Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Justified by the faith OF Christ; Galatians 2:16 – Part II

In the last post, I began looking at the translation of Galatians 2:16. Specifically looking at whether it should read the faith of Jesus Christ or faith in Jesus Christ. In the Greek it is pisteows (genitive case of faith) ihsou (genitive case of Jesus) christou (genitive case of Christ). If we were to literally translate it into English, it would be Jesus Christ’s faith or the faith of Jesus Christ. Paul used the same phrase in 3:22, and Rom 3:22, 26. Still, except for the King James Version, Young’s Literal Translation, and the new NET Bible it is translated faith *in* Christ and not the faith *of* Christ. This is not the only place that the genitive case has been ignored by translators… sometimes… even the King James Translators. Another glaring example that I have blogged about in the past is the obedience of faith in Romans 1:5.

So then, what is the reason behind these mis-translations. I call them mis-translations because you can find translations that have rendered them one way or the other. Bill Mounce in his blog article states that sometimes we have to just use the translated word that makes the most sense, or fits the text the best. I suppose that he could be right however, I think it is a bit more sinister than that.  I think that the words are chosen to fit a certain theological understanding.

In the case of Galatians 2:16 the *theological understanding* aspect becomes very important indeed as shown in yesterday’s post. This makes me wonder about translations in general. If we have two glaring cases… one of the *faith OF Christ*… and the other of the *obedience OF faith* … it is fair to ask the question from the Matrix Movie… how deep does the rabbit hole go?

The fact is that correct genitive translation fits well with the idea that Jesus taught an entirely new, solely redemptive, hermeneutic; one where he was the savior of humanity by the will of God and his faithfulness.  In fact, the correct genitive translation points to the idea that much of orthodox/evangelical dogma is off the mark and has been over the two thousand years of Christian history.

This brings me to the conclusion that all translations have flaws. This includes the sometimes deified King James Version. For this reason I find the relatively new NET free bible at to be quite informative. They give accompanying notes that explain the reasoning in their translation choices.

Look at Galatians 2:16 from the NET bible. “yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.”

Christ’s perfect faith is summed up in his total faithfulness. You are not justified by your faithfulness but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. Let me share the note that goes along with this verse.

52 tn Or "faith in Jesus Christ." A decision is difficult here. Though traditionally translated "faith in Jesus Christ," an increasing number of NT scholars are arguing that πίστις Χριστο (pisti Christou) and similar phrases in Paul (here and in Gal_2:20; Rom_3:22; Rom_3:26; Gal_3:22; Eph_3:12; Phi_3:9) involve a subjective genitive and mean "Christ's faith" or "Christ's faithfulness" (cf., e.g., G. Howard, "The 'Faith of Christ'," ExpTim 85 [1974]: 212-15; R. B. Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ [SBLDS]; Morna D. Hooker, "Πίστις Χριστο," NTS 35 [1989]: 321-42). Noteworthy among the arguments for the subjective genitive view is that when πίστις takes a personal genitive it is almost never an objective genitive (cf. Mat_9:2; Mat_9:22; Mat_9:29; Mar_2:5; Mar_5:34; Mar_10:52; Luk_5:20; Luk_7:50; Luk_8:25; Luk_8:48; Luk_17:19; Luk_18:42; Luk_22:32; Rom_1:8; Rom_1:12; Rom_3:3; Rom_4:5; Rom_4:12; Rom_4:16; 1Co_2:5; 1Co_15:14; 1Co_15:17; 2Co_10:15; Phi_2:17; Col_1:4; Col_2:5; 1Th_1:8; 1Th_3:2; 1Th_3:5; 1Th_3:10; 2Th_1:3; Tit_1:1; Phm_1:6; 1Pe_1:9; 1Pe_1:21; 2Pe_1:5). On the other hand, the objective genitive view has its adherents: A. Hultgren, "The Pistis Christou Formulations in Paul," NovT 22 (1980): 248-63; J. D. G. Dunn, "Once More, ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ," SBL Seminar Papers, 1991, 730-44. Most commentaries on Romans and Galatians usually side with the objective view.

I added the notes in their entirety. They are pretty neutral. I of course am not neutral.


  1. Yes, agreed. It goes along with the view we have of a God who needs our faith, our effort, our works to seal "the deal." This rendering makes it clear that Jesus was faithful and true and has fulfilled all the requirements of the Law and the new covenant. Our response is belief!

  2. Are we saveId because we have faith IN Jesus Christ? ( and thus the emphasis is on our believing today and is subjective) or are we saved because of the faithfulness OF Jesus Christ when He fulfilled His mission of redemption and said "it is fully completed!"?
    In the first case, we are the center of focus, in the second case Jesus on Calvary is the center of focus.

    In the frist case, our message is "Believe, and you will be saved"
    In the second case our message is "You have been saved by Jesus life, death and resurrection, therefor believe!"

    The first (faith In Jesus Christ) is a CONDITIONAL gospel, the second(faith OF Jesus Christ) is a declarative gospel

    1. Yes most definitely, it is the faith OF Jesus that saves! We apprehend it by our faith, but even that is a measure of faith given to us without which we could not apprehend the faith of Christ.


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