Colossians 1:23

From the Differentiator magazine:
Vol. 20 New Series August, 1958 No. 4

If we read the latter part of this verse as it stands in most of the older versions, we are sure to land in a ditch. Thus, the King James version reads, "not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister." At once one might wonder why it says "was preached" when the verb in Greek is not a past tense, and why it says "am made" when the verb is a past tense.

This verse has been used as a lever to overthrow the fact I mentioned in verse 20, regarding the reconciliation of all on the earth and in the heavens. Many years ago it was affirmed that this gospel actually had been preached, but it was added that there was no certain knowledge that Paul reached Spain or Britain, and even if he did, the wildest stretch of imagination could not bring these words to mean more than a small percentage of its literal meaning. But was Paul the only person who could carry the Gospel to Spain or Britain?

Thus it was assumed that Paul was guilty of hyperbole in averring that the whole creation had already heard the Gospel. He did not mean quite all that he said, any more than he meant, in 1. Cor. 10:23, that "all things are lawful for me." Our Expositor apparently did not trouble to examine the Greek text, or he might have learned that most versions omit the words "for me" twice in this verse, in harmony with the oldest known manuscripts. The question was asked, could Paul "break the whole moral law, thieve, murder and slander with impunity?" Here three important points have been overlooked. Paul does not come into the matter. Most versions read "all things are lawful," or "all things are allowable." Secondly, although "all things" (panta) is plural, its verb (exestin) is really singular, meaning "is lawful" or "is allowable." Now this would make the meaning to be, "all things as a whole," or "all things in general." Thirdly, some translations indeed treat the double statement, "All things are lawful" as a question, inferring that some of the Corinthians claimed that they could do as they liked, as though Paul was saying to them, "So you think everything is allowed to you; you can do as you like?" Thus, Moffatt reads:

'All things are lawful?' Yes, but not all are good for us.'All things are lawful?' Yes, but not all are edifying.But surely the foolish boast of a Corinthian is something very different from a Divine statement in Colossians 1:20. The Corinthian might brag about his liberties, claiming that he could do everything he wished. God, however, is making no brag in Col. 1:20. He will fulfil it literally.

It is not true to say that Paul stated that all creation had already heard the Gospel, or even that only a certain part of it had heard the Gospel. Had our Expositor taken a look at Wycliffe's version, he would have seen that the reading is not "was preached," but "is prechid," while Tyndale reads, "how that it is preached." It is quite true that modern versions have blindly followed the bad example of the King James Bible, but that has been due to the gross ignorance of scholars regarding the Greek Aorist verb. Aorists have generally been made to express action in the past, whereas they are indefinite as to time, and emphasize the fact rather than the act and its time. This was the prime sense in all primitive languages, including English, Greek and Latin.

The Concordant Version is thoroughly correct to read, at Col. 1:23, "which is being proclaimed in the entire creation." This refers to past, present and future. It was true in Paul's day, and it is still true now. And it would be quite true to claim that by the present time, it had been proclaimed throughout the entire creation under heaven. Probably Paul knew by revelation that his Gospel must be heralded in all the world before the present age terminates.

There is therefore no ground for saying that the all, who are to be reconciled to God, is any more of an exaggeration than is all the creation of verse 23. Both statements are literally true. There are no grounds for limiting the words "the all" (ta panta) in verse 20, or the words "the entire" (pasE tE) in verse 23. Other endeavours to demolish the plain sense of verse 20 by seeking to bring out a "dispensational" meaning proved quite abortive and led nowhere.
In case anyone might object that the Greek First Aorist Passive Participles ought to be rendered as pasts, I examined a considerable number of similar Passive forms in the Concordant Version, and found that the timeless sense shewn suited every occurrence perfectly.

As far back as the year 1888, Professor Burton of Chicago University had maintained in his book, "New Testament Moods and Tenses" that "The distinction of the Aorist Participle is not that itexpresses a different time-relation from that expressedby the Present or Perfect, but that it conceives of theaction denoted by it, not as in progress (Present), noras an existing result (Perfect), but as a simple fact."But these facts take a long time to seep through into the heads of some scholars. The traditions of grammar die hard.

Our Expositor sought also to limit the exact language of Acts 2:5-11, in order to minimize the scope of the Greek word for "all" or "every." Verse 5 says, literally, "Now there were, dwelling in Jerusalem, Jews, pious men, from every nation of those under the sky (or, heaven)." Then, in verses 9 to 11, there are named various peoples and lands, which, it has been coolly and rashly assumed, comprise the whole of the Nations referred to. But why should this be so? Whoever recorded the facts of verses 9 to 11 might only have been mentioning certain of the tongues which were spoken. It would have been tedious and quite unnecessary, to indicate perhaps a hundred different races or languages. One has no right to assume they were all named.

Josephus, in his "Wars of the Jews," Book 2, chapter 16, paragraph 4, quotes a very long speech by King Agrippa to the Jews, seeking to divert them from making war on the Romans. He says, "For there is not, upon the habitable earth, a populace which does not have an allotment of you." There was not a nation on the habitable earth which did not contain some Jews. Perhaps after all, King Agrippa and also Luke knew a bit better what was the state of the world in those days than we know about it now. Furthermore, we should keep in mind that the number of languages nineteen hundred years ago could not have been nearly as numerous as it is now.

Alexander Thomson

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Listing of Articles

Who is our God? Chapter 1
Who is our God? Chapter 2
Who is our God? Chapter 3
Who is our God? Chapter 4
Who is our God? Chapter 5
Who is our God? Chapter 6
Who is our God? Chapter 7
Who is our God? Chapter 8
Who is our God? Chapter 9
Who is our God? Chapter 10
Who is our God? Chapter 11
Who is our God? Chapter 12
Who is our God? Chapter 13
Who is our God? Chapter 14
Who is our God? Chapter 15
Who is our God? Chapter 16
Who is our God? Chapter 17
A Female Deity?
Acts 7:15 & 16
All Things
Amos 3:6
An Answer to the Challenge of Hell
Angels & Men One Species?
An Interesting New Version
Are You an Ambassador?
Are You a Pillar?
Are You a Witness for Jehovah?
Are You an Israelite? Chapter 1
Are You an Israelite? Chapter 2
Are You an Israelite? Chapters 3 & 4
A Special Resurrection?
Baptized for the Dead?
"Beloved" or "Loveable"?
Brotherly Love
Book Review
Colossians 1:23
Common or Unclean?
Common Sense
Did Paul Visit Spain?
Did the Lord give up His Flesh?
"Divine" Fire?
Doctoring the Holy Scriptures
Does God know Everything?
Does God will Everything?
Does your Spiritual Life seem Unreal?
Did God hate Esau?
Earth our Future Home?
Emphasis in the Scriptures
English more Archaic than Ancient Hebrew?
Ephesians 1:23
Erroneous Translations
Gleanings from A.T.
Heaven our Homeland
How is Christ God's "Word"?
How many were Crucified?
In the Christ All Shall Be Made Alive
Is Dust the Serpent's Food?
Is the Devil Impersonal?
Isaiah 26:14,19
James 4:5
Jehovah's Theocratic Organization
Jesus the Saviour
John 19:29
The Kingdom of the Hebrews
Leave it with God
Men or Mortals?
Misplaced Ingenuity
New Light on the Second Death
None Other Things
Objective Value of Prayer
Other or Different
Our Advocate
Paul's Chain
Paul the Sensitive
Paul versus James
Prevailing Prayer
Problems of Translation: I Cor. 7:21
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Psalm 66:18
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
Rogues and Rascals
Rom 9 & 10: Human Freedom & Human Choice
Romans 9:14-24
Romans 9:30 to 10:21
II Corinthians 5:16
II Peter 3:10
Seven Wicked Spirits
Shall We See God?
Sir, We would see Jesus
Should we fear God?
The Bloody Husband
The Cherubim of Glory
The Corinthian Error
The Cunning Manager
The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah
The Designation of Jesus as "God"
The Disruption Fallacy
The Disruption Fallacy #2
The Eighth of Proverbs
The Eleven "Generations" of Genesis
The Elohim
The Ends of the Eons
The Eternal Saviour-Judge
The Eternity of Hell Torments
The First Christian Convention
The Four Gospels
The Gentiles in Ephesians
The Greek Definite Article
The Hardening of Pharoah's Heart
The Hebrew Conception of Time
The Hebrews Epistle
The Hebrew Terms Rendered 'For Ever'
The Hope of Israel
The Life of Prayer
The Lord Jesus Revealing the Heart of God
The Lord's Relatives
The Lordly Supper
The Meaning of Ta Panta
The Ministry of Women Parts 1 & 2
The Ministry of Women Parts 3 & 4
The "Penalty of Sin"
The Poor in Spirit
The Primeval Laws
The Primeval Laws #2
The Problem of Evil
The Quality of Divine Love
The Rich Man and Lazarus
The Serpent of Genesis 3
The Soul and the Spirit
The Talmud of the Jews Parts 1 & 2
The Talmud of the Jews Parts 3 & 4
The Translation of Acts 28:25
The Trial of the Lord
The Truth of the Bible
The Two Seeds
The Works of Henry Clay Mabie, D.D.
"Three Days and Three Nights"
Translator's Incentive
Truthfulness and Mercy
Try the Spirits
Unto Eternity and Further
We have all been Wrong
What did Peter do?
What does Olethros mean?
What Happened to Jephthah's Daughter?
What is Destruction?
What is the Flesh?
What is the Sin unto Death?
Whence "Eternity"?
Who are the Saints?
Who is Jehovah?
Who Shall Deliver Me?
Why Pray?
Why the "Lake" of Fire?
Will God Punish?
Will the Lord Come for Us?
Will the Man of Lawlessness be Killed?


The Differentiator Revisited 2009