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.