[There is no Part 17. Subsequent editing deleted it, and it’s too much trouble to renumber an redate the following posts at this point.]
N. T. “Tom” Wright has just released another paradigm-shifting book suggesting a new, more scriptural way of understanding the atonement, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion. Wright delves deeply into how the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus accomplish our salvation.
I shift back to the NET Bible translation, because I think it’s more accurate in a few places —
(Rom. 3:20-23 NET) 20 For no one is declared righteous [faithful to covenant] before him [God] by the works of [obedience to] the law [Torah], for through the law [Torah] comes the knowledge of sin. 21 But now apart from the law [Torah] the righteousness of God [faithfulness of God to his covenants] (which is attested by the law [Torah] and the prophets [of the OT or Tanakh]) has been disclosed – 22 namely, the righteousness of God [faithfulness of God to his covenants] through the faithfulness [obedience to the point of crucifixion] of Jesus Christ for all who believe [are faithful to/believe in/trust in Jesus]. For there is no distinction, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Wright spends very few words in this book on the earlier part of chapter 3, but he has quite a lot to say about the rest of the chapter.
“Faithfulness of Jesus Christ”
The Greek is πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ pisteōs Iesou Christou. The -ou ending generally indicates genitive, meaning we translate with an “of.” Hence, the KJV quite literally translates “faith of Jesus Christ,” which doesn’t make much sense but is very true to the Greek grammar.
Later translations “fix” the problem by changing “of” to “in.” Hence, “faith in Jesus Christ,” which is fine theology but grammatically doubtful. In fact, it creates a redundancy. The NIV has, for example, “faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” So that seems unlikely. Why say the same thing twice in the same sentence?
The NET Bible translator notes explain the question well —
Though traditionally translated “faith in Jesus Christ,” an increasing number of NT scholars are arguing that πίστις Χριστοῦ (pistis Christou) and similar phrases in Paul (here and in v. Rom 3:26; Gal 2:16, Gal 2:20; Gal 3:22; Eph 3:12; Phi 3:9) involve a subjective genitive and mean “Christ’s faith” or “Christ’s faithfulness” (cf., e.g., G. Howard, “The ‘Faith of Christ’,” ExpTim 85 : 212-15; R. B. Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ [SBLDS]; Morna D. Hooker, “Πίστις Χριστοῦ,” NTS 35 : 321-42).
Noteworthy among the arguments for the subjective genitive view is that when πίστις takes a personal genitive it is almost never an objective genitive (cf. Mat 9:2, Mat 9:22, Mat 9:29; Mar 2:5; Mar 5:34; Mar 10:52; Luk 5:20; Luk 7:50; Luk 8:25, Luk 8:48; Luk 17:19; Luk 18:42; Luk 22:32; Rom 1:8; Rom 1:12; Rom 3:3; Rom 4:5, Rom 4:12, Rom 4:16; 1Co 2:5; 1Co 15:14, 1Co 15:17; 2Co 10:15; Phi 2:17; Col 1:4; Col 2:5; 1Th 1:8; 1Th 3:2, 1Th 3:5, 1Th 3:10; 2Th 1:3; Tit 1:1; Phm 6; 1Pe 1:9, 1Pe 1:21; 2Pe 1:5). On the other hand, the objective genitive view has its adherents: A. Hultgren, “The Pistis Christou Formulations in Paul,” NovT 22 (1980): 248-63; J. D. G. Dunn, “Once More, ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ,” SBL Seminar Papers, 1991, 730–44. Most commentaries on Romans and Galatians usually side with the objective view.
ExSyn 116, which notes that the grammar is not decisive, nevertheless suggests that “the faith/faithfulness of Christ is not a denial of faith in Christ as a Pauline concept (for the idea is expressed in many of the same contexts, only with the verb πιστεύω rather than the noun), but implies that the object of faith is a worthy object, for he himself is faithful.” Though Paul elsewhere teaches justification by faith, this presupposes that the object of our faith is reliable and worthy of such faith.
Here’s the key point: pistis includes faith, trust, and faithfulness. It is often translated “faithfulness” in other biblical contexts. Our Reformation history wants us to radically separate faith from faithfulness, as though these are very different things, but we must both repent and believe. We repent to become faithful. Jesus expects his followers to be faithful.
Therefore, by translating it as the NET Bible (and Wright) translate, we find a theme emerging. God is faithful to his covenant and so is seen to be righteous. Jesus is faithful, through submission to the crucifixion most especially, and so is righteous. And those who are in Jesus through — what? — faith/faithfulness are followers of Jesus, are in Jesus, are brothers and sisters of Jesus because we are like Jesus. So we are declared righteous — justified (same word in the Greek!)
The goal is to restore to God’s image — his kingly, priestly, righteous, covenant obedient image — and Jesus is the very enfleshment of God’s image. So the goal is for us to become like Jesus. And that requires, first and foremost, faith/faithfulness, because these are the characteristics that define both Jesus and God the Father.
Why does faith save? Because it sets us on the path to becoming restored to God’s image, like Jesus, faithful to the covenant, and ultimately united with God the Faithful. Theosis! (if you remember that series.)
It makes too much sense not to be true. And now go re-read any of Paul’s epistles with this in mind and see how much more clear Paul’s writing becomes.