Re: the PISTEUW/PISTIS thread

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri May 01 1998 - 09:21:01 EDT

At 6:32 PM -0500 4/30/98, Jim West wrote:
>This is why it is sometimes frustrating to respond to questions. A fellow
>asks our views on the meaning of the greek word pisteuw/pistis. We respond
>with an accurate answer- and are straightway told that we don't know what we
>are talking about because we are selfish Americans.
>So, rather than being genuinely interested in an answer based on philology
>and grammar, our questioner is only looking for confirmation of his
>preconceived views. Such questions are then, not questions, but statements.
>And statements when posed in the form of a question are propaganda and agenda.
>The agenda here is not hidden, however, but open, bold, and insidious. It
>is an effort to hoist a certain theological meaning on the Greek text and
>truth be damned, it is the agenda that matters.
>Hence, if anyone poses a question that is really a statement, please tell me
>up front so that I don't have to waste my time in giving the most honest
>answer I can in the shortest space.
>Best to all sincere souls,

Although this is sharply stated, I really think it's a reasonably accurate
statement regarding the original question posed:

At 1:42 PM -0500 4/30/98, wrote:
> I'd like to know your thoughts on "pisteuo," the Greek word for
>believe that Christ uses in John 3:16 among other places. Many today say
>that the Biblical idea of belief in Christ does not include any type of
>commitment or submission to Christ's lordship. They claim that the true
>meaning of "pisteuo" supports their claims. However, I can hardly
>believe this, especially in light of Jesus's commands to take up one's
>cross and follow him. Your thoughts are more than welcome.

I don't think that it requires a great deal of reflection to see that (a)
it is a theological question that is being asked here, and (b) the meaning
of a Greek word noted as being used in one place specifically but pretty
clearly intended to be referred to GNT usage generally is being questioned
in order to test the validity of a theological perspective. A subsequent
response from the original sender (who never has identified him/herself, as
we've asked people to do in the FAQ) reinforces my sense that the above
observations are correct about the original query.

The subsequent messages in the thread provides ample justification for our
declared policy of discouraging theological commentary even when it centers
directly on a vitally important Greek word in the NT. Let me cite once
again the FAQ's phrasing regarding this: "Deep religious convictions surely
characterize many, perhaps most, of the list-participants, and some of
these convictions bear directly upon how the Biblical text is to be
understood. At the core of our discussion, however, is not what our
convictions are but what the Greek text may legitimately be understood to

We have repeatedly indicated that we don't expect anyone to approach a
Biblical text with an EMPTY mind--a mind void of any theological
perspective or faith-commitment--but one should come to a discussion surely
with a mind that is OPEN to persuasion by rational argument based upon
discernible evidence and accepted principles of Greek grammar and syntax. I
take this to mean that a question legitimately posed to the list--even if
one already has an opinion about the likely answer--is posed with a notion
that alternative opinions are worth soliciting and discussing. I take it to
mean also that the list and its members are being abused if questions are
posed solely with a view to winning support for the questioner's own
theological perspective or to demonstrating the invalidity of any
alternative perspective, i.e., if the questions are posed with a view
primarily to defend one's own faith-perspective or to attack another's.

I think that respondents to this question did in fact respond with a notion
that their views about the actual meaning of PISTEUW were being
solicited--but I also think that a little reflection on the phrasing of the
original question might have suggested that the course of the exchange was
more or less predictable. I dare say that, just supposing that one could
get persons competent to read the GNT from every denominational and
sectarian perspective to reach a consensus on the meaning and implications
of PISTEUW/PISTIS, Christendom would be ONE rather than LEGION.

Could I suggest therefore, that (a) list-members think twice (or more
times) before posting a question such as that initiating this thread, and
(b) responding list-members reflect (even before responding the first time)
on the nature of the question they are considering responding to. I think
that point of recognition was reached pretty quickly yesterday: once the
thread got going, it very soon became evident that it was more a
theological than a real question of Greek lexicography.

Carl W. Conrad
Co-Chair, B-Greek List

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:39:37 EDT