Feb 13, 2016

God's Faith? (ix)

In this and the next few postings we will look at some additional parallel expressions to "the faith of the God" of Romans 3:3, and then look at the statement of Galatian 3: 23 - "before the faith came."

First, we will look at the parallel expression "the faith of the gospel" (Phi. 1:27). Next we will look at the expression "the word of the faith" (Rom. 10: 8), and then we will look at Romans 14:1 where Paul exhorted the church to "receive him who is weak in the faith." Next, we will look at the expression "the same spirit of the faith" from II Cor. 4: 13.

In these passages "the faith" is mentioned, and our look at them will be in order to see if anything can be learned thereby that might help us in establishing correct views on the meaning of "the faith of God," "the faith of Christ," etc. They are chosen because of their similarity and in order to establish a Pauline definition or usage.

Already from the immediate context we noticed the parallel expression "the oracles of the God." In future postings, as promised, we will also look at several other verses in the Roman epistle where there is mention of "the faith," beginning with the first two chapters of the Roman epistle, the preceding context for our expression "the faith of God."

The Faith of the Gospel
τῇ πίςτει τοῦ εὐαγγελίου

"Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel."

The phrase “the faith of the gospel” could mean at least one of several things: it could mean “the faith that is the gospel” (genitive of apposition), or “the faith that originates from the gospel” (genitive of source), or "the faith produced by the gospel" (genitive of product), or “faith in the gospel” (objective genitive), or "the faith belonging to the gospel" (possessive genitive), etc. Which is the chief idea intended by the Apostle? Which are true, especially in context?

It should be obvious why I have selected Philippians 1:27 and the expression "the faith of the gospel" in order to help understand the expression "the faith of the God" of Romans 3:3. In the first verse nearly all interpreters affirm that by "the faith" is denoted "the creed" and yet very few affirm the same of the latter verse.

In this passage we have the unique expression, only found here in the new testament, "the faith of the gospel." On it the Pulpit Commentary says (emphasis mine):

"Faith is here used objectively; the faith of the gospel is the doctrine of the gospel, as Galatians 1:23, "The faith which once he destroyed.""

This is correct. But, this only defines "the faith" and not the kind of genitive is intended by the phrase "of the gospel." Certainly "faith" is not subjective belief, as this commentary affirms, but objective faith, and this because

1) the definite article leads credence to this interpretation, being the common usage, and
2) the context and syntax also indicate such. Christians do not strive together for personal individual beliefs, but for the universally accepted creed of Christians.

The only way to view "the faith" as being individual subjective belief is to view the use of the definite article "the" as a demonstrative pronoun meaning "this subjective belief" that I have been talking about. However, for this view to have any validity, it must be shown that in the verses leading up to the one being analyzed (context) that Paul has been talking about individual faith in the Gospel. And, since context determines the meaning of "the faith," what does the context show? Is subjective faith or objective faith the matter of discussion in those verses? Let us see.

"your fellowship in the gospel" (1:5)

"in the defence and confirmation of the gospel" (1:7)

"the furtherance of the gospel" (vs. 12)

"speak the word without fear" (1:14)

"I am set for the defence of the gospel" (1:17)

"the gospel of Christ" (1:27)

From the citations given from verses 1-27, leading up to our main expression "the faith of the gospel," it is clear that "the faith," or "this faith I have been talking about," is not subjective belief but objective faith, referring to "the gospel of Christ."

Further, in the same sentence (or verse) we have side by side the expression "the gospel of the Christ" (another N-Ng) and "the faith of the gospel" (N-Ng). Obviously the expressions are designed to signify much the same thing. Even in the context we have the common term "the gospel" but also in conjunction with "the word," they being the same thing. The gospel is the word and the word is the gospel. But, now, in addition to "the gospel" and "the word" we have "the faith." And, again, "the faith" means "the gospel" or "the word."

Christians were to "walk worthy of" the gospel, but were to "strive together" for the faith. Why would they walk and strive for two different things? Is not walking worthy of the gospel the same as walking worthy of the faith, and vice versa? Is not striving for the faith not the same as striving for the gospel and word of God?

Further, who wants to say that "faith" in these verses means "faithfulness"? To replace the word faithfulness for faith would make no good sense. If men think that "the faith of God" means "the faithfulness of God," then "the faith of the gospel" must mean "the faithfulness of the gospel." Nonsense. Yet, men will insist that "the faith of God" in Romans 3: 3 means "the faithfulness of God" and yet will not so interpret similarly in other passages where we have "the faith of..."

And from Precept Austin Web page we have this commentary:

"About one-half of the uses of the faith refer not to the ACT of believing but rather to WHAT is believed, specifically as in this verse referring to the gospel...Jude writes that we are to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" which is a reference to the truth to be believed (Jude 1:4)."

I believe that there are probably more than one-half of the uses of "the faith" in the new testament that refer to the object of subjective belief. In fact, I think it is an overwhelming majority of cases. But, this is a matter of personal opinion to some degree. A. T. Robertson, noted new testament Greek scholar, says of this expression - "For the teaching of the gospel, objective sense of pistis (faith)." (Word Pictures)

The phrase τῇ πίςτει τοῦ εὐαγγελίου occurs nowhere else in NT. I agree with Robertson and others that "the faith" of this passage means "the teaching" (or some other similar word, such as doctrine, word, gospel, etc.) and that "the faith" is objective, referring to the creed of Christians. If this is so, then it helps us determine the kind of genitive intended by "of the gospel" or by  τοῦ εὐαγγελίου.  

If "the faith" means "this subjective belief" then not only would the definite article "the" act as a demonstrative pronoun, but  τοῦ εὐαγγελίου must be an objective genitive and in English the preposition "in" would be chosen rather than "of," and the passage would thus read - "this belief in the gospel." However, this is the very view that is unwarranted.

Two things seem clear to me. First, "the faith" denotes objective faith, or the thing believed by Christians and produces individual subjective belief, trust, and commitment. Second, tou evangeliou is not an objective genitive, nor a subjective genitive, but rather is a kind of plenary genitive, including the idea of descriptive genitive, possessive genitive, ablative genitive, and even possibly that of an attributive genitive or genitive of content.

However, before we discuss these, let us notice what a few other commentaries have said on this Greek phrase. (highlighting mine)

From the Exegetical Commentary by Kirk Miller (SEE HERE):

"For the faith of the Gospel (τῇ πίςτει τοῦ εὐαγγελίου). This phrase indicates the object of the contending just mentioned above. The use of the dative in τῇ πίςτει is interest (hence the translation “for”), meaning the Philippians are to contend for the sake of the faith of the Gospel. That faith is what they are to contend for. “Of the Gospel” as well as the use of the article (τῇ) specifies what faith Paul is making reference to here. They are to contend for the belief system of the Gospel, that is faith in a creedal sense."

Now, this is the correct view, in my view, for it takes into consideration facts that others seem to ignore in arguing otherwise.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Striving for the faith of the gospel ... Dummelow declared that this does "not mean Christian doctrine ... but faith as a power in the soul";[49] however such an interpretation is surely wrong, being only another instance of modern commentators trying to make every reference to faith in the New Testament a subjective trust/faith inwardly experienced by Christians.

According to Lightfoot and others, "the faith" is here objective, that which is believed, the content of the gospel message, as in Jude 1:1:3, "to contend for the faith:" if so, it may be the earliest New Testament instance of this use of the word.[50]

Coffman is correct about commentators being overly anxious to make too many references to faith in the new testament to refer to a subjective belief. Already we have seen how some commentators realize that at least half of the new testament references to "the faith" refer to objective faith, to the creed believed by believers. Further, the fact that this verse may be "the earliest New Testament instance of this use of the word" highlights its importance and why I have included it in this study.

Who cannot see the parallel between "the faith of the God" (Rom. 3:3) and "the faith of the gospel" (Phlp. 1:27)? Who cannot see how that when the definite article is used with "faith" that it more often than not signifies "the word," "the doctrine," "the gospel," etc.?

Gill's Commentary

striving together for the faith of the Gospel: by the "faith of the Gospel", may be designed the grace of faith, which comes by the Gospel; as the means of it, and by which the Gospel becomes useful and beneficial to the souls of men, and which has the Gospel for its object; for faith comes by hearing the word, and that is only profitable when it is mixed with it, and is that grace which gives credit to every truth of it, upon the testimony of divine revelation: now as the doctrine of faith is that which the saints are to strive for, the grace of faith is that by which they strive for it...though rather the doctrine of faith is intended, that word of faith, or faith, which is the Gospel itself, and which is often so called; and for this, in all its parts and branches, believers should strive;

Again, this is the correct view.

The Kind of Genitive

Having established that "the faith" is objective and not subjective, referring to the object of Christian belief, to the word of God and gospel, to the creed confessed by believers, to the oracles, etc., and having eliminated taking tou evangeliou as being an objective or subjective genitive, that leaves us with determining what kind is the genitive under consideration. Is it then ablative, a genitive of source? Is it then a simple descriptive genitive? Or, is it an attributive genitive or genitive of content?

If I say "He has a love of ice cream," English speaking people understand that by "of" I mean "for," and so the meaning is "He has a love for ice cream." On the other hand, if I say "He has ice cream of his mother," I mean "He has ice cream from his mother."  Sometimes our English use of the preposition "of" is ambiguous, while other times it is easily understood. A example of such ambiguity is seen in such an expression as "the pot of iron." Do we mean that the pot is made of iron or that iron is in the pot? The same ambiguity in English is also seen in the case of Greek genitives. Common sense, logic, syntax, context, etc., are the only ways we have to discern the true sense of the writer or speaker.

Genitive of Source (Ablative)?

There is no reason to doubt that this idea is included in the phrase "the faith of the gospel." Certainly the good news is the source for "the faith." This is true whether we look at the first gospel revelation in Genesis 3: 15-16 (proto-evangelium), out of which has come the subsequent "oracles" and "word" of LORD God during old testament times, or whether we look at the gospel as revealed in the coming of Christ, to the new oracles from the mouth of Christ, for both are "the faith" of believers. "The faith" as it exists after the addition of the teachings of Christ finds its source in the "good news" about Jesus.

Genitive of Content?

As stated in previous postings, when a genitive of content is intended one may use the words "full of" or "containing." Thus, "the faith of the gospel" would mean "the faith full of or containing the gospel." I think there is great weight to this being perhaps the chief idea intended by the apostle, though not limited to this sense, seeing it may be a plenary genitive, having more than one kind of genitive that is either true or intended by the writer.

Attributive Gentive?

According to bible.org, the Attributed Genitive (SEE HERE) is defined and discussed. First, we are given these facts about this case (emphasis mine).

With a common attributive genitive, the genitive attributes something to the head noun, while with an attributed genitive, the head noun attributes something to the genitive. Thus, the head noun has an adjectival function.5 Wallace notes, “If it is possible to convert the noun to which the genitive stands related into a mere adjective, then the genitive is a good candidate for this category.”6

First, as noted above, if an attributed genitive is a possibility in a N-Ng construction, then the head noun must be able to be turned into an adjective. Obviously, then, not all nouns qualify. Certain abstract nouns are more likely to appear in this construction...Conversely, there are nouns that do not qualify for this usage of the head noun. For instance, proper nouns by definition cannot attribute adjectival quality to anything since they cannot be turned into an adjective.10

Second, in addition to the fact that the genitive (Ng) usually stands related to an abstract head noun, attributed genitives are often found in genitive chains of two or more. This is a debatable point, but there are several examples listed below that might contribute to the relevance of genitive chains to the attributed genitive.

Third, the head noun (N) to which the genitive (Ng) stands in relation is almost always in the dative or accusative case, and is usually singular.

Fourth, by way of structure, this construction is usually found with the head noun immediately preceding or immediately following the genitive. If there is a word in between them it is usually the article.

If in the expression "the faith of the gospel" all of the criteria listed above is met, then in such case we would translate "the faith gospel." I believe I have also read where attributed genitives also have the characteristic of being able to have head noun and genitive noun to trade places, so that we could as easily see "gospel faith" as well as "faith gospel." Further, if we take "the faith of the gospel" simply as a descriptive genitive, its most basic use, then we would have to translate the expression as "the gospel faith."

Possessive Genitive?

Who can exclude the idea that "the faith" is possessed by "the gospel"? And, if true, who can deny that Paul did not have this in mind as well as the other ways mentioned above? As stated in previous postings, when a possessive genitive is the meaning we could use the words "belonging to" to express the meaning and thus we would have "the faith belonging to the gospel."

In conclusion I hope that all can see the parallel between "the faith of the God" and "the faith of the gospel."

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