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

From: Ethan Metsger (ethanm@ccil.org)
Date: Fri Feb 23 2001 - 11:23:31 EST

On Fri, 23 Feb 2001, Iver Larsen wrote:

- 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.

I understand what you're saying, though I'm having a little difficult
translating (I hope that's not an awful pun). I am not by any means a
Greek scholar, but it has occurred to me that faith/faithfulness are far
more intricately related in Greek than in English. But are you suggesting
that the concepts are the same, or simply less rigorously defined? In

other words, are faith and faithfulness synonymous in Greek?

It doesn't seem unreasonable to me (having no translation background kind
of disqualifies any opinion I would have) to translate the word to reflect
different concepts if it actually has two different connotations (i.e.,
that faith and faithfulness are considered different from each other and
only linked by grammatical usage; a more modern example, and one I'm
familiar with, would be the lack of distinction between adjectives and
adverbs in German - as you say, context determines the way we interpret
the sentence).

- I would disagree with the hypothesis that whenever PISTIS + genitive noun
- occurs, PISTIS means "faithfulness". Such a hypothesis is not supported by the

And I certainly didn't mean to imply that was the case! A variety of
people I know would translate PISTIS as "faithfulness" in the subjective
sense (i.e., when God is the origin of the PISTIS in question) because of
theological concerns (which we won't discuss here, of course). I'm not
anything of an authority on the subject; I just wanted to share what a few
other people think (and therefore avoid making myself look entirely
foolish ;).

- various contexts. I also disagree with Hayes' claim that the
- construction is objective in Galatians. It is ruled out by the

I may be using the words "objective" and "subjective" improperly. I was
under the impression that the objective genetive implies that Jesus Christ
is the object of the faith in Gal. 2:16 (this is how Marshall describes
it), whereas the subjective genetive would imply that he is the source of
the faith[fulness?].

- 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

The AV usually translates the genetive using the preposition "of." Only
one modern translation I can think of uses "faithfulness fo Jesus
Christ," and that's the International Standard Version, which hasn't been
published yet to my knowledge.

- 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.

At some point, we should talk about this off-list (as I think the point
you're making is a theological one in nature).

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

Of course, of course, of course. ;) In all seriousness, you're
right. The question was raised, and I just wanted to point out some
available resources to those interested. I can't claim that Hayes did all
fo his homework, but he's no slouch with the language (at least compared
to me), and I think he makes a few relevant points for consideration. (He
does talk more about context than I did, too.)

-Ethan Metsger (ethanm@ccil.org) (http://www.ccil.org/~ethanm/)

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