I noticed the Greek verb ὑπακοῦσαι (hypakousai), a conjugation of the root verb ὑπακούω (hypakouō), is translated as "[to] answer" in Acts 12:13:

Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. (NIV)

This Greek verb is translated as a conjugtion of the English verb "obey" in nearly all of its occurrences in the Authorized Version (i.e., 20/ 21). With that being said, does the Greek verb ὑπακούω generally imply the demonstration of faith on the part of the verb's subject?

  • I've read that a few times and I can't grasp what you are asking.
    – cdjc
    Mar 10, 2013 at 8:49
  • @cdjc - faith is our reply to God's word when received. Seems similar to having faith in Christ. Revelation 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. I am wondering if 'obey' generally carries this meaning or not? I usually think of obey as less personal and more like following a code.
    – Mike
    Mar 10, 2013 at 9:02

1 Answer 1


Not really.

I suspect you usually think of "obey" as "following a code" because you grew up in a culture where you obey a systematized set of rules imposed by an impersonal government. In first-century Judea, obedience was always to a personal someone, whether your parent or governor or a spirit (who then obeyed someone above them). Obedience in the Acts 12 passage is little different than a Spanish-speaker today saying "mande" ("order me") in response to an authority getting their attention. "Faith" is only part of that category system in the sense of "faithfulness".

"ὑπακούω" has "ακούω" (to hear) as its primary semantic root. Do a word study of that in the Biblical texts and you will quickly find that "hearing a person" implies "obedience to that person" to a far greater degree than in Western societies today, especially in the OT. "Hearken" is about as close as we can get in English today.

Indeed, you might read Julian Jaynes' seminal work "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" to start getting some sense of the strength of that connotation: he posited that preliterate societies often interpreted messages going from their right brain to their left as the voice of the king, or god, which could not be disobeyed any more than modern schizophrenics can disobey such messages.

  • +1 excellent stuff: it's good to have you back fumanchu :) Mar 10, 2013 at 21:32
  • Helpful, thanks. I guess it does make it personal then, but not directly linked to faith. Faith seems to come in when the person (or their authority) is invisible, yet hearkened unto. I see this verse a little differently now: Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
    – Mike
    Mar 10, 2013 at 23:44

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