Notes

“Faith, Hope, Love — A Primitive Christian Triad” Highlights

Study the apostles’s teaching and you’ll see the pattern of “faith, hope, love.” What did this mean to the early church and missions? I’m digging in.

Here are research highlights of “Faith, Hope, Love — A Primitive Christian Triad” in A. M. Hunter, Paul and His Predecessors (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961), 33–35. Available online at archive.org.

Faith, Hope, Love — A Primitive Christian Triad.

[S]everal strands of evidence unite to prove that the triad is not Paul’s own coinage, but a piece of pre-Pauline Christianity derived possibly from a saying of Jesus himself. ¶ The triad is found not only in 1 Cor. 13:13, but also in 1 Thess. 1:3, 5:8; Rom. 5:1–5; Gal. 5:5–6; Col. 1:4–5; Eph. 4:2–5; Heb. 6:10–12, 10:22–24; 1 Pet. 1:3–8, 21–22, and once or twice in the Apostolic Fathers. …

[T]he same sequence of the graces is observed by three different writers. ¶ All this is surely not fortuitous. It strongly suggests that the triad in Paul is not his own creation, but something common and apostolic, perhaps a sort of compendium of the Christian life current in the early apostolic church. …

Consider how it crops up in 1 Cor. 13. … [W]hy does Paul drag in faith and hope at all at the end of his hymn in praise of love? … The inference is that the mention of love suggested the other two members of what was already a traditional triad. ¶ … [T]he words ‘these three’ suggest that it is a familiar triad. …

Very significant is the almost tell-tale way in which Paul quotes the triad in 1 Thess. 5:8. … ¶ … Paul combines the old Jewish figure with the pre-Pauline Christian triad, ‘Faith, hope, love,’ and that it is only with some difficulty that he achieves the combination. …

I do think that the twofold chain of evidence formed by (1) the recurrence of the triad in Paul, Peter, Hebrews, etc., and (2) the remarkable saying attributed by Macarius to the Lord, strongly suggests that this triadic formula is not only a bit of very early Christianity, but may very possibly be derived from a logion of Jesus.