ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ and John Chrysostom (Part 4)

This post is a part of a series: parts one, two, and three.

This time, Ephesians is the object of our study. The first passage to look at is Ephesians 2:8-10, especially 2:8, which reads: “ Τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ πίστεως· καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν, θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον·” (By grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is God’s gift). The passage does not contain the whole phrase, “πἰστις Χριστοῦ,” but John devotes an entire paragraph to discussing faith here and makes some rather intriguing statements. In the next post, I’ll look at 3:12 and 3:17.

John’s preaching on 2:8 is probably the most difficult of the passages I’ve looked at in the series, since he seems have a rhetorical interlocutor opposing him, at least in the latter part of our passage. I’ll offer a translation and then place the Greek at the end. Here’s the excerpt from 2:8:

“O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” “By grace you have been saved,” he says. So that you may not extol the greatness of good works, see how you he restrains you: “by grace you have been saved,” he says, “through faith.” Then, so as not to have free-will (τὸ αὑτεξούσιον) ruined, he writes these things about us (ἒθηκε καὶ τά ἠμῶν suggestions welcome). Again he takes up the subject and says, “This is not from us.” Neither is faith, he says, “from us.” If he had not come, if he had not called, how could we have believed? “How then,” he says, “will they believe unless they hear?” Thus, this is not our faith. (Ὥστε οὐδὲ τὸ τῆς πίστεως ἡμέτερον.)[1] For he says, “it is God’s gift, not from works.” “But is faith really enough to save?” ones says. Rather, [Paul] says that, so as not to save the vain or idle, God has sought (required?) faith. [Paul] says, “faith saves, but through God.” Since God has willed it, faith saved us. But how does faith save, tell me, apart from works? This is the gift of God himself, so that “none may boast,” so that you, being occupied with grace, may do acts of loving-kindness. (ἵνα εὐγνώμονας περὶ τὴν χάριν ποιήσῃ) “Why then,” one says, “does he prevent justification from works?” Of course he prevents it! Instead, he tells us that no one is justified by works, so that the grace and loving-kindness of God may be demonstrated. He has not rejected those having works. Rather, he saved by grace those who had abandoned works, so that no one would have room to boast.

He then begins a discussion of good works: “Then, that at hearing this, “that is not from works but by faith that all are set straight,” that idleness might not remain, see what follows….” (The sentence is every bit that difficult in Greek, at least for me).

Whew! Where even to start… John is concerned that free-will be upheld. He appears to ground it, though, in God’s gracious gift. He is also concerned that there should be no boasting on the basis of works, and stresses that Christ/God are the source of our salvation, not our works, or even our own faith. That brings us to interesting bit, “Neither is this faith, he says, from us. If he had not come, if he had not called, how could we have believed? … Thus, this faith is not ours.” Might this be God’s πίστις, or faithfulness? The next sentence begins, “Θεοῦ, φησὶ, τὄ δῶρον.” “The gift, he says, is God’s.” That τὸ δῶρον is readily available suggests that the reason “this faith is not ours” is because it is God’s gift to us. I don’t think he’s merely saying that God is the source of faith, because then he could have said “ἡ πίστις οὑκ ἐξ ἡμῶν again instead of “Ὥστε οὐδὲ τὸ τῆς πίστεως ἡμέτερον.” Because of the mention of Jesus’ coming it seems plausible to read πίστις here as referring to God’s faithfulness expressed through Jesus’ coming. Whatever the exact meaning of the phrase, it’s tied to Jesus’ coming, Jesus’ call, and “the gift.” (Jesus? Faith?)

John then moves on to a discussion of the sufficiency of faith. Things get a bit tricky with his interlocutor, but the point seems to be that, yes, faith is sufficient for our justification. Faith saves apart from works so that God may display his grace and loving-kindness. Interestingly, the tense of “saves” changes here. It goes back an forth between aorist and present (even in the indicative). I’m not sure if there’s significance there, but it did stick out. Finally, John proceeds to show how justification by faith is not opposed to good works, spending a lot of time in 2:10 exhorting his listeners to good works.

[1] The grammar here seems a bit strange, but I think Ignatius’ Smryneans 5:1 provides a similar construction (substantive ἡμέτερος plus genitive): οὒς οὐκ ἔπεισαν αἱ προφητεῖαι οὐδὲ ὁ νόμος Μωύσεως, ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ μέχρι νῦν τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, οὐδὲ τὰ ἡμέτερα τῶν κατ’ ἄνδρα παθήματα. Holmes translates as: Neither the prophecies nor the law of Moses have persuaded them, nor, thus far, the gospel nor our own individual suffering.

And here’s the Greek text of the excerpt, with a few parts bolded. It’s in PG 62.34.

Ὢ βάθος πλούτου καὶ σοφίας
καὶ γνώσεως Θεοῦ! Τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσωσμένοι, φησίν. Ἵνα γὰρ μὴ τὸ μέγεθος
τῶν εὐεργεσιῶν ἐπάρῃ σε, ὅρα πῶς σε καταστέλλει· Τῇ χάριτί ἐστε σεσωσμένοι, φησί.
∆ιὰ πίστεως. Εἶτα ἵνα μὴ πάλιν τὸ αὐτεξούσιον λυμήνηται, ἔθηκε καὶ τὰ ἡμῶν· καὶ
πάλιν αὐτὸ ἀνεῖλε, καί φησι· Καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ἡμῶν. Οὐδὲ ἡ πίστις, φησὶν, ἐξ ἡμῶν·
εἰ γὰρ μὴ ἦλθεν, εἰ γὰρ μὴ ἐκάλεσε, πῶς ἠδυνάμεθα πιστεῦσαι; Πῶς γὰρ, φησὶ,
πιστεύσουσιν, ἐὰν μὴ ἀκούσωσιν; Ὥστε οὐδὲ τὸ τῆς πίστεως ἡμέτερον. Θεοῦ, φησὶ,
τὸ δῶρον· οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων. Μὴ γὰρ ἤρκει ἡ πίστις σῶσαι, φησίν; Ἀλλ’ ἵνα μὴ κενοὺς
μηδὲ ἀργοὺς σώσῃ, ταύτην ἐζήτησεν ὁ Θεὸς, φησίν· Εἶπεν, ὅτι ἡ πίστις σώζει, ἀλλὰ
διὰ Θεοῦ· ἐπειδὴ γὰρ ὁ Θεὸς ἠθέλησεν, ἡ πίστις ἔσωσεν. Ἐπεὶ πῶς σώζει ἡ πίστις, εἰπέ
μοι, ἄνευ ἔργων; Τοῦτο αὐτὸ Θεοῦ δῶρόν ἐστιν, Ἵνα μή τις καυχήσηται, ἵνα
εὐγνώμονας περὶ τὴν χάριν ποιήσῃ. Τί οὖν, φησὶν, αὐτὸς ἐκώλυσεν ἐξ ἔργων
δικαιωθῆναι; Οὐδαμῶς· ἀλλ’, Οὐδεὶς, 62.34 φησὶν, ἐξ ἔργων ἐδικαιώθη, ἵνα δειχθῇ
τοῦ Θεοῦ ἡ χάρις καὶ ἡ φιλανθρωπία. Οὐχὶ ἔχοντας ἔργα ἀπώσατο, ἀλλὰ
προδεδομένους ἀπὸ τῶν ἔργων χάριτι ἔσωσεν, ὥστε μηδένα λοιπὸν ἔχειν καυχᾶσθαι.
γʹ. Εἶτα ἵνα μὴ ἀκούσας, ὅτι οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων ἀλλὰ πίστει τὸ πᾶν κατωρθώθη, ἀργὸς
μένῃ, ὅρα τί ἐπήγαγεν·

3 thoughts on “ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ and John Chrysostom (Part 4)

  1. I’m really enjoying these posts. I do feel like your reading Chrysostom with a “is there any way to see ‘faithfulness of Christ’ language here?” that is fairly non-neutral.

    Regarding Ὥστε οὐδὲ τὸ τῆς πίστεως ἡμέτερον, I would be inclined not to think of it as about source, but possession. That is, the faith that we have is properly a gift given to us that truly belongs to God.

  2. “is there any way to see ‘faithfulness of Christ’ language here?” that is fairly non-neutral.

    You caught me :-P. Thanks for the encouragement though. Certainly I was inclined toward that direction when I began, and I wanted to find evidence for it, though I didn’t think I would. That’s bound to color my reading somewhat. When I see stuff though like “this faith is not from us,” or “this faith is not ours” it’s hard not to get excited. I’ve learned quite a bit, and ultimately it will probably sway me the other direction (Gal 2:20 excepted).

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