The journey’s data depot (4): faith in Christ and faith of Christ

The previous article in this series is Gleaning Genitive Gems

If  the following characteristics describe you, have you considered the evidence for yourself?

  1. Don’t dismiss the professionals, just recognize they are human.
  2. The normal functioning and understanding is preferred over a claim for an unusual or exceptional one.
  3. Since scripture is the standard, follow the evidence.
  4. Our goal will determine what we find. Value truth.

Before unveiling more milestones from my journey, today’s article provides a way station, an organized table of the data. To be sure, additional ideas will still need to be addressed. Nevertheless, if you have been following this journey, you may want to review the data for yourself.

To evaluate the evidence, here’s a brief reminder how Greek alters the forms of its nouns and pronouns by sticking little suffix flags on them to indicate their function and relationship within a particular sentence. Basically, there are four different types of suffixes indicating these functions.

In my earliest Greek classes I learned that if I encountered a masculine noun ending with “ou,” we should translate it with “of ___” or “from ___.”  I was taught this suffix form was called the genitive case. The genitive case can enable a noun or pronoun to describe another noun by limiting it or separating it from other possibilities.

In the sentence, “Frank gave a gift of money,” we have descriptive information limiting what the gift was. The gift was not a book nor a rose. The gift was money.

However, if a masculine noun ends in a “w” with a small iota under it, then we should translate it as “in ___,” “with ___,” or “to ___.” The teacher called this form the dative case. This idea of where is handled by the dative case (or the locative in an eight case system).

Faith In Someone/Something

  • The following examples from the Greek New Testament illustrate various authors using a variety of normal conventions to indicate someone’s “faith in” or “faith towards”  someone or something.

Faith Modified By Dative Case Pronouns Or Nouns Using The Preposition “En” (in):  Romans 3:25; Galatians 3:26; Ephesians 1:15; Colossians 1:4; 1 Timothy 1:14; 3:13 and 2 Timothy 1:13; 3:15.

Faith Modified By The Preposition “Eis” (Into): Acts 20:21; 24:24; 26:18; Romans 5:2; Colossians 2:5 and Matthew 18:6.

Faith Modified By The Preposition “Pros” (Toward): 1 Thessalonians 1:8 and 2 Thessalonians 1:4.

  • Similarly the phrase “believe in ____” also follows these same dative case and prepositional conventions.  Matthew 21:25,32; Mark 11:31; Luke 20:5; John 3:15; 4:21; 5:46; 6:30; 8:31,45; 10:37; 14:11; Acts 27:25; Galatians 3:6.
  • Early Christian authors continued using these standard Greek conventions to communicate “faith in” or “believing in” someone/something. Here are some literal translations from the Apostolic Fathers.

Ignatius’ To The Ephesians 1:1 “according to faith and love in Christ Jesus …”

The Letter To The Romans (1 Clement) 35:2 “faith in confidence …”

Ignatius’ To The Philadelphians 8:1 “I trust in the grace …”

Ignatius’ To The Smyrnaeans 6:1 “unless they believe in the blood …”

Ignatius’ To The Philadelphians 5:2 “they were saved by their belief in him …”

Ignatius’ To The Trallians 9:2 “the ones believing in him …”

Shepherd of Hermas 26:2 “Therefore believe in him …”

Shepherd of Hermas 50:7 “believe in him …”

Faith Of Someone/ Someone’s Faith

  • The following examples from the Greek NT illustrate various authors using standard conventions to communicate that someone possessed faith, literally the “faith of ____”.

Faith Modified By A Genitive Noun Romans 4:16.  No one translates this as “faith in Abraham,” even though it contains a phrase with an identical form as in Romans 3:26; Galatians 2:16 and Galatians 3:22.

Faith Modified By Genitive Case Pronouns

1) Of me/ my: Revelation 2:13 “You did not deny my faith” ESV

2) Of us/ our: 1 John 5:4

3) Of you / your (both singular and plural forms of you): Matthew 9:22; Mark 5:34; 10:52; Luke 7:50; 8:48; 17:19; 18:42; 22:32; Philemon 6; Romans 1:8,12; Lk. 8:25; Colossians 1:4; 2:5; 1 Corinthians 15:14,17; 2 Corinthians 10:15; Philippians 2:17;  1 Thessalonians 1:8; 3:2,5,10; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:9,21; 2 Peter 1:5

4) Of him/ his:  Romans 4:5

5) Of them/ their:  Matthew 9:2; Mark 2:5; Luke 5:20

  • Early Christian authors writing in Greek continued to use these normal conventions for expressing the “faith of” someone. Below are literal translations.

Epistle of Barnabas 1:6 “the beginning and ending of our faith”

Epistle of Barnabas 2:2 “the aids of our faith”

Iganatius’ To The Ephesians 9:1 “your faith is …”

Ignatius’ To The Philadelphians 1:2 “steadfast root of your faith”

Didache 16:2 “the whole time of your faith”

Diache 16:5 “in their faith”

Shepherd of Hermas 103:8 “from their faith”

In Which Category Do The “Faith Of Christ” Texts Belong?

Should some or all of the genitives in Romans 3:22,26; Ephesians 3:12; Galatians 2:16,20; 3:22; Philippians 3:9 and Revelation 14:12 be translated as faith in Christ or faith of Christ?  If and when we choose the former, then we will identify them as objective genitives and treat them functionally as datives. If and when we classify them as the latter, then we will identify them as subjective genitives.

To give both sides of the debate a fair hearing, we need to consider the case and the strength of the evidence for translating an objective genitive with “in.” We also need to weigh the evidence for an objective or subjective genitive understanding. If the Lord permits, the next article will resume recounting my journey focusing on these crucial matters.

The last article in this series is The Weakest Link

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Barry Newton

Married to his wonderful wife Sofia and a former missionary in Brazil, Barry enjoys trying to express old truths in fresh ways. They are the parents of two young men.

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