Re: Colossians 1:23

From: Mark Armstrong (
Date: Sun Feb 23 1997 - 20:27:37 EST

On 21st February, 1997 Carl Conrad wrote:

>(2) One factor that could enter in here is that the time referred to by
>aorist passive participle KHRUCQENTOS need not refer to the past, although
>onemight imagine alternatives such as KHRUCQHSOMENOU or KHRUSSOMENOU which
>would more clearly imply non-completion. Actual completion might be more
>precisely indicated by KEKHRUGMENOU. In sum, KHRUCQENTOS might conceivably
>understood as having no clear determinate temporal reference (isn't that,
>in fact--the question is, of course, facetious--what "aorist" means?) and
>be translated as an attributive adjective "the gospel preached" without
>temporal focus, or as the verb of a relative clause that doesn't emphasize
>time but effect, "the gospel that gets preached in all creation."

You mention that the articular participle may have no clear temporal
reference. My understanding of the aorist is that it simply refers to a
completed action, which is usually in the past. The aorist is concerned
with the STATE of the event rather than the TIME the event ocurred.
Conceivably, therefore, the aorist could refer to a present or future
event. Notwithstanding this limited definition and the discussion that has
already taken place about the aorist on the list, I find it difficult to
escape the fact that the proclamation of the gospel in Col. 1:23 HAS
already taken place ie. a completed event.

Perhaps it is safer to let the aorist function as a "traditional" aorist,
as the alternative seems rather speculative (in my humble eyes).

>(3) IF, however, the question of actual fulfilment of this assertion at
>time of its writing is understood, one would really have to wonder about
>what era the author understood himself to be living in. A very interesting
>parallel construction that jars a careful reader to sit up and take note
>Mark's declaration that when John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness
>EXOMOLOGOUMENOI TAS hAMARTIAS AUTWN. Are we then really to understand Mark
>to be saying that the entire population of the territory designated as
>Judaea and EVERY SINGLE dweller in Jerusalem went to John and was actually
>baptized? I find it difficult to accept this as a historical fact that
>is intent upon communicating to his readers. I think something else may in
>fact be intended by Mark; that's another question. But when I've looked at
>translations I rather think the translators side-step the sharpness of
>Mark's expression, and I note also that the parallel passages in Mt and Lk
>soften the sharpness of Mark's expression too so as to indicate that great
>numbers, but not the entire population, went to John.

I agree that EN PASH KTISEI is best translated as a locative dative (point
1 of your reply). This raises the possibility of hyperbole as you cite
above (or prophetic prolepsis).

 I raise another possibility for consideration. Peter O'Brien in his WBC
commentary on Colossians runs EN PASH KTISEI in parallel with EN PANTI TW
KOSMW (Col. 1:6), and argues that
"certainly Paul did not mean the whole world distributively, that is, every
person under heaven, had been touched by the triumphal progress of the
gospel. He has particularly in mind cities and towns, e.g. Damascus,
Tarsus, Antioch, Corinth, Ephesus, etc." (pge 13). The argument is
therefore one of restricting the temporal references of these two clauses
to the cities and towns where the gospel had already been preached by Paul
and the apostles, and
where the gospel was now moving further afield.

This seems to eliminate the problem of actual fulfilment and grappling with
the aorist force of KHRUCQENTOS, but does this view have support from the
Greek text? In other words, can the clause EN PASH KTISEI be treated in
this restrictive way?

Pastor Mark Armstrong

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