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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Colossians 3

 

 

Verse 1

1. εἰ, no more suggesting doubt than in Colossians 2:20. It “introduces the first member of a conditional syllogism; cf. Romans 5:15” (Ell.).

οὖν. With special reference to Colossians 2:20-23 which included not only the statement of a false method of victory, but also an appeal based on the fact that they died with Christ once. But dying with Christ carries with it the thought of rising with Him, and to this St Paul now appeals, using a logical argument. The methods of the world are useless. You died with Christ and you rose with Him. Use therefore your new position.

Observe that we have a restatement of Colossians 2:11-12, but from a different side.

συνηγέρθητε, Colossians 2:12. I.e. raised up out of the old life and into full vigour of a new life, and this not alone but in union with Christ, the source of life (cf. Colossians 3:3).

The aorist points to a definite time, viz. Baptism, see Colossians 2:12, note.

τῷ χριστῷ. The article takes up the Χριστός of Colossians 2:20 (cf. Colossians 2:6, note).

τὰ ἄνω, “the things above.” Whence Christ came; cf. John 8:23, ὑμεῖς ἐκ τῶν κάτω ἐστέ, ἐγὼ ἐκ τῶν ἄνω εἰμί. But Colossians 3:2 shows that the force of the plural is more direct here than in the Gospel.

For ἄνω cf. also Galatians 4:26, ἡ δὲ ἄνω Ἰερουσαλήμ.

ζητεῖτε. Implying more normal effort than, e.g., ἐπιθυμεῖτε.

Its complement is εὑρίσκω, Matthew 7:7; Matthew 13:45 sq. Cf. also Philippians 2:21, οἱ πάντες γὰρ τὰ ἑαυτῶν ζητοῦσιν, οὐ τὰ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ.

But why does he say ζητεῖν at all? He employs it in direct command here only, and in indirect only in 1 Corinthians 10:24, μηδεὶς τὸ ἑαυτοῦ ζητείτω. Compare the compound phrase in 1 Corinthians 14:12, πρὸς τὴν οἰκοδομὴν τῆς ἐκκλησίας ζητεῖτε ἵνα περισσεύητε. See also 1 Corinthians 10:33, 1 Corinthians 13:5; Philippians 2:21; 1 Thessalonians 2:6. Presumably the Colossians had been seeking spiritual victory by false methods, and he would now show them the true method.

οὖ ὁ χριστός ἐστιν. It is possible that ἐστιν forms a periphrastic tense with καθήμενος, and if the immediate reference were still to the superiority of Christ over the angels (who themselves presumably are in τοῖς ἄνω) this would be the best way of taking it. But St Paul is now concerned directly with the contrast of τὰ ἄνω to earthly and worldly rules, wishing to lead his readers to successful strife with the “flesh” (Colossians 2:23). His thought therefore is that Christ, with whom they were raised, is above. Hence it is better to make ἐστιν the full verb, to which ἐν δεξιᾷ τ. θ. καθ. is appended as an additional, and glorious, encouragement; cf. Romans 8:34.

ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ θεοῦ καθήμενος, “seated at the right hand of God.” The LXX. of Psalms 110:1 reads κάθου ἐκ δεξιῶν μου following the Hebrew, and wherever the N.T. directly quotes the Psalm this reading is retained (Matthew 22:44 || Mark 12:36 and Luke 20:42; Acts 2:34; Hebrews 1:13). But where, as here, merely the fact is stated, with only an indirect reference to the Psalm, the more natural form is used, Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 10:12; Hebrews 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22†.

The addition of this clause points out the supreme place of power which He now holds, from which therefore He can supply His people with all the grace that they require.

Observe also [1] St Paul in Ephesians 2:6 speaks of God having made believers sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, which appears to be a development of the thought here. This is promised in its fulness in Revelation 3:21.

[2] In Ephesians 1:20-21 he distinctly speaks of the session of Christ at the right hand of God as the sign of His superiority over all powers. Similarly also St Peter in 1 Peter 3:22 and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Hebrews 1:3 sqq.


Verses 1-4

1–4. The positive side (see Colossians 2:20, note), both in the reason adduced (συνηγέρθητε) and in the action commanded (τὰ ἄνω ζητεῖτε), in which the only effective method of victory in the holy life is stated. The vv. thus serve as a transition to the practical charges of Colossians 3:5 sqq.


Verse 2

2. τὰ ἄνω φρονεῖτε. He emphasizes, by repetition, the thought of τὰ ἄνω ζητεῖτε but enlarges and deepens it. φρονεῖν expresses the set and purpose of the mind. It “denotes the whole action of the φρήν, i.e. of the affections and will as well as of the reason” (Sanday-Headlam, on Romans 8:5). It therefore distinguishes the spiritual from the worldly character; cf. Mark 8:33 (|| Matthew 16:23), where see, by all means, Dr Swete’s note; Romans 8:5. St Paul uses φρονεῖν eight times in Phil., cf. especially Colossians 2:5.

μὴ τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς. For the phrase see especially Colossians 1:20, where τὰ ἐπὶ τ. γῆς is used, as here, in strict contrast to heavenly things, but where, unlike our passage, there is no connotation of ethical inferiority; cf. also Colossians 3:5. This inferiority is clearly expressed in John 3:31; cf. also Matthew 6:19, and Philippians 3:19.

Most expositors are of opinion that St Paul by this phrase is speaking quite generally, i.e. of “all things, conditions, and interests, that belong to the terrestrial,” without any reference to the rules of the false teachers (Colossians 2:20-23). But in view of St Paul’s habit of dwelling on a phrase, and using it to pass on to a different but related subject, it is preferable to regard it as referring primarily to the earthly methods proposed by the false teachers for combating evil. St Paul bids his readers to be not taken up with questions of eating, drinking, and such like, which belong to the earthly life. There is a higher and better way. But the phrase in itself is so wide that it readily affords him a point d’appui from which to pass on to earthly things generally (cf. Colossians 3:3-4) and in particular to such as are directly opposed to true religion (Colossians 3:5 sqq.).


Verse 3

3. ἀπεθάνετε γάρ. To be taken up with things on earth is unreasonable, for dead men have no more to do with such things. For the tense cf. Colossians 2:12; Colossians 2:20, notes.

καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ὑμῶν. I.e. the life that followed on their death. Therefore not the future life as such but the real and spiritual life to which believers have already risen; cf. Colossians 3:1, Colossians 2:12, notes.

κέκρυπται. More like ἀποκεκρυμμένος, Colossians 1:26, than ἀπόκρυφος, Colossians 2:3 (see notes). For the thought is primarily not that of security but of concealment. Your life does not belong to the sphere of the visible (why then be taken up by the visible?) but is in God.

“The Apostle’s practical aim is to direct the Christian away from the visible, mechanical, routine of Pharisaic or Essenic observance to the secrets of holiness which are as invisible to natural sight as is Christ Himself, in Whom they reside” (Moule).

There seems to be no close parallel to ζωὴκέκρυπται. Cf. perhaps Revelation 2:17, τοῦ μάννα τοῦ κεκρυμμένου.

The perfect of course brings out the abiding state of things, in contrast to the definite action of dying (ἀπεθάνετε).

σὺν (Colossians 2:5; Colossians 2:13) τῷ χριστῷ. Not as well as Christ, in the sense that both believers and Christ have true life in God. But in intimate fellowship with Christ. Their life is bound up with Christ. He is invisible, and with Him is their life; cf. John 14:19.

ἐν τῷ θεῷ. God is the very antithesis to the material and visible, and the believer’s life is in God; contrast Colossians 2:20, ὡς ζῶντες ἐν κοσμῷ.

Observe, by the way, the extraordinary rarity of the phrase ἐν τῷ θεῷ. It seems to occur only here and in Romans 5:11; 1 John 4:15-16 (absolutely); and in Ephesians 3:9; 1 Thessalonians 2:2 (with additions); similarly ἐν θεῷ, Romans 2:17; John 3:21†; ἐν θεῷ πατρί, 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; Judges 1:1†.


Verse 4

4. ὅταν ὁ χριστὸς φανερωθῇ κ.τ.λ. The connexion of thought with Colossians 3:3 is as follows: Concealment is necessarily only temporary (cf. Mark 4:22); a day is coming when Christ will be made known in His true character and power, i.e. His glory; but your life is now concealed with Him; yes, more than this, He Himself is our life; it therefore cannot but be that when He is manifested in glory you will be also. Observe that this verse not only developes the thought of κέκρυπται, but also by the magnificence of the hope supplies a further reason against being intent on things of earth. “Haec spes abstrahit a terrâ” (Beng.); cf. 1 John 3:2-3.

ὅταν. No δέ, cf. Colossians 2:20. The very abruptness brings out the hope more vividly.

ὁ χριστὸς. The fourth time in Colossians 3:1-4. St Paul will do his utmost to help them to set their thoughts above.

φανερωθῇ, Colossians 1:26, note.

ἡ ζωὴ ἡμῶν. “This is an advance on the previous statement, ἡ ζωὴ ὑμῶν κέκρυπται σὺν τῷ χριστῷ, in two respects: [1] It is not enough to have said that the life is shared with Christ. The Apostle declares that the life is Christ. Compare 1 John 5:12, ὁ ἔχων τὸν υἱὸν ἔχει τὴν ζωήν, Ign. Ephes. § 7, ἐν θανάτῳ ζωὴ ἀληθινή (of Christ), Smyrn. § 4, Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς τὸ ἀληθινὸν ἡμῶν ζῆν; Ephes. § 3, Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς τὸ ἀδιάκριτον ἡμῶν ζῆν; Magn. § 1, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ διὰ παντὸς ἡμῶν ζῆν. [2] For ὑμῶν is substituted ἡμῶν. The Apostle hastens to include himself among the recipients of the bounty” (Lightf.; cf. Colossians 1:13, Colossians 2:13).

τότε, 1 Corinthians 15:28. “Prius non debemus postulare” (Beng.).

καὶ ὑμεῖς. Here he reverts to the proper form of the argument, the more readily as he is speaking not of need but of honour.

σὺν αὐτῷ. Observe the position of these words, [1] to keep ἐν δόξῃ for final emphasis, [2] to lay stress on the closeness of the relation of “you” and “Him.”

They also take up σὺν τῷ χριστῷ of Colossians 3:3. As surely as your life is hidden with Christ while He is hidden, so shall you be manifested with Him when He is manifested; cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

φανερωθήσεσθε ἐν δόξῃ. See notes on Colossians 1:11; Colossians 1:27.

For the thought cf. Romans 8:17; Philippians 3:21; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; Hebrews 2:10; 1 Peter 5:4; 1 Peter 5:10. On the nature of the “glory” as regards believers, see Moule. Even the body shares in it, 1 Corinthians 15:43.


Verse 5

5. νεκρώσατε οὖν. St Paul here begins the directly “practical” part of his Epistle, but characteristically (cf. Romans 12:1; Ephesians 4:1) joins it to the more doctrinal part by a “therefore.” Life is indeed “hidden,” but it is hereafter to be manifested in its true nature, and must logically be taking effect in the present.

οὖν gathers up the logical result of Colossians 2:20 to Colossians 3:4, with probably special reference to Colossians 3:4 b, the glorious future. It is inconsistent with this future to let sins now live in us.

νεκρώσατε, “put to death.” Cf. Galatians 5:24, and νέκρωσις in 2 Corinthians 4:10.

τὰ μέλη τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς (Colossians 3:2). Observe, first, “Our bodies and all that pertains to them belong to the earth” (Beet); secondly, our several members which are the instruments of sins are spoken of as independent agents committing sin. Thus the thought is similar to our Lord’s words, Matthew 5:29-30. Compare also Romans 7:5; Romans 7:23.

Of course the death is ethical not physical, but it is the physical limbs that are intended, to which St Paul attributes as it were separate individualities. τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς does not differentiate the kind of members but is a term that excellently suits our members.

There appears to be no reason for thinking that St Paul already refers to the “old man” Colossians 3:9, contrasting the use of the physical limbs for his earthly purposes with their possible use for Christ.

πορνείαν κ.τ.λ. In apposition to τὰ μέλη and giving examples of the way in which the members work if left to themselves. As included under the members, as their effects, these sins are of course to be put to death with them.

Lightfoot puts a colon after γῆς and makes πορνείαν κ.τ.λ. “prospective accusatives which should be governed directly by some such word as ἀπόθεσθε” (Colossians 3:8). It is true that the contrast between ποτέ and νυνί has dislocated the sentence in Colossians 1:21, cf. Colossians 1:26; cf. Ephesians 2:1-5, but in those examples there is no doubt as to the beginning of the sentence, whereas here πορνείαν would be strangely abrupt. In any case surely a much stronger term than ἀπόθεσθε was to be expected with πορνείαν.

πορνείαν, ἀκαθαρσίαν, πάθος, ἐπιθυμίαν κακήν. Transition from the more specific to the more general, in two pairs, the first pair mentioning actions, the second states of mind, πορνεία, fornication, the common sin, not understood to be a sin, of all heathen peoples. ἀκαθαρσία, a general term, including all forms of sexual vice, cf. Ephesians 5:3. πάθος, ungovernable desire, see Trench, Synon. § lxxxvii. ἐποθυμία desire generally, sometimes in a good sense (Philippians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:17), and therefore (because St Paul in this of all Epistles would be the least likely to teach the mortification of all human desires) defined here as κακή. Compare ἐπιθυμίαι σαρκικαί, 1 Peter 2:11; αἱ ἐπιθ. (τοῦ σώματος), Romans 6:12, ἡ ἐπιθ. τῆς σαρκός, 1 John 2:16, and other phrases quoted in Trench, loc. cit.

καὶ τὴν πλεονεξίαν ἥτις κ.τ.λ. The article is remarkable and its force is uncertain. [1] Blass, Gram. § 46. 8, says that “the additional clause ἥτις κ.τ.λ. entails its use,” and translates “and that principal vice covetousness.” Compare Colossians 3:14, τὴν ἀγάπην. [2] “The particles καὶ τὴν show that a new type of sin is introduced with πλεονεξίαν” (Lightfoot), as in Ephesians 5:3 the same distinction is indicated by the change from καί to . [3] Perhaps πορνείαν, which as a concrete action does not so easily take the article, determined the anarthrous state of ἀκαθαρσία, πάθος, ἐπιθυμίαν κακήν, but with πλεονεξία a new and abstract idea is presented and the article comes readily. [4] Possibly it is nearly parallel to τὰ μέλη the figure of which corresponds well to πορνεία, etc., but not to πλεονεξία (apparently P. Ewald).

In any case it is most improbable that πλεονεξία is regarded as a species of the general term ἐπιθυμία, as Meyer-Haupt proposes.

πλεονεξία. Connected with fleshly lusts in Mark 7:22; Romans 1:29; Ephesians 4:19; Ephesians 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:6; 2 Peter 2:3 (perhaps), 14, and similarly πλεονέκτης in 1 Corinthians 5:10-11; 1 Corinthians 6:10 (perhaps), Ephesians 5:5.

Yet nowhere, as it seems, does it directly bear the sense of impurity, its connexion with this both here and in those passages being probably due to its representing the second of the two most striking aspects of a materialistic aim, viz., sexual sin and the undue desire to possess. Observe that the latter is not necessarily miserliness. πλεονεξία includes all excessive desire to have, whether the object of this be money, or land, or other means of self-gratification.

Lightfoot has many interesting quotations from Jewish and Christian writers on “the cult of wealth.”

ἥτις ἐστὶν, “seeing that it is”; cf. Philippians 1:28. More than a relative, for, by classifying, it adds a reason for the preceding prohibition; cf. Colossians 2:23, Colossians 4:11.

εἰδωλολατρία. By putting the visible before the invisible. For the connexion of idolatry with πλεονεξία cf. 1 Corinthians 5:11, and esp. Ephesians 5:5. The clause reproduces the thought of our Lord’s saying, Matthew 6:24.


Verses 5-17

5–17. The individual life

Colossians 3:5-11. Negatively (together with a general description of the new life), for sins are inconsistent with the new self.

Colossians 3:12-17. Positively, especially love, and knowledge of God’s word, and thanksgiving.

(Colossians 3:5) The hidden life which will hereafter be manifested must, by all logic, take effect now. Put therefore to death your bodies and their parts; all of which have only to do with earth and are instruments of sin, thus including immoral actions, and wrong desires, and greed, for this is idolatry; (Colossians 3:6) on account of which things God’s wrath comes down on the ungodly; (Colossians 3:7) and in these things you too once walked, when you found your interest and pleasure in such things as these; (Colossians 3:8) But, as matters stand with you now, and in contrast to your former life, put off as disused garments all these things, including sins of disposition and speech. (Colossians 3:9) Tell no lies to one another (lying marks “the old man”), thus stripping off the old worn-out self together with all the actions that belong to it; (Colossians 3:10) and putting on the new self, which is maintained fresh and vigorous with the object of gaining full knowledge (of God and all that pertains to our relation to Him) with no less a standard than God’s image, in accordance with the original design after which man was made; (Colossians 3:11) the image in which there do not exist any differences of either nationality, or ceremonial religion, or culture, or social standing, but everything means Christ, and in everything is Christ.


Verses 5-25

5–4:1. Practical duties

Colossians 3:5-17, in the individual life;

Colossians 3:18 to Colossians 4:1, in the social relations of a household.


Verse 6

6. διʼ , cf. Ephesians 5:6.

ἔρχεται ἡ ὀργὴ τοῦ θεοῦ. See notes on Textual Criticism. Not His feeling or attitude towards sin, but the external manifestation of that attitude; cf. Romans 1:18; Romans 5:9. This is regarded as coming with certainty on the ungodly (1 Thessalonians 1:10), in the final day of wrath (Romans 2:5).

St Paul frequently appends a similar saying to his lists of sins, Ephesians 5:6; Galatians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 6:10. Here it is the more needed in contrast to the hope of the godly in Colossians 3:4. Chrys. says, διὰ πολλῶν ἀπήγαγεν αὐτούς· διὰ τῶν εὐεργεσιῶν τῶν ὑπαρξασῶν, διὰ τῶν μελλόντων ἐξ ὧν ἀπηλλάγημεν κακῶν.


Verse 7

7. ἐν οἷς. Certainly neuter with the short form of Colossians 3:6, and almost certainly neuter even with the long form, for “περιπατεῖν ἐν is most commonly used of things, not of persons, especially in this and the companion epistle, Colossians 4:5; Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 4:17; Ephesians 5:2” (Lightfoot). In fact 2 Thessalonians 3:11 appears to be the only passage in St Paul’s Epistles where this is not the case, exclusive of course of such phrases as περιπατεῖν ἐν Χριστῷ.

καὶ ὑμεῖς. In implied distinction from the ungodly among whom you no longer are.

περιεπατήσατέ cf. Colossians 1:10. ποτε, Colossians 1:21.

ὅτε ἔζητε ἐν τούτοις. τούτοις neut. emphatic (John 9:31), and perhaps contemptuous. For ζῆν ἐν cf. Colossians 2:20, finding interest and spending energy in these things, “tanquam in vestro principio, origine, elemento” (Beng.). Wetstein compares Cicero, Ep. IX. 26, “Vivas, inquis, in literis? Quidquam me aliud agere censes? aut possem vivere, nisi in literis viverem?”


Verse 8

8. νυνὶ δὲ, see Colossians 1:21.

ἀπόθεσθε. ἀποτίθεσθαι is used of putting off clothing, literally in Acts 7:58, and metaphorically in Romans 13:12; Ephesians 4:22 (in both passages contrasted with ἐνδύεσθαι), also probably in Hebrews 12:1, and James 1:21. In 1 Peter 2:1 Hort (q.v.) thinks that the metaphor of clothing is not present. In our passage the reference is doubtful, but on the whole probable, ἀπεκδυσάμενοι (Colossians 3:9) apparently carrying on and further defining the metaphor.

Observe the tense. There is, ideally, to be no half-heartedness, or any time spent, in such putting off.

καὶ ὑμεῖς. Probably with a slightly different connotation from Colossians 3:7. “You also” in distinction from what you yourselves once did.

τὰ πάντα, “them all” (Ell.); cf. Colossians 1:16. Primarily “these things,” of Colossians 3:7, but because sins cannot be arranged into separate compartments, as it were, St Paul proceeds to include under “them all” other sins of (popularly speaking) a different kind, viz. sins of disposition and of speech.

ὀργήν. Doubtless suggested here by ἡ ὀργὴ τοῦ θεοῦ, Colossians 3:6, to which it forms a contrast. For this and the context compare James 1:19-21, βραδὺς εἰς ὀργήν, ὀργὴ γὰρ ἀνδρὸς δικαιοσύνην θεοῦ οὐκ ἐργάζεται διὸ ἀποθέμενοι πᾶσαν ῥυπαρίαν καὶ περισσείαν κακίας κ.τ.λ.

θυμόν. Of ὀργή and θυμός, ὀργή is the more settled and permanent feeling, θυμός the ebullition and manifestation, which may be but temporary. So especially Sirach 48:10, explaining Malachi’s prophecy of Elijah (Colossians 4:5), ὁ καταγραφεὶς ἐν ἐλεγμοῖς εἰς καιρούς, κοπάσαι ὀργὴν πρὸ θυμοῦ (of God, see also Romans 2:8). Compare Theodoret on Psalms 68:25 (Psalms 69:25), διὰ τοῦ θυμοῦ τὸ ταχὺ δεδήλωκε τοιοῦτος γὰρ ὁ θυμός· διὰ δὲ τῆς ἀργῆς τὸ ἐπίμονον· τοιαύτη γὰρ ἡ τῆς ὀργῆς φύσις. Compare Trench, Synon. § xxxvii.

κακίαν, “malice” in the usual sense, “malignity.”

βλασφημίαν, “slander.” There can be no thought here of “blasphemy” against God (Matthew 12:31), but only of false accusation against man (Revelation 2:9). St Paul has the substantive only in two other of his lists of sins, Ephesians 4:31; 1 Timothy 6:4, in each case evidently with the same meaning as here.

αἰσχρολογίαν, “abuse.” Here only in the Greek Bible. But cf. Ephesians 5:3-4, πορνεία δὲ καὶ ἀκαθαρσία πᾶσα ἤ πλεονεξία μησὲ ὀνομαζέσθω ἐν ὑμῖν, καθὼς πρέπει ἁγίοις, καὶ αἰσχρό της καὶ μωρολογία ἥ εὐτραπελία. Strictly “turpiloquium,” such as ministers to wantonness, but if this is its meaning here we should have expected to have found the word in Colossians 3:5. Hence Trench, Synon. § xxxiv., is probably right in giving to it the wider meaning of abuse generally, quoting Polybius, e.g. VIII. 13. 8, ἡ κατὰ τῶν φίλων αἰσχρολογία, and XXXI. 10. 4, αἰσχρολογία καὶ λοιδορία κατὰ τοῦ βασιλέως. The transition would be easier in an Oriental land than in our own, for Oriental abuse is generally foul.

ἐκ τοῦ στόματος ὑμῶν. Hardly with ἀπόθεσθε for the phrase cannot well refer to ὀργή, θυμός, κακία. It rather adds a fresh point to αἰσχρολογία, implying that such words ought to be stopped before they come out of the mouth. It marks, as it were, their final stage. Cf. Ephesians 4:29.


Verse 9

9. μὴ ψεύδεσθε εἰς ἀλλήλους. That the change to the present tense suggests that the sin was still existing (cf. Ephesians 5:18 μὴ μεθύσκεσθε) see the remarks by J. H. Moulton, Gram. Proleg. 1906, p. 126. The thought is expressed more fully in Ephesians 4:25.

ἀπεκδυσάμενοι. Compare Colossians 2:15 note, and ἀπέκδυσις, Colossians 2:11. The participle is dependent on μὴ ψεύδεσθε. But on the use of participles in imperatival sentences, see Moulton, op. cit. p. 181. St Paul takes up the common sin of lying—which heathen, and even those in a low state of Christian knowledge, hardly reckon as sin—and implies that it is a specially characteristic mark of “the old man.”

The construction of the participles ἀπεκδυσ. and ἐνδυσ. is doubtful. [1] They may state the motive “seeing that ye stripped off.” Compare the thought of Colossians 2:11. [2] They may be, and probably are, synchronous, “stripping off” (so Lightfoot). In favour of this are the following considerations (a) the parallel passage, Ephesians 4:22-25, is certainly imperative in sense, (b) In Colossians 3:12 the imperative immediately follows. [3] Hofmann and P. Ewald strangely take ἀπεκδ. as beginning a new period interrupted and resumed in Colossians 3:12, in spite of the οὖν there.

On the coincident action of the aorist participle vide supra, Colossians 2:13, and cf. Gildersleeve, Syntax, §§ 339–345, and Moulton, Gram. Proleg. 1906, pp. 130 sq.

The participles are in the aorist, because the present would express a gradual or a repeated action, whereas ideally the action is complete in itself and once for all. Even if experience shows that it must be repeated, yet on each occasion the act should be in itself complete.

τὸν παλαιὸν. As compared with ἀρχαῖος, which has “a suggestion of nature or original character” (Thayer), παλαιός thinks only of time (1 John 2:7). But in earthly things the old in time becomes worn out (Matthew 9:16-17), and “ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13), and therefore is a fitting epithet of that which should no longer be worn by those who have received the new birth.

ἄνθρωπον. By a curious figure of speech ἄνθρωπος is spoken of as a vesture. It here almost=character rather than personality. Cf. Ephesians 4:22; Ephesians 4:24, Romans 6:6. See Suicer, I. p. 352. It is “the old self.”

There is a similar metaphor in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “ubi Apostolus per prosopopoeiam ac imaginem fingit, duos homines esse in eodem homine,” Suicer, I. p. 351. But there the outer man is the physical, the inner the spiritual side of our nature.

There can hardly be any reference to the first man Adam, for νέος would then include a reference to the second Adam, Christ. But Christ is not ἀνακαινούμενος εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν (Colossians 3:10).

σὺν ταῖς πράξεσιν αὐτοῦ, “together with his doings.” In reality, though not in form, a further definition of τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον; the old state with all that this includes; not merely the old motives and the prominence of self, but also the various forms of action that belong to the self-life; cf. Galatians 5:21.


Verse 10

10. καὶ ἐνδυσάμενοι, “and putting on.” See note on Colossians 3:9.

τὸν νέον. As the unconverted state was described not as a congeries of separate sinful acts but as a living organism directed by a will, “the old man,” in which “self” determined all the doings, so the state of the Christian is “the new man.”

τ. νέον τὸν ἀνακαινούμενον, cf. Ephesians 4:24, τὸν καινὸν ἄνθρωπον, “of the two words νέος and καινός, the former relates solely to time, the other denotes quality also; the one is new as being young, the other new as being fresh: the one is opposed to long duration, the other to effeteness” (Lightfoot); cf. Trench, Synon. § lx.

For the thought of “the new man” cf. Dalman, “Just as Paul, Galatians 6:15; 2 Corinthians 5:17 speaks of a καινὴ κτίσις, so, too, Jewish literature is able to say that God fashions any one into a new creature (בְּרִיָּה חֲדָשָׁהבָּרָא), Vay. R. 29, 30; Pes. Rabb. ed. Friedm. 146 b; Midr. Psalms 2:9” (Words of Jesus, p. 178).

τὸν ἀνακαινούμενον, “which is being renewed.” In contrast to “putting off” which is done, ideally, once for all, stress is laid on the continuance of the process of renewal. The new man is perpetually maintained in vigour and growth. He is thus the very antithesis to the worn out garment, “the old man.” For the similar antithesis in 2 Corinthians 4:16, the only other passage in the Greek Bible where the word occurs, see Colossians 3:9 note.

For ἀνακαίνωσις see Romans 12:2, Titus 3:5. Compare Trench, Synon, § xviii.

The force of ἀνά in the compound may be [1] restoration, as Trench implies, but not strictly to man’s primal state (Calovius), for “this falls far short of the glorious truth” (Alf.). [2] merely strengthening the idea of καινοῦσθαι, emphasizing the contrast to the state that lately existed. This is perhaps the more probable. Cf. Moulton, op. cit. p. 112. [3] Possibly ἀνά suggests that the renewal takes effect through the series of all the acts that make up the new man.

Plummer (on 2 Corinthians 4:16) suggests that the expressions ὁ ἔσω ἄνθρωπος, etc. are of Platonic origin, and points out that “they should be noted as linking Epistles which are sometimes disputed, as Ephesians and Colossians, to Epistles whose genuineness is not open to doubt, as Romans and Corinthians.”

εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν. On ἐπίγνωσις see notes on Colossians 1:6; Colossians 1:9.

εἰς marks the final aim of τὸν ἀνακαινούμενον; cf. Colossians 2:2, and perhaps 2 Peter 1:8. Contrast in Colossians 3:9 the comparatively bald definition “with his doings,” for “the old man” has no future.

Observe that ἐπίγνωσις is here absolute as in Philippians 1:9 (hardly Romans 1:28; Romans 10:2), but its exact reference is disputed.

[1] The immediate contrast speaks of solely ethical duties, and thus ἐπίγν. may here = practical knowledge in the moral sphere, the thought being that whereas “the old man” led to a wholly false perception of duties the result of “the new man” is a wholly right judgment concerning them.

[2] Yet in view of (a) the fact that St Paul employs ἐπίγνωσις especially of the knowledge of God; (b) the claim of the false teachers to supply knowledge; and (c) the wide suggestion made in κατʼ εἰκόνα κ.τ.λ., it is surely preferable to see this latter meaning here. The aim is knowledge, viz. of God, and this knowledge includes all other, e.g. the knowledge of His will in all the relations of life.

κατʼ εἰκόνα τοῦ κτίσαντος αὐτόν. On εἰκών see Colossians 1:15, note, and on κτίζω, Colossians 1:16.

[1] This difficult phrase is apparently based on Genesis 1:27, κατʼ εἰκόνα θεοῦ ἐποίησεν αὐτόν, or, as Aq. and Theod. translate, ἐν εἰκόνι θεοῦ ἔκτισεν αὐτούς.

[2] It probably uses the partial likeness of created man to God as the basis from which to rise to a nobler thought, the final perfect likeness of the new man to Him.

Thus this final image stands for St Paul as the norm (κατά) according to which the development unto knowledge takes place.

[3] Although it is grammatically possible to join κατά κ.τ.λ. solely to ἐπίγνωσιν (see Winer, § XX. 4) (i.e. a knowledge like God’s knowledge; cf. P. Ewald), yet such a limitation of the εἰκών to knowledge is in itself improbable, and Ephesians 4:24, τὸν καινὸν ἄνθρωπον τὸν κατὰ θεὸν κτισθέντα, points to the connexion being chiefly with τὸν ἀνακαινούμενον.

[4] τοῦ κτίσαντος αὐτόν = God as such, not Christ, least of all as Chrysostom quaintly interprets it when, contrasting τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον, he says κατʼ εἰκόνα Χριστοῦ. τοῦτο γάρ ἐστι, “κατʼ εἰκόνα τοῦ κτίσαντος αὐτόν,” ἐπεὶ καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς οὐ πρὸς γῆρας ἐτελεύτησεν, ἀλλʼ οὕτως ἦν καλὸς, ὡς μηδὲ ἔστιν εἰπεῖν. This, of course, is quite consistent with the fact that St Paul can elsewhere speak of believers becoming συμμόρφους τῆς εἰκόνος τοῦ υἱοῦ (Romans 8:29). The aorist refers to the time of the ἀναγέννησις in Christ; cf. κτισθέντα, Ephesians 4:24.

On the improbability of εἰκών here directly referring to Christ (Colossians 1:15), see Lightfoot. Ephesians 4:24 has κατὰ θέον.

[5] αὐτόν naturally refers to τὸν νέον (ἄνθρωπον), not to man as such (Genesis 1:27).


Verse 11

11. ὅπου. [1] Probably this refers to the εἰκών, the image in which the new man will eventually be. In that future perfected likeness to God there will be no Greek, etc., but Christ will be all and in all. [2] Perhaps the direct reference is to the νέος ἄνθρωπος (cf. Matthew 26:57, where the verbal antecedent is Καιάφαν), the state of the new man as such being already opposed to all worldly distinctions.

οὐκ ἔνι, “there does not exist.” ἔνι (1 Corinthians 6:5; Galatians 3:28 ter; James 1:17†) “is not a contraction of ἔνεστι, but the preposition ἐν, ἐνί strengthened by a more vigorous accent, like ἔπι, πάρα, and used only with an ellipsis of the substantive verb” (Lightfoot on Galatians 3:28). It is stronger than ἐστι, but, in view of 1 Corinthians 6:5, the translation “there cannot be” (R.V.) would appear to be too forcible.

Ἕλλην καὶ Ἰουδαῖος. For similar contrasts see Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:28. [1] In the other passages Ἰουδαῖος comes first because the stress is on difference of religion, and the Epistles of the Second Group had a primary reference to the overweening claims of Judaism. Here the emphasis on religious distinctions is brought out by περιτομὴ καὶ ἀκροβυστία. Hence we must see in Ἕλλ. κ. Ἰουδ. chiefly the thought of nationality, and as addressing Colossians St Paul naturally puts Ἕλλην first. [2] Thus the pairs of words deal with (a) nationality, (b) pre-Christian religion, (c) culture, (d) social relationship. Distinctions in all these things have no existence in the ideal image to which the Christian will be brought.

περιτομὴ καὶ ἀκροβυστία. In religious matters St Paul naturally puts first what was to him as a Jew the higher type. Yet “if it is no advantage to be born a Jew, it is none to become as a Jew; compare 1 Corinthians 7:19; Galatians 5:6; Galatians 6:15” (Lightfoot).

βάρβαρος, Σκύθης. Probably καὶ was here omitted because these two do not, properly, form a contrast. Rather Σκύθης is the furthest type of βάρβαρος. Then the καί having been once omitted it would not be natural to reintroduce it into the following pair. βάρβαρος, from being the onomatopoeic designation of a man ignorant of the proper language and speaking only a foreign tongue (Berber is said to be the same word, but formed independently of Greek, by Egyptians to express non-Egyptian peoples), readily acquired the notion of uncivilised; of. ἀμαθὴς καἰ βάρβαρος, Ar. Nub. 492. See by all means Lightfoot’s note with a noble quotation from Max Müller.

Σκύθης. While Sym. in Genesis 14:1; Genesis 14:9 translates Elam by σκυθῶν (possibly Aq. also in Colossians 3:9), and further also in Genesis 14:9 Goyim also possibly by σκυθῶν (a not unreasonable translation), the LXX. has the word (besides Σκυθῶν πόλις Beth-Shean) only in 2 Maccabees 4:47, 3 Maccabees 7:5, in each case a synonym for savages. Compare Jos. c. Ap. II. 37. It is interesting to notice in Wet stein, that Polybius, IX. 28, classes Scythians and Galatians together, and, that we Britons may take our proper position, Cicero, Scythia and Britain, De Nat. Deor. II. 34. For details and theories concerning the Scythians see Schmidt’s article in Encycl. Bibl.

δοῦλος, ἐλεύθερος. A distinction always present in every congregation of early Christians, yet abolished for them in Christ. St Paul would have special pleasure in mentioning this in view of the accompanying letter to Philemon. On the whole question of slavery in the early Church see the Introduction to that Epistle. Compare also, infra, the summary of Colossians 3:22 to Colossians 4:1.

ἀλλὰ πάντα καὶ ἐν πᾶσιν Χριστός. Observe the overwhelming emphasis in the position of Χριστός. ἐν πᾶσιν is probably neuter, for there is nothing to suggest a change of gender, as there is in 1 Corinthians 12:6-7, ἐνεργῶν τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν. ἑκάστῳ δὲ κ.τ.λ.

Observe that “all” hardly expresses the distributive sense of πάντα and ἐν πᾶσιν. Our idiom would be “Christ is everything and in everything.” St Paul says this partly from his enthusiasm of hope in future perfection; partly to meet once more the claims of the false teachers for superiority in their teaching (especially βάρβαρος Σκύθης); but chiefly to show the inconsistency of any unbecoming actions towards others. In the true standard of life all such differences vanish; every distinction and every relation is satisfied by Christ and by our common relation to Him.

Colossians 3:12-17. The individual life considered positively.

(Colossians 3:12) I say put on (for with such an ideal this duty is evident, and the fact that you have been chosen of God, both consecrated and beloved, requires it) tender feelings and behaviour towards others, humility, meekness, patience, (Colossians 3:13) bearing the faults and failings of one another and forgiving each other as too the Lord forgave you—so, I say, must you. (Colossians 3:14) In addition to these put on love, which binds together all the graces in perfection, (Colossians 3:15) and let Christ’s peace, which you possess, always act as umpire in your hearts, for it was to inner peace that you were also chosen, and you are in fact one body. And, both as result and cause of peace, be ever more and more thankful, (Colossians 3:16) Let Christ’s word dwell within you in abundance and in practical knowledge; as you teach and warn each other by holy song, as you express your thanks, singing in your hearts to God Himself. (Colossians 3:17) Do I say “In your hearts”? Not there alone. Let everything that you do, in word or in deed, let all things, I say, be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to your God and Father by means of Him alone.


Verse 12

12. ἐνδύσασθε. Taking up ἐνδυσάμενοι (Colossians 3:10), but applying the figure to details. Here also is the aorist chosen because the present would imply an only gradual acceptance of the following virtues (cf. note on ἀπεκδυσάμενοι, Colossians 3:9).

οὖν. Including the argument from ἀπεκδυσάμενοι, Colossians 3:9, but with special reference (cf. Colossians 2:6; Colossians 2:16, Colossians 3:1; Colossians 3:5) to the immediately preceding words; i.e. because this active life of godliness is alone consistent with the ideal set before you.

ὡς. By mentioning their actual state (Ephesians 5:8; Philemon 1:16) he shows the reasonableness of the act commanded.

ἐκλεκτοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ. Contrast ἐκλεκτῶν θεοῦ (Romans 8:33). Here τοῦ marks perhaps a slight pause in thought after ἐκλεκτοί, but less strong than our English “chosen and that of God.” St Paul leaves the thought of the new man and reminds his readers of their having been chosen by God.

On ἐκλεκτός in the N.T. see Lightfoot, and for its relation to the O.T. see especially Hort on 1 Peter 1:1; 1 Peter 2:9, who brings out the truth that “God’s choosing is not for the sake of His chosen alone; they are chosen because He has a special ministry for them to perform towards the surrounding multitude.… As is the election of ruler or priest within Israel for the sake of Israel, such is the election of Israel for the sake of the whole human race. Such also, still more clearly and emphatically, is the election of the new Israel. Nor is the principle of less validity in respect of the individual members of the new chosen race. Each stone in the spiritual house of God has its own place to fill, and was chosen by God for that place. Each member of Christ’s spiritual body has its own work to do, and was chosen by God for that work.” So here St Paul evidently employs this epithet to urge them to greater consistency in their relation to others.

This is not the place to discuss the technical sense of “elect” in theology. That St Paul used it as meaning more than admission into the visible Church, and saw in it the actual reception of spiritual blessings on the part of the “elect,” may be inferred from Romans 8:33, τίς ἐγκαλέσει κατὰ ἐκλεκτῶν θεοῦ; θεὸς ὁ δικαιῶν. But he nowhere seems to say that the ἐκλεκτοί cannot be lost, which is of the essence of the meaning of the word in Calvin’s system. Calvin appears to have used it in the sense attached to it in the Gospels, e.g. Matthew 22:14. ἐκλεκτοί occurs only here in the third group of the Epistles. But Ephesians 1:4 is somewhat similar in argument, καθὼς ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶς ἐν αὐτῷ πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, εἶναι ἡμᾶς ἁγίους κ.τ.λ.

ἅγιοι, Colossians 1:2, note. This and ἠγαπημένοι can hardly be [1] vocatives, for there seems to be no parallel to such an address (ct. Hebrews 3:1, ἀδελφοὶ ἅγιοι); nor [2] substantival expressions to which ἐκλεκτοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ forms an attribute; i.e. “as holy and beloved ones elect of God,” for all the emphasis lies on ἐκλεκτοί; nor [3] certainly predicates after ἐκλεκτοὶ, i.e. “chosen of God to be ἅγ. κ. ἠγαπ.,” for there is no example of such a use of ἐκλεκτός. Ct. the infinitive after the verb, Ephesians 1:4. But [4] they are simply fresh epithets unfolding thoughts included in ἐκλεκτοί: and thus strictly speaking subordinate to it, not co-ordinate; i.e. “chosen, including of course being consecrated and being loved.” Thus ἅγιοι regards the Colossians as set aside for God’s use out of a sinful world, and ἠγαπημένοι as being the objects of special divine love. Bengel’s note is interesting: “ordo verborum exquisite respondet ordini rerum: electio aeterna praecedit sanctificationem in tempore: sanctificati, sentiunt amorem, et imitantur.” But he is surely wrong in his interpretation of ἠγαπημένοι, St Paul saying nothing about our realisation of God’s love.

καὶ. See notes on Textual Criticism.

ἠγαπημένοι. See note on ἅγιοι. Pass. partic. of believers, 1 Thessalonians 1:4 (εἰδότες, ἀδελφοὶ ἠγαπημένοι ὑπὸ [τοῦ] θεοῦ, τὴν ἐκλογὴν ὑμῶν); 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Judges 1:1†. It indicates “the settlement and fixity of the Divine love; on whom He has set His love” (Moule).

It is perhaps not too fanciful to remember that each of the three epithets is used of Christ (e.g. ἐκλεκτός, 1 Peter 2:4; ἅγιος, Mark 1:24; ἠγαπημένος, Ephesians 1:6). If believers share His privileges, and if eventually He will be to them everything (Colossians 3:11), let them now put on His virtues.

σπλάγχνα. Literal, and perhaps in conscious contrast to τὰ μέλη of Colossians 3:5. The viscera were considered to be the seat of the emotions, as “heart” with us. Cf. 1 John 3:17, Philemon 1:7; Philemon 1:20. In Philemon 1:12, σπλάγχνα is purely metaphorical. See further Plummer on Luke 1:78. Strictly σπλάγχνα refers to the nobler viscera, “the heart, lungs, liver, etc., as distinguished from the ἔντερα, the lower viscera, the intestines, e.g. Aesch. Agam 1221, σὺν ἐντέροις τε σπλάγχνα” (Lightfoot on Philippians 1:8). But in the only two passages in the LXX. where it represents a Hebrew word, Proverbs 12:10; Proverbs 26:22, it has not this limitation, nor in Aquila and Symmachus, Genesis 43:30; Amos 1:11, nor in Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, Isaiah 63:15.

οἰκτιρμοῦ, sing.†. Apparently a possessive genitive. Contrast Philippians 2:1, and cf. Luke 1:78.

χρηστότητα, “kindliness,” “sweetness” (Rheims in 2 Corinthians 6:6; cf. Matthew 11:30). The subst. is used in the N.T. by St Paul only, e.g. 2 Corinthians 6:6; Galatians 5:22. χρηστός occurs in the parallel passage in Ephesians 4:32.

See Trench, Synon. § lxiii., who says it is a grace “pervading and penetrating the whole nature, mellowing there all which would have been harsh and austere.” οἰκτιρμός may move us to do kind things but χρηστότης makes us do them in a kindly way.

ταπεινοφροσύνην, Colossians 2:18, note. Cf. the list in Ephesians 4:2. Neander, Plant. I. 483–5 (the reference is due to Ell.), has some remarks on this word all the more valuable from his Jewish experience. He says e.g. “ταπ. bears an immediate relation to God alone, and according to the Pauline views can be transferred to no other being; men and created beings in general are not its objects; for humility is the sense of dependence on the Creator as such, and places the whole assemblage of created beings on a level.… Yet he who is rightly penetrated with the feeling of dependence on God in reference to his whole existence and conduct, and with the nothingness of everything human while living only for oneself, will not pride himself in his abilities, but feel that they are bestowed upon him by God for a definite object, and must be used in dependence on Him; in his intercourse with others, he will bear in mind the defects, the limits, and imperfection of his own character and abilities, and his dependence, with that of all other men, on their common Lord.”

πραὗτητα. Humility leads to meekness, the receptive attitude of the soul towards another when that other is in a state of activity towards it. It is exercised primarily towards God, Matthew 5:5; Matthew 11:29, but, as receiving all things at His hands, issues necessarily in meekness towards men. Compare Trench, Synon. § xlii.

μακροθυμίαν. See Colossians 1:11, note. “Patience,” “forbearance,” the spirit of mind that excludes all irritation at the faults and failings of others; cf. 2 Timothy 4:2.


Verse 13

13. ἀνεχόμενοι ἀλλήλων, “Bearing with one another.” Similarly in || Ephesians 4:2 with the addition ἐν ἀγάπῃ. So of Christ (Matthew 17:17). Cf. Acts 18:14. So ἀνοχή of God, Romans 2:4, where χρηστότης and μακροθυμία are also predicated of Him, and Colossians 3:25.

The present points to the continued need of the exercise of μακροθυμία in this specific form, for, as is implied, we are each in some ways trying to others.

καὶ χαριζόμενοι (Colossians 2:13, note) ἑαυτοῖς. Beng. notes “ἀνεχ. in offensis praesentibus, χαριζ. offensas praeteritas.” For we not only tend to irritate others, but also we all sometimes do positive harm to them.

ἐαυτοῖς perhaps for variety (cf. Blass, Gram. § 48. 9); cf. Ephesians 4:2 with 32, 1 Peter 4:9-10. “But perhaps as though the whole Church were one person, as it is actually the one Body of Christ, so that forbearance towards a fellow-Christian is forbearance towards ourselves,” Beet; cf. also Colossians 3:16. It also readily serves as a transition to the thought that as Christ forgave us so should we forgive others.

ἑάν τις πρός τινα ἔχῃ μομφήν, “cause of complaint.” μομφή here only in the Greek Bible, though found in the poets. “Quarrel,” A. V., is an archaism, directly from Vulg., “si quis adversus aliquem habet querelam.” Compare the verb in “they were the principal motives of it, and therefore ought least to quarrel it,” The Translators to the Reader (A.V. 1611, 11th paragraph).

καθὼς καὶ ὁ κύριος ἐχαρίσατο ὑμῖν. See notes on Textual Criticism. On χαρίζομαι see Colossians 2:13, note. ὁ κύριος almost certainly represents Christ. Forgiveness is predicated of Christ directly only here, as it seems, in the Epistles (contrast His claim in the Gospels), yet as “neither the Father judgeth any man but He hath given all judgment unto the Son” (John 5:22), His forgiveness is, in its final form, through the Son, and it is easy to leave out of sight the ultimate source of forgiveness in the Father and think only of its immediate source in the Son (cf. Beet). In Ephesians 4:32 the fuller form is used. Moule compares Acts 5:31.

οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς. For the thought compare the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, Matthew 18:23-35, though there is no evidence in our passage that St Paul was acquainted with it.

According to the punctuation adopted by WH, a colon after μομφήν, we are to understand χαρίσασθε after ὑμεῖς and then of course a fresh imperative in Colossians 3:14. But it is questionable whether the force of χαριζόμενοι is not carried to the end of Colossians 3:13, the words οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς being only an emphatic resumption of the ὑμεῖς already included in it; cf. Bengel, “χαριζόμενοι … Hinc pendet, sic etiam vos.” In this case Colossians 3:14 depends grammatically upon ἐνδύσασθε (Colossians 3:12). There will then of course be only a comma after μομφήν.


Verse 14

14. ἐπὶ πᾶσι δὲ τούτοις. It is tempting to interpret ἐπί locally “on all these” (cf. Matthew 9:16), and if ἐνδύσασθε, Colossians 3:12 (see last note), were not so far off this would perhaps be justifiable. But in view of Luke 3:20, προσέθηκεν καὶ τοῦτο ἐπὶ πᾶσιν, and Sirach 37:15, καὶ ἐπὶ πᾶσι τούτοις δεήθητι Ὑψίστου (וְעִם כָּל־אֵלֻּה), it probably = “in addition to”; so Blass, Gram. § 43. 3. In any case, of course, a garment put on in addition to others will be over them. P. Ewald, however, apparently interprets the phrase as referring to an additional charge by the Apostle; in addition to what I have said—Love, etc.

τὴν ἀγάπην, Colossians 1:4, note. This marks a distinct advance on Colossians 3:12-13. For the virtues enumerated there either refer to separate acts, or to states of mind that have but partial influence on the character. They can, to some degree at least, be exercised while the heart is still but coldly affected towards others (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:3). Therefore St Paul here demands active love to others which embraces all our relations towards them; cf. Romans 13:10.

The addition of the article is due, probably, to its greater importance than the virtues mentioned in Colossians 3:12.

ὅ ἐστιν. See notes on Textual Criticism, as also at Colossians 1:27, Colossians 2:17. The neuter cannot refer to the action of “putting on love” (B Weiss), for this as such is not συνδ. τ. τελειότητος, but doubtless refers to ἀλάπην, “the antecedent being viewed under an abstract and generalized aspect” (Ell.; cf. Meyer). Blass’ explanation is hardly different when he says (Gram. p. 77), “This phrase ὅ ἐστι has become as much a stereotyped formula as the equivalent τοῦτʼ ἔστι (τουτέστι).” Cf. Ephesians 5:5. Barn. XV. 8.

σύνδεσμος, Colossians 2:19; Acts 8:23; Ephesians 4:3†. In the LXX. it nowhere refers to clothing. Anarthrous, probably as predicate after the verb substantive. The article would have implied “the bond which all recognise as existing,” although they may not know that love is that bond; cf. Middleton, Gr. Art. III. § 3. 2, cf. 5. Compare 2 Thessalonians 3:17. Perhaps it is followed by the article to exclude the possibility of the τελειότης being a mere quality.

It is hard to determine whether St Paul intended the image to be that of the outer robe or of the girdle. The former, however, whether the στολή of the upper classes or the ἱμάτιον of the traveller (cf. Hastings’ Dict. I. 625), could hardly be said to bind anything together, whereas this is the characteristic of the girdle. This therefore appears to be the more probable. That ζώνη is not used lies in the wish to express the fact of binding.

To interpret σύνδεσμος as = σύνθεσις, bundle, totality (cf. Ign. Trall. 3, σύνδεσμον ἀποστόλων) suits neither N.T. usage nor the context.

τῆς τελειότητος., Hebrews 6:1†; cf. τέλειος, Colossians 1:28, Colossians 4:12.

[1] “Perfection” not “maturity,” for the latter is inconsistent with the image of a bond. [2] Some have supposed that it refers to the perfection of the community. So, it would appear, the early Western scribe who inserted ἑνότητος as a gloss. But we should have expected some hint that St Paul is passing in thought from the individual to the community. Such a hint occurs in Colossians 3:15 a, and the passage is definitely made in Colossians 3:15 b. [3] Assuming that the perfection is that of the individual, what is the exact force of the genitive?

(i) It may be the genitive of apposition. So probably Ephesians 4:3, ἐν τῷ συνδέσμῳ τῆς εἰρήνης. But in our case this would either (a) make love = bond = perfection, i.e. love itself be perfection, which, though true in one aspect (Romans 13:8-10), is suggested by nothing in our context; or (b) it would = love is the bond in which perfection consists; but there is then but little force in “bond,” for we should expect to find a clear intimation of what is bound. In Ephesians 4:3 this is evidently the community.

(ii) It may be the subjective genitive: “love is the bond which belongs to, is the distinctive feature of perfection” (Ell.); or the genitive of quality, “a perfect bond” (P. Ewald). This is very similar to (i) (b), and the same objection applies.

(iii) It is probably the objective genitive in one of two senses.

(a) τελειότης is a condensed way of expressing the various graces whose state and interrelation are perfect. Love binds them, and maintains them bound, in such a way that lacking it they would cease to have perfection. For such a use of σύνδεσμος cf. Plato, Rep. X. 14, p. 616 c, which Chrysostom seems to have known, διαλύεται γὰρ πάντα ἐκεῖνα (i.e. Colossians 3:12), ἄν μὴ μετὰ ἀγάπης γίνηται. πάντα ἐκεῖνα αὔτη συσφίγγει· ὅπερ ἂν εἴπῃς ἀγαθὸν, ταύτης ἀπούσης, οὐσέν ἐστιν, ἀγγὰ διαρρεῖ. καὶ ὅν τρόπον ἐπὶ πλοίου, κἄν μεγάλα ᾗ τὰ σκεύη, τὰ σὲ ὑποζώματα μὴ ᾗ. οὐδέν ὄφελος κ.τ.λ. The difficulty however is that it gives to τελειότης a meaning which is, no doubt, possible but strained.

(b) A simple explanation, at first sight, is that perfection is regarded as an abstract quality which love binds on to the virtues. Love is not perfection but its addition makes all perfect. The force of σύν in σύνδεσμος would then be “binding on perfection with the virtues.” Such is the meaning in συνδέω, Hebrews 13:3†, “as bound with the prisoners. But though this interpretation suits τελειότης better, there seems to be no parallel to this use of σύνδεσμος, which when followed by a genitive of the object is spoken of as exercising its conjunctive force on that object.

On the whole (iii) (a) appears to present the least difficulty (cf. Lightfoot).

Before leaving this verse it is proper to notice that it suggests a curious enquiry as to the language in which St Paul thought.

[1] τελειότης may be expressed in Aramaic by שַׁלְמוּתָא or שְׁלִימוּתָא, which is closely akin to שְׁלָמָא or שְׁלָם, “peace,” and indeed in Syriac often means “peace” (e.g. Pesh. 2 Corinthians 13:11, ܘܰܐܠܴܗܳܐ ܕܚܘܟܽܐܵ ܘܰܕܫܰܠܡܘܽܬܴܐ, ὁ θεὸς τῆς ἀγάπης καὶ εἰρήνης).

Hence if St Paul was thinking in Aramaic, “perfection” (in Colossians 3:14) would readily suggest to him καὶ ἡ εἰρήνη (in Colossians 3:15).

In this connexion it is at least a curious coincidence, if nothing more, that while in this passage St Paul speaks of “the bond of perfection,” in Ephesians 4:3 the words are “the bond of peace.”

Compare for this point especially C. Taylor, Sayings of the Jewish Fathers, I. 19.

[2] If, on the other hand, St Paul thought in Greek, τελειότης may possibly have suggested to him the peculiar word of Colossians 3:15, βραβευέτω. For in the Hexaplaric fragments the Thummim of Urim and Thummim is sometimes represented by τελειότης, either in the plural, Exodus 28:30, τοὺς φωτισμοὺς καὶ τὰς τελειότητας (Aq., Sym., Theod.), or the sing., Deuteronomy 33:8, τελειότης σου καὶ διδαχή σου (Sym.), and the function of the Urim and Thummim appears to have been precisely that of acting as umpire, i.e. βραβεύειν; cf. 1 Samuel 14:41, LXX.


Verse 15

15. καὶ merely copulative, not “atque ita” (Beng.).

ἡ εἰρήνη τοῦ χριστοῦ. See notes on Textual Criticism.

The peace possessed by Christ (εἰρήνην τὴν ἐμὴν) and given by Him to His followers (δίδωμι ὑμῖν), John 14:27. Not primarily peace towards others but the rest of the soul that has accepted Christ’s salvation. Hence St Paul at the end of the verse can join to it thanksgiving. The exact phrase occurs here only, but Philippians 4:7 approaches it in meaning and effect.

βραβευέτω, “act as umpire.” Here only in N.T. For meaning see note on καταβραβευέτω, Colossians 2:18. “Wherever there is a conflict of motives or impulses or reasons, the peace of Christ must step in and decide which is to prevail” (Lightfoot).

ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν. The addition is necessary to show that St Paul does not mean that the community is to appeal to the peace of Christ, but each in his own heart. This reaches further, for “such settlement of debates there would quite preclude all harsh conflicts in the community” (Moule).

εἰς ἥν καὶ ἐκλήθητε. The relative is half causal (cf. Colossians 1:18, note), and the καὶ “marks the introduction of an additional motive” (Alf.).

The emphasis is obtained in a different way in 1 Corinthians 7:15.

ἐν [ἑνί] σώματι. See notes on Textual Criticism.

ἐν states the result of the call, “into” and now “in” one body. Compare, besides 1 Corinthians 7:15, Galatians 1:6. Ephesians 4:3-4 illustrates both this and the connexion of thought in our passage.

If ἐν σώματι be read St Paul means “in a community,” as contrasted with the merely individual call. If ἑνί be genuine he emphasizes the essential oneness of this community; cf. Romans 12:5. You were called to inner unity and also are in fact in external unity.

καὶ εὐχάριστοι γίνεσθε. The connexion is probably as follows: Your want of love is due in measure to lack of rest in soul, and this to not realising what has been done for you (cf. Colossians 1:12). Thankfulness has a reflex action on peace in the heart, and on love to others.

εὐχάριστος here only in N.T. In the LXX. it is found once, Proverbs 11:16, in the sense of “winning,” “agreeable” (cf. the twofold meaning of “grateful”). But such a sense here, besides being very weak, is excluded by the universal use of εὐχαριστεῖν and εὐχαριστία in the N.T.


Verse 16

16. ὁ λόγος τοῦ χριστοῦ. See notes on Textual Criticism.

As in Colossians 3:15 St Paul bade his readers allow the peace of Christ to decide any conflict of motives, etc., so here he desires that the word of Christ may dwell in them. Further this indwelling of Christ’s word is closely connected with thanksgiving, of which indeed it is both cause and effect.

The phrase ὁ λόγος τοῦ χριστοῦ is unique, but is so akin to ὁ λόγος τοῦ κυρίου, 1 Thessalonians 1:8; 2 Thessalonians 3:1, and ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ, Colossians 1:25 (where see note), that the genitive is doubtless subjective as in those phrases. It is the word uttered by Christ, the revelation that He brought in speech and act.

ἐνοικείτω. See note on Colossians 1:19 (κατοικῆσαι).

ἐνοικεῖν also is used of sin dwelling in St Paul (Romans 7:17), of God dwelling in the believer as in a temple (2 Corinthians 6:16), of “His Spirit” dwelling in believers (Romans 8:11; 2 Timothy 1:14), and of faith dwelling in Timothy’s grandmother and mother (2 Timothy 1:5)†.

The expression is more personified than ὁ λόγ· [τοῦ θεοῦ] ἐν ὑμῖν μένει (1 John 2:14), and more comprehensive than ἐὰντὰ ῥήματά μου ἐν ὑμῖυ μείνῃ (John 15:7).

ἐν ὑμῖν. Even though St Paul is about to speak of the oral intercourse that believers are to have with one another, the force of ἐν is not to be weakened to mean “in you as a collective body,” but must be taken in its full sense, “in your innermost being.” Cf. ὅ ἐστιν Χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν, Colossians 1:27.

πλουσίως. Cf. Titus 3:6, 2 Peter 1:11. Here the meaning is, Let the word be well known by you, and let much of it be well known by you, so that as you need it there may be abundance of it at your disposal. To change the figure, be at home in the Gospel story, and let it be at home in you, so that it may be always ready for use.

ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ. On each part of this phrase see the notes at Colossians 1:9.

Commentators are greatly divided upon the question of the reference of these words, whether to the following διδάσκοντες κ.τ.λ., or to the preceding, Colossians 1:28 has been taken to support either way, for while the phrase there evidently belongs to that which precedes, this is, in fact, “warning and teaching,” which here follows. But Ephesians 1:8, and probably c. Colossians 1:9, are in favour of joining it with the preceding words. The sense then will be that the word of Christ should dwell in them not only abundantly but in that “knowledge which sees into the heart of things, which knows them as they really are” (J. A. R. on Ephesians 1:8), and this in every case which requires the exercise of such knowledge.

διδάσκοντες καὶ νουθετοῦντες. See notes, Colossians 1:28.

Observe the loose connexion of these participles with an imperative having a different subject; cf. esp. Romans 12:9. And see Blass, Gram. § 79. 10. Cf. Moulton, Gram. Proleg. 1906, pp. 180 sqq.

ἑαυτοὺς, Colossians 3:13, note.

ψαλμοῖς, ὕμνοις, ᾠδαῖς πνευματικαῖς. Cf. Ephesians 5:19. “The datives describe the instruments of the διδαχή and νουθεσία” (Lightfoot).

Of the three synonyms ψαλμός suggests a musical accompaniment (cf. the κιθάραι of the Elders in Revelation 5:8, where see Swete), and therefore perhaps words composed with special attention to rhythm and musical cadence, of which the O.T. Psalms and the Songs of Zechariah, Mary, and perhaps Simeon, are typical examples. ὕμνος (here and Ephesians 5:19†) suggests praise to God; cf. Hebrews 2:12. ᾠδή on the other hand is a general word, used of secular songs, and therefore duly limited here by πνευματική. See further Trench, Synon. § lxxviii.

Observe (a) The use of hymns and sacred songs would naturally be taken over by the Christians from the Jews, in whose Prayer-books sacred songs have always held an important place. For quotations from Philo see Lightfoot. (b) St Paul is however speaking primarily of singing not in “Church,” but at less formal, and apparently social meetings. There is nothing in the context to suggest the former. In order to enter into the meaning of the passage we must suppose the early Christians to be like persons who have received deep spiritual blessing at a Mission or in a Revival. Such is the sense of the greatness of the salvation they have received that all their thoughts and interests turn to spiritual things, and they readily, and as it were naturally, speak of them and praise God for His mercies, and that in more emotional forms than ordinary speech. We indeed have been accustomed to regard such raptures as abnormal, but perhaps they are rather the earnest of the full spiritual results hereafter to be enjoyed.

ἐν χάριτι. [1] Probably “in thanksgiving,” not exactly “thankfulness,” gratitude, the feeling, but the act of giving thanks, the utterance itself. So τῷ δὲ θεῷ χάρις, 1 Corinthians 15:57; 2 Corinthians 2:14; cf. 2 Corinthians 9:15; Romans 7:25. So also probably 1 Corinthians 10:30. Cf. also the var. lect. in Philemon 1:7. If this interpretation be right the phrase is to be taken preferably with the preceding words. It then describes the sphere in which the teaching and warning take place—“by means of Psalms, hymns, spiritual songs in (your) utterance of praise.” The article, if it had been genuine, would have defined the utterance as “yours.” The following clause then naturally turns to their inmost feeling. Observe that the phrase indicates the existence of an undercurrent of thanksgiving that appeared in Colossians 3:15 and reappears in Colossians 3:17.

[2] Many expositors however, especially those who read ἐν τῇ χάριτι, translate “in grace,” understanding the article either of the grace of the Spirit (or the grace brought to them at first, Colossians 1:6), or of the grace that the Colossians enjoyed. But there is nothing in the context to suggest this special mention of grace, whether it be connected with “teaching and warning,” or with “singing.”

[3] A few have understood χάρις here in the sense of “acceptableness,” “sweetness” (cf. Colossians 4:6), joining it either with what precedes (so Luther, “Lehret und vermahnet euch selbst mit Psalmen und Lobsängen und geistlichen lieblichen Liedern,” and Tyndale, “and spretuall songes which have favour with them”) or with what follows. So Davenant and Grotius and especially Reiche (quoted by Abbott), “recte et perspicue ἐν χάριτι ᾅδοντες ii dicuntur, qui carmina sacra cantant et modulantur venuste, decore, suaviter, ita ut etiam cultioribus et pulchri sensu praeditis placeant.”

But this may be regarded rather as a conceit than a serious interpretation; St Paul was not training a choir.

ᾄδοντες ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν. ᾄδω is found in the N.T., || Ephesians 5:19; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 14:3; Revelation 15:3 only. Probably it does not, strictly speaking, qualify διδάσκοντες κ.τ.λ., but adds a fresh and independent form in which the indwelling of Christ’s word shows itself.

ἐν [1] Perhaps instrumental “singing with your hearts.” Such, apparently, is the meaning of the simple dative in the parallel passage, Ephesians 5:19; cf. Judith 16:2, ᾄσατε τῷ κυρίῳ ἐν κυμβάλοις. In that case St Paul lays stress only on the heart-reality of this singing.

[2] But probably local, “singing in your hearts,” suggesting not only reality but also silence. Observe that if Christ’s peace is umpire there (Colossians 3:15) songs will easily arise there.

On καρδίαις cf. Colossians 2:2.

τῷ θεῷ. In contrast to teaching man by external utterance, as in the earlier part of the verse. Not τῷ κυρίῳ (|| Eph.), which would have been ambiguous here. The Father is the final aim of everything, including praise and thanksgiving, Colossians 3:17.


Verse 17

17. καὶ πᾶν, “and everything.” As he thinks of the song going up in the heart to God he passes on to the spirit that should animate the whole life. No detail is to be excluded as common, but each and all to be done in the name of the Lord Jesus. Parts of this thought are expressed in Colossians 3:23 (τῷ κυρίῳ), and 1 Corinthians 10:31 (εἰς δόξαν θεοῦ).

The construction of τᾶν κ.τ.λ. is probably, to quote Meyer, “the absolute nominative, placed at the beginning with rhetorical emphasis, and syntactically independent.”

ὅτι ἐὰν ποιῆτε. Wider than ͂ ἐὰν ποιῆτε, Colossians 3:23. Cf. 1 Corinthians 16:2.

On ἐάν for ἄν see Blass, Gram. § 65. 7, and in particular Moulton, Gram. Proleg. 1906, pp. 42 sq.

πάντα. [1] This takes up the preceding πᾶν ὅτι ἐάν, and regarding the sense rather than the form is naturally plural.

[2] It is accusative governed by ποιεῖτε understood from ποιῆτε. Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:13; Mark 14:29. See Blass, Gram. § 81. 1.

ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου Ἰησοῦ. The exact phrase appears to occur here only. [1] It probably means “as representing” Christ. Deissmann, Bible Studies, pp. 197 sq., quotes a papyrus of 37 A.D. in which an oath of fealty to the Emperor Caligula taken by the inhabitants of Assos in Troas is signed by five πρεσβευταί, after which group of names occur the concluding words: οἵτινες καὶ ὑπὲρ τῆς Γαίου Καίσαρος Σεβαστοῦ Γερμανικοῦ σωτηρίας εὐξάμενοι Διὶ Καπιτωλίῳ (sic) ἔθυσαν τῷ τῆς πόλεως ὀνόματι, i.e. as representing the city. [2] Chrysostom explains it as in every act calling on Christ for help (αὐτὸν καλῶν βοηθόν).

Observe ἐν ὀνομ. κυρίου Ἰησοῦ. For ἐν ὀνομ. χριστοῦ would not equally have suggested the personal life of Jesus of Nazareth as our pattern (cf. St Paul’s use of “Jesus” in 2 Corinthians 4:10-14; 1 Thessalonians 4:14), and ἐν ὀνόμ. Ἰησοῦ would not have suggested His unique character and His present claim and power (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:14).

εὐχαριστοῦντες, Colossians 1:3; Colossians 1:12; cf. Colossians 3:15.

τῷ θεῷ πατρὶ. Cf. Colossians 1:3,note.

Here probably the Fatherhood has no primary reference to Christ, but to the Colossians. They are to thank Him who is both God and Father, the object of all reverence and the source of all love.

διʼ αὐτοῦ. Thus this clause means that St Paul will have the joyful tone of the Colossians’ lives (Colossians 3:16), and their performance of every act in Jesus’ name, united to conscious reference to God who gives all, this thanksgiving itself being only acceptable by means of the Lord Jesus. Cf. Hebrews 13:15.


Verse 18

18. αἱ γυναῖκες. On the article and nominative used as the vocative see Blass, Gram. § 33. 4. Moulton, op. cit. pp. 70, 235. Cf. Matthew 11:26; Luke 8:54. This is the typical form of the vocative in Hebrew, the article lending itself with special ease to the Hebrew love of pictorial effect.

ὑποτάσσεσθε, “subject yourselves.” To children and slaves he says ὑπακούετε (Colossians 3:20; Colossians 3:22), i.e. obey single commands, but here he speaks of the general attitude (compare Romans 13:1), consistent with the natural state of things (1 Corinthians 11:3). Compare ὑποτάσσεσθαι of women in 1 Corinthians 14:34; Ephesians 5:24; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:1.

ὡς ἀνῆκεν, “as is fitting.”

In the N.T. peculiar to this group of Epistles, Ephesians 5:4; Philemon 1:8. In the LXX. it is used figuratively of “coming up to” and pertaining to” either persons (1 Maccabees 10:42; 1 Maccabees 11:35 ter) or a moral notion (Ecclus. Prol. l. 9, τῶν εἰς παιδείαν καὶ σοφίαν ἀνηκόντων; 2 Maccabees 14:8), and then of coming up to an ideal, i.e. being fit and suitable in the abstract (1 Maccabees 10:40, “and I give every year 15,000 shekels of silver from the king’s revenues, ἀπὸ τῶν τόπων τῶν ἀνηκόντων”). This last sense alone occurs in the N.T.

Observe that St Paul uses not the present but the imperfect as. in Ephesians 5:4 (ἅ οὐκ ἀνῆκεν, W.H.). “The past tense perhaps implies an essential à priori obligation” (Lightfoot). Gildersleeve, Gk Synt. § 220, seems to call such an imperfect the “Imperfect of Sudden Appreciation of Real State of Affairs.” In this case the sentence would mean, “Submit yourselves to your husbands, which is, after all, fitting in the Lord.”

ἐν κυρίῳ, Colossians 3:20, Colossians 4:7 = in a life ruled by Christ.


Verses 18-25

18–4:1. The social relations of a household

Colossians 3:18-19. Wives and Husbands.

Colossians 3:20-21. Children and Fathers.

Colossians 3:22 to Colossians 4:1. Slaves and Masters.

(Colossians 3:18) Wives! subject yourselves to your husbands, as is, after all, fitting in the Lord; (Colossians 3:19) Husbands! Love your wives and be not severe to them.

(Colossians 3:20) Children! obey your parents in all things, for this complete obedience is well pleasing in the Lord; (Colossians 3:21) Fathers! Be not exasperating to your children, lest they be discouraged.

(Colossians 3:22) Slaves! obey in all things your earthly lords, not in acts of eye-service as pleasers of men, but with a simple, single, aim, fearing the one Lord. (Colossians 3:23) Whatever ye do, carry it out willingly as to the Lord and not men, (Colossians 3:24) knowing, as you do, that from the Lord you shall receive as your due the just recompense of your inheritance above. The Lord, even Christ, I say, serve. (Colossians 3:25) For, even though you are but slaves, he that does wrong to his earthly lord shall receive back the wrong he did—the Lord above makes no distinction, whatever your position or privileges may be. (Colossians 4:1) Ye lords! Render on your part justice and fairness to your slaves, knowing well that you as well as they have a Lord in heaven.

18–4:1. Exhortations to the constituent parts of a Household. In each case the weaker part is mentioned first, as in || Ephesians 5:22 to Ephesians 6:9. Compare 1 Peter 2:18 to 1 Peter 3:7 and contrast 1 Timothy 2:8-15.

The reason why St Paul here goes into such detail is not self-evident. It has been suggested [1] that he wishes to counteract any misunderstanding of Colossians 3:11, as though he were there proclaiming a social revolution; [2] that he wishes to show that whereas the false teachers urged arbitrary asceticism, he finds that “the daily round, the common task,” supplies all that is needed for the manifestation of the Christian life. But [3] it is obvious that after the high, not to say transcendental, description of the basis, and the possibilities, of life in Christ, which he has given us in cc. 1 and 2, it is very natural that he should point out how this life is to manifest itself in the everyday relations of family life. In Colossians 3:13 he has already given an instance of the way in which Christ is our example and standard.


Verse 19

19. οἱ ἄνδρες. On the article see Colossians 3:18.

ἀγαπᾶτε τὰς γυναῖκας. The command is enlarged in || Ephesians 5:25-33 and reasons are added.

In this relation above all others is love the fulfilling of the law.

καὶ μὴ πικραίνεσθε πρὸς αὐτάς, “and be not severe towards them.”

πικρ. is used literally in Revelation 8:11; Revelation 10:9-10.

Both according to derivation and according to the use of πικρία (see J. A. R. on Ephesians 4:31), “be not bitter “is a natural and even here possibly right translation. But with us “bitterness” implies a deep and generally half-cynical resentment, and the usage of πικραίνω, παραπικραίνω in the LXX. is far from being so uniform as to make this meaning necessary, for they are frequently used to translate Hebrew words signifying “to be angry,” “to provoke,” etc., e.g. Exodus 16:20; Jeremiah 39[32]:32; Deuteronomy 32:16 (παραπικρ. Β, ἐκπικρ. Α). Perhaps “be not cross” or “be not severe “would meet the case best. Cf. Jos. Antt. V. vii. 1, Abimelech acts tyrannically πρὸς τοὺς τοῦ δικαίου προισταμένους ἐκπικραινόμενος.


Verse 20

20. τὰ τέκνα. || Ephesians 6:1-3.

ὑπακούετε, Colossians 3:22. See note on ὑποτάσσεσθε, Colossians 3:18.

τοῖς γονεῦσιν. In contrast to a mark of the ungodly (γονεῦσιν ἀπειθεῖς) both then, Romans 1:30, and in the last days, 2 Timothy 3:2.

κατὰ πάντα. Emphatic. Such a case as that contemplated in Matthew 10:35-37 || Luke 12:53 would not exist in a strictly Christian household, and in any case τέκνα implies an age with which independent thought and action are hardly consistent. The terms in the Gospels are ἄνθρωπος, υἱός, θυγάτηρ.

τοῦτο γὰρ, i.e. this complete obedience.

εὐάρεστόν ἐστιν, “well-pleasing.” The compound adjective, verb and adverb are peculiar to St Paul and the Epistle to the Hebrews. Ct. ἀρεστός in St John (John 8:29 and 1 John 3:22) and Acts (Acts 6:2; Acts 12:3). In || Ephesians 6:1 obedience is called δίκαιον, here it is regarded as giving pleasure. To whom is not stated, presumably to any and all who see it, including of course Him to whom the very springs of our actions are open, Hebrews 4:12-13.

ἐν κυρίῳ. Cf. Colossians 3:18. It is impossible to follow the Peshiṭta in translating “before our Lord” (cf. Hebrews 13:21, τὸ εὐάρεστον ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ; cf. 1 John 3:22). It, however, probably read τῷ κυρίῳ; cf. its translation of Ephesians 5:10.


Verse 21

21. οἱ πατέρες. The change from γονεῖς (Colossians 3:20) seems to forbid the inclusion of mothers here (contrast Hebrews 11:23), who are too in a distinctly subordinate position to fathers, and therefore have, strictly speaking, less effect upon the temper of the children.

μὴ ἐρεθίζετε. See notes on Textual Criticism.

Elsewhere in N.T. 2 Corinthians 9:2 only, and there in a good sense. It is but slightly different from παροργίζειν, || Ephesians 6:4, which apparently signifies irritation of a less deep and more transitory kind. ἐρεθ. in Aquila (Proverbs 15:18; Proverbs 28:25) and Symmachus (Proverbs 29:22) = stir up strife, in 1 Maccabees 15:40 = stir up the people, i.e. to invade Judah. The only passage in the Greek Bible at all closely resembling the usage here is 2 Maccabees 14:27, ὁ δὲ βασιλεὐς ἔκθυμος γενόμενος καὶ ταῖς τοῦ πανπονήρου διαβολαῖς ἐρεθισθείς, “and the king, falling into a rage, and being exasperated by the calumnies of that most wicked man” (R.V.). Observe the present tense; it is the continuance of exasperating acts that leads to the result deprecated.

ἵνα μὴ ἀθυμῶσιν. ἀθυμεῖν here only in N.T. Compare Deuteronomy 28:65, καὶ δώσει σοι Κύριος ἐκεῖ καρδίαν ἀθυμοῦσαν (A), where B has καρδ. ἑτέραν ἀπειθοῦσαν; Judith 7:22, καὶ ἠθύμησεν τὰ νήπια αὐτῶν; Symmachus, Psalms 101[102]:1, προσευχὴ τῷ πτωχῷ, ἐν τῷ ἀθυμεῖν αὐτόν.

It = the deep discouragement that persons have, especially children, when they find that they can do nothing right. All subsequent commentators quote Bengel’s words: ἀθυμία, fractus animus, pestis juventutis.


Verse 22

22. οἱ δοῦλοι, ὑπακούετε, Colossians 3:20, note.

τοῖς κατὰ σάρκα κυρίοις. For κατὰ σάρκα, describing earthly relationships, see Romans 9:3. The phrase both insists on the reality of visible facts (cf. Romans 13, Romans 1), and hints at there being something else, a Master not κατὰ σάρκα.

Chrys. explains it only in part, when he says that these masters are over their bodies only, and that only for a time, τὸ κρεῖττόν σου ἡ ψυχὴ ἠλευθέρωται, φησί· πρόσκαιρος ἡ δουλεία.

μὴ ἐν ὀφθαλμοδουλίαις. || Ephesians 6:6†, και ὀφθαλμοδουλίαν. The plural suggests various acts of eye-service; cf. James 2:1; James 4:16. This is the earliest known example of the word.

ὡς ἀνθρωπάρεσκοι, cf. note on Colossians 1:10, ἀρεσκίαν.

|| Ephesians 6:6†. Earlier than this only Psalms 52[53]:6, ὅτι ὁ θεὸς διεσκόρ πισεν ὀστᾶ ἀνθρωπαρέσκων, where the LXX. appears to have read חָנֵף, “hypocrite,” instead of the Massoretic חֹנָךְ, and Pss. Song of Solomon 4:8; Song of Solomon 4:10, ἀνακαλύψαι ὁ θεὸς τὰ ἕργα ἀνθρώπων ἀνθρωπαρέσκωνἐν τῷ ἐξαίρεσθαιἀνθρωπάρεσκον λαλοῦντα νόμον μετὰ δόλου, which brings out the flattery implied in the word. Mere obsequiousness may conceal contempt or malice (see Moule). Compare Galatians 1:10.

ἀλλʼ ἐν ἁπλότητι καρδίαν. || Ephesians 6:5.

ἁπλοῦς is strictly “without folds,” “single” as contrasted with “plicate,” thus exactly opposed to πολύπλοκος; Job 5:13, βουλὴν δὲ πολυπλόκων ἐξέστησεν. By an easy transition it = in Plato, Rep. VIII. 4. 547 E, “non-compound.” Thus the substantive brings out the singleness of aim (cf. Matthew 6:22), the simplicity of will and purpose in the heart, in contrast to double motives. So 1 Chronicles 29:17, ἐν ἁπλότητι καρδίας προεθυμήθην πάντα ταῦτα: Wisdom of Solomon 1:1, ἐν ἁπλότητι καρδίας ζητήσατε αὐτόν. Compare an inscription “found near Sunium, not earlier than the imperial period,” which after warning persons against sacrificing in the temple without fulfilling certain purifications, adds καὶ εὐείλατος γένοι [τ]ο ὁ θεὸς τοῖς θεραπεύουσιν ἁπλῇ τῇ ψυχῇ (Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 258).

φοβούμενοι τὸν κύριον. See notes on Textual Criticism.

Serving your many earthly masters thoroughly because you fear the One. Only here has φοβεῖσθαι, when used of religious “fear,” Christ (Colossians 3:24) for its object. Compare Ephesians 5:21.


Verses 22-25

22–4:1. Slaves and Masters

Δοῦλοι must have formed a large proportion of the believers in St Paul’s days, and their behaviour to their masters (whether Christians or not) must have been an important matter, if Christianity was to show itself capable of winning all classes.

St Paul of course had special reasons for enlarging on this subject in his Epistle to the Colossians. He did not wish to be thought to condone Onesimus’ fault of running away, much less that of stealing (as it appears), and yet he desired to show the possible nobility of even the slave life. Hence the net result of these verses is to maintain the status quo of slaves (in contrast to any revolutionary scheme based on such a passage as Colossians 3:11, ὅπου οὐκ ἔνιδοῦλος, ἐλεύθερος) and indeed to improve the character of the service rendered by putting each slave (still quâ slave) into direct relation to a higher Master. Cf. 1 Peter 2:18-25.

The connexion of the verses is as follows:

[22] He bids them obey thoroughly, because they fear the one Master, (Colossians 3:23) working with free impulse as to Him, (Colossians 3:24) knowing that He (at any rate) will pay fully (in their case the Inheritance). Therefore (St Paul sums up) serve the true Master, Christ. (Colossians 3:25) For a slave who does wrong shall be punished impartially. (Colossians 4:1) The reciprocal duties of masters, justice and equity, for they too are under Christ.


Verse 23

23. ὅ ἐὰν ποιῆτε. This and the two following verses are an explanation and expansion of φοβούμενοι τὸν κύριον.

ἐκ ψυχῆς. || Ephesians 6:6. Referring not to singleness of purpose (Colossians 3:22), but to ready impulse in contrast to external constraint (cf. Delitzsch Psychol. p. 241 Eng. Trans.), “Worke ye of will” (Wyclif).

ἐργάζεσθε. In connexion with ποιεῖν, also in John 6:28; 3 John 1:5. Of the two ποιεῖν appears to be the more general word, ἐργάζεσθαι to indicate result (“do your work”), not merely toil and fatigue as such (κοπιάω, Colossians 1:29).

ὡς τῷ κυρίῳ καὶ οὐκ ἀνθρώποις. || Ephesians 6:7. The οὐκ sharply contrasts men with the Lord. They are of course to be serving their earthly masters, but these as such are as nothing compared with Him whom they serve when serving them.


Verse 24

24. εἰδότες, cf. Colossians 4:1; Philemon 1:21; || Ephesians 6:8.

Especially of what is known long since, known as a fundamental proposition, e.g. Romans 5:3; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Corinthians 1:7; Galatians 2:16.

Here giving a reason for hearty work.

ὅτι ἀπὸ κυρίου, i.e. Christ, as everywhere in Colossians 3:18 to Colossians 4:1.

|| Ephesians 6:8 has παρὰ κυρίου, i.e. receiving at His hands. ἀπό is general, the direct agent or means is simply not stated.

The absence of the article is perplexing. (a) Lightfoot interprets “a master” (Colossians 4:1), calling attention to the fact that the article “is studiously inserted in the context, Colossians 3:22-24, τὸν κύριον, τῷ κυρίῳ, τῷ κυρίῳ.” (b) But κύριος so easily loses its article (e.g. Colossians 3:18; Colossians 3:20) when the English translation must still be “the Lord” that this is perhaps preferable here. Compare 1 Corinthians 7:22.

ἀπολήμψεσθε. Perhaps “receive to the full”; cf. Luke 16:25, but probably “receive as due”; cf. Luke 6:34, and, on the whole, Romans 1:27.

τὴν ἀνταπόδοσιν. Here only in N.T. but ἀνταπόδομα, Luke 14:12; Romans 11:9†.

“The just recompense … the double compound involves the idea of ‘exact requital’ ” (Lightfoot). Compare the note on ἀνταναπληρῶ, Colossians 1:24. The point of this statement is that slaves were not, strictly speaking, paid for their work, and could have no inheritance.

τῆς κληρονομίας. Gen. of apposition. The Christian inheritance is here placed in the future. For its being also present see Hort on 1 Peter 1:4. That κληρ. does not imply hereditary succession, but ‘sanctioned and settled possession,’ see (besides Hort) Dalman, Words of Jesus, p. 125.

τῷ κυρίῳ Χριστῷ. Observe [1] St Paul here first defines whom he means by “the Master.” [2] In Colossians 3:17 appealing to the example of our Lord’s life on earth he said κυρίον Ἰησοῦ, but here when speaking of His present majesty and authority he says τ. κυρ. Χριστῷ.

δουλεύετε. Almost certainly imperative. Recalling ὑπακούετε (Colossians 3:22) and ἐργάζεσθε (Colossians 3:23) with its appended reason (its participial clause). St Paul sums up his charge in one phrase—“Serve the Master, Christ.” He then appends a reason for this, Colossians 3:25.

With the right reading (no γάρ in Colossians 3:24, and γάρ instead of δέ in Colossians 3:25) δουλεύετε if indicative is insipid and even tautological. The following γάρ would then refer not to δουλεύετε but to the general command, Colossians 3:22-24 a.


Verse 25

25. ὁ γὰρ ἀδικῶν κομίσεται δ ἠδίκησεν. Does St Paul here desire [1] to encourage the slaves by reminding them that if they are illtreated their masters will be punished in due course by God, or [2] to warn them that even if a slave does wrong his ill action will not be overlooked by God, or [3] to definitely include both objects?

Of these [2] alone seems to carry on the thought of the preceding verses; for St Paul has bid them obey their masters according to the flesh, and that with simplicity of aim and willingness of purpose, with an eye all the time to the great Master, who will reward, and (Colossians 3:25) will punish. In this ease ἀδικῶν, ἠδίκησε = wrong doing, i.e. towards the master (cf. Philemon 1:18, εἰ δέ τι ἠδίκησέν σε), though the object is not expressed. The participle is hardly absolute as in Revelation 22:11. It is quite possible that St Paul’s words in Phm. suggested to him this phrase in what was almost the covering letter.

κομίσεται.κομίζομαι often in all Greek and always in the N.T. means not simply to receive but to receive back, to get what has belonged to oneself but has been lost, or else promised but kept back, to get what has come to be one’s own by earning” (Hort on 1 Peter 1:9). Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10. Also || Ephesians 6:8. For the thought of Colossians 3:25 a we might compare 2 Peter 2:12-13 if we could be sure of the text either in the T.R. or W.H., ἐν τῇ φθορᾷ αὐτῶν καί φθαρήσονται, ἀδικούμενοι (κομιούμενοι T.R.) μισθὸν ἀδικίας, but see Bigg there.

ὅ ἠδίκησεν. Aorist as looking back from time of κομίσεται.

καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν προσωπολημψία, “and there is no respect of persons.” He thus clinches his argument as to the need of the most conscientious obedience. But who are they of whom he is thinking? Primarily, as it seems, the various classes and individuals among the slaves. For slaves throughout the Roman Empire and perhaps especially in the East were not like the negro slaves of America in a uniformly low position, but were of all kinds, holding some high, some low, places in the household. And, again, some were heathen, some Christian. It is quite intelligible that some might presume on their earthly position, others on their spiritual privileges, and serve with less thoroughness. He warns them against doing so.

But having said οὐκ ἔστιν προσωπολημψία the phrase itself reminds him of its applicability to masters also. He therefore naturally passes on to Colossians 4:1. In his later epistle to the “Ephesians” he arranges his material rather differently, and after stating that good actions shall be repaid to each, whether δοῦλος or ἐλεύθερος (not κύριος), warns the masters to treat their slaves properly, knowing that the Master of both parties is in heaven, and is absolutely impartial (Ephesians 6:8-9).

On the word προσωπολημψία see especially Mayor’s note on James 2:1, who says “in its strict sense the Greek would mean to accept the outside surface for the inner reality, the mask for the person,” thus giving a secondary meaning to the word πρόσωπον. Hence perhaps it is that the compound has always a bad sense in the N.T. (it does not occur as a compound in the LXX.), but it is a fair literal translation of the Hebrew מַשּׂא פָנִים, strictly “lifting up” or “accepting the face,” which itself has a bad sense in 2 Chronicles 19:7†, as has also the verbal phrase in Job 32:21; Deuteronomy 10:17, al. Probably in the first instance the reference was to permitting a prostrate suppliant to literally lift up his face. The permission in an individual case would often seem arbitrary, and in many cases would be due in fact to other reasons than pure justice. Compare Malachi 2:9, ἀνθʼ ὧν ὑμεῖς οὐ φυλάσσεσθε τὰς ὁδούς μου ἀλλὰ ἐλαμβάνετε πρόσωπα ἐν νόμῳ.

Before leaving this verse it is perhaps worth calling attention to the possibility that Colossians 3:24-25 contain reminiscences of Sirach 32[35]:13–16: ὅτι Κύριος ἀνταποδιδούς ἐστιν, καὶ ἑπταπλᾶ ἀνταποδώσει σοι. [14] μὴ δωροκόπει, οὐ γὰρ προσδέξεται. [15] καὶ μὴ ἕπεχε θυσίᾳ. ἀδίκῳ ὅτι Κύριος κριτής ἐστιν, καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν παρʼ αὐτοῦ δόξα προσώπου. [16] οὐ λήμψεται πρόσωπον ἐπὶ πτωχοῦ, καὶ δέησιν ἠδικημένου εἰσακούσεται. The Greek is a sufficiently close translation of the Hebrew.

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Colossians 3:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/colossians-3.html. 1896.

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