Stone which the builders disallow

Bible Concepts or Analogies Obfuscated

Additionally, the NIV frequently interjects novel and even questionable concepts, such as the routine exchanges of capstone for cornerstone throughout the New Testament. Archeology has confirmed that biblical writers most certainly had a foundation stone in their mind. “Behold, I lay in Zion for a FOUNDATION stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure FOUNDATION” Isaiah 28:16“And they shall not take of thee a stone for a corner, nor a stone for FOUNDATIONS; but thou shalt be desolate for ever, saith the Lord” Jeremiah 51:26UPON this rock I will build my church” Matthew 16:18“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house UPON a rock”Matthew 7:24 and Luke 6:48. Repeatedly, biblical writers use the word “foundation” or “upon” or other words that reasonably create an image of this stone being “underneath” a structure. No where in the New Testament do there appear words distinctively linking the past ministry of Jesus or the future ministry of the Church with the TOP of a wall (Ephesians 2:201 Corinthians 3:10-121 Timothy 6:19). No other translation has followed the NIV. In fact, the new TNIV has changed each instance back to Cornerstone.

Head of the CornerIn most of the New Testament, we discover the literal Greek words KEPHALEN GONIAS or “head of the corner” (excluding Ephesians).

  Matthew 21:42 - KJV
    Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read              PHILLIPS  Head of the Corner
    in the scriptures, The stone which the                NASV      Chief Corner Stone
    builders rejected, the same is become the             NRSV      Cornerstone
    head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing,         EVS       Cornerstone
    and it is marvelous in our eyes?                      NIV       Capstone

  Mark 12:10 - KJV
    And have ye not read this scripture; The              PHILLIPS  Head of the Corner
    stone which the builders rejected is become           NASV      Chief Corner Stone
    the head of the corner.                               NRSV      Cornerstone
                                                          EVS       Cornerstone
                                                          NIV       Capstone

  Luke 20:17 - KJV
    And he beheld them, and said, What is                 PHILLIPS  Head of the Corner
    this then that is written, The stone                  NASV      Chief Corner Stone
    which the builders rejected, the same                 NRSV      Cornerstone
    is become the head of the corner?                     EVS       Cornerstone
                                                          NIV       Capstone

  Acts 4:11 - KJV
    This is the stone which was set at nought             PHILLIPS  Head of the Corner
    of you builders, which is become the                  NASV      Corner Stone
    head of the corner.                                   NRSV      Cornerstone
                                                          EVS       Cornerstone
                                                          NIV       Capstone

  Ephesians 2:20 - KJV
    And are built upon the foundation of the              PHILLIPS  Corner-stone
    apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself           NASV      Corner Stone
    being the chief corner stone.                         NRSV      Cornerstone
                                                          EVS       Cornerstone
                                                          NIV       Corner stone

  1 Peter 2:7 - KJV
    Unto you therefore which believe he is                PHILLIPS  Head of the Corner
    precious: but unto them which be disobedient,         NASV      Corner Stone
    the stone which the builders disallowed, the          NRSV      Head of the corner
    same is made the head of the corner.                  EVS       Cornerstone
                                                          NIV       Capstone

Actually these were stone pads in the building’s foundation, directly underneath the corner of intersecting walls. Field stone was used to construct the walls of most smaller buildings, and being the most unstable at corners, these pads helped to insure the building’s integrity. Here is the analogy. These pads held the weight, interlocked the walls, and provided stability for the entire building and precisely describe Christ’s relationship to the church; for He undergirds the church, interlocks the members, and provides stability for their faith. However, a capstone is a crown block which rests on the top of a wall. It undergirds nothing, interlocks nothing, and could be removed without affecting the integrity of the building whatsoever. The NIV has ruined the very analogy that the biblical writers were trying to make.

   Characteristic of        Biblical Writers &                          NIV
   Jesus                    Foundation Stone                            Capstone
   INVISIBLE in Heaven      INVISIBLE in the ground                     Visible on top

   SUPPORTS the church      SUPPORTS the building                       Nothing is supported 

   INTERLOCKS members       INTERLOCKS adjacent walls                   Interlocks nothing

   (if removed)             (if removed)                                (if removed)
   Church collapses         Building collapses                          Nothing changes

This writer has seen numerous ancient building particulars in the ruins of archeological digs while traveling in the Middle East and is convinced that biblical writers of both Testaments had a foundation stone in mind – not a crown block. Hymn authors understood this foundational undergirding analogy, for their titles and verses have captured this same essence of Christ in their hymns: The Churches One Foundation by Samuel J. Stone, How Firm A Foundation by George Keith, and the powerful Christ Is Made A Sure Foundation, a 7th century Latin hymn translated by John M. Neale. This textual alteration may be of little consequence to novice readers or those who delight in innovation, but it does sadly push the envelope for serious biblical study, because the precise analogy of the biblical writers has been obfuscated.

These numerous examples do not mean that the NIV Committee was not seriously endeavoring to produce a more readable and understandable version, but the point herein to be made is the real danger of crossing that line between literalness and interpretation where there remains no inherent guard rail to restrain one from allowing the text to reflect theological disposition, presumption, or imagination. It requires an extra amount of caution on a leash to successfully use this methodology.

Robert L. Thomas (see bibliography) pleasingly demonstrates that serious translation often uses Equivalence as a system of hermeneutical interpretation and exegesis whereas Nida emphatically separated each methodology. Thomas further contends that Equivalence and exegesis frequently overlap, and offers adequate explanation, such as: De Waard and Nida object to formal-equivalence renderings ofPsalm 23:1, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” by stating flatly, “want no longer means ‘to lack’ but rather ‘to desire.’” In contrast, contemporary dictionaries give the intransitive verb “want” a first meaning of “lack” or “have a need,” exactly what the psalmist intended to say. Rather than correcting the formal-equivalence translators, the linguistic specialists should have acknowledged the legitimacy of their word choice. They would also have been more credible if they had prefaced their critical remark with “in our sphere of knowledge” or “according to our judgment,” but to say without qualification “want no longer means ‘to lack’” raises questions about their judgment in general.

Dynamic Equivalence can be a helpful method when exercised with caution and respect, otherwise, unguarded attempts to explain result not only in misunderstanding, but as Jerome stated above concerning scribal activity, translators blend and mix their own guesswork. Paraphrase on the other hand is mostly conjecture, and readers must clearly understand this fact or the opinions of the translator may be construed to be the language of the Divine.


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