Sunday, April 22, 2018

Notes on Colossians 2:9: "Bodily"?

Robertson's Word Pictures states: "Paul here asserts that 'all the PLHRWMA of the Godhead,' not just certain aspects, dwells in Christ and in bodily form (SWMATIKWS, late and rare adverb, in Plutarch, inscription, here only in N.T.), dwells now in Christ in his glorified humanity (Philippians 2:9-11), 'the body of his glory' (TWi SWMATI THS DOXHS)."

Louw-Nida (8.2): "SWMATIKWS: EN AUTWi KATOIKEI PAN TO PLHRWMA SWMATIKWS: 'in him all the fullness of deity dwells bodily' or . . . in physical form' Col 2.9. It is also possible to interpret SWMATIKWS in Col 2.9 as meaning 'in reality,' that is to say, 'not symbolically' (see 70.7)."

BDAG suggests that SWMATIKWS (adverbial of SWMATIKOS) bears the potential sense "bodily, corporeally" and probably should be understood from Col 2:17 "as = in reality, not fig." See page 984.

Roger and Rogers New Linguistic and Exegetical Key agrees with Robertson concerning SWMATIKWS: "The word [in Col 2:9] refers to the human body of Christ (Johnson, 310), indicating also the full humanity of Jesus a humanity which was not simply a covering for His deity (Lohse; TDNT; Moule; Lohmeyer; O'Brien).

But Petr Pokorny is most certainly right when he concludes: "The concept SWMA has a further meaning that comes to light especially in ---> 2:17. SWMA is also the archetype (---> 1:15), the reality in contrast to the shadow and copy. This is the most probable meaning here, given the framework of the interpretation of 2:19" (Colossians:
A Commentary
, 122).


Philip Fletcher said...

Jesus is the image of the invisible God. At Genesis we read " Let us make man in our image. The key expression is image. That is really what it is all about. But Adam in his perfect state is not Almighty God and Jesus in his perfect human form is not Almighty God either. Paul calls Jesus the last Adam. There is no difference between Jesus and the, before sin perfect Adam. So all the fullness of God is in the image of Jesus and the perfect Adam, but that still does not make them Almighty God.

Edgar Foster said...

I agree that Jesus is not almighty God, and the image language seems to prove that point. But Trinitarians use Col. 2:9 as a proof-text for the deity of Christ (to prove that he is almighty God) and they usually want to argue that Christ still possesses his human body. However, if certain scholars are right about the potential meaning of "bodily," in Col. 2:9, their case suffers some harm.

JimSpace said...

Paul also clarified that there are heavenly bodies and different terrestrial bodies in 1 Corinthians 15:40. Thus, the "body" in Col. 2:9 would fall into his category of ἐπουρανίων δόξα (heavenly body). He stated in the clearest language that Jesus is not human now in heaven.

JimSpace said...

Sorry, I copied the wrong Greek, it should be: σώματα ἐπουράνια.

Edgar Foster said...

Thanks, Jim. While I agree with you, I've seen commentators try to muddle the waters of 1 Cor. 15:40 and suggest we're not sure what kind of bodies are being discussed there. Furthermore, you know that most theologians/commentators believe Christ still has a human body or NT Wright argues that his body is "transphysical." Hardly have I ever encountered a theologian who thinks Christ's body is no longer human of fleshly. But some do agree with Witnesses.

JimSpace said...

Thanks for the reference. I see NT Wright has written the following:

...the best historical explanation for the rise of the multi-faceted phenomenon we know as early Christianity is the combination of an empty tomb and the sightings of Jesus himself bodily alive (though in a transformed, not merely resuscitated, body) for a month or so after his crucifixion; and that the best explanation for the empty tomb and the sightings is the proposal that Jesus was indeed fully alive again and that his body had been transformed into what I have called a ‘transphysical’ state.

To this, David Attfield commented:

This interpretation of transphysical properties is perfectly compatible
with Jesus’ risen body retaining all its normal properties and
operating under the same natural laws as any other surrounding
object in the physical environment. (p. 413)

Thus, NT Wright has delivered a great disservice by pontificating a word that is ambiguous and sounds like a compromise. One is reminded of Peter's warning of made-up words.--2 Peter 2:3.

Edgar Foster said...

Jim, I agree that we have to be careful about neologisms. Sometimes they do no harm, but when we're doing theology, one should tread carefully. Also, in his big 700 page book, he makes an extended case for transphysicality. Not that I buy it though.