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

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Wed Jul 23 10:09:16 EDT 2003


Nobody has yete responded to this query that came in yesterday; I guess
I'll take a stab and then other respondents can disagree with me!

Text (I like to see the text in front of me when responding: 16 MH OUN TIS
hUMAS KRINETW EN BRWSEI KAI EN POSEI H EN MEREI hEORTHS H NEOMHNIAS H
SABBATWN; 17 hA ESTIN SKIA TWN MELLONTWN, TO DE SWMA TOU CRISTOU.

At 8:34 PM +0200 7/22/03, Heiko Evermann wrote:
>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) hEORTHS is femimine singular
>(new moon) NEOMHNIAS is feminine singular
>(sabbaths) SABBATWN is neuter plural
>
>The relative pronoun hA is neuter plural. So does this only refer to
>SABBATWN,
>or
>are hEORThS and NEOMHNIAS and SABBATWN referred to collectively?

In a manner, yes, although I don't think it is these matters specifically
as rather the whole category of things to which they belong, such as, we
might say, "ritual practices" or "celebrating the religious festivals." At
any rate, hA picks up all three of these preceding items and makes a
statement about them: "which matters are (only) a shadow/insubstantial
reflection of things that are to be ..."

>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?

This cannot be spelled out so simply, either for classical Attic Greek or
for NT Koine Greek; I could refer you to the relevant sections of such
grammars as Smyth or Blass-Debrunner-Funk which spell out variations of
usage in these matters; in general, if PERSONS are being talked about the
masculine tends to be used of the group that includes both male and female
parties; if THINGS are being talked about, even if the items referenced are
masculine or feminine in terms of the gender of the noun, the neuter tends
to be used, as is the case here.

>2) When I had a look at "hA ESTIN SKIA TWN MELLONTWN" I noticed that
>MELLONTWN is a
>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.

It might mean all that, but I limit my response to the question about the
tense of MELLONTWN; what you must realize is that MELLW, which may but
isn't always accompanied by an infinitive is commonly used in the Koine as
an alternative to the future tense of EIMI, so that TWN MELLONTWN is
essentially equivalent to TWN ESOMENWN. There's room for a lot of
speculation here--I don't really want to indulge in it, only to suggest
that one conceivable way of understanding it is that the observances of the
ritual calendar, whether Jewish or Greek or whatever, belong to this
perishing world-age, whereas the great festival in the reality of the age
to come is the one that one should be concerned about participating in.
There will be different views, depending upon how the context here is
interpreted, as to precisely what TWN MELLONTWN must refer to; what seems
reasonably clear, however, is that the reader/hearer is urged not to to pay
heed to condemnatory assertions made by others regarding one's manner of
celebrating rituals.

>I looked up several verses in the NT containing the verb MELLW and they
>always
>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

I suppose you mean, "Is Paul using the tenses in a general way?" I'm not
really sure what you mean.

I'm going to stop there and let others who choose to do so respond to your
quesstion about TO DE SWMA TOU CRISTOU.
-- 

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



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