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

Steven Lo Vullo slovullo at mac.com
Wed Jul 30 04:49:39 EDT 2003

On Tuesday, July 29, 2003, at 08:35  AM, waldo slusher wrote:

I have to say at the outset that I am very disappointed that for the 
most part you ignored the points I made in my last post and simply 
repeated your earlier assertions in different words. This is very 
frustrating, and makes it difficult to respond without becoming 
repetitive myself.

> SKIA is in predicate nom to the neuter plural hA

Which is exactly what I said in my last post.

> SKIA answers WHAT KIND of reflection? (SKIA is
> considered plural as a collective adjective)

Where in the world are you getting such terminology? In the first 
place, SKIA is not an adjective, but a noun! This is similar to the 
mistake of referring to TWN MELLONTWN as adjectival rather than nominal 
or substantival. I'm truly left scratching my head!

Secondly, **what** on earth **is** a "collective adjective"? And 
**who** on earth considers SKIA "plural as a collective adjective"? 
I've never heard of such a thing! I don't want to give the impression 
that I'm a stickler for "correct" terminology. It is often the case on 
B-Greek that people use different terminology for the same thing or the 
same terminology for different things. There are usually valid, or at 
least understandable, reasons for doing so, and as long as we 
understand one another or are able to get clarification there is no 
problem. But calling SKIA a "collective adjective" and TWN MELLONTWN 
"adjectival" (as opposed to substantival or nominal, as the context 
demands) is simply wrong at a fundamental level, not to mention 
bewildering--especially, I think, to newbies.

While I am not quite sure, it seems to me that your purpose for trying 
to portray SKIA as "plural as a collective adjective" is to provide 
justification for taking a plural participle as a adjectival modifier 
of a singular noun. If so, this is all in vein, since even true 
collective singular nouns are modified or qualified by adjectives or 
adjectival participles that stand in the same number. This, of course, 
is not to mention that SKIA and TWN MELLONTWN share neither case, nor 
number, nor gender! (You didn't even bother to address this point from 
my last post.)

Thirdly, there is no good reason to understand SKIA as a collective 
noun. SKIA is here contrasted with SWMA. The imagery employed is that 
of contrast between a person's body and the shadow it casts. The shadow 
is but a sketchy representation of the actual substance it adumbrates. 
Since SWMA in this context is simply a way of relating the idea of 
substance vs. adumbration, with no focus on collectivity whatsoever, 
there is no reason to read collectivity into the word with which it is 
contrasted, SKIA (cf. Heb 10.1, where SKIAN is contrasted with AUTHN 
THN EIKONA TWN PRAGMATWN, "the very form of the things").

Fourthly, SKIA doesn't answer the question "what kind of reflection?" 
That question is never raised! The question of whether the items in v. 
16 are a water kind of reflection or a mirror kind of reflection or a 
shadow kind of reflection--or some other kind of reflection--is not 
even prompted by what is said in v. 16. One does not read v. 16 and 
say, "Hmm ... I wonder what kind of reflection Paul is talking about 
here." Verse 17 introduces the **proposition** that such things are a 
sketchy representation of the substance to which they are related.

> TWN MELLONTWN is neuter pl. in agreement with hA
> That is why I called it adjectival to SKIA, which
> stands in pred nom to hA, which encompasses all of the
> items listed in the previous verse.

No offense, but this is about as tortuous and convoluted as it gets! 
Assuming that just because one element of a sentence shares the same 
gender and case as another element in the sentence it is therefore 
legitimate to conclude that it stands in an adjectival relationship to 
the predicate of that other element is just nonsensical, particularly 
when there are straightforward ways of determining whether a participle 
is functioning adjectivally or substantivally. If we took this kind of 
methodology seriously in our study of the Greek text we would be 
hopelessly lost in a morass of subjectivity.

At this point I must repeat myself and hope that you will actually 
respond. But first I think we must get down to some basics. It seems to 
me that you are confused about what "adjectival" actually means. The 
_Pocket Dictionary for the Study of New Testament Greek_ gives this 
very simple definition of "adjectival":

"Functioning in some way like an adjective."

And for "adjective" it has:

"A word that modifies or qualifies a substantive or describes a state 
or quality."

When it talks about modifying or qualifying a substantive it is 
referring to the attributive function of an adjective; when it talks 
about describing a state or quality it is referring to the predicate 
function of an adjective.

When we relate this to your contention that TWN MELLONTWN is 
adjectival, we turn Paul's point on its head! For in this case we would 
have either "a coming shadow" or "a shadow is a coming kind of thing"! 
This is, of course, nonsensical in the context. You really need to 
explain on the basis of the commonly understood definition of 
"adjectival" how TWN MELLONTWN qualifies as an adjectival modifier or 
qualifier of SKIA. If you want to see a true example of a participial 
form of MELLW functioning adjectivally, check out, e.g., Heb 2.5, where 
MELLOUSAN agrees with OIKOUMENHN in case, number, and gender, and both 
have the article.

> Items vs 16 --> hA --> SKIA --> SWMA --> CRISTOU
> They all form a link, leading from the things being
> observed (vs 16) which are a reflection (SKIA) to what
> the refection (SKIA) is a reflection of (SWMA TOU

(1) How does this even begin to prove that TWN MELLONTWN is adjectival?

(2) All this says is that the things in v. 16 are a shadow of things to 
come after them, the substance of which is found in Christ.

> What appeared to me was you were taking SKIA out of
> this chain and extrapolating something that this text
> is not about (the future from the standpoint of Paul's
> writing). I think the idea here is not that MORE IS TO
> COME, but the CHRIST was the reality behind the
> reflection/shadow of the things observed, that is,
> that all pointed to Christ in some way or another. For
> Paul then, don't put emphasis on the hA/SKIA, but upon

At this point I want to be careful not to step [too far] over the 
bounds of B-Greek protocol. I will simply say that to aver that because 
the reality of the items in v. 16 is found in Christ means that they 
have no ongoing or future significance in Christ is simply a contention 
that is not supported by what is actually said. The fact is that there 
IS more to come in Christ; a quick look only a few verses down the page 
makes clear that these things have both an ongoing and eschatological 
significance (3.1ff). And it is a fact that the imagery of the Sabbath 
and festivals is often used in eschatological contexts in the NT. For 
example, in Hebrews 9.23ff. the imagery of the Day of Atonement is 
employed to represent the second coming of Christ in terms of the high 
priest coming out of the temple to bless the people after offering 
atonement. What is so interesting about this passage is that in Heb 
10.1, immediately following this high-priestly imagery, we find the 
closest NT parallel to Paul's words in Col 2.17:


"For the Law, having a shadow of the coming good things, not the the 
very form of things..."

Without going into too much detail, it is clear from the context that 
TWN MELLONTWN AGAQWN indicates the good things to come from the 
perspective of the time when the Law only pointed forward to these 
coming good things. But though Hebrews, like Colossians, views all 
these coming things as finding there substance in Christ, this 
fulfillment is not static, but dynamic. It includes at least Jesus' 
death, resurrection, heavenly session, and second coming, all seen as 
the reality of which the shadow provides only a sketchy representation. 
Do you really think Paul in Colossians meant to imply that everything 
adumbrated in the OT receives some sort of static "embodiment" in 

Finally, I think you misunderstood the point I was making about TWN 
MELLONTWN. What I said about it referring to things future from Paul's 
perspective has to be taken in context. My point was that it refers to 
future fulfillment from the perspective of the the shadow, which means 
that these future things may go beyond the time of Paul both with 
respect to the heavenly ministry of Jesus and the eschaton, as is the 
case in Hebrews. There is nothing grammatically or conceptually in 
Colossians 2.16-17 to rule that out.

Steven Lo Vullo
Madison, WI

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