Words you should know: Kolpon

Words you should know: Kolpon

‘Bosom’ is not a word commonly used these days – perhaps since the bizarre sexualisation of a woman’s body. However, the word Bosom is used in the King James translations of the original Greek word: ‘κόλπον’, pronounced ‘kolpon’.

In more recent translations of John1:18, this intimate idea of being in the ‘κόλπον’ of God has been translated as Jesus being ‘in closest relationship’, ‘near to the Father’s heart’ (NLT), or most commonly, ‘at the Father’s side’ (ESV). When bringing all of these translations together, it’s easy to see what the translators are trying to portray, while avoiding the outdated and perhaps awkward word ‘bosom’.

However, if we only take them in isolation, especially the idea of Jesus just being at ‘the side’ of God, we miss the intentional level of intimacy, care, and oneness John is trying to portray here. John, as a writer, was always keen to emphasise the unity of God and Jesus as one, and here he is doing it again. The phrase is also used in Luke 16:22 describing how, as a man died, he was taken to the ‘bosom’ of Abraham — in other words ‘joined in death’, a pretty united and complete state! Once again, this has more recently been translated as ‘at the side’ of, slightly undermining the all-encompassing nature of the phrase. Understanding the full nature of this word reminds us that we aren’t just called to be at the side of God, but invited into the closest union with Him, through Jesus.  

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