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Reason No. 22: The Example of Christ’s Faithfulness as Conspicuous Silence – 100 Reasons πίστις Χριστοῦ is an Objective Genitive

Posted by NT Wrong on December 20, 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. 22: The Example of Christ’s Faithfulness as Conspicuous Silence

Proponents of the objective genitive interpretation have argued that there are passages where Paul would have been expected to discuss Christ’s faithfulness if he had intended πίστις Χριστοῦ to be understood as a subjective genitive. But as Paul does not, this constitutes a persuasive argument from silence.

It is unusual that Paul doesn’t develop specific examples of Christ’s own faithfulness if he had the concept in mind when he wrote the phrase πίστις Χριστοῦ. After all, Paul does manage to repeat himself easily and develop his thoughts in various ways, with many practical examples.

Leon Morris (1993: 288 ) gives the example of Romans 4, where, after the mention of πίστις Χριστοῦ in Rom 3.22 & 26, Paul gives the example of the faith(fulness) of Abraham, rather than the faith(fulness) of Christ. Once Paul had delivered his reasoned argument in Romans 3 — and if he was referring to the faithfulness of Christ with the phrase πίστις Χριστοῦ — one might have thought that an example from Christ’s own life would have been most appropriate.

But, as with all arguments from silence, contrary arguments can be raised. Proponents of the subjective genitive interpretation have provided possible reasons for making Abraham the example here. In the first place, Abraham acts as the representative and model for all humans in being reckoned righteous, while Christ was not reckoned but was righteous from the very beginning (Hooker 1989: 325; Hays 2002: 723). Secondly, in providing Abraham as the example here, Paul demonstrates that justification by faith (now defined in Christ) was God’s original plan for his chosen people, which makes the selection of Abraham a deliberately selected counter-reading to the dominant Jewish interpretation of Abraham as being justified by his faithfulness to the command of God (Hooker 1989: 325; Hays 2002: 722).

While the example of Christ’s own faithfulness on the cross seems like the most powerful example to provide when Romans 4 commences, it is also hard to discount other purposes Paul may have had in providing Abraham as an example. So, while it is unusual that Paul never provides an example of Christ’s own faithfulness, a factor which points in the direction of an objective genitive interpretation, this doesn’t provide an open-and-shut basis for the interpretation.


  • Richard B. Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ: The Narrative Substructure of Galatians 3.1—4.11. Rev. Ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.
  • Morna D. Hooker, “ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ.” New Testament Studies 35 (1989): 321-42.
  • Leon Morris, “Faith”, in Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin & Daniel G. Reid, eds, Dictionary of Paul and his Letters (Downers Grove and Leicester: InterVarsity, 1993), 285-291.
  • One Response to “Reason No. 22: The Example of Christ’s Faithfulness as Conspicuous Silence – 100 Reasons πίστις Χριστοῦ is an Objective Genitive”

    1. danielandtonya said

      I was gonna get that Paul and His Letters Book at SBL but IVP wouldn’t come down $5 on the price to match Amazon. Now I don’t want it cause I don’t like IVP.

      Does Morris rule out the possibilty that pistis Abraham might refer to the belief or religion of Abraham? We third option-ers don’t like the ‘faithfulness’ rendering unless one also renders pistis Christou as ‘faithfulness of Christ’ (which we don’t).

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