[b-hebrew] Genesis 15:6, believe/ faith, as it relates to common usage in science

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Fri Jul 24 03:47:09 EDT 2009

Dear Steve,

Here are some late comments to your questions:

A core meaning of the Hebrew word )MN is "to be firm," and the Hiphil 
form of the verb
  is often translated as "have trust in; believe in". However, these 
renderings tell us very little about the subtleties of  believing 
()MN), whether belief according to the  the Hebrew mind was something 
that needed a solid foundation, or something that could be taken out 
of thin air. Even if we look at all the occurrences of the Hebrew 
word, it would be very difficult to know its full force.

In the New Testament, however, we find a definition-in an epistle 
written in Greek to Hebrews by a person who evidently wrote and 
thought in Hebrew. In Hebrews 11:1 we find the following definition. 
For theological reasons most modern Bible translations give biased 
renderings of this verse-they do not give the full force of the Greek 
verbs. One exception is "The New Testament An Expanded Translation" 
by K. S. Wuest, and I quote this translation:

(1) "Now faith is the title deed of things hoped for, the proof of 
things which are not being seen. (2) For by means of this /namely, 
faith/ the elders had witness born to them. (8) By faith, Abraham, 
while he was being called, obeyed to go out into a place which he was 
about to be receiving as an inheritance."

The rendering "title deed" for hUPUSTASIS is excellent. If you have a 
title deed for a field or a house or something else, you have a very 
good foundation for the expectation of getting hold of the thing in 
the future. The rendering "proof" for ELEGCOS is excellent as well; 
the word was often used in court to describe a refutation of 
something that seemed to be true. Thus, for the writer of Hebrews the 
faith ()MN) of Abraham was built on solid evidence, and it was not 
some kind of imagination. Faith is not defined elsewhere in the New 
Testament, but I am not aware of any mention of faith that 
contradicts the definition above.

Two scientific examples can illustrate the definition of faith:

In the beginning of the 20th century, the ninth planet (today no 
longer called a "planet") Pluto was not known. However, in 1905 
certain irregularities in the orbits of Uranus and Saturn were 
discovered. And these clearly suggested the existence of an unknown 
celestial body. It was possible to calculate that this celestial body 
was about 3,680,000,000 miles distant from our sun. In 1930 a 
telescope with sufficient strength was used, and Pluto was 
discovered. Before 1930 Pluto was not seen, but evidence about the 
existence of the planet were extant.

Another example is the periodic table of chemical elements which was 
discovered in the middle of the 19th century. It is very orderly 
because of the increase of atomic weight (hydrogen 1; heliom 2; 
lithium 3 ...). It was discovered by John Newland in 1864 that 
similar physical and chemical properties recurred at intervals of 8. 
In 1869 the elements gallium and germanium was not discovered, but 
Dimitri Mendeleev was then able to predict their existence on the 
basis of the orderliness of the periodic table. These two elements 
were not seen, but evidence about their existence were extant.

Both examples above are special cases. In most instances, science is 
based on axioms, theories, guesses and hypotheses, and the situation 
described in Hebrews 11:1 of the existence of "proof of things which 
are not being seen" rarely exists inside science.

There is also a subjective element that works in connection with 
faith. Jesus said to the Jews (John 5:44 Wuest): "As for you, how are 
you able to believe, habitually receiving laudation from one another, 
and the praise which is from the presence of the only God you are not 
seeking." These words indicate that certain motives may prevent a 
person from accepting "proof of things which are not being seen". 
This is seen both in connection with religion and science. Thus, 
there is both an objective and a subjective element that may be 
considered in connection with  )MN.

Best regards,

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

>Dear Rolf Furuli and list members:
>I had earlier requested information from Rolf Furuli about the 
>research he had done. Perhaps the request was outside of the scope 
>of this list.
>I hope that this question is more appropriate:
>Since the word "faith" is sometimes used by scientists ("With solid faith
>that laws of the small should fit together into a coherent whole, physicists
>are relentlessly hunting down the elusive unified theory." Brain Greene, The
>Elegant Universe, page 386), Does the biblical Hebrew word translated as
>"faith" (Gen. 15:6, The New American Bible... "believe" according to 
>most others) engage the ideas that scientists intend (as above) when 
>they invoke faith?
>My understanding of Greene's words is that physicists note the 
>tendencies in the evidence and develop a strong belief about what 
>they will find in the end, even though there is, at present, no 
>direct observational or experimental experience for the belief upon 
>which they can rely.
>Although I have an opinion, I accept my limitations and would 
>therefore appreciate list members comments.
>Thank you,
>Steve Teague
>b-hebrew mailing list
>b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org

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