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Colossians 2:16-23

Context

2:16 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 – 2:17 these are only 1  the shadow of the things to come, but the reality 2  is Christ! 3  2:18 Let no one who delights in humility and the worship of angels pass judgment on you. That person goes on at great lengths 4  about what he has supposedly seen, but he is puffed up with empty notions by his fleshly mind. 5  2:19 He has not held fast 6  to the head from whom the whole body, supported 7  and knit together through its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God. 8 

2:20 If you have died with Christ to the elemental spirits 9  of the world, why do you submit to them as though you lived in the world? 2:21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” 2:22 These are all destined to perish with use, founded as they are 10  on human commands and teachings. 11  2:23 Even though they have the appearance of wisdom 12  with their self-imposed worship and false humility 13  achieved by an 14  unsparing treatment of the body – a wisdom with no true value – they in reality result in fleshly indulgence. 15 

1 tn The word “only,” though not in the Greek text, is supplied in the English translation to bring out the force of the Greek phrase.

2 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.

3 tn The genitive τοῦ Χριστοῦ (tou Cristou) is appositional and translated as such: “the reality is Christ.

4 tn For the various views on the translation of ἐμβατεύων (embateuwn), 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.

5 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.

6 tn The Greek participle κρατῶν (kratwn) was translated as a finite verb to avoid an unusually long and pedantic sentence structure in English.

7 tn See BDAG 387 s.v. ἐπιχορηγέω 3.

8 tn The genitive τοῦ θεοῦ (tou qeou) has been translated as a genitive of source, “from God.”

9 tn See the note on the phrase “elemental spirits” in 2:8.

10 tn The expression “founded as they are” brings out the force of the Greek preposition κατά (kata).

11 tn Grk “The commands and teachings of men.”

12 tn Grk “having a word of wisdom.”

13 tn Though the apostle uses the term ταπεινοφροσύνῃ (tapeinofrosunh) elsewhere in a positive sense (cf. 3:12), here the sense is negative and reflects the misguided thinking of Paul’s opponents.

14 tc ‡ The vast bulk of witnesses, including some important ones (א A C D F G H Ψ 075 0278 33 1881 Ï lat sy), have καί (kai) here, but the shorter reading is supported by some early and important witnesses (Ì46 B 1739 b m Hil Ambst Spec). The καί looks to be a motivated reading in that it makes ἀφειδία (afeidia) “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. NA27 puts καί in brackets, indicating doubts as to its authenticity.

15 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 timh 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.



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