LIFE, CONCEPT OF (IN THE BIBLE)
Life, as understood in the Bible, is God’s action within a plan of goodness and for a purpose, fully known only to Himself. God lives of Himself. Human life is God’s manifest action in man and man’s obedient response to God reverently rendered by his action toward his fellow men and, together with them, toward the good of all creation. Man possesses life as a gift, so free that he may choose to act outside God’s plan of good and so lose the gift. Action apart from God’s purpose is not life but death (Gn 2:17). In the first pages of the Bible one finds man and woman making the choice of death and God mercifully promising to continue His action as a redemptive force that they must use to struggle against death and the instigator of death, whom they have preferred. Addressing the woman, God lets them know that victory, and therefore fullness of life, will not come until one of her seed shall crush the enemy’s head (Gn 3:15). The Bible is a record of God’s life-giving action from the beginning, as it gradually became known to a people, Israel, the seed of Abraham (Gn 17:4–8). As a record, the Bible gives a full report of life in conflict with death.
In The Old Testament
Walter Eichrodt closes his revised edition of The Theology of the Old Testament (Philadelphia 1961) with an affirmation of unity and continuity in the Biblical concept of life and a critique (512–520) of E. von Rad’s 1960 edition of Old Testament Theology (New York). Von Rad is more impressed by the complications in Biblical thought and does not find a unified theology in the Scriptures. Obviously, one cannot attempt extended observations here. Every tradition of thought that enters into the record takes the Torah, or pentateuch, the divine instruction given to Moses and by him to the people, as its central position. Here one must be content to cite the Biblical texts to show that all traditions agree on the concept of life they find in the Torah. After considering the terminology connected with the OT idea of life, this section treats of Israel’s concepts of the living God and man’s corporate life and concludes with some remarks on the tensions in the life of the Israelite and his view of a future life.
Terminology. The Hebrew never speaks of life in the abstract. Life is always observable, something possessed. Basically, life is motion. To have life is to possess the power to act, to accomplish a task begun in man by God’s rûah, His breath, His dynamic spirit (Gn. 2:7). The primary meaning of rûah is wind; it is mobile and mobilizing. God’s breath is the vital, always effective source of energy in men and animals, in all living things [Ps 103 (104):10–30]. Blood coursing through the flesh is the bearer of life in men and animals (Gn 9:4–5). Bubbling water is living water, the symbol of God and of His spirit (Ez 36:25–26; Jer 2:13). Fire is living fire, often a manifestation of God Himself [Ex 3:1–6; 19:16; Ps 17 (18):13; 35 (36):10]. Israel’s conviction that man has breath from God in common with other earthly creatures (Gn 6:17) is never pantheistic monism, which would make all life one physical reality. Animals are different from men [Gn 2:20; Ps 48 (49):13; 72 (73):22; Jer 50:3]. God’s life is ineffable (Ex 15:11; Is 40:25).
The terms translated into English as flesh, spirit, and soul may be used interchangeably to denominate the life of the whole man; yet, each may be used to express some individual manifestation of life that is its primary meaning. The most common names for life are hayyîm (life, lifetime, a period of existence), rûah (breath), bāśār (flesh), nepeš (soul), and ‘ôr (light, used metaphorically). “To see the light” is to remain alive, to find life or to return to life, freed from the power of death (Is 2:5; 53:11). Light is life [Mi 7:8; Is 60:1; Ps 12 (13):4] and life-giving (Is 60:3). Darkness is evil, confusion, and death (Is 5:20; Lam 3:2). Man’s rûah, his breath, his spirit, his soul is the principle of life within him, but not in the Greek dualistic sense. see spirit (in the bible). To the Hebrew, man is one, undivided being.
Flesh (bāśār ) denotes man’s whole being with an accent on his mortality and weakness [Ps 64 (65):3]; less often it indicates the outer man only (Nm 19:8; Jgs 8:7). So also nepeš (soul, literally “breath”: Jb 41:13) may signify life itself (Gn 35:18; Ex 21:23; 2 Kgs 17:21; etc.). The final result of God’s act in creating mankind is a nepeš hayyâ, a “living soul,” i.e., a living being (Gn 2:7). The nepeš is thus the being, the person, self [1 Sm 18:1; Ps 102 (103):1; etc.]. see soul (in the bible).
After his sin and God’s merciful promise (Gn 3:15) man exists as living, but he is always in decline. Death can and does always intrude [Ps 17 (18):5–6; 77 (78):50; 89 (90):10; Prv l3:14; Is 28:15]. The Hebrew speaks of grief, sickness, the calumny of enemies, and other dire afflictions as forms of death. see death (in the bible). When man overcomes these, he lives again [Ps 70 (71): 20; Is 38:15–17].
In Biblical anthropology the heart (Heb. lēb, lēbāb ) is the seat of man’s inner life (Prv 4:20–23), thinking [Ps 13 (14):1; 14 (15):2; Prv 24:2], remembering (Dt 4:39), and freely moving toward whatever it determines (1 Sm 14:7; Is 10:7), but subject to God’s word in the way of salvation (1 Sm 12:20; Prv 3:5). see heart (in the bible).
An Israelite “hears” the word of God in inanimate creation [Ps 18 (19):2–5; 28 (29):3–9] and in the events of history [Ex 19:4–6; Ps 80 (81):11–12; Is 9:7–8]. He “sees” what God says to him (Hb 2:1). Vision born of fidelity enables him to assent to God’s word [Ps 105 (106):12; Ex 4:31] with joyful, confident certainty and self-abandonment [Ps 32 (33):4, 20–22; 55 (56):5; 72 (73):23–28; Jb 42:1–6].
As knowledge and understanding grow in Israel, its record declares with ever greater force that the spirit of God will bring life to fruition (Is 11:2; 42:1; 44:3; Jl 3:1–2). The spirit of the Lord continues to sustain the spirit He gives to men [Ps 138 (139):7; Neh 9:20]. Yet in the OT God’s spirit is never said to dwell in men. It is poured out upon them to enable them to respond to God’s word and carry out His purpose (Is 42:5; 44:3), which they make their own (Is 61:1; 63:11–19).
The Living God. Taking the Bible on its own terms, there is nothing more obvious than that Israel’s view of human life issues not from a mystic, other-worldly philosophy or a mystery cult, but from everyday, interpersonal experience within which God acts as Creator, Savior, and Lord (Dt 30:11–14). In the events of the Exodus, in which God led them out of the bondage of Egypt (Ex 13:21), a mixed multitude of people (Nm 11:4), partly Hebrew and partly other, saw God (Ex 4:30; 5:22–6:1; 19:4) in the signs He gave of Himself there. They learned to perceive, know, and acknowledge Him, day by day, as the living God, present in their midst (Ex 33:15), acting to save them (Ex 13:21; 14:30; 15:13; 16:15), merciful (Ex 16:11; Dt 6:20–23), and beneficent (Ex 33:12–17). They saw Him doing what was always good for them (Dt 4:32–40; 8:16), giving them what was fitting to their most urgent needs [Dt 1:25; 8:1–5; Ez 17:8; Ps 85 (86):5], and moving them in the depths of their being (Ex 19:5; Dt 6:4–9) to imitate Him in their personal activity toward one another (Lv 19:18; Dt 24:10–22; Mi 6:8) and toward all creation (Gn 1:28–30; Dt 8:6–20; Wis 9:2–3). Guided by their leader Moses, they heard Him in the total outcome of their deliverance, calling, enlightening, and creating in them a life of corporate unity, a will to live in His presence [Ex 19:4–8; 33:16; Dt 4:9–14; 6:1–3; Ps 23 (24):6; Lam 3:40] according to the pattern, purpose, and goal that His action had begun in them (Gn 12:3; Ex 3:6–10; 19:4–8; 20:1–17).
It is not in the scope here to show how or when the people reached into the primal fibers of their ancestral tradition to find that the activity of Yahweh was the true object of its myth-making attempts to explain cosmic beginnings. [see myth and mythology (in the bible)]. The OT authors are content to record, by allusion, that they did so [Gn 1:1–3:24; Is 51:9–10; Jb 3:8; 9:13; 26:12; 38:8–11; 40:25; Ps 32 (33):7; 73 (74). 12–17; 88 (89): 10–11; etc.]. For them Moses was the embodiment of God’s word (Sir 45:1–5) brought forward to his time (Sir 44:16–23) and carried forward to their own.
Israel did not know Yahweh’s fullness, but they saw that He was not like the gods of other nations (Ex 8:6; 15:11; Is 44:6–8; Wis 15:1–17). He showed Himself as the living cause of all things that had already happened and all things yet to be (Dt 7:7–9; Is 40:26–31; Ez 39:21–29), in full control of all the elements of the earth (Exodus ch. 7–15; Psalm 8), unchanging King, enthroned forever [Ex 15:18; Dt 32:40; Is 40:28; Ps 91 (92); 92 (93); 95 (96)–98 (99)]. He came to them as a person, one who plans and communicates toward a purpose (Dt 4:36–38; Is 45:1–13), and who sends men to communicate His purpose to others (Ex 3:16; Dt 5:5; Is 6:8; Zec 1:6).
The OT does not speak of God as spirit. It has been remarked often that, perhaps, the idea of God as spirit did not seem personal enough. Anthropomorphism, i.e., speaking of God as if He had human characteristics (Gn 2:3; 6:5–6; Ps 2:4; Is 62:5; etc.), is the Bible’s way of describing God as living person. In no sense is God identified with men (Nm 23:19; Os 11:9; Is 40:25). Rather, if man lives as a free, knowing, loving, and choosing agent (Dt 11:26–28; Jos 24:14–15; Sir 15:11–20), it is because God is a person (Ex 33:14; Sir 17:1–18). Personal relationship between God, the sovereign Lord, and His people structures all Biblical life and thought (Dt 5:2–4; 6:4–9; Hos 2:9, 16; Am 3:2; Is 38:15–19; 40:1–2; etc.).
Corporate Life. Basic in the OT is the truth that human life is an ordered existence of corporate living, which moves in the direction and in the channels given it by God’s command.
Founded on Divine Law. The Pentateuchal priestly writers place God’s word in the form of law. It describes the economy of corporate life in the apodictic commands of the Decalogue, a charter of interpersonal life based on God’s absolute dominion over all things (Ex 20:1–17; 24.3; Lv 19:2–18). The deuteronomists are more persuasive but nonetheless firm. The Book of Deuteronomy presents Moses as inculcating the observance of God’s laws (Dt 4:1–2, 13; 5:1–21), which come from the Lord’s personal love for the Israelites (4:37), as shown by the miracles He worked for them (4:9, 32–39). The people are to fix these laws in their heart (4:9) and teach them to their children (4:9–14), in order that they, individually and collectively (4:25–31), may live (4:1,40). This is not to say that justice founded on law is the cause of life [Dt 7:8; Neh 9:6; Ps 118 (119):17; Dn 9:18]. Man does not merit life; it is always God’s free gift (Dt 32:6, 18, 39; Is 51:1–6). He acts for the glory of His Name (Is 42:8; 43:7; 62:2). It is to say that man does not truly live except in the way recognized in signs of God’s activity and revealed to man’s heart as the only way in which human life can operate toward its perfection [Gn 1:27–31; Dt 6:10–19; 7:12–15; 8:1–5; Ps 102 (103):5]. This point is very important in view of later developments. Law and order are necessary to life by God’s command (Dt 8:20) and by its very constitution, but life itself is the breath of the Lord. God placed life within an order of relation to Himself, which the Torah describes and commands. Man can choose to disobey and to die (Gn 3:6; Dt 32:15–18; Is 5:24; Jer 18:12; Prv 1:24, 33), but God alone has the power to save him [Ps 48 (49):8–13; 68 (69):14–19; etc.].
Social Life under God. The priestly and Deuteronomic strains in the Torah are introduced and illustrated in the teaching of Genesis ch. 1–3. It is the evident conviction of the Biblical record that man, created in God’s image (Gn 1:27), became aware of his place in life within the orderly manifestation of God’s goodness when, upon recognizing the inner reality of living things and giving them names, he found no helper like himself (Gn 2:20) until God gave him woman. Man and woman recognized in things as they found them an order of created good (Gn 1:27–31; see also Jer 5:24; Ps 148:6), in which they had a dominant role (Gn 1:28; see also Ps 8:6–9; Wis 9:2–3) but which they themselves did not set up (Gn 2:8; see also Sir 42:15–43:35; Wis ch. 9). All things were made ready to serve them (Gn 1:28–31). In their interpersonal lives, they found equality of being (Gn 2:23), a common need for one another (Gn 2:18; 3:16b), the common blessing of marriage and children (Gn 1:28; 2:28; see also Gn 9:7), and the land that each must till and keep as his spirit directs (Gn 2:15), while respecting the land of others (Ex 20:15, 17). There is no suggestion here of merely human evolution of thought. Understanding of life is never complete apart from communion with God (Gn 3:8; Jer 12:1, 14–17; Hos 2:10, 16; Wis 1:7; 2:21–23). Communion with God is the living thing that protects the law of human life, while adapting it to changing circumstances (Ex 4:11–17; 19:4–8; 33:7–11; Nm 11:17; 2 Kgs 22:13; Jer 16:19).
In the light of this communion, Moses’ people know that life can proceed to fullness only by corporate action. Men and women are to live by manifesting God’s love in each generation by their own free giving of themselves in signs of love for one another (Gn 2:24; Ex 23:4; Lv 19:18) and by perfecting all things according to His manifest will as a sign of love for Him (Dt 6:4–9). They are to use all earth’s energies as they know them concretely, to bring them to fruition.
In union with Him they are to develop all earth’s possibilities, which are also their own (Gn 1:28–30; 2:15–16; Dt 1:8; 11:10–12; Jer 29:5–7; Is 35:1–10). The fact that the Israelites’ view of life was totally earthbound is not surprising. Their experience in God’s word and, therefore, their knowledge of life was incomplete. They recognized that man lives as viceregent in the kingdom of god, but that in every generation, much of life eludes their grasp and understanding (Job ch. 28). When all their work is done, God’s faithful must wait hopefully for the full life in the promised land (Lv 26:3–13; Is 30:15, 18; Jer 29:10–14).
Israel in the Family of the Nations. In this view there is no room for dominating nationalism, exaggerated collectivism, or excessive individualism. All men belong to one human family (Gn ch. 10; Lv 19:33–34; Is 2:2–4; Ez 47:22; Zep 3:9–10). The OT as well as the NT extol the faithful of all times and nations (Gn 5:24; 6:9; 14:18; 2 Kgs ch. 5; Is 44:28; Rom 2:12–16) who, though perhaps confusedly, knew God speaking to them through signs in the cosmic order and through the events of history (Acts 17:26–28). The recorded word credits their faith as justice. They live according to God’s regal will in spite of sin all around them (Gn 6:9–13; Rom 2:27–29), purified by their submission to God’s word as they understand it (Wis 14:6; Mal 1:11). Men of all nations, wicked as well as just, carry forward God’s action in Israel’s regard (Hb 1:2–11; Is 45:14–15; 2 Chr 36:22). Israel is the servant of the Lord (Is 41:8– 10; 49:3) through whom and in final union with whom the nations are to live in the light [Gn 12:2–3; Dt 9:4; Mi 4:1–5; 42:6–7; 66:18–19; Ps 95 (96):3–8; 97 (98):2].
Israel is God’s son, His heir by adoption (Ex 4:22; 19:5–6; Hos 11:1; Bar 3:37), within whose corporate life individual Israelites, also sons and servants (Lv 25:55; Dt 3:24; Is 1:2; 2 Sm 7:5), share all life’s gifts and responsibilities (Ex ch. 20–23; Jer 3:19–4:2; Is 27:12). Israelites are brothers in a spirit that transcends the flesh (Lv 19:17–18; Dt 15:7–11). The law of life inevitably binds each to all others and all others to each in good (Nm 14:19–20; Dt 9:5; Sir 17:1–18) and evil [Jdt 8:18–23; Ps 50 (51):7]. One who knows what is at stake (Is 49:5) and who is without sin (53:9), if he will spend his life in suffering (Is 53:2–10) rather than give in to evil by doing wrong (Is 49:4; 53:8–10), will therefore die condemned by his fellows (Is 53:8). But if he gives his life and death as an offering for sin, bearing the guilt of many (Is 53:11), he will accomplish the will of the Lord (Is 53:10) and will justify the many (53:11), to rectify the life of the world (53:12).
Those who live justly do so by God’s spirit and power projected through their action into every avenue of social existence (Ex 3:13; Nm 11:16–30; Dt 34:9; 2 Sm 23:2; Is 42:1–7; Jer 22:1–5; Ez 34:1–6). Those who respond carry forward the word of life taught by the priests during the corporate remembrance (zikkārôn ) of cultic prayer (Dt 31:10–13; Jos 22:21–29; Ezr 9:5–38). Here they recognize and accept the gifts and demands of daily living as things of the spirit no less than of the flesh (Dt 26:1–15; Jos 22:2–6; 24:1–28). They offer them together in sign of their corporate fidelity, mutual labor, and self-giving (Ex 24:3–11; Lv ch. 3; Dt 12:4–28), only to receive of them again, replete with the sustaining action of God, who had given them in the first place for the happiness of their life (Ex 24:8; Lv ch. 1–7; 22; Dt 7:13). Whenever the spirit of law and cult remained pure, the worshipers’ view of life remained unclouded (Jos 22:24–31; 1 Sm ch. 1; 2 Sm ch. 7; 2 Kgs ch. 23; Ezr 9:5–15) and full of joy (Dt 16:9–15; 1 Chr 15:25; 2 Chr 20:27–28; Ezr 6:22; etc.).
Tensions. God did not make death, and He takes “no pleasure in the death of a wicked man” (Ez 3:11). When through the temptation of the envious devil (Wis 2:24) mankind turned from God and death entered the world (Gn 2:17; 3:1–19), God offered hope of renewed life (Gn 3:15). But following the blind perversity that sin (hēt’, erroneous choice) maintains, mankind chose to continue in its own way (Gn 6:11– 13; Is 43:27). God continued to speak to man (Gn 4:6–15; 6:13–21; etc.), but the vision of life was hopelessly clouded.
In Israel the forces of sin and death struggled to dominate at its very heart. The nation as a whole, led by faithless priests (Jer 2:8; 7:1–8:3; Hos 4:4–10; 5:1–7; Mal 2:1–9), false prophets (1 Kgs 22:6–25; Mi 3:5–8; Jer 14:13–16; 23:16–40; Ez 13:1–23), and ambitious kings (2 Kgs 16:2– 18; 21:1–16; Jeremiah ch. 21–22), gradually fell to mere lip service of God (Is 29:13), when they did not fall into idolatry. Many expected their elect position in God’s plan to save them (Jer 14:13; Am 5:18). There was a persistent tendency to legalism, as if life were a thing of quid pro quo with God (Prv 10:16, 27; 11:6, 19; 13:6). However, this tendency never reached the proportions found in later Judaism; for faithful priests, prophets, kings, and people combated it consistently. Legalism is not part of the Biblical tradition (Dt 8:3; 9:4–6; Jer 3:19; Hos 11:1–4).
When social injustices of all kinds fell heaviest on the Remnant of Israel that continued to live in obedient love (1 Kgs 21:1–14; Am 5:11–12; 8:4–6; Mi 2:1–10; 3:1–3, 9–11; Is 3:14–15), the anguish of their trial caused them to question God concerning His justice [Ps 72 (73):1–22; Jer 15:10–21; 20:7–9]. They received no immediate answer other than a further strengthening of their faith [Ps 16 (17):6–9; 20 (21):17–22; etc.]. Ecclesiastes, writing late into the record, shows the futility of seeking an answer to the mystery of life by reason alone (Eccl 3:17–22; 8:5–13; 12:13–14).
View of Future Life. During many years God supported the people by His promise of a kingly mediator whom He would anoint with His spirit to a wonderful degree (Is 9:1–6; 11:1–5) and through whose regency He would finally establish a living community of His kingdom in paradisaical peace (Is 11:6–9). Now in the people’s darkest hour, Jeremiah, while living still in the messianic tradition (Jer 23:5–8), knows from the Lord that in the Israelites’ present state their sin is incurable (Jer 2:25–26). Although bound by the law of life, they do not have the power to keep it. They have forgotten and do not know the Living God (Jer 24:7). But “the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…. Iwill place my law within them and write it upon their hearts…. All, from least to greatest, shall know me”(Jer 31:31–34). They will come to life again (Ez 37:6) when the Lord will sprinkle clean water upon them, to cleanse them of their impurities and place a new spirit within them (Ez 36:25–26).
Deutero-Isaiah (Isaiah ch. 40–55) sees God’s plan for man’s rebirth that will include man’s cooperation. The glory of God and the unfolded manifestation of His power will appear in a new Exodus (40:3–4; 45:1–6; 49:8–12) when He will support the chosen servant, who, although He will be without sin, will willingly identify Himself with His fellows (49:5–7; 53:6) and will accept the death (50:4–6; 52:13–53:9) that sinful men will impose upon Him, in order to give perfect response to God from among them. The will of the Lord will be accomplished through Him; He will justify many and will see the light in fullness of days (53:11).
A number of interpreters see statements of belief in a life of conscious relationship with God after the death of the body and even of resurrected life in Is 26:19; 53:10–12; Ps 72 (73):23–27; Wis 3:1–4; 6:18–19. All scholars agree that the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is clearly stated in Dn 12:2–3 (from the middle of the 2d century b.c.) and 2 Mc 7:9, 14, 23; 14:46 (from about the same period). In Dn 7:13–27 God’s holy ones are symbolized by “one like a son of man coming in clouds of heaven,” who, at the throne of God, the “Ancient One,” receives everlasting dominion.
The OT concept of life remains consistent. Life is God’s action known through signs in His terrestrial domain (Is 41:17–20; 42:10–12). In Is 65:17–20; 66:22–23 the seer beholds, far ahead in the future, a suprahistorical world, where there is life in “the new heavens and the new earth” (66.22).
In The New Testament
Although the NT writers use a Greek terminology concerning life that is essentially the same as the Hebrew terminology of the OT writers, an immeasurably new content is given to these terms in the NT because of the new revelation of the triune life of God and the divine life as possessed by Jesus Christ and consequently of the new concept of the corporate life that Christians have as members of the mystical body of Christ.
Terminology. The NT writers follow Hebrew thought patterns, but with important qualifications in the Greek terms for life (ζωή), body (σ[symbol omitted]μα), soul (ψυχή), and spirit (πνε[symbol omitted]μα). The momentum in man that needs nourishment from the tree of life (Gn 3:9, 24; Rv 2:7) is the ψυχή, the soul as the seat of natural life, received from Adam (1 Cor 15:45, 49), which became the seat of death when he accepted the reign of death by sin (Rom 5:14). The life made possible to all men by God in Christ (Rom 5:15, 17) is the life of the πνε[symbol omitted]μα, the spirit, spiritual life. The continuity of God’s life-giving action, proceeding through Christ and received in man (1 Pt 3:18, 21–22; Acts 2:14–39) is uppermost in all NT thought (Mt 19:29; Jn 3:16; 5:21; etc.).
In the beginning life was given in the word, the logos, the Son of God (Jn 1:1–4). It was given also in promise (Gn 15:4–5); the “children of the promise” retained it in all generations (Lk 1:46–55; Rom 9:6–13), but still in promise (Gal 3:14; Heb 11:39–40), until He who was promised had come, the offspring of Abraham, who is Christ (Gal 3:16).
Spirit (πνε[symbol omitted]μα) in man may be the breath of life (2 Thes 2:8.), the soul as the principle of life (27:50), or the seat of man’s feelings and thoughts (Mk 2:8; Rom 8:16). But it may also be the state of being produced in man by the divine sanctifying power (2 Cor 4:13; Phil 1:27). In reference to God πνε[symbol omitted]μα may be the third divine person, best recognized by acts proper only to Him (Jn 14:16–17, 26; 16:7, 13–14), or when He is set off from the Father and the Son in Trinitarian formulas (Mt 28:19; 1 Cor 12:4–6; 2 Cor 13:13). Most often, however, πνε[symbol omitted]μα is the Spirit of God (Rom 8:9) or the spirit of Jesus Christ (Phil 1:19) designating God’s life-giving power received in man (Lk 11:13; Jn 3:5; Acts 8:19, 29; 16:6; Eph 5:18).
Triune Life of God. In the one God there are three persons who live and act: God, eternal Father, principle of eternal life (1 Jn 1:2; 5:11); who gives all He is to the Son, begotten coequal with Himself (Jn 1:18; 14:10; Col 1:19; 2:9); God, eternal Son, the Father’s Word (Jn 1:1–2) and His image (Col 1:15); and God the Holy Spirit, mysterious bond between Father and Son (Jn 14:16–17, 26), who pours forth Their life and love in men through Christ Jesus (Rom 5:5).
Life as Possessed by Christ. The life that Jesus Christ possesses is eternal life, the outward expression of the eternal community of life (1 Jn 1:2; Jn 5:26; Col 1:15–17; Heb 1:2–3), on which all human life is patterned (Eph 1:3–6; 3:14–15; Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 4:4–6; Jn 1:12). He whom the Father sent to identify Himself with men in the conflict between life and death (Gal 4:4–5; 1 Tm 2:5–6; Phil 2:6–8; Rom 5:17; 8:3; etc.) is His Son (Gal 4:4; Rom 1:1–4), His Word (Jn 1:14; 1 Jn 1:1–3), the supreme revelation of the Godhead in human flesh (Jn 1:18; Rom 1:3–4; Col 1:19). Although He was without sin (1 Pt 2:22; 2 Cor 5:21; Jn 8:46), He who is life itself made incarnate (Jn 1:4, 14; 14:6) accepted all the sufferings of death in the flesh (Heb 5:7–9; Rom 5:9) rather than yield to the demands of Satan or the ψυχή (natural life) in Himself or others, in order to redeem all who unite with Him (Mk 3:35) to carry forward God’s creative purpose (Col 1:25–27; Eph 1:3–5; Jn 14:2; 16:7).
In Him, the spirit of life prevailed. He laid down His ψυχή only to take it up again (Jn 10:17), filled with power to resist the temptations of Satan (Lk 4:1–13; Heb 2:18; 4:15) and overcome him (Mt 12:29). He gave others power over him (Mk 3:15). As instrument of the Word in the power of the Spirit, the soul of Jesus spent itself in doing good (Acts 10:38; Jn 10:11; Mt 11:3–5) out of compassion for the poor and afflicted (Mk 1:41; Lk 7:13; Mt 9:36; 14:14; 20:34), even to the forgiveness of sin in those who wounded Him and offended His heavenly Father (Lk 23:34; Mk 2:5, 10; Lk 7:36–50; 1 Pt 2:24–25). Death had no power over Him (Jn 10:18); His spirit was free at all times to surrender itself to the will of His Father (Jn 4:34; Lk 23:46). His final surrender was victory (1 Cor 15:54).
Christ now lives, the triumphant Servant of God (Phil 2:7–9), whose life, death, and Resurrection remain the cause of life to many (Jn 10:10b; Rom 4:25; 5:10; 14:9; 2 Cor 5:15). His glorified life is the first fruits of God’s eternal plan (1 Cor 15:20, 25; Col 1:15, 18), the life of the new Adam (1 Cor 15:45). When He entered into His glory (Lk 24:26), Christ became a life-giving spirit (1 Cor 15:22, 45); His risen body and soul, impregnated with the Holy Spirit, became the principle of life (2 Cor 3:17–18) in the disciples He had left on earth and those who, through them, would believe in His name (Jn 17:20).
From heaven, Christ, living as Lord of all in the kingdom of God (Acts 2:36; Phil 2:9–11; Eph 1:22; Rv 1:6; 17:14), mediator between God and men (1 Tm 2:5; Heb 8:6), sends the Holy Spirit as a pledge of eternal life in those who believe in Him (Eph 1:12–13, 19), to dwell in the very center of their being (Jn 14:16; 1 Cor 3:16), helping them to assimilate spiritually all that Christ came to teach (Jn 14:25–26; 15:26; 1 Cor 2:10–12), and enabling them to take on Christ’s mind (1 Cor 2:16; Eph 4.20–24; Rom 15:6; Phil 2:9) and will (Jn 14:23; 15:12; 17:6), which are the mind and will of the Father (Rom 12:2; Jn 7:17; 14:10; 15:10, 15; 17:7–8), and so by a common bond of likeness, which is eternal life (Jn 17:3), to participate in the divine nature (2 Pt 1:4) as adopted sons of God (Jn 1:12–13; Rom 8:14–23; Gal 4:5–7; 1 Jn 3:1–2). They become the mystical body of christ (Eph 1:22–23), through whose Spirit (Eph 1:13; 2 Cor 3:17–18) His fullness (Eph 1:23), the fullness of God, is penetrating the earth (Eph 3:19), to reestablish the harmony in which all things were set up in Christ (Eph 1:10) and toward Him (Eph 1:3–10). He lives as head of His body, which is the church (Eph 1:22–23). His kingdom is wherever the power of God works in men to bring about in the here and now what He has already accomplished in Christ’s life, death, and Resurrection (Col 1:13–14, 22; 2:9–15).
Life of the Redeemed in Christ. Christian life is eternal life in the kingdom of God (Col 1:13), hidden in the hearts of men who bear about in their bodies the dying of Christ (Phil 3:8–11; 2 Cor 4:10; Gal 5:24) for the same reason that He bore His sufferings and death (l Pt 2:21–25; Phil 3:10; Rom 6:8–11) and who abide in the power of His victory (Phil 4:13; 1 Jn 5:4–5). Christian life is a pearl of great price (Mt 13:46), bought by entering into the life of the kingdom through the way of the commandments of God (Mk 10:17–19), and living them (Rom 7:25) in the perfection that Christ gave them (Mt 5:17–48) in the “law of the Spirit of the life in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:2). The rule of the Spirit is not experienced as command (Gal 5:18), for it frees men from what is purely natural (ψυχικός) in the body of death (Rom 7:23–24; 2 Cor 3:17; Gal 5:16–21) and lifts them into a life of unbounded faith, hope, charity, joy, peace, patience, continency, goodness, and fidelity (Gal 5:22–23).
Corporate life in Christ’s body, which is being brought to its fullness (Eph 4:13–16), expresses itself in every avenue of temporal and spiritual responsibility (1 Cor 12:27–31; 2 Cor 8:1–9; Eph 5:21–33; 1 Pt 1:22–25; 2:3–4). In this way the Church gives evidence to all on earth that where the Spirit reigns mankind becomes a new creature (2 Cor 5:17; Eph 2:15). This life of service is echoed and prolonged even now in heaven (Rv 4:4–11; 5:9–14; 7:9–12).
Whereas Paul uses the term body of Christ (Rom 12:5; 1 Cor 12:12–27; Eph 1:23; 2:14–16; 4:4, 12, 16; 5:23, 30; Col 1:18, 24; 2:19; 3:15) to express man’s new life relationship to God, John uses the concept of the vine and its branches (Jn 15:1–8) to denote this. Both comparisons serve to express oneness of spiritual being in Christ. The fact that the Spirit is the bond of union between Christ and men, the source of personal intercommunication between Father, Son, Spirit, and men united in Christ, is uppermost in both (Jn 14:16–17, 26; 15:26; 1 Cor 12:12–13; Eph 4:4).
But the rule of the Spirit is not complete even in those who, by Baptism into Christ’s death and life (Rom 6:4–11; Col 2:12–13), have accepted it (Phil 3:12) and have nourished it by partaking of the bread of life in His word (Jn 6:28–29, 35–40; Phil 2:16; 1 Pt 1:23–25) and in the Sacrament of His body and blood (Jn 6:55; Lk 22:19–2:0; 1 Cor 10:16–17). Therefore, life in Christ’s body is also redemptive. Redemptive help within their own community living is assured to those who believe and who use the effective signs of life and redemption that Christ has left in His Sacraments. Sacramental life is both a pledge of glory (1 Pt 3:21; Jn 6:55) and a sign to the world that the members of Christ’s body are still on trial (2 Cor 6:1–2; 13:5), carrying life about in vessels of clay, so that all may see that it is from God and not of themselves (2 Cor 4:7). The total life of the Church is a sign that Christ is dwelling within it, to call sinners to reconcile themselves to the Father (2 Cor 5:20; 6:1–2), to fight the good fight of faith and lay hold of life in heaven (1 Tm 6:11–14; Lk 6:22–23).
The work of perfecting the material creation according to time and circumstance belongs to the Creator (Rom 8:19–22; 2 Pt 3:13). From the beginning God continues to give men ability, desire, time, circumstances, and command to develop earth’s possibilities, each in his own personal field of endeavor (Mt 25:14; 1 Cor 7:17). Living in the Spirit, members of Christ’s body must accept the challenge of their times (Rom 6:4; 13:13; Eph 5:8–15; Jn 12:35), imaging Christ’s principles, thoughts, habits, desires, and loves (Col 3:9–10; Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 3:18), stripped of jealousy (1 Pt 2:1–10), stewards of God’s manifold favor (1 Pt 4:10), sowing the seed of God’s word (Mk 4:4–20), which, when fallen on good ground, unites men of every status (Col 3:11) in the knowledge of incorruptible existence (1 Pt 2:1–3, 13–17; 5:1), making them recognize that judgment begins here on earth (1 Pt 4:17), and orienting them to Jesus’ glorious parousia (1 Cor 4:1–5; Ti 2:11–14; Mt 25:31–46).
By a mysterious condescension of His mercy, God awaits upon men to “wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb” (Rv 7:14; 22:14) and to assume their life of spiritual responsibility (2 Pt 3:8–10): but in His own time (1 Thes 5:1–3; 1 Tm 6:15; Lk 12:39–40) Christ will come again to bring about the final regeneration (Mt 19:28.). [see rebirth (in the bible)]. The water of life and the power of the Spirit will flow from the throne of God and of the Lamb (Rv 22:1). The life of heaven will come to earth (Rv 21:22–22:5), to free, renew, and perfect the quality of all creation (Rom 8:19). In it, the children of God, His servants, will reflect Christ’s image perfectly, because they will see Him in God as He is (1 Jn 3:2; 1 Cor 13:12), and God will be all in all (1 Cor 15:28).
Bibliography: w. eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, tr. j. a. baker (Philadelphia 1961–); Man in the Old Testament, tr. k. and r. gregor smith (Chicago 1951). g. von rad, Old Testament Theology, tr. d. m. g. stalker (New York 1962–). e. jacob, Theology of the Old Testament, tr. a. w. heathcote and p. j. allcock (New York 1958). a. gelin, The Religion of Israel, tr. j. r. foster (New York 1959) ch. 5–8. y. m. j. congar, The Mystery of the Church, tr. a. v. littledale (Baltimore 1960). d. mollat, De notione vitae apud sanctum Joannem (Rome 1960). m. l. lamb, “Christian Humanism and St. John’s Theology of Life,” Review for Religious 23 (1964) 149–159. j. j. navone, “In Our Image and Likeness,” Bible Today 1 (1963) 492–499. f. mussner, ZΩH: Die Anschauung vom “Leben” im 4. Evangelium …(Munich 1952); j. hÖfer and k. rahner Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, 6:853–856. Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963), from a. van den born, Bijbels Woordenboek 1336–44.
[p. m. coyle]