The Dongola Times

(Anachronistic) Dispatches from the Kingdom of Makuria.
10th of June, 2014

Altercation #2


Man, I am in heresy-hunting mode. Malleus maleficarum!
I have this online quibble, with a man who was carefully supporting the Arminian heresy, in its more-recent form as an argument over the use of the genitive in Paul’s letters. You don’t need details; here is my response.

The Old Perspective on Paul

This seems like privileging theology over Jesus Christ. Every working « pistis » has to be linked somehow to « Iesos Christos. » In Koine Greek, that « -ou » ending implies more than just “of”. It is a more-general association. “The faith of Christ” being a faithful rendering of “pisteos christou” also implies “the Christian faith” and even “Christianity” by implication. In Koine Greek (unlike English), to say “by the American song” (Billy Bayou, say) and “by the song of America” (Star-Spangled Banner) is all « δια το ψαλμος αμερικου » or the like. Even in English, Christianity (“the faith in Jesus Christ”) is also necessarily the « πιστισ Ιεσου Χριστου », rather than, say, “the faith of Muhammad.”
The case is, then, rather strong for the belief that the faith that we stand upon is not our own, but that of Jesus, upon whose merit alone we may hope to be justified.
Do you make this case by faith? And this faith on which you stand, how do you stand on it? Do you put your faith in faith? If ultimately it is faith in Jesus Christ, it is the “pisteos christou” in the Koine Greek context. How would you say “Christian fideism” in Koine Greek, and how would it be distinguished from “believing upon Christ”? —Are they even different from the faith Christ had (if Aquinas is wrong, and there is only one faith before God)?

More-important to note is that when Paul wrote, he never wrote a programming language. He wrote an already-known message—Christianity, the “faith of Christ”—in a rough street language. After a generation of teaching people pseudo-mathematical grammars and then telling them that they were authoritative (in spite of, say, their creeds), you end up exactly where we are now.

This New Perspective thing is a bad mixture of beaming back our science-envy and faux-rigour back onto Paul’s times. I think Prof. Iain McGilchrist’s work has demonstrated that such questions would not have arisen over one word back then.

Some people think the Greek in the Bible is in any way precise, because they haven’t read it in Greek out of its immediate context (where it can very precise), and because they haven’t tried to map it to computer structures (by comparison to which it is extremely irregular).

At this point, we are quibbling over the meaning of Paul’s message (if we are quibbling at all), not over the meaning of his wording. His language doesn’t, and needn’t, sustain such study.