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Bible Commentaries

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary
Colossians 1

 

 

Verse 1

1. διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ] see on reff.

καὶ τιμόθεος] as in 2 Corinthians 1:1 (see also Philippians 1:1; Philemon 1:1, and 2 Thessalonians 1:1).

ὁ ἀδελφός] see on 2 Corinthians 1:1. On his presence with the Apostle at the time of writing this Epistle, see Prolegg. to Past. Epp. § i. 5. Chrys. (and similarly Thl.) says on ὁ ἀδελφός, οὐκοῦν καὶ αὐτὸς ἀπόστολος: but there seems no reason for this.


Verse 1-2

προσ κολασσαεισ

1, 2.] ADDRESS AND GREETING.


Verse 2

2.] On COLOSSÆ, or COLASSÆ, see Prolegg. § ii. 1.

ἁγίοις should be taken (Mey.) as a substantive, not (De W.) with ἀδελφοῖς, in which case πιστοῖς, being already (as Mey.) presupposed in ἁγίοις, would be tame and superfluous:—and καὶ πιστοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ἐν χριστῷ seems to be a specifying clause, ‘viz.—to the &c.:’ or perhaps added merely on account of the natural diplomatic character of an opening address. ἐν χρ. belongs closely to πιστοῖς ἀδελφοῖς or perhaps rather to ἀδελφοῖς alone, as Philippians 1:14; no article before ἐν χριστῷ being wanted, because no distinction between these and any other kind of brethren is needed—the idea ἀδελφὸς- ἐν- χριστῷ being familiar.

χάρις κ. τ. λ.] see Romans 1:7.


Verse 3

3.] We (I and Timotheus. In this Epistle, the plural and singular are too plainly distinguished to allow us to confuse them in translating: the plural pervading ch. 1., the singular ch. 2., and the two occurring together in ch. Colossians 4:3-4, and the singular thenceforward. The change, as Mey. remarks, is never made without a pragmatic reason) give thanks to God the Father ( πατήρ, like ἥλιος, γῆ,&c. is anarthrous, as indeed often in our own language, from its well-known universal import as a predicate necessarily single of its kind: see Ephesians 1:2-3) of our Lord Jesus Christ, always (I prefer, against De W., Mey., B.-Crus., Eadie, to join πάντοτε to περὶὑμ. προσευχ., rather than to εὐχαριστ. For 1) it would come rather awkwardly after so long an interruption as τῷ θ. πατ. τ. κυρ. ἡμ. ἰησ. χρ. (see however 1 Corinthians 15:58): and 2) I doubt whether the next clause would begin with περὶ ὑμῶν, so naturally as with πάντοτε περὶ ὑμῶν, which are found together so usually, cf. 1 Corinthians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:3 (2 Thessalonians 1:2)) praying for you (Meyer’s and Eadie’s objection to joining πάντοτε with προσευχόμενος is, that it is much more natural to say ‘we always give thanks when we pray,’ than ‘we give thanks, always praying.’ But we must remember that ‘prayer with thanksgiving’ was the Apostle’s recommendation (Philippians 4:6), and doubtless his practice, and that the wider term προσευχόμενος included both): since we heard of (not, because we heard: see Ephesians 1:15. The facts which he heard, not the fact of his hearing, were the ground of his thanksgiving) your faith in (not τὴν ἐν: the immediate element of their faith, not its distinctive character, is the point brought out) Christ Jesus, and the love which ye have (these words, dwelling on the fact as reported to him, carry more affectionate commendation than would merely the article τήν of the rec.) towards all the saints,


Verses 3-8

3–8.] Thanksgiving for the faith, hope, and love of the Colossians, announced to him by Epaphras.


Verses 3-29

3–29.] INTRODUCTION, but unusually expanded, so as to anticipate the great subjects of the Epistle. And herein,


Verse 5

5.] on account of (not to be joined with εὐχαριστ. as Beng., Eadie, al.: for, as Mey., the ground of such thanksgiving is ever in the spiritual state of the person addressed, see Romans 1:8; 1 Corinthians 1:4 ff.; Ephesians 1:15 &c., and this can hardly (against Eadie) be said to be of such a kind: but with ἢν ἔχετε—so Chr.: τοῦτο πρὸς τοὺς πειρασμούς, ὥστε μὴ ἐνταῦθα ζητεῖν τὴν ἄνεσιν. ἵνα γὰρ μή τις εἴπῃ· καὶ τί τὸ κέρδος τῆς ἀγάπης τῆς εἰς τοὺς ἁγίους κοπτομένων αὐτῶν; χαίρωμεν, φησίν, ὅτι μεγάλα ἑαυτοῖς προξενεῖτε ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς. So also Calvin, who combats the argument of Est., al., deriving support for the idea of meritorious works from this verse. It is obvious that we must not include τὴν πίστιν ὑμῶν in the reference, as Grot., Olsh., De W., al., have done: for πίστις ἐν χ. . cannot be referred to any such motive: besides, see Colossians 1:8, where he returns again to τὴν ἀγάπην) the hope (on the objective sense of ἐλπίς, see reff.) which is laid up (Kypke quotes Plut. Cæs. p. 715— κοινὰ ἆθλα τῆς ἀνδραγαθίας παρʼ αὐτῷ φυλασσόμενα ἀποκεῖσθαι, and Jos. B. J. ii. 8. 11,— ταῖς μὲν ἀγαθαῖς ( ψυχαῖς) τὴν ὑπὲρ ὠκεανὸν δίαιταν ἀποκεῖσθαι) for you in the heavens (reff.), of which ye heard (aorist, referring to the time when it was preached among them) before (not, before this letter was written, as Beng., and usually: nor, as Mey., before ye had the hope: nor, as De Wette, al., before the hope is fulfilled: nor exactly as Eadie, ‘have (see above) already heard:’ but ‘before,’ in the absolute indefinite sense which is often given to the idea of priority,—‘ere this’—olim, aliquando) in (as part of) the word of the truth (no hendiadys) of the Gospel (the word or preaching whose substance was that truth of which the Gospel is the depository and vehicle),


Verse 6

6.] which is present (emphatic: is now, as it was then: therefore not to be rendered as an imperfect, which stultifies the argument, cf. ἐστὶν καρποφἀφʼ ἧς ἡμ. below. οὐ παρεγένετο, φησίν, κ. ἀπέστη· ἀλλʼ ἔμεινε, κ. ἐστὶν ἐκεῖ, Chrys.) with you (pregnant construction,—‘came to and remains with:’ see reff., and Herod. vi. 24, παρῆν ἐς ἀσίην, and al. frequently) as it is also in all the world ( ἐπεὶ δὴ μάλιστα οἱ πολλοὶ ἐκ τοῦ κοινωνοὺς ἔχειν πολλοὺς τῶν δογμάτων στηρίζονται, διὰ τοῦτο ἐπήγαγενκαθ. κ. ἐν π. τ. κόσ.’ πανταχοῦ κρατεῖ· πανταχοῦ ἕστηκεν. Chrys. The expression παντὶ τῷ κόσμ. is no hyperbole, but the pragmatic repetition of the Lord’s parting command. Though not yet announced to all nations, it is παρὼν ἐν παντὶ τῷ κόσμῳ—the whole world being the area in which it is proclaimed and working) bearing fruit and increasing (the paragraph is broken and unbalanced. The filling up would be, to insert καί after κόσμῳ as in rec. Then it would be, ‘which is present with you, as also in all the world, and καρπ. and αὐξ. (in all the world), as also among you.’ But neglecting this, the Apostle goes forward, more logically indeed (for the reference in the rec. of κ. ἐστὶν καρπ. to the second member of the foregoing comparison, is harsh), but not so perspicuously, enlarging the παρόντος of his first member into ἐστὶν καρπ. κ. αὐξ. in the second, and then in these words, for fear he should be supposed to have predicated more of the whole world than of the Colossians, returning to καθ. κ. ἐν ὑμ. Again: on καρπ. κ. αὐξ., cf. Thdrt.: καρποφορίαν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου κέκληκε τὴν ἐπαινουμένην πολιτείαν. αὔξησιν δὲ τῶν πιστευόντων τὸ πλῆθος. As Mey. observes, the figure is taken from a tree, whose καρποφορία does not exclude its growth: with corn, it is otherwise) as also (it is καρπ. κ. αὐξ.) among you, from the day when ye heard (it) (the Gospel: better thus, than with De W., to go on to τὴν χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ for the object of both verbs: ἐπεγν. being not simultaneous with ἠκούσ., and ἐν ἀληθ. not being thus satisfied: see below) and knew ( ἐπ-, intensitive, but too delicately so to be expressed by a stronger word in our language) the grace of God in truth (not adverbial, ‘truly,’ as Beza, Olsh., Mey., De W., al., which would make ἐν ἀλ. a mere qualification to ἐπέγνωτε: still less, as Storr, al., τὴν χάριν ἀληθῆ, or as Grot., ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τῆς ἀλ.: but generally said, ‘truth’ being the whole element, in which the χάρις was proclaimed and received: ‘ye knew it in truth,’—in its truth, and with true knowledge, which surely differs very appreciably from the adverbial sense (against Ellicott): οὐκ ἐν λόγῳ, φησίν, οὐδὲ ἐν ἀπάτῃ, ἀλλʼ ἐν αὐτοῖς τοῖς ἔργοις),


Verse 7

7.] as (scil, ἐν ἀληθείᾳ—‘in which truth’) ye learnt from Epaphras (mentioned again ch. Colossians 4:12 as of Colossæ, and Philemon 1:23, as then a fellow-prisoner with the Apostle. The name may be (hardly as Conyb., is) identical with Epaphroditus. A person of this latter name is mentioned, Philippians 2:25, as sent by St. Paul to the church at Philippi, and ib. Philippians 4:18, as having previously brought to him offerings from that church. There is no positive reason disproving their identity: but probability is against it) our (not ‘my’) beloved fellow-servant (of Christ, Philippians 1:1; not necessarily ‘fellow-bondsman,’ as Conyb.: συναιχμάλωτος, Philemon 1:23), who is a minister of Christ faithful on our behalf (the stress of the predicatory sentence is on πιστὸς ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν, which ought therefore in the translation not to be sundered. He was one acting faithfully “vice Apostoli” (Ambrst.), and therefore not lightly to be set aside in favour of the new and erroneous teachers), who also made known to as your love in the Spirit (viz. the ἀγάπη of which he described himself in Colossians 1:4 as having heard; their love εἰς πάντας τοὺς ἁγίους. This love is emphatically a gift, and in its full reference the chief gift of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22; Romans 15:30), and is thus in the elemental region of the Spirit,—as distinct from those unspiritual states of mind which are ἐν σαρκί. This love of the Colossians he lays stress on, as a ground for thankfulness, a fruit of the hope laid up for them,—as being that side of their Christian character where he had no fault (or least fault, see ch. Colossians 3:12-14) to find with them. He now proceeds, gently and delicately at first, to touch on matters needing correction).


Verse 9

9.] For this reason (on account of your love and faith, &c. which Epaphras announced to us) we also ( καί, on our side—the Colossians having been the subject before; used too on account of the close correspondence of the words following with those used of the Colossians above) from the day when we heard (it) (viz. as in Colossians 1:4) do not cease praying for you (‘precum mentionem generatim fecit Colossians 1:3; nunc exprimit, quid precetur,’ Beng.) and (brings into prominence a special after a general, cf. Ephesians 6:18-19) beseeching that (on ἵνα after verbs of praying, see note, 1 Corinthians 14:13) ye may be filled with (accusative, as in reff.) the thorough knowledge ( ἐπίγν. stronger than γνῶσις: see 1 Corinthians 13:12) of His (God’s, understood as the object of our prayer) will (respecting your walk and conduct, as the context shews: not so much His purpose in Christ, as Chrys. ( διὰ τοῦ υἱοῦ προσάγεσθαι ἡμᾶς αὐτῷ, οὐκέτι διʼ ἀγγέλων), (Œc., Thl., al.: cf. Ephesians 1:9; but of course not excluding the great source of that special will respecting you, His general will to be glorified in His Son) in all wisdom (seeing that ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ, in the similar clauses, Ephesians 1:8; Colossians 1:28, ch. Colossians 3:16, is absolute, I prefer taking it so here, and not, as Ellic., with πνευματικῇ) and spiritual understanding (the instrument by which we are to be thus filled,—the working of the Holy Spirit, πνευματικῇ. On σοφία and σύνεσις, the general and particular, see note Ephesians 1:8; so Bengel here,—“ σοφία est quiddam generalius: σύνεσις est sollertia quædam, ut quovis tempore aliquid succurrat, quod hic et nunc aptum est. σύνεσις est in intellectu: σοφία est in toto complexu facultatum animæ”) to walk (aim of the foregoing imparting of wisdom: ‘so that ye may walk.’ ἐνταῦθα περὶ βίου κ. τῶν ἔργων φησίν· ἀεὶ γὰρ τῇ πίστει συζεύγνυσι τὴν πολιτείαν. Chrys.) worthily of the Lord (Christ, see reff. and cf. ἀξίως τοῦ θεοῦ, 3 John 1:6) unto (‘with a view to,’ subjective: or, ‘so as to effect,’ objective: the latter is preferable) all (all manner of, all that your case admits) well-pleasing (the word occurs in Theophr. Character. 5, which is on ἀρέσκεια as a subjective quality. Mey. quotes from Polyb. xxxi. 26. 5, πᾶν γένος ἀρεσκείας προσφερόμενος. The meaning is, ‘so that (see above) in every way ye may be well pleasing to God’): in (exemplifying element of the καρπ.; see below) every good work (not to be joined with the former clause, as (Œc., Thl., Erasm., al., to the destruction of the parallelism) bearing fruit (the good works being the fruits: the περιπατῆσαι is now further specified, being subdivided into four departments, noted by the four participles καρποφοροῦντες, αὐξανόμενοι, δυναμούμενοι, and εὐχαριστοῦντες. On the construction, see Ephesians 3:18 note) and increasing (see on Colossians 1:6 above) by the knowledge of God (the instrument of the increase. This is by far the most difficult of the three readings (see var. readd.), the meaning of ἐν and εἰς being very obvious—the former pointing out the element, the latter the proposed measure, of the increase. And hence, probably, the variations. It is the knowledge of God which is the real instrument of enlargement, in soul and in life, of the believer—not a γνῶσις which φυσιοῖ, but an ἐπίγνωσις which αὐξάνει),


Verses 9-12

9–12.] Prayer for their confirmation and completion in the spiritual life.


Verse 11

11.] (corresponding to ἐν παντὶ κ. τ. λ. above) in (not instrumental (Mey.), but betokening the element: all these, ἐν πάση, ἐν παντὶ … are subjective, not objective. The instrument of this strength comes in below) all (departments of every kind of) strength being strengthened according to (in pursuance of, as might be expected from, reff.) the power of His glory (beware of the hendiadys, ‘his glorious power,’ into which E. V. has fallen here: the attribute of His glorious majesty here brought out is its κράτος (see Ephesians 1:19, note), the power which it has thus to strengthen. In the very similar expression Ephesians 3:16, it was the πλοῦτος τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ, the exuberant abundance of the same, from which as an inexhaustible treasure our strength is to come) to (so as to produce in you, so that ye may attain to) all patient endurance (not only in tribulations, but generally in the life of the Spirit. Endurance is the result of the union of outward and inward strength) and long-suffering (not only towards your enemies or persecutors, but also in the conflict with error, which is more in question in this Epistle. Chrys.’s distinction, μακροθυμεῖ τις πρὸς ἐκείνους οὓς δυνατὸν καὶ ἀμύνασθαι· ὑπομένει δὲ οὓς οὐ δύναται ἀμύνασθαι, though in the main correct, must not be closely pressed: see (Mey.) Hebrews 12:2-3) with joy (Mey. argues that these words must be joined, as Chr., (Œc., Thl., Est., al., with εὐχαριστ., because in the other clauses the participles were preceded by these prepositional qualifications. But this can hardly be pressed, in the frequent disregard of such close parallelism by our Apostle, and seeing that εὐχαριστ. does in fact take up again μετὰ χαρᾶς, which if attached to it is flat and unmeaning: and as De Wette says, by joining μετὰ χαρ. to εὐχ., we lose the essential idea of joyful endurance,—and the beautiful train of thought, that joyfulness in suffering expresses itself in thankfulness to God. And so Luth., B.-Crus., Olsh., Eadie, al.), giving thanks to the Father (the connexion is not, as Chr., Thl., Calov., Calv., al., with οὐ παυόμεθα, the subject being we, Paul and Timothy,—but with the last words (see above), and the subjects are ‘you,’— τῷ πατρί, viz. of our Lord Jesus Christ: see reff.) who made (historical—by His gift of the Spirit through His Son) us (Christians) capable (not, ‘worthy,’ as Est. after the Vulg.) for the share (participation) of the inheritance of the saints in the light (it is much disputed with what ἐν τῷ φωτί is to be joined. Mey., after Chr., Œc., Thl., &c., regards it as instrumental—as the means of the ἱκανῶσαι which has been mentioned. But this seems unnatural, both in sense, and in the position of the words, in which it stands too far from ἱκ. to be its qualifying clause. It connects much more naturally with κλήρου, or perhaps better still with the whole, τὴν μερίδα τ. κλήρου τῶν ἁγ., giving τὸ φῶς as the region in which the inheritance of the saints, and consequently our share in it, is situated. This seems supported by the usage of κλῆρος in Acts 8:21, οὐκ ἔστι σοι μερὶς οὐδὲ κλῆρος ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τούτῳ—cf. also κλῆρον ἐν τοῖς ἡγιασμένοις, ib. Acts 26:18. And so Thdrt., al., De W., Eadie, al.—Grot., al., would take ἐν τῷ φωτί with ἁγίων: against this the omission of the article is not decisive: but it does not seem so natural, as giving too great prominence to οἱ ἅγιοι ἐν τῷ φωτί as the ἐπώνυμοι of the inheritance, and not enough to the inheritance itself. The question as to whether he is speaking of a present inheritance, or the future glory of heaven, seems best answered by Chrys., δοκεῖ δέ μοι κ. περὶ τῶν παρόντων κ. περὶ τῶν μελλόντων ὁμοῦ λέγειν. The inheritance is begun here, and the meet-ness conferred, in gradual sanctification: but completed hereafter. We are ἐν τῷ φωτί here: cf. Romans 13:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:5; Ephesians 5:8; 1 Peter 2:9 al.):


Verse 13

13.] Transition, in the form of a laying out into its negative and positive sides, of the ἱκάνωσεν above, to the doctrine concerning Christ, which the Apostle has it in his mind to lay down. Who rescued us out of the power (i.e. region where the power extends—as in the territorial use of the words ‘kingdom,’ ‘country,’ &c.) of darkness (as contrasted with light above: not to be understood of a person, Satan, but of the whole character and rule of the region of unconverted human nature where they dwelt), and translated (add to reff. Plato, Legg. vi. p. 762 b, πιστεύοντες τῷ μεθίστασθαι κατὰ μῆνας εἰς ἕτερον ἀεὶ τόπον φεύγοντες, and a very striking parallel noticed by Mey., Plato Rep. vii. p. 518 a, ἔκ τε φωτὸς εἰς σκότος μεθισταμένων κ. ἐκ σκότους εἰς φῶς. The word is strictly local in its meaning) into the kingdom (not to be referred, as Mey. always so pertinaciously maintains, exclusively to the future kingdom, nor is μετέστησεν proleptic, but a historical fact, realized at our conversion) of the Son of His Love (genitive subjective: the Son upon whom His Love rests: the strongest possible contrast to that darkness, the very opposite of God’s Light and Love, in which we were. The Commentators compare Benoni, ‘the son of my sorrow,’ Genesis 35:18. Beware of the hendiadys, adopted in the text of the E. V. On the whole, see Ellicott’s note):


Verse 14

14.] In whom (as its conditional element: as in the frequent expressions, ἐν χριστῷ, ἐν κυρίῳ, &c.: see the parallel, Ephesians 1:7) we have (see note, ibid.) Redemption (this is perhaps better, taking the art. as the idiomatic way of expressing the abstract subst., than our Redemption as in my earlier editions. See Ellic.), the remission (“on the distinction between ἄφεσις and πάρεσις, see Trench, Synon. § 33.” Ellic.) of our sins (note, Eph., ut supra. παραπτωμάτων, the more special word, is here replaced by ἁμαρτιῶν the more general: the meaning being the same):


Verses 14-20

14–20.] Description, introduced by the foregoing, of the pre-eminence and majesty of the Son of God, our Redeemer.


Verse 15

15.] (The last verse has been a sort of introduction, through our own part in Him, to the Person of the Redeemer, which is now directly treated of, as against the teachers of error at Colossæ. He is described, in His relation 1) to God and His Creation (Colossians 1:15-17): 2) to the Church (18–20). This arrangement, which is Meyer’s, is far more exact than the triple division of Bähr,—‘Source of creation (15, 16): upholder of creation (17): relation to the new moral creation 18–20)’), who is (now—in His glorified state—essentially and permanently: therefore not to be understood, as De W. after Erasm., Calv., Beza, Grot., Beng., al., of the historical Christ, God manifested in our flesh on earth: nor again with Olsh., Bleek on Hebrews 1 al., of the eternal Word: but of Christ’s present glorified state, in which He is exalted in our humanity, but exalted to that glory which He had with the Father before the world was. So that the following description applies to Christ’s whole Person in its essential glory,—now however, by His assumption of humanity, necessarily otherwise conditioned than before that assumption. See for the whole, notes on Philippians 2:6, and Hebrews 1:2 ff.; and Usteri, Paulinisches Lehrbegriff, ii. § 4, p. 286 ff.) image (= the image) of the invisible God (the adjunct τοῦ ἀοράτου is of the utmost weight to the understanding of the expression. The same fact being the foundation of the whole as in Philippians 2:6 ff., that the Son ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπῆρχεν, that side of the fact is brought out here, which points to His being the visible manifestation of that in God which is invisible: the λόγος of the eternal silence, the ἀπαύγασμα of the δόξα which no creature can bear, the χαρακτήρ of that ὑπόστασις which is incommunicably God’s: in one word the ἐξηγητής of the Father whom none hath seen. So that while ἀόρατος includes in it not only the invisibility, but the incommunicability of God, εἰκών also must not be restricted to Christ corporeally visible in the Incarnation, but understood of Him as the manifestation of God in His whole Person and work—præ-existent and incarnate. It is obvious, that in this expression, the Apostle approaches very near to the Alexandrian doctrine of the λόγος: how near, may be seen from the extracts from Philo in Usteri: e.g. de somniis, 41, vol. i. p. 656, καθάπερ τὴν ἀνθήλιον αὐγὴν ὡς ἥλιον οἱ μὴ δυνάμενοι τὸν ἥλιον αὐτὸν ἰδεῖν ὁρῶσι, κ. τὰς περὶ τὴν σελήνην ἀλλοιώσεις ὡς αὐτὴν ἐκείνην· οὕτως καὶ τὴν τοῦ θεοῦ εἰκόνα, τὸν ἄγγελον αὐτοῦ λόγον, ὡς αὐτὸν κατανοοῦσι: and de Monarch. ii. 5, vol. ii. p. 225, λόγος δέ ἐστιν εἰκὼν θεοῦ, διʼ οὗ σύμπας ὁ κόσμος ἐδημιουργεῖτο. See other passages in Bleek on Hebrews 1:2. He is, in fact, as St. John afterwards did, adopting the language of that lore as far as it represented divine truth, and rescuing it from being used in the service of error. (This last sentence might have prevented the misunderstanding of this part of my note by Ellic. in loc.: shewing, as it does, that the inspiration of St. Paul and the non-inspiration of Philo, are as fully recognized by me as by himself)), the first-born of all creation (such, and not ‘every creature,’ is the meaning (so I still hold against Ellic. But see his whole note on this passage, as well worth study): nor can the strict usage of the article be alleged as an objection: cf. below, Colossians 1:23, and Ephesians 2:21 note: the solution being, that κτίσις, as our word ‘creation,’ may be used anarthrous, in its collective sense.

Christ is ὁ πρωτότοκος, THE FIRST-BORN, Hebrews 1:6. The idea was well known in the Alexandrian terminology: τοῦτον μὲν γάρ,—viz. τὸν ἀσώματον ἐκεῖνον, θείας ἀδιαφοροῦντα εἰκόνοςπρεσβύτατον υἱὸν ὁ τῶν ὄντων ἀνέτειλε πατήρ, ὃν ἑτέρωθι πρωτόγονον ὠνόμασε, καὶ ὁ γεννηθεὶς μέντοι μιμούμενος τὰς τοῦ πατρὸς ὁδούς, πρὸς παραδείγματα ἀρχέτυπα ἐκείνου βλέπων, ἐμόρφου εἴδη. Philo, de Confus. Ling. 14, vol. i. p. 414. That the word is used as one whose meaning and reference was already known to the readers, is shewn by its being predicated of Christ as compared with two classes so different, the creatures, and the dead (ver.18).

The first and simplest meaning is that of priority of birth. But this, if insisted on, in its limited temporal sense, must apply to our Lord’s birth from his human mother, and could have reference only to those brothers and sisters who were born of her afterwards; a reference clearly excluded here. But a secondary and derived meaning of πρωτότοκος, as a designation of dignity and precedence, implied by priority, cannot be denied. Cf. Ps. 88:27, κἀγὼ πρωτότοκον θήσομαι αὐτόν, ὑψηλὸν παρὰ τοῖς βασιλεῦσι τῆς γῆς:—Exodus 4:22, υἱὸς πρωτότοκός μου ἰσραήλ:—Romans 8:29, and Hebrews 12:23, ἐκκλησίᾳ πρωτοτόκων ἀπογεγραμμένων ἐν οὐρανοῖς, where see Bleek’s note. Similarly πρωτόγονος is used in Soph. Phil. 180, οὗτος πρωτογόνων ἴσως οἴκων οὐδενὸς ὕστερος. It would be obviously wrong here to limit the sense entirely to this reference, as the very expression below, αὐτὸς ἐστὶν πρὸ πάντων, shews, in which his priority is distinctly predicated. The safe method of interpretation therefore will be, to take into account the two ideas manifestly included in the word, and here distinctly referred to—priority, and dignity, and to regard the technical term πρωτότοκος as used rather with reference to both these, than in strict construction where it stands. “First-born of every creature” will then imply, that Christ was not only first-born of His mother in the world, but first-begotten of His Father, before the worlds,—and that He holds the rank, as compared with every created thing, of first-born in dignity: FOR, &c., Colossians 1:16, where this assertion is justified. Cf. below on Colossians 1:18.

It may be well to notice other interpretations: 1) Meyer, after Tert., Chr., Thdrt., al., Bengel, al., would restrict the term to its temporal sense: ‘primogenitus, ut ante omnia genitus:’ on this, sec above. 2) The Arians maintained that Christ is thus Himself declared to be a κτίσις of God. It might have been enough to guard them from this, that as Chr. remarks, not πρωτόκτιστος, but πρωτότοκος is advisedly used by the Apostle. 3) The Socinians (also Grot., Wetst., Schleierm., al., after Theod. Mops.) holding the mistaken view of the necessity of the strict interpretation of πρωτότοκος—maintain, that Christ must be one of those among whom He is πρωτότοκος—and that consequently κτίσις must be the new spiritual creation—which it certainly cannot mean without a qualifying adjective to indicate such meaning—and least of all here, where the physical κτίσις is so specifically broken up into its parts in the next verse.

4) Worst of all is the rendering proposed by Isidore of Pelusium and adopted by Erasm. and Er.-Schmidt, ‘first bringer forth’ ( πρωτοτόκος, but used only of a mother). See on the whole, De W.: and a long note in Bleek on the Hebrews, vol. i. pp. 43–48):


Verse 16

16.] because (explanatory of the πρωτ. πάσ. κτίσ.—it must be so, seeing that nothing can so completely refute the idea that Christ himself is included in creation, as this verse) in Him (as the conditional element, præ-existent and all-including: not ‘by Him,’ as E. V. after Chr. ( τὸ ἐν αὐτῷ, διʼ αὐτοῦ ἐστιν)—this is expressed afterwards, and is a different fact from the present one, though implied in it.

The idea of the schoolmen, that in Christ was the ‘idea omnium rerum,’ adopted in the main by Schl., Neandor, and Olsh. (“the Son of God is the intelligible world, the κόσμος νοητός, i.e. creation in its primitive idea, Himself; He bears in Himself their reality,” Olsh.), is, as Meyer rightly observes, entirely unsupported by any views or expressions of our Apostle elsewhere: and is besides abundantly refuted by ἐκτίσθη, the historic aorist, indicating the physical act of Creation) was created (in the act of creation: cf. on ἔκτισται below) the universe (thus only can we give the force of the Greek singular with the collective neuter plural, which it is important here to preserve, as ‘all things’ may be thought of individually, not collectively)—(viz.) things in the heavens and things on the earth (Wetst. urges this as shewing that the physical creation is not meant: ‘non dicit ὁ οὐρανὸς κ. ἡ γῆ ἐκτίσθη, sed τὰ ἐν &c., quo habitatores significantur qui reconciliantur’ (cf. the Socinian view of Colossians 1:15 above): the right answer to which is—not with De W. to say that the Apostle is speaking of living created things only, for manifestly the whole universe is here treated of, there being no reason why living things should be in such a declaration distinguished from other things,—but with Mey. to treat τὰ ἐν τ. οὐρρ. κ. τὰ ἐπ. τ. γῆς as an inexact designation of heaven and earth, and all that in them is, Revelation 10:6. In 1 Chronicles 29:11, the meaning is obviously this, σὺ πάντων τῶν ἐν τῷ οὐρ. κ. ἐπὶ τ. γῆς δεσπόζεις), things visible and things invisible (which divide between them the universe: Mey. quotes from Plato, Phæd. p. 79 A, θῶμεν οὖν, εἰ βούλει ἔφη, δύο εἴδη τῶν ὄντων, τὸ μὲν ὁρατόν, τὸ δὲ ἀειδές. The ἀόρατα are the spirit-world (not, οἷον ψυχή, Chr.: this, being incorporated, would fall under the ὁρατά, for the present purpose), which he now breaks up by εἴτεεἴτεεἴτε), whether (these latter be) thrones, whether lordships, whether governments, whether authorities (on εἴτε, … often repeated, see reff.: and Plato, Rep. p. 493 D, 612 A, Soph. El. 595 f. (Mey.)

These distinctive classes of the heavenly powers occur in a more general sense in Ephesians 1:21, where see note. For δυνάμεις there, we have θρόνοι here. It would be vain to attempt to assign to each of these their places in the celestial world. Perhaps, as De W., the Apostle chose the expressions as terms common to the doctrine of the Colossian false teachers and his own: but the occurrence of so very similar a catalogue in Ephesians 1:21, where no such object could be in view, hardly looks as if such a design were before him. Mey. well remarks, “For Christian faith it remains fixed, and it is sufficient, that there is testimony borne to the existence of different degrees and categories in the world of spirits above; but all attempts more precisely to fix these degrees, beyond what is written in the N. T., belong to the fanciful domain of theosophy.” All sorts of such interpretations, by Teller and others, not worth recording, may be seen refuted in De W.): the whole universe (see above on τὰ πάντα, Colossians 1:16) has been created (not now of the mere act, but of the resulting endurance of creation—leading on to the συνέστηκεν below) by Him (instrumental: He is the agent in creation—the act was His, and the upholding is His: see John 1:3, note) and for Him (with a view to Him: He is the end of creation, containing the reason in Himself why creation is at all, and why it is as it is. See my Sermons on Divine Love, Serm. I. II. The fancies and caprices of those who interpret creation here ethically, are recounted and refuted by Meyer): and He Himself (emphatic, His own Person) is (as in John 8:58, of essential existence: ἦν might have been used, as in John 1:1; but as Mey. well observes, the Apostle keeps the past tenses for the explanatory clauses referring to past facts, Colossians 1:16; Colossians 1:19) before all things (in time; bringing out one side of the πρωτότοκος above: not in rank, as the Socinians: of which latter James 5:12, 1 Peter 4:8, are no justifications, for if πρὸ- πάντων be taken as there, we must render, and He, above all, exists,’ ‘He especially exists,’ προπάντων being adverbial, and not to be resolved. For the temporal sense, see reff.) all things (not ‘omnes,’ as Vulg.), and in Him (as its conditional element of existence, see above on ἐν αὐτῷ, Colossians 1:16) the universe subsists (‘keeps together,’ ‘is held together in its present state:’ οὐ μόνον αὐτὸς αὐτὰ ἐκ τοῦ μὴ ὄντος εἰς τὸ εἶναι παρήγαγεν, ἀλλά καὶ αὐτὸς αὐτὰ συγκρατεῖ νῦν, Chr. On the word, see reff.: and add Philo, quis rer. div. hæres. 12, vol. i. p. 481, ὁ ἔναιμος ὄγκος, ἐξ ἑαυτοῦ διαλυτὸς ὢν κ. νεκρός, συνέστηκε κ. ζωπυρεῖται προνοίᾳ θεοῦ).


Verses 18-20

18–20.] Relation of Christ to the Church (see above on Colossians 1:15): And He (emphatic; not any angels nor created beings: the whole following passage has a controversial bearing on the errors of the Colossian teachers) is the Head of the body the church (not ‘the body of the church:’ the genitive is much more naturally taken as one of apposition, inasmuch as in St. Paul, it is the church which is, not which possesses, the body, see reff.): who (q.d. ‘in that He is:’ the relative has an argumentative force: see Matthiæ, Gr. § 477: in which case it is more commonly found with a particle, ὃς μέν, or ὅς γε) is the beginning (of the Church of the First-born, being Himself πρωτότ. ἐκ τ. νεκρ.: cf. ἀπαρχὴ χριστός, 1 Corinthians 15:23, and reff., especially the last. But the word evidently has, standing as it does here alone, a wider and more glorious reference than that of mere temporal precedence: cf. ref. Rev. and note: He is the Beginning, in that in Him is begun and conditioned the Church, Colossians 1:19-20), the First-born from (among) the dead (i.e. the first who arose from among the dead: but the term πρωτότοκος (see above) being predicated of Christ in both references, he uses it here, regarding the resurrection as a kind of birth. On that which is implied in πρωτότ., see above on Colossians 1:15), that HE (emphatic, again: see above) may become (not, as Est., ‘ex quibus efficitur, Christum … tenere:’ but the aim and purpose of this his priority over creation and in resurrection) in all things (reff. Beza, (and so Kypke) argues, that because the Apostle is speaking of the Church, πᾶσιν must be masculine, allowing however that the neuter has some support from the τὰ πάντα which follows. In fact this decides the question: the τὰ πάντα there are a resumption of the πᾶσιν here. The ἐν then is not ‘inter,’ but of the reference:—‘in all matters:’ πανταχοῦ, as Chrys.: because the πάντα which follows applies not only to things concrete, but also to their combinations and attributes) pre-eminent (first in rank: the word is a transitional one, from priority in time to priority in dignity, and shews incontestably that the two ideas have been before the Apostle’s mind throughout. Add to reff., from Wetst., πρωτεύειν ἐν ἅπασι κράτιστον, Demosth. 1416. 25: and Plut. de puer. educ. p. 9 B, τοὺς παῖδας ἐν πᾶσι τάχιον πρωτεῦσαι).


Verse 19

19.] “Confirmatory of the above-said γίνεσθαι ἐν πᾶσιν αὐτ. πρωτεύοντα—‘of which there can be no doubt, since it pleased &c.’ ” Meyer.—for in Him God was pleased (on the use of εὐδοκέω for δοκέω by the later Greeks, see Fritzsche’s note, on Rom. vol. ii. pp. 369–72.

The subject here is naturally understood to be God, as expressed in 1 Corinthians 1:21; Galatians 1:15; clearly not Christ, as Conyb., thereby inducing a manifest error in the subsequent clause, ‘by Himself He willed to reconcile all things to Himself,’ for it was not to Christ but to the Father that all things were reconciled by Him, cf. 2 Corinthians 5:19. See a full discussion on the construction, and the subject to εὐδόκησεν, in Ellic.’s note. His conclusion, that πλήρωμα is that subject, I cannot accept) that the whole fulness (of God, see ch. Colossians 2:9; Ephesians 3:19, and on πλήρωμα, note, Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 1:23. We must bear in mind here, with Mey., that the meaning is not active, ‘id quod rem implet,’ but passive, ‘id quo res impletur:’ all that fulness of grace which is the complement of the divine character, and which dwells permanently in Christ: ‘cumulatissima omnium divinarum rerum copia,’ Beza,—as in John 1:16. The various other interpretations have been,—“the essential fulness of the Godhead;” so Œc., al.; which is manifestly not in question here,—but is not to be set aside, as Eadie, by saying that ‘the divine essence dwelt in Christ unchangeably and not by the Father’s consent or purpose: it is His in His own right, and not by paternal pleasure:’ for all that is His own right, is His Father’s pleasure, and is ever referred to that pleasure by Himself;—“the fulness of the whole universe;” so Conyb., and Castellio in Beza. This latter answers well: “Quorsum mentio universitatis rerum? Nam res ipsa clamat Apostolum de sola ecclesia hic agere, ut etiam 1 Corinthians 15:18 (?); Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 4:6; Ephesians 4:20 (?):”—‘the Church itself,’ as Severianus in Cramer’s Catena, τουτέστιν τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τὴν πεπληρωμένην αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ χριστῷ,—and Thdrt., πλήρ. τὴν ἐκκλησίαν ἐν τῇ πρὸς ἐφεσίους ἐκάλεσεν, ὡς τῶν θείων χαρισμάτων πεπληρωμένην, ταύτην ἔφη εὐδοκῆσαι τὸν θεὸν ἐν τῷ χριστῷ κατοικῆσαι, τουτέστιν αὐτῷ συνῆφθαι,—and similarly B.-Crus., al., and Schleierm., understanding the fulness of the Gentiles and the whole of Israel, as Romans 11:12; Romans 11:25-26. But this has no support, either in the absolute usage of πλήρωμα, or in the context here. See others in De W.) should dwell, and (‘hæc inhabitatio est fundamentum reconciliationis,’ Beng.) by Him (as the instrument, in Redemption as in Creation, see above Colossians 1:16 end) to reconcile again (see note on Ephesians 2:16) all things (= the universe: not to be limited to ‘all intelligent beings,’ or ‘all men,’ or ‘the whole Church:’ these πάντα are broken up below into terms which will admit of no such limitation. On the fact, see below) to Him (viz. to God, Ephesians 2:16; not αὑτόν; the writer has in his mind two Persons, both expressed by αὐτός, and to be understood from the context. The aspirate should never be placed over αυτ-, unless where there is a manifest necessity for such emphasis. But we are not (as Conyb.,—also Est., Grot., Olsh., De W.) to understand Christ to be meant: see above), having made peace (the subject is not Christ (as in Ephesians 1:15; so Chrys. ( διὰ τοῦ ἰδίου σταυροῦ), Thdrt., Œc., Luth., al.), but the Father: He is the subject in the whole sentence since εὐδόκησεν) by means of the blood of (genitive possessive, belonging to, figuratively, as being shed on: ‘ideo pignus et pretium nostræ cum Deo pacificationis fuit sanguis Christi, quia in cruce fusus,’ Calv.) His Cross,—through Him (emphatic repetition, to bring αὐτός, the Person of Christ, into its place of prominence again, after the interruption occasioned by εἰρηναὐτοῦ: not meaning, as Castal. (in Mey.), ‘per sanguinem ejus, hoc est, per eum:’ for the former and not the latter is explicative of the other),—whether ( τὰ πάντα consist of) the things on the earth, or the things in the heavens. It has been a question, in what sense this reconciliation is predicated of the whole universe. Short of this meaning we cannot stop: we cannot hold with Erasm., al., that it is a reconciliation of the various portions of creation to one another: ‘ut abolitis peccatis, quæ dirimebant concordiam et pacem cœlestium ac terrestrium, jam amicitia jungerentur omnia:’ for this is entirely precluded by the εἴτε εἴτε: nor, for the same reason, with Schleierm., understand that the elements to be reconciled are the Jews and Gentiles, who were at variance about earthly and heavenly things, and were to be set at one in reference to God ( εἰς αὐτόν). The Apostle’s meaning clearly is, that by the blood of Christ’s Cross, reconciliation with God has passed on all creation as a whole, including angelic as well as human beings, unreasoning and lifeless things, as well as organized and intelligent. Now this may be understood in the following ways: 1) creation may be strictly regarded in its entirety, and man’s offence viewed as having, by inducing impurity upon one portion of it, alienated the whole from God: and thus τὰ πάντα may be involved in our fall. Some support may seem to be derived for this by the undeniable fact, that the whole of man’s world is included in these consequences (see Romans 8:19 f.). But on the other side, we never find the angelic beings thus involved: nay, we are taught to regard them as our model in hallowing God’s name, realizing His kingdom, and doing His will (Matthew 6:9-10). And again the εἴτεεἴτε would not suffer this: reconciliation is thus predicated of each portion separately. We are thus driven, there being no question about τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, to enquire, how τὰ ἐν τοῖς οὐρρ. can be said to be reconciled by the blood of the Cross. And here again, 2) we may say that angelic, celestial creation was alienated from God because a portion of it fell from its purity: and, though there is no idea of the reconciliation extending to that portion, yet the whole, as a whole, may need thus reconciling, by the final driving into punishment of the fallen, and thus setting the faithful in perfect and undoubted unity with God. But to this I answer, a) that such reconciliation (?) though it might be a result of the coming of the Lord Jesus, yet could not in any way be effected by the blood of His Cross: b) that we have no reason to think that the fall of some angels involved the rest in its consequences, or that angelic being is evolved from any root, as ours is from Adam: nay, in both these particulars, the very contrary is revealed. We must then seek our solution in some meaning which will apply to angelic beings in their essential nature, not as regards the sin of some among them. And as thus applied, no reconciliation must be thought of which shall resemble ours in its process—for Christ took not upon Him the seed of angels, nor paid any propitiatory penalty in the root of their nature, as including it in Himself. But, forasmuch as He is their Head as well as ours,—forasmuch as in Him they, as well as ourselves, live and move and have their being, it cannot be but that the great event in which He was glorified through suffering, should also bring them nearer to God, who subsist in Him in common with all creation. And at some such increase of blessedness does our Apostle seem to hint in Ephesians 3:10. That such increase might be described as a reconciliation, is manifest: we know from Job 15:15, that “the heavens are not clean in His sight,” and ib. Job 4:18, “His angels He charged with folly.” In fact, every such nearer approach to Him may without violence to words be so described, in comparison with that previous greater distance which now seems like alienation;—and in this case even more properly, as one of the consequences of that great propitiation whose first and plainest effect was to reconcile to God, in the literal sense, the things upon earth, polluted and hostile in consequence of man’s sin. So that our interpretation may be thus summed up: all creation subsists in Christ: all creation therefore is affected by His act of propitiation: sinful creation is, in the strictest sense, reconciled, from being at enmity: sinless creation, ever at a distance from his unapproachable purity, is lifted into nearer participation and higher glorification of Him, and is thus reconciled, though not in the strictest, yet in a very intelligible and allowable sense. Meyer’s note, taking a different view, that the reconciliation is the great κρίσις at the παρουσία, is well worth reading: Eadie’s, agreeing in the main with the above result, is unfortunately, as so usual with him, overloaded with flowers of rhetoric, never more out of place than in treating lofty subjects of this kind. A good summary of ancient and modern opinions is given in De W.


Verse 21-22

21, 22.] And you, who were once alienated (subjective or objective?—‘estranged’ (in mind), or ‘banished’ (in fact)? In Ephesians 2:12, it is decidedly objective, for such is the cast of the whole sentence there: so also in ref. Ps.: in Ephesians 4:18 it describes the objective result, with regard to the life of God, of the subjective ‘being darkened in the understanding.’ It is better then here to follow usage, and interpret objectively—‘alienated’—made aliens) (from God,—not ἀπὸ τῆς πολιτείας τοῦ ἰσρ., nor ἀπὸ τῆς ζωῆς τ. θεοῦ: for ‘God’ is the subject of the sentence), and at enmity (active or passive? ‘hating God,’ or ‘hated by God?’ Mey. takes the latter, as necessary in Romans 5:10 (see note there). But here, where the διάνοια and ἔργα τὰ πονηρά are mentioned, there exists no such necessity: the objective state of enmity is grounded in its subjective causes;—and the intelligent responsible being is contemplated in the whole sentence: cf. εἴ γε ἐπιμένετε κ. τ. λ. below. I take ἐχθ. therefore actively, ‘hostile to Him’) in (dative of reference; not, as Mey. is obliged to take it on account of his passive ἐχθ. of the cause, ‘on account of,’ &c.: this is not the fact: our passive ἔχθρα subsists not on account of any subjective actuality in us, but on account of the pollution of our parent stock in Adam) your understanding (intellectual part: see on Ephesians 2:3; Ephesians 4:18. Erasm.’s rendering, in his Par., ‘enemies to reason,’ ‘etenim qui carni servit, repugnat rationi,’ is clearly wrong: διάνοια is a ‘vox media,’ and cannot signify ‘reason:’ besides, there is nothing here about ‘carni inservire:’ that of Tert., Ambr., and Jer., ‘enemies to God’s will,’ rests on the reading αὐτοῦ after διαν.,—see var. readd.: that of Beza, Mich., Storr, and Bähr,—‘mente operibus malis intenta,’ is allowable constructionally: the verb is followed by ἐν, cf. Psalms 72:8, διενοήθησαν ἐν πονηρίᾳ, Sirach 6:37; Sirach 39:1, and consequently the article before ἐν would not be needed: but is impugned by the τοῖς ἔρ. τοῖς πονηροῖς,—not only wicked works, but the wicked works which ye did) in your wicked works (sphere and element in which you lived, applying to both ἀπηλλ. and ἐχθ. τῇ διαν.), now however (contrast to the preceding description,—the participles forming a kind of πρότασις: so δέον αὐτοὺς τὴν φρόνησιν ἀσκεῖν μᾶλλον τῶν ἄλλων, οἱ δὲ χεῖρον πεπαίδευνται τῶν ἰδιωτῶν, Isocr. ἀντιδ. c. 26: χρεὼν γάρ μιν μὴ λέγειν τὸ ἐόν, λέγει δʼ ὦν, Herod. v. 50: Eur. Alcest. 487 (476). See more examples in Hartung, i. p. 186. It is probably this δέ which has given rise to the variety of readings: and if so, the rec. is most likely to have been original, at least accounting for it) hath He (i.e. God, as before: the apparent difficulty of this may have likewise been an element in altering the reading) reconciled in (of the situation or element of the reconciliation, cf. Colossians 1:24, ἑν τῇ σαρκί μον, and 1 Peter 2:24) the body of his (Christ’s) flesh (why so particularized? ‘distinguitur ab ecclesia, quæ corpus Christi dicitur,’ Beng.,—but this is irrelevant here: no one could have imagined that to be the meaning:—‘corpus humanum quod nobiscum habet commune Filius Dei,’ Calv. (and so Grot., Calov.),—of which the same may be said:—as against the Docetæ, who maintained the unreality of the incarnation: so Beza, al.; but St. Paul no where in this Epistle maintains, as against any adversaries, the doctrine of its reality. I am persuaded that Mey. is right: ‘He found occasion enough to write of the reconciliation as he does here and Colossians 1:20, in the angel-following of his readers, in which they ascribed reconciling mediatorship with God partly to higher spiritual beings, who were without a σῶμα τῆς σαρκόςʼ) by means of His Death (that being the instrumental cause, without which the reconciliation would not have been effected) to (aim and end, expressed without εἰς τό: as in Ephesians 1:4, al. fr.) present you (see Ephesians 5:27 and note: not, as a sacrifice) holy and unblameable and irreproachable (‘erga Deum … respectu vestri … respectu proximi,’ Beng. But is this quite correct? do not ἀμώμ. and ἀνεγκλ. both refer to blame from without? rather with Meyer, ἁγίους represents the positive, ἀμώμ. and ἀνεγκλ. the negative side of holiness. The question whether sanctitas inhærens or sanctitas imputata is here meant, is best answered by remembering the whole analogy of St. Paul’s teaching, in which it is clear that progressive sanctification is ever the end, as regards the Christian, of his justification by faith. Irrespective even of the strong testimony of the next verse, I should uphold here the reference to inherent holiness, the work of the Spirit, consequent indeed on entering into the righteousness of Christ by faith: ‘locus est observatione dignus, non conferri nobis gratuitam justitiam in Christo, quin Spiritu etiam regeneremur in obedientiam justitiæ: quemadmodum alibi (1 Corinthians 1:30) docet, Christum nobis factum esse justitiam et sanctificationem.’ Calvin) before His (own, but the aspirate is not required: see above on Colossians 1:20; not, that of Christ, as Mey., reading ἀποκατηλλάγητε: in Ephesians 1:4, a different matter is spoken of) presence (at the day of Christ’s appearing):


Verses 21-23

21–23.] Inclusion of the Colossians in this reconciliation and its consequences, if they remained firm in the faith.


Verse 23

23.] (condition of this presentation being realized: put in the form of an assumption of their firmness in the hope and faith of the Gospel)—if, that is (i.e. ‘assuming that,’ see note on 2 Corinthians 5:3), ye persist (more locally pointed than μένετε;—usually implying some terminus ad quem, or if not, perseverance to and rest in the end) in the faith (ref.: also Xen. Hell. iii. 4. 6, ἀγησίλαος δὲἐπέμεινε (al. ἐνέμ.) ταῖς σπονδαῖς: more frequently with ἐπί, see Rost u. Palm sub voce) grounded (see Ephesians 3:18, note: and on the sense, Luke 6:48-49) and stedfast (1 Corinthians 15:58, where the thought also of μὴ μετακιν. occurs), and not (the second of two correlative clauses, if setting forth and conditioned by the first, assumes a kind of subjective character, and therefore if expressed by a negative particle, regularly takes μή, not οὐ. So Soph. Electr. 380, μέλλουσι γάρ σεἐνταῦθα πέμψαι, ἔνθα μήποθʼ ἡλίου φέγγος προσόψει. See more examples in Hartung, ii. 113 f.) being moved away (better passive, than middle: cf. Xen. rep. Lac. xv. 1, τὰς δὲ ἄλλας πολιτείας εὕροι ἄν τις μετακεκινημένας κ. ἔτι νῦν μετακινουμένας: it is rather their being stirred (objective) by the false teachers, than their suffering themselves (subjective) to be stirred, that is here in question) from the hope (subjective, but grounded on the objective, see note on Ephesians 1:18) of (belonging to, see Eph. as above: the sense ‘wrought by’ (Mey., De W., Ellic.) is true in fact, but hardly expresses the construction) the Gospel, which ye heard (“three considerations enforcing the μὴ μετακινεῖσθαι: the μετακινεῖσθαι would be for the Colossians themselves inexcusable ( οὗ ἠκούσ.), inconsistent with the universality of the Gospel ( τοῦ κηρυχθ. &c.), and contrary to the personal relation of the Apostle to the Gospel.” Mey. This view is questioned by De W., but it certainly seems best to suit the context: and cf. Chrys. πάλιν αὐτοὺς φέρει μάρτυρας, εἶτα τὴν οἰκουμένην ἅπασαν, and see below),—which was preached ( οὐ λέγει τοῦ κηρυττομένου, ἀλλʼ ἤδη πιστευθέντος κ. κηρυχθέντος, Chr.) in the whole creation (see Mark 16:15. On the omission of the article before κτίσει see above, Colossians 1:15, note) which is under the heaven,—of which I Paul became a minister ( κ. τοῦτο εἰς τὸ ἀξιόπιστον συντελεῖ. μέγα γὰρ αὐτοῦ ἦν τὸ ἀξίωμα λοιπὸν πανταχοῦ ᾀδομένου, κ. τῆς οἰκουμένης ὄντος διδασκάλου, Chrys.).


Verse 24

24.] Transition from the mention of himself to his joy in his sufferings for the Church, and (25–29) for the great object of his ministry:—all with a view to enhance the glory, and establish the paramount claim of Christ. I now (refers to ἐγενόμην—extending what he is about to say down to the present time—emphatic, of time, not transitional merely) rejoice in (as the state in which I am when I rejoice, and the element of my joy itself. Our own idiom recognizes the same compound reference) my sufferings (no τοῖς follows: τοῖς παθήμασιν = οἷς πάσχω) on your behalf (= ὑπὲρ τ. σώμ. below; so that the preposition cannot here imply substitution, as most of the Roman Catholic Commentators (not Est., ‘propter vestram gentium salutem:’ nor Corn.-a-lap., ‘pro evangelio inter vos divulgando’), nor ‘because of you,’ but strictly ‘in commodum vestri,’ that you may be confirmed in the faith by (not my example merely, as Grot., Wolf, al.) the glorification of Christ in my sufferings), and am filling up (the ἀντί implies, not ‘vicissim,’ as Le Clerc, Beza, Bengel, al.; nor that ἀναπλ. is said of one who ‘ ὑστέρημα a se relictum ipse explet,’ and ἀντ αναπλ. of one who ‘alterius ὑστ. de suo explet,’ as Winer (cited by Mey.), but the compensation, brought about by the filling up being proportionate to the defect: so in ref.: in Dio Cass. xliv. 48, ὅσονἐνέδει, τοῦτο ἐκ τῆς παρὰ τῶν ἄλλων συντελείας ἀνταναπληρωθῇ: in Diog. Laert. x. 48, καὶ γὰρ ῥεῦσις ἀπὸ τῆς τῶν σωμάτων ἐπιπολῆς συνεχὴς συμβαίνει, οὐκ ἐπίδηλος αἰσθήσει διὰ τὴν ἀνταναπλήρωσιν, ‘on account of the correspondent supply’) the deficiencies (plural, because the θλίψεις are thought of individually, not as a mass: those sufferings which are wanting) of the tribulations of Christ in my flesh (belongs to ἀνταναπλ., not (as Aug. on Psalms 86. c. 3, vol. iv. p. 1104, Storr, al.) to τῶν θλίψ. τοῦ χρ., not only because there is no article ( τῶν ἐν τῇ σαρκί μου), which would not be absolutely needed, but on account of the context: for if it were so, the clause τῶν θλίψ. τ. χρ. ἐν τῇ σ. μ. would contain in itself that which the whole clause asserts, and thus make it flat and tautological) on behalf of (see on ὑπέρ above) His body, which is the Church (the meaning being this: all the tribulations of Christ’s body are Christ’s tribulations. Whatever the whole Church has to suffer, even to the end, she suffers for her perfection in holiness and her completion in Him: and the tribulations of Christ will not be complete till the last pang shall have passed, and the last tear have been shed. Every suffering saint of God in every age and position is in fact filling up, in his place and degree, the θλίψεις τοῦ χριστοῦ, in his flesh, and on behalf of His body. Not a pang, not a tear is in vain. The Apostle, as standing out prominent among this suffering body, predicates this of himself κατʼ ἐξοχήν; the ἀναπλήρωσις to which we all contribute, was on his part so considerable, as to deserve the name of ἀνταναπλήρωσις itself—I am contributing θλίψεις which one after another fill up the ὑστερήματα. Notice that of the παθήματα τοῦ χριστοῦ not a word is said (see however 2 Corinthians 1:5): the context does not concern, nor does θλίψεις express, those meritorious sufferings which He bore in His person once for all, the measure of which was for ever filled by the one sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, on the cross: He is here regarded as suffering with His suffering people, bearing them in Himself, and being as in Isaiah 63:9, “afflicted in all their affliction.” The above interpretation is in the main that of Chrys., Thl., Aug., Anselm, Calv., Beza, Luth., Melancth., Est., Corn.-a-lap., Grot., Calov., Olsh., Do W., Ellic., Conyb. The latter refers to Acts 9:4, and thinks St. Paul remembered those words when he wrote this: and Vitringa (cit. in Wolf) says well, ‘Hæ sunt passiones Christi, quia Ecclesia ipsius est corpus, in quo ipse est, habitat, vivit, ergo et patitur.’ The other interpretations are 1) that the sufferings are such as Christ would have endured, had He remained longer on earth. So Phot. (in Eadie): ὅσαἔπαθεν ἂν κ. ὑπέστη, καθʼ ὃν τρόπον κ. πρὶν κηρύσσων κ. εὐαγγελιζόμενος τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν. 2) That the sufferings are not properly Christ’s, but only of the same nature with His. Thus Thdrt., after stating Christ’s sufferings in behalf of the Church, says, καὶ ὁ θεῖος ἀπόστολος ὡσαύτως ὑπὲρ αὐτῆς ὑπέστη τὰ ποικίλα παθήματα: and so Mey., Schl., Huther, and Winer. But evidently this does not exhaust the phrase here. To resemble, is not to fill up. 3) Storr, al., would render, ‘afflictions for Christ’s sake,’—which the words will not bear. 4) Some of the Roman Catholic expositors (Bellarmine, Cajetan, al.) maintain hence the doctrine of indulgences: so Corn.-a-lap. in addition: ‘Hinc sequitur non male Bellarminum, Salmeroneum, Franc. Suarez, ct alios Doctores Catholicos, cum tractant de Indulgentiis, hæc generalia Apostoli verba extendere ad thesaurum Ecclesiæ, ex quo ipsa dare solet indulgentias: hunc enim thesaurum voluit Deus constare meritis et satisfactionibus non tantum Christi, sed et Apostolorum omniumque Christi Sanctorum: uti definivit Clemens VI. extravagante (on this word, I find in Ducange, glossarium in voce, ‘extravagantes in jure canonico dicuntur pontificum Romanorum constitutiones quæ) extra corpus canonicum Gratiani, sive extra Decretorum libros vagantur’) unigenitus.’ But Estius, although he holds the doctrine to be catholic and apostolic, and ‘aliunde satis probata,’ yet confesses, ‘ex hoc Apostoli loco non videtur admodum solide statui posse. Non enim sermo iste, quo dicit Apostolus se pati pro ecclesia, necessario sic accipiendus est, quod pro redimendis peccatorum pœnis quas fideles debent, patiatur, quod forte nonnihil haberet arrogantiæ: sed percommode sic accipitur, quomodo proxime dixerat “gaudeo in passionibus meis pro vobis,” ut nimirum utraque parte significet afflictiones et persecutiones pro salute fidelium, ipsiusque ecclesiæ) promovenda toleratas.’ The words in italics are at least an ingenuous confession. Consult on the whole matter, Meyer’s and Eadie’s notes): of which (parallel with οὗ above: in service of which, on behoof of which) I (emphatic, resuming ἐγὼ παῦλος above) became a minister, according to (so that my ministry is conducted in pursuance of, after the requirements and conditions of) the stewardship (see on 1 Corinthians 9:17; 1 Corinthians 4:1, al.: also Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 3:2; not, ‘dispensation,’ as Chrys., Beza, Calv., Est., al.: the simpler meaning here seems best, especially when taken with δοθεῖσαν. ‘In domo Dei quæ est ecclesia, sum œconomus, ut dispensans toti familiæ, i.e. singulis fidelibus, bona et dona Dei domini mei,’ Corn.-a-lap.) of God (of which God is the source and chief) which was given (entrusted to) me towards (with a view to; ref.) you (among other Gentiles; but as so often, the particular reference of the occasion is brought out, and the general kept back), to (object and aim of the stewardship: depends on τ οἰκ. τ. δοθ. μοι) fulfil the word of God (exactly as in Romans 15:19, to fulfil the duty of the stewardship εἰς ὑμᾶς, in doing all that this preaching of the word requires, viz. ‘ad omnes perducere,’ as Beng., see also below: a pregnant expression. The interpretations have been very various: ‘sermonem Dei vocat promissiones … quas Deus præstitit misso ad gentes Apostolo qui Christum eis patefaceret,’ Beza: ‘finem adscribit sui ministerii, ut efficax sit Dei sermo, quod fit dum obedienter accipitur,’ Calv.: ‘ut compleam prædicationem evang. quam cœpit Christus,’ Corn.-a-lap.: ‘ut plene ac perfecte annuntiem verbum Dei: vel, secundum alios (Vatabl. al.) ut ministerio meo impleam æternum Dei verbum, i.e. propositum et decretum de vocatione gentium ad fidem: vel denique, quod probabilius est, ut omnia loca impleam verbo Dei,’ Est.: ‘valet, supplere doctrinam divinam, nempe institutione quam Epaphras inchoavit, profliganda et conficienda,’ Fritzsche ad Rom., vol. iii. p. 275, where see much more on the passage: and other interpretations in Eadie, Meyer, and De W. All the above fail in not sufficiently taking into account the οἰκον. εἰς ὑμᾶς.

Chrys. better, εἰς ὑμᾶς, φησί, πληρῶσαι τ. λόγ. τ. θεοῦ (but this connexion can hardly stand) περὶ τῶν ἐθνῶν λέγει. He goes on however to understand πληρῶσαι of perfecting their faith, which misses the reference to fulfilling his own office)


Verse 26

26.] (namely) the mystery (see on Ephesians 1:9) which has been hidden from (the time of; ἀπό is temporal, not ‘from’ in the sense of ‘hidden from’) the ages and the generations (before us, or of the world: as many Commentators have remarked, not πρὸ τ. αἰ., which would be ‘from eternity,’ but the expression is historical, and within the limits of our world), but now (in these times) was manifested (historical: at the glorification of Christ and the bestowal of the Spirit. This change of a participial into a direct construction is made when the contrasted clause introduced by it is to be brought into greater prominence than the former one. So Thuc. iv. 100, ἄλλῳ τε τρόπῳ πειράσαντες, καὶ μηχανὴν προσήγαγον, ἥπερ εἷλεν αὐτό, τοιάνδε. Herod. ix. 104, ἄλλας τε κατηγεόμενοί σφι ὁδοὺςκαὶ τέλος αὐτοί σφι ἐγένοντο κτείνοντες πολεμιώτατοι. See Bernhardy, p. 473) to His saints (all believers, not merely as in Ephesians 3:5, where the reference is different, the Apostles and prophets (see there, and cf. various readings here), as some of the Commentators have explained it (not Thdrt., who expressly says, οἷς ἠβουλήθη ἁγίοις, τουτέστι τοῖς ἀποστόλοις, κ. τοῖς διὰ τούτων πεπιστευκόσι), e.g. Est., Steiger, al., and Olsh., but regarding the Apostles only as the representatives of all believers):


Verse 27

27.] to whom (‘quippe quibus,’ as Mey.: this verse setting forth, not the contents of the mystery before mentioned, but a separate particular, that these ἅγιοι are persons to whom God, &c.) God willed (it is hardly justifiable to find in this word so much as Chrys. and others have done— τὸ δὲ θέλειν αὐτοῦ, οὐκ ἄλογον. τοῦτο δε εἶπε χάριτος αὐτοὺς μᾶλλον ὑπευθύνους ποιῶν, ἢ ἀφιεὶς αὐτοὺς ἐπὶ κατορθώματι μέγα φρονεῖν—and similarly Calv., Beza, and De W. Such an inference from the expression is quite legitimate: but not such an exposition. No prominence is given to the doctrine, but it is merely asserted in passing) to make known ( γνωρίσαι is not an interpretation of ἐφανερώθη, nor an addition to it, nor result of it, as has been supposed: see on the reference of the verse above) what (how full, how inexhaustible this meaning of τί, necessarily follows from its being joined with a noun of quantity like πλοῦτος) is the richness of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles ( σεμνῶς εἶπε κ. ὄγκον ἐπέθηκεν ἀπὸ πολλῆς διαθέσεως, ἐπιτάσεις ζητῶν ἐπιτάσεων. Chrys. Beware therefore of all attempts to weaken down the sense by resolving the substantives into adjectives by hendiadys. This the E. V. has here avoided: why not always? Next, as to the meaning of these substantives. All turns on τῆς δόξης. Is this the (subjective) glory of the elevated human character, brought in by the Gospel (so Chrys., Thdrt. (Calv.?)): or is it the glory of God, manifested (objective) by His grace in this mystery, revealing His Person to the Gentiles? Neither of these seems to satisfy the conditions of the sentence, in which τῆς δόξης reappears below with ἡ ἐλπίς prefixed. On this account, we must understand it of the glory of which the Gentiles are to become partakers by the revelation of this mystery: i.e. the glory which is begun here, and completed at the Lord’s coming, see Romans 8:17-18. And it is the glory of, belonging to, this mystery, because the mystery contains and reveals it as a portion of its contents. The richness of this glory is unfolded and made known by God’s Spirit as the Gospel is received ἐν τ. ἔθν., as the most wonderful display of it: the Gentiles having been sunk so low in moral and spiritual degradation. See Chr. and Calv. in Mey.), which (mystery: this is more in analogy with St. Paul’s own method of speaking than to understand of τὸ πλοῦτος: cf. τὸ ἀνεξιχνίαστον πλοῦτος τοῦ χριστοῦ, Ephesians 3:8,—and τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον, ὃς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκὶ κ. τ. λ. 1 Timothy 3:16. Besides which ( τοῦ μυστηρ. τούτου) ( ἐν τοῖς ἕθνεσιν) is strictly parallel with, being explained by, ( χριστὸς) ( ἐν ὑμῖν)) is (consists in) Christ (Himself: not to be weakened away into ἡ τοῦ χρ. γνῶσις (Thl.),—‘doctrina Christi’ (Grot.): cf. Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 3:17; 1 Timothy 3:16, al.) among you (not to be confined to the rendering, ‘in you,’ individually, though this is the way in which Christ is among you: ἐν ὑμῖν here is parallel with ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν above: before the Gospel came they were χωρὶς χριστοῦ, Ephesians 2:12), the HOPE (emphatic; explains how Christ among them was to acquaint them τί τὸ πλοῦτος &c., viz. by being Himself the HOPE of that glory) of the glory (not abstract, ‘of glory:’ τῆς δόξης is, the glory which has just been mentioned).


Verse 28

28.] Whom (Christ) we (myself and Timothy: but generally, of all who were associated with him in this true preaching: not, as Conyb., ‘I,’ which here quite destroys the force: the emphasis is on ἡμεῖς. WE preach Christ—not circumcision, not angel worship, not asceticism, as the source of this hope) proclaim (as being this ἐλπὶς τῆς δόξης), warning (see on Ephesians 6:4, and below) every man, and teaching every man (I am inclined with Mey. to take νουθετοῦντες and διδάσκοντες as corresponding in the main to the two great subjects of Christian preaching, repentance and faith: but not too closely or exclusively: we may in fact include Thl.’s view,— νουθ. μὲν ἐπὶ τῆς πράξεως, διδ. δὲ ἐπὶ δογμάτων,—Steiger’s, that the former belongs more to early, the latter to more advanced instruction, and Huther’s, that the former affects the heart, while the latter informs the intellect (see Eadie’s note): for all these belong, the one class to repentance, the other to faith, in the widest sense) in all wisdom (method of this teaching: not as Est. (giving the other but preferring this), ‘in perfecta cognitione Dei et mysteriorum fidei, quæ est vera sapientia,’ and so Aug., Anselm, al.-latt.: this is usually in the accusative: but the Greek Commentators, τουτέστι, μετὰ πάσης σοφίας κ. συνέσεως), that we may present (see above Colossians 1:22) every man (notice the emphatic triple repetition of πάντα ἄνθρ., shewing that the Apostle was jealous of every the least invasion, on the part of the false teachers, of those souls with whom he was put in charge. At the same time it carries a solemn individual appeal to those thus warned and taught: as Chrys.,— τί λέγεις; πάντα ἄνθρωπον; ναί, φησι, τοῦτο σπουδάζομεν· τί γάρ; εἰ καὶ μὴ γένηται τοῦτο, ἔσπευδεν ὁ μακ. π. τέλειον ποιῆσαι. There is hardly perhaps, as Mey., Bisp., Ellic., al., suppose, an allusion to the Judaizers, those who would restrict the Gospel) perfect in Christ (element of this perfection, in union with and life in Him,—comprehending both knowledge and practice. The presentation spoken of is clearly that at the great day of Christ’s appearing):


Verse 29

29.] His own personal part in this general work—for which end (viz. the παραστῆσαι, &c.) I also ( καί implies the addition of a new particular over and above the καταγγέλλειν, carrying it onwards even to this) toil in conflict (of spirit; in the earnestness with which he strove for this end, see ch. Colossians 2:1-3; not, with adversaries: this was so, but is not relevant here. See Philippians 1:30. 1 Thessalonians 2:2), according to (after the proportion of, as is to be expected from) His (Christ’s—see Philippians 4:13; not God’s, as Chrys., Grot., Calv., al.) working which worketh (not passive, as Est. See on Galatians 5:6, Ephesians 3:20, and Fritzsche on Romans 7:5) in me in power (reff.: there is no allusion to miraculous gifts, as Ambrst., Mich., al.).

 


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Bibliography Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Colossians 1:4". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/colossians-1.html. 1863-1878.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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