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Commentary on The Letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians

1:1 Paul: Ancient epistles opened with the sender's name,unlike modern letters, which identify the sender at the end. Paul presents himself as an apostle or ambassador of the Lord Jesus (2 Cor 5:20) whose mission is to preach to the "Gentiles" and to the "sons of Israel" living among them (Acts 9:15). The focus of his teaching is Christ, the Messiah, whom Paul addresses by this title 25 times in Colossians. Timothy: One of Paul's closest associates now present with him, probably in Rome. Like the apostle, he was a man of great pastoral abilities (Phil 2:19-23). Back to text.

1:2 Grace . . . peace: A standard Pauline greeting. Back to text.

1:3-8 Nearly every Pauline epistle opens with a prayer of thanksgiving. Here Paul is grateful that the Colossians received the gospel (1:6) and that God is producing in their lives a full measure of faith, hope, and love (Rom 5:1-5; Gal 5:5-6). Although unacquainted with his readers personally (Col 1:4), Paul intercedes for them on a regular basis (1:3, 9) and encourages them to return the favor (4:3) (CCC 2632). See note on 1 Cor 13:13Back to text.

1:5 word of the truth: The gospel liberates us from both ignorance and error (Jn 8:31-32). To disregard or repudiate the revealed truth of God is to prefer darkness to light and blindness to spiritual sight (2 Cor 4:3-4; Eph 4:17-20). Back to text.

1:6 the whole world: The whole Roman world, at least (Rom 1:8). With stunning success, the Christian message was finding believers everywhere it went and blessing their lives in remarkable ways. Colossae likewise embraced the truth and became part of the worldwide harvest of the gospel. Back to text.

1:7 Epaphras: The founder of the Colossian Church and Paul's informant on their situation. He was a native of the region who also ministered in the nearby cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis (4:12-13). Paul considers Epaphras' missionary work among Gentiles an extension of his own (1:7-8). Back to text.

1:10 bearing fruit: Paul prays often that God will bless the Colossians with spiritual wisdom and a deeper desire to grow in faith. He wants them to honor the Father with their lives and allow the Spirit to work unhindered within them (Gal 5:16-24; Phil 2:13). Back to text.

1:12 qualified us: I.e., by the grace of divine adoption. For Paul, it is our sonship in Christ that makes us heirs of all that the Father desires and intends to give us (Rom 8:16-17; Gal 4:4-7). inheritance of the saints: Salvation in the heavenly kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10). Even now believers possess a first installment of this inheritance through the indwelling of the Spirit (Eph 1:13-14). An equivalent expression occurs in the Dead Sea Scrolls ("the lot of the saints", 1QS 11, 7-8). Back to text.

1:13 transferred us: Christ removes us from the darkness of evil into the light of faith and friendship with God. Scripture often portrays the effects of salvation in these terms (Jn 12:35-36; Eph 5:11-14; 1 Pet 2:9). • The Council of Trent declared in 1547 that our justification in Christ, which takes place in Baptism, transfers us from the fallen family of Adam to the glorious family of God (Sess. 6, chap. 4) (CCC 1250). Back to text.

1:14 we have redemption: Believers have been rescued from the slavery of sin and the debt of guilt by the ransom price of Christ's blood (CCC 517, 2839). See note on Eph 1:7Back to text.

1:15-20 An ancient hymn that extols Christ's deity and supremacy over creation. Emphasis is placed on his role as Creator, through whom all things were made (1:15-17), and as Redeemer, who renews all things with his grace (1:1820). As the preeminent Lord, Christ is enthroned far above every power on earth and every order of angels in heaven. He has neither rival nor peer, and his redeeming work transforms the old creation into a new creation through his body, the universal Church (1:18; 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15). • The preexistence of Christ from eternity and his active role as Creator together recall biblical poetry that personifies God's "Wisdom" as the divine architect of heaven and earth (Prov 8:22-31; Wis 7:2228). Paul associates Christ with "wisdom" also in Col 2:3 and 1 Cor 1:24, 30 (CCC 299). Back to text.

1:15 He is the image: Christ makes visible the life and love of the invisible God (Jn 1:18; Rom 5:8). His humanity is thus the sacrament that brings the Father into view (Jn 14:9). Although man was created in God's image, something more is said of Christ, who is that image in the most perfect sense (2 Cor 4:4; Heb 1:3). • The hymn may allude to the creation of Adam, the first man to bear the image of God (Gen 1:26) and pass it along to his progeny (Gen 5:3). Because the image Adam bequeathed to the human family was damaged and disfigured by sin, Christ comes to reverse what Adam did by reshaping our image in the likeness of his own (Col 3:10; Rom 8:29; 1 Cor 15:49). • Christ is the image because he is of one substance with the Father. He comes from the Father, and not the Father from him, since the nature of an image is to copy the original and to be named after it (St. Gregory Nazianzen, Orations 30). the first-born: The term for an eldest child, with emphasis on his legal right of inheritance (Deut 21:1519). Since Christ is the first and only (natural) Son begotten of the Father, he is the designated heir of the Father's estate, which is the entire cosmos (Heb 1:2). Paul's point is not that Jesus is the noblest part of creation, but that Jesus has the filial right to possess all of creation as his inheritance. See word study: First-born at Heb 1:6. • The apostle calls him the first-born of all creation. Notice he says first-born, not first created, that we may believe he is begotten in virtue of his nature and first in virtue of his eternity (St. Ambrose, On the Faith 1, 7). Back to text.

1:16 thrones . . . dominions . . . principalities . . . authorities: Names for various classes of angels. No distinction is made here between blessed angels and demonic spirits, since Paul's point is that Christ reigns supreme over the entire host of benevolent and malevolent spirits (CCC 331). For the order of the angelic choirs in Catholic tradition, see note on Eph 1:21Back to text.

1:18 He is the head: Points to Christ's union with the Church, who as head directs and oversees the activities of his members. Paul's analogy can likewise stress that the head and body share the same life (Rom 12:5) and that each member of the body is assigned a particular task for the good of the whole (1 Cor 12:12-26) (CCC 753, 792). See word study: Unite at Eph 1:10. first-born from the dead: Christ was the first to be raised immortal from the grave (Rev 1:5). This mystery of faith is reproduced in the lives of believers as their souls are resurrected in grace through the sacraments (Col 3:1; Rom 6:4) and their bodies are raised in glory on the last day (Col 3:4; Rom 8:11) (CCC 658). Back to text.

1:19 the fulness of God: Christ is fully divine because the plenitude of divine life, power, and holiness resides within him (2:9; Jn 1:16). This is one of the clearest assertions of Christ's deity in the NT (Jn 1:1; Tit 2:13). Back to text.

1:20 to reconcile: The death of Jesus restores peace between the Father and the human family (2 Cor 5:18-19; Eph 2:1318). This friendship was interrupted by the rebellion of Adam, who stripped the family of man of its inheritance and caused disorder and corruption to prevail throughout the world (Gen 3:1-24; Rom 5:12). Harmony is now being restored as the grace of the New Covenant permeates and renews the cosmos (Rom 8:19-23) (CCC 2305). Back to text.

1:22 holy and blameless: Once pagans and enemies of God, the baptized Colossians have been separated from sin and consecrated to the Lord. See note on Eph 1:4Back to text.

1:23 preached to every creature: Rhetorical exaggeration for the first century, but nevertheless the goal of Christ's missionary mandate (Mk 16:15). Paul is describing the future as though it has already happened, perhaps as a way of emphasizing its certainty in the plan of God. See note on 1:6. Back to text.

1:24 my sufferings: The many afflictions that Paul endured throughout his missionary career (2 Cor 11:2329). Joy in the midst of suffering is a common NT theme (Mt 5:11-12; Acts 5:41; 1 Pet 4:13). what is lacking: I.e., the suffering that remains for believers in the trials of life. Suffering is a mission for all the faithful as a means of conforming ourselves to Christ (Rom 8:17; Phil 3:10), but suffering is a special calling for ministers of the gospel like Paul, who endure many afflictions in the effort to bring salvation to others (2 Cor 1:6; 4:11-15) (CCC 307, 618, 1508). • These words could be misunderstood to mean that the suffering of Christ was not sufficient for redemption and that the suffering of the saints must be added to complete it. This, however, would be heretical. Christ and the Church are one mystical person, and while the merits of Christ, the head, are infinite, the saints acquire merit in a limited degree. What is "lacking", then, pertains to the afflictions of the entire Church, to which Paul adds his own amount (St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Colossians 1, 6). Back to text.

1:26 the mystery: The plan of salvation, long concealed in the Scriptures but now revealed in the gospel (Rom 16:25-26). It is the deliverance of man from sin and the spread of Christ's worldwide kingdom through the Church. Paul here stresses that believing Gentiles possess the indwelling presence of Christ, which is a pledge or down payment toward their future resurrection in glory (Col 1:27; Rom 8:10-11) (CCC 772). See word study: Mystery at Eph 3:3. Back to text.

1:28 mature: Or "perfect". Paul aims to bring believers to a deeper understanding of the gospel and to a deeper commitment to apply it to their daily lives (4:12). Perfection is a goal that requires both effort and endurance (1:29; Phil 3:12-15). Back to text.

Word Study

Elemental Spirits (Col 2:8)

Stoicheia (Gk.): "elements" or "rudiments". The term is used seven times in the NT and is common in Greek literature. It can refer to the material elements of the cosmos, like earth, air, water, and fire, or to heavenly bodies, like the sun, moon, and stars (Wis 7:17). It can also refer to angels or demons that regulate the course and movement of these elements. These ideas are closely connected with ancient forms of worship. For idolatrous Gentiles, the elements were deified and worshiped as "gods" (Wis 13:1-2; Gal 4:8). For ancient Israel, the liturgical calendar was determined by the rhythm of the elements, especially by the cycles of the sun and moon (Gen 1:14; Sir 43:1-8). Paul groups the worship of Israel and the nations together, since both are subservient to these visible and invisible elements of the natural order (Gal 4:9). In contrast to this old order, Paul stresses that Christ is seated far above all things seen and unseen (Col 3:1-3). United with him, believers no longer worship within the confines of the created world, but through the sacraments they enter a new order of worship that is supernatural and heavenly, where Christ lifts them far above the created elements of the cosmos (Jn 4:21-24; Gal 4:3; Heb 12:22-24; Rev 4-5).

2:1 Laodicea: A neighboring city in the same region. Because Paul wrote both to the Colossians and to the Laodiceans, he directs them to exchange his letters with one another after reading them (4:16). not seen my face: Paul was personally unknown to his readers. Back to text.

2:3 treasures of wisdom: Jesus embodies the fullness of divine Wisdom in himself (1 Cor 1:24, 30). Paul makes this statement to prepare readers for the following warning about dangerous teachings that deviate from Christian truth (2:4, 823). See note on 1:15-20. Back to text.

2:8-23 Paul confronts the teaching of Jewish troublemakers in Colossae. His comments suggest (1) they denied the full deity of Christ, and (2) they promoted the rituals of the Mosaic Law as indispensable requirements for living in covenant with God. Paul corrects these misunderstandings for his readers by asserting the divinity of Christ (2:9) and stressing that Gentile believers are already "complete" in Christ apart from the ceremonial works of the Old Covenant (circumcision, dietary laws, Sabbath observance, Temple festivals, etc.). Back to text.

2:8 philosophy: Although this term can refer to speculative theories about God, man, and the universe, it was also used by Hellenistic Jewish writers such as Josephus and Philo to refer to the Jewish way of life. This is probably Paul's meaning here. It is true, nevertheless, that every philosophy is vain that disregards or denounces what God has revealed as good, true, and beautiful through Jesus Christ. human tradition: Religious customs produced and promoted by men, not God. Perhaps Paul is following the example of Jesus by cautioning readers of human traditions passed on by Pharisees and synagogue elders (Mk 7:1-8). For Paul, only divinely instituted traditions that stem from Jesus and the apostles demand obedience from the Church (1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thess 2:15). Back to text.

2:9 deity dwells bodily: A powerful assertion of the full humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ (1:19; Jn 1:14). The mystery of the God-made-man was a stumbling block for many in Israel, who were skeptical that Yahweh's presence could reside in a man and who were scandalized that the Messiah should suffer the curse of crucifixion (1 Cor 1:23; Gal 3:13) (CCC 242, 515). Back to text.

2:11 circumcision of Christ: The circumcision of the 6 heart (Rom 2:28-29). The procedure is performed in Baptism, the sacrament of spiritual rebirth (2:12). • The Israelites were marked with the covenant sign of circumcision, but their rebellion over the centuries proved that their hearts remained uncircumcised (Jer 9:25-26). Moses realized that this would continue until Yahweh circumcised the hearts of his people himself (Deut 30:6). Paul interprets this vision of Moses in sacramental terms, insisting that Christ accomplishes in Baptism what circumcision only signified in ancient Israel. It is the moment when God cuts away from our hearts the fleshly desires that keep us from loving and obeying him as we should. • Paul lays a biblical foundation for infant Baptism, inasmuch as circumcision was administered to newborn babies eight days after birth (Gen 17:9-14). Tradition bears this out, as St. Cyprian recounts that a council held in North Africa in the third century declared that Christians need not delay the Baptism of infants until the eighth day. Behind this assertion lies the assumption that the early Christians saw in Baptism what the Israelites saw in circumcision: the sacrament of initiation into God's covenant people, open to adults and infants alike. Back to text.

2:13 uncircumcision of your flesh: Indicates that most or all of the Colossians are Gentiles (Eph 2:11). Back to text.

2:14 the bond: A list of charges filed against the sinful human family. Christ destroyed this legal certificate on the Cross, when he canceled our debt of guilt and won pardon for our crimes. Paul is probably thinking of the Mosaic Law, which, as the written expression of God's precepts, pronounces divine curses upon sin (Deut 27:15-26). In this scheme, Jesus mounted the Cross to bear the curses of the Old Covenant so that the blessings of the New could flow forth to the world (Gal 3:1314). As a further benefit, Christ frees us from the ceremonial observances of the Old Covenant, which merely signified our need for salvation in the first place (Eph 2:14-16). Back to text.

2:15 principalities and powers: Legions of demonic spirits (Eph 6:12). Christ conquered these Satanic powers decisively and dramatically on the Cross. Paul depicts this in terms of a victory march, recalling how Roman generals dragged prisoners of war through city streets to be disgraced and ridiculed after a successful military campaign. See word study: Leads Us in Triumph at 2 Cor 2:14. Back to text.

2:16 food . . . drink . . . festival . . . new moon . . . sabbath: Jewish ceremonial practices that are often grouped together in the Bible (Is 1:13-14; Hos 2:11; Judg 8:6; 1 Mac 10:34). The first two concern kosher dietary restrictions, and the last three refer to liturgical feast days celebrated yearly (festivals), monthly (new moons), and weekly (Sabbaths). These ritual practices of the Old Covenant were mere "shadows" of the greater "substance" to come with Christ and the sacraments of the New Covenant (Col 2:17). Back to text.

2:18 worship of angels: This expression can be understood in different ways. (1) Many take it to mean "worship directed to angels" (objective genitive). If, in fact, a cult of the angels was popular at Colossae, it must have been a pagan element in the otherwise Jewish piety of the Colossian opponents, for Judaism censures the worship of any creature in place of God the Creator. (2) Others take it to mean "worship performed by angels" (subjective genitive). Interest in the worship of the angels is indeed present in Jewish mystical and apocalyptic writings of the period, and perhaps the Colossian Jews, like the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, viewed their synagogue worship as a participation in the angelic liturgy of heaven. History also knows of Jewish mystics who claimed to ascend into heaven, receive visions and revelations, and worship the Lord alongside the angels. Back to text.

2:19 Head . . . whole body: An image of Christ's union with the Church. The expansion of Christ's kingdom is here compared to the growth of a human body (CCC 794). See note on Col 1:18Back to text.

2:21 Do not handle . . . taste . . . touch: A sarcastic strike at the Jewish agitators in Colossae, for whom physical contact with corpses, lepers, and unclean foods was an act of ritual defilement (Lev 11; 13:45-46; Num 19:11-22). Paul implies that since the purity codes of the Old Covenant have now been set aside, it would be a worse act of defilement for Christians to readopt the very practices that Christ died to nullify (Mk 7:14-23; Eph 2:15). Jesus launched a similar critique on the Pharisees in Lk 11:37-44. Back to text.

2:22 human precepts and doctrines: An allusion to the Greek version of Is 29:13. • Isaiah rails against the leaders of Jerusalem for their pretentious worship: they are paying lip service to God but failing to devote their hearts and lives to him. According to the prophet's diagnosis, this is the result of giving more attention to human traditions than to the Torah. Jesus hurls this same oracle against his Pharisees in Mt 15:7-9. Back to text.

2:23 rigor of devotion: Refers to ascetical practices such as fasting and abstaining from certain kinds of foods. These bodily disciplines are not wrong in themselves, so long as the body is subdued but not despised. Without grace, however, asceticism cannot restrain the selfish urges of our fallen nature. This is possible only through the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:13; 1 Cor 9:27; Gal 5:16). In Jewish mystical tradition, asceticism was a necessary form of preparation to receive visions and embark on heavenly journeys. See note on Col 2:18Back to text.

3:1 right hand of God: Where Christ is enthroned in heaven and where believers are seated with him through the grace of Baptism (Eph 2:6). This must be the focus of our thoughts as we struggle to lift our minds above the concerns of the world (Rom 8:5-6) (CCC 664, 1003). See note on Eph 1:20Back to text.

3:4 When Christ . . . appears: I.e., at his Second Coming. His return will initiate the general resurrection of the dead, when the bodies of the righteous will radiate the glory of the Lord. See note on 1 Cor 15:42-44Back to text.

3:5-8 The catalogue of vices that Paul enumerates in 3:5 and 3:8 overlaps with other lists in Rom 1:29-31, Gal 5:1921, and Eph 4:31. He implies here what he insists elsewhere: no one who fails to repent of these sins has any inheritance in heaven (1 Cor 6:9-10; Eph 5:5) (CCC 1852-53). Back to text.

3:5 Put to death: Paul urges us to crucify the old man, Adam, who lives on in our fallen nature and inclines us toward evil, and to conform our lives to the new Adam, Jesus Christ, who draws us toward greater and greater sanctity (Rom 6:15-19; 8:29). covetousness: Equated with idolatry here and in Eph 5:5. Perhaps the link was inspired by the teaching of Jesus in Mt 6:24. • Covetousness is a kind of idolatry, not expressly, but by resemblance. It is idolatry when someone gives to an image the honor owed to God, but the person who covets gives to money the honor owed to God when he builds his entire life around it (St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Colossians 3, 1). Back to text.

3:6 wrath of God: The fixed response of God to sin. See note on Rom 1:18Back to text.

3:10 put on the new: A challenge to live out our baptismal commitments. Paul compares this to the daily routine of changing our clothes. See note on Eph 4:24Back to text.

3:11 Christ is all: Believers are drawn together into a worldwide family where the distinctions between language, nationality, and social standing are no longer relevant (Gal 3:28). In this list, barbarian is a resident of the Roman world who speaks no Greek, and a Scythian belongs to the tribal people living north of the Black Sea. Back to text.

3:12 chosen . . . holy . . . beloved: Believers have a special relationship with Christ that entitles them to receive from the Father every grace and blessing that is needed to follow the gospel. • The same descriptions are applied to the children of Israel in Deut 7:6-7. If Paul has this text in mind, he is driving home the point that Gentile believers are now part of the covenant people of God. Elsewhere he describes the Gentiles as wild branches grafted onto the olive tree of Israel (Rom 11:17-24). Back to text.

3:13 as the Lord has forgiven: We express gratitude to the Lord by imitating his mercy in our relationships with others. In fact, extending forgiveness to others is necessary if we hope to receive the ongoing forgiveness of the Father (Mt 6:14-15; 18:23-35). Back to text.

3:14 love: The crowning virtue of the Christian life and the one that holds all others together (CCC 1827). See note on 1 Cor 13:4-7Back to text.

3:16 the word of Christ: The full scope of Jesus' teaching and example passed down through tradition or inscribed in the canonical Gospels. It is meant to shape every area of our lives (Mt 11:28-30). psalms and hymns: Honoring the Lord in song is a tradition that reaches back to the worship of Israel. The early Church continued this by adopting the Psalter as her songbook and by singing new hymns to Jesus Christ as God. Musical praise is particularly appropriate for the eucharistic liturgy as well as for everyday circumstances (Eph 5:19) and even for times of distress (Acts 16:25). The Book of Revelation lets us listen to numerous songs from the heavenly liturgy of the angels and saints (Rev 4:8, 11; 5:9-10; 7:10-12; 11:17-18; etc.) (CCC 1156, 2641-42). Back to text.

3:18-4:1 Paul gives pastoral instruction on family life. He is challenging every household to be transformed with the "peace of Christ" (3:15). The apostle's vision for domestic life stands in stark contrast to the godlessness of the pagan society, especially the tyranny of husbands and fathers, as well as the inhuman treatment of household slaves. See notes on Eph 5:22, 5:25, 6:4, 6:5, and 6:22. Back to text.

Word Study

Peace (Col 3:15)

Eirēnē (Gk.): "peace" or "harmony". The word is used 92 times in the NT and often carries the OT sense of shalom, "well-being". The biblical notion of peace has more to do with spiritual welfare than the mere cessation of warfare. Peace is one of the great blessings that Jesus Christ has given to the world (Jn 14:27). It is rooted in our reconciliation with God (Lk 2:14; Rom 5:1). It is an inward peace (Rom 15:13; Gal 5:22) that can branch out to establish peace between individuals, families, and even nations (Eph 2:14-18). Unless it is grounded in the peace of Christ, worldly peace can only be shallow and shortlived. For this reason, believers are called to spread Christ's peace throughout the world by sharing the gospel and working for justice in earthly societies (Mt 5:9; Heb 12:14; Jas 3:18). Behind all of this stands the OT expectation that the Messiah, the Prince of Peace (Is 9:6), would come to establish a worldwide covenant of peace with Israel and all nations (Ezek 34:23-25; Zech 9:9-10) (CCC 2305).

3:24 the inheritance: Heaven awaits the baptized, who, as heirs, already possess the Spirit as a pledge of their future heritage (1:5). The life of God that is now possessed in part we hope to possess in full (Eph 1:13-14). Back to text.

4:2 prayer: Paul promotes prayer that is vigilant and thankful. He wants readers to seek every grace necessary to withstand temptation and to express gratitude to God for every spiritual and material blessing we have received. The more we recognize both our needs and our blessings, the more frequently we will approach the Lord on our knees (Lk 18:1; 1 Thess 5:17). • Paul knows that continuance in prayer can make us restless, so he tells us to be "watchful", that is, to be sober and avoid wandering. For the devil knows the power of a good prayer, and thus he presses heavily upon us when we pray. Paul is also aware how careless many can be at prayer, and so he says "continue" in prayer to remind us that it is hard work (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Colossians 10). Back to text.

4:3 I am in prison: Paul is probably writing from Rome, where he lived for two years under house arrest. See introduction: Date. Back to text.

4:6 seasoned: As salt preserves food and enhances its taste, our conversations should be wholesome, edifying, and pure (3:8). This is one way that Christians can live as "the salt of the earth" (Mt 5:13). Back to text.

4:7 Tychicus: One of Paul's personal envoys, in charge of delivering this epistle and informing the Colossian Church of the apostle's situation back in Rome (2 Tim 4:12; Tit 3:12). See note on Eph 6:21Back to text.

4:9 Onesimus: A runaway slave who fled to Rome but converted to Christianity during Paul's imprisonment (Philem 10, 16). Paul is sending him back to his master, Philemon, who may have lived in Colossae or one of the nearby cities of Laodicea or Hierapolis. Back to text.

4:10-17 A list of final instructions and personal greetings. Many of these names at the end of Colossians are also listed in Philemon, indicating that the two letters were probably written and delivered at the same time (Philem 2, 10, 23). Traditionally, the Mark (Col 4:10) and Luke (4:14) here mentioned are identified with the evangelists who wrote the second and third Gospels, respectively. Both men were among Paul's traveling companions (Acts 12:25; 16:10), and both assisted the apostle in the closing years of his life (2 Tim 4:11). Back to text.

4:10 Aristarchus: A believer from Thessalonica. He was a member of Paul's missionary team (Acts 19:29; 20:4) and traveled with him all the way to Rome (Acts 27:2). Back to text.

4:16 read among you: Most likely in a liturgical context. Very early on Paul's epistles were recognized as authoritative and even scriptural (2 Pet 3:15-16). the letter from La-odicea: The identity of this letter is uncertain. It may be (1) a letter that Paul wrote to the La-odicea Church that has not survived or (2) another of Paul's epistles that was circulating in the region, possibly Ephesians. In any case, the Colossians are encouraged to exchange letters with the neighboring La-odiceans. See introduction to Ephesians: Destination. Back to text.

4:17 fulfil the ministry: Archippus may have been a pastor in the Colossian Church. Back to text.

4:18 I, Paul, write this: It was customary for Paul to dictate his letters to scribes, waiting until the end to pen the farewell himself (1 Cor 16:21; 2 Thess 3:17). These handwritten remarks authenticated the letter, much as a signature does today. Back to text.

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