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[Heb 3:14 ASV] for we are become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end:

What is he saying about "hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end"? To what does "our confidence" refer?

Notes:

I'm including BDAG's entry because this is not an obvious one:

ὑπόστασις, εως, ἡ (ὑφίστημι; Hippocr.+; Polyb. 4, 50, 10; 6, 55, 2; Diod S 16, 32, 3; 16, 33, 1; M. Ant. 10, 5; ins, pap, LXX; PsSol 15:5; 17:24; TestReub 2:7; TestZeb 2:4; Tat.; Ath. 21, 3; Iren. 5, 36, 1 [Harv. II 426, 1]; Hippol., Ref. 10, 17, 2; Did., Gen. 128, 11 in widely different meanings. See Dörrie 4 below.)
① the essential or basic structure/nature of an entity, substantial nature, essence, actual being, reality (underlying structure, oft. in contrast to what merely seems to be: Ps.-Aristot., De Mundo 4 p. 395a, 29f; Plut., Mor. 894b; Diog. L., Pyrrh. 9, 91; Artem. 3, 14; Ps 38:6; Wsd 16:21; TestReub 2:7; SJCh 78, 20; Philo, Aet. M. 88; 92; Jos., C. Ap. 1, 1; Tat. 6, 2; Ath. 21, 3; cp. the answer of a certain Secundus, who, when asked ‘Quid fides?’, answered: ‘ignotae rei mira certitudo’=a marvelous certainty about someth. otherwise unknown [FPhGr I 516]; s. also Lexicon Sabbaiticum: Lexica Graeca Minora ’65, 53)
ⓐ of the Son of God as χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ a(n) exact representation of (God’s) real being (i.e. as one who is in charge of the universe) Hb 1:3. Sim. of polytheists’ deities, whose basic reality is someth. material like stone, metal etc. Dg 2:1.
ⓑ of things: among the meanings that can be authenticated for Hb 11:1 a strong claim can be made for realization (Diod S 1, 3, 2 of the realization of a plan; Cornutus 9 p. 9, 3 of the realization of humanity; Jos., C. Ap. 1, 1 that of the Jewish people, both by a divine act; Tat. 5, 1 of God τοῦ παντὸς ἡ ὑπόστασις): ἔστιν πίστις ἐλπιζομένων ὑπ.=in faith things hoped for become realized, or things hoped for take on (but s. 3 and 4 below) reality. Conversely, ‘without faith things hoped for would have no reality’. HKöster (s. bibliog. 4 below) argues for this sense also in 3:14, but s. 2. Cp. the rendering ‘substance’ (e.g. KJV, REB).
② a plan that one devises for action, plan, project, undertaking, endeavor (Diod. Sic 15, 70, 2; 16, 32, 3; 16, 82, 6; 17, 69, 7; Ezk 19:5) ἐν τῇ ὑποστάσει ταύτῃ in connection with this undertaking i.e. the collection for Jerusalem 2 Cor 9:4. The fact that meeting a financial obligation is the main theme (vss. 1–2) might well suggest association of ὑπ. with its use e.g. as a t.t. of expectation of rent due PTebt 61b, 194. To emphasize the importance of steadfast commitment to professed obligation (opp.   p 1041  καρδία πονηρὰ ἀπιστίας ἐν τῷ ἀποστῆναι), the author of Hb 3:14 uses ὑπ. in a way that invites an addressee to draw on the semantic component of obligation familiar in commercial usage of the term (s. PTebt above), an association that is invited by use of μέτοχος, a standard term for a business partner (PHib 109, 3; PCairZen 176, 102 [both III b.c.]), μέχρι τέλους (s.v. τέλος 2bβ), and βέβαιος (s. M-M s.v.). S. Köster 1b above for focus of ὑπ. on ‘reality’.—Satirically, ἐν ταύτῃ τῇ ὑποστάσει τῆς καυχήσεως in this boasting project of mine 2 Cor 11:17.
③ The interp. situation, condition (Cicero, Ad Attic. 2, 3, 3 ὑπόστασιν nostram=our situation), also specif. frame of mind (Dio Cass. 49, 9; Themist., Or. 13 p. 178b; Jos., Ant. 18, 24 of determination in desperate circumstances; sim. Polyb. 6, 55, 2) has been suggested for some of the passages cited in 1 and 2 above: 2 Cor 9:4 (explained in a v.l. via the epexegetical gen. καυχήσεως); 11:17; Hb 3:14 (s. Dörrie [bibliog. 4 below], p. 39: the frame of mind described in Hb 3:6). The sense ‘confidence’, ‘assurance’ (based on LXX [Ruth 1:12; Ps 38:8; Ezk 19:5], where it renders תִּקְוָה etc.) favored by Melanchthon and Luther (also Tyndale, NRSV, but not KJV) for Hb 11:1 has enjoyed much favor but must be eliminated, since examples of it cannot be found (s. Dörrie and Köster [4 below]). More prob. for Hb 4:11 is
④ guarantee of ownership/entitlement, title deed (Sb 9086 III, 1–11 [104 a.d.]; Spicq III 423 n. 14; cp. M-M s.v.) Hb 11:1 (cp. 2 above for commercial use of ὕπ.).—ASchlatter, Der Glaube im NT4 1927, 614ff; MMathis, The Pauline πίστις-ὑπόστασις acc. to Hb 11:1, diss. Cath. Univ. of Amer., Washington, D.C. 1920, also Biblica 3, 1922, 79–87; RWitt, Hypostasis: ‘Amicitiae Corolla’ (RHarris Festschr.) ’33, 319–43; MSchumpp, D. Glaubensbegriff des Hb: Divus Thomas 11, ’34, 397–410; FErdin, D. Wort Hypostasis, diss. Freiburg ’39; CArpe, Philologus 94, ’41, 65–78; HDörrie, Ὑπόστασις, Wort-u. Bedeutungsgeschichte: NAWG 1955, no. 3, ZNW 46, ’55, 196–202; HKöster, TW VIII 571–88 (Köster prefers plan, project [Vorhaben] for the passages in 2 Cor, and reality [Wirklichkeit] for all 3 occurrences in Hb, contrasting the reality of God with the transitory character of the visible world). S. also the lit. s.v. πίστις 2a.—DELG s.v. ἵστημι. M-M. EDNT. TW. Spicq. Sv.

Here it is with different formatting:

ὑπόστασις, εως, ἡ (ὑφίστημι; Hippocr.+; Polyb. 4, 50, 10; 6, 55, 2; Diod S 16, 32, 3; 16, 33, 1; M. Ant. 10, 5; ins, pap, LXX; PsSol 15:5; 17:24; TestReub 2:7; TestZeb 2:4; Tat.; Ath. 21, 3; Iren. 5, 36, 1 [Harv. II 426, 1]; Hippol., Ref. 10, 17, 2; Did., Gen. 128, 11 in widely different meanings. See Dörrie 4 below.)

① the essential or basic structure/nature of an entity, substantial nature, essence, actual being, reality (underlying structure, oft. in contrast to what merely seems to be: Ps.-Aristot., De Mundo 4 p. 395a, 29f; Plut., Mor. 894b; Diog. L., Pyrrh. 9, 91; Artem. 3, 14; Ps 38:6; Wsd 16:21; TestReub 2:7; SJCh 78, 20; Philo, Aet. M. 88; 92; Jos., C. Ap. 1, 1; Tat. 6, 2; Ath. 21, 3; cp. the answer of a certain Secundus, who, when asked ‘Quid fides?’, answered: ‘ignotae rei mira certitudo’=a marvelous certainty about someth. otherwise unknown [FPhGr I 516]; s. also Lexicon Sabbaiticum: Lexica Graeca Minora ’65, 53)

ⓐ of the Son of God as χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ a(n) exact representation of (God’s) real being (i.e. as one who is in charge of the universe) Hb 1:3. Sim. of polytheists’ deities, whose basic reality is someth. material like stone, metal etc. Dg 2:1.

ⓑ of things: among the meanings that can be authenticated for Hb 11:1 a strong claim can be made for realization (Diod S 1, 3, 2 of the realization of a plan; Cornutus 9 p. 9, 3 of the realization of humanity; Jos., C. Ap. 1, 1 that of the Jewish people, both by a divine act; Tat. 5, 1 of God τοῦ παντὸς ἡ ὑπόστασις): ἔστιν πίστις ἐλπιζομένων ὑπ.=in faith things hoped for become realized, or things hoped for take on (but s. 3 and 4 below) reality. Conversely, ‘without faith things hoped for would have no reality’. HKöster (s. bibliog. 4 below) argues for this sense also in 3:14, but s. 2. Cp. the rendering ‘substance’ (e.g. KJV, REB).

② a plan that one devises for action, plan, project, undertaking, endeavor (Diod. Sic 15, 70, 2; 16, 32, 3; 16, 82, 6; 17, 69, 7; Ezk 19:5) ἐν τῇ ὑποστάσει ταύτῃ in connection with this undertaking i.e. the collection for Jerusalem 2 Cor 9:4. The fact that meeting a financial obligation is the main theme (vss. 1–2) might well suggest association of ὑπ. with its use e.g. as a t.t. of expectation of rent due PTebt 61b, 194. To emphasize the importance of steadfast commitment to professed obligation (opp. p 1041 καρδία πονηρὰ ἀπιστίας ἐν τῷ ἀποστῆναι), the author of Hb 3:14 uses ὑπ. in a way that invites an addressee to draw on the semantic component of obligation familiar in commercial usage of the term (s. PTebt above), an association that is invited by use of μέτοχος, a standard term for a business partner (PHib 109, 3; PCairZen 176, 102 [both III b.c.]), μέχρι τέλους (s.v. τέλος 2bβ), and βέβαιος (s. M-M s.v.). S. Köster 1b above for focus of ὑπ. on ‘reality’.—Satirically, ἐν ταύτῃ τῇ ὑποστάσει τῆς καυχήσεως in this boasting project of mine 2 Cor 11:17.

③ The interp. situation, condition (Cicero, Ad Attic. 2, 3, 3 ὑπόστασιν nostram=our situation), also specif. frame of mind (Dio Cass. 49, 9; Themist., Or. 13 p. 178b; Jos., Ant. 18, 24 of determination in desperate circumstances; sim. Polyb. 6, 55, 2) has been suggested for some of the passages cited in 1 and 2 above: 2 Cor 9:4 (explained in a v.l. via the epexegetical gen. καυχήσεως); 11:17; Hb 3:14 (s. Dörrie [bibliog. 4 below], p. 39: the frame of mind described in Hb 3:6). The sense ‘confidence’, ‘assurance’ (based on LXX [Ruth 1:12; Ps 38:8; Ezk 19:5], where it renders תִּקְוָה etc.) favored by Melanchthon and Luther (also Tyndale, NRSV, but not KJV) for Hb 11:1 has enjoyed much favor but must be eliminated, since examples of it cannot be found (s. Dörrie and Köster [4 below]). More prob. for Hb 4:11 is

④ guarantee of ownership/entitlement, title deed (Sb 9086 III, 1–11 [104 a.d.]; Spicq III 423 n. 14; cp. M-M s.v.) Hb 11:1 (cp. 2 above for commercial use of ὕπ.).—ASchlatter, Der Glaube im NT4 1927, 614ff; MMathis, The Pauline πίστις-ὑπόστασις acc. to Hb 11:1, diss. Cath. Univ. of Amer., Washington, D.C. 1920, also Biblica 3, 1922, 79–87; RWitt, Hypostasis: ‘Amicitiae Corolla’ (RHarris Festschr.) ’33, 319–43; MSchumpp, D. Glaubensbegriff des Hb: Divus Thomas 11, ’34, 397–410; FErdin, D. Wort Hypostasis, diss. Freiburg ’39; CArpe, Philologus 94, ’41, 65–78; HDörrie, Ὑπόστασις, Wort-u. Bedeutungsgeschichte: NAWG 1955, no. 3, ZNW 46, ’55, 196–202; HKöster, TW VIII 571–88 (Köster prefers plan, project [Vorhaben] for the passages in 2 Cor, and reality [Wirklichkeit] for all 3 occurrences in Hb, contrasting the reality of God with the transitory character of the visible world). S. also the lit. s.v. πίστις 2a.—DELG s.v. ἵστημι. M-M. EDNT. TW. Spicq. Sv.

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The reference to BDAG gives the clue to the meaning of ὑπόστασις (hupostasis) which lists two texts with the same shade of meaning: Heb 11:1 and Heb 3:14. In BDAG this is meaning # (1b); "the essential or basic structure/nature of an entity, substantial nature, essence, actual being, reality … of things: among the meanings that can be authenticated". A very similar meaning is found (of the Son) in Heb 1:3 (# 1a).

From this, one can select the versions that best reflect this idea:

  • NASB: For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end
  • CSB: For we have become participants in Christ if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start.

The pulpit commentary observes:

On the word ὑπόστασις (translated "confidence"), see what was said under Hebrews 1:3. All the ancient interpreters understood it here in the same general sense as in the former passage - that of substance or subsistence, either as denoting our subsistence as members of Christ, or our faith regarded as the substance of our Christian life, or with other modifications of the general meaning. Modern commentators agree in understanding merely the sense in which the word is found to be commonly used by the Alexandrian writers - that of confidence, derived from the physical conception of a firm foundation. It thus corresponds with the παῥῤησίαν of ver. 6.

Thus, if "confidence" ("substance" is better as BDAG points out) is used, then it must be based on the actual substance/reality of our faith (Heb 11:1).

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  • I agree that "substance" or "reality" is much preferred over "confidence" as stated above. Hence the caveat in the last line, "If …" – user25930 Jul 7 '19 at 22:17
  • So what is this saying to do and why?: "for we are become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end". I have only a vague sense of what he's saying. This is almost a football metaphor! – Ruminator Jul 10 '19 at 10:16
  • "partakers of Christ" is just sharing His life and lot, including translation to heaven as Jesus was. However, this is conditional on us trusting (or having faith in) Jesus to perform this miraculous work as an unshakable assurance/conviction based on the reality of His sacrifice. – user25930 Jul 10 '19 at 11:26
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Short answer: The author is reminding his readers that participation in the salvation to come shortly at the return of Christ is conditioned on their being faithful until Christ's return so they must ardently persist in faith.


The word translated "confidence" in the ASV is ὑπόστασις which is a fascinating and important word. It was popular to translate ὑπόστασις as "confidence" but BDAG notes that this usage is not extant so it should be discarded:

...The sense ‘confidence’, ‘assurance’ (based on LXX [Ruth 1:12; Ps 38:8; Ezk 19:5], where it renders תִּקְוָה etc.) favored by Melanchthon and Luther (also Tyndale, NRSV, but not KJV) for Hb 11:1 has enjoyed much favor but must be eliminated, since examples of it cannot be found (s. Dörrie and Köster [4 below])...

In Hebrews 1:3, Christ is described as the "icon of his ὑπόστασις" where ὑπόστασις is normally rendered as "substance" or "being". One might say he's the "animation of God's reality":

icon in American (ˈaɪˌkɑn ) noun 1. a. an image; figure; representation b. any of various stylized figures, as displayed on a microcomputer screen, representing available functions or resources 2. Eastern Christian Church an image or picture of Jesus, Mary, a saint, etc., venerated as sacred 3. any person or thing that is revered 4. someone or something regarded as embodying the essential characteristics of an era, group, etc.

Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th Edition. Copyright © 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. Word origin of 'icon' L < Gr eikōn, an image, figure (in LGr, sacred image) < IE base *weik-, to resemble > Lith į-vỹkti, to happen, become true

In Hebrews 11:1 the same author defines "faith" as the "realizer of our hopes and the evidence of what is invisible". On the one hand there is the fact that our faith makes our hopes "seem real" and give us satisfying "proof of invisible realities". On the other hand faith actualizes our dreams, turning them into realized hopes.


People use the term "hope" very loosely these days. For example, I might say "I hope my package arrives today" even if they have no idea when it arrives. That's an unfounded hope. If they know that it is coming because UPS promised that it would then that is a more founded hope. The former example has no ὑπόστασις while the ὑπόστασις of the later is the reliability of the UPS delivery mechanism. So to say that "faith is the ὑπόστασις of things hope for" is to say that "faith makes our wishes into solid expectations". You might even say that faith is what our hopes are "secured" by and substantiated by.

"Holding securely to the beginning of our ὑπόστασις then is to say, "Are you discouraged? Then hold on tight to the thing (trust in Christ) that secures your hopes".


We don't have to leave Hebrews to see the same theme repeated:

[Heb 10:32-39 ASV] (32) But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were enlightened, ye endured a great conflict of sufferings; (33) partly, being made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, becoming partakers with them that were so used. (34) For ye both had compassion on them that were in bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your possessions, knowing that ye have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding one. (35) Cast not away therefore your boldness, which hath great recompense of reward. (36) For ye have need of patience, that, having done the will of God, ye may receive the promise. (37) For yet a very little while, He that cometh shall come, and shall not tarry. (38) But my righteous one shall live by faith: And if he shrink back, my soul hath no pleasure in him. (39) But we are not of them that shrink back unto perdition; but of them that have faith unto the saving of the soul.

[Heb 12:1-3 ASV] (1) Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, (2) looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (3) For consider him that hath endured such gainsaying of sinners against himself, that ye wax not weary, fainting in your souls.

Instead of clinging to hope one is to double down on that which gives us a reason to be confident in that hope:

[Jas 1:2-7 NIV] (2) Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, (3) because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (4) Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (5) If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (6) But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. (7) That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

[Heb 6:15 KJV] (15) And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.

[Heb 11:2, 4, 33, 39 KJV] (2) For by it the elders obtained a good report. ... (4) By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. ... (33) Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, ... (39) And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:

[2Pe 1:10-11 KJV] (10) Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: (11) For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

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Some commentators hold that "substance" might be a better translation here of ὑπόστασις than "confidence", as pointed out another answer and is indicated as one of the alternative meanings in the lexicon you are consulting. The same word is used a little earlier in v.6, where in this case it is translated by the ASV as boldness.

In the 4th century, John Chrysostom (a Greek), wrote:

What is the principle of our subsistence [ὑπόστασις]? It is the faith by which we stand, and have been brought into being and were made to exist, as one may say.1


Dmitri Royster,2 in his book, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary, writes:

We will be partakers of Him in His kingdom, His rest, if, until the end of our lives, we hold fast to Him who is the very principle of our existence. Sometimes the initial dedication of a convert weakens and he finally falls away into unbelief. The reason may very well be that he has lost sight of the One who is the object of our faith, having replaced Him by the means designed to lead us to him. The word "confidence" [KJV] here translates a different Greek word, hypostasis, which means "substance" or "foundation" (see v.6 above). Another way in which the whole phrase may be translated is, "the principle [beginning] of our substance [being]." In Christ we have a totally new life or being; the Apostle's warning is that the sense of that new life is in danger of being lost.3


1. Homily VI on the Epistle to the Hebrews; translated from the Greek in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1, Volume 14
2. Former Archbishop of the Diocese of the South, Orthodox Church in America. Reposed in 2011.
3. St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2003, p.53-54.

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