Topics from the Gospel of John: Part IV: The Growth of Belief -- By: Merrill C. Tenney

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 132:528 (Oct 1975)
Article: Topics from the Gospel of John: Part IV: The Growth of Belief
Author: Merrill C. Tenney

Topics from the Gospel of John:
Part IV:
The Growth of Belief

Merrill C. Tenney

[Merrill C. Tenney, Professor of Bible and Theology, Wheaton college Graduate School of Theology, Wheaton, Illinois.]

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth in a series of articles, first delivered by the author as the Louis S. Bauman Memorial Lectures at Grace Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Indiana, February 12–15, 1974.]

One of the characteristics of the Fourth Gospel is its distinctive vocabulary. There are many passages in the Synoptic Gospels which, if read publicly, could not easily be assigned to any one of the three unless the hearer were an expert in the field of Synoptic study. It would, however, be scarcely possible to find a single paragraph in John that would not instantly reveal its origin by its vocabulary. There are at least fifty words which, although not used exclusively in this Gospel, occur so frequently that their presence indicates the origin of the text in which they appear. Such terms as light, witness, abide, sign, and others are unmistakably the watermarks of John.

The most important of these words is believe (πιστεεύω). It occurs ninety-eight times in the Gospel, and denotes a concept of major importance. The writer emphasizes it in the summary to his Gospel, where he concludes his main narrative by saying:

Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:30–31).

The verb πιστεύω may be used in eight different constructions. Πιστεύω absolute (1) with no express object of preposition following, is in John a technical term of faith in Christ. Its usage is well illustrated by its initial occurrence: “He [John the Baptist]

came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him” (1:7). The absolute use does not define the nature nor necessarily the object of belief; it simply states the fact that it exists. The construction appears twenty-nine times in the text of the Gospel.

A second construction (2) is πιστεύω followed by the preposition είς, literally “into.” It appears thirty-seven times in the Gospel of John, more ...

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