Archive for the 'Notes on Colossians' Category

Nov 20 2010

Bernardin de Piconio on Colossians 1:12-20 for Sunday Mass, Nov 21

This was posted earlier in the week on my primary blog. The following commentary begins on verse 9. Notes in red represent my additions.

9. Therefore we also, from the day we heard, cease not praying for you and imploring that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
10. That you walk worthily of God through all, pleasing in every good work, fruit-bearing and growing in the science of God;
11. In all virtue strengthened according to the might of his glory in all patience and long suffering, with joy,
12. Giving thanks to God the Father, who made us worthy of a portion of the lot of the saints in light;
13. Who delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the son of his love,
14. In whom we have the redemption through his blood, the remission of sins.

Having returned thanks to God for the graces bestowed on the Christians of Colossae, Saint Paul proceeds to pray for them. He repeats in verse 9 what he said in verse 3, that he had not ceased to pray for them since he heard of their conversion to Christ. His prayer was that they might be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, and with all wisdom, the apprehension of the great mysteries of faith, and spiritual understanding, or prudence, in the application of these mysteries to practice in their daily lives. Saint Chrysostom thinks this is said in special reference to the efforts of the heretics to mislead them by a false wisdom, which was not spiritual, but mundane and human. The Vulgate has in verse 9 agnitione voluntatis ejus (agnitione = recognizing or knowing voluntatis = the will  ejus = of Him), the power of recognition of what is truly the will of God, when the truth and the error are placed in contrast side by side before their minds. The recognition of God’s will and determination to reconcile mankind to himself, not by the ministry of angels, but through his own only-begotten Son. So that knowing this you may walk worthily of God in every respect. The Greek has worthily of the Lord, that is of Christ, as befits his disciples, and
therefore pleasing to God the Father, whose pleasure is in the Son of his love, and in those who belong to Him. Pleasing God in every good work. In the Greek this is attached to the words that follow: in all pleasing, and in every good work fructifying and growing in the knowledge of God. This is to please God, and to walk worthily of him. To walk is to continue and persevere. The word rendered in the Vulgate by scientia in this verse is the same which is translated agnitione (knowledge, recognition) in verse 9. There it was the knowledge of God’s will, for the redemption of the world through Christ, which may be fully known and understood; here the knowledge of God’s nature, in which we may continually fructify and grow;
but never know fully. Next the Apostle prays that the Christians of Colossal may be strengthened in all virtue (the Greek has, in all strength) according to the power of his glory, in all patience and long-suffering and joy. That is,
the very strength of God’s strength, the victorious splendour of God’s glory, is put in action and exhibited to the world, by the persecutions which his saints are exposed to, because they bear them, not only with complete and unfailing patience and endurance, to the utmost extent—in all patience and long suffering—but actually with joy. The Apostles, having been scourged, went from the presence of the council rejoicing. Act 5:41. Greater courage is shown in suffering than in action. Scævola said fortia agere Romanovum est, but fortia pati is equally a mark of Christians. The Syriac version attaches the words with joy at the end of verse 1 1 to the opening words of verse 12; with joy giving thanks to God the Father. It was part of the Apostle’s prayer that the Colossians should so give thanks. But Saint Chrysostom and Theodoret are of opinion, with greater probability, that Saint Paul uses the words giving thanks to God the Father of himself, in continuation of the orantes et postulantes (pray and beg) of verse 9. He is passing on to a new subject, and there is a change of person in verse 12, for
whereas he has before said impleamini (you may be filled, vs 9), ambuletis (you may walk, vs 10), he now says dignos nos fecit (made us worthy). He enters here upon what is in fact the principal object of the whole Epistle, namely to state and maintain the evangelical doctrine of Christ as the true Saviour of the world, in opposition to the errors of the heretics. He begins therefore by thanking God the Father, who has made us worthy of a portion of the inheritance of the saints in light. You, and me, and all Christian people, previously unworthy of any such promotion, as being God’s enemies, he has rendered, by his grace alone, worthy to be written and numbered among his Saints, and receive a portion of their eternal inheritance. In light signifies either the means by which this inheritance is attained, namely, the light of faith ; or else it is said of the lot and inheritance of the Saints, which is in light, in the clear vision of God. Or possibly both meanings may be included, for the light of faith on earth, and the light of glory in heaven, are both portions of the inheritance of the Saints. God the Father has further delivered us from the power of darkness, the tyranny of evil spirits, who are the princes of darkness, from infidelity and sin, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love. The Son of his love is a Hebraism for his beloved Son, as they said the mountain of
holiness for the holy mountain. This translation is effected by Baptism, by which we are delivered from the power of the devil, and grafted into the mystical body of Christ, his Church, which is the kingdom of light; and through the blood of Christ have obtained redemption or deliverance, that is, the remission of sins.

15. Who is the image of God the invisible, firstborn of all creation;
16. Because in him all things were created, in the heavens and in earth, visible and invisible, whether Thrones, or Dominations, or Principalities, or Powers; all were created through him and in him;
17. And he is before all, and in him all things consist.

God the Son is the image ol God the Father, who is  invisible, whom no man has seen nor can see (1 Tim 6), in all things like him, equal to him, consubstantial with him, proceeding from him per intellectum, his equal Word. And through this consubstantial Image of the Father, painted in the colours of the flesh, he becomes visible in time, who is invisible in eternity. Firstborn of all creation, that is, born before all creation, and therefore higher in dignity than anything created; elder than creation by all eternity, himself its Creator in time. First born, Saint Chrysostom observes,
not first created. It is generation, not creation, which is predicated of him. Because, this marks that what follows is an explanation of the statement just made. Christ is the firstborn of creation in this sense, that in him all things were made. Made by God the Father through the agency or intervention of God the Word. In heaven or in earth, visible or invisible, and including therefore the angels (this is stated in opposition to the doctrine of Simon Magus) however lofty their dignity, however great their powers and faculties. All created things were made through Christ, and, in the Greek, to or for him. God the Father did not create the universe by himself, or for
himself, but it was made through the agency of the Son, and for the pleasure of the Son. He is before all creatures in time, and in him they consist and are kept in being.

18. And he is the head of the body, the Church, who is the principle, the first-begotten from the dead; that he may in all things hold primacy.
19. Because in him it pleased God that all fullness should dwell.

Christ is the head of the Church, and the head is the seat and source of life, will, and sensation. And he is the Principle, Principium. Saint John applies this term to God the Father: In Principio, in the Principle, in the great First Cause, in the bosom of the Father from eternity, was the Word. But Moses seems to apply it to the Son, as the Principle or beginning of the Creation: In Principio, in the Principle, in the Divine Word, God the Father created the heavens and
the earth. But some Greek writers instead of ἀρχή read àπἀρχή, which means literally the beginning of a sacrifice, and was usually a lock of haircut from the head of the victim and thrown into the fire. Generally it came to mean the firstfruits, the representative or more valuable part of anything. Saint Chrysostom says: He calls him the first-fruits, implying that he has hallowed us all by the oblation of his sacrifice. The first-fruits of the human race, offered for the rest in sacrifice to God; and also the Prince of the resurrection,
the first-born from the dead. Thus in all things he holds primacy and pre-eminence, as the only-begotten son of the Father, as the author and beginner of the creation, as the Victim for mankind, as the Head of the Church, as the leader of the resurrection. For it pleased the Father, of his own love and generosity, of free grace, not the merit of Christ, that in Christ all fullness should dwell, the perfection of wisdom, grace, and power. Men receive these gifts in part, Christ has them all, and in all fullness. And in him they dwell, perpetually and inseparably, both by grace and in his Divine nature. But the life that dwells in the head flows also into the body, and having recourse to Christ we draw from the fullness of the fountain of divine grace.

20. And through him to reconcile all things to himself, making peace through the blood of his Cross, whether the things that are on earth, or the things that are in the heavens.

The infinitive depends upon complacuit (pleased) in the previous verse. It was the good pleasure of the Father to reconcile all things to himself by the blood of Christ shed on the Cross. The words in ipsum (unto Himself) are a Hebraism, and equivalent to sibi. Sin had introduced enmity between heaven and earth, but by the Cross of Christ sin is done away. By the blood of Christ angels and men are made at peace.

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Nov 20 2010

Father Callan on Colossians 1:12-20 for Sunday Mass, Nov 21

This was posted earlier in the week on my primary blog.

Note: Although the second reading this Sunday is on verses 12-20 of Colossians I’ve included Father Callan’s commentary on verses 9-11 and 21-23 into this post. Also, I’ve included his summaries of verses 9-14 and 15-23.

THE APOSTLE’S PRAYER FOR THE COLOSSIANS: A Summary of Col 1:9-14~The report of the Colossians given to St. Paul by Epaphras has enabled the Apostle properly to direct his prayers for them. Accordingly he prays that they may receive a clearer knowledge of the divine will and purpose, to the end that they may lead lives more pleasing to God and more fruitful in good works, thus manifesting the results of the blessings of redemption they have received.

9. Therefore we also, from the day that we heard it, cease not to pray for you, and to beg that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom, and spiritual understanding:

Therefore, i.e., in view of the report given by Epaphras in the preceding verses 4-8.

We heard it, i.e., heard of their faith in Christ (ver. 4).

Cease not to pray, etc., means to pray frequently, as in Rom 1:9; 1 Thess 1:2, 2:13, 5:17; 2 Tim 1:3.

Wisdom is such an illumination of the mind as to enable the judgment to go back to the supreme cause of things, and, thus enlightened, to direct particular things to their proper ends (Cajetan).

Understanding is that perception of things which enables us rightly to grasp their nature and character, and thence to formulate rules for action. The term “spiritual” here qualifies both wisdom and understanding, showing the Spirit of God to be the source of both.

10. That you may walk worthy of the Lord in all things pleasing: being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God:

This verse gives the purpose of the gifts just requested for the Colossians.

The Deo of the Vulgate should be Domino, according to the Greek.

11. Strengthened with all might, according to the power of his glory, unto all patience and long-suffering with joy,

Besides a deeper knowledge of God’s will and divine mysteries, the Apostle asks that the Colossians may also be strengthened from on high, so as to be able to resist all their temptations and bear all their trials.

According to the power of his glory, i.e., in a manner worthy of His supreme nature as manifesting itself.

Unto all patience, etc., i.e., the effect of the divine power implored is to enable the faithful to bear their suffering and trials with a spirit of holy endurance and perseverance, and with a joyful heart. The phrase “with joy” more properly belongs to what immediately precedes than to what follows.

In the Vulgate we should read in omnem patientiam et longanimitatem, to agree with the Greek.

12. Giving thanks to the Father, who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light:

Giving thanks to the Father, etc., as becomes dutiful and grateful children whom the heavenly Father, the fountain and source of all blessings, has admitted to a share in the glorious inheritance of the saints, which is a life of grace here and eternal beatitude hereafter. This kingdom to which we are admitted in Baptism is “in light,” as opposed to the kingdom of darkness over which Satan presides (Eph 5:8, 6:12; 1 Thess 5:5; Rom 13:12).

The Deo of the Vulgate is not in the Greek.

13. Who delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love,
14. In whom we have redemption, the remission of sins:

13-14. These verses show how the Father has made us Christians “worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light.” It was by delivering us from the power of sin and Satan and making us members of the kingdom of His beloved Son, through the redeeming blood of that same divine Son.

Power of darkness, i.e., the dominion of Satan who rules that part of the world which has not been regenerated by Christ.

Delivered . . . translated. These verbs are aorist in Greek, the first expressing the negative and the second the positive aspect of the one and same process of regeneration and sanctification.

Kingdom means the Church Militant.

Son of his love is a Hebraism meaning beloved Son.

Per sanguinem eius of the Vulgate is not according to the best Greek MSS.; it was perhaps introduced here from Eph 1:7, which see.

THE SUPREME DIGNITY OF CHRIST: A Summary of Col 1:15-23~In the preceding verses St. Paul has shown, against the false teachers who were trying to pervert the Colossians, what great blessings we owe to our Lord. And now in this section he goes further, and shows that Christ is the image of the invisible God, anterior to all creation; the Son in whom and by whom all things were created and are sustained. And not only is the Son the head of the universe, but He is also, in a very special manner, the head of the Church; in Him dwells the fullness of Divinity, and through His sacrificial death on the cross all things have been reconciled to the Father (ver. 18-20). The Colossians are included in this redemption, for they were formerly enemies of God, but have now been reconciled to the Father through the atoning death of the Son. The goal of this reconciliation was that they might be spotless before God here and now; and this they will continue to be, if only they hold fast to the faith which they have received, which is the same everywhere, and of which Paul is the minister (ver. 21-23) .

15. Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature:

Verses 15-20 here are the most important part of the present Epistle. They constitute a compendium of Christology, and, taken in conjunction with Eph. 1:20-23, Phil 2:6-1 1 and Heb 1:1 ff., they represent St. Paul’s most sublime writings relative to the person and dignity of Christ (Sales, hoc loco).

Who is the image, etc., i.e., the inward utterance and perfect expression of His Father, the Word of God (Rickaby, hoc loco). Christ is the substantial and perfect image of the Eternal Father, having the same divine nature and essence and having been begotten as the Eternal Son of the Father from eternity: “Philip, he that seeth me, seeth the Father also” (John 14:9).

The first-born of every creature, i.e., born of the Eternal Father from eternity, as is clear from the two following verses.

16. For in him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations or principalities, or powers—all things were created by him and unto him.

That the Son was begotten before all ages, before anything was created or made, is now proved; “for in him,” as effects are in their cause, “were all things created,” i.e., produced and brought into being; which shows that He existed prior to and above all creation, all succession, all becoming.

In heaven and on earth, etc., i.e., everything in the whole created universe was made by the Son. To emphasize his doctrine against the false teachers who were denying Divinity to the Son and maintaining a chain of angelic mediators between God and the world, the Apostle repeats at the end of the verse that “all things were created by him,” as by their first cause, “and unto him” (εἰς αυτω= eis auto),i.e., for Him, as their final cause and goal. (Some manuscripts read εν = en in place of εἰς).

Thrones, dominations, etc. See on Eph 1:21.

17. And he is before all, and in him all things consist.

To stress the pre-existence and pre-eminence as well as the creative power of Christ, the Apostle here repeats against the false teachers that the Son was prior and superior to all created things, and that all were not only created by Him, but are maintained in their existence by Him.

Consist. Better, “stand together,” hang together, cohere; all things were created by the Word, and all continue in existence and are conserved by Him.

The Vulgate ante omnes should be ante omnia, denoting all creation, as in the Greek.

18. And he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead ; that in all things he may hold the primacy;

Christ is not only the creator and conserver of all things in the universe, but He is also the creator of the new spiritual order of things inasmuch as He has repaired and redeemed all things; for He is the Founder and Head of that mystical body which is His Church (see on Eph 1:22).

Who is the beginning, i.e., the efficient cause and creator of that organization which is the Church; He is the fountain and author of grace and glory.

The first-bom from the dead, i.e., the first in time to be raised from death to a glorious and immortal life, thus becoming the principle and model of the final resurrection of all who belong to Him. Just above, in ver. 15-16, it was said that Christ was the “first-born” of all things in general, that is, the creator of all, and here it is said that He is the “first-bom” of His redeemed creation. In both orders, the natural and the supernatural. He holds “the primacy” of power and dignity; He is the creator of all things in the natural order, and He is the redeemer and saviour of all in the supernatural order of grace and glory.

19. Because in him, it hath well pleased the Father, that all the fullness should dwell;

Here and in the following verse the Apostle further shows how the Word holds the primacy in all things. First, “because in him, etc.,” i.e., at the time of the Incarnation it pleased the Father, or God, that “all the fullness” of Divinity, and consequently of grace and truth (John 1:14), through the hypostatic union of the divine and human natures in the one Person of the Word, should take up its permanent abode in Christ.

The Father is not expressed in Greek, but it is most natural to take it as the subject of the verb “hath well pleased” in view of the subject in verses 12 and 13 and the context of verses 15-18.

Fullness, i.e., plenitude, totality—”the fullness of the Godhead,” as it is expressed in 2:9 below. See on Eph 1:23.

Should dwell. The Greek implies permanency of dwelling.

20. And through him to reconcile all things unto himself, making peace through the blood of his cross, both as to the things that are on earth, and the things that are in heaven.

In the second place, it has pleased God the Father “through him” (i.e., through Christ) “to reconcile all things unto himself” (cf. Rom 5:10; 2 Cor 5:18, 19). These references to Romans and 2 Corinthians show that we should understand eis auton here to mean the Father rather than the Son.

Making peace through the blood of his cross. The meaning is that through the sacrificial death of the Son on the cross peace was effected with the Eternal Father (cf. Rom 5:).

Both as to the things that are on the earth, etc. See on Eph 1:10. The Apostle is stressing the point here, against the false teachers at Colossae, that Christ is the one and only medium of reconciling with the Father all things, spiritual and material, human and angelic. Men, indeed, needed reconciliation in the strict sense of the word; but as regards the material creation and the angelic world see on Eph 1:10. Here, however, there is no question of reconciling men and angels with one another, but of reconciling all with God the Father. Therefore, to explain how the sacrificial death of Christ effected reconciliation and peace between the angelic world and the Father some have had recourse to the meaning of  Eph 3:10, and explain the difficulty in the sense of that passage. Thus, men are really cleansed and restored to divine favor, while angels acquire greater knowledge and joy as a result of man’s salvation (so Knabenbauer, hoc loco). Others think that reconciliation, as applied here to angelic beings, must be taken in a wide sense, meaning that Christ’s propitiation brought the world of angels into closer union with God, thus making them less alien than they had been before that august event (so Alford, Moule, etc.).

21. And you, whereas you were some time alienated and enemies in mind in evil works,
22. Yet now he hath reconciled you in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unspotted, and blameless before him:

In verses 21-23 St. Paul applies to the Colossians what he has been saying in general regarding the redemptive work of Christ. Formerly, in their pagan state, they also had been alienated from God; their mental attitude was hostile to Him, as was proved by their evil deeds. But now they have been reconciled to the Father through the atoning sufferings and death on the cross of God’s only Son.

In the body of his flesh, etc., i.e., in His own mortal, passible body, as distinguished from His mystical body, the Church: “For God indeed was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, etc.” (2 Cor 5:19).

To present you holy, etc. The purpose of this reconciliation was the sanctification of the Colossians, so that they might appear in the sight of God here and now free from vice of every kind and adorned with all virtues.

23. If so ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and immovable from the hope of the gospel which you have heard, which is preached in all the creation that is under heaven, whereof I Paul am made a minister.

Here the Apostle tells the Colossians that they will continue in their holy state only if they preserve unsullied the faith which they have received from Epaphras, and which is the same as that preached everywhere else by St. Paul and his disciples.

Grounded and settled, etc. See on Eph 3:17.

The hope of the Gospel, which is eternal salvation.

Which is preached, etc. St. Paul wants to assure the Colossians that the Gospel they have heard is the same as the authentic Gospel preached elsewhere.

Whereof I am made the minister. Some think these words were added to show the identity between the Gospel preached by Paul and that delivered by Epaphras; but it is more likely that they were intended as a link between what the Apostle has been saying and what he is about to say regarding his work in behalf of the pagans.

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