2:4 I say this so that no one will deceive you through arguments 1 that sound reasonable. 2 2:5 For though 3 I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit, rejoicing to see 4 your morale 5 and the firmness of your faith in Christ.
2:6 Therefore, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, 6 continue to live your lives 7 in him, 2:7 rooted 8 and built up in him and firm 9 in your 10 faith just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 2:8 Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you 11 through an empty, deceitful philosophy 12 that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits 13 of the world, and not according to Christ.
1 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).”
2 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.
3 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).
4 tn Grk “rejoicing and seeing.”
5 tn The Greek word τάξις can mean “order,” “discipline,” or even “unbroken ranks” (REB).
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 Criston Ihsoun) 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.
7 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.
8 tn Or “having been rooted.”
9 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).
10 tn The Greek text has the article τῇ (th), not the possessive pronoun ὑμῶν (Jumwn), but the article often functions as a possessive pronoun and was translated as such here (ExSyn 215).
11 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.”
12 tn The Greek reads τῆς φιλοσοφίας καὶ κενῆς ἀπάτης (th" filosofia" kai kenh" apath"). The two nouns φιλοσοφίας and κενῆς are joined by one article and probably form a hendiadys. Thus the second noun was taken as modifying the first, as the translation shows.
13 tn The phrase κατὰ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου (kata ta stoiceia 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).