Faith – Trust

4100 PISTEUO (242): to receive information into one’s mind, accept it as being true, and have enough confidence in it to act or be willing to act on it. Thus, in the FCM (NT) pisteuo means “to trust.”

An example of this is Jesus’ healing of the centurion’s boy as recorded in Mt.8.5-13. The centurion showed that he trusted Jesus’ ability to heal when he asked him to heal his boy. And when Jesus said, “I will come and heal him,” the centurion further showed his trust by saying, “I am not worthy that you should come under my roof; only speak a word and my boy will be healed.” Jesus confirmed this in verse 13: “‘…as you have trusted, let be it done unto you.’ And his boy was healed in that hour.”

Another example occurs in Mk.11.27-33, when the chief priests, scribes and older men came to Jesus and asked where he got his authority. Jesus told them that if they would answer his question then he would answer theirs. Jesus’ question was: “Was the immersion by John from heaven, or from men?…They reasoned among themselves, saying if we say, ‘from heaven,’ then he will say, ‘Why then did you not trust (pisteuo) him?…'” That is, refusing the immersion offered by John showed that they did not trust John’s message.

Pisteuo is usually translated “believe” in the FCM. The word “believe” means to accept information as being true, but does not necessarily include action. Therefore, “believe” is inadequate to translate pisteuo. See “trust” (4102 pistis) for additional information.

John uses the verb form pisteuo almost 100 times in his “gospel” but does not use the noun form pistis at all, indicating that his gospel is about “trust in action.”

Pisteuo is also used several times in the sense, “to place in one’s trust” or “to entrust.” For example in 1Th.2.4: “…but as we have been approved by God to be entrusted [with] the good news, thus we speak.”

“To trust” (Pisteuo) is the opposite of:


1)  “to not trust” (0569 apisteo) in Mk.16.16 and 1Pe.2.7,
2)  “to doubt” (1252 diakrino) in Mk.11.23,
3)  “to not trust” (0571 apistia) in Mk.9.24, 16.14,
4)  “to be unpersuaded” (0544 apeitheo) in Jn.3.36 and Act.14.1-2, and
5)  “not trusting (one)” (0571 apistos) in 1Co.14.22.



TRUST (233) Mt.8.13; 9.28; 18.6; 21.22,25,32,32,32; 24.23,26; 27.42. Mk.1.15; 5.36; 9.23,24,42; 11.23,24,31; 13.21; 15.32; 16.13,14,16,17. Lk.1.20,45; 8.12,13,50; 20.5; 22.67; 24.25. Jn.1.7,12,50; 2.11,22,23; 3.12,12,15,16,18,18,18,36; 4.21,39,41,42,48,50,53; 5.24,38,44,46,46, 47,47; 6.29,30,35,36,40,47,64,64,69; 7.5,31,38,39,48; 8.24,30,31,45, 46; 9.18,35,36,38; 10.25,25,37,38,38,42; 11.15,25,26,26,27,40,42,45, 48; 12.11,36,37,38,39,42,44,44,46; 13.19; 14.1,1,10,11,11,12,29; 16.9, 27,30,31; 17.8,20,21; 19.35; 20.8,25,29,29,31,31. Act.2.44; 4.4,32; 5.14; 8.12,13; 9.26,42; 10.43; 11.17,21; 13.12,39,41,48; 14.1,23; 15.5,7,11; 16.31,34; 17.12,34; 18.8,8,27; 19.2,4,18; 21.20,25; 22.19; 24.14; 26.27,27; 27.25. Rom.1.16; 3.22; 4.3,5,11,17,18,24; 6.8; 9.33; 10.4,9,10,11,14,14,16; 13.11; 14.2; 15.13. 1Co.1.21; 3.5; 11.18; 13.7; 14.22,22; 15.2,11. 2Co.4.13,13. Gal.2.16; 3.6,22. Eph.1.13,19. Php.1.29. 1Th.1.7; 2.10,13; 4.14. 2Th.1.10,10; 2.11,12. 1Ti.1.16; 3.16. 2Ti.1.12. Tit.3.8. Heb.4.3; 11.6. Jas.2.19a,23, 1Pe.1.8,21; 2.6,7. 1Jn.3.23; 4.1,16; 5.1,5,10,10,10,13. Jud.5.


The demons of Jas.2.19b do not tremble just because they know that they will eventually be destroyed, but also because they trust God to do what he says. This usage of pisteuo is not applicable to humans.

TRUST (1) Jas.2.19b.


ENTRUST (8) Lk.16.11. Jn.2.24. Rom.3.2. 1Co.9.17. Gal.2.7. 1Th.2.4. 1Ti.1.11. Tit.1.3.

4101 PISTIKOS (2): faithful, evidently in the sense of purity.

PURE Mk.14.3. Jn.12.3.

4102 PISTIS (243): Trust. Pistis is usually translated “belief” or “faith.” There is variation in belief among Christians as to its meaning. To some, pistis merely means “mental acknowledgement,” others recognize that pistis usually includes “confidence” or “action.” Still others define it differently. Unfortunately, the usage of the words “belief” or “faith” in every-day English is too vague to accurately translate pistis in the FCM (NT).

However, the actions of God’s people as recorded in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews provide a clear meaning of pistis. For example, Heb.11.8: “By pistis (trust) Abraham, being called, obeyed to proceed to a place which he was about to receive for an inheritance, and he went out, not knowing where he was going.” That is, Abraham not only accepted what God told him as being true, but also had enough confidence in it to act upon it (He obeyed).

Heb.10.38-39 shows the essence and consequences of one’s trust (pistis) or lack of trust: “…my upright one will live by pistis (trust). And if he draws back my soul is displeased with him. But we are not of [those] drawing back to destruction, but of [those] trusting unto possession of [their] soul.”

Heb.11.1 continues by showing that pistis declares the reality of things that a person cannot discover through his five senses; that is, things which are in the future, and things which exist but have not been experienced: “Trust is [the] reality of hope, proof of unseen things.”

One must “trust” God to receive benefit from him. For example, Heb.11.6: “…without trust (pistis) it is impossible to have been pleasing [to God]; for it is necessary for the one who is approaching God to trust (4100 pisteuo) that he exists, and that he becomes a rewarder to those seeking him out.”

Since pistis is so critically important to pleasing God, How does one acquire it? The answer is in Rom.10.17: “Trust is from hearing, and hearing through a message of the Anointed One (Christ);” that is, through trusting the good news (gospel) about the Anointed one.

See “truth” (0225 aletheia) for the relationship of “truth” to “trust.” See “favor” (5485 charis ) for God’s “new agreement:” “favor through trust.”

When the expression “the trust” occurs, it sometimes means “a trustworthy message.” Also, in Act.17.31 pistis refers to an “assurance” or “guarantee.”


TRUST (218) Mt.8.10; 9.2,22,29; 15.28; 17.20; 21.21; 23.23. Mk.2.5; 4.40; 5.34; 10.52; 11.22. Lk.5.20; 7.9,50; 8.25,48; 17.5,6,19; 18.8, 42; 22.32. Act.3.16,16; 6.5; 11.24; 14.9,27; 15.9; 20.21; 24.24; 26.18. Rom.1.5,8,12,17,17,17; 3.22,25,26,27,28,30,30,31; 4.5,9,11,12, 13,14,16,16,19,20; 5.1,2; 9.30,32; 10.6,8,17; 11.20; 12.3,6; 14.1,22, 23,23; 16.26. 1Co.2.5; 12.9; 13.2,13; 15.14,17. 2Co.1.24,24; 4.13; 5.7; 8.7; 10.15. Gal.2.16,16,20; 3.2,5,7,8,9,11,12,14,22,23,23,24,25, 26; 5.5,6,22. Eph.1.15; 2.8; 3.12,17; 4.5,13; 6.16,23. Php.1.25,27; 2.17; 3.9,9. Col.1.4; 2.5,12. 1Th.1.3,8; 3.2,5,6,7,10; 5.8. 2Th.1.3,4, 11; 2.13; 3.2. 1Ti.1.2,4,5,14,19a; 2.7,15; 3.13; 4.12; 5.8,12; 6.11, 12. 2Ti.1.5,13; 2.18,22; 3.15; 4.7. Tit.1.1,4; 2.2,10; 3.15. Phm.5,6. Heb.4.2; 6.1,12; 10.22,38,39; 11.1,3,4,5,6,7,7,8,9,11,13,17,20,21,22, 23,24,27,28,29,30,31,33,39; 12.2; 13.7. Jas.1.3,6; 2.1,5,14,14,17,18, 18,18,20,22,22,24,26; 5.15. 1Pe.1.5,7,9,21. 2Pe.1.1,5. 1Jn.5.4. Jud.20. Rev.2.19; 13.10.

PISTIS AS A METAPHOR FOR INFORMATION IN WHICH TO TRUST: Example: “the trust” is equivalent to “God’s Message” in Act.6.7: “And God’s Message (3056 logos) increased…and a great crowd of the priests obeyed the trusted message (pistis).” It is equivalent to “the truth” (0225 aletheia ) in 2Ti.3.8.

TRUSTWORTHY MESSAGE, TRUSTED MESSAGE (24) Act.6.7; 13.8; 14.22; 16.5. Rom.3.3. 1Co.16.13. 2Co.13.5. Gal.1.23; 6.10. Col.1.23; 2.7. 1Ti.1.19b; 3.9; 4.1,6; 6.10,21. 2Ti.3.8,10. Tit.1.13. 1Pe.5.8. Jud.3. Rev.2.13; 14.12.

ASSURANCE OR GUARANTEE: trustworthy assurance in Act.17.31: “…offering a guarantee to all [by] having raised him up out of the dead.”

GUARANTEE (1) Act.17.31.

4104 PISTO’O (1): to make faithful, to convince, give assurance to CONVINCE 2Ti.3.14.

4103 PISTOS (66): a characteristic of one who can be relied upon to fulfill his obligations. For example, Mt.24.45: “Who then is the trustworthy (pistos) and wise slave whom the lord appointed over his household…”


TRUSTWORTHY (42) Mt.24.45; 25.21,21,23,23. Lk.12.42; 16.10,10,11,12; 19.17. Act.13.3; 16.15. 1Co.1.9; 4.2; 7.25; 10.13. 2Co.1.18. Eph.6.21. Col.1.7; 4.7,9. 1Th.5.24. 2Th.3.3. 1Ti.1.12; 3.11. 2Ti.2.2,13. Heb.2.17; 3.2,5; 10.23; 11.11. 1Pe.4.19; 5.12. 1Jn.1.9. 3Jn.5. Rev.1.5; 2.10; 3.14; 19.11; 21.5.

DESCRIPTIVE OF SOMETHING TRUSTWORTHY OTHER THAN A PERSON: always a statement or message concerning truth.

TRUSTWORTHY (7) 1Ti.1.15; 3.1; 4.9. 2Ti.2.11. Tit.1.9; 3.8. Rev.22.6.

DESCRIPTIVE OF ONE WHO TRUSTS: (“trusting” is used when a modifying noun is present).

TRUSTING ONE (11) Jn.20.27. Act.10.4. 2Co.6.15. Gal.3.9. Col.1.2. 1Ti.4.3,10,12; 6.2b. Rev.2.13; 17.14.

TRUSTING (6) Act.16.1. 1Co.4.17. Eph.1.1. 1Ti.5.16; 6.2a. Tit.1.6.



When we read the Bible, we should recognize that it is literature written in the forms of the time. There is poetry and prose, history and prophecy, exposition and diatribe. Those who preach and teach are responsible to make proper use of the texts. For example, besides diatribes, some texts are apocryphal. Notably in Daniel and The Revelation. Apocryphal writing is not necessarily to be taken literally. Neither is a diatribe.


Diatribe is a dialogical form of teaching in which the teacher proceeds to knowledge by means of question and answer with the students. A number of books in the NT, reflective of the wider use of diatribe in the Greco-Roman world, utilize diatribal literary techniques. The major question in discussion of diatribe with regard to the study of the NT is whether the diatribe constituted a literary form or genre or whether it represents merely a set of literary conventions.

1. Authors of Diatribes Outside of the New Testament

2. Characteristics of Diatribe

3. Diatribe in the New Testament and Its Interpretive Significance

1. Authors of Diatribes Outside of the New Testament.


The diatribe became a well-known literary form in the Greco-Roman world and is reflected in a number of authors of importance for study of the NT. The diatribe perhaps has its basis in the dialogues of Plato. Some of these literary constructions were probably based upon dialogues between Socrates and his disciples, but many of them may well have been greatly enhanced literarily by Plato, with some of them almost certainly his own creation. In these dialogues, Socrates engages in discussion with enquirers and leads himself and his discussion partner(s) to knowledge through positing and answering of questions. The process of discovering transpires through Socrates posing questions that lead the respondent either to suggest the answer or to defer to Socrates, at which point Socrates often develops the answer in greater length before moving the dialogue forward.

A number of authors in the Greco-Roman period made use of the techniques of diatribe. Some of the best known include Epictetus, Dio Chrysostom, Teles and Musonius Rufus. Diatribes are also attributed to a number of other authors, especially Stoic writers, for example, in Diogenes Laertius. The former slave Epictetus, who became an itinerant philosopher with a group of followers, has left eight books of his disputations with his followers. They are recorded by Arrian, who also wrote a history of Alexander’s conquest of Persia. They purport to be the record of Epictetus’s conversations with his students, and a number of features suggest that they may be genuine. However, a number of features indicate that literary artifice is involved in these dialogues, presumably by Arrian in the course of recording these dialogues. Several of these features include consistent and stylized use of rhetorical questions, distinctive phrasing by Epictetus and, perhaps most importantly, the feature of Epictetus’s inevitable ability to respond appropriately.

2. Characteristics of Diatribe.


A number of features of diatribe are often cited as characterizing this literary form. Once these have been discussed, the question of whether diatribe constitutes a literary genre will be asked.

The major features of the diatribe are, first, its dialogical format. In many diatribes, such as those of Epictetus and Teles, there is what purports to be actual questioning and answering that is recorded, often with the questioner posing short questions that the philosopher-teacher answers. These questions and answers often involve the use of rhetorical questions, that is, questions in which the answer becomes obvious from the way that the dialogue has progressed and the question is posed. These questions also sometimes use the so-called hortatory subjunctive, in which the speaker includes himself in the question being asked, in the form of “should we say … ?” or the second person imperative. Often the questions and answers involve parallelism and balance in their construction, so it is obvious that the answer directly addresses the question being asked. This parallelism distinguishes much diatribe. Epictetus, like Paul but unlike most other writers of diatribe (see A. J. Malherbe), uses the phrase translated “may it never be” (mē genoito) a number of times as a response to a particularly outlandish suggestion in one of the rhetorical questions, showing the absurdity of such a proposal, which runs contrary to the wisdom of the teacher. In the course of making a moralistic appeal, the philosopher-teacher would often draw upon examples, and these would often involve citing a particular figure, such as an earlier philosopher or wise person, often referred to as an exemplum. Often connective words are used that heighten the dialogue (e.g., strong adversatives or contrastive statements).

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, diatribe was fairly widely recognized as a genre by such scholars as E. Norden and P. Wendland. In his 1910 work on Paul and Cynic-Stoic diatribe, R. Bultmann took this position in his study. The conclusion at that time was that diatribe constituted a distinct literary form or genre, which was utilized by a number of writers of the ancient world, including some of those in the NT (see 3 below). This consensus did not last, however, with scholars soon afterward beginning to question and then abandon the concept of diatribe as a genre. After World War II, the view emerged that diatribe was to be seen as a literary style or set of techniques, often found in rhetorical philosophical prose.

In the most recent major studies, S. K. Stowers (1981) and T. Schmeller analyze the Pauline writings in terms of the diatribal characteristics rather than in terms of it being a distinct ancient genre. The same kind of debate is paralleled among recent discussion by classicists (see Porter for a survey of research). To a large extent, the debate over whether diatribe constitutes a distinctive genre reflects how the literature of the NT is being viewed by the scholarship of the time. In a period in which the books of the NT are being placed firmly within their Greco-Roman literary milieu or as the product of history of religions research, it is more typical to find advocates of NT diatribe as a genre in its own right. However, when the texts of the NT are being analyzed in terms of their being part of a specifically religious milieu, such as distinctive Jewish or Christian literature, the tendency is to see the diatribe as a set of literary conventions utilized within these other literary genres.

3. Diatribe in the New Testament and Its Interpretive Significance.


Several books within the NT can be characterized as diatribe, or at least as utilizing various features of the diatribe style. These include the book of James and some of Paul’s letters, such as Romans and 2 Corinthians, among others. One of the major distinctives of the NT use of diatribe, however, is that the author of the respective book creates a fictive dialogue in which he writes both sides of the debate. This is particularly obvious in the use of rhetorical questions, where the biblical author guides the course of the argument by means of positing questions that he then answers.

The book of Romans provides one of the most instructive NT books for appreciating the features of diatribe. Scholars have seen elements of diatribe in at least Romans 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 11 and 14, if not others. Some of these features include the following. For example, in Romans 3:1–9 Paul carries on a dialogue with himself, posing rhetorical questions that he then answers in order to get at the issue of God’s faithfulness, despite human failing. There are various ways to analyze these questions and answers in terms of which ones are to be put into the mouth of Paul’s interlocutor and which ones into his own mouth, but Paul is writing both sides of the discussion (see Stowers 1984).

Paul also uses the rhetorical question with the hortatory subjunctive in such places as Romans 4:1 and 6:1 (“What then shall we say … ?”). In Romans 6:1 Paul responds to the absurdity that believers should continue to sin by answering “may it never be” (mē genoito). Romans 5 has many more features of diatribe than has often been recognized (see Porter). For example, if the better-attested textual variant is accepted in Romans 5:1, the section can begin with a hortatory subjunctive (“Let us enjoy peace with God”). There is also abundant parallelism throughout the chapter. Romans 5:9–11 makes parallel statements regarding justification, reconciliation and salvation. Romans 5:12–21 is also full of parallelism, in which statements are made of Christ and Adam. The use of Abraham in Romans 4, as well as Christ and Adam in Romans 5, illustrates the use of the exemplum (see Stowers 1981, 65–71), in which one person stands as an example for others. Other features in this and other books could be cited, but the above give an idea of how diatribal style is used in some places in Romans.

The interpretive significance of the use of diatribal style is severalfold. First, one can more fully appreciate the literary milieu in which certain books of the NT were written. They were written following recognized literary conventions of the Greco-Roman world, possibly even adapting a recognized literary genre. However, one can more fully appreciate the way in which the biblical author presents and develops his argument. Rather than consisting of the presentation of propositions, biblical books utilizing features of diatribe present their arguments in a progressive way that moves from point to point, often in the course of disputing the opposing views of others. Thus one must exercise caution in how much weight is placed upon any particular statement without considering the larger context in which this part of the argument is developed.



See also Genres of the New Testament; Rhetoric.

Bibliography. R. Bultmann, Der Stil der paulinischen Predigt und die kynisch-stoische Diatribe (FRLANT; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1984 [1910]); A. J. Malherbe, “ME GENOITO in the Diatribe and Paul,” HTR 73 (1980) 231–40; E. Norden, Die Antike Kunstprosa vom VI. Jahrhundert v. Chr. bis in die Zeit der Renaissance (2 vols.; Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1958, [1898]); S. E. Porter, “The Argument of Romans 5: Can a Rhetorical Question Make a Difference?” JBL 110 (1991) 655–77; T. Schmeller, Paulus und die “Diatribe”: Eine vergleichende Stilinterpretation (Münster: Aschendorff, 1987); S. K. Stowers, “The Diatribe,” in Greco-Roman Literature and the New Testament, ed. D. E. Aune (SBLSBS 21; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988) 71–83; idem, The Diatribe and Paul’s Letter to the Romans (SBLDS 57; Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1981); idem, “Paul’s Dialogue with a Fellow Jew in Romans 3:1–9, ” CBQ 46 (1984) 707–22; P. Wendland, Die hellenistisch-römische Kultur in ihren Beziehung zu Judentum und Christentum (HNT 2; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1972 [1907]).

S. E. Porter

[1] Various, Dictionary of New Testament Background, (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press) 2000.


Compiled by Louis Simonfalvi, 2003.

Last updated: 2003. 08. 15.