Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 1 October 2013; Revised 11 January 2019
Scripture Text: The Scripture text used in this commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison with consideration given to the American Standard Version (which is in the public domain) and the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. All other Scripture quotations are from the NASB Updated Edition (1995), unless otherwise indicated. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions.
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited and resources consulted may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use Yeshua (Jesus), Messiah (Christ), Tanakh (Old Testament), and Besekh (New Testament). The abbreviation LXX stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid-2nd century B.C.
Grammar: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations.
God First, 3:1-4
1 If then you were raised with the Messiah, seek the things above, where the Messiah is sitting at the right hand of God.
If then you were raised: Grk. sunegeirō, aor. pass., to cause to rise up along with, raise up. Paul alludes to his remarks concerning baptism in 2:12. Emerging from the baptismal water is offered as a picture of sharing in the resurrection of Yeshua. with the Messiah: Grk. Christos (a translation of Heb. Mashiach, "Anointed"), the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Anointed One or Messianic Priest-King (Ps 2:2 and Dan 9:25-26). Yeshua's anointing was not in the customary manner. He was first anointed with the Holy Spirit to fulfill the ministry prophesied in Isaiah 61:1 (Matt 3:16; Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38).
Then he was anointed with nard in preparation for the ministry of being an atoning sacrifice (Mark 14:3-8; John 12:3). Finally he was anointed with the power of resurrection to assume his rightful place on the throne of David as King and Judge over the earth (Luke 1:32; Acts 3:18-26; 10:40-42; 13:30-34; 17:31; Eph 1:18-23). Christos does not mean "second person of the triune Godhead" nor is it a last name. Christos is a Jewish title of kingship and Yeshua is both King of the Jews (Matt 2:2; 27:11, 37) and King of the nations (Gen 49:10; Rev 15:3). For an expanded discussion on the Jewish title see my commentary on Mark 1:1.
seek: Grk. zēteō, pres. imp., to be on the search for, to seek, to look for. The present tense means to start and continue doing the expected action. the things above: an allusion to Yeshua and his Kingdom (cf. John 3:31; 8:23). Paul says elsewhere, "the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother" (Gal 4:26). A few versions translate the phrase as "set your heart(s)" (CEV, GNT, NIV), which is not in the Greek text. The purpose of the translation appears to be to create a contrast with the command of "set your mind" in the next verse. where the Messiah is sitting: Grk. kathēmai, pres. part., be at rest on the haunches. The present tense describes an ongoing activity and the participle emphasizes that Yeshua's place is part of his identity.
at the right hand: Grk. dexios, right, often used of bodily limbs, but also of location. In this context the term refers to a position of power or privilege. The description does not mean that God, the Father, has a physical body. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. In secular Greek writings a number of deities, always represented in anthropomorphic form, were called theos. In ancient polytheistic culture theos was not one omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe and certainly not spirit as described in Scripture (John 4:24). All of the gods and goddesses of polytheistic pantheons were strictly non-personal, which stands in sharp contrast to the Hebraic view that God loves and desires a relationship with men.
In the LXX theos renders the generic designations of God, El (which occurs over 200 times, including combinations such as El Bethel, El Elyon, El Roi, El Olam, and El Shaddai) and Elohim (which occurs over 2300 times), as well as the tetragrammaton YHVH, over 300 times. As with many other Greek words the LXX infused new meaning into theos (DNTT 2:67-70). (See my web article The Blessed Name.) Being seated at the right said of the Father means that Yeshua is "far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come" (Eph 1:21).
2 Set your mind on the things above, not the things on the earth.
Set your mind: Grk. phroneō, pres. imp., to engage in the process of mental activity, to think, to give thought to, be interest in, be concerned about. on the things above: Paul offers a parallelism to the previous verse and explains what he means by seeking things above. not the things on the earth: Grk. gē can mean soil, the ground, land as contrasted with the sea, and the earth in contrast to heaven. The LXX uses gē to translate the Heb. erets (DNTT 1:517), which generally designates either (a) the earth in a cosmological sense, or (b) “the land” in the sense of a specific territorial area, primarily the Land of Israel (TWOT §167). The figurative language depicts a mindset that opposes God. The book of Revelation presents a similar contrast between those who "dwell on the earth" with those who are in heaven (Rev 3:10; 6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 13:8, 14; 17:2, 8).
Paul's instruction could be restated as "set your mind on the values of where God lives, not the values of where you live." Yeshua made this contrast to members of the Sanhedrin, "You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world" ( John 8:23). We should note here that "earthly things" are not all evil. Everyone seeks to meet basic needs, such as safety, food, clothing and shelter (Matt 6:8, 25-32; Phil 4:11), and everyone desires love, respect, significance, intimacy, and security. Yet, the difference between the earthly mindset and heavenly mindset can be characterized by getting vs. giving, subjugating vs. serving, or punishing vs. pardoning. For Paul the worldly mindset was especially manifest in the prevalent hedonistic philosophy, "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may die" (1Cor 15:32-33).
Paul is not counseling withdrawing from the world as would be done in later monastic orders. Rather, the mindset of the disciple should take on the values and priorities of heaven. Yeshua taught his disciples to pray "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth." Discipleship brings a new raison d'ētre, “reason for being." Putting God first results in new values of sacrificial giving and selfless service.
3 For you died, and your life has been hid with the Messiah in God.
For you died: Grk. apothnēskō, aor., to die in a physical sense, but used here figuratively of a participatory experience in a new existence. Again Paul alludes to the baptismal language of the previous chapter. and your life: Grk. zōē, the state of being alive in a physical sense, but here used of a condition that transcends mere physical existence. has been hid: Grk. kruptō, perf. pass., to keep from view, to hide. with the Messiah: Grk. Christos, the Jewish Messiah, King of the Jews, Son of David, Son of Man, and Son of God. See the note on verse 1 above.
in God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See the note on verse 1 above. The presence of sin can cause God to be hidden from his people (Isa 64:7), but dying with Yeshua reverses the reality of hiddenness. Paul may have the idea in mind presented in Isaiah 49:2, "In the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me; and He has also made Me a select arrow, He has hidden Me in His quiver."
4 When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will appear with him in glory.
When: Grk. otan, when, specifically of time at which an event is anticipated. the Messiah: Grk. Christos, the Jewish Messiah, King of the Jews, Son of David, Son of Man, and Son of God. your: Grk. humōn, second pers. pronoun, plural of su, you. Some versions read "our" (Grk. hēmōn) (ASV, CJB, HNV, KJV, NASB, NKJV, NLV, OJB, RSV). Ironically, the TR, which is the basis for the KJV, has humōn. Metzger makes the case that the MS evidence for "your" is much stronger than "our," and is consistent with the second person pronouns that precede and follow (557). life: Grk. zōē. See the previous verse. is revealed: Grk. phaneroō, aor. pass. subj., cause to be in a state or condition that makes observation possible, make known, show, disclose. The verb refers to the anticipated public second coming of Yeshua in the clouds. The signs of his appearance are explained in the Olivet Discourse, so his coming will be at a foreordained time, just as his first coming (cf. Rom 5:6; Gal 4:4; Eph 1:10). then you also will appear: Grk. phaneroō, fut. pass. This is a tremendous promise. Just as he is so we shall be, as John says, "We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is" (1John 3:2).
with him in glory: Grk. doxa has four categories of meaning: (1) splendor or radiance in the sense of brightness, (2) magnificence in the sense of what catches the eye, (3) fame, renown, honor or approval, and (4) glorious as in the angelic beings and majesties. In the LXX doxa translates Heb. kabod, which refers to the luminous manifestation of God’s person, his glorious revelation of Himself. Characteristically, kabod is linked with verbs of seeing and appearing and stresses the impact that the manifestation of a person or God makes on others. In the apostolic writings doxa is a continuation of the underlying Hebrew concept (DNTT 2:45). In this context "glory" refers to the radiance of his countenance and the accompaniment of myriads of angels.
The reason disciples will appear with him is because "He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven" (Mark 13:27).
Sins Against Heaven, 3:5-11
5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry;
In consideration of the glorious Second Coming of Yeshua, Paul urges a change of perspective for the present. Therefore put to death: Grk. nekroō, aor. imp., to put to death in a literal sense, but here in the spiritual/moral sense of making body parts inoperative. your members: Grk. melos. A member or limb of a body. In Hebraic thinking sins were often associated with the body part that engages in the sinful behavior. which are on the earth: Grk. gē. See verse 2 above. Paul then explains what he means by the things of the earth and offers a list of sins. He provides similar lists at Romans 1:29–31, 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, and Galatians 5:19–21.
fornication: Grk. porneia. The word-group originally meant a prostitute or the practice of prostitution. A pornē (probably derived from pernēmi, “export for sale”) was a woman who sold her body, a prostitute or a courtesan (1Cor 6:15-16). A pornos referred to a male prostitute, a man who frequented prostitutes or an habitually immoral man (1Cor 5:11) (DNTT 1:497). In the LXX porneia translates zanah, which means “harlotry” (BDB 275). The Tanakh usage of harlotry included both the practice of prostitution (Gen 38:24; Lev 21:9, 14; Deut 22:21), but also wives having multiple lovers (Prov 6:24-32). Intertestament Jewish writings also included unlawful sexual relations (Lev 18) in porneia as Paul does in 1 Corinthians 5:1. Zanah particularly stood for the wicked practices of idolatry, pagan religion, occultism, child sacrifice, and intermarriage with forbidden peoples (Ex 34:15-16; Lev 20:5-6; Num 25:1-2; Deut 31:16). Zanah is rebellion against God.
uncleanness: Grk. akatharsia, impurity or dirt, a figurative term for immorality or viciousness (cf. 2Cor 12:21; Gal 5:19). Rienecker very appropriately renders it as "uncleanness." In the LXX the negative term akatharsia translates Heb. tum'ah (DNTT 3:103), which means uncleanness, whether ethical or religious impurity (Lev 5:3; 16:16) (BDB 380). The various types of religious tum'ah are detailed in Leviticus 11–15, 22. Various types of moral uncleanness, represented by the related word tamē are given in Leviticus 18-20. The chief danger in uncleanness is that it defiled people (Lev 18:20, 24; Num 5), the sanctuary (Lev 15:31), the camp (Num 5:3) and the land (Lev 18:25). The penalty for moral uncleanness was death (Lev 15:31). Religious uncleanness caused a person to be restricted in both access to worship (Lev 7:19-21) and relationships (Lev 15:19-28) until cleanness was restored. Worshipping while unclean, whether religious or moral, warranted being cut off from the community (Lev 7:21; Num 19:20).
passion: Grk. pathos, may mean suffering in a tragic sense or passion, especially in a sexual sense. evil: Grk. kakos, morally or socially reprehensible. desire: Grk. epithumia, desire, longing. In first century usage epithumia may be neutral, good or bad, depending on the circumstances and what is desired. Every person has desires and needs, whether physical (food, clothing, shelter), relational (friendship, intimacy) or communal (position, respect). When these things cannot be obtained in a neutral or good way, then Sin may tempt the person to fulfill the desire in a bad way and thus Sin gains control over the person. and covetousness: Grk. pleonexia, a motivating force for gaining something beyond an acceptable standard, thus greed or avarice. which is idolatry: Grk. eidōlolatria, practice of image-worshipping, idolatry.
6 because of these things the wrath of God comes on the sons of disobedience:
the wrath: Grk. orgē means anger, indignation or wrath. Orgē is the preferred word for the judgment of God at the end of the age (cf. Matt 3:7; Luke 21:23; 1Th 1:10; 5:9; Rev 11:18; 16:19; 19:15). of God comes: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid., to come or to go. Paul probably uses the verb in an eschatological sense, but a temporal sense should not be ruled out (cf. 1Cor 11:30). on the sons: pl. of Grk. huios, a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by more remote ancestry. In the LXX huios renders Heb. ben (“son,” “son of”), which is used in three distinctive ways: (1) to identify direct paternity, as the son of his father (Gen 5); (2) to mean not the actual father but a more distant ancestor (e.g., Gen 32:32); or (3) to mean in a broader sense of having the characteristics of (e.g., Ps 89:22; Dan 3:25), which applies here.
of disobedience: Grk. apeitheia, disobedience, resistance, and in the Besekh always in opposition to God's authority. In a poetic sense Paul personifies disobedience similar to "destruction" in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. "Sons of disobedience" is an idiomatic expression (also in Eph 2:2 and 5:6) referring to a mindset of defiance against the Torah of God and consequently destined for divine retribution ("children of wrath," Eph 2:3). They may be likened to the "sons of the evil one" (Matt 13:38). Isaiah wrote of the "offspring of evildoers, sons who act corruptly" (Isa 1:4) and "false sons, sons who refuse to listen to the instruction of the Lord" (Isa 30:9).
Those who obey God can be called "sons of God" (Matt 5:9; Rom 8:14) or "sons of the Father" (Matt 5:45) and "sons of Abraham" (Gal 3:7), "sons of light" (1Th 5:5)
7 wherein you also once walked, when you lived in these things;
Paul refers to their spiritual condition before receiving the good news of salvation, similar to the before and after picture in 1 Corinthians 6:11. Paul implies that as a group members of the congregation had formerly lived in all manner of sin and fleshly pursuits. Although Paul's statement could be based on his general knowledge of the culture he probably relies on Epaphras for this information (cf. 1:3, 8).
8 but now you also put away all things: anger, wrath, malice, calumny, shameful speaking out of your mouth:
but now you also put away: Grk. apotithēmi, aor. mid. imp., to put off, put away, lay aside or rid oneself of. Its regular usage pertained to removing garments, but here is used figuratively of end certain behaviors. anger: Grk. orgē. See the note on verse 6 above. wrath: thumos, a passionate state of mind. The term may indicate intense desire or passion or in the extreme wrath or anger. The terms thumos and orgē are the only words in the Greek language for anger. Thumos was described as being like the flame which comes from dried straw. It quickly blazes up and just as quickly dies down. Orgē is long-lived anger, an anger that has been nursed, an anger of brooding over an offense and not allowed to die. However, in the LXX there is virtually no distinction between thumos and orgē and both terms are used synonymously and appear for the same numerous Hebrew equivalents.
In the Besekh all anger is condemned and disciples are admonished to get rid of anger (Gal 5:20; Eph 4:26, 31; 6:4; Jas 1:19-20). The Talmud has an apt saying, “He who gives vent to his anger destroys his house” (Sanhedrin 102b). malice: Grk. kakia, moral offensiveness, whether as a general disposition or having malicious attitude toward others. calumny: Grk. blasphēmia means slander, defamation, blasphemy or abusive speech, and in the apostolic writings is sometimes directed at men and sometimes at God. shameful speaking: Grk. aischrologia, the kind of talk, whether dirty or abusive, that cultivated persons would not use and thus bring shame on themselves, unseemly talk. The term is used only here in the Besekh. out of your mouth: Grk. stoma, the mouth as a bodily organ. This is a typical Hebraic way of speaking of emphasizing the body part engaged in the offense.
9 Do not lie to one another; since you have put off the old man with his deeds,
Do not lie: Grk. pseudomai, pres. mid. imp., to state what is false. The present tense indicates to start and keep on doing the instructed behavior. since you have put off: Grk. apekduomai, aor. mid. part., to strip off from oneself or to disarm. the old: Grk. palaios, old as an expression of age, but used here figuratively in the sense of 'former.' man: Grk. anthrōpos, human being or man, in the sense of an adult male. The 'old man' is an expression of two ways of being, the other mentioned in the next verse. In context the 'old man' is associated with the earthly things and the way the Colossians used to live. with his deeds: Grk. praxis, engagement in performance, action, deed, or practice.
10 and having put on the new, the one being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the One having created him:
and having put on: Grk. enduō, aor. mid. part., to provide a covering, to put on or to clothe. The middle voice would mean to clothe oneself in or to wear. the new: Grk. neos, in existence for a relatively short time, here referring to a condition qualitatively different than what came before. Many versions add "man," "person," or "self" to complete the contrast with the 'old man' in the previous verse. the one being renewed: Grk. anakainoō, pres. pass. part. with the definite article, to make new again. in knowledge: Grk. epignōsis, knowledge with the connotation of personal acquaintance, insight or perception. according to the image: Grk. eikōn, something that bears likeness to something else, an image or likeness. of the One having created: Grk. ktizō, aor. part., to create, and in the Besekh only of divine activity. him: Grk. autos, pers. pron. The renewal produces an inward and not merely superficial conformity to the image of God. Disciples are not clones of Yeshua. Our renewed nature is only similar to that of Yeshua.
11 where there is not Hellenist and Judean, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Messiah is all, and in all.
where there is not: The following list implies that the demographics of the Colossian congregation included these categories. Paul's point is that these ways of defining and dividing people have no significance in the Kingdom of God. Hellenist: Grk. Hellēn (pl. Hellēnés), one of Hellenistic culture. In classical Greek Hellēn meant a Greek, as opposed to a barbarian, and generally a term for ethnic Greeks. After Alexander the Great conquered the world he and his successors sought to educate and assimilate people in the Greek way of life. All who adopted the Greek language and culture were counted as Hellēn, even though they were of a different ethnic group (DNTT 2:124). Hellēn appears 25 times in the apostolic writings and simply means a Hellenist. All but two of those occurrences are in Paul's letters (14 times) or in Luke's narratives of Paul's ministry (9 times).
Although not recognized by Christian lexicons readers of Paul's letters should consider that Paul uses Hellēn to include if not exclusively designate Hellenistic Jews. After all, Hellēn is a cultural term, not a country of origin. When Paul wants to speak of Gentiles (non-Jews) in an unambiguous manner he uses the term ethnos, which he does 48 times in his letters. (See the note on Col 1:27.) Pertinent to this discussion is that Stern translates the plural of Hellēn in John 7:35 and 12:20 as "Greek-speaking Jews." Important to understanding Hellenistic Jews is what they held in common with Hebraic or Judean Jews and how they were different. Like Hebraic Jews the Hellenistic Jews held fast to their religion, participated in synagogue, looked to Jerusalem as the Holy City and paid the half-shekel annual tribute for the Temple service.
Hellenistic Jews judged their own disputes and didn’t resort to the Gentile system. And, Hellenistic Jews agreed with the Pharisaical spirit of evangelizing Gentiles. The differences, however, were significant. Hellenistic Jews spoke Greek in lieu of Hebrew, they took Greek names and in the Diaspora many Hellenistic synagogues conducted services in Greek. Hellenistic Jews had a tendency toward universalism and they tolerated religions around them. Many Hellenistic Jews adopted Greek customs, formed trade associations, passed decrees and prepared documents in Greek form, and gave titles and honors to women. Some tolerated mixed marriage, dropped circumcision, and even in some places adopted Greek cults (Tarn & Griffith 223-227).
and Judean: Grk. Ioudaios (pl. Ioudaioi), Judean, Jew, Jewish or Jewess with respect to birth heritage (BAG). In the LXX Ioudaios translates the Heb. term Yehudi (pl Yehudim). Yehudi was derived from Yehudah, the name given to Jacob’s son (Gen 29:35) and thereafter his tribal descendants (Ex 31:2). The plural Yehudim first appears in 2 Kings 16:6; 25:25 and Jeremiah 34:9 for citizens of the Kingdom of Judah. The southern kingdom also included the tribes of Benjamin and Simeon, so Mordecai of the tribe of Benjamin is identified as a Yehudi (Esth 2:5; 6:10). The meaning of Yehudim expanded during the exile to refer to all those taken in captivity from the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah living throughout the Persian empire (Esth 8:9, 11, and 17).
Stern contends that in apostolic usage Ioudaioi ("Jews") has one of three meanings: (1) members of the tribe of Judah; (2) followers of the Jewish religion; or (3) people living in or originating from Judea, however politically defined (160). I would add "members of the tribes belonging to the Kingdom of Judah" to the definition. Paul would be a Ioudaios on this basis since he was a member of the tribe of Benjamin as Mordecai (Acts 13:21; Rom 11:1; Phil 3:5). In addition, I would clarify the second meaning to be "followers of the Judean religion." In other words, In contrast to the Hellēnés the Ioudaioi were observant traditional Jews.
The Ioudaioi revered Moses, faithfully observed the Sabbath, kept God's prescribed festivals, circumcised their children and regarded the Temple in Jerusalem as the only place to worship the God of Israel with sacrifices (John 2:13; 4:20; 5:1, 16; 6:4; 7:2; 11:55; 19:31; Acts 2:5; 16:3; 21:21; 22:3; 24:14; Rom 2:17). Generally speaking the Ioudaioi followed the traditions of the Pharisees (Mark 7:3; Acts 10:28). The same devotion could not be said of other Israelite descendants who were scattered throughout the world. Thus, the term Ioudaios is never used of Hellenistic Jews or Samaritan Jews.
Those identified as Hellēnés are frequently contrasted with the Ioudaioi (16 times, Acts 14:1; 16:1, 3; 18:4, 19:10, 17; 20:21; Rom 1:16; 2:9-10; 3:9; 10:12; 1Cor 1:22, 24; 10:32; Gal 3:28). To traditional Jews, such as those in Judea, Greek ideas were abominations and syncretism was tantamount to treason with the enemy. The differences went deeper than the fact that Judean Jews spoke Hebrew and Hellenistic Jews spoke Greek. Acts 6:1 depicts the strife between these two groups. Yet, Paul refused to let these cultural differences hinder unity in the Body of Messiah.
circumcision: Grk. peritomē, the surgical removal of male foreskin as a religious rite. Paul does not use the term here simply of Jews, for that would be a pointless redundancy. He may mean the circumcision group as he uses the term elsewhere (Rom 4:12; 15:8; Gal 2:12; Col 4:11; Titus 1:10), as does Luke (Acts 10:45; 11:2; 15:1). This zealous group had insisted that Gentile disciples complete Brit Milah to be considered a part of the Messianic Kingdom (Acts 15:1). The membership of the circumcision party consisted of conservative Hebraic Jews (Pharisees, Acts 15:5). The term would also include Gentile proselytes.
and uncircumcision: Grk. akrobustia, prepuce of the penis, foreskin, to have a foreskin and therefore never circumcised. It was "a reproach" for an Israelite to be uncircumcised (Gen 17:14; Josh 5:9). Hence the Heb. name arêlim (uncircumcised) became a term of contemptuous reproach, denoting the Philistines and other non-Israelites (Judg 14:3; 1Sam 14:6; 17:26; 31:4; 2Sam 1: 20), and used synonymously with Heb. tamê ("unclean") for heathen (Isa 52:1). However, the reality is that in the Diaspora many Hellenistic Jews had ceased performing circumcision of their children (Tarn & Griffith 224). So "uncircumcised" could include Hellenistic Jews in its definition here. Another distinction is that while "Judean" and "Hellenist" would include women, "circumcision" and "uncircumcision" could only refer to men.
barbarian: Grk. barbaros, foreign from a Hellenic perspective, barbarian as a pejorative term. The 'barbarian' was someone who could not speak Greek well and used vocal sounds unintelligible to the Greeks. From this perspective the Jewish Greek of the Besekh, so influenced by Hebrew grammatical rules and full of Hebrew idioms would be "barbaric" by the standards of Athens. The OJB translates the word as "uncultured non-Greek speaker."
Scythian: Grk. Skuthēs, a nomadic people living north of the Black Sea at the time of this letter. BAG refers to them as "the barbarian or savage 'par excellence'. The term occurs only here in the Besekh. However, the LXX of Judges 1:27 inserts Skuthōn polis (Scythopolis) in explanation as being the same as Beth-shean. The same occurs in the Apocrypha (Judith 3:10; 1Macc 12:29), and the Scythians as a people in 2Macc 4:47, and the adjective in 3 Macc 7:5. The reference in 3 Maccabees emphasizes the savage cruelty of the Scythians. Josephus says the Scythians was the name given by the Greeks to the Magogites, descendants of Magog, the grandson of Noah (Ant. I, 6:1). HBD says the Scythians are known in the Tanakh as Ashkenaz (Jer 51:27), but Ashkenaz was a son of Gomer (Gen 10:3; 1Chr 1:6). Some versions translate the word as "savage" (CJB, GNT, TLV) or "uncivilized" (GW, NLT).
The Scythians were notorious for being cruel, savage and uncivilized, their character being clearly set forth in the classical writers, especially in The History, Book 4, by Herodotus (484-420 BC). War was their chief business, and they were a scourge to neighboring nations. The Scythians drank the blood of the first enemy killed in battle, and made napkins of the scalps and drinking bowls of the skulls of the slain. In 632 B.C. the Scythians swept through Mesopotamia, ravaged Syria and would have invaded Egypt but Pharaoh bought them off by rich gifts.
They remained in Western Asia for 28 years, according to Herodotus. A company of them settled in Beth-shean in the Valley of Jezreel near the Jordan River, and from this circumstance it received the name Scythopolis. They were eventually driven back into southern Russia by the Medes. Scythian power was dominant in the area northwest of the Black Sea until about 350 B.C. Eventually, new invaders, the Sarmatians, having confined them to the Crimean area, destroyed the remaining Scythian remnants after A.D. 100.
slave: Grk. doulos can mean either slave or servant. In the LXX doulos translates the Heb. word ebed, which similarly described someone enslaved after being captured in war or in order to pay a debt, whether voluntarily or involuntarily (cf. Ex 21:7; Lev 25:39, 44, 47). In addition, ebed identified those that served God, especially service in the temple (DNTT 3:593ff). The first usage of ebed for "slave" in Scripture is of the household servants Abimelech gave Abraham as restitution for taking Sarah (Gen 20:14). Joseph is the first Hebrew slave mentioned in Scripture (Gen 39:17). Later Egypt would be labeled a "house of slavery" for their mistreatment of the descendants of Jacob (Ex 13:3). Slaves could be owned as a possession for various lengths of times, Hebrew slaves no more than seven years (Ex 21:2), and Gentile slaves without time limit.
The economy of Egypt, Greece, and Rome was based on slave labor. In the first century, one out of three persons in Italy and one out of five elsewhere was a slave. Canaan, Aram, Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia had fewer slaves because it proved less expensive to hire free persons ("Slave/Servant," HBD). Legally, a slave had no rights; but, except for the gangs in mines, most were treated humanely and were better off than many free persons. Domestics were considered part of the family, and some were greatly loved by their masters. While servanthood might have been involuntary, slaves could generally earn or purchase their freedom (cf. 1Cor 7:21). Still, the institution of slavery was unquestioned (cf. Matt 10:24) and the Bible contains no condemnation of the practice. Slavery was guaranteed employment and job security.
free: Grk. eleutheros, enjoying freedom from constraint, free or independent, non-slave status. The noun was also applied to freed slaves, who then became clients of their former masters. but Messiah: Grk. Christos, the Jewish Messiah, King of the Jews, Son of David, Son of Man, and Son of God. is all, and in all: Yeshua is no respecter of persons. The point of these categories, which ironically omits rich and poor, is to emphasize the universal mission of the gospel. All peoples are intended to serve Yeshua as their King and Lord.
Virtues of heaven, 3:12-17
12 Put on therefore, as elect of God, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;
Put on: Grk. enduō, aor. mid. imp., to provide covering, thus, to put on, clothe oneself or wear. therefore, as elect: Grk. eklektos, favored with select status, chosen. In the Tanakh "God's elect" (chosen ones) only has reference to Israel (Deut 7:6), but in the apostolic writings elektos would correspond to the four designations for Israel - the Sheep Flock (John 10:14-16), the Commonwealth (Eph 2:11-13), the Olive Tree (Rom 11:17-24) and the Temple (Eph 2:14; 1Pet 2:4-9) - to which Gentile disciples of Yeshua have been joined (cf. Rom 8:33; 16:13; 2Tim 2:10). The concept of the elect in Scripture is not equivalent to Christianity, which historically denied God's covenantal relationship to Israel. See my commentary on Romans 11. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above.
holy: Grk. hagios, like the Heb. qadosh it renders in the LXX, means dedicated to God, sacred or holy, i.e., reserved for God and His service. Here the adjective identifies behavior that is indicative of one so dedicated to God. and beloved: Grk. agapaō, perf. pass. part., to have such an interest in another that one wishes to contribute to the other's well-being, even if it means making a personal sacrifice to do so. In the LXX agapaō translates aheb, but aheb is a far more comprehensive word than agapaō. There are four words in Greek for love. Besides agapaō there is eros, desire or longing between a man and woman; storgē, family affection; phileō, affection of people who are close to one another, whether inside a family or out, also care and compassion, and then love of things that one enjoys. Aheb is like the English word “love” which is used to mean all these things. The verb points to the work of God who has loved the world from the beginning.
a heart: Grk. splagchnon, inner organs or entrails, but used figuratively here of loving concern or sympathy and thus the translation of 'heart.' of compassion: Grk. oiktirmos, tender concern for one in trying conditions or distress, compassion, mercy. kindness: Grk. chrēstotēs, the quality of having a high level of usefulness, understood in the Mediterranean world (including Hebrew culture) as an important factor in maintaining a well-ordered society. The word is translated variously in the apostolic writings as kindness, generosity and goodness. humility: Grk. tapeinophrosunē, humility, as opposed to an attitude or projection of self-importance. meekness: Grk. prautēs, meekness, mildness, gentleness. It is the humble and gentle attitude which expresses itself in a patient submissiveness to offense free from malice and desire for revenge. longsuffering: Grk. makrothumia, the capacity for restraint in face of what is provocative. All of these virtues stand in sharp contrast to the sins of verse 5 above.
13 forbearing one another, and forgiving each other, if any man have a complaint against any; even as the Lord forgave you, so also do you:
forbearing: Grk. anechōmai, pres. mid. part., to put up with when faced with something disagreeable, annoying, or difficult, tolerate, endure or bear with. one another: pl. of Grk. allēlōn, personal pronoun, occurring 100 times in the Besekh. The term occurs mostly in the apostolic letters and emphasizes the connectedness of the Body of Messiah, often combined with relational instruction. and forgiving: Grk. charizomai, pres. mid. part., to grant as a favor, to give graciously to, to discharge from obligation, including forgiveness, whether a financial obligation or liability for offense or wrongdoing. each other: pl. of Grk. heautou, a reciprocal pronoun that focuses on individual persons and may be translated as 'each other' or 'one another.'
if any man have: Grk. echō, pres. subj., to possess something with the implication of having under one's control or at one's disposal. The subjunctive mood indicates mild contingency or probability; it looks toward what is conceivable or potential. a complaint: Grk. momphē, cause or ground for censure. against any: A disciple has the obligation to forgive, even if the offender does not admit wrong. See my web article Reconciling a Broken Relationship. even as the Lord: Grk. kurios may mean either (1) 'one in control through possession,' and therefore owner or master; or (2) 'one esteemed for authority or high status,' thus lord or master. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times, principally to replace Heb. YHVH.
In addition, kurios translates the divine title Adonai. In contrast to its use for deity kurios also renders Heb. adon (owner, master) 310 times, 190 of which refer to men in general recognition of superiority (DNTT 2:511). Kurios is the principal title by which disciples and members of the public addressed Yeshua during his earthly ministry, over twice as many times as any other title (e.g., Rabbi, Teacher, Master). Paul uses kurios 14 times in this letter, five of which are specifically associated with Yeshua (1:3; 2:6; 3:17, 24). However, in this verse Paul may mean God the Father.
forgave: Grk. charizomai, aor. mid. In the ministry of atonement and salvation it is the Father who forgives, not Yeshua (Matt 6:12, 14-15; 18:35; Luke 23:34; 1Jn 1:5-9). Yeshua's part is that his shed blood provides the ground for forgiveness (Matt 26:28; Acts 2:38; 13:38; Eph 1:7; Col 1:14: Heb 9:22). When Yeshua announced that two different people were forgiven (Mark 2:5; Luke 7:47), he was really acting as an agent for the Father. Yeshua's statement that the "Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" (Mark 2:10), uses "son of man" in an idiomatic sense of "descendant of Adam." Every person has the right and responsibility to forgive others, and bystanders understood that this was his meaning (Matt 9:8). The verb in this verse points back to the time when the Colossian disciples first believed in the efficacy of Yeshua's atoning sacrifice, confessed their sins and received God's forgiveness.
so also do you: God's example imposes an obligation on the disciple of Yeshua to provide the same grace to others. There is no excuse for unforgiveness.
14 and above all these things have love, which is the bond of completeness.
and: Grk. de, conj., used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also" (BAG). above all these things: Paul alludes to the list of virtues in the previous two verses. have: Many versions insert "put on" here, although there is no verb in this verse. love: Grk. agapē, a relatively high level of interest in the well-being of another, affection, esteem, love. God's nature and actions are the epitome of agapē. The common factor in every passage employing the agapē word-group is the willingness to sacrifice, which sets it apart from the affection of phileō, the family loyalty of storgē and the passion of eros. Love is considered the preeminent virtue (1Cor 12:31; 13:13) and it leads the list of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22).
which is the bond: Grk. sundesmos, that which holds something together, used of an anatomical part as a ligament and figuratively of a uniting bond. Love is what binds the Body of Messiah together as ligaments hold a physical body together. of completeness: Grk. teleiotēs, quality of completeness, perfection, as a high point in expression of congregational integrity or unity. The term occurs only twice in the Besekh (also Heb 6:1).
15 And let the peace of the Messiah rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.
And let the peace: Grk. eirēnē (used in the LXX for Heb. shalom) peace, which may be in reference to (1) a state of harmony as a result from cessation of hostilities, whether in political or personal relationships; or (2) a state of well-being, used Hebraically as a greeting or as characteristic of the Messianic age and divine favor. The Greek word corresponds to Heb. shalom, which means completeness, soundness, welfare, or peace (BDB 1022). In Jewish culture shalom is never peace in the negative sense, the absence of conflict, but the possession of everything that makes for man’s highest good. The biblical word "peace" is relational in scope and does not necessarily depict an emotional state.
of the Messiah: Grk. Christos, the Jewish Messiah, King of the Jews, Son of David, Son of Man, and Son of God. rule: Grk. brabeuō, pres. imp., award a prize, but used frequently and metaphorically for 'to lead, determine or rule.' The present imperative means to start and continue the prescribed action. in your hearts: pl. of Grk. kardia, the pumplike organ of blood circulation, here used metaphorically as the center for personhood, character, cognition, emotion and volition. to which you were called: Grk. kaleō, aor. pass. ind., often means either to call or summon to divine relationship and responsibility or to identify by name. In the LXX of Genesis 21:12, which Paul quotes, kaleō renders Heb. qara, which may mean to call, proclaim or read (BDB 894). Qara is used in contexts of both commissioning to service and naming someone.
in one body: Grk. sōma, normally used of a structured physical unit in distinction from its parts, here used figuratively of the congregation. Paul expounds at length on this metaphorical picture in 1 Corinthians 12. and be: Grk. ginomai, pres. mid. imp., to come into being or undergo a state of change or development. thankful: Grk. eucharistos, grateful, thankful, mindful of benefits. The word occurs only here in the Besekh.
16 Let the word of the Messiah dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to God.
Let the word: Grk. logos refers principally to the spoken word and as a biblical and theological construct refers to revelation by God. of the Messiah: Grk. Christos, the Jewish Messiah, King of the Jews, Son of David, Son of Man, and Son of God. The faith of the Colossians was sparked by hearing the message about the Messiah's life, death and resurrection (via the Spirit). dwell: Grk. enoikeō, pres. imp., to live or dwell in. The verb occurs only five times in the Besekh, all in the writings of Paul (Rom 8:11; 2Cor 6:16; 2Tim 1:5, 14), the first and last verses referring to the indwelling Spirit. The verb refers to taking up residence in a place of habitation. in you richly: Grk. plousiōs, adv., abundantly or richly. in all wisdom: Grk. sophia, exceptional endowment of discernment, understanding and insight, wisdom.
teaching: Grk. didaskō, pres. part., to teach or instruct, often used in the apostolic writings of instructing disciples. The present tense emphasizes the importance of continued teaching to deepen the believers’ knowledge of God’s truth. The office of teacher (Heb. moreh) was central in the Torah-oriented society of Second Temple Judaism and teaching was the principal feature of synagogue worship. Biblical teaching is grounded in the principle that God’s Word was given in order to teach man to walk in His ways (Ex 4:15; Deut 33:10; Ps 25:12; 2Tim 3:16). and admonishing: Grk. noutheteō, pres. part., to offer counsel and instruction for avoidance or cessation of inappropriate conduct. The verb frequently occurs in contexts reflecting consideration and concern. It does not imply browbeating someone or rebuking in anger, but rather employing the resources of the faith to aid discipleship.
with psalms: pl. of Grk. psalmos, a celebratory poem, from psallō, “to pluck a stringed instrument.” In the LXX Psalmoi is the name given to the book of Psalms, which among Jews of that day had canonical status (cf. Luke 20:42; 24:44; John 10:34; Acts 1:20; 13:33). Paul no doubt means that someone would share one of the 150 psalms, a rich source for praise and prophesying (cf. Eph 5:19; Col 3:16). and hymns: pl. of Grk. humnos, utterance in celebratory song, a song or hymn in a cultic setting in praise to God. In the LXX humnos translates Heb tehillah ('praise'; Ps 40:3; 65:1), tephillah ('prayer,' Ps 72:20), and shir (Neh 12:46; Isa 42:10; 'a song, a lyric song, a religious song in worship, specifically a song of Levitical choirs with musical accompaniment,' BDB 1010). It is also used for Heb. neginah ('music with a stringed instrument,' BDB 617) in various Psalm titles (Ps 4, 6, 54; 55; 61; 67).
and spiritual: Grk. pneumatikos, adj., transcending physical existence and influence, especially spiritual matters or characteristic influenced by the Spirit of God, spiritual. The adjective would describe that which exalts God and declares the truth of Scripture. The importance of the word may be seen in its contrast with sarkikos, 'worldly' (1Cor 3:3; 2Cor 10:4; 1Pet 2:11) and sarkinos, 'fleshly' or 'unspiritual' (Rom 7:14; 1Cor 3:1). songs: pl. of Grk. ōdē, a song, hymn or ode. In the LXX ōdē renders primarily Heb. shir (e.g., Ex 15:1; Deut 31:19; Jdg 5:12; 2Sam 22:1; 1Chr 6:32; Ps 69:30). Psalm 92:2 mentions playing an ōdē on the harp. The term occurs as a descriptive label in the titles of 15 psalms (Ps 18; 30, 39, 45, 48, 65, 66, 67, 68, 75, 87, 91, 92, 93, 95), and Paul may have had these specific psalms in mind. The Greek word also renders Heb. mizmor (Ps 39:1; 'a melody,' BDB 274), Heb. shiggayon (Hab 3:1; 'a wild passionate song with rapid changes of rhythm,' BDB 993) and Heb. neginah (Hab 3:19).
singing: Grk. adō, pres. part., to sing in praise to God. with grace: Grk. charis, a response to a display of generosity, an expression of requital or thanks. in your hearts: pl. of Grk. kardia. See the note on the previous verse. to God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. Paul was well aware that sacred songs contained in the inspired Psalter and praise music used in Temple worship in Jerusalem contrasted sharply with the hedonistic music of pagan celebrations, religious festivals and athletic events. Such revels typically involved drinking to excess, sexual promiscuity, nudity and other loose conduct. Disciples are encouraged to replace the "pop music" of the world with music that glorifies God.
The three verbs 'teaching,' 'admonishing' and 'singing,' though participles are used as imperatives. Scholars have long been puzzled over Paul's usage of the participle in hortatory instructions (also in Romans and Ephesians). Davies says that non-biblical Jewish writings used the participle in exactly the same manner, and thus Paul's use of the participle as imperative probably reflects Jewish sources (130f). Be that as it may, Paul's exhortations flow from his Messianic theology. With the use of the participle Paul is appealing to the conscience rather than commanding the will.
To the Western mind it may seem strange to connect teaching and admonishing with singing, but for Paul they are interconnected. The important ministry role of music was established by King David when he "set apart for the service certain of the sons of Asaf, and of Heman, and of Yedutun, who should prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals" (2Chr 25:1 HNV). In addition, the terms employed in this verse suggest the use of the book of Psalms, a widely available resource among Jews (Luke 20:42; 24:44; Acts 1:20; 13:33, 35; 1Cor 14:26; and Eph 5:19). Conversely, there is no stated intention that the Psalter be the only source of congregational music, but it does serve as a standard to evaluate music to be used in the worship of Messiah's people.
17 And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Yeshua, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
And whatever you do: Grk. poieō, pres. subj., to bring about a state or condition, 'to do' or 'to make.' As an activity it can have the sense of bringing something about or of creating conditions that will cause something to happen. Paul offers a comprehensive principle to guide all of a disciple's life. The verb occurs 568 times in the Besekh and reflects the emphasis in the Hebrew language and culture of action. Greek culture considered the mental all-important, much more than physical reality. Thus, the intellect was exalted over actions. However, Paul's hortatory instruction, consistent with Hebrew culture, calls disciples to produce works consistent with righteousness.
do all in the name: Grk. onoma in its central sense is used to identify someone. In Hebrew literature it carries the extended sense of qualities, powers, attributes or reputation. Doing something "in the name" implies authority or permission for the action and representative of the one giving authority. of the Lord: Grk. kurios. See the note on verse 13 above. Paul may have meant the Father when he used "Lord" in verse 13, but here he associates the title with Yeshua. It's repeated usage in verses 18, 20, 22, 23 and twice in 24 is an important reminder of whom the Colossian disciples owe their allegiance.
Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, perhaps "yay-soos," transliterates the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). Greek does not have a letter with the "sh" sound, so "s" is substituted for the Heb. letter shin. Iēsous does not translate the meaning of Yeshua. Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua, which means “YHVH is salvation" (BDB 221). Yeshua has the same Hebrew root as yoshia (“He will save”) and is also the masculine form of the Hebrew word yeshu‘ah, ("salvation”) (Stern 4). In the LXX both Yeshua ("Jeshua") and Y’hoshua ("Joshua") were common names and rendered as Iēsous. The English spelling of "Jesus" originated with the Mace New Testament in 1729. For many Jews the name "Jesus" is a distinctly Christian word. Sadly, for many Christians the name "Jesus," while precious, does not evoke the reality of his Jewish identity.
The phrase "the name of the Lord Yeshua" is not a ritual formula spoken to give verisimilitude to one's action whatever they may be, nor is it intended as a magical charm. Rather, it is an idiomatic expression identifying the conduct of a dependable servant. The disciple is a representative of Yeshua and as such the disciple's conduct should reflect well on him. giving thanks: Grk. eucharisteō, to give thanks, of which God is explicitly the recipient. The verb occurs not at all in the LXX of the Tanakh, but is found six times in the Jewish Apocrypha (DNTT 3:818). In the Besekh the verb occurs often in reference to Yeshua or an apostle offering a b'rakhah ("blessing") to God for food or some other benefit. Jews had b'rakhot for many circumstances, which are discussed in the Tractate Berakoth.
to God the Father: Paul emphasizes the Jewish practice that all blessings are addressed to God the Father, because He is the One who extends grace and benefits of His favor. The formula for blessings set forth in the Mishnah consisted of two parts, first the standard invocation, Barukh attah Adonai ("Blessed are You, O LORD," quoting Psalm 119:12) (Ber. 1:4), followed by the reason for the invocation, "who [action verb]." through him: Paul adds the closing instrumental preposition (Grk. dia, 'through') with the personal pronoun (Grk. autos) to emphasize the mediatorial work of Yeshua. Disciples have access to God the Father because of the atoning sacrifice of Yeshua and his continual intercession (Rom 8:34).
18 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Wives: pl. of Grk. gunē, voc. case, an adult female person without respect to age, social status, or marital status, except as defined by the context; lit. "the wives." In the LXX gunē renders the Heb. ishshah ("woman"). When a woman is connected to a man by name then gunē is rendered as 'wife.' be subject: Grk. hupotassō, pres. mid. imp., to place or rank under, to be in compliance with requirements for order, to subject, so subordinate, to bring into compliance. Hupotassō is derived from hupo (under) and tassō (arrange, appoint), which originated as a military term where a rank structure is clearly defined (DNTT 1:476).
to your husbands: pl. of Grk. anēr (Heb. adam), an adult man without regard to marital status, but in this context one who has taken a woman as wife; lit. "to the husbands." Biblical submission does not denote slavery, subservience or inferiority. A slave had no rights and could be sold. Submission pertains to recognizing the positions and function of authority God has ordained and voluntarily subordinating oneself to those who hold those positions and giving respect. Of all the apostolic commands to subject oneself to another the most are directed to wives (1Cor 14:34-35; Eph 5:22, 24; Col 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1Pet 3:1-6).
as is fitting: Grk. anēkō, impf., be suitable, be proper, becoming. Some view this verb as expressing a Stoic philosophy by defining "fitting" as to live in harmony with nature (Bruce 162). However, the verb is found in the LXX (1Macc 10:42; 11:35; 2Macc 14:8), so it was not unknown in Jewish culture. in the Lord: Grk. kurios. See the note on verse 13 above. Paul makes the point explicit. The wives' submission is fitting "in the Lord" and not according to "nature" (cf. 1Cor 11:14). The husband functions as head of the wife (1Cor 11:3; Eph 5:23), just as Yeshua is head of the people of God (Eph 1:22; 4:15; Col 1:18; 2:10). Paul expresses the natural implication of creation law that established the husband's rule in the home (Gen 3:16).
In case one might contend that family relationships no longer had to operate by Torah commandments Paul emphasizes that in Messiah these expectations are still in force. The wife's submission is all the more important so that "the word of God will not be dishonored" (Titus 2:5). For more discussion on the biblical design for marriage see my web articles Marriage by Design and Marriage in Ancient Israel.
19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
Husbands: pl. of Grk. anēr, voc. case. See the previous verse. love: Grk. agapaō, pres. imp., love and in this context to offer sacrificial devotion. See the note on verse 12 above. your wives: pl. of Grk. gunē. See the previous verse. The Bible presents the stories of a small number men said to have loved their wives (Isaac, Gen 24:67; Jacob, Gen 29:18, 30; Samson, Jdg 16:4; Solomon, 1Kgs 11:1; Rehoboam, 2Chr 11:21; Ahasuerus, Esth 2:17; Hosea, Hos 3:1). Commentators probably would not regard these men as good models of Paul's instruction, but then marriage in ancient times was generally the result of practicality, not romance.
and be not: Grk. mē, a particle of qualified negation. It differs from the other standard negative particle, oú, in that oú is objective, dealing only with facts, while mē is subjective, involving will and thought. With mē the negation concerns a supposition and thus prohibits or forbids (DM 265f). bitter: Grk. pikrainō, pres. mid. imp., to make bitter in the sense of having hostile feelings. The middle voice, imperative mood and present tense of the verb combined with the negative particle mē indicates a command for the offenders to stop a practice in progress.
against them: As a group wives are to be objects of loving concern and actions by their husbands and never treated as enemies. After all disciples are to love even enemies (Matt 5:44) and minister to their needs (Rom 12:20). Paul's instruction is based on the principle that love is a choice, not just a feeling, and bitterness has no place in a disciple's life (Eph 4:31; Heb 12:15). Bitterness can develop between husbands and wives because God's curse on Adam's sin operates in marriage. Marital tension is reflected in the instruction God gave to Eve, "your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you" (Gen 3:16). The syntax of the Hebrew grammar indicates that the woman's "desire" and the man's "rule" are in opposition.
The word for the woman’s “desire” (Heb. teshuqah, “longing,” BDB 1003) occurs only two other times in the Tanakh. It’s next use (Gen 4:7) refers to a desire to exercise control over something and the third use (Song 7:10) refers to a desire for intimacy. Thus, the woman would have the dual longings of independence and intimacy, but because of the curse women experience frustration in fulfilling these desires. Intimacy can only be received, not taken, requiring surrender of control. Yet, every wife tries to control her husband to some degree. The husband's bitterness springs from the feeling of being manipulated and not being respected as head of the family. Husbands resist wifely control, either passively by withdrawing or aggressively by outbursts of temper, and intimacy invariably suffers.
Not considered by Christian commentators is that the grammar of Paul's instruction would suit any polygamous marriage that might be in the congregation. Polygamy was not only common among the people of Israel before the first century, but was practiced in the apostolic era and the age of the church fathers. Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian mentioned that the “ancient practice among us to have many wives at the same time” continued in his day (Ant. XVII, 1:2). Though not indicated in Scripture, King Herod the Great of the Nativity story had ten wives (Ant. XVII, 1:3). Justin Martyr (110-165) mentions that in his time Jewish men were permitted to have four or five wives (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, §134).
Unequal love of plural wives could be a problem (cf. Gen 29:30-31; Deut 21:15), but the command to love would not permit a husband to discriminate. Several biblical admonitions illustrate how God intended husbands to treat their wives. He is to give happiness to his wife and seek to please her (Deut 24:5; 1Cor 7:34). The keys to making his wife happy are through understanding her nature (1Pet 3:7), satisfying her intimacy needs (1Cor 7:3-5), loving her sacrificially (Eph 5:25), cherishing her (Eph 5:29) and recognizing her talents (Prov 31:28). A loving husband will honor his wife as a joint heir of the Kingdom (1Pet 3:7).
The husband also has the solemn duty to protect his wife and home from harm (Gen 2:15). The husband must be willing to sacrifice himself as Yeshua, and even die to deliver his wife from harm. Not only does the husband protect his wife from outside dangers, but insures that his wife would never perceive him to be a threat to her safety. He must not abuse alcohol or any drug or bully her in any way (1Tim 3:4 cf. Prov 20:28). He must demonstrate gentleness and self-control so that she has nothing to fear from him. She must have complete trust in his care for her.
20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing in the Lord.
Children: Grk. teknon, voc. case, child of undetermined age, older than paidion (new born to youth) and pais (male infant); lit. "the children." The term combined with the following instruction would imply Paul is addressing children who have passed the age for bar mitsvah ('son of the commandment,' age 13) and bat mitsvah ('daughter of the commandment,' age 12). At these ages children became fully accountable to the Torah as adults. obey: Grk. hupakouō, pres. imp., to be in compliance, to obey. The verb is formed from the preposition hupo, 'under,' and akouō, 'to hear.' In Hebrew culture "to hear" is "to obey." your parents: pl. of Grk. goneus, begetter, father, ancestor and in the plural, 'parents,' implying father and mother. However, the plural term could include in a more extended sense a living grandfather.
Paul is also upholding the structure of ancient families in which adult children respected the authority of the head of the clan. The stories of the patriarchs in Genesis illustrate that fathers governed their families until they died. in all things: Children are obligated to obey all directions of their parents, but only those things that are consistent with God's commandments. Parents have no authority to command children to commit sin. for this is well-pleasing: Grk. euarestos, pleasing or acceptable to God. The term occurs 9 times in the Besekh, all in the writings of Paul. in the Lord: This instruction is appropriate since entire households often embraced the Messiah when the head of the household did (cf. Acts 10:2, 44-48; 11:14; 16:15, 31-34; 18:8; 1Cor 1:16).
21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, that they be not discouraged.
Fathers: pl. of Grk. patēr normally refers to an immediate male parent (Matt 2:22), but also included more distant ancestors (Matt 3:9). The word is used in the LXX to render ab ("av"). In Greek culture patēr was used of biological relation, of the patriarch of a family, as a title of honor for an old man or a philosopher (DNTT 1:616f). do not: Grk. mē. See the note on verse 19 above. provoke: Grk. erethizō, pres. imp., to provoke trouble, to rouse by challenging, to vex or to harass. your children: pl. of Grk. teknon. See the previous verse. that they be not discouraged: Grk. athumeō, pres. subj., become dispirited, lose heart. The concern is that the children would lose heart in following Yeshua as a result of the unloving actions of the father. See my web article Common Sense Parenting.
Servants: pl. of Grk. doulos, slave or servant, lit. "the servants." See the note on verse 11 above. Paul likely refers to either household servants or those engaged in businesses owned by disciples. obey: Grk. hupakouō, pres. imp. See verse 19 above. in all things: The servant's duties didn't change by virtue of becoming a disciple. your masters: pl. of Grk. kurios, master, owner or lord, i.e., "your employers.' See the note on verse 13 above. according to the flesh: Grk. sarx, an entity alive in an earthly or physical way, 'flesh.' The term has both literal and figurative uses in Scripture, generally of the human body or human nature with its limitations in contrast with supernatural beings. In the LXX sarx stands for Heb. basar, with the same range of meaning. Here the term refers to the condition of slavery as a human institution in contrast with servanthood as a religious or spiritual ministry.
not with eye-service: Grk. ophthalmodoulia, obedience rendered under a master's eyes, eye-service, equivalent to the modern idiom of 'apple polishing.' as men-pleasers: pl. of Grk. anthrōpareskos, one who does something merely to win another's approval at the moment, a people-pleaser. but in singleness: Grk. haplotēs, quality or state of unmixed motivation or without mental reservation, sincerity, undivided heart, openheartedness. of heart: Grk. kardia. See the note on verse 15 above. The word is used here used of attitude. fearing: Grk. phobeomai, pres. mid. part., to be in a state of apprehension, to be afraid, to fear. the Lord: Grk. kurios, a reference to Yeshua, contrasting with the earthly masters. The "fear of the Lord" is a common idiom in the Tanakh, particularly in the book of Proverbs. Solomon defined "fear of the Lord" as to "hate evil" or to have the same attitude toward evil as God (Prov 8:13). The attitude also recognizes that serving the Lord requires accountability to Him (Rom 14:10; 2Cor 5:10-11).
Paul offers comparable counsel in other letters to believing slaves (Eph 6:5-8; 1Tim 6:1-2), as does Peter (1Pet 2:18-20). As indicated in verse 11 above the institution of slavery is never condemned in Scripture. In fact, Yeshua tells several parables involving slaves to teach spiritual truths (Matt 10:25; 13:27; 18:21-35; 21:34-36; 24:45-51; 25:14-30; Luke 12:35-48; 17:7-9) and Paul uses it as an apt metaphor for the contrast between serving sin and serving righteousness in Romans 6. Nevertheless in 1 Corinthians 7:21-23 Paul gives an opinion that sounds strange to modern ears. Paul advises that born-again slaves not be concerned about their status, but if they want to free themselves, then should feel free to do so. Conversely no free man should voluntarily indenture himself to another.
23 whatsoever you do, work heartily, as to the Lord, and not to men;
whatever you do: Grk. poieō, pres. subj. See the note on verse 17 above. The second person plural verb is most likely a continuation of instruction to slaves. While the principles in verses 23-25 could be read as applying to the whole congregation, such an application would break the flow of instruction that will next consider slave owners in 4:1. work: Grk. ergazomai, pres. mid. imp., focus on effort as such in the course of activity, to be at work, to be active.
heartily: Grk. ek psuchē, lit. "out of the soul." as to the Lord: Grk. kurios, probably referring to Yeshua. See verse 13 above. This qualification is comparable to the statement in verse 18 of "fitting in the Lord." and not to men: Grk. anthrōpos. Paul repeats his injunction of verse 17 above with the added proviso of motivation. Disciples frequently think that unless they're in vocational ministry their jobs are secular concerns, but with a typical Hebraic perspective Paul transforms all work and relational duties into service to God.
24 knowing that from the Lord you shall receive the reward of the inheritance. Serve Messiah, the Lord.
knowing: Grk. oida, to have information about, to know or to have discernment about, to perceive, to understand. you shall receive: Grk. apolambanō, fut. mid. ind., to receive with the sense of requital. the reward: Grk. antapodosis, repayment, recompense, reward. of the inheritance: Grk. klêronomia, a share in what is passed on by a testator, inheritance. In the Lord the disciple is guaranteed an inheritance of unsurpassed value. For the Israelite inheritance was associated with the Land God gave to the nation. For the disciple the inheritance is the Kingdom of God (Eph 5:5), imperishable and undefiled, reserved in heaven (1 Pet 1:4). In ancient times it was not unheard of for servants with important responsibilities to be remembered in the wills of their masters, but the average slave had no such expectation. For a slave to learn that the reward of an eternal inheritance could be expected as a result of following Yeshua would be a blessing beyond comprehension.
Serve: Grk. douleuō, pres. imp., to be in slavery to, to function in total obedience to a master as a slave or bond-servant. Versions are divided over translation, some rendering the verb (douleuete) as Imperative Mood or command (DRA, LEB, MRINT, NET, OJB), but most translating the verb as Indicative Mood or statement of certainty. Both Fisher and Bible Hub identify the verb "serve" as Imperative Mood, but Rienecker identifies the verb as being either Imperative or Indicative Mood. Actually the "ete" ending of the verb can be either Indicative or Imperative (DM 321f). So, the context must determine the matter.
Other verbs in the preceding verses with the ete ending are clearly Imperative Mood: "obey" in verse 20, "provoke" in verse 21, "obey" in verse 22 and "work" in the previous verse. Messiah: Grk. Christos. See verse 1 above. the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 13 above. Use of two principal titles of Yeshua reinforces expectations of disciples that are in service to an earthly master. The instruction here as an entreaty could be a way to emphasize God's order in the universe and that as Lord Yeshua the Messiah deserves absolute loyalty and obedience. Paul's statement would essentially mean, "Remember to keep your focus on serving the Jewish Messiah, King of the Jews, King of Israel, the Lord of the universe, after all, a Master far greater and more important than your earthly master."
25 For he that does wrong shall receive again for the wrong that he has done: and there is no respect of persons.
Paul offers a conclusion that naturally flows from the command in the previous verse. For the one doing wrong: Grk. adikeō, pres. part., doing wrong or doing harm to others as defined by Torah. will receive: Grk. komizō, fut. mid. ind., be in receipt of, with the idea of having received something and then bringing it away. In the present verse the verb represents retribution. for what he did wrong: Grk. adikeō, aor., do wrong. A slave, out of resentment for his status or mistreatment, might easily be tempted to defraud or commit some other wrong against his master. However, being a victim does not excuse breaking God's law. Paul affirms the retribution principle that actions have consequences, parallel to what he wrote to the Galatians:
"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." (Gal 6:7-9)
and there is no respect of persons: Grk. prosōpolēmpsia, partiality, usually in a legal sense. Paul alludes to the Torah principle, "For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe" (Deut 10:17; found also in Rom 2:11; Gal 2:6 and Eph 6:9). Paul could have said "there is no respect of persons with the Lord" as the adversaries of Yeshua affirmed (Mark 12:14).
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. London: Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
Bible-Hub: Biblos Interlinear, Bible Hub. Online Parallel Bible Project, 2004-2016. Online. [Greek text: Nestle 1904 with variants noted.]
Bruce: F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984.
Danker: F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, University of Chicago Press, 2009.
Davies: W.D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism: Some Rabbinic Elements in Pauline Theology. rev. ed. Harper Torchbooks, 1967.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology. 3 Vols., ed. Colin Brown, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
Fisher: Tony Fisher (d. 2000), Greek New Testament. The University of York, nd. [NA26 Greek text.]
HBD: Trent C. Butler, ed., Holman Bible Dictionary. Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1991. Online.
Marshall: Alfred Marshall, NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English. Zondervan Pub. House, 1986.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Vol. 2. Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
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