Colossians 2
Vincent's Word Studies
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;
I would that ye knew (θέλω ὑμᾶς εἰδέναι)

Paul's more usual form of expression is, I would not have you to be ignorant. See on Romans 1:13.

What great conflict I have (ἡλίκον ἀγῶνα ἔχω)

Rev., how greatly I strive. Ἡλίκον what great, only here and James 3:5. Conflict, continuing the metaphor of Colossians 1:29. Here of inward conflict, anxiety, prayer, as Colossians 4:12.


See on Revelation 3:14.

And for as many as (καὶ ὅσοι)

Including all who come under the same category as the Colossians and Laodicaeans. Hence equivalent to all who, like yourselves, have not seen, etc. See, for a similar usage, Acts 4:6; Revelation 18:17. Indicating that the Colossians and Laodicaeans were both personally unknown to Paul.

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;
Comforted (παρακληθῶσιν)

Not so much tranquilized as braced. See on John 14:16.

Knit together (συμβιβασθέντες)

See on proving, Acts 9:22. In the Septuagint it means to instruct, as Exodus 18:16; Deuteronomy 4:9; Isaiah 40:13 (compare 1 Corinthians 2:16); Psalm 31:8. Used of putting together in one's mind, and so to conclude by comparison. Thus Acts 16:10, assuredly gathering, Rev., concluding.

Full assurance (πληροφορίας)

Or fullness. See Hebrews 6:11; Hebrews 10:22.

Of understanding (συνέσεως)

See on Mark 12:33; see on Luke 2:47.

To the acknowledgment (εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν)

Wrong. Ἑπίγνωσις is the full knowledge, as Colossians 1:9 (note). Rev., that they may know.

Of God

The best textual authorities add Χριστοῦ of Christ. So Rev., of God, even Christ. Christ is in apposition with mystery. Compare Colossians 1:27.

In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Hid (ἀπόκρυφοι)

Only here, Mark 4:22; Luke 8:17. Compare 1 Corinthians 2:7. Not to be joined with are, as A.V. Its position at the end of the sentence, and so far from are, shows that it is added as an emphatic secondary predicate. Hence, as Rev., in whom are all the treasures, etc., hidden. For a similar construction, see Colossians 3:1, "where Christ is on the right hand of God seated (there)." James 1:17, "Every perfect gift is from above, coming down." Grammatically, hidden may be taken as an attribute of treasures; "in whom the hidden treasures are contained;" but the other is preferable. The words which immediately follow in Colossians 2:4, suggest the possibility that hidden may convey an allusion to the Apocrypha or secret writings of the Essenes, whose doctrines entered into the Colossian heresy. Such writings, which, later, were peculiar also to the Gnostics, contained the authoritative secret wisdom, the esoteric teaching for the learned few. If such is Paul's allusion, the word suggests a contrast with the treasures of christian wisdom which are accessible to all in Christ.

Wisdom and knowledge

See on Romans 11:33.

And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.
Beguile (παραλογίζηται)

Only here and James 1:22. See note. Rev., delude. So Ignatius, speaking of the duty of obedience to the bishop, says: "He that fails in this, does not deceive the visible bishop, but attempts to cheat (παραλογίζεται) the Invisible" (Epistle to Magnesians, 3). The word is found in the Septuagint, Joshua 9:22; 1 Samuel 19:17; 2 Samuel 21:5.

Enticing words (πιθανολογίᾳ)

Rev., persuasiveness of speech. Only here in the New Testament. In classical Greek, of probable argument as opposed to demonstration. So Plato: "Reflect whether you are disposed to admit of probability (πιθανολογίᾳ) and figures of speech in matters of such importance" ("Theaetetus," 163). Compare 1 Corinthians 2:4.

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.
Order (τάξιν)

Or orderly array. A military metaphor, quite possibly suggested by Paul's intercourse with the soldiers in his confinement. See on Philippians 1:13.

Steadfastness (στερέωμα)

Only here in the New Testament. See on 1 Peter 5:9. The kindred adjective στερεός solid, occurs 2 Timothy 2:19; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 5:9; and the verb στερεόω to make solid, Acts 3:7; Acts 16:5. The military metaphor is continued. Faith is represented as a host solidly drawn up: your solid front, close phalanx. The verb is found in this sense in the Apocrypha, 1 Macc. 10:50, "ἐστερέωσε τὸν πόλεμον, he solidified the battle; massed his lines. Compare Ezekiel 13:5, where the noun has the sense of stronghold: "They stood not ἐν στερέωματι in the stronghold." So Psalm 17:2, "The Lord is my strength;" stronghold or bulwark. The firmament, Genesis 1:6; Ezekiel 1:22. In Esther 9:22, of the confirmation of a letter.

As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
Ye received (παρελάβετε)

By transmission from (παρά) your teachers.

Christ Jesus the Lord (τὸν Χριστόν Ἱησοῦν τὸν Κὑριον)

The Christ, specially defined by the following words, thus emphasizing the personal Christ rather than the Gospel, because the true doctrine of Christ's person was perverted by the Colossian teachers. The Christ, even Jesus, the Lord.

Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
Rooted - built up (ἐῤῥιζωμένοι - ἐποικοδομούμενοι)

Note the change of metaphor from the solidity of military array to walking, rooting of a tree, and then to building. The metaphors of rooting and being founded occur together, Ephesians 3:17. Compare 1 Corinthians 3:9. In Jeremiah 1:10, ἐκριζοῦν to root out is applied to a kingdom, and the words to build and to plant follow. It must be said that ῥιζόω to cause to take root is often used in the sense of firmness or fixedness without regard to its primary meaning. Built up. The preposition ἐπί upon indicates the placing of one layer upon another. See on Acts 20:32, and see on 1 Corinthians 3:9. Compare 1 Corinthians 3:10-14; Ephesians 2:20. note also the change of tenses: having been rooted (perfect participle), being (in process of) built up and strengthened (present participle).

In Him (ἐν αὐτῶ)

Rather than upon Him, as might have been expected. In this and in the Ephesian epistle, Christ is represented as the sphere within which the building goes on. Compare Ephesians 2:20. The whole upbuilding of the Church proceeds within the compass of Christ's personality, life, and power.

Thanksgiving (εὐχαριστίᾳ)

For Paul's emphasis on thanksgiving, see Romans 1:21; Romans 14:6; 2 Corinthians 1:11; 2 Corinthians 4:15; 2 Corinthians 9:11, 2 Corinthians 9:12; Ephesians 5:20; 1 Timothy 2:1, etc. Εὐχαριστός thankful, εὐχαριστεῖν to give thanks, εὐχαριστία thanksgiving, are found only in Paul's writings.

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.
Beware (βλέπετε)

Lit., see to it.

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

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

Philosophy and vain deceit (τῆς φιλοσοφίας καὶ κενῆς ἀπάτης)

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

After the tradition

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

Rudiments (στοιχεῖα)

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

Of the world

Material as contrasted with spiritual.

For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

See on Colossians 1:19.

Godhead (θεότητος)

Only here in the New Testament. See on Romans 1:20, where θειότης divinity or godhood is used. Appropriate there, because God personally would not be known from His revelation in nature, but only His attributes - His majesty and glory. Here Paul is speaking of the essential and personal deity as belonging to Christ. So Bengel: "Not the divine attributes, but the divine nature."

Bodily (σωματικῶς)

In bodily fashion or bodily-wise. The verse contains two distinct assertions: 1. That the fullness of the Godhead eternally dwells in Christ. The present tense κατοικεῖ dwelleth, is used like ἐστιν is (the image), Colossians 1:15, to denote an eternal and essential characteristic of Christ's being. The indwelling of the divine fullness in Him is characteristic of Him as Christ, from all ages and to all ages. Hence the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in Him before His incarnation, when He was "in the form of God" (Philippians 2:6). The Word in the beginning, was with God and was God (John 1:1). It dwelt in Him during His incarnation. It was the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth, and His glory which was beheld was the glory as of the Only begotten of the Father (John 1:14; compare 1 John 1:1-3). The fullness of the Godhead dwells in His glorified humanity in heaven.

2. The fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him in a bodily way, clothed the body. This means that it dwells in Him as one having a human body. This could not be true of His preincarnate state, when He was "in the form of God," for the human body was taken on by Him in the fullness of time, when "He became in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:7), when the Word became flesh. The fullness of the Godhead dwelt in His person from His birth to His ascension. He carried His human body with Him into heaven, and in His glorified body now and ever dwells the fullness of the Godhead.

"O, for a sight, a blissful sight

Of our Almighty Father's throne!

There sits the Savior crowned with light,

Clothed in a body like our own.

"Adoring saints around Him stand,

And thrones and powers before Him fall;

The God shines gracious through the man,

And sheds sweet glories on them all."


"What a contrast to the human tradition and the rudiments of the world" (Meyer). What a contrast to the spiritual agencies conceived as intermediate between God and men, in each of which the divine fullness was abridged and the divine glory shaded, in proportion to the remoteness from God in successive emanation.

And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
Ye are complete in Him (ἐστε ἐν αὐτῷ πεπληρωμένοι)

Rev., made full. Compare John 1:16; Ephesians 1:23; Ephesians 3:19; Ephesians 4:13. Not, ye are made full in Him, but ye are in Him, made full. In Him dwells the fullness; being in Him, ye are filled. Compare John 17:21; Acts 17:28.

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:
Not made with hands

Compare Mark 14:58; 2 Corinthians 5:1. In allusion to the literal circumcision insisted on by the false teachers.

In the putting off (ἐν τῇ ἀπεκδύσει)

Only here in the New Testament; and the kindred verb ἀπεκδύομαι to put off only Colossians 2:15 and Colossians 3:9. The verb ἐκδύομαι means to strip off from one's self, as clothes or armor; ἐκ out of, having the force of getting out of one's garments. By the addition to the verb of ἀπό from, there is added to the idea of getting out of one's clothes that of getting away from them; so that the word is a strong expression for wholly putting away from one's self. In the putting off, is in the act or process of. Not by.

The body of the sins of the flesh (τοῦ σώματος τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν τῆς σαρκὸς)

Omit of the sins. The body of the flesh (compare on Colossians 1:22) is the body which consists of the flesh, flesh having its moral sense of that material part which is the seat and organ of sin, "the flesh with its passions and lusts" (Galatians 5:24; compare 1 John 2:16). See on Colossians 1:24. For the distinction between σῶμα body and σάρξ flesh, see on flesh, Romans 7:5, sec. 3.

In the circumcision of Christ (ἐν τῇ περιτομῇ τοῦ Χριστοῦ)

The spiritual circumcision effected through Christ. See Ephesians 2:11; Philippians 3:3; Romans 2:29. In, as above. The fleshly circumcision removed only a portion of the body. In spiritual circumcision, through Christ, the whole corrupt, carnal nature is put away like a garment which is taken off and laid aside.

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.
Buried (συνταφέντες)

See on Romans 6:4. The aorist tense puts the burial as contemporaneous with the circumcision. Ye were circumcised when ye were buried, etc.

In baptism (ἐν τῷ βαπτίσματι or βαπτισμῷ)

The article, the baptism points to the familiar rite, or may have the force of your.

Wherein also (ἐν ᾧ καὶ)

Referring to baptism, not to Christ.

Ye were raised with Him (συνηγέρθητε)

The burial and the raising are both typified in baptism. The raising is not the resurrection to eternal life at Christ's second coming, but the moral resurrection to a new life. This corresponds with the drift of the entire passage, with the figurative sense of buried, and with Romans 6:4, which is decisive.

Through the faith of the operation of God

Not the faith which God works, but your faith in God's working: faith in God's energy as displayed in Christ's resurrection. Hence the emphasis which is laid on faith in the resurrection. See 1 Corinthians 15:3, 1 Corinthians 15:4 (note); Romans 10:9; Ephesians 1:19. Colossians 2:11, Colossians 2:12 should be compared with Romans 6:2-6.

And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
Dead (νεκροὺς)

Morally, as Ephesians 2, Ephesians 1:5; Romans 6:11. In your sins (ἐν τοῖς παραπτῶμασιν) The best texts omit ἐν in, and the dative is instrumental, through or by. Rev., through your trespasses. See on Matthew 6:14.

The uncircumcision of your flesh

That sinful, carnal nature of which uncircumcision was the sign, and which was the source of the trespasses. Compare Ephesians 2:11.

He quickened together (συνεζωοποίησεν)

Only here and Ephesians 2:5. Endowed with a new spiritual life, as Colossians 2:12. This issues in immortal life. Compare Ephesians 2:6.

Having forgiven us (χαρισάμενος ἡμῖν)

Freely (χάρις grace, free gift), as Luke 7:42; 2 Corinthians 2:7, 2 Corinthians 2:10; Colossians 3:13. Note the change of pronoun from you to us, believers generally, embracing himself. This change from the second to the first person, or, vice versa, is common in Paul's writings. See Colossians 1:10-13; Colossians 3:3, Colossians 3:4; Ephesians 2:2, Ephesians 2:3, Ephesians 2:13, Ephesians 2:14; Ephesians 4:31, Ephesians 4:32.

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;
Blotting out (ἐξαλείψας)

See on Acts 3:19 : compare Revelation 3:5. The simple verb ἀλείφω means to anoint, see on John 11:2. Hence to besmear. The compounded preposition ἐξ means completely. The compound verb here is used by Thucydides of whitewashing a wall; 1 Chronicles 29:4, of overlaying walls with gold. The preposition also carries the sense of removal; hence to smear out; to wipe away.

The handwriting (τὸ χειρόγραφον)

The A.V. has simply translated according to the composition of the noun, χείρ hand, γράφω to write. Properly an autograph, and specially a note of hand, bond. Compare Tobit 5:3; 9:5. Transcribed, chirographus and chirographon, it appears often in Latin authors, especially in law-books. So Juvenal, of a rascally neighbor, who declares his note of hand void, and the tablets on which it is written as so much useless wood (xvi., 41). Suetonius, of the promise of marriage given by Caligula to Ennia Naevia "under oath and bond" (chirographo, "Caligula," 12).

Of ordinances (τοῖς δόγμασιν)

See on Luke 2:1. Lit., in ordinances; consisting in, or, as Rev., written in, as suggested by handwriting. As Paul declares this bond to be against us, including both Jews and Gentiles, the reference, while primarily to the Mosaic law, is to be taken in a wider sense, as including the moral law of God in general, which applied to the Gentiles as much as to the Jews. See Romans 3:19. The law is frequently conceived by Paul with this wider reference, as a principle which has its chief representative in the Mosaic law, but the applications of which are much wider. See on Romans 2:12. This law is conceived here as a bond, a bill of debt, standing against those who have not received Christ. As the form of error at Colossae was largely Judaic, insisting on the Jewish ceremonial law, the phrase is probably colored by this fact. Compare Ephesians 2:15.

Which was contrary to us (ὃ ἦν ὑπεναντίον ἡμῖν)

He has just said which was against us (το καθ' ἡμῶν); which stood to our debit, binding us legally. This phrase enlarges on that idea, emphasizing the hostile character of the bond, as a hindrance. Compare Romans 4:15; Romans 5:20; 1 Corinthians 15:56; Galatians 3:23. "Law is against us, because it comes like a taskmaster, bidding us do, but neither putting the inclination into our hearts nor the power into our hands. And law is against us, because the revelation of unfulfilled duty is the accusation of the defaulter, and a revelation to him of his guilt. And law is against us, because it comes with threatenings and foretastes of penalty and pain. Thus, as standard, accuser, and avenger it is against us" (Maclaren).

Took it out of the way (αὐτὸ ἦρκεν ἐκ τοῦ μέσου)

Lit., out of the midst.

Nailing it to His cross (προσηλώσας αὐτὸ τῷ σταυρῷ)

Rev., the cross. The verb occurs nowhere else. The law with its decrees was abolished in Christ's death, as if crucified with Him. It was no longer in the midst, in the foreground, as a debtor's obligation is perpetually before him, embarrassing his whole life. Ignatius: "I perceived that ye were settled in unmovable faith, as if nailed (καθηλωμένους) upon the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, both in flesh and spirit" (To Smyrna, 1).

And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
Having spoiled principalities and powers (ἀπεκδυσάμενος τὰς ἀρχὰς καὶ τὰς ἐξουσίας)

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

He made a show of them (ἐδειγμάτισεν)

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

Openly (ἐν παῤῥησίᾳ)

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

Triumphing over them (θραιμβεύσας αὐτοὺς)

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

In it (ἐν αὐτῷ)

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

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:

Conclusion from the canceling of the bond. The allusions which follow (Colossians 2:16-19) are to the practical and theoretical forms of the Colossian error, as in Colossians 2:9-15; excessive ritualism, asceticism, and angelic mediation.

Judge (κρινέτω)

Sit in judgment.

Meat - drink (βρώσει - πόσει)

Properly, eating, drinking, as 1 Corinthians 8:4; but the nouns are also used for that which is eaten or drunk, as John 4:32 (see note); John 6:27, John 6:55; Romans 14:17. For the subject-matter compare Romans 14:17; 1 Corinthians 8:8; Hebrews 9:10, and note on Mark 7:19. The Mosaic law contained very few provisions concerning drinks. See Leviticus 10:9; Leviticus 11:34, Leviticus 11:36; Numbers 6:3. Hence it is probable that the false teachers had extended the prohibitions as to the use of wine to all Christians. The Essenes abjured both wine and animal food.

In respect (ἐν μέρει)

See on 2 Corinthians 3:10. Lit., in the division or category.

Holyday (ἑορτῆς)

Festival or feast-day. The annual festivals. The word holyday is used in its earlier sense of a sacred day.

New moon (νουμηνίας)

Only here in the New Testament. The monthly festivals. The festival of the new moon is placed beside the Sabbath, Isaiah 1:13; Ezekiel 46:1. The day was celebrated by blowing of trumpets, special sacrifices, feasting, and religious instruction. Labor was suspended, and no national or private fasts were permitted to take place. The authorities were at great pains to fix accurately the commencement of the month denoted by the appearance of the new moon. Messengers were placed on commanding heights to watch the sky, and as soon as the new moon appeared, they hastened to communicate it to the synod, being allowed even to travel on the Sabbath for this purpose. The witnesses were assembled and examined, and when the judges were satisfied the president pronounced the words it is sanctified, and the day was declared new moon.

Sabbath days (σαββάτων)

The weekly festivals. Rev., correctly, day, the plural being used for the singular. See on Luke 4:31; see on Acts 20:7. The plural is only once used in the New Testament of more than a single day (Acts 17:2). The same enumeration of sacred seasons occurs 1 Chronicles 23:31; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 2 Chronicles 31:3; Ezekiel 45:17; Hosea 2:11.

Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
Which are

Explanatory. Seeing they are. Referring to all the particulars of Colossians 2:16.

Shadow of things to come

Shadow, not sketch or outline, as is shown by body following. The Mosaic ritual system was to the great verities of the Gospel what the shadow is to the man, a mere general type or resemblance.

The body is Christ's

The substance belongs to the Christian economy. It is derived from Christ, and can be realized only through union with Him.

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,
Beguile of reward (καταβραβευέτω)

Only here in the New Testament. From κατά against, βραβεύω to act as a judge or umpire. Hence to decide against one, or to declare him unworthy of the prize. Bishop Lightfoot's rendering rob you of your prize, adopted by Rev., omits the judicial idea, which, however, I think must be retained, in continuation of the idea of judgment in Colossians 2:16, "let no man judge," etc. The attitude of the false teachers would involve their sitting in judgment as to the future reward of those who refused their doctrine of angelic mediation. Paul speaks from the standpoint of their claim.

In a voluntary humility (θέλων ἐν ταπεινοφροσύνῃ)

Render delighting in humility. This rendering is well supported by Septuagint usage. See 1 Samuel 18:22; 2 Samuel 15:26; 1 Kings 10:9; 2 Chronicles 9:8. It falls in, in the regular participial series, with the other declarations as to the vain conceit of the teachers; signifying not their purpose or their wish to deprive the Christians of their reward, but their vain enthusiasm for their false doctrine, and their conceited self-complacency which prompted them to sit as judges. The worship of angels involved a show of humility, an affectation of superior reverence for God, as shown in the reluctance to attempt to approach God otherwise than indirectly: in its assumption that humanity, debased by the contact with matter, must reach after God through successive grades of intermediate beings. For humility, see on Matthew 11:29.

Worship of angels (θρησκείᾳ)

See on religious, James 1:26. Defining the direction which their humility assumed. The usage of the Septuagint and of the New Testament limits the meaning to the external aspects of worship. Compare Acts 26:5; James 1:27.

Intruding (ἐμβατεύων)

Rev., dwelling in. Only here in the New Testament. It is used in three senses: 1. To step in or upon, thence to haunt or frequent. So Aeschylus: "A certain island which Pan frequents on its beach" ("Persae," 449). 2. To invade. So in Apocrypha, 1 Macc. 12:25; 13:20; 14:31; 15:40. 3. To enter into for examination; to investigate or discuss a subject. So 2 Macc. 2:30, and so Philo, who compares truth-seekers to well-diggers. Patristic writers use it of searching the heart, and of investigating divine mysteries. Byzantine lexicographers explain it by ζητέω to seek; ἐξερευνάω to track out; σκοπέω to consider. In this last sense the word is probably used here of the false teachers who professed to see heavenly truth in visions, and to investigate and discuss philosophically the revelation they had received.

Which he hath not seen

Not must be omitted: which he imagines or professes that he has seen in vision. Ironical. "If, as we may easily imagine, these pretenders were accustomed to say with an imposing and mysterious air, 'I have seen, ah! I have seen,' - in relating alleged visions of heavenly things, the Colossians would understand the reference well enough" (Findlay).

Vainly puffed up (εἰκὴ φυσιούμενος)

Vainly characterizes the emptiness of such pretension; puffed up, the swelling intellectual pride of those who make it. See on 1 Corinthians 4:6; and compare 1 Corinthians 8:1. The humility is thus characterized as affected, and the teachers as charlatans.

By his fleshly mind (ὑπὸ τοῦ νοὸς τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ)

Lit., by the mind of his flesh. The intellectual faculty in its moral aspects as determined by the fleshly, sinful nature. See on Romans 8:23. Compare Romans 7:22-25; Romans 8:7. The teachers boasted that they were guided by the higher reason. Paul describes their higher reason as carnal.

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.
Holding the head (κρατῶν τὴν κεφαλήν)

Holding by or fast, as commonly in the New Testament. Compare Sophocles: "If thou art to rule (ἄρξεις) this land, even as thou holdest it (κρατεῖς "Oedipus Tyrannus," 54). The head, Christ as contrasted with the angelic mediators.

From whom (ἐξ οὗ)

Fixing the personal reference of the head to Christ. Compare Ephesians 4:16.

By joints and bands (διὰ τῶν ἁφῶν καὶ συνδέσμων)

Joints (ἁφῶν) only here and Ephesians 4:16. The word means primarily touching, and is used in classical Greek of the touch upon harpstrings, or the grip of a wrestler. Not quite the same as joints in the sense of the parts in contact, but the relations between the adjacent parts. The actual connection is expressed by bands or ligaments.

Ministered (ἐπιχορηγουμένον)

See on add, 2 Peter 1:5. Rev., supplied.

Knit together

See on Colossians 2:2. "The discoveries of modern physiology have invested the apostle's language with far greater distinctness and force than it can have worn to his own contemporaries. Any exposition of the nervous system more especially reads like a commentary on the image of the relations between the body and the head. At every turn we meet with some fresh illustration which kindles it with a flood of light. The volition communicated from the brain to the limbs, the sensations of the extremities telegraphed back to the brain, the absolute mutual sympathy between the head and the members, the instantaneous paralysis ensuing, on the interruption of continuity, all these add to the completeness and life of the image" (Lightfoot).

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,
Ye be dead (ἀπεθάνετε)

Rev., more correctly, ye died; the aorist tense indicating a definite event. Paul uses the word died in many different relations, expressing that with which death dissolves the connection. Thus, died unto sin, unto self, unto the law, unto the world.

Rudiments of the world

Elementary teachings and practices the peculiar sphere of which is the world. World (κόσμου) has its ethical sense, the sum-total of human life in the ordered world, considered apart from, alienated from, and hostile to God, and of the earthly things which seduce from God. See on John 1:9.

Are ye subject to ordinances (δογματίζεσθε)

Only here in the New Testament. Rev., subject yourselves. Better passive, as emphasizing spiritual bondage. Why do ye submit to be dictated to? See on 1 Corinthians 1:22, where the imperious attitude of the Jews appears in their demanding credentials of the Gospel as sole possessors of the truth. The ordinances include both those of the law and of philosophy.

(Touch not; taste not; handle not;
Touch - taste - handle (ἅψῃ - γεύσῃ - θίγῃς)

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

Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?
Which things

Meats, drinks, etc.

Are to perish (ἐστιν εἰς φθορὰν)

Lit., are for corruption; destined for (εἰς) Corruption, in the physical sense of decomposition.

With the using (τῇ ἀποχρήσει)

Only here in the New Testament. Rather, using up, consumption. Their very using destroys them. Which things-using form a parenthesis.

After the commandments and doctrines (κατὰ τὰ ἐντάλματα καὶ διδασκαλίας)

Connect with Colossians 2:20, Colossians 2:21. Ἑντάλματα are specific injunctions. Rev., better, precepts: διδασκαλίας, more general, doctrinal instructions. Both answer to the rudiments of the world (Colossians 2:20). Compare Matthew 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23.

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.
Which things (ἅτινα)

The double relative classifies, putting these precepts and teachings, and all that are like them, in one category: a class of things which. For similar usage, see Galatians 4:24; Galatians 5:19; Philippians 4:3.

Have a show of wisdom (ἐστιν λόγον ἔχοντα σοφίας)

Lit., are having a reputation for wisdom. The finite verb are, with the participle having, denotes what is habitual, and marks the permanent quality of these precepts, etc. Λόγον, A.V., show, is rather plausible reason, a show of reason, and hence a reputation. They pass popularly for wisdom.

Will-worship (ἐθελοθρησκείᾳ)

Only here in the New Testament. Worship self-imposed or volunteered. Similar compounds of ἐθέλω to will sometimes carry the meaning of pretence, unreality; as ἐθελόκωφος pretending deafness; ἐθελορήτωρ a pretentious orator. Augustine makes hybrid Latin compounds, as thelodives, one who takes on the airs of a rich man; thelosapiens, one who affects wisdom. More commonly, however, the sense is that of voluntariness or officiousness. Thus Thucydides says that Pithias acted as ἐθελοπρόξενος voluntary agent or representative of the Athenians (iii., 70). Εθελοκίνδυνος is running voluntarily into danger, foolhardy: ἐθελοδουλεία is voluntary slavery. The idea of pretense seems to be involved here along with that of self-chosen worship.


Voluntary and affected.

And neglecting (καὶ ἀφειδίᾳ)

Only here in the New Testament. From ἀ not and φείδομαι to spare. Hence unsparing treatment or severity. Also used for lavishness, extravagance of means and of life. So Thucydides: "The running aground of the ships was reckless (ἀφειδὴς." iv. 26). Neglecting is wrong. Rev., correctly, severity. The καὶ and before severity is doubtful. If omitted, severity to the body defines have a reputation for wisdom, the outward austerity being that which makes the popular impression of a higher wisdom.

In any honor (ἐν τιμῇ τινὶ)

Rev., better, of any value. The real value of these ascetic practices contrasted with their popular estimation. Price or value is the original meaning of τιμή, and its use in this sense is frequent in classical Greek. So in the New Testament, as Matthew 27:9, "the price of Him who was priced (τετιμημένου)." In Paul, 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:23. The idea of value appears in 1 Peter 1:19. "Ye were redeemed - with the precious (τιμίῳ) blood of Christ;" something of real and adequate value. So 1 Peter 2:4, of Christ as the living stone, precious (ἔντιμον), of recognized value.

To the satisfying (πρὸς πλησμονὴν)

To means as a remedy against. Πλησμονὴν denotes repletion, surfeiting. Paul says that these ascetic observances, while they appeal to men as indications of superior wisdom and piety, have no value as remedies against sensual indulgence.

Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent [1886].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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