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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Colossians 4



Verse 1

1. οἱ κύριοι. St Paul here addresses the masters. Compare the parallel passage Ephesians 6:9. For the connexion of this verse with c. 3. see note on Colossians 3:25.

τὸ δίκαιον. Cf. Matthew 20:4; Luke 12:57.

καὶ τὴν ἰσότητα. ἰσότης occurs in the Greek Bible only in two obscure renderings (due apparently to falsely deriving an uncommon Hebrew word from an Aramaic root) of Job 36:29; Zechariah 4:7, and in 2 Corinthians 8:13-14.

[1] In this last passage ἰσότης seems clearly to mean “equality,” and Meyer interprets it so in our passage also. According to this view St Paul bids the masters “regard and treat the slaves as equals,” not of course socially as though slavery were to be abolished, but conceding to them “the parity (égalité) implied in the Christian ἀδελφότης.” Cf. Philemon 1:16, οὐκέτι ὡς δοῦλον ἀλλὰ ὑπὲρ δοῦλον, ἀδελφὸν ἀγαπητόν. If ἰσότης necessarily meant equality this strained interpretation might pass, but this is not the case.

[2] Others have thought that it means impartiality and equality in the treatment of individual slaves (cf. note on προσωπολημψία, Colossians 3:25), but this also is to read too much into the phrase.

[3] Lightfoot is almost certainly right in translating “equity” or “fairness” and considering it a synonym of τὸ δίκαιον. Among his quotations may be mentioned Philo, de creat. Princ. 14 (II. p. 373), ἔστι γὰρ ἰσότηςμήτηρ δικαιοσύνης, and Clem. Alex. Strom. VI. 6 (p. 764), μετὰ δικαιοσύνης καὶ ἰσότητος τῆς πρὸς τοὺς ἐπιστρέφοντας. “Thus in Arist. Eth. Nic. Colossians 4:1, τὸ δίκαιον and τὸ ἵσον are regarded as synonymes, and in Plut. Mor. p. 719 the relation of ἰσότης to δικαιότης is discussed.”

Of course observe that τὸ δίκαιον alone would not be sufficient. There are many details of action between master and slave (and between modern master and servant or workman) which may be strictly “just,” and yet lack that “equity” which is essential to a, thoroughly happy and Christian relation between employers and employed.

τοῖς δούλοις παρέχεσθε, “render on your part.” In this “dynamic” or “intensive” middle “the reference to the powers put forth by the subject is more distinct than in the active, which simply states the action” (Ell.). Compare Acts 19:24.

εἰδότες, Colossians 3:24.

ὅτι καὶ ὑμεῖς, i.e. as well as they.

ἔχετε κύριον ἐν οὐρανῷ. Compare 1 Corinthians 7:22.

Verse 2

2. τῇ προσευχῇ. Generic. Contrast Colossians 4:12. Probably suggested by the thought of appealing to the one Master in heaven.

προσκαρτερεῖτε., Romans 12:12; Acts 1:14; Acts 6:4.

The “staunchness” of καρτερέω (cf. Hebrews 11:27†) is modified by πρός to mean “persevering attendance.” Thus Mark 3:9; Acts 10:7. It is thus the opposite of ἐνκακεῖν (Luke 18:1), and is similar to (though more vivid than) ἀδιαλείπτως προσεύχεσθε, 1 Thessalonians 5:17. As a colloquial translation we might say “Stick to prayer.” In || Ephesians 6:18 the substantive is employed.

γρηγοροῦντες, “alert” (“a l’herte, i.e. on the watch,” Skeat). Often misinterpreted as though it were a charge to be watching for the answer to prayer. In reality St Paul is warning against drowsiness (1 Thessalonians 5:6), inattention, and sluggishness in either the act or the habit of prayer. || Ephesians 6:18, ἀγρυπνοῦντες.

ἐν εὐχαριστίᾳ. On εὐχαριστία see Colossians 2:7 and Colossians 1:3, notes. Either marking the state in which they, as vigilant people, must be, or, more probably, “specifying the particular accompaniment or concomitant act with which ἡ προσ. was to be associated” (Ell.).

Beet well says “ceaseless prayer combined with ceaseless praise was the atmosphere of St Paul’s spiritual life.” Chrysostom on this passage gives a beautiful prayer of a certain saintly man whom he knew, which begins with thanksgiving for all kinds of treatment, good or evil.

Verses 2-6

2–6. Prayer (Colossians 4:2-4) and speaking for Christ (Colossians 4:5-6)

(Colossians 4:2) In prayer be persevering, ever alert in it, combining it with thanksgiving; (Colossians 4:3) praying at the same time not for yourselves alone but also for us, that God may open for us a way for His message to pass on, that thus we may be able to speak of Christ’s revelation (which man could never have learned, and because of which I am now lying bound), (Colossians 4:4) that I may make it known in accordance with the commission laid upon me.

(Colossians 4:5) But is it only I who must speak? You must do so also. Walk in practical Christian wisdom towards the many who are outside the brotherhood, buying back at the expense of your self-denial, etc., the present time to its rightful use. (Colossians 4:6) As an important part of such wisdom let your speech be always spoken in God’s grace (this is the salt that must accompany every sacrifice), and thus you will know how best to answer each person that addresses you.

Verse 3

3. προσευχόμενοι ἅμα καὶ, i.e. at the same time as you are praying for yourselves. Other examples of ἅμα καί in the N.T. are Acts 24:26; 1 Timothy 5:13; Philemon 1:22†.

περὶ ἡμῶν. Not only St Paul (contrast δέδεμαι, infra) but also Timothy (Colossians 1:1), and perhaps others working with St Paul, e.g. Epaphras (Colossians 4:12-13) and the συνεργοί in Colossians 4:10-11.

For other examples of St Paul begging the prayers of those to whom he is writing see, besides Ephesians 6:19-20, 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1; Romans 15:30.

ἵνα. Not fully final, but weakened after προσεύχομαι; cf. Colossians 1:9.

ὁ θεὸς ἀνοίξῃ ἡμῖν (τὴν) θύραν τοῦ λόγου. In view of the || Ephesians 6:19, it is very tempting to explain the phrase here “that God may open for us the power of speech,” i.e. give us liberty of utterance. But θύρα in the N.T. is rather the opportunity; cf. 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Revelation 3:8 (on which see Ramsay, Epp. to the Seven Churches, p. 404). ὁ λόγος (cf. Galatians 6:6, al.) will then be the Gospel message, the meaning of the phrase being that God will open for us a way for the Gospel to pass on. The immediate reference is probably to his being now a prisoner and therefore unable to carry out, as he would like, his work of preaching the Gospel.

λαλῆσαι. Stating the aim of this “opening.”

τὸ μυστήριον (Colossians 1:26-27, Colossians 2:2, notes) τοῦ χριστοῦ, Ephesians 3:4†. See notes on Textual Criticism. Almost certainly not objective, “the secret about Christ,” but subjective, “brought by Christ.” Compare ὁ λόγος τοῦ χριστοῦ, Colossians 3:16. It nearly = the revelation brought by Christ, but while that term would have regarded the fact from the side of God, this is rather from that of the limitation of human knowledge according to its mere natural powers.

That St Paul uses the term with special reference to the reception of the Gospel by the Gentiles see Colossians 1:27.

διʼ δ. His faithfulness in insisting on this μυστήριον, releasing as it did men from the obligation of the Law and thus including the free admission of Gentiles to full religious privileges, was the ultimate cause of that opposition by the Jews which ended in his being a prisoner.

καὶ. Hardly “even,” laying stress on the magnitude of the privation, but “also,” marking the correspondence either between the message and the personal effect of preaching it, or, more probably, between his wish for liberty (ἵναἀνοίξῃ κ.τ.λ.) and the state in which he now is.

δέδεμαι. || Ephesians 6:20.

Verse 4

4. ἵνα φανερώσω αὐτὸ. Dependent on ἵνα ὁ θεὸς ἀνοίξῃ κ.τ.λ. but expressing more finally than λαλῆσαι the result of the gift of such opportunity.

Chrysostom and Bengel thinking of St Paul preaching as a prisoner join it with δέδεμαι, but this is to miss the point of the passage.

φανερόω is chosen as correlative to μυστήριον. A secret told is made known. Compare also notes at Colossians 1:26, Colossians 3:4. It thus hints at the world’s lamentable ignorance of the blessed contents of the μυστήρ. τοῦ χρ. λαλῆσαι, Colossians 4:3, merely expressed St Paul’s act in itself.

ὡς δεῖ με λαλῆσαι. Probably referring to the necessity laid upon him of preaching the Gospel, 1 Corinthians 9:16. He felt that this commission could not be carried out properly so long as he was in prison. In || Ephesians 6:20 the reference is apparently to his freedom of speech, and perhaps his use of right arguments, whether he was in prison or not.

Verse 5

5. In Colossians 4:5-6 St Paul turns to the thought of their own part in spreading the knowledge of Christ (a) by life (Colossians 4:5), (b) by word (Colossians 4:6).

ἐν σοφίᾳ (Colossians 1:9, Colossians 3:16, notes) περιπατεῖτε (Colossians 1:10, note). Practical Christian wisdom must mark their whole attitude towards outsiders.

πρὸς with περιπατεῖν, 1 Thessalonians 4:12†, which has in this figurative sense lost all idea of motion. πρὸς here marks the attitude towards τοὺς ἕξω.

τοὺς ἔξω. Though οἱ ἔξωθεν = foreigners in classical Greek (see references in Lidd. and Scott) this phrase was probably taken over by St Paul from Judaism. For the Jews distinguished sharply [1] between cities within the holy land and those outside it. The latter belong to חוּצָה לָאָרֶץ, “that which is outside the land”; cf. Acts 26:11; [2] between persons who enjoyed the privileges of Judaism and those who were outside it. These latter were הַחִיצוֹנִים. So of Jewish heretics, Meg. Mishna, IV. 8 (= Talm. Bab. Meg. 24b)—cf. also Swete on Mark 4:11—and of non-canonical books, Sanh. Mishna, XI. (X.) 1.

Similarly οἱ ἐκτός in Ecclus. Prol. l. 4. For οἱ ἔξω see Mark 4:11; 1 Corinthians 5:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 4:12. Cf. 1 Timothy 3:7.

τὸν καιρὸν. Not “time” generally (χρόνος), nor probably “opportunity” (see next note), but “the present time,” as in 1 Corinthians 7:29; Romans 13:11. That this was intended in || Ephesians 5:16 seems clearly shown by the additional words there, ὅτι αἱ ἡμέραι πονηραί εἰσιν.

ἐξαγοραζόμενοι. Occurring in N.T. only twice in Gal. besides our present passage and || Ephesians 5:16. [1] In Gal. it clearly = redeem, buy out from another power into (as the connotation is) freedom (Galatians 3:13; Galatians 4:5). So here, as in Eph., the thought probably is “buying back (at the expense of personal watchfulness and self-denial) the present time, which is now being used for evil and godless purposes (cf. πονηραί, Eph., with 1 John 5:19), to its legitimate freedom in Christ.”

[2] The other possible rendering is “buying up the opportunity.” Compare Ramsay (Hastings, D.B. v. p. 151), “He sums up in three Greek words his counsel to the Colossians and the Asians generally, when he urged them to ‘make their market to the full of the opportunity which their situation offered them.’ ” And this suits the context of Col. but not of Eph. But the sense given to the verb, though valid in Polyb. III. 42. 2, ἐξηγόρασε παρʼ αὐτῶν τά τε μονόξυλα πλοῖα πάντα κ.τ.λ. (vide Lightfoot), is not that of Gal.

It occurs only once in LXX., Daniel 2:8, ἐπʼ ἀληθείας οἶδα (ἐγὼ, Theod.) ὅτι καιρὸν ὑμεῖς ἐξαγοράζετε, in the sense apparently of buying out time (generally, i.e. gaining time) at the cost of their questions.

On the phrase see further J. A. R. on Ephesians 5:16.

Verse 6

6. ὁ λόγος ὑμῶν. A subdivision of the general attitude to be taken towards unbelievers (Colossians 4:5).

πάντοτε ἐν χάριτι. χάρις when connected with λόγος (cf. Ecclesiastes 10:12), and especially when also connected with ἅλς, would suggest to an ordinary Greek reader “pleasingness.” But to St Paul (who never, as it seems, uses it merely in that sense; on Colossians 3:16 see there) χάρις much rather suggested “grace.” Hence it is probable that St Paul here intended his Christian readers to understand his words to mean “Let your speech be always with grace,” clothed in that Divine gift of spiritual power effective for yourself and others. Cf. J. A. R. on || Ephesians 4:29.

ἅλατι ἠρτυμένος. Your speech must not be insipid, but pungent, agreeable to the taste of men in their right mind (Job 6:6), and therefore useful. On the form ἅλας see Blass, Gram. § 8. 6.

εἰδέναι. The aim (cf. λαλῆσαι, Colossians 4:3), or more probably the result, of speaking ἐν χάριτι always.

πῶς. τί would have indicated the matter only, πῶς includes matter, form and manner.

δεῖ. Weaker than in Colossians 4:4. Yet moral fitness is really moral necessity.

ὑμᾶς ἑνὶ ἑκάστῳ ἀποκρίνεσθαι. ἀποκρίνομαι here only in the Pauline Epistles. For the thought of the whole verse cf. 1 Peter 3:15.

Chrys. (408 A) well says, εἰ γὰρ ἰατρὸς οὐχ ὁμοίως πᾶσι χρήσεται τοῖς σώμασι, πολλῷ μᾶλλον διδάσκαλος.

Verse 7

7. τὰ κατʼ ἐμὲ πάντα, “all my circumstances.” The order suggests that πάντα was almost an after-thought.

For τὰ κατʼ ἐμέ, see, besides ||Ephesians 6:21, Philippians 1:12; Tobit 10:8; cf. Acts 25:14.

γνωρίσει ὑμῖν, Colossians 4:9, Colossians 1:27.

Τύχικος, mentioned five times in the N.T. (a) Acts 20:4-5 (c. A.D. 58). (b) our passage (c. A.D. 63). (c) || Ephesians 6:21 (c. A.D. 63). (d) Titus 3:12 (c. A.D. 67). (e) 2 Timothy 4:12 (c. A.D. 68).

From these passages we learn that he was a native of the Roman province of Asia, but probably not of Ephesus itself (contrast the place names in Acts 20:4, though this is not conclusive in view of Trophimus, Acts 21:29), and almost certainly not of Colossae (contrast the phrase used of Onesimus, Colossians 4:9, ὅς ἐστιν ἐξ ὑμῶν). He and Trophimus (and possibly the others) met St Paul at Troas on his last journey to Jerusalem, and presumably accompanied him there (cf. Acts 21:29). Five years later he takes St Paul’s letter to the Colossians and the Circular Letter (“Ephesians”) to its various recipients. Five years later again we find him with St Paul (apparently) at Nicopolis (probably in Epirus), and about to be sent to Crete. A little later St Paul in his last letter mentions that he has sent him to Ephesus again. What we know of him, that is to say, fully bears out St Paul’s further description in our verse. On the occurrence of the name on inscriptions, and even occasionally in near proximity to that of Onesimus, see Lightfoot.

ὁ ἀγαπητὸς ἀδελφὸς. So of Onesimus, Colossians 4:9, Philemon 1:16, and of St Paul himself in 2 Peter 3:15. Compare Colossians 1:7, note on τοῦ ἀγαπητοῦ.

The phrase here brings out (a) that he was a Christian, (b) that he stood in close intimacy with St Paul and therefore was able to give them full information about him. Cf. Chrys. εἰ ἀγαπητὸς, πάντα οἶδε, καὶ οὐδὲν αὐτὸν ἔκρυπτεεἰ πιστὸς, οὐδὲ ψεύσεται· εἰ σύνδουλος, κεκοινώνηκε τῶν πειρασμῶν· ὥστε πάντοθεν τὸ ἀξιόπιστον συνήγαγεν.

καὶ πιστὸς διάκονος, “and a faithful minister.” διάκονος is hardly used here in its official sense (Romans 16:1; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8; 1 Timothy 3:12 and possibly Colossians 1:7). It doubtless refers to Tychicus’ ministering to St Paul in evangelistic work; cf. Acts 19:22. There seems to be no reason for carrying the reference of πιστὸς beyond διάκονος, see the two following notes.

καὶ σύνδουλος (Colossians 1:7) ἐν κυρίῳ. The personal Christian friendship (ἀγαπ. ἀδ.), and the personal ministration (διάκ.), are glorified by the addition of common service and that in the Lord.

Verses 7-17

7–17. Personal matters and final words

Colossians 4:7-9. The messengers commended to them.

(Colossians 4:7) I said “pray for us,” “I am lying bound,” but you will want to know all about me. This Tychicus will tell you, who is a brother, and dear to me, and a faithful minister, who has served together with me and that in the Lord. (Colossians 4:8) I am sending him for the very purpose of giving you this information, that you may know about us and that he may cheer your hearts. (Colossians 4:9) He is accompanying Onesimus, also a brother who is faithful and beloved, who belongs to your own city—these two will tell you everything going on here.

Verse 8

8. = || Ephesians 6:22 word for word.

ὃν ἔπεμψα πρὸς ὑμᾶς. Epistolary aorist, “whom I send”; cf. Philemon 1:12.

ἵνα γνῶτε τὰ περὶ ἡμῶν. See notes on Textual Criticism. The alternative reading ἵνα γνῶτε τὰ περὶ ὑμῶν makes very good sense in itself as an introduction to the following clause, but (besides the evidence of the MSS. etc.) seems too contradictory of the εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο.

Observe the progressive character of St Paul’s thought about the information to be given: Colossians 4:7, ἐμέ, St Paul only; Colossians 4:8, ἡμῶν, St Paul and his fellow workers, especially Timothy; and Colossians 4:9, ὧδε, the state of affairs generally at Rome, with special reference of course to the Christian community there.

καὶ παρακαλέσῃ τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν. See note on Colossians 2:2; cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:17. In cheering the Colossians’ hearts Onesimus could do little.

Verse 9

9. σὺν Ὀνησίμῳ. See Philemon 1:10†.

τῷ πιστῷ. Probably not intended to suggest a contrast to his character before his conversion, though it does so in fact. For πιστός with ἀγαπητός cf. (besides Colossians 4:7) 1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Timothy 6:2.

ὅς ἐστιν ἐξ ὑμῶν, i.e. belonging to Colossae. Some have strangely thought it meant a member of the Christian community there. But this was just what, at present, he was not.

τὰ ὦδε. See notes on Textual Criticism. The phrase seems to occur here only in the Greek Bible. Added almost as an after-thought to further define πάντα.

Colossians 4:10-17. Greetings from (Colossians 4:10-14) and to (Colossians 4:15-17) individual believers

(Colossians 4:10) I send greetings to you from Aristarchus my present fellow captive, and from Mark Barnabas’ cousin (you have already received advices about him, if he come unto you receive him), (Colossians 4:11) and from Jesus who is called Justus—these three were originally circumcised and are the only Hebrew Christians here who have been fellow workers for the Kingdom of God, men, I mean, who became a help and solace to me. (Colossians 4:12) I send greetings to you from Epaphras who belongs to your own city, a slave of Christ Jesus, always wrestling on behalf of you in his prayers, in order that you may stand up mature and fully convinced in every known part of the will of God; (Colossians 4:13) for (whatever may have been said) I bear him witness that he has much toil on behalf of you and of those in Laodicea and of those in Hierapolis. (Colossians 4:14) I send greetings to you from Luke the physician, my beloved friend, and Demas.

Verse 10

10. ἀσπάζεται ὑμᾶς. Repeated Colossians 4:12; Colossians 4:14. In each case it introduces a fresh class, viz. (a) those of the Circumcision, Colossians 4:10-11. (b) Epaphras their fellow-townsman, etc., Colossians 4:12-13. (c) Luke and Demas who were perhaps Gentile Christians, Colossians 4:14. In Philemon 1:23 the verb is used once to include all.

Observe that of the six who send greeting here all except Jesus Justus send greeting also to Philemon. Similar greetings by name are found in Romans 16:21-23; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:21; 1 Peter 5:13.

On the frequency of the expression in inscriptions and papyri see Nägeli, D. Wortschatz d. Ap. Paulus, 1905, p. 55.

Ἀρίσταρχος. A Hebrew-Christian (Colossians 4:11), of Macedonia (Acts 19:29), of Thessalonica (Acts 20:4), a fellow-traveller of St Paul, seized with Gaius by the Ephesian mob and carried into the theatre (Acts 19:29), who afterwards followed St Paul, apparently from Greece, on his last journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4). Two years later he was with St Paul on the ship of Adramyttium between Caesarea and Sidon, sailing with him as far as Myra, but, as it seems, going on it towards his own home without being transferred there to the Alexandrian ship sailing straight for Italy (Acts 27:2; Acts 27:6, see Lightfoot, Phil. p. 34, note). Some two years later we find him once more with St Paul at Rome (Philemon 1:24), when, as our verse tells us, he is in some sense St Paul’s συναιχμάλωτος.

ὁ συναιχμάλωτός μου, “my fellow captive.” So of Andronicus and Junias, τοὺς συγγενεῖς μου καὶ συναιχμαλώτους μου, Romans 16:7, and of Epaphras in Philemon 1:23, where it has the addition ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. The fact that in Phm. the title is not given to Aristarchus but to Epaphras instead, as it seems, suggests that one had been imprisoned instead of the other. Whether the imprisonment was compulsory, or voluntarily endured in order to cheer St Paul’s loneliness, cannot be determined. Observe that (a) It cannot possibly refer to the long past incident of Acts 19:29; for that would not account for Epaphras; (b) As St Paul was literally a captive when he wrote this the captivity spoken of in the case of Aristarchus and Epaphras which they shared with him can hardly be metaphorical; (c) The employment of a term which properly means “captive by war” may possibly be due to St Paul’s vivid sense of the strife between the world and Christ being strictly warfare (cf. the contemporary Ephesians 6:11 sqq.).

καὶ ΄άρκος. That it is rightly ΄ᾶρκος, the a being long (cf. ΄άαρκος in certain inscriptions), see especially Swete, St Mark, p. ix., following Blass, Gram. § 4. 2.

ὁ ἀνεψιὸς†, “the cousin.” So in Numbers 36:11, the daughters of Zelophehad became wives of their “father’s brothers’ sons,” τοῖς ἀνεψιοῖς αὐτῶν; cf. Herod. 7:5, ΄αρδόνιος ὁ Γωβρύεω, ὅς ἦν Ξέρξῃ μὲν ἀνεψιὸς Δαρείου δὲ ἀδελφεῆς παῖς, also VII. 82.

Βαρνάβα. Probably originally the word meant “son of Nebo” (Dalman, Words of Jesus, p. 40, Deissmann, Bible Studies, pp. 307 sqq.), though interpreted in Acts 4:36 υἱὸς παρακλήσεως as though it were connected with nabi (prophet).

It is evident that the connexion with so honoured a Christian worker as Barnabas is intended to do honour to Mark, and thus to lead the Colossians to receive him the more readily. To us it is of interest as explaining the warmth with which Barnabas espoused his cause and took him with him to Cyprus, Acts 15:37-39.

περὶ οὖ. The antecedent is clearly ΄ᾶρκος, for the tone of superiority forbids the supposition that the following words refer to Barnabas.

ἐλάβετε ἐντολάς. “Mandata opponuntur literis,” Beng. Perhaps but not necessarily so. For the phrase see Acts 17:15.

This can hardly be the epistolary aorist (Colossians 4:8), especially if Ellicott is right in limiting the epistolary aorist to the first person, but when and by whom they received the charge is quite unknown. Presumably it had been sent from St Paul. So also the reference of the plural ἐντολάς is purely a matter of conjecture; perhaps they received one charge through many persons or perhaps many through one.

ἐὰν ἔλθῃ πρὸς ὑμᾶς δέξασθε αὐτόν. It has been conjectured that St Mark gave up his plan of visiting Asia Minor and went to Egypt instead (Swete, St Mark, pp. xiv. sq.). Some unforeseen occurrence may indeed have brought this about, cf. probably 1 Corinthians 16:10, but our passage implies that when it was written he quite expected to be at least in the neighbourhood of Colossae, and had had this expectation for some time (ἐλάβ. ἐντ.). 1 Peter 5:13 leads us to suppose that he had some connexion with Asia Minor before that was written. In 2 Timothy 4:11 he was at Ephesus or near there.

Bengel interprets ἐὰν ἔλθῃ κ.τ.λ. as the sum of the ἐντολαί. Δέξασθε will then be a sudden change to the oratio recta (cf. Luke 5:14; Acts 1:4; Acts 23:22). Although those copyists who read δέξασθαι instead of δέξασθε clearly understood it so, the simpler interpretation, making it St Paul’s present command, is preferable.

The only special reason (with which we are acquainted) for this charge respecting St Mark is his defection at Perga, Acts 13:13; Acts 15:38. But that was twelve years earlier and was probably quite unknown to the Colossian Christians, though important to the historian as supplying the occasion for St Paul’s independent journeys. If any special reason is required, it more probably lies in his attachment to the conservative party in the primitive Church (St Peter) rather than to St Paul’s. Hence it was possible that some at least of the Colossians would not greet him warmly, especially after receiving such an epistle as this, full of warning against Jewish tendencies.

Verse 11

11. καὶ Ἰησοῦς ὁ λεγόμενος Ἰοῦστος. Nothing is known of him save from this passage. Besides our Lord the following bear the name Ἰησοῦς in the N.T.: (a) the son of Eliezer, Luke 3:29; (b) Joshua, Acts 7:45; Hebrews 4:8; (c) possibly Barabbas, Matthew 27:17, i.e. according to a few cursives, the Armenian version and the Latin translator of Origen; (d) Jesus called Justus.

Ἰοῦστος is used also of (a) Ἰωσὴφ τὸν καλούμενον Βαρσαββᾶν, ὅς ἐπεκλήθη Ἰοῦστος, Acts 1:23; (b) a proselyte at Corinth, Τιτίου Ἰούστου, Acts 18:7. Levy (Neuhebr. Wörterb. p. 231) gives examples of Justa as a man’s name, e.g. R. Justa bar Shunam; cf. also Dalman, Jüd. Pal. Aram. Gr. p. 148.

On examples of persons, particularly Jews, having an alternative name, see Deissmann, Bible Studies, pp. 313 sqq. At the present time all Jews have one name for religious purposes and another for use in daily life.

It is uncertain whether Ἰοῦστος is here a translation of a Jewish title, e.g. Zadok (cf. the modern Zaddik in Chassidism) or (as is more probable) was chosen merely because of its similarity in sound to Ἰησοῦς (like Ἰάσων), compare the modern Moses-Moss, Levi-Lewis.

οἱ ὄντες ἐκ περιτομῆς. Not “who are of the group of circumcised people,” i.e. the Jews (cf. Titus 1:10, οἱ ἐκ τῆς περιτομῆς), but “who are by origin circumcised”; so Acts 10:45; Acts 11:2; Galatians 2:12.

Observe [1] the phrase doubtless includes Aristarchus. Acts 20:4 is urged against this, but there is no need for all the persons mentioned there to have been carriers of the collection for the saints at Jerusalem, or even, if so, for all of such persons to have been Gentiles;

[2] There is no point in giving the Colossians this information about Aristarchus, Mark, and Jesus Justus, unless the phrase serves as a basis, either grammatically or in sense, for the next statement.

οὖτοι μόνοι, i.e. of Hebrew Christians, see last note. It would be glaringly untrue if it included Gentile Christians, in view of St Paul’s statement about Epaphras and indeed Luke (cf. also Philemon 1:24). In these words we have a hint of that general opposition of Hebrew Christians to St Paul at Rome which we find mentioned more at length in Philippians 1.

συνεργοὶ. Cf. Philemon 1:1; Philemon 1:24. In σύνδουλος the common work is only implied, in συνεργός the fact that it is service is out of sight. See also Romans 16:3; Romans 16:9; Romans 16:21; Philippians 2:25; Philippians 4:3.

εἰς with συνεργός, 2 Corinthians 8:23, indicating there the persons, here the cause, which formed the object of the work.

τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ. See Colossians 1:13 note.

οἵτινες, classifying (cf. Colossians 2:23, Colossians 3:5) them as men who, etc.

ἐγενήθησάν μοι. Became by their actions. When is not stated.

παρηγορία. Only here in the Greek Bible except 4 Maccabees 5:12; 4 Maccabees 6:1. The verb occurs only in 4 Maccabees 12:3, and also not unfrequently is Symm., e.g. Genesis 24:67, Isaac παρηγορήθη (LXX. παρεκλήθη). Lightfoot gives references for the use of the verb and its derivatives παρηγορία, παρηγόρημα, παρηγορικός, παρηγορητικός, by Hippocrates (430 B.C.), Galen (163 A.D.), and Plutarch as medical terms in the sense of “assuaging,” “alleviating” (our English “paregoric”). So perhaps here St Paul purposely uses a word which would suggest physical as well as mental help. Perhaps “soothing” would be nearest in modern English, though in derivation it is wholly unconnected with any such thought.

Verse 12

12. ἀσπάζεται ὑμᾶς (Colossians 4:10) Ἐπαφρᾶς (Colossians 1:7, Philemon 1:23). Epaphras is mentioned separately from the three preceding, perhaps because he was not so continuously with St Paul, perhaps because he was, as it seems, a Gentile, or perhaps only because of his special relation to the Colossians.

δοῦλος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ. Doubtless to be taken alone, neither with ὁ ἐξ ὑμῶν (Weiss), nor with ἀγωνιζόμενος (Meyer).

Observe that although the phrase (δοῦλος κυρίου, δοῦλ. Χρ., δοῦλ. Χρ. Ἰησ.) is used sometimes of Christians generally (2 Timothy 2:24), and especially of Christians who are also slaves of men (1 Corinthians 7:22; Ephesians 6:6), it is employed by St Paul as a designation of individuals only of himself, Timothy (Philippians 1:1), and here Epaphras. He apparently, that is to say, implies by it here a special consecration to Christ’s service.

ἀγωνιζόμενος. See note on Colossians 1:29 (notice τέλειος, Colossians 1:28) and compare Colossians 2:1 (notice πληροφορία, Colossians 2:2); “wrestling,” though but a partial translation, at least preserves the figure of the athlete.

ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν (Colossians 2:1) ἐν ταῖς προσευχαῖς. “Epaphras was Paul’s true scholar in the school of intercession. See Colossians 1:9” (Moule). The article is probably possessive.

ἵνα. Not the contents of the prayers, but the aim of his wrestling (cf. Colossians 2:2).

σταθῆτε. See notes on Textual Criticism. It = stand up, firm and unshaken (compare Luke 18:11, of the Pharisee with ἑστώς of the Publican, 13). What time is meant? Probably any time that may be chosen for examination. But possibly with special reference to the Judgment; cf. Luke 21:36.

τέλειοι, Colossians 1:28, note. Perfect in Christian growth.

καὶ πεπληροφορημένοι. See notes on Textual Criticism. Cf. πληροφορία, Colossians 2:2 and note. πληροφορέω never = “fill” in the N.T. (though BG read πληροφορήσαι in Romans 15:13, and πεπληροφορημένος ἀγάπης in Clem. Rom. § 54 must have this sense), but = [1] fulfil, accomplish, 2 Timothy 4:5; 2 Timothy 4:17; [2] fully persuade, convince. So Romans 4:21; Romans 14:5.

Of these two meanings the latter alone is suitable here. With some remembrance of the false teaching to which they were exposed he wishes them to be free “from all doubts and scrupulosity” (Ell).

ἐν παντὶ. (cf. ἐν πάσῃ, Colossians 1:9, note) θελήματι τοῦ θεοῦ. Hardly to be joined with σταθῆτε, and probably with πεπληρ. only, and not with τέλειοι as well.

For θέλημα meaning not the will of God as a whole, but the expression of it so far as it is made known in any particular, see 1 Thessalonians 4:3. See also 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and probably Romans 12:2, and compare Acts 13:22. “The thought is the attentive obedience which holds sacred each detail of the Master’s orders” (Moule). Observe that the flesh has its θελήματα also, Ephesians 2:3.

Verse 13

13. μαρτυρῶ γὰρ αὐτῷ. The only parallels to this in St Paul’s Epistles are Romans 10:2, and Galatians 4:15, in both of which passages the phrase contains something of the unexpected under the circumstances. Here there seems no apparent reason for so strong a phrase. Perhaps there was something about Epaphras with which we are not acquainted that made St Paul insist on the fact of his toil for them.

ὅτι ἔχει πολὺν πόνον. See notes on Textual Criticism.

πόνον ἔχειν occurs only here in the Greek Bible (contrast κοπιῶ ἀγωνιζόμενος, Colossians 1:29), but is used frequently of the toil of conflict from Homer downwards; cf. Il. VI. 525, οἷ ἔχουσι πολὺν πόνον εἵνεκα σεῖο. “In Pindar also of exertions in the games, N. 4. 1, I. 4. 79 (3. 65),” Lidd. and Scott. It carries on the figure of ἀγωνιζόμενος.

ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν (Colossians 4:12) καὶ τῶν ἐν Λαοδικίᾳ (Colossians 2:1) καὶ τῶν ἐν Ἱερᾷ Πόλει. On these two towns and their relation to Colossae see Introd. p. x. For the separation Ἱερᾷ Πόλει cf. Acts 16:11. They are mentioned here because probably this letter would be read in both, as it certainly would be in one (Colossians 4:16). We have no knowledge of the relation in which Epaphras stood to Laodicea and Hierapolis, but probably he had taught in both, perhaps also he had founded both Churches. In any case as a native of Colossae he must have been interested in the two neighbouring towns.

Verse 14

14. ἀσπάζεται ὑμᾶς, Colossians 4:10, note.

Λουκᾶς. Mentioned by name elsewhere in the N.T. only in Philemon 1:24 and 2 Timothy 4:11. Identified since Irenaeus (Haer. III. 14. 1) with the Evangelist. The name is probably a shortened form of Lucanus, and is probably also connected with Lucius, although the Lucius of Romans 16:21 being a Jew was certainly a different person, as also was presumably Lucius of Cyrene, Acts 13:1.

ὁ ἰατρὸς. On the use in the Third Gospel and the Acts of medical and semi-medical terms see Hobart, The Medical Language of Luke, 1882.

ὁ ἀγαπητὸς. Probably to be taken not with ὁ ἰατρός but with Λουκᾶς ὁ ἰατρός; cf. Philemon 1:1; Romans 16:12. “Luke the physician, my very dear friend” (Lightfoot’s paraphrase).

καὶ Δημᾶς. Elsewhere only Philemon 1:24; 2 Timothy 4:10. Thessalonica was perhaps his home, as it was certainly the home of Aristarchus, next to whom he is mentioned in Phm. The word is said to be a shortened form of Demetrius, a name which occurs twice in the list of politarchs of Thessalonica (see Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, p. 247). Though he ranked among St Paul’s συνεργοί (Phm.), the absence of any commendation here certainly fits in well with the blame in 2 Tim. five years after. Bengel’s suggestion that he is mentioned without praise because he was St Paul’s amanuensis in this epistle is worth notice.

Verse 15

15. Ἀσπάσασθε, as from St Paul and Timothy.

τοὺς ἐν Λαοδικίᾳ ἀδελφοὺς. Probably but few compared with those in Colossae if they were under the charge of Archippus (vide infra).

καὶ Νύμφαν. Lightfoot reads Νυμφᾶν (DcLP), a rare masculine form contracted probably from Nymphodorus. He rejects Νύμφαν (B Euthalcod) the feminine (compare αὐτῆς infra) on the ground that although the name Nymphe, Nympha, Nympa occurs from time to time in Latin inscriptions, the Doric form of the Greek name here seems in the highest degree improbable (Martha, John 11:5, and Lydda, Acts 9:38, are, strictly speaking, Shemitic words).

But Moulton (Gram. Proleg. 1906, p. 48) thinks that “as μάχαιρα produced μαχαίρης on the model of δόξα δόξης, so by a reverse analogy, the gen. Νύμφης as a proper name produced what may be read as Νύμφᾰ Νύμφᾰν in nom. and acc.” He also compares Δοῦλα as a proper name, and Εἰρῆνα in a Christian inscription. So perhaps we are warranted in accepting αὐτῆς infra, and recognising in Nympha the lady of the house. Nympha doubtless lived in Laodicea or its immediate neighbourhood. To suppose that she lived at Colossae, or even Hierapolis, would involve an awkward insertion between two references to Laodicea. There is no other reference to Nympha (or Nymphas) in the N.T. and there are no early traditions. In the Coptic fragments of the Acts of Paul Hermocrates and his wife Nympha are mentioned as two of St Paul’s converts at Myra (Hennecke, Handb. zu den N.T. Apokryphen, 1904, pp. 362, 364).

καὶ τὴν κατʼ οἶκον αὐτῆς ἐκκλησίαν. For the authorities for αὐτῆς, αὐτοῦ, αὐτῶν see the notes on Textual Criticism. If αὐτῶν were genuine here, to what would it refer? Hardly to “the brethren in Laodicea” on the one side and Nymphas (or Nympha) on the other, for the house would not easily be under such dual control. Probably therefore to Nymphas (?) and those with him, particularly his wife (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:19; Romans 16:5). But the commentators adduce no indisputable examples of such a usage.

“The Church at their house” will be that section of believers who found it convenient to use their house as a meeting place for prayer and praise. “It seems pretty clear that St Paul’s language points to a practice by which wealthy or otherwise important persons who had become Christians, among their other services to their brother Christians, allowed the large hall or saloon often attached to (or included in) the larger sort of private houses, to be used as places of meeting, whether for worship or for other affairs of the community. Accordingly the Ecclesia in the house of this or that man, would seem to mean that particular assemblage of Christians, out of the Christians of the whole city, which was accustomed to meet under his roof” (Hort, The Christian Ecclesia, pp. 117 sq.). So besides Nympha at Laodicea we have Philemon at Colossae (Philemon 1:2), as well as Aquila and Priscilla at Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:19) and the same pair later on at Rome (Romans 16:5). Compare Pearson, On the Creed, p. 338.

Verses 15-17

15–17. Greetings to believers at Laodicea (Colossians 4:15) and directions affecting both Laodicea and Colossae (Colossians 4:16-17)

(Colossians 4:15) Greet for us the brethren in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the Church that meets at the house of him and his. (Colossians 4:16) And while I am speaking of Laodicea see that when this letter has been read before you it be read also in the Church of the Laodiceans, and that you too read my letter that will come from Laodicea. (Colossians 4:17) And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou didst receive in the Lord, that thou mayest fulfil it.

Verse 16

16. A command to exchange St Paul’s letters between Laodicea and Colossae.

ὅταν ἀναγνωσθῇ παρʼ ὑμῖν. Probably at Divine Service, that being the readiest means of ensuring that it be heard by all, a point on which St Paul lays special stress in 1 Thessalonians 5:27. Compare Acts 15:30-31, where observe that in Acts 15:32 Judas and Silas, being prophets, give (apparently public) exhortations. For the ἀνάγνωσις see also 1 Timothy 4:13, and cf. Swete on Revelation 1:3.

ἡ ἐπιστολή, i.e. this letter. So 2 Thessalonians 3:14; Romans 16:22.

ποιήσατε ἵνα, “cause that.” Cf. Blass, Gram. § 69. 4. See John 11:37. There is no need to suppose any other reason for the phrase than the trouble involved in getting the letter to Laodicea, and the Laodicean letter to Colossae (vide infra).

καὶ ἐν τῇ Λαοδικέων ἐκκλησίᾳ ἀναγνωσθῇ. Cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:1 and 2 Thessalonians 1:1. In these three passages only is the Ecclesia designated by “the adjectival local name of its members” (Hort, The Christian Ecclesia, p. 114). The absence of the second article before Λαοδ. is strange, but resembles the passages quoted from 1 and 2 Thes.

καὶ τὴν ἐκ Λαοδικίας. Lightfoot’s Additional Note on this phrase (pp. 340–366) is a typical example of his thoroughness and lucidity.

Out of the many interpretations tabulated by him two only are worth serious attention: [1] that St Paul means a lost letter of his to the Laodiceans, or [2] that he means the Circular letter known as the Epistle to the Ephesians, which Marcion actually includes in his canon under the title “To the Laodiceans.”

As to [1] there is of course no reason why a letter by St Paul should not have been lost (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:9), but as Abbott points out (a) St Paul himself seems to have attached some importance to this one; (b) the direction in this verse would have ensured it greater publicity; (c) if the Colossians preserved Phm. how much more would they have preserved this other [yet, after all, Phm. belonged to them in a way that this other did not]; (d) we know that St Paul sent three Epistles at this time, Eph., Col., Phm., and we can hardly assume a fourth, except on necessity; (e) St Paul’s description of it would more naturally have been τὴν πρὸς Λαοδικέας.

As to [2] assuming the circular character of Eph. (a question which cannot be discussed here) it would naturally be read at Laodicea before Colossae, because that city lay first on Tychicus’ route, and would have been addressed to Laodicea rather than Colossae as the more important city of the two; and again St Paul would hardly think it necessary to have a separate copy of it made for Colossae in view of the nearness of the two cities. Yet Eph. is sufficiently different from Col. to render it advisable that both Epistles should be read by the Christians at each place.

On the forged letter to Laodicea see Lightfoot, pp. 347 sqq.

Observe further [1] that in the phrase τὴν ἐκ Λαοδικίας the preposition is used proleptically, “that which comes to you” thence; cf. Matthew 24:17. [2] The phrase is placed before ἵνα for emphasis; cf. Galatians 2:10.

ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς ἀναγνῶτε. Perhaps dependent on the preceding ποιήσατε. An ellipse of βλέπετε (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:7) not only appears unnecessary in itself, but would impart a sternness into it for which there appears to be no need (cf. Meyer). But see on Colossians 4:17.

Verse 17

17. καὶ. Probably continuing the immediately preceding subject of their relations with Laodicea (vide infra).

εἴπατε. “Forms belonging to εἴπα stand without var. in those persons of the imperative which contain τ (εἴπατε, εἰπάτω, -τωσαν)” W.H. Append. p. 164; cf. Blass, Gram. § 21. 1.

There seems to be no parallel in the N.T. for sending a message to an individual through the community addressed. It suggests therefore some special responsibility on the part of the community towards Archippus.

But we can hardly suppose that he was set over the Colossians spiritually, for, surely, it would be unseemly both for St Paul to give them, and for the Colossians to deliver, a message that would be virtually, “Do your duty towards us as our minister.” If, on the other hand, they had entrusted him with spiritual work on their behalf elsewhere St Paul would naturally be glad to recognise their zeal by sending the message through them. The mention of Laodicea in the preceding verse suggests that this work lay there.

Ἀρχίππῳ., Philemon 1:2†, where συνστρατιώτης indicates that he was engaged in aggressive work for Christ.

He was evidently known personally to St Paul. It may, however, perhaps be assumed that he had had no recent intercourse with St Paul; for, from his apparently intimate relations with Philemon, there would then have been little necessity for St Paul to write so fully about Onesimus.

βλέπε. “Look to the ministry … that thou mayest,” etc. The construction, a direct object with the addition of ἵνα designating the purpose, is found also in 2 John 1:8. But perhaps ἵνα does not depend on the preceding words, but takes the place of an imperative, see Moulton, Gram. Proleg. 1906, p. 178.

τὴν διακονίαν. Its nature is undefined. We are not justified in limiting so common a term to the technical diaconate at this early date (cf. Colossians 4:7, note).

ἥν παρέλαβες. At whose hands (see note on παρελάβετε, Colossians 2:6) he had received it is not stated (for Chrysostom’s interpretation see next note). The fact that St Paul had never been to Laodicea or Colossae (Colossians 2:1), and, further, the improbability that he had seen Archippus lately, make it unlikely that Archippus had received this charge from him. Perhaps he had received it from Epaphras (e.g. when the latter left for Rome), but even if so εἴπατε suggests (see note) that the Colossian Christians were largely responsible for it. It is therefore questionable whether the immediate reference of the παρά be not to them as a body rather than to any one person.

ἐν κυρίῳ, Colossians 4:7, Colossians 3:18; Colossians 3:20. Removing the charge wholly out of the sphere of any merely mundane duty. “In the Lord” is at once a mark of holy obligation and a pledge of success. Chrysostom says curiously (414 B), πάλιν τὸ, ἐν, διὰ κυρίου ἐστίν· αὐτός σοι ἔδωκε, φησὶν, οὐχ ἡμεῖς. Bengel says rightly “παρέλαβες, quod accepisti vocatione mediata. Non enim sequitur a Domino, coll. 1 Corinthians 11:23, sed, in Domino.”

ἵνα (see note on βλέπε) αὐτὴν πληροῖς, i.e. fill up to its ideal content (see note on πληρῶσαι, Colossians 1:25). Cf. Revelation 3:2; Acts 12:25; cf. 2 Timothy 4:5.

Verse 18

18. Valediction

Greeting by my own hand, Paul’s. Remember my present state in bonds. Grace be with you.

ὁ ἀσπασμὸς τῇ ἐμῇ χειρὶ Παύλου. “The salutation by the hand of me, Paul.” Thus in 1 Corinthians 16:21; 2 Thessalonians 3:17 only. Both a guarantee of genuineness and a symbol of affection.

“The gen. Παύλου is in apposition to the personal pronoun involved in ἐμῇ” (Ell.). Compare Soph. Oed. Col. 344, τἀμὰ δυστήνου κακά.

μνημονεύετέ μου τῶν δεσμῶν. He was perhaps reminded of his chains by the awkwardness of writing the preceding clause, especially if the chain was attached to his right hand. The primary reason for his pathetic utterance lies probably in his desire for their prayers (cf. Colossians 4:3, note on καὶ περὶ ἡμῶν), but it is evident that the remembrance of his condition would tend not only to make them receive his words with greater reverence (cf. Philemon 1:9), but also to brace up their own faith and energy. For the fact of his chains see Colossians 4:3, note, δέδεμαι.

Chrysostom (pp. 414 D–416 A) makes a fine appeal to his hearers for self-denial, sympathy, etc., based partly on this phrase and partly on St Paul’s mention of his tears, Acts 20:31.

ἡ χάρις μεθʼ ὑμῶν. The exact phrase only in 1 Timothy 6:21; 2 Timothy 4:22. In all the Epistles of the first two groups and in Phil. and Phm. ἡ χάρις is defined by the addition of τοῦ κυρίου [ἡμῶν] Ἰησοῦ [Χριστοῦ] (cf. Revelation 22:21), but it stands absolutely here and in Eph., the Pastoral Epistles and also Hebrews 13:25. It thus serves roughly as a chronological guide.

It is characteristic of St Paul’s sense of the favour and the power of God that as he began his Epistle by wishing his readers ‘grace’ (Colossians 1:2), so he should close it by praying for its continuance with them.

On the ἀμήν of the Textus Receptus and the Subscription see the notes on Textual Criticism.


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

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Friday, November 27th, 2020
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