Isn’t Christ the Author of “Our” Faith?
“In a previous article (”Is Faith the Gift of Ephesians 2:8?“), involving a discussion of Ephesians 2:8, you argued that faith is not a ‘gift’ resulting from God’s sovereignty. Instead, you contended that faith is man’s responsibility. He develops faith as a result of the evidence that God has provided. If your position is true, how do you explain the statement that we must look unto Jesus, who is ‘the author and perfecter of our faith’ (Heb. 12:2).”
First it should be observed that the pronoun “our,” as found in the King James and American Standard versions, is italicized. This means that the term is not found in the Greek text, but was added by the translators because they felt that such was necessary to convey the sense of the original language. It is unfortunate that the Revised Standard Version, the New International Version, and even the English Standard Version have supplied the “our” with no italicized notification for the reader. The text does not say “our faith.” As W.E. Vine noted, “The word ‘our’ should be omitted” (The Epistle to the Hebrews, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1952, p. 145).
What, then, is the significance of the term “faith” in Hebrews 12:2? There are several possible meanings that fit nicely into the immediate context, and which do not conflict with information elsewhere in the New Testament. Let us briefly consider the most likely of these.
- Some scholars take the position that the “faith” under consideration is that which was characteristic of Jesus. Christ is said to be the “author” and “perfecter” of faith. The first term, archegos, is believed to reflect the concept of a leader. The second word, teleiotes, carries the idea of bringing something to its goal. It is suggested, therefore, that the sense is that Jesus “is presented as the leader of the faith in order to encourage believers to endure” in their Christian lives (Baltz, Horst & Schneider, Gerhard, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990, p. 164).
F.F. Bruce says that the picture is of Jesus as the “trail-blazer” or “pathfinder,” who blazed the trail of faith, who ran the race of faith to its triumphant finish (The Epistle to the Hebrews (Revised), Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990, p. 337). This is the significance of archegos, as set forth by J.H. Thayer (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark, 1958, pp. 77, cf. 619).
Even if one interprets archegos as meaning “originator, founder,” as in the case of Danker, et al. (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Chicago: University of Chicago, 2000, p. 138), the sense would be that Christ is the basis of our faith. He is the originator of the Cause to which we have committed ourselves. The language would not imply that he directly infuses faith into the believer’s heart irrespective of that person’s volition — an interpretation that would be wholly inconsistent with facts taught elsewhere in the New Testament.
- Others call attention to the fact that the term “faith,” in the original text, is preceded by a definite article, hence “the faith.” They thus conclude that “faith” is used in an objective sense. That this sort of usage is common in the New Testament is beyond dispute. The expression “the faith” becomes the equivalent of “the gospel system” in many passages.
In his account of the growth of the early church, Luke records that a great company of priests became obedient to “the faith” (Acts 6:7), i.e., they obeyed the requirements of the gospel (2 Thes. 1:8; 1 Pet. 4:17). Paul once referred to “the faith” that he preached (Gal. 1:23); elsewhere the substance of his preaching is characterized as “the gospel” (1 Cor. 15:1). The Christian is to contend for “the faith” (Jude 3), or be engaged in a defense of “the gospel” (Phil. 1:16).
Robert Milligan believed that the writer’s allusion, therefore, was to “the Christian religion in its greatest fullness,” combined with the fact that Christ represents “the very best possible illustration of the nature, power, and efficacy of faith” (New Testament Commentary on Hebrews, Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1956, pp. 343-344).
When there are several possible options to the meaning of a passage, none of which conflict with either the immediate or remote context, one has the liberty of choosing that which he thinks is the most reasonable. Or, he may simply call attention to the various possibilities — without being forced to choose. He may not, however, adopt an interpretation that is at variance with clear Bible teaching in general.
The theory of John Calvin — that no one can believe except those “to whom it is given,” and that faith is given to no one but “the elect” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975, Vol. I, pp. 499, 257) — is a doctrine that does not have the support of the Word of God. Faith is a condition of redemption (Jn. 8:24; Heb. 11:6); it is not a benevolent bequest over which man has no control.
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.