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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
Colossians 4



Verse 18

Colossians 3:18 to Colossians 4:1.(164) Instructions for the different portions of the household. Why Paul should have given to the churches such a table of household rules only in this Epistle and in that to the Ephesians (comp. also 1 Tim. and Tit.), must be left wholly undecided (Chrysostom exhausts himself in conjectures). They are not polemical; but possibly, in the presence of a theosophico-ascetic atmosphere, the practical rules of healthy domestic life seemed to him the more seasonable. They do not contain traces of a later development of church-life (Holtzmann). The circumstance that the precepts for the several forms of domestic society uniformly (Colossians 3:18; Colossians 3:20; Colossians 3:22 ff.) begin with the subordinate party, as also at Ephesians 5:21 ff., is to be regarded as having occurred without any set purpose; the idea of obedience was primarily present to the writer’s mind. If Paul’s aim had been to counteract the abuse of Christian freedom and equality, or in other words, perverse desires for emancipation, he would not have considered so weighty a purpose sufficiently met by the mere mode of arrangement, but would have entered upon the matter itself (in opposition to Huther and de Wette); and this we should have to assume that he would have done also in the event of his having had in view an attitude of resistance on the part of those bound to obedience as the thing most to be feared (in opposition to Hofmann). Just as much might such an attitude be a thing to be feared from the stronger party. Respecting the nominatives in the address, see especially Stallbaum, ad Plat. Symp. p. 172 A.

ὡς ἀνῆκεν] not the perfect (with present signification), as Huther thinks and Bleek does not disapprove, but the imperfect, which has its logical reference in the ἐν κυρίῳ to be connected with it: as was fitting in the Lord, i.e. as was becoming in the relation of the ἐν χριστῷ εἶναι (Philemon 1:8), as was appropriate to the Christian state, but had not yet been in this way realized. The imperfect (comp. Acts 22:22) denotes, therefore, as also in χρῆν and ἔδει, the incomplete condition, which extends even into the present. See Kühner, II. 1, p. 176 f.; Bernhardy, p. 373. Similarly, Winer, p. 254 [E. T. 338]. Comp. also Buttmann, p. 187 [E. T. 216]. We are not to think of an omission of ἄν; see Kühner, l.c. The connection of ἐν κυρίῳ with ὑπότασσεσθε (Chrysostom, Theophylact, Estius, Rosenmüller, Hofmann, and others)—in which case Hofmann imparts into ὡς ἀνῆκεν the abstract idea: as was already in itself fitting—is opposed by the position of the words themselves, as well as by the parallel in Colossians 3:20 : εὐάρεστόν ἐστιν ἐν κυρίῳ.



Colossians 4:1. οὐρανοῖς] Lachm. and Tisch. read οὐρανῷ, following A B C א* min. vss. Clem. Or. Damasc. The plural is from Ephesians 6:9.

Colossians 4:3. δἰ ] Lachm. reads διʼ ὅν, following B F G. Not attested strongly enough, especially as after τ. χριστοῦ the masculine involuntarily suggested itself.

Colossians 4:8. γνῷ τὰ περὶ ὑμῶν] A B D* F G min. Aeth. It., and some Fathers have γνῶτε τὰ περὶ ἡμῶν.1(167) Recommended by Griesb., received by Scholz, Lachm. and Tisch. 8, approved also by Rinck and Reiche; and rightly, because it has preponderant attestation, and is so necessary as regards the context that it must not be regarded as an alteration from Ephesians 6:22 (comp. in loc.). The Recepta is to be regarded as having arisen through the omission of the syllable TE before TA.

Colossians 4:12. Instead of στῆτε Tisch. 8 has σταθῆτε, only on the authority of A* B and some min.

πεπληρω΄ένοι] A B C D* F G א min. have πεπληροφορη΄ένοι. Recommended by Griesb., received by Lachm. and Tisch., and justly; the familiar πεπληρω΄. crept in involuntarily, or by way of gloss.

Colossians 4:13. ζῆλον πολύν] Griesb. Scholz, Lachm. Tisch. Reiche read πολὺν πόνον, following A B C D** א 80, Copt., while D* F G have πολὺν κόπον, and Vulg. It.: multum laborem. Accordingly the Recepta is at any rate to be rejected, and πολὺν πόνον to be preferred as having decisive attestation; πόνον was glossed partly by κόπον, partly by ζῆλον ( πόθον and ἀγῶνα are also found in codd.). Neither ζῆλον nor κόπον would have given occasion for a gloss; and in the N. T. πόνος only further occurs in the Apocalypse.

Colossians 4:15. αὐτοῦ] A C P א min. have αὐτῶν; B: αὐτῆς. The latter is the reading of Lachm., who with B** instead of νυ΄φᾶν accents νύ΄φαν. The αὐτῶν, which is received by Tisch. 8, is to be held as original; the plural not being understood was corrected, according as the name νυ΄φ. was reckoned masculine or feminine, into αὐτοῦ or αὐτῆς.

Verse 1

Colossians 4:1. τὴν ἰσότητα] not: equity, for the word signifies aequalitas, not aequitas, i.e. ἐπιείκεια (in opposition to Steiger, Huther, de Wette, Ewald, Bleek, and most expositors), but: equality (2 Corinthians 8:13 f.; very often in Plato, Polyb. ii. 38. 8, vi. 8. 4; Lucian, Herm. 22, Zeux. 5, also the passages from Philo in Wetstein, and the LXX. Job 36:29; Zechariah 4:7), so that ye, namely, regard and treat the slaves as your equals. What is herein required, therefore, is not a quality of the master, and in particular not the freedom from moral unevenness,(168) which is equivalent to δικαιοσύνη (Hofmann), but a quality of the relation, which is to be conceded; it is not at all, however, the equalization of the outward relation, which would be a de facto abolition of slavery, but rather the equality, which, amidst a continued subsistence of all the outward diversity, is brought about in the Christian κοινωνία by kindly treatment. While τὸ δίκαιον (what is right) expresses that which, according to the Christian consciousness of right, belongs as matter of right to the slave, τὴν ἰσότητα requires the concession of the parity (égalité) implied in the Christian ἀδελφότης. Paul has in view (in opposition to Hofmann) merely Christian slaves (whom he has exhorted in Colossians 3:22 f.); otherwise, in fact, the conception of ἰσότης would be not at all appropriate. It is just by the Christian status of both parties that he desires to see their inequality in other respects ethically counterbalanced. A commentary on τὴν ἰσότητα is supplied by Philemon 1:16. At variance with the context, Erasmus, Melanchthon, Vatablus, Cornelius a Lapide, Böhmer, and others understand the equality of impartial treatment, according to which the master does not prefer one slave to another. This would not in fact yield any definite moral character of the treatment in itself, nor would it suit all the cases where there is only one slave. As to the middle παρέχεσθε (Titus 2:7; Acts 19:24), observe that it is based simply on the conception of the self-activity of the subject; Kühner, II 1, p. 97.

εἰδότες] consciousness, that serves as a motive, as in Colossians 3:24.

καὶ ὑ΄εῖς κ. τ. λ.] Theophylact says correctly: ὥσπερ ἐκεῖνοι ὑ΄ᾶς, οὓτω καὶ ὑ΄εῖς ἔχετε κύριον, and that in heaven, namely Christ.

Verse 2

Colossians 4:2. To prayer apply yourselves perseveringly; comp. Romans 12:12; Ephesians 6:18; Acts 1:14; also 1 Thessalonians 5:17 : ἀδιαλείπτως προσεύχεσθε, which is substantially the same thing. Comp. Luke 18:1.

γρηγορ. ἐν αὐτῇ] modal definition of the προσκαρτερεῖν: so that ye are watchful (that is, alacres, mentally attentive and alert, not weary and distracted, comp. 1 Thessalonians 5:6; Ephesians 6:18; 1 Peter 4:7; 1 Peter 5:7 f.; Matthew 26:41) in the same. ἐν, not to be taken as instrumental, is meant of the business, in the execution of which they are to be vigilant, since it is prayer in itself, as an expression of the spiritual life, and not as an aid to moral activity, that is spoken of. Hence we must not interpret it, with Hofmann, as indicating how Christian watchfulness ought to be (namely, a watching in prayer), but rather how one ought to be in praying (namely, watchful therein). The point of the precept is the praying; and hence it is continued by προσεύχομενοι.

ἐν εὐχαρ.] accompanying attitude, belonging to γρηγ. ἐν αὐτῇ; with thanksgiving, amidst thanksgiving, namely, for the benefits already received. Comp. Colossians 1:12, Colossians 2:7, Colossians 3:17; Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:17. This is the essential element of the piety of prayer:(169) αὕτη γὰρ ἀληθινὴ εὐχὴ εὐχαριστίαν ἔχουσα ὑπὲρ πάντων ὧν ἴσ΄εν καὶ ὧν οὐκ ἴσ΄εν, ὧν εὖ ἐπάθο΄εν ἐθλίβο΄εν, ὑπὲρ τῶν κοινῶν εὐεργεσίων, Theophylact. The combination with τῇ προσευχῇ προσκαρτ. (Böhmer, Hofmann) is without ground in the context, although likewise suitable as to sense.

Verses 2-6

Colossians 4:2-6. After having already concluded the general exhortations at Colossians 3:17, Paul now subjoins some by way of supplement, and that in aphoristic epistolary fashion, concerning prayer along with intercession for himself (Colossians 4:2-4), and demeanour towards non-Christians (Colossians 4:5-6). How special was the importance of both under the circumstances then existing!

Verse 3

Colossians 4:3. Comp. Ephesians 6:19 f.

ἅμα καὶ περὶ ἡμ.] while your prayer takes place at the same time also (not merely for yourselves, for others, and about whatever other affairs, but at the same time also) for us, includes us also. This ἡμῶν, not to be referred to Paul alone, like the singular δέδεμαι subsequently and Colossians 4:4, applies to him and Timothy, Colossians 1:1.

ἵνα] contents of the prayer ἵνα] contents of the prayer expressed as its purpose, as in Colossians 1:9 and frequently.

θύραν τ. λόγου] is not equivalent to στόμα (Beza, Calvin, Zanchius, Estius, Cornelius a Lapide, Bengel, and others, comp. Storr and Böhmer)—a singular appellation which Ephesians 6:7 does not warrant us to assume—but is rather a figurative way of indicating the thought: unhindered operation in the preaching of the gospel. So long as this does not exist, there is not opened to the preachers a door for the word, through which they may let it go forth. Comp. 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Dion. Hal. de vi Dem. p. 1026. 14: οὐδὲ θύρας ἰδὼν λόγος, also Pind. Ol. vi. 44; πύλας ὕμνων ἀναπιτνάμεν, Bacchyl. fr. xiv. 2. The παῤῥησία of the preaching (Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact), however, lies not in the θύρα and its opening, but in what follows. Hofmann incorrectly holds that the closed door is conceived as being on the side of those, to whom the preachers wished to preach the word, so that it could not enter in. This conception is decidedly at variance with the immediately following λαλῆσαι κ. τ. λ., according to which the hindrance portrayed (the door to be opened) exists on the side of the preachers. Moreover, in this ἵνα θεὸς κ. τ. λ. the wish of the apostle, as regards his own person, is certainly directed to liberation from his captivity (comp. Philemon 1:22), not, however, to this in itself, but to the free working which depended on it. It was not the preaching in the prison which Paul meant, for that he had; but he longed after the opening of a θύρα τοῦ λόγου; God was to give it to him. Perhaps the thought of liberation suggested to himself the choice of the expression. Nor is the plural ἡμῶν and ἡμῖν, embracing others with himself, at variance with this view (as Hofmann holds); for by the captivity of the apostle his faithful friend and fellow-labourer Timothy, who was with him, was, as a matter of course, also hindered in the freedom of working, to which he might otherwise have devoted himself. This was involved in the nature of their personal and official fellowship. Observe how it is only with δέδεμαι that Paul makes, and must make, a transition to the singular. This transition by no means betrays (in opposition to Hitzig and Holtzmann) the words διʼ καὶ δέδεμαι, ἵνα φαν. αὐτό to be an interpolation from Ephesians 6:20. The fact, that Paul elsewhere (Romans 7:2; 1 Corinthians 7:27; 1 Corinthians 7:39) has δέειν in the figurative sense, cannot matter; comp., on the contrary, the δεσμός and δέσμιος which he so often uses.

λαλῆσαι κ. τ. λ.] infinitive of the aim: in order to speak the mystery of Christ. The emphasis is on λαλῆσαι: not to suppress it, but to let it be proclaimed. Comp. 1 Corinthians 2:6; 2 Corinthians 4:13; 1 Thessalonians 2:2.

τοῦ χριστοῦ] genitive of the subject, the divine mystery contained in the appearance and redemptive act of Christ (comp. Ephesians 3:4), in so far, namely, as the divine counsel of redemption, concealed previously to its being made known by the gospel, was accomplished in Christ’s mission and work (Colossians 1:26, Colossians 2:2; Ephesians 1:9; Romans 16:25). Thus the μυστήριον of God in Colossians 2:2 is, because Christ was the bearer and accomplisher of it, the μυστήριον τοῦ χριστοῦ.

διʼ καὶ δέδεμαι] διʼ applies to the μυστήρ.; and the whole clause serves to justify the intercession desired. When, namely, Paul wishes λαλῆσαι τὸ μυστήρ. τ. χ., he therewith desires that, which is in such sense his entire destination, that on account of this mystery—because, namely, he has made it known—he also bears his fetters. This καί is consequently the also of the corresponding relation, quite common with relatives (Baeumlein, Partik. p. 152).

Verse 4

Colossians 4:4. ἵνα κ. τ. λ.] cannot, seeing that the preceding ἵνα θεὸς ἀνοίξῃ κ. τ. λ. means the free preaching outside of the prison, be dependent either on δέδεμαι (Bengel, Hofmann, comp. Theodoret) or on προσευχόμενοι, so that it would run parallel with ἵνα in Colossians 4:3 (Beza, Bähr, de Wette, Baumgarten-Crusius, Dalmer, and others); it is the aim of the λαλῆσαι τὸ μυστ. τ. χ.: in order that I may make it manifest (by preaching) as I must speak it. Comp. also Bleek, who, however, less simply attaches it already to ἵνα θεὸς ἀνοίξῃ κ. τ. λ. The significant weight of this clause expressing the aim lies in the specification of mode ὡς δεῖ με λαλῆσαι, in which δεῖ has the emphasis. To give forth his preaching in such measure, as it was the necessity of his apostolic destiny to do ( δεῖ)—so frankly and without reserve, so free from hindrance, so far and wide from land to land, with such liberty to form churches and to combat erroneous teachings, and so forth

Paul was unable, so long as he was in captivity, even when others were allowed access to him. There is a tragic trait in this ὡς δεῖ με λαλῆσαι, the feeling of the hindered present. The traditional explanation is that of Chrysostom: μετὰ πολλῆς τῆς παῤῥησίας καὶ μηδὲν ὑποστειλάμενον, namely, in captivity, where Paul longed to speak in the right way (de Wette; so usually), or conformably to higher necessity (Bähr, Huther, comp. Beza, 1 Corinthians 9:16), or without allowing himself to be disturbed in his preaching as apostle to the Gentiles by his imprisonment occasioned by Jewish-Christian hostility (Hofmann). But in opposition to the reference of the whole intercession to the ministry in prison, see on Colossians 4:3. The wish and the hope of working once more in freedom were so necessarily bound up in Paul with the consciousness of his comprehensive apostolic task, that we can least of all suppose him to have given it up already in Caesarea, where he appealed to the emperor. Even in the Epistle to the Philippians (Philippians 1:25, Philippians 2:24), his expectation is still in fact directed to renewed freedom of working.

Verse 5

Colossians 4:5 f. Another exhortation, for which Paul must still have had occasion, although we need not seek its link of connection with the preceding one. Comp. Ephesians 5:15 f., where the injunction here given in reference to the non-Christians is couched in a general form.

ἐν σοφίᾳ] Practical Christian wisdom (not mere prudence; Chrysostom aptly quotes Matthew 10:16) is to be the element, in which their walk amidst their intercourse with the non-Christians moves, πρός of the social direction, Bernhardy, p. 205. As to οἱ ἔξω, see on 1 Corinthians 5:12. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:12.

τὸν καιρὸν ἐξαγορ.] definition of the mode in which that injunction is to be carried out: so that ye make the right point of time your own (see on Ephesians 5:16), allow it not to pass unemployed. For what? is to be inferred solely from the context; namely, for all the activities in which that same wise demeanour in intercourse with the non-Christians finds expression—which, consequently, may be according to the circumstances very diversified. Individual limitations of the reference are gratuitously introduced, such as “ad ejusmodi homines meliora docendos,” Heinrichs, comp. Erasmus, Beza, Calovius, and others, including Flatt and Böhmer; or: “in reference to the furtherance of the kingdom of God,” Huther, Hofmann. There is likewise gratuitously imported the idea of the shortness of time, on account of which it is to be well applied (Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Castalio, and others, including Bähr), as also the view that the καιρός, which signifies the αἰὼν οὗτος, is not the property of the Christian, but belongs τοῖς ἔξω, and is to be made by Christians their own through good deeds (Theodoret, comp. Oecumenius), or by peaceful demeanour towards the non-Christians (Theophylact). Lastly, there is also imported the idea of an evil time from Ephesians 5:16, in connection with which expositors have in turn lighted on very different definitions of the meaning; e.g. Calvin: “in tanta saeculi corruptela eripiendam esse benefaciendi occasionem et cum obstaculis luctandum;” Grotius: “effugientes pericula.”

Colossians 4:6. λόγ. ὑμ.] what ye speak, namely, πρὸς τοὺς ἔξω; the more groundless, therefore, is the position of Holtzmann, that Colossians 4:6 is a supplement inserted at a later place, when it should have properly come in at chap. 3 between Colossians 4:8-9. ἔστω is to be supplied, as is evident from the preceding imperative περιπατεῖτε.

ἐν χάριτι] denotes that with which their speech is to be furnished, with grace, pleasantness. Comp. on Luke 4:22; Sirach 26:16; Sirach 37:21; Hom. Od. viii. 175; Dem. 51. 9. This χαριέντως εἶναι of speaking (comp. Plato, Prot. p. 344 B, Rep. p. 331 A) is very different from the χαριτογλωσσεῖν of Aesch. Prom. 294.

ἅλατι ἠρτυμ.] seasoned with salt, a figurative representation of speech as an article of food, which is communicated. The salt is emblem of wisdom, as is placed beyond doubt by the context in Colossians 4:5, and is in keeping with the sense of the following εἰδέναι κ. τ. λ. (comp. Matthew 5:13; Mark 9:49-50). As an article of food seasoned with salt(170) is thereby rendered palatable, so what is spoken receives through wisdom (in contents and form) its morally attracting, exciting, and stimulating quality. Its opposite is the stale, ethically insipid (not the morally rotten and corrupt, as Beza, Böhmer, and others hold) quality of speech, the μῶρον, μωρολογεῖν, in which the moral stimulus is wanting. The designation of wit by ἅλς ( ἅλες) among the later Greeks (Plut. Moral. p. 685 A Athen. ix. p. 366 C) is derived from the pungent power of salt, and is not relevant here. Moreover, the relation between the two requirements, ἐν χάριτι and ἅλατι ἠρτυ΄ένος, is not to be distinguished in such a way that the former shall mean the good and the latter the correct impression (so, arbitrarily, Hofmann); but the former depicts the character of the speech more generally, and the latter more specially. The good and correct impression is yielded by both.

εἰδέναι κ. τ. λ.] taken groundlessly by Hofmann in an imperative sense (see on Romans 12:15; Philippians 3:16), is, as if ὥστε stood alongside of it, the epexegetical infinitive for more precise definition: so that ye know; see Matthiae, § 532 f, p. 1235 f.; Winer, p. 296 [E. T. 398]. This εἰδέναι (to understand how, see on Philippians 4:12) is, in fact, just an ability, which would not be found in the absence of the previously-described quality of speech, but is actually existent through the same.

πῶς] which may be in very different ways, according to the varieties of individuality in the questioners. Hence: ἑνὶ ἑκάστῳ, “nam haec pars est non ultima prudentiae, singulorum habere respectum,” Calvin.

ἀποκρίνεσθαι] We may conceive reference to be made to questions as to points of faith and doctrine, as to moral principles, topics of constitution and organization, historical matters, and so forth, which, in the intercourse of Christians with non-Christians, might be put, sometimes innocently, sometimes maliciously (comp. 1 Peter 3:1), to the former, and required answer. Paul does not use the word elsewhere. Comp. as to the thing itself, his own example at Athens, Acts 17; before Felix and Festus; before the Jews in Rome, Acts 28:20, and so forth; and also his testimony to his own procedure, 1 Corinthians 9:20-22. Chrysostom, Theodoret, Calovius, and others, inappropriately mix up believers as included in ἐνὶ ἑκάστῳ, in opposition to Colossians 4:5.

Verses 7-9

Colossians 4:7-9. Sending of Tychicus, and also of Onesimus. Comp. on Ephesians 6:21 f.

By ἀδελφ. Paul expresses the relation of Tychicus as a Christian brother generally; by διάκονος, his special relation as the apostle’s official servant, in which very capacity he employs him for such missions; and by σύνδουλος (Colossians 1:7) he delicately, as a mark of honour, places him as to official category on a footing of equality with himself; while ἐν κυρίῳ, belonging to the two latter predicates,(171) marks the specific definite character, according to which nothing else than simply Christ

His person, word, and work—is the sphere in which these relations of service are active. Comp. Ephesians 6:21.

εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο] for this very object, having a retrospective reference as in Romans 13:6, 2 Corinthians 5:5 (in opposition to Hofmann), in order, namely, that ye may learn from him all that concerns me. The following ἵνα γνῶτε τὰ π. ὑμῶν (see the critical remarks) is explicative; πάντα ὑμ. γνωρ. τὰ ὧδε in Colossians 4:9 then corresponds to both. Comp. on Ephesians 6:22.

παρακαλ.] may comfort, in your anxiety concerning me, respecting my position. With the reading γνῷ τὰ περὶ ὑμῶν, the reference would be to the sufferings of the readers; δείκνυσι καὶ αὐτοὺς ἐν πειρασμοῖς ὄντας καὶ παρακλήσεως χρήζοντας, Theophylact, comp. Chrysostom.

σὺν ὀνησίμῳ] belonging to ἔπεμψα. As to this slave of Philemon, see Introd. to the Epistle to Philemon. Paul commends him(172) as his faithful ( πιστός, as in Colossians 4:7, not: having become a believer, as Bähr would render it) and beloved brother, and designates him then as Colossian, not in order to do honour to their city (Chrysostom, Theophylact), but in order to bespeak their special sympathy for Onesimus, the particulars as to whom, especially as regards his conversion, he leaves to be communicated orally.

ἐξ ὑμῶν] As a Colossian he was from among them, that is, one belonging to their church. Comp. Colossians 4:12.

τὰ ὧδε] the state of matters here, to which τὰ κατʼ ἐμέ, Colossians 4:7, especially belonged.

Verse 10

Colossians 4:10. Sending of salutations down to Colossians 4:14.

ἀρίσταρχος] a Thessalonian, known from Acts 19:29; Acts 20:4; Acts 27:2, Philemon 1:24, was with Paul at Caesarea, when the latter had appealed to the emperor, and travelled with him to Rome, Acts 27:2.

συναιχμάλωτός μου] οὐδὲν τούτου τοῦ ἐγκωμίου μεῖζον, Chrysostom. In the contemporary letter to Philemon at Phlemon Colossians 1:24, the same Aristarchus is enumerated among the συνεργοί; and, on the other hand, at Philemon 1:23 Epaphras, of whose sharing the captivity our Epistle makes no mention (see Colossians 1:7), is designated as συναιχμάλωτος, so that in Philem. l.c. the συναιχμάλωτος is expressly distinguished from the mere συνεργοί, and the former is not affirmed of Aristarchus. Hence various interpreters have taken it to refer not to a proper, enforced sharing of the captivity, but to a voluntary one, it being assumed, namely, that friends of the apostle allowed themselves to be temporarily shut up with him in prison, in order to be with him and to minister to him not merely as visitors, but continuously day and night. Comp. Huther, de Wette, and Fritzsche, ad Rom. I. p. xxi. According to this view, such friends changed places from time to time, so that, when the apostle wrote our letter, Aristarchus, and when he wrote that to Philemon, Epaphras, shared his captivity. But such a relation could the less be gathered by the readers from the mere συναιχμάλωτος (comp. Lucian, As. 27), seeing that Paul himself was a prisoner, and consequently they could not but find in συναιχμάλ. simply the entirely similar position of Aristarchus as a συνδεσμώτης (Plat Rep. p. 516 C Thuc. vi. 60. 2), and that as being so at the same time, not, as in Romans 16:7, at some earlier period. Hence we must assume that now Aristarchus, but when the Epistle to Philemon was written, Epaphras, lay in prison at the same time with the apostle,—an imprisonment which is to be regarded as detention for trial, and the change of persons in the case must have had its explanation in circumstances to us unknown but yet, notwithstanding the proximity of the two letters in point of time, sufficiently conceivable. It is to be observed, moreover, that as αἰχμάλ. always denotes captivity in war (see on Ephesians 4:8; also Luke 4:18), Paul by συναιχμ. sets himself forth as a captive warrior (in the service of Christ). Comp. συστρατιώτης, Philippians 2:25; Philemon 1:2. Hofmann (comp. also on Romans 16:7) is of opinion that we should think “of the war-captive state of one won by Christ from the kingdom of darkness,” so that συναιχμάλωτος would be an appellation for fellow-Christian; but this is an aberration, which ought least of all to have been put forth in the presence of a letter, which Paul wrote in the very character of a prisoner.

Upon ἀνεψιός, consobrinus, cousin: Herod, vii. 5, 82, ix. 10; Plat. Legg. xi p. 925 A Xen. Anab. vii. 8. 9, Tobit 7:12, Numbers 36:11; see Andoc. i. 47; Pollux, iii. 28. Not to be confounded either with nephew ( ἀδελφιδοῦς) or with ἀνεψιάδης, cousin’s son, in the classical writers, ἀνεψιοῦ παῖς. See generally, Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 506. To take it in a wider sense, like our “kinsman, relative” (so in Hom. Il. ix. 464, who, however, also uses it in the strict sense as in x. 519), there is the less reason, seeing that Paul does not use the word elsewhere. Moreover, as no other Mark at all occurs in the N. T., there is no sufficient ground for the supposition of Hofmann, that Paul had by ἀνεψ. βαρν. merely wished to signify which Mark he meant Chrysostom and Theophylact already rightly perceived that the relationship with the highly-esteemed Barnabas was designed to redound to the commendation of Mark.

περὶ οὗ ἐλαβ. ἐντολ.] in respect of whom (Mark) ye have received, injunctions(173)—a remark which seems to be made not without a design of reminding them as to their execution. What injunctions are meant, by whom and through whom, they were given, and whether orally or in writing, Paul does not say; but the recalling of them makes it probable that they proceeded from himself, and were given ἀγράφως διά τινων (Oecumenius). Ewald conjectures that they were given in the letter to the Laodiceans, and related to love-offerings for Jerusalem, which Mark was finally to fetch and attend to. But the work of collection was probably closed with the last journey of the apostle to Jerusalem. Others hold, contrary to the notion of ἐντολή, that letters of recommendation are meant from Barnabas (Grotius), or from the Roman church (Estius); while others think that the following ἐὰν ἔλθῃ κ. τ. λ. forms the contents of ἐντολάς (Calvin—who, with Syriac, Ambrosiaster, and some codd., reads subsequently δέξασθαι,—comp. Beza, Castalio, Bengel, Bähr, and Baumgarten-Crusius),—a view against which may be urged the plural ἐντολάς and the absence of the article. Hofmann incorrectly maintains that περὶ οὗ ἐλάβ. ἐντολάς is to be taken along with ἐὰν ἔλθῃ π. ὑμ.: respecting whom ye have obtained instructions for the case of his coming to you. This the words could not mean; for ἐὰν ἔλθῃ π. ὑμ. signifies nothing else than: if he shall have come to you, and this accords not with ἐλάβ. ἐντολ., but only with δέξασθε αὐτόν,(174) which Hofmann makes an exclamation annexed without connecting link (that is, with singular abruptness).

ἐὰν ἔλθῃ κ. τ. λ.] Parenthesis; Mark must therefore have had in view a journey, which was to bring him to Colossae. δέχεσθαι of hospitable reception, as often in the N. T. (Matthew 10:14; John 4:45) and in classical authors (Xen. Anab. iv. 8. 23). From the circumstance, however, that δέξασθε stands without special modal definition, it is not to be inferred that Paul was apprehensive lest the readers should not, without this summons, have recognised Mark (on account of Acts 15:38 f.) as an apostolic associate (Wieseler, Chronol. des apost. Zeitalt. p. 567). Not the simple δέξασθε, but a more precise definition, would have been called for in the event of such an apprehension.

Verse 11

Colossians 4:11. Of this Jesus nothing further is known.

οἱ ὄντες ἐκ περιτ. is to be attached, with Lachmann (comp. also Steiger, Huther, Bleek), to what follows, so that a full stop is not to be inserted (as is usually done) after περιτ. Otherwise οἱ ὄντες ἐκ περιτ. would be purposeless, and the following οὗτοι μόνοι κ. τ. λ. too general to be true, and in fact at variance with the subsequent mention of Epaphras and Luke (Colossians 4:12-14). It is accordingly to be explained: Of those, who are from the circumcision, these alone (simply these three, and no others) are such fellow-labourers for the kingdom of the Messiah, as have become a comfort to me. The Jewish-Christian teachers, consequently, worked even at Caesarea to a great extent in an anti-Pauline sense. Comp. the complaint from Rome, Philippians 1:15; Philippians 1:17. The nominative οἱ ὄντες ἐκ περιτ. puts the generic subject at the head; but as something is to be affirmed not of the genus, but of a special part of it, that general subject remains without being followed out, and by means of the μετάβασις εἰς μέρος the special subject is introduced with οὗτοι, so that the verb (here the εἰσί to be supplied) now attaches itself to the latter. A phenomenon of partitive apposition, which is current also in classical authors. See Kühner, II. 1, p. 246; Nägelsbach and Faesi on Hom Il. iii. 211. Comp. Matthiae, p. 1307. Hence there is the less reason for breaking up the passage, which runs on simply, after the fashion adopted by Hofmann, who treats ἐκ περιτομῆς οὗτοι μόνοι as inserted parenthetically between οἱ ὄντες and συνεργοί. The complimentary affirmation is to be referred to all the three previously named, without arbitrary exclusion of Aristarchus (in opposition to Hofmann). At any rate, Caesarea was a city so important for the Christian mission, that many teachers, Jewish-Christian and Gentile-Christian, must have frequented it, especially while Paul was a prisoner there; and consequently the notice in the passage before us need not point us to Rome as the place of writing.

παρηγορία] consolation, comfort, only here in the N. T.; more frequently in Plutarch; see Kypke. ΄έγιστον ἐγκώμιον τὸ τῷ ἀποστόλῳ γενέσθαι θυμηδίας πρόξενον, Theodoret Bengel imposes an arbitrary limitation: “in forensi periculo.”

Verse 12

Colossians 4:12. ἐπαφρᾶς] See Colossians 1:7 and Introd.

It is to be observed that, according to Colossians 4:11, Epaphras, Luke, and Demas (Colossians 4:14) were no Jewish-Christians, whereas Tiele in the Stud. u. Krit. 1858, p. 765, holding Luke to be by birth a Jew, has recourse to forced expedients, and wishes arbitrarily to read between the lines. Hofmann, refining groundlessly (see on Colossians 4:14), but with a view to favour his presupposition that all the N. T. writings were of Israelite origin,(175) thinks that our passage contributes nothing towards the solution of the question as to Lake’s descent; comp. on Luke, Introd. § 1.

ἐξ ὑμῶν] as in Colossians 4:9, exciting the affectionate special interest of the readers; ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν afterwards thoughtfully corresponds.

δοῦλος χ. is to be taken together with πάντοτε ἀγωνιζ., but ἐξ ὑμῶν is not to be connected with δοῦλος (Hofmann); on the contrary, it is to be taken by itself as a special element of recommendation (as in Colossians 4:9): Epaphras, your own, a servant of Christ who is always striving, etc.

ἀγωνιζ.] Comp. Romans 15:30. The more fervent the prayer for any one is, the more is it a striving for him, namely, in opposition to the dangers which threaten him, and which are present to the vivid conception of him who wrestles in prayer. Comp. also Colossians 2:1. The striving of Epaphras in prayer certainly had reference not merely to the heretical temptations to which the Colossians, of whose church he was a member, were exposed, but—as is evident from ἵνα στῆτε κ. τ. λ. (purpose of the ἀγωνιζ. κ. τ. λ.)—to everything generally, which endangered the right Christian frame in them.

στῆτε] designation of stedfast perseverance; in which there is neither wavering, nor falling, nor giving way. To this belongs ἐν παντὶ θελήμ τ. θ., expressing wherein (comp. 1 Peter 5:12) they are to maintain stedfastness; in every will of God, that is, in all that God wills. Comp. on στῆναι ἐν in this sense, John 8:44; Romans 5:2; 1 Corinthians 15:1; 1 Corinthians 16:13. This connection (comp. Bengel and Bleek) recommends itself on account of its frequent occurrence, and because it completes and rounds off the whole expression; for στῆτε now has not merely a modal definition, τέλ. κ. πεπληρ., but also a local definition, which admirably corresponds to the figurative conception of standing. This applies, at the same time, in opposition to the usual mode of construction with τέλ. κ. πεπληρ., followed also by Hofmann, according to which ἐν π. θελ. τ. θ. would be the moral sphere, “within which the perfection and firm conviction are to take place,” Huther.(176)

τέλειοι καὶ πεπληροφορη΄ένοι] perfect and with full conviction, (comp. Colossians 2:2; Romans 4:21; Romans 14:5; and see on Luke 1:1) obtain through the context ( στῆτε ἐν π. θελ. τ. θ.) their more definite meaning; the former as moral perfection, such as the true Christian ought to have (Colossians 1:28); and the latter, as stedfastness of conscience, which excludes all scruples as to what God’s will requires, and is of decisive importance for the τελειότης of the Christian life; comp. Romans 14:5; Romans 14:22 f.

Verse 13

Colossians 4:13. General testimony in confirmation of the particular statement made regarding Epaphras in πάντοτε κ. τ. λ.; on which account there is the less reason to ascribe to the interpolator the more precise definition of ἀγωνιζ. ὑπ. ὑμ., which is given by ἐν ταῖς προσευχ. (Holtzmann). The γάρ is sufficiently clear and logical.

πολὺν πόνον (see the critical remarks); much toil, which is to be understood of the exertion of mental activity—of earnest working with its cares, hopes, wishes, fears, temptations, dangers, and so forth. The word is purposely chosen, in keeping with the conception of the conflict (Colossians 4:12); for πόνος is formally used of the toil and trouble of conflict. See Herod, vi. 114, viii. 89; Plat. Phaedr. p. 247 B Dem. 637. 18; Eur. Suppl. 317; Soph. Track. 21. 169; often so in Homer as Il. i. 467, and Nägelsbach in loc.; comp. Revelation 21:4.

καὶ τῶν ἐν λαοδ. κ. τ. ἐν ἱεραπ.] Epaphras had certainly laboured in these adjoining towns, as in Colossae, which was probably his headquarters, as founder, or, at least, as an eminent teacher of the churches.

Verse 14

Colossians 4:14. Luke the physician, the (by me) beloved, is the Evangelist—a point which, in presence of the tradition current from Iren. iii. 14. 1 onward, is as little to be doubted as that the Mark of Colossians 4:10 is the Evangelist. Luke was with Paul at Caesarea (Philemon 1:24), and travelled with him to Rome (Acts 27:1), accompanying him, however, not as physician (as if μου or ἡμῶν had been appended), but as an associate in teaching, as συνεργός, Philemon 1:24. Hofmann calls this in question, in order to avoid the inference from Colossians 4:11, that Luke was a non-Israelite. The addition, moreover, of ἰατρός is simply to be explained after the analogy of all the previous salutations sent, by assuming that Paul has appended to each of the persons named a special characteristic description by way of recommendation.(177) The case of δη΄ᾶς is the only exception; on which account it is the more probable that the latter had even at this time (at the date of 2 Timothy 4:10 he has abandoned him) seemed to the apostle not quite surely entitled to a commendatory description, although he still, at Philemon 1:24, adduces him among his συνεργοί, to whose number he still belonged. Hence the assumption of such a probability is not strange, but is to be preferred to the altogether precarious opinion of Hofmann, that Demas was the amanuensis of the letter, and had, with the permission of the apostle, inserted his name (comp. Bengel’s suggestion). Whence was the reader to know that? How very different is it at Romans 16:22! The name itself is not Hebrew (in opposition to Schoettgen), but Greek; see Boeckh, Corp. inscrip. 1085; Becker, Anecd. 714.

Verse 15

Colossians 4:15. Messages down to Colossians 4:17.

The first καί is: and especially, and in particular, so that of the Christians at Laodicea ( τοὺς ἐν λαοδ. ἀδελφ.). Nymphas is specially(178) singled out for salutation by name. In the following καὶ τὴν κατʼ οἶκον αὐτῶν ἐκκλ., the church which is in their house, the plural αὐτῶν (see the critical remarks) cannot without violence receive any other reference than to τοὺς ἐν λαοδ. ἀδελφοὺς κ. νυμφᾶν. Paul must therefore (and his readers were more precisely aware how this matter stood) indicate a church different from the Laodicean church, a foreign one, which, however, was in filial association with that church, and held its meetings in the same house wherein the Laodiceans assembled. If we adopt the reading αὐτοῦ, we should have to think, not of the family of Nymphas (Chrysostom, Theodoret, Calvin, and others), but, in accordance with Romans 16:5, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Philemon 1:2, of a portion of the Laodicean church, which held its separate meetings in the house of Nymphas. In that case, however, the persons here saluted would have been already included among τοὺς ἐν λαοδικείᾳ ἀδελφούς. The plural αὐτῶν by no means warrants the ascribing the origin of Colossians 4:15 to an unseasonable reminiscence of 1 Corinthians 16:19 and Romans 16:5, perhaps also of Philemon 1:2 (Holtzmann). What a mechanical procedure would that be!

The personal name Nymphas itself, which some with extreme arbitrariness would take as a symbolic name (Hitzig, comp. Holtzmann), is not elsewhere preserved, but we find Nymphaeus, Nymphodorus, Nymphodotus, and Nymphius, also Nymphis.

Verse 16

Colossians 4:16.(179) This message presupposes essentially similar circumstances in the two churches.

ἐπιστολή] is, as a matter of course, the present Epistle now before us; Winer, p. 102 [E. T. 133]. Comp. Romans 16:22; 1 Thessalonians 5:27.

ποιήσατε, ἵνα] procure, that. The expression rests on the conception: to be active, in order that something may happen, John 11:37. Comp. Herod, i. 8: ποίει, ὅκως κ. τ. λ., i. 209; Xen. Cyrop. vi. 3. 18. The following καὶ τὴν ἐκ λαοδ. κ. τ. λ. is, with emphatic prefixing of the object, likewise dependent on ποιήσατε, not co-ordinated with the latter as an independent imperative sentence like Ephesians 5:33—a forced invention of Hofmann, which, besides, is quite inappropriate on account of the stern command which it would yield.(180)

τὴν ἐκ λαοδικείας] not: that written to me from Laodicea. So τινές in Chrysostom, who himself gives no decisive voice, as also Syriac, Theodoret, Photius in Oecumenius, Erasmus, Beza, Vatablus, Calvin, Calovius, Wolf, Estius, Cornelius a Lapide, Storr, and others, as also again Baumgarten-Crusius. This is at variance with the context, according to which καὶ ὑ΄εῖς, pursuant to the parallel of the first clause of the verse, presupposes the Laodiceans, not as the senders of the letter, but as the receivers of the letter, by whom it was read. How unsuitable also would be the form of the message by ποιήσατε! Paul must, in fact, have sent to them the letter. Lastly, neither the object aimed at (Theophylact already aptly remarks: ἀλλʼ οὐκ οἶδα, τί ἂν ἐκείνης—namely, that alleged letter of the Laodiceans

ἔδει αὐτοῖς πρὸς βελτίωσιν), nor even the propriety of the matter would be manifest. Purely fanciful is the opinion of Jablonsky, that Paul means a letter of the Laodiceans to the Colossian overseers, as well as that of Theophylact: πρὸς τιμόθεον πρώτη· αὕτη γὰρ ἐκ λαοδικείας ἐγράφη. So also a scholion in Matthaei In accordance with the context—although Lange, Apost. Zeitalt. I. p. 211 ff., denounces the idea as a “fiction,” and Hofmann declares it as excluded by the very salutations with which the Colossians are charged to the Laodiceans—we can only understand it to refer to a letter of Paul to the Laodiceans, which not merely these, to whom it was written, but also the Colossians ( καὶ ὑμεῖς) were to read, just as the letter to the Colossians was to be read not merely by the latter, but also in the Laodicean church. The mode of expression, τὴν ἐκ λαοδικείας, is the very usual form of attraction in the case of prepositions with the article (comp. Matthew 24:17; Luke 11:13), so that the two elements are therein comprehended: the letter to be found in Laodicea, and to be claimed or fetched from Laodicea to Colossae. See generally, Kühner, II. 1, p. 473 f., and ad Xen. Mem. iii. 6. 11, ad Anab. i. 1. 5; Stallbaum, ad Plat. Apol. p. 32 B Winer, p. 584 [E. T. 784]. This letter written to the Laodiceans has, like various other letters of the apostle, been lost.(181) In opposition to the old opinion held by Marcion, and in modern times still favoured especially by such as hold the Epistle to the Ephesians to be a circular letter (Böhmer, Böttger, Bähr, Steiger, Anger, Reuss, Lange, Bleek, Dalmer, Sabatier, Hofmann, Hitzig, and others), that the Epistle to the Ephesians is to be understood as that referred to, see Introd. to Eph. § 1; Wieseler, Chronol. d. apost. Zeitalt. p. 435 ff.; Sartori, l.c.; Reiche, Comm. crit. ad Ephesians 1:1; Laurent in the Jahrb. f. D. Theol. 1866, p. 131 ff. The hypothesis that the Epistle to Philemon is meant (so Wieseler, also Thiersch, Hist. Standp. p. 424; and some older expositors, see in Calovius and in Anger, p. 35) finds no confirmation either in the nature and contents of this private letter,(182) or in the expressions of our passage, which, according to the analogy of the context, presuppose a letter to the whole church and for it. Even the Epistle to the Hebrews (Schulthess, Stein, in his Comm. z. Luk., appendix) has been fallen upon in the vain search after the lost! According to Holtzmann, the words are intended to refer to the Epistle to the Ephesians, but καὶ τὴν ἐκ λαοδικ. ἵνα κ. ὑμ. ἀναγν. is an insertion of the interpolator;(183) comp. Hitzig.


It is to be assumed that the Epistle to the Laodiceans was composed at the same time with that to the Colossians, inasmuch as the injunction that they should be mutually read in the churches can only have been founded on the similarity of the circumstances of the two churches as they stood at the time. Comp. Colossians 2:1, where the καὶ τῶν ἐν λαοδικείᾳ, specially added to περὶ ὑμῶν, expresses the similar and simultaneous character of the need, and, when compared with our passage, is to be referred to the consciousness that the apostle was writing to both churches. And the expression τὴν ἐκ λαοδικείας produces the impression that, when the Colossians received their letter, the Laodiceans would already have theirs. At the same time the expression is such, that Paul does not expressly inform, the Colossians that he had written also to the Laodiceans, but speaks of this letter as of something known to the readers, evidently reckoning upon the oral communication of Tychicus. The result, accordingly, seems as follows: Tychicus was the bearer of both letters, and travelled by way of Laodicea to Colossae, so that the letter for that church was already in Laodicea when the Colossians got theirs from the hands of Tychicus, and they were now in a position, according to the directions given in our passage, to have the Laodicean letter forwarded to them, and to send their own (after it was publicly read in their own church) to Laodicea.

Verse 17

Colossians 4:17. The particular circumstances which lay at the root of this emphatic admonitory utterance(184) cannot be ascertained, nor do we even know whether the διακονία is to be understood in the narrower sense of the office of deacon (Primasius), or of any other office relating to the church (possibly the office of presbyter), or of the calling of an evangelist, or of some individual business relating to the service of the church. We cannot gather from ἐν κυρίῳ any more precise definition of the Christian διακονία. Ewald conjectures that Archippus was a still younger man (Bengel holds him to have been sick or weak through age), an overseer of the church, who had been during the absence of Epaphras too indulgent towards the false teachers. Even Fathers like Jerome and the older expositors regard him as bishop (so also Döllinger, Christenthum u. Kirche, ed. 2, p. 308), or as substitute for the bishop during the absence of Epaphras (similarly Bleek), whose successor he had also become (Cornelius a Lapide and Estius). Comp. further as to this Colossian,(185) on Philemon 1:2.

The special motive for this precise form of reminding him of his duty is not clear.(186) But what merits attention is the relation of disciplinary admonitive authority, in which, according to these words, the church stood to the office-bearers, and which should here be the less called in question with Hofmann, since Paul in the letter to Philemon addressed jointly to Archippus would doubtless himself have given the admonition, if he had not conceded and recognised in the church that authority of which he invokes the exercise—and that even in the case, which cannot be proved, of the διακονία having been the service of an evangelist. The expedient to which Oecumenius and others have recourse can only be looked upon as flowing from the later hierarchical feeling: ἵνα ὅταν ἐπιτιμᾶ ἄρχιππος αὐτοῖς, μὴ ἔχωσιν ἐγκαλεῖν ἐκείνῳ ὡς πικρῷἐπεὶ ἄλλως ἄτοπον τοῖς μαθηταῖς περὶ τοῦ διδασκάλου διαλέγεσθαι (Theophylact).

βλέπε κ. τ. λ.] Grotius, Wolf, Flatt, Bähr, and many, take the construction to be: βλέπε, ἵνα τὴν διακ. ἣν παρέλ. ἐν κυρ., πληροῖς, from which arbitrary view the very αὐτήν should have precluded them. The words are not to be taken otherwise than as they stand: Look to the service (have it in thy view), which thou hast undertaken in the Lord, in order that thou mayest fulfil it, mayest meet its obligations; ἵνα αὐτ. πληρ. is the purpose, which is to be present in the βλέπειν τ. διακ, κ. τ. λ. Comp. 2 John 1:8. On πληροῖς, comp. Acts 12:25; 1 Maccabees 2:55; Liban. Ep. 359; Philo, in Flacc. p. 988: τὴν διακονίαν ἐκπλήσαντες.

ἐν κυρίῳ] not: from the Lord (Bähr); not: for the sake of the Lord (Flatt); not: secundum Domini praecepta (Grotius). Christ, who is served by the διακονία (1 Corinthians 12:5), is conceived as the sphere, in which the act of the παραλαμβάνειν τὴν διακονίαν is accomplished objectively, as well as in the consciousness of the person concerned; he is in that act not out of Christ, but living and acting in Him. The ἐν κυρ. conveys the element of holy obligation. The less reason is there for joining it, with Grotius, Steiger, and Dalmer, to the following ἵνα αὐτ. πληρ.

Verse 18

Colossians 4:18. Conclusion written with his own hand; comp. 2 Thessalonians 3:17. See on 1 Corinthians 16:21.

Be mindful for me of my bonds, a closing exhortation, deeply touching in its simplicity, in which there is not a mere request for intercession (Colossians 4:3), or a hint even at the giving of aid, but the whole pious affection of grateful love is claimed, the whole strength of his example for imparting consolation and stedfastness is asserted, and the whole authority of the martyr is thrown into the words. Every limitation is unwarranted. τοῦτο γὰρ ἱκανὸν εἰς πάντα αὐτοὺς προτρέψασθαι, καὶ γενναιοτέρους ποιῆσαι πρὸς τοὺς ἀγῶνας· ἄρα καὶ οἰκειοτέρους αὐτοὺς ἐποίησε καὶ τὸν φόβον ἔλυσεν, Oecumenius, comp. Chrysostom.

χάρις] κατʼ ἐξοχήν: the grace of God bestowed in Christ. Comp. 1 Timothy 6:21; 2 Timothy 4:22; Titus 3:5. Comp. on Ephesians 6:24.


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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Colossians 4:4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.

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