The lack of clarity with a few words in a passage of Scripture can alter the meaning to the extent that a change of doctrine can result. Such is the case with Colossians 2: 16-17. Twenty versions are examined in this essay to point that out. It appears that the translators had problems in deciphering the intent of the original writer. Which of these, if any, have interpreted the passage correctly?
The problems lie particularly with two concepts in verse 17. Thus, the concept in verse 16 is altered in relation as to how they have been translated. The interpretations are discussed here, based on the following ways of translating which have occurred:
- A past tense is used in the first part of the verse;
- The present tense is used in reference to the future in the first part;
- The verb is is used in regular type in the last part of the sentence;
- Another verb is used in the last part;
- The verb is is in italics in the last part;
- A different structure is used in the last part.
The versions are consistent in that the list mentioned in verse 16 represents foreshadowings.
As you examine each, note how and where the six categories above are applied. After the listing, I shall discuss the versions collectively according to these categories.
- AAT – An American Translation (Beck)
- AB – Amplified Bible
- ANT – The Authentic New Testament
- BNT – Barclay New Testament
- CEV – Contemporary English Version
- CJB – Complete Jewish Bible
- CNT – Cassirer New Testament
- DRB – Douay-Rheims Bible
- HBME – The Holy Bible in Modern English
- IB – Interlinear Bible
- IV – Inspired Version
- KJV – King James Version
- LB – Living Bible
- NET – New Evangelical Translation
- NNT – Noli New Testament
- NSNT – Norlie’s Simplified New Testament
- SGAT – An American Translation (Smith-Goodspeed)
- SNB – Restoration of Original Sacred Name Bible
- SSBE – Sacred Scriptures, Bethel Edition
- WNT – Williams New Testament
Colossians 2: 16, 17
AAT – Then nobody shall say you are wrong in what you eat or drink or do on a festival, on the first day of the month, or on a Sabbath. These have been a shadow of the coming things, but the real things are in Christ.
AB – Therefore let no one sit in judgment on you in matters of food and drink, or with regard to a feast day or a new moon or a Sabbath.
Such [things] are only the shadow of things that are to come, and they have only a symbolic value. But the reality – the substance, the solid fact of what is foreshadowed, the body of it – belongs to Christ.
ANT – Let no man judge you, therefore, in matters of food and drink, or in such a matter as a festival, new moon, or sabbath, which represent only a shadow of things to come, and of which Christ is the substance.
BNT – You must not therefore let anyone criticize you in matters of what is right or wrong to eat or drink, or with regard to the alleged correct observance of festivals, new moons and sabbaths. These things are no more than the shadow of things to come; the reality belongs to Christ.
CEV – Don’t let anyone tell you what you must eat or drink. Don’t let them say that you must celebrate the New Moon festival, the Sabbath, or any other festival. These things are only a shadow of what was to come. But Christ is real!
CJB – So don’t let anyone pass judgment on you in connection with eating and drinking, or in regard to a Jewish festival or Rosh-Chodesh or Shabbat. These are a shadow of things that are coming, but the body is of the Messiah.
CNT – Therefore, let no one take you to task over what you eat and drink, or in the matter of observing a festival, a new moon, or a sabbath, these things being no more than a pale foreshadowing of what was to come, the proper reality to be found nowhere but in Christ.
DRB – Let no man therefore judge you in meat or in drink, or in respect of a festival day, or the new moon, or of the sabbaths,
Which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ.
HBME – Therefore let no one condemn you as to food, and as to drink, nor in respect to a festival, or new moon, or Sabbaths: which were a forecast of the future; but the substance belongs to Christ.
IB – Then do not let anyone judge you in eating or in drinking, or in respect of a feast, or the new moon, or of sabbaths, which are a shadow of coming things; but the body is of Christ.
IV – Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days;
Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
KJV – Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days.
Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
LB – So don’t let anybody criticize you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating Jewish holidays and feasts or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these were only temporary rules that ended when Christ came. They were only shadows of the real thing – of Christ himself.
NET – Let no man criticize you, then, as to what you eat and drink or in regard to a festival day, a first day of a month or Sabbath days. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the body itself is Christ.
NNT – Consequently, no one can call you to account on rules of food and drink, or on observances of a festival, or a new moon, or a sabbath. For they were only symbols of future realities. The sum total of these realities is Christ.
NSNT – Let no one, therefore, be your judge as to what you may eat or drink, or in the matter of observing feast days and new moons and sabbaths. These things foreshadow what is to come. The one foreshadowed is Christ.
SGAT – So no one can call you to account for what you eat or drink, or do about annual or monthly feasts or Sabbaths. That was all only the shadow of something that was to follow; the reality is found in Christ.
SNB – Let no one therefore, be judging you in eating and in drinking, or in respect of feast, or new moon, or sabbath,
Which are a shadow of things to come, whereas the body is of the Messiah.
SSBE – Let no man judge you therefore in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day, or a new moon, or a sabbath: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body of the Messiah.
WNT – Stop letting anyone pass judgment on you in matters of eating and drinking, or in the matter of annual or monthly feasts or sabbaths. These were but the shadow of what was coming; the reality belongs to Christ.
The Six Categories
- It is stated that the list in verse 16 pointed to Yahshua and that they were completely fulfilled in His life. Thus, none of these things are any longer applicable. They were done away by Him. If He fulfilled all the law, the past tense would be appropriate. In Matthew 5: 17, Yahshua stated that He did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. Translating this concept back through the Greek to the Hebrew, He stated that He came to interpret the law. In the following verse, He stated that no part of the law would be eliminated until all of it be fulfilled, even till earth or heaven should pass away. Let us see if any part has yet to be fulfilled. There were nine feasts commanded by Yahweh. The spring feasts were fulfilled at the time of the impalement and shortly after. The fall feasts have not been fulfilled. Has Yahweh, our Creator, changed His mind? The weekly sabbath is a foreshadow of the millennium. Although some people believe that this period of time has come, it has still to be fulfilled. Has He changed His mind again? Since everything has not been fulfilled, do you suppose that we should give more consideration to this list? The versions that refer only to the past would say that there is no need to do so.
- The versions that use the present tense with reference to the future are implying that fulfillment is incomplete. They do not mention exactly which are yet to be fulfilled. There is, however, a playing down in regard to keeping the law in these things. Whether the past or the present tense is used, we see a common attitude among present-day Christians, that is, the law terminated with the coming of Jesus and a better one was instituted.
- The versions which use is in regular type in the last part of verse 17 state for a fact what is suggested as possible in those versions which italicize the word is. There really is no question that these things are shadows relating to Yahshua. However, in what sense are we to understand the word body? Does it mean the physical being of Yahshua, or does it mean his followers, the church? In some versions, the meaning is very unclear and even does not coincide with what precedes it. There is something missing.
- In these versions, there are some variations from the other five categories in the verb used. They, like many other versions, stress that this list is foreshadowings, while Yahshua represents the real thing. One of the words which appears in a few versions is belongs.
- Three versions, two of which are older, italicize the word is. The italicization indicates the addition of that word by the translators. Without it, there is no verb within the clause. It would appear that the early translators could not ascertain sense to the sentence as it was. Therefore, they added what they thought was the proper word. Translators of later versions followed the pattern as though it were correct. Now, let us suppose that the word is were interpolated in error. Let us further suppose that the word but is not a conjunction as of the versions indicate. Let us consider that it is a preposition instead. Thus, it now clearly means except. This would alter the sense of the passage dramatically. Now, the passage states that a person should not concerned with what people in general say about how he relates to the things in the list. Only the people who are members of the church of Yahshua have that right. The church would be familiar with these laws, which are foreshadowings in respect to Yahshua. This would not include any church which believes that everything in the law has been fulfilled, thus eliminating the need to be concerned about it anymore. What Yahshua eliminated was the need to perform the long list of works and sacrifices, because He became a sacrifice for us, doing what the sacrifices of the Old Testament could not do.
- Only one of these versions does not include a verb, thus rendering the above interpretation, although another does the same, but in a different sense. This one version also refers to the future as though all the foreshadowings have not been completed. It brings out a completely different meaning to the passage.