Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeChrysostomClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKJTLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBVWSWESTSK
(1) We have seen how the writer approached the subject which is the chief theme of this last division of this Epistle. The coming of the Lord, for judgment upon His adversaries, for salvation to His people, draws nigh. In the midst of dangers and judgments God’s righteous servant shall live, and the ground, of his life is his steadfast faith—if he shrink back, destruction will overtake him. “Our principle of action” (the writer says to his Hebrew readers) “is not shrinking back, but faith. And faith is this. . . .” It has been debated whether that which follows is a definition of what faith is, or in reality a description of what faith does. It is not a complete definition, in the sense of including all the moments of thought which are present in the word as used in the last chapter (Hebrews 11:38) or in this. The “things hoped for” are not mere figments of the imagination; their basis is the word of God. If we keep this in mind, the words, still remaining general in their form, agree with all that has led up to them and with all that follows; and whether they be called definition or description will be of little consequence.

The exact meaning of the special terms here used it is not easy to ascertain. The word rendered “substance” has already occurred twice in the Epistle. In Hebrews 1:3 this was its true meaning—the essence which, so to speak, underlies, “stands under,” the qualities possessed. In Hebrews 3:14 the same metaphor of standing under is applied to steadfastness, confidence (see the Note). The former of these renderings the Authorised version.—in this instance deserting the earlier translations (which for the most part have “sure confidence” or “ground”) to follow the Rhemish in its rendering of the Latin. substantia—has made familiar in the present passage. The sense which it presents, however, is not very clean; and the symmetry of the verse almost compels us here to make choice of some word which denotes an act, or at all events an attitude, of the mind. Most commentators of our own day accept the second meaning explained above, “confidence” or “assurance in regard to things hoped for.” To adopt Dr. Vaughan’s clear explanation, “Faith is that principle, that exercise of mind and soul, which has for its object things not seen but hoped for, and which, instead of sinking under them as too ponderous, whether from their difficulty or from their uncertainty, stands firm under them—supports and sustains their pressure—in other words, is assured of, confides in and relies on them.” This interpretation yields an excellent sense, and has the advantage of assigning to the Greek word a meaning which it certainly bears in an earlier chapter, and in two places of St. Paul’s Epistles. On the other hand, the analogy of the second member of the verse, and a peculiarity in the Greek construction which we cannot here discuss, seem to be in favour of a third rendering of the words: “Faith is the giving substance to things hoped for.” It has indeed been said that by such a translation the things hoped for are represented as being without substance. But this difficulty is only apparent; for in regard to ourselves these objects of our hope do not yet exist, since they still belong to the future (Romans 8:24-25). In the second clause the word “evidence” is likely to mislead; very probably, indeed, it now fails to convey the sense intended by our translators, who hero followed the rendering of the Genevan Bible (suggested by Calvin’s “evidentia”). The Greek word denotes putting to the test, examining for the purpose of proof, bringing to conviction. Under this aspect faith appears as neither blindly rejecting nor blindly accepting whatever may be said about things unseen, but boldly dealing with them as if with things seen, and then unflinchingly accepting that which has stood the proof. One peculiarity of the Greek yet remains to be noticed. In the second clause the word “things” is expressed in the Greek (as in Hebrews 6:18), but not in the first; we are by this means reminded of the reality of that which is thus spoken of as unseen. The whole verse, then, may be rendered “Now faith is the giving substance to what is hoped for, the testing of things not seen.” And now passing away from the general aspect of the words to that in which they are presented by the context, we have as the meaning: Faith, holding to God’s word, gives substance to what that word promises, investing the future blessings with a present existence, treating them as if already objects of sight rather than of hope. Through faith, guided by the same word, the things unseen are brought to the proof; what that word teaches, though future, or though belonging to a world beyond human sight, is received with full conviction. Thus “every genuine act of faith is the act of the whole man, not of his understanding alone, not of his affections alone, not of his will alone, but of all three in their central, aboriginal unity.” And thus faith becomes “the faculty in man through which the spiritual world exercises its sway over him, and thereby enables him to overcome the world of sin and death.” (Hare, Victory of Faith.)

Hebrews 11:1. Knowing that the believing Hebrews had been, and still were exposed to persecution on account of the gospel, and fearing lest they should be thereby cast down, and moved from their steadfastness, the apostle had endeavoured to support them in their adherence to Christ and his cause by suggesting the declaration whereby the prophet Habakkuk had directed and encouraged the Jews on the approach of the Chaldean invasion, namely, the just shall live by faith. He now proceeds to illustrate and improve that saying, by bringing into the view of these Hebrews examples from their own Scriptures of persons who, by a strong faith in God and in his promises, resisted the greatest temptations, sustained the heaviest persecutions, were preserved in imminent dangers, performed most difficult acts of obedience, and at length obtained a distinguished reward. This beautiful discourse, therefore, may be considered as an animated display of the triumphs of faith over the allurements and terrors of the world. But first, to prevent all mistakes, and to show that the noble grace which he speaks of is attainable by men in every age and country, he gives a concise but clear description of it in the following words.

Now faith — As if he had said, Now that you may understand what the faith is of which I speak, and may be encouraged to exercise it, and to persevere in so doing, consider its excellence and efficacy. It is the substance of things hoped for — The word υποστασις, here rendered substance, is translated confidence, (Hebrews 3:14,) and may be rendered subsistence, which is its etymological meaning, and also ground, basis, or support. The meaning of the clause seems to be, that faith is a confidence that we shall receive the good things for which we hope, and that by it we enjoy, as it were, a present subsistence or anticipation of them in our souls. It also gives a foundation or ground for our expecting them; because by it we are justified, adopted into God’s family, and born of God’s Spirit, and, therefore, being his children, are heirs of the things for which we hope; namely, of happiness with Jesus immediately after death, of the glorious resurrection of the body at the time of Christ’s second coming, of acquittance and a gracious reception at his judgment-seat, and felicity and glory with him in the new heavens and new earth for ever. The evidence — Ελεγχος, the conviction, persuasion, or demonstration, wrought in the mind; of things not seen — Of things invisible and eternal, of God and the things of God; giving us an assurance of them in some respects equal to that which our outward senses give us of the things of this visible and temporal world. “The word ελεγχος,” says Macknight, “denotes a strict proof, or demonstration; a proof which thoroughly convinces the understanding, and determines the will. The apostle’s meaning is, that faith answers all the purposes of a demonstration, because, being founded on the veracity and power of God, these perfections are to the believer complete evidence of the things which God declares have happened, or are to happen, however much they may be out of the ordinary course of things.” The objects of faith, therefore, are much more numerous and extensive than those of hope: the latter are only things future, and apprehended by us to be good; whereas those of faith are either future, past, or present, and those either good or evil, whether to us or others: such as “the creation of the world without any pre-existing matter to form it of, the destruction of the old world by the deluge, the glory which Christ had with his Father before the world began, his miraculous conception in the womb of his mother, his resurrection from the dead, his exaltation in the human nature to the government of the universe, the sin and punishment of the angels, &c. All which we believe on the testimony of God, as firmly as if they were set before us by the evidence of sense.” The reader will easily observe, that though the definition of faith here given, and exemplified in the various instances following, undoubtedly includes or implies justifying faith, yet the apostle does not here speak of it as justifying, or treat of justification at all, but rather shows the efficacy and operation of faith in them who are justified. Faith justifies only as it refers to, and depends on Christ, and on the promises of God through him; in which light it is represented Romans 4., where the apostle professedly describes it. But here is no mention of him as the object of faith: and in several of the instances that follow no notice is taken of him or his salvation, but only of temporal blessings obtained by faith; and yet most of these instances maybe considered as evidences of the power of justifying faith, and of its extensive exercise in a course of steady obedience amidst trials and troubles, difficulties and dangers of every kind. Before we proceed to the particular instances of the power of faith here recorded, it may be proper to remark, that it is faith alone which, from the beginning of the world, under all dispensations of divine grace, and all the alterations which have taken place in the modes of divine worship, hath been in the church the chief principle of living unto God, of obtaining the promises, and of inheriting life eternal.11:1-3 Faith always has been the mark of God's servants, from the beginning of the world. Where the principle is planted by the regenerating Spirit of God, it will cause the truth to be received, concerning justification by the sufferings and merits of Christ. And the same things that are the object of our hope, are the object of our faith. It is a firm persuasion and expectation, that God will perform all he has promised to us in Christ. This persuasion gives the soul to enjoy those things now; it gives them a subsistence or reality in the soul, by the first-fruits and foretastes of them. Faith proves to the mind, the reality of things that cannot be seen by the bodily eye. It is a full approval of all God has revealed, as holy, just, and good. This view of faith is explained by many examples of persons in former times, who obtained a good report, or an honourable character in the word of God. Faith was the principle of their holy obedience, remarkable services, and patient sufferings. The Bible gives the most true and exact account of the origin of all things, and we are to believe it, and not to wrest the Scripture account of the creation, because it does not suit with the differing fancies of men. All that we see of the works of creation, were brought into being by the command of God.Now faith is the substance of things hoped for - On the general nature of faith, see the notes on Mark 16:16. The margin here is, "ground or confidence." There is scarcely any verse of the New Testament more important than this, for it states what is the nature of all true faith, and is the only definition of it which is attempted in the Scriptures. Eternal life depends on the existence and exercise of faith Mark 16:16, and hence, the importance of an accurate understanding of its nature. The word rendered "substance" - ὑπόστασις hupostasis - occurs in the New Testament only in the following places. In 2 Corinthians 9:4; 2 Corinthians 11:17; Hebrews 3:14, where it is rendered "confident" and "confidence;" and in Hebrews 1:3, where it is rendered "person," and in the passage before us; compare the notes on Hebrews 1:3. Prof. Stuart renders it here "confidence;" Chrysostom, "Faith gives reality or substance to things hoped for."

The word properly means "that which is placed under" (Germ. Unterstellen); then "ground, basis, foundation, support." Then it means also "reality, substance, existence," in contradistinction from what is unreal, imaginary, or deceptive (tuschung). "Passow." It seems to me, therefore, that the word here has reference to something which imparts reality in the view of the mind to those things which are not seen, and which serves to distinguish them from those things which are unreal and illusive. It is what enables us to feel and act as if they were real, or which causes them to exert an influence over us as if we saw them. Faith does this on all other subjects as well as religion. A belief that there is such a place as London or Calcutta, leads us to act as if this were so, if we have occasion to go to either; a belief that money may be made in a certain undertaking, leads people to act as if this were so; a belief in the veracity of another leads us to act as if this were so. As long as the faith continues, whether it be well-founded or not, it gives all the force of reality to what is believed. We feel and act just as if it were so, or as if we saw the object before our eyes. This, I think, is the clear meaning here. We do not see the things of eternity. We do not see God, or heaven, or the angels, or the redeemed in glory, or the crowns of victory, or the harps of praise; but we have faith in them, and this leads us to act as if we saw them. And this is, undoubtedly, the fact in regard to all who live by faith and who are fairly under its influence.

Of things hoped for - In heaven. Faith gives them reality in the view of the mind. The Christian hopes to be admitted into heaven; to be raised up in the last day from the slumbers of the tomb, to be made perfectly free from sin; to be everlastingly happy. Under the influence of faith he allows these things to control his mind as if they were a most affecting reality.

The evidence of things not seen - Of the existence of God; of heaven; of angels; of the glories of the world suited for the redeemed. The word rendered "evidence" - ἔλεγχος elengchos - occurs in the New Testament only in this place and in 2 Timothy 3:16, where it is rendered "reproof." It means properly proof, or means of proving, to wit, evidence; then proof which convinces another of error or guilt; then vindication, or defense; then summary or contents; see "Passow." The idea of "evidence" which goes to demonstrate the thing under consideration, or which is adapted to produce "conviction" in the mind, seems to be the elementary idea in the word. So when a proposition is demonstrated; when a man is arraigned and evidence is furnished of his guilt, or when he establishes his innocence; or when one by argument refutes his adversaries, the idea of "convincing argument" enters into the use of the word in each case.

This, I think, is clearly the meaning of the word here. "Faith in the divine declarations answers all the purposes of a convincing argument, or is itself a convincing argument to the mind, of the real existence of those things which are not seen." But is it a good argument? Is it rational to rely on such a means of being convinced? Is mere "faith" a consideration which should ever convince a rational mind? The infidel says "no;" and we know there may be a faith which is no argument of the truth of what is believed. But when a man who has never seen it believes that there is such a place as London, his belief in the numerous testimonies respecting it which he has heard and read is to his mind a good and rational proof of its existence, and he would act on that belief without hesitation. When a son credits the declaration or the promise of a father who has never deceived him, and acts as though that declaration and promise were true, his faith is to him a ground of conviction and of action, and he will act as if these things were so.

In like manner the Christian believes what God says. He has never seen heaven; he has never seen an angel; he has never seen the Redeemer; he has never seen a body raised from the grave. "But he has evidence which is satisfactory to his mind that God has spoken on these subjects," and his very nature prompts him to confide in the declarations of his Creator. Those declarations are to his mind more convincing proof than anything else would be. They are more conclusive evidence than would be the deductions of his own reason; far better and more rational than all the reasonings and declarations of the infidel to the contrary. He feels and acts, therefore, as if these things were so - for his faith in the declarations of God has convinced him that they are so - The object of the apostle, in this chapter, is not to illustrate the nature of what is called "saving faith," but to show the power of "unwavering confidence in God" in sustaining the soul, especially in times of trial; and particularly in leading us to act in view of promises and of things not seen as if they were so. "Saving faith" is the same kind of confidence directed to the Messiah - the Lord Jesus - as the Saviour of the soul.


Heb 11:1-40. Definition of the Faith Just Spoken of (Heb 10:39): Examples from the Old Covenant for Our Perseverance in Faith.

1. Description of the great things which faith (in its widest sense: not here restricted to faith in the Gospel sense) does for us. Not a full definition of faith in its whole nature, but a description of its great characteristics in relation to the subject of Paul's exhortation here, namely, to perseverance.

substance, &c.—It substantiates promises of God which we hope for, as future in fulfilment, making them present realities to us. However, the Greek is translated in Heb 3:14, "confidence"; and it also here may mean "sure confidence." So Alford translates. Thomas Magister supports English Version, "The whole thing that follows is virtually contained in the first principle; now the first commencement of the things hoped for is in us through the assent of faith, which virtually contains all the things hoped for." Compare Note, see on [2584]Heb 6:5, "tasted … powers of the world to come." Through faith, the future object of Christian hope, in its beginning, is already present. True faith infers the reality of the objects believed in and honed for (Heb 11:6). Hugo de St. Victor distinguished faith from hope. By faith alone we are sure of eternal things that they ARE: but by hope we are confident that WE SHALL HAVE them. All hope presupposes faith (Ro 8:25).

evidence—"demonstration": convincing proof to the believer: the soul thereby seeing what the eye cannot see.

things not seen—the whole invisible and spiritual world: not things future and things pleasant, as the "things hoped for," but also the past and present, and those the reverse of pleasant. "Eternal life is promised to us, but it is when we are dead: we are told of a blessed resurrection, but meanwhile we moulder in the dust; we are declared to be justified, and sin dwells in us; we hear that we are blessed, meantime we are overwhelmed in endless miseries: we are promised abundance of all goods, but we still endure hunger and thirst; God declares He will immediately come to our help, but He seems deaf to our cries. What should we do if we had not faith and hope to lean on, and if our mind did not emerge amidst the darkness above the world by the shining of the Word and Spirit of God?" [Calvin]. Faith is an assent unto truths credible upon the testimony of God (not on the reasonableness of the thing revealed, though by this we may judge as to whether it be what it professes, a genuine revelation), delivered unto us in the writings of the apostles and prophets. Thus Christ's ascension is the cause, and His absence the crown, of our faith: because He ascended, we the more believe, and because we believe in Him who hath ascended, our faith is the more accepted [Bishop Pearson]. Faith believes what it sees not; for if thou seest there is no faith; the Lord has gone away so as not to be seen: He is hidden that He may be believed; the yearning desire by faith after Him who is unseen is the preparation of a heavenly mansion for us; when He shall be seen it shall be given to us as the reward of faith [Augustine]. As Revelation deals with spiritual and invisible things exclusively, faith is the faculty needed by us, since it is the evidence of things not seen. By faith we venture our eternal interests on the bare word of God, and this is altogether reasonable.Hebrews 11:1-40 The nature of faith, and its acceptableness with God, set

forth in the examples of many excellent persons of old


Now faith: the Holy Spirit proceeds in this chapter to strengthen the counsel he had given these Hebrews to continue stedfast in the faith of Christ, to the end that they may receive their reward, the salvation of their souls, Hebrews 10:39 1 Peter 1:9; and so beginneth with a description of that faith, and proves it to be effectual to this end, by instances out of all ages of the world before them, wherein the Old Testament believers had found it to be so. The description of it is laid down, Hebrews 11:1; the proof of it in both parts, Hebrews 1:2,3; and the illustration of its power by examples, Hebrews 11:4-40. The particle de shows this is inferred as a discovery of that faith, which is saving or purchasing the soul; which that none of these Hebrews may be mistaken in, he describeth from its effect, and not from its form and essence. Faith is here a Divine fruit of the Spirit, given and wrought by it in his elect, and is justifying and purchasing the soul to glory, John 12:38 Romans 5:1 2 Corinthians 12:9 Ephesians 1:19,20 2:8.

Is the substance of things hoped for: upostasiv, in 2 Corinthians 9:4, notes confidence of boasting; Hebrews 1:3, personal subsistence; and Hebrews 3:14, confidence of faith. Here it is a real, present, confident assent of the soul of a believer to the promise of God, (which is the basis or foundation of it), by which the spiritual good things to come, and which fall not under sense, yet with a most vehement and intense desire urged for, are made to have a mental, intellectual existence and subsistence in the soul which exerciseth it, Romans 8:18,26 Joh 3:36.

The evidence of things not seen: elegkoi is a demonstrative discovery of that which falleth not under sense, such as is scientifical, and puts matters out of question to a man; and therefore is styled by logicians a demonstration: here it notes faith to be that spiritual space which by God’s revelation demonstrates or makes evident all things not seen by sense, or natural reason, without it, as matters of spiritual truth, good and evil in their several kinds, both past, present, and to come, John 17:6,8 Eph 1:17,18.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,.... The "faith" here spoken of is not a mere moral virtue, which is a branch of the law; nor a bare assent to anything revealed, declared, and affirmed in the Gospel; nor a faith of doing miracles; nor an implicit one; nor a mere profession of faith, which sometimes is but temporary; nor the word or doctrine of faith; but that which is made mention of in the preceding chapter, by which the just man lives, and which has the salvation of the soul annexed to it: and it does not so much design any particular branch, or act of faith, but as that in general respects the various promises, and blessings of grace; and it chiefly regards the faith of Old Testament saints, though that, as to its nature, object, and acts, is the same with the faith of New Testament ones; and is a firm persuasion of the power, faithfulness, and love of God in Christ, and of interest therein, and in all special blessings: it is described as "the substance of things hoped for"; and which, in general, are things unseen, and as yet not enjoyed; future, and yet to come; difficult to be obtained, though possible, otherwise there would be no hope of them; and which are promised and laid up; and in particular, the things hoped for by Old Testament saints were Christ, and eternal glory and happiness; and by New Testament ones, more grace, perseverance in it, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal life. Now faith is the "substance" of these things; it is the ground and foundation of them, in which there is some standing hope; in which sense the word is used by Septuagint in Psalm 69:2. The word of promise is principal ground and foundation of hope; and faith, as leaning on the word, is a less principal ground; it is a confident persuasion, expectation, and assurance of them. The Syriac version renders it, the "certainty" of them; it is the subsistence of them, and what gives them an existence, at least a mental one; so with respect to the faith and hope of the Old Testament saints, the incarnation, sufferings, and death of Christ, his resurrection, ascension, and session at God's right hand, are spoken of, as if they then were; and so are heaven, and glory, and everlasting salvation, with regard to the faith and hope of New Testament saints: yea, faith gives a kind of possession of those things before hand, John 6:47. Philo the Jew (e) says much the same thing of faith;

"the only infallible and certain good thing (says he) is, that faith which is faith towards God; it is the solace of life, , "the fulness of good hopes", &c.''

It follows here,

the evidence of things not seen; of things past, of what was done in eternity, in the council and covenant of grace and peace; of what has been in time, in creation, and providence; of the birth, miracles, sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ; of things present, the being, perfections, love, &c. of God; of the session of Christ at God's right hand, and his continual intercession; and of the various blessings of grace revealed in the Gospel; and of future ones, as the invisible realities of another world: faith has both certainty and evidence in it.

(e) De Abrahamo, p. 387.

Now {1} faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

(1) An excellent description of faith by the effects, because it represents things which are but yet in hope, and sets as it were before our eyes things that are invisible.

Hebrews 11:1. The definition. This is no scholastic, exhaustive one, but brings out only that element as the essence of the πίστις, with which the author was here alone concerned; inasmuch as, according to Hebrews 10:35 ff., just the inner certainty of conviction with regard to the Christian hope, and the stedfast continuance in the same dependent thereon, was that which was lacking to the readers. The words: ἔστιν δὲ πίστις ἐλπιζομένων ὑπόστασις, are to be taken together as a single statement, and πραγμάτων ἔλεγχος οὐ βλεπομένων forms an apposition to ἐλπιζομένων ὑπόστασις: “faith, however, is a firm confidence in regard to that which is hoped for, a being convinced of things which are invisible.” Πίστις is accordingly subject; ἐλπιζομένων ὑπόστασις, as well as πραγμάτων ἔλεγχος οὐ βλεπομένων, predicate; and ἔστιν (which, standing at the beginning, is to be accentuated as the verbum substantivum, see Kühner, I. p. 72) emphatically preposed copula, with the design of attaching to the presupposition, expressed Hebrews 10:39, of πίστις as a quality present in the readers, the statement as to the nature and essence of this πίστις. Quite similar is the use of ἔστιν in the beginning of the proposition, 1 Timothy 6:6 : ἔστιν δὲ πορισμὸς μέγας ἡ εὐσέβεια μετὰ αὐταρκείας, and Luke 8:11 : ἔστιν δὲ αὕτη ἡ παραβολή. Grammatically admissible indeed, but to be rejected—because in that case a thought would be expressed which is not suggested by the connection, and, moreover, a truth in regard to which no contradiction whatever was to be expected on the part of the readers—is it when Böhme (as formerly also Winer, Gramm., 3 and 4 Aufl.; otherwise 5 Aufl. p. 70, 6 Aufl. p. 56, 7 Aufl. p. 58 f.) will have ἔστιν taken as a verb substantive, and ὑπόστασις, as likewise ἔλεγχος, taken as apposition to πίστις: “there is, however, a faith, a confidence,” etc.

πίστις] without an article, since the author will define the notion of πίστις in general, not exclusively the notion of specifically Christian faith.

ὑπόστασις] is by many explained as “reality” (entity, Wesenheit), and placed on a par with οὐσία, substantia, essentia, and the like, which, however, is already proved to be inadmissible from the fact that the notion of “reality” cannot be immediately applied, but, in order to become fitting, must first be changed into that of an “endowing with reality,” in such wise that one can then make out the sense: faith clothes things which are not yet at all present with a substance or real existence, as though they were already present. This mode of interpretation was followed by Chrysostom (ἐπειδὴ γὰρ τὰ ἐν ἐλπίδι ἀνυπόστατα εἶναι δοκεῖ, ἡ πίστις ὑπόστασιν αὐτοῖς χαρίζεται· μᾶλλον δέ, οὐ χαρίζεται ἀλλʼ αὐτό ἐστιν οὐσία αὐτῶν· οἷον ἡ ἀνάστασις οὐ παραγέγονεν οὐδέ ἐστιν ἐν ὑποστάσει, ἀλλʼ ἡ ἐλπὶς ὑφίστησιν αὐτὴν ἐν τῇ ἡμετέρᾳ ψυχῇ), Theodoret (δείκνυσιν ὡς ὑφεστῶτα τὰ μηδὲπω γεγενημένα), Oecumenius (πίστις ἐστὶν αὐτὴ ἡ ὑπόστασις καὶ οὐσία τῶν ἐλπιζομένων πραγμάτων· ἐπειδὴ γὰρ τὰ ἐν ἐλπίσιν ἀνυπόστατά ἐστιν ὡς τέως μὴ παρόντα, ἡ πίστις οὐσία τις αὐτῶν καὶ ἡ ὑπόστασις γίνεται, εἶναι αὐτὰ καὶ παρεῖναι τρόπον τινὰ παρασκευάζουσα διὰ τοῦ πιστεύειν εἶναι), Theophylact (οὐσίωσις τῶν μήπω ὄντων καὶ ὑπόστασις τὠν μὴ ὑφεστώτων), by the Vulgate (substantia), by Ambrose, Augustine, Vatablus (rerum, quae sperantur, essentia), H. Stephanus (illud, quod facit, ut jam exstent, quae sperantur), Schlichting, Bengel, Heinrichs, Bisping, and others.

But likewise ὑπόστασις is not to be interpreted either by “fundamentum,” with Faber Stapulensis, Clarius, Schulz, Stein, Stengel, Woerner, and others, nor by “placing before one,” with Castellio (dicitur eorum, quae sperantur, subjectio, quod absentia nobis subjiciat ac proponat, efficiatque ut praesentia esse videantur, nec secus eis assentiamur, quam si cerneremus) and Paulus. for neither of the two affords in itself, without further amplification, a satisfactory, precise notion, quite apart from the fact that the last-mentioned signification can hardly be supported by the testimony of linguistic usage.

The alone correct course is consequently, with Luther, Cameron, Grotius, Wolf, Huët, Böhme, Bleek, de Wette, Tholuck, Ebrard, Bloomfield, Delitzsch, Riehm, Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 702, Alford, Maier, Moll, and others, to take ὑπόστασις, as at Hebrews 3:14 (vid. ad loc.), as inner confidence,

ἐλπιζομένων] gen. objecti: of that (or: with regard to that) which is still hoped for, has not yet appeared in an actual form. The main emphasis in the predicate rests upon ἐλπιζομένων, as also upon the concluding words, corresponding in apposition thereto, οὐ βλεπομένων.

πραγμάτων] belongs to οὐ βλεπομένων. The conjoining with ἐλπιζομένων (Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Estius, Böhme, Woerner, and others) deprives the two halves of the proposition of their rhythmical symmetry.

πραγμάτων ἔλεγχος οὐ βλεπομένων] a being convinced (in mind or heart) of things which are invisible, i.e. a firm inner persuasion of the existence of unseen things, even as though they were manifest to one’s eyes. ἔλεγχος here expresses not the active notion of the convincing or assuring (Delitzsch, Riehm, Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 703; Moll, Hofmann), but, corresponding to the notion of the forementioned ὑπόστασις, indicates the result of the ἐλίγχειν (comp. 1 Corinthians 14:24), as λόγος that produced by the λέγειν, τύπος that effected by the τύπτειν, etc. To be rejected as unsuitable are the explanations: Proof, argumentum (Vulgate, Ambrose, Schlichting, Wolf, Heinrichs, and others); indicium (Erasmus); demonstratio (Calvin, H. Stephanus, Jac. Cappellus, Bengel, Alford, al.); apprehensio (Clarius); “a certain assurance, guarantee” (Stein), and many others. οὐ βλεπόμενα, however, on account of the objective negation, combines together into the unity of notion “invisible,” and is a more general characterization than ἐλπιζόμενα. While the latter is restricted to that which is purely future, the former comprehends at the same time that which is already present, and denotes in general the supra-sensuous and heavenly.

Calvin: Nobis vita aeterna promittitur, sed mortuis; nobis sermo fit de beata resurrectione, interea putredine sumus obvoluti; justi pronuntiamur, et habitat in nobis peccatum; audimus nos esse beatos, interea obruimur infinitis miseriis; promittitur bonorum omnium affluentia, prolixe vero esurimus et sitimus; clamat Deus statim se nobis adfuturum, sed videtur surdus esse ad clamores nostros. Quid fieret, nisi spei inniteremur, ac mens nostra praelucente Dei verbo ac Spiritu per medias tenebras supra mundum emergeret?

Hebrews 11:1-40.[105] The author defines the nature of the πίστις which he requires of the readers, and then presents to them in chronological succession examples thereof from the days of old.

[105] P. J. L. Huët, De antiquissimorum Dei cultorum, qui in epistolae ad Hebraeos capite xi. memorantur, fide diversa eademque una. Lugd. Batav. 1824, 8, pp. 27–82.Hebrews 11:1. Ἔστιν δὲ πίστις ἐλπιζομένων ὑπόστασις … “Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, proof [manifestation] of things not seen”. When ἔστι stands first in a sentence it sometimes means “there exists,” as in John 5:2; 1 Corinthians 15:44. But it has not necessarily and always this significance, cf. 1 Timothy 6:6; Luke 8:11; Wis 7:1. There is therefore no need to place a comma after πίστις as some have done. The words describe what faith is, although not a strict definition. “Longe falluntur, qui justam fidei definitionem hic poni existimant: neque enim hic de tota fidei natura disserit Apostolus, sed partem elegit suo instituto congruentem, nempe quod cum patientia semper conjuncta sit” (Calvin). ὑπόστασις, literally foundation, that which stands under; hence, the ground on which one builds a hope, naturally gliding into the meaning “assurance,” “confidence,” as in Hebrews 3:14; 2 Corinthians 9:4; 2 Corinthians 11:17; Ruth 1:12; Psalm 39:7, ἡ ὑπόστασίς μου παρὰ σοί ἐστιν. Ἔλεγχος regularly means “proof”. See Demosthenes, passim; especially Agt. Androtion, p. 600, ἔλεγχος, ὦν ἂν εἴπῃ τις καὶ τἀληθὲς ὁμοῦ δείξῃ. It seems never to be used in a subjective sense for “conviction,” “persuasion”; although here this meaning would suit the context and has been adopted by many. To say with Weiss that the subjective meaning must be given to the word that it may correspond with ὑπόστασις is to write the Epistle, not to interpret it. Theophylact renders the clause φανέρωσις ἀδήλων πραγμάτων. Faith is that which enables us to treat as real the things that are unseen. Hatch gives a different meaning to both clauses: “Faith is the ground of things hoped for, i.e., trust in God, or the conviction that God is good and that He will perform His promises, is the ground for confident hope that the things hoped for will come to pass.… So trust in God furnishes to the mind which has it a clear proof that things to which God has testified exist, though they are not visible to the senses.” The words thus become a definition of what faith does, not of what it is. Substantially the words mean that faith gives to things future, which as yet are only hoped for, all the reality of actual present existence; and irresistibly convinces us of the reality of things unseen and brings us into their presence. Things future and things unseen must become certainties to the mind if a balanced life is to be lived. Faith mediating between man and the supersensible is the essential link between himself and God, “for in it lay the commendation of the men of old,” ἐν ταύτῃ γὰρ ἐμαρτυρήθησαν οἱ πρεσβύτεροι. That is, it was on the ground of their possessing faith that the distinguished men of the O.T. received the commendation of God, being immortalised in Scripture. It might almost be rendered “by faith of this kind,” answering to this description. ἐν ταύτῃ has an exact parallel in 1 Timothy 5:10, the widow who is to be placed on the Church register must be ἐν ἔργοις καλοῖς μαρτυρουμένη, well-reported of on the score of good works. οἱ πρεσβύτεροι, those of past generations, men of the O.T. times; as Papias [Euseb., H.E., iii. 39] uses the term to denote the “Fathers of the Church” belonging to the generation preceding his own. The idea that faith is that which God finds pleasure in (Hebrews 10:38) and is that which truly unites to God under the old dispensations as well as under the new is a Pauline thought, Galatians 3:6. This general statement of Hebrews 11:2 is exhibited in detail in the remainder of the chapter; but first the writer shows the excellence of faith in this, that it is by it that we recognise that there is an unseen world and that out of things unseen this visible world has taken rise. This idea is suggested to him because his eye is on Genesis from which he culls the succeeding examples and it is natural that he should begin at the beginning. “Before exhibiting how faith is the principle that rules the life of men in relation to God, down through all history, as it is transacted on the stage of the world, the author shows how this stage itself is brought into connection with God by an act of faith” (Davidson). By faith we perceive, with the mental eye νοοῦμεν, cf. Romans 1:20, that the worlds (αἰῶνας, cf. Hebrews 1:2; the visible world existing in time, the temporary manifestation of the unseen is meant, see Hebrews 1:10-11) have been framed (κατηρτίσθαι, as in Hebrews 10:5, σῶμα δὲ κατηρτίσω μοι. In Hebrews 13:21 καταρτίσαι ὑμᾶς, “perfect you” as in Luke 6:40; 2 Corinthians 13:11; 1 Thessalonians 3:10. The word is perhaps used in the present connection to suggest not a bare calling into existence, but a wise adaptation of part to part and of the whole to its purpose) by God’s word, ῥήματι θεοῦ. This is the perception of faith. The word of God is an invisible force which cannot be perceived by sense. The great power which lies at the source of all that is does not itself come into observation; we perceive it only by faith which is (Hebrews 11:1) “the evidence of things not seen”. The result of this creation by an unseen force, the word of God, is that “what is seen has not come into being out of things which appear”. εἰς τὸγεγονέναι. εἰς τὸ with infinitive, commonly used to express purpose, is sometimes as here used to express result, and we may legitimately translate “so that what is seen, etc.” Cf. Luke 5:17; Romans 12:3; 2 Corinthians 8:6; Galatians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:16. Cf. Burton, M. and T., 411. μὴ ἐκ φαινομένων, the Vulgate renders “ex invisibilibus,” and the Old Latin “ex non apparentibus” having apparently read ἐκ μὴ φαιν. τὸ βλεπόμενον the singular in place of the plural of T.R. and Vulgate, presents all things visible as unity. Had the visible world been formed out of materials which were subject to human observation, there would have been no room for faith. Science could have traced it to its origin. Evolution only pushes the statement a stage back. There is still an unseen force that does not submit itself to experimental science, and that is the object of faith. To find in this verse an allusion to the noumenal and phenomenal worlds would be fanciful.1. Now faith] Since he has said “we are of faith to gaining of the soul,” the question might naturally arise, What then is faith? It is nowhere defined in Scripture, nor is it defined here, for the writer rather describes it in its effects than in its essence; but it is described by what it does. The chapter which illustrates “faith” is full of works; and this alone should shew how idle is any contrast or antithesis between the two. Here however the word “faith” means only “the belief which leads to faithfulness”—the hope which, apart from sight, holds the ideal to be the most real, and acts accordingly.

the substance of things hoped for] The word “hypostasis,” here rendered “substance,” as in Hebrews 1:3, may mean (1) that underlying essence which gives reality to a thing. Faith gives a subjective reality to the aspirations of hope. But it may be used (2) in an ordinary and not a metaphysical sense for “basis,” foundation; or (3) for “confidence,” as in Hebrews 3:14 (comp. 2 Corinthians 9:4; 2 Corinthians 11:17): and this seems to be the most probable meaning of the word here. St Jerome speaks of the passage as breathing somewhat of Philo (“Philoneum aliquid spirans”), who speaks of faith in a very similar way.

the evidence of things not seen] The word rendered “evidence” means “demonstration,” or “test.”

not seen] i.e. which are as yet invisible, because they are eternal and not temporal (2 Corinthians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 5:7). God Himself belongs to the things as yet unseen; but Faith—in this sense of the word, which is not the distinctively Pauline sense (Galatians 2:16; Galatians 3:26; Romans 3:25)—demonstrates the existence of the immaterial as though it were actual. The object of faith from the dawn of man’s life had been Christ, who, even at the Fall, had been foretold as “the seed of the woman who should break the serpent’s head.” The difference between the Two Covenants was that in the New He was fully set forth as the effulgence of the Father’s glory, whereas in the Old He had been but dimly indicated by shadows and symbols. Bishop Wordsworth quotes the sonnet of the poet Wordsworth on these lines:

“For what contend the wise? for nothing less

Than that the Soul, freed from the bonds of sense,

And to her God restored by evidence

Of things not seen, drawn forth from their recess,

Root there—and not in forms—her holiness.”Hebrews 11:1. Ἔστι δὲ πίστις, now faith is) This is resumed from ch. Hebrews 10:39. And the apostle gives in this passage that definition of faith, which is most suitable to his purpose of confirming the minds of the brethren.—ἐλπιζομένων ὑπόστασις, πραγμάτων ἔλεγχος οὐ βλεπομένων, the substance of those things which are hoped for, the proof of things which are not seen) Things which are hoped for, are the species; things which are not seen, are the genus: for the former are merely future and pleasant to us; the latter also are past or present, and either pleasant or painful to ourselves or others, Hebrews 11:3; Hebrews 11:7-8; Hebrews 11:27; Hebrews 11:29. Whence the two clauses of this verse, in which there is an Asyndeton (absence of the copulative conjunction), have a gradation. Moreover, as the things which are not seen are to the things which are hoped for, so is the proof of the things to the substance; and therefore faith is the substance by which the future things, that are hoped for, are represented (vividly realized), or are set before us as present: and the same (faith) is the proof of the things, by which those things which are not seen are set before us as solid realities (πράγματα). That which is absent is opposed to substance; a non-entity, a dream, is opposed to the proof or evidence of things. Whence it is clear how closely the two words πραγμάτων ἔλεγχος cohere, so that they form, as it were, a compound word, πραγμάτων-ἔλεγχος; and why the word, things, is put in the last, and not also in the first clause. Ὑπόστασις, substance, is opposed to τῇ ὑποστολῇ, drawing back, which was lately repudiated, ch. 10, at the end; for the metaphor is taken from a pillar standing under a heavy weight, and denotes patience and constancy, καρτερίαν; comp. Hebrews 11:27. Ὑπόστασις in the Vulgate is translated substantia, which is correct; for substance is opposed to opinion, l. 10, § 1, Digest. de diversis temporalibus præscriptionibus, et de accessionibus possessionum, and elsewhere. Substance then has reference to a thing which is certain, and therefore also to a thing which is present. Things future are represented (vividly realized) by faith: ἔλεγχος is evidence or proof also in the peculiar language of philosophers. Ὑπόστασις, substance, is put first; and then πραγμάτων ἔλεγχος, the proof, or evidence of things; but the examples, which follow, relate in the first instance to the proof of the things, Hebrews 11:3, etc., and in the second place, to the substance of those things which are hoped for, Hebrews 11:6, etc. Chiasmus.Verse 1. - Now faith is the substance (so A.V., with marginal readings, "or ground, or, confidence") of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. On the senses in which the word ὑπόστασις (translated "substance") may be used, see under Hebrews 1:2. As to the sense intended here, views differ. There are three possible ones, expressed in the text and margin of the A.V., substance, ground, and confidence. The first is understood by the Fathers generally, the idea being supposed to be that, inasmuch as things not yet experienced, but only hoped for, become real to us by faith, faith is metaphysically their substance, as substantiating them to us. So Theophilus: Οὐσίωσις τῶν μήπω ὄντων ὑπόστασις τῶν μὴ ὑφεστηκότων: and Chrysostom, who illustrates thus: "The resurrection has not yet taken place, but faith substantiates (ὑφίστησιν) it in our souls." So also Dante, following St. Thomas Aquinas, in a striking passage quoted by Delitzsch ('Paradise,' 24:70-75) -

"Le profonde cose
Che mi largiscon qui la lor parvenza
Agli occhi di laggiu son si nascose,
Che l'esser lore ve in sola credenza,
Sovra la qual si fondu Palta spene:
E pero di sustanza prende Fintenza."

"The things profound
That here vouch safe to me their apparition
From all eyes here below are so concealed
That all their being is in faith alone,
Upon the which high hope doth base itself:
And therefore faith assumes the place of substance."
The rendering ground, which involves only the simpler idea of faith being the foundation on which hope is built, has not much support from the use of the word elsewhere, nor does it seem suitable here. For it is not the things hoped for, but rather our hopes of them that are grounded on our faith. The subjective sense, confidence, or assurance, is most in favor with modern commentators, principally as being the most usual one (cf. Hebrews 3:14; 2 Corinthians 9:4; 2 Corinthians 11:17; also Psalm 38:11, Ἡ ὑπόστασις μου παρὰ σοῦ ἔστιν: Ezekiel 19:5, Ἀπώλετο ἡ ὑπόστασις αὐτῆς: Ruth 1:12, Ἔστι μοι ὑπόστασις τοῦ γενεθῆναι με ἀνδρί). One objection to this sense of the word here is that it is usually followed, when so intended, by a genitive of rite person, not of the thing; though Ruth 1:12 is an instance to the contrary. But apart from this consideration, the consensus of the Greek Fathers is a weighty argument for the retention of the rendering of the A.V. Either rendering, be it observed, gives the same essential meaning, though under different mental conceptions. Faith is further said to be the evidence of things not seen; ἔλεγχος meaning, not as some take it, inward conviction of their existence, but in itself a demonstration, serving the purpose of argument to induce conviction. So Dante, in continuation of the passage quoted above -

"E da questa credenza ci conviene
Sillogizar senza avere ultra visa;
E pero intenza d'argomento tiene."

"And from this credence it is fit and right
To syllogize, though other sight be none:
Therefore faith holds the place of argument."
Is this meant as a definition of faith, or only a description of its effect and operation, with especial regard to the subject in hand? Virtually a definition, though not in the strict logical form of one. At any rate, "the constituents and essential characteristics of faith are here laid down" (Delitzsch); i.e. of faith in its most general sense - that of belief in such things, whether past, present, or future, as are not known by experience, and cannot be logically demonstrated. "Licet quidam dicant praedicta apostoli verba non esse fidei definitionem, quia definitio indicat rei quidditatem et essentiam, tamen si quis recte consideret, omnia ex quibus fides potest definiri in praedicta descriptione tanguntur, licet verba non ordinentur sub forma definitionis" (St. Thomas Aquinas, 'Secunda Secundae,' qu. 4, art. 1). Faith, in the general sense indicated, is and has ever been, as the chapter goes on to show, the very root and inspiring principle of all true religion. And be it observed that, if well grounded, it is not irrational; it would rather be irrational to disregard it, or suppose it opposed to reason. Even in ordinary affairs of life, and in science too, men act, and must act, to a great extent on faith; it is essential for success, and certainly for all great achievements - faith in the testimony and authority of others whom we can trust, faith in views and principles not yet verified by our own experience, faith in the expected outcome of right proceeding, faith with respect to a thousand things which we take on trust, and so make ventures, on the ground, not of positive proof, but of more or less assured conviction. Religious faith is the same principle, though exercised in a higher sphere; and it may be as well grounded as any on which irreligious men are acting daily. Various feelings and considerations may conspire to induce it: the very phenomena of the visible universe, which, though themselves objects of sense, speak to the soul of a Divinity beyond them; still more, conscience, recognized as a Divine voice within us, and implying a Power above us to whom we are responsible; then all our strange yearnings after ideals not yet realized, our innate sense that righteousness ought to triumph over iniquity, as in our disordered world it does not yet; - which things are in themselves prophetic; and, in addition to all this, the general human belief in Deity. And when, further, a revelation has been given, its answering to our already felt needs and aspirations, together with the usual considerations on which we give credence to testimony, induces faith in it also, and in the things by it revealed; natural faith is thus confirmed, and faith in other verities is borne in upon the soul; which is further itself confirmed by experience of the effects of entertaining it. In some minds, as is well known, and these of the highest order, such faith may amount to certitude, rendering the "things unseen" more real to them than "the things that do appear." It cannot be said that to accept such faith as evidence is contrary to reason; our not doing so would be to put aside as meaning nothing the deepest, the most spiritual, the most elevating faculties of our mysterious nature, by means of which, no less than by our other faculties, we are constituted so as to apprehend the truth. And we may observe, lastly, that even to those who have not themselves this "fullness of faith," its very existence in others, including so many of the great and good, may surely be rationally accepted as evidence of realities corresponding to it. Faith (πίστις)

Without the article, indicating that it is treated in its abstract conception, and not merely as Christian faith. It is important that the preliminary definition should be clearly understood, since the following examples illustrate it. The key is furnished by Hebrews 11:27, as seeing him who is invisible. Faith apprehends as a real fact what is not revealed to the senses. It rests on that fact, acts upon it, and is upheld by it in the face of all that seems to contradict it. Faith is a real seeing. See Introduction, p. 363.

Substance (ὑπόστασις)

See on Hebrews 1:3 and see on Hebrews 3:14. On the whole, the Rev. assurance gives the true meaning. The definition has a scholastic and philosophic quality, as might be expected from a pupil of the Alexandrian schools. The meaning substance, real being, given by A.V., Vulg., and many earlier interpreters, suggests the true sense, but is philosophically inaccurate. Substance, as used by these translators, is substantial nature; the real nature of a thing which underlies and supports its outward form or properties. In this sense it is very appropriate in Hebrews 1:3, in describing the nature of the Son as the image or impress of God's essential being: but in this sense it is improperly applied to faith, which is an act of the moral intelligence directed at an object; or a condition which sustains a certain relation to the object. It cannot be said that faith is substantial being. It apprehends reality: it is that to which the unseen objects of hope become real and substantial. Assurance gives the true idea. It is the firm grasp of faith on unseen fact.

Evidence (ἔλεγχος)

N.T.o. Quite often in lxx for יָכַֽח, to reprove, rebuke, punish, blame. See Proverbs 1:23; Wisd. 2:14; Sir. 21:12. See especially on the kindred verb ἐλέγχειν, John 3:20. Rend. conviction. Observe that ὑπόστασις and ἔλεγχος are not two distinct and independent conceptions, in which case καὶ would have been added; but they stand in apposition. Ἔλεγχος is really included in ὑπόστασις, but adds to the simple idea of assurance a suggestion of influences operating to produce conviction which carry the force of demonstration. The word often signifies a process of proof or demonstration. So von Soden: "a being convinced. Therefore not a rash, feebly-grounded hypothesis, a dream of hope, the child of a wish."

Of things (πραγμάτων)

Πρᾶγμα is, strictly, a thing done; an accomplished fact. It introduces a wider conception than ἐλπιζομένων things hoped for; embracing not only future realities, but all that does not fall under the cognizance of the senses, whether past, present, or future.

Hebrews 11:1 Interlinear
Hebrews 11:1 Parallel Texts

Hebrews 11:1 NIV
Hebrews 11:1 NLT
Hebrews 11:1 ESV
Hebrews 11:1 NASB
Hebrews 11:1 KJV

Hebrews 11:1 Bible Apps
Hebrews 11:1 Parallel
Hebrews 11:1 Biblia Paralela
Hebrews 11:1 Chinese Bible
Hebrews 11:1 French Bible
Hebrews 11:1 German Bible

Bible Hub
Hebrews 10:39
Top of Page
Top of Page