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Father Callan’s Commentary on Philippians Chapter 4

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 27, 2019

Text in red are my additions.

EXHORTATION TO VARIOUS VIRTUES AND HOLY THOUGHTS

A Summary of Philippians 4:1-9~After all the Apostle has said in the last part of the preceding Chapter, his exceeding love for the Philippians manifests itself in endearing terms, asserting that they will be his garland of victory and joy in the day of Christ’s coming to judge the world. He exhorts them to steadfastness; he entreats Evodia and Syntyche, especially, to have no dissension, asking his loyal comrade to assist these latter, since they, like Clement and his other fellow-workers, have been so faithful to him in labors for the Gospel. Then to all he recommends joy in the Lord, forbearance towards all men, freedom from anxiety, prayerfulness and thankfulness; and he assures them that, if they practise these virtues, the peace of God will take up its abode in their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:1-7). Finally, recapitulating, he begs them to feed their minds on all that is true and good, wherever it may be found, asking them in practice to obey his precepts and imitate his example as a sure way to heavenly peace (Phil 4:8-9).

Phil 4:1. Therefore, my beloved brethren, and my desired; my joy and my crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.

Therefore. This verse concludes what the Apostle has been saying in the preceding Chapter, most probably in verses 17-21.

My beloved . . . my desired. The corresponding words in the Vulgate here should be in the positive, instead of the superlative degree, to harmonize with the Greek. The Apostle is exhorting the Philippians to steadfastness in Christian life and conduct as inculcated by him and his companions, for he wishes to present them to Christ as his achievement in the final judgment.

Phil 4:2. I beg of Evodia, and I beseech Syntyche, to be of one mind in the Lord.

This verse seems to show that the two ladies mentioned occupied a prominent place in the work of the Philippian Church, and that some dissension had arisen between them. They are not mentioned elsewhere.

Phil 4:3. And I entreat thee also, my sincere companion, help those women who have labored with me in the gospel, with Clement and the rest of my fellow laborers, whose names are in the book of life.

Companion. Literally, “yoke-fellow,” i.e., fellow-worker. It is unknown who he was. Perhaps he was Epaphroditus; or possibly the Greek word here (σύζυγε⸃, = syzge) is a proper name, and should be rendered “Syzygus.”

Those women. Literally, “them” (αὐταῖς, = autais), i.e., the two ladies spoken of in the preceding verse.

Clement, perhaps a resident of Philippi, though he is identified with Clement of Rome by many of the Fathers.

The book of life, i.e., God’s eternal register in heaven (Rev 13:8, 20:12); it is God’s certain knowledge of those who are predestined (St. Thomas). The metaphor is taken from the custom in antiquity of keeping in a register the names of all the people of a country or town (cf. Ex 32:32; Isa. 4:3; Dan. 12:1).

Phil 4:4. Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice.

Speaking to all, the Apostle repeats his exhortation of Philippians 3:1, bidding his readers “rejoice in the Lord always,” on account of the many spiritual blessings they now enjoy and that are promised them both here and hereafter by the Saviour who has redeemed them; there is never wanting to them a motive of spiritual joy.

Phil 4:5. Let your modesty be known to all men. The Lord is nigh.

As an effect of their spiritual joy, they are to manifest their “modesty” (i.e., their gentleness and sweetness of character) “to all men,” even to those whom he had before called enemies of the cross of Christ (St. Chrysostom, and see Phil 3:18); with all they are to deal in a kindly manner, thus showing the value and loveliness of the religion they profess.

The Lord is nigh. This assigns the great cause of their joy; “a man rejoices at the coming of a friend” (St. Thomas). Hence this phrase is to be connected with what precedes, and the Greeks understood it of the General Judgment. Others think it refers to the ever-present grace and help of God (so St. Thomas). The former opinion is more probable: Christ is coming to judge and crown us for our patience and spirit of sweet endurance; the Apostle often speaks of the final judgment as if it were close at hand, in order that his readers might keep it ever in their minds (a Lapide, Knabenbauer, etc.).

Phil 4:6. Be nothing solicitous; but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God.

Anxious solicitude is an impediment to joy, and hence the Apostle now admonishes, “be nothing solicitous” (i.e., have no anxieties) either as regards goods you lack or evils you bear, but in every work and condition have recourse to God “by prayer and supplication” (i.e., with fervor and perseverance), not forgetting prayers of “thanksgiving,” for God is ever ready to hear your worthy “petitions,” and will always grant what you ask, or something better. God never fails to answer in some way prayers that are properly made, though He will not give us what is not for our good; and gratitude for favors received disposes God to grant more favors.

Phil 4:7. And the peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

The effect of prayer that is properly made is peace of mind and soul.

The peace of God, i.e., the peace whose author and giver is God.

Which surpasseth all understanding, i.e., which is supernatural, and therefore cannot be produced by human means or understood by those who have not experienced it.

Will keep. Literally, “will guard,” like a sentinel at a gate, “your hearts and minds” (i.e., your feelings and thoughts) “in Christ Jesus,” our spiritual citadel. St. Paul is speaking in military terms.

Phil 4:8. For the rest, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever modest, whatsoever just, whatsoever holy, whatsoever lovely, whatsoever of good report, if there be any virtue, if any praise—think on these things.

Coming now to the end of the body of his letter, St. Paul summarizes the things he wishes his readers seriously to consider and meditate on. The subjects indicated are quite general, pertaining to pagan morality as well as Christian virtues.

True, i.e., genuine, sincere.

Modest, i.e., becoming, seemly.

Just, i.e., according to the norms of right dealing.

Holy, i.e., pure, elevated, free from debasing elements.

Lovely, i.e., lovable, gracious.

Of good report, i.e., winning the esteem and approval of men, in the sense of 1 Tim 3:7: “He must have a good testimony of them that are without”; and of 2 Cor 8:21: “We forecast what may be good not only before God, but also before men.”

Virtue, a very general term summing up the first four qualities just named, and found only here in St. Paul. It embraces all that is virtuous in any way.

Praise, also a very general term summing up the last two qualities named above, and meaning, worthy of approbation, praiseworthy. The last two qualities are paraphrased as follows by Lightfoot: “Whatever value may reside in your old heathen conception of virtue, whatever consideration is due to the praise of men.”

The disciplinæ of the Vulgate is not according to the best Greek MSS.

Phil 4:9. The things which you have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, these do ye, and the God of peace shall be with you.

St. Paul has just given his readers ample food for meditation; and, before telling them to put these lofty thoughts into practice, he calls attention to his own example, to what they have seen in him and heard about him from others, in order to malce it plain that he is not asking them to do what is too hard or impossible. If they will follow his advice, “the God of peace” will be with them, to help them and to enable them to relish the possession of true tranquillity of soul.

THE CONCLUSION TO PHILIPPIANS

A Summary of Philippians 4:10-23~Having closed the didactic part of his letter, St. Paul now turns to personal matters. He thanks the Philippians for the gifts they sent him, recalling the privilege they have had in sharing, through their charity, in his labors and afflictions ever since they first had the Gospel preached to them, assuring them that he needs nothing further and that God will repay them in glory. Offering greetings from himself and his companions, he then imparts his blessing.

Phil 4:10. Now I rejoice in the Lord exceedingly, that now at length your thought for me hath flourished again, as you did also think; but you were busied.

The Apostle rejoices with a holy joy at the gifts the Philipplans have sent by Epaphroditus, not so much because they have succored him, but because by their charity they have profited spiritually.

That now at length, etc. Some see in these words a slight rebuke, as if the faithful at Philippi had been guilty of neglect in the Apostle’s regard; but the real meaning is that a change for the better in their temporal circumstances or opportunities had enabled them to assist the Apostle once more as they had done in the past; they had the will to help all along, but they had been impeded.

As you did also think, etc., i.e., they did continue to care for him, they wanted to come to his assistance, but opportunity was lacking.

Phil 4:11. I speak not as it were for want. For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, to be content therewith.
Phil 4:12. I know both how to be brought low, and I know how to abound: everywhere, and in all things I am instructed both to be full, and to b hungry; both to abound, and to suffer need.
Phil 4:13. I can do all things in him who strengtheneth me.

In these verses the Apostle tells the Philippians that the gladness he experienced over their gifts was not due to his want or to the relief they gave him; for he has learned in the school of Christ to be content wherever he is, or with whatever he has, be it little or much, be he in need or in affluence. He has arrived at this state of spiritual peace and equanimity, not by his own efforts, but by reason of his union with Jesus Christ and the supernatural power given him by his Master: all his strength is from Christ.

I am instructed (verse 12). Better, “I have been initiated,” a phrase often used with reference to pagan mystery cults, initiation into which was a slow and difficult process. It means here that St. Paul through faith, and perhaps by divine revelation, had learned the secret of the peace and contentment of mind which he describes in these verses. The Apostle was well aware of the great truth that it is what a man is that he carries into the future life, and that he leaves behind what he has here.

Phil 4:14. Nevertheless you have done well in communicating to my tribulation.

Nevertheless. From what the Apostle had just said the Philippians might conclude that he was not pleased with their gifts, and hence he now praises their liberality.

In communicating, etc., i.e., in taking a share in his affliction; because they thus made themselves worthy to have a share also in his rewards.

Phil 4:15. And you also know, Philippians, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but you only: Phil 4:16. For unto Thessalonica also you sent once and again for my use.

He recalls their liberality of the past, which began with the first preaching of the Gospel at Philippi. And this singular honor belongs to the Philippians alone of all the Churches evangelized by St. Paul.

(Verse 15) No church communicated with me, etc. The Apostle is here using commercial language, and his meaning is that no other Church gave him material aid in exchange for his spiritual benefits (cf. 1 Cor 9:11).

(Verse 16) For unto Thessalonica, etc. Scarcely had the Apostle left the Philippians on his way to Greece than they sent him gifts, and that several times, while he was yet in Macedonia (Acts 17:1-5). From no other Church, however, did he ever accept aid, as he tells us himself (2 Cor 11:7-9).

Phil 4:17. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.

While praising the prompt liberality of the faithful of Philippi, St. Paul here, as in verse 11, is careful to remind them that he is not seeking help for himself, but rather the spiritual benefit of the Philippians; he rejoices at the merits they are gaining by their kind charity.

Phil 4:18. But I have all, and abound: I am filled, having received from Epaphroditus the things you sent, an odor of sweetness, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.

Again he forestalls a possible misunderstanding. In saying that he seeks in the gifts of the Philippians abundant spiritual fruit for them, it might seem to be implied that he wanted them to send him more. Therefore he here assures them that he has all that he needs, and more than he needs.

An odor of sweetness. The alms of the Philippians were not only acceptable to the Apostle, but were also pleasing to God, like a sweet-smelling sacrifice (cf. Gen 8:21 ; Exod 29:18; Ezech 20:41).

Phil 4:19. And my God will supply all your want, according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

The Apostle now assures the PhiUppians that, in return for their material gifts to him, God will repay them with spiritual treasures; and this, not according to their merits, but “according to his riches,” which He will lavish on them “in glory,” i.e., in their heavenly home above. “His riches in glory” are the fruit of “the riches of his grace” (Eph 1:7).

In Christ Jesus, i.e., by reason of their union with Christ.

The impleat of the Vulgate should be implebit, to agree with the Greek.

Phil 4:20. Now to God and our Father be glory world without end. Amen.

The words just spoken about the rewards of the Philippians cause the Apostle to break into a doxology in gratitude to the Giver of all good things, who is also “our Father.”

Glory. Better, “the glory,” as in the Greek, meaning the glory which belongs to God.

World without end is a Hebraism, meaning for all eternity. Amen, so be it.

Phil 4:21. Salute ye every saint in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:22. The brethren who are with me, salute you. All the saints salute you; especially, they that are of Caesar’s household.

St. Paul sends first his personal salutations to each Christian of the Church at Philippi; then subjoins those of his immediate circle; and finally, those of all the Roman Christians, especially those of “Caesar’s household,” who were “probably slaves and freed men attached to the palace” (Lightfoot). The mention of these last personages shows how widespread and powerful was the influence of the Gospel, which had penetrated even into the royal palace.

Phil 4:23. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

The Apostle concludes his Epistle with his accustomed blessing, which was very likely an autograph.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Philippians Chapter 3

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 27, 2019

Text in red are my additions.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TRUE AND A FALSE GOSPEL 

A Summary of Philippians 3:1-16~Before bringing his letter to a close St. Paul wishes once more to remind his readers of the dangers of the Judaizers, Those self-appointed seducers go about with their insolent ways, evil practices, and false doctrines, boasting of their fleshly, hereditary privileges, while lacking all true spirituality. If it were a question, he says, of trusting in the flesh, he could surpass them all; but he has renounced those perishable privileges, along with every other impediment, in order that he might gain Christ and know Him, that he might attain to that justness which is through faith in Christ, and that, by imitating the life of His master here below, he might be crowned with Him hereafter. He says he has not yet attained to that desired perfection, but he is pressing on towards it; and he exhorts those of his readers who are likewise minded to do the same, keeping faithful to the standard they have attained.

Phil 3:1. As to the rest, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not wearisome, but to you is necessary.

As to the rest. This is a formula which St. Paul often uses to bring his letters to a close, or to introduce a new topic or the last topic of a series. Very likely he was about to terminate this Epistle, bidding his readers “rejoice in the Lord,” the fountain of all true joy, when he remembered the Judaizers, who were disturbing the peace of the Church at Philippi and becoming more audacious because he was in prison. Therefore, he takes pains to warn the faithful against them, repeating the “same things” (i.e., the same admonitions) which he had given before, very probably in other letters he had written them that have not come down to us.

Necessary. Better, “advantageous,” “useful.”

Phil 3:2. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the circumcision.

Beware of dogs. More literally, “Look at the dogs,” i.e., Look out for them. With great emphasis and indignation the Apostle now turns to denounce the Judaizers, describing them as “dogs,” to indicate their insolent, barking, and unclean character; as “evil workers,” whose conduct would destroy the work of Christ; as those “of the concision,” ironically alluding to their false notion of circumcision which consisted in mere physical mutilation devoid of spiritual significance. It is more probable that we have here three distinct descriptions of one class of persons than an indication of three different classes, representing respectively Gentiles, self-seeking Christian teachers, and unbelieving Jews.

Phil 3:3. For we are the circumcision, who in spirit serve God; and glory in Christ Jesus, not having confidence in the flesh,

In contrast to these boasters of mere physical mutilation, the Apostle says “we are the circumcision,” i.e., the truly circumcised, having the circumcision of the heart (Rom 2:28-29), of which he proceeds to give the three characteristics.

Who in spirit serve God. Better, “who worship by the Spirit of God,” i.e., who, moved by God’s own Spirit, render to God a service that is worthy of Him.

And glory in Christ Jesus, the source of all justification and the sole author of salvation.

Not having confidence in the flesh, i.e., in carnal rites and observances which were given only for a time, until Christ should come.

Phil 3:4. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other thinketh he may have confidence in the flesh, I more;
Phil 3:5. Being circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; according to the Law, a Pharisee;
Phil 3:6. According to zeal, persecuting the church; according to the justice that is in the law, conversing without blame.

In verses 4-11 the Apostle will show the Judaizers that he opposes their carnal privileges, not because he himself did not possess them, and indeed in the highest degree, but because they were unable to effect justification—a state of soul which could be obtained only through Jesus Christ.

verse 4. If any other, etc. He means to say that, if it were of any use, he has more reason to put his trust in hereditary privileges than any of those false teachers, as the following will show. He was “circumcised” in infancy, as the Law required (verse 5); he was “of the stock of Israel,” the true covenant race; “of the tribe of Benjamin,” i.e., a descendant of that beloved son of Jacob whose tribe gave Israel her first king and remained faithful to Juda at the disruption of the kingdom; he was a “Hebrew of Hebrews,” having always retained the language and customs of his race, whereas the Hellenists spoke Greek and largely adopted the customs of the Gentiles; he was by choice “a Pharisee,” and therefore a zealous and rigorous observer of the Law of Moses (verse 6); he went so far in his zeal for Judaism that he actually persecuted “the church of God”; he gave such scrupulous attention to the observance of the Law that his life was “without blame” in so far as the Law could make it so.

Phil 3:7. But the things that were gain to me, the same I have counted loss for Christ.

But all those Jewish prerogatives, which meant so much to him among the Jews, he has come to regard as “loss,” i.e., as useless, and even a hindrance to the possession of Christ, in whom alone justification and salvation are to be found.

Phil 3:8. Furthermore I count all things to be but loss for the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord; for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them but as dung, that I may gain Christ.

The Apostle augments his statement. Not only those Jewish privileges, but also all similar things of the flesh, he has considered as useless and damaging in comparison with the surpassing spiritual benefits that have come to him through knowing his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, for whose sake he “suffered the loss of all things,” at the time of his conversion, counting them all as “dung” (better, as “refuse,” i.e., as of no value) in order that he might “gain Christ,” the secret and source of all graces and benefits. The present tense, “may gain,” is used only because the past experience is projected into the present.

Phil 3:9. And may be found in him, not having my justice, which is of the law, but that which is of the faith of Christ, which of God, justice in faith:

The same truth is stated in another way.

May be found. Again the past experience is spoken of as present, so vividly is it realized.

Not having my justice, etc., i.e., a justice which is acquired from the works of the Law and by one’s natural powers; “but that which is of the faith, etc.,” i.e., that justice which God gives on account of the faith one has in Jesus Christ; faith is the foundation of this justice or justness, and God is its author and giver.

The Jesu of the Vulgate here is not according to the best Greek.

Phil 3:10. That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death,

Returning to the thought of verse 8, the Apostle further explains the reasons and advantages of his rejection of Judaism with all its privileges.

Here in verse 10 he assigns a threefold end or purpose he had in seeking to “gain Christ” and to “be found in him,” having that justice which is through faith in Christ: (a) “that I may “know him,” i.e., that he might have an intimate, practical knowledge of Christ, God and man, the source of all knowledge and the model of all virtues; (b) that he might know “the power of his resurrection,” i.e., the power of the risen, glorified, immortal Christ, by whom we have been reconciled with God (Rom. 4:24-25), who is the earnest of our own resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20; 1 Thess. 4:14), and who has sent us the Holy Spirit with his manifold graces, thus uniting us intimately to Himself (John 7:9, 10:22; Acts 2:33); (c) that he might have “the fellowship of his sufferings, etc.,” i.e., that he might bear his own afflictions and sufferings for the sake of Christ, and with the help of Christ’s Holy Spirit, as his Master had borne His cross for him, and this he desires as a means of entering into a full, practical and fruitful knowledge here on earth of the risen, glorified Christ. The way to the living Christ is that marked out by Christ Himself: “H we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him” (Rom. 8:17); “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so to enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26).

Sufferings, patiently borne for Christ and in union with Christ, are the royal way that leads to Christ now reigning in glory after His triumph over sufferings and death through the power of His resurrection; and it is by thus entering upon and continuing in this way of suffering that one’s life becomes “conformable” to the death of the Master: “Always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies” (2 Cor. 4:10).

Phil 3:11. If by any means I may attain to the resurrection which is from the dead.

The end and purpose of this fellowship with Christ’s sufferings and conformity to the Master’s death, and indeed of all that the Apostle has related from verse 7 to now, was that he might, by all his sacrifices and sufferings, attain to the glorious “resurrection which is from the dead,” by which in body and soul he would be made like to his glorified Redeemer and thereafter forever associated with Him.

The resurrection here in question is the General Resurrection of all the just at the end of time, of which Christ’s resurrection was the pledge. St. Paul’s hypothetical manner of speaking in this verse, “if by any means, etc.,” indicates the great difficulty of attaining to that blessed state and the consequent uncertainty connected with it, apart from the help of God.

Phil 3:12. Not as though I had already attained, or were already perfect: but I follow after, if I may by any means apprehend, wherein I am also apprehended by Christ.

In Phil 3:12-17 the Apostle cites his own example as an exhortation to his readers that they should increase their efforts to attain Christian perfection. It might be concluded from all he has said (Phil 3:7-1 1) about his sacrifices in order to acquire justice before God, and about his sufferings in union with Christ in order to reach the supreme goal of life, that he had reached a state of perfection in which further effort is unnecessary. Hence he hastens to observe in this present verse that he has not yet attained to this perfection, that much remains to be done, that, far from resting on his merits, he is bending every effort, like the runners in the Greek stadium, to win his prize, which is fully and perfectly to possess Christ, who took strong and lasting possession of him at the time of his conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3 ff.).

I follow after. Better, “I press on.”

The Jesu of the Vulgate is not in the best MSS.

Phil 3:13. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended. But one thing I do: forgetting the things that are behind, and stretching forth myself to those that are before,
Phil 3:14. I press towards the mark, to the prize of the supernal vocation of God in Christ Jesus.

The thought of the preceding verse is amplified, again under the figure of the runners in the stadium. The Apostle tells the Philippians that, instead of considering himself perfect or to have reached his goal, he is using every energy, like an athlete in a contest, to press on to the mark and to win the prize, which for him is eternal life with Christ in heaven.

Forgetting the things, etc., i.e., not stopping to think of his labors, his virtues, his merits ; and “stretching forth, etc.,” i.e., ever seeking new opportunities for growth in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). The Greek word for “prize” is found only here and in 1 Cor. 9:24, in the New Testament; and it means eternal glory in both places. The “vocation” or call to this “supernal” or heavenly prize is from God the Father “in Christ,” i.e., through the merits of Christ.

Phil 3:15. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, be thus minded; and if in anything you be otherwise minded, this also God will reveal to you.

From the two preceding verses it may be inferred that there were some at Philippi who thought they had arrived at perfection, and that consequently they had nothing further to do in spiritual ways. If this was the case, we can see a touch of irony in the term “perfect” here; and the Apostle wishes to say: “Let those who think themselves perfect remember that religious perfection consists in a holy dissatisfaction with one’s present state, combined with a constant effort to press on.”

And if in anything you be otherwise minded, etc. He means to say that, if there were those who sincerely disagreed with him in this matter, God would yet enlighten them, either directly through the Holy Ghost, or through the teaching of their spiritual leaders.

Phil 3:16. Nevertheless whereunto we are come, that we be of the same mind, let us also continue in the same rule.

Nevertheless, etc., i.e., as to what we have already attained about divine things (Estius), or as to the standard of life we have so far reached, let us continue according to it, and press on. There is a slight difference between the Vulgate and the best Greek reading of this verse. According to the latter, the sense is: “While some of you may be in need of further light on certain points, I recommend that you order your lives in accordance with the truth you have so far attained, avoiding dissensions of any kind.” Of course, the Apostle uses the first person plural to soften his words.

Ut idem sapiamus of the Vulgate, while according to some less important Greek MSS., may be regarded as a gloss. Likewise the word regula. Our ordinary English version follows the Vulgate.

A WARNING AGAINST BAD EXAMPLE

A Summary of Philippains 3:17-21~St. Paul feels obliged to place before his readers as a standard of life and conduct his own example and that of his companions. He has warned them before with sorrow of those whose worldly excesses are a contradiction of their profession, who are enemies of the cross of Christ, and whose end is destruction. As a safeguard against such debasing influences, he reminds the Philippians of their high destiny as to their bodies as well as their souls; for their home is in heaven, whence in due time their Saviour will come to transform by His almighty power their present fleshy tabernacles into spiritual and imperishable bodies like His own.

Phil 3:17. Be ye united followers of me, brethren, and observe them who so walk even as you have our model.

And observe them who so walk, etc., i.e., take note of those Christians who live according to the model we have given them. The Apostle is referring to the example he and his companions and associates have given.

In the Vulgate imitatores should be co-imitatores, to agree with the Greek.

Phil 3:18. For many walk, of whom I have told you often (and now tell you weeping), that they are enemies of the cross of Christ;
Phil 3:19. Whose end is destruction; whose God is their belly; and whose glory is in their shame; who mind earthly things
.

For many walk, etc. It Is disputed whether the “many” here means Judaizers or bad Christians, but most probably the latter are in question. Both indeed would be “enemies of the cross of Christ”—the former, by insisting on legal observances, for if justice is from the Law then Christ died in vain (Gal. 2:21), and the latter, by their moral excesses, for those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its vices and evil desires (Gal. 5:24). But it is much more natural to understand St. Paul to be moved to tears over those who had once been good Christians and had degenerated, than over those like the Judaizers who had never been true to Christ.

I have told you often, when at Philippi.

Whose end is destruction, i.e., for whom final and eternal ruin and loss is reserved. “Destruction” or perdition (ἀπώλεια = apōleia) here is the same as in Phil. 1:28. It means the utter loss of blessedness, the very antithesis of salvation; and as blessedness or salvation is eternal, so must be this “destruction” or perdition of the damned: “And these shall go into everlasting punishment; but the just, into life everlasting” (Matt. 25:46). See on 2 Thess. 1:9.

Whose glory is in their shame, i.e., who glory in the very things of which they ought to be ashamed. Those who think the Judaizers are meant here take “shame” to be circumcision (St. Augustine); St. Chrysostom thinks “shame” refers to sins of uncleanness.

Phil 3:20. But our conversation is in heaven: from whence also we look for the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ,

Having mentioned the characteristics of bad Christians, the Apostle will now give the marks of those who are faithful.

But. The Greek has γάρ (= gar)  here; but since St. Paul is contrasting the lives of good and bad Christians, the sense requires a particle of contrast, like “but” or “whereas”; the thought of this verse goes back to verse 17. The Greek, gar, is used primarily to assign a reason for something and is usually translated into English as  for, therefore, because, etc.

Our conversation, literally means “our manner of living,” but the Apostle means “our home,” “our country”; the true Christian walks the earth, but his thoughts, aims, hopes, and desires are in heaven and in things that lead thereto.

We look for. Better, “we eagerly expect,” as with “outstretched neck and upturned eyes” (Rickaby).

Phil 3:21. Who will reform the body of our lowness, made like to the body of his glory, according to the operation whereby also he is able to subdue all things unto himself.

The true Christian looks forward to the glorious time of his complete deliverance, both of body and of soul; when Christ will come at the end of the world and transform our present miserable, suffering bodies into glorious, immortal temples like His own glorified body (1 Cor. 15:40-49); when the risen Saviour will exercise that power in our regard by which, as God, He will rule and dominate all things (1 Cor. 15:25-27).

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Colossians Chapter 4

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 27, 2019

Comments on 4:1 were given in the context of chapter 3. Text in red are my additions. Text in purple indicates quotations from Fr. Callan’s other commentaries.

GENERAL PRECEPTS ADDRESSED TO ALL CHRISTIANS

A Summary of Col 4:2-6~In these concluding words of the Moral Part of the Epistle to the Colossians St. Paul first counsels prayer and thanksgiving in general for all, and in particular for himself, that he may be able to make the best of his opportunities (Col 4:2-4). He then advises tactfulness in dealing with pagans, zeal in the use of time, and graciousness in speech (Col 4:5-6).

Col 4:2. Be instant in prayer, watching in it with thanksgiving:

Be instant in prayer, i.e., let your prayers be continual, for prayer is the very breath of the soul.

With thanksgiving. He does not deserve new benefits who is not grateful for those received, says St. Thomas.

Col 4:3. Praying at the same time for us also, that God may open unto us a door of speech to speak the mystery of Christ (for which also I am bound);

The Apostle asks the faithful to pray for him that he may have opportunity to preach the Gospel.

A door of speech. Better, “a door for the word,” i.e., the opportunity of preaching the Gospel.

The mystery of Christ, which was that the Gospel was to be announced to the Gentiles.

I am bound, i.e., imprisoned, chained to a Roman sentinel; and all because he had preached the Gospel. See the commentary on Eph. 3:3-9.

Col 4:4. That I may make it manifest as I ought to speak.

The Apostle asks for help that he may discharge his obligation of preaching the Gospel as he is required by his divine commission: “Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16).

Col 4:5. Walk with wisdom towards them that are without, redeeming the time.
Discretion in dealing with non-Christians was of the greatest importance, lest obstacles to preaching the Gospel should arise.

Redeeming the time, i.e., letting no opportunity pass of doing good.

Col 4:6. Let your speech be always in grace seasoned with salt: that you may know how you ought to answer every man.

The faithful should cultivate grace and tact in speaking with pagans, so as to give edification and be able to answer questions that may be put to them about the faith.

CONCLUSION OF THE EPISTLE

A Summary of Col 4:7-18~Tychicus will bear this letter to the Colossians, accompanied by Onesimus, their fellow-townsman; and both will tell the faithful at Colossae all the news about the Apostle and his companions in Rome (Col 4:7-9). Those who are with Paul in the Eternal City join him in sending greetings to the Colossians and he asks that his greetings be extended to the faithful at Laodicea, to Nymphas, and to the church that is in his house (Col 4:10-15). This letter should be read at Laodicea, and the one sent to the Laodiceans should be read at Colossae. Archippus should be reminded of his duty. Paul pens the final words and his blessing with his own hand (Col 4:16-18).

Col 4:7. All the things that concern me, Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow-servant in the Lord, will make known to you;
Col 4:8. Whom I have sent to you for this same purpose, that he may know the things that concern you, and comfort your hearts,

See on Eph. 6:21-22. Tychicus was the Apostle’s trusted messenger (Tit. 3:12; 2 Tim. 4:12). Here is what Fr. Callan wrote concerning this individual: Tychicus was a native of Asia Minor, perhaps of Ephesus (Acts 20:4; 2 Tim. 4:12). His name is found in inscriptions of Asia Minor and Rome, on coins of Magnesia, thirteen miles from Ephesus, and of Magnesia by Mt. Sipylus, where the Bishop of Ephesus now resides, thirty-eight miles from his titular see (see Hitchcock, Ephesians, p. 506; Lightfoot, Colossians, p. 234).

That he may know the things that concern you. A better reading of this passage is: “That ye may know our condition.”

Col 4:9. With Onesimus, a beloved and faithful brother, who is one of you. All things that are done here, they shall make known to you.

Onesimus, a slave of Philemon at Colossse, who deserted his master and fled to Rome, virhere he was converted by St. Paul. See Introduction to Philemon.

Brother, i.e., a fellow-Christian.

Who is one of you, i.e., a Colossian. Not all the Colossian Christians, however, were or had been slaves; many of them were freeborn.

Col 4:10. Aristarchus, my fellow-prisoner, saluteth you, and Mark, the cousin german of Barnabas, touching whom you have received commandments; if he come unto you, receive him:

Paul now includes the salutations of those companions who were with him in Rome (Col 4:10-14). The first three—Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus—were of Jewish origin; the other three were Gentile helpers, that is, converts from paganism—Epaphras, Luke, and Demas. Aristarchus was a Thessalonian, who had been with Paul at Ephesus, and had accompanied him to Jerusalem, and afterwards to Rome (Acts 19:29, 20:4, 27:2).

My fellow-prisoner perhaps means here only that Aristarchus was closely associated with Paul in the latter’s imprisonment in Rome (Phlm. 24).

Mark, or John Mark, the companion of Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey, the cousin of Barnabas, and the author of the Second Gospel (Acts 4:36, 12:12, 15:37, 39).

Touching whom, etc. Perhaps this means that Mark was unknown to the Colossians, or that his former estrangement from St. Paul had left him under some suspicion with the faithful.

Col 4:11. And Jesus, that is called Justus: who are of the circumcision; these only are my helpers in the kingdom of God ; who have been a comfort to me.

And Jesus, etc. He is not otherwise known to us. The Hebrew form of his name was Jehoshua, or Joshua,

Who are of the circumcision, i.e., converts to Christianity from Judaism. Some think Aristarchus was of Gentile origin, on account of Acts 20:4.

These only are my helpers, etc. Probably he means the leaders among the Jewish Christians, or those only of his own nationality who gave him special help.

Col 4:12. Epaphras saluteth you, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, who is always solicitous for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect, and full in all the will of God.
Col 4:13. For I bear him testimony that he hath much labor for you, and for them that are at Laodicea, and them at Hierapolis.

Epaphras was the Apostle of the Colossian Church, and perhaps the founder of the other two Churches of the Lycus Valley also.

And full. Another and better reading here gives “fully assured,” i.e., with a conscience that is entirely and certainly illuminated regarding the will of God.

Laodicea . . . Hierapolis. See Introduction to this Epistle, No. I.

Col 4:14. Luke, the beloved physician, saluteth you; and Demas.

Luke, the writer of the Third Gospel.

Demas was probably a Thessalonian. He is mentioned here without affection, and later forsook St. Paul for love of the world (Phlm. 24; 2 Tim, 4:10).

Col 4:15. Salute the brethren who are at Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church that is in his house.

Nymphas was a Laodicean, who was doubtless well-to-do, and had a large house where the faithful were accustomed to gather for worship. His name is probably an abbreviation of Nymphodorus.

His house. Another good reading has “their house,” referring to Nymphas and his family.

Col 4:16. And when this epistle shall have been read with you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans : and that you read that which is of the Laodiceans.

See Introduction to Ephesians, No. IV.

Col 4:17. And say to Archippus: Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it.

Archippus was probably the son of Philemon (Phlm. 2), and likely assistant to Epaphras in the Church at Colossae. He must have been in sacred orders, as St. Paul speaks of “the ministry” he had “received in the Lord.” The Apostle’s word of admonition to him seems to indicate either that he was just beginning, or that he was not sufficiently attentive to his duties, Cf. 2 Tim. 4:5.

Col 4:18. The salutation of Paul with my own hand. Be mindful of my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen,

The Apostle affectionately closes the letter with his own hand. He asks the Colossians to remember the imprisonment he is suffering for having preached the Gospels to the Gentile world. His blessing is short, as in 1 and 2 Tim. Perhaps the “Amen” should be omitted.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Colossians Chapter 3

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 27, 2019

This post opens with Fr. Callan’s brief summary of the moral part of the epistle (Col 3:1-4:6)., followed by commentary on 3:1-4:1. Text in purple indicate quotations from Fr. Callan’s other commentaries.

MORAL PART OF THE EPISTLE

A Summary of Colossians 3:1-4:6~In the Moral Part of the Epistle to the Colossians St. Paul, arguing from the principles he has laid down in the Dogmatic Part, takes up the duties of the Christian life in general, showing what life in union with the Risen Lord demands, first in a negative and then in a positive way (Col 3:1-17). Next he treats of relative duties, pertinent to particular states (Col 3:18—4:1), concluding with some precepts addressed to all Christians (Col 4:2-6). See Introduction, No. IV, C.

CHRISTIANS MUST EXHIBIT NEWNESS OF LIFE 

A Summary of Colossians 3:1-17~After having directly attacked the errors of the pseudodoctors and shown their baneful and futile consequences (Col 2:8-23), the Apostle now returns to the positive teaching of Col 2:6-7, pointing out that Christians share in the risen life of their Lord, and that consequently new and higher motives should dominate their activities. Being dead to the lower things, they are now centred in Christ, and will appear with Him hereafter in glory (Col 3:1-4). This new life requires in a negative way a breaking with all the sins of their pagan past (Col 3:5-9), and on its positive and practical side an ever fuller growing into the likeness of Christ, and into a state where Christ is supreme for all mankind (Col 3:10-11). Moreover, this new life involves a practice of those virtues which Christ’s example has taught, especially charity, which is the bond of perfection, and unity, which couples the members of the Christian society with their divine Head. May the message of Christ be fruitful in them, making itself vibrant in their hearts and vocal in their music! All their undertakings must be performed in their Master’s name, and thus they will be rendering continual thanks to God the Father who has conferred all blessings on us through Christ (Col 3:12-17).

Col 3:1. Therefore, if you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above; where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God: Col 3:2. Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth.

As an antidote to the doctrines of the false teachers who were imposing material things as a means of spiritual progress, St. Paul here tells his readers to lift their thoughts above where Christ their Head is seated, as a king on his throne, ready to dispense His gifts and graces to His subjects.

If. See above, on Col 2:20. Here is what Fr. Callan wrote there: The connective “if” here, as later in Col 3:1, does not express doubt or conjecture, but rather assumption...

Be risen, etc. See on Col 2:12. Fr. Callan there wrote: The Apostle explains when and how the Colossians received the circumcision of Christ. It took place at the time of their Baptism, when their immersion in the water signified their death and burial to sin, and their coming out of it represented their resurrection to a new life of grace. See commentary on Rom 6:4 ff.

At the right hand, etc., i.e., the place of power and authority.

Col 3:3. For you are dead; and your hfe is hid with Christ in God.
Col 3:4. When Christ shall appear, who is our life, then you also shall appear with him in glory.

The Apostle now gives the reason why all the thoughts and desires of the faithful should be above. In Baptism they died to the world and things of earth, and their supernatural life, like the life of their Risen Saviour, is hidden from the sight of men; but at the end of time when Christ appears in glory to judge the world, then their hidden life shall also be made manifest.

In verse 4 of the Vulgate we should have vita nostra, instead of vita vestra, according to the best Greek.

Col 3:5. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, unclcanness, lust, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is the service of idols.

The faithful must master and hold at bay those evil tendencies of their nature which would destroy their hidden life and lead them away from Christ. The Apostle mentions here, as in Eph 5:3-5, some of the sins and vices to which they were most inclined, and which therefore they must especially guard against. See on Eph 5:3-5. Father Callan writes concerning these sins in his comments on Eph 5:3-5~Impurity and grasping self-assertion were central sins of paganism, and they are condemned by the Apostle in all their forms; not only are they not to be practised, they are not even to be named among Christians, who by their profession are consecrated to the God of holiness, purity, and justice. He also writes the following concerning fornication, uncleanness, and covetousness which are also mentioned in the present verse:

Fornicator (fornication), as here used, means also adultery and every illicit sexual union.

Unclean (uncleanness) refers to private impurity.

Covetous person (covetousness), i.e., inordinate lover of material wealth, a person who makes a god of his money. (see further note on covetousness below).Which is a serving of idols. Covetousness is a kind of real idolatry.

Your members which are upon the earth most likely refers to the vices which he proceeds to enumerate, and which are all in the accusative or objective case following “mortify” (Knabenbauer, h. l.).

Covetousness . . . the service of idols. Lightfoot says that “covetousness” here is to be taken in its ordinary sense, as greed for material gain, and that the Greek word of itself never denotes sensual lust. But that the word lends itself to a connection with sensual ideas appears from a comparison of this passage with Eph 4:19, Eph 5:3-5; 1 Thess 4:6; 1 Cor 5:11. “Service of idols” would then refer back to all the sins just enumerated. Cf. Moule, h. l.

Col 3:6. For which things the wrath of God cometh upon the children of unbelief,

The Apostle warns his readers of the punishment that is in store for the vices just spoken of.

Upon the children of unbelief is not in the best Greek, but is probably to be retained on good documentary evidence. See on Eph 5:6. The text of Ephesians states that “because of these things” (i.e., the sins mentioned above) “cometh the anger of God upon the children of unbelief.” Fr. Callan writes: The Apostle warns his readers not to be deceived and led into error by any “vain” (i.e., empty and false) words or talk, regarding the sins he has just condemned; for because of those very sins the punishment of God “cometh,” i.e., visits now and will continue to visit in the future those rebellious ones who disobey and disregard His teachings as contained in the Gospel. Cf, Col 3:6.

Col 3:7. In which you also walked some time, when you lived in them.

In which can refer to the “children of unbelief” of the preceding verse (in which case we should translate “among whom”), or to the vices mentioned in verse 5; more probably the latter.

When you lived, etc., refers to the time before their conversion.

Col 3:8. But now put you also all away anger, indignation, malice, blasphemy, filthy speech out of your mouth.

See on Eph 4:29, Eph 4:31. Anger and indignation can sometimes be justifiable (“be angry, but sin not”, Eph 4:6), but quite often these passions degenerate into sin, often manifesting themselves in malice, blasphemy, filthy speech, etc. Concerning anger Fr. Callan writes the following in his commentary on Eph 4:31: Anger is a transient outburst of passion, whereas indignation, or wrath, is a settled or chronic condition including the purpose of revenge.   On blasphemy he writes: Blasphemy is taken literally from the Greek, but it would be better to translate it in this passage by “reviling,” since there is question now of evil speech, not against God but against man. Concerning malice he writes: Malice, i.e., malevolence or the desire to injure, is the root of the sins just mentioned. Compare the parallel passage in Col 3:8.

Col 3:9. Lie not one to another: stripping yourselves of the old man with his deeds,

The old man, etc. See on Eph 4:22; Eph 4:24-25. Eph 4:22 reads: “put off, according to former conversation, the old man, who is corrupted according to the desire of error.” Father Callan comments: They have been taught—or rather, they were taught at the time of their conversion—to put off the old sinful man inherited from Adam, whose principles and mode of life were theirs as pagans, and living according to which they became ever more and more plunged into sin and error.

Commenting on Eph 4:24-25 he writes: (24) And put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of the truth.

It is not sufficient to put off the old man of sin which you have inherited from Adam, but you must also “put on the new man, etc.,” i.e., the man who has been regenerated by the grace of the Holy Ghost, and who having been created “according to God, etc.” (i.e., having been created in the beginning in the image and likeness of God), imitates God in his new life of grace by keeping the commandments which reflect the divine will and therefore God Himself. This new man, or creation of grace, “is created in justice and holiness,” i.e., he lives a life faithful to the obligations he owes to his neighbor (justice) and to the duties he owes to God (holiness)—that is, a life which is in entire conformity with “the truth” of the Gospel, as revealed in the Gospel.

(25) Wherefore putting away lying, speak ye the truth every man with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

Wherefore, i.e., since you have put off the old man and put on the new man who is characterized by justice and holiness, you must be on your guard against falling back into the sins of your former life; and first of all, you must put “away lying,” because this is so injurious to the neighbor, whom we are bound not to injure but to assist, as being all members of the one mystical body of Christ. Lying injures not only the neighbor, but oneself also, because we are all members of the same body, and that which injures one part of the body is felt in all the parts; the injury of the part reacts on the whole.

Col 3:10. And putting on the new, him who is renewed unto knowledge, according to the image of him that created him.

The Apostle has just been enumerating sins which Christians must avoid. But it is not enough to weed out vices; virtues must be planted in.

The new. i.e., the new man, the new self. See on Eph 4:24. Father Callan comments on that verse as follows: It is not sufficient to put off the old man of sin which you have inherited from Adam, but you must also “put on the new man, etc.,” i.e., the man who has been regenerated by the grace of the Holy Ghost, and who having been created “according to God, etc.” (i.e., having been created in the beginning in the image and likeness of God), imitates God in his new life of grace by keeping the commandments which reflect the divine will and therefore God Himself. This new man, or creation of grace, “is created in justice and holiness,” i.e., he lives a life faithful to the obligations he owes to his neighbor (justice) and to the duties he owes to God (holiness)—that is, a life which is in entire conformity with “the truth” of the Gospel, as revealed in the Gospel.

Who is renewed, etc. The regenerate life is one of progress, growling into ever fuller knowledge and more perfect love of God, of Christ, and of our duties as Christians (2 Cor 4:16).

According to the image, etc. As man in the natural order was made in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-28), so in his regeneration does he come to express that image, but in a far more perfect manner (Gal 6:15).

Col 3:11. Where there is neither Gentile nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all, and in all.

In this new state of regenerated humanity the old distinctions of races and conditions of men are wiped out, and all are united in one mystical body of which Christ is the head and the faithful the members.

Barbarian was a contemptuous term, applied in pre-Augustan times to all who did not speak Greek; later it signified all who were devoid of Roman and Greek culture.

Scythian meant the worst of barbarians. The Scythians were much like the modern Turks, and the Greeks and Jews regarded them “as the wildest of wild tribes” (Moule).

Col 3:12. Put ye on therefore, as the elect of God, holy, and beloved, the bowels of mercy, benignity, humility, modesty, patience:
Col 3:13. Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if any have a complaint against another : even as the Lord hath forgiven you, so do you also.
Col 3:14. But above all these things have charity, which is the bond of perfection:

St. Paul has given just above a short list of sins illustrative of those to which the Christian has died; and now (Col 3:12-17) he will mention some of the typical virtues which should characterize the life of grace. Since Christians are the chosen people of God and the recipients of His special graces and favors, they ought to manifest in their lives those virtues which are in keeping with their privileged state.

Bowels of mercy (verse 12), a Hebrew expression, means tenderness of heart, sentiments of compassion.

Charity (verse 14) is the queen of virtues, the silver cord which binds all the others together, and without which every other virtue is imperfect. See on Eph 4:2, 32 ; 1 Cor 13.

The habete of the Vulgate before “charity” is not expressed in the Greek (of verse 14), but some verb, like have or put on, is understood.

Col 3:15. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, wherein also you are called in one body: and be ye thankful.

See on Eph 2:11-22, 4:1-6. Father Callan’s commentary on Eph 2:11-22 can be found here. His commentary on Eph 4:1-6 is here.

Rule in your hearts. The Greek for “rule” here means a moderator, or an umpire in an athletic game.

In place of exultet, the Vulgate should have regnet.And be ye thankful, for the many divine benefits and graces of your vocation. Perhaps “grateful” would be a better word than “thankful” here.

Col 3:16. Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing in grace in your hearts to God.

Word of Christ, i.e., the message of the Gospel. The more the teachings of Christ penetrate the heart, the more will charity, peace, and gratitude abound among the faithful. The phrase “in all wisdom” more probably goes with what follows, and hence there should be no comma after sapientia in the Vulgate.

Admonishing, etc. See on Eph 5:19. Commenting on that verse Fr. Callan writes: If the Holy Spirit fills the souls of the faithful, it will be natural that the sacred exhilaration within them should burst forth “in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual canticles,” i.e., in instrumental and vocal music, arising not only from their lips, but also from their “hearts to the Lord.” This musical expression of fervor among the assembled early Christians is spoken of in Acts 4:24, 31, 16:25, and was referred to by Pliny in his letter to the Emperor Trajan, written between 108 and 114 a.d., when he said: “They [the Christians] are accustomed to meet before dawn on a stated day, and to chant to Christ, as to a God, alternately together” (Epist. x. 97). Of course, St. Paul here seems to be speaking of social gatherings rather than of liturgical services.

Col 3:17. All whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father by him.

Christians by their Baptism and consecration to God have become the property of their divine Master, they are one with Him; and consequently, all they do and say should be in conformity with this holy relationship. This is the way to render continual thanks to God the Father.

ADMONITIONS FOR DOMESTIC LIFE 

A Summary of Col 3:18-4:1~St. Paul speaks here of the mutual duties of wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters. Though briefer, his treatment is practically identical with what he has in Eph. 5:22-6:9, on which see commentary for an explanation of the present passage. For this reason the text of Col 3:18-4:1 follows without comment.

Col 3:18. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as it behooveth in the Lord.
Col 3:19. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter towards them.
Col 3:20. Children, obey your parents in all things ; for this is well pleasing to the Lord.
Col 3:21. Fathers, provoke not your children to indignation, lest they be discouraged.
Col 3:22. Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not serving to the eye, as pleasing men, but in simplicity of heart, fearing God.
Col 3:23. Whatsoever you do, do it from the heart, as to the Lord, and not to men:
Col 3:24. Knowing that you shall receive of the Lord the reward of inheritance. Serve ye the Lord Christ.
Col 3:25. For he that doth wrong, shall receive for that which he hath done wrongfully: and there is no respect of persons with God.

Col 4:1 Masters, do to your servants that which is just and equal: knowing that you also have a master in heaven..

As already indicated above, Fr. Callan sends us to his commentary on Eph 5:22-6:9 for St Paul’s teaching on these matters. He dealt with this in two parts which can be read here: Part 1 on Eph 5:22-33; Part 2 on Eph 6:1-9.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Colossians Chapter 2

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 27, 2019

WHY ST PAUL WRITES TO UNKNOWN CHURCHES 

A Summary of Colossians 2:1-7~St. Paul writes to the Colossians and their neighbors of Laodicea, though he has never seen them, in order that they may be united in charity and have a full understanding of that divine secret of which he has been speaking. The secret is to know God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent (John 17:3). The Apostle is anxious about his unknown readers, because of the specious errors that are abroad among them. Though absent in body, he is spiritually present with them, and he rejoices at the solid battle front their faith is presenting to the enemy. They have learned the truth about Christ, and may they show it in their lives, and ever abound in thanksgiving!

Col 2:1. For I would have you know, what manner of care I have for you and for them that are at Laodicea, and whosoever have not seen my face in the flesh:

The first three verses of this Chapter are intimately connected with the end of the preceding Chapter, and they explain St. Paul’s “labor” and “striving” in behalf of the Colossians and their neighbors whom he had not seen. The Apostle’s zeal and solicitude went out to all Christian communities, and especially those of Gentile origin (2 Cor 11:28).

Care means rather “struggle,” according to the Greek.

Laodicea. See Introduction to this Epistle, No. II.

Col 2:2. That their hearts may be comforted, being instructed in charity, and unto all riches of fullness of understanding, unto the knowledge of the mystery of God the Father and of Christ:

The Apostle here tells the purpose of his solicitude and prayers for his unknown correspondents, namely, “that their hearts may be comforted,” i.e., that they may be admonished and strengthened in faith, as there is question of doctrine and of guarding against errors; that “being instructed in charity,” or rather, “being bound together in charity” (i.e., in Christian love), they may attain to a full understanding of the mystery which God the Father has revealed to us in Christ. The phrases “unto all riches, etc.” and “unto the knowledge of the mystery, etc.” are parallel, one to the other, and explain each other.

The last words of this verse, “of God the Father, etc.,” are variously read in the MSS., versions, and Fathers; but the sense is clear in any reading. Perhaps the best reading is that of the Vatican MS. and St. Hilary: του θεου χριστου.

Christ is in apposition with “mystery.”

Col 2:3. In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

The Mystery of God which St. Paul would have his readers grasp is none other than Christ, in whom are contained all the riches of divine and human wisdom and knowledge. As God, Christ possessed infinite wisdom and knowledge, and as man His knowledge was superior to that of men and angels. The faithful, therefore, need not go to other teachers or masters, nor give heed to the doctrines preached by the false teachers in the name of angels; let them hear and follow in all things Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life. “Jesus Christ is a great Book. He who can indeed study Him in the word of God will know all he ought to know. Humility opens this Divine Book, faith reads in it, love learns from it” (Quesnel, quoted by Moule, h. l.).

Col 2:4. Now this I say, that no man may deceive you by loftiness of words.

The Apostle comes now to the case of the Colossians, showing that what he has been saying was intended to put them on their guard against the false teachers, who have been trying to deceive them by plausible arguments.

Now this I say, doubtless refers to what he has said in the verses just preceding about the mystery and wealth of knowledge which are in Christ.

In place of in sublimitate, other good MSS. of the Vulgate have in subtilitate; the Greek has, “in persuasiveness of speech.”

Col 2:5. For though I be absent in body, yet in spirit I am with you; rejoicing and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith which is in Christ.

St. Paul knows the state of things at Colossse, and, though absent in body, he is present wiith the faithful in mind and heart; and he rejoices at the resistance they are offering to the false teachers.

Order . . . steadfastness. Better, “orderly array . . . solid front.” These are military terms, perhaps suggested by the soldiers of the Praetorian Guard by whom in their turn the Apostle was surrounded at this time.

Col 2:6. As therefore you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk ye in him,

As therefore, referring to what he has just said about their firm faith. In this and the following verse the Apostle is stressing the need of continuing united to Christ, or persevering in the faith which the Colossians received from Epaphras, their apostle and master, and of shaping their lives according to its teachings.

The Lord. This expression shows that the historic Jesus was also the Christ, the Messiah, and the sovereign and universal Master. See on Eph 3:11; Phil 2:11.

Col 2:7. Rooted and built up in him, and confirmed in the faith, as also you have learned, abounding in it in thanksgiving.

Rooted . . . built, two metaphors—one taken from a tree firmly fixed in the ground and the other from a house strongly constructed—to enforce again the necessity of adhering to Christ, the sole principle of the supernatural life; and the means of this union is the faith, as they “have learned” it from Epaphras. See on commentary on Eph 3:17, and the commentary on Eph 2:22.

In it, i.e., in faith, producing the full fruit of faith.

The Vulgate in illo should be in ea, to agree with the Greek, though some MSS. have simply, “abounding in thanksgiving,” It was entirely becoming that the faithful should be abundantly grateful for the gift of faith and for the rich blessings it brought them.

THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE FALSE TEACHERS IS OPPOSED TO CHRIST 

A Summary of Colossians 2:8-23. St. Paul now directly considers the so-called philosophy of the false teachers among the Colossians, and he finds it is in opposition to Christian principles in doctrine and in practice. It is based on human traditions and worldly elements, instead of following Christ, in whom dwells the fullness of the Godhead, in whom the Colossians will find all they need for salvation, and who is superior to all powers. In Christ they have received the true circumcision, which is of the heart, having been buried with Him in Baptism and risen with Him through faith to a new life. Yes, when they were dead in their sins, God gave them new life in Christ, pardoning them their offences and liberating them from the burdens of the Law. It was the victory of the cross that cast off the principalities and powers, and led them away in triumphal defeat (Col 2:8-15). Therefore, the Colossians must not be judged by regulations and observances which were only shadows of the reality which is Christ. Nor let them be cheated of their prize by a wrong asceticism and worship of angels which would lead away from Christ, the head of all; for it is through Christ alone that the Church attains that full growth which is of God. Since, then, the Colossians have died to the elements of the world, they should pay no need to those things which perish in the using. These precepts and doctrines of men have an outward appearance of value, but they are really impotent against sensual indulgences (Col 2:16-23).

Col 2:8. Beware lest any man cheat you by philosophy, and vain deceit: according to the traditions of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ:

Cheat you. Better, “make you his spoil,” or “spoil you.”

Philosophy here is to be understood in a wide sense, as embracing a system of teaching in religious matters. Thus it was often used in antiquity, as when Philo speaks of the Jewish religion and the Law of Moses as a philosophy (Leg. ad Caium, 23, 33); and Josephus applies the same name to the doctrines of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes (Ant., xviii. i, 2). There is no thought in this passage of belittling true philosophy, which is the fruit of correct reasoning from sound principles.

Vain deceit. The false teachers pretended to have a superior wisdom to communicate, but which in reality was empty and far removed from truth. Instead of coming from God, or divine revelation, or the use of right reason, their so-called philosophy was based on “the traditions of men” (i.e., mere human opinions) and “the elements of the world” (i.e., certain Jewish rites and institutions, which were regulated by the Jewish calendar, such as new moons, sabbaths, and other recurring festivals). See below, on Col 2:16. Other authorities think the term “elements” here is used in a technical sense “for spiritual beings supposed to animate and preside over the elements of the physical universe, and generally conceived as resident in the heavenly bodies” (so Dodd, in Abingdon Bible, h. l.). It seems best to say with Fr. Rickaby that “it was not the mere observance of Jewish festivals, but beyond that the positive cultus of the heavenly bodies or of angels as controllers of those bodies, that displeased St. Paul” (Further Notes on St. Paul, h. l.).

Col 2:9. For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead corporally;

The faithful must not seek spiritual knowledge and help outside of Christ, for in Him dwells the “fullness of the Godhead,” i.e., the totality of deity.

Corporally, i.e., corporally, totally, entirely. See on Col 1:19 above. Others explain “corporally” to mean, not figuratively, but substantially and personally; or with a bodily manifestation (Lightfoot).

Col 2:10. And you are filled in him, who is the head of all principality and power:

As the fullness of deity is in Christ, making Him all-perfect, the faithful can find in Him all they need for their salvation and religious perfection; they need not seek elsewhere. Christ is the “head of all principality, etc.,” i.e., all angels are subject to Him and inferior to Him.

Col 2:11. In whom also you were circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the despoiling of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ:

The false teachers were advocating circumcision of the body as a means to spiritual perfection; but St. Paul reminds the Colossians that in virtue of their union with Christ they have already received the real, interior, spiritual circumcision, which is of the heart, and which alone counts before God. This spiritual circumcision consists “in the despoiling, etc.,” better, “in the stripping off of the fleshy body,” i.e., in the cutting away of the lower instincts and appetites in man, in the putting ofif of the old man of sin (Rom 6:6).

The word sed in the Vulgate should be omitted.

Col 2:12. Buried with him in baptism, in whom also you are risen again by faith in the operation of God, who raised him up from the dead.

The Apostle explains when and how the Colossians received the circumcision of Christ. It took place at the time of their Baptism, when their immersion in the water signified their death and burial to sin, and their coming out of it represented their resurrection to a new life of grace. See on Rom 6:4 flf.

By faith, etc. In order that Baptism may confer spiritual life, faith in the power of God who raised Jesus to life is required in adults who have the use of reason (Rom 1:17).

Who raised him, etc. The Apostle mentions the resurrection of Jesus, because this mystery is fundamental to Christianity.

Col 2:13. And you, when you were dead in your sins, and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he quickened together with him, forgiving us all offences:

Such is the circumcision of Christ, which is conferred through Baptism; and now the Apostle will apply to the Colossians what he has been saying on this subject, recalling first to their minds their former miserable condition of soul as pagans.

The uncircumcision of your flesh means their unregenerate state, in which they obeyed the promptings of the flesh (Eph 2:3).

He quickened, etc., i.e., God the Father raised you to new, spiritual life, “with him” (i.e., with Christ), when by faith you became united to Christ in Baptism.

According to the best Greek MSS., the Vulg. should read donans nobis; the forgiveness of sins was something common to all converts, Jewish and Gentile.

Col 2:14. Blotting out the handwriting of the decree that was against us, which was contrary to us. And he hath taken the same out of the way, fastening it to the cross

Blotting out, etc., is parallel to the preceding phrase, “forgiving us all offences” (ver. 13), and means that God had cancelled the indebtedness which our sins had caused to be registered against us.

Handwriting of the decree. Better, as in R. V., “the bond written in ordinances,” i.e., the signature of obligation to observance, whether expressed in the “ordinances,” or “orders,” or “decrees” of the Mosaic Law for the Jews (Deut 27:15-26); or in the dictates of the natural law and conscience for the pagans (Rom 2:12-15).

The reference then is primarily to indebtedness incurred by the Jews in violating the decrees and prescriptions of the Law of Moses, but secondarily also to that incurred by the Gentiles in violating the law written on their own hearts. Therefore, when the Apostle says, “which was contrary to us,” all are included, all were under the curse of law, Gentiles as well as Jews. See on Eph 2:15. Now God, through Christ, has destroyed this account that stood against us, taking it “out of the way,” in which it stood between us and God; and this He did by “fastening it to the cross” of Christ, on which our Lord suffered and atoned for all our sins and transgressions.

The Vulgate chirographum decreti should be made to agree with the Greek, which has τοις δογμασιν  (dative); hence we should read decretis, and understand a chirographum which was expressed in or based on “decrees,” or “orders,” or “ordinances.”

Col 2:15. And despoiling the principalities and powers, he hath exposed them confidently in open shew, triumphing over them in him.

As God through Christ has quickened us, forgiving our offences and blotting out the handwriting that was against us (ver. 13-14), so has He spoiled, exposed to contempt and derision, and triumphed over the hostile powers that had held man captive. It was through the Law that those principalities and powers were able to enslave man (Gal 3:19, Gal 4:9-10); and hence those agencies met their defeat when our Lord by His death on the cross abolished the Law, bringing it to an end.

Principalities and powers. These two terms are used above (Col 1:16, Col 2:10) in a favorable sense for good angels, but here they are taken in an evil sense for demons, as in Eph 6:12.

Exposed them confidently. Better, “made a show of them with outspokenness,” i.e., exposed them publicly to ridicule and contempt, leading them as captives in triumphal procession (θριαμβευσας αυτους).

The Latin confidenter and palam are a rendering of the Greek  εν παρρησια (“confidently in open show”); and in semetipso should be in eo (εν αυτω), i.e., in Christ, or In the cross. It is not certain whether the subjects of the verbs in verses 13-15 should be understood to be God or Christ, but it seems better, in the light of the context, to take God as the subject. God triumphed over the enemies of man through Jesus Christ by means of the cross of Christ.

Col 2:16. Let no man therefore judge you in meat or in drink, or in respect of a festival day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath,
Col 2:17. Which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ.

So far, in verses 8-15, St. Paul has been opposing the erroneous speculations of the false teachers, and now, in verses 16-23, he will attack their false asceticism. He warns his readers not to be disturbed about their neglect of outworn Mosaic observances regarding food and drink, the Jewish festivals, such as the New Moon, the Sabbath, and the like, the importance of which the false teachers were stressing and magnifying. All these things were good in their day, under the Old Law, as foreshadowing the reality to come, which was Christ; but now that Christ has come, these things are done away; they are a hindrance to be avoided.

The Vulgate sabbatorum is according to the Greek, but σαββατων, though plural in form, is singular in meaning (Matt 12:1; Mark 1:21, Mark 3:2; Luke 4:16, etc.).

Col 2:18. Let no man seduce you, willing in humility and religion of angels, walking in the things he hath seen, in vain puffed up by the sense of his flesh,
Col 2:19. And not holding the head, from which the whole body, by joints and bands, being supplied with nourishment and compacted, groweth unto the increase of God.

18-19. Here the Apostle admonishes the Colossians to beware of the pretentious humility and superstitious cult of angels advocated by the false teachers.

Let no man seduce, etc. Better, “let no one rob you of your prize,” i.e., of eternal life (see Phil. 3:14), by tempting you to forsake Christ.

Willing in humility, etc., i.e., delighting in an artificial, voluntary self-abasement and an obsequious service of angels. Those “heretics” taught that man was so miserable and far removed from God that intermediaries between him and God were necessary; and consequently to these intervening beings, whom they called angels, they attributed a part in the work of man’s creation and redemption which was as absurd as it was untrue.

Walking in the things, etc. More literally, “taking his stand on things he has seen,” i.e., preferring his alleged visions and revelations to the Apostolic Gospel. Such is the best reading of this passage, though other good authorities think a “not” has dropped out of the text before “seen,” and that we should read, “taking his stand on things he has not seen,” i.e., pretending to a knowledge of angels and of the spirit world which has no real basis. This is the reading followed by the Vulgate.

In vain puffed up, etc. Better, “foolishly puffed up with his fleshly mind.” The false teachers were full of pride, and, while alleging superior knowledge about spiritual things, their thoughts in reality were low and carnal, mere earthly dreams.

And not holding the head, etc., i.e., not keeping intimately united to Christ, the head of the Church, from whom the members derive their organic unity, power and growth.

From whom the whole body, etc. Better, “from whom the whole body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is of God.” The meaning is that all vital unity and spiritual growth among the members of the Church must come from Christ, who is the head of the Church and the only source of spiritual supply. See commentary on Eph. 4:16.

Col 2:20. If then thou be dead with Christ from the elements of this world, why are you under decrees as though living in the world?
Col 2:21. Touch not, taste not, handle not;
Col 2:22. Which are all unto destruction by the very use, according to the precepts and doctrines of men.

In verses 20-23 the Apostle shows the futility of the ascetical practices preached by the “heretics” at Colossse.

If then you are dead, etc. The connective “if” here, as later in Col 3:1, does not express doubt or conjecture, but rather assumption; it assumes the death in question to be a fact. Since the faithful in Baptism have mystically died with Christ and so have been freed “from the elements of this world” (see above, onC ol 2:8), why should they still continue to live as if subject to these ancient rites and ceremonies, which enjoined that they should “touch not, taste not, etc.” (Lev. 11:4 ff., 15:1 ff.)? These prohibitions, which the false teachers were endeavoring to enforce, did not affect permanent moral principles, but rather things material that perished with the using; and now that the Law of Moses has been abrogated, they have no divine authority or sanction, but are “according to the precepts and doctrines of men,” i.e., according to human opinions and human traditions.

Which are all unto destruction by the very use. This sentence is best treated as a parenthesis.

The quid decernitis of the Vulgate (ver. 20) is passive in Greek; hence we have rendered, “why are you under decrees?” The precepts of verse 21, ne tetigeritis, etc., are singular in Greek, which better expresses the ridiculousness of the practices for each individual.

Col 2:23. Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in superstition and humility, and not sparing the body; not in any honor to the filling of the flesh.

Which things, etc. These precepts and doctrines of the false teachers had an external appearance of wisdom by reason of the worship of angels, humility, and bodily rigor, which they superstitiously and pretentiously implied; but they were of no value with God, and rather tended to serve than to curb the full gratification of the passions of man, since they were only external and separated from the true source of all genuine spirituality, which is Christ.

Not in any honor, etc. Far better in the R. V., which reads: “Not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.” Such seems to be the meaning of a difficult verse, the text of which has probably been corrupted in transmission. See Knabenbauer, h. I.; also Sales, Moule, and Crafer in A New Com. on Holy Script., h. I.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Colossians Chapter 1

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 27, 2019

Text in red are my additions. Text in purple indicates quotations from Fr. Callan’s other commentaries.

GREETINGS AND THANKSGIVING 

A Summary of Colossians 1:1-8. Following his customary form, St. Paul, in company with Timothy, salutes the faithful of Colossae, assuring them of his constant prayers of thanksgiving to God in their behalf on account of their faith in Christ, their charity towards one another, and the consequent reward awaiting them hereafter. This hope of future blessedness came to them with the preaching of the Gospel truth; and with them as elsewhere, from the time of its first preaching, this worldwide message of salvation has yielded a great spiritual harvest. It was Epaphras, Paul’s beloved comrade, who preached the Gospel to the Colossians, and who has now brought news of them to him in Rome.

Col 1:1. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God, and Timothy the
brother,
Col 1:2. To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ, who are at Colossae.

For a nearly identical greeting see Eph 1:1. Father Callan translates that verse as follows: Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.

Father Callan goes on to give the following commentary on the following words and themes that the two passages share:

Paul. It is to be noted that, whereas in the other Captivity Epistles Timothy’s name is associated with Paul’s, here, as in Rom., Gal., and the Pastoral letters, only the name of Paul is mentioned. As Timothy had been with Paul at Ephesus and was therefore well known to the Ephesians, the omission of his name in the greeting of this Epistle is taken as an argument that the letter was not directed to the Church of Ephesus (see Introduction, No. IV).
 
Apostle, that is, a legate to whom is committed a mission with power and authority. Hence, the term implies more than messenger and it is applied in the New Testament to those who have been designated to preach the Gospel. By this title, therefore, Paul claims to be Christ’s legate, sent and commissioned by Christ to preach the Gospel. Thus, our Lord said : “As thou hast sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:18).

By the will of God, that is, Paul’s mission is both gratuitous and divine, and not the result of his own merits or choice. He has not taken the honor to himself, but has been called by God, as Aaron was (cf. Heb 5:4).

To all the Saints. The omnibus of the Vulgate is not represented in the Greek. “Saints,” that is, those who by Baptism have been consecrated to God and live in union with Jesus Christ. 

Timothy. See Introduction to 1 Tim., number I. Timothy was associated with Paul at this time in Rome, and probably he wrote down this letter as the Apostle dictated it.

Faithful brethren, i.e., fellow-Christians, who were full of active, living faith. See on Eph 1:1. Concerning the term faithful Father Callan wrote this in his Commentary on Epehsians 1:1~Faithful. This is a term frequently used by St. Paul. It designates those who with mind and heart have freely embraced the faith of Christ, subjecting themselves to His will and service.

Colossae. See Introduction, number I. Here is what Father Callan wrote concerning Colossae in his Introduction:

I. Colossae. Colossae was an ancient city of southwestern Phrygia in the Roman Province of Asia. It was situated in the valley of the Lycus River about one hundred and twenty miles east from Ephesus and on the great highway of trade between the East and the West of the ancient world. At one time it enjoyed considerable importance, but declined with the foundation and growth of Laodicea, some ten miles to the west, about the middle of the third century B.C. Besides the wealth and prosperity which developed in the closely adjacent Laodicea, other factors which contributed to the decline and ruin of Colossse were the earthquakes that repeatedly shook it and the fame and attractiveness of Hierapolis, the Sacred City, situated only thirteen miles to the northwest. Hierapolis, the birthplace of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus and the later residence of the Apostle Philip of Bethsaida, was a pleasure and health resort and a centre of pagan worship.

In the time of St. Paul Colossae was but a small town or mere village, lacking any special industry or commercial importance. Its inhabitants, therefore (largely Phrygian, intermingled with Greeks and some Jews), had more leisure time than was wholesome for their spiritual welfare: they talked and speculated too much, and so developed some erroneous doctrines by attempting to express Christian ideas in the terms and forms of philosophic and religious thought then current in Phrygia and in Asia Minor generally. Repeated raids and devastations by the Saracens during the seventh and eighth centuries completed the destruction of Colossae and the town became a heap of ruins. Nothing remains of it now. The Lycus still flows through the valley, but the city once overhanging it on the upper part of its course, and forever distinguished by the letter of St. Paul, has long ago ceased to exist.

In the Vulgate of verse 2 Jesu should be omitted, as in the Greek.

Col 1:3. Grace be to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,

Grace be to you and peace, etc. See on the same sentence in Eph 1:2. Here is what he wrote there:

Grace . . . peace. This is Paul’s usual salutation. Grace, God’s special help and favor, is the root and source of our supernatural union with Him and with Christ, and peace is the blessed fruit of that same union.

From God the Father, etc. In these words we have indicated the author and the fountain-head of the blessing which the Apostle imparts. Since the same divine favor is asked from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, we have here a proof of the divinity of our Lord: He and the Father are one (John 10:30).

And from the Lord Jesus Christ. There is nearly equal MSS. evidence for the omission or the retention of this phrase here, which is found in Eph 1:2,

We give thanks, etc. The meaning is that, as often as he and Timothy prayed, they gave thanks to God for the Colossians’ life of faith and love; or that, as often as they prayed for the Colossians, they thanked God for the spiritual benefits the latter enjoyed.

Col 1:4. Hearing your faith in Christ Jesus, and the love which you have towards all the saints,

The reason for his prayer of thanksgiving is now assigned, namely, the Colossians’ faith in Christ and their charity to their brethren.

Hearing, from Epaphras (see Col 1:8).

Col 1:5. For the hope that is laid up for you in heaven, which you have heard in the word of the truth of the gospel, 
Col 1:6
. Which is come unto you, as also it is in the whole world, and bringeth forth fruit and groweth, even as it doth in you, since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth
.

For the hope, etc., i.e., on account of the hope, etc. There is question here, not of hope, but of the object of hope, of the thing hoped for, the reward awaiting the faithful life hereafter; and so it is disputed whether St. Paul is thanking God for the reward in store for the virtues and good works of the Colossians, as well as for their faith and love, or whether this hoped-for reward is the basis and motive of their active faith and love. The former explanation seems to be the meaning here (cf. Knabenhauer, hoc loco).

Which you have heard, etc. Better, “whereof you have heard, etc.”

In the word, etc., i.e., in the announcement or preaching of the Gospel which was given them (Col 1:6), and which everywhere in the whole Roman world is a growing and fruit-bearing seed, as it has been with them ever since they first “heard and knew” (i.e., understood and recognized) “the grace of God” (i.e., the contents of the Gospel) “in truth” (i.e., as it is in reality).

Col 1:7. As you learned of Epaphras, our beloved fellow-servant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ,
Col 1:8. Who also hath manifested to us your love in the Spirit
.

Epaphras, a resident and perhaps also a native of Colossa; and, if not the founder of the Church there, at least one of the chief workers in it. He is mentioned below in Col 4:12 and in Phm 23. Tradition makes him the first Bishop of Colossae. It is unlikely that he is to be identified with Epaphroditus, spoken of in Philippians 2:25, 4:18, though his name is an abbreviation of the latter’s.

Fellow-servant, i.e., companion in the service of Christ, who preached the Gospel at Colossae, and who now has brought to Paul and his companions in Rome a report of the love the Colossians have for them.

The Jesus of the Vulgate (ver. 7) is not in the Greek.

DOGMATICO-POLEMICAL PART OF THE EPISTLE

A Summarry of Col 1:9-2:23~ The Apostle prays that the Colossians may grow in knowledge of God’s will and purpose in their regard, so as to be able to increase correspondingly the spiritual fruitfulness of their lives, aided by the strength He gives them. They must thank the Eternal Father who has made them members of His kingdom through the redemption wrought by His Son (Col 1:9-14). He next describes the person and work of Christ, who is the image of the unseen God, the Creator of all things, the Head of the Church, and the Saviour by whose redemptive merits all things have been reconciled to the Father (Col 1:15-20). May the Colossians show in their conduct the benefit of the redemption they have received by leading holy and blameless lives, which will be possible only if they hold fast to the faith preached to them, of which Paul is the minister (Col 1:21-23). The Apostle then explains his sufferings for Christ and his commission to preach to the whole world God’s age-old mystery, now made manifest to Christians through Christ, of uniting Jews and Gentiles in the one Church of Christ (Col 1:24-29) . This is why he prays for the unity, charity, and purity of faith of the Colossians, Laodiceans, and all who have not seen his face (Col 2:1-7).Let the Colossians be on their guard against false teachers among them, whose erroneous speculations will lead them away from Christ, their true head and redeemer (Col 2:8-15), and will plunge them into practices that are useless, false, and vain (Col 2:16-23). See Introduction, No. IV, B. Col 1:9-14

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.

Col 1:9. 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.

Col 1:10. 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.

Col 1:11. 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.

Col 1:12. 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.

Col 1:13. Who delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love,
Col 1:14. 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. 15-20). 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).

Col 1:15. 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.

Col 1:16. 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 = eis).  Eis is the more probable here because it indicates motion towards or into (unto) a goal, whereas en usually indicates locality of place or time. The difference can be seen in Mt 2:1~”When Jesus therefore was born in (en = locality of place) Bethlehem of Juda, in (en = locality of time) the days of king Herod, behold, there came wise men from the East to (eis) Jerusalem.”

Thrones, dominations, etc. See on Eph 1:21. That verse reads: Above all principality, and power, and virtue, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. Commenting on it Fr. Callan writes: The Apostle here mentions four orders or classes or choirs of celestial beings above which Christ in heaven is said to be exalted (cf. 1 Peter 3:22, and below, Eph 3:10). In Col. 1:16, we have a parallel passage where St. Paul adds the order of “thrones,” but omits the order of “virtue” here mentioned. In that passage the thought is that Christ in His pre-existent glory and divinity is the Creator of those angelic beings; whereas here His Headship over them is the dominant thought. The division of angels into nine orders and three hierarchies is due to the Pseudo-Dionysius in his book On the Celestial Hierarchy, a notable work which first appeared about 500 a.d., but which from then on exercised a great influence till the close of the Middle Ages.

Col 1:17. 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.

Col 1:18. 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). That passage reads: And he hath subjected all things under his feet, and hath made him head over all the church. Commenting on it Fr. Callan writes: And he hath subjected, etc. An allusion to Ps. 8:8, where man is described as the crown of the visible world (cf. 1 Cor. 15:26 ff.; Heb. 2:8 ff).

And hath made him head, etc. The Greek reads : “And gave him to the Church head over all.” The words “over all” show the dignity and excellence of Christ whom the eternal Father has given to the Church as its head. Our Lord made St. Peter the visible head of the Apostolic College and of the Church, but He Himself ever remains the supreme head, not only of the Church Militant, but likewise of the Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant.

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.

Col 1:19. 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. On that verse Fr. Callan wrote: The fullness of him, i.e., the totality or completion of Christ, or that which renders Christ complete. The Greek word πληρωμα (fullness) here is obscure and has received various explanations, the most probable of which we have just given in the preceding sentence. The Church is the body of Christ, and Christ is the head of the Church. From this union of head and body there results one whole, which is the mystical Christ. The Church, therefore, the body of Christ, completes Christ; or, to put it in another way, Christ, the head of the Church, is completed by the Church. In other words, as in the human body the members are the completion or complement of the head, since without them the head could not exercise the different actions, so the Church, which is the body of Christ, is the complement of Christ the head, because without it Christ would not be able to exercise His office of Redeemer and Sanctifier of souls.

Should dwell. The Greek implies permanency of dwelling.

Col 1:20. And through him to reconcile all things unto himself (eis auton), 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 (“unto himself”) 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.).

Col 1:21. And you, whereas you were some time alienated and enemies in mind in evil works,

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.

Col 1:22. 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 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.

Col 1:23. 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 3:17Father Callan wrote the following on that verse, which reads: “That Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts; that being rooted and founded in charity.”

By faith, i.e., by means of an implicit trust in all that has been revealed, and this, not merely by a speculative adhesion of the mind to revealed truth, but by a practical exercise in works of what one believes, by a faith that lives by charity: “If any one love me, he will keep my word, etc.” (John 14:23 ff.).

Being rooted, like a tree of the Lord in the rich soil of the love of God, and founded, like stones of the Temple on the same love.

In charity. It is disputed whether these words should go with what precedes or with what follows ; and also whether there is question of God’s love for Christians or of the love Christians have for God. As to the first point, it seems that the participles “rooted” and “founded” need determination, and therefore that the phrase “in charity” should go with them. As to the second point, since the Apostle is praying that his readers may understand Christ’s love for them, and since love is perceived by love and the more Christ is loved the better He is understood, it would seem that the words “in charity” ought to refer to the love Paul’s readers have for Christ. 

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.

THE APOSTLE’S COMMISSION 

A Summary of Colossians 1:24-29~Paul tells the Colossians that he is suffering on their account, but that this is a source of joy to him since his afflictions help the Church to contribute her part toward the sufferings of Christ; for God has commissioned him a servant of the Church for the purpose of making known the long-hidden mystery that Gentiles, as well as Jews, are to be embraced in the one Church of Christ, thus becoming heirs of heavenly glory. This is the universal doctrine St. Paul proclaims, laboring and striving with the help of divine power.

Col 1:24. Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church.

The qui (“who rejoice”)  of the Vulgate at the beginning of this verse is not supported by the best Greek MSS.  St. Paul will explain in the verses that follow (up to Col 2:3 inclusive), why he is writing to a Church he has not founded, nor ever visited.

Now I rejoice, etc. The Apostle is in prison for preaching to pagans the same Gospel that the Colossians have received, and he rejoices on their behalf, because of the spiritual benefits his afflictions bring to them and to the Church.

Fill up those things, etc. Better, “fill up on my part (ανταναπληρω) those things, etc.” The Apostle does not mean to say that his labors and sufferings on behalf of the Gospel added anything to the efficacy and satisfactory value of Christ’s atoning sacrifice and death on the cross, which, being superabundant and infinite, were more than sufficient for the redemption of all mankind, and of many more worlds than ours (St. Thomas). But by “the sufferings of Christ” he means here the fatigue, labors, persecutions, and the like, endured by our Lord in His public life and ministry, which, as they were the lot of Christ, the head, during His brief mortal existence, must also be the lot of His mystical body, the Church, till the end of time; it is these sufferings of Christ’s mystical body that must be supplied by the Apostles and their true followers throughout the history of the Church. Our Lord labored, preached and suffered for a time for the spread of the Gospel, and His Church must continue through its ministers to labor, to preach and to suffer for all time for the same purpose, thus vicariously supplying to the ministry of Christ what was not possible for our Lord in person to supply. This is the obvious and natural meaning of this great passage. But the Greek Fathers explain it otherwise. Admitting that the passion of our Lord was entirely sufficient to save all mankind, they hold that its fruits are not applied to all except through the sufferings of the saints; and hence what is “wanting of the sufferings of Christ” is their application through the trials and tribulations which the Apostles and the faithful endured and continue to endure for Christ’s sake and in union with Him.

In my flesh, i.e., in St. Paul’s own body. The Apostle endured in his own body and person many grievous sufferings and afflictions for the sake of the Gospel and the Church.

Col 1:25. Whereof I am made a minister according to the dispensation of God, which is given me towards you, that I may fulfill the word of God,

Whereof, i.e., on behalf of which, namely, the Church, he has been “made a minister,” or servant, “according to the dispensation,” or stewardship, committed to him by God Himself for the benefit of the Colossians, as of all other pagans. The Colossians were embraced by Paul’s ministry, for to him it was given to “fulfill the word of God,” i.e., to spread the teachings of the Gospel, to found Churches etc. everywhere, especially among the Gentiles (Rom 15:19; 1 Cor 14:36; 2 Cor  2:7), that he might “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (ver. 28).

Col 1:26. The mystery which hath been hidden from ages and generations, but now is manifested to his saints,

The mystery, i.e., the “word of God,” or the teaching of the Gospel, spoken of in the preceding verse. This mystery, or secret, undiscoverable by natural means, was the salvation of all men. Gentiles as well as Jews, through Christ and the revelation made by Him, and the union of all men in the one Church of Christ. See on Eph 3:2-9. For commentary on those verses go here.

To his saints, i.e., the faithful, both of Jewish and pagan origin.

Col 1:27. To whom God hath willed to make known the riches of the glory of this ministry among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

To whom God hath willed, etc. These words show that the revelation of the great secret was a free and gratuitous act on the part of God.

The riches of the glory, etc., i.e., the wealth of divine goodness and mercy which has been manifested in the conversion of the Gentiles even more than in that of the Jews, for the latter had a revelation of the Messiah to come and of a future life.

Which is Christ, i.e., this mystery or the riches of this mystery is all in Christ, in whom are contained all the divine counsels regarding human salvation and all the blessings promised to man.

In you, i.e., among you, and in your hearts by faith (Eph 2:12 ff.).

The hope of glory, i.e., Christ is their and our hope of glory and eternal beatitude; He is the author and source of all good for time and eternity.

In the Vulgate there should be no comma after Christus, but one may be placed after vobis.

Col 1:28. Whom we preach, admonishing every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.

Such is the Christ whom St. Paul and his companions preach, the sole and all- sufficient author and means of salvation here and of future blessedness hereafter, whose hidden mystery has been made known to all men for the salvation of all. The Apostle is criticizing the false teachers at Colossae who were insisting on the necessity of legal prescriptions, on an exaggerated cult of angels, and on an initiation into perfection which was confined to a select few.

Every man. St. Paul repeats these words three times in this verse in order to stress the universality of salvation for all, Gentiles as well as Jews.

In all wisdom may mean, (a) that St. Paul and his helpers corrected faults and explained doctrine with all the knowledge with which they were endowed, or (b) that they disciplined and instructed every man in a perfect knowledge of God, so as to enable each one to live a life worthy of God.

That we may present, etc. The scope of Apostolic discipline and teaching was to make every man perfect in the faith and love of Christ.

Col 1:29. Wherein also I labor, striving according to his working which he worketh in me in power.

Here the Apostle tells us that the end and purpose of all his labors and struggles, like those of an athlete in the arena, was to render every man perfect in Christ, and that the secret of his endurance and success was to be found, not in his own strength and merits, but in the grace of Christ which was efficacious in him.

Striving. The Greek of this word contains a reference to the contest of the athletes in the arena. Cf. 2 Tim 2:9; 2 Tim 4:7.

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Father Callan’s Introduction to Colossians

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 27, 2019

INTRODUCTION

I The City of Colassae:

Colossae was an ancient city of southwestern Phrygia in the Roman Province of Asia. It was situated in the valley of the Lycus River about one hundred and twenty miles east from Ephesus and on the great highway of trade between the East and the West of the ancient world. At one time it enjoyed considerable importance, but declined with the foundation and growth of Laodicea, some ten miles to the west, about the middle of the third century B.C. Besides the wealth and prosperity which developed in the closely adjacent Laodicea, other factors which contributed to the decline and ruin of Colossse were the earthquakes that repeatedly shook it and the fame and attractiveness of Hierapolis, the Sacred City, situated only thirteen miles to the northwest. Hierapolis, the birthplace of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus and the later residence of the Apostle Philip of Bethsaida, was a pleasure and health resort and a centre of pagan worship.

In the time of St. Paul Colossae was but a small town or mere village, lacking any special industry or commercial importance. Its inhabitants, therefore (largely Phrygian, intermingled with Greeks and some Jews), had more leisure time than was wholesome for their spiritual welfare: they talked and speculated too much, and so developed some erroneous doctrines by attempting to express Christian ideas in the terms and forms of philosophic and religious thought then current in Phrygia and in Asia Minor generally. Repeated raids and devastations by the Saracens during the seventh and eighth centuries completed the destruction of Colossae and the town became a heap of ruins. Nothing remains of it now. The Lycus still flows through the valley, but the city once overhanging it on the upper part of its course, and forever distinguished by the letter of St. Paul, has long ago ceased to exist.

II. The Church of Colossae.

Since in the time of St. Paul the town of Colossse was far inferior in wealth, population and general importance to the neighboring cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis, one may naturally ask why he addressed an Epistle thither. It was doubtless the least important place to which the Apostle ever wrote any of his letters that have come down to us. Nor had he ever been there himself, as seems clear from Col. 1:4, 6-8, 2:1. In his journeys from the East through Asia Minor to the West it appears that he always kept to the “upper coasts” (Acts 19:1), following the Cayster route, which was shorter, and so easier for foot travelers like himself. Why, then, this Epistle to Colossae, and not to Laodicea or Hierapolis? The obvious and chief explanation seems to lie in the fact that Colossae was the home of Epaphras, Philemon and Onesimus, three special friends of St. Paul. Political and commercial relations were close between Colossae and Ephesus, and it must be that Epaphras and Philemon had come in contact with Paul and had been converted by him early during the Apostle’s sojourn in the latter city. These two then carried the faith back to Colossae, their own city. In fact, it seems clear from Col. 1:7, 8 that Epaphras became the founder of the Church in his native town; and from Phlm. 2, 3 it is plain that Philemon actively co-operated in propagating the new religion, even lending the use of his own house for the gatherings of the faithful. Onesimus, Philemon’s runaway slave, met St. Paul in Rome, and was converted by him shortly before the writing of this Epistle.

Moreover, the errors combated in this Epistle, though doubtless not confined to Colossae, appear to have been especially prevalent there, owing to its situation on the great highway of trade, and in particular to the comparatively leisurely life of its people. It is true that Laodicea was similarly situated, but its much greater population and intensive life of business allowed less time for the simmering of new thoughts and new ideas and the development of fanciful theories in religious matters. But the letter to Colossae and the ministry of Epaphras were by no means to be confined to the one town, but were to be extended to Laodicea and to the whole Lycus valley. It is reasonably certain that Epaphras evangelized that entire district, for St. Paul expressly says of him: “I bear him testimony that he hath much labor for you, and for them that are at Laodicea, and them at Hierapolis” (Col. 4:13). St. Paul also expressly ordered that this letter be read in the Church of Laodicea (Col. 4:16).

Another reason why this letter was sent to Colossse, rather than to the larger and more important city of Laodicea, is that very probably our Epistle to the Ephesians was in reality sent to the Laodiceans, and that St. Paul was referring to it in Col. 4:16. This probability we have already discussed in the Introduction to Ephesians, No. 4.

III. The Occasion and Purpose of This Letter.

From what has been said already, we can see how the new religion was likely to spread apace in Colossae, and how, owing to the character of its mixed population, there might be dangers to the purity and integrity of the faith there. And so it happened, as a matter of fact. Conditions became in a few years so serious that, when St. Paul was a prisoner in Rome the first time, Epaphras, the founder and head of the Church of Colossae (Col. 1:7-8, 4:12-13), deemed it necessary to go all the way to the Eternal City for the purpose of explaining the situation to the great leader and master.

Of course, the report given by Epaphras of Colossian conditions was not at all one of entire complaint and apprehensiveness; for the charity and faith of the Church as a whole were sufficiently encouraging to evoke St. Paul’s express commendation (Col. 1:8, 2:5). But false teachers had appeared and were sowing the seeds of doctrines which, if not checked, would imperil the faith they had received in its purity from their founder and his co-workers.

Just who these false teachers were and what their doctrines were in detail it is extremely difficult to determine; a multitude of conflicting opinions have been advanced. From the Epistle (Col. 2:8-23), however, we can gather the main outlines of the errors in question. In the first place, there were Judaizers who, perhaps claiming a higher way of perfection, wished to introduce the observance of the Law of Moses and rabbinical traditions, such as the ordinances regarding Sabbaths, new moons, etc., and the prohibition to eat, drink, taste, or even touch certain things, on the assumption that matter is evil. On the other hand, there were errors of a semi-Gnostic type tending to detract from the dignity of Christ, holding that the angels were superior or at least equal to Him, and that we must have access to God through them. All these errors were of Jewish origin, as the best Catholic and non-Catholic scholars agree, and as is plain from the allusions to Jewish observances, feasts, regulations, and the like.

Now, St. Paul wrote the present letter to correct such pernicious teachings and to give the faithful of Colossae a true conception of Christian life and practice, based on a correct understanding of the relation of Christ to God, to the universe, and to the Church. This he does first by a clear presentation of the true doctrine about Christ, which robbed the false teachers of the very foundation of their errors. Christ, he says, is our Redeemer and Saviour; He is the image of the invisible God; all things have been made in Him and by Him, and all consist in Him; He is the first-born from the dead, the head of the Church, and He exercises primacy over all things; He is the universal Mediator through whom alone peace and reconciliation have come to all; He is the explanation and the consummation of all God’s dealings and mysterious dispensations and the hope of our future glory (Col. 1:14-27); in Christ, finally, are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3-7). Thus, by a positive teaching of the truth does St. Paul attempt, in the first place, to correct the false doctrines that were spreading among the faithful of Colossse. His method of correction, in the second place, is by attacking more directly their errors, showing the futility and emptiness of a false ethical system which they vainly tried to dignify as a “philosophy” (Col. 2:8-23). All this will more clearly appear from an examination of the contents of the Epistle.

IV. Analysis of Contents. 

The Epistle to the Colossians is divided into four parts: an introduction (Col 1:1-8), a dogmatico-polemical part (Col 1:9—2:23), a moral part (Col 3:1—4:6), and a conclusion (Col 4:7-18).

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians Chapter 5

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 26, 2019

THE DAY OF THE LORD IS UNCERTAIN

A Summary of 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11~Behind the immoderate sorrow of the Thessalonians over their dead lay their false notion of the imminence of the Parousia. The Apostle, therefore, now reminds them of the teaching of the Lord Himself regarding the uncertainty of that august event, the coming of which will be like that of a thief in the night, “as the pains upon her that is with child” (1 Thess 5:1-3). Wherefore, it behooves us all to watch and to be ready to join Christ when He comes (1 Thess 5:4-10). Let the converts, then, comfort one another and edify one another (1 Thess 5:11).

1 Th 5:1. But of the times and moments, brethren, you need not that we should write to you;

The times and moments. These two expressions, taken from familiar Biblical phraseology, are most probably intended to signify the precise time of the Parousia. Cf. Acts 1:7; Matt 24:36; Mark 13:32.

1 Th 5:2. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord shall so come as a thief in the night.

Yourselves know perfectly, etc., i.e., they had been well instructed on these points by St. Paul’s preaching to them.

The day of the Lord, i.e., the time of His Second Coming in glory. The expression is a familiar one in St. Paul’s writings, and also with the Prophets of the Old Testament. The visitation of Christ to judge the world will take place suddenly and unexpectedly, like the coming of a thief in the night, and none will escape (cf. Matt 24:43; Luke 12:39, 40).

1 Th 5:3. For when they say, peace and security; then sudden destruction comes upon them, as the pains upon her that is with child, and they shall not escape.

For when they say, i.e., when the unbelieving, those who are in darkness, say, etc. The punishment will fall when least expected. See Matt 24:36-39; Luke 21:34; Ezek 13:10.

The dixerint, superveniet, and effugient of the Vulgate are all present tense in Greek.

1 Th 5:4. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
1 Th 5:5. For all you are the children of light, and children of the day; we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

In verses 4-10 the Apostle stresses the need of vigilance on the part of the faithful. In these two verses he tells the saints that they are no longer in moral darkness, as before their Baptism (Eph 5:8), and as are the faithless; and therefore they need not fear the suddenness of the Lord’s Coming or its consequences. Verse 5 but repeats in a positive way what is said negatively in verse 4.

We are not (vs. 5), etc. For a similar change of persons from the second to the first see Gal 3:25-26; Eph 2:2, 3, 13, 14; Eph 5:2, etc.

1 Th 5:6. Therefore, let us not sleep as others do; but let us watch, and be sober.

Therefore introduces with emphasis the conclusion to be drawn from what has just been said.

Watchbe sober refer respectively to the performance of good works and abstention from evil.

1 Th 5:7. For they that sleep, sleep in the night; and they that are drunk, are drunk in the night.

Night is the normal time for sleep, and also for revelry; hence St. Paul’s warning against the excesses of the pagans in either the one or the other.

1 Th 5:8. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, having on the breastplate of faith and charity, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

The breastplate. The Apostle passes from the metaphor of the light to that of the armor of the soldier. For the application of this imagery, see on Eph 6:11-17. Here the Apostle speaks of only two defensive arms of the soldier, namely, the “breastplate” and the “helmet”; and he likens them to the virtues of faith, hope and charity, which are the foundation of the Christian life and of all perfection. Hope is the central thought in this Epistle.

Salvation (σωτηριας) here means eternal salvation of the soul, the enjoyment of God’s eternal kingdom hereafter.

1 Th 5:9. For God hath not appointed us unto wrath, but unto the purchasing of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
1 Th 5:10. Who died for us, that whether we watch or sleep, we may live together with him.

The Apostle now gives the reason for the certainty of our hope, namely, because God in calling us to Christianity has not destined us for damnation, but for eternal salvation through the merits of Jesus Christ, “who died for us,” thus acquiring us as His property and making us His possession, so that whether “we watch or sleep” (i.e., whether we live or die), we belong to Him, by grace in this life and in glory hereafter! Therefore, whether we be living or dead at the time of the Parousia, we shall be Christ’s. These last words show that St. Paul had no idea whether he and his companions should be alive or dead when the Parousia would take place; it might come while they were living and it might come after they were dead. Which it was to be, did not matter. The one thing that did matter was that they should be at all times one with Christ. See Knabenbauer, hoc loco.

1 Th 5:11. For which cause comfort one another; and edify one another, as indeed you do.

In view of all that has been said about the Coming of the Lord from 1 Thess 4:13 up to now, the Apostle exhorts his readers to “comfort one another,” i.e., to continue to comfort one another, as they have been doing. He loves to praise his readers when they deserve it.

VARIOUS ADMONITIONS AND A PRAYER FOR THE THESSALONIANS

A Summary of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24~Following the treatment of the dogmatic question about the Parousia, St. Paul now comes to various moral exhortations. Similar admonitions were given in Chapter 4:1-11; but there they were for individuals, whereas here they are for the whole community. The first group are social, and have to do (a) with the duties of the faithful toward their ecclesiastical superiors (ver. 12-13), and (b) with the duties incumbent on those superiors as regards their subjects (ver. 14-15). The second class of admonitions is religious, relating (a) to joy, prayer and thanksgiving (ver. 16-18), and (b) to the use of charisms (ver. 19-22). A prayer for the Thessalonians closes this part of the letter (ver. 23-24).

1 Th 5:12. And we beseech you, brethren, to know them who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;

In this verse the Apostle addresses the faithful of Thessalonica, admonishing them “to know,” i.e., to recognize and appreciate the authority, and to obey the doctrine and instructions given them by their ecclesiastical superiors, who are their servants “in the Lord.” We have here “a clear testimony, from the earliest writing of the New Testament, to the existence in the Church at the beginning of a ministerial order—a clergy (to use the language of a later age) as distinguished from the laity—charged with specific duties and authority” (Findlay).

1 Th 5:13. That you esteem them more abundantly in charity, for their work’s sake. Have peace with them.

Not only should the faithful recognize the authority and heed the teaching of their church superiors, but they should also esteem and love them highly on account of their labors in behalf of the faithful.

Have peace with them, i.e., with the clergy. This is according to the reading of the Vulgate and some of the best Greek MSS., but there is another and better Greek reading which has: “Have peace among yourselves.”

1 Th 5:14. And we beseech you, brethren, rebuke the unquiet, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient towards all men.

In this and in the following verse St. Paul is addressing the bishops and priests of the Church at Thessalonica, as is evident from the admonitions he gives and as the best ancient and modem expositors admit.

We beseech. Better, “we exhort.”

The unquiet, i.e., those idle and restless ones who, in expectation of the imminence of the Parousia, were going about disturbing others.

The feeble-minded, i.e., those in anxiety about the coming of the Lord and the fate of their dead. The Greek word ὀλιγοψύχους (oligopsuchos) is derived from oligos (few, small, little, brief), and psuche (breath, soul, heart, mind). Modern translations prefer to translate as, the fainthearted, the timid, or the discouraged. If a reference to the mind is intended, I would translate it to read, “comfort the ill-instructed,” or, “comfort those who lack understanding.” If this is the intended meaning of the Greek, then it is probably a reference back to St Paul’s admonition in 1 Th 4:13-18, which was directed to those ignorant concerning the status of the faithfully departed (13), and who needed comfort or consoling as a result (18). My own opinion is that the translation, “fainthearted,” is intended. Note that the first part of the epistle ends in 1 Th 3:9-13 with a prayer that God strengthen the hearts of of Thessalonains (13). This prayer not only concludes the first part of the letter, it also, prepares for its remainder, thus, when St Paul here writes that they console (comfort, encourage) the fainthearted, he has in mind all those afflicted by the various problems dealt with in the letter: persecution (1 Th 3:1-5); unchastity (1 Th 4:3-8); physical laziness and the intrusiveness it gave rise to (1 Th 4:9-11); concern for the faithful departed (1 Th 4:13-18); spiritual laziness (1 Th 5:1-11).

The weak, i.e., the infirm in faith.

1 Th 5:15. See that none render evil for evil to any man; but ever follow that
which is good towards each other, and towards all men.

This verse enunciates a cardinal Christian principle often emphasized by our Lord Himself (cf. Matt 5:39 ff., 44 ff.; Luke 6:27). It was especially needful for the Thessalonians, who were persecuted by the Jews and pagans both.

1 Th 5:16. Always rejoice.
1 Th 5:17. Pray without ceasing.
1 Th 5:18. In all things give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

In these verses St. Paul gives three religious admonitions pertinent to all Christians, (a) They should always rejoice, even in adversity, because of the reward awaiting them in the hereafter; (b) they should pray continually, not only by the habit of making set prayers at specific times, but also by a spiritual intention and direction that should pervade all their activities; and (c) they should give thanks to God for all things, both good and bad, because all have been ordained for their spiritual welfare, and, if accepted in the right spirit, will redound to their greater good, at least in the life to come. Furthermore, thanksgiving for benefits received is one of the surest means of obtaining more favors.

For this is the will of God. It is uncertain whether these words refer to all three of the foregoing admonitions, or only to the duties of prayer and thanksgiving, or only to that of thanksgiving.

In Christ Jesus, etc. He means to say that such is the will of God in their regard as manifested in or through Christ Jesus; or, according to others, this is what God wishes from those who are in Christ, i.e., who are Christians.

1 Th 5:19. Extinguish not the spirit.
1 Th 5:20. Despise not prophecies.
1 Th 5:21. But prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

The Thessalonians are not to suppress or despise the charismatic gifts, such as speaking with tongues and prophesying, which the Holy Ghost was wont to pour out on many of the converts in the Early Church; but all of them are to be tested by their fruits. It was easy for some to allege false revelations and visions, especially about the imminence of the Parousia.

The spirit is referred by some to all the gifts of the Holy Ghost, including sanctifying grace; but here the reference is more likely to the charisms spoken of at greater length in 1 Cor 12-14.

Prove all things most likely refers not only to the gifts just spoken of, but to all actions of every kind, good and bad, as would be natural in an exhortation of this kind at the close of a letter.

1 Th 5:22. From all appearance of evil refrain yourselves.

Here the Apostle exhorts his readers to keep themselves from every kind of evil.

1 Th 5:23. And may the God of peace himself sanctify you in all things; that
your whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Th 5:24. He is faithful who hath called you, who also will do it.

Again, at the end of this second main part of his letter, as at the end of the first main part (3:11-13), the Apostle prays to God that, by His grace, the Thessalonians may continually advance in holiness, and be found ready when the Lord comes.

God of peace, i.e., God who is the author and source of peace, and who will therefore be able to put at rest the Thessalonians disturbed by fear of the imminence of the Parousia.

Sanctify you in all things, i.e., as to all virtues.

Spirit, soul, body. The “body” is the seat of the senses, whose operations are to be directed in accordance with the law of God. The “soul” (ψυχη) is the principle of physical life and of sensible phenomena, and the seat of the passions. The “spirit” (πνευμα) is the principle of the superior, spiritual life. As through the body we have contact with the material world, so through the spirit do we communicate with the invisible world of spirits and with God.

The Apostle’s prayer for the Thessalonians rests on God who “is faithful” to the work He has begun. It was He who called and admitted them to the faith, and He will provide all that is necessary for their sanctification, so that they may be found worthy in the day of His coming.

CONCLUSION

A Summary of 1 Thesslonians 5:25-28~In conclusion the Apostle asks the prayers of the faithful for himself and his companions, sends his salutations, directs that this letter be read in public for the benefit of all the Christians, and gives his blessing.

1 Th 5:25. Brethren, pray for us.

Pray for us. Some MSS. add “also,” showing that, as he prayed for them, they in turn should pray for him.

1 Th 5:26. Salute all the brethren with a holy kiss.

With a holy kiss. It is possible that this was a liturgical practice in Judaism before St. Paul’s time. Such it was, at any rate, in the Christian Church a century later (cf, Justin Martyr, Apol, i. 65). See on Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20

1 Th 5:27. I charge you by the Lord, that this epistle be read to all the brethren.

Paul directs that this letter be read aloud in church, as the Law and the Prophets were read in the synagogue, so that all the faithful may benefit by it. This was the first Apostolic letter to be sent to a whole Church; and since many of the members were troubled about the Parousia, there was a special reason why all should know what their Apostle had to say on so momentous a question.

In the Vulgate the sancti before fratres, though supported by good MSS., seems strange in St. Paul as a designation for Christians used together with the term “brethren,” and so should more probably be omitted.

1 The 5:28. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

The Apostle closes with his usual blessing, which varies in length in different letters. The Greeks used to terminate their letters with a wish for good health; but St. Paul is more concerned with the souls of his readers than with their bodies, and hence wishes them “grace.” The “Amen” is probably liturgical.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians Chapter 4

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 26, 2019

This post opens with a brief summary of the remainder of the epistle followed by commentary on chapter 4.

Brief Summary of 1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:24~In this second main part of his letter St, Paul first exhorts his readers to flee different kinds of sin and to cultivate various virtues (1 Th 4:1-11). He next treats of the final appearance of Christ (1 Th 4:12-5:11). Finally, he makes certain recommendations, and utters a prayer for the Thessalonians (1 Th 5:12-24). See Introduction to this letter, No. 6, C.

AN EXHORTATION TO CHRISTIAN LIFE

A Summary of 1 Thess 4:1-12~In his prayer for the Thessalonians at the close of the preceding Chapter St. Paul had prayed that his converts might abound in charity and lead a blameless life (1 Thess 3:12-13). Now, after calling attention to teachings he gave when founding their Church, he comes to particulars, first admonishing them to avoid impurity in all its forms (ver. 1-8), and then urging them to brotherly conduct, to industry, and to the need of giving good example to non-Christians (ver. 9-12).

1 Thess 4:1. For the rest therefore, brethren, we pray and beseech you in the Lord Jesus that, as you have received from us how you ought to walk to please God, as indeed you do walk, that you may abound the more.

For the rest is a formula of transition often used by St. Paul, directing attention to something else that is to follow.

We pray and beseech you, etc. The Apostle exhorts his readers to continue to live according to the teachings he gave them when he first evangelized them, and to strive for ever greater progress.

The Vulgate, sic et ambuletis, should read sicut et ambulatis, to agree with the best Greek ; in the ordinary Greek the phrase is omitted.

1 Thess 4:2. For you know what precepts I have given to you by the Lord Jesus.

St. Paul reminds the Thessalonians that the norms of life and conduct which he gave them had as their ultimate authority and sanction the “Lord Jesus,” the divine Master of us all.
In verses 3-8 the Apostle exhorts the converts to chastity of life.

1 Th 4:3. For this is the will of God, your sanctification ; that you should abstain from fornication;

This is the will of God, i.e., this is what God wants in you, namely, that you sanctify yourselves. The Greek for “will” is without an article, and so means the will of God in particular, not in general.

Fornication was extremely common in the pagan world, and it was regarded generally with indifference by all classes. Hence the necessity of admonishing the new converts that God wished them to abstain from this vice, to which doubtless many of them had been addicted in their pre-Christian lives.

1 Th 4:4. That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor:

This verse states the positive side of what was stated negatively in the preceding verse. The Christians must know how to control themselves, so as not to degrade their own bodies by impurity. It is uncertain whether “vessel” here means one’s own body or one’s wife. The former meaning is held by Tertullian, St. John Chrysostom, Ambrosiaster, and many other ancients, and by Milligan, Findlay, the Westminster Version of Sacred Scripture and other moderns ; while the second meaning is given by St. Augustine, St. Thomas, Estius, Le Camus, Knabenbauer, Voste, and others.

The first opinion would seem to agree better with what is said in the preceding and in the following verse; but in favor of the second view it is maintained that σκευος usually means wife, that so it was used by St. Peter ( 1 Pet 2:7), and that the verb that follows it here (κτασθαι) means to acquire, to procure and not to possess. In 2 Cor 4:7, however, σκευος is used for body. At any rate, St. Paul’s exhortation is general, and has to do with every sort of personal purity, whether in or out of the married state. See on 1 Cor 7:2 in vol. 1 of this work.

1 Th 4:5. Not in the passion of lust, like the Gentiles that know not God:

Here St. Paul says the Christian must not be carried away by the unregulated impulses of his lower nature, like the Gentiles, whose ignorance of God led them into all manner of sexual excesses (Rom 1:19 ff., 2:14 ff.). Whether the Apostle is speaking in this verse of conduct in the married or in the unmarried state, depends on the meaning given “vessel” in the preceding verse.

1 Th 4:6a. And that no man overreach, nor circumvent his brother in business.

6a. Overreach. Better, “transgress,” which in the original may be taken either as intransitive (in the sense of going beyond lawful bounds, and therefore of sinning) or as transitive (as governing “brother,” and so of neglecting his rights). The context favors the first meaning in the sense of going beyond the limits of lawful matrimony, of invading the rights of another Christian’s home by the commission of adultery.

Brother means Christian, for whom St. Paul is chiefly concerned, though his teaching does not exclude others.

In business. Better, “in the matter,” i.e., the Christian Is not to offend against his brother “in the matter” of purity, as the context shows. Great authorities, however, ancient and modern, are pretty equally divided in explaining in negotio of the Vulgate as referring to commercial matters—to business—and to matters of purity. The context favors the latter meaning.

1 Th 4:6b.  because the Lord is the avenger of all these things, as we have told you before, and have testified
1 Th 4:7. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto sanctification.
1 Th 4:8. Therefore, he that despiseth these things, despiseth not man, but God, who also hath given his Holy Spirit unto you.

In these verses the Apostle gives three reasons on the part of God why Christians should avoid sins of impurity, namely, because God is the avenger of them, because He has called us to sanctification, and because He has given us the Holy Ghost, who is offended and outraged by impurity and injustice of every kind: “Know you not that you are the temple of God, etc.” (1 Cor  3:16).

Despiseth these things, i.e., rejects or defies the call of God to “sanctification.”
In nobis (ver. 8) of the Vulgate should be in vos, according to the best Greek MSS., thus referring to all Christians in general, rather than to the Apostles only, as the recipients of the Holy Spirit.

1 Th 4:9. But as touching the charity of brotherhood, we have no need to write to you, for yourselves have learned of God to love one another.
1 Th 4:10a. For indeed you do it towards all the brethren in all Macedonia, 

9-10a.  St. Paul lauds the charity of the Thessalonians who, being taught in this matter by God’s grace, need not his instruction. Indeed, their love for one another has been manifested by deeds of charity throughout all Macedonia.

1 Th 4:10b. But we entreat you, brethren, that you abound more,
1 Th 4:11. And that you use your endeavor to be quiet, and that you do your own business, and work with your own hands, as we commanded you;
1 Th 4:12 and that you walk honestly towards them that are without; and that you want nothing of any man’s.

10b-12. After praising the worthy for their charity, the Apostle turns to another group who were abusing the hospitality of others, living on alms in idleness, in expectation of the imminent coming of the Messiah, going about disturbing others, and giving bad example to outsiders (2 Thess 2:1, 3:11).

Do your own business, etc. This shows that many of the converts were of the working classes.

As we commanded you. When Paul was instructing the Thessalonians, he had said that, if anyone would not work, the same should not eat (2 Thess 3:10).

That you walk honestly, etc., i.e., that you conduct yourselves in an honorable manner before those who are not Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles.

In Greek a new verse begins at “and that you walk honestly, etc.,” thus making 18 verses in this Chapter, instead of 17, as in the Vulgate. So it happens that verse 11 in the Vulgate equals verses 11 and 12 in the Greek.

THE FATE OF THOSE WHO HAVE DIED

A Summary of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18~Following the moral exhortations of the preceding section (1 Thess 4:1-11), St. Paul now takes up some of the difficulties of the Thessalonians, as reported to him by Timothy. In this present section he discusses the condition of those of the faithful who have passed on before the advent of the Messiah. The converts must not worry about their beloved dead, thinking they will not have part in the glory of the Coming Lord. They will rise as Christ rose, and indeed will meet their Saviour before the living do. After that, the living will join them and be caught up together with Christ, to be forever with Him in glory. Let these thoughts be their comfort.

1 Th 4:13. Now we will not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep, that you be not sorrowful, even as others who have no hope.

Now we will not have you ignorant, brethren, etc. This is a customary manner with St. Paul of introducing a subject of great importance. The Thessalonians had misunderstood the Apostle’s teaching about the Second Coming of Christ; they thought they were to live to see it in their own time. And since some among them had recently died, they were profoundly grieved, thinking their loved ones would thus never witness or share in the glories of the Parousia, St. Paul bids them not to sorrow, as if they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, as if they were pagans. Of course, he is condemning immoderate sorrow only.

Them that are asleep. This is “a characteristic, but not original Christian designation of the dead” (McCown, in Abingdon Bible, hoc loco).

1 Th 4:14. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again; even so them who have slept through Jesus, will God bring with him.

The reason why the Thessalonians should not give way to inordinate sorrow is that the faithful dead are to rise again, and the proof of this is to be found in the Resurrection of Christ.

The sainted dead form one mystical body with Christ, of which He is the head. And since the head is risen, the members must also rise.

If we believe means “since we believe,” as is evident from the context and from St. Paul’s teaching elsewhere, especially in 1 Cor 15. The Apostle is speaking only of the resurrection of the just, because he is consoling the Thessalonians for their dead who have died in Christ, and it is only these that shall have part in the glorious advent of the Saviour and enter into His kingdom of bliss. The unjust shall also rise, but only to be judged and die the second death.

Them who have slept through Jesus, will God bring with him.  The sainted dead form one mystical body with Christ, of which He is the head. And since the head is risen, the members must also rise.

1 Th 4:15. For this we say unto you in the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them who have slept.

St. Paul here tells the Thessalonians that, when Christ comes, those who are living at the time shall not enjoy any precedence over those who shall have died, and this he affirms “in the word of the Lord,” i.e., as a doctrine communicated to him directly by Christ Himself.

That we who are alive, etc., i.e., those who survive, who are living at that time. The Apostle is speaking rhetorically in the first person plural, and so he is not to be understood as including himself and his companions among those who were to witness the Parousia. That he had no idea of teaching the imminent advent of Christ is clear from what he says below in 1 Thess 5:2, in 2 Thess 2:1  ff., and from the teaching of the Lord (Matt 13:32 ff.; Acts 1:6 ff.) to which he was always faithful. And this is the explanation given his teaching here by all the Greek and Latin Fathers, and after them by St. Thomas, Estius, and all the leading Catholic commentators. In fact, to imply that St. Paul was in error in this matter would be to destroy the nature of divine inspiration and Biblical inerrancy. See Decision of Biblical Commission on this subject, June 18, 1915.

1 Th 4:16. For the Lord himself shall come down from heaven with commandment, and with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead who are in Christ, shall rise first.

For the Lord himself, etc. As the Lord ascended visibly into heaven, so shall He appear at the end of the world (Acts 1:11).

With commandment, etc., as a general issuing orders to his troops. These expressions are to be understood figuratively, as describing the conditions and phenomena that shall accompany the Lord as He descends from heaven to call the dead to life. The Apostle is using eschatological language common among the Jews, and which was also employed by our Lord (Matt 24:30 ff.). Cf. Knabenbauer and Voste, hoc loco.

And the dead who are in Christ, etc., i.e., those who have died in union with Christ shall first rise, so as to be on an equality with those who are living, then will take place the transformation of the living saints, and this will be followed by the rapture of all with Christ, to be with Him evermore in glory (ver. 16). What a consoling doctrine for the bereaved Thessalonians 1 By the word “first” St. Paul does not mean that the resurrection of the just will precede the general resurrection (about which he is not talking), but that the resurrection of the holy dead will be prior to the transformation of the saints who are living at the time.

1 Th 4:17. Then we who are alive, who are left, shall be taken up together with them in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air, and so shall we be always with the Lord.

Then we who are alive, etc. St. Paul repeats with emphasis the thought of verse 14. He seems to say plainly that those saints who are alive at the time of the Parousia will not die, but will be transformed and taken, together with the righteous dead already raised to life, into glory with Christ. The Greek Fathers and many modern  interpreters so understand the Apostle; and this interpretation agrees with the correct reading and meaning of 1 Cor 15:51, on which see commentary in vol. 1 of this series. To be consistent, we should explain “we who are alive” here as in verse 14, that is, as referring, not to St. Paul and his companions then living when the Apostle was writing nor to others then living with whom he compares those then dead, but to those just who will be living when the Lord comes in glory. Hence follows the conclusion that the righteous who are alive at the Second Coming of Christ to judge the world will pass to glory without dying, and this is what the Apostle was referring to in 2 Cor 5:4. For further argument and a consideration of the opposing opinion on this subject, see vol. 1 of this series, on 1 Cor 15:51. Note: I’ve appended Fr. Callan’s comments on 1 Cor 15:51 to the end of this post.

Shall be taken up together with them, etc. As Jesus ascended into heaven enveloped in a cloud (Acts 1:9), and as He shall come again “in the clouds of heaven” (Matt 24:30), so the just at the end of the world shall be transported by supernatural power beyond the clouds to meet the Lord in His regal majesty, and with Him to enter into glory for evermore.

1 Th 4:18. Wherefore, comfort ye one another with these words.

In view of the consoling words he has just written (ver. 13-16), St. Paul bids his readers to take heart and be comforted in the loss of their dear ones.

 Note: I here reproduce Fr. Callan’s comments on 1 Cor 15:51~Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall all indeed rise again: but we shall not all be changed.

Coming now to describe the way the dead shall rise at the end of the world, the Apostle first solves a difficulty that might arise out of the preceding verse, namely, if our corruptible bodies cannot inherit incorruptible life, what about the just who will be living when Christ appears on the last day? In reply the Apostle says: I tell you a mystery, i.e., a truth of revelation, which human means could not discover (1 Thess 4:14). What is this mystery? It is that the just who are living at the Second Coming of Christ shall not die, but shall be suddenly changed from their corruptible to an incorruptible and glorious state.
 
 This interpretation is (a) according to the best reading of the second part of this verse; (b) it is in harmony with the context, verses 50 and 52, and with the whole drift of St. Paul’s argument; (c) it agrees with the explanation of the same doctrine given by St. Paul elsewhere (1 Thess 4:15-17; 2 Cor 5:1-9; 2 Tim 4:1), and with the teaching of St. Peter on the subject (1 Peter 4:5); (d) it alone gives to “mystery” the proper and obvious meaning of that term; (e) it finds approval in the words of the Creed, “He shall come to judge the living and the dead”; (f) it has the support of practically all the Greek Fathers, and of all modern exegetes.
 
 There is no “mystery” in St. Paul’s mind about the dead, good or bad, rising again. Neither is there any sense in: We shall not all be changed of this verse, and “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” etc., of the following verse. In fact, we shall not be changed here is in direct contradiction with the words, we shall be changed of the next verse.
 
 The reading, therefore, of the second part of this verse, which is found in our version, in the Codex Bezae, and in the Vulgate, and which was commonly accepted by all the Latin Fathers and Latin versions from the time of Tertullian, must be rejected as erroneous for the reasons given above. The Council of Trent, in making the Vulgate the official version of the Church, was well aware that it contained some wrong readings; but when these are of minor importance, or can receive a correct interpretation from other parallel passages of Scripture, as in the present instance, there is no difficulty. Moreover, the Council approved of all the parts of the original Vulgate, “as they were wont to be read in the Catholic Church”; but the East never read this verse as it is in the Vulgate. “If the Vulgate in the present passage were interpreted to mean that all the just without exception are to rise from the dead at the last day, it would not merely contradict the inspired text and the Creeds, but would be hopelessly at variance with itself” (Lattey, in Westm. Ver.).
 
 
 The reading, therefore, of the second part of this verse which is adopted by all modern scholars, Catholic and non-Catholic, and which has the support of the Greek MSS. B E K L P, of practically all cursives, and of most versions, is: “We shall not all sleep (die), but we shall all be changed.” A rival reading of  א C F G and of the cursive no. 17, if read without punctuation, might have the same meaning, thus:  “we shall all sleep (die) not but we shall all be changed.” Generally, however, this reading is understood to agree with that of the Vulgate, and is given as follows: “We shall all sleep (die), but we shall not all be changed.”

 While it is practically certain that the reading of this verse which we have adopted is the only correct one, it must be admitted that the Vulgate reading, taken by itself, can receive an orthodox explanation. Thus, we shall all indeed rise again may be taken to refer to mankind as a whole, without including the few that will be alive at the end (cf. Titus 1:12, 13; Heb 9:27). In like manner, the words, we shall not all be changed can mean that all the dead shall not be glorified.

 It is objected against the above interpretation (a) that verse 22 of this chapter, Rom 5:12, and Heb 9:27 seem to say that all men must die; (b) that St. Paul seemed to expect to be still alive when Christ would come. Answer: (a) Even though all men do not actually die, still there is in them all the liability to death, but the penalty can be taken away by God (St. Thomas, Summa, 1a 2ae, qu. 81, a. 3, ad 3). (b) St. Paul did not really believe or mean to teach that the end of the world was at hand in his time. Doubtless he had no revelation on this subject. If here he associates himself with those who are to be alive at the last day, he elsewhere (1 Cor 6:14; 2 Cor 4:14) speaks of being among those who are to be raised up from the dead at that time. Hence he seems to have been uncertain about the time of the Lord’s coming.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians Chapter 3

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 26, 2019

ST TIMOTHY’S VISIT TO THESSALONICA AND ITS RESULTS

A Summary of 1 Thesalonians 3:1-13~This whole Chapter really belongs, by connection of thought and matter, to the last section of the preceding Chapter. In his anxiety St. Paul did send Timothy to visit and encourage the new converts at Thessalonica. When the Apostle was with them, he had foretold the trials to which they should be subjected, and he was fearing what effects these troubles may have had on their faith. But Timothy on his return gave a most comforting report, for which the Apostle thanks God from the bottom of his heart. Night and day he prays that he himself may be able to visit them, to make up what is wanting to their faith. May God grant him this favor, and may the Thessalonians meanwhile increase and abound in brotherly love towards all, so as to make ever greater progress in holiness, in preparation for the coming of the Lord!

1 Th 3:1 For which cause, forbearing no longer, we thought it good to remain at Athens alone,

In verses 1-5 St. Paul tells the Thessalonians that because of his great love for them and his anxiety about their spiritual welfare he sent Timothy from Athens to visit them, since he could not go himself.

We thought it good, etc. The Apostle is most probably referring to himself and Silas, though some expositors think he is here using the epistolary plural. It is not likely that St. Paul ordered Timothy to go directly from Berea to Thessalonica before conferring with him, and probably Silas, also, at Athens. See Introduction, No. III.

1 Th 3:2. And we sent Timothy, our brother, and the minister of God in the gospel of Christ, to confirm you and exhort you concerning your faith, 

Minister. This is according to the best Greek reading. Some lesser authorities have “co-worker.”In the gospel of Christ, i.e., in the Gospel that is from Christ.

1 Th 3:3. That no man should be moved in these tribulations: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.

That no man, etc. The purpose of the mission of Timothy was to strengthen the converts against their temptations.

In these tribulations, which they were suffering for the Gospel.

That we are appointed thereunto. These words have led some to think St. Paul was referring just above to his own “tribulations,” which he feared would be a scandal to the new converts; but this is a less likely opinion, as appears from the following verse. He simply means that suffering is the lot of all who will follow Christ: “Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21) ; “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).

1 Th 3:4. For even when we were with you, we foretold you that we should suffer tribulations, as also it is come to pass, and you know. 

The knowledge and experience of the Thessalonians verifies St. Paul’s prediction

1 Th 3:5. For this cause also, I, forbearing no longer, sent to know your faith, lest perhaps he that tempteth should have tempted you, and our labor should be made vain.

To show his anxiety about their tribulations, St. Paul here repeats that his personal interest in the Thessalonians caused him to send Timothy to them. He feared for their faith in the midst of sufferings, lest Satan may have prevailed against them, thus rendering his own labors in their behalf of no avail.

He that tempteth, i.e., Satan, who tempts to evil (Matt. 4:3; 1 Cor. 7:5).

Should have tempted you. Better, “had tempted you,” referring to a past fact, of which St. Paul had little doubt.

1 Th 3:6. But now when Timothy came to us from you, and related to us your faith and charity, and that you have a good remembrance of us always, desiring to see us as we also to see you1 Th 3:7. Therefore we were comforted, brethren, in you, in all our necessity and tribulation, by your faith,1 Th 3:8. Because now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.

Being alone at Corinth and all uncertain about conditions at Thessalonica, St. Paul was in a state of great anxiety when Timothy joined him there, bringing glad tidings of the faith, charity, and personal affection for Paul of the new converts. This report of their faith was a source of comfort to the Apostle in his own trials and afflictions, and gave him new life to press on in his labors.

Related to us ver. 6. Better, “brought us glad tidings,” as if preaching the Gospel to him.

Now we live ver 8, i.e., he felt his tired and wearied life renewed.

1 Th 3:9. For what thanks can we return to God for you, in all the joy wherewith we rejoice for you before our God,
1 Th 3:10. Night and day more abundantly praying that we may see your face, and may accomplish those things that are wanting to your faith?

St. Paul knows not how to thank God for the report about the Thessalonians, and he says his prayer is unceasing that he may be able to visit them in person and make up what may be wanting in their faith; his stay with them had not been long, and hence there was need on their part of more religious instruction, theoretical and practical. For a similar reason the Apostle at a later date wanted to visit the Church in Rome (Rom. 1:11).

Verses 11-13 (see below) conclude the first main part of the Epistle. In these verses St. Paul prays to God, first for the Apostles, that they may be enabled to visit the Thessalonians (ver. 11); and secondly, for the converts, that they may increase in charity (ver. 12), and may be found blameless in the day of Christ’s coming (ver. 13). The second main part of the letter likewise closes with a prayer to God (v. 23-24). Cf. Voste, hoc loco.

1 Th 3:11. Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way unto you,

God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus. The Christus of the Vulgate is not in the Greek.

Unity of action is here attributed to the Father and our Lord in directing the free actions of men for a supernatural purpose, and therefore their equality in divine nature is implied. See 2 Thess. 2:16-17, where the same doctrine is even more explicitly stated. How clear this doctrine was to the mind of St. Paul in these the first of his letters, and therefore in the earliest of New Testament writings!

Direct our way, etc. Better, “make straight our way,” by removing all impediments.

1 Th 3:12. And may the Lord multiply you, and make you abound in charity towards one another, and towards all men, as we do also towards you:

May the Lord multiply, etc. Better, “may the Lord make you to increase, etc.” Here again divine action is attributed to our Lord. As the Apostles are animated with charity towards the Thessalonians, so may the latter be towards “one another, and towards all men,” for Christ died for all!
The in vobis of the Vulgate should be in vos, as in the Greek.

1 Th 3:13. To confirm your hearts without blame in holiness, before God and our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, with all his saints. Amen.

To confirm your hearts, etc. The reference is to the action and grace of the Lord spoken of in the preceding verse. The Apostle prays for the internal, as well as the external perfection of his readers.

Before God, etc., i.e., in the sight of God the Father.

At the coming, etc., i.e., when our Lord, accompanied by His holy angels, comes to judge the world. The Apostle wishes his converts to be arrayed with all the virtues of sanctity when the Lord comes in judgment.

With all his saints. What is the meaning of “saints” here? Some authorities, like Ambrosiaster, Flatt and Hofmann, referring the phrase back to “without blame in holiness,” think all the faithful, living or dead, are meant; Findlay and others say only the holy dead are in question; Lightfoot and Milligan hold that we should understand both angels and the blessed dead; Knabenbauer, Voste, and most modern commentators teach that only angels are to be understood in this passage.

The reasons for this last opinion are that in all the eschatological passages of the Old and New Testaments and in the apocryphal books only angels are mentioned as accompanying the coming Messiah, Moreover, the dead who have died in the Lord seem to be excluded from a part in the glorious coming of the Messiah, according to 1 Thess. 4:15. It is true that certain New Testament passages speak of “the saints” as having part in the judgment of the world; but we must not confuse the judgment with the glorious advent of the Christ, which is to precede the judgment. See Voste, hoc loco.

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