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This answer on C.SE referenced Eph 2:8-9 to support the idea that faith comes from God.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

I'm trying to parse out what specifically the "it" refers to in the phrase "it is the gift of God".

Keeping the grammar especially strict, "it" could properly refer to either grace or faith. Allowing Paul a bit more freedom, though, "you have been saved" could fit as well, with "it" meaning the salvation-event, or salvation-act. So to parse it out in each of these ways, we could have any of the following. I apologize for the repetition; I find it helpful personally to see each option replacing "it" in the context of the full verse.

  • "For by grace you have been saved through faith... it is the gift of God", that is, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And it is not your own doing; [that grace] is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast".
  • "For by grace you have been saved through faith... it is the gift of God" or "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And it is not your own doing; [faith] is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."
  • "...you have been saved... it is the gift of God" or "you have been saved... [salvation] is the gift of God"

Honestly, looking at all three laid out, they all are pretty reasonable. I don't see anything in any of those statements that would contradict other scripture.

I am least convinced by the first. It seems too much a matter of course, almost tautological, to be what Paul would have in mind here. This would make this whole statement focused on grace: "By grace you are saved... grace is a gift... grace is not a result of works."

In the third case, Paul would be pitting salvation based on works against salvation by grace. This rendering seems to yield the most cohesive argument.

The second case seems to be making more of a point in the second statement, where the others use the second statement as a clarification of the first. This would have Paul saying that we are saved by faith, but even that faith itself is a gift. It strikes me as an especially Pauline approach.

So, those are the options I see--what is described here as the gift of God?

2
  • "It" doesn't refer to either noun, but to the verb "saved." That ridiculously obvious. When referring to a whole process, nobody ever picks out one noun and says "it," but "it" refers to the whole process. Anyone trying to make "it" either grace or faith, is doing it totally from doctrinal bias. Jun 9, 2014 at 2:42
  • 1
    @davidbrainerd You are correct that "this" refers to neither "grace" nor "faith", which are both femenine. However, there is no verb "saved". "You have been saved" is a participle (not a verb) that acts as both a noun and a verb. It is masculine. "This" is neuter, as is "gift". "Not of yourselves" seems to be parenthetical. If you remove that, the last phrase is "this is the gift of God". Both "this" and "gift" are neuter, and thus agree as they should. So, "this" refers to "gift".
    – Narnian
    Mar 20, 2017 at 13:00

13 Answers 13

16
+50

Examining the Text

The Greek text gives a fairly clear clue as to what is being referred to (its just one's theology that tends to get in the way of seeing it). There is a textual variant here, but it is not relevant to the discussion. The variant is found in the majority text and will be noted here by asterisks, like so: *τῆς*. Since the article follows a preposition, the addition of the article is rather insignificant (as a word used with a preposition can be and often is deemed definite even without the article).1

Note I've use the old English "ye" to reflect the 2nd person plural nominative form, and "you" as the objective form of the plural (like the KJV, which modern English has lost distinction of with the "you" being both singular and plural).

8 τῇ γὰρ χάριτί   ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι    διὰ     *τῆς* πίστεως, καὶ τοῦτο  -  οὐκ ἐξ  ὑμῶν· 
  -  for by grace ye have been saved through *the* faith,   and this  [is] not of  you.  
θεοῦ    -   τὸ δῶρον· 9 οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων, ἵνα           μή  τις    καυχήσηται. 
Of God [is] the gift:   not of works, in order that not anyone may boast.

There are some verbless clauses here, represented by the inclusion of "[is]" in the above translation. It is the second of these verbless clauses that is translated "it is" in the ESV translation you give (neither the "it" nor the "is" are in the text). But verbless clauses are very common in Hebrew,2 and since Paul thinks in Hebrew, he (and the other NT writers) do such in Greek as well.3 English uses them too, and can reflect this here, a bit awkwardly, like so:

For by grace ye have been saved through faith, and this not of you—the gift of God! Not of works, that no one can boast.

Three Keys to Unlock the Answer

Three key things help determine what the gift from God is:

  1. χάριτί (grace) has a grammatical gender of feminine in Greek.
  2. πίστεως (faith) has a grammatical gender of feminine in Greek.
  3. τοῦτο (this) has a grammatical gender of neuter in Greek.

Greek syntax matches gender of pronouns to the antecedent it refers to.4 So if "this" referred to either grace or faith individually, it should be in the feminine gender—and there is no reason it would not have been had such been the intention. Such a form would be ambiguous, since it could refer to either grace or faith, but likely be referring to the nearest referent, and thus faith.

However, the neuter gender is used for the pronoun. This is the common gender used when a phrase or clause is the antecedent.5 So "this" refers to the whole previous clause, "By grace ye have been saved through faith."6

So this fact expressed by the clause, that only by grace through faith have any who are saved entered into that state of salvation, is a fact that is not something that comes about from oneself, not "of you." Rather, this is an "of God" thing, it is "the gift" of God that such is the way of salvation, by grace through faith.

So the "it" your question refers to is the English added subject of the verbless clause in Greek, which subject is pointing back to the "this" preceding it. Which "this" refers to the entire clause preceding it.

And it is the gift of God in order that it is "not of works" (because none would achieve salvation then, for no sinful person can be as righteous as God, Rom 3:10), and it was so done in order that no person might boast of saving himself or herself through good works. Indeed, good works is what a person is obligated and designed to do anyway, and why God saves anyone at all, so that His will for such to be done is done (v.10).

Conclusion

Theological views make this passage ripe for eisegesis instead of exegesis. But the answer is that God gave a way of salvation that does not include works, as this way is by grace through faith. There are then two direct implications from that:

  1. Having faith is not a work (else the contrast would be meaningless).
  2. Whether faith is itself given by God or simply is the humble, passive acceptance of truth by man is simply not addressed in the passage—either could fit the language (neither can be boasted of, because either way, faith is not a work), so other evidence from Scripture needs to be advanced to resolve that well known theological debate.7

NOTES

1 Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 247.

2 Ronald J. Williams, Williams' Hebrew Syntax, 3rd ed. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007), 206-207.

3 Some examples in Wallace, 54-55, 269-270.

4 Wallace states, "The basic rule for the Greek pronoun is that it agrees with its antecedent in gender and number, but its case is determined by the pronoun’s function in its own clause. This concord principle, however, has many exceptions" (316). For some of those exceptions for demonstrative pronouns (325), such as used here, see 329-335—which do not match the characteristics of the passage here. The argument for shifting of neuter gender to try and refer to faith (feminine) is that "the τοῦτο has been attracted to the gender of δῶρον (dṓron) [which is neuter], the predicate nominative," which Wallace states is unlikely because "δῶρον is not the predicate nom. of τοῦτο, but of the implied 'it' in the following clause" (334).

5 Wallace states, "The neuter of οὗτος is routinely used to refer to a phrase or clause. In such cases, the thing referred to is not a specific noun or substantive" (333).

6 For discussion of this passage by Wallace, see 334-335. He states of this passage that the issue "cannot be solved by grammar alone" (as I have advocated here; mainly because there is a slight possibility of seeing it otherwise). He does conclude, however, that while possible, "it is doubtful [emphasis added] that either 'faith' or 'grace' is the antecedent of τοῦτο," and rather far more likely it refers to "the concept of a grace-by-faith salvation" (as I argue above) since "τοῦτο regularly takes a conceptual antecedent" (335). He does give a fourth adverbial view, where it could mean "and especially" (335). As a final footnote to his discussion, he gives this info (emphasis added):

An examination of all 22 instances of καὶ τοῦτο in the NT (not including Eph 2:8) yielded the following results: 14 or 15 had a conceptual referent (e.g., Luke 3:20; 5:6; John 11:28; 18:38; John 20:20; Acts 7:60; 1 Cor 7:37; Phil 1:9; Heb 6:3 [Phil 1:28 was probable]); four were adverbial (Rom 13:11; 1 Cor 6:6, 8; 3 John 5 [Heb 11:12 is listed by BAGD as adverbial, but the plural is used (καὶ ταῦτα), following more closely the Attic idiom]); three involved the same gender (Luke 2:12; 13:8; 1 John 4:3); no clear examples involved different genders (though Phil 1:28 was possible)

7 Wallace also concludes "Whether faith is seen as a gift here or anywhere else in the NT is not addressed by this [passage in Eph 2:8]."

14
  • 3
    +1, but "Having faith is not a work (else the contrast would be meaningless)." presumably only applies to this particular usage, right? cf John 6:29 Jun 16, 2015 at 9:04
  • 1
    @JackDouglas: I do not believe John 6:29 (in the context of John 6) indicates faith is a work done by people there, either (and so does not contradict the statement made here about Eph 2:8). But that is another question...
    – ScottS
    Jun 16, 2015 at 13:15
  • I was looking at this last night, and I noticed that the word "gift" is also neuter in form. If "not of yourselves" is seen as a parenthetical clause and removed, we are left with "this is the gift of God". Here we have agreement between "gift" and "this". You correctly point out that there is no "it" present. Perhaps the "not of yourselves" parenthetical obscures this. Yet, it seems to me that it is more likely to attach "this" as part of the second phrase rather than the entire previous phrase.
    – Narnian
    Mar 20, 2017 at 12:03
  • @Narnian: Your observation is correct, but the "this" that is being described as a "gift" must still reference back to something (else one does not know what is being referred to as a gift). That is where the controversy is, namely, what is being declared as the "gift."
    – ScottS
    Mar 20, 2017 at 14:39
  • 2
    @Autodidact My point is that one verse stating "the gift of God is eternal life" does not nullify the possibility faith is also a gift of God (which is how some [erroneously, I argue] read Eph 2:8), since other things are also stated as gifts. Nothing states faith (if a gift) "would precede hearing the gospel," and most of those that argue it is a gift say it comes at the time of hearing. Some do argue for unconditional election, that people are elect prior to salvation and receive salvation (and faith) because they are elect (their choice follows God's choice); but I would disagree.
    – ScottS
    Aug 8, 2019 at 21:08
3

I take your third option as the best because we are saved, or justified “by grace through faith,” which is how we receive Jesus Christ and his obedience on our behalf. In case we do not get it, the opposing competitor for such salvation is stressed so that it is absolutely clear.

Works is not a competitor to grace, or faith, but to justification and salvation. Salvation is “not of works, lest any man should boast.” Salvation is not of works, yes this is the gospel. The gospel does not try to argue that grace or faith is not of works, but always argues that salvation is not of works. Faith produces works, so it would be confusing to say that faith is not of works without further explanation.

The ‘works’ that the Apostle is ‘excluding from our salvation’ are works from Christians. That is why he naturally transitions after this to the idea that we are his workmanship. This is to say that salvation is free and the works it produces in us have nothing to do with our salvation (justification) but are his work for his own pleasure.

The apostles basic method is always to separate works from salvation not always to create the doctrine of irresistible grace, though that doctrine can be argued in various ways from other places. I think this is the most face-value interpretation of the words and delving into the Greek does not help, as the questions pertains to ‘this’ – ‘this grace’, ‘this faith’, or ‘this salvation’ as you have succinctly shown in the question.

Once again you have forced me to make up my mind about a particular that I had not decided before – thanks again for the great question.


Here is some additional analysis (the longer version) as requested by a user:

Looking at the Greek one can easily see that all the common English translations are fine without any controversy leading to one answer or another:

For [γὰρ] by grace [χάριτί] you are [ἐστε] saved [σεσωσμένοι] through [διὰ] faith [πίστεως] and [καὶ] this [τοῦτο] not [οὐκ] of [ἐξ] yourselves [ὑμῶν] God's [θεοῦ] - [τὸ] gift [δῶρον] not [οὐκ] of [ἐξ] works [ἔργων] that [ἵνα] not [μή] anyone [τις] might boast [καυχήσηται].

Either grace χάριτί is the gift, or our being saved σεσωσμένοι is the gift, or our faith πίστεως is the gift – that is ‘not of works that no anyone might boast’. Therefore that the Greek can’t help as the common English translations are already accurate without controversy and do not indicate which word is 'the gift'.

Therefore we turn to the internal logic of scripture that transcends human language.

This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (NIV 1 Corinthians 2:13-14)

Obviously grace, faith and salvation are the kinds of words Paul refers to as ‘spiritual words’. We must therefore look for the maning of these words in humility and with faith and with the study of the Bible's overall arguments, especially those of the Apostle Paul.

The only question to answer then is 'Why using an understanding from Paul’s arguments, would one choose ‘salvation’ as the gift rather than ‘faith’ or ‘grace’?' Certainly all three can be seen as gifts, but not all three are constantly set up by the Apostle as being opposed to God in terms of how we are saved and in terms of how it derives a foolish kind of boasting. Paul always argues that 'salvation' or 'justification' is not of works, he does not say 'grace is not of works under the law', or 'faith is not of works under the law'.

'Works' is something in the New Testament as causing (primarily the Jews) a reason to ‘boast’ based on ‘works of the Law’. (Romans 2:17). The purpose of those works is to become ‘justified before God’ giving a man a reason ‘to boast’. (Romans 4:2). Now justification is nothing more than our salvation, so the question is, 'Are we justified/saved by 'works' or by 'faith' in Jesus Christ? Well typically Paul say’s:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. (NIV Romans 5:1-2)

So we see the idea; salvation is either a result of faith (giving us access to grace which justifies us) or by works under the law (from which we can boast). With faith our boast changes into the glory of God, and not of ourselves.

What then is 'not of our own doing'? Clearly it is our 'justification', because by works of the law the Jews tried to justify themselves and boast. Paul does not say that the Jews by works of the law sought to obtain faith. Paul does not say that the Jews by the works of the law sought to obtain grace. The Jews did not boast in grace, or faith to obtain justification but works. Clearly justification which is 'being saved' is either obtainable by 'works' or is given as a 'gift'. This the Apostle constantly puts as competing principles, either one or the other must stand or fall. The Jews were not trying to obtain grace, or faith by works. Therefore the 'gift' that is opposed to works is 'justification/salvation' and not faith or grace.

In this way we could read the original text like this:

For by grace you have been justified through faith. And this justification is not your own doing under the law; it is the gift of God by grace, not a result of works under the law, so that no one may boast in themselves. (My Paraphrase)

3
  • It occurred to me after writing the question that "grace" and "gift" are likely the same word in Greek--χάρις. But, I just looked it up, and it's not. The far less-common word for "gift" used here is δῶρον, with χάριτί for "grace". I'm not well-enough informed to form a solid argument about what that implies, but I do think it lends support to rejects the first option ("it"=="grace")
    – Ray
    Jul 31, 2012 at 12:01
  • 3
    This is a good theological answer to the question but would you be willing to revise this answer to include a bit more analysis of the text to support its theological suppositions and assertions?
    – swasheck
    Aug 10, 2012 at 17:31
  • @swasheck - Sure, I added a longer version to more fully explain the deeper reasoning that I originally summarized. Cheers.
    – Mike
    Aug 11, 2012 at 3:13
2
τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσωσμένοι διὰ τῆς πίστεως· καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν Θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον.

There is no "it" in the original greek text. The English translators had to put the word "it" as an idiomatic pronoun to make the sentence in English "complete".

Idiomatic use of pronoun "it" is very common in English. For example,

It is not in my intention to offend you.

What is the pronoun "it" in the above sentence?

The greek text is very straight-forward (afai understand and with the little bit of greek that I still recall),

{
  the
    {
       {because-of benevolence y'all-are those-saved-thro-the-believing}
       and
       {this is-not out-of y'all}
    }
  god
}
the-gift

Let me attempt to analyse the synthesis here (which may involve quite a bit of fraud on my part)

Θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον = {god} {the-gift}

{god} is acting as a descriptor on the subject {the-gift}. Like "green house". Therefore, {the gift} of {god}.

However, the phrase does not say

{Θεοῦ} {τὸ δῶρον}.

It says

{complex descriptor of which {god} is a component} {the gift}.

Meaning

{the gift} due-to/associated-with {complex descriptor of which {god} is a component}

Further dissection of the descriptor phrase,

{the gift}
exists due-to

{ 
  yet a complex descriptor
}
god

Further,

{the gift}
exists due-to

{ the
    {because-of benevolence y'all-are those-saved-thro-the-believing}
    and
    {this is-not out-of y'all}
}
god

Alternatively,

the  {
   { because-of benevolence y'all-are those-saved-thro-the-believing}
   and
   {this is-not out-of y'all}
}

{{the gift-of} god}

That is,

the {
  {the gift-of} god}
  due to 
  {
    { because-of benevolence you become {those-saved-thro-the-believing}
    and
    {not due to your own accord}
  }

}

Could a koine greek expert care to comment or correct me?

Paleontological Exegesis

Anyway, the word gift is δῶρον, from which I believe we derive the English word dowry. So I searched Wikipedia for "dowry". It turns out that dowry as a price for the bride is indeed practiced by ancient greeks.

So, here Christians should take a very focused note on the significance of dowry. That Paul is giving the allegory of bride-price for salvation. He meant to say that

Salvation by believing is not due to your innate attributes
but is dowry paid as a proposal to you in marriage.

This verse is a continuation of the previous verse. Possibly,

(7)You will be shown exceeding ... benevolence blah blah ... 
(8)which is the dowry of the god of (your being saved
thro your believing and not due to your own accord).

I am not a Christian and do not believe in the whole Christian salvation thing but as an outsider I believe this is what the language means. My advice is avoid concocting a whole thesis out of a non-existent pronoun.

So the actual argument should focus on whether the dowry/proposal to marriage is

  • being shown exceeding ... kindness
  • or the benevolence of being saved by believing
3
  • 1
    I'd comment, but by the time I get to the bottom of your post I forget what I'm going to say. A technicality is that you're reading cause into the dative τῇ ... χάριτί. This is normally understood as a dative of means ("by"). ἐστε is present, active, indicative, 2nd plural which is simply "you are" but when combined with the perfect participle it's "you are having come to be saved." The entire phrase is "For by grace you (pl) are having come to be saved."
    – swasheck
    Aug 10, 2012 at 17:07
  • 1
    "It", as you rightly pointed out, is an addition as an English convention to smooth the reading. I feel that it makes perfect since without "it" though. I am going to +1 you for this analysis, but would slightly disagree that "it" would refer to "the gift." Instead, I would tend to see the English "it" as implicitly introducing a content clause ("that you are having come to be saved") which is the referent object for the subsequent τοῦτο in the next phrase.
    – swasheck
    Aug 10, 2012 at 17:32
  • 1
    This was an excellent answer until the anachronistic etymological section under "Paleontological Exegesis", which appears to read the English meaning of the word back into the Greek then justify it because they had the practice that came to be referenced by the English word.
    – Dan
    May 30, 2014 at 19:14
2

Τῇ γὰρ χάριτι ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ πίστεως· καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν, θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον·

Ephesians 2:8 For by Grace you are saved through faith and this is not of yourselves,God's Gift. (This is what the Greek texts says)

It's explicit that the Gift is Faith because the demonstrative pronoun THIS( τοῦτο) refes to the immediate antecedent which is FAITH.

Also, it's contextually plausible that God's gift is referring to Faith because we are told in verse 9 that we are saved "not of works" and we know that Faith is a 'verb' in any English dictionary therefore Faith must be a gift from God so that we have no contribution of works in our salvation.

Salvation is "God's work"(John 6:29).It is a finished work(John 19:30) that whoever believes have(present tense) eternal life.(John 3:16)

Ephesians 2:8 For by Grace you are saved(past tense) through faith and this faith is not of yourselves,it's God's Gift.Not of works lest any man should boast.

2
  • 1
    (nitpicky) you should more clearly bring out the aspect of the perfect tense verb.
    – swasheck
    Sep 4, 2012 at 14:32
  • 1
    As mentioned in another answer, "faith" is a feminine noun, while "this" is a neuter noun. Grammatically, a pronoun has both the same gender and number as its antecedent. If I said I saw my brother and his wife and he just got a new job, you would know that it was my brother who got a new job, because "he" is masculine. As I noted in a comment on the other answer, the word "gift" is also neuter. Removing the parenthetical "not of yourselves" gives us the phrase, "this is the gift of God". "This" and "gift" are both neuter, so "gift" is the antecedent. Faith cannot be the antecedent.
    – Narnian
    Mar 20, 2017 at 12:07
1

Lets see what happens when we let the bible define itself.

Listed below are the results of an e-Sword program search of all instances where the words "grace" and "gift" occur in the same verse.

Rom_5:15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

Rom_5:17 For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)

Eph_2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Eph_3:7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.

Eph_4:7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

1Pe_4:10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

***The words "faith" and "gift" occur together in each of the following verses :

1Co_13:2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

Eph_2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

2
  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange, thanks for contributing! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites.
    – Steve Taylor
    May 27, 2016 at 12:58
  • This is a good start to an answer, but without some form of conclusion or summary, it's not very clear what it's trying to communicate. Yes we get to see 'grace' used in a variety of contexts, but personally I don't find this helps my natural tendency to read my existing understanding of the word into the text.
    – Steve Taylor
    May 27, 2016 at 12:59
1

Good question; good answers, especially those that were based on the grammar and Greek details; doctrine has its place, but it needs to be supported by what the Greek words actually say. However, even some of the good technical answers, sort of left me wondering what their conclusion was ...about the "it" ... because of all the doctrinal tangents?

There is no "it" of course, we're talking about the demonstrative pronoun "τοῦτο" ...this [thing] {3778 D-NSN}...and seeing as how this is neuter, the only other "thing" I I can reasonable associate it with is the neuter "τὸ δῶρον" ...the [thing] {3588 T-NSN} a~giving {1435 N-NSN}...

However, I did like the above good argument that "this thing" was also referencing back to to the longer phrase (taken as a whole) ... "with~the grace you be having had been saved through the trust"

The thought makes sense, in general, but I still suspect that our demonstrative pronoun was very specifically aimed at the noun ..."a~giving"

"2:8* For, with~the grace you be having had been saved through the trust, and this [thing] not out of~you, [but] the giving of~God;"

I've previously added the conjunction "[but]" ... and now, after hearing some of your technical replies, that I might even be justified in adding the ellipsis .."[out]" ...

"not out of~you, [but] the giving [out] of~God;"

What do you think, is that being too editorally creative?

unto~the [one] {3588 T-DSF} for {1063 CONJ} unto~a~grace {5485 N-DSF} you be {1510 V-PAI-2P} having had been saved {4982 V-RPP-NPM} through {1223 PREP} of~the [one] {3588 T-GSF} of~a~trust {4102 N-GSF} and {2532 CONJ} this [thing] {3778 D-NSN} not {3756 PRT-N} out {1537 PREP} of~you {1473 P-2GP} of~God {2316 N-GSM} the [thing] {3588 T-NSN} a~giving {1435 N-NSN}

τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ τῆς πίστεως, καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν· θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον·

tE gar chariti este sesOsmenoi dia tEs pisteOs kai touto ouk ex humOn theou to dOron

2:8* For, with~the grace you be having had been saved through the trust, and this not out of~you, [but] the giving of~God;

0
1

τοῦτο

A) Four possibilities.

a) τοῦτο refers to salvation by grace, but does not include faith.1 I am not aware of any of the Fathers who took this position (I am speaking of direct commentary upon the verses in question and not of potential inferences).

b) τοῦτο refers to salvation by grace, including faith.2 This is the position taken by Marius Victorinus (fl. 4th century).3

c) τοῦτο refers to grace (χάριτί).4 This is the position taken by John of Damascus (d. 749).5

d) τοῦτο refers to faith (πίστεως).6 This is the position taken by most of the Fathers: i.e., John Chrysostom (d. 407), Jerome (d. 420), Augustine (d. 430), Prosper of Aquitaine (d. 455), Theodoret (d. 458/66), Fulgentius (d. 527/33), Œcumenius (fl. 990), Theophylact (d. 1107), Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274), etc.7

B) Argumentation.

i) The primary argument against a and b, in favor of c and d.

(1) The common objection that c and d are untenable upon purely grammatical grounds, i.e. the disjunction between the gender of the demonstrative pronoun (τοῦτο, neuter) and it’s antecedent (πίστεως or χάριτί, feminine), is fallacious. (For documentation see Appendix A). F. F. Bruce:

…the pronoun is neuter, and does not necessarily refer to faith. Even so, it may refer generally to faith: “the difference of gender is not fatal to such a view” (J. A. Robinson).8

The aforementioned statement is affirmed by most modern commentators who ultimately reject c and d for other reasons (i.e., Baugh, Lincoln, Salmond, Meyer, Alford, Best, Talbert, MacDonald, etc.).9

(2) Constructio ad sensum. Matt Olliffe:

…The fact that ‘faith’ is only ‘feminine’ grammatically, but as a feminine abstract noun, it is quite acceptable to refer to it with the neuter demonstrative...10

See also the testimony of: Clark, Jelf, Kühner, Gildersleeve, Baugh, etc.11 (For examples see Appendix B).

(3) Context (favors d). Matt Olliffe:

the progression of the discourse, which suggests that the new element introduced is διὰ πίστεως, both χάρις and σεσῳσμένοι having explicitly be mentioned and explained in vv. 4-7, and it is then πίστις which is now being described.12

(4) Tautology (favors d). William Hendriksen:

…If Paul meant to say, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this being saved is not of yourselves,” he would have been guilty of needless repetition — for what else is grace but that which proceeds from God and not from ourselves? — a repetition rendered even more prolix when he now (supposedly) adds, “it, that is, salvation, is the gift of God,” followed by a fourth and fifth repetition, namely, “not of works, for we are his handiwork.” No wonder that Dr. A. Kuyper states, “If the text read, ‘For by grace you have been saved, not of yourselves, it is the work of God,’ it would make some sense. But first to say, ‘By grace you have been saved,’ and then, as if it were something new, to add, ‘and this having been saved is not of yourselves,’ this does not run smoothly but jerks and jolts.”13

(5) The testimony of the Fathers (favors d). Abraham Kuyper:

Nearly all the church fathers and almost all the theologians eminent for Greek scholarship judged that the words “it is the gift of God” refer to faith. 1. This was the exegesis, according to the ancient tradition… 2. Of those that spoke the Greek language and were familiar with the peculiar Greek construction. 3. Of the Latin church fathers, who maintained close contact with the Greek world. 4. Of such scholars as Erasmus, Grotius, and others, who as philologists were without peers; and in them all the more remarkable, since personally they favored the exposition that faith is the work of man.14

For documentation see Appendix C.

ii) The primary argument against c and d, in favor of a and b.

(1) Grammar.

1.a. A weaker argument. Daniel Wallace:

The first and second options suffer from the fact that τοῦτο is neuter while χάριτί and πίστεως are feminine. …While it is true that on rare occasions there is a gender shift between antecedent and pronoun, the pronoun is almost always caught between two nouns of different gender. One is the antecedent; the other is the predicate nom. In Acts 8:10, for example (οὗτός ἐστιν ἡ δύναμις τοῦ θεοῦ), the pronoun is masculine because its antecedent is masculine, even though the predicate nom. is feminine. In Matt 13:38 inverse attraction takes place (the pronominal subject is attracted to the gender of the predicate nom.): τὸ δὲ καλὸν σπέρμα οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ υἱοὶ τῆς βασιλείας (“the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom”). The construction in Eph 2:8, however, is not parallel because δῶρον is not the predicate nom. of τοῦτο, but of the implied “it” in the following clause. On a grammatical level, then, it is doubtful that either “faith” or “grace” is the antecedent of τοῦτο.15

1.b. A stronger argument. S. M. Baugh (who sees this as evidence for b):

In Greek, events as a whole are treated as neuter singular things with neuter articles (e.g., το πιστευειν, “believing”), neuter relative pronouns (e.g., Eph. 5:5), or neuter demonstrative pronouns as in v. 8b (also, for example: 6:1; 1 Cor 6:6, 8; Phil 1:22, 28; Col 3:20; 1 Thess 5:18 and 1 Tim 2:1–3). Hence the antecedent of τοῦτο [“this”] is the whole event; “being saved by grace through faith.” One implication of this proper understanding of τοῦτο (“this”) is that all the components of the event are also referenced as originating not from human capacity or exertion but as God’s gift. This means that even the believer’s act of believing comes from God, as is said more explicitly by Paul elsewhere: “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him (τὸ εἰς αὐτὸν πιστεύειν) but also suffer for his sake” (Phil 1:29).16

(2) Tautology. Abraham Kuruvilla:

…notice that οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων (ouk ex ergōn, “not of works”) in 2:9 is parallel to οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν (ouk ex hymōn, “not of yourselves”) in 2:8. If the latter qualifies τοῦτο, then so does the former, by parallelism. In that case, if τοῦτο referred to faith in 2:8, to say in 2:9 that "faith is not of works” is tautological. It would make better sense to say that salvation—the whole package—is “not of works,” making “this” in 2:8 also refer to salvation (Thielman, Ephesians, 143n2). It might well be that Paul could also have been thinking of the neuter τὸ σωτήριον (to sōtērion, “salvation” as used in 6:17). Hoehner observes that τοῦτο frequently points backwards, not forwards in this letter: 1:15 referring to 1:3-14; 3:1 referring to 2:11-22; and 3:14 referring to 3:1-13. So, “[r]ather than any particular word it is best to conclude that τοῦτο refers back to the preceding section,” 2:4-8a, and especially 2:8a, salvation-by-grace-through-faith (Ephesians, 343).17

(3) The consensus of modern commentators. Clinton E. Arnold:

This is the view of nearly all contemporary commentators.18

Appendix A:

Matt Olliffe:

evidence from Classical Greek, the LXX, and the NT, which suggests that τοῦτο can and indeed does refer back to neuter antecedents, or otherwise showing that antecedent and demonstrative need not agree.19

i) In the New Testament.

Philippians 1:28: …σωτηρίας[fem.] ...τοῦτο[neu.]...20

Other examples from the New Testament might be cited,21 however they have little bearing upon the question at hand.22

ii) In the Septuagint.

Genesis 2:22-23: …γυναῖκα[fem.] ...αὐτὴν[fem.] ...τοῦτο[neu.] ...αὕτη[fem.] ...γυνή[fem.]...23

Genesis 14:17: …τὴν κοιλάδα τὴν Σαυη[fem.] ...τοῦτο[neu.]...24

Isaiah 6:6-7: …ἄνθρακα[mas.] ...ὃν[mas.] ...τοῦτο[neu.]...25

Ezekiel 16:49: …τοῦτο[neu.] ...ὑπερηφανία[fem.]...26

iii) In contemporaneous extra-Biblical Greek literature.27

Herodotus, The Histories, 3.82: …μουνάρχου[mas.] ...τοῦτο[neu.]...28

Herodotus, The Histories, 4.23: …καρπὸν[mas.] ...τοῦτο[neu.]...29

Plato, Protagoras, 352B: …ἐπιστήμην[fem.] ...τοῦτό[neu.]…30

Plato, Protagoras, 357C: …ἐπιστήμης[fem.] ...τοῦτο[neu.]...31

Plato, Republic, 9.583E: …τὴν ἡσυχίαν[fem.], τοῦτό[neu.]...32

Plato, Theaetetus, 145D-E: …σοφίᾳ[fem.] ...τοῦτο[neu.] ...ἡ σοφία[fem.]...33

Xenophon, Hiero, 9.9: …ἐμπορία[fem.] ...τοῦτο[neu.]...34

Demosthenes, Against Aphobus, 3.29.11: ...μαρτυρίας[fem.] ...τούτου[neu.]...35

Demosthenes, Second Olynthiac, 15: …δόξης[fem.] ...τοῦτ᾽[neu.]...36

Demosthenes, Against Leptines, 140: …ὁ φθόνος[mas.] ...ὁ τοῦτο[neu.]...37

Appendix B:

Constructio ad sensum.

1 Corinthians 12:15: …ὁ πούς[mas.] …τοῦτο[neu.]...38

Deuteronomy 14:7-8: …ταῦτα[neu.] ...τὸν κάμηλον καὶ δασύποδα καὶ χοιρογρύλλιον[mas.] ...ταῦτα[neu.] ...τὸν ὗν[mas.] ...τοῦτο[neu.] ...τοῦτο[neu.] ...τοῦτο[neu.]...39

Leviticus 11:4-7: …τὸν κάμηλον[mas.] ...τοῦτο[neu.] ...τοῦτο[neu.] ...τὸν δασύποδα[mas.] ...τοῦτο[neu.] ...τοῦτο[neu.] ...τὸν χοιρογρύλλιον[mas.] ...τοῦτο[neu.] ...τοῦτο[neu.] ...τὸν ὗν[mas.] ...τοῦτο[neu.] ...τοῦτο[neu.] ...τοῦτο[neu.]...40

Appendix C:

The testimony of the Fathers.

i) The antecedent of the demonstrative is faith (πίστεως, feminine).

John Chrysostom (d. 407):

…“by grace ye have been saved,” saith he, “Through faith;” Then, that, on the other hand, our free-will be not impaired, he adds also our part in the work, and yet again cancels it, and adds, “And that not of ourselves.” Neither is faith, he means, “of ourselves.” Because had He not come, had He not called us, how had we been able to believe? for “how,” saith he, “shall they believe, unless they hear?” (Rom. x. 14.) So that the work of faith itself is not our own. “It is the gift,” said he, “of God,” it is “not of works.”41

Jerome (d. 420):

…because you have been saved by grace by means of faith, not by means of works. And this faith itself is not from yourselves but is from him who has called you. Now so that the secret thought, ‘If we have not been saved by means of our works, perhaps we have been saved by means of faith, and it is in another manner that we are saved of ourselves’, not sneak into our thinking by chance in reference to this, he thus goes on and says that faith itself is also not of our will but is the gift of God.42

Augustine (d. 430):

…even faith itself cannot be had without God’s mercy, and that it is the gift of God. This he very expressly teaches us when he says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” They might possibly say, “We received grace because we believed;” as if they would attribute the faith to themselves, and the grace to God. Therefore, the apostle having said, “Ye are saved through faith,” added,” And that not of yourselves, but it is the gift of God.” …Therefore it is from Him that we have works of righteousness, from whom comes also faith itself, concerning which it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”43

Prosper of Aquitaine (d. 455):

But as to faith and works of charity and final perseverance, because these are bestowed on man through God’s grace, one must acknowledge that both they and their reward have been predestined, on the authority of St. Paul, who says: By grace are you saved through faith: and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God… It is, therefore, as erroneous to attribute the unbelief of the godless to God’s disposition as it is not to confess that God is the author of the faith and the righteousness of the faithful.44

Theodoret (d. 458/66):

All we bring to grace is our faith. But even in this faith, divine grace itself has become our enabler. For [Paul] adds, ‘And this is not of yourselves but it is a gift of God; not of works, lest anyone should boast (Eph 2:8-9).’ It is not of our own accord that we have believed, but we have come to belief after having been called, and even when we had come to believe, He did not require of us purity of life, but approving mere faith, God bestowed on us forgiveness of sins.45

Fulgentius (d. 527/33):

The blessed Paul argues that we are saved by faith, which he declares to be not from us but a gift from God. Thus there cannot possibly be true salvation where there is no true faith, and, since this faith is divinely enabled, it is without doubt bestowed by his free generosity. Where there is true belief through true faith, true salvation certainly accompanies it. Anyone who departs from true faith will not possess the grace of true salvation.46

Œcumenius (fl. 990):

On the one hand faith is from yourselves, but the cause of it is God. …Therefore, he calls faith [the] gift of God. Doubtless it is also a gift for this reason, because faith would not be strong enough on its own to save, except if God wished to save through faith. So that, for us to believe [is the] gift of God, and to be saved through faith [is the] gift of God.47

Theophylact (d. 1107): This is Theophylact’s preferred understanding, though he acknowledges that it is possible that the referent could be grace (χάριτί, feminine).

‘For it is by grace you have been saved through faith.’ After he has spoken of the things pertaining to God, that we have been saved by grace, he brings forward that which pertains to ourselves, that is, ‘through faith’, so that free will might not be treated with indignity. ‘And this not from yourself, it is the gift of God.’ Again, he cancels it, and says, that neither is faith from ourselves, for unless he had come, unless he had called, we would not have obeyed. ‘For how’ he says, ‘will they believe, if they do not hear?’ (Romans 10:14), so that also this is the gift of God.48

Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274):

He eliminates two errors concerning the first point. The first of these is that, since he had said we are saved by faith, any one can hold the opinion that faith itself originates within ourselves and that to believe is determined by our own wishes. Therefore to abolish this he states and that not of yourselves. Free will is inadequate for the act of faith since the contents of faith are above human reason. …That a man should believe, therefore, cannot occur from himself unless God gives it… For this reason he adds for it is the gift of God, namely, faith itself.49

ii) The antecedent of the demonstrative is grace (χάριτί, feminine).

John of Damascus (d. 749):

‘The gift of God’ Grace is the thing which lies with God; faith is the thing which lies with us. For this reason, then, for those for whom the fitness to receive [grace] may not be present, then neither does the grace come alongside to assist. It [grace] is not from us, therefore, but it is the gift of God.50

Notes:

1. Archibald T. Robertson, Word pictures in the New Testament: Volume IV, (Baker Book House), p. 525.

2. S. M. Baugh, Ephesians: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, (Lexham Press, 2016), pp. 160-161. Cf. Peter T. O’Brien, The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter to the Ephesians, (William B. Eerdmans, 1999), pp. 175-176; Andrew T. Lincoln, World Biblical Commentary: Ephesians, (Word Books, 1990), p. 112; Margaret Y. MacDonald, Sacra Pagina: Colossians and Ephesians, ed. Daniel J. Harrington, S.J., (Liturgical Press, 2008), pp. 233-234; Charles H. Talbert, Paideia: Commentaries on the New Testament: Ephesians and Colossians, (Baker Academic, 2007), p. 67; F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, (William B. Eerdmans, 1984), pp. 289-290; Ernest Best, International Critical Commentary: Ephesians, (T&T Clark, 1998), p. 226; John P. Heil, Studies in Biblical Literature: Ephesians, (Society of Biblical Literature, 2007), n. 29, p. 105; Klyne Snodgrass, The NIV Application Commentary: Ephesians, (Zondervan, 1996), p. 105.

3. Gaius Marius Victorinus (fl. 4th century A.D.): "Because we have been saved, Paul claims, it is God’s grace. So you too Ephesians, because you have been saved, it is not from you, it is a gift of God. Nor is it from your works, but it is the grace of God, it is the gift of God—not by your merit [meritum]. Works are one thing, and our merit another, whence he has differentiated the not from you by saying not from works. Certainly, above and beyond works which are called for every day in our duties toward the poor and other good deeds (but also because one can obtain merit on the basis of duty and religious observance, on the basis of chastity and abstinence), it can be neither by your works[.] So he includes both, saying not from you, nor from works—and then he adds lest someone boast. For he who imagines that the reward [meritum] was merited by his works, wants the reward to be of his own doing (don’t ask me how) and not of the one who bestowed it—and this is boasting." {Stephen A. Cooper, Metaphysics and Morals in Marius Victorinus’ Commentary on the Letter to the Ephesians, (Peter Lang, 1995), on Eph. 2:9, p. 67.} Cf. Victorinus: "‘The whole power of someone who believes in Christ rests in the grace of God. Grace, however, is not based on one’s merits but on God’s mercy’" [gratia autem non ex meritis, sed ex dei pietate est]. {Stephen A. Cooper, Marius Victorinus’ Commentary on Galatians, (Oxford University Press, 2005), on Gal. 5:4, p. 166.}; Victorinus: "But again, lest anyone should be remiss in giving thanks to God, on seeing that he himself works out his salvation, it is added: ‘For it is God who worketh in you according to your good will, both to will and to accomplish.’ Therefore work out your salvation, but this work itself is from God. For God worketh in you, and He brings it about that you may thus will. ...Thus who worketh not as assisted by God, in the first place does not have the will to work; and furthermore, even if he had the will, he is not able to accomplish anything, because he has no good will." {In Epist. ad Philipp. 2:12, 13; trans. Bernard J. Otten, S.J., A Manual of the History of Dogmas: Volume I, (B. Herder, 1917), p. 372.}

4. See Appendix C, ii.

5. Ibid.

6. Charles Hodge, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians, (R. Carter and Brothers, 1866), pp. 119-120. Cf. Charles J. Ellicott, ed., A New Testament Commentary for English Readers: Vol. III, (Cassell and Company, 1897), p. 26; G. B. Caird, Paul’s Letters From Prison, (Oxford University Press, 1976), p. 53; Brooke F. Westcott, Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, (Macmillan and Co., 1906), p. 32.

7. See Appendix C, i.

8. F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, (William B. Eerdmans, 1984), p. 289. Cf. J. Armitage Robinson, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians: Second Edition, (Macmillan and Co., 1909), pp. 156-157.

9. S. M. Baugh, Ephesians: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, (Lexham Press, 2016), pp. 160-161; Andrew T. Lincoln, World Biblical Commentary: Ephesians, (Word Books, 1990), p. 112; The Expositor’s Greek Testament: Volume III, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll, (Hodder and Stoughton, 1903), S. D. F. Salmond, “Ephesians,” p. 289; Heinrich A. W. Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistle to the Ephesians and the Epistle to Philemon, trans. William P. Dickson, (T. & T. Clark, 1880), pp. 113-114; Henry Alford, The Greek Testament: Vol. III, (Lee and Shepard, 1877), p. 94; Ernest Best, International Critical Commentary: Ephesians, (T&T Clark, 1998), p. 226; Charles H. Talbert, Paideia: Commentaries on the New Testament: Ephesians and Colossians, (Baker Academic, 2007), p. 67; Margaret Y. MacDonald, Sacra Pagina: Colossians and Ephesians, ed. Daniel J. Harrington, S.J., (Liturgical Press, 2008), pp. 233-234.

10. Matt Olliffe, “Is Faith God’s Gift? (10) (Ephesians 2:8-9): The Grammatical Issues,” https://sites.google.com/site/mattolliffe/articles/is-faith-gods-gift-10--ephesians-28-9-the-grammatical-issues. Additional considerations: Robert Reymond: "It is permissible in Greek syntax for the neuter pronoun to refer antecedently to a feminine noun, particularly when it serves to render more prominent the matter previously referred to (see…Phil. 1:28; see also 1 Cor. 6:6, 8)." {Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, (Thomas Nelson, 1998), p. 732.}; John Piper: "…the neuter gender of this is taken from the following word gift (δῶρον), which is neuter. This is not unusual in Greek. It is called “attraction.” That is, the gender of the pronoun is attracted forward and agrees with its predicate…" {John Piper, Providence, (Crossway, 2020), p. 542.}; cf. Abraham Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit, (Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1900), p. 408.

11. Gordon Clark, Ephesians, (Trinity Foundation, 1985), p. 73; William E. Jelf, A Grammar of the Greek Language: Vol. II.—Syntax: Second Edition, (John Henry Parker, 1851), § 381 Obs 2., pp. 37-38; Raphael Kühner, Ausführliche Grammatik der Griechischen Sprache, Vol 2, (Hahn, 1870), Part 1, § 361 p. 54; trans. Abraham Kuyper; Cited in: William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Galatians and Ephesians, (Baker Book House, 1979), n. 61, p. 123; Basil L. Gildersleeve, Syntax of Classical Greek from Homer to Demosthenes: Second Part, (American Book Company, 1911), §8 501, pp. 205-206; S. M. Baugh, Ephesians: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, (Lexham Press, 2016), p. 160.

12. Matt Olliffe, “Is Faith God’s Gift? (10) (Ephesians 2:8-9): The Grammatical Issues,” https://sites.google.com/site/mattolliffe/articles/is-faith-gods-gift-10--ephesians-28-9-the-grammatical-issues.

13. William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Galatians and Ephesians, (Baker Book House, 1979), pp. 122-123. Cf. Charles Hodge, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians, (R. Carter and Brothers, 1866), pp. 119-120.

14. Abraham Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit, (Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1900), p. 407.

15. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, (Zondervan, 1996), pp. 334-335. Matt Olliffe: "It is a shame…that Wallace only had recourse to the article by Countess as his conversation partner and the three examples there cited, because Countess is only depending on Kuyper (as Countess makes clear) and he doesn’t even cite all of Kuyper’s examples. Moreover, there are also other 19th century grammars with equally long lists of examples as Kuyper…" {Matt Olliffe, “Is Faith God’s Gift? (10) (Ephesians 2:8-9): The Grammatical Issues,” https://sites.google.com/site/mattolliffe/articles/is-faith-gods-gift-10--ephesians-28-9-the-grammatical-issues. }

16 S. M. Baugh, Ephesians: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, (Lexham Press, 2016), pp. 160-161.

17. Abraham Kuruvilla, Ephesians: A Theological Commentary for Preachers, (Wipf and Stock, 2015), n. 29, p. 62. Cf. Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary, (Baker Academic, 2002), pp. 342-343. See also: Henry Alford, The Greek Testament: Vol. III, (Lee and Shepard, 1877), p. 94; Heinrich A. W. Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistle to the Ephesians and the Epistle to Philemon, trans. William P. Dickson, (T. & T. Clark, 1880), pp. 113-114; The Expositor’s Greek Testament: Volume III, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll, (Hodder and Stoughton, 1903), S. D. F. Salmond, “Ephesians,” p. 289.

18. Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Ephesians, (Zondervan, 2010), n. 21, p. 139.

19. See note 12.

20. Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament: 28th Edition, (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012).

21. A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research: Fourth Edition, (Hodder & Stoughton, 1923), p. 704.

22. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, (Zondervan, 1996), pp. 334-335.

23. Septuaginta, ed. A. Rahlfs, (Württembergische Bibelanstalt, 1935; repr. in 9th ed., 1971).

24. Ibid.

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid.

27. Philip Buttmann: "...κοινὴ…can never can be considered as a particular dialect; for the κοινὴ διάλεκτος continued in the main to be Attic, and hence Atticism is the principal object of every Greek grammar." {Philip Buttmann, Intermediate or Larger Greek Grammar: Third Edition, ed. Charles Supf., (Whittaker and Co., 1848), p. 5.}

28. The Loeb Classical Library: Herodotus II, trans. A. D. Godley, (William Heinemann, 1921), The Histories, III.82, pp. 108[Gk.], 109[Eng.].

29. Ibid., IV.23, pp. 222[Gk.], 223[Eng.].

30. The Loeb Classical Library: Plato IV, trans. W. R. M. Lamb, (William Heinemann, 1924), Protagoras, 352B, pp. 224[Gk.], 225[Eng.].

31. Ibid., 357C, pp. 240, 242[Gk.], 241, 243[Eng.].

32. The Loeb Classical Library: Plato VI, trans. Paul Shorey, (Harvard University Press, 1980), Republic, IX.583E, pp. 382[Gk.], 383[Eng.].

33. The Loeb Classical Library: Plato II, trans. H. N. Fowler, (William Heinemann, 1921), Theaetetus, 145D-E, pp. 18[Gk.], 19[Eng.].

34. The Loeb Classical Library: Xenophon: Scripta Minora, trans. E. C. Marchant, (William Heinemann, 1946), Hiero, IX.9, pp. 48[Gk.], 49[Eng.].

35. The Loeb Classical Library: Demosthenes IV, trans. A. T. Murray, (Harvard University Press, 1984), Against Aphobus, III.XXIX.11, pp. 90[Gk.], 91[Eng.].

36. The Loeb Classical Library: Demosthenes I, trans. J. H. Vince, (Harvard University Press, 1954), Second Olynthiac, 15, pp. 30[Gk.], 31[Eng.].

37. Ibid., Against Leptines, 140, pp. 584[Gk.], 585[Eng.].

38. Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament: 28th Edition, (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012).

39. Septuaginta, ed. A. Rahlfs, (Württembergische Bibelanstalt, 1935; repr. in 9th ed., 1971).

40. Ibid.

41. Philip Schaff, ed., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: First Series, Volume XIII, (Coismo, 2007), Chrysostom, Homilies on Ephesians, Homily IV, on Eph. II. 8., p. 67; PG, 62:33-34.

42. Ronald E Heine, The Commentaries of Origen and Jerome on St Paul’s Epistles to the Ephesians: Oxford Early Christian Studies, (Oxford University Press, 2002), Jerome, on Eph. 2:8-9, p. 129; PL, 26:470, 471.

43. Philip Schaff, ed., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: First Series, Volume V, (Coismo, 2007), Augustine, On Grace and Free Will, Ch. 17, pp. 450-451.

44. Ancient Christian Writers, No. 32: Prosper of Aquitaine: Defense of St. Augustine, trans. P. De Letter, S.J., (The Newman Press, 1963), Pt. 1, Art. 14, p. 155.

45. Theodoret, Interpretatio Epistolæ ad Ephesios, Vers. 8, (PG, 82:521); trans. W. A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers: 3 Volumes, (Liturgical, 1970-79), 3:248-9, sec 2163; Cited in: Thomas C. Oden, The Justification Reader, (William B. Eerdmans, 2002), p. 44.

46. On the Incarnation, I, (CCL, 91:313); trans. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament VIII, ed. Mark J. Edwards, (InterVarsity Press, 2005), on Eph. 2:8a, p. 126.

47. J. P. Minge, Patrologiæ Cursus Completus: Patrologiæ Græcæ: Tomus CXVIII, (1893), Œcumenii Triccæ Episcopi, Comment. In Epist. Ad Ephes., II, 8., Col. 1192; trans. Matt Olliffe.

48. J. P. Minge, Patrologiæ Cursus Completus: Patrologiæ Græcæ: Tomus CXXIV, (1864), Theophylacti Bulgariæ Archiep., Expositio in Epist. Ad Ephes., Cap. II., Vers. 8, Col 1056-1057; trans. Matt Olliffe.

49. St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, trans. Matthew L. Lamb, O.C.S.O., (Magi Books, 1966), 2.3.96.

50. J. P. Minge, Patrologiæ Cursus Completus: Patrologiæ Græcæ: Tomus XCV, (1864), S. Joannis Damasceni, In Epist. Ad Ephesios, Vers. 6-8, Col. 830; trans. Matt Olliffe.

~ Soli Deo Gloria

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  • I will give you+1 for the detailed work, however the arguments in favour of inclusion of faith are very poor. a) and c) should be assumed same. The Grk references showing diff gender pronouns are wrong because the changed pronoun refers to a different word. Gen 14:17 "this" refers to plain, not valley. Gen2:23 "this" refers to bone, not rib. Only (1Cor12:15:τοῦτο refers to content of saying not foot) & Phil 1:28 are relevant. "this" refers to the doing of destruction/sign, not to a word. It's the closest parallel to Eph2:8. The Grk knowledge of the fathers are irrelevant and to be rejected.
    – Michael16
    Apr 19 at 12:54
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It....in this case is referring to faith itself. Faith is the substance (an "it", if you will) of things hoped for Hebrews 11:1. The evidence of that faith can't be seen but the results of IT can be seen or felt. Therefore this answers the question: It is FAITH THAT IS THE GIFT OF GOD, which is given to us by grace, a free gift to whomever accepts IT. Now, we are not born with this grace like robots but it is available to us IF AND WHEN, we accept it. John 3:3 is the beginning of receiving that faith. Let,s face it....before we were converted few of us had any idea of Spiritual things.

4
  • You must consider the fact that the letter originally was written in an ancient language. If you made your reasoning from the English translation, your conclusion will be on slippery ground. May 13, 2015 at 22:19
  • @Paul Vargas I don,t know of any translation of the original Scriptures that predates the King James Version. 1611 edition. It says all scripture is inspired of God. Do you think the God of heaven could be capable of having everything he meant to say, said in one of, if not the first translation of His Word and called the authorized version?
    – Rosie
    Sep 19, 2015 at 18:42
  • @Rosie Wikipedia gives a good list of Early "Modern" English Bible Translations, of which the KJV is 9th. However, they omit the Wycliffe translation, which was translated in the late 1300's. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Modern_English_Bible_translations
    – Narnian
    Mar 20, 2017 at 12:14
  • @narnian very interesting. Thank you, I will try to secure a copy of this translation.
    – Rosie
    Mar 25, 2017 at 17:54
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I will admit that I have no formal training in Hermeneutics and Greek texts; However, I will add my two cents worth of Biblical knowledge.

First of all, If we refer to Galatians 2:20, we see that the "faith" we have is not of us but of the Lord. In fact "Faith" has two aspects.. the object of our Faith and the author of our faith , both of whom are really Jesus Christ Hebrews 12:2.

Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

It seems that the gift of God is Christ as the Life giving Spirit indwells all the believers(Romans 8:9-11). By exercising to live by Spirit as stated in Galatians 5:25 we become burning in spirit as stated in 2 Timothy:

2 Timothy 1:6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.

The phrase "fan into flame" seems to denote the Spirit which is portrayed as a flame in the Bible (Luke 3:16, Acts 2:3-4). In conclusion if we reconcile 2 Timothy 1:6 and Ephesians 2:8, we can reasonably surmise that the gift of God is the Holy Spirit.

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All this Greek grammar argumentation does not provide conclusive or compelling evidence that "faith" should be included as the antecedent of the neuter pronoun. Clearly salvation is the gift, other verses also say salvation is the gift of God. Whether or not "by grace" is included as part of the gift does not alter the issue. I did not see reference to all the verses that say "your faith" or "his faith" that would need to be rewritten as your [God given] faith. No, the whole argument fails, we receive the gift through faith, but the gift is not pre-salvation faith.

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  • Welcome to BHSE! Please make sure you take our Tour. (See below left). Thanks. As for other's views of Greek, they seem to find it very important. Be careful with your statements (or just don't post any); consider where the English actually came from. Apr 29, 2019 at 14:42
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What is “the gift of God” in Ephesians 2:8?

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

Salvation" is the gift of God."

The provision for salvation is an expression of God’s grace. Humans born from imperfect Adam, can not gain salvation on his own, no matter how noble his works are. Salvation is a gift from God given to those who put faith in the sin-atoning value of the sacrifice of his Son.

The Meaning of Faith

Hebrews 11:1 (RSVCE)

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

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What is the Grace or the Gift of God?

If faith had been included in the gift of God then it would demolish the whole point of evangelism and mission to preach and persuade; since it begs the question as to why doesn't God gives the gift of faith to others? Faith itself being a gift is an idea of Gnostic fatalism as introduced by a former Gnostic priest Augustine of Hippo, and others like himself who became the Church leaders within months of converting in order to save their lives. The issue comes down to determinism or Calvinism when one argues that faith is not man's. Such an idea is unbiblical and non-Jewish to the core.

A Molinist scholar Dr. Craig writes in refuting the causal determinism doctrine:

Universal, divine, causal determinism cannot offer a coherent interpretation of Scripture. The classical Reformed divines recognized this. They acknowledge that the reconciliation of Scriptural texts affirming human freedom and contingency with Scriptural texts affirming divine sovereignty is inscrutable. D. A. Carson identifies nine streams of texts affirming human freedom: (1) People face a multitude of divine exhortations and commands, (2) people are said to obey, believe, and choose God, (3) people sin and rebel against God, (4) people’s sins are judged by God, (5) people are tested by God, (6) people receive divine rewards, (7) the elect are responsible to respond to God’s initiative, (8) prayers are not mere showpieces scripted by God, and (9) God literally pleads with sinners to repent and be saved (Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspectives in Tension, pp. 18-22). These passages rule out a deterministic understanding of divine providence, which would preclude human freedom. Determinists reconcile universal, divine, causal determinism with human freedom by re-interpreting freedom in compatibilist terms. Compatibilism entails determinism, so there’s no mystery here. The problem is that adopting compatibilism achieves reconciliation only at the expense of denying what various Scriptural texts seem clearly to affirm: genuine indeterminacy and contingency.

The NT repeatedly says that the gift of grace is given to the whole world or every man, and the intentions of God are genuine in calling the world to repent. Faith is the subjective means of obtaining the gift of salvation. It is the act of receiving the gift of God, which includes repentance and joining the conditional covenant of God.

  • Acts 8:20-22 [ESV] But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.

  • Acts 11:17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?”

  • Rom 5:2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Freely you received, freely give. No one can buy the gift of God with money, nor has done anything by which the grace has been given. By grace through faith is a common formula in the epistles of Paul to explain the content and means of salvation. Faith justification is always distinguished by works by Paul, which is the very definition of grace (Rom 11:6, 3:27, 4:4).

Henry Alford commentary states:

faith (the dative above expressed the objective instrumental condition of your salvation,—this διὰ the subjective medial condition: it has been effected by grace and apprehended by faith): and this (not your faith, as Chrys. οὐδὲ ἡ πίστις, φησίν, ἐξ ὑμῶν: so Thdrt., al., Corn.-a-Iap., Beza, Est., Grot., Beng., all.;—this is precluded (not by the gender of τοῦτο, but) by the manifestly parallel clauses οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν and οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων, of which the latter would be irrelevant as asserted of πίστις, and the reference of Eph 2:9 must therefore be changed:—but, as Calv., Calov., Rück., Harl., Olsh., Mey., De W., Stier, al., ‘your salvation;’ τὸ σεσωσμένοι εἶναι, as Ellic.) not of yourselves, GOD’S (emphatic) is the gift (not, as E. V. ‘it is the gift of God’ (θεοῦ δῶρον),—τὸ δῶρον, viz. of your salvation: so that the expression is pregnant—q. d., ‘but it is a gift, and that gift is God’s.’ There is no occasion, as Lachm., Harl., and De W., to parenthesize these words: they form a contrast to οὐκ ἐξ ὑμ., and a quasi-parallel clause to ἵνα μή τις καυχήσ. below): not of works (for ἐξ ἔργων, see on Rom 3:4, and Gal 2:16), that no man should boast (on the proposition implied, see on Rom 4:2. ἵνα, has in matter of fact its strictest telic sense. With God, results are all purposed; it need not be understood, when we predicate of Him a purpose in this manner, that it was His main or leading aim;—but it was one of those things included in His scheme, which ranked among His purposes).

We can see the reference of gift is only the content of the salvation, that is the sacrifice of Christ as gracious mercy which nobody merited or earned - Rom 5:8. Faith is simply the means of obtaining the gift. Faith cannot possibly be a reason for boasting; it is antithetical to works, and only works are described as antithetical to the gift of grace. There is not a single reference that remotely suggests faith as a gift or a reason for boasting. This is the only passage where some attempt to lump faith into the gift of salvation, but can be easily refuted in light of the context.

Daniel Wallace hesitantly agrees that faith cannot be meritorious, yet he refuses to leave his reformed presuppositions. In his Exegetical Syntax book, p 335, footnote 53, he writes:

On an exegetical level, I am inclined to agree with Lincoln that “in Paul’s thinking faith can never be viewed as a meritorious work because in connection with justification he always contrasts faith with works of the law (cf. Gal 2:16; 3:2-5, 9, 10; Rom 3:27, 28)” (A. T. Lincoln, Ephesians [WBC] 111). If faith is not meritorious, then it is not a gift per se. Such a view does not preclude the notion that for faith to save, the Spirit of God must initiate the conversion process.

Predestination is not a Gift or Grace

Someone might quote Phil 1:29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, saying faith is a gift of God here. No, it is part of your predestination, and predestination or election are completely different from the gift of grace, that is the gospel in which we believe.

Conclusion:

The neuter touto commonly has conceptual referent. It is also used for a sentence, clause or content. In the context of Eph 2, the content or concept of the salvation, the gospel is the referent. The gospel or the act of grace is neither originated nor merited by man. It is a gift of salvation. The act of Christ dying for the world. In any case it cannot refer to faith which only man himself exercises. God cannot have faith or gift anyone faith. When the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith, he did not increase it by a miracle, but only encouraged them that a little faith is enough to move mountains. Those who follow gentile theologies by turning the Israeli religion upside down has no part or portion in it, since their heart is not right with God. Something God himself cannot help and interfere with.

Addendum
The verse Ephesians 2:5 itself states the referent of the gift as grace; which should leave no doubt. By grace you have been saved χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι. The referent of gift in v.8 is pointing back to that grace alone, not the word feminine word grace, but the act of grace by God, that is the new covenant through the sacrifice. Also, since faith is inherently subjective, it will be commonly translated as "your faith", especially in the διὰ πίστεως "through faith" construct which shows instrumental meaning. God cannot exercise your faith, only you can exercise (your) faith. As a Roman Church leader Augustin rightly said, Qui creavit te sine te, non salvabit te sine te which translates: He who created you without you will not save you without you. See sensible commentaries like John Eadie on this verse.

-1

Great points of view. Definitely, personal belief can cloud this verse. My point of view is that the “gift” is the whole process that was described in the first sentence. The process of salvation. By grace, through faith.

Grace from God that allows both gentiles and Jews and faith from us, the people. That believing in things unseen, are certain and convinced that we will one day be raised from our rest, to be greeted by our groom in a city built for us. Hebrews 11 shows that faith is something from within us. Jesus also continually mentions “let it be done according to your faith” and in Romans it’s stated that everyone is given a measure of faith by God. Both grace and faith are necessary for salvation. Therefore the wholeness of the first sentence, the spiritual formula for salvation, is the gift.

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