Re: "Divine Nature" or "Godhead"?

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Jun 21 1999 - 07:39:38 EDT

<x-rich>At 10:26 PM -0700 6/20/99, clayton stirling bartholomew wrote:

>> 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

>> "godhead"?

I'd like to approach this from a lexicographical angle rather than, as
Clay does, through examination of the commentaries. Perhaps this
doesn't amount to much, but I think that there's an issue being missed

<color><param>0000,7777,0000</param>Louw & Nida:

12.13 QEOTHS, HTOS f; QEIOTHS, HTOS f; QEION, OU n: (derivatives of
QEOS 'God,' 12.1) the nature or state of being God - 'deity, divine
nature, divine being.'


theotÉs, Étos, hÉ, divinity, divine nature, Ep.Col.2.9, Plu.2.359d,
Luc. Icar.9, etc.; dia theotÉta for religious reasons,

</color>What bothers me about the traditional ways of understanding and


</bigger></fontfamily></underline>is that a monotheistic--indeed, a
traditional Judaeo-Christian assumption about the meaning of "Deity" is
taken for granted; I think one ought at least to question it. I think
that both L&N above and the very brief definition of LJS cited from the
Perseus site above are precisely right:

"deity" ought NOT, I think, to be categorized as a proper noun here,
EVEN if one holds monotheistic assumptions; -THS nouns in Greek, like
-TAS nouns in Latin, are abstracts based upon an adjective and refer to
quality rather than entity; thus QEOTHS should be understood to mean
"what it is be be a god" or "the quality of being a god." One may then
go on, if one wishes, and apply that in monotheistic terms, as "what it
is to be God" or "the quality of being God"--but it is still erroneous,
in my opinion, to equate this with QEOS or KURIOS in the sense of a
name. We tend in English to use the term "the Deity" as an equivalent
of "God." I simply do not think that, even with the article, hH QEOTHS
is used like that in Greek. Consequently I think that in Col 2:9 the
meaning is rather that "in him dwells bodily the entire fullness of
'what it is to be a god.'" One may then, if one chooses, understand
that monotheistically, but even so, I think, one ought to realize that
the Greek text is not talking about a divine person as a divine person
but about the quality of being a god.

Carl W. Conrad

Department of Classics, Washington University

Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243



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