Sigurd Grindheim, «Faith in Jesus: The Historical Jesus and the Object of Faith», Vol. 97 (2016) 79-100
Did Jesus call his followers to believe in him? or did he merely call them to believe in God or in the contents of his teaching? This article examines the evidence found in the Synoptic Gospels and discusses its possible Christological implications in light of the Scriptures of Israel and the writings of Second Temple Judaism. If Jesus expected to be the object of his disciples’ faith, his expectation may be understood in light of his redefinition of messiahship. But he may also be seen to have placed himself in the role of God, who was the object of Israel’s faith in the Scriptures of Israel and in Second Temple Judaism.
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88 siGuRD GRinDheim
the object is indicated with the preposition eivj, as in matt 18,6 and in
the longer reading of mark 9,42. in addition, christ is implied as the
object in Rom 10,14 (twice).
there are three instances in the undisputed letters in which God is
the object of faith (Rom 4,5.17.24), in addition to the five quotations
from the scriptures of israel in which pisteu,w is used with an object
(Rom 4,3; 9,33; 10,11.16; Gal 3,6). in two of those scriptural quota-
tions, paul has reinterpreted a reference to faith in God as a statement
about faith in christ (Rom 9,33; 10,11). three times the content of
faith is stated in a o[ti clause (Rom 6,8; 10,9; 1 thess 4,14) and once
with a clause beginning with eivj to, (Rom 4,18). in 1 cor 11,18 paul
believes the report he heard about the corinthian church, and in 1 cor
13,7 love believes all things. in addition, paul uses pisteu,w in the
passive voice four times, with the meaning “to be entrusted” (Rom
3,2; 1 cor 9,17; Gal 2,7; 1 thess 2,4).
the noun pi,stij occurs 91 times in the undisputed paulines, 80 of
them without an object, not counting the seven occurrences of the
disputed genitive construction pi,stij Cristou/ (Rom 3,22.26; Gal 2,16
[2x]; 3,22.26; phil 3,9; cf. Gal 2,20) and the one instance of “the faith
of the gospel” (th/| pi,stei tou/ euvaggeli,ou: phil 1,27) 21. apart from
these disputed genitive constructions, there is one example of “the
lord Jesus christ” as the object of pi,stij, identified with the preposi-
tion pro,j (phlm 5). in addition, “God” is the object of pi,stij in one
instance (1 thess 1,8).
the other new testament epistles are usually dated later than
mark and the double tradition, but sometimes claims for earlier dates
are made for the disputed paulines, as well as for hebrews, James,
First peter, and Jude. the picture in these letters is naturally more
diverse, but the basic pattern is unmistakable. References to faith with-
out specifying the object are overwhelmingly the rule. hebrews
and Jude have no references to christ as the object of faith, James
has one (out of a total of 19 references to faith), and First peter has
two (eight total). When christ is identified as the object of faith, there
is no uniformity in phraseology.
in the disputed pauline letters, there are 12 occurrences of the verb
Rom 1,188.8.131.52(3x); 3,184.108.40.206(2x).31; 4,220.127.116.11.13.14.16(2x).
19.20; 5,1.2; 9,30.32; 10,6.8.17; 11,20; 12,3.6; 14,1.22.23(2x); 16,26; 1 cor 2,5;
12,9; 13,2.13; 15,14.17; 16,13; 2 cor 1,24(2x); 4,13; 5,7; 8,7; 10,15; 13,5; Gal
1,23; 3,18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.23(2x).24.25.26; 5,5.6.22; 6,10; phil 1,25; 2,17; 3,9;
1 thess 1,3; 3,126.96.36.199.10; 5,8; phlm 6.