Book Reviews,  Theology/Bible

Review of Richard Hays’ Faith of Christ

Richard B. Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ: The Narrative Substructure of Galatians 3:1-4:11, The Biblical Resource Series (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002). lii and 308 pages. $29.

In 2002, Eerdmans printed a second edition of what has turned out to be a major contribution on the theology of the apostle Paul. What follows is not a full-blown review of Richard Hays’ watershed book, but I do want to offer a few reflections on it.

  1. Hays’ entire argument relies on a structuralist “model for narrative analysis” that he uses to interpret Paul. It seems to me that one could undermine Hays’ thesis by undermining the model. His entire thesis relies on this model, yet he himself confesses that he offers no “apology or theoretical justification” for the model. The model is certainly an imposition on the biblical text as the categories do not themselves derive from the text.
  2. Nevertheless, I am in broad agreement with Hays that all of Paul’s thinking relies on an underlying story, and that story is the gospel. The gospel is not the formula for how one gets saved or receives Christ. The gospel is the narrative proclamation of the life, death, and resurrection of the Messiah Jesus in fulfillment of Israel’s scriptures. That Paul’s letters grow out of this story seems incontrovertible to me. The evidence of it is everywhere.
  3. But if the particular, structuralist model for narrative analysis is flawed, then his argument for the subjective genitive in the “faith of Christ” language is severely weakened. Therein lies my biggest reservation with Hays’ thesis.
  4. At the end of the day, I am not compelled that “faith of Christ” is the proper translation of the disputed phrase pi,stewj Cristou/ (e.g., Galatians 2:16; 3:22). Clearly, in the rest of the chapter human faith (pi,stewj) is in view (e.g. Galatians 3:7-9, 24, 26; 5:5). Thus, the context appears to favor the objective genitive translation, “faith in Christ.”

The Faith of Jesus Christ is a technical study and probably would not be of much use to non-specialists (especially non-Greek readers). Nevertheless, it is a very important book, and has been recognized as such even among those who do not agree with its central thesis. If you have the means and the time, I recommend your picking this one up.

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