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by Robert Jamieson; A. R. Fausset; David Brown
The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Colossians
Commentary by A. R. Faussett
The Genuineness of this Epistle is attested by Justin Martyr [Dialogue with Trypho, p. 311, B.], who quotes “the first-born of every creature,” in reference to Christ, from Colossians 1:15. Theophilus of Antioch [To Autolychus, 2, p. 100]. Irenaeus [Against Heresies, 3.14.1], quotes expressly from this “Epistle to the Colossians” (Colossians 4:14). Clement of Alexandria [Miscellanies, 1. p. 325], quotes Colossians 1:28; also elsewhere he quotes Colossians 1:9-11, Colossians 1:28; Colossians 2:2, etc.; Colossians 2:8; Colossians 3:12, Colossians 3:14; Colossians 4:2, Colossians 4:3, etc. Tertullian [The Prescription against Heretics, 7], quotes Colossians 2:8; [On the Resurrection of the Flesh, 23], and quotes Colossians 2:12, Colossians 2:20; Colossians 3:1, Colossians 3:2. Origen [Against Celsus, 5.8], quotes Colossians 2:18, Colossians 2:19.
Colosse (or, as it is spelt in the best manuscripts, “Colassae”) was a city of Phrygia, on the river Lycus, a branch of the Meander. The Church there was mainly composed of Gentiles (compare Colossians 2:13). Alford infers from Colossians 2:1 (see on Colossians 2:1), that Paul had not seen its members, and therefore could not have been its founder, as Theodoret thought. Colossians 1:7, Colossians 1:8 suggests the probability that Epaphras was the first founder of the Church there. The date of its foundation must have been subsequent to Paul‘s visitation, “strengthening in order” all the churches of Galatia and Phrygia (Acts 18:24); for otherwise we must have visited the Colossians, which Colossians 2:1 implies he had not. Had Paul been their father in the faith, he would doubtless have alluded to the fact, as in 1 Corinthians 3:6, 1 Corinthians 3:10; 1 Corinthians 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:1. It is only in the Epistles, Romans and Ephesians, and this Epistle, such allusions are wanting; in that to the Romans, because, as in this Church of Colosse, he had not been the instrument of their conversion; in that to the Ephesians, owing to the general nature of the Epistle. Probably during the “two years” of Paul‘s stay at Ephesus, when “all which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:10, Acts 19:26), Epaphras, Philemon, Archippus, Apphia and the other natives of Colosse, becoming converted at Ephesus, were subsequently the first sowers of the Gospel seed in their own city. This will account for their personal acquaintance with, and attachment to, Paul and his fellow ministers, and for his loving language as to them, and their counter salutations to him. So also with respect to “them at Laodicea,” (Colossians 2:1).
The Object of the Epistle is to counteract Jewish false teaching, by setting before the Colossians their true standing in Christ alone (exclusive of all other heavenly beings), the majesty of His person, and the completeness of the redemption wrought by Him; hence they ought to be conformed to their risen Lord, and to exhibit that conformity in all the relations of ordinary life Colossians 2:16, “new moon, sabbath days,” shows that the false teaching opposed in this Epistle is that of Judaizing Christians. These mixed up with pure Christianity Oriental theosophy and angel-worship, and the asceticism of certain sections of the Jews, especially the Essenes. Compare Josephus [Wars of the Jews, 2.8, 13]. These theosophists promised to their followers a deeper insight into the world of spirits, and a nearer approach to heavenly purity and intelligence, than the simple Gospel affords. Conybeare and Howson think that some Alexandrian Jew had appeared at Colosse, imbued with the Greek philosophy of Philo‘s school, combining with it the Rabbinical theosophy and angelology which afterwards was embodied in the Cabbala. Compare Josephus [Antiquities, 12.3, 4], from which we know that Alexander the Great had garrisoned the towns of Lydia and Phrygia with two thousand Mesopotamian and Babylonian Jews in the time of a threatened revolt. The Phrygians themselves had a mystic tendency in their worship of Cybele, which inclined them to receive the more readily the incipient Gnosticism of Judaizers, which afterward developed itself into the strangest heresies. In the Pastoral Epistles, the evil is spoken of as having reached a more deadly phase (1 Timothy 4:1-3; 1 Timothy 6:5), whereas he brings no charge of immorality in this Epistle: a proof of its being much earlier in date.
The Place from which it was written seems to have been Rome, during his first imprisonment there (Acts 28:17-31). In see my Introduction to the Epistle to the Ephesians, it was shown that the three Epistles, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, were sent at the same time, namely, during the freer portion of his imprisonment, before the death of Burrus. Colossians 4:3, Colossians 4:4; Ephesians 6:19, Ephesians 6:20, imply greater freedom than he had while writing to the Philippians, after the promotion of Tigellinus to be Praetorian Prefect. See on Introduction to Philippians.
This Epistle, though carried by the same bearer, Tychicus, who bore that to the Ephesians, was written previously to that Epistle; for many phrases similar in both appear in the more expanded form in the Epistle to the Ephesians (compare also Note, see on Ephesians 6:21). The Epistle to the Laodiceans (Colossians 4:16) was written before that to the Colossians, but probably was sent by him to Laodicea at the same time with that to the Church at Colosse.
The Style is peculiar: many Greek phrases occur here, found nowhere else. Compare Colossians 2:8, “spoil you”; “making a show of them openly” (Colossians 2:15); “beguile of your reward,” and “intruding” (Colossians 2:18); “will-worship”; “satisfying” (Colossians 2:23); “filthy communication” (Colossians 3:8); “rule” (Colossians 3:15); “comfort” (Colossians 4:11). The loftiness and artificial elaboration of style correspond to the majestic nature of his theme, the majesty of Christ‘s person and office, in contrast to the beggarly system of the Judaizers, the discussion of which was forced on him by the controversy. Hence arises his use of unusual phraseology. On the other hand, in the Epistle of the Ephesians, subsequently written, in which he was not so hampered by the exigencies of controversy, he dilates on the same glorious truths, so congenial to him, more at large, freely and uncontroversially, in the fuller outpouring of his spirit, with less of the elaborate and antithetical language of system, such as was needed in cautioning the Colossians against the particular errors threatening them. Hence arises the striking similarity of many of the phrases in the two Epistles written about the same time, and generally in the same vein of spiritual thought; while the peculiar phrases of the Epistle to the Colossians are such as are natural, considering the controversial purpose of that Epistle.
the Sixth Week after Easter