colossians 2:8

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Thu Jan 28 06:35:01 EST 1999

At 9:41 PM -0600 1/27/99, Jonathan Brubaker wrote:
>I was translating my way through colossians and was a little befuddled by
>chapter 2 verse 8.
>After struggling a little with the verse and consulting some grammars I
>think that the participle HO SULAGWGWN modifies TIS and that the verse
>should read something like this:
>   Watch out lest there will be someone who will carry you away captive...
>Now I have heard the view that since the participle has the article Paul
>is refering to someone in particular who is leading or could lead the
>Colossians astray.  The way I see it at the moment, the article makes the
>participle atributive and identifes what certain person Paul is speaking
>about.  The Colossians are to watch out that no one comes along with
>philosophy and empty deceit based on this world's thinking and thus become
>the one who carries them away captive.  What do you all think?  I would
>appreciate any input on any grammtical points I might have missed.

I like that expression "translating my way through ..."--not "working my
way through ..." or "reading my way through ..."--rather like "slogging
one's way forward (with a machete?) in a jungle"--and the standard
equivalent in Greek for that kind of progress is PROKOPTWN, which literally
means something like "chopping one's way forward" but usually gets
translated as "making progress."

At any rate, I think your understand of the sense of the passage is right,
but what the article actually does here is turn the participle into a
substantive. If there's anything odd about the expression here, in my view,
it is the hUMAS as object of the participle in advance even of the verb
ESTAI which must complete the BLEPETE MH construction; on the other hand, I
guess that hO SULAGWGWN as subject of ESTAI is extraordinarily emphatic; in
the context, I guess it would go better into English if one makes hUMAS an
objective genitive: "Be careful that nobody turns out to be your
_predator_." SULAGWGWN seems here meant to be somewhat surprising to the
reader, I think. Certainly the context suggests that the addresses need to
be on their guard because they are not expecting to be preyed upon by the
person(s) described by that participle. As for the construction, although
it's probably a mistake to think of how it might be rephrased more clearly,
I can't help but do that: it seems to me it would be clearer as: BLEPETE MH
TIS hUMAS SULAGWGHSEI. From that perspective, I'd ask whether some
rhetorical objective is gained by using the substantive participle rather
than the future indicative--and to me it seems that the substantive
participle is much more vivid: "the predator" has the sort of impact as the
English proverbial "wolf in sheep's clothing."

An interesting question, this.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649
cwconrad at OR cconrad at

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