Colossians 2 NASB

[17]things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

Colossians 2 NKJV

17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

Colossians 2 World English Bible

17 which are a shadow of the things to come; but the body is Christ's.

KJV Colossians 2

17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ

Why does the NASB add the word mere in its translation? .

  • 1
    The undisputed Greek text - α εστιν σκια - gives no latitude to squeeze 'mere' into the translation so I think it becomes 'merely' speculative as to why on earth they did it.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 2, 2019 at 21:34

1 Answer 1


The operative word here is "σκια" (skia = shadow). While I fully agree that, strictly speaking, the addition of "mere" is unjustified in the NASB's translation of Col 2:17, it is not entirely without merit.

BDAG offers three shades (no pun intended) of meaning for the word "skia" all of which surround the central idea of a shadow. The third of these listed by BDAG says:

a mere representation of something real, shadow (from the sense of insubstantial aspect, eg, shades of the dead … there develops the idea of a contrast between image and reality … a shadow of what is to come Col 2:17, … Heb 8:5 …

Therefore, I presume that the NASB is emphasising that the OT ceremonial system amounted to nothing more than symbols of salvation and not actual salvation itself. That is, "mere" highlights the unreality of the symbol as opposed to the reality.

Despite this, it is not necessary as the meaning is apparent with or without it.

  • It could have "merely" translational bias, the biased message being that the shadow is of little or no importance, which is a misunderstanding of what "shadow" means here. Oct 30, 2021 at 20:14

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