As an atheist, I think it is important to understand Biblical exegesis for a few reasons.
- To understand religion sui generi in a humanistic sense, as a human institution.
- To understand from the inside out why Christianity is illogical.
- To offer Christians godlessness.
Any debate about Christian salvation and “justification” ultimately ends with the realization that Christianity is absurd. The Pistis Christou debate is one such debate Christians and theologians are wary to tiptoe near because of the challenges it poses to some fundamental aspects of the religion.
Several times in the Letter to the Galatians (but also in Philippians), notably Galatians chapter 2:15 and 2:20, Paul uses a Greek expression Pistis Christou. Almost all contemporary translations mis-translate this.
In Greek the genitive construction, in this case Christou, acts as an adjective for the other name, Pistis, meaning “faith”. In broader terms it’s meaning is “Christic Faith”. But the genitive can either be subjective or objective. In other words, the phrase Pistis Christou is directed onto Jesus if it is objective: “faith in Jesus Christ.” And it is Jesus’ own faith if it is subjective: “the faith of Jesus Christ.” This might or might not discount the possibility of it meaning both. However, virtually all Bible translations translate the Greek genitive objectively, implying theologically that the Christian’s faith in Jesus is what makes them righteous before God.
This is, according to a growing minority of New Testament scholars, is a misconstrual both of the plain sense of the Greek and of Paul’s argument. This means that the Pistis of genetive structure should be taken as subjective: it is the faith of the human person, Christ, and his faith in God, which puts people in right relationship with God. Not Christians’ faith in Christ.
So, for example, Chapter 2:16 where Paul says according to most translations like the New International Version:
“…A man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.”
is wrongly translated.
Paul is really saying this: even we who are Jews are not made right before God through the observance of the law, but through the faith of Christ (subjectively).
In other words, Jesus’ faith, for Jews, puts them in right relationship with God. In 2:20 Paul refers to the life he now lives by himself. But he lives by the faith of Jesus. Clearly what Paul is speaking about is the attitude of the human Christ. Should it be read in terms of Jesus’ response to God — or the Galatian’s response to Jesus?
Because Paul says it is the action of the human person of Jesus who puts humans in a “right relationship” with God, then clearly the Torah, the law, must be a secondary measure. It is the humanity of Christ that becomes the measure for human righteousness.
This illustrates the point I’ve argued before that Christianity is a flawed theological system, that faith in it is absurd. The argument for the subjective interpretation of Pistus Christou is merely another way of saying humans are powerless over the course of their own fate in the Christian worldview: it is not the human’s faith in Jesus–given only by the grace of God–but rather, Jesus’ own faith in the Heavenly Father which saves their human soul. Either way I do not understand the continuing appeal of a religion that is so fundamentally flawed and riddled with non-sequiturs.