A Series on What does Faith Mean
Note: Word studies such as this is a wonderful way to learn from scholars who have unearthed facts about
linguistics and etymology and bring to light insights and perspectives that would otherwise be missed. However
the study of biblical terms within the background and context of ancient worlds and cultures do pose a risk.
For the uninformed, the risk is assuming that a term always has a certain technical meaning. Language is not
so rigid, and one must bear in mind the context of the passage to fully appreciate the beauty and meaning of a
Jewish translators used Koine Greek terms of the pistis word group in the process of translating the
Hebrew root 'āman, and its derivatives (i.e. ‘ēmūn, ‘ĕmûnâ, ‘ĕmet, etc) into Greek
for the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament).
Pistis: This Greek term means essentially "faith" or "a trustful human response to
God's self revelation via His words or actions."
The Greek term, pistis, is used in the following places of the Septuagint:
Deuteronomy 32:20; 1 Samuel 21:2;
26:23; 2 Kings 12:15;
22:7; 1 Chronicles 9:22, 31;
2 Chronicles 31:12, 18; 34:12;
Nehemiah 9:38; Psalms 32:4;
Proverbs 3:3; 12:17;
Jeremiah 5:1; 7:28;
40:6; Lamentations 3:23;
Hosea 2:20 and Habakkuk 2:4.
When used in the New Testament, it was not until after the resurrection of Christ, that the
gospel became a tradition of teaching which laid claim to be received by faith. This call for pistis in
the name of God involved the renunciation of existing cult piety and rabbinical teaching.
Grammatically, when pistis appears with the definite article, it is often in reference
to particular Christian beliefs and is understood as "the faith" (i.e.
1 Cor 16:13).
It is about a saving faith based on the historical event of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection and promise of
future salvation for the believing human being.
Pisteuō: Derived from "pist-", this Greek verb means "believe" or "trust."
The Greek term, pisteuō, is used in the following places of the Septuagint:
Genesis 15:6; 42:20;
45:26; Exodus 4:1, 8;
Numbers 14:11; 20:12;
Deuteronomy 9:23; 28:66;
1 Samuel 3:21; 27:12;
1 Kings 10:7; 2 Kings 17:14;
2 Chronicles 9:6; 24:5;
32:15; Job 4:18;
9:16; 15:15, 31;
39:12; Psalms 26:13;
Proverbs 14:15; 24:24;
Isaiah 7:9; 28:16;
Jeremiah 12:6; 25:8;
47:14; Lamentations 4:12;
Daniel 6:23; Jonah 3:5 and
When used in the New Testament, pisteuō is consistently in reference to the saving
faith and trust of a believer with a focus on the promises of God made through instruments such as Moses
(John 5:46), prophets
Acts 26:27), angels
Acts 27:25) and Scripture
(John 2:22; Acts 24:14).
Frequently pisteuō is used in combination with a Greek preposition forming pisteuō eis,
which means "believe in" (Gal 2:16;
3:18). This thought is not common in Greek nor in the LXX, which
call for faith as "believe that." This form of missionary preaching, "believe in," brings a focus on the object
of faith Jesus Christ Himself:
An event in the history of Jesus
(1 Thess 4:14; Rom 10:9)
A statement about Jesus (John 20:31)
The New Testament Greek term, pistis, became the leading term describing the relationship between
human beings and God. It reflected the fact that the Old Testament Hebrew term 'āman was established as
an important term for the religious relationship. To turn to God, revealed in its proclamation, is "faith."
Pistis entails a personal relationship to Christ, analogous to the 'āman relationship with
God, yet different from it. In the Old Testament sense, faith in God meant obedience to the Law and trust in
God's covenant faithfulness. In the New Testament sense, faith in Christ meant belief in His deity, trust in
His work of atonement and hope of future salvation. Faith acknowledges the truth of the past with a confidence
of the future.
1. Brown C, ed., The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 3,
Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, (1979).
2. Kittel G, Friedrich G, eds., Bromiley GW, trans., Theological Dictionary of the New
Testament, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., (1968).
3. Brand C, Draper C and England A, eds., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Nashville:
Holman Bible Publishers, (1998).
4. Morrish G, A Concordance of the Septuagint, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House,
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