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The Greek text of Luke 17:5 according to the Textus Receptus states,

Εʹ Καὶ εἶπον οἱ ἀπόστολοι τῷ κυρίῳ πρόσθες ἡμῖν πίστιν TR, 1550

  1. What is the meaning of the phrase «πρόσθες ἡμῖν πίστιν»?
  2. Does the phrase it imply that our faith (πίστις) is given to us by God?
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Most translations seem to take the phrase προσθες ημιν πιστιν in the sense of "increase our faith", but the Greek literally says something like "add to us faith" - the pronoun ημιν reflects a dative and not a possessive case.

The more literal Orthodox New Testament translates the phrase "Add faith to us". This particular phrase does not imply, however, that the Apostles were completely devoid of faith to begin with. "They do not ask faith simply, lest thou shouldst imagine them to be without faith," writes Cyril of Alexandria; "but they rather ask of Christ an addition to their faith, and be strengthened therein" (Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Luke, Sermons CXIII-CXVI). In his commentary, Cyril explains that faith arises both from God and within ourselves:

For faith partly depends upon ourselves, and partly is the gift of the divine grace: for the commencement of it depends upon ourselves, and to maintain confidence and faith in God with all our power; but the confirmation and strength necessary for this comes from the divine grace: for which reason, because all things are possible with God, the Lord says, that all things are possible unto him that believeth [Mark 9:23].

The patristic understanding of this verse is further summarized by Theophylact:

The apostles had faith in the Lord. But they became aware of their weakness, and when they heard the Lord speaking to them about great matters and about the danger they would encounter from the offenses and obstacles to come, they asked Him to increase the strength of their faith so that they could accomplish the virtue of which He had spoken ...

So that the apostles might have the means with which to withstand offenses, they approach the Lord and say, Increase our faith [KJV], meaning, "Make us more complete and sure in our faith." The Lord shows them that they have asked well and that they ought to have this sure belief that faith is able to do great things, and He says to them, "If ye had faith, ye might transplant this sycamine."

Explanation of the Gospel of Luke (tr. Chrysostom Press, 2007), p.222

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I would translate Luke 17:5 this way:

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Πρόσθες is best given as "increase" because it communicates the idea of enhancing what already exists.

Paul tells us:

  • that righteousness comes to all διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (by the faith of Jesus Christ) - Romans 3:22

  • that we are justified ἐκ πίστεως Χριστοῦ (by the faith of Christ) Galatians 2:16

  • ἐν πίστει ζῶ τῇ τοῦ Υἱοῦ τοῦ Θεοῦ (I live by faith, that of the Son of God) (Galatians 2:20)

  • we have boldness and access διὰ τῆς πίστεως αὐτοῦ (by the faith of him) - Ephesians 3:11,12

  • he was found in Jesus not having his own righteousness, but that which is διὰ πίστεως Χριστοῦ (by the faith of Christ) - Philippians 3:9

It is abundantly clear to Paul that the faith of Jesus is the wellspring from which all believers must drink, which is only what Jesus, himself, said in his dialogue with the woman at the well:

But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
-- John 4:14 (KJV)

Conclusion

  1. πρόσθες ἡμῖν πίστιν means "increase faith for us"

  2. The faith necessary for apprehension of everlasting life comes from God, by/through Jesus Christ. Without the faith of Jesus, a person remains without Life.

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