‘Pistis Christou’ and the Doctrine of Justification

One of the great debates today in Pauline exegesis is the interpretation of pistis Christou: should it be read and translated as “faith in Christ” (objective genitive) or “faith of Christ” (subjective genitive)? I addressed this interesting question several months back in my article “Faithing in the Faith of Christ.”

Seraphim Hamilton has just posted a helpful piece on this topic “‘Pistis Christou’ and Implications for the Doctrine of Justification,” written from an Eastern Orthodox perspective. He believes that “translating pistis Christou with the subjective genitive provides a window through which one can acquire a deeper understanding of Paul’s whole theology.”

If the subjective genitive is correct, then, suggests Hamilton, “a massive reevaluation of the Protestant doctrine of ‘justification by faith’ is necessary.” Specifically: “the doctrine of justification should be reworked in terms of a participation in the risen life of Christ through embodiment of His crucified life.”

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5 Responses to ‘Pistis Christou’ and the Doctrine of Justification

  1. Dana Ames says:

    Reading Wright’s “The New Testament and the People of God,” plus a few of his papers posted on line, “a massive reevaluation of the Protestant doctrine of ‘justification by faith’ is necessary” was exactly the conclusion I came to, several years before I began to investigate Orthodoxy. As I make my way – slowly!- through the new Paul book, the participation aspect becomes ever more apparent.

    As someone who has studied a language other than English, I think it’s problematic that the Greek dik-stem words are translated with 2 different English words, one from Germanic (right-) and one from Latin (just-). This gives the impression that there are 2 different semantic ranges of meaning to the dik- words, and obscures a lot, esp in St Paul.

    Something that has helped me along the way is to read pistis as “trusting loyalty” (under NTW’s influence) and the dik- words as “true faithfulness the way it’s meant to be” – as appropriate either to God or to humans, whomever is being referenced (insofar as I can manage the latter in English translation; must often resort to an interlinear to confirm the dik- stem). The second is only somewhat under NTW’s influence; I think his stress on “covenant” implies that God is bound by something, and I don’t believe God is bound by anything… Perhaps in using the term, it’s Wright’s way of being able, in good conscience, to remain “reformed.” 🙂



  2. whitefrozen says:

    Hamilton, and Wright, are right.


  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Thinking out loud very lazily (without having begun to try to do any of the homework), it would be interesting to compare (1) Latin translations, pre-Vulgate, Vulgate, and, with an eye to the (later) ‘Reformation’, Beza (as taken up into Junius-Tremellius), and whatever preceded or was independent of that, in individual Latin practice in theological and polemical works, and, (2) Slavonic, Syriac, Coptic, and other (a) pre-Chaledonian, and (b) post-Chalcedonian but pre-1054 (etc.) ‘Eastern’ and ‘Orthodox’ translations – insofar as they might shed light on how this Greek genitive was understood.

    Has anybody already handily tabulated to that end?


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