Jan 29, 2016

Salvation = The Gospel

"Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it." (Acts 28:28)

What is sent? salvation or the message? When Paul says "they will hear it," what is the antecedent of the pronoun it? If it is "salvation," how can one hear it? If what is heard is the message of salvation, then does the apostle not equate the singular term "salvation" with what is heard, or with the gospel message?

Obviously when Paul speaks of "salvation" he equates the term with the gospel message itself. He uses the word "sent" and then uses the word "hear," but you would think that he would have rather used the word "receive" rather than "hear." Thus, we would read the verse as saying in English - "this salvation is sent to the Gentiles and they will receive it."

Thus, one of two things are obvious. First, Paul equates the Gospel being "sent" to the Gentiles with "salvation" being "sent" to them. Second, Paul's idea of hearing the Gospel is all the same as receiving. And, is it not true in both cases? That in sending the Gospel to the Gentiles God was sending salvation (a fact denied by the Hardshells)? And, second, that to hear is the same as to receive? (And this latter fact also denied by today's Hardshells)

So, what can the Hardshell do with this text? Seeing he refuses to acknowledge that "the salvation of God" is sent via the Gospel, what then will he do? What kind of twisted interpretation can he offer to the verse to make it compatible with hardshellism? I dare say that most of them will opt for the "time salvation" defense, affirming that it is a mere temporal salvation that is sent and received. But, does this solve the difficulty for them? Or (as I will show in the next posting), does it not rather create innumerable problems for them?

From Dr. Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

"Be it known therefore unto you,.... Unbelievers and despisers, take this along with you at parting, and do not say you were never acquainted with it: that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles; meaning the Gospel, which is a publication and declaration of that salvation, which God contrived from all eternity..."

Jan 27, 2016

God's Faith? (vii)

As previously stated, no translator nor serious commentator on holy scripture denies that many times in the new testament that "the faith" refers to the object of Christian belief and not to a strictly subjective faith. Two scriptures that were cited as examples of this are these:

1) "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints." (Jude 1:3)

2) "shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils." (I Tim. 4:1)

Now let us add to this list others, beginning with a passage which most interpreters acknowledge refers to the object of Christian trust and conviction.

"And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith." (Acts 6:7)

On this verse A.T. Robertson says (emphasis mine):

"The faith (τηι πιστει — tēi pistei). Here meaning the gospel, the faith system as in Romans 1:5; Galatians 1:23; Judges 1:3, etc." (Word Pictures)

Notice how Robertson says that "the faith" denotes "the gospel" (the common interpretation), and then mentions Romans 1: 5, as another passage where "the faith" denotes the gospel and is a passage we will look at shortly as it bears on the discussion of the meaning of "the faith" in Romans 3: 3. But, first, let us look at these other verses in Acts.

"But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith." (Acts 13:8)

"Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." (Acts 14:22)

"And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily." (Acts 16:5)

What these verses show is that Luke commonly refers to the doctrine of Christ or the gospel as "the faith" and shows that the first Christians understood what was signified and denoted by "the faith." It is as Dr. Robertson said a term that stands for the gospel system. Further, notice how the presence of the definite article is important, referring to something definite and particular. I think another word for "faith" in arthrous cases could be "creed." Thus "the faith" is "the creed." Also, we can speak of "the creed" or "the faith" without stated adjectives (or genitive nouns) because it is understood in context. It often is given with modifiers and genitive nouns and so we have "the faith (creed) of God," "the faith of saints," "the faith of Christ," etc., or put the same into this English form; "God's faith (creed)," "saint's faith," or "Christ's faith."

Though it is most often the case that where "faith" is used with the definite article it is a reference to the creed of Christians, or to the gospel revelation, or to the oracles of God in Christ, to the object of individual subjective belief, yet there are some few cases where "the faith" possibly alludes to the subjective belief of individuals. In such cases the definite article functions as a demonstrative pronoun and so in such cases the writer will indeed be speaking of the subjective faith or belief of Christians. The context will reveal this. If a writer is discussing individual belief or believing, then when in such context he says "the faith" or "the belief" he means "this belief or believing that I have been talking about." This will become evident as we look at pertinent passages, first in the Roman epistle. Further, we will see that most often when a writer is focusing on subjective belief he will do so by using "faith" (pistis) without the article, and why this is so.

Before we leave the book of Acts, let us notice this disputed passage.

"And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ." (KJV)

When Felix heard Paul "concerning the faith in Christ" we notice how the KJV adds the definite article, which is present in the Greek text. However, notice how both the NIV and NASB both omit the definite article in their translations. Others, like the KJV, retain the article.

"Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus." (NIV)

"But some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus." (NASB)

It is possible that the definite article means "this" or "that" and so may refer to individual Christian belief, or subjective faith, in this context. But, it is doubtful that Felix wanted to hear about Paul's personal convictions as much as his doctrine or teachings. Further, had this been the object of Felix's hearing of Paul, would not Luke had rather written that Felix sent to Paul to hear him of "your faith" (2nd person) rather than as he wrote "the faith" (3rd person)? Further, in the previous passages in Acts "the faith" stood for the Christian religion, being the oracles of God as given to the Jews as well as the oracles of God as given through Christ.

However, this verse is unique in that it does not have a genitive attached to "the faith" so as to read "the faith of..." but rather has "the faith in (eis) Christ Jesus." The Greek preposition is directional, pointing towards an object. It is belief that is towards or unto Christ. We will be looking at passages that have "the faith of Christ," but this here is "the faith towards Christ." This would seem to lend weight to the definite article being demonstrative and therefore meaning "this belief directed towards Christ Jesus." Not that this is conclusive, for even with the preposition eis, "the faith" still may denote "the Christian creed" as the other passages in Acts just noticed. Certainly the Scriptures, which are the Christian's creed, are all "unto (eis) Christ," that is, they all point to Christ.

Again, I don't think anyone can doubt that these passages in the book of Acts show that it was common nomenclature for the early church to refer to the gospel as "the faith" and these passages demonstrate such. Further, we see this same term used not only by the inspired historian but by the other writers of the new testament as we observed in Paul's first letter to Timothy and in Jude's general epistle. Shortly, we will see whether Paul used this term in his Roman epistle, and if so, where? But, let us first look at some of those other new testament passages that speak of "the faith."

"Watch, stand fast in the faith, quit yourselves like men, be strong." (I Cor. 16:13)

"Examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith." (II Cor. 13:5)

"But they had heard only, That he who persecuted us in times past now preaches the faith which once he destroyed." (Gal. 1:23)

"If you continue in the faith grounded and settled, and do not be moved away from the hope of the gospel, which you have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; of which I Paul am made a minister." (Col. 1:23)

"Being rooted and built up in him, and confirmed in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving." (Col. 2:7)

"But if any does not provide for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever." (I Tim. 5:8)

"For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (I Tim. 6:10)

"Which some professing have erred concerning the faith." (I Tim. 6:21)

"Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith." (II Tim. 3:8)

"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." (II Tim. 4:7)

"This witness is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith." (Titus 1:13)

"My brothers, do not have the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons." (James 2:1)

"Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brothers that are in the world." (I Peter 5:9)

"Here is the patience of the saints: here are those who keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." (Rev. 14:12)

I doubt that anyone will doubt the frequency of the term "the faith" in the new testament scriptures and that it refers to the object of Christian conviction, or to their scriptures or creed. But, let us notice this interesting passage that also has "the faith."

Jan 15, 2016

God's Faith (vi)

Thus far I have proven that the context shows that "the faith of God" in Romans 3:3 means the same thing as "the oracles of God" (3:. 2), and as "the word of God" (9:6; 10:17), and as "the truth of God" (1:25; 2:7), and as "the gospel of God" (1:1).  I have shown that the syntactical construction of the phrase "the faith of God" (Head Noun + Genitive Noun) in itself cannot prove what kind of Genitive it is, whether Ablative, Subjective, Objective, or some other type. I have shown that the only way to determine the type of Genitive is to look at the context. This being done, the context is very clear.

What is it that has supposedly become "of no effect"?  Is it God's faithfulness that is being doubted or questioned? If so, directly or indirectly? Directly, no, indirectly yes. But, saying this does not justify translating pistis as faithfulness. Directly, the doubt is to the veracity of the oracles and word of God and is therefore the same doubt found later in the Roman epistle where Paul says "not as though the word of God has taken none effect." Obviously, if God's word, promise, truth, or oracles fail, then God may be said to either fail or not be faithful. However, Jesus said that "the scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35).

Consider also that the word "faithfulness" does not even occur in the authorized version. We find the adjective "faithful" and the participle "faithful," as we do their opposites, such as unfaithful. Further, even in other English versions that do include the word faithfulness in some few passages, like Romans 3:3, it is because the translators of those versions have acted as interpreters and not strictly as translators.

The Similarity Between Romans 3:3 and 9:6

Paul's protagonist in Romans 3:3 and 9:6 is one and the same. It can also be argued that what he discusses in greater detail in Romans chapters nine through eleven he first introduces in Romans 2:17 - 3:6, which is the fact that the word of God has not failed but succeeded. Let us compare the verses.

"their unbelief shall not make the faith of God without effect, will it?"

"not as though the word of God has taken none effect"

There is no reason to doubt that these two verses are essentially addressing the same theological question. John Owen realized this. In The Works of John Owen, Volume 20 (pg. 223 - SEE HERE), he wrote (emphasis mine):

"Those to whom the promise mentioned in this place was first proposed came short of it, believed it not, and so had no benefit by it. What then became of the promise itself? did that fail also, and become of none effect? God forbid; it remained still, and was left for others. This our apostle more fully declares, Rom ix. 4, 5; for having showed that the promises of God were given unto the Israelites, the posterity of Abraham, he foresaw an objection that might be taken from thence against the truth and efficacy of the promises themselves. This he anticipates and answers, verse 6, "Not as though the word of God" (that is, the word of promise) "hath taken none effect;" and so proceedeth to show, that whosoever and how many soever reject the promise, yet they do it only to their own ruin; the promise shall have its effects in others, in those whom God hath graciously ordained unto a participation of it. And so also Rom. iii. 3, "For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid." The "faith of God" (that is, his glory in his veracity, as the apostle shows in the next words, "Yea, let God be true, and every man a liar") is engaged for the stability and accomplishment of his promises."

Owen thinks that the questions are essentially the same. In both contexts Paul is denying that the loss of God's favor and salvation by the unbelieving fleshly Jew nullifies the truthfulness of what God has said (in his word and oracles). And, if all this is so, then this gives weight to the fact that "the faith of God" is the same as "the word of God." The word of God becoming of no effect is equated with the faith of God becoming of no effect.

The Symptom or the Disease?

What is Paul condemning by characterizing people as being of "no faith"? Their unfaithfulness and disobedience, external behavior, or something pertaining to the heart and inner core of a sinner's soul and mind? It is to an "evil heart of unbelief" that the apostle, like Jesus and all the new testament writers, points to as being the source of the problem. (Heb. 3:12) Unbelief in heart gives birth to practical unbelief, or to unfaithfulness and disobedience. So said Jesus - "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders," etc. (Mark 7:21)

So, the question is this - is Paul focusing on the disease or on the symptom? Is he focusing on the effect or the cause? Is he focusing on the root or the fruit? When he says that the carnal Jew, the one who had not been circumcised in heart and spirit, would, like the heathen Gentiles, be left inexcusable and not able to escape the judgment and wrath of God, does he lay the reason to the root cause or not? And if he does, is not want of faith the reason for unfaithfulness? So then why do translators and interpreters think that "the pistis of God" requires giving pistis the unusual meaning of "faithfulness"? As we will see, to substitute the word "faithfulness" in most places in the epistle where faith is the normal word chosen, is wholly untenable. Thus, the burden of proof is on interpreters who give "faithfulness" for "faith" in Romans 3:3 to prove that the deviation from the norm is warranted by the context.

In the next few postings I will be going through the Roman epistle to see what Paul says about "faith" (pistis) and "no faith" (a-pistis) and see what may be discovered thereby that helps us to learn whether by "pistis" Paul intends faithfulness or faith. We will also be looking to see the significance of the presence of the definite article with pistis and that without it. In order to prepare for those postings, let me give some basic information about the Greek definite article.

Faith with the Definite Article

Why is "faith" sometimes used with the definite article and sometimes without? What is the meaning of "the faith" in new testament usage? What is signified by the absence of the article with pistis? Is it okay for translators to either omit or to add the definite article (or the indefinite for that matter)? What are the rules for decision making in this regard?

In "Use of the definite article in Greek" (SEE HERE) we read (emphasis mine):

"The Greek article was originally a weak demonstrative pronoun / adjective (i.e., a weaker form of "this," "that," "these," "those"). It pointed to someone or something, in a subtle way that was still clear and obvious to the listener or reader. It may have been used as a pronoun, as a sort of short and abbreviated reference to someone or something already known through the context of what was being said or written, so the whole name of the person or thing did not need to be repeated in full (e.g., "This is what we are talking about."). Or it may have pointed to a noun in order to indicate that the noun was now present or previously mentioned (e.g., "That man is the one.")."

This is important, for as we shall see, in some passages the apostle may be using the definite article as a demonstrative pronoun meaning "this" or "that," or in context may mean "the thing I am talking about."

We also read this:

"Thus, the Greek article originally served a completely different function than the English definite article "the." Then the Greek article developed many uses which are far more closely related to its original Greek function than to the functions of the English definite article. The Greek article definitely is not just an equivalent to the English definite article "the." Nor is the absence of the Greek article simply an equivalent to the English indefinite article ("a" or "an")."

This information will be important later as we look at passages where the definite article is absent. What is said above is important in the debate over John 1: 1 and the words "and the word was God" versus "and the word was a god." We will have need later to talk about the absence of the definite article and what that tells us in a given text. Of course, most nouns and participles with definite articles perform the function of individualizing, specifying, and particularizing as in English.

The Greek grammarian also wrote:

"Therefore, in translating Greek into English, we cannot automatically always use an English definite article "the" in the place of a Greek article. There are many times when one will use no English article in the translation. And sometimes one can even use an indefinite English article in translating a Greek article. For instance, when a Greek article indicates a generic noun, we may translate the Greek article as an English indefinite article, or as an English indefinite pronoun ("any"). Also, if there is no Greek article in front of a Greek noun, we often use an English definite article in the translation, simply because the context indicates a definite reference to that Greek noun."

I will not comment upon this now, but will have use of these remarks later.

Our writer continued:

"Of course, the Greek article very often, but definitely not always, functions as an individualizing article, where it is used to distinguish one entity — one person, one group of persons, one thing, or one group of things — apart from all other entities. And, if a Greek article does this, it functions much like our English definite article. Thus, it very often can be translated directly into an English definite article."

I would dare say that this is nigh universally true in the new testament.

Again we are told:

"In Greek, the first mention of a noun or substantive, or its synonym, is traditionally anarthrous (i.e., it has no article in front of it). Then any subsequent references to the same entity — whether through the use of the same noun or a synonym — will normally be articular (with an article in front of it), indicating an anaphoric reference. In this way, it signals the reader to identify any previously mentioned information with the current articular noun or substantive."

This particular lesson will become very important as we look at the noun "faith" in the first two chapters of Romans (leading up to 3:3 our central verse)/

Jan 11, 2016

God's Faith? (part v)

Not only is "the faith of God" associated with "the oracles of God" (both are alike in having a HEAD NOUN + GENITIVE NOUN form), but in verse seven it is identified with "the truth of God." These seem to be three different ways of referring essentially to the same thing, and if so, my thesis is defended relative to this passage.

It would not substantially change the intended meaning of the apostle to have used any one of these three expressions in verse 3 in place of "the faith of God" so as to have said,

1) Shall their unbelief make the oracles of God without effect?
2) Shall their unbelief make the truth of God without effect?
3) Shall their unbelief make the word of God without effect?

Also, as we have seen, we could use these expressions in place of "the faith of God"

4) Shall their unbelief make the doctrine of God without effect?
5) Shall their unbelief make the gospel of God without effect?

Many of the "unbelievers" in the old testament dispensation were not irreligious as I have stated. Some rejected Hebrew monotheism and belief in the truth and became pagans. Their polytheism was a "faith" or "belief system" but it was not Jehovah's. Jeremiah (10: 8) called it "a doctrine of vanities."

The prophets of LORD God would often call such apostate Jews away from their "heathen faith," from the faith system of Baal, of demons, or some false deity, to "the faith of God." In this connection it is good to cite I Timothy 4:1.

"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils."

Like Jude 1: 3 this verse also speaks of "the faith" and the general view of commentators and interpreters affirms that "the faith" is not subjective belief, but objective, pointing to the object of personal faith. Why is it that the New Testament writers sometimes simply said "the faith" while at other times added a Genitive noun? Is it not because it is often implied and it is often shortened for the sake of brevity

Notice how "the faith" of Christians (which is of course the "faith of God" and "faith of Christ,") is contrasted with "doctrines of devils (demons)." When the unbelieving Jews of the Old Testament times departed from "the faith of God," or from "the oracles of God," or from "the truth of God," they often substituted for it a demonic system of faith which Paul places under the head "doctrines." In other words, "the faith" is all the same as "the doctrine." The "faith of God" is "the doctrine of God," and "the faith of Christ" is "the doctrine of Christ," etc.

Interesting is the fact that when "the doctrine" of God is mentioned, it is singular, but when that of demons is mentioned it is "doctrines" in the plural. Sometimes the apostle does the same thing with the word "doctrine" as with the word "faith." Sometimes, as before observed, Paul will speak simply of "the faith" while at other times will add "of God," "of Christ," etc. The same is true with the word "doctrine." Paul will sometimes simply say "the doctrine" while at other times will add the modifying Genitive noun and thus we have "the doctrine of God our Savior." (Titus 2:10)

The only two times in the Roman epistle where the word "doctrine" is used  it seems to also connote the "the oracles," "the word," "the truth," "the gospel," etc., are in 6: 17 and 16:17.

"But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you."

"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."

What was obeyed from the heart and learned? Specifically in these two passages it is "the doctrine," with the implication that it is "of God," and which is no other than what is meant elsewhere in this epistle as the gospel of God, the oracles of God, the faith of God, the word of God, the truth of God.

In I Timothy Paul speaks of "the words of faith and of good doctrine" (I Ti. 4:6) and  "the word and doctrine" (I Tim. 5: 17) and "the name of God and his doctrine" (I Tim. : 1). Thus, "the doctrine of God" is but another way of saying "the faith of God."

Recall also that Paul introduces the concept of divine "doctrine" when he begins discussing the divine definition of "Jew" in Romans 2:17-29. In that context he says that carnal Jews were known for their "God boasting" and "law boasting" and in regard to "the law" ('law' here meaning the entire old testament revelation) Paul says that they prided themselves in being an "instructor" and "teacher" to the Gentiles. These so called teachers and masters in theology had "the form of knowledge" and "of the truth in the law."

The first thing Paul will do is to challenge the reality or truthfulness of such Jews as to their claims and pretensions.

These Jews "rested (Greek verb "epanapauomai") in the law," meaning they trusted in it, Yet, Paul wants to show to these Jews that "the law" was no place for any sinner to rest. He will also challenge their pretensions and presumptions by exposing their hypocrisy, and show that the law could be no source of comfort or justification, nor source of righteousness, as they thought, and that it actually and ironically condemned them. This echoes the words of Jesus, who attacked the same erroneous thinking by Jews, saying to them - "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." (John 5:39) Remember that oftentimes, in the New Testament, "the law" refers to the entire Old Testament canon or "the scriptures." Then, he will begin to challenge their "doctrine," that is, their interpretations and teachings of the law or scripture of God, which they claimed was one and the same with God's doctrine.

But, if the doctrine of the Jews at the time of Christ and Paul, which was then known as "the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees" (Matt. 16:12), was "the doctrine of God our Savior," then why were these Jews "astonished" at the "doctrine" of Christ? ("the people were astonished at his doctrine" - Matt. 7:28; 22:33; etc.) Why did these "Jews" ask "what new doctrine is this?" (Mark 1: 27) What did Jesus say in his defense? "My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." (John 7: 16-17)

Thus, this is the summation of what I have thus far advanced in this extended essay.

By "the faith of God" is meant essentially the same thing as other terms used by Paul in Romans, both in the immediate context of Romans 3:3, and in other places in the epistle, and by him and the other new testament writers, which are the oracles of God, the word of God, the truth of God, the sayings of God, the doctrine of God, the Gospel of God, the Gospel of Christ, the faith of Christ, the faith of Christians, etc., which in all cases it is in the HEAD NOUN + GENITIVE NOUN construction, and may be interpreted, depending upon context, either as Objective Genitive or Ablative Genitive, but not as a Subjective Genitive.

If the kind of Genitive in the case of "the faith of God" is to be determined by the context, then my case has been proven. and the interpretation that says that "the faith of God" is subjective, meaning the faith that God has towards some object, is totally untenable.

In the next few postings I will be defending my interpretation that "a-pistis" should be translated as "no faith" and "the faith" should not be translated as "the faithfulness." I will explore Paul's use of the negative "alpha" and his use of irony in his talk to the "Jews."

Many "unbelievers" among the depraved Jews of ancient times, though not embracing openly a heathen or pagan "faith," and though still outwardly professing faith in the truth of their Scriptures, yet were hypocrites and not "Jews" in Spirit nor "circumcised" in heart by the word and Spirit of God. These Jesus in his public ministry often exposed and affirmed that their rejection of him and his "doctrine"  (about the oracles and the faith of the Hebrew people) proved them to be such as actually had "no faith," either subjectively or objectively. This "faith" that they had Paul calls a "no faith," and as we shall see, for good reason. This, in summary, I think, is an important element in the apostle's thesis in his epistle.

The lost Jews in the time of Christ professed belief in the divine origin of the Scriptures, of them being the "oracles of God." Jesus, however, during his preaching ministry, did uncloak their pretensions and hypocrisies, both Pharisee and Sadducee, and showed that though they professed adherence and allegiance to "the Scriptures" and to "the oracles," yet they by their works and rejection of Jehovah's Christ showed that they did not possess "the faith" or true religion of God. Said Jesus to such: "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God." (Matt. 22:29) He referred to these as "hypocrites."

Paul has said of the Gentiles that they had "changed the truth into a lie," and by "lie" he alludes to false systems of divinity, to religious falsehood. He says that in this condition of "no faith" that they continued to "worship," or practice religion and have a religious creed, consisting in "worship of the creature."  (Rom: 1:25)

The terms "Unbeliever" and "unbelief," in the sense intended by the New Testament writers, do not denote an irreligious person or one who has no faith, as I have previously observed. When Paul refers to the carnal and apostate "Jews" as having "no faith," he likewise does not mean that they, like the Gentiles, have "no faith" at allA man who has a Muslim "faith," for instance, is one who actually has "no faith," or one who is "without faith" (a-pistis), in the mind of Paul and Christians. I will expand greatly upon this as we proceed.

Paul's reason, as we shall see, for saying that the Christ rejecting "Jew," with his perverted religion, had "no faith," like the Gentiles were judged to have by the "Jew," was to "provoke" them by the use of irony. Irony is defined as:

"...the expression of one's meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect." .

Gentiles had changed God's "truth" into a "lie," meaning that they had exchanged it. This "truth" may be seen in two respects.  First, assuming that all the nations, after the flood, had been given "the truth" by Noah and his immediate descendants (and which had been handed down to Noah from Adam, Seth, Enoch, etc.), then "the truth" that had been "changed" by the nations was all the revelation that he had given by these ancient prophets (who have been since the world began - Luke 11:50) What Nimrod did was to change the truth into a lie, and the Gentiles since have all derived their faith system from him.

Second, aspects of this "truth" are not only that which was witnessed to "in the law" and "in the prophets," but witnessed to by creation itself as Paul said. (Rom. 1: 20)

But, the "Jew" in contrast to the "Gentile" had also "changed the truth into a lie" though not always in the same way. It is not that they forsook the primitive and original truth and accepted in its place a false system with its own oracles and holy writings, as did the Gentiles. But, the hypocritical Jew, though retaining outwardly an allegiance to the Hebrew scriptures, at least in the time of Christ and the apostle, had "changed" the truth of God by their art of twisting and distorting of language, especially that of the Scriptures, as we have seen.

Jan 7, 2016

God's Faith? (part iv)

From what was highlighted in the previous posting about Genitive nouns, it was emphasized how context is the most crucial factor in determining their proper sense in a given passage. It was also observed that all translators must of necessity also be interpreters. Correcting translators and interpreters is no mean task and I would not do so did I not have solid reasons for doing so.

With that in mind, let us first study the immediate context in which the phrase "the faith of God" is placed and then from there branch into other parts of the Roman epistle. Finally, we will look at the remainder of the New Testament, the larger context, to ascertain if there is anything that helps us to determine what "the faith" and the "faith of God" may truly denote or connote. Already we have seen that at least in Jude 1:3 "the faith" means what I affirm it to mean in Romans 3:3 (and, I might add, in other places in the Roman epistle and in the New Testament).

The Immediate Context

"For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged." (Romans 2: 28 - 3: 4)

The True Jew

The generally accepted definition, one that you would find in any dictionary in the time of Jesus and Paul, defined being "Jew" in regard to 1)  birth origin, and 2) nationality, or citizenship, and 3) type of government, and 4) social customs, and 4) religion. As far as the last is concerned, it was more of a national religion, wherein both genuine and false professors grew together like wheat and tares in a field. This definition Paul had problems with and therefore sought to give what would in essence be God's definition of what is the character and description of a "Jew," which is a most important question, for Paul sees only "Jews" as being saved, or as being God's children.

What interpreter can doubt that in these words Paul is discussing this very point? That he begins this section of Scripture by giving a true definition of what it means to be a "Jew"? What is it in the preceding verses that has led Paul to this present point of focus?

In Romans 2:17 Paul begins his contrasts between those who are by nature Jews (who are so by a physical birth and genealogical lineage), with those who are "Jews" in spirit and by a new birth. The apostle John felt a need to say, like Paul here, that the new birth is "of God," but "not of blood" (John 1:13) or as a result of birth nationality.

He says "Behold thou art called a Jew..." (2:17) In this language he calls into question whether those who are "called" or otherwise styled as "Jews" are what the name ought to imply. He puts to the test the question of whether those who are generally recognized as being "Jew" are in truth what the name implies.

His beginning with "Behold" calls the earthly Jew to look deep and seriously, beyond the cloaks and the masks, and with a sense of irony and surprise, to discern between the name and the thing signified by it. His rhetorical or prosecutor style, wherein he interrogates the "Jew" with penetrating questions designed to expose the hypocrisy and self deception of most of those who were in name "Jews," is truly remarkable. And, what does the word "Jew" mean?

"Jew" is derived from "Judah" which means "praise," ("Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise" - Gen. 49:8) particularly towards Jehovah, but also towards the ideal "Judah" or "Jew," which surely was the Lord Jesus. When the Samaritan woman referred to Jesus as a "Jew" (John 4:9), she no doubt judged him so by general common criteria (as mentioned above), but she did not know at that time that he was "Jew" in the highest sense and worthy of the highest praise. Jesus was superlatively "he whom thy brethren shall praise," but he is one also highly praised by his Father who said out of Heaven - "this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." Further, as Paul shows elsewhere, Christians should also seek the praises of God.

It seems obvious that Paul makes use of the Hebrew meaning of the word "Judah" (or "Jew"), meaning praise, as before noticed, to substantiate his spiritual definition of those terms. Hypocrites and lost Gentiles do not fit the description of "praise," not being the characters of whom God speaks well. When he concludes his list of contrasts between carnal and spiritual Jews he says "whose praise is not from men but from God," echoing the words of the Lord Jesus.

If being a "Jew" by divine judgment and estimation were by carnal procreation, circumcision, or by being citizens of the earthly commonwealth of Israel, or by nationality, or by keeping an external devotion to the Hebrew religion, then praise would come from men, but not from God. Praise is both directed to God in people becoming spiritual Jews and Israelites but also from God to those same people as they are daily made in heart and character worthy of the kingdom of God.

Paul, in his questioning of Jewish religious hypocrites (beginning in verse 17), simply imitates the method of the Lord Jesus himself, who often interrogated such impostors with piercing questions that were designed to convict and persuade, as well as to expose them. Said Jesus of these "Jews": "For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." (John 12:43) And he also said:

"How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?" (John 5:44 NIV)

These words show that it should be the desire of Christians to obtain God's praises, for him to think and speak well of us (what it literally means for God to bless us), to honor and approve of us, for him to say to us "well done, thou good and faithful servant" (Matt. 25: 23), etc. Jesus is our example, and though we cannot live up to the name of "Jew" as he did, yet we strive to do so, praying for grace.

Paul does speak of those, including himself, "who are Jews by nature," in Galatians 2:15, or by a physical birth, and in Romans 9:3 he will refer to them as "my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh," and who, naturally speaking, and by carnal definition, are "Israelites." But, then, in order to further show that he is redefining what it means to be a "Jew" or an "Israelite," or to be of "the seed of Abraham," he says pointedly: "For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children." (vs. 6,7)

In redefining "Jew," "circumcision," "seed of Abraham," "Israel," "children of God," "elect," etc., he describes the persons designated by these terms in the way that God has always intended that they should be understood and interpreted. Not only are these titles of character defined properly in this epistle, and from God's perspective, or from his heavenly dictionary, but other words, familiar to Jews who were familiar with the Scriptures, such as "righteousness," "justness," "law," etc., are also accurately defined by the inspired apostle.

The Man of "no faith"

The Jews whom Paul regards as being in the category of those who "believed not," or who "lack faith," it is in respect to "the oracles of God." When they are described as those who have "no faith" he does not mean that such persons have no religious beliefs, or are irreligious. People today may say in vernacular speech that such a man "he has no faith," meaning he has no religion. It rather means that such people have no genuine or true faith. All religious faith outside of that revealed by the Hebrew God is "no faith," and even the Hebrew "faith" of the Jewish hypocrites was likewise actually no faith at all. The word "true" or "truth" (alḗtheia) does not only refer to verity or veracity as to facts, but also as to what is "real" as opposed to what is illusion. The real Jew has real "faith," not only objectively so, but subjectively too.

Paul's Thesis

The lost Jew can find no justification for his hypocritical "faith," or apostate religion, and the lost Gentile can find no legitimate excuse for his pagan or polytheistic "faith." A person is esteemed a "Jew" in God's sight by his allegiance to God and his word and to that "pure and uncorrupted religion" (James 1:27) of which he is the author. If one is heeding doctrines of men and demons, as we have seen, then he has a religion and a faith but they have what is not true or real.

In condemning both classes Paul points to the standard for judging the reality or truthfulness of the faith of any man. Both condemned classes are assumed to be religious in nature, to have views of God, or a system of organized divinity, and to practice religion. The atheist is not particularly in view, although it can be argued that even atheists have a "faith" or "belief system."

The Oracles = The Faith

In the immediate context "the faith" that is "of God," is associated with 1) "the oracles," which are likewise said to be "of God," and with 2) the "sayings" of Deity, and 3) with God being "true" in his communications.

Since the interpretation of Genitive nouns largely depends upon the "context," then the presence of the above three items weigh heavily in favor of my thesis. Not only do I affirm that "the faith of God" in Romans 3:3 means the same thing as in Jude 1:3 but that it also means the same thing as "the oracles of God." Who cannot see the parallel expressions "the faith of God" and "the oracles of God"?

Both expressions are in the same syntax construction: HEAD NOUN then GENITIVE NOUN. In "the oracles of God" it seems clear that we have an Ablative Genitive which indicates both source and kind. This could lend weight to the view that "the faith of God" is also such. In this case we would translate as follows: "shall their no faith make the faith that comes from God ineffectual?" This is entirely plausible and a better translation than that which says "shall their faith make the faithfulness of God ineffectual." Further, if it is Ablative Genitive, like "oracles of God," then the contrast is on that "faith" which finds its source in God versus that hypocritical or heathen "faith" that is "of" or "from" men and from their false deities. The pagan Gentiles had their "oracles," originating from their imagined deities, and many of them prove to be failures and falsehoods, but not the Hebrew oracles.

In this case, Paul's rhetorical question is designed to discover whether the hypocrisy and unbelief (of the oracles and faith of God), by some Jews, yea even by the vast majority, indicated that God's oracles were not true, or had failed, or had thereby been proven to be false. It is practically the same question as "has the word of God become ineffectual" or "proved a failure"? (Romans 9:6)  The likeness of the two questions is apparent. "Has the faith of God failed"? "Has the word of God failed?" 

The faith of men and of carnal Jews may and will certainly fail or prove ineffectual, but not that faith which has its origin in God and his word and oracles as the object of trust and belief. The apostasy or hypocrisy of some does not prove that God or his word has failed. God is not at fault nor is his divine revelations. The fact that some trusted and believed those oracles and that faith proves that they had not failed. Besides, Paul has already said that both Jews and Gentiles are "without excuse," and has justified God in affirming that he had given to the Jews every "advantage" by giving them the blessed oracles. He later elaborates even further upon these advantages and means of grace in Romans nine when he says "to whom pertains the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the promises," etc.

Thus far we have three expressions that virtually mean the same thing. They are 1) "the oracles of God" and 2) "the faith of God," and 3) "the word of God." I contend that though three different expressions are used, the apostle is still substantially referring to the same thing, to that system of truth and revealed religion that God has given through the prophets, and now chiefly and additionally by Christ and his apostles.

What is it that is being questioned or doubted by carnal Jews in their verbal confrontations with the apostle? Most generally in this epistle Paul has an antagonist in mind when he raises questions or discusses theological questions. Sometimes these adversaries were referenced specifically, while at other times, as here, they and their religious notions are clearly in the background. Is it not his teaching about what constitutes a "Jew" and "child of Jehovah"?

When Paul asks "shall their no faith make the faith of God ineffectual?" he could just as well have kept the expression first introduced, i.e. the "oracles of God," but not wanting to be repetitious, but more varied in his descriptions, he substitutes "faith of God" for it. So, with this in mind let us now read the sentence, substituting "the oracles of God" in place of "the faith of God" and discover if there is any discovery to be made thereby. "Shall their no faith make the oracles of God ineffectual?"

But, besides not wanting to repeat the same adjectival noun again, he also has a superior reason for changing how he styles the Hebrew Scriptures and religion in verse three over how he styled it in verse one. He wants to substitute "faith" for "oracles" because it is a better word to set in opposition to the unbelief or no faith of the carnal fleshly Israelite. The word "oracle" alludes to the fact that God has orally "spoken" or said something. This fact connects with Paul's citation of the Psalmist who spoke of God being "justified" in his "sayings." Is not the "sayings" an allusion to the "oracles"? Are not his "sayings" also the same as his "word"?

The Faith of God = The Gospel of God

"Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God." (Rom. 1:1; see also Rom. 15:16)

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ..." (Rom. 1:16; see also 15:19)

I affirm that "the gospel of God" again refers much to the same idea as are "the oracles of God," or "the faith of God," or "the word of God," or "the truth of God" and that these expressions, all being used within the same general context, gives much credence to my thesis about what is meant by "the faith of God."

Jan 5, 2016

God's Faith? (part III)

In this third posting in this series we will begin an examination of those passages where there is mention made of the faith of God or of Christ.

Passage #1 - Romans 3:3

"For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?"  (KJV)

My Thesis

Let me begin with my thesis relative to this passage. I contend that "the faith of God" denotes the Christian faith or system of revealed truth, or the GospelNegatively, the faith of God in this passage cannot be proven to be a subjective faith which God has and exercises, either towards creatures, or among the three persons of the Trinity towards each other. Nothing in the wording, in Greek or English, or in the context, demands that it be interpreted as a subjective Genitive.

I will show that it is either universally the case, or at least almost so, that when the noun "faith" is used with the definite article, "the faith" stands for "the gospel" or for "the Christian faith." Interpreters agree that this is the case at least in some instances in the New Testament. One such instance is found in Jude 1:3.

"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."

Every serious interpreter or commentator interprets “the faith" in this verse objectively, signifying the body of Christian doctrine or the gospel system. They do so not because the Greek demands that it signify or mean such, but because the syntax and context clearly demonstrates that interpretation.

I contend that "the faith" in Jude 1:3 signifies much the same thing as it does in Romans 3:3. Besides the difference of context between the two passages, there is also this difference: the Jude passage has no qualifying adjective or Genitive noun, being simply "the faith," but the Romans passage has such.

This does not mean, however, that in such passages where there are no adjectives or Genitive nouns written in the text, that there are not any implied. Bible commentators and teachers of the word realize this, and thus in their expositions (in giving "the sense" of the words in question) often suggest or otherwise supply them. If someone would have asked Jude what was the specific faith that he had in mind, he would have added adjectives and Genitive nouns in explanation.

Jude, in saying "the faith," is obviously talking about the creed of Christians, the object of subjective belief. The presence of the definite article limits "faith" to a specific kind, as does the Genitive noun. The context also limits it. "The faith" is described as that which Christians are to contend for apologetically. It is what had been "delivered unto the saints."

Further, since "the faith" (or divine revelation) came from God and his Son, through inspired writers, and was "delivered to the saints," it was presented as an external object calling for belief, but when it was believed it then also became subjective and internalized. One may now be said to have faith or belief in "the faith" When reference is to "belief" of the faith (or truth, or gospel, etc.) then "belief" nearly always is without the definite article (though often with a personal pronoun that acts as an adjective, i.e., "your faith," "her faith," etc.), because the focus is on the quality of subjective belief.

One could substitute word equivalents for "the faith" in these and such texts as "the truth," "the way," "the doctrine," "the gospel," etc. Though these are not exactly synonyms, yet they are often used interchangeably by the New Testament writers when referring essentially to the same system or body of divinity that God has given to men. Some of those inspired writers favored one expression or another when referring to the fundamental teachings of believers.

There is of course some slight differences between "the faith" of Jude 1:3 and that of Romans 3:3, as will be elaborated upon as this passage is closely analyzed. But for now I observe that "the faith" of Jude 1:3 included more inspired revelation than what was included in Romans 3:3 in the mind of the apostle Paul when he spoke of "the faith of God." In either case "the faith" means the inspired body of divinity given to men in the holy Scriptures.

It is important in beginning our analysis of this verse to examine the various translations of this verse. For the sake of brevity I will give only a representative sampling and only offer short comments after some of them.

New International Version

"What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God's faithfulness?"

This rendering at least is consistent in translating "pistis" as "faithfulness" and "a-pistis" as "unfaithfulness." However, as I hope to show, "faith" does not denote faithfulness, although it may have that connotation is some instances.

English Standard Version

"What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?"

New American Standard Bible

"What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?"

Why make pistis in a-pistis "belief" but make pistis "faithfulness" seeing they mean the same thing? The alpha "a" in front of pistis does not automatically mean that "no faith" or "unbelief" denotes "unfaithfulness." Again, if we substitute the word "unfaithfulness" in places where "unbelief" is used, it will create the same kinds of problems. Likewise, if we substitute "faithfulness" in places where "belief" or "faith" are used, we create theological problems. This I intend to show.

Pistis is nearly always, or can be, translated as either "belief" or "faith" and only rarely as "faithfulness," and this is always, or nearly always, both unnecessary and incorrect. Likewise A-Pistis (no faith, or without faith, or lacking faith) is nearly always translated as either "unbelief" or "lack of faith." Thus, a more consistent rendering, if we make a-pistis to mean "unbelief," would be to translate "pistis" not as "faithfulness" but as "belief." In other words, we would translate as follows: "shall their unbelief make the belief of God..." If we insist on making "belief" to connote "faithfulness" then, to be consistent, we should make "unbelief" to connote "unfaithfulness." Some of the translations we are looking at are consistent in this regard.

International Standard Version

"What if some of the Jews were unfaithful? Their unfaithfulness cannot cancel God's faithfulness, can it?"

Though I don't agree that pistis means faithfulness and a-pistis means unfaithfulness, yet this translation is at least consistent in how pistis is interpreted in both cases, both with the alpha and that without.

American Standard Version

"For what if some were without faith? shall their want of faith make of none effect the faithfulness of God?"

This translation's translation of a-pistis as "want of faith" is good and correct, but to be consistent pistis should have been translated as "the faith." The comparison is between the absence of one and same thing in one case and of the existence of it in another case.

Young's Literal Translation

"For what, if certain were faithless? shall their faithlessness the faithfulness of god make useless?"

Does "Faith" mean "Faithfulness"?

It is wrong that so many interpreters feel forced to translate "faith" as "faithfulness" in this passage. In doing so they are not consistent, for they rarely translate "faith" as "faithfulness" in other places in Romans and in the New Testament.  If they did that in those other places it would show how the definition that they give to "faith" in Romans 3: 3 and elsewhere is unique or rare.  This puts the burden of proof on those who translate pistis as faithfulness in this passage to prove the necessity for doing so. After all, as stated, the normal word for pistis is either faith or belief. Further, if we took "faith" to mean "faithfulness" in the remainder of the new testament, then we are forced into untenable consequences in soteriology.

The making of πίστις to mean "faithfulness" in Romans 3: 3 is an "interpretation" based supposedly upon the context, and not based upon a literal "translation."  Many Bible students are not able to discern when a translator is strictly translating versus when he is interpreting.  But, more on this later.

Further, those commentators and interpreters who interpret "the faith of God" to mean "the faithfulness of God" are forced to change "their unbelief" (or "no faith") to "their unfaithfulness." But, again, the normal word used to translate pistis is either faith or belief, so those translators who diverge from the norm should give solid reasons for doing so. But, if the normal use of pistis poses no difficulties (supplying the word "faith" in this passage), then why make it mean "faithfulness" here? What is it in the context of Romans 3:3 that demands that we change the normal way pistis is translated and give it the abnormal meaning of "faithfulness"?

Failure to distinguish between "faith" and "faithfulness" (or between belief and obedience), creates confusion and contradiction.  Faith comes before the Christian life of faith, before learning obedience and fidelity, before faithfulness.  Initial faith in Christ precedes faithfulness as a cause precedes an effect.

It is interesting that there is not in the New Testament of the KJV the word "faithfulness." We do find the adjective or participle "faithful" to describe people, such as "the faithful," or "the faithful servant," etc.

In Romans 3:3 the "unbelief" (ἀπιστία) of humans is set in direct opposition to the "faith" or "belief" (πίστις) of God.

Notice further how "unbelief" is qualified by the pronoun "their" but "belief" does not have a personal pronoun to modify it but does have the definite article "the," which acts as a modifier. It is "their no belief" contrasted with "the belief of God."  Both the pronoun and the article function as adjectives as does the genitive "of God."

The phrase "the belief of God" is like other such phrases in scripture, such as "the love of God," "the law of God," "the word of God," etc.  In each of these examples there is no essential difference in meaning when one renders "the law of God" as "God's law," and "the love of God" as "God's love," and "the word of God" as "God's word."  And so, in our text, there is no difference in meaning to say "the faith of God" versus "God's faith."

Of course, there is some difference.  For instance, in "the love of God" both "love" and "God" are nouns, the latter being in Greek in the Genitive case and acts as a modifier to limit the main noun "love." On the other hand, in "God's love" only "love" is the noun and "God" is the adjective. Also, as we shall show more fully forthwith, saying "the faith of God" rather than "God's faith" does put emphasis on the secondary genitive noun. It is as though we were emphasizing a word by way of capitals or italics, saying in contrast to other kinds of faith, "the faith of GOD." In the other form of expression, "God's faith," the emphasis is on the "faith."

Further, as we shall later see, the lack of the definitive article in "their no faith" and the presence of it in "the faith of God" is also significant. Many times in the Greek New Testament the definite article is used with possessive pronouns, such as saying "the faith that is yours." Many translations like the KJV omit the definite article in such cases and simply say "your faith" and it thus requires looking at each instance to see if the article is there in the Greek along with the pronoun.

Also, as we shall see, there are certain kinds of Genitive nouns that can be reversed. In other words, in such cases, "the love of God" can be reversed and say "God of the love." In the passage before us, the phrase "the faith of God" would then be "the God of faith." But, more on that later.

In the next posting I will continue with further proof of my thesis relative to this important passage.

Jan 4, 2016

God''s Faith? (part II)

In the first posting in this series, it was shown that "faith" was not something that God has, and that faith implies limited knowledge, being contrasted with sight or full vision, and therefore incompatible with the nature and perfections of God. This fact should guide us in our interpretation of passages which might seem to teach that God or Christ believe, hope, trust, etc.

According to sound rules of hermeneutics it is forbidden to take propositions or presuppositions to the Bible and then to use them as rules for how to interpret the text of Scripture. However, it is quite proper to apply clear biblical propositions from one portion of Scripture towards interpreting other portions. This is simply using Scripture usage to help to determine meaning, or it is interpreting Scripture, as much as possible, by Scripture. It is comparing Scripture with Scripture. If many Scriptures show clearly that God is omniscient, for instance, then a passage which seems to teach otherwise must not in fact teach it, and so it must be looked at more closely to discern the reason for the seeming discrepancies. There are no contradictions in Scripture, only seeming ones, or ones in the mind of the interpreter. If it has been proven that God does not have faith, then obviously the scripture passages which supposedly teach that he does have and exercise faith must not really teach such.

Those who use those passages (that seem to imply that God has faith) as actual proof texts and arguments have the burden of proof on them to show 1) that the texts in question unquestionably teach it, and 2) how such is consistent with the nature and perfections of God, and 3) how such is consistent with the definition of the word "faith." Further, seeing that the view that God and Christ (in his divinity) had faith is a new and minority view, the burden of proof is further weighted on them to prove their proposition.

It is of course proper for one to say that he has faith or trust in or towards God, but it is not proper for one to say that God has faith in him, or places trust in him. God does not say to people - "I trust in you," or "I believe you," or "I give credit to you," or "I am persuaded that you," or "you are worthy of my trust and confidence," etc.

To say that God believes and trusts, or that he has confidence, etc., is making God into a man like us, yet God is unlike us. He is unique. That is one of the reasons why he is God and God alone. In fact, God being "holy" in his essential nature implies this uniqueness. God is truly unlike any other. Well might God say to such interpreters who say he has faith - "thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself." (Psalm 50:21)

In some respects the debate on this point is connected with the debate over whether God has feelings and emotions like we have. The Westminster and London Confessions of Faith affirm that "God is without body, parts, or passions." In Process Theology, however, this article of faith is denied, affirming rather that God has emotions just as have humans. Of course, some of these same advocates of God having faith and passions as have his creatures also deny that God has absolute foreknowledge of all future events, at least those that result from libertarian free will.

In the body of this series we will take a general look at the New Testament uses of "faith" ('pistis' or one of its variants), the noun primarily, both that which is arthrous and that which is anarthrous, but primarily the latter. This will be crucial for our study concerning "faith" (without the definite article) and "the faith" (with the definite article). We will also look at those passages where a second noun with a genitive ending is attached to "the faith," or main noun, and where the English preposition "of" is often used to designate such. Thus we have such phrases as "the faith of God," "the faith of Christ," "the faith of the saints," etc.

Many interpreters and translators argue over whether a particular passage with a genitive ending noun is either to be interpreted as objective genitive or subjective genitive. All realize that there is no way of knowing by the Greek alone, for both the genitive and subjective are the same in Greek with respect to such genitive nouns.  Thus, the translator must also become an interpreter or exegete and base his translation in large part, not upon the Greek language itself, but upon context, syntax, and sound rules of exegesis. Such factors will determine the translator's choice of a word or words, in the English, in this case, whether to use the prepositions "of" or "in," etc.

It has been often said that the greatest difficulty for Bible interpreters and students of the word is not learning the meaning of the big words in Scripture, but with the little prepositions, conjunctions, particles of speech, idioms, etc. And with translators, it is also often difficult to find out the best words and arrangement of words in the English language. Though translators generally do try to be as "literal" as possible, even keeping words in the same order as the Greek or Hebrew, sometimes this is not practical for the average reader in English. Sometimes word order must be sacrificed in order to make the text readable and understandable in English. Especially is this true with scripture idioms. In these cases translators use what is called "equivalence" rather than the "dynamic" or literal word for word method.

Here are some things one should know relative to the Genitive case in Greek. We will talk more about the Genitive case as we go along in our investigation of the pertinent passages involved in this debate. Some of the things this writer says has already been said by me but is added here for authority. Other things are said that are additional thoughts about the Genitive case than what has already been mentioned and will be important to remember as we begin our look at the various passages involved in this discussion.

In "The Genitive Case" (SEE HERE), from an excellent Internet article on the subject, the writer says the following under the sub heading "General Considerations." (emphasis mine)

"The genitive case is used in such a variety of ways in Greek, Wallace says, "The genitive case is one of the most crucial elements of Greek syntax to master." It is commonly used just like the possessive form of the English noun (i.e., with the apostrophe, singular, "the saint's faith," or plural, "the saints' faith"). But, more particularly, most genitive functions are related to our English use of the preposition "of" (e.g., "the faith of the saints"). Then some functions indicate something more like the uses of prepositions like "from," "than," "within which," and so on."

The writer also gives us these pertinent words:

"Yet, even though Greek genitives are used in only a few different constructions, and can often be translated in a few simple ways, the meanings of those few constructions, and of those ways of being translated are far more varied and deep than any other case. And our purpose is to find the meaning, not just to produce an idiomatic translation. The wide variety of meanings and implications which can be conveyed through the Greek genitive is simply amazing."


"Although we can identify with many of the wide variety of uses in the GNT, genitives do cause numerous disputes regarding their translation. Context and logic, with an eye given over to harmonizing each text with the consistent overall teachings of God's Word, are absolutely critical to the interpretations of many genitive forms in the GNT. Before you interpret a genitive, a good understanding of doctrine, of how the author was thinking, is often required. For biblical Greek, this requires much prayer to Thee Author over time, to be taught by His Holy Spirit."

The same writer also adds this information, saying:

"There are 19,633 genitive forms in the GNT (7,681 nouns; 4,986 pronouns; 5,028 articles; 743 participles; and 1,195 adjectives), making up 25% of all declined words. Nominatives make up 31% of all declined forms, accusatives 29%, datives 15%, and vocatives less than 1%."

Under the sub heading "The Semantics of Genitives in the Exegesis of Scripture," the author writes:

"Wallace quotes Moule as saying the genitive is "immensely versatile" and "hard-worked" as far as Greek cases go. The meaning or semantics of genitives can be difficult at times, due to their wide variety of possible functions. But a good understanding is important and rewarding for one seeking to correctly interpret the meaning of Scripture. Wallace states: "Learning the genitive uses well pays big dividends. It has a great deal of exegetical significance, far more so than any of the other cases, because it is capable of a wide variety of interpretations."

"Context always plays a large part in the interpretation of syntax, but is far more critical to the interpretation of genitives than it is to the interpretation of any other case forms. Genitives have well over a hundred different and distinctly identifiable functions. (Of course, Wallace, and this document, will divide those functions into about thirty five main categories, but some of them could each be further divided into five or six subcategories.) In order to determine which category a genitive falls into, and thus its meaning, one must almost always make a judgment call based on an examination of the context, since the syntax of the construction with the genitive usually does not indicate much of anything. Yet, judging by context is often a subjective matter, requiring careful observation, logic, much background knowledge, and other factors. So interpreting by context can cause many disputes."

"The genitive form "covers a multitude of semantic relationships" and is frequently used to produce compressed "kernels" of thought which, for an English translation, require many more words to describe clearly.

The Greek construction of these "kernels" is basically: HEAD NOUN + GENITIVE NOUN (abbreviated as N-Ng, which stands for a Noun [of any case] followed by a Noun of the genitive case). Whenever we see this construction, we need to "unpack" it."

This is what we have in those disputed passages where God or Christ is said to have faith, i.e., "the faith of God" (Rom. 3:3) and "the faith of Christ" or "the faith of the Son of God," (Galatians and elsewhere) etc. "The faith" is the HEAD NOUN and "God," "Christ" and "Son of God" (this latter is a double Genitive) are in the place of the GENITIVE NOUN. In our look at the pertinent passages in this discussion, we will have need to "unpack" them.

Our author continued:

"Grammatical constructions involving other cases often give structural clues which help in their interpretation -- such as the use of articles with certain words, the position of the words in relation to each other, and so on. But, although the genitive can be used for more functions than any other case, a construction with a genitive is the same (N-Ng) for most functions. Thus, its interpretation depends more on context than on the structure of its grammatical construction. The lexical definition of the genitive form, whether it is articular, its number (singular or plural), and a few other considerations will affect its interpretation. But the context is usually most critical. Outside of the context, many possible meanings of a N-Ng construction can be antithetical, completely opposite or very sharply contrasted with each other, especially with verbal head nouns. So a great deal of thought, with a thorough examination of context, is often required to "unpack" its true meaning."

"Basically, there are two general roles which a genitive form can serve in Greek. One is the standard role as a true genitive, which "defines, describes, qualifies, restricts, limits" (Wallace). In grammars which assume an eight-case system, this is the only role they recognize, since they define the other major role as a different case, even though it uses the same genitive form. However, a genitive form can also serve in the role of an ablative, which implies the idea of separation, source or comparison, and its meaning is normally conveyed by our English preposition "from." Regarding both these roles, there are some common implications."

"A genitive indicates limitation according to kind or quality: When a genitive modifies a noun, it generally limits it to a particular "kind.""

"A genitive is usually adjectival, in a way often implying movement from it: The genitive is the only oblique case which generally modifies a noun, and, thus, is generally adjectival. In addition, it implies movement from the genitive to the noun it modifies. That is, whatever limitation the genitive is expressing, that limitation is frequently transferred from the genitive to the head noun it modifies. In possession, "a gadget of the man," the "man" owns and holds the "gadget," where owning and holding are actions from the genitive. In an ablative role, "righteousness from God," God is the source causing the righteousness, where causing is an action from the genitive. So there is implication of movement or action from a genitive. We frequently see this implication when genitives are used as objects of prepositions too. For example, the phrase ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ ("out of God") implies movement from God, towards the word being modified by this phrase."

Under the sub heading "Grammatical Role 1: Adjectival Genitives" our author says:

"This is the most fundamental role of a genitive, it describes. Whether as a true genitive or as an ablative, the genitive describes the head noun. Thus it qualifies or modifies the head noun, indicating limitations as to the scope of that noun's class of persons or things. In this way, the genitive functions much like an adjective. However, the genitive is more emphatic or stronger than an adjective, and a genitive also implies movement or action from it to the head noun."

These particular statements will become important to remember in our coming exegetical look at the various passages on this topic.

Our author continues:

"Using a genitive noun is often far stronger and more emphatic than using an adjective because a noun is stronger and more emphatic than an adjective. This is mostly because a noun generally represents something real, whole or tangible. But an adjective merely represents a quality or quantity, which is only a part of the existence or essence of the noun it modifies."

In the next posting we will begin our look at Romans 3: 3 where the apostle speaks of "the faith of God."

Jan 3, 2016

God's Faith? (part I)

God does not have faith.  I don't care what Kenneth Hagan, Kenneth Copeland, or the Hardshells say. They are wrong to affirm that God has faith, that he trusts and believes, and they, and others like them, sustain their proposition upon a false interpretation of a few passages of scripture.  But, they do not teach that God has faith, for God cannot be said to have faith, any more than he be said to have hope or fear, for the simple reason that such things are inconsistent with the nature and perfections of God.

Why is it not possible for God or the deity to have faith? Because faith implies imperfect knowledge and is why faith is always contrasted with "sight."

Does God walk by faith or by sight?

"Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord."  (II Cor. 5: 6-8)

We walk by faith now in this life, while we "are at home in the body" and "absent from the Lord," but we will not walk by faith when we are "present with the Lord" in glorified bodies, but will be walking by sight.  That fact in itself destroys the idea that God has faith.  If the saints have faith now because they do not have sight (believing in what is now invisible), then surely they will not have faith when faith is turned to sight.  Now, if perfect sight and knowledge eliminates faith, then surely this eliminates God from having faith.

No where in the Bible can it be proven that God has "faith."  God never says "I believe," or "I trust," or "I give credence to," "I am persuaded," etc.  Rather, he says "I know."

Faith, by its very nature, is a belief in what is now not visible to the rational senses.  It is a "seeing" but it is a seeing of what is invisible.  It is not an actual "seeing" of the invisible with the physical eyes but rather in the mind's eye by Spirit inspired imagery.  So Peter said - "whom having not seen ye love."  (I Peter 1:8)  And of Moses the writer of Hebrews says that he by faith "endured as seeing him who is invisible" (Heb. 11:27).  The same writer said this in verse one.

“Now faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

This verse is similar to these words of Paul about hope.

"For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?"

Just as "hope that is seen is not hope" so "faith that is seen is not faith," don't you see?

Wrote Dr, Gill in his commentary on the II Corinthians 5 passage cited:

"...it is opposed to "sight": by which is meant, not sensible communion, but the celestial vision: there is something of sight in faith; that is a seeing of the Son; and it is an evidence of things not seen, of the invisible glories of the other world; faith looks at, and has a glimpse of things not seen, which are eternal; but it is but seeing as through a glass darkly; it is not that full sight, face to face, which will be had hereafter, when faith is turned into vision."

In commenting upon I Cor. 13: 13 he wrote similarly, saying:

"...in the other world, faith will be changed for vision, and hope for enjoyment, but love will abide, and be in its full perfection and constant exercise, to all eternity."

Notice this passage:

“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (II Cor. 4:18)

The "eternal things" are unseen precisely because they are not yet within our grasp. The only way they can be seen now is by the eye of faith, but this view is not the full vision, but is all in mental images till we behold the reality with our physical eyes.

There is an old poetic line that sums it all up.

"Faith may be lost in sight; Hope ends in fruition; but Charity extends beyond the grave, through the boundless realms of eternity."

Also, in the song "Jesus I My Cross Have Taken" we sing these words:

"Haste thee on from grace to glory, Armed by faith, and winged by prayer. Heaven’s eternal days before thee, God’s own hand shall guide us there. Soon shall close thy earthly mission, Soon shall pass thy pilgrim days, Hope shall change to glad fruition, Faith to sight, and prayer to praise."

Wrote J.C. Philpot:

"But hope has its END as well as faith; and what end is this? all that we need and all that we desire– fruition, or enjoyment; for as faith will be swallowed up in sight, so hope will be lost in fruition." (The Work of Faith, Patience of Hope, and Labor of Love. Preached at North Street Chapel, Stamford, on, March 1, 1862 - SEE HERE)

Thus, my first argument against God having faith is due to the fact that God sees and knows all and that there is nothing that is invisible to him so as to require him to have faith. He does not have limited knowledge.  In the next posting I will look at some of the passages that Hardshells use to try to prove that God has faith and that it is this "faith" that is the instrument of salvation.

Needless to say this is a novel interpretation among the Hardshells and modern Bible interpreters. It seems that it is the Hardshells alone however who are using this new idea of being saved by the faith of God or the faith of Christ as an argument to prove that a person's faith in God or Christ is not necessary for salvation.