Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 12 September 2013; Revised 28 February 2021
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.
Introduction to Colossians
The City of Colossae
Colossae was a town of the region called Phrygia of the Roman province of Asia, in the Lycus valley, near Laodicea and Hierapolis, which are mentioned in 2:1; 4:13-16. (See the map from BibleAtlas.org.) The city was known for its cold, pure waters for drinking. Colossae was mostly a pagan city, but there was a strong Jewish population in the tri-city area. Some Jewish settlement in Western Anatolia can be traced to an early date. Apparently there were Jewish exiles in the Lydian city of Sardis in the time of the prophet Obadiah (Bruce 8). According to Josephus the Jewish historian, Seleucus I (312-281 B.C.), founder of the Seleucid dynasty, granted Jews full civic rights in all cities which he founded (Ant. XII, 3:1).
Antiochus II (261-248 B.C.) is said to have planted Jewish colonies in the cities of lonia (Ant. XII, 3:2). But Jewish settlement in Phrygia, on any substantial scale, is to be dated late in the third century B.C., when Antiochus III, having recovered Phrygia and Lydia from the Pergamenes and from his rebellious uncle Achaeus, ordered his satrap Zeuxis to send two thousand Jewish families, with their property, from Babylonia as military settlers in the garrisons and other vital spots of those two Anatolian regions. According to a letter from King Antiochus houses and cultivable lands were to be provided for the Jews, they were to be exempt from taxation for ten years, and they should have the right to live under their own laws (Ant. XII, 3:3).
As a result of this relocation there was a thriving Jewish population in the principal cities of the Lycus Valley. The political changes by which the Lycus valley passed successively under the rule of Pergamum and Rome made little difference to the Jews who resided there. Even Mithridates's conquest of proconsular Asia in 88 B.C., and the ensuing twenty-five years' war, did not seriously disturb them. Almost immediately after the end of the Mithridatic wars we have evidence which points to a large and thriving Jewish population in the Lycus valley and elsewhere in Phrygia (Bruce 10).
By Paul's day Colossae had lost much of its importance, perhaps due to the growth of the neighboring cities. Extremely detrimental to all of the cities of the region were the earthquakes which occasionally did severe damage. Shortly after Paul wrote Colossians, the entire Lycus Valley was devastated by an earthquake (about A.D. 61) which probably ended occupation of the city (HBD).
Time and Place of Writing
Colossians is one of four letters that Paul wrote while incarcerated in Rome (4:18; cf. Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon). The time of writing is generally thought to be around 60-63 A.D. There is indication that the epistles to the Colossians, Philemon and the Ephesians were carried to their destination by Tychicus and Onesimus (cf. 4:7-9; Phm 10-12; Eph 6:21-22).
Paul had received a report of the situation at Colossae by way of Epaphras (1:7-8). This report was for the most part favorable (2:5). But the subject matter in the letter indicates that the congregation was facing the danger of religious syncretism and Paul felt the need to remind the disciples of the all-sufficiency of Messiah Yeshua and provide practical guidance for living in faithfulness to Yeshua. Paul's theme is that in Messiah we have been made complete (2:10).
· Greeting, 1:1-2
· Prayer of thanksgiving, 1:3-8
· Prayer of petition, 1:9-14
· The Incomparable Messiah, 1:15-20
· Paul's Israelology, 1:21-23, 26-27
Paul’s Ministry, 1:24-25, 28—2:7
· A ministry of stewardship, 1:24-25
· A ministry of intercession, 2:1-5
· A ministry of exhortation, 2:6-7
Warning Against Error, 2:8-23
· The error of tradition, 2:8-15
· The error of legalism, 2:16-17
· The error of empty religion, 2:18-19
· The error of asceticism, 2:20-23
Halakhah for holy living, 3:1—4:6
· God first, 3:1-4
· Sins against heaven, 3:5-11
· Virtues of heaven, 3:12-17
· Household relations, 3:18-4:1
· Duty of prayer, 4:2-4
· Community relations, 4:5-6
· Commendations, 4:7-9
· Greetings, 4:10-15
· Instructions, 4:16-17
· Benediction, 4:18
The Text of Colossians
Little recognized by Christian commentators is that the text of Colossians is Jewish Greek. In other words, Paul thought in Hebrew and wrote in Greek. The Greek is not the Greek of Athens, but the Greek of the LXX. The Jewishness of the Greek text may be seen in its references to Jewish practices, vocabulary, idiomatic expressions, grammatical construction (word order, conjunctions, use of the participle in lieu of the imperative), and the Tanakh as the foundational Scripture for his theology and ministry.
As David Hill affirms: "Not only word-meanings in the New Testament, but also the structure and syntax of New Testament language bear the impress of a special Hebraic influence channeled, for the most part, through the Septuagint." (Greek Words and Hebrew Meanings: Studies in the Semantics of Soteriological Terms, [Cambridge Univ. Press, 1967], 14.)
See my web article The Jewish New Testament for more information on the Jewish character of the apostolic writings. The Jewish character of the text will be presented in the commentary that follows.
1 Paul, an apostle of Messiah Yeshua through the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
Paul: Grk. Paulos, from the Latin cognomen or surname Paulus ("small" or "humble"). He no doubt engages in a word play on this meaning of his name when he said, "I am the least of the apostles" (1Cor 15:9). The name Paulos first appears in Acts 13:9. The name Paulus was probably taken from the patron who made Roman citizenship possible for Paul's father or grandfather (see Acts 22:28). Paul was born in Tarsus of Cilicia to traditional Jewish parents of the tribe of Benjamin, given the Hebrew name Sha'ul, and lived as a devout Pharisee (Acts 22:3; 23:6; 26:5; Php 3:5). For a biography of Paul see my article The Apostle from Tarsus.
The CJB, in deference to its intended audience, substitutes the Hebrew name Sha'ul for "Paul" to emphasize his Jewishness and rebut the lie of historic Christianity that the apostle surrendered his Jewish identity (Stern 267). We should note that "Paul" is also the only name by which the apostle refers to himself in his writings and those were sent to congregations with largely Jewish membership, as well as to Jewish congregational leaders.
an apostle: Grk. apostolos, a delegate, ambassador, envoy, messenger, emissary or official representative. Apostolos occurs one time in the LXX where it translates shaluach, Qal pass. part. of the verb shalach (SH-7971), "sent," in 1Kings 14:6 of Ahijah the prophet. Josephus also uses apostolos one time of a group of Jewish ambassadors sent to Rome to complain about the appointment of Archelaus (Ant. XVII, 11:1). Apostolos appears in no other early Jewish literature, but it is grounded in Jewish culture in the office of shaliach. In first century Judaism a shaliach acted as an official messenger or a proxy for and with the full authority of the sender (Ber. 5:5).
When the high priest authorized Paul to initiate persecution against the disciples he was acting as the priest's shaliach (Acts 9:1-2). A peculiarity of the shaliach is that these representatives were not missionaries to win others to Judaism. The shaliach’s mission was "limited in scope and duration by definite commission and terminating on its completion" (DNTT 1:128). Nevertheless, when Yeshua, the Great High Priest, appointed Paul as his shaliach, the mission was to proclaim the good news to the nations and the sons of Israel (Acts 9:15) with no expiration date.
All the apostles named in the Besekh were Jewish. Those named as apostles had "seen the Lord" and were approved to speak on His behalf (Acts 9:27; 1Cor 9:1; 15:6; 1Jn 1:1). All true apostles had the authority to proclaim the good news, determine orthodox doctrine, impose requirements ("bind and loose," Matt 16:19), and shepherd the congregations they founded (cf. 1Cor 14:37).
of Messiah: Grk. Christos (from chriō, "anoint with olive oil"), the expected fulfiller of the promises given to Israel for a deliverer and Davidic King, the Messiah. The English "Christ" found in the majority of Christian versions transliterates the Greek title, but does not translate it. Jewish translators of the LXX chose Christos to render Heb. Mashiach (SH-4899), "Anointed One," and in so doing infused new meaning into the Greek word. Mashiach is used in the Tanakh for the Messiah (Ps 2:2; Dan 9:25-26) and this usage defined the term among Jews in the first century. Jews expected that the Messiah would reign over the kingdom of God in fulfillment of the promise made to David (2Sam 7:12-13).
The significance of being known as "The Anointed One" is that Israelite kings were crowned and priests were ordained in a ceremony of anointing with olive oil, which invested them with the authority of their positions. There was no comparable concept in Greek culture. Yeshua was not physically anointed in his commissioning for ministry, although He was anointed with the Spirit in accordance with Isaiah 61:1 (Matt 3:16). However, he was anointed with nard in preparation for his death (Mark 14:3-8; John 12:3), so in that sense he was physically anointed for his final and greatest ministry.
Sometimes Christians use "Christ" as a last name, which is strange since no one would say "David King." It's important to remember that the title Christos was the invention of Jews long before Yeshua was born. The Christos of the apostles was both high priest and king of the Jews who fulfilled all the promises made to the patriarchs and the nation of Israel. Paul's use of Christos also reinforces the view that the congregation was principally Jewish, whether traditional or non-traditional. That title only had relevance to Jews, not to Gentiles. To Gentiles the apostles proclaimed Yeshua as the One whom God appointed as Judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:42; 17:31). For a discussion of Jewish hope and expectation of the Messiah see my article The Messiah.
Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua ("Joshua"), which means "YHVH [the LORD] is salvation" (BDB 221). The meaning of his name is explained to Joseph by an angel of the Lord, "You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). 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. For more information on the meaning our Lord's name, his Jewish identity, and his principal titles see my web article Who is Yeshua?
through: Grk. dia, prep. used as a prefix to a statement, which may express (1) instrumentality; through, by means of; or (2) causality; on account of, because of. The first usage applies here. the will: Grk. thelēma may mean (1) that which is to be carried out according to wish or purpose, will; or (2) the act of willing, will or desire. The idiom in general refers to what God wants or desires in contrast to our own desires. The concept of God’s will is clearly expressed in two basic ways in Scripture: His sovereign will (Rom 1:20; Col 1:17), which is unknowable, and His lifestyle will expressed in commandments (Matt 5:17-19; 7:21; 1Cor 7:19).
However, the concept may also occur in relation to specific vocational guidance given an individual (1Cor 1:1). For Paul the "will of God" alludes to the commission he received from Yeshua on the road to Damascus, first described in Acts 9, then retold to King Agrippa in Acts 26:12-18. For more information on the biblical use of this idiom see my article The Will of God.
of God: Grk. theos, God or god, which must be determined from the context. 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 as described in Scripture (Gen 1─3; John 1:1-3; Rom 1:25). In the LXX theos primarily renders the name of the Creator God Elohim (2568 times), but sometimes YHVH (300 times) (DNTT 2:67-70). In the Besekh theos is used overwhelmingly for the God of Israel. The God of Israel is the only God there is. The deities of all other religions and cults are the product of Satan-inspired imagination.
and: Grk. kai, conj. The conjunction introduces an additional sender. Timothy: Grk. Timotheos (from timaō, honor, and theos, God"), "one who honors God." The name of Timothy was much used in the Hellenistic world, including two notable military leaders. Timothy was apparently a native of Lystra (cf. Acts 16:1-2; 20:4), a city visited and evangelized by Paul on his first missionary journey (Acts 14:6). Timothy's father was a Hellenistic Jew, but his mother was a traditional Jew (Acts 16:1, 3). He had not been circumcised in infancy, probably owing to objections made by his irreligious father. Timothy's mother was called Eunice, and his grandmother Lois, who were godly influences (2Tim 1:5).
our brother: Grk. adelphos, lit. "the brother." Paul invests the word with a certain formality of title. Paul was strongly attracted to Timothy, recognizing his spiritual character and suitability for the work of the ministry (Acts 16:3). Timothy agreed to Paul's request to assist in ministry, but before departure two important actions were completed. The first act was to circumcise Timothy, since by Jewish law he was a Jew. Some interpreters believe Paul only did this to appease Jewish disciples, but while there would have been a practical benefit for ministry among Jews, Paul was first and foremost an observant Jew himself and believed in Jews honoring the requirements of Torah. So, Paul took Timothy with his consent and circumcised him.
The second act was to have Timothy formally recognized ("ordained") by the local congregational elders in Derbe and Lystra (1Tim 4:14). In this ceremony Paul himself took part, as he later mentions (2Tim 1:6). Timothy then accompanied Paul on both the apostle's second and third missionary journeys to various cities and assisted in ministry (Acts 17:14; 19:22; 20:4; 2Cor 1:1; 2Thess 1:1). Timothy demonstrated his competence and reliability to such a degree and Paul was able to both leave him to work in certain places, as well as send him on missions to various cities to work (Acts 17:14-15; 1Cor 4:17; 16:10; 1Thess 3:1-7).
2 To the holy ones and faithful brethren in Messiah at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
To the holy ones: pl. of Grk. hagios has two distinctive uses in Scripture: (1) as an adj. of things dedicated to God (e.g., the temple, Jerusalem), of persons consecrated to God (e.g., prophets), then of angels, of Messiah, and of God (Lev 19:2); (2) as a pure substantive in the neut. form hagion, used of the name of God (Luke 1:44), and then of what is set apart for God to be exclusively His, e.g., sacred places as the temple (Num 3:38; Matt 24:15), the holy land (2Macc 1:29; 2:18), Jerusalem (Matt 4:5), sacrifices (Lev 22:14; Rom 12:1), and angels (Zech 14:5; 1Th 3:13) and human persons (Isa 4:3; Acts 9:13). In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadosh (SH-6918), which means separate, sacred, holy. Qadosh is first used of God in Lev 11:44.
The plural noun is commonly translated as "saints" in Christian Bibles. The plural noun is a common term used in the Tanakh (Deut 7:6; 1Sam 2:9; Ps 16:3; 34:9; 97:10; 135:4; Dan 7:18, 21-22, 25, 27; 8:24). The appellation originated when God called Israel to be a people consecrated to worship and obey Him. The term succeeds in having a corporate meaning as well as an individual meaning. Paul addressed virtually all his letters to the "holy ones," which would have significant meaning for the Jews in the congregation, but he did not use the term in any elitist sense.
The historical restriction of "saint" to designate only the apostles and later Christian leaders acclaimed for their ministry and miracles is unfortunate and unnecessary. The true "saints" or holy ones are those who have accepted the truth of the Good News of the Messiah, repented of their sins, put their trust in the atoning sacrifice of Yeshua for their sins, separated themselves to be faithful to their Lord, and received the cleansing, regenerating, sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit. Faithful believers pray, witness and serve God without being heralded. The holy ones are those who are wholly His and who seek to live by His standards.
and faithful: Grk. pistos, characterized by constancy and therefore worthy of trust; faithful, reliable or trustworthy. They have not only believed in the Messiah, but committed themselves wholeheartedly to him. brethren: pl. of Grk. adelphos, lit. "of the same womb," and in secular Greek meant "brother." Usage in the apostolic writings is generally literal, but figurative uses also abound indicating affinity in common interests or culture. In the apostolic narratives adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites (Matt 4:18; 5:22-24; Mark 3:22; Acts 1:14; 3:22; 7:13), but in the apostolic letters adelphos, often in the plural, refers primarily to disciples of Yeshua and members of believing communities (e.g. 1Cor 1:10; Gal 1:2; Php 2:25; 1Thess 3:22).
in: Grk. en, prep., generally used to mark position within, but also agency, direction and means, and in composition may be translated "among, at, by, in, into, on, within." Messiah: Grk. Christos. See the previous verse. Paul frequently uses the preposition "in" to emphasize the believer's commitment to Yeshua and appears in such expressions "in Messiah," "in Yeshua," and "in the Holy Spirit." The preposition reflects the Jewish concept of dveiqut or "bond," meaning the believer is, as it were, glued or joined to the will of God (Santala 154). Trusting faithfulness promotes such intimacy. In his Areopagus sermon Paul declared "in him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).
who are at Colossae: Grk. Kolassai. The congregation was probably started by Epaphras (verse 7). Paul passed by on his third missionary journey (Acts 18:23). The region included a mixture of people native to the area, Greeks, Romans, and transplanted Jews. The congregation no doubt reflected the same diversity. The constituency included Gentiles (1:27) and Jews (3:11), but no information is given on the ethnic percentages, except that groupings are mentioned in 3:11. The Jewish constituency may be reflected in the Jewish issues that Paul mentions in the letter: (1) circumcision, 2:11; (2) Torah food laws, 2:16; (3) Torah calendar, 2:16; (4) legalistic traditions, 2:21-22; (5) election, 3:12; (6) teaching with psalms, 3:16; and (7) mention of the circumcision party, 4:11.
As it was Paul's custom the gospel was always presented first to the Jews in every locality. While Paul was not personally responsible for founding the congregation in Colossae, the gospel succeeded in going there because of his ministry in Ephesus. After the "Ephesian Pentecost" in which twelve Jewish men accepted Yeshua as the Messiah and were empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-7), Paul taught for two years so that "all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks" (Acts 19:10).
The Jews of the Lycus Valley were likely Hellenistic and Paul's letter to Colossae hints a controversies between them and Hebraic Jews. Important to understanding Hellenistic Jews is what they held in common with Hebraic 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. They judged their own disputes and didn’t resort to the Gentile system. And, significant to the story of Acts is that they 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).
Grace: Grk. charis, a disposition marked by inclination to generosity, frequently unmotivated by the worth of the recipient. In various contexts charis may mean (1) graciousness, attractiveness; (2) favor, grace, gracious care or help, goodwill; (3) practical application of goodwill, benefaction; (4) exceptional effects produced by divine grace over and above what others experience; (5) thanks, gratitude (BAG). In the LXX charis occurs about 190 times of which only about 75 have a Heb. equivalent. Among the equivalents charis renders Heb. hên (favor, inclination) most frequently (61 times) (DNTT 2:116).
The use of the word hên clarifies the meaning of grace in history. Hên denotes the stronger coming to the help of the weaker who stands in need of help by reason of circumstances or natural weakness. The stronger acts voluntarily, though he is moved by the dependence or the request of the weaker party. A typical expression used to describe such an event is to find favor in someone's eyes (e.g., Gen 32:5; 50:4; Ruth 2:2; 1Sam 1:18). Hên also denotes God's unilateral gift of favor toward selected individuals, such as in the cases of Noah (Gen 6:8), Abraham (Gen 18:3), Lot (Gen 19:19), Moses (Ex 33:12-13; 34:9) and Israel (Ex 33:16). Wishing God's favor upon someone was a typical Hebraic greeting.
to you and peace: Grk. eirēnē (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. from God our Father: Grk. patēr, a male biological parent or ancestor. 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, and of a deity to emphasize his authority and his power to beget. In the LXX patēr renders ab ("av"), which occurs about 1180 times. In the Tanakh the concept of God as Father occurs only in relation to Israel (Ex 4:22; Deut 1:31; 8:5; 32:6; 2Sam 7:14; 1Chron 17:13; 22:10; 28:6; Ps 89:26; 103:13; Prov 3:12; Isa 63:16; 64:8; Jer 31:9; Hos 11:1; Mal 1:6; 2:10) (DNTT 1:616f).
Many people think of God as father in relation to all mankind as Paul in his Athenian sermon quotes the Greek philosopher Epimenides, "we also are His children" (Acts 17:28). While God gave physical life to mankind, he is only Father in a spiritual and covenantal sense in relation to Israel (Rom 9:4). Even more particularly God is the father of the disciples of Yeshua, emphasized exclusively in Paul's writings as "our Father" (Rom 1:7; 1Cor 1:3; 2Cor 1:2; Gal 1:3; Eph 1:2; Php 1:2; Col 1:2; 2Thess 1:1; 2:16; Phlm 1:3). Other apostles refer to God simply as "the Father" (Acts 2:33; Jas 1:17; 1Pet 1:2; 1John 1:2; Jude 1:1).
The first usage in the Tanakh of "our father" is on the lips of David: "Blessed are you, O Lord God of Israel our father" (1Chron 29:10). In Isaiah 63:16 "our father" is identical to "Our Redeemer from of old" and in Isaiah 64:18 "our father" is the potter who formed the clay of Israel. When Yeshua taught his disciples to pray, "our Father" (Heb. Avinu) was a commonly used form in Jewish prayers. God can be the father of Gentile disciples by virtue of being grafted into the Olive Tree of Israel and granted citizenship in the Commonwealth of Israel.
In the KJV the verse ends with this phrase, "and the Lord Yeshua the Messiah," but it is absent from a variety of manuscripts, some early, and was no doubt added by copyists who assimilated the text to Pauline usage (Metzger).
Prayer of Thanksgiving, 3-8
3 We give thanks to God the Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, praying always for you,
We give thanks: Grk. eucharisteō, to give thanks, which is generally distinguished from prayer in Scripture. Paul alludes to the good report he has had of the congregation as well as its leadership and for that he expresses thanksgiving to God. to God: Grk. theos. See the note on verse 1 above. the Father: Grk. patēr. See the note on the previous verse. of our 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 personal address kurios may be translated as "sir" to express recognition of or submission to superior rank. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times. In the overwhelming majority of instances (over 6,000 times), kurios replaces 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 refers to men in general recognition of social rank (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). The frequent use of kurios to address Yeshua in the flesh would not have considered deity. Unbelieving Jews would have called him kurios out of respect. However, expectant Jews would call Yeshua adon because the Messiah would rule over Israel. Yeshua: See the note on the verse 1 above. the Messiah: See the note on verse 1 above.
praying: Grk. proseuchomai, pres. mid. part., to petition deity for some personal desire. In the LXX proseuchomai renders Heb. palal, to intervene or interpose, i.e., judge. The verb has a variety of meanings, including arbitrate, judge, intercede and pray. The context of prayer in the Tanakh is addressing the Sovereign Judge of all people and thus prayer by its nature requires self-examination. The verb refers to petitioning God for his help or answer with respect to a personal need or the needs of others. Paul prays for the Colossians, as he does for other congregations, that disciples would mature spiritually.
There is no command to pray in the Torah. Prayer was generally accomplished by proxy, that is, the high priest did the interceding. Individuals did pray, of course, and most of the time God granted the person’s desire, although He did say "no" to David on at least two occasions (2Sam 7:1-5; 12:16-18). In the apostolic writings prayer is treated as a divine expectation, if not an obligation of every disciple (Luke 18:1; Eph 6:18; Php 4:6; Col 4:2; 1Thess 5:17; 1Tim 2:1; Jas 5:13-16; Jude 1:20). Devout Jews, living at Jerusalem, went to the temple to pray every day (Luke 18:10; Acts 3:1). The reason was simple. God's presence was in the Holy of Holies in the temple (Ex 25:8).
Jews who lived at a distance too far for a daily journey or in the Diaspora went to a synagogue and faced Jerusalem. However, the daily prayers could be offered at home and in that case people opened their windows "toward Jerusalem" and prayed "toward" the place of God's presence (cf. 1Kgs 8:29-30, 38, 42, 44, 48; Ps 5:7; Dan 6:10). Nevertheless, Yeshua repeatedly emphasized that the Father resides in heaven (Matt 5:16, 45; 6:1; 12:50; 16:17; 23:9) and taught his disciples by instruction and modeling to direct their prayers to the Father in heaven (Matt 6:6, 9; 26:39, 42). Yeshua anticipated the day when the temple would no longer exist (John 4:21). Since the temple still stood it's very likely that Paul faced Jerusalem to offer his daily prayers.
4 having heard of your faithfulness in Messiah Yeshua, and of the love which you have toward all the holy ones;
having heard: Grk. akouō, aor. part., to hear. Rienecker points out that the participle could be temporal "after we heard" or causal "because we heard." of your faithfulness: Grk. pistis incorporates two primary facets of meaning, first that which causes trust and faith, i.e., faithfulness or reliability, and second, trust or confidence in an active sense (BAG). Pistis is used in the LXX to twice render Heb. emun (Deut 32:20; Prov 13:17; 'faithfulness,' BDB 53), but renders Heb. emunah ('firmness, steadfastness, fidelity,' BDB 53) over 20 times mainly of men's faithfulness (1Sam 26:23; 2Kgs 12:15; 22:7; 1Chron 9:22, 26, 31; 2Chron 31:12, 15, 18; 34:12; Prov 3:3; 12:17, 22; Jer 5:1, 3; 7:28; 9:3; Hos 2:20), but also of God's faithfulness (Ps 33:4; Lam 3:23; Hab 2:4).
Pistis also translates Heb. aman (to confirm, to support, Jer 15:18), amanah ('fixed support,' Neh 9:38; 11:23; SS 4:8) and emet (firmness, faithfulness, truth, Prov 14:22; Jer 28:9; 33:6). The LXX usage emphasizes that the Hebrew meaning of faithfulness is the intended usage of pistis. The apostles build on this meaning and represent pistis as composed of two elements. The first element of faithfulness is confidence or trust: "And without faith[fulness] it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Heb 11:6; cf. Heb 4:2). True faith leads one to seek God and then trust Him to respond with His good gifts. The second element of faithfulness involves commitment, constancy and obedience, which includes following God’s direction for life and producing works of righteousness (cf. Eph 2:8-10).
ADDITIONAL NOTE: Many Christian interpreters recognize a third usage in the Besekh of pistis as a body of belief, i.e., doctrine (e.g., Acts 6:7; 1Tim 4:1, 6; 6:10; 2Tim 4:3; Jude 3). However, this objectivizing of the pistis-concept owes more to later Christian misunderstanding of the use of the definite article ho (the) with pistis than apostolic intention. The Greek of the apostolic writings is really Jewish Greek, that is, it communicates the Hebrew language of the apostles. In Hebrew the definite article ha with a noun only serves to specify the noun in a sentence or make the noun more emphatic (Ross 59). So, too, the function of the definite article in Greek is to point out an object or to draw attention to it (DM 137). The definite article does not change the definition of the noun. For example, the Greek name Iēsous (Yeshua, Jesus) often appears in the genitive case as tou Iēsou, but no Christian Bible translates the name with the definite article as "the Jesus." Paul never uses pistis to mean 'creedal doctrine.'
in Messiah Yeshua: See the note on verse 1 above. and of the 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 agapê. The common factor in every passage employing the agapê word-group is the willingness to sacrifice, which sets it apart from the affection of phileō, the family loyalty of storgê and the passion of eros. which you have toward: Grk. eis, prep. that focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to direction and limit, and in composition may be translated "into, in, unto, to, upon, towards, for, among." Here the preposition denotes a mood or inclination directed toward persons.
all: pl. of Grk. ho pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every. the holy ones: pl. of Grk. hagios. See verse 2 above. Paul may be alluding to some specific charitable work on behalf of other believers, such as carried out by the Antioch congregation (Acts 11:29) and the congregations in Macedonia and Achaia (Rom 15:26) for the disciples in Judea.
5 because of the hope which is laid up for you in the heavens, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel,
because of the hope: Grk. elpis. The Jewish concept of hope is far different than the pagan Greek, which was little more than a possible outcome of circumstances. Jews anchored their hope in the person and promises of the covenant-keeping God. which is laid up for you: Grk. apokeimai, pres. mid. part., to put up, to store up, to put away for one's use. The word may allude to a Persian custom followed by Hellenistic rulers to lay up in store goods for faithful servants (Rienecker). in the heavens: pl. of Grk. ouranos, the area above the earth that encompasses the sky, interstellar space and associated phenomena or the transcendent dwelling-place of God (Danker). In the LXX ouranos translates the Heb. word hashamayim ("the heavens"), which is only translated into the plural 51 out of the 667 times it occurs in the LXX (DNTT 2:191). The consistent use of the plural form for "heaven" is thought to signify completeness, yet different activities and places are associated with hashamayim.
The Hebrew and Greek words for "heaven" are used in Scripture to refer to at least three different places (Ps 148:1-4). In terms of direction from the ground level of the earth the first heaven is the atmosphere or "face" of hashamayim, across which birds fly (Gen 1:20; 1Kgs 21:24; Rev 19:17) and from which comes rain, snow, dew, lightning and thunder (Gen 8:2; Deut 11:11; 33:13; Job 38:29; 1Sam 2:10; 2Kgs 1:10; Isa 55:10; Matt 6:26). The second heaven is interstellar space (Gen 1:1, 8), populated with the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day of creation to give light to the earth. Finally, the third heaven is the abode of God the Father, the home of angels and the place where Yeshua now sits at the right hand of God (1Kgs 8:30; 2Chron 30:27; Job 16:19; Ps 2:4; 11:4; Matt 6:9; 2Cor 12:2-4; Eph 1:20).
Paul's statement about what is laid up for disciples of Yeshua in the heavens is an important theme in his writings:
"But the Jerusalem above is free, she is our mother." (Gal 4:26)
"For our citizenship is in heaven." (Php 3:20)
"for he [Abraham] was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God." (Heb 11:10)
"But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem." (Heb 12:22)
"we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come." (Heb 13:14)
Some readers might be tempted to draw a connection to Yeshua's words:
"Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:1-3)
However, Yeshua did not say that the "dwelling places" or "abodes" were in heaven. It is more likely he was talking about a place in the kingdom that would result from his going to the cross.
of which you heard before: Grk. proakouō, to hear beforehand. Paul engages in a play on words contrasting what they had heard of the Messiah with what he had heard of them. in the word of the truth: Grk. alētheia may mean (1) truthfulness, dependability, uprightness in thought and deed, (2) truth as opposed to what is false, or (3) reality as opposed to mere appearance (BAG). Danker has "that which is really so." of the gospel: Grk. euaggelion originally meant a reward for good news and then simply good news. It occurs 76 times in the apostolic writings. In the LXX euaggelion renders besorah, which may mean either a reward for good news (2Sam 4:10) or glad tidings (2Sam 18:20, 22). Most Christians think of the gospel only as 'Yeshua died on the cross to save me from my sins,' a gospel totally divorced from its Jewish context. However, the message of the apostles is clear that the full gospel was the good news that God had fulfilled the promises given to Israel through the prophets, including Moses.
The good news is the same message the angel Gabriel gave to Zechariah (Luke 1:13-17), to Joseph (Matt 1:20-23) and Miriam (Luke 1:30-37). This is the same message that Zechariah then declared to his fellow Jews (Luke 1:68-75), all of which reflected the Jewish hopes and expectations of a redeemer and deliverer. Consistent with these prior announcements the apostles declared that Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah, who fulfilled the promises made to Israel through the prophets; that God has made Yeshua Lord; that forgiveness of sins is available to all through Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice; and that the proof of God’s Word is that Yeshua was raised from the dead (Acts 2:14-40; 10:34-43). Gentiles were therefore called to turn to the God of Israel and serve him. The Gentiles all have different gods (small "g"). Only the God of Israel saves (Jer 16:19-20; Acts 17:23-31).
6 which is come to you; even as it is also in all the world bearing fruit and increasing, as it does in you also, since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth;
which is come: Grk. pareimi, pres. part., be present or near. The present tense is treated as a perfect tense, since Paul referred to the time when the gospel reached the Colossians. even as it is also in all the world: Grk. kosmos has a variety of uses in the apostolic writings, including (1) the planet upon which mankind lives; (2) mankind; (3) the world and everything in it as that which opposes God and is ruined and depraved of character (BAG). The "world" in this context likely refers to those areas outside Israel, or more specifically to "all Asia" that had heard the good news (Acts 19:10). bearing fruit: Grk. karpophoreō, pres. mid. part., to bear fruit. The middle voice emphasizes that the gospel bears fruit of itself (Rienecker). and increasing: Grk. auxananomai, pres. mid. part., to grow, to increase, to develop. The word refers to the outward expansion as the previous participle refers to the personal inner working. This verb is omitted by the TR and thus the KJV. since the day you heard: The fruitfulness began the day the Colossians believed the truth of the gospel and received the grace of God in forgiveness.
7 even as you learned of Epaphras our beloved fellow-servant, who is a faithful minister of Messiah on our behalf,
even as you learned: Grk. manthanō, aor., to acquire knowledge, to learn, whether through instruction or receipt of information, here the latter. of Epaphras: Personal name meaning, "lovely." Most likely a Hellenistic Jew (see the comment on 4:10-15), he was the leader of the congregation from whom Paul learned of the situation in Colossae. He was a native of Colossae (4:12) and apparently planted the congregation there. See also the note on 4:13. Later he was a companion of Paul during the latter's imprisonment (Phm 1:23). our beloved: Grk. agapētos, held in affection, esteemed or dear. fellow-servant: Grk. sundoulos, fellow-slave, one who, along with others, is someone's property. In Greek literature the term was used in reference to an oriental court official and his ruler. The term implies a close association with others in the service of the Messiah.
who is a faithful: Grk. pistos. See the note on verse 2 above. minister: Grk. diakonos generally means a servant or helper in a domestic context and from that used with a ministry connotation in various passages of the Besekh. Robertson suggests that this word may come from dia (through) and konis (dust), to raise a dust by one’s hurry, and so to minister. of Messiah: Grk. Christos. See the note on verse 1 above. on our behalf: the translation of "our" is based on some superior early MSS, notably P46 (c. 200 AD), Sinaiticus (4th cent.), Vaticanus (4th cent.), Ambrosiaster (4th cent.) Alexandrinus (5th cent.) (GNT 693). However, the fact that the great majority of MSS, including some important witnesses, has "your behalf" swayed the reading of the Nestle Greek text and almost all modern versions. Though Epaphras is mentioned only in the letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, Paul evidently held him in high regard.
8 who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.
who also declared: Grk. dēloō, to disclose or make plain. to us your 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. in the Spirit: Grk. pneuma, wind, breath or spirit; lit. "in spirit." Though pneuma is commonly translated as the Holy Spirit in English versions, it's just as likely that Paul intended what he wrote. He is talking about the attitude of their hearts and their manner of life (cf. Acts 18:25; Rom 1:9; 12:11).
9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray and make request for you, that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
For this cause: An allusion to the report from Epaphras. since the day: Grk. hēmera normally refers to the daylight hours, but also to the timeframe within which something takes place. Paul alludes to the day that he received the report from Epaphras. we heard it: Grk. akouō, aor., has a range of meaning, including to hear (as a sense perception), to learn, to listen, to follow, or to understand. The first person plural alludes to those with Paul. do not cease: Grk. pauō, pres. mid., engage in a cessation of an activity or state. to pray: Grk. proseuchomai, pres. mid. part. See the note on verse 3 above. and make request: Grk. aiteō, pres. mid. part., to ask, here used of asking something of God. Paul then proceeds to list those things he has asked of God for the Colossian congregation.
for you, that you may be filled: Grk. plēroō, aor. pass. subj., to cause to abound in content to a maximum, to fill or to bring to fruition or completion. with the knowledge: Grk. epignōsis, knowledge with the connotation of personal acquaintance, insight or perception. of his will: Grk. thelēma. See the note on verse 1 above. Paul's prayer alludes to the promise of the New Covenant that being filled with the Spirit would enable one to understand and apply God's laws without the need of a teacher (Jer 31:34). in all spiritual: Grk. pneumatikos, transcending physical existence and influence, especially spiritual matters or characteristic influenced by the Spirit of God. wisdom: Grk. sophia, exceptional endowment of discernment, understanding and insight, wisdom. and understanding: Grk. sunesis, faculty of perceiving readily with the mind, resulting in discernment, understanding, comprehension or insight.
10 to walk worthily of the Lord to all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
to walk: Grk. peripateō, aor. inf., to walk, but is often used in Scripture to depict life in its outward expression (cf. Col 2:6; 3:7; 4:4). NIV translates the verb as "live a life." worthily: Grk. axiōs, adv., in a manner that does honor to, worthily. of the Lord: Grk. kurios. See the note on verse 3 above. into all pleasing: Grk. areskeia, a common term in honorary documents expressing desire to be accommodating in meeting the needs and interests of others. bearing fruit: Grk. karpophoreō, pres. part., be active in producing the product of a growing process, fig. of moral or spiritual development. in every good: Grk. agathos, pertaining to achieving a high standard of excellence in meeting a need or interest, beneficial, useful, helpful, or good. work: Grk. ergon, task, assignment, deed or action. and increasing: Grk. auxanō, pres. mid. part., cause to become greater in extent or amount, to grow or increase. in the knowledge: Grk. epignōsis. See the note on the previous verse. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See the note on verse 1 above.
11 strengthened with all power, according to the might of his glory, to all patience and longsuffering with joy;
strengthened: Grk. dunamoō, pres. mid. part., cause to possess capability, strengthen, enable. with all power: Grk. dunamis, which refers to the quality or state of being capable and thus may mean "power" or "might" as a quality of something or the demonstration of power by a structure or personage. according to the might: Grk. kratos, quality of being strong, strength or might. of his 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). to all patience: Grk. hupomonē, capacity for resolute continuance in a course of action, endurance, perseverance, steadfastness. and longsuffering: Grk. makrothumia, the capacity for restraint in face of what is provocative. with joy: Grk. chara, joy as an emotional response, experienced in a variety of circumstances.
12 giving thanks to the Father, who made us fit for a share of the inheritance of the holy ones in light;
giving thanks: Grk. eucharisteō, pres. part., 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 the Father: Grk. patēr. See the note on verse 2 above. who made us fit: Grk. hikanoō, aor. part., to qualify to make fit.
to be partakers: Grk. meris, receive as portion, an allotted portion, share or part. of the inheritance: Grk. klēros may mean (1) an object used in the practice of deciding by use of a pebble, stick or other object, or (2) a specially assigned portion, with focus on a divinely conferred benefit, share. The second meaning applies here. of the holy ones: Grk. hagios. See the note on verse 2 above. in light: Grk. phōs, that which serves as a revealing or disclosing medium, light or fire, lit. "in the light." Paul likely intends a figurative meaning as a disciple's manner of life and the role as bearer of divine light (cf. 1Jn 1:7).
13 who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love;
who: Grk. hos, personal pronoun, who. The pronoun could be translated as "he" as found in many versions. Some versions interpret the pronoun to mean "the Father," since the antecedent is in the previous verse. delivered: Grk. ruomai, aor. pass., to remove from peril by personal intervention, to deliver, rescue or save. us out of the power: Grk. exousia has four basic meanings: (1) freedom of choice, the right (often in a legal sense) to act, decide or dispose of one’s property as one wishes; (2) the ability to do something, capability, might, power; (3) authority, absolute power, warrant; and (4) ruling or official power as exercised by kings and officials (BAG). of darkness: Grk. skotos may mean (1) absence of light in a literal sense, darkness, or (2) figuratively of ignorance or benightedness in moral or spiritual matters. The second meaning applies here.
and translated: Grk. methistēmi, aor., to cause to move from a place, position or situation, to transfer. us into the kingdom: Grk. basileia, means kingship, royal power, or territory ruled over by a king. of the Son: 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), as Yeshua is referred to as the son of David and Abraham (Matt 1:1); (3) to mean in a broader sense of having the characteristics of (e.g., Ps 89:22; Dan 3:25; cf. 2Th 2:3). of his love: Grk. agapē. See the note on verse 4 above.
Luke says five times that Paul proclaimed the "kingdom" (Acts 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31). Paul mentions the "kingdom" 16 times in his letters, usually with the expression basileian tou theou ("Kingdom of God"). Only here does Paul change the expression to "Kingdom of the Son." Noteworthy is that he never says "Kingdom of the Lord" (Grk. kurios), possibly for two reasons. First, the Greek title kurios predominates in translating YHVH in the LXX, so using "the Son" (or "God") would not offend Jews. Second, Paul avoids challenging Roman authority since Caesar regarded himself as kurios. (Cf. "kingdom of our Lord," 2Pet 1:11; Rev 11:15, which occurs very late in the development of the canon. Perhaps this was the reason Peter was martyred.)
The hope that God would be King over all the earth, with all idolatry banished, is expressed frequently in Scripture (e.g., Ex 15:18; Ps 22:28; 29:10; 93:1; 99:2; 103:19; 145:11-13; Isa 52:7; Dan 4:3; Micah 4:7; Obad 21; and Zech 14:9). The theme of God's kingdom is also found in intertestamental Jewish literature: Tobit 13:1; Sibylline Oracles 3:47-48, 767; Psalms of Solomon 17:3; Wisdom of Solomon 10:10; Assumption of Moses 10:1; Song of Azariah 33; Enoch 84:2. Ancient Jewish prayer liturgy, such as Aleinu and Kaddish, include the phrase that "God may establish His Kingdom speedily." It was even laid down by the Sages that no benediction would be effective without reference to the Kingdom (Ber. 12a).
In the covenant with Israel God expression his will for a kingdom:
"you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel." (Ex 19:6)
Then, God promised David,
"When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever." (2Sam 7:12-13)
In the history of Christianity the Church has considered itself as the Kingdom (so Augustine, City of God). Beginning in the 19th century dispensational tradition interpreted the kingdom as a future eschatological event with political implications for a restored Israel, when Yeshua comes back and sets up his kingdom. The Second Coming will involve apocalyptic judgment and final consummation of all things. Probably most Evangelicals associate the kingdom with heaven, i.e., the world to come, the afterlife. On the other hand, the doctrine of the kingdom in the teaching of Yeshua and Paul relates to the expectation and fulfillment of promises made to Israel. The Kingdom of God is both temporal in the present age wherever he reigns in the hearts of men, and future in the age to come when Yeshua will reign over the earth from Jerusalem. "Kingdom" is not a synonym of "Church" or "Christianity."
14 in whom we have deliverance, the forgiveness of sins:
in whom: in Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah and King of Israel, Son of God and Son of Man. we have: Grk. echō, pres., to possess something with the implication of having under one's control or at one's disposal. our deliverance: Grk. apolutrōsis, freedom or liberation from an oppressive circumstance; deliverance, release, redemption. Most versions translate the noun as "redemption." The term originally meant buying back a slave or captive, making him free by payment of a ransom (BAG). Apolutrōsis is rare in Greek literature, but is does occur in Josephus and Philo. Apolutrōsis occurs only once in the LXX, Daniel 4:34, for which there is no corresponding word in the Massoretic Text. The noun is used there of the freeing of Nebuchadnezzar from his madness (DNTT 3:193).
Apolutrōsis occurs ten times in the Besekh. Its first use in Yeshua's Olivet Discourse (Luke 21:28) represents the promise of the deliverance of Israel. In Paul's writings the noun occurs primarily in terms of the present redemption that provides freedom from the guilt, slavery and consequences of sin (Rom 3:24; 1Cor 1:30; Eph 1:7; Col 1:14; Heb 9:15). Then final redemption includes resurrection at the Second Coming (Rom 8:23) and inheritance in the Kingdom of God (Eph 1:14). The Day of the Lord or the Day of the Second Coming is the Day of Redemption (Eph 4:30).
God is twice called lutrōtēs, Redeemer (for Heb. ga'al, Ps 19:14; 78:35). In Israelite culture the redeemer (Heb. go'el) was originally the closest relative who, as the avenger of blood, had to redeem the blood of a murdered relative (Num 35:12, 19-27; Josh 20:3-5), redeem property that had been sold (Lev 25:25), redeem a relative whose economic plight had caused him to sell himself to a non-Jew (Lev 25:48f), and even marry a childless widow of a relative (Ruth 2:20; 3:13; 4:14) (DNTT 3:190f). Paul is not implying that God as Redeemer paid someone else for the freedom of His people. Rather the meaning of apolutrōsis is clarified by the following description.
the forgiveness: Grk. aphesis, a 'letting go,' a term frequently used of canceled penal liabilities or indebtedness. Thus by extension aphesis means forgiveness (of) or release (from). In the LXX aphesis occurs about 50 times, 22 of which occur in Leviticus 25 and 27 for Heb. yobel (SH-3104), designation of the 50th year, and five in Deuteronomy 15:1-9 for Heb. shemittah (SH-8059), a letting drop, a remitting, used in reference to the release from debts in the year of jubilee (DNTT 1:698). Only once does aphesis appear without Hebrew equivalent and that referring to the release of the scapegoat into the wilderness to complete the atonement on Yom Kippur for the people (Lev 16:26). The scapegoat figuratively carried all the transgressions of the people away from them, an acted out parable of cleansing (Lev 16:30).
of our sins: pl. of Grk. hamartia may refer to (1) a behavioral action, a misdeed that creates liability, every departure from the way of righteousness; (2) the result of sinning or the condition of being sinful; or (3) an invasive evil power. Hamartia is the dominant word for sin in the Besekh. In Greek culture hamartia meant to miss the mark, to fail, be mistaken. A mistake is the result of ignorance. Hamartia could mean anything from stupidity to law-breaking, anything that does not conform to the dominant community ethic (DNTT 3:577). This breadth of application has unfortunately influenced Christian theology among those who espouse the "sinning every day in thought, word and deed" viewpoint.
In the LXX hamartia translates a range of Hebrew words for guilt and sin, particularly Heb. chata (SH-2398), miss, go wrong, lapse, sin (Gen 20:6; 39:9) and avon (SH-5771), iniquity, guilt, punishment for iniquity (Gen 15:16). Throughout Scripture sin as a behavior is a violation of God's written commandments (Rom 3:20; 5:13; 7:7). The degree of intentionality is not a factor in defining sinful behavior, only whether the express requirements or prohibitions of Torah commandments have been violated. Indeed, the Torah recognizes that a transgression could be unintentional (Heb. shegagah, SH-7684), sin of error or inadvertence (Lev 4:1-3, 27-28; 5:18; Num 15:22-29). Nevertheless, atonement was still required. In Scripture hamartia does not include the imperfections that separate humanity from divinity, "falling short of the glory" (Rom 3:23).
Religious people may erect their own codes for determining sinful behavior, but God's judgment is based strictly on the commandments He gave to mankind as recorded in Scripture. If someone calls a certain behavior "sin," then it is reasonable to expect the pronouncement to be backed up by Scripture. Otherwise, it is strictly personal opinion. Stern notes that although in Jewish understanding redemption has a national dimension dating from the Exodus and extending to the Messianic Age, it also has an application to the individual defined by this verse (604). Redemption is freedom from slavery gained by payment of a price, the blood of Yeshua. In addition to freedom, the disciple also has the cancellation of punishment due because of sin.
Textual Note: The TR, following secondary witnesses, adds "through His blood" at the end of the verse (KJV, NKJV), but this phrase is not found in the earliest manuscripts. Metzger notes that if the phrase had been present originally, there would have been no reason for scribes to omit it (554).
The Incomparable Messiah, 15-20
15 who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;
Verses 15-20, extolling the greatness of the Messiah, are written in a poetic form of a hymn characteristic of the great prophetic books. A few versions display the structure accordingly (CEB, CEV, GW, HCSB, NLT, TLV). Making a list of the superlatives in this section is not easy, but there are no less than ten descriptions of the Messiah either by title or action. Some of these descriptions in Paul's great hymn seem contradictory to the secular Western mind and the non-believing Jewish mind, because God supposedly cannot be both divine and human and the same time.
However, holding forth paradoxical truth is characteristic of the Hebrew Scriptures. Hegg points out, for example, that Exodus 33:20 declares, "You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live," and yet Exodus 24:10 describes the experience of Moses, Aaron and the elders of Israel who ascended Mt. Sinai: "and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself" (161f).
who: Grk. hos, a relative pronoun, meaning "who." is: Grk. eimi, to be. The verb is third person singular and present tense, referring to continuing action. With the pronoun, the phrase could be translated as "He is" (AMP, CJB, ESV, HCSB, KJV, KJ21, NASB, NET, NKJV, NRSV, RSV and TLV). the image: Grk. eikōn, image or copy. In Greek thought an image shares in reality what it represents (Rienecker). The word contains the idea of representation and manifestation. of the invisible: Grk. aoratos, not capable of being seen, invisible. God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See the note on the first verse above.
To say that Yeshua is the image of God is to say that in him the nature and being of God have been perfectly revealed, that the invisible has become visible (Bruce 58). God's image had been originally imprinted in the creation of male and female (Gen 1:26-27; 1Cor 11:7), but that image was marred by sin. Paul previously said that Yeshua is "the image of God (2Cor 4:4). This revelation of Yeshua may well originate with his Damascus road experience. Its worth noting that Paul's experience was not the first. When Ezekiel received his vision of God, he saw enthroned at the heart of the rainbow-like brightness "a figure with the appearance of a man" (Ezek 1:26).
the firstborn: Grk. prōtotokos, being the first child in order of birth or enjoying the status of a first child. In the LXX prōtotokos translates the Heb. bekor, firstborn of a womb, whether animal or human, and for humans the references are usually for a firstborn son. of all creation: Grk. ktisis, creation, either of the act of creation or that which is created. The noun is used primarily of God's creation of the universe, whether of individual things or beings, or the sum total of everything created. Paul is not saying that Yeshua was created as the Bible in Basic English implies with its translation of "Who is the image of the unseen God coming into existence before all living things." To deny the eternal existence of Yeshua is heresy.
Relevant to interpretation here is that prōtotokos does occur in the LXX without reference to physical descent or birth. For example, in Exodus 4:22 and Psalm 89:27-29 the word is used to bestow special legal rights and honors (DNTT 1:667). The Jewish Midrash on Exodus echoes this usage:
"The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses, 'In the same way that I made Jacob a firstborn - as it is said (Ex 4:22) Israel is My son, My firstborn -- so I will make Messiah the King firstborn' -- as it is said (Ps 89:28) I will also give him to be firstborn" (Mid. Exodus 19:7, quoted in Gruber-Notes 312).
In addition, 1 Chronicles 5:12 prōtotokos translates Heb. rosh, "head," and Paul could well have intended this usage to emphasize that Yeshua was the source of creation and that he has authority over all creation. The OJB translates "firstborn of all creation" as "Yoresh (Heir) of kol hanivrah (all creation)," emphasizing that Yeshua has the rights of a firstborn son. The CJB translates the phrase as "supreme over all creation" and Stern says that verses 16–17 name three ways in which God is "supreme" and attribute them to Yeshua the Messiah (604). This phrase is typical of how the Besekh shows Yeshua’s divinity while avoiding the direct statement, "Yeshua is God." Stern goes on to say,
"The Messiah is the firstborn of a new humanity through being the first to be resurrected from the dead; this is clearly the sense of "protôtokos" in v. 18. But this sense does not fit here because of what follows in vv. 16–17, even though it is consistent with the preceding allusion to Adam. If one chooses "firstborn of" instead of "supreme over," the phrase, "firstborn of all creation," does not mean that Yeshua was the first created being but speaks of his eternal sonship. Yeshua’s firstbornness does not merely antedate the creation of the material world but is an essential and eternal element of the inner nature of God. Timelessly and eternally the Word of God, who became flesh in Yeshua the Messiah (John 1:1, 14) is in the relationship of firstborn Son to the Father; this is a necessary part of the one God’s description of himself." (605)
The superlative description of Yeshua here (verses 15–20) is largely equivalent to Paul's opening of his letter to the Hebrews:
"God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they." (Heb 1:1-4 NASB)
16 because by him were created all things in the heavens and upon the earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him, and for him;
because: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, whether (1) defining a demonstrative pronoun; that; (2) introducing a subordinate clause as complementary of a preceding verb; (3) introducing a direct quotation and functioning as quotation marks; or (4) indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. The fourth usage applies here. by: Grk. en, prep. See verse 1 above. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., Yeshua. The first clause denotes the Messiah as the agent of creation (cf. John 1:3). were created: Grk. ktizō, aor. pass., to create, which applies only to God who alone can make what was "not there before" (Thayer). Such creating activity requires both omnipotence and omniscience. The Bible exposes the teaching of evolution as a lie of Satan.
all things: pl. of Grk. ho pas, adj. See verse 4 above. in: Grk. en. the heavens: pl. of Grk. ouranos. See verse 5 above. The plural form emphasizes the three heavens and alludes to the creation narrative in Genesis 1:1-19. and upon: Grk. epi, prep. the earth: Grk. gē can mean soil (as in receiving seed), the ground, land as contrasted with the sea, and the earth in contrast to heaven. The LXX uses gē more than 2,000 times and translates the Heb. erets (SH-776) (DNTT 1:517). In the Tanakh erets 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 visible: pl. of Grk. oratos, capable of being seen. and the invisible: pl. of Grk. aoratos, not capable of being seen with the naked eye. The contrast between visible and invisible certainly sums up the material universe. Indeed there are far more things that cannot be seen without the aid of tools and machines than can be seen. whether: Grk. eite, conj., and if, or, whether. thrones: pl. of Grk. thronos, chair, seat or throne, the term reflecting the status of the one for whom the chair is set aside, fig. of a human or divine seat of power. The plural form of the term is used of the thrones occupied by the twelve apostles (Matt 19:28), the thrones of the twenty-four angelic elders in heaven (Rev 4:4; 11:16) and the thrones occupied by godly judges in the millennial kingdom (Rev 20:4). Revelation also mentions the thrones of Satan (2:13) and the beast (13:2; 16:10).
or: Grk. eite. dominions: pl. of Grk. kuriotēs, lordship, constituted authority, or dominion. The term occurs only four times in the Besekh (Eph 1:21; 2Pet 2:10-11; Jude 1:8). BAG identifies three usages of the term. First, the term is used in the Didache 4:1 with reference to the essential nature of God. Second, the term is used of the majestic power that the Lord possesses, specifically the Son of God, in the Shepherd of Hermas 6:1. The usage in the letters of Peter and Jude is generally considered to be the same as Hermas. Third, the term refers to a special class of angelic powers in Paul's letters. The same usage is found in the book of Enoch 61:10.
or: Grk. eite. rulers: pl. of Grk. archē, a multi-purpose word with the basic meaning of priority with these applications: (1) the point of origination, i.e., beginning; (2) one who enjoys preeminence in earthly or supra-terrestrial realm, often plural, i.e., ruler, authority; (3) an assigned position or sphere of activity, a position, domain or jurisdiction. Archē is derived from archō, and the word group in the LXX renders over 30 Hebrew words (DNTT 1:164), including these significant words:
· nasi ('chief,' 'captain,' BDB 672), used to refer to tribal chiefs or leaders of the community (e.g., Ex 16:22; 34:31; Josh 9:15; 22:32).
· rosh ('head,' BDB 910), used of command or military unit command (Jdg 9:34; 1Sam 11:11).
· sar ('chieftain, chief, ruler, official, captain, prince,' BDB 978), used of leader, nobleman, ruler (Gen 12:15; Jdg 8:3; Amos 1:15), but also of celestial beings who represent the nations in the world of spirits, whether hostile to God's people (Dan 7:27; 10:13, 20) or defending God's people as Michael (Dan 10:13, 21).
In the Besekh archē is used as a general term for rule and authority without further specification (1Cor 15:24; Eph 1:21; Col 2:10); for a political ruler (Luke 20:20; Titus 3:1); for a synagogue ruler (Luke 12:11); and for angelic or demonic powers (Eph 3:10; 6:12). The early English versions, as well as some modern versions render the term with the unfamiliar "principalities." A principality (or princedom) refers to a sovereign state, ruled or reigned over by a monarch with the title of prince or princess. Most versions translate the plural of archē with "rulers."
or: Grk. eite. authorities: pl. of Grk. exousia. See verse 13 above. The term has similar usage as archē, including human authority (Luke 12:11; Rom 13:1), and rulers and functionaries of the spirit world (1Cor 15:24; Eph 1:21; 3:10; 6:12) (BAG). The TLV translates as "angelic powers" and WE has "angels." Commentators generally interpret thrones, dominions, rulers and authorities collectively to mean angelic hierarchy. The Message concurs translating the four descriptions of authority as "rank after rank of angels." Bruce specifies that there are five classes of angel-princes represented by the four Greek terms in this verse and adds "dunamis" (drawn from Rom 8:38; Eph 1:21). Dunamis is used in the LXX of Psalm 33:6 for Heb. tsaba (army, war, warfare), translated as "host." In that verse "host" apparently refers to angels, not the stars.
These terms could function more as synonyms with only a nuance of difference in meaning without implying a hierarchy. Our ignorance of angelic organization exceeds our knowledge. See my article The Host of Heaven. In addition, while the primary meaning of these four terms may refer to supra-natural beings, it is just as likely that Paul speaks more broadly, including authorities on the earth. Scripture affirms that God determines the rulers of nations (Ps 75:6-7; Prov 21:1; Isa 44:28; Dan 2:21; 4:17, 32; Acts 17:26; Rom 9:17; 13:1). The nations of the world oppose the kingdom of God, and their supra-princes as depicted in Daniel 10 represent their hostility in the spirit world.
all things: pl. of Grk. pas. None are left out. All things in existence have a creator. have been created: Grk. ktizō, perf. mid. or pass., to create. The perfect tense emphasizes the complete condition of the universe as reflected in the repetition of "it was good" in Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, and 31. Evolution has never brought any matter into existence and is not going on now. through: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 1 above. him: Grk. autos; Yeshua. Paul affirms that creation had a divine origin and that Yeshua in particular was the agent of creation. and for: Grk. eis, prep. See verse 4 above. him: : Grk. autos; Yeshua. God intended that the universe and all things in it glorify and worship His Son (Rom 11:36; 1Cor 15:28; Eph 1:10).
17 and he is before all things, and in him all things consist.
before all things: With this simple statement Paul affirms God's and Yeshua's existence before anything was created. As Moses declared, "Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God" (Ps 90:2). and in him all things consist: Grk. sunistēmi, to be in existence, that is owing existence to Yeshua. Rienecker gives the meaning as to place together, to stand together, to hold together, to cohere. Yeshua is the principal of cohesion in the universe. Paul repeats this principle in Hebrews 1:1-2 where he says that the Son "upholds all things by the word of his power." The moment-to-moment existence of the physical and moral universe depend directly on his continuing oversight and providence.
18 And he is the head of the body, the congregation: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
And he: i.e., Yeshua. is the head: Grk. kephalē, the head as an anatomical term. In Greek literature and Scripture kephalē has a metaphorical use to refer to the life of an individual, but also to refer to someone superior in rank who merits respect by virtue of that position. Even so, in Greek culture kephalē was not a title for the head of a community (DNTT 2:157). The language of "headship" was common within Hebrew thought. In the LXX kephalē frequently translates the Heb. rosh ("head") and is used to denote one who occupies a position of superiority in the community (cf. Judg 10:18; 1Kgs 21:12). By comparison to other nations Israel will be "the head and not the tail" (Deut 28:13; cf. Isa 9:14).
of the body: Grk. sōma, a structured physical unit in contrast to its parts, body of any kind, whether living or dead. The term is used figuratively over 30 times in the Paul's writings for the Messianic congregation (Rom 7:4; 12:4-5; 1Cor 6:15; 10:17; 12:12-27; Eph 1:23; 2:16; 3:6; 4:4, 12, 16; 5:23, 30; Col 1:18, 24; 2:19; 3:15). Headship for Yeshua is not limited to being a source of life, love and benefits, but exercising benevolent authority over His people. Just as a human body cannot live without the head, so the congregation cannot live without Yeshua and the very nature of that relationship implies unity. Paul presents an organic view of the Messianic congregation, whether than an ecclesiastical view characteristic of Christianity.
the congregation: Grk. ekklēsia, means assembly, gathering, meeting, or congregation, translated in Christian Bibles as "church." In secular use ekklēsia referred to a political body or a public meeting of citizens (Acts 19:32, 39, 41), but occurs 111 times in the Besekh for a religious body. The popular interpretation of ekklēsia as "called out ones" is based on etymology and not usage, and thus has little value in understanding the word in its biblical context. In the LXX ekklēsia renders the Heb. qahal (DNTT 1:292-295), which means assembly, convocation, or congregation (BDB 874). In the Tanakh qahal denotes the people of God in a corporate sense, often in the context of being gathered for worship or instruction (Deut 4:10; 31:30; Ps 35:18). Ekklēsia occurs only twice in the apostolic narratives (Matt 16:18; 18:17) and Yeshua most likely used the familiar Hebrew word.
Thus, when Yeshua said he would build his qahal (Matt 16:18) he was not thinking of a Gentile ecclesiastical hierarchy centered in Rome or in any Gentile city. The English translation of "church" was first introduced in the Wycliffe Bible (1395, "chirche"). The Tyndale Bible (1525), the Miles Coverdale Bible (1535) and the Bishop's Bible (1568) rendered ekklēsia as "congregation," but the Geneva Bible (1587) returned to the word "church" and from that time this has been the word used in Christian English Bibles. As the instructions of King James to the translators of the 1611 KJV show, the reason for using "church" was to maintain the ecclesiastical language of Christianity. The English word "church" comes from the Old English cirice, circe "church, public place of worship; Christians collectively," which itself devolved from the Greek kyriakē (oikia), kyriakon doma "Lord's (house). Greek kyriakon (adj.) "of the Lord" was used of houses of Christian worship since c. 300 A.D. (Online Etymology Dictionary).
"Church" is not an accurate translation of ekklēsia, but the decision to use it created a permanent wedge between Christianity and its Jewish roots. The Christian reader of the apostolic writings should be cautious about reading modern church organization, whether Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox or the 57 varieties of Protestantism, into first century settings. In the apostolic writings ekklēsia is never treated as an institution, a building, a specific polity or even a specific size of group as the English word "church" can mean. Everywhere in the apostolic writings ekklēsia refers to either the entire Body of the Messiah, the sum total of the Jewish and Gentile believers in a particular city, or the disciples meeting together in someone's home. Most importantly, the term emphasizes a spiritual bond based on common trust in the God of Israel and his Messiah (Stern 54).
Messianic Jewish versions naturally avoid the use of "church." The Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) has "Messianic Community," the Hebrew Names Version (HNV) has "assembly, the Messianic Writings (MW) has "community," the Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB) has "Kehillah" (a form of qahal) and the Tree of Life Bible (TLV) has "community." The presence of offices, such as elders and deacons, clearly point to internal organization of each local group of disciples. Interestingly Jacob uses sunagōgē or synagogue (Jas 2:2), which would also imply structure and accountability (cf. Matt 10:17; John 9:22; Acts 22:19; 26:11), and, in fact, apostolic congregations mirrored the synagogue in organization.
While the strict definition of "community" does refer to a group who share a government (such as a village, town or city), I prefer to translate ekklēsia with "congregation," since its definition incorporates both organic and organizational characteristics and is more neutral in tone than "church." Of interest is that the CJB uses "congregation" 36 times in the Besekh, including two in Colossians (4:15, 16). However, organization should not overwhelm the organism. In the apostolic writings the doctrine of the ekklēsia is more about a living body with its parts serving one another. The assembly of the faithful should be known by its passion rather than its programs. As an organism each city congregation and sub-groups consist of disciples committed to living by the teachings of their Master and Messiah. Through the body of believers the ministry of Yeshua is extended far beyond the bounds of the holy land and his mortal life on earth.
who is the beginning: Grk. archē, beginning. See the note on verse 16 above. The word refers to priority in time and to originating power. the firstborn: Grk. prōtotokos. See the note on verse 15 above. from the dead: This is an allusion to Yeshua's resurrection. that in all things he might have the preeminence: Grk. proteuō, to be first, to have first place, to hold the chief place. God desires that Yeshua be first in the affections and priorities of man.
19 For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in him should all the fullness dwell;
For it was the good pleasure: Grk. endokeō, aor., to think well, approve, consent, take delight or pleasure. of the Father: See the note on verse 3 above. that in him: in Yeshua. should all the fullness: Grk. plērōma, that which is there as result of filling. In application the term may mean (1) that which fills up the contents; (2) that which is full of something; (3) that which is brought to fullness either as the full number or sum total; (4) fulfillment and (5) the state of being full, such as the fullness of time. Everything that is in the Father is in Yeshua. As he said to Philip, "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). dwell: Grk. katoikeō, aor. inf., to inhabit, to have an abode.
Shulam notes that plērōma is consistently used in the apostolic writings to refer to Yeshua himself (387), and he gives of that fullness to his body, the Messianic community (John 1:16; Rom 15:29; Eph 1:23; 3:19). Stern regards plērōma as a technical term used by the Gnostics and their antecedents to refer to the totality of the various spiritual "levels" and the beings or entities presumed to exist there, and so Paul supposedly seizes "on a characteristic distinctive of the heresy he is fighting and showing how it relates to and supports the Gospel" (605). The problem with this explanation is that Gnosticism did not exist until the second century and the supposed presence of a gnostic heresy at Colossae is used by Christian commentators to diminish the Jewishness of the letter.
Consider the verb plēroō that occurs in Matthew 5:17 where Yeshua says he came to "fulfill" the Torah. The probable Hebrew equivalent of plēroō is lekayem. In Yeshua’ time lekayem was usually the antonym of levatel (cancel, nullify) and used in the sense of preserve or sustain. As a rabbinical term it means to sustain by properly interpreting (Bivin 94). So, in this context the noun plērōma means that Yeshua fully and completely represents the nature of the Father. Paul did not need to borrow anything from pagan religion to declare a biblical truth.
20 and through him to reconcile all things to himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross; through him, I say, whether things upon the earth, or things in the heavens.
Paul reminds the Gentile disciples that their reconciliation with God was accomplished by the bloody execution and death of Yeshua on a cross. The goal was not merely to deal with man's sin problem in terms of atonement, but also to provide a solution to sinning as a way of life. The ultimate goal is that Messiah's congregation would be holy, that is, wholly His with the kind of character that will stand up to the scrutiny of Messiah's judgment.
Paul's Israelology, 1:21-23, 26-27
21 And you, being in time past alienated and enemies in your mind in your evil works,
Paul abbreviates his Israelology found in Ephesians 2:11-18 and interrupts his train of thought with personal reflections in verses 24-25, which resume in verse 28. Christian commentators typically impose a replacement theology on Ephesians and Colossians and ignore the theology actually present in the text.
And you, being: Grk. eimi, pres. part., to be, to exist. in time past: Grk. pote, a generalizing temporal particle, in time past, once or formerly. alienated: Grk. apallotrioō, perf. pass. part., to be in a state or condition that precludes a participatory relationship, be alienated or estranged. and enemies: pl. of Grk. echthros, as an adjective inimical, or hostile, or as a noun, enemy. Mounce favors echthros as an adjective here, but Danker favors it as a noun. Bible versions are similarly divided. in your mind: Grk. dianoia, mental process relating to options for behavior, with focus on intention or purpose, and may be translated as mind-set, mind, disposition or understanding.
in your evil: Grk. ponēros may mean (1) marked by lowness in social worth or deviation from an acceptable moral or social standard, particularly as prescribed by God in his Word, (2) low in quality, bad, poor, or (3) in deteriorated or undesirable state or condition, of physical circumstances. In the LXX ponēros renders Heb. ra, which can mean evil, bad or of little value (DNTT 1:565). In the Tanakh ra is used to describe both that which is ethically evil (Deut 1:35; 4:25) and something that is unpleasant, disagreeable or injurious (e.g. Deut 22:14; 28:35; Isa 3:11). In this context Paul probably uses ponēros as a deviation from God's moral standards. works: pl. of Grk. ergon generally means a deed, action or accomplishment with these applications: (a) in contrast to rest; (b) as a practical proof of something; (c) of the deeds of God and Yeshua, specifically miracles; or (d) the deeds of men, exhibiting a consistent moral character, whether good or bad (BAG).
Paul's point is that the Gentiles were formerly separated from God and Israel, but are reconciled to God and to God’s people, the Jews, and made part of the Commonwealth of Israel through trusting in God and the Jewish Messiah. There is more on this subject at Romans 9–11. (See my commentary there.)
22 yet now has he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and without blemish and blameless before him:
yet now: Grk. nuni, marker of time in the present, now has he reconciled: Grk. apokatallassō, aor., change from hostile to amicable disposition, reconcile, bring together. in the body: Grk. sōma. See the note on verse 18 above. of his 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. through death: Grk. thanatos, death in the natural physical sense. In Hebraic thought "body" and "flesh" are really synonymous, but the combination may allude to the fact that Yeshua was naked on the cross (cf. Heb 12:2).
Yet, because of his shame we won't have to "shrink away from him in shame at his coming" (1John 2:28). to present: Grk. paristēmi, aor. inf., to place beside, present, put at one's disposal, make available; similarly in sacrificial terminology to present or to offer, to bring into God's presence. you holy: Grk. hagios. See the note on verse 2 above. and without blemish: Grk. amōmos, without fault in an ethical sense, innocent. and blameless: Grk. anegklētos, not subject to blame, irreproachable, blameless, held in high respect. before: Grk. katenōpion, adv., in a position that is in front of, before. him: Yeshua seated on his throne, perhaps at the millennial judgment.
Paul reminds the Gentile disciples that their reconciliation with the faithful remnant of Jews was accomplished by the bloody execution and death of Yeshua on a cross. The goal was not merely to deal with man's sin problem in terms of atonement, but also to provide a solution to sinning as a way of life. The ultimate goal is that Messiah's congregation would be holy, that is, wholly His with the kind of character that will stand up to the scrutiny of Messiah's judgment.
23 if so be that you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the Good News which you heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven; of which I Paul was made a minister.
if so be that you continue: Grk. epimenō, to continue or remain. in the faith: Grk. pistis. See the note on verse 3 above. Paul is not using pistis to mean adherence to a creed or an orthodoxy that would characterize later Christianity. Rather, he means that faithfulness expected of those who choose to follow the Messiah. Paul goes on to use three terms that refer to the permanence of a building structure. grounded: Grk. themelioō, perf. pass. part., establish a firm base for something, to lay a foundation; fig. to ground, establish, render firm and unwavering (Mounce). and steadfast: Grk. hedraios, adj., in a sitting posture, then of personal stability, firm, steadfast, settled. and not: Grk. mē, lit. "not," 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. (DM 265f).
moved away: Grk. metakineō, pres. pass. part., to shift from, move away from or abandon. from the hope: Grk. elpis, the state of looking forward to something that is desirable. Hope anticipates what is not seen (Rom 8:25). God is the source of that hope. Paul probably alludes to the earthquakes which occasionally did severe damage in the Lycus Valley. Regardless what misfortune may come that would "shake up" their lives, they must not lose their hope in God. of the Good News: Grk. euangelion originally meant a reward for good news and then simply good news. It occurs 76 times in the Besekh. In the LXX euangelion renders besorah, which may mean either a reward for good news (2Sam 4:10) or glad tidings (2Sam 18:20, 22). Most Evangelical Christians think of the gospel only as 'Jesus died on the cross to save me from my sins and give me a home in heaven.' Notice the "me" and "my," similar to the narcissistic song that "when Jesus was on the cross I was on his mind."
This self-serving message is totally divorced from the original Jewish context. However, the message of the apostles is clear that the full gospel was the good news that God had fulfilled the promises given to Israel through the prophets, including Moses, and that Yeshua would be given the throne of David, rule as king over Israel and save them from their sins. For Jews the good news began with the messages given to Zechariah (Luke 1:13, 16-17), Miriam (Luke 1:30-33), and Joseph (Matt 1:20-21), and which Zechariah then declared to his fellow Jews (Luke 1:68-75), was declared by angels to the shepherds (Luke 2:10-11), and then repeated by Simeon to Joseph and Miriam (Luke 2:29-32). All of these announcements reflected the Jewish hopes and expectations of a redeemer and deliverer.
Consistent with these prior announcements Paul and the other apostles declared that Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah, who fulfilled the promises made to Israel through the prophets; that God has made Yeshua Lord; that forgiveness of sins is available to all through Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice; and that the proof of God’s Word is that Yeshua was raised from the dead (Acts 2:14-40; 10:34-43; 13:16-41). Gentiles were therefore called to turn to the God of Israel and serve him. Only the God of Israel saves (Jer 16:19-20; Acts 17:23-31).
which you heard: Grk. akouō, aor., the sensory act of hearing with the ears, metaphorically of paying attention, but also probably with the sense of comprehension or understanding. which was proclaimed: Grk. kērussō, aor. pass. part., to make a public announcement in the manner of a herald, to proclaim. In the Besekh the verb applies mostly about the reign of God and associated themes. in all creation: Grk. ktsis, the product of a creative act, creation, and generally in Scripture that brought into being by God. In a special sense ktsis refers to an orderly system or arrangement produced by humans, i.e., human institutions.
under heaven: Grk. ouranos, the area above the earth that encompasses the sky, interstellar space and associated phenomena or the transcendent dwelling-place of God (Danker). In the LXX ouranos translates the Heb. word hashamayim ("the heavens"), which is only translated into the plural 51 out of the 667 times it occurs in the LXX (DNTT 2:191). The consistent use of the plural form for "heaven" is thought to signify completeness, yet different activities and places are associated with hashamayim. The Hebrew and Greek words for "heaven" are used in Scripture of three different places (Ps 148:1-4).
● The first usage of hashamayim in the Bible is Genesis 1:1 where it is mentioned in contrast to the earth. "The heavens," or interstellar space, is the name given the expanse stretched out from the initial watery black hole (Gen 1:6-8) and then populated with the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day of creation to give light to the earth. Astronomers have estimated there are 1025 (10 million billion billion) stars in the universe, but the number of visible stars that may be seen without the aid of a telescope is about four thousand (BBMS 156).
● The second use of heaven refers to the atmosphere or "face" of hashamayim, across which birds fly (Gen 1:20; 1Kgs 21:24; Rev 19:17) and from which comes rain, snow, dew, lightning and thunder (Gen 8:2; Deut 11:11; 33:13; Job 38:29; 1Sam 2:10; 2Kgs 1:10; Isa 55:10; Matt 6:26).
● Finally, the third heaven is the location of the throne of God the Father (1Kgs 8:30; 2Chron 30:27; Job 16:19; Ps 2:4; 11:4; Matt 6:9; 2Cor 12:2-4), the residence for a host of angels (Gen 21:17; 28:12; Ps 148:2; Dan 4:23; 7:10; Matt 18:10; 22:30; Luke 2:15; Heb 12:22; Rev 5:11), and the place where Yeshua sits at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19; Rom 8:34; Eph 1:20; Heb 1:3; 8:1; 12:2) as Paul notes in this verse.
Paul very likely uses ouranos of the third heaven and thus the good news proclaimed in all creation under heaven could allude to the gospel in the stars. Paul could say they "heard" this gospel because as David says in Psalm 19:1-2, "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge." In fact, Paul quotes from this psalm to make this very point in Romans 10:18. See my commentary there.
of which I Paul: Grk. Paulos. See the note on verse 1 above. was made: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. ind., aor. mid. ind., to come into being, to become. a minister: Grk. diakonos. See the note on verse 7 above. Paul was a dedicated servant of the God of Israel and his Messiah, Yeshua.
Paul's Ministry, 1:24-25
24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Messiah in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the congregation;
Paul now uses himself as an example to drive home his message and describes the nature of his ministry.
Now I rejoice: Grk. chairō, be in a state marked by good feeling about an event or circumstance, be happy, glad, delight, rejoice. in my sufferings: pl. of Grk. pathēma, to experience pain or distress, suffering. for your sake: Grk. huper, prep., relating to a concern or interest for someone, and thus for, in behalf of, in the interest of. The last meaning applies here. Paul is not speaking in a substitutionary sense, but in the sense of a ministry benefit accrued to the Colossians by virtue of his sufferings. and fill up: Grk. antanaplēroō, take one's turn in filling up something; fill up one's part, supplement. on my part that which is lacking: Grk. husterēma, that which remains to be made up or brought to full completion, balance, remaining portion.
of the afflictions: Grk. thlipsis, which comes from the verb thlibō, to press, squeeze or crush. The noun, then, means oppression, distress, or affliction. In the LXX thlipsis rendered a number of Hebrew terms, especially tsarah (straits, distress, affliction, trouble, BDB 865). The terms all denote need, distress, and various afflictions depending on the context, e.g. war, exile and personal hostility (DNTT 2:807). Thlipsis occurs 45 times in the apostolic writings and is translated by Bible versions as either tribulation or affliction. The usage in the Besekh is clearly the same as in the Tanakh. Throughout the apostolic writings tribulation is treated as a normal and expected experience for Yeshua's followers (Acts 7:11; 14:22; John 16:33; Rom 5:3; 8:35; 12:12; Eph 3:13; Php 1:17; Col 1:24; 1Th 1:6; 3:3-4; 2Th 1:4; 2Tim 3:12; Heb 10:33; Rev 1:9; 2:9-10; 7:14). The source of tribulation is not God but Satan or the world (John 15:18-23; 1Pet 5:8).
of Messiah: Grk. Christos. See the note on verse 1 above. in my flesh: Grk. sarx. See the not on verse 22 above. on behalf of his body: Grk. sōma. See the note on verse 18 above. The term is used figuratively here. which is the congregation: Grk. ekklēsia. See the note on verse 18 above. Paul statement about 'filling up what's lacking in the afflictions of the Messiah' in no way implies that the redemption and reconciliation effected by the death of Yeshua needs to be supplemented (Bruce 83). In Paul's mind there may be the rabbinic concept of the "birth pangs of the Messiah," which were to be endured in the last days (Stern 605; Bruce 83). Yeshua had suffered on Golgotha, but in the period awaiting the age to come the Body of Messiah will have its quota of affliction to bear.
Yeshua had promised his disciples, "in the world you will have tribulation" (John 16:33). Paul desires to absorb as much as possible of this in his own flesh. In one sense if adversaries of the gospel focus on Paul they will leave other disciples alone, so Paul doesn't mind being a lightning rod for the Sanhedrin's hostility. Paul willingly embraced the fellowship of Messiah's sufferings (cf. Php 3:10).
25 whereof I was made a minister, according to the stewardship of God given me to you, to fulfill the word of God,
whereof I was made: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. ind., to come to be, to become or to originate. a minister: Grk. diakonos. See the note on verse 7 above. Paul points back to his Damascus road experience and his appointment as an apostle by Yeshua. according to the stewardship: Grk. oikonomia, management of a household, direction, office (BAG). The word indicated the responsibility, authority and obligation given to a household slave (Rienecker). of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See the note on verse 1 above. given me: Grk. didōmi, aor. pass. part., to give, generally denoting a generous and free-will act. Paul was humbled with the knowledge that God had chose him for ministry in spite of how he had persecuted disciples of Yeshua.
to you: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into you." Many versions translate the preposition as "for," which may give the impression that Paul's hearers were the object of the verb that follows. Some versions set off the last clause with a comma to indicate that the verb pertains to Paul's ministry. to fulfill: Grk. plēroō, aor. inf., to fill or fulfill. The verb has the sense of "going fully" (Rienecker). the word: Grk. logos, a vocalized expression of the mind, as communication ranging broadly in extent of content and variety of form; word, discourse, statement, message or speech. In the LXX logos stands principally for Heb. dabar (SH-1697), which has a similar range of meaning: saying, speech, word, message, report, tidings, discourse, story, command, advice, counsel, promise, thing, or matter, whether of men or God (Gen 29:13; BDB 182) (DNTT 3:1087).
In Scripture "word" is often combined with of God or "of the LORD" to indicate inspired prophetic speech. Thus, the "word of God" here is the message Paul received from Yeshua. Paul had a ministry of preaching, and he faithfully declared the Word of God wherever he went.
Paul's Israelology, 1:26-27
26 even the mystery which hath been hid for ages and generations: but now hath it been manifested to his holy ones,
even the mystery: Grk. mustērion, which in common Greek usage meant a secret rite or secret teaching. Yeshua first used the term "mystery" when he explained why he taught in parables (Matt 13:11), but the concept of God’s secrecy was originally explained to Moses, "the secret things belong to the Lord" (Deut 29:29). In Scripture a mystery is a reality or plan that God kept concealed from his people but finally revealed to his apostles (cf. Eph 3:5). God had communicated several mysteries (cf. Dan 2:28f; Matt 13:11; 1Cor 4:1; 13:2) to his prophets, but the meaning remained obscure, in effect hidden in plain sight. God’s secret counsels were necessary because man cannot really be trusted (John 2:24f) and Satan engages in unceasing warfare against God’s kingdom and would certainly use any intelligence to hinder God’s workings (John 10:10; cf. Eph 6:12; 1Thess 2:18; 1Pet 5:8).
The word mustērion, is associated with several mysteries in the Besekh:
· the mystery of the kingdom (Mark 4:11)
· the mystery of the hardening of Israel (Rom 11:25)
· the mystery of the good news (Rom 16:25; Eph 6:19)
· the mystery of God (1Cor 2:7; Rev 10:7)
· the mystery of the resurrection (1Cor 15:51)
· the mystery of the Messiah (Eph 1:9; 3:4, 9; Col 2:2; 4:3)
· the mystery of the Body of Messiah (Eph 5:32; Col 1:27)
· the mystery of Torahlessness (2Thess 2:7)
· the mystery of faithfulness (1Tim 3:9)
· the mystery of godliness (1Tim 3:16)
· the mystery of the seven stars (Rev 1:20)
· the mystery of the seven lampstands (Rev 1:20)
· the mystery of Babylon (Rev 17:5)
· the mystery of the beast (Rev 17:7).
which has been hid: Grk. apokruptō, perf. pass. part., to hide, conceal, keep secret, referring to divine providence, which God reserves to himself the selective or timely disclosure of divine purpose. for ages: pl. of Grk. aiōn functions as an indefinite measurement of time and means a very long time, eternity or age. In the LXX aiōn translates ōlam, which means long duration, antiquity or futurity (BDB 761). In the Tanakh, ōlam is generally concerned with a concrete idea of time in relation to the whole duration of a man's life (DNTT 3:827). Since neither the Greek or Hebrew word in its singular form contains the concept of endlessness, the use of the plural intensive form olamim yields a declaration of ages that will continue without end (cf. Ps 90:2; Isa 45:17; Dan 9:24). The plan of God had been hidden since the creation of the universe (cf. Eph 3:9; Rev 13:8).
and generations: Grk. genea means family line or descent or all the people alive at a given time in history. Depending on the context genea can refer to people in the past, people in the present or people in the future. By modern definition a generation is the span of time from the birth of the first child of a marriage to the birth of the first grandchild. Thus, the term "generation" has no fixed length (BBMS 418). but now: Grk. nun, a marker of time in the present, now, sometimes emphatically meaning "just now." has been manifested: Grk. phaneroō, aor. pass., cause to be in a state or condition that makes observation possible. to his holy ones: pl. of Grk. hagios. See verse 2 above.
In order for man to understand anything of God’s mysteries, He must reveal them, and God chose the prophets and apostles as the messengers of his revelation (2Pet 1:20f; 3:2). It is crucial for interpreters of these mysteries to allow God to be the final arbiter of what his Word means. Then with the aid of the Holy Spirit the revealed truth can be comprehended by his disciples and applied to life (1Cor 2:12-13; 2Tim 3:16f).
27 to whom God was pleased to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Messiah in you, the hope of glory:
Paul summarizes what he declares at more length in Ephesians 2 and 3:
"11 Therefore, keep in mind that once you - the Gentiles in the flesh - 12 … were separate from Messiah, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Messiah Yeshua, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. … 19 So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with God's people and members of God’s household." (Eph 2:11-13, 19 TLV)
"3 that the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote before briefly. 4 When you read this, you can understand my insight into the mystery of Messiah, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy shlichim and prophets. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are joint heirs and fellow members of the body, and co-sharers of the promise in Messiah Yeshua through the Good News." (Eph 3:3-6 TLV)
The mystery of the Body of Messiah is that Gentiles were joined to Israel and the Jewish Messiah, not separated to replace Israel.
Paul's Ministry, 1:28−2:7
28 whom we proclaim, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Messiah;
whom we proclaim: Grk. katangellō, pres., to proclaim, with connotation of broad dissemination. 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 Scripture and Spirit-inspired persuasion to motivate faithful discipleship. Pointing out their spiritual virtues contains an implied expectation that they will fulfill his wish. and teaching: Grk. didaskō, pres. part., to teach or instruct, often used in the apostolic writings of instructing disciples. in all wisdom: Grk. sophia, exceptional endowment of discernment, understand and insight, wisdom.
In Greek culture sophia referred to practical knowledge, e.g., the sophia of a carpenter, but later incorporated theoretical knowledge (DNTT 3:1027). In the LXX sophia was used to translate the wisdom possessed by a specialist in a particular field (Ex 36:1f), or economic shrewdness (Prov 8:18). Over and above these elements sophia is concerned with the learned and perceptive ability that enables a man to master life (Prov 8:32-36) (DNTT 3:1028). that we may present: Grk. paristēmi, aor. subj., to place beside, to present, in the sense of bringing someone to someone else so as to be in the presence of the other. every man perfect: Grk. teleios, adj., free from any deficiency, omission or corruption; generally translated as complete or perfect.
in Messiah: Paul is not describing a "positional salvation" in which no actual change occurs in the seeker but only the perfection of Yeshua is seen. Regeneration is only possible because of what Yeshua did on the cross and then completed by the work of the Holy Spirit in the human personality. Paul sees his role as one of stewardship in which he presents to Yeshua those whom he has discipled in the manner he described.
29 for which I labor also, striving according to his working, which works in me mightily.
for which I labor: Grk. kopiaō, to engage in fatiguing activity, to work hard, to toil. striving: Grk. agōnizomai, pres. mid. part., to be engaged in a struggle, a word picture drawn from athletic games. The verb probably alludes back to his description of interceding in prayer, in this case all those to whom he ministered. according to his working: Grk. energeia, productive activity, with a focus on outward exhibition of inner resources. which works in me mightily: Grk. energeō, pres. mid. part., to be vigorous in pursuit of an objective, to bring about a work or effect. Paul presents the paradox of success in ministry, a combination of his effort and the superior effort of Yeshua working through him.
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.
Bivin: David Bivin, New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus: Insights from His Jewish Context. En-Gedi Resource Center, 2007.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. London: Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
BBMS: Henry Morris, Biblical Basis for Modern Science. Baker Book House, 1984.
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.
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
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.
DSB: Henry Morris, Defenders Study Bible. World Publishing Co., 1995.
Gager: John G. Gager, Reinventing Paul. Oxford University Press, 2000.
GNT: The Greek New Testament, eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, & Allen Wiegren. American Bible Society, 1966.
Gruber-Notes: Daniel Gruber, The Messianic Writings. Elijah Publishing, 2011. (annotations by the author)
Hegg: Tim Hegg, Letter Writer: Paul's Background and Torah Perspective. 2nd ed. TorahResource, 2008.
Marshall: Alfred Marshall, NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English. Zondervan Pub. House, 1986.
Metzger: Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. German Bible Society, 1994.
Mounce: Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament edited by William D. Mounce. Zondervan Pub. Co., 2011.
Polhill: John B. Polhill, Paul and His Letters, B & H Academic, 1999.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Vol. 2. Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.
Ross: Allen P. Ross, Introducing Biblical Hebrew. Baker Academic, 2001.
Santala: Risto Santala, Paul: The Man and the Teacher in the Light of Jewish Sources. Keren Ahvah Meshihit, 1995.
Shulam: Joseph Shulam, A Commentary on the Jewish Roots of Romans. Lederer Books, 1997.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
Thayer: Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Harper Brothers, 1889.
Vaughan: Curtis Vaughan, Colossians. Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 11. Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp, 1989-1999.
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