Wednesday, March 18, 2015

TA PANTA Understood as the Universe

There are times when TA PANTA could be used to reference the universe. Like all things in scholarship, the point is debatable, but support for the idea can be found in scholarly works. For example, from John Eadie, we read:

῞οτι ἐν αὐτῷ ἐκτίσθη τὰ πάντα, τὰ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς καὶ τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς. The conjunction ὅτι assigns the reason of the preceding statement. He is first-born of the whole creation, for by Him “all things” were created-and He is the image of God, for as Creator He shines out in the “brightness of His Father's glory,” so that we apprehend it to be a narrow and confined view to restrict the reference of ὅτι to the last clause of the previous verse. The phrase τὰ πάντα means “the all”-the universe, the whole that exists. Winer, § 18, 8. The aorist characterizes creation as a past and perfect work. Creation is here in the fullest and most unqualified sense ascribed to Christ, and the doctrine is in perfect harmony with the theology of the beloved disciple, John 1:3.

See his Commentary on Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians and Philippians.

Vincent's Word Studies also offers commentary on TA PANTA:

All things (τὰ πάντα)

The article gives a collective sense - the all, the whole universe of things. Without the article it would be all things severally.

Were created (ἐκτίσθη)

See on John 1:3. The aorist tense, denoting a definite historical event.

I no longer have the Colossians commentary by Petr Pokorny, but he supplies some informative material on Col 1:15-17 also.

Side Note: I do not believe that the Son created TA PANTA. Eadie is only quoted to establish what TA PANTA could sometimes mean.


Matt13weedhacker said...

Justin Martyr frequently uses Gk., ( τῶν ὅλων ) "the whole" in a similar way.

Edgar Foster said...

Thank you, Matt13weedhacker. I do remember encountering Justin's use of this phrase, although most of my energy has gone toward the Latin fathers.

Duncan said...

Eph 4:15?

Shouldn't each work stand on its own context first & then cross connections can be made?

We know that Paul is quite familiar with Hellenist & Greek thinking. Why ignore the documented connection between kind of phrasing in older Greek documents & the creation of city states?

Duncan said...

Isn't the universe in this already defined:-

τα αορατα ειτε θρονοι ειτε κυριοτητες ειτε αρχαι ειτε εξουσιαι τα παντα δι αυτου και εις αυτον εκτισται

Duncan said...

Edgar Foster said...

I think matt13 was simply making an observation about a similar phrase used to mean universe. I didn't take anything more from his comment, although I'm not speaking for my friend either.

To be direct, I'm not sure what your point about the creation of city-states has to do with the original blog post on TA PANTA. I'm trying to establish the point that TA PANTA can sometimes be used as shorthand for "the universe." That's why matt13 mentioned Justin Martyr where a different expression is used, but it still refers to the universe.

As for the city-states point, I have no problem with it. But you surely understand that "create" has various semantic domains. Just b/c it's used to reference the creation of city-states or material objects does not mean it can't be used to describe creatio ex nihilo.

Concerning the Greek you posted and the question you asked about the universe being defined therein, I would say yes. But what else is there to creation (biblically) besides the things invisible and the things invisible? The government terminology is used for spirit and human creatures. See Eph 6:11-12. Nothing about the language limits the writer's description to the material world.

Duncan said...

Just a note from the JMNT 2014 on Ephesians 6:11-12.

[note: this verse could be speaking about the ruling authorities of the religious world of ignorance, with its now worthless sacrifices, or, about the political system of darkened strength which was currently in power, bringing bad situations; Walter Wink, in Engaging the Powers, uses the phrase “against suprahuman systems and forces” for part of this verse]

Duncan said...

Are all methods of ruler-ship and control easily discernible? So you need to define what the invisible actually is? or at least what it is not.

In any case we are again talking about two independent letters.

Duncan said...

Plotinus uses this term & I think it is translated "all together".

In my search I have come across this which seems informative:-

Edgar Foster said...

The work by Ashton is good, thanks, although I would say there are misleading statements in the work. Be that as it may, he too appears to argue that TA PANTA at times refers to the universe.

Edgar Foster said...

The language of Eph 6:11-12 clearly illuminates Col 1:15-17, even if they are two separate (Pauline) letters. How is "invisible" normally used in Greek texts? It would be helpful to know. But Ephesians 6:12 also employs the language: πρὸς τὰ πνευματικὰ τῆς πονηρίας ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις

That's likely not referring to human enties, especially since vs. 12 also says, ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν ἡμῖν ἡ πάλη πρὸς αἷμα καὶ σάρκα

Colossians also clarifies what is meant by invisible and visible: τὰ πάντα ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς (Col 1:16).

Edgar Foster said...

Duncan, I'm sure you appreciate the fact that words are part of semantic domains. One cannot reason that because "create" refers to the building of city-states in one context, that it also functions this way in another. Please see

Duncan said...

Of course the qualification in the verse, whether, lends weight.

Also as the old jmnt puts it

because within Him was created (is founded and settled; is built and planted; is brought into being, produced and established)

So he sees the possibilities, as do I.

Matt13weedhacker said...

Hi Edgar.

It was a general observation. I didn't realize ti would provoke so much controversy. I have an interest in Justin Martyr, and just made a remark. That's all.

I enjoy your posts Edgar. Have a great day.

Kind regards, YB.

Edgar Foster said...

Hi matt13,

I'm glad you made the observation since it probably would not have occurred to me. I always learn from your contributions.



Edgar Foster said...

The forms of governance mentioned in Colossians 1:16 are invisible because they're heavenly. How does the use of "whether" affect our understanding of the verse?