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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Colossians 2



Other Authors
Verse 1

1 Corinthians 15:14; Ephesians 5:6; 1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 2:16.

ἀπάτης. With the possible exception of James 1:26, ἀπατάω and ἀπάτη in the N.T. seem to regard not the intellectual but the moral result on those who are deceived. So Ephesians 4:20-22. Cf. also 2 Thessalonians 2:10, 2 Peter 2:13, and Ephesians 5:6.

Probably the same connotation lies also here, for, notwithstanding the rules for asceticism urged by the false teachers, St Paul does not believe in their practical value against sins of the flesh, but as it seems quite the contrary (Colossians 2:23). He therefore has to warn the Colossians strongly against these (Colossians 3:5 sqq.). Observe, however, that we have no evidence of the false teachers definitely permitting such sins; contrast 2 Peter 2:18-19.

κατὰ τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν ἀνθρώπων. Not to be taken with συλαγωγῶν, for “the tradition of men” can hardly be the norm or standard of capture, but loosely appended to διὰ τῆς φιλ. κ. κεν. ἀπάτης as further defining the character and origin of the false teaching. Its standard is tradition received from men, in contrast to the message of God, Colossians 1:25 sqq., cf. Colossians 2:22 and Mark 7:5, 2 Thessalonians 3:6. See Mark 7:8, ἀφέντες τὴν ἐντολὴν τοῦ θεοῦ κρατεῖτε τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν ἀνθρώπων.

The phrase suggests the essentially Jewish character of the error, for the Jewish leaders always deprecate any supposition of originality, and, even in developing some startling detail of the Oral Law, claim that it is involved in what they have heard from their teachers.

κατὰ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου. The parallelism of the structure of the clause to the immediately preceding κατὰ τ. παρ. τ. ἀνθρ. leads us to expect an expansion of that clause. This is obtained by the usual explanation, viz. that St Paul says that the false teachers teach, after all, not only according to what they have heard from men, but also according to the elementary truths taught by the world, the world’s A, B, C. It is thus a contemptuous expression, denoting his surprise at any one being satisfied with rudiments when he can have the ideal Master and the ideal Lesson. On the subject see Additional Note, and cf. especially Deissmann, Encycl. Bibl. s.v. “Elements.”

τοῦ κόσμου. The visible world and its effects so far as these are anti-Christian, or, at best, non-Christian. It thus forms a convenient summary term for all that is outside the Christian Church; cf. 1 John 5:19, ὁ κόσμος ὅλος ἐν τῷ πονηρῷ κεῖται.

The genitive is probably possessive, the rudiments belonging to and taught by the world.

καὶ οὐ κατὰ Χριστόν. The absence of the article shows that St Paul is thinking of the personal Christ, rather than of His office. “Christ Himself, the personal Christ, was the substance, end, and norma, of all evangelical teaching,” Ellicott.

Verses 1-5

1–5. I say this because I want you to be cheered, united, and of assured convictions, advancing in the full knowledge of Christ. My interest and joy in you make me write

(Colossians 2:1) I say this because I want you to know the greatness of my contest on behalf of you and all others in your neighbourhood, who have no personal knowledge of me, (Colossians 2:2) that all such may be cheered, by becoming more united (and that in love) and brought together into all possible conviction in their grasp of spiritual truths, with the result that they have full knowledge of God’s secret, i.e. Christ and all that He means; (Colossians 2:3) in whom lie all the many treasures of men’s spiritual reasoning and perception, hid indeed but to be found for the seeking. (Colossians 2:4) I speak of this desire of mine in order that no one may cheat you by false reasoning, however plausible his arguments may be. (Colossians 2:5) For this interest of mine in you is the reason why I write: I am indeed absent in body but ever with you in spirit, as I both see and rejoice in the steadiness of your ranks and the solid front characteristic of your faith in Christ.

Verse 2

2. ἵνα. The aim of his contest, “that their hearts may be cheered.”

παρακληθῶσιν, cf. Colossians 4:8. παρακαλέω includes the thought of “comforting” in the modern sense, as for loss received, and “bracing up” as for fresh energy. The nuance in each case is to be derived from the context. Here not so much comfort (Vulg. consolentur) under trial as encouragement would appear to be prominent. The Colossians and those in like circumstances were in danger of being disheartened by the arguments of the false teachers. But St Paul’s aim is that they may be cheered up, partly by knowing his interest and work on behalf of them (Colossians 2:1); partly by renewed union among themselves (συμβ. ἐν ἀγάπῃ), and partly too by their being freed from doubts (καὶ εἰςτῆς συνέσεως).

αἱ καρδίαι, cf. Colossians 3:15-16; Colossians 3:22, Colossians 4:8. The heart as the physical part on which bodily life ultimately depends was readily identified, perhaps half in metaphor, with the source of all emotions and thoughts. It is “the seat of the affections (Matthew 6:21; Matthew 22:37), and the understanding (Matthew 13:15), also the central spring of all human words and actions (Matthew 15:19); cf. καθαρὰ καρδία (1 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:22) which implies something deeper than καθαρὰ συνείδησις (1 Timothy 3:9; 2 Timothy 1:3)” (Author’s note in the Pulpit Comm., on Matthew 5:8).

αὐτῶν, cf. note on καὶ ὅσοι, Colossians 2:1. St Paul apparently here employs αὐτῶν rather than ὑμῶν in order to emphasize the fact that he is working for others as well as the Colossians, lest these latter should deem it a strange thing that he should write to them.

συνβιβασθέντες. See notes on Textual Criticism, “they being knit together.”

[1] συμβιβάζω, “bring together,” occurs

(a) literally in Colossians 2:19; Ephesians 4:16; in both which places the somewhat stronger figure “knit together” of Tyndale onwards is an excellent translation; (b) metaphorically of deducing logically either in thought (Acts 16:10) or by word, and thus “proving” (Acts 9:22) or “instructing” (1 Corinthians 2:16, and perhaps Acts 19:33). In the LXX. and Hexapla fragments (b) alone is found. And so Vulg. here instructi.

The quasi-literal meaning of our passage may be illustrated by Hdt. I. 74, οἱ δὲ συμβιβάσαντες αὐτοὺς ἦσαν οἵδε; Thuc. II. 29, συνεβίβασε δὲ καὶ τὸν Περδίκκαν τοῖς Ἀθηναίοις, Schol. φίλον ἐποίησε (Wetst.). Chrysostom’s paraphrase is ἵνα ἑνωθῶσι.

[2] For the participle cf. Colossians 3:16; see also 2 Corinthians 9:11.

ἐν ἀγάπῃ. The community had been divided by the false teaching, if not openly (cf. Colossians 2:5) yet in spirit. St Paul desires that they may be once more united, and that in the element of love; cf. Ephesians 4:16.

καὶ. Not “even” (Etiam, Beng.) but “and (brought unto),” “the thought being supplied from the preceding συμβιβασθέντες, which involves an idea of motion, comp. John 20:7, ἐντετυλιγμένον εἰς ἔνα τόπον” (Lightfoot).

εἰς πᾶν πλοῦτος. See notes on Textual Criticism. πλοῦτος (Colossians 1:27) connotes not merely the abundance of the πληροφορία but also its essential value. It describes the πληροφορία itself (gen. of apposition). πᾶν, i.e. all possible, all that can be enjoyed under the circumstances of the case; cf. πάσῃ, Colossians 1:9.

τῆς πληροφορίας, “of the conviction.” The substantive occurs only three times elsewhere in the N.T. Of these, in Hebrews 6:11; Hebrews 10:22, “full development” or “fulness” are perhaps preferable, but in 1 Thessalonians 1:5, the meaning of “confidence,” “assurance,” seems necessary. And so in Clem. Rom. § 42, παραγγελίας οὖν λαβόντες καὶ πληροφορηθέντες διὰ τῆς ἀναστάσεως τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ πιστωθέντες ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τοῦ Θεοῦ μετὰ πληροφορίας πνεύματος ἁγίου ἐξῆλθον (“with the firm conviction inspired by the Holy Ghost,” Lightfoot). Hence the Peshiṭta is doubtless right in translating it both here and 1 Thessalonians 1:5 by ܦܢܳܣܳܐ “conviction.” St Paul is contrasting their present depressing and divided state of doubt with happy union and firm conviction. See Chrysostom’s excellent paraphrase, ἵνα ὑπὲρ μηδενὸς ἀμφιβάλλωσιν, ἵνα ὑπὲρ πάντων πεπληροφορημένοι ὦσι. For the verb see Colossians 4:12 and note.

τῆς συνέσεως, “of their understanding.” On this word see Colossians 1:9. It is their intellectual grasp, their discernment in any specific case, e.g. any of the doctrinal or practical questions that the false teaching brought before them.

The stress of the clause lies indeed on “conviction” (cf. δόξης, Colossians 1:27), but the addition of τῆς συνέσεως not only marks out more clearly the sphere of τ. πληροφορίας, but also prevents the Colossians from thinking that St Paul was urging a merely crass and blind acceptance of truth.

εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν. The result of union in love and conviction, as well as of the encouragement thus brought about, will be their full knowledge of the mystery, etc. So the R.V., “that they may know,” cf. Colossians 3:10. On ἐπίγνωσις see Colossians 1:9, note.

It is curious that St Paul always omits the article before ἐπίγνωσις if he employs a preposition (so also 2 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 2:20, but contrast 2 Peter 1:3; 2 Peter 1:8); was he led to this by the common Hebrew lâda‘ath?

τοῦ μυστηρίου. See Colossians 1:26.

τοῦ θεοῦ, Χριστοῦ. See notes on Textual Criticism. If the text is right there are three possible interpretations.

(a) Deleting the comma, “the God of Christ.” In itself this is unobjectionable, compare the note on τῷ θεῷ πατρί, Colossians 1:3, and the reff. there given to Matthew 27:46; Ephesians 1:17. But it is hard to see why St Paul should use the phrase here. It would apparently mean the secret of the God whom Christ made known, thus laying stress on the fact that it is only through Christ that we can know God. But this is expressed so concisely that we can hardly suppose this interpretation to be true, even though אc evidently understood it so, τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ πατρὸς τοῦ χριστοῦ.

(b) Taking Χριστοῦ in apposition to θεοῦ only, “the secret of God (I mean) Christ,” as seems to be implied in the “isolated” readings τοῦ θεοῦ κ. Χριστοῦ (Cyril), and τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ (Clem. Alex. Ambrosiaster). This again is in itself unobjectionable, but suggested by nothing in the context, and is without parallel in St Paul’s writings. It is perhaps hypercriticism to object (with Abbott) that it would predicate Χριστός of ὁ θεός, thus ignoring the distinction of persons. On the other hand, to render “of the God-Christ” is intolerable.

(c) Taking Χριστοῦ in apposition to μυστηρίου or more properly the whole phrase τοῦ μυστηρίου τοῦ θεοῦ, “the secret of God, even Christ,” so apparently D* and some Latin authorities including Augustine (see note on Textual Criticism).

If the sentence is then awkward it is intelligible, and suits the context. In Colossians 1:27 the mystery was also stated to be Christ, though there not Christ regarded by Himself but Christ in believers. Here the Apostle finds it sufficient to mention Christ (cf. Colossians 4:3), presuming that his readers will remember what he has already stated to be the special relation which Christ as God’s secret holds to them. The connexion of Colossians 2:3 with Χριστοῦ does not appear to be so close as to justify us in considering it to be part of the definition of the secret, viz., Christ-in-Whom, etc.

Verse 3

3. ἐν ᾧ; cf. Colossians 1:14, Colossians 2:11-12. The antecedent is Χριστοῦ.

εἰσὶν. Its position indicates that it is not a mere copula to ἀποκρυφοί, “are hid,” but is here a substantive verb almost our “lie,” to which ἀποκρυφοί is afterwards added as a secondary predicate; vide infra, and compare Colossians 3:1, note.

πάντες. Here with the article, contrast Colossians 2:2. Not merely all as needed or to suit each circumstance, but all in their totality. There is no wisdom, etc., apart from Christ, and in Him there is all.

οἱ θησαυροὶ. For the metaphorical use of θησαυρός in connexion with σοφία, etc., see esp. Proverbs 2:3-5. Also Sirach 1:25 [26], ἐν θησαυροῖς σοφίας παραβολὴ ἐπιστήμης (Heb. not recovered).

Here the word is probably suggested by πλοῦτος in Colossians 2:2. “Conviction,” however great its “wealth” may be, is only one of the many θησαυροί. On Enoch, § 46. 3, see below s.v. ἀπόκρυφοι.

τῆς σοφίας καὶ γνώσεως. Genitives of apposition, indicating wherein the treasures consist. Observe that the one article shows that they are regarded as sub-divisions of one faculty.

On σοφία cf. Colossians 1:9, note.

As regards the two words, γνῶσις is the perception and apprehension of external objects, σοφία the power of forming right decisions concerning them. “While γνῶσις is simply intuitive, σοφία is ratiocinative also. While γνῶσις applies chiefly to the apprehension of truths, σοφία superadds the power of reasoning about them and tracing their relations” (Lightfoot).

Observe that thus σοφία bears relation to τῆς συνέσεως in Colossians 2:2, as does, of course, γνῶσις to ἐπίγνωσιν also there.

They are regarded as possibilities for man to find and exercise. See further under ἀπόκρυφοι.

ἀπόκρυφοι, Mark 4:22 || Luke 8:17†, “hid.” [1] Even if it is possible, with Bengel, supported by Meyer and Alford, to take this as attributive to θησαυροί in spite of the absence of the article, such an interpretation is opposed to N.T. practice, which uses the article very carefully. It is also more forcible to take it predicatively, or, rather, as a secondary predicate to εἰσίν … “In whom lie all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hid.” For other exx., cf. Colossians 2:10, Colossians 3:1.

ἀπόκρυφος regards a thing as out of sight but quite possible to be found.

[2] It is used several times of treasure or its equivalent: Isaiah 45:3; Daniel 11:43 (Theod.); 1 Maccabees 1:23; cf. Proverbs 2:4, Sym. and Theod. So also Aquila seems to understand Ezekiel 7:22 of the Temple treasury, καὶ μιανοῦσι τὸν ἀπόκρυφόν μου.

So says St Paul here. In Christ are treasures—all the treasures—but they do not lie on the surface, so to speak, and therefore are not perceived by the false teachers; they are hid, to be found only by those who seek earnestly for them.

[3] It has been supposed, especially by Lightfoot (whose note by all means see), that ἀπόκρυφοι here contains an allusion to the esoteric teaching of the false teachers, or perhaps even to their esoteric writings. This is possible but very far from certain. It is worth noticing that there appears to be no evidence at present discovered that ἀπόκρυφος was used of esoteric teaching or writings as early as the date of this Epistle, though undoubtedly it was employed in that sense (at least with reference to writings) by the Gnostic and later teachers. Enoch, xlvi. 3, “The Son of Man … who reveals all the treasures of that which is hidden” (Greek not recovered), is interesting as suggesting that Messiah will reveal treasures, but comes very far short of saying with our passage that they are in Him. It seems to resemble more closely the Samaritan expectation of Messiah discovering to His followers the sacred vessels of the Tabernacle.

Verse 4

4. τοῦτο λέγω. The exact phrase here only, but with δέ [1 Corinthians 1:12]; Galatians 3:17, and οὗν, Ephesians 4:17 (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:15), in all of which cases the reference is to what follows and not, as here, primarily to what has preceded.

τοῦτο does not designate only Colossians 2:3, but Colossians 2:1-3, for St Paul’s reference to himself in Colossians 2:5 seems to be based upon Colossians 2:1-2. On the other hand τοῦτο would appear to have too particular a reference for it to include any part of the first chapter. He probably means I tell you of the trouble I take for you (whatever the false teachers may urge against me) that, etc. He then (Colossians 2:5) shows that his interest in them, and even knowledge of them, is unabated.

ἵνα, strictly final.

ὑμᾶς παραλογίζηται. In N.T. James 1:22†. Of (a) false reckoning, Isoc. 283 D, (b) false reasoning, and thus (c) cheating by false reasoning, e.g. 1 Samuel 28:12, (d) cheat generally, and so Genesis 29:25 al. In our passage and James 1:22 there is no occasion to forsake the stricter meaning; “cheat you by false reasoning.” “The system against which St Paul here contends professed to be a φιλοσοφία (Colossians 2:8), and had a λόγον σοφίας (Colossians 2:23)” (Lightfoot); compare also Ignat. Magn. § 3.

πιθανολογίᾳ. Here only in the Greek Bible. “ ‘The use of probable arguments’ as opp. to demonstration (ἀπόδειξις), Plat. Theaet. 163 A” (Lidd. and Scott); cf. 1 Corinthians 2:4. Here evidently with some degree of depreciation (as often in πιθανός). “in plausibili sermone” (Beng.); cf. also Romans 16:18. We may suppose that one part of their argument was the unworthiness of human nature, not only in the practical life, Colossians 2:18; Colossians 2:23, but also doctrinally as regards Christ. Among such plausible arguments may have been these: that as men we are inferior to angels and therefore ought to worship them, and again that Christ by virtue of becoming man is Himself not superior to them. “Erant qui Judaismum et philosophiam orientalem commiscerent” (Beng.); compare Introd., ch. IV.

Verse 5

5. εἰ γὰρ καὶ τῇ σαρκὶ ἄπειμι. “For even though I am absent in my flesh.”

γὰρ gives a further reason for τοῦτο λέγω. My interest in you, encouraged too as I am about you, is a reason for my writing.

ἀλλὰ. Strengthening the apodosis in a conditional sentence, as often, e.g. Romans 6:5; 2 Corinthians 4:16.

τῷ πνεύματι. Here, as often, contrasted with σάρξ, and designating St Paul’s spirit. Yet Meyer-Haupt appears right in saying that “πνεῦμα, with at most the exception of 1 Corinthians 2:11, is never in St Paul a merely psychological but always a religious conception,” St Paul is with the Colossians not so much in mind and thought as in that higher spiritual region wherewith we primarily hold communion with God and with His people.

σὺν ὑμῖν εἰμί. This perhaps marks “a fellowship far closer and more intimate” (cf. Colossians 2:13) than μεθʼ ὑμῶν, which if used of a person would seem to chiefly regard nearness of locality; cf. Galatians 2:1; Galatians 2:12; 2 Timothy 4:11 (bis).

χαίρων καὶ βλέπων, “rejoicing and beholding.” The analogy of κράζοντες καὶ λέγοντες, Matthew 9:27; ἀποταξάμενος καὶ εἰπών, Acts 18:21, suggests that χαίρων is a general statement which καὶ βλέπων specialises, and, in doing so, explains. It is thus not strictly causative, “rejoicing because seeing,” much less a hendiadys, “cum gaudio cernens” (Beng.). The two things, his joy and his beholding, were synchronous, though not coordinate, and each reacted on the other.

ὑμῶν. At the beginning and the end of this clause. The threefold ὑμῖν, ὑμῶν, ὑμῶν indicate that St Paul is thinking especially of the Colossians, in contrast perhaps to other communities (e.g. Laodicea) where the false teachers had wrought more actual mischief. Among the Colossians serious harm had not yet been done.

τὴν τάξιν, “your order.” The same figure occurs in 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:11, ἀτάκτως, and 7, ἠτακτήσαμεν. Compare also 1 Corinthians 14:40.

The word points to there being no breaks in their ranks, as though they were soldiers drawn up in battle array or on the march.

καὶ τὸ στερέωμα†, “and the close phalanx (?).”

[1] The LXX. employs στερέωμα (a) often to translate râḳi‘a “firmament” (Vulg. firmamentum, as even here), and (b) twice to translate sela‘ “cliff” (“the Lord is my sela‘”), Psalms 18:2; Psalms 71:3. In these respects “fastness” is exactly parallel, originally being that which is firm, and employed in Anglo-Saxon to translate “firmamentum,” and later, of course, often meaning a place of refuge inaccessible to the enemy.

[2] In Ezekiel 13:5, LXX. οὐκ ἔστησαν ἐν στερεώματι = a firm and steady condition, and so apparently in “another” translation in the Hexapla of Exodus 14:27, “the sea returned ἐπὶ στερέωμα αὐτῆς.” So also probably 1 Esdr. (3 Esdr.) 1 Esdras 8:82 [78], δοῦναι ἡμῖν στερέωμα ἐν τῇ Ἰουδαίᾳ καὶ Ἰερουσαλήμ.

[3] But it is also used of the firm and solid part of an army, 1 Maccabees 9:14, καὶ ἴδεν Ἰούδας ὅτι Βακχίδης καὶ τὸ στερέωμα τῆς παρεμβολῆς ἐν τοῖς δεξιοῖς, and as τάξιν lends itself so readily to being a military metaphor it is on the whole probable that στερέωμα is here to be interpreted in the same way. But no English rendering is in this case satisfactory, “solid formation” or even “close phalanx” being very imperfect.

Chrys. says, οὐκ εἷπε, τὴν πίστιν, ἀλλὰ τὸ στερέωμα, καθάπερ πρὸς στρατιώτας εὐτάκτως ἑστῶτας καὶ βεβαίως.

τῆς εἰς Χριστὸν πίστεως ὑμῶν. τῆς πίστεως can hardly be possessive as though στερέωμα were a structure raised by their faith, but is in apposition to στερέωμα and epexegetic of it. Your faith itself has become solid and firm. Cf. 1 Peter 5:9; Acts 16:5.

Observe that the peculiar order (contrast Colossians 1:4) of the clause emphasizes both εἰς Χριστὸν and ὑμῶν. Πίστις εἰς comes here only in St Paul’s epistles, but twice in his speeches, Acts 20:21; Acts 26:18; cf. Acts 24:24.

Verse 6

6. ὡς. Cf. 2 Corinthians 7:14, where however οὕτως follows.

οὖν. The immediate reference is to the latter part of Colossians 2:5, but the next verse shows that St Paul is going back in thought as far as events mentioned in Colossians 1:4; Colossians 1:7.

παρελάβετε. [1] Does this compound here mean (a) “ye took to yourselves” or (b) “ye took as delivered to you by others”?

In favour of (a) is the fact that it is the ordinary meaning of παραλαμβάνω when followed by an accusative of the person, e.g. Acts 15:39, and even Matthew 27:26-27; John 19:16; John 1:11. So here it may only mean as ye received Christ, etc. into your heart, walk, etc.

(b) But everywhere else in St Paul’s writings it means “receive as delivered by others,” correlative of παραδοῦναι, e.g. Colossians 4:17 and especially 1 Corinthians 15:3, and although he uses it always elsewhere of things we are hardly justified in attributing to it a different meaning here unless this is absolutely necessary. But, so far from that, the context on the whole suggests the same meaning. For in the next verse he says καθὼς ἐδιδάχθητε, and in Colossians 2:8 contrasts τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν ἀνθρώπων. Hence (b) is to be preferred. Compare 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:6.

[2] Observe that St Paul does not merely say that they accepted the teaching about Christ which had been taught them. His thought includes that but passes beyond it. For the Christian scholar does not receive the teaching fully unless he receives Christ Himself. This the Colossians had done. Christ had been delivered to them by their teachers, and they had received Him at their hands. John 1:11 is doubtless similar in this respect.

τὸν χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν τὸν κύριον. The exact phrase (i.e. with the article, with the order “Christ Jesus,” and without any addition after κύριον) is unique. The only passage approaching it is Ephesians 3:11, ἐν τῷ χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν.

It raises many questions, viz. [1] the force of the article; [2] the connexion of Ἰησοῦν, whether it is to be taken with χριστὸν or τὸν κύριον; [3] the meaning of τὸν κύριον.

τὸν χριστὸν. In Colossians 2:5 the article was absent, why is it inserted here? Probably because it takes up the reference. Compare Acts 8:1; Acts 8:3, Σαῦλος δέ, but Acts 9:1, ὁ δὲ Σαῦλος, and Acts 9:2, ἐπιστολὰς εἰς Δαμασκόν, but Colossians 2:3, ἐγγίζειν τῇ Δαμασκῷ (see Blass, Gram. § 46. 10). It thus approaches in meaning to “this Christ.”

Ἰησοῦν. Is this to be taken [1] closely with τὸν χριστόν, or rather [2] with τὸν κύριον? In favour of [1] is the fact that ὁ χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς occurs not only in Acts 5:42; Acts 18:5; Acts 18:28 (cf. var. lect. in Matthew 1:18), but also at least three times in St Paul’s writings, Galatians 5:24, οἱ δὲ τοῦ χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, Galatians 6:12, τῷ σταυρῷ τοῦ χριστοῦ [Ἰησοῦ]; Ephesians 3:1, ὁ δέσμιος τοῦ χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, besides 11, ἐν τῷ χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν. On the other hand Ἰησοῦς ὁ κύριος seems to occur here only, for in 1 Corinthians 9:1; Romans 4:24; 2 Peter 1:2 we have the addition of ἡμῶν.

Yet [2] is almost certainly right. Compare Ephesians 4:20, ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐχ οὕτως ἐμάθετε τὸν χριστόν. For not only is Χριστόν of Colossians 2:5 taken up more directly if the pause is made at τὸν χριστόν, but thus Ἰησοῦν τὸν κύριον serves to expand and explain it, and this in precisely such a way as to deepen in the mind of the Colossians the true character of the faith. They received the teaching about Christ, yes and Christ Himself, who is the historical person Jesus (cf. Ephesians 4:21, καθὼς ἔστιν ἀλήθεια ἐν τῷ Ἰησοῦ) and that the Lord.

τὸν κύριον. Not precisely as predicate, “Christ Jesus as Lord” (contrast 2 Corinthians 4:5, οὐ γὰρ ἑαυτοὺς κηρύσσομεν ἀλλὰ Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν κύριον), but further defining the position of Him whom they had received. He was not only Jesus, but the Lord, who is supreme over all, and claims practical obedience (cf. Colossians 1:10 note).

ἐν αὐτῷ. Repeated in Colossians 2:7; cf. Colossians 2:3. The force of ἐν is not to be weakened. Christ is the element in which they must live and act, not the detailed precepts. Only here is περιπατεῖν found with ἐν referring to Christ. Compare 1 Corinthians 4:17, τὰς ὁδούς μου τὰς ἐν Χριστῷ [Ἰησοῦ].

περιπατεῖτε, Colossians 1:10, note. For περιπατεῖν in correlation to παραλαμβάνω, life the result of teaching received, compare 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:6.

Observe that it is probably right to see in this charge not only a desire for their continuance in well-doing as in Colossians 1:23 (where a thought follows which resembles Colossians 2:7), but also an admonition against being satisfied with theory. “He warns them of the danger, amidst heretical surroundings, of an unapplied orthodoxy. If they would be both firm and vigorous they must put truth into life” (Moule).

Verse 6-7

6, 7. Transition to direct warning against the false teachers. Right reception of truth is well as far as it goes, but truth must be put into life

(Colossians 2:6) Your faith is sound, therefore live: as you received from Epaphras the message about this Christ, nay as ye received Christ Himself, Jesus who is Lord of all, spend your daily life in Him; (Colossians 2:7) maintaining your condition as of a tree that has been firmly rooted in Him, and also continually being built up in Him as in a temple, and being ever made more firm as to your faith, even as you were at first taught the need of these things, your lives marked by no narrow scrupulosity as the false teachers would urge, but abounding in thanksgiving.

Verse 7

7. ἐρριζωμένοι, “rooted,” τουτέστι πεπηγότες, Chrys. This and the following participles describe the condition and mode of their daily life (περιπατεῖτε) in much the same way as καρποφοροῦντες, etc. follow the περιπατῆσαι in Colossians 1:10. Is it, too, wholly accidental that in both passages the figure of a tree is used, in Colossians 1:10 the thought of spiritual activity, and in our verse that of fixity and immovableness being severally prominent, according to the claims of the contexts?

Observe the perfect, an abiding state. Contrast Judges 1:12.

For the figure of being rooted cf. Sirach 24:12 [16], καὶ ἐρρίζωσα ἐν λαῷ δεδοξασμένῳ, “I (Wisdom) took root in a people that was glorified,” R.V. (Hebrew not extant). It is connected with the figure of building also in Ephesians 3:17; cf. Sirach 3:9 [11], κατάρα δὲ μητρὸς ἐκριζοῖ θεμέλια (but Heb. תנתשׁ נטע = “plucketh up a plant”).

καὶ ἐποικοδομούμενοι, “and being built up.” “ἐρριζ. Praeteritum, pro initio. ἐποικοδ. Praesens, etiam in progressu” (Beng.). The thought of foundation occurs in Colossians 1:23, but the process of being built is mentioned only here in this Epistle, and indeed, in its strict sense, only here and Ephesians 2:20-21 in St Paul’s writings (contrast 1 Corinthians 3:10-14). Elsewhere in the N.T. Acts 9:31 (of the Church), Acts 20:32; 1 Peter 2:5; Judges 1:20. In the last three passages it refers to the “edification” of individuals, as doubtless here. The ἐπί apparently denotes addition to what is already built, our “build up.”

ἐν αὐτῷ. With both ἐρριζ. and ἐποικοδ. Cf. Ephesians 2:20 sqq. Christ is regarded first as the soil in which they are rooted, and secondly as the ideal temple in whom they cohere (cf. Colossians 1:17 for the natural world).

καὶ βεβαιούμενοι, “and being made firm.” Used of persons only four times in the N.T., 1 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 1:21; Hebrews 13:9, and our passage. Of these 2 Corinthians 1:21 almost certainly, and 1 Corinthians 1:8 possibly, employ it in the sense of “making sure,” a legal meaning found also in Hebrews 2:3 (sim. βεβαίωσις, Hebrews 6:16; βέβαιος, Hebrews 2:2; Hebrews 9:17; cf. further Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 107), but there is no trace of this technical connotation here, or in Hebrews 13:9; cf. Psalms 40[41]:12.

τῇ πίστει, “in (your) faith.” For the article see Colossians 1:23 note on τῇ πίστει. It is not at all easy to determine the force of the dative.

[1] It may be “by (your) faith,” the dative of the instrument. “Faith is, as it were, the cement of the building: compare Clem. Rom. § 22, ταῦτα δὲ πάντα βεβαιοῖ ἡ ἐν Χριστῷ πίστις” (Lightfoot). Cf. Hebrews 13:9. Yet [2] “in (your) faith,” the dative of the “part, attribute, etc., in respect of which anything takes place” (Blass, Gram. § 38. 2), is more probable, cf. Acts 16:5, and, probably, Judges 1:20.

For there has been no mention as yet of the means of growth, and in Colossians 2:5 the stedfastness of their faith is already mentioned, so that it is natural for St Paul to insist on it again.

καθ. ἐδιδάχθητε. To be taken with all three participles (so apparently Lightfoot). The Colossians had been taught that they should be firmly rooted in Christ and grow in Him, as well as be strengthened in their faith generally.

περισσεύοντες. If ἐν αὐτῇ is to be omitted this is subordinate in thought to the whole clause ἐρριζ.… ἐδιδάχθητε.

If that is to be accepted it is subordinate to καὶ βεβαιούμενοι τῇ πίστει only.

[ἐν αὐτῇ]. See notes on Textual Criticism.

Cf. Colossians 4:2, τῇ προσευχῇ προσκαρτερεῖτε, γρηγοροῦντες ἐν αὐτῇ ἐν εὐχαριστίᾳ. That is likely to be a passage often impressed on people’s minds by preachers, so that it would readily suggest the addition of ἐν αὐτῇ here, even though that passage comes later in this epistle. In itself, we should be inclined to say, “abounding in faith” is as suitable an expression as “abounding in hope,” Romans 15:13, and yet even there abundance is not predicated of the immediately preceding “believing.” Was there something in περισσεύειν which led St Paul not to speak of it in connexion with faith itself?

ἐν εὐχαριστίᾳ. Observe the important place that thanksgiving holds in this Epistle, the verb thrice (Colossians 1:3; Colossians 1:12, Colossians 3:17), the substantive twice (here and Colossians 4:2), the adjective once (Colossians 3:15).

Probably Bengel is right in thinking that our passage purposely contrasts the Christian’s thanksgiving over everything (cf. Colossians 3:17) with the lack of liberty to be found in the false teaching, Colossians 2:16; Colossians 2:21. Compare 1 Corinthians 10:30; 1 Timothy 4:3-4.

Verse 8

8. βλέπετε μήἔσται. A classical author would have written ὁρᾶτε μή, and so St Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:15; cf. Matthew 8:4 (|| Mark 1:44), Matthew 9:30, Matthew 18:10, [Matthew 24:6]; Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:9†.

The abruptness gives force; cf. Hebrews 12:25, also Colossians 2:20. For the future indicative cf. Hebrews 3:12, Mark 14:2. It regards the contingency as of greater certainty than the subjunctive, Matthew 24:4. See further Moulton, Gram. Proleg. 1906, pp. 178, 193, who translates ‘take heed! perhaps there will be someone who.…’

μή τις ὑμᾶς ἔσται ὁ συλαγωγῶν, “lest there be any who.” The strange juxtaposition of τίς and ὑμᾶς is for emphasis on both words.

συλαγωγῶν. Here only in the Greek Bible, and once or twice independently in very late Greek, besides in writings influenced by this passage. Its proper meaning seems to be “carry (you) off as booty,” and this suits the context well (cf. Tatian, ad Graec. 22, ὑμεῖς δὲ ὑπὸ τούτων συλαγωγεῖσθε) as in the classical synonym λαφυραγωγεῖν; cf. also δουλαγωγεῖν (1 Corinthians 9:27), σκευαγωγεῖν. So in Heliod. Aeth. X. 35, οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ τὴν ἐμὴν θυγατέρα συλαγωγήσας (Lidd. and Scott); cf. συλάω in LXX., Ep. Jeremiah 17 [18], ὅπως ὑπὸ τῶν λῃστῶν μὴ συληθῶσι.

A secondary meaning is to despoil a house (cf. συλάω in 2 Corinthians 11:8). And so Field (Otium Norv. III.) here, translating “rob you” (of your treasures); cf. Chrysostom in Field.

St Paul warns the Colossians against becoming the booty of an enemy of Christ. For the figure cf. ἀπαρθῇ in Matthew 9:15, also αἰχμαλωτίζοντες γυναικάρια, 2 Timothy 3:6.

διὰ τῆς φιλοσοφίας, “through his philosophy.” The article is probably possessive, or perhaps (see Hort, Judaistic Christianity, p. 119) it has “the normal individualising force of the article ‘that philosophy,’ which we may fill up either as ‘that philosophy of his’ or ‘that philosophy which you know of,’ or best as both together ‘that philosophy of his which you know of’.”

φιλοσοφία here only in the N.T. and only in 4 Mac. (four times) of the LXX. φιλόσοφος is used in the Greek Bible of [1] the professional Epicureans and Stoics (Acts 17:18), and [2] the Babylonian enchanters (ashshaphim, Daniel 1:20, LXX.), also in 4 Mac. (three times); φιλοσοφεῖν only in 4 Mac. (five times). Thus the words obtained no real footing in Biblical Greek, and in every case (save in 4 Mac.) have some connotation of contempt.

Here the context shows that it would be a grievous mistake to imagine St Paul to be thinking of Greek philosophy strictly so called. Just as Philo could legitimately use the term of the Mosaic Law, ἡ πάτριος φιλοσοφία, de Somn. II. 18 § 127, Wendland, I. 675 (cf. οἱ κατὰ ΄ωϋσῆν φιλοσοφοῦντες, de Mut. Nom. 39, § 223, Wendland, I. p. 612), and Josephus with less right of the three Jewish sects, Ἰουδαίοις φιλοσοφίαι τρεῖς ἦσαν ἐκ τοῦ πάνυ ἀρχαίου τῶν πατρίων, ἤ τε τῶν Ἐσσηνῶν καὶ ἡ τῶν Σαδδουκαίων, τρίτην δὲ ἐφιλοσόφουν οἱ Φαρισαῖοι λεγόμενοι, Antt. XVIII. i. 2, so doubtless every thinker and pseudo-thinker claimed the word for his own system. Perhaps even “system” suggests too much, for this φιλοσοφία may well have been not theosophic speculation at all but only ethical considerations (cf. Hort, op. cit. pp. 120 sq.).

καὶ κενῆς ἀπάτης. The absence of the article shows that the term is closely connected with the man’s φιλοσοφία; the two are to all intents and purposes inseparable.

κενῆς, i.e. lacking anything solid however specious it may be. Cf.


κατὰ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου.

I. The word στοιχεῖον has a remarkable history, as may be seen from the following summary of its meanings, with the addition of the earliest undisputed authority in each case. Starting from the root idea of στοῖχος, a row, it means besides the line, i.e. shadow, of a sundial (Aristoph.):

(a) A letter of the alphabet (τὸ ῥῶ τὸ στοιχεῖον, Plato), the alphabet, τὰ στοιχεῖα.

(b) The A, B, C, i.e. the rudiments, or elements of a science.

(c) The material elements of the universe (Plato; cf. Wisdom of Solomon 7:17; Wisdom of Solomon 19:18; 4 Maccabees 12:13).

(d) The stars and heavenly bodies; the signs of the Zodiac, Diog. Laert. 6. 102, τὰ δώδεκα στοιχεῖα.

(e) The spiritual powers at the back of these elements, e.g. in the great Paris magic-papyrus the moon-goddess is στοιχεῖον ἄφθαρτον, and in the Κόρη κόσμου of “Hermes Trismegistus” the στοιχεῖα come as gods before the supreme God and make their complaint of the arrogance of men.

(f) In particular the demons or genii in nature. The Test. of Solomon (see Introd. p. xxvii.) speaks of “the 36 στοιχεῖα, the world-rulers (κοσμοκράτορες) of this darkness” (cf. Ephesians 6:12) who address Solomon (§ 72).

(g) Tutelary spirits (Byzantine writers). This usage is frequent in modern Greece, where στοιχειό is used of the local spirit of the threshing-floor, the rock, etc. Observe also that στοιχειόω and στοιχείωσις are used of magic at least as early as the Byzantine writers.

II. In the N.T. (b) is undoubtedly the meaning in Hebrews 5:12, for στοιχεῖα is defined by the following genitives; and (c) is almost necessary for 2 Peter 3:10; 2 Peter 3:12; but much discussion has arisen over the other passages, Galatians 4:3; Galatians 4:9 and our Colossians 2:8; Colossians 2:20.

[1] It is urged[101] that St Paul, either in his own person or by way of adopting the terminology of his opponents, uses it in the sense of (f) or at least (e); that he is contrasting these genii or spiritual powers with Christ; that in Colossians (with which alone we are concerned) he says that the false teachers teach in accordance with these inferior powers (cf. also Colossians 2:15) and not in accordance with Christ. If this be right he is also perhaps contrasting the magical use of elements with the true Mystery (Colossians 1:26 sq.).

The date, however, of the Test. of Solomon is most uncertain, and failing that we have no clear evidence that στοιχεῖον possessed this meaning at all as early as 1st cent. A.D.

[2] The Fathers generally explain the passages in the sense of (d), thinking either of Gentile adoration of the stars, etc., cf. Augustine, dicunt omnia sidera partes Jovis esse et omnia vivere atque rationales animas habere, De Civ. IV. 11, or of the Jewish observance of new moons, feasts, and Sabbaths regulated by the moon, etc. So Chrysostom.

But to both [1] and [2] there is the serious objection referred to in the notes.

Verses 8-15

8–15. You have in Christ far more than what the false teachers promise you and demand of you, for He is superior to all spiritual powers

(Colossians 2:8) Be watchful not to be led astray. Many a false teacher is trying to carry you off as booty for himself by means of that philosophy of his of which you know, which is empty both intellectually and morally, which takes for its standard of conduct human tradition and worldly learning (which is really mere A, B, C), not the standard of the personal Christ. (Colossians 2:9) (It is a mistake to follow any such teaching) because in Christ, and in Him alone, dwells now and for ever nothing less than the sum of all the attributes of Deity, in Him incarnate, (Colossians 2:10) and also because you have already received all possible fulness in Him, and can get no more elsewhere than from Him, who is supreme in power over, and the one source of life to, every Power and Authority however high. (Colossians 2:11) Do they urge you to be circumcised? You received once for all the highest circumcision in Christ, a circumcision made without the touch of human hands, when you stripped off your body with its evil tendencies, when you received the circumcision that Christ gives; (Colossians 2:12) For you were buried with Christ in your baptism, in which, remember, you were also raised with Him, (not, of course, by baptism as a mere mechanical means, but) by your faith in the working of God to bring about such resurrection-life in you as He brought about in Christ’s resurrection. (Colossians 2:13) He raised Christ from the dead—did He not? So also did He raise you—you who were long dead, slain by your transgressions and the uncircumcised, unconsecrated, state of your bodies—but He made you alive together with Christ, at the same time forgiving (you, nay, I must say) us all our transgressions; (Colossians 2:14) blotting out the bond of the Law signed by our conscience, with its requirements of innumerable ritual laws and customs, which was in itself our enemy—and Christ hath taken it from its position separating us and God, nailing it up in triumph, as cancelled, to His cross; (Colossians 2:15) stripping Himself of all the spiritual powers who had before helped Him, and thus unreservedly showed them up in their real weakness, treating them as mere captives drawn in His train, and this on the scene of His own weakness, on His very cross.

Verse 9

9. ὅτι. The reason for the warning of Colossians 2:8.

Hence the emphatic ἐν αὐτῷ. The fact has been already stated in Colossians 1:19, which however is here defined by the addition of τ. θεότητος, and the important word σωματικῶς.

ἐν αὐτῷ, Colossians 2:6.

κατοικεῖ, see Colossians 1:19. Observe [1] the compound; the permanence of the indwelling is emphasized; [2] the tense; this indwelling was not only during His historic life on earth, but even now.

πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα, see Colossians 1:19. Nothing less than all the fulness would meet the case. If any were omitted an excuse would arise for the new and, as was supposed, supplementary teaching.

τῆς θεότητος, “of the Godhead” or “of deity.”

Here only in the Greek Bible, as κυαθότης, τραπεζότης (both coined by Plato) = the abstract quality of a cup, and of a table, so θεότης = the abstract quality of God, that which makes God what He is and without which He would cease to be God. A similar word is θειότης (Romans 1:20†), which, as starting not from the thought of a person, but from the adjective θεῖος, divine, appears at first sight to be wider, but is in reality weaker, and describes the attributes rather than (as θεότης) the essential nature. Hence in Romans 1:20 St Paul says that men can perceive God’s θειότητα from nature, not His θεότητα, which indeed, as he implies here, can only be known through Christ. Similarly he uses τὸ θεῖον when speaking to the Athenians on the Areopagus (Acts 17:29). Had St Paul used θειότης in our passage he would have seemed to the Colossians to include all lower forms of divinity, and to exclude the highest and, as we know, the only real form—Deity.

The Vulg. reads divinitas here as in Romans 1:20, probably being unaltered in this particular by Jerome, and due to a time before the Latin Christians, dissatisfied with divinitas, had coined deitas “nam et hoc verbo uti jam nostros non piget, ut de Graeco expressius transferant id quod illi θεότητα appellant,” Aug. De Civ. Dei, VII. 1. See Trench, Synon. § ii.

σωματικῶς, “bodily,” i.e. in Christ as incarnate, both during His historical life on earth and in His present glorified state in heaven (Philippians 3:21).

To St Paul the doctrine of the Incarnation, perfect in manhood (σωματικῶς) and perfect in Godhead (πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τῆς θεότητος), is a sine quâ non in all true teaching, and makes τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν ἀνθρώπων superfluous.

For St Paul’s insistence on the reality of the Incarnation cf. Colossians 1:22, ἐν τῷ σώματι τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ.

“St Paul’s language is carefully guarded. He does not say ἐν σώματι, for the Godhead cannot be confined to any limits of space [ἵνα μὴ νομίσῃς αὐτὸν συγκεκλεῖσθαι, ὡς ἐν σώματι, Chrys.]; nor σωματοειδῶς, for this might suggest the unreality of Christ’s human body; but σωματικῶς, ‘in bodily wise,’ ‘with a bodily manifestation’ ” (Lightfoot).

Other meanings have been suggested for σωματικῶς, e.g. “personally” (Oltramare); “really” as contrasted with “figuratively,” cf. Colossians 2:17 (apparently Bengel, and compare Augustine, Ep. 149, § 25, Migne, II. 641); “in one organic whole” as contrasted with the thought of the false teachers that the deity dwelt in angelic beings as well as in Christ (apparently Meyer-Haupt); or, again, “in the Church” (“others” in Chrys., cf. Colossians 1:24), but even if these suggestions can be defended by usage (even the last seems to require some express reference in its immediate context, contrast Colossians 1:18; Colossians 1:24), there is no necessity here to forsake the more obvious interpretation.

Verse 10

10. καὶ ἐστὲ ἐν αὐτῷ πεπληρωμένοι. Probably still under the government of ὅτι (Colossians 2:9). A second reason why they should not be led away by “teaching not according to Christ.” Therefore ἐν αὐτῷ repeated.

ἐστὲπεπληρωμένοι. It is possible to take the ἐστέ primarily with ἐν αὐτῷ, “ye are in Him—filled,” but the thought of being in Christ (cf. John 17:21) is not suggested by the context, whereas being filled arises naturally out of Colossians 2:9. It is, therefore, preferable to translate it simply, “and in Him ye are filled,” and accent καί ἐστε.

For a similar periphrastic perfect cf. Acts 25:10; Acts 26:26. See Gildersleeve, Syntax, §§ 286, 287. You need no pretended πλήρωσις from this new philosophy.

Observe [1] St Paul does not say that Christ was filled, but ἐν αὐτῷ κατοικεῖ τὸ πληρ. τοῦ θ., for “to be filled” implies a time when the filled was empty. [2] St Paul does not define that with which believers are filled. This is certainly not τὸ πλήρωμα τ. θεότητος, as Theophyl. understands it, and even Chrys., as it seems, καί ἐστε ἐν αὐτῷ πεπληρωμένοι. τί οὗν ἐστιν; ὅτι οὐδὲν ἔλαττον ἔχετε αὐτοῦ· ὥσπερ ἐν ἐκείνῳ ᾤκησεν, οὔτω καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν. For this, strictly interpreted, is to attribute to the believer much too great an equality to Christ. St Paul purposely gives no definition, because he wishes to include everything that the believer needs. Yes, and even more than that; the Colossians are so completely filled “that there is no room left, if they have Christ they have all that anyone not only can need, but also can have” (Meyer-Haupt). Cf. John 1:16, ἐκ τοῦ πληρώματος αὐτοῦ ἡμεῖς πάντες ἐλάβομεν.

Thus although “complete” (Tyndale, A.V.) fails to show the connexion of thought with Colossians 2:9 (contrast “and ye ben fillid,” Wyclif, “made full,” R.V.) in itself it is essentially correct.

ὅς ἐστιν. See notes on Textual Criticism. The impossible reading suggests that ἐν αὐτῷ was understood to refer to πλήρωμα. But this is never called ἡ κεφαλή.

ἡ κεφαλὴ, cf. Colossians 1:18 and infra, Colossians 2:19, including the thought both of His supremacy in power and of His being the source of life.

πάσης ἀρχῆς καὶ ἐξουσίας, cf. Colossians 1:16 and infra, Colossians 2:15. Under these summary terms (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:24) St Paul includes all heavenly beings however high. Even over them Christ is supreme, even to them He is the source of their original and continued existence (cf. Colossians 1:16-17). How then can you fall back from Him to them as your false teachers would fain persuade you? “All the personal Powers of the Unseen, however real and glorious, are but limbs (in their order of being) of this Head; therefore no nearer Him than you are, and no less dependent on Him. Live then on the Fountain, not on Its streams; use to the full the fulness which in Christ is yours” (Moule).

Yet observe that, strictly speaking, St Paul does not apply the image of the body to the relation of the heavenly beings to Christ. He keeps it for the relation of believers to Him.

Verse 11

11. ἐν ᾧ. He now states in some detail what believers obtained in Christ.

καὶ περιετμήθητε. The suddenness of the reference to circumcision can only be accounted for by its being advocated by the false teachers (who were evidently Jewish), not (at any rate chiefly, cf. Colossians 2:14) because they desired the Law to be observed, as in the case of St Paul’s opponents in Galatia, but because (a) they regarded it as a prophylactic against sins (cf. Philo in Haupt), especially sins of the flesh (cf. Colossians 2:23) as well as probably, (b) they thought that it removed those who were circumcised out of the power of evil spirits into the jurisdiction of better and higher spirits, and also perhaps because (c) it was held that the higher angels were themselves created circumcised (Bk of Jubilees, XV. 27), and these their worshippers would be like them.

But St Paul says that the reality denoted by the symbol of circumcision already belongs to believers, and he will bring out even more clearly in Colossians 2:15 than in Colossians 2:10 the fact that in Christ they are superior to all spirits, bad or good.

For circumcision, starting, probably, with the thought of the consecration of the sexual powers, had long symbolised the consecration of the whole of the man to God (hence the metaphor of the circumcision of ear (Jeremiah 6:10), lips (Exodus 6:12), and heart (Leviticus 26:41) was common in the O.T. writings). But even this reality (καὶ emphatic) believers had in Christ, and St Paul cannot understand why the Colossians should go back to the symbol when they had this. Indeed, as he says in Philippians 3:3, ἡμεῖς ἐσμεν ἡ περιτομή, οἱ πνεύματι θεοῦ λατρεύοντες κ.τ.λ.

Observe the aorist, which refers to a definite time, in this case apparently when the faith of an individual believer was consummated in baptism.

περιτομῇ ἀχειροποιήτῳ, “with a circumcision made without hands.”

ἀχειρ., Mark 14:58 (of Christ’s resurrection body, compared to the Temple) and 2 Corinthians 5:1 (of the believer’s resurrection body, compared to a building)†. Not in the LXX.

But χειροποίητος occurs 15 times in the LXX. always of idols (except perhaps Isaiah 16:12 of an idol’s temple). It is also fairly common in the N.T., in each case with some notion of contempt, Mark 14:58 (the Temple); Acts 7:48; Acts 17:24 (temples generally; cf. Hebrews 9:24).

In Hebrews 9:11 the tabernacle of Christ’s body, or rather perhaps the antitypical and heavenly tabernacle of which He is High-priest, is called οὐ χειροποίητος. In Ephesians 2:11 it is used of circumcision.

ἐν τῇ ἀπεκδύσει, “in the putting off” or perhaps better “in the stripping off,” see Colossians 2:15, Colossians 3:9, notes.

ἐν marks that in which the περιτομή consisted. ἀπεκδ. subst. here only in the Greek Bible, the verb only in Colossians 2:15 and Colossians 3:9. Both subst. and verb are very rare and do not appear to have been discovered as yet in any passage earlier than this. ἐκδύω occurs in Matthew 27:28; Matthew 27:31 (|| Mark 15:20); Luke 10:30; 2 Corinthians 5:4†. But the compound is stronger. Cf. Chrys. Ὅρα πῶς ἐγγὺς γίνεται τοῦ πράγματος. Ἐν τῇ ἀπεκδύσει, φησίν, οὐκ εἷπεν ἐκδύσει.

A somewhat unnecessary question has been raised as to who “puts off.” For it is urged that as the circumcised person endures, not acts, he ought to be said to be stripped of τοῦ σώματος κ.τ.λ., and as on the other hand ἀπέκδυσις must be active not passive in meaning, the subject must be God. But this is hypercritical. If a man gets himself circumcised it is he virtually who puts off.

τοῦ σώματος τῆς σαρκός. “Of the body of the flesh,” Colossians 1:22†. There however the phrase has not the connotation of evil that it evidently has here. For though σάρξ need not be sinful, yet in the case of all others than Christ it is so.

Observe that the phrase is very strong. Literal circumcision puts off a fragment, true circumcision puts off the body (cf. Romans 7:5; Romans 8:8-9). But this is what is done at death! Quite so, for, as St Paul will say clearly in the next two verses, the believer passed through a crisis of no less a magnitude. He has obtained the benefits of circumcision in the highest degree, for he has put off his old nature and obtained new life.

ἐν τῇ περιτομῇ τοῦ χριστοῦ. A unique and difficult phrase.

[1] In itself its most obvious reference would be to the historical circumcision of Christ (Luke 2:21), but this is unsatisfactory here. Not because (a) as has been urged, περιτομῇ ἀχειροποιήτῳ forbids such a reference to literal circumcision, for this would not affect the spiritual circumcision of the Colossians “in” it, but because (b) there is no analogy to the believer sharing, ex hypothesi, in the actions and sufferings of Christ before His Passion.

Besides, while it is true that the circumcision of Christ was the first stage in His carrying out the precepts of the Law for us and so freeing us from them, this thought does not belong to the present context (contrast Colossians 2:14).

[2] Hence we must understand τοῦ χριστοῦ as the genitive of cause and origin, and the phrase to be in silent contrast to “the circumcision of Moses.” Thus it nearly = “Christian circumcision,” but points out more definitely than that the personal relation of Christ to this spiritual action.

Compare 1 Corinthians 10:2 where, in reverse fashion, “baptized unto Moses” stands in silent contrast to Christian baptism.

The ἐν is, apparently, precisely parallel to the ἐν τῇ ἀπεκδ., again defining the nature of the περιτομή.

[3] Other, but very improbable, interpretations are (a) τοῦ χριστοῦ is strictly subjective, meaning that He performs the circumcision (rather the Spirit, as Chrys.). (b) ἡ περιτ. τ. χρ. is a metaphor for Christ’s death.

Verse 12

12. συνταφέντες αὐτῷ, “being buried with Him.” The participle is closely subordinate to περιετμήθητε, of which it defines the mode.

The figure of death has already been suggested by ἐν τῇ ἀπεκδύσει κ.τ.λ., and perhaps St Paul would have continued “having died with Him” had not the act of Baptism by its covering waters represented burial rather than dying. St Paul says that the true circumcision of the believer takes place in Christ because he was buried with Him. Cf. Romans 6:4.

ἐν τῷ βαπτίσματι. See notes on Textual Criticism. Here first does St Paul definitely mention the occasion on which the Colossian Christians received their true circumcision. It was in their Baptism.

The article apparently is possessive. ἐν not ‘at,’ but ‘in’ the ceremony with all its concomitants.

The form of immersion was evidently present to St Paul’s mind (though as early as the Didaché, § 7, affusion was permitted if a full supply of water could not be had), and suggested the image of burial and resurrection.

If it appears strange that St Paul attributed so much importance to the act of Baptism it must be remembered that (a) he was, primarily at least, thinking of adults, (b) this is in fact not only the occasion on which the turning point of a convert’s faith is visibly displayed, but also the consummation of his decision to belong to Christ. All who have had anything to do with the instruction of non-Christians know that it is only when they dare to confess Christ publicly by Baptism that any assurance can be felt as to the reality of their faith. St Paul’s twofold requirement (Romans 10:9) of public confession of the sovereignty of Jesus as well as heart belief in His resurrection is fully justified by experience.

St Paul, it will be observed, is here dealing with the normal state of things. Such a question as whether real faith preceded or only followed Baptism he does not discuss.

For a valuable quotation from Peter Lombard on this subject see Moule, Appendix K.

ἐν ᾧ. In spite of the phrases ἐν αὐτῷ (Colossians 2:10), ἐν ᾧ (Colossians 2:11), the antecedent is almost certainly τῷ βαπτίσματι, not Christ, for, besides other reasons, it would be strange to say that the Colossians were raised with Christ (συνηγέρθητε) in Him.

καὶ, emphasis as well as addition; cf. Colossians 2:11. True circumcision meant not only death but also life, or rather (in view of Colossians 2:13) not only death and its position of burial but also the position of those that have been raised, and, further (Colossians 2:13), actual enjoyment of life.

καὶ συνηγ., that is to say, introduces the positive side of conversion, marking the beginning of a new life.

συνηγέρθητε. There is no occasion to repeat the αὐτῷ from συνταφέντες αὐτῷ.

For the word see Colossians 3:1, and Ephesians 2:6†. Compare also the note on συνεζωοποίησεν, Colossians 2:13.

διὰ τῆς πίστεως, “by your faith.” On πίστις cf. Colossians 1:4; Colossians 1:23, Colossians 2:5; Colossians 2:7.

In this clause St Paul guards against any misconception of Baptism having a merely mechanical effect. Faith is the instrument by which the benefit to be obtained in baptism is received.

Bengel, probably by some remnant of controversial bias, understands the genitive after πίστεως (τ. ἐνεργ. τ. θ.) as subjective, “fides est opus operationis divinae: et operatio divina est in fidelibus.” But it is certainly objective; cf. Acts 3:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Ephesians 3:12. And so Chrys., καλῶς εἷπε, ‘Πίστεως’· πίστεως γὰρ ὅλον ἐστίν. ἐπιστεύσατε ὅτι δύναται ὁ θεὸς ἐγεῖραι, καὶ οὕτως ἠγέρθητε.

τῆς ἐνεργείας τοῦ θεοῦ, “in the working of God”; i.e. in believers. See the note on ἐνέργεια at Colossians 1:29.

The false teachers urged faith in the “powers and authorities,” but you have faith in the working of God Himself. He raised Christ, and that is a solid fact on which to rest your faith in His power towards you, even to raise you with Him. And by means of this your faith you, in fact, were raised.

τοῦ ἐγείραντος αὐτὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν. See notes on Textual Criticism. The absence of the article before νεκρῶν (contrast Colossians 1:18) lays the more stress on the fact that they were dead, “from such people as were actually dead.”

The phrase probably means “from a state of death”; contrast Colossians 1:18.

Verse 13

13. St Paul still dwells upon the magnitude of the change wrought in the Colossians through Christ, though he now ceases to place this directly under the figure of circumcision.

καὶ ὑμᾶς, “and you too”; cf. Colossians 1:21. To be connected closely in thought with the end of Colossians 2:12. God raised Christ from the dead—and you too when you were dead He quickened with Christ. Thus the καί primarily contrasts the Colossians with Christ, not with Jewish believers, who have not been solely or even directly mentioned at all. That however the Colossians had in fact been Gentiles is indicated by τῇ ἀκροβυστίᾳ κ.τ.λ.; vide infra.

νεκροὺς. Observe the change of thought. In Colossians 2:11-12, the Colossian believers are said to have died with Christ. Here the thought is that before they turned to Christ they were in the truest sense already dead. For νεκρούς is not proleptic (“liable to eternal death,” Meyer on Ephesians 2:1) but describes the present state of those who are without Christ as being without eternal life; cf. Matthew 8:22; 1 John 5:12.

St Paul says this partly to humble the Colossian Christians, partly to make them the better realise how much they have received in Christ, and thus to strengthen them against the false teaching. Cf. Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 2:5.

τοῖς παραπτώμασιν. The ἐν of the Textus Receptus brought the phrase into similarity to Colossians 1:21 and marked the sphere in which death showed itself. The dative alone may be [1] the dat. of respect (“in respect of,” Moule, Studies), which suits in particular καὶ τῇ ἀκροβ., or [2] the instrumental dative; cf. Romans 11:20, τῇ ἀπιστίᾳ ἐξεκλάσθησαν. On the whole the latter is the more probable. They were dead not only in respect of sins, but wholly, and this condition was caused by their sins and by their unregenerate nature.

On παραπτωμα, and the attempts to define it as essentially weaker than ἁμαρτία. see Trench, Synon. § lxvi.

καὶ τῇ ἀκροβυστίᾳ τῆς σαρκὸς ὑμῶν, cf. Colossians 3:11. “Uncircumcision” is here primarily physical, but their physical condition was a true symbol of their spiritual state. They were outside the covenant of God’s people, and unconsecrated to God (cf. Colossians 2:11, περιετμήθητε, note), and were living without Him. St Paul here, apparently, regards the sinfulness that this implies as the joint instrument with their actual transgressions of their spiritual death.

τῆς σαρκὸς, apparently the connotation is not primarily of the flesh as sinful (Colossians 2:11) but of their bodies as such; cf. Colossians 1:22.

συνεζωοποίησεν. “He made you alive together with Him.” The subject is surely He whose activity (and that of precisely the same kind) was last mentioned—τοῦ ἐγείραντος αὐτὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν, i.e. God. And this is in accordance with the parallel passage, Ephesians 2:4-5 (vide supra), and St Paul’s uniform mode of speaking elsewhere in his use of ἐγείρειν, συνεγείρειν, ζωοποιεῖν (cf. esp. Romans 8:11). Also σὺν αὐτῷ would come in very awkwardly (see Colossians 1:20) if the subject of συνεζ. were Christ. On the change of subject at ἦρκεν (Colossians 2:14) see there.

As compared with συνηγέρθητε, Colossians 2:12, St Paul there mentioned the transition from burial to resurrection, but here speaks of the contrast between death and life. There the thought was of the moment of change; here of the continued energy. Thus although St Paul is not purposely giving a fresh stage in Christian experience from burial to resurrection and on to active life, because the intervening νεκρούς does not describe the state included under “burial” (vide supra), yet practically it comes to mean this, from the abiding character of the change denoted by συνεζωοποίησεν in contrast to νεκρούς.

σὺν αὐτῷ. συνεζωοποίησενσύν. For a similar redundancy see, probably, Matthew 27:44, οἱ συνσταυρωθέντες σὺν αὐτῷ (|| Mark 15:32); cf. συνκαθήμενος μετά, Mark 14:54; συνεπέμψαμεν δὲ μετʼ αὐτοῦ, 2 Corinthians 8:18. On the use of σύν in preference to μετά see Colossians 2:5, note.

χαρισάμενος. W.H. text place a colon at σὺν αὐτῷ, and begin at χαρισάμενος a new sentence which lasts till the end of Colossians 2:14, τῷ σταυρῷ. Presumably this is caused by the desire to understand Christ as the subject of χαρισάμενος and ἐξαλείψας. But it is exceedingly unnatural for χαρισάμενος to begin a sentence in this way. Hence we prefer the usual punctuation of a comma after αὐτῷ ( Thus the subject of χαρισ. and ἐξαλείψας is God: contrast Colossians 3:13.

χαρίζεσθαι (Colossians 3:13 bis) is properly to grant a kindness (so e.g. Luke 7:21), then to make a present to a man of his debts (so e.g. Luke 7:42), then to forgive. Hence Vulg. donans; cf. our own “forgive,” where “for” seems to be intensive.

The force of the tense is uncertain. [1] It may be synchronous with συνεζωοποίησεν, and describe what takes place in the case of individuals at baptism; so Winer, § XLV. p. 430; see infra Colossians 3:9. [2] It may be antecedent, and refer to the Passion in which the forgiveness of all was virtually obtained. But the former is more probable, for two aorists naturally refer to the same time, unless there appears to be a clear reason to the contrary. Cf. also Colossians 1:20.

ἡμῖν. St Paul frequently returns to the first person when he is speaking of blessings given in Christ, especially such as imply his own weakness or sinfulness; cf. Colossians 1:13, Colossians 3:4.

πάντα τὰ παραπτώματα, “all our transgressions.” Evidently taking up the preceding τ. παραπτώμασιν. It was impossible for him as a Jew to take up καὶ τῇ ἀκροβυστίᾳ κ.τ.λ.

Verse 14

14. ἐξαλείψας τὸχειρόγραφον. The mention of forgiveness in Colossians 2:13 leads the apostle to the figure of a bond which is first described as cancelled, then as permanently removed, as it were, from being between us and God, and then as because settled and being in itself worthless nailed up in triumph.

ἐξαλείψας, “blotting out.” The word was applied to the process of obliterating writing on ordinary books or records. In the case of papyrus, the substance in most common use, this would consist of washing off, especially if it were to be done on a large scale (contrast exx. of χειρόγραφα on papyrus scored through and thus cancelled, referred to in Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 247), for the ink was made generally of soot and gum, and did not, as with our modern inks, sink into the texture of the paper (see Kenyon in Hastings, IV. 948, “Writing”). Chrysostom expressly takes it here of complete obliteration: ἐξήλειψεν, οὐκ ἐχάραξε μόνον (i.e. he did not only draw a line through it), ὥστε μὴ φαίνεσθαι. So of a name being blotted out of a register, Revelation 3:5 (cf. Exodus 32:32-33). Acts 3:19 is probably the same use of the figure as here. In the remaining two passages of the N.T. where the word occurs it is used of wiping away tears, Revelation 7:17; Revelation 21:4.

The translators of the LXX. use it often, generally to translate מחה “wipe out,” literally or metaphorically, but also שחת “destroy,” and טוח “plaster,” e.g. Leviticus 14:42.

τὸ καθʼ ἡμῶν χειρόγραφον. χειρόγραφον in itself does not mean the Law, even as God’s holograph, but probably a bond written by a person pledging himself to make certain payments. Wetstein rightly compares Philemon 1:19, ἐγὼ Παῦλος ἔγραψα τῇ ἐμῇ χειρί, ἐγὼ ἀποτίσω, although this is not a formal example. Such a χειρόγραφον Gabael had given to Tobit, acknowledging that he held ten talents of his, and Tobit entrusted to his son Tobias in order that the latter might receive the money, Tobit 4:1; Tobit 4:20, with Tobit 5:3; cf. Tobit 9:2 (א), 5. P. Ewald indeed shows from the papyri that χ. does not always mean a bond. Yet this seems to be the meaning here. Compare Origen’s words immediately following.

What, however, is the reality underlying the figure? First, perhaps, as developed from the thought of χαρισάμενος, the debt of sin incurred by us and owing to God. So Origen, Hom. in Gen. XIII. § 4, referring to our passage, Istud quidem quod dicit chirographum, peccatorum nostrorum cautio fuit. Unusquisque etenim nostrum, in his, quae delinquit, efficitur debitor, et peccati sui literas scribit … Si vero delinquas, ipse tibi conscribis peccati chirographum.

But, secondly, in any case this passes over almost immediately into that which gives sin its δύναμις (1 Corinthians 15:56), the Law defined here by τοῖς δόγμασι; Quia reos Lex faciebat, quae subintraverat ut abundaret delictum, Aug. Ep. 149, § 26. The assent which the word “bond” presupposes on our part lies in the acceptance by our conscience of the Law not only quâ τοῖς δόγμασι but in itself (vide infra). For whether we be Jews or only Gentiles we have virtually accepted it, cf. Romans 1:32.

τοῖς δόγμασιν. A very difficult phrase. Assuming that it is to be taken with χειρόγραφον we have to decide upon the force of the dative and the meaning of the word.

I. The force of the dative. This may be [1] instrumental and closely connected with καθʼ ἡμῶν. It became a “bond” in force against us by τὰ δόγματα. So Winer, III. xxxi. 10, R. 1 (p. 275). But this is very harsh. [2] Descriptive of that in which the bond at least primarily consists. In this case the γράφειν appears to retain something of its original force. Lightfoot suggests that ἐν has dropped out; cf. Ephesians 2:15.

II. The meaning of τοῖς δόγμασι.

δόγμα occurs only three times in the N.T. besides our passage and Ephesians 2:15, viz. [1] Luke 2:1; Acts 17:7, in both of which places it = decree of Caesar; [2] Acts 16:4, where δόγματα = orders of the Apostles, etc. affecting ritual and morals.

Similarly in the LXX. it = [1] royal decree in Esther, Dan. (LXX. and Theod.), and 4 Mac. (ter), but [2] in 3 Maccabees 1:3 and 4 Maccabees 10:2 δόγματα seems to mean the ritual laws of the Jews.

In our passage the sense of royal decrees is in itself just tolerable if God be He who issues them, but the context does not suggest this. δόγματα seems to mean laws affecting practice, in contrast to both objective and subjective faith, so also Colossians 2:21 sq. Observe also that these laws are not necessarily limited to the direct commands of the Pentateuch. They at least include, and indeed probably have special reference to, the many items of traditional religious customs and laws, such as all religions possess, and Judaism in particular. In these lay the weight of the yoke (Acts 15:10) of Judaism; in these the adverse force of the “bond.” And yet the false teachers would have the Colossian Christians return to them. For a similar use of δόγματα cf. Suicer, p. 934, “Basilius M. de Spiritu sancto, cap. 27. tom. II. p. 212, doctrinae Christianae duas facit partes, τὰ κηρύγματα, praeconia, et τὰ δόγματα. Dogmata ea appellat, quae alii vocant τὰ ἀπόῤῥητα, ritus et ceremonias, quarum ratio non omnibus constat: dicitque, τὰ δόγματα haberi ex non scripta traditione, τὰ δὲ κηρύγματα, id est, doctrinam fidei, e scripturis Domini.” See also his further quotations. Cf. Westcott on Ephesians 2:15, “The addition of ἐν δόγμασιν defines the commandments as specific, rigid, and outward, fulfilled in external obedience.”

III. Three improbable constructions of τοῖς δόγμασιν may be mentioned:

[1] With ἐξαλείψας (a) instrumentally, blotting out the bond by means of the Christian δόγματα, so several of the Greek Fathers, e.g. Theophylact, τὸ χειρόγραφον ἐξήλειψεν ὁ χριστὸς τοῖς δόγμασι, τουτέστι, τῇ πίστει· οὐ γὰρ ἔργοις, ἀλλὰ τοῖς τῆς πίστεως δόγμασι λέλυται τοῦτο (in Suicer, p. 933). And so too Bengel, Haec sunt decreta gratiae; (b) blotting out the bond as regards its δόγματα.

[2] With the following relative clause (Erasmus, P. Ewald), “the handwriting, which, by its ordinances, was opposed to us,” a construction which lays extraordinary stress on τοῖς δόγμασι, and has no certain parallel in the N.T.

δ ἦν ὑπεναντίον ἡμῖν, “which was opposed to us.” ὑπεναντίος, Hebrews 10:27†. In the LXX. it often = enemy. Perhaps also here, when St Paul’s meaning is that the Law not only is against us quâ its ritual enactments, but also in itself, as a whole and as Law, is our enemy. It stands up to resist man, like Satan in Zechariah 3:1, τοῦ ἀντικεῖσθαι αὐτῷ.

καὶ αὐτὸ ἦρκεν, “and He hath taken it.” A second stage in the annulling of the bond, He has permanently removed it, so that it no longer prevents intercourse between us and God.

Observe [1] the change from a participle to the finite verb. This is due partly to emphasis, and partly perhaps to the semi-conscious change, beginning, as it seems, here, from the First to the Second Person of the Trinity. For though it is true that ἀπεκδυσάμενος can receive a plausible meaning if the subject be still “God” (vide infra) both it and the reference to the cross much more readily suggest our Lord.

[2] The change from the aorist (D*G ἦρεν) to the perfect, thereby expressing the permanency of the removal.

ἐκ τοῦ μέσου. The exact phrase occurs here only in the N.T. Isaiah 57:2 affords a verbal parallel, ὁ δίκαιοςἦρται ἐκ τοῦ μέσου, which apparently = has been taken away from his ordinary surroundings. Cf. also 1 Corinthians 5:2, and 2 Thessalonians 2:7. In our passage it apparently = from between us and God; cf. the parallel passage Ephesians 2:14, where μεσότοιχον is the temple balustrade between Jew and Gentiles taken figuratively.

προσηλώσας αὐτὸ τῷ σταυρῷ, “nailing it to the cross.” The figure is not that of cancelling a bond (for which there is no evidence, see Field, Otium Norv. III.) but of nailing it up in triumph. St Paul means, apparently, that Christ’s death on the Cross not only rendered the Law useless, but by its publicity showed that it was so.

προσηλόω occurs here only in the N.T. and only once in the LXX., 3 Maccabees 4:9, in a purely literal sense. For ἦλος see John 20:25 bis†.

Observe St Paul’s characteristic repetition of αὐτό.

Verse 15

15. ἀπεκδυσάμενος. What is the force of the middle? I. In itself it may = stripping for Himself, i.e. despoiling τὰς ἀρχὰς κ. τὰς ἐξουσίας for His own purposes. But it is not only very improbable that St Paul should use the same word, and that a rare one, in one sense here, and in another sense so soon as Colossians 3:9, but also, as it seems, this meaning is “wholly unsupported by the lexical usage of ἀποδύω, ἐκδύω, and ἀπεκδύω” (Ellicott).

II. Hence it = Christ (see Colossians 2:14, notes) stripping Himself of something. But of what?

[1] Sc. τὴν σάρκα. So the Latin Fathers, e.g. Augustine, Ep. 149 (§ 26), exuens se carne, principatus et potestates exemplavit. Also the Peshiṭta “and by putting off His body.” But this metaphor has no support from the context nearer than Colossians 2:11, which is too far away.

[2] τὰς ἀρχὰς κ. τὰς ἐξουσίας, Colossians 1:16 note.

(a) They are commonly understood as evil, see Ephesians 6:11-12. In this case they are pictured as gathering round Christ, at various times in His life on earth, and with special force and nearness at the Passion. But there, at the Cross, “the powers of evil, which had clung like a Nessus robe about His humanity, were torn off and cast aside for ever” (Lightfoot). Cf. Chrysostom who sees in ἀπεκδ. a metaphor from wrestling.

The weakness of this interpretation is that unless the phrase τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου (Colossians 2:8) refers to angels there is no hint in this Epistle that St Paul regards τὰς ἀρχὰς καὶ ἐξουσίας as evil. On the contrary, in Colossians 1:16 and Colossians 2:10 it is somewhat clearly implied that they are good, or at least may include the good, and this is confirmed by ἀγγέλων in Colossians 2:18.

(b) The ἀρχαί and the ἐξουσίαι are spiritual beings generally.

(α) Possibly, but improbably, there is a specific reference to the angels as God’s means of communication with the world before the Incarnation, especially at the giving of the Law (Galatians 3:19, cf. Acts 7:53), which presumably is regarded as a χειρόγραφον introduced by them. In contrast to that, God “divested Himself of angelic mediation” in the Atonement. Angels are thus discredited. This would give an intelligible meaning but would seem to require “God” as the subject of ἀπεκδ. There appears to be no evidence of a belief that angels worked by means of the Law and precept and thus, as it were, held men in their grip, or the passage might mean that Christ by freeing Himself, and us, from any such grip showed His superiority to them.

(β) More probably they represent the spiritual powers that attended on Christ to help Him, as, in accordance with Jewish belief, they helped all who tried to do right. The thought will then be that in the final scene He stripped Himself of these His usual attendants. He thus showed up these Powers, to whom the Colossians were bid submit by the false teachers, as wholly unnecessary and useless. Even on the Cross Christ could do without them. So far from availing Himself of them He drew them, as He drew Christian men (2 Corinthians 2:14), even in His train.

ἐδειγμάτισεν, “made a show of them,” “displayed them,” Matthew 1:19 only, in the Greek Bible.

It does not = make an example (“exemplum de illis dedit,” Aug. loc. cit.), which is παραδειγματίζω, Matthew 1:19, Text. Rec.; Hebrews 6:6†; Numbers 25:4. Apparently here it = showed them in their true character.

ἐν παρρησίᾳ. The exact phrase only in John 7:4; John 16:29. Cf. Wisdom of Solomon 5:1. It probably = with freedom of speech, and hardly so loses its proper force as to merely = openly. Translate perhaps “without reserve.” It is probably to be taken closely with ἐδειγμάτισεν, and expresses the free and unreserved character of Christ’s action in displaying them.

θριαμβεύσας, “leading them in triumph.” So also 2 Corinthians 2:14†, τῷ δὲ θεῷ χάρις τῷ πάντοτε θριαμβεύοντι ἡμᾶς ἐν τῷ χριστῷ. Similarly Lightfoot quotes Plutarch, of persons being led as captives in the formal “triumphs” given to victorious generals, as saying, τοῦτον Αἰμίλιος ἐθριάμβευσε and βασιλεῖς ἐθριάμβευσε. Cf. however Field, Otium Norv. III. on 2 Cor.

αὐτούς. The masculine definitely regards the ἀρχαί and ἐξουσίαι as persons. It is probably to be joined only with θριαμβεύσας.

ἐν αὐτῷ, “in it.” See notes on Textual Criticism.

(a) Not τὸ χειρόγραφον, which has been left long since.

(b) Nor Christ, either by regarding God as the subject of the verbs (which is improbable, vide supra), or as referring to Him even though He is the subject; cf. note on εἰς αὐτόν, Colossians 1:20. Cf. G, ἐν ἑαυτῷ, Vulg. in semetipso, followed by Wyclif, Tyndale, “in his awne persone,” and the margin of the A. V. “in himself.” For this adds but little to the thought of the passage.

(c) It doubtless refers to the Cross, the thought of which has been passing under the whole verse and now reappears. Observe the collocation of αὐτοὺς with ἐν αὐτῷ. Even on His Cross, the very weakest point in His whole earthly existence (2 Corinthians 13:4), He showed Himself far superior to all angelic beings. “The convict’s gibbet is the victor’s car” (Lightfoot).

Verse 16

16. οὖν refers at least as far back as Colossians 2:9, but with special stress on Colossians 2:14-15; cf. οὖν, Colossians 2:6, note. εἰ τοιούτων τετυτήχατε, φησὶ, τί τοῖς μικροῖς ὑπευθύνους ἑαυτοὺς ποιεῖτε; Chrys.

μήτις, cf. Colossians 2:8. Anyone, whatever his position, or whatever his supposed claims; more deictic than μηδείς (Colossians 2:18).

ὑμᾶς κρινέτω. Let no one continue to judge; implying that some one is doing so. Observe that St Paul takes a far wider view than that of forbidding the observance of dietary laws and of festival seasons. He leaves the matter free for the individual person. What he says is that the observance (or, by implication, non-observance) is not to form a basis for any one to sit in judgment on the Colossians. So at length in Romans 14:3-23; cf. 1 Corinthians 8:8; 1 Corinthians 10:29.

ἐν βρώσει, “in eating.” For St Paul always carefully distinguishes βρῶσις from βρῶμα: cf. Romans 14:17; Hebrews 9:10. Contrast John 4:32; John 6:27; John 6:55.

The dietary laws formed, and still form, a very important part of Judaism. For the Pentateuch see Leviticus 11. || Deuteronomy 14:3-21, and for the way in which pious Jews abstained, in consequence, from food provided by heathen see Daniel 1:8; Daniel 1:12; Tobit 1:10-12; Judith 10:5; Judith 12:2; Judith 12:19; Esth. Add. 14:17; 2 Maccabees 5:27. For the practice in N.T. times see e.g. Acts 10:14; Acts 11:3; cf. Mark 7:2. But it is probable that among the Colossians a still stronger form of the question arose in the form of frequent or stringent fasting, see on Colossians 2:23.

καὶ ἐν πόσει. See notes on Textual Criticism.

Similarly St Paul means by πόσις the action of drinking, not the thing drunk; contrast 1 Corinthians 10:4.

Although laws forbidding drink are only for special circumstances according to the Pentateuch (Leviticus 10:9; Leviticus 11:34; Leviticus 11:36; Numbers 6:3), yet in passages quoted in the last note from Daniel, Judith, and Esther Add., heathen wine was refused as well as solid food; and in post-Biblical times, and presumably at least as early as the time of St Paul (cf. Matthew 23:24), strict laws about drink have been framed.

The prohibition against eating meat with milk by a deduction from Exodus 23:19 || Exodus 34:26, and Deuteronomy 14:21, is perhaps the most noticeable example. For elaborate rules on the subject see the Jewish Encyclopaedia, s.v. “Milk.” But wine also was forbidden if there was any suspicion of its being connected with idolatrous usage, and “even after the practice of idolatry lapsed, these prohibitions remained in force as rabbinic institutions; wherefore the wine of a non-Jew is forbidden,” ibid., s.v. “Dietary Laws,” IV. 598.

Lightfoot (Col. p. 104) sees Essene or Gnostic influence in prohibitions against drink, rather than Pharisaic or Jewish, but on this point Hort is right in opposing him (Jud. Christianity, p. 117).

ἢ ἐν μέρει. Apparently St Paul here changes from καί to because he is about to enter on a new group of subjects. But perhaps the reason is that the sentence is negative; see Winer, § LIII. 6; cf. Romans 4:13. Cf. also Blass, § 77. 11.

ἐν μέρει probably originally denoted the class, the category, but has become weakened to merely mean “in respect of,” so class., τὸ σὸν μέρος, “as to thee,” Soph., O. C., 1366. Cf. 2 Corinthians 3:10; 2 Corinthians 9:3.

ἑορτῆς. Since the monthly and weekly holy days are mentioned immediately after, this doubtless refers to the annual festivals. For the same gradation, though in reverse order, cf. 1 Chronicles 23:31; 2 Chronicles 2:3 [4], 2 Chronicles 31:3; also Galatians 4:10.

ἢ νεομηνίας. Here only in N.T. but frequent in LXX. The first day of the month, Numbers 10:10; Numbers 28:11, i.e. the first day that the new moon was seen. For its importance in O.T. times see Amos 8:5; Hosea 2:11; Isaiah 1:13, and Ezek. often, e.g. Ezekiel 26:1. For its observance in post-Biblical times see Isr. Abrahams in Hastings, D. B. III. 522.

ἢ σαββάτων, “or of a sabbath day.”

The Aramaic Shabbtha’ שַׁבְּתָא, fem. sing. (Dalman, Gram. 1894, p. 126, and Lexicon, s.v.), was transliterated into Greek as σάββατα and declined as a plural, a singular σάββατον, e.g. John 5:9, being even formed from it.

In Acts 17:2, ἐτὶ σάββατα τρία, it has a plural meaning, but everywhere else, probably, in the N.T. still the singular, e.g. Mark 1:21, where see Swete. Cf. Jos. Antt. I. i. 1, ἡμεῖς σχολὴν ἀπὸ τῶν πόνων κατά ταύτην ἄγομεν τὴν ἡμέραν προσαγορεύοντες αὐτὴν σάββατα· δηλοῖ δὲ ἀνάπαυσιν κατὰ τὴν Ἑβραίων διάλεκτον τοὔνομα, and for a curious combination of the two forms, III. vi. 6, ἐν τῷ καλουμένῳ ὑφʼ ἡμῶν Σαββάτῳ· τὴν γὰρ ἑβδόμην ἡμέραν Σάββατα καλοῦμεν.


[1] Of the five points mentioned, σάββατα referred to exclusively Jewish days, and, so far as we know, νεομηνία also. Presumably therefore St Paul was thinking only of Jewish customs under the first three heads as well.

[2] The principle of St Paul’s “loosing” these laws has a wide application, not only to purely ecclesiastical laws about holy days, but even to the quasi-Biblical laws of fasting and the Sunday, The latter indeed is far the more important point, for the observance of a day of rest is certainly pre-Mosaic, and is indirectly enjoined in Genesis 2, besides being included in the entirely moral code of the Ten Commandments. The logical deduction from St Paul’s words would appear to be that to observe the Sunday solely for the reason that it is enjoined upon us (i.e. in the fourth commandment by a legitimate adaptation of the language) is to fall back to the position from which he was trying to keep the Colossians. But to observe it from other motives, e.g. the desire to glorify God and to make the best use of our time and to preserve to others the religious privileges that we possess, agrees completely with the liberty of the Christian. In these days of disregard of God’s will generally it is very hard to understand how a religious person can do anything to relax the religious observance of the Sunday. See Origen, c. Cels. VIII. 21–23. Compare also Romans 14:5; Galatians 4:10-11. For a convenient summary of Talmudic laws on the Sabbath see Edersheim’s Life and Times, II. Append. XVII.

Verses 16-19

16–19. Practical application of Colossians 2:6-15 and more especially Colossians 2:9-15

You have everything in Christ (Colossians 2:10), and have been joined to Him in all His redemptive acts (Colossians 2:11-13). He has too cancelled the ceremonial law, doing away with the law itself (Colossians 2:14), and has shown the relative uselessness of spiritual beings (Colossians 2:15)—therefore be not dependent on human criticism as regards ritual rules (Colossians 2:16-17), or by worship of spiritual powers have less direct relation to Christ and so be injured in your growth (Colossians 2:18-19).

(Colossians 2:16) When all this has been done in you and for yon you may disregard the criticism of any person whatever in matters of Jewish dietary laws and holy seasons; (Colossians 2:17) for all these are in themselves unsubstantial and only indicate the coming of what they represent—to mind them is to grasp the shadow and lose the substance, which is to be found only in Christ. (Colossians 2:18) I say “Christ”; disregard any decision made against you by one who takes pleasure in so-called “humility” and cult of the angels, exploring, as he does, the meaning of his visions, puffed up without any due cause by his intellect, which (whatever he may suppose) is governed by his flesh; (Colossians 2:19) slackening too, as he does, his hold on the Head, from whom the whole body of believers (all of whom have their necessary function in the body just as in a physical body bands and sinews are needful for vital supply and union) grows with growth from God and in conformity with His will.

Verse 17

17. A reason why these things should not be objects of scrupulous anxiety on the part of the Colossians.

. The plural most naturally refers to the five points in Colossians 2:16 considered singly, for even the dietary laws served as a preparation for higher things, and thus may be fairly included under σκιά.

The singular would consider the five points as one whole.

ἐστιν. Not temporal (Meyer) but expressing the abstract nature of the things. ἦν would have implied that they had absolutely ceased as facts, which of course they had not. Similarly Romans 5:14, Ἀδάμ, ὄς ἐστι τύπος τοῦ μέλλοντος.

σκιὰ. Meyer says rightly “not an outline (σκιαγραφία, σκιαγράφημα), as in the case of painters, who ‘non exprimunt primo ductu imaginem vivis coloribus et εἰκονικῶς, sed rudes et obscuras lineas primum ex carbone ducunt,’ Calvin.” For the contrast to a sketch would be at least εἰκών (cf. Hebrews 10:1) not σῶμα. It is properly a shadow, which indeed gives a certain representation but has in and by itself no independent existence, nothing real and substantial. The term thus indicates (a) the futility of these five things considered in and for themselves, and yet also (b) the reality of something which is represented by them. Thus the suggestion is that if the Colossians have scruples about these five things they are grasping at the shadow and forgetting, and therefore losing, the substance.

For a probably similar use of σκιά cf. Hebrews 10:1; Hebrews 8:5.

τῶν μελλόντων, “of the things to come,” i.e. from the point of time when the five things were enjoined. The things that were “future from the standpoint of the Law.” So also in Romans 5:14; Hebrews 10:1; Hebrews 6:5; cf. also Hebrews 9:8-9.

Observe [1] possibly St Paul intended to represent τὰ μέλλοντα as throwing a shadow in front of them, so that naturally when they came up the shadow would pass away. But this is probably an over-refinement of his metaphor. [2] To understand τῶν μελλόντων of things still future to Christian times, i.e. of the perfected Messianic Kingdom, is not only against the general usage of the phrase, but would apparently nullify St Paul’s argument, for the σκιά has confessedly been useful, and there is then nothing to show that its utility is over. Hence the Colossians may as well observe it. But St Paul’s argument is that they ought not to do so, or at least that they cannot be criticised for not doing so.

τὸ δὲ σῶμα. In contrast to σκιά, σῶμα is the substance, the reality. Cf. Jos. B. J. II. ii. 5, where Antipater accuses Archelaus at Rome of having come thither to ask for the kingdom only after having in fact exercised royal authority, but νῦν ἥκει παρὰ τοῦ δεσπότου σκιὰν αἰτησόμενος βασιλείας, ἦς ἥρπασεν ἑαυτῷ τὸ σῶμα, καὶ ποιῶν οὐ τῶν πραγμάτων ἀλλὰ τῶν ὀνομάτων κύριον Καίσαρα.

So guph, lit. body, is often used in post-Biblical Hebrew as = substance, essential part, e.g. Talm. Jer. Ber. I. 8 (p. 3c middle), “The ten commandments are the essential part of the Shema (guphah shel shma‛).” Compare Mishna Pesachim, X. 3 in contrast to the Talmudic and present custom of only bringing symbols at the Passover Feast “in the sanctuary they used to bring before him (the person eating) the very substance of the Passover,” i.e. the actual lamb itself (ובמקדש היו מביאים לּפניו גופו של פסח)

There appears to be here no thought whatever of σῶμα as a body, either as being the organised sum of τῶν μελλόντων, or as referring in any way to the Church (Colossians 1:18). Through insisting on this last reference persons mentioned by Chrysostom, without disapproval, took τὸ δὲ σῶμα τοῦ χριστοῦ in apposition to ὑμᾶς in the following verse, explaining it evidently as Augustine himself explains it (without any hint that he finds more difficulty in it than in the rest of the chapter), Corpus autem Christi nemo vos convincat: turpe est, inquit, et nimis incongruum, et a generositate vestrae libertatis alienum, ut cum sitis corpus Christi, seducamini umbris, et convinci videamini veluti peccantes, si haec observare negligitis (Ep. 149 § 27, Migne II. p. 641). The same division is found in ABP aethiop., but it is utterly improbable.

τοῦ χριστοῦ. [1] The genitive is hardly of apposition (e.g. Romans 4:11). If so it would mean that the reality to which the O.T. pointed is Christ, Christ in His various aspects according to each type. But ὁ χριστός would have been more natural.

[2] It is probably possessive. The reality has to do with Christ, coming from Him and belonging to Him. Each type points to something brought about by Christ. “The passover typifies the atoning sacrifice; the unleavened bread, the purity and sincerity of the true believer; the pentecostal feast, the ingathering of the first fruits; the sabbath, the rest of God’s people, etc.” (Lightfoot).

Thus the Christian man, as such, receives from Christ, and not from any other, the reality of which those five points (Colossians 2:16) were but a shadow.

Verse 18

18. μηδεἰς. Contrast μή τις, Colossians 2:16, note.

ὑμᾶς καταβραβευέτω. An extremely rare word occurring here only in the Greek Bible, and only twice in profane literature (vide infra).

[1] The compound παραβραβεύω is said to = to adjudge a prize unfairly, and so Chrysostom says of καταβραβεύειν here, καταβραβευθῆναί ἐστιν, ὅτον παρʼ ἑτέρῳ μὲν ἡ νίκη ᾗ παρʼ ἑτέρῳ δὲ τὸ βραβεῖον, ὅταν ἐπηρεάζῃ νικήσας (quando cum viceris, fraude laederis). But καταβ. would then probably = to adjudge a prize wrongly, and with hostile intent to the person injured. Lightfoot enlarges the reference and understands it as regarding the false teachers simply as persons frustrating those who otherwise would have won the prize, translating it with the R.V., “rob you of your prize,” the prize being eternal life.

[2] There is indeed “no doubt that the judge who assigned the prizes at the games was technically called βραβεύς or βραβευτής, and the prize itself βραβεῖον (1 Corinthians 9:24; Philippians 3:14†). Hence βραβεύειν would properly signify to act as βραβεύς or umpire, and award the prize to the most meritorious candidate. But it so happens that in the examples that we have of this verb and its compounds, the prize itself never comes into view, but only the award or decision, and that not so much in its proper agonistical, as in an applied and general sense” (Field, Otium Norvicense, ed. 1899). Cf. βραβεύειν, Colossians 3:15†, καὶ ἡ εἰρήνη τοῦ χρ. βραβευέτω ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν, and Wisdom of Solomon 10:12†, of Wisdom protecting Jacob, καὶ ἀγῶνα ἰσχυρὸν ἐβράβευσεν αὐτῷ, “and over his sore conflict she watched as judge,” R.V.

[3] Hence, if it had not been for the analogy of παραβραβεύω, καταβραβεύω would naturally mean merely “decide against” without any necessary connotation of unfairness or of special reference to the prize. And this in fact is the meaning of it in the only two places in which it occurs, viz. Eustath. on Il. A. 402 sqq. (T. I. p. 124, 2 ed. Rom.), and Demosth. c. Mid. p. 544; see Field, loc. cit.

This meaning, “condemn,” is that of the Syriac both Pesh. and Harcl., and suits the parallelism of Colossians 2:16, μὴ οὖν τις ὑμᾶς κρινέτω. It is only somewhat stronger. “Let no man judge you … let no one condemn you.”

θέλων. The construction is very uncertain.

[1] We may take it absolutely, “Let no one condemn you, willingly and gladly, in,” etc. Cf. 2 Peter 3:5, λανθάνει γὰρ αὐτοὺς τοῦτο θέλοντας, “For this they wilfully fail to see.”

[2] We may understand with it some such phrase as τοῦτο ποιεῖν, or καταβραβεύειν ὑμᾶς. So Ellicott.

But against both [1] and [2] it may reasonably be urged that the attitude of the false teachers towards the Colossians seems to come nowhere into consideration.

[3] We may take it closely with ἐν, by a Hebraism which is found fairly often in the O.T., generally indeed with a personal object (e.g. 1 Chronicles 28:4, ἐν ἐμοὶ ἠθέλησεν); but twice of things, Psalms 111 [112]:1, ἑν ταῖς ἐντολαῖς αὐτοῦ θέλει σφόδρα; 146 [147]:10, οὐκ ἐν τῇ δυναστείᾳ τοῦ ἵππου θελήσει; cf. Test. XII. Patr., Asher 1, ἐὰν οὖν ἡ ψυχὴ θέλῃ ἐν καλῷ. It thus = “taking pleasure in” ταπεινοφρ. So Lightfoot.

This gives an admirable sense, and serves to introduce the following participles, which indeed appear to need some such link. But it is an objection of some weight that this Hebraism occurs here only in the N.T. (see W.H. Append, in loc.). It also destroys the parallelism of form between μὴ οὖν τις ὑμᾶς κρινέτω ἐν and μηδεὶς ὑμᾶς καταβραβευέτωἐν. Yet on the whole this is perhaps the best construction to adopt.

ἐν ταπεινοφροσύνῃ, “in humility.”

The substantive ταπεινοφροσύνη occurs only in the N.T. (Acts 20:19; Ephesians 4:2; Philippians 2:3; 1 Peter 5:5, Colossians 2:23 and Colossians 3:12†), clearly in a good sense always except here and Colossians 2:23.

So in itself even here, and Colossians 2:23. Perhaps it was a word often on the lips of the false teachers.

But the context indicates that the humility which they desired was misplaced. Man is not intended to humble himself in such a way that he proceeds to worship the angels. “I can speak more safely,” says an early author, “and more cheerfully to my Jesus, than to any of the holy spirits of God,” tutius et jucundius loquor ad meum Jesum, quam ad aliquem sanctorum spirituum, De Vis. infirm. II. § 2 in Augustine’s works, Appendix, Migne VII. p. 1153 (quoted by Davenant).

The adjective ταπεινόφρων occurs in 1 Peter 3:8† and Proverbs 29:23†, also in a good sense. So also the verb ταπεινοφρονεῖν in the only place in which it is found in the Greek Bible, Psalms 130 [131]:2, and in Sym. Job 22:29.

Precisely the same thought of ταπεινοφροσύνη being necessary for understanding visions is found in Hermas, Vis. III. x. 6. Hermas on asking to know the meaning of the revelation of the Church in threefold form is told by her πᾶσα ἐρώτησις ταπεινοφροσύνῃς χρῄζει· νήστευσον οὖν, καὶ λήμψῃ, ὃ αἰτεῖς παρὰ τοῦ κυρίου.

Also notice that after one day of fasting a young man appears to him in the night, and warns him against injuring his flesh by too much desire after revelations.

καὶ θρησκείᾳ, “and cult.” θρησκεία occurs in the N.T. elsewhere only in Acts 26:5 and James 1:26-27. It is not found in the LXX. of the Canonical books, but only in Wisdom of Solomon 14:18; Wisdom of Solomon 14:27; Sirach 22:5 (A); 4 Maccabees 5:6; 4 Maccabees 5:13, and three times in the Symmachus fragments.

Cf. ἐθελοθρησκία, Colossians 2:23†; θρῆσκος, James 1:26-27 (supra)†; and θρησκεύειν, Wisdom of Solomon 11:15; Wisdom of Solomon 14:16†.

It = the external, sensuous side of religion, worship quâ form. Trench, Synon. § xlviii. quotes from Philo (Quod Det. Pot. Ins. 7. §§ 20, 21, Wendland, I. 195), saying that “Having repelled such as would fain be counted among the εὐσεβεῖς on the score of divers washings, or costly offerings to the temple, he proceeds: πεπλάνηται γὰρ καὶ οὗτος τῆς πρὸς εὐσέβειαν ὁδοῦ, θρησκείαν ἀντὶ ὁσιότητος ἡγούμενος” i.e. as Hatch translates it “with heart set on external observances instead of on holiness” (Biblical Greek, p. 56). Hatch sets out the various passages where θρησκεία occurs (e.g. in Josephus) in a very convenient form. Cf. too Mayor on James. From Lightfoot’s quotation from Plutarch, Vit. Alex. 2, δοκεῖ καὶ τὸ θρησκεύειν ὄνομα ταῖς κατακόροις γενέσθαι καὶ περιέργοις ἱερουργίαις we may suppose that the substantive as well as the verb would have the connotation of scrupulosity in “wearisome and elaborate” external rites.

τῶν ἀγγέλων. The genitive is surely objective though Zahn and P. Ewald try to show that it is subjective, and that the clause = mortification and devotion suitable to angels, but not for men who have bodies.

The article is strange. It shows that the emphasis is not on angels as such. It may either mean “the angels” generally, or “the angels” that the false teacher personally worshipped.

On the nature of the angel worship at Colossae, see Introd. ch. IV.

ἃ ἑόρακεν ἐμβατεύων, “exploring the things that he hath seen.” On the reading ἃ μὴ ἑόρακεν, see notes on Textual Criticism. ἐμβατεύειν occurs here only in the N.T.

It may mean (a) frequent, haunt; νῆσοςἣν ὁ φιλόχορος Πὰν ἐμβατεύει, Aesch. Pers. 449; (b) take possession (also classical). To this the usage of the LXX. is closely akin.

In canonical books of the LXX. only in Joshua 19:49; Joshua 19:51, καὶ ἐπορεύθησαν ἑμβατεῦσαι τὴν γῆν in Joshua 19:49, representing naḥal, divide (the land) for a possession, and in Joshua 19:51, ḥalleq, divide, or apportion.

In 1 Mac. ἐμβατεύειν εἰς is used of an enemy invading a country (1 Maccabees 12:25, 1 Maccabees 13:20, 1 Maccabees 14:31, 1 Maccabees 15:40), and in 2 Maccabees 2:30 the writer says τὸ μὲν ἐμβατεύειν καὶ περίπατον ποιεῖσθαι λόγῳ κ. πολυπραγμονεῖν ἐν τοῖς κατὰ μέρος, τῷ τῆς ἱστορίας ἀρχηγενέτῃ καθήκει, “to occupy the ground, and to indulge in long discussions,” R.V., where perhaps “to go into matters” (Rawlinson) is better.

(c) But Chrysostom uses it of God exploring the heart, ὁ τὰς ἁπάντων ἐμβατεύων καρδίας (I. p. 371 E), τὸν ἐμβατεύοντα ταῖς καρδίαις (IX. p. 437 D), and of persons who presume to investigate God’s nature, οἱ τὴν μακαρίαν ἐκείνην φύσιν ἐμβατεύειν ἐπιχειροῦντες (I. p. 472 C). Similarly Athanasius, τολμηρὸν ἐμβατεύειν τὴν ἀπερινόητον φύσιν, (I. p. 152) in Suicer I. p. 1098, who gives other examples from the Fathers.

So too Hesychius, ἐμβατεῦσαιζητῆσαι; and Varinus, ἐμβατεῦσαι, ἐπιβῆναι, τὰ ἔνδον ἐξερευνῆσαι, ἢ σκοπῆσαι, and there seems to be no sufficient reason for forsaking this interpretation here. Cf. Field, Otium Norvicense, 1899. The thought is that the false teacher spends his time in searching into the meaning of his visions—an error common to many of the more sensuous forms of religion. Compare the elaborate explanations given in Hermas, and in Enoch, of the visions described.

Thus it is not necessary to emend the text, though two conjectures are historically interesting, (a) ἐώρᾳ or αἰώρᾳ κενεμβατεύειν, “treading the void in the air,” for “though the precise form κενεμβατεύειν does not occur, yet it is unobjectionable in itself” (Lightfoot). (b) ἀέρα κενεμβατεύων (C. Taylor) or κενεμβατῶν, “treading the void of air.” (c) P. Ewald in order to account for the μή suggests ἀμετροκενεμβατεύων or, preferably, ἄμετρα κενεμβατεύων, “ins Ungemessene Lufttritte machend oder auch: masslos ins Leere stechend.”

εἰκῇ, “vainly,” i.e. “without just cause,” Romans 13:4; Proverbs 28:25; to be taken with φυσιούμενος. It would only weaken ἐμβατεύων.

φυσιούμενος, “being puffed up,” “inflated.” Elsewhere only in 1 Cor. (sex.). Cf. 1 Corinthians 8:1, ἡ γνῶσις φυσιοῖ.

ὑπὸ, probably in personification; cf. Mayor on James 3:4.

τοῦ νοὸς, i.e. the thinking faculty, the intellect, in operation; cf. Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 14:14-15.

τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ. It ought to have been dominated by the spirit; ὑπὸ σαρκικῆς διανοίας, οὐ πνευματικῆς· ἀνθρώπινος ὁ λογισμός (Chrys.).

Compare Moule on Ephesians 2:3, “This important word [the flesh], wherever it occurs in the N.T. in connexion with the doctrine of sin, means human nature as conditioned by the Fall, or, to word it otherwise, either the state of the unregenerate being, in which state the sinful principle dominates, or the state of that element of the regenerate being in which the principle, dislodged, as it were, from the centre, still lingers and is felt; not dominant in the being, but present.”

Probably St Paul also bears in mind the claim of the false teachers to purify themselves by their asceticism from the power of the flesh. Nay, he says, in reality they are governed by it. If this double interpretation be right the ethical and the physical references of σάρξ are both present.

Verse 19

19. καὶ οὐ κρατῶν τὴν κεφαλήν. Apparently σάρξ suggested the true body to which Christians belong, with its Head. For a fuller elaboration of the figure cf. Ephesians 4:15-16.

οὐ not μή, the negation here becoming direct and objective, and designed to be specially distinct” (Ell.). Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, ἐν παντὶ θλιβόμενοι ἀλλʼ οὐ στενοχωρούμενοι κ.τ.λ. Compare also Moulton, Gram. Proleg. 1906, pp. 231 sq.

κρατῶν, “holding fast.” So the bride in Song of Solomon 3:4, ἐκράτησα αὐτὸν καὶ οὐκ ἀφῆκα αὐτόν. In Mark 7:3-4; Mark 7:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:15 it is used of the tenacious grasp of human teaching, evil or good. The false teachers here combated by St Paul have slackened their hold on the one and only source of growth, whatever they may themselves think.

τὴν κεφαλήν, see Colossians 1:18 and Colossians 2:10, notes.

ἐξ οὗ. Almost certainly masculine, thus interpreting τὴν κεφαλήν of Christ, as is expressly the case in the parallel, Ephesians 4:15-16. Cod. Clarom. and one or two other authorities add χριστόν after κεφαλήν. He is the one and only source of supply and so of growth.

πᾶν with τὸ σῶμα only here and Ephesians 4:16.

St Paul is probably attacking the superior claims of the false teachers. They profess to be in “the body” indeed, but to have found a method of growth superior to that available for the οἱ πολλοί of Christians. Not so, says St Paul, they are not exempt from the general law that only from Christ directly all the members of Christ are nourished.

διὰ τῶν ἁφῶν κ. συνδέσμων, “by the bands and sinews.”

ἁφή, Ephesians 4:16†, where see J. A. R. He considers that ἁφή here is not derived from ἅπτομαι, “touch,” but from ἅπτω, “fasten” or “tie.” Thus it is used of a wrestler’s grip, e.g. Dion. H., de Dem. 18, τοῖς ἀθληταῖς τῆς ἀληθινῆς λέξεως ἰσχυρὰς τὰς ἁφὰς προσεῖναι δεῖ καὶ ἀφυκτοὺς τὰς λαβάς: and metaphorically of the union of Democritean atoms, Plut. Moral. 769 F, ταῖς κατʼ Ἐπίκουρον ἁφαῖς καὶ περιπλοκαῖς. Further, in the sense of a band or ligament it may have been a term of ancient physiology, cf. Galen’s lexicon of words used by Hippocrates (Gal. XIX. p. 87), ἁφάς· τὰ ἅμματα παρὰ τὸ ἅψαι, i.e. bands, from the verb “to bind.” In our passage its close connexion with the recognised physiological term σύνδεσμος would appear to leave no doubt as to the legitimacy of this interpretation.

καὶ συνδέσμων. Elsewhere in the N.T. (Colossians 3:14; Ephesians 4:3; Acts 8:23†) it = “bond” in a purely metaphorical meaning. But in Dan. (Theod.) Colossians 2:6 as a semi-medical term, καὶ οἱ σύνδεσμοι τῆς ὀσφύος αὐτοῦ διελύοντο. So in Song of Solomon 7:2, Aq. (or Sym.) has σύνδεσμοι, apparently understanding ḥammuqê yrçkayik (lit. the curved lines of thy thighs) as meaning the joints or the sinews. So in Eur. Hipp. 199, μελέων σύνδεσμα = sinews or joints, and in Galen (quoted by Lightfoot) σύνδεσμοι are the ligaments properly so called. But it is hardly probable that St Paul had this more technical and limited meaning in his mind, if indeed he had heard of it.

ἐπιχορηγούμενον, “being supplied.”

An interesting word. For χορηγεῖν instead of meaning “to lead a chorus” came to mean “defray the cost of bringing out a chorus,” and hence sometimes “supply freely and bountifully,” or even “supply” and “equip.” In Hellenistic Greek the thought of the Chorus is wholly forgotten, but hardly that of freeness and bountifulness; cf. 2 Corinthians 9:10; also Galatians 3:5; 2 Peter 1:11; Sirach 25:22; and 3 Maccabees 6:40, εὐωχοῦντο δὲ πάνθʼ ὑπὸ τοῦ βασιλέως χορηγούμενοι. Aristotle speaks of σῶμα κάλλιστα πεφυκὸς καὶ κεχορηγημένον (Pol. IV. i. 1).

“The force of ἐπί is not intensive, but directive, pointing to the accession of the supply” (Ell.).

What is supposed to be supplied by means of the joints and sinews is not stated. The apostle did not intend his words to be so pressed as to make him say that nutriment is conveyed to the physical body directly by such means. Rather he takes these as being the more evident means of the union of the body—without which it would fall to pieces—and for this reason the means of its receiving strength. The latest discussion of the word is in J. A. R. Ephesians 4:16.

καὶ συνβιβαζόμενον “and being compacted,” “knit together,” see Colossians 2:2, note.

Of the two participles ἐπιχορ. would appear to refer chiefly to ἁφῶν and συμβιβ. to συνδέσμων (Beng.). Thus συμβιβ. regards especially the external unity of believers. St Paul could not foresee the anomaly of Christian communities separated by external organisation, and in any case would have considered such a state of things a cause of weakness.

αὔξει. For αὐξάνω cf. Colossians 1:6; Colossians 1:10.

Both αὔξω and αὐξάνω are usually intrans. in the N.T. (as here), e.g. Ephesians 2:21; Ephesians 4:15, but not in 2 Corinthians 9:10; 1 Corinthians 3:6-7.

τὴν αὔξησιν. Accus. of the “inner object” or “content” which generally has, as here, a further definition by means of an adjective or genitive (see Blass, Gram. § 34. 3); cf. Matthew 2:10.

τοῦ θεοῦ. Primarily increase which comes from God (so probably even 2 Corinthians 1:12) but probably also designating the character of the true growth. Growth from God, and in conformity with Him, is only to be obtained by holding fast to Christ.

Verse 20

20. εἰ. No οὗν. For the forcible brusqueness cf. Colossians 2:8 and contrast Colossians 3:1.

ἀπεθάνετε. As already stated in Colossians 2:11-13.

Cf. Romans 6:8-11 where the argument closely resembles our Colossians 2:20 to Colossians 3:4; also 2 Corinthians 5:15; Galatians 2:19.

σὺν Χριστῷ. In Colossians 3:3, σὺν τῷ χριστῷ. See on Colossians 1:7.

σὺν, for Christ was, in a sense, under τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμον until His death, being under law, Galatians 4:4; cf. Galatians 3:13.

ἀπὸ. Here only with ἀποθνήσκειν. It marks more complete severance than the dative (Romans 6:2). Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3; Romans 7:6.

τῶν στοιχείων τοῦ κόσμον, see Colossians 2:8, note. The rudimentary teaching of the world, summed up in law with its rules and ordinances.

τί (Romans 3:7, Galatians 5:11), ὡς (1 Corinthians 5:3), ζῶντες, i.e. as if not dead to the world but still finding energy and pleasure in it. St Paul could hardly write ὄντες, even though he said ὅτε γὰρ ἦμεν ἐν τῇ σαρκί, Romans 7:5. For the thought cf. also Galatians 6:14. Your “life” is “in God,” Colossians 3:3. For ζῆν ἐν = “finding your interests and pleasures in,” cf. Colossians 3:7.

ἐν κόσμῳ. The absence of the article perhaps accentuates the contrast to σὺν Χριστῷ, and in any case emphasizes the character of the κόσμος as compared with anything spiritual.

δογματίζεσθε. Here only in N.T., but with doubtless some reference to τοῖς δόγμασι, Colossians 2:14. It occurs occasionally in the Apocrypha, twice of religious enactments: 2 Maccabees 10:8, Judas Maccabaeus and those with him ἐδογμάτισανπαντὶ τῷ τῶν Ἰουδαίων ἔθνει κατʼ ἐνιαυτὸν ἄγειν τὰς δεκάτας ἡμέρας; cf. 2 Maccabees 15:36.

Whether it is in the passive or in the middle (R.V.) here is very uncertain, but the former is perhaps preferable as indicating the strength of the power exerted upon them. In this Epistle not the Colossians, as such, but the false teachers are blamed (especially Colossians 2:18-19). Efforts were being made to place the Colossians under the bondage of ritual ordinances. “Paul’s question reveals how inconsistent with their relation to Christ and His death is such bondage. To try to maintain it, is to try to keep in prison one whom death has made free” (Beet). The Vulg. translates it as transitive, “decernitis,” for which there appears to be no parallel, and to which the context is altogether opposed.

Verses 20-23

20–3:4. Transition to the detailed practical directions of the Epistle (Colossians 3:5 to Colossians 4:6). St Paul, first negatively (Colossians 2:20-23), and secondly positively (c. Colossians 3:1-4), describes in general terms the right attitude of the believer to Christ in his daily life. His life is not to be conducted on the principle urged by the false teachers, submission to rules (Colossians 2:20-23), but on that of directing his attention and will towards Christ in His risen and ascended state

(Colossians 2:20) If, as I said, you died with Christ, thus completely severing yourselves with Him from the rudimentary teaching of the world, why, as though still finding pleasure in the world, are you being placed under the power of rules, (Colossians 2:21) that, for instance, forbid even the very touching of certain foods, (Colossians 2:22) (Though foods as such—you will remember our Lord’s teaching—perish in their very use!) according to the ordinances and instructions of mere men? (Colossians 2:23) Rules such as have the credit of wisdom in self-chosen cult and humility and severity shown to the body, not in anything honourable (??)—to mere repletion of your flesh!

(Colossians 3:1) If all such rules are useless and you also died with Christ and were further raised with Christ out of the old life into the new, make your efforts after the things above where Christ rightly belongs, and where He now is, seated in the place of honour and life-giving power, at God’s right hand. (Colossians 2:2) Fill your mind and heart with the things above, not with rules that belong to mere earthly life, (Colossians 2:3) for you died (and dead men have no more to do with earth), and your present time but spiritual life belongs to the invisible, bound up with Christ, in God. (Colossians 2:4) A time will come when this spiritual life of yours will no longer be hidden. When Christ (Christ, I repeat), who is our life itself, is publicly made known, then shall also you with Him—you in your true life with Him in His—be made known, and that in glory.

Verse 21

21. ΄ὴ ἅψῃ μηδὲ γεύσῃ μηδὲ θίγῃς, “Handle not, nor taste, nor touch.”

On the force of the aor. subj. in prohibitions, and its infrequency in St Paul’s Epp., see Moulton, Gram. Proleg. 1906, pp. 122–126.

The three prohibitions indicate the nature of the δόγματα, and are on a scale both descending, apparently, in material appropriation and ascending in religious scrupulosity.

On the relation of ἅπτομαι to θιγγάνω see Trench, Synon. § xvii.

Apparently foods are the chief object of the prohibition (cf. Colossians 2:16), and it is not impossible that it concerns them exclusively. In this case “handle” may refer primarily to taking food from the dish as they still do in the East, “taste” to perhaps eating anything above the size of an olive, “touch” to even grazing the forbidden food. Compare Wetstein’s quotation from Xen. Cyr. I. 3. 5, ὅταν μὲν τοῦ ἄρτου ἅψῃ, εἰς οὐδὲν τὴν χεῖρα ἀποψώμενον· ὅταν δὲ τούτων τινὸς θίγῃς, εὐθὺς ἀποκαθαίρεις χεῖρα εἰς τὰ χειρόμακτρα.

Verse 22

22. ἅ ἐστιν πάντα εἰς φθορὰν τῇ ἀποχρήσει. A parenthesis giving St Paul’s judgment on the things that they are bid avoid. The false teachers say these must not be even touched and yet in their very use they perish!

. The antecedent is readily supplied in the objects of the preceding prohibitions.

ἐστινεἰς, of destination, Acts 8:20; cf. Romans 11:9.

εἰς φθορὰν. Physical dissolution, the present mark on all created things; Romans 8:21.

τῇ ἀποχρήσει, “by their using up.”

Here only in the Greek Bible. “The unusual word was chosen for its expressiveness: the χρῆσις here was an ἀπόχρησις; the things could not be used without rendering them unfit for further use” (Lightfoot). The dative is of the cause or occasion.

κατὰ τὰ ἐντάλματα καὶ διδασκαλίας τῶν ἀνθρώπων. To be joined with Colossians 2:21, and its preceding question. In this way τῶν ἀνθρώπων (article probably generic, merely human beings) becomes the most emphatic part of the clause. Ye died with Christ and receive orders from men! Observe that ἐντάλματα κ. διδασκαλίας are under the one article, καὶ διδασκαλίας being, apparently, an enlargement and explanation of ἐντάλματα. Of the two words, ἐντάλματα (a) lays more stress on the authority commanding, and (b) refers more to positive rules; while διδασκαλίας suggests instruction and reasons.

It is of even greater interest to notice that the relation of this verse to our Lord’s words in Matthew 15:9-20 (|| Mark 7:7-23) can hardly be accidental, but suggests knowledge on the part of St Paul of the incident and sayings recorded in the Gospel narrative. For [1] both there and here it is a question of insistence on dietary laws (perhaps the washings in Mark 7:3-5 also include the thought of μηδὲ θίγῃς); [2] The destruction of foods by the natural processes of their consumption furnishes the same argument as to their unimportance; [3] This is connected with the same blame for being led by the precepts of men based on Isaiah 29:13.

Observe that in both the Gospel narrative and St Paul use is made of the LXX. rather than the Hebrew form of the words, but that in St Paul the LXX. is less modified than in the Gospel narrative (see Swete on Mark, l.c.).

Verse 23

23. ἅτινα, “which in fact.”

Referring primarily not to τὰ ἐντάλματα κ.τ.λ. but to the precepts included under δογματίζεσθε (of which Colossians 2:21 is an illustration). Observe the strict difference between (Colossians 2:22) in its direct and exclusive reference to Colossians 2:21, and ἅτινα including the whole class of such rules, and characterising them; cf. Colossians 3:5, Colossians 4:11. On ὅστις see Moulton, Gram. Proleg. 1906, pp. 91 sq.

ἐστινἔχοντα. The periphrastic present, stronger than ἔχει, as marking “the prevailing character”; cf. 2 Corinthians 9:12; Galatians 4:24. Cf. Blass, Gram. § 62. 2; Moulton, op. cit. p. 226. See further on ἐν τιμῇ τινι.

λόγον. For the phrase λόγον ἔχειν. cf. Hdt. 5. 66, Κλεισθένηςλόγον ἔχει τὴν Πυθίαν ἀναπείσαι, “Cleisthenes has the credit of having bribed the Pythia.”

μὲν qualifies λόγον, suggesting that the reputation is in some way mistaken, but St Paul does not here add the usual δέ, which in this case would directly indicate the imperfection. For a similar suppression cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:18, where see Lightfoot’s note. Chrysostom says λόγον, οὐ δύναμιν, οὐκ ἀλήθειαν.

σοφίας, Colossians 1:9, note. Observe that the common Talmudic name for the Jewish teachers is Ḥǎkâmim, “the wise.” Compare even Jerome (Ep. ad Algosiam, § 10, Migne, XXII. 1034), “Doctores eorum σοφοί, hoc est sapientes vocantur. Et si quando certis diebus traditiones suas exponunt discipalis suis, solent dicere: οἱ σοφοὶ δευτερεύουσιν, h. e. sapientes docent traditiones.”

ἐν, not instrumental, but marking the sphere in which their reputation for wisdom was acquired.

ἐθελοθρησκίᾳ, “in self-chosen religious service.” Here only in the Greek Bible. On θρησκεία see Colossians 2:18.

The prefix ἐθελο- is found with more than a dozen roots, always laying stress on the voluntary character of the action suggested, and sometimes adding the notion of contempt, e.g. ἐθελοδουλεία, willing slavery; ἐθελοκάκησις, wilful neglect of duty; ἐθελοσοφία, would-be-wisdom; ἐθελοπρόξενος, one who voluntarily charges himself with the office of a πρόξενος. Here the suggestion is that the θρησκεία is gratuitous. The religious ceremonies so gladly and willingly undertaken are, after all, not asked for by the object of them.

καὶ ταπεινοφροσύνῃ, Colossians 2:18 note.

[καὶ]. See notes on Textual Criticism. If omitted, ἀφειδίᾳ σώματος is a further definition of the two preceding substantives. They included it as inseparable from them. If inserted ἀφ. σώμ. is merely a further matter in which their reputation was acquired. In any case ἀφ. σώμ. is a very important addition as a transition to the crushing indictment of the last clause.

ἀφειδίᾳ σώματος, “and severity to the body.” R.V. Cf. Arist. Pol. 5 [8]. 11. 31, ἀφειδῶς ἔχειν ἑαυτῶν, “to be unsparing of themselves.” For the thought compare Enoch § 108, 7–9 where mention is made of “those who afflict their bodies, and are (for that) recompensed by God … who gave over their bodies to torture, and who, since they came into being, longed not after earthly food” (Greek not extant). See too Hermas, Vis. III. 10, where Hermas is warned that further revelation may injure his flesh.

οὐκ ἐν τιμῇ τινὶ πρὸς πλησμονὴν τῆς σαρκός. The text is almost certainly corrupt, the corruption lying probably in the words οὐκ ἐν τιμῇ τινί, but there is no various reading of importance (except the addition of et non after τινί in the Latin MS. gigas, see Hort), and no plausible emendation seems to have been suggested.

It will be best to consider the easier parts of the clause first.

πλησμονὴν. Here only in N.T. but often in the LXX., generally as a translation of parts of the root שׂבע “to be satisfied,” in the sense of “satiety.” It may have a perfectly good connotation, e.g. Isaiah 30:23; Judith 7:21 but more frequently it suggests almost excess, as perhaps does our “repletion,” e.g. Exodus 16:3; Exodus 16:8; cf. Psalms 77 [78]:25; Hosea 13:6; Ezekiel 16:49; Ecclesiastes 5:11, Sym. ἡ δὲ πλησμονὴ τοῦ πλουσίου οὐκ ἐᾷ καθεύδειν.

Cf. the half technical use of it in Galen, Op. XV. p. 113, as quoted in Lightfoot, πάντων εἰωθότων οὐ μόνον ἰατρῶν ἀλλὰ καὶ τῶν ἄλλων Ἑλλήνων τὸ τῆς πλησμονῆς ὄνομα μᾶλλόν πως ἐπιφέρειν ταῖς ὑπερβολαῖς τῆς συμμέτρου ποσότητος. Also Philo, De Vit. Cont. § 4 (II. p. 476 sq.), ἐσθίουσι μὲν ὥστε μὴ τεινῇν, πίνουσι δὲ ὥστε μὴ διψῇν, πλησμονὴν ὠς ἐχθρόν τε καὶ ἐπίβουλον ψυχῆς καὶ σώματος ἐκτρεπόμενοι (from Wetstein).

So also in our present passage it probably means more than “satisfying” A.V. and rather “repletion.” “Indulgence” R.V. is, strictly speaking, a paraphrase.

τῇς σαρκός, cf. Colossians 2:18, note. σῶμα is the bodily organisation, σάρξ the animal and material side of it in contrast to the spiritual. It is only the lower part of our nature that receives “repletion.”

πρὸς. Does this mean “against,” its neutral sense of “in relation to” being defined in a hostile sense by the context? So in Colossians 3:13; Colossians 3:19; Ephesians 6:11-12. Cf. John 6:52. So also many passages quoted in Lightfoot, e.g. Isocr. Phil. 16 (p. 85), πρὸς τοὺς βαρβάρους χρήσιμον; Arist. H.A. III. 21 (p. 522), συμφέρει πρὸς τὰς διαρροίας ἡ τοιαύτη μάλιστα; Galen, Op. XII. p. 430, συνέθηκανφάρμακα πρὸς ῥεούσας τρίχας. Our passage contains no such determination of equal certainty. If it exists at all it must lie in οὐκ ἐν τιμῇ τινί.

οὐκ ἐν τιμῇ τινὶ. It may be assumed that τινί agrees with and depreciates τιμῇ, and cannot be understood as the masculine attached as an appropriating dative to τιμῇ, “not so that honour accrues to anyone” (Hofmann, P. Ewald). εἰς τιμὴν τινί would have expressed this without ambiguity. Three interpretations may be considered.

[1] Lightfoot following out, as it appears, suggestions from seventeenth century writers recorded in Pole’s Synopsis, p. 922, ll. 60–70, translates “yet not really of any value to remedy indulgence of the flesh,” i.e. their teaching and practice failed in its chief aim, it was powerless to check indulgence of the flesh. For this sense of τιμή he compares Lucian, Merc. cond. 17, τὰ καινὰ τῶν ὑποδημάτων ἐν τιμῇ τινὶ καὶ ἐπιμελείᾳ ἐστίν, and Hom. Il. IX. 319, ἐν δὲ ἰῇ τιμῇ. But in these examples τιμή is hardly “value” but rather “honour,” “estimation.” Observe that τιμή as = “price” is not equivalent to “value,” 1 Corinthians 7:23; Isaiah 55:1; Psalms 43 [44]:13; Job 31:39.

[2] The whole clause from οὐκ to σαρκός is joined closely to ἀφειδίᾳ σώματος, expanding it negatively; i.e. the body is treated in an unsparing way, not in any honour to the satisfaction of the flesh (viz. the reasonable demands of the body). So apparently Chrysostom and the later Greek commentators. But this (a) gives πλησμονήν an improbable meaning (vide supra); (b) fails to give sufficient reason for the change from σῶμα to σάρξ; (c) is at best a tame conclusion to what evidently is intended to be a forcible passage.

[3] The ἐν is regarded as parallel to the preceding ἐν, the repute for wisdom is acquired in ἐθελοθρησκίᾳ, etc., not in anything that is honourable.

And then the Apostle breaks off, contemptuously stating the result of it all—“for the repletion of the flesh.” That is the actual result of all their trouble and rules—the lower nature is pampered, or as Hilary the Deacon, i.e. “Ambrosiaster,” concisely but bitterly puts it, “Sagina carnalis sensus, traditio humana est,” in his Commentary to be found in Ambrose’s works (vide Bengel who adds “Aurea sententia. Traditio inflat: sensum coelestem impedit”).

This (essentially Meyer) appears to be the best interpretation of a probably corrupt passage.

Bengel and P. Ewald indeed would take πρὸς κ.τ.λ. closely with ἐστίν at the beginning of the verse, and Alford even with δογματίζεσθε, Colossians 2:20, but either ensuing parenthesis appears exceedingly improbable.

[In this obscure passage it may be permissible to suggest another interpretation. Paraphrase thus: “which in fact have a specious look of wisdom (where there is no true wisdom) by the employment of self-chosen acts of religion and humility (and) by treating the body with brutality instead of treating it with due respect, with a view to meeting and providing against over-indulgence of the flesh.” The antithesis is between the “ascetic” view which practically treats the body as an enemy, and the Pauline view which treats it as a potential instrument of a righteous life. The object of both methods is to provide against over-indulgence of the flesh: the former is a specious but wrong method: the latter by giving the body its due place in the economy of human nature is really wise and Christian. For this claim of τιμή for the body compare 1 Thessalonians 4:4, Romans 1:24. G. E.]


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"Commentary on Colossians 2:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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