The Greek Psalms often (always?) change out “rock” for something non-metaphorical when it refers to God. For instance, Psalm 18:46(27)a:

The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock (ṣûrî).

In the LXX (17:47) this becomes:

ζῇ κύριος, καὶ εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεός μου.
The Lord lives, and blessed be my God.

When ṣûr refers to God, it usually becomes θεός (God) in the LXX, less often βοηθὸς (helper) or ἀντιλήμπτωρ (supporter) rather than πέτρα (rock), the typical translation of ṣûr. The latter indeed is used in the Psalms when refers to a literal rock, e.g. 104(105):41, 26(27):5.

The fascinating exception is 60(61):3(2)b:

‏בְּצוּר־יָר֖וּם מִמֶּ֣נִּי תַנְחֵֽנִי
Lead me to the rock (ṣûr) that is higher than I

ἐν πέτρᾳ ὕψωσάς με
On a rock (πέτρα) you exalted me

There the meaning is apparently changed to avoid the equation of God and rock.

There is plenty of metaphorical language elsewhere in the Psalms, and usually it just seems to be translated into the LXX using normal equivalences. Is there some theological problem the LXX translator had with this metaphor?

  • I guess this would then explain the East-West schism. When Saint Jerome translated the Scriptures into Latin, he used the Hebrew text, where the emphasis on rock (Peter) is evident. Greeks, on the other hand, having been accustomed to employing the Septuagint, where such allusions and references are obscured by the text (which seems to interpret rather than merely translate), have devised an entirely different ecclesiology.
    – Lucian
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 2:55
  • I wonder if there might have been concern that it would be seen as causing confusion with the pyramids or be taken as a direct challenge to its importance.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 21:52
  • I've noticed that "rock" disappears in the LXX of Deuteronomy 32 as well.
    – Cephas
    Commented May 7, 2021 at 1:24
  • 1
    @Susan - Google Books: "Text-Critical and Hermeneutical Studies in the Septuagint" has an article titled: "Revisiting the Rock: Tsur as a Translation of Elohim in Deuteronomy and Beyond". (pp 37-51) While I don't agree with the author's final opinion, it was an interesting read. Thanks for the question.
    – tblue
    Commented May 7, 2021 at 11:54

3 Answers 3


There are reasons to think it was common to re-adjust or re-interpret statements that compare God with a rock. This is true at least for the Targums. For instance,

  • the Targum to Psalms translates "rock" in 18:47 תקיפא (the strong one).
  • Targum Jonathan to Isaiah 28 translates "stone in Zion" as מלך תקיף (strong king).
  • Targum Jonathan to 1 Samuel 2:2 translates "There is no rock like our God" as לית תקיף אלא אלהנא which would be something like "There is no one as strong as our God."
  • The Targum to Psalms translates "Lord, my Rock" in 19:15 as יי תוקפי which is something like "Lord, my strong one."

All that to say: we can't know for sure but it would seem that the Septuagint translators are not alone in making that choice. Perhaps it was just a convention.


If I may revive the discussion: the problem is not with "rock" specifically, but with metaphors for God in general. If we could not use metaphors, talking about God at all would be difficult. On the other hand, an idol is a sort of non-verbal metaphor for a deity; the Hebrew authors of the OT were not inhibited about referring to God as a "Rock", but the LXX were definitely leery of doing so. Habakkuk addresses God as צ֖וּר 'Rock' (1:12), and then declares (2:19) 'Woe to you who say to wood, "Awake!", to צ֖וּר דּוּמָ֑ם 'a dumb stone' "Rise up!"' The LXX omit the word Rock from the first passage but of course reproduce the Hebrew text of the second (οὐαὶ ὁ λέγων [. . .] τῷ λίθῶ Ὑψώθητι). God is a sun and a shield in Ps. 84, but Egyptian solar monotheism in its brief heyday is not the same as the monotheism of the Bible. The LXX paraphrase the metaphors out of existence: ὅτι ἔλεον καὶ ἀλήθειαν ἀγαπᾷ κύριος ὁ θεός. Translators nowadays do not worry about this because literal sun worship is not prevalent in their cultures. In antiquity it was otherwise. But the "rock" metaphor can still be problematic; 1 Cor. 10:4 can stir up a lively discussion even now.


The Septuagint was produced by pre-Christian Jews who did not trust the Greeks to understand the subtleties of Hebrew metaphor. When Jerome learned Hebrew, the Christian Jews had been chased out of the church and he had to learn it from non-Christian Jews. How likely do you think they were to show Jerome how to see Christ in the OT scriptures?

Rocks and stones are two sides of the same metaphor.

Stone is אבן ‘eben , but hidden by modern vowels, it is ab-ben; Father-Son of man.

Rock is צור tsuwr The righteous man צ revealed ר through clarification by the sword of the word ו.

As for the confusion over Peter: he was Simon Peter (heard the rock) and Jesus was the Rock/Stone.

*formation of words is called: Notarikon - Interpretation by dividing a word into two or more parts in the 32 rules of Rabbi Eliezer ben Jose de Galili

  • First, "Christian Jews" but particularly "disbelieving Jews" and the last sentence of the first paragraph are wholly inappropriate on a site that aims to be non-doctrinal. 2. אבן is completely unrelated to אב and בן. There is no dagesh in the bet; the etymology is from בנה "to build" as Gesenius correctly indicates. 3. Word arithmetic like you suggest with צור is ill-informed, there is no evidence whatsoever that such nuances would be present in the original text.
    – user2672
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 19:59
  • @keelan The terms give a historical context as to why the Greek church, and apparently you, have no concept that the meaning of Hebrew words is derived from the combined metaphor of the letters within.
    – Bob Jones
    Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 0:43
  • And there was no dagesh in any bet prior to the addition by the Masoretes along with the system of niqqud about 600AD. It did not exist in the scriptures Jesus read.
    – Bob Jones
    Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 3:57
  • According to spelling mistakes, the bet was spirantised or not (depending on strong or weak articulation) already in the first century BCE. If someone would combine אב and בן, the bet would be strongly articulated. So it is unrelated to אבן, which has weak articulation. But 0CE seems a rather arbitrary moment if we're a discussing a psalm, why does it matter what Jesus read? And what about the other two points I mentioned?
    – user2672
    Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 6:11
  • 1. It is not derogatory but descriptive of the three classes of people involved in transferring knowledge of Hebrew to the Greeks. 2. The rabbis explain that the meaning of a Hebrew word is derived from the combined metaphor of the letters, and the dagesh was an addition to the original written form for pronunciation, not word formation. 3. There are many books by rabbis demonstrating the method. And the method explains why the same word is used for 'holy' and 'male temple prostitute'. Simply asserting there is no evidence is no evidence of the fact. And this is not the topic to demonstrate it
    – Bob Jones
    Commented Feb 1, 2018 at 13:37

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