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"A great many people think they are thinking when they are
merely rearranging their prejudices." - William James

More Thoughts on Belief

How the word "belief" is used in the Gospels
01/30/2018

Overwhelmingly in the gospels the words "believe" and "belief" are used by Jesus, not so much by others and not much in the narrative of the gospel writer or compiler.

A serious mistake I have made in the past is thinking that, when a gospel writer says a person, group or crowd believed, the writer was using the word the same way and, meaning the same thing that Jesus meant.

Or even worse on my part that they believed the essential truth or that they believed who Jesus really was, believed in him as the ultimate spokesman for God and were now prepared to listen to him and accept what he would reveal to them. Maybe this was out of wishful thinking, rooting and cheering for the good side to win, but the acceptance of this equation or meaning is another serious mistake.

So, two questions that should always be asked when coming across the word "believed" are:
    1) "Believed what?" and
    2) "How is this different from what they should have believed?"

There is one other very salient piece of information that is needed to put things into the proper framework. In Koine Greek, the word translated "faith" is the same word for "belief". If the speaker or writer of the word meant some nuanced difference, one must pick that up from the context, or in some other facet of implication.

To put things into the perspective that Jesus had late in his time on earth, we can read his rhetorical question in Luke 18:8, "Nevertheless, when the son of man passes, will he find belief on earth? Obviously not!" Now, don't fault me for supplying the words, "Obviously not!" The negative is ALWAYS implied in this particular Greek structure, and even though I am unaware of a single published translation that does anything but leave the embedded sentiment out, there should be no question that this is what is meant.

Thus, when Jesus was nearing the end of his ministry he did NOT expect to find adequate belief. No wonder he called the disciples "puny-faiths", or referred to them as, "Ye of little belief." No wonder things did NOT progress in the right direction after he left. No wonder his most extravagant statements about belief seemingly have to be taken as symbolic or metaphorical. Obviously, in his life on earth he did NOT engender the kind of belief for which he was looking. This suggests why he said, "Narrow is the way and few there are that find it." He did NOT say this to discourage us, but merely as an observation. Of course, the "narrow way" has the criteria of being rational, logical, reasonable and good, free from darkness, confusion and mysticism, and above all consonant with the ideal. That is what is so narrow and hard about it!

Let's look at one example. After the incident with the woman at the well, we have the Samaritans asking Jesus to stay with them, and so he stayed for two days. John 4:41, 42. "And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, 'It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.'"

OK, they believed that he was the savior of the world, but THAT IS NOT ENOUGH! They needed to see that this was God, that this was what God WAS/IS/ALWAYS WILL BE! A human being! Of course, one empowered, one of wisdom, maturity, and grace, but a HUMAN. Not different, nor separate. This idea of separateness is the Devil, the original lie that separates us as being different, lower than the creator!

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