Researcher: Kyuseok Han
Research Title/Topic:

Paul's Understanding of Salvation in Galatians

(Pauline Soteriology in Galatians with Special Reference to Pistis Christou)

Research Level PhD.

University of Birmingham











Some of our earliest Christian writings are those produced by the Apostle Paul and are therefore crucial to our understanding of the first stages of Christianity. Arguably, one of the most significant aspects of these letters relates to Paul’s teaching on salvation (soteriology). Of particular importance is his letter to the church at Galatia . It was written at a critical point in Paul’s ministry. In it, he can be seen to be struggling to articulate how ‘his gospel’ (as he describes it in Romans 2:16) relates to the Christianity that was being expressed by the church at Jerusalem and to the Jewish faith per se (with particular reference to the observance of the Jewish law).

 This aspect of Galatians has recently been the attention of doctoral research conducted by Kyuseok Han at the University of Birmingham . His Ph.D. thesis, entitled 'Pauline Soteriology in Galatians with Special Reference to Pistis Christou', examines Paul’s presentation of salvation in the letter to the Galatians.  


Faith in or of Christ

 Kyuseok’s research argues that, in Galatians, Paul is in fact attempting to develop a Christ-centred understanding of salvation out of an existing Jewish pattern. Fundamental to Paul’s presentation is his use of the pistis Christou construction (whether it should be translated as ‘faith in Christ’ or the faith of Christ’ – we also look at this question in one of our coffee-break posers).

 Kyuseok advocates a ‘subjective reading’ (that is, the faith of Christ) which promotes Paul’s drive to establish a schema of salvation which has Christ – rather than the human response - at the centre. Consequently, according to Kyuseok’s reading interprets Galatians 2:16 (a pivotal verse) as:

... a person is not justified by works of the law, unless he (or she) comes through [the] faith of Jesus Christ...  

Faith or Faithfulness

Kyuseok’s work also addresses whether the word pistis (faith) denotes ‘faith’ (as in belief) or ‘faithfulness’. He is critical of traditional proponents of the ‘subjective reading’ for uncritically assuming that pistis denotes ‘faithfulness’ (specifically Christ’s sacrificial act on the cross), rather than considering its other uses. He goes on to argue that Paul uses the book of Habakkuk as a model, identifying that it is God’s faithfulness to the vision concerning the ‘community of the righteous’ (Hab 2:4 and 2:6-20) that is key to its membership. In other words, its members must rely (for entry and continued membership) entirely upon the faith of God. Kyuseok suggests that Paul sees the ministry of Christ as an analogue to that of Habakkuk, in that Christ also prophetically taught about the (re)-establishment of God’s community of the righteous ones.  


Paul's Christ-centred Salvation

 In this sense, the pistis Christou construction should be viewed as, what Kyuseok describes as, “Paul’s theological keynote”. He argues that;

Unlike the wide range of Greek idioms which represent ‘faith in Christ’, Paul deliberately used this formulation to denote the ‘faith of Jesus Christ’. In so doing, it demonstrates a move away from theocentrical Jewish expression to Pauline Christology which supplants the divine grace in Jewish covenantal nomism with a Christological term.

 Galatians can therefore be seen to be an early articulation of a specifically Christian soteriology which is centred on the figure of Christ and his ‘divine act’.

 Kyuseok underlines the importance of his research by asserting that, without considering the subjective genitive reading (Christ’s faith), “Christological soteriology may well be reduced merely to the anthropological plane, to the extent that it could produce the false impression that humankind can, of itself, supply the means of salvation.” In other words, there is a danger of giving the impression that salvation can be attained by human endeavour (expressed as faith) alone.    


Meet the Researcher

Kyuseok graduated from Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea, with a B.A. degree in Political Science and Diplomacy. He later gained a M.Div. at the Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Seoul , after which he moved to the UK and completed an M.A. in Theological Research at the University of Durham. He is an ordained Pastor. He has recently moved to Atlanta, USA where he is involved in church ministry and teaching in a theological seminary.

Kyuseok has expressed to us that he would be delighted to talk about any aspect of his research and answer your questions on it. We can pass your contact details on to him through this site.