Ephesians 2:8 & 9 – What Does the Text Show Regarding Faith as the Gift?

Ephesians 2:8-9

Calvinism claims that saving faith is “gifted faith” – that God causes each person whom He elected and foreknew to receive faith from God in order to be saved. Ephesians 2:8 and 9 are the proof-texted verses used to support this idea. They say that the verse says that you are saved through the faith that is the gift of God, not of yourself so that no one can boast.

Unlike English, Greek assigns gender and case to nouns and their modifiers. Every noun has a gender, and every pronoun or adjective associated with that noun must have the same gender. Additionally, the role of the noun in a sentence determines its case – the cases in Greek are: nominative, genitive, dative, and accusative. Again, every pronoun or adjective associated with a specific instance of a noun in a sentence, must share the same case as the instance of the noun to which it refers. Correct grammar never includes an unassigned pronoun; “it” must always refer back to a previously-identified entity or quantity, as in the following examples:

The ball rolled under the car. It is too far in for Bill to reach.          In this instance, “it” refers back to “ball”.
Without faith, it is impossible to please God.                                 Here, “it” refers to the concept “pleasing God”. The sentence could be re-written: Without faith, pleasing God is impossible.

Looking at the verse under discussion, the literal translation reads:

 “For to the grace you are saved-ones through faith, and this (literally “itself”) not out of (from) you, the gift of God.”

 The pronoun “this” in English is translated from the Greek demonstrative pronoun “touto”, which is the singular, masculine or neuter form of a pronoun that is correctly translated “itself”. The root possesses singular and plural, as well as feminine, masculine, and neuter genders. Proper grammar requires that the pronoun refer to a singular masculine or neuter noun in the previous clause, or to an already-expressed concept (concepts do not possess gender) because modifiers must always agree with the words being modified.

The available nouns are:

grace (chariti – feminine singular)

sesosmenoi in the Greek, which is a verb participle serving as a subjective noun phrase “saved ones” (plural masculine),

and “faith”, a singular noun  (pisteos)

Note carefully: the English word “saved” does not represent a verb in the Greek, but a nominative case participle standing as a subjective noun. Sesosmenoi is not represented by the singular “touto”, because sesosmenoi – saved ones – is plural.

Both “grace” and “faith” are excluded because both are feminine; “touto” cannot refer to either of them.

Since grammar rules prohibit touto from representing any of the nouns in the verse, it must represent one of the concepts. The two ‘concepts’ of the principle clause are “For to the grace” and “you are saved-ones through faith”.  Therefore, the dependant clause must be understood as one of the following:

… and [for to the grace] (is) not from you, but the gift of God.”

… and [you are saved-ones through faith] (is) not from you, but the gift of God.”

Or

… and [for to the grace you are saved-ones through faith] (is) not from you, but the gift of God.”

To make this more clear, the grammar requires that Paul be telling his readers either, that the grace that saves us by faith is not from ourselves but is a gift of God, or that being saved by faith is a gift of God and not of ourselves. Both of these statements are true, and are grammatically consistent.

Touto, translated as “that”, “this”, or “it” – depending on the translation – cannot refer to “faith” because the pronoun is the wrong gender to replace the noun “pisteos”. Faith is not the ‘gift of God’ Paul referred to., but rather the fact that they – and by extension we and all saints – are saved-ones through faith.