Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Faith in or of Jesus?

The subjective/objective genetive debate has kicked off again recently as Steve responds (here, then here) to Loren.  Independent of that conversation James Gregory reviews two articles from a rather tasty looking book on the subject.

The debate simply centres around an ambiguity in the Greek when Paul talks about the "faith (of) Christ" it is not clear (purely in terms of grammar) whether he means Christ is the object of that faith, i.e. that he is the one in whom we have faith, or that he is the subject of the faith, i.e. he is the one who has shown faith(fulness).  Loren thinks the objective reading is nonsense, and Steve disagrees.  James Gregory finds the objective reading presented better in the book he reviews, but I suspect that he might feel the subjective reading would be a stronger case if argued rightly.

Because grammatical indicators cannot solve the problem, it has to be solved by exegesis.  Which is fun but time consuming.  And that is my excuse for not having an opinion on the matter yet.  One interesting idea that comes through in the review is the possibility that Paul uses a "plenary genitive," i.e. at that he intends both meanings.  Probably the key passage to think this one through is Gal 2:15-21.  Read it through with each possibility in mind, keep an open mind, and see which you think makes the most sense in context.

15"We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' 16know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by (the) faith in/of Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by (the) faith in/of Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.  17"If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. 19For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"

PS. Steve also has a great post on this subject in Heb 11:1.  I know it is your favourite verse, so check it out!

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