Silva on the πίστις Χριστοῦ Debate

It has come to my attention that the current issue of Themelios carries a review of Michael Bird and Preston Sprinkle (eds.), The Faith of Jesus Christ: Exegetical, Biblical and Theological Studies (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2010), by none other than Moisés Silva. [H/T: Rod Decker.] The journal is available online, and our Infallible Hero’s review may be accessed here.

Allow me, if you will, an extended quotation:

With regard to the debate as a whole, I happen to believe, naively perhaps, that the evidence is not all that ambiguous—or to put it more accurately, that the ambiguities in the data are plainly resolved by Paul’s many unambiguous statements. If by pistis Christou (which in isolation can indeed signify any number of things) the apostle had meant either “Christ’s faith” or “Christ’s faithfulness,” it would have been ridiculously easy for him to make that point clear beyond dispute. Among various possibilities, he could have, for example, indicated—in the same contexts—one or two ways in which Jesus believed and how those acts of faith were relevant to the matter at hand. Or he could have told us—again, in the same contexts—that his message of dikaiosynē (“righteousness, justification”) is true because Christos pistos estin (“Christ is faithful”). What could have been simpler? And considering the theological importance of this issue, one would think that he might have made a special effort to clarify matters.

Instead, if some scholars are to be believed, Paul did not have enough sense to realize that the phrase pistis Christou is ambiguous. And to make matters worse, he unwittingly misled his readers by using the verb pisteuō with Christos as direct object again and again in the very same passages that have the ambiguous phrase! His bungling proved spectacularly successful, for in the course of nearly two millennia, virtually every reader—including ancient scholars for whom Greek was their native language—understood the phrase to mean “faith in Christ” and gave no hint that it might mean something else.

Of course, the full review bears reading, not least of all because it offers a helpful summary of a book some of us have had our eye on since it was published earlier this year. Beyond that, interested parties may also wish to revisit a previous installment of “Sundays with Silva” dedicated to πίστις Χριστοῦ and the witness of the Greek Fathers.

9 responses to “Silva on the πίστις Χριστοῦ Debate

  1. Pingback: Week in Review: 08.20.10 | Near Emmaus

  2. Mike> “Moisés Silva: great scholar, or the greatest scholar?”

    And do you think he’s losing patience with subjective genitive sorts? What writing about how it would have been “ridiculously easy” for St Paul to make himself clear if that is what he meant and all…

    Nick> I will note that I only came to the realization that Silva is infallible when it hit me that he was always right about everything. ;-)


  3. I’m with Silva on this one. I did some research some time back on Ephesians 2:8 and eventually decided that Chrysostom and other church fathers probably had a better understanding of Greek than the modern grammarians do.


  4. Robert> You will quickly learn, if you haven’t already, that it is a fundamental axiom of this blog that Moisés Silva is infallible — so, of course, I’m going to have to agree with you there! ;-)

    Thanks for stopping by, and hope you’ll come back again!


  5. Pingback: Dueling smart guys on Paul « John Meunier

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