New English Translation
2 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you,[a] and for those in Laodicea, and for those who have not met me face to face.[b] 2 My goal is that[c] their hearts, having been knit together[d] in love, may be encouraged, and that[e] they may have all the riches that assurance brings in their understanding of the knowledge of the mystery of God, namely, Christ,[f] 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this so that no one will deceive you through arguments[g] that sound reasonable.[h] 5 For though[i] I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit, rejoicing to see[j] your morale[k] and the firmness of your faith in Christ.
Warnings Against the Adoption of False Philosophies
6 Therefore, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord,[l] continue to live your lives[m] in him, 7 rooted[n] and built up in him and firm[o] in your[p] faith just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8 Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you[q] through an empty, deceitful philosophy[r] that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits[s] of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him all the fullness of deity lives[t] in bodily form, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head over every ruler and authority. 11 In him you also were circumcised—not, however,[u] with a circumcision performed by human hands, but by the removal[v] of the fleshly body,[w] that is,[x] through the circumcision done by Christ. 12 Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your[y] faith in the power[z] of God who raised him from the dead. 13 And even though you were dead in your[aa] transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he nevertheless[ab] made you alive with him, having forgiven all your transgressions. 14 He has destroyed[ac] what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness[ad] expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross. 15 Disarming[ae] the rulers and authorities, he has made a public disgrace of them, triumphing over them by the cross.[af]
16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you with respect to food or drink, or in the matter of a feast, new moon, or Sabbath days— 17 these are only[ag] the shadow of the things to come, but the reality[ah] is Christ![ai] 18 Let no one who delights in false humility[aj] and the worship of angels pass judgment on you. That person goes on at great lengths[ak] about what he has supposedly seen, but he is puffed up with empty notions by his fleshly mind.[al] 19 He has not held fast[am] to the head from whom the whole body, supported[an] and knit together through its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.[ao]
20 If you have died with Christ to the elemental spirits[ap] of the world, why do you submit to them as though you lived in the world? 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” 22 These are all destined to perish with use, founded as they are[aq] on human commands and teachings.[ar] 23 Even though they have the appearance of wisdom[as] with their self-imposed worship and humility achieved by an[at] unsparing treatment of the body—a wisdom with no true value—they in reality result in fleshly indulgence.[au]
- Colossians 2:1 tn Or “I want you to know how hard I am working for you…”
- Colossians 2:1 tn Grk “as many as have not seen my face in the flesh.”
- Colossians 2:2 tn Verse two begins a subordinate ἵνα (hina) clause which was divided up into two sentences for the sake of clarity in English. Thus the phrase “My goal is that” is an attempt to reflect in the translation the purpose expressed through the ἵνα clauses.
- Colossians 2:2 tn BDAG 956 s.v. συμβιβάζω 1.b reads “unite, knit together.” Some commentators take the verb as a reference to instruction, “instructed in love.” See P. T. O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon (WBC), 93.
- Colossians 2:2 tn The phrase “and that” translates the first εἰς (eis) clause of v. 2 and reflects the second goal of Paul’s striving and struggle for the Colossians—the first is “encouragement” and the second is “full assurance.”
- Colossians 2:2 tc There are at least a dozen variants here, almost surely generated by the unusual wording τοῦ θεοῦ, Χριστοῦ (tou theou, Christou, “of God, [namely,] Christ”; so P46 B Hil). Scribes would be prone to conform this to more common Pauline expressions such as “of God, who is in Christ” (33), “of God, the Father of Christ” (א* A C 048vid 1175 bo), and “of the God and Father of Christ” (א2 Ψ 365 945 1505). Several witnesses, especially later Byzantines, read “of the God and Father, and of Christ” (D2 K L 075 [0208 0278] M). Even though the external support for the wording τοῦ θεοῦ, Χριστοῦ is hardly overwhelming, it clearly best explains the rise of the other readings and should thus be regarded as authentic.
- Colossians 2:4 tn BDAG 812 s.v. πιθανολογία states, “persuasive speech, art of persuasion (so Pla., Theaet. 162e) in an unfavorable sense in its only occurrence in our lit. ἐν πιθανολογίᾳ by specious arguments Col 2:4 (cp. PLips 40 III, 7 διὰ πιθανολογίας).”
- Colossians 2:4 sn Paul’s point is that even though the arguments seem to make sense (sound reasonable), they are in the end false. Paul is not here arguing against the study of philosophy or serious thinking per se, but is arguing against the uncritical adoption of a philosophy that is at odds with a proper view of Christ and the ethics of the Christian life.
- Colossians 2:5 tn The conditional particle εἰ (ei) together with καί (kai) here indicates a first class condition in Greek and carries a concessive force, especially when seen in contrast to the following phrase which begins with ἀλλά (alla).
- Colossians 2:5 tn Grk “rejoicing and seeing.”
- Colossians 2:5 tn The Greek word τάξις can mean “order,” “discipline,” or even “unbroken ranks” (REB).
- Colossians 2:6 tn Though the verb παρελάβετε (parelabete) does not often take a double accusative, here it seems to do so. Both τὸν Χριστὸν ᾿Ιησοῦν (ton Christon Iēsoun) and τὸν κύριον (ton kurion) are equally definite insofar as they both have an article, but both the word order and the use of “Christ Jesus” as a proper name suggest that it is the object (cf. Rom 10:9, 10). Thus Paul is affirming that the tradition that was delivered to the Colossians by Epaphras was Christ-centered and focused on him as Lord.
- Colossians 2:6 tn The present imperative περιπατεῖτε (peripateite) implies, in this context, a continuation of something already begun. This is evidenced by the fact that Paul has already referred to their faith as “orderly” and “firm” (2:5), despite the struggles of some of them with this deceptive heresy (cf. 2:16-23). The verb is used literally to refer to a person “walking” and is thus used metaphorically (i.e., ethically) to refer to the way a person lives his or her life.
- Colossians 2:7 tn Or “having been rooted.”
- Colossians 2:7 sn The three participles rooted, built up, and firm belong together and reflect three different metaphors. The first participle “rooted” (perfect tense) indicates a settled condition on the part of the Colossian believers and refers to horticulture. The second participle “built up” (present passive) comes from the world of architecture. The third participle “firm [established]” (present passive) comes from the law courts. With these three metaphors (as well as the following comment on thankfulness) Paul explains what he means when he commands them to continue to live their lives in Christ. The use of the passive probably reflects God’s activity among them. It was he who had rooted them, had been building them up, and had established them in the faith (cf. 1 Cor 3:5-15 for the use of mixed metaphors).
- Colossians 2:7 tn Or “the.” The Greek text has the article τῇ (tē), not the possessive pronoun ὑμῶν (humōn), but the article often functions as a possessive pronoun and was translated as such here (ExSyn 215).
- Colossians 2:8 tn The Greek construction here is somewhat difficult and can be literally rendered “Be careful, lest someone shall be the one who takes you captive.”
- Colossians 2:8 tn The Greek reads τῆς φιλοσοφίας καὶ κενῆς ἀπάτης (tēs philosophias kai kenēs apatēs). The two nouns φιλοσοφίας and ἀπάτης are joined by one article and probably form a hendiadys. Thus the second noun was taken as modifying the first, as the translation shows.
- Colossians 2:8 tn The phrase κατὰ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου (kata ta stoicheia tou kosmou) is difficult to translate because of problems surrounding the precise meaning of στοιχεῖα in this context. Originally it referred to the letters of the alphabet, with the idea at its root of “things in a row”; see C. Vaughn, “Colossians,” EBC 11:198. M. J. Harris (Colossians and Philemon [EGGNT], 93) outlines three probable options: (1) the material elements which comprise the physical world; (2) the elementary teachings of the world (so NEB, NASB, NIV); (3) the elemental spirits of the world (so NEB, RSV). The first option is highly unlikely because Paul is not concerned here with the physical elements, e.g., carbon or nitrogen. The last two options are both possible. Though the Gnostic-like heresy at Colossae would undoubtedly have been regarded by Paul as an “elementary teaching” at best, because the idea of “spirits” played such a role in Gnostic thought, he may very well have had in mind elemental spirits that operated in the world or controlled the world (i.e., under God’s authority and permission).
- Colossians 2:9 sn In him all the fullness of deity lives. The present tense in this verse (“lives”) is significant. Again, as was stated in the note on 1:19, this is not a temporary dwelling, but a permanent one. Paul’s point is polemical against the idea that the fullness of God dwells anywhere else, as the Gnostics believed, except in Christ alone. At the incarnation, the second person of the Trinity assumed humanity, and is forever the God-man.
- Colossians 2:11 tn The terms “however” and “but” in this sentence were supplied in order to emphasize the contrast.
- Colossians 2:11 tn The articular noun τῇ ἀπεκδύσει (tē apekdusei) is a noun which ends in -σις (-sis) and therefore denotes action, i.e., “removal.” Since the head noun is a verbal noun, the following genitive τοῦ σώματος (tou sōmatos) is understood as an objective genitive, receiving the action of the head noun.
- Colossians 2:11 tn Grk “in the removal of the body of flesh.” The genitive τῆς σαρκός (tēs sarkos) has been translated as an attributive genitive, “fleshly body.”
- Colossians 2:11 tn The second prepositional phrase beginning with ἐν τῇ περιτομῇ (en tē peritomē) is parallel to the prepositional phrase ἐν τῇ ἀπεκδύσει (en tē apekdusei) and gives a further explanation of it. The words “that is” were supplied to bring out this force in the translation.
- Colossians 2:12 tn The article with the genitive modifier τῆς πίστεως (tēs pisteōs) is functioning as a possessive pronoun (ExSyn 215).
- Colossians 2:12 tn The genitive τῆς ἐνεργείας (tēs energeias) has been translated as an objective genitive, “faith in the power.”
- Colossians 2:13 tn The article τοῖς (tois) with παραπτώμασιν (paraptōmasin) is functioning as a possessive pronoun (ExSyn 215).
- Colossians 2:13 tn The word “nevertheless,” though not in the Greek text, was supplied in the translation to bring out the force of the concessive participle ὄντας (ontas).
- Colossians 2:14 tn The participle ἐξαλείψας (exaleipsas) is a temporal adverbial participle of contemporaneous time related to the previous verb συνεζωοποίησεν (sunezōopoiēsen), but has been translated as a finite verb because of the complexity of the Greek sentence and the tendency of contemporary English to use shorter sentences. For the meaning “destroy” see BDAG 344-45 s.v. ἐξαλείφω 2.
- Colossians 2:14 tn On the translation of χειρόγραφον (cheirographon), see BDAG 1083 s.v. which refers to it as “a certificate of indebtedness.”
- Colossians 2:15 tn See BDAG 100 s.v. ἀπεκδύομαι 2.
- Colossians 2:15 tn The antecedent of the Greek pronoun αὐτῷ (autō) could either be “Christ” or the “cross.” There are several reasons for choosing “the cross” as the antecedent for αὐτῷ in verse 15: (1) The nearest antecedent is τῷ σταυρῷ (tō staurō) in v. 14; (2) the idea of ἐδειγμάτισεν ἐν παρρησία (edeigmatisen en parrēsia, “made a public disgrace”) seems to be more in keeping with the idea of the cross; (3) a reference to Christ seems to miss the irony involved in the idea of triumph—the whole point is that where one would expect defeat, there came the victory; (4) if Christ is the subject of the participles in v. 15 then almost certainly the cross is the referent for αὐτῷ. Thus the best solution is to see αὐτῷ as a reference to the cross and the preposition ἐν (en) indicating “means” (i.e., by means of the cross) or possibly (though less likely) location (on the cross).
- Colossians 2:17 tn The word “only,” though not in the Greek text, is supplied in the English translation to bring out the contrast inherent between the two parts of the verse.
- Colossians 2:17 tn Grk “but the body of Christ.” The term body here, when used in contrast to shadow (σκιά, skia) indicates the opposite meaning, i.e., the reality or substance itself.
- Colossians 2:17 tn The genitive τοῦ Χριστοῦ (tou Christou) is appositional and translated as such: “the reality is Christ.”
- Colossians 2:18 tn Though the apostle uses the term ταπεινοφροσύνῃ (tapeinophrosunē) elsewhere in a positive sense (cf. 3:12), here and in v. 23 the sense is negative and reflects the misguided thinking of Paul’s opponents.
- Colossians 2:18 tn For the various views on the translation of ἐμβατεύων (embateuōn), see BDAG 321 s.v. ἐμβατεύω 4. The idea in this context seems to be that the individual in question loves to talk on and on about his spiritual experiences, but in reality they are only coming out of his own sinful flesh.
- Colossians 2:18 tn Grk “by the mind of his flesh.” In the translation above, σαρκός (sarkos) is taken as an attributive genitive. The phrase could also be translated “by his sinful thoughts,” since it appears that Paul is using σάρξ (sarx, “flesh”) here in a morally negative way.
- Colossians 2:19 tn The Greek participle κρατῶν (kratōn) was translated as a finite verb to avoid an unusually long and pedantic sentence structure in English.
- Colossians 2:19 tn See BDAG 387 s.v. ἐπιχορηγέω 3.
- Colossians 2:19 tn The genitive τοῦ θεοῦ (tou theou) has been translated as a genitive of source, “from God.”
- Colossians 2:20 tn See the note on the phrase “elemental spirits” in 2:8.
- Colossians 2:22 tn The expression “founded as they are” brings out the force of the Greek preposition κατά (kata).
- Colossians 2:22 tn Grk “The commands and teachings of men.”
- Colossians 2:23 tn Grk “having a word of wisdom.”
- Colossians 2:23 tc ‡ The vast bulk of witnesses, including some very significant ones (א A C D F G H Ψ 075 0278 33 1175 1881 2464 M lat sy), have καί (kai) here, but the shorter reading is supported by some early and significant witnesses (P46 B 1739 b m Hil Ambst Spec). The καί looks to be a motivated reading in that it makes ἀφειδία (apheidia) “the third in a series of datives after ἐν, rather than an instrumental dative qualifying the previous prepositional phrase” (TCGNT 556). At the same time, the omission of καί could possibly have been unintentional. A decision is difficult, but the shorter reading is slightly preferred. NA28 puts καί in brackets, indicating doubts as to its authenticity.
- Colossians 2:23 tn The translation understands this verse to contain a concessive subordinate clause within the main clause. The Greek particle μέν (men) is the second word of the embedded subordinate clause. The phrase οὐκ ἐν τιμῇ τινι (ouk en timē tini) modifies the subordinate clause, and the main clause resumes with the preposition πρός (pros). The translation has placed the subordinate clause first in order for clarity instead of retaining its embedded location. For a detailed discussion of this grammatical construction, see B. Hollenbach, “Col 2:23: Which Things Lead to the Fulfillment of the Flesh,” NTS 25 (1979): 254-61.