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

Richard Ghilardi qodeshlayhvh at juno.com
Mon Jul 28 12:04:12 EDT 2003


Greetings Heiko and my fellow b-greekers,

Last month Steven Lo Vullo gave a superb explanation of MELLWN. I pulled
it from the archives and reproduced it below after Heiko's question.


On Tue, 22 Jul 2003 20:34:45 +0200 Heiko Evermann <Heiko.Evermann at gmx.de>
writes in part:

> I have several questions about Col 2:16+17....

> 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) 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 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
> 

Steven Lo Vullo wrote back in June:

> Col 2:17
> 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the 
> substance belongs to Christ.
> NASU
>
> Col 2:16-17
>  17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come;
> NIV

MELLW as a substantival participle indicates a person/people or 
thing/things that are going to come/come about at some time in the 
future. That's simple enough. However, things can become a little 
tricky, since much depends on the **perspective** from which the coming 
person/persons or thing/things are viewed. The above translations 
exemplify the problem. The translators of NAS95 apparently understood 
TWN MELLONTWN as things that were yet future from the perspective of 
Paul when Colossians was penned. The translators of the NIV apparently 
understood TWN MELLONTWN as things to come from the perspective of the 
time when the things that were a "shadow" (SKIA) yet pointed forward to 
the "body" or "substance" (SWMA) which they presaged.

Though one may be tempted to think that NAS95 translation is the only 
valid way to understand TWN MELLONTWN, the NIV is not at all 
unwarranted in its rendering here. I think a good case can be made from 
the context that the present substantival TWN MELLONTWN is used 
similarly to the present substantival hO ERCOMENOS in Matt 11.3 (cf. hO 
hUIOS TOU QEOU hO EIS TON KOSMON ERCOMENOS in John 11.27 and hO 
PROFHTHS hO ERCOMENOS EIS TON KOSMON in John 6.14). In this case the 
present substantival hO ERCOMENOS refers to the coming one from the 
perspective of Jewish anticipation, i.e., in the time of anticipation 
the Messiah is thought of as the one who will someday come. However, 
the context makes it clear that the question at hand is whether Jesus 
**is** the coming one. So, if Jesus **is** the coming one, hO ERCOMENOS 
refers not to a person in present process of coming, nor even to a 
person who will come in the future from the perspective of the time of 
the speakers, but to the one anticipated in the past and now on the 
scene. In this sense we can even today refer to Jesus as hO ERCOMENOS, 
"the Coming One." Similarly, TWN MELLONTWN in Col 2.17 can refer to 
those things known as "the things to come" from the perspective of the 
time when only the "shadow" pointed the way.

I think, though, that there is a third possibility that cannot be ruled 
out, and that is that TWN MELLONTWN refers not only to the things that 
were anticipated in the past and already fulfilled in Christ at the 
time of writing, but the things anticipated in the past, many of which 
were fulfilled in Christ at the time of writing, as well as other 
things which would be fulfilled in Christ in the future from the 
perspective of the time of writing. Both the things already fulfilled 
at the time of writing, as well as future fulfillments, could have been 
what Paul understood as being anticipated in the time of the "shadow." 
In this case both NAS95 **and** NIV are partially correct, but a 
combination of the two is needed to fill out TWN MELLONTWN.
============

Steven Lo Vullo
Madison, WI
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Yours in His grace,

Richard Ghilardi -- qodeshlayhvh at juno.com
New Haven, CT USA


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