Promise or Replacement? Old Testament Language in 1 Peter

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Promise or Replacement? Old Testament Language in 1 Peter

This article was composed as a supplement to the 2017 Q2 Adult Sabbath School Lesson 3 “A Royal Priesthood.”


One of the significant issues in theology that rarely gets addressed is how Christians should relate to the Old Testament also known as the Hebrew Bible (HB).[1] Some people say Jesus came, so that the OT could be done away with, but that can’t be since Jesus and the apostles quote from, point to, submit to, and exalt the Revelation of God that was given before the Messiah came. Some people go to the other extreme and attempt to implement all 613 laws in the HB, but that can’t be right because the sacrificial system finds its fulfilment in Christ (Heb. 10:5–10), the heavenly sanctuary is where Jesus ministers now (Heb. 8:1, 2), and Paul stated that we Gentiles do not need to get circumcised to enter into covenant relationship with God (1 Cor. 7:19), etc. So, how should we understand the Christian’s relationship to the Hebrew Bible? Well, let’s work our way through chapter 2 of 1 Peter and see how Peter wants us to understand that relationship.

Quotation, Allusion, Echo, Citation

In the last lesson reflection, the definition of these terms was footnoted, but I’ll put them here again, so it will be easier to follow along.[2] Knowing how New Testament (NT) writers are using the HB gives us a sound basis for drawing conclusions about how we should relate to it. There are no quotations or allusions in the chapter. However we do find echoes and citations.

Three echoes—an attempt to derive meaning from one specific text, event, tradition, person, or thing used for another purpose than the original sense.

1 Pet. 2:9; Exod. 19:5–6

1 Pet. 2:9; Isa. 43:20–21

1 Pet 2:9; Deut. 7:6

Three citations—a citation shows the way readers are told that certain material in a work came from another source.

1 Pet. 2:6; Isa. 28:16

1 Pet. 2:7; Ps. 118:22

1 Pet. 2:8; Isa. 8:14

Peter’s Major Point

Before we ask how Peter is using these text, let’s try and figure out what his main point is and see how those texts help make that point. Peter’s initial concern is for growth in purity. His metaphor of a newborn desiring milk show us that spiritual growth is a process, it is not innate and comes from the same source for everyone. He develops this theme through two keywords: (1) zao “life, living”; Jesus is the living stone [v. 4]; we are like living stones [v. 5]; we are to live to righteousness [v. 24]; (2) eklektos “called, chosen”; Jesus is chosen and precious [v. 4]; HB reference to Jesus as promise [v. 6]; we are a chosen race [v. 9]. So Peter’s main point is “Because Jesus IS we are!” In chapter 1 he spelled out how we are “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1:3), and now he tells what we are “through Jesus Christ” [2:5].

Who Jesus is

As Peter moves from the milk metaphor to stone imagery in vv. 4, 6–9, he uses a paradox, “a living stone” (cf. Acts 4:11–12).[3] Peter cites three passages in the HB that use this stone imagery. The second point he makes is that Jesus was rejected by men.[4] The third point that he makes is that Jesus is chosen and precious in the sight of God. So, how does he come to this conclusion? Under inspiration, Peter understood that Jesus is the foundation of the church and the source of the church’s growth. He first explains how Jesus is the promised Stone of the HB.

Going in the opposite order, he cites the foundational passage for saying that Jesus is chosen and precious. By citing Isaiah 28:16 attention is drawn to the juxtaposition of hope and judgment pattern in the book. In this judgment oracle (Isa. 28:14–29) a negative critique is given of the Israelite (Ephraim, v. 1) leadership. Isaiah wrote of a day when the Lord of hosts “will be a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people” (v. 5). Unfortunately, the people rejected God’s leadership and put their trust in Egypt to deliver them, so, in disapproval of the inept leadership at that time, God promised He would bring about “that day” by establishing a cornerstone, who would be the foundation of this blessing to the remnant. Peter cites Isa 28:16 because Jesus is the promised fulfillment of God’s proclamation of a Spirit-filled leader (v. 6; Isa. 11:2; Luke 4:18–19) for His remnant people.

Next, Peter dwells upon the fact that those who believe are honored by God’s stone, but that stone is rejected by those who don’t believe (1 Peter 2:7). For a culture that put heavy emphasis on the honor/shame paradigm, as exiles in a volatile world (1:1) Jesus is the One who gives honor to His people. Lest anyone think their status in the world or their life of suffering would bring them shame, Peter cites Psalm 118:22 to give hope and vindication to God’s people. In a joyful song of thanksgiving, the psalmist praises God: (1) for His steadfast love [vv. 1–4], (2) for delivering him [vv.5–13], (3) for being his salvation [vv. 14–16], (4) for His discipline [vv. 17–18], and finally (5) for being worthy of praise [vv. 19–29]. Though the wicked didn’t accept the cornerstone as a foundation, God is worthy of praise because by this stone He has begun to establish a house of praise (v. 19). Peter cites this text to show that the judgment of man was wrong about the stone God chose, the stone is honored as the foundational stone of God’s temple (cf. John 2:19).

Last, Peter cites Isaiah 8:14 to reinforce his point about the shame of those who rejected the cornerstone. King Ahaz rejected God’s offer of a sign that He would deliver the people of Judah and God promised His own sign Isa. 7:14. Isaiah 8 details the coming Assyrian invasion and vv. 11–15 encourage the people to fear the Lord and wait upon Him, unlike Ahaz, who put his trust in a foreign nation. The cornerstone is a stone of offense because it is a sign of complete trust in God. Peter cites Isa. 8:14 to show that unbelief leads to stumbling, so those who don’t accept the living and chosen stone will stumble. Peter finishes “They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do (1 Pet. 2:8). God promised a leader, a savior, one to be feared and hoped in—Jesus.

Who We are

Peter’s application of what I call applied christology is the “so what” of the text. Which is another way of asking “Why is Peter telling us this?” Through the rest of the book Peter talks about suffering, so he needs to establish a baseline that will sustain the people of God in every and all situations, be it family, economic, political, social, etc. He echoes the covenant language of God’s faithfulness from when Israel was established as the covenant people of God (Exod. 19:5–6), when they were given the covenant to establish them as a holy people (Deut. 7:6), and when God promised to do a “new thing” and to renew His people (Isa. 43:20–21). What a message, Because Jesus is, we are: the people of God—chosen, sanctified, the Remnant. From this chapter of 2 Peter we also learn that the HB is not a book to be done away with, but a book of God’s promises.

Click the link to read the Sabbath School Lesson for this week, “A Royal Priesthood.

Click here to read more commentaries on this quarter’s Adult Sabbath School lesson.



[1] Other Old Testament scholars, including myself prefer the phrase Hebrew Bible because of the historical baggage and danger of misunderstanding the Christians relationship to God’s revelation in promise.

[2] A quotation is the strongest, most explicit mode of reference, a direct citation of an OT passage that is plainly recognizable by its clear and unique verbal parallelism. An allusion is a brief expression, an indirect reference consciously intended by an author to a person, place, thing or idea of historical, cultural, literary or political significance, where the writer expects the reader to possess enough knowledge to spot the allusion and grasp its importance in a text. A citation shows the way readers are told that certain material in a work came from another source. Finally, an echo is an attempt to derive meaning from one specific text, event, tradition, person, or thing used for another purpose than the original sense

[3] Jesus Himself acknowledges Himself to be the rejected stone, Matt. 21:42–44; Mark 12:10–11; Luke 20:17–18.

[4] Whenever a rejected stone is mentioned in the NT, Jesus is always in view, Rom. 9:32–33; Eph2:20–22.

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About the author


Jerome Skinner, earned his Ph.D as an Old Testament scholar at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. He focuses on the Psalms and Wisdom literature and on practical Christianity. Jerome is active in following American Christianity and social issues.