stum’-bling-blok, (mikhshol, makhshelah; proskomma, skandalon): These are the most important of the varied renderings of either of two cognate Hebrew words, or of two different Greek words. Sometimes the Greek word for "stone" (lithos) accompanies the principal word. There is no important difference in the meaning of the words or of their renderings. the Revised Version (British and American) generally substitutes "stumbling" for "offence" of the King James Version.

The literal meaning of the Hebrew words--an object which causes one to stumble or fall--appears in such passages as Le 19:14: "Thou shalt not .... put a stumblingblock (mikhshol) before the blind" (compare Jer 6:21). But the expression is ordinarily figurative, referring to that which causes material ruin or spiritual downfall, which were closely connected in Old Testament thought (Ps 119:165; Eze 21:15). The things that lead astray are silver and gold (Eze 7:19); idols (Eze 14:3; Ze 1:3, etc.).

One of the New Testament words, skandalon, literally means the stick of a trap to which the bait is attached, and which when touched springs the trap. Figuratively either word refers to a thing or a person that leads one to fall into error, into sin or into destruction: the cross of Christ (Ga 5:11; Ro 11:9); another’s liberty (1Co 8:9); Peter in Mt 16:23; Christ, whose life and character were so different from Jewish expectation (Ro 9:33).

See also OFFENCE.