[The audio for this week’s evening service is available at Sermon.net, as is a PDF file of the notes for the service.]

Peter draws several verses from the Hebrew Bible together in this paragraph. He first quotes Isa 28:16, where the Lord says he is “laying a stone in Zion.” In the original context, this saying referred to the establishment of a stable dynasty in Jerusalem, despite threats against it from the Assyrians.

The first line is fairly clear, but the expansion of stone into a “chosen cornerstone” needs to be unpacked.  The Greek word (ἀκρογωνιαιος) refers to a “capstone,” an ornate stone that would be the final stone added to a building. But a “cornerstone” refers to a stone laid as a foundation. Unlike modern “cornerstones” that are largely ceremonial, the cornerstone for a large building was critical for the building up of the rest of the building.

Southern CornerstoneIn the Second Temple Period, Herod’s Temple was built on a platform that as essentially a large box built around what was once Mount Moriah.  While others had built walls to terrace the mountain and expand the area for the Temple, Herod’s project was much more ambitious and required the used of huge carved stones at the base of what we now call the Western Wall. These stones are massive and bear the weight of the walls that hold up the Temple platform. (The largest stone is 44.6 feet long and about 10.8 feet deep, and is 10 feet high and weighs approximately 570 tons).

Does the stone refer to the capstone, the stone with the most glory, or the foundational stone, on which the building is built?  Peter quotes the Greek translation (ἄκρο- means “high,” but γωνία means “corner”), the word can refer to a stone that lays on the “extreme corner” (BDAG) although the prefix seems to imply height.  The Hebrew Bible is not helpful since it has both: “a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation.”  Peter does not include “foundation” in his quotation of the text.

An additional problem is that the in a metaphor of the people of God as a Temple in the present age, Jesus can be described as both the foundation and capstone. Eph 2:20 has a very similar use of this particular word and the same problem is present there: Is Jesus the cornerstone of the foundation, or is he the final, most honored stone place at the highest point? Or is this metaphor flexible enough to refer to either the foundation or the most-precious stone? More importantly, how does this metaphor contribute to Peter’s Christology?