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

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Sun Apr 15 2001 - 09:07:57 EDT

At 2:55 AM +0000 4/15/01, Mark Wilson wrote:
>Iver wrote:
>>What do others says?
>Ok Iver, here's my stab at Heb. 11:1:
>"In fact, doctrine is the underlying structure (in the sense of: divine
>provision) from which we receive confidence, the proof of matters not seen."
>PISTIS often has the sense of that which is believed, namely, the body of
>truth or doctrine. Here, I take it in its passive sense.
>ELPIZOMENWN is passive (we receive), and "from which" brings out its
>Ablative function. That is, doctrine is the source of our confidence, not
>our human, frail faith.
>hUPOSTATIS receives "underlying structure" as part of BDAG's first
>definition, but it seems to slightly miss it to me, so I added a clarifying
>parenthetical remark.
>My thoughts,

I knew when I saw George Blaisdell's post raising the question of the
central placement of PRAGMATWN in Heb 1:11 that this was another instance
of "deja vu all over again." We had a lengthy thread on this almost two
years ago--when George was last a participant in B-Greek--back in May of
1999. It began with a post by Kevin Barney on 5/4/99 and continued through
a post by Jason Lee on 5/18/99; the initial subject-header was "Hebrews
11:1," thereafter "Re: Hebrews 11:1."

A note on searching the archives: I admit that searching the archives by
subject is difficult, but the primary reason for this is that
subject-headers are so variable (e.g. "Hebrews 11:1," "Heb 11:1," "Heb
11.1," "PISTIS," etc.); I think one is more likely to find what one's
looking for more quickly by typing the transliterated Greek word or phrase
into the search box. I find it easier to search by date (IF I know when a
thread began). One fact about the way the Lyris engine does searches that
needs to be understood, however, is that when you do the search, what is
brought up is the 200-message sequence of which the item fitting the search
criteria is the earlist-dated and therefore at the bottom of the window
opened up with search results; you must scroll down to the proper message
to read it.

I cite below my first and major response in that thread of two years ago--I
think that most of what I thought at that time remains intact in my mind. I
think I would now offer a fresh "dynamic equivalence" version of the
celebrated opening sentence: "What we mean by 'faith' is what we stand on
when we look to the future as Christians; it's our touchstone for testing
what we cannot see."

A brief comment on this version: (a) The opening with ESTIN seems to me to
mean that this is a deliberate attempt to define 'faith' or to answer the
implicit question "What is faith?" (b) The oddity of this phrasing, in my
opinion, is that it is a very abstract description of our experience of
faith that could and perhaps should be expressed in much more 'concrete'
language of the everyday experience of believers AS BELIEVERS: what do we
do when we 'believe'? We take our stand upon what we expect to happen; we
offer our "story" expressing what we believe as our 'canon' or 'litmus
test' for what we are confident of even though we cannot see it (it being
the PRAGMATA--the realities upon which our faith focuses even though they
aren't 'tangible' in any empirical sense. All of which is to say: I don't
think this is a philosophical definition of Faith so much as an
experiential description of it. The more detailed basis of this reading is
in my posting of two years ago below.

At 8:08 AM -0500 5/5/99, Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>I've read previous answers, and while I'm not sure I can add anything
>"substantive" to what a couple others have said, I do have some thoughts
>about hUPOSTASIS in particular.
>At 11:29 AM -0500 5/4/99, Kevin L. Barney wrote:
>>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"?
>I don't think the absence of an article makes a "substantive" difference
>here, but it does leave open the possibility that the participles
>ELPIZOMENWN and OU BLEPOMENWN should be understood as predicative rather
>than attributive. I don't really think this has a signficant bearing on the
>fundamental sense of the proposition, but observe how seeing the
>participles as predicative slightly alters how the whole is perceived (or
>how I, at any rate, perceive it)--my paraphrase: "Faith is the basis of
>happenings while we are anticipating them, the touchstone of happenings
>when we do not see them." I'll try to elucidate as I go along.
>>2. Does PRAGMATWN belong with ELPIZOMENWN, BLEPOMENWN, or both? Could it
>>possibly have a stronger force than "things" here; maybe something like
>I believe that both participles must depend upon PRAGMATWN. The word, which
>most essentially means "things done" or "things to do," has an interesting
>range in historical Greek, including: "affairs," "troubles/worries,"
>"events," "facts" (as opposed to "hearsay"). I think it's pretty close (in
>its want of concrete specificity and range of meanings to the Latin plural
>noun, RES. which gets translated as "things" most frequently, if it doesn't
>have some adjective or participle indicating an idiomatic use. In our
>context, I think "happenings" or "events" is most appropriate, inasmuch as
>the theme in the context is eschatological fulfillment. Yet the sense of
>"reality" as what has permanence as opposed to what only appears real in
>this perishing world-age must also be implicit, I think, in this
>eschatological perspective.
>>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.)
>I'm not going to cite your entire "crowd of witnesses," although I would
>want to say that the very range of senses that you cite from LXX and NT
>usages of hUPOSTASIS, interpretations of a broad range of 'authoritative'
>Biblical versions and opinions of commentators and scholarly reference
>works obviously demonstrates that there isn't any absolute consensus on the
>meaning of the word in this particular passage. It does look, does it not,
>as if the ways of understanding it are fundamentally two: (1) being,
>essence: what a thing really is (this is what would be termed the
>"philosophical" usage; and (2) confidence, assurance.
>(1) I rather think that a little etymology and word-history, though not
>absolutely conclusive, may well be illuminating here. For the philosophic
>sense of "substance," I think the single most important factor is that the
>Greek hUPO-STASIS was carried over into a precise etymological equivalent
>in Latin as SUB-STANTIA, which Latin word has "substance" as an English
>derivative (although English "substance" certainly doesn't always mean the
>same thing in every context that Latin SUBSTANTIA means). A factor of great
>import for the usage of SUBSTANTIA is that the Latin word was also used to
>translate Aristotle's OUSIA, which has two distinct meanings and was
>accordingly conveyed into Latin with SUBSTANTIA for the sense of "being" as
>"a real thing" and with ESSENTIA (a newly-coined word) for the sense of
>"essential character" or the conceptual totality that constitutes the
>distinctive being of any "real thing." It's worth noting also, of course,
>that hUPOSTASIS is a word playing an important role in the process of
>definition of trinitarian doctrine, something into which I certainly don't
>want to go here, as my concern is diction rather than theology.
>For my part, I do NOT think that hUPOSTASIS in Heb 11:1 should be
>understood in the philosophic sense.
>(2) Returning to etymology (it was more word-history at play in the other
>sense attributed to hUPOSTASIS), it should be noted that, in a literal
>etymological sense, a hUPO-STASIS is "that which stands under (something
>else)" or "the process of standing under something else." I think one can
>readily discern the linkage of this etymology to the philosophic sense if
>one assume that what stands under anything is more "basic" or
>"fundamental"--an early Greek philosopher might have said it is the ARCH
>upon which transient phenomenal things "depend" or from which they
>"derive." But the sense of "underpinning" or "basis" or "ground to stand
>on" leads also to the notion of "assurance"--and that is the sense that
>seems to me most appropriate in Heb 11:1. That is, Faith is what we stand
>on, what we take our stance upon when we anticipate a future that we cannot
>see. It is this sense of hUPOSTASIS, I think, which more aptly illuminates
>the string of patriarchal exempla who acted PISTEI. I think this is what is
>made clear later in 11:14-16: hOI GAR TOIAUTA LEGONTES EMFANIZOUSIN hOTI

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu OR cwconrad@ioa.com
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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