I am struck that these words/concepts are used frequently in the New Testament by speakers (Jesus and Paul among others, including Romans 4:20), who would have been (presumably) speaking/thinking in Aramaic/Hebrew, and approaching their theology from the framework of the Hebrew Bible.

Yet when I look for Semitic equivalents, I don't seem to be having much luck. (Searches on multiple versions of the English language Bible do not produce any results/synonyms/near equivalents to "unbelief" or "unbelieving," as far as I can see.)

The Lexham Research Lexicon of the Greek New Testament claims Hebrew equivalents include זָר (1), רָחָב 1 (1), but examining them in context does not seem to really bear that out.

Are there other Hebrew words/phrases I should be looking for?

  • You should double check on the assumption that Jesus and Paul were not using Greek as their language for the hermeneutics. Paul, Peter and Matthew are said to have used Greek Septuaginta as their source for quotations.
    – grammaplow
    Commented Mar 2, 2023 at 21:17
  • Fair point. I should have clarified that I did also search for both those terms in the Septuagint, and also didn't see them. Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 18:19
  • Can I ask why this question was still deemed off-topic after I added in a verse to highlight my question? Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 19:09

1 Answer 1


In Greek, the word for "unbelief" is ἀπιστία which occurs quite sparingly, only 11 times: Matt 13:58, Mark 6:6, 9:24, 16:14, Rom 3:3, 4:20, 11:20, 23, 1 Tim 1:13, Heb 3:12, 19.

Hebrew does not have a word translated "unbelief". However, we do have the phrase, "not believe" (or similar) made by adding a negative before the verb. This occurs in places like Ex 4:1, 2 Chron 9:6, 1 Kings 10:7, Ps 78:22, Num 20:12, etc. The verb used is usually אָמַן (aman) = "to confirm, support" as in Gen 15:6, 42:20, 45:26, Ex 4:1, 5, 8, 9, etc.

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