Hebrews 11:1

From: Kevin L. Barney (klbarney@yahoo.com)
Date: Tue May 04 1999 - 12:04:32 EDT

I have several questions regarding Hebrews 11:1, which reads as follows:

1. One generally sees HUPOSTASIS and ELEGXOS translated with a definite
article in English, but they lack such in Greek. I realize that Greek and
English sometimes use the article in different ways. But wouldn't it be
possible to render these words without the article, as in "Now faith is of
things hoped for a confident assurance, a conviction of things not seen"?

2. Does PRAGMATWN belong with ELPIZOMENWN, BLEPOMENWN, or both? Could it
possibly have a stronger force than "things" here; maybe something like

3. My main question is whether HUPOSTASIS should be taken as "substance"
or "assurance" here. (I looked in the archives and couldn't find a
discussion of this.) As background, here is the LXX usage of the word:

ma'amad ground under water on which one can stand
(Ps. 68:3)
yequm living being (Deut. 11:6)
cheled duration of life (Pss. 38:6, 88:48)
michyah food, sustenance (Jdg. 6:4)
kena'ah load, pack (Jer. 10:17)
matstsab outpost (1 Sam. 14:4)
matstsebah pillar (Ezekiel 26:11)
ruqqamti I was (when an embryo) woven (Ps. 138:15)
tekunah arrangement (Ezek. 43:11)
sod council, group of intimates (Jer. 23:22)
massa burden (Deut. 1:12)
tochelet expectation, hope (Ps. 38:8)
tiqwah hope (Ezek. 19:5)

The word appears five times in the New Testament. In
2 Cor. 9:4 and 11:17, the word seems to have reference
to "confidence." The other three occurrences are all
in Hebrews (including 11:1 itself). In RSV Hebrews
1:3, we read "He reflects the glory of God and bears
the very stamp of his nature [charakter tes
hypostaseos autou]." BAG renders
"a(n exact) representation of his (=God's) real
being." Other translations include:

KJV "express image of his person"
NASB "exact representation of his nature"
NIV "exact representation of his being"
Darby "expression of his substance"

(A charakter most literally was the impression a seal
made, which of course would be in the exact image of
the signet.) Here the term is used for "substance" or
"real essence" as opposed to that which merely appears
to be.

This usage might seem to settle the question in favor
of the KJV rendering. But in RSV Hebrews 3:14 we read:
"For we share in Christ, if
only we hold our first confidence [ten archen tes
hypostaseos] to the end."

So does HUPOSTASIS in Hebrews 11:1 mean substance,
real nature, essence, as in the KJV, or the foundation
or ground of hope, confidence, assurance, as in the
RSV? I was amazed at the difference of opinion on this question that I

In favor of something like "substance":

KJV "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of
things not seen."
NEB "Faith gives substance to our hopes, and makes
us certain of realities we do not see."
Interpreter's BD "being, nature"
Anchor BD [should be interpreted in the
philosophical linguistic tradition as in KJV]
Zerwick, Grammatical Analysis "substance"
Vulgate sperandarum substantia rerum
Hering "In hyperbolic language, which highlights
the Christian's absolute certainty that the divine
promises will be fulfilled, the writer declares that
faith already grasps the substance of what is

In favor of something like "confidence" or

RSV "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of
things not seen."
NIV "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for
and certain of what we do not see."
Most other translations
Interpreter's Bible [human faith doesn't create
the reality of things hoped for; unseen realities have
independent and objective validity. Faith gives *us*
assurance, evidence, etc.]
F.F. Bruce
BAG "faith is confident assurance of the things we
hope for."
Dummelow "What is meant is that faith is that
which gives assurance or certainty of things still in
the future. They exist apart from faith, but it is by
faith that they are realised."
Riggenbach "The thought that faith gives a present
existence to things hoped for in the future. . .
brings faith very close to illusion."

Any thoughts on this? Am I missing any evidence that is relevant to the
question? And if the translation should be "substance," what is that
supposed to mean? Thanks in advance for whatever light you can shine on
these questions.

Kevin L. Barney
Hoffman Estates, Illinois

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