Paul charged Corinthians, “faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13, NASB). The Greek πίστις (pistis) has a Hebrew equivalent — אֱמוּנָה (emunah). It may surprise you, but the meaning of this Hebrew word is only partially related to the concept of “belief” or the “act of believing.” In Hebrew, the term conveys a “steadiness,” “stability,” and “reliability” that manifests as “trustworthiness” and “faithfulness.”

The Greek ἐλπίς (elpis) — “hope” — can correlate to several words in Hebrew. The ancient Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, the Septuagint (LXX), uses ἐλπίς to translate תִּקְוָה (tikvah; “hoping for the best”) and בָּטַח (batach; “trust” or “reliance”). The ancient Israelites lived in expectation of a future that would be either good or bad — hoping, of course, for the best possible outcome. As the famous New Testament scholar Rudolf Bultmann notes, Biblical Hebrew has “no neutral concept of expectation. An expectation is either good or bad and therefore it is either hope or fear” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 522).

The Greek ἀγάπη (agape) “love” usually corresponds to the Hebrew אַהֲבָה (ahavah). There are different types of love, of course. One can see it as a strong selfish desire and, at the same time, as a truly selfless ideal. Further, there is another kind of love in Biblical Hebrew — חֶסֶד (chesed) “steadfast love”, “kindness”, “faithfulness”, and “loyalty” — that is often tied to God’s character and the divine loyalty to keeping covenant promises. God’s chesed is the glue that binds our relationship with the Lord and ensures our continued place in the divine plan.

Perhaps that is why Paul says that “love” is the greatest of these three. Still, to abide in all three at the same time would be absolutely amazing!

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33 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you so much ]prof. Pinchas in sharing about “Love” and the relationship in this verse with faith and hope. Personally this is very important as to understand the greatest commandment. Appreciate you insights and perspective!

  2. That’s a great explanation of (1 Cor 13:13) thank you, which is why when the Saducees tested Jesus saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus replied,”To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and then to love your neighbour as yourself. (Matt 22:36-39)

    The greatest gift of all then becomes love not because of what we can do; because in perfect love there is no fear; fear was cast out in love. We love Him because He first loved us. (1 Jn 4:17-19).

    If He didn’t love us first there would be no love and we wouldn’t even exist, which is why everything else flows from His love for us.

    This’s the greatest gift that was given to us so use it, share it, in Jesus name.

  3. I’m dissapointed in your message. Only when a text (writing) is written in both Hebrew and Greek by the same author can comparisons between the meanings of words of the two languages be made such as you have tried to make. What you have done is make me never want to take a course by you.

  4. I to would be disapointed in what Albert said. I feel he just does not understand what was being said. I agree with you there are many kinds of love and I am sure we have all gone through it. But the best of them is the one you have with your spouse, that is where we become one. With studies of Yeshua and the rest in the Torah and Prophits. I would say that they all went through it. Especially with David in what he did but he was forgiven by Hashem and Yeshua. I feel that if people would ask for forgiveness in that they would would be forgiven and beable to live a better life.

  5. In heaven, in God’s Kingdom, we will not need faith or hope because everything thing miraculous will then be realized and actualized, but love will be eternal, in my opinion.

  6. Thank you Prof Pinchas for leading us to think upon these matters. I believe there is a passive love and an active love which was never more clearly seen than in the love of God who in deep love gave his only begotten Son to suffer and die for our salvation. I’m sure you agree that our love to God and man should be active and caring even as our beloved Lord has for us John 15v13. Thank you.

  7. I too am a bit disappointed…you don’t clarify what “ahavah” means, what type of love it is, but make general comments about different types of love (which we already know), so there is no light shed on the meaning of either agape of ahavah in the context, or what else it could mean from what we already know, by looking into the Hebrew.

  8. I was a Pastor and Teacher who is now recovering from Christian fundamentalism and legalism and replacement theology ( the battle between Greek thought or Hebrew thought basically what represents sound biblical historical and cultural textual outcomes). So lost my work and most of my family in part of the process in the search for truth which was eating away at my conscience for years in the endless doctrines dogmas and a lack of ‘love’ and lack of obedience. Now having stopped teaching , I simply desire to seek and know what did the author intend in his original thought…easy…

  9. During WEII the island of Malta had no air defense against German air attack, until they discovered three fighters in crates in a warehouse. These turned out to be obsolete biplanes and no match for the Luftwaffe but they did make a difference until help arrived They were named Faith, Hope and Charity which was the KJV translation. Just a piece of history

  10. Prof. Pinchas Shir.
    Thank you for your teaching. — Only once significant thought: In your first paragraph it was not clear that you were discussing “faith” — That did become clear as you discussed hope and love.
    I feel for Mark Allen — His is a difficult journey. To him I say this — When Truth is more important that doctrine you have passed though the gate and are now on a narrow (and often lonely) road — BUT I say with confidence that the journey is both fulfilling and enriching — It is a tranquil road abundant with peace.

  11. Shalom! How is:- 1. Abiding in Faith – by hearing His Voice Rom10:17 and keep it Deut28:1; Gen26:5 2. Abiding in Hope – by acknowledging sin in you, accepting His Charge, rebukes and reproofs, and hope for His salvation. Hope is in choosing Y’shua being our prepared Way out of sin. He came for sinners; He is their Way out Lev4:14; 5:5; Rom3:20 3. Abiding in Love – What He is, a Commandment! This is a Work of Faith in us! Rom6:23 a. To die on selves Gal3:20; Eph4:20-24 b. To die from earthly desires and passions Gal5:24; 1Jn2:15-17; Js4:4;

  12. Genuine Thanks for the many stimulating insights that appear on this site. I am interested between the notion of hope that ‘looks for the best’ … and ‘wishful thinking’ which has the element of a ‘fairytale ending’. As we listen to the many debates that rage around, it seems very important to be centred on the right sort of hope… looking for it first in spiritual and then earthly ways. I too want to offer Mark Allen my sincere good wishes as he continues to walk the narrow path. I assure him there are indeed others who seek likewise. Shalom

  13. I was always taught in church that “faith” was basically the same as “hope”. Later I understood that, in the Bible, it often means *faithfulness*

  14. Genesis 2:24
    Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

  15. Perhaps the idea of ‘agape’ love – implies brotherly love toward others. In its basic sense, it could be understood as charity and a having a caring attitude for other people. True love of God should be expressed in how we treat others.

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