Monday, January 16, 2012

Wallace on Ephesians 2:8-9

Daniel B. Wallace has just under two pages in his Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics devoted to the debate about how to interpret what is the actual "gift" in Ephesians 2:8-9.

Recently, OMW reader and friend of mine, Stephen commented with regard to the Greek of Eph 2:8-9 under the article TESTING TULIP: Total Depravity/Inability. In his comment Stephen quoted Wallace's discussion of this passage in his Greek Grammar. I found his comment so compelling that I ordered Wallace's work to read it for myself. What I have found is a discussion of the Greek involved that confirms what I previously have discussed on the subject in an article entitled John Calvin Describes the Faith that Saves, and more importantly opened my eyes to things I have not considered. Wallace presents the four most common views on the passage, including the one that I have held to, and including one which I have never heard before but which is most interesting!

I will now introduce the four views of what the gift is in Eph 2:8-9 that Wallace discusses on Pages 334 - 335 in Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics.

1. That grace is the antecedent.
2. That faith is the antecedent.
3. That the concept of a by grace through faith salvation is the antecedent.
4. That kai touto ( translated "and this" in every translation I've read) works with adverbial force without antecedent and means "and especially". 
Options 1 & 2 suffer because touto (this) is in the neuter gender while both chariti (grace) and pisteos (faith) are in the feminine. I would include a 5th option that has been told to me by some Pastors as having the same basic problem; that the gift includes both points or "each and everything involved with salvation" is the gift of God.  Some argue, as Wallace notes, that the gender issue isn't a problem because there are some examples in Greek literature where a neuter demonstrative referes back to a noun of a different gender and that touto has been attracted to the gender of doron (gift).  Wallace goes on to explain that this it is almost always the case that this would be done only when the pronoun is caught between two nouns of different gender. He gives Acts 8:10 as an example, and Matt 18:38 as an opposite example.  Then he notes that Eph 2:8 is not a like example because doron is no the predicate nom. of touto (this) but of the implied "it" in the following clause. He finishes by saying that it is "doubtful" that either faith or grace are the antecedent of touto (this).

He calls view 3 "more plausible" and this is the view that I have come to and held through using my own limited Greek skills and training. Apparently referencing other (as of yet unknown to me) parts of his Grammar Wallace says "As we have seen, touto regularly takes a conceptual antecedent."  He adds a note that mirrors my thoughts on the nature of Faith exactly at the bottom of Page 335. I will let the reader find and be edified by this as they read his book.

Of view 4 Wallace expresses surprise that it has had such a small impact on exegetical literature. He notes that BDF and BAGD assume this force for kai touto in Eph 2:8 without discussion. I'm surprised I have never heard the slightest discussion of this view before. While I am satisfied with view 3, view 4 finds an excited home in my understanding of Paul's overall argument for Pauline Justification, or Paul's view of the reception of Eternal Salvation.  Wallace says that if kai touto (and this) is adverbial then it has the meaning "and at that, and especially" without having any antecedent. It focuses on the verb rather than on any noun. He brings up that this same structure is seen in 3Jn verse 5:
Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; (NASB)
Wallace then suggests this translation of Eph 2:8 "for by grace you are saved through faith, and [you are saved] especially not by your own doing; it is the gift of God."

He finally goes on to note that the debate cannot be solved by grammar alone, but that syntactical considerations do tend toward views 3 & 4.

I am truly fascinated by this. What are your thoughts?

1 comment:

TRoutMac said...


This is very interesting, partly because in the final analysis it doesn't seem like there's really much difference between views 3 and 4. It's almost like it's just another way of saying exactly the same thing. This concept of salvation by grace is a gift of God and is not of works.

Seems reasonable to me.

What's interesting is that Wallace is the guy, so I'm told, that advocates the bogus "regeneration precedes faith" interpretation of 1 John 5:1 which I shared with you not long ago.

So I wonder how he squares the two?