[B-Greek] Questions about Col 2:16+17

Heiko Evermann Heiko.Evermann at gmx.de
Tue Jul 22 14:34:45 EDT 2003

I have several questions about Col 2:16+17.
This text is frequently understood in this way:
By his death at the cross, Jesus has abolished the feasts, new moon 
festivals and Sabbaths.

When digging into the Greek of this verse, I noticed some strange things.

1) what does the relative pronoun hA in V 17 ("which are a shadow") refer to
(feast) hEORTES is femimine singular
(new moon) NEOMHNIAS is feminine singular
(sabbaths) SABBATWN is neuter plural

Te relative pronoun hA is neuter plural. So does this only refer to
are hEORTES and NEOMHNIAS and SABBATWN referred to collectively?

I know that in French, one male and one hundred females make a male plural.
How is the rule in Greek for a collection of two female singulars and a 
neuter plural? And if there is such a rule
for classical Greek, will it be followed in NT Greek, or does NT Greek 
not care for such details?

2) When I had a look at "hA ESTIN SKIA TWN MELLONTWN" I noticed that 
present tense participle. So is Paul is saying that these feasts (or 
only the sabbaths,
see question #1) are (at least at the time of writing) a shadow of 
things that
still ARE to come?
Is this significant in the Greek? Could it be that Paul is not referring 
to Jesus who fulfilled
these things (in the past), but to the world to come (after Jesus 
returns). In this case this verse
might not mean that these feasts and the Sabbath were abolished, but are 
shadows of the world to come.

I looked up several verses in the NT containing the verb MELLO and they 
referred to things that were (at least at the time the text referred to 
) to come.
I found none that talked about things that had come, at least not when 
it was used in the present tense.
What is the correct interpretation of the tenses here? Is Paul generally 
using the tenses

3) I was wondering about the clause TO DE SWMA TOU CRISTOU. This 
sentence is incomplete. It is frequently
understood as "but the fulfillment is in Christ". Does this fit to the 
A) Usually SWMA means the body, in this case SWMA TOU CRISTOU would be 
the body in which Christ walked here on
earth. This would not make sense here.
B) Several times in the NT, the church is called body of Christ. For 
this alternative I have found a proposed reading
of Col 2:16-17 in the Internet:
"Consequently, let no one judge you in eating or in drinking, or in the 
particulars of a festival or a new
moon or sabbaths (which are a shadow of things to come) but the body of 
Christ". Here the phrase is understood this way:
the false teachers in Colossae (ascectis, followers of teaching of men) 
objected to divinly ordinated feasting,
which the Christians in colossae celebrated. Unbelievers, according to 
Paul, have no say in this. Only the church
has the God-given authority to decide over feasts.

Do You think that this is a valid rendering of the Greek? (Even if it 
might not be the preferred one?)

C) fulfillment in Christ (This is the usual understanding): Is there any 
precedent in NT Greek or elsewhere to translate
SWMA as fulfillment? Or is this translation driven by the meaning of the 
passage that is currently expected
by the translators, but not covered by the Greek?

D) or could it be understood as "but (your) body is of Christ" i.e. 
"belongs to Christ", meaning:
"Your body does already belong to Christ, because You believe in him, 
and ascetic exercises (see verse 22) will not
improve this.

Which of these readings would be covered by the Greek text?

Thanks a lot for Your help,

Heiko Evermann
Hamburg, Germany

(E-mail: Heiko.Evermann at gmx.de)

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