Oh no, talking about one verse!
All the translations differ, kind of . . .
This is a one-phrase reflection. Usually, that’s the worst kind. Take 4-12 words out of the bible and flap our gums about them. Look at this eight-word verse, though, and I might change your knee-jerk (most often correct) reaction:
Because of [faith], the ancients were well attested.
“Well attested” is the translation of the Greek for the New American Bible (NAB); and is reaffirmed in the Revised edition. We could suggest from commentators what they think of the phrase. They'd explain at length how the faith of “the ancients were well attested.” For broad brush reasons, disregarding the many nuances of solid scripture study, I suggest a simple review of several translations of the same verse
Here is a seven-point list of other translations of that same verse (Hebrews 11:2). These different ways of saying the same thing from the NAB eventually sum up the point of all the commentators.
(In every case where “it” is used or “this,” I’ve inserted the word “faith.” That’s the consensus conclusion by just about everybody, a reference to the previous verse in Hebrews 11:1.)
[Faith] is what the ancients were commended for. (New International Version)
For by [faith] the people of old received their commendation. (English Standard Version)
For by [faith] the ancients obtained a testimony. (Douay-Rheims Latin Vulgate)
For by [faith] the elders obtained a good report. (King James Version)
For by [faith]the people of old gained approval. (New American Standard Bible)
[Faith] is what the people of long ago were praised for. (Living by Faith)
It is for their faith that our ancestors are acknowledged. (New Jerusalem Bible)
There are lots more translations of this verse, and the variations continue. “Not for nothing,” as Danny Reagan is wont to say in almost every episode of The Blue Bloods, that’s a wide range of verbal opinions.
In one sense of a single verse study, we’re done. The combination of ways to say, “Because of [faith] the ancients were well attested,” comes down to this—the ancients were commended for their faith. That's pretty much the depth of the verse.
It’s the second sense of the verse that frames this reflection. And that other thing is the famous phrase in Romeo and Juliet, where Shakespeare poses, “What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other word would smell as sweet.”
No matter how many ways we say it—the ancients were well attested for their faith, or the ancients were commended for their faith—the sweetness of well-held faith honors us greatly. It honors us lovingly. We are acknowledged and approved for sticking to the story of faith in our lives.
Why is this so important? It’s the word “ancients.” The people of old, the elders, our ancestors from long ago. The testimony of our predecessors inspires us.
When our faith challenged others, protected others, or taught others, our [faith] testified. God uses testimony. History highlighted by God gets broadcast into the future like undiminished light. We can see the arrangement and factory of light going back close to 8 billion years. It’s hitting our telescopes today from distances previously thought incalculable.
Our lived and testified faith is like that. Unimaginable numbers of faith moments, from a seemingly unending number of humans, rolling over evil’s mistakes, traumas, and horrors for everyone to see. If we do so, that is. Conquering the effects of evil happens only when we give a good report on the faith we hold. We need to testify about our faith for God to record it. Many are watching us. Many more are coming whom God wants to hear our testimony.