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Bible Commentaries
Colossians 4

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Verses 1-99

4:1 τὸ δίκαιον καὶ τὴν ἰσότητα. “Justice and fairness.” ἰσότης differs from τὸ δίκαιον nearly as our “fair” from “just,” denoting what cannot be brought under positive rules, but is in accordance with the judgment of a fair mind. Compare Philo, De Creat. Princ. ii. p. 401, ἰσότης μὲν οὖν τὴν ἐκ τῶν ὑπηκόων εὔνοιαν καὶ ἠσφαλείαν�Philemon 1:16). It would be a very obscure way of expressing this thought to say τὸ δίκ. καὶ τὴν ἰσότητα παρέχεσθε: nor does it agree well with the following clause, καὶ ὑμεῖς ἔχετε Κύριον, not as in Eph., αὐτῶν καὶ ὑμῶν. Perhaps, indeed, we may regard τὰ αὐτά in Eph. (οἱ κύριοι, τὰ αὐτὰ ποιεῖτε πρὸς αὐτούς) as illustrating ἰσότης here. The same moral principles were to govern both. ἰσότητα οὐ τὴν ἰσοτιμίαν ἐκάλεσεν,�

παρέχεσθε. “Supply on your side.”

2-6. Exhortation to constant prayer and thanksgiving, to which is added the apostle’s request that they would pray for himself in his work. Practical advice as to, wisdom in action and speech.

2. τῇ προσευχῇ προσκαρτερεῖτε = Romans 12:12; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:17. We have the same verb similarly used in Acts 1:14, Acts 2:46, Acts 6:4.

γρηγοροῦντες ἐν αὐτῇ. “Being watchful in it,” i.e. not careless in the act. ἐπειδὴ γὰρ τὸ καρτερεῖν ἐν ταῖς εὐχαῖς ῥᾳθυμεῖν πόλλακις ποιεῖ,διὰ τοῦτό φησι γρηγοροῦντες τούτεστι νήφοντες, μὴ ῥεμβόμενοι (wandering), Chrys.

ἐν εὐχαριστίᾳ With thanksgiving (as an accompaniment; cf. 2:7). αὕτη γὰρ ἡ�

3. προσευχόμενοι ἅμα καὶ περὶ ἡμῶν.“Praying at the same time also for us,” including, namely, Timothy, named with St. Paul as sending the Epistle, but also, no doubt, including all who helped him in his work (vv. 10-14).

ἵνα. The prayer is not for the personal benefit of the apostle and his companions, but for the promotion of their work.

θύραν τοῦ λόγου. A door of admission for the word of the gospel, i.e. the removal of any hindrance which might be in the way. The same figure is employed 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12.

Corn. a Lapide, Beza, Bengel, and others interpret θύραν τοῦ λόγου as “the door of our speech,” i.e. our mouth,—an interpretation suggested by Ephesians 6:19, ἵνα μοι δοθῇ λόγος ἐν�

λαλῆσαι, infinitive of the end or object, “so as to speak” τὸ μυστήριον, κ.τ.λ., 1:26, 2:2; see Ephesians 1:9.

διʼ ὅ καὶ δέδεμαι. For it was his preaching the free admission of the Gentiles that led to his imprisonment.

This is the only place in which St. Paul uses δέειν in the literal sense; but he uses δεσμοί, Philippians 1:7, Philippians 1:13, and elsewhere, as well as δέσμιος The transition to the singular was inevitable when he passed from what was common to himself with others to what was peculiar to himself.

4. ἵνα φανερώσω,κ.τ.λ. Generally taken as dependent on the previous clause, “that God may open a door … in order that,”etc. Beza, De Wette, al., however, make it dependent on προσευχόμενοι, which, on account of the change from plural to singular, is improbable. Bengel joins it with δέδεμαι, “vinctus sum ut patefaciam; paradoxon.” In this he follows Chrysostom, τὰ δεσμὰ φανεροῖ αὐτόν, οὐ συσκιάζει: but this is quite untenable. V. Soden, who also makes the clause dependent on δέδεμαι, proposes a different interpretation. He observes that φανεροῦν is never used of St. Paul’s preaching, nor does the notion of μυστήριον account for its use here. It must therefore have a special significance, and this is to be found in its immediate reference to δέδεμαι. St. Paul, as a prisoner awaiting trial, had to explain what his preaching was. How this turned out, he relates in Philippians 1:12 ff. The sense then, according to v. Soden, is: “in order that I may make it manifest, how I am bound to speak,” the emphasis being on δεῖ, not ὡς. He desires to make clear to his judges, not only what he preaches, but that he cannot do otherwise; compare 1 Corinthians 9:16; Acts 4:20.

διʼ ὅ is the reading of אACDKL nearly all MSS., d e f Vulg., Goth., Clem., Chrys., etc. But B G, g have διʼ ὅν, apparently a correction to suit Χριστοῦ, but destroying the point of the sentence.

5. ἐν σοφίᾳ = practical Christian wisdom; cf. Matthew 10:16.

πρός. “With respect to,” or “in relation to,” i.e. your behaviour towards them.

τοὺς ἔξω. Those outside the Church; compare 1 Corinthians 5:12, 1 Corinthians 5:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:12. The expression is borrowed from the Jews, who so designated the heathen. On the precept Chrys. says, πρὸς τὰ μέλη τὰ οἰκεῖα οὐ τοσαύτης ἡμῖν δεῖ�

τὸν καιρὸν ἐξαγοράζοντες. See Ephesians 5:16, where is added a reason for the injunction, viz. ὅτι αἱ ἡμέραι πονηραί εἰσιν.

6. ὁ λόγος ὑμῶν πάντοτε ἐν Χάριτι. Still referring to behaviour, πρὸς τοὺς ἔξω.On χάρις = pleasingness, see above, 3:16. χάρις λόγων is frequent in classical writers.

ἅλατι ἠρτύμενος. “Seasoned with salt”; cf. Mark 9:49, Mark 9:50; pleasant but not insipid, nor yet coarse. Compare Plut. p. Mor. 514 F, χάριν τινα παρασκευάζοντες�

εἰδέναι, infinitive of object, as in ver. 3, πῶς δεῖ ἑνὶ ἑκάστῳ�1 Corinthians 9:22, τοῖς πᾶσι γέγονα πάντα ἵνα πάντως τινὰς σώσω. His discourses and answers at Athens, and before Felix, Festus, and the Jews at Rome, supply the best illustrations.

7-18. Personal commendations and salutations.

7. τὰ κατʼ ἐμέ = Philippians 1:12, “my matters”; cf. Acts 25:14. Not a noun absolute, but the object of γνωρίσει.

On Tychicus, see Ephesians 6:21, and compare Lightfoot’s very full note here.

ὁ� = Eph. l.c.

καὶ πιστὸς διάκονος καὶ σύνδουλος ἐν Κυρίῳ. ἐν Κυρίῳ is probably to be taken with both substantives, as both require some specifically Christian definition, which�l.c. we have πιστὸς διάκονος ἐν Κυρίῳ. σύνδουλος is perhaps added in order to place Tychicus on a level with Epaphras, who is so designated 1:7, and who was in high repute at Colossae. πιστός probably covers both substantives.

8. ὃν ἔπεμψα, κ.τ.λ. = Ephesians 6:22.

As to the reading, the Rec. Text has ἵνα γυῷ τὰ περὶ ὑμῶν, with אc C Dbc K L and most MSS., f Vulg., Goth., Syr. (both), Boh., Chrys. (expressly), Jerome (on Philemon), Ambrosiaster, al.

ἵνα γνῶτε τὰ περὶ ἡμῶν, A B D* G P a few cursives, d e g Arm., Eth., Theodore Mops., Theodoret, Jerome (on Ephesians 6:21), Euthalius (cod. Tisch. ).

א* has γνῶτε with ὑμῶν. אo at first corrected ὑμῶν to ἡμῶν to suit γυῶτε but afterwards deleted this correction and substituted γνῷ for γνῶτε. The context, with the emphatic εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο, so obviously requires γνῶτε… ἡμῶν, that, considering the weight of authority, we cannot regard this as an alteration made in conformity with Ephesians 6:22. Besides, it is very unlikely that the writer himself should, to the Ephesians, say, εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο ἵνα γνῶτε, κ.τ.λ. , and to the Colossians of the same messenger, εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο ἵνα γνῷ, κ.τ.λ On the hypothesis that Eph. is not by the author of Col., it is equally improbable that the former should be written instead of the latter. The error may have arisen from τε accidentally dropping out before τα, or, as Lightfoot suggests, when ύμῶν had once been written in error for ἡμῶν (as in א*), γνῶτε would be read γνῷ τε, as in 111 and John Dam. op. ii. p. 214, and then the superfluous τε would be dropped. These authorities, however, seem too late to be used to explain so early a corruption.

Alford defends the Rec. Text, in which he is followed by Klöpper; but most critics and commentators adopt the other reading.

9. σὺν Ὀνησίμῳ τῷ πιστῷ καὶ�. Observe the delicacy with which Onesimus is given, as far as possible, the same predicates as Tychicus and Epaphras, he and Tychicus being, moreover, associated as subject of γνωριοῦσιν. He was not διάκονος or σύνδουλος, but as a faithful and beloved brother he is not placed below them. Compare Romans 16:6, Romans 16:12.

ὅς ἐστιν ἐξ ὑμῶν, who is of you, i.e. belongs to Colossae; hitherto, indeed, only a slave, but now a brother beloved, Philemon 1:16. It deserves notice how St. Paul assumes that Onesimus will be welcomed as such by his former master and by the Church. Calvin’s very natural remark, “Vix est credibile hunc esse servum illum Philemonis, quia furis et fugitivi nomen dedecori subjectum fuisset,” serves to put in strong relief this confidence of the apostle in the Colossians.

πάντα ὑμῖν γνωριοῦσιν τὰ ὧδε. This is not a formal restatement of τὰ κατʼ ἐμέ, but includes more than that phrase, and τά περὶ ἡμῶν, namely, all that concerned the Church at Rome. This would naturally include an account of the conversion of Onesimus, who would be to them a living illustration of the success of St. Paul’s preaching in Rome. Note the change from γνωρίσει to γνωριοῦσιν, in order more expressly to commend Onesimus to their confidence.

G d e f g Vulg. Jerome, Ambrosiaster add after ὧδε, πραττόμενα, a gloss which looks as if it originated in the Latin, which could not literally render τὰ ὧδε.

10. Ἀσπάζεται ὑμᾶς Ἀρίσταρχος. Of Aristarchus we know that he was a Macedonian of Thessalonica, Acts 19:20, Acts 19:20:4; a member of the deputation to Jerusalem (ib.), and a companion of St. Paul in the first part, at least, of his journey to Rome, Acts 27:2. Lightfoot (Philippians, p. 35) thought it probable that he parted from St. Paul at Myra, having accompanied him at first only because he was on his way home to Macedonia. If the centurion in whose charge St. Paul was had not accidentally fallen in at Myra with a ship sailing to Italy, their route would have taken them through Philippi. If this view is correct, Aristarchus must have rejoined St. Paul at Rome at a later date. In any case, the notices in Acts show that he would be well known in proconsular Asia.

ὁ συναιχμάλωτός μου. αἰχμάλωτος properly means a captive taken in war, and hence it has been supposed that it may here have reference to spiritual captivity; cf. Romans 7:23; 2 Corinthians 10:5; Ephesians 4:8. But none of these passages justify such an interpretation. In Rom. the verb is used of captivity to sin; in Eph. it is in a quotation from a Psalm; while in Cor. it is the thoughts that are brought into captivity so as to be obedient to Christ. There is no analogy to support the supposed use of αἰχμάλωτος absolutely in the sense supposed. It would be particularly unlikely to be so used in a letter actually written from prison.

On the other hand, St. Paul speaks of the service of Christ in terms of military service; cf. 2 Timothy 2:3, and συστρατιώτης, Philippians 2:25; Philemon 1:2. It is in accordance with this that he should use the term συναιχμάλωτος here (and of Epaphras in Philemon 1:23). It has been conjectured that St. Paul’s helpers may have voluntarily shared his imprisonment in turn; for Epaphras, who is here a συνεργός, is in Philemon a συναιχμ., and Aristarchus here συναιχμ. is there a συνεργός.

Μάρκος ὁ�, “cousin,” so defined by Pollux, iii. 28,�

The relationship explains why Barnabas was more ready than Paul to condone Mark’s defection, Acts 15:37-39. At the same time, the passage throws light in turn on the rather remarkable form of commendation here, “if he comes unto you, receive him.” The Pauline Churches, which were aware of the estrangement, might not be very ready to give a very hearty welcome to Mark. Comp. 2 Timothy 4:11. δέχεσθαι is a regular term for hospitable reception. See, for example, Matthew 10:14; John 4:45; often also in classical writers.

περὶ οὗ, κ.τ.λ. These injunctions probably had reference to the friendly reception of Mark, so that their purport is repeated in the following words.

11. Ἰησοῦς ὁ λεγόμενος Ἰοῦστος. Not mentioned elsewhere.

The surname Justus is applied to two other persons in the N.T., namely, Joseph Barsabbas, Acts 1:23, and a proselyte at Corinth, Acts 18:7. It was a frequent surname amongstom Jews.

οἱ ὄντες ἐκ περιτομῆς. These words are best connected with the following, οὗτοι μόνοι, κ.τ.λ. The sense then is, “of those of the circumcision, these alone are,” etc. Otherwise, οὗτοι μόνοι would not be true (see vv. 12-14), and οἱ ὄντες ἐκ π. would have no significance. This construction, in which the more general notion stands first as in a nominative absolute, and the particular notion follows with the verb, is used by classical writers.

On this οὗτοι μόνοι comp. Philippians 2:20, οὐδένα ἔχω ἰσόψυχον.

συνεργοί is the predicate, so that the apostle does not apply the term to the opponents.

οἵτινες as usual specifies, not the individuals, but the character, “men that proved.” See on Luke 2:4. The aorist ἐγενήθησαν seems to refer to some definite recent occasion.

παρηγορία, “comfort,” only here in N.T., frequent in Plutarch. There is no ground for Bengel’s distinction, that παραμυθία refers to domestic, and παρηγορία to forensic trouble. So far as the latter word has a technical sense, it is medical (cf. “paregoric”); but it is commonly used of consolation in general.

12. Ἐπαφρᾶς, see 1:7.

ὁ ἐξ ὑμῶν. “Who is one of you.”

δοῦλος χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ. A title frequently used by St. Paul of himself, once of Timothy in conjunction with himself, Philippians 1:1, but not elsewhere of any other.

πάντοτε� Compare 1:29.

ἵνα στῆτε τέλειοι καὶ πεπληροφορημένοι. “That ye may stand fast, perfect and fully assured.” στῆναι, as in Ephesians 6:11, Ephesians 6:13, al., conveys the idea of standing firm; hence τέλειοι καὶ πεπλ. are secondary predicates, the first expressing the objective moment, the second the subjective; they were not only to be τέλειοι ἐν Χριστῷ, 1:28, but to have full assurance; cf. 2:2. πληροφορεῖν in N.T. means either “to fulfil,” as in 2 Timothy 4:5, 2 Timothy 4:17, or, “to persuade fully,” as in Romans 4:21, πληροφορηθεὶς ὅτι … δυνατός ἐστιν; 14:5, ἐν τῷ ἰδίῳ νοῒ πληροφορείτω. It is read in Romans 15:13, in B F G, where the sense is “fill”; but the better attested reading is πληρώσαι.The Rec. Text here has πεπληρωμένοι. See on Luke 1:1.

ἐν παντὶ θελήματι τοῦ Θεοῦ. “In all the will of God” is not quite correct, yet we cannot say “every will of God.” Lightfoot renders “in everything willed by God.” The words are best connected with τελ. καὶ πεπλ., not with στῆτε, as the order of the words shows. παντι probably has reference to the variety of circumstances in which the Christian may find himself, with perhaps a hint at the contrast with the definite external precepts of the false teachers.

στῆτε is the reading of אc A C D G K L P and most MSS., Chrys., Theodoret.

σταθῆτε, א* B 23 71 al., Euthal. (cod. Tisch.). Comp. Matthew 2:9, Matthew 27:11, in both which passages B C 1 33 have ἐστάθη for the Rec. ἔστη. The passive is adopted by the critical editors in all three places.

πεπληροφορημένοι, א A B C D* G al., Syr-Harcl. marg., Euthal. (cod. Tisch.).

πεπληρωμένοι, Dc K L P most MSS., Syr-Harcl., text. and Pesh., Arm., Chrys., Theodoret. As, however, πληροφορεῖν is sometimes used with the meaning “fill,” the versions cannot be quoted with certainty for the latter reading, which probably slipped in as the more familiar and simpler word.

13. μαρτυρῶ γὰρ αὐτῷ. The apostle confirms by his testimony what he has just said of Epaphras.

ὅτι ἔχει πολὺν πόνον. “That he has much labour.” πόνος is not found elsewhere in N.T. except in the Apocalypse. It is, however, a common word for struggle in battle, and hence corresponds with the�Phaedr. 247 B, ἔνθα δὴ πόνος τε καὶ�

πολὺν πόνον אA B C P, 80, Euthal. (cod. Tisch.), Old Lat., Vulg., Goth, Boh., Arm.

ζῆλον πολύν, Rec., with K L most MSS., Syr. (both), Chrys., Theodoret., Dbe al. have πολὺν ζῆλον; D* G, πολὺν κόπον.

Five cursives have πόθον, and two (6, 672)�

No doubt the rarity of πόνος in the N.T. is responsible for the variety of reading. It is found in the Apocalypse only.

ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν καὶ τῶν ἐν Λαοδικείᾳ καὶ τῶ ἐν Ἰεραπόλει. Laodicea and Hierapolis stood on opposite sides of the valley at a distance of about six miles from one another, and twice as far from Colossae. From the conjunction of the three names here i. appears probable that Epaphras stood in the same relation, as evangelist, to the three, and also that they were threatened by the same dangers; as, indeed, their near neighbourhood and consequent frequent intercourse would suggest. Compare 2:2.

14.�. “Luke the physician, the beloved.” Beyond question the evangelist, named also 2 Timothy 4:11 as well as Philemon 1:24. It is interesting to find two of the evangelists in St. Paul’s company here. The reason of his calling being specified may be that he was attending on St. Paul in his professional capacity. It has been observed that his first appearance in company with St. Paul, Acts 16:10, “nearly synchronises with an attack of the apostle’s constitutional malady (Galatians 4:13, Galatians 4:14), so that he may have joined him partly in a professional capacity” (Lightfoot). From the manner in which he is separated from the group in ver. 10 it is clear that he was a Gentile. This is fatal, not only to the tradition that he was one of the Seventy (which, indeed, is hardly consistent with the preface to his Gospel), but also to the conjecture that he was the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. See on Luke 1:2, Luke 10:1-16, Luke 24:13-32.

καὶ Δημᾶς. Probably a contraction for Demetrius. It is remarkable that he is named without any epithet of commendation, which is the more striking as coming after ὁ�Philemon 1:24 he is named with Mark, Aristarchus, and Luke as a συνεργός of St. Paul. But in 2 Timothy 4:10 he is mentioned as having deserted St. Paul,�

15.� (or αὐτοῦ) ἐκκλησίαν. Nymphas (if this reading is correct) is probably a short form of Nymphodorus; cf. Artemas for Artemidorus, Zenas for Zenodorus (Titus 3:12, Titus 3:13), Olympas for Olympiodorus (Romans 16:15), and perhaps Lucas for Lucanus.

τὴν κατʼ οἶκον, κ.τ.λ., i.e. the Church that assembled in their house. The same expression occurs, Romans 16:5 and 1 Corinthians 16:19, of the home of Prisca and Aquila at Rome and at Ephesus respectively; also Philemon 1:2. Compare Acts 12:12. Separate buildings for the purpose of Christian worship seem not to be traced earlier than the third century. Bingham, Antiq. viii. 1. 13, shows that special rooms were so set apart, but gives no instances of separate buildings. Probst (Kirchliche Disciplin, p. 181 f.) is referred to by Lightfoot as affording similar negative evidence. It is curious that Chrysostom understands the expression to refer only to the household of Nymphas. ὅρα γοῦν πῶς δείκνυσι μέγαν τὸν ἄνδρα, εἴ γε ἡ οἰκία αὐτοῦ ἐκκλησία.

αὐτῶν is difficult. Afford, Lightfoot, al., understand it as referring to οἱ περὶ Νυμφᾶν. Alford compares Xen. Mem. i. 2. 62, ἐάν τις φανερὸς γένηται κλέπτων … τούτοις θάνατός ἐστιν ἡ ζημία, which is clearly not parallel, for τις is one of a class, and τούτοις all those belonging to that class. Lightfoot compares Xen. Anab. iii. 3. 7, προσῄει (Μιθριδάτης) πρὸς τοὺς Ἕλληνας· ἐπεὶ δʼ ἐγγὺς ἐγένοντο, κ.τ.λ., and iv. 5. 33, ἐπεὶ δʼ ἦλθον πρὸς Χειρίσοφον, κατελάμβανον καὶ ἐκείνους σκηνοῦντας. These also are not parallel, since here, as in other languages, the force is called by the name of its commander. Hence Meyer says that the plural cannot without violence be referred to anything but “the brethren in Laodicea and Nymphas.” He thinks, then, that by these brethren is meant a Church distinct from that of Laodicea, but in filial relation to it, and meeting in the same house. Lightfoot also suggests (as an alternative to his first-mentioned view) that the “brethren in Laodicea” may refer to a family of Colossians settled in Laodicea.

The reading varies between αὐτῶν, αὐτοῦ, and αὐτῆς.

For the plural, א A C P 5 9 17 23 34 39 47 73, Boh. (wrongly quoted by Tinch. al. for αὐτοῦ, see Lightfoot), Arab. (Leipz.), Euthalius (cod. Tisch.).

For αὐτοῦ are D G K L 37 (cod. Leic,) nearly all cursives, Goth., Chrys., Theodoret (expressly), Ambrosiaster.

For αὐτῆς, B 672.

The Latin versions have the singular “ejus,” and so both Syriac. In the latter the gender would be indicated only by a point. The Pesh. is pointed inconsistently, making Nympha feminine (Numphē) and the suffix (corresponding to αὐτοῦ or αὐτῆς) masculine. The Harclean, again, has the suffix feminine in the text, masculine in the margin. How the translator intended the proper name to be taken is uncertain; it may be either masc. or fem. Lightfoot thinks probably the latter. The Greek name is accented as feminine (Νύμφαν) in Bc and Euthalius (cod. Tisch.).

Νύμφαν as a feminine name would be Doric, and the occurrence of such a form here is highly improbable. αὐτῆς, then, is probably a correction suggested by this misunderstanding of Νύμφαν. But it seems more probable that the scribe who made the correction had αὐτοῦ before him than αὐτῶν. αὐτῶν, again, might readily have been suggested to the mind of a copyist by his recollection of Romans 16:5 and 1 Corinthians 16:19 assisted by the occurrence of�

αὐτῆς is adopted by Lachmann, Tregelles (margin), WH., v. Soden, Weiss. Νύμφαν being accentuated accordingly.

αὐτῶν, by Tischendorf, Alford, Meyer, Tregelles (text).

αὐτοῦ, by De Wette (who designates αὐτῶν “false and unmeaning”), Ellicott.

16. καὶ ὅταν�. Obviously the present Epistle, as Romans 16:22, Τέρτιος ὁ γράψας τὴν ἐπιστολήν: 1 Thessalonians 5:27,�2 Thessalonians 3:14, διὰ τῆς ἐπιστολῆς, these latter verses being of the nature of a postscript.

ποιήσατε ἵνα. Cf. John 11:37. ποιεῖν, in the sense “take care,” is sometimes followed by ὅπως, as in Herod. i. 8, ποίεε ὅκως ἐκείνην θεήσεαι γυμνήν: ib. 209, ποίεε ὅκως ἐπεάν … ὥς μοι καταστήσῃς τὸν παῖδα. So with ὡς, Xen. Cyrop. vi. 3. 18.

ἵνα καὶ ἐν τῇ Λαοδικέων ἐκκλησίᾳ�. See the similar direction 1 Thessalonians 5:27,�2 Corinthians 1:1, which implies the sending of copies to neighbouring Churches.

καὶ τὴν ἐκ Λαοδικείας. Chrysostom says that some understood this of a letter written from Laodicea to St. Paul. The SyriacPesh. also renders “written from L.”; and so Theodore Mops., Theodoret, and many others, including Beza, a Lapide, Estius, and some recent commentators. But why should St. Paul direct the Colossians to get from Laodicea the letter written to him, of which he could not assume even that the Laodiceans had retained a copy? and how would the letter of the Laodiceans edify the Colossians? Moreover, καὶ ὑμεῖς obviously implies that the Laodiceans were the receivers of the letter. Theophylact supposes the first Epistle to Timothy to be meant, which, according to the subscription, was written from Laodicea. This subscription, indeed, probably owes its origin to the theory, which was earlier than Theophylact, and appears in the margin of the Philoxenian Syriac. Other Epistles of St. Paul have been similarly said in some of the Versions to be “written from Laodicea” (see Lightfoot). It is fatal to all such hypotheses that St. Paul had not been at Laodicea before this time (2:1), and, even had he been there, had now been some time in prison, and therefore could not have written any letter recently from Laodicea.

These hypotheses are obviously founded on the error that ἡ ἐκ Λ. must mean “the letter written from ‘L.’ ” But this is not so. When the article with a preposition expresses a substantival notion, it is often proleptic, a construction which is called the attraction of prepositions (Jelf, § 647), Thucyd, ii. 34, θάπτουσι τοὺς ἐκ τῶν πολέμων: iii. 22, ἤσθοντο οἱ ἐκ τῶν πύργων φύλακες: vi. 32, ξυνεπεύχοντο δὲ καὶ ὁ ἄλλος ὅμιλος ὁ ἐκ τῆς γῆς. Most of the instances, indeed, cited by Jelf, l.c., and others are with verbs implying motion, as in Luke 11:13, Luke 16:26.

Assuming, then, as certain that the Epistle was one written by St. Paul to Laodicea, we have three alternatives to choose from. First, there is extant an Epistle actually bearing the title “To the Laodiceans.” It is extant only in Latin, but must have been originally written in Greek. Of it Jerome says (Vir. Ill. 5): “legunt quidam et ad Laodicenses, sed ab omnibus exploditur.” It is, indeed, abundantly condemned by internal evidence. It is a mere cento of Pauline phrases put together with no definite connexion or purpose, and absolutely destitute of any local allusion, except in the last line, which is obviously borrowed from the verse before us, viz.: “et facite legi Colosensibus et Colosensium vobis.” As Erasmus truly and strikingly expresses it: “nihil habet Pauli praeter voculas aliquot ex caeteris ejus epistolis mendicatas. … Non est cujusvis hominis Paulinum pectus effingere. Tonat, fulgurat, meras flammas loquitur Paul s. At haec, praeterquam quod brevissima est (about as long as this ch. 4.), quam friget, quam jacet! … Nullum argumentum efficacius persuaserit eam non esse Pauli quam ipsa epistola.” It is found, however, in many copies of the Latin Bible from the sixth to the fifteenth century, and, as Lightfoot observes, for more than nine centuries it “hovered about the doors of the sacred canon, without either finding admission or being peremptorily excluded,” until at the revival of learning it was finally condemned on all sides. The Latin text of the Epistle will be found on p. 308. A full account of its history with a collation of the principal MSS., also a translation into Greek, will be found in Lightfoot.

Secondly, it may be a lost Epistle. We have no reason to question the possibility of St. Paul having written letters which have not come down to us (compare, perhaps, 1 Corinthians 5:9); but in the present case we may observe, first, that the Epistle referred to was one to which some importance was attached by St. Paul himself, so that he himself directs that it be read publicly in two distinct Churches (for the passage justifies us in assuming that it was publicly read in Laodicea as well as Colossae); and, secondly, that in consequence of this direction not only must it have been copied, but great publicity was, in fact, assured to it. The Epistle to Philemon, which was in itself unimportant, and private, was not allowed by the Colossians to be lost, how much less an important public letter? Again, we know of three Epistles sent at this time to Asia Minor, namely, those to the Ephesians, to the Colossians, and to Philemon. It is best not to assume a fourth unless we are compelled to do so, which it will be seen we are not. In any case it could hardly have been an Epistle addressed to the Laodiceans, since if it had been we should not have salutations to the Laodiceans in this Epistle, not to say that it would be called τὴν πρὸς Λαοδικέας rather than τὴν ἐκ Λ.

The third alternative is that the Epistle is one of those that we possess under another title. As early as the fourth century the claim was put forward on the part of the Epistle to the Hebrews by Philastrius, apparently from conjecture only, and one or two modern writers have adopted the same hypothesis. But in spite of some partial coincidences, it is really impossible to suppose these two Epistles to have been written at the same time by the same author to the same neighbourhood.

The Epistle to Philemon has also been suggested, and Wieseler (Chronol. des Apost. Zeitalter, p. 450 ff.) speaks of this identification as scarcely open to doubt; but that Epistle is entirely private, and the delicacy of its appeal would be destroyed if St. Paul directed it to be read in public.

There remains the Epistle to the Ephesians, which we know to have been written about the same time as the Epistle to the Colossians, and conveyed by the same messenger, and which, on quite distinct grounds, is, with high probability, regarded as a circular letter (see Introduction).

ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς�. “See that ye also read.” It would be rather awkward to make this ἵνα depend directly on ποιήσατε. It may be taken independently, as in Galatians 2:10, μόνον τῶν πτωχῶν ἵνα μνημονεύωμεν: 2 Corinthians 8:7, ἵνα καὶ ἐν ταύτῃ τῇ χάριτι περισσεύητε (John 9:3; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; 1 John 2:19 are not quite parallel).

ὅπως is frequently used by classical writers in a similar manner. Here, however, as ποιήσατε has just preceded followed by ἵνα, it is perhaps more natural to understand before this ἵνα, “see that,” taken out of ποιήσατε by a sort of zeugma.

17. καὶ εἴπατε Ἀρχίππῳ. Archippus, called by St. Paul his συστρατιώτης (Philemon 1:2), was probably a son of Philemon, and a leading presbyter at Colossae (to suppose him to be a regular bishop would be an anachronism), or perhaps an “evangelist” (Ephesians 4:11). Lightfoot thinks it more probable that he resided at Laodicea (of which place the Apostolic Constitutions make him bishop), and accounts thus for St. Paul not addressing him directly. Contrast the direct address, Philippians 4:3. But there the request addressed to the “true yokefellow” is a special one; here it is general, and the form adopted gives it an official character which is natural and suitable; in fact, a direct address would have the appearance of harshness and discourtesy to the Colossians, and this the more the greater the authority he possessed. Would not this be the impression inevitably produced, if after animadverting on the heretical teaching in Colossae, the apostle had added, “and thou, see that thou fulfil thy office”?

βλέπε, “look to”; compare 1 Corinthians 1:26, βλέπετε τὴν κλῆσιν ὑμῶν: 10:18, βλέπετε τὸν Ἰσραὴλ κατὰ σάρκα. In Philippians 3:2, βλέπετε τοὺς κύνας, κ.τ.λ., the idea is of being on one’s watch (against).

τὴν διακονίαν. Clearly some office more important than the diaconate, properly so called, is intended here. So 2 Timothy 4:5, τὴν διακονίαν σου πληροφόρησον: compare Acts 12:25, πληρώσαντες τὴν διακονίαν (of a special mission to Jerusalem).

ἣν παρέλαβες ἐν Κυρίῳ. The qualification ἐν Κυρίῳ probably belongs both to the person and to the reception of the office; as living in the Lord, he received it, and he received it as committed to him in the service of the Lord.

ἵνα αὐτὴν πληροῖς. For the construction, compare 2 John 1:8 and for the sense, 2 Timothy 4:5 quoted above.

The admonition reminds us, indeed, of the admonitions to Timothy and Titus. If Archippus was a young man, and recently appointed to his office, it would be a natural reminder of its greatness and its difficulty; and there is no need to suppose that a covert censure on his previous laxity is implied.

18. ὁ� = 1 Corinthians 16:21; 2 Thessalonians 3:17. In the latter passage St. Paul states that this was his usual custom.

μνημονεύετέ μου τῶν δεσμῶν. An appeal, touching in its brevity, and one which could not proceed from an imitator. He does not ask specially for their prayers, their sympathy, that they should spare him further anxiety, or the like; but all these are included in the request that 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 the doctrine occasioned such anxiety, was a prisoner in chains,” Afford; who adds, “when we read of ‘his chains’ we should not forget that they moved over the paper as he wrote. His hand was chained to the soldier that kept him.” This circumstance perhaps explains the singular abruptness of the request.

ἡ χάρις μεθʼ ὑμῶν. This short form of benediction is used also in 1 Timothy 6:21 and 2 Timothy 4:22. ἡ χάρις used thus absolutely occurs only in the later Epistles. In the earlier it is defined by the addition of τοῦ Κυρίου [ἡμῶν] Ἰησοῦ [Χριστοῦ].

Ἀμήν is added in אc D K L P and most MSS., d e f Vulg., Goth., Syr. (both), Boh., etc.

Omitted in א* A B C F G 17 672, g al.

For the subscription, א A B C D G L P al. have πρὸς Κολασσαεις (or Κολοσσαεις, Bcor D F G L P, etc.), to which A Bo add�scripta Athenis.”

Some later authorities, K L and many cursives, add διὰ Τυχικοῦ καὶ Ὀνησίμου. For other varieties and additions, see Tischnendorf.

Here follows the text of the spurious Epistle from a MS. in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin.



Paulus Apostolus non ab hominibus neque per hominem; sed per Jhesum Christum fratribus qui sunt Laodicie. Gratia vobis et pax a Deo patre nostro et Domino Jhesu Christo.

Gratias ago Deo meo per omnem orationem meam quod permanentes estis in eo et perseverantes in operibus eius, promissum expectantes in die iudicii. Neque destituant vos quorundam vaniloquia insinuantium, ut vos avertant a veritate evangelii quod a me praedicatur etsi faciet Deus ut qui sunt ex me ad perfectum veritatis evangelii et servientes et facientes benignitatem operum salutis vite eterne. Et nunc palam sunt vobis vincla mea quae patior in Christo quibus laetor et gaudeo et hoc mihi est ad salutem perpetuam quod ipsum factum orationibus vestris et administrante Spiritu Sancto, sive per vitam sive per mortem, est enim michi vivere vita in Christo et mori gaudium et in id ipsum vobis faciet misericordiam. suam ut eandem dilectionem habeatis et sitis unanimes. Ergo dilectissimi ut audistis praesentia mei, ita retinete et facite in timore Dei et erit vobis vita eterna, est enim Deus qui operatur in vobis et facite sine retractu quecumque facitis et quod est [reliquum] dilectissimi gaudete in Christo et praecavete sordidos in lucro. Omnes sint petitiones vestre palam apud Deum et estote firmi in sensu Christi et quae integra sunt et vera et pudica et iusta et amabilia facite, et quae audistis et accepistis in corde retinete et erat [sic] vobis pax. Salutant vos sancti. Gratia Domini nostri Jhesu cum spiritu vestro. Et facite legi epistolam colosencium vobis.

Boh Bohairic. Cited by Tisch. as “Coptic,” by Tregelles as “Memphitic,” by WH. as “me.”

Arm Armenian.

Eth Ethiopic.

Tisch. Tischendorf.

Syr-Harcl. The Harclean Syriac.

WH Westcott and Hort.

Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on Colossians 4". International Critical Commentary NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/colossians-4.html. 1896-1924.
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