Sunday, May 27, 2012

Gold nugget in Galatians 3:9 (Sola Fide)

I came across a 'gold nugget' while researching information for a bigger project that I wanted to share. I noticed it when reading the famous "Abraham believed God and [his faith] was reckoned as righteousness" in Galatians 3, which many overlook since they're so fixated on reading this in Romans 4. Here is how Paul recounts the passage in Galatians 3,
5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? [Gen 15:6] 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” [Gen 12:1-3; Heb 11:8] 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
What this Protestant translation (ESV) and various other modern Protestant translations 'hide' (not sure if it's intentional) is that in verse 9 when it says "along with Abraham, the man of faith," the more accurate rendering of this verse is "along with faithful Abraham". See this list of standard translations and note how the more literal and older versions are more accurate.

This, to me, is a significant translation error, because verse 9 uses two different Greek words for 'faith' here: pistis (faith, G4102) and pistos (faithful, G4103). The words are extremely similar and they derive from the same Greek word for 'trust', but the point here is that though different they are being used the same. Why does this matter? Because Protestants insist "faith" in this context, especially for Abraham, is an 'empty hand' that has no intrinsic value, but simply 'reaches' and takes hold of the "righteousness of Christ". Though that Protestant notion of faith is totally novel (with no basis in Scripture, cf Heb 11:6) and read right into the text, this Protestant idea is further refuted by the fact Paul employs (see Gal 3:9b KJV) the term "faithful" instead of "faith". The term "faithful" is synonymous with "faith" in Paul's thought here, and it's plainly ridiculous to suggest "faithful" can mean faith is an 'empty hand'. So what Paul is saying, and this fits perfectly with the Catholic understanding, is "those who are of faith are justified along with faithful Abraham," which is not the sort of "faith" that Protestants can accept.

The significance of this seems to be missed in the various Protestant commentaries I've consulted, but this is understandable since it's easy to overlook (particularly when a poor translation is used).

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