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with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Colossians 2

The apostle expresses his love to, and joy in believers. (1-7) He cautions against the errors of heathen philosophy; also against Jewish traditions, and rites which had been fulfilled in Christ. (8-17) Against worshipping angels; and against legal ordinances. (18-23)

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The apostle expresses his love to, and joy in believers

1 For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;

2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;

3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

4 And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.

5 For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.

6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:

7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.

He cautions against the errors of heathen philosophy; also against Jewish traditions, and rites which had been fulfilled in Christ

8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:

11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:

12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

Against worshipping angels; and against legal ordinances

18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,

19 And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.

20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,

21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not;

22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?

23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 4. That no man may deceive you.[1] He means those false teachers and vain philosophers, who deceived them by a sophistical way of reasoning, advancing in this manner their fabulous inventions; it is likely some disciples of Simon the magician. Wi. — The false teachers whom S. Paul wished to refute, despising the doctrine of the gospel, which appeared too simple and common, affected mysterious discourses, and examined the doctrine of the apostles, according to the maxims and axioms of philosophers. They also denied that Christ was God. Tirinus. — May not this advice be at present applicable to many of our Christian brethren, who are but too often led away by trusting too much to the vain reasonings of man. A.

Ver. 7. Rooted and built up in him, who is the head of all, your Redeemer, and author of your salvation, not upon Angels. Wi.

Ver. 8. Lest any man impose upon you.[2] In the Greek, make a prey of you, as thieves that steal things. — There were two sorts of false teachers among them; they who mixed vain errors from heathen philosophy with the principles of the Christian religion, and they who had been Jews, and were for making them retain those rites and customs which the Jews had among them, and were only from their private human traditions. Wi. This alludes to the traditions and observances which the Pharisees had added to the law of Moses, and which Christ had blamed; but which these false apostles wished to introduce amongst the Colossians. The ceremonial laws were the elementary instructions given by God to the world, but we are to attach ourselves to the doctrines of Jesus Christ, from whom alone we expect light and justice, and sanctity. V. — According to the rudiments of the world: by which some expound vain fallacies and false maxims of the first kind of teachers; others the Jewish ceremonies, which are called weak and poor elements, or rudiments. Gal. iv. 9. This is neither to condemn in general the use of philosophy, which S. Aug. commends, and made use of, nor all traditions delivered by the apostles. See 1 Cor. xi. and 2. Thess. ii. 14. Wi.

Ver. 9. For in him (in Christ) dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead (of the divinity) corporally.[3] That is, in the person of Christ, the Son of God, really and substantially united to our human nature. Not inhabiting, as in a temple as the Nestorian heretics pretended, nor as by his grace in men’s souls, but so as to be personally or hypostatically united to the soul and body of Christ. Wi.

Ver. 12. Buried with him in baptism, signified by the ceremony of immersion in baptism. See Rom. vi. 3. Wi.

Ver. 14. Blotting out, &c.[4] This is commonly expounded of the sentence of eternal death pronounced against sinful Adam, and all his posterity, for having sinned in him. Others would have it to signify only the yoke and obligations of the Mosaical law, which could not of itself remit sins, and occasionally made persons greater sinners. This sentence of death (whether we understand the one or the other) Christ took away, fastening it as it were, to the cross, taking it away by his death on the cross. Wi.

Ver. 15. And despoiling the principalities and powers; the devil and his infernal spirits. Wi.

Ver. 16. Let no man, therefore, judge you in meat or in drink. That is, for not abstaining from meats, called unclean, for drinking out of a cup without a cover, (see Num. xix.) or for not keeping the Jewish festivals. For these were but shadows, types and figures of future things to be fulfilled in the new law of Christ: but the body is of Christ, (v. 17.) i.e. was the body, the truth, the substance signified by these shadows and types. Wi. — He means with regard to the Jewish observations of the distinction of clean and unclean meats; and of their festivals, new moons, and sabbaths; as being no longer obligatory. Ch. — Modern dogmatizers wilfully or ignorantly misapply this text of the apostle, to disprove the fasts and festivals observed in the Catholic Church; but it is evident, as S. Austin observes, that the apostle is here condemning the legal distinction of clean and unclean meats, and the feasts of the new moon, to which false brethren wanted to subject the Colossians. S. Aug. ep. 59. ad Paulin. in solut. quæs. 7.

Ver. 18. Let no man seduce you.[5] In the Greek, hinder you from getting the prize. — Willing[6] (by their own will) in humility, and religion of Angels, practising a wrong and mistaken humility in regard of the Angels, when you pay them a worship not due to them, pretending them to be the mediators and saviours of mankind, as if they were equal, or greater than Christ, our only Redeemer; walking in things you understand not, these men being deceived by their vain philosophy, and pride of their own imaginations. By this means not holding, (v. 19.) but having shaken off their only true invisible head, Christ Jesus, who is the head of his Church. It is admitted that these false doctors, among the Colossians, had introduced an undue and superstitious worship of Angels, and gave to them even a greater honour than to Christ. They worshipped them as the creators of the world, as mediators with God, even above Jesus Christ, which S. Paul here expresseth by these words, not holding the head. These seem to have been some disciples of Simon, and their heresies continued in some churches of Asia even to the fourth age, as we may find by a canon of the council of Laodicea. But there is nothing here nor in that council against a due, i.e. an inferior honour and veneration, nothing like a divine honour, nor injurious to Christ, our chief mediator and only Redeemer, which the Church, from the first ages, paid to saints and Angels. We do not ask grace, we do not offer up sacrifice, we hope not for salvation, but from God only, from Christ, God and man. Wi. — Willing, &c. That is, by a self-willed, self-invented, superstitious worship, falsely pretending humility, but really proceeding from pride. Such was the worship that many of the philosophers (against whom S. Paul speaks, v. 8.) paid to Angels or demons, by sacrificing to them, as carriers of intelligence betwixt God and man; pretending humility in so doing, as if God was too great to be addressed by men, and setting aside the mediatorship of Jesus Christ; who is the head both of Angels and men. Such also was the worship paid by the ancient heretics, disciples of Simon and Menander, to the Angels, whom they believed to be the makers and lords of this lower world. This is certain, that they whom the apostle here condemns, did not hold the head, (v. 19.) that is, Jesus Christ, and his mediatorship; and therefore what he writes here no ways touches the Catholic doctrine and practice, of desiring our good Angels to pray to God for us, through Jesus Christ. S. Jerom, (Epist. ad Algas) understands by the religion or service of Angels, the Jewish religion given by Angels; and shews all that is here said to be directed against the Jewish teachers, who sought to subject the new Christians to the observances of the Mosaic law. Ch. — Walking in the things which he hath not seen. These false teachers pretended to know the number and names of the Angels, and how to distribute them into different orders and classes, with as much precision as if they had walked through heaven. Instead of following the revelation of the holy Spirit in the gospel, they followed their own spirit, boasting of what it was impossible for them to know. C. — But let no one snatch from you the glory of heaven, which should be the reward of your career, and the recompense of your fidelity, deceiving you by an outward show of false piety and affected humility. V.

Ver. 20. If then you be dead with Christ, or if you be not of this world, why do you act as if you were in it? practising the ceremonies of the law, as if you still expected Christ; all which are hurtful to you. S. Jerom. — In your baptism you died with Jesus Christ to all legal observances, and should not therefore suffer any carnal laws to be imposed upon you, as if you were still living in this first state of the world. V. — These things have an appearance of humility, if you abstain from them through mortification, and not through any necessity, as if they were unclean. But if we look upon them, and reject them as impure, and despise those who do not follow our example, then these things, so far from being useful, become prejudicial. Grotius. — Why do you yet decree[7] in this manner? Wi.

Ver. 21. Touch not, &c. That is, why do you permit yourselves to be taught in this manner by those Jewish doctors: why do you touch or eat this, lest you be unclean? such superstitious observations, now at least, when there is no necessity nor obligation for you to observe them, tend to destruction, &c. Wi. — The meaning is, that Christians should not subject themselves, either to the ordinances of the old law, forbidding touching or tasting things unclean: or to the superstitious invention of heretics, imposing such restraints, under pretence of wisdom, humility, or mortification. Ch.

Ver. 23. Which things have indeed, (as such masters teach you) a shew of wisdom, in their nice superstitious ways, joined by some of them with extraordinary abstinences, and severities practised on the body in fasting, which they observe, without any honour or regard, even not to the satiating of the flesh; i.e. according to the common expression, with such an excess, as not to allow the body[8] what is sufficient or necessary to support nature, that a man may be able to labour and comply with his duties; but here is nothing against discreet fasting, and self-denials, so much recommended in the holy Scriptures. Wi.

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[1] V. 4. Decipiat, paralogizetai, fallaci ratiocinatione.

[2] V. 8. Decipiat, sulagogon, prædam furtive abducens. See S. Chrys. log. st. p. 118.

[3] V. 9. In ipso inhabitat omnis plenitudo divinitatis corporaliter, katoikei pan to pleroma tes theotetos somatikos. See S. Chrys. Ibid.

[4] V. 14. Chirographum decreti; cheirographon tou dogmatos. In the common Greek copies, tois dogmasi, as Ephes. ii. 15.

[5] V. 18. Seducat, katabrabeueto. See Mr. Legh’s Crit. Sacra.

[6] Ibid. Volens, thelon; religione, threskeia. — Walking, ambulans, embateuon, superbè se ingerens.

[7] V. 20. Quid adhuc decernitis, dogmatizesthe.

[8] V. 23. Et non ad parcendum corpori, kai apheidia somatos, et in non parcentia corporis, vel in crudelitate erga corpus. — Non in honore ad saturitatem, ouk en time pros plesmonen.