Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, March 3rd, 2024
the Third Sunday of Lent
There are 28 days til Easter!
For 10¢ a day you can enjoy StudyLight.org ads
free while helping to build churches and support pastors in Uganda.
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries
Colossians 1

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors





Verse 1

Colossians 1:1 . ἀπόστολος … διὰ θελ . Θεοῦ . The reference to his apostleship is not due to any attack on his apostolic authority or teaching, as in the case of the Epistles to the Galatians or Corinthians, but, as in the Epistle to the Romans, to the fact that he was unknown to those to whom he was writing. Similarly reference is made to it in the Epistle to the Ephesians, the letter being sent to Churches, to some of which, probably, Paul was unknown. In writing to the Macedonian Churches it is not mentioned, for they had been founded by him and remained loyal. Τιμόθεος : included in the salutations in Thess., 2 Cor., Phil. and Philm. He would be known by name to the Colossians as Paul’s companion, but probably not personally. Ramsay’s conjecture (also put forward by Valroger) that he may have founded the Church is unsupported and improbable (see Colossians 1:7 ), while Ewald’s view that he wrote the bulk of the Epistle, after consultation with Paul, has nothing to recommend it, and is open to serious objections. ὁ ἀδελφός is added to balance ἀπόστολος , and has no reference, as Chrysostom thought, to Timothy’s official position.

Verses 1-2


Verse 2

Colossians 1:2 . Paul does not address the Church as a Church. This has been explained by the fact that he stood in no official relation to the community, and therefore addressed individuals. But he does not mention the Church in Philippians , though he had founded it. The omission may be accidental; but he seems to have changed his custom in his later Epistles, since it occurs in all his letters to Churches from Romans downwards. ἁγίοις may be an adjective (so Kl. [1] , Weiss and others), but more probably a substantive (so Mey., Ell., Lightf., Ol., Sod., Haupt, Abb.), since Paul seems not to use it in the plural in an adjectival sense, except in Ephesians 3:5 , and in the salutations of 2 Cor., Eph. and Phil. it is certainly a substantive. Like ἀδελφοῖς it may be joined with ἐν Χ ., but should more probably be taken by itself. The saints are those who are set apart for God, as belonging to His holy people, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16 ); the privileges of the chosen nation under the Old Covenant being transferred to Christians under the New. πιστοῖς : not to be taken in the passive sense (as by Ew., Ell., Lightf., Abb., R.V.) = “steadfast,” “faithful,” with tacit reference to the falling away to false doctrine. Combined with ἀδελφ . its meaning would be faithful to Paul, which would have no point here. It should be taken here, as by most commentators, in the sense of “believing”. ἐν Χριστῷ . It is significant that Χριστός occurs alone very frequently in this Epistle, but Ἰησοῦς never (though Κυρίου ἡμ . Ἰησοῦ , Colossians 1:3 ; Κυρ . Ἰησ ., Colossians 3:17 ). No doubt this is to be accounted for by the need for emphasis on the doctrine of the Person of Christ. χάρις ὑμῖν κ . εἰρήνη . This combination is found in all the Epistles that claim to be Paul’s except the Pastorals, where it is modified. The formula, which was probably constructed by Paul, combines the Greek and Hebrew forms of salutation. ἀπὸ Θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν . This is not added in 1 Thess. The other Epistles add καὶ Κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ . No importance is to be attached to their omission here. Cf. the similarly shortened form ἡ χάρις μεθʼ ὑμῶν (Colossians 4:18 ).

[1] Klöpper.

Verse 3

Colossians 1:3 . τῷ Θεῷ πατρὶ κ . τ . λ .: “to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus”. Even if Θεῷ καὶ πατρὶ were read, we should probably not make Κυρίου dependent on Θεῷ as well as πατρὶ , since this is not Paul’s usual language, though it is found in Ephesians 1:17 ( ὁ Θεὸς τ . Κυρ . ἡμ . Ἰ . Χ .). πάντοτε is connected by several commentators (Beng., Alf., Ell., Findl., R.V.) with προσευχ . In favour of this is οὐ παυόμεθα ὑπ . ὑμ . προσευχ . (Colossians 1:9 ). But more probably it should be taken with εὐχαριστ . (Mey., Lightf., Ol., Haupt, Weiss, Abb.), as this is the usual collocation in Paul. But περὶ ὑμῶν belongs to προσευχ ., not (as Lightf., Ol.) to εὐχαριστ . “We always give thanks when we pray for you.”

Verses 3-8

Colossians 1:3-8 . PAUL’S THANKSGIVING FOR THE TIDINGS HE HAS RECEIVED OF THE SPIRITUAL WELFARE OF THE COLOSSIANS. According to his usual custom (so in Thess., 1 Cor., Rom., Phil., Philm.), Paul begins his letter with an expression of his thankfulness to God for the Christian graces of his readers. There is, however, a certain conventional element in these greetings, as may be seen from a comparison of similar formulæ in letters found among recently discovered papyri (see articles by Prof. Rendel Harris in The Expositor for Sept. and Dec., 1898). Ephesians 1:15-17 is parallel to Colossians 1:3-4 ; Colossians 1:9 .

Verse 4

Colossians 1:4 . Paul now introduces the grounds of his thankfulness, the good report he has heard as to the faith and love of the Colossians. He refers to it again (Colossians 1:9 ). πίστιν ἐν Χ . ἐν may be equivalent to εἰς , but probably indicates “the sphere in which their faith moves rather than the object to which it is directed” (Lightf.). This faith rests upon Christ. πίστ . is wrongly taken by Ewald to mean “fidelity”. πάντας , i.e. , all Christians throughout the world, whose unity in the universal Church was a thought much in Paul’s mind at this time.

Verse 5

Colossians 1:5 . διὰ τὴν ἐλπίδα . This is connected by Bengel, followed by several recent commentators (Hofm., Kl [2] , Ol., Haupt, Weiss, Abb.), with εὐχαριστοῦμεν . Having heard of their faith and love, Paul gives thanks for the hope laid up for them in heaven. Lightfoot and Soden urge that in this way the triad of Christian graces, faith, hope and love, is broken up. But “hope” is objective here, not the grace of hope, but the object of that hope. It is true that Paul glides from the subjective to the objective use of ἐλπίς in Romans 8:24 , but if this combination had been intended here he would probably have simply co-ordinated the three terms. A more serious objection is that εὐχαριστ . is so far away, though Haupt urges that διὰ τ . ἐλπ . could not have come in earlier. Further, Paul never uses this constr. εὐχαριστ . διὰ . It is also his custom, at the beginning of his Epistles, to give thanks for the Christian character of his readers (which he hardly does in Colossians 1:4 ), not for the heavenly reward that awaits them. Others (De W., Lightf., Sod.) connect it with τ . πίστιν … καὶ τ . ἀγάπην . This gives a good sense, their faith and love have their ground in their hope of reward. But we should have expected the article before a clause thus added to substantives. It is simplest to refer it to τὴν ἀγ . ἣν ἔχετε (Chrys., Mey., Ell., Alf., Franke), and interpret it of the love which is due to the hope of a heavenly reward. It is urged that a love of this calculating kind is foreign to Paul, but Cf. 2 Corinthians 9:6 , Galatians 6:9 . ἐν τ . οὐρανοῖς . Cf. the reward or treasure in heaven (Matthew 5:12 ; Matthew 6:20 ; Matthew 19:21 ), the citizenship in heaven (Philippians 3:20 ), the inheritance reserved in heaven (1 Peter 1:4 ). ἣν προηκούσατε . The reference in προ . is disputed. Bengel and Klöpper think it means before the writing of this letter; Meyer, Hofmann and Haupt before its fulfilment. But more probably it is to be taken of their first hearing of the Gospel (so Lightf., Ol., Abb.), perhaps in tacit contrast to the false teaching they had recently heard. Haupt, it is true, denies that there is any reference to the false teachers in Colossians 1:2-8 ; but though none can be proved, it is surely probable that the turn of several expressions should be determined by the subject which was uppermost in the Apostle’s mind, and that he should thus prepare his readers for the direct attack. λόγῳ τῆς ἀληθείας τοῦ εὐαγγελίου . Cf. Ephesians 1:13 , according to which τ . εὐαγγ . should be taken as in apposition to λόγ . τ . ἀλ ., “the word of truth, even the Gospel,” though it is often explained as the word of truth announced in the Gospel. It is not clear what λόγ . τ . ἀλ . means. Several give the genitive an adjectival force, “the true word,” but more probably it expresses the content, the word which contains the truth. Perhaps here also there is a side-thrust at the false teachers.

[2] Klöpper.

Verse 6

Colossians 1:6 . This word of the truth has been defined as the Gospel, but Paul now proceeds to indicate more precisely what he means by this term. It is that Gospel which they have already received, not the local perversion of it that has recently been urged on their notice, but that which is spreading in the whole world, its truth authenticated by its ever-widening area and deepening influence on its adherents, and which manifests the same inherent energy among the Colossians themselves, in the form in which they learnt it from their teacher Epaphras. καθὼς καὶ ἐν παντὶ … ἐν ὑμῖν . According to the TR. καὶ ἔστι , two statements are made that the Gospel is present with the Colossians as it is present in all the world, and that it is bearing fruit and increasing as it is among the Colossians. The omission of καὶ before ἐστὶν καρ . creates a little awkwardness, since καθὼς καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν seems then superfluous. Lightfoot takes ἐστ . καρ . together as a periphrasis for καρποφορεῖται , but this construction is very rare in Paul. The symmetry of clauses is much better preserved if, with Soden and Haupt, we write ἔστιν , καρ . We thus get the same double comparison as with the TR. , Paul passing from the special to the general, and from the general back to the special. For the hyperbole ἐν π . τ . κόσμῳ , Cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:8 , Romans 1:8 ; Romans 10:18 . As Gess points out ( Christi Person und Werk , ii., 1, p. 228), Paul wishes here and in Colossians 1:23 to widen the outlook of the Colossians, since the more isolated the community the greater the danger from seducers. For the similar feeling that local idiosyncrasies are to be controlled by the general custom of the Church, Cf. 1 Corinthians 11:16 ; 1 Corinthians 14:36 ( Cf. 33). καρποφορούμενον καὶ αὐξανόμενον . The former of these participles expresses the inward energy of the Gospel (dynamic middle) in its adherents, the latter its extension in the world by gathering in new converts. ἀφʼ ἧς ἡμέρας . This expresses the further fact that the progress of the Gospel has been continuous from the first in the Colossian Church. ἠκούσατε … Θεοῦ . It is uncertain whether χάριν is governed by both verbs (so Lightf., Kl [3] , Ol., Sod., Abb.) or by the latter only (so Mey., Ell., Haupt). In the former case ἠκούς . will mean “were instructed in”. But it is simpler to translate “ye heard it [ i.e. , the Gospel] and knew the grace of God”, ἐπέγνωτε should strictly imply full knowledge, but as the reference is to the time of their conversion it seems doubtful whether this shade of meaning should be pressed. ἐπίγνωσις is in his mind. The word occurs twice in the context. The grace of God is probably mentioned in opposition to the false teachers doctrine of ordinances and rigorous asceticism. ἐν ἀληθείᾳ : not to be taken as if an adjective with χάριν , “the true grace of God,” for there is no false grace of God, but with ἐπεγ . in the sense that they knew the Gospel as it truly is, in its genuine reality, in opposition to the travesty of it recently introduced.

[3] Klöpper.

Verse 7

Colossians 1:7 . καθὼς , i.e. , in the manner in which. Paul thus sets the seal of his approval on the form of the Gospel which they had learnt from their teacher, and also on the teacher himself. Ἐπαφρᾶ . Epaphras was apparently the founder of the Colossian Church, ἐμάθετε referring to the same time as ἠκούσατε . He had remained in connexion with it (Colossians 4:12 ), and seems to have come to Paul to inform him of the teaching that was threatening its welfare. He is not to be identified with Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25 sq. , Philippians 4:18 ), who was connected with Philippi. The name was common. ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν . This is probably the correct reading; Epaphras is a minister to the Colossians on Paul’s behalf, since he has accomplished a task which belonged to Paul’s sphere as the Apostle of the Gentiles. The reading ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν may be taken in two ways, either (preferably) that he was a minister of Christ for the sake of the Colossians, in which case we should probably have had ὑμῖν or ἐν ὑμῖν or simply ὑμῶν ; or that he ministered to Paul as the representative of the Colossians, for which we should have expected “my minister” instead of “minister of Christ”.

Verse 8

Colossians 1:8 . τὴν ὑμῶν ἀγάπην may be taken in the general sense of Colossians 1:4 , though many think it is their love to Paul that is meant; and this is favoured by δηλ . ἡμ ., and perhaps by καὶ ἡμεῖς in Colossians 1:9 . ἐν πνεύματι is added to show that this love is in the Holy Spirit.

Verse 9

Colossians 1:9 . διὰ τοῦτο . The good report from Colossæ prompts Paul’s prayer. Apparently the reference is to all that has been said in Colossians 1:4-8 , though Haupt confines it to Colossians 1:8 . καὶ ἡμεῖς : “we also,” i.e. , as the Colossians had prayed for Paul, so he had made unceasing prayer for them. Similar assurances are common in the letters of the period, but their conventional character must not in the case of one of so intense a nature as Paul’s lead us to degrade them into polite commonplaces. προσευχόμενοι καὶ αἰτούμενοι . The former verb is general, the latter special, referring to the definite request. Soden thinks the middle ( αἰτούμενοι ) is chosen to express Paul’s personal interest, but there seems to have been no distinction between the middle and active of this verb in later Greek. ἴνα πληρωθῆτε τὴν ἐπίγνωσιν . After verbs of praying, etc., ἴνα is used in a weakened sense to express the content of the prayer. πληρ . with the accusative is not precisely the same as with the genitive or dative. So here “filled with respect to”. ἐπίγνωσις is stronger than γνῶσις . Meyer defines it as the knowledge which grasps and penetrates into the object. τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ . This does not mean God’s counsel of redemption (Chrys., Beng., De W., Kl [4] ), nor “the whole counsel of God as made known to us in Christ” (Findl.), but, as the context indicates (Colossians 1:10 ), the moral aspect of God’s will, “His will for the conduct of our lives” (Mey., Sod., Haupt, Abb.). ἐν πάσῃ σοφίαᾳ καὶ συνέσει πνευματικῇ : to be taken with the preceding, not (as by Hofm.) with the following words. σοφία is general, σύνεσις special. σοφία embraces the whole range of mental faculties; σύνεσις is the special faculty of intelligence or insight which discriminates between the false and the true, and grasps the relations in which things stand to each other. The addition of πνευμ . shows that both are to proceed from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They thus stand in opposition to fleshly wisdom (2 Corinthians 1:12 ), and especially, it would seem, though Haupt denies this, to the false wisdom, by which the Colossians were in danger of being ensnared ( Cf. τοῦ νοὸς της σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ , Colossians 2:18 ). The repetition of πᾶς in this context should be noticed. The early part of the Epistle is strongly marked by repetition of particular words and phrases.

[4] Klöpper.

Verses 9-14


Verse 10

Colossians 1:10 . περιπατῆσαι ἀξίως τοῦ Κυρίου ( Cf. Ephesians 4:1 ). This lofty wisdom and insight is not an end in itself. It must issue in right practice. Doctrine and ethics are for Paul inseparable. Right conduct must be founded on right thinking, but right thinking must also lead to right conduct. The infinitive expresses result “so as to walk”. τοῦ Κυρ ., i.e. , of Christ, not of God (Hofm., Ol.). In 1 Thessalonians 2:12 τοῦ Θεοῦ is used, but ὁ Κύρ . in Paul means Christ. ἀρεσκείαν in classical Greek used generally in a bad sense, of obsequiousness. But it often occurs in Philo in a good sense; see the note on the word in Deissmann’s Bible Studies , p. 224. καρποφοροῦντες καὶ αὐξανόμενοι . For the collocation Cf. Colossians 1:6 . The participles should probably be connected with περιπατῆσαι , not (as by Beng., Hofm., Weiss) with πληρωθῆτε , which is too far away. The continuation of an infinitive by a nominative participle instead of the accusative is frequent in classical Greek, and occurs several times in Paul (Colossians 2:2 , Colossians 3:16 , Ephesians 4:2-3 ). They should not be separated. The whole clause should be translated “bearing fruit and increasing in every good work by the knowledge of God”. Fruit bearing is one of Paul’s favourite metaphors. τῇ ἐπιγνώσει : not as R.V. and Moule “in the knowledge,” for Paul has already spoken of this in Colossians 1:9 , but “by the knowledge,” the knowledge of God being the means of their spiritual growth. Meyer, against the overwhelming weight of evidence, reads εἰς τὴν ἐπίγνωσιν , “as regards the knowledge”. This would make knowledge the goal of conduct ( Cf. John 7:17 ), whereas previously the relation is reversed.

Verse 11

Colossians 1:11 . ἐν πάσῃ δυνάμει : “with all power,” ἐν being instrumental. κατὰ τὸ κράτος τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ . The equipment with power is proportioned not simply to the recipient’s need, but to the Divine supply. God’s glory is His manifested nature, here as manifested in might. εἰς πᾶσαν ὑπομονὴν καὶ μακροθυμίαν . This equipment with Divine power is not, as we might have expected, said to be given with a view to deeds of great spiritual heroism, but for the practice of passive virtues, since this often puts the greater strain on the Christian’s strength. ὑπομ . is endurance, steadfastness in face of trials, temptations and persecutions; μακροθ . is forbearance, the patience of spirit which will not retaliate. “The one is opposed to cowardice or despondency , the other to wrath or revenge ” (Lightf.). There seems to be no reference in μακροθ ., as Alford supposes, to their attitude in conflict with error. μετὰ χαρᾶς : not to be taken (as by Mey., Ell., Hofm., Weiss, Abb.) with εὐχαριστ ., which would be tautological and throw a false emphasis on these words, but with ὑπομ . κ . μακροθ . It forms a very necessary addition, for the peculiar danger of the exercise of those qualities is that it tends to produce a certain gloominess or sourness of disposition. The remedy is that the Christian should be so filled with joy that he is able to meet all his trials with a buoyant sense of mastery.

Verse 12

Colossians 1:12 . εὐχαριστοῦντες : not to be taken with οὐ παυόμεθα , Colossians 1:9 (Chrys., Beng.). Usually it is co-ordinated with the two preceding participial clauses. Haupt objects that it would be strange if thankfulness for participation in salvation were mentioned only after its consequences for Christian conduct had been deduced. He thinks it is a more precise development of μετὰ χαρᾶς ; joy being produced by our thankful consciousness of the benefits thus secured to us. There is force in this, though the form of expression strongly suggests the common view, and considerations of order should not, perhaps, be so rigidly pressed. τῷ πατρὶ . The word is selected to emphasise God’s Fatherly love as the source of their redemption; though Soden thinks that, as in Romans 6:4 , Paul has in mind God’s relation to Christ (so Alf.). τῷ ἱκανώσαντι ὑμᾶς : “who qualified you”. The reference is to status rather than character. εἰς τὴν μερίδα … φωτί . Lightfoot thinks τ . μερ . τ . κλ . is the portion which consists in the lot, κλήρου being a genitive of apposition (so Sod., Abb.). But probably κλ . is the general inheritance in which each individual has his μέρ . The lot is the blessedness awaiting the saints. More controverted is the connexion of ἐν τῷ φωτί . Meyer connects it with ἱκανώς . and takes ἐν as instrumental “by the light”. This is harsh, and φωτί in contrast to σκότους (Colossians 1:13 ) cannot mean the Gospel. Others connect it with ἁγίων , either in the sense of angels (so Kl [5] , Franke and Lueken) or saints (so Ol. and others). But the angels are never in the N.T. called οἱ ἅγιοι , though this term is used for them in the O.T. and Jewish Apocalyptic. Further, the contrast with the “darkness” of Colossians 1:13 loses its force unless the “holy ones” are Christians as opposed to non-Christians. And if Paul had meant this he would have expressed himself more plainly. Nor is any such reference probable in an Epistle directed especially against over-valuation of the angels. If saints are meant, unless (with Ol.) we give φωτί merely an ethical sense, they must be saints in heaven, for which we should have expected τῶν ἐν φωτί , as the object of the addition would be to distinguish them from saints on earth. ἐν φωτί should therefore be connected either with μερίδα (Beng.), μερίδα τ . κλήρου (Alf., Lightf.), or κλήρου (De W., Ell., Sod., Haupt). The difference is slight, and it seems simplest to connect with κλ ., “the lot of the saints [situated] in the light”; ἐν being probably local, and not expressing, as in Acts 8:21 , the idea of a share in the light. The precise sense of φῶς is disputed. Oltramare takes it of the state of holiness in which Christians live, so that the distinction between saints on earth and in heaven does not arise. But the immediate impression of the phrase is that the heavenly kingdom, where God dwells in light, is referred to.

[5] Klöpper.

Verse 13

Colossians 1:13 . Paul now explains how God has qualified them for their share in the heavenly inheritance. On this passage Acts 26:18 should be compared; the parallels extend to Colossians 1:12 ; Colossians 1:14 also. ἐρύσατο . The aorist refers to the time of conversion. The metaphor implies the miserable state of those delivered and the struggle necessary to deliver them. ἐξουσίας : “ubi τῇ βασιλείᾳ opponitur, est tyrannis” (Wetstein, so also Chrys., Lightf., Kl [6] ). This would heighten the contrast between the power of darkness and the “kingdom of the son of His love”. But Abbott argues forcibly against this view, especially with relation to the N.T. usage. He quotes Revelation 12:10 , ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ ἡμῶν καὶ ἐξουσία τοῦ Χριστοῦ αὐτοῦ , where the contrast obviously cannot be maintained. Grimm takes the term as a collective expression for the demoniacal powers; and Klöpper says that in Paul ἐξ . is not a mere abstract term, but signifies the possessors of power. Here, however, he rightly sees that the contrast to βας . makes this meaning inappropriate, and that for it ἐρύς . ἀπό would have been expected rather than ἐρύς . ἐκ . Accordingly he interprets it as the dominion possessed by the (personified) darkness. τοῦ σκότους : taken by Hofmann as a genitive of apposition, but the obvious interpretation is to take it as a subjective genitive, the dominion which darkness exercises. We should have expected simply “out of darkness” to correspond to “in light,” but Paul changes the form, partly to insist that the darkness is not a mere state but exercises an active authority, partly to secure a parallel with the kingdom of God’s Son. But we are not justified (with Mey., Kl [7] ) in personifying σκότος , for the primary contrast is with φωτί not υἱοῦ . μετέστησεν . Wetstein quotes Jos., Ant. , ix., 11, 1 (Tiglath-Pileser’s deportation of N.E. Israel), and Lightfoot thinks that this use of the word suggested the choice of it here, and this is made more probable by the addition of εἰς τ . βας . Meyer, however, quotes a striking parallel from Plato, where no such reference is present: ἔκ τε φωτὸς εἰς σκότος μεθισταμένων καὶ ἐκ σκότους εἰς φῶς ( Rep. , p. 518 A). βασιλείαν . Meyer insists that this is the Messianic kingdom, and as the realisation of this lay in the future to Paul the clause must have a proleptic reference, citizenship in the kingdom being guaranteed by their conversion. But the argument rests on a false premiss, for in 1 Corinthians 4:20 , Romans 14:17 , the sense is not eschatological. Nor, indeed, can it be so here, for the translation into the kingdom must have taken place at the same time as the deliverance. υἱοῦ τῆς ἀγάπης αὐτοῦ . Augustine, followed by Olshausen and Lightfoot, takes ἀγάπης as a genitive of origin, and interprets, the Son begotten of the essence of the Father, which is love. This has no parallel in the N.T., and rests, as Meyer points out, on a confusion of the metaphysical with the ethical essence of God. The phrase is practically equivalent to His beloved Son, but is chosen for the sake of emphasis to indicate His greatness and the excellence of His kingdom. There is, perhaps, the further thought that the love which rests on the Son must rest also on those who are one with Him.

[6] Klöpper.

[7] Klöpper.

Verse 14

Colossians 1:14 . This verse is parallel to Ephesians 1:7 . ἐν ᾧ : not by whom, but in whom; if we possess Christ, we possess in Him our deliverance. ἔχομεν : (present) we have as an abiding possession. ἀπολύτρωσιν : “deliverance”. The word is generally interpreted as ransom by payment of a price, for which Mark 10:45 , δοῦναι τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ λύτρον ἀντὶ πολλῶν , may be compared. But it is not certain that the word ever has this meaning. It is very rare in Greek writers (see reff.). The passage from Plutarch refers to pirates holding cities to ransom. But obviously the word here does not mean that we procure release by paying a ransom. The word is often used simply in the sense of “deliverance,” the idea of ransom having disappeared. (So in Romans 8:23 , Ephesians 4:30 , Luke 21:28 .) It is best therefore to translate “deliverance” here, especially as this suits better the definition in the following words. The remission of sins is itself our deliverance, whereas it stands to the payment of the ransom as effect to cause. The elaborate discussion in Oltramare may be referred to for fuller details, with the criticism in Sanday and Headlam’s note on Romans 3:24 ; also Abbott on Ephesians 1:7 ; Westcott on Heb., pp. 295, 296; Ritschl, Rechtf. und Versöhn . ii., 222 sq. τὴν ἄφεσιν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν . The similar definition of ἀπολ . in Ephesians 1:7 tells against Lightfoot’s view that it is added here against erroneous definitions by the false teachers, who very probably did not employ the term. The precise phrase does not occur elsewhere in Paul. τ . ἁμ . depends simply on τ . ἀφ ., not, as Hofmann thinks, on it and τ . ἀπολ ., for the latter is not used with the object from which deliverance is effected.

Verse 15

Colossians 1:15 . With this verse the great Christological passage of the Epistle begins. Its aim is to refute the false doctrine, according to which angelic mediators usurped the place and functions of the Son in nature and grace. He, and He alone, is the Creator, Redeemer and Sovereign of all beings in the universe, including these angelic powers. The passage does not deal with the eternal relations of the Son to the Father, but with the Son’s relations to the universe and the Church. It is not of the pre-existent Son that Paul begins to speak, but of the Son who now possesses the kingdom, and in whom we have our deliverance ( ὅς refers back to τ . υἱοῦ ἐν ᾧ ἔχομεν τ . ἀπολύτρωσιν ). The work of the Son in His pre-existent state is referred to, that the true position of the exalted Christ may be rightly understood. As in other great theological passages in the Pauline Epistles, the metaphysical element is introduced for the sake of the practical. But it would be absurd to infer from this that it had little importance for the Apostle himself. He assumes the pre-existence of the Son as common ground, and is thus applying a fundamental Christian truth, which would form part of the elementary instruction in his Churches, to a new form of false teaching. ὅς ἐστιν . It is the exalted Christ of whom Paul is speaking, as is suggested, though not necessarily implied by the present, but more forcibly by the previous relative clause. We could not feel confident in arguing back from the function of the exalted Son to be εἰκὼν τοῦ Θεοῦ to that of the pre-incarnate Son, but what would be a plausible inference from this passage is asserted in Philippians 2:5 . εἰκὼν τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου .As image of God the Son possesses such likeness to God as fits Him to be the manifestation of God to us. God is invisible, which does not merely mean that He cannot be seen by our bodily eye, but that He is unknowable. In the exalted Christ the unknowable God becomes known. We behold “with unveiled face the glory of the Lord,” and so “are changed into the same image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 ), God has “shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (Colossians 4:6 ), and it is the unbelieving on whom “the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God,” does not shine (Colossians 4:4 ). These passages illustrate Paul’s language here, and show that it is not, as Oltramare argues, of physical visibility or invisibility that he is speaking. Christ is the image of God for Christians. This, it is true, is only part of His wider functions. The Son is the Mediator between God and the universe. His work in grace has its basis in His place and work in nature. But it is the aspect of His work of which Paul is here speaking. The view of some of the Fathers that the Son, as image of the invisible God, must be Himself invisible is precisely the opposite of that intended by Paul. πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως . πρωτότοκος in its primary sense expresses temporal priority, and then, on account of the privileges of the firstborn, it gains the further sense of dominion. Many commentators think both ideas are present here. Soden and Abbott, on the other hand, deny that the word expresses anything more than priority to and distinction from all creation, while Haupt again thinks that all the stress is on the idea of dominion, the Son is ruler of all creation (similarly Ol. and Weiss, who says that no temporal prius lies in the expression). It is undeniable that the word in the O.T. had in some cases lost its temporal significance, e.g. , Exodus 4:22 , Psalms 89:28 . Schoettgen instances the fact that R. Bechai spoke of God as “the firstborn of the world,” though, probably, as Bleek says in his note on Hebrews 1:6 , this is to be regarded “nur als eine Singularität”. The course of the argument seems to require that the stress should lie on the lordship of the Son rather than on His priority to creation. For what Paul is concerned to prove is the superiority of Christ to the angels, and for this the idea of priority is not relevant, but that of dominion is. Whether the word retains anything of its original meaning here is doubtful. If so, it might seem most natural to argue with the Arians that the Son is regarded as a creature. Grammatically it is possible to make πάσης κτίσεως a partitive genitive. But this is excluded by the context, which sharply distinguishes between the Son and τά πάντα , and for this idea Paul would probably have used πρωτόκτιστος . The genitive is therefore commonly explained as a genitive of comparison. Oltramare says that such a genitive after a substantive is a pure invention, but it is explained to be after the προ or πρωτο in πρωτότοκος ( cf. John 1:15 , ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν ). This, as Lightfoot says, “unduly strains the grammar,” and on this account it seems best to exclude the temporal element altogether. The pre-existence is sufficiently asserted in what follows. There seems to be no real affinity with Philo’s doctrine of the Logos as πρωτόγονος . πάσης κτίσεως may be taken either as a collective, “all creation” (Lightf., R.V.), or distributively, “every creature” (Mey., Ell., Haupt, Abb.). Lightfoot urges in favour of the former that πρωτότ . “seems to require either a collective noun or a plural”. But if πρωτότ . be taken in the sense of ruler, this is not so; and Haupt points out that πᾶσα κτίσις elsewhere is used of every created thing, and that Paul uses κτίσις without the article in the sense of creature. It is accordingly best to take it so here, “firstborn of every creature”. A further question is raised as to what the term includes. Haupt thinks its sense is limited to spiritual beings, since (1) Paul is proving the superiority of Christ to the angels, (2) he defines by τὰ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς καὶ ἑπὶ τῆς γῆς not including heaven and earth themselves, (3) εἰς αὐτὸν shows that animate creatures must be referred to. At the same time he is careful to point out that, according to Jewish ideas, shared, no doubt, by the false teachers, the heavenly bodies were regarded as possessed of souls and as standing in the closest relation to the spirit world. This, combined with the fact that all material things were supposed similarly to have guardian spirits, rather tells against his limitation. For Paul really was concerned to show not only that Christ was superior to the angels, but that He and not the angels was Lord of the material creation. The phrase should therefore be taken in its full sense, though probably it is the spiritual side of the universe that he has chiefly in mind. The interpretation of creation as the new creation, adopted by many Fathers to meet the Arian inference that the Son was a creature, scarcely needs refutation. It would have no point against the false teaching at Colossæ, nor can it be carried through the passage, Colossians 1:16 being decisive against it. Paul would probably have said firstborn of the Church or of the new creation if he had meant this.

Verses 15-21


Verse 16

Colossians 1:16 . Paul now gives the ground for the designation of the Son as πρωτότ . π . κτίσεως . In Him τὰ πάντα were created. From this it follows that the Son cannot be a creature, for creation is exhausted by the “all things” which were so created in Him (“omnem excludit creaturam,” Bengel). ἐν αὐτῷ : this does not mean “by Him”. The sense is disputed. The schoolmen, followed by some modern theologians, explain that the Son is the archetype of the universe, the κόσμος νοητός , the eternal pattern after which the physical universe has been created. So Philo held that the Logos was the home wherein the eternal ideas resided. But it is by no means clear that Alexandrian influence can be traced in the Epistle. Further, the notion of creation is not suitable to the origin of the ideal universe in the Son. If the Son was from eternity the archetype of the universe, then ἐκτίσθη ἐν αὐτῷ ought not to have been used, both because the aorist points to a definite time and the idea of creation is itself inapplicable. But that the ideal universe was at some time created in the Son is an highly improbable, if it is even an intelligible, idea. Again, the sense of ἐκτίσθη is controlled by that of κτίσις , which does not refer to the ideal universe. It must therefore refer to the actual creation of the universe. If Paul had intended to speak of the realisation in creation of the ideal universe which had in the Son its eternal home he would have said ἐξ αὐτοῦ . Others (Mey., Ell., Moule) take ἐν αὐτῷ to mean simply that the act of creation depended causally on the Son. This is perhaps the safest explanation, for Haupt’s interpretation that apart from His Person there would have been no creation, but with His Person creation was a necessity in other words, that creation was “given” in Christ seems with the aorist and the choice of the word ἐκτίσθη to be inconsistent with the eternal existence of the Son. τὰ πάντα , i.e. , the universe in its widest sense regarded as a collective whole. ἐν τ . οὐρανοῖς κ . ἐπὶ τ . γῆς . As Lightfoot points out, “a classification by locality,” while τὰ ὁρατὰ κ . τ . ἀόρατα is a “classification by essence”. The two do not precisely correspond, for the divisions cross each other to some extent, though some confine the things in heaven to the world of spirits, and the things on earth to the world of men, in which case they would correspond to things invisible and things visible. Against this see above on π . κτίσεως . εἴτε θρόνοι κ . τ . λ . This is not an exhaustive definition of τὰ πάντα , for Paul selects for mention those creatures to whom worship was paid by the false teachers. The names, as in similar lists, denote angels and not earthly powers. For some of them occur in Jewish angelology, and a reference to earthly dignities would be irrelevant to the polemical purpose of the passage. These angels, Paul insists, so far from being superior or equal to Christ, were as inferior to Him as the creature is to the Creator. They owed their very existence to Him, and could not therefore be allowed for one moment to usurp His place. Lightfoot thinks that Paul is expressing no opinion as to their objective existence, but is simply repeating subjective opinions; and that both here and in Colossians 2:18 he shows a “spirit of impatience with this elaborate angelology”. But in face of the detailed proof that he accepted the doctrine of various orders of angels (given most fully by Everling), this cannot be maintained, nor is there any polemical reference in Ephesians 1:21 . It may be questioned whether any inference can be drawn as to the order of the ranks of angels. The order in the parallel list, Ephesians 1:21 , is ἀρχή , ἐξουσία , δύναμις , κυριότης , on which Godet remarks that in Col. the question is of creation by Christ from whom all proceed, hence the enumeration descends; but in Eph. of the ascension of the risen Christ above all orders, hence the enumeration ascends. But it must be urged against this not merely that only three out of the four titles coincide, but that the order is not fully inverted. Possibly Paul employs here the order of the false teachers (so Kl [8] ). The order apparently descends, but it is questionable if this is intentional, for if the highest orders were inferior to Christ, a fortiori the lower would be. θρόνοι : taken by some to be the angels of the throne, that is angels who, like the cherubim, bear the throne of God. But it is more probable that they are those seated on thrones ( cf. Revelation 4:4 ). On these orders, cf. the Slavonic Enoch , xx. 1. In the seventh heaven Enoch saw “a very great light and all the fiery hosts of great archangels, and incorporeal powers and lordships and principalities and powers ; cherubim and seraphim, thrones and the watchfulness of many eyes”. Also Enoch , lxi. 10, “and all the angels of powers and all the angels of principalities ”. Test. , xii., Patr. Levi. , 3, ἐν δὲ τῷ μετʼ αὐτόν εἰσι θρόνοι , ἐξουσίαι , ἐν ᾧ ὕμνοι ἀεὶ τῷ Θεῷ προσφέρονται . κυριότητες : apparently inferior to θρόνοι . ἀρχαὶ … ἐξουσίαι usually occur together and in this order. τὰπάντα … συνέστηκεν : thrown in as a parenthesis. διʼ αὐτοῦ . The Son is the Agent in creation ( cf. 1 Corinthians 8:6 ); this definitely states the pre-existence of the Son and assumes the supremacy of the Father, whose Agent the Son is. εἰς αὐτὸν . That the Son is the goal of creation is an advance on Paul’s previous teaching, which had been that the goal of the universe is God (Romans 11:36 ; cf. 1 Corinthians 8:6 , ἡμεῖς εἰς αὐτόν ). It is urged by Holtzmann and others as decisive against the authenticity of the Epistle as it stands. But in 1 Corinthians 15:25 sq. all things have to become subject to the Son before He hands over the kingdom to the Father. We find the same thought in Matthew 28:18 and Hebrews 2:8 . And, as Oltramare and others point out, in 1 Corinthians 8:6 , διʼ οὗ τὰ πάντα is said of Christ, but of God in Romans 11:36 . Yet this difference is not quoted to show that Romans and Corinthians cannot be by the same hand, and it is equally illegitimate to press εἰς αὐτ . as inconsistent with Pauline authorship. ἔκτισται . The perfect, as distinct from the aorist, expresses the abiding result as distinct from the act at a definite point of time ( cf. John 1:3 , ἐγένετο followed by γέγονεν ).

[8] Klöpper.

Verse 17

Colossians 1:17 . αὐτός ἐστιν . αὐτ . is emphatic, He and no other. Lightfoot (followed by Westcott and Hort and Ellicott) accents ἔστιν , “He exists,” on account of the present, and compares ἐγὼ εἰμί (John 8:58 ). But there ἐγὼ εἰμί stands alone, whereas here αὐτ . ἐστ . is completed by πρὸ πάντων . Besides, there is no object in the assertion of the existence of the Son here. The sense of ἐστὶν depends to some extent on that of πρὸ πάντων . If, as is usual, πρὸ is taken here as temporal, αὐτός will be the pre-incarnate Son. If, however, with Haupt, it be taken to assert superiority in rank, αὐτός will be the exalted Christ, and the present will be quite regular. It is urged that for this some other preposition, such as ἐπὶ or ὑπέρ , would have been expected. Gess says that in each of the eleven other passages in which it occurs in Paul it is temporal, and in the other N.T. passages (37) it is used of place or, as generally, of time, except in James 5:12 , 1 Peter 4:8 , where it is used of rank. It is used, however, in classical Greek in this latter sense. Perhaps it is safest to allow the general Pauline usage to determine the sense here. In this case πρὸ is temporal and ἐστιν a timeless present. πάντων is, of course, neuter, like τὰ πάντα , not masculine. συνέστηκεν : “hold together”. The Son is the centre of unity for the universe. He keeps all its parts in their proper place and due relations and combines them into an ordered whole. Apart from Him it would go to pieces. Philo ascribes a similar function to the Logos. Haupt thinks that this thought that Christ is the principle of coherence for the universe is not in the passage, which means no more than that He sustains it ( cf. Hebrews 1:3 , φέρων τὰ πάντα ).

The interpretation of Colossians 1:15-17 given by Oltramare should not be passed over. He eliminates the idea of pre-existence from the passage, and says that the reference is throughout to Christ as Redeemer. God had in creation to provide by a plan of Redemption for the entrance of evil into the universe, and only on that condition could it take place. So since Christ is the Redeemer, creation is based upon Him, He is the means to it, and the end which it contemplates. He objects to the common view on the following grounds: (1) Elsewhere Paul speaks of God, not Christ, as the Creator and goal of the universe; (2) Paul starts from the Christ in whom we have redemption as πρωτότ . π . κτίσεως , and in Colossians 1:18 , which refers to the same Person as Colossians 1:17 , He is spoken of as the Head of the Church, therefore the context is against any reference to a pre-incarnate Christ; (3) He carefully avoids saying that the Son has created all things, though he has to change the subject of the sentence. In reply to (1) it may be said that the Son acts as Agent of the Father, and so creation may be referred to either, and that while Paul contemplates the final surrender by the Son of the kingdom to the Father, he also contemplates a prior subjection of everything to the Son. Oltramare himself, for another purpose, points to apparent inconsistency in John (John 1:2 compared with Revelation 3:14 ; Revelation 4:11 ; Revelation 10:6 ) and the author of Hebrews (Hebrews 1:2 compared with Hebrews 2:10 , Hebrews 11:3 ). If these writers did not find the two views incompatible, why should Paul have done so? In reply to (2) it may be urged that Paul’s hold on the personal identity of the Son in the states through which He passed was strong enough to enable Him to glide from one to the other without any sense of incongruity. As to (3), the change in the form of sentence is probably to prepare for διʼ αὐτοῦ κ . εἰς αὐτὸν . There is a similar change at Colossians 1:19 , where ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ corresponds to ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ (Colossians 1:16 ). His own view is open to fatal objections. It is not clear that the creation of the angels who did not fall would be conditional on provision being made for Redemption, nor yet how this would prove the superiority of the Redeemer to these angels. The insuperable difficulty, however, is that the thought is so far-fetched and not naturally suggested by the words. ἐν αὐτῷ ἐκτίσθη τὰ πάντα can hardly be consistent with the creation of the universe long before the Son came into existence. Nor can διʼ αὐτοῦ mean merely that the Son was an indispensable condition for the creation of the universe, it implies active agency. Nor is any adequate explanation of τ . πάντα ἐν αὐτῷ συνέστηκεν given. Besides, Philippians 2:5-8 sufficiently proves that Paul believed in the pre-existence of Christ, and that makes it less than ever justifiable to take the passage in other than its plain sense. Gess, it may be added, explains that the firstborn is the one who opens for those who follow the path of life, and by his consecration to God must purchase for them the Divine good pleasure. Exodus 13:2 ; Exodus 13:12 sq. and Numbers 3:12 sq. are quoted to prove this, but neither says anything of the purchase of Divine favour for those born after. Exodus 4:22 and Psalms 89:27 are explained to mean, accordingly, that Israel and David, not the nations and their kings, are objects of God’s good pleasure and mediators of it to the world. πρωτότ . π . κτ . is therefore explained as the opener of the path of life and mediator of God’s love to every creature. But this is to overlook the fact that in Psalms 89:0 . the firstborn is further defined as the highest of the kings of the earth.

Verse 18

Colossians 1:18 . The false teachers not only wrongly represented the relation of the angel powers to the universe, but they assigned them a false position in the work of redemption and a false relation to the Church. Hence Paul passes from the pre-eminence of the Son in the universe to speak of Him as Head of the Body. He is thus supreme alike in the universe and the Church. ἡ κεφαλὴ τ . σώματος ( cf. Colossians 2:19 , Ephesians 1:22-23 ; Ephesians 4:15-16 ; Ephesians 5:23 ). For Christ as Head simply, cf. 1 Corinthians 11:3 . For the Church as the body of Christ, Colossians 1:24 , Eph 4:2 , 1 Corinthians 12:27 , Romans 12:5 . For Christians as the members of Christ’s body, Ephesians 5:30 , 1 Corinthians 12:27 . For Christians as “severally members one of another,” Romans 12:5 . By this metaphor of “the head of the body” is meant that Christ is the Lord and Ruler of His Church, its directing brain, probably also that its life depends on continued union with Him. The Church is a body in the sense that it is a living organism, composed of members vitally united to each other, each member with his own place and function, each essential to the body’s perfect health, each dependent on the rest of the body for its life and well-being, while the whole organism and all the individual members derive all their life from the Head and act under His guidance. And as the body needs the Head, to be the source of its life and the controller of its activities, and to unify the members into an organic whole, so the Head needs the body to be His instrument in carrying out His designs. It is only in Colossians and Ephesians that Christ appears as Head of the Church, but the emphasis in Colossians is on the Headship, in Ephesians on the Church. τῆς ἐκκλησίας : often taken as in apposition to σώματος . For this we should have expected τ . σώμ . αὐτοῦ τ . ἐκκλ . ( cf. Colossians 1:24 ). It may also be taken as epexegetical of σώματος (so Weiss and Haupt, who quotes 1Co 5:8 , 2 Corinthians 5:5 , Romans 4:11 ; Romans 8:21 ; Romans 15:16 as parallels, all of which, however, are not clear). ἐκκλ . is here the universal Church. ὅς ἐστιν : inasmuch as He is. Paul is giving a reason for the position of the Son as ἡ κεφ . τ . σώματος . ἀρχή is not to be taken in the sense of ἀπαρχή , nor is it certain that it has, as Lightfoot and others think, the sense of originating power. It is defined by πρωτότ . ἐκ τ . νεκρῶν , and this seems to throw the stress rather on the idea of supremacy than that of priority. There is perhaps a tacit reference to ἀρχαὶ (Colossians 1:16 ). πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν : “firstborn from among the dead”. In Revelation 1:5 we have ὁ πρωτότοκος τῶν νεκρῶν , which expresses a different idea. If the temporal reference in πρ . is the more prominent, the meaning will be that He is the first to pass out of the dominion of death. But if sovereignty is the leading idea, the meaning is that from among the dead He has passed to His throne, where He reigns as the living Lord, who has overcome death, and who, before He surrenders the kingdom to the Father, will abolish it. ἵνα … πρωτεύων : the purpose for which He is ἀρχή , πρωτότ . ἐκ τ . νεκρῶν . He is supreme in the universe. He has to become supreme in relation to the Church. αὐτὸς is emphatic; ἐν πᾶσιν neuter not masculine, on account of the context.

Verse 19

Colossians 1:19 . This verse with Colossians 1:20 shows how the Son was able to hold the position assigned to Him in Colossians 1:18 . Further, this verse leads up to Colossians 1:20 . The thought is then: All the fulness dwelt in the Son, therefore reconciliation could be accomplished through the blood of His cross, and so He became the Head of the body. εὐδόκησεν . Three views are taken as to the subject of the verb. (1) Meyer, Alford, Lightfoot, Oltramare, Haupt and the great majority of commentators supply ὁ Θεός as the subject. (2) Ewald, Ellicott, Weiss, Soden and Abbott make πλήρωμα the subject. (3) Conybeare, Hofmann and Findlay supply ὁ υἱός or Χριστός . In favour of (3) the unique emphasis on the sovereignty of Christ in this passage is urged, also that it prepares the way for the reference of ἀποκαταλλάξαι and εἰρηνοποιήσας to Christ, in accordance with Ephesians 2:14-16 ; Ephesians 5:27 . It is also true that the subject from Colossians 1:15 is, for the most part, the Son. But the usage of Paul leads us to think of the Father, not of the Son, as the One who forms the eternal purpose (Ephesians 1:9 , 2 Corinthians 5:19 ). Nor does Colossians 1:20 run on naturally. If the Son is the subject of “was well pleased,” the obvious interpretation of διʼ αὐτοῦ ἀποκ . is to reconcile through the fulness, which is highly improbable. We should accordingly have to give to διʼ αὐτοῦ a reflexive sense, and translate “through Himself,” which is grammatically possible, but not natural. There is the further objection which it shares with (1) that a change of subjects to the infinitives is required, πλήρωμα being the subject of κατοικ ., while that to ἀποκατ . is Θεός or υἱός . But it is less awkward in (1) than in (3), for the former does not make the Son at once the originator and the Agent of the plan of reconciliation. Against (1), besides the objection just mentioned, it may be said that the construction with εὐδόκ . is unusual, for its subject is elsewhere in the N.T. the subject of the following infinitive (this tells against (3) also), and that in a passage of such importance the subject could not have been omitted. But for the omission of the subject Lightfoot compares James 1:12 ; James 4:6 . What, however, is really decisive in its favour is the difficulty of accepting (2). The expression “all the fulness was well pleased” is very strange in itself. But what is much stranger is that the fulness was not only pleased to dwell in Him, but through Him to reconcile all things unto Him. And the only natural course is to refer εἰρνηνοπ . to the subject of εὐδόκ ., but the masculine makes it difficult to regard πλήρ . as that subject. We should therefore translate “God” [or “the Father”] “was well pleased”. πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα . On πλήρωμα the detached note in Lightfoot, pp. 255 271, should be consulted, with the criticism of it in an article on “The Church as the Fulfilment of the Christ,” by Prof. J. Armitage Robinson ( Expositor , April, 1898), also Oltramare’s note. Lightfoot urges in opposition to Fritzsche that πλήρωμα has always a genuinely passive sense, not the pseudo-passive sense “id quo res impletur” which Fritzsche gave it, and which is really the active “id quod implet,” but that which is completed. The basis of the decision is that substantives in - μα , since they are derived from the perfect passive, must have a passive sense. But, as Prof. Robinson points out, these substantives have their stem not in - μα but in - ματ , and therefore are not to be connected with the perfect passive. He reaches the conclusion that if a general signification is to be sought for, we may say that these nouns represent “the result of the agency of the corresponding verb”. If the verb is intransitive the substantive will be so; if it is transitive and the substantive corresponds to its object the noun is passive, but if the substantive is followed by the object of the verb in the genitive it is active. According to the double use of πληροῦν to “fill” and to “fulfil,” πλήρωμα may mean that which fills or that which fulfils, the fulness, fulfilment or complement. Oltramare comes to the conclusion that the word means perfection, and interprets this passage to mean that ideal perfection dwelt in Christ. Accordingly he escapes the question what genitive should be supplied after it. It does not seem, however, that the word meant moral perfection. Many think that θεότητος should be supplied after πλήρωμα , as is actually done in Colossians 2:9 . Serious difficulties beset this view. If we think of the eternal indwelling, we make it dependent on the Father’s will, an Arian view, which Paul surely did not hold. Alford’s reply to this (endorsed by Abbott) that all that is the Son’s right “is His Father’s pleasure, and is ever referred to that pleasure by Himself,” is anything but cogent, for εὐδόκησεν refers to a definite decree of the Father, and the obvious meaning of the words is that it lay within the Father’s choice whether the πλήρωμα should dwell in the Son or not. It might refer to the exaltation of Christ, in which the Son resumed that of which He had emptied Himself in the Incarnation. This would follow the reference to the resurrection in Colossians 1:18 . But the order does not indicate the true logical or chronological sequence. Colossians 1:19-20 give the ground ( ὅτι ) on which the Son’s universal pre-eminence rests, and Colossians 1:20 is quite incompatible with this reference to the exalted state, co-ordinated as κατοικ . and ἀποκατ . are by καὶ . But neither does it suit the incarnate state, which was a state of self-emptying and beggary; even if we could attach any very definite meaning to the words that in the Incarnate Son the Father was pleased that all the fulness of the Godhead should dwell. We should, therefore, probably reject the view that τὸ πλήρωμα means the fulness of the Godhead. Since the co-ordinate clause speaks of reconciliation through the blood of the cross, it seems probable that we should regard Colossians 1:19 as asserting such an indwelling as made this possible. We should therefore with Meyer explain τὸ πλ . as the fulness of grace, “the whole charismatic riches of God ” (so also De W., Eadie, Alf., Findl.). Haupt thinks that the full content of the Divine nature is referred to, but with special reference to the Divine grace, and so far he agrees with Meyer. We should also, with Meyer, interpret the indwelling as having reference to the sending of the Son in the incarnation. The Father was pleased that He should come “with the whole treasure of Divine grace ”. Thus equipped His death procured reconciliation. Gess takes it similarly, though he thinks, on the whole, that a gradual process is referred to. Findlay’s modification of this in favour of a reference to the Ascension (for which he compares Ephesians 1:20-23 ) must be rejected on the grounds mentioned above. The decree of the Father may be supra-temporal, as Haupt thinks, the aorist being used as in Romans 8:29 , though it is more obvious to take it as referring to the time when He was sent. Two other interpretations of τὸ πλ . may be mentioned. Theodoret and other Fathers, followed by some moderns, have explained it to mean the Church. But the indwelling of the πλ . prepares the way for the reconciliation, in consequence of which the Church first becomes possible. Nor could πλ . by itself mean this; in Ephesians 1:22 the reference is supplied by the context. More possible is the view that it means the universe = τὰ πάντα , Colossians 1:16 (Hofm., Cremer, Godet, who compares “the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness of it”). In that case the genitive supplied would be τῶν πάντων from Colossians 1:20 . But if the reference in this be to the summing up of all things in Christ (Ephesians 1:10 ), it is excluded by the fact that the indwelling of the fulness is contemporaneous with the incarnate state. A more plausible interpretation would be to regard τὰ πάντα as dwelling in Christ before His death, and by sharing that death, attaining reconciliation with God. This would be an extension of the Pauline thought that all men died when Christ died (2 Corinthians 5:14 ). But it would be an extension precisely corresponding to that of the scope of redemption in Colossians 1:20 , for which, indeed, it would admirably prepare the way, the universe dwelling in the Son that His death might be universal in its effects. That the Son is not only Head of the race, but Head also of the universe, is a familiar thought in these Epistles, and as His acts are valid for the one so also for the other. Nothing more is implied for the relation of the universe to Christ than of the race, and if the main stress be thrown on angels and men, there is nothing incongruous in the idea. Whether Paul would have used it in this sense without fuller explanation is uncertain; but in any case a genitive has to be supplied. A further question must be briefly referred to, that of the origin of the term. Several scholars think it was already in use as a technical term of the false teachers at the time when the letter was written. This is possible, and in its favour is its absolute use here; but, if so, it is strange that Paul should use it with such different applications. It is more probable that its origin is due to him. κατοικῆσαι . The word expresses permanent abode as opposed to a temporary sojourn. Bengel says aptly “Haec inhabitatio est fundamentum reconciliationis”.

Verse 20

Colossians 1:20 . To this verse Ephesians 1:10 ; Ephesians 2:16 , are partially parallel. It supplies the basis for the Son’s pre-eminence (Colossians 1:18 ) in His reconciling death. διʼ αὐτοῦ : through the Son. ἀποκαταλλάξαι τὰ πάντα εἰς αὐτόν . The choice of ἀποκατ . instead of the more usual καταλλ . is for the sake of strengthening the idea, and by insisting on the completeness of the reconciliation accomplished to exclude all thought that reconciliation by angels is needed to supplement that made by Christ. The reconciliation implies previous estrangement. It is the universal sweep of this passage that makes it at once fascinating and mysterious. Numerous expedients have been devised by exegetes to avoid the plain meaning of the words. The natural sense is that this reconciliation embraces the whole universe, and affects both things in heaven and things on the earth, and that peace is made between them and God (or Christ). The point which creates difficulty is the assertion that angels were thus reconciled. Some have evaded this by interpreting τὰ πάντα of the things in heaven below the angels and those on earth below man. It might be possible to parallel the latter reconciliation with Paul’s prophecy of the deliverance of animate and inanimate nature (excluding man) from the bondage of corruption (Romans 8:19-23 ). But the two are not identical, for one is and the other is not eschatological, and reconciliation is not deliverance from the bondage of corruption. And this helps us little to explain what the reconciliation of all things in heaven is. Nor is any such limitation legitimate; on the contrary, it is precisely in the opposite direction that any limitation would have to be made; for in its full sense reconciliation can only be of beings endowed with moral and spiritual nature. In Colossians 1:16-17 angelic powers are explicitly included in τὰ πάντα . It is plain that εἰς αὐτὸν excludes the view that a reconciliation of angels and men is intended. This is so even if with Chrysostom and others (including apparently Abbott) we make τὰ ἐπὶ τ . γῆς and τὰ ἐν τ . οὐραν . depend on εἰρηνοπ . For this still leaves unexplained ἀποκ . τ . πάντα εἰς αὐτόν , which makes the reference to angels undeniable. Bengel’s note, “Certum est angelos, Dei amicos, fuisse inimicos hominum Deo infensorum,” may be perfectly true. But it is irrelevant here, for only by forcing the words can εἰρηνοπ … οὐραν . be regarded as other than epexegetical of the preceding clause, and in particular τ . ἐπὶ τ . γῆς and τὰ ἐν τ . οὐραν . as a resolution of τ . πάντα . Abbott’s suggestion that τὰ ἐν . τ . οὐραν . may be inhabitants of other worlds may be true, though for Paul the thought is far-fetched, but does nothing towards excluding the angels. He urges that ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς is not necessarily equivalent to “in heaven”. But not only did Jewish angelology place the angels in the heavens, but Paul did so too, and has done so only just before in this passage, defining τὰ ἐν τοῖς οὐραν . as the various orders of angels (Colossians 1:16 ). Further, not only is this exclusion of the angels from the scope of reconciliation inconsistent with the terms of the passage, it omits a very important point in Paul’s polemic. To the angels the false teachers probably ascribed the function of procuring the reconciliation of men with God. ( Cf. Enoch xv. 2, “And go, say to the watchers of heaven, who have sent thee to intercede for them: you should intercede for men, and not men for you”.) How effective is Paul’s reply that these angels needed reconciliation themselves! Assuming, then, that angels are included among those reconciled, and that this is also referred to in the words “having made peace through the blood of His cross,” the question arises, What did Paul mean by this? Meyer says that in consequence of the fall of the evil angels the angelic order as a whole was affected by the hostile relation of God to them, and the original relation will be fully restored when the evil angels are finally cast into hell. But apart from the speculative nature of this explanation, and the injustice it imputes to God, the reference is certainly not eschatological. Godet lays stress on εἰ αὐτὸν , and suggests that the reconciliation is not to God but with reference to God. He thinks that the passing over of sins by God (Romans 3:25 ) might cause the angels, who had been mediators in the giving of the law, difficulties as to the Divine righteousness. This was met and removed by the cross, which revealed God’s attitude to sin and reconciled them to His government. We do not know that the angels needed this vindication, which, of course, it was a function of Christ’s death to give, though it is possible (Ephesians 3:10 , 1 Peter 1:12 ). But this interpretation seems to be excluded by the explanation of reconciliation as making peace. And εἰς αὐτὸν was probably chosen instead of αὐτῷ on account of εἰς αὐτὸν (Colossians 1:16 ), and because it was stronger and expressed the thought of God or Christ as the goal. The explanation that the angels were confirmed, and thus made unable to fall, is altogether inadequate. Harless, Oltramare and others admit a reconciliation of men and angels to God, but without asserting that τὰ ἐν τ . οὐρ . needed reconciliation. Wherever it was needed Christ effected it. But Paul’s division of τὰ π . into two categories marked by εἴτε … εἴτε shows that the statement has reference not simply to these classes taken together as a whole, but to each taken singly. Alford, in his suggestive note, after saying that such a reconciliation as that between man and God is not to be thought of, since Christ did not take on Him the seed of angels or pay any propitiatory penalty in the root of their nature, gives as his interpretation “all creation subsists in Christ: all creation therefore is affected by His act of propitiation: sinful creation is, in the strictest sense, reconciled from being at enmity: sinless creation, ever at a distance from His unapproachable purity, is lifted into nearer participation and higher glorification of Him, and is thus reconciled , though not in the strictest, yet in a very intelligible and allowable sense”. Unfortunately this cannot be accepted, for the strict is the only allowable sense. But it is on the right lines, and indicates the direction in which a solution must be sought. This, as several recent scholars have urged (Kl [9] , Gess, Everling and others), is through taking account of the Biblical and Jewish doctrine of angels. That the angels are divided into the sharply separated classes of sinless and demoniacal is a view on which this passage remains inexplicable. Nor is it the Old Testament or the Jewish doctrine, or, it may be added, the doctrine of Paul. Perhaps we need not, with Gess, think of an intermediate class, or, with Ritschl, of the angels of the Law. To Jewish thought angels stood in the closest relations with men, and were regarded as sharing a moral responsibility for their acts. The angelic princes of earthly kingdoms in Daniel, and the angels of the Churches in the Apocalypse, are Biblical examples of this. A large number of Pauline passages harmonise with the view that the angelic world needed a reconciliation. The detailed proof of this cannot be given here; it belongs to the discussion of the angelology of the Epistle. (See Introd. , section ii.) But if the angels needed it, how could it be effected through the blood of the cross? It is not enough to answer with Haupt that the reconciliation of men affected the angels who were closely united with them. A direct effect seems to be intended, and the difficulty is that stated by Holtzmann, that with the flesh all capacity is absent from the angels of Paul, to share in the saving effects of the death of God’s Son, which was made possible through the assumption of the flesh, and in which sin in the flesh is condemned. In answer to it these considerations may be urged. The Son is Head of the angels, as He is Head of humanity; therefore His acts had an effect on them independently of their effect on men. His death must not be narrowly conceived as physical only, as the destruction of the material flesh. It was the destruction of the sinful principle; and therefore is independent in its effects of the possession of material bodies by those whom it saves. And this cannot be set aside by the fact that Paul uses such a physical term as blood of the cross, for the death of Christ was surely more to him than a mere physical incident. So far, then, as the angel world was affected by sin, it needed reconciliation, and received it in the atoning and sin-destroying death of Christ its Head. That in this reconciliation evil angels are not included is clear from the fact that Paul does not regard it as having had effect on them corresponding to that on men. Lueken points out that Paul adds “through Him” to the words “through the blood of His cross,” and refers the latter to the reconciliation of men and the former to that of angels, so that they are simply said to be reconciled through Christ. But the διʼ αὐτοῦ is an emphatic resumption of διʼ αὐτοῦ at the beginning of the verse. εἰς αὐτόν . It is uncertain whether this should be referred to God or Christ. The former is possible, for αὐτός may be reflexive, and reconciliation is usually to God (so Ephesians 2:16 , also 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 , Romans 5:10 ). We should also have expected διʼ αὐτοῦ καὶ εἰς αὐτόν if Christ had been meant. On the other hand, the reference to Christ is favoured by the fact that elsewhere in this passage αὐτός always refers to Christ, and by the parallel with Colossians 1:16 , ἐν αὐτῷ … διʼ αὐτοῦ … εἰς αὐτόν . Decision is difficult; it is perhaps safest to let the Pauline usage determine the reference, and interpret “unto Himself”. εἰρηνοποιήσας . In Ephesians great emphasis is laid on the peace between Jew and Gentile, established by the cross, an emphasis quite to be expected where the unity of the Church is the leading thought; but not to be found here, for the peace is obviously between God on the one side and men and angels on the other; besides which the thought would have no relevance in this connexion. διὰ τ . αἵματος τ . σταυροῦ αὐτοῦ . The combination of the two terms is perhaps for the sake of insisting on the historical fact of the reconciling death against the tendency to seek peace with God through angelic mediators. τὰ ἐπὶ τ . γῆς , probably governed by ἀποκατ ., rather than εἰρηνοπ ., since it and the companion phrase seem to be epexegetical of τὰ πάντα .

[9] Klöpper.

Verse 21

Colossians 1:21 . For this verse cf. Ephesians 2:1 ; Ephesians 2:12 . Usually καὶ ὑμᾶς is made to begin a new sentence. Even with the reading ἀποκατήλλαξεν the construction is not quite regular, but with the probably correct reading, ἀποκατηλλάγητε , a violent break in the context is involved, since Paul begins with the second person as the object and suddenly makes it the subject. Such an anacoluthon is possible in dictation, but very improbable unless several words had intervened, so that the beginning of the sentence should be forgotten. This is not the case here. Lachmann (followed by Lightf. and others) takes νυνὶ δὲ … θανάτου as a parenthesis, in which case παραστῆσαι depends on εὐδόκησε , and ὑμᾶς is repeated “to disentangle the construction”. The irregularity is thus avoided. Haupt objects that it is unlikely that Paul should have continued after so long a sentence as Colossians 1:20 with the same construction, and also that the thought in this part of the sentence, “to present you holy,” is not co-ordinated to the thoughts in κατοικ . and ἀποκατ . For in the latter the thought is that it is the Son in whom the fulness dwells and through whom reconciliation is effected. But this thought of the pre-eminence of the Son in the work of salvation is not continued in Colossians 1:22 , where the thought is of the Christian standing of the Colossians before God. It is therefore unlikely that παραστ . should depend on εὐδοκ . Accordingly, with Haupt and Weiss, a comma should be placed at the end of Colossians 1:20 , and a full stop at the end of Colossians 1:21 . ὑμᾶς in Colossians 1:21 will then depend on ἀποκατ . It might seem an anti-climax after the wide sweep of Colossians 1:20 to narrow down the reference to the Colossians. But we have a similar case in Colossians 1:6 , and the personal application of a universal truth is anti-climax only to a rhetorician. The danger of the Colossians makes it peculiarly appropriate here. καὶ ὑμᾶς : “you also”. ὄντας emphasises that this state was continuous. ἀπηλλοτριωμένους : “estranged,” i.e. , from God, probably not to be taken as counted as aliens by God, but as expressing their attitude to God. ἐχθροὺς τῇ διανοίᾳ . Meyer takes ἐχθ . as passive, regarded as enemies by God, but the qualification τῇ διαν . and the further addition ἐν . τ . ἔργ . τ . πον . makes this very improbable. It involves the translation of τῇ διαν . “on account of your state of mind,” for which διά with the accusative would have been expected. But it is much simpler to take διαν . as dative of the part affected, and ἐχθ . as active, hostile to God in your mind. διανοία (used only here and Ephesians 2:3 ; Ephesians 4:18 by Paul) means the higher intellectual nature, but specially on the ethical side; it is usually in the LXX the translation of “heart”. Cremer defines it as “the faculty of moral reflexion”. ἐν τ . ἔργοις τοῖς πονηροῖς : to be connected with ἀπηλλ . καὶ ἐχθ . The preposition indicates the sphere in which they were thus estranged and enemies.

Verse 22

Colossians 1:22 . νυνὶ in contrast to ποτὲ : “now,” not “at the present moment,” but “in the present state of things,” thus, as Lightfoot points out, admitting an aorist, referring to an action lying in the past. ἀποκατηλλάγητε : “ye were reconciled,” but scarcely to be represented in English except by the perfect. ἐν τῷ σώματι τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ . It is disputed why Paul should add to σώμ . the defining words τ · σαρκὸς . Bengel, Lightfoot and Moule think they are added to distinguish Christ’s physical from His mystical body, the Church. But this would imply an incredible obtuseness on the part of his readers, for διὰ θαν · sufficiently fixes the reference to the physical body; and, as Meyer points out, the contrast to the body of His flesh is the glorified body, not the Church. Nor is a reference to Docetism probable. We have no evidence that it had appeared so early, and Paul would not have refuted it by a mere aside. Oltramare thinks that they are added because the flesh was the actual seat of suffering. But the addition would have been unnecessary, for ἐν τ . σώμ . was sufficient in itself. The most satisfactory view is that Paul has in mind the false spiritualism which thought reconciliation could be accomplished by spiritual beings only, and hence attached little or no value to the work of Christ in a body composed of flesh (Mey., Alf., Ell., Haupt, Abb.). In opposition to this Paul emphasises the fact that it was just by the putting to death of this body composed of flesh that reconciliation was effected, and thereby excludes from the work the angels who had no body of flesh. But while this is so, it is hard to avoid the impression that the phrase is also chosen because in the corresponding experience of Christians their death to sin is the removal of the σῶμα . τ . σαρκός (Colossians 2:11 ). παραστῆσαι ὑμᾶς : cf. Ephesians 5:27 . With the reading ἀποκατήλλαξεν the infinitive expresses purpose, “He reconciled in order to present”. With λάγητε , if we adopt Lightfoot’s parenthesis, the infinitive will depend on εὐδόκ . (Colossians 1:19 ). But if νυνὶ δὲ begins a new sentence we should translate “ye were reconciled to present yourselves”. This presentation is usually taken to be at the judgment, and that is the impression the passage naturally makes. Hofmann, Lightfoot and Haupt refer it to God’s present approbation. Haupt thinks the presentation is just the same as the reconciliation. Reconciliation has not to do with a change of feeling in God or man, but of the relation of God to men. It is synonymous with justification. This παραστ . is a continuous process dependent on continuance in faith and love. He urges that Paul regards the judgment as depending on moral conditions, not on the holding fast of faith and love. But a distinction of this kind should not be pressed in the case of Paul; for him faith was the root of morality, and love the fulfilment of the Law. κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ . Generally this is taken to be before God. But since Paul elsewhere teaches that we must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, it seems best (with Meyer) to take αὐτοῦ in the same way. ἁγίους καὶ ἀμώμους καὶ ἀνεγκλήτους . Soden and Haupt insist that these are not ethical but religious terms. This is probably correct; since the reference is to the judgment, they have a forensic sense. ἀμώμους probably means blameless rather than undefiled, and this is supported by the addition of ἀνεγκλ .

Verses 22-23


Verse 23

Colossians 1:23 . εἴ γε with the indicative expresses the Apostle’s confidence that the condition will be fulfilled. ἐπιμένετε . This abiding in faith is the only, as it is the sure way, to this presentation of themselves κατ . αὐτ . This is directed against the false teachers’ assurance that the gospel they had heard needed to be supplemented if they wished to attain salvation. It needs no supplementing, and it is at the peril of salvation that they lose hold of it. τεθεμελιωμένοι refers to the firm foundation, ἑδραῖοι to the stability of the building. μὴ μετακινούμενοι . The perfect participle here gives way to the present, expressing a continuous process. It may be passive or middle, probably the former. ἀπὸ τ . ἐλπίδος τοῦ εὐαγγελίου : to be taken with μετακιν . alone, not, assuming a zeugma, with the three co-ordinate expressions (Sod.), for it is not at all clear that the last of these keeps up the metaphor of a building. The hope of the Gospel is the hope given by or proclaimed in the Gospel. οὗ ἠκούσατε . Paul again sets his seal on the form of the Gospel which they had received, and again insists on the universality of its proclamation, its catholicity as guaranteeing its truth (see on Colossians 1:5-7 ). ἐν πασῇ κτίσει : “in presence of every creature”; π . κτ ., as in Colossians 1:15 , with the limitation τ . ὑ . τ . οὐρ . οὗ ἐγενόμην ἐγὼ Παῦλος διάκονος : cf. Ephesians 3:7 . This phrase contains a certain stately self-assertion; the Apostle urges the fact that he is a minister of this Gospel as a reason why they should remain faithful to it. His apostolic authority, so far from being impugned by the false teachers, was more probably invoked; so Paul throws it in the balance against them. It is also true that the Gentile mission was so bound up in his own mind with his apostleship that a reference to the one naturally suggested a reference to the other. By this clause Paul effects the transition to Colossians 1:24 .

Verse 24

Colossians 1:24 . It is usually assumed that ὃς read by the Western text is due to dittography; but it may quite as easily have fallen out through homœoteleuton as have been inserted. It is, however, omitted by such an overwhelming combination of MSS. that it would not perhaps be justifiable to place it in the text. On grounds of internal evidence a strong case can be made out for the insertion. Lightfoot omits, and thinks the abruptness characteristic of Paul. He quotes as parallels 2Co 7:9 , 1 Timothy 1:12 . But the connexion in the former case is uncertain; Westcott and Hort do not begin a new sentence with νῦν χαίρω ; if correctly, it is not a true parallel. But if otherwise there is not the abrupt change of subject we find here, for Paul has been speaking of his previous regret, and νῦν χαίρω follows naturally on this. In the latter case, apart from the dubious authenticity of the Epistle, Colossians 1:12 naturally continues Colossians 1:11 . On the other hand, it is very characteristic of our Epistle for transitions to be effected by the relative. Without it we have no preparation for Colossians 1:24 , for νῦν is not transitional. And with it the appeal to their loyalty in οὗ ἐγεν . ἐγὼ Π . διάκ . is greatly strengthened. νῦν χαίρω : “I now rejoice,” not “now, in contrast to times of repining,” or “now as I contemplate the greatness of redemption,” but simply “in my present condition as a prisoner”. Joy in suffering is a familiar Pauline idea. ἐν τοῖς παθήμασιν : not, as Meyer and Haupt, “over my sufferings,” for which ἐπὶ would have been expected (though cf. Philippians 1:18 , Luke 10:20 ), but “in my sufferings,” ἐν denoting the sphere in which, not (as Ell.) both sphere in and subject over which. ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν : i.e. , for your benefit. Oltramare compares Philippians 1:29 , Ephesians 3:1 ; Ephesians 3:13 , 1 Peter 3:18 , and interprets “for love of you” a fine thought; but probably that is not in Paul’s mind. ἀνταναπληρῶ . The meaning of this verb is much disputed. ἀναπληροῦν is “to fill up”. ἀντι - in composition has, according to Grimm, the following senses: opposite, over against; the mutual efficiency of two; requital; hostile opposition; official substitution; but some of these do not occur with verbs. He explains it in this way: “What is wanting of the affliction of Christ to be borne by me, that I supply in order to repay the benefits which Christ conferred on me by filling up the measure of the afflictions laid upon Him”. ἀντι - on this view means “in return for”. Another view proposed is that Paul makes up by present suffering for his former persecution. Winer (followed by Lightf., Findl., Moule) says ἀναπλ . is used of him who “ ὑστέρημα a se relictum ipse explet,” and ἀνταναπλ . of him who “alterius ὑστέρημα de suo explet” (quoted in Meyer). The parallels Lightfoot quotes are intended to show that “the supply comes from an opposite quarter to the defect”. He takes the sense to be that Paul suffers instead of Christ, and translates “I fill up on my part,” “I supplement”. Abbott pertinently points out that in the two instances in which ἀναπληροῦν is used with ὑστέρημα (1 Corinthians 16:17 , Philippians 2:30 ) the supply comes from an opposite quarter to the defect, and therefore we have no more reason for including this idea in ἀνταναπλ . than in ἀναπλ . The simplest explanation is that of Wetstein, “ ἀντὶ ὑστερήματος succeedit ἀναπλήρωμα ”. (So Mey., Ell., Alf., Haupt, Abb.) We thus get the idea that over against or corresponding to the previous defect comes the filling up. To Lightfoot’s criticism that this deprives ἀντὶ of its force, Ellicott replies that there is no such clear correspondence of personal agents as would be needed to substantiate the assertion. It is impossible to feel sure which of these views is right, but this is of negative importance, since it excludes arguments (such as Lightfoot’s) as to the meaning of the rest of the verse, based on the sense of this verb. τὰ ὑστερήματα τῶν θλίψεων τοῦ χριστοῦ . Leaving out of account such interpretations as “afflictions for the sake of Christ,” or “afflictions imposed by Christ,” the following are the chief views that have been taken: (1) Many Romanist commentators explain the sufferings of Christ to be His mediatorial sufferings, left incomplete by Him and completed by His saints, Paul taking his share in this. (2) Lightfoot, Oltramare, Findlay, Haupt and others agree with (1) in taking τ . θλ . τ . Χ . as the sufferings which Christ endured on earth. But they deny that these are mediatorial sufferings; they had “a ministerial utility”. Christ suffered for the kingdom of God, and His followers must continue this. Hofmann’s view is a special form of this. Christ was sent only to Israel, and endured sufferings in His ministry to it. Paul fills up what is left of these sufferings, as Apostle to the Gentiles. (3) Meyer, followed by Abbott, thinks the afflictions are Paul’s own, and are called the afflictions of Christ, because they are of the same essential character. Since his sufferings are still incomplete, he speaks of filling up the measure of them. (4) The sufferings are those of the Church, which are still incomplete. They are called the afflictions of Christ because they are those of His body. Thus Bengel: “Fixa est mensura passionum, quas tota exantlare debet ecclesia. Quo plus igitur Paulus exhausit, eo minus et ipsi posthac et caeteris relinquitur. Hoc facit communio sanctorum.” Cremer similarly says that the defect is not in what Christ suffered, but in the communion of the Church in His sufferings. Paul concentrates on himself the hate of the world against Christ and His Church. (5) The sufferings are the sufferings of Christ, not, however, those which He endured on earth, but those which He endures in Paul through their mystical union. The defect is not (as in 4) in the sufferings of the Church, but in Christ’s sufferings in Paul. (1) must be set aside on the ground that θλίψις is not used of Christ’s atoning sufferings, for which Paul employs αἶμα , θάνατος , σταυρός . (3) must be rejected because the afflictions of Christ can hardly mean afflictions like those of Christ. (4) is to be rejected on similar grounds, the defect is in Christ’s own suffering, not in that of the Church. Besides there would be an un-Pauline arrogance in the claim that he was filling up the yet incomplete sufferings of the Church. We are thus left with (2) and (5), each of which takes “the afflictions of Christ” in the strict sense of afflictions endured by Christ Himself. We cannot, with Lightfoot, decide against (5) on the ground that ἀνταναπλ . excludes an identification between the sufferings of Paul and Christ. Hofmann’s view is very attractive on account of the context, in which Paul is speaking of his Apostleship to the Gentiles. It is perhaps the best form of (2), and may be right. It, however, labours, with (2) generally, under the objection that it implies defect in Christ’s earthly sufferings, for ὑστέρημα means defect, and also that the claim thus made to fill up the defect left by Christ is strangely arrogant. It is therefore best to accept (5). It is urged that there is no N.T. parallel to the idea that Christ suffers in His members. But, apart from Acts 9:4 , Paul’s doctrine of union with Christ is such that we should almost be compelled to infer that Christ suffered in His members, even if Paul had not here affirmed it. And there is no arrogance here. For Paul does not claim to fill up the defects in Christ’s earthly suffering or in the sufferings of the Church, but in the sufferings which he has to endure in his flesh, which are Christ’s sufferings, because he and Christ are one. We should accordingly take τ . θλ . τ . Χ . with ἐν τῇ σαρκί μου as a single idea, “Christ’s sufferings in my flesh”. ἐν τῇ σαρκί μου . There is a delicate contrast between the flesh of Paul and the body of Christ. If these words were connected with ἀνταναπλ . they would probably have immediately followed. ὑπὲρ τοῦ σώματος αὐτοῦ : “on behalf of His body”. This may simply mean that the sufferings of Paul advanced the interests of the Church ( cf. Philippians 1:12-14 ). But, taking into account Paul’s strong feeling of the solidarity of the Church, he probably means that apart from any furthering of the Church’s interests which his imprisonment may bring about, the suffering of one of the members must benefit the whole body; just as in a higher and fuller sense the suffering of the Head had procured salvation for the Church. Paul rejoices, not, as Abbott says the view taken of τ . θλ . τ . Χ . would involve, “because they went to increase the afflictions of Christ,” but because his afflictions, which were those of Christ also in the necessity of the case, were a blessing to Christ’s body. ὅ ἐστιν ἡ ἐκκλησία : “that is, the Church,” perhaps added because σάρξ and σῶμα occur together here, and the readers might be confused as to the precise meaning of σώματος .

Verses 24-29


Verse 25

Colossians 1:25 . ἧς ἐγενόμην ἐγὼ διάκονος . With these words Paul returns to Colossians 1:23 , speaking of himself here, however, as a minister of the Church, there of the Gospel. Because he is a minister of the Church, it is a joy to suffer for its welfare. He proceeds to explain what his peculiar ( ἐγὼ emphatic) ministry is. κατὰ τὴν οἰκονομίαν : cf. Ephesians 3:2 . οἰκ . is “stewardship” rather than “dispensation” ( cf. 1 Corinthians 9:17 ). τ · Θεοῦ indicates that this office is held in the house of God, or that it has been entrusted to him by God. εἰς ὑμᾶς : to be taken with δοθ . as in Ephesians 3:2 , not with πληρ . (as by Chrys. and Hofm.). It means towards you Gentiles, that is for your benefit. The context shows that the Gentiles are uppermost in his thought. πληρῶσαι τὸν λόγον τοῦ Θεοῦ : “to fulfil the word of God”. πλ . is taken by some of the completion by this letter of the teaching already given to the Colossians. But Paul is speaking of the function specially entrusted to him. Generally this is explained of the geographical extension of the Gospel. Haupt thinks the geographical point of view is not present here. An essential characteristic of the Gospel is its universality. Paul’s special mission is to bring this to realisation. This he does by proclaiming the Gospel to the Gentiles, thus making clear the true nature of the Gospel. This suits the context better, for Paul proceeds to define the mystery entrusted to him as the universality of salvation, not the wide extension of the Gospel. Other interpretations may be seen in Meyer or Eadie.

Verse 26

Colossians 1:26 . Partially parallel to Ephesians 3:9 . How great the honour conferred on Paul is, appears from the fact that he is entrusted with the duty of declaring the long concealed secret which is the distinguishing mark of his Gospel. τὸμυ μυστήριον . Lightfoot thinks that the term is borrowed by Paul from the Greek mysteries, and that it is intentionally chosen to point the contrast between those secret mysteries and the Gospel which is offered to all. But for the mysteries the plural was employed. And there would be more justification for this Interpretation in Matthew 13:11 = Luke 8:10 , where the disciples are told by Jesus that to them it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but not to others. But it will not be seriously supposed that Christ borrowed the term from the Greek mysteries. A mystery is a truth which man cannot know by his natural powers, so that if it is known it must be revealed. τὸ ἀποκεκρυμμένον ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν γενεῶν . Usually ἀπὸ is taken as temporal, and this agrees with the fact that similar references in Paul are temporal (1 Corinthians 2:7 , Romans 16:25 ), and with the use of ἀπὸ as in ἀπʼ αἰῶνος and ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου (Matthew 25:34 ). ἀπὸ καταβολῆς occurs with κρύπτω (Matthew 13:35 ). But elsewhere ἀπὸ after κρύπτω or ἀποκρύπτω ) indicates those from whom a thing is concealed. In favour of this meaning here is the order, for if ἀπὸ τ . αἰ . were temporal ἀπὸ τ γεν . would be included as a matter of course. It has been so taken here, not by Klöpper, who suggests it as possible, but does not accept it, but by Franke. He thinks both are terms for angels, and in itself such a reference is not improbable, for it is through the Church that the principalities and powers come to learn the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:9 , where just before the mystery is said to have been concealed ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων ). But we have no evidence that γενεαί was ever used in this way, and no parallel for this use of αἰῶνες in N.T. Without identifying the terms with personal existences, we may with Haupt ( cf. also Soden) take αἰῶνες of the ages before the world, and γενεαί of the generations of human history. This will be practically the same as saying that the mystery was concealed from angels and men. This is probably the meaning of Bengel’s note: “Aeones referuntur ad angelos; generationes, ad homines”. Theodoret, followed by Klöpper, thinks that there is a polemical reference here to the antiquity of the Gospel and its consequent superiority to the Law. Abbott thinks the point of the reference to the long concealment and recent disclosure is that the acceptance of the false teaching is thus explained. But the non-polemical character of parallel passages makes these suggestions very uncertain. νῦν δὲ ἐφανερώθη . The construction here changes, and the perfect participle is continued by the aorist indicative (Winer-Moulton, p. 717). The anacoluthon is caused by Paul’s intense joy that the long silence has been broken; he is content with nothing short of a definite statement of the glorious fact νῦν is equally appropriate whether ἀπὸ is temporal or not, for the antithesis of past and present lies in the nature of the case. τοῖς ἁγίοις αὐτοῦ : i.e. , to Christians generally, not to the Jewish Christians (Hofm.), who certainly were not specially enlightened on this matter, nor the Apostles and prophets of the New Covenant, even though in the parallel Ephesians 3:5 they are chosen for mention, nor the angels, in spite of Ephesians 3:10 . The words must be taken in their obvious sense.

Verse 27

Colossians 1:27 . Cf. for a partial parallel Ephesians 1:18 . οἷς ἠθέλησεν ὁ Θεὸς : “inasmuch as to them God willed”; ἠθέλ . is chosen to express the idea that the revelation had its source solely in God’s will. τί τὸ πλοῦτος τῆς δόξης .: cf. Romans 9:23 , Philippians 4:19 , Ephesians 1:18 ; Ephesians 3:16 . The expression does not mean the glorious riches, but rather how rich is the glory. The use of “glory” immediately after in the sense of the Messianic kingdom favours the adoption of that meaning here. But as it is an attribute of the mystery it probably expresses its glorious character. ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν is generally taken with τί τὸ πλ . κ . τ . λ ., and this gives an excellent sense, for it was as manifested in the Gentile mission that the glory of the Gospel was especially displayed. There is a little awkwardness, since the definition Χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν seems to make ἐν τ . ἔθν . unnecessary. The glory of the mystery was itself Χ . ἐν ὑμ . if we take ἐν ὑμῖν to mean among you Gentiles. This hardly justifies us in connecting the words with γνωρίσαι (Haupt), for it already has the recipients of knowledge attached to it ( οἷς ). ὅ ἐστι answers τί τὸ πλοῦτος κ . τ . λ . The riches of the glory of the mystery consist in Χ . ἐν ὑμ . ἡ ἐλπ . τ . δ . Usually ὃ is taken to refer to μυστηρίου alone. Perhaps the practical difference is not great. Χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν ἡ ἐλπὶς τῆς δόξης . Haupt thinks no comma should be placed after ὑμῖν , and that the meaning is that the special glory of the Gospel is that Christ among them is the hope of glory. But the usual view which makes, not the fact that Christ among them guarantees their future blessedness, but the presence of Christ itself, the great glory of the mystery seems much finer. Χ . ἐν ὑμ ., and not what Χ . ἐν ὑμ . is, constitutes the riches of the glory. The context shows that ὑμῖν must mean “you Gentiles”. It does not necessarily follow from this that ἐν must be translated “among,” though this is favoured by ἐν τ . ἔθν . It may refer to the indwelling of Christ in the heart, and this is rendered probable by the addition of ἐλπὶς τ . δόξης . The indwelling Christ constitutes in Himself a pledge of future glory. For this combination of the indwelling Christ with the Christian hope, cf. Romans 8:10 .

Verse 28

Colossians 1:28 . δν : i.e ., Χριστὸν ἐν ὑμῖν . ἡμεῖς : (emphatic) we in contrast to the false teachers. But the reference seems to be simply to Paul, not to Timothy and Epaphras as well. For throughout the section he is speaking of his own special mission. νουθετοῦντες . Meyer points out that admonishing and teaching correspond to the two main elements of the evangelic preaching, repent and believe. Haupt thinks on the ground of the order that Paul is not referring to elementary Christian teaching, but has this epistle in his mind. The order might, however, suggest warning to non-Christians followed by teaching of new converts. But the addition of ἐν π . σοφίᾳ and τέλειον support the view that it is warning against error, and advanced teaching that he has in view. πάντα ἄνθρωπον : emphatically repeated here. The Gospel is for all men, in opposition to any exclusiveness, and for each individual man in particular. And the ideal is only attained when each individual has reached completeness. The exclusiveness might be, as with the Judaisers, of a sectarian type, or, as with the Gnostics, and possibly here, of an intellectual, aristocratic type. Since such is the Apostle’s task, he addresses a Church the members of which are unknown to him. ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ is taken by some to express the content of the teaching, everyone may be fully instructed in the whole of Christian wisdom. This forms a good contrast to the probable practice of the false teachers of reserving their higher teaching for an inner circle. But for this we should have expected the accusative. Probably the words express the manner of teaching. If the phrase is taken with both participles the content of the teaching is excluded. παραστής .: probably to present at the judgment. τέλειον . Here also allusion to the mysteries is discovered by Lightfoot. The term is said to have been employed to distinguish the fully initiated from novices. But, even if this be correct, the word is used in Matthew 5:48 ; Matthew 19:21 , where such a reference is out of the question. Probably Paul is contrasting the completeness he strives to secure with that promised by the false teachers.

Verse 29

Colossians 1:29 . εἰς ὃ : to achieve which end. κοπιῶ expresses toil carried to the point of weariness. ἀγωνιζόμενος : a metaphor from the arena. Meyer takes the reference to be to inward striving against difficulties and hostile forces. Perhaps both inward and outward struggle are referred to (De W.). κατὰ . The struggle is carried on in proportion not to his natural powers, but to the mightily working energy of Christ within him. ἐνεργουμένην : a dynamic middle ( cf. Colossians 1:6 ).

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Colossians 1". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/colossians-1.html. 1897-1910.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile