Colossians 2:23
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

New Living Translation
These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person's evil desires.

English Standard Version
These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Berean Study Bible
Such restrictions indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-prescribed worship, their false humility, and their harsh treatment of the body; but they are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

Berean Literal Bible
which having indeed an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed worship and humility and harsh treatment of the body, are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.

New American Standard Bible
These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.

King James Bible
Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Although these have a reputation of wisdom by promoting ascetic practices, humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence.

International Standard Version
These things have the appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion, humility, and harsh treatment of the body, but they have no value against self-indulgence.

NET Bible
Even though they have the appearance of wisdom with their self-imposed worship and false humility achieved by an unsparing treatment of the body--a wisdom with no true value--they in reality result in fleshly indulgence.

New Heart English Bible
Which things indeed appear like wisdom in self-imposed worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
And they appear to have in them a word of wisdom in the appearance of humility and worship of God and without sparing the body, not in things of honor, but in those things which are physical needs.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
These things look like wisdom with their self-imposed worship, [false] humility, and harsh treatment of the body. But they have no value for holding back the constant desires of your corrupt nature.

New American Standard 1977
These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.

Jubilee Bible 2000
which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship and humility and neglecting of the body, but they have absolutely no value against the appetites of the flesh.

King James 2000 Bible
Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in self-imposed worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any value to the indulgence of the flesh.

American King James Version
Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh.

American Standard Version
Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.

Douay-Rheims Bible
Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in superstition and humility, and not sparing the body; not in any honour to the filling of the flesh.

Darby Bible Translation
(which have indeed an appearance of wisdom in voluntary worship, and humility, and harsh treatment of the body, not in a certain honour,) to [the] satisfaction of the flesh.

English Revised Version
Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.

Webster's Bible Translation
Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh.

Weymouth New Testament
These rules have indeed an appearance of wisdom where self-imposed worship exists, and an affectation of humility and an ascetic severity. But not one of them is of any value in combating the indulgence of our lower natures.

World English Bible
Which things indeed appear like wisdom in self-imposed worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but aren't of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.

Young's Literal Translation
which are, indeed, having a matter of wisdom in will-worship, and humble-mindedness, and neglecting of body -- not in any honour, unto a satisfying of the flesh.
Study Bible
Alive in Christ
22These will all perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23Such restrictions indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-prescribed worship, their false humility, and their harsh treatment of the body; but they are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
Cross References
Romans 13:14
Instead, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.

Colossians 2:8
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, which are based on human tradition and the spiritual forces of the world rather than on Christ.

Colossians 2:18
Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you with speculation about what he has seen. Such a man is puffed up without basis by his unspiritual mind,

1 Timothy 4:3
They will prohibit marriage and require abstinence from certain foods that God has created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

1 Timothy 4:8
For physical exercise is of limited value, but godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for the present life and for the one to come.
Treasury of Scripture

Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh.

a shew.

Genesis 3:5,6 For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes …

Matthew 23:27,28 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like to …

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves …

1 Timothy 4:3,8 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats…

will. See on ver.

Colossians 2:8,18,22 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, …

neglecting. or, punishing, or, not sparing.

Ephesians 5:29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes …

(23) Will worship, and humility . . .--It seems difficult to connect these words with the merely ceremonial observances immediately above; and, in fact, they are almost an exact repetition of the description of the superstitious worship of the angels given in Colossians 2:18. "Will worship" is, indeed, nearly what we call superstition--the constant craving for objects to which we may find some excuse for paying reverence. The prefix applies in sense, though not in grammatical form, to the "humility" also; a studied humility being either a pretence or a self-degradation. But in the words "neglecting of the body" (properly, being unsparing of it in hardship, and generally careless of it) we pass to the ceremonial ordinances. It is more than likely that the superstition and false asceticism were connected together--the latter being the condition of the supposed spiritual insight of the former.

Which things . . . flesh.--This passage is difficult. (1) Our version translates literally, and would seem to regard the last words as simply an explanation, from the point of view of the false teachers, of "neglecting of the body," as "not honouring it for the satisfaction, or surfeiting of the flesh;" and we certainly find that the Jewish ascetics did brand the most necessary satisfaction of appetite as a "surfeiting of the flesh." But there is a fatal objection to this interpretation--that, in that case, St. Paul would leave the false pretension without a word of contradiction, which is almost incredible. Hence (2) we must regard the "not in any honour" as antithetical to "the show of wisdom." The ordinances, says St. Paul, have "a show of wisdom," but "are in no honour," i.e., are "of no value." The common use of the word rendered "honour," for "price," or "pay" (see Matthew 27:6; Acts 7:16; Acts 19:19; 1Corinthians 6:20; 1Corinthians 7:23; 1Timothy 5:17), would readily lend itself to this sense. The only doubtful point (3) is the interpretation of the last words, "for the satisfying of the flesh." There seems little doubt that the phrase is used in a bad sense. Hence we must dismiss all reference to a right honouring of the body by innocent satisfaction of its needs. We have therefore to choose between two interpretations. Some interpret "of no value against the satisfaction of the flesh." But, though the Greek will bear this sense, it is certainly not the common sense of the preposition used; and its adoption would expose the whole phrase to the charge of ambiguity and obscurity. The other interpretation is "of no real value" (tending) "to the satisfaction of the flesh." This is abrupt, but suits well the indignant and abrupt terseness of the passage. It gives (quite after St. Paul's manner) not only a denial of the "neglecting of the body," but a retort on the false teachers of the very charge they made against their opponents. (Comp. the use of the word "dogs," in Philippians 3:2.) It conveys a most important truth. That "extremes meet" we know well; and that there is a satisfaction of the fleshly temper (see above, Colossians 2:18) in the attempt over much to curb the flesh, the whole history of asceticism bears witness. Moreover, this interpretation alone gives a completeness of antithesis. To "the show of wisdom" it opposes the "no real value;" to the pretended "neglecting of the body" the real" satisfaction of the flesh."

Verse 23. - Such as have (literally, are (things) having) word indeed of wisdom (vers. 4, 8; 1 Corinthians 2:1, 4, 13; 1 Corinthians 12:8). The antecedent of "such as" is "command merits and teachings" (Meyer, Alford, Ellicott), not "decrees" (ver. 21). For ver. 22 supplies the immediate antecedent, and the wider sense thus given is necessary to support the comprehensive and summary import of ver. 23. The Greek "are having" brings into view the nature and qualities of the subject, in accordance with ἅτινα, such as, the qualitative relative (comp. ἥτις, Colossians 3:5; see Moulton's Winer, pp. 209, 210; also Meyer and Ellicott, on the grammatical point). A certain "word of wisdom" was ascribed to the false teachers in ver. 4 (note the play upon λόγος in St. Paul's Greek). They were plausible dealers in words, and had the jargon of philosophy at their tongue's end (ver. 8, compare note on ἐμβατεύων, ver. 18). On this the apostle had first remarked in his criticism of their teaching, and to this he first, adverts in his final resume. "Word of wisdom" is one of the "gifts of the Spirit" in 1 Corinthians 12:8; but the disparaging μέν, indeed, with the emphatic position of λόγον throwing σοφίας into the shade, in view also of the censures already passed in vers. 4, 8, puts a condemnatory sense upon the phrase: "having word indeed of wisdom" - "that and nothing more, no inner truth, no pith and substance of wisdom" (so Chrysostom and OEcumenius). "Word and deed," "word and truth," form a standing antithesis (Colossians 3:17; Romans 15:18; 1 Corinthians 4:19, 20; 1 John 3:18, etc.), the second member of which supplies itself to the mind; and the solitary μὲν in such a connection is a well-established classical idiom (see Winer's or A. Buttmann's 'Grammar;' also Meyer). It is superfluous, therefore, as well as confusing to the order of thought, to seek in the sequel for the missing half of the antithesis. Other renderings of λόγον - "show" (English A.V., Bengel, De Wette), "ground" or "reason" (Vulgate, Klopper), "reputation" (Meyer, Alford, Ellicott, Lightfoot) - are partly doubtful or exceptional in point of usage, and partly overlook the pointed reference of vers. 22, 23 to the language of vers. 4 and 8. And the combination of λόγον ἔχοντα into a single phrase is scarcely justified here in face of the established Pauline association of "word" and "wisdom" (comp. 1 Corinthians 1:17-2:16, as well as 1 Corinthians 12:8). Both in this Epistle and in 1 Corinthians the writer is contending against forms of error which found their account in the Greek love of eloquence and of dexterous word-play. While the first part of the predicate, therefore, explains the intellectual attractiveness of the Colossian error, the clause next following accounts for its religious fascination; and the third part of the verse strikes at the root of its ethical and practical applications. (Shown) in (or, with) devotion to (or, delight in) worship (or, voluntary worship) and lowliness of mind (ver. 18). The preposition "in" brings us into the moral and religious sphere of life in which this would be wisdom of doctrine had its range and found its application. The prefix ἐθελο = - ofἐθελοθρησκεία ordinarily connotes" willingness" rather than "wilfulness;" and the "delighting in worship" of ver. 18 (see note) points strongly in this direction. As against Ellicott and Lightfoot on the etymological point, see Hofmann, pp. 102, 103. Only so far as the worship in question (see note, ver. 18, on "worship") is evil, can the having a will to worship be evil. The other characteristics of the error marked in this verse seem to be recommendations, and "devotion to worship" is in keeping with them. This disposition, moreover, has an air of "humility," which does not belong to a self-imposed, arbitrary worship. There is a love of worship for mere worship's sake which is a perversion of the religious instinct, and tends to multiply both the forms and objects of devotion. This spurious religiousness took the form, in the Colossian errorists, of worship paid to the angels. On this particular worship the apostle passed his judgment in ver. 18, and now points out the tendency from which it springs. In ver. 18 "humility" precedes; here it follows "worship," by way of transition from the religious to the moral aspect of the now teaching. And (or, with) unsparing treatment of (the) body - not in any honour (as) against surfeiting of the flesh (vers. 16, 21, 22; Philippians 3:19-21; 1 Timothy 4:3; 1 Corinthians 6:13-20; 1 Corinthians 12:23-25; 1 Thessalonians 4:4). The "and" linking this clause to the last under the government of "in," is textually doubtful; Lightfoot cancels it; Westcott and Hort give the omission as a secondary reading. Mr. Hort regards the passage, like ver. 18, as hopelessly corrupt - a verdict which we would fain believe is too despairing. If καὶ be struck out, then ἀφειδείᾳ must be attached, somewhat loosely, to the principal predicate (" are having") as an instrumental dative. On either construction, the sense appears to be that it was its combination of ascetic rigour with religious devotion that gave to the system in question its undoubted charm, and furnished an adequate field for the eloquence and philosophical skill of its advocate. 'Αφειδεία, unsparingness, and πλησμονή, surfeiting - both found only here in the New Testament - and along with them "body" and "flesh," stand opposed to each other. This clause, therefore, contains a complete sense, and we must not look outside it for an explanation of the included words, "not in any honour." As we have seen, the first clause of the predicate (" having word indeed," etc.) needs no such complement. The clause "not .... flesh" is a comment on the words, "unsparing treatment of the body." On this topic the apostle had not yet expressed his mind sufficiently. He has in vers. 16, 20-22 denounced certain ascetic rules as obsolete, or as trifling and needless; but he has yet to expose the principle and tendency from which they sprang. He is the more bound to be explicit on this subject inasmuch as there were ascetic leanings in his own teaching, and passages in his earlier Epistles such as Romans 8:13; Romans 13:14; 1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 9:27, which the "philosophical" party might net unnaturally wrest to their own purposes. He could not condemn severity to the body absolutely, and in every sense. The Colossian rigorism he does condemn -

(1) as not in keeping with bodily self-respect, which is the safeguard of Christian purity; and

(2) as not in reality directed against sensual indulgence, the prevention of which is the proper end of rules of abstinence. These two objections are thrown into a single terse, energetic negative clause, obscure, like so much in this chapter, from its brevity and want of connecting particles. In 1 Thessalonians 4:4 the phrase, "in honour," occurs in a similar connection: "That each one of you know how to 'gain possession of his own vessel" (i.e. "to become master of his body:" see Wordsworth and Alford on the passage; also Meyer's reference on Romans 1:24) "in sanctification and honor" (comp. 1 Corinthians 6:13-20 for the apostle's teaching respecting the dignity of the human body; also Philippians 3:19-21). The contempt of Alexandrine theosophists for physical nature was fatal to morality, undermining the basis on which rests the government of the body as the "vessel" and vesture of the spiritual life. Their principles took effect, first, in a morbid and unnatural asceticism; then, by a sure reaction, and with equal consistency, in unrestrained and shocking licence. See, for the latter result, the Epistles to the seven Churches of Asia (Romans 2. and 3.); in the Pastoral Epistles, the two opposite effects are both signalized. The rendering "value" given by Lightfoot and the Revisers seems to us misleading; τιμὴ means "value" only in the sense of "price," as in 1 Corinthians 6:20, and this surely is not their meaning. Πλησμονὴ has been taken in a milder sense by the Greek commentators, Luther, and others: "satisfaction" "(legitimate) gratification." So the apostle is made to charge the false teachers with "not honouring the body, so as to grant the flesh its due gratification." But this rendering confounds the "body" and the "flesh," here contrasted, and gives πλησμονὴ a meaning without lexical warrant (see Meyer and Lightfoot). And the sentiment it expresses errs on the anti-ascetic side, and comes into collision with Romans 13:14 and Galatians 5:16. Πλησμονή, in the LXX and in Philo, as in earlier Greek, denotes "physical repletion," and is associated with drunkenness and sensual excess generally. Hence we cannot admit the interpretation of Meyer, Alford, Ellicott, who make the "flesh" here the sinful principle generally, and understand "surfeiting" figuratively, supposing the apostle to mean, that the ascetic rules in question, while they dishonour the body, tend to gratify the carnal mind." This gives an idea true in itself, and agreeing with the sense of "flesh" in vers. 11, 18, but out of place here, while it strains the meaning of πλησμονή (see Lightfoot's exhaustive argument). The preposition πρὸς does not help us, meaning "for" or "against," according to its connection. We combine Lightfoot's interpretation of πρὸς πλησμονὴν τῆς σαρκὸς with Wordsworth's and Alford's of οὐκ ἐν τιμῇ τινί. The saying of Philippians 3:19 ("whose god is their belly, and their glory in their shame") contains the same opposition of "honour" to "fleshly indulgence" as that supposed here, possibly suggested by the phrase, "surfeiting of dishonor" (πλησμονὴ ἀτιμίας), of the LXX in Habakkuk 2:16. Here, then, the apostle lays hold of the root principle of the false teachers' whole scheme of morality, its hostility to the body as a material organism. Such a treatment, he declares, dishonours the body, while it fails, and for this very reason, to prevent that feeding of the flesh, the fostering of sensual appetency and habit, in which lies our real peril and dishonour in regard to this vessel of our earthly life. Here we have a suitable starting-point for the exhortations of the next chapter, where the apostle, in vers. 1-4, shows the true path of deliverance from sensual sin, and in vers. 5-7 sets forth the Christian asceticism - "unsparing treatment" of the flesh indeed! The line of teaching adopted by the errorists may be illustrated by Philo's doctrine in his third book of the 'Allegories of the Sacred Law,' § 22: "'God saw that Er was wicked;' for he knows that this leathern burden of ours, the body - for Er, being interpreted, is leathern - is evil and always plotting against the soul; and it is ever under the power of death, indeed actually dead [comp. Romans 8:10]. Yet this all do not see, but only God, and those he loves. For when the mind [νοῦς comp. note, ver. 18] becomes engaged in sublime contemplations and is initiated into the mysteries of the Lord [note, Colossians 1:26], it judges the body to be evil and hostile;" again ('On the Change of Names,' § 4): "Pale and wasted, and reduced to skeletons as it were, are the men devoted to instruction, having transferred to the powers of the soul their bodily vigour also, so that they have become, as we might say, dissolved into a single form of being, that of pure soul made bodiless by force of thought [διανοία: see Colossians 1:21, note]. In them the earthly is destroyed and overwhelmed, when reason [νοῦς: ver. 18], pervading them wholly, has see its choice on being well pleasing to God." The writer has attempted an elucidation of this verse in the Expositor, first series, vol. 12. pp. 289-303.

Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom,.... The authors of them set up for men of wisdom, and were esteemed such, and are often styled "wise men"; and their scholars that received their traditions, and explained and enforced them on others, , "the disciples of the wise men": and they pretended, that these constitutions of theirs were "a hedge for the law", and for the honour of it, and to preserve it, and keep men from transgressing it; and this carried in it some appearance of wisdom: and their pretensions to it lay in the following things,

in will worship; being what was over and above that which was commanded by God, and so, like the freewill offerings under the law, must be acceptable to him; this was one of their colours, which had some show of wisdom, religion, and zeal:

and humility: in worshipping of angels, and not coming directly, and with boldness, to God or Christ; or rather in subjecting themselves to the yoke of the law, and submitting to the decrees of the fathers and doctors of the church, who were more wise, and learned, and knowing than they, and so had the appearance of prudence, gentleness, and goodness:

and neglecting of the body; by fastings and watchings, whereby they seemed to be very religious and devout, holy and mortified persons, who kept under their bodies, subdued their unruly appetites, and fulfilled not the lusts of the flesh: but then this was only a show of wisdom and godliness; there was no truth nor reality in these things; they were only a mere form, an outside show, a mere pretence; there was no true devotion nor religion in them: and so

not in any honour; or to be had in any esteem; for if the rites of the ceremonial law itself were weak and beggarly elements, much more must these additions to it, and corruptions of it, be such; and at most only regarded things external, that were

to the satisfying, of the flesh; either the body, or the carnal mind, in which they were vainly pulled up: though some consider this last clause as explanative of the former, "neglecting of the body", or not sparing it, but afflicting it with austerities of life; depriving it of its proper right, what is necessary for it, not taking due care of it, so as to satisfy nature; whereby instead of honouring, they dishonoured it: for though the body is not to be pampered, and the lusts of it indulged, or luxury and intemperance to be encouraged; yet since the body is the work of God's hands, is the habitation of the soul, and by which it performs its offices, and is the purchase of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit, and will be raised a glorious body at the last day, it ought not to be neglected and dishonoured; but should have a sufficiency of food and clothing, whereby it may be comfortably and honourably nourished and supported. 23. have—Greek, "are having"; implying the permanent characteristic which these ordinances are supposed to have.

show of wisdom—rather, "a reputation of wisdom" [Alford].

will-worship—arbitrarily invented worship: would-be worship, devised by man's own will, not God's. So jealous is God of human will-worship, that He struck Nadab and Abihu dead for burning strange incense (Le 10:1-3). So Uzziah was stricken with leprosy for usurping the office of priest (2Ch 26:16-21). Compare the will-worship of Saul (1Sa 13:8-14) for which he was doomed to lose his throne. This "voluntary worship" is the counterpart to their "voluntary humility" (Col 2:18): both specious in appearance, the former seeming in religion to do even more than God requires (as in the dogmas of the Roman and Greek churches); but really setting aside God's will for man's own; the latter seemingly self-abasing, but really proud of man's self-willed "humility" (Greek, "lowliness of mind"), while virtually rejecting the dignity of direct communion with Christ, the Head; by worshipping of angels.

neglecting of the body—Greek, "not sparing of the body." This asceticism seems to have rested on the Oriental theory that matter is the source of evil. This also looked plausible (compare 1Co 9:27).

not in any honour—of the body. As "neglecting of the body" describes asceticism positively; so this clause, negatively. Not paying any of that "honor" which is due to the body as redeemed by such a price as the blood of Christ. We should not degrade, but have a just estimation of ourselves, not in ourselves, but in Christ (Ac 13:46; 1Co 3:21; 6:15; 7:23; 12:23, 24; 1Th 4:4). True self-denial regards the spirit, and not the forms of ascetical self-mortification in "meats which profit not those occupied therein" (Heb 13:9), and is consistent with Christian self-respect, the "honor" which belongs to the believer as dedicated to the Lord. Compare "vainly," Col 2:18.

to the satisfying of the flesh—This expresses the real tendency of their human ordinances of bodily asceticism, voluntary humility, and will-worship of angels. While seeming to deny self and the body, they really are pampering the flesh. Thus "satisfying of the flesh" answers to "puffed up by his fleshly mind" (Col 2:18), so that "flesh" is used in its ethical sense, "the carnal nature" as opposed to the "spiritual"; not in the sense, "body." The Greek for "satisfying" implies satiating to repletion, or to excess. "A surfeit of the carnal sense is human tradition" [Hilary the Deacon, in Bengel]. Tradition puffs up; it clogs the heavenly perceptions. They put away true "honor" that they may "satiate to the full THE FLESH." Self-imposed ordinances gratify the flesh (namely, self-righteousness), though seeming to mortify it. 2:18-23 It looked like humility to apply to angels, as if men were conscious of their unworthiness to speak directly to God. But it is not warrantable; it is taking that honour which is due to Christ only, and giving it to a creature. There really was pride in this seeming humility. Those who worship angels, disclaim Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man. It is an insult to Christ, who is the Head of the church, to use any intercessors but him. When men let go their hold of Christ, they catch at what will stand them in no stead. The body of Christ is a growing body. And true believers cannot live in the fashions of the world. True wisdom is, to keep close to the appointments of the gospel; in entire subjection to Christ, who is the only Head of his church. Self-imposed sufferings and fastings, might have a show of uncommon spirituality and willingness for suffering, but this was not in any honour to God. The whole tended, in a wrong manner, to satisfy the carnal mind, by gratifying self-will, self-wisdom, self-righteousness, and contempt of others. The things being such as carry not with them so much as the show of wisdom; or so faint a show that they do the soul no good, and provide not for the satisfying of the flesh. What the Lord has left indifferent, let us regard as such, and leave others to the like freedom; and remembering the passing nature of earthly things, let us seek to glorify God in the use of them.
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