Colossians 2:9 New World Translation

The following ocurred in The Watchtower August 1st, 1962, pages 479, 480.

Question from Reader: "Why does the New World Translation at Colossians 2:9 state that in Jesus "all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily," where as other translations state that in Jesus dwells the fullness of Deity or the Godhead?"

At Colossians 2:9 the word in the Greek that the New World Translation renders "divine quality" is theótes, and this is the only use of the word in the Christian Greek Scriptures. The same is true of a similar Greek word, theiótes, which appears only at Romans 1:20, and which the New World Translation there renders "Godship," as follows: "For his invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world's creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they are inexcusable."The way these two words have been rendered in the New World Translation has given rise to the charge that the New World Bible Translation Committee let their religious beliefs influence them. That charge is true, but they did not do so wrongly, or unduly. The meaning that is to be given to these two Greek words depends upon what the entire Bible has to say about Jehovah God and Jesus Christ.

How so? In that there is basis for translating these words either as "Deity," "Divinity" or "Godhead" and so attributing personality to them, or as "Divine Nature," "divine quality," "Godship," and having them merely denote qualities. Thus those who believe in the trinity will attach personality to these words, whereas those who do not will render them as qualities in view of the way God and Christ are described in the Scriptures and so as to harmonize the words with the rest of God's Word. This emphasizes the fact that one simply cannot properly and accurately translate the Bible unless one clearly understands its teachings.

That the New World Bible Translation Committee were perfectly right in rendering these words the way they did is apparent from what Greek authorities have to say about them. Thus Parkhurst's A Greek and English Lexicon (1845) defines theiótes as "Godhead" (page 261) and theótes as "Deity, godhead, divine nature" (page 264). Note the definition "divine nature" as well as "Godhead."

Liddell and Scott's A Greek-English Lexicon, in its new ninth edition, completed in 1940 and reprinted in 1948, Volume I, defines the two terms in the light of ancient usages apart from the Scriptures. Theiótes it defines as "divine nature, divinity" (page 788). Theótes it defines in exactly the same way, as "divinity, divine nature," and then cites as an example Colossians 2:9. In this connection it shows that the similar Greek expression, dia theóteta, means "for religious reasons" (page 792).

Thus the New World Translation is fully justified in rendering Colossians 2:9 to show that Christ has in him all the fullness, not of God himself, the Deity, the Godhead, but of the divine quality dwelling bodily, and this in behalf of the spiritual body of Christ, so that this body of Christ's followers is possessed of a fullness by means of him: "It is in [Christ] that all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily. And so you [Christians] are possessed of a fullness by means of him, who is the head of all government and authority."-Col. 2:9, 10.

It is also of interest to note that both Weymouth and An American Translation render the passage, "the fullness of God's nature."

To get an objective view of the matter, in exploring questions such as these it is best to use the nonsectarian and nonreligious Hebrew-English and Greek-English dictionaries, instead of those that have been produced by some religious denomination."

The following is an excerpt from the two volume encyclopedia Insight on the Scriptures (©WTB&TS):

"Then, at Colossians 2:9 the apostle Paul says that in Christ "all the fullness of the divine quality [form of the·o´tes] dwells bodily." Here, again, some translations read "Godhead" or "deity," which Trinitarians interpret to mean that God personally dwells in Christ. (KJ, NE, RS, NAB) However, Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon defines the·o´tes in basically the same way it does thei·o´tes, as meaning "divinity, divine nature." (P. 792) The Syriac Peshitta and the Latin Vulgate render this word as "divinity." Thus, here too, there is a solid basis for rendering thei·o´tes as referring to quality, not personality.

A consideration of the context of Colossians 2:9 clearly shows that having "divinity," or "divine nature," does not make Christ the same as God the Almighty. In the preceding chapter, Paul says: "God saw good for all fullness to dwell in him." (Col 1:19) Thus, all fullness dwells in Christ because it "pleased the Father" (KJ, Dy), because it was "by God's own choice." (NE) So the fullness of "divinity" that dwells in Christ is his as a result of a decision made by the Father. Further showing that having such "fullness" does not make Christ the same person as Almighty God is the fact that Paul later speaks of Christ as being "seated at the right hand of God."-Col 3:1.

Considering the immediate context of Colossians 2:9, it is noted that in verse 8, Christians are warned against being misled by those who advocate philosophy and human tradition. They are also told that "carefully concealed in [Christ] are all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge," and they are urged to "go on walking in union with him, rooted and being built up in him and being stabilized in the faith." (Col 2:3, 6, 7) In addition, verses 13 to 15 explain that they are made alive through faith, being released from the Law covenant. Paul's argument, therefore, is that Christians do not need the Law (which was removed by means of Christ) or human philosophy and tradition. They have all they need, a precious "fullness," in Christ.-Col 2:10-12."- vol. 1, page 629.