Col. 1:23

Discussion in '2004 Archive' started by Craigbythesea, Jun 10, 2004.

  1. Craigbythesea

    Craigbythesea
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    Pastor Larry,

    Thank you for your response to my post regarding Col. 1:23 in the Hebrews 1:3 thread. I am very surprised to see you refer to the commentaries on Colossians by Abbott, Bruce, and Vaughn because I also have those three commentaries right here in my study at home. I am especially surprised to see you refer to Abbott’s commentary—not very many pastors today bother with that one or any of the other volumes in the ICC series, not because they are not worth consulting, but because doing so in an intelligent manner requires a certain level of sophistication and scholarship that is absent from many pulpits today. I hope that your congregation appreciates having a pastor who is willing to study.

    I have read the comments made by these three scholars, and you are very correct in your understanding of them. I also have several other commentaries on Colossians, and I suppose that you do too. And of course some of the authors would not agree with Abbott, Bruce, and Vaughn, but believe as I do that Paul is writing of “the faith,” i.e., the Christian faith. This camp includes: John Eadie, Eduard Lohse, Ralph P. Martin, W. H. Griffith Thomas, Karl Braune, H. A. W. Meyer, Richard Lenski, Adam Clarke, and Peter T. O’Brian (WBC). But, on the other hand, some of them do. This camp includes: J. B. Lightfoot and Marvin R. Vincent. And there are still others of these commentators on Colossians that write that neither “in the faith” nor “in your faith” is correct, but that the phrase should be translated, “in faith.” This camp includes F. B. Westcott and A. T. Robertson. And there is yet a fourth, made up of those who are undecided or who declined to comment on the issue.

    W. H. Griffith Thomas writes, “It is not so much that there was real doubt of the Colossians’ being “in the faith,” as might seem indicated by the English word “if,” but rather that to assume their present continuance was the best guarantee of it.” (My emphasis)

    Richard Lenski writes, “To be sure, “not moved away” implies not leaving the faith on which the Colossians rest. But this faith involves the great gospel hope, the goal of our lives. Hence Paul states it with this significant addition: “not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard.”

    J.B. Lightfoot writes that “perhaps” the word’s here should be understood as ‘your faith,’ rather than ‘the faith.’

    Marvin R. Vincent writes, “The faith is not the gospel system (see Acts vi. 7), but the Colossian’s faith in Christ. Your faith would be better.”

    F. B. Westcott writes in his commentary on Colossians, “We need not concern ourselves to translate the article. It is simply ‘faith”; neither ‘the faith’ nor ‘your faith.’ A. T. Robertson agrees, however, Karl Braune writes (translated from the German by M. B. Riddle) “The article marks the faith as definite; an indefinite one, after their own pleasure, does not suffice.”

    Handley C. G. Moule translates “your faith”.

    Peter T. O’Brien (WBC) writes, “’The faith’ in this context is another description for the apostolic gospel rather than the subjective response of the Colossians to that gospel.” I agree with O’Brien. The expression, “the faith,” was often used in the New Testament to designate “the apostolic gospel” or “the Christian faith,” and I believe that was Paul’s use of the expression in Col. 1:23.

    Yes, but only when the context clearly shows that to be the case. Dana and Mantey write, “The article is used [as a possessive pronoun] when the one to whom possession is referred is made clear by the context.” (p. 131) They then give three examples:

    Matt. 8: 3. Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

    Heb. 7:24. but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently.

    1 Pet. 4:8. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.

    In Matt. 8: 3, not only is the one to whom possession is referred made clear by the context, but the context also supports the possessive use in other ways. The expression “the hand” and similar expressions are very frequently used idiomatically in Greek and many other languages for “his hand” and similar expressions. We don’t find anything like this in Col. 1:23.

    In Heb. 7:24, whether or not the definite article is being used in the place of possessive pronoun is not clear, although many believe that it is so used. The context suggests to many that it is. I find it interesting to read and consider the verse both ways.

    In 1 Pet. 4:8 we find an idiomatic expression very similar to that in Matt. 8:3. Again, we don’t find anything like this is Col. 1:23.

    THE BOTTOM LINE: Did the translators of the NIV use good judgment in translating Col. 1:23 the way they did? Most translators would say that they did not; the context does not justify it. As Richard Lenski observes, the context shows quite clearly that the Christian faith is in view. And if “the faith” is being used by Paul in this verse as a designation for “the apostolic gospel” or “the Christian faith,” as I and not a few others believe is the case, then the translation in the NIV is incorrect. The NIV is basing its translation on an “exception to the rule” rather than “the rule” without sufficient evidence to justify doing so.
     
  2. aefting

    aefting
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    I'm not a Greek scholar (so go easy on me if I'm wrong about his) but it seems to me that what the NIV is doing here is typical of what it does in many cases, and that is translating away the interpretative choices of the reader. Even in English, doesn't "the faith" allow the reader to understand either "The faith" or "your faith," thereby retaining some of the ambiquity of the Greek?

    My impression is that the NIV strives to remove ambiquity as much as possible. Most of the time, I think we as conservative Christians would agree with their interpretations (and that's why the NIV is not a bad translation) but it does force a particular understanding on the reader that may or may not be the intent of the author.

    And since we are talking about commentaries on Colossains, I was wondering which one or two you view as the best and most helpful? I have O'Brian and Dunn (among others that are not too helpful). Any others that you think would be good?

    Andy
     
  3. Pastor Larry

    Pastor Larry
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    Thanks, Craig, for those comments. I have some of those commentaries. About 6 years ago I taught Colossians in a Bible institute in Brazil and then I have taught through here on Wednesday nights. The reason I only mentioned the commentaries I did is because they showed that there is a legitimate reason to understand it as the NIV did. I personally think that is the proper understanding.

    But even if I did not, I would hesitate to blast the NIV for being a bad translation.

    Andy, all translations take away some of the interpretive choice at points. That is why multiple translations are good. Some might read Col 1:23 in the NASB and think that all they have to do is affirm proper doctrine. That is not true. They need to continue in their personal faith in order to show that they have been reconciled. There is nothing wrong with removing ambiguity. I personally think that the early church experienced little ambiguity. There is no reason why we should encourage it.
     
  4. Craigbythesea

    Craigbythesea
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    Hi Andy,

    I have here in my study about 750 commentaries on the various books of the Bible. About one third of them are on the Old Testament books, and the other two thirds of them are on the New Testament books. About 225 of them are on the Epistle to the Romans since that is the book that I most often teach.

    As you probably know, there are several kinds of commentaries, and each kind is designed to meet specific needs. I have never been comfortable using sermon outlines written by someone else, so I generally don’t buy homiletical commentaries.

    I enjoy reading some expositional commentaries if they are very well written, especially if they are written by very knowledgeable men whose theology I agree with. Some commentators seem to me to have the gift of exposition, and I enjoy reading their commentaries regardless of other factors. Two of these men are Donald Grey Barnhouse and W. H. Griffith Thomas. I am pretty sure that Barnhouse did not write a commentary of Colossians, but he wrote a very popular and, in my opinion, excellent 10 volume expositional commentary on Romans (usually sold bound in four volumes). W. H. Griffith Thomas, however, did write an expositional commentary on Colossians (as I have already mentioned in my previous post), and I believe that it is a very good one (he also wrote a very good expositional commentary on Romans).

    Mostly, however, I read exegetical commentaries written by men who have spent a good part of their life studying the particular book of the Bible that they are commenting on. Ernest De Witt Burton committed twenty five years of his life studying Galatians and wrote a commentary on that book for the ICC series. Ernst Käsemann studied and taught Romans for 50 years and wrote a commentary on that book. I don’t know of anyone who was that committed to the Epistle to the Colossians, but I believe that O’Brien’s commentary is nonetheless a fine work. I don’t yet have Dunn’s Commentary on Colossians, but I do have his two-volume commentary on Romans in the WBC series, and I find it to be disgusting, for he neither understands Paul nor his Epistle to the Romans.

    But for an exegetical commentary to be truly excellent, I believe that it must not only give fruitful and accurate insights to the Greek text; it must also be written in a devout and worshipful manner. Therefore, I would heartily recommend the commentary on Colossians by John Eadie. It an older work, first published in 1856, but a very worthwhile addition to one’s Christian library. [​IMG]
     
  5. Craigbythesea

    Craigbythesea
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    Larry,

    Andy is quite correct in saying that the NIV interprets for the readers ambiguous passages. That is not the job of the translator; it is the job, first of all, of the reader, and secondly, of the commentators. Yes, it is true that all translations of the Bible are interpretive in places, but whereas that is a somewhat occasional thing in the best translations, it is the typical thing in the NIV.

    I don’t believe that the NIV is a poor translation, but I do believe that it is distinctly inferior to the RV, the ASV, the RSV, and the NASB. The NRSV is a better translation overall, although I do not at all like how it deals with the gender issue.

    If I had the time, I would like to start a new thread on the DE translation philosophy and method.

    Enough of that. Would you like to share with us your interpretation of Col. 1:23 as a whole?

    Andy,

    Would you like to share with us your interpretation of Col. 1:23 as a whole?
     

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