Colossians 2:21
(Touch not; taste not; handle not;
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(21) Touch not; taste not; handle not.—The first and last of these renderings should be inverted. There is in the commands a climax of strictness. “Handle not” (the unclean thing), “taste it not,” “touch it not” with one of your fingers. It will be noted that all these commands are negative, not positive. They are marked by the ordinary ascetic preference of spiritual restraint to spiritual energy.

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.Tough not; taste not; handle not - These words seem intended as a specimen of the kind of ordinances which the apostle refers to, or an imitation of the language of the Jewish teachers in regard to various kinds of food and drink. "Why are ye subject to ordinances of various kinds, such as this - Touch not, taste not, handle not?" That is, such as prohibit you from even touching certain kinds of food, or tasting certain kinds of drink, or handling certain prohibited things. The rapid succession of the words here, without any connecting particle, is supposed to denote the eagerness of the persons who imposed this injunction, and their earnestness in warning others from contaminating themselves with the prohibited things. Many injunctions of this kind are found in the writings of the Jewish rabbis; and the ancient Jewish sect of the Essenes (Notes, Matthew 3:7) abounded in precepts of this kind.

See Schoetgen, and Pict. Bib. in loc. "They allowed themselves no food that was pleasant to the taste, but ate dry, coarse bread, and drank only water. Many of them ate nothing until sunset, and, if anyone touched them who did not belong to their sect, they washed themselves as if they had been most deeply defiled. Perhaps there was at Colossae a society of this kind, as there were in many other places out of Judea; and, if there was, it is not improbable that many Christians imitated them in the uniqueness of their rules and observances;" compare Jenning's Jew. Ant. i. 471, and Ros. Alt. u. neu. Morgenland, in loc. If this be the correct interpretation, then these are not the words of the apostle, forbidding Christians to have anything to do with these ordinances, but are introduced as a specimen of the manner in which they who enjoined the observance of those ordinances pressed the subject on others.

There were certain things which they prohibited, in conformity with what they understood to be the law of Moses; and they were constantly saying, in regard to them, "do not touch them, taste them, handle them." These words are often used as a kind of motto in reference to the use of intoxicating drinks. They express very well what is held by the friends of total abstinence; but it is obvious that they had no such reference as used by the apostle, nor should they be alleged as an authority, or as an argument, in the question about the propriety or impropriety of the use of spirituous liquors. They may as well be employed in reference to anything else as that, and would have no authority in either case. Intoxicating drinks should be abstained from; but the obligation to do it should be made to rest on solid arguments, and not on passages of Scripture like this. This passage could with more plausibility be pressed into the service of the enemies of the total abstinence societies, than into their support; but it really has nothing to do with the subject, one way or the other.

21. Compare Col 2:16, "meat … drink." He gives instances of the "ordinances" (Col 2:20) in the words of their imposers. There is an ascending climax of superstitious prohibitions. The first Greek word (hapse) is distinguished from the third (thiges), in that the former means close contact and retention: the latter, momentary contact (compare 1Co 7:1; Joh 20:17, Greek, "Hold me not"; cling not to me"). Translate, "Handle not, neither taste, nor even touch." The three refer to meats. "Handle not" (a stronger term than "nor even touch"), "nor taste" with the tongue, "nor even touch," however slight the contact. Which he doth here by way of imitation, upbraiding of them, elegantly recite in the words, phrases, or sense of those imposing dogmatists, whose superstition and lust of domineering over the consciences of Christians is taxed, in the gradation which the well skilled in the Greek judge to be in the original. For though the first, and which we render

touch not, be sometimes so rendered, yet, considering here the coincidency or tautology will, so rendered, make with the last, the sense of it, as the most judicious and learned have evidenced, seems to be, eat not, as noting they did forbid the eating, i.e. using certain meats at their ordinary meals; (against the reviving of which imposition above, Colossians 2:16, as will bring in a new one of like import, the apostle elsewhere expresseth himself, Romans 14:17 1 Corinthians 8:8 1 Timothy 4:3); obtaining which, they proceeded to forbid the not tasting, and then the not handling, or touching of them with the hand, as if that would defile. It being more not to taste than not to eat, and likewise more not to touch with the finger than not to taste. Expressing the ingenuity of such superstitious imposers, that they heap up one thing upon another to the burdening of consciences, not knowing where to make an end in their new invented external devotions and observances, which, as snares, do first bind fast, and in tract of time strangle. He speaks of these as distinct from those, Colossians 2:16, they being for antiquated rites which had been of God’s appointment, these for innovations of man’s invention, as is apparent from the last verse.

Touch not, taste not, handle not. This the apostle says, not of himself, but in the person of the Jewish doctors; who urging the use of the ceremonial law, to which they added decrees and constitutions of their own, said, "touch not" the dead body of any man, the bone of a man, or a grave, any man or woman in their uncleanness; not only their flesh, but the bed they lay on, or the seat they sat on; or any creature that was by the law unclean; of a Gentile, or any notorious sinner, or common man: hence the Pharisees used to wash themselves when they returned from market, lest they should have been by any means accidentally defiled by touching any thing unclean. There is a treatise in their Misna, called Oholot, which gives many rules, and is full of decrees about things , "that defile by touching". And so they likewise said, "taste not", neither the fat, nor the blood of any creature which might be eaten itself, nor swine's flesh, nor the flesh of any creature that chewed the cud, or divided the hoof; nor might the Nazarites taste wine, or strong drink, or vinegar made of either, or moist grapes, or even the kernels and husks; and if a man ate but the quantity of an olive of any of the above things, he was, according to the Jewish canons, to be cut off, or beaten (x): and they also said, "handle not"; or, as the Syriac and Arabic read, "do not come near", or "draw not nigh", to a Gentile, to one of another nation, or any unclean person, to whom they forbid any near approach or conversation; or "handle not" any of the above things. Some think that these several rules have respect only to meats; as "touch not", that is, do not eat of things forbidden ever so little; nay, "taste not", do not let anything of them come within your lips; yea, "handle not", do not so much as touch them with your fingers. Others think that touch not regards abstinence from women; see 1 Corinthians 7:1; and respects the prohibition of marriage by some in those times; and "taste not", the forbearance of certain meats, at certain times, which God had not restrained any from; and "handle not", that is, make no use of, or enjoy your own goods, and so designs that voluntary poverty which some entered into under the direction of false teachers,

(x) Maimon. Maacolot Asurot, c. 7. sect. 1. & c. 14. sect. 2. & Nezirut, c. 5. sect. 3.

{21} (Touch not; taste not; handle not;

(21) An imitation of these superstitious men, rightly expressing their nature and use of speech.

Colossians 2:21. The precepts here quoted are those of the false teachers, and are, of course, quoted to be condemned, though their meaning is frequently misunderstood. It is not said what things are thus prohibited, but the context supports the reference to meats and drinks, and is confirmed by μηδὲ γεύσῃ. There is no reason whatever to suppose that there is any reference to a prohibition of sexual relations.—μὴ ἅψῃ μηδὲ γεύσῃ μηδὲ θίγῃς. “Handle not, nor taste, nor even touch.” There is perhaps a gradation in the order from coarser to more refined contact.

21. (touch not; taste not; handle not;] Better (discarding the bracket here), Handle thou not, nor taste, nor touch. This rendering represents exactly the construction of the Greek, and is truer to the shades of meaning of the first and last of the three Greek verbs. The last verb denotes a lighter and less deliberate touch than the first, and so here conveys a climax of prohibition.

The prohibitions in question would be those of the Mosaic law, developed and exaggerated by the Pharisaic schools. Schoettgen (Horœ Hebr. in N. T.) quotes from the Talmud just such precepts: “Touch not a vessel, till thou hast washed hands and feet from (its) brim;” “They say to a Nazirite, Drink not … shave not … &c.” “The Latin commentators, Hilary and Pelagius, suppose these prohibitions to be the Apostle’s own, thus making a complete shipwreck of the sense” (Lightfoot). In much more modern comments the same mistake appears.

Our Lord’s teaching (e.g. Matthew 15:1-20) takes the exactly opposite direction to this system of prohibitions, and is a lasting warning to His Church on all kindred subjects. Cp. also 1 Corinthians 8; 1 Timothy 4:3.

Colossians 2:21. Μὴ, not) Thus the dogmatists commonly spoke.—ἅψῃ, touch) The genus; the species are, to taste (γεύσῃ) with the tongue, and to handle (θίγῃς) with the hand.

Verse 21 gives examples of the decrees which the Colossians are blamed for regarding and in this respect more than in any other they seem to have yielded to the demands of the false teacher. Do not handle, nor taste, nor touch' (vers. 16, 23; 1 Corinthians 6:12, 13; 1 Corinthians 8:8; 1 Corinthians 10:25-27, 30; Romans 14:14-17; 1 Timothy 4:3-5; Titus 1:15). These rules form part of a prohibitory regimen by which sinful tendencies to bodily pleasure were to be repressed (ver. 23), and spiritual truths symbolically enforced (ver. 17; see note on "circumcision," ver. 11): comp. Philo, 'On Concupiscence;' also 'On Victims,' § 3. Θίγης the last of the three verbs, appears to be the strongest, forbidding the slightest contact. Αψῃ is better rendered "handle" (comp. John 20:17); by itself it will scarcely bear the meaning it has in 1 Corinthians 7:1. The next verse seems to imply that all three verbs relate to matters of diet. Ambrose and other Latin Fathers of ascetic tendencies put these prohibitions into the mouth of St. Patti himself, reversing his meaning. Colossians 2:21Touch - taste - handle (ἅψῃ - γεύσῃ - θίγῃς)

Ἅπτομαι, A.V., touch, is properly to fasten one's self to or cling to. So John 20:17 (note). Frequently rendered touch in the New Testament, and used in most cases of Christ's touching or being touched by the diseased. To get hands on so as to injure, 1 John 5:18. To have intercourse with, 1 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Corinthians 6:17. Thus, in every case, the contact described exerts a modifying influence, and a more permanent contact or effect of contact is often implied than is expressed by touch. "The idea of a voluntary or conscious effort is often involved." No single English word will express all these phases of meaning. Handle comes, perhaps, as near as any other, especially in its sense of treatment, as when we say that a speaker or writer handles a subject; or that a man is roughly handled by his enemies. This wider and stronger sense does not attach to θιγγάνειν A.V., handle, though the two words are sometimes used interchangeably, as Exodus 19:12, and though θιγγάνειν also implies a modifying contact, unlike ψηλαφάω, which signifies to touch with a view of ascertaining the quality of the object; to feel after, to grope. See Luke 24:39; Acts 17:27. Thus ψηλαφίνδα is blind-man's-bluff. The contact implied by θιγγάνειν is more superficial and transitory. It lies between ἅπτομαι and ψηλαφάω. Thus we have here a climax which is lost in the A.V. Handle not, taste not, do not even touch. Rev., handle not, nor taste, nor touch.

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