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“‘Analogia’ and Paul the Wordsmith”: “Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” – Romans 3:3 Geneva Bible

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“‘Analogia’ and Paul the Wordsmith”:

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

Romans 3:3 Geneva Bible

“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 3:14


“Geneva Convention”

Scottish Protestant Reformer, John Knox, hailed John Calvin’s Geneva as “the most perfect school of Christ that ever was in the earth since the days of the apostles.” [1]   To be sure, Calvin was the prominent exegete of the Protestant Reformation.  Commenting on the first part of Romans 12:6, he stated,

Here then we have the main design which the Apostle had in view, that all things do not meet in all, but that the gifts of God are so distributed that each has a limited portion, and that each ought to be so attentive in imparting his own gifts to the edification of the Church, that no one, by leaving his own function, may trespass on that of another. By this most beautiful order, and as it were symmetry, is the safety of the Church indeed preserved; that is, when every one imparts to all in common what he has received from the Lord, in such a way as not to impede others. He who inverts this order fights with God, by whose ordinance it is appointed; for the difference of gifts proceeds not from the will of man, but because it has pleased the Lord to distribute his grace in this manner. [2]

Calvin understood Paul’s qualifying phrase “according to the analogy of faith” as the governing principle specific to the gift of prophecy in the post-canonical church.

But this passage is variously understood. There are those who consider that by prophecy is meant the gift of predicting, which prevailed at the commencement of the gospel in the Church; as the Lord then designed in every way to commend the dignity and excellency of his Church; and they think that what is added, according to the analogy of faith, is to be applied to all the clauses. But I prefer to follow those who extend this word wider, even to the peculiar gift of revelation, by which any one skillfully and wisely performed the office of an interpreter in explaining the will of God. Hence prophecy at this day in the Christian Church is hardly anything else than the right understanding of the Scripture, and the peculiar faculty of explaining it, inasmuch as all the ancient prophecies and all the oracles of God have been completed in Christ and in his gospel. For in this sense it is taken by Paul when he says,

“I wish that you spoke in tongues, but rather that ye prophesy,” (1 Corinthians 14:5). [3]

Calvin’s relating Romans 12:6 to the fulfillment of all the ancient prophecies and all the “oracles of God” in the gospel of Jesus Christ reflected Paul’s earlier mention of those “oracles”  in Romans 3:2.  The editor of Calvin’s Commentary expressed agreement with Calvin noting that Paul was using “faith” in the sense in which it is used in Romans 10:8, Galatians 3:23, Titus 1:4, and Jude 1:3. That this objective side of faith was foundational to gifts of utterance was obvious from Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 12:3:

Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

Paul-the Wordsmith

But was Calvin’s mention of the logia [“oracles”] in the context of Romans 12:6 triggered by something even more obvious than Paul’s use of this term in Romans 3:2 and Hebrews 5:12, [4] Stephen’s employment of it in Acts 7:38, and Peter’s use of it in 1 Peter 4:11?  It is more than conceivable that the Greek analogia itself in Romans 12:6 imposed that term upon the mind of the Protestant exegete.  It is quite probable.  Arguably, therefore, such a connection is traceable to the intent of the apostle Paul himself– a wordsmith if there ever was one.  While the root of analogia is generally regarded as logos [word], [5] the stem is logian [oracle] of which the plural is logia.  Logion was a term used by the ancients “mostly of short sayings originating from a divinity.” [6]

Whether expounding the meaning of “foolishness” in 1 Corinthians chapter one, or the meaning of “perfect” in Philippians chapter three, Paul’s penchant for playing on words is evident.   Such a propensity consisted well with the apostle’s desire to be a servant to all–both Jews and Greeks,[7] and with the nature of the gospel itself. [8]  If the prefix ava added to logidzomai [reckon] [9] in Hebrews 12:3, bestowed an “upward” or “heavenly” nuance to the reckoning, the prefix ava in association with logia would certainly contribute a special “upward” or “heavenly” nuance to “logia”?  For Paul, the “logia” [oracles] [10] of God and the “pistis”[faith] [11] of God went hand-in-hand. The Greek analogia, within the context of Romans 12:6, at once designates the divine rationale [from the Latin ratio] and the high oracles associated with “tes pisteos,–that specific“faith” which Paul affirmed had come in the gospel events. [12]

Paul’s use of analogia in Romans 12:6 was completely consistent with the mind-set of the apostles “upon whom the ends of the world are come.” [13]  While the apostles based their message upon Moses and the Prophets, [14] therefore, their ministry was a “cut above” that of the Old Testament prophets who were not given to understand the very things they were prophesying. [15]  The Old Testament saints did not receive the promises but saw them “afar off” like one who views things through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars.  While there exists an analogical relationship between the old and the new covenants, that analogy only becomes fully articulated through the writings of the apostles whereby the son of the slave woman must be cast out in deference to the son of the free. [16]  For it is the heavenly Jerusalem that is our true mother. [17]

Exception to Nicoll

This writer must take exception to W. Robertson Nicoll’s claim that “there was no rule of faith when the apostle was thinking out the original interpretation of Christianity contained in this epistle [to the Romans].” [18]  The awesome role  [19] played by the apostles as described in Luke’s book of Acts dispels such a notion, as does Luke’s specific reference to the the early church’s devotion to the apostles’ teaching in Acts 2:42.  While the “rule of faith” had not been completed or formalized, it was very real, well-defined, and rooted in Moses and the Prophets, as evident from the sermons in the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles.  Long before the New Testament canon [“rule”] was officially formalized with universal recognition of all twenty-seven books, that canon was being incrementally established within the minds and hearts of true Christians.  Were that not the case, the churches could hardly have given heart-consent to some books, and dismissed, or even expressed doubts about, other books.

Exegetical Tug-of-War?

To be without a canon or rule is to be without standards.  That was hardly the situation of the early New Testament church.  The early church was a dynamic, living organism based upon transcendent historical events, a spiritual conviction of heart and mind, of faith and love, and of doctrine conveyed and insisted upon by the apostles, as opposed to a mere formal organization of autocratic or despotic rule by religious functionaries at the top.  The apostles wrote with a consciousness that they were witnessing the fulfillment of God’s purposes.  They were the ones upon whom the fulfillment of history had arrived and who would serve as its foundation. [20] True prophesying would cohere with what was apostolic.  We can, therefore, declare an end to the exegetical “tug-of-war” on Romans 12:6 simply because Calvin’s appeal to the divine oracles in establishing the Geneva “convention” simply reflected the first-century church.

The logia of the apostles, by comparison with that of the Old Testament writers, is the analogia–the heavenly oracles communicated directly to the apostles from Jesus our heavenly Prophet, Priest, and King.  New Covenant spokespersons [21] have a distinct advantage, special calling, and corresponding solemn obligation.  They share a high and heavenly calling based upon the confession that “Jesus is Lord.” [22]

Christ of the upward way, my Guide divine,
Where Thou hast set Thy feet, may I place mine;
And move and march wherever Thou hast trod,
Keeping face forward up the hill of God.

Give me the heart to hear Thy voice and will,
That without fault or fear I may fulfill
Thy purpose with a glad and holy zest,
Like one who would not bring less than his best.

Give me the eye to see each chance to serve,
Then send me strength to rise with steady nerve,
And leap at once with kind and helpful deed,
To the sure succor of a soul in need.

Give me the good stout arm to shield the right,
And wield Thy sword of truth with all my might,
That, in the warfare I must wage for Thee,
More than a victor I may ever be.

Christ of the upward way, my Guide divine,
Where Thou hast set Thy feet, may I place mine;
And when Thy last call comes, serene and clear,
Calm may my answer be, “Lord, I am here.” [23]

 It is a theological maxim that Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, is revealed propositionally, that is, through “what is written” in the pages of the Old and New Testaments.  What is concealed in the Old is revealed in the New.  The analogia [“high oracles”] of the New have their roots in the Old “logia” and their origin in the Spirit of the Living God.  Consequently, they can only be spiritually apprehended with the enlightenment of the Spirit. [24]  This is a different thing from saying that they “become” the Word of God, as the neo-orthodox school of Karl Barth and others have advocated.  As the Berean Jews continue to remind us, [25] the “oracles of God” are the documentary touchstone of the faith.




[1]. W. Stanford Reid, Trumpeter of God, p. 132

[2]. Commentary on Romans, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom38.xvi.iii.html

[3]. Commentary on Romans, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom38.xvi.iii.html

[4]. The authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews has been disputed and may be the subject of a future article.  But its final fourth-century recognition and acceptance into the official canon by the churches of the West was based on the conviction that Paul was the author.  See Everett Harrison, Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 344-357

[5]. John 1:1, 14

[6]. William F. Arndt, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 477. Arndt and Gingrich cite dramatist Euripedes (ca. 484-406 B.C.) and historian Herodotus (484-between 430 and 420 B.C.) among other ancients who used the Greek logion with this meaning.

[7]. 1 Cor. 9:19-23; Rom. 1:14

[8]. Rom. 1:16

[9]. Moulton and Geden’s Concordance to the Greek Testament lists 19 occurrences of logidzomai in the Epistle to the Romans.

[10]. Rom. 3:2

[11]. Rom. 3:2

[12]. Gal. 3:23-26

[13].1 Cor. 10:11

[14]. Acts 26:22-23

[15]. 1 Pet. 1:10-12

[16]. Gal. 4:30

[17]. Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22

[18]. W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor’s Greek Testament, 2:690

[19]. Acts 2:43; 3:12f; 5:9-11, 18-21, 27-42

[20]. 1 Cor. 10:11; 1 Pet. 1:20-21; Ephes. 2:20

[21]. 1 Cor. 14:31

[22]. Phil 3:14; Heb. 3:1; 1 Cor. 12:3; Rom. 10:9-10

[23].  “Christ of the Upward Way” by Walter J. Mathalms, ca. 1915,  http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/c/o/u/coupward.htm

[24]. 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:19-21; 1 Cor. 2:4-16; 2 Cor. 3:2-18

[25]. Acts 17:11


Analytical Greek Lexicon, The: Consisting of An alphabetical Arrangement of Every Occurring Inflexion of Every word Contained in the Greek New Testament Scriptures, with a Grammatical Analysis of Each word, and Lexicographical Illustration of the Meanings.  A complete Series of Paradigms, with Grammatical Remarks and Explanations. n.d. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers.

Arnt, William F. And F. Wilbur Gingrich. 1957. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.  Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Beeke, Joel R. and Mark Jones. 2012. A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books.

Calvin, John.  Commentary on Romans.  Christian Classics Ethereal Library. www.ccel.org.

Dana, H. E., Th.D. and Julius R. Mantey, Th.D., D.D. 1927. A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. New York: The MacMillen Company.

Bruce, F. F. 1964. The Epistle to the Hebrews. The New International commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Harrison, Everett F. Introduction to the New Testament. 1964. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Kittel, Gerhard, ed. 1964. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.  Translated and edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

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

Reid, W. Stanford (1974), Trumpeter of God, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.  Cited online at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Knox

The Cyber Hymnal   www.hymntime.com



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 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 AmericanAcademy of Religion via Scholars Press in Atlanta.


Series Navigation<p></br /></p><< The “La” Before “Foi” in Romans 12:6: “Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” – Romans 3:3 Geneva Bible“The Hebrew Analogy”: “Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” – Romans 3:3 Geneva Bible >>

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