Poieo and prasso are both often translated “to do” in our English Bible, but they have very different flavors. Prasso has “to do” as a primary definition and “to practice” as a secondary definition. The feeling here is very physical and control-oriented–I take out the trash, paint the barn (Manley), make the bed, vacuum the floor. Those activities are prasso. I get tired as I do these things. Often times I have to make a conscious effort to make myself do those things. The common usage of prasso during Bible times was with regard to business. Prasso is always about results and ability (how something gets done).
Poieo‘s primary definition is “to create” with a secondary definition of “to do.” Do you see the difference? Poieo has the flavor of naturally occurring action–like it can’t be helped (or even guided to an extent). Think of an artist as she creates a painting (Manley). Yes, she’s holding the brush and she’s controlling where it goes as it dances across the canvas, but at the same time she’s not really controlling it. The art she’s creating is flowing out of her, that is, she’s pouring herself into the art. She doesn’t get tired as she works; the artwork is an expression of who she is. In the secular Greek, poieo is used to describe how trees produce fruit (Bolich). The common usage of poieo during Bible times was with regard to artists, philosophers, and poets. This is something that can’t be taught. Inasmuch as prasso is about how, poieo is about who (i.e. a painting reveals something about the artist).
Let’s take a look at some Scriptures to see this in action.
Romans 7:15 – I don’t really understand myself, for I want to poeio (do) what is right, but I don’t prasso (do) it. Instead, I poieo (do) what I hate.
Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning God poieo (created) the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:21 – So God poieo (created) great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water…
Genesis 1:27 – So God poieo (created) human beings in his own image.
John 5:19-20 – So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can poieo (do) nothing by himself. He poieo (does) only what he sees the Father poieo (doing). Whatever the Father poieo (does), the Son also poieo (does). 20For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he poieo (is doing). In fact, the Father will show him how to do even greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished.
John 5:28-29 – Don’t be so surprised! Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, 29and they will rise again. Those who have poieo (done) good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have prasso (continued) in evil will rise to experience judgment.
John 5:30 – I can poieo (do) nothing on my own…
John 14:12-14 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also poieo (do) the works that I poieo (do); and greater works than these will he poieo (do), because I am going to the Father. 13Whatever you ask in my name, this I will poieo (do), that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If you ask me anything in my name, I will poieo (do) it.
James 1:22-25 – 22Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Poieo (Do) what it says. 23Anyone who listens to the word but does not poieo (do) what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to poieo (do) this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does.
Bible Study Tools
Unless otherwise mentioned, all scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.