Re: Colossians 1 questions

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Apr 01 1998 - 11:41:06 EST

At 8:45 AM -0600 4/1/98, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>Greetings from rainy North Carolina!

Aye, that's what we had here yesterday, but today verily, it is a blustery
April Fools' Day.

>I'm reading through Colossians 1, and several things seem a little
>ambiguous or odd. I'd be interested in your opinions on these things:
>This doesn't say KAI TIMOQEOS hO ADELFOS hUMWN/hHMWN, "Timothy, your/our
>brother", nor does it seem like it could be a title - after all, aren't all
>Christians ADELFOI?

Yes, but generally that term seems to be used for members of a congregation
who together constitute a "family" created by baptism; its leader may be
called a "father." Some of this language is common to Hellenistic religious
communities, and isn't unique to Christian congregations. Here, however, I
think the article that Paul(?) appends to ADELFOS might be translated, as
an article often is, as "his"--i.e. Paul's, inasmuch as the letter is sent
on behalf of both Paul and Timothy--one might argue that this is here for
rhetorical balance, since the author has added the lengthy appositive to
his own name, he feels he ought to add an appositive to Timothy's.

>Is hAGIOIS an adjective or a noun here? Is this written to "the saints in
>Colossia and the faithful brethren in Christ", or to "the holy and faithful
>brethren in Christ who are in Colossia"?

I'd say that hAGIOIS is a substantive: "the holy (ones) = "the saints"--
but the one article TOIS, I think, functions to govern the entire dative
plural construction.

>Or should the phrase be understood together with hO ADELFOS:
>CRISTWi, "and Timothy, the brother of the holy and faithful brethren in
>Christ who are in Colossia"? [Colossae , KOLOSSAI Latinized, according to
>the conventional scheme of Anglicization of Greek proper names: Latinize
>them and then pronounce the Latin by English rules of pronunciation]

No, it shouldn't be understood with hO ADELFOS; rather, what needs to be
graped is that there is a standard formulaic structure to these
"salutations": SENDER (with all appositive modifiers, in the nominative);
ADDRESSEE (with all appositive modifiers, in the dative), VERB OF
SALUTATION (in secular letters this normally takes the formula CAIREIN
KELEUEI [speaks the imperative CAIRE, the normal imperative of greeting] or
the like [Latin SALUTEM DICIT = 'SALVE' DICIT]. Paul alters the formula by
using CARIS, which is in fact a cognate of CAIRW, but which also carries
his special theological import, and by adding to it EIRHNH, the Hellenized
form of the Hebraic greeting, "Shalom"--and since "grace and peace" are
God''s gifts, the formula actually becomes not just a simple sentence
(nominative/dative/verb of greeting) but the nouns CARIS and EIRHNH become
implicit subjects of a verb such as GENESQWSAN hUMIN, and Paul finally adds
an indication of the divine source, APO QEOU PATROS hHMWN.

>Is there anything in the grammar which would rule out any of these

Grammatically there's nothing wrong, but there is the conventional formula
that really governs the expectations of the formula--which is to say: the
pattern is governed by what David Hume called, "the custom and habit of
confident expectation."

>Verse 3: PANTOTE
>modify PROSEUCOMENOI (PANTOTE...PROSEUCOMENOI)? Is the author saying "we
>always give thanks to God the father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying for
>you", or, "we give thanks to God the father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
>always praying for you"?
>Is there anything in the grammar to help me distinguish?

Once again, this is more or less formulaic in Pauline letters; I'd say that
it goes primarily with EUCARISTOUMEN: "every time I pray, I thank God for
you ..." You ought to look at other Pauline letters. A good little book
worth consulting on this subject (if it's still in print) is William G.
Doty's _Letters in Primitive Christianity_, originally published by
Fortress in 1973.

>Does this modify TWi LOGWi THS ALHQEIAS or TOU PARONTOS EIS hUMAS? Is the
>phrase TWi LOGWi THS ALHQEIAS TOU EUAGGELIOU ("the word of the truth of the
>gospel, which has come to you"), or TOU EUAGGELIOU TOU PARONTOS EIS hUMAS
>("the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you")? Or is this
>distinction only there in translation?

Perhaps it's only in translation; I think I'd probably understand THS
ALHQEIAS here as a genitive noun equivalent of an adjective = ALHQEI, "the
truthful word, the gospel." TOU PARONTOS EIS hUMAS is an attributive
participle construed with the noun EUAGGELIOU, "the gospel that came to

>Verse 6: AF hHS hHMERAS
>The pronoun confuses me here; is this to be read "from those days when you
>heard", or "from the days when you heard" in real English?

Yes; this is really a relatively common abbreviating formula whereby the
antecedent is squeezed into the relative pronoun, particularly in a
prepositional phrase; so yes, AF' hHS hHMERAS = APO THS hHMERAS hHi = "from
the day on which ..."

It really is worth the effort to read the salutation and opening formulaic
passages of several NT letters at the same time to observe how these
patterns and their variations work.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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