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More on John Wesley at the Cross in PP: Galatians 2 and 'Faith in' or 'Faith of'?


I noted last week that John Wesley, in his abridgment, changes what Christian says at the cross when his burden falls from his back. To recap, Bunyan has Christian exclaim: "He hath given me rest by his sorrow and life by his death." Wesley changes this to "The Life that I now live, I live by Faith in the Son of God; who loved me, and gave himself for me."


Would Bunyan approve of this improvement, or consider it such? Well, Bunyan would certainly recognize that Wesley is quoting directly from the Apostle Paul in the letter to the Galatians, chapter 2, verse 20.


One supposition could be that Wesley draws attention to subjective faith over against Bunyan's purely objective setting of the cross that effects release from guilt. But is this change by Wesley a wedge driving theological opposition?


If Bunyan, or indeed Wesley, had read Galatians 2:20 in his King James Bible, it would have read slightly differently:


I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (KJV)


or he might have come across it in the Geneva Bible:


I am crucified with Christ, but I live, yet not I anymore, but Christ liveth in me: and in that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith in the Son of God, who hath loved me, and given himself for me. (GNV)


We also know that Bunyan read, with deep appreciation, Martin Luther's Commentary on Galatians in the English translation of Edwin Sandys, Bishop of London. There, Luther's comment on this section of Gal 2:20 is simply subtitled with a translation of the part of the verse: "... by faith in the Son of God.' But a marginal sidebar, and the commentary text, alerts the reader to the fact that the faithful live 'in the faith of the Son of God.'



Notice, in all this, the grammatical importance of the article, the, or the lack thereof, and the prepositions in or of.


Bunyan doesn't cite or allude directly to Galatians 2:20 anywhere in PP Part I. But he does cite its companion verse Galatians 2:16, where we see the same phrasing at work:


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


Know that a man is not justified by the works of the Law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we, I say, have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the Law, because that by the works of the Law, no flesh shall be justified. (GNV)


Bunyan directly provides a marginal reference to Galatians 2:16 a few times in the narrative. Two times the marginal reference supports the negative claim that man cannot be justified by works of the law - law and ordinances - when Christian speaks to Formalist and Hypocrisy; and when Hopeful gives his testimony of conversion.


The other marginal reference comes in relation to Faithful's response to Talkative, explaining that a sign of a true work of grace on the soul is clearer to others than to the individual. It is discovered to (i.e. brought to light and known) by others : "1. By an experimental confession of his faith in Christ." The reference here in connection to a lived out faith suggests a positive allusion to the justification experienced.


This does not settle whether faith of Christ or faith in Christ is in view in Bunyan's references to Galatians 2:16. By the way, there's a big theological discussion of what these translation options might lead to. [Broadly speaking, 'faith in' nods in the direction of subjective belief of the one believing and the contents of that belief, that is, about Christ; 'faith of' is read as the objective faithfulness of Christ on behalf of the believer. Some proponents of the 'New Perspective on Paul' claim that Luther's emphasis on faith misreads the New Testament and sets Protestantism in unhelpful directions, whereas a 'faith of' reading emphasized a covenantal belonging of incorporation into the righteous Kingdom reign of the Messiah.] All of which debate requires judgments about NT Greek genitives that neither Bunyan nor I are qualified to comment on. And for this blog post, it doesn't matter, because Bunyan was reading and writing in English, and Wesley was abridging in English.


The Oxford English Dictionary does give an entry for "of" that might indicate that "in" is an alternative that doesn't change the meaning, albeit now obsolete. This may explain why "in" and "of" read much more contrastively in today's English, but need not have done in Bunyan's reading of the KJV of Galatians (of) which isn't opposed to the Geneva Bible (in) or the use of both "of" and "in" in Sandys translation of Luther:

VII.24.a.

a1438–1820

† With reference to persons: in, in the person of. Obsolete.


But we can say that the only times when Bunyan uses the prepositional phrase 'faith of' in Part I, he refers clearly to the faith of the human soul in believing, not the faith (nor faithfulness) of Christ). Otherwise, in Faithful's conversation with Talkative, in Hopeful's testimony and in Christian's refutation of Ignorance's presumptuous religiosity, the phrase 'faith in Christ' is used in the same sense that Wesley uses it in his quotation of Gal 2:20 in his abridgment rewrite.


All of which is to say that, despite Wesley's change of Bunyan's wording, it cannot be said here that this has achieved a change of theological perspective from the one Bunyan himself held and displayed elsewhere in the text.


There are other changes, that I've not looked into, that Wesley reportedly makes in his abridgment that do show his differences from Bunyan's position, but they are not here, despite the clear change of text. There is no reason to suppose that Wesley disagrees with Bunyan's original exclamation given to Christian. We can assume that he thinks Galatians 2:20 does a better job, not least by virtue of being Scripture.





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