5. False teaching exposed and defeated. 2:8-3:4

i] Christ is the remedy for error


Paul now outlines the false teachings of those who were troubling his readers and provides for them an antidote. "Paul warns the Colossians not to be led astray by false teaching which is based on human tradition and .... not from Christ", Pfitzner. In confronting the problem, Paul explains that Christ is the supreme Lord of the universe and that this truth has a direct application to the believers at Colossae. The Colossians have already found fullness in Christ and that therefore they should reject anything that seeks to supplement the cross of Christ.


i] Context:

The cross of Christ is complete in itself apart from the law


See 2:6-7. We now come to the theological heart of Paul's letter, 2:8-3:4. In this section, Paul confronts the heresy of nomism (sanctification by obedience) affecting the Colossian believers, demonstrating theologically that, as a means of progressing the Christian life, it is flawed. The section falls naturally into two parts. In the first part, 2:8-19, Paul tackles the heresy theologically, while in the second part, 2:20-3:4, he tackles it by addressing more practical concerns.

A believer united to Christ has died with Christ and is raised with Christ, and thus is full / complete in Christ, 2:8-15. Consequently a believer should resist those who erode Christian freedom by promoting completeness / fullness through the Law, particularly the minutia of the Law - the keeping of special days, eating a special diet, etc., v16-19. Paul then follows up this theological perspective with two sets of implications:

a) Consequent upon dying with Christ, v20-23;

b) Consequent upon rising with Christ, 3:1-4.

Each set of implications begin with a 1st. class conditional clause where the conditions is assumed to be true, ei + ind., "if, as is the case, ..... then ...." = "given that you have died with Christ / have been raised with Christ ...., then ......."


ii] Background: See 1:1-2, The Colossian heresy.


iii] Structure: Paul's claim that Christ is the remedy for error, :

Warning, v8;

Identifying the deceit of the false teachers.

Christological explanation, v9-15:

Serving to explain why the Colossians should have nothing to do with the heresy of the false teachers.

Christ is the supreme Lord of the universe possessing the fullness of divinity, v9-10;

"And in Christ you have been brought to fullness."

Paul elaborates on the fullness a believer possesses in union with Christ, v11-15:

In Christ a believer is circumcised, v11;

In Christ a believer is buried and resurrected, v12:

In Christ a believer appropriates new life, v13:

In Christ legal indebtedness is canceled, v14:

In Christ the legalistic application of the law is triumphantly disarmed, v15.


iv] Interpretation:

Beginning with a warning to the Colossians not to succumb to the heresy promoted by the false teachers / judaizers / members of the circumcision party, v8, Paul provides a "theologically rich explanation of why the Colossians should reject this teaching", v9-15, Moo. The explanation draws on Paul's words in 1:15-20. Fullness resides in Christ such that a believer reconciled to Christ / united to Christ is already full in Christ.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the pew-level sermon notes Fullness of Life in Christ

Text - 2:8

The all-sufficiency of Christ, v8-15: i] Exhortation: resist the nomist heresy with its secular world view, v8.

blepete (blepw) imp. "see to it" - see to it, beware, watch out, take care. "Be on your guard."

mh + fut. "that no [one]" - lest [anyone of you]. A subjunctive is normally used for a negated condition. Grammarians argue that this unusual use of the negative + future of the verb, here the verb to-be, either lightens the sense, thus "perhaps", or strengthen it, thus "lest". A strong negative is to be preferred. The exhortation to walk in the Lord is now stated negatively.

oJ sulagwgwn (sulagwgew) pres. part. "takes [you] captive" - the one being taken captive. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting tiV "anyone", "take care lest there will be anyone who carries you off as spoil", Harris. The taking of booty and spoil, but also enslaving, kidnaping. Paul is obviously referring to the false teachers, the nomists.

dia + gen. "through [hollow and deceptive philosophy]" - through, by means of [philosophy and empty, worthless, foolish deceit]. Instrumental, expressing means. Both nouns in this phrase take the genitive following the preposition "through", the second without an article but with a modifying adjecive, therefore we have here a single descriptive phrase. The conjunction kai, "and", is obviously epexegetic, queuing us to the fact that "empty deceit" explains what type of philosophy we are dealing with, thus "through a philosophy which is empty deceit." The word "philosophy" can imply something like Greek / secular philosophy, but the teachings of Jewish sects are described as philosophies by writers of the time. Paul is using the word to identify the false teachings of the nomists.

kata + acc. "which depends on" - according to. The preposition may indicate the source of the tradition, eg., "comes from", or the base, as in the NIV, or just in general terms, expressing a standard: "according to", as in the NRSV. "Comes from" seems best. This philosophy comes from mere human traditions.

twn anqrwpwn (oV) "human [tradition]" - [the tradition] of men. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "tradition"; "handed down information of human devising" = "human traditions." Note how Jesus refers to the Pharisees interpretation of the law as "the traditions of men", or NRSV "human traditions", Mk.7:8. As far as Paul is concerned, the nomists teach a human fabrication over against his own divine apostolic tradition.

kata + acc. "and" - according to. See above. The sense "based on", "depends on", seems best here. This vain philosophy, which comes out of human tradition, rests on "the basic principles of this world."

ta stoiceia (on) pl. "the basic principles / the elemental spiritual forces" - the elements. The meaning of this noun, which is always plural, is open to some debate. At this time, the word was used in a number of ways:

a) The elements that make up the created world, the fundamental elements of the universe;

b) The principles that underlie the natural order, "basic principles", "the essential principles", Moo, "the elementary truth of God's word", Heb.5:12;

c)The supernatural powers present in the universe, usually evil powers.

Option (c) is argued by O'Brien, along with most of the modern commentators + TEV, NEB, NRSV, TNIV ("according to the elemental spirits of the universe"). Paul is speaking of demonic principalities and powers which tyrannize humanity, often operating through sinful humanity, and who constantly stand against Jesus, his word and his people.

Option (b), has limited support, but is adopted in the NIV, NKJV, NASV, NJB, ...... It seems the best choice, but with a particular slant. The ta stoiceia tou kosmou, "the basic principles of the world" are likely to be worldly ethical rules, in particular the Judaic law, the Mosaic Law, as taught by the Judaizers, with their particular emphasis on the minutia of the law. As Moo notes, although without finally accepting this interpretation, "it would, then, be very natural for Paul to describe the law and its particular requirements - circumcision, abstinence from certain foods, the celebration of holy days - as elementary principles." See twn stoiceiwn tou kosmou, v20, particularly "Interpretation", 2:20-23.

tou kosmou (oV) gen. "of this world" - of the world. The genitive is adjectival, probably possessive, "elementary principles belonging to / are characteristic of this world", but possibly an attributive sense is intended, "worldly principles."

kata + acc. "rather than on [Christ]" - [and] not according to [christ]. The third use of this preposition negates the two previous clauses. The philosophy fails in that it does not come out of / is not based upon, Christ.


ii] Paul now sets out to explain that the Colossians have already found fullness in Christ and that therefore they should reject the doctrine of the false teachers, v9-15: How is this so?

a) A believer is united with Christ, the font of deity, v9-10. "Christians experience spiritual fullness because they are in Christ, in whom all the fullness of the Deity lives", Moo. Through faith a believer is complete in Christ, so, when it comes to the Christian life, a believer need look nowhere else for the appropriation of divine blessings.

oJti "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the Colossians shouldn't rest on "the elementary principles" rather than on Christ, namely, because such fails to tap into deity.

en autw "in Christ" - in him. Local, expressing space, metaphorical. Carrying the same identification / union idea used of a believer's oneness / incorporation in Christ, but used here of divine incorporation. Of course, this is the point, if we are in Christ and the divine is in Christ, we possess "fullness". As for the nomists' vain philosophy, it does not in any way tap into the divine presence.

pan to plhrwma "all the fullness" - Nominative subject of the verb "to dwell." The entire fullness with none missing. The addition of pan, "all", produces a tautology, but serves to underline Paul's point.

thV qeothtoV (hV htoV) gen. "of the Deity" - of divine nature / being (the nature or state of being God*). The genitive is adjectival, possibly possessive, "the fullness which belongs to / is characteristic of deity", or epexegetic, explaining the nature of this "fullness", thus serving as an abstract of God, or simply idiomatic / of content, so Campbell. Lightfoot argues that the sense is not that God dwells in Christ, but rather that Christ possesses a divine quality, is godlike, possessing the essence of God, undivided and completely so (full).

swmatikwV adv. "in bodily form" - [dwells] bodily. The verb katoikei, "dwells", is in the present tense, although Moule suggests it is possibly used as a perfect which refers to the continuance in the present of something begun in the past. The adverb of manner, "bodily", describes how the fullness of deity dwells in Christ. Deity dwells by "becoming incarnate", by "assuming a bodily form", Lightfoot. Christ assumed this bodily form at the incarnation, and through his resurrection and ascension has continued to possess it through to the present, with "fullness of deity." There are at least four other interpretations, although most commentators follow Lightfoot's lead.


Given that the whole of God's divine nature is in Christ, and that we share in this nature through our association with Christ (our being "in Christ"), why then would we proceed in the Christian life by other than holding onto Christ?

en + dat. "in [Christ]" - [and] in [him]. Again, the preposition is probably locative, expressing incorporative union, as NIV, but instrumental, "by him" is not impossible.

este ..... peplhrwmenoi (plhrow) perf. pas. part. "you have been given fullness" - you are having been made full. The present tense of the verb to be with the perfect participle forms a periphrastic perfect, possibly emphasizing aspect, durative / linear action. Through union with Christ ("in Christ"), the Colossians / Gentiles received (passive = as a divine gift) fullness, and continue to do so, not by works of the law, but through their union with Christ. Note, Paul does not tell us the content of the filling, other than we are filled / infilled "in him (Christ)". It is possible that the nomists were on about "fullness of life" and Paul counters this claim with the truth that fullness is only found in Christ, and this because the fullness of deity resides in him. Verses 11-13 unpacks incorporation "in Christ" and so gives some sense of what fullness is.

oJV pro. "who / he" - who [is the head]. The pronoun "who", of this relative clause, refers to Christ, the one who has been given divine authority over everything.

archV kai exousiaV gen. "over [every] power and authority" - of [all] first principle / beginning and authority / power. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / of subordination, "head over", as NIV. Christ's authority extends to these things, but what are they? As noted above, most commentators view these principalities and powers as evil powers that delude and enslave (Satan and his minions). It is quite likely that the victory motif, promoted by the Church Fathers, has influenced our understanding of these powerful, but defeated, "principalities and powers." The words, "power and authority", in themselves don't lead us to the automatic conclusion that they are evil cosmic powers, or even angelic powers. The words mean "a first principle and a binding authority." Given the context, such terms are more likely to refer to pietistic interpretations of the moral law. Fullness is found in union with Christ not by obedience to the law. Christ's authority for salvation and for the full apportioning of the promised blessings of God, transcends the binding principles of the law. See v15.


b) The consequent results of our incorporation /union in / with Christ are now spelled out by the use of six aorists, v11-15. By explaining the effectiveness of Christ's death on our behalf, Paul is able to establish that our incorporation / union with Christ provides fullness in the Christian life, so negating the need for man-made improvement programs. In the Colossian context, this man-made improvement program entails the heresy promoted by the Judaizers, the members of the circumcision party, namely, sanctification by means of a faithful attention to the law.

First: In Christ a believer is circumcised - union with Christ involves a death to ones old life, v11 It will be observed below that there is much debate over what Paul means by circumcision and whose circumcision he is speaking of. It is likely that this circumcision, or better, the stripping off of the physical body, is Christ's death, and through our incorporation in Christ, we are circumcised with him, ie. we die with him. There is no need for a physical circumcision when we have have been spiritually circumcised with Christ.

en wJ "in him" - in whom. The preposition en is local, expressing space , incorporative union. "In union with Christ" the believer has been given fullness.

kai "-" - and = also. Adjunctive, "also"; "in addition to your completeness in him", Harris.

perietmhqhte (peritemnw) aor. "you were circumcised" - you were circumcised. Literally, to cut around. Paul now introduces the idea of a believer being circumcised by / with Christ. The idea indirectly hits at the Judaizers, the nomists, who demand physical circumcision as a requirement of the law and thus, a necessary step forward in the Christian life (their method to gain "fullness"). Circumcision images a "stripping off of the body of flesh", of useless flesh, yet as we will see below, it is no easy matter understanding in what sense a believer is circumcised.

peritomh/ (h) dat. "[not] with a circumcision / with a circumcision" - with a circumcision. The dative is instrumental, expressing means, as NIV, TNIV.

aceiropoihtw/ adj. "done by the hands of men / not performed by human hands" - not made by / with hands. The circumcision is a "spiritual circumcision" NRSV.

en th/ apekdusei "in the putting off / [your whole self ruled by the flesh] was put off" - in the putting off from. The preposition en is probably instrumental, "by putting off / throwing off", NRSV, ESV, but temporal is a possibility, "when you threw off", Weymouth. The prefix of the verb increases its intensity or completeness, therefore "by completely throwing off ...."

tou swmatoV thV sarkoV gen. "of the sinful nature / your whole self ruled by the flesh" - of the body of the flesh. The first genitive is verbal, objective, and the second is attributive, limiting "body"; "fleshly body." The "body" is what is thrown off, and "flesh" identifies what type of body is in mind, probably with the sense "the corrupted body"; "the sinful self", TEV. The problem is, whose body, "your's" (the Colossians / Gentiles) or "Christ's"? Many modern commentators suggest it is Christ's body which was thrown off when he was crucified. Jesus is the one circumcised (the flesh thrown off in his crucifixion and death) and believers share in this circumcision in their identification with him through faith. Given the link with "buried with him" and "raised with him", this seems the intended sense. The traditional view is that it is the Colossians' "sinful nature", the "old nature", "this body of death", which was thrown off in their baptism. Whether it is by Christ circumcising us, or our association with Christ's circumcision, the end is the same, namely, the putting off of the sinful nature (to "die to sin", to be "free from sin", the crucifixion of "the old self", the destruction of "the sinful body" - all are similar ideas). There are three possible ways of understanding what is meant by the putting off of the sinful flesh. The third option seems best, but the second is a possibility:

*The putting off of the body of flesh can be taken in a regenerative sense. A renewal of the sinful nature such that we can now live for God. F.F. Bruce, following J.A.T. Robinson, describes it as the putting off of "the whole personality organized for, and geared into rebellion against God."

*This putting off can be taken in a forensic justification sense. In the sight of God I am free from sin, my sinful nature is no longer considered.

*It can be taken in a broad theological sense. Christ, the seed of Abraham, the pure lamb of God, takes upon himself the curse, and is vindicated in his resurrection. In identifying with Christ in his death and resurrection, by means of faith in his faithfulness, we share in the consequences, namely the appropriation of God's promised blessings.

en + dat. "with [the circumcision] / when [you were circumcised]" - in [the circumcision]. Again the preposition leaves us with a range of possibilities, as evidenced by the NIV / TNIV: instrumental, "with", ie., a circumcision performed by Christ; temporal, "when you received Christ's circumcision."

tou Cristou (oV) gen. "done by Christ / by Christ" - of christ. O'Brien, along with many modern commentators, take the genitive as objective, the circumcision is that which Christ underwent, "the death (circumcision) experienced by Christ", ie. the stripping off of his body in death with the consequence that those who are in Christ (identify with Christ) share his death, they die with him. A simply adjectival, possessive, classification may suffice, "with Christ's own circumcision", Moffatt, or possibly epexegetic. The traditional view is that it is a subjective genitive, as NIV, TEV..., with the preposition taking an instrumental sense, ie. the stripping off of a believers sinful nature performed by Christ.


Second: In Christ a believer is buried and resurrected - union with Christ involves an enlivening to new life, v12. As well as "dying" with Christ, we are "buried with him" and also "raised with him." In identifying with Christ's death, we identify with his burial; we are immersed in his burial such that our old nature is buried with him. As we are buried with Christ, so we are also raised with him, a new person in Christ.

suntafenteV (sunqaptw) aor. pas. "having been buried" - having been buried together. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb sunhgerqhte, "you were raised with", although Campbell suggests it modifies the verb perietmhqhte, "you were circumcised", v11, so adverbial, instrumental, expressing means; "you were circumcised ...... by being burried with him ..." As we died with Christ, so we were "buried with him". Paul now further develops the idea presented in v11 by adding that we have been "buried" with Christ, and then follows through with the connected thought of "rising" with Christ. The "having been buried with him in baptism" restates the idea of the "putting off of the sinful nature", of "circumcision", of "baptism into death", cf., Romans 6. Dying with Christ, being crucified with Christ, and being "buried with Christ", all refer to the business of putting to death the sinful nature (as far as God is concerned, although in our experience the old Adam hangs around!) through our identification with the suffering of Christ on the cross. By looking to Jesus, by repenting, our "old life is hid with Christ in God" and we are justified - just-if-I'd never sinned.

autw/ dat. pro. "with him" - with him. Dative of direct object after the sun prefix verb "to be buried together with."

en tw/ baptismw/ (oV) dat. "in baptism" - in the = his baptism. The preposition en may be taken as local, "in", or instrumental, "by, with", or temporal, "when you were baptized", TEV, or attendant, "in connection with baptism", or context, "in the context of baptism." It is interesting how there is textual support here for the two "baptism" nouns, the one, as here in UBS4, which is a general term for "immersion", "dipping", "washing", and the other, a word only found in Christian writings, again meaning "immersion", but sometimes used, particularly in later Christian writings, as a technical term for the rite of Baptism. The UBS text has followed the usual procedure of choosing the more difficult reading, given that a copyist would naturally tend to use the technical term in this context. This then is the nub of the problem, is Paul alluding here to the Christian rite of baptism? Is the rite of water baptism an image of Christ's burial? Commentators often answer in the affirmative, quoting Romans 6:3, 4. Yet in fact, both here and in Romans 6, the sense is surely of a figurative "immersion" in Christ, another way of describing identification with / incorporation in Christ. We are "buried with him by immersion / identification"

w|/ dat. pro. "[with] him / [in] which" - [in / by / with] whom / which [and = also you were raised together]. There is strong support for reading the relative pronoun as neuter, "in which (baptism) you were also raised", but also possibly masculine, "in whom (Christ) you were raised together with him / you shared his resurrection." This relative clause further explains the nature of our incorporation in Christ. To be "raised with Christ" is to begin to live as Christ lived. It is the living of the new life; the Christ-like life - a life lived through the compelling love of the indwelling Spirit of Christ.

dia + gen. "through" - Instrumental, expressing means, "through / by means of", possibly causal "because of".

thV pistewV (iV ewV) "your faith" - the faith / faithfulness. "Faith" here is usually taken verbally in the sense of "belief / trust." The article is read as a personal pronoun, so "your faith in the power / working of God." Yet, given the context, the word here means "faithfulness / trustworthiness"; "through the trustworthiness of the workings of God" - God's trustworthiness with regard his covenant promises, so Barth.

thV energeiaV (a) gen. "in the power / working" - of the working, action, operation [of god]. It is notoriously difficult untangling Paul's compounded genitives, as here. The genitive "working" is usually treated as an objective genitive, such that the object of faith is the effective operation of God's power evident in the resurrection of Christ. Interestingly, Luther took it to be a subjective genitive, "faith produced by the working of God." The genitive, tou qeou, "God", is taken as subjective, since God is the agent of the "working", thus producing the translation "through your faith in the effective power exercised by God", Harris. Yet, the verbal genitive is notoriously deceptive! It seems more likely that the genitives are adjectival. The genitive "working", limited by the possessive genitive, "of God", is epexegetic, limiting by specifying the noun "trustworthiness"; "through the faithfulness / trustworthiness of God's working / effective action, which raised Christ from the dead.".

tou egeirantoV (egeirw) part. "who raised" - the one / thing having raised [him]. The articular participle is adjectival, attributive, forming a relative clause, "who / which raised him from death / among the dead / the grave...."

ek + gen. "from" - from [the dead]. Source / origin, "out of, from", or separation, "away from."


Third: In Christ a believer appropriates new life - victory over the power of sin, v13. The idea of "rising" with Christ images the gift of new life, a Christ-like life, lived through the indwelling compelling of the Spirit of Christ.

ontaV (eimi) pres. part. "when [you] were [dead]" - [and you] dead [being]. The participle is adverbial, either temporal, as NIV, or concessive, "although you were dead", NEB, although as Campbell notes, it is accusative, modifying the accusative umaV, "you", and so he argues that it is adjectival, attributive; "and you, who were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he ......" "You" is you Colossians, or more widely, you Gentiles. "Dead" meaning "spiritually dead."

en "in" - Probably not part of the original text, so possibly added to emphasize the following datives which are descriptive of the readers paganism. The NIV opts for a locative translation, but an instrumental, "through", or even causal "because of", O'Brien, is possible

toiV paraptwmasin kai th/ akrobustia dat. "your sins and in the uncircumcision" - the trespasses and the uncircumcision. It seems likely that the dative expresses cause / basis; the Gentiles were spiritually dead because of / on the ground of their rebellion against God (sins, trespasses) and their spiritual alienation from God (uncircumcision of their flesh, ie., unholy pagans).

thV sarkoV (s koV) gen. "sinful nature / flesh" - of the flesh [of you]. The genitive is adjectival, attributed; "your uncircumcised flesh." We are best to follow O'Brien who sees the phrase as metaphorical within its immediate context: "uncircumcised flesh is the condition that Christ's circumcision removed, the condition of having flesh - the sinful impulse or sinful nature."

sunezwopoihsen (sunzwopoiew) aor. act. "God made [you] alive" - having made alive together [you]. The subject is God; "God gives life." We are "alive" in the sense of living now and forever in the new life, renewed through the indwelling presence of Christ.

sun + dat. "with [Christ]" - with [him]. Expressing association / accompaniment. God gives us life "together with Christ." Because Christ lives, we live also.

carisamenoV (carizomai) aor. part. "He forgave" - having forgiven. The participle is adverbial, possibly causal, "God made you alive because he forgave ...", or instrumental, expressing means, "by means of", but it seems better taken as adjectival, epexegetic / appositional, specifying / explaining what is meant by being alive in / with Christ, "that is, God forgave our sins." The word means "give freely as a favor", so "forgive", "remit".

uJmin dat. pro. "us [all our sins]" - us [all the trespasses]. Dative of direct object after the verb "to forgive." This verb takes a dative of persons, but accusative of things.


Fourth: In Christ legal indebtedness is canceled - victory over the guilt of sin, v14. Before becoming believers, the Colossian Gentiles had a limited understanding of the law of God; they were rebels and under judgment. In Christ, God dealt with this situation by forgiving their sins and releasing them from the curse of the law.

exaleiyaV (exaleifw) aor. part. "having canceled" - having wiped out, removed, destroyed. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "he has taken [it out]", or adverbial, instrumental, expressing means. The participle possibly introduces a new and subsequent idea, although some commentators see the verse as an expansion of "he forgave all our sins", ie. developing a complementary idea. Probably best expressed as a new sentence; "As well as forgiving our sins, God cancelled ....." "God has not only removed the debt; he has destroyed the document on which it was recorded", O'Brien.

to ..... ceirogrofon (on) "the written code" - the handwritten document. Accusative direct object of the verb "to cancel." Used often of a legal document. Some argue that Paul is referring to the Mosaic Law, but he is probably referring to an imaginary documentary record upon which God records our sins, in simple terms, "a charge-sheet." God just hasn't forgiven us, he has expunged the memory of our sins - God has destroyed the prosecutions charge-sheet.

kaq (kata) + gen. "that was against [us]" - against [us]. Expressing opposition; "against". The document was against us in the sense of exposing our condition of loss.

toiV dogmasin (a) dat. "with its regulations" - in / by / with the ordinances, decrees = the legal demands / binding statutes. Dative of reference / respect, or association / accompaniment; "he has cancelled the charge-sheet, with regard our legal indebtedness." The word is used in the Bible of regulations issued by, for example, the Jerusalem Council or Caesar Augustus. In Ephesians, the plural form identifies individual elements of the Mosaic Law. Here, Paul is most likely referring to the Mosaic Law which, as he goes on to say, "testifies against us" ie., the law functions to expose sin. "God has expunged the charge-sheet against us, with respect to the charges, backed up by the law, which testify against us".

o{ rel. pro. "that / which" - which [was contrary to]. The phrase is expressing the active hostility of the law "which testifies against us" and so condemns us.

hJmin dat. pro. "us" - Dative complement of the adjective "contrary to, against".

hJrken (airw) perf. "he took" - he has taken [it out of the middle]. The perfect tense indicating past action with abiding results. The charge sheet has been completely done away with, blotted out, abolished, obliterated from sight. The prepositional phrase formed by ek + gen., expressing separation, is idiomatic, taking the sense "from our midst" = "he has set it aside", NEB.

proshlwsaV (proshlow) aor. part. "nailing [it]" - having nailed [it]. The participle is adverbial, possibly modal, expressing the manner in which the charge-sheet was obliterated, but more likely instrumental expressing the means by which it was obliterated, namely, "by nailing it to the cross of Christ."

tw/ staurw/ (oV) dat. "to the cross" - to / on the cross. Local, expressing space.


Fifth: In Christ the legalistic application of the law is triumphantly disarmed - the law is discarded as a pathway to blessing, v15. As Wilson notes this "is a notoriously difficult verse both to translate and to interpret" - who are the "powers and authorities"? As set out below, it is likely that "the powers and authorities" are not satanic powers, but rather the oppressive regulations of the law, regulations designed to expose sin and thus condemn the sinner. This binding authority of the law's regulations has been discarded by means of Jesus' faithful obedience on the cross. "With this verse, Paul brings to a conclusion his explanation of how we have been brought to fullness in Christ", Moo.

apekdusamenoV (apekduomai) aor. mid. part. "having disarmed" - having spoiled, stripped, divested, de-robed , stripped . Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "he made a show of", or adverbial, instrumental, expressing means. The word images the humiliation of an enemy in the stripping off of their robes and symbols of authority. The prefix probably means "completely stripped." The middle voice may mean "he stripped himself", but most commentators read it as active, a common feature of some Greek words. The subject is either God, or Christ. Most commentators opt for "Christ", but there is no indication in the text that there has been a change in subject. Up to this point "God" is the cause of the action.

taV arcaV kai taV exousiaV "the powers and authorities" - the first principles and the authorities. These two words have prompted a myriad of theories as to their meaning. The accepted view is that Jesus, through his death on the cross, overcame the demonic powers, cf., 1:16. The Church Fathers tended to emphasize this aspect of Jesus' work on the cross. The cross was like a bait to Satan who took hold of it and found himself trapped and destroyed. The victory motif of the cross is certainly a strong one and true enough, but why Paul should use it here is hard to fathom. Maybe it is because the dark powers, these principalities and powers, were the ones who took the good law, and through temptations to sin made it a curse. Yet, there is another possible approach to the exegesis of these two nouns - somewhat left-of-field. The verb, translated "disarm" in the NIV can mean "put off" or "discard". There is the possibility that the "powers and authorities" that Paul has in mind are actually the regulations of the law, which through the cross, Christ has discarded. ("Powers" = the first principles. "Authorities = binding authority. ie., The Torah). The Mosaic law was not only nailed to the cross, but through the cross it was discarded (ie., its function to condemn and thus lead the sinner to seek divine mercy, which mercy is found through faith in the faithfulness of Christ, is no longer needed, although its function to guide the life of faith remains).

edeigmatisen (deigmazw) aor. "he made a [public] spectacle of them" - he made an example, a public / open show, display. The NIV assumes the object of this verb is the "powers and authorities."

en + dat. "public" - in [boldness]. Here adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the display; "they were boldly exposed."

qriambeusaV (qriambeuw) aor. part. "triumphing over [them]" - having triumphed over [them]. The participle is adverbial, probably modal, expressing the manner in which the "spectacle" was enacted, or temporal, "when by the cross he triumphed over them", Weymouth, or instrumental, expressing means. The sense is: to lead in a triumphal procession, exalt over an enemy.

en + dat. "by [the cross]" - in / by [it]. The preposition is probably instrumental / agency, as in the NIV, but a locative sense, "in", is also acceptable, NRSV. The antecedent of "it" is obviously the cross. Only by arguing that a reflexive pronoun was intended is it possible to propose "himself" = Christ.


Colossians Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]