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Reason No. 2: (Not) Arguing From The Stats – 100 Reasons πίστις Χριστοῦ is an Objective Genitive

Posted by NT Wrong on December 17, 2008

pistis_christouThe following post is an abridged version of one of the 100 reasons πίστις Χριστοῦ is an Objective Genitive included in my forthcoming book:

100 Reasons πίστις Χριστοῦ is an Objective Genitive


Reason No. 2: (Not) Arguing From The Stats

Proponents of the subjective genitive interpretation sometimes cite the work of Robinson (1970) and Howard (1974) in order to demonstrate that the predominant meaning of πίστις is “faithfulness” in the Greek Old Testament and Hellenistic Jewish literature.

Relying on general statistics in a specific case gives you no more than a prima facie case. At worst, it rides roughshod over the meaning of the text in its specific context. While there is a presumption for “faithfulness” in the overall statistics, there is no such easy presumption in respect of the New Testament occurrences of πίστις, given that the New Testament usage demonstrates a marked increase in the use of the term to denote “faith/trust in”. Barry Matlock (2000:18) demonstrates the increased use of πίστις to mean “faith/trust in” by the time of the New Testament writings, based on the listing in E. A. Nida and J. P. Louw’s, Lexical Semantics of the Greek New Testament Based on Semantic Domains.

While the meaning of πίστις as “faith/trust in” is absent from the Greek Old Testament (as it is in the Biblical Hebrew Vorlage, with אמונה), it is beginning to emerge in 4 Maccabees, Philo and Josephus (Matlock 2000: 18-19). And already in the Qumran interpretation of Habakkuk 2.4, a passage central to the discussion of πίστις Χριστοῦ in Romans and Galatians, אמונה denotes “trust in” or “loyalty to” the Teacher of Righteousness (1QpHab 8.2-3). This trend continues in the New Testament writings, where Jesus is the recipient of human trust and faith.

References:

  • George Howard, “The Faith of Christ,” Expository Times 85 (1974): 213-214
  • R. Barry Matlock, Objective Genitive Man, “Detheologizing the ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ Debate: Cautionary Remarks from a Lexical Semantic Perspective.” Novum Testamentum 42.1 (2000): 1-23.
  • D. W. B. Robinson, “Faith of Jesus Christ: A New Testament Debate,” Reformed Theological Review 29 (1970): 71-81
  • 2 Responses to “Reason No. 2: (Not) Arguing From The Stats – 100 Reasons πίστις Χριστοῦ is an Objective Genitive”

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