The Pistis Christou Question        Back


Central to Paul's teaching on salvation (soteriology) is his use of the phrase pistis Christou (it occurs twice alone in Galatians 2:16).


The problem arises from the use of the genitive case - don't worry if this doesn't mean much to you. What is important is that by using this particular construction, because there is no grammatical signifier to indicate sense, it is unclear exactly what Paul is trying to say.

 Consequently, in Greek, Paul could be saying that:

  1. We are justified by the faith of Christ (subjective genitive)

  2. We are justified by faith in Christ (objective genitive)

In (1) Christ is the subject of faith - It is Christ who has the faith. While in (2) Christ is the object of our faith - We are the ones who have the faith (which we put in Christ).

One would normally translate this sort of construction according to (1); as a subjective genitive. However, instances of (2) are also possible - see box opposite.

The problem is that we are not really sure whether Paul is using sense (1) or (2). Have a look at the text and see if you can work it out.





Context is an important factor in determining such cases as these. For example, in Romans 10:2, Paul refers to  ζῆλον θεοῦ   (literally, zeal of God). Does this mean zeal for God or God's zeal ? However, Paul's discussion about the nation of Israel provides an important clue which makes the objective reading (zeal for God) the more likely.                                        


Back to previous page  Back



Things to think about

With which form are you the more familiar?

Think about the different meanings conveyed by the two statements (1) and (2). With which do you most agree? Does the other meaning add anything to your position?

What do others think? - type pistis Christou or pistis Xristou into Google and see what you can find.


Pour some more coffeeGo to the 'Scholar's Desk' to explore the question more deeply.