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Reason No. 15: Faith in Christ is attested in the undisputed phrases – 100 Reasons πίστις Χριστοῦ is an Objective Genitive

Posted by NT Wrong on December 18, 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. 15: Faith in Christ is attested in the undisputed phrases

Furthermore, there is unambiguous evidence for faith in Christ in Paul’s epistles (Schreiner 2001):

    Rom 10.9-14 (“if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved…”);
    Gal 3.26 (“in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.”);
    Phil 1.29 (“…believing in Christ…”);
    Philem 1.5 (“…your faith toward the Lord Jesus”);
    c.f. Col 1.4 (“…your faith in Christ Jesus”);
    c.f. Col 2.5 (“…the firmness of your faith in Christ”)

These explicit references to the faith of humans in Christ occur in and around the more difficult phrase, πίστις Χριστοῦ, and in similar descriptions of Paul’s concept of salvation. So there is a strong prima facie expectation that this more difficult phrase should be interpreted in light of the more secure meaning “faith in Christ”, and no persuasive basis on which to distinguish the meaning.

By contrast, there is no unambiguous evidence for the faithfulness of Christ to God in Paul’s epistles. (This has not, however, stopped reinterpreters of Paul from straining after a few gnats; e.g. Rom 1.17).

The evidence thus provides a strong basis for interpreting πίστις Χριστοῦ as an objective genitive.

References:

  • Thomas R. Schreiner, Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001).
  • Posted in Faith, Greek, Jesus & Christ, Paul, Soteriology | 11 Comments »

    Reason No. 14: No Argument Based on a Disputed Phrase – 100 Reasons πίστις Χριστοῦ is an Objective Genitive

    Posted by NT Wrong on December 18, 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. 14: No Argument Based on a Disputed Phrase

    Of great significance for the proponent of the objective genitive interpretation is that, while the faith of believers is mentioned many times in Romans and Galatians, there is no unambiguous explicit reference to the faithfulness of Christ (Schreiner 2001). There is only a conspicuous silence.

    Here’s the references to the faith of human believers in Romans and Galatians:

      Rom 1.5;
      Rom 1.8;
      Rom 1.12;
      Rom 3.27-28;
      Rom 3.30-31;
      Rom 4.5;
      Rom 4.9;
      Rom 4.11-14;
      Rom 4.16;
      Rom 4.19-20;
      Rom 5.1-2;
      Rom 9.30;
      Rom 9.32;
      Rom 10.6;
      Rom 10.8;
      Rom 10.17;
      Rom 11.20;
      Rom 14.23;
      Rom 16.26;
      Gal 2.20;
      Gal 3.2;
      Gal 3.5;
      Gal 3.7-9;
      Gal 3.11-12;
      Gal 3.14;
      Gal 3.26;
      Gal 5.5-6.

    And here’s the references to the faithfulness of Christ in Romans and Galatians:
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    [None]

    James (“Jimmy”) Dunn’s contention is therefore that the subjective genitive interpretation is a “thesis built solely on a disputed phrase”. This slightly overstates the case against the subjective genitive, as the thesis is built on the lack of any explicit references to Christ’s πίστις. It is still open to the proponent of the subjective genitive to argue for some implicit reference. But Dunn is correct that the subjective genitive interpretation has been largely built on the basis of a disputed phrase – hardly a reassuring basis for any interpretation.

    But W.W.B.S.? This is what Barry says:

    “While the objective genitive is supported by the surrounding linguistic context … the subjective genitive rests crucially on the phrases themselves” (2002: 316-17).

    So this provides a strong basis on which to interpret πίστις Χριστοῦ as an objective genitive.

    References:

  • James D. G. Dunn, “Once More, ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ.” Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers, 1991: 730-44.
  • R. Barry Matlock, “‘Even the Demons Believe’: Paul and ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 49.3 (2002): 300-318.
  • Thomas R. Schreiner, Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001).
  • Posted in Faith, Greek, Jesus & Christ, Paul, Soteriology | 16 Comments »

    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
  • Posted in Faith, Greek, Jesus & Christ, Paul, Soteriology | 2 Comments »

    Reason No. 1: Semantic Fallacies – 100 Reasons πίστις Χριστοῦ is an Objective Genitive

    Posted by NT Wrong on December 17, 2008

    pistis_christouThis is the first of 100 reasons why πίστις Χριστοῦ (and variations) should be interpreted primarily as an objective genitive in the letters of Paul. The post is an abridged version of one of the 100 reasons included in my forthcoming book:

    100 Reasons πίστις Χριστοῦ is an Objective Genitive

    Did I say ‘primarily’ interpreted as an objective genitive? Yes indeed. I say ‘primarily’, because the objective meaning (having human faith in Christ) is, on examination, the main gist of the phrase in Paul’s writings. So I guess I’m not entirely excluding a secondary meaning, all mixed up in Paul’s mysterious way of thinking, as evidenced in his letters, which involves Christ’s own faithfulness to God in carrying out his salvific mission on Earth.

    A few of my 100 reasons are rebuttals of arguments for alternative interpretations, which must also be provided to those who have wallowed in false understanding. In particular the (faddish) subjective genitive interpretation gets a pants-down spanking. Like in this first one…

    * * * * *


    Reason No. 1: Semantic Fallacies

    It is generally agreed that the meaning of πίστις ranges from faith/trust/confidence to faithfulness/trustworthiness, encompassing a fair few other meanings ‘inbetween’. Like all attempts at translation, there is no 1:1 correspondence between πίστις and any one English term. With this concept vaguely in mind, and only vaguely, Richard Hays argues that it is a “semantic fallacy” for his opponents to make a clear distinction between the two meanings of the term noted above, given that the Greek term connotes both meanings (2002: 295). It would mean that you couldn’t ever interpret Paul as referring to “faith in Christ”, because πίστις must also mean “faithfulness”, and it’s impossible to have “faithfulness in Christ” (well, at least that seems to be the rationale behind Hays’ objection).

    If Hays were correct, he would be right to conclude that his opponents’ argument is fundamentally flawed. And this is what he does in fact conclude:

    “Indeed, [James] Dunn’s whole argument depends on making a clear distinction between “faith” and “faithfulness” [emphasis added]:” (Hays 2002: 295).

    The argument sounds kind of convincing, in particular because Hays has labelled his argument against the objective genitive with the very scary term, “semantic fallacy”. But the argument only appears convincing up until the point at which you realise that it is Hays himself who is making the semantic fallacy.

    How? If a word takes a wide variety of meanings according to various contexts, it can still quite plausibly take one of those meanings in one particular context. Hays’ position is itself a fallacy of insisting on the diachronic range from ‘faith’ to ‘faithfulness’ in every case the word is employed. The fallacy consists of an illegitimate transfer of the totality of the diachronic range onto a particular occurrence, whether that involves denotation or, as in Hays’ contention, “connotation”. Or, in Barr’s terminology, it is a clear case of “illegitimate totality transfer”:

    “The error that arises when the meaning of a word (understood as the total series of relations in which it is used in the literature) is read into a particular case as its sense and implication there, may be called ‘illegitimate totality transfer’” (Barr 1961: 218)

    Barry Matlock makes a fairly similar criticism, in a couple of his landmark articles which tore apart the fragile foundations of the subjective genitive interpretation (2000: 6; 2002: 315). The term πίστις can simply mean either “faith” (e.g. Mk 11.22) or “faithfulness” (Rom 3.3), depending on the (so important) context. So it is, rather, a “semantic” fallacy to insist that it must mean both in any given context.

    References:

    • James Barr, Semantic Fallacy Detector Man, The Semantics of Biblical Language (Glasgow: OUP, 1961), 218).
    • Richard Hays, Subjective Genitive Man, The Faith of Jesus Christ: The Narrative Substructure of Galatians 3.1—4.11. Rev. Ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.
    • 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.
    • R. Barry Matlock, “’Even the Demons Believe’: Paul and ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 49.3 (2002): 300-318, 315.

    Posted in Faith, Greek, Jesus & Christ, Paul, Soteriology | 6 Comments »

    100 Reasons πίστις Χριστοῦ is an Objective Genitive

    Posted by NT Wrong on December 15, 2008

    Over the next few weeks I will be posting excerts from my forthcoming book, 100 Reasons πίστις Χριστοῦ is an Objective Genitive. The book was originally submitted to the Very Short Introductions series as Pistis Christou: A Very Short Introduction. However, after its unconditional and, frankly, unkind rejection from OUP (“We believe the topic could only possibly be of interest to a half dozen or so people who obviously don’t get out enough”), I have been forced to seek an alternative publishing route (TBA).

    Why πίστις Χριστοῦ? The debate over the meaning(s) of the phrase might at first appear to be a rather esoteric, subtle, and arcane grammatical dispute, involving a mere eight occurrences of the phrase in Paul’s “genuine” epistles, to wit:

    • διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (“through faith[/fulness] in [/of] Jesus Christ”; Rom 3.22);
    • ἐκ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ (“by faith[/fulness] in [/of] Jesus”; Rom 3.26);
    • διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (“through faith[/fulness] in [/of] Jesus Christ”; Gal 2.16a);
    • ἐκ πίστεως Χριστοῦ (“by faith[/fulness] in [/of] Jesus”; Gal 2.16b);
    • ἐν πίστει … τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ (“by faith[/fulness] in [/of] the Son of God”; Gal 2.20);
    • ἐκ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (“by faith[/fulness] in [/of] Jesus Christ”; Gal 3.22);
    • διὰ τῆς πίστεως Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ (“through faith[/fulness] in [/of] Christ Jesus”; Gal 3.26, only in manuscript P46);
    • διὰ πίστεως Χριστοῦ (“through faith[/fulness] in [/of] Christ”; Phil 3.9).
    • also: Eph 3.12; 4.13

    At the grammatical level, the essence of the problem is whether the phrase πίστις Χριστοῦ is:
    1. subjective, referring to a personal attribute or action of Christ (“the faith, or faithfulness, of Christ”) that achieves salvation, or
    2. objective, referring to the profession and orientation of “faith in Christ”, by which an individual can be identified as ‘saved’, or
    3. (but less popularly) some other genitive meaning, eg attributive.

    The subjective genitive would primarily refer to the faith of Christ (to Christ’s salvific work of faith(/fulness)), whereas the objective genitive would primarily refer to the faith of the one who is ‘saved’ (to their human faith in Christ).

    Yet it becomes clear that the dispute is bigger than mere points of grammar. Most of these phrases occur in passages which are central to Paul’s theology (Rom 3-4 and Gal 2-3). The topic is central to our interpretation of how Paul understood salvation. And Paul’s ideas are fairly much central to Christianity itself, so it fundamentally affects the Christian concept of salvation. It has been suggested, with little exaggeration, that the debate has the potential to “lay the groundwork for an entirely different paradigm in the theology of the New Testament” (Sigve Tonstad, “ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ: Reading Paul in a New Paradigm,” Andrews University Seminary Studies 40.1 (2002): 37-59).

    Posted in Faith, Greek, Jesus & Christ, Paul, Soteriology | 6 Comments »

    Learning New Testament Greek by Song – Danny Zacharias

    Posted by NT Wrong on December 10, 2008

    Danny Zacharias has been busy producing music and music videos for learning New Testament Greek. Here’s his ‘learning the alphabet’ song:

    zacharias_greek_alphabet

    And here’s his First Declension song:

    danny_zacharias_firstdeclension

    Aren’t they catchy! And there will be more to come – check out his biblioblog, Deinde.

    Posted in Greek | Comments Off on Learning New Testament Greek by Song – Danny Zacharias

    History in The Iliad

    Posted by NT Wrong on September 30, 2008

    In the Boston Globe, September 28, 2008, Jonathan Gottschall writes an interesting article about history and fiction in The Iliad, a work that purports to refer to events at the time of the Bronze Age – Iron Age transition, but which was in fact written down many centuries later. That scenario might sound familiar to readers of the Hebrew Bible.

    Scholars have allowed that a kernel of historical truth might be tucked beneath the layers of heroic hyperbole and poetic embroidery, but only a small kernel. In the last 50 years, most scholars have sided with the great classicist Moses Finley, who argued that the epics were “a collection of fictions from beginning to end” and that – for all their majesty and drama – they were “no guide at all” to the civilization that may have fought the Trojan War.

    The poor early archaeological methods pursued by Schliemann led to a dismissal of any ‘historical’ basis for the Trojan War. However, recent archaeology has uncovered a destruction layer that many would identify with the ‘Trojan War’:

    Recent advances in archeology and linguistics offer the strongest support yet that the Trojan War did take place, with evidence coming from the large excavation at the likely site of Troy, as well as new analysis of cuneiform tablets from the dominant empire of the region… Using new tools, such as computer modeling and imaging technology that allows them to “see” into the earth before digging, [Manfred] Korfmann and his colleagues determined that this city’s borders were 10 to 15 times larger than previously thought, and that it supported a population of 5,000 to 10,000 – a big city for its time and place, with impressive defenses and an underground water system for surviving sieges. And, critically, the city bore signs of being pillaged and burned around 1200 BC, precisely the time when the Trojan War would have been fought.

    So what does this mean? Do the new archaeological, along with the Hittite imperial records, now prove all the details contained in The Iliad? Has archaeology proved the existence of The Historical Zeus?

    But if the Trojan War is looking more and more like a historical reality, there is still the question of whether the poems tell us anything about the motives and thinking of the people who actually fought it. Do the epic time machines actually take us back to the Greek culture of the Late Bronze Age?

    It is almost certain that they do not. Homer’s epics are a culmination of a centuries-long tradition of oral storytelling, and extensive cross-cultural studies of oral literature have established that such tales are unreliable as history. Homeric scholars believe that the epics were finally written down sometime in the 8th century BC, which means that the stories of Achilles and Odysseus would have been passed by word of mouth for half a millennium before they were finally recorded in what was, by then, a vastly changed Greek culture. Facts about the war and the people who fought it would have been lost or grossly distorted, as in a centuries-long game of “telephone.” Scholars agree that the relatively simple and poor culture Homer describes in his epics is quite sharply at odds with the complex and comparatively rich Greek kingdoms of the Late Bronze Age, when the war would have taken place.

    So what does the Iliad teach us? It teaches us about the culture in which it was written down.

    But even if the epics make a bad history of Greece in 1200 BC – in the sense of transmitting names, dates, and accurate political details – scholars increasingly agree that they provide a precious window on Greek culture at about the time the poems were finally written down.

    Reconstructing a prehistoric world from literary sources is rife with complications. But there are aspects of life in the Homeric era upon which most scholars agree. Homer paints a coherent picture of Greek attitudes, ideology, customs, manners, and mores that is consistent with the 8th century archeological record, and holds together based on anthropological knowledge about societies at similar levels of cultural development. For instance, we can trust that the Greeks’ political organization was loose but not chaotic – probably organized at the level of chiefdoms, not kingdoms or city-states. In the epics we can see the workings of an agrarian economy; we can see what animals they raised and what crops, how they mixed their wine, worshipped their gods, and treated their slaves and women. We can tell that theirs was a warlike world, with high rates of conflict within and between communities.

    Read the whole article here.

    Posted in Archaeology, Greek, Greek texts, Historiography | 1 Comment »

    Rabbi Solves Mystery of The Divine Name – YHWH Goes Both Ways!

    Posted by NT Wrong on July 24, 2008

    The pronunciation and meaning of The Name of YHWH has been a mystery for 2000 years. But, Rabbi Mark Sameth of Westchester now claims to have cracked it! And it turns out that God is a hermaphrodite …

    “Rabbi Mark Sameth contends in a soon-to-be-published article that the four-letter Hebrew name for God – held by Jewish tradition to be unpronounceable since the year 70 – should actually be read in reverse.

    When the four letters are flipped, he says, the new name makes the sounds of the Hebrew words for “he” and “she.”

    God thus becomes a dual-gendered deity, bringing together all the male and female energy in the universe, the yin and the yang that have divided the sexes from Adam and Eve to Homer and Marge.

    “This is the kind of God I believe in, the kind of God that makes sense to me, in a language that speaks very, very deeply to human aspirations and striving,” Sameth said. “How could God be male and not female?”

    Sameth, 54, the spiritual leader of Pleasantville Community Synagogue in Pleasantville, first hit on his theory more than a decade ago when he was a rabbinical student.

    Since then, he has pieced together clues and supporting evidence from the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament to Christians, and the vast body of rabbinic literature.”

    Solving a biblical mystery

    Now that’s been solved, what will Madonna and the other kabbalists do? And where did the alephs go?

    Rabbi Mark Sameth’s article will appear in CCAR Journal, published by the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

    Posted in Hebrew & Semitics, Yahweh | 6 Comments »

    Full English Translation of Hazon Gabriel by Israel Knohl

    Posted by NT Wrong on July 16, 2008

    Israel Knohl provides his full English translation of Hazon Gabriel here.

    A drawing of the inscription can be found here.

    It’s a difficult text to understand in any specificity, due to the gaps. But lines 19ff seem to refer to the eschatological arrival of the God of Israel within “three days”, together with the head archangel Michael and the other(?) three archangels.

    “19. … By three days you shall know, for thus said
    20. the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, the evil has been broken
    21. before righteousness …

    25. … Here is the glory of the Lord God
    26. of Hosts, the God of Israel, These are the seven chariots
    27. at the gate of Jerusalem and the gates of Judea they will re[st] for
    28. my three angels, Michael and all the others …”

    As this meaning is relatively clear and the text unbroken, shouldn’t the far more broken lines 80-81 be interpreted as also referring to the same or similar eschatological arrival after three days by Michael (there called “The Prince of Princes”)? That is, the arrival will be in glory, on chariots from heaven, accompanied by God Almighty. The context supports this interpretation, while Knohl’s interpretation relies on the controversial reconstruction of hayeh (interpreted as the imperative “live!”). If Israel Knohl could also make a photograph available, that would be handy to judge the issue, too.

    Israel Knohl’s latest article in Tarbiz can be found here, which includes the Hebrew transcription for Hazon Gabriel.

    Thanks to Jim West for noticing it first.

    Posted in Apocalyptic, Eschatology, Gospels, Hazon Gabriel, Hebrew & Semitics | Comments Off on Full English Translation of Hazon Gabriel by Israel Knohl

    Knohl’s Interpretation of Hazon Gabriel

    Posted by NT Wrong on July 6, 2008

    Knohl’s interprets lines 80-81 of Hazon Gabriel (“The Vision of Gabriel”) as saying:

    “by three days live/be resurrected, I Gabriel command you, prince of the princes”

    Here are the two key two excerpts from his article, in which he argues for this meaning. From “By Three Days, Live”: Messiahs, Resurrection, and Ascent to Heaven in Hazon Gabriel.” The Journal of Religion 88 (Apr 2008):147–158, Appendix, 150):

    Posted in Eschatology, Gospels, Hazon Gabriel, Hebrew & Semitics | Comments Off on Knohl’s Interpretation of Hazon Gabriel