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Paul and the “Faith of Christ”

The phrase pistis Christou (“faith of Christ”) has sparked considerable controversy among translators of Paul’s letters. Should this be translated as an objective genitive meaning “faith in Christ” or as a subjective genitive meaning “Christ’s faithfulness.” The former has an anthropological emphasis as it is our trust in or allegiance to Christ; this corresponds to how Paul uses the verb “to trust/believe in” where humans are clearly the subject and Christ the object of faith. Alternatively, the latter translation is Christocentric, emphasizing how salvation has been accomplished through Christ’s act alone, and could be paralleled in the hymn where Christ was obedient to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-11). However, the theological differences should not be exaggerated as the disputed examples occur in only a handful of verses and, in an example like Romans 3:22, salvation has been revealed through “faith in Jesus Christ” or “Jesus Christ’s faithfulness” yet must then be received by all who have faith in either case.

Those of us who have been blogging for a long time remember the parody account set up by an anonymous blogger who went by the moniker “N.T. Wrong.” Since N. T. Wright has argued for the subjective genitive reading, it is only natural that his online foil defended the opposite conclusion :). I might demur from some of the individual judgments, but the blogger presented a pretty strong case for the objective genitive in the following posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Also check out Michael F. Bird’s and Preston M. Sprinkle’s edited volume The Faith of Jesus Christ: Exegetical, Biblical, and Theological Studies that brings together scholars on both sides of the debate.

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