Understanding the Word "Faith" in the Bible
by Jack Northart
The King James Translation of the Bible, from the Stephens Greek Text was completed in 1611. Once a translation is made, and it begins to be re-worked, it is called a version. Hence, the King James Version came from the King James Translation. When a translation is made from one language to another, there is always the possibility of error in communicating. Such has been the case when it comes to the word, "faith" in the KJV, and subsequent English translations.
When the King James was completed, the translators did not help very much regarding the translation of two very important but similar Greek words, pistis and pisteuo. Pistis is a noun and pisteuo is its associated verb. They have been translated rather haphazardly. They translated them into the English words "faith," "have faith," "believe" or "believing." However, they did not use any clear pattern in doing so.
The understanding of the English word "faith" has become clouded because of its many definitions. Translating the Greek word pistis as "believing" rather than "faith" more closely represents the understanding God wants us to have from this word.
Romans 10: 9-17
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe
[pisteuo] in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be
saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth
confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth
[pisteuo] on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the
Jew and Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For
whosoever shall call up on the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall
they call on him in whom they have not believed [pisteuo]?
And how shall they believe [pisteuo] in him of whom they have not heard?
And how shall they hear without a preacher?
And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are
the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tiding of good
things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath
believed [pisteuo] our report? So then, faith [pistis] cometh by hearing, and hearing
by the word of God.
The word faith is the Greek word pistis and is understood clearer by being translated believing. Believing comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. If we are ignorant of God's Word, then we cannot believe it. People cannot believe what they do not know. Thus, our logical, loving response to the greatness of God's Word is to believe it.
I Peter 5: 8,9
Be sober, be vigilant' because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh
about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in [by] the faith
[pistis, believing], knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in
Here in this verse, the word "faith" is modified by the definite article and is thus translated "the faith." The definite article also occurs here in the Greek. Logically, it would be translated, "the faith" or "the believing." When prefixed to the word pistis, the definite article often designates the believing that is marked out from all others and is the only one of its kind. It is THE believing, or the true, correct or right way of believing, as opposed to the wrong way of believing. We could better understand it as THE right way of believing. This is true of the Greek word Theos, meaning God, which is almost always prefixed in Greek with the definite article when referring to the one true God. We don't translate it "the God," but the definite article in Greek distinguishes Him from all other gods.
With so many uses of the word "faith" being thrown around today, it is important to see the clear Biblical meaning of these words pistis and pisteuo so that we understand what are the correct things for us to believe. Certainly, all men believe in something, and most of us live in societies that tolerate many beliefs. However, just because we tolerate a belief does not validate it. Not all beliefs are of equal value. What really matters is whether a man has the right way of believing.
II Thessalonians 3:2
And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have
believing not faith [the right way of believing].
Are we to understand that "All men have not believing?" We know from the world around us and by shear logic that everybody believes something. Even men who say that they do not believe, believe that they do not believe. Anybody of sufficient mental capability believes something and will continue to do so until they lose their mental capability or they die. But this verse is referring to THE right way of believing as opposed to all other ways to believe. Do other men have the right to believe the way that they want to. Yes, in America, they do. The issue is not whether they have the right to believe the way that they want to, the issue is: are they right? God's Word makes a clear distinction between THE right way of believing. Furthermore, it states in this verse that those who do not have THE right way of believing, are unreasonable and wicked. Hmm, that sounds like something that we see all around us today, doesn't it?
This brief overview of this topic on understanding "faith" in the Bible is just the beginning. A student of the Bible could spend hundreds of hours working this subject. Just as one would begin to uncover the different facets of a rose by peeling back one pedal after another, so it is with the Word of God regarding pistis and pisteuo. What a person will begin to find in working this subject is that we have not really been taught the vital lessons of believing, which are clearly set forth in God's wonderful matchless Word. And if we have been taught, we must very honestly admit that it is all too little appreciated.
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