[b-greek] Re: pistis + noun(genitive)

From: Iver Larsen (alice-iver_larsen@wycliffe.org)
Date: Fri Feb 23 2001 - 04:18:08 EST

> On Thu, 22 Feb 2001, Wayne Leman wrote:
> - Is Hayes' claim that it is the "faith" of Christ or the "faithfulness" of
> - Christ? PISTIS can also mean faithfulness and finding subjective genitives
> - with PISTIS + genitive can often have good exegetical support if we use the
> - meaning of "faithfulness" which I have heard was extant in Greek usage even
> - before the Koine period.
> I believe that Hayes would say that, yes. He doesn't, as far as I
> remember (it's been some months since I've actually read the work),
> dismiss the idea that the genitive could be objective.
> PISTIS, from everything I've heard (and this is a subject of some interest
> for me), can be translated both ways - faith or faithfulness. In cases
> where it's subjective, most people I know would translate it as
> faithfulness. But then again, I'm not acquainted with any Greek experts.
> -Ethan Metsger

I used to think that the Mark 11:22 passage with the genitive could mean "faith
of God", because some preachers said that. When I realised that the pistis +
genitive was used several other places in the NT in a context that suggested the
objective sense, I came to the conclusion that the "faith of God" interpretation
was probably based on people using an interlinear Greek version and
understanding the expression from English usage.

From Greek usage in general I think we can only say that PISTIS can mean both
"faith" and "faithfulness". The two concepts are grouped together in one
semantic unit, and it is only because English does not group these two concepts
together in one word than we tend to think about them as distinct semantic units
rather than different aspects of the same unit.

We would need to look at ALL the occurrences of PISTIS + genitive before we can
make any conclusion. It would certainly be helpful to know what was done in
Hellenistic Greek outside the NT. Maybe someone can tell us?

We need to remember that the genitive relationship in linguistic terms only
means that two nouns are associated together. The semantic relationship existing
between the nouns is not shown by the genitive. It is determined by a common
established usage - if there is one. If normal usage allows for more than one
possibility, we need to look to the context for clarification. (For instance,
"God's love" in English refers to God being the agent for the divalent verb
"love", but "love of God" is ambiguous. It could describe love as having its
source in God or God being either the agent (subject) or patient (object) for

I would disagree with the hypothesis that whenever PISTIS + genitive noun
occurs, PISTIS means "faithfulness". Such a hypothesis is not supported by the
various contexts. I also disagree with Hayes' claim that the construction is
objective in Galatians. It is ruled out by the contexts of Gal 2:16 and 3:22, as
well as Relevance Theory. (All the English bible translations of Gal 2:16 that I
have checked translate DIA PISTEWS IHSOU CRISTOU as "through faith in Jesus
Christ" and EK PISTEWS CRISTOU as "by/on the basis of faith in Christ".)
Relevance Theory basically says that the interpretation that is most relevant
and fitting in the context is most likely to be the one the author had in mind.
The context of Galatians does not talk about the faithfulness of Christ, but
about being accepted by God through observance of Jewish customs or through
faith in Christ alone.

As a little aside one can look at 2 Peter 1:1 which says
To those who have received the same precious faith as we have by means of the
righteousness of Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour.

This does not mean "faith in the righteousness of God" even though PISTIN is
followed by EN.
Context, context, context.

Iver Larsen

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