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A Plea for the Most Literal Rendering of the “Faith of Jesus” Genitives

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A Plea for the Most Literal Rendering

of the “Faith of Jesus” Genitives

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“Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?”

Romans 3:3 Geneva Bible

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CO-9-1-13

 

The Post-KJV Pattern

According to the most literal rendering of the Greek, a believer’s “faith” is said to be  the “faith of Jesus,” as demonstrated in the following ten verses: Romans 3:22, 26; Galatians 2:16, 20; 3:22; Ephesians 3:12; Philippians 3:9; James 2:1; Revelation 2:13; 14:12.  This profound truth has been eclipsed by modern English versions’ treatment of these critical passages, beginning with the British Revised Version of 1881.  This is not to deny that a believer’s faith is “in Jesus Christ” but simply to acknowledge what ought to be perfectly obvious to any pastor or student of Scripture.  If the apostle Paul, a master of Greek prepositions, had wanted to convey the meaning “in” in these instances, he had at his disposal a Greek proposition (en) to do precisely that, as did John and James the brother of our Lord.  Instead they employed the Greek genitive whose primary function was to restrict the meaning of the noun it modified, [1] in this case  pistis–the Greek word for “faith.”  To be sure, the English prepositional phrase “in Jesus” is similarly restrictive, but the point is that neither Paul, nor John, nor James, the Lord’s brother, used a prepositional phrase in these instances–but rather the simple Greek genitive.

Before proceeding further, and in order to check our own mindset as we approach this matter, let us pause to consider John 6:37, particularly as these words of Jesus corroborate Paul’s use of the expression “the faith of God” which he contrasted with the unbelieving mindset of some Jews in Romans 3:3-4.  As John Bunyan noted in his profound homily on John 6:37 entitled Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, a sinner’s coming is tantamount to his faith.  The parallelism between these two words in John 6:35 substantiates this fact.  But John 6:37 attests that there can be no “coming” apart from the Father’s giving–hence no faith on the part of man apart from the “faith of God.” [2]

A Literal Greek Rendering

In keeping with the excellent work of the Rev. A. Marshall, D. Litt. in The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament: the Nestle Greek text with a new Literal English Translation, the author has provided a straightforward rendering of the pertinent Greek genitives into English as follows:

“. . . even a righteousness of God through Jesus Christ’s faith [lit. faith of Jesus Christ] unto all the ones believing” (Rom. 3:22).

“. . . in the forbearance of God, for the public display of his righteousness in the present time, in order for him to be just and justifying the one out of [from] Jesus’ faith” [lit. “the one out of  faith of Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).

“. . . and knowing that a man is not justified by works of law except through Christ Jesus’ faith [lit. “through faith of Christ Jesus”], even we believed into Christ Jesus, in order that we might be justified out of Christ’s faith [lit. “faith of Christ”] and not out of works of law, because no flesh shall be justified out of works of law” (Gal. 2:16).

“I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me; and what I now live in flesh I live in God’s Son’s faith [lit. “in faith of the Son of God”], the one who loved me and gave himself on my behalf” (Gal. 2:20).

“. . . but the Scripture has shut up all under sin in order that the promise out of Jesus Christ’s faith [lit. “the promise out of faith of Jesus Christ] might be given to the ones believing” (Gal. 3:22).

“. . .in whom we have boldness and access in confidence through His faith [lit. “the faith of Him”]” (Ephes. 3:12).

“. . . in order that I might gain Christ and be found in him, not having my righteousness, the one of the law, but the one through Christ’s faith [lit. “through faith of Christ”], the righteousness of God upon [the basis of] the faith” (Phil. 3:8b-9).

“Brothers of me, not in respect of persons have you the faith of the Lord of us, Jesus Christ of the glory” (James 2:1).

“. . . and thou holdest my name [lit. “the name of me”], and didst not deny my faith [lit. “the faith of me”] even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful witness who was killed among you where Satan dwells” (Rev. 2:13b).

“Here is the endurance of the saints, the ones keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12).

Unfortunately, post-KJV English versions conceal the force of the Greek genitive in the above verses by substituting the English preposition “in” for the preposition “of” inherent in the genitive.  But do the laws of grammar favor such a substitution?  The  example from Revelation 2:13 illustrates a certain grammatical inconsistency of modern English versions when, by the words “my faith” [i.e. “faith of me”], they have, for the most part, essentially retained the genitive “of” as it pertains to faith.  For if one takes liberties with the genitive in Revelation 2:13 and  substitutes “your faith in me” for “my faith,” as the International Standard Version has done, consistency demands that we follow suit with the preceding genitive in the same verse and substitute “your name in me” for “my name.”  That, of course, would hardly be acceptable on any grounds inasmuch as Jesus Christ is the speaker of this verse.  Obviously it was the Lord’s name that was upheld and, on that basis the church at Pergamos received the Lord’s commendation.

The modern tendency to dismiss these “faith of Jesus” genitives by substituting “in” for the genitival “of” in the other ten instances, therefore, is shown to be theologically unnecessary and grammatically inconsistent.  Neither Jerome, nor Wycliffe, nor Tyndale, nor the translators of the Geneva Bible, nor the KJV translators took such liberties with Holy Writ.  On what basis, therefore, have modern translators taken such literary license as to substitute “in” for “of,” and, in the case of Revelation 2:13, to insert words like “your” which has no correspondent in the Greek and is antithetic to the literal meaning?[3]

Why Not Be Consistent with Revelation 2:13?

Since most English versions of the New Testament, with the exception of the New International Standard Version, [4] have preserved the “faith of Jesus” genitive in Revelation 2:13, we must ask again why the literal genitive should not be preserved in the other ten instances of “faith of Jesus” genitives?  The short answer may simply be that theological decline has contributed to faulty translation.  A more thoughtful answer acknowledges that the genitive case can be taken as either a subjective genitive whereby the noun is understood as the subject of the faith [believing], or as an objective genitive whereby the noun is understood as the object of the faith [believing].  Since in society at large, theologically untrained, faith is commonly assumed to be the action of the believing sinner rather than the action of Jesus Christ, the modern tendency has been to regard these verses as objective genitives with Jesus as the object or recipient of the action of faith rather than the one producing the faith or being the subject of it.  Consequently the English preposition “in” is substituted for the inherent genitival “of.”  It is assumed, rightly or wrongly, that the expression “faith of Jesus” suggests that Jesus is the object of the faith rather than the one who exercises  it.

Normally the context would govern the issue, but not always.  But it is a specious argument, on the one hand, to disguise the “faith of Jesus” Greek genitives by substituting the word “in” for “of,” or consenting to that, and then, on the other hand, to turn around and disallow the notion that the Incarnate Son lived by faith during his earthly sojourn.  If one conceals major biblical support for that notion and then argues against the notion, he puts any potential challengers to his argument at great disadvantage.  In effect he has contributed to their ignorance.

The subjective versus objective argument is a vast oversimplification of the issue.  In fact, it may be a colossal misrepresentation of the problem.  To insist on the literal rendering of these “faith of Jesus” verses is certainly, if not simply, to acknowledge Jesus as the “author and finisher of the faith.” [5]  Faith, therefore, is associated with, and has its origin in, Jesus–plain and simple.  Who could quibble about that?  And yet it must be stated that the Revised Standard Version’s substitution of the word “pioneer” for “author” in Hebrews 12:2 is hardly an argument against Jesus’ being the subject of believing.

But there is another instance of grammatical concern which ought not to be overlooked.  In Galatians 2:16, in which two “faith of Jesus” genitives occur, it is quite notable that in the second instance (16b) Paul contrasted “works of law” with “faith of Christ.”   By substituting “in” for “of” as it relates “faith” to Jesus in Galatians 2:16b, modern versions have obscured this grammatical parallelism inherent in the Greek text.  Treating this as an objective Greek genitive by substituting the English “in” for the genitival “of” conceals from the modern reader an essential element of the Greek parallelism in Paul’s contrasting “works of law” to “faith of Christ.”  A sound historical-grammatical method would be better represented by straightforward conveyance of the genitive in those verses.  Arguably, as well, this would better accord with Paul’s expression “Now that the faith has come. . .” [6] Herman A. Ridderbos paraphrased Paul’s words “before the faith came” [7] as “before the salvation given in Christ was revealed as the object of faith.” [8] Commenting on “the faith, which should afterwards be revealed,” [9] Ridderbos distinguished between Christ as the “object” of that faith and faith’s “operation” apparently putting asunder what Scripture has forever joined together in the person of Christ. [10]  Paul’s words in Colossians 2:12, however, might literally be rendered “the faith of the operation of the God of the raising him from the dead,” and faith viewed as a continuum having its origin in God Himself and in the Lord Jesus Christ before it is imparted through the regenerating word of God to human hearts where it is, in turn, exercised with an orientation towards God the Father and His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.

What faith now has come?  The faith which originates in, and has reference to, Jesus Christ [11] – the fulfilment and reciprocation of that good faith which God demonstrated [12] in entrusting [Greek pisteuo] the oracles of God to the nation of Israel. [13]  “Reciprocation” here contrasts to the unbelief of “some” to which Paul alludes in Romans 3:3.  In his Galatian Epistle Paul makes it abundantly clear that such a reciprocation of faith had transpired within his own heart. [14]  In the Roman Epistle the apostle carefully noted (1) that even in his day there was a faithful remnant of Jews, including himself, chosen by grace; [15] (2) that God’s purpose in bringing the nations to faith in Christ was conducted by means of the Jewish trespass and (3) that, in turn, the acceptance of the Gentiles was designed to provoke the Jews to jealousy and ultimately to result in Israel’s salvation. [16]  So the entire nation of Israel will one day reciprocate God’s good faith towards her while gazing upon the One they have pierced. [17]

That faith that has now come is “of the operation of the God of the raising from the dead.” [18]  It is “from God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” [19]  It has its origin in Jesus Christ, is oriented toward God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and is that faith of which Jesus is both pioneer and perfecter [20]–a faith no longer obscured by the shadows of the Law of Moses consisting of festivals, sabbaths, and elementary regulations which were powerless to check the indulgences of the flesh. [21]  Rather its foundation is the preaching of the cross which Paul designated the “foolishness of God” and the “weakness of God” characterizing it as “wiser than men” and “stronger than men” ; [22] and concerning which, all boasting in men is excluded. [23]  Through this faith a condemned sinner, clothed only in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, stands justified before God.  It is none other than the “faith of our Lord” [24] and “of the truth.” [25]   Understood in this way,  “faith” and “covenant” are practically identical–even as they are both embodied in the old English troth.  And that is the clearly the essence of the Greek pistis as it appears in Revelation 2:13.

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Endnotes

[1]. H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, pp. 72ff.

[2]. As a background introduction to Bunyan’s profound theological work, the reader may want to read David Clark Brand’s Conversion Interface: Correlating the Autobiographical, Allegorical, and Homiletic in John Bunyan available through DCB Communications, 877 Thorne Avenue, Wooster, OH 44691.

[3]. Rev. 2:13 ISV

[4]. http://biblehub.com/isv/revelation/2.htm

[5]. Hebrews 12:2

[6]. Gal. 3:25

[7].Gal. 3:23

[8]. Herman N. Ridderbos, The Epistle of Paul to the Churches of Galatian, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, p. 143.

[9].Gal. 3:23

[10]. Ridderbos, 145.

[11]. Rom. 3:22, 26

[12]. Rom. 3:3

[13]. Rom. 3:2; cf. Ps. 147:19-20

[14]. Gal. 1:11-24

[15]. Rom. 11:1, 5

[16]. Rom. 11:11-16, 25-32

[17]. Rev. 1:7; Zech. 12:10; 13:1

[18]. Col. 2:12; cf. Acts 17:31

[19]. Ephes. 6:23

[20]. Heb. 12:2

[21]. Col. 2:8-23

[22]. Gal. 1:23; 1 Cor. 1:25; Rom. 10:14-17

[23]. 1 Cor. 1:31

[24]. James 2:1

[25]. 2 Thess. 2:13; cf. John 1:17;14:6

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Sources

Brand, David C. 1991.  Profile of the Last Puritan: Jonathan Edwards, Self-Love, and the Dawn of the Beatific.  American Academy of Religion Academy Series, edited by Susan Thistlewaite. Atlanta: Scholars Press.

Brand, David Clark. 1998. Conversion Interface: Correlating the Autobiographical, Allegorical, and Homiletic in John Bunyan.  DCB Communications, 877 Thorne Avenue, Wooster, OH 44691.

Bruce, F. F. 1961. The English Bible: A history of translations. New York: Oxford University Press.

——–. 1964. The Epistle to the Hebrews: the English Text with Introduction, Exposition and Notes. The New International Commentary on the New Testament.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Bunyan, John. 1681. [2004] Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust.

Dana, H. E. and Julius R. Mantey. 1927. [1955] A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. New York:                   Macmillan company.

Geneva Bible. 1560.  www.genevabible.org/Geneva.html

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Tenth Edition. 1994. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.

Ridderbos, Herman N. 1953. The Epistle of Paul to the Churches of Galatian: The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids: Michigan.

The Holy Bible. English Standard Version. Crossway Bibles: Wheaton, IL.

The Holy Bible. 1611 Edition. King James Version. New York: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments Translated out of the Original tongues Being the Version  set forth A.D. 1611 Compared with the Most Ancient Authorities and Revised A.D. 1881-1885 Newly Edited by the American Revision Committee A.D. 1901. Standard Edition.  New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons.

The Holy Bible.  International Standard Versionhttp://biblehub.com/isv

The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament: The Nestle Greek Text with a Literal English Translation by the Reverend Alfred Marshall D.Litt. And a Foreword by the Reverend Prebendary J. B. Phillips, M.A. also a marginal text of The Authorized Version of King James.  Second Edition. 1966. Samuel Bagster and sons Limited, 4 New Bridge Street, London, EC4.

About the Writer

David Clark Brand is a retired pastor and educator with missionary experience in Korea and Arizona.  He and his wife reside in Wooster, Ohio.  They have four grown children and seven  grandchildren.  With a B.A. in the Liberal Arts, an M. Div., and a Th.M. in Church History, Dave continues to enjoy study and writing.  One of his books, a contextual study of the life and thought of Jonathan Edwards, was published by the American Academy of Religion via Scholars Press in Atlanta.

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