Question on Colossians 1


#1

I do not know Greek; therefore, I must rely upon the English text.

In the introduction of St. Paul’s epistle to the Colossians, he adds “and faithful brethern” after the word “saints.” Now, I am thinking that the word “saints” is referring to those consecrated to God through Baptism. If one is consecrated to God, he/she is holy, a “saint.” This is not, I think, referring to their “level of spirituality.” It appears that the words “and faithful brethern” are either redundant or referring to another group of individuals. In modern era, it might be those in RCIA. However, in St. Paul’s time, I don’t know if they had this “waiting” and learning period.

I realize that not all baptized are faithful. I think St. Paul is stating the reality of what they are through Baptism. Those who are baptized are holy, being consecrated to God, and are faithful to God, the Church, and to each other. One cannot be faithful to God and unfaithful to the brethern. If you cannot love the one you can see, how can you love God whom you cannot see? It is an ascending thing derived from a descending thing. We are faithful to our brother, the Catholic Church, and therefore God because of Jesus’ being being faithful to God and man and creating the Catholic Church.

I do not think there are superfluous words in holy Scripture. I think there is a purpose for every word. Therefore, what is the significance of “and faithful brethern”?


#2

The more I meditate upon it: Perhaps, St. Paul is not being redundant; perhaps, he is emphasizing faithfulness. The Colossians were new converts. He knew he could not go after them, on things they were doing wrong–great wrongs although they were. He had to encourage them, exhort them along. He does this by telling them the truth: That he was thankful for them, for what God was doing in them, praying that God gives them enlightenment. He also keeps bringing up the word “faithful,” calling Epaphras faithful and Onesimus faithful. He wants them to focus upon faithfulness for this is the major area in which they were deficient, and then he gives instructions on how to grow in faithfulness. Faithfulness begins in the Catholic Church because we receive it from God in the Church, and then we must exercise it with our fellow man.

Now, what does this has to do with us? Everything. The Catholic Church is everything to us because Jesus Christ is its Head. If we are not faithful to the Catholic Church, we are not faithful to God, and we cannot be truly faithful to our faithful man. St. Paul wrote the Colossians that “we are praying for you without ceasing.” “We” is leaders of the Church. Today, the Catholic Church is praying for us without ceasing, especially in the daily Mass. Masses go on all over the world, praying for all Catholic especially and also for all of mankind secondarily. Because the Catholic Church is praying without ceasing, this entails that Jesus is praying always for us because He is the Head. In addition, our blessed Mother and all the saints and angels are praying for us. They are faithful to God, Church, and us; let us likewise be faithful. May it be according to Thy Word. Thy will be done.


#3

The Greek is not a lot of help: τοις … 'αγιοις και πιστοις αδελφοις is either “to the saints and to the faithful brethren”, taking the first term as a substantive, or “to the holy and faithful brethren”, taking the first term as an attributive to the last term.

Even if it is the former, Greek was perfectly happy using that formula (X+Y) to address just one referent (q.v. Col 1:3).

So, it could be two distinct groups, but my guess would be that he meant just one: to the saints who were the faithful brethren.


#4

Therefore, it could be both; but, if it is viewed as one group, the apostle must be emphasizing faithfulness. Otherwise, it would be redundant because one cannot be a “saint” without being faithful?


#5

It is somewhat redundant, but the compounding of synonymous terms (“auxesis”) was (and is) a standard rhetorical trick: not just a big truck, but a big, huge truck. Traditionally, this would emphasize both terms: “saints/holy” by being first, and “faithful” by being greater (since one typically moved from lesser to greater).

Your description of its focus on faithfulness sounds quite fair.


#6

Thanks. That helps.com

What about “in Christ?” Is the word “in” in the Greek? I am thinking that, before creation, God was; there not being anything outside of God. Therefore, when God created, creation was in God and in Christ. I read somewheres that “in” meant “by” or “through,” but I have difficulty with that because St Paul utilizes those words also.


#7

Translation is a messy business because, very frequently, one language uses a word (e.g., “in”) for two different functions while the other language uses a word (e.g., “εν”) for one of those functions and also for another, different function: the two words coincide at one point but diverge everywhere else. When translating, you then have to decide how to show your target language audience what the source language was saying, without misleading them into interpreting it in a way which is natural in their language (e.g., Jesus had brothers) which the source language does not say.

In this case, “εν” is there. Here is 1 Col 1:2 in parallel: τοις (to the) εν (in) κολασσαις (Colosse) αγιοις (to holy) και (and) πιστοις (faithful) αδελφοις (brothers) εν (in) χριστω (Christ) χαρις (grace) υμιν (to you) και (and) ειρηνη (peace) απο (from) θεου (God) πατρος (father) ημων (of us) και (and) κυριου (from lord) ιησου (Jesus) χριστου (Christ). By the way, you can find interlinear arrangements like this on various websites like this one.

I am not sure whether there is a particularly Catholic site which does that, should you want one, but everybody uses the same source texts anyway.


#8

Thank you. The Psalmist calls for the sun, moons, stars, and all creation to bless the Lord. They do this by doing what they were created for. Man, through original sin, disobedience, strayed from his purpose, his station. In order to bless the Lord, he must return, be back in God, through the Son, through the Church. Then he will be able to bless the Lord.


#9

I think this was an interesting discussion, and I don’t have much to add to what Mystophilus explained. But I do think there is evidence of a period of catechetical instruction in the New Testament similar to modern RCIA. The Book of Hebrews seems to indicate that new converts had gone through a period of topical instruction in Hebrews 6:1-8. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, with instruction about [baptisms], the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.

For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt.

For land which has drunk the rain that often falls upon it, and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed; its end is to be burned. source I think there is evidence that the author is talking about new converts. He seems to mention baptism and use several metaphors for conversion, including tasting the heavenly gift and becoming fruitful land. But he indicates that this involved a period of topical instruction: “instruction about… [list of catechetical topics].”

Another passage that may indicate an early counterpart to modern RCIA is in the First Letter of Peter. Some have interpreted that book as a letter to new Christians. Support for this includes the author’s multiple references to being recently born again in 1 Peter 1:34 and 1 Peter 2:2-3, and the author’s discussion of the meaning of baptism in 1 Peter 3:20-21. But the fact that a letter was written to the newly baptized suggests, at least to me, that the new believers had to wait together to be baptized. That seems to indicate some kind of waiting period, at least to me.

Anyway, I just thought that was interesting. God bless!


#10

I have not dismissed the idea of two groups. St Paul–I believe in Ephesians–speaks of saints and those who call upon Christ. Of course, saints call upon Christ. It is similar to Colossians. However, when we consider it as one group, it has a much more impact upon us as individuals. For example, in Colossians, we become more faithful, and remain faithful, when we take the entirety of the apostle’ s instructions to the Colossians to heart and follow them. It becomes more personal.


#11

Does the words “in Colossae” bother anyone? They did me. They raised several in my mind. St Paul prayed for this church; where are they today? Why did God not cause them to persevere? I know that I cannot persevere on my own; will God not cause me to persevere? They had the Sacraments, as I do. Do you see what I mean?

St Paul used the word “we” when telling the Colossians they were being prayed for. This “we” included Timothy, and perhaps Epaphras, Onesimis, and others. What it tells us is: The Church is praying for them. What is that to us? The Catholic Church prays continuously for all believers in God, especially all Christians. This is especially done in each Mass, and in the Liturgy of the Hours. If the Catholic Church is praying for us, Jesus is also continuously praying for us for He is the Head of the Catholic Church, His Body. Was He faithful to the Colossians? Will He be faithful to us? Yes.

Now, what about the church at Colossae? Why is it not a thriving, vibrant church? To answer this, perhaps the church in Jerusalem will help us. Jesus told the apostles to go to Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the world. What did they do? They stayed in Jerusalem. What occurred? There was a persecution and a dispersion. We see this also in the OT. This is probably what occurred in Colossae and the seven churches in the Revelation. This is largely how the world gets evangelized. We can see this currently occurring in Iraq; therefore, they need to be in our prayers. Hence, God is faithful; He causes them to be fruitful, to persevere.

According to Hitchcock’s Bible Names, “Colossae” means punishment, correction. This is also fitting and encouraging, for God chastises those whom He loves.

Comments encouraged.


#12

This Hitchcock appears to be conflating Κολοσσαι with κολασαι, a form of a verb for “pruning” or “chastising”. The town was not originally Greek, but Phrygian (Herodotos mentions it as having been a “big city” in 481 BC), and so the Greek name is mostly likely just a transliteration from whatever the Phrygian was.


#13

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