Friday, January 15, 2016

God's Faith? (part vi)

Thus far I have proven that the context shows that "the faith of God" in Romans 3:3 means the same thing as "the oracles of God" (3:. 2), and as "the word of God" (9:6; 10:17), and as "the truth of God" (1:25; 2:7), and as "the gospel of God" (1:1).  I have shown that the syntactical construction of the phrase "the faith of God" (Head Noun + Genitive Noun) in itself cannot prove what kind of Genitive it is, whether Ablative, Subjective, Objective, or some other type. I have shown that the only way to determine the type of Genitive is to look at the context. This being done, the context is very clear.

What is it that has supposedly become "of no effect"?  Is it God's faithfulness that is being doubted or questioned? If so, directly or indirectly? Directly, no, indirectly yes. But, saying this does not justify translating pistis as faithfulness. Directly, the doubt is to the veracity of the oracles and word of God and is therefore the same doubt found later in the Roman epistle where Paul says "not as though the word of God has taken none effect." Obviously, if God's word, promise, truth, or oracles fail, then God may be said to either fail or not be faithful. However, Jesus said that "the scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35).

Consider also that the word "faithfulness" does not even occur in the authorized version. We find the adjective "faithful" and the participle "faithful," as we do their opposites, such as unfaithful. Further, even in other English versions that do include the word faithfulness in some few passages, like Romans 3:3, it is because the translators of those versions have acted as interpreters and not strictly as translators.

The Similarity Between Romans 3:3 and 9:6

Paul's protagonist in Romans 3:3 and 9:6 is one and the same. It can also be argued that what he discusses in greater detail in Romans chapters nine through eleven he first introduces in Romans 2:17 - 3:6, which is the fact that the word of God has not failed but succeeded. Let us compare the verses.

"their unbelief shall not make the faith of God without effect, will it?"

"not as though the word of God has taken none effect"

There is no reason to doubt that these two verses are essentially addressing the same theological question. John Owen realized this. In The Works of John Owen, Volume 20 (pg. 223 - SEE HERE), he wrote (emphasis mine):

"Those to whom the promise mentioned in this place was first proposed came short of it, believed it not, and so had no benefit by it. What then became of the promise itself? did that fail also, and become of none effect? God forbid; it remained still, and was left for others. This our apostle more fully declares, Rom ix. 4, 5; for having showed that the promises of God were given unto the Israelites, the posterity of Abraham, he foresaw an objection that might be taken from thence against the truth and efficacy of the promises themselves. This he anticipates and answers, verse 6, "Not as though the word of God" (that is, the word of promise) "hath taken none effect;" and so proceedeth to show, that whosoever and how many soever reject the promise, yet they do it only to their own ruin; the promise shall have its effects in others, in those whom God hath graciously ordained unto a participation of it. And so also Rom. iii. 3, "For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid." The "faith of God" (that is, his glory in his veracity, as the apostle shows in the next words, "Yea, let God be true, and every man a liar") is engaged for the stability and accomplishment of his promises."

Owen thinks that the questions are essentially the same. In both contexts Paul is denying that the loss of God's favor and salvation by the unbelieving fleshly Jew nullifies the truthfulness of what God has said (in his word and oracles). And, if all this is so, then this gives weight to the fact that "the faith of God" is the same as "the word of God." The word of God becoming of no effect is equated with the faith of God becoming of no effect.

The Symptom or the Disease?

What is Paul condemning by characterizing people as being of "no faith"? Their unfaithfulness and disobedience, external behavior, or something pertaining to the heart and inner core of a sinner's soul and mind? It is to an "evil heart of unbelief" that the apostle, like Jesus and all the new testament writers, points to as being the source of the problem. (Heb. 3:12) Unbelief in heart gives birth to practical unbelief, or to unfaithfulness and disobedience. So said Jesus - "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders," etc. (Mark 7:21)

So, the question is this - is Paul focusing on the disease or on the symptom? Is he focusing on the effect or the cause? Is he focusing on the root or the fruit? When he says that the carnal Jew, the one who had not been circumcised in heart and spirit, would, like the heathen Gentiles, be left inexcusable and not able to escape the judgment and wrath of God, does he lay the reason to the root cause or not? And if he does, is not want of faith the reason for unfaithfulness? So then why do translators and interpreters think that "the pistis of God" requires giving pistis the unusual meaning of "faithfulness"? As we will see, to substitute the word "faithfulness" in most places in the epistle where faith is the normal word chosen, is wholly untenable. Thus, the burden of proof is on interpreters who give "faithfulness" for "faith" in Romans 3:3 to prove that the deviation from the norm is warranted by the context.

In the next few postings I will be going through the Roman epistle to see what Paul says about "faith" (pistis) and "no faith" (a-pistis) and see what may be discovered thereby that helps us to learn whether by "pistis" Paul intends faithfulness or faith. We will also be looking to see the significance of the presence of the definite article with pistis and that without it. In order to prepare for those postings, let me give some basic information about the Greek definite article.

Faith with the Definite Article

Why is "faith" sometimes used with the definite article and sometimes without? What is the meaning of "the faith" in new testament usage? What is signified by the absence of the article with pistis? Is it okay for translators to either omit or to add the definite article (or the indefinite for that matter)? What are the rules for decision making in this regard?

In "Use of the definite article in Greek" (SEE HERE) we read (emphasis mine):

"The Greek article was originally a weak demonstrative pronoun / adjective (i.e., a weaker form of "this," "that," "these," "those"). It pointed to someone or something, in a subtle way that was still clear and obvious to the listener or reader. It may have been used as a pronoun, as a sort of short and abbreviated reference to someone or something already known through the context of what was being said or written, so the whole name of the person or thing did not need to be repeated in full (e.g., "This is what we are talking about."). Or it may have pointed to a noun in order to indicate that the noun was now present or previously mentioned (e.g., "That man is the one.")."

This is important, for as we shall see, in some passages the apostle may be using the definite article as a demonstrative pronoun meaning "this" or "that," or in context may mean "the thing I am talking about."

We also read this:

"Thus, the Greek article originally served a completely different function than the English definite article "the." Then the Greek article developed many uses which are far more closely related to its original Greek function than to the functions of the English definite article. The Greek article definitely is not just an equivalent to the English definite article "the." Nor is the absence of the Greek article simply an equivalent to the English indefinite article ("a" or "an")."

This information will be important later as we look at passages where the definite article is absent. What is said above is important in the debate over John 1: 1 and the words "and the word was God" versus "and the word was a god." We will have need later to talk about the absence of the definite article and what that tells us in a given text. Of course, most nouns and participles with definite articles perform the function of individualizing, specifying, and particularizing as in English.

The Greek grammarian also wrote:

"Therefore, in translating Greek into English, we cannot automatically always use an English definite article "the" in the place of a Greek article. There are many times when one will use no English article in the translation. And sometimes one can even use an indefinite English article in translating a Greek article. For instance, when a Greek article indicates a generic noun, we may translate the Greek article as an English indefinite article, or as an English indefinite pronoun ("any"). Also, if there is no Greek article in front of a Greek noun, we often use an English definite article in the translation, simply because the context indicates a definite reference to that Greek noun."

I will not comment upon this now, but will have use of these remarks later.

Our writer continued:

"Of course, the Greek article very often, but definitely not always, functions as an individualizing article, where it is used to distinguish one entity — one person, one group of persons, one thing, or one group of things — apart from all other entities. And, if a Greek article does this, it functions much like our English definite article. Thus, it very often can be translated directly into an English definite article."

I would dare say that this is nigh universally true in the new testament.

Again we are told:

"In Greek, the first mention of a noun or substantive, or its synonym, is traditionally anarthrous (i.e., it has no article in front of it). Then any subsequent references to the same entity — whether through the use of the same noun or a synonym — will normally be articular (with an article in front of it), indicating an anaphoric reference. In this way, it signals the reader to identify any previously mentioned information with the current articular noun or substantive."

This particular lesson will become very important as we look at the noun "faith" in the first two chapters of Romans (leading up to 3:3 our central verse)/

No comments: