Sunday, January 31, 2010

Subjective genitive of πίστις in Ignatius's letter to the Romans?

I was recently reading Ignatius's letter to the Romans and found an instance of the famous "πίστις Χριστοῦ" construction. Here's the passage (Ehrman's text, minus punctuation):

Ἰγνάτιος ... τῇ ἠλεημένῃ ἐν μεγαλειότητι πατρὸς ὑψίστου καὶ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ μόνου υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ ἐκκλησίᾳ ἠγαπημένῃ καὶ πεφωτισμένῃ ἐν θελήματι τοῦ θελήσαντος τὰ πάντα ἅ ἔστιν κατὰ πίστιν καὶ ἀγάπην Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν ... (Ignatius, Rom. salutation)

As far as I can tell, the only way to construe the highlighted phrase as an objective genitive is to read it as as a second prepositional phrase modifying πεφωτισμένῃ (after ἐν θελήματι ...) instead of as a phrase modifying θελήσαντος.

I hear that JTS has just accepted an article arguing that "πίστις Χριστοῦ" appears throughout the Apostolic Fathers as a subjective genitive. I'm looking forward to seeing what it has to say.

In the meantime, does anyone see any considerations that would swing the construal one way or the other?


  1. Michael Holmes translates the relevant portion as "... in accordance with faith in and love for Jesus Christ our God," but then this preposition phrase would have to go all the way back to "enlightened" as you point out. This objective genitive construal, however, seems implausible.

  2. I haven't looked at any of the translations, but as I read the Greek text I didn't assume that the 'kata' phrase was modifying either participle (neither contextualizing the illumination or the [Father's] willing). Rather, I just assumed that it was contextualizing the main verb of the relative clause: "everything that is in accordance with faith in and love of Jesus Christ our God" (or the subjective alternative). Do I understand you to be saying that the "everything that is" bit stands here apart from the prepositional phrase you've put in bold? What's to rule out the idea that God is the one who wills all instances of trust in or love of Christ? Sorry, probably missing something obvious.

  3. Also, now that I look, the opening of his letter to the Ephesians seems relevant, especially since it uses a similar phrase speaking of acquisition of a virtuous reputation "according to faith and love in (en) Christ Jesus our savior."

  4. IEph 1.1 does indeed a similar phrase, κατὰ πίστιν καὶ ἀγάπην ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ σωτῆρι ἡμῶν, but it's hard for me to determine if the difference in phrasing leads to a different or similar meaning with that in IRom.

    Another concern for me is that in the IRom case, there are many manuscripts that omit πίστιν καὶ, which would obviate the discussion.

  5. Here's my piece, fresh from JTS. I deal with these and other passages in the Apostolic Fathers.