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Bible Commentaries

Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

Colossians 4

Verse 1

18 4:1 .] SPECIAL EXHORTATIONS TO RELATIVE SOCIAL DUTIES: Colossians 3:18-19 , to the married : Colossians 3:20-21 , to children and parents : Col 3:22 to Colossians 4:1 , to slaves and masters . Seeing that such exhortations occur in Ephesians also in terms so very similar, we are not justified, with Chrys., al., in assuming that there was any thing in the peculiar circumstances of the Colossian church, which required more than common exhortation of this kind. It has been said, that it is only in Epistles addressed to the Asiatic churches, that such exhortations are found: but in this remark the entirely general character of the Epistle to the Ephesians is forgotten. Besides, the exhortations of the Epistle to Titus cannot be so completely severed from these as to be set down in another category, as Eadie has endeavoured to do. See throughout the section, for such matters as are not remarked on, the notes to Eph 5:22 to Ephesians 6:9 .

Verses 1-6

Col 3:1 to Colossians 4:6 .] SECOND PART OF THE EPISTLE. Direct exhortations to the duties of the Christian life founded on their union with their risen Saviour .

Verse 2

2 .] γρηγ . watching in it , i.e. not remiss and indolent in your occupation of prayer ( τῇ πρ .), but active and watchful, cheerful also, ἐν εὐχαριστίᾳ , which defines and characterizes the watchfulness. ἐπειδή γὰρ τὸ καρτερεῖν ἐν ταῖς εὐχαῖς ῥᾳθυμεῖν πολλάκις ποιεῖ , διὰ τοῦτό φησι γρηγοροῦντες , τουτέστι νήφοντες , μὴ ῥεμβόμενοι . οἶδε γάρ , οἶδενδιάβολος ὅσον ἀγαθὸν εὐχή · διὸ βαρὺς ἔγκειται . οἶδε δὲ καὶ Παῦλος πῶς ἀκηδιῶσι πολλοὶ εὐχόμενοι . διό φησι γρ . ἐν αὐτ . ἐν εὐχαρ . τοῦτο γάρ φησιν ἔργον ὑμῶν ἔστω , ἐν ταῖς εὐχαῖς εὐχαριστεῖν , κ . ὑπὲρ τῶν φανερῶν κ . ὑπ . τῶν ἀφανῶν , κ . ὑπὲρ ὧν ἑκόντας , κ . ὑπὲρ ὧν ἄκοντας ἐποίησεν εὖ , κ . ὑπὲρ βασιλείας , κ . ὑπὲρ γεέννης , κ . ὑπὲρ θλίψεως , κ . ὑπὲρ ἀνέσεως . οὕτω γὰρ ἔθος τοῖς ἁγίοις εὔχεσθαι , κ . ὑπὲρ τῶν κοινῶν εὐεργεσιῶν εὐχαριστεῖν . Chrys.

Verses 2-6

2 6 .] SPECIAL CONCLUDING EXHORTATIONS: and 2 4 .] to prayer ; see Romans 12:12 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:17 .

Verse 3

3 .] ἡμῶν , not ‘ me ,’ see ch. Colossians 1:1 ; Colossians 1:3 . This is plainly shewn here by the singular following after.

ἵνα ] see on 1 Corinthians 14:13 . Here, the idea of final result is prominent: but the purport is also included.

θύραν τ . λόγου ] not as Calv., al., oris apertionem , Ephesians 6:19 ; but as in reff., objective, an opening of opportunity for the extension of the Gospel by the word. This would, seeing that the Apostle was a prisoner, naturally be given first and most chiefly, as far as he was concerned, by his liberation: cf. Philemon 1:22 .

λαλῆσαι ] inf. of purpose so that we may speak .

δι ʼ ὃ κ . δ . ] for (on account of) which (mystery) I am (not only a minister but) also bound .

Verse 4

4 .] The second ἵνα gives the purpose of the previous verse, not the purpose of δέδεμαι , as Chrys. ( τὰ δεσμὰ φανεροῖ αὐτόν , οὐ συσκιάζει ), Bengel (‘vinctus sum ut patefaciam: paradoxon’), nor to be joined with προσευχόμενοι , as Beza, De W., al. If that might be so, the door opened, &c., then he would make it known as he ought to do then he would be fulfilling the requirements of that apostolic calling, from which now in his imprisonment he was laid aside. Certainly this is the meaning, and not, as ordinarily understood, cf. Chrys., al., that he might boldly declare the Gospel in his imprisonment .

Verse 5

5 . ἐν σοφίᾳ ] in (as an element) wisdom (the practical wisdom of Christian prudence and sound sense).

πρός , as in οὐδὲν πρὸς Διόνυσον , εἴ του δέοιτο πρὸς Τιμόθεον πρᾶξαι , Demosth. p. 1185, signifying simply in relation to, in the intercourse of life. Ellic. refers to a good discussion of this preposition in Rost and Palm’s Lex. vol. ii. p. 1157. On οἱ ἔξω , see reff. They are those outside the Christian brotherhood. πρὸς τὰ μέλη τὰ οἰκεῖα οὐ τοσαύτης ἡμῖν δεῖ ἀσφαλείας , ὅσης πρὸς τοὺς ἔξω · ἔνθα γὰρ ἀδελφοί , εἰσὶ κ . συγγνῶμαι πολλαὶ κ . ἀγάπαι . Chrys.

τ . καιρ . ἐξαγορ . ] see on Ephesians 5:16 . The opportunity for what , will be understood in each case from the circumstances, and our acknowledged Christian position as watching for the cause of the Lord. The thought in Eph., ὅτι αἱ ἡμέραι πονηραί εἰσι , lies in the background of the word ἐξ αγοραζάμενοι .

Verses 5-6

5, 6 .] Exhortations as to their behaviour in the world .

Verse 6

6 .] Let your speech ( πρὸς τοὺς ἔξω still) be always in (as its characteristic element) grace (i.e. gracious, and winning favour: cf. Luk 4:22 ), seasoned with salt (not insipid and void of point, which can do no man any good: we must not forget that both these words have their spiritual meaning: χάρις , so common an one as to have almost passed out of its ordinary acceptation into that other, the grace which is conferred on us from above, and which our words and actions should reflect: and ἅλας , as used by our Saviour in reff. (see note on Mark), as symbolizing the unction, freshness, and vital briskness which characterizes the Spirit’s presence and work in a man. So that we must beware here of supposing that mere Attic ‘sales’ are meant, or any vivacity of outward expression only, and keep in mind the Christian import. Of the Commentators, Thdrt. comes the nearest, πνευματικῇ συνέσει κοσμεῖσθε . There seems to be no allusion here to the conservative power of salt: the matter in hand at present is not avoiding corrupt conversation. Still less does the meaning of wit belong to this place. A local allusion is just possible : Herod. vii. 30 says of Xerxes, Ἄναυα δὲ καλεομένην Φρυγῶν πόλιν παραμειβόμενος , καὶ λίμνην ἐκ τῆς ἅλες γίνονται , ἀπίκετο ἐς Κολοσσάς , πόλιν μεγάλην Φρυγίης ).

εἰδέναι ] to know i.e. so that you may know: see ref., “loosely appended infin., expressive of consequence,” as Ellicott. See Winer, edn. 6, § 41. 1. Cf. 1 Peter 3:15 , which however is but one side of that readiness which is here recommended.

Verse 7

7 .] On Tychicus, see Ephesians 4:21 .

ἀγ . ἀδελφός , as dear to his heart: πιστ . διάκ . , as his tried companion in the ministry, σύνδ . ἐν κυρίῳ , as one with him in the motives and objects of his active work: ὥστε , as Chrys., αὐτῷ πάντοθεν τὸ ἀξιόπιστον ξυνήγαγεν . There is a delicate touch of affection in ἵνα γνῷ τὰ περὶ ὑμ ., which can hardly, in the doubtfulness of the reading, be the work of a corrector. It implies that there were painful circumstances of trial, to which the subsequent παρακαλέσ also has reference. δείκνυσιν αὐτοὺς ἐν τοῖς πειρασμοῖς ὄντας , Chrys. The objection (Eadie), that thus the εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο will announce another purpose from that enounced above in τὰ κατ ʼ ἐμὲ π . γνωρ ., will apply just as much to the other reading; for any how the αὐτὸ τοῦτο must iuclude the καὶ παρακαλέσῃ κ . τ . λ . But the fact is, that αὐτὸ τοῦτο may apply exclusively to the following , without any reference to what has preceded : see Romans 9:17 ; the parallel place, Ephesians 6:22 ; Philippians 1:6 .

Verses 7-9

7 9 .] Of the bearers of the Epistle, Tychicus and Onesimus .

Verses 7-18


Verse 9

9 . σὺν Ὀνησ . ] There can hardly be a doubt (compare Col 4:17 with Philemon 1:2 ; Philemon 1:10 ff.) that this is the Onesimus of the Epistle to Philemon. When Calv. wrote “vix est credibile hunc esse servum illum Philemonis, quia furis et fugitivi nomen dedecori subjectum fuisset,” he forgot that this very term, ἀδελφὸς ἀγαπητός , is applied to him, Philemon 1:16 .

ἐξ ὑμῶν ] most probably, a native of your town.

πάντ . ὑμ . γν . τὰ ὧδε ] A formal restatement of τὰ κατ ʼ ἐμὲ π . γν . above. Is it likely, with this restatement, that the same should be again stated in the middle of the sentence, as would be the case with the reading ἵνα γνῶτε τὰ περὶ ἡμῶν ?

Verse 10

10 .] Aristarchus was a Thessalonian ( Act 20:4 ), first mentioned Acts 19:29 , as dragged into the theatre at Ephesus during the tumult, together with Gaius, both being συνέκδημοι Παύλου . He accompanied Paul to Asia (ib. Act 22:4 ), and was with him in the voyage to Rome ( Act 27:2 ). In Philemon 1:24 , he sends greeting, with Marcus, Demas, and Lucas, as here. On συναιχμάλωτος , Meyer (after Fritzsche, Rom. vol. i. prolegg. p. xxi) suggests an idea, which may without any straining of probability be adopted, and which would explain why Aristarchus is here συναιχμ ., and in Philemon 1:24 , συνεργός , whereas Epaphras is here, ch. Colossians 1:7 , merely a σύνδουλος , and in Philemon 1:23 a συναιχμάλωτος . His view is, that the Apostle’s friends may have voluntarily shared his imprisonment by turns: and that Aristarchus may have been his fellow-prisoner when he wrote this Epistle, Epaphras when he wrote that to Philemon. συναιχμάλωτος belongs to the same image of warfare as συνστρατιώτης , Philippians 2:25 ; Philemon 1:2 .

Μάρκος ] can hardly be other than John Mark, cf. Acts 12:12 ; Acts 12:25 , who accompanied Paul and Barnabas in part of their first missionary journey, and because he turned back from their at Perga (ib. Acts 13:13 ; Act 15:38 ), was the subject of dispute between them on their second journey. That he was also the Evangelist, is matter of pure tradition, but not therefore to be rejected.

ἀνεψιός ] not ‘ sister’s son :’ this rendering has arisen from mistaking the definition given by Hesych., ἀνεψιοί , ἀδελφῶν υἱοί , meaning that ἀνεψιοί are sons of brothers , i.e. cousins . (Ellic. in notes on his translation of the Epistle, suggests that ‘ sister’s-son ’ may after all be no mistake, but an archaism to express, as the German Geschwisterkind , a cousin .) “Pollux dicit, filios filiasque fratrum et sororum, dici ἀνεψιούς , ex his prognatos ἀνεψιαδοῦς , ἀνεψιαδάς , tertio gradu ἐξανεψιούς , ἐξανεψιάς a Menandro dici.” Lobeck on Phrynichus, p. 306. This is decisively shewn in Herod. vii. 5, Μαρδόνιοςὃς ἦν Ξέρξμὲν ἀνεψιός , Δαρείου δὲ ἀδελφεῆς πάϊς . It is also used in a wider sense (see Hom. Il. α . 464): but there is no need to depart here from the strict meaning.

περὶ οὗ ] What these commands were, must be left in entire uncertainty. They had been sent previous to the writing of our Epistle ( ἐλάβετε ): but from, or by whom, we know not. They concerned Marcus, not Barnabas (as Thl., al.): and one can hardly help connecting them, associated as they are with ἐὰν ἔλθῃ , δέξασθε αὐτόυ , with the dispute of Acts 15:38 . It is very possible, that in consequence of the rejection of John Mark on that occasion by St. Paul, the Pauline portion of the churches may have looked upon him with suspicion.

Verses 10-14

10 14 .] Various greetings from brethren .

Verse 11

11 . Ἰησοῦς Ἰοῦστος ] Entirely unknown to us. A Justus is mentioned Acts 18:7 , as an inhabitant of Corinth, and a proselyte: but there is no further reason to identify the two. The surname Justus ( צדוק ) was common among the Jews: cf. Acts 1:23 , and Jos. Vit. 9, 65, 76.

These alone who are of the circumcision (the construction is of the nature of an anacoluthon, οἱ ὄντες ἐκ π . being equivalent to ‘of those of the circumcision.’

We have a similar construction frequently in the classics: e.g. ἄμφω δ ʼ ἑζομένω γεραρώτερος ἦεν Ὀδυσσεύς , Il. γ . 211: ὅρκια πιστὰ ταμόντεςμὲν βασιλευέτωαἰεί , Od. ω . 483. See many more examples in Kühner, ii. § 678. 2. This seems far better, with Meyer and Lachmann, than with rec. Ellic. al. to place the stop at περιτομῆς and attach the clause to the three preceding names. For thus we lose (in spite of the assertion by Ellic. that the μόνοι naturally refers the thought to the category last mentioned) the fact that there were other συνεργοί not of the circumcision who had been a comfort to him. The judaistic teachers were for the most part in opposition to St. Paul: cf. his complaint, Philippians 1:15 ; Php 1:17 ) are my fellow-workers towards the kingdom of God (the rest would not be called by this name so that De W.’s objection to the construction does not apply, that the opponents would not be called συνεργοί ; for they are not so called), man that proved (the passive meaning of ἐγενήθησαν is not safely to be pressed: see notes on Ephesians 3:7 ; 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6 ; 1 Peter 1:15 . The aor. alludes to some event recently passed: to what precisely, we cannot say) a comfort to me (they are my συνεργοί ‘quippe qui.…’ Hierocles, de nuptiis, apud Stob. (Kypke), has the same phrase: ἡ γυνὴ δὲ παροῦσα μεγάλη γίνεται κ . πρὸς ταῦτα παρηγορία : so Plutarch, de auditione, p. 43 (id.), νόσημα παρηγορίαςδεόμενον ).

Verse 12

12 .] On Epaphras, see ch. Col 1:7 note. The sentence is better without a comma at ὑμῶν , both as giving more spirit to the δοῦλος χ . Ἰ ., and setting the ἐξ ὑμ . in antithesis to the ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν below. On ἀγων . besides reff., see Romans 15:30 . By mentioning Epaphras’s anxious prayers for them, he works further on their affections, giving them an additional motive for stedfastness, in that one of themselves was thus striving in prayer for them, ἵνα here gives the direct aim of ἀγωνιζ . See above on Col 4:3 that ye may stand, perfect and fully persuaded (see reff.), in (be firmly settled in, without danger of vacillating or falling) all the (lit. ‘in every:’ but we cannot thus express it in English) will of God . This connexion, of στῆτε with ἐν , as Mey., seems better than, as ordinarily (so also De W. and Ellic.), to join ἐν with the participles. Eadie characterizes it as needless refinement in Mey. to assert that thus not only a modal-beftimmung but a local-beftimmung is attached to στῆτε : but the use of στῆναι ἐν in the reff. seems to justify it.

Verse 13

13 .] πόνος , an unusual word in the N. T., hence the var. readd., is usual in the toil of conflict in war, thus answering to ἀγωνιζόμ . above: so Herod. vi. 114, ἐν τούτῳ τῷ πόνῳπολέμαρχος Καλλίμαχος διαφθείρεται : similarly viii. 89. Plato, Phædr. 247 b, ἔνθα δὴ πόνος τε κ . ἀγὼν ἔσχατος ψυχῇ πρόκειται : Demosth. 637. 18, εἰ δ ʼ ἐκεῖνος ἀσθενέστερος ἦν τὸν ὑπὲρ τῆς νίκης ἐνεγκεῖν πόνον .

On account of this mention of Laodicea and Hierapolis, some have thought that Epaphras was the founder of the three churches. See Prolegg. § ii. 2, 7.

Λαοδικείᾳ ] LAODICEA was a city of Phrygia Magna (Strabo xii. 8, Plin. v. 29: according to the subscription (rec.) of 1 Tim., the chief city of Phrygia Pacatiana), large ( ἡ τῆς χώρας ἀρετὴ κ . τῶν πολιτῶν τινες εὐτυχήσαντες , μεγάλην ἐποιήσαντο αὐτήν , Strabo) and rich (Revelation 3:17 ; and Prolegg. to Rev. § iii. 13. Tac. Ann. xiv. 27: ‘Laodicea, tremore terræ prolapsa, nullo a nobis remedio, propriis opibus revaluit:’ δυνατωτέρα τῶν ἐπὶ θαλάττῃ , Philostr. Soph. i. 25), on the river Lycus (hence called Λ . ἡ ἐπὶ Λύκῳ or πρὸς τῷ Λύκῳ , see Strabo, ib.), formerly called Diospolis, and afterwards Rhoas; its subsequent name was from Laodice queen of Antiochus II. (Steph. Byz.) In A.D. 62, Laodicea, with Hierapolis and Colossæ, was destroyed by an earthquake (Tacit. l. c.), to which visitations the neighbourhood was very subject ( εἰ γάρ τις ἄλλη κ . ἡ Λαοδίκεια εὔσειστος , κ . τῆς πλησιοχώρου πλέον , Plin. ib.). There is now on the spot a desolate village called Eski-hissar, with some ancient ruins (Arundel, Seven Churches). Winer, Realw.

Ἱεραπόλει ] Six Roman miles north from Laodicea: famed for many mineral springs (Strabo, xiii. 4, describes them at length, also the caverns which exhale noxious vapour. See also Plin. ii. 95), which are still flowing (Schubert, i. 283). Winer, Realw.

Verse 14

14 .] This Λουκᾶς has ever been taken for the Evangelist: see Iren. iii. 14.1, p. 201, and Prolegg. to St. Luke, § i. In ἰατρὸςἀγαπητός there may be a trace of what has been supposed, that it was in a professional capacity that he first became attached to St. Paul, who evidently laboured under grievous sickness during the earlier part of the journey where Luke first appears in his company. Compare Gal 4:13 note, with Acts 16:6 ; Acts 16:10 . But this is too uncertain to be more than an interesting conjecture.

Δημᾶς ] one of Paul’s συνεργοί , Philemon 1:24 , who however afterwards deserted him, from love to the world, 2 Timothy 4:10 . The absence of any honourable or endearing mention here may be owing to the commencement of this apostasy, or some unfavourable indication in his character.

Verse 15

15 .] καί , before Νυμφᾶν , as so often, selects one out of a numbe Laodicean brethren. The var. readings, αὐτοῦ , αὐτῆς , appear to have arisen from the construction (see below) not being understood, and the alteration thus having been made to the singular, but in various genders, αὐτῶν refers to τῶν περὶ Νυμφᾶν : cf. Xen. Mem. i. 2. 62, ἐάν τις φανερὸς γένηται κλέπτων τούτοις θάνατός ἐστινζημία : and see Bernhardy, p. 288; Kühner ii. § 419 b. On the ἐκκλησία spoken of, see note, Romans 16:5 .

Verses 15-17

15 17 .] Salutations to friends .

Verse 16

16 .] ἐπιστ . , the present letter, reff.

ποιήσ . ἵνα ] as ποίει , ὅκως … Herod. i. 8. 209, ὡς σαφέστατά γἂν εἰδείηνἐποίουν , Xen. Cyr. vi. 3. 18.

τὴν ἐκ Λαοδ . ] On this Epistle, see Prolegg. to Eph. § ii. 17, 19; and Philem. § iii. 2, 3 [and note on the subscription to 1 Tim.]. I will only indicate here the right rendering of the words. They cannot well be taken, as τινές in Chrys., to mean οὐχὶ τὴν Π . πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἀπεσταλμένην , ἀλλὰ τὴν παρ ʼ αὐτῶν Παύλῳ (so also Syr., Thdrt., Phot. in Œc., Erasm., Beza, Calv., Wolf, Est., Corn.-a-lap., al.), both on account of the awkwardness of the sense commanding them to read an Epistle sent from Laodicea, and not found there, and on account of the phrase τὴν ἐκ so commonly having the pregnant meaning of ‘which is there and must be sought from there;’ cf. Kühner, ii. § 623 α . Herod. iii. 6. Thucyd. ii. 34; iii. 22; vi. 32; vii. 70, and other examples there. We may safely say that a letter not from, but to the Laodiceans is meant. For the construction of this latter sentence, ποιήσατε again is of course to be supplied.

Verse 17

17 .] Archippus is mentioned Philemon 1:2 , and called the Apostle’s συνστρατιώτης . I have treated on the inference to be drawn from this passage as to his abode, in the Prolegg. to Philemon, § iii.1. He was evidently some officer of the church, but what , in the wideness of διακονία , we cannot say: and conjectures are profitless (see such in Est. and Corn.-a-lap.). Meyer well remarks, that the authority hereby implied on the part of the congregation to exercise reproof and discipline over their teachers is remarkable: and that the hierarchical turn given to the passage by Thl. and Œc. ( ἵνα ὅταν ἐπιτιμᾷ Ἀρχ . αὐτοῖς , μὴ ἔχωσιν ἐγκαλεῖν ἐκείνῳ ὡς πικρῷ , … ἐπεὶ ἄλλως ἄτοπον τοῖς μαθηταῖς περὶ τοῦ διδασκάλου διαλέγεσθαι , Thl.) belongs to a later age. As to the words themselves, Take heed to the ministry which thou receivedst in the Lord (the sphere of the reception of the ministry; in which the recipient lived and moved and promised at his ordination: not, of the ministry itself ( τὴν ἐν κυρ .), nor is ἐν to be diverted from its simple local meaning), that (aim and end of the βλέπε , in order that) thou fulfil it (reff.).

Verse 18


Παύλου ] See ref. 1 Cor., where the same words occur.

μνημ .… δεσμ . ] These words extend further than to mere pecuniary support, or even mere prayers: they were ever to keep before them the fact that one who so deeply cared for them, and loved them, and to whom their perils of false doctrine occasioned such anxiety, was a prisoner in chains: and that remembrance was to work and produce its various fruits of prayer for him, of affectionate remembrance of his wants, of deep regard for his words. When we read of ‘his chains,’ we should not forget that they moved over the paper as he wrote. His right hand was chained to the soldier that kept him. See Smith’s Dict, of Antiq. under ‘Catena.’

χάρις cf. reff. and ch. Colossians 3:16 . ‘The grace’ in which we stand ( Rom 5:2 ): it seems (reff.) to be a form of valediction belonging to the later period of the Epistles of St. Paul.

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Colossians 4". Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.