Three Greek Words for Life in the New Testament and How They Apply to Us

What does the New Testament mean when it says “life”? For instance, when the Lord Jesus said in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life and may have it abundantly,” what did He mean? Did He mean He would help us to have a better human life, that He would enrich our life, or improve our life?

If we want to know what the New Testament means by “life,” we need to look at the word as it appears in the original Greek language. In the Greek language, three different words—bios, psuche, and zoe—are translated as “life” in English, and each has a different meaning. Here are some examples of where each is used:

1. Bios, in Luke 8:14: “…anxieties and riches and pleasure of this life.” This Greek word refers to the life of the physical body and is where we get the word biology.

2. Psuche, in Matt. 16:25: “For whoever wants to save his soul-life shall lose it.” The Greek word here refers to the psychological life of the human soul, that is, the mind, emotion, and will. It is where we get the word psychology.

3. Zoe, in  John 1:4: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Here the Greek word refers to the uncreated, eternal life of God, the divine life uniquely possessed by God.

 

It’s all about zoe

The eternal life can be seen everywhere in the Bible. From the very beginning in Genesis, the Word of God presents the tree of life. The tree of life in the Garden of Eden signifies the divine, uncreated, incorruptible, indestructible, eternal life of God—the zoe life. And in the Garden, God gave this tree of life to Adam as food. This was before Adam fell and sin entered the picture. Although Adam was sinless, he possessed only the human life; he did not have the life of God. God’s intention was not just for Adam to be sinless, but even more, for Adam, representing all mankind, to take in and share His eternal life.

The tree of life is seen again at the very end of the Bible in Revelation 22:14: “Blessed are those who wash their robes that they may have right to the tree of life.” Here, because mankind fell into sin, we see God’s provision of the precious blood of Christ for washing us so we can partake of the tree of life, the eternal life, which was God’s original intention.

The tree of life being mentioned in the first and last books of the Bible helps us see that life, the zoe life, is a central theme in the Bible.

What God wants is that we human beings would take in His eternal life. By our taking in His life, He becomes our real life and we can express Him through our living.

Why is it important for us to know zoe?

Let’s revisit John 10:10 by replacing the English word life with the original word zoe in this verse:

“I have come that they may have zoe and may have zoe abundantly.”

Reading the verse this way makes it clear that Christ came that we may have the eternal, divine life of God. This is vastly different from thinking Christ came so that we could have a better or improved human life.

We need to have God’s view as shown in the Bible. The God who created the universe wants to share His divine life with us. And by our living by His life, we can express Him. He made us specifically for this purpose.

By our natural birth, we human beings possess only the soulish (psuche) life and the physical (bios) life. But when we believed into the Lord Jesus Christ, we were not only redeemed; we also received the divine life (zoe) into us. We were born again with the life of God. This brings us back to God’s original intention for us, which is that we would have His life.

God is not interested in human beings becoming more refined and cultivated by themselves, in their own life and by their own effort. What He wants is for His zoe life to increase in us, and for us to live by His zoe life and to live out His zoe life. Then the riches of His divine life will be lived out of us, and He will be manifest in our living to the people around us.

Living by zoe daily

If we know that God’s desire is altogether related to our having and living out His divine, eternal, zoe life, we won’t waste time by focusing on our bios or our psuche, looking for spiritual progress there. We won’t be disappointed when we can’t seem to fix or improve ourselves. We’ll remember that Christ came that we may have zoe abundantly, so we’ll focus on that eternal, zoe life in our spirit. We’ll feed and nourish this zoe life by eating and drinking Christ in His Word, spending time with Him in prayer, and experiencing Him day by day as our life. As we daily care for this life within us, the eternal life will increase and grow within us, expressing more and more of God in our living here on earth.


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27 thoughts on “Three Greek Words for Life in the New Testament and How They Apply to Us

  1. One thing that struck me is that it mentions we have bios life and psuche life at birth but we don’t have God’s zoe life, for that we had to eat from the tree of zoe life. That shows we are a container for zoe. No amount of improved psyche or bios can fill us with the zoe life. For that, we must come to Christ as our tree of zoe and eat. Feed me, Lord Jesus; give me to drink. Fill all my hunger, quench all my thirst.

  2. Two of the three Greek words that were mention in today study,I could not find in my Strong’s Greek dictionary they were psuche & zoe what I’m I donig wrong that I could not find these two words. Thank You.

    1. In Strong’s Concordance you have to look under the word “life” in the NT – the Greek: Zoe is #2222;
      Psuche is #5590, also listed under the word translated “life” in English; and Bios is #979 also translated “life” in our vernacular/common language.

  3. i love the word of GOD it is so rich in the word that specks to us thank you for all that you do for the kingdom of GOD may you always be blessed.

  4. I really enjoyed the devotional today. It was well expressed about the greek word for life. The Greek language is so rich so that it needs a more careful explanation of it.

  5. Greatly expressed!To me, the zoe life is the long-term goal of my life. I want and need to be there glorifying His Holy Name. I will testify for His sake and for His glory;I will hide His Words in my heart that I may not sin against God.

  6. Thank you very much for your guidance. In finding Psyche,BIOS,and Zoe in my Strong,s Greek Dictionary. From the reference. # you gave me,they did help and l found them. Thank you once again. GOD BLESS.

  7. Wow! I am in such awe of God’s word, I am just so amazed! I am learning so much all the time and I am overwhelmed! My understanding is also improving as I pray for God to help to understand and also to aply it and to share it. Wow! Thank you so much:-)

  8. I LOVE learning the deeper Greek & Hebrew meanings of Bible words. My husb & I both graduated from Teen Challenge (13mon discipleship 4 peo w/”life-controlling problems,”)getting saved in r 40’s! There we learned many similar things–I usedta think that soul & spirit were the same thing. They explained that soul was mind/body/emotions & the 3 types of spirits were human/divine/evil. We had been trying 2 rplc the God-shaped hole in r <3s w/drugs. Now Jesus occupies the throne of my <3, & I am daily amazed that the Creator of the universe desires daily communion w/me thru His precious Holy Spirit. Anothr way they xplaind the Trinity (indeed a hard concept) is that I am my mothr&#039s daughtr, my husb&#039s wife & my children&#039s mother, yet one Linda ;-). But I digress...thanx 4 letting me share, friends.

    1. Dear Linda,

      Thank you for your comment! We enjoyed hearing from you. It really is wonderful that the Lord desires such a personal relationship with us.

      We think that you would like reading the study Bible that we give away for free, the New Testament Recovery Version. The text is translated from the original Greek and it contains footnotes that help to bring out the deeper meaning and life application in the Word. If you haven’t already ordered one, you can place an order online (http://biblesforamerica.org… or by calling our office toll-free (1.888.551.0102). We’d love to send you one!

  9. this is helpful on our understanding as Christians about how we are to live our lives and what are we to give up that we may gain eternal life

  10. This revelation is so on point to what my friend and I are working on for a ministry/business…this is so powerful. I want to understand what you mean by “uncreated” I think I understand given the context but please clarify. Thank u.

    1. Hi Desaree,

      Thank you for reading our blog!

      By “uncreated” we mean that God’s life is different from our life: we are created beings who have a created, human life, but God was not created by anyone—he is self-existing and ever-existing; hence, His life is uncreated. Everything in the universe was created by God, but God Himself is not a created Being; He is the eternal I AM; He is eternally present in eternity past, through all time, and in eternity future. For this reason, His life is not only eternal, but also uncreated.

      It is the greatest wonder that we—weak, mortal, fragile human beings—can partake of and experience God’s eternal, uncreated life! This is what God wants for us in His salvation.

  11. Excellent exposition. Christians easily confuse the various English uses of the word life in Scripture. The central message of the gospel is indeed about the life of God, who alone possesses immortality, conferred upon the redeemed through regeneration, union, and communion with Christ–the way, the truth, and yes, the life. Worth shouting about!

  12. I’ve touched by this article because I’ve learnt a lot about my Zoe life, bios, and psuche life. So I’d like to make prayer request for my Zoe life to grow.

    Thank you!

  13. Excellent!!!

    Bios, has a beginning and an end, psuche, has a beginning but NO end, and Zoe, has no beginning and no end, it is imparted to the believer when he trusts in and receives the one who IS Zoe, Jesus Christ.
    This leads me to ask the following question;
    The Word became flesh, which means He took on “bios”, Did He also take on psuche? If so, to what extent?

  14. Honestly I’m very proud that my name means “life” in Greek. And I think that people need to live zoe life more.

  15. it helped to love my God Jesus Christ by knowing the three Greek words. i strive to cling up on Zoe. let it happen more and more in my life. thanks for the devotion

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