The capstone is an important architectural and symbolic element in the Bible. If you’re looking for a quick answer, a capstone is the crowning or head stone that completes something, like the top stone of a pyramid or archway.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the significance of capstones in the Bible, looking at their architectural role, symbolic meaning, and how they point to Jesus Christ as the ultimate capstone and completion of God’s purposes.
The Architectural Role of Capstones in the Bible
Capstones Complete Architectural Structures
In biblical times, capstones played a crucial role in finishing and protecting important structures. These crowning stones sat at the top of walls, buildings, monuments, and other architectural features.
Much like today, capstones provided an aesthetically pleasing way to complete and adorn these constructions.
Capstones were often ornately carved and engraved to showcase the splendor and glory of the structure. Many featured decorative flourishes, symbols, and inscriptions. This eye-catching capstone helped draw attention to the magnificence of the building it crowned.
In addition to aesthetics, capstones served the vital structural purpose of locking all the stones beneath them together. They helped stabilize walls and buildings by distributing the weight evenly across the lower courses of masonry.
Without a sturdy capstone, structures were more prone to crumbling and decay over time.
The Capstone Held Together Important Buildings
Several passages in the Bible highlight how integral capstones were in holding together monumental buildings and architectural features:
- The book of Zechariah refers to the removal of a capstone to portray the destruction of a kingdom: “On that day, declares the Lord Almighty, I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, declares the Lord, and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the Lord Almighty.”
- Ezra describes capstones being set into place to celebrate the rebuilding and restoration of the temple: “When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel.”
Without a sturdy, well-crafted capstone supporting them from above, walls, temples, monuments, and buildings risked cracking, eroding, and eventually utter ruin if left exposed to the elements.
Capstones Were the Final Touches on Monuments
The Bible paints capstones as the glorious final flourishes placed atop great structures and monuments. Laying the capstone marked the completion of a building project and demonstrated the skill of the architects and masons.
Isaiah 60:7 describes beautifying the temple with stones and cedar from Lebanon “to adorn the place of my sanctuary, and I will glorify the place of my feet.” This refers to finalizing construction by adding an ornamental capstone befitting such a holy site.
Jesus referenced capstones when speaking of his own rejection by the religious establishment. Despite being the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus represented a wrapping up or completion of Old Testament prophecy that authorities refused to accept.
“Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” (Matthew 21:42)
Just as builders overlooked the importance of the capstone, so too did many fail to recognize Christ’s significance as the fulfillment of the Scriptures. Nevertheless, God exalted Christ as the preeminent cornerstone of the church and God’s plan for redemption.
The Symbolic Meaning of Capstones in Scripture
Capstones Represent Completion and Fulfillment
In architecture, a capstone marks the completion of a structure. Similarly, in the Bible, capstones often represent the fulfillment or completion of God’s purposes. For example, in Zechariah 4:7, the capstone is the final stone laid as the temple is finished.
This symbolizes God’s faithfulness in completing the temple reconstruction. The placement of the capstone was accompanied by shouts of “Grace, grace to it!” (Zechariah 4:7). This capstone brought the temple project to fruition after years of delay.
Another example is in Romans 9:33, where Christ is described as a “stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” But for those who trust in Him, He is the “capstone.” Here, Christ is the completion of God’s plan of salvation.
As the capstone, Christ fulfills God’s redemptive purposes. Without Him, God’s plans would remain unfinished and incomplete. But with Christ as the capstone, God’s building is brought to completion.
Capstones Mark the Pinnacle of Something
Capstones also signify reaching the high point or pinnacle of something. For instance, in Job 38:4-7, God lays the foundations of the earth and then marks its completion by setting its “cornerstone” in place. This capstone represents the height of God’s creative work in forming the world.
The language depicts God as master architect bringing His project to a successful finish.
Another example is Psalm 118, which refers to the capstone twice (verses 22 and 27). Verse 22 prophesies Christ as the stone the builders rejected that becomes the capstone, the most important and elevated stone in the structure.
Placing the capstone completed the edifice, showing the Messiah’s exaltation. Verse 27 again uses capstone imagery, referring to Christ with palm branches, a sign of honor and glory.
Jesus as the Symbolic Capstone in Scripture
As the passages above demonstrate, the Bible repeatedly uses capstone imagery in reference to Christ. He is the long-awaited Messiah who fulfills the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). God’s plan of redemption finds its ultimate completion and pinnacle in Jesus.
Ephesians 2:20 declares that the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” Here, He is the crowning stone completing the foundation of the early church.
In a sense, the four Gospels depict Christ as the capstone of biblical revelation. The Old Testament sets the foundation, and the Gospels describe how Christ fulfills OT prophecy as the head of the corner (Matthew 21:42).
1 Peter 2:6-7 explains, “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” He is the living stone bringing God’s spiritual temple to completion.
Jesus Christ as the Ultimate Capstone
Jesus as the Completion of God’s Plans
Throughout the Old Testament, God slowly revealed His plan of salvation through the coming Messiah. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment and completion of this divine plan. As the capstone completes an archway, Christ completes the arch of God’s redemptive work.
Jesus is the promised Savior who brings God’s plans to fruition (Luke 24:44).
All of God’s covenants find their yes and amen in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). He fulfills the Abrahamic covenant as the offspring who blesses all nations (Galatians 3:16). Jesus fulfills the Davidic covenant as the heir to David’s throne and the establisher of an eternal kingdom (Luke 1:32-33).
As the capstone, Christ fulfills all that was written about Him in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:27).
Christ the Head of the Church
The New Testament presents Jesus as the head of the church, which is His body (Ephesians 1:22-23). Just as a capstone holds together an archway, Christ holds together the church. He is the leading, guiding, and directing force of His people.
Jesus is “preeminent in everything” for the church (Colossians 1:18). He is the beginning, middle, and end. The church depends wholly on Christ as the source of its life and growth. Believers find their unity and common purpose in living under the authority of the capstone, Jesus (1 Corinthians 12:27).
Jesus as the Pinnacle of God’s Revelation
The author of Hebrews presents Jesus as the pinnacle of God’s revelation to mankind. Through the prophets, God spoke partially and progressively. But in Christ, God’s revelation finds its climax and fullness (Hebrews 1:1-3). If the prophets laid bricks, Jesus is the capstone completing the structure.
As the divine Son, Jesus perfectly expresses God’s nature and character (Colossians 1:15). By looking to Christ, we see a visible, tangible image of the invisible God. No other prophet or religious figure can compare to the surpassing revelation found in the person of Jesus Christ.
He is the capstone of divine disclosure.
In summary, capstones in the Bible serve both practical and symbolic purposes. Architecturally, they complete and hold together important structures, representing the final touch on a monument. Symbolically, they point to fulfillment, prominence, and Christ Himself as the capstone.
Jesus is the ultimate completion and pinnacle of God’s purposes revealed progressively across Scripture. He is the head of the Church and the One in whom all God’s plans find their crowning fulfillment.
Understanding the capstone concept enriches our comprehension of Christ’s preeminence in God’s redemptive story.