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8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, ESV

διὰ πίστεως in Ephesians 2:8 is almost invariably translated 'through faith', but 'through' in English can have a broad range of meaning, and may or may not imply causation.

What range of meaning of the English word 'through' is allowed by the Greek? Does this range overlap with the English word 'via', which might mean 'staging post' or 'a point on the route', or is a stronger sense of causation or the foundational nature of faith in salvation required by the Greek in this verse alone.

  • 1
    ... well i guess it all depends on your perspectives vis-à-vis Ordo salutis ... – swasheck Jul 17 '13 at 16:36
  • @swasheck That's a tad cynical, me thinks. Hopefully the opposite is true; that your view is informed by the text. – Ruminator Oct 18 '17 at 3:52
  • @Ruminator Presumably, the 'ordo salutis' is something you arrive at after reading Scripture, is it not? – Sola Gratia Oct 18 '17 at 9:42
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τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ πίστεως

διὰ is a preposition which is, technically, ad "verbal adjective." Participles usually introduce participial phrases which can serve either adverbially or adjectivally ("Running for your life." vs. "Hair of white.") and, as such, can take on a wide variety of meanings. To further widen the range, they can also be employed lexically or idiomatically. διὰ typically denotes "through" which would be locative but it also can be used instrumentally ("by"). In the case system, both of these categories are typically most naturally associated with the dative case. However, instrumentality can also be established with adverbs and adverbial phrases.

As with most of these sorts of studies, we're going to want to look at context. πίστεως is the next word, but how is it related? It's feminine, singular, genitive which may seem a bit paradigm-breaking but πίστεως can also be the object of a preposition, which is likely the usage here. It's an adverbial prepositional phrase. But in what sense does this modify the main verb (σεσῳσμένοι, [perfect, passive, part., masc. nom. pl.], "you all have come be be saved")?

διὰ is helpful because it does restrict the range of uses and that it is an adverbial phrase is also helpful. "By" and "through" being our standard candidates, let's look at them. But before we do ...

... the whole clause begins with τῇ ... χάριτί which is the articular dative of "grace." In English we have to convert this to a prepositional phrase ("in/by/with/through/into/etc. grace") in order to draw out the dative. This, then, becomes where the theology (and my Ordo salutis comment) comes into play because we now have what appear to be two instrumentals that are modifying the main phrase. The main part of this this whole clause (and it is an English clause all wrapped into one Koine word) is:

σεσῳσμένοι - "You have come to be saved." 

This is modified by both

τῇ ... χάριτί - "in/by/with/through/into/etc. grace"

and

διὰ πίστεως

It may be helpful to diagram it so ...

τῇ ... χάριτί
            \
            σεσῳσμένοι 
                      \
                        διὰ 
                            \
                             -- πίστεως

As mentioned above, the translators now have a decision to make. Instrumentality candidates are means/agency, and manner. Given the simple action "The ball was hit.", means would define the action further by answering "how" ("The ball was hit by the batter.") while manner describes the action ("The ball was hit by the batter into the sky."). Agency is a personal use of means (which "the batter" could be considered personal so this example could be agency).

So how do these phrases relate to each other as they modify the main clause? Are they held in apposition (either both are manner or both are means)? Is one manner and the other means? Apposition can be ruled out because χάριτί and πίστεως are distinct concepts.

With all of this background in mind, we can look at the decision made by the translation committee. It appears as though they choose "by grace" as an instrumental of means, and "through faith" as instrumental of manner. I'd not spend too much time focusing on what διὰ actually means as far as verbal aspect (when in time) is concerned. Koine usually uses the verb tenses to highlight the aspect.

  • Thanks very much for this! Should I take it that 'instrumental of manner' excludes a 'weaker' linkage with the verb such as the English 'via'? – Jack Douglas Jul 17 '13 at 22:02
  • @JackDouglas ... what do you mean by "weaker?" – swasheck Jul 17 '13 at 22:07
  • Sorry, I mean 'less instrumental' - does that make sense? So if I defeat an enemy with my army, the army is understood to be not just my instrument but probably essential to the victory, whereas if I travel to Wales via the M4, the M4 is still my chosen route, but it may be that I could perfectly well have chosen a different one. It is quite possible that I'm missing the technical meaning of 'instrumental' completely, am I? – Jack Douglas Jul 18 '13 at 13:00
  • If you're asking if the main clause/verb has a stronger dependency on "means" vs. "manner" then I'm honestly not sure. Anecdotal evidence derived from English examples would seem to lead in that direction, but this may be more of a question for linguistics.se. – swasheck Jul 18 '13 at 16:07
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I'm of the opinion that this verse is generally incorrectly conceived by interpreters as referring to justification, where "σεσῳσμένοι" is considered a synonym for "justified". In my ever humbler than thou view, by pondering the prepositions in that mindset one misses the forest for the trees.

As I see it Paul σεσῳσμένοι is referring to the believer's new position in Christ. Notice the broader context:

NIV Ephesisans 2: 1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesha and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

These saints were once "dead" and "self-serving" and "deserving of wrath" but now they are "alive" and "seated with Christ in heavenly realms" and "prepared for good works". So what Paul is concerned with by "σεσῳσμένοι" is their new status. They stand (perfect aspect) in a much better place now.

I understand that better "place" to be "τῇ χάριτί", "the favor [of God]". That is, they stand in Christ, in God's favor and in the life of the "breath of life". This is, to my mind the significance of the dative, "τῇ χάριτί" which I take as locative. I see a strong parallel here:

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

I would feel better about my reading if there were the preposition "eis" or "ev" "τῇ χάριτί" but I don't know if you would begin a sentence like that. Someone with more Koine knowledge than I have would be better able to address that.

If I'm correct about that then "διὰ πίστεως" makes sense because it is "through faith" that we enter into "the grace where we now stand".

HELPS Word-studies 4982 sṓzō (from sōs, "safe, rescued") – properly, deliver out of danger and into safety; used principally of God rescuing believers from the penalty and power of sin – and into His provisions (safety).

[4982 (sṓzō) is the root of: 4990 /sōtḗr ("Savior"), 4991 /sōtēría ("salvation") and the adjectival form, 4992 /sōtḗrion (what is "saved/rescued from destruction and brought into divine safety").]

The idea is, I believe, that "Through faith you have been brought into the safe place of God's favor". This is similar to:

Berean Literal Bible Mark 5:34 And He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you; go in peace and be sound from your affliction."

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