The Point: Colossians 1:13b is a unique phrase in all of Scripture. Wow! For this reason, however, translators aren’t quite sure what to do with it. As you read below, you will see my reasons for suggesting that all of the translations capture a portion of this segment, while only an exactly literal translation captures the totality. Jesus is the embodiment, the exact image, of everything anyone could ever say about the love of God. Christ is the object of God’s love, as well as the subject. He is the recipient as well as the giver. Everything we know about Christ reveals (expresses) the love of God his Father, both for Christ and from Christ and towards us, his people. (Disclaimer: It gets a bit technical, so that is why I’ve summed it all up here as, “The Point.”)
Most translations of Colossians 1:13b read, “kingdom of his beloved Son,” as in the ESV, or, “kingdom of the Son he loves,” as in the NIV and NET. Alternatively, both the NKJ and and the much older ASV (1901) read, “kingdom of the Son of his love.” The interlinear, literal translation portion of Marshall’s Greek-English New Testament reads, “kingdom of the Son of the love of him,” an exact correspondence with the Greek. My thesis is that the translation, “Son of his love,” though older, still recommends itself as a strong possibility based on evidence from context and comparison with the Greek structure of other biblical verses concerning God’s love and his Son.
The phrase in Colossians 1:13b reads in Greek, “τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ υἱοῦ τῆς ἀγάπης αὐτοῦ.” This phrase is unique to the entire Bible, as well as the portions that read, “τοῦ υἱοῦ τῆς ἀγάπης,” and “τῆς ἀγάπης αὐτοῦ.” The phrase “his beloved Son” in English translations, including the ESV, NAU, and “dear Son” in the KJV, occurs only in Colossians 1:13. The English phrase Son he loves occurs only in Colossians 1:13. That this Greek construction is so unique accounts for the imprecision in its translation.
The English phrase “my beloved Son” occurs nine times in the KJV and seven times in the ESV. The corresponding “my Son, whom I love” (NIV) occurs eight times, all in the New Testament, and only in the NIV. The Greek construction corresponding to “my beloved Son” differs entirely from the Greek construction of “the Son of his love.” “My beloved Son” with a capital “S” is “ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός” in six of the seven instances of its occurrence in the Bible, all of which occur in the New Testament (1). There is also one occurrence of the same construction in the accusative (Luke 20:13). “The Son of his love” in Greek, as noted above, is “τοῦ υἱοῦ τῆς ἀγάπης αὐτοῦ,” and also as noted above, is unique to all of Scripture.
In the genitive, the Greek word for love, “ἀγάπης,” occurs twenty-one times in the Bible, three of these in the Septuagint and the remaining eighteen in the New Testament. Two of the Septuagint references occur in Song of Solomon and the third in Jeremiah. All of the New Testament occurrences are in the epistles. Of all the occurrences of “ἀγάπης,” the one in Colossians 1:13 is the only one that occurs in close proximity to mention of Christ as God’s Son. Of the eighteen New Testament occurrences of the phrase “ἀγάπης,” only that in 2 Corinthians 13:11, “ὁ θεὸς τῆς ἀγάπης καὶ εἰρήνης,” displays a structure similar to the phrase in Colossians 1:13, “τοῦ υἱοῦ τῆς ἀγάπης αὐτοῦ.”
Wallace in Greek Beyond the Basics (107) identifies 2 Corinthians 13:11 as a possible example of a genitive of product, that is, a product which is produced by the head noun. If this is so, then the phrase could be translated as, “the God who produces love and peace,” which suits the context nicely. Since the Greek phrase in 2 Corinthians is the only phrase in all of Scripture that uses ἀγάπης in a structure similar to that found in Colossians 1:13–and both verses are Pauline–it appears reasonable to consider that the genitive in Colossians might carry a meaning similar to the one found in 2 Corinthians. If this were the case, the translation might read, “the Son who produces his [the Father’s] love.”
There is another quite different sense for the phrase, “of the Son of his love,” a sense which is also rare in Scripture. The phrase “the son who is characterized by such-and-such a quality,” captures the essence of this further meaning. Illustrations are found in John 17:12 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3, where the phrase in question is, “the son of destruction,” or, “ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας.” Acts 4:36 provides another example in the phrase “son of encouragement,” or “υἱὸς παρακλήσεως.” Such a meaning for “τοῦ υἱοῦ τῆς ἀγάπης αὐτοῦ,” or paraphrased, “of the Son who is characterized by and embodies the love of the Father,” fits well with the meaning of the entire verse in which the domain of darkness is contrasted with the kingdom of the Son of God, who is characterized by and embodies the Father’s love.
Summary: For all of the above reasons, I prefer to translate Colossians 1:13b as, “He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son of his love. (Colossians 1:13 NET, except for the underlined portion)
1 The seventh KJV occurrence of “my beloved Son” occurs in Luke 9:35. It is ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἐκλελεγμένος, or my Son, the chosen One.
Greetings from the Sisters
7 Michele will tell you all about our activities. She is a beloved sister and faithful minister
and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I have sent her to you for this very purpose, that you may
know how we are and that she may encourage your hearts, 9 and with her Patricia, our
faithful and beloved sister, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has
taken place here. 10 Estelle my fellow prayer warrior greets you, and Diana the co-pastor
with Becca (concerning whom you have received instructions–if she comes to you,
welcome her warmly), 11 and Marguerite, who is called Margie. These women have
encouraged me and been a great comfort to me. 12 Norma, who is one of you, a servant
of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in her prayers, that you may
stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 13 For I bear her witness that she has
worked hard for you and for those in North Bound and with Pastor Sneed. 14 Linda the
beloved great grandmother greets you, as does Sandy. 15 Give my greetings to the sisters
with Connie on Monday and to all the women who meet together in her Life Group.
16 And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in Connie’s group; and
see that you also read the letter from Connie. 17 And say to Wendy, “See that you fulfill
the ministry that you have received in the Lord.” 18 I, Christina, write this greeting with my
own hand. Remember my difficulties. Grace be with you.
(NIV) Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer…
Sometimes–not always, but sometimes–a word study is a fruitful way to dig meaning from a verse. I believe this to be the case with Colossians 4:2.
“Devote yourselves” to prayer is used by the NIV, NAU, and NET, as opposed to the “continue steadfastly” of the older KJV and newer ESV. The NKJV approaches the NIV and NET with “continue earnestly.”
Why do I prefer “devote yourselves” over “continue steadfastly”?
I believe this translation better captures the author Paul, a passionate, loving Christian who does nothing halfway.
1. Devotion speaks of passionate love.
- a lover for his or her mate
- an artist for their art
- an athlete who endures much suffering for their sport or skill (dancers, gymnasts, mountain bikers, long distance hikers and so on)
- a father or mother for their child
- some children for their parents
- a writer for their writing
- a photographer for their photography
- a pastor for his flock
- a missionary for his sheep
- Christ for His church
- Father God for the world
2. Grammar: “Devote yourselves” already implies the present active imperative (an ongoing command) form of the Greek verb.
- One cannot practice devotion without ongoing (steadfast) endurance.
- The ESV on the other hand must pack into “continue steadfastly” the full force of the main verb (for which see below), leaving out all the beautiful connotations of devotion.
3. While steadfastness is a virtue, the connotations of “continue steadfastly” do not capture Paul’s passionate intent of eager, energetic enthusiasm, but rather–
- an endurance of duty not necessarily accompanied by joy and faith of fulfillment
- it leaves out many of the positive connotations of “devote yourselves”
4. The meaning and other biblical uses of the Greek word itself.
A Look at the Greek Behind “devote yourselves”
The Greek form of the English “devote yourselves” is προσκαρτερεῖτε (pros-kar-te-ree-tay). Grammatically it is a command for ongoing action. There is a prefix προσ (pros), and the command form built from the base word καρτερέω (kar-te-ray-oh), which comes from an adjective meaning “strong,” which in turn comes from the noun κράτος (kra-tohss), meaning strength.
κράτος (kra-tohss) appears in Greek (the Septuagint translation) Old Testament verses which speak of strength or might.
Psalm 62:11 …power belongs to God…
(Septuagint) Job 12:16 With him are strength and power: he has knowledge and understanding.
(Septuagint) Isaiah 22:21 and I will put on him thy robe, and I will grant him thy crown with power…
We see this word κράτος (kra-tohss) in the New Testament in verses such as:
(ESV) Luke 1:51 He has shown strength with his arm…
(ESV) Colossians 1:11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,
(NET) 1 Timothy 6:16 He alone possesses immortality and lives in unapproachable light, whom no human has ever seen or is able to see. To him be honor and eternal power!
(NET) Revelation 5:13 Then I heard every creature– in heaven, on earth, under the earth, in the sea, and all that is in them– singing: “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be praise, honor, glory, and ruling power forever and ever!”
The prefix προσ (pros) generally means a motion toward someone or something. It can also mean attachment to something in space or time. It can further mean a reference to something, where the thing is the verb that follows it. The concept of “continuing,” in some of the English translations (KJV, NKJV, and ESV), while certainly in agreement with the present imperative (ongoing command) form of the verb, derives more from the prefix προσ (pros) than the verb tense.
So, an expanded translation of Τῇ προσευχῇ προσκαρτερεῖτε (tee pros-ev-khee pros-kar-te-ree-tay), in addition to 1) devote yourselves to prayer (NIV) , 2) continue earnestly in prayer (NKJV), and 3) continue steadfastly in prayer (ESV), might be the following:
1) apply your strength fixedly in prayer, 2) always apply your full strength mightily and powerfully in prayer.
Paul says the Colossians should always stand ready to give themselves fully and powerfully to prayer. They should never hold any part of themselves back when they are praying. They should give prayer all they’ve got. He asks that while they are doing this to include himself and his ministry in their prayers, so that God would open doors for him and his friends to tell others the good news of Jesus Christ.
What about me? Do I pray for God’s Kingdom according to Paul’s command to the Colossians?
How does being subordinate to her husband in the context of his leadership within the family unit benefit a wife?
Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
The Greek word used in (Colossians 3:18) for the ESV’s “submit” is a passive form of “ὑποτάσσω”, [ee-poe-tássoe, according to the modern Greek pronunciation as recorded in Bible.is] and is translated in the NIV as, “submit yourselves.” The NAU says, “be subject to”, and the NET “submit to.” The Message Bible, a newer paraphrase, translates the entire verse, “Wives, understand and support your husbands by submitting to them in ways that honor the Master.” My own translation would be, “Wives, yield your right of way to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” Yielding one’s right of way is a phrase which I think best captures Paul’s use of the Greek word “ὑποτάσσω”. Let’s take a closer look at the word.
First of all, the Greek word does not mean what our collective cultural dictionary says concerning our words “submit” and “submissive”. English vernacular has developed over the generations a negative connotation for these words, which includes the image of someone who is spineless, a wimp, passive, dependent, and possibly even cringing. I believe that much of this connotation has developed as a backlash to the Christian right’s interpretation of this very verse.
“‘Uποτάσσω” is built of two parts–the prefix “ὑπο” (hupo, as it is often pronounced) and the root “τάσσω” (tássoe). “τάσσω” alone means “to place or station a person or thing in a fixed spot,” (Greek-English Lexicon, Arndt and Gingrich) as, for example, in a business or governmental position or office. A second, similar meaning is to “order, fix, determine, appoint.” The Greek meaning and context carry no negative connotations. Order is the rule of society. In society, organizations, businesses, institutions of health, the military, the government, the court system, a classroom, a school, a district, states, the nation, and so on, must be ordered or they cease to function. Nearly everything one can think of carries the quality of order with it. We live in an ordered universe.
Next, “ὑπο” is a prefix that means “under.” “‘Uποτάσσω” (hupotάssoe) in the passive imperative (command) form found in Colossians 1:18 means to be “subordinated” under someone else in the hierarchy of order, just as a nurse is subordinate to a physician, a private to a sergeant, the vice president to the president, and Christ the Son to God the Father. Negative connotations in the context of Colossians, as in all of Paul, are not intended. Neither Christ nor Paul were against women; they highly favored them. (See the Conversation with the woman at the well, and Paul’s commendation of Euodia and Syntyche as “fellow workers”.)
Paul’s grammar says that women should submit themselves as an action of their own free will, not that men should force them to submit.
(NIV) Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. [The NIV correctly catches Paul’s passive command to wives.]
Here are other verses which use the Greek word “ὑποτάσσω” (hupotάssoe).
1 Corinthians 16:15 Now I urge you, brothers–you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints– 16 be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer.
1 Corinthians 15:27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
There is a quote by Eric S. Gray that is making its rounds on the internet, “Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she’ll give you a baby. If you give her a house, she’ll give you a home. If you give her groceries, she’ll give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she’ll give you her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her. So, if you give her any crap, be ready to receive a ton of shit!”
In much the same vein Francis Frangipane in his book, This Day We Fight, speaks of God creating man to be the one who brings order and structure to the world. God himself is a God of order and structure, man having been created in his image. Frangipane continues by describing the woman as the life bearer, the one who makes new life. God himself makes life; in him there is life (John 1:4). Both man and woman were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), yet with different functions, or roles. They are a team, the one complimenting the other and the first providing for, loving, nurturing, and caring for the other as though she were his own flesh (Genesis 2:23).
Just as a team of horses or sled dogs has a single leader, or a sports team has but one captain, a nation has but one queen or king or only one president, a car only one steering wheel, an airplane one pilot and a copilot, so the team of man and woman has one leader, the one who interfaces with the world to provide order and structure for the family unit, which leads to nurture and safety for the woman, who brings life to the home and bears and raises the children. The human body has two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, two hands, two feet, and only one mouth. In an analogy to marriage, the husband is the mouth and the wife his breath.
Paul wasn’t writing legalistic, dictatorial law; he wasn’t saying, “One size fits all.” Paul was describing God’s blueprint, the way God designed the OS for humanity. God designed humans after his own nature. God is a triune God, three-in-one. The Father is head; the Son is the full expression of the Father and the bearer of life for the world. He carries out his Father’s will. Human marriage is God’s blueprint for the church and Christ, Christ the head in relation to the church and the church his bride. The church carries out her Savior’s will.
Applying the Above to This Verse
So how does being subordinate to her husband in the context of his leadership within the family unit benefit a wife? As shown above, the woman by creation, that is, the biology of the way things are, is the life-bearer and physical nurturer of the baby in the early months/years of life. The husband brings the external order and structure to the home–its sustenance (income) and protection. This frees up the woman from those concerns and gives her the security and restfulness necessary for her to provide for the family–her children, her spouse, and herself–in an atmosphere of peace and joy. It’s division of labor, just as in the human body.
Immediate Biblical Context
The immediate context of Colossians 3:18-4:1, in which Paul addresses the order that is to exist in the Colossian households regarding 1) the husband/wife relationship, 2) the children/parent relationship, and 3) the slave/master relationship, is–
L-O-V-E, Peace, and Joyful Thanksgiving.
Colossians 3:14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
And, it’s a two-way street:
Colossians 3:19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. (I.e., you must love your wives in such a way that you are willing to die for them– )
Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
Colossians 4:1 Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
It is interesting to note that in this entire passage, Paul’s heart seems to be burdened most heavily with the plight of the slaves in his society. Whereas he devotes one sentence each to wives and husbands and one sentence each to children and parents, he devotes four sentences (verses) to his encouragement of slaves, and one sentence to their masters. Clearly, Paul has no chip on his shoulder against any of these six social groups, and his emphasis is NOT on wives. After his brief comments on household order, he switches immediately to prayer and Christian behavior toward outsiders.
Everyone is aware of how imperfectly the church has accomplished Christ’s commandment to spread the good news of his kingdom salvation to the whole world. The relation of wives and husbands is no different–it’s something that the church has botched over the years. Nevertheless, it is the Christian nations in which the movement for social equality for women has gained the most ground. I know of no other world religion that favors women as highly as biblical Christianity. And, the Bible teaches this without demeaning men.
Click for Text Here: Colossians 2:8-3:4
Gospel Precedents and Biblical Background of Spiritual Elements in Colossians 2
I. One of the great markers of the New Testament Gospels is the translation of concrete and historical Old Testament realities into spiritual and historical realities:
A. Jesus becomes the sacrificial lamb.
1. OT: Abraham begins to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:1-14)
2. OT: Passover blood of the sacrificial lamb on the lintel (Exodus 12:7)
NT: Jesus sacrificed during Passover (Luke 22:7-8)
B. Jesus becomes the temple.
1. OT: (2 Chronicles 7:11-12)
NT: (John 2:19-22)
C. Concrete worship becomes spiritual.
1. OT: God commanded a certain location where he was to be worshiped (Deuteronomy 12:2-7)
NT: Jesus changed a specific, physical (concrete) location of worship into a spiritual locus of worship with no physical correspondence (John 4: 20-24)
2. OT: God gave the Israelites manna to keep them alive in the wilderness (Exodus 16)
OT: (Hosea 11:1)
E. The Old Covenant becomes the New Covenant
1. OT: The many OT covenants had physical (concrete) markers
a. the Noahic Covenant, marked by a rainbow, in which God promised not to physically destroy all living flesh by water (Genesis 9:12-17)
b. covenant with Abraham marked by the sacrifice of a physical ram (Genesis 22:9-18)
c. covenant with Israel through Moses (Exodus 24:3-8) marked by sacrificial blood (“This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.” Exodus 24:8) and the Ten Commandments (Exodus 24:8, 12; 25:16; 34:28)
2. NT: Jesus gives a New Covenant marked by the concrete (physical) sacrifice of his own body on a cross and the symbolic remembrance of that sacrificed blood in communion (“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Luke 22:20
II. The New Testament epistles continue to replace concrete (physical) realities with spiritual realities sometimes marked by concrete symbols:
A. Continuation of Jesus’ blood as a symbolic marker of the New Covenant (1 Corinthians 11:25)
B. Continuation of the spiritual temple motif (Hebrews 10:19-20)
Paul’s Movement from Concrete (Physical) to Spiritual in Colossians
I. In matters of food, drink, festivals, new moon, a sabbath
Colossians 2:16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
A. Paul’s list includes all concrete substances (food and drink) or practices (celebrating a festival, a new moon, or a Sabbath).
B. He calls these a “shadow,” but Christ is the “substance,” or the reality that casts the shadow. Not being physically present on Earth at this time, Christ is Spirit, present by means of the Holy Spirit, who lives in believers and among them.
C. Paul calls these concrete religious practices “elemental spirits” or “elementary principles” as in the NAU. (Gr: στοιχεῖον) (Colossians 2:20)
E. These practices concern concrete (physical) items, such as food and drink, which perish as they are used–i.e., they have no eternal value–and they are not useful in helping one to achieve the spiritual practices God desires (Colossians 3:23). The spiritual practices which God desires Paul begins to present in 3:5.
II. Paul moves circumcision from concrete to spiritual
Colossians 2:11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
III. Baptism, itself a concrete action, signifies a spiritual correspondence to and spiritual identification with Christ’s death and resurrection
Colossians 2:12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
IV. In a spiritual way, the record of debts owed under the Old (First) Covenant was nailed to the cross with Christ and thereby cancelled, forgiven (2:13)
Colossians 2:14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
V. Paul’s point is that the Colossians, as believers in Christ, have moved from the old, concrete form of worshipping God to the new, spiritual form of worship.
Colossians 2:20a If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world,
They are therefore free of the old ways, having died with Christ to them, and having been raised with him into newness of life under the New Covenant of Spirit
and no longer need to follow these old, concrete (physical, fleshly) ways of worship and thinking and living
Colossians 2:20b why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations–
A. His rationale
Colossians 3:1a Since, then, you have been raised with Christ
Colossians 3:3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
B. His conclusion
Colossians 3:1b set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
C. How should the Colossians’ thinking change?
Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
D. What will the end result be?
Colossians 3:4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
VII. Paul begins to answer the question, How then shall we live?
NIV Colossians 3:5a Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature (your concrete, fleshly body)
[not in text: and begin to live to the spiritual in the following ways, which he begins to state in 3:5b]