The Work Of God Or Of Human Beings: A Note On John 6:29 -- By: Sigurd Grindheim

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 59:1 (Mar 2016)
Article: The Work Of God Or Of Human Beings: A Note On John 6:29
Author: Sigurd Grindheim

The Work Of God Or Of Human Beings:
A Note On John 6:29

Sigurd Grindheim*

* Sigurd Grindheim is adjunct professor of NT at Fjellhaug International University College, Sinsenveien 15, 0572 Oslo, Norway.

Abstract: According to John 6:29, faith is “the work of God” (τὸ ἔργον τοῦ θεοῦ). This genitive construction has been interpreted either as the work that God requires or as the work that God does. On the basis of the flow of the argument in John 6, with its focus on God’s gift, this article argues for the latter interpretation, emphasizing that faith is given by God.

Key Words: John 6:29; faith; work of God

Commentators are divided about the interpretation of John 6:28–29: “[t]hen they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’” Is the phrase “the work of God” (τὸ ἔργον τοῦ θεοῦ) a subjective genitive, referring to the work that God does?1 Or is it an objective genitive, referring to the work that God expects of human beings?2 On the latter interpretation, Jesus teaches his audience

that God is only interested in one thing: faith, as opposed to the many works they have in mind. On the former interpretation, the dialogue is an example of Johannine misunderstanding. Whereas Jesus’s audience is thinking of the works that God requires of them, Jesus teaches them that what matters is not what they do, but what God does. Their faith in him is a gift from God. The most literal translations preserve the ambiguity with the expression “work of God” (NRSV; cf. ESV; HCSB; NAB; NASB; NIV; NKJV), but many resolve it in favor of an objective genitive: “the work that God requires” (REB; cf. CEB; CEV; GNB; NEB; NET; NJB; NLT).3 In this brief article, I will argue that contextual considerations favor the subjective genitive.

In the Scriptures of Israel and in the literature of Second Temple Judaism, the construction “work of God” or “works of God” is used both with reference to the works that God does and to the works that he requires of human beings.4 With regard to You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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