Bibliotheca Sacra 155 (July-September 1998) 327-45.

          Copyright © 1998 by Dallas Theological Seminary.  Cited with permission.





               OF FAITH IN HEBREWS 11



                                      Victor (Sung Yul) Rhee



In his book Der Glaube im Hebraerbrief Erich Grasser ar-

gues that in Hebrews faith is not directed to Christ in any way.1

Grasser believes that faith in Hebrews is seen ethically, as stead-

fastness only, and not soteriologically.2 However, a careful exe-

gesis of Hebrews 11 shows that faith in this epistle is as Christo-

logically oriented (i.e., it has Christ as the object of faith) as it is

in the Pauline Epistles, even though it is not expressed in terms of

"faith in Christ." The chiastic structure of Hebrews 11 supports

this contention.




Many biblical scholars have come to recognize the presence and

importance of chiastic structures in the interpretation of certain

passages in the Bible.3 This seems to be especially true of the Book

of Hebrews. The term "chiasm" derives from the verb xia<zw,

which means "to mark with two lines crossing like a x (chi)."4

The term xiasmo<j denotes a "placing crosswise, diagonal ar-


Victor (Sung Yul) Rhee is Assistant Professor of New Testament Language and

Literature, Talbot School of Theology, La Mirada, California.


1 Erich Grasser, Der Glaube im Hebrderbrief (Marburg: Elwert, 1965), 65–66, 79,

2 Ibid., 63.

3 Some major studies on New Testament chiasms are Nils W. Lund, Chiasmus in

the New Testament: A Study in the Form and Function of Chiastic Structures

(Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1942; reprint, Peabody, MA:

Hendrickson, 1992); Donald R. Miesner, "Chiasmus and the Composition and Mes-

sage of Paul's Missionary Sermons" (S.T.D. diss., Lutheran School of Theology at

Chicago, 1974); and John W. Welch, ed., Chiasmus in Antiquity: Structures, Analy-

ses, Exegesis (Hildesheirn: Gerstenberg, 1981).

4 Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon: A New Edi-

tion Revised and Augmented Throughout with Supplement, rev. and augmented by

Henry Stuart Jones and Roderick McKenzie, 9th ed. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1968),



328   BIBLOTHECA SACRA  / July—September 1998


rangement, especially of the clauses of a period, so that the first

corresponds with the fourth, and the second with the third."5 This

term is used "in rhetoric to designate an inversion of the order of

words or phrases which are repeated or subsequently referred to

in the sentence.”6

            A survey of the literature on chiasm indicates, however, that

use of the word "chiasm" is not limited to the parallelism of words

or phrases; it is also used to refer to an inversion of ideas or con-

cepts in a broad sense. Understanding "chiasm" in this sense,

many scholars in recent years claim they have found chiasms in

many parts of the Bible. For example Blomberg believes that 2

Corinthians 1:12-7:16 is written chiastically at the conceptual

level,7 and McClister says Matthew 17:22-20:19 is chiastically


            Moreover, some scholars suggest the entire Book of Hebrews

was written chiastically. For example Vanhoye, divides the book

into five major parts, excluding the introduction and conclusion,

as follows:9


A.        Eschatology (1:5-2:18)

            B.        Ecclesiology (3:1-5:10)

                        C.        Sacrifice (5:11-10:39)

            B’.       Ecclesiology (11:1-12:13)

A.        Eschatology (12:14-13:19)


            In this article the term "chiasm'' is used both macroscopically

(i.e., of ideas and concepts) and microscopically (i.e., of words

and phrases) in identifying chiasms in Hebrews 11:1-40.


5 Ibid.

6 Lund, Chiasmus in the New Testament, 31.

7 Craig Blomberg, "The Structure of 2 Corinthians 1–7," Criswell Theological Re-

view 4 (1989): 8–9.

8 David McClister, "Where Two or Three are Gathered Together'": Literary

Structure as a Key to Meaning in Matt 17:22-20:19," Journal of the Evangelical

Theological Society 39 (1996): 550. Others who apply the term "chiasm" conceptually

include A. Boyd Luter and Michelle V. Lee, "Philippians as Chiasmus: Key to the

Structure, Unity and Theme Question," New Testament Studies 41 (1995): 89–101;

and Ian H. Thomson, Chiasmus in the Pauline Letters, Journal for the Study of the

New Testament Supplement Series 111 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1995), 46–

232. Thomson says the following passages are arranged chiastically: Romans 5:12-

21; Galatians 5:13–6:2; Ephesians 1:3–14; 2:11–22; and Colossians 2:6-19.

9 Albert Vanhoye, La Structure litteraire de L'Epitre aux Hebreux (Paris: Des-

clee de Brouwer, 1963), 59, 240-42. According to Vanhoye, the center of the entire

Book of Hebrews is in 9:11–14 (ibid., 237). Welch also believes Hebrews is chiasti-

cally arranged. However, he suggests that the center of the book is 8:1–2 (John W.

Welch, "Chiasmus in the New Testament," in Chiasmus in Antiquity: Structures,

Analysis, Exegesis, 220).


               Chiasm and the Concept of Faith in Hebrews 11             329


            Why were chiasms used in the Bible? Miesner suggests four

functions of a chiastic structure: to promote memory, to elaborate

the literary beauty, to clarify meaning, and to aid in recovering

the original word.10 For the purpose of this study in Hebrews 11,

clarifying meaning is the most important reason the author of

Hebrews employed chiasm. This literary device is more than

artistry to impress readers; it is a means toward more effectively

communicating the message.11

            Scholars generally agree that the main idea (or the central

point) is in the middle of a chiasm, with the other thoughts revolv-

ing around the center. The center section is important for these

reasons: the center is always where the turning point takes place;

there is often a shift of thought at the center, after which the origi-

nal trend of thought is continued to the end of the section; and in

many instances identical ideas that occur at the center are dis-

tributed in the extremes.12 Thus in a chiastic structure the main

emphasis of the passage is likely to be in the center section. In

Hebrews important words or phrases such as God, Christ, holding

fast to one's confidence, or facts about eschatology are placed in

the center section of many passages in the book. Detecting these

points in the centers of chiasms helps support the view that faith in

Hebrews is both Christologically and eschatologicaily oriented.





The chiastic arrangement of Hebrews 11 may be illustrated as


A. Introduction (11:1—3)

            B . Abel's example of suffering on account of faith (11:4)

                        C. Enoch's example of triumph through faith (11:5)

                                    D. Principle of faith: Impossible to please God without

                                         faith (11:6)


10 Miesner, "Chiasmus and the Composition and Message of Paul's Missionary

Sermons," 444-49; also see Ronald E. Man, "The Value of Chiasm for New Testament

Interpretation," Bibliotheca Sacra 141 (April-June 1984): 148-54.

11 Man, "The Value of Chiasm for New Testament Interpretation," 154,

12 Lund, Chiasmus in the New Testament, 40-41.

13 To the best of this writer's knowledge, no one has yet proposed a chiastic struc-

ture for Hebrews 11. Vanhoye rightly points out that 11:13-16 is the center of 11:8-

22 (Vanhoye, La Structure littgraire de L'Epitre mix Hebreux, 189). Lane also rec-

ognizes that this section is the center of 11:8-22 (William Lane, Hebrews 9-13,

Word Biblical Commentary [Dallas, TX: Word, 1991], 355). However, this writer

finds that 11:13-16 is the center of the entire chiasm of Hebrews 11:1-40. The author

of Hebrews seems to have had a broader context in mind.


330   BIBLIOTHECA SACRA  / July-September 1998


            E. Example of faith seen through Noah (11:7)

                        F. Abraham's faith (11:8-10)

                                    G. Sarah's conception of Isaac by faith


                                                H. Middle section: Interim comment


                                    G'. Abraham's offering up of Isaac by faith


                        F'. Faith of Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph (11:20-22)

            E'. Examples of faith seen in the Mosaic era


        D'. Examples of faith in conquering Jericho (11:30-31)

     C'. Examples of those who triumphed through faith (11:32-


   B'. Examples of others who suffered on account of faith (11:35b-


A’. Conclusion (11:39-40)



This middle section of Hebrews 11 has troubled scholars. For ex-

ample Moxnes states, "The insertion of the author's own com-

ments in 11:13–16 makes it more difficult to see the structure of

the underlying source,"15 and Michel asserts that 11:13–16 is an

editorial insertion.16 However, this difficulty is resolved when

one realizes that the author placed it intentionally at the center of

the chiasm for a rhetorical purpose.17

            Basis for the center of the chiasm. Verses 13–16 are consid-

ered the center of the chiasm in Hebrews 11 because of the author's

use of "all these" (ou$toi pa<ntej) in verse 13. Swetnam argues that

the phrase refers only to those individuals mentioned in verses

8–12 (viz., Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob) because Enoch is

exempted from those who died (v. 5).18 Attridge also says that

those who "died in faith" (v. 13) refers primarily to the patriarchs


14 Since the main point is usually in the center section of the chiastic structure,

it seems appropriate to begin the exegesis of the chapter with the center point

(11:13-16). Then each corresponding section of the proposed chiasm will be ana-

lyzed to ascertain what aspect of faith is emphasized.

16 H. Moxnes, God and His Promise to Abraham, Theology in Conflict, Novum

Testamentum Supplements 53 (Leiden: Brill, 1980), 178.

16 Otto Michel, Der Brief an die Hebraer (Gottingen: Vanderhoeck & Ruprecht, 1984), 401.

17 This middle section is also arranged chiastically, as are many of the sections in

this chapter. Most of the findings on chiasmus at the microscopic level are omitted

here because of space limitations. For details see Victor (Sung Yul) Rhee, "The

Concept of Faith in the Overall Context of the Book of Hebrews" (Ph.D. diss., Dallas

Theological Seminary, 1996), 205-52.

18 James Swetnam, Jesus and Isaac: A Study of the Epistle to the Hebrews in

Light of the Aqedah, Analecta Biblica 94 (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1981), 91.

             Chiasm and the Concept of Faith in Hebrews 11         331


(Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), although he acknowledges that it

may refer to all the exemplars of faith mentioned in verses 4–

12.19 The solutions proposed by these scholars are legitimate be-

cause the language of sojourning and looking forward in verses

13–16 clearly parallels verses 9–10. However, it seems that "all

these" is broad enough to include all the exemplars of faith men-

tioned, not only in verses 4–12, but also in verses 17–38.

            What evidence supports this suggestion? First, the author's

interchangeable use of the present tense and the aorist tense (ei]sin

in v. 13; e]mfani<zousin and e]pizhtou?sin in v. 14; o]re<gontai and

e]paisxu<netai in v. 16) suggests that "all these" may encompass

more than those individuals mentioned in verses 8–12. The au-

thor seems to have chosen the present tenses to identify the readers

with the patriarchs. This observation opens up the possibility that

ou$toi pa<ntej should not be limited to those in the immediate con-

text; it may include all the heroes of faith in chapter 11.

            Second, "all these" may refer to all the faith heroes in chapter

11 because of the emphasis on God's promises in the chapter.

Verses 13–16 emphasize not death, but the promises of God. In

other words the author's main concern in the middle section was

to show that the Old Testament characters died while anticipating

God's promises by faith.20 This theme is also seen in the introduc-

tion (vv. 1–3) and the conclusion (vv. 39–40). In both passages the

emphasis is that those whose faith was in the Lord had not yet re-

ceived His promise. The references to "the men of old" (oi[

presbu<teroi) in the introduction (v. 2), "all these" (ou$toi pa<ntej)

in the center section (v. 13), and "all these" (ou$toi pa<ntej) in the

conclusion (v. 39) refer to all the Old Testament exemplars of

faith mentioned in this chapter.

            Aspects of faith in the center of the chiasm. at aspects of

faith are emphasized in verses 13-16? First, it seems clear that

faith has a future orientation. "Without having received the

promises" (v. 13), "having seen them [God's promises] and hav-

ing welcomed them from a distance" (v. 13) "seeking a country

[patri<da, ‘homeland’] of their own" (v. 14) "reaching out for a

better place" (lit. trans., v. 16), "He has prepared a city for them"

(v. 16)—all these expressions indicate that their faith had a for-

ward-looking eschatological outlook. Second, the change from


19 Harold W. Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Hermeneia (Philadelphia:

Fortress, 1989), 329. Attridge also recognizes the problem of including all the indi-

viduals in verses 4-12 because of Enoch, who did not taste physical death.

20 Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek

Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,

1993), 593.


332   BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / July-September 1998


the aorist to the present tense in verses 13 and 16—from a]pe<qanon

to ei]sin (v. 13) and from o]re<gontai and e]paisxu<netai to h[toi<masen

(v. 16)—indicates that faith in Hebrews also has a present aspect.

This tension between the present and the future can also be found

in other parts of the Book of Hebrews. For example God has

already crowned Jesus with honor and glory (2:9); yet He is wait-

ing until His enemies will be made a footstool for His feet (10:13).

Although believers are entering rest at the present time (4:3), a

rest still remains for the future (4:1, 6, 9).21


EXAMINATION OF 11:11-12 ("G") AND 11:17-19 (G"")

Basis for the chiasm. These sections are in the context of the ex-

emplars of faith in the patriarchal period. Verses 11–12 and 17–19

relate to each other by the references to Isaac and by mention of the

offspring (spe<rmatoj, v. 11;   ]Isaa>k, v. 17) and power (du<namin, v.

11; dunato>j, v. 19). Sarah's faith related to the birth of Isaac, and

Abraham's faith to the sacrifice of Isaac.

            Aspects of faith. These parallel passages emphasize stead-

fastness of faith while waiting for the fulfillment of God's

promises. Verses 11–12 show Sarah's steadfastness of faith in

light of God's promise that He would provide a son for Abraham.

The forward-looking aspect is certainly present in this passage,

but the emphasis is on Sarah's trust in God's ability to bring about

conception, even when she was barren. Verses 17–19 speak of

Abraham's steadfastness of faith, specifically when faced with

the command to offer up his son. As in the case of Sarah, Abra-

ham's faith was also firmly based on God's promises. Abraham's

dramatic act of offering up his son was based on believing in

God's promise that Isaac would be the heir of the promise.

            Both sections also emphasize the concept of resurrection from

the dead. In section G this thought is implied in bringing back

Abraham's physical deadness. In section G' this idea is more

explicitly stated by the fact that God is able to raise up Isaac. The

author's use of parabol^? (v. 19) seems to suggest that the reference

to raising people "from the dead" encompasses more than

bringing Isaac back to life. Ellingworth notes that there is no ref-

erence to the resurrection of Abraham or Isaac in the Old. Testa-

ment or other pre-Christian sources.22 This observation leads one


21 For a detailed discussion of the present and the future aspects of eschatology

in Hebrews, see C. K. Barrett, "The Eschatology of the Epistle to the Hebrews," in

The Background of the New Testament and Its Eschatology: Essays in Honor of

Charles Harold Dodd, ed. W. 11 Davies and D. Daube (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni-

versity Press, 1954), 363-93; and George Eldon Ladd, Theology of the New Testa-

ment (Grand Rapids: Eerdrnans, 1974), 572-77.

22 Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 602.

           Chasm and the Concept of Faith in Hebrews 11          333


to consider that the idea of resurrection stems from the author's

reflection on the Old Testament passage (Gen. 22) in light of new

revelation in the New Testament period. Thus it seems reason-

able to assert that Abraham's receiving back Isaac pictures the be-

lievers' yet-future resurrection.

            Moreover, the author's use of "only begotten son" (to>n mono-

gen^?, v. 17) seems to suggest that the reference to Isaac's coming

back to life may depict the resurrection of Christ. Thus it is quite

possible that the author had in mind the Christological implica-

tion of faith. As examples of faith, Sarah and Abraham illustrate

the forward-looking aspect of Old Testament faith. In this sense

faith in chapter 11 is eschatologically oriented. However, one

should keep in mind that this future-oriented faith is inevitably

related to Christology, as will be explained later.


EXAMINATION OF 11:8—10 ("F") AND 11:20—22 (“F’”).

Basis of the chiasm. In what sense can F and F’ be considered

counterparts in the proposed chiasm? First, the chronological or-

der supports the parallelism. In verses 8–10 the author discussed

the forward-looking faith of Abraham. Then after a brief inter-

ruption (vv. 11-19) he continued with the forward-looking aspect

of faith of Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Second, the parallelism be-

tween these two sections is seen in the references to "Isaac" and

"Jacob" in both sections. Verse 9 briefly mentions the names of

these patriarchs, and verses 20–21 provide a more detailed ac-

count of their forward-looking faith, in addition to that of Joseph

(v. 22).

            Aspects of faith. In verses 8–10, the emphasis is on Abra-

ham's forward-looking faith based on God's promise. The ex-

pression "the city which has foundations; whose architect and

builder is God" (v. 10) refers to Canaan in the immediate context,

which the descendants of Abraham would inherit four hundred

years later. However, the descriptions of the city seem to speak of

more than the Promised Land. Obviously Canaan was not built

by God; so Abraham was looking forward to the eschatological

heavenly city.23 Thus it may be said that Abraham's faith was

clearly future-oriented.

            In verse 20 the future aspect of faith is indicated by Isaac

blessing Jacob and Esau "regarding things to come." Also

Joseph's mention of the Exodus and the instruction about his

burial (v. 22) pertained to the future. As for Jacob, it is not imme-

diately clear whether his blessing was eschatologically oriented.


23 Moxnes, God and His Promise to Abraham, 181.


334    BIBLIOTHECA SACRA  / July—September 1998


However, Genesis 47:29–48:22 shows that Jacob's blessing on

Ephraim and Manasseh involved a future aspect.

            Sections F and F' in the chiasm have in common the theme of

forward-looking eschatology. Thus it seems reasonable that

Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, as exemplars of faith (vv. 20–22), con-

tinued Abraham's faith in verses 8–10. The insertion of section G

(vv. 11–12) and G' (vv. 17–19) seems to be intentional, for these

sections develop a different aspect of Abraham and Sarah's faith,

namely, trusting in God's promise.



(11:7, "E"; AND 11:23-29, "E' ")

Basis of the chiasm. The forward-looking aspect of faith, sum-

marized in the center section (vv. 13–16), continues beyond the

examples of faith seen in the patriarchs. According to the pro-

posed chiastic diagram, the story of Noah in verse 7 corresponds

to that of Moses in verses 23–29. They are related by water experi-

ences. As Noah and his family were saved from the Flood (Gen.

6:5–8:22; 1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 2:5), so also were Moses and the people

of Israel saved through the Red Sea (Exod. 14:10–31; 1 Cor. 10:2).

            Aspects of faith in Noah's example (11:7, "E"). What aspects

of faith are seen in Noah? First, Noah's act of building an ark in-

dicates that faith involves obedience to God's word. Second, the

phrase "about things not yet seen" (peri> tw?n mhde<pw blepome<nwn)

refers to the Flood, which came about one hundred years after God

had told Noah about it (Gen. 5:32; 7:6), and the promise that He

would deliver him and his family from it (6:17–18). This for-

ward-looking aspect of Noah's faith is similar to the theme in the

center section (Heb. 11:13–16). Noah's faith is also a perfect ex-

ample of faith described in verse 1 (i.e., "faith is the assurance of

things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen") because "his

action showed that he was convinced of the substantial reality of

things still in the unseen future, still in the realm of unfulfilled

hope."24 Moreover, Noah was able to heed the voice of God and

build the ark because "he believed that what God had said He

would do—save his household from the flood (Gen. 6:18)—He

would do. Despite all the appearances to the contrary Noah put his

full trust in God."25 Noah's faith, that is, his trust in God, was re-

lated to God's promise, which in turn was forward-looking.

Another issue related to the concept of faith is the meaning of


24 R. Williamson, Philo and the Epistle to the Hebrews (Leiden: Brill, 1970), 354.

The author used the same verb (ble<pw) in verses 1 and 7 in referring to what will

take place in the future.

25 Ibid.


           Chiasm and the Concept of Faith in Hebrews 11          335


the statement, he "became an heir of the righteousness which is

according to faith" (th?j kata> pi<stin dikaiosu<nhj e]ge<neto

klhrono<moj, Heb. 11:7). Although the phrase seems at first glance

to be a Pauline expression, Attridge argues that it needs to be un-

derstood in light of the development of common Jewish and

Christian themes in Hebrews.26 "What Noah's story exempli-

fies," Attridge says, "is the reverent reliance upon God's

promises and consequent faithful action that enables one—in a

quite un-Pauline fashion—to do what is righteous."27 In most

cases in Hebrews the word "righteousness" (dikaiosu<nh) refers to

the character of a person (e.g., 7:2; 12:11), or his or her righteous

deeds (e.g., 1:9; 11:4). It is also true that the emphasis of chapter 11

as a whole is on righteous actions carried out by faith. However,

the use of dikaiosu<nh in verse 7 seems to have a different sense. It

is qualified by the phrase kata> pi<stin, which indicates "the way

or the condition by which righteousness is actualized: it describes

a righteousness bestowed by God according to the norm of faith.''28

In addition, the verb gi<nomai may have a passive meaning. Thus

the phrase may be rendered, "he was made an heir of righteous-

ness according to faith."29 Understanding dikaiosu<nh in this

sense shows that it is close to Paul's concept of justification by

faith." Therefore, unlike Attridge's assertion, the phrase "the

righteousness according to faith" (th?j kata> pi<stin dikaiosu<nhj)

does have a Pauline ring in some sense. If this is correct, then

quite possibly the author used Noah to convey truth about Christ.

This finding is consistent with the account of Noah in two of the

Synoptic Gospels (Matt. 24:37–38; Luke 17:26–27). This analysis

suggests that faith in Hebrews is as Christologically oriented as


26 Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 320.

27 Ibid.

28 William L. Lane, Hebrews 9-13, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word,

1991), 340,

29 Walter Bauer, William A. Arndt, and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lex-

icon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2d ed., rev. F.

Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,

1979), 158, 2.a

30 In many instances Paul used dikaiosu<nh in reference to "the righteousness be-

stowed by God" (Rom. 1:17; 3:21-22; 4:3, 5, 13; 10:4, 6; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:6; Phil. 3:9). It

is interesting to note that throughout his epistles he combines the three terms

klhrono<moj, dikaiosu<nh, and pi<stij only once, namely, in Romans 4:13. The same

terms are also used together only once in Hebrews, namely, 11:7. Yet Paul's use of

dikaiosu<nh is not limited to the righteousness God bestows. As in the case of He-

brews Paul also used the term to refer to the righteous living of believers (Rom.

6:13, 16, 18-20; 14:17; 2 Cor 6:7; 9:10; Eph. 4:24; 5:9; Phil. 1:11; 2 Tim. 2:22; 3:16). Thus

it may be said that Hebrews' use of dikaiosu<nh differs little from Paul's use.


336   BIBLIOTHECA SACRA  /  July-September 1998


in the Pauline literature and the Gospels. This Christological

implication of faith will become more evident in Moses' example

of faith in the following section.

            Aspects of faith in Moses' example (11:23-29, "E"). This sec-

tion touches on three subjects: the faith of Moses' parents (v. 23);

Moses' decision to suffer for Christ (vv. 24–26), and Moses' depar-

ture from Egypt (vv. 27–29). The first section (v. 23) denotes the

faith of Moses' parents. The fact that his parents were not afraid

of the king's edict implies that they obeyed God, and their

obedience shows their complete trust in Him.

            The second section (vv. 24–26) describes the choice Moses

made by faith. His faith involved enduring hardship in that he

chose to share ill treatment with the people of God. This corre-

sponds to the steadfastness of faith the author of Hebrews empha-

sized throughout the epistle. In this sense, faith in Hebrews is eth-

ically described. However, this ethical aspect is not completely

detached from Christology. The author of Hebrews stated that

Moses regarded the abuse of Christ as greater riches than those of

Egypt (v. 26a). Why did the author include this reference to

Christ? Apparently the intention was to point to similarity be-

tween Moses and Christ. As Moses chose to endure hardship with

the people of God rather than the fleeting pleasure of sin, so Christ

chose to endure the cross in place of31 the joy set before Him (12:2).

As Moses regarded the abuse of Christ greater riches than the

treasures of Egypt, so Christ despised the shame of the cross. This

comparison indicates that "the choice of Moses is not only a model

to be imitated, but also the type of the choice of Christ.”32 Thus it

may be said that for the author of Hebrews Moses' ethical aspect of

endurance is Christologically oriented. Another element in

Moses' example of faith is seen in 11:26. Moses refused to be

called the son of Pharaoh's daughter because he looked to the re-

ward God had stored up for him. In other words his faith was es-

chatologically oriented; it involved a forward-looking aspect.

This element of faith also corresponds to the theme of verses 13–

16, the center section of the chapter.

            The third section (vv. 27–29) further describes Moses' faith.

Each of these three verses points out that faith is complete trust in

and obedience to God. Moses departed from Egypt because he was

steadfast as if seeing the One who is invisible (v. 27). Moses' in-

stituting the Passover (v. 28) and the Israelites' crossing the Red


31 "In place of renders a]nti>, which has the idea of exchange or substitution. It can

also mean "because" or "for the sake of." See Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commen-

tary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), 523-24, n. 117.

32 Mary Rose D'Angelo, Moses in the Letter to the Hebrews, Society of Biblical

Literature Dissertation Series 42 (Missoula, MT: Scholars, 1979), 34.


         Chiasm and the Concept of Faith in Hebrews 11            337


Sea (v. 29) also show that faith involves trust in and obedience to

God. Christologically the Passover with its sprinkling of the

blood is a type of the suffering Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 5:7).



(11:6, "D"; AND 11:30-31, "D' ")

Some scholars say that verse 6 is the continuation of the example

of faith by Enoch in verse 5. Attridge argues that "the scriptural

datum that Enoch pleased God now provides the basis for the

claim that it was because of his faith that the patriarch was trans-

lated."33 However, verse 6 may include more than Enoch. Just as

verses 13–16 should be considered a summary of the exemplars of

faith in chapter 11, so the principle of faith in verse 6 applies to all

the exemplars of faith in this chapter. Particularly verse 6 corre-

lates with verses 30-31, as seen in the proposed chiastic scheme.

            Principle of faith (11:6, "D"). At least three principles of faith

may be observed in this verse. First, one cannot possibly please

God without faith. Second, faith involves believing in the exis-

tence of God, indicated by the verb e@stin ("is"). Bruce asserts that

"it is not belief in the existence of a God that is meant, but belief in

the existence of the God who once declared His will to the fathers

through the prophets and in these last days has spoken in His

Son."34 Third, faith entails believing that God rewards those who

seek (e]kzhte<w, "to seek out or search for"35) Him. It denotes "a

singular determination to devote oneself to the service of God."36

The idea of "reward" implies a forward-looking aspect of faith,

which is "a matter of unwavering hope in the God who controls the

future. It exhibits the solid faith that is the condition for receiving

recompense by God."37 This verse points up the qualities of faith

found throughout chapter 11, especially in verses 30–31.

            Example of faith in conquering Jericho (11:30-31, "D' ").

Why are these verses paired with verse 6? Three observations

may be made about faith in this passage. First, verse 30 is signif-

icant because this is the story of the second generation of Israel

who acted in faith and pleased God, as opposed to the rebellious


33 Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 318. Also see F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to

the Hebrews, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand

Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 290.

34 Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 290.

35 Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament

and Other Early Christian Literature, 240.

36 Lane, Hebrews 9-13, 338.

37 Ibid., 338-39.


338   BIBLIOTHECA SACRA  / July-September 1998


first generation. Thus in the gap between verses 29 and 30, the

author of Hebrews implied that while the first generation was not

able to enter God's rest because of disobedience (3:7–4:13), the sec-

ond generation did enter the rest (i.e., the land of promise) by

faith under Joshua's leadership. This obedience by the second

generation was an act of faith which pleased God, and which cor-

responds to the first principle of faith in 11:6.

            Second, the author's inclusion of Rahab (v. 31) is significant

because she, a Gentile, became a member of the covenant people of

God by faith. Joshua 2:8–14 suggests she had the kind of faith de-

scribed in Hebrews 11:6. She came to realize that the God of Israel

is the true God, having been informed of the miracles performed

by the Lord (e.g., His drying up the water of the Red Sea and His

victory over the Amorite kings). This corresponds to the second

principle of faith in verse 6, which states that the one who draws

near to God must believe in the existence of God.

            Third, when Rahab realized who the true God is, she received

the two spies in peace and pleaded for her life and the lives of her

family members (Josh. 2:12–14). Her act of faith indicates she be-

lieved God rewards those who earnestly seek Him out (e]kzhte<w),

which corresponds to the third principle of faith in Hebrews 11:6.

Rahab clearly exhibits "a faith that was oriented toward the fu-

ture. She was prepared to assume present peril for the sake of fu-

ture preservation”38



(11:4, "B"; 11:5, "C"; 11:32-35a, "C' ' ; 11:35b-38, "B' ")

Basis for the chiasm. Verses 32–38 may be divided into two parts.

In the first part (vv. 32–35a), after listing some exemplars of faith

from the Old Testament (Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah,

David, Samuel, and the prophets), the author proceeded to de-

scribe, without specifying the names, certain victories accom-

plished by others through faith. In the second part (11:35b–38),

however, the author indicated a change of subject by a@lloi de> . . .

e!teroi de> (vv. 35–36). From this point on the author was describ-

ing those who endured sufferings through faith. Thus the two pas-

sages (vv. 32–35a and vv. 35b–38) indicate that the same faith has

two effects: on the one hand it manifests God's power and on the

other hand it allows God's people to endure trials. The themes of

triumphs and sufferings are also found in verses 4–5. Abel illus-

trates faith through suffering, and Enoch illustrates faith through



38 Lane, Hebrews 9-13, 379.


         Chiasm and the Concept of Faith in Hebrews 11          339


            While verses 4-5 and 32-38 are thematically related, the

themes of sufferings and triumphs are discussed in inverted or-

der. Enoch's victory by faith (v. 5) corresponds to the exemplars of

faith who experienced victory in their lives (vv. 32-35a), and

Abel's martyrdom because of his act of righteousness by faith (v.

4) fits well with those who endured sufferings by faith (vv. 35b-


            Aspects of faith in 11:4 ("B") and 11:5 ("C"). In what sense

was Abel righteous (v. 4)? This depends on the interpretation of

the prepositional phrase di ] h$j ("through which"). Grammatically

speaking, it is possible for qusi<an ("sacrifice") to be the antecedent

of this phrase. However, the context seems to indicate that pi<stij

("faith") is more likely the antecedents.39  The author repeatedly

emphasized the importance of pi<stij by using phrases such as di ]

h$j and au]th?j (cf. di ] h$j in v. 7 in reference to Noah). If the phrase

di ] h$j refers to pi<stij, then it may be said that Abel's righteous-

ness was bestowed because of his faith. The passive voice

(e]marturh<qh) further supports this idea. Thus, as with Noah's faith

in verse 7, the reference to righteousness by faith in verse 4 dif-

fers little from the Pauline concept of righteousness by faith.

Abel's martyrdom on account of his righteous offering by faith is

a type of others who suffer for the sake of righteousness. The sig-

nificance of this point is discussed later in connection with

verses 32-38.

            Another issue related to Abel's faith is the meaning of the ex-

pression, "through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks." Some

writers say this refers to Abel's call for vengeance. For example

Bruce says the words "he still speaks" refer to "Abel's appealing to

God for vindication until he obtains it in full in the judgment to

come.”40  Referring to Hebrews 12:24, which states that Christ's

blood speaks better than that of Abel, Bruce contends that the

statement "Abel still speaks" refers to Genesis 4:10.41 However,

the context indicates that Abel's speaking was not by his blood, but

was by his faith. Moreover, as Lane points out, the verb lalei?n is

never used in Hebrews of someone addressing God.42 For this

reason it is more likely that Abel's speaking has a reference to

his offering in Genesis 4:4. Because of the sacrifice he offered by

faith, he is still speaking to believers through the written Word of


39 C. Spicq, L'Epitre aux Hebreux (Paris: Gabalda, 1952), 2:342; cf. Lane, Hebrews

9-13, 327.

40 Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 286.

41 Ibid. Genesis 4:10 says, "The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from

the ground."

42 Lane, Hebrews 9-13, 335.


340   BIBLIOTHECA SACRA  / July—September 1998


God: he is a living witness to all ages.43 Though he died, he still

speaks. In a sense his "life from death" typifies those who will be

resurrected through Christ in the future.

            Enoch was taken to heaven because he pleased God (Heb.

11:5). According to the short account of Enoch's life in Genesis

5:21-24, God took him because he walked with Him for three hun-

dred years. His walk with God for three centuries implies that his

faith entailed obedience to God, steadfastness, and a forward-

looking aspect. Enoch's translation without tasting death shows

the triumphant victory he had through faith.

            Aspects of faith in 11:32-35a ("C'") and 11:35b-38 ("B' ").

Verses 32-38 may be viewed as a chiasm, in which verses 32-35a

and 35b-38 complement each other by contrast, looking first at ex-

amples of victory through faith and then at examples of suffer-

ings and martyrdom through faith.44 Both sections contain the

idea of resurrection. Verse 35a speaks of the resurrection of those

who had victory by faith, and verse 35b speaks of the hope of resur-

rection of those who experienced suffering and death by faith.

            The subject of the resurrection reveals that faith is directly

related to hope, which is mentioned often in Hebrews. This hope of

resurrection makes it evident that here faith involved an eschato-

logical, forward-looking aspect. The chiastic structure of verses

32-38 implies that faith manifested in the outer sections (vv. 32-

34, 36-38) was based on the hope of resurrection in the center sec-

tions (v. 35). In this sense the characteristics of faith exhibited by

the exemplars of faith were eschatologically oriented.


INTRODUCTION (11:1-3, "A") AND CONCLUSION (11:39-40, "A')

Basis for the chiasm. What clues indicate that the introduction

(vv. 1-3) and the conclusion (vv. 39-40) are chiastically

arranged? First, the context shows that the reference to "the men of

old" (oi[ presbu<teroi) in verse 2 corresponds to "all these" (ou$toi

pa<ntej) in verse 39 (also in v. 13). Second, the introduction and

conclusion are related by the idea of attestation by faith

(e]marturh<qhsan, v. 2; marturhqe<ntej, v. 39). Third, the use of the

verb ble<pw (blepome<nwn, v. 1; probleyame<nou, v. 40) also suggests

these sections are parallel.

            Aspects of faith in 11:1-3 ("A"). In this introduction the au-

thor presented one aspect of the definition of faith by using the two

terms u[po<stasij and e@legxoj.   [Upo<stasij may be interpreted in at


43 James Moffatt, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the

Hebrews, International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: Clark, 1924), 164.

44 For a detailed analysis of the chiasm see Rhee, "The Concept of Faith in the

Overall Context of the Book of Hebrews," 237-38.


           Chiasm and the Concept of Faith in Hebrews 11         341


least three ways. First, the term may be understood in the subjec-

tive sense as either "assurance" or "confidence." Those who hold

this view point out that the word is used in the same way in 3:14.45

However, the problem with this view is that this sense has never

been found in the contemporary literature." Moreover, the exem-

plars of faith in chapter 11 had more than a subjective hope; they

had an objective hope toward which they were looking.

            Second, u[po<stasij is understood by some scholars as "foun-

dation." This view takes the word in a literal sense as meaning

"standing (sta<sij) under (u[po<)."47 Lindars argues that the En-

glish translation of "assurance" or "confidence" is derived from

the literal meaning of "foundation."48  He asserts that "in the pre-

sent context faith is the foundation of a positive attitude towards

the future, which cannot yet be experienced but has to remain a

matter of hope."49 The word "foundation" emphasizes "the begin-

ning which contains within itself the certainty of completion."50

This view sees the term in a somewhat objective sense. However,

the problem with this view, again, is that u[po<stasij is never used

in this sense in extrabiblical sources. Mathis, for example, sur-

veys both Hellenistic and Greek patristic literature, and con-

cludes that u[po<stasij does not mean "foundation"; rather, it has

the sense of reality.51 Moreover, translating verse 1 as "faith is

the foundation of the things hoped for" does not seem to bring out

the eschatological hope the author stressed throughout the chapter.

            A third view, which also takes u[po<stasij in an objective

sense, is that the word means "reality."  Koster, for example, after

surveying the meaning of the term in Greek literature, the Septu-

agint, and other Jewish literature, suggests that the word denotes

"reality," "substance," or "actualization."52  Understanding


45 Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 280; and Hughes, A Commentary on the

Epistle to the Hebrews, 439.

46 Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 308.

47 Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 439. See also Otto Betz,

"Firmness in Faith: Hebrews 11:1 and Isaiah 28:16," in Scripture: Meaning and

Method, ed. Barry R. Thompson (Hull: Hull University Press, 1987), 92-113. Betz

argues for the "foundation" view by comparing Hebrews 11:1 with Isaiah 28:16.

48 Barnabas Lindars, New Testament Theology: The Theology of the Letter to the

Hebrews (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 110-11.

49 Ibid., 111.

50 Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 439.

51 M. A. Mathis, "Does 'Substantia' Mean 'Realisation' or 'Foundation' in Hebr

11,1?" Biblica 3 (1922): 79-87.

52 H. Koster, "u[po<stasij," in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed.

Gerhard Friedrich and Gerhard Kittel, trans. and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand

Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), 8:572-89.


342   BIBLIOTHECA SACRA  / July–September 1998


u[po<stasij this way in 11:1 makes good sense because "faith lays

hold of what is promised and therefore hoped for, as something

real and solid, though as yet unseen."53 This objective under-

standing of the term is also consistent with the forward-looking

aspect of faith in chapter 11.54 Thus it seems reasonable to under-

stand u[po<stasij in verse la as the reality of what is hoped for, "the

reality of the future blessings that constitute the objective content

of hope."55 The participle e]lpizome<nwn ("hoped for") in verse 1,

along with u[po<stasij, points to the future second advent of

Christ.56 Thus again faith in Hebrews is seen as eschatologically


            Scholars differ on how to interpret e@legxoj. Since the word is

used in no other place in the New Testament, its exact meaning is

difficult to determine. As with u[po<stasij, the meaning of e@legxoj

may be "conviction" in a subjective sense or "proof" in an objec-

tive sense.57 Among those who take the subjective view, Bruce as-

serts that e@legxoj means "conviction" in much the same sense as

"assurance" in the preceding phrase."58 Moffatt, arguing against

the objective understanding of e@legxoj, states that "faith is not the

e@legxoj of things unseen in the sense of ‘proof,’ which could only

mean that it tests, or rather attests, their reality."59 He asserts that

the author of Hebrews "wishes to show, not the reality of these un-

seen ends of God–he assumes these–but the fact and force of be-

lieving in them with absolute confidence."60

            The subjective understanding of the word as "conviction" is

possible here; it makes sense in the context of chapter 11. All the

exemplars of faith had assurance of the things hoped for, and

conviction of the things they had not yet seen. However, since the


53 Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 439.

54 The word is used two other times in Hebrews (1:3; 3:14). In both places the objec-

tive meaning of "reality" seems to fit the context quite well. In 1:3 Jesus is described

as the xarakth>r th?j u[posta<sewj au]tou?. This suggests that u[po<stasij may be un-

derstood as "reality." Likewise, although it is possible to interpret the word in a

subjective sense (i.e., confidence), an objective meaning of "reality" also makes good

sense in 3:14 ("if we hold fast to the beginning of the reality until the end," author's


55 Lane, Hebrews 9-13, 328–29.

56 James W. Thompson, The Beginnings of Christian Philosophy: The Epistle to

the Hebrews, Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series 13 (Washington, DC:

Catholic Biblical Society of America, 1982), 73.

57 Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament

and Other Early Christian Literature, 249.

58 Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 279.

59 Moffatt, Hebrews, 159–60.

60 Ibid., 160.


          Chiasm and the Concept of Faith in Hebrews 11          343


phrase "the e@legxoj of things not seen" describes what precedes

("faith is the assurance [or reality] of things hoped for"), this

writer feels that e@legxoj should also be understood in an objective

sense as in the case of u[po<stasij (i.e., “proof” as opposed to

"conviction"). Thompson rightly argues that because of the paral-

lelism of u[po<stasij and e@legxoj, the two must be interpreted

alongside each other. Thus interpreting  e@legxoj as “proof”61 al-

lows one to see that faith in chapter 11 is "an objective reality, so

objective that it can be called a ‘proof ‘(e@legxoj) of the things which

have been and are hoped for by all those involved."62  Adding the

phrase paragma<twn e@legxoj ou] blepome<nwn establishes the inner

right of resting on the thing hoped for (i.e., u[po<stasij). Under-

standing e@legxoj in a subjective sense breaks down the neces-

sary parallelism of u[po<stasij and e@legxoj and obscures the in-

ner right of the u[po<stasij.63 For this reason the objective under-

standing of e@legxoj seems to be what the author of Hebrews had in


            If the objective understanding of u[po<stasij and e@legxoj  is

correct, then the definition of faith in verse 1 may be stated in this

way: Faith is the reality (or substance) of the things hoped for, the

proof of the things not seen. These two terms clearly indicate that

what the author intends to emphasize in chapter 11 is a forward-

looking aspect of faith; with this type of faith the men of old have

been attested by God (v. 2).

            Aspects of faith in 11:39-40 ("A, "). To appreciate how the au-

thor summarized the forward-looking aspect of faith, several is-

sues need to be discussed in this concluding section. The first has

to do with the phrase they "did not receive what was promised" (ou]k

e]komi<santo th>n e]paggeli<an, v. 39).64 Some men and women men-

tioned in chapter 11 did receive in their lifetime what God

promised (e.g., Noah, v. 7; Abraham and Sarah, vv. 11-12; the

people of Israel, v. 30; Rahab, v. 31; some women, v. 35). How-

ever, verse 39a states that they all (ou$toi pa<ntej) did not receive

the promise. In what sense did they not receive the promise? What


61 Thompson, The Beginnings of Christian Philosophy, 70.

62 James Swetnam, "Form and Content in Hebrews 7-13," Biblica 55 (1974): 334.

63 Friedrich Bilchsel " e@legxoj," in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,

2 (1964): 476.

64 D'Angelo suggests that the phrase dia> th?j pi<stewj can be related to either mar-

turhqe<ntej or e]komi<santo. She asserts that this multiplicity of meanings is inten-

tional (Moses in the Letter to the Hebrews, 23). However, it seems to be more natu-

ral to connect it to marturhqe<ntej because of the word order. Moreover, a compari-

son with verse 2 indicates that this interpretation is more plausible (i.e., the

phrase e]n tau<t^ refers to pi<stij which is used along with marture<w).

344    BIBLIOTHECA SACRA  / July-September 1998


does the promise refer to in this verse? The middle section (vv.

13-16) indicates they did not receive the promise of the heavenly

place (e]pourani<ou), the city God had prepared for them (v. 16). In

12:14-29 the author gave further insight on the heavenly city. It is

Mount Zion, the city of the living God, that is, the heavenly

Jerusalem (v. 22). Believers in the New Covenant have already

entered this heavenly city, as indicated by the perfect tense

(proselhlu<qate, "have come to"). In other words the promise

mentioned in 11:39a is an eternal inheritance available through

Christ, the Mediator of the New Covenant (9:15).65 The exemplars

of faith saw this heavenly city, without having received the final

fulfillment, There the exemplars of faith in the Old Testament

did not receive the promise in the ultimate sense, as 11:39 states.

            Another issue is the meaning of the phrase ("something bet-

ter," krei?tto<n ti, v. 40). "The krei?tton ti is our inclusion in this

people of God for whom the telei<wsij of Christ was destined."66

The ultimate promise, in the sense of messianic bliss with eter-

nal life (10:36-37; cf. 6:17-18), was not granted to the exemplars

of faith in chapter 11.67 Their perfection awaited and depended on

the sacrificial death of Christ. In this sense their faith was escha-

tological in that it had a forward-looking orientation. At the same

time the author of Hebrews connected this eschatological outlook

of faith to Christ's sacrificial death. Thus it may be said that the

heroes and heroines of faith in the Old Testament had a Christo-

logical orientation.

            However, the faith of those in the New Covenant is both escha-

tologically and Christologically oriented. On the one hand be-

lievers under the New Covenant "have come to Mount Zion and to

the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem" and "to Jesus,

the mediator of a new covenant" (12:22, 24). In this sense the es-

chatological fulfillment has already taken place. On the other

hand the ultimate eschatological fulfillment has not yet taken

place because believers are still looking to the city that is to come

(13:14). Thus it may be said that the faith of those under the New

Covenant is eschatologically oriented just as was the faith of those

in the Old Covenant. This forward-looking aspect of faith of those

in the New Covenant is also closely related to Christology: believ-

ers must run the race which lies ahead of them by looking to Jesus



65 Lane, Hebrews 9-13, 392.

66 Moffatt, Hebrews, 191.

67 Ibid., 190.


            Chiasm and the Concept of Faith in Hebrews 11            345


                      SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION


Analyses of all the corresponding sections in Hebrews 11, includ-

ing the center of the chapter in verses 13-16, support the argument

that the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews wrote chapter 11 chias-

tically to set forth the importance of the eschatological nature of

faith. For him faith involves both present and future aspects.

However, the primary emphasis in Hebrews 11 is on the future

(i.e., the forward-looking aspect). This eschatological orienta-

tion of faith is introduced in verses 1-3, restated in verses 13-16,

and summarized in verses 39-40. In between these summary

statements, the author cited examples of faith from the Old Tes-

tament to illustrate this forward-looking aspect of faith. Faith in

Hebrews, then, involves the present and the future.

            Also chapter 11 reveals that the Christological aspect of faith

is present. True, faith in Hebrews is not expressed as "faith in

Christ." However, this does not mean that faith in Hebrews is

merely a de-Christologized ethical element, as Grasser contends.

Several points in chapter 11 suggest that this aspect of faith is im-

plied by the author (e.g., the reference to "heir of righteousness

which is according to faith" for Noah in v. 7; "reproach of Christ"

in describing Moses' faith in v. 26; the institution of the Passover

in v. 28; and others). In other words the ethical aspect of stead-

fastness must always be interpreted in the context of Christology.

In Hebrews Jesus is the object of faith. Moreover, the references to

"God preparing for something better concerning us" and "their

denial of perfection without us" (v. 40, author's trans.) clearly

point ahead to the institution of the New Covenant based on

Christ's sacrificial death on the cross. The futuristic outlook of

faith (i.e., the forward-looking aspect) by the exemplars of faith

in the Old Covenant is ultimately related to Christ in the New

Covenant. In this sense it may be concluded that the concept of

faith in Hebrews is both eschatologically and Christologically




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