Vineyard of the Son
A theology of the Atonement would be incomplete, I think, without a thorough treatment of the Parable of the Vine Growers in Mark 12:1–12. Here, however, I propose to limit these comments to Jesus' introduction—in the subsequent development of the story—of "the stone the builders rejected." According to Mark, Jesus says to his enemies, "Have you not even read this Scripture: 'The stone the builders rejected / Has become the chief cornerstone. / This is the Lord's doing, / And it is marvelous in our eyes'?"
The parable's transition from a "son" to a "stone"—a bit of a stretch, not only in English, but also in the inspired Greek text—makes perfect sense when traced to the Hebrew wording of the psalm Jesus quotes. In Hebrew a "son" is a ben, and a "stone" is an 'eben. In fact, this play on words appears repeatedly in the Targumic literature related to Psalm 118 (Greek 117).
Several observations are in order with respect to this sudden quotation from the Book of Psalms: First, Jesus may have been somewhat preoccupied with this psalm during the last week of his life. According to Mark's chronological sequence, the enthusiastic crowd cited this psalm with respect to Jesus on Sunday (Mark 11:9), and, in the context of the parable, Jesus quotes it again on Tuesday of Holy Week.
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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