Hebrews 12:2, "our" faith

From: Harold R. Holmyard III (hholmyard@ont.com)
Date: Mon May 29 2000 - 08:19:22 EDT

Dear Mark
     You write:

>I agree about the "beginning and end" translation. I question whether
>this is the "beginner and finisher". 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.

You are right that "our" is not in the text and is a translator's decision.
The faith has been set forth in Hebrews 11. The author called for it in
10:39. He writes people who have made a profession of having it. So the
translator assumed that the faith discussed in 12:2 is that of the
recipients and author of the letter. You may be right that it would be
better to leave out the word "our." The translator treated "the faith" in
12:2 as anaphoric, as indicating to the earlier mentioned faith. So he did
not want to treat the article before "faith" as generic and thus
dispensable: "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith."
But this is a possible translation. If it is good to retain the article, so
as to refer to the faith heretofore described in the letter, then one has:
"fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of the faith." This is
accurate, but in English it may be awkward, since it is obviously the faith
that "we" are to have, and that "we" have shown evidence of having. So why
not call it "our faith"? Yet, one can argue that this is not the most
accurate translation.

As for the suggestion that it ought to be "beginning and end" rather than
"beginner and finisher," the problem with it is that LSJ does not offer
"beginning" as a meaning for ARCHGOS when it is used as a substantive. As a
substantive it always refers to a person. Likewise LSJ indicates that
TELEIWTHS refers to a person.

                                Harold Holmyard

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