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I noticed this morning the construction of Col 1:5-6

τω λογω της αληθειας του ευαγγελιου του παροντος εις υμας

I am curious why all my English translations have some variant of 'which has come to you" rather than "which is coming to you". I suppose it may be because of the previous προηκουσατε in v5, but that describes the action of the people rather than the action of the Word. To my amateur sensibilities, it seems better to understand 'coming' together with 'bearing fruit' and 'increasing' - all actions of the Word - to be very deliberately Present Active, no?

I think this has some amount of import not only for translation but for real on-the-ground practical outworking. Paul is describing the Gospel NOT as something that has arrived at its terminus, but as an active force, constantly at work and in motion within and through the local church.

Or am I missing something?

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  • Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for this very good question. Please do not forget to take the tour below.
    – user25930
    Jan 28 '19 at 20:53
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    – Robb
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    – Ruminator
    Feb 1 '19 at 0:53
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The following translations all have a present tense :

... which are come to you ... Englishman's Greek New Testament

... which is present to you ... Young's Literal

... coming to you ... Green's Literal

... which is come unto you ... KJV 1769

... which is come unto you ... Tyndale

... which is come unto you ... Douay Rheims (from Latin Vulgate)

But I notice that the Wycliffe of 1388 (also translated from the Latin Vulgate) has :

... that cam (came) to you ...

There is no dispute about the wording, in general, but see Biblehub which has a single variant, namely Tischendorf, 8th edition :

Rather than του παροντος (as you quote and as all other sources I can find quote) Tischendorf gives 'ο παρειμι which translates to the past tense 'which has come', see Mounce Reverse Interlinear on Bible Gateway.

I assume, therefore, that the versions you are using, whatever they may be, are following this lone variant for some unknown reason.

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  • Thanks. The English translations I typically have open are NASB, ESV, KJV and Green's Literal. I did notice Green was present tense but it is clearly (and typically) a wooden translation that doesn't convey the meaning well into English. The KJV's "is come" is still perfect, which is understood in modern English as past tense, as we see it born out in the NKJV's 'has come'.
    – Robb
    Feb 7 '19 at 20:48
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The reason it is translated this way doesn't have anything to do with the lexical aspects. The reason it is translated this way in the versions has to do with the function the participle has in the sentence. While it would be more of a literal translation to translate it in the present tense, there is some case grammatically to translate it in the past tense. In either case you have to avoid giving it too much of a verbal idea since it is an adjective in this sentence.

The participle τοῦ παρόντος has in this case an article. That makes it necessary that the participle is functioning as either a noun or an adjective in the sentence. In this case the participle is a singular genitive neuter so the noun it modifies as an adjective would also have to be a singular genitive neuter. Since the participle follows right after the noun t shares case, number, and gender with it is a adjectival participle.

The noun it modifies is in verse 5 -- τοῦ εὐαγγελίου (the gospel). Earlier in the sentence the actual verb προηκούσατε (you heard beforehand) is in the aorist.

So here are the ideas: they had heard the gospel which had come and is still present. So they heard in the in the past but the gospel still remains so Paul used this construction using the participle to convey this idea. That is why nearly all of the translations give the phrase that almost looks like a past tense "which has come." I can't prove it, but I suspect Wycliffe was just more explicit in the past tense going back to προηκούσατε than the other translations. As for Young and Green, theirs are meant to be more literal, which in this case does not mean it is right. Their emphasis on the present tense is actually translating the participle as a verb, which it is not in this case, it has the article so it has to be an adjective or noun. Given its proximity to the other noun wit agrees with this identifies it as an adjective. Now you have to keep in mind that every participle does carry a verbal component even when it is an adjective so Green and Young are not terribly wrong here. It is just that the idea that they had heard the gospel which came (its still here) is I think better.

Additional Comments:

After seeing Robb's comments I went into this a little more. I looked in my "Exegetical Summaries" book by SIL, which summarizes translations issues and some exegetical question from all of the major English translations and commentaries. It makes the statement that τοῦ παρόντος has been translated as a perfect or in the past even though it is in the present tense.

I personally like the perfect here, the gospel reached them and its was still present in them.

The next phrases

καθὼς καὶ ἐν παντὶ τῷ κόσμῳ, -- just as it is in the whole world,

καὶ ἔστιν -- is relates back to the phrase in the whole world. So whatever is attached to "is" is happening in the whole world

What is happening καρποφορούμενον, καὶ αὐξανόμενον -- it is bearing fruit and increasing. The usage of the two participles are periphrastic, meaning that the two participles form a single verbal idea. I think Paul was emphasizing how powerful the gospel was in reaching the whole world. Everyone who responds to the genuine gospel is a testament to that power.

καθὼς καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν -- just as it does in you also.

It is this last phrase that indicates that the gospel was bearing fruit and increasing in their midst too. Being a pastor myself, I know how sometimes I get caught up in an idea and want that to be the message. I think the main point is that Gospel has the power to reach the lost, even among those in the city of Collasse. Especially when Paul reminds them of how they had heard it in the past as the closing phrase of verse 6. I got saved as an adult so I can look back with wonder on those days I first heard the gospel and that has a powerful effect on my life today. I think that is what Paul is getting at here in the whole sentence going back to verse 5.

See Wallace on Participles. https://bible.org/article/participle

FYI -- I am a PhD candidate in Biblical Studies with a Greek New Testament concentration.

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  • Ken, thank you for your thoughtful response. Yes, the first participle has an article unlike καρποφορούμενον καὶ αὐξανόμενον, which are attached to ἐστὶν. Still, all three share the same subject and construction, and it is evident from the latter two that the author intended his readers to understand a present progressive action, right? Is it far fetched to take the three together? I guess that's my basic question. I am a pastor so my greek study is intensely practical. I see here an idea that presses against the notion that the Gospel's forward motion occurs only among the lost.
    – Robb
    Feb 7 '19 at 21:23
  • See the new comments added to the original
    – Ken Banks
    Feb 8 '19 at 1:37
  • When a participle is preceded by the article, is it not to be taken as a noun, rather than an adjective ?
    – Nigel J
    Feb 8 '19 at 1:49
  • @Nigel No, the article only insures that it is not an adverb (see the Wallace article). I clarified that point in my answer. It is Substantival (functioning as a noun) if it is independent of any other nouns. If it shares case, number, and gender with another noun it is usually adjectival, especially if follows right after or comes right before the noun. You can have the same thing with adjectives too, there are times that the adjective is functioning as an independent noun, all determined by context. Identifying participle usage is the hardest part of translation and exegesis.
    – Ken Banks
    Feb 8 '19 at 17:36
  • The question of time and verb aspect in Ancient Greek participles has been addressed extensively over the last 30 years since S . E. Porter's PhD thesis 1989. The topic is highly contentious and the arguments are often littered with all kinds of linguistic meta-language. Attempting to address this for general audiences is a difficult task. Some might claim the participle is only marked for aspect, not time, but that is a difficult issue which I wouldn't attempt to discuss here or anywhere else. Feb 8 '19 at 18:37
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BDAG is helpful here. The operative word is "παροντος", parontos from the root word "pareimi" for which BDAG lists two basic meanings, only the first of which we will examine here.

BDAG suggests this word means, "be present". Thus, we have the translations: "being present" (BLB); "which is present" (YLT); etc. BDAG itself renders this, "that has come to you". A moment's thought shows that that if something is present, that it has also come; that is, if something is present it must have already arrived.

Therefore, most versions have something like, "that has come", eg, NIV, ESV, NASB, NRSV, etc.

I suggest both versions are valid.

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  • Excellent info. I like "which is present" for achieving the present active tense, but it also fails to communicate the ongoing action that παροντος implies. Clearly, "which is coming" is not ideal, since it would signal to English speakers a future arrival which has not yet taken place. But in the case of the gospel, it has both arrived, and is arriving. It is perpetually greeting the believer[s] with fresh implications, consolations, challenges. This is what I hear in the original text, at least, and what I think is lacking in the translations I have at hand.
    – Robb
    Jan 29 '19 at 21:36
  • From your answer, I would think that 'which is come to you' would be very close. Do you agree ?
    – Nigel J
    Feb 8 '19 at 19:16
  • Yes and no. "which is come" still has an air of past tense about it that looses the present continuous notion. If I could be wordy, the full force might require something like, "is come and present with you". You may offer an improvement.
    – user25930
    Feb 8 '19 at 19:27
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Col 1:6

This [Word; Logos] is being continuously present alongside [and proceeding] into you folks, (JMNT).

concerning which you heard before in the word of the truth of the good news which is present with you (Wuest)

which, being present with you, (CLV)

The list goes on...

the one being at hand in you, (ABP)

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  • Thanks! These aren't translations I frequent. Good to know I'm not entirely crazy
    – Robb
    Feb 7 '19 at 20:52

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