The Faith of Jesus Christ in Early Christian Traditions

Article excerpt

The Faith of Jesus Christ in Early Christian Traditions. By Ian G. Wallis. SNTSMS 84. Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1995, 288 pp., $59.95.

The author's context for this study is explicitly theological: the frequent tendency to think that granting Jesus a real and full divinity must entail denying to him a faith such as humans must rely upon in their relationship with God. Wallis seeks ultimately to encourage contemporary Christological thinking that is able to affirm a full humanity in Jesus that included a faith in God his Father. The immediate task of this book, however, is to demonstrate that in the NT and early Christian tradition there is evidence of an emphasis on Jesus' own faith, explicitly in two key ways: as inspiring example for Christians, and as salvific medium, a feature of Jesus' redemptive work. That is, Wallis seeks to show that in the earliest Christian centuries Christ was seen as "important not only for what he revealed of God, but also for what he revealed of human response to God" (p. 6). Toward this end, Wallis focuses upon texts in which the pisteuo word group is present.

In chap. 1, after setting the context for his study, Wallis surveys the meaning of faith/trust in early Christian times, as illustrated in OT texts and in post-Biblical Jewish material. Thereafter, he looks at the meanings of the pisteuo word group in early Christian times.

Chapter 2 is an examination of "Jesus' Faith in the Synoptic Gospels." This involves attention to references to faith in the miracles stories, the sayings tradition and a few other "corroborative" references. The main points derived are that both implicitly and explicitly Jesus' own faith figures in the gospel material and that the authors seem to see no tension between referring to Jesus as having faith on the one hand and calling for faith in him on the other hand. Indeed, this latter point is clearly major for Wallis, for he comes back to it whenever the evidence permits in the discussion of other texts as well. In the gospels, Jesus' faith functions mainly as example or paradigm for Jesus' followers (and for the intended readers of the accounts).

In chap. 3, Wallis turns to the Pauline epistles and is at once involved in the current debate over a number of Pauline passages where the phrase pistis Iesou appears. Pointing to recent philological studies that argue for a dearth of instances of the objective genitive sense of constructions with pistis in the LXX and other relevant Greek literature, Wallis proceeds to examine examples of the contentious phrase in the relatively undisputed letters of Paul. Granting that grammar alone cannot settle the issue, he engages in a detailed discussion of seven key passages in their epistolary contexts (Rom 1:17; 3:22, 26; Gal 2:16, 20; 3:22; Phil 3:9). …