Word Study

In this issue we will continue our study of Greek words with the word "pistevo."

ONE OF THE COMMON WORD­CONCEPTS OF THE BIBLE IS FAITH OR BELIEF. It has been fundamental to man's relationship with God from the beginning. This one word that is translated as faith or belief occurs about 550 times and possibly constitutes the most frequent instruction/ command found in the New Testament.

It would seem probable from such textual emphasis that faith would be one of the best-understood Christian concepts. If any word readily could be defined and explained, faith would seem to be that word. However, such is not true. We must not assume that we understand a Bible verse unless we know the meaning or meanings of the words in the verse, and understand those words in their

contextual definitions. If any typical Bible class was asked, "What is faith?" A predictable response would be that faith is belief. When asked what belief is, the response would be, that belief is faith. Since neither word is defined from another source, the result is a non-definition.

The Greek word, which is translated as faith, is pistis (noun) and believe, is translated from pistevo (verb). The word believe (Greek verb "pistevo"), according to Strong's Greek Dictionary, means: to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication, to entrust, (especially one's spiritual well-being to Christ.) believe, commit, (to trust), put in trust with. "Pistevo" comes from the Greek noun "pistis" which means: persuasion, i.e., credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself; assurance, belief, believe, faith. Notice the subtle shades of meaning which are unlocked in the amplified translations:

"Jesus said to her, I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in (adheres to, trusts in, relies on) Me, although he may die, yet he shall live" (John 11:25).

"For God so greatly loved the world that He gave up His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

Pistevo is a good example where a word for word translation that does not do justice to the true meaning of passages in the Bible. What is normally conveyed by this rich language gets lost, and without careful study, the word of God becomes simplified.

Irene Alexandrou lives in Boca Raton, Florida where she serves as president of the Hellenic Society Paideia of South Florida. She also teaches Modern Greek at Florida Atlantic University, and directs and teaches at the afternoon Greek School of her parish, St. Mark.

(Posting date 14 September 2006)

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