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Colossians 1:9-15

Context
Paul’s Prayer for the Growth of the Church

1:9 For this reason we also, from the day we heard about you, 1  have not ceased praying for you and asking God 2  to fill 3  you with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 1:10 so that you may live 4  worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects 5  – bearing fruit in every good deed, growing in the knowledge of God, 1:11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for the display of 6  all patience and steadfastness, joyfully 1:12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share 7  in the saints’ 8  inheritance in the light. 1:13 He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son he loves, 9  1:14 in whom we have redemption, 10  the forgiveness of sins.

The Supremacy of Christ

1:15 11 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn 12  over all creation, 13 

1 tn Or “heard about it”; Grk “heard.” There is no direct object stated in the Greek (direct objects were frequently omitted in Greek when clear from the context). A direct object is expected by an English reader, however, so most translations supply one. Here, however, it is not entirely clear what the author “heard”: a number of translations supply “it” (so KJV, NASB, NRSV; NAB “this”), but this could refer back either to (1) “your love in the Spirit” at the end of v. 8, or (2) “your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the saints” (v. 4). In light of this uncertainty, other translations supply “about you” (TEV, NIV, CEV, NLT). This is preferred by the present translation since, while it does not resolve the ambiguity entirely, it does make it less easy for the English reader to limit the reference only to “your love in the Spirit” at the end of v. 8.

2 tn The term “God” does not appear in the Greek text, but the following reference to “the knowledge of his will” makes it clear that “God” is in view as the object of the “praying and asking,” and should therefore be included in the English translation for clarity.

3 tn The ἵνα (Jina) clause has been translated as substantival, indicating the content of the prayer and asking. The idea of purpose may also be present in this clause.

4 tn The infinitive περιπατῆσαι (peripathsai, “to walk, to live, to live one’s life”) is best taken as an infinitive of purpose related to “praying” (προσευχόμενοι, proseucomenoi) and “asking” (αἰτούμενοι, aitoumenoi) in v. 9 and is thus translated as “that you may live.”

5 tn BDAG 129 s.v. ἀρεσκεία states that ἀρεσκείαν (areskeian) refers to a “desire to please εἰς πᾶσαν ἀ. to please (the Lord) in all respects Col 1:10.”

6 tn The expression “for the display of” is an attempt to convey in English the force of the Greek preposition εἰς (eis) in this context.

7 tn BDAG 473 s.v. ἱκανόω states, “τινὰ εἴς τι someone for someth. Col 1:12.” The point of the text is that God has qualified the saints for a “share” or “portion” in the inheritance of the saints.

8 tn Grk “the inheritance of the saints.” The genitive noun τῶν ἁγίων (twn Jagiwn) is a possessive genitive: “the saints’ inheritance.”

9 tn Here αὐτοῦ (autou) has been translated as a subjective genitive (“he loves”).

10 tc διὰ τοῦ αἵματος αὐτοῦ (dia tou {aimato" autou, “through his blood”) is read at this juncture by several minuscule mss (614 630 1505 2464 al) as well as a few, mostly secondary, versional and patristic witnesses. But the reading was prompted by the parallel in Eph 1:7 where the wording is solid. If these words had been in the original of Colossians, why would scribes omit them here but not in Eph 1:7? Further, the testimony on behalf of the shorter reading is quite overwhelming: {א A B C D F G Ψ 075 0150 6 33 1739 1881 Ï latt co as well as several other versions and fathers}. The conviction that “through his blood” is not authentic in Col 1:14 is as strong as the conviction that these words are authentic in Eph 1:7.

11 sn This passage has been typeset as poetry because many scholars regard this passage as poetic or hymnic. These terms are used broadly to refer to the genre of writing, not to the content. There are two broad criteria for determining if a passage is poetic or hymnic: “(a) stylistic: a certain rhythmical lilt when the passages are read aloud, the presence of parallelismus membrorum (i.e., an arrangement into couplets), the semblance of some metre, and the presence of rhetorical devices such as alliteration, chiasmus, and antithesis; and (b) linguistic: an unusual vocabulary, particularly the presence of theological terms, which is different from the surrounding context” (P. T. O’Brien, Philippians [NIGTC], 188-89). Classifying a passage as hymnic or poetic is important because understanding this genre can provide keys to interpretation. However, not all scholars agree that the above criteria are present in this passage, so the decision to typeset it as poetry should be viewed as a tentative decision about its genre.

12 tn The Greek term πρωτότοκος (prwtotokos) could refer either to first in order of time, such as a first born child, or it could refer to one who is preeminent in rank. M. J. Harris, Colossians and Philemon (EGGNT), 43, expresses the meaning of the word well: “The ‘firstborn’ was either the eldest child in a family or a person of preeminent rank. The use of this term to describe the Davidic king in Ps 88:28 LXX (=Ps 89:27 EVV), ‘I will also appoint him my firstborn (πρωτότοκον), the most exalted of the kings of the earth,’ indicates that it can denote supremacy in rank as well as priority in time. But whether the πρωτό- element in the word denotes time, rank, or both, the significance of the -τοκος element as indicating birth or origin (from τίκτω, give birth to) has been virtually lost except in ref. to lit. birth.” In Col 1:15 the emphasis is on the priority of Jesus’ rank as over and above creation (cf. 1:16 and the “for” clause referring to Jesus as Creator).

13 tn The genitive construction πάσης κτίσεως (pash" ktisew") is a genitive of subordination and is therefore translated as “over all creation.” See ExSyn 103-4.



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