I have tried to find out for a long time what the word “hupostasis” in Hebr 11:1 means – “Faith is the ‘hupostasis’ of things hoped for…”   confidence, assurance, substance, and title-deed are some translations of the word “hupostasis”. The translation of this word is critical to the understanding of the verse and to the overall understanding of faith.   It seams to me that the rich meaning of the word – and in this case the specific meaning – is not really reflected in the popular translations, like the in NIV with “confidence”.   Do you have an understanding and explanation for the meaning of “hupostasis” in Hebr 11:1 – or do you know where I could find more information?


This is an interesting question. The Greek word hupotasso is of great significance in the history of Christian theology. It was used in an attempt to settle the debate over the nature of God, and, most specifically about the nature of the Son of God.

The writers of the Nicene Creed settled on the word hupostasis to describe the divinity of Jesus. They said that the Father and the Son are of the same hupostasis–the same essence. They are of the same essential nature.

This will help interpret Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the “essence” of things hoped for–it is the “essential nature” of our hope. This is what the Hebrew writer is saying. It is not simply hope, it is the thing without which we have no real hope. The problem is that this is difficult to translate into English. I looked up various translations. Some versions have for the word hupostasis, confidence, others have assurance, another has sure and, lastly, the King James has essence. Technically, the King James is the most “accurate,” but it is not clear it gives the best sense of the original. I believe the translation that faith is the confidence of what we hope for is a good one in that this catches the essense (get the pun?) of what is being said in the Greek.

This example helps to make a point I like to remind people of which is that in trying to understand scripture it is good to have several translations. Often the correct sense of the original is some sort of “average” of the different translations. Having said this, even if “confidence” is a good translation, I still agree with you that trying to understand the real root meaning of hupotasso is still very helpful to understand the nature of faith. Faith is not mere confidence of what is hoped for, but it is the essence of what is hoped for, without which there is really no hope at all.

John Oakes

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