Colossians 2:20-23

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Thu Jan 23 07:25:09 EST 2003


At 4:07 AM +0000 1/23/03, George Blaisdell wrote:
>>From: "Carl W. Conrad"
>>George Blaisdell wrote:
>
>> > The whole thing seems to be one sentence, and the
>> > syntax of the whole is what is in question, and > especially vs 23:
>
>> > hATINA ESTIN LOGON MEN ECONTA SOFIAS EN EQELOQRHSKIAi KAI
>>TAPERNOFROSUNHi > KAI AFEIDIAi SOMATOS, OUK EN TIMHi TINI PROS PLHSMONHN
>>THS SARKOS
>
>> > "Whichever is a word truely having wisdom in > will-worship and bodily
>>severity not in any > value toward fulfillment of the flesh.
>
>> > Why ATINA?  > Is it LOGON that has 'not any value'?  > Why is SOFIAS
>>plural?
>> > How does this finish off the thought of the whole > senthence?  > Does
>>MEN mean truely here?  > How is LOGON related to ATINA, and how should it
>>be translated, and understood?

Let's get the whole relevant text in front of us:

(2) EI APEQANETE SUN CRISTWi APO TWN STOICEIWN TOU KOSMOU, TI hWS ZWNTES EN
KOSMWi  DOGMATIZESQE? (21) MH hAYHi MHDE GEUSHi MHDE QIGHiS, (22) hA ESTIN
PANTA EIS FQORAN THi APOCRHSEI, KATA TA ENTALMATA KAI DIDASKALIAS TWN
ANQRWPWN, (23) hATINA ESTIN LOGON MEN ECONTA SOFIAS EN EQELOQRHSKEIAi KAI
TAPEINOFROSUNHi [KAI] AFEIDIAi SWMATOS, OUK EN TIMHi TINI PROS PLHSMOSUNHN
THS SARKOS.

>>hATINA is neuter plural subject of ESTIN ECONTA ("which are things that
>>have a specious wisdom ..."),
>
>hATINA ESTIN LOGON MEN ECONTA SOFIAS
>
>>George; but the participle ECONTA doesn't
>>construe with LOGON (although the form could be an acc. sg. m.) but with
>>the neuter plural subject hATINA which, like the hA introducing verse 22,
>>refers back to the sort of rigidly ascetic precepts illustrating the
>>question of verse 20 (TI DOGMATIZESQE?). Verse 23 downplays any authentic
>>value in these.
>
>OK - So then why hATINA, and not hA?  What is that TINA doing?

hATINA is a more indefinite form of hA; hA is the relative pronoun, hATINA
the indefinite relative; hA = "which things"; hATINA = "any which things";
verse 22 characterizes the injunctions of verse 21 as belonging to the
perishing world age and conventional human teachings; verse 23 continues
that characterization with an antithesis, the general sense of which is:
"such things seem valuable, but in fact they really don't help toward
controlling the body."

Does not
>ESTIN construe hATINA as being LOGON?

hATINA is the subject of this clause, ESTIN is the governing verb; LOGON
MEN ECONTA SOFIAS is the predicate nominative phrase. LOGON here is acc.
sg. masculine, object of ECONTA: "any which things are (ESTIN) having an
appearance of wisdom (LOGON ECONTA SOFIAS) to-be-sure (MEN, here indicating
the first aspect of the antithetical assertion). I would say that LOGOS is
here used in a idiomatic sense of the conventional LOGOS/ERGON (word/deed,
appearance/reality) antithesis; thus, LOGON MEN ECONTA SOFIAS is "having a
reputed status of wisdom ..."; then follows EN and three dative expressions
pointing to supposed ascetic values. The Greek text is usually punctuated
with a comma after SWMATOS; then OUK EN TIMHi TINI PROS PLHSMOSUNHN THS
SARKOS states the other aspect of the antithesis; there could have been a
DE corresponding to the earlier MEN, but it isn't there since the
author/Paul assumes it's sufficiently clear that now he's pointing to the
reality of such precepts: they don't really have any value (lit. "aren't in
any value") with respect to indulgence of the body.

And how does "specious" enter in as a
>modifier of "wisdom" from hATINA ESTIN LOGON MEN ECONTA SOFIAS?  The hATINA
>seems to say "Whichever [of these] IS a LOGON [a saying???] truely [MEN,
>yes?] having wisdom..."  How does specious enter here?  I agree that the
>three previous examples of worldly dogmatics in 2:21 are being speciously
>portrayed.  One translation renders 3:23 as "These things have indeed a show
>of wisdom..." which is much like your rendering, but how do we get "show of
>wisdom" from LOGON MEN ECONTA SOFIAS?  I am really and thickly not getting
>it...  I do not see it in the Greek...  Yet what I see is not all that clear
>either...
>
>What is LOGON???  Neut nom sing?  Or acc?  And what meaning has it?
>
>If we translate it literally: "Whichever is a saying truely having wisdom in
>voluntary worship, humblemindedness, and unsparingness of the body, not in
>any value/honor toward fulfilment of the flesh.", then it makes little
>sense, at least to my ears, but if we are going to translate it as we think
>it should mean, we need to be able to show the derivation from the Greek,
>and I can't yet see how to do that...
>
>Is the hATINA sarcastic?

I wouldn't say so; it seems to me that the author/Paul is trying to explain
more clearly why the Colossians should not be teaching and carrying out
ascetic regulations; hATINA generalizes even further what was already said
in verse 22 (that these things are just worldly human conventions): these
practices only SEEM to make sense, but they really don't have any efficacy.

It's not surprising that this passage should cause difficulty; it has been
understood in different ways by earlier exegetes but I gather that there's
now pretty much a consensus about its meaning. I think that the Greek of
Colossians is in general somewhat more complex--and difficult--than the
Greek of the Pauline corpus generally.
-- 

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu OR cwconrad at ioa.com
WWW: http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/



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