2 For I want YOU to realize how great a struggle I am having in behalf of YOU and of those at La·o·di·ce´a and of all those who have not seen my face in the flesh, 2 that their hearts may be comforted, that they may be harmoniously joined together in love and with a view to all the riches of the full assurance of [their] understanding, with a view to an accurate knowledge of the sacred secret of God, namely, Christ. 3 Carefully concealed in him are all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge. 4 This I am saying that no man may delude YOU with persuasive arguments. 5 For though I am absent in the flesh, all the same I am with YOU in the spirit, rejoicing and beholding YOUR good order and the firmness of YOUR faith toward Christ.

6 Therefore, as YOU have accepted Christ Jesus the Lord, go on walking in union with him, 7 rooted and being built up in him and being stabilized in the faith, just as YOU were taught, overflowing with [faith] in thanksgiving.

8 Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry YOU off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ; 9 because it is in him that all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily. 10 And so YOU are possessed of a fullness by means of him, who is the head of all government and authority. 11 By relationship with him YOU were also circumcised with a circumcision performed without hands by the stripping off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision that belongs to the Christ, 12 for YOU were buried with him in [his] baptism, and by relationship with him YOU were also raised up together through [YOUR] faith in the operation of God, who raised him up from the dead.

Questions From Readers W-62-8-1

Why does the New World Translation at Colossians 2:9 state that in Jesus “all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily,” where as other translations state that in Jesus dwells the fullness of Deity or the Godhead?—T.B., United States.

At Colossians 2:9 the word in the Greek that the New World Translation renders “divine quality” is theótes, and this is the only use of the word in the Christian Greek Scriptures. The same is true of a similar Greek word, theiótes, which appears only at Romans 1:20, and which the New World Translation there renders “Godship,” as follows: “For his invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they are inexcusable.”

The way these two words have been rendered in the New World Translation has given rise to the charge that the New World Bible Translation Committee let their religious beliefs influence them. That charge is true, but they did not do so wrongly, or unduly. The meaning that is to be given to these two Greek words depends upon what the entire Bible has to say about Jehovah God and Jesus Christ.

How so? In that there is basis for translating these words either as “Deity,” “Divinity” or “Godhead” and so attributing personality to them, or as “Divine Nature,” “divine quality,” “Godship,” and having them merely denote qualities. Thus those who believe in the trinity will attach personality to these words, whereas those who do not will render them as qualities in view of the way God and Christ are described in the Scriptures and so as to harmonize the words with the rest of God’s Word. This emphasizes the fact that one simply cannot properly and accurately translate the Bible unless one clearly understands its teachings.

That the New World Bible Translation Committee were perfectly right in rendering these words the way they did is apparent from what Greek authorities have to say about them. Thus Parkhurst’s A Greek and English Lexicon (1845) defines theiótes as “Godhead” (page 261) and theótes as “Deity, godhead, divine nature” (page 264). Note the definition “divine nature” as well as “Godhead.”

Liddell and Scott’s A Greek-English Lexicon, in its new ninth edition, completed in 1940 and reprinted in 1948, Volume I, defines the two terms in the light of ancient usages apart from the Scriptures. Theiótes it defines as “divine nature, divinity” (page 788). Theótes it defines in exactly the same way, as “divinity, divine nature,” and then cites as an example Colossians 2:9. In this connection it shows that the similar Greek expression, dia theóteta, means “for religious reasons” (page 792).

Thus the New World Translation is fully justified in rendering Colossians 2:9 to show that Christ has in him all the fullness, not of God himself, the Deity, the Godhead, but of the divine quality dwelling bodily, and this in behalf of the spiritual body of Christ, so that this body of Christ’s followers is possessed of a fullness by means of him: “It is in [Christ] that all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily. And so you [Christians] are possessed of a fullness by means of him, who is the head of all government and authority.”—Col. 2:9, 10.

It is also of interest to note that both Weymouth and An American Translation render the passage, “the fullness of God’s nature.”

To get an objective view of the matter, in exploring questions such as these it is best to use the nonsectarian and nonreligious Hebrew-English and Greek-English dictionaries, instead of those that have been produced by some religious denomination.



Questions From Readers—W/71 7/1 415-416

What are the “elementary things of the world” mentioned at Galatians 4:3 and Colossians 2:8, 20?—U.S.A.

After showing that a child is like a slave because of being under the stewardship of others until he is of age, the apostle Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, writes: “Likewise we also, when we were babes, continued enslaved by the elementary things belonging to the world.” (Gal. 4:1-3) He then proceeds to show that God’s Son came at the “full limit of the time” and released those Jews becoming his disciples from being under the Law in order that they might receive the “adoption as sons.” (Gal. 4:3-7) Similarly, in his letter to the Colossians, Paul warned the Christians at Colossae against being carried off “through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ; because it is in him that all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily.” They should have “died together with Christ toward the elementary things of the world.”—Col. 2:8, 9, 20.

Being set in contrast with what such Christians now enjoyed, the “elementary things of the world” evidently are the fundamental or primary principles followed by those who are not true Christians, persons who are a part of the world alienated from God. An American Translation renders the Greek expression for “elementary things of the world” as “material ways of looking at things.” Of course, the way a person views things is determined by the principles that he follows.

The text we are considering, Colossians 2:8, indicates that these primary principles or “elementary things” include the philosophies and deceptive teachings based on human standards, concepts, reasonings and myths, things in which the Greeks and other non-Jewish peoples reveled. Additionally, as evident from Colossians 2:16-18 and Galatians 4:4–5:4, the “elementary things” embraced the non-Biblical Jewish teachings calling for asceticism and “worship of the angels” as well as the teaching that Christians must observe the Mosaic law in order to gain salvation.

But was not the Mosaic law of divine origin? Certainly. How, then, could its observance be referred to as one’s being enslaved to the “elementary things of the world”?

We must remember that the Law had been fulfilled in Christ Jesus. He was the “reality” to which the Law’s ‘shadows,’ including the temple and the sacrifices there carried on, pointed. The Law had therefore served its purpose and so was no longer the standard for judgment. (Col. 2:13-17) Not only this, but these Christians to whom the apostle Paul wrote were called to heavenly, spirit life. The Law was for humans, was composed of “legal requirements pertaining to the flesh,” even its tabernacle (and later temple) could be called “worldly” (Heb. 9:1, 10, Kingdom Interlinear Translation; “mundane,” Moffatt) in the sense that it was part of the human sphere, something built and used in the world of mankind, not something heavenly or spiritual. But now Christians were called to the superior way of worship based on Christ Jesus, who had entered into heaven itself. (Heb. 9:11, 24) Of Jesus Christ, in a letter to the Colossians the apostle said that “all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily” in him. (Col. 2:9) That being so, then Jesus Christ—not humans and their principles or teachings, nor even the now fulfilled Mosaic law—was to be recognized as God’s appointed standard for his servants, hence as the full means of measuring the truth with regard to any teaching or way of life.

As the apostle had counseled the Christians at Colossae, similarly he wrote those in Galatia not to be like children by voluntarily placing themselves under that which was likened to a ‘pedagogue’ or ‘tutor,’ namely, the Mosaic law. Their relationship with God was now like that of a grown son with his father. The Mosaic law had become “elementary,” as compared with the Christian teaching. So it would have been wrong for Christians to turn back to the “weak and beggarly elementary things” of the human sphere. They possessed the full truth.

Similarly, today people forming the world alienated from God live according to certain philosophies of life and customs that are out of harmony with God’s Word. But to them, this is the “practiced” way to life, a way typified by such expressions as: “The end justifies the means”; “It’s a ‘dog-eat-dog’ world where it’s ‘every man for himself’ ”; “All’s fair in love and war.” They lack the wisdom from above, spiritual insight. (Jas. 3:13-18) As Christians we must exercise care that we do not slip into following worldly principles in conducting our family and business affairs and in dealing with others. A Christian does well to ask himself, Am I wholly guided by God’s Word and by the example and teachings of his Son in everything that I do, or am I letting myself be influenced by the popular sayings of this world?