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The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
General Editor: J. J. S. PEROWNE, D.D.
Bishop of Worcester.
the epistle to the
with introduction and notes
The rev. h. c. g. moule, b.d.
principal of ridley hall, and late fellow of trinity college,
at the university press
[ All Rights reserved .]
BY THE GENERAL EDITOR
The General Editor of The Cambridge Bible for Schools thinks it right to say that he does not hold himself responsible either for the interpretation of particular passages which the Editors of the several Books have adopted, or for any opinion on points of doctrine that they may have expressed. In the New Testament more especially questions arise of the deepest theological import, on which the ablest and most conscientious interpreters have differed and always will differ. His aim has been in all such cases to leave each Contributor to the unfettered exercise of his own judgment, only taking care that mere controversy should as far as possible be avoided. He has contented himself chiefly with a careful revision of the notes, with pointing out omissions, with suggesting occasionally a reconsideration of some question, or a fuller treatment of difficult passages, and the like.
Beyond this he has not attempted to interfere, feeling it better that each Commentary should have its own individual character, and being convinced that freshness and variety of treatment are more than a compensation for any lack of uniformity in the Series.
The Editor takes occasion to express his thanks for valuable assistance given him in the course of his work; particularly to Dr E. C. Clark, Regius Professor of Laws in the University of Cambridge, to the Rev. Dr Sinker, Librarian of Trinity College, and to the Rev. G. A. Schneider, M.A., Vice-Principal of Ridley Hall.
Prof. W. M. Ramsay’s Church in the Roman Empire was published only when the revised proofs were in the press; the Editor regrets that he was unable to use these Lectures sooner. Prof. Ramsay speaks with the authority of a special student and a geographical explorer on the early history of Christianity in Asia Minor.
As a devotional Commentary, the work of the Jansenist Father, Pasquier Quesnel ( Le N. T. en François, avec des Reflexions etc ., Paris, 1705), is often quoted in this book. Its short notes are everywhere rich in spiritual suggestion.
One critical Exposition has been always before the Editor; Bishop Lightfoot’s Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon . Here and there the Editor has ventured to express a doubt, or difference of opinion, regarding some detail of the Bishop’s work. But every hour’s use of the Commentary has deepened his sense of the great Commentator’s infinite diligence, vastness of knowledge, wisdom in its application, luminous clearness of thought and expression, and devout reverence of Christian faith. For the Editor this is no impression left only by the book; for thirty years he knew the admirable man, since the first days of student-life at Cambridge, when in Mr Lightfoot’s lecture-room, or in his private study, he listened to consummate explanations of Herodotus or Æschylus, and enjoyed the benefit of such a College Tutor’s counsels on life and reading. Debts such as these are impossible to calculate, but they must be lovingly and reverently acknowledged,
τὸ γὰρ γέρας ἐστὶ θανόντων .
* * * The page-references to Bishop Lightfoot’s Commentary are adjusted to the First Edition, 1875.
I. Introduction to the Epistle to the Colossians
Chapter I . Colossæ and its Neighbouring Churches
Chapter II . Date and Occasion of the Epistle
Chapter III . Alien Teaching at Colossæ
Chapter IV . Authenticity of the Epistle
Chapter V . The Ephesian Epistle and the Epistle from Laodicea
Chapter VI . Parallels and other relations between the Colossian and Ephesian Epistles
Chapter VII . Argument of the Epistle
III. Introduction to the Epistle to Philemon
Chapter I . Authenticity of the Epistle
Chapter II . Testimonies to the Epistle
Chapter III . The Chief Persons of the Epistle
Chapter IV . Slavery, and the Attitude of Christianity towards it
Chapter V . Argument of the Epistle
Jesus Christ is the true God of men, that is to say, of beings miserable and sinful. He is the Centre of everything and the Object of everything; and he who does not know Him knows nothing of the order of the world, and nothing of himself. For not only do we not know God otherwise than by Jesus Christ; we do not know ourselves otherwise than by Jesus Christ … In Him is all our virtue and all our felicity; apart from Him there is nothing but vice, misery, errors, clouds, despair, and we only obscurity and confusion in the nature of God and in our own.
Pascal, Pensées sur la Religion .
Allied to Thee our vital Head
We act, and grow, and thrive;
From Thee divided each is dead
When most he seems alive.
Doddridge, Hymns founded on
Texts in the Holy Scriptures .
colossæ and its neighbour churches
Three Churches, or, as we may call them in the language of modern evangelization, three mission-stations, are named in the Epistle to the Colossians, and evidently as standing in close connexion; Colossæ, Laodicea, Hierapolis. These towns lay in the great peninsula now called Asia Minor, in a district where Lydia and Phrygia touched and as it were overlapped each other, and which was included by the Romans in a department of proconsular Asia called the Cibyratic Union ( conventus Cibyraticus ) 1 1 The district lies, according to the Turkish division of the peninsula, in the province of Anadoli, in the sanjak or department of Kermian. . The sites are found about 100 miles east of that of Ephesus, near the 38th parallel of north latitude and midway between the 29th and 30th parallels of east (Greenwich) longitude, in a minor valley of the system of the river Mæander, now called the Menderè. The Lycus (“Wolf”), now the Tchoruk Su, rising in the south-east, flows westward through this valley into the larger valley of the Mæander, and passes, not long before the waters meet, Colossæ and Laodicea on its left, and Hierapolis, opposite Laodicea, on its right. A space of less than twelve miles divides Colossæ from the two other sites, which are about six miles distant from each other; thus the three places are easily accessible in one day’s walk. Colossæ stood close to the stream; in fact the waters ran through the town. Laodicea and Hierapolis stood further back, each on a hill side, Hierapolis on the steep lower buttresses of a true mountain range. In the northern horizon, above this lower rampart, are seen the long ridges of Messôgis, now called Ak Dagh, “White Mountain”; in the south towers the snowy pyramid of Baba Dagh, “Father of Mountains,” also called Chonas Dagh, the Cadmus of ancient geography 1 1 See for an engraved general view of the Lycus valley, Churton and Jones’s New Testament Illustrated (1865), vol. ii. p. 246. The accuracy of the sketch is warranted by the name of the artist, the Rev. S. C. Malan. On the topography of the valley see the recent work (1893) of Prof. Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire , pp. 468 etc. A large local map is inserted opposite p. 472. .
The whole region is volcanic, and earthquakes have been frequent throughout its history. Laodicea was ruinously shaken at least four times between b.c. 125 and a.d. 235; the third shock falling, probably 2 2 Lightfoot, Colossians , p. 38, note . , in a.d. 65, a few years later than the writing of the Colossian Epistle, and striking all three towns. As late as 1720, 12,000 people perished in a great convulsion of the region. Less than thirty miles north of the valley of the Lycus is a vast district, anciently called Catacecaumenê, Burnt-up Land; it still presents a scene of blackened desolation, as after a recent eruption of volcanos.
The rocks of at least part of the Lycus valley are calcareous, of the formation called travertine. In such a bed, flowing water rapidly lays a stony deposit, almost snowy white; and accordingly the country is sprinkled with glacier-like streams and cataracts of limestone. These are especially remarkable at the site of Hierapolis; the Rev. S. C. Malan’s sketch in The New Testament Illustrated (ii. 254), shews the steps of the mountainside almost covered with solid white cascades.
The pastures of the valley are rich, especially on the side of Colossæ and Laodicea, and the breed of sheep was excellent; their wool, according to one account, was naturally dyed a glossy black by the minerals in the waters. The artificial dyes of Colossæ and Laodicea were famous, as were those of their provincial neighbour Thyatira, Lydia’s city 3 3 Acts 16:14. .
Of the three towns of the region of the Lycus the most important was Laodicea. Its name dates from about b.c. 250, when Antiochus Theos designated it from his queen, Laodicè; but it had existed long before under other names, Diospolis and Rhoas. Not long before the Christian Era it had risen, somewhat rapidly, to wealth and importance, and was made the metropolis , or district-capital, of the Cibyratic Union, a civil diœcêsis (“diocese”) of twenty-five towns. In its court-house Cicero, when Governor of Cilicia (b.c. 52 50) 1 1 Soon after that date the Cibyratic Union was transferred to the province of Asia. , held more than one assize. Its tutelar God was Zeus, who is sometimes called, on Laodicean coins, Aseis , “a title which perhaps reproduces a Syrian epithet of this deity, ‘the mighty’ ” 2 2 Lightfoot, p. 8. The word is perhaps akin to the Aramaic Aziza , and the Arabic Aziz . See also Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire , p. 142. .
Laodicea is now a wilderness of ruins. The traveller finds on the hills traces of a stadium, a gymnasium, theatres, the wrecks of temples, the relics of a street with side-colonnades, a gateway in a broken wall, and some of the arches and stone pipes of an aqueduct. “Nothing can exceed the … melancholy appearance of the site; no picturesque features … relieve the dull uniformity of its undulating and barren hills; and, with few exceptions, its grey and widely scattered ruins possess no architectural merit” 3 3 Hamilton, Asia Minor , i. 515. . The Turks call the site of Laodicea, Eski Hissar.
The Christian history of Laodicea, after St Paul’s time, presents some interesting landmarks. The Apocalyptic Epistle 4 4 Rev. 3:14 22. Against a tendency to Angel-worship in the Asian Churches the whole book would utter a mighty protest, shewing as it does, in all its prophetic visions, “Angels made subject unto Him .” (And see Rev. 19:10, 22:9.) At the same time the book testifies throughout to the objective reality of the angelic host and its order. This is not the place to discuss the date (under Nero or under Domitian) of the Revelation. Notwithstanding the main current of recent opinion we prefer the later date. Cp. David Brown, D.D., Structure of the Apocalypse (1891), pp. 7 25. indicates a superficial prosperity, spiritual and perhaps also material, as the condition of the “Angel” and probably of the Church. But beneath it lurked the fatal malady of spiritual self-complacency, and a consequent “lukewarmness” in witness and work for the Lord. Nothing in the Epistle throws light on the special dangers which in St Paul’s time beset the Churches of the Lycus; unless indeed we trace a connexion of thought between the solemn assertions of Colossians 1:15-18 and the glorified Lord’s self-designation, in His message to Laodicea “ The Beginning of the creation of God.”
About a.d. 155 Sagaris, bishop of Laodicea, died a martyr, in the same persecution which saw the burning of Polycarp at Smyrna. Just at that time the “Paschal Controversy” arose within the Church, and made Laodicea its centre. This was a conflict between the Asiatic observance of Easter, which regarded the day of the month irrespective of the day of the week, and the Palestinian and Western observance, which required the day of the week to be followed, as we do now. Melito 1 1 See Smith’s Dict. of Christian Biography , iii. 897. , then bishop of Sardis, wrote a book, now lost, On the Pascha , to defend the Asiatic usage.
Bishops of Laodicea and of Hierapolis took part in most of the great Councils of the fourth and fifth centuries, with a curious vacillation between orthodoxy and its opponents. In the fourth century (probably a.d. 363) a small council 2 2 “It was in fact only a small gathering of clergy [59 at most] from parts of Lydia and Phrygia.” Westcott, Canon of N.T ., part iii. ch. 2. was held at Laodicea, at which, for the first time on record, the question was formally discussed and pronounced upon, what Sacred Books should be recognized as inspired, and as such read in the Christian Churches. A list, purporting to be that then made, is extant. It contains the entire Old Testament, with Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah, and the New Testament as we have it, except the Revelation. But Bp Westcott 3 3 Canon , as just cited. has given strong reason to think that the list is a later addition to the (undoubtedly genuine) decree, which forbids the reading of “things uncanonical” ( ἀκανόνιστα ).
The same council dealt with other matters, and among them with some which throw a light on local beliefs and practices, and indicate a continuity in these with some phenomena of the days of St Paul. Canon 29 forbids a “Judaizing” observance of the (seventh-day) Sabbath, as distinguished from the Lord’s Day. (Cp. Colossians 2:14 , Colossians 2:16 , Colossians 2:17 ). Canon 35 forbids Christians “to abandon the Church of God, and invoke (lit., ‘name’) Angels, and hold assemblies” for secret angelolatry 1 1 Lightfoot, p. 68. See also Ramsay, The Church &c ., ch. 19. . (Cp. Colossians 2:18 .)
“No place in the world,” writes M. Svoboda 2 2 The Seven Churches of Asia (1869), p. 28. The letterpress of the book is explanatory of the photographs taken by the writer. , “is so remarkable for its natural phenomena as Hierapolis.… From a great distance may be seen, overlooking the valley of the Lycus, a white mass, of considerable extent, resembling snow, and called by the natives Pambouk Kalesi (the ‘Castle of Cotton’ 3 3 See also Lightfoot, p. 9, note. Other forms of the name are Pambouk Kalè, Tambouk Kalesi, or Kalè. Hamilton ( Asia Minor , i. 577) says meanwhile that “in the lowlands between the river and Hierapolis are many cotton-fields.” ). This is the site of ancient Hierapolis, which was in the time of the Roman Empire so renowned for its marvellous mineral hot springs, unique in Asia, and possibly in the world. From many parts of Asia, and also of Europe, people repaired thither to bathe. By the great influx of visitors the city increased in wealth and importance, and became filled with fine temples and elegant baths. The wonderful effects of the water of the Plutonium , exhaling vapour which killed instantly any animal that approached the opening, as this was generally believed to be the effect of a Divine power, earned for this city the name of Hierapolis, ‘the Holy City.’ An immense quantity of hot water bubbles out from the ground in the middle of the city, and thence takes different directions, forming solid dams across the watercourses by its calcareous deposits, until it reaches the falls. These are about 400 feet in height, and form an amphitheatre of more than 1000 yards in extent, where … thousands of basins are formed by the calcareous deposit … from … the size of only a few inches to masses of about 20 feet in diameter and height, superimposed one upon another, and supported by stalactites, presenting the appearance of natural columns.” The great spring fills a basin whose width varies from 30 to 60 feet, and the depth from 15 to 20 feet. M. Svoboda found by experiment that its exhalations are still almost instantly fatal to birds. The city lay on a platform just below the stony waterfalls, and the site is covered with ruins. “The theatre is one of the best preserved in Asia Minor; the seats are complete; the ornaments and figures … all heaped as they were overthrown by the earthquake.” Above the falls lie the vast ruins of the Baths ( thermœ ); “they are composed of many large halls, covered by arched roofs, built with stones of immense size, beautifully joined together without cement.” Among the other ruins stands a building whose shape indicates a church, of the third or fourth century 1 1 M. Renan ( Saint Paul , p. 359) paints in brilliant colours the view seen from the theatre of Hierapolis: “On the right side of the Lycus the heat is extreme, the soil being one vast plain paved with limestone; but on the heights of Hierapolis the purity of the air, the splendid light, the view of Cadmus, floating ( nageant ) like an Olympus in dazzling ether, the scorched summits of Phrygia vanishing rose-coloured in the blue of the sky, the opening of the Mæander valley, the side-long profiles of Messogis, the white summits of Tmolus far away, fairly dazzle the, beholder.” .
The Christian history of Hierapolis is marked by some important names. It is probable 2 2 Lightfoot, p. 44. that after the fall of Jerusalem St John migrated to Ephesus, and with him some other leaders of the Palestinian Church; the Apostles Andrew and Philip, and “Aristion and John the Presbyter, among other personal disciples of the Lord, are especially mentioned. [See Euseb., History , iii. 39.] Among the chief settlements of this Christian Dispersion was Hierapolis.… Here at all events was settled Philip of Bethsaida … and here, after his decease, lived his two virgin daughters 3 3 Not to be confused with the four daughters of Philip the Evangelist (Acts 21:8). , who survived to a very advanced age, and thus handed down to the second century the traditions of the earliest days.” From them, from Aristion, and from John the Presbyter, Papias, the native bishop of Hierapolis (his name is Phrygian), about a.d. 130, gathered materials for his work, at present lost, entitled Expositions of the Dominical Oracles , i.e., probably, of the Gospels 1 1 See Smith’s Dict. Chr. Biography , s.v. Papias , for an account of what is known of Papias and his work, and of the questions which gather round him and it. Papias (Euseb., Hist ., iii. 39) mentions by name St Matthew’s and St Mark’s Gospels, and there is the highest internal probability that he had also before him, as canonical, St Luke’s and St John’s. . Within the last half-century the name of Papias has been associated with a memorable controversy over the origins of Christianity, The notices of his work in Eusebius shew no reference to the writings of St Paul; and it has been maintained (notably by Baur, of Tübingen, and more recently by Renan 2 2 “The second and third chapters of the Apocalypse are a cry of hatred ( cri de haine ) against Paul and his friends.” Renan, Saint Paul , p. 367. The proof offered for this statement is a chain of ingenious special pleading. ) that the school of St John entirely repudiated St Paul, and succeeded in effecting a total break of continuity between his teaching and their own, and that Papias accordingly will have nothing to say to the Pauline Epistles. Lightfoot ( Colossians , pp. 51 etc.) amply shews the weakness of the evidence for this astonishing paradox. Papias’ main object, apparently, was to gather up personal reminiscences of our Lord’s works and words; and for these of course he would not go to Pauline sources. And Polycarp, Papias’ friend, and Irenæus, who quotes Papias with respect, were as loyal to the authority of St Paul as any Christian teachers of any age. And Eusebius himself, who entirely accepted the same authority, and who freely criticizes Papias on other grounds, gives no hint that Papias thought amiss in this matter. And again, Eusebius may well have found in Papias’ work abundant Paulinisms , and yet made no note of them, for his object is not to give an abridgment of the “Expositions,” but to note special points of interest and curiosity in them 3 3 See, besides Lightfoot, the notes to Euseb. Hist . iii. 39 in the Select Library of Nicene &c . Fathers (New York and Oxford, 1892). .
Papias was succeeded in his pastorate, probably, by Abercius, or Avircius, and he by Claudius Apollinaris (St Apollinaris), about a.d. 180; an active and important writer, author of an Apology , or Defence of Christianity, of discussions of paganism and Judaism, of a book on the Paschal controversy, and of others on that raised by Montanus, with his claim to a special inspiration, and his revolt against a too formal ecclesiasticism. Apollinaris gathered at Hierapolis a council, which excommunicated Montanus and his associate Maximilla. Of the works of Apollinaris only fragments now survive; one octavo page could well contain them all.
Lightfoot remarks that the controversies of the second century themselves bear impressive witness to the “solidarity” of the Church. The most distant Churches, and teachers, are seen “bound together by the ties of a common organization and the sympathy of a common creed;” and in proportion to our acquaintance with this fact will be our suspicion of any theory of vast divergences, afterwards completely silenced and healed, among the leaders of the first age of Christendom.
Besides the Christian celebrities of Hierapolis one illustrious native must be mentioned, Epictetus, the Stoic ethical philosopher ( obiit about a.d. 120); once the slave of Epaphroditus, freedman and favourite of Nero. Lightfoot calls him “the loftiest of heathen moralists”. 1 1 Colossians , p. 13. Cp. Lightfoot’s Philippians , pp. 313, etc. His Enchiridion (“ Manual ”) is a small treasury of noble principles and precepts, of which the writer appears to have been a genuine embodiment. The interesting question is raised by Lightfoot, whether he ever met Epaphras, or St Paul himself. The answer is that “history furnishes no hint of such intercourse” (Epictetus must have been very young at the supposed time of it); but that some coincidences of language between Epictetus and St Paul “would thus receive an explanation.”
Colossæ alone remains to be noticed of the Churches of the Lycus valley. Apparently it was never a city of the size and wealth of Hierapolis and Laodicea; but its position gave it a strategical importance in the ages of Persian and Greek empire. It lay in the mouth of a pass in the Cadmian range 2 2 Ramsay ( The Church &c ., p. 472) writes thus from personal observation: “Colossæ was situated at the lower western end of a narrow glen some ten miles long.… On the south Mount Cadmos rises steep above (the glen).… The river Lycus flows down the glen, rising in a series of vast springs at its upper eastern end.” See further, Appendix A. , on the military route from the Euphrates to the west. Here Xerxes’ host (b.c. 481) halted on its march to Thermopylæ and Platæa; and Herodotus (vii. 30) takes occasion to call it “a large city of Phrygia, in which” (the phrase is remarkable) “the Lycus disappears in a subterranean gulph, and, reappearing about five stadia further down, so flows into the Mæander.” 1 1 But see Ramsay, below, Appendix A. Eighty years later the younger Cyrus, with his 10,000 Greek mercenaries, halted a week at “the populous, prosperous, large city of Colossæ” (Xenophon, Anabasis , i. 2, § 6), on his march into the heart of Persia to attack his brother Artaxerxes Mnemon. In later days it sunk in size and consideration. The geographer Strabo, about the Christian era, describes it as a small town ( polisma ). The astronomer and geographer Ptolemy, about a.d. 140, does not even mention it among the places of the region. Its ruins are meagre compared with those of its sister cities. Hamilton (ii. p. 509) found “a field full of large blocks of stone and foundations of buildings, with fragments of columns and broken pottery … The road was lined with marble blocks … among which were fragments of columns, architraves, and cornices. A little further, near the roadside, was the hollow cavea of a theatre, built on the side of a low sloping hill, and of which several seats were still in situ ; some traces of the wall of the right wing were also visible: a grassy sward covered nearly the whole space.” Near this a small bridge spanned the rapid Tchoruk Su (the Lycus), itself the union of three streams which met just above; one of these, the Ak Su, or White Water, was highly petrifying. Crossing the united stream, which falls into a deep chasm just below the bridge, the traveller found himself in another field of ruins, which proved to be the site of the necropolis of the ancient town. “Many rude grotesque-shaped pedestals, resembling elongated truncated pyramids,” were to be seen; they appeared to be sepulchral monuments of an Oriental type.
The ravine into which the Tchoruk Su rushes from amidst the ruins was examined carefully by Hamilton. He found unmistakable signs of the ceaseless work of petrifaction, and thought himself able to identify the place for certain as the tunnel mentioned by Herodotus, but long since laid open by earthquake. “It is most apparent that … the two cliffs have here been joined.” Near this ravine a church was erected in honour of St Michael, in memory of a preservation from flood.
Colossæ was at length deserted for Chonæ, three miles away. Chonæ is mentioned by the Byzantine historians of the twelfth century as a rich and populous city 1 1 Findlay, Byzantine Empire , ii. 235, 294. ; it is now a large straggling village, Chonos. The name is connected with the Greek word chônê , a funnel.
The name Colossæ is perhaps connected with colossos , a gigantic statue; in possible allusion to the fantastic shapes of the stony deposits. But “in a Phrygian city over which so many Eastern nations swept in succession, who shall say to what language the name belonged?” 2 2 Lightfoot, p. 17, note .
The form of the name, at, before, and long after St Paul’s time, was certainly Colossœ ; it appears unaltered on coins of nearly two centuries later. But the form Colassœ ultimately came in also 3 3 Lightfoot, p. 16, note . . The manuscripts of the Epistle shew considerable evidence for the use of this form in the Title, but not in the text. Lightfoot has “written confidently [‘ in Colossœ ’] in the text, and with more hesitation [‘ To the Colassians ’] in the superscription.”
It remains only to ask, what was the history of the Colossian mission-station, and its neighbours, up to the date of our Epistle? The materials for the answer lie entirely in the Epistle (with that to Philemon), and in the Acts. From the Epistle we gather that on the one hand the Colossian Church looked to St Paul as its father (certainly he addresses the converts in a father’s tone); and on the other, that he had not visited Colossæ personally. This latter assertion indeed has been disputed, as we have explained in the note to ch. 2:1. M. Renan ( Saint Paul , p. 331), holds that the Apostle, on his third missionary journey (Acts 18:0 ), passed from Galatia and Phrygia to Ephesus by Apamea Cibôtus, and thence down the valley of the Lycus, touching the three towns which lay in it, but so slightly as to make no personal acquaintance there. Bp Lightfoot 1 1 Colossians , p. 24, note . labours to prove that the region intended by St Luke (Acts 16:6 , Acts 18:23 ) under the term “the Phrygian and Galatian country ” was not (as M. Renan thinks) the Roman province of Galatia, but the districts properly and naturally so described, and therefore (as a map will shew) districts which would not put the traveller, moving from them to Ephesus, in the line of the Lycus 2 2 But see further, Appendix A, for Ramsay’s recent conclusions. .
Combining the notices in the Acts (19, 20) with those in Colossians and Philemon, we gather that St Paul was practically stationary (20:18) at Ephesus for three years (probably a.d. 55 a.d. 57) after his arrival there from the interior (“ the upper coasts ,” 19:1) on his third journey; and that during that time not only was Ephesus powerfully affected but “all they which dwelt in (proconsular) Asia heard the word”. 3 3 See Ephesians in this Series, pp. 12, 13. The great city was naturally the centre of a large intercourse, and visitors from the remotest districts, coming there for business, or worship, or pleasure, would be brought across the Missionary’s path, and, finding Christ for themselves, would return to their homes to report their discovery 4 4 So it is still. Not many years ago a mountain district in the Chinese province of Cheh-kiang was evangelized by a native of one of its villages. He had visited the provincial capital, Hang-chow (the Quinsay of Marco Polo), and, seeing an unwonted combination of hieroglyphics, making the name Jesus, over the door of a Christian preaching-room, was led by literary curiosity to “the foreign teacher,” and so to the feet of Christ. . Some of them, coming under the Apostle’s developed teaching, would be sent back by him with a definite commission to evangelize and to form Churches.
Such an ordained native evangelist we may believe Epaphras to have been. And Nymphas, Philemon, Apphia, Archippus, who all evidently were personally known to St Paul, must have made his acquaintance on visits to Ephesus from their valley; perhaps guided to him by Epaphras, if Epaphras was “the first-fruits of the Lycus unto Christ.”
In our Epistle St Paul would thus be addressing a community which he had not seen, but many representative individuals of which he had seen; persons who were his dear friends in Christ of some five or six years’ standing.
date and occasion of the epistle
It is assumed in this Commentary that the Epistle was written from Rome, at some time during the imprisonment recorded at the close of the Acts. In Acts 23:24 , another imprisonment, also of about two years’ duration, is mentioned, at Cæsarea Stratonis, on the Syrian coast; and many historical critics assign the Epistles to Ephesus, Colossæ, and Philemon to that time and place. Among recent continental writers Weiss ( Einleitung in das N. T ., pp. 249, 250) decides for this alternative, certainly as regards the Epistles to Colossæ and Philemon. It is to be remembered that “the evidence is curiously scanty; few would imagine how rash it would be to express a confident opinion without close examination”. 1 1 We quote these words from MS. notes of lectures by the late Dr Hort (Lady Margaret’s Professor of Divinity at Cambridge,) kindly put into our hands by the Rev. G. A. Schneider, M.A., Vice-Principal of Ridley Hall. To these notes we are much indebted in this whole context.
In seeking a decision, the first question is, what is the relation of time between Colossians (to speak now of it only) and Philippians , which is generally allowed to be dated from Rome. Lightfoot 2 2 Philippians, Introd ., ch. 2. A statement of the case is given in Philippians in this Series, ch. 2. argues for the priority of Philippians , and to us his argument seems convincing. The doctrinal affinity between Philippians 3:0 and Romans is remarkable, while Colossians presents no such traces. The type of error combated in Colossians is, in some important respects, of a different order, and such, in our opinion, as to suggest a somewhat later development. In the Acts, St Paul appears beset by Jewish opposition of an altogether Pharisaic type, which was to be met with the watchwords “grace,” “justification,” “righteousness of faith.” It seems likely then that the type of teaching which invaded Colossæ, in which Judaism appears tinged with the mystic elements afterwards developed in Gnosticism 1 1 See below, ch. 3. , came later than this in the experiences of his work. If so, Philippians marks his last great protest against the older type, Colossians his first against the newer.
The late Dr Hort, however, remarks that “Lightfoot’s view has found few friends,” and recommends that Philippians should not be employed as a certain factor in the argument.
Weiss’ contention is, ( a ) that in Philippians (2:24) St Paul hopes to visit Macedonia, in Philemon (practically one with Colossians ) Phrygia; ( b ) that at Cæsarea he must have had considerable hopes (Acts 24:26 ) that Felix would summarily release him, while at Rome he had to await the regular course of his trial; and that therefore it was not likely that from Rome he would write asking for “a lodging” at Colossæ; ( c ) that Colossæ was too far from Rome to make such an announcement of speedy arrival likely. Other critics have urged also that Onesimus was more likely to have fled to Cæsarea than over sea to Rome; but Weiss (p. 250 note ) rightly says that we know nothing of the details of Onesimus’ flight, and dismisses this reason. And it seems likely, from what we know of St Paul’s comparative freedom at Rome, compared with the rule made at Cæsarea (Acts 24:23 ; partly no doubt to protect him from assassination) that only “ his own ” should come to him, that a fugitive slave would more easily approach him at Rome than at Cæsarea. Weiss argues indeed that the centurion on guard would not know who Paul’s “own” were; but surely the rule was not made for nothing, and in any case it would be enough to make admission difficult for a deplorable-looking slave.
As regards Weiss’ main arguments 2 2 See too the able statement of and answer to Meyer’s plea for Cæsarea by Alford; Greek Test ., iii. 20 23. , it may be replied to ( a ), that St Paul might well pass through Macedonia to Phrygia, and so carry out both purposes in one journey; supposing him to start from Rome. As regards ( b ) it seems fair to remark that he does express a hope (Philippians 2:24 ), while his case was pending at Rome, that he should “come shortly ” to Philippi. And the language of Philemon 1:22 must not be pressed as though it were a formal announcement of arrival at an early date; he is hoping for a release before very long, in answer to prayer, and, perhaps not without a touch of loving pleasantry, bids Philemon make haste to receive him, as if he was coming to see that his request about Onesimus had been carried out.
In favour of the earlier date of Colossians it has been urged that Colossæ was visited by a tremendous earthquake in a.d. 60 (according to the account of Tacitus, Annals , xiv. 27), and that it would be strange if a letter written after that date should make no allusion to it. But Eusebius ( Chronicon , Olymp. 210) dates the convulsion quite four years later; and Lightfoot 1 1 Colossians , pp. 38 40. gives reasons for thinking that Eusebius had better information.
On the whole, we think the evidence goes for the Roman origin of our Epistle, and of Philemon and Ephesians . The strongest arguments of detail to the contrary are certainly not conclusive; and there remains the general probability that the two years at Rome, on whose spiritual activity St Luke lays such stress, were more likely than the scarcely-noticed two years at Cæsarea to be the time of production of these truly wonderful Epistles 2 2 See Appendix B, for some remarks on the relation of time between Colossians &c , and 1 Peter . .
With these considerations before us, we now sketch the circumstances under which probably they were written 3 3 The following paragraphs, as far as the end of par. 2, p. 28, are transferred nearly verbatim from our Ephesians , pp. 16 20. .
St Paul arrived in Rome, from Melita, in the spring of a.d. 61, probably early in March. There he spent “two full years” (Acts 28:30 ), at the close of which, as we have good reason to believe, he was released.
In the long delay before his trial 4 4 Due probably to procrastination in the prosecution and to the caprice of the Emperor. See Lewin, Life &c. of St Paul , vol. 11. p. 236, for a parallel case. he was of course in custody; but this was comparatively lenient. He occupied lodgings of his own (Acts 28:16 , Acts 28:23 , Acts 28:30 ), probably a storey or flat in one of the lofty houses common in Rome. It is impossible to determine for certain where this lodging was, but it is likely that it was either in or near the great Camp of the Prætorians, or Imperial Guard, outside the Colline Gate, just N.E. of the City 1 1 See Lightfoot, Philippians , pp. 9 &c., 99 &c. . In this abode the Apostle was attached day and night by a light coupling-chain to a Prætorian sentinel, but was as free, apparently, to invite and maintain general intercourse as if he had been merely confined by illness.
The company actually found in his rooms at different times was very various. His first visitors (indeed they must have been the providers of his lodging) would be the Roman Christians, including all, or many, of the saints named in a passage (Romans 16:0 ) written only a very few years before. Then came the representatives of the Jewish community (Acts 28:17 , Acts 28:23 ), but apparently never to return, as such, after the long day of discussion to which they were first invited. Then from time to time would come Christian brethren, envoys from distant Churches, or personal friends; Epaphroditus from Philippi, Aristarchus from Thessalonica, Tychicus from Ephesus, Epaphras from Colossæ, John Mark, Demas, Jesus Justus. Luke, “the beloved physician,” was present perhaps always, and Timotheus, the Apostle’s spiritual son, very frequently. One other memorable name occurs, Onesimus, the fugitive Colossian slave, whose story we have to study more fully below. His case is at once a striking evidence of the liberty of access to the Apostle granted to anyone and everyone, and a beautiful illustration both of the character of St Paul and the transfiguring power and righteous principles of the Gospel.
No doubt the visitors to this obscure but holy lodging were far more miscellaneous than even this list suggests. Through the successive Prætorian sentinels some knowledge of the character and message of the prisoner would be always passing out. The right interpretation of Phil. 1:13 1 1 See Lightfoot, Philippians , pp. 99 &c. is, beyond reasonable doubt, that the true account of Paul’s imprisonment came to be “known in the Prætorian regiments, and generally among people around;” and Philippians 4:22 indicates that a body of earnest and affectionate converts had arisen among the population of slaves and freedmen attached to the Palace of Nero. And the wording of that passage suggests that such Christians found a welcome meeting-place in the rooms of the Apostle; doubtless for frequent worship, doubtless also for direct instruction, and for the blessed enjoyments of the family affection of the Gospel. Meanwhile (Philippians 1:15 , Philippians 1:16 ) there was a section of the Roman Christian community, probably the disciples infected with the prejudices of the Pharisaic party (see Acts 15:0 &c.), who, with very few exceptions (see Colossians 4:11 and notes), took sooner or later a position of trying antagonism to St Paul; a trial over which he triumphed in the deep peace of Christ.
It is an interesting possibility, not to say probability, that from time to time the lodging was visited by enquirers of intellectual fame or distinguished rank. Ancient Christian tradition 2 2 The first hint appears in Tertullian, cent. 2 3. actually makes the renowned Stoic writer, L. Annæus Seneca, tutor and counsellor of Nero, a convert of St Paul’s; and one phase of the legend was the fabrication, within the first four centuries, of a correspondence between the two. It is quite certain that Seneca was never a Christian, though his language is full of startling superficial parallels to that of the N.T., and these are most full in his latest writings. But it is at least very likely that he heard, through his many channels of information, of St Paul’s existence and presence, and that he was intellectually interested in his teaching; and it is quite possible that he cared to visit him. It is not improbable, surely, that Seneca’s brother Gallio (Acts 18:12 ) may have described St Paul, however passingly, in a letter; for Gallio’s religious indifference may quite well have consisted with a strong personal impression made on him by St Paul’s bearing. Festus himself was little interested in the Gospel, or at least took care to seem so, and yet was deeply impressed by the personality of the Apostle. Again, the Prefect of the Imperial Guard, a.d. 61, was Afranius Burrus, Seneca’s intimate colleague as counsellor to Nero, and it is at least possible that he had received from Festus a more than commonplace description of the prisoner consigned to him 1 1 We cannot but think that Bp Lightfoot ( Philippians , p. 301) somewhat underrates the probability that Gallio and Burrus should have given Seneca an interest in St Paul. .
Bp Lightfoot, in his Essay, “St Paul and Seneca” ( Philippians , pp. 270, &c.), thinks it possible to trace in some of the Epistles of the Captivity a Christian adaptation of Stoic ideas. The Stoic, for example, made much of the individual’s membership in the great Body of the Universe, and citizenship in its great City. The connexion suggested is interesting, and it falls quite within the methods of Divine inspiration that materials of scriptural imagery should be collected from a secular region. But the language of St Paul about the Mystical Body, in the Ephesian and Colossian Epistles, reads far more like a direct revelation than like an adaptation; and it evidently deals with a truth which is already, in its substance, perfectly familiar to the readers 2 2 It appears in 1 Corinthians , written a few years before Ephesians . See 1 Cor. 12, and cp. Rom. 12. .
Other conspicuous personages of Roman society at the time have been reckoned by tradition among the chamber-converts of St Paul, among them the poet Lucan and the Stoic philosopher Epictetus 3 3 See above, p. 18. For the curiously Christian tone of Epictetus’ writings here and there, see Bp Lightfoot, Philippians , pp. 313 &c. The Manual of Epictetus is a book of gold in its own way, but that way is not Christian. . But there is no historical evidence for these assertions. It is interesting and suggestive, on the other hand, to recall one almost certain case of conversion about this time within the highest Roman aristocracy. Pomponia Græcina, wife of Aulus Plautius, the conqueror of Britain, was accused (a.d. 57, probably), of “foreign superstition,” and tried by her husband as domestic judge. He acquitted her. But the deep and solemn seclusion of her life (a seclusion begun a.d. 44, when her friend the princess Julia was put to death, and continued unbroken till her own death, about a.d. 84), taken in connexion with the charge, as in all likelihood it was, of Christianity, “suggests that, shunning society, she sought consolation in the duties and hopes of the Gospel” 1 1 Lightfoot, Philippians , p. 21. , leaving for ever the splendour and temptations of the world of Rome. She was not a convert, obviously, of St Paul’s; but her case suggests the possibility of other similar cases. And she would assuredly seek intercourse with the Apostle during his Roman residence.
At what time of the Two Years the Epistle to the Colossians was written we cannot hope to determine with precision. It is a prevalent theory that the Ephesian and Colossian Epistles date somewhat early in the period, and the Philippian late. Bp Lightfoot ( Philippians , pp. 30, &c.), as we have observed above (p. 22), has given some strong reasons for the reversal of the order. The strongest, in our view, is the consideration of style in the respective Epistles. Philippians , so far as it is dogmatic, approaches certainly much nearer to the type of Romans than Ephesians does; and this suggests a comparative nearness in date. The test of style demands caution, in its application, in the case of a writer of such compass and versatility as St Paul; circumstances might suggest similarity of subject to his mind at widely separated times, and the subject rather than the time would rule the style, within certain limits. But in this case we have further to observe that the style of the Ephesian Group (so to call it) is manifestly, in some aspects, a new style, and charged with dogmatic materials in many respects new. And this suggests at least the probability of an interval between the Roman and Ephesian Epistles as long as the chronology will reasonably allow.
We may conjecture that it was at some time in a.d. 62, or even early in a.d. 63, that the Colossian Epistle, with its companions, Philemon and Ephesians , was written. Tychicus (4:7; Ephesians 6:21 ), an Asiatic, and perhaps Ephesian, Christian, had been at Rome at St Paul’s side, and was now ready to return eastward as his representative. And with him was going another and more recent convert, Onesimus, fugitive slave of a leading Colossian convert 1 1 See further, Introduction to the Ep. to Philemon, ch. 2. , who had somehow found his way from Phrygia to Rome, and to St Paul, and through him to faith in Christ, and was now, at St Paul’s instigation, returning to his master. Meantime a visitor had come from Colossæ, Epaphras, himself a Colossian (4:12) and the first missionary to Colossæ (1:7). Perhaps he had acted, like many a modern missionary, as pastor also in the place where he had first preached Christ, and in its neighbourhood (4:13); certainly some time had elapsed since the first evangelization, as the tone and contents of Colossians and Philemon bear witness; and Epaphras appears as both the original evangelist and the anxious watcher afterwards over the flock once gathered out. Circumstances of the mission, apparently, had suggested to him a visit to Rome, to consult his apostolic chief; and he had come, leaving behind him, it would seem, as his successor or assistant in the missionary pastorate one Archippus (4:17; Philemon 1:2 ), probably the son of Philemon.
Other reasons may have concurred to occasion the visit. Like Epaphroditus of Philippi Epaphras may have brought alms from the mission to the afflicted Apostle; but no allusion to such a gift occurs. However, the main purpose of the visit is clear from the Epistle. At Colossæ, as earlier in Galatia, the infant Church was invaded by alien teaching and influence; the Colossians and their neighbours were in great danger of serious spiritual harm, above all as regarded a full realization of the glory of the Person of the Lord, and of the all-sufficiency of His atoning and mediating work to secure both the pardon and the moral purity of the believer. This Epaphras must report to St Paul, and either carry a message back, or procure its going by other hands. In the following chapter we examine in some detail the question, what was the alien teaching thus reported from Colossæ.
alien teaching at colossæ
What does the Epistle indicate as the kind of danger which beset the faith of the Colossians? Combining the passages of explicit warning with others which evidently emphasize a somewhat discredited truth, we get the following result.
The new influences tended in practice, if not in theory, to throw into the background the unique greatness of the Son of God as the Divine King; as the perfect Propitiation, who by the blood of His Cross has won our peace; as the Vital Head of the Church; as the Bearer of the Plenitude of Deity; as the living Likeness of the invisible God, and also as the Origin of all created being, including the angelic orders (1:13 20) whose Head as well as Cause He is (2:10). They were tempted to forget that He is the ultimate “Secret of God” (2:2), in whom the Christian possesses all that God has to reveal for his salvation; in whom he has access to all the wealth of the Divine wisdom; in whom he is “filled full,” being united to the incarnate Abode of all the Plenitude of God (2:2 10). They were tempted to forget that union with Jesus Christ by faith, of which union their baptism was the Divine pledge and seal, was everything for their spiritual life and health; that “in” Him, He being what He was, and having done what He had done, they were “circumcised” into the true Israel of faith and holiness, were disburthened of the awful debt of guilt, were “buried” to sin, and “risen again” to acceptance, and moral purity and power, possessing a life “hidden with Him in God” (which life in fact was He), and looking forward to His Return as the occasion and cause of the outburst of this life into glory (2:11 14; 3:1 4). They were tempted on the other hand to adopt substitutes for this Divine Secret, Christ, in the pursuit of spiritual peace and purity. Teachers, or a teacher, were among them who spoke speciously of a “philosophy,” and claimed to hold a “tradition” (the mere product, as a fact, of human thought), independent of the Message of Christ and tending away from Him (2:8); not, apparently, by way of direct denial but as teaching a need of supplements to Him and His work, and of other intermediations between the disciple and God. This preacher, or school, advocated a strict ascetic rule of food (2:16, 21), a diligent observance of the Jewish yearly, monthly, and weekly holy days, and also recourse to angelic beings as subsidiary mediators with God (2:8); mediators apparently, not with Christ (or there would be little point in the stress laid by St Paul on His creative and regal relation to angels, and on His conquest (2:15) over rebels from among them in His crucifixion), but with God absolutely. Angels were presented as another and as it were rival path of communication with the Supreme, and so far they broke the Christian’s hold upon his Head (2:19) as his direct and all-sufficient Union with God. Traces may perhaps be found in the same teaching of a tendency to an esoteric and exclusive theory; a doctrine of secrets and initiation. The reference to Christ as the true Depositary of “hidden treasures” (2:8) may point this way. However, the openness and universality of the Gospel are powerfully emphasized in the Epistle.
Such on the whole were the principles and influences of which Epaphras had to speak as he sate with the Apostle in the Roman lodging. What may we infer as to their source and historical connexion?
In the first place, it is reasonably plain that the influence on the whole was one . Some critics have assumed two independent but concurrent invasions of Colossian faith, one speculative, the other ritualistic 1 1 Lightfoot, pp. 74, 75. . But let the reader take the Epistle as a whole, and he will surely feel that such a division is arbitrary; the insistences on truth and warnings against error are too freely interwoven for the theory. Allusions to “philosophy” glide imperceptibly into allusions to circumcision, sabbaths, and ascetic rules, and again into allusions to fancied insights into the unseen world.
Again, the danger comes rather from within than from without the pale of Christianity. It is not indicated that any direct assault on the claims of Christ was in question; the risk was rather that principles and practices (see 2:6) really inconsistent with His claims should be adopted unthinkingly, to the ultimate wreck of faith.
Again, the movement was Judaic (however much it was Christiano -Judaic). This is plain from the allusions to the Jewish feasts, and to rules of abstinence. True, the Old Testament has no express restrictive rules about drinks (2:16), except for the Nazi rite; but Rabbinical Judaism, which would certainly influence the Judaizer of St Paul’s day, had such rules. (And see Hebrews 9:10 for a similar allusion to “meats and drinks ,” as matters about which the Law was held actually to speak.) It is implied in 2:17 that the new teachers taught the permanence of the ritual Law. And the marked allusion to angel-worship (2:18) points to a practice widely-spread in later Judaism. Again, we may compare the Epistle to the Hebrews (1:4 14), as indicating such a risk in Palestine as well as at Colossæ.
Meantime elements appear in this Colossian movement which are not altogether of the ordinary Judaic type. The new doctrine presented itself as not only a “tradition” (cp. Matthew 15:2 ), but as a “philosophy.” Too much must not be made of this word, as if it necessarily suggested a system of independent speculation on problems of existence, and the like; for in some quarters of the Jewish religious world, about the apostolic time, there was a tendency to disarm Gentile prejudice by representing Jewish doctrine and practice as a sort of “philosophy,” practical rather than speculative 1 1 In the Jewish tract, The Fourth Book of the Maccabees , the writer represents the refusal of the Maccabees to eat unhallowed food as a use of “reasoning” (λογισμός), and appeals to the reader, in the opening of the book, to “give heed to philosophy.” We owe this reference to memoranda of the late Dr Hort’s Lectures (see above, p. 22, note ). Dr Hort inclines on the whole to see less than Bp Lightfoot sees of a “Gnostic” element in the Colossian movement, and to account for its phenomena rather on the theory that it was Judaism of a more ordinary type, but using a somewhat Grecized phraseology. . Still, the presence of this tone in the movement at Colossæ indicates a somewhat different school from that which had invaded Galatia; in the Galatian Epistle we find no trace of such aspects, or at least of such a phraseology, of error. So the Judaists of Colossæ may very possibly have tinged their thought and teaching with some of those attempts to combine Hebrew or Christian revelation with independent speculation, or reverie, which later, in a more developed form, came to be known as Gnosticism.
The Gnostic, as he is seen in his maturity, is occupied with two great problems; the mystery of Creation and the mystery of Evil. He attempted to account for finite Existence by a self-limitation of the Infinite, such that a chain of Emanations (called “ Angels ” by Cerinthus, the first historical Gnostic, St John’s younger contemporary) bridged the gulph between the world and the Supreme. And he practically identified evil with matter, and taught that the true purification lay in the spirit’s emancipation from material trammels. As to practical results, this theory led some to an extreme asceticism, others to an unrestrained licence; the one insisting on the need of so to speak attenuating the body to the utmost, the other on that of an absolute indifference to its motions. If such theories, which doubtless were far and wide “in the air” about the date of our Epistle, had at all affected the new teacher, or teachers, at Colossæ, it must have been (2:21) in the ascetic direction. As regards the problem of creation, we may perhaps see in Colossians 1:0 an indication that this also was in their minds. We seem to see that they failed to grasp the glorious suggestions of a solution given in the revelation of the Incarnate Son, One with God and One with man, Head of Creation and Head of the Church, Cause of finite being and Cause of the sinner’s salvation; but sought an ineffectual answer in a theory of angelic agency between the Supreme and the world and man.
Bp Lightfoot, with great learning and labour, and admirably clear exposition, has discussed in this connexion the question whether the new teaching at Colossæ was influenced, directly or indirectly, or at least was akin to, the belief and teaching of the Essenes 1 1 Incidentally to this discussion he has written the fullest and most learned dissertation in existence on the Essenes. Colossians , pp. 114 179. .
The Essenes, otherwise Essæans 1 1 The names are of uncertain derivation; of the many suggested Lightfoot inclines to that from the Hebrew châshâ, “to be silent, ” with a reference to mystic meditation. , are described by Josephus 2 2 The main passage is Wars of the Jews , ii. 8. § 2 13. as the third Jewish sect or school with the Pharisees and Sadducees. He gives an elaborate and curious picture of their life, characteristics, and doctrines, which is supplemented for us by other Jewish notices 3 3 Especially Philo, Quod omnis bonus liber , §§ 12, 13. , and by a passage in the Natural History of the elder Pliny (5:17), who gives a brief epigrammatic account of them, as “a people of all most wonderful,” living near Engadda (Engedi) on the west side of the Dead Sea, without money and without marriage, but continually replenished in numbers by accessions from the outer world 4 4 He says that the race is thus “eternal through thousands of centuries.” This has been taken to mean (by Lightfoot among others) that Pliny understood them to be of immense antiquity. Does it not rather mean, more generally, that their proselyte system enables them to defy time? . Here apparently was their headquarters, and there is little certain trace of their diffusion beyond Palestine and Syria; but Josephus says, vaguely, that they were to be found everywhere. They were “rather an order than a school;” observing a rigid rule of life; divided into grades; making a prolonged scrutiny of every applicant for membership; absolute communists, and (as a rule) celibates; bound together by sworn fidelity and secrecy, while also industrious and kindly. Their characteristics as religionists were curiously anomalous; on the one hand they were sabbatarians far more strict than the Pharisees, and observed extremely rigid laws of ceremonial purity, on the other hand they repudiated animal sacrifices. Meanwhile they held that the body was the mere prison of the soul, and they apparently looked for no bodily resurrection. And they were certainly in some degree sun-worshippers, however this was reconciled with Hebrew monotheism. They reverenced Moses next to God, but they had sacred books of their own (apparently) over and above the Old Testament Scriptures; which Scriptures possibly they received only in part. They appear to have cut themselves off from national interests, aiming only at the highest good of the individual. They disappear after the ruin of Jerusalem; the Romans fell on their community with persecuting fierceness, and probably extirpated it 1 1 In a book ascribed to Philo (cent. i.), On the Contemplative Life , is a curious description of the Therapeutœ , or Devotees, of Egypt, which is in many respects like that of the Essenes by Josephus and Philo. See an account of it in Eusebius, History , ii. 17; with notes in the Series of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers . But it is at least possible that the book is later than Philo, and really describes a Christian monastic community. .
It has been suggested that Essenism was the result of a graft of Greek mystical philosophy (Pythagorean) on Pharisaism. But the concurrence would be a most unlikely one, both geographically and religiously. Lightfoot advocates 2 2 Lightfoot, pp. 148 etc. Lightfoot holds that the suggestion of Buddhist influences is certainly to be rejected. the view that the influence on Judaism which produced Essenism was that of Parsism, the religion of the Zend Avesta, with its condemnation of matter, its sun-worship, its reverence for super-human intermediate world-rulers, and its intense striving after purity. History and geography alike make such contact and influence, some time before our Era, not unlikely 3 3 On Essenism and Christianity, see further Appendix E. .
In applying these facts to the question of the troubles at Colossæ Bp Lightfoot infers that the Essenes exercised an influence, however indirect, on the Judaistic teachers who disturbed the Church. Dr Hort (as referred to above, p. 32, note note In the Jewish tract, The Fourth Book of the Maccabees , the writer represents the refusal of the Maccabees to eat unhallowed food as a use of “reasoning” (λογισμός), and appeals to the reader, in the opening of the book, to “give heed to philosophy.” We owe this reference to memoranda of the late Dr Hort’s Lectures (see above, p. 22, note ). Dr Hort inclines on the whole to see less than Bp Lightfoot sees of a “Gnostic” element in the Colossian movement, and to account for its phenomena rather on the theory that it was Judaism of a more ordinary type, but using a somewhat Grecized phraseology. ) contends on the other hand that there is no clear evidence of Essene influence at Colossæ, and that it was confined, so far as we know, to Palestine. But Lightfoot thinks it at least likely that the same ideas which produced Essenism animated the alien teachers at Colossæ. And while Essenism as an organization may never have left Palestine, individual Essenes may well have travelled, and may have carried about a medley of Christianity and quasi-Judaism with them.
Obviously, the case is not one for absolute decisions. We venture to think that Bp Lightfoot has drawn somewhat too large conclusions from his vast and masterly collection of data; the references to an esoteric system in the Epistle are not, as it appears to us, quite so full as he takes them to be. On the other hand Dr Hort, whose every word on such a question calls for attention and deference as justly as Bp Lightfoot’s, seems to us somewhat to overstate the case in holding, apparently, that in essence the teaching was simply Judaism with a special dialect. For firstly, this does not quite account for the indications given in Colossians 1:0 of a special need to emphasize our Lord’s Headship over Creation; and secondly, it seems to neglect the fact that the movement took, in part, the direction of an intense asceticism with a view to subdue the flesh (2:20 23). This is not Pharisaism, but something much more like Essenism, whether or no the two had a traceable connexion. “The teaching”, says Dr R. Sinker, “is probably not Essene, but it is Essenic.”
In any case Lightfoot seems to be fully justified in seeing in the troubles at Colossæ, on one side of them, an embryo of the type of speculative thought which so much disturbed the Church of the second century, and is known as Gnosticism. Particularly he regards Cerinthus (see above, p. 33) as a link in history between such a movement as that at Colossæ and the developed Gnosticism 1 1 Colossians , pp. 107 etc. . Cerinthus taught in proconsular Asia, within St John’s lifetime. The accounts of his doctrine preserved to us indicate a thinker who combined a spurious Christianity, involving utterly inadequate views of our Lord’s Person, with some Judaistic principles and practices, and with a theory of creation which included the agency of world-making “Angels” 2 2 See, besides Lightfoot as constantly quoted here, Mansel’s Gnostic Heresies , especially Lectures i iv., and viii. .
This review of the actual and possible characteristics of the disturbing movement in the missions of the Lycus will serve in some measure to aid the reader’s appreciation of the earnestness with which St Paul, after hearing Epaphras’ report, sets himself to emphasize the glory of the Son of God, the mighty fulness of His redeeming work, and the immediate relation between Him as Head and each believer as member. Along this road of circumstance the Inspirer led the apostolic Prophet, to give to the Colossians an Epistle which, written to meet a local and peculiar need, now unfolds to the whole Church the radiant mystery of the Person and Work of Christ.
authenticity of the epistle
The external evidence for the Pauline authorship of the Epistle as we have it is abundant. In the second century Irenæus (about a.d. 115 a.d. 190), the Asiatic bishop of Lyons, quotes the Epistle expressly ( Adv. Hœreses , iii. 14. 1): “Again, in the Epistle written to the Colossians, he says, ‘ Luke, the beloved physician, salutes you .’ ” Clement of Alexandria (perhaps a.d. 150 a.d. 220) quotes the Epistle ( Stromata , i. p. 325), in favour of using every sort of “wisdom” in the work of the Gospel: “In the Epistle to the Colossians he writes, ‘ Admonishing every man, and teaching in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ .’ ” Tertullian, of Carthage (about contemporary with Clement of Alexandria), quotes the Epistle ( De Prœscriptione , c. 7): “Hence these endless fables and genealogies, and fruitless questions, and words creeping like a cancer, from which the Apostle would restrain us ( refrenans ), expressly assuring us that we must be on our guard against philosophy, writing to the Colossians, ‘ See that no one be beguiling you ( circumveniens vos ) through philosophy and empty seduction, according to the tradition of men, beyond the providence of the Holy Spirit .’ ” 1 1 In this last clause is he quoting loosely from memory, or merely commenting or supplementing? And in his book De Resurrectione Carnis, c. xxiii , (a chapter which is a mass of mainly Pauline extracts), he quotes Colossians 1:21 , Colossians 1:2 :12, Colossians 1:13 , Colossians 1:20 , 3:Colossians 1:1-3 ; with the introduction, “The Apostle thus teaches, writing to the Colossians.” Origen, of Alexandria (about a.d. 185 a.d. 254), quotes the Epistle ( Contra Celsum , v. 8): “In Paul …, in the (Epistle) to the Colossians, we read as follows, ‘ Let no man beguile you of your reward ’ ” (and so throughout Colossians 2:18 , Colossians 2:19 ). Possible allusions to the Epistle are traceable in other primitive writers. Ignatius ( ob . about a.d. 110) uses passingly ( To the Ephesians , c. 3) the precise Greek of Colossians 1:23 , “ settled in the faith .” Clement of Rome (cent, i.) perhaps adopts the phrase “ love, which is the bond of perfectness ” when he writes to the Corinthians (1 Epistle , c. 49), “Who can describe the bond of the love of God?” Less doubtfully Theophilus, of Antioch (a.d. 176 a.d. 186), in his apologetic work called Ad Autolycum , uses the words of Colossians 1:15 : “He begat this Word to be His Utterance ( προφορικόν ), Firstborn of all creation .” The same phrase, probably from the same Colossian source, is used by Justin Martyr, of Palestine (about a.d. 110 a.d. 170), in his Dialogue with Trypho (p. 311, b): “In the name of this Son of God and Firstborn of all creation … every demon, adjured, is conquered.” And apparent allusions to it occur in two other places of the same book (pp. 310, b, 326, d). The heretic Marcion (contemporary with Justin), “the earliest of destructive critics,” admitted Colossians into his Apostolicon , or Canon of the Epistles 1 1 Westcott, Canon of N.T ., Pt. i. ch. 4. § 9. .
Not till quite recent times was it suggested that internal evidence was unfavourable to the authenticity of the Epistle. Mayerhoff (1838) and Baur (1845) maintained that it betrays a late date (somewhere in the second century) by variations of style and diction from the supposed normal style of St Paul, by its manifest likeness to the Ephesians (which in the opinion of these critics is certainly not Pauline 2 2 See Ephesians in this Series, pp. 22 4. ), and by its alleged explicit references to the doctrines either of Cerinthus (Mayerhoff), or of the Ebionites (Baur); the Ebionites regarding “Jesus” as a merely human being temporarily possessed by “Christ,” and largely Judaizing their conception of Christianity.
To the first objection it is surely fair to reply by an appeal to the reader to “taste” the style of the Epistle. Can anything be more alive with thought and feeling, and more absolutely unlike an elaborate literary fabrication, produced (on the hypothesis) in an age of declining literary power? Meyer 1 1 Kommentar über das N.T ., vii. x., p. 179. quotes words to this purpose from Erasmus, who is giving his opinion on the style of the alleged Epistle to Laodicea 2 2 See below, ch. 5. : “It is not everyone who can personate Paul’s heart ( Paulinum pectus effingere ); Paul thunders, and lightens, and utters fiery flames ( meras flammas ).” It is surely uncritical in a high degree, in examining a work externally well-attested as Pauline, to find a difficulty in the absence from it of some classes of words (e.g. “ righteousness,” “salvation ,” and certain connective particles) elsewhere familiar, and in the presence in it of new words like “ plenitude ” ( plerôma ), or even invented words like “ will-worship ” and “ will-humility .” Such a mind as St Paul’s is seen to be in the unquestioned Epistles, e.g. Romans and Corinthians , was abundantly rich enough, putting Divine inspiration quite aside, freely to vary both its vocabulary and its diction with time and circumstances 3 3 See Salmon, Introd. to N.T ., pp. 469, 470, for some characteristic remarks on “the doctrine that a man, writing a new composition, must not, on pain of losing his identity, employ any word that he has not used in a former one.” Salmon quotes from Prof. Mahaffy the observation that the style of Xenophon, “whose life corresponded to St Paul’s in its roving habits,” shews “a remarkable variation in vocabulary; … so that, on the ground of variation in diction, each single book might be, and indeed has been, rejected as non-Xenophontic.” .
To the objections connected with the Ephesian Epistle we must reply in part by the arguments which support the authenticity of this latter 4 4 See Ephesians , in this Series, pp. 22 24, for a short summary of them. Here too it is most important that the reader should “taste” the Epistle, putting the controversy as much as possible out of mind, and ask himself if in argument, moral aim, and structure, it reads like an anxious fabrication made at a time when Christian thought was not rising but in some important respects declining. . But the literary criticism of Colossians may fairly be pursued in great measure independently; the more so as a comparison of the two Epistles favours the hypothesis that Colossians was written before Ephesians , at whatever interval 5 5 See below, ch. 6. .
The suspicions of Mayerhoff and Baur, due to alleged signs in the Epistle of the writer’s acquaintance with a developed Ebionism or Gnosticism, may fairly be met by asking for genuine evidence from the Epistle. It is certain that Gnosticism, and Ebionism, as they appear in history, did not spring suddenly on the Church, but grew from antecedents, some of which lay far in the past, in Judaism or in Oriental mysticism. Thus it was not only possible but highly likely that in the lifetime of St Paul tendencies of thought should appear which called out reasonings and phraseology on his part applicable also as a fact to the Gnostic controversy when developed 1 1 See Meyer, as above, and Mansel, Gnostic Heresies , esp. ch. 4. We transcribe the following sentences from memoranda of a Cambridge Lecture on Colossians by Bp. (then Prof.) Lightfoot, May 1862: “The language of St Paul, and still more that of St John, often proves that the Gnostics borrowed their language, though no doubt perverting it. Hence it is no argument to infer from the appearance of the same terms in St Paul and some Gnostic writers that Gnosticism was earlier than the Epistle.” M. Renan says the same in effect: “Instead of rejecting the authenticity of passages of the N.T. where we find traces of Gnosticism, we must sometimes reason inversely, and seek in these passages the origin” (we should rather say indications of the origin) “of Gnostic ideas of the second century” ( Saint Paul, Introduction , pp. x. xi). See further, Appendix C. .
Some continental critics (reviewed by Meyer), granting the general authenticity of the Epistle, hold that we have it interpolated with un-Pauline insertions; or that it was mentally formed by St Paul but put into written shape by another hand. Here again the best answer will be the fresh and attentive reading of the Epistle as a whole. It is difficult to say where, in any literature at all similar, we are to look for a close and complex coherence, and for a powerful and sustained individuality of expression, if not in the Epistle to the Colossians 2 2 See Appendix D for some remarks on the phenomena of “the literature of tendency .” .
M. Renan ( Saint Paul , pp. vii xi) after marshalling, in a spirit of the freest and least reverent criticism, what may be thought the suspicious aspects of the contents of the Epistle, deliberately asserts his conviction of its authenticity: “The Epistle to the Colossians, as we believe, is the work of Paul. It presents many features which negative the hypothesis of fabrication. One of these, surely, is its connexion with the Note ( billet ) to Philemon. If the Epistle is apocryphal the Note is apocryphal. But few are the pages which shew so pronounced a tone of sincerity. Paul alone, so fax as it appears, was capable of that short masterpiece.”
the ephesian epistle and the epistle from laodicea
In our edition of Ephesians ( Introduction , ch. 4) we have reviewed the question whether that Epistle was rather a Circular to a group of Churches than a message only to one. We stated the problem of Ephesians 1:1 , where the words “ at Ephesus ” are missing from some important mss., and where collateral evidence shews “that an uncertainty, to say the least, attached very early and very widely to the two words.” We noticed the absence from Ephesians of any “Ephesian destination on the face of it”; “the salutations are of the most general kind, and the topics of the Epistle are of the highest and least local. The obvious connexion of its contents with the Colossian Epistle, and the name of Tychicus in both Epistles, fix the destination to Roman Asia, but scarcely to a narrower area. The phenomenon is the more noticeable when St Paul’s peculiarly intimate and prolonged relations with Ephesus are considered.” On the other hand, only two mss. omit the words (except one other, where a later hand does so); all ancient Versions shew them; and no Church other than Ephesus appears ever to have claimed the Epistle. “As against the suggestion that St Paul, designing the Epistle to be an Asiatic Circular, left out the name of any Church in the very place where in other Epistles a name is found, it may fairly be asked whether it is not far more likely that he would have written, in such a case, ‘ in Asia ,’ or, ‘ in the Churches of Asia .’ ” We summed up the case thus:
“On reviewing the evidence, … the true theory must embrace the phenomena, on the one hand, of a very early variation in the reading of Ephesians 1:1 , and of the non-local tone of the Epistle; on the other hand, of the universal tradition of its destination to Ephesus, and the immense documentary evidence for it, and the total absence of any serious rival claim. In constructing such a theory it will be useful to remember … that the City stood in the closest possible relation to the Province, both politically and in regard of St Paul’s three years’ work … Ephesus, more than many another Metropolis, may well have represented its Province to the writer’s mind. We believe that the facts are fairly met by the view that St Paul actually addressed the Epistle … ‘to the saints that are in Ephesus,’ but designing it also for the other Asian Churches; and that the transcripts dispersed through the Province frequently omitted this precise original address accordingly, but without introducing any other. It was well understood to be the property of Ephesus, but in trust for the Province.”
Archbishop Ussher (cent. 17) first suggested the “Circular Letter” theory 1 1 Annales N.T ., a.m. 4068. . He also suggested that Colossians 4:16 contains an allusion to such a Circular. And the phrase there well suits the theory; it is “the Epistle” (not “ to, ” but) “ from Laodicea.” Bp Lightfoot, with his usual thoroughness and fairness, examines this view, and accepts it, and takes “the Epistle from Laodicea” to be in fact our “Epistle to the Ephesians.” 2 2 The Bishop’s full discussion of the subject of the “circular” is reserved ( Colossians , p. 347) for his Introduction to the Epistle to the Ephesians; for which now we can no longer hope. The Editor has before him however full ms. notes of the Lectures on Colossians delivered by Prof. Lightfoot in 1862 (above, p. 40, note ). These notes, by the way, quote the Professor as saying, in passing, that the attempt to question the authenticity of the Ephesian Epistle is “quite useless; it is thoroughly Pauline.” He states and effectually disposes of the following other theories of “the Epistle from Laodicea”: that it was
1. An Epistle written by the Laodicean Church, to St Paul, or to Epaphras, or to the Colossians; perhaps complaining of evils in the Colossian Church;
2. An Epistle written by St Paul from Laodicea, and if so either 1 Timothy , 1 Thess ., 2 Thess ., or Galatians; conjectures faintly supported by the “Subscriptions” to these Epistles in some mss. (see e.g. that retained in the A.V. under 1 Tim .), but fully negatived by the internal evidence of the Epistles.
He quotes lastly the suggestion that it was
3. An Epistle addressed to the Laodiceans; either by St John (1 Ep .); or by Epaphras, Luke, or some other friend of St Paul’s; or by St Paul himself.
Historical and literary evidence narrows the question to this last point, and it remains to ask, what Epistle from St Paul can be that which the Colossians were to procure “from Laodicea”?
As a fact, conjecture has named three of the extant Epistles bearing St Paul’s name; Hebrews, Philemon, Ephesians . The first suggestion (apart from the question of Pauline authorship) is negatived by the contents of Hebrews , which deals with a quite different phase of error and trial from those which would beset Asian Christians of the year 63. The second suggestion is trivial; as Lightfoot well says (p. 347); “The tact and delicacy of the Apostle’s pleading for Onesimus would be nullified at one stroke by the demand for publication” of the letter to Philemon. The suggestion of Ephesians thus alone remains, with two alternatives from other quarters; one, that “the Epistle from Laodicea” is lost, the other that we still possess it, in a form to be given just below, but as to which we may say beforehand that that “Epistle” is a certainly spurious document.
In the theory of a lost Epistle there is nothing a priori impossible. The Divine providence which built up the Christian Scriptures was not obliged to employ, for the permanent and universal use of the Church, all that even Apostles produced, even under special inspiration. But on the other hand we rightly decline to assume a loss where there is no necessity to do so. And the phenomena of the Ephesian Epistle fairly answer the needs of this case. It is addressed to Asia. It deals with phases of truth and error known to us (from Colossians ) to be specially prominent there. It is otherwise non-local, and fit for a Circular. It bears traces, as we have seen, of having been addressed not solely to Ephesus. The serious difficulty of the theory lies in the question, whether two letters at once so like and so unlike as Ephesians and Colossians would be used inter-changeably by St Paul’s direction. And perhaps the only answer must be that the difficulty is at least far from an impossibility. With all the doctrinal likeness of the two letters, great elements of truth appear in each which are absent from its fellow the creative Work of the Son in the one, the sanctifying Work of the Spirit in the other 1 1 See below, p. 50. ; and this may have been enough to justify an arrangement which from other points of view is less intelligible 2 2 Weiss ( Einleitung , p. 262) thinks that “the Epistle from Laodicea” cannot be our Ephesians; at least, that the theory demands artificial hypotheses in support ( künstliche Hilfshypothesen ). He refers to Eph. 6:12 as indicating that Tychicus was to present the letter personally, and therefore, if it were a Circular, to travel round with it; and thinks that this, if Col. 4:16 refers to Ephesians , would mean that Tychicus with Onesimus would go a long round, including Laodicea, before reaching Colossæ, where Onesimus was to surrender to his master. He thinks too that it is unlikely that St Paul should greet the Laodiceans in Colossians (4:15) if he were sending them at the same time a letter ( Ephesians ) by the hand of the same friend. But these reasons seem inconclusive. The hypothesis, if “artificial,” is not forced, that Tychicus would only in a general sense accompany the “Ephesian” letter; would rather set it going on its round, visiting the Churches personally as he was able. Even otherwise, Laodicea was on the road from Ephesus to Colossæ . Tychicus and Onesimus might arrive there together, make a very short stay, and then go on to Colossæ, leaving the “Ephesian” Circular to be brought on after them. .
It may be added that the metropolitan position of Laodicea in the Cibyratic Union (above, p. 13) would account for the sending of a Circular thither rather than to any neighbour Church.
It remains only to state briefly the facts about the so-called “Epistle to the Laodiceans.” 3 3 Lightfoot, pp. 347 366.
It is a short composition in letter form, found (so far as we know) only in Latin in the mss. The earliest known copy dates from cent. 6. Lightfoot gives good reason however for the belief that it was first written in Greek. The Latin style bears marks of the constraint of translation, and of translation from the Greek. Its (concealed) quotations from St Paul are not drawn from the ancient Latin Versions of his canonical Epistles, as they most probably would have been had the fabricator written in Latin. And there is good evidence that an “Epistle to the Laodiceans” was early known to Greek readers; e.g. Theodoret (cent. 5) writes (in Greek) of a “fabricated Epistle” which “some brought forward.” Lightfoot “restores” the Greek from the Latin; the task is not difficult, so truly is the composition, in his words, “a cento of Pauline phrases, strung together without any definite connexion or any clear object; … taken chiefly from the Epistle to the Philippians, but here and there one is borrowed from elsewhere, e.g. from the Epistle to the Galatians.”
The “Epistle” reads as follows; we translate from the Latin text as it is printed by Lightfoot.
“To the Laodiceans
“Paul an Apostle, not of men, nor through man, but through Jesus Christ, to the brethren who are at Laodicea. Grace unto you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
“I give thanks to God in (lit. through) every prayer of mine, that ye are abiding ( permanentes ) in Him, and persevering in His works, looking for the promise unto the day of judgment. And let not the vain speech of certain men beguile you, who teach ( insinuantium ) in order that they may turn you away from the Gospel which is preached by me. And now God shall bring it about that those who proceed from me prove serviceable for the furtherance of the truth of the Gospel, and doers of the goodness of the works which belong to the salvation of life eternal.
“And now are manifest my bonds, which I suffer in Christ; wherein I exult and rejoice. And this is to me for perpetual salvation; which also is done by your prayers and by the administration of the Holy Spirit, whether through life or through death. For to me to live is Christ and to die is joy. And His mercy shall do in you this very thing, that you should have the same love and be of one mind.
“Therefore, dearly beloved, as ye hearkened in my presence, so hold fast and do in the fear of God, and you shall have life for evermore; for it is God who worketh in you. And do without disputing whatsoever ye do.
“And for what remaineth, dearly beloved, rejoice in Christ; and beware of them who are defiled with gain. Let all your requests be manifest before God; and be ye stedfast in the mind of Christ. And the things which are whole, and true, and grave, and just, and lovely, do. And the things which ye have heard and received in the heart, hold fast; and ye shall have peace.
“The saints salute you.
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (be) with your spirit.
“And see that (this) be read to the Colossians, and (that which is) of the Colossians to you.”
“For more than nine centuries,” says Lightfoot, “this forged Epistle hovered about the doors of the sacred Canon.” Gregory the Great (cent. 6) appears to receive it as Pauline, though not as canonical. In our own country, Aelfric, abbot of Cerne, in Dorset (cent. 10), ranks it as one of the “fifteen Epistles” of St Paul; and so does John of Salisbury, cent. 12. In mss. of “all ages from the sixth to the fifteenth century we have examples of its occurrence among the Pauline Epistles.” It appears in an Albigensian version, “said to belong to the thirteenth century;” in Bohemian Bibles; in German Bibles before Luther; and in two curious English versions 1 1 Printed by Lightfoot, p. 364. made soon after Wyclif’s time, say between 1400 and 1450. But the revival of learning finally disposed of its claims. Erasmus contemptuously dismissed it 2 2 See above, p. 39. ; “No argument against a Pauline authorship can be stronger than the Epistle itself.” A Lutheran scholar, and a Jesuit, both of cent. 16, are quoted as its last defenders; the latter taking it as a proof that the Church might, in her discretion, decline to insert even an apostolic letter into the Canon. But “the dawn of the Reformation Epoch had effectually scared away this ghost of a Pauline Epistle, which, we may confidently hope, has been laid for ever.”
parallels and other relations between the colossian and ephesian epistles
The parallelism of the two Epistles can be fully appreciated only through the comparative study of both the details and the whole of each; a study which will also bring out many important differences between the points of view and modes of treatment in the two. In the following table all that is offered is a view of the chief doctrinal parallels, and a few out of the very many instances of parallelism of subject, or expression, not necessarily connected with doctrine.
1. Christ the Head of the Church:
Colossians 1:18 , Colossians 2:19 = Ephesians 1:22 , Ephesians 4:15 , Ephesians 5:23 .
This view of the Lord’s position and function is practically confined to these Epistles.
2. Christ supreme over angelic powers:
Colossians 2:10 = Ephesians 1:21 .
3. The Church Christ’s Body:
Colossians 1:18 , Colossians 1:24 = Ephesians 1:23 , Ephesians 1:4 :12, Ephesians 1:5 :23, 30, &c.
4. Articulation and nourishment of the Body :
Colossians 2:19 = Ephesians 4:16 .
The imagery is peculiar to these Epistles.
5. Growth of the Body:
Colossians 2:19 = Ephesians 4:16 .
6. The Body one:
Colossians 3:15 = Ephesians 2:16 , Ephesians 4:4 .
7. Christians once dead in sin:
Colossians 2:13 = Ephesians 2:1 , Ephesians 2:5 .
8. Once alienated from God and grace:
Colossians 1:21 = Ephesians 2:12 , Ephesians 4:18 .
The Greek verb is confined to these Epistles.
9. Once in darkness:
Colossians 1:13 = Ephesians 4:18 , Ephesians 5:8 .
10. Now risen with Christ:
Colossians 2:12 , Colossians 3:1 = Ephesians 2:6 .
The Greek verb is confined to these Epistles.
11. Made alive with Christ:
Colossians 2:13 = Ephesians 2:5 .
The Greek verb is confined to these Epistles.
12. Reconciled through the Death of Christ:
Colossians 1:20 , Colossians 1:21 = Ephesians 2:13-16 .
The Greek verb is confined to these Epistles.
13. Redeemed, in the sense of pardon of sin, in Christ:
Colossians 1:14 = Ephesians 1:7 .
The exact phrase is peculiar to these Epistles.
14. In the light:
Colossians 1:12 = Eph. 5:8, 9 1 1 See our note on ver. 9. .
15. Rooted in Christ:
Colossians 2:7 = Ephesians 3:17 .
The Greek verb is confined to these Epistles.
16. Built up as a structure:
Colossians 2:7 = Ephesians 2:20 .
17. On a foundation:
Colossians 1:23 = Ephesians 3:17 .
18. Spiritually filled:
Colossians 1:9 , Colossians 2:10 = Ephesians 1:23 , Ephesians 3:19 , Ephesians 5:18 .
19. The Fulness:
Colossians 1:19 , Colossians 2:9 = Ephesians 1:23 , Ephesians 3:19 .
20. The Old Man and the New Man:
Colossians 3:9 , Colossians 3:10 = Ephesians 4:22-24 .
21. Similar classes of sins reproved:
Colossians 3:5-8 = Ephesians 4:25 , Ephesians 5:5 .
Colossians 3:12-14 = Ephesians 4:2 , Ephesians 4:3 .
22. The wrath of God coming:
Colossians 3:6 = Ephesians 5:6 .
23. The duties of home enforced, in the same order and similar words:
Colossians 3:18 , Colossians 4:1 = Ephesians 5:22 , Ephesians 6:9 .
24. The walk of sin:
Colossians 3:7 = Ephesians 2:2 , Ephesians 4:17 .
25. The walk of holiness:
Colossians 1:10 , Colossians 2:6 , Colossians 4:5 = Ephesians 2:10 , Ephesians 2:4 :1, Ephesians 2:5 :2, Ephesians 2:8 , Ephesians 2:15 .
26. Redemption of opportunity:
Colossians 4:5 = Ephesians 5:16 .
The phrase is peculiar to these Epistles.
27. Spiritual songs:
Colossians 3:16 = Ephesians 5:19 .
This precept is peculiar to these Epistles.
28. Prayer and intercession:
Colossians 4:2 = Ephesians 6:18 .
29. The Mystery revealed:
Colossians 1:26 , Colossians 1:27 , Colossians 1:2 :2, Colossians 1:4 :3 = Ephesians 1:9 , Ephesians 1:3 :3, Ephesians 1:4 , Ephesians 1:9 , Ephesians 1:6 :19.
Colossians 1:27 , Colossians 2:2 = Ephesians 1:7 , Ephesians 1:18 , Ephesians 1:2 :7, Ephesians 1:3 :8, Ephesians 1:16 .
31. Ages and generations:
Colossians 1:26 = Ephesians 3:21 .
“Generation” occurs, in St Paul, only in these Epistles and the Philippians .
32. The word of truth:
Colossians 1:5 = Ephesians 1:13 .
33. Character and commission of Tychicus:
Colossians 4:7 = Ephesians 6:21 .
Many other parallels, more or less exact, can be collected. Meanwhile it will be observed, from the above table, that the distribution of the points of likeness is complicated and, so to speak, capricious in many instances. There is no trace of a systematic expansion of the longer Epistle from the shorter, either by the author of the longer, or by a personator of the author. Rather, the phenomena perfectly fit the hypothesis of one author, of the richest possible power and individuality, and purity and nobility of purpose, dealing with two different but not unconnected sets of correspondents about the same time, and writing at once with a remembrance of their differences and with a mind preoccupied with one great department of Divine truth.
It will be observed (see above, p. 44) that the only important element of primary doctrine quite peculiar to the Colossian Epistle, as distinguished from the Ephesian, is the presentation of the Son of God as Cause and Head of the whole created Universe. (See further on this doctrine, Appendix C.) On the other hand one important omission appears, by comparison, in the Colossian Epistle. The Holy Spirit, whose work is prominent in Ephesians , is scarcely even alluded to here. The word “spirit” ( πνεῦμα ) occurs only twice, 1:8, 2:5; and in 2:5 the reference is probably not to the Holy Spirit, but to the human spirit. In 3:16 we have “ spiritual songs.”
The following remarks are quoted from the memoranda already referred to (p. 22) of lectures by the late Dr Hort:
“The complexity of the problem of the special relations between Ephesians and Colossians is shewn by the endless variety of views held by competent critics. The great likeness and also the great unlikeness between the two is to be noticed. Much of the teaching of Ephesians recurs in Colossians , though sometimes in different combinations. On the other hand Colossians differs essentially in having a large portion controversial, the points of controversy being connected with Judaism, though not with the binding character of the Law. Colossians differs also from Ephesians by the personal matter of the last 12 verses.
“Other differences, less broad, but not less interesting, occur in many of the passages which shew most likeness.
“How can we best account for the combination of resemblances and differences?… No one supposes that the two Epistles are derived from a common original. If Ephesians is not genuine, the most obvious thought is that it is derived from Colossians , whether Colossians is genuine or not. Ephesians , with its purely general character, is less like St Paul’s other Epistles than Colossians . But when critics work out the problem in detail, it is not so simple as it seemed Holtzmann took endless pains with the comparison. The result which he reached was that Ephesians was written at the end of cent. i., with borrowings from an Epistle to the Colossians, not our Epistle, but a much shorter one, now embedded in ours. Then, that this shorter Colossians was lengthened out by the author of Ephesians with interpolations in imitation of his own work. But this would be an extraordinary process.
“The only key to the intricacies is the supposition that the two are the work of one author, who in the corresponding parts of both was setting forth the same leading idea, needing to be modified in range and proportion in accordance with special circumstances, and to be variously clothed with language accordingly.
“In this case we can hardly speak of one as prior to the other; both might be products of the same state of mind. Practically, they were written together 1 1 Still, we think that the literary phenomena are in favour of a free expansion of Ephesians from Colossians rather than otherwise. The fulness of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in Ephesians , compared with the extreme brevity of Colossians on this point, is an illustration of our meaning. (Editor.) . If the needs of the Colossians called for special warnings, yet these warnings needed, as the basis for a fuller faith, some of the doctrinal matter so prominent in Ephesians . If Colossians had been only controversial it would have been far less interesting.
“Holtzmann ( Introd ., p. 293) suggests an excellent study. Compare Ephesians 3:8 , Ephesians 3:9 and 16, 17. Then put together Ephesians 1:9 and 18. Then compare these two pairs, taken together, with Colossians 1:26 and 27. We shall find a striking coincidence with variations. The Ephesian passages will appear as expansions of the Colossian in various directions. But the phrases are as much at home in their respective contexts in one Epistle as in the other …
“The prayer in Ephesians 1:18 is for knowledge; the corresponding prayer in Colossians 1:10 is that the Colossians may walk worthily, may bear fruit. But the apparent contrast is only a matter of proportion. The prayer in Ephesians has a no less practical goal in view …
“The idea of the Church as the body of which Christ is the Head is the same in Colossians as in Ephesians 4:15 , Ephesians 4:16 . But the idea of membership, only hinted at in Colossians , is worked out into an important passage in Ephesians .
“The more closely we scrutinize those parts of these Epistles which resemble each other, the more we find the stamp of freshness and originality on both . Whatever supports the genuineness, or the lateness, of either Epistle, does the same for the other. Evidence for Colossians becomes evidence for Ephesians .
“In Ephesians we find on examination no tangible evidence against St Paul’s authorship; so it would be also if we examined Colossians . In both we have not merely the primâ facie evidence of his name, but also the evidence derived from the close connexion (of thought) with his other Epistles. Above all we find in both the impress of his wonderful mind.”
Weiss ( Einleitung , p. 267, note ) writes: “The most careful examination of the parallel passages always leads to the conclusion that the appearance of dependence ( Abhängigkeit ) presented now in one Epistle, now in the other, is merely an appearance, which a more careful estimate of the context and purport of each several parallel passage destroys; and that the peculiar affinity of the two Epistles is cleared up only on the hypothesis that both are the independent but contemporaneous compositions of the same author.”
These critical considerations are a good preparation for the fresh perusal of the Epistles, just as they stand. The study from without should always be accompanied by the study from within, which alone can bring home to the reader’s whole inner man the self-evidencing moral greatness, as well as literary freedom, of the writings. Let him listen to them with at least some degree of sympathy with their matter and their manner, and he will hear through them both nothing less than the Voice of God, speaking direct to the mind, the conscience, and the will of man, alike to reveal eternal secrets and to prescribe the duties of a daily path of unselfish love.
argument of the epistle
Ch. 1: 1 2 . Paul, a divinely commissioned messenger of Jesus Christ, and Timotheus with him, greets the Christians of Colossæ, invoking blessing on them from God our Father.
3 8. He gives thanks to God, the Father of Christ, for the report he has heard [from their missionary pastor Epaphras] of their faith rested on Christ and their love exercised towards fellow Christians, a faith and love animated by the common hope [of the Lord’s Return] from heaven, which was made known to them in the earliest, and truest, Gospel messages that had reached Colossæ, bringing with it, as it was bringing everywhere among men, its secret of fruitfulness and development; yes, so it was with them since first they had heard and spiritually understood God’s gifts in their reality. It was that message [and not another] that Epaphras had originally carried to them Epaphras, Paul’s beloved fellow-servant and representative, who had [now come to him at Rome, and] told him of their loving spiritual life.
9 12. [His thanksgivings pass into petitions;] he prays that they may have the deepest possible spiritual insight into the will of God, in order to their meeting His wish in everything, as His saints should do; bearing the fruit of general practical holiness, and [so] advancing in that holy intimacy with Him [which active sympathy with His will infallibly developes]; and meanwhile gaining a fulness of strength proportioned to the forces flowing to them from God’s revealed Self, and resulting in a life of perseverance and patience, full of joy, and of the thanksgiving prompted by the fact that the Father of their Lord has qualified them [in His Son] to enter into possession of the land of light, the Canaan of grace.
13 14. For indeed the Father has rescued them from the authority of the dark realm [of sin and death] into the kingdom of the Son whom He eternally loves, in whom we have the redemption of Divine forgiveness;
15 17 and Who is [Himself supremely great in Person and Function; for He is] the Manifestation of the Unseen God, eternally born of Him, and, as such, eternally antecedent to, and Lord over, all created being. In Him, [as the eternal Cause and Law,] all such being came to exist, in all its orders, and not least those angelic hierarchies [to which the Colossians were being tempted to transfer the trust and worship due to Him]. Yes, everything that becomes , was constituted through Him [as the Father’s Divine Agent], and for Him [as its Reason and Goal]; He is the Antecedent of all things, He is the Bond of all things, [holding them fast in their cosmic union by His life and will].
18 20. He too, the same Person, is the Head of the Church, [the living Company of believing men], which thus forms His Body, [an organism animated by Him, and used as a vehicle of His action in the world]; He is the Origin, the Beginning, [of its life]; He, once dead, now risen again, is the Firstborn [of the family of immortality]; all He is and has done contributes to His unique preeminence in every respect [for us; no rival in our trust and worship is for a moment permissible]. In Him, [His Son incarnate and glorified,] it pleased the Father that the Plenitude [of Divine power and grace] should take up its abode; and, providing a sacred Propitiation in His Sacrificial Death, to receive into peace through Him, through Him [alone], His creatures, whether human or angelic, [whether fallen men, or angels needing in some mysterious sense a nearer approach to Him; let the Colossians remember this, when angel-worship is recommended to them].
21 23. [Now to come to their own case; as He had received other alienated beings into peace, so] He had received them , once estranged from Him and hostile to Him in their life-principles, (yet now, as a fact, [he cannot but gladly remind them,] brought back into peace by their Lord’s Crucifixion-Death,) so as to present them to Himself [in the day of glory], perfect [in their Head’s perfection], for His own approval. Only, let them adhere [for their very life] to the faith they had found, in the repose of a fixed reliance, not faltering in their hold on the hope of the Gospel, which had reached them as it had reached humanity at large, and of which he, Paul, was [an appointed] minister.
24 29. [In that ministry, as he thus reviews the glory of his Lord, and the grandeur of the Gospel and its work,] he rejoices to suffer [imprisonment, or whatever it may be,] and so to take his part in completing, in a life of toil and pain, those afflictions [of evangelization] which Christ [left incomplete, that His members might take them up;] afflictions in the interests of the Church, His body; that Church of which Paul was constituted a minister, working on the lines of the stewardship entrusted to him by His Master, for the benefit of the Colossians [amongst others,] aiming always to unfold the Divine message to the full, even the Secret which was [comparatively] hidden since time and its developments began, but which is now unveiled to believers; to those, that is to say, whom God has been pleased to acquaint with the rich treasures included in the bright fact of this Secret opened now to Gentiles [as well as Jews,] and which is [“not It but He,”] Christ, dwelling in His saints, [in a presence] which is the hope of glory [as the bud is the hope of the flower]. This Christ, [and no other, or others,] Paul and his friends, [whatever alien teachers may do,] proclaim, admonishing [not a select initiated circle, nor again merely the community, but] every individual believer, and teaching every individual believer, in the whole of Christian wisdom, [for they have no esoteric reserve in the matter,] that they may [at the Lord’s Return] present to Him every individual full-grown through union and communion with Him. To this goal Paul toils onward, wrestling [with whatever may oppose, and now specially wrestling in prayer,] with a strength due to his indwelling Lord’s power working in him.
Ch. 2: 1 7 . For they must understand that he is engaged in a great wrestle [of prayer] for them and their Laodicean neighbours, and the Christians [in general around them,] his [as yet] unvisited converts; he is praying that their hearts may be encouraged, and that they may be knit together in [the bond of] love, thus advancing into the enjoyment of the wealth found in a full conscious grasp [of the way of salvation], and into a full spiritual knowledge of God’s supreme Secret, even Christ. It is in Christ that are found, [though they must be sought] as hid treasure, all the resources of [Divine] wisdom and knowledge. And he must insist on this, lest some [teacher or teachers] should lead them astray by specious and well-worded arguments. [He knows there is need to warn them of this], for, though absent bodily he is with them spiritually [yes, near enough (he cannot but dwell on this brighter side)] to rejoice in, and take a fresh view of, their orderly array and solid front [against sin and error], due to their loyal trust in Christ. [But let this attitude be maintained ;] at conversion they received [as Truth and Life, none other, none less, than] the Christ, even [the historic] Jesus, the Lord [Himself]; now let them [apply this truth to life], living daily in union with Him; as those who had been rooted into Him [as their soil], and were now being built up [individually and together] in connexion with Him [their Comer Stone], and were being established [in spiritual health and power] by their faith in Him, along the lines of the first [and only true] teaching they had received. In that faith let them abound, [using it fully and freely], with thankfulness [as its attendant grace].
8 15. So let them beware, or they might be stripped, and led off spiritually captive, [by this or that teacher,] with his pretentious deceit of a philosophy [forsooth, rather than a Gospel], a speculative theory based not on Christ but on merely human tradition, and [at best] on [pre-Christian] institutions, merely introductory to the Gospel and in themselves non-spiritual. [Christ is all, for truth and liberty;] in Him dwells always the Fulness of the Godhead, manifested in His Incarnation; and in their union with Him they [by His Fulness] are filled full, [having in covenant possession all they need for peace and holiness,] in Him, who is the Head of all those [unseen] powers and authorities [which some dream of as His rivals or substitutes]. In Him, [believing], they have actually received the true non-mechanical circumcision, [a death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness, a better thing than its ancient type, which was now pressed upon them]; [for, coming to Him, they won a position of acceptance and power such that] they were [as it were] divested of the body as the vehicle of [victorious] temptation, thanks to this circumcision [of the soul] administered to them by Christ. In their Baptism [as the Divine Sign and Seal upon the faith which receives Him] they were [as it were so identified with Him the Crucified as to be symbolically] laid with Him in His grave; and [in the same sense, in that Baptism,] they rose with Him [to a life of acceptance and holiness in Him], through their faith in the working of God, who raised Him from death. [ They were once in death, but were now alive. Spiritually] dead, in respect of their sins, and of their spiritually uncircumcised state by nature, they were raised to life [in Christ] by God, who forgave them all, and so cancelled that dread legal Bond, the Law’s claim upon them, who had violated its rule of holiness. That Bond was [by their own fault] their deadly enemy, but even this their Lord took away from between [them and His Father], as it were rending it asunder with the nails of His Cross, and leaving it cancelled there. The unseen Powers of Evil, [these principalities and powers whose awful existence now haunted them,] He stripped of their spoils, [their human spoils,] and led them captive in open triumph, by virtue of that very Cross [which they thought His ruin].
16 23. So the Colossians were not to allow any teacher to take them to task for a neglect of ascetic rules of food, or of the festivals annual, monthly, weekly of the Old Law. These things were a shadow cast by a real Substance yet to come; but the Substance has come; it consists of Christ; [and they, in Him, are no longer in His shadow.] Let no teacher be allowed to have his misguided way and to rob them of their prize, [eternal life in Christ,] by teaching them an artificial humility and a worship of Angels [as mediators with the Supreme,] invading the spiritual world [with presumptuous speculation or assertion, as if he had seen it,] as he has not; inflated by the random thoughts of unspiritual speculation, and letting go his grasp of [Christ as] Head that Head [with which every true limb is immediately and vitally connected,] and out of which [every part of the Body] through its joints and ligatures [of spiritual contact] is supplied, and [so] more and more [internally] compacted, and developed with a development of which God [is Cause and Law.] In their union with Christ they had [as it were] died to the introductory and mechanical religionism [of the past;] why then, as if [not dead to the world but] having their true life in it, did they let themselves be overrun with ascetic rules, Handle not, nor taste, nor touch? ([The things so forbidden were merely material, not moral;] their destiny was merely physical dissolution in the course of use.) All this was in the line of merely human precept and theory. True, it all had a specious look of reason; [there was a shew of sanctity and self-denial] in artificial observances and humility, and in ruthless severity towards the body; but it was of no value as a real barrier in view of the craving of the unregenerate element for the satisfaction of its desires.
Ch. 3: 1 4 . As then they had risen with Christ, [in their union with Him the Risen One, entering in that union on a new life of acceptance and of moral power,] let them [use this wonderful position, meeting temptation not with a mechanical disciplinary routine, but] with a willing spiritual gravitation towards the life of heaven, towards the world where Christ was, seated [triumphant] on the Father’s throne. Let them direct their bent of thought and will on that upper world, not on this world, [with its temptations, and its ineffectual remedies]. United to Christ, His death was as it were theirs, and now His life was theirs, a hidden life, [safe from the enemy’s grasp, and from the world’s eye,] for He is hidden in the Father’s bosom. He is in fact their life, [the personal Cause and Source of their new peace and power;] and when He shall again be manifested, [in His returning glory,] they shall be manifested in that glory with Him, [coming out finally and fully as “saints indeed”; a thought full of animation under present temptations].
5 12. So [let them apply this secret to their present needs. In this power] let them decisively put to death those sins which were, so to speak, the moving limbs of the unregenerate life; sins of lust, and greed, and idol-worship, things which are bringing down the wrath of God upon those who [thus] disobey Him. In such practices they once moved and acted, when they found their life, [their interests,] in that miserable direction. But now, [as the case is, in their converted life,] they, like other believers, must divest themselves [as to toleration and practice] of absolutely all sins, [not only of specially fleshly sins but equally of] sins of temper, and of tongue. They must not lie to one another, for they have [as to covenant position] divested themselves of the condition of unregenerate man, [fallen in Adam,] with his practices of evil, and have been invested with that of regenerate man, [restored in Christ,] man who, [in Christ,] is ever being renewed [in spiritual life and power], so as to know his Lord truly, and to develope the moral likeness of the God who has thus [new-] created him. In this new human state the differences of race, privilege, civilisation, social status, all necessarily vanish; Christ is everything in all [His members, as they think of one another].
12 17. [Such was their ideal condition, such their covenant position. But on that very account it was now for them, in a life of watching and prayer, to realize the ideal, to act on the position. Had they “put on the new man”?] Then they must, [with a “new departure” of faith and purpose,] clothe themselves, as the chosen of God, on whom His special love is set, [(a “nobility” carrying “obligations” indeed!)] with practical kindness and sympathy, humility, patience; they must meet personal grievances, should such occur to them, with forbearance and forgiveness, the forgiveness to be looked for from those whom Christ has forgiven, [and who know it.] Above all, and as it were upon all, [like the girdle of grace,] they must put on holy love, the bond which holds the full Christian character together. The peace of Christ, [the inward calm caused by knowing Him as theirs,] is to arbitrate in every internal debate, [deciding, with the persuasive authority of His happy presence, for God and others, and against self;] for into this peace their conversion has brought them, [as their best secret for the realization of] their corporate oneness in Him. And let them cultivate a thankful habit. Let the word of Christ, [the terms and truth of His Gospel,] dwell in them, [as a part of themselves, while they make full practical use of it] in holy wisdom. [Let them use it, among other ways,] in the warning and instructing exercise of holy song and music in their companies; singing [not with voice only but] with the regenerate soul to the Lord. In every part of their lives, let them act as the avowed servants of the Lord Jesus, blessing His Father, through Him, [for everything He appoints as their experience].
18 Ch. 4: 1 . [Let these holy principles be remembered above all in the Christian Home.] Let the wife live in that loving loyalty to her husband which their common union with Christ makes [more than ever] befitting. Let the husband love his wife, with an affection free [in Christ] from all tyrannous irritability. Let the child obey the parent in all things [where the Lord’s express claims do not forbid;] for the Lord, [ the Son of the Father,] delights in filial loyalty. Let parents renounce all unloving parental despotism, with its exasperation and its discouragement of the child’s will. Let the slave be, [as a Christian, more than ever,] thoroughly loyal to his earthly master, [who, like him, is the slave of the heavenly Master;] let him serve not on the selfish principle of working only when watched, or only for his own comfort’s sake, but with the simplicity of will of one who reverences his [always present] God. Whatever comes in “the daily round,” let Him do it from the soul, as for his heavenly [and not only his earthly] Lord; being sure, [as he may be,] that from that Lord he shall get, in punctual recompense, His own “well done” in glory; for Christ is the Master whose slave he really is, [and who is indeed a benignant and mindful Master.] But [He is just and watchful too; and if the slave presumes on his conversion as an excuse] for wrong-doing, the true Master will requite that also, without partiality, [taking no apology for his violation of conscience from any supposed hardship of his lot. Lastly,] let the master provide carefully for his slave’s interests; [above all, let him see that the slave is always sure of] domestic justice; remembering that his own Master watches him from heaven.
2 6. [In conclusion, let them all] persevere in prayer, and, in its habitual exercise, let them watch, [as those who are in a world of temptation,] and give thanks, [as those who have the Lord ever with them in it.] And in prayer let them not forget Paul and his friends at Rome, asking that for them God would open [new] opportunities for the preaching of the Gospel, that Secret of blessing bound up with Christ, on account of which he was now chained to his warder; let them ask that he might make it a manifest reality around him, as he is bound to do. [For themselves,] let them live and behave with holy good sense in regard of the non-Christians round them, winning opportunities [for witness] at the cost of care and watchfulness. Let their conversation, [especially on such occasions,] be always animated by God’s gracious presence, and made wholesome with the salt [of loving sincerity,] so as to give every questioner the fitting answer [of candour and conciliation].
7 9. As to Paul’s own circumstances, a full account of them would be given by [the bearer of this Epistle,] Tychicus, his beloved brother, and faithful personal helper, and fellowservant in the Lord. Him he was sending for this very purpose, that [the Asian Christians, and now particularly] the Colossians, might know Paul’s position, and might themselves be encouraged [in faith and love]. And with him would go Onesimus, a believing and beloved brother-Christian, one of themselves. These two friends would give a full report of things [at Rome].
10 14. He has greetings to send them; from Aristarchus, sharer of his prison; from Marcus, cousin to Barnabas, (let them remember a previous communication, and welcome him without reserve, should he visit them); from Jesus, better known as Justus; three Hebrew-Christian friends, and the only [leading] members of their circle [at Rome] who were cooperating with him in the work of the Gospel, and [so] proving a solace to [his tired spirit, too often wounded by opposition from that quarter.] Epaphras, their own [evangelist,] added his greeting, that devoted servant of Christ, now always wrestling in his prayers for them that they might stand fast, mature and fully assured [of their ground and of their purpose] in every detail of God’s will. Paul cannot but testify to the earnestness of this holy toil of Epaphras’ for them and for their friends at Laodicea and at Hierapolis. Another greeting is that of Lucas, the beloved physician [well known to them by name;] and Demas adds his.
15 17. Let them send a greeting from Paul [down the valley] to the Laodicean Christians; particularly to Nymphas, in whose house the Laodicean congregation meets. And when the present Epistle has been read, let them take care to get it read also in that congregation, and let them also read [in their meeting] the Epistle which they will find coming to them by way of Laodicea. And let them say [in Paul’s name and their own] to Archippus, [their lately appointed pastor,] “ Take heed to the ministry you received in the Lord, to do faithfully every part of it; [ take heed to yourself, your teaching, and your brethren ”].
18. Lastly, here is Paul’s autograph-farewell. Let them remember the chain [which he feels as he writes]. The Lord’s presence and power be with them.
At the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow,
Every tongue confess Him King of glory now;’
Tis the Father’s pleasure we should call Him Lord,
Who from the beginning was the mighty Word.
At His voice creation sprang at once to sight,
All the Angel faces, all the Hosts of light,
Thrones and Dominations, stars upon their way,
All the heavenly Orders, in their great array.
Humbled for a season, to receive a Name
From the lips of sinners unto whom He came,
Faithfully He bore it spotless to the last,
Brought it back victorious, when from death He pass’d;
Bore it up triumphant with its human light,
Through all ranks of creatures, to the central height;
To the throne of Godhead, to the Father’s breast;
Fill’d it with the glory of that perfect rest.
Name Him, brothers, name Him, with love strong as death,
But with awe and wonder, and with bated breath;
He is God the Saviour, He is Christ the Lord,
Ever to be worshipp’d, trusted, and adored.
In your hearts enthrone Him; there let Him subdue
All that is not holy, all that is not true:
Crown Him as your Captain in temptation’s hour;
Let His will enfold you in its light and power.
Brothers, this Lord Jesus shall return again,
With His Father’s glory, with His Angel train;
For all wreaths of empire meet upon His brow,
And our hearts confess Him King of glory now.
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17