Re: "Divine Nature" or "Godhead"?

From: clayton stirling bartholomew (
Date: Mon Jun 21 1999 - 01:26:55 EDT

> Dear B-Greekers,
> In Col. 2:9 the Greek word QEOTHTOS (please excuse me for the
> transliteration if I am wrong, still trying to learn it, it is suppose to
> be "theotetos"), could that be translated as "divine nature" instead of
> "godhead"?
> Mitchell Gray


The big greeks seem to be napping so I will take a stab at this.

I took a look at a few lexical resources: TDNT, LSJ, EDNT*, Cremer and a
few commentaries: Alford, Calvin, Eadie*, Lightfoot*, H.A.W. Meyer*,
FF Bruce, Dunn. The * signifies a source worth looking at.

I did a source critical analysis of the commentaries and concluded that
there are two or at most three strands of tradition on this question.
Eadie (1855) is part of one strand and Lightfoot (1875) is the second
strand, the possible third strand is H.A.W Meyer. The reason Meyer is a
question mark is one does not know if Meyer was in the habit of reading
Lightfoot. Everyone else quotes Lightfoot on this question, but Meyer
does not specifically mention him so Meyer may be an independent strand.
It is also possible that Lightfoot had read Eadie so we may have two
strands Eadie and Meyer or we may have only one strand with Eadie at the
head. Of course Eadie didn't cook this stuff up on his own but with the
exception of Calvin who does not discuss this word, Eadie is the oldest
work I have. It is quite possible that both Eadie and Lightfoot were
using a source which is no longer extant. We might call this source Q.
The wording in Meyer also gives one the impression that he was either
reading Eadie or they were both reading the same source Q.

Now to the lexical question:

Eadie states: QEOTHS is an abstract term, like Deity, in which God is
viewed in essence rather than personality. The word is quite different
in meaning from QEIOTHS, Rom. 1:20 -- a term which describes quality
rather than being. The words differ as divinitas and deitas --
divineness and Deity;

Lightfoot illustrates this difference with two quotes from Plutarch,
Mor. p. 857 and Mor. p. 415 c.

Meyer states: hH QEOTHS, the Godhead (Lucian, Icarom. 9, Plutarch, Mor.
Mor. p. 415 c), the abstract from hO QEOS, is to be distinguished from
hH QEOTHS, the abstract from QEIOS (Rom. 1:20, Wisd. xviii. 19; Lucian,
de calumn. 17). The former is Deitas, the being God, i.e., the divine
essence, Godhead; the later is divinitas, i.e. the divine quality,

All three strands of tradition among the commentaries seem to agree on
the essentials.

As to your original question, what is the best way to render this into
English, my answer is the best way is not to render it into English at
all. Learn how the Greek word is used and leave it at that. Doubtless
some of you pulpit pounders will say this is impractical.

Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
Three Tree Point
P.O. Box 255 Seahurst WA 98062

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