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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Colossians 2

Verse 1

How greatly I strive (ηλικον αγωνα εχωhēlikon agōna echō). Literally, “how great a contest I am having.” The old adjectival relative ηλικοςhēlikos (like Latin quantus) is used for age or size in N.T. only here and James 3:5 (twice, how great, how small). It is an inward contest of anxiety like the μεριμναmerimna for all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:28). ΑγωναAgōna carries on the metaphor of αγωνιζομενοςagōnizomenos in Colossians 1:29.

For them at Laodicea (των εν Λαοδικιαιtōn en Laodikiāi).

Supply υπερhuper as with υπερ υμωνhuper humōn Paul‘s concern extended beyond Colossae to Laodicea (Colossians 4:16) and to Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13), the three great cities in the Lycus Valley where Gnosticism was beginning to do harm. Laodicea is the church described as lukewarm in Revelation 3:14.

For as many as have not seen my face (οσοι ουχ εορακαν το προσωπον μουhosoi ouch heorakan to prosōpon mou). The phrase undoubtedly includes Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13), and a few late MSS. actually insert it here. Lightfoot suggests that Hierapolis had not yet been harmed by the Gnostics as much as Colossae and Laodicea. Perhaps so, but the language includes all in that whole region who have not seen Paul‘s face in the flesh (that is, in person, and not in picture). How precious a real picture of Paul would be to us today. The antecedent to οσοιhosoi is not expressed and it would be τουτωνtoutōn after υπερhuper The form εορακανheorakan (perfect active indicative of οραωhoraō instead of the usual εωρακασινheōrakasin has two peculiarities οo in Paul‘s Epistles (1 Corinthians 9:1) instead of ω (see note on John 1:18 for εωρακενheōraken) and αν̇an by analogy in place of ασιν̇asin which short form is common in the papyri. See note on Luke 9:36 εωρακανheōrakan f0).

Verse 2

May be comforted (παρακλητωσινparaklēthōsin). First aorist passive subjunctive of παρακαλεωparakaleō (for which see note on 2 Corinthians 1:3-7) in final clause with ιναhina

Being knit together (συνβιβαστεντεςsunbibasthentes). First aorist passive participle of συνβιβαζωsunbibazō old verb, causal of βαινωbainō to make go together, to coalesce in argument (Acts 16:10), in spiritual growth (Colossians 2:19), in love as here. Love is the συνδεσμοςsundesmos (Colossians 3:14) that binds all together.

Unto all riches (εις παν πλουτοςeis pan ploutos). Probably some distinction intended between ενen (in love as the sphere) and ειςeis (unto as the goal).

Of the full assurance of understanding (της πληροποριας της συνεσεωςtēs plērophorias tēs suneseōs). On πληροποριαplērophoria see note on 1 Thessalonians 1:5. From πληροπορεωplērophoreō (see note on Luke 1:1) and only in N.T. (1 Thessalonians 1:5; Colossians 2:2; Hebrews 6:11; Hebrews 10:22), Clement of Rome (Cor. 42) and one papyrus example. Paul desires the full use of the intellect in grasping the great mystery of Christ and it calls for the full and balanced exercise of all one‘s mental powers.

That they may know (εις επιγνωσινeis epignōsin). “Unto full knowledge.” This use of επιγνωσιςepignōsis (full, additional knowledge) is Paul‘s reply to the Gnostics with the limited and perverted γνωσιςgnōsis (knowledge).

The mystery of God, even Christ (του μυστηριου του τεου Χριστουtou mustēriou tou theouεπιγνωσινChristou). The MSS. differ widely here, but this is Westcott and Hort‘s reading. Genitive (objective) with Χριστουepignōsin and Christou in apposition. Christ is “the mystery of God,” but no longer hidden, but manifested (Colossians 1:26) and meant for us to know to the fulness of our capacity.

Verse 3

In whom (εν ωιen hōi). This locative form can refer to μυστηριουmustēriou or to ΧριστουChristou It really makes no difference in sense since Christ is the mystery of God.

All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (παντες οι τησαυροι της σοπιας και γνωσεωςpantes hoi thēsauroi tēs sophias kai gnōseōs). See note on Matthew 2:11 and note on Matthew 6:19 for this old word, our thesaurus, for coffer, storehouse, treasure. Paul confronts these pretentious intellectuals (Gnostics) with the bold claim that Christ sums up all wisdom and knowledge. These treasures are hidden (αποκρυποιapokruphoi old adjective from αποκρυπτωapokruptō to hide away, Mark 4:22) whether the Gnostics have discovered them or not. They are there (in Christ) as every believer knows by fresh and repeated discovery.

Verse 4

This I say (τουτο λεγωtouto legō). Paul explains why he has made this great claim for Christ at this point in his discussion.

May delude (παραλογιζηταιparalogizētai). Present middle subjunctive of παραλογιζομαιparalogizomai old verb, only here in N.T., from παραpara and λογιζομαιlogizomai to count aside and so wrong, to cheat by false reckoning, to deceive by false reasoning (Epictetus).

With persuasiveness of speech (εν πιτανολογιαιen pithanologiāi). Rare word (Plato) from πιτανοςpithanos and λογοςlogos speech, adapted to persuade, then speciously leading astray. Only here in N.T. One papyrus example. The art of persuasion is the height of oratory, but it easily degenerates into trickery and momentary and flashy deceit such as Paul disclaimed in 1 Corinthians 2:4 (ουκ εν πιτοις σοπιας λογοιςouk en pithois sophias logois) where he uses the very adjective πιτοςpithos (persuasive) of which πιτανοςpithanos (both from πειτωpeithō) is another form. It is curious how winning champions of error, like the Gnostics and modern faddists, can be with plausibility that catches the gullible.

Verse 5

Though (ει καιei kai). Not και ειkai ei (even if).

Yet (αλλαalla). Common use of αλλαalla in the apodosis (conclusion) of a conditional or concessive sentence.

Your order (την ταχινtēn taxin). The military line (from τασσωtassō), unbroken, intact. A few stragglers had gone over to the Gnostics, but there had been no panic, no breach in the line.

Steadfastness (στερεωμαstereōma). From στερεοωstereoō (from στερεοςstereos) to make steady, and probably the same military metaphor as in ταχινtaxin just before. The solid part of the line which can and does stand the attack of the Gnostics. See note on Acts 16:5 where the verb στερεοωstereoō is used with πιστιςpistis and 1 Peter 5:9 where the adjective στερεοςstereos is so used. In 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 2 Thessalonians 3:8, 2 Thessalonians 3:11 Paul speaks of his own ταχιςtaxis (orderly conduct).

Verse 6

As therefore ye received (ως ουν παρελαβετεhōs oun parelabete). Second aorist active indicative of παραλαμβανωparalambanō in same sense as in 1 Thessalonians 4:1; Philippians 4:9 (both μαντανωmanthanō and παραλαμβανωparalambanō) that is like μαντανωmanthanō to learn (Colossians 1:7), from Epaphras and others.

Christ Jesus the Lord (τον Χριστον Ιησουν τον Κυριονton Christon Iēsoun ton Kurion). This peculiar phrase occurs nowhere else by Paul. We have often ο Χριστοςho Christos (the Christ or Messiah) as in Philippians 1:15, Ιησους ΧριστοςIēsous Christos (Jesus Christ), Χριστος ΙησουςChristos Iēsous (Christ Jesus), ο Κυριος Ιησουςho Kurios Iēsous (the Lord Jesus, very often), but nowhere else ο Χριστος Ιησουςho Christos Iēsous and Ιησους ο ΚυριοςIēsous ho Kurios Hence it is plain that Paul here meets the two forms of Gnostic heresy about the Person of Christ (the recognition of the historical Jesus in his actual humanity against the Docetic Gnostics, the identity of the Christ or Messiah with this historical Jesus against the Cerinthian Gnostics, and the acknowledgment of him as Lord). “As therefore ye received the Christ (the Messiah), Jesus the Lord.” Ye were taught right.

Walk in him (εν αυτωι περιπατειτεen autōi peripateite). “Go on walking in him” (present active indicative of περιπατεωperipateō). Stick to your first lessons in Christ.

Verse 7

Rooted (ερριζωμενοιerrizōmenoi). Perfect passive participle of old verb ριζοωrizoō from ριζαriza root. In N.T. only here and Ephesians 3:17. Paul changes the figure from walk to growing tree.

Builded up in him (εποικοδομουμενοι εν αυτωιepoikodomoumenoi en autōi). Present passive participle (rooted to stay so) of εποικοδομεωepoikodomeō old verb, to build upon as in 1 Corinthians 3:10, 1 Corinthians 3:12. The metaphor is changed again to a building as continually going up (present tense).

Stablished (βεβαιουμενοιbebaioumenoi). Present passive participle of βεβαιοωbebaioō old verb from βεβαιοςbebaios (from βαινω βαιωbainōτηι πιστειbaiō), to make firm or stable.

In your faith (κατως εδιδαχτητεtēi pistei). Locative case, though the instrumental case, by your faith, makes good sense also.

Even as ye were taught (διδασκωkathōs edidachthēte). First aorist passive indicative of παρελαβετεdidaskō an allusion to εματετεparelabete in Colossians 2:6 and to εν ευχαριστιαιemathete in Colossians 1:7.

In thanksgiving (en eucharistiāi). Hence they had no occasion to yield to the blandishments of the Gnostic teachers.

Verse 8

Take heed (βλεπετεblepete). Present active imperative second person plural of βλεπωblepō common verb for warning like our “look out,” “beware,” “see to it.”

Lest there shall be any one (μη τις εσταιmē tis estai). Negative purpose with the future indicative, though the aorist subjunctive also occurs as in 2 Corinthians 12:6.

That maketh spoil of you (ο συλαγωγωνho sulagōgōn). Articular present active participle of συλαγωγεωsulagōgeō late and rare (found here first) verb (from συληsulē booty, and αγωagō to lead, to carry), to carry off as booty a captive, slave, maiden. Only here in N.T. Note the singular here. There was some one outstanding leader who was doing most of the damage in leading the people astray.

Through his philosophy (δια της πιλοσοπιαςdia tēs philosophias). The only use of the word in the N.T. and employed by Paul because the Gnostics were fond of it. Old word from πιλοσοποςphilosophos (πιλοσ σοποςphilosπσευδωνυμος γνωσιςsophos one devoted to the pursuit of wisdom) and in N.T. only in Acts 17:18. Paul does not condemn knowledge and wisdom (see Colossians 2:2), but only this false philosophy, “knowledge falsely named” (και κενης απατηςpseudōnumos gnōsis 1 Timothy 6:20), and explained here by the next words.

And vain deceit (παραδοσινkai kenēs apatēs). Old word for trick, guile, like riches (Matthew 13:22). Descriptive of the philosophy of the Gnostics.

Tradition (παραδιδωμιparadosin). Old word from στοιχειαparadidōmi a giving over, a passing on. The word is colourless in itself. The tradition may be good (2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:6) or bad (Mark 7:3). Here it is worthless and harmful, merely the foolish theories of the Gnostics.

Rudiments (στοιχοςstoicheia). Old word for anything in a και ου κατα Χριστονstoichos (row, series) like the letters of the alphabet, the materials of the universe (2 Peter 3:10, 2 Peter 3:12), elementary teaching (Hebrews 5:12), elements of Jewish ceremonial training (Acts 15:10; Galatians 4:3, Galatians 4:9), the specious arguments of the Gnostic philosophers as here with all their aeons and rules of life.

And not after Christ (kai ou kata Christon). Christ is the yardstick by which to measure philosophy and all phases of human knowledge. The Gnostics were measuring Christ by their philosophy as many men are doing today. They have it backwards. Christ is the measure for all human knowledge since he is the Creator and the Sustainer of the universe.

Verse 9

For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (οτι εν αυτωι κατοικει παν το πληρωμα της τεοτητος σωματικωςhoti en autōi katoikei pān to plērōma tēs theotētos sōmatikōs). In this sentence, given as the reason (οτιhoti because) for the preceding claim for Christ as the measure of human knowledge Paul states the heart of his message about the Person of Christ. There dwells (at home) in Christ not one or more aspects of the Godhead (the very εσσενχεessence of God, from τεοσ δειταςtheosτειοτεςdeitas) and not to be confused with τειοςtheiotes in Romans 1:20 (from τειοτηςtheios the quality of God, divinitas), here only in N.T. as Τειοτηςtheiotēs only in Romans 1:20. The distinction is observed in Lucian and Plutarch. πληρωμαTheiotēs occurs in the papyri and inscriptions. Paul here asserts that “all the σωματικωςplērōma of the Godhead,” not just certain aspects, dwells in Christ and in bodily form (τωι σωματι της δοχηςsōmatikōs late and rare adverb, in Plutarch, inscription, here only in N.T.), dwells now in Christ in his glorified humanity (Philippians 2:9-11), “the body of his glory” (tōi sōmati tēs doxēs). The fulness of the God-head was in Christ before the Incarnation (John 1:1, John 1:18; Philippians 2:6), during the Incarnation (John 1:14, John 1:18; 1 John 1:1-3). It was the Son of God who came in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7). Paul here disposes of the Docetic theory that Jesus had no human body as well as the Cerinthian separation between the man Jesus and the aeon Christ. He asserts plainly the deity and the humanity of Jesus Christ in corporeal form.

Verse 10

Ye are made full (εστε πεπληρωμενοιeste peplērōmenoi). Periphrastic perfect passive indicative of πληροωplēroō but only one predicate, not two. Christ is our fulness of which we all partake (John 1:16; Ephesians 1:23) and our goal is to be made full of God in Christ (Ephesians 3:19). “In Christ they find the satisfaction of every spiritual want” (Peake).

The head (η καπαληhē kaphalē). There is no other place for Christ. He is first (Colossians 1:18) in time and in rank. All rule and authority comes after Christ whether angels, aeons, kings, what not.

Verse 11

Ye were also circumcised (και περιετμητητεkai perietmēthēte). First aorist passive indicative of περιτεμνωperitemnō to circumcise. But used here as a metaphor in a spiritual sense as in Romans 2:29 “the circumcision of the heart.”

Not made with hands (αχειροποιητωιacheiropoiētōi). This late and rare negative compound verbal occurs only in the N.T. (Mark 14:58; 2 Corinthians 5:1; Colossians 2:11) by merely adding αa privative to the old verbal χειροποιητοςcheiropoiētos (Acts 7:48; Ephesians 2:11), possibly first in Mark 14:58 where both words occur concerning the temple. In 2 Corinthians 5:1 the reference is to the resurrection body. The feminine form of this compound adjective is the same as the masculine.

In the putting off (εν τηι απεκδυσειen tēi apekdusei). As if an old garment (the fleshly body). From απεκδυομαιapekduomai (Colossians 2:15, possibly also coined by Paul) and occurring nowhere else so far as known. The word is made in a perfectly normal way by the perfective use of the two Greek prepositions (απο εκapoτου Χριστουek), “a resource available for and generally used by any real thinker writing Greek” (Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary). Paul had as much right to mint a Greek compound as any one and surely no one ever had more ideas to express and more power in doing it.

Of Christ (tou Christou). Specifying genitive, the kind of circumcision that belongs to Christ, that of the heart.

Verse 12

Having been buried with him in baptism (συνταπεντες αυτωι εν τωι βαπτισματιsuntaphentes autōi en tōi baptismati). Second aorist passive participle of συνταπτωsunthaptō old word, in N.T. only here and Romans 6:4, followed by associative instrumental case (αυτωιautōi). Thayer‘s Lexicon says: “For all who in the rite of baptism are plunged under the water, thereby declare that they put faith in the expiatory death of Christ for the pardon of their past sins.” Yes, and for all future sins also. This word gives Paul‘s vivid picture of baptism as a symbolic burial with Christ and resurrection also to newness of life in him as Paul shows by the addition “wherein ye were also raised with him” (εν ωι και συνηγερτητεen hōi kai sunēgerthēte). “In which baptism” (βαπτισματιbaptismati he means). First aorist passive indicative of συνεγειρωsunegeirō late and rare verb (Plutarch for waking up together), in lxx, in N.T. only in Colossians 2:12; Colossians 3:1; Ephesians 2:6. In the symbol of baptism the resurrection to new life in Christ is pictured with an allusion to Christ‘s own resurrection and to our final resurrection. Paul does not mean to say that the new life in Christ is caused or created by the act of baptism. That is grossly to misunderstand him. The Gnostics and the Judaizers were sacramentalists, but not so Paul the champion of spiritual Christianity. He has just given the spiritual interpretation to circumcision which itself followed Abraham‘s faith (Romans 4:10-12). Cf. Galatians 3:27. Baptism gives a picture of the change already wrought in the heart “through faith” (δια της πιστεωςdia tēs pisteōs).

In the working of God (της ενεργειας του τεουtēs energeias tou theou). Objective genitive after πιστεωςpisteōs See note on Colossians 1:29 for ενεργειαenergeia God had power to raise Christ from the dead (του εγειραντοςtou egeirantos first aorist active participle of εγειρωegeirō the fact here stated) and he has power (energy) to give us new life in Christ by faith.

Verse 13

And you (και υμαςkai humas). Emphatic position, object of the verb συνεζωοποιησενsunezōopoiēsen (did he quicken) and repeated (second υμαςhumās). You Gentiles as he explains.

Being dead through your trespasses (νεκρους οντας τοις παραπτωμασινnekrous ontas tois paraptōmasin). Moral death, of course, as in Romans 6:11; Ephesians 2:1, Ephesians 2:5. Correct text does not have ενen but even so παραπτωμασινparaptōmasin (from παραπιπτωparapiptō to fall beside or to lapse, Hebrews 6:6), a lapse or misstep as in Matthew 6:14; Romans 5:15-18; Galatians 6:1, can be still in the locative, though the instrumental makes good sense also.

And the uncircumcision of your flesh (και τηι ακροβουστιαι της σαρκος υμωνkai tēi akroboustiāi tēs sarkos humōn). “Dead in your trespasses and your alienation from God, of which the uncircumcision of your flesh was a symbol” (Abbott). Clearly so, “the uncircumcision” used merely in a metaphorical sense.

Did he quicken together with him (συνεζωοποιησεν συν αυτωιsunezōopoiēsen sun autōi). First aorist active indicative of the double compound verb συνζωοποιεωsunzōopoieō to make alive (ζωοσ ποιεωzōosσυνpoieō) with (αυτωιsun repeated also with τεοςautōi associative instrumental), found only here and in Ephesians 2:5, apparently coined by Paul for this passage. Probably συν αυτωιtheos (God) is the subject because expressly so stated in Ephesians 2:4. and because demanded by ηρκενsun autōi here referring to Christ. This can be true even if Christ be the subject of χαρισαμενος ημινērken in Colossians 2:14.

Having forgiven us (χαριζομαιcharisamenos hēmin). First aorist middle participle of χαριςcharizomai common verb from charis (favour, grace). Dative of the person common as in Colossians 3:13. The act of forgiving is simultaneous with the quickening, though logically antecedent.

Verse 14

Having blotted out (εχαλειπσαςexaleipsas). And so “cancelled.” First aorist active participle of old verb εχαλειπωexaleiphō to rub out, wipe off, erase. In N.T. only in Acts 3:19 (lxx); Revelation 3:5; Colossians 2:14. Here the word explains χαρισαμενοςcharisamenos and is simultaneous with it. Plato used it of blotting out a writing. Often MSS. were rubbed or scraped and written over again (palimpsests, like Codex C).

The bond written in ordinances that was against us (το κατ ημων χειρογραπον τοις δογμασινto kath' hēmōn cheirographon tois dogmasin). The late compound χειρογραπονcheirographon (χειρcheir hand, γραπωgraphō) is very common in the papyri for a certificate of debt or bond, many of the original χειρογραπαcheirographa (handwriting, “chirography”). See Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 247. The signature made a legal debt or bond as Paul says in Philemon 1:18.: “I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it.” Many of the papyri examples have been “crossed out” thus X as we do today and so cancelled. One decree is described as “neither washed out nor written over” (Milligan, N. T. Documents, p. 16). Undoubtedly “the handwriting in decrees” (δογμασινdogmasin the Mosaic law, Ephesians 2:15) was against the Jews (Exodus 24:3; Deuteronomy 27:14-26) for they accepted it, but the Gentiles also gave moral assent to God‘s law written in their hearts (Romans 2:14.). So Paul says “against us” (κατ ημωνkath' hēmōn) and adds “which was contrary to us” (ο ην υπεναντιον ημινho ēn hupenantion hēmin) because we (neither Jew nor Gentile) could not keep it. υπεναντιοςHupenantios is an old double compound adjective (υπο εν αντιοςhupoχειρογραπονenκαι ηρκεν εκ του μεσουantios) set over against, only here in N.T. except Hebrews 10:27 when it is used as a substantive. It is striking that Paul has connected the common word αιρωcheirographon for bond or debt with the Cross of Christ (Deissmann, Light, etc., p. 332).

And he hath taken it out of the way (αιρωνkai ērken ek tou mesou). Perfect active indicative of ηρκενairō old and common verb, to lift up, to bear, to take away. The word used by the Baptist of Jesus as “the Lamb of God that bears away (εκ του μεσουairōn) the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The perfect tense emphasizes the permanence of the removal of the bond which has been paid and cancelled and cannot be presented again. Lightfoot argues for Christ as the subject of προσηλωσας αυτο τωι σταυρωιērken but that is not necessary, though Paul does use sudden anacolutha. God has taken the bond against us “out of the midst” (προσηλοωek tou mesou). Nailing it to the cross (σταυρωιprosēlōsas auto tōi staurōi). First aorist active participle of old and common verb σταυρωιprosēloō to fasten with nails to a thing (with dative staurōi). Here alone in N.T., but in 3 Maccabees 4:9 with the very word staurōi The victim was nailed to the cross as was Christ. “When Christ was crucified, God nailed the Law to His cross” (Peake). Hence the “bond” is cancelled for us. Business men today sometimes file cancelled accounts. No evidence exists that Paul alluded to such a custom here.

Verse 15

Having put off from himself (απεκδυσαμενοςapekdusamenos). Only here and Colossians 3:9 and one MS. of Josephus (απεκδυςapekdus). Both αποδυωapoduō and εκδυωekduō occur in ancient writers. Paul simply combines the two for expression of complete removal. But two serious problems arise here. Is God or Christ referred to by απεκδυσαμενοςapekdusamenos What is meant by “the principalities and the powers” (τας αρχας και τας εχουσιαςtas archas kai tas exousias)? Modern scholars differ radically and no full discussion can be attempted here as one finds in Lightfoot, Haupt, Abbott, Peake. On the whole I am inclined to look on God as still the subject and the powers to be angels such as the Gnostics worshipped and the verb to mean “despoil” (American Standard Version) rather than “having put off from himself.” In the Cross of Christ God showed his power openly without aid or help of angels.

He made a show of them (εδειγματισενedeigmatisen). First aorist active indicative of δειγματιζωdeigmatizō late and rare verb from δειγμαdeigma (Judges 1:7), an example, and so to make an example of. Frequent in the papyri though later than παραδειγματιζωparadeigmatizō and in N.T. only here and Matthew 1:19 of Joseph‘s conduct toward Mary. No idea of disgrace is necessarily involved in the word. The publicity is made plain by “openly” (εν παρρησιαιen parrēsiāi).

Triumphing over them on it (τριαμβευσας αυτους εν αυτωιthriambeusas autous en autōi). On the Cross the triumph was won. This late, though common verb in Koiné{[28928]}ลก writers (εκτριαμβευωekthriambeuō in the papyri) occurs only twice in the N.T., once “to lead in triumph” (2 Corinthians 2:14), here to celebrate a triumph (the usual sense). It is derived from τριαμβοςthriambos a hymn sung in festal procession and is kin to the Latin triumphus (our triumph), a triumphal procession of victorious Roman generals. God won a complete triumph over all the angelic agencies (αυτουςautous masculine regarded as personal agencies). Lightfoot adds, applying τριαμβευσαςthriambeusas to Christ: “The convict‘s gibbet is the victor‘s car.” It is possible, of course, to take αυτωιautōi as referring to χειρογραπονcheirographon (bond) or even to Christ.

Verse 16

Let no one judge you (μη τις υμας κρινετωmē tis humas krinetō). Prohibition present active imperative third singular, forbidding the habit of passing judgment in such matters. For κρινωkrinō see note on Matthew 7:1. Paul has here in mind the ascetic regulations and practices of one wing of the Gnostics (possibly Essenic or even Pharisaic influence). He makes a plea for freedom in such matters on a par with that in 1 Corinthians 8-9; Romans 14; 15. The Essenes went far beyond the Mosaic regulations. For the Jewish feasts see note on Galatians 4:10. Josephus (Ant. III. 10, 1) expressly explains the “seventh day” as called “sabbata ” (plural form as here, an effort to transliterate the Aramaic sabbathah).

Verse 17

A shadow (σκιαskia). Old word, opposed to substance (σωμαsōma body). In Hebrews 10:1 σκιαskia is distinguished from εικωνeikōn (picture), but here from σωμαsōma (body, substance). The σωμαsōma (body) casts the σκιαskia (shadow) and so belongs to Christ (ΧριστουChristou genitive case).

Verse 18

Rob you of your prize (καταβραβευετωkatabrabeuetō). Late and rare compound (κατα βραβευωkataβραβευςbrabeuō Colossians 3:15) to act as umpire against one, perhaps because of bribery in Demosthenes and Eustathius (two other examples in Preisigke‘s Worterbuch), here only in the N.T. So here it means to decide or give judgment against. The judge at the games is called βραβειονbrabeus and the prize κρινετωbrabeion (1 Corinthians 9:24; Philippians 3:14). It is thus parallel to, but stronger than, τελων εν ταπεινοπροσυνηιkrinetō in Colossians 2:16.

By a voluntary humility (τελωthelōn en tapeinophrosunēi). Present active participle of τελονταςthelō to wish, to will, but a difficult idiom. Some take it as like an adverb for “wilfully” somewhat like εν ετελοταπεινοπροσυνηιthelontas in 2 Peter 3:5. Others make it a Hebraism from the lxx usage, “finding pleasure in humility.” The Revised Version margin has “of his own mere will, by humility.” Hort suggested ετελοτρησκιαen ethelotapeinophrosunēi (in gratuitous humility), a word that occurs in Basil and made like και τρησκειαι των αγγελωνethelothrēskia in Colossians 2:23.

And worshipping of the angels (ταπεινοπροσυνηνkai thrēskeiāi tōn aggelōn). In Colossians 3:12 humility (α εορακεν εμβατευωνtapeinophrosunēn) is a virtue, but it is linked with worship of the angels which is idolatry and so is probably false humility as in Colossians 2:23. They may have argued for angel worship on the plea that God is high and far removed and so took angels as mediators as some men do today with angels and saints in place of Christ.

Dwelling in the things which he hath seen (εμβατευωha heoraken embateuōn). Some MSS. have “not,” but not genuine. This verb εμβατηςembateuō (from κενεμβατευωνembatēs stepping in, going in) has given much trouble. Lightfoot has actually proposed κενεμβατεωkenembateuōn (a verb that does not exist, though αιωραkenembateō does occur) with ενεβατευσενaiōra to tread on empty air, an ingenious suggestion, but now unnecessary. It is an old word for going in to take possession (papyri examples also). W. M. Ramsay (Teaching of Paul, pp. 287ff.) shows from inscriptions in Klaros that the word is used of an initiate in the mysteries who “set foot in” (εικηι πυσιουμενοςenebateusen) and performed the rest of the rites. Paul is here quoting the very work used of these initiates who “take their stand on” these imagined revelations in the mysteries.

Vainly puffed up (πυσιοωeikēi phusioumenos). Present passive participle of πυσαphusioō late and vivid verb from phusa pair of bellows, in N.T. only here and 1 Corinthians 4:6, 1 Corinthians 4:18.; 1 Corinthians 8:1. Powerful picture of the self-conceit of these bombastic Gnostics.

Verse 19

Not holding fast the Head (ου κρατων την κεπαληνou kratōn tēn kephalēn). Note negative ουou not μηmē actual case of deserting Christ as the Head. The Gnostics dethroned Christ from his primacy (Colossians 1:18) and placed him below a long line of aeons or angels. They did it with words of praise for Christ as those do now who teach Christ as only the noblest of men. The headship of Christ is the keynote of this Epistle to the Colossians and the heart of Paul‘s Christology.

From whom (εχ ουex hou). Masculine ablative rather than εχ ηςex hēs (κεπαληςkephalēs) because Christ is the Head. He develops the figure of the body of which Christ is Head (Colossians 1:18, Colossians 1:24).

Being supplied (επιχορηγουμενονepichorēgoumenon). Present passive participle (continuous action) of επιχορηγεωepichorēgeō for which interesting verb see already 2 Corinthians 9:10; Galatians 3:5 and further 2 Peter 1:5.

Knit together (συνβιβαζομενονsunbibazomenon). Present passive participle also (continuous action) of συνβιβαζωsunbibazō for which see note on Colossians 2:2.

Through the joints (δια των απωνdia tōn haphōn). Late word απηhaphē (from απτωhaptō to fasten together), connections (junctura and nexus in the Vulgate).

And bonds (και συνδεσμωνkai sundesmōn). Old word from συνδεωsundeō to bind together. Aristotle and Galen use it of the human body. Both words picture well the wonderful unity in the body by cells, muscles, arteries, veins, nerves, skin, glands, etc. It is a marvellous machine working together under the direction of the head.

Increaseth with the increase of God (αυχει την αυχησιν του τεουauxei tēn auxēsin tou theou). Cognate accusative (αυχησινauxēsin) with the old verb αυχειauxei f0).

Verse 20

If ye died (ει απετανετεei apethanete). Condition of the first class, assumed as true, ειei and second aorist active indicative of αποτνησκωapothnēskō to die. He is alluding to the picture of burial in baptism (Colossians 2:12).

From the rudiments of the world (απο των στοιχειων του κοσμουapo tōn stoicheiōn tou kosmou). See note on Colossians 2:8.

As though living in the world (ως ζωντες εν κοσμωιhōs zōntes en kosmōi). Concessive use of the participle with ωςhōs The picture is that of baptism, having come out (F. B. Meyer) on the other side of the grave, we are not to act as though we had not done so. We are in the Land of Beulah.

Why do ye subject yourselves to ordinances? (τι δογματιζεστεti dogmatizesthė). Late and rare verb (three examples in inscriptions and often in lxx) made from δογμαdogma decree or ordinance. Here it makes good sense either as middle or passive. In either case they are to blame since the bond of decrees (Colossians 2:14) was removed on the Cross of Christ. Paul still has in mind the rules of the ascetic wing of the Gnostics (Colossians 2:16.).

Verse 21

Handle not, nor taste, nor touch (μη απσηι μηδε γευσηι μηδε τιγηιςmē hapsēi mēde geusēi mēde thigēis). Specimens of Gnostic rules. The Essenes took the Mosaic regulations and carried them much further and the Pharisees demanded ceremonially clean hands for all food. Later ascetics (the Latin commentators Ambrose, Hilary, Pelagius) regard these prohibitions as Paul‘s own instead of those of the Gnostics condemned by him. Even today men are finding that the noble prohibition law needs enlightened instruction to make it effective. That is true of all law. The Pharisees, Essenes, Gnostics made piety hinge on outward observances and rules instead of inward conviction and principle. These three verbs are all in the aorist subjunctive second person singular with μηmē a prohibition against handling or touching these forbidden things. Two of them do not differ greatly in meaning. απσηιHapsēi is aorist middle subjunctive of απτωhaptō to fasten to, middle, to cling to, to handle. ΤιγηιςThigēis is second aorist active subjunctive of τιγγανωthigganō old verb, to touch, to handle. In N.T. only here and Hebrews 11:28; Hebrews 12:20. ΓευσηιGeusēi is second aorist middle subjunctive of γευωgeuō to give taste of, only middle in N.T. to taste as here.

Verse 22

Are to perish with the using (εστιν εις πτοραν τηι αποχρησειestin eis phthoran tēi apochrēsei). Literally, “are for perishing in the using.” ΠτοραPhthora (from πτειρωphtheirō) is old word for decay, decomposition. ΑποχρησιςApochrēsis (from αποχραομαιapochraomai to use to the full, to use up), late and rare word (in Plutarch), here only in N.T. Either locative case here or instrumental. These material things all perish in the use of them.

Verse 23

Which things (ατιναhatina). “Which very things,” these ascetic regulations.

Have indeed a show of wisdom (εστιν λογον μεν εχοντα σοπιαςestin logon men echonta sophias). Periphrastic present indicative with εστινestin in the singular, but present indicative εχονταechonta in the plural (ατιναhatina). Λογον σοπιαςLogon sophias is probably “the repute of wisdom” (Abbott) like Plato and Herodotus. ΜενMen (in deed) has no corresponding δεde

In will-worship (εν ετελοτρησκιαιen ethelothrēskiāi). This word occurs nowhere else and was probably coined by Paul after the pattern of ετελοδουλειαethelodouleia to describe the voluntary worship of angels (see note on Colossians 2:18).

And humility (και ταπεινοπροσυνηιkai tapeinophrosunēi). Clearly here the bad sense, “in mock humility.”

And severity to the body (και απειδιαι σωματοςkai apheidiāi sōmatos). Old word (Plato) from απειδηςapheidēs unsparing (αa privative, πειδομαιpheidomai to spare). Here alone in N.T. Ascetics often practice flagellations and other hardnesses to the body.

Not of any value (ουκ εν τιμηι τινιouk en timēi tini). ΤιμηTimē usually means honour or price.

Against the indulgence of the flesh (προς πλησμονην της σαρκοςpros plēsmonēn tēs sarkos). These words are sharply debated along with τιμηtimē just before. It is not unusual for προςpros to be found in the sense of “against” rather than “with” or “for.” See προςpros in sense of against in Colossians 3:13; Ephesians 6:11.; 2 Corinthians 5:12; 1 Corinthians 6:1. ΠλησμονηPlēsmonē is an old word from πιμπλημιpimplēmi to fill and means satiety. It occurs here only in the N.T. Peake is inclined to agree with Hort and Haupt that there is a primitive corruption here. But the translation in the Revised Version is possible and it is true that mere rules do not carry us very far in human conduct as every father or mother knows, though we must have some regulations in family and state and church. But they are not enough of themselves.

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Colossians 2". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.