This week we are memorizing the Greek term qeo,thtoj (theotetos, pronounced thay-AH-tay-toss), translated in the NASB as “Deity.” I noted last time that the King James Version renders it “godhead,” which is not only ambiguous, but since the KJV elsewhere renders other less strong terms by the same word (e.g., Romans 1:20), can be quite confusing. The Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker lexicon renders the word “the state of being god, divine character/nature, deity, divinity, used as abstract noun for qeo,j Louw and Nida have, “the nature or state of being God – ‘deity, divine nature, divine being.’ Thayer’s lexicon says, “deity, i.e. the state of being God, Godhead: Col. ii. 9.” Thayer is here giving us the words of Grimm. However, he then goes on to provide some important information on his own:
[SYN. qeo,thj, qeio,thj: qeo,thj deity differs from qeio,thj divinity, as essence differs from quality or attribute]
What does this mean? Basically, this lexical source is indicating that the word we have at Colossians 2:9 is different from the weaker term used at Romans 1:20. The term Paul uses here of Christ refers to the very essence of deity, rather than a mere quality or attribute. Thayer notes as one of his sources the work of Richard Trench on synonyms in the New Testament. Though an older source, it is still useful in many ways. Trench said of these two terms:
…yet they must not be regarded as identical in meaning, nor even as two different forms of the same word, which in process of time have separated off from one another, and acquired different shades of significance. On the contrary, there is a real distinction between them, and one which grounds itself on their different derivations; qeo,thj being from qeo,j, and qeio,thj not from to. qeio,n, which is nearly though not quite equivalent to qeo,j, but from the adjective qei/oj…But in the second passage (Col. ii. 9) St. Paul is declaring that in the Son there dwells all the fulness of absolute Godhead; they were no mere rays of divine glory which gilded Him, lighting up his person for a season and with a splendour not his own; but He was, and is, absolute and perfect God; and the Apostle uses qeo,thj to express this essential and personal Godhead of the Son.
This is why B.B. Warfield hit it on the head when he said of this passage, “that is to say, the very Deity of God, that which makes God God, in all its completeness, has its permanent home in Our Lord, and that in a ‘bodily fashion,’ that is, it is in Him clothed with a body” [B.B. Warfield, “The Person of Christ” in The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981), II: 184.]
So, let’s memorize qeo,thtoj and its meaning in the Greek, and let’s do so in such a fashion that you would feel comfortable explaining the difference between this term and the term at Romans 1:20, and then the application in Colossians 2:9, so that you can assert that the passage expresses the full incarnate deity of the Lord Jesus Christ!