Mark 12:10 And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner:Greek Verse: Literal Alternative:
Not at all the writing, this one, have you recognized: A stone, this here they rejected, the ones building the house. This is being changed: into a head of a corner.Hidden Meaning:
This verse is identical to Psalm 118:22 of the Septuagint, the Greek OT of Jesus's time (see Greek Septuagint version below and at this link.
In the original Greek, the word play is on the double meanings of "head" and "corner," contrasting leadership with the top layer of stones that protects a wall. Interestingly, this word play also works in original Hebrew (see Hebrew of Psalm 118:22 here).
The English translators added three definite articles to the verse to make Jesus's role seem more unique. The Greek says "a stone" and "a head of a corner" not "the stone," "the head" or "the corner."
The two modern translations (NIV, NLT) completely change the original Greek from "a head of a corner" to "the cornerstone," which sounds like praise, but gets what Jesus said completely wrong.
In architecture, "a head of a corner" comes from the technique of coping an exterior wall. The coping is the final, finishing layer of stone that protects the rest below. The head or top coping layer of stones is not square but slanted so that it sheds water. If its stones were square, the water would sit on top, working into the joints and eventually destroying the wall. The "head of a corner" was slanted in two directions, the least square stone of all. Note that by saying this, Jesus is making fun of himself, basically saying that he is very slanted and off kilter by regular standards.
Of course, as in English, "head" also means a leader. In Greek, this idea came the idea of "crowning" a leader. However, unlike English, "corner" also means "a leader of a people" in Greek. In English, we say a "pillar of the community" to describe a leader. In Greek, they would say "a corner of a community" in the same way. Think of the corners as supporting a structure like a pillar does. In Hebrew, the words for head (ro'sh ) and corner (pinnah) also both carry the same sense of leadership.
So a "head of a corner" is not just a leader, but a leader of leaders. The "head" of the "pillars" of the community.Wordplay:
In the original Greek, the word play is on the two meanings of "head" and "corner," contrasting leadership with the top layer of stones that protects a wall. Interestingly, this word play also works in Hebrew.Vocabulary:
γραφὴν ( noun sg fem acc) "Scripture" is from graphe, which means "representing by means of lines", "a drawing", "writing", "the art of writing," and "that which is written." It came to mean "scripture" from its use in the Gospels.
ἐγενήθη (verb 3rd sg aor ind pass) "Is become" is from ginomai, which means "to become", "to come into being", "to happen", "to be produced," and "to be." It means changing into a new state of being. It is the complementary opposite of the verb "to be" (eimi)which indicates existence in the same state.
εἰς (prep) Untranslated is eis, which means "into (of place)," "up to (of time)", "until (of time)", "as much as (of measure or limit)", "as far as (of measure or limit)", "towards (to express relation)", "in regard to (to express relation)", "of an end or limit," and "for (of purpose or object)."
κεφαλὴν (noun sg fem acc) "Head" is from kephalê, which means "head of a man or beast", "an extremity", "the top", "the capital (top) of a pillar", "the coping of a wall", "the source of a rivalry," and, metaphorically the "crowning" or "completion" of a thing.
Psalm 118:22 (LXX 117:22) λίθον ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες οὗτος ἐγενήθη εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας
Christ's Words Articles
- Gospel of Mark: Offers the best, detailed information on all except last verses.
- Gospel of Luke: Offers detailed information on the Greek of each verse.
- Gospel of Matthew: Offers good, detailed information on each verse of Greek.
- Gospel of John: Offers various levels of information on Greek of each verse.
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About this Site
I started this project over a decade ago. The initial goal was to satisfy my own curiosity about how the original Greek of Jesus's words was translated into English comparing it to my work in translating ancient Chinese.
This site does not promote any religious point of view about Christianity. I purposely use nonreligious sources for Greek translation. My goal is simply to identify how Jesus used words. His use of Greek words somewhat unique since his words were spoken, not written.
The range of quality of the articles on this site reflects that it is a personal site, not a commercial one. No one proofreads my work. Some articles are over a decade old when I knew much less ancient Greek. Matthew articles are best since I have updated them all at least once. The ones in Mark are the oldest and poorest. Luke is not yet complete.