Re: Gal. 2:16 [was Mark 11:22 God's faith]

From: Micheal Palmer (
Date: Tue Feb 25 1997 - 22:28:02 EST

At 7:47 AM -0600 2/23/97, Eric Weiss wrote:

>So does what you're saying make the argument that I believe James Dunn
>makes for the objective genitive in his commentary on Galatians for
>PISTEWS CRISTOU IHSOU...PISTEWS CRISTOU in Galatians 2:16 based on the
>intervening hHMEIS EIS CRISTON IHSOUN EPISTEUSAMEN as basically saying
>the same thing (the EIS + acc. makes it obvious that trust/faith in
>Christ is what is meant) less convincing, and perhaps beside the point -
>I mean, if "faithfulness of Christ" is what is meant, it seems to me
>that the intervening EIS phrase could be translated as "believed in
>Christ" without requiring the surrounding phrases to mean the same

Well, . . . yes, I think my argument does imply that Dunn's reading (as you
have cited it--I don't think I've read Dunn's treatment of Galatians 2:16)
is *less convincing*. Still, that's not the same thing as saying he's
wrong. The argument you report from Dunn is not new. Many have proposed
that the intervening hHMEIS EIS CRISTON IHSOUN EPISTEUSAMEN should define
our understanding of PISTEWS CRISTOU IHSOU...PISTEWS CRISTOU in the same
verse. They may in fact be right, but I think the grammar is smoother if we
understand PISTEWS CRISTOU IHSOU...PISTEWS CRISTOU as meanings something
different from hHMEIS EIS CRISTON IHSOUN EPISTEUSAMEN. That is, the context
could impose a meaning on PISTEWS CRISTOU IHSOU...PISTEWS CRISTOU which is
somewhat unnatural for that expression, but I'm not convinced that the
context demands that reading. I think the verse makes perfect sense (as I
will argue further below) if we read PISTEWS CRISTOU IHSOU...PISTEWS
CRISTOU as "faithfulness of Christ. . . faithfulness of Christ."

>[I still find - as I pointed out sometime last year - the EAN MH
>(usually translated "unless," but here by many translations translated
>"but") interesting, as it seems to imply that with certain conditions a
>person can be justified EX ERGWN NOMOU.]

I agree that EAN MH is more naturally read as "unless" or even "if not"
than "but". Still, the sentence may not imply (or at least it can be read
in such a way as not to imply) that "under certain conditions a person can
be justified EX ERGWN NOMOU, even if we translate EAN MH in some way
besides "but". Consider this wording:

        If a person is not justified through the faithfulness of Jesus, he is
        [still, certainly] not justified by works of the law. . .

This reading reverses the order of the two innitial clauses (one
eliptical), but it makes clear the function of EAN MH as "if not". The part
in brackets is my insertion to clarify the relationship of the two clauses.

>One other question: Is it possible that the genitives CRISTOU IHSOU and
>PISTEWS CRISTOU are used here because using a prepositional phrase to
>explain a prepositional phrase is kind of involved and hence a case that
>eliminates the need for another preposition would be chosen, though
>meaning the same as EIS + accusative (i.e., EAN MH DIA PISTEWS EIS
>CRISTON IHSOUN...EK PISTEWS EIS CRISTON are clumsy and improper and
>would even convey the wrong meaning)? This may be a real longshot, but
>it occurred to me as a possible explanation as I was reading the verse -
>of course, a "big Greek" should be able to answer whether or not Greek
>writers ever did this.

I suppose this is possible, but I think I remember Paul actually using
compound prepositional phrases, though I can't remember where. Do any of
the rest of you remember a place where he does this? If he does, then the
argument that PISTEWS CRISTOU is simply an attempt to avoid another
prepositional phrase, and means essentially the same thing as PISTEWS EIS
CRISTON, looses most of its force.

Those of you who are just joining this discussion should know that at no
point have I said that PISTIS CRISTOU *cannot* mean the same as PISTIS EIS
CRISTON. I just think it is a somewhat awkward reading for a deverbal noun
based on the verb PISTEUW, which has certain characteristics which make its
relationship to its object different from the relationship most verbs which
take objects hold with their objects. I suppose that a special context
could force on PISTIS CRISTOU a meaning parallel to PISTIS EIS CRISTON, I
just don't think the contexts we have discussed so far happen to do so.

Now, what about my own reading of Galatians 2:16? Assuming that you have a
Greek text in front of you, I read it like this:

        Yet we know that if a person is not justified through the faithfulness
        of Jesus Christ, he is certainly not justified by works of the Law.
        we believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by Christ's
        faithfulness and not by works of the Law.

I feel more certain about my reading of PISTEWS CRISTOU in this translation
than I do about my reading of EAN MH (and the inversion of the two opening
clauses which it necessitates), but I'll go ahead and commit to that one
too so that I can get attacked and we can advance the discussion! :-)

I will say about that, though, the something similar to what I said about
the objective genitive: I don't think the alternative reading is
necessarily wrong, just that it's a little less natural. Of course,
virtually all of the New Testament writers do some things which seem
unnatural to 20th century readers (both big and little Greeks)!

I would then *interpret* my reading of the text along the following lines:

(1) Jesus was faithful till death, and this act is the ultimate foundation
of our faith. Without it, our faith would be meaningless.

(2) Christians believe/trust/have faith in Christ, his faithfulness, and
its saving significance. Paul sees this faith in Christ as the essential
response to Christ's faithfulness, and as inseparable from the acceptance
of God's grace. It is the required response in order to establish right
relationship with God.

Micheal W. Palmer
Religion & Philosophy
Meredith College

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