Colossians 2:17 - ἅ ἐστιν σκιὰ τῶν μελλόντων

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Re: Colossians 2:17 - ἅ ἐστιν σκιὰ τῶν μελλόντων

Postby Jason Hare » January 24th, 2013, 6:31 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:
Jason Hare wrote:My apologies for the further push (and I do hope that we have other participants in this thread as well), but how do you think it would be better expressed if Paul had wanted to say that the festivals and such were shadows pointing to the cross and Jesus' passion? I mean, would there have been a different form that you would expect rather than the present participle?


You can keep the present participle, but if the main verb were ἦν instead of ἐστιν then I'd feel better that he was talking about the past, and, with the sense of the μέλλω, the future-in-the-past.


Yet, ἐστίν is surely appropriate given the fact that he's talking about things that were still (and are still) being practiced, though not as part of the Christian faith. These things exist, but they are a shadow of coming things - the reality of which is Christ (as the latter part of the verse states). "Coming things" surely refers to what they were pointing to.
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Re: Colossians 2:17 - ἅ ἐστιν σκιὰ τῶν μελλόντων

Postby Daniel Gregg » January 24th, 2013, 9:13 pm

I think Stephen has given a good answer Jason, the present tense verb ἐστιν governs the "reference time" of the participle phrase: τῶν μελλόντων. The shadows are in time future from the present.

I would add that the NIV text goes against the natural flow of the Greek: are a shadow of the things that were to come. The added word's "that were" interrupt the connection between the main verb and the participle.

HI Marc, glad to see you here.
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Re: Colossians 2:17 - ἅ ἐστιν σκιὰ τῶν μελλόντων

Postby Iver Larsen » January 25th, 2013, 2:42 am

The text compares the shadow with the real thing, i.e. Christ, The shadow refers to the Jewish traditional rules Paul has just mentioned. Those rules were still at the time followed by the Jews and probably some Christians of Jewish background, but they were established in the past before the coming of Christ and were meant to be a shadow, pointing to Christ. These rules are still even today a shadow of Christ, and this is in my view a general statement that calls for ἐστιν. This present verb does not mean that the coming of Christ could not be seen as future relative to when the rules were first established. As a translator, I would go with the NIV and suggest that RSV is misleading in English, but that is a translation issue.
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Re: Colossians 2:17 - ἅ ἐστιν σκιὰ τῶν μελλόντων

Postby Stephen Carlson » January 25th, 2013, 3:39 am

Iver Larsen wrote:These rules are still even today a shadow of Christ, and this is in my view a general statement that calls for ἐστιν.


This raises another linguistic objection to this reading of Col 2:17. τῶν μελλόντων is plural, which makes it very unlikely as a direct reference to the singular Christ.

I continue to see nothing linguistic in the text to justify a shift in the frame of reference from the present to the past Mosaic time when these rules were established--a shift that necessary to justify reading τῶν μελλόντων as "the things that were to come." The text involves the (writer's) present judging of people (κρινέτω), the present practice of the rules (ἐστιν), and the present body of Christ (σῶμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ).
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Re: Colossians 2:17 - ἅ ἐστιν σκιὰ τῶν μελλόντων

Postby Jason Hare » January 25th, 2013, 7:34 am

Iver Larsen wrote:The text compares the shadow with the real thing, i.e. Christ, The shadow refers to the Jewish traditional rules Paul has just mentioned. Those rules were still at the time followed by the Jews and probably some Christians of Jewish background, but they were established in the past before the coming of Christ and were meant to be a shadow, pointing to Christ. These rules are still even today a shadow of Christ, and this is in my view a general statement that calls for ἐστιν. This present verb does not mean that the coming of Christ could not be seen as future relative to when the rules were first established. As a translator, I would go with the NIV and suggest that RSV is misleading in English, but that is a translation issue.


This is my thinking exactly. You've worded it much better, though.
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Re: Colossians 2:17 - ἅ ἐστιν σκιὰ τῶν μελλόντων

Postby Jason Hare » January 25th, 2013, 7:39 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:This raises another linguistic objection to this reading of Col 2:17. τῶν μελλόντων is plural, which makes it very unlikely as a direct reference to the singular Christ.


The point is not that it is referring to Jesus personally but to the things that he did and the promises that were fulfilled in his actions.

Stephen Carlson wrote:I continue to see nothing linguistic in the text to justify a shift in the frame of reference from the present to the past Mosaic time when these rules were established--a shift that necessary to justify reading τῶν μελλόντων as "the things that were to come." The text involves the (writer's) present judging of people (κρινέτω), the present practice of the rules (ἐστιν), and the present body of Christ (σῶμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ).


I don't disagree that the judging was present or the practice of the rites or the body. However, I see it as Paul stating that when the rites were given their purpose was to serve as a shadow of a truer reality - and that truer reality was Christ. The point? Once Christ has come, no one is under obligation to the rites and performances, which are not the real substance. This was also Paul's point in Galatians 3, where he created the analogy to the παιδαγωγός. The Torah represents the παιδαγωγός, and once the heir has grown (that is, "once faith has come") he is no longer under the παιδαγωγός. It's the same situation here.

ὥστε ὁ νόμος παιδαγωγὸς ἡμῶν γέγονεν εἰς Χριστόν, ἵνα ἐκ πίστεως δικαιωθῶμεν· ἐλθούσης δὲ τῆς πίστεως οὐκέτι ὑπὸ παιδαγωγόν ἐσμεν. (Galatians 3:24-25)


νῦν δὲ γνόντες θεόν, μᾶλλον δὲ γνωσθέντες ὑπὸ θεοῦ, πῶς ἐπιστρέφετε πάλιν ἐπὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ καὶ πτωχὰ στοιχεῖα οἷς πάλιν ἄνωθεν δουλεύειν θέλετε; ἡμέρας παρατηρεῖσθε καὶ μῆνας καὶ καιροὺς καὶ ἐνιαυτούς, φοβοῦμαι ὑμᾶς μή πως εἰκῇ κεκοπίακα εἰς ὑμᾶς. (Galatians 4:9-11)
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Re: Colossians 2:17 - ἅ ἐστιν σκιὰ τῶν μελλόντων

Postby Marc Possoff » January 25th, 2013, 11:42 am

Jason Hare wrote:
Stephen Carlson wrote:This raises another linguistic objection to this reading of Col 2:17. τῶν μελλόντων is plural, which makes it very unlikely as a direct reference to the singular Christ.


The point is not that it is referring to Jesus personally but to the things that he did and the promises that were fulfilled in his actions.

Stephen Carlson wrote:I continue to see nothing linguistic in the text to justify a shift in the frame of reference from the present to the past Mosaic time when these rules were established--a shift that necessary to justify reading τῶν μελλόντων as "the things that were to come." The text involves the (writer's) present judging of people (κρινέτω), the present practice of the rules (ἐστιν), and the present body of Christ (σῶμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ).


I don't disagree that the judging was present or the practice of the rites or the body. However, I see it as Paul stating that when the rites were given their purpose was to serve as a shadow of a truer reality - and that truer reality was Christ. The point? Once Christ has come, no one is under obligation to the rites and performances, which are not the real substance. This was also Paul's point in Galatians 3, where he created the analogy to the παιδαγωγός. The Torah represents the παιδαγωγός, and once the heir has grown (that is, "once faith has come") he is no longer under the παιδαγωγός. It's the same situation here.

ὥστε ὁ νόμος παιδαγωγὸς ἡμῶν γέγονεν εἰς Χριστόν, ἵνα ἐκ πίστεως δικαιωθῶμεν· ἐλθούσης δὲ τῆς πίστεως οὐκέτι ὑπὸ παιδαγωγόν ἐσμεν. (Galatians 3:24-25)


νῦν δὲ γνόντες θεόν, μᾶλλον δὲ γνωσθέντες ὑπὸ θεοῦ, πῶς ἐπιστρέφετε πάλιν ἐπὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ καὶ πτωχὰ στοιχεῖα οἷς πάλιν ἄνωθεν δουλεύειν θέλετε; ἡμέρας παρατηρεῖσθε καὶ μῆνας καὶ καιροὺς καὶ ἐνιαυτούς, φοβοῦμαι ὑμᾶς μή πως εἰκῇ κεκοπίακα εἰς ὑμᾶς. (Galatians 4:9-11)


Isn't nomos broad and doesn't necessarily mean Torah/Law of Moses?

nomos according to Perseus means custom, tradition, norm. Yes it can also mean Torah/Law of Moses as well.
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Re: Colossians 2:17 - ἅ ἐστιν σκιὰ τῶν μελλόντων

Postby Marc Possoff » January 25th, 2013, 11:44 am

Jason Hare wrote:
Stephen Carlson wrote:This raises another linguistic objection to this reading of Col 2:17. τῶν μελλόντων is plural, which makes it very unlikely as a direct reference to the singular Christ.


The point is not that it is referring to Jesus personally but to the things that he did and the promises that were fulfilled in his actions.

Stephen Carlson wrote:I continue to see nothing linguistic in the text to justify a shift in the frame of reference from the present to the past Mosaic time when these rules were established--a shift that necessary to justify reading τῶν μελλόντων as "the things that were to come." The text involves the (writer's) present judging of people (κρινέτω), the present practice of the rules (ἐστιν), and the present body of Christ (σῶμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ).


I don't disagree that the judging was present or the practice of the rites or the body. However, I see it as Paul stating that when the rites were given their purpose was to serve as a shadow of a truer reality - and that truer reality was Christ. The point? Once Christ has come, no one is under obligation to the rites and performances, which are not the real substance. This was also Paul's point in Galatians 3, where he created the analogy to the παιδαγωγός. The Torah represents the παιδαγωγός, and once the heir has grown (that is, "once faith has come") he is no longer under the παιδαγωγός. It's the same situation here.

ὥστε ὁ νόμος παιδαγωγὸς ἡμῶν γέγονεν εἰς Χριστόν, ἵνα ἐκ πίστεως δικαιωθῶμεν· ἐλθούσης δὲ τῆς πίστεως οὐκέτι ὑπὸ παιδαγωγόν ἐσμεν. (Galatians 3:24-25)


νῦν δὲ γνόντες θεόν, μᾶλλον δὲ γνωσθέντες ὑπὸ θεοῦ, πῶς ἐπιστρέφετε πάλιν ἐπὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ καὶ πτωχὰ στοιχεῖα οἷς πάλιν ἄνωθεν δουλεύειν θέλετε; ἡμέρας παρατηρεῖσθε καὶ μῆνας καὶ καιροὺς καὶ ἐνιαυτούς, φοβοῦμαι ὑμᾶς μή πως εἰκῇ κεκοπίακα εἰς ὑμᾶς. (Galatians 4:9-11)


Also I think you need to regard context.
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Re: Colossians 2:17 - ἅ ἐστιν σκιὰ τῶν μελλόντων

Postby Iver Larsen » January 26th, 2013, 3:55 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:
Iver Larsen wrote:These rules are still even today a shadow of Christ, and this is in my view a general statement that calls for ἐστιν.


This raises another linguistic objection to this reading of Col 2:17. τῶν μελλόντων is plural, which makes it very unlikely as a direct reference to the singular Christ.

I continue to see nothing linguistic in the text to justify a shift in the frame of reference from the present to the past Mosaic time when these rules were established--a shift that necessary to justify reading τῶν μελλόντων as "the things that were to come." The text involves the (writer's) present judging of people (κρινέτω), the present practice of the rules (ἐστιν), and the present body of Christ (σῶμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ).


If one takes σῶμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ to mean the body of Christ, I can see that there is a problem. σῶμα is much broader in meaning than "body", and I think BDAG is correct when they address this verse:

④ substantive reality, the thing itself, the reality in imagery of a body that casts a shadow, in contrast to σκιά (q.v. 3) Col 2:17.

Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.) (984). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Let me repeat the relevant contrastive clauses:

ἅ ἐστιν σκιὰ τῶν μελλόντων, τὸ δὲ σῶμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

We have talked about δὲ before which indicates a change, often a contrast. Since it occurs glued to τὸ σῶμα, it relates to that word. Here it contrasts two things: "the shadow of the coming-things" and "the substance/reality of Christ". Shadow and substance/reality are contrasted, but the topic is "coming-things" which were anticipated in the old covenant, but brought into reality by Christ. In other words, the former things of the Mosaic law are contrasted with the new things of Christ, or the old covenant with the new covenant.

Normally, I would see a present participle as problematic. Why not a perfect participle? However, it appears that the participle μέλλων has become fixed in Hellenistic Greek in its imperfective aspect (present, and possibly an occasional imperfect and a rare future). The present is by far the most common. Aorist is very rare, only used in prose per LSJ and it does not occur in the NT or LXX. Is the aorist participle of this verb still in use in this time period of Greek? I have not seen any mention of a perfect participle for this verb.

LSJ says: IV. part. μέλλων is used quasi-adjectivally, ὁ μ. χρόνος the future time, Pi.O.10(11).7, A.Pr.839, Arist.Top.111b28: Gramm., ὁ μέλλων the future tense, D.T.638.23, A.D.Synt.69.28, etc.; ἡ μ. αὐτοῦ δύναμις his future power, Pl.R.494c; μ. φυλάξσαθαι χρέος Pi.O.7.40; τὸν μ. βλαστόν (καρπόν codd.) Thphr.HP4.115.1: esp. in neut., τὸ μέλλον, τὰ μέλλοντα things to come, the future, Pi.O.2.56, A.Pr.102, Th.1.138, 4.71, Pl.Tht.178e, etc.; opp. to what is simply future (τὸ ἐσόμενον),

Does quasi-adjectively not mean that it has lost its tense and aspect? I suggest the focus in our verse is on relative futurity, rather than futurity from the vantage point of the present time. I think of it as "the things to come" and here specifically "the things that were bound/ordained by God to come" where the context indicates whether these things have actually come or not at the time of writing. I admit that it is the context which forces me to take the intended meaning as "the things that were to come" (as planned and now effected by God).

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Re: Colossians 2:17 - ἅ ἐστιν σκιὰ τῶν μελλόντων

Postby Stephen Carlson » January 27th, 2013, 3:56 pm

Iver Larsen wrote:Let me repeat the relevant contrastive clauses:

ἅ ἐστιν σκιὰ τῶν μελλόντων, τὸ δὲ σῶμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

We have talked about δὲ before which indicates a change, often a contrast. Since it occurs glued to τὸ σῶμα, it relates to that word. Here it contrasts two things: "the shadow of the coming-things" and "the substance/reality of Christ". Shadow and substance/reality are contrasted, but the topic is "coming-things" which were anticipated in the old covenant, but brought into reality by Christ. In other words, the former things of the Mosaic law are contrasted with the new things of Christ, or the old covenant with the new covenant.


I agree there's a contrast. But I still do not see any reason given, other than theology, for this particular interpretation of the contrast. And frankly the theological reasoning here does not appear sufficient thorough, for there are other viable possibilities. For example, τῶν μελλῶντα could refer to future things, say, at the parousia (explicitly in the context at 3:4), without any unusual grammatical moves like a future-in-the-past reading and a plural-for-singular construal for τῶν μελλῶντα.

This forum, of course, is about Greek, not theology, to the extent that it is feasible to keep them separate. In this case, I fear that the grammatical or linguistic argumentation has been exhausted, and I don't see that the topic has been decisively settled on that front.
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