1 Thessalonians 1:3
Here is the promised post. And make sure you read the previous before venturing into this, OK?
Admittedly, for a NT research student my grasp of Koine Greek is pretty dubious. For those of you who know your Greek, the truth of my honesty will become apparent in the following. For those without much Greek, however, it may all sound hugely impressive ... but even more hugely boring. So whether you know Greek or not I guess I don't really win with this post.
But the problem is, when one ventures into academic NT exegesis, a bit of Greek tends to come in handy. And so this is a question really for all of you Greek boffs out there.
What is the relation of the objective genitive in 1 Thess 1:3 ('tou kuriou hmwn Ihsou Xristou') to the lengthy object of the sentence (starting with umwn, working through the triad of faith, love and hope)? Is the objective genitive modifying just the 'hope', or also the 'faith' and 'love'? This question, while considered in earlier commentaries, has gone out of fashion in modern works. That the objective genitive modifies just 'hope' is simply assumed. But is this assumption correct?
Leon Morris, one of the few more modern scholars to at least raise the question, states:
‘It is not absolutely clear whether we should take “in our Lord Jesus Christ” with “hope”, or, as Neil, for example, does, with the whole of the preceding, including the work of faith and labor of love’.Here are some reasons, against the (albeit silent) modern scholarly consensus, to follow the line of thought represented by Neil (whose work on Thessalonians I sadly don't have access to). First, the triad of 'faith, hope and love' occur together regularly in early Christian writings. That this is so suggests that the objective genitive may modify all of the preceding, given their natural association with one another. Second, the umwn that begins the ‘lengthy object’ of the sentence is dependent on ergou ... kopou and upomonhς. This 'object' culminates in the appearance of the objective genitive, and thus suggests that tou kuriou hmwn Ihsou Xristou relates to the entire 'object'.
Furthermore, the reasons I've found in commentaries against Neil's position fail to fully convince. For example, Morris makes the suggestion that the objective genitive relates only to ‘hope’ because the phrase ‘before our God and Father’ must also be read to do so. However, such a reading of this phrase is deeply problematic, and I prefer to see it as related to the opening participle (mnhmoneuonteς), as most commentators do. The main reason given against Neil's reading is that the focus on just ‘hope’ in Christ sits very comfortably with the rest of the letter that has the eschatological events centred around Christ very much to the fore. And Christ is not tied to faith or love in 1 Thess, so the argument goes. However, while Paul doesn’t speak of love toward Christ in this letter explicitly, the idea is arguably present. And while Paul does speak of the object of faith in 1:8 as God, the entire third chapter will demonstrate how faith is expressed by whether or not the Thessalonians are ‘standing firm in the Lord’ (3:8).
Another potentially more problematic argument (not found in any commentaries) against reading the objective genitive as modifying all three elements of the ‘lengthy object’, is that Chrysostom reads it automatically as only referring to ‘hope’ (cf. my post on Silva's GF principle for a discussion on such reasoning).
So, what does the jury say? Is the objective genitive modifying just 'hope', or the entire triad?
And if you have managed to finish this post without killing yourself in bored desperation, then congratulations. If you found it interesting, as I did, then you should probably be a bit worried.
Morris, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, (Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1991), 42.
to use the language of Earl Richard, First and Second Thessalonians. Sacra Pagina Series Vol. 11 (Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1995), 46.
Leon Morris, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, 42, esp. fn. 24.