Why Πίστις Χριστου is not an Ambiguous Construction

There is a very simple reason for why Πίστις Χριστου is not an ambiguous construction. It is also the very same reason why the meaning of the construction in encoded by the grammar of the language. This is also why I lean toward an objective genitive view. And its simple too.We, non-native Greek speakers (or I should say “readers”), believe its ambiguous because it looks ambiguous to us.

If the construction is truly ambiguous to the native speaker, why in the world do none of the Greek fathers read the phrase as being a subjective genitive? I would suggest that perhaps it isn’t really ambiguous to them.

See especially: Roy A. Harrisville III, “Πίστις Χριστοῦ: Witness of the Fathers,” Novum Testamentum 36 (1994):233-41.

Other good points include Loren Rosson’s The Meaning of Pistis Christou

15 thoughts on “Why Πίστις Χριστου is not an Ambiguous Construction

  1. I’m with you. I don’t think that Paul’s intended audience would have been debating the merits of the subjective vs. objective genitive. They more than likely got what he meant right away.

    And for the record, I also lean toward the objective genitive.

  2. ” … the meaning of the construction in encoded by the grammar of the language.” (I’m suppose that’in” above should be ‘is’)

    I would have to be convinced of this proposition; on the surface it doesn’t seem very likely.

  3. I think that’s a significant data point. At the same time, it may have been unambiguous to them for other reasons. After all, we’re not saying that the phrase is syntactically marked in such a way as to make it linguistically unambiguous. They could have taken it as objective because of a heavier Christ-as-Savior read of the NT as opposed to, say Christ-as-Exemplar. Or they were influenced by the understanding passed on to them, with the phrase essentially being an idiom which is unambiguous as a whole (that, of course, only pushes the problem farther back).

  4. I would have to be convinced of this proposition; on the surface it doesn’t seem very likely.

    Carl:

    I’m working on it. I have ideas about how to go about it, but the amount of time required will keep me busy for a while. I’ll get something up in the next weeks or so. I hope. The pile of posts I have on the burner waiting to be completed keeps growing.

  5. Have you also read his later article: Roy A. Harrisville III, “Before πίστις Χριστοῦ: The Objective Genitive as Good Greek.” Novum Testamentum. 48:4 (2006): 353-358. He uses Perseus to locate other uses of the objective genitive from the 1st century and earlier. He concludes:
    “This article only attempted to ask whether or not there is evidence in classical Greek authors for the objective genitive with p¤stiw. I believe there is ample evidence to conclude that the objective genitive rendering was by no means unusual or abnormal Greek. p¤stiw XristoË as “faith in Christ” is good, if not excellent, Greek.”

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