The Letter to Colossae

Chapter 4

Blaine Robison, M.A.

 Published 13 October 2013; Revised 8 October 2019

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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 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.

Household relations (cont.)

1 Masters, render to your servants justice and equity; knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.

Masters: pl. of 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, principally to replace Heb. YHVH, and translates the divine title Adonai. In contrast to its use for deity kurios also renders Heb. adon (owner, master) 310 times, 190 of which refer to men in general recognition of social rank (DNTT 2:511).

render: Grk. parechō, pres. mid. imp., to cause something to be present for the other, to bring about or to furnish. to your servants: pl. of Grk. doulos can mean either slave or servant. In the LXX doulos translates the Heb. word ebed, which similarly described someone enslaved after being captured in war or in order to pay a debt, whether voluntarily or involuntarily (cf. Ex 21:7; Lev 25:39, 44, 47). Slaves could be owned as a possession for various lengths of times, Hebrew slaves no more than seven years (Ex 21:2), and Gentile slaves without time limit. The economy of Egypt, Greece, and Rome was based on slave labor. In the first century, one out of three persons in Italy and one out of five elsewhere was a slave. Canaan, Aram, Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia had fewer slaves because it proved less expensive to hire free persons ("Slave/Servant," HBD).

Legally a slave had no rights; but, except for the gangs in mines, most were treated humanely and were better off than many free persons. Domestics were considered part of the family, and some were greatly loved by their masters. While servanthood might have been involuntary, slaves could generally earn or purchase their freedom (cf. 1Cor 7:21). Still, the institution of slavery was unquestioned (cf. Matt 10:24) and the Bible contains no condemnation of the practice. justice: Grk. dikaios, adj., being in accord with God's covenantal standards expressed in Torah for acceptable behavior, upright or just. In the LXX dikaios renders Heb. tsaddiq ('just or righteous' BDB 843). In Scripture a just man is one who is blameless or innocent of wrongdoing, one who follows the ethical and moral demands of Torah. See my web article on Biblical Justice.

and equity: Grk. isotēs from isos, equal or of equal value, reflected in the isosceles triangle with two equal sides. Danker and BAG define the term as 'equality' or 'fairness.' The word isotēs occurs only twice in the LXX and without Hebrew equivalent (Job 36:29; Zech 4:7 ABP). The term occurs only three times in the Besekh (2Cor 8:13, 14). The Jewish philosopher Philo regarded isotēs as the "mother of justice" (Special Laws IV, 231). In classical Greek isotēs meant political and legal equality, particularly judicial impartiality (DNTT 2:497). Among Greeks dikaios and isotēs became an interchangeable pair. Greek philosophers expounded on the essential equality of all men, and the Stoics in particular insisted that slaves were humans and should be treated accordingly (HBD).

However, in general the Greeks felt only revulsion and contempt for the position of a slave (DNTT 3:593). Just as the isosceles triangle is not totally equal in all sides and all angles, so not all people are really equal. Only citizens had the right of equal treatment before the law. Consider the treatment of women. Pseudo-Demosthenes (4th century BC) said, "Mistresses we keep for the sake of pleasure, concubines for the daily care of our persons, but wives to bear us legitimate children and to be faithful guardians of our households" (Speeches: Against Neaera, 59:122). Among the Greeks and Romans a concubine was at best a kept mistress and at worst a sex-slave that could be hired out to friends or brothels by her owner.

The KJV and most other early English versions translate isotēs as "equal." The translation of "fair, fairly, or fairness" found in most all later versions (AMP, CEB, CEV, CJB, ERV, ESV, GW, HCSB, LEB, MSG, MRINT, NASB, NCV, NET, NIRV, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV, RSV, TEV, TLB, and TLV) is misleading. In contemporary culture, then and now, "fairness" really means getting what one wants, regardless of God's standard of justice. This definition is easily illustrated with any conflict over interests or goals.

"If you get what you want and I get what I want … that's fair.
If you don't get what you want but I get what I want … that's fair.
But, if you get what you want and I don't get what I want … that's NOT fair."

Since under Roman law slaves had no rights Paul most likely uses isotēs to refer to the Torah principle of equity, which means giving due consideration of right, title or interest. Noteworthy is that both Thayer's Greek Lexicon and Mounce's Greek Dictionary do include equity or what is equitable in the definition of isotēs. Also, three Bible versions translate the word as "equitable" (KJ21, MW and WNT). Paul echoed this sentiment in Romans 13:7, "Render to all what is due them." Thus, equity does not necessarily equal equality. The question is, what would Paul say was due a slave? First, there is spiritual equity. A slave is loved by God, and a believing slave as an adopted son of God (Gal 4:7) has equal entitlement to inheritance in the Kingdom of God (Col 3:24). Believing slaves share in the unity of the Body of Messiah and the gift of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 12:13; Gal 3:28).

Second, God's Torah gave slaves legal equity in the form of protection in various ways (Ex 21:1-11; Lev 25:39-55; Deut 15:12-18). A Hebrew sold to another Hebrew or a resident alien because of insolvency was to be released after six years of service and given provisions to start over. If he had come with a wife, she and any children were also released. If the master had given him a wife, she and the children were to remain. If, however, the slave wanted to stay with his wife and children rather than be free, he could enroll himself as a slave for life. A Hebrew who sold himself to another Hebrew or resident alien was to be released during the Jubilee Year. A slave could be redeemed at any time by a relative. A Hebrew girl sold by her father to another Hebrew to become his wife was to be released if that man or his son did not marry her.

A slave permanently maimed by his or her master was to be freed (Ex 21:26-27). A fugitive slave—presumably one who had escaped from a foreign owner—was not to be extradited (Deut 23:15-16). Foreigners could be enslaved permanently, but they had the right to circumcision (Ex 12:44-48), Sabbath rest (Exodus 20:10), and holidays (Deut 16:11, 14). An owner was to be punished for beating a slave to death (Ex 21:20-21). Jewish disciples would certainly be aware of these Torah rights and since Torah is still in force believing owners would be duty bound to obey these provisions.

knowing: Grk. oida, perf. part., to have information about, to know or to have discernment about, to perceive, to understand. you also have: Grk. echō, to possess. a Master: Grk. 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. Paul uses kurios 14 times in this letter, five of which are specifically associated with Yeshua (1:3; 2:6; 3:17, 24).

in 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 offers comparable counsel in other letters to believing masters (Eph 6:9; Phm 1). Paul never condemns the institution of slavery. In fact, he uses it as an apt metaphor for the contrast between serving sin and serving righteousness in Romans 6. Nevertheless in 1Corinthians 7:21-23 Paul gives an opinion that sounds strange to modern ears. Paul advises that born-again slaves not be concerned about their status, but if they want to free themselves, then should feel free to do so. Conversely no free man should voluntarily indenture himself to another.

Duty of prayer, 4:2-4

2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, watching in it with thanksgiving;

Continue steadfastly: Grk. proskartereō, pres. imp., to attend to with continuing resoluteness, here of carrying out a religious obligation. in prayer: Grk. proseuchē, a general word for prayer in the Besekh. In the LXX proseuchē renders Heb. tephillah (occurring numerous times in the Psalms) a derivative of the verb palal (DNTT 2:863). Palal lit. means "to intervene or to interpose" and has a wide range of usage in the Tanakh, including to arbitrate, to judge, to intercede or to pray. In simple terms prayer is making personal requests known to God, whether spiritual or material (Rom 1:10; Phil 4:6). Even more important God expects that prayer be intercession for the salvation and needs of others (Eph 6:18; 1Tim 2:1-2). The context of palal in the Tanakh is pleading before a judge. The implication of this meaning is significant.

Approaching the holy God requires self-judgment because prayer automatically invokes God's judgment (Punton 79). Self-judgment means asking some hard questions. Do we meet the conditions for God to answer our prayers? (cf. 1John 3:22). Can we be trusted with the answer? Will we give glory to God or overestimate the worth of our own contribution? We must also judge the content of our prayers in light of God's Word. Some things should not be asked for and God is not a vending machine to satisfy our pleasures. Will we let God be the final arbiter in answering prayer? Paul, being Jewish, certainly understood proseuchē according to the Hebraic idea. (See my web presentation Principles of Effective Prayer.)

watching: Grk. grēgoreō, pres. part., be fully awake, to be on he alert, be watchful. In the LXX it renders Heb. amad ("to take one's stand," "stand" BDB 763) in Nehemiah 7:3 and shaqad ("watch," "wake" BDB 1052) in Jeremiah 5:6 (DNTT 2:136). The Greek word used here simply means to be awake as a sentry who keeps his eyes open while he is on duty. Vigilance can be taken literally in the sense of keeping from falling asleep while praying as the disciples failed to do in Gethsemane (Mark 14:37, 40), but vigilance in prayer is also necessary to avoid temptation (Mark 14:38). in it with thanksgiving: Grk. eucharistia may mean (1) a quality indicative of appropriate attitude toward a benefactor, 'gratitude;' or (2) an expression of thankfulness, 'thanksgiving,' especially associated with prayer. By definition the Hebrew and Greek words for prayer do not encompass blessing or praising God or offering thanksgiving, but such expressions are important in recognition of what God has already done.

3 praying at the same time for us also, that God may open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of the Messiah, for which I have been bound;

praying: Grk. proseuchomai, pres. mid. part., pray. The present tense emphasizes to start and continue the activity. The noun "prayer" mentioned in the previous verse is taken from this verb, which in Scripture refers to petitioning God for his help or answer with respect to a personal need or the needs of others. at the same time for us also: Paul requests to be added to prayer lists the Colossian members might have. Paul did not hesitate to express his need for prayer from those who received his letters (Rom 15:30; 2Cor 1:11; Eph 6:19; 1Th 5:25; 2Th 3:1; Heb 13:18). Paul knew that effective ministry required faithful prayer. that God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. In secular Greek writings a number of deities, always represented in anthropomorphic form, were called theos.

In ancient polytheistic culture theos was not one omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe and certainly not spirit as described in Scripture (John 4:24). All of the gods and goddesses of polytheistic pantheons were strictly non-personal, which stands in sharp contrast to the Hebraic view that God loves and desires a relationship with men. In the LXX theos renders the generic designations of God, El (which occurs over 200 times, including combinations such as El Bethel, El Elyon, El Roi, El Olam, and El Shaddai) and Elohim (which occurs over 2300 times), as well as the tetragrammaton YHVH, over 300 times. As with many other Greek words the LXX infused new meaning into theos (DNTT 2:67-70). (See my web article The Blessed Name.)

may open: Grk. anoigō, aor. subj., to open, frequently used of doors. to us a door: Grk. thura, a device for opening and closing an entranceway or a passage providing access to a place, generally used literally in the Besekh, but here figuratively of an opportunity. for the word: Grk. logos, vocalized expression, word, discourse, statement message or speech. In Greek philosophical writings logos took on the meaning of a common universal law or truth and that which gives order in the universe. In the LXX logos stands principally for Heb. dabar, "word, report, command." In Scripture "word" is often combined with "of God" or "of the LORD" to indicate inspired prophetic speech (DNTT 3:1087). to speak: Grk. laleō, aor. inf., to make a sound or a statement. The verb is a reminder that the Gospel was first oral long before it was ever written down.

the mystery: Grk. mustērion, that which awaits divine disclosure or interpretation. In Greek culture mustērion referred to a secret rite or secret teaching. The term occurs 28 times in the Besekh, 21 of which are in the writings of Paul. 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 to his prophets, but the meaning remained obscure, in effect hidden in plain sight (cf. Dan 2:28f; Matt 13:11; 1Cor 4:1; 13:2; 14:2). 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; 1Th 2:18; 1Pet 5:8).

of the Messiah: Grk. Christos (a translation of Heb. Mashiach, "Anointed"), the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Anointed One or Messianic Priest-King (Ps 2:2 and Dan 9:25-26). Yeshua's anointing was not in the customary manner. He was first anointed with the Holy Spirit to fulfill the ministry prophesied in Isaiah 61:1 (Matt 3:16; Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38). Then he was anointed with nard in preparation for the ministry of being an atoning sacrifice (Mark 14:3-8; John 12:3). Finally he was anointed with the power of resurrection to assume his rightful place on the throne of David as King and Judge over the earth (Luke 1:32; Acts 3:18-26; 10:40-42; 13:30-34; 17:31; Eph 1:18-23). Christos does not mean "second person of the triune Godhead" nor is it a last name. Christos is a Jewish title of kingship and Yeshua is both King of the Jews (Matt 2:2; 27:11, 37) and King of the nations (Gen 49:10; Rev 15:3). For an expanded discussion on the Jewish title see my commentary on Mark 1:1.

for which I have been bound: Grk. deō, perf. pass., to bind in terms of physical restraint. Paul alludes to his arrest in Jerusalem (Acts 22:29; 21:33). He remained bound to a Roman soldier for his trip to Rome (Acts 26:29) and while in Rome awaiting trial (Acts 28:20; Eph 6:20).

4 that I may make it clear, as I ought to speak.

that I may make it clear: Grk. phaneroō, aor. subj., cause to be in a state or condition that makes observation possible, to make known, show or disclose. as I ought: Grk. dei, an impersonal verb from deō, to stand in need of. The basic idea is that circumstances, expressed or implied, determine expectations for an outcome or event. to speak: Grk. laleō, aor. inf. See the note on the previous verse. Paul makes a simple prayer request, first that God in his sovereignty would provide more opportunities for him to preach the good news of the Messiah and, second, that he could communicate it in such a way that people will grasp and embrace the truth.

Perhaps Paul might wonder from time to time whether more people might have accepted Yeshua if he had used different words. Yet, he knows that grasping spiritual truth is more complicated than merely selecting the right words. On the one hand it is the Holy Spirit who provides illumination and then regeneration (John 1:9; 1Cor 2:13-14; 3:6; 2Cor 3:6), but Satan is actively working to hinder communication of the gospel and snatch spiritual insight from peoples' minds (Mark 4:15; 2Cor 4:4; 1Th 2:8; 1Jn 2:11).

Community relations, 4:5-6

5 Walk in wisdom toward those outside, redeeming the time.

Walk: Grk. peripateō, pres. imp., to engage in pedestrian activity, to go about, to walk. Paul uses the word in its Hebraic sense of the walk of life, how one conducts oneself in life (cf. Deut 30:16; 1Kgs 11:38; Ps 1:1; 15:2). in wisdom: Grk. sophia, exceptional endowment of discernment, understanding and insight, wisdom. toward those outside: Grk. exō, an adv. of place indicating a position that is beyond a limit or boundary. In this instance Paul is referring to those who have yet to join the Yeshua movement by trusting in his atoning blood for redemption.

redeeming: Grk. exagorazō, pres. mid. part., to buy out or to redeem in a commercial sense and figuratively to take advantage. the time: Grk. kairos, an appropriate or set segment of time; a period, definite or approximate, in which an event takes place. Kairos may also allude to a providential appointment. There is a saying in commerce of "striking when the fire is hot." Since God is actively working to bring about the salvation of many, then Messiah's witnesses need to be alert to the opportunity when it occurs, just as a buyer knows when the time is ripe to buy. As someone said, this is "love on the lookout."

6 Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

Let your speech: Grk. logos, a vocalized expression of the mind or a non-vocalized communication. In this context logos probably refers to ordinary conversations with those "outside." be always: Grk. pantote, adv., always, at all times. The word appears to be a favorite of Paul, occurring 31 times in his writings. The adverb refers to a intentional persistent practice, but not a legalistic standard. with grace: Grk. charis, disposition marked by inclination to generosity; also, a benefit conferred freely as an expression of good will. seasoned: Grk. artuō, perf. pass. part., to arrange or make ready, when used of food to season.

with salt: Grk. halas, salt, usually in the literal sense, but figuratively of witty or winsome speech that creates a favorable impression. In ancient times salt has three basic functions: as flavoring, as a preservative and as a cleansing agent. Communicating with unbelievers requires choosing words that are tactful yet truthful. "Don't say anything stupid that you'll regret." that you may know: Grk. oida, to have information about, to know or to have discernment about, to perceive, to understand. how: Grk. pōs, adv., with focus on quest for information. you ought: Grk. dei. See the note on verse 4 above. to answer: Grk. apokrinomai, pres. mid. inf., to make a response to a specific query, to answer, reply or counter. each one: The ones to whom you are witnessing or ministering. Paul's instruction here is comparable to Peter's instruction:

"Sanctify the Messiah as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer with humility and fear to everyone who asks you the reason for the hope that is in you. Keeping a good conscience, whereas you are maligned, those who abusively attack your good manner of life in Messiah may be ashamed." (1Pet 3:15-16 MW)

Commendations, 4:7-9

7 All my affairs Tychicus will make known to you, the beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow-servant in the Lord:

All my affairs: Lit. "All the things about me." The content of this verse is repeated in Ephesians 6:21-22. Tychicus: Grk. Tuchikos, a personal name meaning, “fortunate” (HBD). Tychicus was from the province of Asia (Acts 20:4), but this does not identify his ethnicity. Tychicus is identified in three periods of Paul's life. Tychicus traveled with Paul on his third missionary journey as he was returning from Greece to Jerusalem. The trip was especially important in that Paul and his friends were carrying money that had been collected from various congregations for the help of Judean disciples (Acts 24:17). Tychicus was one of at least eight close friends who evidently journeyed with him all the way to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4-6; 21:1-8, 15-17).

After Paul's first imprisonment he mentions in his letter to Titus that Tychicus might be sent to Crete (Titus 3:12). The last mention of Tychicus occurs during Paul's second imprisonment. He relates that he sent Tychicus to Ephesus (2Tim 4:12). Nothing more is known of Tychicus and tradition holds that he died a martyr. will make known: Grk. gnōrizō, fut., to share information about something, to make known or inform about. to you, the beloved: Grk. agapētos, held in affection, esteemed or dear.

brother: 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; 1Th 3:22). While Tychicus may have been a Gentile, the use of adelphos might indicate that he was Jewish. Having a Greek name cannot determine the matter.

and faithful: Grk. pistos, characterized by constancy and therefore worthy of trust; faithful, reliable or trustworthy. 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. Diakonos was also a technical term denoting someone ordained to a recognized office in the congregation and having the duty of caring for its practical affairs (Acts 6:1-6; Php 1:1; 1Tim 3:1). See Acts 6:3; 1Timothy 3:8–13 for the qualifications of a diakonos. and 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. Paul used the term to describe Epaphras in 1:7 and implies a close association with others in the Messiah's ministry. in the Lord: Grk. kurios. See the note on verse 1 above for "Master."

8 whom I sent to you for this purpose, that you may know our state, and that he may comfort your hearts;

whom I sent: Grk. pempō, aor., to send in the sense of a dispatch of persons for a purpose. for this purpose: lit. "into this very thing." that you may know: Grk. ginōskō, aor. subj., which has a variety of meanings, including (1) know, come to know; (2) learn of, ascertain, find out; (3) understand, comprehend; (4) perceive, notice, or realize, any of which would have application here. our state: lit. "the things concerning us" (Marshall). and that he may comfort: Grk. parakaleō, pres. subj., to encourage performance, to exhort or to entreat. your hearts: pl. of Grk. kardia, the pumplike organ of blood circulation, here used metaphorically as the center for personhood, character, cognition, emotion and volition. Paul had entrusted Tychicus with the mission of delivering the letter to the Ephesian congregation, and then to proceed to Colossae with this letter. In Laodicea and Colossae Tychicus would not only deliver the letters from Paul, but also explain Paul's situation.

9 together with Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you all things here.

together with: Grk. sun, prep., lit. "with." Onesimus: Grk. Onēsimos, personal name that may mean, "profitable" (HBD). He was the slave of Philemon who had accepted Messiah Yeshua as a result of Paul's witness in Rome (Phm 1:10) and for whom Paul wrote his letter to Philemon. In Colossae Tychicus would presumptively plead the cause of Onesimus, who accompanied him from Rome, since it "would be safer than if he encountered Philemon alone" (Lightfoot). the faithful: Grk. pistos. See the note on verse 7 above. and beloved: Grk. agapētos. See the note on verse 7 above. brother: Grk. adelphos. See the note on verse 7 above. who is one of you: Onesimus belongs to the Colossian congregation because he is of the household of Philemon. They will make known: Grk. gnorizō. See the note on verse 7 above. Onesimus would have something to contribute to the report.

Greetings, 4:10-15

10 Aristarchus my fellow-prisoner greets you, and Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, concerning whom you received instructions; if he comes to you, receive him,

Aristarchus: Grk. Aristarchos ("best leader" or "best-ruling"). In spite of having a Greek name he was a Hebraic Jew as indicated by Paul's including him with Mark and Justus as belonging to the Circumcision. (See the note on the next verse.) The name of Aristarchus first appears in Acts 19:29 as a companion of Paul from Macedonia who was caught and treated badly by the followers of Artemis in Ephesus (Acts 19:29). In Acts 20:4 Aristarchus is identified as the Thessalonian who accompanied Paul from Greece to Jerusalem as he returned from his third missionary journey. Aristarchus also accompanied Paul when he sailed for Rome (Acts 27:2).

my fellow prisoner: Grk. sunaichmalōtos, from Grk. sun, 'with' and the adj. aichmalōtos, 'taken by the spear (as captive), then generically 'prisoner.' Here Paul identifies Aristarchus as a fellow prisoner and included greetings from him. Here he is identified simply as a fellow worker, which suggests that Aristarchus had been released from captivity. According to later church tradition Nero put Aristarchus to death in Rome. greets you: Grk. aspazomai, pres. mid., to address with some form of special recognition or expression of affection. In Hebraic fashion the verb actually begins this verse as it does in verses 12, 14 and 15.

Readers may be puzzled over the fact that Paul identifies people in this letter with Greek names who are ostensibly Jewish. Some scholars suggest that Jews in the Diaspora changed their names to prevent discrimination. Certainly this practice occurred frequently in Christian Europe in later centuries. However, no evidence exists that in the first century Jews adopted Greek names to prevent mistreatment. Even Hebraic Jews were conversant with the LXX (Greek Tanakh) and knew enough Greek to conduct trade and other formal relations with Gentiles. Jews no doubt adopted Greek names or gave them to their children for personal reasons unrelated to Gentile prejudice.

Douglas Hamp in his book Discovering the Language of Jesus says, "The use of non-Hebrew names seems to have been rather common since even the (Jewish) disciples Philip and Andrew have Greek names" (19). Philip, however, was not from Greece or anywhere else outside of Israel, but was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter (John 1:44). Andrew, likewise, had a completely Greek name. Hamp suggests that quite possibly the parents knew someone with the name or just simply liked how it sounded (20). Andrew's famous brother had three names, each in a different language (John 1:42): Shimon (Hebrew), Kēpha (Aramaic), and Petros (Greek), a translation of Kēpha. Paul also had three names: Saulos (Greek, Acts 7:58), Sha'ul (Hebrew, Acts 9:4) and Paulos (Latin, Acts 13:9).

Having established that even Hebraic Jews native to Judea and Galilee could have Greek names it is fair to say that some of the names in the list of greetings below are likely Hellenistic Jews. Little considered by commentators is that the Pharisees, with whom Paul continued to identify, were strongly anti-Hellenist. Paul was a traditional Jew and while he spoke Greek to conduct cross-cultural ministry and became "all things to all men" (1Cor 9:22) to effectively witness, he never embraced Hellenistic culture with its paganism, superstition and syncretism as Hellenistic Jews did in the Diaspora in varying degrees. The fact that Paul the apostle embraces Hellenistic Jews as kinsmen and fellow workers says much about his transformation and servant heart.

and Mark: Grk. Markos is a common Roman praenomen, which refers to a personal name bestowed by Roman parents. His Hebrew name "Yochanan" (Grk. Iōannęs), translated as "John" (Acts 15:37), represents his Jewish lineage. His name occurs only eight times in the Besekh, none in the Gospels. How and why John Mark assumed a Roman name is unknown. The past tense of the verb "called" (epikaleō, to attach a name) in Acts 12:25 may imply that taking the name "Mark" dated from the time when he assisted Barnabas and Saul in Antioch. Perhaps it was the badge of Roman citizenship, as in the case of Paul. The standing of the family would be quite consistent with such a supposition.

Mark's mother's name was Miriam (Acts 12:12), and the home is spoken of as hers. The father was probably dead. The description of the house (with a large room and porch) and the mention of a maidservant, suggest a family of wealth. Mark may have come originally from Cyprus (cf. Acts 4:36; 15:39). When first mentioned, Mark and his mother are already disciples of Yeshua (c. 44 A.D.). He had accepted Yeshua through Peter's personal influence (1Pet 5:13) and had already won a large place in the esteem of the brethren, as is shown by his being chosen to accompany Barnabas and Saul to Antioch a little later (Acts 12:25). Miriam's home was a meeting place for early disciples, so that Mark had every opportunity to become acquainted with apostolic leaders.

About 11 years transpire before Mark is mentioned again, this time in this letter. Paul encourages the Colossian congregation to give Mark a warm welcome. Then in the personal letter to Philemon Paul identifies Mark as a fellow laborer (Phm 1:24). During Paul's last imprisonment he writes to Timothy to bring Mark with him to Rome, "for he is useful to me for ministry" (2Tim 4:11). The last reference to Mark comes from Peter in Rome in which Peter affectionately refers to him as "my son" (1Pet 5:13). Mark had been reconciled to Paul and was laboring with the two great apostles in Rome. It's worth noting that while Paul considered Mark a fellow worker, he is never called an apostle anywhere in the Besekh.

According to Hippolytus (170-236), who included Mark in his list of the seventy apostles Yeshua sent on the mission described in Luke 10, Mark eventually went to Alexandria, founded the congregation there, and become its first overseer (On the Seventy Apostles). Eusebius gives additional information.

"1. And they say that this Mark was the first that was sent to Egypt, and that he proclaimed the Gospel which he had written, and first established churches in Alexandria. 2. And the multitude of believers, both men and women, that were collected there at the very outset, and lived lives of the most philosophical and excessive asceticism, was so great, that Philo thought it worth while to describe their pursuits, their meetings, their entertainments, and their whole manner of life.” Eusebius, Church History, Book II, §16.

That Mark labored in Egypt is stated also by the fourth century fathers Epiphanius and Jerome. Eusebius goes on to say in chap. 24 that Annianus succeeded Mark as a leader of the Alexandrian Church in the eighth year of Nero (62-63), thus implying that Mark died in that year; and Jerome gives the same date for his death. But if the tradition that he wrote his Gospel in Rome under Peter (or after Peter’s death, so Papias and Irenaeus) be correct, then Jerome made an incorrect assumption. Eusebius could be correct about the succession in Alexandria if Mark was called to Rome to assist the apostles as he had done in the past. In any event most of Mark's life and ministry reside in obscurity.

Mark accompanied Barnabas and Saul to Antioch to disciple the Jews who had accepted Yeshua as Messiah. Acts 13:5 identifies Mark's role for the apostles as hupēretēs, which refers to one who renders service and may be translated as helper or attendant. Just what that term implies is not clear. In all the passages where the term occurs the individuals had significant authority and responsibilities, some working for judges and others for the chief priests (Matt 5:25; 26:58, Mark 14:65, John 7:32 and Acts 5:22, 26). In Luke 4:20 hupēretēs is used of a synagogue "attendant," Heb. chazzan. A chazzan had many congregational duties, including prayer, preaching and care of scrolls. However, in several passages hupēretēs refers to one who was involved in teaching the story of Yeshua or advocating the cause of the Messiah (Luke 1:2; Acts 13:5; 26:16; 1Cor 4:1). Surely, this is the sort of service Mark rendered in Antioch.

The challenging question is why did he turn back from the work at Perga (Acts 13:13)? The reason is not disclosed, but it hardly seems likely that it was because of a domestic reason, or fear of the perils of the journey. No ordinary reason would have occasioned the sharp conflict that eventually resulted between Barnabas and Paul over the matter (Acts 15:38). Indeed the text indicates that Paul regarded Mark's disassociation as desertion. Only a challenge to the authority exercised by Paul who had gained preeminence over Barnabas or the nature of the mission could adequately explain Mark's decision to return home.

On both issues the root of the divide may be found in what happened at Paphos when the Roman Sergius Paulus became a believer Acts 13:5-12. At that time Paul (the change of name is here noted by Luke) assumed the leader role, and henceforth, with the exception of Acts 15:12, 25, where naturally enough in the meeting of the Jerusalem council of apostles the old order is maintained, Luke speaks of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:42, 43, 46; 15:2, 22, 35), not Barnabas and Saul. Perhaps, too, Mark was less able than Barnabas himself to see the latter take second place.

Mark may have also objected to the offer of salvation to the Gentiles on condition of faith alone. There are hints that Mark's family, like Paul's, were Hebrews of the Hebrews, and it is not without significance that in the Paphos narrative he is given only his Hebrew name (Acts 13:5, 13). In addition, Paul includes Mark in the list of those who were part of "the circumcision." (See the note on the next verse.) As the apostle to the Gentiles nothing stirred Paul's feelings more deeply than the grace God had extended to those outside Israel. Paul stood almost alone initially in his opposition to the Judaizers who insisted on the Brit Milah of Gentile disciples to make them proselytes. Barnabas, for a time, had fallen prey to this error (Gal 2:13) and in this Mark may have been influenced by his cousin.

the cousin: Grk. anepsios, cousin. LSJ says, "first cousin." of Barnabas: Grk. Barnabas, the name of an important apostle appears 23 times in Acts and 5 times in Paul's letters. We meet Barnabas for the first time in 4:36 where Luke says,

"Now Joseph, also called Barnabas by the emissaries (which is translated Son of Encouragement), was a Levite and native of Cyprus. He sold a field that he owned and brought the money and laid it at the feet of the emissaries." (Acts 4:36-37 TLV)

Just as Luke will note the Hebrew and Roman names of Paul, so Luke first introduces Barnabas with his Hebrew name "Joseph" (Heb. Yosef). "Barnabas" is a Graecized version of the Hebrew name Bar-Nabba. Bar is an Aramaic prefix meaning "son of," a very common feature of Hebrew names, such as Bar-abbas (Barabbas), Bar-tholomaios (Bartholomew), Bar-iesous (Bar Jesus), Bar-iona (Barjona), and Bar-sabas (Barsabbas). Nabba is explained in Acts 4:36 as meaning "encouragement" (Grk. paraklēseos). His name derived from the Heb. word for prophet, nabi, so his name more likely means "son of prophecy" or one who prophesies (HBD). "Barnabas" was likely a nickname assigned by virtue of his ministry.

Being a Levite Barnabas would have been entitled to serve at the Temple. The importance of Barnabas selling his land is that having become a disciple of Yeshua he felt convicted to obey Torah. In the original distribution of Canaan the tribe of Levi received no allotment because the Lord was to be their inheritance (Num 18:20, 24; Deut 10:9). Levites were to be supported by tithes from the people. Unfortunately, during the exile Jews quit paying tithes and Levites were forced to support themselves (Neh 13:10). Having accepted Yeshua as Messiah and Lord, Barnabas purposed to return to his divine commission as a Levite. The Lord Yeshua was now his inheritance.

Barnabas facilitated the introduction of the transformed Saul of Tarsus to the apostolic leaders in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-27). The apostles then chose to send Barnabas to Syrian Antioch to investigate the evangelism taking place among Hellenistic Jews there. He became the leader to the work and secured Saul as his assistant. Afterwards they took famine relief to the believers in Jerusalem (Acts 11:19-30). Barnabas became very active in traveling and proclaiming the Good News, first as a close associate with Paul and then later with Mark. Little considered by commentators is that Barnabas is included in the list of Hippolytus (170-235), On the Seventy Apostles) and Dorotheus (c. 255-362), Acts of the Seventy Apostles. According to these records Barnabas eventually became the overseer of Milan. This information is not likely to be legend, as some suppose, because the lists are too detailed and the names would have been known.

11 and Yeshua, who is called Justus, those being from the circumcision: these only fellow-workers for the kingdom of God, who have been a comfort to me.

and Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, perhaps "yay-soos," is an attempt to replicate the pronunciation of the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua, which means “YHVH is salvation" (BDB 221). Yeshua has the same Hebrew root as yoshia (“He will save”) and is also the masculine form of the Hebrew word yeshu‘ah ("salvation”) (Stern 4). In the LXX both Yeshua and Y’hoshua were common names and rendered as Iēsous. The name of Yeshua was given to six men in the Tanakh and translated as "Jeshua" in modern English versions, four of whom were of the tribe of Levi (1Chr 24:11; 31:15; Ezra 2:6; 3:2; Neh 3:19; 8:7). Three men in the Besekh bear the name Yeshua. The only other Yeshua in the Besekh is Bar-Yeshua (Acts 13:6), a Jewish false prophet and magician, whom Paul cursed so that he became blind (Acts 13:11).

who is called: Grk. legō, pres. pass. part., to make a statement whether in oral or written form, here meaning to be further named, to be surnamed. Justus: Grk. Ioustos, from the Latin justus ("just"), a name given to three men in the Besekh: (1) one of two men put forward to replace Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:23); (2) a pious man named Titius, probably a Roman citizen and perhaps a proselyte, whose home joined the synagogue in Corinth and from whom Paul received hospitality (Acts 18:7); and (3) in this verse the surname of Yeshua, Paul's fellow minister. Some scholars believe the name of Justus is mentioned to restrict the use of Yeshua to the Savior. However, Paul is simply noting that this man had both a Hebrew name and a Greek name, which were well known. Jews in the Diaspora typically had a Gentile name besides their Hebrew name (Gittin 11b)

those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a relative pronoun. being: Grk. eimi, pres. part., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). from: Grk. ek, prep. used to denote exit or separation from something with which there has been a close association, lit. "out of, from within." the circumcision: Grk. peritomē, the surgical removal of male foreskin as a religious rite. Paul intends this label to apply to Aristarchus, Mark and Justus whom he has just mentioned. Many versions, based on the belief that the three men mentioned in verses 12 and 14 are Gentiles, substitutes "Jews" or "Jewish Christians/believers/converts" in the translation of peritomē.

In this context the phrase "from the circumcision" refers to a Messianic faction whose members were Pharisees, as Luke uses the term (Acts 10:45; 11:2; 15:1, 5). Paul also uses the term with this meaning (Rom 4:12; 15:8; Gal 2:12; Col 3:11; 4:11; Titus 1:10). Stern observes that this faction would have consisted of saved Jews who, in their former life as non-Messianic Jews, considered "God-fearers" (as Cornelius) to be fence-straddlers that ought to convert to Judaism (260). Faith in Yeshua would not have made them change their opinion, because the possibility that Gentiles could be members of the Messianic Community without becoming Jews did not arise until the Judaizer controversy was confronted by the apostles at the Jerusalem conference (Acts 15).

these: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun that signifies a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes its use or follows it, this. only: pl. of Grk. monos, adj., signifying the exclusion of any other entity, 'alone' or 'only.' Paul alludes to Aristarchus, Mark and Justus. fellow-workers: pl. of Grk. sunergos, joint laborers with the focus on a supportive role. Paul had many "fellow-workers," including Phoebe (Rom 16:1-2), Prisca and Aquila (Rom 16:3), Andronicus and Junia (Rom 16:7), Urbanus (Rom 16:9), Timothy (Rom 16:21), Apollos (1Cor 3:6), Titus (2Cor 8:23), Euodia and Syntyche (Php 4:2-3), Clement (Php 4:3), and Philemon (Phm 1:1). In passing on greetings Paul illustrates the diversity of his ministry team. The point about mentioning those associated with the circumcision faction is that those who had once been resistant to direct evangelism among uncircumcised Gentiles were now his devoted fellow workers.

for: Grk. eis, prep. the kingdom: Grk. basileia means kingship, royal power, or territory ruled over by a king. In the LXX basileia renders Heb. malku, "royalty, reign, kingdom" (BDB 1100). of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See the note on verse 3 above. Of note is that the term "Kingdom of God" does not occur in the Hebrew Bible at all. 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; Mic 4:7; Obad 21; and Zech 14:9), as well as in the Apocrypha and other intertestament Jewish literature. More importantly, the doctrine of the kingdom of God in the teaching of Yeshua and the apostles relates to the expectation and fulfillment of promises made to Israel (Rom 1:2; 9:4), not to a future religion called Christianity.

In the Kingdom of God Messiah would sit on the throne of David and govern all Israel (Luke 1:32-33). This is the good news that Paul proclaimed at Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:32-34). It's noteworthy that while Paul refers once to the Kingdom of the Son (i.e., David) in this letter (1:13), he never says "Kingdom of the Lord" (Grk. kurios), possibly for two reasons. First, the Greek title kurios predominates in translating the sacred name 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.)

In the history of Christianity the Church was thought of 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. Thus, to be saved means to have a place in heaven when one dies. None of these interpretations were included in the definition of the kingdom Yeshua proclaimed during his earthly ministry.

men that have been a comfort: Grk. parēgoria, a source of encouragement, comfort. Paul offers an insight into his heart or emotional state with this commendation. All disciples need encouragers, and generally do have friends who share their faith. Leaders, though, can often feel isolated due to the heavy burden of responsibility they carry. Paul, too, spoke of the pressure of his concern for all the congregations (2Cor 11:28). The support of these good men was even more crucial at this time of his ministry. A few versions misconstrue the meaning as "these are the only ones who were a comfort to him" (CJB, Darby, KJ21).

12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Messiah Yeshua, greets you, always striving for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.

Epaphras: Grk. Epaphras, a personal name meaning, “lovely.” Epaphras was likely a Hellenistic Jew, as Luke and Demas, based on Paul's listing here. Merely having a Greek name and not being counted among the Circumcision Party does not make Epaphras a Gentile. Only consider Peter, Andrew and Philip who were all Hebraic Jews. Moreover, in the Diaspora many Hellenistic Jews had ceased performing circumcision (Tarn & Griffith 224). From this letter we learn that Epaphras brought the gospel to Colossae (1:5-7, see the note there). who is one of you: This reference probably means that Epaphras was a native of Colossae. a servant: Grk. doulos. See the note on verse 1 above. of Messiah: Grk. Christos. See the note on verse 3 above. Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, See the note on verse 11 above.

greets you: Grk. aspazomai, pres. mid. See the note on verse 10 above. always striving: Grk. agōnizomai, pres. mid. part., to be engaged in a struggle, a word picture drawn from athletic games. The verb alludes to faithful intercession. for you in his prayers: pl. of Grk. proseuchē, the general word for prayer in the Besekh. See the note on verse 2 above. that you may stand: Grk. histēmi, aor. pass. subj., to cause to be in a place or position, to set or stand. perfect: Grk. teleios, free from deficiency, omission or corruption, complete or perfect. In the LXX teleios occurs 20 times; seven times as equivalent for the Heb. root salem, to be sound, and seven times for tamim, complete, sound. The stress lies on being whole, perfect, intact. It is used of the heart that is wholly turned towards God (1Kgs 8:61; 11:4), and of the man who has bound himself wholly to God (Gen 6:9; Deut 18:13).

and fully assured: Grk. plērophoreō, perf. pass. part., to reach a point where nothing is lacking, to be totally satisfied. in all the will: Grk. thelēma, that which is carried out according to wish or purpose. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See the note on verse 3 above. The "will of God" is an expression that refers to the moral will of God expressed in Torah commandments. This is not the sovereign will of God, which is unknowable, nor does it refer to God's will for one's vocation that one may "feel" called to do. (See my web article The Will of God.)

13 For I bear witness of him, that he has much labor for you, and for them in Laodicea, and for them in Hierapolis.

For I bear witness: Grk. martureō, to bear witness, be a witness or testify concerning something. In legal usage the term meant that which the witness declares or confirms to be factual. of him: concerning Epaphras. that he has: Grk. echō, to have, hold, keep or preserve. much: Grk. polus, adj., extensive in scope, many, much or great. labor: Grk. ponos may mean either (1) work associated with emotional expenditure, trouble toil or (2) to experience great discomfort, pain, distress, affliction, discomfort or suffering. It is a rare word in the Besekh, occurring only here and Revelation 16:10, 11; 21:4. Danker favors the first meaning and most versions as the ASV translate the phrase as emphasizing the amount of work Epaphras has done.

The NASB favors the second meaning with "deep concern." Mace (1729) concurs with "ardently concerned." Thayer's Lexicon gives the meaning here as equivalent to great trouble, intense desire. In contrast the Maj-Text and TR have zēlos (zeal, fervor or jealousy) instead of ponos, so some versions have "zeal" (KJ21, KJV, NKJV, WEB, YLT). However, the best Greek MSS favor ponos. for you: The point of the description seems to allude to the previous verse's statement about Epaphras' intercession. After all, Epaphras is with Paul in Rome and not in Colossae. For Epaphras prayer is so much more personal because knows the members of the congregation. and for them: Paul goes on to point out that the passionate prayers of Epaphras are not just concerned about Colossae disciples.

in Laodicea: Grk. Laodikeia was a prosperous city located in the fertile Lycus Valley in the province of Phrygia in western Asia Minor. (See the map from The city is named six times in the Besekh, four times in this letter and twice in Revelation (1:11; 3:14). It was about 40 miles east of Ephesus and about 10 miles west of Colossae. Laodicea was founded by Antiochus II (261-246 BC) of Syria, who named it for his wife Laodike, and who populated it with Syrians and with Jews who were transplanted from Babylonia to the cities of Phrygia and Lydia. Though Laodicea stood at the junction of several important trade routes, it was of little consequence until the Roman province of Asia was formed in 190 BC. The city boasted three marble theatres, had a vast wall to protect against invaders and, like Rome, was built on seven hills (Henry).

The city was also known for a prominent school of medicine and extensive banking operations, but especially its garment industry, which relied on the raven-black wool produced by the sheep of the area. In the year 60 the city suffered a severe earthquake, but being economically self-sufficient, the city leaders refused aid from Rome for rebuilding. Scholars generally assume that Epaphras, Tychicus, and Mark assisted in bringing the gospel to Laodicea based on Colossians 1:7 and verses 7-15 of this chapter (HBD, ISBE, NIBD), but these passages make no such direct claim. The fact that Epaphras engaged in intense intercession for Laodicea does not prove any involvement in the congregation's beginning, but his passion may indicate that he knew people in the congregation.

and for them: There is another group of disciples for whom Epaphras intercedes. in Hierapolis: Grk. Ierapolis ("sacred city"), a city in Phrygia on the Lycus River in Asia Minor. The city was known for its hot medicinal springs, which were sought for their healing properties. The local deity was represented by a serpent and was considered a stronghold of Satan. Its fame rested on textile and cloth dyeing industries. A large Jewish community is evidenced by grave inscriptions and other literary remains (HBD). According to tradition, Philip the evangelist was the first messenger with the gospel in Hierapolis and that he and his two unmarried daughters were buried there (ISBE, NIBD).

14 Luke, the beloved physician greets you, and also Demas.

Luke: Grk. Loukas, "from Lucania," Lucania being a region in Italy ( ISBE suggests that Loukas is an abbreviation for Loukanos, since it was not uncommon in Hellenistic culture to abbreviate proper names. Little is said of Luke in the Besekh and his name appears only three times. Paul identifies him as a companion and fellow worker (2Tim 4:11; Philm 1:24). While Luke does not mention himself by name in either the Gospel or Acts, his presence with Paul on missionary journeys is indicated by various "we" passages (Acts 16:10-13, 16; 20:5-7, 13-15; 21:1-7, 10, 12, 14-17; 27:1-8, 15-18, 26-29; 28:1, 10-14, 16). the beloved: Grk. agapētos. See the note on verse 7 above.

physician: Grk. iatros, one who provides medical care, a physician, from the verb iaomai, to cure or restore. The term iatros occurs seven times in the Besekh, but only here is it associated with a name. Nothing is known of Luke's qualifications or training to be a physician, but this term may not be meant as the term is understood today. Luke may have simply possessed the gift of healing (1Cor 12:9, 28) and conducted a healing ministry by laying on of hands and anointing with oil (Jac 5:14). He may have also been familiar with simple first aid and herbal remedies for various ailments. It is very unlikely the Luke engaged in "charm-treatments" common throughout the ancient world. greets you: Grk. aspazomai, pres. mid. See the note on verse 10 above.

Although referred to as an apostle by patristic writers, the Besekh does not accord Luke that honor. While his name suggests that he originated in Italy, Eusebius in his Church History says that Luke was of "Antiochian parentage" (III, §4.8). ISBE contends that Paul met Luke in Troas (Acts 16:8, 11, "we ran"), but Luke remained in Philippi when Paul left (Acts 16:40 "they departed"). Luke shows a natural pride in the primacy of Philippi in the province as against Amphipolis and Thessalonica (Acts 16:12, "the leading city of the district") and was still there when Paul returned on his third missionary journey (Acts 20:3-6). Luke's narrative in Acts depicts him with Paul after the third missionary journey on the way to Jerusalem, at Caesarea, the voyage to Rome and finally in Rome.

Luke is commonly supposed to be a Gentile because of being distinguished by Paul from those of "the circumcision" (Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus, verses 10-11). Epaphras, Luke, and Demas supposedly form the Gentile group (verse 12-14). According to ISBE the patristic writers believed Luke to have come directly from heathendom to Christianity. His first appearance with Paul at Troas is seen as supporting this idea. The introduction to the Gospel attributed to him (Luke 1:1-4) shows that he was a man of culture. He was a man of the schools, and his Greek has a literary flavor only approached in the Besekh by Paul's writings and by the Epistle to the Hebrews, regarding which Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150-215) says that Paul wrote in Hebrew and Luke translated into Greek (Eusebius, Church History, VI, §14:2).

Against the assumption of Gentile ethnicity there are four important factors that point to Luke being a Hellenistic Jew. First, as explained in verse 11 above "the circumcision" identifies the Circumcision Party, a sub-group of the Pharisees. Not being circumcised and having a Greek name does not make Luke a Gentile. Second, opening his Gospel Luke declares, "Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us" (1:1). Luke does not say "among the Jews" or "in Israel." Luke includes himself in "us." His emphasis on research is to provide a more complete story of Yeshua than what might have been told from just his own personal experience. This is also true of Matthew who could not have been present for the nativity, but we know was a disciple and apostle.

Third, some patristic writers include Luke as one of the seventy apostles sent out by Yeshua (Luke 10:1): Hippolytus (170-235) On the Seventy Apostles); Dorotheus (c. 255-362) in Acts of the Seventy Apostles; and Epiphanius (310-403), Panarion 51.11. Luke's inclusion is supported by the Orthodox Church in America. As for the mission of the seventy it is highly unlikely that Yeshua would have chosen a Gentile for this early mission, since the charge to the seventy was patterned after the mission of the twelve (Matt 10). The mission was expressly directed to the lost house of Israel (Matt 10:5-6) and the seventy were sent to cities in which Yeshua planned to minister (Luke 10:1). There is no record of Yeshua going into any Greek cities. It is noteworthy that Luke is the only Gospel that mentions the mission of the seventy.

Fourth, the literary character of the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts is decidedly Hebraic. (See the information on "Luke" in my web article Witnesses of the Good News.) Could a Gentile produce a thoroughly Jewish work? Not likely. So, saying that Luke was a Gentile is an assumption, not a fact. and also Demas: Grk. Dēmas, perhaps an abbreviation of Dēmētrios, originally derived from the Greek goddess Demeter. Demas was likely a Hellenistic Jew, as Epaphras and Luke, based on Paul's listing here. Demas was a companion and co-worker of Paul. In Paul's letter to Philemon Demas is identified a “fellow-worker,” but sometime later he deserted Paul, “having loved this present world” (2Tim 4:10). Hippolytus includes Demas in his list of seventy apostles sent out by Yeshua, but notes that later he became a priest of idols. Nothing else is known of him.

15 Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nympha, and the congregation in her house.

Greet: Grk. aspazomai, aor. mid. imp. See the note on verse 10 above. the 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; Phil 2:25; 1Thess 3:22). who are in Laodicea: See the note on verse 13 above.

and Nympha: Grk. Numphan, fem. nom. of Numpha, may be taken from numphē meaning "bride." Greek MSS are generally divided on the spelling of the name, some making it masculine and others making it feminine. The Editorial Committee of the UBS Greek New Testament decided that the weight of evidence favored the feminine reading and most modern versions reflect this decision (Metzger 560). It's possible that she was named for the Greek goddess Nympha, one of the twelve Horae (goddesses of the hours of the day) who presided over the morning hour of ablutions, but it's also possible that the parents just liked the name. Nothing more is known of her, but bearing a Greek name does not necessarily make her a Gentile.

and 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. 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). The English translation of "church" was first introduced in the Wycliffe Bible (1395) and as the instructions to the translators of the 1611 KJV show, the reason for using "church" was to maintain the ecclesiastical language of Christianity.

This translation decision created a permanent wedge between Christianity and its Jewish roots. We should avoid 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).

in her: Grk. autēs, fem. gen. sing. of autos, a personal possessive pronoun. house: Grk. oikos in this context may mean a place of habitation, or a household or both. The reference to "her house" is well attested in Greek MSS (Bruce 183), thus giving more support to the person named being a woman. In the first century disciples met together in private homes or halls owned by wealthy patrons (Acts 2:46; 17:4-5; 18:7; 19:9; 20:20; 21:8; 1Cor 16:19; and Phm 1:2). Apostolic congregations did not possess the wealth for investment in real estate and structures, which began in the fourth century after the Edict of Milan gave legal standing to the church and ended State-sponsored persecution. Numpha is listed among prominent women who provided a place for disciples to gather, including Miriam (Acts 12:12), Lydia (Acts 15:15, 40) Phoebe (Rom 16:1-2), and Prisca (Rom 16:3-5).

Instructions, 4:16-17

16 And when this letter has been read among you, cause it also to be read in the congregation of the Laodiceans; and that you also read the letter from Laodicea.

And when this letter: Grk. epistolē, written correspondence, of which this letter is an example. Letter writing was a very popular means of communication in the first century, made possible by the extensive Roman postal system. has been read: Grk. anaginōskō, aor. pass. subj., to know again, hence to recognize, and so 'read.' In Jewish culture Scripture was read aloud in synagogue services, and the verb likely alludes to the adoption of this practice in Messianic services. among you, cause it also to be read in the congregation: Grk. ekklēsia. See the note on the previous verse. of the Laodiceans: pl. of Grk. Laodikeia See the note on verse 13 above. The Laodicea disciples were probably exposed to the same false teaching as occurred in Colossae. Paul desired that his letter be treated as a circular letter and passed on.

and that you also read: Grk. anaginōskō, aor. pass. subj. the letter from Laodicea: Paul indicates that a letter will be coming from Laodicea. Various suggestions have been made concerning its composition and content, but there is no consensus. One suggestion is that it is a letter written by Paul expressly to Laodicea, but was later lost. Another suggestion is that the letter was the one written to Ephesus, which would be passed on to Laodicea. In any event, the letters much have been different enough to warrant special instruction of their reading.

17 And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which you received in the Lord, that you fulfill it.

And say: Grk. legō, aor. imp., to make a statement or utterance, whether in oral or written form, to say something. to Archippus: Grk. Archippos, a combination of archē (beginning, ruler, authority) and hippos (horse), thus "first among horsemen." As with the other Greek names above Archippus could have been Jewish, probably a Hellenistic Jew. Take heed: Grk. blepō, pres. imp., to see, to have inward or mental sight. The command might imply some slacking in zeal and Paul challenges Archippus to remember whom he is serving. to the ministry: Grk. diakonia, service or ministration, especially in meeting the needs of others. Sometimes the term is used in the apostolic writings of dedication to a specific divine assignment, such as prayer and preaching. Other examples include special ministrations like that of Martha (Luke 10:40) and the collection for famine relief (1Cor 16:15; 2Cor 8:4).

Although the concept of service is set forth in the Torah, the only occurrence of diakonia in the LXX is in Esther 6:3, 5 (for Heb. na'ar, retainer) and 1 Maccabees 11:58 in reference to servants in the royal court. In first century Judaism diakonia is found in both Philo and Josephus, the latter in describing the Essenes (DNTT 3:545). Generally Jews practiced their social responsibilities through almsgiving, but lowly service, such as waiting on table or performing personal service was considered beneath the dignity of a free man (cf. Luke 7:44-46; John 13:3-8). In contrast Josephus said that the Essenes refrained from marriage and keeping personal servants, but instead lived in mutual ministry to one another (Antiquities of the Jews, XVIII, 1:5). In the congregation of Yeshua diakonia was so important that it was elevated to an office (cf. Acts 6:1; Php 1:1; 1Tim 3:8) and that could be the nature of Archippus' ministry in Colossae.

which you received: Grk. paralambanō, aor., to “take to oneself, take with or along,” but it can also mean to take over or to receive. in the Lord: Grk. kurios. See the note on verse 1 above. "Received in the Lord" is probably an idiomatic expression that refers to a ceremony of commissioning or ordination (cf. 1Tim 4:14; 2Tim 1:6). Archippus is mentioned in Philemon 1:2 where Paul regards him as a "fellow soldier" and he clearly had a ministry leadership role in the Colossian congregation, which may have resulted by Paul's appointment. that you fulfill it: Grk. plēroō, pres. subj., to cause to abound in content to a maximum, to fill or to bring to fruition or completion. Paul urges Archippus to excel in his assigned area of ministry and so bless the work of the Lord in Colossae.


18 The greeting with my own hand, of Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. [Amen].

The greeting: Grk. aspasmos, a greeting, whether oral or written. with my: Grk. emos, possessive pronoun, my or mine. own hand: Grk. cheir, the body part with fingers. The letter's closing alludes to Paul's habit to dictate his letters except for the close (Rom 16:22; 1Cor 16:21; 2Th 3:17; Phm 1:19). of Paul: Grk. Paulos, from the Latin Paulus, meaning small or humble, which first occurs in Acts 13:9. 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). When he acquired the name of Paul is not mentioned, but as a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28) it likely occurred at birth. Paulus was most likely his cognomen (a name that functioned as a last name) probably taken from the patron who freed Paul's ancestors from slavery (Polhill 16).

Paul's Hebrew name was Sha’ul (Saul, lit. "asked for" or "prayed for"). Of interest is that Luke uses Saulos, a Graecized form of Sha'ul, 14 times to identify Paul in his history (e.g., Acts 7:58; none after 13:9), but Yeshua speaking to Paul on the Damascus Road addresses him with his Hebrew name (Acts 9:4; 22:7; 26:14), as did Ananias (Acts 22:13), which Luke transliterates exactly as Saoul, in accordance with LXX usage. (The Greek has no letter with an "sh" sound.). Paul was apparently proud of his Roman name, since this is the only name by which he refers to himself in all his writings.

Remember: Grk. mnēmoneuō, pres. imp., to recall, frequently with focus on thoughtful recollection. Paul is not engaging in self-pity, nor asking for sympathy. my bonds: pl. of Grk. desmos, a medium or device used for restraining someone, bond or fetter. The mention of bonds seems strange, since after arrival in Rome Paul had considerable freedom to receive guests and share the good news of the Messiah (Acts 29:30-31). The reference to "bonds" may suggest a time after the end of Acts when Paul was moved to a prison awaiting Caesar's verdict or simply serve as a metaphor of being a prisoner under guard (Acts 28:16).

Remembering Paul's bonds alludes to recalling why he was arrested and praying for justice and deliverance, just as other Bible characters asked God to be remembered for similar reasons: Job (Job 14:13), Samson (Judg 16:28), Hannah (1Sam 1:11), David (Ps 25:6-7), Hezekiah (2Kgs 20:3), Jeremiah (Jer 15:15), and Nehemiah (Neh 5:19; 6:14). As a result of his experience Paul would later write in his letter to the Hebrews, "Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body" (Heb 13:3).

Grace: Grk. charis. See the note on verse 6 above. be with you: a typical ending for most Pauline letters. He wishes that the congregation will continue to experience God's favor, which they will do if they heed Paul's instructions.

[Amen]: The word occurs in the Maj-Text and the TR. While there are early MSS with the word there are also other early MSS without it. Later Greek texts indicate that Paul did end a few letters with 'Amen' (Rom 16:27; 1Cor 16:24; Gal 6:18).

Works Cited

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.

BBMS: Henry Morris, Biblical Basis for Modern Science. Baker Book House, 1984.

BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. London: Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.

Bruce: F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984.

Danker: F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, University of Chicago Press, 2009.

DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology. 3 Vols., ed. Colin Brown, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.

HBD: Trent C. Butler, ed., Holman Bible Dictionary. Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1991. Online.

Henry: Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on the Whole Bible (1710). Unabridged Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, 1991. Online.

ISBE: James Orr, ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. William. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1939. Website HTML, 2011. Online.

Lightfoot: John Lightfoot (1602-1675), A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica (1859 ed.), 4 Vols. Hendrickson Pub., 1989. Online.

LSJ: Henry George Liddell (1811-1898) and Robert Scott (1811-1887), A Greek-English Lexicon. rev. ed. Sir Henry Stuart Jones. Clarendon Press, 1940. Online.

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.

NIBD: Herbert Lockyer, ed., Nelson's Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986.

Polhill: John B. Polhill, Paul and His Letters, B & H Academic, 1999.

Punton: Anne Punton, The World Jesus Knew: Beliefs and Customs from the Time of Jesus. Monarch Books, 2009.

Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.

Tarn & Griffith: Sir William Tarn and G.T. Griffith, Hellenistic Civilization. 3rd Edition. Edward Arnold Publishers, Ltd., 1952.

Thayer: Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Harper Brothers, 1889. online.

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