Sometimes when I ask people if they’ve thought about the purpose of human life or what life is, they don’t always know how to respond. Maybe they’ve never thought about it. Others can’t pin down a definition for life but seek to avail themselves of all that it has to offer. While our human life is certainly mysterious, the Bible describes “life” in a very particular way.
Ephesians 4:18 contains the phrase,“the life of God.” The Greek word for life in this verse is zoe, and that zoe is actually one of three different Greek words for life in the Bible: bios, psuche and zoe. The Bible uses zoe when referring to the life of God. Studying the word ‘zoe’ makes me clearer about distinguishing the different words for life in Greek .
Zoe life is distinct from the biological, bios, or psychological, psuche, life in Greek. Zoe is the life of the spirit, whereas bios, the biological life, might allude to the intricacies of the human body or flora and fauna that populate a forest. Psuche life conveys what it sounds like: psychology, the natural life of the soul that loves with emotion, decides with the will and rationalizes with the mind.
Whenever the Bible speaks of eternal life, it uses this word zoe. It is important to note this distinction in the original Greek of the New Testament, or else one might read “life” in an English translation and assume the Bible is talking about the physical life or psychological life, when actually it talks about the eternal, divine life. Knowing these nuances in the Greek suggests that life in the eyes of God may be different from our typical frame of reference concerning life as something based in the physical or psychological dimensions.
(This is a guest post by Joanna Hall)