[B-Greek] Re: questions concerning pistis/pistos
laurenceschell at yahoo.co.uk
Fri Feb 28 13:22:04 EST 2003
I must confess that I am only now beginning to learn to translate Greek. But I have studied a great deal the subject of pistis, pistos, pisteuo, peitho, and their various opposites, as well as the various Hebrew words and concepts the Greek words were intended to translate. My concern is doctrinal, which is avoided on the B-Greek list, so I will send this to you off-list. The doctrinal concern is whether modern Christians are in fact mistakenly leading converts to accept a set of beliefs, without possessing the other qualities of faith you mentioned. It also affects the issue of Lordship and obedience in salvation.
Though I want to share the things I have learned, I am open to correction as a relative novice, and would appreciate any information you can give me that helps me to gain a more accurate picture.
First, let me say that the vast majority of the references in the New Testament to faith and the verb to believe have to do with the sort of faith that leads to salvation. For this reason, I believe that the words believe and faith are entirely inadequate translations in the majority of cases. The Bible clearly describes faith that is alone as % ." Even demons have mere belief in God.
In the English language at the time of King James, faith still had a connotation of faithfulness; but this has been largely lost in modern times. There also seems, in my opinion, to be a strong doctrinal bias in the translators to translate pistis and the Hebrew word emunah as faith, emphasizing the idea of intellectual assent, in order to get doctrine that assents to Protestant orthodoxy--i.e., salvation by faith alone, which I have said above is unbiblical. Scripture is clear that faith must include more than just rational belief. One of the most notable examples of this bias is the translation of emunah in Habbakuk 2:4, which, as the banner scripture of the Protestant reformation, was twisted to read faith, aligning well with Luther's revelation of justification by faith alone, instead of faithfulness, which would imply works. Yet nowhere else in the entire Old Testament is it translated as faith. Perhaps I have my own doctrinal bias, but it is because I consider it more adequate than that of reformed theologians.
Of course translators need to find one or perhaps two words together to translate a concept; but I doubt that the words faith and believe are adequate. The word faith in modern English has come to mean mere belief, yet pistis is still translated over and over as faith, not faithfulness, or loyalty as you said. I believe an adequate translation must at least imply some of the other qualities of faith. One of my favorite words is devotion, because it implies some of the qualities that go with saving faith, such as love, commitment, loyalty, obedience, and trust. Looking more closely at two words in modern English, I believe faith does not imply faithfulness; but faithfulness does normally imply trust, because most people would agree that it is hard to be faithful to someone without trusting that person.
It seems obvious to me that the ancient Greeks perceived their words for faith as implying firmness, as did the ancient Hebrews. My od has been to look at the Hebrew concept first. Compare the use of aman in Gen. 15:6 with that in Neh. 9:8. They refer to the same event, yet are translated differently.
I have much I could say about this; but first I would like to see if you are interested in pursuing it any further, or if you have something you can enlighten me on.
I would like to know the scripture addresses of the constructions that you would translate loyalty to Christ.
Sincerely, Larry SchellFrom: "Chuck Tripp"
Subject: Question on range of meaning of PISTIS/PISTOS as used in GNT
Date: Sun, 24 Feb 2002 21:14:46 -0800
I have encountered uses of PISTOS, PISTIS in Arrian's Anabasis, an account
of Alexander the Great written in the first half of the 2nd century A.D.
(LOEB Classical Library)
I have quoted the following text at some length for context. What interests
me here is PISTOUS EINAI DAREIWi which is translated loyal to Dariusin the
accompanying English translation. What is happening is that Alexander the
Great is pursuing Darius king of Persia and Alexander learns that a certain
Bessus arrests Darius and has himself made leader. However certain people,
Artabazus, his sons and some greek mercenaries loyal to Darius refuse to
take part in the plot because they are PISTOUS TWi DARIiW which is
translated loyal to Darius in the accompanying English test.
Anabasis, Arrian III.21.4 KAI TOUS MEN POLEMIOUS OU KATELABE (ALEXANDROS),
DARIOU DE PERI EPUQETO AUTON MEN SUNEILHMMENON AGESQAI EF' hARMAMAXHS, BESSW,
DE ANTI DAREIOU EINAI TO KRATOS KAI hHGENONA WNOMASQAI BHSSON PROS TE TWN
BAKTRIWN hIPPEWN KAI TWN ALLWN hOSOI BARBAROI SUNEFEUGON DAREIWi, PLHN
ARTABAZOU KAI TWN ARTABAZOU PAIDWN KAI TWN hELLHNWN TWN MISQOFORWN. TOUTOUS
DE PISTOUS EINAI DAREIW i, KAI EIRGEIN MEN TA GIGNOMENA OU DUNATOUS EINAI
Use of PISTIS again comes up a little later in relation to this same event:
Anabasis III.23.7: AUTOFRADATHi MEN DH THN SATRAPEIAN APEDWKEN, ARTABAZON
DE KAI TOUS PAIDAS AMA hOI EN TIMHi HGE, TA TE ALLA EN TOIS PRWTOIS PERSWN
ONTAS KAI THS ES DAREION PISTEWS hENEKA.
What's happening is that Alexander is honoring Artabazus and his sons
their PISTIS ES DAREION, which is translated in the accompanying English
text as because of their loyalty to Darius.
I find this intriguing, because these same phrases in the N.T. I expect
would be translated as "Faith in Darius." Darius is the superior as
God/Christ is the superior in the New Testament.
Now, when I look through the lexicons available to me (Liddell and Scott,
and Thayer's), of course there is a fairly broad range of words to translate,
PISTIS and PISTOS. For PISTIS: trust, faith, persuasion, confidence,
assurance. PISTOS: in passive sense: faithful, trustworthy, genuine, in
active sense: believing, loyal, obedient. (these are all Liddell and Scott
My question is this: Does PISTIS/PISTOS encompass all these definitions?
Is it possible that someone translating PISTIS/PISTOS into English is forced
to select one of these elements (faith, trustworthiness, loyalty, obedience)
which in the opinion of the translator is most prominent and perhaps which
flows best in the English but in so fails to bring out the other elements
present in the Greek. Should I mentally be adding all of these when I see
those types of statements in the New Testament?
Or in the New Testament, should PISTIS EIS CRISTON (Acts 24.24) be seen as
equivalent to PISTEUEIN EIS AUTON [CHRISTON] John 3:16 hOS PISTOS ESTIN KAI
DIKAIOS 1 John 1:9. I.e. PISTIS EIS CHRISTON = placing our trust in
someone who is trust worthy. I don't think PISTEUEIN EIS CRISTON can be
read as "be loyal to Christ."
But should the near identical phrasing, PISTIS ES DAREION, and PISTIS EIS
CHRISTON, cause me to read a certain element of "loyalty to Christ" in the
New Testament phrase? Would a first century reader have understood it in
I would be interested in others thoughts on this.
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