Hebrew Words Defined: Faith
by Brad Scott
Faith, in my humble opinion, is second only to law as the most misused word in the scriptures. In many ways it has developed a meaning that incorporates almost every concept from religion to sports. Many people are now named “Faith”. The word has become an every day part of our vernacular. “Keep the faith, baby!” “Ya gotta have faith.” “Don’t you have any faith?” “Where is your faith, man?” “What kinda faith is that?” “I have a lot of faith!” These are common sayings in our society. They are common sayings in modern Christianity, as well. “What faith are you?”, we ask. “I do not think he’s of our faith”, we respond. This is one of those words that you say out loud over and over again, and pretty soon it sounds nonsensical and not like a real word at all. I can imagine that this would be one of the words that I would set out to redefine if I were hasatan. I mean, if I knew that “… faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God …” then I would do what I could to keep everyone from hearing. I could not stop YHVH’s people from preaching the word. But I could surely do my best to redefine His word. In Hebrew / Scriptural thought, this was called “destroying the law” (Mattityahu (Matthew) 5:17). If someone misinterpreted the words of YHVH, this was synonymous to “destroying” the words. To interpret correctly was to “fulfill” His word. This insight makes the context of Mattityahu 5 much clearer.
As we have done with many words so far, we are going to go back to the origin of this very important word. We must search out the scriptural definition of this concept, and not fall prey to modern interpretations. Since the word faith and believe are basically the same word, we will address both terms from the minds of the ones who penned the words. What did this word mean to Avraham? What do you suppose Mosheh was thinking when he used this term? When Havakuk (Habakkuk) said, “The just shall live by faith“ what do you suppose he meant? But, most importantly, what did YHVH mean when He breathed this word into existence? Let’s go back to the beginning.
In the Hebrew language, there is one word that is the basis or foundation for several familiar terms that we frequently use. This word is, of course, a verbal root. The word is ‘aman (אמוּן). Sound familiar? It should. ‘Aman is translated as faith, faithful, believe, assurance, nursing. It is the root for emunah (אמוּנה) – faithfully, truth, faithfulness, steady; emet (אמת) – truth, true, right; and of course amen (אמן), which is pronounced ah-mayn. The first occurrence of the root ‘aman not only lays down an action to describe the word, but is very intriguing, as well. The first mention is in Bemidebar (Numbers). Mosheh is complaining about the assignment YHVH has given him. The people are getting on his nerves a bit. So in verse 11 Mosheh says,
Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? And wherefore have I not found favor in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? Have I conceived all this people? Have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the nursing child, unto the land which thou didst swear to give unto their fathers?
The two words, nursing father, are translated from the one word ‘aman. This word ‘aman is translated as faith in the Old and New Testaments. Very interesting, huh? This is what I love about the Hebrew language. It has such common everyday meaning to words that eventually produce such ambiguous conclusions. Mosheh is assigned by YHVH to be the nursing father to these rebellious children. YHVH desires for this man to be the object of total trust for these disobedient brats. True faithfulness is the complete trust that a helpless child has in his nourishing parents. The image used here is that of young children relying on a nursing father. Mosheh goes on to state that he cannot bear all of their problems and concerns. So, YHVH tells him to gather unto Him 70 elders to rule and guide the people in smaller matters. As the Hebrew people wandered their remaining years in the wilderness, they looked to the wisdom of YHVH through Mosheh and the elders. Their faith was expressed as a childlike reliance on the words of YHVH to lead and guide them in life, not an intellectual acknowledgment that He simply existed! They knew who YHVH was. They knew who Mosheh was. From Yah’s point of view faith was not an admission of His existence. It was not an accumulation of facts about Him, but trusting in His words and doing them out of that trust. Faith was coming to Him every time there was a need, and not an admission of His attributes, but in total trust that He knows what He is doing. YHVH desired for Mosheh to be the earthly father figure for an unseen, heavenly Father, to teach His children what was good for them at the proper time. Many times in the past I have used the Father/Son image to describe scriptural faith, but this reveals much more than an intellectual struggle to find allegories. At the very root of faith is the reality of this nursing image.
Nearly all of my Christian life I was taught things about YHVH. To know Him was to accept things about Him. In the book “The Influence of Greek Ideas And Usages Upon The Christian Church ” Edwin Hatch reveals the same conclusion. Hatch, who is the author of “Concordance to the LXX,” bases his conclusion on decades of research into the Greek culture from which the modern Church has much of her roots buried. He says:
“The object which I have in view in this lecture is to show the transition by which, under the influence of contemporary Greek thought, the word Faith came to be transferred from simple trust in God to mean the acceptance of a series of propositions, and these propositions, propositions in abstract metaphysics.”
He also goes on to say that:
“Why do I trust God? The answer was: Because He is wise, or good or just. The propositions followed: I believe that God is wise, that He is good, that He is just. Belief in God came to mean the assent to certain propositions about God.”
So, to believe in YHVH did not necessarily mean to believe YHVH. This eventually became even easier by theologically eliminating the laws and teaching of YHVH in the Tanakh. And to add insult to injury, this was all done in HIS name. Christians had soon become “spiritual Israel” and this placed YHVH’s commands and teachings into a celestial playground. Allegorizing became the talk of the town. The games had begun. Which teacher could out-allegorize the next one. The devil had a huge victory. He had managed to redefine faith into a meaningless, spiritualized, allegorized, term.
The Scriptures say,
Ivrim (Hebrews) 11:1
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
How very true that is. How very Hebrew that is. No wonder it shows up in the book of Hebrews! Read that verse again, real slow. Did you notice something about this statement that very clearly contradicts “modern Christian teaching?” I’ll quote it again.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
You see, faith is not what is hoped for. Faith, according to Ivrim, is not the thing which is not seen. It is not invisible. It is certainly not blind. It is not something that I am trying to get. Faith is the substance and evidence. So, I will put it in a nutshell and then we will go back to the New Testament dictionary, the Tanakh, and validate what faith is. Faith is a personal commitment to follow, observe, and obey the words of YHVH. It always has been. True faith is action. Faith is not just believing in YHVH, but believing YHVH. Trusting that He is the Father of Eternity, and that He knows you intimately. Trusting that He knows what you need to live long and prosperously, and that His commandments are good for you. This is what YHVH means when He introduces faith in the beginning, and this is what Yeshua‘ means when He uses this word.
In the Tanakh this word, faith, is translated into English in several ways. The most common word is believe. Other ways in which it appears are: steady (Shemot (Exodus) 17:12); truth (Devariym (Deuteronomy) 32:4); set office (Divre-Hayamim Alef (1Chronicles) 9:22); faithfully or faithfulness (Mizemor) Psalm) 88:11); and established (Shemu’el Bet (2Samuel) 7:16). The action of faith is abundant in the Tanakh. Let’s see how this word is understood and revealed in the New Testament’s dictionary.
Bere’shiyt (Genesis) 15:6
And he believed in YHVH; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” (Then Avram goes on to DO what YHVH told him in the next 11 verses.)
Yet in this thing ye did not believe YHVH your ’Elohiym,” (This was a response to their rebellion against the commandments of YHVH in verse 26.)
Devariym 32:20, 28-29
And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith. For they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them. O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!
Divre-Hayamim Bet (2 Chronicles) 20:20
And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.
Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments.
Divre-HaYamim Bet 6:17
Now then, O YHVH ’Elohiym of Israel, let thy word be verified [aman, niphal future tense], which thou hast spoken to thy servant David.
For thou art an holy people unto YHVH thy ’Elohiym; YHVH thy ’Elohiym hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all people who are upon the face of the earth. YHVH did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people. But because YHVH loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath YHVH brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage from the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Know, therefore that YHVH thy ’Elohiym, he is ’Elohiym, the faithful El who keepeth covenant and mercy with them who love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations.
Mishlei (Proverbs) 20:6
Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness; but a faithful man, who can find?
Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 7:9
And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah’s son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.
Oh, love YHVH, all ye His saints; for YHVH preserves the faithful, and plentifully rewards the proud doer.
Yeshua‘ grew up in a culture, a scriptural culture, that defined faith as a response to the words of ’Elohiym. Faith was obedience and not sacrifice. It was the natural reaction to a commitment. Let’s look at several occurrences of this word in the New Testament.
Ivrim (Hebrews) 11:1
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Yochanan (John) 8:46-47
Which of you convicts me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God hears God’s words, ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.” (They are listening but are not doing. The common misconception that the Jewish leaders (Pharisees and Sadducees, etc.) were keeping the law is absolutely false. I will cover this in more detail later.)
Yeshua‘ answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they FOLLOW me.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believes on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do because I go unto my Father.” (Modern Christianity commonly confines this to miracles only. This is not the context. This verse is tied with verse 15: “If ye love me ye will keep my commandments.)
… I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
As defined in the Tanakh, faith is not something you get. It is something you are always doing. It is always in context with ’Elohiym’s commands and teaching. It is fully realized and expressed in Yeshua‘our Messiah. One of the many things that Scripture has to say about the nature of the Messiah is that He always listens to the Father, says and does what the Father does (Yochanan (John) 5:19, 8:28, 8:55, 12:49). This is true faith – to hear and do. So, because Yeshua‘ listened to the Father 100% of the time, He was “successful” in all that He did 100% of the time. The problem with His followers is that we, mostly because of pride or silly teaching, will not admit that we do not listen to Him always. Just like children.
One of the greatest examples of the “flow chart” of faith is in Mattityahu (Matthew) 8:5-10. In this account, a centurion comes to Yeshua‘ because his servant is sick. Yeshua‘ agrees to come and see the sick servant. But the centurion, understanding authority, says to Yeshua’, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof; but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.” Then comes the neat part, “For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me; and I say to this man, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes; and to my servant, Do this, and he does it.” Now Yeshua‘ marveled at this and replied, “Verily I say unto you, I have not found so GREAT faith, no, not in Israel.” This centurion is commended over all of Israel at the time because he understood something about authority, faith, and even Yeshua‘ himself. In the Mattityahu and Luke versions of this incident, the Greek and Aramaic (Peshitta) texts translate verse 8 as, “For I also am a man under authority …” This centurion knew that Yeshua‘ could do what He did because He was also under the authority of His Father. The centurion recognized that Yeshua‘ was operating under the command of a higher authority. Now, we are speaking positionally here, not with respect to essence or nature, OK? The centurion was teaching all of us that his soldiers listened to him because he listened to the one who was over him. In other words, faith flows down hill, so to speak. There must be a trusting obedience. Faith is not invisible or unseen or blind. It is recognized action in a flow of order, beginning at the top.
Many times in the epistles we see this same teaching being passed on. In 1Corinthians 11:1 Sha’ul states, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of the Messiah.” Then he goes on to say “Now I praise you brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.” WOW! What a wonderful verse. Sha’ul is talking about something that was very well understood in Hebrew thought. One of the reasons that YHVH, in His foreknowledge, chose Israel is that He knew that they would preserve His words and ways. That passing His ways from one generation to the next was sacred to His people, Israel. This is in one way expressed through the Masorites. The Masorites were those who, in the sixth through the ninth centuries, preserved the Hebrew language by developing a written Hebrew text with vowels, Cantor, and punctuation marks. Their very name indicates what they do. The word Masorite is from the Hebrew word massor (משר). This word means to pass down or transmit. The Greek word used here is paradoseis (παράδοσις), which is usually translated as traditions (Galatians 1:14, 2Thessalonians 2:15). In other words, these are things which are handed down from one generation to the next. Sha’ul was not teaching anything new. He was simply teaching that the Messiah had come, and this is what it means to the Jew and the Greek.
So, getting back to the centurion. Faith is ascribed to this man because he knew what it was, plain and simple. He knew that true faith is manifested when obedience to a higher authority is exercised. The Pharisees and Sadducees had circumvented Yah’s ways and went about establishing their own. Yeshua‘ never scolded the Jewish leaders for obedience, but rather for disobedience. They were not teaching the traditions of their Father, but rather another father (Yochanan 8:39-44). This is why Yeshua‘ could commend the centurion’s faith above all of Israel.
Let me give you a few more New Testament verses that employ this very Old Testament word.
Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for His name;
Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid; yea, we establish the law.
And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father, Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.
If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature that is under heaven, of which I, Paul, am made a minister.
Ivrim (Hebrews) 11:6
But without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.
I suppose it has become abundantly obvious that I can speak on this subject forever. It is because I believe that this word has gone through a tremendous paradigm shift in the last two thousand years – it has become a meaningless term. But, this word is one of the most important words in the Scriptures. It should be the very first word taught to a new believer. I believe a good place to start is in the book of:
Ivrim (Hebrews) 11:6
But, without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.
Before we study this verse, let me attempt to simply paraphrase it.
“But, if you do not trust ’Elohiym, then you cannot please Him. He that comes to ’Elohiym must first trust that He is YHVH, and that He rewards those who seek to know His ways.”
There seems to be much more than a simple intellectual acknowledgment of Yah’s existence. You have to ask yourself what it means to trust ’Elohiym. In Hebrew thought, the Word of YHVH is not separated from YHVH Himself. In other words, the Word of YHVH IS YHVH (Yochanan (John) 1:1). In Hebrew thought, when the “Word of YHVH” came to Yiremeyahu (Jeremiah), YHVH came to Yiremeyahu. Scripturally, when anyone believed the Word of YHVH, they believed YHVH. There is no distinction between these two terms. This is why Jewish scholars would wholly agree with Yochanan 1:1. It is Yochanan 1:14 that they refuse to accept. So, to trust YHVH is to trust His word – all of His word. Ivrim 11:6 is simply telling us that true believers in YHVH trust His word and obey it, and they are rewarded for it. This is not a difficult concept.
The Scriptures are absolutely crammed full of statements about the results of obeying God’s words. Over and over He reminds us that those who obey His commands will prolong their life on earth, and will prosper in the land which He sends them. Stop, and take some time to read some of these verses now. Devariym (Deuteronomy) chapter 11, chapter 28, chapter 30; Mizemor (Psalm) 18:20-24, 19:7-11, chapter 119; Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 1:19, 3:10; Mattityahu (Matthew) 5:3-12; Luke 11:28; Yochanan (John) 13:17, 14:21-23; Romans 2:7-8; and Ya‘aqov (James) 1:25.
Now may be a good time to stop and examine yourself (2Corinthians 13:5). Is the Yeshua I believe in the bodily manifestation of the pure and Holy words of YHVH? If so, then how come I do not know most of them? Do I know what YHVH’s commands are for my life? Am I following His ways or do I believe that He simply exists? I am going to make a very blunt statement that I would ask you to seriously contemplate. I believe that modern Christian teaching has and is teaching an empty, meaningless gospel. I believe that Sunday after Sunday, a lawless, disobedient doctrine is constantly perpetrated in most pulpits. I believe that the current behavior we see in the news every day is a direct result of a national philosophy that began with our nation’s religious theology. I believe that a lawless theology produces a lawless philosophy which produces a lawless behavior. I believe that the church has no one to blame but herself. Kefa (Peter) stated that judgment begins in the house of YHVH (1Kefa 4:17). I believe that most modern-day Christian teaching has fostered a very big lie, and that our beloved nation has suffered for it. I would like to spend the next several lessons dealing with this subject. I would like to focus on the foundation of the lie of 2Thessalonians 2:11-12.
Please be with us next week when we discuss this very important subject.
In the meantime …
Oh, taste and see that YHVH is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him.