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The believing ones: how language hinders faith

The Greek sentence, if directly translated, goes something like this:

But the Scripture consigned all things to sin, so that the promise out of faith of Jesus Christ might be given to the believing ones.

It reads a little bumpy, because it is not how we normally speak English. So, in contrast, here is the translation from the popular New International Version (NIV):

But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

This sounds more "normal."

But let's do something. Let's imagine standing in relation to the transaction described in the first sentence, the one that is more of a direct translation of the Greek. Where do we stand in relation to the action?

Well, we see something (the promise of faith of Jesus Christ) being given to a group of people (the believing ones). Neither the promise, nor the group of people, have anything to do with you and me.
We do nothing, nor do we feel any suspense, in observing the action of the first sentence. Neither do the group of people -- the group called the believing ones -- need to do anything nor feel anything. They are merely the recipients of this promise. The giving of the promise to them is a done deal; nothing prevents it from happening.

But now imagine us standing in relation to the action described by the NIV translation. Read it again above. What do you feel? If you are like me, you feel some doubt as to whether or not the promise would be given, don't you? Why? Well, because, first of all, that promise needs to be given through faith IN Jesus Christ.

What faith IN Jesus Christ? The English language is ambiguous about where this IN is. Is it my faith that I need to place IN Jesus Christ? Is that what needs to happen before the promise is given? Well, then, I'd better drum up some of this faith so that I can place it IN Jesus Christ.
But ... what if I'm not up to the task?

And what about that group of people? In the NIV translation, they are no longer "the believing ones". Instead, they are "those who believe."

Those who believe? Well, what if they don't believe? What if, today, they believe just 75% of what they believed yesterday? How much do they have to believe ... before the promise can be given?

You see how the NIV translation -- which is far and away the more common "take" of this passage in English translations -- makes the entire transaction something of a "maybe" situation?

There is no faith IN Jesus Christ in the original. There is only faith OF Jesus Christ in the original.

And never mind "the whole world" and "prisoner to sin." None of these phrases are in the original Greek. The NIV translators were just moved to put them in -- just so, in their view, the English can read a little more smoothly.

The original language of the sentence tells us that, if you are indeed a Christian, you are among THE BELIEVING ONES
-- and that is independent of whether or not you feel like you believe today. It's a done deal. The promise is yours.

This is the scandal of the gospel.


Galatians 3.22
ἀλλὰ συνέκλεισεν γραφὴ τὰ πάντα ὑπὸ ἁμαρτίαν ἵνα ἐπαγγελία ἐκ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ δοθῇ τοῖς πιστεύουσιν.


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