Sunday, July 27, 2008

Francis Watson on Pistis Christou

One of the best little quotes on the "px" debate that I've read (and believe me, I've read alot on this and had trouble making up my mind) comes from Francis Watson:

"As we have seen, the christological qualification of Paul's faith terminology is intended to refer neither to 'the faithfulness of Christ' nor to 'faith in Christ' but, more open-endedly, to the faith that pertains to God's saving action in Christ - originating in it, participating in it, and orientated towards it" (Francis Watson, Paul, Judaism, and the Gentile: Beyond the New Perspective, p. 255).

I submit that this warrants a return to the translation of the 'faith of Christ' in Bible translations in order to keep the gentive deliberately ambiguous (much like the 'righteousness of God'). I think this is where I'll nail my colours to the mast for now! This is a position that I think resonates also with the works of Mark Seifrid and Preston Sprinkle. Now I find the theological mileage that one gets out of the subjective gentive view absolutely scintilatting. In addition, some of Doug Campbell's and Ardel Caneday's arguments are quite thought-provoking on the matter and I'd probably give a tacit approval to a subjective genitival reading in Philippians 3 thanks to Markus Bockmuehl, Peter O'Brien, and Paul Foster (although Barry Matlock and Richard Bell make me highly cautious about it). But all in all, I think I have to lean more towards a modification of the objective gentive along the lines that Watson suggests above.

Those interested in this further will have to wait until spring/summer 2009 for Paternoster and Hendrickson to release our book The Faith of Jesus Christ where these issues are explored more fully.


Daniel said...

I share your appreciation for Dr. Watson. His Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith is one of the top 2 or 3 books I have ever read. I am actually planning on starting Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles next week. With this quote though, do you think Watson is advocating for a plenary genitive? I am sure when I get to this section and read the quote in context it will make more sense, but how does the faith of Christ "pertain to God's saving action in Christ"? If this faith originates in, participates in and is orientated toward in God's saving action in Christ, what is the faith? These seem to be qualities of the faith, but what is the faith?

Preston Sprinkle said...

good post, Mike. And good questions, Daniel. I would say that what Watson is shooting for is not a plenary gen. In fact, he still considers his view an "obj gen," though in a paper he gave 2 years ago at Aberdeen, he says that he goes with Barry Matlock "90% of the way," without, unfortunately, teasing out what the other 10% may be! In any case, his view here very helpfully moves the PX on the side of divine agency, whether or not our grammarians are happy with it.

Daniel said...

I guess I'm a still a bit confused. How can PX be objective and on the side of divine agency. Does not a objective genitive mean that Christou is receiving the action of the implied verb notion in pistis? How does Christ receive the pistis of divine agency? What am I missing?

Preston Sprinkle said...

(Dan, you nut! I didn't realize this was you until I clicked on your name) I think your confusion is fine, I share it too. Perhaps what FW is trying to stress is that the PX construction underscores God's act in Christ (Christou), not simply man's belief in it. So pX, rather than Px. Not that other OG advocates would deny this, but in previous discussion, so much attention has been given to what pistis is, that the centrality of Christou has perhaps faded a bit. FW also is very inentional about understanding pistis NOT as a human work or simply something that a person drums up under her or his own power. Faith is created and elicited through the proclamation of the divine word of Christ (the rhematos Christou (Rom 10:8, cf. 17).