Do - Trench's New Testament Synonyms


poieo (G4160) Do
Bring Forth
prasso (G4238) Work
The distinction between poieo and prasso has been the frequent subject of scholarly debates that date back as far as Prodicus. Prodicus correctly observed that poiein emphasizes the goal of an act and prassein the means by which the goal may be attained by removing obstacles. Unlike poiein prassein also emphasizes continuity and repetition of action. Poiein may refer to doing something once and for all, to producing something that then has an independent existence of its own, as in poiein paidion (G3813, to produce a child) for a woman, poiein karpous (G2591, to produce fruits) for a tree, and poiein eirenen (G1515, to make peace). In this last example, poiein attains what prassein only hopes to attain. Demosthenes used prattein and poiein together without a tautology. Concerning certain of Philip's hostile designs, Demosthenes assured the Athenians hoti praxei tauta kai poiesei, that is, that he would busy himself with bringing these things about and that he would bring them about. In the words of a German scholar, prassein "is the busily engaged activity, while poiein is the productive activity."
How far can we trace this distinction in the New Testament? There are two or three passages where it is difficult not to recognize it. For example, the change of words in John 3:20-21 does not appear to be accidental, especially when the same contrast reappears in 5:29. In the first text phaula (G5337) prassein is contrasted with poiein ten aletheian (G225) and in the second with poiein ta agatha (G18), just as in Romans 7:19 we read poiein agathon and prassein kakon (G2556). It would be foolish to assert that the poiein relates only to good things, since we have poiein anomian (G458; Matt. 13:41), hamartian (G266; 2 Cor. 5:21), and ta kaka (Rom. 3:8). Neither is it true that prassein is restricted to evil things, since the New Testament contains prassein agathon (Rom. 9:11). However, when the words have an ethical connotation, poiein often is used in a good sense and prassein in an evil one. This is especially true in the case of praxis (G4234), which occurs six times in the New Testament. In all of these instances, except Matthew 16:27, praxis has an evil significance that is similar to the English practices.
Bengel correctly explained this change of words: "Prasson. Evil is restless; it is something more active than truth. Hence they are designated by different words." Busy activity may accompany the working of evil, but "the wicked works a deceitful work" and has nothing to show for his toil at the end; no fruit remains. Evil is manifold, but good is one. There are many erga (G2041) tes sarkos (G4561; Gal. 5:22) that not only contradict the good but often one another. Good works are karpos (G2590) tou pneumatos (G4151; Gal. 5:19), for there is an inner consent between all the parts of good, a "consensus of the virtues," as Cicero called it, knitting them into a perfect and harmonious whole and inviting us to view them as one. The former works are of human art and device, the latter of divine nature. Concerning Galatians 5:19ff., Jerome stated: "Paul has placed works in the flesh and fruit in the spirit, because vices come to a conclusion of themselves and perish, while virtues sprout and overflow in fruits." This justifies and explains why on two occasions (John 3:20-21) John exchanged phaula prassein for poiein aletheian and poiein ta agatha, the practicingof evil, for the doingof good. In conclusion, here are a few excellent words of Bishop Andrewes:
There are two kinds of doers: 1. poietai [G4163], and 2. praktikoi [cf. G4233 and G4238], which the Latin likewise expresseth in 1. agere[to lead] and 2. facere[to make]. Agere, as in music, where, when we have done singing or playing, nothing remaineth: facere, as in building, where, after we have done, there is a thing permanent. And poietai, factores, they are St. James' doers. But we have both the words in the English tongue: actors, as in a play; factors, as in merchandise. When the play is done, all the actors do vanish: but of the factors' doing, there is a gain, a real thing remaining.

Trench's New Testament Synonyms Topics