Faithfulness of Jesus Christ? Or faith in Jesus Christ?
In my continuing look at translations, I have come upon an interesting translation, interpretation, and theological issue, specifically related to the phrase (or its equivalent):
διὰ πίστεως ⸉Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ⸊ (Galatians 2:16)
“Jesus Christ” is in the genitive case, which is often simply rendered by the Multi-use but vague preposition “of.” However, the genitive case can be indicated in at least nine different ways. The issue becomes how to understand that genitive, especially relative to “faith.”
The more traditional (and common) English rendering of the genitive has been this:
“through faith in Jesus Christ”
NAS, ESV, NKJV, NRSV, HCSB—with fn for alternate, NJB, NAB, REB, GW, NLT
But some recent translations have opted to change πίστεως to “faithfulness” and retain the basic genitive form “of Jesus Christ.” Thus, they render the text as this:
“through faithfulness of Jesus Christ”
NET, NIV 2011, CEB
So, what difference does this make?
I am still in the process of studying the issue, currently reading this book by Michael F. Bird and Preston M. Sprinkle. The Faith of Jesus Christ: Exegetical, Biblical, and Theological Studies. Baker Academic, 2010. So, my comments here are preliminary at best.
The traditional rendering focuses on the faith of the individual, the one who believes (consistent with the Reformation heritage). The second one focuses on Christ’s faithfulness, which implies objective standing which Jesus accomplished, and by which the person is incorporated into that “covenant/faith community.” At first glance, this latter position seems to reflect the New Perspective on Paul (NPP), as advocated especially by N. T. Wright. That is, Wright’s emphasis on critical “justification” texts is “incorporation into Christ community,” which moves away from the Reformation (and even early Church Fathers) understanding of “justification by grace through faith.”
Interestingly in this book, James D. G. Dunn (often seen as walking a similar path to Wright on NPP) notes in the Foreword that “faith of Christ” (second rendering) is not where he settles the question. In other words, he favors the traditional rendering. For him Galatians 3:6-7 are decisive, when Paul quotes Genesis 15:6.
So the broader NPP does not necessarily favor the second translation. I am firmly of the Reformation, specifically Lutheran tradition, view of justification and all that such implies. Thus, I think that Wright has it wrong (yeah, great pun) in his presentation and expansion of NPP.
At this point, I remain in the traditional translation and understanding of the “faith of Jesus Christ” as “faith in Jesus Christ.” I think Dunn’s note on Galatians is definitive for settling the issue. But I am reading the book with an open mind. I am pleased to see that the editors allow a variety of views in the book. Thus, it is not meant as the final statement on the topic, but to show the arguments and directions that the topic has taken.