Faith of the Ancients. 1Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence* of things not seen.a 2Because of it the ancients were well attested. 3b By faith we understand that the universe was ordered by the word of God,* so that what is visible came into being through the invisible. 4* By faith Abel offered to God a sacrifice greater than Cain’s. Through this he was attested to be righteous, God bearing witness to his gifts, and through this, though dead, he still speaks.c 5By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and “he was found no more because God had taken him.” Before he was taken up, he was attested to have pleased God.d 6* But without faith it is impossible to please him,e for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7By faith Noah, warned about what was not yet seen, with reverence built an ark for the salvation of his household. Through this he condemned the world and inherited the righteousness that comes through faith.f
8By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go.g 9By faith he sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise;h 10for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God.i 11By faith he received power to generate, even though he was past the normal age—and Sarah herself was sterile—for he thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy.j 12So it was that there came forth from one man, himself as good as dead, descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sands on the seashore.k
13All these died in faith. They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth,l 14for those who speak thus show that they are seeking a homeland. 15If they had been thinking of the land from which they had come, they would have had opportunity to return. 16But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.m
17By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son,n 18of whom it was said, “Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name.”o 19* He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead,p and he received Isaac back as a symbol. 20By faith regarding things still to come Isaac* blessed Jacob and Esau.q 21By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph and “bowed in worship, leaning on the top of his staff.”r 22By faith Joseph, near the end of his life, spoke of the Exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions about his bones.s
23t By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after his birth, because they saw that he was a beautiful child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24* By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;u 25he chose to be ill-treated along with the people of God rather than enjoy the fleeting pleasure of sin. 26He considered the reproach of the Anointed greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the recompense. 27By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s fury, for he persevered as if seeing the one who is invisible.v 28By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.w 29By faith they crossed the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted it they were drowned.x 30By faith the walls of Jericho fell after being encircled for seven days.y 31By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish with the disobedient, for she had received the spies in peace.z
32What more shall I say? I have not time to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets,a 33who by faith conquered kingdoms, did what was righteous, obtained the promises; they closed the mouths of lions,b 34put out raging fires, escaped the devouring sword; out of weakness they were made powerful, became strong in battle, and turned back foreign invaders.c 35Women received back their dead through resurrection. Some were tortured and would not accept deliverance, in order to obtain a better resurrection.d 36Others endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment.e 37They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at sword’s point; they went about in skins of sheep or goats, needy, afflicted, tormented.f 38The world was not worthy of them. They wandered about in deserts and on mountains, in caves and in crevices in the earth.g
39Yet all these, though approved because of their faith, did not receive what had been promised. 40God had foreseen something better for us, so that without us they should not be made perfect.*
* [11:1–40] This chapter draws upon the people and events of the Old Testament to paint an inspiring portrait of religious faith, firm and unyielding in the face of any obstacles that confront it. These pages rank among the most eloquent and lofty to be found in the Bible. They expand the theme announced in Heb 6:12, to which the author now returns (Heb 10:39). The material of this chapter is developed chronologically. Heb 11:3–7 draw upon the first nine chapters of Genesis (Gn 1–9); Heb 11:8–22, upon the period of the patriarchs; Heb 11:23–31, upon the time of Moses; Heb 11:32–38, upon the history of the judges, the prophets, and the Maccabean martyrs. The author gives the most extensive description of faith provided in the New Testament, though his interest does not lie in a technical, theological definition. In view of the needs of his audience he describes what authentic faith does, not what it is in itself. Through faith God guarantees the blessings to be hoped for from him, providing evidence in the gift of faith that what he promises will eventually come to pass (Heb 11:1). Because they accepted in faith God’s guarantee of the future, the biblical personages discussed in Heb 11:3–38 were themselves commended by God (Heb 11:2). Christians have even greater reason to remain firm in faith since they, unlike the Old Testament men and women of faith, have perceived the beginning of God’s fulfillment of his messianic promises (Heb 11:39–40).
* [11:1] Faith is the realization…evidence: the author is not attempting a precise definition. There is dispute about the meaning of the Greek words hypostasis and elenchos, here translated realization and evidence, respectively. Hypostasis usually means “substance,” “being” (as translated in Heb 1:3), or “reality” (as translated in Heb 3:14); here it connotes something more subjective, and so realization has been chosen rather than “assurance” (RSV). Elenchos, usually “proof,” is used here in an objective sense and so translated evidence rather than the transferred sense of “(inner) conviction” (RSV).
* [11:3] By faith…God: this verse does not speak of the faith of the Old Testament men and women but is in the first person plural. Hence it seems out of place in the sequence of thought.
* [11:4] The “Praise of the Ancestors” in Sir 44:1–50:21 gives a similar list of heroes. The Cain and Abel narrative in Gn 4:1–16 does not mention Abel’s faith. It says, however, that God “looked with favor on Abel and his offering” (Gn 4:4); in view of v 6 the author probably understood God’s favor to have been activated by Abel’s faith. Though dead, he still speaks: possibly because his blood “cries out to me from the soil” (Gn 4:10), but more probably a way of saying that the repeated story of Abel provides ongoing witness to faith.
* [11:19] As a symbol: Isaac’s “return from death” is seen as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection. Others understand the words en parabolē to mean “in figure,” i.e., the word dead is used figuratively of Isaac, since he did not really die. But in the one other place that parabolē occurs in Hebrews, it means symbol (Heb 9:9).
* [11:24–27] The reason given for Moses’ departure from Egypt differs from the account in Ex 2:11–15. The author also gives a christological interpretation of his decision to share the trials of his people.
* [11:40] So that without us they should not be made perfect: the heroes of the Old Testament obtained their recompense only after the saving work of Christ had been accomplished. Thus they already enjoy what Christians who are still struggling do not yet possess in its fullness.