Jews and Gentiles in Ephesians

A friend of this blog, Seumas MacDonald, recently wrote a nice post on Jews and Gentiles in Galatians.  The thrust of the post is that in Galatians, “we” refers to Jews, and “you” refers gentile believers.  This leads to a more satisfactory reading of Galatians, and also has important implications: as gentiles, we were not saved from the curse of the law;  rather, we were already under judgment.  Christ redeems us from the judgment we were already in.  

This same distinction, I’d argue, is present in Ephesians.  Tracking exactly who “we” and “you” are in the letter is a bit tricky, and Paul only occasionally specifies.  Sometimes “we” seems to indicate Paul and his fellow apostles; sometimes it may be a general “we”; but the Jew/Gentile distinction is definitely present, and most strongly in chapter 2.

I’ve usually heard Eph 2 preached in a very general way: verses 1-3 describe life before salvation, and 4-10 life after.  This works to an extent, but it’s not where Paul starts.  Paul is not describing the individual, but instead Jews and Gentiles.  The Gentile nations were utterly dead in their sins, enslaved to the demonic “spirit of the air.” Even the Jews had gone astray.  But God, rich in mercy, sends Christ to those far (the Gentiles) and those near (the Jews).  The inclusion of the Gentiles into God’s people is utter grace; we did nothing to deserve, and weren’t seeking God at all.  Instead, while lost in our sin, Christ died for us.

Paul caries this through the rest of chapter 2 and into 3.  2:11-22 is all about God incorporating the gentiles into his covenant people, so that they become fellow citizens and heirs along with Israel.  3:6 expresses this along the lines that ancient peoples used to define themselves.  The gentiles were fellow heirs (that is, as if they had blood descent from the founder of the community), members of one body (members of one πόλις, one body politic), and fellow partakers in the promise of the Spirit through Christ (they share the same rites of worship).  Such a dramatic turn of events was hinted at in the OT, but its full revelation has only now come in Christ and his apostles.  

Salvation by Grace thus becomes not simply an abstraction, or something that happens only to individuals.  In origin it is a salvation-historical term: God’s gracious inclusion of the gentiles while we were utterly lost in sin.  He is indeed able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or expect.” Thanks be to God!

ἐν αὐτῷ,


John Chrysostom, Philemon 1:4-6, and κοινωνία

My father-in-law has a neat practice.  Throughout the year, he sends one verse from each chapter of the New Testament to each of his children.  He typically goes through books, and since the year has more chapters than the New Testament, he repeats from the gospels or adds in from the Psalms.  

Recently, the verse he sent along was one from the tiny letter to Philemon.  I don’t always ponder these little snippets like I should, but this one piqued my interest, due mostly to a mistranslation of the NIV84.  

Philemon 6 reads in the NIV84, “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” The Greek reads of 4-6 reads (I add more since it’s one all one sentence), “Εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ μου πάντοτε μνείαν σου ποιούμενος ἐπὶ τῶν προσευχῶν μου,  5 ἀκούων σου τὴν ἀγάπην καὶ τὴν πίστιν, ἣν ἔχεις πρὸς τὸν κύριον Ἰησοῦν καὶ εἰς πάντας τοὺς ἁγίους,  6 ὅπως ἡ κοινωνία τῆς πίστεώς σου ἐνεργὴς γένηται ἐν ἐπιγνώσει παντὸς ἀγαθοῦ τοῦ ἐν ἡμῖν εἰς Χριστόν.”

The bolded section is what concerns us here.  Namely, κοινωνία (koinonia) does not imply the type of sharing that the NIV84 seems to imply.  As it stands in the NIV84, Paul’s prayer for Philemon concerns evanglism: sharing the faith with those outside the fold.  However, our word implies a sharing among intimates or friends. Hence, it is used in other contexts, like 1 Cor 10:16 to describe our communion with Christ through the bread and wine, or to denote the Philippians financial and spiritual partnership with Paul and his ministry.  

Of course, you should always be wary of people who say, “well the Greek really says…”  Fortunately for you, and for me, I have support for my claims!   The standard New Testament lexicon (BDAG) gives four definitions:

  1. close association involving mutual interests and sharing
  2. attitude of good will that manifests an interest in a close relationship
  3. abstr. for concr. sign of fellowship, proof of brotherly unity, even gift, contribution
  4. participation, sharing τινός in someth. 

The editors of the lexicon list this passage under section 4, and offers the following translation, “that your participation in the faith may be made known through your deeds.” This strikes me as unlikely (particularly the last part: I don’t know how γένηται ἐνεργὴς translates to “might be made known through your deeds”). I think participation is certainly a possible translation, but I’d want to add “with us” that that the corporate dimensions of Paul’s prayer are more clear.

When dealing with a Greek question like this, I always try to get a native speaker’s opinion.  Fortunately, the late fourth century bishop John Chrysostom has left us a series of homilies on all of Paul’s epistles, including little Philemon.  He notes (from PG 62.709),

Εὔχομαι, φησὶν, ἵνα ἡ κοινωνία τῆς πίστεώς σου ἐνεργὴς γένηται. Ὁρᾷς πρότερον αὐτὸν διδόντα ἢ λαβεῖν, καὶ πρὶν ἢ τὴν χάριν αἰτῆσαι [62.709], τὴν αὑτοῦ παρέχοντα πολλῷ μείζονα; Ὅπως, φησὶν, ἡ κοινωνία τῆς πίστεώς σου ἐνεργὴς γένηται ἐν ἐπιγνώσει παντὸς ἀγαθοῦ τοῦ ἐν ὑμῖν εἰς Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν. Τουτέστιν, ἵνα πᾶσαν ἀρετὴν ἐπέλθῃς, Ἵνα μηδὲν ἐλλειφθῇΟὕτω γὰρ ἡ πίστις γίνεται ἐνεργὴς, ὅταν ἔργα ἔχῃ. Χωρὶς γὰρ ἔργων ἡ πίστις νεκρά ἐστι. Καὶ οὐκ εἶπεν, Ἡ πίστις σου, ἀλλ‘, Ἡ κοινωνία τῆς πίστεώς σου, συνάπτων αὐτὸν ἑαυτῷ, καὶ ἓν σῶμα δεικνὺς, καὶ τούτῳ μάλιστα αὐτὸν δυσωπῶν. Εἰ κοινωνὸς εἶ, φησὶ, κατὰ τὴν πίστιν, καὶ κατὰ τὰ ἄλλα ὀφείλεις κοινωνεῖν

 “I pray,” he says, “that your partnership in the faith may be active.” Do you see how he himself gives before receiving, and that before he asks him the favor, he provides a much better one of his own? “So that,” he says, “the partnership of your faith my be active in the knowledge of everything good thing we have in Christ.”  That’s to say, “so that you may attain all virtue,” or “so that you may lack nothing.” Now faith is “active” when it has works, for without works faith is dead.  He did not say, “your faith,” but the “partnership of your faith,” joining him (Philemon) to himself, and with one body revealed, he entreats him all the more.  “If you share the faith,” he says, “then you are required to share other things too.”

John appears to understand κοινωνία not as participation, nor as evangelism, but as a partnership: notice the line “joining him to himself.”  The use of κοινωνία serves to link Philemon to Paul, and hopefully make him more receptive to Paul’s plea to free Onesimus (the favor John mentions here).

John’s gloss of ἐνεργὴς (active, or effective) is also helpful, as this adjective isn’t terribly common in the New Testament.  His explanation (that faith is ἐνεργὴς when it “has works”) fits particularly nicely in the context of the letter, as Paul is essentially urging Philemon to do a good work: free Onesimus! 

All that to say, I think the NIV11’s change to this verse is most welcome!  The new NIV reads: “I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.”  I’m still not sure about the second half of the verse, (how does ἐν ἐπιγνώσει…, which means “in the knowledge…”, fit in with the rest of the sentence?), but I think they nailed the first part.  Kudos!

ἐν αὐτῷ,


Update: I amended my translation with two suggestions from Stephen (see the comments).  Thanks to him for catching several mistakes, and for the helpful suggestions! 

ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ and John Chrysostom (Part 6)

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

This post should round out my posts on πίστις Χριστοῦ, at least for now. This one should be rather brief. John’s comments on Eph 3:12, “In him, and through faith in him, we may approach God with freedom and confidence,” are very brief. He does have a few interesting things to say about faith when discussing the prayer around 3:17ish. Thus, let us begin.

The first place to start is 3:12. John quotes the verse and then offers a comment or two: “‘In whom’, he says, ‘we have the boldness to approach him with confidence, through faith in him.’ Not as captives, he says, do we approach him, nor as those worthy of pardon, nor as ones who have sinned. This boldness, he says, we have in confidence. That’s to say, we have it with courage. Where does it come from? It comes from faith in him. (Πόθεν; Διὰ τῆς πίστεως αὺτοῦ.).” The comments are sufficiently vague that they could be rendered as “through his faithfulness” if that could be established elsewhere. But since he usually means “through faith in him” where that comes up, it’s proper to read it as we have traditionally: “through faith in him.” Though I do wonder about the article. What’s the difference between Διὰ τῆς πίστεως αὺτοῦ. as we have here and διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ in Romans? Anything significant? Anything that we could actually know? I guess I’ll have to defer to the linguists for now. I don’t have a clue!

Next, we’ll look at a few things he has to say about the prayer in 3:14-21. “‘So that he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner beings, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts though faith.’ See how he prays good things for them, and with such great desire, so that they may not waver. But how does this happen? Through the Holy Spirit, in your inner beings, Christ lives through faith in your hearts. How? In love, being rooted and established, so that you may experience together with all the saints, how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Later on, after tying 3:14-21 to the prayer in chapter 1, he continues, “This power, he says, strengthens us to bear temptations, so that we may not lead astray. How does Christ dwell in hearts? Hear the words of Christ himself, “The father and I, we will come and make a dwelling place with him.” And he doesn’t just dwell, but he dwells in your faithful hearts, which rooted are rooted in his love, not being lead astray.”. Later he talks about “knowing that Christ lives in us through faith.” The cognitive element is fairly strong here, just like it is in Philippians. The last little bit shows that that Christ’s dwelling in us results in us having “faithful hearts,” (ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ταῖς πισταῖς) that are “rooted in his love,” and “not led astray.” Thus, this knowledge of Christ does impact us. It enables our own faithfulness. John thus sees our faithfulness as part of that prayer, perhaps even the reason Paul prays it. The faithfulness of God isn’t in sight, but ours is.

Essentially, these passages back up much of what we see in Philippians. Faith is knowing and experience Jesus through the Spirit. John’s comments on 3:12, though ambiguous, support a “faith in Christ” reading since he doesn’t offer any indication to the contrary. We know Christ through faith, and this knowing results in Christ dwelling in us through the Spirit. It creates faithfulness in our own hearts as we are strengthened in him, rooted in his love. Faith and faithfulness are intertwined, though distinct.

ἐν πίστει αὐτοῦ,

ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ and John Chrysostom (Part 5)

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

Unfortunately (or fortunately considering the length of the last post), I forgot a fascinating portion that comes right before John’s discussion in Eph 2:8. It provides some prior context for his discussion on faith then. After talking at length about the being raised and seated with Christ, he goes into this passage:

We are in need of the Spirit of revelation, so that we may know the depth of these mysteries. Then, so that you will not disbelieve, see what follows. “So that he may display, in the coming ages, the surpassing riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” As he said these things concerning Christ, do they matter to us? Some say, “what is it to us, if he rose?” But he shows that these things are indeed for us, if he is joined to us. Else, he would be saying these things about himself, “while we were dead in transgressions, he raised us and seated us with him.” Thus, as I have been saying, don’t disbelieve! He takes up this demonstration to show his goodness from the first things and the head. How does he show this, if these things have not yet happened? [being seated in the heavenlies] They happen in the coming ages. What [is proved]? That his good works were astounding, and that he was the most faithful of all. Currently these things seem foolish to the unbelievers, but then all will know.

Some of this I’ve found very difficult. The bolded part has had me puzzled for several days now. The emphasis here is on faith. John wants to tie Christ’s destiny (his rising and being seated with the father) with the believer’s destiny. The passage says such extravagant things about believers that he warns them to “not disbelieve.” The bolded bit has something about the “first things,” (προτέρων), the head (κεφαλῆς), and “wanting to show him(self?) to be the best,” as the reason for “taking up this demonstration.” He will demonstrate in the coming ages the greatness of his deeds, and that he was the most faithful of all. It’s not entirely clear here to me John here is referring to Christ or the Father. Is it the Father who “shows himself to be more faithful than all” or Christ? Ephesians 2 suggests that it’s the Father. “God, who is rich in mercy…” But Christ gets much more mention by name in this passage. My money is on the Father, but perhaps it’s a silly question. Whatever the case, part of this “demonstration” is to prove that God/Christ is the “most faithful of all.” God’s faithfulness provides a perfect basis for our faith

We have another interesting passage right before this. Discussing the transition from 2:3 to 2:4 we get, “‘On account of his great love, with which he loved us.’ Then he shows just how he loved us. These were not worthy of love, but of wrath and punishment on the last day. Thus, this was from great mercy! ‘And while we were dead in in our transgressions, he made us alive with Christ.’ Again Christ is the middle, as is his accomplishment that is worthy of faith (καὶ τὸ πρᾶγμα ἀξιόπιστον). For if the firstfruits lives, so shall we. He made him alive, and so too will he make us.

Here it is evident that we are “made alive with Christ” by his “worthy-of-faith” deed. Our faith is rooted in Jesus’ accomplishment in the incarnation-life-death-resurrection. Christ’s “deed” or “accomplishment” here probably does refer to his entire life. In Philippians, John talks at length about the necessity of faith in the incarnation and the resurrection, at one point saying that “these things accomplish righteousness.” I’d imagine that he has a similarly wide view here. God’s love is expressed chiefly through the coming, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection of his son.

As for the πίστις Χριστοῦ, these are only tangentially related. Human faith is clearly in view. John urges his listeners to “not disbelieve,” and he also describes Jesus’ life as “worthy-of-faith.” God’s faithfulness, however, is also in view. God (or Christ) will prove himself in the coming ages to be a “doer of great deeds” and the “most faithful of all.” When it comes to 2:8-9 (discussed in part 4), it shows that God’s faithfulness (or Christ’s) is on his mind. What I need to do there is see how John uses δῶρον elsewhere. In 2:8, after saying, “this faith is not ours,” he says, “The gift (δῶρον) is of God. What is the gift? faith? Jesus? salvation? Faith is the most likely candidate in the immediate context. Later he talks about a woman “offering her firstborn son, the son of prayer [ie, an answer to her prayer], the entire gift (δῶρον), back to God.” (PG 62.173) Alas, we shall see!

ἐν πίστει τῃ του αὐτοῦ,

Here are the Greek passages (please look at the bold and offer suggestions!):

Ὄντως Πνεύματος χρεία καὶ ἀποκαλύψεως, ὥστε τὸ βάθος νοῆσαι τῶν μυστηρίων τούτων.
Εἶτα, ἵνα μὴ ἀπιστήσῃς, ὅρα τί ἐπάγει· Ἵνα ἐνδείξηται ἐν τοῖς αἰῶσι τοῖς
ἐπερχομένοις τὸν ὑπερβάλλοντα πλοῦτον τῆς χάριτος αὑτοῦ ἐν χρηστότητι ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς
ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. Ἐπειδὴ γὰρ εἶπε τὰ περὶ τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ταῦτα δὲ οὐδὲν ἦν πρὸς ἡμᾶς
(Τί γὰρ, φησὶ, πρὸς ἡμᾶς, εἰ ἐκεῖνος ἀνέστη); ἔδειξε μὲν οὖν ὅτι καὶ πρὸς ἡμᾶς, εἴ γε
οὗτος ἡμῖν ἥνωται· πλὴν ὅτι καὶ τὰ ἡμῶν κατ’ ἰδίαν φησίν· Ὄντας γὰρ ἡμᾶς νεκροὺς
τοῖς παραπτώμασι συνήγειρε καὶ συνεκάθισεν. Ὥστε, ὅπερ ἔφην, μὴ ἀπίστει, ἀπό τε
τῶν προτέρων ἀπό τε τῆς κεφαλῆς ἀπό τε τοῦ βούλεσθαι ἐνδείκνυσθαι αὐτὸν τὴν
ἀγαθότητα λαβὼν τὴν ἀπόδειξιν.
Πῶς γὰρ ἐνδείξεται, ἂν τοῦτο μὴ γένηται; Καὶ
ἐνδείξεται ἐν τοῖς αἰῶσι τοῖς ἐπερχομένοις. Τί; Ὅτι καὶ μεγάλα τὰ ἀγαθὰ ἦν, καὶ
πάντων πιστότερα. Νῦν μὲν γὰρ λῆρος εἶναι δοκεῖ τοῖς ἀπίστοις τὰ λεγόμενα, τότε δὲ
πάντες εἴσονται. (PG 62.33)

∆ιὰ τὴν πολλὴν ἀγάπην αὑτοῦ, ἣν
ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς. ∆είκνυσι πόθεν ἡμᾶς ἠγάπησε. Ταῦτα γὰρ οὐκ ἀγάπης ἄξια, ἀλλ’
ὀργῆς καὶ τιμωρίας τῆς ἐσχάτης. Καὶ οὕτω οὖν ἀπὸ πολλοῦ ἐλέους. Καὶ ὄντας ἡμᾶς
νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτώμασι, συνεζωοποίησεν ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ. Πάλιν ὁ Χριστὸς μέσος,
καὶ τὸ πρᾶγμα ἀξιόπιστον. Εἰ γὰρ ἡ ἀπαρχὴ ζῇ, καὶ ἡμεῖς· ἐζωοποίησε κἀκεῖνον, καὶ
ἡμᾶς. (PG 62.32)

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·

ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ and John Chrysostom (Part 3)

Parts one and two.

Moving along through the πίστις Χρισοῦ passages, the next one to examine is Philippians 3:7-11. Πίστις Χριστοῦ and Πίστις Θεοῦ are basically synonymous for John. In this passage, faith has a strong cognitive element, with Jesus Christ as its object. He spends a lot of time arguing against pure reason. Rather, he says, we receive all of the great truth through faith (δία πίστεως), in or by faith (simply πίστει and from/by faith, (ἀπό πίστεως. Righteousness is obtained by this faith, and not through “toil and sweat,” but there must also be works coming from this faith, especially sacrificial good works for the benefit of the poor. Faith especially empowers us to share in Jesus’ sufferings (and John quotes Col 1:24, 2 Cor 4:10 in addition to Phil 3:10 as evidence). Thus, we should not complain about suffering, since it is the method by which we are conformed to Christ’s death. Instead, we should rejoice and marvel at what God does through them.

Here are some salient excerpts:

If then Paul, who had righteousness [according to the law], on account of it not be righteousness, ran to this righteousness [the righteousness δία πίστεως], then how much more should those who have no righteousness run along with him! He rightly said, “Not having a righteousness of my own,” since he did not attain it through sweat and toil. Rather, he found it by grace (ἀπό τῆς χάριτος), as he said. Thus, if the upright one [Paul] is saved by grace, how much more all of you! Since then, it seemed reasonable for him to say to them, “the righteousness through toil is better,” he shows that it is rubbish compared to this [the righteousness by grace]. “For I was not upright at that time, but throwing it away I ran to this [the righteousness of grace].” But of what sort is this righteousness? It is by faith in God (ἡ ἀπό πίστεως Θεοῦ. That’s to say, it is given by God (καὶ ἅυτη παρὰ Θεοῦ δέδοται).

Initially I thought the bolded it referred back to faith, but now I think righteousness is the better antecedent. Either would be grammatically correct, but the whole discourse seems to be about righteousness, so I think he’s saying that “righteousness is given by God” rather than “faith is given by God.” He then picks up the discussion on faith:

What then, is this faith? It’s “on the basis,” he says, “of knowing him [Christ]. After all: knowledge is through faith, and faith without knowing him does not exist. But how? Through faith one must know the power of his resurrection. By what manner of reasoning does he prove the resurrection? None at all! Rather, it is faith.” [He discusses the resurrection and the virginal conception, proving that the virginal conception is a greater act. The point is that both must be received with faith, and not reason]. These things [the virginal conception and the resurrection] accomplish righteousness. This you must believe, that he was able [to do these things]. But how did his power work these things? That is not to demonstrate now. The sharing of sufferings is by faith. How? If we have not believed, we have not suffered. If we have not believed, that those who persevere with him will rule with him, neither will we suffer these sufferings, since by faith the genesis [virgin birth] and resurrection are received.

He then turns to works: “Don’t you see, then, that there must not only be faith, but also works through faith? (the last part makes no sense to me: ἀλλὰ δι’ ἔργων. Is there some elision here, so that he’s saying that faith must not stand alone, but must express itself through works?). For the one who believes best that Christ is risen, is the one who is eager to give himself to those in danger, the one who shares in sufferings. This is the one who shares in the resurrection. Later, after discussing discussing suffering further, and quoting Paul’s statements about “carrying in his body the death of Christ” and “filling up in his flesh the sufferings of Christ” John continues, And this [Paul’s suffering] happened by great faith (ἀπὸ πίστεως πολλῆς γίνεται).

So then, we see here the interplay in John (and Paul’s) thought between righteousness, law, grace, and works. John juxtaposes righteousness from the law and righteousness by grace. Righteousness by grace is given by God, and is by faith. Faith is on the basis of knowing him, and all our knowledge of him is received in faith. Knowledge especially concerns knowing Jesus’ redemptive life, which bring about, or accomplishes, the righteousness we enjoy by faith. Finally, faith must find expression in works, especially in the sharing of Jesus’ sufferings. In reference to the πίστις Χριστοῦ, human faith is almost entirely in sight here. There’s one potentially subjective genitive: ἡ ἀπό πίστεως Θεοῦ. τουτὲστι, καὶ ἅυτη παρὰ Θεοῦ δέδοται in the first part could be interpreted as, “It [righteousness] is by the faith of God. That’s to say, the faith which is given by God.” In such a case, the faith would not be the faithfulness of Jesus, the faith we trust for salvation. Still, it’s much more likely that John speaks of “righteousness” being given by God (rather than faith), and that the ἡ ἀπό πίστεως Θεοῦ. is an objective genitive (faith in God).

On the other hand, John does point out what a lot of subjective genitive folks want to emphasize: that it is Jesus’ faithfulness in his earthly life that enables us to be righteousness. Speaking of Jesus’ virginal conception and resurrection, he says “these things accomplish righteousness.” He’s also quick to point out the participatory implications of 3:10, that having faith in Jesus implies that we must share in his sufferings, and that good works must come from that faith. He brings in Col 1:24 and 2 Cor 4:10 as good parallels.

So, I suppose John emphasizes what many of the “faithfulness of Christ” people want to emphasize, but he goes about it a different way. Πίστις is consistently human faith, even cognitive faith, but he also discusses the redemptive significance of Jesus’ life and the response in us that our faith should bring about.

ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ and John Chrysostom (part 2)

This post is part of a series. Parts: one, three.

I’ve continued to work carefully through the relevant πίστις Χριστοῦ texts. Romans 3 was the next in the list. Quite interestingly, Chrysostom’s text doesn’t appear to have Jesus in it! Here’s how it reads:

Εἰπὼν γοῦν, ∆ικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ, ἐπήγαγε, ∆ιὰ τῆς πίστεως, εἰς πάντας καὶ ἐπὶ πάντας τοὺς πιστεύοντας.

The NA27 reads:

δικαιοσύνη δὲ θεοῦ διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς πάντας τοὺς πιστεύοντας.

I assume that makes a “faithfulness of Jesus” rendering impossible here, and that seems consistent with the rest of the passage. Right before quoting quoting v. 22, he says,
“So that no one may say, ‘and how are we saved, as those who have not accomplished any of these great things [the great deeds of the OT saints]?’ He shows that we who enter in [ie, the Gentiles?] have no small place in this matter. I’m speaking of faith.”

Later he says, “Therefore do not doubt! It [righteousness] is not from works (εξ εργων), but with faith (απο πιστεως). Do not flee the righteousness of God! Its goodness is two-fold, as it is easy to attain and always available. Do not be ashamed or blush.

Apparently (as John goes on to explain) some where making fun of justification by faith, claiming it was an “easy” or “feminine” doctrine. Overall, John’s focus here is on righteousness. Faith doesn’t get much mention. It comes up a few times in contrast with works, but John spends much more time explicating God’s righteousness as manifested in Jesus. He wants particularly to defray the claim that Christianity is an innovation. He spends a lot of time showing the “types” in the Old Testament, and how they were fulfilled in Christ.

So, there’s quite a bit going on in his homily, but not much directly referring to faith. The omission of “of Jesus Christ” in his text is quite curious, but otherwise it’s fairly evident that the faith in view here is human faith. That’s also clear in Romans 1:16-17, which I didn’t mention. The next post will look at Philippians 3, and then I’ll move onto Ephesians, where it really gets interesting!

ἐν πίστει Χριστοῦ,

ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ and John Chrysostom

This post is part of a series. Parts: two, three.

So for my long paper topic, I’ve decided to look at πίστις (the Greek word for faith or faithfulness) in John Chrysostom’s exegesis of Paul. John was one of the best early exegetes of the Church, and has left us many pages of homilies on the Scriptures. He was especially fond of Paul, and did quite a bit of exposition. I’m currently interested in the πίστις Χριστου debate. For those unfamiliar, the debate has to do with a particular phrase in Paul, (πίστις Χριστου) which can be interpreted as either “faith in Christ” (the traditional reading), or “the faith(fulness) of Christ.” One example is Galatians 2:20, which reads in the NIV: “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” That’s the traditional reading, but the grammar is ambiguous enough to support the following interpretation. “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” The focus in this interpretation would be Jesus’ faithfulness on earth, especially his “obedience to death, even death on a cross!” (Phil 2:6-11). I’m inclined to this reading (especially in Gal 2:20, where contextually it’s stronger than in other places, like Gal 2:16). However, I trust Chrysostom’s mastery of Greek much more than my own, so I wanted to see how he would take it. What follows is some of my findings in Galatians.

I’ve been surprised, so far, to find evidence already that John understands the phrase πίστις Χριστου as “Christ’s faithfulness” in at least one location. His discussion in Galatians 2:16 mostly deals with the Law (especially polemic against those who still follow Jewish practices). However, once we get to 2:20 we have this little gem:

Ἐπειδὴ καὶ ὁ νόμος κατηγόρησε, καὶ ὁ Θεὸς ἀπεφήνατο, ἐλθὼν ὁ Χριστὸς καὶ εἰς θάνατον ἑαυτὸν ἐκδοὺς, πάντας ἡμᾶς ἐξήρπασε τοῦ θανάτου. Ὥστε Ὃ νῦν ζῶ ἐν σαρκὶ, ἐν πίστει ζῶ. Ἐπεὶ εἰ μὴ τοῦτο ἦν, οὐδὲν ἐκώλυσε πάντας ἀφανισθῆναι· ὃ καὶ ἐπὶ τοῦ κατακλυσμοῦ γέγονεν· ἀλλ’ ἡ τοῦ Χριστοῦ παρουσία στήσασα τοῦ Θεοῦ τὴν ὀργὴν, διὰ τῆς πίστεως ζῇν ἡμᾶς ἐποίησεν. Ὅτι γὰρ τοῦτό φησιν, ἄκουσον τῶν ἑξῆς· εἰπὼν γὰρ, ὅτι Ὃ δὲ νῦν ζῶ ἐν σαρκὶ, ἐν πίστει ζῶ, ἐπήγαγε· Τῇ τοῦ Υἱοῦ τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ἀγαπήσαντός με, καὶ δόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ. (PG 61.646-647)

Here’s my translation of the passage, which will no doubt be rough, but I’m hoping it will be accurate enough.

Since the Law had brought charges, and God had announced his own evidence, Christ came and gave himself over to death, snatching us all from death. Thus, “my present life in the flesh, ἐν πίστει ζῶ.” Thus, if this had not happened, nothing would have stopped anyone from being destroyed, which happened at the time of the flood. But the coming of Christ, stilling the wrath of God, accomplished this for us through his faithful life.( διὰ τῆς πίστεως ζῇν). Listen to what follows! For this reason it says, “The life I now live in the flesh, I live in the faithfulness,” and it continues, “that is of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

He then goes on to chide Paul for “hogging what is common for himself,” since he talks about Christ “loving me” instead of “loving us.” I found this eternally amusing, though he goes on to explain Paul’s “usurping” in Old Testament terms.

As we see here, John believes that Paul is living in the faithfulness that Jesus expressed in his life on earth, especially his obedience in “handing himself over to death.” Some of it I’m not clear on (especially the ὃ καὶ ἐπὶ τοῦ κατακλυσμοῦ γέγονεν, though I know it has something to do with judgment). The “through his faithful life” or “through his faithful living” seems pretty clear though. Can any of you greeklings confirm my translation/interpretation of John here?

And, of course, John’s understanding of πίστις Χριστου doesn’t settle anything entirely, but it’s always helpful to have the early Greek fathers supporting you on a grammatical issue!

Update: My professor clarified the line that was giving me trouble: ὃ καὶ ἐπὶ τοῦ κατακλυσμοῦ γέγονεν. The translation now reads, “which happened at the time of the flood.”

Chrysostom and Paul

Currently, I’m trying to puzzle through what I want to write about for my final paper in my Paul class. I know that I want to write about some aspect of John Chrysostom’s exegesis on Paul, but I’m not sure what to write about. I’d thought about discussing John’s analysis of Paul’s “image” language (Col 1:15, 3:10, etc). I’m shying away from that, as he doesn’t seem to have much to say in his commentaries on “image” except for some polemic against Arianism in Col 1.

I could also do some comparative study on some of the early exegetes. I could do some comparison of the Antiochene interpretation versus Alexandrian by comparing Origen and John for example. Romans 7 might be worth examining, as it’s a tricky passage where opinions abound. I could also pull in some of the other Antiochene exegetes like Theodoret.

In the mean time, I’ve been reading John and reading about him. I particularly enjoyed working through his comments on the end of 2 Corinthians 3, with its notoriously tricky, “ὁ δὲ κύριος τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν.” (Either “The Lord is Spirit,” or “the Spirit is Lord”). I’ve also been reading through J.N.D. Kelley’s excellent biography: Golden Mouth: The Story of John Chrysostom-Ascetic, Preacher, Bishop. I’m almost 200 pages in, and I’ve immensely enjoyed the work. I’ve also worked through a good bit of Margaret Mitchell’s The Heavenly Trumpet: John Chrysostom and the Art of Pauline Interpretation. (Which is still $4.99 as of this date at CBD!). I really enjoyed this one early on, but I’ve become slightly blogged down in the middle though.

Any ideas? Or even some good background reading?

A quick look at my front pages shows me that I haven’t posted here in over a month. Inspired by the infallible Nick Norelli (or am I confusing him with Moises Silva?), I’ve decided to post again. Hopefully I can get back to the rhythm of regular posts. For the moment, I’ll skim over what I’ve been studying over since school started.

My one religion class this fall is on the “Life and Letters of the Apostle Paul.” Naturally I love the class, all the more so since I have an excellent professor. We’re working through Romans now, and then we’ll move on to the disputed letters. I’ve written several shorter papers for the class:

  • Paul and the Greco-Roman World: Basically an examination of Acts 17. (I largely assumed that Luke gives us an accurate picture of Paul, since the question of Paul in his own letters and Paul in Acts was out of scope for that topic).
  • A letter as one of Paul’s opponents in Galatia: This was quite a bit of fun. Based on my reading of Galatians, I had to write a response (or a pre-emptive) letter to the Galatian churches expounding a Lawful Gospel. I even translated some of it into Greek. Writing letters in an ancient style is fun!
  • Marriage and Celibacy in 1 Corinthians: This was another fun paper (and apropos considering the period of my life). We had to analyze Paul’s teaching on marriage and sex, and also compare Paul’s teaching with Jesus’ teaching. Looking at the difference between the divorce passages in Mark and Matthew (Mk 10, Mt 19) makes me excited for my Gospel’s class this Spring.
  • “Sin” in Romans 1-8: Here I traced out the argument of Romans 1-8, with a particular focus on how Paul uses the word “sin,” (or more precisely, ἁμαρτία and its cognates). This was difficult (Romans is deep, especially in Greek!), but very rewarding.

I have one more short paper to write on the authorship of the Pastoral Epistles, and then a long paper (upper limit 20 pages) that we get to choose. I’ve been thinking about doing something like suffering in Paul or Pauline eschatology more broadly (I argued, for instance, that the backdrop for 1 Cor 7 was a famine and not the impending return of the Messiah). Right now I’m leaning toward examining unity in Paul’s letters (or a specific letter), though I’m tempted to do something more connected with the Fathers, like Chrysostom’s exegesis of Paul.

I’ve also been part of a Greek reading group. We’ve read through Ignatius’ letters to the Romans and Philadelphians so far, and are now into his letter to the Ephesians. This has been fantastic Greek practice, and it’s also helped me see Ignatius more clearly. I’m still pondering if it’s worth reworking the paper I wrote in the Spring into a potential journal article. I would probably argue (contra Theodor Preiss), that Ignatian participatory theology lines up with Paul instead of missing him completely. Preiss’s article is old (1938), but I give the man credit: he wrote a fantastic and thorough piece on Ignatius. I have a much more favorable opinion on Ignatius than he does, but one can’t write off Preiss willy-nilly.

Finally, I’m going to get to work on a book project with Dr Adler (who teaches my Paul class). It will just be indexing work (citation and general) for a book he’s editing, but I’ll get paid for it and I know that I’ll learn quite a bit. ευχαριστω σοι, κυριε μου!