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The Greek word θεότητος is translated differently in English Bibles:

Colossians 2:9

New Living Translation For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.

New American Standard Bible For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,

King James Bible For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

Holman Christian Standard Bible For the entire fullness of God's nature dwells bodily in Christ,

What does the Greek word θεότητος in Colossians 2:9 really mean?

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Answer: θεότης is an abstract noun that is equivalent to the English word “deity,” meaning “the state or condition of being God.”


Table of Contents

  1. The English Word “Godhead”
  2. Word Frequency
    • The Greek Word θεῖος
    • The Greek Word θειότης
    • The Greek Word θεότης
  3. Lexical Analysis
    • The Greek Word θεῖος
    • Abstract and Concrete Words
  4. References

The English Word “Godhead”

The English noun “Godhead” occurs three (3) times in three (3) verses in the King James Version translation of the Bible.1 It is translated from three (3) distinct Greek words in the Textus Receptus:

  • the adjective θεῖος (theios)
  • the noun θειότης (theiotēs)
  • the noun θεότης (theotēs)

Greek Words Translated as “Godhead” in the King James Version, 1769

Word Frequency

The Greek Word θεῖος

The Greek word θεῖος occurs three (3) times in three (3) verses in the Textus Receptus, yet it is only translated into English as “Godhead” in one (1) verse in the King James Version: Acts 17:29.

English Translation of the Greek Word θεῖος in the King James Version, 1769

  • Acts 17:29

29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. KJV, 1769

ΚΘʹ γένος οὖν ὑπάρχοντες τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ὀφείλομεν νομίζειν χρυσῷ ἢ ἀργύρῳ ἢ λίθῳ χαράγματι τέχνης καὶ ἐνθυμήσεως ἀνθρώπου τὸ θεῖον εἶναι ὅμοιον TR, 1550

  • 2 Pet. 1:3

3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: KJV, 1769

Γʹ Ὡς πάντα ἡμῖν τῆς θείας δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ τὰ πρὸς ζωὴν καὶ εὐσέβειαν δεδωρημένης διὰ τῆς ἐπιγνώσεως τοῦ καλέσαντος ἡμᾶς διὰ δόξης καὶ ἀρετῆς TR, 1550

  • 2 Pet. 1:4

4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. KJV, 1769

Δʹ δι᾽ ὧν τὰ μέγιστα ἡμῖν καὶ τίμια ἐπαγγέλματα δεδώρηται ἵνα διὰ τούτων γένησθε θείας κοινωνοὶ φύσεως ἀποφυγόντες τῆς ἐν κόσμῳ ἐν ἐπιθυμίᾳ φθορᾶς TR, 1550

The Greek Word θειότης

The Greek word θειότης occurs once (1) in one (1) verse in the Textus Receptus, Rom. 1:20, being translated into English as “Godhead” in the King James Version.

Rom. 1:20 in the King James Version, 1611

The Greek Word θεότης

The Greek word θεότης occurs once (1) in one (1) verse in the Textus Receptus, Col. 2:9, being translated into English as “Godhead” in the King James Version.

Col. 2:9 in the King James Version, 1611

In summary, the English noun “Godhead” occurse three (3) times in three (3) verses in the King James Version, being translated from three different Greek words: one adjective and two nouns.

Lexical Analysis

The Greek Word θεῖος

The Greek word θεῖος is an adjective formed by the inclusion of the diphthong ει in the noun θεός.

θεός (noun) + ει = θεῖος (adjective)

The same analogy may be demonstrated in the formation of the adjective ἀνθρώπειος, meaning “human.”

ἄνθρωπος (noun) + ει = ἀνθρώπειος (adjective)

As an adjective, θεῖος can be declined according to gender and number.

Abstract and Concrete Words

The Greek words θειότης and θεότης both contain the suffix -της. Like the English suffix -ness, the Greek suffix -της converts an adjective into an abstract noun.

Abstract words name ideas: beauty, inflation, management, culture, liberal. Concrete words name qualities and things we can know by our five senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell: sleek, humming, rough, salty, musty.

For example, “The horse is white,” or in Greek, «ὁ ἵππος ἐστὶ λευκός». We can see that the horse is white; thus, the adjective “white” (λευκός) is a concrete word. We may convert the English adjective “white” into an abstract noun by simply adding the suffix -ness, hence “whiteness.” “Whiteness” is defined as “the quality or state of being white.” In the sentence, “The horse’s whiteness exceeds that of its kin,” whiteness itself cannot be discerned or known by any of the five senses. It is the quality or state of being white, and therefore, it is an abstract noun. Likewise, we may convert the Greek adjective λευκός into an abstract noun by adding the suffix -της to the word λευκός, hence λευκότης.

Other English and Greek words are formed based on the same analogy:

         English                ||             Greek
Adjective   |   Abstract Noun   ||  Adjective    |  Abstract Noun
dry         |   dryness         ||  ξηρός        |  ξηρότης
wet         |   wetness         ||  ὑγρός        |  ὑγρότης
fat         |   fatness         ||  πίων         |  πιότης
thin        |   thinness        ||  λεπτός       |  λεπτότης

However, the adjective need not be a concrete word in order for it to be converted into an abstract noun. Abstract adjectives may also be converted into abstract nouns. The Greek word θεῖος is an abstract adjective which means “divine.” Based on the same analogy described above, θειότης may be defined as an abstract noun meaning “the quality or state of being divine.”

But, what about the English equivalent of θειότης? In the examples above, we formed an English abstract noun by adding the suffix -ness to the root word. Yet, there is no such English word as “divineness.” Another way to form an abstract noun from an adjective is to add the suffix -ity to the root word.

In The Cambridge History of the English Language, it states,2

The main suffixes that derive abstract nouns from adjectives are the native -ness and the French-derived -ity. Both are very productive in Early Modern English and have partly overlapping input ranges. Both are used to form derivatives that denote abstract states, conditions, and qualities, and this is the semantic domain that prevails with -ness…

The suffix -ity has a wider semantic range than -ness; in addition to the abstract notions of state, condition and quality, it is found in coinages such as capability, oddity, peculiarity, and regularity, which may have concrete denotations and appear in the plural. The suffix was adopted from late Middle English French and Latin loan words, but from the sixteenth century onwards it became synchronically associated especially with adjectives ending in -able/ible, -ic, -al, and -ar. Except for a few cases with native bases such as oddity, -ity was applied to Latinate bases…

The English word “divine” is etymologically derived from the Latin word divinus; hence, “div-” is a Latinate base. Therefore, instead of “divineness,” which is not an actual word, the abstract noun derived from the adjective “divine” would be the noun “divinity.”

Among its several definitions, “divinity” may be defined as “the quality of being divine.” It is not surprising that St. Jerome translated the Greek word θειότης in Rom. 1:20 into the Latin Vulgate as divinitas, the Latin equivalent of the English word “divinity.”

However, unlike the English words “dry,” “wet,” “fat,” “thin,” and the Greek word θεῖος, the Greek word θεός, from which θεότης is derived, is a noun, not an adjective. Therefore, it doesn’t seem that we can determine its meaning using the same analogy:

English adjective + suffix -ness/-ity = abstract noun

Greek adjective + suffix -της = abstract noun

Another analogy is based on the Greek word ἀνθρωπότης. This abstract noun is formed from the Greek noun ἄνθρωπος, meaning “human” or “man,” and the suffix -της. The English equivalent of ἀνθρωπότης would be the abstract noun “humanity,” which may be defined as “the quality or condition of being human.” We may discern an ἄνθρωπος and a “human” by our five senses. On the other hand, ἀνθρωπότης and “humanity” cannot be discerned by our five senses, and therefore, they are abstract nouns. More importantly, we find the following analogy:

enter image description here

Like ἄνθρωπος, the Greek word θεός is also a concrete noun. In other words, it refers to a particular person who may be discerned or known by one of the five senses (certainly θεός is not an abstract noun). Based on the same analogy formed above, we may now understand the meaning of θεότης.

enter image description here

In summary, θεότης is equivalent to the English word “deity,” that is, “the quality or condition of being God,” while θειότης is defined as “divinity,” that is, “the quality or state of being divine.” The remaining Greek word, θεῖος, is an adjective meaning “divine”; it is the adjective from which the abstract noun θειότης (not θεότης) is derived.


References

Lass, Roger. The Cambridge History of the English Language. Vol. III. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999.

Footnotes

1 Acts 17:29; Rom. 1:20; Col. 2:9
2 p. 398

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  • Not so simple after all :) – user33515 Jun 15 '17 at 1:23
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A very good answer by @Tish, for indeed in θεό-της the -της is a suffix that corresponds to English -ty, -ity, -ness; like, from the word ὕδορ (water) is derived ὑδρότης (wetness, water-ness), and indeed the "waterness"/"wetness" fully defines water, as "god-ness", "divin-ity" fully defines "god". Thus, the phrase "in Christ dwells the fullness of [God's] God-ness" reads similarly to a phrase "in this raindrop dwells fulness of [water's] wetness".

This indicates most unequivocally the full divinity of Jesus Christ, for neither any man, even most saintly one, nor any angel, even the highest in angelic hierarchy can contain the "fulness" or "entirety" of Divinity (because, in creatures - men, angels - the divine presence is not full, but apportioned), but only the one who is equally divine. Logos/Son is Father's equal, thus demanding the very same honour /John 5:23/ (which in tongue of any creature - saint or archangel - would be either a gross idiocy or a horrid blasphemy), and Logos indwelling in human nature and human body taken from Mary, can be called "Divinity fully present in a bodily form", for to Logos pertains the same fullness of the Father's Divinity as to the Father Himself.

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Problem is that the passage says that the fullness of the godhead "dwells" in him - this doesn't make him God anymore than Christ dwelling in us makes us Christ - it speaks of what governs our actions and thoughts. 1 John 4:16 KJV — And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

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  • Hello Liz and welcome. Answers are not meant to raise more problems, but to clarify. In this case, Greek words need to be explained. 'Dwelleth' is from the word Katoikein meaning 'to make your permanent abode'. If Paul had wanted to say Christ was not God, he would have used the word Paroikein, with its meaning of a temporary abode. The Greek word chosen contradicts your claim and indicates you don't know what the Greek words in question mean. Hermeneutics requires clarity regarding Greek words, when asked for, as with this Q. I hope you find this observation helpful. – Anne Mar 15 '19 at 18:03
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First of all, θεότητος is the genitive singular case of θεότης. If you are going to discuss a Greek word you should quote it in the citation form, here the nominative singular θεότης.

-της is a very common and productive suffix for forming abstract nouns, in this instance from the word for “god”. θεότης occurs both in the NT and in pagan authors:

http://stephanus.tlg.uci.edu/lsj/#eid=49650&context=lsj&action=from-search

Consequently you could translate θεότης as “god-ness”, “godhood”, or by Latinate forms like “deity, divinity”. But to render it merely as “God” is wrong.

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Simply a Christian answered correctly. To add a little more and to object fdb's position, what makes a person ἄνθρωπος is ἀνθρωπότης. The same applies to the above passage; what makes God θεός is θεότης. Then this passage, by saying the fullness of θεότης (or θεότητος as in the original text) dwells in him, is trying to mean "Christ was fully God".

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