Is there any Extra-Biblical source, (in Classical Greek, or Semitic sources), or a syntactical rule, behind the construction: ["πιστεύων ἐν" and "πιστεύων εἰς" + "Some Leader"]* — Or, is this phenomena unique to New Testament texts?

John 3:16, NASB - 16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him [πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν] shall not perish, but have eternal life.


The argument, that this construction forms figures-of-speech, (Metonymy, etc), in the form [Verb + ἐν or εἰς + "Some Leader"], seems to be supported by the repetitive use of two specific forms in the New Testament, ("Believe In/Into", and "Baptized Into") :

Romans 6:3, NASB - Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus [ἐβαπτίσθημεν εἰς Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν] have been baptized into His death [εἰς τὸν θάνατον αὐτοῦ ἐβαπτίσθημεν]?

  1. πιστεύω is understood to mean "Trust".
  2. New Testament use is complicated, by a lack of apparent use in Classical Greek.
  3. The New Testament appears to distinguish the use of the Greek word, "to Trust/Believe", from another, which takes a preposition, coupled with "Into/εἰς".

Other Similar Questions

The Source/Precedent issue is distinct from issues raised in other questions:

  1. The word 'believe' in John 3:15-16; (which is admittedly very close), but pursues the dichotomy of believing "about Jesus", or "believing what he said."
  2. What is the difference between πιστεύων ἐν αὐτῷ and πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν? appears to be a survey, and juxtaposes "πιστεύων ἐν αὐτῷ" and "πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν",

1 Answer 1


I will answer your “Question 1”, as this is not addressed in the earlier question.

In Classical Greek πιστεύω means “trust, put faith in, rely on” and takes an object in the dative or accusative; it is never (as far as I can see) construed with the prepositions ἐν or εἰς. This construction is, however, commonplace in LXX and NT, e.g. Ps. 77:22, where ὅτι οὐκ ἐπίστευσαν ἐν τῷ θεῷ translates כִּי לֹא הֶאֱמִינוּ בֵּאלֹהִים quite literally (with ἐν for the preposition b-), "because they believed not in God" (KJV Ps. 78:22). I would think that this usage is a Semitism in Jewish koine.

Similarly Latin “credo” never takes the preposition “in” in the classical language, but “credo in + accusative” is commonplace in ecclesiastical Latin.

  • 1
    Not mentioned in the question, but does the same apply for πιστεύω + ἐπὶ? (Although that one isn’t used in the LXX for –ב that I see; it only translates Is. 28:16 with no Hebrew correlate.)
    – Susan
    May 29, 2015 at 16:00
  • 1
    For this too there are no classical examples in Liddell/Scott: perseus.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/…
    – fdb
    May 29, 2015 at 16:06
  • Fascinating. Although ἐν is explained by the Hebrew, ἐπὶ and εἰς seem to be almost made up usages by the NT authors (plus Isaiah translator as above), but maybe that’s just overlapping prepositions (εἰς and ἐν at least). (I think, by “this construction” you mean only πιστεύω + ἐν? πιστεύω + εἰς doesn’t seem to be in the LXX at all unless I missed it - in Ex 19:9 they’re juxtaposed but it’s not this construction.)
    – Susan
    May 29, 2015 at 16:22
  • 2
    @Susan. Yes, I meant the construction with ἐν. Hebrew הֶאֱמִינ is construed both with b- and with l-, for which ἐν and εἰς respectively are the expected equivalents, and the same is true with Aramaic haymen.
    – fdb
    May 29, 2015 at 16:48
  • @e.s.kohen. I am hesitant to read too much theology into this. In Semitic it is very ordinary to have a verb plus b- or l- where other languages have a transitive verb with direct object.
    – fdb
    May 29, 2015 at 17:05

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