Is There Ever a Time to Use “Man”? (Col 3:9–10)

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ScottS's picture

I am one who uses "mankind" frequently in my speaking and writing, because I believe the connection of people to the single originator of Adam is lost in the use of "humankind." Whether man or woman, all people are of the same "kind" as Adam, because all descend from this one man originally.

So I can appreciate Mounce's intention of maintaining corporate ideas and also the potential loss of meaning when "man" is not used in a good sense to translate an idea more accurately.

However, in the case of Col 3:9-10, I disagree that the corporate idea is what is meant. Specifically, Mounce's statements:

  1. "the 'old man' being our participation in Adam and the consequences of the Fall"
  2. "the 'new man' being Christ and the consequences of the regenerate humanity"

For #1, even as a believer, I still participate in the flesh gained from Adam, I still deal with the sin bound in that flesh (Rom 7:16-20), and I still deal with the consequence of that flesh meeting its physical death because of sin (Rom 5:12). So I am not "corporately" removed from my link to Adam, and in fact, like Christ who joined into mankind in His flesh for participation also in death (Heb 2:14; Gal 4:4; Col 1:22; though not in the sinfulness bound to that flesh; Rom 8:3; Heb 4:15), I am still a member of humanity as descended from Adam.

For #2, while as a believer I am now participating in Christ and experiencing consequences of that, including regeneration of my spirit, that is not a completed process, for I am "being renewed in knowledge" (present passive participle).

What is complete, as the statement stands, is the transition from old to new (cf. Rom 8:9), a transition that is beneficial to and in which the believer participates in by having "put off/on" (aorist middle participle). So the passage is speaking about the new spiritual nature of individuals (not corporate effects overall), which is why all believers still need to "put to death" (Col 3:5) their earthly members and "put off" (Col 3:8) sinful actions. Only the spiritual nature has changed, which is equal for all types of individuals (Col 3:11), but that nature is not yet fully manifesting except as one yields by putting off the deeds that the old man did by nature, which the new man battles still as the old desires still adhere to the flesh.

So Mounce's reason for wanting "man" in the translation, that there is a dual meaning of sinful nature and corporate concept, is not valid. The intention is only the individual sinful/spiritual nature change in Colossians 3. Introducing the corporate points into this passage does not fit the facts.

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

Bert Perry's picture

I'm no genius with the Greek, but it strikes me that Luther's translation uses the plural you (at least the plural familiar endings).  That would imply Paul is, as is the nature of an epistle to a church, writing corporately to the hearers, presumed to be believers.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

ScottS's picture

Hi Bert,

When I say "no corporate idea," I am referring to the Adam/Christ relationship that Mounce talks about with respect to old man/new man (per the quotes). Paul is certainly addressing the "believers" of the church corporately.

 

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

TylerR's picture

Editor

There seems to be a dual problem; (1) a translation of the word itself and (2) your understanding of the "new nature." 

Scott S. wrote:

So the passage is speaking about the new spiritual nature of individuals (not corporate effects overall), which is why all believers still need to "put to death" (Col 3:5) their earthly members and "put off" (Col 3:8) sinful actions.

I agree. The word clearly means "man" (ἄνθρωπον). But, what is Paul getting across here? He is certainly addressing the corporate body (the participle is plural), but he is really speaking to individuals. I take "man" as being a synonym for "person" or "self." That is, it means something like, "You have put off your old self." Your old self is dead (Col 3:3;; cf. 2 Cor 5:17). 

I never took it to be referring to a corporate idea. It is interesting, though. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

ScottS's picture

Tyler, you and I  agree on this point.

Mounce's wanting to introduce the issue that 'old man = Adam' and 'new man = Christ' here in this passage as a "double meaning" (based, as he states, off a commentary he references: "Harris, Colossians & Philemon") is what I disagree with, for we have not fully put off Adam, nor yet fully put on Christ. We have only had the essence of our spiritual nature changed within our still very much Adamic body (until the resurrection).

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16