Wednesday, December 16, 2015

SWMATIKWS (Colossians 2:9)

"For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form" (Colossians 2:9 NIV)

The expression "bodily form" (σωματικῶς) is interesting. Does it refer to Jesus of Nazareth qua human or is the verse referring to a heavenly spiritual body (not human) that Christ might now possess in the celestial sphere amongst the holy angels and God the Father?

Thayer seems to choose the second option and I'm inclined to agree with him. Even if one does not accept this understanding of the text, however, it is important to point out that Col. 2:9 does not (necessarily) refer to the incarnate "God-man." Of course, I don't believe that God became incarnate at all; nevertheless, I'm not trying to make an issue of the Incarnation here.

David M. Hay explains that σωματικῶς may denote "in reality" and he thinks that this meaning "seems to fit the present context" (Hay, Colossians, p. 89). See Philo, Heres 84.

Hay also writes:

"This is not simply a formula for incarnation since
the present tense of 'dwells' seems to rule out the
idea of limiting this to the time of Jesus' earthly
life" (ibid).

He then suggests that the Incarnation of Messiah might be in view but then Hay sallies forth the meaning "in reality" for σωματικῶς.

See Col. 2:17.


Matt13weedhacker said...

I have a few questions on this verse I would like to discuss. Firstly, at the link above, this comment was made:

"...This PLHRWMA *dwelled* in Christ, because of the God's "good pleasure...."

Is the: "PLHRWMA" or: "fullness", (a very slippery term to define in itself), the neuter third person referent in "KATOIKEI"? = Literally: "( it ) is dwelling"?

That's maybe a bit vague. I'm not sure how to put this question coherently. Is the: "PLEROMA" or: "the divine" something or rather, the thing that "dwells" in Christ bodily? Or both?

What's your thoughts on: "embodiment" as a paraphrase translation of σωματικῶς? In this context.

I couldn't help but notice the -μα suffix in πλήρωμα, and wonder what it means in this context. The -μα suffix denotes the end result of process, doesn't it? Any thoughts on that?

Correct me if I'm wrong, does σωματικῶς have the following suffix?

-ικος, -ικη, -ικον adjectives expressing characteristic or tendency

I was also wondering if anyone knew how the Vetus Latina rendered Col. 2.9?

I've been working on my own translation of this verse for a while, and was wondering about these things. Thanks.

Duncan said...

What other usage in non bilical text is refered too for θεότης as I find nothing so far in LXX?

The Pauline usage for "body of Christ" seems as though it my be relevant?

Edgar Foster said...


Specifically, it's πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τῆς Θεότητος that dwells in him. τῆς Θεότητος is a genitive expression that qualifies what goes before it.

If we want to translate σωματικῶς adequately, I would suggest that the rendering "embodiment" might not go far enough since σωματικῶς is an adverbial form. That is why NIV says "in bodily form," thus accounting for the adverbial. Or as Hay urges, "in reality," again taking into account the adverbial morphology.

I believe you are correct about plhrwma; it is similar (that is, the suffix is similar) to the word baptisma. Swmatikws has the omega in the suffix, rather than the omicron, which indicates that the form is adverbial. I'm not sure about the VL: don't have access to the VL now.