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by John Eadie
Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians (Eadie),
THE EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL TO THE COLOSSIANS
Based on the Greek Text
John Eadie, D.D., LL.D.
Rev. W. Young, M.A., Glasgow
THIS volume has been composed on the same principles as those which guided me in my previous Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians. My aim has again been to trace and illustrate the thoughts of the inspired writer; to arrive at a knowledge of the truths which he has communicated, by an analysis of the words which he has employed. I have used every means in my power to ascertain the mind of the Spirit; and my eye being single, if I have not enjoyed fulness of light, my hope is that some at least of its beams have been diffused over my pages. As the purity of exegesis depends on the soundness of grammatical investigation, I have spared no pains in the prior process, so that I might arrive at a satisfactory result. One may, indeed, compile a series of grammatical annotations without intruding far into the province of exegesis, but it is impossible to write an exegetical commentary without basing it on a thorough grammatical inquiry. The foundation must be of sufficient depth and breadth to support the structure. Nay, after the expositor has discovered what meaning the word or clause may bear by itself, and as the Grammar or Lexicon may warrant, he has then to determine how far the connection and development of ideas may modify the possible signification, and finally determine the actual or genuine sense. For the only true sense is that which the author intended his words should bear. Now there is ample wealth of grammatical assistance. Apart from formal grammatical treatises and dictionaries, one might almost compile a Grammar and Lexicon from such works as Schweighäuser on Herodotus, Stallbaum on Plato, Poppo on Thucydides, Kühner on Xenophon, and other productions of similar scholarship. Still, when all this labour has been gone through, the higher art of the exegete must be brought into requisition. The dry bones must not only be knitted, but they must live. Successful exposition demands, on the part of its writer, such a psychological oneness with the author expounded, as that his spirit is felt, his modes of conception mastered, and his style of presenting consecutive thought penetrated and realized. And there is need, too, of that Divine illumination which the “Interpreter, one among a thousand,” so rejoices to confer on him who works in the spirit of the prayer, “Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law.” May I venture to hope that, to some extent, I have come up to my own theory?
What others have written before me on the epistle I have carefully studied. Neither ancient nor modern commentators in any language have been neglected. But I have not been so lavish, as on my last appearance, in the citation of names, except in cases of momentous difficulty, or where some peculiar interpretation has been adduced. Names, I well know, are not authorities; and such a complete enumeration of them as I attempted has, I find, been sometimes misunderstood in its principle, and sometimes misrepresented in its purpose.
If my labours shall contribute to a clearer understanding of this portion of the New Testament, I shall be amply rewarded. I believe that the writings of the apostle, whatever their immediate occasion and primary purpose, were intended to be of permanent and universal utility; and that the purity and prosperity of the church of Christ are intimately bound up with an accurate knowledge of, and a solid faith in, the Pauline theology. I dare not, therefore, in the spirit of modern rationalism, say in one breath what the apostle means, and then say, in another breath, that such an acknowledged meaning, though fitted for the meridian of the first century, is not equally fitted for that of the nineteenth; but must be modified and softened down, according to each one's predilections and views. The privilege of individual deduction from inspired statement is not questioned-the attempt to glean and gather general principles from counsels and descriptions of a temporary and special phasis is not disallowed; but this procedure is totally different from that ingenious rationalism which contrives to explain away those distinctive truths which an honest interpretation of the apostle's language admits that he actually loved and taught.
I have still to bespeak indulgence, on account of the continuous and absorbing duties of a numerous city charge; and for a careful revisal of the sheets, and the compilation of the useful index which accompanies this volume, I am indebted to my esteemed friend the Rev. John Russell, Buchlyvie, Stirlingshire.
13 LANSDOWNE CRESCENT, GLASGOW, October 1855.
THE LITERATURE OF THE EPISTLE
I. Colosse, Laodicea, and Hierapolis
COLOSSE was a city of the greater Phrygia, or that province which, under Constantius, was called Phrygia Pacatiana, and was situated on the river Lycus, about five furlongs above the point where it joins the Maeander. The spelling of the name has been disputed. The common appellation, Κολοσσαί , has, in the inscription of the epistle, the support of Codices D, E, F, G, the Vulgate, and several of the Fathers, among whom are the Greek Chrysostom and Theophylact, and the Latin Tertullian and Ambrosiaster. Some ancient coins exhibit the same spelling, and it occurs also in Herodotus, Xenophon, Strabo, Diodorus Siculus, and Pliny. It appears to be the correct and original form of the word. On the other hand, Κολασσαί has the high authority of A, B, C, of the Syriac and Coptic Versions, and not a few of the Fathers and classical writers. Lachmann and Tischendorf adopt it. This form, therefore, was also a current one. It seems to have been in common use among the people, and was probably the spelling employed by the apostle himself. Among the subscriptions to the Acts of the Council of Chalcedon, held in A.D. 451, occurs that of the metropolitan of Laodicea, who, speaking of the bishops under him, mentions- ᾿Επιφανίου πόλεως Κολασσῶν .
The city was of some note in its early days. Herodotus calls it μεγάλη πόλις ; and Xenophon bestows upon it the epithet εὐδαίμων . Strabo, however, while he classes Apameia and Laodicea among the greatest cities of Phrygia, ranks Colosse only among the πολίσματα , as if its ancient greatness had already been eclipsed by the prosperity of the neighbouring towns. Ptolemy takes no notice of it. Laodicea and Hierapolis, mentioned in the second chapter of the epistle, were but a few miles from it, and all three in the year 60 A.D. suffered terribly from an earthquake. Indeed, as Strabo observes, the whole district or valley of the Maeander was volcanic, and liable to earthquakes- εὔσειστος .
In the middle ages, Colosse was known by the name of Chonae, as is stated by Theophylact in the commencement of his commentary, and by the Byzantine Nicetas, who, after his birth-place, surnamed himself Choniates. A village named Chonas still remains, and the ruins of the ancient city have been discovered and identified by the modern travellers Hamilton and Arundell. The lofty range of Mount Cadmus rises abruptly behind the village, presenting that remarkable phenomenon which seems to have given its second name to the town, and was connected with one of its singular superstitions. The legend is, that, during a period of sudden and resistless inundation, Michael, descending from heaven, opened a chasm, into which the waters at once disappeared, and the fact is, that a church was built in honour of the archangel, in which he received Divine honours. This subsequent idolatry affords a curious illustration of the tendency which, under the clause “worshipping of angels,” the apostle formally notices and rebukes in the 18th verse of the second chapter of his epistle.
The other towns mentioned in the epistle are Laodicea and Hierapolis. The former had often attached to it the appellation- ἡ ἐπὶ Λύκῳ , or ἡ πρὸς τῷ Λύκῳ -that is, “Laodicea on the Lycus,” to distinguish it from other towns of similar name, one in the same region, another forming the port of Aleppo, and a third close to Mount Lebanon. Its original name was Diospolis, and it received its later designation from Laodice, the wife of Antiochus II., by whom it was patronized and considerably enlarged. As the metropolis of the Greater Phrygia, it was a city of some size, splendour, and trade, covering several hills with its buildings, having a rich and active population within it, and a fertile country round about it, watered by the Lycus, and two other and smaller streams. But the scourge of the place was the frequency and severity of the earthquakes. On being devastated by the earthquake referred to, it soon rose to its former grandeur- propriis opibus revaluit; but after many a convulsion and overthrow, the place was at length abandoned. Its ruins attest its ancient grandeur. Remains of two theatres may yet be seen, with many of their marble seats; temples may be traced by their foundations; but of the architecture and ornaments of churches almost no trace can be found. “Vast silent walls,” about the purpose of which there is considerable doubt, are striking objects amidst the desolation. The Turks now call it Eski-hissa, or old castle, a translation of the common Greek term applied to old sites, Paleo-castro.
East of Colosse, and to the north of Laodicea and visible from its theatre, lay Hierapolis. It was famous for its mineral springs, which produced beautiful stalactites, and all forms of encrustations, and for the mephitic vapours which filled a cavern on the hill-side. These peculiarities may have originated its sacred name. It has been visited and described by several travellers, such as Smith, Pococke, Chander, Arundell, Leake, and Fellows. The remains of three Christian churches are visible, and the theatre and gymnasium are prominent among the ruins. Fellows has the following entry in his Journal, pp. 283, 284: “Up the valley towards the south-east stands Mount Cadmus, and I heard that at its foot, about twelve miles from Laodicea, there were considerable ruins, probably of the ancient city of Colossae. Descending rapidly into the flat and swampy valley of the Lycus, we crossed in a diagonal line to the city of Hierapolis, six or seven miles from Laodicea. My attention had been attracted at twenty miles' distance by the singular appearance of its hill, upon which there appeared to be perfectly white streams poured down its sides; and this peculiarity may have been the attraction which first led to the city being built there. The waters, which rise in copious streams from several deep springs among the ruins, and are also to be found in small rivulets for twenty miles around, are tepid, and to appearance perfectly pure. This pure and warm water is no sooner exposed to the air than it rapidly deposits a pearly white substance upon the channel through which it flows, and on every blade of grass in its course; and thus, after filling its bed, it flows over, leaving a substance which I can only compare to the brain-coral, a kind of crust or fee ble crystallization; again it is flooded by a fresh stream, and again is formed another perfectly white coat. The streams of water, thus leaving a deposit by which they are choked up, and over which they again flow, have raised the whole surface of the ground fifteen or twenty feet, forming masses of this shelly stone in ridges, which impede the paths, as well as conceal and render it difficult to trace out the foundations of buildings. The deposit has the appearance of a salt, but it is tasteless, and to the touch is like the shell of a cuttle-fish. These streams have flowed on for ages, and the hills are coated over with their deposit of a filmy semi-transparent appearance, looking like half-melted snow suddenly frozen.” From this whiteness of the southern and western declivities of the rocky terrace on which the city stands, a whiteness consisting probably of a deposit of carbonate of lime, it is now called Pambuk-Kaleh, or Cotton Castle.
The inhabitants of Phrygia boasted of a high antiquity, and the Egyptians confessed their own posteriority. Herodotus tells at length the absurd story of the experiment of King Psammetichus, by which was discovered the priority of the Phrygian language. It is certain that they were inclined to wild superstitions. Their religious worship was a species of delirious fanaticism. The self-mutilated Corybantes were the priests of Cybele, who under the sacred paroxysm cut and gashed themselves, as they reeled, whirled, and danced in frantic glee to the braying of horns and clashing of cymbals, while the forests and mountains echoed the wild clamour of their orgies. The national propensity of the Phrygians was towards the dark and mystical, and they were specially attracted to any mania or extravagance that claimed a near knowledge of, or a maddening fellowship with, the spirit-world. Ravings and convulsions were the sure tokens to them of inspiration. Deficiency of intellectual culture left them the more the creatures of whim and impulse, so that the errors mentioned by the apostle in his letter to the Colossians, and characterized as “intruding into those things he hath not seen, will-worship, and neglecting of the body,” were peculiarly fitted to such a temperament, and calculated to exert a strong fascination upon it. The knowledge of this correspondence between the errors propounded and the eccentric propensities of the people, must have deepened the fears and anxieties of the apostle, and led to that stern and thorough exposure which characterizes the second chapter of the epistle. We know that at a subsequent period similar delusions prevailed in the province. The reveries of Montanus originated there about the middle of the second century, and spread rapidly and extensively. The leading features of Montanism were a claim to ecstatic inspiration, the gift of prophecy, the adoption of a transcendental code of morality, and the exercise of an austere discipline. Its votaries were often named Kataphrygians, from the region of their popularity. The heresiarch himself was born on the confines of Phrygia, and his first disciples, as might be expected, were natives of that country, nay, two of its towns were fondly supposed to be the New Jerusalem predicted in the Apocalypse.
II. The Church in Colosse
But who originated the Christian community at Colosse? Was it the apostle himself, or some other missionary? The question has not yet been answered beyond dispute. The early Greek commentator Theodoret held that the apostle planted the church, though he indicates that even in his day there was a diversity of opinion on the subject. In later times, Dr. Lardner has formally stated sixteen arguments in defence of his belief, that the author of the epistle was the founder of the church. Dr. Wiggers, in the Studien und Kritiken for 1838, has espoused the theory of Lardner, and it had been previously advocated by the reviewer of Junker's Commentary, in the ninth volume of Rohr's Kritischer Prediger-Bibliothek. In express opposition to these views, Dr. Davidson has written at length with great candour and precision.
The arguments for and against the Pauline origin of the church are of two kinds-inferential and critical.
1. It is stated in the Acts of the Apostles, Acts 16:6, that Paul and his companion “had gone throughout Phrygia,” and then, Acts 18:23, that “he went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.” There arises a strong presumption from these accounts, that during this first or second visit the apostle must surely have reached Colosse. This is Theodoret's argument-that as Colosse was in Phrygia, and Laodicea the capital of the province was in its vicinity, it could scarcely happen that the apostle should not visit both places. Dr. Lardner endorses this judgment, and says, “This argument alone appears to me to be conclusive.” Now, it is beyond doubt that the apostle made extensive journeys in the province of Phrygia, but it is nowhere stated that he was either in Colosse, or even near it. In the first instance referred to, the route was from Antioch to Syria, Cilicia, Derbe, Lystra, Phrygia, Galatia, Mysia, Troas, and thence over to Europe. The record of the tour is vague. True, indeed, Colosse lay on the great road from Iconium to Ephesus, but the apostle did not visit Ephesus till after his return from Europe, and then he sailed to it directly from the port of Cenchrea, and after a brief visit took shipping again for Caesarea. The term Phrygia, as has been remarked by Conybeare and Howson (1.291) “was merely a geographical expression, denoting a debatable country of doubtful extent.” The journey performed in reaching Mysia, for the purpose of going into Bithynia, and then through Mysia down to the coast at Troas, would seem to indicate that the apostle's route lay greatly to the north of the city of Colosse.
With regard to the apostle's second journey, the language is also indeterminate. Only it was a journey of visitation, and if there was no previous sojourn in Colosse, and no existing church in it, then the apostle was under no inducement to turn his steps towards it. He came from Antioch into Phrygia and Galatia, and thence down to Ephesus. If he had taken the great road to the AEgean, through the valley of the Maeander, he must have come near Colosse; but the probability is, that he passed again farther to the north-for he passed, in fact, through “the upper coasts,” or table land.
The apostle was for more than three years at Ephesus, and we may be assured that evangelizing influence would be diffused through the surrounding country. Qualified preachers would visit the various districts, proclaim the gospel, and gather together small communities. Probably by one of such disciples might the truth be carried a hundred miles eastward to Colosse, during the period “when all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” There is nothing in the brief allusions in the Acts of the Apostles to warrant the supposition that Paul himself had preached in Colosse. His apostolic journeys never approached it. We know not his proximate reasons for not visiting it, nor can we tell from what or how many motives, apart from direct revelation, his route, in any case, was originally chalked out, and afterwards modified or departed from altogether. The course we may venture to propose for him might, for anything we can know, have presented insuperable difficulties, even though we should be able to defend it by a reference to geography and itineraries, based on the researches and discoveries of modern travel. And we are sure that if, when in Phrygia, the apostle did not visit Laodicea-its capital, it was because there was more pressing work for him elsewhere, while a higher power and wisdom were guiding him in all the points of his busy and sublime career.
The second class of arguments in favour of the notion that Paul himself founded the church in Colosse, is drawn from a critical estimate of the general spirit and occasional sentiments of the epistle itself.
Dr. Lardner adduces the apostle's earnest belief, that the Colossians rightly knew the truth (Colossians 1:6), as evidence that probably himself had taught them. But the inference is strained, and the context disallows it; for the proper translation is “which bringeth forth fruit, as it does also in you, from the day ye heard it, and knew the grace of God in truth, just as ye learned it from Epaphras.” The proof based upon καί , in the phrase καθὼς καὶ ἐμάθετε ἀπὸ ᾿Επαφρᾶ , is not valid, for the best MSS. exclude καί , though Wiggers contends that the theory we espouse and are now defending may have led to its exclusion. See our commentary on the place.
Nor is there tangible evidence in the declaration made in Colossians 1:8, where the apostle tells how Epaphras had declared to him and his companions their love in the spirit. Even taking Dr. Lardner's interpretation of the phrase as meaning their affection for the apostle himself, how can it prove a prior and personal acquaintance? For surely Christian love does not depend on personal interview or recognition, else it would be impossible for any one to love the whole “household of faith.” Nor can the presence of Epaphras at Rome, his intimacy with the apostle, and the accounts which he brought of the spiritual condition of the Colossian believers, be any presumption that they were the apostle's own converts; for who that has seen the workings of his large heart would limit Paul's interest to those churches gathered by his own preaching?
The apostle, indeed, says to the Colossian church, “If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister: who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church; whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God.” But no part of this language will warrant the inference which some would put upon it. He does not say that he had ever preached to the Colossians, he only says that he was suffering for them. And those sufferings arose purely from his being the apostle of the Gentiles, as indeed he indicates in a subsequent clause. There he intimates to them that the persecutions which harassed him arose from his special relation to the Gentile churches. In no other sense than in this general one, could he be suffering for the Colossians, for personally they were in no way instrumental in causing his incarceration and appeal. The charges against him involved nothing said or done at Colosse, the church there was not implicated in the least degree. But for their evangelical liberty and that of all the churches of heathendom the apostle was bound in fetters.
No stress can be laid on the use of the word ἄπειμι in Colossians 2:5, though Lardner, and Wiggers after him, appeal to it, as implying that the apostle had once been present in Colosse. His language simply is, “For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.” The apostle, however, does not say I am now absent, as if he referred by such a contrast to a previous period. The contrast is of another nature. It is such an absence as brings out the idea of presence in spirit “I am away from you, and yet I am with you-personally at a great distance, but still in spirit in the very midst of you.”
It is also said, Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” It puzzles us to understand how Dr. Lardner could extract from this admonition any proof “that the Colossians were endued with spiritual gifts.” The descriptive counsel refers not to any extraordinary endowment, nor yet to the composition of sacred melodies; but merely to the chanting of them. That “grace” which was in their hearts is the gift of God to all believers.
Again, if, as we have seen, the record of the affection which the Colossian believers bore to the apostle be no evidence of personal intimacy, neither can any “full proof” of it be discovered in the brief note “all my state shall Tychicus declare unto you.” If, as the apostle of the Gentiles, Paul encountered such persecutions, would not they for whom he so nobly suffered be deeply interested in him, and would not he respond to such natural anxiety, and inform them, through Tychicus, of many things with which he did not choose to cumber an epistle?
The salutations sent by him to Colosse are neither in number nor familiarity any additional argument, and certainly do not bear out Lardner's affirmation, that “Paul was well acquainted with the state of the churches in Colosse and Laodicea.” For might not the names of the six men who send their Christian greetings be well known to the Colossians? The apostle might know that Nymphas had a church in his house without his ever being in it himself; and being ‘such an one as Paul the aged,” he surely needed not the formality of a personal introduction to Archippus, in order to take the liberty of sending him the brief and emphatic charge “Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.” On the other hand, how many, various, tender, and special are his salutations sent to the church in Rome, where he had never been!
Dr. Lardner argues, again, for a personal intimacy from Colossians 4:3-4, a passage which contains the apostle's earnest request for the prayers of the Colossian believers, and that they would remember his bonds; but Dr. Lardner also supplies the answer himself, when he admits that “such demands may be made of strangers.” Nor can his theory be sustained by his appeal to the Epistle to Philemon. Philemon was a convert of the apostle's own, but Dr. Lardner candidly allows that his conversion, though “it might as well have been done at home,” yet “might have been done at some other place.” It is certainly a very slender ground of argument which Wiggers adopts, when he appeals to the conjunction of Timothy's name with the apostle's in the inscription of the epistle. For surely as a special companion of the apostle, and engaged so often in missionary work and travel, Timothy must have been well known at Colosse; and, as Dr. Davidson well remarks, “among the various disciples of the apostle who were at Colosse, it is not improbable that Timothy had a part in instructing the church.” Indeed, some regard him as probably its founder.
But, lastly, a principal ground of dispute is the passage occurring in Colossians 2:1-2, “For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ.” Theodoret based his theory upon one interpretation of the words. “Some,” says he, “are of the opinion, that when the divine apostle wrote this epistle, he had not seen the Colossians. And they attempt to support their arguments by those words. . . . But they should reflect, that the meaning of the words is this-I have not only a concern for you, but I have likewise great concern for those who have not seen me. And if he is not understood in this sense, he expresses no concern for those who had seen him and been taught by him.” That is to say, Theodoret supposes two classes of persons to be referred to-the Colossians and Laodiceans who had seen the apostle's face, and another indiscriminate class who had never enjoyed his personal ministry. The words may of themselves bear such an interpretation. But it is objectionable on various grounds. The adjective ὅσοι may refer back to the persons mentioned, and may thus introduce a common characteristic - for you and them in Laodicea, and indeed not only you, but all in the same category, who have never seen my face in the flesh. The clause “and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh,” has no harmonious connection, if it stand so disjoined from the previous clause as to point out in sharp contrast other believing communities. With this exegesis one might infer from the language of the following verses, that all who had not seen the apostle's face in the flesh were beset with the same dangers as the church in Colosse. For the virtual prayer is, that they might be fortified against that false philosophy which was raising its head in Phrygia, by the full-assured understanding of that gospel in which are deposited “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” But surely among the many churches who had not seen Paul, there must have been many to whom the prayer in its specialty was not and could not be adapted, and for whom this “conflict” was not necessary. That “conflict” was excited by the danger which menaced Colosse; but all the churches unvisited by the apostle could not be in similar jeopardy, so as to create a similar solicitude and prayer. It is true that the care of all the churches came upon him daily, and all of them shared in his intense and prayerful anxiety. Yet it was his pride (if the expression may be pardoned) to originate Christian societies. He thus speaks “Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labours;” “Yea,” says he again, “so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation.” This distinction, so boldly drawn by the apostle, brought the churches founded by himself into a very special relationship with him. Is it at all likely, then, that if he had founded the churches of Colosse and Laodicea, and had occasion to tell them what a conflict he had for them, he would modify and weaken the statement, by adding, that his feeling for them was quite the same with that he entertained for churches with which he had never had any personal connection? Would not the sentiment just quoted from the epistles to Rome and Corinth be somewhat at variance with that supposed to be so expressed to Colosse? Would it have been a source of peculiar comfort to the churches of Colosse and Laodicea, if Paul had founded them, to tell them, that notwithstanding his personal intimacy with them and their imminent danger, they were not a whit nearer his heart than the remotest Christian community of which he had but the slightest intelligence? The apostle possessed too much of our common nature thus to dissipate his friendships in vagueness, and he had too much knowledge of human nature to attempt to create a response to his own anxieties by so expressing himself. No, he had not visited these churches; but special circumstances gave him a tender interest in them. His peculiar interest in the churches planted by himself might be matter of notoriety in the district, and they of Colosse and Laodicea might be disposed to feel that they had not such a claim on the apostle as the churches of Galatia in their vicinity. But the crisis which had occurred roused the apostle to a sense of their danger; that danger gave them a warm place in his bosom, and to assure them of this, he declares his anxiety that they knew what a conflict he had for them, and for all around them, indeed, as many as had not seen his face in the flesh. The reference in ὅσοι is plainly to their own neighbourhood, particularly including Hierapolis, which is afterwards mentioned, and which might be menaced by the same form of error. They had not enjoyed his teaching, and they had the more need of his prayers. If he had seen them in the flesh he might have warned them; or, as in the case of Ephesus, uttered his presentiment of danger, and endeavoured to fortify them against it. The translation of Wiggers, “also for them, to wit in Colosse and Laodicea, who have not seen my face in the flesh,” is too restrictive, and takes for granted that Paul had been in both those places, but had not been brought into personal contact with all the members of the churches. We give the words a wider significan ce. We doubt not that several members of those churches may have seen the apostle during his long stay at Ephesus. The apostle, however, does not contrast them with others who had not enjoyed the same precious opportunity. He speaks not to individuals but to communities, and classes with them others around them similarly circumstanced. In the following verse, he mentions all the parties in the third person, as if they all stood in the same category.
It is also to be specially observed that the apostle, though he combats error, never refers to his own personal teaching, or hints at what himself had delivered on these subjects of controversy at Colosse. Though the introduction of the gospel seems to be referred to, the apostle in no sense or shape connects it with himself. Very different is his style in the other epistles when he recalls the scenes and circumstances in which the churches had been planted or watered by his personal ministrations.
The probability is that the church in Colosse was founded by Epaphras, of whom the apostle says, “who is for you a faithful minister of Christ;” and of whom he also testifies: “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.”
In conclusion, the view which we have advocated is generally that of the writers of Introduction, with the exception of Schott, Börger, and Neudecker; and with the exception of Theodoret, Macknight, Adam Clarke, Barnes, and Koch on Philemon, it is also the view of the great body of commentators upon the epistle, such as Calvin, Suicer, Flatt, Bähr, Huther, De Wette, Junker, Steiger, Olshausen, Böhmer, Meyer, Schrader, Bloomfield, and Baumgarten-Crusius.
III. The Genuineness of the Epistle
In the early church the genuineness of this epistle was universally acknowledged. No misconception of its contents or prejudice against them, led to any suspicions about its authorship. No inquisitive spirit found anything in it unworthy of the apostle, or unlike his usual modes of thought and style. No heretic seems to have been bold enough to exclude it from his canon, though in the first centuries it must have often confronted some prevalent forms of error and superstition. Eusebius therefore placed it among the ῾Ομολογούμενα , or books which were confessed on all sides to be of apostolical origin. Tertullian has quoted this epistle about thirty times, and in such a way as clearly to evince his belief in its Pauline origin. The nineteenth chapter of his fifth book against Marcion, is a summary of its contents, so far as they served his polemical purpose. His great authority throughout is Paul, whom he simply names apostolus.
At a prior date, Clement of Alexandria has also many allusions to it. For example, in the sixth book of his Stromata, after maintaining that Paul does not condemn all philosophy, he quotes Colossians 2:8, with the preface- ὡσαύτως ἄρα καὶ τοῖς κολασσαεῦσι . In the fourth book of the same Miscellany he quotes that section of this epistle which enjoins the duties of domestic life, and ascribes it to Paul, who was the prime authority to him as to Tertullian. It is found also in the anonymous canon published by Muratori,-a document of the beginning of the third century. The Syrian churches had it in their collection, as is evident from the old Syrian translation. Origen, in the eighth chapter of the fifth book of his reply to Celsus, has a quotation from Colossians 2:18-19, prefaced by the remark- παρὰ δὲ τῷ Παύλῳ ἀκριβῶς τὰ ᾿Ιουδαίων παιδευθέντι . . . τοιαῦτ᾿ ἐν τῇ πρὸς Κολοσσαεῖς λέλεκται .
In Justin's dialogue with Trypho, no less than four times is Colossians 1:15-16 referred to or quoted, the point of the quotation being the term πρωτότοκος . The same term is also cited by Theophilus of Antioch, who wrote toward the latter end of the second century, and is found in his three books to Autolycus.
Many distinct and lengthened quotations are found in Irenaeus, who flourished about the same period as Theophilus. Thus, in the third chapter of his first book Against Heresies, he says the following things are spoken plainly by Paul- ὑπὸ τοῦ Παύλου δὲ φανερῶς , and he cites first Colossians 3:11, and then Colossians 2:9. Or, again, the quotation of Colossians 1:21-22, is introduced with the words- et propter hoc apostolus in epistola quae est ad Colossenses ait. Indisputable citations or allusions cannot be brought from the apostolical Fathers. Marcion included the book in his canon, giving it the eighth place in his catalogue. There can be no doubt at all of the unanimous opinion of the primitive church on the subject; in Italy, Africa, Syria, Asia Minor, and Egypt, there was no conflicting testimony.
Through the intervening centuries, and up to a very recent period, the genuineness of the epistle was also acknowledged to be beyond dispute. Indeed, when Bähr wrote his commentary on it in 1832, he says, in his Introduction, “it has been hitherto universally acknowledged, and has been called in question by nobody, not even by De Wette.” A few years later, however, Germany began to present an exception. Schrader, in his note on Colossians 4:10, took occasion, from the message sent by the apostle about Mark, to find a difficulty, and out of it to raise a suspicion that the epistle might not be Paul's, as it wants the individuality found in some other of his epistolary compositions. Mayerhoff, in 1838, made a bold and formal assault, and he has been followed up by Baur and his disciple Schwegler. Mayerhoff's posthumous treatise, edited by his brother, is certainly far from being conclusive. Proceeding on very vague and unsatisfactory principles, it abounds with a somewhat mechanical selection of words and phrases, picks out ἅπαξ λεγόμενα , and gives prominence to what are reckoned un-Pauline forms of expression and thought.
But the course of criticism is thoroughly defective. For if the apostle have a special end in view, he must employ special diction. If that end be peculiar, the style must necessarily share in the peculiarity. If in one epistle he explain his system and in another defend it, the expository style may surely be expected to differ from the polemical style. If in one composition he combats one form of error, and one set of adversaries, can you anticipate identical phraseology in another letter in which he assaults a very different shape of heresy, patronized by a wholly diverse band of opponents? Individuality would be lost in proportion to such sameness, and the absence of it would be the surest proof of spuriousness. No sound critic would test the style of Colossians by that of 1st Thessalonians, or throw suspicion on the former because it does not reveal the same aspects of thought and allusion. Nor would he place it side by side with Galatians, and roughly say that both are polemical, and that therefore the same topics of controversy and trains of thought should be found in both. Who would reject 1st Corinthians because the favourite and almost essential term σωτηρία is not to be found in it, or throw Philippians out of the canon because words so significant and Pauline as σώζειν and καλεῖν do not occur in it?
Mayerhoff's first argument is that of lexical difference, and he instances the want of σώζω and its derivatives, and of καλέω and its derivatives used with reference to the Divine kingdom. But in this epistle the apostle has no occasion to employ these terms, for his primary object is not to expound salvation or our calling to it, but to defend the personal and official glory of its great author and finisher-Christ. No wonder that the expressive term Χριστός occurs by itself at least twenty times in the epistle. Again, the words νόμος and πίστις do not occupy a prominent place; and no wonder, for the object of the writer is not, as in Romans and Galatians, to explain the nature and relations of faith and law. “The particle γάρ ,” says Mayerhoff, “occurs only six times; but in Philippians seventeen, and in Romans one hundred and fifty times.” But surely, if the adverb be so prominent a feature of the apostle's other writings, he must be a very bungling forger who would not plentifully sprinkle his pages with it. An imitator would not venture a copy with so few instances of the characteristic γάρ . The use of such a term would rather lead a forger to multiplication, till its very frequency detected him. We agree with Olshausen, who says, in the first section of the Introduction to his Commentary, “he that can take account of such mere accidents, and that so seriously ( ernstlich), that he reckons how often γάρ occurs in each epistle, decides his own incapacity for judging on similarity and difference of style.” In opposition to the scantiness of γάρ , Mayerhoff produces the frequency of ἐν , which occurs in the first two chapters sixty times; and in the whole Epistle to the Philippians only fifty times. But would an impostor hazard such a profusion of this monosyllable? Besides, a very la rge number of the instances refer formally or by implication to union with Christ-a darling idea of the apostle, and one which in this epistle he is so naturally led to insert. When the apostle combats a system of proud and false philosophy, need we wonder at the recurrence of γνῶσις , or the emphatic form ἐπίγνωσις ?
And then as to ἅπαξ λεγόμενα . Where now should one expect them? Certainly when a writer is busied with some unusual theme. And so it is in Colossians. Out of above thirty distinct ἅπαξ λεγόμενα which we have noted in the course of our study of this epistle, no less than eighteen occur in the second chapter, where the novel form of error is discussed and refuted, and the majority of them are characteristic terms. Such are the distinctive words, πιθανολογία , φιλοσοφία , χειρόγραφον , θεότης , σωματικῶς , εἰρηνοποιέω , ἐθελοθρησκεία , νουμηνία , ἀπόχρησις , ἀφειδία , πλησμονή ; with other terms associated with them, as στερέωμα , ἀπέκδυσις , συλαγωγῶν , καταβραβεύω , προσηλώσας , δογματίζω , ἐμβατεύω . Now, if the apostle be under the necessity of describing a system of error which he has described nowhere else, may we not expect words which occur nowhere else, or must his free spirit limit itself to vocables already employed by him on former occasions? Is the new conception to be deprived of a new expression? Must the apostle, for the purpose of authenticating his writings, bind himself to a meagre and worn-out vocabulary? Shall we refuse to this master of language what we freely yield to every other author? If in a writing of one age we discover some terms which belonged to an earlier one, but had faded into disuse, or some which came into currency only during a later epoch, we justly look upon it with suspicion. But every author has surely liberty to range among the terms of his own period, and to employ the most fitting of them to embody his thoughts. If he never wrote so before, you infer that he never thought so before. If Mayerhoff had set himself to describe the symbols of the Apocalypse, he must have used many phrases not found in this treatise, and therefore with equal propriety, and on the same evidence, might some reviewer argue that the author of such a production could not be the author of this attack on the genuineness of the Epistle to the Colossians and the three pastoral epistles.
Nor is there any greater force in Mayerhoff's objections, based on grammatical differences. Of his charge of tautology we find no proof. When he stumbles on phrases very like the apostle's usual style, he affirms they are not really resemblances at all. He complains of the absence of anakolutha; and when he does meet them, he detects something wrong or un-Pauline in them. Some connective particles are absent in this epistle; but ἄρα , one of them referred to by him, is not found in Philippians, nor does διό , another of them, occur in Galatians; while οὐχι , which occurs fourteen times in 1st Corinthians, is not found in Philippians, nor here, nor in Galatians. On such irregularities no argument can be founded. Thus, the particle τέ , which occurs often in Romans, is found neither in Galatians nor 1st Thessalonians. The conjunction ἐάν , occurring twenty times in Romans, is found forty-five times in 1st Corinthians, but is absent from Philippians; and, again, ἤ is met with fifty-two times in 1st Corinthians, but only twice in Philippians.
There is nothing peculiar in the forms of construction adduced by Mayerhoff. He next accuses the writer of this epistle of hunting after synonyms, but the examples which he selects are in no case synonymous. Who but Mayerhoff would lay any stress on the various diction in the formula of salutation? If the apostle, in such a prominent place, had been in the habit of using a uniform formula, then the least cunning of impostors would have been sure to copy it with slavish correctness.
Not less futile are Mayerhoff's criticisms on differences of idea or expression to be found in the epistle. He discovers a host of parallel repetitions, which in reality are either not repetitions at all, or repetitions for an avowed object. Colossians 1:1; Colossians 1:9-10; Colossians 1:13-14; Colossians 1:18, etc.
Another objection, based on a gross misconception, takes up the very different aspect under which the νόμος is viewed here, from the representations given of it in the other epistles. Now, not to say that νόμος does not occur in this epistle at all, it may be relied, that it is not law as a Divine institute which is here referred to, or the law which is spoken of so often in the Epistle to the Romans. What is spoken of here is the ceremonial law, which was abrogated by being fulfilled in the death of Christ, and not the moral law, which is as immutable as the legislator. What total ignorance of the object of the apostle to say, that because he speaks of “elements of the world,” “commandments and doctrines of men,” and “traditions of men,” he gives these names to the Divine law, and then to infer that such doctrine cannot be Paul's, since he always looks upon the law as Divine, holy, and spiritual! It is surely one thing to speak thus of the law, and quite another thing to reprobate human additions to it.
There is no doubt, as Mayerhoff says, that in Colossians some acts, which are often ascribed to Christ, are ascribed to God; but such a variation not being confined to the epistle is no mark of un-Pauline peculiarity. And lastly, Mayerhoff's objection to its Christology cannot be sustained. For the form which it has assumed has most evidently a reference to such shapes of error as were propounded at Colosse, and the terms which the errorists used may have been selected by the apostle and sanctified by their legitimate application to the Divine Redeemer. Baur and Schwegler also adduce the doctrine of Christ's pre-existence taught in Ephesians and Colossians, as proof that the two epistles were not written by Paul. The objection carries its own refutation.
In fact this whole process of assault is one of capricious subjectivity. One writer decides that the Epistle to the Ephesians is spurious, because it is only a verbose expansion of that to the Colossians; and another, with equal taste and correctness, affirms that the Epistle to the Colossians is spurious, because it is an unskilful abstract of that to the Ephesians; while, according to the judgment of Baur, both epistles must stand or fall together.
To gain his purpose, Mayerhoff has compared throughout the two Epistles of Colossians and Ephesians. But surely the real similarity which they present may be easily accounted for,-that similarity being found chiefly in the concluding and practical portions. Schneckenburger has pronounced this similarity-a similarity in unimportant things-to be “a mechanical use of materials.” But the one epistle is very far from being a copy of the other. There is a distinctness of aim with occasional identity of thought. The great body of each epistle is different, nor do they slavishly agree even in what may be termed commonplaces. There is, indeed, far less similarity than is commonly supposed-all that is special about each of them is wholly different, and even in the paragraphs where there is similarity, there is seldom or never sameness, some new turn being mingled with the thought, or some new edge being given to the admonition. As is noticed in our Commentary, even where the apostle addresses spouses, children, and slaves, and refers to the same duties, there is yet variety in the form and reasons of advice. The one letter is general, the other is special; the one is didactic, the other controversial. The one presents truth in itself, the other developes the truth in conflict with parallel error. And there is no servile imitation, no want of life and freshness.
Mayerhoff's last argument is based on the date of the errors which he imagines to be refuted in this epistle. He holds that the heresy of Cerinthus is aimed at and exposed by the writer, and he infers that as the false doctrine of Cerinthus was not developed till after the apostle's time, therefore the apostle could not be the writer. The truth of his chronological statement it is impossible for him to prove. It would seem that Cerinthus was soon after this in Ephesus, and in antagonism with the Apostle John; so that, even though it could be proved that Cerinthus was the person the writer had in his eye, it would not follow that he could not be the apostle of the Gentiles. Mayerhoff's view of the nature of the false doctrines condemned is not very different from our own, but there is no necessity to identify them thus with Cerinthus, and then to assign his era to post-Pauline times. Olshausen says that Cerinthus may have been by this time in Colosse, though he adds, that he could hardly have that influence which should mark him out as the leader of a formidable party.
Baur and Schwegler subscribe to not a few of Mayerhoff's critical objections based upon the style of the epistle. But Baur holds it to have had its origin in the Gnosticism of the second century. Mayerhoff admits that Baumgarten has shown that such a hypothesis is untenable against the pastoral epistles, though he himself is bold enough to attack them on other grounds. But the Gnosticism of the second century in its theosophy and angelology presupposes, in fact, the existence of those apostolic documents. The citations from Hippolytus have sadly perplexed those critics of Tübingen-as they show that books of the New Testament are quoted by him fully half a century before those German scholars allowed their existence. (See our Introduction to Commentary on Ephesians, p. xlv.)
The attacks on this epistle are therefore of no formidable nature, and the opinion of the church of Christ, in so many countries and for so many centuries, may be acquiesced in without hesitation.
IV. The False Teachers in Colosse
There has been no small amount of erudition and research expended upon the question, as to what party or parties in Colosse held the errors condemned by the apostle. The attempt has often been made to identify these errorists with some formed and well-known sect. But there is not sufficient foundation for such minuteness. All that we know of the false teachers is contained in the few and brief allusions to their heresies. And these allusions are not systematically given as an analysis of their system, but only as occasion required, and for the purposes of confirming the opposite truths. The probability is, that the false teachers had at that period no fully developed system-that they held only a few prominent tenets, such as those which the apostle condemns; and that they were rather the exponents of certain prevailing tendencies, than the originators of a defined and formal heresy. They were thrown up by the current, and they indicated at once its direction and its strength. Many ages in the church have exhibited a similar phenomenon, when the errors which certain men promulgate appear, from their seductive power and immediate success, to be but the expression of those sentiments which had already taken a deep and latent hold of the general mind.
The errors in Colosse rose within the church, and were produced by a combination of influences. Had they grown up without the church, they would have appeared with a hostile front, inviting an instant and a sturdy resistance. If Jew or heathen had announced his creed, none would have listened to it, save as to the challenge of an avowed enemy. It is only when error is nursed in the bosom of the church itself, not like a poisonous weed transplanted from the desert, but like the tares among the wheat, that truth is in the greatest danger. If we reflect for a moment on the mental tendencies of those early times, as seen both in the Phrygian temperament and in the Jewish characteristics; if we remember how strongly the Oriental spirit was leavened with the desire to enter the spirit-world by theosophic speculation, and attain to sanctity by ascetic penance, we need not wonder at the indications of error contained in the epistle to the church in Colosse.
Our inference therefore is, that the theory which holds that those false teachers were Jews without even a profession of Christianity, is utterly untenable. The arguments of Eichhorn, Schultess, and Schoettgen, in vindication of this view, are very unsatisfactory. Nowhere in the epistle are they branded as unbelievers, or spoken of as unconverted antagonists of the gospel. Their error was not in denying, but in dethroning Christ-not in refusing, but in undervaluing his death, and in seeking peace and purity by means of ceremonial distinctions and rigid mortifications. Such a nimbus of external sanctity as Eichhorn ascribes to them would not have dazzled the Colossians, if it had surrounded a Jewish brow; nor would ritual observances have possessed any seductive power, if inculcated by Jewish doctors, as Schoettgen names them. Neither Pharisaic nor Essenic rigorists would have been spoken of by the apostle in the style in which he describes the false teachers at Colosse. Stern denunciations would have been heaped upon them as the rejecters of the Messiah, and disturbers of the church. But the errors promulgated in Colosse were wrapt up with important truths, and were therefore possessed of dangerous attractions. They were not a refutation of the gospel, but a sublimation of it. The Colossian errorists did not wish to subvert the new religion, but only to perfect it; did not even under the mere mantle of a Christian profession strive to win the church over to Judaism, as Schneckenburger and Feilmoser think; but to introduce into the church certain mystic views, and certain forms of a supereminent pietism, which had grown up with a spiritualized and theosophic system. In other words, t hey were not traitors, but they were fanatics. They did not counterfeit so as to surrender the citadel, but only strove to alter its discipline and supplant its present armour. In the Apocalyptic epistles, the pseudo-apostles at Ephesus, the synagogue of Satan at Smyrna, the woman Jezebel, the prophetess at Thyatira, and the Nicolaitans or Balaamites in Pergamos, whatever their errors and immoralities, were all within the church, and wore at least the mask of Christianity. Neither could the errorists at Colosse be the mere disciples of Apollos, or of John the Baptist, as extraecclesiastical sects. Heinrichs and Michaelis want a historical basis for such an assertion, for we cannot tell how long Apollos taught ere the apostle imparted to him full instruction; and there is no doubt that he would at once communicate his more perfect knowledge to all his brethren. His teaching was but a preparatory step to Christianity. The false teaching at Colosse is not spoken of by the apostle as a rude and undeveloped scheme which stopped short of Christianity; but a system which brought into Christianity elementary practices, vain superstitions, and attempts at an unearthly and sanctimonious life. If it was pleased with the unfinished, it also soared, by means of it, into the transcendental. Apollos was indeed a Jew of Alexandria, and there is little doubt that some elements of Alexandrian or Philonic Judaism were to be found in Colosse, but found in connection with Christian belief, or were combined with such views, feelings, and professions, as had warranted admission into the church.
These errors did not involve of themselves, though they might soon lead to, immoral practices. It was not, as in Corinth, where debauchery prevailed, and impurity had been associated with the pagan worship, where the Lord's Supper had been profaned, and the idea of a resurrection had been more than called in question. Nor was it as in Thessalonica, where a vital doctrine had been seriously misunderstood, and sundry minor evils had begun to show themselves. In Galatia there had been a bold and open attempt to uphold systematically the authority of the Mosaic law, and enforce its observance on the churches as essential to salvation; but the apostle meets the crisis with a stern and uncompromising opposition. And there was in Rome, too, a proud and self-righteous Jewish spirit, that relied on illustrious Abrahamic descent and conformity to the letter of the law for justification. Therefore the apostle formally proves by a lengthened argument, that to guilty and helpless humanity the only refuge is in the grace of God and the righteousness of Christ.
But the case was somewhat different at Colosse. The teaching was of a more refined nature. It does not seem to have insisted on circumcision as a positive Mosaic rite, but as the means of securing spiritual benefit. It was not dogmatically said, “Except ye be circumcised and keep the whole law of Moses, ye cannot be saved;” but circumcision appears to have been connected with those ascetic austerities by which purity of heart was sought for, symbolized, and expected to be reached. The apostle's argument is, Ye are circumcised already-ye have, through faith in Jesus, all the blessings which that ordinance typifies-ye have been circumcised with the circumcision of Christ. Distinctions in meats and drinks, the observance of holidays, “the show of wisdom in humility, will-worship, and neglecting of the body,” were not haughtily imposed as a Pharisaic yoke, but were regarded and cherished as elements of a discipline which hoped to attain religious elevation by a surer and speedier way than that which the gospel presented. The theoretic portion of the error was somewhat similar in origin and purpose. Its object was to secure spiritual protection, by communing with the world of spirits. It aimed to have what the gospel promised, but without the assistance of the Christ which that gospel revealed. It took Christ out of His central Headship, and dethroned Him from His mediatorial eminence. It was a philosophy which longed to uncover the unseen and climb to heaven by homage done to the angelic hierarchy. That such tendencies should coalesce in one and the same party is not strange, for self-emaciation has been usually connected with reverie and visions.
We may scarcely put the question whether those errors had a heathen or a Jewish source. That they sprang up within the church we have seen already, but some suppose them traceable to a foreign influence. Clement ascribed them to Epicureanism; but indulgence and not self-restraint was its character. It might indeed covet festivals, that it might enjoy a surfeit; but if it made a distinction among meats and drinks, it would be only to abstain from some of them, not for sanctity's sake but for palate's sake, and to prefer others not as lean and scanty fare to the neglect of the body, but as luxuries to revel in under the motto, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” Tertullian again vaguely thought that philosophy in general with its theory and ethics was condemned. But the apostle needed to guard the Colossians only against such forms of philosophic falsehood as were taught among them, and most likely to enthral them. See our comment on Colossians 2:8. Grotius has contended that the Pythagorean system is referred to, and Macknight has found it in the maxims, “Touch not, taste and handle not” (that is, as he means), anything the eating of which involves the previous taking away of its life. But Pythagoreanism could only in Colosse have an indirect influence through Plato and his Alexandrian imitators. That the language of Paul has some resemblance to that of Philo is well known, for modes of expression which at length were common among the Hellenistic Jews may have originated in the studies and speculations of Alexandria. Yet any one who carefully reads Gfrörer's Essay on this subject, or the virtual review of it by Jowett, cannot fail to perceive, that with many features of likeness, there are very numerous points of dissimilarity. The spirit of the two writers is in perfect contrast; nay, the same words even have a difference of meaning in their respective productions. Yet with all his mysticism, Philo has much that every intelligent and pious Jew must have believed-forms of thought and faith that Paul did not need to renounce when he became a Christian. But to build much on mere verbal similarity is very unsatisfactory, for Köster has shown, in an ingenious Essay, how much the apostle's diction resembles that of Demosthenes; and Bauer and Raphelius had before him pointed out similar instances from Thucydides and Xenophon.
Heumann, again, pleads for the Stoic and Platonic philosophies as the object of apostolic warning, but with no probability. When we remember the numbers of Jews colonized in those portions of Asia Minor, and how so many of them that passed over into the church were still zealous for the law, and when we see what nomenclature the apostle employs in describing these errors - “circumcision,” “handwriting of ordinances,” “festivals, new moons and Sabbaths,” “a shadow of things to come,”-we are forced to the conclusion, that the false teaching pointed out and reprobated must have had a Jewish source, having grown up among those who had once observed the Levitical ritual, and who carried with them into the church many of those predilections and tendencies which the idealized Mosaism of that age had originated and ripened. The application of the term “philosophy” to these errors, and the accusation of the “worshipping of angels,” form no argument against our hypothesis, for the Jewish writers apply the name to their own religious system, and traces of the strange idolatry may be found in later Jewish books.
The tendencies or teachings described by the apostle seem to be allied fully as much to the Essenic as to the Pharisaic school. Formality, ostentation, censoriousness, hypocrisy, and a righteousness satisfied with obeying the mere letter of the law, are not hinted at by the apostle-the demure face on the day of fast, prayer in stentorian voice at the corner of the streets, and the trumpet which heralded almsgiving, are no portion of the picture. Rather does the description harmonize with what we know of the Essenes, and with what they might be if they embraced Christianity. If the Christianized Pharisees were apt to become Judaizers, the Christianized Essenes were as likely to become mystics in doctrine and ascetics in practice. Recoiling from the precise formality of Pharisaism, they glided into impalpable speculations. The Pharisee might boast of his sanctity in the outer court, but the Essene strove to pass the vail into the inner chamber and commune with its invisible inhabitant. What the Pharisee laboured to attain by the punctilious minutiae of a cumbrous ritual, the Essene hoped to reach by severe meditation and self-denying discipline. In short, the Essenes were philosophic Jews, who in trying to get at the spirit of their system, and to reach its hidden nature and esoteric teachings, wandered as far from its real purpose as did the sensual and pompous Pharisee. The Pharisee overlaid the law with traditions, so that it grew into an unshapen mass, and this tendency may be described under the phrases “elements of the world,” and “tradition of men.” The Essene, on the other hand, was noted for his mystic aspirations, theosophic studies, and self-subduing modes of life, and these characteristics appear to be marked in the clauses, “philosophy and vain deceit,” “worshipping of angels,” and intruding into the invisible; while both the Pharisaic and Essenic leanings combined may be thus glanced at: “Let no man judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holiday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days; which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ,”-2:16, 17. Now, while the Jews remained in Palestine, the two rival sects might maintain their separate creeds with proverbial tenacity; but when they were thrown together in foreign countries, their change of position must have brought them into more familiar contact, and led to the modification of their more distinctive tenets. Away from the hallowed soil and the temple, Pharisaism, unable to obey the ritual, must have lost somewhat of its love of externals, and been more ready to yield to the quiet speculations and self-restrictions of the Essene. Such modifications we may not be able to trace, though we cannot doubt of their existence, and therefore we need not wonder that a form of Christianized Judaism at Colosse should exhibit in combination some of those features which in Palestine characterized respectively Pharisee and Sadducee. Nor is it to be forgotten that while their peculiarities were mutually modified between themselves, both might receive another modification from the external world. The Jewish mind had come into contact with the East during the Babylonish captivity, and probably retained some permanent impressions. We may therefore surmise that it was infected with the atmosphere of Phrygia, and that as it met in that province with speculations kindred to its own, it would both impart and borrow. This appears, then, to be the true state of the case. While the errors seem to have sprung up with the Jewish converts, and to have retained not a little that belonged to the Mosaic ceremonial, they were at the same time in harmony with feelings and practices widely spread over the East, and of special attraction to the province of Phrygia. One might almost thus describe the heresy, that it was Essenic Judaism modified by introduction to the church; widenin g itself from a national into an Oriental system through sympathy with similar views around it; in the act of identifying its angels with Emanations, and placing Christ among them; and admitting or preparing to admit the sinfulness of what is material in man. We need not, therefore, with Hug, ascribe the origin of the Colossian errors to the Magian philosophy directly: for it was rather the Jewish spirit influenced to some extent by this and other forms of theosophy with which it has been placed in juxtaposition. Nor should we, with Osiander, Kleuker, and Herder, deem the false teaching wholly Kabbalistic, though the germ of what was afterwards found in the Kabbala may be here detected. It is also a onesided view of Chemnitz, Storr, Credner, and Thiersch to regard the errorists simply as Christian Essenes, though in the Essene there was a strong and similar tendency. Nor can we, with Hammond and others, simply call them Gnostics, though there is no doubt that what was afterwards called Gnosticism appears here in its rudiments-especially that aspect of it which may be called Cerinthian Gnosticism. Similar errors are referred to in the Epistles to Timothy, who laboured in a neighbouring region. Cerinthus was but the creature of his age, bringing together into shape and system errors which were already showing themselves in the various Christian communities, so that he soon became identified with them, and now stands out as an early and great heresiarch. But it would seem to be beyond historic evidence to fix on any precise party as holding those tenets. For the parties which afterwards did hold them were not then organized; nor were they known then by the names which they afterwards bore in the annals of the church. The errors which in a century became so prominent as elements of an organized system, were at this time only in germ. The winged seeds were floating in the atmosphere, and falling into a soil adapted to them, and waiting as if to receive them; in course of years they produced an ample harvest.
The apostle in the second chapter uniformly employs the singular number in speaking of the party holding the errors condemned by him. Either he marks out one noted leader, or he merely individualizes for the sake of emphasis. The apostle in Galatians generally uses the plural; but in Galatians 5:10 he employs the singular ὁ ταράσσων , “he that troubleth you,” where the reference may not be to some special heretic, but to any of those whom the apostle's imagination singles out for the moment as engaged in the act of disturbing the church. But the plural is never employed in the epistle before us; though the invariable use of the singular may not fully or grammatically warrant the idea of one person being specially before the apostle's mind, since the singular occurs in admonitions, and these are rendered yet more pointed by its use.
V. Contents of the Epistle
We present the contents of the epistle in the form of a translation, arranged under separate heads. Our translation is simply an easy rendering, claiming neither the exegetical lucidness of a free version nor the grammatical accuracy and purity of a literal one.
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy the brother, to the saints in Colosse, and believing brethren in Christ: Grace to you, and peace from God our Father.
Having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and the love which ye have to all the saints, we thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ always, when we pray for you; on account of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which ye heard already in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world; and is bearing fruit, and growing, as indeed among you, from the day ye heard it and knew the grace of God in truth, just as ye learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow-servant, who is for your sakes a faithful minister of Christ, who has besides reported to us your love in the Spirit.
On this account we indeed, since the day we heard (such a report), cease not praying for you and asking that ye may be filled with the full knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual insight, so as to walk worthy of the Lord in order to all well-pleasing-being fruitful in every good work, and growing by means of the knowledge of God; strengthened with all strength after the measure of the might of His glory, in order to the possession of patience and long-suffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has fitted us for sharing the inheritance of the saints in the light; who rescued us out of the power of darkness and transported us into the kingdom of the Son of His Love, in whom we have this redemption,-the forgiveness of sins.
Doctrine introduced-The Glory of Christ
Who is the image of the Invisible God, the First-born of the whole creation. For in Him were created all things-those in the heavens and those on the earth, the seen and the unseen, whether thrones or lordships, principalities or powers, the WHOLE by Him and for Him was created, and He is before all things, and all things in Him are upheld. And He is the Head of the Body, the church; He who is the Source, the First-begotten from the dead; in order that in all things He might show Himself the First. Yea, God was pleased that all fulness should dwell in Him; and by Him having made peace by the blood of His cross; by Him (I repeat) to reconcile all things to himself, whether the things on earth, or the things in the heavens.
The Application of it
And you, who were formerly alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now has He reconciled in the body of His (Christ's) flesh through death, so as to present you holy, and blameless, and unreprovable before Him. If, as is the case, ye continue in the faith grounded and fast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you have heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, was made a prisoner.
The Apostle's own feelings and functions towards them
I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and I fill up what is wanting of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His Body's sake, which is the church; of which I was made a minister according to the dispensation of God committed to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; to wit, the mystery which has been hid from ages and generations, but it is now revealed to his saints, to whom God wished to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery in the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory; whom we preach, reminding every man and teaching every man in all wisdom; in order that we may present every man perfect in Christ. To attain which end, I indeed labour, intensely struggling according to His inworking, which works mightily within me. For I would that ye knew what a struggle I have about you and those in Laodicea, and as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love and unto the whole wealth of the full assurance of understanding, to the full knowledge of the mystery of God; in which all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are laid up.
First and General Advice
Now this I say, lest any one should beguile you with enticing words. For though, indeed, in the flesh I am absent, yet in the spirit with you am I, joying and beholding your order and the steadiness of your faith on Christ. As then ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, having been rooted in Him, and being built up in Him, and established in the faith as ye were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
Second and Special Warning and Argument
Beware lest there be any one who may make a prey of you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; and ye are filled up in Him, who is the Head of all principality and power. In whom also ye were circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands in the off-putting of the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in whom too you have been raised together by faith in the operation of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you being dead in the trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you hath He brought to life together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses; having blotted out the handwriting of ordinances which was against us, which was hostile to us, and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross; having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, having triumphed over them in it. Let no one, therefore, judge you in eating or in drinking, or in the particular of a festival, or of a new moon, or of Sabbath days, which are a shadow of the things to come, but the body is Christ's. Let no one rob you of your reward, wishing to do it by his humility and worshipping of angels, penetrating into things which he has not seen, puffed up without reason by his fleshly mind, and not holding the Head, from whom the whole body through joints and bands supplied and compacted groweth the growth of God.
The consequent Reproof
Since with Christ ye have died off from the rudiments of the world, why, as yet living in the world, do ye suffer such ordinances to be published among you as “touch not, taste not, handle not,” in reference to things which are meant to perish in the use-ordinances which have no higher authority than the commandments and the doctrines of men; which procedure, indeed, having a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body, not in any thing of value, only ministers to the gratification of the flesh (or corrupt human nature).
Practical Portion.-Their Position and its Lessons
If, then, ye have been raised together with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting on the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth; for you died, and your life has been hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, our Life, shall be manifested, then ye too shall be manifested with Him in glory.
Sins to be Abandoned
Mortify, therefore, your members which are upon the earth, fornication, impurity, lust, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which indeed is idolatry, on account of which sins cometh the wrath of God, in which sins ye verily once walked, when ye lived in them. But now do ye also put off all these-anger, rage, malice, calumny, scurrility-out of your mouth. Lie not to one another, having put off the old man with his deeds, and having put on the new man, who is renewed unto knowledge, after the image of Him who created him; where (in which sphere of renewal) there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, bond and free, but Christ is all and in all.
Virtues to be assumed
Put on, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercy, obligingness, humility, meekness, long-suffering, forbearing one another and forgiving one another, if any one has a fault against any, like as indeed Christ forgave you, so also do ye; and over and above all these, put on that love which is the bond of perfection.
What should be the Tenor of the Christian Life
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which too ye were called in one body, and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and counselling one another; in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, singing with grace in your heart to God; and whatever ye do in word or deed, do all of it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father by Him.
Inculcation of Domestic Duties
Wives, submit you to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing in the Lord. Fathers, chafe not your children, lest they be disheartened. Servants, in all things obey your masters according to the flesh, not with eye-service as menpleasers, but with simplicity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you are engaged in, work at it from the soul as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you shall receive the reward of the inheritance: the Lord Christ serve ye: for the wrong-doer shall receive what he has wronged; and there is no respect of persons. Masters, afford ye on your part what is right and equal to your servants, in the knowledge that ye too have a master in heaven.
Continue in prayer, and watch in it with thanksgiving; praying at the same time also for us, that God would open to us a door of discourse to speak the mystery of Christ, for which yea I am bound, in order that I may make it manifest as it becomes me to speak it. Walk in wisdom toward those without, redeeming the time. Let your conversation be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how you ought to answer every one.
Of all that concerns me, Tychicus shall inform you, the beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow-servant in the Lord, whom I have sent unto you for this very purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts; along with Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother, one of yourselves; they shall inform you of all matters here.
Concluding Salutations and Signature
There salutes you Aristarchus my fellow-prisoner, and Mark, the cousin of Barnabas (about whom ye received instruction); if he come to you, receive him; and Jesus, surnamed Justus-who are of the circumcision: these alone (of their race) are my fellow-workers unto the kingdom of God, who have been an encouragement to me. Epaphras, one of yourselves, a servant of Christ, salutes you, always striving for you in his prayers, that ye may stand perfect and full assured in the whole will of God. For I bear him record that he has a great travail for you and them in Laodicea and them in Hierapolis. There salutes you Luke the beloved physician, and Demas. Salute the brethren in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church in his house. And when this epistle has been read among you, arrange that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that ye read too the epistle from Laodicea. And say to Archippus, See to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it. The salutation by mine own hand of Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you.
VI. Time and Place of Writing the Epistle
What we have already said in Chapter V. of our Introduction to Ephesians may suffice. The arguments of Schulz, Böttger, Wiggers, Thiersch, and Meyer, do not convince us that the old and general opinion is wrong, and that this epistle was written at Caesarea, not at Rome. Peter Lombard and others dream of an imprisonment at Ephesus, at which place they suppose that this epistle was written. The probability is that it was composed in Rome, and about the year 62. On its relation to the Epistle to the Ephesians the reader may also consult the fifth chapter of our Introduction to Commentary on the latter Epistle.
VII. Works on the Epistle
The patristic and mediaeval commentaries on Colossians are, with the exception of Jerome, the same as those we have enumerated under Ephesians. So it is with the expositors of the Reformation period and that which succeeded it. So it is with the editors of the New Testament, and the collectors of illustrations from the classics, Philo and Josephus. Among the more characteristic expositions, we have the French discourse of Daillé and the more academic Latin prelections of Davenant, the paraphrase and notes of Pierce, the sermons of Byfield (1615), Elton (1620), and the more recent popular volumes of Bishop Wilson, Gisborne, and Watson.
Among continental writers we may refer to Calvin, Melancthon, Beza, Erasmus, Zanchius, Zwingle, Crocius, Piscator, Hunnius, Baldwin, the Catholic Estius and a-Lapide (van Stein), and to Grotius, Heumann, Suicer, Röell, Bengel, Storr, Flatt, and Heinrichs.
Among later expositors we have the following:-
Historisch-kritischer und philologischer Commentar über den Brief Pauli an die Colosser; bearbeitet von Dr. Friederich Junker; Mannheim, 1828. Commentar über den Brief Pauli an die Kolosser, mit steter Berücksichtigung der ältern und neuern Ausleger; von Karl C. W. F. Bähr; Basel, 1833. Theologische Auslegung des paulinischen Sendschreibens an die Colosser; herausgegeben von Wilhelm Böhmer; Breslau, 1835. Der Brief Pauli an die Kolosser; Uebersetzung, Erklärung, einleitende und epikritische Abhandlungen von Wilhelm Steiger; Erlangen, 1835. Commentar über den Brief Pauli an die Colosser; von Joh. Ed. Huther; Hamburg, 1841. Kurze Erklärung der Briefe an die Colosser, an Philemon, an die Epheser und Philipper; von Dr. W. M. L. de Wette; Leipzig, 1843. Biblischer Commentar über sämmtliche Schriften des Neuen Testaments zunächst für Prediger und Studirende; von Dr. Hermann Olshausen; Vierter Band; Königsberg, 1844. Commentar über den Brief Pauli an die Epheser und Kolosser; von L. F. O. Baumgarten-Crusius; Jena, 1847. Kritisch exegetisches Handbuch über den Brief an die Kolosser und an Philemon; von Hein. A. W. Meyer; Göttingen, 1848. Auslegung der Epistel Pauli an die Colosser in 36 Betrachtungen; von C. N. Kähler; Eisleben, 1853.
In the following pages, when Buttmann, Matthiae, Kühner, Winer, Rost, Alt, Stuart, Green, Trollope, and Jelf are simply quoted, the reference is to their respective Greek grammars; and when Suidas, Passow, Robinson, Pape, Wilke, Wahl, Bretschneider, Liddell and Scott, are named, the reference is to their respective lexicons. If Hartung be found without any addition, we mean his Lehre von den Partikeln der griechischen Sprache, 2 vols.; Erlangen, 1832. In the same way, the mention of Bernhardy without any supplement represents his Wissenschaftliche Syntax der griechischen Sprache; Berlin, 1829. The majority of the other names are those of the commentators or philologists enumerated in the previous chapter. The references to Tischendorf's New Testament are to the second edition.
Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians (Eadie),
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29