Q&A: In Christ or Of Christ?

In Christ or Of Christ?

Question

When did "faith of Christ" begin to be translated and taught "faith in Christ" in Galatians 2:20? I was brought up with the latter and see how it, along with many other teachings, caused me to be in bondage to self instead of living in the light of his grace and faith. I find no Greek offered for "of" in Strong's, and I'm wondering how the shift was made and why?

Answer

First, it is important to recognize that the Bible teaches both concepts. Our faith in Christ is the means by which we are united to Christ (Gal. 3:26), and our union with Christ is the source of our spiritual life (Rom. 8:10). So, neither teaching should put you in bondage to yourself. Our own faith in Christ must be maintained if we are to persevere in salvation. But if our faith is real, the Holy Spirit always strengthens us so that we will never finally and completely repudiate or lose our faith (1 Pet. 1:5).

That being said, the reason for the difference is simply interpretive. The phrase in question contains no Greek prepositions. In English, and often in Greek, descriptive relationships are conveyed by prepositions such as "in" or "of." But Greek can also use different forms of nouns, pronouns, and the definite article ("the" is the definite article in English) to convey these types of descriptive relationships. In Greek, these different forms are categorized in "cases."

We don't normally use cases in English, although we do have some that can help us understand the Greek system. For instance, our first person singular personal pronoun takes different forms when it is a subject ("I"), or an object ("me"), or a possessive pronoun ("my/mine").

In Galatians 2:20, the Greek text relies on cases to tell us how the phrase "the Son of God who loved me" relates to "faith." But this is not a very precise system. In fact, there are only two cases in Greek (genitive and dative) that are used with much frequency to convey the kinds of relationships that are normally conveyed by prepositions. By necessity, in and of themselves these cases are extremely vague. So, translators rely on typical usage and other elements in the text to determine the meaning of a case in any particular instance in which it's used. Simply stated, determining meaning from case is a complex matter, and translators don't always agree on the best translation.

Modern translators often prefer "in," while the KJV and others went with "of." But even in English the meaning is not entirely clear. What is the "faith of Christ"? Is it the faith that Christ himself has? Is it faith about or related to Christ? Is it faith in Christ? The point is simply that we ought not to place too much weight on such vague matters. Major doctrines and approaches to life, such as you have described, ought to be based on matters that are more clearly expounded in Scripture, especially in larger portions of text.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.