Archive for August 18th, 2011
So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Romans 10:17 NASB
Christ – Is it the Son’s words or the Father’s words? If you look at this verse in the King James Version, it reads, “by the word of God.” That’s because the KJV is based on the Greek Textus Receptus, the Greek text that was available in 1611. A lot of archeology has occurred since King James, resulting in the modification of this text and many others, based on older fragments. The change from “word of God (theou)” to “word of Christ (christou)” is based on fragments dating from about 200 AD to 1060 AD. But other fragments, dating from the Fifth and Sixth Centuries, use the word theou. This raises an interesting question. If christou is in the oldest fragment, why would subsequent copies of the text change the word to the less shocking Greek word theou? After all, to claim that faith is by hearing the spoken word of God is not nearly as controversial as claiming that faith is by hearing the spoken word of the Messiah. Furthermore, if the Christian Church really separated from its Jewish background over the issue of the Messiah, then why would fragments from the Fourth and Fifth Centuries alter the text to read “word of God” rather than “word of Christ”? How would this help distinguish Christians from Jewish believers?
This puzzle may never be solved, but it should cause us to pause. We should take a step back when we find theological proclamations that claim faith in “Jesus” is Paul’s message based on this verse. We might also reconsider the claim that the words of Jesus replace the words of YHWH. We should ask the question about when Jews and Christians really did part company. This verse, a verse that has been so much a part of our evangelical tradition, has a lot more buried in it than we thought. We should probably ask if rabbi Sha’ul would have seen any difference between the rhema of christos and the rhema of theos.
Of course, we’ve only scratched the surface of textual criticism (the science of determining what the original text actually said). And we are amateurs at this, so there are probably a lot of very good reasons for accepting christou rather than theou. But it’s still a bit odd, isn’t it, that somehow theou was substituted centuries after Christianity was supposed to have separated from Judaism?
All of this raises another personal question. If Paul considers faith a product of shama and shama is essentially connected to the spoken word of the Messiah (or of God), then no matter where the word comes from, it must still be obeyed in order to produce faith. So, how’s that working out for you? Are you deciding to obey in order to experience faith or are you waiting for faith in order to obey? When you are confronted by a choice, a demand from Scripture, do you ask God or Jesus to give you the faith to believe, or do you do what it says, knowing that your actions will bring faith in tow?
Topical Index: faith, word, rhema, God, theos, Christ, christos, Romans 10:17