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Luke 18:8 reads,

Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

The word for "faith" used is πίστιν, which seems to denote an 'active present sense', given the many occurrences it is used. Dispensational theologians(see reference) use this verse to explain pre-tribulation rapture, given this usage of the word "πίστιν".

Is this how "πίστιν" is to be understood, and how do we understand "faith" in the context of Luke 18:8?

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    @Onlyheisgood. I appreciate your comment, but could you incorporate it in a response? That gives you more 'room' to make your case, and others can view and weigh in on your response. – Tau Sep 6 '14 at 5:23
  • This is a hermeneutics website, even if I did expand to the fullness of its understanding, the length would be very long and would take much of my time. Only to have a moderator say to me that I should be explaining the Greek. Then to have my post deleted. So I would rather just have a conversation and explain why I came to these conclusions. For they are the result of much study, and no word study is going to answer this correctly to the moderators approval. For when the enemy to the word comes when the sower is sowing, will you pull away from the word and follow after the adversary or faith? – Decrypted Sep 8 '14 at 12:35
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πιστιν is no different in meaning than πιστις [aside from the difference in case, accusative vs nominative]. It means faith or faithfulness. (See Perseus, Middle Liddell)

All the Greek text I quote below is from Robinson-Piermont's Byzantine Majority Text (2000) and the English translation, if not specified otherwise, is the ASV.

There is absolutely no way that Scofield is right in asserting that "The reference is not to personal faith, but to belief in the whole body of revealed truth." It doesn't match the context here, and it certainly cannot be said to always be true of the word πιστιν.

That does seem to be the meaning, or something like it, in Galatians 1:23

μονον δε ακουοντες ησαν οτι ο διωκων ημας ποτε νυν ευαγγελιζεται την πιστιν ην ποτε επορθει

but they only heard say, He that once persecuted us now preacheth the faith of which he once made havoc;

Here it means basically "the faith system," i.e. the Christian religion. However, notice that it has the article here.

But for a clear example that it doesn't always mean this (especially when the article is missing), See Matthew 8:10

ακουσας δε ο ιησους εθαυμασεν και ειπεν τοις ακολουθουσιν αμην λεγω υμιν ουδε εν τω ισραηλ τοσαυτην πιστιν ευρον

And when Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

Here, are we to suppose that the Centurion's faith that Jesus could heal by merely giving the command was "not personal faith, but belief in the whole body of revealed truth"? Certainly not! His faith was an analogy, that since he was a man "under authority" who derived authority from his superiors to boss the soldiers under him around, Jesus in like manner has such an authority from God to command disease to leave. There is no hint that the Centurion believed in the story of Sampson or of Gideon's fleece.

Now for Luke 18:8

λεγω υμιν οτι ποιησει την εκδικησιν αυτων εν ταχει πλην ο υιος του ανθρωπου ελθων αρα ευρησει την πιστιν επι της γης

It has the article, so we might suppose that it means "...Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, shall he find the Christian religion on the earth?" The side panel translation in the Emphatic Diaglott translates it that way:

"...But when the SON OF MAN comes, will he find this BELIEF on the LAND?" (Emphatic Diaglott, capitalization is in the translation itself)

That is, will he find this particular faith or some perversion of it? (They also clearly have interpreted the locational reference, επι της γης, to the land of Israel rather than the Earth, and it can mean either in Greek.)

I think there is a much better explanation, however. In Luke 18:8, the meaning of πιστιν is clearly "faithfulness" because of the implication that its possible it might not be there when the Son of Man returns. Compare it to such passages as Revelation 2:10 "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life." (Rev 2:10 doesn't use πιστιν [it uses πιστος], but it speaks of the same idea, being faithful to the end.) When the Son of Man returns, we he find any still faithful? or will everyone have given up due to persecution?

Romans 3:3 is an example of πιστιν meaning "faithfulness":

τι γαρ ει ηπιστησαν (lacked faith) τινες μη η απιστια (lack of faith) αυτων την πιστιν (faithfulness) του θεου καταργησει

For what if some were without faith? shall their want of faith make of none effect the faithfulness of God?

We find, then, that having the article doesn't always make it refer to the religion itself, but can still mean "faithfulness."

The CEB (Common English Bible) translates Luke 18:8 this way:

I tell you, he will give them justice quickly. But when the Human One[Or Son of Man] comes, will he find faithfulness on earth?”

  • Thank you for your response! I believe you adequately dealt with the Scofield note(although Hal Linsey and others use it to affirm their belief in pre-trib rapture. Wayne House and Thomas Ice focus on the 'avenge speedily', although it remains to be seen how 'speedily' those with faith are avenged. I still hold to the 'active present sense' these authors use, it's just that their 'justification' for it is the church's departure, something your examination refutes. – Tau Sep 6 '14 at 5:10
  • @user2479, If "active present sense" means something like "will he REALLY find faith" I can agree, and the NKJV puts it that way. What is "faithfulness" if not someone who really has faith rather than just sort of does? – david brainerd Sep 6 '14 at 5:14
  • Point Well Taken! ;>) – Tau Sep 6 '14 at 5:18
  • "πιστιν is no different in meaning than πιστις." I trust that you realise that they are different case forms (accusative vs nominative) of the same noun. So they are different in "meaning". – fdb Sep 6 '14 at 14:01
  • @fdb, Yes, of course, and I will edit the answer to reflect that. By "meaning" here I meant like pistis isn't going to mean just "faith" and then pistin mean "faith in biblical inerrancy" as the argument seemed to be. – david brainerd Sep 6 '14 at 23:50
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Context

Luke 18:8 is at the end of a conversation that began back at Luke 17:20, where Jesus was asked by a pharisee when the kingdom of God would come. He didn't answer the question directly, but replied:

... The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, "See here!" or "See there!" For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.
-- Luke 17:20-21

Which is to say, it's pointless looking with your eyes to find the kingdom of God because it can't be seen, being spiritual in nature, à la John 17:15-21.

Jesus then continued the conversation with his disciples and instructed them in regard to "the day when the Son of Man is revealed" (Luke 17:30). In that day, no one will have to be told when and where to look since its arrival will be as obvious as the light that illuminates the entire sky when the lightning flashes.

What Jesus says in Luke 17:31-36 has been the basis of much speculation, however, there is no speculation about his instructions concerning what one should do on that unmistakable day: wherever you find yourself at home or at work, just remain where you are. Your worldly goods will no longer have any value, so don't give them a second thought. Matthew 24:14 adds that this day will also mark the end of the great commission because the last soul who would choose to respond to the Gospel message will have stepped through the gates of the city into the kingdom of God. At that moment the gates to the city will be closed.

The Greek

In the NT, there are four forms of the one Greek word that are rendered by the English word faith: πιστις, πιστιν, πιστει, πιστεως. Interestingly, none of them are found in the Gospel of John. Interesting also, is the fact that the forms πιστει and πιστεως don't appear in the NT prior to the book of Acts, which I gave a possible explanation for in my answer to the question "What is the difference between en/eis for Pauline “Faith in Christ” phrases?".

The remaining two forms πιστις, πιστιν mostly appear with an article and a pronoun, e.g. η πιστις σου = thy faith (the faith of you) and την πιστιν αυτων = their faith (the faith of them). There are two occurrences, though, where την πιστιν is not associated with a pronoun, giving the impression it is referring to "The Faith", i.e. the faith that matters. The first is Matthew 23:23, which says:

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Jesus says that this faith, "The Faith", is a weighty matter of the law.

The only other occasion when την πιστιν is used without an associated pronoun is the verse the OP has brought to our attention, Luke 18:8, which would indicate that the faith he will be looking for on "the day when the Son of Man is revealed", is the same weighty-matter-of-the-Law Faith that the pharisees of his time should have been exercising.

Now, given the parable that Jesus delivers in Luke 18:1-5, it would be reasonable to assume that the weighty-matter-of-Law faith he will be looking for is what has moved people to cry out TO GOD for justice, i.e. an end to the oppression and misery the rulers of this world, who at worst are the instigators of, or at the very best are impotent to stay. That cry for justice will be answered on that day, and there will no longer be any such faith found on the earth.

  • Thank you for your response! I am assuming that you are taking a 'pre-trib' view, where the church has been 'parousia' and those remaining are lacking faith.Can you imagine an instance where the Son of Man may not find the requisite 'faith' in the church? – Tau Jan 19 '16 at 6:05
  • @Tau One could argue "The Tribulation" is an extreme level of oppression and misery that exists prior to the "the day the Son of Man is revealed" and for which the faithful are pleading an end. Such a scenario would then have the 'parousia' post-trib, which is how I lean. Though, I wouldn't get my knickers in a knot if someone argued differently. I don't think anyone will be left behind, as such. I believe there are those who just won't want to go. The idea of spending eternity in the presence of God, with Jesus ruling according to heavenly governance is anathema to them. – enegue Jan 19 '16 at 11:08
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Heuresei, "will he find," is a future, active indicative therefore how do we know that it is a question being asked as all punctuation wasn't in the original Greek and it could just as easily be translated as "he will find" as it is in Luke 12:43

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