5

John gave the purpose for his Gospel as:

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31, ESV)

He used the verb πιστεύω, usually translated believe, 98 times in 85 verses of his Gospel (based on NA28). Why does he never use the noun πίστις, usually translated faith, in his Gospel? John did use the adjective πιστός once in 20:27, which translators still translate as believe.

Why does John use the word believe and not faith in the gospel of John?

3
  • 2
    Well strictly speaking he used neither, as he wrote in Greek not English. Both are translations that miss the full nuances of the original. And in particular, "faith" has no verb form in English, which makes it tricky when the Greek has a verb rather than a noun. Was there a particular passage you were thinking of?
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 21, 2021 at 14:16
  • Welcome to SE-BH. Please see the Tour and the Help (below, bottom left) as to the purpose and the functioning of the site. Without a specific text of scripture which can be analysed using hermeneutic techniques, your question may be voted for closure. John uses the Greek words pisteuo, pistis and pistos : all of them related. In English this group of words may be translated 'believe'/'believing'/'faith'.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 21, 2021 at 14:17
  • 1
    @NigelJ And 'trust' (for a verb form).
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 22, 2021 at 11:07

3 Answers 3

1

Looking at the senses of the verb πιστεύω (believe) and the noun πίστις (faith) in the New Testament graphed at the bottom, the meanings are basically the same. Most commentators did not see a significance in John not using the noun. Bulm is the only commentator I found who commented on this. Blum pointed out that most of the occurrences of πιστεύω are in the present tense; thus emphasizing "active, continuous, and vital trust in Jesus." John emphasized the action of the verb over the noun.

The key word in the Gospel of John is “believe” (pisteuō), which occurs 98 times. The Greek noun “faith” (pistis) does not occur. (A few times, however, the NIV translates the Gr. verb with the Eng. “put … faith in.”) The Greek verb pisteuō is frequently used in the present tense and in participial forms. Apparently John wanted to stress an active, continuous, and vital trust in Jesus. -- Blum, E. A. (1985). John. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 270). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Senses of the verb in the New Testament (from Logos Bible Software)

enter image description here

Senses of the noun in the New Testament

enter image description here

A side issue is the Hebrew word the verb translates in the Septuagint (LXX). This is the root of אָמֵן .. adv. verily, truly (Brown, F., Driver, S. R., & Briggs, C. A. (1977). Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (p. 53). Oxford: Clarendon Press.). This Hebrew word is our word amen ἀμήν. Jesus used this Hebrew adverb 50 times in 25 verses of John.

enter image description here

While this example is from Luke 16:11, it gives insight into the language Jesus used in the discourses in the Gospel of John. Note how the words based on this root are common in the Gospel of John.

Second, Jesus asks the pointed question, “If you have not been faithful in unrighteous mammon, who will entrust the truth to you?” (Lk 16:11, my translation). This text exhibits a play on words in Aramaic, which was the language Jesus spoke at home. He says:

 If you have not been amin [faithful]
 in the unrighteous mammon [your material possessions]
 the amuna [the truth]
 who will ja’min ith kun [entrust to you].

The root amn, which appears in the word amen, is used here four times. It makes the point that anyone who cheats on his or her taxes will never understand the gospel. Those who have been unfaithful before God with material possessions cannot expect God to reveal his greater treasure to them, which is the truth of God. -- Bailey, K. E. (2008). Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels (pp. 378–380). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? (ESV)

εἰ οὖν ἐν τῷ ἀδίκῳ μαμωνᾷ πιστοὶ οὐκ ἐγένεσθε,* τὸ ἀληθινὸν τίς ὑμῖν πιστεύσει; (NA28)

1
        πιστεύω    πίστις
 Mat      11         8
 Mar      15         5
 Luk       9        11
 Jhn     100         0

Indeed, John used the verb to believe overwhelmingly 100 times but never used the noun faith at all. These interesting statistics confirm that the book of John is rather different from the other 3 synoptic gospels.

Why does John's Gospel use 'believe' frequently, but never 'faith'?

John explains in chapter 20:

30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.

Faith comes from believing. It seems that John wrote in such a way to show the actions of believing. That's his focus. He wanted to emphasize the acts of faith.

0

Well, it is going to come down to what your understanding of faith is - because some understandings of ‘faith’ are inextricably interwoven with ‘belief’. For some these are not separable.

Essentially there is no clear distinction between ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ - they ‘come’ as a package that’s un-dividable.

Faith requires belief. If you believe, you’ll have faith. Belief requires ‘seeing’. You can not believe anything unless you ‘see’ it. And when you ‘see’ it, you have evidence. This then complies with Hebrews 11:1.

2
  • This answer would be improved if it focused on the Greek word(s) and the concepts they carried, because modern concepts from the English words 'faith' and 'belief' aren't automatically relevant to the Greek text of John.
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 23, 2021 at 9:14
  • @curiousdannii Totally agree - it is more a lengthy comment meant to focus thinking because Perry had already done a great outline/study of the words.
    – Dave
    Sep 23, 2021 at 19:12

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.