Luke 17:33 Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it;

KJV Verse: 

Luke 17:33 Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

This one, when he might pursue that ego of his to save up, he is going to destroy it.  This one, however, possibly might destroy, [for a creation of life it]/[he is going to propagate it.]

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

A very surprising verse considering that there appear to be five similar statements all four Gospels, including an earlier one in Luke. (Matthew 10:39, Matthew 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, John 12:25). However, the way it is translated in the KJV makes it seem a lot more similar than it really is. It has two words that Jesus uses nowhere else in the Gospels, untranslated words, and its ending is a clear play on words that have two different meanings. Properly translated, it seems as though it could be Jesus describing his own choice of life or death.

The word translated as "whosoever" is a demonstrative pronoun ("this" "that"), but it often acts as a pronoun ("the one that), especially a connective pronoun ("the one that") introducing a dependent clause. Jesus may be using this word to refer to himself in a subtle way. This word does appear in the other versions.

The first untranslated Greek word meaning "if might" indicates more of an expectation of something happening than "if" alone. This is often how we use the word "when".

The Greek verb translated as "shall" has a variety of meanings around the idea of "searching" and "desiring". It has a sense of seeking with a specific aim. "Pursue" is the English word that comes closest, combining the idea of desiring more than "search" or "seek". The form is no the future, but the form of possibility, "might pursue". This is determined by the "if" that the KJV ignores.

"To save" is not the same word appearing in other version, but a unique word for Jesus,  which means to "cause to remain over and above", "keep safe", "preserve",  of money, food, etc., "save up", "lay-by", generally, "procure", "secure", "achieve", and "lay up". In comparing it to the other verb used, the main difference is the idea of "saving up".

The word translated as "his" is the Greek word commonly translated as pronouns in English. 

The word translated here as "life" is psyche, a common word in Greek, familiar in English, meaning "life", "soul", "consciousness," and "a sense of self." Jesus uses it to specifically mean our identity in our worldly life, the role we play on earth, what we commonly call our "ego", not the soul that lives after death. See this article for detail about this word and related words. This is the same word used in the other versions.

The word translated as "shall lose" means to destroy or demolish. This word is also used in other versions. 

The word translated as "it" is the Greek word commonly translated as pronouns in English. 

The Greek word translated as "and" means "but", "however", and "on the other hand". Since it always falls in the second position, translating it as "however" often captures its feeling better. In the Greek, it follows the "whosoever".

The word translated as "whosoever" is a demonstrative pronoun ("this" "that"), but it often acts as a pronoun ("the one that), especially a connective pronoun ("the one that") introducing a dependent clause. Jesus may be using this word to refer to himself in a subtle way. This word does appear in the other versions.

Untranslated is a particle used with verbs to indicate that the action is a possibility. There is no exact equivalent in English, but it is translated as "possibly," "would have", "might", "should," and "could." This word appeared as part of the "if" in the first part of this verse.

The word translated as "shall lose" is the same as above and means to destroy or demolish.

There is no Greek for "his life" here. This is added by the KJV translators to clarify a play on words that is not translated at all.

The word translated as "shall preserve" is by far the most interesting thing in this verse. Jesus only uses it here. It could be either the noun or the verb form of the same word. As a noun, it means "creation of life" As a verb, it means to "propagate" or, of animals "to breed". As a noun, it gives a reason for destroying, "he might, for a creation of life, destroy it." As a verb, it provides the result of destroying, "he might destroy, [then] he is going to propagate it".  The "then" is commonly assumed in these type of conditional statements.

The word translated as "it" is the Greek word commonly translated as pronouns in English. 

Greek Vocabulary: 

ὃς (pron sg masc nom) "Whoever" is from hos, which is the demonstrative pronoun in its various forms (hê, ho, gen. hou, hês, hou, etc. ; dat. pl. hois, hais, hois, etc. gen. hoou). It means "this", "that", "he", "she", "which", "what", "who", "whosoever", "where", "for which reason," and many similar meanings.

ἐὰν (conj) Untranslated is ean, which is a conditional particle (derived from ei (if)and an (might)) which makes reference to a time and experience in the future that introduces but does not determine an event.

ζητήσῃ (verb 3rd sg aor subj act) "Shall seek" is zeteo, which means "inquire for", "search for", "seek after", "desire", and "feel the want of."

τὴν ψυχὴν  (noun sg fem acc) "Life" is from psyche, which means "breath", "life", "self", "spirit," and "soul." It has the clear sense of the conscious self and is often translated as "life" in the Gospels. It is also used to describe "the spirit" of things. It is often translated as "soul."

αὐτοῦ (adj sg masc gen) "His" is autos, which means "the same," and the reflexive pronouns, "myself", "yourself", "himself", "herself", "itself," or the oblique case of the pronouns, "him", "her," and "it." It also means "one's true self," that is, "the soul" as opposed to the body and "of one's own accord." In the adverbial form, it  means "just here" or "exactly there."

περιποιήσασθαι [unique]( verb aor inf mid ) "To save" is peripoieō, which means to "cause to remain over and above", "keep safe", "preserve",  of money, food, etc., "save up", "lay by", generally, "procure", "secure", "achieve", and "lay up".

ἀπολέσει ( verb 3rd sg fut ind act or  verb 3rd sg aor subj act ) "Shall lose" is apollymi, which means "to demolish", "to lay waste", "to lose", "to perish", "to die", "to cease to exist," and "to be undone."

αὐτήν, (adj sg fem acc) "It"  is autos, which means "the same," and the reflexive pronouns, "myself", "yourself", "himself", "herself", "itself," or the oblique case of the pronouns, "him", "her," and "it." It also means "one's true self," that is, "the soul" as opposed to the body and "of one's own accord." In the adverbial form, it  means "just here" or "exactly there."

ὃς "Whoever" is from hos, which is the demonstrative pronoun in its various forms (hê, ho, gen. hou, hês, hou, etc. ; dat. pl. hois, hais, hois, etc. gen. hoou). It means "this", "that", "he", "she", "which", "what", "who", "whosoever", "where", "for which reason," and many similar meanings.

δ᾽ (conj/adv) "And" is de which means "but" and "on the other hand." It is the particle that joins sentences in an adversarial way but can also be a weak connective ("and") and explanation of cause ("so") and a condition ("if"). --

ἂν (particle) Untranslated is an, which is a particle used with verbs to indicate that the action is limited by circumstances or defined by conditions. There is no exact equivalent in English, but it is translated as "possibly," "would have", "might", "should," and "could."

ἀπολέσει ( verb 3rd sg fut ind act or  verb 3rd sg aor subj act ) "Shall lose" is apollymi, which means "to demolish", "to lay waste", "to lose", "to perish", "to die", "to cease to exist," and "to be undone."

ζωογονήσει [unique] (noun sg fem dat) "Shall preserve" is  zōogoneō, which as a noun means "creation of life" and, as a verb ( verb 3rd sg fut ind act )  to "propagate or engender living creatures", of animals "breed", and "produce alive".

αὐτήν. (adj sg fem acc) "It"  is autos, which means "the same," and the reflexive pronouns, "myself", "yourself", "himself", "herself", "itself," or the oblique case of the pronouns, "him", "her," and "it." It also means "one's true self," that is, "the soul" as opposed to the body and "of one's own accord." In the adverbial form, it  means "just here" or "exactly there." -- The word translated as "him" is the Greek word commonly translated as pronouns in English.  The word means "the same" when used as an adjective. In the adverbial form, it  means "just here" or "exactly there." 

Related Verses: 

Oct 1 2018