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These two passages are rather similar:

Proverbs 8:35-36 (ESV)
For whoever finds me [wisdom] finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, 36 but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death.”

1 John 5:12 (ESV)
Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Are these usages of the word life referring to the same thing? If they are different, how are they different? If they are the same, how do we know they are the same?

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3 Answers 3

They are two different types of life. Proverbs speaks mostly to physical things, so the life referred to here is physical life. Living in wisdom keeps us from things that would do us hurt or killed and allows us to have more blessings in this life.

John, however, was talking about the spiritual. Without Christ, we are spirituality dead. With Christ, we have life, hope and peace. Therefore, 1 John 5:12 is speaking to spiritual life.

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"Proverbs speaks mostly to physical things"? I find that a rather outlandish claim. –  Kazark May 26 '12 at 3:50
    
@Kazark, why? While Proverbs speak to the spiritual, it also dispenses wisdom on money, sex, child-rearing, business transactions, treatment of the poor, education, personal attitudes and many other physical attributes. While you can't truly separate the two (i.e. Spiritual affects and informs the physical and the physical affects and illustrates the spiritual), Proverbs is a practical physical book. –  Andrew Neely May 29 '12 at 12:59
    
Because I would hardly characterize all those things as "the physical". Rather, I might say, "the earthly." And because the whole book is framed in terms of fear of Yahweh (1:7), which is a spiritual consideration. –  Kazark May 29 '12 at 16:17
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One way of approaching this question is to first ask "what would each verse have meant in the mind of the original author" taking account of who we believe was/were the human author's intended audience. When taking this approach, we must also take account of the genre of the writing.

In brief, Proverbs (at least until some of the later sections) are "of Solomon", intended for a general audience of both "naive" and the "wise man", intended to give wisdom to both:

1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:
2 To know wisdom and instruction,
To discern the sayings of understanding,
3 To receive instruction in wise behavior,
Righteousness, justice and equity;
4 To give prudence to the naive,
To the youth knowledge and discretion,
5 A wise man will hear and increase in learning,
And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,
6 To understand a proverb and a figure,
The words of the wise and their riddles.  NASB

The book was written at a time when there was not a clear picture of exactly what 'eternal life' meant, to the author is very unlikely to have referring to life in that sense - rather a combination of

  • preventing an early death through foolishness
  • 'life' as in quality of life

eg Proverbs 3:2 :

2 For length of days and years of life
And peace they will add to you.   NASB

or later in the same chapter:

22 So they will be life to your soul
And adornment to your neck.   NASB

on the other hand, briefly speaking, John was writing into a very different context - to believers familiar with Jesus' teachings on the resurrection.

The meanings of the word 'life' in proverbs are including in and expanded upon by Jesus teaching, which includes a much clearer view of life with Him after 'death'.

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Since Christ is the Wisdom of God:

But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. —1 Corinthians 1:24

Both verses say that Christ is life. Therefore the life's are one and the same life.

Though the proverb was applicable to the people in the day it was written speaking of making life in this world better, it also contained the hidden references to Christ.

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+1 Bob, my heart is developing a soft spot for your answers. This answer is concise and good. –  Kazark May 26 '12 at 3:47
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