The measure of faith

Sunday, January 07, 2007

It has been frustrating that our internet connection has not been stable. On top of the slowdown caused by the earthquake off Taiwan’s coast, there is also a problem in our hardware, which till now we have not been able to solve; hence, my absence since Thursday.

Noel and I have been in discussion on Rom 12:3 over some moussaka for lunch on Friday. With our bibles, Cranfield and Moo’s commentaries on Romans, we had a good time debating about it.

… εκαστω ως ο θεος εμερισεν μετρον πιστεως
… each according to God who apportions the measure of faith

In order to translate this phrase, Cranfield asks three questions:

1. In what sense is μετρον, measure used?
2. In what sense is πιστiς, faith used?
3. What kind of genitive is πιστεως, of faith?

1. In what sense is μετρον, measure used?
According to Cranfield, the noun μετρον can denote:
a. a means of measurement, a standard or norm: literally; or metaphorically
b. a result of measuring: a measurement, size, quantity or length; or something that has been measured, a measured quantity, length, etc. of anything
c. due measure, limit, proportion: full measure, goal; or limit

2. In what sense is πιστiς, faith used?
Possible meanings include:
a. “faithfulness”, “trustworthiness”
b. “faith” in the sense of fides qua creditur (the faith by which it is believed)
c. “faith” in the sense of a special charisma possessed not by all, but only some Christians
d. “faith” in the sense of fides quae creditur (the faith which is believed), “the faith”, the body of truth believed by Christians
e. “trust” in the sense of something entrusted, “a trust”

3. What kind of genitive is πιστεως, of faith?
a. a partitive genitive
b. a genitive of apposition
Check their meaning here.

It is obvious that there will be a considerable number of different combinations possible, theoretically at least.

Cranfield discussed these 3 favoured interpretations:
1. the measured quantity of special miracle-working faith
2. the measured quantity of faith, fides qua, the basic Christian response to God
3. a standard by which to measure of faith, fides qua

On (1) and (2), Cranfield says, “it is surely extremely unlikely that Paul intended to imply this; for such an intention would scarcely be consistent with his apparent purpose in v.4ff to encourage the Christians in Rome to conduct themselves in such a way as to maintain their brotherly love unimpaired. A congregation, the members of which are carefully calculating their relative importance according to the amount of faith (of either sort) which they possessed, would have little chance of being a happy one.” (p.614)

He feels that (3) is “surely to be preferred … Every member of the church, instead of thinking of himself more highly than he ought, is so to think of himself as to think soberly, measuring himself by the standard which God has given him in his faith, that is, by a standard which forces him to concentrate his attention to those things in which he is on precisely the same level as his fellow-Christians rather than on those things in which he way be either superior or inferior to them – for the standard Paul has in mind consists, we take it, not in the relative strength or otherwise of the particular Christian’s faith but in the simple fact of its existence, that is, in the fact of his admission of his dependence on, and commitment to, Jesus Christ …”

My take is with Cranfield as Paul mentions this measure of faith in relation with not thinking of oneself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment. Therefore, we are to think of ourselves not to the measured faith God has given but to the standard of faith that we are responsible with. Cranfield however, did not mention about the size of measure, whether measured or as a standard, which I feel is equal to all Christians.

C.E.B. Cranfield, Romans 9-16, (Great Britain: The Cromwell Press, 2004), 614-615

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2 comment(s)

  1. Meaghan-
    I've had moussaka before - I made it, but it wasn't very good :( the way I made it. Anyway, the rest of your post is pretty Greek to me.
    Good to finally hear from you!!!

  2. I did not mention it but the ones we had for lunch was not good either - it was cold and even after complaining, it came back with not much of a change. I have been checking for recipes because I love eggplants. You could try and get the highly rated recipes there.