Re: Hebrews 12:2, "our" faith

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Mon May 29 2000 - 08:37:42 EDT

<x-flowed>At 11:05 PM 5/28/00 -0400, Mark Beatty wrote:

>But first a related question, why do many translations
>translate the definite article of "THS PISTEWS" as the possessive pronoun
>"our"? (The
>pronoun is singular feminine.) If you take the possessive idea out, then
>you get
>"Jesus is the beginning and end of the faith"--meaning there is no other
>besides Him.
>This would fit into the major theme (as I see it) of Hebrews as believers
>are tempted,
>at a variety of levels, to finish with something else that which was first
>a faith in


You are right - there is no possessive pronoun "our" in the Greek, and it
is added in most translations to explain the meaning of the Greek. "Jesus
is the beginning and end of the faith" - which faith? The faith shared by
the writer and readers of Hebrews, i.e. "our faith", where "we" refers to
the writer and the intended readers.

It would not be wrong, IMHO, to translate "the faith" here, but it is also
not wrong to translate "our faith", given the context.

>Another important result of taking "our" out of the verse is that Jesus
>would then not
>be the end of everyone's faith--only those who set their eyes on
>Him. This might be
>paraphrased as "set your eyes on Jesus if you want to run the race because
>there are
>no other options out there." The "our" faith translation to me implies the
>possibility that " even if you abandon Jesus for the Mosaic system or the
>Jesus is still at work perfecting your faith." Of course, this is
>contrary to the
>rest of the book.

With the article, THS PISTEWS does not refer to "any faith", but to "the
faith", or even, in this context, "The Faith". I don't see how this can be
taken to mean what you imply in the above paragraph.

>Finally, it seems very strange to translate "the" for "our" when the Greek
>very much has the ability to indicate that difference lexically, and
>again, the
>definite article is not even plural.

The definite article would be singular even if it said "our faith". THS
PISTEWS hHMWN means "our faith" or "the faith of us", not "the faiths of
us", and is therefore singular.

In general, word-for-word translation is often not the most accurate
approach, and certainly does not produce readable translations. This is why
translators are often called "interpreters" - and translations *must*
interpret, because different languages think differently, and the
translator must decide which of the possible shades of meaning should be
brought out in the translation. If you read several translations, you will
find that they differ, but most really do a good job of translating the
Greek, they just make different choices.

>What do you think:
>1) Is there any reason to translate THS PISTEWS as "our" faith?
>2) Why not just translate it "the" faith?
>3) The "beginning and end" indicate that there is no other than Jesus to
>trust in.

I've already answered (1) and (2).

I think your interpretation in (3) comes from treating THS PISTEWS as "our
trust", which it often does, and almost always does in John, and then
saying that the entire phrase means something like "our faith from A-Z"? I
can't quite get the Greek to bend this way in my mind. If this is what you
think it means, please explain further.

To me, ARCHGOS implies the founder, the inspirer, the one who started it
all. TELEIWTHS means the one who makes perfect, the one who completes. In
context, we have seen this great cloud of witnesses to faith, and these
call us on, but surrounded by this great cloud of witnesses, we look
straight to the source, the one who got us here in the first place, and the
one who will bring us to the goal. And remember that the Hebrews were
probably in a situation where people must have been wondering if they could
make it to the goal.

Software AG


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