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I am seeking a grammatical analysis of 1 Peter 2:(7-)8 (especially as rendered in the King James and NET translations, respectively) in order to determine what they are “destined unto” or what is “appointed” them; namely, to stumble or to disobey.

I am not primarily seeking a theological analysis.

KJV

Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

NET

7 So you who believe see his value, but for those who do not believe, the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, 8 and a stumbling-stone and a rock to trip over. They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

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There are several variants to this text. I can't determine which particular variant underlies the NET translation, so it is difficult to address your question completely. Assuming, though, that the NET follows the Greek text shown at Lumina, there doesn't seem to be any disagreement with the Textus Receptus under the King James Version.

The Greek text can be broken down:

7 ὑμῖν οὖν ἡ τιμὴ τοῖς πιστεύουσιν,
To you, therefore, the believing, [is] the honor,

ἀπειθοῦσι δὲ
but to the disobeying

λίθον ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες, οὗτος ἐγενήθη εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας Psalm 117:22 LXX
[the] stone which the builders rejected, this became [the] head of the corner


8 καὶ λίθος προσκόμματος καὶ πέτρα σκανδάλουcf. Isaiah 8:14 LXX
and a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense

οἳ προσκόπτουσι τῷ λόγῳ
[those] which stumble at the word

ἀπειθοῦντες
disobeying

εἰς ὃ καὶ ἐτέθησαν
[see below]

The phrase you are keying in on is the last one. In the phrase εἰς ὃ ἐτέθησαν:

  • εἰς (eis) is a preposition that is alternately translated as "into", "to", "in", "at", "on", "upon", "by", "near", "among", "against", "concerning", "as", or "as".

  • ὃ (ho) is a relative (neuter) pronoun

  • ἐτέθησαν (etethēsan) is a passive form of the verb τίθημι (tithēmi), which is translated sometimes as "appoint", but can simply mean something like "put", "place", or "lay". The tense is aorist, which is a sort of past tense.

Depending on (1) how one interprets εἰς (eis), and (2) what one decides the relative pronoun ὃ (ho) refers to, one can interpret the text in a number of different ways. Many (most?) translations seem to take εἰς ὃ ἐτέθησαν as an adverbial clause modifying the verb προσκόπτουσι ("they stumble") in προσκόπτουσι τῷ λόγῳ ἀπειθοῦντες ("[they] stumble at the word, disobeying"), leading to things like what appeared in Calvin's Geneva Bible:

Even to them which stomble at the worde being disobedient, unto the which thing they were even ordeined.

Modern translations have:

Berean Literal Bible

They stumble at being disobedient to the word, to which also they were appointed.

ESV

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

NIV

They stumble because they disobey the message--which is also what they were destined for.

or even

NASB

For they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

An equally valid reading of εἰς ὃ καὶ ἐτέθησαν, however, is to understand εἰς as meaning "regarding" or "concerning", rather than "to". This completely changes the meaning to something like that given in the Orthodox New Testament:

They stumble at the word, being disobedient, in regard to that which they also were appointed.

Only a couple other versions seem to translate the verse in this sense:

Jubilee Bible

Even to those who stumble at the word, not obeying in that for which they were ordained

Darby Bible

[Who] stumble at the word, being disobedient to which also they have been appointed

What is interesting is that virtually no one in antiquity seemed to have understood the verse in the sense that most modern translations propose. Bede, for example, although commenting in Latin was also thoroughly familiar with the Greek text, writes:

They, whom from the very fact that it behooves them to hear the word of God, stumble at the word. They stumble in their mind by being unwilling to believe what they here. He hass exaggerated their foolishness, and added that they do not believe in that to which they also were appointed, because they have been appointed to this, that is, being made human beings by nature, they may believe God and obey His will ... In which they also were appointed is to be understood according to what Paul says in speaking about God: For in Him we live, and move, and exist [Acts 17:28]1

The Greek Oecumenius also seems to read the passage this way, emphasizing man's free will in his commentary on the passage:

God is not to be held responsible for this, for no cause of damnation can come from him who wants everyone to be saved. It is they who have made themselves into vessels of wrath, and unbelief has followed naturally from that. Therefore they have been established in the order for which they have prepared themselves. For if a human being is made with free will, that free will cannot be forced, nor can anyone accuse him who has decreed their fate of having done anything to them which they did not fully deserve as a result of their own actions.2

So if the intent of the author of 1 Peter was to indicate some sort of predestination to disobey or stumble, then we must assume that this meaning was either lost on readers from the very beginning or became lost sometime during the early part of the first millennium and was only later "recovered" sometime after the Reformation.

Another possibility is that the predisposition to stumble arises as a result of disobeying - not as any kind of predestination. I didn't explore this possibility above, but perhaps it would help to harmonize the two possible translations somewhat.


1. Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles (tr. Dom David Hurst)
2. Commentary on 1 Peter

  • I think "I believe that what they are appointed to is to hear and believe the word" would be construed as a theological observation instead of grammatical analysis of the English texts, per se. Can you alter your answer and expound further on your later comments regarding the participle and verb; which seems to provide the kind of analysis that I'm seeking. – InfinitelyManic Nov 10 '17 at 6:02
  • I greatly expanded the discussion of the Greek and learned quite a few things in the process. Please take a look and let me know if this is more along the lines of what you are looking for. – user33515 Dec 25 '17 at 17:06
  • I think your analysis has further confirmed, in all respects, that the subject text remains ambiguous; therefore, it cannot be given any weight in respect to resolving an interpretation. – InfinitelyManic Dec 25 '17 at 22:31
  • True. If the interpretation of the Church Fathers is held as being inconsequential, no interpretation can be resolved. – user33515 Dec 26 '17 at 1:08
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My Koine is rusty but the phrase is question is οἳ προσκόπτουσιν τῷ λόγῳ ἀπειθοῦντες εἰς ὃ καὶ ἐτέθησαν. It could be translated as The stumblers refused to believe the word because they were destined to do so. They were destined to refuse to believe. See Exodus 7-11 for God hardening Pharaoh's heart, but note how Pharaoh hardens his own heart as well as God hardening it.

  • then does the structure of the KJV or NET conform to "The stumblers refused to believe the word because they were destined to do so" grammatically and immediately; or do we still have an ambiguity regarding what is destined, in the KJV and NET? – InfinitelyManic Nov 10 '17 at 5:55
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    I think both translations can be understood, grammatically, the way I outlined above, that is, they were destined to refuse to believe. – Jason Fry Nov 10 '17 at 10:59
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It appears to me that "being disobedient" is a restatement of "stumbling at the message". In other words, they were predestined to be disobedient to the message by "being tripped up by the message". I'm not sure if it appropriate to see "being disobedient" as a different event then "stumbling at the message".

Such passages as this are often understood to explain all justification in terms of either illumination or hardening however, Peter is referring to something that only concerns the Jews. That is, Jesus did not come to be crowned as king but rather to be rejected from being king. It was both a temporary, partial judicial hardening AND God's chosen means to open up a redemptive opportunity for the gentiles:

NIV Romans 11:11 Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.

This is one of the seven mysteries that Christ gave Paul of the gospel of grace:

NIV Romans 11:25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in,

It is to this predicted and manipulated "stumbling over the message, being disobedient" that Peter refers.

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    Thanks for posting. I need to carefully read through your answer and refresh my thinking on my original question; since it's been a while. – InfinitelyManic Sep 22 '18 at 3:00

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