Textual Notes on Belief
Of the ninety eight times that believe is used in John there are possibly only three instances where there is either no direct or contextual relation to evidence for the belief. One of them is a quote from the Old Testament (John 12:38; cf. Isa. 53:1), and even this quote relates to a prophecy which has evidential value. Another occasion is in the context of unbelief due to a rejection of truth (John 8:45-46). The third instance is in the context of Jesus pointing out those would not believe because of His hard sayings and that one of the twelve would betray Him (John 6:64). Yet, even here there is no call to belief against the evidence, and it is those disciples who spent the most time with Him (except Judas) who accept Jesus in spite of His hard words (John 6:68-69). Their previous experience with Jesus gave them a basis to make a decision for trust in the face of difficult teaching.
The remainder of the uses of believe in John are in some way preceded or followed by a connection with a reason to believe. Some are associated very directly to evidence, while some are related to evidence within the framework of the broader narratives. The table in the attached chart (.pdf file format for download) lists the references using pisteuō and shows the evidential relationship in each. We will review the nature of the connectives before looking at John’s categories of evidence for belief.
Use of Connectives
Within the text there are a number of grammatical clues that show direct correlation between the belief and supporting evidence. Some are very obvious such as the use of hina, which is a conjunction that “denotes purpose, aim, or goal” and can be translated that, in order that, or so that. The hina conjunction is used nine times and has the following pattern: 1) evidence 2) so that 3) belief (John 1:7; 3:15; 6:30; 11:42; 13:19; 14:29; 17:21; 19:35; 20:31). For example, Jesus prophecies to His disciples about His betrayal “so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He” (John 11:42).
Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe. ~14:29
Many other words or phrases are used (see attached table) to link statements of evidence with statements of belief such as: “Because [evidence] do you believe?” (John 1:50); “So when” (John 2:22); “because of” (John 4:41, 42); “knew then” (John 4:53); “For if [evidence] you would” (John 5:46); “But if” (John 5:47); “But though” (John 12:37); ”through” (John 17:20); and many more. The Greek conjunction kai (i.e., and) is also sometimes used as a means of introducing a following result (John 2:11; John 10:42; John 20:8; 20:27).
So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken. ~ 2:22
Many more believed because of His word; ~ 4:41
What data does John attach to these connectives? What types of evidence do we see in the Gospel of John?
Signs, Works, and Wonders
Jesus performed many miraculous signs that were specifically intended to give the disciples, the crowds, and the religious leaders a reason to believe in Him. Turning the water into wine is said to be the “beginning of His signs” (John 2:11). Consequently, Jesus’ disciples “believed in [into] Him.” Supernatural healings (e.g., John 4:53; 9:38) and raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:15, 42, 45) were done as signs to turn people to belief in God and Jesus as the Christ.
Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him. ~11:45
It should be noted, however, that signs did not force people to believe. The Pharisees readily acknowledged that Jesus was performing signs and even realized that the signs would lead to belief, yet they conspired to kill Him for their own benefit (John 11:47, 48). Thus, though evidence can help those who are willing to yield to belief, evidence is not a sufficient condition for belief. Apparently, the will is also involved, but that won't be discussed presently. It can be said, however, that Jesus did not simply show up on the scene and demand trust without giving the people some reason to justify their belief. Nowhere, does Jesus call for belief contrary to the evidence. The “works” of Jesus are another phrase that is used of the things that Jesus did as a support for belief in The Christ (e.g., John 10:37, 38; 14;11, 12).
If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; ~10:37
What other types of evidence are used in John?
The supernatural nature of accurate prophecy is also used. Nathaniel is surprised by Jesus’ knowledge of him (John 1:50). Jesus also prophesied his own death and resurrection, which led to trust in His words (John 2:22). The Samaritan women marvelled at Jesus prophecy and believed (John 4:19, 21, 39). This is only a brief sampling of prophecy as an instigator to belief.
So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.~2:22
Scripture, the Spoken Word, and Self Witness
The Bible (Old Testament) is also held up by John as a sufficient evidence for faith to the Jewish people. John indicates that if the Jews had truly believed Moses they would have believed in Jesus also (John 5:46, 47).
For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words? ~5:46-47
To those who knew the scripture to be true and authoritative, it was not only an evidence for God’s existence, but a direct pointer to who Jesus was. Not only was the Old Testament a call to belief, but so also were Jesus' words and teachings in His day. Jesus’ spoken words (e.g., John 5:24; 16:27, 30), His powerful teaching (John 7:14, 15), and His self witness (or, self proclamation) (e.g., John 7:38; 8:24) are used by John as a way to point to who Jesus was.
Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins. ~ 8:24
The very nature of His teachings indicated His greatness, and as the disciples and others had previously witnessed Jesus’ signs and character it was appropriate for Him to call Himself as a trustworthy witness. Other passages indicate that the impact of Jesus own person, presence, and message is a very significant factor contributing to a call for belief in [into] Him (e.g., John 6:36-40; 12:35).
For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day. ~6:40
In one amazing passage (John 5:31-47), John strings together a whole list of witnesses to Jesus that is intended to show that Jesus was not the only one speaking of Himself.
31 If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true.
32 There is another who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true.
33 You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth.
34 But the testimony which I receive is not from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved.
35 He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.
36 But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.
37 And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form.
38 You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.
39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;
40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.
41 I do not receive glory from men;
42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves.
43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him.
44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?
45 Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope.
46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me.
47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
The eyewitness testimony of John the Baptist, the works of Jesus, the very testimony of God the Father, and the Scriptures are brought together as co-substantiation of Christ. All of this fits very well with the book of Hebrews, that states “After it [a great salvation] was first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will” (Hebrews 2:3,4). This indicates the generation of witnesses who saw and heard Jesus and the next generation who had to look to historical evidence.
Witnesses and Existential Experience
John the Baptist “came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him” (John 1:7; cf., 5:33; 10:41). Others’ eyewitness testimonies are recorded (e.g., John 9:18) as is John the disciple’s own eyewitness account (John 19:35; 20:31).
The Jews then did not believe it of him, that he had been blind and had received sight, until they called the parents of the very one who had received his sight, ~Jn 9:18.
But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe. ~19:34-35
Direct physical evidence of the resurrection is also brought forth as proof for who Jesus was (John 20:8; 20:29).
So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. ~20:8
In a different vein, Jesus prays for the power of changed lives of His disciples (i.e., living in unity) to be a future evidence to the world that the Father sent Jesus (John 17:21). The transformation of the disciples after the resurrection was to become, historically, a profound testimony to the power of belief in Christ.
that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. ~17:21
While this has not been an exhaustive review of the evidential lines to belief within the Gospel of John, it is, at least, a refutation to the idea that belief is fideistic and unconnected to fact. Still there is the question of Jesus' seeming rebuke to Thomas for requiring to see before believing that Jesus had risen (John 20:29). That will be discussed in The F-Files (Part 3).
 A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (BDAG), s.v. “ἵνα.”
 BDAG, s.v. “καί.”
 [This series will offer a detailed response to a recent article in Relevant Magazine titled Christianity's New F-Word, in which the author, Sungyak Kim, insinuates that Christian apologetics has opposed "faith." He says, "It really is no big secret that the way mainstream apologists today answer every “prate and twaddle” that comes their way—line for line—is proving to be ineffective and brings some very negative consequences." In addition to the fact that he presents no evidence for this claim, Kim also fails to substantiate the main point of his article: "But 'faith,' unfortunately, is becoming Christianity’s new F-word. More and more, apologists are succumbing to cultural norms. They trade 'the mystery that has been hidden' (1 Corinthians 2:7) with 'human traditions and the elemental spiritual forces of this world' (Colossians 2:8)." This is a serious charge and can not be taken lightly. First, no evidence was given that apologists think negatively of faith. Second, he doesn't define faith. This may be where the real misunderstanding lies. Ratio Christi has pointed out in a previous article, Using the F-Word, that the definition of faith is extremely important. This series of articles, The F-Files, will explore this topic in greater detail.]