Great Words In God's Word: Zoopoieo, "Quicken"

By Sidney A. Hatch in Brief Bible Studies, Vol.9, No. 4, p.18 (1978).

“The Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them.” –John 5:21.

A great word in God’s word is the Greek, zoopoieo. The King James Version translates this word three different ways, “quicken,” “make alive,” and “give life.”

Zoopoieo’s first occurrence is in John 5:21. There it is twice represented by “quicken”: “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.”

Zoopoieo is made up, obviously, of two parts, zoo– and poieo. Zoo– or zoe means “life” in the sense of resurrection life. This is indicated by the use of “quicken” or zoopoieo in I Corinthians 15:45. There we read that the first man Adam was made a “living soul.” The last Adam, however, was made a “quickening spirit.” As a resurrected person (“spirit”), our Lord will “quicken” people or make alive in the resurrection.

The second part, poieo, means “to make,” in the sense of produce, construct, form, or fashion (Thayer). It is equivalent to the Hebrew ‘asah, which means “to make” or “produce by labour” Gesenius). ‘Asah is used in reference to the manufacture or construction of any thing.

Putting these two parts together, we have the basic sense of zoopoieo, “to make alive with resurrection life,” “to construct alive with resurrection life,”

Here, then, is a key to such passages as Romans 8:11 or I Peter 3:18-19. In the former, Paul is giving the guarantee of our resurrection. If the new nature from God dwells in us, then He will someday “make alive” or “fashion alive” our mortal bodies.

In the latter passage, Peter writes that our Lord was “quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison.” Our Lord was “made alive” as a resurrection being. As such, He went and made a proclamation to the spirits or fallen angels in prison.

Another significant passage is Romans 4:17. Following the translation of the Moffatt Bible, Abraham believed in a God who makes the dead alive (zoopoieo), and calls into being what does not exist. Non-existence in the intermediate state does not prevent God from making the dead alive (zoopoieo).

The remaining passages where zoopoieo occurs are John 6:63, I Corinthians 15:22, 36, 2 Corinthians 3:6, and Galatians 3:21. Zoopoieo never implies that the resurrection is a case of reincarnation, whereby an “immaterial entity” or “immaterial soul” reenters the human body. This is the doctrine of the Greeks. In John 6:63 we read that it is “the spirit that quickeneth.” But “spirit” is used there psychologically, as in Genesis 2:7. The spirit of life or life-force must be put into the resurrection body, just as the breath of life was put into Adam. (Who can tell how radiant and beautiful the resurrection body will be? Its colour and glory will come from spirit, not blood.) Resurrection, not reincarnation, is the Christian distinctive.

The lexicons of Thayer and Abott-Smith indicate that in certain ancient Greek writers, zoopoieo meant to “produce alive” or “bear living young.” If used this way in Scrituure, the resurrection would be a birth from the dead. This is certainly its sense in the context of Romans 4:17. Isaac’s birth was a “birth from the dead.” So also our Lord’s resurrection was a “birth from the dead” (See Sanday and Headlam, Romans).

Zoopoieo provides for us one particular aspect of the resurrection. Other words bring out how the resurrection is an awakening, a standing up, or a transformation. But zoopoieo indicates that the resurrection will also be a re-creation, It points to the workmanship of God.

God was the architect and creator of Adam. He will be the architect and creator of the Christian in resurrection. He will produce us alive in the sense of putting us together again and infusing us with life. He will speak to the earth and cause it to bring forth the dead.

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