Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1
Meaning of Hebrews 11:1
The verse Hebrew 11:1 is one of the most quoted verses in the churches. The meaning of ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’ is that a person who believes in things that are not physically seen or have happened yet but remains hopeful. The verse is mostly used as a reminder of reassurance for people who struggle to cope with life challenges. Hebrews 11:1 is also known as the definition of faith, as the rest of the chapter continues to give examples of other Bible figures from the Old Testament.
Interpretations of Hebrews 11:1
One of the most quoted verses in the Churches is Hebrews 11:1. There are many interpretations of the verse that can confuse the reader. A few are given below.
Interpretation #1 Without faith, a person is an atheist
In this version, readers believe that a Christian who does not believe in God is likely to be an enemy of the church. He or she may or may not put faith in God or follow His commandments. Hence, the interpretation is from the observer’s perspective, who must be a Christian and thus understands the value of faith. ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’ here implies that a person must always believe in God to help them overcome a situation and also achieve something in life. Anyone who doesn’t keep faith in God for guidance is an atheist.
Interpretation #2 Blind faith is the evidence of obedience
In this interpretation, the reader is a Christian and believes in the promises quoted in the Bible, especially the New Testament. Here the phrase ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’ particularly means that a person must have blind faith. It also implies that a Christian who believes in this interpretation always credits God for their achievements and keeps a positive attitude in case of failures or disappointments. Sometimes, a person may consider having blind faith is not healthy, as it is unreasonable to follow something that is not tangible.
Interpretation #3 Being hopeful is a requirement
Here the verse ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’ is interpreted as a commandment by the author of the book. Hence the reader would constantly remind themselves to be confident in God’s plans. Here he or she may also feel inadequate in their role in the church and as a Christian if they have expressed doubt about God’s promises as mentioned in the Bible. The churches also may continuously teach the listener that if a person doesn’t have hope in God’s plan, they are not exercising enough faith and breaking the commandment.
Interpretation #4 Faith is trusting God for the future
In this interpretation, the reader understands that blind faith is wrong. However, ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’ means that he or she must be hopeful for the future and avoid doubting. Here, the verse is meant as a commandment too. So, the reader also believes that a Christian must be clever and humble while maintaining faith in God. He or she must also learn to differentiate between blind belief and a wishful-thinking attitude. Also, the faith in the unseen also implies that a Christian doesn’t have to figure out the details of their life but trust God’s guidance for their future decision.
Historical background of Hebrews 11:1
While Bible historians are divided about the original author of the book of Hebrews, some scholars believe that Apostle Paul wrote the book to encourage the newly converted Christians from Jewish lands. The first half of the book of Hebrews must have been written around the second half of 63 A.D., and the rest of the chapter must have been completed between 70 – 100 A.D. Chapter 11 especially starts as a definition of faith and trusting God for their future. The verses later recall major stories of faith from the Old Testament.
Literary Devices of Hebrews 11:1
Hebrew 11:1 is one of the most used verses in Christian life. It is a short verse with a few major literary devices. A few examples are given below.
Theme – The major themes of Hebrews 11:1 are trust, hope, and faith. The minor themes include patience and understanding.
Pathos – The verse Hebrew 11:1 is a good example of pathos, one of the most used rhetorical devices for persuasion. Here the author is using strong words to invoke an emotional response. Here he hopes to help the reader have faith in God.
Consonance – The verse has a few repeated consonant sounds and a few quick successions. For example, the sound of /s/, the sound of /d/, and the sound of /n/ in ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’.
Parallelism – The verse Hebrew 11:1 is a good example of parallelism, as the verse 2 Corinthians 4:18 uses the same meaning about having faith in the unseen.
Assonance – The verse has a few repeated vowel sounds. For example, the sound of /uh/, the sound of /i/, and the sound of /o/ in ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’.