Paul and the Philosophers’ Faith

Discourses of Pistis in the Graeco-Roman World


The notion of faith experienced a remarkable surge in popularity among early Christians, with Paul as its pioneer. Yet what was the wider cultural significance of the pistis word group? This comprehensive work contextualizes Paul’s faith language within Graeco-Roman cultural discourses, highlighting its semantic multifariousness and philosophical potential. Based on an innovative combination of cognitive linguistics and discourse analysis, it explores ‘faith’ within social, political, religious, ethical, and cognitive contexts. While challenging modern individualist and irrational conceptualizations, this book shows how Paul uses pistis to creatively configure philosophical narratives of his age and propose Christ as its ultimate embodiment
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Suzan Sierksma-Agteres, Ph.D. (2023, University of Groningen) is Assistant Professor of New Testament at the Protestant Theological University in the Netherlands. Combining expertise in classics and theology, she focuses on the interactions between early Christian thought and ancient philosophical traditions.
Text Editions and Translations of Ancient and Modern Texts
List of Figures
List of Bibliographical Abbreviations
Inclusion of Previously Published Work by the Same Author
1 Introduction: Tracing the Semantics and Discourses of Faith in Paul’s World
 1.1 Another Work on Faith?
 1.2 Faith: How a Semantic Domain Approach Helps to Overcome Essentializing Word Studies
 1.3 Paul: How Discourse Analysis Helps to Overcome Canonomania and Parallelomania
 1.4 Philosophers: How Philosophical Contextualization Helps to Overcome Anachronistic Conceptions of Faith
 1.5 The Route Travelled: Scope, Terminology, Method, and Outline

Part 1: A Pistis Cosmology

2 Pistis, Theos, and Logos: Faith as the Standard of Philosophical Religion
 2.1 Disentangling Modern and Ancient Semantics of Faith
 2.2 The Problem of Approaching Religion and Faith in the Ancient World
 2.3 The Theologia Tripartita: Theorizing Religion in Graeco-Roman Discourses
 2.4 Faith as a Indication of Philosophical Religion in Paul’s Letters
 2.5 Conclusion

3 Pistis, Dikaiosynē, and Nomos: Faith as Unwritten Law of the Golden Age
 3.1 Paul the Universalist? New Perspectives on an Old Debate
 3.2 ‘Justification by Faith’: an Outline of the Debated Issues
 3.3 The Golden Age and Unwritten Law: Juridical Usage of Pistis in Graeco-Roman Discourses
 3.4 Faith as Unwritten Law and Christ as Living Law in Paul’s Letters
 3.5 Conclusion

Part 2: A Pistis Mentality

4 Pistis, Doxa, and Epistēmē: Faith as Firm, Human Conviction Anticipating Divine Knowledge
 4.1 Faith Opposed to Knowledge?
 4.2 The Stigma of Early Christian Pistis Being a Low-Level Epistemological Category
 4.3 A Fideistic Turn in Plato’s Wake? Epistemological Usage of Pistis in Graeco-Roman Discourses
 4.4 Pistis as Firm but Provisional Knowledge of God in Paul’s Letters
 4.5 Conclusion

5 Pistis, Peithō, and Sophia: Faith as Transformative Persuasion of the Wise
 5.1 Is Faith a Religious ‘Acceptance as True’?
 5.2 The Dichotomy of Greek Cognitive Conviction and Jewish Relational Faith
 5.3 Rhetoric and Dialectic, Scepticism and Dogmatism, Sophism and Sagehood: Persuasive Usage of Pistis in Graeco-Roman Discourses
 5.4 Faith as Transformative Persuasion in Paul’s Letters
 5.5 Conclusion

6 Pistis, Ēthos, and Mimēsis: Faith as Attitude and Virtue Imitating the Divine
 6.1 Faith and Works: an Unhappy Couple?
 6.2 Faith in Christ versus Faithfulness of Christ and the Key Discourse of Imitation
 6.3 Character Formation and Philosophical Imitation: Ethical Usage of Pistis in Graeco-Roman Discourses
 6.4 The Mimetic Chain of Faith and Faithfulness in Paul’s Letters
 6.5 Conclusion

Part 3: A Pistis Society

7 Pistis, Charis, and Dynamis: Faith as Transjuridical and Transethnic Bond of Trust
 7.1 On the Crossroads of Faith and Grace, Imperialism and Benefaction, and Old and New Perspectives
 7.2 Pauline Faith and Grace as Responses to Graeco-Roman Imperialism and Benefaction
 7.3 A Religious, Bridging, Asymmetrical, Reciprocal, Universal, and Interior Virtue: Public Usage of Pistis in Graeco-Roman Discourses
 7.4 The Proclamation of a Transjuridical and Transethnic Bond of Trust in Paul’s Letters
 7.5 Conclusion

8 Pistoi, Hagioi, and Apistoi: Faith as Philosophical-Religious Group Identity
 8.1 How to Make More Semantic Sense of the Reverse of Pistis
 8.2 Denouncing All Outsiders or Criticizing Particular Antagonists? Us-Versus-Them Thinking by Pagans and Paul
 8.3 Identifying the Faithless: Social-Religious Usage of Pistis in Graeco-Roman Discourses
 8.4 Apistia as a Polyvalent and Deviantizing Boundary Marker in Paul’s Letters
 8.5 Conclusion

9 Concluding Reflections: Paul beyond the Philosophers’ Faith
 9.1 The Distinctiveness of Paul’s Contribution to Discourses of Pistis
 9.2 A Pauline Response to Present-Day Discourses of Faith
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