I am seeking an English grammatical analysis of 1 Peter 2:8b, as rendered in Net English Translation, in order to determine [what] is destined;i.e., the stumble or the disobedience.

I am not asking for a theological exegetical or hermeneutical analysis or any kind of interpretation of the text.

NET I Peter 2:7,8

7 So you who believe see his value, but for those who do not believe, the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,

8 and a stumbling-stone and a rock to trip over. They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.


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    The logical interpretation of "do" must surely be "disobey the word". – BillJ Nov 11 '17 at 19:28
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    @BillJ could you expound further and submit as an answer? – InfinitelyManic Nov 11 '17 at 19:46
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    @Nigel J 'Well, I know what Peter wrote; of that, there is no doubt.' would imply that you have access to the original manuscripts. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 12 '17 at 0:29
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    At the very least, this translation is ambiguous, and the default reading (at least nowadays) would be 'they were predestined to disobey'. This flies in the face of many other Scriptures where God says 'Obey, live righteously, and I will bless you' and even 'Confess your wrongdoings and I will cleanse you' and 'I desire all men to be saved' (i Tim 2:4) (paraphrasing). – Edwin Ashworth Nov 12 '17 at 0:43
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    Why are you asking people to defend poor phraseology? Use a better translation. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 12 '17 at 9:50

If you don't want an hermeneutical analysis or similar interpretation of the text, then better get rid of it; and stick to the one sentence you are asking about. And/or come up with a parallel one. I do both here.

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

As they were destined to do is an adverbial clause (see Grammar Monster and Thought.com)


As a writer you often have to explain to your reader where things happened, why things happened, when they happened, or how they happened. As you have seen, to answer such questions requires the use of adverbs, whether you use an adverb, an adverbial phrase, or an adverbial clause. (See Appositive Phrases, and Adverbial and Adjectival Phrases and Clauses, italics mine.)

Regarding the structure of your sentence, the adverbial clause can apply either to the closest preceding dependent clause, disobey the word or to to the complete independent clause preceding the adverbial. Thus, in the second option, they were destined to stumble because they disobey the word.

Compare the more pedestrian:

They fell off their bike because they got a flat tire, as I predicted they would (do).

As I predicted they would (do) is an adverbial clause.

I predicted either that they would get a flat tire, or they would fall off their bike because they get a flat tire.

So, a grammatical analysis does not provide a conclusive reading of the sentence.

  • I have always asked for a grammatical analysis of the text so I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "If you don't want an analysis". Notwithstanding, please clarify if it is your conclusion that the answer is indecisive since grammatical rules permit both. – InfinitelyManic Nov 14 '17 at 1:58
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    @InfinitelyManic - I personally think grammatical rules permit both. – aparente001 Nov 15 '17 at 4:07
  • So, is the conclusion that the NET translation results in there being no conclusion ? Or have I misunderstood ? – Nigel J Nov 15 '17 at 4:53
  • @NigelJ - No conclusion or an equivocation seems to be the current reasonable analysis. – InfinitelyManic Nov 15 '17 at 15:57

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

Assuming correct punctuation as in the original English translation, the semantic interpretation is simple and straightforward unless one chooses to complicate it.☆

For all the good grammatical reasons already covered by earlier answers, 'destined' here definitely applies to 'disobey' but it can -- it might or might not -- apply to 'stumble' as well, which means that from a strictly grammatical perspective both readings are possible:

they were destined to 'disobey the written word', and stumbled as a consequence.

they were destined to 'stumble because they disobeyed the written word.'

However, most native speakers of English are likely to agree that the first reading was intended: 'destined' probably applies to 'disobey' alone. It is a matter to do with the logic of syntax, and stretching the meaning of 'destined' to apply to 'stumble' as well is a logical overextension for which no real justification seems to exist in either text or context.

I would suggest that if 'destined' really applied to 'stumble' then the translator would have used 'and' instead of 'as' to connect the two parts of the sentence:

They stumble because they disobey the word, and they were destined to do (so).


Occam's razor : "it is never useful to make more assumptions than are absolute necessary to prove the case" (paraphrase.) Keep it simple. 'Destined' applies to 'disobey' alone.

  • Your statements appear to conflict; i.e., "from a strictly grammatical perspective both readings are possible:" vs "'Destined' applies to 'disobey' only". – InfinitelyManic Nov 21 '17 at 0:26
  • Both readings are grammatically possible but there is no need to read the bible from a strictly grammatical perspective @InfinitelyManic. You could take a poll of native speakers from diverse backgrounds and 9 out of 10 would tell you that from a common-sense perspective, 'destined' applies to 'disobey' only, but that type of poll is off-topic here on English.StackExchange. – English Student Nov 21 '17 at 0:31
  • Generally, most native speaks cannot recall all of the grammatical rules that may have been learned many years ago. I certainly can't. So that's why I'm seeking out answers from those that still have a firm grip on the rules. I'm primarily interested in a grammatical analysis of the text knowing that such analysis may not rise to a "proper" interpretation of the text. I'm looking for a judgment of the text strictly through the lens of English grammar. – InfinitelyManic Nov 21 '17 at 0:38
  • It is fine as an exercise in syntax and grammar and I appreciate your interest, but I do think there is the risk of misinterpretation, overinterpretation and even multiple parallel interpretations of the text by considering all grammatically possible meanings -- note too I am not a native speaker of English myself @InfinitelyManic. – English Student Nov 21 '17 at 0:43
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    I took some time to understand your real purpose @InfinitelyManic. That makes it an unusual and very interesting exercise. I suppose you got your specific answer as given by at least 2 posts: a grammatical analysis does not provide a conclusive reading of the sentence // from a strictly grammatical perspective both readings are possible. – English Student Nov 21 '17 at 2:11

The inclusion of a comma effectively decouples the second and final clauses, so we must look for an earlier clause that the final clause must refer to. So, they were destined to stumble.

If we had:

They stumble because they disobey the word as they were destined to do.

then we can infer that they were destined to disobey.

  • But, they were destined to disobey--that's what the text is trying to say, even if they got the punctuation wrong. I wonder what the original Greek would tell us. – Xanne Nov 11 '17 at 19:03
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    @Xanne I agree that the translation may be suspect, but that was not what the quaerant wanted to know. Perhaps someone can provide a clearer example (and explanation) of the grammatical rule. – Mick Nov 11 '17 at 19:05
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    I see your point, but I'm not sure the comma "effectively decouples" those clauses. I don't think you can make a case for that; it is an unreferenced claim. – Xanne Nov 11 '17 at 19:08
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    @Xanne I agree that the comma does not necessarily decouple the two clauses. Nor do I know why such decoupling would result in reference to the subordinate clause rather than the main clause. Moreover, this is poetry meant to be read aloud. Are we to distinguish between a "stumbling stone" and a "rock to trip over"? The disobeying is being equated with stumbling. Did the Holy Ghost whisper where to place commas into the ear of Saint Jerome? – Jeff Morrow Nov 11 '17 at 19:19
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    @Mick I will deselect the answer and I was perhaps a bit rash. – InfinitelyManic Nov 11 '17 at 19:50

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