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

From: Carlton Winbery (winberyc@speedgate.net)
Date: Fri Feb 23 2001 - 20:01:22 EST

On Feb. 23 Iver Larsen wrote;

>> 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
>> - 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
>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"
>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
>together in one word than we tend to think about them as distinct semantic
>>units rather than different aspects of the same unit.

This is a good point and well worth noting. The Greek speakers like Paul
were not influenced by the nuances of English language. The "either/or" is
our choices for Englishing the text not something that controled Paul's

>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
>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

Though I don't usually use English examples for Greek concepts, this is a
good one. We even in English do not usually think about two statements such
as "I bank at 2300 Main Street." and "The plane banks on the turn." These
two statements cause us no concern because when we hear one, we do not
think of the other. It would take two different verbs to translate these
statements into modern Greek.

>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
>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.

I also agree with this interpretation of Gal. 2:16 and 3:2 because of the
context in Galatians. I do not see the use of PISTIS in these context as
meaning faithfulness, but as commitment to the risen Lord in the same way
that Abraham "believed God."

>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.
This also is a good reading of the context of 2 Peter. So I add a hardy AMHN.

Dr. Carlton L. Winbery
Foggleman Professor of Religion
Louisiana College
Ph. 1 318 448 6103 hm
Ph. 1 318 487 7241 off
Fax: 1 318 487 7425

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