Colossians 1:15-20

Colossians 1:15-20
A Women’s Lectionary Christmas Day


15 He isA the imageB of the invisibleC God,D

Notes on verse 15a

A “is” = eimi. This is to be or exist.
B “image” = eikon. From eiko (resemble, be like) OR perhaps related to eiko (to submit, give way, be weak, yield). This is a likeness such as an image, statue, or other representation. It implies a prototype that is being mirrored – a replication rather than a shadow. It can be an image in a figurative sense as well. This is where the word “icon” comes from.
C “invisible” = aoratos. 5x in NT. From a (not, without) + horatos (this is visible, something that one can see); {from horao (to see, perceive, attend to, look upon, experience; to stare at, which implies clear discernment; by extension, attending to what was seen and learned; to see, often with a metaphorical sense, which can include inward spiritual seeing)}. This is something that one cannot see – something invisible. Figuratively, it could refer to the reality of the divine.
D “God” = Theos. From Proto-Indo-European origins, meaning do, put, place. This is God or a god in general.

the firstbornE of allF creation;G 16 for in him all things in heavenH and on earthI were created,J things visibleK and invisible,

Notes on verses 15b-16a

E “firstborn” = prototokos. 8x in NT. From protos (what is first, which could be the most important, the first in order, the main one, the chief); {from pro (before, first, in front of, earlier)} + tikto (to beget, bring forth, produce). This is firstborn or oldest. Figuratively, it can also mean pre-eminent.
F “all” = pas. This is all or every.
G “creation” = ktisis. 19x in NT. From ktizo (to build, create, form, shape; God’s acts of creation); probably akin to ktaomai (to get, purchase, possess). This is creation, creature, or ordinance. It is also used for when a city is founded and creation as origin.
H “heaven” = ouranos. May be related to oros (mountain, hill) with the notion of height. This is the air, the sky, the atmosphere, and heaven. It is the sky that is visible and the spiritual heaven where God dwells. Heaven implies happiness, power, and eternity.
I “earth” = ge. This is earth, land, soil, region, country, the inhabitants of an area.
J “created” = ktizo. Related to “creation” in v15. 15x in NT. See note G above.
K “visible” = horatos. Related to “invisible” in v15. 1x in NT. See note C above.

whether thronesL or dominionsM or rulersN or powersO—all things have been created through him and for him. 

Notes on verse 16b

L “thrones” = thronos. Probably from thanos (bench); from thrao (to sit). This is throne or seat – the place where the king sits. So, it is used figuratively to mean power, dominion, or a potentate. This is where the word “throne” comes from.
M “dominions” = kuriotes. 4x in NT. From kurios (a respectful address meaning master or sir. It refers to one who has control or power greater than one’s own. So, it was also applied to God and Jesus as Master or Lord); from kuros (authority, supremacy). This is lordship, mastery, or authority. It refers to the power over a region or a ruling within a heavenly hierarchy. It can refer to rulers or government.
N “rulers” = arche. From archomai (to begin or rule); from archo (to rule, begin, have first rank or have political power). Properly, this is what is first. In a temporal sense, that is beginning or origin. It can also refer to the one who ranks first, i.e. king or ruler. So, it can also be magistrate, power, or principality. It can be used more generally for what is preeminent.
O “powers” = exousia. Related to “is” in v15. From exesti (to be permitted or lawful); {from ek (out, out of) + eimi (see note A above)}. This is power to act or weight. It especially denotes moral authority or influence. It can mean domain, liberty, freedom, capacity, mastery, right, force, or strength.

17 He himself is beforeP all things, and in him all things hold together.Q 18 He is the headR of the body,S the church;T

Notes on verses 17-18a

P “before” = pro. Related to “firstborn” in v15. See note E above.
Q “hold together” = sunistemi. 16x in NT. From sun (with, together with) + histemi (to stand, place, establish, appoint, stand ready, be steadfast). This is to establish, exhibit, demonstrate, stand together, prove.
R “head” = kephale. This is head or chief. It can be a literal head or, figuratively, a ruler or lord. It can also refer to a corner stone. This is where the word “cephalic” comes from.
S “body” = soma. Perhaps from sozo (to save, heal, rescue); from sos (safe, well, rescued). This is body or flesh. It can be body in a literal or figurative sense (as the body of Christ). This is where the word “somatic” comes from.
T “church” = ekklesia. From ek (from, out from) + kaleo to call by name, invite, to name, bid, summon, call aloud) {related to keleuo (to command, order, direct); from kelomai (to urge on)}. This is properly a calling out or an assembly. It was used to refer to a church.

he is the beginning,U the firstborn from the dead,V so that he might comeW to have first placeX in everything.Y 

Notes on verse 18b

U “beginning” = arche. Same as “rulers” in v16. See note N above.
V “dead” = nekros. Perhaps from nekus (corpse). This is dead of lifeless, mortal, corpse. It can also be used figuratively for powerless or ineffective. It is where the word “necrotic” comes from.
W “come” = ginomai. This is to come into being, to happen, become, be born. It can be to emerge from one state or condition to another or is coming into being with the sense of movement or growth.
X “have first place” = proteuo. Related to “firstborn” in v15 & “before” in v17. 1x in NT. From protos (see note E above). This is having preeminence, having the first rank, being a chief influence.
Y “everything” = pas. Same as “all” in v15. See note F above.

19 For in him all the fullnessZ of God was pleasedAA to dwell,BB 

Notes on verse 19

Z “fullness” = pleroma. 18x in NT. From pleroo (to fill, make full or complete; properly, filling something up to the maximum extent or induvial capacity; used figuratively for furnish, influence, satisfy, finish, preach, perfect, and fulfill); from pleres (to be full, complete, abounding in, occupied with). This is fullness, supply, completion, superabundance, or multitude.
AA “pleased” = eudokeo. From eu (good, well, well done) + dokeo (to have an opinion, seem, appear, suppose; a personal judgment; to think); from dokos (opinion). This is to think well of, to be pleased or resolved. Properly, this is what someone finds good or acceptable – approving of some action or generally thinking well of.
BB “dwell” = katoikeo. From kata (down, against, throughout, among) + oikeo (to settle or be established somewhere in a permanent way, to make a home or live at home); {from oikos (house – the building, the household, the family, descendants; the temple)}. This is to live or settle on a permanent basis.

20 and through him God was pleased to reconcileCC to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peaceDD through the bloodEE of his cross.FF

Notes on verse 20

CC “reconcile” = apokatallasso. 3x in NT. From apo (from, away from) + katallasso (to reconcile, change, or exchange; a moment when two parties come together in reconciliation and both parties change because of it); {from kata (down, against, among) + allasso (to change, transform) {from allos (other, another; another of a similar kind or type)}. This is to reconcile – to move from one place of feeling to a new one.
DD “making peace” = eirenopoieo. 1x in NT. From eirenopoios (making peace, a peacemaker); {from eirene (one, peace, quietness, rest, peace of mind, harmony; a common farewell among Jews (i.e. shalom) as a well-wishing that included a blessing of health and wholeness for the individual; indicates when everything that is essential is joined together properly; peace literally or figuratively; by implication, it is prosperity –not in the  sense of excessive wealth, but having enough from day to day); {perhaps from eiro (to join, tie together to form a whole)} + poieo (to make, do, construct, cause)}. This is to reconcile, work for peace, harmonize.
EE “blood” = haima. This is blood in a literal sense as bloodshed. Figuratively, it can also be used to refer to wine or to kinship (being related).
FF “cross” = stauros. Related to “hold together” in v17. From the same as histemi (see note Q above). This is an upright stake, cross. Literally refers to the horizontal beam of a Roman cross, generally carried by the one convicted to die.

Image credit: “Tree of Life” at Disney Animal Kingdom. Photo by Ivan Curra, 2014.

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