John 5:29 (Interlinear)

29 καὶ (and) ἐκπορεύσονται (will come forth) — οἱ (those) τὰ (-) ἀγαθὰ (good) ποιήσαντες (having done), εἰς (to) ἀνάστασιν (the resurrection) ζωῆς (of life); οἱ (-) ‹δὲ› (and) τὰ (those) φαῦλα (evil) πράξαντες (having done), εἰς (to) ἀνάστασιν (the resurrection) κρίσεως (of judgment).

According to Vincent’s Word Studies, Vol. 2, p. 138, he notes,

Have done good - have done evil
Note again the use of the different verbs for doing with good and evil. See on John 3:21. On the word for evil (φαῦλα), see on John 3:20.

Why did John use different verbs for “doing” good and “doing” evil in John 5:29? How do each of these words affect the meaning of “doing” good and “doing” evil?


Vincent, Marvin R. Word Studies in the New Testament. Vol. 2. New York: Scribner’s Sons: 1905.

  • I take it that you are asking about the difference between the verbs ποιήσαντες Strong 4160, have done (good) and πράσσω Strong 4238, have practiced (evil).
    – Nigel J
    Oct 23 '19 at 20:13
  • 1
    John knows that all have sinned... so he cannot say those who have done sin. The issue of sin is if you continue to practice as Nigel has mentioned. But no one can do good apart from Christ. The phrase implies those who are in Christ vs. those who practice sin.
    – Bob Jones
    Jan 14 '20 at 5:18

Regarding the verbs πράττειν and ποιεῖν, William Watson Goodwin commented,1

When these words do not have their proper distinction of do and make, they sometimes have no apparent distinction.


        1 Goodwin, p. 48, §62, footnote 4

Hence, while in some verses there is indeed a distinction made between πράττειν τὰ φαῦλα and ποιεῖν τὰ ἀγαθὰ,2 in other verses, no such distinction exists.3 In fact, in Rom. 13:4, the apostle Paul first uses a conjugation of ποιῶ with κακός (“evil”), and shortly after in the very same verse, he uses a conjugation of πράσσω with κακός.


        2 John 3:19–20, 5:29; Rom. 7:19
        3 Rom. 9:11; Rom. 13:4; 2 Cor. 5:10

However, in John 5:29, the author clearly makes a distinction. Trench commented,4

How far can we trace the recognition of any such dinstinction in the Greek of the N.T.? There are two or three passages where it is difficult not to recognize an intention of the kind. It is hard, for example, to suppose that the change of words at John iii. 20, 21 is accidental; above all when the same reappears at chapter v. 29.


        4 Trench, §XCVI, p. 363

In his lexicon, Franz Passow commented concerning the distinction between ποιῶ and πράσσω,5

Also, Krüger and Frank (Demosthenes, Olynthiacs, 3.15) distinguish πράσσειν as the busy [activity], ποιεῖν as the productive activity. However, it will be more satisfactory to determine this difference there, that in the case of ποιεῖν, more prevalent is the idea of the product of the activity; in the case of πράσσειν, more prevalent is the [idea] of the working towards a goal, including eliminating opposing obstacles, and the means and ways by which the same is accomplished. Therefore, [πράσσειν] incorporates the idea of, at the least, a relative continuity, like a more expended effort.

Auch Krüger u. Franke Dem. Ol. 3, 15. unterscheiden πράσσειν als die geschäftige, ποιεῖν als die schaffende Thätigkeit. Zulänglicher wird es indess seyn, diesen Unterschied dahin festzustellen, dass bei ποιεῖν mehr die Vortsellung von dem Product der Thätigkeit, bei πράσσειν mehr die von dem Hinarbeiten aus ein Ziel mit Beseitigung entgegentretender Hindernisse, von den Mitteln und Wegen vorherrschend ist, wodurch dasselbe erreicht wird. Damit verbindet sich die Vortsellung einer wenigstens relativen Continuität, wie aufgewandter Anstrngung;


        5 Passow, p. 1066, πράσσω

Thayer wrote that πράσσω was equivalent to the Latin verb agere and ποιῶ to facere.6 On the Latin verb agere, Lewis & Short commented,7

To drive at something, to pursue a course of action, i. e. to make something an object of action; either in the most general sense, like the Engl. do and the Gr. πράττειν, for every kind of mental or physical employment; or, in a more restricted sense, to exhibit in external action, to act or perform, to deliver or pronounce, etc., so that after the act is completed nothing remains permanent, e. g. a speech, dance, play, etc. (while facere, to make, ποιεῖν, denotes the production of an object which continues to exist after the act is completed; and gerere, the performance of the duties of an office or calling).


        6 Thayer, p. 535, πράσσω
        7 Lewis & Short, p. 74, ago, II., D.


Demosthenes. Demosthenes On the Crown: With Critical and Explanatory Notes, an Historical Sketch, and Essays. Trans. Goodwin, William Watson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1901.

Lewis, Charlton T.; Short, Charles. Harper’s Latin Dictionary: A New Latin Dictionary Founded on the Translation of Freund’s Latin-German Lexicon. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1884.

Passow, Franz. Handwörterbuch der Griechischen Sprache. 5th ed. Ed. Palm, Friedrich; Rost, Valentin Christian Friedrich. Vol. 2, Part 1. Leipzig: Vogel, 1852.

Trench, Richard Chenevix. Synonyms of the New Testament. 12th ed. London: Kegan, 1894.

Wilke, Christian Gottlob. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Being Grimm Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti. Trans. Thayer, Joseph Henry. Ed. Grimm, Carl Ludwig Wilibald. Rev. ed. New York: American Book, 1889.

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