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THE apostle had just spoken of his sufferings for the church, and his conflicts for the realization of the one grand aim of the Christian ministry. That aim filled his spirit and nerved his energies. It made him what he was-a preacher, and at length a martyr. The value of souls and the glory of Christ wrapt themselves up in one burning thought, and created and sustained one dominant and living impulse within him. It was his heart's desire that the gospel should be preserved in its purity and simplicity, free from all admixtures of Judaism and false philosoply. He knew that the introduction of error imperilled the salvation of sinners, hindered the diffusion of the word, and robbed the cross of its special adaptations to a lost world. And his affection was not wholly set upon churches where he had preached in person. He had no little jealousies and no favouritism, but all the believing communities, whatever their age, place, or origin, found in him immediate sympathy and co-operation. The churches which he had not visited in person might scarcely be inclined to believe this fully, and might naturally imagine that their neighbours which had been honoured by his presence had a deeper hold on his affection. But the apostle seeks to dispel this illusion, and says in earnest exhortitude-
(Colossians 2:1.) Θέλω γὰρ ὑμᾶς εἰδέναι , ἡλίκον ἀγῶνα ἔχω περὶ ὑμῶν καὶ τῶν ἐν Λαοδικείᾳ , καὶ ὅσοι οὐχ ἑωράκασι τὸ πρόσωπόν μου ἐν σαρκί “For I wish that you knew what a great conflict I have about you and them in Laodicea, and as many as have not seen my face in the flesh.” It is disputed whether περί or ὑπέρ be the better reading-A, B, C, D†††, declare for the latter; while the former is supported by D 1 , E, F, G, J, K, and the Greek Fathers; Lachmann and Tischendorf are divided. Perhaps περί is the right reading, and ὑπέρ was suggested from Colossians 4:12 and Colossians 1:24. The reading ἑώρακαν -the Alexandrian form-is also preferable to that of the Textus Receptus- ἑωράκασι . Winer, § 13, 2 c.
The division of chapters is here unhappy, for this verse is but a supplementary explanation of the preceding one. “I am in an agony,” he had said, and now he adds, “I would ye knew what an agony I am in about you.” The noun ἀγών means deep and earnest solicitude, accompanied with toil and peril. Philippians 1:30; 1 Thessalonians 2:2; 1 Timothy 6:12. It points out that intense and painful anxiety which preyed upon him, now in occasional terror, and now in reviving hopes-that ceaseless conflict which filled his waking hours with effort, and relieved with prayer the watches of the night. His soul was in a perpetual distress for them: every suspicion about them left a pang behind it-the bare possibility of their relapse or apostasy brought with it unutterable dismay and sorrow. Therefore he says, ἡλίκον ἀγῶνα “How great a struggle.” Hesychius gives, as synonyms for the adjective, ὁποῖον , ποταπόν . James 3:5. It was no easy or supine struggle. He knew what was at stake. They were in danger, and he could not be in the midst of them. The seducer might have been pictured out to him, but he was not privileged to confront him. How the Colossians stood he knew not. He was aware of the hazard they were in generally-but the shiftings of the crisis and its individual results could only be faintly apprehended. Like the caged bird beating its bared and bleeding breast against the wires of its prison, as it hears the repeated cry of its unseen young ones, the apostle turned ever and anon toward those churches, painted to himself their danger and their need of help, and strained his eager spirit to the utmost as he sighed over the possible desolation which might come upon them. Nor did he idly chafe in his confinement,-but he wrote this letter, and he wished them to know the depth of the love which he cherishe d toward them. “I would that ye knew.” Similar construction is found in 1 Corinthians 11:3; Philippians 1:12; Romans 11:25. If they knew it, they would listen all the more readily to his suggestions and counsels. Laodicea is also mentioned, from its proximity to Colosse, and perhaps because it was exposed to similar seductions. A few Codices, with the Philoxenian Syriac, add καὶ τῶν ἐν ῾Ιεραπόλει , a gloss evidently taken from Colossians 4:13. The apostle says, besides, “and as many as have not seen my face in the flesh.” This mode of expression is a popular one, and is not therefore to be pressed as if “in the flesh” was opposed to “in the Spirit,” or as if, as Olshausen suggests, it put “the bodily countenance in contrast to the spiritual physiognomy.” The reference in ὅσοι has been keenly disputed-whether it alludes to a class different from the Christians in Colosse and Laodicea; or whether it characterizes them also as persons unknown to the apostle and unvisited by him. This question has been fully treated in the Introduction, to which the reader is referred. The point of the apostle's agony is thus described-
(Colossians 2:2.) ῞Ινα παρακληθῶσιν αἱ καρδίαι αὐτῶν “That their hearts might be comforted.” In the violent effort described in ἀγών , there is implied a definite design expressed by ἵνα . The pronoun αὐτῶν , in the third person, comprehends all the classes of persons mentioned in the preceding verse. We agree with Meyer that there is no reason to depart from the ordinary sense of the verb, which plainly means to comfort, in 1 Thessalonians 3:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:17; Ephesians 6:22; Matthew 2:18; Mat 5:4 ; 2 Corinthians 1:4. The addition of καρδία renders such a meaning more certain. It appears to us that there is in this earnest wish an allusion to that discomfort which the introduction of error creates, as indeed is more plainly shown by the concluding phraseology of the verse. The conflict of error with truth could not but lead to distraction and mental turmoil; and in proportion to their misconception of the gospel, or their confusion of idea with regard to its spirit, contents, and aim, would be their loss of that peace and solace which the new religion had imparted to them.
Συμβιβασθέντες ἐν ἀγάπῃ “United together in love.” [Ephesians 4:16.] The Elzevir Text reads συμβιβασθέντων on very slight authority. The reading is an evident emendation with reference to the preceding αὐτῶν . The masculine form and nominative case of the participle presents no real difficulty. [Ephesians 4:2.] The Vulgate translation- instructi -is based upon the usage of the Septuagint, in which this verb represents several Hebrew verbs, the principal of which are portions of either יָדַע , H3359 or יָרָה , H3723, and signifying to instruct. Isaiah 40:13; Exodus 18:16; Leviticus 10:11, etc. It is used with a similar secondary sense in Acts 16:10; Acts 9:22, where it means to gather up the lessons presented, and knit them together in the form of inference or demonstration. Hesychius defines συμβιβάζει by εἰς φιλίαν ἄγει ; and the Scholiast, quoted by Wetstein, has it, συμβιβασθέντες , οἷον ἑνωθέντες ; this last term being that also employed in explanation by Theophylact. But the natural sense here is, “being compacted together,” love being the element of union; ἐν pointing not simply to its bond, as if it were διά . In the peculiar condition of the Colossian church, this virtual prayer was very necessary. The entrance of error naturally begets suspicion and alienation. One wonders if his neighbour be infected, and how far; and that neighbour reciprocates similar curiosity and doubts. Expressions are too carefully weighed, and a man is made “an offender for a word.” A sinister construction is apt to be put upon the slightest actions; nay, caution defeats its very purpose, and fails to secure good understanding. But the apostle was anxious that these churches should feel no such disaster, should be shivered into repellent fragments by none of those evil influences, but that they should remain in mutual and affectionate oneness-bound together in love-proof alike against the invasion of heresy, and the secret upspringing of internal mistrusts and dislikes.
Καὶ εἰς πάντα πλοῦτον τῆς πληροφορίας τῆς συνέσεως “And unto the whole wealth of the full assurance of understanding.” But with which of the preceding clauses is this one to be joined? It seems preferable to connect it with the last “knit together”- ἐν . . . καὶ εἰς “in love and in order to the wealth.” The two prepositions are closely united by καί - ἐν pointing out the element of union, and εἰς denoting its purpose. This syntax seems preferable to connecting the phrase with the ἡλίκον ἀγῶνα of the first verse, as is done by Calovius, or even with παρακληθῶσιν of the first clause of this verse, as is proposed by Storr and Flatt; for in this last connection καί would seem to be superfluous, or it must begin a new clause and receive another than its merely copulative signification. Luther, in his version, wrongly omits καί , and renders- in der Liebe zu allem Reichthum; and this is also the rendering of the Peschito וָלסוֶבוֹנוֹדִידָבתֶה . The two things have, indeed, a close connection. Pascal remarks, “In order to love human things, it is necessary to know them; in order to know those that are divine, it is necessary to love them.” The conjunction καί is simply copulative, and εἰς points out the purpose or design, which might have been expressed by ἵνα , with a verb. The noun πληροφορία is full certainty or assurance. 1 Thessalonians 1:5; Hebrews 6:11; Hebrews 10:22. “The full assurance of understanding” is the fixed persuasion that you comprehend the truth, and that it is the truth which you comprehend. It is not merely the vivid belief, that what occupies the mind is the Divine verity, but that this verity is fully understood. The mind which has reached this elevation, is confident that it does not misconceive the statement s of the gospel, or attach to them a meaning which they do not bear. Believing them to be of God, it is certain that it apprehends the mind of God in His message. If a man possesses not this certainty-if the view he now cherishes differ from that adopted by him again-if what he holds to-day be modified or explained away to-morrow-if new impressions chase away other convictions, and are themselves as rapidly exiled in turn-if, in short, he is “ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth,” then such dubiety and fluctuation present a soil most propitious to the growth and progress of error. And as the mental energy is frittered away by such indecision, the mind becomes specially susceptible of foreign influence and impression. It was the apostle's earnest desire that the Colossian church, and the members of the other churches referred to, should assuredly understand the new religion-its facts and their evidence-its doctrines and their connections-its promises and their basis-its precepts and their adaptation-its ordinances and their simplicity and power. The fixed knowledge of those things would fortify their minds against the seductive insinuations of false teachers, who mix just so much truth with their fallacies as often to give them the fascinations of honesty and candour, and who impose them as the result of superior enlightenment, and of an extended and advantageous research. The mind most liable to be seduced is that which, having reached only an imperfect and onesided view, is continually disturbed and perplexed by opposite and conflicting ideas which from its position it is unable to reconcile, but is forced to wonder whether really it has attained to just conceptions of the truth. The traveller who has already made some progress, but who begins gradually to doubt and debate, to lose faith in himself, and wonder whether he be in the right way after all, is prepared to listen to the suggestions of an y one who, under semblance of disinterested friendship, may advise to a path of danger and ruin. No wonder that the apostle describes the value of the full assurance of understanding by his favourite term “riches”-for it is a precious form of intellectual wealth, and no wonder that he yearns for the Colossian Christians to possess it in no scanty measure, but in all its opulence. Σύνεσις has been explained under Colossians 1:9.
Εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν τοῦ μυστηρίου τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ Πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ Χριστοῦ “To the full knowledge of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ.” So reads the Received Text. The connection of this clause has been variously understood. It is needless to make the preceding clause a parenthesis, and join this one to παρακληθῶσιν . Bähr takes it as denoting the end, while the clause before it specifies the means “unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, so that ye may know the mystery.” But perhaps the clause is merely parallel with the preceding one, or rather, is a farther development of it. The noun ἐπίγνωσις is plainly shown here to mean “full knowledge,” as, indeed, we have argued under Ephesians 1:18, and in this epistle, Colossians 1:9. The idea of a mystery is taken from Col 2:26 and 27 of the former chapter. The mystery, he says, had been long hid; but God had chosen to reveal the riches of its glory, and therefore he desires that his readers should not only distinctly recognize it, and highly value it, but specially, that they should fully comprehend its contents and lessons. The reading of the concluding portion of the clause is sadly perplexed and uncertain. The difficulty relates to the words of the Received Text- καὶ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ Χριστοῦ . These have on their side D 111 , E, J, K, and several of the Fathers; Codices 47, 73, with Chrysostom and Pelagius, who have- πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ Χριστοῦ , followed by the Syriac, Vulgate, and Coptic Versions. Codices A, C, 4, read- τοῦ Θεοῦ πατρὸς τοῦ Χριστοῦ , while Codices 41 and 61 have- τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ πατρὸς τοῦ Χριστοῦ . The word πατρός is omitted by some MSS., while Codex 17 reads- τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ . D 1 presents the clause thus- τοῦ Θεοῦ ὅ ἐστι Χριστός , but B has- τοῦ Θεοῦ Χριστοῦ . Hilary follows the last reading, but Clement and Ambrosiaster quote- τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ . The shorter reading, ending with Θεοῦ , is found in 37, 67 2 , 71, 80 1 , and 116. For the short reading without the clause, Tischendorf, in his second edition, Griesbach, Scholz, Heinrichs, Bähr, Olshausen, De Wette, and Rinck, have declared themselves. The reading - τοῦ Θεοῦ Χριστοῦ has advocates in Lachmann, Meyer, and Steiger. It is plain, on the one hand, that many of these readings are nothing but glosses to escape or solve a difficulty; and it is as clear, on the other, that none of them possesses preponderating authority. For A, B, and D read differently, and the older Fathers and Versions agree with none of them, since Cyril has, for example- τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ Χριστοῦ , and Theophylact cites- τοῦ Θεοῦ πατρὸς ἐν Χριστῷ , while Hilary explains, by adding, Deus Christus sacramentum est.
(Colossians 2:3.) ᾿Εν ᾧ εἰσι πάντες οἱ θησαυροὶ τῆς σοφίας καὶ τῆς γνώσεως ἀπόκρυφοι “In which are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” The reference in the relative is supposed, by the great majority of interpreters, from Chrysostom down to Baumgarten-Crusius, to be to Christ. The margin of our English version gives “wherein,” that is, in which mystery; and this, we apprehend, is the right construction. Such is the view of Suicer, Cocceius, Röel, Lange, Grotius, Bengel, Huther, Bähr, Böhmer, De Wette, etc. If the short reading of the previous clause be adopted, then there is no mention of Christ in the last verse at all. But especially the apostle is speaking of the mystery, and he here eulogizes it as worthy of fuller and farther insight. Nay, he places it in sharp contrast with the false and hollow error which was insinuating itself among them. That system which was “not after Christ,” might boast of its stores of philosophy, but they were not to be captivated by its pretences. They needed not to go in quest of higher truth and loftier science; for in that mystery proclaimed among them were deposited all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. The nouns σοφια and γνῶσις are, perhaps, not to be carefully distinguished, as the words seem to be used in reference to the terminology of the false teachers. The words appear to have been favourite epithets with them-were, in fact, a sample of the enticing words referred to in the next verse, for they imagined themselves in possession of the only genuine wisdom and knowledge. But the apostle affirms, in opposition, that only in this mystery are they to be discovered in reality, and that all else bearing the name is but hollow semblance and counterfeit. Whatever distinction may be made, as in Romans 11:33, 1 Corinthians 12:8, such seems to us the preferable exegesis in the verse before us. Augustine makes a distinction, by referring to the Vulgate translation of Job 28:28 “Behold, piety is wisdom- sapientia, and to abstain from evil is knowledge- scientia. ” Calvin says- inter sapientiam et intelligentiam non porro magnum discrimen, quia duplicatio ad augendum valet; but this statement is scarcely correct. The two substantives may refer to the same thing, but under different aspects. Not that the first comprehends res humanae, and the other res divinae; or, that the one is practical sagacity, and the other theoretic knowledge of God. This latter distinction, though it be commonly held, and may be true of the English terms wisdom and knowledge, is not warranted by Scripture usage. Colossians 1:9; 1Co 1:17 ; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 1 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 8:1. Meyer says σοφία is the more general, and γνῶσις the more special. The latter term is divine science, and the first is that enlightenment which springs from it. So that the first noun is subjective, and the second objective. The study of the γνῶσις brings the σοφία . Wisdom results from penetration into this knowledge. Knowledge is the study, and wisdom its fruit.
The verse before us is thus a high encomium on the mystery, and an inducement to the apostle's readers to value it, to cling to it, to study it, and to enthrone it in a niche so lofty and inaccessible, that it could neither be rivalled nor dethroned. We quite agree, with Robinson, that ἀπόκρυφοι does not denote “hid” in its literal sense, for the apostle says that God had made known the mystery; but “hid” in the secondary sense of being laid or treasured up, as in Septuagint, Isaiah 45:3; 1Ma 1:23 . So that there is no need to adopt the suggestion of Bengel and Meyer, which denies that ἀπόκρυφοι is the predicate, and would render “in whom all the hidden treasures are laid up.” Bähr objects to the same mode of construction, that the article should precede ἀπόκρυφοι ; but the objection is not based upon an invariable rule or practice. And we are also, by the exegesis which we propose, saved all the perplexity which the idea of concealment originates. For those treasures are hidden, according to Böhmer and Davenant, from the unbelieving world; according to Olshausen, from the unassisted intellect; and, according to Calvin, they are said to be hidden because the preaching of the cross is always foolishness to the world. Abditam sapientiam, says Melancthon, quia mundus non eam intelligit, as is said in 1 Corinthians 2:7-8; Matthew 11:25; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4. Θησαυρός has a similar tropical meaning, as well in the classics as in the New Testament. Xenophon, Memor. 1.6, 14; Hesiod, Op. 715; Eurip. Ion, 923; Plato, Phil. 15, e; Matthew 6:20; Mark 10:21; 2 Corinthians 4:7. The meaning of the apostle then is, that in this mystery are stored up all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; not a few scanty fragments of faded wealth, but the entire amount without alloy or defalcation. Here, and not in the vaunted theosophy of the false teachers, might a man become wise, by being initiated into the true knowledge. Let it be the knowledge of God which he yearns after-the comprehension of the essence, character, attributes, and works of the invisible Majesty-then he will obtain full satisfaction neither from the palpable limnings of nature-for they present but a shaded profile, nor yet from the subtleties of a spiritualistic philosophy-for it can only bring out a dim and impersonal abstraction. But God as He is-in every element and relation-in the fulness of His being and glory-is revealed in the gospel, and there may we find Him out, not by searching, but by looking on Him as portrayed not only in His power and wisdom, His eternity and infinitude, but also in His grace and love, His condescension and mercy-those properties of His nature which creation could not have disclosed, nor human ingenuity have either imagined or anticipated.
The highest conceptions of the Divine polity are to be learned, also, from this mystery. By means of the atonement, it achieves what to human administration is utter impossibility. It pardons without weakening the authority of law, or bringing prerogative in conflict with enactment. Earthly governments proclaim the ordinance, and then apprehend, convict, and punish offenders; and when they do commute a sentence or grant a respite, they are usually prompted to such clemency because the penalty is felt to be too severe in the circumstances, and then so-called mercy is only equity correcting inequalities of law. Were they not to punish, they would dissolve the bonds of society and speed their own extinction. The sphere of the tribunal is that of indictment and proof, and according to the evidence so are the verdict and sentence. But God, the Legislator, is not under such restraint, for while He proclaims a universal amnesty to all who will avail themselves of it, He neither by this anomaly repeals the code, nor declares it superseded for the crisis, nor suffers it to fall into contempt; but, charging sinners with their atrocious guilt, and convincing them that they are most justly liable to the menaced punishment, He at once absolves them, without encouraging them to sin with hope of impunity, or weakening the allegiance of the universe by the apparent reversal of those righteous principles which are the habitation of His throne, and which have guided and glorified His past procedure. By the dignity of His nature and the extent of His humiliation, the perfection of His obedience and the substitutionary efficacy of His death, that Christ whom the false teachers depreciated had glorified the law more than if man had never sinned, or having fallen, had himself suffered the unmitigated penalty. No philosophy ever dreamed of such an awful expedient as God robed in humanity, and in that nature dying to redeem His guilty creatures-whose name, nature, and legal liabilities He had assumed; and such a scheme never found a place in any system of jurisprudence. Such knowledge was too wonderful for them, it was high, they could not attain unto it.
On the other hand, the false preachers laboured in inculcating asceticism, penance, and neglect of the body, as a means of weaning the spirit from earth, and bringing it into fellowship with God. They also gave unwarranted functions to angels and higher spirits, as if they could shield the soul from guilt, and as if contact with them spiritualized it, and helped to raise it to blessedness. They put mysticism in room of the atonement, and ascribed to the hosts of God that guardian power which belongs to faith and the Divine Spirit. Theirs was a temple without an altar or a propitiation, though it was crowded with genii and tutelar subordinates. It was vain philosophy and out of place; for it fell short of heaven, and could secure no benefit upon earth. It was wrong about God, and erring about man-it gave him a stone for bread.
But “wisdom and knowledge” were in the evangelical mystery-the veritable and coveted γνῶσις was there. There might be discovered the truest theosophy-no gaudy vision, but blessed fact-God in Christ, and our God; there would also be found the richest philosophy, in which antagonisms were reconciled, and all the relations of the universe were harmonized by the cross, the mystery of man's origin, nature, and destiny, cleared up; while the noblest ethics were propounded, in unison with all our aspirations and spiritual instincts-plainly showing what man may be, ought to be, and will be, through the influence and operations of the Holy Ghost-the crowning and permanent gift of the Christian dispensation. What men have sought in deep and perplexing speculations on the order and origin of all things, they will find in this mystery. What they have striven in daring adventure to reach about the existence and issue of evil, they will get here laid to their hand. The intricacies and anomalies of their own mental and moral nature, on which they have constructed so many conflicting and self-destructive theories-which still have repeated themselves in successive generations, are here solved by Him who knows our frame. The interminable discussions on man's chief end, which ended only in fatigue and disappointment, are silenced here by the “still small voice.” “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world?” Let them come and see, and learn, and they will find that, in the Divine plan of redemption are manifested the noblest elements of reflection, and the purest objects of spiritual faith and attachment. For theology transcends all the sciences in circuit and splendour. It brings us into immediate communion with Infinitude and Eternity. Its theme is the Essence and Attributes of Jehovah, with the truth He has published, and the works He has wrought. It tells us of the u nity and spirituality of His nature, the majesty of His law, the infinitude of His love, and the might and triumph of His Son, as the conqueror of sin and death. The intellect is unable to comprehend all its mysteries by superior subtlety and penetration, and the imagination only fatigues itself in the attempt to grasp and realize its destiny. Its fields of thought can never be exhausted, even though the slower processes of understanding were superseded by the eager and rapid discoveries of unwearied intuition. “Who can, by searching, find out God; who can find out the Almighty unto perfection?” And after those combinations of wisdom, power, and love, which characterize the counsels and government of God, have attracted and engaged the inquiring soul through innumerable ages, there will still remain heights to be scanned, and depths to be explored, facts to be weighed, and wonders to be admired. [Ephesians 3:10.]
The apostle approaches nearer and nearer his subject-the seductions of a false and pretentious philosophy.
(Colossians 2:4.) Τοῦτο δὲ λέγω “Now, this I say.” This present tense some regard as future in its look, as if the apostle meant “what I am about to utter is intended to prevent your being led astray.” But the clause has evidently a retrospective reference to the preceding statement, and not exclusively either to the first or third verse. “What I am saying, or have just said, as to my anxiety for you, and as to the treasury of genuine science in the gospel, has this purpose-to put you on your guard. Do not listen to those specious harangues about their boasted possession of the only or the inner σοφία and γνῶσις . It is all a delusion intended to impose upon you Purest wisdom and loftiest knowledge are not in their keeping but in yours; for in that mystery into which you have been now so fully initiated, are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge.” Quaerendum est, says Tertullian, donec invenias, et credendum ubi inveneris, et nihil amplius, nisi custodiendum quod credidisti.
῞Ινα μή τις ὑμᾶς παραλογίζηται ἐν πιθανολογίᾳ “Lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.” The reading μηδείς , though unusual, is supported by A, B, C, D, E, while the reading μή τις of the Stephanic Text rests on inferior authorities. The deponent verb used by the apostle occurs only again in James 1:22; but is found in the Seventy, 1 Samuel 19:17. It is found also in Demosthenes, where it signifies to miscount. Here it denotes to delude by false reasoning, as in AEschines, p. 53 (ed. Dobson, vol. xii.); Polyb. 16, 10, 3; Genesis 29:25; Joshua 9:22 (28). The means of deception are characterized by one pithy and expressive compound- πιθανολογίᾳ . The word occurs only in this place. The cognate verb which is found in the classical writers, is defined by Passow to mean-to bring forward reasons in order to prove anything likely or probable; or, as we might say in English “to talk so as to talk one over.” The substantive occurs in Plato; and the word, in its separate parts, πιθανοὶ λόγοι , is found in Josephus and Philo. The term is here employed in a bad sense,-to characterize that teaching which aimed to fascinate their mind and debauch their conscience, by its specious sophistry. This is a c ommon accompaniment of heretical novelty. It professes, by a process of dilution or elimination, to simplify what is obscure, unravel what is intricate, reconcile what is involved in discrepancy, or adapt to reason what seems to be above it. Or it deals in mystery, and seeks to charm by a pretence of occult wisdom, and the discovery of recondite senses and harmonies. It was a form of similar mysticism, priding itself in intimate communion with the invisible and the spiritual, that seems to have been introduced at Colosse. How much need, therefore, they had of that “full assurance of understanding” which the apostle so earnestly wished them to possess. Such illumination was a perfect shield against this delusive rhetoric, with which they might be so artfully and vigorously plied.
(Colossians 2:5.) Εἰ γὰρ καὶ τῇ σαρκὶ ἄπειμι , ἀλλὰ τῷ πνεύματι σὺν ὑμῖν εἰμι “For though indeed in the flesh I be absent, yet in the spirit with you am I.” Γάρ gives the reason why the writer so warns them. It is refinement on the part of Theophylact to make the sense “I see in spirit the false teachers, and therefore bid you be on your guard.” The meaning is very plain. Personally the apostle was not, and could not be, at Colosse; but mentally he was there. In 1 Corinthians 5:3-4, the apostle employs τῷ σώματι -a more Hellenic phrase. It is in opposition to the plain sense to refer πνεῦμα , with Ambrosiaster, Grotius, and Lord Barrington, to the Holy Spirit; as if a special inspiration had kept the apostle cognizant of what was transacting at Colosse. When one takes a very deep and continuous interest in a distant community, he is not only ever picturing them to his imagination, but he so transports himself, in idea, to their locality, that he walks and speaks with them, is an inmate of their dwellings and a guest at their table, is engaged in all their occupations, and feels himself for the moment to be one of themselves. So it was with the apostle and the absent church in Asia Minor. Σύν is similarly employed in Philippians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:17. That this language does not by any means imply a previous residence in Colosse, as Wiggers supposes, has been shown in the Introduction to this volume. The particle ἀλλά is rendered “yet”- doch, by Huther; attamen, by Bähr-a translation which it may often bear after εἰ or ἐάν . There is no need at all for supposing such an ellipsis as the following,-I am absent, still not wholly ignorant of you, or uninterested in you, ἀλλά , but I am with you in spirit. Hartung, ii. p. 40; Kühner, § 741, 1, 3; Klotz, Devarius, vol. Colossians 2:18; and Devarius, vol. Colossians 1:7.
Χαίρων καὶ βλέπων ὑμῶν τὴν τάξιν “Joying and beholding your order.” One would naturally expect the apostle to say-seeing and rejoicing; that is, rejoicing because he saw. Bähr adduces Josephus as expressing himself similarly- ὑμᾶς εὖ ἔχοντας χαίρω καὶ βλέπω . But the German commentator misquotes the Jewish historian, or rather the best MSS. show that he uses the participle βλέπων , as does the apostle, and not the verb. De Wette adopts this form “with joy seeing your order.” Calvin and Estius have it “rejoicing because I see your order,” and others - “ gaudeo videns. ” Winer, followed by Olshausen, takes καί in the sense of scilicet “I am with you rejoicing, inasmuch as I see your order.” Fritzsche is nearer our view when he solves the difficulty thus-rejoicing over you, ἐφ᾿ ὑμῖν - laetans de vobis -and seeing your array. Dismissing the idea of a hendiadys and a zeugma-taking καί in its ordinary sense, and neither as causal nor explicative; and seeing τάξιν can belong only to one of the verbs βλέπω , we come to the conclusion of Meyer, that the first participle qualifies the clause “present with you.” The meaning is-I am present with you in spirit, rejoicing in this ideal fellowship, and viewing your order. His spiritual presence with them was a source of joy, and it enabled him to see their orderly array and consistency. The sentiment is somewhat similar to that contained in Colossians 1:3-4. There he says, that the accounts which he had received about them prompted him, as often as he prayed, to thank God for them; here he tells them that his being with them in spirit was a source of joy, and neither of doubt, di squietude, nor sorrow. And the verb βλέπων is used with special appropriateness, as the apostle supposes himself to be among them, looking around him and taking a survey of their condition. 2 Corinthians 7:8; Romans 7:23. Schleusner, referring to a common trope, indeed says quaintly, of the verb - de omnibus reliquis sensibus corporis usurpatur, ut adeo βλέπειν saepe sit audire, as in Matthew 15:31, where it is said that the people saw the dumb speak. But the meaning there is not, that they heard them speak, but that they saw the whole phenomenon of the restoration of hearing. The Lexicographer instances also the verse before us, as if the apostle meant to say, that he knew of their order from hearing the reports of others. But such an exegesis is truly bathos, and robs the sentiment of its spirit and beauty.
While the noun τάξις , among its other uses, is often found as a military term, denoting the result of that discipline to which an army is subjected, and also sometimes describing the symmetry and arrangement of society; it has besides the emphatic signification of good order. Thus Chrysostom uses, in explanation, εὐταξία . In the latter significant sense, the apostle here employs the term “seeing your good order.” What the writer refers to, we may learn from his own usage. And first, the apostle accuses certain members of the church of Thessalonica of a breach of order-that they walked ἀτάκτως “disorderly;” whereas of himself and coadjutors he says- ὅτι οὐκ ἠτακτήσαμεν ἐν ὑμῖν “for we were not disorderly among you,” and again, he adds- ἀκούομεν γάρ τινας περιπατοῦντας ἐν ὑμῖν ἀτάκτως “for we hear that some among you walk disorderly.” 2 Thessalonians 3:6-7; 2 Thessalonians 3:11. The disorder referred to in this passage, was the strong and vicious tendency to idleness which had been manifested in Thessalonica-some refusing to work and earn a subsistence, and aiming to throw themselves on the liberality of the richer brethren in the church. This breach of order was private and personal; 1 Thessalonians 5:14. And secondly, after rebuking the church in Corinth, for the turbulence and confusion caused by the display of spiritual gifts, he sums up by saying “let all things be done decently and in order,- καὶ κατὰ τάξιν .” There had been a social or ecclesiastical breach of order. Perhaps to both kinds of order does the apostle here refer. In their individual consistency and purity of character, in their unshaken attachment to the truth in the midst of seduction, and in all the arrangements and forms of their worship and discipline, such good order was observed, as that error was excluded, unity preserved, and edification promoted. It is a meagre explanation of Michaelis and Heinrichs, to represent this order in the vulgar sense of subjection to the office-bearers, and as opposed to insubordination. Theophylact and Huther are more correct in referring it to love, which at least was the bond of union, and one principal support of order.
Καὶ τὸ στερέωμα τῆς εἰς Χριστὸν πίστεως ὑμῶν “And the solidity of your faith in Christ.” The noun στερέωμα is not found elsewhere in the New Testament. Representing, in the first chapter of Genesis, the Hebrew רָקִיעַ , H8385, and rendered in the Vulgate firmamentum, it signifies something solid or compact, such as the foundation of a building. It naturally came to signify not the object, but the quality which characterizes it-firmness or hardness. Psalms 73:4. So that it here points out that feature in the faith of the Colossians which specially commended it to the notice and eulogy of the apostle, to wit, its unyielding nature, or the stiffness of its adherence to its one object-Christ. In such a crisis as that, when fluctuation would have been incipient ruin, it was not the elevation of their faith, nor its growth, nor any of its fruits, but this one feature of it-its unshaken constancy-which the watchful eye of the apostle so carefully noted, and so joyously recorded. Acts 16:5; 1 Peter 5:9. The very position of the words is emphatic- τῆς εἰς Χριστὸν πίστεως , as if εἰς Χ . distinguished and glorified the faith. [Ephesians 1:1.] It reposed on Christ-as unshaken as its object. His love never wavers, His power never fails, His fidelity never resiles from its pledge. And those unseen blessings which faith surveys are unchanging in their certainty and glory. The portals of heaven are never barred-its living stream is never dried up; the pearls of its gates are unsoiled, nor is the gold of its pavement ever worn through. Surely, then, faith ought to be as stedfast as the foundation on which it rests, and the object which it contemplates and secures. It is out of place, with Bengel and others, to make this noun a species of adjective to πίστεως , as if the meaning were firma fides non patitur quicquam ex ordine suo moveri. Nor is it warrantable on the part of Olshausen and Meyer, to take τάξις in its military sense, and to make στερέωμα the power which strengthens for the fight, or a species of fortification by which they were defended. Στερέωμα is, indeed, employed to represent the Hebrew ֶסלַע , H6152 in Psalms 18:2, but the Greek translation is according to the general sense of the Hebrew term,-the proverbial firmness of a rock. In 1Ma 9:14 , quoted by Meyer, στερέωμα τῆς παρεμβολῆς is not the fortification of the camp, but the strength of the army, that portion which could be relied upon for its prowess. In the Version of Symmachus, Isaiah 26:1, it represents the Hebrew חֵל , which the Seventy render περίτειχος ; the principal idea of the original term being strength, while bulwark, antemurale, is only a secondary and technical application. It is a curious reading of the clause which occurs in Augustine and Ambrosiaster-the former having id quod deest fidei vestrae in Christo, and the latter, supplens id quod deest utilitati fidei vestrae in Christum -implying that they both read ὑστέρημα for στερέωμα .
(Colossians 2:6.) ῾Ως οὖν παρελάβετε τὸν Χριστὸν ᾿Ιησοῦν τὸν Κύριον , ἐν αὐτῷ περιπατεῖτε - “As then ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him.” The particle οὖν turns us to the preceding verse, and to the fact of their order and stedfast faith. Calvin rightly says - laudi attexit exhortationem. He has commended them for their order and stedfast faith, and he now adds a word of warning and counsel. Gradually does he approach the main end of his writing. Ever as he comes near it does he utter some sentiment which delays his full admonition. He wishes by his previous allusions and warnings to prepare their minds for the final and thorough exposure and condemnation. And thus he has intimated-what thanks he offers for them, what prayers he presents for their deeper illumination and persistency in the truth-what sufferings he has endured for them, and what sympathies he has with them-what joy he felt in being mentally present with them, and surveying their good order and unswerving faith. And he has eulogized that gospel which they had received-as the truth-as a fruit-bearing principle-as a disclosure of the Divine person, exalted dignity, and saving work of the Son of God; and as a mystery long hidden, but at length revealed, and comprising in it the deep and inexhaustible treasures of all spiritual science. Since, therefore, they had received Christ Jesus, the Lord, the giver and subject of that gospel, it surely became them to walk in Him.
The verb παραλαμβάνω , signifying to take to oneself, is used emphatically to appropriate wisdom or instruction-much as in Scotland the faculty of acquiring knowledge is termed uptake. 1 Corinthians 11:23; 1 Corinthians 15:1; 1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 1:9; Galatians 1:12; Philippians 4:9; 1 Thessalonians 2:13. They had received him, in the way of being taught about Him-verse 7. They had been instructed, and they had apprehended the lesson. It is a superficial exegesis on the part of Theophylact, Grotius, and others, to make the proper name Χ . ᾿Ι . mean merely the doctrine of Christ. For it was Christ Himself whom they had received-the sum and life of all evangelical instruction. Nay, more, the repetition and structure of the sentence show that the full meaning is-ye have received Christ Jesus as the Lord. In the character of Lord they had accepted Him. This was the testing element of their reception. The Anointed Jesus is now “Lord of all,” and to acknowledge His Lordship is to own the success of His atoning work as well as to bow to His sovereign authority. Thus we understand the apostle when he says, 1 Corinthians 12:3, “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed; and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” On the special meaning and use of the terms see Ephesians 1:2. The form of error introduced among them, which would rob the Saviour of His dignity, led to the denial of the Messiahship in its true sense; and in its spiritualism, it would, at the same time, explain away His humanity.
These expressive terms are thus the symbols of a vast amount of instruction. Whatever men receive in the gospel, it is Christ. He is the soul of doctrine-for prophets foretold Him, and apostles preached Him; and the oracles of the one and the sermons of the other had no splendour but from Him, and no vitality but in Him. Ethical teaching has as close a connection with Him, for it expounds His law, defers to His authority, and exhibits the means of obedience and fertility in His imparted Spirit and strength. Promise is based upon His veracity, and sealed in His blood, and suffering looks for sympathy to Him who bled and wept. The great mystery of the Divine government is solved in Him, and in Him alone is the enigma of man's history and destiny comprehended. Spiritual life has its root in Him-the growth of the Divine image, and the repose of the soul in the bosom of Him who made it. In believing the gospel, men receive no impersonal abstraction, but Christ Himself-light, safety, love, pattern, power, and life. And they receive Him as “the Lord.” He won the Lordship by His death. He rose from the sepulchre to the throne. To Him the universe bends in awful homage, and the church worships Him in grateful allegiance. The Colossians had received Him as the Lord, and surely no seduction would ever lead them to discrown Him, and transfer their fealty to one of the crowded and spectral myriads which composed the celestial hierarchy-one of a dim and cloudy mass which was indistinct from its very number, surrounding the throne, but never daring to depute any of its members to ascend it.
“As ye have received Him, walk in Him.” The particle ὡς denotes something more than a reason, for it indicates manner “according as.” Matthew 8:13; Luke 14:22; 1 Corinthians 3:5; Titus 1:5. The demonstrative adverb which follows ὡς , in sense, is here as often omitted. ᾿Εν αὐτῷ περιπατεῖτε “Walk in Him.” The verb is often used to describe manner of life, or visible conduct; and that life is to be enjoyed in union with Christ. If reception of Christ the Lord refer to inner life, then this walk refers to its outer manifestation. It was to be no inert or latent principle. Christ was not merely a theme to be idly contemplated or admired in a supine and listless reverie; nor a creed to be carelessly laid up as in a distant and inaccessible deposit; nor an impulse which might produce a passing and periodical vibration, and then sink into abeyance and exhaustion; but a power, which, in diffusing itself over mind and heart, provided for its own palpable manifestation and recognition in the daily life. For there could be no walking in Him, without the previous reception of Him. The outer life is but the expression of the inner. Ability to walk is the result of communicated animation. Nay, more, if they received Him, they could not but walk in Him. The reception of such truth necessitates a change of heart. It is a belief which, from its very nature, produces immediate results. In Him, and in Him according to the character in which they had received Him, were they to walk. And they would not walk in Him as they received Him, if they were tempted to reject His functions and qualifications as the Christ, or in any form, or on any pretext, to modify, depreciate, or set aside His claims; or if they were prompted to deny or explain away His true humanity as Jesus -taking from His life its reality, and from His death its atoning value; or if they were induced to wit hhold their allegiance from Him as Lord, the one rightful governor, proprietor, and judge. There must therefore be faith in Him as the Christ, the consciousness of a near and living relation to Him as Jesus, the kinsman, the brother-man; and deep and loyal obedience to Him as Lord. “He is thy Lord, worship thou Him.” “In Him” presupposes the reception of Him; and to “walk in Him,” is to have life in Him and from Him, with thought and emotion shaped and inspired by His presence. The hallowed sphere of walk is in Him, but beyond this barrier are sin and danger, false philosophies, and mazy entanglements. If they walked in Christ, they would be fortified against those doubts which the pernicious teachings of error, with their show of wisdom, were so apt to superinduce.
(Colossians 2:7.) ᾿Εῤῥιζωμένοι καὶ ἐποικοδομούμενοι ἐν αὐτῷ “Having been rooted, and being built up in Him.” [ ᾿Εῤῥιζωμένοι , Ephesians 3:17. ᾿Εποικοδ . Ephesians 2:20.] The participles are used in a tropical sense, and are connected with the preceding clause “walk in Him.” The figures, as Meyer remarks, neither agree with the preceding verb, nor with one another. But the main ideas are stability and growth-the root, “in Him,” beyond the possibility of eradication; and the growth that of a symmetrical structure, which, “in Him,” has its unshaken foundation. The first participle, by its tense, indicates a previous state, and the second a present condition. They had already been rooted, but they were still to be making progress. Were such their character, were they rooted in Christ, and not simply adhering to Him by some superficial tie, and were they being built up, or growing in gracious attainment, then might they defy all the efforts of the false teachers to detach them from the truth.
Καὶ βεβαιούμενοι ἐν τῇ πίστει καθὼς ἐδιδάχθητε “And stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught.” The preposition is omitted in some Codices, and by Lachmann and Tischendorf. If this reading be adopted, we should be inclined, with Meyer, to take the dative in an instrumental sense “stablished by means of the faith;” but if ἐν be retained, perhaps the common rendering is preferable. See under Colossians 1:7. They were to be confirmed in the faith which had been taught them-that system of belief which Epaphras had preached to them. We should agree with Olshausen, against Meyer, that πίστις is faith in the objective sense, were it not for ἐν αὐτῇ in the following clause, which we believe to be genuine, though it is wanting in A and C. For the apostle says- περισσεύοντες ἐν αὐτῇ . This abounding bids us take faith in a subjective sense-the conscious belief of the truth-and in that belief they were not to be stinted, cautious, or timid, but they were to abound. Their faith was not to be scanty as a rivulet in summer, but like the Jordan in harvest, overflowing its banks. And they were to abound in it-
᾿Εν εὐχαριστίᾳ “With thanksgiving.” A similar construction is found in Romans 15:13; 2Co 3:9 ; 2 Corinthians 8:7. They could not but be thankful that the truth had been brought to them, and that by the Divine grace they had been induced fully and unreservedly to believe it. Two other and opposing forms of construction have been proposed. Grotius renders per gratiarum actionem crescentes in fide, as if the thanks were the means of abounding in faith; while Storr, Flatt, Böhmer, and Huther take it thus-abounding by means of the same in thanksgiving, as if faith were the means of thanksgiving. But the connection, as we have first given it, is more in harmony with the sequence and position of the words. The entire verse is at once a precept and a warning, and were the precept obeyed and the warning listened to, then “philosophy and vain deceit” would ply their machinations in vain.
Having again and again approached his subject by indirect allusions, the apostle now boldly and fully brings it out. “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit.” And we may remark in introduction, that the sentiment of the verse has been sometimes greatly abused. The apostle has been quoted in condemnation of philosophy in general, though he expressly identifies the philosophy which he reprobates with “vain deceit.” Philosophy, science, or the pursuit and love of wisdom, cannot be stigmatized, as in itself hostile to faith. The apostle himself has employed philosophy to prove the existence of the Creator, and show the sin and folly of polytheism and idolatry. Romans 1:19-23. The attributes of the Divine nature-not in themselves cognizable by the senses-have assumed a visible embodiment in the works of creation, and he who fails to discover the one God in His productions is “without excuse.” So that the teaching of Natural Theology is not erroneous, but defective-it needs not to be corrected, but only to be supplemented. Why should the love of wisdom be reckoned vanity, when the page on which man is invited to study is wide as the universe, and rolls back to creation? Wherever he turns his eye, on himself or beyond himself-above, around, or beneath him, ten thousand things invite his examination. Earth and heaven, mind and matter, past and present, summon him to wake up his faculties, and scrutinize and reflect on the universe around him. Let him look down on the sands and rocks of his home, and he enters into Geology. Let him know this ball to be one of many similar orbs in the sky, and Astronomy entrances him. Let him gaze at the munificent plenty around him, spread over zone and continent in the shape of trees, flowers, and animals, and he is introduced into Geography, Botany, and Zoology. Let him survey the relations of matter-its forms, quantities, and laws of mixture and motion, and at once he finds himself among Mathematics, Optics, Mechanics, and Chemistry. Let him turn his vision upon himself, and observe the attributes and functions of his physical life, and he dips into the mysteries of Anatomy and Physiology. Let him strive to learn what has happened before him, and in what connection he stands to brethren of other tongues and countries, and he is brought into acquaintanceship with History, Philology, and Political Economy. And, in fine, let his own conscious mind make itself the theme of reflection-in its powers and aspirations, its faculties and emotions, its obligations and destiny, and he is initiated into the subtleties and wonders of Metaphysics and Morals, Legislation and Theology. Thus, Strabo, in the first chapter of his Geography, says “That acquaintance with Divine and human things constitutes what is called philosophy.”
Again, not only is philosophy a necessary result of our being and condition, but it is full of benefit, for the more a man knows his own nature, the more will he feel the adaptation of Christianity to it, and be persuaded of its Divine origin. The inner nature has its religious instincts and susceptibilities, which are not grafted upon it, but are of its very essence. As the eye is fitted for the reception of light, and light alone can enable it to fulfil its functions-as it is made for the light and the light for it-so religious truth alone is fitted to satisfy those yearnings and aspirations. There is a perfect harmony between God's inner revelation of Himself in man, and His external revelation of Himself in Scripture. Wrong belief may be against reason, but unbelief is against nature. A sound philosophy comes to this conclusion-that Christianity fulfils every condition-that in its God and its incarnate Jesus-its revelation and its atonement-its sanctifying agency and its future heaven-it responds to every want and hope of humanity. Man must have some God-it gives him the true one. He seeks to some revelation, and it sends him the genuine oracle. He relies on some sacrifice, and it shows the perfect atonement. He anticipates a heaven, and it provides him with such a home, and enables him to reach it. This philosophy develops what Tertullian has happily called testimonium animae naturaliter Christianae.
But it is not such philosophy, or such use of philosophy, that the apostle condemns “Philosophy was, in its first descent, a generous, noble thing; a virgin beauty, a pure light, born of the Father of lights.” At the same time, it is not to be denied that the greater portion of heresies have been allied to a false philosophy. Tertullian, in the seventh chapter of his De Praescriptione Haereticorum, says- ipsae denique haereses a philosophia subornantur. Platonism and Aristotelianism had each in turn the ascendency, and Christianity has suffered from the four great forms of philosophy-Sensationalism, Idealism, Scepticism, and Mysticism, the error of each of which lies in pushing to extravagance some important truth. And in modern times, has not Hegelian Pantheism clothed itself in biblical phraseology? Its doctrine, that “the consciousness which man has of himself is the consciousness which God has of Himself,” finds its appropriate mythical representation in the mediatorial person of the God-man; while “eternal life” is but the symbol of an immortality without individual existence. Have not men in their wildness invoked “the stars in their courses” to fight against Him who, enthroned above them, has not forgotten that distant and insignificant planet on which sin and misery dwell? Have they not called to them the rocks and fossils of the early infancy of the globe to prove that the record of creation was not furnished by the Creator? Are there not those at the present time who regard inspiration as but the “fine frenzy” of an Oriental temperament, or look upon it as being “as wide as the world, as common as God,” and who, therefore, take f rom the biblical records their sole, infallible, and supreme authority, leaving us an Old Testament without prophecies, and a New Testament without miracles and redemption? These are, verily, abuses of philosophy “oppositions of science, falsely so called.” We do not, therefore, object to philosophy, or to the philosophical treatment of Christianity. We can have no horror at free thoughts and bold inquiry, so long as men indicate their desire to submit to the decisions of Evidence. There is a legitimate province for philosophy to work in, and “faith is the synthesis of reason and the individual will.”
But the system condemned by the apostle was something which assumed the name of philosophy, yet had nothing of its spirit. It sprang from a wrong motive. So far from being the love of wisdom, it was the fondness of folly. It was nursed in a fantastic imagination, and intruded into a supersensuous sphere. It did not deal with nature around it, but with the supernatural beyond it. It did not investigate its own constitution, but it pryed into the arcana of the spirit-world. It was wholly spectral and baseless. It developed superstition and crossed the path of the gospel. It lived in a cloud-land which it had created, and withdrew itself from the influence and faith of apostolical Christianity. The plain truths of redemption did not satisfy its prurient appetite, nor could it content itself with the “manifold wisdom” of the cross. It longed for something more ethereal than historical facts, something more recondite than the mystery of godliness. It forestalled the Rosicrucian vanities. It peopled the spheres with imaginary Essences, to which it assigned both names and functions. It laboured to purge itself from the vulgarities of physical life, in order to enter this spiritual circle. It battled with the flesh, till the crazy nerves gave it such sights and sounds as it longed to enjoy. The ordinances of the New Testament were too tame for it, and it created a new and emaciating ritual for itself. It was, in short, an eccentric union of Judaism with the Gnostic Theosophy-a mixture of Jewish ritualism with Oriental mysticism. It took from Moses those special parts of his economy, which “sanctified to the purifying of the flesh,” and it seems to have deepened and exaggerated them. It selected from the Eastern Theosophy its armies of AEons, its array of principalities and powers, whom it marshalled as its mediators, and to whom it inculcated homage. It was smitten with the disease of him who will look into the sun, and who soon mistakes for realities the gaudy images that float before him. Such was the visionary science which had special charms for the inhabitants of Phrygia, and which in after years produced unmistakeable results. That the apostle means such philosophy is evident, for in no other way could his warning be appropriate. It was of a present, and not a future danger-a real, and not an imaginary jeopardy that he so earnestly cautioned them. It was not, as Tertullian imagines, the whole Greek philosophy, for that lay not in his way; nor yet any special form of it, as Grotius and others have held, for the philosophy of the Academy and the Porch, of Epicurus and Pythagoras, was not the source of immediate danger to the Colossian church.
(Colossians 2:8.) Βλέπετε , μή τις ὑμᾶς ἔσται ὁ συλαγωγῶν διὰ τῆς φιλοσοφίας καὶ κενῆς ἀπάτης “Be on your guard lest any one make a spoil of you through philosophy and vain deceit.” The verb βλέπω , in this sense, is sometimes followed by the accusative of the persons to be guarded against, occasionally by the genitive preceded by ἀπό , sometimes also by ἵνα ; but most usually by μή , and its compounds with the aorist subjunctive. Here, however, we have the future indicative, ἔσται , as in Hebrews 3:12. The apostle therefore does not say that the evil had happened, but he expresses his fear that it would happen-his misgiving, that what he apprehended would take place. Winer, § 56, 2 (b), α ; Bernhardy, p. 402; Hartung, vol. 2.139. He saw the attractive subtlety, and he could not withhold the warning and pre-intimation. The expression, too, is pointed and emphatic- τις ὁ συλαγωγῶν -more so than if he had employed the subjunctive, συλαγωγῇ . It individualizes the spoiler-represents him as at his work-associates vividly the actor with the action. Galatians 1:7. When some infer from the language that the apostle had only one person specially in his eye-one restless and attractive heresiarch, we would not contradict, though we are not prepared to come decidedly to the same conclusion. The participle, which occurs only here, belongs to the later Greek, and denotes-making a prey of-driving off as booty, though it is finical on the part of Meyer to base the latter signification upon the expression of the 6th verse, walk in Him, as if they might be caught when not in that walk, and forced away as a spoil. The expression shows the strong feeling of the apostle, and how he regarded their capture by that philosophy as fatal, almost beyond recovery , to their faith and peace. It is not in accordance with the language to think of the false teacher or teachers taking faith, mind, or purity, or anything else as a prey from the Colossians, for the Colossians themselves are the booty. The means employed were-
Διὰ τῆς φιλοσοφίας καὶ κενῆς ἀπάτης “By philosophy and empty delusion.” This philosophy is none other than the theme of the πιθανολογία of Colossians 2:4, and is nothing else in essence than “vain deceit.” For the second clause, where neither preposition nor article is repeated, explains the first-philosophy which was expressed in “vain words,” is identical with “vain deceit.” There is no reality about it. It is out and out a delusion, a tissue of airy figments. The term philosophy was a favourite one in the Greek world, but it was extended in course of time to portions and objects of Jewish study by the affectation of Philo and Josephus. Tittmann, in his very one-sided essay, restricts the term solely to Jewish doctrine, and Heinrichs no less narrowly to Jewish worship. Perhaps the apostle would not have given any mere Jewish system such an appellation, but he uses the term because there might be in it some mixture of Gentile lore, and especially because the false teachers dignified their views by such a title.
Κατὰ τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν ἀνθρώπων “After the tradition of men.” The preposition does not connect this with the first clause of the verse, as Meyer construes, and as if it showed the direction in which they were seduced, but it is to be joined with the immediately preceding words. It points out, not so much, as Storr supposes, the authority of that philosophy, as its general source and character. It is according to the tradition of men, and not according to Divine revelation. In 2 Thessalonians 3:6, the construction is fully expressed. Elements of the tradition here referred to are found in Matthew 15:2; Mark 7:3; Mark 7:5; Mark 7:8-9; Mark 7:13; Galatians 1:14. It is not simply doctrine, as Olshausen and Huther take it; nor perhaps Graeco-Jewish doctrine, as others supposed. It was, to a great extent, that tangled mass of oral teaching, which, age after age, the Jews had unwarrantably engrafted on the written law. That farrago of unwritten statute and ritual is contrasted by Jesus with the “commands of God.” It was solely of man, and partook largely of his vanity and weakness. As in the instance adduced by Christ, it explained away the obligation of the fifth commandment by a mean quibble, which added impiety to filial neglect, and permitted a son to starve his parent under a pretence of superior liberality to God. It taught the payment “of mint, anise, and cumin,” but forgot “the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.” It scrupled to eat with unwashed hands, but was forward to worship with an unregenerate heart. It was eloquent and precise about cleaning of cups, but vague and dumb about the purifying of conscience. It converted religion into a complicated routine, with a superstitious and perplexing ritual, as if man were to be saved by the observance of ceremonies as puerile as they were cumbrous-a series of postures, ablutions, amulets, and vain repetitions. It lost sight of the spir ituality of worship, but enjoined a careful genuflexion. It buried ethics under a system of miserable and tedious casuistry. It attempted to place everything under formal regulation, and was now busied in solemn trifling, and now lost in utter indecency. It was mighty about the letter, and oblivious of the spirit. It rejoiced in the oblation of a ram, but had no sympathy with the “sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart.” It drew water every year from the well at Siloam with a pompous procession, but had no thirst for the living stream which its prophets had predicted and described. It would drill man into a fatiguing devotion. It trained to the mere mummery of worship when it prescribed the movement of eye and foot, of head and arm. It intruded its precepts into every relation, and attempted to fill out the Divine law by laying down directions for every supposable case. It was not content with leading principles, but added innumerable supplements. It surrounded the rite of circumcision with many ridiculous minutiae. It professed to guard the sanctity of the Sabbath by a host of trifling injunctions, descending to the needle of the tailor, the pen of the scribe, and the wallet of the beggar. The craftsman was told that he was guilty if he tied a camel-driver's knot, or a sailor's knot, on that day, but not guilty if he merely tied a knot which he could loose with one of his hands; and that he might leap over a ditch, but not wade through the water that lay in it. It declared by what instrument the paschal lamb should be roasted, and how a jar of wine must be carried during a festival; with what gestures a phylactery was to be put on, and with what scrupulous order it was to be laid aside. It left nothing to the impulse of a living piety. It was ignorant that a sanctified spirit needed no such prescriptions; that the “due order” could only be learned from the inner oracle; and that obedience to all its ramified code, apart from the spirit of genuine faith and devotion, was only acting a part in a heartless pantomime.
And these traditions proved that they were from man, not only from their character, but from their verbiage and appended sanctions. If the Mishna be, as we believe it to be, on the whole, a faithful record of many such traditions, then, that they were of men is a fact inscribed on their very front. The recurring formula is-Rabbi Eleazar said this, but Rabbi Gamaliel said that; this was the opinion of Rabbi Meir, but that of Rabbi Jehudah; Hillel was of this mind, but Beth Shammai of that; Rabbi Tarphon pronounced in this way, but Rabbi Akivah in that; thus thought Ben Azai on the one hand, but thus thought Rabbi Nathan on the other; such was the decision of Jochanan Ben Saacchai, but such was the opposite conclusion of Matthias Ben Harash. It never rose above a mere human dictum, and it armed its jurists with supreme authority. It never shook the mire off its wings, or soared into that pure and lofty empyrean which envelopes the Divine tribunal, so that in His light it might see light. What had been thus conceived in the dry frivolity of one age, was handed down to another, and the mass was swiftly multiplied in its long descent. The Pharisee selected one portion and practised it, and the Essene chose another and made it his rule of life. It was carried in one or other of these shapes to other lands, and though it commingled with other opinions of similar source and tendency, it never belied its parentage as the TRADITIONS OF MEN.
Κατὰ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου “After the rudiments of the world.” The reference is somewhat obscure. The noun στοιχεῖον is employed in 2 Peter 3:10; 2 Peter 3:12, to denote the elements of physical nature, while in Hebrews 5:12 it signifies the simple lessons and truths of Christianity, and is opposed to τελειότης . In the former sense it frequently occurs in the ancient philosophy, as comprising fire, air, earth, and water. It is amusing to observe with what ingenuity some of the Greek Fathers give it such a sense in the passage before us, because, forsooth, all the elements are employed in the Jewish service-water for purification and fire for sacrifice, earth for the erection of altars, and the revolution of the aerial bodies for the determination of the sacred festivals. The noun sometimes signifies an elementary sound, or a letter, and so came to denote what is rudimentary-what is suited to the tuition of infancy. In this sense we understand the apostle to use it in Galatians 4:3; Galatians 4:9, and with special reference to the Jewish ritual and worship. The churches in Galatia had a strong and wayward tendency to revert to Judaism, or at least to incorporate it, or a portion of it, into the new religion. And as they had embraced a system which was spiritual and mature-which was not embodied in types and ceremonies, but in pure, simple, universal truths-the apostle wonders why, with their higher and manly privilege, they should go back to “the weak and beggarly elements;” why, when they had been reading the book of Divine instruction with its complete and lasting lessons, they should revert and descend again to the mere alphabet. It was as if one who was able to sweep the heavens, and tell the sizes, distances, and revolutio ns of its luminaries, should forswear this noble exercise, and seat himself in an infant school, and find the highest pleasure among the first and trite axioms and diagrams of geometry.
The term κόσμος marks the nature of these elements. It is said that the Jewish economy had ἅγιον κοσμικόν “a worldly sanctuary,” an epithet placed in contrast with τὰ ἐπουράνια , and with σκηνὴ οὐ χειροποίητος . Our opinion is, that in the clause under discussion, the apostle refers to the Jewish worship. Some interpreters, such as Meyer and Böhmer, think this exposition too restricted, and give the meaning as referring both to the ritual of the Jewish and the heathen world, supposing the “world” to signify, as it often does, the non-Christian portion of its population. Huther also gives it a similar extension of meaning- Elemente des ethischen Lebens in der Welt. His objections to the common interpretation are fully set aside by De Wette, and are not in themselves of any weight. But the phrase before us has a definite meaning affixed to it in the Epistle to the Galatians, and there it denotes simply the Jewish system. There was in the Galatian churches no attempt to heathenize, but only to Judaize; no endeavour to engraft heathenism, but only Judaism on the new dispensation.
That the Mosaic economy should receive the name of elements is easily understood, but why should such a genitive as κόσμου be added? It belonged to the world in a special sense, not to the world or age in the Jewish sense of the term, as if, as Wahl supposes, the meaning were-adapted to the men of this age. It was of the world, as being like it, evident to the senses, visible, and material, in contrast with what is spiritual and invisible. In this sense, the whole economy was mundane, for it was sensuous; it pictured itself to the eye in the stones of its edifice, the robes of its priests, the victims of its altars, its restrictions on diet, its frequent washings, the blood of its initiatory rite, and the periods of its sacred festivals. It was a worldly panorama, and it portrayed but the elements of spiritual truth. It set before its votaries the merest first principles, which were indeed often expounded and developed by its prophets. It was “a shadow of things to come,” not even a full and vivid picture. Under the 17th verse the exposition will be more fully given. The party at Colosse, who attempted to seduce, presented some elements of the Mosaic ritual and worship as a special instrument of spiritual elevation and ascetic discipline. They inculcated a philosophy which, whatever might be its mysticism or its metaphysical or heathen features, was in essence an adaptation of Judaism, not as found in the Mosaic writings, but as overlaid and disfigured by a mass of accumulated traditions.
Καὶ οὐ κατὰ Χριστόν “And not after Christ.” That philosophy was not according to Christ. It is a needless dilution of the sense, on the part of Erasmus and Röell, etc., to render “not according to the doctrine of Christ.” It was not based upon Christ, but was in contrariety to His person and work. It depreciated Him, and undervalued His mediation. But true Christian science has Him for its centre, and Him for its object. It bows to His authority, and ever seeks to exalt Him. Any new doctrine may be safely tested by the estimation in which it holds Christ; for all that is false and dangerous in speculation, invariably strives to lower His rank and official dignity, and therefore is neither in source, spirit, substance, nor tendency, according to Him. And they were to be on their guard against such dangerous deceptions, which were not according to Christ. Though the apostle says “not after Christ”-it must not be inferred that the errorist or errorists made no profession of Christianity, or were openly hostile to it. Had this been the case, their non-Christian character would have been boldly and distinctly pointed out by the apostle. They seem to have been disciples in name. Nor did they come like mere Judaizers and make an open assault, or insist in plain terms that Christian Gentiles should be circumcised and keep the law. Then they would have been confronted like the Judaizers in Galatia. But they were more insidious in their attack-boasted the possession of an inner and a higher knowledge, and preached an ide al system of specious pretensions, and made up apparently of Judaism and Gnosticism, - or Judaism deeply imbued with that mysticism which distinguished the Essenes, and that kind of theosophy which is found in Philo.
(Colossians 2:9.) ῞Οτι ἐν αὐτῷ κατοικεῖ πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τῆς θεότητος σωματικῶς . This is an irresistible argument. Any system not after Christ must be human and wrong “for in Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” The noun πλήρωμα has been fully explained under Ephesians 1:23. The substantive θεότης is an abstract term, like Deity, in which God is viewed in essence rather than personality. The word is quite different in meaning from θειότης , Romans 1:20 -a term which describes quality rather than being. The words differ as divinitas and deitas -divineness and Deity; or, as the Germans express it- Göttlichkeit and Gottheit. The Syriac uses the expressive term דָאלוֹהָנוֹא . The fulness of the Godhead is a fulness filled up by it-is that Godhead in all its native attributes and prerogatives. And it is the whole fulness-not one cycle of Divine perfections-a single cluster of Divine properties-not a partial possession of isolated glories-nor a handful of meted and fractional resources, but the entire assemblage of all in existence and character that constitutes the Divinity. What He is, and as He is, in being, mode, and manifestation, dwells in Christ. See under Colossians 1:15. One blushes to mention the Socinian misinterpretation, which so reduces this sublime statement as to make it signify merely, that the whole will of God was manifested by Him-an attempt which Calovius well names detorsio mera. Nor are we less confounded with the capricious and baseless exposition of Heinrichs, Baumgarten-Crusius, Schleusner, Gerhard, and Junker, that πλήρωμα can mean the church gathered without distinction from all nations, and that the apostle intends to say-that the whole church has its existence, wellbeing, or instruction in Christ. Nor is the singularly ungrammatical exegesis of some early expositors less wonderful-that “in Him” means in the church, and that in this church dwells the fulness of the Godhead. Bähr ably refutes the view of Noesselt, which, though a little more ingenious than the Socinian hypothesis, does not essentially differ from it in result. The sense naturally suggested by the terms is the correct one. Nor are we to search for any recondite meaning, as if πλήρωμα must be taken in a Gnostic sense; or as if in the verb κατοικεῖ there were a necessary allusion to the so-named Shechinah-in which dwelt the Divinity. Whatever be the polemical reference, the ordinary meaning of the verb cannot be set aside, as denoting actual and prolonged habitation.
The mode of this mysterious inhabitation is declared to be σωματικῶς “in a bodily form,” for such is the first and plain meaning of the adverb. Other and vaguer ideas have been attached to it. It is a necessary result of the interpretation which takes πλήρωμα to signify the church, that it must regard σωματικῶς as intense and hyperbolical, and therefore we have the dilution of a quasi. The church dwells in Christ, as if in a bodily form-as if it formed His body. But-
1. The least plausible hypothesis is that of Capellus and Heumann, who look upon the term as equivalent to ὅλως , and as signifying “altogether.” Such a translation makes the clause tautological, for πᾶν is already employed, and besides it cannot be borne out by any legitimate examples. Why resort to a rare and technical use of the word, as peculiar as in our familiar phrase, a body of divinity, meaning a full course of theological instruction?
2. Others, again, under the influence of the previous contrast between the law and the gospel, imagine an antithesis in the word, as if it stood in antagonism to τυπικῶς . There was a symbolical residence in the temple, but an actual one in Christ Jesus. The polemical Augustine first broached the idea. Non ideo corporaliter quia corporeus est Deus, sed aut verbo translato usus est, tanquam in templo manufacto non corporaliter sed umbratiliter habitaverit, id est, praefigurantibus signis, nam illas omnes observationes umbras futurorum vocat, etiam ipso translato vocabulo, . . . . aut certe corporaliter dictum est, quia et in Christi corpore, quod assumpsit ex virgine, tanquam in templo habitat Deus. Augustine has been followed by Vatablus, a-Lapide, Grotius, Glassius, Hackspann, Vitringa, Röell, Crellius, Schoettgen, Noesselt, Michaelis, Bengel, and Bretschneider. But there is no such implied contrast in this verse as between σῶμα and σκιά in Colossians 2:17, and there is therefore no just ground of departure from the common and absolute signification. Christ is held up as the grand centre and source of true philosophy, and the reason is that Godhead was incarnate in Him, and that therefore His claims are paramount, both in person and function. He is not only the Wonder of wonders in Himself, but creation and redemption-the two prime books of study-trace themselves to Him as their one author.
3. A large number of critics give to σωματικῶς the meaning of essentialiter, that is, the Godhead dwells in Christ really, or in substance - οὐσιωδῶς . Names of high authority are leagued in favour of this interpretation. Theophylact and OEcumenius, and Isidore the Pelusiot, among the Fathers; Calvin, Beza, and Melancthon, among the reformers; with Steiger, Huther, Olshausen, and Usteri, among the more recent expositors. The ground of this interpretation lies again in a supposed polemical contrast, which certainly does not appear in the context. Melancthon says- est oppositum inhabitationi separabili ut habitat Deus in sanctis, that is, the union of Divinity with Christ is a personal union-not like the influential indwelling of God in a believing heart. Huther supposes such a contrast as this, that the Deity did not dwell in Christ as it dwelt in the old prophets who preceded Him. Olshausen again gives prominence to a Gnostic antagonism, as if the apostle meant to distinguish between a merely temporary influence of a higher spirit, and a permanent union of the Godhead-an idea as naturally brought out by giving to the adverb its usual signification. To fall back for defence upon any uses of the Hebrew word ֶעצֶם , H6795, is all but to surrender the cause. The Hebrew noun does signify ipse, but never in connection with persons- de rebus tantummodo, as Gesenius, sub voce, remarks. The noun σῶμα does signify person in the New Testament, though Bähr denies it. Davenant says “the Hebrew put souls for persons, and the Greek put bodies;” but the instances of the latter usage adduced by him will not bear him out; for in them there is usually distinct reference to the corporeal part of the person. In those instances in the New Testament in which σῶμα appears to signify person, it is not only followed with a genitive of person, but there is always some special reason why the term should be so employed-some implied contrast, some contextual point, or some tacit reference to the body or external person. Thus, among the classics, it is appropriately used of soldiers and slaves, whose bodies are in special request. As in the New Testament it is used in connection with the eye, Matthew 6:22; with marriage-a union characterized as “one flesh,” Ephesians 5:28; with the idea of death, Philippians 1:20; and the notion of a living sacrifice, in which the dead bodies of victims were offered, Romans 12:1. Indeed, in Homeric usage σῶμα always denotes a corpse. So that, absolutely, the noun does not signify person; and such a sense is never given to the cognate adjective or adverb. This exegesis seems to have arisen from an attempt to define by it the nature of that union which subsisted between Divinity and humanity in the person of Christ.
4. The last and best interpretation is that which takes σωματικῶς in its literal and only meaning-in a bodily shape, and not as Theodoret paraphrases- ὡς ἐν σώματι . Such is also the view of Calovius, Estius, Storr, De Wette, Bähr, Böhmer, and Meyer. Yet Steiger calls it- abgeschmackt -insipid, and Olshausen regards it as tautological, because the words “in Him” occur in the same clause. But the words “in Him” are the general reference, and the adverb specifies the mode in which He possessed the Divine fulness. The fulness of the Godhead was embodied in Him, or dwelt in Him-in no invisible shape, and by no unappreciable contact. It assumed a bodily form. It abode in Him as a man. It made its residence the humanity of Jesus. Divinity was incarnated in Christ. It shrank not from taking upon it our nature, and realizing the prophetic title “Immanuel, God with us.” The same idea is contained in John 1:14 “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” The Logos, yet unfleshed, was God, and was with God, Divine and yet distinct from the Father; but the fulness of Godhead was only spiritually within Him. Now, it has made its abode in his humanity without consuming it or deifying it, or changing any of its essential properties. It hungered and it ate, it thirsted and it drank, it grieved and it wept, it watched and prayed, it wearied itself and it lay down, it was exhausted and it slept, it bled and it died. That body so filled and honoured was no phantom, as many even in the apostolic age imagined, for it had “flesh and bones,” and, after its resurrection, it bore the scar of its recent wounds. It was therefore no vehicle which Divinity assumed by any singular process, but in the same way as the children become “partakers of flesh and blood,” so did Christ partake of them. He was born as children are born, and the infant was wrapt “in swaddling bands.” He was nursed as children are nursed, for “butter and honey should he eat.” His young soul grew in wisdom as His physical frame grew in stature. It was easily seen that Godhead dwelt in that humanity, for glimpses of its glory flashed again and again through its earthly covering. The radiance was vailed, but never entirely eclipsed. His disciples “beheld His glory, the glory indeed of the only begotten of the Father.” Peter felt impressed by it, and urged his own sinfulness as the reason why intercourse should be suspended; while Thomas, under the impulse of wonder and faith, cried out “My Lord, and my God.” Jesus prayed for others, and bade others pray on their own behalf; but He never solicited their prayers for Himself. When suppliants bowed the knee to Him, He never said “See thou do it not;” never thought it to be idolatry on their part to offer Him homage, or felt it to be “robbery” on His part to accept it. His second coming is “the glorious appearing of the great God.” At His baptism and transfiguration, the voice from the excellent glory hailed Him as God's beloved Son. He detected the inmost thoughts and enmities of the multitude, for he possessed a species of intuition which lies far above humanity. “He knew what was in man.” “The wind bloweth where it listeth,” but it listened to Him; and He who trod upon the waves of the Sea of Galilee, made them a path which God marks as His own. He wrought miracles at discretion, and wielded at pleasure the prerogative of forgiving sins. He assumed a co-ordinate power with the Father, and claimed with Him an equal right of dispensing with those obligations of the sabbatic law, which had been enacted for men by Divine authority. The most ordinary eye discovered something extraordinary about Him. The crowd that heard Him said “He speaketh as one having authority;” for He spoke in the tones of conscious Divinity. “We have seen strange things to-day,” shouted the spectators; and no wonder, those strange things were the characteristic acts of the strangest of Beings-the only Being who is God-man. A perfection not of earth belonged to His nature; for “the prince of this world,” who finds so much to work upon in common humanity, could find nothing in Him; and the demons, whose appetite for evil leads them ever to detect it and vaunt over it, acknowledged Him to be “the Holy One of God.” Referring to His death as the destruction of a temple, He asserted Himself able in three days to raise it again-a task that could be achieved only by the Divine Creator and Life-giver. While He walked on earth, He spoke of Himself as one “who is in heaven.” Born centuries after Abraham, He yet pre-existed the great father of His nation. Lowly and humble-the son of Mary, He was the Image of the invisible God; and so close was His likeness to Him who sent Him, that He said “He who hath seen me, hath seen the Father.” And the apostle uses the present tense-the Divine fulness still “dwells” in Him. It was no temporary union, but an abiding possession. His glorious body has in it the same fulness of the Godhead, as had the body of His humiliation. The mode of inhabitation the apostle does not specify. What may be inferred is, that the union is a personal union of His natures-not a simple concord of will, so that there are two persons; nor such an absorption of the one element into the other, that there is only one nature. We know not whether Docetic views prevailed at that early period in the Colossian church, but it is certain that Christ was undervalued and His person misunderstood, in the false philosophy. Therefore the apostle affirms, in this brief but weighty clause, the great mystery of His mediatorial nature-the personal union in Him of Divinity and manh ood. Any philosophy not “after Christ,” must be earthly and delusive. It has missed the central truth-is amused with the stars, but forgetful of the sun. “For in Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily;” and, with singular congruity, the apostle adds-
(Colossians 2:10.) Καί ἐστε ἐν αὐτῷ πεπληρωμένοι “And ye are made full in Him.” The clause is still in continuation of the warning, and crowns the argument. It is in entire opposition to the usus loquendi of the New Testament, on the part of Grotius, Bos, and Heumann, to make ἐστέ an imperative, for it emphasizes their present state. The phrase ἐν αὐτῷ has a meaning found with peculiar frequency-in Him-in union with Him; and it is wrong in Erasmus to render it “by, or by means of Him.” The participle πεπληρωμένοι is evidently used with a reference to the πλήρωμα of the preceding verse-ye are filled out of Christ's fulness, or are full in His fulness.
Opinions on the sense or reference of the participle are modified by the view entertained of the meaning of the preceding verse. Schoettgen narrows the meaning by far too much, and gives but one aspect of the sense, which he renders- per istum estis perfecte edocti; for though the apostle has been referring to instruction, yet far more is here implied. The exegesis of Grotius is rather an inference- illo contenti estote; for if they were complete in Jesus, it followed that they needed no supplemental endowments from any other quarter. The meaning of the clause is much the same as that found in Ephesians 3:19, to the exposition of which the reader may turn. Meyer says that nothing is to be supplied after πεπληρ ., neither τῆς θεότητος with Theophylact, nor τοῦ πληρώματος τῆς θεότητος with De Wette. But the question recurs, of what elements is this fulness composed? or, if the participle be rendered “perfect” “ye are perfect in Him,” of what elements is this perfection made up? The clause has a very close connection with the foregoing verse, and with the phrase “all the fulness of the Godhead.” It is because that fulness dwells in Christ that they are filled up in Him. Being in Him, they are brought into contact with what is in Him; and that fulness of God contains a life whose pulsations create a responsive throbbing within them. There is in Christ complete provision, and what is so furnished is pledged to be conferred. There needs, therefore, be no want, and no casting about for any other source of supply. Believers have actual and present completeness of provided blessing, and there is the guaranteed completeness of prospective gifts. “Ye ARE complete in Him,” for the scriptural view of Christ's person meets the deepest necessities of our spiritual nature. “What does it mean?” asks Chrysostom, “that you have no thing less than Him”- τὶ οὖν ἐστιν… ὅτι οὖδὲν ἔλαττον ἔχετε αὐτοῦ . The apostle adds another and striking clause-
῞Ος ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλὴ πάσης ἀρχῆς καὶ ἐξουσίας “Who is the head of all principality and power.” On the authority of B, D, E, F, G, Lachmann reads ὅ , but ὅς is retained on the authority of A, C, J, K, and that of the Greek Fathers. Lachmann's choice is vindicated by Steiger and Böhmer, though it appears to have sprung from a grammatical fondness for πλήρωμα as the principal preceding noun. If this reading be adopted, the foregoing clause must be placed in a parenthesis. “In Him, and that bodily, dwells all the Godhead's fulness . . . which is the Head of all principalities and powers.” The authorities are nearly balanced, but the reading ὅς is most in analogy with the apostle's style of thought and expression. Besides, with the reading ὅ , the words ἐν ᾧ in Colossians 2:11 must refer also to πλήρωμα , and no tolerable sense could be extracted from such a connection. The terms ἀρχή and ἐξουσία are abstract ones, having reference to celestial dignities, and to such as were unfallen. The relative, as in Colossians 1:18, may be rendered “as being He who is;” or, perhaps, “inasmuch as He is.” Jelf, § 836, 3. The Head of principalities and powers. Ephesians 1:21. There is no exception; the entire hierarchy, even its mightiest and noblest chieftains and dignities, own submission to Christ, and form a portion of His spiritual dominions. Colossians 1:16. There was some special reason why he intimates Christ's headship not generally over the church or the universe, but specially over the angelic hosts. If we can rely on accounts of the teaching ascribed to Simon Magus, we might find in them an illustration of the apostle's statement. Epiphanius relates, that Simon Magus invented names of principalities and powers, and insisted that the learning of such names was essential to salvation. Similar biza rrerie is ascribed to Cerinthus. See Whitby, in loc. Whatever be its source, there is no doubt that the apostle alludes to some prevalent error-which interposed angels, in some sense, as mediators-and so far derogated from the personal glory and saving merit of Christ. That theosophy which was invading them seems to have dealt largely in idle and delusive speculation on the rank and office of angels-assigning to them provinces of operation which belong to the Son of God-looking to them as guardians or saviours, and forgetting that they are but His servants, executing His commission and doing Him homage. Why rely upon the courtiers, when access may be had at once to the King? why be taken up with our fellow-servants, who are only stewards of limited resources, when the Master has not only the fulness of Divinity, but has it in a human shape-has the heart of a brother to love you, and the arm of a God to protect and bless you? Alas! that saints so called have the usurped place of principalities and powers in the Church of Rome.
If they were complete in Christ, they had no need to go beyond Christ, and to resort to any ceremonies imposed upon them by the Judaizers. They had everything which it was alleged they wanted, and everything already in Christ. The heretical preceptors had enjoined upon them the rite of circumcision, but the apostle shows that it would be really a superfluous ceremony, since they had already experienced a nobler circumcision than that of the knife-for it was executed by no material hand. They were, in short, the “true circumcision”-for the apostle proceeds-
(Colossians 2:11.) ᾿Εν ᾧ καὶ περιετμήθητε περιτομῇ ἀχειροποιήτῳ “In whom, too, ye were circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands.” There is no need to suppose, with Olshausen, that in these words there is expressed an ideal unity of all His people in Christ in His death and resurrection. Though such an idea may be found in other parts of Scripture, it cannot be found here-save in the exercise of a refined ingenuity. For, first, the formula ἐν ᾧ has its usual significance-union with Him-union created by the Spirit, and effected by faith; and, secondly, the blessing described in the verse had been already enjoyed, for they were and had been believers in Him in whom they are complete. Through their living union with Christ, they had enjoyed the privilege, and were enjoying the results of a spiritual circumcision. Why then should they suffer the incision of a sharp flint or a glittering knife-in itself, at best, but a sign-when they had already experienced the blessing of a circumcision that drew no blood, and gave no pain-a circumcision “not made with hands”? The meaning of the adjective ἀχειροποίητος is very apparent. Mark 14:58, and 2 Corinthians 5:1. The circumcision made without hands is plainly opposed to that which is made with hands- χειροποίητος . [Ephesians 2:11.] This idea of a spiritual circumcision was no novel one, for it occurs in the Old Testament in different forms. When Israel was yet in the wilderness, the Divine command was given “Circumcise the foreskin of your heart,” and at the same period the Divine promise was made “And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” The prophet Jeremiah repeats the i njunction “Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem.” He also describes a part of the population thus “Behold, their ear is uncircumcised;” nay, he declares that the whole house of Israel are “uncircumcised in the heart.” Ezekiel speaks of men “uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh.” Stephen, in his address, used this ancient phraseology, and calls his audience “uncircumcised in hearts and ears.” The Apostle Paul in other places has similar ideas and language. Schoettgen has adduced like quotations from the Rabbis, and Philo, as is his wont, spiritualizes the ordinance-as ἡδονῶν ἐκτομήν… παθῶν πάντων ἐκτομήν . So that the kind of circumcision referred to was easily understood, and could not be misinterpreted. It was besides an invaluable blessing, for it lay-
᾿Εν τῇἀπεκδύσει τοῦ σώματος τῆς σαρκός “In the putting off of the body of the flesh.” The noun ἀπέκδυσις occurs only here-the verb is found in the 15th verse. The MSS., A, B, C, D 1 , E 1 , F, G, etc., omit the words τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν , found in the Received Text. Flesh is corrupted humanity, Romans 7:23; Galatians 5:16. [Ephesians 2:3.] We cannot take σῶμα in any other than its usual signification, though Calvin, Grotius, Zanchius, Crocius, Bähr, and Steiger, take it in the sense of totality or mass. See under Colossians 2:9. But the spirit of this exegesis is plainly implied. It is in harmony with the idea of circumcision, that the peculiar phrase “body of the flesh,” is used; and the contrast seems to be this, that in the manual circumcision only a portion of one member of the material body was cut off, but in the spiritual circumcision, the whole flesh which is the seat and habitation of sin is cast away and laid aside. The entire slough which encircles the spirit and enslaves it is rolled off, newness of life is felt, and the believer walks no longer after the flesh, is no longer carnal, or does its deeds. As Meyer well says, “He who is so circumcised is no more ἐν τῇ σαρκί , as heretofore, when concupiscence ἐνηργεῖτο ἐν τοῖς μέλεσιν ; he is no longer σάρκινος , πεπραμένος ὑπὸ τὴν ἁμαρτίαν , and walks no longer κατὰ σάρκα , but in newness of spirit.” It is plain that the spiritual circumcision is not different from regeneration, or the putting off the old man and putting on the new man. The apostle adds a further explanation of this marvellous change, when he says-
᾿Εν τῇ περιτομῇ τοῦ Χριστοῦ “In the circumcision of Christ.” Some have regarded the genitive as that of agent, as if the apostle meant - the circumcision which Christ performs. Such is the virtual view of Theophylact, when he says of Christ- ὅλον ἄνθρωπον περιτέμνει . Schoettgen, again, regards the phrase as an allusion to the personal circumcision of Jesus, as if that sufficed for all His people. Neither view is in harmony with the language and context. The circumcision of Christ is that circumcision which belongs to Him, in contradistinction to that which belonged to Moses or to the law. The spiritual circumcision is a blessing which specially belongs to Christ-is of His providing, and is to be enjoyed only in fellowship with Him. That of Moses was made with hands, and was a seal of the Abrahamic or national covenant-that of Christ is no chirurgical process, but is spiritual and effectual in its nature. The mark in the foreskin was the token of being a Jew, but the off-thrown body of the flesh was the index of one's being a Christian. Though the scar of circumcision might attest a nationality, it was no certificate of personal character “all are not Israel who are of Israel;” but, wherever “the flesh” was parted with, there was the guarantee of individual purity and progress. The charter of Canaan was limited to the manual circumcision, but the “true circumcision” are thereby infefted in a heavenly inheritance. The Hebrew statute was for the man-child eight days old, but the Christian privilege has no distinction of age, or sex, or nation; for it belongs to every one in Christ. And it was, and is, a chief blessing-the death of sinful principle and the infusion of a higher life-the possession of a new nature, which has Christ for its source, ay, and Christ for its pattern. Thus the flesh is thrown off, and the spirit assumes the predominance, wit h its quickened susceptibilities, its healthful activities, and its intense aspirations-thinking, feeling, and acting, in harmony with its sphere and destiny. And if such a collection of spiritual blessings has been received, why be subjected to a legal ceremony which could be at best but a faint type of them? Surely if they had received the thing signified, they need not now degrade themselves by submitting to a sign, which was in itself only a painful and bloody symbol of the Hebrew nationality and covenant. For a new sign has been appointed-
(Colossians 2:12.) Συνταφέντες αὐτῷ ἐν τῷ βαπτίσματι “Having been buried with Him in baptism.” The state described in this past participle precedes or is coincident with the action of the verb περιετμήθητε . “Having been buried, they were circumcised.” The burial and the circumcision only differ in form and circumstance. The circumcision was seen to be effected when the burial was completed. Burial implies a previous death; and what is that death, but the off-casting of the body of the flesh? The reality of death is evinced by burial, for this body of sin which once lived with us is slain and sepulchred. This point of burial they had reached-when they were baptized-for then they personally professed a faith which implied the death of sin within them. Why then does the apostle use the figure of a burial? for the burial is as really without hands as is the circumcision-since no knife was employed at the one, and no bier or shroud was deposited in the other. The apostle employs the figure, first, to show the reality of the death which the old man had undergone; and, secondly, to connect the process by harmony of symbol or parallel with the resurrection of Christ, which was at once a sign and pledge of the resuscitation. Those two ideas, the excision of the body of the flesh, which is equivalent to its death, and the raising of Christ as the typal life and the Lifegiver, seem to have suggested to the apostle the notion of an intervening process-a burial with Christ. When you were baptized, you were so placed as if you had been laid with Christ in His tomb “all old things passed away;” you were in respect to the old man what the dead Christ was in respect to His first physical life-dead to it and done with it. Only, He died for sin, and you die to it; He died for it in His body, while you die to it in your souls. But this burial is not a final state, it is simply one of trans ition “In whom also ye are raised by faith.”
The reference is plainly to the ordinance of baptism, and to its spiritual meaning. We scarcely suppose that there is any reference to the mode of it; for whatever may be otherwise said in favour of immersion, it is plain that here the burial is wholly ideal-not a scenic and visible descent into an earthy or a watery tomb, but of such a nature entirely as the circumcision with which it is identified, and the resurrection which invariably succeeds it. Thus, in the apostolic conception, men may be buried in baptism without being submerged in water, in the same way as they may be circumcised without the spilling of blood. The entire statement is spiritual in its nature-the death, the burial, and the resurrection; the circumcision, and the off-putting of the body of the flesh. The apostle looks on circumcision and baptism as being closely connected-the spiritual blessing symbolized by both being of a similar nature; though, probably, it would be straining this connection to allege it as a proof that baptism has been in all points ordained for the church in room of circumcision.
It is not within our province to enter on the question whether apostolical baptism was by immersion, sprinkling, or affusion. What we say is,-granting that immersion had been the early and authorized form of baptism, we are not prepared to admit any allusion to that form in the clause before us. It does not advance the opposite argument to say, that the immersion of a believer resembles a burial. This has been a favourite idea from very early times. And not only so, but trine immersion was often practised-one reason assigned being a reference to the Trinity, but another argument being that it was a symbolic allusion to the three days- τὴν τριήμερον -of Christ's abode in the tomb. Still, to many minds there is manifest incongruity in the symbol. Where, in Scripture, is water the symbol of the world of death, or of the grave? It is always the means of washing-the instrument of purification. At what point of baptism is death symbolized-for it precedes burial? Means of imitating the death and resurrection of Jesus could be easily devised-for they were physical facts that could with no difficulty be pictured out. But a believer's death and resurrection with Christ are spiritual events; and the same process cannot surely be the emblem of both classes of truths-cannot be at the same time the figure of a fact, and the figure of a figure. Death, burial, and resurrection, are truths not portrayed by gesture and position in baptism, but only recognized in it-not acted out, or represented in visible form, but only experienced and professed. Believers are buried in baptism, but even in immersion they do not go through a process having any resemblance to the burial and resurr ection of Christ. The Colossians did not personate death and burial in baptism any more than they imitated the circumcision of Moses. In a similar sense, though without reference to any sacramental institute, believers are crucified with Christ, though no nail pierce their hands; they are enthroned with Him, while they wear no symbol of royalty; and they have an unction from the Holy One, but no material oil is poured upon their heads.
᾿Εν ᾧ καὶ συνηγέρθητε “In whom too ye were raised together.” Beza, and after him Calixtus, Suicer, Steiger, Böhmer, De Wette, and Baumgarten-Crusius, refer the relative to βαπτίσματι . But the language would, in such a case, be inapt, as “out of baptism” would appear to be the natural expression. There appears to be no formal resemblance between baptism and burial in the apostle's mind, and so he says not ἐξ οὗ , but simply ἐν ᾧ “in whom,” that is, in Christ. Justinian and Davenant, Meyer and Huther, thus refer the pronoun “With Him” they are buried “in Him” they rise again; for union with Him is the one efficacious principle. The verb is explained and its meaning defended under Ephesians 2:6. It is not an ideal or potential spiritual resurrection secured for them, but one now and actually enjoyed by believers. The vivification of the soul involves in it, as a necessary result, the resurrection of the body-a result essential to the development of the new life in its highest sphere; but it is wrong in Theophylact to give this aorist verb a future meaning, or rather to mix up the two significations. While union with Christ is the bond of security, the instrumental cause is next described-
Διὰ τῆς πίστεως “By the faith.” A similar use of ἐν and διά is found in Ephesians 1:7, each preposition retaining its distinctive signification. It is faith which achieves this spiritual resurrection-belief in the Divine testimony is the vehicle which the Divine resurrectionary power employs. The apostle, Ephesians 1:19-20, prays that the Ephesians might know “what is the exceeding greatness of God's power to us-ward who believe,” and the kind of power referred to is, as here, that which raised Christ from the dead, and which also quickens and raises up believers who had been “dead in trespasses and sins.” Thus it is faith-
Τῆς ἐνεργείας τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ἐγείραντος αὐτὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν “Of the operation of God who raised Him from the dead.” Many interpreters take the genitive as that of agency “faith inwrought by God.” Such is the view of Flacius, Calixtus, the older interpreters, Luther, Melancthon, as also of Storr, Flatt, Bengel, Bähr, Böhmer, De Wette, Huther, Olshausen, and Conybeare. Luther renders- den Gott wirket; and Melancthon draws the lesson- non igitur potest suis viribus ratio fidem in nobis efficere. Whatever truth may be in this doctrine, and whatever may be the proof of it in other parts of Scripture, it is not the doctrine which the apostle here delivers. For according to usage in such a case, the genitive is that of object. So with regard to Θεοῦ , Mark 11:22: ᾿Ονόματος , Acts 3:16; ᾿Ιησοῦ Χ ., etc., Romans 3:22; Galatians 2:16; Galatians 2:20; Galatians 3:22; Ephesians 3:12; Philippians 3:9; James 2:1; Revelation 2:13: Εὐαγγελίου , Philippians 1:27: ᾿Αληθείας , 2 Thessalonians 2:13. The genitive thus denotes the object of faith, or the thing believed. Such is the view of the mass of interpreters, of the Greek Fathers, of Calvin and Beza, of Grotius and Erasmus, of Meyer, Bloomfield, etc. The object of this vivifying faith is the Divine power which raised up Christ from the dead. The construction which the apostle employs in Ephesians 1:19 - εἰς ἡμᾶς τοὺς πιστεύοντας κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν κ-τ-α , is no argument against this view, for, as we have there said, κατά does not point out the source of faith, but turns attention to the model after which the Divine power operates in quickening the spiritually dead. A description of the Divine power, as showing itself in the resurrection of Christ, more naturally allies itself with the idea of spiritual resuscitation, which it resembles, than with that of the production of faith.
The sinner is raised out of death. United to Christ by the Spirit, and exercising a belief in God, he is justified and obtains legal life-exemption from the penalty of law; and he is also sanctified, or is endowed with spiritual life-comes to the conscious enjoyment of God's favour, and the possession of His image. This faith has special reference to the Divine power in one of its manifestations, the raising of Jesus Christ from the dead. Power is evinced most strikingly in a resurrection-the restoration of a dead body to life is the work of Omnipotence. Love may pity, but power restores-a power which the apostle calls exceeding great and mighty. Ephesians 1:19. Faith lays hold on this phasis of omnipotence, and on this act of its achievement, because it feels that spiritual quickening is at once the result which springs from the one and is pledged by the other. The nature of this power and its relation to believers have been fully explained under a similar passage-Ephesians 1:20. The resurrection of Christ proves the acceptance of his atonement on the part of the Father, “who raised His Son from the dead, and gave Him glory that our faith and hope might be in God.” It therefore showed that the way of salvation was open, that the majesty of the law had been vindicated, and that the blessings of redemption might therefore be conferred in all their fulness and without restraint. Blood had been shed, and might now be sprinkled; and the Saviour being glorified, the Spirit might now descend. If I believe in that power which raised Jesus Christ from the dead, I believe in a power which might righteously have crushed me, but is now mercifully wielded to save me; which has set its seal on the work of Christ, and will now distribute and apply its rich results; and which, having exalted the Redeemer, has placed itself under a solemn stipulation to reward Him with a numerous seed, so that He shall “see of the travail of His soul and s hall be satisfied.” Thus, this power working out the purposes of Divine Love and the devices of Infinite Wisdom, stands out so employed as the object of saving faith.
But the apostle now appeals to the Colossian believers.
(Colossians 2:13.) Καὶ ὑμᾶς νεκροὺς ὄντας ἐν τοῖς παραπτώμασιν καὶ τῇ ἀκροβυστίᾳ τῆς σαρκὸς ὑμῶν , συνεζωοποίησεν ὑμᾶς σὺν αὐτῷ “And you, being dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you He quickened with Him.” Any differences of reading are too trivial to be noted save that which repeats ὑμᾶς on the authority of A, C, J, K. The apostle still continues the general thought without any formal and specific connection. The connection proposed by Steiger, namely, to join the first clause to the participle ἐγείραντος , is utterly untenable. It would create tautology, and the repetition of ὑμᾶς does not render it necessary. Bernhardy, p. 275. We far prefer connecting νεκρούς with the verb συνεζωοποίησεν . Though we admire the acuteness and general soundness of Meyer, yet we wonder how here, and in Ephesians 2:1, he comes to the conclusion that νεκρός refers to physical death. For the dead condition was one of reality, though it be past. It was not a liability to death; they were not, as he phrases it- so gut wie todt-certo morituri, they were mortui. Besides, the liability to physical death is not removed by faith in Christ. And the quickening and upraising are already experienced, they are not blessings to be enjoyed uncounted years afterwards. The apostle does not surely say-that believers were soon and certainly to die, and that when the Saviour came again, they should all be summoned out of their graves to the possession of eternal life. But he appeals to present enjoyments already conferred-to a death which had bound them, and a life which the Divine energy had infused into them. Meyer argues for the ideal possession of life now, and its full realization at the second coming. But if such ideal possession leave the dreadful reality untouched, it brings with it no good. If, instead of ideal poss ession, he had said partial possession, he would have come nearer the truth. For the life now enjoyed is, alas, too often faint and languid in its pulsations, and the fulness of its strength is a future bestowment. We therefore take the tenses in their simple significance, and not in any proleptic sense, as even Chrysostom takes them, and we regard the preposition ἐν before παραπτώμασιν , as denoting that condition in which spiritual death exists. When Meyer insists that the life to which believers are raised is eternal life, and that nothing less can be meant by the apostle, he forgets that present spiritual life precedes-that glory is only the consummation of grace, and that eternal life is but the crown and perfect development of emotions already felt, occupations already begun, and pleasures already experienced. The life implanted now is brought to maturity in a sphere where all is congenial to its tastes and instincts, its susceptibilities and powers. The Colossians had been really and spiritually dead, they were now as really and spiritually alive. They had been not only exposed to death on account of sin, but had been dead in sin. Now they are not simply gifted with the charter of a life yet to be reached, but they are actually living in faith and holiness. The nature of this death, and its connection with sin, along with the meaning of παραπτώμασιν , will be found explained in the parallel place, Ephesians 2:1, etc. There is no ground for Olshausen's notion, that the prior clause has a general meaning, and that this verse begins a practical application; for the same appeal runs throughout, only it may be more pointed and intense in the verse before us.
Καὶ τῇ ἀκροβυστίᾳ τῆς σαρκὸς ὑμῶν “And in the uncircumcision of your flesh.” The apostle here alludes to their Gentile extraction. They wanted in their flesh the seal of the Abrahamic covenant. We incline to take the words in their literal sense. Uncircumcision had, indeed, sometimes a spiritual meaning. Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4. Theodoret adopts such a sense here- ἀκροβ . τ . σαρκὸς τὴν πονηρίαν ἐκάλεσεν ; so also Beza, Grotius, Bähr, Steiger. But such an interpretation rather takes up the result than gives the meaning. Thus, the Gentiles were uncircumcised, and in consequence were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God.” Their degraded, miserable, idolatrous, and dead state was the effect of their uncircumcision. Calvin says- sed tamen Paulus hic loqueretur de contumacia cordis humani adversus Deum, et natura pravis affectionibus inquinata. But there is no occasion to take σάρξ in other than its physical meaning. Beza takes the genitive as one of apposition-flesh, which is uncircumcision, a thing abominable to God; while others render it- praeputium nempe vitiositas. That “uncircumcision” and “flesh” are to be taken in their ordinary physical sense, is also apparent from the change of person in the last clause. Did the term simply signify natural corruption, then the apostle himself was once in such a state. But he does not feel or say so. On the contrary, he makes the distinction you Gentiles were dead in the uncircumcision of your flesh-but we, Jew and Gentile alike, are forgiven our trespasses. See under next clause. Uncircumcision of the flesh was the physical mark of a heathen state, and that heathen state was in consequence of this want, and in itself, one of degradation, impurity and death. The flesh which had not the seal was truly corrupted and sinful. It is pressing the clause too much to bring out of it a proof of original sin, as is done by Zanchius and Bengel; the latter calls it- exquisita appellatio peccati originalis. The false teachers insisted strenuously on the necessity of circumcision-a theory very common in those times, for believing Jews were zealous of the law. But the apostle naturally says-True, ye were uncircumcised; your flesh had not been wounded so as to bear the sign of the Divine covenant, but ye have been circumcised, not with a manual operation, but with the circumcision of Christ. The apostle admits that they were uncircumcised, for they did not belong to Israel, but he has already contended that such a circumcision as that which of old disabled the Shechemites from self-defence, and kept the Israelites after they crossed the Jordan from commencing the conquest, did not become them, and was in their case wholly superfluous, for they had been spiritually initiated, and had put off the body of flesh. They had been dead in sins-this was their real moral state; dead too in the uncircumcision of their flesh, and this was their external and heathen condition. Looking at them as men, they were dead in sins-looking at them as heathen men, they were dead also in the uncircumcision of their flesh.
Συνεζωοποίησεν ὑμᾶς σὺν αὐτῷ “You He brought to life together with Him.” The nominative is still God-not Christ, as Heinrichs would have it. The work of quickening is God's prerogative. This process of life-giving is not simply redemption, as De Wette gives it, but rather one special aspect or blessing of it. It is used with perfect propriety, for life is the blessing appropriate to the dead. Some wonder why συνηγέρθητε should have occurred before it, since the idea of resurrection so naturally follows that of life-giving. But in both places the verbs are in harmony with the figure; the apostle, in Colossians 2:12, speaks of burial, and therefore he employs the term resurrection, while here he speaks simply of death, and so he places life in correspondence and contrast with it. But not only so, there is also a difference of allusion and meaning. The burial there is a voluntary renunciation of sin, and off-casting of its body-the completing point of the process of death to sin; but here it is a death in sin which the apostle describes, and out of which the Colossians had been raised by the power of God, and through their union with Christ. The former is a series of acts in which the believer in the enjoyment of vivifying energy dies unto sin-and puts off the flesh. Nay, the more he lives, the more he dies; and in proportion to the growth and development of life are the extent and progress of death. It is a special view of the work of sanctification, in which, according to the measure of life to God, there is death to sin. But the death described in this verse is very different. It is a death which pre-exists life, and does not co-exist with it-death in sin-in consequence of its fatal reign and power. The one is dying-a conscious state; the other is death-a condition of insensibility and danger. In the one, the decay of love to sin may be registered; in the other, the mastery of sin is spirit ual paralysis and death. The nature of this life, and its connection with Christ, are illustrated under Ephesians 2:5.
Χαρισάμενος ἡμῖν πάντα τὰ παραπτώματα “Having forgiven us all our trespasses.” The reading ἡμῖν is on largely preponderant authority preferred to the ὑμῖν of the Received Text. It is easy to see how ὑμῖν should have been inserted, as ὑμᾶς precedes. Nor is it difficult to apprehend why the apostle should say “us” instead of “you.” He speaks in one clause of a distinctive feature of their past spiritual state “dead in the uncircumcision of your flesh.” That was peculiar to them, but death in sin was common both to him and to them, and they were now both partakers of the “common salvation.” They both had enjoyed forgiveness, and so he says “having forgiven us our trespasses.” The aorist participle points to forgiveness as something past, and yet preceding the act of life-giving. Having forgiven your trespasses, He has quickened you. The pardoning and life-giving are scarcely synonymous, as some would argue. But this dead state is a guilty state, for it is a sinful state, and all sin brings down upon itself the Divine displeasure and penalty. Having forgiven them these trepasses, which were the source and means of death, He brings them out of it. To have given them spiritual life, and yet kept them under the penalty of sin, which is legal death, would have been a process in which one gift neutralized its fellow. The restoration to life is thus the token and result of a prior forgiveness. The welcome to the prodigal son was a proof that he had been pardoned. The death was one in trespasses; and those very trepasses, yea “all” of them, are blotted out. The reader is requested to turn to what is said under chap. Colossians 1:14, and under Ephesians 1:7. The life is not, as Böhmer imagines, subsequent to this forgiveness, because the pardon is God's special act, whereas the life originates in man's co-operation and response. This doctrine is neither stated nor implied. Nor is it true. For all life is God's immediate gift, from its lowest to its highest forms. No human chemistry can produce it beneath us-no suasion nor art can create it within us. It is a drop out of the Fountain of Life. [Ephesians 1:20.] The apostle proceeds to describe the process through which sin was forgiven-or that work which God had done, the result of which had been to them life and forgiveness.
(Colossians 2:14.) ᾿Εξαλείψας τὸ καθ᾿ ἡμῶν χειρόγραφον “Having blotted out the handwriting against us.” This verse is so curt and compact, that its analysis is not without difficulty. It is to be borne in mind that “God” is still the subject, and the alteration for which Heinrichs contends cannot for a moment be admitted. It will not do to say, with Trollope, that “the apostle, in the ardour of his mind, has not attended to the syntax.” What in other places is ascribed to Christ, may be here without any impropriety ascribed to God; for Christ's suffering and death were of His sanction, and with His cooperation. What Christ did, God did by Him. Nor is there any argument here, as Bähr insinuates, against the satisfactio vicaria. For the satisfaction was offered by Christ, and God, having accepted it, did the act described in the participle ἐξαλείψας . This verb signifies to smear, or plaster over, and then it is used to denote the act by which a law or deed of obligation is cancelled. It is found with another signification, Revelation 7:17; Revelation 21:4. It occurs also in Revelation 3:5; but it is used in a sense not very different from what it bears in this verse in Acts 3:19; and in Sept. Psalms 50:1; Psalms 50:9; Psalms 108:13; Isaiah 43:25. In these places it describes the forgiveness of sin, where sin as a debt is supposed to be wiped out. The word occurs in Demosthenes- σκοπεῖσθε εἰ χρὴ τοῦτον [ νόμον b ἐξαλεῖψαι . Its technical signification may be gathered from the fact that it stan ds opposed to ἀναγράφω , and sometimes to ἐγγράφω . Liddell and Scott, sub voce. The word, then, means here, to expunge. That to which the process of obliteration is applied is appropriately termed a handwriting- χειρόγραφον , a note of hand, a written bond. The term occurs only here in the New Testament, but is found in Tob 5:3 ; Tob 9:5 ; Josephus 17.14, 2; Polybius, Excerpta Legat. 98. Schoettgen and Vitringa take it as corresponding to the Hebrew שׁטרחוב , and as denoting tabula debiti. But as it signifies a claim of unpaid debt, it is therefore also one of punishment, for it was καθ᾿ ἡμῶν “against us.”
Both the connection and meaning of τοῖς δόγμασιν have been variously taken. That it is to be joined with χειρόγραφον we have no manner of doubt.
1. Some, such as Erasmus, Storr, Flatt, Conybeare, and Olshausen, divide the verse thus- τὸ καθ᾿ ἡμῶν χειρόγ . τοῖς δόγμασιν , ὃ ἦν ὑπεναντίον ἡμῖν “The handwriting, which, by its ordinances, was against us.” Olshausen admits that, with such a construction, the position of the dative is not quite natural, and he quotes, along with Winer, Acts 1:3, with which this verse has little analogy. The admittedly natural reference of the dative is to χειρόγραφον .
2. Others attach δόγμασιν to the participle ἐξαλείψας , and understand it as describing the means by which the blotting has been effected. This is the view of the Greek expositors, of Grotius, Estius, Bengel, Fritzsche, and Böhmer. The explanation of δόγμασιν , by Theodoret, is ἡ εὐαγγελικὴ διδασκαλία ; and by Theophylact- τουτέστι τῇ πίστει . To this we answer as we have done to the similar exegesis of Ephesians 2:15, that such a sense given to δόγμα is wholly unbiblical-that the declaration of Scripture is, that the handwriting against man, which we here understand to be the Mosaic law, is abrogated, not by any opposing or modifying enactments, but by the death of Christ. Besides, and more convincingly still, we learn from Colossians 2:20 that these δόγματα are no longer law, for the apostle says- τί δογματίζεσθε ; why do ye suffer such δόγματα to be published or imposed? That is-these ordinances are abolished, and it is now the height of folly for others to re-enact them, or for you to observe them. The cognate verb of the 20th verse is used with special reference to the noun of this verse. Whatever these ordinances are, they belong to an obsolete economy, and are no longer of any obligation, for they were on the handwriting which has been wiped out.
3. Steiger joins δόγμασιν with the participle in this verse. He understands the phrase as defining one special phase of the handwriting “the handwriting in respect of its ordinances.” Having blotted out the handwriting in this aspect of it, viz. its enactments-plainly implying that in some other aspect of it it still stands unrepealed. See on this view, also, our comment on Ephesians 2:15.
4. Bähr, Huther, and De Wette understand δόγμασιν as belonging to the whole clause, or rather as explaining how it came that the handwriting was against us. It is because of its δόγματα that it is against us; De Wette renders- durch die Satzungen. Calovius and Gieseler supply the participle ὄν -the handwriting which is, or being in its ordinances against us.
5. But keeping the words in their natural position and connection with χειρόγραφον , there is variety of view. Calvin, Beza, Vitringa, Wolf, Camerarius, Heinsius, and others, eke out the construction from the parallel passage of the Epistle to the Ephesians, and would supply at discretion either ἐν or σύν -the handwriting consisting in ordinances, or the handwriting along with its ordinances; or taking the dative for the genitive, the handwriting of ordinances.
6. Meyer takes the dative as that of instrument. The δόγματα , in his view, as a constituent portion of the law, are that with which the handwriting is made out. We prefer calling the simple dative that of form, that distinctive and well-known form which the handwriting assumed. In this way, the dative is governed by the verbal portion of the noun, γραφον -that is γεγραμμένον . The apostle thus describes the handwriting as of a special shape, it assumed the form of ordinances. Had the apostle said ἐν δόγμασιν , the meaning would have been-which consisted of ordinances; a meaning which, however, is not materially different from that to which we incline, as the form is but the index to the substance. Our view also embraces inferentially that given under No. 4. We do not say that the handwriting is against us because of its δόγματα , but we say more largely, that the handwriting whose form of structure was that of δόγματα , is against us. For the meaning of δόγματα , see under Ephesians 2:15. This handwriting was καθ᾿ ἡμῶν “directed against us.” After verbs, and in phrases implying hostility in word or action, κατά denotes against, and points out the direction of the hostility. And to explain more fully his meaning, the apostle adds-
῝Ο ἦν ὑπεναντιον ἡμῖν “Which was inimical to us.” It is a needless refinement on the part of Beza, Böhmer, and Robinson, to lay stress upon the ὑπό , as if a covert or under -hand hostility were implied, or as if it had been unnoticed, or as if, as Suicer and Witsius think, it is only in some sense contrary to us, because in another sense it was a symbol of coming grace. None of these meanings are sustained by biblical usage. Sept. Genesis 22:17; Leviticus 26:17; Exodus 23:27; Numbers 10:9; Deuteronomy 32:27; Joshua 5:13; in which places it represents one or other of the two Hebrew terms- אֹיֵב , H367, or צַר , H7639. The word is one of those frequent compounds which characterize the later Greek, and mark it as a period of decay. Thus we do not, like many expositors, take καθ᾿ ἡμῶν and ὑπεναντίον ἡμῖν as synonyms, or the latter as explanatory of the former, but we regard the two statements as giving two distinct ideas. Bengel compares the first to a status belli, and the second to ipsa pugna. It has a hostile attitude-it has also in it a deep and active antagonism. The question then recurs, what is the hostile handwriting?
1. A strange exposition is found in ancient times-that the handwriting is man's corporeal frame. Theodoret expressly says- ἡγοῦμαι τοίνυν καὶ τὸ σῶμα ἡμῶν καλεῖσθαι χειρόγραφον . That is, probably, our body, as represented by Christ's humanity, which was nailed to the cross. This is, to some extent, the view of Steiger, given both in his Commentary on 1 Peter 2:24, and in this place. In the first comment referred to, he says “Our sin adhered to Him until it was legally destroyed in His body, and His body was in this respect like a handwriting over our guilt.” Again, he adds, “That by the appointment of His Son to be our sacrifice, God set out a corporeal document of our guilt.” On the verse before us he writes: “The body of Christ, as a body, is no handwriting; but it is that body, destined to be a sin-offering, which is at once a document exhibiting our guilt, and representing the law, in so far as the latter serves the purpose of an indictment.” The image, however, is not very distinct, and the sacrificial body of the Lord was rather a witness of our sin, than a handwriting against us. But the idea is, that something different from Christ, and yet closely associated with Him, was obliterated in His death. Steiger's notion is evidently based upon a literal interpretation of the last clause of the verse, yet it is wholly out of harmony with the entire phraseology. And in what sense does a body resemble a handwriting? or how could it be hostile to us? or how has it been taken out of the way?
2. An opinion as ancient as the preceding supposes the handwriting to be the broken covenant which God originally made with Adam. This opinion is found in Chrysostom, Theophylact and OEcumenius, Ambrose and Anselm. Bähr, and others, trace this opinion to Irenaeus. Speaking of the handwriting of our debt as affixed to the cross, he says- quemadmodum per lignum facti sumus debitores Deo, per lignum accipiamus nostri debiti remissionem. The use of this fanciful analogy can scarce, perhaps, be taken as a formal exegesis, though he regards the handwriting generally as sin. Tertullian is said to hold a similar notion, but his opinion will be seen to be more in unison with our own. Bähr well objects to this view, that errors on this subject are not among those alleged to be held by the false teachers, and that this Adamic covenant, containing principally one prohibition, could in no appropriate sense have such a descriptive plural noun as δόγματα attached to it. The whole paragraph refers to a later transaction altogether than the covenant of Eden.
3. The reformers Melancthon, Luther, and Zuingli thought the reference to be to the accusations of conscience. The guilty conscience resembles a guilt-book, or an indictment. Besides replying, with Bähr, that this exegesis does not tally with the purpose of the paragraph, nor with the idea implied in δόγματα , we may add, that the notion of the Reformers is wholly of a subjective nature, whereas the verse presents an objective view of the work of God in Christ. It tells us what God has done as the means of enabling Him to forgive sins, but their interpretation points to a blessing which follows only from the forgiveness of sin. The act of God is prior to forgiveness-is external in its nature; while pardon, with a quieted conscience, is one of the results of the believing reception of it. An inner conviction, also, cannot be well figured as an outer and written record of many heads against us. These critics confound what follows from faith in the cross, with what was done upon the cross that faith might secure such a result. It is one thing to expunge an indictment, and quite another thing to have the blessed consciousness that we actually share in the indemnity.
4. Not a few understand the apostle to refer to the ceremonial law, or the Mosaic law in its ritual part or aspect. Such is the view of Calvin, Beza, Crocius, van Till, Gomar, Vorstius, Grotius, Deyling, Schoettgen, Wolf, Bähr, and others. This is, no doubt, the common view, and it is true so far as it goes. The entire ritual, with its lustrations and sacrifices, had a close and constant connection with sin “in them was a remembrance of sin every year.” It is true that it was abrogated by the death of Christ on the cross, and it is also true that one special error of the false teachers was the inculcation of ceremonial distinctions and observances, and that the apostle has such mischievous teaching specially in view. But it is not the less true that the apostle makes no such distinction between one part of the Mosaic law and another. In the parallel passage in the twin epistle the apostle speaks of the “enmity” produced by the ceremonial law, but that was an enmity of races-between Israel who possessed it, and Non-Israel which wanted it. So that, in order to their union, the cause of separation and mutual dislike must be taken out of the way. But here the apostle speaks not of race and race-nor of Jew and Gentile as separated in blood and creed, but of both as being in the same condition-having a handwriting against them. He does not specify separate parties, he says “us,” whether Jew or Gentile. Nay, more, it is to Gentiles, distinguished by the uncircumcision of their flesh, and never placed under the ceremonial law, that the apostle is speaking. That law spoke, indeed, of sin, but it spoke intelligibly only to those who understood its symbols, and obeyed its prescriptions. Still the ceremonial law was against the Gentiles, as it kept them out of the Divine covenant. Moreover, the apostle is writing of a blessing not determined in its distribution by race or blood, but enjoyed by all the members of the church-the forgiveness of sin. But the forgiveness of sin was not secured by the simple abrogation of the Levitical law, for its abrogation is only one, though an important one, of the many results of the death on Calvary.
5. Therefore we are inclined, with Meyer, De Wette, Davenant, Neander, Böhmer, Huther, and others, to understand the reference of the apostle to the entire Mosaic law. That law presents a condemnation of the whole human race “that all the world may become guilty before God.” Davenant says “I accordingly explain the handwriting in ordinances to mean the force of the moral law binding to perfect obedience, and condemning for any defect in it, laden with the ceremonial rites as skirts and appendages.” But lest this opinion should imply that the moral law was abolished, he adds “the law as to the power of binding and condemning is abrogated, and its rites and ceremonies are at the same time abolished.” But whatever the handwriting, with its ordinances, is, it undergoes only one process-it is blotted out. The distinction referred to, however true in result, cannot therefore be sustained as an interpretation. So that we take χειρόγραφον , not as denoting the Mosaic law absolutely and in itself, but rather in its indictment. It is against us, at once in direction and operation. It is the finding of the law which is against us, as well as its dogmatic form. And this, especially, is a bond, a writing which pronounces our sentence of death. This is Chrysostom's view in its result, and also that of Tertullian, who writes- chirographum mortis, symbolum mortis. Schoettgen, in loc., adduces a similar rabbinical expression; when one sins, God dooms him to die, but when he repents, the handwriting is abolished- הכתבמתבטל . It is not, therefore, so much the law with the authority of legislation, as the law with its power of punishment. It is not the code prescribing duty, but rather as at the sam e time authorizing the infliction of merited penalty, which becomes the χειρόγραφον . In this view, the δόγματα are a handwriting, or a bond which exhibits and warrants our liability to punishment. But the liability to penalty is expunged, the handwriting is wiped out. The law in itself is not, and cannot be contrary to men, but it has become so because they have failed to obey it. Its precepts are not hostile to them, for obedience to them would secure our welfare. The law has been given, both moral and ceremonial; the first has been universally broken, and therefore every man is exposed to its curse; the second presents this melancholy truth in its ritual bloodshedding and expiation; but what the one charged, and the other confessed, has been obliterated. The claim of condemnation exhibited by the moral law, and traced in the blood and read by the fires of the Levitical law has now been blotted out; not the moral law itself, as it must be eternal and immutable-having its origin in the Divine nature, and forming an obligation under which every creature is placed by the fact of his existence. “Do we make void the law through faith?” asks the apostle, and his reply is, “Nay, God forbid, we establish the law.” If the death of Christ was necessary to cancel the indictment which the law presented, it only strengthens and ratifies its preceptive authority. It follows, however, that if the special purpose of the ceremonial law was to confess the fact of man's exposure to the curse, and portrays the mode of his deliverance from it, then, surely, the curse being borne, and the condemning sentence expunged, the Levitical code has served its purpose, and ceases to exist. What it taught in symbol, is now enforced in reality; what it foreshadowed in type, has now become matter of history. And this it is the special object of the apostle to show as a lesson and caution to the Colossians.
This handwriting had assumed the form of “ordinances.” In Ephesians 2:14, the apostle uses the term expressly of the ceremonial law and its positive institutions. But the two places are not entirely analogous. There the apostle describes the ceremonial code as a hedge between Jew and Gentile, and shows how, through its abolition by Christ in His death, the union of the two races was secured, both being, at the same time, and by the same event, reconciled to God. Here, however, as the apostle speaks specially of the spiritual results of Christ's death, and of these as effected by God the Father, he seems, as we have said, to refer to the entire Mosaic Institute, but especially to the ceremonial law, as it was so palpable and prominent a portion of the system, and contained such a number of minute and peremptory enactments.
Καὶ αὐτὸ ἦρκεν ἐκ τοῦ μέσου “And He has taken it out of the way.” The use of the perfect tense adds emphasis to the verb-he took it out of the way, and still it remains out of the way. The apostle says, καὶ αὐτό -this very document, terrible as it is; that is to say, He not only blotted out the writing upon it, but He has taken out of the way the parchment itself; or, as Theophylact says- ἐποίησε μηδὲ φαίνεσθαι . The idiom ἐκ τοῦ μέσου (the contrast being ἐν τῷ μέσῳ ) is no uncommon one. On the change of construction from participle to verb marking emphasis, see under Colossians 1:6. Winer, § 63, I.2, b. How God has taken it so effectually out of the way is next told us-
Προσηλώσας αὐτὸ τῷ σταυρῷ “Having nailed it to the cross.” The participle occurs only here in the New Testament, but is similarly found in 3Ma 4:9 . The allusion is not to the tablet nailed to the cross above the sufferer, as Gieseler assumes, but to the crucifixion of the Redeemer Himself. There seems to be no historical ground for the illustration of Grotius, that it was customary to thrust a nail through papers-declaring them old and obsolete, much in the same way as a Bank of England note is punched through the centre when declared to be no longer of value, and no longer to be put into circulation. The idea of the apostle is, that when Christ was nailed to the cross, the condemning power of the law was nailed along with Him, and died with Him “Now we are delivered from the law, that being dead in which we were held.” Romans 7:6. In other words, God exempts sinners from the sentence which they merit, through the sufferings and death of Jesus. The implied doctrine is, that the guilt of men was borne by Christ when he died-was laid on Him by that God who by this method took the handwriting out of the way. Jesus bore the sentence of the handwriting in Himself, and God now remits its penalty; having forgiven you all your trespasses, inasmuch as He has blotted out the hostile handwriting and taken it out of the way, for He nailed it to the cross of His Son. Meyer remarks, that ἐξαλείφειν and αἴρειν ἐκ τοῦ μέσου are not two really distinct acts, but represent the same thing. We would rather say, that the first term characterizes the act, and the second refers to the completed result; while the third participle- προσηλώσας -defines the external mode of accomplishment.
(Colossians 2:15.) ᾿Απεκδυσάμενος τὰς ἀρχὰς καὶ τὰς ἐξουσίας “Having spoiled the principalities and powers.” We should have expected καί to be placed between the two clauses; but its absence indicates the close connection, nay, the identity of the two acts; or, perhaps, of the process in which the two acts were completed. In blotting out the handwriting, God at the same time vanquished Satan. If ever there was bathos in exegesis, it is in that of Rosenmüller-that when Jesus rose again from the dead, it was seen how vain were the efforts of the Jewish magistrates against Him. Suicer, Junker, and others, take a similar view. The terms have been explained under Colossians 1:16, and under Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 6:12. We cannot agree with Pierce that good angels are meant; they needed not to be spoiled or triumphed over openly. Hostile spiritual powers are plainly designated. Their reign over man had its origin in his sin; and their usurpation lasted till sin was atoned for, and its power destroyed. Hence Satan is called the “god” and “prince of this world.” [Ephesians 2:2;] Luke 11:22.
The verb ἀπεκδύομαι , which means literally to cast off anything, such as clothing, has been taken by many as referring to Christ's own death, as if he had cast off the flesh in dying-an idea which seems to have originated the reading τὴν σάρκα , in F, G, seen too in the Syriac, and followed by some of the Latin Fathers. Augustine has- spolians se carne. So that the figure has been supposed to be that of a naked wrestler. But the diction of the verse is that of avowed and open warfare, and the participle ἀπεκδ . must have the sense of spoiling; conquering, and then making the vanquished a spoil, as is done when a fallen foe is stript of his armour. This last is the idea and image of Meyer, which perhaps is too minute, for the general figure is, that He stript them of all power and authority. The compound form of the verb indicates how completely this was done; ἐκδύειν is used in the sense of spoliare, and the Vulgate here renders exspolians.
᾿Εδειγμάτισεν ἐν παῤῥησίᾳ “He made a show of them openly.” The allusion is plainly to the triumph which is celebrated after a battle. His spiritual foes, on being vanquished, were exhibited as a public spectacle. The meaning is not that He exposed their weakness- τὴν ἀσθένειαν ἔδειξε , as Theodoret understands it. That is certainly implied, but the idea is, He has shown the fact of their complete subjugation in His triumph over them. There is no ground to give the simple verb the sense of the compound- παραδειγματίζειν , and add the idea of shame, as is done by Theophylact, Beza, Röell, Storr, and Conybeare. Such an idea, as well as that of weakness, may be indeed inferred from the humiliating exposure. And it was no private parade, it was done ἐν παῤῥησίᾳ “openly.” John 7:4. Theophylact gives it rightly- δημοσίᾳ , πάντων ὁρώντων “openly, in the eyes of all;”- kühnlich, frei und frank, as Meyer paraphrases it.
Θριαμβεύσας ἐν αὐτῷ “Having triumphed over them in it.” The participle is used in 2 Corinthians 2:14, with a hiphil sense, and it here occurs with the accusative, like the Latin- triumphare aliquem. Adhering to the hiphil sense “maketh or causeth to triumph,” some would supply ἡμᾶς -maketh us to triumph over them. Such an idea only encumbers the sense. The three verbs in the verse do not form a climax. But the spiritual foes are spoiled, and then they are exposed; while the last participle defines the manner and purpose of the exposure-it formed a public triumph. The truth expressed is, that there has been complete and irretrievable subjugation.
But the meaning and reference of the last words ἐν αὐτῷ are doubtful. The Syriac and Vulgate, with Theodoret, and the editors Griesbach and Scholz, read ἐν αὑτῷ “in Himself.” If the reference be made to Christ, then it is wrong, for God is the nominative; and if to God, then the phrase is not very intelligible. Meyer takes the reference to be to the principal noun of the preceding verse- χειρόγραφον . His meaning is, that the expunged and perforated handwriting was a proof of Satan's overthrow. This exegesis, however, gives a fulness of meaning to ἐν αὐτῷ , which the words will not bear. They simply mean “in it,” that is, in the handwriting. Now it was not in the handwriting simply that God obtained His victory, but in obliterating it, and nailing it to the cross-an idea that could not be expressed by the bare ἐν αὐτῷ . “In the cheirograph,” and in what he did with the cheirograph, are very different ideas, requiring very different forms of diction.
Opinions are nearly divided as to whether ἐν αὐτῷ refers to Christ or to the cross. Wolf, Musculus, Bengel, Storr, Flatt, Rosenmüller, Bähr, Huther, and De Wette, hold the first view. Our objection to this view is, that in the two verses no mention is made of Christ. The work is wholly ascribed to God-not formally to God in Christ.
And therefore we incline to the other opinion, that ἐν αὐτῷ carries us back to σταυρῷ . Such is the opinion of the Greek Fathers, Theophylact and OEcumenius, of Calvin, Beza, Grotius, Crocius, Steiger, Böhmer, and Olshausen. Origen has no less than eight times for ἐν αὐτῷ the phrase ἐν τῷ ξύλῳ . Epiphanius, Macarius, and Athanasius, read either so, or ἐν σταυρῷ . The reading is a gloss, but it shows the general opinion. In the cross God achieved His victory over the infernal powers “through death,” he “that had the power of death” was destroyed. Through the agency of fallen spirits sin was introduced, and it was the sphere of their dominion; they could rule in a condemned world, but not in a redeemed one; and when that world was released from death by the death of Christ, the instrument of His death was the weapon of conquest and symbol of victory over them. Most strong is the prevailing opinion of the mediaeval Latin church, as seen in Aquinas, Anselm, and others, that this spoiling was in the nether world, and over the daemons who held the souls of the patriarchs in captivity, and that the triumphal procession was the march of the imprisoned spirits out of the limbus patrum. [Ephesians 4:8-9.] The subject throughout the previous context is God, not Christ; and the whole notion is an idle chimera.
Most glorious is the thought that the church is released from the bond that held it, and delivered from the hellish powers that tyrannized over humanity-a deliverance achieved for it by Him alone “whose right hand and holy arm” could get Him the victory. Redemption is a work at once of price and power, of expiation and conquest. On the cross was the purchase made; on the cross was the victory gained. The blood that wipes out the sentence was there shed, and the death which was the death-blow of Satan's kingdom was there endured. Those nails which killed Christ pierced the sentence of doom-gave egress to the blood which cancelled it, and inflicted at the same time a mortal wound on the hosts of darkness. That power which Satan had exercised was so prostrated, that every one believing on Christ is freed from his vassalage. Christ's death was a battle, and in it God achieved an immortal victory. The conflict was a furious one, mighty and mysterious in its struggle. The combatant died; but in dying He conquered. Hell might be congratulating itself that it had gained the mastery, and might be wondering what should be the most fitting commemoration and trophy, when He who died arose the victor-no enemy again daring to dispute His power or challenge His right, and then God exhibited His foes in open triumph. “The prince of this world is cast out.”
All this teaching bore upon the Colossian church and its crisis. Let not the ritual law-which exhibits the condemning power of the whole law-be enacted among you, for it has been fully and formally abrogated. Let not your minds be dazzled or overawed by esoteric teaching about the spirit-world. All those spirits are beneath the Divine Master; if good, they are His servants; if evil, they are conquered vassals.
Now follows the pointed and practical lesson. Already had they been warned against one phasis of error “philosophy and vain deceit,” and a sufficient reason is given. Next is rehearsed their privilege of circumcision and baptism, their death to sin and their life to God. Here their forgiveness is stated along with the means which had been taken to secure it; and this process, so decided and characteristic, lays the foundation for the warning in the verse which we are now to consider.
(Colossians 2:16.) Μὴ οὖν τις ὑμᾶς κρινέτω ἐν βρώσει ἢ ἐν πόσει “Let no one, therefore, judge you in eating or in drinking,”-test your piety by such a criterion. The participle οὖν refers back to the preceding statement, especially to the first clause of the 14th verse. The verb may be followed by the accusative, intimating who are the objects of judgment, while ἐν accompanying it sometimes specifies its period, as in John 12:48, and sometimes its quality, as in Acts 17:31, but here it denotes the basis on which judgment is passed, or rather, the sphere in which it is exercised. According to Meyer, βρῶσις , in the writings of the Apostle Paul, is uniformly actio edendi, and so distinct from βρῶμα - cibus, though in other portions of the New Testament, and among the classics, that distinction is not observed. Some of the lexicographers do not admit the statement, as is manifest by their citations, neither does Fritzsche-but we believe Meyer to be correct. Πόσις is also the act of drinking, in contrast with πόμα , the draught. Though the Mosaic law did not dwell so much on drinks as meats, yet, as we shall see, it included some statutes about drinks and drinking vessels, and therefore we cannot agree with De Wette that πόσις was inserted “for the sake of the alliteration”- des Gleichklanges wegen. The eating and drinking are, therefore, a reference to the dietetic injunctions of the Mosaic law. Leviticus 7:20-27, xi. Certain kinds of animal food were prohibited. The Jews were allowed the flesh of ruminant quadrupeds with a cloven hoof, of fishes with scales and fins, and of such insects as the locust, while unclean birds were specified in a separate catalogue. The priests on the eve of ministration were solemnly forbidden the use of wine. Certain kinds of vessels that had contained water, and been defiled, were to be broken, but others were only to be rinsed. The Nazarites did not taste any product of the vine. No doubt the pride of sanctity was strong in the Jewish mind, and the tendency was, both in Essenes and Pharisees, to multiply such prohibitions, and to place around meats and drinks a finical array of minute and complex regulations. The party at Colosse had strong ascetic tendencies, and were apt to sit in judgment upon those who felt that “every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused.” The errorists forgot that the spirituality of Christianity rose far above such physical restraints and distinctions, and that the new kingdom was “not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”
]Η ἐν μέρει ἑορτῆς ἢ νουμηνίας ἢ σαββάτων “Either in the particular of a festival, or of a new moon, or of Sabbath-days.” The phrase ἐν μέρει , as in classic use, signifies not simply in respect of, as Beza, Flatt, Bähr, and Huther give it. It gives a specialty to the theme or sphere of judgment, by individualizing the topic or occasion. Melancthon and Zanchius render- vicibus festorum. The Greek Fathers Chrysostom and Theophylact take it as denoting a partial observance, as if the heretics did not retain the whole of the original rule; and Calvin supposes ἐν μέρει to intimate that they made unwarranted distinctions between one day and another. “Feast,” or Festival, refers, as is plain from the contrast, to the three great annual feasts of the Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. The “new moon” ushered in certain monthly celebrations, while the sabbaths were weekly in their periods. Some, indeed, such as Neumann, suppose the allusion to be to the grand sabbatic periods of the seventh day, the seventh year, and the fiftieth year. But there is no warrant or necessity for such a reference here, though the apostle says to the Galatians, “ye observe days and months, and times and years.” Romans 14:5-6. The term σάββατον often occurs in a plural form in the New Testament, as if, as Winer supposes, the Syro-Chaldaic form- שַׁבְּתָא -had been transferred into the Greek tongue. Matthew 12:1; Luke 4:16; Acts 13:14; Acts 16:13. Allusions to these feasts, collectively, will be found in 1 Chronicles 23:31; 2Ch 2:4 ; 2 Chronicles 31:3. The observances of the Jewish rubric, whether in its original form, or with the multiplied and ascetic additions w hich it presented in those days, laid believers no longer under obligation. They belonged to an obsolete system, which had “decayed and waxed old.” Christianity inculcated no such periodical holidays. For it did not bid men meet thrice a year to feast themselves, but each day to “eat their bread with gladness and singleness of heart.” It did not summon them to any tumultuous demonstration with “trumpets at new moon,” since every division of the month was a testimony of Divine goodness, and the whole kalendar was marked by Divine benefactions-every day alike a season of prayer and joy. Nor were they to hallow the “sabbaths,” for these had served their purpose, and the Lord's day was now to be a season of loftier joy, as it commemorates a more august event than either the creation of the universe or the exodus from Egypt. Every period is sanctified “day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night teacheth knowledge.” Sensations of spiritual joy are not to be restricted to holy days, for they thrill the spirit every moment, and need not wait for expression till there be a solemn gathering, for every instant awakes to the claims and the raptures of religion. The new religion is too free and exuberant to be trained down to “times and seasons” like its tame and rudimental predecessor. Its feast is daily, for every day is holy; its moon never wanes, and its serene tranquillity is an unbroken Sabbath. The Jewish Sabbath was kept, however, by the early Christians along with their own Lord's day for a considerable period; till at length, in 364 A.D., the Council of Laodicea condemned the practice as Judaizing.
(Colossians 2:17.) ῞Α ἐστιν σκιὰ τῶν μελλόντων “Which are a shadow of things to come.” The plural form of the relative has higher authority than the singular, which is adopted by Lachmann, and is found in B, F, G, and in several of the Latin Fathers. The relative is not to be restricted to σαββάτων , as Richter argues; nor does it simply connect itself with those festive days, as Flatt takes it. The entire ritual is alluded to-the ritual as God appointed it, and not as overloaded by its self-willed votaries.
The noun σκιά may bear two different meanings. It may either signify a shadow projected from a body by its interception of the light; or it may signify, as here, a dim and shadowy sketch of an object, in contrast not only with a full and coloured likeness, but with the object itself. Meyer contends strenuously for the former, viz. that σκιά is not σκιαγραφία , but simply “shadow,” as if the Christian economy threw its shadow back, and this shadow was ritual Mosaism. This idea brings out, indeed, the typical relation which Judaism bore to Christianity. But perhaps the apostle had the figure before his mind which he has elsewhere employed; “the law,” he says, “had a shadow of good things to come,” and not the “very image of the things.” In this expression he distinguishes σκιά and εἰκών , as being both likenesses, though of a different kind; and in the passage before us, he distinguishes σκιά from the reality or substance- σῶμα -which it represents. The nouns σκιά and σῶμα are thus also contrasted by Josephus, when he makes Antipater say of Archelaus- σκιὰν αἰτησόμενος βασιλείας , ἧς ἥρπασεν ἑαυτῷ τὸ σῶμα . Photius vaguely renders σῶμα by ἀλήθεια . The “things to come” are the spiritual blessings of the Christian dispensation, not as Meyer, in accordance with his favourite theory, supposes, blessings to be enjoyed at the Parousia, or second coming. Hebrews 10:1. The apostle employs ἐστί in the present, not because, as Meyer argues, the blessings are yet future to the present point of time; but either because, as Davenant supposes, he gives a definition, or because the apostle transports himself ideally to a period when ritual Judais m was of Divine obligation, and when it was really the shadow of things yet to come. The connection of σκιά with the genitive τῶν μελ . forbids the notion of Zanchius and Suicer, that the reference may be to the comparative darkness of the former economy.
Τὸ δὲ σῶμα Χριστοῦ “But the body is Christ's.” A few Codices change the passage by a glaring amendment, and read ὁ Χριστός , while A, B, C prefix the article τοῦ , a reading which Lachmann prefers. “But the body is Christ's,” that is, of Christ's provision and possession. Meyer, taking σῶμα in the sense of body, that is, the concrete reality of those things to come, supposes that Christ is here supposed to be its head. But the term body, with its correlative organ-head, invariably refers in Paul's writings to the church-a meaning which cannot in this place be admitted. Chrysostom adopted this sense, and to support it, altered the connection, and clumsily joined this clause to the following verse “You who are the body of Christ, let no man deceive you of your reward.” The same construction is approved by Photius, and also by Augustine, who has corpus autem Christi, nemo vos convincat. The meaning is not that Christ is the body, but that He possesses it. The realities so long shadowed out are His-all that composes them belongs to Him.
The clause then contains the great truth that the Mosaic economy was no empty congeries of useless and meaningless observances - infantine in character and design; but an organism at once Divine in its origin, and fraught with lessons of striking form. It was a dim outline- σκιά -of those substantial blessings which are of Christ, and it served a gracious purpose during its existence. It was a rudimentary sketch. Its temple with its apartments, vessels, and furniture; its priesthood, in their imposing robes and duties; its altar, with the fire on its hearth, and the cloud of smoke resting over it; its victims, in their age, kind, and qualifications; its rubric, with its holidays, and their special observances; its minute ritual in reference to diet, dress, and disease-all were the faint lines of a sketch which was limned by the Divine pencil for the guidance and government of Hebrew faith and worship. The eye of faith might, as it gazed, be able to fill in the picture, and see in distant perspective the sublime group of a tabernacle filled and inhabited by the Great Spirit; a Priest offering the most costly of victims-the God-man presenting Himself; an altar consecrated by blood precious beyond all parallel; and a sabbatism not only serene and joyous on earth, but stretching away into eternity as a “rest remaining to the people of God.” Thus the hieroglyph and substance exactly correspond, though the former be only an adumbration and a miniature.
But not only was there this close and preordained relation between the shadow and the substance, there was also a predictive correspondence. The sketch is taken from the reality, and implies the existence of it. The shadow is the intended likeness of the substance. In other words, Christianity was not fashioned to resemble Judaism, but Judaism was fashioned to resemble Christianity. The antitype is not constructed to bear a likeness to the type, but the type is constructed to bear a likeness to the antitype. It is, in short, because of the antitype that the type exists. The Mosaic economy being a rude draught of Christianity, presupposed its future existence. If it had been an institute without ulterior object, if its rites had contained no prospective delineations, or if its whole design had terminated in present observance, then it could not have received the apostolic designation. But it was a typical system. Now, a type not only pictured out the nature of a future reality, but it foretold its certainty. It showed, and it foreshowed. The sacrifice not only showed that the offerer was under sentence of death, and that only by the substitutionary shedding of blood the awful sentence could be repealed; but it also foreshowed that the great and final oblation of infinite efficacy would assuredly be presented in “the fulness of the time.” It not only portrayed the mode, but it gave assurance of the fact-it was at once a symbol and a prophecy. The entire Jewish ritual was so organized, as not only to exhibit a faint and distant likeness to Christianity, but it established the certainty that the new dispensation of which it was an early and elementary copy should be at length organized in perfection and symmetry. The “figure for the time then present” guaranteed the introduction of the figured reality in the time to come. The sign not only preceded, but certified the advent of the thing signified.
Still, the shadow is in itself nothing-it is empty, baseless, and indistinct. The Hebrew ceremonial could not give full instruction by its symbols, and it could only purge “as pertaining to the flesh.” It had no power to enter into the conscience, and impart peace and the sense of forgiveness. The blood of an animal could not secure Divine favour. The thief, after restoring fourfold to the man whom he had wronged, and so satisfying him, must also offer a victim on the altar to God, in order that the penalty incurred from Him might be remitted. The man who had been contaminated by any ceremonial impurity, who had touched a corpse, or come into accidental contact with a leper, was by means of an appointed ordeal of ablution and sacrifice restored to his previous status. But the whole apparatus was wanting in spiritual power, and its only virtue was in its connection with the substance to come. That it was a shadow so designed, and not a fortuitous and unmeaning system, is plain from its correspondence with the body which is Christ's, and its consequent fulfilment in Him. The harmony is universal and complete. The great High Priest has come and clothed Himself in humanity-a living vestment far more costly than the robes of Aaron, “made for glory and for beauty;” and all other victims have been superseded by His oblation of Himself. Omniscience is His, and therefore no formal Urim and Thummim glitters on His breast. The Self-sacrifice He presented was pure as the fire from God by which it was consumed, and it has been visibly accepted. He has gone through the starry vail, and into heaven itself, with the names of all His clients inscribed upon His heart; and He pleads the merit of His blood before a mercy-seat not canopied by a cloud, but enveloped in the Majesty of Him who sits upon it. The woven and metallic cherubim disappear in the reality, for the angels having performed their allotted parts in the mystery of redempti on, are “ministering spirits to them who shall be heirs of salvation.” There is no need now that the law be engraved on stone, for it is written indelibly on “the fleshy tables of the heart.” It is no longer required that there be a bath, or a “sea of brass,” for believers are washed in the laver of regeneration. The golden lampstand has been extinguished, for the lustre of the Enlightening Spirit fills the House of God. Nay, the entire church on earth is a spiritual priesthood, engaged in appropriate ministrations, serving now, indeed, in the outer court, but soon to be called up into the inner sanctuary.
The argument of the apostle, then, is-why go down to “the weak and beggarly elements”? Who would listen to any sophistry urging him to prefer the shadow to the substance? Such a relapse would be an attempt to roll back the Divine purpose, and impede that religious progress which Christianity had introduced; an effort to restore an intolerable yoke, and rob the new religion of its spirituality and vigour. The result would be to stifle devotion by a periodical mechanism, and degrade obedience into a service of trifles. And therefore the apostle solemnly warns the Colossians not to be imposed upon by such pretences, and not for a moment to submit to teaching which would supplant the real by the ritual, and give them a religion of obsolete externalities for one of vital freedom and spiritual jurisdiction.
(Colossians 2:18.) Μηδεὶς ὑμᾶς καταβραβευέτω “Let no man rob you of your reward.” Theodoret explains the peculiar verb as meaning τὸ ἀδίκως βραβεύειν -to confer a reward unjustly. Zonaras, on the 35th canon of the Laodicean Council, has usually been adduced, and he says that the action of the verb is done when this takes place- τὸ μὴ τὸν νικήσαντα ἀξιοῦν τοῦ βραβείου , ἀλλ᾿ ἑτέρῳ διδόναι αὐτό , “not to reckon one who has conquered worthy of the prize, but to give it to another.” Suidas says more distinctly- τὸ ἄλλου ἀγωνιζομένου ἄλλον στεφανοῦσθαι λέγει ὁ ἀπόστολος καταβραβεύεσθαι . The other figure, adopted by Beza, from one of the exceptional meanings of βραβεύω , is not sustained by any certain examples. His idea is, let no one usurp the office of a βραβευτής against you; while in a similar way a-Lapide, Crocius, and Bengel, generally adopt this meaning-let no one assuming such an office domineer over you, and so prescribe to you how you are to act in order to obtain the prize. Such an interpretation has more in derivation to recommend it than the notion of Luther, Castalio, and Calvin-let no one intercept the prize, or get it before you. The apostle warns them to listen to none of these instructors, for their design was to rob them of that prize, which, as the result of their spiritual victory, Christianity set before them. If they yielded to any of the practices referred to in this verse, then they followed the solicitation of one who would rob them of that “prize of their high calling” for which they had been pressing forward. It is thus a term of far deeper import than the preceding κρινέτω , though Photius, Hesychius, Elsner, Storr, Huther, Bähr, and Olshausen virtually identify them. For there is in it not merely the giving of a wrong judgment, but a judgment which involves in it the loss of all that the gospel promises to the winner, a life of glory on high. It is a tame idea of De Wette, to suppose that the prize is the true worship of God, for it is here looked upon not as a prize, but as the means of obtaining the prize. It may be remarked in passing, that Jerome regards the verb as a Cilicism, or a provincialism of the apostle, but others have shown that the word occurs among the classics, as in Demosthenes and Polybius.
The true connection and meaning of the following word, θέλων , are not easily ascertained. The agitated question is, whether it should be joined to καταβραβευέτω , or to the following words, ἐν ταπεινοφροσύνῃ . If it be joined to the former, the meaning will be “willingly”-let no one willingly seduce you; but this would be a counsel to the false teachers as well as to the Colossians. Or it may be, as Grotius gives it- etiamsi id maxime velit, “let no one, although he should set his heart upon it, rob you of your reward.” Beza finds in the term a support to the sense which he attached to the verb-let no one assume voluntarily the office of a prize-distributor over you, and thus wrong you. Erasmus gives the term an adverbial sense of cupide, studiose; and others render it ultro. Steiger inclines to a similar opinion, and Tittmann translates- consulto vel ultro. But the usage is not well sustained in the New Testament, and the participle is, as Bengel remarks, the first of a series, θέλων , ἐμβατεύων , φυσιούμενος , κρατῶν , and each of the participles has its independent construction. It must therefore be joined to ἐν ταπεινοφρ .-but how? Olshausen, Wahl, Bähr, Böhmer, Baumgarten-Crusius, and Bretschneider, preceded by Hesychius, Phavorinus, Augustine, Estius, Elsner, Storr, and Flatt, take θέλων in the sense of εὐδοκῶν , “delighting in”- affectans humilitatem. Thus they regard it as a Hebraism formed upon the usage חָ¶ֵפ בְ -1 Samuel 18:22; 2 Samuel 15:26; 2 Chronicles 9:8; Psalms 111:2; Psalms 147:10. Though this usage may be regarded as established in the Septuagint, yet it is not found in the New Testament, nor does it suit here. For the apostle is not wishing to paint the character of the false teacher, b ut to warn against his wiles. He does not mean to say that the false teacher has a special pride in his own humility, but he means to say, that the Colossians must be on their guard against him, for he will seek to entrap them by means of that humility.
We give θέλων its common meaning. Let no man beguile you-wishing to do it by his humility. This is the natural view of the Greek Fathers, of Theodoret, and of Theophylact who says- ὅτι θέλουσιν ὑμᾶς καταβραβεύειν διὰ ταπεινοφρ . δοκούσης . So Photius, Calvin, Huther, Meyer, and De Wette. The preposition ἐν denotes the means of deception, or the sphere in which the deceiver moves. The humility referred to, as may be seen from the last verse of the chapter, is a spurious humility. Fanatical pride is often associated with this humility, as when, for show, the beggar's feet are washed; and the friar in his coarse rags walks barefooted and begs. And men become proud of their humility-glory in the feeling of self-annihilation. The spirit of the false teacher, with all its professed lowliness, would not bend to the Divine revelation, but nursed its fallacies with a haughty tenacity, and preached them with an impious daring, for he was “vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.”
Καὶ θρησκείᾳ τῶν ἀγγέλων “And adoration of angels.” This is another of the instruments of seduction. The genitive τῶν ἀγγέλων cannot be that of subject, as if the meaning were, a worship like that which angels present, or such as man may learn from them- θρησκεία ἀγγελική . Such a view is held by Schoettgen and Wolf, and in its spirit by Noesselt, Rosenmüller, Luther, and Schrader. Tertullian says- aliquos taxat, qui ex visionibus angelicis dicebant, cibis abstinendum, etc. Adver. Marcion, 5:19.
The genitive is that of object. The attempt of the false teacher was not to get them into an ecstasy such as that felt by the “rapt seraph, who adores and burns,” but it was a positive inculcation of angel-worship. Θρησκεία is often followed by the genitive of object. Winer, § 30, 1. The term, whatever its derivation, denotes devotional service. How angels came to be worshipped we may not precisely know, though, certainly, it might not be difficult to account for it, when one sees how saint-worship has spread itself so extensively in one section of Christendom. The angels occupied the highest place which creatures could occupy under the Theocracy. They held lofty station and discharged important functions. The law was “ordained by angels, in the hands of a mediator,” nay, the apostle calls it “the word spoken by angels.” Jehovah descended with ten thousand of His holy ones, when “from His right hand went a fiery law.” The Jews, said Stephen, in his address, “received the law by the disposition of angels.” Whatever be the meaning of these declarations, there is no doubt that they indicate some special and important province of angelic operation. Josephus expresses the same opinion-the current one of his nation. No wonder that those beings, so sublimely commissioned by God, and burning in the reflection of His majesty, command human reverence, and are therefore themselves called “gods.” Psalms 97:7, compared with Hebrews 1:6.
Now, the step from respect to worship is at once short and easy, for it is but an exaggeration. The heart, not content with feeling that a being so near God and so like Him should be held in esteem and admiration, passes into excess, and worships where it had honoured. And to fortify itself in the practice, it perverted the angelic office. It raised those creatures from attendants to mediators-from messengers to interested protectors. It would seem that in the days of the patriarch Job such a feeling existed in the early world. “Call now,” is the challenge of Eliphaz, “if there be any that will answer thee; and to which of the saints wilt thou turn?” and in another chapter mention is made of an angel interpreter. In the book of Tobit, the Jewish belief is incidentally brought out-that angels formally present prayers to God. In the imagery of the Apocalypse, we find an angel at the altar, having in his hand a golden censer and much incense, that he should offer it with “the prayers of all saints.” In the Testimony of the Twelve Patriarchs, and in the book of Enoch, the same notion is prominently exhibited. And thus the prayer offered through the angel, was by and by presented to him. It was first offered to him that he might carry it to God, and then it was offered to him without such ulterior reference or prospect. Again, that angels were entrusted with the presidency of various countries and nations, was another Jewish opinion; and it was with a superstitious people a matter of extreme facility to pass from that obeisance, which might be yielded to a representative of Divinity, to that veneration which is due to Jehovah alone. If a ma n bent one knee in loyalty, he soon bent both knees in worship; and asked from the substitute what should be solicited from the principal.
That the worship of created spirits was widespread, thus admits of no doubt. The Fathers abundantly testify to it. Origen affirms it of the Jews, and Clement makes the same assertion; both of them, as well as the treatise called the “Preaching of Peter,” describing the Jews as λατρεύοντες ἀγγέλοις . An old Jewish liturgy distinctly contains angelworship, and exhibits one form of it. Celsus also avers it. The Platonic idea of demons-itself, in all probability, a relic of Eastern Theosophy-spread itself, in Asia Minor, and combined with the Jewish superstition. That such practices should take root in Phrygia is no marvel, for there they found a congenial soil. Theodoret testifies to their existence, and that they remained in Phrygia and Pisidia for a long time. The thirty-fifth canon of the Council of Laodicea, a city in the vicinity, solemnly interdicted the practice, but did not wholly eradicate it. In the days of Theodoret, the archangel Michael was worshipped at Colosse; and a ναὸς ἀρχαγγελικός was built in his honour, and for a miracle alleged to be wrought by him. Though those historical quotations refer to post-apostolic periods, still they appear to describe the remnants of earlier practices, and they afford at least some analogies that help us to judge of the superstitions which the apostle mentions and reprobates. The Catholic interpreters, Estius and a-Lapide, make a strong effort to exclude this passage, from such as might be brought against the worship of saints.
The two nouns, “humility and worship of angels,” are closely connected, and mean a species of humility connected with angel-worship. It was out of a fanatical humility that service was offered to angels. It was thought that the great God was too majestic and distant to be addressed, and they therefore invented these internuncii. That the heretical party thought the glory of the Only-Begotten too dazzling for approach, and therefore took refuge in angel-worship, is an opinion of Chrysostom and Theophylact, but in opposition to the whole tenor of the rebuke generally, and of the following clause particularly, for it contains the accusation of “not holding the Head.” The true reason and connection are given, as we have given them, by Theodoret.
῝Α μὴ ἑώρακεν ἐμβατεύων . This clause presents a very strange difference of reading, for the negative is omitted in some MSS. of high authority, such as A, B, D 1 , and by several of the Latin Fathers. It is therefore rejected by Lachmann, and his reading is approved of by Olshausen, Steiger, Huther, and Meyer. Olshausen says that μή was added because critics thought that they were obliged to insert a negative. His assertion may be turned against himself; for we might reply that the copyists could not discover the propriety of μή according to their finical notions of grammar; since some, as in F, G, changed it into οὐκ , and others omitted it altogether. The meaning of the clause is not materially different whichever reading be adopted. If the negative be omitted, the clause must be an ironical description. The words “which he has seen” will mean, visions which he professes or imagines to have seen-visions which are the result of a morbid imagination or a distempered brain. We prefer the common reading found in C, D 111 , E, J, K, in the Vulgate, Gothic, and Syriac Versions, and in so many of the Greek Fathers. The negative μή , and not οὐκ , is rightly employed. Winer, § 55, 3. The participle ἐμβατεύων , found only here in the New Testament, but occurring several times in the Apocrypha, and allied in origin to the similar term ἐμβαίνω , is wrongly supposed by some, such as Erasmus, to signify, to walk in state-as if the expression were taken a tragicis cothurnis. It sometimes denotes, to go into the possession of, as in Joshua 19:49. And then it is usually followed by εἰς . Buddaeus, Zanchius, and Huther assign it such a meaning here. It also has the sense of-to go into, to penetrate into, or to intrude. It is so used of God, and often of man, both in a literal and tropical sense, and is followed sometimes by the dative and sometimes, as here, by the accusative. Phavorinus defines it- τὸ ἔνδον ἐξερευνῆσαι ἢ σκοπῆσαι , and Hesychius explains it by the less intense term ζητήσας . The compound κενεμβατεύειν is employed, in Plato, to denote senseless speculation. From the verb ἑώρακεν , there is no need to deduce the idea of mental perception or knowledge, as Heinrichs and Flatt incline to do- quae intellectu percipere nemo potest. The word is often used of visions and visionary representations-Acts 11:17; Acts 9:10-12; Acts 10:3; Revelation 9:17; and of a supersensuous view of God-John 1:18; John 6:46; John 14:7; 1 John 4:12.
The reference in the clause “intruding into what he has not seen”-appears to be the worship of angels. The current theosophy spent no little of its ingenuity upon the spirit-world. It wandered not only beyond the regions of sense, but even that of Scripture. It mustered into troops the heavenly orders. [Ephesians 1:21.] This oriental propensity was a prevalent one. The inquisitive spirit pryed into the invisible world around it and above it. It loved such phantasms, and lost itself in transcendental reveries. The creed of the Zendavesta had its Ormuzd, its six Amshaspands, its eight-and-twenty Izeds, and hosts of Feruers-all of them objects of worship and prayer. Augustine says, with justice, that many had tried the intercession of angels, but had failed; and not only so, but- inciderunt in desiderium curiosarum visionum. How the Jewish fancy strove to penetrate the curtain that conceals the unseen, may be learned from the following quotation from a rabbinical treatise. “As there are ten Sephiroth, so there are ten troops of angels, as follows:-the Erellim, Ishim, Benei-haelohim, Malachim, Hashmalim, Tarshishim, Shinanim, Cherubim, Ophanim, and the Seraphim. Captains are set over each of them-Michael over the Erellim, Zephaniah over the Ishim, Hophniel over the Benei-haelohim, Uzziel over the Malachim, Hashmal over the Hashmalim, Tarshish over the Tarshishim, Zadkiel over the Shinanim, Cherub over the Cherubim, Raphael over the Ophanim, and Jehuel over the Seraphim.” Tertullian mentions some who professed to divine their asceticism from angelic revelation, a remark which serves at least for illustration.
Some, such as Steiger, have proposed to join the following adverb εἰκῆ to ἐμβατεύων , and give it the sense of “rashly” or “uselessly.” This notion, however, is already contained in the reproof. But the idea with our exegesis is, that the mental inflation of the errorists, which co-exists with his humility and his angel-worship, and prompts him to pry into what is concealed from him, is εἰκῆ -it is without ground. It has no warrant. Matthew 5:22; Romans 13:4.
The following clause discovers one prime ground of the heresy, and shows the principal reason why the gospel was not cordially received. It was not intricate enough, it did not deal in any vain speculations, but it claimed and commanded attention to the real and practical, and it showed not the way into the abstruse and recondite. It did not harmonize with current notions of angelology and asceticism, and it was outdone in those respects by Essene Gnosticism. It did not forbid the humble spirit to raise itself to the Divine throne; for it taught that the intervening distance was spanned by the mediatorial nature of Christ. It exhibited the angels as “ministering spirits,” or fellow-servants; but it held up no eccentric array of visions and phantasms, which might beguile men into fanatical worship and conceited contrition. In the fulness of its revelation it left to no man the claim of discovery, or the merit of invention. He, then, who did not receive it as presented to him, but wished to change its nature and supplement its oracles, so that it might have the air and the aspect of a transcendental theosophy, was “puffed up by his fleshly mind,”-thought himself possessed of a higher knowledge, and favoured with profounder instruction than our Lord and His apostles.
The participle φυσιούμενος ,-not from φύσις , which, in the classical writers, makes φυσιάω , but from φύω ,-signifies inflated. 1 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Corinthians 4:18-19; 1Co 5:2 ; 1 Corinthians 8:1. The heretic was blown up with his delusion, verifying the remark- ἡ γνῶσις φυσιοῖ “knowledge puffeth up.” He was too proud to learn-too wise to acknowledge any instruction beyond himself. The source of inflation was a “fleshly mind,” “he was puffed up.”
῾Υπὸ τοῦ νοὸς τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ “By the mind of his flesh.” The expression is peculiar, but darkly emphatic. Νοῦς is mind-not simply intellect, but mind as the region of thought and susceptibility; while σάρξ is, as in so many other places, the name of unregenerate humanity. The expression denotes something more than mens imbecilla. Nor is it enough to resolve the two genitives into the phrase- σαρκικῆς διανοίας , or with Usteri, into νοήματα σαρκικά . The genitive is not a mere predicate, but is the genitive of possession. The “flesh” possesses and governs the “mind.” The mind did not struggle with the carnal principle, but succumbed to it. It was wholly under the sway of a nature unchanged by the grace of God, and which therefore exercised its predominance to serve and please itself. In all these mental efforts and sentiments concerning Christianity, the false teacher was guided not by any pure regard to the Divine revelation, or by a simple desire to bow to the Divine will; but his “mind” was influenced by motives, and determined by reasonings, which sprung from a nature wholly under the empire of sense and fancy; a nature which was satisfied with an array of external puerilities-which preferred ascetic distinctions to spiritual self-denial-revelled in imaginations that at once sprung from it and lorded over it-and, in short, acting like itself and for itself, coveted and set up a religion of man, but spurned and thrust away that religion which is of God. And thus, in a later century, and in the same country, it was believed that the Holy Spirit communicated to Montanus more and nobler revelations than Christ had delivered in the gospel. The “flesh” could not but have a sensuous system-one resembling itself; and the “mind,” acting under its sway, could not but devise a scheme in kee ping with such governing and prompting influence. 1 Corinthians 2:14. And, by this means, the abettor of error was “vainly puffed up” that he possessed a deeper enlightenment than the apostles, and a purer sanctity than the churches; and, in his vanity, he dreamed of being able, by his unhallowed reveries, to supply the defects and multiply the attractions of the gospel. The three participles of this verse, and that of the first clause of the following verse, have a close connection- θέλων expressing the desire of the heresiarch to make converts by a specious snare- ἐμβατεύων portraying one special source and feature of his system- φυσιούμενος indicating his moral temperament-and, lastly, κρατῶν pointing to the lamentable accompaniment and necessary result “not holding the Head”-
(Colossians 2:19.) Καὶ οὐ κρατῶν τὴν κεφαλήν . The participle describes a firm grasp-a tenacious hold. Song of Solomon 3:4; Acts 3:11; Matthew 14:3; Mark 9:27. The term κεφαλή , applied to Christ as Head of His church, has been explained under Ephesians 1:22, and alluded to Colossians 1:18. Those errorists did not hold the Head, and, indeed, the greater portion of their errors tended to this result. If they worshipped angels, they could not adore His person. If they insisted on circumcision and ascetic penances, they depreciated the merit of His work. If they preached the permanence of Mosaic ceremonies, they mistook the spirit and lost the benefit of the system which He had founded. They did not hold the truth as to His person or His work, His government or His dispensation. Those errors on vital points were fatal. So long as cardinal truths are held, many minor misconceptions may be tolerated; but when the former are lost, Christianity becomes a worthless and nominal profession. Bengel says truly, qui non unice Christum tenet, plane non tenet.
᾿Εξ οὗ πᾶν τὸ σῶμα , διὰ τῶν ἁφῶν καὶ συνδέσμων , ἐπιχορηγούμενον καὶ συμβιβαζόμενον , αὔξει τὴν αὔξησιν τοῦ Θεοῦ “From whom the whole body, through joints and bands, supplied and compacted, groweth the growth of God.” The similar passage is Ephesians 4:16. The first words- ἐξ οὗ , mean, from which Head as the source of life and growth. We should expect the relative in such a case to agree in gender with its antecedent- ἐξ ἧς , and for this reason some copies add Χριστόν . The words are taken by some as masculine, the pronoun being supposed to refer to Him who is the Head-Christ. But though this be the common interpretation, as of Bähr, Huther, and De Wette, we cannot agree with it. It would destroy the harmony of the figure, which has its basis not in Christ as person, but in Christ as Head. Some take the relative as neuter, and in a special sense. Thus Bengel- ex quo, ex tenendo caput. We agree, however, with Meyer, that the neuter form refers to the Head-not personally as Jesus, but really or objectively- nicht persönlich sondern sächlich. Kühner, ii. § 785; Jelf, § 820.
Πᾶν τὸ σῶμα . . . αὔξει τὴν αὔξησιν τοῦ Θεοῦ . Such is the construction and ending of the sentence “groweth the growth of God.” The form αὔξει occurs only elsewhere in Ephesians 2:21. There is no ellipse here needing the supply of κατά , as Piscator and others suppose; but the verb governs its correlate noun-no uncommon form of syntax. Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 1:20; Ephesians 2:4; Ephesians 4:1; John 17:26; Jelf, § 552; Buttmann, § 131, 4, 5; Kühner, § 547, a. There is in such an idiom an extension of the meaning of the verb. Often, in such a case, when a relative does not intervene, the accusative has a distinctive or intensive epithet connected with it. John 7:24; 1 Timothy 1:18; Bernhardy, p. 106; Winer, § 32, 2. Here we have a genitive for a similar purpose. Luke 2:8. Now this genitive is not to be explained away as a mere Hebrew superlative, as in Storr's paraphrase- mirifice crescit. Nor is the exegesis of Calvin, Bähr, and Winer in the third edition of his grammar, up to the full sense- incrementum quod Deus vult et probat; nor yet is κατὰ θεόν correct, as Chrysostom renders it. It means, as Winer gives it, in his fifth edition “an increase wrought by God.” Winer, § 36, 3 ( b). The growth of that spiritual body corresponds with its nature-is the result of Divine influence and power. And the means of growth are stated in the intermediate clause. For the body is not only connected with the head, but is also-
Διὰ τῶν ἁφῶν καὶ συνδέσμων ἐπιχορηγούμενον καὶ συμβιβαζόμενον . The first participle ἐπιχορηγ . is in the middle voice, and, in an absolute sense, means, “furnished with reciprocal aid.” 2 Corinthians 9:10; Galatians 3:5. Συναρμολογούμενον is the word used in the parallel verse of the Epistle to the Ephesians, but the substantive ἐπιχορηγία occurs in the same verse. The next participle συμβιβ . signifies “brought and held together in mutual adaptation.” (See under the second verse.) And this is done διὰ τῶν ἁφῶν καὶ συνδέσμων “by joints and ligatures.” The noun ἁφή signifies a joint, and so it is generally understood. Meyer supposes it to mean nervous energy or sensibility- Lebensthätigkeit -what the Greek Fathers understand by αἴσθησις . We may, perhaps, understand it not merely of joints in the strict anatomical sense, but generally of all these means, by which none of the parts or organs of the body are found in isolation. The other anarthrous noun, σύνδεσμος , has a meaning not dissimilar, and perhaps refers to those visible and palpable ligatures of flesh and sinew which give to the body unity of organization. Daniel 5:6. Some would assign a noun to each participle “furnished by the joints and compacted by the ligatures.” There appears, however, to be no necessity for this refinement. The apostle describes that unity of the body which is dependent upon its head, and is essential to its growth. The expression ἐξ οὗ is neither to be confined to the participles nor restricted to the verb; for the apostle has said, emphatical ly, “the whole body.” It is not this or that organ that grows from its vital connection with the head, while others unconnected perish and die; but the living energy of the head pervades the entire body-pervades it because it is an organic unity, supplied with conductors, and bound together by joints. Means are provided for distributing through it this vitality; there is no barrier to impede it-no point at which it stops. The body, so connected with the head, and so supplied and knit by internal structure and external bands, grows, and all grows, by Divine influence and blessing. The whole church of Christ depends on Him as its head “out of Him” are derived organization, life, and growth. The idea is well expanded by Theophylact.
The “joints and bands” have been differently understood, and so have the supply and the symmetry. Bengel understands the first noun and participle of faith, and the second noun and participle of love and peace; this last view being held also by Zanchius, who gives it as- charitas inter membra. This is also Davenant's notion “the first substantive represents what unites us to Christ, and the second what binds us to one another.” It is a strange idea of Theodoret, that the “joints and bands” are prophets, apostles, and teachers. Böhmer adds, in modification, “but yet as little do we exclude the laity” “ aber eben so wening excludiren wir die Laien. ” Such an idea destroys the harmony of the figure. For teachers and taught compose the church, or the body and its organs, and they are held together by what the apostle calls joints and bands. To characterize minutely the spiritual elements of unity represented by these terms, would be pressing too much on the figure. The question is, what power gives vitality and union to the mystical body of Christ? The reply must be, Divine influence communicated by the Spirit, and using as its instruments faith and love. The last grace is specially mentioned in the correspondent passage of the twin epistle. The whole body, so pervaded and united, grows-all grows in perfect symmetry, and in connection with its Head. Without the head it dies-without “joints and bands” it falls into pieces, and each dissevered organ wastes away. The application is obvious. The church can enjoy neither life nor growth, if, misunderstanding Christ's person or undervaluing His work, it have no vital union with Him. If the creed of any community supplant His mediatorship, and find no atoning merit in His blood; if its worship look up to angels, and not to Him to whom “all power is given in heaven and in earth;” if it place it s trust in ritual observances and bodily service, it cannot be one either with Him or with other portions of His church. Severed alike from head and trunk-from the vitality of the one and the support and sympathies of the other-it dies in isolation. So it was or would be with him or with them who threatened to disturb the Colossian Church. The entire figure and description are more fully presented in Ephesians 4:15-16, where we have given a lengthened exegesis.
The apostle still presses home his doctrine. It was no abstract truth which he had enunciated, and he winds up the paragraph by a reference to its pervading lesson-exhibiting the care and caution which should prevent any ordinances of an ascetic nature-such as those which belonged to the Jewish ritual-from being superinduced on Christianity.
(Colossians 2:20.) Εἰ ἀπεθάνετε σὺν Χριστῷ ἀπὸ τῶν στοιχείων τοῦ κόσμου . The οὖν of the Received Text has no authority, neither has the article τῷ before the proper name. “Since ye died off with Christ from the rudiments of the world,” or, have been separated by such a death from the rudiments of the world. The phrase “rudiments of the world” has been already explained under the eighth verse. To be dead to them is to be done with them, or, to be in such a state that they have no longer any authority over us. Thus in Romans 7:3-4, the wife by the death of her husband is said to be so free from conjugal law, that she may marry another man. In Galatians 2:19, the apostle speaks of being “dead to the law.” The dative is used in those two cases, as if there was a consciousness of complete deliverance. The preposition ἀπό is here employed to intensify the idea, as if death were followed by distance or removal. Winer, § 47, b. They had nothing more to do with the rudiments of the world-and the rudiments of the world had nothing more to do with them. The apostle again introduces his favourite idea of union with Christ. The death of Christ abrogated the ritual law; and being one with Him in that death, they had died to that law-the ἀπό denoting consequent separation. We cannot agree with Huther, in inferring from this passage, that the phrase “rudiments of the world” expresses something more than the Mosaic law, and denotes the ethical life of the heathen world. He says “the language implies that the Colossians had served the elements of the world; and if so, then, if you mean the ritual institute by these elements, you must hold what you can never prove, that the majority in this church were of Jewish extraction.” But the argument is not conclusiv e. In Galatians 4:9, the apostle may refer to heathen elements, so far as they had a ceremonial and sensuous aspect; but the rites of the heathen world-its στοιχεῖα , never had any Divine claim or obligation, so that the death of Christ did not formally annul them; whereas the Mosaic law was an ordinance of God's appointment, and only by yielding to it could religious privilege and blessing be enjoyed prior to the death on Calvary. It was by initiation into this rudimentary and worldly system, that the worship of the one God could be engaged in. Heathenism never had any authority over them, whatever might be its actual power. If its ordinances be meant, then the apostle warns against a return to them. This is not the case, for the ordinances against which he cautions were remnants of a system not wholly unlawful like Gentilism, but of one which had enjoyed Divine sanction. In short, the whole paragraph has special reference to Jewish customs. After speaking, in the eighth verse, of the rudiments of the world, he describes the glory of Christ, and affirms that the Colossian believers are circumcised in Him-a reference to the Jewish ritual. Then, having said that the handwriting of ordinances had been blotted out, he adds, as a warranted inference from, and application of the doctrine-let no man judge you in eating and drinking, or in respect of new moons and Sabbath days-another direct allusion to Mosaic institutions. And in fine, as a sample of those rudiments of the world, he quotes “touch not, taste not, handle not.” There were among them, it is true, other practices than such as had been originally Jewish;-an asceticism which was foreign to the Mosaic system, and an angel-worship which was, perhaps, based upon a misrepresentation of traditions connected with it; but still the central error of the false teachers was an attempt to impose the ceremonial yoke, in some of its aspects, on the members of the Christian church, as som ething which would ensure them a transcendental purity, and bring them into a magical connection with the powers of the spirit-world. The apostle then asks-
Τί ὡς ζῶντες ἐν κόσμῳ δογματίζεσθε , μὴ ἅψῃ , μηδὲ γεύσῃ , μηδὲ θίγῃς : “Why, as living in the world, do ye suffer such ordinances to be published among you as ‘touch not, taste not, handle not’?” Bähr is wrong in saying that τί stands for διὰ τί , though the one phrase may explain the other. The word κόσμος cannot here mean the physical world, as Schneckenburger maintains, for it must have the ethical meaning which it bears in the previous clause and in verse eighth. It is the sphere of the “weak and beggarly elements.” But the Colossians had been translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son, therefore the code of the realm which they had left had no more force upon them. A Russian naturalized in Britain need not trouble himself about any imperial ukase, as if he yet lived under the Autocrat.
The verb δογματίζειν , which occurs only here in the New Testament, but sometimes in the Septuagint and Apocrypha, signifies in the classics to pronounce an opinion, as well as to enforce or publish a decree. The latter meaning prevails in the Septuagint, Esther 3:9, etc.; 2Ma 10:8 ; 2Ma 15:36 . Some look on the verb as active. Thus Melancthon has decreta facitis; Ambrosiaster, decernitis; and Olshausen, “why do ye again set up worldly ordinances?” The majority of commentators take the word in a middle sense, though Beza, Wolf, and Meyer give it a passive significance. Buttmann, § 135, 8. But we cannot see how the use of the middle would imply a censure, any more than the employment of the passive. The middle brings out rather a pointed caution “why should ye permit the preaching of dogmas? or why should ye allow such dogmas to be imposed on you?” They could not suppress the teaching of the errorists, but they needed not to listen to it, and far less to yield to it. The strong form of the verb almost says, that the apostle suspected a latent tendency in their temperament to listen and be charmed. The apostle, in Ephesians 2:15, calls the Mosaic law, in one aspect of it, by the name δόγματα , and he here uses the cognate verb referring to the same institute. The argument is a cogent one. They were dead to such ordinances-why then should they act as if they lived under them? They did not belong to that κόσμος , of the character of which such ordinances partook. They belied their entire position, and reversed all their relations, if, after being freed by Christ, they again sunk themselves into bondage-if they allowed the handwriting to be reinscribed, and taking the nail out of it, laid it up among their solemn archives as an instrument of revived and extended authority. To submit to the ritual which they had believed to be obsolete, was in direct antagonism to all t hat Jesus had done for them, and to all which they had willingly acknowledged as His achievement on their behalf. Some of the δόγματα to which the apostle alludes are now given, and they are ascetic in nature. But ere we advance to them, we shall take up the clause which we believe to be joined closely with δογματίζεσθε , viz., the last clause of Colossians 2:22.
Κατὰ τὰ ἐντάλματα καὶ διδασκαλίας τῶν ἀνθρώπων . Matthew 15:9; Mark 7:7; Isaiah 29:13. Our reasons for adopting this view will be afterwards stated. This clause describes the source of such δόγματα , and virtually contains another reason why they should not be submitted to. The prime reason is, that believers are dead with Christ to them; but the subordinate reason is, that the edicts are wholly human in their origin. “Why should ye for a moment suffer them to be imposed upon you according to- κατά -or having no higher authority than, the commandments and doctrines of men?” The two nouns differ not, as Grotius supposes, that the former is enacted by law, and the latter enjoined by philosophers; but rather, as Olshausen says, the first is enactment-the second, the principles on which it is based. The first- ἐνταλ ., is the dogma in its preceptive and practical form, of which there is a specimen in the preceding part of the verse “touch not, taste not, handle not;” and the second- διδασκαλία , is the doctrine out of which it arises-the convictions and theories by which it is illustrated and defended. The same general idea has been stated under the eighth verse. Christ is Head, and to Him alone do we owe subjection. Whatever authority ordinances had when the Mosaic economy stood, they have none now-the institute being abolished in the death of Him who is the one Legislator. And all extra-biblical additions to it were human in their very origin.
(Colossians 2:21.) Μὴ ἅψῃ μηδὲ γεύσῃ μηδὲ θίγῃς “Touch not, taste not, handle not.” These curt dogmas are not the apostle's own teaching, but the mottoes, or prominent lessons, or watchwords of the false teachers. In all probability, the three terms refer to the same general object-abstinence from certain meats and drinks. It is therefore excessive refinement to distribute them according to certain distinctions, either with Flatt, Böhmer, Hammond, and Homberg, referring the first verb-or, with Grotius, the last verb-to marriage; or, with Estius, Zanchius, and Erasmus, giving the first verb an allusion to Levitical uncleanness, special or general. The two critics last named refer the last term to Levitical sacred things, but Michaelis and Storr refer it to impurities. Böhmer, with a strange caprice, finds a reference in θίγῃς to the holy oil which the Essenes specially regarded as labes. But though the words refer generally to diet, and are so used by the classics, there may be a distinction among them, as they seem to be repeated, along with the negative, for the sake of emphasis. The first and last verbs are somewhat similar, and both represent in the Septuagint the Hebrew- נָגַע , H5595. But the first term may here denote that handling which is necessary to eating-the touch which precedes taste; while the last, a sister-term, with tango and touch, may signify the slightest contact. In Hebrews 12:20, the contrast seems to be this-a beast was not only not to graze on Sinai, but not even for a moment to set a hoof upon it. Thus in Eurip. Bacchae, 617, where a similar contrast obtains “he did not come in contact, far less handle me-there was neither touch nor grasp.” The last verb is the most dogmatic-you are not to take certain meats into your hand, nor are you to taste them; nay, you are not even to touch them, though in the slightest degree-you are to keep from them hand, tongue, and even finger-tip. The apostle does not specify the objects to be abstained from, for they were so well known to his readers.
The connection and meaning of the next clause are matter of various opinion.
(Colossians 2:22.) ῞Α ἐστιν πάντα εἰς φθορὰν τῇ ἀποχρήσει . The idea of Macknight is altogether unsupported. He supposes the reference of the apostle to be to Pythagorean abstinence from animal food, and he connects this and the previous verse in the following way. Touch not, taste not, handle not whatever things tend to the destruction of life in the using. He takes the maxim of the false teachers condemned by the apostle to be this-abstain from everything the eating of which involves the taking away of life. The idea itself is foreign to the argument, nor can it be supported by the apostle's diction.
The question turns upon the meaning assigned to φθορά , and the supposed antecedent to the relative.
I. A large party take φθορά in a spiritual sense, and suppose the relative to refer to the precepts contained in the preceding verse, as if the warning were-all which maxims tend by their observance to spiritual ruin-lead to the eternal destruction of such as are influenced by them. Some of those who hold this view, give ἀπόχρησις the sense of abuse, as if the apostle wished to say-the law did make distinctions of meats and drinks, but the unwarranted abuse of such a distinction is a fatal course. Others, again, connect the last clause of the verse with the first-all which precepts tend to your own ruin, by your observance of them, for they are an observance based upon the doctrines and commandments of men. Such, generally, are the views of Ambrosiaster and Augustine, a-Lapide, Heumann, Suicer, and Junker.
II. Others suppose the antecedent to be not the maxims, but the things forbidden in them, and among such critics there are two classes.
1. Some suppose the apostle to be still further showing the opinion of the false teachers. According to them, the meaning is, either, all which meats and drinks lead to ruin in the use of them, according to the commandments and teachings of those men; or, all these meats and drinks to be abstained from, tend to destruction by the use of them, if you are to be judged by their opinions and doctrines. The verse, then, would contain this idea-the false teachers forbade the touching and tasting of certain things, because, in their opinion, the use of them brought certain pernicious results. This opinion is concurred in by Kypke, Storr, De Wette, Böhmer, and Baumgarten-Crusius. There is nothing in the words themselves to contradict it; it may be grammatically defended, and the noun φθορά may bear the meaning of spiritual hurt, as in Galatians 6:8. But it does not appear to us to be in so complete harmony with the context as is the following exegesis.
2. The opinion which we prefer is that which gives the same antecedent to the relative, but understands the clause to be an exposure of the absurdity of such asceticism “all which things are meant for destruction through the use of them.” The meats and drinks about which the errorist exclaimed “touch not, taste not, handle not,” are meant to be consumed by use. They perish or cease to exist, because they are eaten and drunk for the support of life. They are intended for this destiny- ἐστίν εἰς -exist for it; God created them to be consumed, and they meet this destiny by being used to the full- ἀπο -used to the complete satisfaction of appetite. The verb ἐστίν is more than a copula. It means-exists-which things exist. The noun φθορά is often used in a physical sense-in the Seventy, Exodus 18:18; Isaiah 24:3; Jonah 2:7; and in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 15:42; 1Co 15:50 ; 2 Peter 2:12; Josephus, Antiq. 7.13, 3. The term ἀπόχρησις is not abuse in the English sense of the word-but, “full use.” The Latin abutor has this meaning also-to use up; as often in Cicero, and also in Terence and Suetonius. It is this using up or consuming of a thing by use contained in the ἀπο and ab, that gave the term in Latin, Greek, and English, the secondary signification of misuse.
The apostle thus states two objections to the Colossian asceticism. First. It contradicts the design of Providence, which created such meats and drinks for man's use and satisfaction. The apostle, as we have said, uses ἀπόχρησις , which does not signify abuse, but full use. The maxims of the false teachers are “touch not, taste not, handle not;” but the things from which he sternly enjoins this abstinence are, in their own nature, utterly harmless, and not only is the use of them unaccompanied with spiritual damage, but that use is enjoined by Him whose providence has so liberally furnished them for the stay and support of life. The meats and drinks so frowned upon have been created for the very purpose of being consumed, and having served their purpose in this consumption they perish. A religion of asceticism is therefore a libel upon Providence-a surly and superstitious refusal of the Divine benignity. It believes that the eating and drinking of some gifts of Divine goodness is fraught with unspeakable danger, and therefore it makes its selections among them in its “show of wisdom.” Strange conviction, that what is physically nutritious may be spiritually poisonous; and that what gives strength to the body may send “leanness to the soul”! No wonder that such a self-righteous and ungrateful practice led by a swift path to a dark and Manichaean theology.
And, secondly, things which are meant to perish in being used up, can have little connection with genuine piety; it does not, and cannot depend on abstinence from them. Our Lord Himself said “not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man;” and the apostle declares “every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused;” and he speaks of meats “which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving.” 1 Corinthians 6:13. It degrades Christianity to make it a system of physical or ascetic distinctions. Spirituality is not based on such external and ceremonial forms. The error, as Olshausen says, “was in looking for holiness in the outward rather than the inward.” Such an error has been, alas! too common in the church, and is the result of superstitious indolence and vanity. Men seek to be acted on from without, and to be sanctified as if by the secret and unconscious charm of an amulet; misunderstanding, forgetting, or shunning the mighty work or change which should be going on within. That change is from the centre to the outer life, not from the outer life to the seat of motive and thought. What the lips receive or refuse from “cup and platter,” has neither propitiatory merit nor demerit, nor can it exercise a hidden power over heart and mind. The palate may be ungratified and yet the conscience be defiled; the anchorite, while he starves himself, may roll many a vice, as a sweet morsel, under his tongue; for self-denial in corporeal appetite usually takes ample revenge or compensation in spiritual indulgence and pride. And thus it has been often found, that men attach a higher sanctity to abstinence from certain kinds of food and physical refreshment, than to abstinence from sin; and would rather violate a Divine statute, than break a self-inflicted fast.
What mean they? Canst thou dream there is a power
In lighter diet at a later hour
To charm to sleep the threatenings of the skies,
And hide past folly from all-seeing eyes?
Several things concur in justifying the view we have taken, which is that of the Greek Fathers, of Luther, Calvin, and Beza, of Grotius, Meyer, Steiger, and Bähr. The apostle is speaking of physical things, as eating and drinking, and it is natural to understand φθορά and ἀπόχρησις in their physical sense, and in connection with those elements of forbidden sustenance. Again, the writer places no substantive after the three verbs, and the ellipse imparts a certain emphasis. The objects to be abstained from were yet present to his mind, and it was natural for him to allude to them, and to show that they were designed for use, nay, were of so little permanence and value that they perished in this use. The mimetic clause “touch not,” etc., is inserted, or rather rapidly interjected, as the apostle passes on. It will therefore be best read in a parenthesis. The swiftness of the apostle's thoughts interferes so far with the order of them. He first shows the inconsistency of yielding to ordinances after they had become dead to them; and he meant to point out the source of such ordinances, but the mention of them suggests the pointed quotation of some of them, and then he cannot refrain, in a brief underthought, from exposing their absurdity, ere he formally carries out his purpose of showing their origin and inutility. Lastly, the Greek Fathers understand the phrase in this way. They do not mince the matter, but give φθορά its coarsest meaning. Chrysostom, followed by Theodoret, says- εἰς κόπρον γὰρ ἅπαντα μεταβάλλεται . OEcumenius uses this language- ὑπόκειται ἐν τῷ ἀφεδρῶνι ; while Theophylact is yet more explicit- φθειρόμενα γὰρ ἐν τῇ γαστρὶ διὰ τοῦ ἀφεδρῶνος ὑποῤῥεῖ .
(Colossians 2:23.) ῞Ατινά ἐστιν λόγον μὲν ἔχοντα σοφίας “Which things indeed having a show of wisdom.” The antecedent to ἅτινα is the preceding clause “doctrines and commandments of men.” Kühner, § 431, 2. The peculiar form ἅτινα represents this idea-all which things, that is, the entire class of them. Kühner, § 781, 4, 5. We do not connect ἐστίν with the participle ἔχοντα , as some do; but specially with the concluding clause of the verse. Λόγος signifies sometimes report or rumour-then mere rumour-then mere talk or pretext-words and only words- λόγον οὐ πράγματα . It is thus opposed to ἀλήθεια . Diodorus Siculus, 13, 4; Polybius, 17 (18), 14, 5. The word thus means a certain kind of semblance, which in Scotch is called a sough -sound without reality. These precepts and commandments had the air, aspect, nomenclature, and pretensions of wisdom. The particle μέν might imply the contrast, the apodosis not being formally expressed. Kühner, § 734, 2; Winer, § 63, I.2, e. This last critic says-the parallel member of the sentence is included in the one with μέν . Thus, Hebrews 6:16,-men, indeed- μέν -swear by the greater, and the implied contrast is, but God can only swear by Himself. These teachings have a show of wisdom, μέν -but none in reality. Or, Romans 3:2, “What advantage, then, hath the Jew?-much every way”- πρῶτον μέν “chiefly indeed,” but not wholly, “because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” Thus Acts 19:4. ᾿Ιωάννης μὲν ἐβάπτισεν “John indeed baptized” the baptism of repentance; the implied contrast being-but not so Jesus. So, in the clause before us, the same construction has been found by some,&- -;there is the semblance, indeed, of wisdom, but not the reality. We are inclined, however, to regard the apodosis as existing in οὐκ ἐν τιμῇ τινι ; but δέ is not expressed, because the construction is changed into the dative, following up the case of the preceding nouns, and because the word οὐκ , to which δέ would be attached, has in it a palpable adversative power. It was worse than hypercriticism on the part of Jerome to say, that the particle was omitted- propter imperitiam artis grammaticae. The apostle particularizes and adds, this verbiage of wisdom consists “in will-worship”-
᾿Εν ἐθελοθρησκείᾳ . This is worship not enjoyed by God, but springing out of man's own ingenuity-unauthorized devotion, θρησκεία being religious service-the outer manifestation of inner feeling. Thus, ἐθελόδουλος is one who is wilfully a slave; ἐθελοκίνδυνος is one who is wilfully in danger. The worship referred to is unsolicited and unaccepted. It is superstition, and probably is the homage paid to angels. Such worship had the feint of wisdom, as it professed to base itself on invisible arcana; and to ask and receive blessings and protection from creatures, whose agency comes not within the range of observation, but who were supposed to be the patrons and defenders of those who could name them in erring and extravagant devotion.
Καὶ ταπεινοφροσύνῃ “And humility.” This has been already explained under the 18th verse. The humility referred to is plainly of that spurious kind, that, in its excess and affectation, could not look up to God, but deemed it wondrous wisdom to invoke angels on its behalf.
Καὶ ἀφειδίᾳ σώματος . The term ἀφειδία is unsparingness, and here unsparingness in the form of severity, or that austere asceticism which the apostle has already reprimanded. In this sense it often occurs among the classical writers. The body is not only kept under, that is, kept in its proper and subordinate position, but it is hated, lacerated, and tormented into debility. The appetites are looked upon as sinful, and are checked-not supplied in healthful moderation. Every species of support is grudged “to back and belly too.” The physical constitution is thus enervated and sickened. Yet its sinful tendencies are only beaten down, not eradicated. Job made a covenant with his eyes, but those fanatics would dim theirs by fasting. The whole process was a cardinal mistake, for it was a system of externals, both in ceremonial and ethics. The body might be reduced, but the evil bias might remain unchecked. A man might whip and fast himself into a walking skeleton, and yet the spirit within him might have all its lusts unconquered, for all it had lost was only the ability to gratify them. To place a fetter on a robber's hand will not cure him of covetousness, though it may disqualify him from actual theft. To seal up a swearer's mouth will not pluck profanity out of his heart, though it may for the time prevent him from taking God's name in vain. To lacerate the flesh almost to suicide, merely incapacitates it for indulgence, but does not extirpate sinful desire. Its air of superior sanctity is only pride in disguise-it has but “a show of wisdom,” and is not-
Οὐκ ἐν τιμῇ τινὶ , πρὸς πλησμονὴν τῆς σαρκός . There is difficulty in arriving at a correct interpretation of these clauses, and one reason is, that we have first to solve whether they should be joined or disconnected. It is quite plain that the apostle intends a contrast, and the preposition ἐν is repeated.
1. Very many interpreters supply σώματος to τιμῇ . The Greek interpreters held this view, followed by Pelagius, Calvin, Luther, and other reformers; by Estius, and a-Lapide in the Popish Church; by Daillé, Davenant, and Macknight; and in later times by the lately deceased critics, De Wette and Baumgarten-Crusius. The meaning, then, is “which things have a show of wisdom in will-worship, humility, and neglecting of the body, not in any honour shown to the body in reference to such things as satisfy corporeal appetite.” This is a favourite interpretation, but we cannot receive it. For, as Meyer remarks, it gives σάρξ the meaning of σῶμα , which had just been previously used-a meaning which it cannot bear. Then, too, this exegesis supplies σώματος without any reason, and it restricts the contrast introduced by οὐκ to only one member of the sentence. That contrast seems to refer to all the manifestations of this specious wisdom, and not simply to one of them. Besides, this interpretation gives a very feeble ending to the verse; austerity towards the body, is weakly characterized as not giving honour to the body in things which satisfy its physical appetites, as if the Colossians needed such a definition. And lastly, this πλησμονή is something more than the gratification of corporeal desire, for in the Pauline vocabulary, σῶμα is only a portion of σάρξ .
2. Another view, which holds the same connection, is that which gives τιμή the sense of value, and brings out this exegesis-which are not of any value, inasmuch as they are concerned with things which serve only to the gratification of the flesh. These are useless prohibitions, and have but a show of wisdom, for they are concerned with matters which minister only to appetite- quum ad ea spectent quibus farcitur caro. The participle ὄντα is thus supposed to stand before πρός . This is the idea of Beza and Crocius, and that of Heinrichs is only a worse modification of it. It restricts the meaning of σάρξ , and needs considerable eking out in its construction.
3. Others take the word σάρξ in its full sense, and suppose the apostle to mean that all prohibitions which bear especially against the body are of little worth, for they minister all the while to the pride of corrupted humanity. The last clause is thus nearly equivalent to an earlier one “vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” With some varieties, this is the exegesis of Hilary, Bengel, Storr, Flatt, Böhmer, Steiger, Bähr, and Huther. Meyer, in taking the same view, places σαρκός in contrast with σώματος , and πλησμονή with ἀφειδία . He also lays the principal stress of the contrast on the words οὐκ ἐν τιμῇ τινὶ , as if they stood in antagonism to the λόγον σοφίας . That wisdom is all a pretence-it has no honour in reality or basis. Still, with this otherwise good interpretation, the connection of the last clause appears to be hard, for πρός must signify um dadurch, or “all of them tend to.” A modification of this view is adopted by Conybeare, who gives the clause a pregnant sense “not of any value to check the indulgence of the flesh.” His reviewer in the North British Review applauds the exegesis. We do not accept the sense of fleshly passion for σάρξ , and we cannot believe πρός to be so utterly indifferent in its meaning. In the proposed exegesis, πρός must signify “against.” It sometimes is so translated, still the idea of hostility is found, not in the particle, but in its adjuncts, as μάχεσθαι , βάλλειν , or as in the New Testament, Acts 6:1, where the idea of antagonism is found in γογγυσμός , Acts 24:19, where the clause is preceded by κατηγορεῖν , and in Ephesians 6:11, where there is the idea of combat. In all such cases the idea of hostility is implied in the clause, and the preposition only expresses the reference-but there is no such idea implied in the verse before us. The same principle explains the array of classical instances adduced by Peile
4. While we take this general view, we are inclined to regard the verse, from λόγον to τινί , as participial; and with Bähr, closely to connect ἐστίν with πρός . “Which things having, indeed, a show of wisdom in superstition, humility, and corporeal austerity, not in any thing of value, are for, or minister to the gratification of the flesh.” Πρός after εἰμί denotes result. John 11:4. There needs, with this view, the insertion of no explanatory terms, or connecting ideas taken for granted. The verb stands at a distance from the preposition, but is not on that account the less emphatic. The apostle means to condemn those precepts and teachings, and he is about to pronounce the sentence; but to make it the more emphatic he briefly enumerates what they chiefly consist of, and then his censure is, that they produce an effect directly the opposite to their professed design. Their avowed purpose is to lower and abase humanity, and he gives them epithets all showing this object; while he adds with sternness and force, that their only result is to rouse up and inflate unregenerate humanity. That πλησμονή can bear this tropical meaning there is no doubt, as in Habakkuk 2:16, where the word occurs with ἀτιμίας ; Sir 1:16 , where it is used with σοφίας ; and Isaiah 65:15, where it stands absolutely, but with a spiritual sense. The phrase οὐκ ἐν τιμῇ τινί , then brings out this contrast-those doctrines have in sooth a show of wisdom, in their will-worship, humility, and corporeal austerity, but they have really nothing of value.
The paragraph therefore reprobates superstitious asceticism. The religious history of the world shows what fascination there is to many minds in voluntary suffering. Such asceticism threw its eclipse over the bright and lovely spirit of Pascal. The oriental temperament feels powerfully the fatal charm. As if the Divine Being might fail to subject them to a sufficient amount of discipline, men assume the labour of disciplining themselves, but choose a mode very unlike that which God usually employs.
The Brahmin kindles on his own bare head
The sacred fires, self-torturing his trade.
Which is the saintlier worthy of the two?
Past all dispute yon anchorite, say you.
Your sentence and mine differ. What's a name?
I say the Brahmin has the fairer claim,
If sufferings Scripture nowhere recommends,
Devised by self to answer selfish ends,
Give saintship, then, all Europe must agree
Ten starveling hermits suffer less than he.
Such delusions are not confined to religious follies, for their origin lies deep in human nature. Men glory in being what their fellows dare not aspire to, and there is no little self-aggrandizement in this self-annihilation. When Diogenes lifted his foot on Plato's velvet cushion and shouted, “Thus I trample on Plato's pride,” the Athenian sage justly replied, “But with still greater pride.” The apostle utters a similar sentiment; the carnal nature is all the while gratified, even though the body, wan and wasted, is reduced to the point of bare existence. There is more pride in cells and cloisters than in courts and palaces, and oftentimes as gross sensuality. The devotee deifies himself, is more to himself than the object of his homage. The whole of these fanatical processes, so far from accomplishing their ostensible object, really produce the reverse; such will-worship is an impious invention; such humility is pride in its most sullen and offensive form; and these corporeal macerations, so far from subduing and sanctifying, only gratify to satiety the coarse and selfish passions; nay, as history has shown, tend to nurse licentiousness in one age, and a ferocious fanaticism in another. The entire phenomenon, whatever its special aspect, is a huge self-deception, and a reversal of that moral order which God has established.
In the course of expounding this chapter, we have found several illustrations in post-apostolic times. We now present another, which shows how the practices described in this section were viewed in themselves, and condemned at a very early period. The unknown author of that very precious document, the letter to Diognetus, and now rightly included by Hefele among the remains of the apostolical Fathers, speaks in a style worthy of an apostle. He says of the Jews, “But indeed I think that you have no need to learn from me their ridiculous and senseless alarms about their food, their superstition about the Sabbath, their boasting of circumcision, and their pretexts of fasting, and the observance of new moons. How is it right to receive some of the things which God has created for the use of man as fitly created, and to reject others of them as useless and superfluous? How can it be else than impious to libel God, as if He had forbidden any good action to be done on the Sabbath day? How worthy of ridicule their exultation about the curtailment of the flesh as a witness of their election, as though on this account they were the peculiar objects of God's complacency! Who will regard as a sign of piety, and will not much more regard as a mark of folly, their scrupulous study of the stars, and their watching of the moon, in order to procure the observance of months and days, and to arrange the Divine dispensations and changes of the seasons-some into feasts and others into fasts, according to their inclination? I imagine that you are sufficiently informed, that the Christians rightly abstain from the prevailing emptiness of worship and delusion, and from the fussiness and vainglory of the Jews.”
Our readers will pardon us for inserting in a note a modern instance of this pride of sanctity covered with a robe of revolting humility. Last year (1854), a new saint was added to the Popish calendar, by name Benedetto Giuseppe Labre, who had made his residence in the Coliseo for many years, and was noted by travellers for his craziness and filth. At the usual mock trial which takes place at a canonization, the pleading of the so-called Devil's advocate against him was rebutted by the so-called God's advocate in the following terms, literally translated from the paper: “He was a model of humility, abstinence, and mortification, taking only for food remains of cabbage, lemon peel, or lettuce leaves, which he picked up in the streets. He even ate, once, some spoiled soup which he found on a dunghill, where it had been thrown. All these facts are fully proved by the juridical documents laid before the tribunal.” . . . . Having spoken at length of the wooden cup, all broken and rotten, in which he received his soup at the door of the houses, “eternal monument of his voluntary privations,” the advocate proceeds: “What more shall I say? A glance cast upon him was sufficient to discover in him a perfect model of poverty. His hair and beard were neglected, his face pale, his garments ragged, his body livid; a rosary hung from his neck; he wore no stockings; his shirt was dirty and disgusting; and to give of him a full idea, let us add, that he was so completely covered with vermin ( pidocchi), that in the churches many persons kept away from him for fear of catching them!”
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Eadie, John. "Commentary on Colossians 2". John Eadie's Commentary on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28