The New testament uses both forms: zao and zaomai. The word zao means to live and zaomai is its medium(middle)/passive form.

However I have never seen that anyone would have made any difference between these words, and the both are translated "to live". However, passive forms are usually translated like: "to be made alive".

Romans 8:13, offers a clear contrast between these word forms. St. Paul first uses active form and then medium form:

8:13 εἰ γὰρ κατὰ σάρκα ζῆτε μέλλετε ἀποθνῄσκειν· εἰ δὲ πνεύματι τὰς πράξεις τοῦ σώματος θανατοῦτε ζήσεσθε


Older and more recent ways to express the same thing? According to Thayer the active form future is older and medium form is more recent:


However that explanation doesn't fully satisfy me.

However, when I studied this further I noticed that the active future forms are quite rare. They seem to have different meanings as the medium forms but because they are so few, it is not very conclusive, I guess.


Galatians 3:11 So would for example Galatians 3:11 be translated as "will be made alive" instead of "will live"?

List of occurences of that word in Blueletterbible:



  • zaomai is not a word, there is no first person present middle form of the word, since the plain zao is sufficient.
    – Michael16
    Jun 22, 2022 at 11:39
  • 8:13 says if you live (active) by (own) flesh - prepare to die, if you kill deeds of flesh by spirit you will be made live (passive, by that spirit of god).
    – grammaplow
    Jul 3, 2023 at 2:28

2 Answers 2


The famous declaration of Hab 2:4 is:

Look at the proud one; his soul is not upright—but the righteous will live by faith

Three times in the NT this verse is quoted or paraphrased:

  • Rom 1:17 - For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it has been written: "And the righteous will live by faith." [ζήσεται is future indicative middle voice]
  • Gal 3:11 - Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, because "The righteous will live by faith." [ζήσεται is future indicative middle voice]
  • Heb 10:38 - But My righteous one will live by faith; and if he might shrink back, My soul does not take pleasure in him." [ζήσεται is future indicative middle voice]

I observe that in all three cases, the verb ζήσεται is future indicative middle voice, and thus, if we are very strict about translating, the phrase might best be translated:

the righteous [one] will live by his faith

That is, the middle voice indicates that the action is performed by the individual on himself. A very similar idea is spoken by Jesus in other places as well:

  • Luke 7:50 - And He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
  • Luke 18:42 - And Jesus said to him, "Receive sight! Your faith has healed you."
  • Luke 17:19 - And He said to him, "Having risen up go forth; your faith has cured you!"
  • Luke 8:48 - And He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you; go in peace."
  • Mark 10:52 - “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
  • Mark 5:34 - And He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you; go in peace and be sound from your affliction."
  • Matt 9:22 - Jesus turned and saw her. “Take courage, daughter,” He said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was cured from that very hour.

Thus, the middle voice of Rom 1:17, Gal 3:11, Heb 10:38 is entirely consistent with Jesus teaching.

  • 1
    If you are going to translate the phrase, then you should consider the LXX: And the Lord answered me...the just shall live by my faith. The LXX makes clear the just are to live by the faith of the Lord, not their own personal faith. So making the statement that Paul could be understood to be saying the just shall live by his faith is potentially confusing. It could be taken by the non-believing Jew to mean they are saved by their (genuine) faith in God but rejecting Jesus as Christ. Jun 22, 2022 at 14:40
  • 1
    @RevelationLad - I agree, but the question is about the translation of the middle voice - so how would you translate that?
    – Dottard
    Jun 22, 2022 at 21:37
  • In the beginning I was not sure if it were passive form, because it is similar to that, but I didn't find any passive forms of that word in a concordance. Thank you for your answer. Those are not only times, when medium form is used. Maybe I should add that to the question. For example Rom. Jun 23, 2022 at 1:24
  • For example Rom. 8:13 and John 14:19 use that medium form in second person plural.' There seems to be about 17 middle forms overall, and they seem to have quite similar meanings. All could be translated like "will be made alive". Jun 23, 2022 at 1:31

Many verbs in middle or passive have mainly or only middle meaning. There is no passive form of Zao (to live), but only middle. Sometimes middle/passive forms are written the same way, but we infer from context whether it is passive or middle. The meaning of Live is basically middle when referring to ourselves. We live, we behave, our way of living. It is our own reflexive work by free will, not someone else's.

Future Middle of Live as in Gal 3:11-12 (righteous shall live by faith):

Luke 4:4 (SBLG) καὶ ἀπεκρίθη πρὸς αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ⸃· Γέγραπται ὅτι Οὐκ ἐπ᾽ ἄρτῳ μόνῳ ζήσεται ὁ ἄνθρωπος.
(ESV) And Jesus answered him, “It is written ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’”
Luke 10:28 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ· Ὀρθῶς ἀπεκρίθης· τοῦτο ποίει καὶ ζήσῃ.
(ESV) And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

There is a separate compound word to "make+alive", to give life- ζωοποιέω zopoieo. You will find this word in your searches for "make alive". And συνεζωοποίησεν (synezōopoiēsen) for Eph 2:6 and Col 2:13

1Cor 15:22 (SBLG) ὥσπερ γὰρ ἐν τῷ Ἀδὰμ πάντες ἀποθνῄσκουσιν, οὕτως καὶ ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ πάντες ζῳοποιηθήσονται.
(ESV) For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
1Cor 15:36 ἄφρων, σὺ ὃ σπείρεις, οὐ ζῳοποιεῖται ἐὰν μὴ ἀποθάνῃ·
(ESV) You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.

1 Peter 3:18 V-APP-NMS
GRK: μὲν σαρκὶ ζωοποιηθεὶς δὲ πνεύματι
NAS: in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;

  • Thank you for your answer. I revised the question and found that active futures are quite rare with zao. Zao doesn't seem to have present mediums at all which indicates that it might be only a way to describe it in future. Jun 23, 2022 at 1:53

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