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Bible Commentaries
Colossians 2

International Critical Commentary NTInternational Critical

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Verses 1-99

2:1-7. The apostle’s care and anxiety are not limited to those Churches which he had himself founded, or to which he had personally preached, but extended to those whom he had never seen. He is anxious that they should be confirmed in the faith and united in love, and, moreover, may learn to know the mystery, that is, the revealed will of God. It is no new doctrine they are to look for, but to seek to be established in the faith which they have already been taught, and to live in conformity thereto

1. Γάρ. “Striving, I say, for,” etc. The general statement κοπιῶ�

θέλω γὰρ ὑμᾶς εἰδέναι. So 1 Corinthians 11:3. More frequently οὐ θέλω ὑμᾶς�1 Corinthians 11:3; Romans 11:25.

ἡλίκον, a classical word, not found in Sept. or Apocrypha, and in the N.T. only here and James 3:5.


ἀγῶνα ἔχω. As he was now a prisoner this�

καὶ ὅσοι, κ.τ.λ. καί here introduces the general after the particular, as in Acts 4:6 and often. It is only the context that decides whether this is the case or whether a new class is introduced. Here there would be no meaning in mentioning two particular Churches which had known him personally, and then in general all who had not known him. The inference is therefore certain that he had never visited Colossae, and this agrees with the incidental references in the Epistle as well as with the narrative in the Acts. See on αὐτῶν, ver. 2.


ἑώρακαν (Alexandrian) is better supported than the Attic ἑωράκασι. The spelling with ω is rather better supported here than that with o.

ἐν σαρκί does not qualify the verb, as if “seeing in the flesh” were contrasted with “seeing in the spirit” (δείκνυσιν ἐνταῦθα ὅτι ἑώρων συνεχῶς ἐν πνεύματι, Chrys.), but goes with πρόσωπόν μου, giving vividness to the expression. Naturally it is implied that they had a knowledge of him, though not personal.

2. ἵνα παρακληθῶσιν αἱ καρδίαι αὐτῶν. “That their hearts may be strengthened.” It can hardly be doubted that this is the meaning of παρακαλεῖν here, where there is no mention of, or allusion to, troubles or persecutions. The sense “comforted, consoled” is, indeed, defended by Meyer, Ellicott, Eadie, al. Ellicott observes: “surely those exposed to the sad trial of erroneous teachings need consolation”; but there is no trace of this view in the Epistle, nor would such consolation be the prime object of the apostle’s prayer and anxiety. No; what made him anxious was the danger they were in of being carried away by this erroneous teaching. It was not consolation that was required, but confirmation in the right faith. For this sense of παρακαλεῖν cf. 1 Corinthians 14:31 (RV. marg.).


αὐτῶν. We might have expected ὑμῶν, but αὐτῶν was suggested by the preceding ὅσοι. This is decisive as to the Colossians being included in the ὅσοι; for if excluded there, they are excluded here, and the writer returns to the Colossians in ver. 4 (ὑμᾶς) in a most illogical manner: “This I say about others who do not know me, in order that no man may deceive you.”

συμβιβασθέντες. “United, knit together,” the common meaning of the verb, and that which it has elsewhere in this Epistle (ver. 19) and in Ephesians 4:16, q.v. In the Sept. it always means to “instruct,” cf. 1 Corinthians 2:16 (quotation) and Acts 19:33. It is so rendered here by the Vulg. “instructi.” The nominative agrees with the logical subject of the preceding.


It is read by א A B C D* P al., Vulg., Syr. (both). The genitive συμβιβασθέντων is read in אc Dc K L and most MSS., but is obviously a grammatical correction.

ἐν�

πᾶν πλοῦτος τῆς πληροφορίας τῆς συνέσεως. “All riches of full assurance of the understanding.” “Full assurance” seems the most suitable sense for πληροφορία, and it is also suitable in every other place in the N.T. where the word occurs (1 Thessalonians 1:5; Hebrews 6:11, Hebrews 10:22). “Fulness” would also be suitable, except in 1 Thessalonians 1:5. The word does not occur in Sept. or Apocr., nor in classical authors. On σύνεσις cf. 1:9. It has an intransitive sense, and hence never takes a genitive of the object; here it appears to mean the faculty of judging. He desires their judgment to be exercised with full certainty. De Wette observes that πλοῦτος expresses a quantitative, πληροφορία a qualitative, characteristic.

εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν, κ.τ.λ., seems best taken as parallel to the preceding εἰς, so that it emphatically points out the special object on which the σύνεσις is to be exercised. Some, however, connect this with παρακληθῶσιν, on the ground that ἐπίγνωσις implies as an antecedent condition the συμβιβ. κ.τ.λ. For ἐπίγνωσις, “full knowledge,” see Ephesians 1:17.


τοῦ θεοῦ Χριστοῦ. If this reading is adopted, there are three conceivable constructions: (a) Χριστοῦ in apposition to Θεοῦ, (b) Χριστοῦ dependent on Θεοῦ, (c) Χριστοῦ in apposition to μυστηρίου. The first (adopted by Hilary of Poitiers, also by Steiger and Bisping) is generally rejected, either on account of the context (Ell.) or because the phrase is destitute of Pauline analogy (Meyer, Moule, Lightfoot). But it appears to be inadmissible on other grounds. To point τοῦ Θεοῦ, Χριστοῦ, taking these in apposition and thus identifying ὁ Θεός and Χριστός, is obviously impossible, as it would mean, not that Θεός could be predicated of Χριστός, but that Χριστός could be predicated of ὁ Θεός, thus ignoring the distinction of Persons. On the other hand, if we point τοῦ Θεοῦ Χριστοῦ, and understand “the God Christ” (according to the rendering suggested, though not accepted, by Moule), the expression seems inconsistent with strict Monotheism. It defines Θεοῦ by the addition Χριστοῦ, and therefore suggests that other definitions are possible. ὁ Θεὸς πατήρ is not analogous, for two reasons; first, πατήρ only suggests υἱός, and, secondly, πατήρ expresses a relation proper to the Deity. Ellicott, who considers the construction not indefensible, takes it to mean “of God, even of Christ.” This is rather to suppose μυστηρίου supplied before Χριστοῦ, which is certainly untenable. But this is clearly not what he means, and it suggests that he hesitated to accept either of the other renderings.

According to the third view, Χριστοῦ is in apposition to μυστηρίου, so that Christ personally is the mystery of God (Ellicott, Lightfoot, Moule, al.). If this is the apostle`s meaning, he has expressed himself very obscurely. As μυστήριον is an abstract name, when it is explained as a person, we should expect ὅ ἐστιν as in i. 24, 27; 1 Corinthians 3:11. Lightfoot understands the “mystery” not as “Christ,” but “Christ as containing in Himself all the treasures of wisdom,” and in illustration of the form of the sentence compares Ephesians 4:15, εἰς αὐτόν … ὅς ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλή, Χριστός, ἐξ οὗ πᾶν τὸ σῶμα, κ.τ.λ. This passage, it is obvious, adds another example of the use of ὅς ἐστιν in such sentences, and it can hardly be said to furnish a parallel to Lightfoot’s interpretation of ἐν ᾧ, for in Ephesians 4:15 a full stop might have been placed after Χριστός without impairing the figure. Moreover, the apostle has given a different definition of the μυστ. in i. 27 (to which he again alludes in iv. 3), and it is hard to suppose that he would give a different definition within a few lines, for different this certainly is. The second translation mentioned above, “the God of Christ,” has its parallel in the phrase, ὁ Θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, and in Ephesians 1:17, ὁ Θεὸς τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. This construction is adopted by Meyer and v. Soden. The addition of Χριστοῦ is explained by the consideration that it is only through Christ that God’s plan in this mystery is carried out; it is only because and in so far as God is the God of Christ that this μυστήριον could exist and be revealed. Meyer adds, “He that has recognised God as the God of Christ, to him is the Divine μυστήριον revealed.” This, after all, is not quite satisfactory, and requires us to read into the text more than is expressed.


If the shorter reading τοῦ Θεοῦ (omitting Χριστοῦ) is adopted, the difficulty disappears; but the difficulty is not so obvious as to tempt the ordinary copyist to omit the word.

The different readings are as follow:—

(1) τοῦ Θεοῦ. Without any addition. Db P 37 67** 71 80 116.

Adopted by Griesbach, Tisch. 2, Olsh., De Wette, Alford.

(2) τοῦ ΘεοῦΧριστοῦ. B, Hilary of Poitiers (De Trin. ix. 62, “in agnitionem sacramenti dei Christi,” adding, “Deus Christus sacramentum est”). Adopted by Lachmann, Tregelles, and Lightfoot without a comma after θεοῦ; by Tisch. 8, RV. with a comma, also by Harless (Eph. p. 458), Ellicott, Meyer, and v. Soden.

(3) τοῦ Θεοῦ, ὅ ἐστιν Χριστός. D* “Dei quod est Christus,” d e, Vigilius Thaps. So Augustine, De Trin. xiii. 24, “Dei quod est Christus Jesus.”

(4) τοῦ θεοῦ πατρὸς (add τοῦ A C 4) Χριστοῦ, א* A C 4, Vulg. in Codd., Amiat., Fuld.., f. Boh. (add Ἰησοῦ, Lagarde).

(5) τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ πατρὸς τοῦ Χριστοῦ, אc two of Scrivener’s MSS. and a corrector in the Harclean Syriac.

(6) τοῦ θεοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ Χριστοῦ, 47 73, Syr-Pesh (ed. princeps and Schaaf).

(7) τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ Χριστοῦ (Rec. Text), D3 K L most cursives, Syr-Harcl. (text), Theodoret, etc.

Isolated readings are—

(8) τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ Χριστοῦ, Cyril. Thes. p. 287.

(9) τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ, Clem. Alex. v. 10, 12, and with τοῦ before ἐν,17. So Ambrosiaster, “Dei in Christo.” τοῦ Χριστοῦ is given by Tisch. from his MS. of Euthalius, but with the remark, “sed non satis apparet.”

As far as documentary evidence goes (4) seems the best attested, and is probably the source of (5) (6) (7). But it is most probably an attempt to remove the difficulty of the simpler reading (1) or (2). Of these (2) is preferred by the critics above named, as accounting for all the rest, (1) the witnesses for which are later, being supposed to have originated from an attempt to remove the difficulty of the former reading. Meyer thinks that the original reading must have involved some dogmatic difficulty, which (4) does not.

The short reading, τοῦ Θεοῦ (1), would account for the others, but the attestation of it is not sufficiently early. Wescott and Hort suspect some corruption.

3. ἐν ᾧ. The antecedent is probably μυστηρίου, not Χριστοῦ. What the apostle is dwelling on is the greatness of the “mystery” (1:27), and the importance of the knowledge of it, in opposition to the supposed wisdom of the false teachers; hence the statement that “all the treasures,” etc., are contained in it. This is confirmed by the use of�Isaiah 45:3, δώσω σοι θησαυροὺς σκοτεινοὺς�


The expression θησαυρὸς σοφίας is used by Plato, Phileb. 15 E, ὥς τινα σοφίας εὑρηκὼς θησαυρόν, and by Xen. Mem. iv. 2. 9, ἄγαμαί σου διότι οὐκ�

σοφίας καὶ γνώσεως. These terms occur together, Romans 9:33, and several times in Eccles. Sept. “While γνῶσις is simply intuitive, σοφία is ratiocinative also. While γνῶσις applies chiefly to the apprehension of truths, σοφία superadds the power of reasoning about them and tracing their relations,” Lightfoot. Augustine’s distinction is that σοφία is “intellectualis cognitio aeternarum rerum”; γνῶσις, “rationalis temporalium,” so that the former pertains to contemplation, the latter to action (De Trin. xii. 20, 25). This, however, is quite opposed to usage. Aristotle, Eth. Nic. i. 1, opposed γνῶσις to πρᾶξις. And in 1 Corinthians 13:2, St. Paul connects γνῶσις with the apprehension of eternal μυστήρια.

4. τοῦτο λέγω. In this expression τοῦτο often refers to what follows, but with ἵνα it refers to what precedes; cf. John 5:34. τοῦτο is not to be limited to ver. 3. Ver. 5 shows that 1-3 are included, if, indeed, the reference does not extend further back.


δέ is omitted in א* A* (apparently) B, but added in אc Acorr. C D K L P, and apparently all other authorities. Weiss considers it certainly genuine.

ἳνα μηδείς. So א* A B C D P al. ἳνα μή τις, אc K L, most MSS.

παραλογίζηται. In N.T. only here and James 1:22; frequent in Sept. and later Greek writers. It applies primarily to false reckoning, and thence to fallacious reasoning; hence, παραλογισμός, a fallacy or paralogism; cf.�


ἐν πιθανολογίᾳ. “By persuasive speech,” “a persuasive style,” Moule. The word occurs in Plato, Theaet. p. 162 E (πιθανολογίᾳ τε καὶ εἰκόσι); the verb πιθανολογεῖν in Arist. Eth. Nic. i. 1; also Diog. Laert. x. 87, al. In classical writers the sense is only that of probable reasoning as opposed to demonstration; but see Demosth. 928, 14, λόγους θαυμασίως πιθανούς, and ἡ πιθανολογική= “the art of persuasion,” Arrian, Epict. i. 8. 7.

Compare St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 2:4, οὐκ ἐν πειθοῖς σοφίας λόγοις,�

5. εἰ γὰρ καὶ. The καὶ after εἰ does not belong to the whole clause introduced by εἰ, but emphasises the word immediately following; cf. 2 Corinthians 4:16, 2 Corinthians 11:6.

τῇ σαρκὶ ἄπειμι. It has been inferred from this that St. Paul had been at Colossae; but without reason. The same expression, indeed, occurs 1 Corinthians 5:3; but this proves nothing, γάρ.

ἀλλά introduces the apodosis, when it is contrasted with a hypothetical protasis; cf. Romans 6:5; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 5:16, al. τῷ πνεύματι, “in spirit,” not “by the spirit,” as Ambrosiaster and Grotius, “Deus Paulo revelat quae Colossis fierent.” The antithesis is the common one of body and spirit; cf. 1 Corinthians 5:3,�


σὺν ὑμῖν. Stronger than ἐν ὑμῖν, expressing union in a common interest.

χαίρων καὶ βλέπων. There is no need to suppose a logical transposition, or to separate the participles as if χαίρων meant “rejoicing at being with you in the spirit” (Meyer, Alford). The apostle’s joy may have been due to many circumstances, and this joy led him to contemplate further their orderly array.

ὑμῶν τὴν τάξιν. The pronoun is placed emphatically first, not so much to accentuate this τάξις as an advantage which they possessed over others, as because the apostle’s interest was in them personally and in the τάξις only as belonging to them.

τὴν τάξιν καὶ τὸ στερέωμα. Both terms are supposed by Hofmann, Lightfoot, Soden, al., to contain a military metaphor, perhaps suggested by St. Paul’s enforced companionship with the praetorian guard, στερέωμα being rendered by Lightfoot “solid front, close phalanx”; by Soden, “bulwark,” “Bollwerk.” τάξις is frequently used of military array, e.g. Xen. Anab. i. 2. 18, ἰδοῦσα τὴν λαμπρότητα καὶ τὴν τάξιν τοῦ στρατεύματος ἐθαύμασεν: Plut. Vit. Pyrrh. 16, κατιδὼν τάξιν τε καὶ φυλακὰς καὶ κόσμον αὐτῶν καὶ τὸ σχῆμα τῆς στρατοπεδείας ἐθαύμασε. στερέωμα is found in the Sept. Psalms 18:2; Genesis 1:6, Rev_1 Macc. 9:14 is quoted in support of the military sense, εἶδεν ὁ Ἰούδας ὅτι Βακχίδης καὶ τὸ στερέωμα τῆς παρεμβολῆς ἐν τοῖς δεξίοις.

But neither word has this military sense of itself, but from the context, and here the context suggests nothing of the kind. τάξις is used equally of the organisation of a state or a household, e g. Demosth. p. 200, 4, ταύτην τὴν τάξιν αἱρεῖσθαι τῆς πολιτείας. Compare also Plato, Gorgias, p. 504 A, τάξεως … καὶ κόσμου τυχοῦσα οἰκία. St. Paul has it again, 1 Corinthians 14:40, πάντα … κατὰ τάξιν γινέσθω. Here the idea of a well-ordered state lies much nearer than that of an army. The apostle rejoices in the orderly arrangement of the Colossian Church. The opposite state would be�2 Thessalonians 3:6, 2 Thessalonians 3:8, 2 Thessalonians 3:11).

With στερέωμα τῆς πίστεως compare Acts 16:5, ἐστερεοῦντο τῇ πίστει, and 1 Peter 5:9, ᾧ�


We gather from this that the Church at Colossae was still substantially sound in the faith, and it is instructive to observe how here as in other Epistles St. Paul is careful to commend what he finds deserving of commendation.

It is worthy of notice that d e translate as if they read ὑστέρημα for στερέωμα “quod deest necessitatibus fidei vestrae.” Augustine agrees, quoting, “id quod deest fidei vestrae” (Ep. 149, Joh. 98). So also Ambrosiaster.

6. ὡς οὖν παρελάβετε. “As, then, ye received, i.e. from your teachers” = καθὼς ἐμάθετε�1 Thessalonians 4:1, καθὼς παρελάβετε παρʼ ἡμῶν τὸ πῶς δεῖ, κ.τ.λ.; 1 Corinthians 15:1, 1 Corinthians 15:2, 1 Corinthians 15:11:23; Galatians 1:9, Galatians 1:12; Philippians 4:9 (ἐμάθετε καὶ παρελάβετε).


Ellicott, however, and Moule understand it as meaning that they received “Christ Himself, the sum and substance of all teaching.” The sense is good, but does not agree so well with the usage of παραλαμβάνειν or with the context, in which we have the contrast between true and false teaching in relation to the Christian walk (καθὼς ἐδιδάχθητε, κατὰ τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν�

τὸν Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν τὸν Κύριον. As St. Paul does not use the phrase ὁ Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς, this is naturally divided into τὸν Χριστόν and Ἰησοῦν τὸν Κύριον, so that τὸν Χρ. is the immediate object of παραλ. This is confirmed by the frequency of ὁ Χριστός in this Epistle, and by the designation of the object of the Christian preaching as ὁ Χριστός in Philippians 1:15, Philippians 1:17. Further, it will be observed that in what follows up to 3:4 it is not the notion of Ἰησοῦς or of Κύριος that is prominent, but that of Χριστός. The Christ, rather than the gospel, is specified as the object of the instruction, because “the central point of the Colossian heresy was the subversion of the true idea of the Christ,” Lightfoot. Ἰησοῦν τὸν Κύριον adds to the official designation the name of Him to whom it belongs, “even Jesus the Lord.” Compare Ephesians 4:20, Ephesians 4:21. The position of τὸν Κύριον after Ἰησοῦν (instead of the usual τὸν Κύριον Ἰησοῦν) points to the two elements of which the true doctrine of the Christ consists, viz. first, the recognition of the historical person, Jesus; and, secondly, the acceptance of Him as the Lord.

ἐν αὐτῷ περιπατεῖτε. This phrase does not occur elsewhere, but it corresponds to the idea of τὰς ὁδούς μου ἐν Χριστῷ, 1 Corinthians 4:17; ζῶντας ἐν Χριστῷ, Romans 4:11, etc.

7. ἐρριζωμένοι καὶ ἐποικοδομούμενοι. The propriety of the tenses is to be observed; the settled state, which is the antecedent condition of περιπατατεῖν ἐν αὐτῷ, is expressed by the perfect; the continual development which is always advancing, by the present. The three figures are disparate, the apostle’s thoughts being occupied with the lesson to be enforced, without regard to the consistency of his metaphor; see Ephesians 3:18. Some commentators put a stop at περιπατεῖτε, connecting the participles with the following ver. 8 a construction which leaves ἐν αὐτῷ π. very isolated.

The ἐπι- in ἐποικοδ. probably does not convey “the accessory idea of the foundation,” which would not agree well with ἐν; besides, it is clear from περιπατεῖτε and ἐρριζ. that the apostle has not before him the distinct figure of a building, but is using the word as St. Jude does, ver. 20, ἐποικοδομοῦντες ἑαυτοὺς τῇ ἁγιωτάτῃ ὑμῶν πίστει, in the derived ethical sense “being built up.” Lightfoot remarks that in this Epistle and that to the Ephesians, Christ is represented rather as the binding element than as the foundation of the building; see Ephesians 2:20.


βεβαιούμενοι qualifies the idea of both the preceding participles. The present gives the idea “being more and more stablished.”

τῇ πίστει is taken by Meyer and Lightfoot as an instrumental dative, “by your faith.” “Faith,” says the latter, “is, as it were, the cement of the building.” But this is to press unduly the metaphor in ἐποικοδ., which, as we have seen, is not intended any more than the other two verbs to convey a definite picture. There is no question here of the instrument, and τῇ πίστει is better taken as a dative of reference, as in Jude 1:20. There πίστις was that which needed βεβαίωσις. καθὼς ἐδιδάχθητε, “even as ye were taught,” i.e. so that ye continue firm and true to the lessons which ye were taught by Epaphras; cf. 1:7, not “taught to be established by or in your faith.”


περισσεύοντες ἐν εὐχαριστίᾳ. “Abounding in thanksgiving.” If ἐν αὐτῇ is read after περισς., then ἐν εὐχ. is “with thanksgiving,” although even with this reading some expositors interpret “in your faith abounding in thanksgiving.”

τῇ πίστει without ἐν, B D* 17 al., Vulg., Ambrosiaster, Theoph. ἐν τῇ πίστει, א Do K L P, most MSS., Chrys., al. ἐν πίστει, A C 672. ἐν would readily come in from the impression made by the repeated ἐν in the context.

ἐν αὐτῇ is added after περισσεύοντες in B Dc K L most MSS., Syr-Pesh, Arm., Chrys. Also אc D* 1 d e f, Vulg., Syr., mg. have ἐν αὐτῷ. The words are absent from א* A C 17 and some other MSS., Amiat., Fuld.., Eth. The words are omitted in the text of RV. but retained in the marginal reading. They may have been added originally from a recollection of 4:2, where we have ἐν αὐτῇ ἐν εὐχαριστίᾳ. This is rather more probable than that they were omitted because περισσεύοντες was thought to be sufficiently defined by ἐν εὐχαριστίᾳ. So Weiss.

8-15.

he apostle has reason to know (having, no doubt, been so informed by Epaphras) that there are amongst the Colossians teachers who are propagating mischievous heresies, dangerous to the faith, and inculcating precepts not consistent with their position as members of Christ’s kingdom. These teachers make a professsion of philosophy, but it is a mere system of deceit and of human origin, and so far is it from being an advance on what they have been taught that it really belongs to a more elementary stage of progress. Ye, he tells them, have been already made full in Christ, in whom dwells the whole fulness of the Godhead, and who is therefore far above all these angelic beings of whom they speak. Ye need no circumcision of the flesh, for ye have received in Christ the true circumcision of the spirit. By Him ye have been raised from death to life, and His work is complete; He has wholly done away with the bond that was against you.

8. βλέπετε μή τις ὑμᾶς ἔσται. “Beware lest there be anyone,” etc. For τις with the participle and article, cf. Galatians 1:7, εἰ μή τινές εἰσιν οἱ ταράσσοντες ὑμᾶς. As it gives prominence to the person and his action, it appears to point to some particular person whom the apostle has in view but does not wish to name. Compare Ignat. Smyrn. 5, ὅν τινες�Mark 14:2, μήποτε ἔσται θόρυβος, and Hebrews 3:12, βλέπετε μήποτε ἔσται ἔν τινι ὑμῶν, κ.τ.λ. ὑμᾶς before ἔσται is somewhat emphatic: “you who are such persons as I have thus commended.”


This order, ὑμᾶς ἔσται, is that of B C K L P; but א A D have ἔσται ὑμᾶς, which, as the more obvious order, was more likely to be written in error.

ὁ συλαγωγῶν. A later Greek word (not indeed found till after St. Paul) used by Aristaenetus (2:22) with οἶκον in the sense “plunder,” in which sense it is understood here by Chrys., Theodoret, and some moderns. Theodoret supplies τὴν πίστιν, Theophyl. τὸν νοῦν. If this were the sense here, the object could hardly be omitted. But the proper meaning of the word seems to be “to carry off as spoil.” So Heliodorus, Aeth. x. 35, ὁ τὴν ἐμὴν θυγάτερα συλαγωγήσας. And this meaning corresponds with that of the analogous compounds, δουλαγωγεῖν, σκευαγωγεῖν, λαφυραγωγεῖν. Von Soden remarks that it also corresponds better with the idea of a destroyed bond in ver. 14 to suggest that they might again be brought into bondage; cf. Galatians 5:1. The Vulgate “decipiat” is very inadequate.

διὰ τῆς φιλοσοφίας. A term not occurring elsewhere in the N.T., and no doubt adopted here because it was used by the false teachers themselves. The combination of it here with κενὴ�1 Timothy 6:20. Chrysostom remarks: ἐπειδὴ δοκεῖ σεμνὸν εἶναι τὸ “τῆς φιλοσοφίας” προσέθηκεε καὶ κενῆς�


καὶ κενῆς�

τὰ στοιχεῖα (= Galatians 4:3) (originally = “letters of the alphabet”) is generally understood by modern commentators as meaning “elementary teaching,” “the A B C of religious instruction”; compare παιδαγωγός in Gal. Then τοῦ κόσμου would mean having reference to mundane, or material, not spiritual things (Alford, Lightfoot, al.). But De Wette takes κόσμος as = “humanity,” as the subject of this instruction (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:19). So Oltramare. Meyer, on the other hand, understands by it “the non-Christian world,” “rudiments with which the world concerns itself” ( = Bleek, Weiss, al.).


Neander judges that a comparison of all the Pauline passages and the Pauline association of ideas favour our understanding the phrase as denoting the earthly, elsewhere termed τὰ σαρκικά. Hence, 2:20, στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου and κόσμος may, he thinks, be considered as synonymous.

An entirely different interpretation has been adopted by several recent commentators. According to this, τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου are the personal elemental spirits. According to Jewish ideas, not only were the stars conceived as animated by spiritual beings,1 but all things had their special angels. In the Book of Enoch, 82. 10 ff., it is said with reference to the angels of the stars that they keep watch, that they may appear at their appointed times, in their proper orders, etc. There are, first, the four leaders who divide the seasons, then the twelve leaders of the orders (taxiarchs), who divide the months; and for the 360 days there are heads over thousands (chiliarchs), who divide the days. Anyone who is curious about the matter may learn the principal names in the book itself. In 18. 15 we read of stars which suffer punishment because they have transgressed the commandment of God as to their appearing. In the Book of Jubilees, cap. 2, amongst the creations of the first day are the Angels of the Presence, but also the angels of the winds, of clouds, of cold and heat, of hail, hoarfrost, thunder, etc. Perhaps Psalms 104:4 may have some relation to this conception; certainly it seems to be illustrated by the Apocalypse, vii. 1, 2, xiv. 18, xvi. 5 (τοῦ�John 5:4. It is obvious that the term properly used of the elements ruled by these spirits might readily be applied to the spirits themselves, especially as there was no other convenient term. It agrees with this that in Galatians 4:1 ff. those who were δεδουλωμένοι ὑπὸ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου are compared to those who are under ἐπίτροποι καὶ οἰκονόμοι,—a comparison which suggests personality in the former. And again, ib. 8, 9, δουλεύειν τοῖς φύσει μὴ οὖσιν θεοῖς appears to be equivalent to δουλεύειν τοῖς στοιχείοις, κ.τ.λ.

In the present passage the observance of times and seasons, etc., is κατὰ τὰ στ.τ.κ., not κατὰ Χρ., a contrast which does not agree well with the conception of στ. as elements of instruction. This view of τὰ στοιχεῖα gives special pertinence to the proposition which follows, ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ, κ.τ.λ., and ver. 10, ὅς ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλὴ πάσης�2 Peter 3:10 speaks of the burning up of στοιχεῖα. This view is unreservedly adopted by Kühl, the recent editor of the Epistles of Peter and Jude in Meyer’s Kommentar, and by v. Soden in his comment on the present passage.2


9. ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ κατοικεῖ πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα. See 1:19; and on πλήρωμα, Lightfoot’s dissertation, Colossians, p. 323 ff.

τῆς θεότητος, “of the Godhead,” i.e. of the Divine nature. θεότης, the abstract of θεός, must not be confounded with θειότης, which is used with propriety in Romans 1:20, and which means, not the essence, but the quality of divinity. θεότης is found in Lucian, Icarom. ix., τὸν μέν τινα πρῶτον Θεὸν ἐπεκάλουν, τοῖς δὲ τὰ δεύτερα καὶ τὰ τρίτα ἔνεμον τῆς θεότητος; and in Plutarch, Mor. p. 415 C, ἐκ δὲ δαιμόνων ὀλίγαι μὲν ἔτι χρόνῳ πολλῷ διʼ�

σωματικῶς, “bodilywise, corporeally.” Not�Philippians 3:21. Chrysostom draws attention to the accuracy of the expression, μὴ νομίσῃς Θεὸν συγκεκλεῖσθαι, ὡς ἐν σώματι.


This interpretation, which is that adopted by most modern commentators, is the only one tenable, but many others have been suggested. Theophylact and Oecumenius took the word to mean “essentially,” οὐσιωδῶς, i.e. not merely as an influence, as in the saints or as in the prophets. So Calvin, Beza, and, more recently, Olshausen and Usteri. But the word cannot have this meaning.

Augustine (Epist. 149) understands it to mean “really” not “typically,” “vere non umbratice,” not “umbratiliter,” as in the temple made with hands; and so many moderns (including Bengel and Bleek), comparing ver. 17, where σῶμα is contrasted with σκιά. But there the idea is that of a body which cast a shadow, and the passage does not justify our rendering the adverb “really.”

Others, again, understanding πλήρωμα of the Church, take σωματικῶς to mean, “so that the Church is related to Him as His body” (Baumgarten-Crusius, al.), thus making the body of Christ dwell in Christ, instead of Christ in the body.

10. καὶ ἐστὲ ἐν αὐτῷ πεπληρωμένοι. “And ye are in Him made full.” Alford, Ellicott, and Lightfoot render, “ye are in Him, made full,” regarding the clause as containing two predications. But the connexion seems to require the fact to be emphasised, that it is “in Him” that the πεπληρωμένον εἶναι rests; for on this depends the inference that nothing more is lacking in our relation to God. The πεπληρωμένοι obviously corresponds with the πλήρωμα. Christ is πεπληρωμένος: ye being in Him share in His πλήρωμα, and are therefore yourselves πεπληρωμένοι. Compare John 1:16, ἐκ τοῦ πληρώματος αὐτοῦ ἡμεῖς πάντες ἐλάβομεν: Ephesians 3:9, ἴνα πληρωθῆτε εἰς πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ Θεοῦ, also ibid. 4:13 and 1:23.


ὃς ἐστιν. So א A C K L P and nearly all MSS. with the Latin e f g Vulg. and Chrys., Theodoret, al. But B D G 47* with d have ὅ ἐστιν, perhaps a correction made on the supposition that αὐτῷ referred to πλήρωμα, or by oversight c was lost before e c. Lachmann adopts it, placing καὶ to ἐν αὐτῷ in a parenthesis. The image, however, would be quite confused if the πλήρωμα were represented as the head; ἡ κεφαλή is always Christ. Besides, we should be obliged to refer ἐν ὧ also to πλήρωμα, and this would not yield any tolerable sense. Ewald, adopting ὅ ἑστιν, takes it as= “scilicet,” comparing 1:24, 27 and 3:17; but this would require τῇ κεφαλῇ.

ἡ κεφαλὴ πάσης�

ἀχειροποιήτῳ, “not wrought by hands,” not physical: cf. Mark 14:58; 2 Corinthians 5:1; and Ephesians 2:11, where we have the other side of the contrast, οἱλεγόμενοι�Romans 2:28; Philippians 3:3. At first sight it might appear from this clause that the Colossians had been tempted like the Galatians to submit to circumcision. But in that case we should find, as in the Epistle to the Galatians, some direct condemnation of the practice; whereas in 16-23 there is no reference to it. Possibly the allusion here is to some claim to superiority on the part of the false teachers.


ἐν τῇ�

τοῦ σώματος τῆς σαρκός, i.e. “the body which consists in the flesh,” “the fleshly body,” so that we are no more ἐν τῇ σαρκι (Romans 7:5, Romans 7:8:8, Romans 7:9). The change is ideally represented as complete, which it is in principle.


Some expositors take σῶμα in the sense of “mass, totality” (Calvin, Grotius, al.); but this is against N.T. usage, and does not agree so well with the context, the images in which are connected with the body, “buried, raised.” The expression σῶμα τῆς σαρκός, 1:22, has a different meaning.

The Rec. Text after σώματος adds τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν, with אc Dbc K L and most MSS., Syr., Chrys., etc.

The words are absent from א* A B C D* G P some good cursives, Old Lat. Vulg., Boh., etc. They are clearly a gloss.

ἐν τῇ περιτομῇ τοῦ Χριστοῦ. The simplest and most natural interpretation is: “the circumcision which belongs to Christ, and is brought about by union with Him,” in contrast to the circumcision of Moses and of the patriarchs. Thus it is nearly equivalent to “Christian circumcision,” but expresses the idea that the source of this circumcision is in Christ.

Some commentators have taken Χριστοῦ as the genitive of the object, the thought being supposed to be that in the circumcision of Christ we are circumcised. So Schöttgen: “Circumcisio Christi qui se nostri causa sponte legi subjecit, tam efficax fuit in omnes homines, ut nulla amplius circumcisione carnis opus sit, praecipue quum in locum illius baptismus a Christo surrogatus sit.” This is not only without support from Scripture analogy, but is foreign to the context, in which the circumcision spoken of is�

12. συνταφέντες αὐτῷ, κ.τ.λ. We have the same figure in Romans 6:3, Romans 6:4, which may almost be regarded as a commentary on this passage. The figure was naturally suggested by the immersion in baptism, which St. Paul interprets as symbolical of burial, the emersion similarly symbolising the rising again to newness of life.


συνταφέντες is to be connected with περιετμήθητε, and specifies when and how this was brought about.

ἐν τῷ βαπτίσματι. So most authorities, א* A C Dc K L P, etc. But אc, B D* F G 47 672 71 have βαπτισμῷ, which Lightfoot prefers on the ground that it is the less usual word in this sense. That it might be so used is shown by its occurrence in Josephus, Ant. xviii. 5. 2, of the baptism of John. But in two of the other three passages in which it occurs in the N.T., it means lustration or washing, e.g. of vessels: Mark 7:4 (in Rec. also 8); Hebrews 9:10. The third passage, Hebrews 6:2, is doubtful. In the Latin version as well as in the Latin Fathers, “baptisma” and “baptismus” are used indifferently. St. Paul uses the substantive “baptism” in only two other places (Romans 6:4; Ephesians 4:5), and this is not sufficient to supply any basis for inference as to his usage. Etymologically βαπτισμός would signify rather the act of dipping, βάπτισμα the act as complete. Weiss thinks the former more suitable here.


ἐν ᾧ, viz. βαπτίσματι. This seems clearly required by the analogy between συνταφέντες ἐν and συνηγέρθητε. Chrysostom, however, and most comm. understand ἐν Χριστῷ. Meyer defends this on the ground, first, of the parallelism of ἐν ᾧ καί—ἐν ᾧ καί; secondly, because, if baptism were intended, ἐν would not be suitable to the rising again, and we should expect ἐξ, or at least the non-local διά; and, lastly, because as συνταφέντες is defined by ἐν τῷ βαπτ., so is συνηγέρθητε by διὰ τῆς πίστεως; and, therefore, the text suggests no reason for continuing to it the former definition also. To the second objection (adopted also by Eadie), it may be replied that βάπτισμα (βαπτισμός) includes the whole act. It is only when we take in the two things signified, the “death unto sin” and the “new birth unto righteousness,” or the putting off of the old man and the putting on of the new, that βάπτισμα can be identified with περιτομὴ�

συνηγέρθητε. Compare Galatians 3:27, ὅσοι εἰς Χριστὸν ἐβαπτίσθητε Χριστὸν ἐπενδύσασθε. The Χριστὸν ἐπενδύσασθαι presupposes the�

διὰ τῆς πίστεως τῆς ἐνεργείας τοῦ Θεοῦ. “Through your faith in the working of God.” Bengel, De Wette, al., understand ἐνεργείας as a genitive of cause, “faith produced by the operation of God.” But the genitive after πίστις, when not that of the person, is always that of the object. Cf. Mark 11:22; Acts 3:16; Romans 3:22; Galatians 2:16, Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 3:12; Philippians 1:27, etc. Ephesians 1:19 is cited in favour of this interpretation, but κατὰ τὴν ἐνεργείαν there is not to be joined to τοὺς πιστεύοντας; see note on the passage. The former interpretation is also more suitable to the context. The πίστις here is specified as faith in the resurrection, πιστεύοντες γὰρ τῇ τοῦ Θεοῦ δυνάμει προσμένομεν τὴν�Romans 4:24, Romans 6:8, Romans 10:9.

B D G 17 and most MSS. have τῶν before νεκρῶν; אA C K L P and several cursives omit it. In most instances of this or similar phrases ἐκ νεκρῶν is used without τῶν, and with no variety in codd. (In Ephesians 1:20 L and some twenty-five MSS. prefix τῶν.) But in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 א B D G L P and many MSS., with Chrys., Theodoret, al., have τῶν, A C K and many MSS. omitting it. It seems, therefore, more probable that τῶν was omitted here in conformity with usage than that it was wrongly added. See on Luke 20:35.

13. καὶ ὑμᾶς, νεκροὺς ὄντας τοῖς παραπτώμασι … ὑμῶν. See Ephesians 2:1.


καὶ τῇ�

On συνεζωοποίησε, see Ephesians 2:5. What is the subject? Ellicott, following Chrysostom, replies: Christ; partly on account, first, of “the logical difficulty of supplying a nom. from the subordinate gen. Θεοῦ”; secondly, of the prominence given to Christ throughout the preceding context, the acts described in the participles (ἐξαλ. κ.τ.λ., compared with Ephesians 2:15, and χαρις. with Colossians 3:13); and, lastly, the difficulty of referring vv. 14 and 15 to God the Father. On the other hand, the reasons for adopting ὁ Θεός as the subject seem decisive. (1) There is really less logical difficulty in supplying ὁ Θεός from τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ἐγείραντος than in supplying ὁ Χριστός from αὐτῷ or αὐτόν, where it is the object, or from τοῦ Χριστοῦ. (2) καὶ ὑμᾶς makes it almost necessary to understand the same subject to συνεζωοποίησε as to ἐγείραντος. (3) This is further confirmed by the συν in συνεζωοποίησεν, and by σὺν αὐτῷ. He that quickened you along with Him must surely be the same who is said to have raised Him. (4) In St. Paul it is always God, not Christ, who is the subject of ἐγείρει, συνεγείρει, ζωοποιεῖ, συνζωοποιεῖ. (5) Lastly, in Ephesians 2:4, which is so closely parallel, ὁ Θεός is the subject of συνεζωοποίησε. Hence we seem compelled to take ὁ Θεός here as the subject, whatever the difficulty of vv. 14, 15. And so Meyer, Alford, Lightfoot, v. Soden.

χαρισάμενος, “having forgiven.” Moule prefers “forgiving,” i.e. in the act of quickening. There is no grammatical objection to this; but logically, at least, the χαρίζεσθαι must precede the ζωοποιεῖν. The verb χαρίζεσθαι properly means “to grant as a favour” (see on Ephesians 4:32). Compare in the N.T. Luke 7:21, ἐχαρίσατο βλέπειν: Acts 3:14, φονέα χαρισθῆναι: 25:11, οὐδείς με δύναται αὐτοῖς χαρίσασθαι; ib. 16, 27:24, κεχάρισταί σοι ὁ Θεὸς πάντας τοὺς πλέοντας μετὰ σοῦ. Philippians 1:29; Philemon 1:22.

It does not seem necessary to suppose that its use in the sense “forgive an offence” is derived from that of “forgiving a debt”; but even if so, there is no reason to think that it continued to suggest the latter idea. Here at all events, notwithstanding χειρόγραφον, it would appear not to have been so intended, else παραπτώματα would hardly be used, which would interfere with the figure. See on Luke 7:21, Luke 7:42.


ἡμῖν is here the right reading, with א* A B C D G K and most MSS., d e g Goth., Syr. (both), Boh., Arm., Chrys., al.

ὑμῖν is read by אc L P and many MSS. f, Vulg., Eth. The apostle at the earliest moment, as we may say, includes himself, claiming his share in the transgression and in the forgiveness. Such transition is frequent with him; cf. 1:10-13, 3:3, 4; Ephesians 2:2, Ephesians 2:3, Ephesians 2:13, Ephesians 2:14, Ephesians 2:4:31, 32, Ephesians 2:5:2. For the converse transition see Galatians 3:25, Galatians 3:26, Galatians 3:4:5, Galatians 3:6. If χαρισάμενος were simultaneous with συνεζωοποίησεν, St. Paul must have used ὑμῖν here.

14. ἐξαλείψας, “blotting out” (because simultaneous with χαρισάμενος, and specifying the act by which the χαρ. was carried out). Strictly, it means “wiping out or away,” “cera obducta delere.” It is used of “sins,” Acts 3:19; of a “name,” Revelation 3:5; of “tears,” Revelation 7:17, Revelation 21:4. It is used also in classical writers of blotting out or wiping out a writing, e.g. Plato, Rep. p. 386 C, p. 501 B, and hence of abolishing a law, Dem. p. 468, 1, etc.


τὸ καθʼ ἡμῶν χειρόγραφον. “The bond that was against us.” χειρόγραφον, properly an autograph, was in later Greek a technical term for a written acknowledgment of debt, for which the older term was συγγραφή or γραμματεῖον. “Chirographum” became the usual Roman legal term; cf. Cic. Fam. vii. 18; Juvenal, Sat. xvi. 41.

Here the χειρόγραφον is the Mosaic Law, which being unfulfilled is analogous to an unpaid “note of hand.” But the figure must not be pressed too far, for in this case the χειρόγραφον was not written by the debtor. Nor is it necessary to suppose that the apostle had in view the assent of the Jewish people; Deuteronomy 27:14-26; Exodus 24:3 (Chrys., Oecum., Theoph., Lightfoot, etc.), or in the case of the Gentiles the assent of conscience to the moral law. The fact of obligation is sufficient to justify the use of the figure. Hence it is τὸ καθʼ ἡμῶν χειρόγραφον, but not ἡμῶν χειρόγραφον. Although the Gentiles had not the written law, they had “the work of the law written in their hearts,” and therefore come under the same obligation.


For a detailed account of other views of χειρόγραφον, see Eadie.

δόγμασιν, “consisting in δόγματα, i.e. ordinances,” compare Ephesians 2:15, τὸν νόμον τῶν ἐντολῶν ἐν δόγμασι, where see note on the meaning of δόγμα, which in the N.T. is always “a decree.”


The dative is best regarded as closely connected with χειρόγραφον only, being dependent on the idea of γεγραμμένον involved in the word. Compare Plato, Ep. 7. p. 243 A, ὃ δὴ πάσχει τὰ γεγραμμένα τύποις. So Meyer, Alford, Eadie, Lightfoot, Soden. The explanation is not without difficulty, as χειρογ. is a synthetic compound; and Lightfoot thinks it possible that ἐν may have dropped out after the similar termination -ον. If so, it must have been in the earliest ages that the error occurred, since no trace remains of the reading ἐν.

Two or three other explanations deserve notice; first, that of Winer, al., followed by Ellicott, according to which δόγμασι is a nearer definition of the whole, τὸ καθʼ ἡμῶν χειρόγραφον expressing at the same time what the χειρόγραφον was, and in what respect it was against us. For this we should expect τὸ τοῖς δόγμασιν καθʼ ἡμῶν χ., or τὸ καθʼ ἡμῶν χ. τῶν δογμάτων, or the like.

Erasmus, Olshausen, Conybeare, and others connect τοῖς δόγμασιν with the following clause: “the handwriting, which by its ordinances, was against us,” a very unnatural construction, for which Acts 1:2 affords no parallel.


The Greek commentators (Chrysostom, Severianus, Theodore Mops., Theodoret, Oec., Theoph.) connect δόγμασιν with ἐξαλείψας, understanding the word to mean the doctrines or precepts of the gospel, as the instrument by which the blotting out was effected. Jerome adopts this view; and so, amongst moderns, Grotius, Estius, Bengel, Fritzsche.

But this is not only opposed to the use of δόγμα in the N T., but, what is of more importance, it is inconsistent with fact. For it is not by precepts or doctrines (ἡ εὐαγγελικὴ διδασκαλία, Theoph.), nor by faith (Theodoret), that the handwriting, i.e. the Mosaic Law, is abrogated. Moreover, the cognate verb δογματίζεσθε in ver. 20 has obvious reference to the δόγματα here, and it is implied that such δόγματα are obsolete. It is remarkable that the Greek commentators named above do not even allude to the correct interpretation, adopting without question that construction which was grammatically simplest. Irenaeus, however (quoted by Lightfoot), appears to have taken the more correct view.

The term δόγματα is used here instead of νόμος, doubtless in order to fix attention on the formal element, the plurality of precepts,—an element which was common to it and the δογματίζειν of the false teachers. It thus prepares for the τί δογματίζεσθε of ver. 20. See on Luke 2:1.


ὃ ἦν ὑπεναντίον ἡμῖν. “Which was directly opposed to us.” Here first the idea of the hostility of the χειρόγραφον is expressed, the καθʼ ὑμῶν only asserting its validity with reference to us.

ὑπεναντίος occurs again Hebrews 10:27. The ὑπό does not in this word imply either secrecy (Beza, al.) or mitigation, as = “subcontrarius,” a signification which ὑπό in composition often has, but which does not belong to ὑπενατίος either in the Sept. or in classical writers. For the Sept. cf. Gen. 22:27; Exodus 23:27; and for classical usage, two passages cited by Lightfoot, viz. Arist. De Gen. et Corr i. 7, ἐοίκασι οἱ τοῦτον τὸν τρόπον λέγοντες ὑπεναντία φαίνεσθαι λέγειν, where it means “self-contradictory,” and [Plato] Alcib. Sec. 138 C, ΣΩ. Τὸ μαίνεσθαι ἆρα ὑπεναντίον σοι δοκεῖ τῷ φρονεῖν; ΑΛ. Πάνυ μὲν οὖν … 139 B, ΣΩ. Καὶ μὴν δύο γε ὑπεναντία ἑνὶ πράγματι πῶς ἂν εἴη, where the argument turns on the sense of direct opposition involved in the word.

καὶ αὐτὸ ἦρκεν ἐκ τοῦ μέσου. “And it (emphatic) He hath taken out of the way.” The χειρόγραφον, the writing on which had been blotted out, has now been itself removed out of the way. αἴρειν ἐκ τοῦ μέσου or ἐκ μεσοῦ was a classical expression for removing out of the way, as, on the contrary, ἐν μέσῳ εἶναι meant “to be in the way.” For the former, compare Dem. De Corona, p. 354, τὸ καταψεύδεσθαι καὶ διʼ ἐχθράν τι λέγειν�Acts 17:33 and 2 Thessalonians 2:7, μόνον ὁ κατέχων ἄρτι ἕως ἂν ἐκ μέσου γένηται. The idea “from between us and God” is not implied, but only that of an obstacle, as these and other passages show. The change of structure from the participles to the finite verb is to be noted, as well as the perfect ἦρκεν. The perfect fixes attention on the present state of freedom resulting from the action which was especially before the apostle’s mind. “It is suggested,” says Lightfoot, “by the feeling of relief and thanksgiving which rises up in the apostle’s mind at this point.” This is quite sufficient to account for the change of construction; but there was another and more imperative reason in the necessity for adding a further participial definition to the “taking away.” It is clear that ἆρας … προσήλωσας would not have conveyed the same idea.


Lightfoot and others suppose a change of subject at ἦρκεν, viz. from ὁ Θεός to ὁ Χριστός. A new subject, it is thought, must be introduced somewhere, because “no grammatical meaning can be assigned to�

προσηλώσας αὐτὸ τῷ σταυρῷ. The aorist expresses the historical fact. The verb does not occur elsewhere in the N.T., but is found in classical writers, and with σταυρῷ in 3 Macc. 4:9, and Joseph. Bell. Jud. ii. 14. 9. The thought expressed is similar to that in Galatians 3:13. As Meyer observes, “since by the death of Christ on the Cross the law which condemned men lost its penal authority, inasmuch as Christ by His death endured for men the curse of the Law and became the end of the Law, hence in the fact that Christ as a ἱλαστήριον was nailed to the Cross, the Law itself was nailed thereon, whereby it ceased to be ἐν μέσῳ.” The figure in προσηλώσας is suggested simply by the idea of the crucifixion; there is no reason to suppose, with Grotius, any allusion to a custom of driving a nail through obsolete laws or decrees, and so hanging them up in public, a custom which seems to be unproved.

15.�Matthew 27:28, Matthew 27:31; Mark 15:20; Luke 10:30. The middle occurs 2 Corinthians 5:4 of putting off the mortal body. In this Epistle, 3:19,�


First, it has been taken absolutely, “having put off from himself his body, he made a show,” etc., as RV. marg. This, which supposes ὁ Χριστός to be the subject, is the interpretation adopted by Hilary, Ambrose, Augustine, and some other Latins. Probably, however, they had before them a Latin counterpart of the reading found in G, viz. τὴν σάρκα καὶ τὰς ἐξουσίας. The Latin of G has the same. Thus Hilary has twice, “exutus carnem et potestates ostentui fecit” (773, 990); once, however, he has “spolians se carne et principatus et potestates ostentui fecit” (204).

Novat. also has “exutus carnem potestates dehonestavit” (De Trin. 16). It will be observed that these quotations, except the third from Hilary, agree with G in omitting τὰς�

In support of this interpretation 2 Corinthians 5:4 is referred to, where the cognate verb ἐκδύσασθαι is used absolutely of putting off the body. But there the metaphor is not abruptly introduced, the verb only carrying out the figure introduced with its explanation in vv. 2, 3. Here it would be quite isolated, being neither explained nor suggested by anything in the context, with which, indeed, the idea would have no apparent connexion. Some expositors, indeed, have found an allusion to the metaphorical use of�

2. Ellicott, Lightfoot, al., adopt the interpretation of the Greek commentators, Chrysostom, Severianus, Theodore Mops., and Theodoret, viz. taking τὰς�Hebrews 4:15). The powers of evil gathered about Him. Again and again they assailed Him; but each fresh assault ended in a new defeat.” “The final act in the conflict began with the agony of Gethsemane; it ended with the Cross of Calvary. The victory was complete. The enemy of man was defeated. The powers of evil, which had clung like a Nessus robe about His humanity, were torn off and cast aside for ever. And the victory of mankind is involved in the victory of Christ. In His Cross we too are divested of the poisonous clinging garments of temptation and sin and death; τῷ�


But this interpretation is open to serious if not fatal objections. In the first place, as the verb means to divest of clothing, it requires us to regard these hostile powers in the light of a clothing of God or Christ, a “Nessus robe,” as Lightfoot expresses it.

If the interpretation, “putting off the body,” is to be rejected on the ground that the metaphor, though a natural one, is not suggested or explained by the context, the objection applies more strongly to the view in question, which supposes a metaphor by no means easy to understand and not elsewhere paralleled. The putting off the old man, ch. 3:9, is not at all parallel. Lightfoot compares Philo, Quod det. pot. ins. 13 (i. p. 199), where the image in the context is that of a wrestling bout, ἐξαναστάντες δὲ καὶ διερεισάμενοι τὰς ἐντέχνους αὐτῶν περιπλοκὰς εὐμαρῶς ἐκδυσόμεθα; but there the figure is sufficiently explained by the context. Here (and this is the second objection) the figure would be irrelevant to the context. As Alford observes, “is it in any way relevant to the fact of the law being antiquated by God in the Great Sacrifice of the atonement, to say that He in that act (or, according to others, Christ in that act) spoiled and triumphed over the infernal potentates?” Lastly, there is another very strong objection. If it was only by putting off His human body on the Cross that He could put off from Himself the powers of evil that beset His humanity, this would not be victory, but retreat.

3. Alford observes, and apparently with justice, that the terms�Ephesians 6:12. “Now the words have occurred before in this very passage, ver. 10, where Christ is exalted as κεφαλὴ πάσης�Galatians 3:19, διαταγεὶς διʼ�Hebrews 2:2, ὁ διʼ�Acts 7:53, ἐλάβετε τὸν νόμον εἰς διαταγὰς�

4. The foregoing interpretations assume that�1 Corinthians 15:56); hence with the law “the infernal power stands and falls.” Surely a faulty argument. The abolition of the law does not do away with sin. Moule, again, says, “He who is King of all orders of good angels is here presented as Conqueror of their evil counterpart.” This supposes that τὰς�

5. V. Soden adopts the translation “spoiled,” i.e. “disarmed,” but adopts a view of�Galatians 4:3, Galatians 4:9, Galatians 4:3:19; 1 Corinthians 8:5 sqq.). The fact, which in ver. 14 was described on the side of men, is now carved out in its significance for the angelic powers who represented those δόγματα, having in view the fact that δογματίζειν the taught in Colossae, which the apostle is combating, was ultimately a θρησκεία τῶν�


This view is equally tenable whether the subject is taken to be ὁ Θεός or ὁ Χριστός, and it seems less open to objection than the former. The remark quoted above from Alford as to the prominence given to angelic action is equally applicable to this interpretation.

ἐδειγμάτισεν. A rare word, which, perhaps, is also to be read in Matthew 1:19, μὴ θέλων αὐτὴν δειγματίσαι:1 and Lightfoot also quotes a passage from Acta Pauli et Petri, in which it occurs, ἵνα μὴ μόνον�

ἐν παρρησίᾳ. The rendering “openly,” as in AV. and retained in RV., is approved by Bengel, De Wette, Olsh., Wordsworth, and Eadie. δημοσίᾳ, πάντων ὁρώντων, Theoph., Alford would preserve the idea of “openness of speech,” “declaring and revealing by the Cross that there is none other but Christ the Head πάσης�John 7:4, where ἐν παρρησίᾳ εἶναι is opposed to ἐν κρυπτῷ ποιεῖν, and 11:54, Ἰησοῦς οὐκέτι παρρησίᾳ περιεπάτει ἐν τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις�


θριαμβεύσας αὐτούς. αὐτούς, masc. of the�

θριαμβεύσας, “triumphing over them,” or, rather, “leading them in triumph,” as in 2 Corinthians 2:14. This is the usual signification of the verb with accus. of person. E.g. Plut. Thes. et Rom_4, βασιλεῖς ἐθριάμβευσε καὶ ἡγεμόνας. Wetstein, on Cor. l.c., gives other examples.


ἐν αὐτῷ. Bengel, De Wette, al., take this as = ἐν Χριστῷ. But Christ is not mentioned in ver. 14. Most commentators understand it as = ἐν σταυρῷ. To this Soden objects that σταυρός in ver. 14 is only a secondary idea; and he refers the pronoun to χειρόγραφον. In doing away with the χειρόγραφον God triumphed over those who administered it. (Meyer, Exo_4 (1874), does not mention this view, which is attributed to him by Ellicott (1857) and Eadie (1855).) The Vulgate has “in semetipso,” and so RV. margin. G reads ἐν ἑαυτῷ.


The metaphor is a very bold one whether understood of God or of Christ. If αὐτῷ refers to σταυρῷ, the words would certainly be more suitable to Christ, and in that case the antithesis between θριάμβευσας and ἐν σταυρῷ would be extremely striking. “The violence of the metaphor,” says Lightfoot, “is its justification. The paradox of the Crucifixion is thus placed in the strongest light—triumph in helplessness and glory in shame. The convict’s gibbet is the victor’s car.” No doubt this way of putting the thought is very striking; but if this had been the meaning of the apostle, might we not expect that he would express it more distinctly, instead of almost hiding it, as we may say, in an unemphatic pronoun with an ambiguous preposition ἐν ? We might have expected some such expression, for instance, as σταυρωθεὶς ἐθριάμβευσε. But, in fact, the contrast suggested would be quite irrelevant to the apostle’s purpose, and the more striking it is the less likely is it that he would introduce it in this way as a side. thought, thus tending to draw the reader’s attention from the argument.

For ἐν αὐτῷ Origen (in several places) reads ἐν τῷ ξύλῳ. So also his translator (Int. ii. 416), commenting on “in ligno crucis,” says: “licet in aliis exemplaribus habeatur triumphans in semetzpso, sed spud Graecos habetur in ligno.”

16-23. Practical application of these principles to the ascetic precepts and the angel-worship of the false teachers. With their precepts about eating and drinking and observance of days, they would have you attach yourselves to the shadow, whereas you are in possession of the reality. The cult of angels is inculcated as a becoming exercise of humility; but this is a false humility, and is really the fruit of carnal pride, vaunting itself in the pretended knowledge o f these angelic powers, and is derogatory to Christ the Head, on whom alone we depend for spiritual health and growth

16. Μὴ οὖν τις ὑμᾶς κρινέτω. “Therefore,” seeing that the law of ordinances has been done away with, “let not any one,” not μηδείς, but μή τις, as in ver. 8, pointing to some definite persons; κρινέτω, not “condemn,” but “judge you, take you to task.” Compare Romans 14:3, Romans 14:4; 1 Corinthians 10:29.

ἐν βρώσει ἢ ἐν πόσει. “In eating or in drinking,” i.e. in the matter of eating or drinking. Compare Romans 14:17, οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ βρῶσις καὶ πόσις. βρῶσις in St. Paul is always the action of eating (1 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 9:10), not the thing eaten (βρῶμα, 1 Corinthians 6:13, 1 Corinthians 8:8, 1 Corinthians 10:3, al.; Hebrews 9:10). In Homer, indeed, βρῶσις is used for “food” (Il. i. 210, al.); and so in St. John 4:32; cf. 34, 6:27, 55. There is a similar difference between πόσις and πόμα.

The Mosaic Law contained no prohibition respecting drinks except in special cases, namely, those of Nazirite vows and of priests ministering in the tabernacle (Numbers 6:3; Leviticus 10:9). There was also a prohibition of drinking from vessels rendered unclean by the dead bodies of unclean animals (Leviticus 11:34). We know, however, that the Essenes, the prototypes of the Colossian false teachers, went far beyond the Mosaic code, abstaining wholly from wine and from animal food (see Lightfoot, p. 86).


Lightfoot reads καὶ ἐν πόσει, with B, Syr-Pesh, Boh., Tertull., Origen. Tertullian, however, reads et in all four places, therefore his evidence in this instance is valueless. The Syriac also has “and” in three of the four places, “or” only in the second; its evidence also, therefore, counts for nothing. The apostle might have written καί not ἤ, because and βρῶσις and πόσις naturally belong together (but so, indeed, do the following three), and the occurrence of ἤ in the other three clauses would easily lead a copyist to substitute it here. But the authority for και is too slight.

Compare 1 Corinthians 11:27, ἐσθίῃ τὸν ἄρτον ἢ πίνῃ τὸ ποτήριον, κ.τ.λ., where A, some cursives, Syr-Pesh, Boh., Eth., Origen, al. have καί.

ἢ ἐν μέρει, “in the matter of”; compare ἐν τουτῷ τῷ μέρει, 2 Corinthians 3:10, 2 Corinthians 3:9:3; μέρος often denotes the class or category, especially with verbs like τιθέναι, as in Plato, Rep. i. 348 E, ἐν�

ἑορτῆς ἢ νουμηνίας ἢ σαββάτων. The words specify the annual, monthly, and weekly celebrations; cf. Galatians 4:10.

σάββατα, though plural, means “a Sabbath day,” being, in fact, a Greek transliteration of the Aramaic, and from its form mistaken for a plural. Thus Josephus distinctly, Ant. iii. 10. 1, ἑβδόμην ἡμέραν ἥτις σάββατα καλεῖται; also ib. i. 1. 1. Compare Hor. Sat i. 9. 69, “hodie tricesima Sabbata.” See on Luke 4:31.


B G have the spelling νεομηνίας, and so the Vulg.

17. ἅ ἐστιν σκιὰ τῶν μελλόντων, τὸ δὲ σῶμα Χριστοῦ. σκιά does not mean an outline or sketch (as understood by Calvin and many others), which would be σκιαγραφία or σκιαγράφημα, and is excluded by the antithesis of σῶμα. A sketch would be contrasted with the complete picture. It is simply “shadow,” having in itself no substance, but indicating the existence of a body which casts the shadow. σῶμα accordingly retains its proper signification “body,” not “substance.” Compare Philo, De Conf. Ling. p. 434, τὰ μὲν ῥητὰ τῶν χρησμῶν σκιάς τινας ὡσανεὶ σωμάτων εἶναι: opposed to τὰ ὑφεστῶτα�Hebrews 10:1, σκιὰν ἔχων ὁ νόμος τῶν μελλόντων�

Meyer again presses the tense of ἐστι so far as to infer that τὰ μέλλοντα are not the already then existing Christian relations, the καινὴ διαθήκη (rather τὰ τῆς καινῆς διαθηκής), but belong “wholly” to the αἰὼν μέλλων. The present, however, is sufficiently explained by the remark of Davenant (apud Ellicott), “loquitur de illis ut considerantur in suâ naturâ, abstractae a circumstantiis temporis.” Yet it may be used in its temporal sense quite as well as the presents in Hebrews 10:1. sqq. For the observance of these times and seasons had not ceased, although that of which they were the shadow had come. Meyer’s interpretation would vitiate the apostle’s reasoning, for if τὰ μέλλοντα were still wholly future, the σκιά would not be superseded, and the observances referred to would retain their importance.


V Soden regards σῶμα as denoting τὰ μέλλοντα in their concrete organisation, i.e. the Church (cf. ver. 19).

τοῦ χριστοῦ, i.e. belongs to Christ; the blessings typified by these observances are found in Him. The article is prefixed in א* A C P 17 al., Oec.; omitted in אc D G K L most MSS., Chrys., etc. Chrysostom mentions a strange punctuation: οἱ μὲν οὖν τοῦτο στίζουσι· τὸ δὲ σῶμα, Χριστοῦ, ἡ δὲ�

This meaning of the verb is confirmed by its etymology. The simple verb βραβεύειν, which, of course, signifies primarily “to act as βραβεύς or umpire,” awarding the prize, βραβεῖον (1 Corinthians 9:24; Philippians 3:14), seems, in all the examples that we have of its use, to have dropped all reference to a prize, and to mean only “to decide.” For instance, Isocr. Areop. p. 144 B, ἐν τῇ κληρώσει τὴν τύχην βραβεύσειν. The same writer, Phil. c. 29, uses τὰ παρά (τινος) βραβευόμενα to express regulations made by a person. In Demosthenes, again, Ol. p. 36, 7, τὰ τῶν ἄλλων δίκαια βραβεύειν is “to arbitrate or decide on the rights of others.” So p. 1231, 11, of the unequal treatment of rich and poor, τοῦτον τὸν τρόπον ὑμῶν ταῦτα βραβευόντων. Josephus, Ant. ix. 1. 1, has: παρεκελεύσατο μηδενὸς οὕτως ὡς τοῦ δικαίου προνοουμένους κρίνειν τοῖς ὄχλοις … βραβεύειν δὲ ἅπασι τὸ ἶσον; and Ant. xiv 9. 5, ὡς εἰ καὶ πολέμου ῥοπὰς βραβεύει τὸ θεῖον. Compare also Colossians 3:15, ἡ εἰρήνη τοῦ Χριστοῦ βραβευέτω ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν. In accordance with this meaning of βραβεύειν, καταβρ. would mean “to decide or give judgment against”; and it is so interpreted by Photius (ap. Oec.) and Hesychius, κατακρινέτω. So also the Syriac Versions.


This gives an excellent sense here, the phrase being stronger than the similar one in ver. 16, κρινέτω. It is adopted instead of κατακρινέτω, probably in order to suggest the idea of assumption of authority. This is the interpretation adopted by Reiche, Bleek, Field (Otium Narvicense), and many others. Bengel’s interpretation is: “ne quis brabeutae potestatem usurpans, atque adeo abutens, vos currentes moderetur, perperamque praescribat quid sequi quid fugere debeatis praemium accepturi”; and similarly a-Lapide and Beza. This seems to put too much into the word.

The Greek commentators, who seem to have had no independent knowledge of the word, take it to be equivalent to παραβραβεύειν, which occurs in Polybius and Plutarch, and means to assign the prize unfairly. Zonaras (ap. Suicer) says: καταβραβεύειν ἐστι τὸ μὴ νικήσαντα�

θέλων ἐν ταπεινοφροσύνῃ. These words are very difficult. Many commentators (including Augustine, Estius, Bleek, Lightfoot) explain them as a Hebraism in imitation of the Hebrew חפץ ב״, “taking delight in,” or rather (since the Hebrew verb does not mean θέλειν, but εὐδοκεῖν), of the occasional Septuagint rendering of that expression (1 Samuel 18:22; 2 Samuel 15:26; 2Sa_1 Kings, 10:9; 2 Chronicles 9:8; Psalms 111:1, Psalms 147:10). In 1 Chronicles 28:4, the same words occur as a rendering of רצה ב״. Lightfoot also quotes from the Test. XII. Patr. Asher i., ἐὰν οὖν ἡ ψυχὴ θέλῃ ἐν καλῷ.

The main objection to this, and it is a fatal one, is that St. Paul does not use Hebraisms which so violate Greek grammar. The fact of such an expression occurring in the Sept., especially in Sam., Kings and Chron., is not a reason for attributing it to St. Paul. Indeed, except in Psalms 147:10, the object in the Sept. is always a person. In the Apocrypha, θέλειν ἐν is not found. The expression θελητὰς νόμου, 1 Macc. 4:42, is not parallel. Nor is this interpretation relevant to the context, for it is not the pleasure which the false teacher takes in his humility, etc., that is in question.

Alford connects θέλων with the participle, translating “of purpose,” and comparing 2 Peter 3:5, λανθάνει γὰρ αὐτοὺς τοῦτο θέλοντας. He also quotes Theophylact as apparently supporting this view, θέλουσιν ὑμᾶς καταβραβεύειν διὰ ταπεινοφρ. But both this comment and the passage in 2 Pet. are equally, if not more, applicable to the following interpretation.


Other expositors connect θέλων with the following words, supplying καταβραβεύειν. So Theodoret: τοῦτο τοίνυν συνεβούλευον ἐκεῖνοι γίνεσθαι, ταπεινοφροσύνῃ δῆθεν κεχρημένοι (compare Theoph. above); and so Photius, Buttmann, Eadie, Ellicott, and many others. Theodoret, indeed, presses θέλων too far; the purpose of the false teachers was not directly, but indirectly hostile to the Colossians.

RV marg. has: “of his own mere will, by humility,” etc. This agrees nearly with Beza: “hoc munus sibi a nullo tributum exercens,” Reiche, Tittmann, al. It also corresponds well with ἐθελοθρησκεία below, and, on the whole, appears to deserve the preference. The construction (which is the same as Alford’s) is simpler grammatically than that last mentioned, and the sense obtained is more satisfactory. Luther (followed by Ewald and Tyndale) gives a similar sense to θέλων, but connects it with ἐμβατεύων.

Lightfoot quotes two conjectural emendations, viz. θέλγων, suggested by Leclerc (ad loc.) and Bentley (Crit. Sacr. p. 59), and more plausibly ἐλθών, suggested by Toup (Emend. in Suidam, ii. p. 63). We can hardly suppose, however, that if ἐλθών had stood here originally it could be corrupted into θέλων. Hort conjectures ἐν ἐθελοταπεινοφροσύνῃ. The last word is actually employed by Basil, and compounds of ἐθελο- were used freely when St. Paul wrote. Compare Aug. Ep. 149, § 27: “Sic enim et vulgo dicitur qui divitem affectat thelodives, et qui sapientem thelosapiens, et cetera hujusmodi. Ergo et hic thelohumilis, quod plenius dicitur thelon humilis, id est volens humilis, quod intelligitur ‘volens videri humilis,’ ‘affectans humilitatem.’ ”

ἐν ταπεινοφροσύνῃ καὶ θρησκείᾳ τῶν�Ephesians 3:12. But there is false as well as true humility, and here it is defined by the following θρησκείᾳ τῶν�

ἃ ἑώρακεν ἐμβατεύειν or ἃ μὴ ἑώρακεν ἐμβατεύων. ἐμβατεύειν is properly to step or stand on (as an ἐμβάτης). So with gen. Soph. Oed. Tyr. 845, ἐμβατεύειν πατρίδος. Hence “to dwell in,” Eurip. Heracl. 875, κλήρους δʼ ἐμβατεύσεσθε χθονός: and similarly of a god, to “haunt” a place. Soph. Oed. Col. 671, ἵνʼ ὁ βακχειώτας αἰεὶ Διόυσος ἐμβατεύει. It also means to “enter upon” a country, “to invade.” Later, it is found in a figurative sense of “entering into” a subject of inquiry. So Philo, De Plant. Noe. ii. 19, “As some of those who open up wells often fail to find the sought-for water,” οὕτως οἱ προσωτέρω χωροῦντες τῶν ἐπιστημῶν καὶ ἐπιπλέον ἐμβατεύοντες αὐταῖς,�Matthew 11:27, τολμηρὸι ἐμβατεύειν τὴν�


If we read ἑώρακεν the sense will be, “dwelling in,” as RV. “taking his stand upon,” as RV. marg. or “poring over, busying himself with,” or with the idea of pride in his possession, “making parade with.” “What he hath seen” is then to be understood ironically, his “visions.”

Hilgenfeld (quoted by Meyer) understands the words to mean, without irony, “taking his stand on the ground of sense”; but against this is the perfect ἑώρακεν as well as the expressive ἐμβατεύων. Besides, the error in question was based on a supposed knowledge of angels.

The Rec. Text a ἃ μὴ ἑώρακεν conveys the idea, “intruding into things which he hath not seen.” At first sight this is easier. But, as Alford remarks, it “would be a strange and incongruous expression for one who was advocating a religion of faith—whose very charter is of μακάριοι οἱ μὴ ἰδόντες καὶ πεπιστευκότες—to blame a man or a teacher for a ἃ μὴ ἑώρακεν ἐμβατεύειν.” We should rather expect it to be regarded as a fault in a teacher that he took his stand in the realm of sight.

If, however, the negative was written from the apostle’s point of view, we should expect the objective οὐχ to be used; if, on the other hand, it is from the false teacher’s point of view, “intruding” would not be a suitable translation, but “searching,” or the like.

As to the reading, the evidence is as follows:—

Without the negative:

MSS.: א* A B D* 17 28 672 codd. mentioned by Jerome (Ep. 121 ad Alg. i. p. 880); codd. mentioned by Augustine (Ep. 149, ii. p. 514).

Versions: Old Latin, d e m Boh., Arab. (Leipz.) Eth.

Fathers, etc.: Tertullian (cont. Marc. v. 19, “ex visionibus angelicis,” and apparently Marcion himself also); Origen once (in the Latin translation. In Cant. iii. p. 63, “in his quae videt”). Also, cont. Cels. i. p. 583 (Greek, the editions prior to De la Rue); Lucifer’s De non conv. c. haer. p. 782, Migne; Ambrosiaster (explaining thus: “inflantur motum pervidentes stellarum, quas angelos vocat.” In the citation of the text editions differ). Pseudo-Augustine, Quaest. ex N. T. ii. 62, iii. App. p. 156.

With the negative μή:

MSS.: C K L P and all cursives except those above mentioned.

Versions: Old Latin fg Vulg., Goth., Syr. (both), Arm.

Fathers, etc.: Origen once (in the Latin transl. In Rom. ix. § 42, iv. p. 665). Also, cont. Celsum, as above (Greek as edited by De la Rue, who, however, says nothing about MSS., but remarks: “at Gelenius legit.” ἃ μὴ ἑώρακεν, Tisch.); Ambrose. In Psa_118, Exp. 20 (i. p. 1222), Pelagius, Chrysostom, Theodore Mops., Theodoret, John Dam.


With οὐ, אc C Dbe G.

It will be observed that no MS. older than the ninth century reads μή, and with the exception of C none older than the seventh has a negative in either form. It is open to question whether οὐ, inserted by way of correction in א and D, was derived from MS. authority or was merely a conjecture.

The “deliberate preference” of Jerome and Augustine cannot rightly be reckoned as “evidence” in favour of μή. The words of the former are: “Quae nec ipse vidit qui vos superare desiderat, sive vidit (utrumque enim habetur in Graeco).” The words of Augustine are: “Quae non vidit inculcares, vel sicut quidam codices habent, quae vidit inculcares.” Their evidence amounts simply to this, that some of the MSS. they consulted or were acquainted with had the negative and some had not. As to their judgment, that is a different thing. Jerome’s “utrumque habetur in Graeco” expresses none. Even Augustine’s do not contain any direct or decided expression of preference, nor does he say anything as to the respective value of the MSS. which he quotes.

The reading which omits the negative is preferred by Tisch., Treg., WH. (see post), Alford, Meyer, Soden, Lightfoot (but see post). Burgon thinks the Rec. Text “cannot seriously be suspected of error” (Revision Revised, p. 356).

Lightfoot concludes from a review of the evidence that the negative is a later insertion; but as the combination “invading what he has seen” is so hard and incongruous as to be hardly possible, he suspects a corruption of the text prior to all existing authorities; and in this Hort and Taylor agree with him. He conjectures αἰώρα (or ἐώρᾳ) κενεμβατεύων, “raised aloft, treading on empty air,” the existing text, αεωρακενεμβατευων, being “explained partly by an attempt to correct the form ἐώρᾳ into αἰώρᾳ, or conversely, and partly by the perplexity of transcribers when confronted with such unusual words.” κενεμβατεύειν does not itself occur, but κενεμβατεῖν is not infrequent. It is used by Plutarch, Basil, and others in a figurative sense, e.g. Basil, i. p. 135, τὸν νοῦν … μυρία πλανηθέντα καὶ πολλὰ κενεμβατήσαντα; i. p. 596, σοῦ δὲ μὴ κενεμβατείτω ὁ νοῦς. The other word, αἰώρα, which is used in a literal sense, either of the instrument for suspending or of the position of suspension, as the floating of a boat, the balancing on a rope, the poising of a bird, etc. is used figuratively by Philo, De Somn. ii. 6 (i. p. 665), ὑποτυφούμενος ὑπʼ αἰώρας φρενῶν καὶ κενοῦ φυσήματος; Quod Deus Immut. § 36 (i. p. 298), ὥσπερ ἐπʼ αἰώρας τινος ψευδοῦς καὶ�

εἰκῆ φυσιούμενος. εἰκῆ is by some comm. connected with the preceding clause (De W., Conybeare, al.) in the sense “rashly, uselessly.” But εἰκῆ in St. Paul precedes the words it qualifies (Romans 13:4; 1 Corinthians 15:2; Galatians 4:11), except Galatians 3:4, where there is a special reason for placing it after ἐπάθετε. Its usual meaning in St. Paul is “to no purpose, fruitlessly”; and so it is understood here by v. Soden; but it equally admits the other sense, “without reason,” which it has in Matthew 5:22, and this is more suitable to φυσιούμενος. The false teachers were without reason puffed up with the idea of their superior knowledge. There is a sharp irony in the contrast between ταπεινοφροσυνη and φυσιούμενος. τὸ δέ γε φυσιούμενος τῇ ταπεινοφροσύνῃ ἐνάντιον οὐκ ἔστι· τὴν μέν γὰρ ἐσκήπτοντο, τοῦ δὲ τύφου τὸ πάθος�

ὑπὸ τοῦ νοὸς τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ. “By the mind of his flesh.” The νοῦς as a natural faculty is in itself indifferent, and may be under the influence either of σάρξ or πνεῦμα; cf. Romans 1:28, Romans 1:12:2; 1 Timothy 6:5; Titus 1:15, and Romans 7:25; 1 Corinthians 14:14, 1 Corinthians 14:15. The expression here used, “mind of, or belonging to, the flesh” (possessive genitive), seems to continue the irony. The false teachers claimed a higher intelligence, perhaps a deeper spiritual insight; whereas the apostle declares that it was carnal, not spiritual. Compare Revelation 2:24, “which know not the deep things of Satan, as they say,” where “as they say” refers to “deep things,” which are then bitterly characterised as “of Satan.”

19. καὶ οὐ κρατῶν. “And not holding fast.” For this sense of κρατεῖν with accus., compare Mark 7:3, Mark 7:4, Mark 7:8, κρ. τὴν παράδοσιν: Acts 2:24, οὐκ ἦν δυνατὸν κρατεῖσθαι αὐτὸν ὑπʼ αὐτοῦ: 3:11, κρατοῦντος δὲ αὐτοῦ τὸν Πέτρον καὶ Ἰωάννην: 2 Thessalonians 2:15; Revelation 2:1, Revelation 2:13, Revelation 2:14, Revelation 2:15, Revelation 2:25, Revelation 2:3:11, Revelation 2:7:1. Frequently, however, it means “to seize”; but that sense is inapplicable here.


τὴν κεφαλήν, ἐξ οὗ. The relative is masculine, because it is a person that is referred to as the Head; not because Χριστοῦ is implied; cf. ver. 15. Meyer, however, followed by Eadie, regards οὗ as neuter, referring to the Head, not personally, but in an abstract sense “from which source.” To understand it as referring to Christ, Eadie thinks, would destroy the harmony of the figure. The objection does not apply to the explanation just given. It is to be noted that D*, Syr-Harcl., Arm. add Χριστόν.

ἐξ is causal, “from who as the source,” and the relative clause expresses the perverseness of the οὐ κρατῶν, κ.τ.λ., as much as to say “whereas from this,” etc.

διὰ τῶν ἁφῶν καὶ συνδέσμων. For the meaning of these words see note on Ephesians 4:16. σύνδεσμος means in general any of the connecting bands in the body, whether ligaments proper, or tendons, or muscles; but in its special sense is limited to the “ligaments,” as appears from a passage in Galen quoted by Lightfoot. But in a passage like the present this technical sense is not to be pressed; the purpose of the figure is to express the complete dependence of the Church as a whole, and of all its members as parts of an organised body, on Christ directly, angels not intervening.

ἐπιχορηγούμενον καὶ συμβιβαζόμενον. Compare Ephesians 4:16, συναρμολογούμενον καὶ συμβιβαζόμενον. There, the main purpose was to insist on the vital cohesion and union of the parts with each other; here, on dependence on the Head. Here as there the present participles are to be noted; the process is a continuing one. For ἐπιχορ. cf. 2 Corinthians 9:10; Galatians 3:5; 2 Peter 1:5 2 Peter 1:11, ἐπι indicates rather direction than intensity. ἐπιχορ. seems to be the function of the ἁφαί, συμβιβ. of the σύνδεσμοι. For the passive of ἐπιχορ., compare Polyb. iv. 77. 2, πολλαῖς�

αὔξει τὴν αὔξησιν, cognate accusative; not a periphrasis, nor added “to give force to the meaning of the verb,” but because it was desired to define the nature of the αὔξησις as τοῦ Θεοῦ, a growth having its root in God, belonging to God; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:6, ὁ Θεὸς ηὔξανεν. In Ephesians 4:16 also “growth” is the result aimed at; but there, in accordance with the difference in the points of view just referred to, it is τὸ σῶμα itself which τὴν αὔξησιν τοῦ σώματος ποιεῖται εἰς οἰκοδομὴν ἑαυτοῦ ἐν�

20. εἰ�John 6:49, John 6:58.

ἀπὸ τῶν στοιχείων τοῦ κόσμου.�Romans 6:2; Galatians 2:19. Here the preposition is more suitable, inasmuch as what is referred to is liberation from a dominating power.


τί ὡς ζῶντες ἐν κόσμῳ, not merely as being in the world, but living your life in the world. Their true “life was hid with Christ in God,” 3:3. To live in the world would be εἶναι ἐν τῇ σαρκί.

δογματίζεσθε. Probably best taken with RV. as middle. “Why do ye subject yourselves (or allow yourselves to be subjected) to ordinances?” The middle, indeed, implies some blame to the readers. But they were not compelled by force, so that even if the verb be understood as passive, it is implied that they submitted to the yoke.

The verb δογματίζειν occurs frequently in Sept. and Apocr., meaning “to issue a decree.” Elsewhere it is used of the precepts of philosophers. In the active it takes the indirect object in the dative, 2 Macc. 10:8, which therefore may become the subject of the passive.

οὖν of the Rec. Text has little support, of uncials only א* and אc.

τῷ before Χριστῷ scarcely any.

21. “μὴ ἅψῃ μηδὲ γεύσῃ μηδὲ θίγῃς.” Examples of the δόγματα, “Handle not, neither taste, nor touch.” ἅπτεσθαι is stronger than θιγγάνειν, suggesting rather “taking hold of” than merely “touching.” Thus Themist. Paraphr. Arist. 94, ἡ τῶν ζώων ἁφὴ κρίσις ἐστὶ καὶ�Matthew 8:3, ἥψατο αὐτοῦ ὁ Ἰησοῦς: ib. 15, τῆς χειρὸς αὐτῆς: John 20:17, μή μου ἅπτου (often in the Gospel): 1 Corinthians 7:1, γυναικὸς μὴ ἅπτεσθαι: 2 Corinthians 6:17,�Hebrews 11:28, Hebrews 12:20 (a quotation). Hence there is a climax of prohibitions, reversed in the AV., following perhaps (through Tyndale) the Latin, which has “tangere” for ἅπτεσθαι, and “contrectare” for θιγεῖν. Coverdale renders well (except as to the order), “as when they say, touch not this, taste not that, handle not that.” There were such prohibitions in the Mosaic law, and these were, doubtless, not only re-enacted, but exaggerated by the Colossian false teachers, as they had been by the Jewish. The form of the Rabbinical precepts was just that here given. The Essenes also abstained from the use of wine, oil, and animal food, and would not touch food prepared by defiled hands.

Some commentators have suggested a special object for each of the three verbs; for example, for ἅψῃ (γυναικός), which others have supplied to θίγῃς. This form of asceticism, which also was practised by the Essenes, is referred to in 1 Timothy 4:3, κωλυόντων γαμεῖν; but it is not suggested by anything in the present context, and would hardly be referred to so obscurely. Other suggestions have been offered which do not deserve mention, since it is clear that St. Paul is only citing typical forms of prohibition. For the same reason we must not suppose the prohibitions limited to food.


It is a singular illustration of the asceticism of a later date, that some Latin commentators (Ambrose, Hilary, Pelagius) regarded these prohibitions as the apostle’s own. In the words of Augustine, who argues against this view: “tanquam praeceptum putatur apostoli, nescio quid tangere, gustare, attaminare, prohibentis” (Epist. cxix., ii. p. 412). Jerome gives the correct interpretation, which he illustrates from the Talmud, i. 84.

22. (ἅ ἐστι πάντα εἰς φθορὰν τῇ�Acts 8:20, εἴη εἰς�2 Peter 2:12, γεγεννημένα … εἰς ἅλωσιν καὶ φθοράν. φθορά has its proper sense of decomposition, referring to the physical dissolution of such things in their natural use;�Matthew 15:17, εἰς�1 Corinthians 6:12, where the same consideration is differently applied; and ib. 8:8, where the principle is expressed, “Meat will not commend us to God; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse; nor if we eat, are we the better.” This is the view taken by the Greek commentators as well as by most moderns. Theodoret says: οὐ σκοπεῖτε ὡς μόνιμον τούτων οὐδέν· εἰς κόπρον γὰρ ἅπαντα μεταβάλλεται: and Oecumenius: φθορᾷ γάρ, φησίν, ὑπόκειται ἐν τῷ�


Other interpretations are as follow:—

First, the antecedent of ἅ is taken to be the precepts referred to: “which δόγματα all by their use tend to (everlasting) destruction.” So Ambrose, Augustine, Corn. a Lapide, al. For this sense of φθορά, see Galatians 6:8. But�


Secondly, it is held by some that these words are those of the false teachers, repeated in irony by St. Paul: “omnia haec (vetita) usu suo perniciem afferunt.” Or, again—

Thirdly, the words, similarly interpreted, are connected with the following: κατὰ τὰ ἐντάλματα, κ.τ.λ. “Which things tend to destruction”; “scil. si ex doctorum Judaicorum praeceptis et doctrinis hac de re judicium feratur.” So Kypke, De Wette, and others.

Against both these interpretations the objection from the meaning of�

κατὰ τὰ ἐντάλματα καὶ διδασκαλίας τῶν�Isaiah 29:13, μάτην δὲ σέβονταί με, διδάσκοντες ἐντάλματα�Matthew 15:9; Mark 7:7


23. ἅτινά ἐστιν λόγον μὲν ἔχοντα σοφίας. ἅτινα = “which are such things as,” or “which kind of things.” The position of ἐστιν seems to forbid our separating it from ἔχοντα, as Lightfoot and others do, joining it with οὐκ ἐν τιμῇ. Bengel connects it with πρὸς πλησμονήν, κ.τ.λ.

ἐστιν ἔχοντα is not quite the same as ἔχει; the former marks that the character of the precepts is such that a λόγος σοφίας belongs to them. Deuteronomy 31:11, οὐδὲ λόγον τὸ πρᾶγμʼ ἔχον ἐστί.


λόγον σοφίας = “the repute of wisdom.” For this sense of λόγον ἔχειν, compare Plato, Epinomis, p. 987 B, ὁ μὲν γὰρ ἑωσφόρος ἕσπερός τε ὢν αὑτὸς Ἀφροδίτης εἶναι σχέδον ἔχει λόγον: Herod. v. 66, Κλεισθένης … ὅσπερ δὴ λόγον ἔχει τὴν πυθίην�

But this interpretation is open to serious objection from the linguistic point of view. First, as to the meaning assigned to πρός. It is, no doubt, often convenient to translate it “against”; but the idea of hostility or opposition is not in the preposition itself, which only means “with a view to,” “looking to,” etc., but in the words with which it is joined, as in Acts 6:1, 24:19; Ephesians 6:11.


Lightfoot shows also that it is frequently used by Aristotle, and especially by Galen, after words denoting utility, etc., to introduce the object, to check or prevent which the thing is to be employed. Thus Aristotle, Hist. An. iii. 21, συμφέρει πρὸς τὰς διαρροίας: De Respir. 8, βοηθεῖ πρὸς ταύτην τὴν φθοράν: Galen, De Comps. Medic., Opp. xii. p. 420, τοῦ δόντος αὐτὰ πρὸς�

1 The Text. Rec. there has παραδειγματίσαι,—a word which frequently occurs in Folyb. etc.; also Numbers 25:4; Isa. 4:17; Jeremiah 13:22; Ezekiel 28:17.


Treg. Tregelles.

WH Westcott and Hort.

De De Wette.

Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on Colossians 2". International Critical Commentary NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/colossians-2.html. 1896-1924.
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