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Paul has several different phrases which all translate "Faith in Christ". This question pertains to the difference in meaning for faith in Christ where the English word "in" has a direct Greek word, either "en" or "eis". Is there a difference in the meaning when these greek words are used, or are they basically interchangeable?

For "en" it seems to indicate located or resting in, which means an active connection to Christ which allows, causes, or provides the faith. If that is correct, then what is the meaning of "eis" in the phrase?

Checking a couple versions, I can't find any that change "in" to "into" or "on" for either "en" or "eis".

Note: I am specifically excluding phrases for "pistis Christos" in this question, which do not contain the en/eis greek word as a connector, and can be translated either faith in Christ or faith/faithfulness of Christ.

Usage of "en":

"en" (Strong's 1718)
Word Origin: a primary preposition denoting (fixed) position (in place, time or state), and (by implication) instrumentality (medially or constructively), i.e. a relation of rest (intermediate between (1519) and (1537))
Definition 1. in, by, with etc

2 Tim 3:15 [NET] and how from infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in [en] Christ Jesus.

Col 1:4 [NET] since we heard about your faith in [en] Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the saints.

Usage of "eis":

"eis" (Strong's #1519)
Word Origin: A primary preposition
Definition: 1. into, unto, to, towards, for, among

Col 2:5 [NET] For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your morale and the firmness of your faith in [eis] Christ.


Edited to remove the Acts 24:24 example of eis and narrow focus to Paul's usage. Really interested in specifically understanding en/eis usage specific to the phrase "Faith in Christ" by Paul. There is some related treatment of "believe in him" in this question, but not a really clear answer of the en/eis difference even there.

  • FYI, the LSJ lexicon entries for "en" and "eis" respectively are available here: logeion.uchicago.edu/%E1%BC%90%CE%BD logeion.uchicago.edu/%CE%B5%E1%BC%B0%CF%82 – Ruminator Sep 27 '18 at 1:01
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    @Ruminator - thanks for that resource. Looking at the lexicon entries, Is this as simple as "en" typically having an immediate sense (it is "located in" the room right now, at this moment), and "eis" having a more directional or continuous sense (I "am going into" the room), in other words, it denotes a change of state or action toward/into something, rather than a state that already exists? For example, in Gal 2:16 "we believed in Christ" denotes moving from a state of not believing, to one of believing? – LightCC Oct 25 '18 at 5:19
  • Being "in" Christ is a major Pauline theme. The believer doesn't just believe facts about Christ but becomes joined to him and become members of his body. So "believe eis Christ" is to believe that he died for your sins and thus become a part of his body. Faith en Christ is static trusting and being in him. I think you have the right idea. – Ruminator Oct 25 '18 at 5:25
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G1722 en is a preposition of rest within a domain or sphere, including the idea of being in union with it. As K Wuest would sometimes render it, "in the realm of" or "in the sphere of", etc. So if it s "en Christō", then I often like to translate these Pauline phrases like this: "within and in union with the Anointed Ruler Who governs by giving Himself like lamp oil to burns to create light". We are in vital union with Christ, where His life is unto us as oil, even of the same "phreneo" / regulation like in Php 2:4-11, where we give ourselves away too. That is what I think Paul means when he only wants to know Christ and Him crucified to the Corinthians. Bottom line: "en" is a preposition of relational union, which is also the basic reality of the dative case.

G1519 eis is a preposition of motion that penetrates into something. With "eis", an implied verb or adverb is helpful in English due to the implied motion. Examples might be (focused) into, (directed) into, (going into). So with Col 2:5, here is my on the fly translation:

"If, I am indeed sent-away-and-absent by, with, in the flesh, yet-rather-on-this-other I exist jointly-with you-folks by, with, in the spirit, I am continually delighting in grace and looking-and-observing your orderly-arrangement (like a well-oiled machine) and (the) effect-of-(your)-rock-solid belonging to your life-alignment-and-congruent-heart (directed) into-the-midst-of (The) Anointed-One-(Who gives Himself like oil gives itself to burn up so that others may have light)."

Existing in the Spirit effectively means unshakable-ness. Faith is living, thus it is active, like a branch staying focused into the trunk-vine. That is why I prefer "life-alignment or heart congruency or sharing God's view. Bottom line: it is an "into the midst of" reality.

I think all those translation that stick with "faith in Christ" can easily be construed to mean something different in English than what Paul meant. We need to maintain a heart focused on and into Christ The Living One - like Heb 12:1-2. We set our heart above where Christ is seated, because we have been raised with Him (Col 3:1). The point in Col 3 is that, we live on earth, but we are really dead and Christ is our life (Col 3:3-4). So that is the focus we lean into. Thus, we put away the old (Col 3:5).

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Paul seems to like the “into Christ” usage more than any other writer. He also was the only writer to proclaim “my gospel” also. More intimacy is shown by him through his being in Christ example as to just a knowledge of Christ. Vital truth of a valid claim to union with Christ! Well done!

  • Hi Dan - welcome to the site. Unfortunately, I downvoted, as I do not see how this answers the question posed. It does not attempt to explain the difference between "en" and "eis" in the phrase "Faith in (en/eis) Christ" in Paul's writings. – LightCC Oct 25 '18 at 4:14
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Looking at the Greek

Colossians 1:4

ἀκούσαντες | τὴν | πίστιν | ὑμῶν | ἐν | χριστῷ | Ἰησοῦ
upon hearing | of the | faith | of you | in | Christ | Jesus

Which gives:

upon hearing of your faith in Jesus Christ

Colossians 2:5

τὸ | στερέωμα | τῆς | εἰς | χριστὸν | πίστεως | ὑμῶν
the | strength | of | into | Christ | faith | your

Which gives:

the strength of your faith into-Christ

OR

the strength of your into-Christ faith

There are no instances of πίστεως (pisteos) in the Gospels. The first time we see it used is in reference to Steven in Acts 6:5, which leads me to believe that πίστεως (pisteos) is faith that comes by the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is confirmed by what Paul says in:

2 Corinthians 1:21

Ὁ | δὲ | βεβαιῶν | ἡμᾶς | σὺν | ὑμῖν
The | now | is making steadfast | us | together with | you(s)
εἰς | χριστόν | καὶ | χρίσας | ἡμᾶς | θεός
into | Christ | and | annointing | us | God

Which gives:

Now, he who makes us steadfast with you into-Christ and annoints us, is God.

Addendum

en: τὴν πίστιν ὑμῶν ἐν χριστῷ (the faith of you in Christ). "en" is used where the "faith" spoken of is more like "belief". It can be a strong belief, as any instance from the Gospels might show. For example:

Matthew 8:10

When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith (πίστιν - pistin), not even in Israel!"

However,

eis: τῆς εἰς χριστὸν πίστεως (faith into Christ) is structurally different. In grammatical terms we have τῆς (genitive article) εἰς (prep) χριστὸν (noun) πίστεως (genitive noun).

In English when two nouns are used together, the first acts as an adjective for the second. For example, Mathematics Teacher - "Oh! So, you're a teacher? What kind of teacher?" The noun, Mathematics, is used to modify the noun, Teacher.

Now, the preposition εἰς (eis) is adding a degree of intimacy, here - τῆς εἰς χριστὸν πίστεως ὑμῶν (your faith into-Christ/your into-Christ faith). In Galatians 2:16 we have:

knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

It's not "even we have believed in (en) Christ" but "even we have believed into (eis) Christ". It's that sense of intimacy again that communicates the "faith" Paul is speaking of is something more than just "belief".

Reiterating from above: the use of πίστεως doesn't appear in the Gospels. It first appeared in Acts 6:5, this was after the Holy Spirit was given. It is describing a faith that is not possible for a person who has not been born again. So what was spoken of as simply "faith in (en) Christ" before Pentecost, became "faith into (eis) Christ" after.

For those who don't believe in such things as "being born again", you have to take the view that the authors of the text did, which has significant implications for any interpretation you might make. To understand what has been written, you have to dismiss any feeling that the subject matter might appear to you as nonsense.

Conclusion

Paul's use of "faith in (en) Christ", which had the pre-Pentecost sense of "belief" in Christ, as strong as that may have been, is distinct from his use of "faith into (ein) Christ" (or even "into-Christ faith"), which is a new construction that evokes a sense of intimacy (bond) with Christ that the earlier form couldn't express.

  • I haven't voted yet, but I think you didn't really answer the question, though I like the research (I'm pretty much a layman on the greek). Specifically, in Col 1:4 you just reverted the English back to "faith in Christ", which is extremely muddy, and then didn't explain how that really differs from eis in Col 2:5, which you give as "into-Christ faith". What is the difference? That is the original question. On the last section, how does the extra passage enlighten the Col 2:5 "eis" usage? It's difficult to follow your reasoning and conclusion(s). – LightCC Nov 21 '15 at 9:28
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    I thought it was obvious from the construction. I will add to the answer to make it more so. – enegue Nov 21 '15 at 9:40
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    I DVed because pisteos and pistin are inflections of the same lexeme; this answer rests on the idea that the former has a different lexical meaning. That the syntax of the genitive case is limited to Acts + Epistles is actually a fascinating bit of information that, IMO, deserves further analysis in terms of the prepositions and nominal constructions that govern pistis, but that is neither the topic of this question (which is rather about the prepositions governing the object of pistis) nor part of this answer. – Susan Nov 21 '15 at 11:43
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    I don't follow the relevance, but "Mathematics Teacher" is not an adjective construction but a noun adjunct. – Susan Nov 21 '15 at 11:43
  • @Susan I will bow to your superior knowledge on such things, but you are just picking nits. Whatever the structure is called, its function is clearly as I've described it. – enegue Nov 21 '15 at 11:56

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