For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;
Verses 1-7. - SECTION IV. THE APOSTLE'S CONCERN FOR THE COLOSSI. AN CHURCH. So far the contents of the letter have been of a general and preparatory character. New the writer begins to indicate the special purpose he has in view by declaring, in connection with his concern for the welfare of the Gentile Churches at large (Colossians 1:24-29), the deep anxiety which he at present feels respecting the Colossian and neighbouring Churches. Verse 1. - For I would have you know how great a strife I have on behalf of you and those in Laodicea (Colossians 4:12, 13; 2 Corinthians 11:28, 29; Romans 1:9-13; Philippians 1:8, 25-30; 1 Thessalonians 2:17, 18; Galatians 4:20). The apostle has dwelt at such length and so earnestly upon his own position and responsibilities (Colossians 1:24-29), that the Colossians may feel how real and strong is his interest in their welfare, though personally strangers to him (see next clause). His solicitude for them is in keeping with the toil and strife of his whole ministry. "I would have you know;" a familiar Pauline phrase (1 Corinthians 11:3; Philippians 1:12; Romans 1:13, etc.). Ηλίκον ("how great') has, perhaps, a slightly exclamatory force, as in James 3:5 (only other instance of the word in the New Testament), and in classical Greek. For "strife," see note on "striving" (Colossians 1:29): the energy and abruptness of language characterizing this second chapter bear witness in the inward wrestling which the Colossian difficulty occasioned in the apostle's mind. (On the close connection of Colossae with Laodicea, comp. Colossians 4:13-17, notes; also Introduction, § 1.) The danger which had come to a head in Colassae was doubtless threatening its neighbours. The words, and as many as have not seen my face in (the) flesh (ver. 5; Colossians 1:8; Romans 1:11; Galatians 1:22; Acts 20:25), raise the question whether St. Paul had ever visited Colossae. The language of Colossians 1:7 (see note) raises a strong presumption against his being the founder of this Church, and the narrative of the Acts scarcely admits of any visit to this region in former missionary journeys. Theodoret amongst the Greeks, followed by our own Lardner and a few recent critics, contended that the apostle distinguishes here between Colossians and Laodiceans (or at least the former), and those who had not seen His face. But the disjunction is grammatically harsh and improbable (see Ellicott). (On the general question, see Introduction, § 2.) The apostle is the more anxious for this endangered Church, as the gifts that his presence might have conveyed (Romans 1:11) were wanting to them. He says, "in flesh," for "in spirit" he is closely united with them (ver. 5; Colossians 1:8: comp. 1 Corinthians 5:3, 4). The object of his strife on their behalf is -
That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;
Verse 2. - That their hearts may be encouraged (Colossians 4:8; Ephesians 6:22; 1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:18; 2 Thessalonians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 13:11). For the mischief at work at Colossae was at once unsettling (vers. 6, 7; Colossians 1:23) and discouraging (Colossians 1:23; Colossians 2:18; Colossians 3:15) in its effects, Παρακαλῶ, a favourite word of St. Paul's, means "to address," "exhort," then more specially "to encourage," "comfort," (2 Corinthians 1:4), "to beseech" (Ephesians 4:1; 2 Corinthians 6:1),or "to instruct" (Titus 1:9). The heart, in Biblical language, is not the seat of feeling only, but stands for the whole inner man, as the "vital centre" of his personality (see Back's 'Biblical Psychology:' comp. Mark 7:19, 21; 1 Peter 3:4; Romans 7:22; Ephesians 3:16, 17). While they are (literally, they having been) drawn together in love, and into all (the) riches of the full assurance of the understanding, unto (or, into) (full) knowledge of the mystery of God, (even) Christ (ver. 19; Colossians 1:9; Colossians 3:10, 14; Colossians 4:12; Ephesians 1:17, 18; Ephesians 3:17-19; Ephesians 4:2, 3, 15, 16; Philippians 1:9; Philippians 2:2; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 13:11). In the best Greek copies "drawn together" is nominative masculine, agreeing with "they," the logical subject implied in "their hearts" (feminine). Συμβιβάζω has the same sense in ver. 19 and Ephesians 4:16; in 1 Corinthians 2:16 it is quoted from the LXX in another sense; and it has a variety of meanings in the Acts. "Drawn together" expresses the double sense which accrues to the verb in combination with the two prepositions "in" and "into:" "united in love," Christians are prepared to be "led into all the wealth of Divine knowledge." This combination of "love and knowledge" appears in all St. Paul's letters of this period (comp. Ephesians 4:12-16; Philippians 1:9; and contrast 1 Corinthians 8:1-3; 1 Corinthians 13:1, 2, 8-13). "The riches of the full assurance," etc., and "the knowledge of the mystery" are the counterpart of "the riches of the glory of the mystery," of Colossians 1:27; the fulness of conviction and completeness of knowledge attainable by the Christian correspond to the full and satisfying character of the revelation he receives in Christ (comp. Ephesians 1:17-19). (On "understanding," see note, Colossians 1:9.) "Full assurance," or "conviction" (πληροφορία), is a word belonging to St. Luke and St. Paul (with the Epistle to the Hebrews) in the New Testament (not found in classical Greek), and denotes radically "a bringing to fall measure or maturity." Combined with "understanding," it denotes the ripe, intelligent persuasion of one who enters into the whole wealth of the "truth as it is in Jesus" (comp. Colossians 4:12, R.V.; also Romans 4:21 and Romans 14:5, for corresponding verb). In this inward "assurance," as in a fortress, the Colossians were to entrench themselves against the attacks of error (Colossians 1:9; Colossians 3:15, and notes). Αἰς ἐπίγνωσιν is either in explanatory apposition to the previous clause, or rather donors the further purpose for which this wealth of conviction is to be sought: "knowledge of the Divine mystery, knowledge of Christ" - this is the supreme end, ever leading on and upward, for the pursuit of which all strengthening of heart and understanding are given (Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 3:16-19; Philippians 3:10). The Revisers have corrected the erroneous "acknowledgment" by their paraphrastic rendering, "that they may know." (On ἐπίγνωσις (comp. γνῶσις, ver. 3), see note, Colossians 1:6.) The object of this knowledge is the great manifested mystery of God, namely Christ (Colossians 1:27). We confidently accept here the Revised reading, that of nearly all recent textual critics, which omits the words found in the Received Text between "God" and "Christ." There are extant eleven distinct variations of this reading, and that of the Textus Receptus is, to all appearance, the latest and worst; "the passage is altogether an instructive lesson on textual criticism" (Lightfoot, pp. 252, 253; also Westcott and Hort, 'Introduction: Notes on Selected Readings,' pp. 125, 126). The words thus read have been interpreted mystery of the God Christ" (the Latin Hilary, and a few moderns); of the God of Christ" (Meyer, quoting Ephesians 1:17; John 20:17; Matthew 27:46); - both interpretations grammatically correct, but unsuitable here, even if in harmony with Pauline usage elsewhere. Alford omits "of Christ" altogether, distrusting the textual evidence. Meyer objects to the rendering we have followed (that of Ellicott, Lightfoot, Revisers), that the apostle, if this be his meaning, has expressed himself ambiguously; but comp. Colossians 1:27 (see note); also 1 Timothy 3:16, "The mystery, who was manifested in flesh."
In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Verse 3. - In whom (or, which) are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden(ly) (Ephesians 1:8, 9; Ephesians 3:8; Romans 11:33; 1 Corinthians 1:5, 6, 30; 1 Corinthians 2:7; 2 Corinthians 4:3). Bengel, Meyer, Alford, and others make the relative pronoun neuter, referring to "mystery;" but "Christ," the nearer antecedent, is preferable (vers. 9, 10; Colossians 1:16, 17, 19). In him the apostle finds what false teachers sought elsewhere, a satisfaction for the intellect as well as for the heart - treasures of wisdom and knowledge to enrich the understanding, and unsearchable mysteries to exercise the speculative reason. "Hidden" is, therefore, a secondary predicate: in whom are these treasures, - as hidden treasures" (Ellicott, Lightfoot). (For a similar emphasis of position, compare "made complete," ver. 10, and "seated," Colossians 3:1.) Meyer and Alford, with the Vulgate, make "hidden" an attributive: "in whom are hidden treasures." Chrysostom and leading versions make it primary predicate: "in whom are hidden," etc., against the order of the words. This word also belongs to the dialect of the mystic theosophists (see note, Colossians 1:27: comp. 1 Corinthians 2:6-16; Isaiah 45:3; Proverbs 2:1-11). (On "wisdom," see note, Colossians 1:9.) Knowledge (γνῶσις, not ἐπίγνωσις, ver. 2; Colossians 1:9; Colossians 3:10; for this phrase is more comprehensive) is the more objective and purely intellectual side of wisdom (comp. Romans 11:33).
And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.
Verse 4. - In this verse the apostle first definitely indicates the cause of his anxiety, and the Epistle begins to assume a polemic tone. This verse is, therefore, the prelude of the impending attack on the false teachers (vers. 8-23). This I say, that no one may be deluding you in persuasive speech (vers. 8, 18, 23; Ephesians 4:14; 1 Corinthians 2:1, 4, 13; 1 Timothy 6:20; Psalm 55:21). This was the danger which made a more adequate comprehension of Christianity so necessary to the Colossians (vers. 2, 3). Πιθανολογία, one of the numerous hapax legomenon of this Epistle (words only used here in the New Testament), compounds into one word the πειθοῖ λόγοι ("persuasive words") of 1 Corinthians 2:4 (compare "word of wisdom," ver. 23). In classical writers it denotes plausible, ad captandum reasoning. Παραλογίζομαι (only here and James 1:22 in the New Testament) is "to use bad logic," "to play off fallacies (paralogisms)." The new teachers were fluent, specious reasoners, and had a store of sophistical arguments at command. The tense of the verb indicates an apprehension as to what may be now going on (vers. 8, 16, 18, 20; Colossians 1:23). We shall see afterwards (vers. 8-23) what was the doctrine underlying this "persuasive speech."
For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.
Verse 5. - For if indeed I am absent in the flesh, yet in the spirit I am with you (1 Thessalonians 2:17; 1 Corinthians 5:3, 4). The connection of this verse with the last is not obvious. Ellicott, following Chrysostom, makes St. Paul's spiritual presence the reason for his being able to give the Colossians this warning; Meyer, his bodily absence the reason for their needing it. It is better, with Lightfoot, to see here a general explanatory reference to the previous context, a renewed declaration (ver. 1) of watchful interest in these distant brethren and a hearty acknowledgment of their Christian loyalty. The tone of authoritative warning just assumed (ver. 4) is thus justified, and yet softened (compare the apologetic tone of Romans 15:14, 15). The phrase, "if I am absent," does not imply a previous presence (see note, ver. 1). Rejoicing and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ (Philippians 1:4-8, 27; 1 Corinthians 1:5-8; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:4). St. Paul dos not say, "rejoicing in beholding." The consciousness of union with brethren far away, whom he has never seen (ver. 1), is itself a joy; and this joy is heightened by what he sees through the eyes of Epaphras (Colossians 1:4, 6-8: comp. 2 Corinthians 7:7) of the condition of this Church. Τάξις and στερέωμα are military terms, denoting the "ordered array" and "solid front" of an army prepared for battle (Lightfoot, Hofmann): comp. Ephesians 6:11, etc.; Philippians 1:27. Others find the figure of a building underlying the second word - Vulgate, firmamentum ("solid basis") - and this is its more usual meaning, and agrees with ver. 7 and Colossians 1:23 (comp. 2 Timothy 2:19; 1 Peter 5:9; Acts 16:5; also Psalm 18:2, LXX, for the noun, not found, elsewhere in the New Testament). The precise expression, "faith in Christ" (literally, into - εἰς, not ἐν, as in Colossians 1:4, see note) occurs only here in the New Testament; in Acts 24:24 read "in Christ Jesus." In such passages as Romans 3:22, 26 (where πίστις is followed by the genitive), Christ appears as object of faith; in such as Colossians 1:4 and Colossians 2:5 he is its ground or substratum, that in which it rests and dwells, into which it roots itself.
As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
Verse 6. - As therefore ye received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him (Philippians 1:27; Philippians 2:9-11; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15; 1 Corinthians 15:1, 2; Galatians 3:2-4; Galatians 5:1; Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 10:23; John 7:17; John 15:5-10; Romans 3:11). Such a walk will be consistent with their previous steadfastness, and will lead them to larger spiritual attainments (Colossians 1:10; see note). "Ye received" (παραλαμβάνω, not δέχομαι, as in Colossians 4:10: comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:13) reminds the Colossians of what they had received (compare" ye were taught," ver. 7 and Colossians 1:7) rather than of the way of their receiving it. "Christ Jesus the Lord," is literally, the Christ Jesus, the Lord - an expression found besides only in Ephesians 3:11 (Revised Text). The prefixed article points out Christ Jesus in his full style and title as the Person whom the Colossians had received, and received as the Lord. "The Lord" has a predicative force, as in 1 Corinthians 12:3 (R.V.); 2 Corinthians 4:5; Philippians 2:11. "Jesus is Lord" was the testing watchword applied in the discerning of spirits; "Jesus Christ is Lord" is to be the final confession of a reconciled universe; and "Christ Jesus is Lord" is the rule of faith that guides all conduct and tests all doctrine within the Church (comp. ver. 19; Romans 16:18). It is "a summary of the whole Christian confession" (Meyer). To vindicate this lordship, on which the Colossian error trenched so seriously, is the main object of the Epistle (Colossians 1:13-20). We must not, therefore, with Alford, Lightfoot, Hofmann, analyze "the Christ Jesus:" "Ye received the Christ, (namely) Jesus, who is the Lord." The writer has already used "Christ Jesus" as a single proper name at the outset (Colossians 1:1, 4); and it was the lordship of Christ Jesus, not the Messiahship of Jesus, that was now in question. In Acts 18:5, 28 the situation is entirely different. In the following clause, "in him" is emphatic, as in ver. 7 (compare the predominant αὐτός of Colossians 1:16-22; Colossians 2:9-15). Hence the contradiction of figure, "walk, rooted, and builded up," does not obtrude itself. (On "walk," see note, Colossians 1:10; and on "in Christ" in this connection, see notes, Colossians 1:4; Colossians 2:10; and comp. Romans 6:3-11; Romans 8:1; 2 Corinthians 5:17; John 15:1-7.)
Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
Verse 7. - Rooted and builded up in him (Colossians 1:23; Colossians 2:5; Ephesians 2:20, 21; Ephesians 3:18; Ephesians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 3:9-12; Jude 1:20; Luke 6:47, 48). "Rooted" is perfect participle, in, plying an abiding fact ("fast rooted"); while "builded up" (literally, upon or unto) is in the present tense of a continued process, the prefix ἐπὶ also implying growth and gain (Colossians 1:6, 10; Colossians 2:19). Meyer and Ellicott view ἐν αὐτῷ as a mere complement of the latter participle: "being builded in him." This weakens the force of both prepositions (ἐπὶ and ἐν), and the emphasis of the repeated "in him." The ideas of planting and building are similarly combined in 1 Corinthians 3:9; Ephesians 3:18; and rooted is a figure applied to buildings in ether Greek writers (Lightfoot). "Christ is the ground for the roots below, and the foundation for the building above" (Meyer). And stablished in (or, by) your faith, according as ye were taught (Colossians 1:5-7, 23; 1 Corinthians 1:6-8; 1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15; 1 Peter 5:9, 10). 'Αν before πίστει ("faith") is struck out in the Revised Text, and is probably a correct gloss. The instrumental dative, preferred by Meyer and Lightfoot, does not accord so well with ver. 5 and Colossians 1:23 (comp. Philippians 1:27; 1 Corinthians 16:13; 1 Timothy 5:8; 2 Timothy 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9). "Stablished" (βεβαιούμενοι, being kept firm) is present in tense, like "builded up" (ver. 6, see note): comp. Romans 4:16; Philippians 1:7; Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 6:19; Hebrews 13:9; and distinguish from στηρίζω, to make stable, fix firmly. In "as ye were taught" the apostle reminds his readers again of their first lessons in the gospel (Colossians 1:5-7, see notes; 2 Thessalonians 2:15). Abounding in it, with thanksgiving; or, abounding in thanksgiving (Colossians 1:3, 12; Colossians 3:15, 17; Colossians 4:2; Ephesians 5:4, 20; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; Hebrews 13:15). The Revisers relegate "in it (your faith)" to the margin, following the judgment of Tischendorf and Tregelles; while Westcott and Hort, Alford, Ellicott, Lightfoot, retain the words in the text. The reading "in him," found in the Vulgate and leading Western documents, throws doubt on these words; but it is difficult to see why they should have been inserted if not authentic, and they might easily be confused by a copyist with the foregoing "in him." The second ἐν, if ἐν αὐτῇ be retained, becomes ἐν οφ αξξομπανιμεντ, and may be rendered "with," as in Colossians 1:29; Ephesians 6:2. (On "thanksgiving," see note, Colossians 1:12.)
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.
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.
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
Verse 9. - Because in him dwelleth all the fulness (or, completeness) of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 1:19; Philippians 2:6-8; Romans 1:3, 4; Romans 9:5; John 1:1, 14). In Colossians 1:18-20 we viewed a series of events; here we have an abiding fact. The whole plenitude of our Lord's Divine-human person and powers, as the complete Christ, was definitively constituted when, in the exercise of his kingly prerogative, "he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." "From henceforth" that fulness evermore resides in him (comp. note, Colossians 1:19). The undivided pleroma of Colossians 1:19 now reveals its twofold nature: it is "the fulness of the Godhead," and yet "dwells corporeally in him." "Godhead" (θεότης) is the abstract of "God" (θεός), not of the adjective "Divine" (θεῖος: the Vulgate therefore, wrongly, divinitatis: comp. Romans 1:20; Acts 17:29; Wisd. 18:9), and denotes,"not Divine excellences, but the Divine nature" (Bengel); see Trench's 'Synonyms.' Schenkel and others, guided by a conjecture of Theodoret, have found here the Church, supporting their view by a very doubtful interpretation of Ephesians 1:23. Still more groundless is the identification of this pleroma with the created world. The apostle unmistakably affirms that the Divine nature, in its entirety, belongs to the Church's Christ. The literal sense of "bodily" (maintained by Meyer, Alford, Ellicott, Lightfoot, Hofmann, after Chrysostom and Athanasius) has been avoided by those who render it "wholly" (Jerome); "essentially, substantially" (Cyril, Theophylact, Calvin, Klopper), as opposed to "relatively" or "partially;" "truly" (Augustine, Erasmus, Bengel, Bleek), as opposed to "figuretively" (ver. 17). The adverb σωματικῶς (always literal in classical usage, along with its adjective) occurs only here in the New Testament; the adjective "bodily" in 1 Timothy 4:8; Luke 3:22. "The body of his flesh" in Colossians 1:22 affords a truer parallel than the language of ver. 17, where σῶμα, bears an exceptional sense (see note). Elsewhere St. Paul balances in similar fashion expressions relating to the twofold nature of Christ (see parallels). The assertion that "all the fulness of Deity" dwells in Christ negatives the Alexandrine "philosophy," with its cloud of mediating angel powers and spiritual emanations; the assertion that it dwells in him bodily equally condemns that contempt for the body and the material world which was the chief practical tenet of the same school (comp. notes on Colossians 1:22 and Colossians 2:23).
And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
Verse 10. - And (because) ye are in him made complete; or fulfilled (Ephesians 1:3, 7-11, 23; Ephesians 3:18, 19; Ephesians 4:13; Philippians 4:19; Galatians 3:14, 24; Galatians 5:1, 4; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Corinthians 2:2). A complete Christ makes his people complete; his pleroma is our plerosis. Finding the whole fulness of God brought within our reach and engaged in our behalf (Philippians 2:7; Matthew 20:28) in him, we need not resort elsewhere to supply our spiritual needs (Philippians 4:19). "In him" is the primary predicate (see Alford, Ellicott, against Meyer: comp. ver. 3): "Ye are in him" is the assumption (Romans 8:1; Romans 16:7); "(ye are) made complete" is the inference. (On the verb πληρόω (the basis of pleroma), used in perfect participle of abiding result, see notes, Colossians 1:9, 19.) This completeness includes the furnishing of men with all that is required for their present and final salvation as individuals (vers. 11-15; Colossians 1:21, 22, 28), and for their collective perfection as forming the Church, the body of Christ (vers. 2, 19; Colossians 1:19; Ephesians 1:23; Ephesians 5:26, 27); for this twofold completeness, comp. Ephesians 4:12-16. Who is the Head of all principality and dominion (vers. 15, 18; Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 1:21; Philippians 2:10, 11; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Hebrews 1:6, 14; 1 Peter 3:22). (On "principality," etc., see note, Colossians 1:16.) The Colossians were being taught to replace or supplement Christ's offices by those of angel powers (see notes, vers. 15, 18). Philo ('Concerning Dreams,' 1. §§ 22, 23) writes thus of the angels: "Free from all bodily encumbrance, endowed with larger and diviner intellect, they are lieutenants of the All ruler, eyes and ears of the great King. Philosophers in general call them demons (δαίμονες); the sacred Scripture angels, for they report (διαγγέλλουσι) the injunctions of the Father to his children, and the wants of the children to their Father.... Angels, the Divine words, walk about [comp. 2 Corinthians 6:16] in the souls of those who have not yet completely washed off the (old) life, foul and stained through their cumbersome bodies, making them bright to the eyes of virtue." In such a strain the Colossian "philosopher" may have been talking. But if Christ is the Maker and Lord of these invisible powers - (Colossians 1:15, 16), and we are in him, then we must no longer look to them as our saviours.
In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
Verse 11. - In whom also ye were circumcised, with a circumcision not wrought by hands (Ephesians 2:11; Philippians 3:3; Galatians 5:2-6; Galatians 6:12-15; Romans 2:25-29; Romans 4:9-12; 1 Corinthians 7:18; Acts 15:l, 5; Deuteronomy 30:6). Circumcision was insisted on by the new "philosophical" teacher as necessary to spiritual completeness; but from a different standpoint, and in a manner different from that of the Pharisaic Judaizers of Galatia and of Acts 15:1. By the latter it was preached as matter of Law and external requirement, and so became the critical point in the decision between the opposing principles of "faith" and "works." By the philosophical school it was enjoined as matter of symbolic moral efficiency. So Philo speaks of circumcision ('On the Migration of Abraham,' § 16) as "setting forth the excision of all the pleasures and passions, and the destruction of impious vain opinion" (see also his treatise 'On Circumcision'). From this point of view, baptism is the Christian circumcision, the new symbolic expression of the moral change which St. Paul and his opponents alike deemed necessary, though they understood it in a different sense from him (see vers. 20-23). In this respect the Christian is already complete, for his circumcision took place in the stripping off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ (Colossians 3:5, 8, 9; Ephesians 4:22-25; Romans 6:6; Romans 7:18-25; Romans 13:12; 1 Peter 2:1; 1 Peter 4:1, 2). The inserted "of the sins" is an ancient gloss. Ἀπ(έκ(δυσις, a double compound, found only in this Epistle (see corresponding verb in ver. 15; Colossians 3:9), denotes both "stripping off" and "putting away." "The stripping off of the body" was the ideal of the philosophical ascetics (see note on "body," ver. 23, and quotations from Philo). The apostle adds "of the flesh;" i.e. of the body in so far as it was the body of the flesh (vers. Colossians 2:13, 18, 23; Colossians 3:5). "The flesh" (in Colossians 1:22 that which Christ had put on; here that which the Christian puts off: comp. Romans 8:3) is "the flesh of sin," of Romans 8:3; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 2:3, etc. "The body," while identified with this "flesh," is "the body of sin" and "of death" (Romans 6:6; Romans 7:24; see Meyer, Godet, or Beet); sin inhabits it, clothes itself with it, and presents itself to us in its form; and this being the normal condition of unregenerate human nature, the sinful principle is naturally called the flesh. So "the (bodily) members" become "the members that are upon the earth," employed in the pursuit of lust and greed, till they become practically one with these vices (Colossians 3:5, see note; also Romans 7:5, 23). Yet "the body" and "the (sinful) flesh," while in the natural man one in practice, are in principle distinguishable (ver. 23: comp. Colossians 1:22], and separable (Romans 6:12). The deliverance from the physical acts and habits of the old sinful life, experienced by him who is "in Christ" (ver. 10; Romans 8:1-4; 2 Corinthians 5:17), is "the circumcision according to the Christ," or here more pointedly "of Christ" - a real and complete, instead of a partial and symbolic, putting away of the organic life and domination of sin which made the body its seat and its instrument. The genitive" of Christ "is neither objective ("undergone by Christ"), nor subjective ("wrought by Christ"), but stands in a mere general relation - "belonging to Christ," "the Christian circumcision." The occasion of this new birth in the Colossians was their baptism -
Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
Verse 12. - When ye were (literally, having been) buried with him in your baptism (ver. 20; Colossians 3:3; Romans 6:1-11; Galatians 3:26, 27; Ephesians 4:5; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21). Βαπτισμός, the rarer form of the word, is preferred by Tregelles, Alford, Lightfoot (see his note), being found in Codex B, with other good authorities; it indicates the process ("in your baptizing"). Βάπτισμα, the usual form of the word, is retained by Revisers, after Tischendorf, Ellicott, Westcott and Herr. Baptism stands for the entire change of the man which it symbolizes and seals (Romans 6:3-5; Galatians 3:27). The double aspect of this change was indicated by the twofold movement taking place in immersion, the usual form of primitive baptism - first the κατάδυσις, the descent of the baptized person beneath the symbolic waters, figuring his death with Christ as a separation from sin and the evil past (ver. 20), - there for a moment he is buried, and burial is death made complete and final (Romans 6:2-4); then the ἀνάδυσις, the emerging from the baptismal wave, which gave baptism the positive side of its significance. In which (or, whom) also ye were raised with (him), through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead (Colossians 3:1; Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 2:6, 8; Romans 6:4; Romans 4:24, 25; 1 Peter 1:21). We refer the relative pronoun to the immediately antecedent "baptism," although the previous ἐν ῷ refers to "Christ" (ver. 11: comp. Ephesians 2:6) and some good interpreters follow the rendering "in whom." For the Christian's being raised with Christ is not contrasted with his circumcision (ver. 11) - that figure has been dismissed - but with his burial in baptism (ver. 12 a); so Alford, Ellicott, Lightfoot, Revisers. "Having been buried" is replaced in the antithesis by the more assertive "ye were raised" (comp. vers. 13, 14; Colossians 1:22, 26). "With" points to the "him" (Christ) of the previous clause (comp. Ephesians 2:6; Romans 6:6). Faith is the instrumental cause of that which baptism sets forth (comp. Galatians 3:26, 27), and has for its object (not its cause: so Bengel) "the working" (ἐνεργεία: see note, Colossians 1:29; also Ephesians 1:20; Ephesians 3:20) "of God." And the special Divine work on which it rests is "the resurrection of Christ" (Romans 4:24, 25; Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 15:13-17): comp. note on "Firstborn out of the dead," Colossians 1:19. Rising from the baptismal waters, the Christian convert declares the faith of his heart in that supreme act of God, which attests and makes sure all that he has bestowed upon us in his Son (Colossians 1:12-14: comp. Romans 1:4; also 1 Peter 1:21; Acts 2:36; Acts 13:33, 38, etc.). Baptism symbolizes all that circumcision did, and more. It expresses more fully than the older sacrament our parting with the life of sin; and also that of which circumcision knew nothing - the union of the man with the dying and risen Christ, which makes him "dead unto sin, and alive unto God." How needless, then, even if it were legitimate, for a Christian to return to this superseded rite! To heighten his readers' sense of the reality and completeness of the change which as baptized (i.e. believing) Christians they bad undergone, he describes it now more directly as matter of personal experience.
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
Verse 13. - And you, being dead by reason of (or, in) your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses (Ephesians 2:1-5; Ephesians 1:7; Romans 5:12-21; Romans 6:23; Romans 7:9-13, 24; Romans 8:1, 2, 6, 10; 1 Corinthians 15:56; John 5:24; John 6:51; 1 John 3:14; Genesis 2:17). (For the transition from "having raised" (ver. 12) to this verse, comp. Ephesians 1:20 - 2:1; also Colossians 1:20, 21.) Again the participle gives place to the finite verb: a colon is a sufficient stop at the end of ver. 12. Death, in St. Paul's theology, is "a collective expression for the entire judicial consequences of sin" (see Cromer's ' Lexicon,' on θάνατος and νεκρόζς), of which the primary spiritual element is the sundering of the soul's fellowship with God, from which flew all other evils contained, in it. Life, therefore, begins with justification, (Romans 5:18). "Trespasses" are particular acts of sin (Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 2:1, 5; Romans 5:15-20; Romans 11:11); "uncircumcision of the flesh" is general sinful impurity of nature. The false teachers probably stigmatized the uncircumcised state as unholy. The apostle adopts the expression, but refers it to the pre-Christian life of his readers (see vers. 11, 12), when their Gentile uncircumcision was a true type of their moral condition (Romans 2:25; Ephesians 2:11). These sinful acts and this sinful condition were the cause of their former state of death (Romans 5:12). The Revisers rightly restore the second emphatic "you" - "you, uncircumcised Gentiles" (comp. Colossians 1:21, 22, 27; Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 2:11-18; Romans 15:9). It is God who "made you alive" as he "raised him (Christ)," (ver. 12); the second act being the consequence and counterpart of the first, and faith the subjective link between them. Χαρίζομαι to show grace, used of Divine forgiveness only in this and the Ephesian Epistle (Colossians 3:13; Ephesians 4:32: comp. Luke 7:42, 43; 2 Corinthians 2:7, 10; 2 Corinthians 12:13), points to the cause or principle of forgiveness in the Divine grace (Ephesians 2:4, 5; Romans 3:26; Romans 5:17). In "having forgiven us" the writer significantly passes from the second to the first person: so in Ephesians 2:1-5 (comp. Romans 3:9, 30; 1 Timothy 1:15). The thought of the new life bestowed on the Colossians with himself in their individual forgiveness calls to his mind the great act of Divine mercy from which it sprang (the connection corresponds, in reverse order, to that of Colossians 1:20, 21; 2 Corinthians 5:19, 20), and he continues -
Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
Verse 14. - Having blotted out the bond (that was) against us with (or, written in) decrees, which was opposed to us (Ephesians 2:14-16; Romans 3:9-26; Romans 7:7-14; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Galatians 3:10-22; 1 Corinthians 15:56; Acts 13:38, 39). The ancients commonly used wax tablets in writing, and the flat end of the pointed stylus drawn over the writing smeared it out (expunged) and so cancelled it (comp. Acts 3:19; Psalm 51:9; Isaiah 43:25, LXX). "God," not "Christ," is the subject of this verb, which stands in immediate sequence to those of vers. 12, 13 (comp. 2 Corinthians 5:19). It is the receiver rather than the offerer of satisfaction who cancels the debt: in Ephesians 2:15 (comp. Colossians 1:22) a different verb is used. Ξειρόγραφον ("handwritten;" a word of later Greek, only here in the New Testament) is used specially of an account of debt, a bond signed by the debtor's hand (see Meyer and Lightfoot). This bond (with its decrees) can be nothing other than "the law" (Ephesians 2:14-16; Acts 13:38, 39; Romans 3:20; Romans 7:25; Galatians 3:21, 22, etc.); not, however, the ritual law, nor even the Mosaic Law as such (as Meyer contends), but law as law, the Divine rule of human life impressed even on Gentile hearts (Romans 2:14, 15), to which man's conscience gives its consent (Romans 7:16, 22), and yet which becomes by his disobedience just a list of charges against him (so Neander and Lightfoot; see the latter on Galatians 2:19). Exodus 24:3 and Deuteronomy 27:14-26, indeed, illustrate this wider relation of Divine law to the human conscience generally. Τοῖς δόγμασιν is dative of reference either to καθ ἡμῶν ("against us:" qualifying or explanatory - in respect of its decrees) or to the verbal idea contained in χειργόραφον ("written in," or "with decrees"). The former explanation (that of Winer and Ellicott) is preferable. The Greek Fathers made it instrumental dative to ἐξαλείψας, understanding by these δόγματα τηε δοξτρινεσ (dogmas) of the gospel by which the charges of the Law against us are expunged. But this puts on δόγμα a later theological sense foreign to St. Paul, and universally rejected by modern interpreters. In the New Testament (comp. Luke 2:1; Acts 16:4; Hebrews 11:23), as in classical Greek, dogma is a decree, setting forth the will of some public authority (comp. note on δογματίζω, ver. 20). The added clause, "which was opposed to us," affirms the active opposition, as "against us" the essential hostility of the decrees of God's law to our sinful nature (Romans 4:15; Galatians 3:10: comp. Romans 7:13, 14). The emphasis with which St. Paul dwells on this point is characteristic of the author of Romans and Galatians. Ψπενάντιος occurs besides only in Hebrews 10:27; the prefix ὑπὸ implies close and persistent opposition (Lightfoot). And he hath taken it out of the midst, having nailed it to the cross (Colossians 1:20-22; Ephesians 2:18; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Romans 3:24-26; Romans 5:1, 2; Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 1:3; John 1:29; 1 John 4:10). A third time in these three verses (12-14) we note the transition from participle to coordinate finite verb; and here, in addition, the aorist tense passes into the perfect ("hath taken"), marking the finality of the removal of the Law's condemning power (Romans 8:1; Acts 13:39): comp. the opposite transition in Colossians 1:26, 27. The moral deliverance of ver. 11 is traced up to this legal release, both contained in our completeness in Christ (ver. 10). The subject is still "God." Cancelling the bond which he held against us in his Law, God has forver removed the barrier which stood between mankind and himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). Christ's place in this work, already shown in Colossians 1:18-23 (in its relation to himself), is vividly recalled by the mention of the cross. And the abolition of the Law's condemnation is finally set forth by a yet bolder metaphor - "having nailed it to the cross." The nails of the cross in piercing Christ pierced the legal instrument which held us debtors, and nullified it; see Galatians 3:13 (comp. Galatians 2:19, 20); Romans 7:4-6. Προσηλώσας may suggest the further idea of nailing up the cancelled document, by way of publication. At the cross all may read, "There is now no condemnation" (compare the "making a show" of ver. 15; also Romans 3:25; Galatians 3:1). (For vers. 11-14, compare concluding remark on Colossians 1:14.)
And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
Verse 15. - Having stripped off the principalities and the dominions (Colossians 1:16; Colossians 2:10; Acts 7:38, 53; Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 1:5, 7, 14; Hebrews 2:2, 5; Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalm 68:17). Απεκδυσάμενος has been rendered, from the time of the Latin Vulgate, "having spoiled" (exspolians), a rendering which is "not less a violation of St. Paul's usage (Colossians 3:9) than of grammatical rule" (Lightfoot; so Alford, Ellicott, Wordsworth, Hofmann, Revisers). It is precisely the same participle that we find in Colossians 3:9, and the writer has just used the noun ἀπέκδυσις (ver. 11) in a corresponding sense (see note in loc. on the force of the double compound). He employs compounds of δύω in the middle voice seventeen times elsewhere, and always in the sense of "putting off [or, 'on'] from one's self;" and there is no sure instance in Greek of the middle verb bearing any other meaning. Yet such critics as Meyer, Eadie, Klopper, cling to the rendering of the Vulgate and our Authorized Version; and not without reason, as we shall see. The Revised margin follows the earlier Latin Fathers and some ancient versions, supplying "his body" as object of the participle, understanding "Christ" as subject. But the context does not, as in 2 Corinthians 5:3, suggest this ellipsis, and it is arbitrary to make the participle itself mean "having disembodied himself." Nor has the writer introduced any new subject since ver. 12, where" God" appears as agent of each of the acts of salvation set forth in vers. 12-15. Moreover, "the principalities and the dominions" of this verse must surely be those of ver. 10 and of Colossians 1:16 (compare the "angels" of ver. 18). We understand St. Patti, therefore, to say "that God [revealing himself in Christ; 'in him,' 15 b] put off and put away those angelic powers through whom he had previously shown himself to men." The Old Testament associates the angels with the creation of the world and the action of the powers of nature (Job 38:7; Psalm cir. 4), and with its great theophanies generally (Psalm 68:7; Deuteronomy 33:2; 2 Kings 6:17, etc.); and its hints in this direction were emphasized and extended by the Greek translators of the LXX. Acts 7:38, 53 (St. Stephen); Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2, ascribe to them a special agency in the giving of the Law. Hebrews 1. and it. show how large a place the doctrine of the mediation of angels filled in Jewish thought at this time, and how it tended to limit the mediatorship of Christ. The mystic developments of Judaism among the Essenes and the Ebionites (Christian Essenes), and in the Cabbala, are full of this belief. And it is a cornerstone of the philosophic mysticism of Alexandria. In Philo the angels are the "Divine powers," "words," "images of God," forming the court and entourage of the invisible King, by whose means he created and maintains the material world, and holds converse with the souls of men (see quotation, ver. 10). This doctrine, we may suppose, was a chief article of the Colossian heresy. Theodoret's note on ver. 18 is apposite here: "They who defended the Law taught men to worship angels, saying that the Law was given by them. This mischief continued long in Phrygia and Pisidia." The apostle returns to the point from which he started in ver. 10. He has just declared that God has cancelled and removed the Law as an instrument of condemnation; and now adds that he has at the same time thrown off and laid aside the veil of angelic mediation under which, in the administration of that Law, he had withdrawn himself. Both these acts take place "in Christ." Both are necessary to that "access to the Father" which, in the apostle's view, is the special prerogative of Christian faith (Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:12; Romans 5:2), and which the Colossian error doubly barred, by its ascetic ceremonialism and by its angelic mediation. (See, on this passage, Alford; also Peirce's 'Paraphrase and Notes,' 2nd edit., 1729; Robertson Smith, on 'Christ and the Angels,' Expositor, second series, vol. 1:138, etc.; A. Sabatier's 'L'Apotre Paul,' p. 220, 2nd edit., 1881.) We are compelled, with all deference to its high authority, to reject the view of the Greek Fathers, to which Ellicott, Lightfoot, and Wordsworth have returned, according to which "Christ in his atoning death [in it; 'the cross,' ver. 15 b] stripped off from himself the Satanic powers." For it requires us to bring in, without grammatical warrant, "somewhere" (Lightfoot), "Christ" as subject; it puts upon" the principalities and the dominions" a sense foreign to the context, and that cannot be justified by Ephesians 6:12, where the connection is wholly different and the hostile sense of the terms is most explicitly defined; and it presents an idea harsh and unfitting in itself, the incongruity of which such illustrations as those of the Nessus robe and Joseph's garment only make more apparent. It is one thing to say that the powers of evil surrounded Christ and quite another thing to say that he wore them as we have worn "the body of the flesh" (ver. 11; Colossians 3:9). He made a show (of them) openly, having led them in triumph in him; or, it (Ephesians 1:21, 22; Philippians 2:10; 1 Peter 3:22; Hebrews 1:5, 6; John 1:52; Matthew 25:31; Matthew 26:53; Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:9). In this, as in the last verse, we have a finite verb between two participles, one introductory ("having stripped off"), the other explanatory, Δειγματίζω, to make a show or example, occurs in the New Testament besides only in Matthew 1:17, where it is compounded with παρα (Revised Text), giving it a sinister meaning of not belonging to the simple verb. With the angelic "principalities," etc., for object, the verb denotes, not a shameful exposure, but "an exhibition of them in their true character and position," such as forbids them to be regarded superstitiously (ver. 18). God exhibited the angels as the subordinates and servants of his Son (ver. 10: camp. Luke 1:26; Luke 2:10, 13; Mark 1:13; Luke 22:43; Matthew 28:2, etc.). "Openly" ( ἐν παρρησίᾳ: literally, in freedom of speech, a favourite word of St. Paul s) implies the absence of reserve or restraint, rather than mere publicity (comp. Ephesians 6:19; Philippians 1:20). Θριαμβεύσας ("having triumphed;" 2 Corinthians 2:14 only other instance of the verb in the New Testament; its use in classical Greek confined to Latinist writers, referring, historically, to the Roman triumph) presents a formidable difficulty in the way of the interpretation of the verse followed so far. For the common acceptation of the word "triumph" compels us to think of the "principalities," etc., as hostile (Satanic); and this, again, as Meyer strongly contends, dictates the rendering "having spoiled" for ἀπεκδυσάμενος. So we are brought into collision with two fixed points of our former exegesis. If we are bound lexically to abide by the reference to the Roman military triumph, then the angelic principalities must be supposed to have stood in a quasi-hostile position to "the kingdom of God and of Christ," in so far as men had exaggerated their powers and exalted them at Christ's expense, and to have been now robbed of this false pre-eminence. The writer however, ventures to question whether, on philological grounds, a better, native Greek sense cannot be found for this verb. The noun thriambos ("triumph"), on which it is based, is used, indeed, in the Latin sense as early as Polybius, a writer on Roman history (). But it is extant in a much earlier classical fragment as synonymous with dithyrambos, denoting "a festal song;" and again in Plutarch, contemporary with St. Paul, it is a name of the Greek god Dionysus, in whose honour such songs were sung, and whose worship was of a choral, processional character. This kinder triumph was, one may imagine, familiar to the eyes of St. Paul and of his readers, while the spectacle of the Roman triumph was distant and foreign (at least when he wrote 2 Corinthians). We suggest that the apostle's image is taken, beth here and in 2 Corinthians 2:14, from the festal procession of the Greek divinity, who leads his worshippers along as witnesses of his power and celebrants of his glory. Such a figure fittingly describes the relation and the attitude of the angels to the Divine presence in Christ. Let this suggestion, however, be regarded as precarious or fanciful, the general exposition of the verse is not thereby invalidated. (For further elucidation, see the Expositor, first series, vol. 10. pp. 403-421; 11. p. 78. On "triumph," in 2 Corinthians, see Mr. Waite's Additional note in 'Speaker's Commentary.') The Revisers omit the marginal "in himself" of the Authorized Version, which correctly, as we think, refers the final ἐν αὐτῷ to Christ (ver. 10), though incorrectly implying "Christ" as subject of the verse. It was not only "in the cross" that God unveiled himself, dispensing with angelic theophanies, but in the entire person and work of his Son (Colossians 1:15; 2 Corinthians 4:4; John 1:14, 18; John 14:9). "Which veil" (for here we may apply the words of 2 Corinthians 3:14) "is done away in Christ." So the whole passage (vers. 10-15) ends, as it begins, "in him:" "We are complete in him" - in our conversion from sin to holiness set forth in baptism, and our resurrection from death to life experienced in forgiveness (vers. 11-13); and in the removal at once of the legal bar which forbade our access to God (ver. 14), and of the veil of inferior and partial mediation which obscured his manifestation to us (ver. 15).
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
Verses 16-23. - SECTION VI. THE CLAIMS OF THE FALSE TEACHER. Verse 16. - Do not let any one, therefore, be judging you in eating or in drinking (vers. 21-23; 1 Timothy 4:1-5; Romans 14:17; Hebrews 9:10; Hebrews 13:9; Mark 7:14-19). The new teachers dictated to the Colossians in these matters from the philosophical, ascetic point of view (see notes on "philosophy," "circumcision," vers. 8, 11), condemning their previous liberty. (For the adverse sense of "judge," comp. Romans 14:4, 10, 13.) The scruples of the "weak brethren" at Rome (Romans 14) were partly of an ascetic character, but are not ascribed to any philosophic views. In 1 Corinthians 8:8 and 10 the question stands on a different footing, being connected with that of the recognition of idolatry (comp. Acts 15:29). In Hebrews 9:10 it is purely a point of Jewish law. In one form or other it was sure to be raised wherever Jewish and Gentile Christians were in social intercourse. Ver. 17 shows that such restrictions are "not according to Christ" (ver. 8), belonging to the system which he has superseded. "Therefore" bases this warning upon the reasoning of the previous context. Tertullian ('Against Marcion,' 5:19) supplies the link connecting this verse with vers. 10, 15, 18, when he says, "The apostle blames those who alleged visions of angels as their authority for saying that men must abstain from meats." The abolishing of angel mediation (ver. 15) robs these restrictions of their supposed authority. The Essenes found in the Nazarite life and the rules for the ministering Jewish priest (Numbers 6:3; Leviticus 10:8-11; Ezekiel 44:21) their ideal of holiness. Philo also attached a high moral value to abstinence from flesh and wine, and regarded the Levitical distinctions of meats as profoundly symbolic. Or in respect of feast, or new moon, or sabbath (Romans 14:5, 6; Galatians 4:9, 10). The yearly feast, the monthly new moon, and the weekly sabbath (1 Chronicles 23:31; Isaiah 1:13, 14) cover the whole round of Jewish sacred seasons. These the Colossian Gentile Christians, disciples of St. Paul through Epaphras, had not hitherto observed (Galatians 4:9, 10). Philosophic Judaists insisted on these institutions, giving them a symbolical and ethical interpretation (see Philo, 'On the Number Seven;' also, 'On the Migration of Abraham,' § 16, where he warns his readers lest, "because the feast is a symbol of the joy of the soul and of thanksgiving towards God," they should imagine they could dispense with it, or "break through any established customs which divine men have instituted").
Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
Verse 17. - Which are a shadow of the things to come, but the body is of Christ (Galatians 3:23-25; Galatians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 3:11, 13; Hebrews 7:18, 19; Hebrews 9:11-14; Hebrews 10:1-4). The apostle's opponents, we imagine, taught in Platonic fashion that these things were shadows of ideal truth and of the invisible world (comp. Hebrews 8:5), forms necessary to our apprehension of spiritual things. With St. Paul, they shadow forth prophetically the concrete facts of the Christian revelation, and therefore are displaced by its advent. The singular verb (literally, is) quite grammatically combines the particulars of ver. 16 under their common idea of a foreshadowing of the things of Christ; and the present tense affirms here a general truth, not a mere historical fact. How this was true of the "sabbath," e.g., appears in Hebrews 4:1-11; comp. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; John 19:36, for the Christian import of the Passover feast. The figurative antithesis of "shadow" and "body" is sufficiently obvious; it occurs in Philo and in Josephus: to refer to ver. 19 and Colossians 1:18 for the sense of body, is misleading. For "the things to come" (the things of Christ and of the new, Christian era, now commencing), comp. Romans 4:24; Romans 5:14; Galatians 3:23; Hebrews 2:5; Hebrews 10:1. This substance of the new, abiding revelation (2 Corinthians 3:11) is "Christ's," inasmuch as it centres in and is pervaded and governed by Christ (Colossians 1:18; Colossians 3:11; Romans 10:4; 2 Corinthians 3:14). Nothing is said here to discountenance positive Christian institutions, or the observance of the Lord's day in particular, unless enforced in a Judaistic spirit. The apostle is protecting Gentile Christians from the re-imposition of Jewish institutions as such, as impairing their faith in Christ (comp. Galatians 5:2-9), and as, in the case of the Colossians, involving a deference to the authority of angels which limited his sovereignty and sufficiency (vers. 8-10, 18, 19). This verse contains in germ much of the thought of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
Verse 18. - Let no one defraud you of your prize (Colossians 1:5, 23; Colossians 3:15; Philippians 3:14; Galatians 5:7; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:7, 8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:11). These eight words represent but three in the Greek. (On καταβραβεύω, see Meyer's elaborate note.) Βραβούω is used again in Colossians 3:15 (see note), meaning primarily" to act as βραβεύς," arbiter of the prize in the public games; βραβεῖον, the prize, is also figuratively used in Philippians 3:14, and literally in 1 Corinthians 9:24, and is synonymous with the "crown" of other passages. Κατὰ gives the verb a hostile sense; and the present tense, as in vers. 4, 8, 16, 20, implies a continued attempt. Let no one be acting the umpire against you, is the literal sense. The errorist condemns the Colossian Christian for his neglect of Jewish observances (ver. 16), and warns him that in his present state he will miss the heavenly prize, "the hope" he had supposed to be "in store for him in heaven" (ver. 5: comp. notes on Colossians 1:5 and Colossians 3:15; also Ephesians 1:13, 14). Delighting in lowliness of mind and worship of the angels (ver. 23; Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:8, 9; Judges 13:17, 18). By these means the false teacher impressed his disciples. His angel worship commended itself as the mark of a devout and humble mind, reverent towards the unseen powers above us, and made purely Christian worship seem insufficient. "Delighting in" is the rendering of θέλων ἐν given by Bengel, Hofmann, Lightfoot, Klopper, and is preferable to that of Meyer and Ellicott, who, with several Greek interpreters, supply the sense of the previous verb "desiring (to do so) in lowliness etc.; and to that followed in the Revisers' margin,which puts a sort of adverbial sense on θέλων - "of his mere will, by humility," etc. This latter rendering underlies the paraphrastic" voluntary humility" of the A.V., and agrees with the common interpretation of ἐθελοθρησκεία in ver. 23 (see note). Θέλων ἐν is, no doubt, a marked Hebraism, and St. Paul's language is "singularly free from Hebraisms" (compare, however, the use of εἰδέναι to know, in 1 Thessalonians 5:12; the similar εὐδοκέω ἐν is well established, 1 Corinthians 10:5; 2 Corinthians 12:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:12). This very idiom is frequently used in the LXX, and occurs in the 'Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs,' a Christian writing, of the second century. The apostle may surely be allowed occasionally to have used a Hebraistic phrase, especially when so convenient and expressive as this. Westcott and Hort, with scrupulous purism, mark the reading on this account as doubtful. Ταπεινοφροσύνη ("lowliness of mind"), a word, perhaps, compounded by St. Paul himself (see Trench's 'Synonyms'), is almost confined to the Epistles of this group (comp. ver. 23; Colossians 3:12; Ephesians 4:2; Philippians 2:3; also Acts 20:19; 1 Peter 5:5). This quality is ascribed ironically to the false teacher (compare the "puffed up" of the next clause, and for similar irony see 1 Corinthians 8:1, 2; Galatians 4:17). Θρησκεία is "outward worship" or "devotion:" comp. note on ver. 23; elsewhere in New Testament only in Acts 26:5 and James 1:26, 27 (see Trench's 'Synonyms'). "Worship of the angels" is that paid to the angels; not "offered by them," as Luther and Hofmann interpret, supposing that the errorists pretended to imitate the worship of heaven. Investigating (or, dwelling on) the things which he hath seen'! vainly - being puffed up by 'the reason' of his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:l, 7; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 Peter 2:18; Jude 1:16). For ἐμβατεύων, we adopt the sense which it bears in 2 Macc. 2:30; in Philo, 'On the Planting of Noah,' § 19. and in patristic and later Greek generally, viz. "to search into," "examine," "discuss" (see Suicer's 'Thesaurus'). The rendering "proceeding" or "dwelling on," though near the radical sense of the word ("to step on" or "in"), wants lexical support. The same may be said of the rendering "intruding into," which suits the Received reading, "which he hath not seen." The "not" of the relative clause is wanting in nearly all our eldest and best witnesses, and is cancelled by the Revisers, with Tregelles, Tischendorf, Lightfoot, Westcott and Hort, etc. Its appearance in two different forms (οὐχ and μὴ) in the documents that present it, makes it still more certain that it is a copyist's insertion. The common reading gives, after all, an unsatisfactory sense; it is not likely the apostle would blame the errorist simply for entering into things beyond his sight (comp. 2 Corinthians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 5:7). Meyer, after Steiger and Huther, gives the best explanation of "which he hath seen," supposing the writer to allude ironically to pretended visions of angels or of the spiritual world, by which the false teacher sought to impose on the Colossians. This view is suggested by Tertullian in the passage cited under ver. 16. Such visions would be suitable for the purpose of the errorist, and congenial to the Phrygian temperament, with its tendency to mysticism and ecstasy (see Theodoret, quoted under ver. 15, who also says that angel worship was specially forbidden by the Council of Laodicea, A.n. 364). If the false teacher were accustomed to say with an imposing air, "I have seen, ah! I have seen!" in referring to his revelations, the apostle's allusion would be obvious and telling. The language of 2 Corinthians 12:1 (R.V.) suggests a similar reliance on supernatural visions on the part of the apostle's earlier opponents. This pretentious visionary is, however, a "philosopher" and a "reasoner" first of all (vers. 4, 8). Accordingly he investigates what he has seen; inquires into the import of his visions, rationally develops their principles, and deduces their consequences. So far, the apostle continues in the ironical vein in which the first words of the verse are written, setting forth the pretensions of his opponent in his own terms, his irony "restraining itself till, after the word ἐμβατεύων, the indignation of truth breaks forth from it" (Steiger) in the caustic and decisive "vainly." Αἰκῆ qualifies the foregoing participle (so Origen, apparently, in Cramer's 'Catena,' vol. 4. p. 69; Steiger, De Wette, Hofmann, Conybeare) more suitably than the following. Thus it signifies "idly," "to no purpose," as everywhere else in St. Paul (Romans 13:4; 1 Corinthians 15:2; Galatians 3:4; Galatians 4:11); not "without cause," as joined to φυσιούμενος ("puffed up"), whose 'force it could only weaken. "Vainly" stigmatizes the futility, "puffed up" the conceit, and "by the reason of his flesh" the low and sensuous origin of these vaunted revelations and of the high-flown theosophy which they were used to support. (For the sarcastic force of "puffed up," comp. 1 Corinthians 4:6, 19; 1 Corinthians 5:2; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 13:4). The "reason" (νοῦς) is, in Greek philosophy, the philosophical faculty, the power of supersensible intuition; and in Plato and Philo, the organ of the higher, mystical knowledge of Divine things (see Philo, 'Who is Heir of Divine Things?' §§ 13, 20, and passim). The Colossian "philosopher" (ver. 8) would, we may imagine, speak of himself as "borne aloft" in his visions "by heavenly reason," "lifted high in angelical communion," or the like. Hence the apostle's sarcasm, "Exalted are they? say rather, inflated: lifted high by Divine reason? nay, but swollen high by the reason of their flesh." Some such allusion to the language of the errorists best accounts for the paradoxical νοῦς τῆς σαρκός (see Lightfoot); contrast with Romans 7:25, and compare the disparaging reference to διανοία, Colossians 1:21 (note). Difficult as this passage is, we hesitate to follow Lightfoot, and Westcott and Herr, who have given their weighty sanction to the perilous remedy of conjectural emendations; the latter editors for the second Line in this verse, and again in ver. 23. The line of interpretation here adopted is advocated in the Expositor, first series, vol. 11. pp. 385-398.
And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.
Verse 19. - And not holding fast the Head (vers. 6, 8; Colossians 1:15-20; Ephesians 1:20-23; Philippians 2:9-11; Romans 9:5; Romans 14:9; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Revelation 19:16). In the last verse the errorist was judged "out of his own mouth," and the intrinsic hollowness of his pretensions was exposed. Now" he appears before the judgment seat of Christ," charged with high treason against him, the Lord alike of the kingdoms of nature and of grace. So the apostle falls back once more (comp. ver. 10) on the foundation laid down in Colossians 1:15-20, on which his whole polemic rests. Both in creation and redemption, the philosophic Judaists assigned to the angels a role inconsistent with the sovereign mediatorship of Christ (see notes on vers. 10 and 15). From whom all the body, through its joinings and bands being supplied and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22, 23; Ephesians 4:15, 16; John 15:1-6; 1 Corinthians 3:6). Disloyalty to "the head" works destruction to "the body," which in this case "proceeds from" ("grows out of," ἐξ... αυ}ξει,) its Head, while it depends upon him. Gnosticism from the beginning tended to disintegrate the Church, by the caste feeling (Colossians 1:28, note; Colossians 3:11) and the sectarian spirit to which it gave birth (ver. 8; Acts 20:30). Its vague and subjective doctrines were ready to assume a different form with each new exponent, Here lies the connection between this and the Ephesian letter, the doctrine of the Church following upon and growing out of that of the person of Christ, each being threatened - the latter immediately, the former more remotely - by the rise of the new Judaeo-Christian mystic rationalism. Colossians asserts the "thou in me" of John 17:23; Ephesians the corresponding "I in them;" and both the consequent "they made perfect in one" (comp., especially, Ephesians 3:14-21 and Ephesians 4:7-16 with Colossians 1:15-20 and Colossians 2:9-15). (On "body," see note, Colossians 1:18.) Αφαὶ signifies, not "joints "as parts of the bony skeleton, but includes all points of contact and connection in the body; Latin nexus, junetura (see Lightfoot). Bengel and Meyer, following Chrysostom, interpret it as "senses," or "nerves;" but this does not commend itself either lexically or contextually. The συνδεσμοί (comp. Colossians 3:14) are the "ligaments," the stronger and more distinct connections that give the bodily framework unity and solidity. So, by the organic cooperation of the whole structure, the body of Christ is furnished with its supplies, enabled to receive and dispense to each member the needed sustenance; and "knit together" (ver. 2), drawn into a close and firm unity. "Supplied" (comp. 2 Corinthians 9:10; Galatians 3:5) indicates a sustenance both required and due. In Colossians 1:6 we read of the increase of the gospel, in Colossians 1:10 of the individual believer, and now of the Church as a body) Ephesians 2:21; Ephesians 4:16). "The increase of God" is that which God bestows (1 Corinthians 3:6), as it proceeds "from Christ" (ἐξ οῦ: ver. 10; Colossians 3:11; John 1:16), in whom is "the fulness of the Godhead" (ver. 9: comp. Ephesians 1:23 and Ephesians 3:17 - 19). In Ephesians 4:16 the same idea is expressed in almost the same terms. There, however, the growth appears as proper to the body, resulting from its very constitution; here, as a bestowment of God, dependent, therefore, upon Christ, and ceasing if the Church ceases to hold fast to him.
Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,
Verses 20-23. - The apostle's fourth and last warning is directed against ascetic rules of life. Verse 20. - If ye died with Christ from the rudiments of the world (vers. 8, 10-13; Colossians 3:3; Romans 6:1-11; Romans 7:1-6; 2 Corinthians 5:14-17). "Therefore" is struck out by the Revisers on the best authority. It would imply a logical dependence of this verse upon the last, which does not exist. This warning, like those of vers. 16, 18, looks back to the previous section, and especially to vers. 8, 10, 12. It is a new application of St. Paul's fundamental principle of the union of the Christian with Christ in his death and resurrection (see notes, vers. 11, 12). Accepting the death of Christ as supplying the means of his redemption (Colossians 1:14, 22), and the law of his future life (Philippians 3:10; 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15; Galatians 2:20), the Christian breaks with and becomes dead (to and) from all other, former religious principles; which appear to him now but childish, tentative gropings after and preparations for what is given him in Christ (comp. Galatians 2:19; Galatians 3:24; Galatians 4:2, 3; Romans 7:6). On "rudiments," see note, ver. 8. There these "rudiments of the world" appear as general ("philosophical") principles of religion, intrinsically false and empty; here they are moral rules of life, mean and worthless substitutes for "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus." (For the Pauline idiom, "died from (so as to be separate, or free from)," comp. Romans 7:2, 6; Acts 13:39.) Why, as (men) living in (the) world, are you made subject to decrees (Galatians 4:9; Galatians 5:1; Galatians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 5:17). To adopt the rules of the new teachers is to return to the worldly, pre-Christian type of religion which the Christian had once for all abandoned (Galatians 4:9). "World" bears the emphasis rather than "living" ("having one's principle of life:" comp. 1 Timothy 5:6; Luke 12:15). Standing without the article, it signifies "the world as such," in its natural character and attainments, without Christ (ver. 8; Ephesians 2:12; 1 Corinthians 1:21). Δογματίζεσθε (the verb only here in the New Testament) is passive rather than middle in voice (Winer, p. 326; see Meyer in loc.); literally, why are yon being dogmatized, overridden with decrees? Compare "spell" (ver. 8), "judge" (ver. 16), for the domineering spirit of the false teacher. The "dogmas" or "decrees" of ver. 14 (see note) are those of the Divine Law; these are of human imposition (vers. 8, 22), which their authors, however, seem to put upon a level with the former. In each case the decree is an external enforcement, not an inner principle of life.
(Touch not; taste not; handle not;
Verse 21 gives examples of the decrees which the Colossians are blamed for regarding and in this respect more than in any other they seem to have yielded to the demands of the false teacher. Do not handle, nor taste, nor touch' (vers. 16, 23; 1 Corinthians 6:12, 13; 1 Corinthians 8:8; 1 Corinthians 10:25-27, 30; Romans 14:14-17; 1 Timothy 4:3-5; Titus 1:15). These rules form part of a prohibitory regimen by which sinful tendencies to bodily pleasure were to be repressed (ver. 23), and spiritual truths symbolically enforced (ver. 17; see note on "circumcision," ver. 11): comp. Philo, 'On Concupiscence;' also 'On Victims,' § 3. Θίγης the last of the three verbs, appears to be the strongest, forbidding the slightest contact. Αψῃ is better rendered "handle" (comp. John 20:17); by itself it will scarcely bear the meaning it has in 1 Corinthians 7:1. The next verse seems to imply that all three verbs relate to matters of diet. Ambrose and other Latin Fathers of ascetic tendencies put these prohibitions into the mouth of St. Patti himself, reversing his meaning.
Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?
Verse 22 a is the apostle's comment on these rules, in the form of a continuation of their terms. Do not touch - things which are an intended to perish (literally, for corruption) in their consumption (Matthew 15:17; Mark 7:19; 1 Corinthians 6:13; 1 Corinthians 8:8; 1 Timothy 4:3-5), which, being destroyed as they are used, therefore do not enter into the soul's life, and are of themselves morally indifferent; so the Greek Fathers, and most modern interpreters. This is the position which Christ himself takes in regard to Jewish distinctions of meats (Mark 7:14-23, R.V.). We note the same style of sarcastic comment on the language of the false teachers as that exhibited in ver. 18. Augustine, Calvin, and some ethers render, "which (decrees) tend to (spiritual) destruction in their use;" but ἀποχρῆσις never means simply "use," and the antecedent "decrees" is awkwardly supplied. More plausibly, De Wette and some moderns interpret, "things which tend to (spiritual) destruction in their abuse," putting the words in the mouth of the false teacher, as though he said, "Abstain from everything the use of which may be fatal to the soul." But this ascribes to the errorist an argument which fails short of his principles (see note on "hard treatment of the body," ver. 23); and to which, specious as it is, and in harmony with the apostle's own teaching (1 Corinthians 6:12; 1 Corinthians 9:26, 27), he makes no reply. According to the commandments and teachings of men (Isaiah 29:13, LXX; Matthew 15:9; Mark 7:7; ver. 8; 1 Corinthians 1:20; 1 Corinthians 2:5, 13); the only passage in this Epistle which distinctly alludes to the language of the Old Testament. But the words are, we may suppose, primarily a reminiscence of the language of Christ, who uses them in connection with his announcement of the abolition of the sacred distinctions of meats (comp. Mark 7:1-23). This clause points out the method after which, and direction in which, the new teachers were leading their disciples, on the line of a man-made instead of a God given religion. "Commandments" (or, "injunctions") include the prescriptions of ver. 21 and all others like them; "teachings" embrace the general principles and doctrines on which these rules were based. So this expression, following "rudiments of the world (ver. 20), leads us back by a rapid generalization from the particulars specified in ver. 21 to the general starting point given in ver. 8 (see note), and prepares us for the brief and energetic summary of the whole Colossian error which we find in -
Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.
Verse 23. - Such as have (literally, are (things) having) word indeed of wisdom (vers. 4, 8; 1 Corinthians 2:1, 4, 13; 1 Corinthians 12:8). The antecedent of "such as" is "command merits and teachings" (Meyer, Alford, Ellicott), not "decrees" (ver. 21). For ver. 22 supplies the immediate antecedent, and the wider sense thus given is necessary to support the comprehensive and summary import of ver. 23. The Greek "are having" brings into view the nature and qualities of the subject, in accordance with ἅτινα, such as, the qualitative relative (comp. ἥτις, Colossians 3:5; see Moulton's Winer, pp. 209, 210; also Meyer and Ellicott, on the grammatical point). A certain "word of wisdom" was ascribed to the false teachers in ver. 4 (note the play upon λόγος in St. Paul's Greek). They were plausible dealers in words, and had the jargon of philosophy at their tongue's end (ver. 8, compare note on ἐμβατεύων, ver. 18). On this the apostle had first remarked in his criticism of their teaching, and to this he first, adverts in his final resume. "Word of wisdom" is one of the "gifts of the Spirit" in 1 Corinthians 12:8; but the disparaging μέν, indeed, with the emphatic position of λόγον throwing σοφίας into the shade, in view also of the censures already passed in vers. 4, 8, puts a condemnatory sense upon the phrase: "having word indeed of wisdom" - "that and nothing more, no inner truth, no pith and substance of wisdom" (so Chrysostom and OEcumenius). "Word and deed," "word and truth," form a standing antithesis (Colossians 3:17; Romans 15:18; 1 Corinthians 4:19, 20; 1 John 3:18, etc.), the second member of which supplies itself to the mind; and the solitary μὲν in such a connection is a well-established classical idiom (see Winer's or A. Buttmann's 'Grammar;' also Meyer). It is superfluous, therefore, as well as confusing to the order of thought, to seek in the sequel for the missing half of the antithesis. Other renderings of λόγον - "show" (English A.V., Bengel, De Wette), "ground" or "reason" (Vulgate, Klopper), "reputation" (Meyer, Alford, Ellicott, Lightfoot) - are partly doubtful or exceptional in point of usage, and partly overlook the pointed reference of vers. 22, 23 to the language of vers. 4 and 8. And the combination of λόγον ἔχοντα into a single phrase is scarcely justified here in face of the established Pauline association of "word" and "wisdom" (comp. 1 Corinthians 1:17-2:16, as well as 1 Corinthians 12:8). Both in this Epistle and in 1 Corinthians the writer is contending against forms of error which found their account in the Greek love of eloquence and of dexterous word-play. While the first part of the predicate, therefore, explains the intellectual attractiveness of the Colossian error, the clause next following accounts for its religious fascination; and the third part of the verse strikes at the root of its ethical and practical applications. (Shown) in (or, with) devotion to (or, delight in) worship (or, voluntary worship) and lowliness of mind (ver. 18). The preposition "in" brings us into the moral and religious sphere of life in which this would be wisdom of doctrine had its range and found its application. The prefix ἐθελο = - ofἐθελοθρησκεία ordinarily connotes" willingness" rather than "wilfulness;" and the "delighting in worship" of ver. 18 (see note) points strongly in this direction. As against Ellicott and Lightfoot on the etymological point, see Hofmann, pp. 102, 103. Only so far as the worship in question (see note, ver. 18, on "worship") is evil, can the having a will to worship be evil. The other characteristics of the error marked in this verse seem to be recommendations, and "devotion to worship" is in keeping with them. This disposition, moreover, has an air of "humility," which does not belong to a self-imposed, arbitrary worship. There is a love of worship for mere worship's sake which is a perversion of the religious instinct, and tends to multiply both the forms and objects of devotion. This spurious religiousness took the form, in the Colossian errorists, of worship paid to the angels. On this particular worship the apostle passed his judgment in ver. 18, and now points out the tendency from which it springs. In ver. 18 "humility" precedes; here it follows "worship," by way of transition from the religious to the moral aspect of the now teaching. And (or, with) unsparing treatment of (the) body - not in any honour (as) against surfeiting of the flesh (vers. 16, 21, 22; Philippians 3:19-21; 1 Timothy 4:3; 1 Corinthians 6:13-20; 1 Corinthians 12:23-25; 1 Thessalonians 4:4). The "and" linking this clause to the last under the government of "in," is textually doubtful; Lightfoot cancels it; Westcott and Hort give the omission as a secondary reading. Mr. Hort regards the passage, like ver. 18, as hopelessly corrupt - a verdict which we would fain believe is too despairing. If καὶ be struck out, then ἀφειδείᾳ must be attached, somewhat loosely, to the principal predicate (" are having") as an instrumental dative. On either construction, the sense appears to be that it was its combination of ascetic rigour with religious devotion that gave to the system in question its undoubted charm, and furnished an adequate field for the eloquence and philosophical skill of its advocate. 'Αφειδεία, unsparingness, and πλησμονή, surfeiting - both found only here in the New Testament - and along with them "body" and "flesh," stand opposed to each other. This clause, therefore, contains a complete sense, and we must not look outside it for an explanation of the included words, "not in any honour." As we have seen, the first clause of the predicate (" having word indeed," etc.) needs no such complement. The clause "not .... flesh" is a comment on the words, "unsparing treatment of the body." On this topic the apostle had not yet expressed his mind sufficiently. He has in vers. 16, 20-22 denounced certain ascetic rules as obsolete, or as trifling and needless; but he has yet to expose the principle and tendency from which they sprang. He is the more bound to be explicit on this subject inasmuch as there were ascetic leanings in his own teaching, and passages in his earlier Epistles such as Romans 8:13; Romans 13:14; 1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 9:27, which the "philosophical" party might net unnaturally wrest to their own purposes. He could not condemn severity to the body absolutely, and in every sense. The Colossian rigorism he does condemn -
(1) as not in keeping with bodily self-respect, which is the safeguard of Christian purity; and
(2) as not in reality directed against sensual indulgence, the prevention of which is the proper end of rules of abstinence. These two objections are thrown into a single terse, energetic negative clause, obscure, like so much in this chapter, from its brevity and want of connecting particles. In 1 Thessalonians 4:4 the phrase, "in honour," occurs in a similar connection: "That each one of you know how to 'gain possession of his own vessel" (i.e. "to become master of his body:" see Wordsworth and Alford on the passage; also Meyer's reference on Romans 1:24) "in sanctification and honor" (comp. 1 Corinthians 6:13-20 for the apostle's teaching respecting the dignity of the human body; also Philippians 3:19-21). The contempt of Alexandrine theosophists for physical nature was fatal to morality, undermining the basis on which rests the government of the body as the "vessel" and vesture of the spiritual life. Their principles took effect, first, in a morbid and unnatural asceticism; then, by a sure reaction, and with equal consistency, in unrestrained and shocking licence. See, for the latter result, the Epistles to the seven Churches of Asia (Romans 2. and 3.); in the Pastoral Epistles, the two opposite effects are both signalized. The rendering "value" given by Lightfoot and the Revisers seems to us misleading; τιμὴ means "value" only in the sense of "price," as in 1 Corinthians 6:20, and this surely is not their meaning. Πλησμονὴ has been taken in a milder sense by the Greek commentators, Luther, and others: "satisfaction" "(legitimate) gratification." So the apostle is made to charge the false teachers with "not honouring the body, so as to grant the flesh its due gratification." But this rendering confounds the "body" and the "flesh," here contrasted, and gives πλησμονὴ a meaning without lexical warrant (see Meyer and Lightfoot). And the sentiment it expresses errs on the anti-ascetic side, and comes into collision with Romans 13:14 and Galatians 5:16. Πλησμονή, in the LXX and in Philo, as in earlier Greek, denotes "physical repletion," and is associated with drunkenness and sensual excess generally. Hence we cannot admit the interpretation of Meyer, Alford, Ellicott, who make the "flesh" here the sinful principle generally, and understand "surfeiting" figuratively, supposing the apostle to mean, that the ascetic rules in question, while they dishonour the body, tend to gratify the carnal mind." This gives an idea true in itself, and agreeing with the sense of "flesh" in vers. 11, 18, but out of place here, while it strains the meaning of πλησμονή (see Lightfoot's exhaustive argument). The preposition πρὸς does not help us, meaning "for" or "against," according to its connection. We combine Lightfoot's interpretation of πρὸς πλησμονὴν τῆς σαρκὸς with Wordsworth's and Alford's of οὐκ ἐν τιμῇ τινί. The saying of Philippians 3:19 ("whose god is their belly, and their glory in their shame") contains the same opposition of "honour" to "fleshly indulgence" as that supposed here, possibly suggested by the phrase, "surfeiting of dishonor" (πλησμονὴ ἀτιμίας), of the LXX in Habakkuk 2:16. Here, then, the apostle lays hold of the root principle of the false teachers' whole scheme of morality, its hostility to the body as a material organism. Such a treatment, he declares, dishonours the body, while it fails, and for this very reason, to prevent that feeding of the flesh, the fostering of sensual appetency and habit, in which lies our real peril and dishonour in regard to this vessel of our earthly life. Here we have a suitable starting-point for the exhortations of the next chapter, where the apostle, in vers. 1-4, shows the true path of deliverance from sensual sin, and in vers. 5-7 sets forth the Christian asceticism - "unsparing treatment" of the flesh indeed! The line of teaching adopted by the errorists may be illustrated by Philo's doctrine in his third book of the 'Allegories of the Sacred Law,' § 22: "'God saw that Er was wicked;' for he knows that this leathern burden of ours, the body - for Er, being interpreted, is leathern - is evil and always plotting against the soul; and it is ever under the power of death, indeed actually dead [comp. Romans 8:10]. Yet this all do not see, but only God, and those he loves. For when the mind [νοῦς comp. note, ver. 18] becomes engaged in sublime contemplations and is initiated into the mysteries of the Lord [note, Colossians 1:26], it judges the body to be evil and hostile;" again ('On the Change of Names,' § 4): "Pale and wasted, and reduced to skeletons as it were, are the men devoted to instruction, having transferred to the powers of the soul their bodily vigour also, so that they have become, as we might say, dissolved into a single form of being, that of pure soul made bodiless by force of thought [διανοία: see Colossians 1:21, note]. In them the earthly is destroyed and overwhelmed, when reason [νοῦς: ver. 18], pervading them wholly, has see its choice on being well pleasing to God." The writer has attempted an elucidation of this verse in the Expositor, first series, vol. 12. pp. 289-303.