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Reason No. 19: The πίστις – πιστεύω Disparity Effect – 100 Reasons πίστις Χριστοῦ is an Objective Genitive

Posted by NT Wrong on December 19, 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. 19: The πίστις – πιστεύω Disparity Effect

If the subjective genitive interpretation were adopted for the phrase πίστις Χριστοῦ, it would result in the highly unusual disparity that the noun πίστις would be assigned to Christ, while all occurrences of the verb πιστεύω are attributed to human believers.

Campbell argues that such an argument relies on fallacious etymology (1997: 713-719). But he’s wrong. Barry Matlock (2002: 13) rightly counters that:

    1. Paul uses the noun and verb interchangeably in his paraphrase in Rom 4.9 (“We say, ‘Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.'”) of his earlier quote of Gen 15.6 in Rom 4.3 (“Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”);
    2. E. A. Nida and J. P. Louw’s, Lexical Semantics of the Greek New Testament Based on Semantic Domains treats the noun πίστις (“trust”) and verb πιστεύω (“I trust”) as a single entry;
    3. The fallacy of etymology involves historical development not semantic classifications; and
    4. Paul’s choice of verb or noun is one of syntactic structure and stylistic features, and it’s overinterpreting his letters to treat the stylistic difference as having theological import.

So the subjective genitive translation results in an implausible disparity between the meaning of the noun πίστις and the verb πιστεύω. Given these unlikely semantic consequences, the objective genitive is to be preferred.

References:

  • Campbell, Douglas. “False Presuppositions in the ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ Debate: A Response to Brian Dodd.” Journal of Biblical Literature 116 (1997):713-19.
  • R. Barry Matlock, “Detheologizing the ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ Debate: Cautionary Remarks from a Lexical Semantic Perspective.” Novum Testamentum 42.1 (2000): 1-23.
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    4 Responses to “Reason No. 19: The πίστις – πιστεύω Disparity Effect – 100 Reasons πίστις Χριστοῦ is an Objective Genitive”

    1. In addition to Rom 4:1-12, Paul’s use of scripture in Rom 9:30-10:21 makes clear that Campbell is off base. For Paul there is “righteousness for everyone who believes”, and the result is “the righteousness of faith”, which come from “believing in one’s heart that Christ is Lord”. (10:4,6,9). Or, per Isaiah, “‘Lord who believed our message?’… Faith comes from what is heard [the message].” (10:16-17) The act of believing and the response of faith are the same. Francis Watson endorses Matlock’s “detheologizing” here (Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles, pp 241-244).

    2. Geoff Hudson said

      [comment moved to Hobbyhorse Post]

    3. So the subjective genitive translation results in an implausible disparity between the meaning of the noun πίστις and the verb πιστεύω.

      “In such a context a book can never become the focus ‘as a thing, a noun’; if it does not ‘spin as a verb’ it is useless.”
      –a bit from Bonnie Mann’s “Appendix” in the “New Intergalatic Introduction” to author Mary Daly’s book, Gyn/ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism.

      Ever consider getting Mann to write something to help you introduce your new book? 🙂

    4. NT Wrong? said

      ‘Spin as a verb’. Now, that’s nice.

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