I continue with my project of translating the First Letter of Peter with a brief commentary
1 PETER chapter 2
With that in mind, get rid of all malice and all cunning, all play-acting and spite, and all bad-mouthing. Like newborn babies crave the unadulterated rational milk, so that you may grow up towards God’s rescue – if you have indeed tasted the goodness of the Lord.
Draw near to him, a living stone rejected by human beings but chosen as precious by God, letting yourselves be built as living stones into a spiritual house, to be a holy order of priests, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Messiah.
For this is contained in Scripture: “Behold! I am laying a stone in Zion, a capstone chosen as precious; and the one who trusts in him will not be shamed.” So he is precious to you who trust, but to those who do not trust, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone” and also ” A stone to make them stumble and a rock to trip them up” – they stumble because they disobey the word, as they were set to do.
One of the surprising words in the New Testament is the Greek “logikos” which in classical Greek refers to reason and rationality. Of course its root is “logos” = word or reason. Some translators boldly translate it as “spiritual” because it is connected to God’s logos and refers to the higher function of the human soul. This however, takes away its distinctiveness. I’ve used “rational” because the first Christian writers valued the life of the mind and thought that faith in God fed the reason as well as the spirit. The nourishment of the joyful news is often compared to milk by St Paul; this author uses the image and links it to the Jewish Bible (Psalm 34/8) notion that God’s goodness should be tasted. The life of faith offers genuine satisfactions.
Then we get a verbal riff on the theme of stones, which includes more than one link to sayings of Jesus. First it connects with his words about his death, ” Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in three days.” Jesus also quotes the words about the stone rejected by the builders (Psalm 118) and those about stumbling blocks (Isaiah 8 ). These are used a) to identify Jesus as the cornerstone, that is, the Messiah, and b) the one whose disregarded uniqueness causes his enemies, who think he is negligible, to stumble. This author however makes the further connection with God’s promise in Isaiah 28 to lay a cornerstone stone in the holy city which will assure people of God’s faithfulness. He calls his readers to be built as living stones into a spiritual house or temple where offerings are accepted by God. He means that through Jesus their lives are offered to God.
All of this dignifies the messianic communities as the equivalent of the Jewish temple: God dwells no longer in stone – perhaps this is written after the destruction of the Temple- but in the communal life of his people, who are living stones. Those who don’t trust Messiah may have been the persecutors. The writer is helping to raise the believer’s’ profile of themselves. The chain of biblical references, all connected with the temple and the messiah, now are applied to Jesus Messiah and his people, so that believers may see themselves not as Johnny-come-latelys but as the fulfilment of God’s age-old purpose.
This kind of teaching may seem odd and cumbersome to modern taste, but it is part of the way in which leaders of the messianic assemblies of Jesus refused to let go of their Jewish inheritance, and from it carved out meanings which were consistent with the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.