The Hebrew word of the Old Testament, pronounced mick-shole, meaning an obstacle or enticement, and the Greek word of the New Testament, pronounced scan-dal-on (from which is derived the English word scandal), meaning a snare, or something that offends, are often translated in English-language Bibles as stumbling block. Although it has obvious literal applications, it is more often used as a metaphor for a means of physical or spiritual ruin.
In the Old Testament, although once used in a sense of not taking advantage of the disabled, stumbling blocks were something that people put between themselves and God, or that God put before the disobedient.
"You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am The Lord." (Leviticus 19:14 RSV)
"Again, if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand." (Ezekiel 3:20 RSV)
"They cast their silver into the streets, and their gold is like an unclean thing; their silver and gold are not able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of The Lord; they cannot satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it. For it was the stumbling block of their iniquity. Their beautiful ornament they used for vainglory, and they made their abominable images and their detestable things of it; therefore I will make it an unclean thing to them." (Ezekiel 7:19-20 RSV)
In the New Testament, stumbling blocks were used in a spiritual sense:
"Then let us no more pass judgment on one another, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother." (Romans 14:13 RSV)
"For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians 1:22-24 RSV)
Fact Finder: Is faith in works (as opposed to faith and works) a stumbling block?
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This Week's Bible Quiz
Who was the older of the two?
1. Cain or Abel? (see Cain and Abel)
2. Moses or Aaron?
3. Isaac or Ishmael?
4. Jacob or Esau?
5. Reuben or Judah?
6. David or Eliab?
7. Adonijah or Solomon?
8. Elijah or Elisha?
9. Esther or Mordecai?
10. Jesus Christ or John The Baptist?
For the answers to this August 14 2001 quiz, see the Bible Quiz Answers Page