Thursday, October 06, 2005

Colossians 2:9

This is a great verse to demonstrate both the Deity of Christ and His bodily resurrection. From what I have gathered, it is particularly useful when talking to Jehovah's Witnesses.

"For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" (Col 2:9 ESV)

From this verse we can cleary see two things. First, Paul wrote this epistle after Jesus rose from the dead. Even if we don't know the exact date when the epistle was written, we certainly know that Paul was not even converted until some point after Christ rose (see Acts 9). Second, the whole fullness, not part, not just certain aspects, of Deity dwells in Him (Christ) bodily. That which makes God God dwells in Jesus bodily. This is what the incarnation means, and it is still true of the risen Christ. The fullness of what it means to be God, of the essence of God-ness, dwells in Christ's physical body even now after He has risen from the dead. Again, here we have a clear testimony to both Christ's Deity and His physical, bodily resurrection -two things Jehovah's Witnesses vehemently deny.

The Jehovah's Witnesses may protest because their translation, the New World Translation, mistranslates the word theotetos (theotes) as "divine quality". So, they assume it is referring to something like Divine attributes –something they believe Jesus, being a created being, possesses in some measure, though without being God. Without spending time arguing over what this means, let us note that it is a mistranslation. The lexical definition of theotes does not mean "divine quality".

In Vincent's Word Studies it says,

"Here Paul is speaking of the essential and personal deity as belonging to Christ. So Bengel: "Not the divine attributes, but the divine nature.""

Thayer's Greek Lexicon says theotes means "deity; the state of being God, Godhead".

Why the confusion? Well, from what is evident in other places in the New World Translation, there are numerous mistranslations that are intended to discount the Deity of Christ -this is just another one to add to the pile. However, there is a word, very similar to theotes in spelling, which could be translated "divine quality" according to its lexical definition. It is the word "theiotes". This word is used in Romans 1:20 where it is easy to see how "divine quality" fits.

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature (theiotes), have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Rom 1:20)

Here, Paul is talking about God's "attributes". His eternal power and Creatorship have been clearly perceived by men. It is a different word from theotes and has a different meaning.

Do I think this was an honest mistake by the translators of the NWT? Given the large number of mis-translations that focus around this single issue, the Deity of Jesus, I find it hard to believe that this is a coincidence. I believe it is more a case of the NWT translators giving an English rendering that guards their theological precommitments (which deny Christ’s Deity) rather than expressing what the text says by itself.

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