“Life-making”

1 Cor. 15:45 has a great word in it, in Greek.

“And so it has been written: The first human [anthropos], Adam, was made [egeneto] into a living soul [psychen zosan]; the last Adam into a lifegiving spirit [pneuma zoopoioun].”

Zoopoioun literally means “life-making” or “life-doing.” You could also translate it as “animating” or “quickening,” but the point is that Jesus’ breath/spirit puts life into dead or unliving things, just like the breath of God in Genesis does. (Because Jesus is God the Son, and all three Persons can do this, and do, together as the One God.)

The same word comes up in John 6:63, and Paul may well have heard it from people recounting the Bread of Life discourse.

“To pneuma estin to zoopoioun.,,,

“ta rhemata ha ego lelaleka hymin, pneuma estin, kai zoe estin.”

“The life-making [one] is the spirit/breath…

“The words/sayings/things that I have said to y’all, they are spirit, and they are life.”

The Bread of Life discourse is interesting also because Jesus brings in his multi-level teaching style.

  1. I don’t want you to do this, which is bad.
  2. I want you to do that, which is good.
  3. But I want you to do it because of that other thing yonder, which is EVEN BETTER.

So what you see is Jesus saying, “People, you have to eat My flesh and drink My blood. Seriously. And no, it’s not because I advocate human cuisine. It’s because I said so, and My words are spirit and life, and My breath makes life happen! I’m the Creator! I say ‘Let there be’ and it happens! Come on!”

I mean, obviously the Body and Blood of God-made-Man are going to be full of life, but He’s the Word Incarnate, first and foremost. You could even say that, when eating His Body, one is eating and drinking God’s Word.

(And to those who discern Him, eating the Word is sweet on the tongue and sweet in the belly, both.)

But considered as a protein source from human flesh, only —

“….he sarx ophelei ouden….”

“The flesh/body benefits nothing”

Because we’re not talking magical effects of cannibalism; we’re talking about the will of God expressed through eating a miracle, which is also a covenant and mystery.

John uses a different form of the same “life-making” verb in John 5:2. Paul uses it in Rom. 4:17 and 8:11; 1 Cor. 15:22 and 36; 2 Cor. 3:6; Gal. 3:21; and 1 Tim. 6:13. Peter uses it in 1 Peter 3:18.

But in the Septuagint, it shows up as a translation of “to make alive” or “revive”. It’s in 2 Kings 5:7, Job 36:6, Ps. 71:20, Eccl. 7:12, Ezra 9:8-9, and Neh. 9:6. The Ecclesiastes passage even says that Wisdom “makes alive” those who have her, and of course Early Christians and the Fathers regarded references to Wisdom as references to Christ.

3 Comments

Filed under Greek Bible Stuff

3 responses to ““Life-making”

  1. Very interesting. I’ve found that Scripture is often rich in meaning when analyzed a little more than the surface.

  2. Peter J. Floriani

    Even more astounding (and I know almost no Greek, but I can recognize some roots!) this curious word might also be turned into English “life-poeming” – since (1) there is not a simple English verb for “to write a poem” and because the root of OUR “poem” is that Greek verb which means “to make” – as GKC observed:

    “The medieval word for a Poet was a Maker, which indeed is the original meaning of a Poet. It is one of the points, more numerous than some suppose, in which Greek and medieval simplicity nearly touch. There was never a man who was more of a Maker than Chaucer. … The Poet is the Maker; he is the creator of a cosmos; and Chaucer is the creator of the whole world of his creatures. ” GKC Chaucer CW18:155, 160

    That business of “creation” (more properly SUBcreation) is addressed at some length in Tolkien’s master-essay “On Fairy-Stories” which ought to be REQUIRED READING at all schools. It needs far more discussion than I can jam into a comment box, so I pull a Fermat and say “to be continued elsewhere.”

    • “On Fairy Stories” is indeed a great essay, and deep.

      Sir Philip Sidney has a book on “Makers,” basically trying to justify poetry and imaginative fiction to his fellow Protestants, especially with Puritanism coming on. I never got through the whole thing, but it seemed like good stuff. (Although I suspect that Pilgrim’s Progress and John Bunyan provided the really crushing argument, and kept a lot of England’s fantasy life alive.)

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