Belief is central to the Christian faith. As Hebrews 11:6 says, “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” But just how prevalent is the call to believe throughout Scripture? In this comprehensive study, we will examine how many times various forms of the word “believe” appear in the Bible.
- The word “believe” appears 272 times in the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible
- When accounting for other forms like “believed” and “believes”, the total count is 521 occurrences
- The Gospel of John contains the most references with 98 instances
- Jesus is the person most often linked to believing, with 176 mentions centered around him
- Only the Gospel of Luke lacks a direct call to “believe” Jesus
As we explore the usage of this essential term, it will become clear just how fundamental believing is to following Christ. This thorough investigation will bolster our faith and reveal key insights into what it means to believe.
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Old Testament Analysis
In the Old Testament of the NKJV, various forms of “believe” appear 143 times across 17 different books. The first occurrence is in Genesis 15:6, where it says Abraham “believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” This passage establishes belief as the basis for a right relationship with God, a theme carried throughout the entire Bible.
The Pentateuch, or books of Moses, employ forms of believe 47 times. Deuteronomy contains the most references with 19, followed by Genesis with 15. The verse most often quoted in the New Testament comes from Habakkuk 2:4, “the just shall live by his faith.” This seminal statement emphasizes faith’s link to life.
Among the Historical books, “believe” occurs 6 times in Joshua, 5 times in 1 Samuel, and 4 times in 2 Chronicles. The Psalms utilize it extensively with 41 occurrences, underscoring how belief marks the path of righteousness. “Oh, that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways!” exclaims Psalm 81:13.
The Major Prophets invoke forms of “believe” sparingly, but when used, it punctuates their eschatological vision. Isaiah displays the most usages with 7, followed by Jeremiah and Ezekiel with 4 apiece. Daniel contains no references, but prominently features words like “trust” instead.
Among the Minor Prophets, Habakkuk leads with its celebrated verse noting how belief sustains the just. Haggai follows up with 4 usages, including 2:4 which equates obeying God’s words with believing him. Overall, the Minor Prophets only employ “believe” a total of 16 times across 8 different books.
This Old Testament analysis reveals key insights. First, faith pleases God and leads to righteousness, initiating a relationship with him. Second, the link between faith and living righteously resounds throughout the Psalms and Prophets. Finally, though not utilized extensively, when “believe” does appear, it often denotes a pivotal moment or prophecy.
New Testament Analysis
Turning to the New Testament, various forms of “believe” get used extensively, appearing 378 times across all 27 books. While only utilized 143 times in the much larger Old Testament, the concept saturates the New Testament. The reason becomes clear: Jesus Christ stands at the center of Christianity, and believing in him determines one’s eternal destiny.
The word appears most often in the Gospel of John with 98 instances. This includes perhaps the most famous verse on belief: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Most usages in John involve believing in Jesus directly.
Matthew contains 49 occurrences, with Mark and Luke employing it 38 and 9 times, respectively. Intriguingly, only Luke omits a direct call to “believe in” Christ. Each Gospel cites Habakkuk 2:4, establishing that faith remains vital. The Gospel writers marshal belief in Jesus to challenge Jewish leaders who stubbornly cling to the law instead.
Acts displays 57 instances as the apostles spread the gospel message across the world. A pivotal moment occurs when Paul shares the word with Gentiles. Acts 13 details how many hearing Paul “believed” resulting in “the word of God [spreading] through the entire region.” (v. 49)
Romans and 1 Corinthians contain 24 and 22 occurrences, respectively, as they expound upon core doctrines of salvation. Ephesians includes 6 instances, exhorting readers to believe in Christ. 1 and 2 Thessalonians, often considered early letters, invoke forms of believe 7 and 8 times each.
Among the General Epistles, Hebrews cites belief most with 12 occurrences. James discusses faith and belief together 6 times, but distinguishes between intellectual ascent and full devotion to God. He claims even demons “believe”-and shudder. (James 2:19) 1 Peter includes 4 instances while his second letter contains none.
John’s letters display 6 occurrences emphasizing belief in Jesus as the Son of God. Jude, following up on Peter’s letters, centers his sole reference on “your most holy faith.” (Jude 1:20). Finally, Revelation contains 10 references, many pointing ahead to a time when “every eye will see, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him.” (Revelation 1:7)
This New Testament survey reveals how belief functions differently than in the Old Testament. While the OT displays how faith pleases God, the NT emphasizes specific belief in Jesus Christ as essential for salvation. This survey also showcases John’s special emphasis on belief compared to the other Gospel writers.
“Believe” By the Numbers
Taking a wider view, “believe” appears 272 times across 27 New Testament books, with John’s gospel containing the most references at 98. “Believed” occurs 126 times across Acts through Jude, with Acts having the most at 35. Adding counts of “believe,” “believed,” “believes,” “believing,” and other forms brings the total to 521 NT occurrences.
|Word Form||Number of Occurrences|
This tabulation reveals how the call to believe saturates the New Testament. On average, 1 out of every 17 verses contains a form of this word. The gospel message hinges on believing in Christ.
The statistics also showcase John’s emphasis with his gospel harboring nearly 20% of all NT occurrences. At 98 instances, John more than doubles Matthew’s 49 references. In fact, John contains more occurrences than Matthew, Mark, and Luke combined.
A closer look at the specific words and phrasing uncovers further insights. The call to “believe in” Christ appears 101 times, with the Gospel of John accounting for 63 of them. “Believe in” his name occurs 7 times. The phrase “believe that” Jesus is the Son of God appears 6 times, underscoring the importance of Christ’s divine identity.
Top Speakers and Objects of Belief
Looking at the key personalities associated with “believe” in the Bible, Jesus stands apart with 176 occurrences centered around him. The Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, John, and Luke quote Jesus directly issuing the call to believe some 37 times. Acts records an additional 7 times.
- Jesus – 176 occurrences
- God the Father – 71 occurrences
- Paul – 39 occurrences
- John the Gospel writer – 16 occurrences
- All the prophets – 7 occurrences
- Peter – 3 occurrences
This breakdown highlights how Jesus himself utters the call to believe more than anyone else. God the Father places second, showing that Christ acts in accordance with the Father’s will and words. The prominence of Paul emphasizes his role in spreading the gospel message to the Gentiles during the early church era.
In the majority of cases, Jesus stands as the object of belief referenced with 176 instances linked to him. An additional 57 times Christ is described as the one sent from the Father as the object of belief. Combining these results yields 233 occurrences centered on Jesus as the objective source of belief.
- Jesus – 176 occurrences
- Jesus as the one sent from God – 57 occurrences
- Gospel message – 51 occurrences
- God the Father – 48 occurrences
- Scripture (as prophesying Jesus) – 11 occurrences
- Paul’s message – 3 occurrences
- Disciples preaching – 2 occurrences
This tabulation displays how Jesus himself tops the list as the object of belief most often denoted in Scripture. Trust placed in him and his redemptive work on the cross tops all other types of faith and belief described in the Bible.
Implications for Christians Today
This exhaustive investigation into how many times the word “believe” occurs throughout all of Scripture highlights several key implications for Christians today:
- Belief matters: Far from being ancillary or optional, the call to believe saturates the pages of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Faith pleases God and believing remains essential for salvation.
- Focus belief on Christ: While God the Father stands as an object of belief, Scripture emphasizes placing faith in Jesus Christ himself for eternal life. Belief centered on his identity and work proves paramount.
- Belief goes beyond intellectual ascent: While vital, even demons can ascertain facts about Jesus. True saving faith requires trusting completely in Christ rather than relying upon one’s own good works.
- Genuine belief transforms: As James emphasizes, authentic belief manifests itself through actions. The lives of faithful followers will display the reality of their belief in good works empowered by the Spirit.
- Belief links to evangelism: Passages in Acts and the Epistles reveal how spreading the gospel hinges on calling others to believe in Jesus for salvation. This remains the task for all Christians.
In summary, this thorough investigation of how many times “believe” occurs in the Bible reinforces that placing complete trust in Jesus Christ marks the central confession and action of Christian faith. Just as Abraham’s belief counted toward righteousness in Genesis, so future generations follow in his faithful footsteps by believing in the promised Messiah.