Colossians 2:15
And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) Having spoiled principalities and powers . . .—This verse is one of great difficulty. Not, indeed, in the main idea. The cross, as usual, is identified with the triumph over the powers of evil which it won. The very phrase “made a show,” is cognate to the words “put Him to open shame” applied to the Crucifixion (Hebrews 6:6). The apparent triumph of the “power of darkness” over Him was His real and glorious triumph over them. The general idea is familiar to us, telling, as in the noble old hymn Vexilla Regis

“How of the Cross He made a throne

On which He reigns, a glorious king.”

His forgiveness of the penitent thief was the first act of His all-saving royalty. Accordingly, taking (as in 2Corinthians 2:14-16) his metaphor from a Roman triumph, St. Paul represents Him as passing in triumphal majesty up the sacred way to the eternal gates, with all the powers of evil bound as captives behind His chariot before the eyes of men and angels. It is to be noted that to this clause, so characteristic of the constant dwelling on the sole glory of Christ in this Epistle, there is nothing to correspond in the parallel passage of the Epistle to the Ephesians, which dwells simply on Christ as “our peace,” and as the head of the Church.

The difficulty lies in the word here translated “having spoiled.” Now this translation (as old as St. Jerome’s Vulgate), makes all simple and easy; but the original word certainly means “having stripped Himself”—as in Colossians 3:9, “having put off (stripped off from ourselves) the old man.” It is a word used by St. Paul alone in the New Testament, and by him only in these two passages, the latter of which makes the sense perfectly clear. Being forced, then, to adopt this translation, we see that the words admit of two renderings. (1) First, “having stripped from Himself the principalities and powers,” that is, having stripped off that condition of the earthly life which gave them a grasp or occasion against Him. But this, though adopted by many old Greek commentators (Chrysostom among the rest), seems singularly harsh in expression and far-fetched in idea, needing too much explanation to make it in any sense clear. (2) Next, “having unclothed Himself, He made a show of principalities and powers.” On the whole this rendering, although not free from difficulty, on account of the apparent want of connection of the phrase “having stripped Himself” with the context, seems the easiest. For we note that a cognate word, strictly analogous, is used thus (without an object following) in 2Corinthians 5:4, “Not that we desire to unclothe ourselves, but to clothe ourselves over our earthly vesture.” The context shows that the meaning there is “to put off the flesh.” This is suggested still more naturally in the passage before us by the preceding phrase, “in the putting off of the body of the flesh”—a phrase there used of the flesh as evil, but found in Colossians 1:22 of the natural body of Christ. Accordingly many Latin fathers (among others Augustine) rendered “stripping Himself of the flesh,” and there is some trace of this as a reading or a gloss in the Greek of this passage. Perhaps, however, St. Paul purposely omitted the object after the verb, in order to show that it was by “stripping Himself of all” that He conquered by becoming a show in absolute humiliation, He made the powers of evil a show in His triumph.

2:8-17 There is a philosophy which rightly exercises our reasonable faculties; a study of the works of God, which leads us to the knowledge of God, and confirms our faith in him. But there is a philosophy which is vain and deceitful; and while it pleases men's fancies, hinders their faith: such are curious speculations about things above us, or no concern to us. Those who walk in the way of the world, are turned from following Christ. We have in Him the substance of all the shadows of the ceremonial law. All the defects of it are made up in the gospel of Christ, by his complete sacrifice for sin, and by the revelation of the will of God. To be complete, is to be furnished with all things necessary for salvation. By this one word complete, is shown that we have in Christ whatever is required. In him, not when we look to Christ, as though he were distant from us, but we are in him, when, by the power of the Spirit, we have faith wrought in our hearts by the Spirit, and we are united to our Head. The circumcision of the heart, the crucifixion of the flesh, the death and burial to sin and to the world, and the resurrection to newness of life, set forth in baptism, and by faith wrought in our hearts, prove that our sins are forgiven, and that we are fully delivered from the curse of the law. Through Christ, we, who were dead in sins, are quickened. Christ's death was the death of our sins; Christ's resurrection is the quickening of our souls. The law of ordinances, which was a yoke to the Jews, and a partition-wall to the Gentiles, the Lord Jesus took out of the way. When the substance was come, the shadows fled. Since every mortal man is, through the hand-writing of the law, guilty of death, how very dreadful is the condition of the ungodly and unholy, who trample under foot that blood of the Son of God, whereby alone this deadly hand-writing can be blotted out! Let not any be troubled about bigoted judgments which related to meats, or the Jewish solemnities. The setting apart a portion of our time for the worship and service of God, is a moral and unchangeable duty, but had no necessary dependence upon the seventh day of the week, the sabbath of the Jews. The first day of the week, or the Lord's day, is the time kept holy by Christians, in remembrance of Christ's resurrection. All the Jewish rites were shadows of gospel blessings.And having spoiled - Plundered as a victorious army does a conquered country. Notes, Colossians 2:8. The terms used in this verse are all military, and the idea is, that Christ has completely subdued our enemies by his death. A complete victory was achieved by his death, so that every thing is now in subjection to him, and we have nothing to fear.

Principalities and powers - Notes, Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 6:12, note. The "principalities and powers" here referred to, are the formidable enemies that had held man in subjection, and prevented his serving God. There can be no doubt, I think, that the apostle refers to the ranks of fallen, evil spirits which had usurped a dominion over the world, John 12:31, note; Ephesians 2:2, note. The Saviour, by his death, wrested the dominion from them, and seized upon what they had captured as a conqueror seizes upon his prey. Satan and his legions had invaded the earth and drawn its inhabitants into captivity, and subjected them to their evil reign. Christ, by his death. subdues the invaders and recaptures those whom they had subdued.

He made a show of them openly - As a conqueror, returning from a victory, displays in a triumphal procession the kings and princes whom he has taken, and the spoils of victory. This was commonly done when a "triumph" was decreed for a conqueror. On such occasions it sometimes happened that a considerable number of prisoners were led along amidst the scenes of triumph see the notes at 2 Corinthians 2:14. Paul says that this was now done "openly" - that is, it was in the face of the whole universe - a grand victory; a glorious triumph over all the powers of hell It does not refer to any public procession or display on the earth; but to the grand victory as achieved in view of the universe, by which Christ, as a conqueror, dragged Satan and his legions at his triumphal car; compare Romans 16:20.

Triumphing over them in it - Margin, or, "himself." Either "by the cross," or "by himself." Or, it may mean, as Rosenmuller suggests, that "God Colossians 2:12 triumphed over these foes in him; i. e., in Christ. The sense is substantially the same, that this triumph was effected by the atonement made for sin by the Redeemer. See the word "triumph" explained in the Notes on 2 Corinthians 2:14. The meaning of all this is, that since Christ has achieved for us such a victory, and has subdued all the foes of man, we should not be led captive, but should regard ourselves as freemen. We should not be made again the slaves of custom, or habit, or ritual observances, or superstitious rites, or anything whatever that has its origin in the kingdom of darkness. We are bound to assert and to use our freedom, and should not allow any hostile power in the form of philosophy or false teaching of any kind, to plunder or "spoil" us; Colossians 2:8. The Christian is a freeman. His great Captain has subdued all his enemies, and we should not allow them again to set up their dark empire over our souls. The argument of the apostle in these verses Colossians 2:13-15 is derived from what Christ has done for us. He mentions four things:

(1) He has given us spiritual life.

(2) he has forgiven all our trespasses.

(3) he has blotted out or abolished the "ordinances" that were against us.

(4) he has triumphed over all our foes. From all this he infers (Colossians 2:16 ff) that we should not be made captive or subdued by any of the rites of superstition, or any of the influences of the kingdom of darkness.

15. Alford, Ellicott, and others translate the Greek to accord with the translation of the same Greek, Col 3:9, "Stripping off from Himself the principalities and the powers: " God put off from Himself the angels, that is, their ministry, not employing them to be promulgators of the Gospel in the way that He had given the law by their "disposition" or ministry (Ac 7:53; Ga 3:19; Heb 2:2, 5): God manifested Himself without a veil in Jesus. "The principalities and THE powers" refers back to Col 2:10, Jesus, "the Head of all principality and power," and Col 1:16. In the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, God subjected all the principalities, &c., to Jesus, declaring them to be powerless as to His work and His people (Eph 1:21). Thus Paul's argument against those grafting on Christianity Jewish observances, along with angel-worship, is, whatever part angels may be supposed to have had under the law, now at an end, God having put the legal dispensation itself away. But the objection is, that the context seems to refer to a triumph over bad angels: in 2Co 2:14, however, Christ's triumph over those subjected to Him, is not a triumph for destruction, but for their salvation, so that good angels may be referred to (Col 1:20). But the Greek middle is susceptible of English Version, "having spoiled," or, literally [Tittmann], "having completely stripped," or "despoiled" for Himself (compare Ro 8:38; 1Co 15:24; Eph 6:2). English Version accords with Mt 12:29; Lu 11:22; Heb 2:14. Translate as the Greek, "The rules and authorities."

made a show of them—at His ascension (see on [2418]Eph 4:8; confirming English Version of this verse).

openly—Joh 7:4; 11:54, support English Version against Alford's translation, "in openness of speech."

in it—namely, His cross, or crucifixion: so the Greek fathers translate. Many of the Latins, "In Himself" or "in Him." Eph 2:16 favors English Version, "reconcile … by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby." If "in Him," that is, Christ, be read, still the Cross will be the place and means of God's triumph in Christ over the principalities (Eph 1:20; 2:5). Demons, like other angels, were in heaven up to Christ's ascension, and influenced earth from their heavenly abodes. As heaven was not yet opened to man before Christ (Joh 3:13), so it was not yet shut against demons (Job 1:6; 2:1). But at the ascension Satan and his demons were "judged" and "cast out" by Christ's obedience unto death (Joh 12:31; 16:11; Heb 2:14; Re 12:5-10), and the Son of man was raised to the throne of God; thus His resurrection and ascension are a public solemn triumph over the principalities and powers of death. It is striking that the heathen oracles were silenced soon after Christ's ascension.

And having spoiled; some render it, seeing he hath stripped or made naked, as runners and racers used to put off their clothes.

Principalities and powers; hence some of the ancients read putting off his flesh (possibly by the carelessness of some scribes, writing that which signifies flesh instead of that which signifies principalities, in all the authentic copies); but besides that Christ hath not put off the human nature, only the infirmities of the flesh, 2 Corinthians 5:16 Hebrews 5:7, it doth not agree with what follows. One conceits that by principalities and powers are meant the ceremonies of the law, because of the Divine authority they originally had; and that Christ unclothed or unveiled them, and showed them to be misty figures that were accomplished in his own person. But I see no reason thus to allegorize, for it is easy to discern the word is borrowed from conquering warriors having put to flight and disarmed their enemies, (as the word may well signify disarming, in opposition to arming, Romans 13:12 Ephesians 6:11,14), and signifies here, that Christ disarmed and despoiled the devil and his angels, with all the powers of darkness. We have seen that by principalities and powers are meant angels, Colossians 1:16, with Romans 8:37 Ephesians 1:21; and here he means evil ones, in regard of that power they exercise in this world under its present state of subjection to sin and vanity, Luke 4:6 John 12:31 2 Corinthians 4:4 Ephesians 2:2 6:12 2 Timothy 2:26; whom Christ came to destroy, and effectually did on his cross defeat, Luke 11:22 John 16:11 1 Corinthians 15:55 Hebrews 2:14 1Jo 3:8; delivering his subjects from the power of darkness, Colossians 1:13, according to the first promise, Genesis 3:15.

He made a show of them openly; yea, and Christ did, as an absolute conqueror, riding as it were in his triumphal chariot, publicly show that he had vanquished Satan and all the powers of darkness, in the view of heaven and earth, Luke 10:17,18.

Triumphing over them; even then and there where Satan thought he should alone have had the day by the death of the innocent Jesus, was he and his adherents triumphed over by the Lord of life, to their everlasting shame and torment. What the papists would gather hence, that Christ did, in this triumphant show upon the cross, carry the souls of the patriarchs out of their Limbus, i.e. their appointment to hell, is a mere unscriptural fiction; for those that he made show of in his victorious chariot are the very same that he spoiled to their eternal ignominy and confusion.

In it: some render this, (as in the margin), in himself, or by himself, i.e. by his own power and virtue and not by the help of any other; the prophet saith he trod the winepress alone, and had not any of the people with him, Isaiah 63:3: yet it seems here better to adhere to our own translation, in it, considering what went before of his cross, that he triumphed over Satan on it or by it, because the death that he there suffered was the true and only cause of his triumphs; there he trod Satan under his feet, there he set his seed at liberty, and they who go about to bereave them of it, and bring them into bondage, do no other than restore to Satan his spoils. And having spoiled principalities and powers,.... Principalities of hell, the infernal powers of darkness, the devil that had the power of death, the accuser of the brethren, who often objected their debts, with all his works and posse: these Christ has divested of their armour, wherein they trusted to have ruined men, as sin, the law, and death; he has ransomed his people from him that was stronger than they, and taken the prey out of the hands of the mighty; he has bruised the serpent's head, demolished his works, destroyed him himself, and all his powers, and defeated all their counsels and designs against his elect: some render the word "having put off", or "unclothed": and which some of the ancient writers apply to the flesh of Christ, and understand it of his putting off the flesh by death, whereby he gave the death blow to Satan and his powers, Hebrews 2:14, to which sense agrees the Syriac version, which renders the words, , "and by the putting off of his body, he exposed to shame principalities and powers": but it may be better interpreted of unclothing, or stripping principalities and powers of their armour, with which they were clothed; as is usually done to enemies, when they fall into the hands of their conquerors: unless rather this is to be understood of Christ's taking away the power and authority of the Jewish ecclesiastical rulers and governors, by abolishing the ceremonial law, and the ordinances of it; declaring himself to be the alone King and Lawgiver in his house, and requiring subjection to his institutions and appointments, which sense agrees with the context:

he made a show of them openly; when being raised from the dead, he ascended on high, and led captivity captive; he led Satan and his principalities and powers captive, who had led others, as he passed through the air, the territories of the devil, in the sight of God and the holy angels:

triumphing over them in it; which some understand of the cross, as if where and by what he got the victory, there he triumphed; the cross, where his enemies thought to make a show of him, expose him to public scorn and contempt, and to triumph over him, was as it were the triumphant chariot, in which he triumphed over all the powers of hell, when he had conquered them by it: but the words may be rendered "in himself", as they are by the Vulgate Latin and Syriac versions; and the sense be, that as he by himself got the victory, his own arm brought salvation to him, so he alone shared the glory and honour of the triumph: or it may be rendered "in him", and the whole in this and the preceding verse be applied to God the Father, who, as in Colossians 2:12; is said to raise Christ from the dead, to quicken sinners dead in sins, and to forgive all their trespasses; so he may be said to blot out the handwriting of ordinances, and to spoil principalities and powers, expose them to public view and shame, and triumph over them, "in him", in and by his Son Jesus Christ: the whole is an allusion to the victories, spoils, and triumphs, of the Roman emperors, who when they had obtained a victory, a triumph was decreed for them by the senate; in which the emperor was drawn in an open chariot, and the captives being stripped of their armour, and their hands tied behind them, were led before him and exposed to public view and disgrace; while he was shouted and huzzaed through the city of Rome, and had all the marks of honour and respect given him (b): now all that is said in the preceding verses show how complete the saints are in and by Christ; and stand in no need of the philosophy of the Gentiles, or the ceremonies of the Jews; nor have anything to fear from their enemies, sin, Satan, and the law, for sin is pardoned, the law is abolished, and Satan conquered,

(b) Vid. Lydium de re Militari, l. 6. c. 3.

And having spoiled {u} principalities and powers, he {x} made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in {y} it.

(u) Satan and his angels.

(x) As a conqueror he made show of those captives, and put them to shame.

(y) That is, the cross. The cross was a chariot of triumph. No conqueror could have triumphed so gloriously in his chariot, as Christ did upon the cross.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Colossians 2:15.[111] In this doing away of the law was involved the victory and triumph of God over the devilish powers, since the strength of the latter, antagonistic to God, is in sin, and the strength of sin is in the law (1 Corinthians 15:56); with the law, therefore, the power of the devil stands or falls.

If ἀπεκδυσ. ran parallel, as the majority suppose, with ΠΡΟΣΗΛΏΣΑς, there must have been a ΚΑΊ inserted before ἘΔΕΙΓΜΆΤ., as in Colossians 2:14 before the finite verb, because otherwise no connection would be established. Hence a full stop (Beza) must be placed before ἈΠΕΚΔΥΣ., or at least a colon (Elzevir, Bleek); and without any connecting particle the significant verb heads all the more forcibly the description of this final result expressed with triumphant fulness: Having stripped the lordships and powers, he has made a show of them boldly, holding triumph over them in the same. Observe the symmetrical emphatic prefixing of ἀπεκδυσ., ἐδειγμάτ.,., and ΘΡΙΑΜΒ. The subject is still always God, not Christ,[112] as Baur and Ewald hold, following Augustine, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Erasmus, Grotius, Calovius, and many others; hence the reading ἀπεκδ. τὴν σάρκα in F G (which omit Τ. ἈΡΧ. Κ. Τ. ἘΞΟΥΣ.) Syr. Goth. Hil. Aug. was an erroneous gloss; and at the close, not αὑτῷ (Syr. Vulg. It. Theodoret, Luther, Melanchthon, Elzevir, Griesbach, and Scholz), instead of which G has ἙΑΥΤῷ, but ΑὐΤῷ should be written; see Wolf in loc. The figurative ἀπεκδυσ., which illustrates the deprivation of power that has taken place through the divine work of reconciliation, represents the ἀρχὰς καὶ ἐξουσ. as having been clothed in armour (comp. Romans 13:12; Ephesians 6:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:8), which God as their conqueror stripped off and took from them; Vulg.: exspolians. Comp. on ἐκδύειν and ἈΠΟΔΎΕΙΝ, used from Homer’s time in the sense of spoliare, Dem. 763. 28, 1259. 11; Hesiod, Scut. 447; Xen. Anab. v. 8. 23; 2Ma 8:27; and on the subject-matter, Matthew 12:19; Luke 11:22. Moreover, we might expect, in accordance with the common usage of the middle, instead of ἀπεκδυσάμενος, which is elsewhere used intransitively (comp. Colossians 3:9), the active ἀπεκδύσας (comp. Matthew 27:28; Matthew 27:31; Luke 10:30); yet even in Plat. Rep. p. 612 A, the (right) reading ἀπεδυσάμεθα is to taken in the sense of nudavimus; and Xenophon uses the perfect ἀποδέδυκεν, which is likewise intransitive elsewhere (see Kühner, I. p. 803), actively, see Anab. l.c.: πολλοὺς ἤδη ἀποδέδυκεν, multos veste spoliavit; comp. Dio Cass. xlv. 47. Further, the middle, as indicating the victorious self-interest of the action (sibi exspoliavit), is here selected even with nicety, and by no means conveys (as Hofmann, in order to refute this explanation, erroneously lays to its charge) the idea: in order to appropriate to Himself this armour; see on the contrary generally, Krüger, § 52. 10. 1; Kühner, II. 1, p. 93 f. The disarming in itself, and not the possession of the enemy’s weapons, is the interest of the victor. Lastly, the whole connection does not admit of any intransitive interpretation, such as Hofmann, in his Schriftbew. I. p. 350 f. (and substantially also in his Heil. Schr. in loc.), has attempted, making the sense: God has laid aside from Himself the powers ruling in the Gentile world—which were round about Him like a veil concealing Him from the Gentiles—by manifesting Himself in unveiled clearness. Something such as this, which is held to amount to the meaning that God has put an end to the ignorance of the Gentile world and revealed Himself to it, Paul must necessarily have said; no reader could unravel it from so strange a mode of veiling the conception, the more especially seeing that there is no mention at all of the victorious word of Christ[113] converting the Gentiles, as Hofmann thinks, but on the contrary of what God has effected in reference to the ἀρχαὶ and ἐξουσίαι by the fact of reconciliation accomplished on the cross; He has by it rendered powerless the powers which previously held sway among mankind; comp. John 12:30 f., John 16:11.

That these ἀρχαί and ἐξουσίαι are two categories of evil angels (comp. Ephesians 6:12), corresponding to two classes of good angels similarly named (comp. Colossians 2:10), is taught by the context, which has nothing to do with mediating beings intervening between God and the world (Sabatier), or even with human rulers. Ritschl, in the Jahrb. f. Deutsche Theol. 1863, p. 522, understands the angels of the law-giving (comp. on Colossians 1:20), of whom God has divested Himself (middle), i.e. from whose environment He has withdrawn Himself. Even apart from the singular expression ἀπεκδυσάμ. in this sense, this explanation is inappropriate, because the ἀρχαί and ἐξουσίαι appear here as hostile to God, as beings over whom He has triumphed; secondly, because the angels who ministered at the law-giving (see on Galatians 3:19) have no share in the contents of the law, which, as the νόμος Θεοῦ, is holy, righteous, good, and spiritual (Romans 7), and hence no deviation from God’s plan of salvation can be attributed to the angels of the law; and, finally, because the expression τὰς ἀρχὰς κ. τὰς ἐξουσίας is so comprehensive that, in the absence of any more precise indication in the text, it cannot be specially limited to the powers that were active in the law-giving, but must denote the collective angelic powers—hostile, however, and therefore devilish. Them God has disarmed, put to shame, and triumphed over, through the abrogation of men’s legal debt-bond that took place by means of the atoning death. The emphatic and triumphant prominence given to this statement was, doubtless, specially occasioned by those speculations regarding the power of demons, with which the false teachers were encroaching on the work of Christ.

δειγματίζειν, preserved only here and in Matthew 1:19 (comp. however, παραδειγματίζειν, especially frequent in Polybius; see Schweighäuser, Lex. p. 429), denotes, in virtue of its connection with the conception of triumph, the making a show (Augustine, ep. 59: “exemplavit;” Hilary, de trin. 9: “ostentui esse fecit”) for the purpose of humiliation and disgrace (comp. Chrysostom), not in order to exhibit the weakness of the conquered (Theodoret, Böhmer), but simply their accomplished subjugation; comp. Nahum 3:6 : θήσομαί σε εἰς παράδειγμα.

ἐν παῤῥησίᾳ] is usually rendered publicly, before the eyes of all, consequently as equivalent to φανερῶς in John 7:10 (the opposite: ἐν κρυπτῷ, John 7:4; Matthew 6:4; Romans 2:28); but this the word does not mean (see on John 7:4); moreover, the verb already implies this idea;[114] and the usage of Paul elsewhere warrants only the rendering: boldly, freely and frankly. Comp. Ephesians 6:19; Php 1:20. Hilary: “cum fiducia;” Vulgate: “confidenter palam.” The objection that this sense is not appropriate to the action of God (Hofmann), overlooks the fact that God is here represented just as a human triumpher, who freely and boldly, with remorseless disposal of the spoils acquired by victory, subjects the conquered to ignominious exhibition.[115]

θριαμβεύσας αὐτ. ἐν αὐτῷ] synchronous with ἐδειγμ.: while He triumphed over them. Respecting θριαμβεύειν τινα, to triumph over some one, see on 2 Corinthians 2:14. Comp. the passive θριαμβεύεσθαι, to be led in triumph, Plut. Coriol. 35. αὐτούς refers κατὰ σύνεσιν to the devils individually, who are conceived as masculine (as δαίμονες, κοσμοκράτορες, Ephesians 6:12), see generally Winer, p. 138 [E. T. 183]; and ἐν αὐτῷ is referred either to the cross (hence, also, the readings ἐν τῷ ξύλῳ or σταυρῷ) or to Christ. The former reference is maintained by the majority of the Fathers (Theophylact: ἐν τῷ σταυρῷ τοὺς δαίμονας ἡττημένους δείξας), Beza, Calvin, Grotius, and many others, including Böhmer, Steiger, Olshausen, Ewald, Weiss, Bibl. Theol. p. 432, ed. 2; and the latter, by Erasmus, Luther, Melanchthon, Wolf, Estius, Bengel, and many others, including Flatt, Bähr, Huther, de Wette, Baumgarten-Crusius, Bisping, Bleek, Hofmann, Rich. Schmidt. The reference to Christ is erroneous, because Christ is not mentioned at all in Colossians 2:14, and God pervades as subject the entire discourse from Colossians 2:11 onwards. We must hold, therefore, by the reference to τῷ σταυρῷ, so that ἐν αὐτῷ once more places the cross significantly before our eyes, just as it stood emphatically at the close of the previous sentence. At the cross God celebrated His triumph, inasmuch as through the death of Christ on the cross obliterating and removing out of the way the debt-bill of the law He completed the work of redemption, by which the devil and his powers were deprived of their strength, which rested on the law and its debt-bond. The ascension is not to be here included.

[111] Holtzmann, p. 156 f., rejects this verse because it interrupts the transition of thought to ver. 16 (which is not the case); because δειγματίζειν is un-Pauline (but in what sense is it un-Pauline? it is in any sense a very rare word); because θριαμβεύειν is used here otherwise than in 2 Corinthians 2:14 (this is incorrect); but, especially, because ver. 15 can only be explained by the circle of ideas of Ephesians 3:10 and Colossians 1:10; Ephesians 4:8; Ephesians 2:15 f. (passages which touch our present one either not at all, or at the most very indirectly).

[112] Through this erroneous definition of the subject it was possible to discover in our passage the descent into hell (Anselm and others).

[113] In which sense also Grotius explained it, though he takes ἀπεκδυσάμ. rightly as exarmatos. See, in opposition to him, Calovius. Hofmann’s explanation is also followed by Holtzmann, p. 222; it is an unfortunate attempt at rationalizing.

[114] Hence Hofmann joins it with θριαμβεύσας, in which, however, the idea of publicity is obviously already contained. Hofmann, indeed, assumes a reference of contrast to the invisible triumphs, which God has ever been celebrating over those powers. But thus the idea of θριαμβεύειν is extended to an unwarranted amplitude of metaphorical meaning, while, nevertheless, the entire anthropopathic imagery of the passage requires the strict conception of the public θρίαμβος Moreover, the pretended contrast is altogether foreign to the context.

[115] It is an inconsiderate fancy of Hofmann to say, by way of controverting our explanation: Who would be surprised, that the triumpher should make a show of the conquered, “without previously asking their permission”? As if such a thought, no doubt very silly for the victor, were necessarily the contrast to the frank daring action, with which a general, crowned with victory, is in a position to exhibit his captives without any scruple, without sparing or hesitation! He has the ἐξουσία for the δειγματίζειν, and uses it ἐν παῤῥησίᾳ.Colossians 2:15. In this difficult verse the meaning of almost every word is disputed. It is therefore imperative to control the exegesis by strict regard to the context. The main question relates to the character of the principalities and powers. Subordinate questions are raised as to the subject of the sentence and the meaning of ἀπεκδ. The context before and after (οὖν, Colossians 2:16) requires us to bring the interpretation into close connexion with the main thought, the abolition of the Law.—ἀπεκδυσάμενος τὰς ἀρχὰς καὶ τὰς ἐξουσίας. Till recently the principalities and powers have been explained as hostile demoniacal spirits, and this view is held by Meyer, Ellicott, Lightfoot, Oltramare and Weiss. In its favour is the impression made by the verse that a victory over the powers is spoken of. How far this is so can be determined only by an examination of the terms employed. Against this view the following objections seem decisive. ἀρχ. κ. ἐξ. occur several times in the Epistle, but nowhere in this sense. In Ephesians 6:12 the reference to evil spirits is definitely and repeatedly fixed by the context. This is not so here. Further, the connexion with the context is difficult to trace. Bengel says: “Qui angelos bonos colebant, iidem malos timebant: neutrum jure”. Weiss expresses a somewhat similar idea: “It seems that the Colossian theosophists threatened the readers that they would again fall under the power of evil spirits if they did not submit to their discipline”. But not only have we no evidence for this, but this interpretation cuts the nerve of the passage, which is the abolition of the Law by the cross. Meyer’s view is more relevant: the Law is done away in Christ, and since it is the strength of sin, sin’s power is thus broken, and so is the devil’s power, which is exercised only through sin. Gess interprets that the Law through its curse created separation between men and God, and thus gave a point of support for the dominion of evil spirits. “Of this handwriting have they boasted. Our guilt was their strength. He who sees the handwriting nailed to the cross can mock these foes.” But these views are read into the passage, and do not lead up to Colossians 2:16. And where the Jewish Law was absent, as in the heathen world, sin was rampant. Ellicott and Lightfoot do not attempt to trace a connexion with the context, nor on their view of ἀπεκδ. is one possible. All this strongly suggests that we should give another sense to ἀρχ. κ. ἐξ. And this is secured if we identify them with ἀρχ. κ. ἐξ. already mentioned (Colossians 1:16 and Colossians 2:10). In favour of this are the following considerations: (1) Unless we are warned to the contrary it is natural to keep the same meaning throughout. (2) We thus get a thought that perfectly suits the context. This law that has been abolished was given by angels, its abolition implies their degradation. To them was also subject the whole of the observances of eating, drinking, etc. (3) It is a powerful polemic against the worship of angels (Colossians 2:18), which is lost on the other view. In effect Paul says, “You are worshipping angels who were degraded when Christ was crucified”. We may therefore take ἀρχ. κ. ἐξ, as in the rest of the Epistle, as angelic powers, identical with στοιχεῖα τ. κόσμου, and holding a special relation to the Law. The next question is as to the meaning of ἀπεκδ. The translation “having put off His body” may be safely set aside, for Paul must have said this if he had meant it. The Greek commentators, followed by Ellicott and Lightfoot, interpret “having put off from Himself”. The word is used in this sense in Colossians 3:9. They explain that Christ divested Himself of the powers of evil that gathered about Him, since He assumed our humanity with all its temptations. But (apart from the change of subject) the change of metaphor is very awkward from stripping off adversaries, like clothes, to exhibiting and triumphing over them. More cogent is the objection caused by the strangeness of the idea. Christ wore our human nature with its liability to temptation. But that He wore evil spirits is a different and indeed most objectionable idea. The same translation is adopted by some who take the other view of ἀρχ. κ. ἐξ., and the explanation given is that God in the death of Christ divested Himself of angelic mediators. This is free from the impropriety of the other view, but shares its incongruity of metaphor. The more usual translation is “spoiled”. The middle can mean “stripped for Himself,” and this again suits either view of ἀρχ. κ. ἐξ. If evil spirits, they are stripped of their dominion; but if angels of the Law, they are despoiled of the dominion they exercise. This view, though stigmatised by Zahn as “an inexcusable caprice,” is probably best. They are fallen potentates. There is no need to worship them, or to fear their vengeance, if their commands are disobeyed. With the true interpretation of this passage, every reason disappears for assuming that Christ is the subject.—ἐδειγμάτισεν ἐν παρρησία. “He made a show of them openly.” No exhibition in disgrace is necessarily implied. The principalities and powers are exhibited in their true position of inferiority, as mediators of an abolished Law and rulers of elements to which Christians have died. ἐν παρ. is not to be translated “boldly,” for courage is not needed to exhibit those who are spoiled. The word is contrasted with “reserve,” and indicates the frank, open exhibition of the angels in their true position when the bond was cancelled and Christ was manifested as the final revelation of God.—θριαμβεύσας. This seems to express most definitely that the ἀρχ. κ. ἐξ. are hostile powers. Alford, referring to 2 Corinthians 2:14, says the true victory is our defeat by Him. Findlay thinks the reference in the verb (which is not earlier than Paul) is not to the Roman military triumph, but to the festal procession (θρίαμβος) of the worshippers of Dionysus. In this case God is represented as leading the angels in procession in His honour; in other words, bringing them to acknowledge His greatness and the revelation of Himself in Christ. It is perhaps safest to translate “triumphing over”. This is favoured by other passages in Paul, which imply that the ἀρχ. κ. ἐξ. needed an experience of this kind.—ἐν αὐτῷ may refer to Χριστ. or σταυρ. or χειρόγ. The second is best, for there has been no reference to Christ since Colossians 2:13, and it is the cancelling of the bond, not the bond itself, that is the cause of the triumph. It is in the death of Christ that this triumph takes place. Zahn explains the passage to mean that God has stripped away the principalities and powers which concealed Him, not from the Jews, to whom He had revealed Himself, but from the heathen world. Thus He has revealed Himself and these apparent deities in their true character. He has triumphed over them in Christ, and led them vanquished in His train. But this was not accomplished on the cross, but through the preaching of the Gospel among the Gentiles, accompanied with such signs and wonders as in the story of the maid with the spirit of divination and the exorcists at Ephesus. But this is not what is required by the argument, which has the Jewish Law in view.15. having spoiled] “Having put off from Himself” (R.V.).—The Greek verb is apparently unknown before St Paul; classical illustration is impossible. Its literal meaning is “to strip off”; and its voice is middle. This voice, it is alleged, compels us to explain it of the Lord’s stripping off something from Himself, divesting Himself. And explanations vary between (a) that given in margin R.V., (“having put off from Himself His body”), supported by the Peshito Syriac version and (among other Fathers) by Ambrose, Hilary, and Augustine (see Lightfoot); and (b) that given in text R.V., advocated by Lightfoot, and supported by Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and other Fathers. In this last, the thought would be that the powers of evil swarmed, so to speak, around Him who had taken our place under “the curse of the Law,” and that He in His triumph, stripped or cast them off.

The objection to (a) is that it brings in an alien and isolated idea, and in obscure terms. The objection to (b) seems to us to be that it presents to us an image very peculiar in itself, and not obviously proper to the next words. To cast off enemies and then at once to exhibit them are not quite congruous ideas.

And why should we reject the A.V. rendering as if ungrammatical? The lawful force of the middle voice would be as well represented by “stripping for Himself” as “stripping from Himself”; it makes the subject of the verb to be also in some degree the object of the action. And the Lord did “strip His foes for Himself: “He taketh from him the armour, and divideth the spoils” (Luke 11:22). The imagery is then congruous; the disarmed and despoiled foes are then appropriately, as captives, “shewn” in triumph. We recommend accordingly the A.V.[83]

[83] It is objected that below, Colossians 3:9, we have the same verb in the same voice used where the meaning clearly is “to strip from oneself.” But classical parallels exist to such a varying use of the middle in neighbouring contexts. See Sophocles, Ajax, 245, 647 (Dindorf). (Note by the Bishop of Worcester.)

The Old Latin Version has exuens se, following explanation (b). The Vulgate renders the verb exspolians—the immediate original of the A.V.

principalities and powers] Lit., the governments and the authorities, the recognized enemies of Redemption and the Redeemer. These made their dire hostility supremely felt in that “hour” which He Himself called “the authority of the Darkness” (Luke 22:53). The personal adversaries (under their Chief; see the intimations of Luke 4:13; John 13:2; John 14:30), who had crossed His path so often as the “demons” of possession, now directly assailed Himself, as they are still permitted in measure to assail (Ephesians 6:12) His followers, who meet them in Him the Conqueror.—See further above on Colossians 1:16.

made a shew of them] Nearly the same Greek verb as that used Matthew 1:19; “make her a public example.” The Latin Versions have traduxit, “led them along,” as the captives in a Roman triumph.

openly] Rather, boldly (Lightfoot). The “openness” indicated by the Greek phrase (quite literally, “in, or with, outspokenness”) is the openness of confidence. It is used John 7:4 (where Lightfoot explains it to mean “to assume a bold attitude”); Ephesians 6:19; Php 1:20.

triumphing over them] The Greek verb (thriambeuein) occurs elsewhere (in N.T.) only 2 Corinthians 2:14; where it is variously explained “to make to triumph” or “to lead in triumph.” Here it is of course the latter.—Philologically it is probably akin to the Latin triumphus.

in it] The Cross. The margin A.V., “in Himself” is quite untenable, though it is countenanced by the Latin, (in semetipso), and by Wyclif, Tyndale (“in his awne persone”), Cranmer, and Rheims. The Genevan version has “in the same crosse.”

The Lord’s atoning Death, the apparent triumph of His foes over Him, was His absolute and eternal triumph over them, when it was seen, in His Resurrection, to be the mysterious Ransom of His Church from the curse and from sin, and so His own glorification as its Head. Vicit qui passus est; cui gloria in œternum.

This whole passage while pregnant with primary and universal truth has doubtless a special reference all the while to the “Colossian heresy” with its angelology and angelolatry. He who is King of all orders of good Angels is here presented as Conqueror of their evil counterpart; he, from both points of view, fills the field.Colossians 2:15. Ἀπεκδυσάμενος, having stripped off, having spoiled) Matthew 12:29.—τὰς ἀρχὰς καὶ τὰς ἐξουσίας, principalities and powers) Those, who worshipped good angels, at the same time feared the bad; neither with good reason: comp. Colossians 2:10.—ἐδειγμάτισεν, made a show) This was done at His ascension, Ephesians 4:8.—ἐν παῤῥησίᾳ, openly) While both they themselves beheld it in their turn, and good angels, and then men, and God Himself. The nakedness of the vanquished enemy was manifest from the fact itself, and in the Gospel.—αὐτοὺς, them) The masculine refers to the angels.—ἐν αὐτῷ, in Him) in Christ. So Hilarius the deacon explains it. This (ἐν αὐτῷ) refers (belongs) to the whole paragraph, [which treats of GOD down from Colossians 2:12.—V. g.] and which is here concluded. [Evidently as Ephesians 1:20; Ephesians 2:5.—V. g.]Verse 15. - Having stripped off the principalities and the dominions (Colossians 1:16; Colossians 2:10; Acts 7:38, 53; Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 1:5, 7, 14; Hebrews 2:2, 5; Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalm 68:17). Απεκδυσάμενος has been rendered, from the time of the Latin Vulgate, "having spoiled" (exspolians), a rendering which is "not less a violation of St. Paul's usage (Colossians 3:9) than of grammatical rule" (Lightfoot; so Alford, Ellicott, Wordsworth, Hofmann, Revisers). It is precisely the same participle that we find in Colossians 3:9, and the writer has just used the noun ἀπέκδυσις (ver. 11) in a corresponding sense (see note in loc. on the force of the double compound). He employs compounds of δύω in the middle voice seventeen times elsewhere, and always in the sense of "putting off [or, 'on'] from one's self;" and there is no sure instance in Greek of the middle verb bearing any other meaning. Yet such critics as Meyer, Eadie, Klopper, cling to the rendering of the Vulgate and our Authorized Version; and not without reason, as we shall see. The Revised margin follows the earlier Latin Fathers and some ancient versions, supplying "his body" as object of the participle, understanding "Christ" as subject. But the context does not, as in 2 Corinthians 5:3, suggest this ellipsis, and it is arbitrary to make the participle itself mean "having disembodied himself." Nor has the writer introduced any new subject since ver. 12, where" God" appears as agent of each of the acts of salvation set forth in vers. 12-15. Moreover, "the principalities and the dominions" of this verse must surely be those of ver. 10 and of Colossians 1:16 (compare the "angels" of ver. 18). We understand St. Patti, therefore, to say "that God [revealing himself in Christ; 'in him,' 15 b] put off and put away those angelic powers through whom he had previously shown himself to men." The Old Testament associates the angels with the creation of the world and the action of the powers of nature (Job 38:7; Psalm cir. 4), and with its great theophanies generally (Psalm 68:7; Deuteronomy 33:2; 2 Kings 6:17, etc.); and its hints in this direction were emphasized and extended by the Greek translators of the LXX. Acts 7:38, 53 (St. Stephen); Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2, ascribe to them a special agency in the giving of the Law. Hebrews 1. and it. show how large a place the doctrine of the mediation of angels filled in Jewish thought at this time, and how it tended to limit the mediatorship of Christ. The mystic developments of Judaism among the Essenes and the Ebionites (Christian Essenes), and in the Cabbala, are full of this belief. And it is a cornerstone of the philosophic mysticism of Alexandria. In Philo the angels are the "Divine powers," "words," "images of God," forming the court and entourage of the invisible King, by whose means he created and maintains the material world, and holds converse with the souls of men (see quotation, ver. 10). This doctrine, we may suppose, was a chief article of the Colossian heresy. Theodoret's note on ver. 18 is apposite here: "They who defended the Law taught men to worship angels, saying that the Law was given by them. This mischief continued long in Phrygia and Pisidia." The apostle returns to the point from which he started in ver. 10. He has just declared that God has cancelled and removed the Law as an instrument of condemnation; and now adds that he has at the same time thrown off and laid aside the veil of angelic mediation under which, in the administration of that Law, he had withdrawn himself. Both these acts take place "in Christ." Both are necessary to that "access to the Father" which, in the apostle's view, is the special prerogative of Christian faith (Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:12; Romans 5:2), and which the Colossian error doubly barred, by its ascetic ceremonialism and by its angelic mediation. (See, on this passage, Alford; also Peirce's 'Paraphrase and Notes,' 2nd edit., 1729; Robertson Smith, on 'Christ and the Angels,' Expositor, second series, vol. 1:138, etc.; A. Sabatier's 'L'Apotre Paul,' p. 220, 2nd edit., 1881.) We are compelled, with all deference to its high authority, to reject the view of the Greek Fathers, to which Ellicott, Lightfoot, and Wordsworth have returned, according to which "Christ in his atoning death [in it; 'the cross,' ver. 15 b] stripped off from himself the Satanic powers." For it requires us to bring in, without grammatical warrant, "somewhere" (Lightfoot), "Christ" as subject; it puts upon" the principalities and the dominions" a sense foreign to the context, and that cannot be justified by Ephesians 6:12, where the connection is wholly different and the hostile sense of the terms is most explicitly defined; and it presents an idea harsh and unfitting in itself, the incongruity of which such illustrations as those of the Nessus robe and Joseph's garment only make more apparent. It is one thing to say that the powers of evil surrounded Christ and quite another thing to say that he wore them as we have worn "the body of the flesh" (ver. 11; Colossians 3:9). He made a show (of them) openly, having led them in triumph in him; or, it (Ephesians 1:21, 22; Philippians 2:10; 1 Peter 3:22; Hebrews 1:5, 6; John 1:52; Matthew 25:31; Matthew 26:53; Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:9). In this, as in the last verse, we have a finite verb between two participles, one introductory ("having stripped off"), the other explanatory, Δειγματίζω, to make a show or example, occurs in the New Testament besides only in Matthew 1:17, where it is compounded with παρα (Revised Text), giving it a sinister meaning of not belonging to the simple verb. With the angelic "principalities," etc., for object, the verb denotes, not a shameful exposure, but "an exhibition of them in their true character and position," such as forbids them to be regarded superstitiously (ver. 18). God exhibited the angels as the subordinates and servants of his Son (ver. 10: camp. Luke 1:26; Luke 2:10, 13; Mark 1:13; Luke 22:43; Matthew 28:2, etc.). "Openly" ( ἐν παρρησίᾳ: literally, in freedom of speech, a favourite word of St. Paul s) implies the absence of reserve or restraint, rather than mere publicity (comp. Ephesians 6:19; Philippians 1:20). Θριαμβεύσας ("having triumphed;" 2 Corinthians 2:14 only other instance of the verb in the New Testament; its use in classical Greek confined to Latinist writers, referring, historically, to the Roman triumph) presents a formidable difficulty in the way of the interpretation of the verse followed so far. For the common acceptation of the word "triumph" compels us to think of the "principalities," etc., as hostile (Satanic); and this, again, as Meyer strongly contends, dictates the rendering "having spoiled" for ἀπεκδυσάμενος. So we are brought into collision with two fixed points of our former exegesis. If we are bound lexically to abide by the reference to the Roman military triumph, then the angelic principalities must be supposed to have stood in a quasi-hostile position to "the kingdom of God and of Christ," in so far as men had exaggerated their powers and exalted them at Christ's expense, and to have been now robbed of this false pre-eminence. The writer however, ventures to question whether, on philological grounds, a better, native Greek sense cannot be found for this verb. The noun thriambos ("triumph"), on which it is based, is used, indeed, in the Latin sense as early as Polybius, a writer on Roman history (). But it is extant in a much earlier classical fragment as synonymous with dithyrambos, denoting "a festal song;" and again in Plutarch, contemporary with St. Paul, it is a name of the Greek god Dionysus, in whose honour such songs were sung, and whose worship was of a choral, processional character. This kinder triumph was, one may imagine, familiar to the eyes of St. Paul and of his readers, while the spectacle of the Roman triumph was distant and foreign (at least when he wrote 2 Corinthians). We suggest that the apostle's image is taken, beth here and in 2 Corinthians 2:14, from the festal procession of the Greek divinity, who leads his worshippers along as witnesses of his power and celebrants of his glory. Such a figure fittingly describes the relation and the attitude of the angels to the Divine presence in Christ. Let this suggestion, however, be regarded as precarious or fanciful, the general exposition of the verse is not thereby invalidated. (For further elucidation, see the Expositor, first series, vol. 10. pp. 403-421; 11. p. 78. On "triumph," in 2 Corinthians, see Mr. Waite's Additional note in 'Speaker's Commentary.') The Revisers omit the marginal "in himself" of the Authorized Version, which correctly, as we think, refers the final ἐν αὐτῷ to Christ (ver. 10), though incorrectly implying "Christ" as subject of the verse. It was not only "in the cross" that God unveiled himself, dispensing with angelic theophanies, but in the entire person and work of his Son (Colossians 1:15; 2 Corinthians 4:4; John 1:14, 18; John 14:9). "Which veil" (for here we may apply the words of 2 Corinthians 3:14) "is done away in Christ." So the whole passage (vers. 10-15) ends, as it begins, "in him:" "We are complete in him" - in our conversion from sin to holiness set forth in baptism, and our resurrection from death to life experienced in forgiveness (vers. 11-13); and in the removal at once of the legal bar which forbade our access to God (ver. 14), and of the veil of inferior and partial mediation which obscured his manifestation to us (ver. 15). Having spoiled principalities and powers (ἀπεκδυσάμενος τὰς ἀρχὰς καὶ τὰς ἐξουσίας)

For the verb spoiled, see on putting off, Colossians 2:11. The principalities and powers are the angelic hosts through whose ministry the law was given. See Deuteronomy 33:2; Acts 7:53; Hebrews 2:2; Galatians 3:19. Great importance was attached, in the later rabbinical schools, to the angels who assisted in giving the law; and that fact was not without influence in shaping the doctrine of angelic mediators, one of the elements of the Colossian heresy, which was partly Judaic. This doctrine Paul strikes at in Colossians 1:16; Colossians 2:10; here, and Colossians 2:18. God put off from himself, when the bond of the law was rendered void in Christ's crucifixion, that ministry of angels which waited on the giving of the law, revealing Christ as the sole mediator, the head of every principality and power (Colossians 2:10). The directness of the gospel ministration, as contrasted with the indirectness of the legal ministration, is touched upon by Paul in Galatians 3:19 sqq.; 2 Corinthians 3:12 sqq.; Hebrews 2:2.

He made a show of them (ἐδειγμάτισεν)

Only here and Matthew 1:19, see note. The compound παραδειγματίζω to expose to public infamy, is found Hebrews 6:6; and δεῖγμα example, in Jde 1:7. The word is unknown to classical Greek. The meaning here is to make a display of, exhibit. He showed them as subordinate and subject to Christ. Compare especially Hebrews 1:1-14 throughout, where many points of contact with the first two chapters of this epistle will be found.

Openly (ἐν παῤῥησίᾳ)

Or boldly. See on Plm 1:8. Not publicly, but as by a bold stroke putting His own ministers, chosen and employed for such a glorious and dignified office, in subjection before the eyes of the world.

Triumphing over them (θραιμβεύσας αὐτοὺς)

See on 2 Corinthians 2:14. If we take this phrase in the sense which it bears in that passage, leading in triumph, there seems something incongruous in picturing the angelic ministers of the law as captives of war, subjugated and led in procession. The angels "do His commandments and hearken unto the voice of His word." But while I hold to that explanation in 2 Corinthians, I see no reason why the word may not be used here less specifically in the sense of leading a festal procession in which all share the triumph; the heavenly ministers, though set aside as mediators, yet exulting in the triumph of the one and only Mediator. Even in the figure in 2 Corinthians, the captives rejoice in the triumph. Compare Revelation 19:11. Our knowledge of the word θριαμβεύω is not so extensive or accurate as to warrant too strict limitations in our definition.

In it (ἐν αὐτῷ)

The cross. Many expositors, however, render in Him, Christ. This I adopt as harmonizing with the emphatic references to Christ which occur in every verse from Colossians 2:5 to Colossians 2:14; Christ, four times; in Him, four; in whom, two; with Him, three. In it is necessary only if the subject of the sentence is Christ; but the very awkward change of subject from God (quickened us together, Colossians 2:13) is quite unnecessary. God is the subject throughout.

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