[b-greek] RE: Heb. 11:1

From: Iver Larsen (iver_larsen@sil.org)
Date: Sat Apr 14 2001 - 16:25:45 EDT

From Iver to George:

> I have been away for quite awhile, and I remember not doing well with this
> famous definition of faith that begins ESTIN DE PISTIS. That definition
> seems to be UPOSTASIS PRAGMATWN, regarding things ELPIZOMENWN, and ELEGKOS
> of things OU BLEPOMENWN
> BLEPOMENWN translates fairly well with, say:
> "Now faith is, of [things] being hoped for/anticipated, [the]
> foundation/basis of [pragmatic] actions, proof of [things] not being
> seen."
> Such that the idea being conveyed is that faith is the basis of actions
> [of a certain kind, with two qualifiers: hoped for and unseen.]
> Am I missing something obvious here? I have never seen it translated this
> way...

George asked me off-list about how I understand the grammar of Heb 11:1 because I
mentioned in passing this verse. I don't have much of an answer, but I would like to hear
from others, since it is an important verse, especially for a Bible translator like me.

Grammatically I understand ELPIZOMENWN hUPOSTASIS as the first description of what PISTIS
is with an implied "things". Then PRAGMATWN ELEGCOS OU BLEPOMENWN as the second, parallel
description, in grammatical apposition to the first. There is a clear parallel between
"things we hope for" and "matters we do not see (yet)". ELEGCOS is used only here in the
NT, but related to the more common verb ELEGCW with a variety of senses, such as show the
reality of something, prove, prove guilty, rebuke. I suppose "evidence" or "proof" would
be a reasonable translation.

hUPOSTASIS appears to be used twice by Paul in 2 Cor and in Heb 3:14 with the meaning
"confidence, assurance". But in Heb 1:3 it is more like "essence, reality." For Heb 11:1 I
would prefer to take it to imply that our hopes need to be based on or founded upon faith.
Assurance in itself does not guarantee that our hopes come true, but faith is always a
response to a word from God, and faith in that word can make things come true that we do
not see and it can fulfil those hopes that are based on God's words to us and our faith in
those words.

What do others says? What is the most common meaning of hUPOSTASIS in Hellenistic Greek?

Iver Larsen

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