms- he uses this passage to show God’s unconditinoal love and mercy to those he has punished). From these contexts, Peter applies to Christians terms that were exclusively applied to the nation of Israel. In doing this, Hagner writes that the church is understood to possess fully the status and privileges of Israel.[59]

Greek Text, Verse 9: 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·

Translation of Verse 9: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for (God’s own) possesion, that you may proclaim the moral excellence of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Believers are contrasted with unbelievers but by the use of contrastive Ὑμεῖς δὲ (but you). Believers and unbelievers do not share an identiy or calling. Believers, built on the foundational stone, that the unbelievers rejected, now occupy a central place under God’s house and purposes. Peter now makes known the privileged status (status of honor) that believers enjoy in Christ.

First, believers are a γένος ἐκλεκτόν (chosen race). The adjective ἐκλεκτόν qualifies γένος. They are favoured people in the face of the earth. The term “chosen race” is from Isaiah 43:3, 20; applying to the exiles in Babylon, who were naturally the descendants of Abraham. But because of their belief in Christ, believers from all backgrounds are now one race in Christ; “Peter here makes the radical claim that those who believe in Jesus Christ- whether Jew,Gentile, Greek, Roman, Cappadocian, Bithynian, or whatever- though from many races, constitute a new race of those who have been born again into the living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”[60] God is forming one community from people from all kinds of backgrounds.

Secondly, believers are βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα (a royal priesthood). The adjective βασίλειον qualifies ἱεράτευμα. This is certainly a language from the covenant and priesthood that we also find in verse 4-5.  Jobes highlight the mediatorial role of the priests, “Peter writes, applying the identification to the people of the new covenant in Christ, who are now ordained with the role of a royal priesthood mediating God in Christ to the nations.”[61] But Beale empasizes the character and the priestly function of the people of God as “to be holy and offer sacrifices to God, and only in that context mediate between God and fallen humanity.”[62] Therefore, Christians now have a mediatorial role between God and men and at the same time the obligation to reflect God’s holy character. The phrase ‎ מַמְלֶ֥כֶת כֹּהֲנִ֖ים(kingdom of priests) in Exodus 19:5 is rendered by both LXX and Peter as βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα (“royal priesthood”).

Thirdly, from an allusion to Exodus 19:6, believers are ἔθνος ἅγιον (a holy nation). The adjective used (ἅγιον) tells us of our identity in relation to God. God who had cut a covenant with his people is a holy king and therefore God’s people needed to be holy just as He is holy.

Fourthly, believers in Christ are λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν περιποίησιν[63] (a people for God’s own possesion). This alludes to Exodus 19:5 during the exodus experience and and Isaiah 43:20-21 referring to the Israelites in the Babylonian exile.

Precisely, the purpose and calling for believers is ὅπως τὰς ἀρετὰς ἐξαγγείλητε[64]τοῦ ἐκ σκότους ὑμᾶς καλέσαντος[65] εἰς τὸ θαυμαστὸν[66] αὐτοῦ[67] φῶς (that you may proclaim the moral excellence of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light). The accusative ἀρετὰς is a direct object, while ὑμᾶς is used as a double accusative. The genitives ἐκ σκότους is a genitive of place, the place of darkness. Believers now have the wonderful opportunity and privilege to declare the praises of God who called them our of the kingdom of darkness into his wonderful light. On this aspect, Beale and Carson comments,

The excellencies of God that Isaiah has in view are manifested in the deliverance of his people from the exile; the excellencies of God that Peter has in view are manifested  in the salvation and transformation of his people, along with the hope that they enjoy for the consummating transformation—all of which was which was achieved by the ministry, death, and resurrection of God’s own Son[68]

The last verse in this pericope (verse 10) is a reminder of the the change that has been brought by this life transforming calling.

Greek Text, Verse 10: οἵ ποτε οὐ λαὸς νῦν δὲ λαὸς θεοῦ, οἱ οὐκ ἠλεημένοι νῦν δὲ ἐλεηθέντες.

Translation of Verse 10: Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

This verse contrasts believers and unbeliever’s status before God. Here ποτε (once) refers to the time before the ‘coming to him’. Believers, as the nominative subject (λαὸς) expresses, were were formely οὐ λαὸς (not a people) but now they are not mere people but νῦν δὲ λαὸς θεοῦ[69] (but now the people of God). He also reminds believers in Christ that formerly οἱ οὐκ ἠλεημένοι[70] νῦν δὲ ἐλεηθέντες[71] (you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy). Their coming to God in search for mercy was not in vain. They received it and both their status and calling changed. In the allusion to Hosea 2:3 (2:25 LXX) Peter assumes that his readers are a fulfilment of that prophecy. In Hosea 1-2, the people God calls “not my people” are Israelites who had broken their covenant with God and Hosea profoundly illustrates this through the naming of his childrem. Although God had called them  לֹ֣א עַמִּ֑(not my people) God embraced them again by showing them his great mercy.

 

Implications of Believer’s New Identity and Calling in the Contemporary Context 

The fact that believers as living stones are being build up into a spiritual house should cause the church today to value community because it is God’s idea. Each individual person finds identity and purpose in the unity of the entire body. In this spiritual house each person belongs and shares the identity as living stones. It should be highlighted here that for a christian community to flourish Jesus should occupy the center stage. It is unfortunate that sometimes Jesus is relegated to the periphery and other factors like politics, socio-economic status or a charismatic figure become the rallying factor in fellowships and churches. For a lasting and meaningful fellowship, Jesus should remain the cornerstone. This is a key factor that DeSilva underscores by noting that, “the privilege of being God’s house and priesthood draws the hearers in the centripetal direction Peter desires—toward Christ and one another, committed to Christian community—and offsets the centrifugal forces of society’s pressures.”[72] Oneness in a community helps its constituent members manage the external pressures from the world.

Another application point that comes from this pericope is the redefinition of what it means to be “God’s people.” Peter redefined what it means to be ‘God’s people’ by showing that all those who believe, whether Jews and Gentiles, are now God’s special possession. He then refers them as: a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possesion, and a people who have received mercy. Although he was a Jew by birth, he did not advantage Jews or his heritage in his arguments as a special people of God over others. Therefore, in a context where the issue of negative ethnicity abounds (even in churches), we need to redefine what it means to be “God’s people”. Peter acknowledges that there are only two races: those who have come to Christ and those who have not, those who have received mercy and those who have not. The rest of other distinctions misses God’s view of things.

Conclusion

Through this study 1 Peter 2:4-10 has clearly highlighted that Christ, the one chosen and precious in God’s sight, has an intimate relationship with believers. Believers, as living stones, are being build up into a spiritual house to be holy priesthood and to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable by God. Peter’s in this passage breathes comfort and encouragement, even today, to those who have come to Christ, believed in him, and obeyed his word. The world may alienate, shame, discriminate, or reject them but in God’s eyes they are precious. Assuredly, honor belongs to those who believe but to those who do not believe shame and destruction is their allotment. Knowing this should cause believers to fulfil the purpose of their calling- declaring God’s excellencies in an alien world.

Bibliography

Achtemeier, Paul J., and Eldon Jay Epp. 1 Peter: A Commentary on First Peter. Hermeneia–a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Minneapolis, Minn: Fortress Press, 1996.

Aland, Kurt, and Barbara Aland, eds. The Greek New Testament. 4., Ed., [4. Dr.]. Stuttgart: Dt. Bibelges, 1998.

Beale, Gregory K, and Donald A. Carson. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Baker Academic Apollos, 2009.

Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. 2nd ed., Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2005.

Clowney, Edmund P. The Message of 1 Peter: The Way of the Cross. Leicester: Inter-Varsity Pr., 1992.

DeSilva, David Arthur. An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods & Ministry Formation. Downers Grove: Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press; Apollos, 2004.

Elliott, John Hall, ed. 1 Peter: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. 1st ed., The Anchor Bible, v. 37B. New York: Doubleday, 2000.

Hagner, Donald Alfred. The New Testament: A Historical and Theological Introduction. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2012.

Jobes, Karen H. 1 Peter. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005.

Mbuvi, Andrew Mũtũa. Temple, Exile, and Identity in 1 Peter. Library of New Testament Studies 345. London; New York: T & T Clark, 2007.

McKelvey, R. J. The New Temple: The Church in the New Testament. Oxford Theological Monographs. London: Oxford U.P, 1969.

McKnight, Scott. 1 Peter: The NIV Application Commentary from Biblical Text.to Contemporary Life. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan Pub. House, 1996.

Michaels, J. Ramsey, David A. Hubbard, Glenn W. Barker, Bruce Manning Metzger, and J. Ramsey Michaels. 1 Peter. Word Biblical Commentary, [General ed.: David A. Hubbard; Glenn W. Barker. Old Testament ed.: John D. W. Watts. New Testament ed.: Ralph P. Martin] ; Vol. 49. Waco, Tex: Word Books, Publ, 2004.

Ngewa, Samuel. Companion to Greek Exegesis. Lecture Notes Africa International University. Unpublished, Nairobi, 2018.

Pietersma, Albert, and Benjamin G. Wright, eds. A New English Translation of the Septuagint: And the Other Greek Translations Traditionally Included under That Title. New York ; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Wallace, Daniel B., and Daniel B. Wallace. The Basics of New Testament Syntax: An Intermediate Greek Grammar. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 2000.

 

Footnotes Section: 

[1] Paul J. Achtemeier and Eldon Jay Epp, 1 Peter: A Commentary on First Peter, Hermeneia–a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, Minn: Fortress Press, 1996), 29–36. Achtemeier here discusses in considerable detail the probable nature of persecutions at this time by giving three categories: a general official persecution, official local persecution, and unofficial local persecutions. Whichever the case suffering was evident.

[2] Donald Alfred Hagner, The New Testament: A Historical and Theological Introduction (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2012), 688.

[3] Edmund P Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter: The Way of the Cross (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1992), 19.

[4] Ibid., 20.

[5] Ibid., 20.

[6] Achtemeier and Epp, 1 Peter, 35.

[7] D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2005), 644.

[8] Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter, 20.

[9] Ibid., 16.

[10] Ibid., 23.

[11] Ibid., 23.

[12] Karen H. Jobes, 1 Peter, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005), 144.

[13] Simultaneous participle. The action is simultaneous to the action of the main verb (οἰκοδομεῖσθε- being built up) in verse 5

[14] Accusative of direct object

[15] Used in this case as a predicate participle. Also, the concept of ‘living’ is applied elsewhere in the scriptures: living water, living bread (Jn. 4:10; 5:51); living hope, living God, and living stones in 1 Peter.

[16] J. Ramsey Michaels et al., 1 Peter, Word Biblical Commentary, [General ed.: David A. Hubbard; Glenn W. Barker. Old Testament ed.: John D. W. Watts. New Testament ed.: Ralph P. Martin] ; Vol. 49 (Waco, Tex: Word Books, Publ, 2004), 98.

[17] Genitive of agency.

[18] Complementary participle. As an extensive perfect- it focuses on the ongoing rejection that began in the past.

[19] Dative of reference/respect.

[20] With the use of παρὰ these two accusatives (ἐκλεκτὸν and ἔντιμον) are accusatives of comparison.

[21] Nominative of apposition, explaining further the nominative αὐτοὶ.

[22] Modal use of participle to express manner, “as…”.

[23] This is the main verb of the participle προσερχόμενοι in verse 4. I am taking it as a passive indicative to mean “you are being built up”.

[24] John Hall Elliott, ed., 1 Peter: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, 1st ed., The Anchor Bible, v. 37B (New York: Doubleday, 2000), 153.

[25] Accusative of direct object.

[26] Jobes, 1 Peter, 151.

[27] R. J. McKelvey, The New Temple: The Church in the New Testament, Oxford Theological Monographs (London: Oxford U.P, 1969).

[28] The word can be taken as an epexegetical accusative which expounds further on the preceding accusatives; alternatively, it can be an accusative absolute, that is, because of its independence from the rest of verse, occupying the place of nominative.

[29] Dative of direct object.

[30] Genitive of agent.

[31] Epexegetical genitive, further explaining Ἰησοῦ.

[32] Andrew Mũtũa Mbuvi, Temple, Exile, and Identity in 1 Peter, Library of New Testament Studies 345 (London; New York: T & T Clark, 2007), 37.

[33] Static present

[34] Dative of place

[35] Dative of direct object

[36] Historical/dramatic present- action in the past dramatized as if happening now.

[37] Dative of place.

[38] Substantival participle

[39] The construction μὴ + aorist subjunctive (καταισχυνθῇ) is an expression of prohibition; those who trust in God have never been put to shame and they shall never be put to shame.

[40] The LXX translations I am giving here and thereafter in quotation marks are based on the NETS: Albert Pietersma and Benjamin G. Wright, eds., A New English Translation of the Septuagint: And the Other Greek Translations Traditionally Included under That Title (New York ; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

[41] Gregory K Beale and Donald A Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic ; Baker Academic Apollos, 2009), 1026.

[42] Perfective present- the focus is on the present reality of a past action; attribute usage of a participle.

[43] Nominative subject.

[44] Elliott, 1 Peter, 427.

[45] Substantival use of participle.

[46] Is an anarthrous noun, the context demands that a definite article be supplied.

[47] Constative aorist.

[48] Substantival use of participle.

[49] Resultative aorist.

[50] Accusative of termination with focus on the result.

[51] Genitive of direct object.

[52] Nominative subject.

[53] Genitive of cause.

[54] Durative present

[55] Dative of direct object

[56] Simultaneous participle.

[57] Inceptive aorist.

[58] Scot McKnight, 1 Peter: The NIV Application Commentary from Biblical Text to Contemporary Life, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan Pub. House, 1996), 109.

[59] Hagner, The New Testament, 695.

[60] Jobes, 1 Peter, 159.

[61] Ibid., 160.

[62] Beale and Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 1031.

[63] Accusative of termination with focus on relationship.

[64] Subjunctive expressing purpose: there is the use of ὅπως+ Subjunctive.

[65] Resultative aorist- “who has called you” as opposed inceptive “who called you”

[66] Accusative of termination with focus on present reality.

[67] Qualitative genitive- God’s marvelous light as opposed to any other type of light.

[68] Beale and Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 1031.

[69] Qualitative genitive. People belonging to God as opposed to belonging to oneself or other persons.

[70] Intensive perfect- focusing on state of things. As a participle it is antecedent to the action of the main verb.

[71] Resultative aorist.

[72] David Arthur DeSilva, An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods & Ministry Formation (Downers Grove, Ill. : Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press ; Apollos, 2004), 849.

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