Colossians 2:16 - 17 and who was Paul talking to?

by sinis 4 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • sinis

    A while back I spoke with my MS friend (who by the way thinks I am an apostate) about 2 Col 2: 16 -17 and I basically said that I believe Paul was telling the Christians (gentile) that they could celebrate there holidays as long as they did not violate gods law. Now my MS friend said no, Paul was talking to the Christian Jews and was telling them that it was OK to celebrate Gods holidays, eventhough it was not necessary since the law had been disolved. So he basically said it was not a blanket statement about celebrating ANYTHING but rather a christian could or could not celebrate PAST JEWISH holidays without any problems. Is this correct? I thought he was talking to the Gentile Christians. Thoughts?

  • greendawn

    Paul was arguing against the judaisers, Jewish Christians who believed that even gentile Christians should obey the Mosaic law to be saved. Paul was arguing that the sacrifice of Jesus had done away with the need to obey the Jewish law. There was a lot of conflict in the early church between the two sides and the Jewish Christians never really got on with the gentile ones.

  • moggy lover
    moggy lover

    I feel that there is a sense in which you could be right. The city of Colossae in Asia Minor, some 170 kms from Ephesus was a trading and commercial centre based on the rich mineral deposits in the Lycus Valley, where this city was. There would have been a good mixture of Jews and Gentiles in the local church, to which Paul wrote his letter.

    In verse 27 of chapter one of this letter, Paul specifically mentions the "mystery" of the Universal Church which was being revealed at that time among the Gentiles, which "mystery" was that Christ was in "you" - the Gentiles - his readers. So there is no doubt that there were Gentiles in the local community and they woud have read Paul's letter.

    Also, in verses 11 and 13 of ch 2 he refers to his readers as having an "uncircumcision" of the flesh, and that their "circumcision" was indeed one "not made with hands'' So it seems quite likely that he was adressing the Gentiles in the church with his letter, but he would have included as well those who were former Jews and who had now come to be "in Christ"

    The purpose of this letter was not adressing the distinction between the two groups making up the Church community of Colossae, but was attempting to allay a threat that was trying to outflank the Christians in Colossae. The threat of Gnosticism. This was a seminal belief system of various theosophies which contained several abstractions, including the need to take in an exclusivist form of knowledge [gnosis] from a tightly controlled centre. This germination of a heresy was clearly denying the Deity, hence supremacy, of Christ, thus calling for one of the greatest declarations of the Deity of Christ found in all Bible literature [1:15 - 2:9]

    Evidently the Jewish element were counteracting this incremental influence of gnosticism by a reliance on the Mosaic Law, and may have tried to influence the Gentile believers in this way of thinking. Paul showed his readers at Colossae, both Jew and Gentile, that neither the Law, nor Gnosticism was the answer. The Answer was Christ, personally. The injunction of 2:16, 17, may certainly have made reference to the Law, but that was not the only concern of Paul. Remember at verse 18 he mentions the "worship of angels'' and "delighting in self-mortification" - NEB, as elements of this same injunction, which were prominent gnostic dogmas. So yes, both, Jews and Gentiles would have been included in 2:16-17. While the Jewish element was influencing the Gentiles so also the Gnostic element was trying to influence both groups, hence the statement at 2:16,17.

    It is pathetic that the WTS and its followers have to resrict the contextual reference of this injunction, not because of its biblical implications, but to support their own untenable position.


  • peacefulpete

    The passage is notoriously difficult. Firstly, while it should be mentioned that this is not the work of the same hand as Galations or 1 Corithians, IMO it doesn't hurt to call the writer "Paul".

    So just what is the writer trying to say in verses 16,17? Unfortunately the ususal interpretation imposes itself upon translating this messy section so here I have pieced together the work of a couple translators to demonstate the difficulties.

    8 See that no one shall be carrying you away as spoil through the philosophy and vain deceit, according to the deliverance of men, according to the elemental spirits of the cosmos (possibly reflecting the Gnostic/Marcion position that the Law was given by a lesser spirit), and not according to Christ,

    9 because in him doth tabernacle all the fulness (pleroma, Gnostic term for the entirety of emmanations from the highest god) of the Godhead bodily,

    10 and ye are in him made full, who is the head of all principality and authority,

    11 in whom also ye were circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh in the circumcision of the Christ, (speaking to uncircumcised gentiles)

    12 being buried with him in the baptism, in which also ye rose with [him] through the faith of the working of God, who did raise him out of the dead.

    13 And you -- being dead in the trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh -- He made alive together with him, having forgiven you all the trespasses,

    14 having blotted out the bond (debt note) which stood against us with its legal demands, and he hath taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross;

    15 having stripped the principalities and the authorities (the same elemental spirits, including Yahweh) he made a shew of them openly -- having triumphed over them in it.

    16 Let no one, then, judge you in questions about eating or in drinking, or in respect of a feast, or of a new moon, or of sabbaths,

    17 which are only a shadow of the coming things, and the body [is] of the Christ; ( shadow/body interpretation of the law, Hellenistic Jewish contrast found in Philo and Josephus)

    18 let no one disqualify you, insisting upon self abasement and the religion of the angels which he has seen upon entering to take possesion (popular Mystery cult expression, but how meant here is uncertain) puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind,

    19 and not holding the head, from which all the body -- through the joints and bands gathering supply, and being knit together -- may increase with the increase of God.

    20 If, then, ye did die with the Christ from the elemental spirits of the cosmos, why, as living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?

    21 -- thou mayest not touch, nor taste, nor approach --

    22 which all tend to corruption because of misuse, after the commands and teachings of men (are we to understand the Law here? Is the author dissing the Moses tradition?),

    23 which are, indeed, having an appearance of sophia in promoting rigor of devotion and self abasement and severity to the body, but they are of no value, serving only to indulge the flesh.

    The point of the author does not seem to be to countenance the Jewish sacremental cultus but to diminish its value. Given the audience were uncircumcised Gentiles it seems unlikely he was saying that it was fine for them to continue Jewish practice. In fact the writer seems to be condemning the Jewish cultus as the work of elemental spirits and influential men.

  • Narkissos

    moggy lover: what I fail to see in Colossians is the refutationof Gnosticism -- only by artificially and anachronistically opposing the text to later developed Gnostic systems can you build up such an argument, which actually runs against the text's flow -- massively anti-Torah as peacefulpete pointed out.

    As to sinis' initial question, I guess Romans 14 would make a better point for a balanced, tolerant, and basically indifferent approach of both Jew and Gentile ritualism:

    Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
    Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.
    We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

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