A Brief Chapter Summary from Books At a Glance
By Michael Wilkinson
To obtain a well-orbed understanding of Christian faith, we can consider its philological origins and development and its development from the Old to the New Testament. We will then be in a position to summarize the biblical concept of faith as a whole.
I. THE PHILOLOGICAL EXPRESSION OF FAITH
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word group for “believe” rests on the fundamental ideas of fixedness, stability, steadfastness, and reliability. In most contexts, it becomes clear that the verb “expresses the acquisition or exhibition of the firmness, security, reliability, faithfulness which lies in the root-meaning of the verb, in or with respect to its object. The [faithful Hebrew] is therefore one whose state of mind is free from faintheartedness (Isa. 7:9) and anxious haste (Isa. 28:16), and who stays himself upon the object of his contemplation with confidence and trust” (468). The predominant sense, then, is one of a vigorously active commitment. And a few specific constructions bring out the object of this commitment and trust, especially when the object is God himself. The noun form, “belief,” occurs rarely in the Old Testament and only once in the active sense in a religious context. However, this one occurrence tells all: “This faith, which forms the distinctive feature of the righteous man, and by which he obtains life, is obviously no mere assent. It is a profound and abiding disposition, an ingrained attitude of mind and heart towards God which affects and gives character to all the activities. Here only the term occurs in the Old Testament; but on this its sole occurrence it rises to the full height of its most pregnant meaning” (470). And in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew relies on a radical repurposing of words used in classical speech. The translators took the verb πιστεύειν (“trusting”; “relying upon”) and the noun πίστις (“belief”) and moved them into a much higher religious and moral sphere.[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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