Colossians, Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern
1. From: Sha’ul, by God’s will an emissary of the Messiah Yeshua, and brother Timothy
As he often does, Sha'ul divides this letter into what God has done (Chapters 1-2) and what believers are obligated to do in gratitude (Chapters 3-4).
Sha'ul, emissary. Timothy. See Pp 1:1N.
2. To: God’s people in Colosse, faithful brothers in the Messiah:
Grace to you and shalom from God our Father.
Colossae, a town in Asia Minor whose brothers (believers) came to faith in Yeshua through the evangelizing efforts of someone other than Sha'ul (2:1), namely, Epaphras (v. 7&N).
3. Whenever we pray, we always give thanks for you to God, the Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah.
4. For we have heard of your trust in the Messiah Yeshua and of the love you have for all God’s people.
5. Both spring from the confident hope that you will receive what is stored up for you in heaven. You heard of this earlier in the message about the truth. This Good News
Trust, love, hope. Compare 1С 13:13&N.
6. has made its presence felt among you, just as it is also being fruitful and multiplying (Genesis 1:28) throughout the world in the same way as it has among you since the day you heard and understood the grace of God as it really is.
7. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow-slave and a faithful worker for the Messiah on your behalf;
Epaphras is mentioned again at 4:12 and at Pm 23.
8. and he has told us about the love which the Spirit has given you.
9. Therefore, from the day we heard of it, we have not stopped praying for you, asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will in all the wisdom and understanding which the Spirit gives;
Sha'ul usually starts his letters by telling his readers in what manner he prays for them.
10. so that you may live lives worthy of the Lord and entirely pleasing to him, being fruitful in every good work and multiplying in the full knowledge of God.
11. We pray that you will be continually strengthened with all the power that comes from his glorious might; so that you will be able to persevere and be patient in any situation, joyfully
12. giving thanks to the Father for having made you fit to share in the inheritance of his people in the light.
People in the light. See Ep 5:8N.
13. He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son.
14. It is through his Son that we have redemption — that is, our sins have been forgiven.
Although in Jewish understanding redemption (see Ep 1:7N) has a national dimension dating from the Exodus and extending to the Messianic Age, it also has an application to the individual defined by this verse. By implication the individual was enslaved to sin (compare Ro 6:16-23) but now has been redeemed from that slavery: our sins have been forgiven. This redemption is available from God but only through his Son Yeshua.
15. He is the visible image of the invisible God. He is supreme over all creation,
Yeshua, like Adam, is the visible image of the invisible God (Genesis 1:26-27, "Let us create man in our image.") See Ro 5:12-21 and 1С 15:44-49 for a more explicit comparison of Yeshua, "the last Adam." with the first one.
Such comparisons are not unknown in Judaism. A fourteenth-century midrash by Rabbi David ben-Amram of Aden says, "There were twenty-four good qualities in the world, but sins caused them all to disappear. In the future, at the End of Days, the Holy One, blessed be He, will restore them to Israel. And they are: the Image..." [and 23 others]. (Midrash HaGadol B'reshit, pp. 135-136; it can be found in Raphael Patai, The Messiah Texts, p. 263)
A note in The Messiah Texts explains that "the Image" refers to Genesis 1:26. Also compare 1С 15:49. 2C 4:4, MJ 1:3.
Supreme over all creation, Greek protdtokospases ktiseds, alternatively and more literally, "firstborn of all creation." Verses 16-17 name three ways in which God is "supreme" and attribute them to Yeshua the Messiah; this is typical of how the New Testament shows the divine aspect of Yeshua's nature while avoiding the direct statement, "Yeshua is God" (see 2:9&N).
The Messiah is the firstborn of a new humanity through being the first to be resurrected from the dead; this is clearly the sense of "protdtokos" in v. 18. But this sense does not fit here because of what follows in vv. 16-17, even though it is consistent with the preceding allusion to Adam.
If one chooses "firstborn of" instead of "supreme over," the phrase, "firstborn of all creation," does not mean that Yeshua was the first created being but speaks of his eternal sonship. Yeshua's firstbornness does not merely antedate the creation of the material world but is an essential and eternal element of the inner nature of God. Timelessly and eternally the Word of God, who became flesh in Yeshua the Messiah (Yn 1:1,14) is in the relationship of firstborn Son to the Father; this is a necessary part of the one God's description of himself.
Verses 15-20 are largely equivalent to MJ 1:2-3: The Word is God's
"Son, to whom he has given ownership of everything and through whom he created the universe. This Son is the radiance of the Sh'khinah, the very expression of God's essence, upholding all that exists by his powerful word; and after he had. through himself, made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of HaG'dulah BaM'ramim ["the Greatness on High"]."
16. because in connection with him were created all things — in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, lordships, rulers or authorities — they have all been created through him and for him.
17. He existed before all things, and he holds everything together.
He existed before all things, or: "He is over all things." and he holds everything together — the moment-to-moment existence of the physical and moral universe depend directly on his continuing oversight and providence.
18. Also he is head of the Body, the Messianic Community — he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might hold first place in everything.
He is head of the Body. The same metaphor as at Ep 1:22-23&N.
19. For it pleased God to have his full being live in his Son
It pleased God to have his full being (Greek pleroma) live in his Son. Compare 2:9&N. "Pleroma" was a technical term used by the Gnostics and their antecedents to refer to the totality of the various spiritual "levels" and the beings or entities presumed to exist there; see Ep 1:23bN. Sha'ul uses the method of seizing on a characteristic distinctive of the heresy he is fighting and showing how it relates to and supports the Gospel. Thus he follows the pattern he described at 2C 10:4—5: "We demolish arguments and every arrogance that raises itself up against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey the Messiah.'"
20. and through his Son to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace through him, through having his Son shed his blood by being executed on a stake.
Sha'ul shifts from Yeshua's relationship with the universe (vv. 15-17) to his relationship with the Messianic Community, thus picking up the theme introduced at v. 14;seevv. 13-23N.
21. In other words, you, who at one time were separated from God and had a hostile attitude towards him because of your wicked deeds,
Verses 25-27 and Ер 2:11-18 expand on this theme of how Gentiles, formerly separated from God, are reconciled to God and to God's people, the Jews, and made part of the Messianic Community through trusting in God and the Jewish Messiah. There is more on this subject at Romans 9-11, Galatians 3-4, Ep 3:5-6, Philippians 3.
22. he has now reconciled in the Son’s physical body through his death; in order to present you holy and without defect or reproach before himself —
23. provided, of course, that you continue in your trusting, grounded and steady, and don’t let yourselves be moved away from the hope offered in the Good News you heard. This is the Good News that has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven; and I, Sha’ul, have become a servant of it.
v. 13-23 Starting with the phrase, "the Kingdom of his dear Son," Sha'ul draws an exalted and multifaceted portrait of Yeshua the Messiah, in many ways comparable with the description of God found in the Jewish hymn, Adon-'Olam, attributed to the 1 lth-century poet Shlomo Ibn-Gvirol and sung (to any of 1,500 melodies) in most synagogue services:
"He is Lord of the universe, who reigned Before anything had been created. At the time when everything was made by his will. Already then he was acknowledged as King.
"And after everything has ceased to be,
He alone, awesome, will still rule —
He who was, is, and will be
"He is One: there is no other
To compare with him, to place beside him —
Without beginning, without end;
Power and dominion are his.
"And he is my God — my Redeemer lives! —
The Rock of my suffering in lime of trouble,
A banner guiding my way, a retreat when I flee.
The portion in my cup on the day I call.
"Into his hands I commit my spirit
When I sleep and when I wake —
And if my spirit, then also my body when I die:
Adonai is mine, and I will not fear."
The above hymn moves from God as transcendent and eternal Creator and Ruler to God as personal Guide and Protector. The present passage moves from Yeshua as eternal Creator and Ruler to Yeshua as Head of the Messianic Community and Reconciler of persons.
24. I rejoice in my present sufferings on your behalf! Yes, I am completing in my own flesh what has been lacking of the Messiah’s afflictions, on behalf of his Body, the Messianic Community.
The Messiah's afflictions. Either the "birth pangs of the Messiah" of Jewish tradition, or his present suffering due to the Messianic Community's present imperfections, but not his death pangs, because his atoning death is a compleied work and does not require completing.
25. I became a servant of the Good News because God gave me this work to do for your benefit. The work is to make fully known the message from God,
26. the secret hidden for generations, for ages, but now made clear to the people he has set apart for himself.
27. To them God wanted to make known how great among the Gentiles is the glorious richness of this secret. And the secret is this: the Messiah is united with you people! In that rests your hope of glory!
The Messiah is united with you people, with you believing Gentiles and not only with believing Jews. In that rests your hope of glory, of receiving everything good that God promises to those who are faithful.
28. We, for our part, proclaim him; we warn, confront and teach everyone in all wisdom; so that we may present everyone as having reached the goal, united with the Messiah.
29. It is for this that I toil, striving with all the energy that he stirs up in me so mightily.
Striving with all the energy that he stirs up in me so mightily, literally, "struggling according to the working of him who works powerfully in me." Compare Pp 2:13, Ep 2:8-9.
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