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The words μετατιθημι and μεταθεσις are used in Hebrews 11:5 and are rendered as follows in the KJV :

By faith Enoch was translated (μετατιθημι) that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated (μετατιθημι) him: for before his translation (μεταθεσις) he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

But in Colossians 1:13, Paul states :

Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:

and he uses the word μεθιστημι, not the Hebrews wording.

Also, I notice that Robert Young adds (in brackets) the word μεθιστανο when he lists the usage of the above word μεθιστημι in the rear of his Analytical Concordance.


  • What is the difference between the two Greek words which are both rendered 'translated' by the KJV ?

  • Is there a substantial difference in their two meanings ?

  • Does Robert Young's bracketed addition have a significant bearing on the meaning ?

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EDIT NOTE : I understand that the KJV usage of 'translate' may be an archaic use. There was an engineering term which conveys the idea of picking something up, maintaining its spatial orientation, and then placing it down again. I have not been able to research this any more thoroughly, however.

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As the original poster mentioned, conjugations of two different Greek verbs are translated (no pun intended) into English as a conjugation of the English verb “translate” in Heb. 11:5 and Col. 1:13: μετετέθη (lemma μετατίθημι) and μετέστησεν (lemma μεθίστημι), respectively.

Reviewing LSJ,1 it seems the two verbs can be considered synonymous, as they share many of the same meanings in Greek literature:

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Therefore, in both verses, it seems the sense is that the objects of the verb2 were transferred from one location to another.

Enoch was transferred from earth to heaven, so he did not see death. Christians are delivered and transferred from the power of darkness (personified?)3 into the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ (i.e., the kingdom of God/Heaven).

Meyer asserts “that the deliverance from the power of darkness appears to be united with the removing away into the kingdom.”4 That is, one may understand the verse as:

13 who delivered and translated us out of the power of darkness and translated [us] into the kingdom of His beloved son.

The reason for his comment is that a translation (μετάθεσις) occurs out of a place and into another place. The place out of which the object is translated is indicated by the preposition ἐκ; the place into which the object is translated is indicated by the preposition εἰς. Since the apostle Paul only wrote that they were “delivered out of,” etc. he reasons that the verb μετέστησεν must be implied in conjunction with ἐῤῥύσατο.

Before their conversion, Christians formerly dwelt in darkness under the power of Satan; now they dwell in light under the power of God.5


Footnotes

1 μεθίστημι, p. 1090; μετατίθημι, p. 1117
2 αὐτὸν (“him”) in Heb. 11:5, referring to Enoch; ἡμᾶς (“us”) by ellipsis in Col. 1:13, referring to Christians (i.e., believers)
3 “power of darkness” = “power of Satan”(?); cf. Acts 26:18; Eph. 2:12
4 Meyer, p. 220
5 Col. 1:12 cf. 1 John 2:9, 2:11; Acts 26:18

References

Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; et al. A Greek-English Lexicon. 9th ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 1940.

Meyer, Heinrich August Wilhelm. Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Epistles to the Philippians and Colossians, and to Philemon. Trans. Moore, John C. Ed. Dickson, William P. New York: Funk, 1889.

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    Much appreciated. Excellent resource (LSJ). I didn't know about it, have now signed up. Thank you. Up-voted +1 and if none else answers with a superior, I shall accept as answer. – Nigel J Nov 26 '18 at 3:38
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Definition of "μετατιθημι":-

"The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon Strong's Number: 3346
Original Word metatiqemi

Transliterated Word Metatithemi

Definition to transpose (two things, one of which is put in place of the other) to transfer to change to transfer one's self or suffer one's self to be transferred to go or pass over to fall away or desert from one person or thing to another."-https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/metatithemi.html

In light of the above if we now insert "transfered" (past ternce) it makes more sence, see []:-

Heb. 5:11 By faith Enoch was [transferred] (μετατιθημι) that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had [transferred] (μετατιθημι) him: for before his [transferred] (μεταθεσις) he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

So God removed this faithful man from his bad situation and took him.-Gen. 5:24

But in Colossians 1:13, Paul states :

Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath [transfered] us into the kingdom of his dear Son:

Spiritual from the "world" to under God's control via "the kingdom."

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Firstly, "translate" (a Latin based word) is an excellent translation of the words μεθιστανο and μεθιστημι/μεθιστανο meaning to move from one place to another, but it is only one of the meanings of each word. I will take these words alphabetically (data taken from W E Vine Expository Dictionary; and Analytical Lexicon of NT Words by Friberg et al.).

μεθίστημι

From "meta" (change) + "histemi" (cause to stand) = to move from one place to another (1 Cor 13:2) or to cause a change in one's official position (Luke 16:4, Acts 13:22), or turn away, mislead (Acts 19:26). In Col 1:13 it also contains the idea of changing sides by the acts of God - transferred from the kingdom of darkness to God's eternal kingdom.

μετατίθημι

From "meta" (change) + "tithemi" (to put) = to move from one location to another, transfer, move, transplant (Heb 11:5), brought back (Acts 7:16), to alter (Heb 7:12), pervert (Jude 4), desert, become apostate (Gal 1:6).

It is now obvious that these two words have meanings that overlap. They correspond to the English phrases (respectively): "Change in standing", and, "change of position" which also have overlapping meanings but different emphasis.

Thus, Col 1:13 while meaning "translate" has an emphasis on a change of allegiance from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.

By (slight) contrast, Heb 11:5 emphasis a change of location (He could not be found, "was taken", etc).

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