Friday, February 23, 2018

Foundation Stone: The Apostles or Christ?

Jesus is the foundation of the Christian ecclesia. While I have always taken Eph. 2:20 as a reference to the apostles and prophets as "secondary foundation stones" with Jesus as the "primary foundation stone" or cornerstone of the Christian communitas fidelis--it must be admitted that there is another possible (grammatical) understanding of this verse.

Ralph Earle notes that while it is "often assumed that Paul here declares 'the apostles and the prophets' (probably NT prophets) to be the foundation on which the Church is built," this conclusion does not necessarily follow from the syntax and grammar of the text. Earle refers to Meyers' observation that the foundation in Eph. 2:20 is Christ. Meyers writes: "The apostles and prophets are not the foundation, but have laid it."

Indeed it is possible to construe the genitive in this way ("TWN APOSTOLWN KAI PROFHTWN"), namely as a genitive of possession (not as a genitive of apposition). Nevertheless, I have no problem with viewing the apostles as secondary rather than primary foundation stones.

David Aune also maintains that while Eph. 2:20 can be taken as a genitive of apposition, Paul speaks of Jesus Christ "as the basic QEMELIOS, "foundation" (1 Cor 3:11)." See Aune's Word commentary on Revelation (page 1157). While the apostles are called foundation stones of New Jerusalem (the glorified EKKLHSIA TOU QEOU)--this appellation in no way conflicts with the verses that declare Christ to be the foundation anymore than do those passages which speak of both Christ and his ecclesia as "the seed of Abraham" (Gal. 3:16, 29):

"Peter applies Isaiah's prophecy concerning the cornerstone to Christ. It is noteworthy that a cornerstone controls the design of the building and holds the structure together. In the NT, the symbol of the foundation stone is used both of Christ (1 Cor 3:11) and of the apostles and prophets (Eph 2:20). But only Christ combines the functions of both foundation stone and cornerstone" (1 and 2 Peter, Jude. Norman Hillyer. P. 62-63).

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