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What is faith? - Part 1

Author Stephen Pidgeon - Monday, November 17, 2014 at 1:24 PM


There are two words worthy of consideration in regard to understanding the English word faith.  The one is the Hebrew word emunah, and the second is the Greek word pistis. Both of these words are found in the underlying source texts, where these words are translated as faith.

The Hebrew word אֱמוּנָה (emuwnah) (Strong’s H530) means security; moral fidelity, faithfulness, set office, stability, steady, truly, truth, verily.  The word is derived from the Hebrew אֵמֻן (emuwn) (Strong’s H529, which means trusty; also (abstractly) trustworthiness:—faithful, or truthful.  However, emuwn is not the root, as the word sources from the Hebrew word אָמַן 'aman (Strong’s H539) means to build up or support; to foster as a parent or nurse; figuratively to render (or be) firm or faithful, to trust or believe, to be permanent or quiet; morally to be true or certain; to turn to the right.

In the second instance, consider the Greek word which is translated as faith in the text, which is the word πιστις (pistis) (Strong’s G4102).  This word in its usage means persuasion, i.e. credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; abstractly, constancy in such profession; by extension, the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself:—assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity.

The Greeks and the Hebrews are then in agreement as to the meaning of this word we call faith.  In Hebrew, we have moral fidelity, and in Greek, moral conviction and fidelity; in Hebrew, we have morally to be true or certain, and in Greek, truthfulness.  In Hebrew we have trusting or believing, and in Greek we have truth and belief.

We see, then, that when the word faith is used, it means in the first instance moral conviction, fidelity, and truthfulness.

Let’s see how this plays into the common understanding of the writings of Sha’ul (Paul):

Eph'siym (Ephesians) 2:8-9

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of ELOHIYM: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Romaiym (Romans) 3:28-30

Therefore we conclude that a man is made righteous by faith without the works of the Torah. 29 Is he the ELOHIYM of the Yahudiym only? is he not also of the other people? Yes, of the other people also: 30 Seeing it is one ELOHIYM, which shall make righteous the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

Now, consider that the plain meaning of the word faith in both the Hebrew and the Greek means moral conviction, fidelity, and truthfulness, then let us understand what Sha’ul is actually saying.  He maintains that a man is justified by his moral conviction, his fidelity to his moral conviction, and his truthfulness about his fidelity to his moral conviction apart from works of the Torah.

This concept appears throughout both the ancient Hebrew writings and the writings of the Talmidiym during the time of HaMashiach. Consider the concept of righteousness, which are affirmative duties which appear apart from the Torah:

Zakaryahu (Zechariah) 7:9-10

Thus speaks YAHUAH TSEVA’OT, saying, Execute true judgment, and show mercy and compassions every man to his brother: 10 And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.

Miykah (Micah) 6:8-9

He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what YAHUAH requires of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your ELOHIYM? 9 YAHUAH’S voice cries unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see your name: hear ye the rod, and who has appointed it.

Also consider the concept of holiness:

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 11:44

For I am YAHUAH ELOHAYCHY: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.

Kepha Rishon (1 Peter) 1:16

Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

What is this term for holy?  Well, it is qodesh (קָדוֹשׁ), which means to be ceremonially or morally sacred. This calls your moral fidelity to yet a higher level.  Again, these affirmative duties – to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to visit those in prison, to loosen the yoke of oppression, and to restore yourself to your own flesh, and more, - are acts of holiness and righteousness which are apart from the keeping of the Torah.

So Sha’ul, like Mashiach before him, has called us to a higher calling than merely failing to transgress the Torah, but reaching to righteousness and holiness.

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