View: 8877 | Category: Theology
In the Gospel of John, the verb Greek “pisteuô” (to believe) occurs 99 times and the noun “pistis” (faith, belief) does not occur. The adjective “pistos” (believing) appears 1 time in Jn 20:27 and the adjective “apistos” (unbelieving) also appears 1 time in Jn 20:27. Jesus said to Thomas in 20:27: “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless (apistos), but believing (pistos).”
With 99 occurrences of “to believe” (pisteuô) in the Gospel of John, believing becomes an important theme in Johannine theology. The narrator emphasizes the act of belief by using only the verb “pisteuô” (to believe), the noun “pistis” (faith) is not used in this Gospel. This paper will develop three points: (I) Statistics of the verb “pisteuô” (to believe); (II) Uses of the verb “pisteuô” and (III) Three levels of believing in Jesus.
I. Statistics of the verb “pisteuô” (to believe)
Where are the places of 99 times of the verb “pisteuô” (to believe) in the Gospel of John? If this Gospel is divided in two parts: The Book of Signs (ch. 1–12) and the Book of Glory (ch. 13–21), the majority of 99 times of“pisteuô” (to believe) appears in the Book of Signs (Jn 1–12). Concretely,the verb “pisteuô” (to believe) occurs with increasing (77 times) in the first part of the Gospel (Jn 1–12) and with decreasing (22 times) in the second (Jn 13–21).
If the Gospel of John is divided by four or five chapters, the verb “pisteuô” appears most in Jn 9–12 (29 times). For the other chapters, this verb appears 22 times in ch. 1–4; 26 times in ch. 5–8; 15 times in ch. 13–17 and 7 times in ch. 18–21. The verb “pisteuô” (to believe) statistically occurs in these chapters, in decreasing order: Ch. 12 (10 times); ch. 6 (9 times); ch. 11 (9 times); ch. 3 (8 times); ch. 5 (7 times); ch. 14 (7 times); ch. 10 (6 times); ch. 20 (6 times). There are two chapters (13 and 19) in which the verb “pisteuô” appears only 1 time (13:19; 19:35). In the three chapters (15; 18 and 21), “pisteuô” does not occur. See the enumeration of 99 occurrences of “pisteuô” (to believe) in the article: “pisteuô (believe), pistos (believing) and apistos (unbelieving) in the Gospel of John.”
In the Prologue of John’s Gospel, the theme of belief was solemnly told. First, John the Baptist comes for testimony “that all might believe through him” (1:7). Then, the believer is defined in 1:12-13: “12 To all who received him [logos], who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” In Jesus’ public ministry (1:19–12:50), the narrator develops the topic of “believing” through Jesus’ revelations. Jesus’ audience in Jn 1–12 is the Jewish authorities (the Jews, the Pharisees), the crowds and his disciples.
In the Last Discourse (ch. 13–17), Jesus talks about the faith of his disciples in the context of crises. He says to his disciples in 14:1: “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.” Jesus encourages them tobelieve in God and to believe in him. At the end of the Gospel, the narrator concludes the Gospel by directly addressing to the readers in 20:30-31: “30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.” These verses clearly express Gospel’s purpose: believing in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God (20:31). So, faith’s topic runs through the Gospel of John, from the Prologue (1:7,12-31) to the conclusion (20:30-31).
II. Uses of the verb “pisteuô” (to believe)
The uses of 99 times of “pisteuô” can be classifed into three categories: (1) Whom to believe in? (2) What to believe in? (3) The verb “to believe” does not have complement. For example, the narrator talks about the disicplewhom Jesus loved in 20:8: “He saw and believed.”
1. Whom to believe in?
For the object of the act of belief, John’s Gospel presents these topics: (a) “Believe in Jesus”, (a) “Believe in God” (a) “Believe in Moses” and (d) “Believe in people”.
a) To believe in Jesus
The majority occurrence of the verb “pisteuô” (to believe) in John’s Gospel expresses the idea: “to believe” or “not to believe” in Jesus. There are two ways in Greek language to express the thought “Whom to believe in”: (1) Verb “pisteuô” (to believe) + preposition “eis” (in) + pronoun or noun in accusative case. (2) Verb “pisteuô” (to believe) + pronoun or noun in dative case.
(1) Four uses of “pisteuô + eis”:
(a) First, expression in affirmative and negative. The affirmative sentence: “To believe in Jesus”, appears 20 times in 2:11; 3:15,16; 3:18a,36; 4:39; 6:29,35,40; 7:31,48; 8:30; 9:36; 10:42; 11:45,48; 12:11,42; 14:1a; 17:20. The negative sentence: “Not to believe in Jesus” appears 4 times in 7:5; 12:37,44; 16:9.
(b) Second, indirectly describing the belief in Jesus by saying: “To believe in the Son of man” (9:35) and “to believe in the light” (12:36).
(c) Third, the verb “pisteuô” is conjugated in participle, following by the preposition “eis” (in). This use appears 7 times in 7:38,39; 11:25,26a; 12:44,46; 14:12. For example, Jesus says to his disciples: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me (ho pisteuôn eis eme) will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father” (14:12).
(d) Fourth, the narrator uses the expressions “to believe in the name of Logos” (1:12); “to believe in the name of Jesus” (2:23) or “to believe in the name of the only Son of God” (3:18). The use of “to believe in the name of...” appears 3 times in 1:12; 2:23; 3:18c. For example, Jesus declares in 3:18: “He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (mê pepisteuken eis to onoma tou monogenous huiou tou theou).”
In brief, “to believe in Jesus” occurs 33 times, and “to believe in the name of Jesus” occurs 3 times in John’s Gospel.
(2) The second expression: “ pisteuô + dative” appears less than the first one: “pisteuô + eis”. This second style appears 4 times (4:21; 5:46b; 6:30; 8:31) in the affirmative sentence: “To believe in Jesus”; and 6 times (5:38; 8:45; 8:45,46; 10:37,38a) in the negative sentence: “Not to believe in Jesus.” In total, “to believe + noun in dative” occurs 10 times in the fourth Gospel.
The important topic in John’s Gospel is the audiences’ decision to believe or not in Jesus. The verb “to believe” is used 46 times to describe this topic in two forms: “pisteuô + eis + accusative” and “pisteuô + dative”.
b) To believe in God
The idea “Believe in God” appears twice (14:1; 5:34) in John’s Gospel with two usages in Greek language: “pisteuô + eis” (14:1) and “pisteuô + dative” (5:24). In 14:1, Jesus says to his disiciples: “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me” (14:1). In 5:24, Jesus says to the Jews: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (5:24). In this verse, Jesus names God by the title: “Who sent me”. Jesus is the envoy of God, therefore he comes to the world to reveal God’s will (cf. 6:38).
The theme of “Believe in God” only appears twice, however it takes on a theological importance by these two remarks: (1) First, Jesus identifies Godhimself with “the One who sent Jesus” into the world. Therefore, “believing in God” is also “believing in the One who sent Jesus”. (2) Second, in 5:24 and 14:1, “Believing in God is closely related with “hearing Jesus’ word” (5:24) as well as “believing in Jesus” (14:1).
These two aspects are important in the revelation of John’s Gospel: On the one hand, they allow to distinguish the disciples of Jesus from those who oppose to Jesus (the Jews and the Pharisees). In this Gospel, the Jews and the Pharisees themselves believe in God, but they do not believe in Jesus. The controversy among Jesus and the Jews in 8:31-59 shows the true God, the Father of Jesus and the false god, the father of the Jews. The Jews claim to Jesus in 8:41b: “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.” But the truth is, God is not Jews’ Father, because Jesus says to them in 8:42: “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.” On the other hand, the difference between “the Jews” and “Jesus’ disciples” is the disciples believe in God and in Jesus. Indeed, “believing in Jesus” is unseparated with “hearing Jesus’ word”. The Jews in the passage 8:31-59 do not hear Jesus’ word.
From this perspective, there is a differentiation between “the disciple of Jesus” and “the disciple of Moses” in ch. 9. The narrator relates in 9:28-29: “28 And they [the Jews and the Pharisees] reviled him [the man blind from his birth], saying, ‘You are his disciple [of Jesus], but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man [Jesus], we do not know where he comes from.’” The Jews and the Pharisees are proud that they are disciples of Moses and do not recognizewhere Jesus comes from. They revile the man born blind who has just found his sight by assigning him as “the disciple of Jesus.”
c) To believe in Moses
There is only 1 time (5:46) in which Jesus talks about “believe in Moses”. He asks the Jews in 5:46-47: “46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” In 5:46, “believed Moses” (episteuete Môsê) is expressed by the verb pisteuô (to believe) + dative case.
d) To believe (trust) in people
“Believe (trust) in people” occurs 1 time in 2:24. The construction of this occurrence is “pisteuô + dative”. The narrator summarizes Jesus’ activities in 2:23-25: “23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs which he did; 24 but Jesus did not trust himself to them, 25 because he knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man; for he himself knew what was in man.” Many believed in the name of Jesus by seeing his signs (2:23), but “Jesus did not trust himself to them” (2:24), literally “Jesus himself did not believe in them (ouk episteuen auton aotois)” (2:24).
In short, the topic: “Whom to believe in?” can be recapitulated by following the occurrence: “believing in Jesus” (46 times); “Believing in God” (twice in 14:1b; 5:24); “believing in Moses” (1 time in 5:46); and “do not believe in the people” (1 time in 2:24).
2. What to believe in?
“Believe in Jesus” and “what to believe in” are two principal aspects of revelation in the Gospel of John. The answer of the question “What to believe in?” will show the content of faith according to the fourth Gospel. The disciples’ faith in this Gospel is presented by two forms in Greek language: (1) “pisteuô hoti...” (to believe that…) and (2) “pisteuô + dative” (to believe...). There are two times of “pisteuô + dative” (5:47; 12:38)which do not relate to “believe in Jesus.”
a) Nine contents of the disciples’ faith
In John’s Gospel, Jesus uses the expression “pisteuô hoti...” (to believe that…) to reveal the matter of faith. There is a close relation between “believing in Jesus” and “receiving the content of faith”. To believe in Jesus means coming to him, receiving him and entering into a relationship with him. By this way, his audiences can believe in his words, believe in his revelation about God, the Father, about Jesus himself and about human being as well. In John’s Gospel, the use of “pisteuô hoti...” (to believe that…) occurs 11 times and those occurrences frame five contents of faith:
 To believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world (2 times: 11:27; 20:31a).
 To believe that the Father did send Jesus (3 times: 11:42; 17:8,21).
 To believe that “Jesus is” through the expression “I Am (egô eimi)” (2 times: 8:24; 13:19).
 To believe that Jesus comes from God, the Father (2 times: 16:27,30).
 To believe that Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Jesus (2 times: 14:10,11).
With these five contents of faith, there are three others matter of faith, expressing by “pisteuô + dative”:
 To believe in the scripture (1 time: 2:22).
 To believe in Jesus’ word (3 times: 2:22b; 4:50; 5:47b). The term “word” here is tranlated from two Greek terms: (1) “logos” (word) in 2:22b; 4:50; and (2) “rêma” (word) in 5:47b.
 To believe in the works of Jesus (1 time: 10:38b).
 Especially, Jesus reveals an important content of faith 11:26b through the use of “pisteuô + accusative” (1 time in the fourth Gospel). This matter of faith can be considered as the ninth content. Jn 11 relates the story of the family of Bethany (Martha, Mary and Lazarus), when Lazarus has been dead four days, Jesus comes to Bethany to see Mary and her sister Martha. Before calling Lazarus to come out of his tomb, Jesus says to Martha in 11:25-26: “25 I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (11:25-26). Jesus’ question “Do you believe this?” (11:26) uses the phrase “pisteuô + accusative”. Jesus’ revelation in 11:25-26 is theologically important, because Jesus makes known to readers the significance of his death and his ressurection. He reveals the sense of the death and life of Lazarus as well as the meaning of the death and life of the believers throughout the ages.
The Gospel of John evidently shows nine contents of faith by using the verb “to believe”. However, the whole narrative of John’s Gospel is the object of faith. For example, John’s Gospel invites the readers of all times believing in Jesus who is “the Word” (Logos) such as the affirmation of the narrator in 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” To believe that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son to the world (cf. 3:16). To believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; and no one comes to the Father, but by Jesus (cf. 14:6). To believe that the ruler of this world is judged (cf. 16:11) and Jesus has overcome the world (cf. 16:33) etc… In short, the whole revelation in the Gospel of John is the content of faith for the disciples of all times.
b) Other uses of “pisteuô” (to believe)
In the Gospel of John, there are two uses of “pisteuô + dative” (5:47a; 12:38) which do not relate to the idea of believing in Jesus.
(1) Jesus accuses the Jews that they do not believe the writings of Moses, he says to them: “If you do not believe his writings [of Moses], how will you believe my words?” (5:47).
(2) The narrator cites Isaiah’ word in Jn 12:38: “Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” In this quotation, the verb to believe does not relate to believe in Jesus. Jesus’ ministry is recapitulated in 12:37-38: “37 Though he had done so many signs before them, yet they did not believe in him; 38 it was that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’” The expression “has believed our report” in Greek: “episteusen (pisteuô) tê akoê (dative) hêmôn” is written with the form “pisteuô + dative”.
So, with three uses of the verb “pisteuô” (to believe): (1) “pisteuô hoti…”;(2) “pisteuô + dative”; (3) “pisteuô + accusative”, the matter of faith is presented in nine points above. For the topic “What to believe in?”, there are 17 times in which the verb “to believe” describes the content of the disciples’ faith, and 2 times that the use of “pisteuô + dative” (5:47a; 12:38) does not relate to believing in Jesus.
3. Verb “to believe” without complement
The use of the verb “to believe” without complement appears 30 times in the the Gospel of John. These occurrences can be classified in two groups: (a) Affirmative saying: “to believe” (19 times), and (b) Negative saying: “not to believe” (11 times).
(a) The affirmative saying: “to believe” occurs 19 times. Therein the verb “to believe” is conjugated in indicative mode (16 times: 1:7,50; 3:12b; 4:41,42,53; 6:69; 9:38; 11:15,40; 14:29; 16:31; 19:35; 20:8,29a,31b) and participle mode: “ho pisteuôn” (3 times: 3:18b; 6:47; 20:29b).
(b) The negative saying: “not to believe” occurs 11 times. Threrein “to believe” is conjugated in indicative mode (10 times: 3:12a; 4:48; 5:44; 6:36,64a; 9:18; 10:25,26; 12:39; 20:25) and participle mode (1 time: 6:64b).
When the narrator uses the verb “to believe” without complement, this verb can allude to many aspects of faith (to believe in whom, to believe in what and to believe that...). For example, when Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, went to Jesus’ tomb on the first day of the week (20:2-3), they did not see Jesus inside the tomb. They only “6saw the linen cloths lying, 7 and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself” (20:6-7). The narrator says about the disciple whom Jesus loved: “He saw and believed” (20:8b). The two verbs “to see” and “to believe” in this sentence do not have their complements.
So, before the appearance of Jesus to his disciples on the evening of that day (20:19-23), the disciple whom Jesus loved is the first one who believed. His ways of seeing and believing are emphasized in the narrative. In the Gospel of John, the disciple whom Jesus loved has an important figure, he appears as a historical person and a symbolic figure as well. He was the leader of the Johannine community and he is presented as an ideal disciple for readers. His seeing and his believing in 20:8 can be considered as a true seeing and a true believing.
In the text of 20:1-8, it is worthy to note that the disciple whom Jesus loved “saw and believed” (20:8b) while he did not see Jesus, he only saw the empty tomb with the linen cloths and the napkin. The idea “not seeing Jesus but believing in Him” will become the blessing of Jesus at the end of the Gospel. Jesus says to Thomas in 20:29: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
The two verbs “to see” and “to believe” in 20:8 do not have their complement. They allow to associate to many aspects of the act of seeing and believing. The disciple whom Jesus loved does not only see the linen cloths and the napkin at the tomb, but he also sees many things else when he stood under the cross (19:25-37). The verb “to believe” withoutcomplement allows to expand its sense, too. The disciple whom Jesus loved does not only believe in Jesus’ resurrection, but he also believes in Jesus’ words. He believes that Jesus was leaving the world and going to the Father (16:28); that Jesus was sent to the world by the Father (17:21.23). He believes that Jesus had the words of the eternal life as in Simon Peter’ answer to Jesus on behalf of the twelve: “68 Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (6:68-69). The use of “to believe” without complement can allude to the highest level of faith, that is believing in Jesus as “Lord” (kurios) and “God” (theos). This is the proclamation of Thomas at the end of the Gospel, he says to Jesus in 20:28: “My Lord and my God!”
So, seeing and believing in the absolute sense (no complement) prove that the disciple whom Jesus loved seized the meaning of Jesus’ passion and resurrection. There are not a physical seeing and a worldly believing but they are theological seeing and believing. In this meaning, Jesus says to the crowd in 6:40a: “For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life.” In fact, there is a wide gap between physical seeing and true believing. The empty tomb, the linen cloths and the napkin in 20:5-7 are not evident proofs of Jesus’ resurrection. In 20:8, the disciple whom Jesus loved only saw the signs; he did not see Jesus’ resurrection but believes.
In brief, 99 occurrences of the verb “pisteuô” (to believe) in the Gospel of John are distributed by this way: “Whom to believe in?” (50 times), “what to believe in?” (19 times), and “to believe without complement” (30 times).
III. Three levels of believing in Jesus
The theme of “believing in Jesus” can be divided in three levels: (1) Not really believe; (2) Not truly believe yet; and (3) Authentically believe in Jesus.
1. Not really believe in Jesus (8:31)
The narrator talks about the faith of the Jews in 8:31-32: “31 Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’” The narrator informs that the Jews had believed in Jesus, but is this a true faith? The story of 8:31-59 will respond to this question.
Two verses 8:31 and 8:32 belong to the passage 8:31-59. This one is preceded by the passage 8:21-30 in which Jesus discusses with the Jews (8:22) about his ministry and the relationship with his Father (8:23-29). The following passage (8:31-59) opens with the dialogue between Jesus and “the Jews who had believed in him” (8:31). However, the content of the passage 8:31-59 shows the controversy between Jesus and the Jews become more and more fierce to the end of the ch. 8 (8:59). The disputatious context of two passages 8:21-30 and 8:31-59 allows to conclude that the faith of the Jews in 8:31a is not a true faith.
Indeed, they do not really believe in Jesus, because they do not understand and receive Jesus’ teaching. Moreover, their reaction against Jesus is more and more violent that they want to kill Jesus (8:37,40). In the passage 8:31-59, twice Jesus says to the Jews: “You seek to kill me” (8:37,40). In the story (8:31-59) the reciprocal accusation is very hard. Jesus denounces the Jews: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires” (8:44a). In reply, the Jews recriminate Jesus by saying to him: “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” The narrator indicates the hostile reaction of the Jews at the end of the story 8:31-59: “They took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple” (8:59).
This hateful behavior of the Jews contradicts to the belief in Jesus, reported in the beginning (8:31) of the passage 8:31-59. Originally, Jesus invites the Jews: “31b If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (8:31b-32). However, the following story denotes that they are not “truly Jesus’ disciples” (8:31) because they do not “continue in Jesus’ word” (8:32), literally “remain” (menô) in Jesus’ word. It means they do not hear and reveive Jesus’ revelation. So, the faith of the Jews in 8:30 is false. The truth is they do not really believe in Jesus. The second level of faith is: Not yet truly believe in Jesus, this style of faith needs to deepen and go farther to reach the true one.
2. Not truly believe in Jesus yet (2:23-25)
The narrator summarizes Jesus’ activities in ch. 2 by: “23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs which he did; 24 but Jesus did not trust himself to them, 25 because he knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man; for he himself knew what was in man” (2:23-25). There is a link between “see the signs” and “believe in Jesus” in 2:23. There are many people who believe in Jesus’ name when they saw Jesus’ signs. However, “Jesus did not trust himself to them” (2:24).
In 2:23-24, the narrator uses the verb “to believe” (pisteuô) twice (2:23,24); and there is a contrast between these 2 occurrences. The first one (2:23) describes the belief in Jesus of many people which based on the signs that Jesus had done in Jerusalem. The second describes Jesus’ attitude to their belief: “But Jesus did not trust himself to them (ouk episteuen auton autois).” Here, the verb “to believe” (pisteuô) is reflexive. The translation “episteuen auton” as “trust himself” seems to be the closest word available in English, but this translation loses the subtlety of the play on words “episteusan” (Many believed, aorist tense) in 2:23 and “ouk episteuen” ([Jesus] has not believed, imperfect tense) in 2:24 (see MOLONEY, The Gospel, p. 86-87). Literally, Jesus did not “believe” those who “believed” in him (2:23-24). So, in this case, the faith of the many people is not yet a true faith. The signs-faith in 2:23 is inadequate. This type of faith needs to nurture into becoming an authentic belief.
3. Authentically believe in Jesus
What does the authentic faith in Jesus mean? This important topic is presented in the Gospel of John in three planes: (a) Authentic belief through signs; (b) Authentic belief through Jesus’ word; (c) Authentic belief through disciples’ word.
a) Through signs
After Jesus realized the first sign: “Changing water into wine” (2:1-11), the narrator concludes the story in 2:11: “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” By his first sign, Jesus reveals his glory and the result of this revelation is “his disciples believed in him” (2:11b). Though the narrator’s remark is short, the disciples’ faith here is an authentic belief in Jesus. This is the type of faith through signs which Jesus did.
The first sign (2:1-11) refers to the second sign at Cana: Jesus heals a royal official’s son (4:46-54). The narrator terminates the passage 4:46-54 by showing the faith of this royal official and of all his household: “He himself believed, and all his household” (4:53b). In this sentence, the verb “to believe” does not have complement (see point II.3. above). So the belief in 4:53b can be understood that belief in Jesus as well as belief in his word (cf. 4:50).
The faith in the second sign at Cana (4:46-54) is not only “the faith thanks to sign”, but also “the faith thanks to Jesus’ word.” Indeed, when the royal official begged Jesus to come down to Capernaum and heal his son, Jesus says to him: “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” (4:48). This warning suggests that true faith can not be based only on sign. The word of Jesus reveals the nature of this second sign: be healed and believe on Jesus’ word. Despite Jesus’ rebuke, the royal official supplicates Jesus, saying: “Sir, come down before my child dies” (4:49b). Jesus says to him: “Go; your son will live” (4:50a). The narrator notifies the behavior of the official: “The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went his way” (4:50b). Thus the healing sign is realized when the offical believed Jesus’ word. The theme of true belief through Jesus’ word already developed in the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritans (4:1-43).
b) Through Jesus’ word
The encounter and exchange between Jesus and the Samaritan woman beside Jacob’s well were closed by the faith of the Samaritans (4:39-42). This is a typical narrative which describes the authentic belief through Jesus’ word. Indeed, after Jesus’ revelation to the Samaritan woman about “water welling up to eternal life” (4:14) and “neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem” will be the place to worship the Father, the narrator talks about the reaction of the woman: “28 So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, 29 ‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’” (4:28-29). The Samaritan woman leads the Samaritans of Sychar to encounter with Jesus. After this meeting, the narrator relates: “Many Samaritans from that city believed in him [Jesus] because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did’” (4:39).
This is the case of believing in Jesus thanks to the testimony of others. In the story, the Samaritan woman occupies the role of a messenger and a witness as well. She is presented as a missionary. The narrative goes further on the final of this passage: “40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 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 this is indeed the Savior of the world’” (4:41-42). The theme of belief is emphasized in the narrative. First, because of the woman’s testimony, “MANY” Samaritans believe in Jesus, then after Jesus’ staying with them for two days, “MANY MORE” believe because of Jesus’ word. This is the true belief through Jesus’ word. There are no Johannine sign in the passage 4:1-43, Jesus just dialogues with the Samaritan woman and stays with the people. This splendid story (4:1-43) is a typical example about authentic belief through Jesus’ word.
c) Through disciples’ word
At the end of his ministry (Jn 17), Jesus talks to his Father in the presence of his disciples: “As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them [the disciples] into the world” (17:18). Through this word, Jesus indirectly confides a mission to his disciples. They carry and continue Jesus’ ministry in the world. After Jesus’ ascension, his disciples will go to preach and bear witness to Jesus. In this perspective, Jesus talks to his Father in 17:20-21 about “the future disciples” who believe in Jesus through the word of disciples. Jesus says to his Father 17:20-21: “20 I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”
So, the Gospel of John is opened by “believing in Jesus through sign” (2:1-12) and then the Gospel develops the theme of “believing in Jesus through his word” (4:1-43). When the public ministry of Jesus ended, Jesus talks about “believing in him through his disciples’ word” (17:20). By this way, Johannine theology describes two periods of true faith: (1) The true believing in the first stage is founded on seeing Jesus’ signs and hearing Jesus’ word. (2) The true believing in the second stage is founded on hearing the disciples’ teaching and receiving their testimony.
Jesus’ word in 17:20 refers to the period after Jesus’ ascension. That is the period of believing in Jesus without seeing him physically (cf. 20:29). Therefore, the topic of faith in John’s Gospel goes constantly towards the future. The readers throughout the ages are invited to believe in Jesus through the witness of Jesus and of his disciples, reported in the book of the Gospel. In this context, the narrator communicates to readers the purpose of the Gospel at the conclusion: “30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (20:31-31).
Belief in Jesus is a lifelong journey and disciples are invited to live this true faith in all circumstances. The Gospel of John instructs readers that it is not easy to fulfill the disciples’ title and to profess authentic faith in the world. In Johannine writing, the disciples are often in situation of crisis. How to overcome the difficulty in the disciples’ life? We will treat the topic of crisis and its solution in another article.
The analysis above shows the important usage of the verb “to believe” in the Gospel of John. This verb is one of the most present terms in thisGospel (99 times). Especially, this verb appears all along of the narrative. In the Prologue (1:1-18), John’s Gospel points out the sense of “to believe”(1:11-13). Then, in the content of the Gospel, the narrator makes known to readers the meaning of “unbelieving” or “not yet believing” or “authentic believing” in Jesus? Finally, the Gospel’s conclusion invites readers tobelieve that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (cf. 20:31a) and thanks to this faith, they have true life in Jesus’ name (cf. 20:31b).
The topic of faith in John’s Gospel provides the answer for three questions: How to believe? Whom to believe in? What to believe in? First, how to believe in Jesus? To have true faith, people need to open their heart and toreceive God’s teaching (6:45). They should be born anew from above(3:3,7) through receiving Jesus’ revelation by his signs and his word. By this way, believers can establish a love relationship with Jesus. Second, whomto believe in? John’s Gospel emphasizes the theme of belief in Jesus. TheGospel invites readers to believe in Jesus as the One who came down from heaven to give eternal life to believers, because the Father sent Jesus into the world to save the world (3:16-17). Moreover belief in Jesus cannot be separated from belief in God, the Father of Jesus (14:1). Third, what to believe in? John’s Gospel presents nine contents of faith through two expressions: “pisteuô hoti...” (to believe that…) and “pisteuô + dative” (to believe...). With the nine contents of faith above, the Gospel of John guides readers how to live the authentic faith in Jesus, how to practice, and how to profess this faith in life.
In fact, the most important thing in the act of believing is to enter into the loving relationship with Jesus, with the Father and with everyone. This true faith has the ability to bring to human beings the vitality of true life. Through the authentic belief, the disciples receive the eternal life right now, in this world and of all time. With many aspects of using “to believe”, the Gospel ofJohn has contributed an important part to readers. Those who want to tastereal life through believing in Jesus can find out the guidance in John’s Gospel. Those who want to live their faith vividly, or to strenghten it, or toovercome all kinds of crisis of faith, can get many practical answers from the Gospel of John. Thanks to the special importance of the verb “to believe” (pisteuô) in Johannine theology, the Gospel of John can be called “theGospel of faith”./.