Colossians 4:16
And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.
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(16) When this epistle.—In the implied direction to read this Epistle in the Church—a direction expressly given under like circumstances to the Church at Thessalonica (1Thessalonians 5:27)—we discern the method of first publication of the Apostolic Epistles; in the direction to interchange Epistles with the Laodicean Church, we trace the way in which these Epistles became more widely diffused, and recognised as authoritative in the Church at large. Thus it was that they were “canonised,” i.e., accepted as a part of the “canon” or rule of divine truth. The likelihood, or unlikelihood, of this public reading has an important bearing on the question of the authenticity of some of the books, which were placed among the “doubtful” by Eusebius and other ancient authorities. The fact that other books (such as our so-called Apocryphal books) were also publicly read was the cause of their being wrongly confused with the books of Holy Scripture.

The epistle from Laodicea.—The question, What was this “Epistle from Laodicea”? has given birth to a crowd of conjectures, of which an admirable and exhaustive examination will be found in Dr. Lightfoot’s Excursus on this verse. But many of these may be at once dismissed. It seems perfectly clear, from the obvious parallelism of this Epistle from Laodicea with the Epistle to the Colossians itself, that it was a letter not from the Laodicean Church, not from any other Apostle, or Apostolic writer, but from St. Paul himself, either written at Laodicea, or (as is more likely) written to the Laodicean Church, and to be sent “from Laodicea” to Colossæ. Hence the question is narrowed to a single alternative—(1) Is it an Epistle which has been lost, or, at any rate, not found in the canon? This is, of course, possible; it cannot be necessary, as it is certainly difficult, to suppose that all St. Paul’s Epistles have been preserved to us in Holy Scripture. Now, there is extant an “Epistle to the Laodiceans,” circulated in the West, and known only in the Latin, although it has been thought to bear traces of translation from a Greek original. This letter (for which see Excursus B.) is obviously a forgery, probably not of early date, being little more than a tame compilation of phrases from St. Paul’s Epistles. Putting this unhesitatingly aside, we may suppose the letter to have been lost. But this is a supposition merely arbitrary, and not to be adopted, except in default of something which has a better claim to attention. (2) Is it some other of St. Paul’s known Epistles? The only letter which is noticed in our ordinary copies of the Greek Testament as written from Laodicea is the First Epistle to Timothy; but this is put out of the question, both in date and character; and, moreover, the very idea of a letter written from Laodicea at this time is negatived by St. Paul’s declaration (Colossians 2:1) that the Laodiceans had not seen his face in the flesh. A fourth century tradition declares our “Epistle to the Hebrews” to have been written to the Laodiceans; but (setting aside all question of the authorship) the whole character and argument of the Epistle make this extremely unlikely. Far the most probable supposition identifies it with our “Epistle to the Ephesians.” For the reasons for supposing this an encyclical letter, see Introduction to that Epistle. In particular it should not be forgotten that Marcion expressly calls it an “Epistle to the Laodiceans.” Laodicea lay lower down the valley, and was the larger town: an encyclical letter might well be left there to be sent on to Colossæ. The two Epistles, as we have seen, have both strong likeness and marked distinction. Nothing could be more natural than that they should be interchanged, according to the direction of the text.

Colossians 4:16. When this epistle is read among you — It appears by this, that the apostolic epistles were read publicly in the churches to which they were addressed; and probably not once, but often: copies of them were likewise taken, and translations of them made very early into different languages, and sent to different countries, where Christian churches were formed, that they might be read in them: a great proof this of the genuineness of these epistles: for they could not have been corrupted but the corruption must have been detected, by comparing different copies with each other. Cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans — “The members of the church at Laodicea having, before their conversion, entertained the same principles, and followed the same practices with the Colossians, and the dangers to both churches, from the attempts of false teachers, being nearly the same, it was proper that the same spiritual remedies should be applied to both. And therefore the apostle ordered this letter, which was designed for the instruction of the Colossians, to be read in the church of the Laodiceans also: and no doubt it was read there, agreeably to the apostle’s injunction; by which means, in that church, as well as in the church at Colosse, the false teachers and their idolatrous practices were for a while repressed.” And that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea — Some think the letter here referred to was one which the apostle wrote to the Laodiceans, but which is now lost. But as the ancients mention no such letter, nor indeed any letter written by St. Paul which is not still remaining, others judge it more probable that the letter to the Ephesians is intended, and that the apostle directed the Ephesians, by Tychicus, who carried their letter to them, to send a copy of it to the Laodiceans, with an order to them to communicate it to the Colossians.

4:10-18 Paul had differed with Barnabas, on the account of this Mark, yet he is not only reconciled, but recommends him to the churches; an example of a truly Christian and forgiving spirit. If men have been guilty of a fault, it must not always be remembered against them. We must forget as well as forgive. The apostle had comfort in the communion of saints and ministers. One is his fellow-servant, another his fellow-prisoner, and all his fellow-workers, working out their own salvation, and endeavouring to promote the salvation of others. The effectual, fervent prayer is the prevailing prayer, and availeth much. The smiles, flatteries, or frowns of the world, the spirit of error, or the working of self-love, leads many to a way of preaching and living which comes far short of fulfilling their ministry. But those who preach the same doctrine as Paul, and follow his example, may expect the Divine favour and blessing.And when this Epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans - Laodicea was near to Colossae, and the church there was evidently exposed to the same dangers from philosophy and false teachers as the at Colossae. The counsels in this Epistle, therefore, would be equally applicable to both. In 1 Thessalonians 5:27, the apostle also charges those to whom that Epistle was addressed to see that it be "read unto all the holy brethren." It is evident that the apostles designed that the letters which they addressed to the churches should be read also by others, and should become the permanent source of instruction to the friends of Christ. Laodicea, here referred to, was the seat of one of the "Seven churches" of Asia Revelation 3:14; was a city of Phrygia, and was its capital. It was situated on the river Lycus (hence, called Λαοδίκεία ἐπὶ Λύκῳ Laodikeia epi Lukō - Laodicea on the Lycus) and stood at the southwestern angle of Phrygia. Its early name appears to have been Dios polis, changed subsequently to Rhoas. The name Laodicea was given to it by Antiochus Theos, in honor of his wife Laodice. Under the Romans it became a very flourishing commercial city.

It was often damaged by earthquakes, but was restored by the Roman emperors. It is supposed to have been destroyed during the inroad of Timur Leng in 1402. The ruins are called by the Turks Eski Hissar. These ruins, and the ruins of Hierapolis, were visited by Mr. Riggs, an American Missionary, in 1842, who thus speaks of them: "These spots, so interesting to the Christian, are now utterly desolate. The threatening expressed in Revelation 3:10, has been fulfilled, and Laodicea is but a name. In the midst of one of the finest plains of Asia Minor, it is entirely without inhabitant. Sardis, in like manner, whose church had a name to live, but was dead, is now an utter desolation. Its soil is turned up by the plow, or overgrown by rank weeds: while in Philadelphia, since the day when our Saviour commended those who had there "kept the word of his patience," there has never ceased to be a nominally Christian church. The ruins of Laodicea and Hierapolis are very extensive. The stadium of the former city, and the gymnasia and theaters of both, are the most complete which I have anywhere seen. Hierapolis is remarkable also for the so-called frozen cascades, a natural curiosity, in its kind probably not surpassed for beauty and extent in the world. It consists of a deposit of carbonate of lime, white as the driven snow, assuming, when closely examined, various forms, and covering nearly the whole southern and western declivities of the elevation on which the city was built. It is visible for many miles, and has procured for the place the name by which alone Hierapolis is known among the Turks, of the Cotton Castle."

And that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea - In regard to this Epistle, see Introduction, Section 6.

16. the epistle from Laodicea—namely, the Epistle which I wrote to the Laodiceans, and which you will get from them on applying to them. Not the Epistle to the Ephesians. See [2436]Introduction to Ephesians and [2437]Introduction to Colossians. The Epistles from the apostles were publicly read in the church assemblies. Ignatius [Epistle to the Ephesians, 12], Polycarp [Epistle to the Philippians, 3.11,12], Clement [Epistle to the Corinthians, 1. 47], 1Th 5:27; Re 1:3, "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear." Thus, they and the Gospels were put on a level with the Old Testament, which was similarly read (De 31:11). The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write, besides those extant, other Epistles which He saw necessary for that day, and for particular churches; and which were not so for the Church of all ages and places. It is possible that as the Epistle to the Colossians was to be read for the edification of other churches besides that of Colosse; so the Epistle to the Ephesians was to be read in various churches besides Ephesus, and that Laodicea was the last of such churches before Colosse, whence he might designate the Epistle to the Ephesians here as "the Epistle from Laodicea." But it is equally possible that the Epistle meant was one to the Laodiceans themselves. And when this epistle is read among you: the apostle takes it for granted, that, when this Epistle came to their hands, it would be publicly read in a solemn assembly of the church, or brethren, convened to that purpose, as elsewhere usual. For indeed he doth strictly enjoin and adjure the Thessalonians, under the penalty of the Lord’s displeasure, that the Epistle or letter which he wrote unto them should be read unto all the brethren, 1 Thessalonians 5:27: it being an indispensable duty of Christ’s disciples, to search the Scriptures, John 5:39, and there solemnly to read them in the assembly for the edification of all ministers and people, old and young, Deu 17:19 Psalm 1:2 119:9 Mark 13:37 Acts 13:15 17:11,12 18:26-28 Romans 15:4 1 Timothy 4:13,15.

Cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans: hence (as it follows) the apostle (who it is likely had not an opportunity at Rome to have a copy of it transcribed) chargeth them at Colosse, to see or take care after the reading of this same Epistle amongst themselves, that, a copy of it being prepared for that purpose, it might, as from him, be also solemnly read or rehearsed in a public assembly of the Christians at Laodicea.

And that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea; and he further chargeth those to whom he wrote at Colosse, that they should take care that the Epistle (as we rightly with the generality of ancients and moderns render it) from Laodicea, be read amongst them. The Ethiopic version (as we have it thence in the Latin) reads, send it to Laodicea, that the Laodiceans also may read it, in the house or congregation of Christians there. The Vulgar Latin, that ye likewise may read the Laodicean Epistle, or the Epistle of the Laodiceans. Whence some of old and of late would have it thought, that St. Paul wrote a distinct Epistle to the Laodiceans. In favour of this opinion, some bad man, out of this Epistle to the Colossians, and that to the Ephesians, patched up and forged a short, but gross and trifling, Epistle, and fathered it on the apostle, though very dissonant from his character and style; whereupon it hath been rejected as spurious and apocryphal by the learned fathers, and the second council of Nice; and since by the learned on all hands, except some few of the papists, and except quakers, who printed a translation of it, and plead for it. Some papists urge this, to argue that the church gives the Scripture authority amongst Christians. But though she is bound to preserve the books of Divine authority, it doth not belong to her to authenticate them, or prescribe them as the rule of faith; that were no less than to outrage the majesty of the Author. Others allege it, as being lost, and thereupon would infer the canon of Holy Scriptures to be defective. But supposing, yet not granting, that Paul had written an Epistle to the Laodiceans, which had not come down to us, it were altogether inconsequent that the canon of Scriptures we have doth not contain all things necessary to salvation. Some, still harping on the Vulgar translation of the Laodicean Epistle, (though that in common speech might argue they wrote it rather than received it), would fancy that it was the Epistle Paul wrote to the Ephesians; but Tertullian did brand the impostor Marctan for changing the title of Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. Others conceit it may be understood of Paul’s Epistle to Philemon, whom Paul calls his fellow labourer, likely exercising his ministry in the neighbour city of Laodicea, which was sent by Onesimus, and for the sake of Onesimus, who was a Colossian, was to be read at Colosse. Others, because Luke is mentioned, Colossians 4:14, that it was an Epistle of his to the Laodiceans; but of that there is no evidence. Neither is it probable that Paul would in this Epistle to the Colossians have saluted the Laodiceans, had he written a distinct Epistle to them. Wherefore it is most rational to understand it, not of an Epistle of Paul written to the Laodiceans, but as our Bibles, according to an authentic copy, have, with the Greek fathers, faithfully translated and represented it, written from Laodicea. Some conjecture it to be the First Epistle of John, which they conceive was written from the city of Laodicea. Others think it was the First Epistle to Timothy, from the inscription or subscription of a long time put at the end of it, as if written from Laodicea. But against that it may be excepted, there is no mention of Pacatiana, in the writers of the first age, but only in after-times, dividing the Roman empire into provinces; and some say this was first mentioned in the ecclesiastical records in the fifth synod at Constantinople. Further, there be several passages in the Epistle itself do intimate that it was written from some place in Macedonia, if we consult Colossians 1:3, with Colossians 3:14 4:13, not from Laodicea. Some think it to be meant of the Epistle from Laodicea, wherein they would answer the Colossians; how probably I determine not. Wherefore it is most probable, that the Epistle was written from Laodicea, to Paul at Rome; either by the church there, or some of her officers, which (likely he in straits of time enclosed, and) he would have read, as helpful to the edification of the Colossians, for the better clearing of some passages in this Epistle to them, wherein he had obviated such errors as he might hear seducers were attempting to disseminate amongst them.

And when this epistle is read amongst you, Which the apostle was now writing, and sent unto them; and which was to be read publicly, before the whole church; being sent not to any particular person, or persons, but to the whole body, and for their general good and instruction:

cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; his will was, that after it had been read to the church at Colosse, it should be sent, or at least a copy of it, to the church of the Laodiceans, in order to be read there: his reason might be, not only because this church was near them, but because it was in much the same situation, being infested with the same sort of false teachers; and therefore what was said to the one, was pertinent to the other:

and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea; which was not an epistle of the apostle to the Laodiceans, as some have thought, but one that was "written from" thence, as the Syriac version renders it. Marcion, the heretic, called the epistle to the Ephesians, the epistle to the Laodiceans, but without any reason; and others have forged an epistle which bears this name, and appears to be a collection out of others, and chiefly from the epistle to the Philippians; and which being short, and may gratify the curious who cannot otherwise come at it, I shall transcribe it, and is as follows (r).

"Paul an Apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ; to the brethren which are of Laodicea, grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to Christ in every prayer of mine, that ye continue and persevere in good works, expecting the promise in the day of judgment: neither let the vain speeches of some that pretend to truth disturb you, so as to turn you from the truth of the Gospel which is preached by me; and now the Lord cause that those who belong to me may be serviceable for the furtherance of the truth of the Gospel, and doing kind actions, which are of salvation unto eternal life: and now my bonds are manifest which I suffer in Christ, in which I am glad and rejoice; and this is to my perpetual salvation which is done by your prayers, the Holy Ghost supplying, whether by life or by death; for me to live is life in Christ, and to die is joy; and he will do his own mercy in you, that ye may have the same love, and be unanimous: therefore, most beloved, as ye have heard of the presence of the Lord, so think ye, and do in fear, and you shall have life for ever; for it is God that worketh in you; and whatsoever ye do, do without sin; and what is best, most beloved, rejoice in the Lord Jesus Christ, and take heed of all filth in all gain; let your petitions be openly with God, be ye steadfast in the sense of Christ: and whatsoever things are sound and true, and chaste and just, and lovely, do; and what ye have heard and received retain in the heart, and peace shall be with you. Salute all the brethren with an holy kiss; all the saints salute you; the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. Cause this to be read to the Colossians, and that which is of the Colossians to you.''

Every one on reading it will easily see that it is a spurious piece, a collection out of other epistles, and very ill put together: however, the apostle here does not speak of any epistle written to the church of Laodicea, but of one that was written from thence; which some think was written by himself, and that he means his first epistle to Timothy, which is said to be written from Laodicea; and the rather, because in that the qualifications of the ministers of the Gospel are given; and also suitable instructions for the discharge of their work, and so very proper to be read in the presence of Archippus; who, from the following verse, seems to have been remiss and negligent, and needed stirring up to the performance of his office: but from Colossians 2:1 it appears, that the apostle had not been at Laodices when he wrote this, and had not so much as seen any of the faces of the brethren there in the flesh; it therefore seems rather to be an epistle which was sent from Laodicea to him, or to the Colossians; which having something in it very instructive and useful, the apostle desires it might be publicly read.

(r) Jachasin, fol. 87. 2. & 117. 1.

And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.
Colossians 4:16.[179] This message presupposes essentially similar circumstances in the two churches.

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

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

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

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

[179] See Anger, Beitr. zur histor. krit. Einl. in d. A. u. N. T. I.; über den Laodicenerbrief, Leip. 1843; Wieseler, de epistola Laodicena, Gott. 1844; and Chronol. d. apost. Zeit. p. 450 ff.; Sartori, Ueber d. Laodicenserbrief, Lüb. 1853.

[180] Hofmann needed, certainly, some such artificial expedient, wholly without warrant in the words of the text, to favour his presupposition that the Epistle to the Ephesians was meant, and that it was a circular letter. For a circular letter goes through the circuit destined for it of itself, and there is no occasion to ask or to send for it in order to procure, that (ποιήσατε, ἵνα) people may get it to read. But the effect of the forced separation of the second ἵνα from ποιήσατε is, that the words τὴν ἐκ Λαοδικείας are supposed only to affirm that the letter “will come” from Laodicea to Colossae, that it “will reach” them, and they ought to read it. In this way the text must be strained to suit what is à priori put into it. This applies also in opposition to Sahatier, l’ap. Paul, p. 201, who entirely ignores the connection with ποιήσατι (“la lettre qui vous viendra de Laod.”).

[181] The apocryphal letter to the Laodiceans, the Greek text of which, we may mention, originated with Elias Hutter (1599), who translated it from the Latin, may be seen in Fabricius, Codex apocr. p. 873 ff., Anger, p. 142 ff. The whole letter,—highly esteemed, on the suggestion of Gregory I., during the Middle Ages in the West, although prohibited in the second Council of Nice, 787 (to be found also in pre-Lutheran German Bibles),—which is doubtless a still later fabrication than that already rejected in the Canon Muratorianus, consists only of twenty verses, the author of which does not even play the part of a definite situation. Erasmus rightly characterizes it: “quae nihil habeat Pauli praeter voculas aliquot ex ceteris ejus epistolis mendicatas.”

[182] For, although it is in form addressed to several persons, and even to the church in the house (see on Philemon 1:1-2), it is at any rate in substance clear, as Jerome already remarks: “Paulum tantummodo ad Philemonem scribere, et unum cum suo sermocinari.” Besides, it is to be inferred from the contents of the Colossian letter, that the Laodicean letter meant was also doctrinal in contents, and that the reciprocal use of the two letters had reference to this, in accordance with the essentially similar needs of the two neighbouring churches.

[183] Because, if we annex ἵνα to ποιήσατε, an awkward sense arises, “seeing that the Colossians can only cause that they get the letter to read, but not that they read it.” That is a subtlety, which does injustice to the popular style of the letter. But if we take ἵνα independently (as Hofmann does), then Holtzmann is further of opinion that the author of Ephesians 4:29; Ephesians 5:27; Ephesians 5:33, is immediately betrayed—an unfounded inference (comp. Winer, p. 295 [E. T. 396]), in which, besides, only the comparison of Ephesians 5:33 would be relevant, and that would he balanced by 2 Corinthians 8:7.


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

Colossians 4:16. τὴν ἐκ Λαοδικίας: clearly a letter sent by Paul to Laodicea, which the Colossians are instructed to procure and read. It may be a lost letter, or it may be our so-called Epistle to the Ephesians, to which Marcion refers as the Epistle to the Laodiceans, and which was probably a circular letter. Weiss argues that it cannot be the Epistle to the Ephesians, for that was sent at the same time as this, and therefore Paul could not have sent salutations to Laodicea in this letter. But this is really natural, if Ephesians was a circular letter (and the absence of salutations is difficult to explain otherwise), and if this letter was to be passed on to Laodicea.

16. this epistle] Lit., the epistle; as Romans 16:22; 2 Thessalonians 3:14. “The letter now before you.”

is read] I.e., shall have been read.

in the church of the Laodiceans] Hierapolis is not mentioned in this charge. Was Laodicea already beginning to grow “lukewarm” (Revelation 3:15) as the sister-church was not?

“A similar [and still more solemn] charge is given in 1 Thessalonians 5:27. The precaution here is probably suggested by the distastefulness of the Apostle’s warnings” (Lightfoot).

the epistle from Laodicea] I.e., which will reach you viâ Laodicea. On the question whether this was our “Epistle to the Ephesians” see Introd., ch. 5.

Colossians 4:16. Ἀναγνωσθῇ, shall be read) publicly, in the church. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 5:27; Revelation 1:3; Deuteronomy 31:11.—ἡ ἐπιστολὴ, the epistle) this very one.—ποιήσατε, cause) So also 1 Thess. as above.—τὴν ἐκ Λαοδικείας, the one from Laodicea) Mill is of opinion that the Epistle to the Ephesians is intended, which was to be got from Laodicea, and to be brought to Colosse. It is certainly not without a reason that Paul mentions the town from which the epistle was to be procured, rather than those to whom he sent it.

Verse 16. - And when this letter has been read among you, see to it (literally, cause) that it be read also in the Church of (the) Laodiceans (1 Thessalonians 5:27). For these two Churches were closely allied in origin and condition, as well as by situation and acquaintanceship (Colossians 2:1-5; Colossians 4:13). The leaven of the Colossian error was doubtless beginning to work in Laodicea also. The words addressed to Laodicea in the Apocalypse (Revelation 3:14-22) bear reference apparently to the language of this Epistle (Colossians 1:15-18); see Lightfoot, pp. 41, etc. The phrase, "Church of Laodiceans," corresponds to that used in the salutation of 1 and 2 Thessalonians, but is not found elsewhere in St. Paul. And that ye also read the letter from Laodicea. What was this letter? Clearly a letter from St. Paul which would be received at Laodicea, and which the Colossians were to obtain from there. The connection of this sentence with the foregoing, and the absence of any other definition of the words, "the letter (from Laodicea)," make this evident. Nothing further can be affirmed with certainty. But several considerations point to the probability that this missing Epistle is none other than our (so-called) Epistle to the Ephesians. For:

(1) Both letters were sent at the same time, and by the same messenger (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7).

(2) The relation between the two is more intimate than exists between any other of St. Paul's writings; they are twins, the birth of the same crisis in the condition of the Church and in the apostle's own mind. Each serves as a commentary on the other. And there are several important topics, lightly touched upon in this letter, on which the writer dilates at length in the other (comp. Colossians 1:9 b and Ephesians 1:17, 18; Colossians 1:23 b-25 and Ephesians 3:1-13; Colossians 1:18 a, 24 b, 2:19 and Ephesians 4:4-16, 5:23-32; Colossians 1:21, 27, 2:11-13, 3:11 and Ephesians 2; Colossians 1:18 ("Firstborn out of the dead"), 2:12 b and Ephesians 1:19-23; Colossians 3:12 ("God's elect") and Ephesians 1:3-14; Colossians 3:18, 19 and Ephesians 5:22-33). On the other hand, the main arguments of the Colossian letter are, as it seems, assumed and presupposed in the Ephesian (comp. Ephesians 1:10, 20 b-23, 2:20 b, 3:8 b-11, 19 b, 4:13 b with Colossians 1:15-20, 2:9, 10; Ephesians 4:14 with Colossians 2:4, 8, 16-23).

(3) The words ἐν Αφέδῳ in Ephesians 1:1 are of doubtful authenticity; and there is much in the internal character of that Epistle to favour the hypothesis, proposed by Archbishop Usher, that it was a circular letter, destined for a number of Churches in Asia Minor, of which Ephesus may have been the first and Laodicea the last (compare the order of Revelation 2:3.). In that case a copy of the Ephesian Epistle would be left at Laodicea by Tychicus on his way to Colossae. (See Introduction, § 6; compare that to Ephesians.)

(4) Marcion, in the middle of the second century (see Tertullian, 'Against Marcion,' 5:11, 17), entitled the Epistle to the Ephesians, "To the Laodiceans." It does not appear that his heretical views could have been furthered by this change. Probably his statement contains a fragment of ancient tradition, identifying the Epistle in question with that referred to by St. Paul in this passage.

(5) The expression, "the letter from Laodicea," would scarcely be used of a letter addressed simply to the Laodiceans and belonging properly to them; but would be quite appropriate to a more general Epistle transmitted from one place to another. There is extant in Latin a spurious epistle 'Ad Laodicenses,' which is traced back to the fourth century, and was widely accepted in the Middle Ages; but it is "a mere cento of Pauline phrases, strung together without any definite connection or any clear object" (Lightfoot). (On this curious forgery, and on the whole subject of "the Epistle from Laodicea," see Lightfoot's masterly discussion, pp. 274 - 300; also p. 37.) Meyer, on the other hand, in his 'Introduction to Ephesians,' pronounces strongly against "the circular hypothesis." Colossians 4:16The epistle from Laodicaea (τὴν ἐκ Λαοδικείας)

That is, the letter left at Laodicaea, and to be obtained by you from the church there. This letter cannot be positively identified. The composition known as the Epistle to the Laodicaeans is a late and clumsy forgery, existing only in Latin MSS., and made up chiefly of disconnected passages from Philippians, with a few from other epistles.

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