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Colossians 1:19 states (NKJV):

For it pleased [the Father that] in Him all the fullness should dwell.

Now, the New King James Version supplies "the Father," but to my knowledge, most understand the Father as the one referred to here. In saying "it pleased the Father" that "all the fullness" should dwell in Jesus, does Colossians 1:19 suggest that the Father gave "all the fullness" to Him? (For example, "It pleased the king that you should be a knight" could imply that your being a knight was given by the king.)

If this is the meaning, what are the implications should "all the fullness" mean the same thing as Colossians 2:9's "all the fullness of the Godhead"? And if this is not the meaning, what is the true meaning? Thanks!

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  • The countless, previously listed, positive qualities of the Son.
    – Lucian
    Aug 6, 2021 at 11:09

4 Answers 4

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+100

Col 1:19 is not easy to translate. See the appendix below for the enumeration of the possible ways to render this verse. The variety of ways that modern versions translate this verse is further evidence that most have struggled to transmit the meaning without too much interpretation.

Here is my very literal translation of Col 1:19 -

because in Him was pleased to dwell all the fullness

The only easy question to answer is, What is the antecedent of "Him"? This is clearly "the Son" of V15. However, we are not explicitly told:

  • The fullness of what or whom?
  • Who was pleased?

Almost all versions end up supplying several words to interpret this cryptic verse by saying something like the NLT: "For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ", but this is quite interpretive because neither "God", "Father", nor "Christ" are mentioned in the Greek text.

However, in Paul's quintessentially cryptic style, it is possible to discover the answers to the above questions by examining his use of the two words involved.

"Fullness" πλήρωμα is used of Jesus and the Godhead as follows:

  • John 1:16 - From His fullness we have all received grace upon grace.
  • Eph 1:22, 23 - And God put everything under His feet and made Him head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
  • Eph 3:19 - of the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
  • Eph 4:13 - until we all may attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a complete man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
  • Col 2:9 - For in Him all the fullness of the Deity dwells bodily.

Thus, "fullness" in this context clearly refers to the deity of Christ being complete and full.

"Well-Pleased" εὐδοκέω is used as follows

  • Matt 3:17 - And a voice from heaven said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!” see also Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22, 2 Peter 1:17.
  • Matt 17:5 - While Peter was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him!”
  • Luke 12:32 - Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.
  • 1 Cor 1:21 - For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
  • Gal 1:15 - But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by His grace, was pleased

Thus, it appears that God is well-pleased or even Christ is well-pleased. Thus, from the above contexts the best we could do (especially in view of Col 2:9) is to translate/interpret 1:19 to read:

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him

Thus, inter-alia, this verse asserts the full deity of Christ as does Col 2:9. Note the comments in the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

all fulness—rather as Greek, "all the fulness," namely, of God, whatever divine excellence is in God the Father (Col 2:9; Eph 3:19; compare Joh 1:16; 3:34). The Gnostics used the term "fulness," for the assemblage of emanations, or angelic powers, coming from God. The Spirit presciently by Paul warns the Church, that the true "fulness" dwells in Christ alone. This assigns the reason why Christ takes precedence of every creature (Col 1:15). For two reasons Christ is Lord of the Church: (1) Because the fulness of the divine attributes (Col 1:19) dwells in Him, and so He has the power to govern the universe; (2) Because (Col 1:20) what He has done for the Church gives Him the right to preside over it.

should … dwell—as in a temple (Joh 2:21). This indwelling of the Godhead in Christ is the foundation of the reconciliation by Him [Bengel]. Hence the "and" (Col 1:20) connects as cause and effect the two things, the Godhead in Christ, and the reconciliation by Christ.

APPENDIX - Col 1:19 comments by Ellicott on translating

(19) For it pleased the Father.—(1) The construction is doubtful. There is nothing corresponding to “the Father” in the original. Our rendering involves the supply of the nominative God, i.e., “the Father,” or Christ to the verb, so that the sentence may run, the Father or Christ determined of His good pleasure that, &c. The supply of the nominative “Christ” is easier grammatically; but it accords ill with the invariable reference of all things, both by our Lord Himself and His Apostles, ultimately to the good pleasure of the Father. Moreover, the verb is so constantly used of God that the supply of the nominative “God,” though unexampled, is far from inadmissible. The simplest grammatical construction would, indeed, be to take “the fulness” as the nominative, and render for in Him all the fulness (of God) was pleased to dwell. But the personification of “the fulness,” common in Gnostic speculation, is hardly after the manner of St. Paul. Perhaps, on the whole, the rendering of our version (which is usually adopted) is to be preferred; especially as it suits better with the following verse. (2) The sense is, however, quite clear, and is enforced by Colossians 2:9, “In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” On the word “fulness” (pleroma), see Note on Ephesians 1:23. The “fulness of the Godhead” is the essential nature, comprising all the attributes, of Godhead. The indwelling of such Deity in the humanity of Christ is the ground of all His exaltation as the “Head,” “the beginning,” the “firstborn from the dead,” and the triumphant King, on which St. Paul had already dwelt. By it alone can He be the true Mediator between God and man.

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  • 1
    Thanks for the in-depth information on this verse! Assuming the correct translation is, as you rendered it, "For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him," would this suggest that God caused the Son "to have all His fullness dwell in Him"? If so, what are the implications should "all His fullness" be referencing "the deity of Christ being complete and full," as you said?
    – The Editor
    Aug 6, 2021 at 14:51
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    @TheEditor - this verse says nothing about "cause" - it mere says something about the actual state of things - that God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Christ. This does NOT suggest that Christ owed His divinity to God as that would be a contradiction - a God, by definition does not owe His existence to anyone or anything - God is self existent,
    – Dottard
    Aug 6, 2021 at 20:28
  • In plain English, would you say that, the spirits of The Father, Son and Holy Spirit all dwelt inside the biological human body machine called Christ belonging to the Son who had kenosis-ed? Aug 26, 2021 at 10:58
  • @NihilSineDeo - that is NOT the subject of Col 1:19; however, it IS the subject of Col 2:9, "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity dwells in bodily form." Note the specific wording, "bodily form".
    – Dottard
    Aug 26, 2021 at 11:01
  • @Dottard. Jesus fullness is caused by his God. May 9 at 11:34
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The context is necessary to understand what is supplied in English translations. The traditional translation supplies wording that is not obviously there. Thus, there is a certain amount of uncertainty on how to interpret v19. Perhaps, you should ask a question based on Col. 2:9.

  15 ὅς ἐστιν εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου,* 
  πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως,* 
  16 ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ ἐκτίσθη τὰ πάντα* 
  ⸆ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς καὶ ⸇ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς,* 
  τὰ ὁρατὰ καὶ τὰ ἀόρατα, 
  εἴτε θρόνοι εἴτε κυριότητες 
  εἴτε ἀρχαὶ εἴτε ἐξουσίαι·* 
  ⸀τὰ πάντα διʼ αὐτοῦ καὶ εἰς αὐτὸν ἔκτισται· 
  17 καὶ αὐτός ἐστιν πρὸ πάντων* 
  καὶ τὰ πάντα ἐν αὐτῷ συνέστηκεν,* 
  18 καὶ αὐτός ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλὴ τοῦ σώματος τῆς ἐκκλησίας·* 
  ὅς ἐστιν ⸆ ἀρχή,* 
  πρωτότοκος °ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν,* 
  ἵνα γένηται ἐν πᾶσιν αὐτὸς πρωτεύων, 
  19 ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ εὐδόκησεν πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα κατοικῆσαι* 
  20 καὶ διʼ αὐτοῦ ἀποκαταλλάξαι τὰ πάντα εἰς αὐτόν,* 
  εἰρηνοποιήσας διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ σταυροῦ αὐτοῦ,* 
  ⸋[διʼ αὐτοῦ]⸌ εἴτε τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς 
  εἴτε τὰ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.* 
         (Col. 1:15–21, NA28)

God (τοῦ θεοῦ) is only specifically named at the beginning of v15. The rest is understood in vs15-21. A literal translation is:

15 who is the image of the invisible God, firstborn of all creation, 16 because everything was created by him in the heavens and the earth [Gen. 1:1], the things seen and the things invisible, whether thrones or lordships or rulers or authorities. Everything was created through him and for him. 17 and he is before everything and everything stands together by him, 18 and he is the head of the body of the church who is [the] beginning/ruler [same phrase as Gen. 1:1 LXX and John 1:1], the firstborn of the dead, in order that he should be the first in everything. 19 because/that he [God, the Father] deemed worthy that by him [Christ] all fulfillment resides 20 and that everything is reconciled to him [God, the Father] through him [Christ], making peace through his blood of the cross, whether things on the earth or things in heaven.

However, it is not inconceivable that it is Christ who deemed worthy rather than the Father. We only have the pronouns.

See also God has a beginning. Does he?

I would like to hear any reasons why the grammatic structure of the Greek supports the traditional interpretation over the above and that the traditional interpretation isn't based solely on theology. I have no issue with the theology of the traditional interpretation, only that it seems forced.

John 1:16 would support "all fullness resides in him," but "God's" is inserted with no grammatical basis. In John 1:16 "his fullness" obviously means "Christ's fullness." One can add "God's" based on Col. 2:9, but, while Col. 2:9 shows the meaning of the traditional translation is true, the grammar in Col. 1:19 does not seem to support it.

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  • in the heavens and (on) the earth is not a Gen 1:1 creation.
    – steveowen
    May 8 at 23:39
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This Colossians 1:19 verse cannot be understood in isolation. Contrary to Dottard's conclusion, "This does NOT suggest that Christ owed His divinity to God". Rather the passage confirms the opposite while in concert with other passages like Heb 1.

Jesus owes everything to God!

  • His very existence through Mary - God.
  • Raising him from the dead - God.
  • Appointing him heir - God.
  • Making him Lord and Christ - God.
  • Granting him life as the Father has life - God.
  • Sitting in heaven next to - God.
  • All authority given by - God.
  • Made High Priest - God.
  • All Jesus' words and miracles - God.
  • Anointed with holy spirit and power - God

And so, only in context we get the gist of Paul's meaning.

v15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, 16because in (not by) him were created all things in the heavens and on the earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or lordships or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and unto him.

v17And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, firstborn out from the dead, so that he might be holding pre-eminence in all things, 19because all the fullness was pleased to dwell in him.

  • the image of - God
  • the firstborn of creation and the dead (both are exactly the same event)
  • the reason for all things - everything has its purpose fulfilled in Christ
  • there is nothing (or no one) that will not be under Christ (save God Himself 1Cor 15:27)
  • everything fits within his reign and authority and fits perfectly
  • head of the church - the beginning of the new spirit age culminating in eternal life for all believers
  • whatever the 'fullness is', it comes from - God. Where else would true fullness come from?

Jesus is who he is with all his glory and majesty and power and authority and wisdom and the fullness of all that is good and Godly is right at home in him - being the image and representative of God. He has earnt the right to be at God's side for eternity by his humble, willing, loving and trusting obedience - nothing more. He is a man like us and 'God was well pleased' with him.

We either believe that or we don't.

He had to be made like his brothers in every way, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, in order to make atonement for the sins of the people. Heb 2:17

He came, without sin and holy, to do God's will and not his own - right up to the horrifying cross. He was sent, commissioned, equipped, supported, encouraged, loved and rewarded. And finally filled up with life itself and able to give it to all his brothers in the fullness of time.

For as the Father has life in Himself, so also He gave to the Son to have life in Himself. John 5:26

The glory of God is - Jesus. No wonder the fullness was pleased to dwell in him! Phil 2:11, Heb 1:3

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  • To make sure I understand, your view is that Jesus was just a man who was given the fullness of Deity. Is this correct?
    – The Editor
    Aug 26, 2021 at 22:58
  • 1
    If Deity means God, then no, Jesus was not God and is not now God according to the scriptures. He has a God from birth until now in 'heaven' - as he personally testified.
    – steveowen
    Aug 26, 2021 at 23:03
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I would suggest that this question is only masquerading as an attempt to parse the verse in Colossians, but is actually a question about the trinity, so rather than trying to improve on Dottard's answer, I will give the following general advice when trying to read proof texts involving the trinity.

Most people approach the NT from a Hellenistic point of view, in which they want to dissect and analyze the trinity in terms of delineating the boundaries of where one member of the Godhead begins and the other ends, or who is stronger than whom, or who has authority to do what as opposed to another member having this authority, etc. I believe all of this is eisegesis to satisfy our urges to dissect and categorize.

This is natural -- as soon as a group of boys learn about two adults, they immediately start debating among themselves who can beat up whom, or whose dad is better than someone else's dad, and virtually all of the millions of words spilled about the trinity boil down to these types of boyhood disputes, except they are dressed up as high theological rhetoric.

But if you grant the same proof texts a plain reading, you will see that they describe mutual gift giving and love. The son does nothing of himself but only what the father tells him (John 5.30). The Father makes the son head of all things (Eph. 1.22) and does not reveal himself except by the son (Matt 11.27). The spirit does not testify of himself but of the son (John 15.26). The son turns around and gives all things back to the Father (1 Cor 15.28), completing the circle of gift-giving. That is what these texts are saying. Anything else is eisegesis. I would include Colossians 1.19 in that list. That is, the verse is saying that it pleased the Father to give all fullness to the son. It is one step in the flow of mutual gift giving and fellowship. Attempting to read any boundaries into it is eisegesis.

And in general, you are not going to find any verses that answer the types of boundary questions about the trinity as no boundaries are ever approached, nor is the intention of these verses to delineate any boundaries. Rather the opposite, as all three persons are always giving of themselves to the other as an example of true communion between the son, the father, and the spirit, and I believe this is the proper approach when reading these texts.

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    @Robert If Colossians 1:19 means that the Father gave "all the fullness" (NKJV) to the Son, and if this refers specifically to "all the fullness of the Godhead" (Col. 2:9, NKJV), then would this mean that God gave full Deity to the Son?
    – The Editor
    Aug 7, 2021 at 15:59
  • @TheEditor Did you read my post? It's like you are living out the approach I am criticizing by looking for boundaries in statements of gift-giving.
    – Robert
    Aug 7, 2021 at 17:14
  • @TheEditor - I agree with Robert - one reason the text is ambiguous may be that Paul intended it that way because the "boundaries" cannot be defined. The relationship between the father and the Son is a mutuality of giving.
    – Dottard
    Aug 7, 2021 at 21:15
  • @Dottard Apologizes for the late reply. You said earlier that "This [verse] does NOT suggest that Christ owed His divinity to God ..." But would you say this verse suggests that God gave Christ's divinity to Him? I don't know your answer, but if so, what's the difference between being given something from someone, and owing that something to someone? Thanks!
    – The Editor
    Aug 11, 2021 at 18:24
  • @TheEditor - again, this verse says nothing about the origins of divinity. That is actually a logical fallacy because the moment another being owes divinity to someone else, they cease to be fully divine!! Divinity by definition must be innate.
    – Dottard
    Aug 11, 2021 at 21:47

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