[B-Greek] Phil 2:17 genitive PISTEWS

Iver Larsen iver at larsen.dk
Thu Mar 2 08:39:48 EST 2006

RRedden604 at aol.com wrote:

> Ivers says
> NIV talks about the sacrificial service "coming from your faith". If anyone
> can explain to me what that is supposed to
> mean, I'll be grateful.
> Most  versions keep the unclear genitive "sacrifice and service of your
> faith", even  though an English genitive does not
> work here.
> TEV says "an offering on  the sacrifice that your faith offers to God." I
> have no idea what that is  intended to mean.
> UBS Handbook seems to grasp the connection and possible meaning of these
> translations.

It may be a possible meaning, but I am pretty sure it is not the correct one. I have read the whole context in the 
handbook, but it didn't make it clearer.

> "The identification of the subject of the offering depends on the analysis
> of the genitive construction "offering of your faith." The ambiguity of this
> construction is reflected in the various translations. It is interpreted by
> some  as "the offering is your faith"; thus JB has "offering - which is your faith"
> (cf.  NEB "that sacrifice which is the offering up of your faith"). Mft
> provides a  variation of this interpretation by identifying the agent as "you,"
> thus "the  sacred sacrifice of faith you are offering to God." These renderings
> regard  "faith" as the thing offered.

It would be unprecedented in the Bible to offer "faith" as a sacrifice. One can offer up praise or one's own life or 
various animals, grain offerings, drink offerings or money (to a fellow believer), but never faith.

> Another possibility, adopted by TEV, is
> to take  the construction in the sense of "your faith offers something
> (sacrifice).

This is equally impossible. How can "faith" offer up anything? A believer can make sacrifices, but not faith itself.

> The  context makes it clear that it is not Paul who is offering the
> sacrifice, but  the Philippians.

I disagree, as does BAGD. Just the opposite is the case. In the previous verse, Paul has just said that he has laboured 
for the Gospel - EKOPIASA. And he believes that this labour will not have been in vain, as long as the Philippians have 
matured in their faith and are honouring God in their lives. I recommend that you read the whole of Philippians chapters 
1 and 2 to get the background. Notice especially verses like 1:6,9-10, 22, 25, 27, 2:15-16.

Since Paul has just talked about his struggle for the sake of the Gospel to impart faith and maturity to the 
Philippians, it is most likely that the sacrifical service (to God for their benefit) he is talking about is his own. He 
has struggled hard in the face of many obstacles and persecutions, and he hopes that it will not be in vain. As long as 
his audience keep the faith and mature in it, it will not have been in vain. Then he can rejoice together with them as 
the next verse says.

> Furthermore, what the Philippians offer is not
> their faith;  rather their new-found faith is the source or the impulse for that
> offering. The  sacrifice which their faith offers is probably their gifts to
> Paul, for these  constitute a sacrifice on their part (cf. Phil 2:30 and
> especially  4:18)"   (UBS Translator Handbook Series)

It is correct that the words LEITOURGIA and QUSIA can be used to describe the gift that Epaphroditus brought from the 
Philippians to Paul, but there is no clue that this is what Paul is referring to in 2:17. It does not go together and is 
irrelevant in this context. Why would those gifts cause Paul to lose his life? It is also an exegetical mistake to 
ignore the immediately preceding context in order to focus on a later context. The reason this is a mistake is that a 
text has progression. Concepts are built up by the writer, and the reader should not build on what has not yet been 
said. You are not supposed to read or hear a letter being read backwards.

> [Jeffrey Gibson:] Does regarding/ translating PISTEWS as "faithfulness"  help to solve the problem?

No, it doesn't. The main problem as I see it is exactly the problem raised by Mitch in the first place. What is the 
relationship between Paul's sacrificial service and the faith of the Philippians.
If we first translate the Greek with an English of-phrase and then do our exegesis from there, we land into problems.
It seems clear to me that Paul is talking about his hard work and labour for the Gospel or more particularly for the 
faith of the Philippians.His aim has always been to bring people to faith in Jesus and after that to do what he can to 
bring those people to mature in their faith. He laboured for their sake and for the sake of their faith.

Well, tradition dies hard, so I'll stop here.

Iver Larsen

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