πίστις Χριστοῦ (faith of Christ) survey question

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
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Re: πίστις Χριστοῦ (faith of Christ) survey question

Post by gryan »

Ken Olson wrote: Sat Sep 17, 2022 9:52 am
gryan wrote: Sat Sep 17, 2022 1:12 am Given that you have studied and taught at Duke (home of my heroes in the πίστις Χριστοῦ debate, Richard Hays and Doug Campbell) I'm dying to know which side of this debate you are on, and what you think is at stake.

I lean toward the subjective genitive advocated by Richard Hays (and Douglas Campbell, Luke Timothy Johnson, and the late J. Louis Martyn among others), but I don't think the debate is settled yet.

My introduction to the debate was the two essays in the Appendix of the second edition of Richard Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ (2002):

James D.G. Dunn, Once More, ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ (249-271)

Richard B. Hays, Πίστις and Pauline Christology (272-297)

I thought Hays' essay was much stronger than Dunn's. Hays offered a plausible explanation, against the traditional reading 'faith in Christ', of why the term Pistis Christou, could be read as 'faith' (or) "faithfulness' 'of Christ" and that this fits Paul's broader narrative of how the salvation of human being is accomplished. It seemed to me that Dunn did not quite manage to get his head around the alternative reading Hays was proposing and just dismissed it because he already knew that it meant 'faith in Christ". That said, this does not necessarily mean that Hays is right, only that he's been fortunate in his choice of opponents.

This has been my big problem with most of the responses I've seen to the 'faithfulness of Jesus Christ' reading. Those opposing it are so used to understanding it as 'faith in Christ' that they don't seem to grasp how any sensible person could think otherwise and can't really engage with the opposing position effectively. I'd like to see someone try to answer Hays (and the others who advocate the subjective genitive) start by laying out Hays' position sympathetically and then explaining why the 'faith in Christ' reading is better. (If anyone knows of such a treatment, please post a citation).

As to what's at stake, it's a question of how Paul conceives of the mechanism of salvation working. Both the idea of Christ's faithfulness and the Christian's faith in Christ can be found in the New Testament. To oversimplify Hays' argument a good bit, he's saying that it is not just left up to the individual to place his faith in Christ (which makes faith another sort of work that the person has to do to achieve salvation), it's that Jesus has accomplished the salvation of humankind through his faithfulness unto death - that's what saves people. The mechanism by which people participate in this faithfulness is baptism - the baptized have died and risen with Christ (Hays' theory presumes E. P. Sanders' theory of participation in Christ through baptism).

There's a reasonably even-handed treatment of the issue in:

Matthew Easter, The Pistis Christou Debate: Main Arguments and Responses in Summary, Currents in Biblical research 9.1 (2010) 22-47.


The πíστiς Xρiστoȗ (pistis Christou) debate continues to be a lively point of scholarly interest. While a vast amount of literature appears on the subject, interpreters often repeat a few main arguments in support of their position. This essay discusses the main exegetical arguments for the two major sides in the pistis Christou debate and how others have responded to the arguments. Arguments for the objective genitive are treated first, followed by those for the subjective genitive. The essay closes with a discussion of the way interpreters have relied on their prior understanding of the larger concept of Paul’s theology as the decisive argument for their position. As such, the essay finds that this larger hermeneutical question of the nature of Paul’s gospel is the true locus of the pistis Christou debate.

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.117 ... 3X09360725

(Unfortunately, I'm not aware of anyplace the article is freely available online).



I appreciate you sharing this! That's some heavy reading.

I think to appreciate the idea of participation in the "faith of Christ" (as opposed to the "faith in Christ" readings of ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ) it takes an appreciation of scholarly methods of exegesis, and a confidence that it is really possible to outdo the early Fathers in our understanding what Paul was saying.

Are there successful popularizing books on the "faith of Christ" ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ?

Probably the best resources are the newer translations where it is in the main text and not just in footnotes as in the NRSV and NIV. I'm thinking of translations of the NT by individuals N. T. Wright and David Bentley and also, the NET.

There is an explanation of the NET decision written 20 years ago:

"...the most significant departure in the NET from other English translations is undoubtedly the translation of the Pauline expression, πίστις [᾿Ιησοῦ] Χριστοῦ. A neutral rendering in, say, Rom 3.22—“by faith of Jesus Christ” (the KJV wording)—is virtually nonsensical.15 Because of this, modern English translations could not be ambivalent here; a choice had to be made. Should the genitive Χριστοῦ be regarded as objective or subjective? Virtually all modern English translations regard it as an objective genitive, both in Rom 3.22 and the other Pauline texts16: “faith in Jesus Christ.” This is so in spite of an increasing number of scholars who, in the past few decades, have argued for a subjective genitive— “the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.” This construction, and its use in Rom 3.22, illustrates the need of both a completely new English translation and one that does not hide the tensions of biblical scholarship from the lay reader. In 1975, when C. E. B. Cranfield’s first volume of his ICC commentary on Romans was published, he could speak of the subjective genitive view of πίστις Χριστοῦ in Rom 3.22 as “altogether unconvincing” without giving much support for this conclusion, and citing only an early articulation of the subjective view written in 1891.17 The NIV NT had appeared two years earlier than Cranfield’s commentary. But in recent years, the subjective view has gained a greater hearing, although it still finds almost no place either in English translations or alternate renderings in the margin.

The state of flux that surrounded πίστις Χριστοῦ put the editors in a quandary. The first translator of the NET Romans in fact rendered this as “faith in Christ.” The editors were split, though leaning slightly toward the subjective view. We decided to consult NT scholars in the United States, England, Canada, and Australia, to find out what the climate was in their circles. I wrote to Bruce Longenecker , J. D. G. Dunn, and others who have written on this subject, and visited R. B. Hays, to get their impressions. Our concern was not so much to solve this crux interpretum but to sense where NT scholarship was heading on this matter. The NET is not a market-driven translation, but it is intended to reflect the best of current biblical scholarship. In this case, a decision was by no means easy. In the end, we opted for “the faithfulness of Christ.”
https://netbible.com/2019/07/01/innovat ... testament/


Unlike the NET committee, my concern is to solve this crux interpretum, and to do so with a rereading of the flesh phrases of Galatians in light of literary echos in Hebrews. Ben Witherington pointed out echos of the idea of Christ's faithfulness in Hebrews as support for the "faithfulness of Christ" of ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ. My rereading of the flesh phrases takes the reading of Galatians to a whole other level, but it all depends on the underlying sense of participation in the faith of Christ, now, "in the flesh", and thus, as Paul suggests, manifesting "the life of Jesus in our moral flesh" (2 Cor 4:11).

My guess is that this grammar and sense was so difficult to understand, to preach and to practice that by around the time P46 was copied (CE 200), it was already forgotten, perhaps long forgotten.



PS Perhaps you know Matthew Easter (mentioned above) whose dissertation was on the faith of Jesus in Hebrews. I sent him a sampling of my rereadings of the flesh phrases of Galatians a while back, and without quibbling over specifics, he expressed encouragement for the project.
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Re: πίστις Χριστοῦ (faith of Christ) survey question

Post by andrewcriddle »

Explicit unambiguous reference to the faithfulness of Christ appears more characteristic of Hebrews than of the genuine Paulines.

Andrew Criddle
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