From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

LIFE ( ζωή).—The term applied by Jesus, alike in the Synoptic and the Johannine records of His teaching, to the supreme blessing mediated by Him to men. Certain elements in the conception are common to the two records, but their differences are so marked that it will be necessary to consider them separately.

1. The idea of Life in the Synoptic teaching is substantially that of the OT, unfolded in all its potential wealth of meaning. Hebrew thought, averse to metaphysical speculation, conceived of life as the sum of energies which make up man’s actual existence. The soul separated from the body did not cease to be, but it forfeited its portion in the true life. It either departed to the shadowy world of Sheol, or, according to the later view of Ecclesiastes, was reabsorbed (?) into the Divine Being,—‘returned to God who gave it’ ( Ecclesiastes 12:7). Thus the highest good was simply ‘length of days,’—the continuance of the bodily existence right on to its natural term. Two factors, however, were latent in the OT conception from the beginning, and became more and more prominent in the course of the after-development. (1) The radical element in life is activity. Mere physical being is distinguished from that essential ‘life’ which consists in the unrestricted play of all the energies, especially of the higher and more characteristic. In the loftier passages of the Psalms, more particularly, the idea of ‘life’ has almost always a pregnant sense. It is associated with joy, peace, prosperity, wisdom, righteousness; man ‘lives’ according as he has free scope for the activities which are distinctive of his spiritual nature. God Himself is emphatically the ‘living One,’ as contrasted with men in their limitation and helplessness. (2) Since God alone possesses life in the highest sense, fellowship with Him is the one condition on which men can obtain it. ‘By every word of God doth man live’ ( Deuteronomy 8:3). ‘With thee is the fountain of life’ ( Psalms 36:9). In the higher regions of OT thought, life and communion with God are interchangeable ideas. The belief in immortality is never expressly stated, but, as Jesus Himself indicates, it was implicit in this conception of a God who was not the God of the dead but of the living. See art. Living.

Jesus accepted the idea of life as it had come to Him through the OT. To Him also life is primarily the physical existence (cf.  Matthew 6:25 ‘Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat and drink,’ etc.), and He advances on this conception along ethical and religious lines, in the same manner as the Psalmists and Prophets. (1) He distinguishes between the essential ‘life’ and the outward subsidiary things with which it is so easily confused. ‘The life is more than meat’ ( Luke 12:23). ‘A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth’ (v. 15). ‘What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his life?’ ( Mark 8:36). (2) Thus He arrives at the idea of something central and inalienable which constitutes the reality of life. This He discovers in the moral activity. The body with its manifold faculties is only the organ by which man accomplishes his true task of obedience to God. Meat, raiment, and all the rest are necessary, ‘but seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.’ (3) In this way He is led to the conception of a higher, spiritual life, gained through the sacrifice of the lower. ‘If a man hate not his own life, he cannot be my disciple’ ( Luke 14:26). ‘He that findeth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it’ ( Matthew 10:39;  Matthew 16:25).

Here, however, we become aware of the difficulty which meets us under different forms throughout our Lord’s teaching. In His account of the supreme blessing for which lower things must be sacrificed, He seems to pass abruptly from ethical to eschatological ideas. ‘Life’ is a reward laid up for the righteous in the world to come. It is regarded sometimes as a new state of being ( Matthew 25:46), sometimes as a sort of prize that can be bestowed in the same manner as houses and goods and lands ( Mark 10:30). The precise meaning to be attached to ‘the world to come’ in which this ‘life’ will be imparted, depends on our interpretation of the general conception of the Kingdom of God. Our Lord would appear to waver between the idea of a world beyond death and that of a Messianic age or aeon , apocalyptically revealed on earth. In either case, however, He thinks of ‘life’ as of something still in the future, the peculiar blessing of the realized Kingdom of God.

This future possession is defined more particularly in several passages as ‘ eternal life ,’ and the epithet might appear at first sight to imply a distinction. We find, however, on closer examination that the term ‘life’ itself usually involves the emphatic meaning. ‘This do and thou shalt live’ ( Luke 10:28) is our Lord’s reply to the inquiry concerning ‘eternal life.’ So when He says, ‘It is better to enter into life halt or maimed’ ( Matthew 18:8,  Mark 9:43), or ‘Narrow is the way that leadeth unto life’ ( Matthew 7:14), it is evidently the future blessing that is in His mind. There is good ground for the conjecture that Jesus Himself never used the expression ‘eternal life.’

Since the ethical and eschatological ideas are denoted by the same word, we are justified in assuming that in the mind of Jesus they were bound up with one another. The ‘life’ which is projected into the future and described figuratively as a gift bestowed from without, is in the last resort the life of moral activity. This becomes more apparent when we take account of certain further elements in our Lord’s teaching.

( a ) The condition on which the future reward is given is faithful performance of the moral task in the present. Those shall ‘live’ who keep the commandments. The narrow way that leads to life is the way of obedience and sacrifice. By voluntary loss of earthly things in the cause of Christ, the disciples will gain ‘life’ ( Mark 10:30). The apocalyptic imagery does not conceal from us the essential thought of Jesus, that the promised ‘life’ is nothing but the outcome and fulfilment of a moral obedience begun on earth.

( b ) Life is not only a future fulfilment, but has a real beginning in the present. Thus in the saying, ‘Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead’ ( Matthew 8:22 =  Luke 9:60), Jesus implies that the disciples even now enter into possession of a new and higher life. They are the ‘living’ as opposed to the children of this world, who are spiritually dead. The same thought appears in the parable of the Prodigal Son: ‘he was dead and is alive again’ ( Luke 15:32). Life in its full reality is the blessing of the world to come, but it will be different in degree, not in kind, from the present life of true discipleship.

( c ) One element is common to the two types of ‘life,’ and marks their ultimate identity. The future consummation, described by Jesus in vivid pictorial language, is in its substance a closer fellowship with God. In the Kingdom which He anticipated, the pure in heart were to see God ( Matthew 5:8); those who hungered and thirsted after righteousness were to be satisfied with God’s presence (v. 6). This perfect communion with God is the supreme reward laid up for the believer. It constitutes the inner meaning and content of the future Life. In like manner the present life of moral obedience is in its essence a life of fellowship with God. The aim of Jesus is to bring His disciples even now into such a harmony with the Divine will that they may be children of their Father who is in heaven, resembling Him and holding real communion with Him. The eschatological idea of life thus resolves itself at its centre into the purely ethical and religious. The Kingdom is already come when God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

Jesus is Himself the Mediator of the new life. He imparts to His disciples His own consciousness of God’s presence and Fatherhood. He inspires in them a faith and obedience which without Him would have been for ever impossible. Through knowledge of Him and participation in His spirit, they enter into that fellowship with God which is eternal life. See Mediator.

2. In the Fourth Gospel the idea of Life is much more prominent than in the Synoptics. The Evangelist expressly states ( John 20:31) that he has ‘written these things that believing ye may have life,’ and this statement of his main intention is fully borne out by the detailed study of the Gospel. The teaching of Jesus, as he records it, centres wholly on the subject of Life.

This in itself need not be regarded as a breach with the authentic tradition. We have seen that in the Synoptics also the idea of Life lies at the heart of our Lord’s teaching, since life is the peculiar blessing of the Kingdom of God. St. John, after his manner, detaches the essential thought from the eschatological framework. The future ‘kingdom’ becomes simply ‘life.’

The idea of Life as a present possession (already implicit in the Synoptic teaching) becomes in the Fourth Gospel central and determinative. ‘He that believeth on the Son hath (even now) everlasting life’ ( John 3:36). ‘He that heareth my word … is passed out of death into life’ ( John 5:24). The whole purpose of the work of Christ, as conceived by the Evangelist, was to communicate to His disciples, here and now, the eternal life. To those who have received His gift the death of the body is only a physical incident, a ‘falling asleep’ ( John 11:11). The true death is the state of sin and privation, out of which they have been delivered, once and for all, in the act of surrender to Christ.

Isolated passages in the Gospel might seem to conflict with this, the characteristic and prevailing view. In the 6th chapter more especially, the conception of Life as a spiritual possession in the present appears side by side with repeated allusions to a resurrection ‘at the last day’ ( John 6:39;  John 6:44;  John 6:54). These allusions are partly to be explained as reminiscences of an earlier type of doctrine, not completely in harmony with the writer’s own; such ‘concessions’ to a traditional belief meet us continually in this Gospel. At the same time, they serve to emphasize a real, though secondary, aspect of John’s own teaching. He anticipates in the future world a full manifestation of the Life which under earthly conditions is necessarily hidden. For the believer, as for Christ Himself, the escape from this world and its limitations marks the entrance into a larger activity and ‘glory’ (cf.  John 14:2-3).

The Evangelist nowhere attempts to define his conception of Life. The great saying, ‘This is life eternal,’ etc. ( John 17:3), cannot be construed as a definition. It only declares that the knowledge of God through Jesus Christ carries with it the assurance of life (cf. ‘His commandment is life everlasting’ [ John 12:50]). The nature of the life is indicated only in vague and half-figurative terms. It is indestructible ( John 6:58,  John 11:26), satisfies all spiritual thirst and hunger ( John 6:35,  John 4:14), is the source of light ( John 1:4,  John 8:12). But, while little is said by way of express definition, the general import of the Johannine conception is sufficiently clear. The Life which Christ communicates is the absolute, Divine Life. ‘As the Father has life in himself, so he hath given the Son to have life in himself’ ( John 5:26., cf.  John 1:4). It is assumed that in God and in the Logos, who is one with Him, a life resides which is different in kind from that of men, and is the real, the ‘eternal’ Life.

The conception arises from the blending in the Fourth Gospel of Hebrew and early Christian with Greek-philosophical influences. Hebrew thought did not concern itself with questions regarding the ultimate nature of God. He was the ‘living’ God, who could be known only through His activity in the creation and moral government of the world. The Greek thinkers, on the other hand, tried to get behind His activity to His essential Being. He was the absolute and self-existent, over against the world of phenomena. His Life, so far as Life could be predicated of Him, was an energy of pure thought, abstracted from every form of sensible manifestation (cf. Arist. Metaph. xii. 7). The Fourth Evangelist, carrying out more fully the suggestion of Philo, combines the Hebrew and Greek ideas. He thinks of God as the ‘only true’ ( John 17:3), the absolute Being who is eternally separate from the world which He has created. Nevertheless He is a living and personal God. The Life which He possesses is analogous to the life in man, but of a higher order, spiritual instead of earthly.

It follows from this attempt to combine Hebrew with Greek ideas, that the ethical moment falls largely out of sight. The difference between the human and the Divine Life is one of essence. Till man has undergone a radical change, not in heart merely but in the very constitution of his being, there can be no thought of his participating in the life of God. St. John thus involves himself in a conception which may be described as semi-physical. The Divine life is regarded as a sort of higher substance inherent in the nature of God. How can man, who is ‘born of flesh’ ( John 3:6), become partaker in this substance, and so experience a new birth as a child of God? This is the religious problem as it presents itself to St. John.

The solution is afforded by the doctrine of the Incarnate Word. Jesus Christ, as the eternal Logos, possessed ‘life in himself,’ and yet assumed humanity and entered into our lower world. He therefore became the vehicle through which the life of God is imparted to men, or at least to those elect natures who are predisposed to receive it. He not only possesses, but is Himself the Life. To impart His gift He must also impart Himself, since life is inalienable from the living Person. This idea, which lies at the very centre of St. John’s thinking, determines his theory of the communication of Life through Christ.

The subjective condition, apart from which the gift cannot be bestowed, is belief in Jesus as the Son of God. This belief is primarily an act of intellectual assent to the claim of Christ; but such an act implies a religious experience which has led up to it and gives it value. It runs back in the last resort to the ‘drawing by the Father’ ( John 6:44), the work of God’s Spirit in the heart. Through the act of belief a man is brought into such a relation to Christ that His power as Life-giver becomes operative.

Three means are indicated by which Christ imparts the gift to those who have believed. (1) It is conveyed through His word, regarded not simply as the medium of His message, but in the Hebrew sense as active and creative. The words spoken by Jesus are of the same nature as the quickening word of God. They are ‘spirit and life,’ carrying with them some portion of His own being. He can say indifferently, ‘My word shall abide in you’ and ‘I shall abide in you’ ( John 15:7). It is this imparting of Himself through His words that renders them ‘words of eternal life.’ (2) The gift is conveyed likewise in the Sacraments, more especially in the Lord’s Supper. The Eucharistic reference in the 6th chapter appears to the present writer unmistakable, and, while the Supper is interpreted in a spiritual sense, its real validity is also emphasized. Ignatius, writing in the same age, describes the Eucharist as the φάρμακον ἀθανασίας ( Ephes. 20), and St. John accepts this current belief, and harmonizes it with his own doctrine of Life: ‘Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, ye have no life in you’ ( John 6:53). Since Jesus in His own Person is the Life, it can be given only through an actual incorporation of His ‘flesh and blood,’ and this is offered in the mystery of the Eucharist. The idea of Life as a semi-physical essence here comes to its sharpest expression. (3) In this same chapter, however, we have the indication of another and still more mysterious means by which the Life is imparted. The Eucharist, while it possesses in itself a real validity, is typical of an abiding union of the believer with Christ. He is like the vine ( John 15:1 ff.), out of which the several branches draw their nourishment. He is united with His disciples in a relation so profound and intimate that they feel themselves to be one with Him. They abide in Him and He in them, and the life which He possesses becomes their life, springing up within them like a perennial well ( John 4:14). This doctrine of a mystical union with Christ in which He imparts His Divine life to the believer, contains the central and characteristic thought of the Fourth Gospel.

Thus far we have considered the Johannine idea of Life as it is determined by the Logos theory. It becomes apparent, however, the more we study the Gospel, that the writer is working throughout with two conceptions, essentially different from each other and never completely reconciled. The incarnate Logos is at the same time the historical Jesus, who revealed God and drew all men to Himself by the moral grandeur of His personality and life. Doctrines which are presented theologically on the lines of the Logos hypothesis are also capable of a purely religious interpretation. They require to be so interpreted if we are not to miss their underlying and vital import.

Life regarded from this other side bears a meaning substantially the same as in the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus was the Living One, inasmuch as He realized in His own Person the love and goodness and holiness which constitute the inmost nature of God. The life He sought to communicate was nothing else than His own Spirit, as it was revealed in the scene of the feet-washing (John 13), and in the subsequent discourse with His disciples. Even in the Eucharistic chapter in which the theological view of Life is expressed most forcibly, we can discern this other view in the background. To partake of Christ’s flesh and blood is to become wholly conformed to Him, absorbing into oneself the very spirit by which He lived. We cannot read the chapter attentively without feeling that St. John is always passing from the metaphysical conception to this moral and religious one. Both are present in his mind, and he endeavours to fuse them, though such a fusion is in the nature of things impossible.

The cardinal doctrine of union with Christ assumes a new meaning in the light of this other aspect of St. John’s thought. What is elsewhere described as a mystical indwelling becomes a moral fellowship. ‘Henceforth I call you not servants, but friends; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth; but I have called you friends’ ( John 15:15). The disciples are to enter into a perfect harmony of mind and will with their Master. His spirit is not to act on them from the outside, through set commandments, but inwardly and spontaneously. The relation of discipleship thus passes into one of ‘friendship,’—a friendship so close that they lose all sense of separateness between themselves and Christ. He ‘abides in them,’ and replaces their will with His own.

To the Synoptic teaching St. John adds one element of priceless value. He perceives that the new Life proclaimed by Jesus was bound up indissolubly with His living Person. ‘In him was life’ ( John 1:4), and it is not enough to render some vague obedience to His teaching. There must be a real and personal communion with Christ, so that He may impart His very self to His disciple. In his presentation of this truth, John avails himself of metaphysical modes of thinking which are not wholly adequate to the Christian message. The conception of Christ as Logos obscures the true significance of His Person and of the higher life imparted through Him. But the essential thought of the Gospel is independent of the form, borrowed from an alien philosophy, in which it is expressed. Jesus Christ is not only the Life-giver, but is Himself the Life. He imparts His gift to those who know Him by an inward fellowship, and become one with Him in heart and will. See also Living.

Literature.—H. Holtzmann, NT Theol. i. 293 ff. (1897); Schrenck, Die johan. Anschauung vom ‘Leben’ (1898); Titius, Die NT Lehre von der Seligkeit (esp. the Johannine section, 1900); Grill, Untersuchungen über die Entstehung des vierten Evang. 206–327 (1902); G. Dalman, Words of Jesus , 156; G. B. Stevens, Johannine Theology , 241, 312; P. Brooks, More Abundant Life  ; B. F. Westcott, Historic Faith , 142; F. J. A. Hort, The Way, the Truth, the Life (1893); E. Hatch, Memorials , 181; J. G. Hoare, Life in St. John’s Gospel , (1901).

E. F. Scott.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]


I. In the OT

The term ‘life’ in EV [Note: English Version.] is used, with a few unimportant exceptions, as the equivalent of one or other of two Heb. expressions: (1) chai , or mostly in plur. chayyim; (2) nephesh . The LXX [Note: Septuagint.] makes a general distinction between these two, by usually rendering the former as zôç and the latter as psychç . The former term occurs more frequently than the latter. The notion of life and the terms used to denote it belong, like ‘death,’ to the primitive elements in human thought and speech. Roughly speaking, we may explain (1) as primarily = what is fresh, new, in active existence; and (2) as primarily = breath.

1. Self-originated movement, especially as seen in locomotion and breathing, were naturally the earliest criteria of life. So still, scientists are investigating life as merely a ‘mode of motion.’ Life, however, has not yet yielded up its secret to human inquiry; not yet has life, by any experiment, been produced from purely inorganic origins. Meantime those who do not stumble at a theistic view of creation hold an entirely worthy and satisfactory position in following the Genesis Creation narratives, and ascribing the origin of all life to God, who ‘giveth to all life and breath and all things’ (  Acts 17:25 ). The mystery of life abides, but it is not in the least likely that any results of scientific investigation will ever really conflict with this position.

Life as a physical phenomenon is pre-eminently associated with animals the living creatures of the sea, the land, and the air ( Genesis 1:21 ff.). Plant-life is hardly recognized as such. OT writers do not go so far as to predicate life of trees in much the same way as of animals, as is the case with some of the early Greek philosophers ( e.g . Aristotle, Eth. Nic . i. 7, 12). Still ‘green’ and ‘dry,’ as applied to plants, correspond to ‘living’ and ‘dead.’ There is the feeling that trees possess ‘a sort of’ life; and such references to trees as that concerning the fresh sprouting of a stock or root (  Job 14:7 ff.,   Isaiah 11:1 ) are very significant. Notice also the way in which the prosperity of man is likened to that of a flourishing tree (  Psalms 1:3 etc.), and other frequent illustrative uses.

Physical life is not only primitively connected with the breath, but also with the blood. The effect of the draining away of the blood (as from a wound) in the lessening vitality of the body and finally death a matter of early observation naturally explains this. A certain sacredness thus attaches to the blood (  1 Samuel 14:33 ff.), and definite prohibitive legislation relating to the eating of flesh with the blood becomes incorporated in the laws of Israel (  Leviticus 3:17;   Leviticus 7:25 etc.). This primitive conception of blood as the seat of life lies at the root of the whole OT system of sacrifices and of all the Scripture Ideas and teachings based thereupon.

The sacredness of life as such is strongly emphasized. The great value ascribed to human life is indicated by the numerous laws relating to manslaughter and to offences which interfere in any way with a man’s right to live and with his reasonable use and enjoyment of life. The feeling extends to other creatures. See the suggestive words ‘and also much cattle’ in  Jonah 4:11 . The beasts are associated with man’s humiliations and privations (  Jonah 3:7 f.,   Joel 1:18;   Joel 1:20 ); their life is a thing to be considered. We find the ground of this feeling in the view that God is not only the original Creator or Source of life, but directly its Sustainer in all its forms (  Psalms 36:6 ,   Psalms 104:1-35;   Psalms 145:1-21 passim ). This seems also to be the fundamental significance of the very common expression ‘the living God’ (lit. ‘God of life’).

2 . Life is predominantly set forth as man’s summum bonum . Life and death are respectively ‘the blessing and the curse,’ and that uniquely (  Deuteronomy 30:19 ). ‘Choose life’ is the appeal pointing to the one desirable boon. Every man should answer to the description in   Psalms 34:12 . The language which disparages life and praises death ( e.g .   Job 7:16 ,   Ecclesiastes 4:1 ff. etc.) is the expression of an abnormal state of feeling, the outcome of man’s experience of misery in one form and another. But it is not mere existence that is in itself desirable. As Orr points out, life in its Scripture use has ‘a moral and spiritual connotation’ ( Christian View [1893], p. 393); and it is only the godly and righteous life that is a boon from the Scripture point of view. Such is the burden of the Wisdom books, when they speak of ‘finding life,’ and describe wisdom as a ‘tree of life’ (  Proverbs 3:18;   Proverbs 8:35 ).

3. The idea of a life to come is in many portions of the OT conspicuous by its absence. There is nothing anywhere that will compare with the NT conception of ‘ eternal life. ’ The latter expression, it is true, is found in the OT, but only once, and that in the late-Hebrew Book of Daniel (  Daniel 12:2 ). It is to be remembered that, though this book is in EV [Note: English Version.] numbered among the Major Prophets, its affinities are not with that group but rather with later post-Biblical Jewish writings. In these writings the use of this expression is best illustrated. Enoch, Ps.-Sol., 4 Mac. furnish examples. See also in Apocrypha, 2Ma 7:9; 2Ma 7:36 . ‘Life’ alone in this later use comes to be used as = ‘life eternal.’ (See, e.g ., 2Ma 7:14; cf. in NT,   Matthew 7:14;   Matthew 19:17 ). Later Jewish use, however, prefers the clearer phrase, ‘life of the age to come’: and along this line the genesis of the term ‘eternal life’ must be explained. (Cf. the last clause in the Nicene Creed: ‘the life of the world to come’). Jewish eschatological hopes, first for the nation and afterwards for the individual, contributed largely to the development of this idea.

At the same time, though in some parts of the OT the hope of life hereafter seems expressly excluded (see, e.g .,   Isaiah 38:11;   Isaiah 38:18 ,   Ecclesiastes 9:5;   Ecclesiastes 9:10 [  Ecclesiastes 12:7 is not in conflict, for it embodies the idea of ‘re-absorption,’ and is not to be read in the light of Christian hope and teaching]), and this world alone is known as’ the land of the living,’ the very asking of the question in   Job 14:14 is significant, and the language of   Psalms 16:1-11 concerning ‘the path of life’ lends itself readily to an interpretation looking to life beyond death.

II. In the Apocrypha. Chs. 1 5 of Wis. yield much that is of interest relating to contemporary Jewish thought; e.g . God is the author of life but not of death ( Wis 1:13 f., Wis 2:23 f.). The wicked live in harmony with the saying, ‘Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die’ (ch. 2). The righteous have immortality as their inheritance, whilst the wicked shall be brought to judgment and shall be destroyed (chs. 3 5). For an impressive presentment of a foolish appreciation of life, see also Wis 15:7 ff. In Sir 15:17 ‘Before man is life and death,’ we have an echo of   Deuteronomy 30:19 . The conception of life (‘soul’) as a loan that can be recalled is found in Wis 15:8; Wis 15:18 , a close parallel with   Luke 12:20 . Such phrases as ‘the fountain of life’ ( Sir 21:13 ) and ‘the tree of life’ ( 2E  Esther 2:12; 2Es 8:52 ) recall their use in both OT and NT. For the former, see   Psalms 36:8 ,   Proverbs 10:11 ,   John 4:10;   John 4:14; for the latter   Genesis 2:9 ,   Revelation 2:7;   Revelation 22:2 etc. 2Es 7:1-70 furnishes a notable and picturesque view of life beyond death, with the judgment of the righteous and the unrighteous. See especially the long passage beginning at v. 75. The return of the spirit ‘to him who gave it,’ v. 78, has none of the limitations that attend a similar reference to death in   Ecclesiastes 12:7 . (See above.)


The term ‘life’ is the Eng. equivalent of three terms used in the original (1) zôç . This is of most frequent occurrence; generally corresponding to chayyim in OT; = life in the absolute: vitality: full, active existence. It is the term capable of embodying all progressive conceptions as to what constitutes life, and so regularly occurring in the phrase ‘eternal life.’ (2) psychç , generally = OT nephesh , but the fluctuation between ‘life’ and ‘soul’ (see, e.g ., the well-known passage   Matthew 16:25 f.) as its rendering in English is significant. The primary notion is that of the animating principle (in contrast to the ‘body’). It further denotes the specific life or existence of any individual. By an easy transition it comes to stand for a man’s ‘self’ (roughly ‘soul’). (3) bios , occurring only a few times. = the present state of existence, this life; as in   Luke 8:14 ,   1 Timothy 2:2 ,   2 Timothy 2:4 ,   1 John 2:16;   1 John 3:17 ( zôç , however, is sometimes used in this sense, with ‘this’ or ‘the present’ qualifying it, e.g .   1 Corinthians 15:19 ); also = means of subsistence; and so = ‘living’ (  Luke 8:43;   Luke 15:12 etc.).

1. The teaching of Jesus . As regards the present life we gather from the Gospels that Jesus never bewailed its brevity and vanity. The mournful notes of some of the OT Scriptures, the pensive commonplaces of so much of man’s thoughts and moralizings, find no echo here. On the contrary, in His own life He graciously exemplifies the joie de vivre . This in one respect was made even a ground of complaint against Him (  Matthew 11:19 ). The sacredness of life is insisted on, and the Sixth Commandment is accentuated (  Matthew 5:21 ). The preciousness of life, even in its humblest forms (‘sparrows,’   Matthew 10:29 ||   Luke 12:6 ), appears in connexion with our Lord’s arresting doctrine of Divine Providence, which stands in such unhesitating defiance of the sterner features of the world of life ( In Memoriam , lv. f.).

Very conspicuously Jesus condemns over-anxiety about this life and its ‘goods.’ Simplicity and detachment in regard to these things are repeatedly insisted on (see, e.g .,   Matthew 6:19;   Matthew 6:31 ,   Luke 12:15 ). Certainly the accumulation of a superabundance of the ‘goods’ of life at the expense of others’ deprivation and want is in direct opposition to the spirit of His teaching. The deep, paradoxical saying (  Matthew 16:25 f.) about losing and finding one’s life is of significance here a saying found not only in the three Synoptics (see   Mark 8:35 ,   Luke 9:24 ), but also in its substance in   John 12:25 .

Eternal life figures conspicuously in the teaching of Jesus. He did not originate the expression: it was already established in the Rabbinical vocabulary. The subject was, and continued to be, one greatly discussed among the Jews. The phrasing of Jesus as when He speaks of ‘inheriting’ (  Matthew 19:29 ), ‘having’ (Jn. passim ), ‘receiving’ (  Mark 10:30 ), ‘entering into,’ or ‘attaining’ (  Matthew 19:17 ), eternal life, or life simply is also that of the Jewish teachers of His own and a later day. (Note even the significance of the wording in   Mark 10:17 ||). ‘Life’ alone as = ‘eternal life’ is used in   Matthew 7:14 ,   Mark 9:43 etc.; also in John’s Gospel (as   John 3:36;   John 10:10 etc.). (See above.)

The Johannine Gospel conspicuously gives ‘eternal life’ as a chief topic of Christ’s teaching; whilst in the Synoptics ‘the kingdom of God’ holds the corresponding place. The connexion between the two conceptions is intimate and vital. The primary characteristic of eternal life is that it is life lived under the rule of God. The definition found in  John 17:3 (with which Wis 15:3 invites comparison) shows how essentially it is a matter of moral and spiritual interests. The notion of ever-lastingness rather follows from this: the feeling that death cannot destroy what is precious in God’s sight. Cf. Tennyson:

‘ Transplanted human worth

Shall bloom to profit otherwhere.’

But the life is a present possession, an actual fact of experience ( John 3:35;   John 5:24;   John 6:47 etc.). We have, however, the indication of a special association of eternal life with the hereafter in   Mark 10:30 (‘in the world to come’)   Matthew 25:40 . Cf. also p. 490 a .

It is the teaching of Christ that has caused the words ‘eternal life’ to be written, as it were, across the face of the NT. Still more are we to notice the unique claim made as to His relation to that life. The keynote of the Johannine presentation is ‘in him was life’ ( John 1:4 ), and throughout He is consistently represented as giving and imparting this life to His people. Note also, it is eternal life as predicated of these that is principally, if not exclusively, in view in the Evangelical teaching there is little or nothing on human immortality in the widest sense.

2. The rest of the NT. The leading theme of. l Jn . is ‘eternal life,’ and it is handled in complete accord with the Fourth Gospel. St. Paul is in agreement with the Johannine teaching on the cardinal topic of eternal life. His Epistles throb with this theme, and he conspicuously presents Christ as the source of this life in its fullest conception, or the One through whom it is mediated. See   Romans 6:23 , and note his strong way of identifying Christ with this life, as in   Galatians 2:20 ,   Philippians 1:21 ,   Colossians 3:3-4 . Christ is also presented as author or mediator of life in the widest sense, the life that moves in all created things (  Colossians 1:16-17; cf.   John 1:3 ). St. Paul, again, uses ‘life’ alone as containing all the implicates of ‘eternal life’ (  Romans 5:17 ,   2 Corinthians 5:4 ,   Philippians 2:16 ). The supremely ethical value associated with life is seen in the definition given in   Romans 8:6 , with which cf.   John 17:3 . The new life of the Spirit as a dynamic in the present and as having the promise of full fruition in eternity, is central in the Apostle’s exposition of Christianity. For the rest, the Apocalypse should be noticed for its use of such images as ‘crown of life,’ ‘book of life,’ ‘fountain,’ ‘river,’ and ‘water of life,’ and the ‘book of life’ (which we also meet with elsewhere) all embodying the Christian hope of immortality.

J. S. Clemens.

Holman Bible Dictionary [3]

 Genesis 1:20 Genesis 2:7 Genesis 7:15 Exodus 1:14 Psalm 17:14 Psalm 63:3 James 4:14 Psalm 89:47 Psalm 103:14-16 Psalm 104:23 John 11:1-4 11:17-44 Romans 5:12-21 Romans 6:21-23 Romans 8:18 1 Corinthians 7:5 1 Corinthians 10:13 2 Corinthians 1:5-7 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 1 Timothy 6:9 Hebrews 9:27 James 5:10

God's Unique Life Only God has life in the absolute sense. He is the living God ( Deuteronomy 5:26;  Joshua 3:10;  1 Samuel 17:26;  Matthew 16:16 ). All other life depends on God for its creation and maintenance ( Genesis 2:7 ,Genesis 2:7, 2:19 ,Genesis 2:19, 2:21-22;  Psalm 36:9;  Acts 17:25;  Romans 4:17 ). God is spoken of as the God of life or as life giving ( Numbers 14:28;  Deuteronomy 32:40;  Judges 8:19;  Ruth 3:13;  1 Samuel 14:39;  1 Samuel 19:6;  Jeremiah 5:2 ). In stark contrast to God, the idols are dead ( Psalm 115:3-8;  Psalm 135:15-18;  Isaiah 44:9-20;  Jeremiah 10:8-10 ,Jeremiah 10:8-10, 10:14 ) as are those who depend on them for life ( Psalm 115:8;  Psalm 135:18 ).

In the same way that God is Creator by giving His breath or spirit to living creatures, so no possibility of life exists when God withholds His breath or spirit ( Job 34:14-15;  Psalm 104:29 ). Thus, God is Lord of both life and death ( 2 Corinthians 1:9;  James 4:15 ). Life is something which only God can give ( Psalm 36:9;  Psalm 66:9;  Psalm 139:13-14 ) and which only God can sustain ( Job 33:4;  Psalm 119:116;  Isaiah 38:16 ).

This being the case, every life is solely the possession of God. No one has a right to end a life ( Exodus 20:13;  Deuteronomy 5:17; compare  Genesis 4:10 ,Genesis 4:10, 4:19-24 ). Since life belongs to God, one must abstain from the consumption of blood, the vehicle of life ( Genesis 9:4;  Leviticus 3:17;  Leviticus 17:10-14;  Deuteronomy 12:23-25 ). Thus, even animal life is valued by God as is evidenced by the fact that animal's blood was sacred to God.

Earthly existence, physical life The Bible summarizes the lives of many people. Often the biblical account includes a statement about their life-span, i.e., “These are the years of the life of Abraham which he lived —a hundred and seventy five years” ( Genesis 25:7 AT. Following quotations marked AT are the author's own translation.). The Old Testament emphasizes quality of life. The person who finds wisdom is fortunate: “She [wisdom] is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her” (  Proverbs 3:18 NRSV). Wisdom affects how people live.   Psalm 143:1 testifies to the dark moments of life. Then the psalmist prays for God to intervene: “For the sake of your name [person], oh Lord, revive my life; in your righteousness, bring my soul out of distress” (  Psalm 143:11 AT).

Jesus at His temptation quoted  Deuteronomy 8:3 : “A person shall not live by bread alone” ( Matthew 4:4;  Luke 4:4 AT). Rather each person must live “by every word that proceeds out through the mouth of God” (  Matthew 4:4 AT). Earthly life involves God.

Jesus warned that “one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” ( Luke 12:15 NRSV). Yet many people see one's belongings as the criterion of success. Jesus healed people and raised some from the dead to relieve the harshness of life (compare   Mark 5:23-45 ). Jesus brought wholeness into human, physical life.

Life as fellowship with God The Old Testament uses bold metaphors for fellowship with God: “For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light” ( Psalm 36:9 ). We come to God to receive life. We walk in fellowship with God, and in His light we see life. Otherwise, we are devoid of life and cannot see. Even when we do come to God, we may depart from Him. Another psalmist pleaded for God's hand to be upon him: “Then we will not move away or backslide from you. Revive us with fullness of life and we will call upon your name” ( Psalm 80:18 AT).

The proper response to life as the gift of God is to live life in service to God ( Isaiah 38:10-20 ) by obeying the Law ( Leviticus 18:5 ), doing God's will ( Matthew 6:10;  Matthew 7:21 ), and feeding in God's Word ( Deuteronomy 6:1-9;  Deuteronomy 8:3;  Deuteronomy 32:46-47;  Matthew 4:4 ). Only that life which lives in obedience to God deserves to be called life in the true sense of the word ( Deuteronomy 30:15-20;  Ezekiel 3:16-21;  Ezekiel 18:1-32 ).

The New Testament deepens this emphasis. Paul points out that Christians differ in terms of food they eat and days they celebrate ( Romans 14:1-6 ); these things are part of custom and tradition. All 4Christians are to make the Lord Jesus central and live so as to show that He is their purpose for living. “Not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; if therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living” ( Romans 14:7-9 NAS). Such living demands fellowship with the Savior who is the purpose for living.

Paul wrote that we died with Christ and were raised together with Him ( Colossians 3:1-3 ) and that the lives of Christians (individually) have been hidden with Christ in God. When Christ (the Christians' life) comes a second time, we will be manifested with Him in glory ( Colossians 3:4 ). Our fellowship with Him now is dependent on our constantly seeking and thinking the things above ( Colossians 3:1-2 ). This is the new and transformed life.

Paul describes God's servants as an aroma for God among the people to whom they witness ( 2 Corinthians 2:15 ). To those who are perishing, believers are a fragrance from death to death. To those who are being saved, they are a fragrance from life to life ( 2 Corinthians 2:16 ). Those who reject the message continue on in death. Those who accept the message move from one level of life to another. The life that Christ initiates grows. Paul exclaimed: “Who is sufficient for these things?” ( 2 Corinthians 2:16 NRSV).

Paul set forth his picture of life: The process of living for me, Christ; the act of death, gain (  Philippians 1:21 ). When Christ is central, life has no boundaries.

Christ as the life, the One who imparts life. Old Testament believers identified life with God ( Psalm 42:8;  Psalm 27:1;  Psalm 66:9 ). The “I am” sayings in the Gospel of John identify life with Jesus. “I am the bread of life” ( John 6:35 ,John 6:35, 6:48 ). “I came that they may have life ( John 10:10 Nrsv). “I am the resurrection and the life” (  John 11:25 ). “I am the way, the truth, and the life” ( John 14:6 ). John states the purpose for his Gospel: “But these things have been written that you might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and because you are believing you might be having life in his name [i.e. person]” ( John 20:31 AT). Since Jesus was God incarnate, he made genuine life a reality—not a distant prospect.

Life to Come, Life Beyond This Life The genuine life that comes from Jesus to those who obey God is true or eternal life. Just as physical life is the gift of God, so is eternal life ( John 6:63;  Romans 6:23;  1 Corinthians 15:45;  Ephesians 2:8-10 ). Eternal life, or true life, refers as much to the quality of life one has as to the quantity of life. According to the Bible, all people will have an endless duration of life either in the blessing of God's presence or in the damnation of God's absence (see, for example,  Daniel 12:2;  Matthew 25:31-46;  John 5:28-29 ). The thing that distinguishes the life of these two groups of people is not its duration but its quality. Eternal life is of a quality like God's life. This kind of life is a true blessing ( Luke 18:29-30;  John 3:15-16;  John 6:40;  John 17:3;  Romans 2:7;  1 John 5:12 ). The quality of this life is marked by freedom from the power of sin to destroy, by holiness, and by a positive relation with God ( Romans 6:20-23 ). True life is not only something to be hoped for in the future; it is a present reality. Believers share in the life of God in this life ( Luke 11:20;  John 5:24;  Romans 6:4 ,Romans 6:4, 6:11;  Romans 8:6;  Colossians 3:3;  1 John 3:14 ), but the believer does not fully experience true life until the resurrection when believers obtain the crown of life ( James 1:12;  Revelation 2:10 ).

True life is offered to all, but it is received only by those who realize that the source of true life is what God has done in Jesus Christ and does not come from within the individual ( John 6:63;  Romans 6:23;  Ephesians 2:8-10 ). Those who have true life as a gift are to conform themselves to them manner of life Jesus exhibited ( Matthew 10:25;  John 5:39-40;  1 Timothy 1:16 ). Christians are to lose themselves ( Matthew 10:39;  Romans 6:2;  2 Corinthians 5:15 ) and serve God in love ( Matthew 25:31-46;  Mark 10:17-45;  Luke 10:25-37;  Romans 2:7;  Romans 14:7-8;  2 Corinthians 5:15;  Galatians 2:19 ). Just as food maintains physical life, service to God maintains true life ( Matthew 4:4;  John 6:27 ,John 6:27, 6:32-58;  Acts 7:38;  1 Corinthians 9:14 ).

Eternal life is indestructible ( 1 Corinthians 15:42-57;  1 Peter 1:23 ), though threatened by the devil, the law, and death. The devil attempts to destroy this life ( Matthew 10:28;  Luke 12:4-5;  1 Peter 5:8 ), but he is not able to harm it for God protects the believer ( Romans 8:7-39;  Ephesians 6:10-18 ). The Law threatens this life by tempting people to believe that they can attain this life by their own efforts ( Romans 7:10 ,  Romans 7:13;  2 Corinthians 3:4-6 ). Death is also an enemy of true life, but it is powerless to destroy the life that God gives ( Psalm 9:13-14;  Psalm 23:4;  Psalm 33:18-19;  Psalm 89:48;  Psalm 116:3-4 ,Psalms 116:3-4, 116:8-9;  Psalm 118:18;  Romans 5:12-21;  Romans 6:9-10;  Romans 7:24-8:11 ,  Romans 8:35-39;  1 Corinthians 15:51-57;  Galatians 6:8;  Titus 3:7 ).

Life beyond this life is not that of a “spirit” but that of a bodily resurrection. Paul highlighted both earthly existence and the life to come: “Godliness is profitable with respect to all things, because it has promise of life now and of the one about to be” ( 1 Timothy 4:8 AT). This “now” life is one of testing. James says those who pass this test “will receive the crown, i.e. life,, which God promised to those loving Him” (  James 1:12 ). This future life is one of open fellowship with God (see  Colossians 3:4 ). See Eschatology; Eternal Life; Resurrection .

A. Berkley Mikelson and Phil Logan

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [4]

God (Yahweh) as the Source and Sustainer of Life . According to  Genesis 2:7 , "the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." This "breath of life" does not distinguish human beings from other animals, nor perhaps even plant life, as can be seen in  Genesis 1:29-30 . When God declared his judgment against Noah's generation, all creation in which there was the "breath of life" would suffer the destruction of the flood ( Genesis 6:17;  7:15,21-23 ). The breath of life distinguishes the living from the dead, not human beings from animals ( Ecclesiastes 3:18-19 ). Consistently throughout Scripture God is portrayed as the giver of life, which distinguishes living organisms from inanimate things ( Romans 4:17 ).

Life is contingent upon the continuing, sustaining "breath" of God. When God ceases to breathe, life is no more, "How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures When you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust" ( Psalm 104:24,29 ). Death is frequently described as the cessation of this divine activity ( Genesis 25:8;  Mark 15:37 ). It is for this reason that the psalmist concludes, "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord" ( Psalm 150:6; cf.  Romans 1:20-21 ).

The Quality and Duration of Life . Between birth and death, creation and cessation of life, the living experience varying qualities of life and length of days. On the one hand, the Creator is the sovereign Lord of the days of one's life. He sends poverty and wealth, humility, and exaltation, makes paupers to be princes and princes to be paupers ( 1 Samuel 2:6-9 ). For this reason, those who live by faith are not to worry, for they rest in the assurance that God cares about their life ( Matthew 6:25-34;  Luke 12:22-31 ). One cannot add a single hour to the span of life by worrying ( Matthew 6:27 ). "The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away" ( Psalm 90:10 ). Long life is viewed as the evidence of divine favor ( Exodus 20:12;  Deuteronomy 5:16;  Psalm 21:4;  91:16;  Proverbs 10:27;  Isaiah 65:20 ), so to die in the midst of one's years was a calamity ( Isaiah 38:10-14;  Jeremiah 11:22;  Lamentations 2:21 ). On the other hand, the situation and quality of life may be diminished and even destroyed by chance, circumstances, and the conduct of unrighteous or negligent persons. In such circumstances, the lowly pray for divine mercy and help. Worries, riches, and pleasures ( Mark 4:19;  Luke 12:15 ), as well as hunger, sickness, sorrow, and sin can choke and even destroy life.

Life as a Choice . In Moses' third address to Israel ( Deuteronomy 29:1-30:20 ), he calls them to reaffirm their covenant with God. A choice, not a difficult one, must be made ( Deuteronomy 30:11 ), for God had set before them "life and prosperity, death and destruction blessings and curses. Now choose life" ( Deuteronomy 30:15,19 ). In a similar manner. Joshua appeals to the next generation after the settlement in the promised land ( Joshua 24:14-15 ).

The choice is not always one of obedience and disobedience, but rather one of wisdom that results in health, prosperity, honor, and a better quality of life ( Exodus 15:26;  Proverbs 3:22;  4:13,22;  6:23;  8:35;  10:17,28;  19:23;  21:21;  22:4;  Ecclesiastes 9:9-10 ). Such a Person experiences the shalom and peace of God (  Proverbs 14:30;  Galatians 1:3 ). This choice is inherent in the psalms and the Beatitudes of Jesus. The promised blessed life is contingent upon the community and/or individual response of obedience to the will of God ( Matthew 7:24-27 ).

The Sanctity of Life . In a physical sense, life is associated with the blood of an animal ( Leviticus 17:11-14;  Deuteronomy 12:23 ). As long as there is blood, there is life. When the blood is drained from the body, so is life. The connection is so strong that the law forbade the consumption of blood or meat with blood in it ( Genesis 9:4;  Leviticus 17:12,14;  Deuteronomy 12:23;  Acts 15:20,29 ). Also, the blood of an animal could make atonement for the transgressions and sins of the people of God ( Leviticus 16:14-19 ). The life-blood of the sacrifice was substituted for the life-blood of the worshiper, although inadequate and creating a longing for the perfect sacrifice of Christ ( Psalm 49:7-9;  Hebrews 10:1-4 ).

God demands a reverence for human life ( Psalm 139:13-14 ), and forbids murder ( Exodus 20:13;  Deuteronomy 5:17;  Matthew 5:21 ). Where violence has shed blood, there must be an accounting and a just penalty ( Genesis 4:10-11;  9:5-6;  Exodus 21:23;  Leviticus 24:17-22;  Deuteronomy 19:21;  Matthew 5:38 ). Jesus enlarges this understanding of life to include more than physical life, proscribing angry words, insults, and name calling ( Matthew 5:22 ), for these wound and kill the spirit, self-esteem, and well-being of another. The perpetrator becomes subject to judgment. The gospel of God extends a special invitation to the poor, the disabled, the weak, the oppressed, and the children, offering hope and new life.

Sin and Spiritual Death . Mortal humanity was created in the image of God ( Genesis 1:26-27 ), and given the opportunity of eternal life in relationship with the Creator ( Genesis 2-3 ). Central and vital to life in paradise was access to the tree of life in the midst of the garden of Eden ( Genesis 2:9 ). There was one commandment, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." When Eve and Adam listened to the tempter and disobeyed the commandment, eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, they brought a curse upon themselves ( Genesis 3:16-19 ), their descendants ( Romans 5:12-14;  1 Corinthians 15:21-22 ), and upon all creation ( Genesis 3:17;  Romans 8:19-22 ). The human race lost innocence, knowing right from wrong, and, even more, the disobedience abolished a continuing privileged access to the tree of life ( Revelation 2:7;  22:2,14 ,  19 ), and thus eternal life. Spiritual death, separation from the tree of life, and a broken relationship with God resulted. The human race was destined to die, as were all living creatures, but now without hope beyond the grave. Spiritual death reigned from Adam to Christ ( Romans 5:14,21;  1 Corinthians 15:20-26 ).

The Good News of the Gospel . Life is a central motif of the four Gospels. John summarizes his purpose in writing the Fourth Gospel: "These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (20:31).

Jesus announced that he alone is the narrow gate or entrance into the way that leads to life ( Matthew 7:13-14;  John 10:7,9;  14:6 ). As the Son of God, he had been active in creation ( John 1:1-4 ), and came to give new life or birth (3:3,5, 7; 6:33,51) to all who believe in him (3:16). Those who experience the new birth are described as having been formerly dead ( Luke 15:32;  John 5:21 ). Thus, Jesus stands alone at the center of history as "the Author of Life" ( John 5:40;  Acts 3:15 ). This life is nearly synonymous with entering into the kingdom of God and experiencing the restoration of the divine-human relationship intended in creation. When Jesus healed the sick, exorcised demons, and cleansed lepers, he was restoring life to its intended, physical wholeness ( Luke 4:18-19;  6:9 ). When he proclaimed the good news of God, he was seeking to save and restore the spiritual life lost in Adam's sin.

Eternal Life . There is only an embryonic understanding of eternal life in the Old Testament. The psalms frequently reveal a deep longing to be permitted entrance into the presence of God, which goes beyond earthly, temporal worship in the sanctuary or temple. In  Psalm 71:9 the psalmist prays in his old age, not that he might escape death, but rather that the Lord would not forsake him as his strength fades and death approaches. It is pious Job who becomes the champion of eternal hope (  Job 19:25-27 ). This hope, which seems to burst through the boundaries of death, is expressed in more apocalyptic terms in  Isaiah 65:17-19 . Daniel envisions a resurrection and judgment assigning those raised to everlasting life or everlasting shame and contempt ( Daniel 12:1-3 ). To die, however, generally meant that one entered the mysterious underworld beyond of Sheol or Hades.

Life in the New Testament, beginning with Jesus, predominantly has a metaphysical and spiritual meaning, an indestructible quality, which supersedes physical death and the grave. This life is more important than eating, drinking, and clothes ( Matthew 6:25;  Luke 12:22-33 ), and more valuable than physical wholeness and health. The distinction becomes clearer when Jesus commands disciples to deny themselves, take up the cross daily, and follow him ( Mark 8:34; par. ). There is a tension, even a conflict, between the present physical existence with its passions, and the spiritual life that will continue beyond physical death. Whoever loses or denies the present life for the sake of Christ, finds eternal life, life in the age to come ( Mark 8:35-37;  10:30; par.  John 12:25 ). The rich young ruler desired to inherit eternal life, but to him the cost of denying his present life by selling all that he had and giving to the poor in order to gain the eternal was too great ( Mark 10:17-31; par. ).

"Eternal life ( zoen aionion )" becomes a common phrase in the Johannine writings. Jesus is life (1:4; 5:26; 11:25; 14:6;  1 John 1:2 ) and the giver of life ( John 5:40;  6:33,35 ,  48,51 ,  63;  10:10;  17:2;  1 John 5:11-12 ) to all who believe in him ( John 1:7;  3:15,16 ,  36;  6:40;  11:26;  12:46 ). The beginning of life as a child of God is likened to a new birth ( John 3:3-8;  1 John 2:29;  3:9;  4:7;  5:1,4 ,  18 ), which is not of human decision, but the result of the divine, spiritual action of God ( John 1:13;  3:5-8;  6:63 ). It is a transformation from death to life, becoming a present reality. This life is available to "all who believe" in Jesus, the Son of God.

According to Paul, the death of Jesus on the cross opens the way to reconciliation with God, and it is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ that gives life to those who believe ( Romans 5:10;  6:3-4;  Galatians 2:20 ). Those who have experienced the free gift of life from God ( Romans 5:15;  6:23 ) are led in triumphal procession spreading the knowledge of the gospel of Christ everywhere ( 2 Corinthians 2:14 ). They walk in newness of life ( Romans 6:4;  7:6 ), and the righteousness of God reigns in their mortal bodies to eternal life through Jesus Christ ( Romans 5:21;  6:13,22 ). The Spirit of God at work in them gives life, peace, and freedom ( Romans 8:6,11;  2 Corinthians 3:6 ), which is witnessed by the present world in their love for one another.

Melvin H. Shoemaker

See also Eternality Everlasting LifeEternal Life; New Life

Bibliography . G. R. Beasley-Murray, SJT 27 (1974): 76-93; G. Bornkamm, Early Christian Experience  ; F. F. Bruce, SJT 24 (1971): 457-72; R. Bultmann, G. von Rad, and G. Bertram, TDNT, 2:832-75; J. C. Coetzee, Neot 6 (1972): 48-66; C. H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel  ; A. J. Feldman, The Concept of Immortality in Judaism Historically Considered  ; G. E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament  ; J. Pedersen, Israel: Its Life and Culture  ; H. H. Rowley, The Faith of Israel  ; R. Schnackenburg, Christian Existence in the New Testament  ; V. Taylor, ExpT 76 (1964-65): 76-79; H. W. Wolff, Anthropology of the Old Testament .

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [5]

God is the source and controller of all life. He brings it into existence, sustains it, and brings it to an end, all according to his purposes ( Genesis 2:7;  Numbers 16:22;  Deuteronomy 32:39;  Job 34:14-15;  Psalms 36:9;  Ecclesiastes 12:7;  Matthew 10:28;  Luke 12:20;  1 Timothy 6:13).

Human life is especially sacred, for people exist in God’s image. Israelite law therefore considered that any person who murdered another was no longer worthy to enjoy God’s gift of life and had to be executed ( Genesis 9:5-6;  Numbers 35:33; see Image ). The law required that even when people killed animals for food, they had to carry out the killing with fitting acknowledgment that the life belonged to God ( Genesis 9:4;  Leviticus 17:2-4;  Leviticus 17:10-14;  Deuteronomy 12:15-16; see Blood ).

Human life

In speaking of human life, people often make a contrast between physical life and spiritual life. But God’s intention is that all aspects of a person’s life be united harmoniously. God wants people to enjoy their physical life fully, but to do so in a right relationship with himself ( Deuteronomy 8:1;  Deuteronomy 8:3;  Deuteronomy 30:15-20;  Psalms 16:9-11;  Ecclesiastes 5:18-20;  Ecclesiastes 9:9-10). The life that is proper to them is one in which physical and spiritual aspects find their fulfilment as a unity (see Humanity, Humankind )

Sin, however, has so changed the character of human existence that life is no longer as it should be. Because of sin, the lives of all people are affected by the power of death. The result is that physically they are doomed to death and spiritually they are dead already ( Romans 5:12;  Romans 6:23;  Ephesians 2:1;  Ephesians 4:18; see Death ). They are cut off from God and therefore cut off from true spiritual life, the life that is life indeed, eternal life ( 1 Timothy 6:19).

The Bible may speak of human life from both the physical and the spiritual aspects ( Genesis 25:7;  Genesis 27:46;  John 5:40;  John 6:33), but these two aspects are not opposed to each other. Nor are they completely separated. Life in its physical earthly existence finds new meaning when people are ‘born again’. They then receive spiritual life as the free gift of God ( John 1:13;  John 3:5-6;  Ephesians 2:5; see Regeneration ). They find life in its truest sense; they begin a new existence ( Mark 8:35;  John 12:25).

Even though physical death is the common experience of all, believers will never be separated from God ( John 8:51;  Romans 8:38-39). Their physical death is viewed as a temporary ‘sleep’. At Christ’s return, God will raise them to resurrection life, where sin and death will have no more power ( John 11:11;  John 11:25-26;  1 Corinthians 15:20-26;  1 Corinthians 15:51-57).

Eternal life

Life in its highest sense is what the Bible calls eternal life ( 1 Timothy 6:13;  1 Timothy 6:15-16;  1 Timothy 6:19). In referring to this life as eternal, the Bible is emphasizing its quality rather than its length. The word ‘eternal’ comes from the Greek word for ‘age’ or ‘era’. Eternal life is the life of the age to come. It is the life that belongs to the eternal and spiritual world in contrast to the life of the temporal and physical world ( John 4:10;  John 4:13-14;  John 6:27;  John 6:35;  John 6:40). Certainly, that age will be unending ( John 6:51;  John 8:51), but more importantly it will be an age when people enjoy the close personal relationship with God for which they have been made. They will enjoy the life that God desires them to live ( John 6:63;  John 10:10;  John 17:3;  Ephesians 2:1;  Ephesians 2:5-6;  Philippians 1:21; see Eternity ).

This eternal life has its source in God. In fact, it is a characteristic of the nature of God himself. It has been revealed through Christ, made possible through Christ, and is available to all through Christ ( John 1:4;  John 5:26;  John 14:6;  Colossians 3:4;  1 John 5:20).

People cannot achieve eternal life by their own efforts. It comes solely as the gift of God ( John 10:28;  Romans 6:23;  1 John 5:11). But God gives this gift only to those who repent of their sins and commit themselves in faith to Jesus ( John 3:16;  John 11:25;  John 17:3;  John 20:31;  Acts 11:18;  1 John 5:12). God wants people to have confidence and assurance in the eternal life that he gives them. Those who have eternal life have salvation; those without it are under condemnation ( John 3:18;  John 3:36;  John 5:24;  1 John 5:13; see Assurance ; Salvation ).

Being part of a world affected by sin and death, believers may have to pass through physical death, but they will never die in the sense that really matters ( John 11:25-26). They have eternal life now ( John 5:24;  Ephesians 2:1;  1 John 3:14), and can look forward to the experience of that life in its fulness in the age to come. When Jesus Christ returns, they will be raised from death to enjoy the resurrection life of glory, perfection, power and immortality ( Matthew 25:46;  John 5:28-29;  John 6:40;  Romans 2:7;  Romans 6:22;  1 Corinthians 15:42-44;  2 Corinthians 5:4;  2 Timothy 1:10; see Resurrection ).

King James Dictionary [6]

LIFE, n. plu lives. See Live.

1. In a general sense, that state of animals and plants, or of an organized being, in which its natural functions and motions are performed, or in which its organs are capable of performing their functions. A tree is not destitute of life in winter, when the functions of its organs are suspended nor man during a swoon or syncope nor strictly birds, quadrupeds or serpents during their torpitude in winter. They are not strictly dead, till the functions of their organs are incapable of being renewed. 2. In animals, animation vitality and in man, that state of being in which the soul and body are united.

He entreated me not to take his life.

3. In plants, the state in which they grow or are capable of growth, by means of the circulation of the sap. The life of an oak may be two, three, or four hundred years. 4. The present state of existence the time from birth to death. The life of man seldom exceeds seventy years.

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.  1 Corinthians 15 .

5. Manner of living conduct deportment, in regard to morals.

I will teach my family to lead good lives.

6. Condition course of living, in regard to happiness and misery. We say, a man's life has been a series of prosperity, or misfortune. 7. Blood, the supposed vehicle of animation.

And the warm life came issuing through the wound.

8. Animals in general animal being.

Full nature swarms with life.

9. System of animal nature.

Lives through all life.

10. Spirit animation briskness vivacity resolution.

They have no notion of life and fire in fancy and words.

11. The living form real person or state in opposition to a copy as, a picture is taken from the life a description from the life. 12. Exact resemblance with to, before life.

His portrait is draw to the life.

13. General state of man, or of social manners as the studies and arts that polish life. 14. Condition rank in society as high life and low life. 15.Common occurrences course of things human affairs.

But to know that which before us lies in daily life, is the prime wisdom.

16. A person a living being usually or always, a human being. How many lives were sacrificed during the revolution? 17. Narrative of a past life history of the events of life biographical narration. Johnson wrote the life of Milton, and the lives of other poets. 18. In Scripture, nourishment support of life.

For the tree of the field is man's life.  Deuteronomy 20 .

19. The stomach or appetite.

His life abhorreth bread.  Job 33 .

20. The enjoyments or blessings of the present life.

Having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.  1 Timothy 4 .

21. Supreme felicity.

To be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Romans 8 .

22. Eternal happiness in heaven.  Romans 5 . 23. Restoration to life.  Romans 5 . 24. The author and giver of supreme felicity.

I am the way, the truth, and the life.  John 14 .

25. A quickening, animating and strengthening principle, in a moral sense.  John 6 . 26. The state of being in force, or the term for which an instrument has legal operation as the life of an execution.

Webster's Dictionary [7]

(1): ( n.) A history of the acts and events of a life; a biography; as, Johnson wrote the life of Milton.

(2): ( n.) The system of animal nature; animals in general, or considered collectively.

(3): ( n.) That which imparts or excites spirit or vigor; that upon which enjoyment or success depends; as, he was the life of the company, or of the enterprise.

(4): ( n.) An essential constituent of life, esp. the blood.

(5): ( n.) The potential principle, or force, by which the organs of animals and plants are started and continued in the performance of their several and cooperative functions; the vital force, whether regarded as physical or spiritual.

(6): ( n.) The state of being which begins with generation, birth, or germination, and ends with death; also, the time during which this state continues; that state of an animal or plant in which all or any of its organs are capable of performing all or any of their functions; - used of all animal and vegetable organisms.

(7): ( n.) Figuratively: The potential or animating principle, also, the period of duration, of anything that is conceived of as resembling a natural organism in structure or functions; as, the life of a state, a machine, or a book; authority is the life of government.

(8): ( n.) A certain way or manner of living with respect to conditions, circumstances, character, conduct, occupation, etc.; hence, human affairs; also, lives, considered collectively, as a distinct class or type; as, low life; a good or evil life; the life of Indians, or of miners.

(9): ( n.) Something dear to one as one's existence; a darling; - used as a term of endearment.

(10): ( n.) Enjoyment in the right use of the powers; especially, a spiritual existence; happiness in the favor of God; heavenly felicity.

(11): ( n.) Animation; spirit; vivacity; vigor; energy.

(12): ( n.) A person; a living being, usually a human being; as, many lives were sacrificed.

(13): ( n.) Of human beings: The union of the soul and body; also, the duration of their union; sometimes, the deathless quality or existence of the soul; as, man is a creature having an immortal life.

(14): ( n.) The living or actual form, person, thing, or state; as, a picture or a description from the life.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [8]

This is one of the characters of the Lord Jesus Christ. In him, saith the apostle John, "was life, and the life was the light of men." ( John 1:4) And elsewhere Jesus saith himself, "I am the life and the light of men. I am the resurrection and the life. I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." It is most essential to our happiness, that we should have clear conceptions of this most blessed truth, so as to see and know from whence and in whom all the springs of life are. It is not, in my view of things, sufficient to understand that Christ gives life to his people, but that he is himself the life of his people. He saith himself, "Because I live, ye shall live also." So that Jesus is, to the soul of his redeemed, the very life of the soul, as our soul is the life of the body. When the soul departs from the body, the body dies; and could it be supposed that Christ was to depart from the souls of his redeemed, the soul would die also. But this is impossible; for it is said, that he hath quickened them, who were by nature dead in trespasses and sins. And the apostle to the church of the Colossians saith, "Your life is hid with Christ in God; so that when Christ, who is your life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." What a world of blessedness there is in this one consideration of the Lord Jesus as the life of his people! Precious Lord, I would say, thou art indeed both the life and the light of men! Thou art in thyself the whole of their spiritual and eternal life. Keep alive, I beseech thee, the renewed life thou hast given me in thyself; and cause me to enter into the full apprehension and enjoyment of that most glorious proclamation of thine in which thou hast, said, "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were deadly, yet shall he live, and he that liveth and believeth in, me shall never die."

Morrish Bible Dictionary [9]

Life is that by which a created being enjoys the place in which the Creator has set it. God breathed into man's nostrils 'the breath of life; and man became a living soul.'  Genesis 2:7 . Sin having come in, this life is forfeited and God claims it, saying, "surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man."  Genesis 9:5 . This instituted capital punishment for murder, which law has never been rescinded or altered.

Scripture recognises a difference between 'life' in a moral sense and 'existence,' as seen in the passage, "What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good?"  Psalm 34:12 . Here is a man desiring life, desiring to enjoy life. This answers the objection of those who, wishing to deny eternal punishment, say that 'living for ever' is only spoken of the Christian, as in  John 6:51,58 . True, but many other scriptures prove that the wicked will have an eternal existence.

Man, in his natural state, is regarded as morally dead in sins, and as needing to be quickened by the power of God; or as living in sins and needing to accept death in order to live in Christ, as in the Epistle to the Romans.

Charles Spurgeon's Illustration Collection [10]

John Mackintosh thus writes to his biographer, Norman Macleod:: 'May it not be said that the movement of our age is towards life? I sometimes fancy that I can discern three epochs in the Reformed Churches, corresponding in the main to those three weighty epithets: via, yenta:, vita. The Reformers themselves, no doubt, laid the stress chiefly upon the first (via). It was on this Popery had gone most astray, obscuring the doctrine of justification by faith alone. The epoch following was essentially dogmatic (veritas), when the doctors drew up 'systems' of the truth. It was now, indeed, Christ as veritas! but the dogma taken alone led to coldness, dogmatism, sectarianism, and formality. Happy will it be for the church, if, not forgetting the other two, she shall now be found moving on to the third development of Christ as vita: the life, which will regulate the two former aspects, while it consummates and informs them. This l must develop the individual, and on individuals the church depends; for in God's sight it is no abstraction.'

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [11]

A state of active existence.

1. Human life is the continuance or duration of our present state, and which the Scriptures represent as short and vain,  Job 14:1-2 .  James 4:14 .

2. Spiritual life consists in our being in the favour of God, influenced by a principle of grace. God, influenced by a principle of grace, and living dependent on him. It is considered as of divine origin,  Colossians 3:4 . hidden,  Colossians 3:3 . peaceful,  Romans 8:6 . secure,  John 10:28 .

3. Eternal life is that never-ending state of existence which the saints shall enjoy in heaven, and is glorious,  Colossians 3:4 . holy,  Revelation 21:27 . and blissful,  1 Peter 1:4 .  2 Corinthians 4:17 .

See Heaven

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [12]

In the Bible, is either natural,  Genesis 3:17; spiritual, that of the renewed soul,  Romans 8:6; or eternal, a holy and blissful immortality,  John 3:36   Romans 6:23 . Christ is the great Author of natural life,  Colossians 1:16; and also of spiritual and eternal life;  John 14:6   6:47 . He has purchased these by laying down his own life; and gives them freely to his people,  John 10:11,28 . He is the spring of all their spiritual life on earth,  Galatians 2:20; will raise them up at the last day; and make them partakers for ever of his own life,  John 11:25   14:19 .

Easton's Bible Dictionary [13]

 Genesis 2:7 Luke 16:25 Hebrews 7:16 Romans 6:4 John 3:16,17,18,36 Matthew 19:16,17 John 3:15 John 1:4 5:26,39 11:25 12:50

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [14]

lı̄f ( חיּים , ḥayyı̄m , נפשׁ , nephesh , רוּח , rūaḥ , חיה , ḥāyāh  ; ζωή , zōḗ , ψυχή , psuchḗ , βίος , bı́os , πνεῦμα , pneúma ):

I. The Terms

II. The Old Testament Teaching

1. Popular Use of the Term

2. Complexity of the Idea

III. In The Apocrypha

IV. In The New Testament

1. In the Synoptic Gospels

2. In the Fourth Gospel

3. In the Acts of the Apostles

4. In the Writings of Paul

5. In the Writings of John

6. In the Other Books of the New Testament


I. The Terms.

Of the Hebrew terms, ḥāyāh is the verb which means "to live," "to have life," or the vital principle, "to continue to live," or "to live prosperously." In the Piel it signifies "to give life, or preserve, or quicken and restore life." The Hiphil is much like the Piel. The noun hayyı̄m generally used in the plural is an abstract noun meaning "life," i.e. the possession of the vital principle with its energies and activities. Nephesh often means "living being" or "creature." Sometimes it has the force of the reflexive "self." At other times it refers to the seat of the soul, the personality, the emotions, the appetites - passions and even mental acts. Frequently it means "life," the "seat of life," and in this way it is used about 171 times in the Old Testament, referring to the principle of vitality in both men and animals. Rūaḥ signifies "wind," "breath," principle or source of vitality, but is never used to signify life proper.

II. The Old Testament Teaching.

1. Popular Use of the Term:

The term "life" is used in the Old Testament in the popular sense. It meant life in the body, the existence and activity of the man in all his parts and energies. It is the person complete, conscious and active. There is no idea of the body being a fetter or prison to the soul; the body was essential to life and the writers had no desire to be separated from it. To them the physical sphere was a necessity, and a man was living when all his activities were performed in the light of God's face and favor. The secret and source of life to them was relationship with God. There was nothing good or desirable apart from this relation of fellowship. To overcome or be rid of sin was necessary to life. The real center of gravity in life was in the moral and religious part of man's nature. This must be in fellowship with God, the source of all life and activity.

2. Complexity of the Idea:

The conception of life is very complex. Several meanings are clearly indicated: (1) Very frequently it refers to the vital principle itself, apart from its manifestations ( Genesis 2:7 ). Here it is the breath of life, or the breath from God which contained and communicated the vital principle to man and made him a nephesh or living being (see also  Genesis 1:30;  Genesis 6:17;  Genesis 7:22;  Genesis 45:5 , etc.). (2) It is used to denote the period of one's actual existence, i.e. "lifetime" ( Genesis 23:1;  Genesis 25:7;  Genesis 47:9;  Exodus 6:16 ,  Exodus 6:18 ,  Exodus 6:20 , etc.). (3) The life is represented as a direct gift from God, and dependent absolutely upon Him for its continuance (Gen 1:11-27;  Genesis 2:7;  Numbers 16:22 ). (4) In a few cases it refers to the conception of children, denoting the time when conception was possible ( Genesis 18:10 ,  Genesis 18:14 margin;   2 Kings 4:16 ,  2 Kings 4:17 margin). (5) In many cases it refers to the totality of man's relationships and activities, all of which make up life (  Deuteronomy 32:47;  1 Samuel 25:29;  Job 10:1 , etc.). (6) In a few instances it is used synonymously with the means of sustaining life ( Deuteronomy 24:6;  Proverbs 27:27 ). (7) Many times it is used synonymously with happiness or well-being ( Deuteronomy 30:15 ,  Deuteronomy 30:19;  Ezra 6:10;  Psalm 16:11;  Psalm 30:5;  Proverbs 2:19 , and frequently). (8) It is always represented as a very precious gift, and offenses against life were to be severely punished ( Genesis 9:4 ,  Genesis 9:5;  Leviticus 17:14;  Leviticus 24:17 ).

Capital punishment is here specifically enjoined because of the value of the life that has been taken. The lexicon talionis required life for life (  Exodus 21:23;  Deuteronomy 19:21 ); and this even applies to the beast ( Leviticus 24:18 ). The life was represented as abiding in the blood and therefore the blood must not be eaten, or lightly shed upon the ground ( Leviticus 17:15;  Deuteronomy 12:23 ). The Decalogue forbids murder or the taking of human life wrongfully ( Exodus 20:13;  Deuteronomy 5:17 ). Garments taken in pledge must not be kept over night, for thereby the owner's life might be endangered ( Deuteronomy 24:6 ). That life was considered precious appears in  2 Kings 10:24;  Esther 7:7;  Job 2:4;  Proverbs 4:23;  Proverbs 6:26 . The essence of sacrifice consisted in the fact that the life (the nephesh ) resided in the blood; thus when blood was shed, life was lost ( Deuteronomy 12:23;  Leviticus 17:11 ). Oppression on the part of judges and rulers was severely condemned because oppression was detrimental to life.

(9) Long life was much desired and sought by the Israelites, and under certain conditions this was possible ( Psalm 91:16 ). The longevity of the ante-diluvian patriarchs is a problem by itself (see Antediluvians ). It was one of the greatest of calamities to be cut off in the midst of life ( Isaiah 38:10-12;  Isaiah 53:8 ); that a good old age was longed for is shown by  Exodus 20:12;  Psalm 21:4;  Psalm 34:12;  Psalm 61:6 , etc. This long life was possible to the obedient to parents ( Exodus 20:12;  Deuteronomy 5:16 ), and to those obedient to God ( Deuteronomy 4:4;  Proverbs 3:1 ,  Proverbs 3:2;  Proverbs 10:27 ); to the wise ( Proverbs 3:16;  Proverbs 9:11 ); to the pure in heart ( Psalm 34:12-14;  Psalm 91:1-10;  Ecclesiastes 3:12 ,  Ecclesiastes 3:13 ); to those who feared God ( Proverbs 10:27;  Isaiah 65:18-21;  Isaiah 38:2-5 , etc.). (10) The possibility of an immortal life is dimly hinted at in the earliest writing, and much more clearly taught in the later. The Tree of Life in the midst of the garden indicated a possible immortality for man upon earth ( Genesis 2:9;  Genesis 3:22 ,  Genesis 3:24 ) (see Tree Of Life ).

Failing to partake of this and falling into sin by partaking of the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil," they were driven forth from the garden lest they should eat of the tree of life and become immortal beings in their sinful condition. To deprive man of the possibility of making himself immortal while sinful was a blessing to the race; immortality without holiness is a curse rather than a blessing. The way to the tree of life was henceforth guarded by the cherubim and the flame of a sword, so that men could not partake of it in their condition of sin. This, however, did not exclude the possibility of a spiritual immortality in another sphere. Enoch's fellowship with God led to a bodily translation; so also Elijah, and several hundred years after their deaths, God called Himself the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, implying that they were really alive then. In  Isaiah 26:19 there is a clear prophecy of a resurrection, and an end of death.   Daniel 12:2 asserts a resurrection of many of the dead, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Some of the psalmists firmly believed in the continuity of the life in fellowship with God (  Psalm 16:10 ,  Psalm 16:11;  Psalm 17:15;  Psalm 23:6;  Psalm 49:15;  Psalm 73:24 ,  Psalm 73:25 ). The exact meaning of some of these statements is difficult to understand, yet this much is clear: there was a revolt against death in many pious minds, and a belief that the life of fellowship with God could not end or be broken even by death itself. See Immortality .

(11) The fundamental fact in the possession of life was vital relationship with God. Men first lived because God breathed into them the breath of life ( Genesis 2:7 ). Man's vital energies are the outflowing of the spirit or vital energies of God, and all activities are dependent upon the vitalizing power from God. When God sends forth His spirit, things are created, and live; when He withdraws that spirit they die ( Psalm 104:30 ). "In his favor is life" ( Psalm 30:5 the King James Version). He is the fountain of life (  Psalm 36:9;  Psalm 63:3 ). "All my fountains are in thee" ( Psalm 87:7 ). The secret of Job's success and happiness was that the Almighty was with him ( Job 29:2 ). This fellowship brought him health, friends, prosperity and all other blessings. The consciousness of the fellowship with God led men to revolt against the idea of going to Sheol where this fellowship must cease. They felt that such a relationship could not cease, and God would take them out of Sheol.

III. In the Apocrypha.

A similar conception of life appears here as in the Old Testament. Zōē and psuchē are used and occur most frequently in the books of The Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclus. In 1,2 Esdras the word is little used; 2 Esdras 3:5; 16:61 are but a quotation from   Genesis 2:7 , and refer to the vital principle; 2 Esdras 14:30, Tobit, Judith, Ad Esther use it in the same sense also. Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus use it in several senses closely resembling the use in Proverbs (compare Ecclesiasticus 4:12;  Proverbs 3:18;  Proverbs 10:16 ). In general there is no additional meaning attached to the word. The Psalms of Solomon refer to everlasting life in 3:16; 13:10; 14:2, 6.

IV. In the New Testament.

Of the Greek terms bios is used at times as the equivalent of the Hebrew ḥayyı̄m . It refers to life extensively, i.e. the period of one's existence, a lifetime; also to the means of sustaining life, such as wealth, etc. Psuchē is also equivalent to ḥayyı̄m at times, but very frequently to nephesh and sometimes to rūaḥ . Thus, it means the vital principle, a living being, the immaterial part of man, the seat of the affections, desires and appetites, etc. The term zōē corresponds very closely to ḥayyı̄m , and means the vital principle, the state of one who is animate, the fullness of activities and relationship both in the physical and spiritual realms.

The content of the word zōē is the chief theme of the New Testament. The life is mediated by Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament this life was through fellowship with God, in the New Testament it is through Jesus Christ the Mediator. The Old Testament idea is carried to its completion, its highest development of meaning, being enriched by the supreme teaching and revelation of Jesus Christ. In the New Testament as well as in the Old Testament, the center of gravity in human life is in the moral and religious nature of man.

1. In the Synoptic Gospels:

The teaching here regarding life naturally links itself with Old Testament ideas and the prevailing conceptions of Judaism. The word is used in the sense of (1) the vital principle, that which gives actual physical existence ( Matthew 2:20;  Mark 10:45;  Luke 12:22 f;   Luke 14:26 ). (2) It is also the period of one's existence, i.e. lifetime ( Luke 1:75;  Luke 16:25 ). (3) Once it may mean the totality of man's relationships and activities ( Luke 12:15 ) which do not consist in abundance of material possessions. (4) Generally it means the real life, the vital connection with the world and God, the sum total of man's highest interests. It is called "eternal life" ( Matthew 19:29;  Matthew 25:46 ). It is called "life" ( Matthew 18:8 ,  Matthew 18:9;  Matthew 19:17;  Mark 9:43 ,  Mark 9:45 ,  Mark 9:46 ). In these passages Jesus seems to imply that it is almost equivalent to "laying up treasures in heaven," or to "entering the kingdom of God." The entering into life and entering the kingdom are practically the same, for the kingdom is that spiritual realm where God controls, where the principles, activities and relationships of heaven prevail, and hence, to enter into these is to enter into "life." (5) The lower life of earthly relationship and activities must be subordinated to the higher and spiritual ( Matthew 10:39;  Matthew 16:25;  Luke 9:24 ). These merely earthly interests may be very desirable and enjoyable, but whoever would cling to these and make them supreme is in danger of losing the higher. The spiritual being infinitely more valuable should be sought even if the other relationship should be lost entirely. (6) Jesus also speaks of this life as something future, and to be realized at the consummation of the age ( Matthew 19:29;  Luke 18:30 ), or the world to come.

This in no wise contradicts the statement that eternal life can be entered upon in this life. As Jesus Himself was in vital relationship with the spiritual world and lived the eternal life, He sought to bring others into the same blessed state. This life was far from being perfect. The perfection could come only at the consummation when all was perfection and then they would enter into the perfect fellowship with God and connection with the spirit-world and its blessed experiences. There is no conflict in His teaching here, no real difficulty, only an illustration of Browning's statement, "Man never is but wholly hopes to be." Thus in the synoptists Jesus teaches the reality of the eternal life as a present possession as well as future fruition. The future is but the flowering out and perfection of the present. Without the present bud, there can be no future flower.

(7) The conditions which Jesus lays down for entering into this life are faith in Himself as the one Mediator of the life, and the following of Him in a life of obedience. He alone knows the Father and can reveal Him to others ( Matthew 11:27 ). He alone can give true rest and can teach men how to live ( Matthew 11:28 f). The sure way to this life is: "Follow me." His whole ministry was virtually a prolonged effort to win confidence in Himself as Son and Mediator, to win obedience, and hence, bring men unto these spiritual relationships and activities which constitute the true life.

2. In the Fourth Gospel:

The fullest and richest teachings regarding life are found here. The greatest word of this Gospel is "life." The author says he wrote the Gospel in order that "ye may have life" ( John 20:31 ). Most of the teachings recorded, circle around this great word "life." This teaching is in no way distinctive and different from that of the synoptists, but is supplementary, and completes the teaching of Jesus on the subject. The use of the word is not as varied, being concentrated on the one supreme subject. (1) In a few cases it refers only to the vital principle which gives life or produces a lifetime ( John 10:11 ,  John 10:15-18;  John 13:37;  John 15:13 ). (2) It represents Jesus the Loges as the origin and means of all life to the world. As the preincarnate Loges He was the source of life to the universe ( John 1:4 ). As the incarnate Loges He said His life had been derived originally from the Father ( John 5:26;  John 6:57;  John 10:18 ). He then was the means of life to men ( John 3:15 ,  John 3:16;  John 4:14;  John 5:21 ,  John 5:39 ,  John 5:40 ); and this was the purpose for which He came into the world ( John 6:33 ,  John 6:34 ,  John 6:51;  John 10:10 ). (3) The prevailing reference, however, is to those activities which are the expression of fellowship with God and Jesus Christ. These relationships are called "eternal life" ( John 3:15 ,  John 3:16 ,  John 3:36;  John 4:14 , etc.). The nearest approach to a definition of eternal life is found in  John 17:3 . Though not a scientific or metaphysical definition, it is nevertheless Jesus' own description of eternal life, and reveals His conception of it. It is thus more valuable than a formal definition. It is "to know God and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent."

This knowledge is vastly more than mere intellectual perception or understanding. It is moral knowledge, it is personal acquaintance, it is fellowship, a contact, if we may so speak, of personality with personality, an inner affinity and sympathy, an experience of similar thoughts, emotions, purposes, motives, desires, an interchange of the heart's deepest feelings and experiences. It is a bringing of the whole personality of man into right relationship with the personality of God. This relation is ethical, personal, binding the two together with ties which nothing can separate. It is into this experience that Jesus came to bring men. Such a life Jesus says is satisfying to all who hunger and thirst for it ( John 4:14;  John 6:35 ); it is the source of light to all ( John 1:4;  John 8:12 ); it is indestructible ( John 6:58;  John 11:26 ); it is like a well of water in the soul ( John 4:14 ); it is procured by personally partaking of those qualities which belong to Jesus ( John 6:53 ).

(4) This life is a present possession and has also a glorious future fruition. (a) To those who exercise faith in Jesus it is a present experience and possession ( John 4:10;  John 5:24 ,  John 5:40 ). Faith in Him as the Son of God is the psychological means by which persons are brought into this vital relationship with God. Those who exercised the faith immediately experienced this new power and fellowship and exercised the new activities. (b) It has a glorious fruition in the future also ( John 4:36;  John 5:29;  John 6:39 ,  John 6:44 ,  John 6:54 ). John does not give so much prominence to the eschatological phase of Jesus' teachings as to the present reality and actual possession of this blessed life.

(5) It has been objected that in speaking of the Loges as the source of life John is pursuing a metaphysical line, whereas the life which he so much emphasizes has an ethical basis, and he makes no attempt to reconcile the two. The objection may have force to one who has imbibed the Ritschlian idea of performing the impossible task of eliminating all metaphysics from theology. It will not appeal very strongly to the average Christian. It is a purely academic objection. The ordinary mind will think that if Jesus Christ is the source of ethical and eternal life it is because He possesses something of the essence and being of God, which makes His work for men possible. The metaphysical and the ethical may exist together, may run concurrently, the one being the source and seat of the other. There is no contradiction. Both metaphysics and ethics are a legitimate and necessary exercise of the human mind.

3. In the Acts of the Apostles:

In His intercessory prayer,  John 17 , Jesus said His mission was to give eternal life to as many as the Father had given Him ( John 17:2 ). The record in Acts is the carrying out of that purpose. The word "life" is used in several senses: (1) the vital principle or physical life ( Acts 17:25;  Acts 20:10 ,  Acts 20:24;  Acts 27:10 ,  Acts 27:22 ); (2) also the sum total of man's relationships and activities upon earth ( Acts 5:20;  Acts 26:4 ); (3) Jesus Christ is regarded as the source and principle of life, being called by Peter, "the Prince of life" ( Acts 3:15 ). Also the life eternal or everlasting is spoken of with the same significance as in the Gospels ( Acts 11:18;  Acts 13:46 ,  Acts 13:48 ).

4. In the Writings of Paul:

Here also the words for "life" are used in various senses: (1) the vital principle which gives physical vitality and existence ( Romans 8:11 ,  Romans 8:38;  Romans 11:15;  1 Corinthians 3:22;  Philippians 1:20;  Philippians 2:30 ); (2) the sum total of man's relationships and activities ( 1 Corinthians 6:3 ,  1 Corinthians 6:4;  1 Timothy 2:2;  1 Timothy 4:8;  2 Timothy 1:1;  2 Timothy 3:10 the King James Version); (3) those relationships with God and with Christ in the spiritual realm, and the activities arising therefrom which constitute the real and eternal life. This is mediated by Christ (  Romans 5:10 ). It is in Christ ( Romans 6:11 ). It is the free gift of God ( Romans 6:23 ). It is also mediated or imparted to us through the Spirit ( Romans 8:2 ,  Romans 8:6 ,  Romans 8:9 ,  Romans 8:10;  2 Corinthians 2:16;  2 Corinthians 3:6;  Galatians 6:8 ). It comes through obedience to the word ( Romans 7:10;  Philippians 2:16 ); and through faith ( 1 Timothy 1:16 ). It may be apprehended in this life ( 1 Timothy 6:12 ,  1 Timothy 6:19 ). It is brought to light through the gospel ( 2 Timothy 1:10 ). It is a reward to those who by patience in well-doing seek it ( Romans 2:7 ). It gives conquering power over sin and death ( Romans 5:17 ,  Romans 5:18 ,  Romans 5:21 ). It is the end or reward of a sanctified life ( Romans 6:22 ). It is a present possession and a hope ( Titus 1:2;  Titus 3:7 ). It will be received in all its fullness hereafter ( Romans 2:7;  2 Corinthians 5:4 ). Thus Paul's use of the word substantially agrees with the teaching in the Gospels, and no doubt was largely based upon it.

5. In the Writings of John:

In the Johannine Epistles and Revelation, the contents of the term "life" are the same as those in the Fourth Gospel. Life in certain passages ( 1 John 3:16;  Revelation 8:9;  Revelation 11:11;  Revelation 12:11 ) is mere physical vitality and existence upon earth. The source of life is Christ Himself ( 1 John 1:1 f;   1 John 5:11 f, 16). The blessed eternal life in Christ is a present possession to all those who are in fellowship with the Father and the Son (  1 John 5:11 ,  1 John 5:12 ). Here is an echo of the words of Jesus ( John 17:3 ) where John describes the life, the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested unto us. It is virtually fellowship with the Father and with the Son ( 1 John 1:2 ,  1 John 1:4 ). Life is promised to those who are faithful ( Revelation 2:7 ); and the crown of life is promised to those who are faithful unto death ( Revelation 2:10 ). The crown of life doubtless refers to the realization of all the glorious possibilities that come through fellowship with God and the Son. The thirsty are invited to come and drink of the water of life freely ( Revelation 21:6;  Revelation 22:17 ). The river of life flows through the streets of the New Jerusalem ( Revelation 22:1 ), and the tree of life blooms on its banks, bearing twelve manner of fruit ( Revelation 22:2 ,  Revelation 22:14 ). See Tree Of Life .

6. In the Other Books of the New Testament:

The Epistle to the Hebrews speaks of our lifetime or periods of existence upon earth ( Hebrews 2:15;  Hebrews 7:3 ), likewise of the power of an indissoluble life ( Hebrews 7:16 ); James promises the crown of life to the faithful ( James 1:12 ). This reward is the fullness of life's possibilities hereafter. Our lifetime is mentioned in  James 4:14 and represented as brief as a vapor. Peter in   1 Peter 3:7 speaks of man and wife as joint-heirs of the grace of life, and of loving life (  1 Peter 3:10 ), referring to the totality of relationships and activities. The "all things that pertain unto life and godliness" ( 2 Peter 1:3 ) constitute the whole Christian life involving the life eternal.


Articles on "Life" in Hdb , Dcg , Jewish Encyclopedia ;on "Soul," "Spirit," etc., ibid, and in Encyclopedia Brit , Eb , Kitto, Smith, Standard , etc.; Laidlaw, Bible Doctrine of Man  ; Delitzsch, A S ystem of Biblical Psychology  ; cornms. on the various passages; Davidson, Old Testament Theology  ; Oehler and Schultz, Old Testament Theology  ; Stevens, Johannine Theology and Pauline Theology  ; Holtzmann, New Testament Theology, I, 293 ff; G. Dalman, Words of Jesus  ; Phillips Brooks, More Abundant Life  ; B.F. Westcott, Historic Faith; F.J.A. Hort, The Way, the Truth, the Life  ; J.G. Hoare, Life in John's Gospels  ; E. White, Life and Christ  ; Salmond, The Christian Doctrine of Immortality  ; R.J. Knowling, Witness of the Epistles and The Testimony of Paul to Christ  ; commentaries on the various passages; McPherson, "The New Testament View of Life," The Expositor , I, set. v, 72 ff; Massie, "Two New Testament Words Denoting Life," The Expositor, II, series iv, 380 ff; Schrenk, Die Johannistische Anschauung yom Leben .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [15]

(properly חִי , usually in the plur. with a sing. meaning, חִיַּים ; Gr. Ζωή ), generally of physical life and existence, as opposed to death and non- existence ( Genesis 2:7;  Genesis 25:7;  Luke 16:25;  Acts 17:25;  1 Corinthians 3:22;  1 Corinthians 15:19;  Hebrews 7:3;  James 4:14;  Revelation 11:11;  Revelation 16:3). (See Longevity). The ancients generally entertained the idea that the vital principle (which they appear to have denoted by the term Spirit, in distinction from the soul itself, comp.  1 Thessalonians 5:23) resided particularly in the blood, which, on that account, the Jews were forbidden to use as food ( Leviticus 17:11). (See Blood). Other terms occasionally rendered "life" in the Scriptures are נֶפֶשׁ (ne'phesh, a Living creature), יוֹם (yorn, a Day, i.e., a lifetime), Βίος (lifetime), Πνεῦμα (Breath, i.e., spirit), Ψυχή (Soul, or animating principle).

The term life is also used more or less figuratively in the following acceptations in Scripture:

(1.) For existence, life, absolutely and without end, immortality ( Hebrews 7:16). So also "tree of life," or of immortality, which preserves from death ( Revelation 2:7;  Revelation 22:2;  Revelation 22:14;  Genesis 2:9;  Genesis 3:22); "bread of life" ( John 6:35;  John 6:51); "way of life" ( Psalms 16:11;  Acts 2:28); "water of life," 1. living fountains of water, perennial ( Revelation 7:17); crown of life, the reward of eternal life ( James 1:12;  Revelation 2:10). (See Book); (See Bread); (See Crown); (See Fountain); (See Tree), etc.

(2.) The manner of life, conduct, in a moral respect; "newness of life" ( Romans 6:4); "the life of God," i.e., the life which God requires, a godly life ( Ephesians 4:18;  2 Peter 1:3).

(3.) The term "i.e." is also used for spiritual life, or the holiness and happiness of salvation procured by the Savior's death. In this sense, Life or Eternal Life is the antithesis of Death or Condemnation. Life is the image of all good, and is therefore employed to express it ( Deuteronomy 30:15;  John 3:16-18;  John 3:36;  John 5:24;  John 5:39-40;  John 6:47;  John 8:51;  John 11:26;  Romans 5:12;  Romans 5:18;  1 John 5:1); Death is the consummation of evil, and so it is frequently used as a strong expression in order to designate every kind of evil, whether temporal or spiritual ( Jeremiah 21:8;  Ezekiel 18:28;  Ezekiel 33:11;  Romans 1:32;  Romans 6:21;  Romans 7:5;  Romans 7:10;  Romans 7:13;  Romans 7:24;  John 6:50;  John 8:21).

(4.) Life is also used for Eternal Life, i.e., the life of bliss and glory in the kingdom of God which awaits the true disciples of Christ ( Matthew 19:16-17;  John 3:15;  1 Timothy 4:8;  Acts 5:20;  Romans 5:17;  1 Peter 3:7;  2 Timothy 1:1).

(5.) The term Life is also used of God and Christ or the Word, as the absolute source and cause of all life ( John 1:4;  John 5:26;  John 5:39;  John 11:25;  John 12:50;  John 14:6;  John 17:3;  Colossians 3:4;  1 John 1:1-2;  1 John 5:20). (See Death).