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Hebrews 11:1 is one of the most important definitions of faith given in the NT. Is this translation of the NWT adequate or does it add points that are not to be found in the Greek original:

Faith is the assured expectation of what is hoped for, the evident demonstration (footnote: Or "convincing evidence") of realities that are not seen.

Here is the entry in BDAG:

ἔλεγχος, ου, ὁ (Pind., Pre-Socr. et al.; pap, LXX; PsSol tit. [no. 9]; TestJos 6:6; Philo [s. CBarrett, JTS n.s. 1, ’50, 9], Joseph., Just., Tat., Ath.) ① the act of presenting evidence for the truth of someth., proof, proving (Pla., Gorg. 471e; Demosth. 44, 15 τὸ πρᾶγμα τὸν ἔλεγχον δώσει; Epict. 3, 10, 11; POxy 237 VIII, 17; PStras 41, 6 ὁ ἔλ. δεικνύσει; Job 23:7, cp. vs. 4; Philo, Praem. 4 ἔ. τ. ἀληθείας; Jos., Bell. 1, 626; 628, C. Ap. 2, 17) ἔ. πραγμάτων οὐ βλεπομένων faith is a proving (or conviction about) unseen things=faith means to be sure about things unseen (in contrast to confidence in the temporal) Hb 11:1. ② the act of charging a pers. with wrongdoing, accusation σύ μου ἔ. εἶ; will you accuse me? Hv 1, 1, 6 (other interpretations: complaint [Hab 2:1]: will you lodge a complaint against me?; conviction [BGU 1138, 13=Mitt-Wilck. II/2, 100, 13 (19/18 B.C.)]; Kaibel 814 of a monument that serves as a touchstone to identify either those well-disposed toward the dead or the impious; cp. TestJos 6:6). ③ expression of strong disapproval, reproof, censure, correction (Job 6:26; 13:6; Wsd 2:14; Philo, Rer. Div. Her. 76) 1 Cl 57:4f (Pr 1:25, 30); 2 Ti 3:16 v.l.—DELG s.v. ἐλέγχω. M-M. TW

Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 315). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Here is the Greek:

Westcott and Hort / [NA27 variants]
Ἔστιν δὲ πίστις ἐλπιζομένων ὑπόστασις, πραγμάτων ἔλεγχος οὐ βλεπομένων·

Specifically, is "evident demonstration" (or "convincing evidence") an acceptable translation of ἔλεγχος? Other translations have "conviction" (e.g., ESV, NASB).

  • In my edit, I have attempted to make the question more specific. The issue seems to revolve around the meaning of one word. I have also referenced other translations, otherwise there is no basis for comparison. – Pilgrim Oct 14 '17 at 21:31
  • @Pilgrim: Very good, thank you for the edit! – vonjd Oct 15 '17 at 5:52
  • @vonjd Are you asking if the translation of the whole verse is adequate? Or are you asking about one word in particular, i.e., ἔλεγχος? – Paul Vargas Oct 17 '17 at 14:49
  • @PaulVargas: That is a good question! In the end it boils down to the differences compared to other, more traditional translations and there the "evident demonstration (or 'convincing evidence')" part seems to be at the centre of interest. – vonjd Oct 17 '17 at 17:20
  • @PaulVargas: What makes it also interesting is that "evidence" seems to run counter to the (at least intuitive) idea of "faith". If you have hard evidence you don't need faith to begin with. So "conviction" seems more natural as a translation. But I want to have the "best" translation not the one we think would make the most sense from today's (epistemological) perspective. – vonjd Oct 17 '17 at 17:24
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Ἔστιν δὲ πίστις ἐλπιζομένων ὑπόστασις, πραγμάτων ἔλεγχος οὐ βλεπομένων·

The gist of the above, or rather quite a straightfoward, literal translation of the above is:

Now faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not. (DRB)

The Greek verb ἐλέγχω means in this context to show to be the case, as in vindicate or prove something.. well, hitherto taken on 'faith,' or show something simply inconclusive to be conclusively true. Its generic meaning is to expose something which underlies and is always there, but is, as I said, vindicated by its ultimate being shown to be the case. What we might simply call 'proof.'

See the entry for the word in the Liddell & Scott lexicon. (Or Strong's).

The author of Hebrews is defining faith as something more "substant"ial than simple blind or 'gullible' faith. Something which is, so to speak, a set of 'inferential knowns' from something else we know. Namely, the existence and trustworthy nature of the God whose revelation we have faith in: 'faith' is more than a promise that the things we cannot see are true—they are more like knowledge in that they come from the same source as other things we know.


As such, this translation isn't so much wrong as it is quite a loose (and poor) one. 'Evident demonstration' seems quite redundant, whereas 'evidence' suffices.

  • Please cite a lexicon when providing an authoritative analysis of the usage of a word. Why should we take your word for it (no pun intended)? Also, can you please show some evidence that your "meaning" (words don't have meanings, authors do) makes sense in the context. – Ruminator Oct 15 '17 at 22:37
  • Thanks. I added BDAG, and the Strong's concordance for the word. Providing a contextual analysis of Hebrews is not so pertinent to this simple translation question. This sentence is pretty standalone inasmuch as it's a primitive, simple definition of 'faith;' and this is more a case of grammar (in this case). However, if OP wants such an analysis, I could provide it. – Sola Gratia Oct 15 '17 at 23:00
  • BDAG—>Liddell&Scott* – Sola Gratia Oct 15 '17 at 23:08
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    I notice you used the verb form of the word rather than the noun which actually appears in the text and is the lexical form of the word which appears in both these reference works. – Pilgrim Oct 16 '17 at 14:46
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    Yes, the noun is directly derived from the primitive verb, and I prefer to go to verb roots (specifically, dictionary form). Noun forms are usually more abstract or 'weaker' in comparison, naturally. Verb: I demonstrate/prove/reprove/vindicate/show the error of the ways of someone, etc. Noun: evidence, proof, etc. You get a wider variety of uses then, too, when you go right to the verb. In certain cases, this isn't always applicable, but for most it is. I'm open to suggestions about how I might change or improve the answer :) – Sola Gratia Oct 16 '17 at 17:18
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The apostle Paul makes what I think is a valid and relevant observation about faith that the author of To the Hebrews is also making, that faith relates to hope and that hope is only relevant to things that one cannot see:

BSB Romans 8: 24For in this hope we were saved; but hope being seen is no hope; for does anyone hope for what he sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we await in patience.

In verse 3 he asserts that God has arranged the ages such that every time that we call "now" arose from what could not be seen with our natural eyes beforehand.

For more on that please see my answer on this related question: In Hebrews 11:3 what is the meaning of κατηρτίσθαι?

Hebrews is asserting that faith is what underpins our hopes, which are always unseen (by definition) and so rather than involve sight, our hopes are underpinned by persuasion:

BLB Romans 4: 16Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may rest on grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.”c He is our father in the presence of God, in whom he believed, the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being what does not yet exist.

18Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.”d 19Without weakening in his faith, he acknowledged the decrepitness of his body (since he was about a hundred years old) and the lifelessness of Sarah’s womb. 20Yet he did not waver through disbelief in the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21being fully persuaded that God was able to do what He had promised. 22That is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Saving faith is being fully persuaded of the promises of God concerning things one cannot see.

So what Hebrews is saying is that faith underpins our hopes and not by what we see but by persuasive evidence. I would translate it along these lines:

"but faith is the underpinning of our hopes, presenting persuasive evidence concerning matters we cannot see."

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The TaNaHk (O.T.) speak about faith?

Different translation, which one is right? Ha 2:4 Behold, his soul is puffed up, it is not upright in him; But the righteous shall live by his faith. (Tanahk 1917)

Ha 2:4 “See, he whose being is not upright in him is puffed up. But the righteous one lives by his steadfastness. (TS2009)

Ha 2:4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith. (RNKJV)

Ha 2:4 If he should draw back, my soul has no pleasure in him: but the just shall live by MY faith. (LXXE)

Faith in Hebrew H530 אֱמוּנָה 'emuwnah (em-oo-naw') n-f. אֱמֻנָה 'emunah (em-oo-naw') [shortened] 1. (literally) firmness.

FAITH appears only ONE time in the TaNaHk in Habbakkuk. It appears as Faithfulness • faithful, 3 Ps 119. 86; Ps 119. 138; Pr 28. 20

• faithfully, 5 2R 12. 15; 2R 22. 7; 2Ch 19. 9; 2Ch 31. 12; 2Ch 34. 12

• faithfulness, 17 1S 26. 23; Ps 36. 5; Ps 40. 10; Ps 88. 11; Ps 89. 1; Ps 89. 2; Ps 89. 5; Ps 89. 8; Ps 89. 24; Ps 92. 2; Ps 119. 75; Ps 119. 90; Ps 143. 1; Es 11. 5; Es 25. 1; Lm 3. 23; Os 2. 20

Ps 36:5 O יהוה, Your loving-commitment is in the heavens, And Your trustworthiness (Emuwnah) reaches to the clouds.

Lm 3:22 The kindnesses of Yehovah! For we have not been consumed, For not ended have His mercies. Lm 3:23 New every morning, abundant is THY faithfulness.

N.T Hé 11:1 And faith is of things hoped for a confidence, of matters not seen a conviction,

Hé 11:1 And belief is the substance of what is expected, the proof of what is not seen.

FAITH DEFINITION G4102 πίστις pistis (piy'-stis) n. 1. a trust. 2. a firm persuasion, a confidence.

To rely on Elohim's trustworthiness.

1S 26:23 The LORD H3068 render H7725 to every man H376 his righteousness H6666 and his faithfulness H530: for the LORD H3068 delivered H5414 thee into my hand H3027 to day H3117, but I would H14 not stretch forth H7971 mine hand H3027 against the LORD'S H3068 anointed H4899.

H530 H530 אֱמוּנָה 'emuwnah (em-oo-naw') n-f. אֱמֻנָה 'emunah (em-oo-naw') [shortened] 1. (literally) firmness.

(YLT) 1S 26:23 and Yehovah doth turn back to each his righteousness and his faithfulness (EMUNAH), in that Jehovah hath given thee to-day into my hand, and I have not been willing to put forth my hand against the anointed of Yehovah,

G1679 ἐλπίζω elpizo (el-piy'-zō) v. 1. to expect or confide. 2. (by implication) to expectantly await. 3. (reflexively) to place one's expectation upon or in another.

G1650 ἔλεγχος elegchos (e'-leng-chos) n. proof, conviction.

IN HEBREW THE WORD "elegchos" is translated as: elegchos H8433 * תּוֹכַחַת תּוֹכֵחָה (tôḵaḥaṯ tôḵēḥāh) tokhachat

Pr 15:5 A fool H191 despiseth H5006 his father's H1 instruction H4148: but he that regardeth H8104 reproof H8433 is prudent H6191.

H8433 תּוֹכֵחָה towkechah (to-kay-chaw') n-f. תּוֹכַחַת towkachath (to-kach'-ath) 1. chastisement. 2. (figuratively, by words) correction, refutation, proof (even in defence).

FROM ROOT WORD H3198 יָכחַ yakach (yaw-kach') v. 1. to be right (i.e. correct). 2. (reciprocal) to argue. 3. (causatively) to decide, justify or convict.

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