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Faith (1752–1753), allegory by LS Carmona .

The belief (even faith ; Latin fides "trust, belief, confidence," personifies the goddess of fidelity ) is a basic attitude of trust , especially in the context of religious beliefs.

During the similar term " religiosity " the awe before the order and diversity in the world and the general feeling of a transcendent (not explicable or provable) called reality, "faith" involves the conviction of the teachings of a particular religion (or philosophy ).

Word meaning

The German word Glaube , from Middle High German gloube / geloube from Old High German giloubo , belongs, like believing (in the earlier meaning “approve” from the basic meaning “to love something / familiarize oneself”) with the factitive too dear to Indo-European lub- / lewbʰ- (' desire ',' love ',' declare dear ',' approve ',' praise ') The word is used in the sense discussed here as a translation of the Greek noun πίστις pistis with the basic meaning “loyalty, trust”. The corresponding verb is πιστεύω pisteúō "I am loyal, trust" (πιστεύειν pisteúein , "be faithful, trust"). Originally what was meant was: "I rely on ..., I tie my existence to ..., I am loyal to ...". The word therefore aims at trust , obedience (compare: promise , engagement ), loyalty . Martin Luther established the phrase “believe in God” .

The Latin word credere (cf. Credo and Kreditor ) - from cor dare : "give / give the heart" - is directly related to the ancient Indian root sraddha- ("believe") and is a very old ( Indo-European ) verbal composition. The components mean: "heart" and "set, set, lay", together so roughly "set your heart (on something)". The indefinite “I don't know”, however, corresponds to the Latin word putare (“believe that”).

In Hebrew there is the word aman : to attach to something. The word aman with the spelling “ Aleph-Mem-Nun ” is only translated with the word “believe” in the tribal modification of the Hif'il (pronounced “hä'ämin”). This tribal modification generally expresses a causative aspect of the basic meaning. The basic meaning, which also appears in the originally Hebrew word Amen (cf. also ArabicĪmān ”), is “firm” or “unshakable”, the meaning in the Hif'il is thus “let someone be firm”.

Religious Belief Phenomena


Christian representation: Triumph of faith over idolatry . Jean-Baptiste Théodon (1645–1713), Il Gesù , Rome.

Christian faith is turning to Christian God and correctly understood turning away from oneself. It is therefore considered incompatible with self-fame and trust in one's own actions ( Rom. 3 : 20-28  EU ). In this responsive turn of the Christian believer there is at the same time an active moment that strives towards the outside world and towards other people. Christian faith can and wants to encourage active love ( Gal 5,6  EU ), both towards one's neighbor and towards oneself. The concept of faith changes in its meaning within the Christian Bible. The New Testament author of the Letter to the Hebrews gives one possible definition :

"But belief is: Standing firm in what one hopes for, being convinced of things that one does not see"

- Heb 11.1  EU

For believing Christians, Christian faith is not an ancient or medieval preliminary stage of knowledge , but something essentially different. This also does not mean merely holding it to be true , nor is it an expression of assumption. Then it would mean something like: 'I trust you, I trust you, I can count on you. I have a certainty that comes less from calculations and experiments. ' Theologically one differentiates between the act of faith, Latin fides qua creditur 'the faith with which one believes' , on the one hand, the content of faith, Latin fides quae creditur 'the faith that is believed' , on the other hand.

The content of faith is expressed in the Christian creeds and systematically presented in dogmatics and examined theologically. Central to the Christian faith is an affirmation of God and his authority: “It is part of the truth of faith to think God as he is based on his self-communication.” What all Christian currents have in common is the belief that everything that exists is through God was created and kept in existence. At the center of this creation is the human being , who is not able to do good on his own ( original sin ) and needs the love and grace of Jesus Christ in order to be saved and to attain eternal life . According to Christian doctrine, Jesus Christ is the incarnate Son of God . The three persons of the Christian deity, God the Son , God the Father and God the Holy Spirit , are triune . Faith is based on the Holy Scriptures of the Bible , which are considered to be inspired by God. Biblical texts are in need of interpretation. Between many passages that can be used more implicitly for the interpretation of the concept of faith, the following particularly explicit formulation is frequently discussed: "But faith is the firm trust in what is hoped for, a conviction of what one does not see." (Heb. 11, 1) The Greek ἔλεγχος élegchos (elenchos), reproduced here with “conviction” , also means something like counter-evidence, refutation or “conviction”. In this sense, we are talking about being convicted against external appearances.

A major point of contention among the Christian denominations since the Reformation has been the question of whether man is justified before God by his faith alone, as Martin Luther in particular emphasized, or whether good works are necessary for this because faith without works is dead as it is underlined in Catholicism. According to general Christian belief, faith is the personal answer to God's or Jesus' word. This answer always happens in the community of all believers and on behalf of all people. There is disagreement over the question of whether the full reality of faith takes place in the heart of the individual (according to most evangelical or Protestant denominations ) or whether the faith of the church has ontological priority (according to Catholic teaching).

The way of life shaped by the Christian faith is called piety .

Belief and religion

According to Karl Barth , belief is often differentiated from religion, especially in Christian- Protestant theology . Barth saw religion as an unauthorized way of man to God and emphasized that knowledge of God's will only exists in faith in Jesus Christ. Listening to the gospel breaks all human concepts of God, all ethical wrong turns.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer adopted this distinction and radicalized it in his question of Christianity without religion . In view of the generally positive “world that has come of age”, the loss of the “religious a priori ”, of inwardness, conscience and classical metaphysics , Barth said

“In the non-religious interpretation of theological terms no concrete guidance is given, neither in dogmatics nor in ethics. This is where his limit lies and that is why his theology of revelation becomes positivistic, »revelatory positivism«, as I put it. "

Bonhoeffer's goal, on the other hand, was to emphasize the core of beliefs within the framework of church tradition, which he does not see in statements about a god in the hereafter, but in practice and their justification in ethics, Old and New Testament history and mythology as well as mystical experience (as aesthetic awareness of basic attitudes, not psychic experience).

Like Barth, Gerhard Ebeling emphasized the critical power of faith against religious determinations and certainties, but saw religion as a vital condition of faith.

Faith in the New Testament

  • Biblical authors do not know of any special intellectual ability as a prerequisite for coming to and developing the Christian faith. Texts such as Acts 17  EU or Rom 1,16ff. EU emphasize that faith is open to everyone and that God's existence is witnessed through creation.
  • New Testament writers ( e.g. Hebrews 10.38f  EU ) often emphasize that God brings about justification through faith, that Christ has accomplished redemption and thus righteousness has been given by God (and the attainment of promises such as eternal life). Since Christ fulfilled the law to the point of death, belief in his work is important and not one's own fulfillment of the law. Because because of sin , no man is able to keep the laws of God completely and permanently.
  • Faith is a firm confidence and a non-doubt about what one does not see. The five natural senses of the human body (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch) are created for the perception of the environment, while belief does not doubt what one cannot see.

"But the belief is a firm confidence in what one hopes and a non-doubt of what one does not see."

- Hebrews 11: 1
  • Faith is taking note of, taking note of, biblical revelation. Therefore, studying the Bible is a good foundation. Recognition should follow from recognizing the contents of belief. Therefore, a personal decision to participate is required. From this follows a personal trust. Ultimately, biblical faith is also always based on divine revelation and thus a work of God in man ( Matthew 16:17  EU ).
  • Examples in faith are given in Hebrews 11  EU .

According to Paul of Tarsus , faith (along with hope and love) is one of the three Christian virtues .

Faith in the Old Testament

Christianity especially worships Abraham for his unshakable faith in God ( Gal 3,6  EU ). Christians understand Abraham to mean that at that time he worshiped the god El , who was known in the whole of the Middle East , who was considered the creator of the universe, as the highest god above all gods and under various surnames: as the highest, as the eternal, as the mighty, as the All-Seeing One was worshiped in various places. He also worshiped him as his family god, as his personal God, who thus became the God of Abraham and the God of Israel for his descendants and also gained a new meaning in Christianity.

According to the interpretation of the Old Testament, Abraham does not yet speak of a belief in the hereafter. Likewise, it cannot be assumed that Abraham denied the existence of other gods. From this god El he knew himself to be called personally. His belief was that he was given a promise. El offered him offspring and land.

“The Lord said to Abram: Move away from your country, from your relatives and from your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will make you a great people, bless you and make your name great. You shall be a blessing. I want to bless those who bless you; I want to curse whoever curses you. Through you all generations of the earth are to receive blessings. So Abram left, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. "

- Gen 12.1-4  EU

One explanation is that the semi-nomad saw Abraham, only “the heavens”, as a symbolic correspondence of his God, who arches over him everywhere, as his constant companion. He did not entrust himself to the gods of any land, but only to the god to whom all lands belong; not a local god, but his god, who goes with him and knows him personally, is close to him from place to place. Abraham became homeless for the sake of the future which faith promised him, and found his home precisely in faithfulness to his God.


Faith itself is not a religious concept in Judaism . A Hebrew approximate equivalent for faith in the religious sense is Emuna (also: Emunah), which is usually inadequately translated as “faith”, “confidence” or “trust in God”. Emuna ('E-mu-na; Hebrew : אמונה) comes from the Hebrew word root אמן, from which Amen and the Hebrew words for loyalty, reliability, practice, artist, craftsman, etc. a. be derived. The German rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch translated it as "reason of trust".

In Judaism, the positive value of that Emuna and the negative status of an Apikorus (translated as "God-denier") are respected.

  • Emuna is described as innate and as a conviction and knowledge of a truth that is deeply rooted in the soul . Emuna is above the mind and the feeling and is a Jewish heritage from the forefathers and mothers.
  • Apikorus is a Jewish term from the Mishnah . He describes a person who does not believe in God and who has no part in Olam Haba , in the future world , the hereafter :

“All of Israel has a share in the world to come, for it is said: Your people are made up of all righteous people; they will take possession of the land forever; it is the shoot of my plantation, the work of my hands to glorify. (Isa 60:21) The following have no part in the world to come: whoever says that the resurrection of the dead is not in the Torah , [whoever says] the Torah is not from heaven, and the אפיקורוס [Epicorus]. "

- Mishnah , Seder Nezikin, Tractate Sanhedrin 90a

Jewish belief refers to the whole of Jewish religious tradition. “The Eternal did not demand faith from Abraham.” (Michael Holzman, in :, p. 157) Instead of a religious faith with a fixed content, the focus is on justice based on universal charity and equality of all people , according to the old - well pre-Christian - tradition which is also preserved in liberal Judaism: "Judaism is not only ethical, but ethics defines its principle, its essence."

The Jewish scholar Franz Rosenzweig put it very simply:

"He (the one conceived as a Jew) does not believe in anything, he is himself a belief."

- Franz Rosenzweig : The Star of Redemption, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp 1990, p. 380

In this form the Jewish “faith” is expressed in: Justice and love (love of God, love of neighbor, love of enemies ), action and memory, in freedom to protect life.

Contemporary Judaism, which preserves and adapts these traditions of ethical monotheism, is called Rabbinic Judaism . This encompasses the wide range of traditions in modern times and in the Middle Ages, with reference to the biblical and pre-biblical times, and concerns the mosaic of the traditions of Judaism in the diversity of its currents . In this context, Jewish principles of faith are mentioned again and again , but in Judaism there is no generally valid, mandatory belief, no creed .

Rabbinic Judaism has given up the ancient power and sovereignty centralism of the temple priesthood much more radically than is the case in the Christian congregations and churches, which "created a special priesthood for themselves and followed the biblical regulations about the Jewish priests" as well shows in the various Christian dogmatics . Rabbis are not priests and Jewish traditions are mostly administered in democratic local communities. In contrast to Christianity or Islam, in Judaism every personal belief in the one and only God , the eternal being , can be accepted. In the present, however, various religious currents of Judaism are practiced, which weight the importance of traditions differently.

Difference between Christian religions and Judaism

Although Christianity once emerged from Judaism and incorporated the Jewish Bible into its holy scriptures, the Christian faith remains distinguishable from Judaism.

Yecheskel Kaufmann of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem summed it up as follows:

“The monotheistic faith was not only born in Israel, rather the culture of the Israelite people served it as a garment and concretization from time immemorial. [...] It was Moses [...] he rooted the new faith in them. "

- Y. Kaufmann: The history of the Israelite faith. Mossad Bialik, Tel Aviv / Jerusalem 1953, p. 53. (Hebrew) Quoted from Tovia Ben Chorin , Zurich 1999, in S.VI
  • In the Church's doctrine of the faith, ethics "(..) loses the central place it had had in Judaism (..) the complete captivity of man, the original sin that embraces him, (..) becomes (..) a being the [Christian] religion (..) a closed system of faith, in it the difference between Judaism and Christianity is contained. ”( Leo Baeck in :, pp. 67–69“ II. Deviations of the Christian religions from Judaism in the basic ideas . ")
  • "Judaism has most decidedly rejected the incarnation of the deity ." (Seligman Pick in :, p. 109)
  • "To Judaism, the Christian doctrine of the ' Son of God ' has always appeared as an irreconcilable contradiction to monotheism ." (Seligman Pick in :, p. 74)
  • "The strict monotheism of Judaism has not raised the Holy Spirit [ruach hakkodesch] to the deity (to the divine person )." (Seligman Pick, in :, p. 87)
  • Christianity has its faith in the three divine persons of their triune , three-part deity "(..) and is thereby filled with the intention to save the unity of God. (..) Judaism teaches (..) in its writings the only God, the strictest monotheism. "(S. Pick, in :, p. 94)

Scientific approaches

The North American neuroscientist Michael Persinger used magnetic fields to stimulate the temporal lobes of his test subjects and believed to generate religious sensations ( god module ). He stated that these phenomena are similar to the symptoms of epilepsy . Scott Atran , on the other hand, pursues a Darwinian approach in his work In Gods We Trust . The Darwinian belief Research does not see faith as instilled, but as in consciousness anchored evolution of man. The ability to be religious and believe, for example , is explained as an evolutionary by-product , but possible selection advantages are also examined. Justin Barrett, on the other hand, sees religiosity in an evolutionary psychological approach not as a survival strategy of communities, but as a developmental stage of the human psyche .

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Faith  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. Hans-Ferdinand Angel: "From the question of the religious" to the "question of the biological basis of human religiosity". In: Christian pedagogical sheets. No. 115, 2002, Vienna, ISSN  0009-5761 , pp. 86-89.
  2. Stefan Tobler: Jesus forsaken by God as a salvation event in the spirituality of Chiara Lubich. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-11-017777-3 , pp. 22-25.
  3. ^ Friedrich Kluge , Alfred Götze : Etymological dictionary of the German language . 20th edition, ed. by Walther Mitzka , De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1967; Reprint (“21st unchanged edition”) ibid 1975, ISBN 3-11-005709-3 , p. 260.
  4. Believe, believe. In: Jacob Grimm , Wilhelm Grimm (Hrsg.): German dictionary . tape 7 : Ordinary – Glaive - (IV, 1st section, part 4). S. Hirzel, Leipzig 1949, Sp. 7777-7848 ( ).
  5. Etymology of the word "faith" to
    believe, vb.. In: Jacob Grimm , Wilhelm Grimm (Hrsg.): German dictionary . tape 7 : Ordinary – Glaive - (IV, 1st section, part 4). S. Hirzel, Leipzig 1949, Sp. 7819-7848 ( ).
  6. ^ Friedrich Kluge, Alfred Götze: Etymological dictionary of the German language. 1967, p. 260.
  7. Josef Ratzinger : Faith and Future. Kösel Verlag, Munich 1970, new edition 2007, ISBN 978-3-466-36753-5 .
  8. Eberhard Jüngel : God as the secret of the world. 6th edition. Tübingen 1992, p. 238.
  9. Eberhard Bethge (ed.): Resistance and surrender. Letters and notes from prison. 10th edition. Gütersloher Verlagshaus, Gütersloh 1978, pp. 160–162.
  10. Mauricio Manuel Lohse, Ulrich Michael Dessauer: What you always wanted to know about Judaism - and didn't dare to ask . Pelican Pub., Fehmarn 2006, ISBN 3-934522-13-0 , pp. 46 .
  11. a b c Tzvi Freeman: Emuna - Beyond Faith. Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center, accessed January 14, 2013 .
  12. Siddûr tefillôt Yiśrāʾēl / trans. u. ext. by Samson Raphael Hirsch . 3rd edition Frankfurt a. M .: Kauffmann, 1921, pp. 263-265, Emet we-Emuna
  13. Epikoros , Apikoros , Apikores or Epicurus ( Hebrew : אפיקורוס, translated " God denier od. Freethinker", pl. Epicorism )
  14. Lazarus Goldschmidt: The Babylonian Talmud . Limited special edition. after reprint. 1996 edition. Jewish publishing house in Suhrkamp-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2007, ISBN 978-3-633-54200-0 , p. Volume VIII, p. 610, note 186 (after the first censorship-free edition, taking into account the more recent edition and handwritten material translated into German). "186. In the word אפיקורוס [Epikoros] the name Epicurus is unmistakably to be found, Epicurean, thus follower of the Epicurean philosophy, which, as is well known, sees the ultimate purpose of life in the lust for life. In the Talmud and in post-Talmudic literature this word has the fixed term freethinker, God denier; but פקר is also used verbally in this sense. "
  15. Lazarus Goldschmidt: The Babylonian Talmud . Limited special edition. after reprint. 1996 edition. Jüdischer Verlag im Suhrkamp-Verlag, Frankfurt, M. 2007, ISBN 978-3-633-54200-0 , p. Vol. IX, p. 27, eleventh section (after the first censorship-free edition, taking into account the more recent edition and handwritten material translated into German).
  16. a b c d e f g Association of German Jews: The teachings of Judaism according to the sources . Ed .: Walter Homolka. Facs.-Dr. the orig. edition published in 1928–1930. Leipzig, new and adult Edition. Knesebeck, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-89660-058-3 .
  17. ^ Max Wiener in: Walter Homolka, Walter Jacob, Tovia Ben Chorin: The teachings of Judaism according to the sources. Volume III; Knesebeck, Munich, 1999, p. 465.
  18. Leo Baeck , quoted from: Walter Homolka : Tradition und Renewal. The reform movement and its dynamism as the largest religious movement in Judaism. Herder Korrespondenz 11, 2007. Online version
  19. Felix Makower in: Walter Homolka, Walter Jacob, Tovia Ben Chorin: The teachings of Judaism according to the sources. Volume III; Knesebeck, Munich, 1999, p. 233ff.