Vol. 17 New Series December, 1955 No. 6
THE MEANING OF TA PANTA

In our June, 1955, issue Major Withers wrote upon this subject, pages 109-120, dealing mainly with Romans 11:36 and 1. Cor. 8:6-7. Since then I have been re-studying what Mr. Otis Q. Sellers wrote in "THE WORD OF TRUTH" volume XIII, January, 1954, "Is All out of God? What does Ta Panta Mean?"

I shall deal mainly with grammatical points, as, in this study, they may turn out to be of paramount importance.

Mr. Sellers' contention is that these two Greek words, ta panta (the all things) generally mean "these all things" or "all these," or "all this." This is often quite true. The "all things" have just been referred to, or are about to be enumerated. If I say, "Give me the whole lot," this would refer to something already spoken about.

Mr. Sellers gives his own rendering of Eph. 1:23, thus: The ecclesia "which in fact is His substance (or body), the fullness of Him that fills all this in all." Mr. Sellers adds, "The words 'all this' in this passage refer to His substance."

This, I regret to say, is quite impossible. The Greek word for body (or substance) is neuter singular, whereas ta panta is neuter plural. The Greeks were very precise regarding their word genders and number, whether singular or plural. No Greek would be heard to utter the equivalent of what we sometimes hear bad speakers declare, "he said to you and I," just as it is bad grammar to say "I know who I have believed."

If the words "all this" refer to Christ's body or substance, they would need to be, in Greek, not ta panta, but the singular, to pan. The full Greek expression here is "the all things in all things" (ta panta en pasin), which is virtually the Old Greek and Modern Greek term pantapasin, meaning "altogether, wholly, entirely."

Would one not naturally take the meaning of the verse to be that Christ will fill full everyone and everything which needs filling? I do not think there is the slightest ground for belittling the force of the statement: We dare not attempt to prune the majesty of Christ.

A somewhat similar blunder has been made with regard to Eph.3:9. Paul says, "And to enlighten all (pantas, omitted by some MSS) as to what is the administration (Gk.: economy) of the secret which has been concealed from the Ages in God, Him the all things (ta panta) creating." Mr. Sellers says "hid in God who created all this." He says "all this" is limited to the context, the matter under consideration. "The fact that we now know that God created all the divine arrangements that are a part of this secret administration should cause us to honor them all the more."

Anyone who can look up a Greek Concordance will soon discover that it is quite irregular to speak of "divine arrangements" being created by God. Even the time arrangements called The Ages were "made" through God's Son (Heb. 1:2). In this verse the word for administration and the word for secret are both in the singular. Therefore, neither of these words can be the "all things." Nor would it make sense to say that both of these terms together are the "all things." That would be ridiculous. Is it then possible that the "all things" might refer to the Ages? It is not; because the Greek word for Ages is masculine in form whereas ta panta is neuter. Had Paul written taus pantas, it might have meant "all these (Ages)." Anyone thinking of a secret hidden from the Ages would naturally think of the Creation. The Ages of Scripture seem to be connected with humanity. It may be that periods of Divine judgment not only terminate Ages, but mark the close of various worlds of mankind, as at the Flood.

In Eph. 3:9 it is not unreasonable to understand that whatever has been created has been created by God. If the statement seems trite, then trite also is Rev. 4:11 and 10:6, and sundry statements in the Old Testament.

Our next example is Eph. 4:10. "He ascended far above all of the heavens (the heaved ones) that he might fill all these, not all things. 'All these' refers to those of the heavens whom He 'captivated' and to the men to whom He gave gifts. This is not universal. It deals with specific things that are given to specific men." But Mr. Sellers exhibits caution, wisely, "We may not yet have arrived at a full and definitive understanding of Eph. 4:10, but we can be sure that ta panta here does not mean all without exception or distinction." Here again the same argument applies. If "all these" refers to either heavens or human beings, then it would need to have been tous pantas, not ta panta, because in Greek the words for heavens and for men are masculine in form and gender, not neuter.

Who is the human being so bold as to say what limit will be put upon Christ's plenitude in the universe? He who is the Divine Compendium of the universe is not likely to leave unfilled anything or anyone who needs Him.

Our next example is of a different class, Eph. 4:15. Mr. Sellers says "This is another clear example of the truth that ta panta always refers to that which is in the immediate context. If as some insist 'all things' means everything without exception or distinction, then it would follow here that we are to grow up in evil things as well as good things. Paul exhorts us here that in love we should grow up into Him in all this which is the Sum, even Christ." Various observations must be made here. One of the changes made in the 1944 Concordant Version lies here: "we should be making all (ta panta) grow into Him, Who is the Head—Christ." The Greek has no word in before "the all things." Other versions do not shew the word grow as a causative verb, and most of them insert the word in. Moffat reads "wholly," instead of "in all things." At Col. 2:19, the C.V. reads "out of whom the entire body. . . . is growing (in) the growth of God" where the Greek says as Rotherham reads, "growing the growth of God." Contrariwise, 2. Peter 3:18 states "yet be growing in (Gk. en) grace." The presence here of the word in justifies the reading of the C.V. at Eph. 4:15, which omits the word in.

If "all this" (ta panta) is the "Sum" or Head, the Greek word for Head is feminine singular, not neuter plural like ta panta.

Paul simply means that we should cause to grow into Christ all that can grow into Him.

Phil. 3:21 mentions Christ as being enabled even to subject to Himself the all things (ta panta). No proper antecedent can be found which answers to "all these things." If we say the antecedent is the body of our humiliation, must we also say His glorious body is also an antecedent? 1. Cor. 15:26-27 tells us, "A final enemy is being abolished—Death. For all things He subjects under His feet." ALL THINGS universally, with only one exception—the Father. We ought to explain Phil. 3:21 by 1. Cor. 15:27.

At Col. 3:11, if we were to follow Mr. Sellers' principle, we should require to render somewhat as follows: "where there is no room for Greek and Jew, Circumcision and Uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free, but all these and in all—Christ!" This of course, makes the rule quite ridiculous. Christ cannot be all these things! Mr. Sellers does not put matters thus, as he must see his rule does not here help him. He merely says, "In the new man Christ is all this in every one." Christ should be everything in everyone who belongs to Him.

On page 173 Mr. Sellers allows that the word panta standing alone, "all things," can in meaning be "unlimited," and he quotes on page 162 from Mr. C. H. Welch's "Berean Expositor" of November, 1953, to the effect that in Rom. 8:28 "ALL THINGS (panta, good and bad, all things without restriction or limitation) work together for good. . . .." It might be hard to believe that the frozen "South Pole" works for our good, or the sins of other people, or how frightful worldwide wars work together for good. However, Mr. Sellers sets forth the principle that where panta alone is used, without the definite article, as in Heb. 2:8, it means all things without limit, and further, as these all things are again mentioned in the same verse as ta panta (all these), this still means all things without limit. This is strictly in accord with Greek idiom.

Going back now to Heb. 1:2,we find that God's Son was appointed Heir of all things (pantOn; genitive plural neuter). I presume we may take it this word is unlimited in meaning, seeing the definite article is not used. Yet when discussing the next verse, Mr. Sellers says that "carrying on the all things (ta panta) by the word of His power" refers to what has just been mentioned in v. 2. I agree if this means that ta panta is unlimited as in v. 2. Nevertheless Mr. Sellers declares that "the true meaning of ta panta" as already established by him, should still be followed. There seems to be ambiguity here.

I am loath to refer to Rev. 4:11, feeling strongly that here Mr. Sellers reaches a reductio ad absurdum. "Worthy art Thou, Lord and our God to be receiving the glory and the honour and the power. For THOU dost create the all things (ta panta), and because of Thy will they were, and they are created." These words are spoken by the twenty-four Elders, who, in verse 4, are seen on thrones with golden crowns or wreaths on their heads. Mr. Sellers states that these crowns are not decorative head-pieces. "They are symbols of high position, and they tell us that each one of these elders is related to a divine creation or institution, such as a throne, a dominion, a sovereignty or an authority." The elders have cast their crowns before the throne, and utter their paean of praise, saying, "for Thou hast created ALL THESE. . . ." referring to the "glories, honors, and powers which their crowns represented." To inform Jehovah that He was worthy to get glory and honour and power because HE had created these seems very far-fetched and fatuous.

Finally we come to Rev. 5:13. Here Mr. Sellers comes to what seems very like an expression of "absolute universality," the last thing he would like to see in the Revelation, of all places. He says that the "all (ta panta) that are in them" refers to "every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, and in the sea." But surely this is redundant. What can be the difference between "every creature" and "all these?" They are one and the same. Over twenty years ago I gave an explanation of this puzzling verse, derived from the Syriac version. It is set forth on pages 205-211 of the book, "The Unveiling of Jesus Christ," published by the Concordant Publishing Concern of Los Angeles. In the Syriac version, verse 12 runs right on into the middle of verse 13. That is to say, it reads that the Lamb is to get power and riches. . . . and blessing and every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and in the sea and all those that are in these (full stop). It then continues a new sentence, "And I hear Him that is sitting upon the throne saying: 'To the Lamb let there be given blessing. . . . for the Ages of the Ages.'" The Greek text of verse 13 shews a number of uncertainties. While I do not say the Syriac reading is the correct one, it certainly makes straightforward sense, and would solve Mr. Sellers' problem.

To those who think that the Greek word for all without the definite article speaks of something without limitation, I would say, take a look at Phil. 2:14, "Be doing ALL THINGS (panta) without murmurings." Also 1. Cor. 15:22, "For even as in Adam all (pantes) are dying, thus also in Christ shall all (pantes) be made alive." In this verse the all is limited to those in Adam who are dying, who go on dying, but the statement is true of such without limitation. As for Phil. 2:14, does this not mean that all that we do we should do without murmurings?

It is with deep regret that I feel obliged to point out what seem to me to be serious grammatical errors. There is a saying in Britain (not at all popular in these days of wasteful living and extravagance), "Look after the pence and the pounds will look after themselves." I would say this: Look closely after the minute points of Greek and Hebrew grammar and diction, and the exegesis will look after itself.

ALEXANDER THOMSON Last updated 29.9.2005