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In John 1:12, it is written,

But to all who have received him – those who believe in his name – he has given the right to become God’s children NET

ὅσοι δὲ ἔλαβον αὐτόν, ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν τέκνα θεοῦ γενέσθαι, τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, NA28

Question: What is the significance of the phrase "believing in his name" as opposed to the usual phrase "believing in him" (cp. John 3:18: ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν/ "he who believes in him")?

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  • Read from verse 1-18, the context supports your last point in that the name is obviously that of Jesus Christ. – KorvinStarmast Apr 26 '16 at 18:54
  • Its not "name". Its "dynamis" meaning power. Believe in the power of the water, sun, and holy spirit. – R. Emery Feb 20 at 23:09
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John 1:12 (KJV)
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

  • From Vincent's Word Studies:

    Expressing the sum of the qualities which mark the nature or character of a person. To believe in the name of Jesus Christ the Son of God, is to accept as true the revelation contained in that title.

  • From Robertson's Word Pictures:

    pisteuō eis to onoma autou. This common use of onoma for the person is an Aramaism, but it occurs also in the vernacular papyri and eis to onoma is particularly common in the payment of debts (Moulton and Milligan’s Vocabulary).

    Ibid. By a usage similar to that of the Heb. שֵׁם, ὄνομα comes in the NT to denote the character, fame, authority of the person indicated (cf. Php_2:9 f., Heb_1:4 ). With this may be compared the use of the word as a title of dignity or rank.

  • From Thayer's Greek Lexicon:

    2) the name is used for everything which the name covers, everything the thought or feeling of which is aroused in the mind by mentioning, hearing, remembering, the name, i.e. for one’s rank, authority, interests, pleasure, command, excellences, deeds etc.

In short, the words "his name" refers to everything he is, everything he's done indeed everything about him.

  • E.W. Bullinger's notes in the Companion Bible:

    Psa 20:1  The LORD hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee;

    Psa 20:5  We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the LORD fulfil all thy petitions.

    Psa 20:7  Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God. 

    ... name. Put by Figure of speech Metonymy (of Adjunct), for the person himself. Occurs three times in this Psalm: Psa_20:1, the Defending Name; Psa_20:5, the Displayed Name; Psa_20:7, the Delivering Name.

By design, a figure of speech draws your attention and causes you to pause and consider the words more closely thereby giving the words emphasis.

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Jesus's name is Yeshua, a shortened version of Yehoshua (Joshua), and means "Yahweh saves". Perhaps there is some word play at work in John's writings.

I started being interested in the "believed in his name" phrases while reading the gospel of John. If Yeshua is in fact The Messiah, the Son of God, the King of Isreal, as Andrew and Nathaniel profess and proclaim in the first chapter of John, perhaps believing in Yeshua's name is believing Yeshua is the messiah that "Yahweh" sent to "save" Israel. At the passover scene referenced in John 2, the people and disciples said to be "believing in his name" did not yet understand or believe Jesus was God. It was too early. It is reasonable though to argue that what they believed is that he was at least a miracle working prophet sent by and speaking for Yahweh, and others both a prophet and the promised Messiah. I don't think the scriptures claim that people must understand every facet of Jesus to be saved. Interesting discussion. Thank you all for your thoughts and observations.

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  • welcome to BH! Yes, believing "in His name" or "in Him," it makes no difference as the v12 says-"receive Him" = "believing in Him." For everyone, It takes time to come to know Jesus as Paul prayed for Ephesians 1: 17-19a. Good start! – Sam Feb 22 at 3:02
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There is a big difference between 'believe in him' and 'believe in his name'. To 'believe in him' is the foundation to salvation. To 'believe in his name' is the basis for taking your authority in Christ Jesus.

In John 14 it says:

12"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. 13"Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14"If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

In Mark 11:

22 And Jesus answered saying to them, "Have faith in God. 23"Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. 24"Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.…

And in Luke10:

18 And He said to them, "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. 19"Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. 20"Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven."

After the resurrection we have salvation, 'in Him', the infilling of The Holy Spirit, and the authority of his name because He conquered all.

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  • Respectfully, none of the verses you cited mention "believe in my name." "Asking in my name" =/= "believing in my name." Or, if you believe it does, you must connect the dots and prove it to be the case. – user862 Apr 28 '16 at 8:25
  • Yes I was rushing and made a botch of my answer. I may get back to this but I still believe that even though there is a sameness there is also a uniqueness. – Tony E May 12 '16 at 0:48
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The phrase is definitively Johannine, occurring five times in four verses, all in Johannine texts. The Greek syntax, at a minimum, consists of a conjugation of the verb πιστεύω, the preposition εἰς, and the noun τὸ ὄνομα.1

But as many as received him, he gave power to them to become sons of God, [even] to those who believe in his name.

ὅσοι δὲ ἔλαβον αὐτόν ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν τέκνα θεοῦ γενέσθαι τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ TR, 1550

Now when he was in Jerusalem during Passover, during the feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he did.

Ὡς δὲ ἦν ἐν Ἱεροσολύμοις ἐν τῷ πάσχα ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ πολλοὶ ἐπίστευσαν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ θεωροῦντες αὐτοῦ τὰ σημεῖα ἃ ἐποίει TR, 1550

He who believes in him is not judged, but he who does not believe is already judged, since he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten son of God.

ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν οὐ κρίνεται ὁ δὲ μὴ πιστεύων ἤδη κέκριται ὅτι μὴ πεπίστευκεν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ μονογενοῦς υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ TR, 1550

I wrote these things to you who believe in the name of the son of God, so that you know that you have eternal life, and so that you believe in the name of the son of God.

ταῦτα ἔγραψα ὑμῖν τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἵνα εἰδῆτε ὅτι ζωὴν ἔχετε αἰώνιον, καὶ ἵνα πιστεύητε εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ ὑιοῦ τοῦ Θεοῦ TR, 1550

According to Edwin Abbott Abbott in Johannine Vocabulary: A Comparison of the Words of the Fourth Gospel with Those of the Three,2 who cites Origen and John Chrysostom, "to believe in his name" (πιστεύειν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ) (i.e., of the Lord Jesus Christ) is distinct from "to believe in him" (πιστεύειν εἰς αὐτὸν). The former refers to the rudimentary faith (belief) expressed in baptism in the Lord Jesus Christ, while the latter refers to a more firm and secure faith (belief) in the Lord Jesus Christ.


References

Abbott, Edwin Abbott. Johannine Vocabulary: A Comparison of the Words of the Fourth Gospel with Those of the Three. London: Black, 1905.

Footnotes

1 John 1:12 and 2:23 follow τὸ ὄνομα ("the name") by αὐτοῦ ("his"), while John 3:18 follows it by τοῦ μονογενοῦς υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ ("of the only-begotten son of God"), and 1 John 5:13 follows it by τοῦ ὑιοῦ τοῦ Θεοῦ ("of the son of God").

2 p. 34-37, §9, [1483-1487]

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  • It sounds like you are saying nothing more than it is somehow "better" - but how? You don't seem to be providing any substantive explanation, just an assertion that "Edwin Abbot says its better". ? – Ruminator Oct 23 '17 at 13:02
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ὄνομα can refer to one's proper name, such as "Horatio" or "Raul" or it can refer to one's title, such as "Senator" or "Imperator". A couple of examples of this are:

NIV Philippians 2: 9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name [title] that is above every name [title], 10that at the name [title] of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

New International Version Hebrews 1:4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name [title] he has inherited ["son"] is superior to theirs.

So to believe in Jesus' "name" is to believe in his "title" and therefore to believe in his God-given authority:

New International Version John 13:13 "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am.

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It is important to remember a key focus on the gospel of John is the divine connection between master and disciple. That said, a disciple in Jesus' day in some sense took on the name of his or her master. You placed your name under the name of your teacher. A parallel is a martial artist becoming a student of a sensei and the dojo bearing his/her name. That student relinquishes his/her name in a sense and takes on the name Master X's student. Similarly, followers of Christ take on the name Christian.

The hang up here is the translation "belief." It is not strong enough a term and easily misunderstood. "To entrust oneself to" gets at pisteuo more clearly, IMO. Hence, believe in the name becomes "to entrust oneself to the name of Christ." Or in other words, to take on the name "Christ-follower."

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In the languages of the Scriptures, the words for "name" had a concrete meaning of that by which a person was called (e.g. Matthew 1:21), and also a figurative meaning of the renown, reputation, and character of the person (e.g. Matthew 20:22). From Strong's lexicon,

(figuratively) the manifestation or revelation of someone's character, i.e. as distinguishing them from all others.

Souter writes in his lexicon,

According to Hebrew notions, a name is inseparable from the person to whom it belongs, i.e. it is something of his essence.

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As a late joiner I actually wonder whether the difference isn't the other way around. The first 11 verses are spelling out what the name means. This is who the Word is! We may be guilty of squeezing the name out of our statement of how to be saved by emphasizing only confession of sin and Jesus dying for us.

Are we not guilty of skipping the most important fact i.e. that this Jesus who died for me was, and is in fact, the Word. If he isn't God, the eternal I am, then my salvation is no more than a glossy advertisement with no actual content.

I must choose to believe not only what Jesus did, but that the Word is God.

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