James 1:3

Matt Eby ebymatt at yahoo.com
Sun Sep 2 18:36:18 EDT 2001



ISTM there are conceivably at least four ways to render this:

1.  "the proving of your faith/faithfulness effects perseverance." 
Here PISTEWS is objective genitive, modifying DOKIMION, and hUMWN is
possessive, modifying PISTEWS.

2.  "your proving of [your] faith/faithfulness effects perseverance." 
This is the same as #1, except that hUMWN is subjective genitive,
modifying DOKIMION, and the article preceding PISTEWS is possessive.

3.  "the proving of 'you of faith/faithfulness' effects perseverance." 
Here hUMWN is objective genitive, modifying DOKIMION, and PISTEWS is
descriptive genitive, modifying hUMWN ("you [who are characterized by]

4.  "the proving of 'you of the faith' effects perseverance."  This is
the same as #3, except that PISTEWS is possessive genitive, modifying
hUMWN ("you [who belong to] the faith")--THS PISTEWS here referring to
the body of belief, i.e., the Christian faith.

I could be wrong, but I think Jim West was advocating #3.  His
suggestion comes *not* from viewing PISTIS (on its own in some sort of
vocative fashion) to mean "faithful people," but from viewing PISTEWS
in the genitive phrase "hUMWN THS PISTEWS" as modifying hUMWN ('you of
faith').  This is not far from the meaning of the genitive PISTEWS
modifying OIKEIOUS in Gal. 6:10 (which the NIV renders "the family of
believers"--although this would perhaps better vindicate option #4 than

You, on the other hand, take the vice-versa ('the faith of you').  I
tend to think you're right.  The same phrase exactly ("TO DOKIMION
hUMWN THS PISTEWS") also appears in 1 Peter 1:7, and it seems from
context that it is the "faith of you" that is being proven, not the
"you of faith."  This seems to be further supported by the tendency of
some later scribes (in both James and 1 Peter) either to place hUMWN
after THS PISTEWS or to omit it entirely (see NA27, although the second
editor of Vaticanus in James inversely omits THS PISTEWS!).  We must
concede, however, that Jim's suggestion would be a valid grammatical
(though IMO contextually less likely) option if he is arguing on the
above count.

My thoughts,

Matt Eby
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

--- "Steven R. Lo Vullo" <doulos at appleisp.net> wrote:
> on 9/1/01 4:28 PM, jwest at highland.net at jwest at highland.net wrote:
> >> I would agree that hUMWN can modify DOKIMON, but I fail to see how
> >> PISTEWS can be construed as "faithful people."
> > because nouns name things.  they are not mere abstractions.
> > thus, the people named here are described as faithful.
> Of course nouns name things. This is true whether a noun is abstract
> or not.
> How that automatically leads to the conclusion ("thus") that a
> singular
> genitive abstract noun should be taken in a vocative sense as
> addressing a
> plurality of people is not entirely clear. Do you have any examples
> of
> PISTIS in the singular unabiguously used of a plurality of people?
> >> For one thing, your translation suggests THS PISTEWS be taken in a
> vocative
> >> sense, though the case is genitive.
> > the genitive here functions merely to specify that they are the
> faithful ones
> > (in opposition to and contradistinction to the unfaithful)
> Why on earth even suggest such an improbable (and unknown until you
> can show
> a parallel) usage when it is entirely natural and makes perfect sense
> to
> take THS PISTEWS as an objective genitive with TO DOKIMON? Can you
> show us a
> similar example of a genitive of this sort, i.e., a genitive noun
> used
> absolutely as an address in the middle of a sentence? I get the
> feeling you
> are just trying to get a rise out of us with this suggestion.
> >> And while PISTIS in certain contexts can mean "faithfulness," I
> don't see how
> >> it can mean "faithful one."
> > because- with all due respect- you are translating far too
> literally--
> > thinking in a modern mindset, and not availing yourself of the fact
> that in
> > ancient palestine people used nouns to describe the attributes of
> folk rather
> > than as mere abstractions.
> Far from "translating far too literally," if you reread my post, you
> will
> see that I have not translated the clause at all. I'm just trying to
> do
> justice to the grammar, syntax, and lexical considerations associated
> with
> the text. I invite anyone to translate this verse as idiomatically as
> they
> choose--as long as in the end the translation doesn't fly in the face
> of
> what the grammar, syntax, and lexis involved indicate. As a general
> rule,
> don't you think we should opt for the most probable meaning of a unit
> of
> writing based on lexical, grammatical, and syntactical comparison
> with other
> literature of the same sort, rather than for highly imaginative and
> subjective proposals that posit odd grammatical and syntactical
> explanations
> and rare or unknown uses of words?
> As far as how "ancient palestine people" used nouns, how could I know
> that
> without reading what they wrote? That is really the issue here. Do
> you know
> of any other uses of PISTIS that designate "faithful ones." Remember,
> these
> would have to be in the *singular* number designating a *plurality*
> of
> people. And, as I requested above, can you offer us a similar
> syntactical
> example of a genitive noun used absolutely as an address in the
> middle of a
> sentence? I presume that if "ancient palestine people" used PISTIS
> this way,
> it would be reflected abundantly in their writings.
> >> This would be covered by hO PISTOS. Finally, PISTEWS is singular,
> not plural.
> >> Even if it were plural, the only sense I know of for PISTIS in the
> plural is
> >> something like "pledges" (although the plural is not used in the
> NT).
> > the singular often stands in place of the plural when a group is
> conceived in
> > its singularity.  again, you are thinking like a modern
> individualistic
> > american rather than a first century jewish christian (the folk
> addressed by
> > james).
> If this is as common as you say, you should have no problem sharing
> some
> examples of PISTIS used in this very way.
> On the other hand, when in doubt, just appeal to "modern american
> individualism." That seems to work with a lot of people. What I
> wonder is,
> when you describe me as a "modern individualistic american," how you
> can
> possibly know whether I am a modern-thinking person, individualistic,
> or
> even American. My last name is Sicilian. How do you know I haven't
> lived in
> Sicily most of my life? And since I am Sicilian, I suppose that would
> warp
> my thinking as well, since it would presumably be difficult for a
> modern-day
> Mafioso to understand the thinking of first century Jewish Christians
> who
> were not involved in organized crime. So much for the value of
> stereotyping
> all Americans (or anyone else).
> Whenever someone appeals to "American individualism," "Western
> thought," or
> other similar stereotypes, I never take that as a cue to cower;
> rather I
> always assume that the person making the accusation is having trouble
> making
> his/her case. It doesn't really make a point, it is just a
> thinly-veiled ad
> hominem argument that only appeals to those who have a similar
> prejudice.
> As far as how "a first century jewish christian" *thought*, how on
> earth can
> I know that except by what he and his contemporaries *wrote*. And how
> can I
> understand what they wrote except by analyzing their writings
> lexically,
> semantically, grammatically, and syntactically in comparison with
> similar
> literature or writing from the same period of time. Oh, I know. I'll
> just
> shed my "Western logic," tap into the "universal mind," and all
> should
> become clear.
> -- 
> Steve Lo Vullo
> Madison, WI

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