Deuteronomy 32:47 Septuagint

For this word is not vain to you, but it is your life (Zoe); and by this same word you will prolong the days in the land which, having crossed the Jordan, you go to possess.

Matthew 19:16-17 English Standard Version

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

Luke 10:25-28 English Standard Version

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

When Jesus uses the word "life" in contexts similar to the references in Matthew 19:16-17 and Luke 10:25-28, is he referring to "eternal life" or to "life" as understood in Deuteronomy 32:47?

1 Answer 1


There are two aspects to this question:

  1. Only some of the instances of "life" in English translate the word ζωή (zóé). For example, take that of John 12:25

The one loving his life [ψυχή] loses it, and the one hating his life [ψυχή] in this world will keep it to eternal life [ζωή].

  1. Of the instances of ζωή in the four gospels, all are in the mouth of Jesus and almost all mean eternal life in heaven. For example,
  • these occurrences mean eternal life in heaven but do not have the modifier "eternal": Matt 7:14, 18:8, 9, 19:17, Mark 9:43, 45, John 5:29, 40, 6:35, 48, 68, 11:25, 20:31
  • these occurrences mean simply life in this world: Luke 12:15, 16:25
  • these instances of "life" mean a transcendent quality of life from Jesus: John 1:4, 5:26, 6:33, 51, 53, 63, 8:12, 14:6
  • these occurrences all have the modifier "eternal": Matt 19:16, 29, 25:46, Mark 10:17, 30, Luke 10:25, 18:18, 30, John 3:16, 36, 4:14, 36, 5:24, 39, 6:27, 40, 47, 54, 68, 10:28, 12:25, 50, 17:2, 3

Thus, it appears that almost all of these mean eternal life with the exception of Luke 12:15 and 16:25; and these two alone (in the Gospels) correspond to the "life" in Deut 32:47.

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