There are three occasions when the word 'Godhead' is used in scripture and on each occasion a different Greek word is used, thus giving an 'individuality' to each occasion.

In Acts 17:29 ό θειον (ho Theion) 'the Divine' or 'the Godhead', is said to be not material like 'gold or silver or stone, graven by art or man's device'.

In Romans 1:20, the 'invisible things of God are clearly seen' ... 'even his eternal power and θειοτης (Theiotes) Godhead'.

In Colossians 2:9, Paul states that 'in him' (that is to say, in Christ) 'dwelleth, bodily, all the fulness of the Godhead θεοτητος (Theotetos)'.

This is not a quirk of any one translation but is a fundamental aspect of the original Greek and it demonstrates an 'individuality' being applied to the only three occasions in scripture in which this particular wording is used.

They are not inflections of the same word, nor are they parts of speech deriving from a common parent : they are distinctly different Greek words.

The last two words are never otherwise used in scripture and the first one is only used two times more, as an adjectival form (not a noun form, with an article, as above) in regard to 'divine power', 1 Peter 1:3, and 'divine nature', 2 Peter 1:4.

I wonder if the Nicene Fathers (such as Athanasius) commented on this rather remarkable feature of expression in that three individual terms are used, on only three occasions, by two different writers (Luke and Paul) to express the 'Godhead'.

My information on the three different words comes from Bagster's Analytical Greek Lexicon, 1900 edition ; from Young's Analytical Concordance 1879, 8th edition ; and from the Englishman's Greek New Testament 1870.

The three textual quotations are taken from the KJV (1769).

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    One Greek Interlinear I have (Trinitarian) renders those 3 verses as: the Godhead, Godhead, the Godhead, respectively. Another Greek Interlinear (anti-Trinitarian) renders them as: the Divine Being, Godship, the divine quality, respectively. I checked a Catholic Encyclopedia of Theology under 'Sensus Divinitatus' (Knowability of God) spotting Rom.1:18-21 as stating that God can be known, quoting the phrase in question as "his eternal power and deity". But it had nothing in the lengthy section about Nicene Fathers comments on this. I hope someone can present a polished gem here.
    – Anne
    Commented Feb 15, 2022 at 11:44
  • Aren't the words all derivations of theos? Commented Feb 15, 2022 at 22:15
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    @MikeBorden They are separate words. They are associated concepts. Yes, they may be derived from Theos. But they are individual words with definite shades of meaning. They are not inflections of Theos. Nor are they different parts of speech expressing the same word.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Feb 15, 2022 at 22:29
  • Godhead means Godhood. Like father-hood, or brother-hood. It does not mean 3 persons/gods of 1 essence. en.wiktionary.org/wiki/godhead Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 20:13
  • 2
    @ReadLessPrayMore Wikipedia sources are not always the best. But it does contradict your statement: "Godhead (or godhood) refers to the essence or substance (ousia) of God in Christianity — God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Mar 3, 2023 at 23:38

4 Answers 4


Does any Nicene Father comment on the triple expression of ”Godhead” in Scripture and the three individual words used to express it?

Unfortunately, there seems to be no Nicene Church Father that have “commented on this rather remarkable feature of expression in that three individual terms are used, on only three occasions, by two different writers (Luke and Paul) to express the 'Godhead'.”

It is a true mystery that no Church Father caught sense of this gem! It now adds to the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity in itself...The mystery of the Trinity has shades of contemplation that are coming to light as the Church grows in age and maturity.

The term Godhead is found three times in Sacred Scripture: Acts 17:29; Romans 1:20; and Colossians 2:9. In each of the three verses, a slightly different Greek word is used, but the definition of each is the same: “deity” or “divine nature.” The word Godhead is used to refer to God’s essential nature. We’ll take a look at each of these passages and what they mean.

None of the Church Fathers, especially the Greek Church Father seem to have caught on to the particular gem, derived from the Sacred Scriptures in it’s original Greek! It is a true mystery none did so.

The Church Fathers have written commentaries on these various passages separately, but not in relationship to one another.

Here follows the the texts in both Greek and English from the King James Version. Not all English versions employ the word Godhead in their translations!

29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. - Acts 17:29

29 γένος οὖν ὑπάρχοντες τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ὀφείλομεν νομίζειν χρυσῷ ἢ ἀργύρῳ ἢ λίθῳ, χαράγματι τέχνης καὶ ἐνθυμήσεως ἀνθρώπου, τὸ θεῖον εἶναι ὅμοιον. - Acts 17:29

20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. - Romans 1:20

20 τὰ γὰρ ἀόρατα αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ κτίσεως κόσμου τοῖς ποιήμασιν νοούμενα καθορᾶται, ἥ τε ἀΐδιος αὐτοῦ δύναμις καὶ θειότης, εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἀναπολογήτους. - Romans 1:20

9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. Colossians 2:9

9 ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ κατοικεῖ πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τῆς θεότητος σωματικῶς. - Colossians 2:9

As I said before, the Church Fathers have commented on the Scriptural passages at hand, but not as a feature of expression in that three individual terms are used, on only three occasions, by two different Sacred Writers.

For example, St. John Chrysostom commented on Acts 17:29, in Homily 38 on the Acts of the Apostles Unfortunately, in it he makes no reference to the other two passages whatsoever.

The following articles may be of interest to some:

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    +1 -- I guess a simple "no" wouldn't do! Commented Mar 4, 2023 at 2:07

Athanasius speaks directly about Romans 1:20 as God's "power and divinity".

For the Blessed Paul said not that he preached Christ, His, that is, God’s, ‘own Power’ or ‘Wisdom,’ but without the article, ‘God’s Power and God’s Wisdom’ (1 Cor. i. 24), preaching that the own power of God Himself was distinct, which was con-natural and co-existent with Him unoriginately, generative indeed of Christ, creative of the whole world; concerning which he teaches in his Epistle to the Romans, thus, ‘The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things which are made, even His eternal power and divinity’ (Rom. i. 20). For as no one would say that the Deity there mentioned was Christ, but the Father Himself, so, as I think, His eternal power is also not the Only-begotten God (Joh. i. 18), but the Father who begat Him. History of Arian Opinions

And here.

‘Blessed Paul said not that he preached Christ, the Power of God or the Wisdom of God,’ but without the addition of the article, ‘God’s power’ and ‘God’s wisdom2453,’ thus preaching that the proper Power of God Himself which is natural to Him, and co-existent in Him ingenerately, is something besides, generative indeed of Christ, and creative of the whole world, concerning which he teaches in his Epistle to the Romans thus,—‘The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal Power and Godhead2454.’ For as no one would say that the Godhead there mentioned was Christ, but the Father Himself, so, as I think, ‘His eternal Power and Godhead also is not the Only Begotten Son, but the Father who begat Him2455. Discourse II Chapter XVIII P 37

As to Colossians 2:9, Athanasius says this,

that whereas He was ever God, and hallowed those to whom He came, and ordered all things according to the Father’s will3020, afterwards for our sakes He became man, and ‘bodily3021,’ as the Apostle says, the Godhead dwelt in the flesh; as much as to say, ‘Being God, He had His own body, and using this as an instrument3022, He became man for our sakes.’ And on account of this, the properties of the flesh are said to be His, since He was in it, such as to hunger, to thirst, to suffer, to weary, and the like, of which the flesh is capable; while on the other hand the works proper to the Word Himself, such as to raise the dead, to restore sight to the blind, and to cure the woman with an issue of blood, He did through His own body3023. And the Word bore the infirmities of the flesh, as His own, for His was the flesh; and the flesh ministered to the works of the Godhead, because the Godhead was in it, for the body was God’s3024 Discourse III Chapter XXVI P 31

He speaks of the Godhead here.

They, that they might transgress the Law, pretended to be anxious for the words of the Law, and that they might deny the expected and then present Lord, were hypocritical with God’s name, and were convicted of blaspheming when they said, ‘Why dost Thou, being a man, make Thyself God,’ and sayest, ‘I and the Father are one1836?’ And so too, this counterfeit and Sotadean Arius, feigns to speak of God, introducing Scripture language1837, but is on all sides recognised as godless1838 Arius, denying the Son, and reckoning Him among the creatures. Against Arius

Here is the footnote 1838.

1838 And so godless or atheist Aetius, de Syn. 6, note 3, cf. note on de Decr. 1, for an explanation of the word. In like manner Athan. says, ad Serap. iii. 2, that if a man says ‘that the Son is a creature, who is word and Wisdom, and the Expression, and the Radiance, whom whoso seeth seeth the Father,’ he falls under the text, ‘Whoso denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father.’ ‘Such a one,’ he continues, ‘will in no long time say, as the fool, There is no God.’ In like manner he speaks of those who think the Son to be the Spirit as ‘without (ἔξω) the Holy Trinity, and atheists’ (Serap. iv. 6), because they really do not believe in the God that is, and there is none other but He. Cf. also Serap. i. 30. Eustathius speaks of the Arians as ἀνθρώπους ἀθέους, who were attempting κρατῆσαι τοῦ θείου. ap. Theod. Hist. i. 7. p. 760. Naz. speaks of the heathen πολύθεος ἀθεΐα. Orat. 25. 15. and he calls faith and regeneration ‘a denial of atheism, ἀθεΐας, and a confession of godhead, θεότητος,’ Orat. 23. 12. He calls Lucius, the Alexandrian Anti-pope, on account of his cruelties, ‘this second Arius, the more copious river of the atheistic spring, τῆς ἀθέου πηγῆς.’ Orat. 25. 11. Palladius, the Imperial officer, is ἀνὴρ ἄθεος. ibid. 12.

Athanasius is using the word to contrast Arius' belief in a created Christ, rather than Christ of the Godhead.

I don't find any direct reference to Acts 17:29 and the term used there.


I wonder if the Nicene Fathers (such as Athanasius) commented ...

In my search of ante-Nicene patristic commenters, I found:

1. On ACTS 17:29, none.

2. On ROM 1:20 --
        a. Clement;
        b. Tatian;
        c. Tertullian;
        d. Hippolytus of Rome;
        e. Origen, and
        f. Novatian.

3. On COL 2:9 --
        a. Irenaeus,
        b. Tertullian, and
        c. Hippolytus.
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    1. Did any of those listed comment on the word? 2. I appreciate the information on the ante-Nicene Fathers, which is very valuable but the question does ask about Nicene Fathers. Commented Mar 7, 2023 at 0:25
  • There are pre-Nicene church fathers who wrote before the first ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325 CE), and there are post-Nicene church fathers who wrote after that council. What do you mean by the term "Nicene Fathers"? Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 22:06
  • Other than Athanasius I’m not sure of the cut off the OP has, but ante-Nicene are by definition before. Commented Mar 12, 2023 at 0:31
  • Rev. Lad, your definition is correct, and the sainted names I listed were all ante-Nicene writers; i.e., pre-Council of Nicaea commenters. As a church bishop, Athanasius would have written between the years 325 (when the Council of Nicaea convened) and his death in 373 CE, which puts him in the post-Nicene category. Commented Mar 12, 2023 at 14:18

Godhead= Divinity or Deity

The noun G2305 θειότης theiotes meaning divinity, and the adjective G2304 θεῖος theios are not remarkable, gem, enigma nor do they reveal a mystery. "Divinity" is a noun that refers to the quality of being divine or having divine nature. The words used for Godhead mean deity or divinity, state of being divine; godhead, godhood or god-ness. See Godhead on ISBE, and on A Dictionary of the Bible- Dealing with Its Language, Literature, and Contents, Including the Biblical Theology, By John Alexander Selbie, 1899.

The three references (compare English and Latin), you have cited are derived from the same root word theos, synonyms and inflections. Inflection is the change of form a noun, adjective, verb, etc., undergoes to distinguish its case, gender, mood, number, voice, etc.

The Acts 17:29 ref Θεῖον (see theios) is an adjective, accusative; in Romans 1:20, it is a noun in nominative; and in Col 2:9, a similar word in genitive. One is adjective, two are synonymous abstract nouns. The two nouns are to be analysed.

Theotes and Theiotes

Theotes and Theiotes are abstract nouns. Theiotes is a noun derived by adding the tes suffix to the adjective theios; whereas the former, Theotes is an abstract noun derived by adding tes to the concrete noun Theos which is the root word for all 3 words. Abstract nouns are those which are intangible, describing a concept, as opposed to concrete or common nouns which refers to a particular object or person which is tangible and real. There is an excellent answer here with the lexical analysis Theotes, on the Colossians verse question.

Theotes and Theiotes are therefore synonyms, as listed in Thayer's lexicon:

θεότης, θεότητος, ἡ (deitas, Tertullian, Augustine (de 104: Dei 7, 1)), deity i.e. the state of being God, Godhead: Col 2:9. (Lucian, Icar. 9; Plutarch, de defect. orac. 10, p. 415 c.)
(Synonyms: θεότης, θειότης: θεότης deity differs from θειότης divinity, as essence differs from quality or attribute; cf. Trench, sec. ii.; Lightfoot or Meyer on Colossians, the passage cited; Fritzsche on Rom 1:20.)

To simplify, θεότης is the concrete noun based abstract noun; and θειότης theiotes with an i is the adjective based abstract noun; as the following describes, theiotes expresses a more general divine attributes as understood from Romans and Acts context; whereas theotes expresses a more essential divinity, it is focused towards a more definite sense, a concrete or proper God, as in Colossians. I searched the two words with "church fathers" on google books advanced search, and to quote from Synonyms of the New Testament, Fifth edition, revised By Richard Chenevix TRENCH (Archbishop of Dublin.) · 1871; which is actually available in digital format:

θεότης and θειότης: And that this distinction between ‘deity’ and ‘divinity,’ if I may use these words to represent severally θεότης and θειότης, is one which would be strongly felt, and which therefore would seek its utterance in Christian theology, of this we have signal proof in the fact that the Latin Christian writers were not satisfied with ‘divinitas,’ which they found ready to their hand in the writings of Cicero and others; and which they sometimes were content to use (see Piper, Theol. Stud. u. Krit. 1875, p. 79 sqq.); but themselves coined ‘deitas’ as the only adequate Latin representative of the Greek θεότης. We have Augustine’s express testimony to the fact (De Civ. Dei, vii. 1). ‘Hanc divinitatem, vel ut sic dixerim deitatem; nam et hoc verbo uti jam nostros non piget, ut de Graeco expressius transferant id quod illi θεότητα appellant, &c.;’ cf. x. 1, 2. But not to urge this, nor yet the different etymologies of the words, that one is τὸ εἰναί τινα θεόν, the other τὸ εἰναί τινα [or τι] θεῖον, which so clearly point to this difference in their meanings, examples, so far as they can be adduced, go to support the same. Both θεότης and θειότης, as in general the abstract words in every language, are of late introduction; and one of them, θεότης, is extremely rare. Indeed, only two examples of it from classical Greek have hitherto been brought, forward, one from Lucian (Icarom. 9); the other from Plutarch (De Def. Orac. 10): οὕτως ἐκ μὲν ἀνθρώπων εἰς ἥρωας, ἐκ δὲ ἡρώων εἰς δαίμονας, αἱ βελτίονες ψυχαὶ τὴν μεταβολὴν λαμβάνουσιν. ἐκ δὲ δαιμόνων ὀλίγαι μὲν ἔτι χρόνῳ πολλῷ δι᾽ ἀρετῆς καθαρθεῖσαι παντάπασι θεότητος μετέσχον: but to these a third, that also from Plutarch (De Isid. et Osir. 22), may be added. In all of these it expresses, in agreement with the view here asserted, Godhead in the absolute sense, or at all events in as absolute a sense as the heathen could conceive it. Θειότης is a very much commoner word; and its employment everywhere bears out the distinction here drawn. There is ever a manifestation of the divine, of some divine attributes, in that to which θειότης is attributed, but never absolute essential Deity. Thus Lucian (De Cal. 17) attributes θειότης to Hephaestion, when after his death Alexander would have raised him to the rank of a god; and Plutarch speaks of the θειότης τῆς ψυχῆς, De Plac. Phil. v. 1; cf. De Is. et Os. 2; Sull. 6; with various other passages to the like effect.

It may be observed, in conclusion, that whether this distinction was intended, as I am fully persuaded it was, by St. Paul or not, it established itself firmly in the later theological language of the Church—the Greek Fathers using never θειότης, but always θεότης, as alone adequately expressing the essential Godhead of the Three several Persons in the Holy Trinity.

Although not focused lexically, I'd still quote one of the Church fathers on Col 2:9, using the Catena Bible site.

Ambrose of Milan AD 397
The law has proved God’s oneness. It speaks of one God, as also the apostle when he says of Christ: “In whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” For if, as the apostle says, all the fullness of the Godhead, bodily, is in Christ, then must the Father and the Son be confessed to be of one Godhead. Or if one desired to sunder the Godhead of the Son from the Godhead of the Father, as long as the Son possesses all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, what is supposed to be further reserved, seeing that nothing remains over and above the fullness of perfection? Therefore the Godhead is one.

  • Thank you for the answer. I assume the down vote stems from what is a lack of clarity. The three words are distinct. That they are synonyms does not change the fact they are not the same, which your answer seems to imply. Can you clarify? Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 15:16
  • I hope there's no doubt and objection now.
    – Michael16
    Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 15:42
  • Perhaps but I do not think so. The opening provided seems to me to be saying "they are all pretty much the same word" which is incorrect. The down voter did not make a comment but the sense I get from the opening is "there is nothing of substance; the three words are essentially the same." Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 15:56
  • Thanks, you're right, actually I was considering them as one word, bec they have the same root; though after writing more I did see the slight difference. I fixed it now.
    – Michael16
    Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 16:04

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