Colossians 2:8
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeChrysostomClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKJTLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBVWSWESTSK
(8-15) The general exhortation of the previous verses is now emphasised by a solemn warning against deadly speculative error. Now, (1) the character of that error in itself is described with apparently intentional vagueness, as “a philosophy of vain deceit,” “after tradition of men,” after “the rudiments of this world.” Even its Judaic origin, which is made clear below (Colossians 2:16-17), is here only hinted at in the significant allusion to Circumcision, and perhaps in the phrase “the rudiments of the world,” which is also used of the Judaism of Galatia (Galatians 4:3; Galatians 4:9). (2) What is brought out vividly and emphatically is the truth which it contradicts or obscures. First, the full indwelling Godhead of Christ and His headship over all created being; and next, as derived from this, our own “spiritual circumcision in Him, i.e., the true “death unto sin and new life unto righteousness” in Him who is the One Atonement for all sin, and the One Conqueror of all the powers of evil. On the relation of the Epistle to Gnosticism see Excursus A.

(8) Spoil you.—Properly, lead you away as a spoil, triumph over you as a captive, and make you a slave. Comp. St. Paul’s language as to the older Judaism at Corinth (2Corinthians 11:20), “Ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.”

Philosophy and vain deceiti.e. (like “the knowledge falsely so called” of 1Timothy 6:20), a philosophy which is inseparably connected with vain deceit. The warning implied here seems to be two-fold:—(1) First, against considering Christianity primarily as a “philosophy,” i.e., a search for and knowledge of speculative truth, even the highest. That it involves philosophy is obvious, for it claims to solve for us the great problem of Being, in Nature, in Man, and in God. St. Paul, while he depreciates the wisdom of this world, dwells emphatically on the gospel as the “wisdom of God.” (See especially 1Corinthians 2:6-16.) In this Epistle in particular he speaks of “wisdom” again and again (Colossians 1:9; Colossians 1:28; Colossians 2:3; Colossians 3:16; Colossians 4:6) as one great characteristic of Christian life. Nor is it less clear (as the ancient Greek commentators here earnestly remind us) that Christianity finds a place and a blessing for all true philosophy of men, and makes it, as St. Paul made it at Athens, an introduction to the higher wisdom. But Christianity is not a philosophy, but a life—not a knowledge of abstract principles, but a personal knowledge of faith and love of God in Christ. (2) Next, against accepting in philosophy the “vain deceit” of mere speculation and imagination instead of the modest, laborious investigation of facts. This is the “knowledge falsely so called”; of this it may be said (as in 1Corinthians 8:1) that it “puffs up,” and does not “build up.” In ancient and modern times it has always confused brilliant theory with solid discovery, delighting especially to dissolve the great facts of the gospel into abstractions, which may float in its cloudland of imagination.

After the tradition of men.—This is the keynote of our Lord’s condemnation of the old Pharisaic exclusiveness and formalism (Matthew 15:2-3; Matthew 15:6; Mark 7:8-9); it is equally the condemnation of the later Jewish, or half-Jewish, mysticism which St. Paul attacks here. It is hardly necessary to remark that the Apostle often claims reverence for “traditions” (1Corinthians 11:2; 2Thessalonians 2:15; 2Thessalonians 3:6; see also 1Corinthians 15:3; 2Peter 2:21), but they are traditions having their starting point in direct revelation of God (Galatians 1:12), and, moreover, traditions freely given to all, as being His. The “traditions of men” here condemned had their origin in human speculation, and were secretly transmitted to the initiated only.

The rudiments of the world.—See Galatians 4:2, and Note there. This marks the chief point of contact with the earlier Judaism, in the stress still laid, perhaps with less consistency, on matters of ritual, law, ascetic observance, and the like. These are “of the world,” i.e., belonging to the visible sphere; and they are “rudiments,” fit only for the elementary education of those who are as children, and intended simply as preparation for a higher teaching.

Colossians 2:8. Beware lest any man spoil you Μη τις υμας εσται ο συλαγωγων, lest there be any one who makes a prey of you; through philosophy — The pretended wisdom of the heathen philosophers; and vain deceit — Sophistical and delusive reasonings, and unprofitable speculations. “The apostle,” as Macknight justly observes, “does not condemn sound philosophy, but that kind of it which had no foundation in truth; and, being formed merely from imagination, aided by the pride of human reason, was supported by tradition; that is, by the affirmation of the inventors, handed down from one to another. Of this kind was the philosophy of the Platonists concerning demons, whom they represented as carrying men’s prayers to God, and as bringing back from God the blessings prayed for. They spake of them likewise as governing the elements and all human affairs, by a sort of independent power.” It seems some teachers had crept in among the Christians at Colosse, either of Gentile or Jewish extraction, who endeavoured to blend deceits of this kind with the gospel of Christ, and that this is what the apostle here condemns; 1st, Because it was empty and deceitful, promising wisdom, but giving none. 2d, Because it was grounded, not on truth, or solid reason, but on the vain and false traditions of men. 3d, Because, as the apostle here says, it was after the rudiments, στοιχεια, the elements, of the world — Such as the Jewish ceremonies, or the pagan superstitions. The ceremonies of the Mosaic law have this appellation, (Galatians 4:3,) being but a carnal worship in comparison of the more spiritual ordinances of the gospel; and but an elementary kind of institution, (like the alphabet to children, or the first principles of science,) fitted to the infancy of the church; and not after Christ — According to his institution and doctrine, but tending to withdraw the heart from him.

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.Beware lest any man spoil you - The word "spoil" now commonly means, to corrupt, to cause to decay and perish, as fruit is spoiled by keeping too long, or paper by wetting, or hay by a long rain, or crops by mildew. But the Greek word used here means to spoil in the sense of plunder, rob, as when plunder is taken in war. The meaning is, "Take heed lest anyone plunder or rob you of your faith and hope by philosophy." These false teachers would strip them of their faith and hope, as an invading army would rob a country of all that was valuable.

Through philosophy - The Greek philosophy prevailed much in the regions around Colossae, and perhaps also the oriental or Gnostic philosophy. See the Introduction They were exposed to the influences of these plausible systems. They consisted much of speculations respecting the nature of the divine existence; and the danger of the Colossians was, that they would rely rather on the deductions of that specious reasoning, than on what they had been taught by their Christian teachers.

And vain deceit - Mere fallacy. The idea is, that the doctrines which were advanced in those systems were maintained by plausible, not by solid arguments; by considerations not fitted to lead to the truth, but to lead astray.

After the tradition of men - There appear to have been two sources of danger to which the Christians at Colesso were exposed, and to which the apostle in these cautions alludes, though he is not careful to distinguish them. The one was that arising from the Grecian philosophy; the other, from Jewish opinions. The latter is that to which he refers here. The Jews depended much on tradition (see the notes at Matthew 15:2); and many of those traditions would have tended much to corrupt the gospel of Christ.

After the rudiments of the world - Margin, elements. See this explained in the Notes at Galatians 4:3.

And not after Christ - Not such as Christ taught.

8. Translate, "Beware (literally, 'Look' well) lest there shall be (as I fear there is: the Greek indicative expresses this) any man (pointing to some known emissary of evil, Ga 1:7) leading you away as his spoil (not merely gaining spoil out of you, but making yourselves his spoil) through (by means of) his philosophy," &c. The apostle does not condemn all philosophy, but "the philosophy" (so Greek) of the Judaic-oriental heretics at Colosse, which afterwards was developed into Gnosticism. You, who may have "the riches of full assurance" and "the treasures of wisdom," should not suffer yourselves to be led away as a spoil by empty, deceitful philosophy: "riches" are contrasted with spoil; "full" with "vain," or empty (Col 2:2, 3, 9).

after—"according to."

tradition of men—opposed to, "the fulness of the Godhead." Applied to Rabbinical traditions, Mr 7:8. When men could not make revelation even seem to tell about deep mysteries which they were curious to pry into, they brought in human philosophy and pretended traditions to help it, as if one should bring a lamp to the sundial to find the hour [Cauations for Times, p. 85]. The false teachers boasted of a higher wisdom in theory, transmitted by tradition among the initiated; in practice they enjoined asceticism, as though matter and the body were the sources of evil. Phrygia (in which was Colosse) had a propensity for the mystical and magical, which appeared in their worship of Cybele and subsequent Montanism [Neander].

rudiments of the world—(See on [2414]Ga 4:3). "The rudiments" or elementary lessons "of the (outward) world," such as legal ordinances; our Judaic childhood's lessons (Col 2:11, 16, 20; Ga 4:1-3). But Neander, "the elements of the world," in the sense, what is earthly, carnal and outward, not "the rudiments of religion," in Judaism and heathenism.

not after Christ—"Their" boasted higher "philosophy" is but human tradition, and a cleaving to the carnal and worldly, and not to Christ. Though acknowledging Christ nominally, in spirit they by their doctrine deny Him.

Beware: the apostle, after his exhortation, considering their danger from seducing spirits lying in wait to deceive by their sleight and craftiness, 1 Timothy 4:1,2, doth here reinforce and enlarge his caution he had before suggested, Colossians 2:4, to engage to a heedful avoidance of all seduction from Christ.

Lest any man spoil you; lest their souls should be made a prey, and they be carried for a spoil by those worst of robbers that beset Christ’s fold, 2 Corinthians 11:20 Galatians 6:13.

Through philosophy; either through the abuse of true philosophy in bringing the mystery of Christ under the tribunal of shallow reason, or rather through erroneous, though curious, speculations of some philosophers, as Plato, Pythagoras, Hesiod, &c. then in vogue, which the Gnostics afterwards (who, thinking themselves enriched with the notions of other heretics, would be thought the only knowing persons) dressed up Christ with, not like himself. Their philosophy being a falsely so called science or knowledge, 1 Timothy 6:20, whatever show of wisdom it might seem to carry along with it, Colossians 2:23, it was not really profitable; but a

vain deceit, or seduction, as several take the next clause appositively, and the conjunction expositively; yet, if we consider what follows, we may understand another general imposture, viz. superstition, seeing vain deceit, after the tradition of men, is so like that superstition our Saviour doth rebuke in the Pharisees, Matthew 15:9, several branches of which the apostle doth afterward in this chapter dispute against, Colossians 2:16-23: superstition might well be called deceit, from the cheat it puts upon men and the notation of the Greek word, which imports a withdrawing men from the way. Christ, and from his way of worship prescribed in his word; and vain it is as well as a deceit, since it is empty and unprofitable, not accompanied with God’s blessing, nor conducing to the pleasing of him, but the provoking of him, Psalm 106:29,43. Being led by no other rule than the tradition of men, which is the same with the precepts of men, Mark 7:8, which God likes not, Isaiah 8:20 28:13 John 20:31 Acts 26:22 2 Timothy 3:15,16; he would not give place to human traditions in his house, nor to

the rudiments of the world, ( in allusion to grammar, wherein the letters are the elements or rudiments of all literature), i.e. the ceremonies of the Mosaical law, containing a kind of elementary instruction, for that seems to be the apostle’s meaning, comparing this verse with Colossians 2:20 and Colossians 2:21, and other places, Galatians 3:24, these being but corporeal, carnal, and sensible ordinances, suitable to a worldly sanctuary. Hebrews 9:1,10, not to be imposed in that spiritual one which Christ hath set up, John 4:23,24 Ga 5:2. Whatsoever philosophical colours or Pharisaical paint they might appear in, they are not after Christ: we say a false picture of a man is not after the man, being not taken from or resembling his person, but clean another; such descriptions of him, as were not taken from the life and truth that was in him. And therefore he who is Head of his church, and likes not to be misshaped or misrepresented, will not accept of homage from those of his own house, in a livery that he hath not given order for, Leviticus 10:1 Jeremiah 7:31 2 Corinthians 5:9, how specious soever it may be in the wisdom of this world and the princes thereof, 1 Corinthians 2:6,7.

Beware lest any man spoil you,.... Or despoil you; rob you of the rich treasure of the Gospel, strip you of your spiritual armour, take away from you the truths and doctrines of Christ, and divest you of your spiritual privileges and blessings; suggesting, that the false teachers were thieves and robbers, and men of prey: or drive and carry you away as spoils, as the innocent harmless sheep are drove, and carried away by wolves, and by the thief that comes to steal, to kill, and destroy; intimating, that such as these were the heretics of those times; wherefore it became them to be upon their guard, to watch, look out, and beware, lest they should be surprised by these deceitful workers, who lay in wait to deceive; were wolves in sheep's clothing, who transformed themselves into the apostles of Christ; and therefore it became them to take heed, lest any man hurt them, be he ever so wise and learned, or be thought ever so good, religious, and sincere; since men of this cast put on such masks and false appearances, on purpose to beguile. The things by which they imposed upon weak minds are as follow, and therefore to be shunned, avoided, and rejected:

through philosophy: not right philosophy, or true wisdom, the knowledge of God, of the things of nature, of things natural, moral, and civil; which may be attained unto by the use of reason, and light of nature. The apostle does not mean to condemn all arts and sciences, as useless and hurtful, such as natural philosophy in its various branches, ethics, logic, rhetoric, &c. when kept within due bounds, and in their proper place and sphere; for with instances of these the Scriptures themselves abound; but he means that philosophy, or science, which is falsely so called, the false notions of philosophers; such as the eternity of matter, and of this world, the mortality of souls, the worshipping of demons and angels, &c. and also such principles in philosophy, which in themselves, and in the things of nature, are true, but, when applied to divine things, to things above nature, the mere effects of divine power and grace, and of pure revelation, are false; as that out of nothing, nothing can be made, which in the things of nature is true, but not to be applied to the God of nature, who has made the world out of nothing; as also that from a privation to an habit there is no return, which is naturally true, but not to be applied to supernatural things, and supernatural agency; witness the miracles of Christ, in restoring sight to the blind, life to the dead, &c. and therefore is not to be employed against the resurrection of the dead: philosophy may be useful as an handmaid; it is not to be a mistress in theological things; it may subserve, but not govern; it is not to be made use of as a judge, or rule in such matters; the natural man, on these principles, neither knows nor receives the things of the Spirit of God; judgment is not to be made and formed according to them; as of a trinity of persons in the Godhead; of the sonship of Christ, and his incarnation; of man's redemption by him, of reconciliation and satisfaction by his blood and sacrifice, of the pardon of sin, of a sinner's justification, of the resurrection of the dead, and such like articles of faith: that philosophy which is right, can only be a rule of judgment in things relating to it, and not in those which are out of its sphere: in a word, the apostle here condemns the philosophy of the Jews, and of the Gnostics; the former had introduced natural philosophy into the worship and service of God, and the things appertaining to their religion; and had made the tabernacle and temple, and the most holy place, and the things belonging thereunto, emblems and hieroglyphics of natural things; as of the sun, moon, and stars, and their influences, and of the four elements, and of moral virtue, &c. as appears from the writings of Josephus (r), and Philo (s); when they were types and representatives of spiritual things under the Gospel dispensation; and the latter had brought in the philosophy of Pythagoras and Plato, concerning abstinences, purgations, sacrifices, and ceremonies of worship, given to demons and angels: in short, the apostle's meaning is, that philosophy is not to be mixed with the pure Gospel of Christ; it has always been fatal to it; witness the school of Pantaenus in Alexandria, in the early times of Christianity, by which the simplicity of the Gospel was greatly corrupted; and the race of schoolmen a few centuries ago, who introduced the philosophy of Aristotle, Averrois, and others, into all the subjects of divinity: to observe no more, such kind of philosophy is here meant, which may be truly called

vain deceit: that is, that which is vain and empty, and has no solid foundation, even in nature and reason itself; and which being applied to divine things and religious observances, is deceitful and delusory:

after the tradition of men; either of the Gentiles, who had their traditions in religion; or of the Jews, called the traditions of the elders, and of the fathers, which the Pharisees were fond of, by which they transgressed the commandments of God; which the apostle was brought up in, and was zealous of formerly, but now was delivered from, and rightly condemned as idle, trifling, and pernicious:

after the rudiments of the world, or "the elements of the world"; not the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water; or the worship of the sun, moon, and stars, &c. among the idolatrous Gentiles, but the ceremonial laws of the Jews; see Galatians 4:8; which were that to them in religion, as the A B C, or letters, are in grammar, the elements and rudiments of it; and though these were to them, when children, useful, but now under the Gospel dispensation are weak, beggarly, and useless, and not to be attended to:

and not after Christ; what he has taught and prescribed, the doctrines and commandments of Christ, the treasures of wisdom and knowledge which are in him; and therefore all such vain and deceitful philosophy, human traditions, and worldly rudiments, are to be rejected; Christ and his Gospel, the revelation he has made, are the standard of doctrine and worship; he only is to be heard and attended to, and whatever it contrary thereunto is to be guarded against,

(r) Antiqu. l. 3. c. 6. sect. 4. 7. (s) De Congressu quaerend. Erud. p. 440. 441. de Vita Mosis, l. 3. p. 665, &c. quod deterius pot. p. 184.

{4} Beware lest any man {i} spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, {5} after the tradition of men, {6} after the {k} rudiments of the world, {7} and not after Christ.

(4) He brings all corruptions under three types. The first is that which rests on vain and curious speculations, and yet bears a show of certain subtle wisdom.

(i) This is a word of war, and it is as much as to drive or carry away a spoil or booty.

(5) The second, which is manifestly superstitious and vain, and stands only upon custom and pretended inspirations.

(6) The third type was of those who joined the rudiments of the world (that is to say, the ceremonies of the Law) with the Gospel.

(k) Principles and rules, with which God ruled his Church, as it were under a schoolmaster.

(7) A general confutation of all corruptions is this, that if it adds anything to Christ, it must necessarily be a false religion.

Colossians 2:8. Be upon your guard, lest there shall be some one carrying you, away as a prey. In that case, how grievously would what I have just been impressing upon your hearts, in Colossians 2:6-7, be rendered fruitless!

The future ἔσται after μή (comp. Hebrews 3:12) has arisen from the apprehension that the case may yet actually occur. See Stallbaum, ad Plat. Rep. p. 451 A; Hartung, Partikell. II. p. 139 f.; Ellendt·, Lex. Soph. II. p. 104. Comp. also on Galatians 4:11.

As to the participle with the article, comp. on Galatians 1:7 : τινές εἰσιν οἱ ταράσσοντες.

Respecting συλαγωγεῖν, belonging to the later Greek, see Eustath. ad Il. v. p. 393, 52. Very inaccurately rendered by the Vulgate: decipiat. In Aristaen. ii. 22, joined with οἶκον, it means to rob; and is so taken here by Hilary, Chrysostom, Theodoret (ἀποσυλᾶν τὴν πίστιν), Theophylact (τὸν νοῦν), Luther, Wolf, and many others, including Baumgarten-Crusius. But the stronger sense of the word praedam abigere (Heliod. x. 35; Nicet. Ann. 5, p. 96 D) is in keeping with the verb of the previous exhortation, περιπατεῖτε, as well as with the purposely chosen peculiar expression in itself, which is more significant than the classical συλᾶν or συλεύειν, and serves vividly to illustrate the idea of the seduction, through which one falls under extraneous power, as respects its disgracefulness.

διὰ τῆς φιλοσοφίας κ. κενῆς ἀπάτης] through philosophy and empty deceit. It is to be observed that neither the preposition nor the article is repeated before κενῆς (see Kühner, II. 1, pp. 476, 528; Buttmann, Neut. Gr. p. 86 [E. T. 100]), because with καὶ κεν. ἀπατ. there is added no further element different from τῆς φιλοσοφ. (in opposition to Hofmann), but only that which the philosophy in its essence is; it is empty deception, that is, having no real contents; the πιθανολογία (Colossians 2:4), with which it is presented, is a κενεαγορία (Plat. Rep. p. 607 B), and κενολογία (Plut. Mor. p. 1069 C). On the idea of κενός (1 Corinthians 15:14; Ephesians 5:6), comp. Dem. 821. 11.: κενώτατον πάντων λόγων λέγουσι, and on ἀπάτη, Plat. Soph. p. 260 C: ὄντος δέ γε ψεύδους ἔστιν ἀπάτη …, καὶ μὴν ἀπάτης οὔσης εἰδώλων τε καὶ εἰκόνων ἤδη καὶ φαντασίας πάντα ἀνάγκη μεστὰ εἶναι. The φιλοσοφία, however, against which Paul utters his warning, is not philosophy generally and in itself,—a view at variance with the addition κ. κενῆς ἀπατ. closely pertaining to it, however much the wisdom of the world in its degeneracy (comp. Herm. gottesd. Alterth. § 12; and Culturgesch. d. Griech. u. Röm. I. p. 236 ff., II. p. 132), as experience was conversant with its phenomena in that age,[87] may have manifested itself to the apostle as foolishness when compared with the wisdom of the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:18 ff; 1 Corinthians 2:6). Rather, he has in view (comp. Colossians 2:18) the characteristic speculation, well known to his readers, which engaged attention in Colossae and the surrounding district,[88] and consisted of a Gnostic theosophy mixed up with Judaism (Essenism). This is, on account of its nature directed to the supersensuous and its ontological character, correctly designated by the term philosophy in general, apart from its relation to the truth, which is signalized by the κ. κενῆς ἀπάτης appended.[89] (Plat. Def. p. 414 C: τῆς τῶν ὌΝΤΕΝ ἈΕῚ ἘΠΙΣΤΉΜΗς ὌΡΕΞΙς· ἝΞΙς ΘΕΩΡΗΤΙΚῊ ΤΟῦ ἈΛΗΘΟῦς, Πῶς ἈΛΗΘΈς). Possibly it was also put forward by the false teachers themselves expressly under this designation (comp. the Sophists as the ΦΆΣΚΟΝΤΕς ΦΙΛΟΣΟΦΕῖΝ, Xen. Mem. i. 2. 19; and οἰόμενοι πάντʼ εἰδέναι, in i. 4. 1). The latter is the more probable, since Paul uses the word only in this passage. Comp. Bengel: “quod adversarii jactabant esse philosophiam et sapientiam (Colossians 2:23), id Paulus inanem fraudem esse dicit.” The nature of this philosophy is consequently to be regarded as Judaistic-Oriental;[90] we are under no necessity to infer from the word φιλοσοφία a reference to Greek wisdom, as Grotius did, suggesting the Pythagorean (Clemens Alexandrinus thought of the Epicureans, and Tertullian of such philosophers as Paul had to do with at Athens). The idea that the “sacrarum literarum earumque recte interpretandarum scientia” (Tittmann, de vestigiis Gnosticor. in N. T. frustra quaesitis, p. 86 ff.) is meant, is opposed, not to the word in itself, but to the marks of heretical doctrine in our Epistle, and to the usage of the apostle, who never so designates the O. T. teaching and exposition, however frequently he speaks of it; although Philo gives it this name (see Loesner, Obss. p. 364), and Josephus (see Krebs, p. 236) applies it to the systems of Jewish sects, and indeed the Fathers themselves apply it to the Christian doctrine (Suicer, Thes. s.v.); see Grimm on 2Ma 1:1, p. 298 f.

κατὰ τ. παράδ. τ. ἀνθρ.] might be—and this is the common view—closely joined with ἈΠΆΤΗς (Winer, p. 128 f. [E. T. 169]). But the Οὐ ΚΑΤᾺ ΧΡΙΣΤΌΝ would not suit this connection, since ἈΠΆΤΗ is already in itself a definite and proper idea, in association with which a ΚΑΤᾺ ΧΡΙΣΤΌΝ would be inconceivable; whereas the figurative συλαγωγεῖν still admits also the negative modal statement (Οὐ ΚΑΤᾺ Χ.) for greater definiteness. Accordingly ΚΑΤᾺ Τ. ΠΑΡΆΔ. Κ.Τ.Λ. (comp. Steiger, Ellicott) is to be taken as definition of mode to ΣΥΛΑΓΩΓῶΝ. Paul, namely, having previously announced whereby the συλαγωγεῖν takes place, now adds for the still more precise description of that procedure, in order the more effectively to warn his readers against it, that in accordance with which it takes place, i.e. what is the objective regulative standard by which they permit themselves to be guided. He does this positively (κατὰ τὴνκόσμου) and negatively (κ. οὐ κατὰ Χριστόν). The genitive ΤῶΝ ἈΝΘΡ. is to be explained: ἫΝ ΠΑΡΈΛΑΒΕ ΠΑΡᾺ ΤῶΝ ἈΝΘΡ. (comp. 2 Thessalonians 3:6), and ΤῶΝ denotes the category, the traditio humana as such, opposed to the divine revelation. Comp. Mark 7:8. What is meant, doubtless, is the ritual Jewish tradition outside of the Mosaic law (comp. on Matthew 15:2), the latter being excluded by τῶν ἀνθρ.; but Paul designates the thing quite generally, according to the genus to which it belongs, as human.

κατὰ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου] Parallel of the foregoing: according to the elements of the world, i.e. according to the religious rudiments, with which non-Christian humanity occupies itself. The expression in itself embraces the ritual observances[91] both of Judaism and heathenism, which, in comparison with the perfect religion of Christianity, are only “puerilia rudimenta” (Calvin), as it were the A B C of religion, so that Paul therefore in this case also, where he warns his readers against Judaistic enticing, characterizes the matter according to its category. As to the designation itself and its various interpretations, see on Galatians 4:3. Among the latest expositors, Bleek agrees with our view, while Hofmann explains: “because it (the philosophy which is described as deceit) permits the material things, of which the created world consists, to form its standard.” See in opposition to this on Gal. l.c. Both expressions, τὴν παράδ. τ. ἀνθρ. and ΤᾺ ΣΤΟΙΧ. Τ. ΚΌΣΜΟΥ, have it as their aim to render apparent the worthlessness and unsuitableness for the Christian standpoint (comp. Galatians 4:9). Hence, also, the contrast which, though obvious of itself, is nevertheless emphatic: ΚΑῚ Οὐ ΚΑΤᾺ ΧΡΙΣΤΌΝ. The activity of that ΣΥΛΑΓΩΓΕῖΝ has not Christ for its objective standard; He, in accordance with His divine dignity exalted above everything (see Colossians 2:9), was to be the sole regulative for all activity in Christian teaching, so that the standard guiding their work should be found in the relation of dependence upon Him; but instead of this the procedure of the συλαγωγῶν allows human tradition, and those non-Christian rudiments which the Christian is supposed to have long since left behind, to serve as his rule of conduct! How unworthy it is, therefore, to follow such seduction!

[87] Comp. Luther’s frequent denunciations of philosophy, under which he had present to his mind its degeneracy in the Aristotelian scholasticism.

[88] Comp. also Calovius. The latter rightly remarks how ἀφιλοσόφως and ἀθεολόγως men would proceed, who should regard philosophical and theological truth as opposites; and points out that if Greek philosophy do not teach the doctrine of eternal life and its attainment, it is not a κενὴ ἀπάτη, but an imperfectio. Fathers of the Church also, as e.g. Clemens Al. (comp. Spiess, Logos spermat. p. 341), aptly distinguish philosophy itself from the phenomena of its abuse. The latter are philosophy also, but not in accordance with the truth of the conception.

[89] These words κ. κεν. ἀπ., characterizing the philosophy meant, are therefore all the less to be regarded, with Holtzmann, as a tautological insertion; and it is mere arbitrariness to claim the words κατὰ τ. παράδ. τῶν ἀνθρώπ. for the Synoptical Gospels (Matthew 15:2 f.); as if παράδοσις (comp. especially Galatians 1:14) were not sufficiently current in the apostle’s writings.

[90] The speculations of Essenism are also designated as philosophy in Philo. Comp. Keim, Gesch. Jesu, I. p. 292.

[91] Calvin well says: “Quid, vocat elementa mundi? Non dubium quin ceremonias; nam continuo post exempli loco speciem unam adducit, circumcisionem scilicet.”

Colossians 2:8. Paul once more (previously in Colossians 2:4) begins to attack the false teachers, but turns aside in Colossians 2:9 from the direct attack to lay the basis for the decisive attack in Colossians 2:16-23.—τις. It is not clear that we can infer from the singular that only one false teacher had appeared in the Colossian Church.—ὑμᾶς is placed in an emphatic position, and its force is “you whose Christian course has been so fair, and who have received such exhortations to remain steadfast”.—ἔσται: the future indicative after μή implies a more serious estimate of the danger than the subjunctive. For the construction, τις followed by a participle with the article, cf. Galatians 1:7, Luke 18:9.—συλαγωγῶν. The sense is disputed. Several of the Fathers and some modern writers think it means “to rob”. It is used in this sense with οἶκον (Aristaen., 2, 22), and Field (Notes on the Translation of the N.T., p. 195) says “there can be no better rendering than ‘lest any man rob you’ ”. But, as Soden points out, that of which they were robbed should have been expressed. It is better to take it with most commentators in the more obvious sense “lead you away as prey”. The verb is so used in Heliod., Æth., x., 35 (with θυγατέρα), Nicet., Hist., 5, 96 (with παρθένον), and it may be chosen with the special sense of seduction in mind.—διὰ τῆς φιλοσοφίας καὶ κενῆς ἀπάτης. The second noun is explanatory of the first, as is shown by the absence of the article and preposition before it and the lack of any indication that Paul had two evils to attack. The meaning is “his philosophy, which is vain deceit”. The word has, of course, no reference to Greek philosophy, and probably none to the allegorical method of Scripture exegesis that the false teachers may have employed. Philo uses it of the law of Judaism, and Josephus of the three Jewish sects. Here, no doubt, it means just the false teaching that threatened to undermine the faith of the Church. There is no condemnation of philosophy in itself, but simply of the empty, but plausible, sham that went by that name at Colossæ. Hort thinks that the sense is akin to the later usage of the word to denote the ascetic life.—κατὰ τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν ἀνθρώπων: “according to human tradition” as opposed to Divine revelation. Meyer, Ellicott and Findlay connect with συλαγ. It is more usual to connect with ἀπ. or τ. φιλ. κ. κεν. ἀπ. The last is perhaps best. It indicates the source from which their teaching was drawn.—κατὰ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου. [On this phrase the following authorities may be referred to: Hilgenfeld, Galaterbrief, pp. 66 sq.; Lipsius, Paul. Rechtf., p. 83; Ritschl, Rechtf. u. Vers,3 ii., 252; Klöpper, ad loc.; Spitta, 2 Pet. u. Jud., 263 sq.; Everling, Paul. Angel. u. Däm., pp. 65 sq.; Haupt, ad loc.; Abbott, ad loc. The best and fullest account in English is Massie’s article “Elements” in Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible. To these may now be added St. John Thackeray, The Relation of St. Paul to Contemporary Jewish Thought, pp. 163–170, and Deissmann’s article “Elements” in the Encyclopædia Biblica.] Originally στ. meant the letters of the alphabet, then in Plato and later writers the physical elements, and lastly (but only from the first century A.D.) the rudiments of knowledge. It has been frequently taken in this sense as the A B C of religious knowledge (so recently Mey., Lightf., Ol., Cremer and many others). This explanation had, however, been attacked by Neander with powerful arguments in his discussion of the parallel passage Galatians 4:3. (Planting and Training, i., 465, 466, cf. 323 [Bohn’s ed.].) He pointed out that if στ. meant first principles we should have had a genitive of the object, as in Hebrews 5:12, στ. τ. ἀρχῆς τ. λογίων. Such an omission of the leading idea is inadmissible. Further, Paul regarded the heathen as enslaved under στ. τ. κός. and their falling away to Jewish rites as a return to this slavery. Therefore the expression must apply to something both had in common, and something condemned by Paul, which cannot be the first principles of religion (to which also ἀσθενῆ would be inappropriate), but the ceremonial observances, which were so called as earthly and material. It has been further pointed out by Klöpper that following κατὰ τ. παρ. τ. ἀνθρ. this term introduced by κατὰ and not connected by καὶ must express the content of the teaching, which is not very suitable if “religious rudiments” is the meaning. Nor is it true that the false teachers gave elementary instruction. If this view be set aside, as suiting neither the expression in itself nor the context in which it occurs, the question arises whether we should return to the interpretation of several Fathers, that the heavenly bodies are referred to. These were called στοιχεῖα (examples are given in Valesius on Eus. H. E., v., 24, Hilg. l.c.). This is favoured by the reference to “days, and months, and seasons, and years” in Galatians 4:11, immediately following the mention of στ. in Colossians 2:10, for these were regulated by the heavenly bodies. But it is unsatisfactory, for the context in which the expression occurs, especially in Galatians, points to personal beings. In this passage the contrast of στ. τ. κ. with Χριστόν is fully satisfied only if the former are personal. In Galatians 4:3 Paul applies the illustration of the heir under “guardians and stewards” to the pre-Christian world under the στ. τ. κ., and here again a personal reference is forcibly suggested. Still more is this the case with Galatians 4:8-9. In Colossians 2:8 Paul says ἐδουλεύσατε τοῖς φύσει μὴ οὖσι θεοῖς. In the next verse he asks “how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly στ., to which you wish to be in bondage (δουλεῦσαι) over again?” This clearly identifies τ. στ. with τ. φύς. μὴ οὖσι θεοῖς, and therefore proves their personality, which is suggested also by ἐδουλ.; accordingly they cannot be the heavenly bodies or the physical elements of the world. Hilgenfeld, followed by Lipsius, Holsten and Klöpper, regards them as the astral spirits, the angels of the heavenly bodies. That the latter were regarded as animated by angels is certain, for we find this belief in Philo and Enoch (cf. Job 38:7, Jam 1:17). But it is strange that the spirits of the stars should be called στ. τ. κόσμου. And while they determine the seasons and festivals, they have nothing to do with many ceremonial observances, such as abstinence from meats and drinks. Spitta (followed by Everling, Sod., Haupt, and apparently Abb.) has the merit of giving the true interpretation. According to the later Jewish theology, not only the stars but all things had their special angels. The proof of this belongs to a discussion of angelology, and must be assumed here. στ. τ. κός. are therefore the elemental spirits which animate all material things. They are so called from the elements which they animate, and are identical with the ἀρχαὶ κ. ἐξουσίαι, who receive this name from their sphere of authority. Thus all the abstinence from material things, submission to material ordinances and so forth, involve a return to their service. We need not, with Ritschl, limit the reference to the angels of the law, though they are included. Thus interpreted the passage gains its full relevance to the context, and to the angel worship of the false teachers which Paul is attacking. The chief objection to this explanation is that we have no parallel for this usage of the word, except in the Test. Sol., ἡμεῖς ἐσμὲν τὰ λεγόμενα στοιχεῖα, οἱ κοσμοκράτορες τοῦ κόσμου τούτου. But this is late. The term is used in this sense in modern Greek. In spite of this the exegetical proof that personal beings are meant is too strong to be set aside. So we must explain, “philosophy having for its subject-matter the elemental spirits”.—καὶ οὐ κατὰ Χριστόν must be taken similarly, not having Christ for its subject-matter. Χ. means the person of Christ, not teaching about Christ, and is opposed simply to στ., not to παρ. τ. ἀνθρ. The false teachers put these angels in the place of Christ.

8–15. Warning against alien teachings: Christ is all for peace and life

8. Beware &c.] Quite lit., “See lest any one shall be your spoiler; the positive and imminent risk being indicated by the future tense (“shall be”), quite anomalous in such constructions.

any man] “This indefinite [expression] is frequently used by St Paul, when speaking of opponents whom he knows well enough but does not care to name” (Lightfoot). Cp. Romans 3:8; 1 Corinthians 11:16; 1 Corinthians 14:37; 1 Corinthians 15:12; 2 Corinthians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 10:2; 2 Corinthians 10:12; 2 Corinthians 11:20-21; Galatians 1:7; Galatians 1:9; above, Colossians 2:4, below Colossians 2:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-11; 1 Timothy 1:3; 1 Timothy 1:6; 1 Timothy 6:3; 1 Timothy 6:21.

spoil you] Better, with R.V., maketh spoil of you. The Greek word is not known in earlier Greek literature, but its form leaves no doubt of its meaning.—The false teachers would not merely “despoil” the Colossians of certain spiritual convictions and blessings, but would lead them away captives, as their deluded adherents and devotees. Lightfoot compares 2 Timothy 3:6.

through philosophy … deceit] We may fairly represent the Greek, sacrificing precise literality, thus: through his empty deceit of a philosophy. No doubt the false teachers posed as great intellectualists, and took care to present their “gospel” as something congruous in kind with existing speculations, Greek or Eastern, about knowing and being. They would say little or nothing like “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer and to rise … and that repentance and remission … should be preached in His name” (Luke 24:46-47); but rather “Thus the finite stands related to the Infinite; thus spirit is eternally differenced from matter, and thus it secures its emancipation from its material chain.”

Lightfoot in an interesting note traces the word “Philosophy” from its alleged origin in the modesty of Pythagoras (cent. 6 b.c.), who declined the title of “wise” (sophos), preferring that of “wisdom-lover” (philosophos), to its later association with “subtle dialectics and profitless speculation,” as in St Paul’s age. And he remarks on two different views about pagan Philosophy represented among the Fathers; that of e.g. Clement of Alexandria (cent. 2–3), who regarded it as “not only a preliminary training … for the Gospel, but even as in some sense a covenant … given by God to the Greeks”; and that of e.g. Tertullian (at the same date) who saw a positive antithesis between “the philosopher” and “the Christian.” Lightfoot remarks that St Paul’s speech at Athens “shows that his sympathies would have been at least as strong” with Clement as with Tertullian. Can we go quite so far? Surely the main drift of his teaching emphasizes the tendency of independent speculation—not to discover facts destructive of the Gospel; no such timid misgivings beset him; but—to foster mental habits hostile to a submissive welcome to the Gospel. Cp. esp. 1 Corinthians 1:17 to 1 Corinthians 3:23.

“Folly indeed it is,” says Quesnel, “to seek to establish a science wholly Divine on foundations wholly human. And this is what they do who seek to judge of the things of faith by the principles of philosophy.”

tradition] Paradosis. Cp. 1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; for this word used in a good sense, that of apostolic teaching and precept. Strictly, it means what is “handed on,” and so may mean, by connexion, either (as here) an esoteric “deposit,” passed down as it were along the line of the initiated, or simply “teaching,” the conveyance of opinion or knowledge in any way from one mind to another.—It is remarkable that in this latter sense, very commonly, the word “tradition” is used by the Fathers to mean simply Scripture; “evangelic” or “apostolic tradition” denoting respectively the teaching of the Gospels and the Epistles.—Here, however, obviously the word inclines to its worse reference; the more or less esoteric teaching about things unseen, “handed on” in the heretical circles, not published in the daylight.

of men] Whereas the Apostle’s mission and Gospel was “not of men, neither by man” (Galatians 1:1) nor “according to man” (ibid., 11). He “neither received it of man, nor was taught it, but by revelation from Jesus Christ” (ibid., 12). Nothing is more emphatic in St Paul than this assertion of the strictly and directly superhuman, Divine, origin of the Gospel as a message.

rudiments] Cp. Galatians 4:3.—The Greek word means a first beginning, or principle (see Liddell and Scott’s Greek Lexicon, under στοιχεῖον), for instance, as a simple vocal sound (that e.g. of the letter r) is a first element in speech. Hence it comes to mean “an element” in knowledge, or instruction; and hence, elementary instruction. The same word also denoted the heavenly bodies, regarded as the first grounds of measurement of time; and many ancient expositors saw this meaning here, as if the Apostle had in view the observance of “days, and months, and seasons, and years” (Galatians 4:10). But Lightfoot points out that (a) the reference here is to some mode of teaching, (b) the observance of “times” was too subordinate a factor in the errors in question to be thus named as a part for the whole. See his note here and also on Galatians 4:3.—The Apostle has in view the pre-Christian ordinances of e.g. sacrifice and circumcision, regarded as temporary, introductory to the Gospel, and now therefore to be laid aside. In their place, they were Divine; out of their place, they are “of the world.”

On the word στοιχεῖον see further Grimm’s N.T. Lexicon, ed. Thayer.

of the world] Belonging to an order not spiritual but only mechanical, material. See the last words of the previous note. For such a reference of the word cosmos cp. 1 Corinthians 1:20.

not after Christ] “Christ is neither the author nor the substance of [this] teaching” (Lightfoot). The holy and necessary exclusiveness of the Gospel cannot admit such “traditions” and “elements” even as subordinate allies. They must absolutely give way before it.

Colossians 2:8. Μὴ τις ἔσται) So, ἵνα ἔσται, Revelation 22:14.—συλαγωγῶν) who not only makes spoil out of you, but makes yourselves a spoil. Both to this word συλαγωγῶν, and to the word κενῆς, vain, are opposed fulness, riches, treasures [Colossians 2:2-3; Colossians 2:9].—διὰ, by) This expresses the instrument.—φιλοσοφίας καὶ κενῆς ἀπάτης, philosophy and vain deceit) a Hendiadys, as Colossians 2:18. Philosophy is in itself a kind of thing indifferent (midway between good and bad); but its abuse, however, tending to deceit, is more easy [than its use for good], especially in that Jewish philosophy of which they at that time boasted, and which they endeavoured to accommodate to the purity of the faith; for Paul does not say, that we are brought to Christ by philosophy. Paul maintains that what his opponents boasted to be philosophy and ‘wisdom,’ Colossians 2:23, was vain deceit.—κατὰ, according to) This definitely points out what philosophy is intended, and restricts the general appellation to the Jewish philosophy. This is indicated in the discussion, Colossians 2:11; Colossians 2:16; Colossians 2:20; wherefore the proposition in Colossians 2:8 ought not to be more widely extended, as if also applying to the Gentile philosophy, although the Jews had taken their philosophy from the Gentiles; and, by parity of reasoning, this remark applies to all philosophy.—τῶν ἀνθρώπων, of men) The antithesis is, of the Godhead, Colossians 2:9.—τὰ στοιχεῖα, the elements [rudiments]) The antithesis is, bodily, Colossians 2:9; Colossians 2:17 : comp. elements, Galatians 4:3, note.—καὶ οὐ κατὰ Χριστὸν, and not according to Christ) He ought therefore peculiarly and solely to approve of the dectrine that is according to Christ.

Verses 8-15. - SECTION V. THE CHRISTIAN'S COMPLETENESS IN CHRIST. The apostle has first defined his own doctrinal position in the theological deliverance of Colossians 1:15-20, and has then skilfully brought himself into suitable personal relations with his readers by the statements and appeals of Colossians 1:23-2:7. And now, after a general indication in ver. 4 of the direction in which he is about to strike, he unmasks the battery he has been all the while preparing, and delivers his attack on the Colossian error, occupying the rest of this second chapter, he denounces

(1) its false philosophy of religion (vers. 8-15);

(2) its arbitrary and obsolete ceremonialism (vers. 16, 17);

(3) its visionary angel worship (vers. 18, 19);

(4) its ascetic rules (vers. 20-22; ver. 23)

reviewing the whole system in a brief characterization of its most prominent and dangerous features. It will be convenient to treat separately the first of these topics, under the heading already given, which indicates the positive truth developed by St. Paul in antagonism to the error against which he contends - a truth which is the practical application of the theological teaching of the first chapter. Verse 8. - Beware lest there shall be some one who maketh you his spoil through his philosophy and empty deceit (vers. 4, 18, 23; Ephesians 4:14; 1 Timothy 6:20; 1 Corinthians 2:1, 4; Galatians 1:7; Acts 20:30). "Beware;" literally, see (to it), a common form of warning (Colossians 4:17). The future indicative" shall be," used instead of the more regular subjunctive "should be," implies that what is feared is too likely to prove the case (comp. Hebrews 3:12 and (with another tense) Galatians 4:11). "Some one who maketh (you) his spoil (ὁ συλαγωγῶν)" is an expression so distinct and individualizing that it appears to single out a definite, well known person. The denunciations of this Epistle are throughout in the singular number (vers. 4, 16, 18), in marked contrast with the plural of Galatians 1:17, and that prevails in the apostle's earlier polemical references. It is in harmony with the philosophical, Gnosticizing character of the Colossian heresy that it should rest on the authority of some single teacher, rather than on Scripture or tradition, as did the conservative legalistic Judaism. Συλαγωγῶν, a very rare word, hapax legomenon in the New Testament, bears its meaning on its face. It indicates the selfish, partisan spirit, and the overbearing conduct of the false teacher. Against such men St. Paul had forewarned the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:29, 30). "And empty deceit" stands in a qualifying apposition to "philosophy:" "His philosophy, indeed! "It is no better than a vain deceit." This kind of irony we shall find the writer using with still greater effect in ver. 18. Deceit is empty (κενός: comp. Ephesians 5:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:1; 1 Corinthians 15:14; distinguish from μάταιος, fruitless, vain), which deceives by being a show of what it is not, a hollow pretence. From the prominence given to this aspect of the new teaching, we infer that it claimed to be a philosophy, and made this its special distinction and ground of superiority. And this consideration points (comp. Introduction, § 4), to some connection between the system of the Colossian errorists and the Alexandrine Judaism, of which Philo, an elder contemporary of St. Paul, is our chief exponent. The aim of this school, which had now existed for two centuries at least, and had diffused its ideas far and wide, was to transform and sublimate Judaism by interpreting it under philosophical principles. Its teachers endeavoured, in fact, to put the "new wine" of Plato into the old bottles" of Moses, persuading themselves that it was originally there (comp. note on "mystery," Colossians 1:27). In Philo, philosophy is the name for true religion, whose essence consists in the pursuit and contemplation of pure spiritual truth. Moses and the patriarchs are, with him, all "philosophers;" the writers of the Old Testament" philosophize;" it is" the philosophical man" who holds converse with God. This is the only place where philosophy is expressly mentioned in the New Testament; in 1 Corinthians 1:21 and context it is, however, only verbally wanting. According to the tradition of men, according to the rudiments of the world, and not according to Christ (vers. 17, 20, 22; Galatians 1:11, 12; Galatians 4:3, 9; 1 Corinthians 1:20, 21; 1 Corinthians 3:19-21; Matthew 15:2; Mark 7:8; 1 John 4:5; 1 Peter 1:18). This clause qualifies "making spoil" (Meyer, Ellicott) rather than "deceit;" human authority and natural reason furnish the principles and the method according to which the false teacher proceeds. "Tradition" does not necessarily imply antiquity (comp. 1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:6); "of men" is the emphatic part of the phrase. These words are characteristic of St. Paul, who was so profoundly conscious of the supernatural origin of his own doctrine (see Galatians 1:11-17; 1 Corinthians 11:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:15: comp. John 3:31-35; John 8:23; 1 John 4:5). Similarly, "the rudiments of the world" are the crude beginnings of truth, the childishly faulty and imperfect religious conceptions and usages to which the world had attained apart from the revelation of Christ (comp. Galatians 4:3, 9; also Hebrews 5:12, for this use of στοιχεῖα). It is not either Jewish or non-Jewish elements specifically that are intended. Jew and Greek are one in so far as their religious ideas are "not according to Christ." Greek thought had also contributed its rudiments to the world's education for Christ: hence, comprehensively, "the rudiments of the world "(comp. 1 Corinthians 1:21). The blending of Greek and Jewish elements in the Colossian theosophy would of itself suggest this generalization, already shadowed forth in Galatians 4:3. Neander, Hofmann, and Klopper (the latest German commentator), have returned to the view that prevailed amongst the Fathers, from Origen downwards, reading this phrase, both here and in Galatians, in a physical sense, as in 2 Peter 3:10, 12; the elementa mundi, "the powers of nature," "heavenly bodies," etc., worshipped by the Gentiles as gods, and which the Jews identified with the angels (ver. 18; Hebrews 1:7) as God's agents in the direction of the world. This interproration has much to recommend it, but it scarcely harmonizes with the parallel "tradition of men," still less with the context of ver. 20, and is absolutely at variance, as it seems to us, with the argument involved in Galatians 4:3. Not the doctrine of Christ, but Christ himself is the substitute for these discarded rudiments (vers. 17, 20). His Person is the norm and test of truth (1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 John 4:1-3). The views combatted were "not according to Christ," for they made him something less and lower than that which he is. Colossians 2:8Beware (βλέπετε)

Lit., see to it.

Lest any man spoil you (μὴ τὶς ἔσται ὑμᾶς ὁ συλαγωγῶν)

The Greek is more precise and personal: lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil. So Rev. Συλαγωγέω to carry off booty, only here in the New Testament. A very strong expression for the work of the false teachers; make you yourselves a booty. The A.V. is ambiguous, and might be taken to mean corrupt or damage you.

Philosophy and vain deceit (τῆς φιλοσοφίας καὶ κενῆς ἀπάτης)

Rev. gives the force of the article, his philosophy: καὶ and is explanatory, philosophy which is also vain deceit. Hence the warning is not against all philosophy. Φιλοσοφία, philosophy, only here in the New Testament. It had originally a good meaning, the love of wisdom, but is used by Paul in the sense of vain speculation and with special reference to its being the name by which the false teachers at Colossae designated not only their speculative system, but also their practical system, so that it covered their ascetic practices no less than their mysticism. Bishop Lightfoot remarks upon the fact that philosophy, by which the Greeks expressed the highest effort of the intellect, and virtue (ἀρετή), their expression for the highest moral excellence, are each used but once by Paul, showing "that the Gospel had deposed the terms as inadequate to the higher standard, whether of knowledge or practice, which it had introduced."

After the tradition

Connect with the whole phrase philosophy and vain deceit, as descriptive of its source and subject matter. Others connect with make spoil. The term is especially appropriate to the Judaeo-Gnostic teachings in Colossae, which depended for their authority, not on ancient writings, but on tradition. The later mystical theology or metaphysic of the Jews was called Kabbala, literally meaning reception or received doctrines, tradition.

Rudiments (στοιχεῖα)

See on 2 Peter 3:10. Rudimentary teachings, as in Hebrews 5:12; applicable alike to Jewish and to Gentile teaching. Ceremonialism - meats, drinks, washings, Essenic asceticism, pagan symbolic mysteries and initiatory rites - all belonged to a rudimentary moral stage. Compare Colossians 2:11, Colossians 2:21, and Galatians 4:9.

Of the world

Material as contrasted with spiritual.

Colossians 2:8 Interlinear
Colossians 2:8 Parallel Texts

Colossians 2:8 NIV
Colossians 2:8 NLT
Colossians 2:8 ESV
Colossians 2:8 NASB
Colossians 2:8 KJV

Colossians 2:8 Bible Apps
Colossians 2:8 Parallel
Colossians 2:8 Biblia Paralela
Colossians 2:8 Chinese Bible
Colossians 2:8 French Bible
Colossians 2:8 German Bible

Bible Hub

Colossians 2:7
Top of Page
Top of Page