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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Colossians 1

 

 

Verse 1

1. Παῦλος. His Gentile name, used, presumably, in intercourse with Gentiles even before his conversion, but from the time that he began his specifically Gentile work (Acts 13:9) always employed in St Luke’s narrative (contrast Acts 22:7; Acts 22:13; Acts 26:14) and in St Paul’s epistles. Possibly had he written a formal epistle to Hebrew-Christians he would have used his Jewish name.

ἀπόστολος. Both the name and the office of an apostle appear to be taken from Judaism, although there is no direct reference to Jewish “apostles” before the time of Christianity. In the LXX. the word ἀπόστολος is found in the form of 1 Kings 14:6 recorded by A (not B), where it is intended to translate the passive participle shaluaḥ “sent,” Ahijah, of whom the word is used, being regarded as God’s ἀπόστολος. But this is not an example of the use of the word in its more technical sense.

Possibly 2 Chronicles 17:7-8 is a real example of the thing, though only the verb ἀπέστειλεν (shâlaḥ) is used, not the substantive. It has moreover been noticed (Krauss, Jew. Quart. Rev., Jan. 1905, p. 382) that here Jehoshaphat sends five princes, and with them a body of ten Levites and two priests (i.e. twelve, representing presumably the twelve tribes as did the Christian apostles), who are commissioned to take the Book of the Law and to go round teaching it.

In post-Christian times Jewish “apostles” appear to have been members of the Sanhedrin, chosen to go to various parts of the Diaspora for the double purpose of giving instruction and of receiving alms, and to have had a certain amount of disciplinary power. Saul of Tarsus himself very nearly, if not quite, satisfies the description when he is commissioned to go to Damascus.

On the New Testament conception of both name and office see Lightfoot’s classical note in Galatians (pp. 92–101, edit. 1869). As a translation “envoy” perhaps best represents it. St Paul here of course employs it in its narrower sense, reminiscent as this doubtless still was of its employment by our Lord when ἐποίησεν δώδεκα, οὓς καί ἀποστόλους ὠνόμασεν, ἵνα ὧσιν μετʼ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἵνα ἀποστέλλῃ αὐτοὺς κηρύσσειν καὶ ἔχειν ἐξουσίαν ἐκβάλλειν τὰ δαιμόνια (Mark 3:14-15).

St Paul has the word also in the same emphatic position in 1 Cor. (prefixing κλητός), 2 Cor., Gal., Ephesians , 1 and 2 Tim., and in a secondary place in Rom., Titus. But in Phil., where he is sure of full sympathy and has too no need to lay stress on his authority and privileges, he says only Παῦλος καὶ Τιμόθεος δοῦλοι Χρ. Ἰησ.; in Philem., where he wishes to draw out sympathy, only δέσμιος Χρ. Ἰησ.; and in his early letters 1 and 2 Thes. before, perhaps, his authority was impugned by messengers from Jerusalem (cf. Galatians 2:12) he adds no designation at all.

Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ. The more common order in greetings after ἀπόστολος, probably because it lays more stress on official as compared with personal relation.

διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ. In salutations 1 Cor., 2 Cor., Eph., 2 Tim., cf. Romans 15:32, 2 Corinthians 8:5. The phrase is double-edged. On the one hand it expresses to St Paul’s heart his own unworthiness, for his call to the apostleship was not by the will of man (himself or another), but by that of God. On the other hand, it gives him courage, and also invests him with authority in the eyes of others, cf. Galatians 1:1.

διὰ. God’s will was the antecedent condition of his call and was the means of its being made. The words also suggest that even Christ had not acted arbitrarily, as it were, in commissioning him, but had carried God’s will into effect.

καὶ Τιμόθεος. Leaving the Pastorals out of consideration we see that in all his Epistles, save Rom. and Eph. (the former a semi-treatise and the latter a circular letter), St Paul joins others with him in the salutation; viz. Sosthenes (1 Cor.), Timothy (2 Cor., Phil., Col., Phm.), Silvanus and Timothy (1 Thes., 2 Thes.), “all the brethren who are with me” (Gal.). St Paul, that is to say, associates someone with himself in the salutation unless there are special reasons for the contrary. Timothy would have become known to some Colossians during his stay at Ephesus with St Paul. Observe that in this Epistle he maintains the reference to Timothy to the end by the use of the plural. “The exceptions (Colossians 1:28, Colossians 4:3) are rather apparent than real” (Lightfoot). Moulton (Gram. Proleg. 1906, p. 86), however, shows reasons for thinking that I and we are used without any distinction in late Greek literature and the papyri. It is hard to believe that St Paul was equally careless.

ὁ ἀδελφὸς, without the article—isolation; with it—fellowship. Four other Epistles also have “the brother” (= Timothy, 2 Cor., Philem.; = Sosthenes, 1 Cor.) or “the brethren” (Gal.) in the first half of the salutation, i.e. the mention of another with himself in the salutation frequently leads St Paul at once to think of the brotherhood. In no case (save Ephes. and the Pastorals) is the thought of the brotherhood put off for more than a few verses, for St Paul likes to address his readers as ἀδελφοί (e.g. Romans 1:13). In Col. alone he puts ἀδελφοῖς into the second half of the salutation.

“Brother” as a term signifying religious relationship is of course far from peculiar to Christianity, though its significance was immensely developed by it. ἀδελφοί was used of members of religious associations and guilds at least as early as the 2nd century B.C. (see Deissmann, Bible Studies, 1901, pp. 87, 142; see also Ramsay, Cities and Bishoprics, pp. 96 sqq., 630). Even in the O. T. we may see the privileges of “brother” extended to all Israelites, and even to foreigners who claimed the protection of Jehovah (Gêrim), cf. Leviticus 19:17-18; Leviticus 19:34. In the N.T. ἀδελφοί is used (a) of Jews as such, Acts 2:29; Acts 2:37; Acts 3:17 (cf. 2 Maccabees 1:1), (b) of Christians as such; see (besides in the Epistles) especially John 21:23; Acts 11:1; Acts 15:23 b. Cf. ἀδελφότης, 1 Peter 2:17; 1 Peter 5:9†, and φιλαδελφία, 1 Peter 1:22 (where see Hort); cf. φιλάδελφος, 2 Maccabees 15:14.


Verse 1-2

1, 2. Salutation

(Colossians 1:1) Paul, Christ Jesus’ Envoy by God’s will, and Timothy, one of the Brotherhood, (Colossians 1:2) to those in Colossae who are at once consecrated to God and faithful members of the Brotherhood in Christ—God, the Father of us believers, give you grace and protection.

In beginning his letter with his own name St Paul is following the usual custom of his time (for exceptions see P. Ewald on Ephesians 1:1).


Verse 2

2. In the second half of the salutation observe:

[1] The dative suggests the omission either of χαίρειν (λέγω); Acts 23:26, James 1:1, 2 Maccabees 1:1, or, more probably, simply γράφω. [2] ἀδελφοῖς occurs nowhere else in such a position (vide supra). [3] A comparison of the other salutations where ἁγίοις occurs shows that in 2 Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, Philippians 1:1 certainly, and in Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:2 probably, ἁγίοις is not a mere epithet, “holy,” but rather “holy ones,” “saints.” [4] Hence καὶ πιστοῖς ἀδ. ἐν Χῷ. is added by way of further definition; cf. Ephesians 1:1. [5] We do not find here τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ (as in 1 Corinthians 1:2, 1 Thessalonians 1:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:1, Philemon 1:2) or ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις (Galatians 1:2)[95]. St Paul here regards his readers not as united into one whole, or into several communities, but primarily as individuals set apart for God. That, however, he closely connected the thought of οἱ ἅγιοι with that of ἡ ἑκκλησία may be assumed in view of the fact that both are taken over from Jewish usage (for ἑκκλησία, Acts 7:38, and for οἱ ἅγιοι cf. Matthew 27:52 with Acts 9:13, on which last passage Hort remarks, “Members of the holy Ecclesia of Israel were themselves holy by the mere fact of membership, and this prerogative phrase is here boldly transferred to the Christians by the bold Damascene disciple,” The Christian Ecclesia, p. 56). [6] He does not repeat the article before ἀδελφοῖς lest he should seem to differentiate the persons. He regards them first as saints towards God, and then as brethren towards each other.

πιστοῖς. This is almost certainly used in the passive sense of “trustworthy,” proved “faithful,” and not in the active sense of “believing,” “trustful.”

For [1] in classical literature the active sense “is confined to half-a-dozen passages from poets, one from Plato, Leg. 1:824 B (perhaps a quotation from a poet), and one from Dion Cassius 37:12, where πιστός with a negative = ἄπιστος, which often has the active sense.” Also “neither in the LXX. nor in any other Greek Jewish book (Apocrypha, etc.) does πιστός have the distinctly active sense” (Hort on 1 Peter 1:21).

[2] Further, in every case in the N.T. where it = “believing” (John 20:27; Acts 10:45; Acts 16:1; 2 Corinthians 6:15; Galatians 3:9 prob.; 1 Timothy 4:3; 1 Timothy 4:10; 1 Timothy 4:12; 1 Timothy 5:16; 1 Timothy 6:2; Titus 1:6) it is used either absolutely or semi-absolutely, predicating belief of those who would not necessarily be believers. It never occurs, that is to say, as a mere epithet of those who are known to be already believing. Thus “believing brethren” would be tautology. Ephesians 1:1 is indeed doubtful, but is probably to be interpreted passively on the analogy of our passage.

For πιστός with ἀδελφός see Colossians 4:9 (cf. Colossians 1:7); 1 Peter 5:12. By calling them “faithful” St Paul wishes to imply that they at least have not yielded to the temptations against which he is about to warn them. In 1 Peter 5:12 ὡς λογίζομαι is added, but it is not St Paul’s way so to modify his statements, especially in the opening words of an epistle. In Galatians 6:16, Ephesians 6:24 the exclusion of others from his greetings is more marked.

ἐν Χριστῷ. In view of the non-Christian, yet religious, use of ἀδελφοί (Colossians 1:1 note) such an addition was perhaps necessary. We may say that while ἀδελφοί regards believers externally, and πιστοί their inner disposition tested by behaviour, ἐν Χριστῷ both defines that in which they are brethren, and points to the reality in which alone true brotherhood takes its rise and is maintained. On the absence of τοῖς before of ἐν Χριστῷ see Colossians 1:8 end.

χάρις ὑμῖν. The epistolary formula χαίρειν common among heathen (2 Maccabees 9:19, Acts 23:26; cf. also the examples given from the papyri in J. A. R. Ephesians, p. 276) and Jews (2 Maccabees 1:1), and even among Christians (Acts 15:23; James 1:1) is here ennobled by St Paul. He wants for his brethren more than greeting and joy, even God’s grace. χαίρις here doubtless comprises the fullest sense of the word, both God’s favour and His power freely given.

καὶ εἰρήνη). Not, apparently, a heathen formula, though compare Dan. 3:98 = Daniel 4:1 (LXX. and Theod.) of Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel 6:25 (Theod.) of Darius, but Jewish. Perhaps derived from the high priest’s blessing, Numbers 6:26. It occurs in David’s message to Nabal, 1 Samuel 25:5 (ἐρωτήσατε αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί μου εἰς εἰρήνην). It is found with χαίρειν in 2 Maccabees 1:1.

As used by St Paul after χάρις, which assumes that all is right between the soul and God, it probably refers not so much to inward peace as to external, the disposition of their affairs by God in such a way as to bring them quietness and happiness. The Christian greeting will then chiefly mean: May God’s mercies be given to you, and His protection be ever round you! But of course this protection will reach to body, soul, and spirit.

ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν. The thought is not of God as the universal Father (Acts 17:28), but as Father of those who are in Christ, among whom St Paul includes himself. On the omission of καὶ κυρίον Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ in the true text see the notes on Textual Criticism. The formula “Grace and Peace” is found in every epistle except Heb., James , 1 and 3 John (Jude), and is increased by “mercy” in 1 and 2 Tim., 2 John. St Paul, save in 1 Thes., always adds the Source of these blessings, limiting it to the Father here only. His reason for so limiting it here perhaps lies in the fact that in Colossians 1:3, and frequently in this epistle, he brings out the special relationship of Christ to the Father, and he therefore avoids a phrase that, in itself, might support independence. He thus lays stress on God as the Father of believers (Colossians 1:2), and in a special sense the Father of “our Lord Jesus” (Colossians 1:3).


Verse 3

3. εὐχαριστοῦμεν. In all St Paul’s Epistles except Gal. and the Pastorals he thanks immediately after the salutation, always employing εὐχαριστεῖν save in 2 Cor. and Eph. (yet cf. Ephesians 1:16). Cf. Colossians 2:7, Colossians 3:15. The plural is to include Timothy; contrast Colossians 1:24.

τῷ θεῷ πατρὶ τ. κυρ. ἡμ. Ἰησ. [Χριστοῦ]. See the notes on Textual Criticism. “We thank the God (and) Father of our Lord Jesus [Christ].”

Though θεὸς πατήρ is fairly common in St Paul’s Epp.† yet ὁ θεὸς πατὴρ occurs only here and Colossians 3:17, and possibly in Colossians 1:12, in each of these three cases following εὐχαριστεῖν. Observe that when the object of εὐχαριστεῖν in the N.T. is God the article is invariably used (e.g. 1 Thessalonians 1:2). Hence the article here appears to be due to the presence of εὐχαριστεῖν, and θεῷ πατρὶ is probably the same combined expression as in Colossians 1:2 and wherever else it comes. In other words, He is here represented as both the θεός and the πατήρ of our Lord. For the double thought compare John 20:17; Romans 15:6; 2 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 11:31; Ephesians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3, and perhaps 1 Corinthians 15:24. Cf. also esp. 2 Peter 1:17, and for αεός also Matthew 27:46, Ephesians 1:17. See also the notes on Colossians 2:2 τοῦ θεοῦ, Χριστοῦ.

Notice that of the two emendations of the text the var. lect. καὶ πατρί gives practically the same sense, while the “Western” reading τῷ θεῷ τῷ πατρί presumably requires τῷ θεῷ to be taken alone—“we thank God (absolutely), the Father of,” etc.

πάντοτε, “we thank … always when we pray for you.” Probably with εὐχαριστοῦμεν, notwithstanding the distance. Cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Ephesians 5:20; Philemon 1:4.

περὶ ὑμῶν προσευχόμενοι. See the notes on Textual Criticism, and contrast Colossians 1:9. Though περὶ ὑμῶν frequently occurs with πάντοτε (1 Corinthians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:13) it is here probably to be taken primarily with προσευχ., which would otherwise stand rather baldly. περὶ ὑμ. προσ. defines the times and occasions to which πάντοτε refers. περὶ ὑμῶν thus loses the emphasis it would acquire if προσ. were independent of εὐχαρπάντοτε περὶ ὑμῶν.


Verses 3-8

3–8. Introductory thanksgiving for their effective reception of the Gospel in the true form of it taught them first by Epaphras

(Colossians 1:3) We both always thank the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ when we pray for you; (Colossians 1:4) for we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your continual love towards all the saints; (Colossians 1:5) these being due to your reception of the news of your glorious future in the heavens, which you heard of before you were exposed to later errors, in the message of the Gospel in its integrity which is come unto you. (Colossians 1:6) But indeed you are not alone in this. It is already even in all the world, continually producing life and the results of life, and spreading—just as it does with you. For this was so with you from the very first; you recognised God’s surprising mercy accurately, (Colossians 1:7) This knowledge of yours corresponded to what you learned by word of mouth from Epaphras, who is our rightly-loved fellow-servant in the work Christ gave us to do, carrying out work faithfully for our benefit as a minister sent by the Messiah. (Colossians 1:8) It was he too who told us plainly about your love (as I said in Colossians 1:4) towards others in the new sphere of the Spirit in which you now live.


Verse 4

4. ἀκούσαντες, ‘for we heard.’ Prob. not temporal, but causal. Cf. Ephesians 1:15; contrast Philemon 1:5.

τὴν πίστιν ὑμῶν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. The article is often omitted before ἐν Χρ. Ἰησ.; cf. also Colossians 1:8. In the spoken language the absence of the article would be easily supplemented by the tone.

ἐν—here marking not the sphere, but the object of faith—centred on Christ and resting in Him, cf. Galatians 3:26. It is thus rather fuller in thought than εἰς, Colossians 2:5. Hence perhaps the curious change from ἐν to εἰς in Ephesians 1:15 if ἀγάπην is not genuine there.

καὶ τὴν ἀγάπην. In Ephesians 1:15 (W.H.) love is not expressly mentioned, but is regarded as part of faith.

ἀγάπην. Not found before the LXX., yet in view of the fact that it occurs with comparative frequency there (perhaps twenty times in all, of which eleven are in Cant.) it is curious that no certain occurrence of it seems to be yet found in the papyri, and but once in Philo (see Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 199). Yet the number of words supposed to have been coined by the LXX. translators is diminishing so rapidly that it is very improbable that this will remain to them.

[ἣν ἔχετε] See notes on Textual Criticism. Apparently unique, but Philemon 1:5 is very similar.

εἰς πάντας τοὺς ἁγίους, “toward all the saints,” R.V.; cf. Philippians 4:22 and 2 Thessalonians 1:3.


Verse 5

5. διὰ τὴν ἐλπίδα κ.τ.λ. This should be taken with the whole sentence from τὴν πίστιν onwards. Both the faith and the love of the Colossians are stated to be due to the news of the glorious future brought to them by the Gospel. We have thus the triple idea of faith, love, and hope (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:8-9). That hope is objective here causes but little difficulty, for it implies and includes the subjective meaning.

Observe that “hope” is given a much more important part in the N.T. than in our popular theology. To the heathen the good news of a real heaven, a blessed life after death, must have proved a special means of leading them to faith on Christ. Contrast Ephesians 2:12. Compare infra, Colossians 1:27. For the connexion of hope with faith compare 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10.

τὴν ἀποκειμένην ὑμῖν, “the hope that is laid by for you,” Luke 19:20; 2 Timothy 4:8; Hebrews 9:27†. Frequently in the Classics of money put on one side so that it may be brought out in due course. Compare Luke 19:20, the talent in the napkin. In Deuteronomy 32:34 Symm. translates כָּמֻם† “laid up in store,” R.V., by ἀπόκειται. For reference to the glory reserved for the Christian cf. 2 Timothy 4:8, and the difficult passage, 2 Maccabees 12:45. For the thought cf. also 1 Peter 1:4.

ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς, Colossians 1:16 note.

ἣν προηκούσατε† (not in LXX.). The frequent difficulty of correctly interpreting a word not in itself difficult may be seen here, where the value of the preposition in the compound verb has been understood in at least seven different ways. Of these only two appear to be worthy of mention: [1] It may mean “before exercising faith and love.” The words of the truth etc. contained the message of this “hope.” [2] More probably, however, it means “before you heard the later lessons of the false teachers,” cf. 23. See also the next note.

ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τῆς ἀληθείας τοῦ εὐαγγελίου. Here only, though see Ephesians 1:13. But ἡ ἀλήθεια τ. εὐαγγ. occurs in Galatians 2:5; Galatians 2:14†, where it means the Gospel in its integrity as compared with Judaistic perversions of it. So also here St Paul probably is silently contrasting a false conception of the Gospel, cf. ἐν ἀληθείᾳ, Colossians 1:6.

λόγος here is presumably the message spoken by the first preacher to the Colossians, apparently Epaphras, Colossians 1:7. Compare Acts 15:7; Matthew 13:19. Contrast ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ, Colossians 1:25 note.


Verse 6

6. τοῦ παρόντος εἰς ὑμᾶς, “which (i.e. the Gospel) is come unto you.” πάρειμι εἰς† frequently in Classics, e.g. Thuc. vi. 88, cf. 1 Maccabees 11:63. In N.T. with πρός, Acts 12:20; 2 Corinthians 11:8; Galatians 4:18; Galatians 4:20†.

καθὼς. He wishes to bring out the fact that they do not stand alone. Others, yes even the whole world, are experiencing the vigorous life of the true Gospel.

καὶ ἐν παντὶ τῷ κόσμῳ. πᾶς ὁ κόσμος, Romans 3:19†, cf. “Mark” Mark 16:15. ὅλος ὁ κ., Romans 1:8; 1 John 2:2; Matthew 16:26 (|| Luke), Matthew 26:13 (|| Mark)†. An hyperbole (Colossians 1:23, 1 Thessalonians 1:8 b; 2 Corinthians 2:14; Romans 1:8; cf. Romans 10:18) made easier to St Paul by his habit of choosing important towns as his centres of mission work, and regarding their several districts as evangelised through them, cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:8 a Acts 19:10. St John’s letters to the Seven Churches imply a similar mode of thought.

ἐστὶν καρποφορούμενον καὶ αὐξανόμενον καθὼς καὶ ἐν ὑμῖς. The punctuation is exceedingly doubtful.

[1] Consider it first as printed. St Paul in this case purposely uses the paraphrastic present, 2 Corinthians 9:12, and perhaps Colossians 2:23 (cf. Blass, § 62. 2), “to express continuity of present action” (Lightfoot), and then, after still further enlarging the contents of the analogy in the preceding καθώς by καὶ αὐξανόμενον, doubles back upon the analogy, and states that even the fuller blessing is found in the Colossians (καθὼς κ. ἐν ὑμῖν).

The construction is intelligible, but very awkward, and it has no real parallel in the N.T. 1 Thessalonians 4:1 has been adduced (καθὼς παρελάβετε παρʼ ἡμῶν τὸ πῶς δεῖ ὑμᾶς περιπατεῖν καὶ ἀρέσκειν θεῷ, καθὼς καὶ περιπατεῖτε), but in that passage the second καθὼς introduces a fresh fact, that their “walk” corresponded to the lesson in it that they had “received.”

[2] Print ἐστίν, καρποφορ. κ.τ.λ. In this case the force of the first καθὼς stops at ἐστίν. The Gospel has come as far as you, even as it is, in fact, in all the world. καρποφορ. κ.τ.λ. then becomes an additional, but loosely appended, thought of the success of the Gospel in the world. To this very naturally is added the further statement that it is successful not only in the world but also in the Colossians (καθ. κ. ἐν ὑμῖν). This second method of punctuation is perhaps preferable in that it puts less force upon the language.

καρποφορούμενον. The middle comes here only in the Greek Bible. The active, though used of plants in Habakkuk 3:17, Wisdom of Solomon 10:7, suits excellently persons (e.g. Colossians 1:10) or the ground (Mark 4:28). Even in Matthew 13:23 (and more clearly in ||s) the thought of the seed is merged in that of the person. For the middle comprises the notion of having life in itself, which persons and the earth do not possess. “The middle denotes the inherent energy, the active the external diffusion. The Gospel is essentially a reproductive organism, a plant ‘whose seed is in itself’ ” (Lightfoot).

καὶ αὐξανόμενον. αὐξάνομαι is connected with καρποφορεῖν also in Colossians 1:10. Observe that in the parable of the Sower Matthew 13:23 reads ὅς δὴ καρποφορεῖ καὶ ποιεῖ κ.τ.λ., and Mark 4:8, ἐδίδου καρπόν, ἀναβαίνοντα καὶ αὐξανόμενα. St Paul’s words are apparently a reminiscence of our Lord’s parable, but he divides the Gospel term, “seed,” into its component parts, [1] the message (Colossians 1:6), and [2] those who receive the message (Colossians 1:10).

Of the two words καρποφ. implies that the activity of the Gospel is seen in its effect on life; believers are changed in character. αὐξαν in its spread; believers are continually being added. Compare Colossians 1:10 note.

καθὼς καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν, vide supra.

ἀφʼ ἦς ἡμέρας. To be closely connected with the preceding words. The proper result of the Gospel among you was not postponed for a single day.

ἠκούσατε. The object (the Gospel) is understood (cf. Colossians 1:9), “since the day ye heard of it” (A.V.). For though it is possible to connect ἠκούσατε with τὴν χάριν (“since the day ye heard and knew the grace of God” R.V.), this construction is improbable, because [1] ἐν ἀληθείᾳ must go solely with ἐπέγνωτε; [2] the καθώς of Colossians 1:7, “heard … the grace … even as ye learned,” would be tautological.

καὶ ἐπέγνωτε. The verb occurs in Colossians here only. Cf. Colossians 1:9. On the much disputed question of the force of ἐπὶ in this compound see J. A. R.’s valuable detached note in his Ephesians, pp. 248–254, where he shows that in the Classics (and he sees no occasion to depart from this in the N.T.) “the preposition is not intensive, but directive.… So that to perceive a particular thing, or to perceive who a particular person is, may fitly be expressed by ἐπιγινώσκειν.”

Moulton (Gram. Proleg. 1906, p. 113) attributes less force to the ἐπί, saying only that it makes the aorist more decisive, and in the present “includes the goal in the picture of the journey there.”

τὴν χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ, i.e. His love to man as shown in the Gospel. Compare Acts 20:24 διαμαρτύρασθαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς χάριτος τοῦ θεοῦ and 32 (both addressed to the Elders of the Church at Ephesus), Titus 2:11; 1 Peter 1:10.

“The true Gospel as taught by Epaphras was an offer of free grace, a message from God; the false Gospel, as superposed by the heretical teachers, was a code of rigorous prohibitions, a system of human devising. It was not χάρις but δόγματα (Colossians 2:14); not τοῦ θεοῦ but τοῦ κόσμου, τῶν ἀνθρώπων (Colossians 2:8; Colossians 2:20; Colossians 2:22)” Lightfoot.

In addition to these thoughts there is probably that of the universality of the offer of salvation, whether in contrast to Jewish exclusiveness generally, or, as perhaps with special reference here, to the apparently esoteric doctrine of the false teachers at Colossae in particular.

J. A. R., Ephesians, pp. 220–226, has a valuable detached note upon χάρις, showing that St Paul used it in part to bring out “the surprising mercy of God, by which those who had been wholly outside the privileged circle [of Israel] were now the recipients of the Divine favour” (p. 224).

ἐν ἀληθείᾳ. Not adjectival with τὴν χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ, but adverbial with ἐπέγνωτε, cf. Matthew 22:16; 2 John 1:1; 3 John 1:1. It is more than “in sincerity,” and rather “in right and accurate fashion.” See especially Matthew 22:16, with the parallel passages Mark 12:14, Luke 20:21. You knew in proper fashion, you not only heard the message, but grasped its contents rightly. Observe the undercurrent of assurance that their first perception of the Gospel was better than that which the false teachers desired to see in them now.


Verse 7

7. ἐμάθετε. To be given its full force, implying some continuance of instruction. Compare 2 Timothy 3:14; Philippians 4:9; Matthew 11:29. Compare also infra, Colossians 2:7.

ἀπὸ Ἐπαφρᾶ, Colossians 4:12, Philemon 1:23†. Doubtless a short form of the word Ἐπαφρόδιτος (“lovely,” Lat. Venustus); cf. Παρμενᾶς for Παρμενίδης, Ἀρτεμᾶς for Ἀρτεμίδωρος, Ἀλεξᾶς for Ἀλέξανδρος (see Winer, § xvi end).

Yet both forms of the name are said to be so common that strong evidence would be required for us to identify this Epaphras with the Epaphroditus of Philippians 2:25; Philippians 4:18†. And, as far as it goes, the evidence is the other way. For Epaphroditus is connected only with Philippi, to which he is sent by St Paul, and from which he brings back presents; Epaphras, on the other hand, is connected only with Colossae, of which he is either a native (as seems most probable) or an inhabitant of long standing (Colossians 4:12), and which he had evangelised (here), and the believers of which he greets both generally (Colossians 4:12) and in the person of one of their leaders (Philemon 1:23). Both indeed were at Rome, but, so far as reference is made to them, at periods many months, or perhaps even one or two years, apart (see Introd., p. xlviii).

τοῦ ἀγαπητοῦ., Colossians 4:7; Colossians 4:9; Colossians 4:14; Philemon 1:1; Philemon 1:16; 3 John 1:1. Hort, on 1 Peter 2:11, says, “Not St Paul only, but all the other writers of Epistles in the N.T., make use of it. It refers back to our Lord’s test of discipleship to Himself, the mutual love of those who believe in Him (John 13:34 f., John 15:12; John 15:17); and is thus combined emphatically with πιστοί, faithful, in 1 Timothy 6:2 (q.v.): cf. Colossians 4:9.”

Certainly in our passage at least it serves to emphasize the satisfactory character of him who first preached the Gospel to the Colossians, and thus strengthens St Paul’s argument.

τοῦ ἀγαπητοῦ. Elsewhere in St Paul only Colossians 4:7 (Tychicus). Compare συνεργός, Colossians 4:11, Philemon 1:24 and συναιχμάλωτος, Colossians 4:10.

If, as it seems, δοῦλος, like ‘ebed in the O.T., regards the servant not merely as a member of the household bat as one entrusted with work, σύνδουλος here probably refers to Epaphras not merely as a fellow-Christian, but as one engaged in work. He shared with St Paul the privilege of carrying out the duty assigned him by their common Master.

ἡμῶν. Probably including Timothy, avoiding egotism, Colossians 1:1, note.

ὅς ἐστιν πιστὸς ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν διάκονος τοῦ χριστοῦ, “who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf,” R.V. On the reading see the notes on Textual Criticism. The position of ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν is curious, and apparently lays stress on his faithfulness (not his ministry) on behalf of us. Probably the ministry is regarded as exercised towards St Paul. Christian work done among the Gentiles in its measure freed him from his debt to them (Romans 1:14).

διάκονος. Doubtless in its wide and non-official sense. So also Colossians 1:23; Colossians 1:25, and Colossians 4:7 where see note. Its essential thought is “activity and subordination.” “Epaphras, whatever his church-office, was the loving worker under Christ for Paul and Colossae” (Moule).

τοῦ χριστοῦ. The article (contrast 2 Corinthians 11:23, διάκονοι Χριστοῦ εἰσίν; ) suggests the office and position of our Lord in His relation to the dispensation to Jew and Gentile rather than His personality.

Therefore also χριστοῦ is printed without a capital letter, i.e. it is, in the opinion of W.H. (ii. § 415), here not so much a proper name as an appellative, “the Messiah.” Compare also Hort, The Christian Ecclesia, p. 111 sq.

τοῦ Ἰησοῦ would not have been so apposite to St Paul’s argument (contrast Ephesians 4:21); St Paul, half unconsciously no doubt, uses the term that will best meet the claims of the false teachers.


Verse 8

8. ὁ καὶ δηλώσας. The καὶ not only states a fresh fact about Epaphras but also implies that it was he and no other (qui idem); cf. Matthew 10:4, 2 Corinthians 1:22.

ἡμῖν. See note on the first ἡμῶν in Colossians 1:7.

τὴν ὑμῶν ἀγάπην. The order is much less common than τὴν ἀγάπην ὑμῶν and gives ὑμῶν a slight emphasis (cf. Romans 16:19, 2 Corinthians 7:7 ter).

Probably their love is to the saints generally, St Paul mentioning it now as the visible result of their acceptance of Epaphras’ teaching, and also taking up once more the thought of Colossians 1:4, and making it a starting-point from which he begins a fresh exhortation.

ἐν πνεύματι. Not τὴν ἐν πνεύματι. Probably the words ἀγάπην ἐν πνεύματι are regarded as forming one idea; cf. 1 Corinthians 10:18 τὸν Ἰσραὴλ κατὰ σάρκα, see Winer, § xx. 2 and J. A. R. on Ephesians 1:15. But contrast Philemon 1:6.

Probably spirit as such, the higher spiritual sphere in which their thoughts and feelings now worked, the sphere in which God revealed His truth to them (Ephesians 3:5), in which they prayed (Ephesians 6:18), and in which they were being made a spiritual House (Ephesians 2:22). Their love was οὐ σαρκική, ἀλλὰ πνευματική Oecumen. (in loco, Migne, CXIX. 16). In any case it is a true statement of theology that such love exercised in the spiritual sphere is ultimately due to the blessed Spirit Himself (Romans 15:30; cf. Westcott on Ephesians 3:5).


Verse 9

9. διὰ τοῦτο. Probably this refers primarily to the immediately preceding words τὴν ὑμῶν ἀγάπην ἐν πνεύματι, which however in themselves sum up an important part of the whole preceding paragraph. For a similar case compare 1 Thessalonians 3:5, where διὰ τοῦτο primarily refers to the troubles of the Thessalonians mentioned in Colossians 1:4, which again underlie all Colossians 1:1-4. Even in Ephesians 1:15 the immediate reference may well be to the thought of the praise of God’s glory (Colossians 1:14) which is underlying all Colossians 1:3-14, and in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 the thought of the Thessalonians being called into God’s kingdom and glory, i.e. the possibilities of the Divine call (a thought present in Colossians 1:3; Colossians 1:10), supplied a reason for all St Paul’s work among them.

καὶ ἡμεῖς. We, Paul and Timothy, on our side show our love.

ἀφʼ ἦς ἡμέρας ἠκούσαμεν, cf. Colossians 1:6.

ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν. Contrast Colossians 1:3. The apparent absence of any parallel in the N. T. for ὑπέρ, or even περί, being joined with αἰτέω makes it probable that ὑπέρ is governed by προσευχόμενοι only (Matthew 5:44; James 5:16†). Hence the A.V. “do not cease to pray for you, and to desire,” etc. is preferable in this particular to the R.V. “do not cease to pray and make request for you.”

αἰτούμενοι. The middle may be used merely to conform to προσευχ., though its greater strength than the active (see Moulton, Gram. Proleg. 1906, p. 160) was hardly forgotten, or may perhaps hint to them delicately that he reckoned blessings given to them as given to himself (cf. Mark 6:24 with 22, 23; James 4:2-3; 1 John 5:14-15).

ἵνα. For similar instances of the weakened ἵνα after verbs of asking see Colossians 2:1-2, Colossians 4:3; Colossians 4:12. Cf. also especially 2 Thessalonians 1:11.

τὴν ἐπίγνωσιν. See note on ἐπέγνωτε, Colossians 1:6. The usage of the word ἐπίγνωσις in the N.T. is remarkable. It does not occur in the first group of St Paul’s Epistles; and only three times in the second, and that not in its highest connotation (Romans 1:28; Romans 3:20; Romans 10:2); but it is used eight times in the third, always (save in Phm. and perhaps Phil.) of our knowledge of God (Philippians 1:9; Ephesians 1:17; Ephesians 4:13; Colossians 1:9-10; Colossians 2:2; Colossians 3:10; Philemon 1:6); and four times in the fourth, in the phrase εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν ἀληθείας (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Timothy 2:25; 2 Timothy 3:7; Titus 1:1; cf. also Hebrews 10:26). It also occurs four times in 2 Pet., of our knowledge of God, apparently with some reminiscence of St Paul’s third group.

Its greater frequency in the later groups of St Paul’s Epistles is doubtless due to the greater need experienced by the Church of a right intellectual and spiritual knowledge of God, especially in view of the false teaching that claimed to supply this. No doubt also St Paul’s enforced leisure at Caesarea and Rome was a providential means of his meditation on the subject and his subsequent ability to point out the truth. On the accusative see Blass, Gram. § 34. 6.

τοῦ θελήματος, Colossians 1:1, note. Here not God’s will that embraces the whole scope of His plan and purpose concerning the world, for believers cannot be expected to have ἐπίγνωσις of this, although they may legitimately pray for its accomplishment (Matthew 6:10), and they even know, in a sense, the “mystery” of it (Ephesians 1:9), but the will of God so far as it affects us individually. Compare Matthew 7:21 (ὁ ποιῶν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πατρός μου), Ephesians 5:17; Ephesians 6:6.

αὐτοῦ, i.e. God the Father, τὸ θέλημα Ἰησοῦ or Χριστοῦ never occurs. In τὸ θέλημα τοῦ κυρίου (Acts 21:14; Ephesians 5:17) the genitive doubtless also refers to God the Father.

ἐν marks that in which the ἐπίγνωσις manifests itself. It is very improbable that a comma should be put at αὐτοῦ and the following words joined with Colossians 1:10 as far as ἀρεσκίαν, though of course περιπατεῖν easily takes ἐν (e.g. Colossians 3:7, Colossians 4:5). But a very clumsy sentence would be the result. See further on ἐν παντὶ ἔργῳ ἀγαθῷ (Colossians 1:10).

πάσῃ, Colossians 1:10-11; Colossians 1:15; Colossians 1:28, Colossians 3:16, Colossians 4:12. Distributive; wisdom in every case as needed (Colossians 1:28). Compare πᾶσαν δικαιοσύνην, Matthew 3:15. For the contrast between πᾶσα and πᾶσα ἡ compare 2 Corinthians 1:4 ὁ παρακαλῶν ἡμᾶς ἐπὶ πάσῃ τῇ θλίψει ἡμῶν (totality), εἰς τὸ δύνασθαι ἡμᾶς παρακαλεῖν τοὺς ἐν πάσῃ θλίψει (i.e. any which may arise).

On its connexion with σοφίᾳ and συνέσει see below s.v. πνευματικῇ.

σοφίᾳ. Five more times in this Epistle, Colossians 1:28, Colossians 2:3; Colossians 2:23, Colossians 3:16, Colossians 4:5, and three times in Ephesians 1:8; Ephesians 1:17; Ephesians 3:10; elsewhere in the Pauline Epistles, only once in Romans (Romans 11:33) and 2 Cor. (2 Corinthians 1:12), but frequently in 1 Cor. It is “mental excellence in its highest and fullest sense; Arist. Eth. Nic. VI. 7 ἡ ἀκριβεστάτη τῶν ἐπιστημῶνὤσπερ κεφαλὴν ἔχουσα ἐπιστήμη τῶν τιμιωτάτων.… Cicero de Off. I. 43 ‘princeps omnium virtutum.’ … The Stoic definition of σοφία, as ἐπιστήμη θείων καὶ ἀνθρωπίνων καὶ τῶν τούτων αἰτιῶν, is repeated by various writers” (Lightfoot).

Yet we must be careful not to understand it here of wisdom in the abstract. From the usage of ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ in Colossians 1:28, Colossians 3:16 (cf. especially the parallel Ephesians 5:15-19) and even Ephesians 1:8, St Paul is evidently thinking of mental excellence in its application.

καὶ συνέσει, Colossians 2:2. σύνεσις is not found elsewhere with σοφία in the N.T. (though in 1 Corinthians 1:19 the two words are in parallel clauses of a quotation from Isaiah 29:14), but see Deuteronomy 4:6; 2 Chronicles 1:10-12; Isaiah 11:2. See also Exodus 31:3; 1 Chronicles 22:12; Daniel 2:20 (Theod.); Baruch 3:23.

It stands in relation to σοφία as the part to the whole, and expresses the intellectual grasp, the discernment, of the condition of affairs in any given instance. Compare 2 Timothy 2:7 νόει ὅ λέγω· δώσει γάρ σοι ὁ κύριος σύνεσιν ἐν πᾶσιν. It is “the faculty of putting together, and reading the significance of, facts and phenomena around” (Beet). “ ‘Wisdom’ is the noble faculty of judging and acting aright, ‘intelligence’ that faculty in application to the living problems of the hour” (Moule, Colossian Studies), particularly (one may suppose in the present case) such as those suggested by the false teaching to which the Colossians were exposed.

πνευματικῇ, Colossians 3:16. With the exception of 1 Peter 2:5 bis, πνευματικός occurs only in the Pauline Epistles, especially of course in 1 Cor.

A remarkable example of such a combination of σοφία and σύνεσις as St Paul means here was seen in Bishop Westcott, who, though (or rather because) he possessed Christian σοφὶα in perhaps a higher degree than any teacher of recent years, was enabled by his σύνεσις to bring the great coal strike in the North to a satisfactory termination, and that without any use of merely worldly means.


Verses 9-14

9–14. Prayer for the Colossians, with reason for gratitude on their part to God, viz. their emancipation in Christ. This forms a transition to a fuller account of the relation of the Son to the Father, to Creation, and to the Church

(Observe that in these verses there are frequent signs that the Apostle is already conscious of the warnings that he is about to give them.)

(Colossians 1:9) Because of the love you show, we both (Timothy and I), ever since we first heard (as I said in Colossians 1:4) of your faith in Christ, continually intercede for you, and ask for our request to be granted us that you may be filled with the recognition of what is God’s will for each, in wisdom as needed in every case and spiritual discernment; (Colossians 1:10) thus walking worthily of our Master—with the object of pleasing Him in every case, bearing fruit (as I said) in every good work, and growing by this very knowledge of God; (Colossians 1:11) being continually strengthened too in God’s strength given as it is needed in proportion to (nothing less than) the supreme might of His revelation of Himself given with the object of your having hopeful endurance and quiet forbearance, and these accompanied by joy; (Colossians 1:12) giving thanks to the Father who made you Gentile Christians sufficient for admission into your share of the possession that all saints have in spiritual light; (Colossians 1:13) [the Father] who delivered us all out of the rule that springs from and is governed by darkness, and transferred us into the sovereignty of His Son whom He loves; (Colossians 1:14) [the Son] in whom we now have emancipation from that darkness, consisting primarily in the remission of our sins.


Verse 10

10. περιπατῆσαι. Probably epexegetic, see Acts 15:10; Luke 1:54; 1 Samuel 12:23; Pss. Sol. 2:28. It may be due to the influence of Hebrew, in which both the construct (e.g. Psalms 78:18) and the absolute (Jeremiah 22:19) forms of the infinitive may be used to expand a preceding statement. In English we can hardly use the infinitive in this sense, and must translate “walking.”

Observe that περιπατεῖν in its metaphorical meaning (also Colossians 2:6, Colossians 3:7, Colossians 4:5), self-evident as it appears to us, seems never to have been so used by Greeks uninfluenced by Semitic thought (though in Thuc. III. 64. 7 we find μετὰ γὰρ Ἀθηναίων ἄδικον ὁδὸν ἰόντων ἐχωρήσατε, and parallels for ἀναστρέφομαι and ἀναστροφή are quoted in Deissmann, Bibl. Studies, pp. 88, 194, from the Inscriptions). But in Hebrew it is very common (e.g. Psalms 26:11) and the metaphor even gives the name to the strictly legal part of Rabbinic lore, the Halacha, i.e. the “walk.”

ἀξίως. Observe that while περιπατεῖν is almost entirely Semitic ἀξίως is almost entirely Greek. No Hebrew word quite expresses the idea (cf. שׁוה, Proverbs 3:15; Proverbs 8:11; Esther 7:4). Therefore Delitzsch can only render our passage by a free paraphrase, כַּטּוֹב בְּעֵינֵי הָאָדוֹן, “to walk according to that which is good in the eyes of the Lord and according to all His good pleasure.” Had we nothing else whereby to tell the nature of the education of the Apostle the combination περιπατῆσαι ἀξίως would give us the clue to it being Graeco-Semitic.

For ἀξίως τοῦ κυρίου compare, besides the passages quoted above, Wisdom of Solomon 3:5; Sirach 14:11 (Greek only), and the phrases ἄξιος, and ἀξίως, τοῦ θεοῦ (τῶν θεῶν) in inscriptions at Pergamum (Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 248).

It is perhaps worth noting that the Peshitta here reads “that ye may walk as is becoming, and may please God,” i.e. omitting πᾶσαν and recombining the other words. Did it mistranslate from the Latin “ut ambuletis digne Deo per omnia placentes”?

τοῦ κυρίου. Though Theodoret (in Ellicott) understands this of God (i.e. presumably the Father), and the analogy of 1 Thessalonians 2:12 (quoted supra) confirms it, yet “St Paul’s common, and apparently universal, usage requires us to understand ὁ Κύριος of Christ” (Lightfoot). Moule rightly points out that “such alternative expressions indicate how truly for St Paul the Father and the Son are Persons of the same Order of being.” St Paul is thinking of the Lord Jesus as the Master in glory, who ought to be worthily represented by us His servants here, and takes pleasure, or otherwise, in our behaviour.

εἰς. The final object of knowledge and a godly life is to please God.

πᾶσαν, i.e. in every case, see Colossians 1:9 πάσῃ.

ἀρεσκίαν. ἀρέσκειν θεῷ (τ. κυρίῳ) in Romans 8:8; 1 Corinthians 7:32; 1 Thessalonians 2:15, and especially 1 Thessalonians 4:1; cf. ἀρεστός, John 8:29, and 1 John 3:22.

ἀρεσκία is not found in classical writers of the best period, but in Theophrastus, Char. 2 [5], Polybius 31. 26. 5, Diod. 13. 53 it means “complaisance,” “obsequiousness.” Yet in an inscription given in Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 224, χάριν τῆς εἰς τὴν πόλιν ἀρεσκείας it evidently has a good sense, and it is repeatedly used by Philo of pleasing God, as here; e.g. Quis rer. div. her. 24 (I. p. 490, § 123, Wendland) ὡς ἀποδεχομένου (τοῦ Θεοῦ) καὶ δεχομένου τὰς ψυχῆς ἑκουσίου ἀρεσκείας; de Vict. Off. 8 (II. p. 527) διὰ πασῶν ἰέναι τῶν εἰς ἀρεσκείαν ὁδῶν. In ἀνθρωπάρεσκοι (Colossians 3:22) on the contrary the former meaning is apparent; see note there.

ἐν παντὶ ἔργῳ ἀγαθῷ. Perhaps to be taken with the preceding words. So R.V.mg. “to walk worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing, in every good work.” The words would thus expand the thought of πᾶσαν. But the sentence then becomes heavy and even somewhat tautological. Hence it is better to take the words closely with καρποφοροῦντες. The whole phrase is then, no doubt, explanatory of εἰς πᾶσαν ἀρεσκίαν. So Chrysostom, Πῶς δὲ, πᾶσαν ἀρεσκείαν; Ἐν παντʼ ἔργῳ ἀγαθῷ καρποφοροῦντες, καὶ αὐξανόμενοι ἐν (sic) τῇ ἐπιγνώσει τοῦ θεοῦ.

καρποφοροῦντες, “bearing fruit in every good work.” See Colossians 1:6 note. Surely not dependent on πληρωθῆτε (Beng., B. Weiss), but on περιπατῆσαι.

καὶ αὐξανόμενοι, closely with καρποφοροῦντες, as in Colossians 1:6 (see note).

τῇ ἐπιγνώσει τοῦ θεοῦ. “By the knowledge of God.” With αὐξανόμενοι only, for bearing fruit by knowledge would be too strained a metaphor. It is probably the instrumental dative “representing the knowledge of God as the dew or the rain which nurtures the growth of the plant; Deuteronomy 32:2; Hosea 14:5” (Lightfoot). It is indeed possible to take it as the dative denoting the attribute in respect of which anything takes place, Colossians 1:21; 1 Corinthians 14:20; Acts 16:5; Philippians 2:8. So R.V. “increasing in the knowledge of God” (verbally like A.V. which reads εἰς τὴν ἐπίγνωσιν), but this seems hardly probable after πληρωθῆτε τὴν ἐπίγνωσιν in Colossians 1:9.


Verse 11

11. ἐν πάσῃ δυνάμει δυναμούμενοι, “being strengthened in all (needed) strength.” It is very uncertain whether δυνάμει refers to [1] Divine power given or [2] power in the act of being exercised by man. In favour of [2] are the parallels of ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ κ. συνέσει πνευμ. (Colossians 1:9), ἐν παντὶ ἔργω (Colossians 1:10), and probably ἐν δυνάμει, Colossians 1:29. But in favour of [1] is the very similar passage, Ephesians 3:16, where δυνάμει evidently refers to the Divine power as the instrument of their being strengthened. On the whole [1] is preferable. So Theodoret, τῇ θείᾳ ῥοπῇ κρατυνόμενοι (in loco, Migne, LXXXI. 596).

The ἐν in this case is usually regarded as “instrumental.” Cf. Revelation 6:8, and Matthew 7:6, but ἐν in the strictly instrumental sense is so rare that it here more probably describes God’s strength as the element in which they find their strength and apart from which they are weak (cf. John 15:5).

δυναμούμενο. δυναμόω; in N.T. only in Hebrews 11:34, and perhaps Ephesians 6:10 (B alone of the great MSS., followed by W.H.mg.). ἐνδυναμόω is more common. In the LXX. and Hexapla fragments the reverse is the case. The tense here expresses the continuous application of the Divine power.

κατά. The measure of the strength given is limited (quâ God) only by the sovereign might inherent in God’s self-manifestation.

τὸ κράτος. δύναμις here would apparently mean the power actually exerted by the δόξα; κράτος = its general, overwhelming might compared with all else than God. For both the thought of this verse and also synonyms of “power” in relation to God see Ephesians 1:19 τί τὸ ὑπερβάλλον μέγεθος τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ εἰς ἡμᾶς τοὺς πιστεύοντας κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν τοῦ κράτους τῆς ἰσχύος αὐτοῦ, where ἰσχύς seems to mark God’s indwelling power, shown externally as κράτος, working in each recipient with ἐνέργεια, and effective for him as δύναμις; see also Ephesians 3:16. In the N.T. κράτος is used always of God with the one exception of Hebrews 2:14, where the devil is described as τὸν τὸ κράτος ἔχοντα τοῦ θανάτου.

τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ. Possessive genitive. By God’s δόξα we must understand here His nature as manifesting itself externally, more particularly towards man. It is nearly synonymous with ὄνομα (Matthew 6:9; John 1:12), but this rather regards God’s revelation of Himself so far as man is able to receive it. Δόξα, on the other hand, always suggests that God’s self-manifestation is too bright for man’s eyes to face (Luke 2:9; 2 Corinthians 3:7; Acts 22:11).

ὑπομονὴν καὶ μακροθυμίαν, “fortitude and forbearance.”

[1] For the combination see 2 Corinthians 6:4; 2 Corinthians 6:6-7, ἐν ὑπομονῇ πολλῇἐν μακροθυμίᾳἐν δυνάμει θεοῦ, and 2 Timothy 3:10. Compare also James 5:10-11, where the two words are almost contrasted.

[2] ὑπομονή. More than mere endurance; it is endurance marked by hope, nearly our “fortitude.” See Sirach 41:2, ὦ θάνατε, καλόν σου τὸ κρίμα ἐστὶν ἀνθρώπῳἀπολελωκότι ὑπομονήν (ואבד תקוה), “who hath lost hope,” and Colossians 2:14 οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς ἀπολελωκόσιν ὑπομονήν (Heb. not yet recovered). In the LXX. ὑπομονή always, and ὑπομένειν generally, represent some part of the root קוה (wait, or look eagerly, for). Compare 1 Thessalonians 1:3, where work springs from faith, toil from love, ὑπομονή from hope. Hence in Titus 2:2 it is the third in the Christian triad, πίστις, ἀγάπη, ὑπομονή (cf. Lightfoot on 1 Thessalonians 1:3).

[3] μακροθυμία, Colossians 3:12. Hardly classical.

[4] Comparing the two words

ὑπομονή lays stress on the person who possesses it not being affected. Hence it seems to refer only to things, i.e. to trials in themselves, whether from God or from man. It is thus used of man only (even in Romans 15:5).

μακροθυμία on the other hand suggests that if the person were affected it would alter his behaviour to others. Hence it is used especially with reference to persons (vide supra), and may be used of God (e.g. Romans 2:4; 1 Peter 3:20; cf. Luke 18:7; see also Symm. Ecclesiastes 8:12).

Thus here ὑπομονή means their endurance of all trials in a hopeful spirit, such as Christ Himself had, 2 Thessalonians 3:5, and μακροθυμία their evenness of temper, free from all irritation or impatience (cf. Trench, Synon. § LIII.). They were in need of encouragement [22].

μετὰ χαρᾶς. Probably with the preceding clause. This is more in accordance with St Paul’s style, and more suggestive. Fortitude and forbearance are to be so far from moroseness as to be accompanied by positive joy (Colossians 1:24). Cf. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10; 1 Thessalonians 1:6.


Verse 12

12. εὐχαριστοῦντες, Colossians 1:3. Too distant from οὐ παυόμεθα (Colossians 1:9) to be coordinate with προσευχόμενοι καὶ αἰτούμενοι, suitable though the thought of St Paul giving thanks for them in itself is. The word is either coordinate with καρποφοροῦντες and δυναμούμενοι, expressing a third condition of their Christian walk (Colossians 1:10), or, as is more probable, primarily a development of the thought of μετὰ χαρᾶς, explaining the direction which their joy would take.

τῷ πατρὶ. See notes on Textual Criticism. In Colossians 1:3 St Paul thanked the God and Father of Christ (see note) as the source of all the blessings that had been given, but here he represents the Colossians as thanking Him only as the Father, i.e. as the one who had admitted them into possession and thus sonship, through, as St Paul is careful to add (Colossians 1:13), Him who was Son in a supreme degree. The thought closely resembles Galatians 4:6-7.

τῷ ἱκανώσαντι. See notes on Textual Criticism. The verb occurs elsewhere in the N.T. only in 2 Corinthians 3:6. It is found in the LXX., in no case apparently throwing light on our passage, and only in the middle or the passive.

The not infrequent use of [] ἱκανός in the Greek versions of the O.T. to translate Shaddai (the Almighty), suggests that this name for God may have been in St Paul’s mind when writing this passage. Compare especially Genesis 17:1, “I am El Shaddai, walk before me” with our Colossians 1:10. With the accuracy of the translation we have no concern, but the rendering suggests that He who was sufficient for the needs of the O.T. saints, and who made St Paul and others sufficient as the ministers of the New Covenant (2 Corinthians 3:6), also made the Colossians sufficient for the share etc. Observe that ἱκάνωσεν implies that besides the general invitation both the personal call and the grace to accept it came from God. St Paul thus strikes at the root of the Jewish doctrine of זִכות (merit), even in its more refined forms of gratia de condigno or de congruo.

The tense probably refers to the time of their conversion, when they entered upon the privileges which St Paul is about to mention.

ὑμᾶς. See notes on Textual Criticism. The O.T. colouring of the verse makes ὑμᾶς especially suitable, for the Colossian Christians might well thank God that, though Gentiles, they had been admitted into what had been the unique privilege of Jews, cf. Ephesians 2:12-13.

εἰς τὴν μερίδα. In the LXX. μερίς (gen. = חֵלֶק) is usually distinguished from μέρος (very seldom = חֵלֶק, often קָצֶה) as share from part; i.e. μερίς connotes that others also have a share. In the N.T. μερίς occurs only five times, but = “share” evidently in 2 Corinthians 6:15 and probably in Luke 10:42. This helps, as will be seen, to fix the determination of the following genitive.

τοῦ κλήρου. [1] As to the meaning of the word in itself:

(a) It was originally a lot; (b) thence, presumably from the primitive practice of redistributing at stated periods the land of the community by lot to the several members, an allotment; (c) then, as plots of land were held permanently by individuals, a portion, a possession, a piece of land generally. Hence the LXX. uses it frequently as an equivalent to גּוֹרָל, lot, or allotment, and also for נַחֲלָה, יְרֻשָׁה possession, or in certain cases inheritance.

We cannot therefore insist on κλῆρος maintaining its original connotation of possession acquired by lot, though perhaps it still implies that it has not been earned by the possessor’s efforts. If so τοῦ κλήρου carries on the thought of ἱκάνωσεν. Compare Ephesians 1:11, ἐν ᾧ ἐκληρώθημεν (probably = we were given a possession). Neither, be it observed, can we insist on the meaning “inheritance” as compared with “possession[96].”

[2] Its reference here:

As Mt Seir was given to the sons of Esau ἐν κλήρῳ, Deuteronomy 2:5 (Heb. “for a possession”), so Canaan was given to the Israelites also ἐν κλήρῳ, Exodus 6:8; Numbers 33:53; Deuteronomy 3:18 (Heb. “for a possession,” or “to possess it”), although it does not appear to be actually called their κλῆρος. Yet it is probable that the thought of Canaan as the κλῆρος of the Lord’s people underlies our passage[97].

[3] The relation of τοῦ κλήρου to τὴν μερίδα:

What then is the relation in which τοῦ κλήρου stands to the preceding τὴν μερίδα? Two answers have been given.

(a) The genitive is of apposition, “the share, i.e. the possession.” But in this case it is (α) hard to see why both substantives are employed; (β) μέρις, as stated above, would then suggest that others besides τῶν ἁγίων partake of it.

Hence (b) the partitive genitive, “the share in the possession,” is preferable. You have your share in the lot possessed by the saints. “The κλῆρος ἐν τῷ φωτί is represented as the joint inheritance of the saints, of which each individual has his μερίδα” (Ell.).

τῶν ἁγίων., Colossians 1:2 note. Possessive genitive.

ἐν τῷ φωτί. Defining the sphere of the κλῆρος. For the O.T. worthies it lay in Canaan; for Christian believers it is ἐν τῷ φωτί. The Book of Enoch, § 58 (see note below), speaks of the lot of the righteous and elect being glorious; “and the righteous will be in the light of the sun, and the elect in the light of eternal life,” thinking chiefly, it would seem, of physical splendour, but the contrast of τὸ σκότος in Colossians 1:13 shows that (a) St Paul has in mind chiefly not physical but spiritual light; and (b) this light is something already enjoyed. The possession of the saints is not merely a future heaven but present spiritual privileges ἐν τῷ φωτί. Compare 1 Peter 2:9. Ephesians 5:8 is even stronger. St Paul’s words in Acts 26:18 present several points of close resemblance to our Colossians 1:12-14, τοῦ ἐπιστρέψαι ἀπὸ σκότους εἰς φῶς καὶ τῆς ἐξουσίαςτοῦ Σατανᾶ ἐπὶ τὸν θεόν, τοῦ λαβεῖν αὐτοὺς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν καὶ κλῆρον ἐν τοῖς ἡγιασμένοις πίστει τῇ εἰς ἐμέ.

ἐν in est quasi praepositio loci. Conferatur oppositum, Matthew 4:16, ubi bis est in” (Beng.).


Verse 13

13. δς κ.τ.λ. = ὁ πατήρ, Colossians 1:12. “Appositional relative sentence (Win. § lx. 7), introducing a contrasted amplification of the preceding clause, and preparing for a transition to the doctrine of the Person, the glory, and the redeeming love of Christ, Colossians 1:14-20” (Ell.).

ἐρύσατοἐκ. When believers pray to be delivered from the attacks of the Evil One they say ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ, but when, as here, stress is laid on the persons delivered having been actually within the grasp of the enemy, ἐκ is naturally used. So Luke 1:74; 2 Timothy 3:11; 2 Timothy 4:17. For a full discussion of the use of ἐκ and ἀπό with verbs expressing deliverance, both in the LXX. and in the N.T., see Chase, The Lord’s Prayer, 1891, pp. 71–86. Theophylact remarks that in itself the verb implies our having been in servitude, οὐκ εἶπε δὲ ἐξέβαλεν, ἀλλʼ ἐρρύσατο, δεικνὺς ὅτι ὡς αἰχμάλωτοι ἐταλαιπωρούμεθα.

ἡμᾶς. When it is a matter of enumerating God’s mercies to sinners St Paul readily falls back into using the first person, cf. Colossians 2:13, Colossians 3:4.

τῆς ἐξουσίας. [1] In the LXX. ἐξουσία occasionally concrete, “dominion,” “domain”; 2 Kings 20:13, οὐκ ἦν λόγος ὅν οὐκ ἔδειξεν αὐτοῖς Ἐζεκίας ἐν τῷ αἴκῳ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐν πάσῃ τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ αὐτοῦ: Psalms 113[114]:2, ἐγενήθη ἡ Ἰουδαία ἁγίασμα αὐτοῦ, Ἰσραὴλ ἡ ἐξουσία αὐτοῦ: perhaps also Daniel 3:3 (LXX. and Theod.). So too apparently Luke 23:7 (hardly Colossians 4:6).

It would be a suitable meaning here, especially by way of contrast to the ordinary interpretation of βασιλεία, if there were more examples of such a use in the N.T. But there, with the above exception, it is, as it seems, either abstract or at most personified (Colossians 1:16, Colossians 2:10; Colossians 2:15). Personification (as though it = “Prince of darkness”) is most improbable here. We therefore understand it as “authority,” the active ruling principle which finds its source in darkness. Compare Acts 26:18.

[2] Possibly ἐξουσία in itself here means lawless, arbitrary, power in contrast to a well-ordered sovereignty. See Lightfoot, and cf. perhaps Sirach 9:13; Sirach 25:25; Sirach 30:23 (= Sirach 33:20).

τοῦ σκότους. Not personified, but regarded as a state of existence in which, and so under which, unbelievers live, 1 Thessalonians 5:4-5; cf. Romans 2:19. In Luke 22:53, αὕτη ἐστὶν ὑμῶν ἡ ὥρα καὶ ἡ ἐξουσία τοῦ σκότους we have a verbal parallel, primarily, as it seems, referring to the darkness of night, which, by making our Lord’s arrest easy, gave the Jews power to carry it out, yet also hinting at their love for “darkness” (John 3:19), and the spiritual forces over it (Ephesians 6:12). For the moral contrast of darkness to light see note on ἐν τῷ φωτί, Colossians 1:12.

καὶ μετέστησεν, “and transferred us.” So Josephus, Antt. IX. 11. 1; cf. Tiglath-Pileser’s conquest of the northern parts of Israel, τούς οἰκήτορας αἰχυαλωτίσας μετέστησεν εἰς τὴν αὑτοῦ βασιλείαν. There is no exact parallel in the LXX. or the N.T. The nearest is 1 Corinthians 13:2, πίστιν ὤστε ὄρη μεθιστάνειν, compare Isaiah 54:10, but it is classical, e.g. Thuc. IV. 57.

εἰς τήν βασιλείαν, cf. Colossians 4:11. Generally understood as “kingdom,” “realm” (Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10). But since Dalman (The Words of Jesus, 1902, pp. 91 sqq., 134 sqq.) has shown that ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν (Matt.), or ἡ βασ. τ. θεοῦ (Mark and Luke), properly means the “sovereignty” of God, i.e. His rule, not His realm, it seems probable that we must so interpret ἡ βασιλεία here. Observe the contrast to ἐκ τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ σκότους—“out of the power,” “into the sovereignty.” Many other passages in the N.T. in which βασιλεία occurs lend themselves to this interpretation (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:24; Ephesians 5:5).

τοῦ υἱοῦ. Here at last the idea of “the Father” (Colossians 1:12) is elaborated. There is probably a tacit contrast to angels (Colossians 2:18), such as we find explicitly brought out in Hebrews 1, 2.

Observe, by the way, how curiously local as regards number are the references to Christ as the Son. In the Gospels, Rom., Gal., Heb., 1 John they occur often; in each of the other books only once or twice. Our passage and Ephesians 4:13 are the only places where Christ is so called in the Third Group of St Paul’s Epistles.

τῆς ἀγάπης αὐτοῦ. [1] An attractive theory, originated, as it seems, by St Augustine, and followed by Lightfoot, understands ἀγάπης as the genitive of origin, arguing that as love is the essence of God the phrase here refers to the Eternal Generation of the Son. It thus serves, it is said, to introduce the following passage, particularly the phrases ὅς ἐστιν εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου (Colossians 1:15), and ἐν αὐτῷ εὐδόκησεν πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα κατοικῆσαι (Colossians 1:19). The phrase thus approaches the word μονογενής.

St Augustine’s words are “Quod autem dictum est, Filii charitatis suae, nihil aliud intelligatur, quam Filii sui dilecti, quam Filii postremo substantiae suae. Charitas quippe Patris quae in natura ejus est ineffabiliter simplici, nihil est aliud quam ejus ipsa natura atque substantia.… Ac per hoc Filius charitatis ejus nullus est alius, quam qui de substantiâ ejus est genitus” (De Trin. XV. 19 § 37).

But interesting though this interpretation undoubtedly is it is extremely precarious, in view of the fact that St John’s words ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν (1 John 4:8) probably describe not the essence of God (if we may so speak) but rather the sum of His attributes. Besides, St Paul himself does not so use ἀγάπη of God. Also, there appears to be no parallel expression in the N.T. ascribing the origin of the Eternal Son to the Godhead in any other term than “of the Father” or “of God.”

[2] P. Ewald strangely understands it as a kind of genitivus autoris in the sense that He is the Son whom God’s love to us gave us. But there seems to be no parallel for such a phrase.

[3] Hence it is easier to understand the genitive as possessive—the Son who is the object of His love, the Son who belongs to the love of God as its eternal personal object. “The phrase fixes our attention on the relation of the Son to this unique attribute of the Father” (Beet).

Observe that St Paul chooses the Semitic mode of expression rather than the Greek (ἀγαπητός or ἠγαπημένος, Ephesians 1:6), because the former is more vivid and concentrates the thought more strongly on love, thus suggesting more clearly the relation of love in which even those who are in Christ’s kingdom stand towards the Father (cf. Ephesians 2:4-5, Romans 5:8). Genesis 35:18, υἱὸς ὀδύνης μου, is often adduced as a similar use of the genitive. But there it is probably objective as regards υἱός, “the son that has brought me sorrow.”


Verse 14

14. This verse = Ephesians 1:7, save that there we find the addition after ἀπολύτρωσιν of διὰ τοῦ αἵματος αὐτοῦ, and the substitution of παραπτωμάτων for ἁμαρτιῶν.

ἐν ᾧ, cf. Colossians 2:3; more than διʼ οὗ, and expressing that only in spiritual and real union with Christ, as members in the body (1 Corinthians 12:27) or as branches in the vine (John 15:4), do we possess τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν. Severance from Him would mean loss of the blessings ensured in Him. St Paul is doubtless already thinking of the effect of the False Teaching (cf. Colossians 2:19).

ἔχομεν. See notes on Textual Criticism.

The marginal reading ἔσχομεν is ingressive, “we got” (see Moulton, Gram. Proleg. 1906, pp. 110, 145) our privileges. We entered on them at the time of our baptism (cf. Colossians 2:11-14; see also ἔσχον, Philemon 1:7). The text, ἔσχομεν (cf. Colossians 1:4 note), lays stress on the present possession of the Colossians and all believers, thus reminding them again of their privileges in Christ. The thought is taken up and enlarged in Colossians 1:21 b, 22a

τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν. The force of the article is perhaps possessive “our redemption,” cf. Hebrews 11:35, but more probably by way of definition, perhaps expressed idiomatically for us by “Redemption,” as contrasted with “redemption.” Compare ἡ σωτηρία. Acts 4:12.

The meaning that ἀπολύτρωσις presented here to St Paul is not quite certain. In derivation, of course, the thought is of “redemption” in the strict sense, the payment of something by which the captive is set free. So λύτρον, Matthew 20:28 || Mark 10:45†. But even in λυτρόομαι, λύτρωσις, λυτρωτής, the sense of ransom may be very weak (Luke 24:21; Luke 1:68; Acts 7:35), and, in the compound word, ἀπό lays still more stress on release than on ransom. Compare the only place in the LXX. where ἀπολύτρωσις occurs, Daniel 4:33 (= 30c Swete, not Theod.), and also ἀπολυτροῦν in Exodus 21:8, Zephaniah 3:2 [1]†.

Hence in the case of ἀπολύτρωσις it is even more imperative than usual to avoid the special temptation of every expositor of Scripture, interpreting words by their derivation rather than their usage. For the context alone can decide which was the thought really in the Apostle’s mind. Apparently in Romans 3:24, 1 Corinthians 1:30 (?) and perhaps Ephesians 1:7 (because of the additional διὰ τοῦ αἵματος αὐτοῦ), compare also Hebrews 9:15, he lays stress on the thought of ransom and the price paid; but on that of release, “emancipation” (Robinson), in Ephesians 1:14; Ephesians 4:30, Romans 8:23; compare Luke 21:28; Hebrews 11:35.

In our present passage ἀπολύτρωσις seems only to carry on the thought of release (begun in Colossians 1:13), while the thought of redemption in the strict sense does not appear till Colossians 1:20-21. For a full discussion of the meaning of ἀπολύτρωσις see Abbott on Ephesians 1:7. Compare also J. A. R. on Ephesians 1:14, Westcott, Hebrews, pp. 295 sqq., Hort on 1 Peter 1:19.

If it be asked what that is from which we are released, the answer, judging by the context, is, surely, not “punishment and Divine wrath” (Ell.), but the authority of darkness (Colossians 1:13) and the claim of sin (vide infra). This corresponds to the bondage of Egypt, to which λυτρόομαι often refers in the O.T.

The addition in T.R. of διὰ τοῦ αἵματος αὐτοῦ from Ephesians 1:7 spoils the connexion here, for St Paul is about to treat emphatically of the Divinity of Christ, and does not come to any thought that involves His humiliation till Colossians 1:20. In Ephesians 1:8 sqq. there is no such difficulty, for the stress of the argument falls on the grace of God towards us.

τὴν ἄφεσιν κ.τ.λ. Epexegetic of τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν, bringing out not the positive side of salvation, final endowment with all moral and spiritual graces, but its negative side, release from the claims of sin. This is here mentioned as the primary character of redemption, in which indeed all else is involved.

Observe that in the LXX. ἄφεσις seems to be never used of the forgiveness of sins as such, but usually of the Jubilee (יוֹבֶל 20/50 times) and the liberty (דְּרוֹר 6/50 times) connected with it, and also of the release (שְׁמִטָּה 7/50 times) every seven years for land and creditors. Similarly in Egyptian papyri it is used of remission of taxes, or exemption from them (cf. Deissmann, Bible Studies, pp. 100 sqq., Nägeli, Wortschatz d. Ap. Paul, 1905, p. 56). Compare too 1 Maccabees 13:34; 1 Maccabees 13:39, and perhaps Esther 2:18.

Thus the idea of forgiveness must probably be supplemented by that of remission of claims, our sins being regarded as debts. Cf. the variants in the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:12; Matthew 6:14; Luke 11:4.

It should be noticed that ἄφεσις occurs in St Paul’s writings only here and Ephesians 1:7. It is found also in his speeches (Acts 13:38; Acts 26:18), but in view of the fact that it occurs only once in Matt. (Matthew 26:28), twice in Mark (Mark 1:4; Mark 3:29), twice in Heb. (Hebrews 9:22; Hebrews 10:18), and ten times in the writings of St Luke, it may be due in both these cases to the narrator.

τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν. This general and all-embracing word is perhaps chosen as suggesting the power of ἁμαρτία (Romans 3:9; Romans 5:21; Romans 6:17-22), while it would be impossible to have the singular itself here. In Ephesians 1:7 on the contrary τ. παραπτωμάτων refers only to specific “transgressions” as infra Colossians 2:13 bis.


Verse 15

15. The student should not neglect the exposition of Colossians 1:15-17 given by Bp Pearson, Creed, pp. 114–116.

ὅς. Probably not so much giving a reason for the preceding statement (P. Ewald) as expanding the meaning of it, showing Who and What He is into whose Kingdom we have been brought.

ἐστιν. The repetition of ἐστιν in Colossians 1:17-18 bis suggests that this is more than the mere copula, and has at least some connotation of present time. St Paul is not speaking only of the pre-incarnate Son, but of Him as He is, including necessarily all that He ever was.

εἰκὼν. The omission of the article identifies the predicate more completely with the subject. The English idiom does not allow of this, but requires “who is the image.” So also with the following πρωτότοκος. Contrast Colossians 1:18 a.

On the meaning of εἰκών here much has been written. The more important points to notice are perhaps the following. In the N.T. it means

[1] The effigies on a coin, Matthew 22:20 || Mark 12:16 and Luke 20:24.

[2] A statue or other representation; so of the Beast in the Apocalypse, esp. Revelation 13:15 ter; cf. Revelation 13:14, Revelation 14:9; Revelation 14:11, Revelation 15:2, Revelation 16:2, Revelation 19:20, Revelation 20:4. So often in the LXX. it=idol. Thus too probably Romans 1:23.

Similarly also in the metaphor of the solid reality of a statue in contrast to the shadow that it throws, Hebrews 10:1 (see Westcott).

[3] From this material sense of εἰκών, the essential part of which is that εἰκών means no accidental similarity but true representation, and representation of that which is, at least for a time, absent from sight, the transition to higher meanings is easy.

(a) Thus it is used of the likeness, primarily, but not wholly, physical, of men to Adam, and of glorified men to Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:49, and of a man being in some sense a visible representation of God, 1 Corinthians 11:7, ἀνήρεἰκὼν κ. δόξα θεοῦ ὑπάρχων. Compare of men Genesis 1:26; Genesis 5:3; Sirach 17:3, and especially Wisdom of Solomon 2:23. So too it is used of the representation of God in the new creation, Colossians 3:10.

(b) But if a man, as embodying Divine principles, and as being the outcome of the Divine character in a degree that is not predicated of lower stages of creation, can be said to be εἰκὼν θεοῦ, much more may εἰκὼν be used of Christ in relation to God. So 2 Corinthians 4:4, and our present passage.

[4] Thus the thought here is that Christ is the external expression, if the phrase may be allowed, of God. In this connexion, therefore, εἰκὼν is a metaphor closely akin to λόγος, save that the Word appeals to the mind through the ear, the Image through the eye. In either case Christ is regarded as being

(a) the outcome of the Father’s nature, and hence related to Him in a wholly unique way; and especially

(b) the means by which the Father manifests Himself to all that is without. Compare the title given in the Midrash to the Logos, “the light of the raiment of the Holy One” (quoted in J. Liechtenstein’s Hebrew Commentary on our passage, Leipzig, 1901). Such revelation began at the first moment when things external to God came into being, and will continue for ever, though the Incarnation as such centred it in human nature and focussed it there for the human eye.

τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου. The slightly emphatic position of ἀοράτου draws attention to the meaning of εἰκών here as the representation of God to created beings. God is invisible. His εἰκών may be seen. Observe that of course “the epithet must not be confined to the apprehension of the bodily senses, but will include the cognisance of the inward eye also” (Lightfoot).

From another point of view creation itself is the means by which τὰ ἀόρατα θεοῦ are seen, Romans 1:20. For ἀόρατος of God cf. 1 Timothy 1:17; Hebrews 11:27. In our Colossians 1:16 it is used generally, in contrast to ὁρατά, of things invisible to men.

πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως, “the Firstborn of all creation.” On the absence of the article before πρωτ. see note on εἰκων.

The unique relation in which the Son stands to all created beings has been already hinted at in εἰκών, but is now clearly brought out, first generally in this phrase, and secondly in that all individual things had their creation in and by and unto Him, and maintain their existence and coherence only in Him. How, hen, St Paul implies, can you put them into rivalry with Him?

πρωτότοκος. [1] Two meanings are possible.

(a) The primary meaning of the word, according to which the Son is here regarded as preceding πᾶσα κτἰσις in point of time. Cf. “Adam was the Firstborn of the world,” אדם הראשון בכורו של עולם, Num. R. § 4. 6.

(b) The secondary meaning of the higher position and privileges attached to a firstborn. So perhaps Exodus 4:22, σὺ δὲ ἐρεῖς τῷ Φαραώ Τάδε λέγει Κύριος Υἱὸς πρωτότοκός μου Ἰσραήλ, for Israel was by no means the eldest of the nations, though first in honour. Yet in that passage the phrase may merely mean that Israel is as the eldest son, i.e. in point of time, with very indirect reference to the privileges belonging to such.

A clearer instance is Psalms 88[89]:28 of David, and thus of Messiah, κἀγὼ πρωτότοκον θήσομαι αὐτόν, ὑψηλὸν παρὰ τοῖς βασιλεῦσιν τῆς γῆς, where the reference is to the position He shall hold; He is to be as the eldest son enjoying his privileges, as is brought out by the parallelism of the second clause. Sirach 36:17 [14], Ἰσραὴλ ὅν πρωτοτόκῳ (אca πρωτογόνῳ B) ὡμοίωσας, is only a reference to Exodus 4:22 as is evident from its original Hebrew, ישראל בכור כיניתה, “Israel whom Thou didst surname Firstborn.” Compare Jeremiah 38[31]:9 of N. Israel, Ἐφράιμ πρωτότοκός μού ἐστιν.

If this be adopted the chief thought of our passage is that the Son surpasses πᾶσα κτίσις in honour.

It will be observed that in none of the above passages is active sovereignty either stated or even implied. At the very most it is to be deduced frem primacy in honour.

[2] But the following words ὅτι ἐν αὐρῷ κ.τ.λ. suggest that the primary, temporal, meaning of the word is that which was chiefly in St Paul’s mind here.

And indeed this seems to be the thought in every passage of the N.T. where πρωτότοκος is used of Christ. If arranged in the order of their historical reference they are (a) our passage, at the commencement of creation, (b) Luke 2:7 at His birth, (c) Colossians 1:18, Revelation 1:5 at the Resurrection, (d) Romans 8:29, “among many brethren,” apparently in heavenly glory (cf. probably Hebrews 1:6).

[3] A further and very important question is whether πρωτότοκος necessarily implies that the one of whom it is used belongs to the same category as those with whom he is compared. Does it, that is to say, necessarily mean here that the πρωτότοκος Himself comes under the category of κτίσις?

(a) The question is not to be solved peremptorily by reading, as did Isidore of Pelusium, πρωτοτόκος in the active, “the First-bearer” (Ep. III. 31). For such a meaning is never found in the Greek Bible, nor indeed exactly anywhere else, and further in our passage it would be inadmissible in view of the fact that δευτεροτόκος would be impossible with reference to πᾶσα κτίσις (cf. Abbott).

(b) Assuming then that we must undoubtedly read πρωτότοκος in the passive, “the Firstborn,” it may be conceded that ordinarily the πρωτότοκος is in the category of those with whom He is compared. Yet it must be observed (α) that πρωτότοκος does not of itself imply that others are born afterwards (for the firstborn is at once consecrated to God, without waiting to see whether others are born); (β) that in the present case the various parts of creation are set (Colossians 1:16-17) in a position so utterly subordinate to Him that He cannot be a creature in the sense in which they are creatures; and (γ) that this suggests that the apostle did not intend to represent Him as in any sense κτίσις, but as prior to, and therefore superior to, πᾶσα κτίσις.

A curious, but very late, illustration of this use of the Hebrew word for “firstborn,” בְּכוֹר, is found in the commentary on the Pentateuch by R. Baḥya (Bechai), died 1340 A.D. (fol. 124. 4, Schoettgen on Hebrews 1:6), who says of God, “He is the Firstborn of the world,” שהוא בכור של עולם, and again (fol. 74. 4, Schoettgen, loc. cit.) says that God calls Himself Firstborn, adding in explanation of Exodus 13:2, “sanctify to me every firstborn,” as though it were Sanctify me with all the firstborn[98].

After this we cannot be surprised that Jews could call Jacob (probably = Israel) the Firstborn of the LORD בכורו של הקב׳ה (Exod. R. § 19, about the middle), or that they applied midrashically Psalms 89:28 directly to Messiah; see Exod. R. (same §, near the end) on Exodus 13:2, “R. Nathan says, The Holy One, blessed be He, saith to Moses, As I made Jacob the Firstborn, for it is said (Exodus 4:22) ‘my son, my firstborn Israel,’ so do I make King Messiah Firstborn, for it is said (Psalms 89:28) I too will set him as Firstborn.”

But that πρωτότοκος was a recognised title of Messiah among the Jews, especially among those of St Paul’s time, there is no sufficient evidence to prove. Hebrews 1:6 is in itself far from enough.

πάσης κτίσεως. κτίσις in the N.T.═ [1] act of creation, Romans 1:20; [2] creation as the aggregate of created things, Mark 13:19; Romans 8:22; [3] a single part of creation regarded as space, Colossians 1:23; institution, 1 Peter 2:13 (where see Hort); animate or inanimate beings, Romans 8:39; Hebrews 4:13.

The first is evidently out of the question here, but it is very difficult to decide between the second and the third. In favour of the third is urged the absence of the article, cf. Blass, Gram. § 47. 9, Vulg. primogenitus omnis creaturae. Yet κτίσις may be here used anarthrously like κόσμος, γῆ, οὐρανός, and “πρωτότοκος seems to require either a collective noun, or a plural πάσων τῶν κτίσεων” (Lightfoot).

We therefore translate here “of all creation.” Cf. Judith 9:12 [17] and Revelation 3:14.


Verses 15-23

15–23. The nature, office, and work of Him into whose sovereignty they have been removed (Colossians 1:15-20), together with a further statement of the meaning and aim of their emancipation (Colossians 1:21-23)

St Paul wishes the Colossians to appreciate Christ as He now is, the risen and ascended Lord in glory, and to give Him His due. Attempts were being made to lead them astray, and to persuade them to find in created beings more help than Christ could give. St Paul, therefore, draws out at length His complete supremacy and power.

He does this by telling them His present relation to God (Colossians 1:15 a), and to all creation (Colossians 1:15 b–17), and to the Church (Colossians 1:18 a), laying stress on the position gained for Him by His resurrection (Colossians 1:18 b), and on the universal extent of the effect of His death (Colossians 1:19-20). St Paul then passes on to remind them once more of what Christ has already done for them (Colossians 1:21-22 a), and His desire to present them faultless if they will but stand firm (Colossians 1:22 b, 23).

(Colossians 1:15) He is the complete and visible expression of the invisible God, prior to all that has come into being from God; (Colossians 1:16) Because in Him was the creative centre of all things, namely in the various heavens and on earth, both those visible to our natural eyes and those invisible, including super-terrestrial beings of every grade; of the creation of them all He was the instrument and He is the final aim. (Colossians 1:17) He (and no other) is (eternally) before all things (in time), and in Him (who ever remains the same) they all have their permanence. (Colossians 1:18) And it is He who is “the centre of the unity and the seat of the life” of the Church, for He is the Chief and Beginning of it, who was once among the dead, but was the first to rise from them, in order that He should take the first place among all things; (Colossians 1:19) For this was God’s good pleasure (to use the Gospel phrase); namely that in Him from all eternity the complete sum of the Father’s attributes should permanently dwell, (Colossians 1:20) and therefore that He (the Son) should be the means by which the Father should reconcile all things unto Him (the Son), making peace by His death on the Cross—by Him and no other, whether the things be on earth or in the heavens, (Colossians 1:21) This reconciliation includes you—you who once were in a state of alienation and enmity in your thought, showing itself in your worthless deeds; yet, as facts really are, He reconciled you (Colossians 1:22) in the incarnate Saviour by His death, that He might present you before Him at the judgment-day completely holy and without any blemish and unimpeachable, (Colossians 1:23) if only you stay on in your faith (cf. Colossians 1:4), set on the sure Foundation, and firm in character, and resisting all attempts to move you from the hope brought by the Gospel which you yourselves heard, the same which was proclaimed in every district, and of the power of which I myself am a living witness.


Verse 16

16. ὅτι. “Because”; justifying the preceding title (πρωτότοκος πάσ. κτίσ.).

ἐν αὐτῷ, stronger than the διʼ αὐτοῦ in the second part of the verse, and in John 1:3 a, and even than χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν, John 1:3 b. It is like Colossians 1:17, τά πάντα ἐν αὐτῷ συνέστηκεν. We grasp, or think we grasp, the sense of the latter phrase without much difficulty, that all things find their coherence in Him alone, but we sometimes fail to appreciate its complement, that they must have had their immediate origin in Him alone, who is “the creative centre of all things, the causal element of their existence” (Ell.). Hence He is called ἡ ἀρχὴ τῆς κτίσεως τοῦ θεοῦ, Revelation 3:14.

For a similar use of ἐν, but with reference to the Father, see Acts 17:28. Wisdom of Solomon 9:1 b, ὁ ποιήσας τὰ πάντα ἐν λόγῳ σου, is parallel in form alone, for it is a literal translation of the Hebrew בִּדְבָרֶךָ which in such a phrase would naturally mean “by Thy word.”

ἐκτίσθη. κτίζω is used in the N.T. only of God’s action, and so almost universally in the LXX., the exceptions being Leviticus 16:16 of the tabernacle being set up, 1 Esdras 4:53 of founding a city (a classical usage), Haggai 2:9 apparently of building the temple, and possibly also Jeremiah 39[32]:15 as a var. lect. for κτηθήσονται. Aquila and after him Sym. and Theod. frequently substitute it for a less exact term in the LXX. when the Hebrew has ברא, e.g. Genesis 1:1; Genesis 1:27.

τὰ πάντα See notes on Textual Criticism. Almost certainly to be separated from the following words, partly because in the right text no article follows (yet cf. Ephesians 3:15), partly because τὰ πάντα occurs so often alone, both with κτίζω (e.g. the end of this verse, Ephesians 3:9; Revelation 4:11 bis; Sirach 23:20) and with other somewhat similar phrases (e.g. Colossians 1:20; Ephesians 1:10-11; Ephesians 1:23; Ephesians 4:10).

Observe [1] τὰ πάντα, as contrasted with πάντα, regards the several parts as forming a whole, cf. 1 Corinthians 15:27-28. [2] τὰ πάντα, afterwards denned as ἐν οὐρ. κ.τ.λ., not barely τὸν οὐρανὸν κ. τ. γῆν, because St Paul is laying stress on Christ’s relation not to the universe generally but to creatures, particularly sentient creatures, in it. [3] τὰ πάντα, not τὰ ἄλλα, or τὰ λοιπά, thus absolutely excluding the πρωτότοκος from being Himself a κτίσις (cf. Lightfoot).

ἐν τοις οὐρανοῖς κ. ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς. “In the heavens and on the earth,” recalling Genesis 1:1 and especially Colossians 2:1, all things whether above or below. Perhaps οὐρανοί here (contrast 1 Corinthians 8:5, εἴτε ἐν οὐρανῷ κ.τ.λ.) to include a reference to the seven stages of the heavenly regions so frequently spoken of in the apocalyptic literature (cf. Introd. p. xxiii.), a theory which can hardly have been absent from the false teaching that St Paul was combating, and one which he himself accepted in some measure (2 Corinthians 12:2).

τά ὁρατὰκαὶ τὰ ἀόρατα, “the visible and the invisible.” ὁρατός occurs elsewhere in the Greek Bible in this sense only in Job 37:21. ἀόρατος (see Colossians 1:15) is used nowhere else in the Greek Bible or the Hexapla fragments of invisible things absolutely (contrast Romans 1:20 in reference to God), but it is used in Isaiah 45:3, 2 Maccabees 9:5 of things unseen before a certain time, and in Genesis 1:2 of chaos.

The two words together comprise all existing things regarded from the side of human vision. Compare Plato’s τὸ ὁρατόν and τὸ ἀειδές. They practically correspond to our “material and immaterial” but avoid the probable error, philosophical and scientific, of such a division, ὁρατά probably includes both stellar and earthly powers; ἀόρατα perhaps solely super-terrestrial beings, “angels” of every kind, but hardly souls of men on earth.

θρόνοι. Here only in St Paul. The throne, from being the mere symbol of power (Luke 1:52), easily becomes the synonym for it (e.g. Revelation 13:2; cf. 2 Samuel 14:9; 1 Kings 1:37; 1 Kings 1:47; 1 Kings 2:33, etc.).

Here, with the three following terms, it is personified, St Paul perhaps preferring personifications of abstract terms to direct personal appellations, as more suitable to the vague and mysterious nature of these exalted beings—if as is probable from Colossians 2:10; Colossians 2:15 beings are intended.

The exact reference of θρόνοι here (a) cannot be to beings that merely support God’s throne, for this would separate θρόνοι from the class of the three following terms, which have a distinctly active sense; and (b) can hardly be definitely to those who occupy thrones surrounding the throne of God, Revelation 4:4 (Abbott), for we should then expect some definite reference in the following terms as well; but (c) the reference is probably to the beings, whatever they were, called by this name in the current pseudepigraphical literature. See Slavonic Enoch XX. 1, and Asc. Isaiah, “worship neither throne nor angel which belongs to the six heavens” (7:21); “when I have raised thee to the seventh heaven … thou shalt know that there is nothing hidden from the thrones and from those that dwell in the heavens and from the angels” (7:27); “It is He alone to whose voice all the heavens and thrones give answer” (8:8). Testt. XII Patriarchs, “and in the heaven next to this are thrones, dominions, in which hymns are ever offered to God” (Levi, iii. Sinker’s trans.).

κυριότητες, dominationes Vulg., dominaciouns Wycl., Ephesians 1:21; 2 Peter 2:10; Judges 1:8†. Not in LXX. or Hexapla fragments. As κύριος seems to have taken much of its later connotation from the fact of its being the Greek equivalent of Dominus, the Latin title of the Roman Emperor (cf. especially Dalman, Words of Jesus, p. 330), so probably κυριότης borrowed part of its meaning from dominatio. If so it probably has the connotation of despotism which is lacking in θρόνος. Translated into personal and modern terms the two are “Kings, Czars.” But in this case also the reference is doubtless to angelic beings: cf. the “Greek Legend” of Asc. Isa. vii. 21, μὴ προσκυνήσῃς μήτε ἀγγέλους μήτε ἀρχαγγέλους μήτε κυριότητας μήτε θρόνους (Charles’ Edition, p. 144).

ἀρχαὶ, ἐξουσίαι, “ether princeheedis, ether powers,” Wycl. The two words frequently come together, Colossians 2:10; Colossians 2:15; Ephesians 1:21 (ὑπεράνω πάσης ἀρχῆς κ. ἐξουσίας κ. δυνάμεως κ. κυριότητος κ. παντὸς ὀνόματος ὀνομαζομένου κ.τ.λ.), Colossians 3:10, Colossians 4:12.

Of the two titles ἀρχαί is doubtless the higher, expressing as it does a priority of rank and rule, ἐξουσίαι being more general, contrasting the possessors of ἐξουσία with those, whoever they may be, over whom it is exercised. For ἀρχαί without ἐξουσία see Romans 8:38-39. On ἐξουσία cf. Colossians 1:13 note. For the use of these two words compare the phrase “all the angels of power and all the angels of principalities” (Eth. Enoch, lxi. 10). Observe

[1] The terms are in a descending scale, generally but perhaps not in detail. For in Ephesians 1:21 κυριότης follows ἐξουσία.

[2] The supposition (P. Ewald) that they are in two pairs has no support either from Ephesians 1:21 or from the use of the terms in the pseudepigraphical books. Hence we have no right to regard the ἀρχαί and ἐξουσίαι as standing in closer relation (by opposition or assistance) to believers than the θρόνοι and κυριότητες.

[3] They include only supernatural powers, for there is no hint that the Colossians were in danger of worshipping human beings (contrast Colossians 2:18).

[4] Though St Paul believed in the existence of angels (1 Corinthians 6:3), and probably in grades of them (because such a belief was very common in his time), yet he here employs not strictly official, much less personal, names—contrast e.g. Eth. Enoch. Bk Jub.—but only personifications of abstract terms. This looks as though here he purposely expressed himself vaguely. He found the terms in common use, e.g. among the Colossians, and he uses them, but he neither affirms nor denies their personality.

On the other hand it is hard to see here any signs of his “impatience with this elaborate angelology” (Lightfoot).

ταʼ πάντα. Emphatic repetition, introducing new facts.

διʼ αὐτοῦ. Regarding the Son (Colossians 1:13) as the means by which all things have been created. So often, e.g. John 1:3; John 1:10; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Hebrews 1:2; cf. Romans 11:36. Compare Philo, de Mon. ii. 5 (II. p. 225), λόγοςδιʼ οὗ σύμπας ὁ κόσμος ἐδημιουργεῖτο. But Lightfoot points out that Philo regarded the Logos as a passive tool or instrument, and therefore “frequently and consistently used the simple instrumental dative to describe the relation of the Word to the Creator,” e.g. Leg. All. iii. 31 § 96, Wendland (I. p. 106), ὁ λόγοςᾧ καθάπερ ὀργάνῳ προσχρησάμενος. But this the N.T. cannot and does not do.

καὶ εἰς αὐτόν. The Son is here regarded as the final aim to which all things tend. “The Eternal Word is the goal of the universe, as He was the starting-point. It must end in unity, as it proceeded from unity: and the centre of this unity is Christ. This expression has no parallel, and could have none, in the Alexandrian phraseology and doctrine” (Lightfoot).

In Romans 11:36 we find stated of God, without regard to the hypostatic distinctions, ὅτι ἐξ αὐτοῦ κ. διʼ αὐτοῦ κ. εἰς αὐτὸν τὰ πάντα, and in 1 Corinthians 8:6, expressly of the Father, ὁ πατήρ, ἐξ οὖ τὰ πάντα καὶ ἡμεῖς εἰς αὐτόν, where, however, the reference is verbally limited to the Father as the supreme object of the Christian life.

But observe that St Paul could surely not have used εἰς αὐτόν of God, in one place as such, of the Father in another place, and, here, of the Son, unless he had recognised the Son as wholly Divine. Pearson (Creed, p. 115), after pointing out the testimony that Colossians 1:16-17 bear to the greatness and the work of the Son, adds that even “if they were spoken of the Father they could be no way injurious to His majesty, Who is nowhere more plainly or fully set forth unto us as the Maker of the world.”

ἔκτισται. The perfect is chosen because he is passing from the thought of creating (Colossians 1:15 b, 16) to that of sustaining (Colossians 1:17).


Verse 17

17. καὶ αὐτὸς., Colossians 1:18, note.

ἔστιν. “Non dicit, factus est [ἐγένετο]; neque erat, quorum hoc tamen angusto sensu dici poterat, coll. John 1:1, sed est, in praesenti, conf. John 8:58” (Beng.). So St Basil, long before (as quoted by Lightfoot), ὁ ἀπόστολος εἰπών, Πάντα διʼ αὐτοῦ καὶ εἰς αὐτὸν ἔκτισται, ὤφειλεν εἰπεῖν, Καὶ αὐτὸς ἐγένετο πρὸ πάντων, εἰπὼν δὲ, Καὶ αὐτὸς ἔστι πρὸ πάντων, ἔδειξε τὸν μὲν ἀεὶ ὄντα τὴν δὲ κτίσιν γενομένην (adv. Eunom. iv. vol. I. p. 294).

St Paul, that is to say, here speaks of the existence of the Son above, and apart from, all time. Cf. πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί (John 8:58), thus contrasting Him with τὰ πάντα already summed up under ἔκτισται. Only in such a Being who “is,” independently of all, can all be created and maintain existence.

πρὸ. Doubtless of time, as apparently always in St Paul, thus pointing out the special reference of ἔστιν. If it were of rank it would be superfluous, after the greatness attributed to the Son in Colossians 1:16. It repeats a part of the thought of πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως (Colossians 1:15).

πάντων. Certainly neuter because of τὰ πάντα on either side. Contrast Vulg. et ipse est ante omnes et omnia in ipso constant. If omnes was hot originally due to confusion with the et following (especially if the original omnia was contracted) it came presumably from a desire to emphasize the inferiority of the throni, dominationes, principatus, potestates.

πάντων, all things considered one by one; τὰ πάντα, in their totality.

καὶ τὰ πάντα ἐν αὐτῷ. See notes on Textual Criticism. Ellicott, comparing ἐν αὐτῷ ἐκτίσθη, says that the change of verb modifies the meaning of ἐν: “Christ was the conditional element of their creation, the causal element of their persistence.” Yet even their persistence is conditioned by the fact of Christ’s existence as well as caused by it. So Chrysostom asks Πῶς συνέστηκεν ἐν τῷ οὐκ ὄντι;

συνίστημι, “hold together,” “endure.” The perf. act. of συνίστημι occurs here only in the N.T.

The word would probably be suggested to the Aramaic-speaking Apostle by the Aramaic אִתְקַיַּים, of which it is a very literal equivalent. Compare Targ. Job XV. 29, וְלָא יִתְקַיַּים עוּתְרֵיה, “for neither shall his substance continue” (R.V.). So in Onkelos, Genesis 19:20; Genesis 42:18; Deuteronomy 8:3 it is used of men continuing in life.

Thus the Son is here spoken of as the One in whom all coheres, who is the Bond of all. Compare Philo, de Profug. (= de Fuga et Invent.) 20 § 112, Wendland I. p. 562, 5 ὅ τε γὰρ τοῦ ὄντος λόγος δεσμὸς ὤν τῶν ἁπάντων, ὡς εἴρηται, καὶ συνέχει τὰ μέρη πάντα.

Part of the same thought is expressed in the Rabbinic saying, הקב׳ה מקומו של עולם ואין עולמו מקומו, “The Holy One, blessed be He, is the place of the world, and not the world His place” (Gen. R. § 68 middle).

For a slightly different aspect of Christ’s preservation of all things see Hebrews 1:3.


Verse 18

18. καὶ αὐτός. In Colossians 1:14-20 αὐτός occurs twelve times, besides ὅς three times, in every case (vide infra) referring to Christ. St Paul will leave no loophole for another to creep in and steal His glory. In the present verse the thought is—He who is the image of God and the means and aim of all creation, He, and no other, is the source of life to believers. See the Letter to Diognetus, § 7, in Lightfoot.

ἡ κεφαλὴ., Colossians 1:15-17 seem to enlarge on τοῦ υἱοῦ τῆς ἀγάπης αὐτοῦ, Colossians 1:18 on the preceding words τὴν βασιλεἱαν (Colossians 1:13).

κεφαλή is used of Christ only in 1 Corinthians 11:3-4, where He is called the Head of an individual man, and here, Colossians 2:10; Colossians 2:19; Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 4:15; Ephesians 5:23, where He is regarded as the Head of all spiritual powers as well as of the Church.

τοῦ σώματος. Had this been omitted κεφαλή might have appeared to be a mere figure of speech. Its insertion makes it clear that He stands to the Church in the relation of Head to body. He is “the centre of its unity and the seat of its life” (Lightfoot).

Observe that although St Paul compared the company of believers (or perhaps the local community of believers, see Hort, The Christian Ecclesia, p. 145) to a body in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Romans 12:4-5, following therein Greek and Roman precedents (for Latin examples see Wetstein on Romans 12:5), yet he now speaks rather of Christ as its Head; i.e. in that Second Group St Paul was laying stress on the relation of Christians to each other, here rather on the dignity of Christ and their relation to Him (cf. Beet).

Observe that “the relation thus set forth under a figure is mutual. The work which Christ came to do on earth was not completed when He passed from the sight of men: He the Head needed a body of members for its full working out through the ages: part by part He was, as St Paul says, to be fulfilled in the community of His disciples, whose office in the world was the outflow of His own. And on the other hand His disciples had no intelligible unity apart from their ascended Head, who was also to them the present central fountain of life and power” (Hort, The Christian Ecclesia, p. 148). See further on Colossians 1:24.

It is, by the way, somewhat strange that St Paul should here introduce the simile of the body as though it were well known to the Colossians. Perhaps Epaphras had heard St Paul use it at Ephesus about the time 1 Cor. was written.

τῆς ἑκκλησίας. In apposition to τοῦ σώματος and explanatory of it. Cf. Colossians 1:24; Ephesians 1:22-23. For ἑκκλησία in the Epp. and Apoc. see Hort, The Christian Ecclesia, pp. 116–118, Swete on Revelation 22:16.

ὅς ἐστιν, an epexegetic relative clause. “Like the more usual ὅστις, the simple relatival force passes into the explanatory, which almost necessarily involves some tinge of causal or argumentative meaning” (Ellicott). Only by His resurrection, and all that this meant, did He enter into this relation to the Church.

[]ἀρχή. See the notes on Textual Criticism. Lightfoot shows by examples that the article is generally omitted when ἀρχή is predicate; e.g. Tatian, ad Graec. 4, θεὸςμόνος ἄναρχος ὤν καί αὐτὸς ὑπάρχων τῶν ὅλων ἀρχή.

For ἀρχή used of Christ see Revelation 3:14; Revelation 21:6; Revelation 22:13†, but hardly Hebrews 6:1.

It has been suggested that ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν is to be taken not only with πρωτότοκος but also with ἀρχή, thus limiting the reference of ἀρχή to the Resurrection.

But the thought is wider. The Son is regarded as the ἀρχή of all the beings that are reconciled (Colossians 1:20) and presented blameless (Colossians 1:22) in glory, i.e. of what is elsewhere called the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17, εἴ τις ἐν Χριστῷ, καινὴ κτίσις, cf. Galatians 6:15). Hence ἀπαρχή is avoided here, for He is more than “first-fruits” as regards the new creation. Contrast 1 Corinthians 15:20. Hence, rather, ἀρχή is parallel to εἰκών (Colossians 1:15), and πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν to πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως, and, as will be seen, ἵνα γένηται ἐν πᾶσιν αὐτὸς πρωτεύων, with its expansion in Colossians 1:19-20, to Colossians 1:16-17.

We must thus attribute to ἀρχή its fullest meaning, including, as in Proverbs 8:22-23, and perhaps in Genesis 49:3, Deuteronomy 21:17, that of time (which however is but subordinate here), and that of dignity and worth, Hosea 1:11 (= Colossians 2:2), besides its connotation of supreme source and originating power, cf. ἄρχηγος, Acts 3:15.

Observe that this full meaning would come more naturally to St Paul than to a Gentile, accustomed as he would be to the Hebrew equivalent of ἀρχή, viz. רֶאשִׁית. Compare e.g. Rashi’s manifold interpretation of the first word in Genesis, b’reshith.

πρωτότοκος, Colossians 1:15 note; in conformity with St Paul’s words at Antioch in Pisidia that God had fulfilled the promise made unto the fathers, ἀνάστησας Ἰησοῦν, ὡς καὶ ἐν τῷ ψαλμῷ γέγραπται τῷ δευτέρῳ· υἱός μου εἶ σύ, ἐγὼ σήμερον γεγέννηκά σε (Acts 13:33).

ἐκ. Not to be confused with the simple genitive (Revelation 1:5, ὁ πρωτότοκος τῶν νεκρῶν), but expressly implying that He was among the dead, and came up from them leaving them there.

τῶν νεκρῶν. ἐκ νεκρῶν is very common, but the article is very rare, the exact phrase occurring only in Ephesians 5:14, καὶ ἀνάστα ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν, and perhaps in 1 Thessalonians 1:10, ὅν ἥγειρεν ἐκ [τῶν] νεκρῶν. Compare also ἀπὸ τῶν νεκρῶν, Matthew 14:2; Matthew 27:64; Matthew 28:7†, and μετὰ τῶν νεκρῶν, Luke 24:5†. The article has almost the sense of “all.” Contrast Colossians 2:12.

ἵνα. The final object of His inherent supremacy, and His priority in Resurrection.

γένηται, not . For this He becomes (contrast preceding ἐστιν), partly at once on His Resurrection and Ascension (compare Philippians 2:9), but completely only at the consummation of all things. Cf. ib. Colossians 1:10.

ἐν πᾶσιν. Certainly neuter, because of τὰ πάντα in Colossians 1:17; Colossians 1:20. Compare Philippians 4:12. Observe that by position the stress is on ἐν πᾶσιν, not on αὐτός.

αὐτὸς, vide supra.

πρωτεύων†, “holding the first place.” Vulg. primatum tenens, cf. 3 John 1:9, ὁ φιλοπρωτεύων αὐτῶν Διοτρέφης. πρωτεύειν has precisely the same meaning in Esther 5:11 (B). Lightfoot quotes appositely from Plut. Mor. p. 9, σπεύδοντες τοὺς παῖδας ἐν πᾶσι τάχιον πρωτεῦσαι.


Verse 19

19. ὅτι. Stating the reason for His eventually becoming πρωτεύων ἐν πᾶσιν.

ἐν αὐτῷ. In the front for emphasis. Observe that the resulting collocation of words could hardly fail to recall the Baptism (Mark 1:11, ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός, ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα; Matthew 3:17, ἐν ᾧ εὐδόκησα) and the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:5, ἐν ᾧ εὐδόκησα; cf. 2 Peter 1:17, εἰς ὃν ἐγὼ εὐδόκησα), especially as the phrase τοῦ υἱοῦ τῆς ἀγάπης αὐτοῦ (Colossians 1:13) is lying at the back of all these verses in our Epistle.

εὐδόκησεν, “(the Father) was pleased.” The subject may be [1] Christ, [2] πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα, [3] God, or the Father.

Grammatically there is but little to choose, save that there is a slight harshness in understanding “God” or “the Father.” Yet cf. James 1:12. But theologically the decision is not so hard.

[1] If Christ be the subject (Tertullian, adv. Marc. Colossians 1:19, Conyb. and Howson), we have the unparalleled statement of His being the finally determining will, even over the πλήρωμα, and we have the improbable statement of His being not only the means by which, but also the object to which, all things are to be reconciled, Colossians 1:20 (see note there). Contrast 2 Corinthians 5:19, θεὸς ἦν ἐν Χριστῷ κόσμον καταλλάσσων ἑαυτῷ.

[2] If πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα be the subject (R.V.mg., Weiss, Ell., Abb., P. Ewald) more is attributed to what is impersonal than we should expect, Colossians 2:9 is parallel only in form, for there it is only said that the πλήρωμα dwells in Christ, not that the πλήρωμα exercises pleasure and determination, and even reconciles (Colossians 1:20).

[3] But if “God” or “the Father” be the subject (A.V., R.V., Lightfoot), there is no such difficulty.

Further, εὐδοκεῖν is used of God thirteen times in the N.T. against seven times of men, and though it is true that these seven are all in St Paul’s writings, yet he also uses εὐδοκεῖν of God three times, 1 Corinthians 1:21; 1 Corinthians 10:5; Galatians 1:15.

The analogy of εὐδοκία in Ephesians 1:5; Ephesians 1:9, when St Paul is speaking of God’s purpose, also tends to confirm the reference of εὐδοκεῖν here to God. Compare Matthew 11:26 (|| Luke 10:21), and probably Philippians 2:13.

Observe that although the infinitive after εὐδοκεῖν, in all the other seven times that the construction occurs in the N.T. (Luke 12:32; Romans 15:26; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Galatians 1:15; 1 Thessalonians 2:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:1), refers to the subject of the finite verb, yet in 2 Maccabees 14:35, as in our present passage, it does not do so (Σύ, Κύριε, … ηὐδόκησας ναὸν τῆς σῆς σκηνώσεως ἐν ἡμῖν γένεσθαι). On the tense vide infra, s.v. κατοικῆσαι.

πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα. [1] On the grammatical meaning of the word see by all means J. A. R. Ephesians, pp. 255–259, against the theories of both Fritzsche and Lightfoot.

(i) He shows that substantives ending in -μα or rather -ματ- are not necessarily passive in meaning, but represent “the result of the agency of the corresponding verb,” and that many words oscillate between two meanings, e.g. βρῶμα may be the food eaten, or the canker that eats.

(ii) He shows that πλήρωμα in particular probably has an active meaning. For instance in reference to manning a ship it = “a crew,” or to lading a ship, its “cargo,” i.e. the result of ναῦν πληροῦν or πληροῦσθαι is in either case πλήρωμα. So too πλήρωμα σπυρίδος (cf. Mark 8:20) = “a basketful,” strictly a “fulness,” in exchange for “emptiness.” Similarly, with reference to Socrates’ statement that six kinds of labourers together with a merchant and a retail dealer are necessary to make up a city, Aristotle says (Polit. IV. 4), “These together form the pleroma of a city in its simplest stage”: ταῦτα πάντα γίνεται πλήρωμα τῆς πρώτης πόλεως. And in this connexion, adds the Dean, we have the phrase in Ephesians 1:23, where “the Church is spoken of as that without which in a certain sense the Christ Himself is incomplete.”

[2] But although we may accept both his explanation of the grammatical meaning of πλήρωμα, and also his interpretation of it in Ephesians 1:23 (see particularly his Ephesians, pp. 42 sqq.), the question of its interpretation in our passage is another matter. Light is thrown upon it by Colossians 2:9, ἐν αὐτῷ κατοικεῖ πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τῆς θεότητος σωματικῶς, in so far as this suggests that in our passage τὸ πλήρωμα connotes the longer phrase τὸ πλήρωμα τῆς θεότητος. But this, according to the analogy of the use of πλήρωμα as stated above, seems to mean “that which fills up the deity,” i.e. the sum of the attributes without which God Himself cannot be deemed to be complete[99]. And this suits the context admirably.

[3] πᾶν must not be overlooked, especially as it might appear to be tautological. But in fact, by its correlation with τὰ πάντα, it implies that if it had been possible for less than all the πλήρωμα to dwell in Christ, then some of τὰ πάντα would not have been reconciled. So too, perhaps, in Colossians 2:9 πᾶν implies that otherwise not every rule etc. would have been subject to Christ. Possibly the thought in our passage is that different parts of the beings in the universe owe their origin to different parts in the Divine πλήρωμα, and hence the indwelling of all of it in Christ was necessary if He was to reconcile all.

Whether πλήρωμα was a technical term used by the false teachers at Colossae we have no means of knowing, but that St Paul did not derive it from them is evident from the freedom with which he employs it (twelve times). The Gnostics of course employed it in the second century, but may have taken it from this Epistle and that to the Ephesians.

κατοικῆσαι., Song of Solomon 2:9; compare Ephesians 3:17, and James 4:5; similarly Ephesians 2:22.

Observe that κατοικεῖν = dwell permanently, St Paul thus rebutting any supposition of the πλήρωμα being only temporarily connected with Christ. Perhaps the false teachers at Colossae taught this error. Compare the opinion of Cerinthus.

An important question arises as to the period to which St Paul attributes the dwelling, or rather the commencement of the dwelling, of the πλήρωμα in Christ. Four answers may be given.

[1] After the Resurrection, when the Son’s redemptive work was completed. But the connexion of the following clauses rather implies that the indwelling is a necessary condition of being able to redeem.

[2] At the Baptism, in which case the collocation of words ἑν αὐτῷ εὐδόκησεν (vide supra) would have still more force. But this seems to limit the πλήρωμα to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon our Lord, and πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα implies a different thought from the power and work of the Holy Spirit.

[3] At the Incarnation, cf. Colossians 2:9. This is possibly right, but the absence of any limiting word here is against this.

[4] In Eternity, the reference being to the timeless communication of the Godhead from the Father to the Son.

It is because the Son was the recipient of πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα that He was able to accomplish His redemptive work fully.

[5] κατοικῆσαι here and κατοικεῖ in Colossians 2:9 seem hardly consistent with any such meaning of πλήρωμα as causes this indwelling to be realised only in the future.


Verse 20

20. καὶ διʼ αὐτοῦ. Still emphatic, cf. Colossians 1:18 note.

ἀποκαταλλάξαι., Colossians 1:21. Ephesians 2:16†. Not in the LXX. or the Hexapla fragments, or, as it seems, in profane authors. Notice the following points.

[1] The additional force of ἀπὸ to καταλλάσσω “reconcile” (Romans 5:10 bis; 1 Corinthians 7:11; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20†) appears to be completeness, thoroughness. Compare ἀπέχειν, Philippians 4:18, ἀπεκδέχεσθαι, Romans 8:19. Perhaps however it = “again,” “back,” compare ἀποδίδωμι, Romans 2:6, ἀποκαθίστημι, Matthew 12:13; if so it only emphasizes the thought of reconciliation.

[2] Its subject may be (a) πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα, to be defended theologically by our considering the πλήρωμα of the Father indirectly to mean the Father in His quality of mercy etc.: (b) God or the Father, the infinitive being directly dependent on εὐδόκησεν. This is not hard grammatically, and theologically much more satisfactory.

[3] The time to which the reconciliation refers has been disputed. It may be (a) hereafter, when all are brought in and reconciliation consummated. But more probably it is (b) at the Passion, reconciliation being regarded as essential and ideal, as is further explained in the next clause. Cf. Hebrews 10:14. In itself the aorist here is probably timeless.

[4] We cannot infer from this verse the final restitution of all men to blessed communion with God. For St Paul is not thinking of this question here.

τὰ πάντα., Colossians 1:16 note. On the relation of τὰ πάντα to reconciliation, see infra εἴτεοὐρανοῖς.

εἰς αὐτόν. It is extremely difficult to say Who is intended.

[1] The Father. Though αὐτόν prima facie refers to someone other than the subject of ἀποκαταλλάξαι, yet “the oblique cases of the personal pronoun αὐτός are used in the N.T. very widely, and in cases where we should commonly find the reflexive pronoun in classical authors: e.g. Ephesians 1:4-5, ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶςεἷναι ἡμᾶς ἁγίους καὶ ἀμώμους κατενώπιον αὐτοῦπροορίσας ἡμᾶς εἰς υἱοθεσίαν διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς αὐτόν.… It would indeed seem that αὐτοῦ etc. may be used for ἑαυτοῦ etc. in almost every connexion, except where it is the direct object of the verb” (Lightfoot). Lightfoot also points out that reconciliation is always represented as made to the Father whether the Father or the Son is said to reconcile, cf. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, and Ephesians 2:16; cf. Romans 5:10.

[2] The Son. In favour of this is the continual reference of αὐτός in this passage from Colossians 1:16 onwards, and also the strong presumption that St Paul is following the lines laid down in Colossians 1:16, that as Creation has the Son both for its means and for its end, so here all things are reconciled both by means of Him and unto Him.

Neither does there appear to be any a priori objection to this theologically; it is only another side of the statement that all things are to become subject to Christ (1 Corinthians 15:28), and through Him to the Father.

εἰρηνοποιήσας. Here only in the N.T., cf. εἰρηνοποιός, Matthew 5:9†. In the LXX. only Proverbs 10:10, and in the Hexapla fragments only Isaiah 27:5.

The subject is that of εὐδόκησεν and ἀποκαταλλάξαι, viz. the Father, ὁ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης, Romans 15:33; Romans 16:20. The time will be that of ἀποκαταλλάξαι, εἰρηνοποιήσαςσταυροῦ αὐτοῦ forming a parenthesis.

διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ σταυροῦ αὐτοῦ. In Eph. the two terms are separate: Colossians 1:7, ἀπολύτρωσιν διὰ τοῦ αἵματος αὐτοῦ; Colossians 2:16, ἀποκαταλλάξῃδιὰ τοῦ σταυροῦ. The direct statement that peace is made διὰ τοῦ αἵματος occurs here only.

τοῦ σταυροῦ αὐτοῦ. The Incarnation alone was insufficient. But doubtless the Gross is also mentioned to familiarise the minds of the Colossians with the fact that however shameful the death of Jesus was, yet it was by this that their peace with God was made; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:23-24, and infra Colossians 2:14-15.

[διʼ αὐτοῦ]. See notes on Textual Criticism. The repetition, if genuine, lays stress on the fact that it was by the Son, and no other, that the reconciliation was made.

τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς. See notes on Textual Criticism.

τὰ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς. Contrast the order of these two phrases in Colossians 1:16 where St Paul is giving the order of creation. Here reconciliation taking place through the crucifixion is regarded as spreading from the earth to heaven. The addition here of ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς has given rise to much discussion as to how they can require reconciliation.

Probably the answer lies in the universe having moral as well as physical solidarity. Just as, probably, every physical act affects the very furthest bounds of space, so is it with every moral act. If so it cannot but be that sin on earth affected the whole of creation (without necessarily making all creation strictly sinful), and again that the reconciliation of things on earth to God should restore even the things in heaven to that perfect fellowship with God which they once enjoyed. Compare Hebrews 9:23-26, especially αὐτὰ δὲ τὰ ἐπουράνια κρείττοσιν θυσίαις παρὰ ταύτας, on which passage Dorner says, “The effect of sin and guilt reaches into heaven; it cannot be indifferent to God, His honour is affected thereby. Sin, whether unpunished or unatoned, is a stain, as it were, touching the honour of God and of His temple” (System, III. 420).

Dr Charles (Slav. En. p. xli.) insists that “ ‘the things in the heavens’ that are to be reconciled to God must be either the fallen angels imprisoned in the second heaven, or else the powers of Satan whose domain is the air.” But St Paul’s language is much too indefinite to allow us to be dogmatic on this subject. See also J. A. R.’s note on τὰ ἐπουράνια in Eph. p. 20.


Verse 21

21. καὶ ὑμᾶς κ.τ.λ. The construction of this verse in relation to Colossians 1:20; Colossians 1:22 is extremely uncertain, and the uncertainty of the reading ἀποκατήλλαξεν or ἀποκατηλλάγητε somewhat increases the difficulty. Three constructions deserve consideration.

[1] Place a comma instead of a colon at the end of Colossians 1:20, and place a full stop at πονηροῖς, in Colossians 1:21. Then the words καὶ ὑμᾶς, “you also,” are dependent on ἀποκαταλλάξαι, and a new sentence begins with νυνί. This requires the reading ἀποκατηλλάγητε (Meyer-Haupt). But it is very unlike St Paul to bring in the personal reference so brusquely at the very close of a sentence.

[2] The clause νυνὶ δὲθανάτου is to be treated as a parenthesis (W.H.), and ὑμᾶς (Colossians 1:21) is governed directly by παραστῆσαι, and is taken up in the second ὑμᾶς (Colossians 1:22) (cf. Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 2:5), παραστῆσαι itself being dependent on εὐδόκησεν (Colossians 1:19, “He was pleased … to reconcile all things … and to present you”). Whether ἀποκατήλλαξεν or ἀποκατηλλάγητε be right makes little difference in this case.

[3] There is no proper parenthesis, but νυνὶ δὲ ἀποκατήλλαξεν takes up the contrast to ποτὲ ἀπηλλοτριωμένους. In this case ὑμᾶς (Colossians 1:21) is governed directly by ἀποκατήλλαξεν, and παραστῆσαι is also dependent on it as expressing the result of reconciliation. For νυνὶ δέ with a finite verb indicating an apodosis after a participle compare νῦν δέ, Colossians 1:26 (see Blass, § 79. 10 and Winer, § liii. 7 b). According to this construction the anacolouthon is due to δέ, which St Paul inserted (ex hypothesi) to emphasize the νυνί: “the oppositive δὲ in the apodosis being evoked by the latent ‘although’ (Donalds. Gr. § 621) involved in the participial protasis” (Ellicott). Compare Bengel, “Apodosis refertur ad proxime praecedentia, licet non faciant sententiam completam.”

If ἀποκατηλλάγητε be right the anacolouthon is very much stronger, but it is just possible that the construction of παραστῆσαι is the same.

Of the three methods the first is very improbable, and in the second and third the incidence of probability is largely determined by the reading. If ἀποκατήλλαξεν be accepted the third method appears to be the best.

Observe that in the parallel passage, Ephesians 2:12-13, the sentences run smoothly enough. This suggests that Colossians was the earlier of the two Epistles.

ποτὲ. For this meaning of “once but no longer so” compare Colossians 3:7; Philemon 1:11.

ὄντας. With participle Ephesians 4:18†. Compare Colossians 2:13; Romans 5:6. It lays stress on the continuance, and, probably, the reality of their state of alienation and enmity.

ἀπηλλοτριωμένους, Ephesians 2:12; Ephesians 4:18†, “alienated,” i.e. positively estranged, and not merely designated aliens. Compare Psalms 57[58]:4, 68[69]:9; Ezekiel 14:5 : also Aq., Sym., Theod. in Isaiah 1:4.

καὶ ἐχθροὺς. ἐχθροὺς is probably not passive (“hateful”) but active (“hostile”). For although the expression that a man is “hateful” to God may be defended theologically, because there is a true sense in which sin has caused God to look upon even the sinner in anger (cf. Sand.-Head. on Romans 5:10, additional note), and although, again, the passive meaning of ἐχθρός is probably found elsewhere in the N.T. (Romans 11:28; Romans 5:10), yet [1] ἐχθρός is generally active (Philippians 3:18; Galatians 4:16; Acts 13:10); [2] τῇ διανοίᾳ is more readily explained if ἐχθροί be active (vide infra); [3] the parallel passage, Ephesians 2:12-14, favours the active sense here, for although ἐχθροί does not occur there yet τὴν ἔχθραν expresses the active hatred between Jew and Gentile.

The word thus expresses concisely both the negative and the positive statement of St John, [1] John 3:19; [2] John 7:7.

τῇ διανοίᾳ. Dative of the “side, aspect, regard or property, on and in which the predicate shows itself,” Madv. § 40 [253]. So Matthew 11:29, πραΰς εἰμι καὶ ταπεινὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ. Their active enmity shows itself in their διάνοια.

If ἐχθρούς be passive this explanation of the dative can hardly be maintained, for it would limit the sphere in which they were hateful to God to their διάνοια. The dative must then be explained as indicating the cause of God’s hatred. But it then becomes somewhat clumsy.

διάνοια = the active principle of the mind, nearly our “thought.” Compare Hort on 1 Peter 1:13, who says that in Ephesians 4:18 “it belongs to St Paul’s exposition of the foolishness, unreality, and falsehood of the view of the world generally prevalent among the heathen and to his exhibition of the Gospel as a message of truth as well as of salvation.” So the LXX. use it fairly often in the Hexateuch (29 times) to translate leb and lebab (but καρδία 80 times), though only occasionally elsewhere. It is curious that it never occurs in the Psalms.

ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις τοῖς πονηροῖς. The enmity has its seat in their thought, its sphere of action in their works, and these evil works.

Contrast Colossians 1:10, ἐν παντὶ ἔργῳ ἀγαθῷ. Cf. John 3:19; John 7:7; 2 Timothy 4:18; 1 John 3:12; 2 John 1:11†.

The primary notion of πονηρός appears to be worthlessness, essential badness (see Chase, The Lord’s Prayer, p. 93). Hence the meaning here is probably that their enmity makes itself felt in works that will not stand God’s test, they are not δίκαια (1 John 3:12).

νυνὶ δὲ. Although the MSS. often vary between νῦν and νυνί the latter is confined to the Pauline Epistles (? 15 times), Hebr. (? 2), Acts [2]. It is always followed by δέ except in Acts 22:1; Acts 24:13. Also, it should be observed, νυνὶ δέ never elsewhere marks the apodosis, as probably here (see note at the beginning of verse), but either begins a fresh sentence (e.g. Colossians 3:8 and even Romans 15:25), or by a fresh epithet indicates a contrast, 2 Corinthians 8:22; Philemon 1:9; Philemon 1:11. It is apparently a stronger and more argumentative form than νῦν, “now, as the case really stands.”

ἀποκατήλλαξεν. See notes on Textual Criticism. For the word see note on ἀποκαταλλάξαι, Colossians 1:20, and for the construction see note at the beginning of verse. The subject is the same as that of εὐδόκησενἀποκαταλλάξαι (Colossians 1:20), viz. the Father, the following words being parallel to εἰρηνοποιήσας διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ σταυροῦ αὐτοῦ.


Verse 22

22. ἐν τῷ σώματι τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ. The exact phrase here only, but compare Colossians 2:11, ἐν τῇ ἀπεκδύσει τοῦ σώματος τῆς σαρκός, and Sirach 23:16 [23]†.

The addition of τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ, “in the body which consisted in His flesh,” lays stress upon His body having passions and the capacity for suffering, “capacitatem patiendi ac passionem ipsam Ephesians 2:15” (Bengel), as all human bodies have. Compare Hebrews 2:14-15. The thought is so well suited to meet the opinions of the false teachers, who were inclined to include angels in the work of mediation, that probably the desire to distinguish this σῶμα from that of Colossians 1:18 had but a small share in his choice of the expression. Marcion naturally omitted τῆς σαρκός, but Tertullian rightly argues (without mentioning the true text) that σῶμα alone cannot here mean the Church (adv. Marc. Colossians 1:19).

ἐν refers to the sphere in which the act of reconciliation took place.

διὰ τοῦ θανάτου. διά expresses here, as in Colossians 1:20, the means of reconciliation. The article probably = “His.”

θανάτου. In view of the frequency of words and phrases in the N.T. suggesting the death of Christ as the means of our salvation it is curious how rarely the word θάνατος appears to be actually used of it. The following references seem to be complete: Romans 5:10; Hebrews 2:9-14, Hebrews 9:15; Philippians 2:8.

παραστῆσαι. Probably dependent on ἀποκατήλλαξεν (see note at beginning of Colossians 1:21), expressing the purpose and intent of the reconciliation.

In this word παρά has the meaning of coram, “before,” “in the presence of,” which it has in the Classics, Od. I. 154, ἤειδε παρὰ μνηστῆρσιν. So probably LXX., 1 Samuel 5:2, παρέστησαν αὐτὴν παρὰ Δαγών. But the meaning of definitely presenting, which the verb has here (so also Colossians 1:28; Ephesians 5:27; 2 Corinthians 11:2, cf. Luke 2:22), seems not to be found in the LXX. except as a varia lectio in Leviticus 16:7, καὶ λήμψεται τοὺς δύο χιμάρους καὶ στήσει (F. παραστήσει) αὐτοὺς ἔναντι Κυρίου.

Hence the word in itself has no connotation of “present as a sacrifice,” though of course it may be used for this (Romans 12:1).

If it has any special connotation here that of presenting before a judge is more probable. Compare for παρά alone Hdt. III. 160, παρὰ Δαρείῳ κριτῇ; Romans 2:13; and for the verb Acts 23:33; 2 Corinthians 4:14, and perhaps 2 Timothy 2:15.

It has been suggested that the presentation takes place at conversion, or even repeatedly, but the time of the final Judgment appears to be much more probable. See also Colossians 1:28.

ὑμᾶς. Probably taken up from καὶ ὑμᾶς in Colossians 1:21. See note there.

ἁγίους. See Colossians 1:2 note. Does it here refer to [1] consecration, Christian standing with its potential possibilities, as in Colossians 1:2, implying the recognised position, from the very first, of all believers; or to [2] actual holiness? Is it, in other words, said of justification, or of ethical effect the result of sanctification?

Probably St Paul made no such sharp distinction in his use of the word. Compare Colossians 3:12. Those who are presented as “holy” at the Judgment Day (vide supra) will be consecrated both potentially and in ethical fact.

καὶ ἀμώμους. An interesting word, illustrative of the tendency of translators to give to a foreign term the connotation of a native word of similar sound.

In Herodotus and Aeschylus it = “without blame,” derived, doubtless, from the root of μωμάομαι “blame,” μῶμος “blame,” “disgrace.” But in Deuteronomy 17:1, “Thou shalt not sacrifice unto the LORD thy God an ox, or a sheep, wherein is a blemish (mûm),” the LXX. reads, οὐ θύσεις Κυρίῳ τῷ θεῷ σου μόσχον ἢ πρόβατον ἐν ᾧ ἐστιν ἐν αὐτῷ μῶμος. Hence in LXX. ἄμωμος frequently translates tamim “perfect” in the sense of “having no blemish” (e.g. Exodus 29:1) as Well as in its purely ethical meaning (e.g. Psalms 14[15]:2). So in Philo, de Agric. 29 § 130, Wendland (I. 320) μωμοσκόπος = “looking for blemishes” in sacrificial victims, and μωμοσκοπεῖν is used by Clem. Rom. § 41 in a similar meaning. So also Daniel 1:4, “youths in whom there was no blemish (mûm), but well favoured,” etc., is in Theod., νεανίσκους οἷς οὐκ ἔστιν αὐτοῖς μῶμος, and in LXX. νεανίσκους ἀμώμους.

In the N.T. ἄμωμος = “without blemish” in probably every passage in which it occurs, Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 5:27; Philippians 2:5; Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 1:19; Judges 1:24; Revelation 14:5†, and in two of these has a distinctly sacrificial reference: Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 1:19. The other passages appear to have no direct reference to sacrifice.

Thus the history of ἄμωμος is [1] blameless, [2] without blemish, (a) literally, of an animal for sacrifice, (b) metaphorically, of Christ the true sacrifice, (c) solely metaphorically, without any connotation of sacrifice. Both our passage and the very similar Ephesians 5:27 appear to come under this last heading, even though in each the sacrificial reference may appear to be strengthened by the additional presence of παραστήσῃ and ἅγιος.

καὶ ἀνεγκλήτους, “and unimpeachable.” The thought appears to be that they cannot be challenged, or pleaded against, cf. Romans 8:33, Acts 19:38. And so 1 Corinthians 1:8, where the impleading denied is expressly referred to the last Judgment. So probably here.

κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ, “before him.” κατενώπιον does not appear to be found in secular Greek, though κατενῶπα occurs in Il. XV. 320 = “right over against.” Certainly to be taken with παραστῆσαι and not with the three adjectives or the last only. For in the LXX. its construction with the verb is indubitable in every case, as also in Judges 1:24. Even in Ephesians 1:4 it is probably to be taken with εἷναι.


Verse 23

23. εἴ γε, “if only.” The addition of γέ lays emphasis on the importance of observing the condition, but determines nothing as to whether or not they will do so. Contrast the negative answer in Galatians 3:4, with the positive in Ephesians 3:1-2, and Ephesians 4:21.

It is hard to see that the indicative “converts the hypothesis into a hope” (Lightfoot). Compare further Monro, Homeric Grammar, §§ 353, 354, quoted by Sanday-Headlam on Romans 3:30.

ἐπιμένετε, “ye stay on in.” So Philippians 1:24; Romans 6:1; Romans 11:22 and especially 23. The ἐπί “is not per se intensive, but appears to denote rest at a place” (Ell.).

τῇ πίστει, “faith,” or perhaps better “your faith.” Certainly with ἐπιμένετε (see examples quoted in preceding note) in spite of Colossians 2:7.

The force of the article is uncertain. It may denote

[1] “The Faith,” the body of doctrine delivered by your first teachers. So Judges 1:3; Judges 1:20; Acts 6:7; Acts 13:8, and sometimes in the Pastoral Epistles, e.g. 1 Timothy 4:1.

But in these passages the meaning is determined by the context, and here the immediately following reference to the hope suggests reality of personal religion rather than orthodox belief.

[2] “Faith” generally, without such stress on “faith” in itself as would be suggested by the absence of the article. Similarly Ephesians 3:17, κατοικῆσαι τὸν χριστὸν διὰ τῆς πίστεως ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν ἐν ἀγάπῃ, Ephesians 3:12, Ephesians 6:16.

[3] “Your faith.” Such doubtless is the force of the article in Romans 11:28. He has already praised their faith in Colossians 1:4.

τεθεμελιωμένοι καὶ ἑδραῖοι, “founded and stedfast.” Both terms are used absolutely. For the figurative use, as regards believers, of terms that strictly belong to buildings cf. Colossians 2:7; Ephesians 3:18; Matthew 7:25; and especially 1 Corinthians 3. It is perhaps derived ultimately from Isaiah 14:32; Isaiah 28:16; Isaiah 54:11.

καὶ ἑδραῖοι. While τεθεμελιωμένοι denotes that the Colossian believers have been laid once for all securely on something, or rather Someone, as their unfailing support, ἑδραῖος denotes the inner firmness of the structure, the steadiness of Christian character that ought to be found in them. So in 1 Corinthians 7:37; 1 Corinthians 15:58†.

On the probable quotation in Ignat. Eph. § 10, see Introd. p. xxxviii.

καὶ μὴ μετακινούμενοι†, “and not being moved away.” μὴ, not οὐ, the phrase “(in a sentence beginning with εἴγε) is put as a condition, consequently as a mere conception” (Winer, § 55. 1 b, p. 596, ed. 1870). But see Blass, p. 253, Moulton, Gram. Proleg. p. 170.

A close parallel is 1 Corinthians 15:58 (ἑδραῖοι γίνεσθε, ἀμετακίνητοι†), but that passage lacks the vividness of the present participle, with its suggestion of repeated attempts to dislodge them.

ἀπὸ τῆς ἐλπίδος τοῦ εὐαγγελίου. On ἐλπίς cf. Colossians 1:5. Here, as there, it is almost certainly the hope brought and held out by the Gospel, the sum of things promised by it, and therefore expected by believers. Cf. Galatians 5:5, and especially Ephesians 1:18. Perhaps Colossians 1:22 b suggested this.

τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, (Colossians 1:5) οὗ ἠκούσατε.

This is the first of three statements appealing to them against being moved away by false teaching. [1] They themselves had heard the true message; [2] It was this, and no other, that had been proclaimed everywhere; [3] The Apostle himself could vouch for it, as a living example and witness of its power.

τοῦ κηρυχθέντος, “which was proclaimed,” aloud and openly as by a herald; cf. Genesis 41:43, ἐκήρυξεν ἔμπροσθεν αὐτοῦ κήρυξ. In sharp contrast to the esoteric methods of most teachers of old time, heathen and Jewish alike.

The tense may be [1] timeless “which is proclaimed,” but [2] is probably to be taken strictly, i.e. as contemporaneous with the preceding ἠκούσατε, as though St Paul was going to say “which was proclaimed among many before you.”

[3] Another explanation is that the statement is “ideal.” “It ‘was’ done when the Saviour, in his accomplished victory, bade it be done, Mark 16:15” (Moule). Cf. 1 Timothy 3:16, Romans 8:30.

ἐν πάσῃ κτίσει, cf. Colossians 1:15 note.

Apparently “in every district of creation,” to which 1 Peter 2:13 (ὑπο τάγητε πάσῃ ἀνθρωπίνῃ κτίσει) is the nearest parallel. But “in all creation” (R.V.) may be defended (see on Colossians 1:15).

Ell. and others would understand ἐν to here = coram (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:2, ἐν ὑμῖν κρίνεται ὁ κόσμος), and translate “in the hearing of every creature,” but such a meaning of ἐν especially suggests a tribunal, and a plural noun would therefore have been more natural.

P. Ewald conjectures ἐν πάσῃ κλίσει, region, clime, for which he refers to Dionysius Periegetes (c. 300 A.D.), p. 615, αἱ δʼ Ἀσίης, αἱ δʼ αὗτε περὶ κλίσιν Εὐρωπείης.

τῇ ὑπὸ τὸν οὐρανόν, “that is under the heaven,” i.e. on earth, Acts 2:5, ἀπὸ παντὸς ἔθνους τῶν ὑπὸ τὸν οὐρανόν; cf. Ecclesiastes 1:13.

οὗ ἐγενόμην, “of which I Paul became a minister.” Perhaps he silently contrasts his former life (Galatians 1:23). Compare Ephesians 3:7-8.

ἐγὼ Παῦλος. This emphatic phrase occurs elsewhere only in 2 Corinthians 10:1; Galatians 5:2; Ephesians 3:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:18; Philemon 1:19.

He uses it here to further emphasize the fact that he who had before been a persecutor, and who was now what he was only by the grace of God (1 Corinthians 15:10), bore this witness.

διάκονος, Colossians 1:7. See notes on Textual Criticism.

No longer lifted up in pride against the Gospel, but a servant, and an active servant, in its cause.


Verse 24

24. νῦν. See notes on Textual Criticism.

Probably νῦν is here temporal, “now” in contrast to the time before ἐγενόμην (Colossians 1:23, cf. Colossians 1:25). It thus subserves his general aim, to magnify the grace of God and the power of the Gospel.

χαίρω. St Paul’s prayer (Colossians 1:11) was at least accomplished in his own case, cf. also 2 Corinthians 13:9, and 1 Peter 4:13.

ἐν τοῖς παθήμασιν, “in (my) sufferings.” For such had been foretold of him, Acts 9:16. Among his sufferings must be included his spiritual contest (Colossians 2:1; cf. Colossians 4:12-13), as well as his imprisonment, Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 3:13. Compared with the next clause πάθημα is more subjective, suggesting especially the sufferings felt, θλίψις more objective, suggesting the outside pressure.

ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, “on behalf of you,” cf. Colossians 1:9, Colossians 2:1, and 2 Corinthians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 12:15. Not τοῖς ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, for παθήματα here borrows the construction πάσχω ὑπέρ; see Winer, § 20. 2 b (p. 170, ed. 1870).

καὶ. Perhaps not merely introducing an independent sentence, but expanding and elucidating χαίρω.

ἀνταναπληρῶ†. This double compound is found here only in the Greek Bible.

ἀναπληρόω comes six times in the N.T., in two of which ὑστέρημα is its object as here, viz. 1 Corinthians 16:17, and Philippians 2:30.

προσαναπληρόω occurs twice in N.T., with apparently the meaning of “helping to fill up,” 2 Corinthians 9:12; 2 Corinthians 11:9. Cf. LXX.† Wisdom of Solomon 19:4, (א) AC.

ἀντὶ here probably represents the correspondence between St Paul on the one hand and Christ on the other. So Photius, Amphil. 121 (I. p. 709, Migne), οὐ γὰρ ἁπλῶς φησιν Ἀναπληρῶ, ἀλλʼ Ἀνταναπληρῶ, τουτέστιν, Ἀντὶ δεσπότου καὶ διδασκάλου ὁ δοῦλος ἐγὼ καὶ μαθητὴς τὴν ἐκείνου διακονίαν ὑπελθών, καὶ τὰ ὑστερήματα τῶν θλίψεων αὐτοῦ ἀνταναπληρῶ.

Compare ἀνταποκρίνομαι, Romans 9:20; with this agrees too the implied contrast of ἐν τῇ σαρκί μου ὑπὲρ τοῦ σώματος αὐτοῦ.

τὰ ὑστερήματα. Only twice elsewhere in the N.T. does the following genitive express the thing in which the deficiency consists: Philippians 2:30; 1 Thessalonians 3:10. Cf. Judges 18:10; Judges 19:19. The plural expresses the deficiency as several items. Even St Paul could not fill up the total sum.

τῶν θλίψεων τοῦ χριστοῦ, “of the afflictions of Christ.”

A unique phrase which in such a context as this has naturally provoked much discussion.

[1] Observe indeed, that nowhere else is θλίψις clearly used of Christ. Revelation 1:9, συνκοινωνὸς ἐν τῇ θλίψει καὶ βασιλείᾳ καὶ ὑπομονῇ ἐν Ἰησοῦ, is, at most, too indirect a reference, even if τῇ θλίψει is to be taken with ἐν Ἰησοῦ at all. Psalms 22:11, ὅτι θλίψις ἐγγύς may at most be applied to Christ. Nor is even θλίβω used of Him except in its literal sense (Mark 3:9†).

Perhaps παθημάτων (2 Corinthians 1:5; Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 4:13) would have been used had it not just occurred.

[2] Yet the word brings out, in a way that πάθημα would not, the pressure that daily contact with sin and worldliness meant for Christ and for St Paul. It is another aspect of the ἀντιλογία which Christ endured (Hebrews 12:3-4). Cf., as regards believers, 1 Thessalonians 3:3-4.

[3] θλίψις is used, and not any of the words that are especially employed of Christ’s atonement, e.g. σταυρός αἷμα, θάνατος.

[4] τοῦ χριστοῦ is doubtless here the personal Christ during His life on earth. His sufferings in His Divine character and for the atonement could not be imitated or shared by His followers, but those that are required for the spread of the kingdom, the conversion of souls, could and must be. It was, from the nature of things, impossible that He could save His followers such θλίψεις. He left many still to be undergone. As these were presented to St Paul he for his part filled them up. Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:7-11.

[5] Other interpretations are less probable.

(a) τοῦ χριστοῦ means the ascended Christ who suffers in the afflictions of His people. So Grotius, Ita amat Christus suos ut quae ipsi ferunt mala tanquam sibi illata sentiat. Sic Paulo vincula ferente, Christus ea quodam modo ferebat (quoted by P. Ewald). But beautiful though this thought is, there is, strictly speaking, no parallel in Scripture, for it would predicate more than sympathy, actual suffering in His present glorified state. Acts 9:4, Σαούλ Σαούλ, τί με διώκεις; identifies Him indeed with His people, but does not say that He suffers. Isaiah 63:9, “In all their afflictions He was afflicted,” even if the right reading, is not a dogmatic statement. J. A. R. appears to adopt this interpretation in Ephesians, p. 44.

(b) τοῦ χριστοῦ is not to be taken literally, but metaphorically. St Paul really means that he is filling up the deficiencies of his own afflictions, but he can call them Christ’s because they are like His; there is an ethical identity between them. The first meaning of ἀνταναπληρῶ is then to be preferred. But such a use of χριστός is unparalleled.

ἐν τῇ σαρκί μου, where I can feel. Inclusive, of course, of all that appertains to human nature, of. Colossians 1:22. Of. 1 Corinthians 7:28; 2 Corinthians 4:11.

ὑπὲρ τοῦ σώματος αὐτοῦ, “on behalf of His body.” More than ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν of the preceding clause both as regards number, including all believers (cf. 2 Timothy 2:10), and cohesion of them all with one another and with Christ, and also as regards his own ultimate object in his afflictions—Christ and that which belongs to Him.

ὅ ἐστιν. See notes on Textual Criticism. Perhaps the most clear (contrast Colossians 1:18) and most direct (contrast 1 Timothy 3:15) way of identifying His body with the Church. See Colossians 1:27, Colossians 2:17, Colossians 3:14.

ἡ ἐκκλησία, Colossians 1:18.


Verses 24-29

24–29. For myself I rejoice in sufferings endured in order to carry out the work given me of making known the secret that Christ dwells in the heart of you Gentiles, and of finally presenting each before God perfect in Christ. I toil and Christ makes His work in me effective.

(Colossians 1:24) Whatever I once was I now rejoice (cf. Colossians 1:11) in my sufferings on behalf of you, while I am always filling up (on my side answering to His) what remain over of Christ’s afflictions (part of which He bore on earth, part of which His followers must bear now) in my flesh on behalf of His whole body, the Church, (Colossians 1:25) Of His Church I became a minister according to the conditions of the office in God’s household given me at my conversion, to be employed in the direction of His people and specifically of you, and thus accomplish the message given me by God, (Colossians 1:26) the secret hidden for so many ages—but now it was suddenly made manifest to His consecrated believers—(Colossians 1:27) for it was to them that God freely chose to make known what the surpassing character of the abundance of the moral glory seen in this secret is among the Gentiles—the secret that Christ is in you Colossians, Christ whom you hope to possess still more fully in glory, (Colossians 1:28) It is He whom we (Paul, Timothy, Epaphras, unlike the false teachers) are proclaiming widely, both by warning and by teaching each person whom we meet, using wisdom. as each case requires, that we may present before God’s judgmentseat each person fully developed in Christ, (Colossians 1:29) with a view to which object I (not only preach but) also toil, contending according to the measure of (nothing less than) Christ’s working, which is being carried out into action in me not in thought or word only, but in manifested power.


Verse 25

25. ἦς ἐγενόμην ἐγὼ διάκονος. He omits the Παῦλος of Colossians 1:23 because he has no longer need to suggest the marvellousness of the fact of his own conversion, but he retains the ἐγώ because he has not yet quite left the thought of the contrast in Colossians 1:24 between himself and Christ. A less probable reason for the insertion of ἐγώ is that by it St Paul begins to point out his distinction from others in his ministry, viz. to preach to the Gentiles.

κατά, i.e. his ministry was “conducted in pursuance of, after the requirements and conditions of” (Alf.).

τὴν οἰκονομίαν τοῦ θεοῦ, “the dispensation of God.” On οἰκονομία see especially Lightfoot’s full note on Ephesians 1:10 bringing out the various meanings of the word, Classical, Biblical, and Patristic.

Here it is sufficient to say that (a) Aristotle uses it of the administration of the State regarded as a great house: Pol. iii. 14, p. 1285, ὥσπερ ἡ οἰκονομικὴ βασιλεία τις οἰκίας ἐστίν, οὕτως ἡ βασιλεία πόλεως καὶ ἔθνους ἑνὸς ἢ πλειόνων οἰκονομία; and Polybius, vi. 12. 5, of military government.

(b) The idea of God as the οἰκοδεσπότης is common in the N.T. (e.g. Matthew 13:27), with the Church as His οἷκος (1 Timothy 3:15), believers as His οἰκεῖοι (Ephesians 2:19), ministers His οἰκόνομοι (1 Corinthians 4:1).

(c) οἰκονομία itself has two meanings in the N.T.;

(α) the mode of administering, as in Ephesians 1:10,

(β) the office of an administrator, so Ephesians 3:2 and here; compare also Isaiah 22:19; Isaiah 22:21.

τὴν δοθεῖσάν μοι, “which was given me,” at my conversion, Acts 9:15.

εἰς ὑμᾶς, certainly with τὴν δοθεῖσάν μοι, see Ephesians 3:2; cf. also Romans 15:16. εἰς, i.e. to be employed in your direction.

By ὑμᾶς we must understand specifically the Colossians. They are the concrete example of the direction generally.

πληρῶσαι τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ. It will be more convenient to consider the meaning of τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ first and then to return to πληρῶσαι.

The analogy of the common phrase in the Prophets, “the word of the Lord,” determines the force of the genitive here as subjective, i.e. it is not “the word about God” but “the word given by God.” But whereas in the O.T. it is often the specific message given at some definite time to a particular prophet, this meaning does not seem to occur in the N.T. Otherwise we might understand St Paul here to say that he was intended to accomplish the specific message (Acts 26:16-18) delivered to him, which he further unfolds in the next verse. N.T. usage, however, points to a wider interpretation—God’s message in Christ, the Gospel as such. So often, e.g. Acts 8:14; Acts 18:11; 1 Corinthians 14:36; Hebrews 13:7. Cf. Swete on Revelation 19:13.

It is thus in this passage a synonym of εὐαγγέλιον but regards the good news in its relation not to men but to God; see Bernard, Additional note on 1 Timothy 4:5 in this series. Cf. ὁ λόγ. τοῦ χρ. Colossians 3:16.

πληρῶσαι, explanatory. The dispensation given to him was to “fulfil the word of God,” i.e. to fill up the full measure of the Gospel, both in its reception by the Gentiles (Colossians 1:27 a) and in the moral and spiritual completion of every believer (Colossians 1:28). He toils and contends for nothing less (Colossians 1:29).


Verse 26

26. τὸ μυστήριον. In apposition to τὸν λόγ. τ. θ. It is strange that St Paul’s language does not show more certain traces of the influence of terms derived from the many esoteric cults of his day.

Wisdom of Solomon 14:15; Wisdom of Solomon 14:23 speaks of the origin of the mysteries and 3 Maccabees 2:30 purports to give a decree of Ptolemy IV. Philopator releasing those Jews from disabilities who should be initiated into the (Dionysian) mysteries. But nowhere else, apparently, does the LXX. certainly give this connotation to μυστήριον. Judith 2:2 relates that Nebuchadnezzar tells his servants τὸ μυστήριον τῆς βουλῆς αὐτοῦ, i.e. the secret plan he had devised, and Daniel 2:18-19; Daniel 2:27-30; Daniel 4:6 speak only of the secret of the vision. Compare also Sirach 3:18 (א) and Wisdom of Solomon 2:22, the secret counsels of God.

But St Paul’s reference to the “mysteries” is, at best, doubtful. In 1 Corinthians 15:51, ἰδοὺ μυστήριον ὑμῖν λέγω, Jülicher “feels that here St Paul is a mystagogue speaking to a circle of mystae” (Encycl. Bibl.), and finds a similar reference in 1 Corinthians 14:2; 1 Corinthians 13:2; 1 Corinthians 4:1, but he has little else to guide him but the word μυστήριον which has, as we have seen, a wider use. Neither in the other passages where it occurs, e.g. here, Colossians 2:2, Colossians 4:3, Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:3-9, does the context make it certain. On the other hand μεμύημαι (Philippians 4:12†) is a much more characteristic word and probably does allude to being taught secrets at an initiation. On τέλειον, Colossians 1:28, see there.

It is hardly necessary to say that μυστήριον never has the common meaning of our English “mystery”—something strange and inexplicable. It always means “a secret,” revealed or not revealed as the case may be. Here the secret is more than the external admission of Gentiles to the faith on an equality with Jews; it includes the wonderful privilege of the presence of Christ in individual believers with its present power and future result. In Ephesians 3:5-6; Ephesians 3:8 the thought is verbally limited to the privileges, both external and spiritual, common to Gentile and Jewish believers in the present. On μυστήριον see by all means the full note in J. A. R. Ephesians, pp. 234–240.

τὸ ἀποκεκρυμμένον, “which has been hidden.” Luke 10:21; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 3:9†; contrast ἀπόκρυφοι, Colossians 2:3. The participle lays stress on the action and effect of concealment, the adjective on preservation and readiness for use. For the thought, cf. Romans 16:25.

St Paul doubtless says this to bring the Colossians to a due sense of their privileges; cf. Luke 10:24; Matthew 13:11.

ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων (exact phrase Ephesians 3:9†) καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν γενεῶν.

ἀπὸ (a) is possibly the ἀπὸ after verbs of concealment (cf. Luke 10:21; Luke 18:34; Luke 19:42, and always in LXX. after ἀποκρύπτω); but (b) is probably strictly temporal, as almost certainly in Ephesians 3:9; cf. Matthew 13:35; 1 Corinthians 2:7.

αἰώνων indicates the successive periods of history, either of this world or throughout the universe; γενεῶν the successive sets of men living at one time. For γενεῶν cf. Acts 14:16; Ephesians 3:5.

νῦν δὲ. Compare Colossians 1:21, note.

ἐφανερώθη. St Paul’s energy lays stress on the νῦν, and this leads to his use of a finite verb instead of the participle expected (cf. Colossians 1:21).

The change to the aorist suggests the suddenness of the manifestation. We might have expected ἀπεκαλύφθη (Ephesians 3:5) but the true contrast to secrecy is publicity, which is perhaps the fundamental conception of φανερός and its derivatives.

For its use with μυστήριον cf. also Colossians 4:4. Compare also Mark 4:22 (|| Luke 8:17). See also Colossians 3:4.

τοῖς ἁγίοις αὐτοῦ. On ἅγιοις, see Colossians 1:1; Colossians 1:22.


Verse 27

27. οἷς, almost explanatory, “for it was to them that,” see on Colossians 1:18, ὅς. His saints alone are the recipients of this act of God’s good will.

ἠθέλησεν ὁ θεός, “liberrime,” Beng. The thought is of the spontaneous or, rather, unconditioned character of God’s love in making the following known to them. Compare θέλημα, Colossians 1:1, and θέλων, Colossians 2:18; also 1 Corinthians 15:38, ὁ δὲ θεὸς δίδωσιν αὐτῷ σῶμα καθὼς ἠθέλησεν.

γνωρίσαι, compare Colossians 1:8, δηλώσας, note. For this word and the whole verse compare Romans 9:22-24.

τί. Probably not including its nature, but only its quantity and value; cf. Alford, “how full, how inexhaustible; this meaning of τί necessarily follows from its being joined with a noun of quantity like πλοῦτος.”

The answer is not ὅ ἐστιν χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν (Meyer-Haupt), but indeterminate; compare St Paul’s epithets ὑπερβάλλον (Ephesians 2:7) and ἀνεξιχνίαστον (Ephesians 3:8).

τὸ πλοῦτος, “what is the wealth.” The neuter is sometimes found, but in the nom. and acc. sing, only (Blass, Gram. p. 28); cf. Colossians 2:2, and contrast Ephesians 1:18; Hebrews 11:26. See also Moulton, Gram. Proleg. 1906, p. 60.

In Ephesians 3:16 πλοῦτος has the connotation of the supply from which to draw; here, apparently, solely of the abundance displayed, and so in Romans 9:23, and perhaps Ephesians 1:18.

τῆς δόξης, “of the glory.” On δόξα see Colossians 1:11 note. [1] Not to be identified with the “glory” of the end of the verse, i.e. “the splendour with which in the great day those initiated on earth into the Gospel secret will be enriched” (Beet); but [2] the manifestation of moral glory exhibited by this μυστήριον, which is another way of saying the manifestation of God’s moral glory (Colossians 1:11) seen in it[100].

Thus of the three words πλοῦτος, δόξης, μυστήριον, the weight falls on δόξης.

τοῦ μυστηρίου τούτου., Colossians 1:26 note. What the secret is, in its essence, he states almost immediately.

ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν. To be joined not directly with τοῦ μυστηρίου τούτου, “this secret among the Gentiles,” but rather with the ἔστι understood in the preceding clause, “what the wealth of the glory of this mystery is among the Gentiles.” St Paul, that is to say, wishes to bring out the surpassing character of the fact that the Gentiles receive the Gospel. In that is the moral glory of the secret to be perceived. “Christus in gentibus, summum illis temporibus paradoxon” (Beng.).

. See notes on Textual Criticism.

ὅ ἐστιν Χριστός. The antecedent is hardly τὸ πλοῦτος, for this would leave μυστήριον almost without force, but μυστήριον, and Song of Solomon 2:2. Compare the adaptation of the hymn in 1 Timothy 3:16, τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον Ὃς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί κ.τ.λ.

ἐν. See Colossians 3:16 note. Compare 2 Corinthians 13:5, Ephesians 3:17.

ὑμῖν, i.e. the Colossians, mentioned partly as the concrete example of Gentiles, and partly to bring home to them the greatness of their privileges.

ἡ ἐλπὶς τῆς δόξης. In apposition; cf. Colossians 3:4 for construction and thought.

On ἐλπὶς cf. Colossians 1:5; Colossians 1:23 notes. Here it designates Christ as the object of hope, 1 Timothy 1:1; cf. Ignat. Magn. § 11, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τῆς ἐλπίδος ἡμῶν. Observe that before receiving the Gospel Gentiles were οἱ μὴ ἔχοντες ἐλπίδα (1 Thessalonians 4:13), ἐλπίδα μὴ ἔχοντες (Ephesians 2:12).

τῆς δόξης, explaining the nature of the hope referred to.

Christ is not only in us, but we hope to possess Him far more fully, and bound up with that possession is “glory,” primarily (as it seems) the external glory of the heavenly state as seen and enjoyed by individuals. For the twofold use of the word in one verse compare Romans 9:23. The article with δόξης is generic. “Christus in nobis, per se laetissimum: sed multo laetius, respectu eorum, quae revelabuntur” (Beng.).


Verse 28

28. νουθετοῦντεςκαὶ διδάσκοντες, “admonishing and teaching.” Methods by which we καταγγέλλομεν, as is indicated in part by the participial form, in part by the insistence on πάντα ἄνθρωπον. For νουθετεῖν compare Acts 20:31; 1 Corinthians 4:14; Wisdom of Solomon 11:10, and for both verbs infra Colossians 3:16.

Of the two words the first refers to the more practical, the second to the more theoretical, side of men’s relation to Christ and of His to them. For διδάσκω see also Colossians 2:7, Colossians 3:16.

πάντα ἄνθρωπον, three times. The thoroughness of the proclamation of the Gospel includes the thought of its being brought to every member of the human race. Here too such individual work forms a natural transition to St Paul’s special efforts for the Colossians.

Compare 1 Corinthians 10:1-4; 1 Corinthians 12:29-30.

ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ, “in all (practical) wisdom” (cf. notes Colossians 1:9).

ἵνα παραστῄσωμεν. See notes on Textual Criticism. “That we may present,” i.e. to God as judge hereafter, see Colossians 1:22 note.

τέλειον, “perfect.” [1] In Colossians 1:22 stress was laid on the absence of faults, here on the perfection of development, consequent on the training implied in νουθετοῦντες and διδάσκοντες. Cf. Colossians 4:12; also James 1:4. In a somewhat lower sense it is used of the maturity of the adult compared with the child, e.g. Hebrews 5:13-14, and perhaps even Ephesians 4:13.

[2] It should, however, be added that Lightfoot thinks that both here and 1 Corinthians 2:6-7 “the epithet τέλειος is probably a metaphor borrowed from the ancient mysteries, where it seems to have been applied to the fully instructed, as opposed to the novices.” He refers to 1 Chronicles 25:8, 2 Peter 1:16.

ἐν Χριστῷ. Apart from Christ the believer has no spiritual vigour (John 15:5), in Him he has all (cf. Philippians 4:13).


Verse 29

29. εἰς ὃ. I.e. to present every man perfect in Christ.

καὶ, cf. Colossians 3:15. “Beside preaching with νουθεσία and διδαχή, I also sustain every form of κόπος (2 Corinthians 6:5) in the cause of the Gospel” (Ell.).

κοπιῶ. The singular may be used partly because St Paul is about to speak of his own work for the Colossians.

κοπιῶ means “toil” with the connotation of fatigue, which sometimes is over-mastering; cf. John 4:6; Revelation 2:3; 1 Timothy 4:10, where it is connected with the metaphor of the arena. Cf. too Philippians 2:16. Compare also Ign. Polyc. § 6, συγκοπιᾶτε ἀλλήλοις, συναθλεῖτε, συντρέχετε, and the whole of the remarkable § 7 of “2 Clem.”

Apparently the labour is not primarily spiritual, but rather mental and bodily, the outcome of all kinds of effort.

ἀγωνιζόμενος. ἀγών (Colossians 2:1) was originally an assembly especially for seeing “sports,” then the arena or stadium, then the contest itself. ἀγωνίζομαι is to take part in such a contest. Both ἀγών and ἀγωνίζομαι are frequently used in a metaphorical sense by classical writers, but the fact that they were metaphors was never forgotten.

St Paul uses the verb literally in 1 Corinthians 9:25, and metaphorically in c. Colossians 4:12; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7. Compare Sirach 4:28, and a noble passage in 4 Maccabees 17:11-15.

There is nothing in this verse or even in Colossians 2:1-2 to make us limit the exertions referred to under ἀγωνιζόμενος to prayer. Contrast Colossians 4:12; see also Romans 15:30.

κατὰ. The measure of his contending was His ἐνέργεια.

τὴν ἐνέργειαν αὐτοῦ, “His working.” ἐνέργεια is almost “force,” the active exercise of power.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:11 it is used of the working of fraud and of Satan, but elsewhere in the N.T. always in a good sense; Ephesians 4:16 of apparently individual believers; in Philippians 3:21 of Christ; in c. Colossians 2:12, Ephesians 1:19 (and probably Colossians 3:7), of God. Thus in all cases except Ephesians 4:16 the ἐνέργεια is considered supernatural, and even there this is implied. See further J. A. R. Ephesians, p. 242.

τὴν ἐνεργουμένην, “which is being made operative.” Always passive outside the N.T. and probably so within it, even in Galatians 5:6, James 5:16, where see Mayor. For the meaning see 1 Thessalonians 2:13, and J. A. R. Eph. pp. 241–247.

ἐν ἐμοὶ. Cf. Ephesians 3:20.

ἐν δυνάμει. Cf. note on ἐν πάσῃ δυνάμει, Colossians 1:11. Probably not merely adverbially (“mightily,” A.V., R.V., cf. Romans 1:4) but describing that in which the ἐνέργεια is exhibited; cf. the note on ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ, Colossians 1:28. It is not in fancy or in word but in power for whatever service he was guided to undertake; cf. 1 Corinthians 4:20; 1 Thessalonians 1:5.

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Colossians 1:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/colossians-1.html. 1896.

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Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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