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October 27, 2017  

Finding Genuine Faith on the Earth- Part 2: Where did Paul’s definition of faith come from?

October 27, 2017



“…When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8b NET)

Evidently, real, vibrant, Bible faith will be in comparatively short supply when Jesus returns. Will we have the genuine kind of faith He is looking for? (See 1st Peter 1:7 in the NKJV.) I pray that we do. That is the purpose of these articles, to examine our faith as Paul stated in 2nd Corinthians 13:5.

I now feel compelled instead to write to encourage you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 1:3 NET).

We are contending earnestly for the faith once for all entrusted to the saints in these articles!

Grandma, grandpa, your mother or father, or your denomination probably never taught faith quite like you will read in these articles.

“Well, I was taught that faith is just believing God, and that is all there is to it.” Have you ever heard that?

Many believe firmly that their particular Church doctrinal statements are their faith. Then, you have a multitude of people that ask, “What is your faith? To what faith do you subscribe?” Of course, they are asking you about the particular Christian group you associate with or belong to.

Others take faith into the realms of believing and trusting, full persuasion of God’s promises, speaking the Word, or believing (trusting) that you receive your answer to prayer. There are sound Biblical truths to be studied in those areas, but faith is much broader in scope in Paul’s epistles and the rest of the New Testament than these definitions alone.

Did you know that obedience is an intimate part of faith? How often do you hear from today’s pulpits that obedience is an integral part of faith? Paul connected them forever.

Through Him we have received grace and our apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles on behalf of his name… and through the prophetic scriptures has been made known to all the nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith (Romans 1:5, 16:26 NET).

Did you know that there are teachers today that reject the idea that obedience to God and His Word are essential parts of your faith in Christ? Can they read? Paul began and finished his great epistle to the Romans with the principle of obedience of faith. Obeying the Lord is not an option in Scripture in the Old and New Testaments, that is, IF we want God and the Lord Jesus by His Spirit working in our lives (John 14:21-26; 1 John 2:3-6 NET).

These articles will tear down some traditional interpretations, but they should not be construed as a denial of other areas of faith not covered in them. Faith is a BIG subject! For that very reason, I am adding audio messages to these articles that give you some other sides of Biblical faith. I hope you listened to the audio message, “Only Believe” with Part 1 of this series of articles. I suggest you listen to all the 37 audio messages in the series, “Removing Doubt from the Heart.” Only Believe was #28 from this series.

Bible faith as Paul understood it, was solidly based on the Old Testament or the Holy Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:14-17). He also based his understanding of faith on the words and example of Jesus in the Gospels. Jesus was the Word of God made flesh, so He and the written Word must agree (John 1:1-3, 14). That must be included in any assessment of Paul’s view of faith.

As we saw in the first article, Paul used the Scripture profusely in his epistles, either by direct quotations or by allusions. By allusions, I mean that he was constantly hinting at Scripture even though he was not necessarily quoting verses or naming the books where they were found.

Here is an oft-quoted verse used to establish Paul’s teaching on faith. There is no guessing game here!

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17 NKJV)

“The just shall live by faith” is a quotation of the second part of Habakkuk 2:4.[1]


Where did Paul’s definition of faith come from?

Was it from some special revelation only given to him? Paul’s definition of faith was confirmed by his choice of a proof text from the Old Testament, written almost seven centuries before he wrote Romans 1:17.

Paul almost exclusively used the Septuagint (LXX) Greek when quoting the Old Testament. The Septuagint was an ancient Jewish translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek. The language was analyzed and the conclusion is that the Pentateuch was translated near the middle of the 3rd century B.C., and the rest of the Old Testament was translated in the 2nd century B. C.[2] The Greek of the New Testament reflects the Septuagint in hundreds of places.[3]

Gustav A. Deissmann (1866–1937), the renowned German Protestant theologian, said it like this:  

"A single hour lovingly devoted to the text of the Septuagint will further our exegetical knowledge of the Pauline Epistles more than a whole day spent over a commentary… Every reader of the Septuagint who knows his Greek (New) Testament will after a few days’ study come to see with astonishment what hundreds of threads there are uniting the Old and the New."[4]

Follow me in this. I am not splitting hairs here. It’s information every single believer should have.

Paul quoted Habakkuk 2:4 in Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11 by using the Greek word for faith (pistis) as it came to him from the Septuagint, but that was not its origin. The Hebrew original text was standing behind the Greek Septuagint and Paul’s usage. Hebrew has to be the place to look for the original meaning. That makes perfect sense to me, yet many prefer to see only the Greek, and do their best to dismiss the Hebrew standing behind it. That, my friends, is a huge lack in judgment!

Going back to the original Hebrew that stands behind the Greek is not only necessary, but it is doing an honest word study, whether you are a scholar, preacher, teacher, or a student of the Word. If one refuses to admit or rejects the Hebrew that stands behind all Greek Septuagint quotations (and word usage) in the New Testament, then one subscribes to a dishonest form of Biblical study. I don’t think any of us want to be accused of dishonesty.

What is the Hebrew word translated faith in Habakkuk 2:4, quoted by Paul in Romans 1:17 and in Galatians 3:11?

Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (BDB) is relevant today, even though newer dictionaries are in circulation. The Hebrew word that is generally translated faith in Habakkuk 2:4 is emunah, and BDB states that it means: firmness, fidelity, steadfastness, and steadiness. (See H530, 53b.) Those definitions are the ones found in the summarized version of the BDB on the Bible software on my cell phone. When looking at the definition of emunah (H530, 53b) in the full BDB, [5] we see that faithfulness and trust are added to the definition.

On page 53, column b, under entry #530, around the center of the page, we come to the BDB translation of Habakkuk 2:4: “a righteous man by his faithfulness liveth.” Pay close attention to the code right after the translation: (>faith LUTH AV RV). The list of abbreviations at the front of the dictionary is the place to decode it. The parenthesis means that the preceding translation of emunah as faithfulness is preferred to how Luther, the Authorized KJV, and the Revised Version translated it as faith! Luther, the KJV and the AV (among others) did not translate emunah. They injected into Habakkuk 2:4 their translation from the Greek New Testament back into the Old. That is backwards!

I am suggesting that we do the exact opposite, take the Hebrew definitions and inject them into the New!

Faithfulness is not “by faith alone” or “believing alone”. Not even close! Oops! That is contrary to centuries of protestant theology that began with Luther emphasizing “by faith alone”, one perpetuated by the KJV, RV, and the majority of versions.

Look back at these definitions of emunah. The words faith and believe are completely lacking in the Hebrew definition. “By faith alone” is missing in the BDB translation of Habakkuk 2:4.

Look at the NKJV translation of Habakkuk 2:4, one basically in agreement with the KJV and RV:

“Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith.” (NKJV)

Translations like the NKJV are simply bringing into the Hebrew original text a translation of the verse according to the Greek New Testament that came from the Septuagint. They paid NO attention to the original Hebrew text!

Now, watch what happens when you don’t take the Greek as the final word or inject it back into the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. The Hebrew original text of Habakkuk 2:4 gives us a completely different picture.

“Look, the one whose desires are not upright will faint from exhaustion, but the person of integrity will live because of his faithfulness” (NET).

A few other translations have the better word faithfulness: God’s Word, Good News Translation, Lexham English Bible, New International Revised Version, NIV, New Living Testament, Voice. Young’s Literal Translation has steadfastness. The Common English Bible has live honestly. The Complete Jewish Bible has trusting faithfulness. The Message has loyal and steady believing. All of these are much better than the word faith.

The New English Translation in Habakkuk 2:4, under note 15 says about the traditional translation of emunah as faith that it “nowhere else refers to ‘belief’ as such.” “Honesty, integrity, reliability, faithfulness” define emunah when used in reference to human conduct and character, as in this verse.[6]

Belief, faith, and believing are not even in the equation!

Here’s where it really gets messy.

Even though the NET gets it right in Habakkuk 2:4, they ignore the Hebrew background in Romans 1:17. They honestly believe it is the best scholarship to translate the text from the Greek and let it stay that way without elucidating the Hebrew behind it. They missed the point of Habakkuk 2:4 in Paul’s reference.

Don’t misunderstand me. Translators are working with the texts in front of them to the best of their abilities. They translate a word, generally, looking for a word or words that convey the meaning clearly into their target language. I believe translators are doing an excellent job, as far as word-for-word translations go, especially in the newer translations like the New English Translation and others. The issue I am referring to is in the realm of looking at the original language behind the Greek when Old Testament verses and allusions are found in the New Testament.

When the original emunah is translated from the Greek pistis as faith in the New Testament, without further explanation, it is misleading and woefully incomplete. It has to be elucidated based on Habakkuk 2:4, and other Old Testament verses we will get to. That is especially true if the verses are quoted in the New Testament!

Translators could include a footnote next to the word faith (and many others) in the New Testament. There should be a fuller explanation and definition based on the Hebrew original, but these are nowhere to be found! It’s better to translate faith (and believe) as a phrase based on the Hebrew definition. My God! That would have enhanced richly our faith in Christ in so many ways, and kept the church out of many strange and unfruitful interpretations. 

If I had known that Bible faith was, and is, correctly defined by faithfulness, steadfastness, loyalty, obedience, and trust, it would have made a huge difference in so many ways. Fidelity, firmness, and steadiness are not primarily (nor secondarily or even thirdly) your beliefs, but your Covenant relationship-fellowship with Him, your lifestyle, and actions according to His Word. Glory to God!

I learned some powerful lessons in the realm of faith from 1974 until 1986 (and I am still learning), such as trusting in the promises of God, speaking to the mountain to be removed, speaking of things that are not as though they were, getting your words to agree with God's Word, and so on (Romans 4:17-22; Mark 11:22-26). 

When I first learned some of the things I am sharing in these articles, sadly, I started to discard many of the things I learned earlier. I did not realize that what I was learning was not to take away from my faith, but to tweak and adjust me in it. God’s purpose was to take me further into the realm of faith than I had ever been. I threw out the baby with the bathwater! That was not a good idea! 

Now in 2017, I can look back, grin, and laugh at how ignorant I was, but it was no laughing matter then. It was havoc and sheer hell! That is one story that I will spare you from. I stepped away from the Lord and His Word over my errors (and sins) from 1989-1999, but (PTL) I came back to Him through repentance and renewal in April of 1999.

Looking back, since my initial commitment to Jesus in early 1974 (under the big tent of R. W. Schambach, Tampa Florida), I can truthfully say, that I am finally getting a clue! As I continue to study, finally, I am receiving from the Lord some understanding on how all these areas of faith complement each other and work together. They are not contrary to one another.  

I trust that these messages will take you much further in Him, and in faith, than I have ever been. I also trust that it will happen for you in a whole lot less time. 

Be mightily blessed! 



[1] Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38 also repeat, “the just shall live by faith.”

[2] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Septuagint

[3] An interesting question is, which Hebrew text stands behind the Septuagint (LXX)? According to the evidence of the Dead Scrolls, there were a few Hebrew manuscript traditions. One agreed more with the MT, one was like the LXX, and another like the Samaritan text of the Pentateuch. Then, there was the one that was different than those, like the one reflected in the great Isaiah Scroll, and there were more. This is important because scholars believed, until the Dead Sea Scrolls were found and examined, that the LXX had many Christian additions. The DSS proved that assumption wrong because they were pre-Christian! They found clear evidence of a textual tradition similar to the Septuagint. See Ostling, Richard N., “Dead Sea Scrolls” yield “major questions” in Old Testament understanding, (University of Notre Dame; https://news.nd.edu/news/dead-sea-scrolls-yield-major-questions-in-old-testament-understanding/, accessed 10-26-17); Tov, Emanuel; Searching for the “Original” Bible, (https://members.bib-arch.org/biblical-archaeology-review/40/4/10, accessed 10-26-17), and Tov, Emanuel. Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible. 2nd Rev. Ed. Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2001, 114-117; where he states that Qumran-specific texts were 20%, Proto-Masoretic texts – 35%, Proto-Samaritan texts – 5%, Proto-Septuagint texts – 5%, Non-Aligned texts – 35%. 

[4] Deissmann, The Philology of the Greek Bible, its Present and Future, (1908, Hodder and Stoughton, London), pp. 12, 13.

[5] The BDB Hebrew and English Lexicon, (Hendickson Publishers, Massachussetts, 1996) coded to Strong’s numbers. Reprinted from the 1906 ed.

[6] The Lumina NET at Bible.org, translation note 15 in Habakkuk 2:4, https://lumina.bible.org/bible/Habakkuk+2 (accessed October 17, 2017)




The audio message that follows is #29 from the series, “Removing Doubt from the Heart.” The name of the message is: Light Burden vs. the Devil's Heavy Weights. Messages 1-28 are already published on our website.