1 Cor 15:2 (was 2 kinds of faith)

From: George Goolde (goolde@mtnempire.net)
Date: Sat Mar 04 2000 - 14:22:54 EST

<x-flowed>Friends and Colleagues,

This is a most important issue dealing with the nature of the gospel
message, and one whose understanding can be helped by what I would consider
to be a more accurate expression of the Greek of 1 Cor 15:2. I have taken
the liberty of renaming the subject as 1 Cor 15:2 both because I wish to
focus on that verse and its meaning and because I wish to avoid moving the
discussion on B-Greek to matters more theological than lexical and
syntactical. (FWIW, I filed most of the previous messages in my "theology"
box, not in my Greek box!). Because of the evident overlap I will cross
post this to the B-Greek and Theology lists.

>In 1 Cor 15:2 he says, DI' OU KAI SWZESQE, TINI LOGWi
>EIKHi EPISTEUSATE (by which also you are saved, if you
>hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you
>believed in vain).
>(unless you believed in vain) suggests rather strongly that is it
>possible to believe in vain. If not,
>then Paul's words here mean nothing.
>At this point, we might want to be asking, what is the
>difference between believing in vain and believing not
>in vain.

The common English translation of verse two reads "If you hold fast that
word which I preached to you." I submit that the force of the first class
condition of
EI KATEKETE is virtually lost by this translation. By use of the first
class condition the authors assume, for the purpose of this argument, that
the condition is true. "Since you hold fast" would be an appropriate
translation that would more accurately reflect the force of the first class

This error is commonly repeated in the clause which follows: EKTOS EI MH
EIKH. What we have here grammatically is a negative first class condition
(EI MH) in a pleonastic (redundant) construction (EKTOS), The redundancy
is referenced by A.T. Robertson on page 640 of his grammar with appropriate
cross references to 1 Cor 14:5 and 1 Tim 5:19, where similar constructions
I would therefore suggest "since you did not believe in vain" as a translation.

This brings us to the lexical aspect of exegesis of this verse. Based on
my biblical and theological pre-suppositions it is both intentional and
remarkable to notice that the word used here for vain is EIKH, whereas the
authors switch to KENH in verse 14 of the same chapter. I understand the
meaning of EIKH to be "without a purpose" and the meaning of KENH to be
"without a result."

I would understand the purpose here to be strongly implicit (almost
explicit), that being for the purpose of being saved (verse 2). The
textual implication then, is that these Corinthians were saved by believing
in the death and resurrection of Christ for their sins (verses 3 and 4)
with the purpose of being saved by such belief (verse 2) and with the
result that they stood (ESTHKATE) in this belief (verse 2). I would
therefore suggest the translation "since you did not believe without a

It seems to me that many from my theological persuasion have attempted to
describe EKTOS EI MH EIKH rather clumsily and inaccurately by saying
something like "you need to believe in your heart, not just in your head,"
and to this end a very well known tract has been published by the title of
"Missing Heaven by 18 Inches" which alludes to the distance between the
human head and the human heart. This misses the force of the text of 1 Cor
15:2 and produces a rather silly analogy which is certainly not found in
this text, and, I suspect, nowhere else in Scripture. All of this is to
say that a more exact translation of I Cor 15:2 could obviate such error.

I leave further discussion of faith, whether salvation-producing or not
salvation-producing to the theology list alone (in which I also participate).


George A. Goolde
Professor, Bible and Theology
Southern California Bible College & Seminary
El Cajon, California


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