No “rest” for the “Sabbath” of Colossians 2:16

No “rest” for the “Sabbath” of Colossians 2:16: A structural-syntactical- semantic study

Read how the ceremonial Sabbaths ended with Jesus’ death on the cross, but the seventh-day Sabbath should still be kept holy to the glory of God.

Ron du Preez, ThD, DMin, is pastor of Stone Tower Church, Portland, Oregon, United States.

Writing to the believers in Colossae, Paul cau­tioned, “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, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Col. 2:16, 17).1

Many have concluded that the “sabbath” in this passage refers to the seventh day and that this day is no longer binding upon Christians.2 More recently, those promoting the Levitical festivals have similarly claimed that Colossians 2:16 deals with the weekly Sabbath, but that it should be observed together with the feasts and new moons. Seventh-day Adventists, how­ever, have generally maintained that the context shows that this refers to the ceremonial sabbaths. In the landmark Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology, Professor Kenneth Strand hinted at a structural approach to the “feast, new moon, sabbath” trilogy: “It is also possible that Paul was using the common literary device of inverted parallelism [i.e., a chiasm], thus mov­ing from annual to monthly and then back again to annual festivals”3—thus affirming the ceremonial sabbath view of Adventism. Where does the weight of biblical evidence lie?

Apparently, while Paul was in prison in Rome,4 Epaphras visited him (Philem. 23), informing him of the spiritual growth of the Colossian church (Col. 1:3–8; 2:5) as well as of the heretical teachings making inroads there (Col. 2:1–23).

This heresy is nowhere identified, so dozens of theories regarding it have been proposed.5 However, since at least 1966, scholars have concluded that “it is no longer fitting to discuss a possible influence of ‘Gnosticism’ upon the Colossian Religion or its refutation.”6 In recent decades, seri­ous Bible scholars, focusing on the scriptural text, have concluded that the challenge in Colossae had to do with “thought patterns with which Paul was very much at home—that is, some form of Jewish spirituality rather than Gnostic speculation or mystery cult initiation.”7

The major theological thrust of this epistle is a correct view of Christ—“the visible manifestation of the invis­ible God”8 (Col. 1:15)—a Christology cogently related to salvation (Col. 1:13, 14; cf. 2:11–15), with profound implica­tions for ethical living (Col. 3:4–4:6). The single great message of Colossians may thus be summed up in the declara­tion, “Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us” (Col. 3:11, NLT).9 Astutely, Charles Talbert noted that “it is against the background of this salvific narrative that the arguments of the Colossian letter unfold.”10

Analyzing the structure of Colossians 2

Colossians 2:16 begins with “there­fore” (KJV, RSV), indicating that the caution being sounded arises from what has been outlined earlier;11 and that, as commentators acknowledge, “verses 12 and 13 are central to the appeal of the letter.”12

Ian Thomson has demonstrated that these two verses are the peak of a chiasm that extends throughout most of Colossians 2 (see figure 1).

Figure 1: Colossians 2 Chiasm

Introduction: 2:6 “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him”

2:7 “Rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith”

   B 2:8 “Beware lest anyone cheat you . . . not according to Christ

      C 2:9 “In Him dwells . . . the Godhead bodily;” 10a “You are complete in Him”

         D. 2:10b “Who is the head of all principality and power

            E 2:11 “Circumcised with the circumcision made without hands

               F 2:12 “Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised

                F1 2:13 “Dead in your transgressions . . . He made you alive together with Him”13

            E1 2:14 “Wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us”

         D1 2:15 “Having disarmed principalities and powers

      C1 2:16 “Let no one pass judgment;” 17 “But the body is Christ’s”14

   B1 2:18 “Let no one cheat you;” 19a “Not holding fast to the Head

A1 2:19b “Nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows”15

By recognizing “that chiasmus pervades Colossians”16 and “by appre­ciating the divisions and development of these thoughts within this significant letter, one may follow Paul’s thought with added clarity.”17

Interpreting the cheirographon tois dogmasin

The above chiastic structure reveals that “the handwriting of requirements” (of v. 14, NKJV) corresponds linguisti­cally to “the circumcision made without hands” (of v. 11).18 Thus, it is preferable to formally translate cheirographon as a literal “handwriting” or its equivalent;19 and that structurally and contextually, this “written code, with its regulations” (NIV) echoes the ceremonial regulation of circumcision.

This unique term cheirographon is immediately qualified by tois dogmasin. Since written by the same author, covering similar issues, and sent to recipients of the same region, some have concluded that the “dogmasin” in Ephesians 2:15 sheds light on Colossians 2:14,20 thus making “reference to the Mosaic Law.”21 Contemporaneously, Josephus and Philo likewise used dogma for Mosaic Law.22 Several scholars concur,23 noting that this is supported by most of the Greek church fathers and “is grammatically without problems.”24

Though he frequently employed nomos for Old Testament law, Paul apparently did not use it here, so as (a) to avoid the impression that the entire Mosaic Law had been abrogated; and (b) to focus attention directly on the ceremonial law25—elements of which are listed in 2:16.26 As David Pao concludes in his 2012 exegetical commentary, “Even though a strict identification with the Mosaic Torah cannot be made,” the cheirographon “should be understood in relation to the Mosaic law.”27

Colossians 2:14 has been recently recognized as “one of the most vivid descriptions in the New Testament of what happened when Jesus died.”28 “He [i.e., Christ] forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:13b, 14, NIV). John Heil observed that “the metaphor is convoluted, but presumably reflects again the idea of Christ’s death as a sin offering.”29 In brief, by formulating this daring metaphor,30 Paul directly connected forgiveness through Christ (v. 13b) to the “written code, with its regulations” (v. 14), which had required sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins, as well as to the death of Christ, by which these ritual requirements were “canceled” (Greek: exaleipsas, i.e., “abolishing a law”31). By His death, Christ consummated the ritual system—He “has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:14, HCSB). In Ellen White’s words, “The ceremonial sys­tem was made up of symbols pointing to Christ. . . . It is this law that Christ ‘took . . . out of the way, nailing it to His cross.’ Colossians 2:14.”32 These “regu­lations” that “stood opposed to us” allude to Old Testament laws that were “ ‘a witness against you’ ” (Deut. 31:26, NKJV),33 which Peter called a “ ‘yoke,’ ” “ ‘which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear’ ” (Acts 15:10, NKJV).34

Fittingly employing a Christological hermeneutic, Seventh-day Adventists Believe . . . summarizes, “At the death of Christ the jurisdiction of ceremonial law came to an end. His atoning sac­rifice provided forgiveness for all sins. This act ‘wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross’ (Col. 2:14; cf. Deut. 31:26).”35 Verse 15 then reveals, as Dermot McDonald notes, “Christ the crucified is Lord; and all the hostile powers of the universe have become subjected to him. In Christ’s cross the demonic hosts of evil have met their Conqueror.”36 With this background, we can now proceed to verse 16, which begins, “So let no one judge you in food or in drink” (NKJV).

Reflecting upon “judge,” food and drink”

Colossians 1:21, 22, 27, and 2:13 give the distinct impression that the Colossian church was predominantly Gentile, though Jews were certainly present37 and apparently formed “a significant Jewish element within the church,”38 for history records that “Colossae had a significant Jewish population.”39 Based on similarities with Galatians,40several interpreters have concluded that the Colossian “heretics” were Jews or Judaizers,41 though chapter 2:21 suggests that the restrictions proposed went far beyond the Jewish law.42 David Garland states, “Newly formed Gentile Christians in Colossae are being badgered about their faith by contentious Jews”43 and were “being called upon to observe times and seasons as somehow neces­sary for their salvation.”44

Paul’s counsel is strong: “Let no one, then, judge you” (YLT). The word judge (krinetō) contextually means to “pass unfavorable judgment upon.”45 As the New Living Translation has paraphrased it: “So don’t let anyone condemn you for . . . not celebrating certain holy days.”46

Before considering the terms feast, new moon, sabbath, a comment needs to be made regarding the “food and drink.” While brōsis and posis may des­ignate “eating” and “drinking,” they are better rendered contextually with the nouns “food” and “drink,” as in formal translations (ESV, NAB, NASB, NKJV, NRSV, etc.).47 Since the “food and drink come in the context of circumcision and the observance of special days,”48 it appears “these words doubtless refer to the meal and drink offerings presented by the Israelites.”49

The meaning of the Greek term sabbata

The New English Bible renders Colossians 2:16, “Allow no one there­fore to take you to task . . . over the observance of festival, new moon, or sabbath.” The word sabbath in the original languages has various mean­ings, including the weekly Sabbath and the annual ceremonial sabbath, all of which are identified by linguistic links as well as the context.50 Since some New Testament texts, including Colossians 2:16, “can be understood only through an accurate understanding of their OT counterparts,” it is vital to take such matters into account.51

1. An “annual/monthly/weekly” triad? At first glance it may appear as though the “festival, new moon, sab­bath” sequence derives from several passages where the Hebrew term šabbā(prefaced by a definite article) does refer to the weekly Sabbath.52 However, exegesis indicates otherwise.53 For example, none of these passages has the crucial three terms in the singular, as does Colossians 2:16;54 all have at least four parts (not three as in Col. 2:16); and, all include a daily sacrifice (not found in Col. 2:16).55 Despite a scholarly tradition that Colossians 2:16 is dependent on a pre­sumed calendar sequence, textual evidence demon­strates that Paul was not using any of the above passages here.

2. Intertextual link with Hosea 2:11. Hosea 2:11 may function as an intertextual link: “her festival, her new moon, and her sabbath” (YLT). Note these areas of accord: both Colossians 2 and Hosea 2 consist of a three-part grouping; both have the same sequence (first “festival,” then “new moon,” finally “sabbath”); both have the key terms stated as collective/generic singulars;56 both deal with days per se, and not with any burnt sacrifices; both lack linguistic links crucial for identifying “sabbath” as the seventh day; and both have a negative context of the misuse of these sacred times.57

Linguistic analysis shows that “fes­tival” (ḥag) in Hosea 2:11 refers to one or more of the pilgrim festivals—Passover/ Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, and/ or Tabernacles. Next comes the new moon (ḥōdeš)—pivotal in determining dates for the appointed times.58 Finally, the phrase “her sabbath” (šabbattāh) identifies this as Israel’s ceremonial sabbath(s), rather than the weekly Sabbath, which is never spoken of in this manner but which the Lord refers to as “My Sabbath(s).”

Likewise, linguistic investigation of Colossians 2:16 shows that the Greek term heortē is limited to the same three pilgrim festivals. While neomēnia indicates the new moon observances, sabbata includes the nonpilgrimage “rest times” of the Day of Atonement and apparently Trumpets. Hence, Paul was not redundant by listing both heortē (pilgrim feasts) and sabbata (“rest times”). In short, the pilgrim feast, new moon, ceremonial sabbath sequence in Hosea corresponds to that of Colossians.

3. Chiastic structure of the three terms. Moreover, this tripartite phrase appears as a chiasm, moving from annual to monthly and then to annual seasons (figure 2).

Figure 2

festival” 3 annual pilgrimage feasts 

   B “new moon” monthly celebrations

A+ sabbath” 2 annual rests (& 1 septennial)

As in single peak chiasms, the cen­ter (“B”) holds a pivotal place. In short, “the moon governed the dates for other religious festivals.”59 This central position of the new moon, by which the other religious occasions were calculated, corroborates the conclusion that the sabbata can refer to solely ceremonial sabbaths, since the weekly Sabbath was never determined by lunar computation.

4. Implications of the definite article with sabbata. English versions do not indicate that “sabbath” derives from two different Greek roots (sabbaton and sabbata), as morphological stud­ies attest. The lexical form sabbaton is used about 40 times for the weekly Sabbath,60 yet it includes a definite article for only about half of these occurrences.61 However, when the form sabbata is used for the Sabbath (i.e., at least 18 times),62 the word precedes a definite article every single time, except when the immediate context makes it linguistically inappropriate (as in Acts 17:2) or completely unnecessary (as in Matt. 28:1). Significantly, the lexical form sabbata is utilized in Colossians 2:16. If the sabbata were here intended to identify the weekly Sabbath, there would be an attached definite article, or some other direct contextual infor­mation, as seen consistently in the New Testament. This unique usage of sabbata points compellingly once again to it being an unmistakable reference to annual sabbaths.

The “Sabbath” in the “shadows”

“So let no one judge you . . . regard­ing . . . sabbaths, which are a shadow [Greek: skia] of things to come, but the substance [Greek: sōma] is of Christ” (Col. 2:16, 17, NKJV).

General scholarly consensus is that skia here is not a literal “shadow,” but a “foreshadowing,”63 since the word is directly linked with tōn mellontōn, that is, “things to come.” Paul Deterding indicates that this expression “is almost a technical term for the messianic age and kingdom that arrived with Christ at his first advent and that will be consum­mated at his return. Hence Jesus could call John the Baptist ‘Elijah, who is going to come’ (ho mellōn erchesthai) even when John—and Jesus—had already arrived (Mt. 11:14).”64

Francis Beare noted that “things to come [tōn mellontōn] means, of course, things which lay in the future when the observances were ordained; not things which still lie in the future. The things to come have come with Christ.”65 As Gordon Clark articulated, “The apostle employs esti in the present [i.e., which is a shadow] . . . because the apostle transports himself ideally into the past period of ritualism.”66 The International Children’s Bible thus renders verse 17a, “In the past these things were like a shadow of what was to come.”67

This is where sōma comes into play. The lexicon describes sōma (i.e., literally “body”) in this context, as “the thing itself, the reality.”68 Hence, the New International Version’s rendition: “The reality, however, is found in Christ.” Ian Smith aptly observes, “Since the reality has appeared, there is no need to delight in the shadows that are cast by that reality.”69 Indeed, they “have become completely meaningless.”70

William Hendriksen notes, “Though it was not wrong for the Jew, trained from his infancy in the law, for a period of transition to observe some of these customs as mere customs, having nothing whatever to do with salvation, it was certainly wrong to ascribe to them a value they did not have, and to try to impose them upon the Gentiles.”71 However, as Robert Wall notes, “For the Christian to participate in these Jewish celebrations was tantamount to a denial of Jesus’ messiahship.”72

In brief, Seventh-day Adventists Believe . . . notes that Paul “made clear that Christians were under no obligation to keep these yearly rest days, because Christ had nailed the ceremonial laws to the cross.”73 Intriguingly, several nonsabbatarians concur with this understanding of Colossians 2:14–17.74 These ceremonial sabbaths, which were types pointing to the Messiah, “terminated with His death on the cross;”75 but the seventh-day Sabbath instituted in Eden and enshrined in the Ten Commandments as an ethical norm for everyone should still be kept holy to the glory of God.


1 Verse 16 is from the RSV, and verse 17 from the NKJV, since together they provide a clear and reliable rendition of the original underlying Greek text. Note: All other direct references to the seventh-day Sabbath per se are located in the historical parts of the New Testament (i.e., the Gospels and Acts). However, Colossians 2:16 is the only place in the theological part where the actual term sabbath is found. While all Scripture is accepted as inspired by God, it is well recognized that doctrine needs to be established on clear theological instruction and not merely on narratives, which are often interpreted in diverse ways.

2 For a brief overview of this trend among both Roman Catholic and Protestant writers, see chapter 1 of Ron du Preez, Judging the Sabbath: Discovering What Can’t Be Found in Colossians 2:16 (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2008), 1–16. More extensive endnotes, limited due to space considerations in this article, are available in Judging the Sabbath.

3 Kenneth A. Strand, “The Sabbath,” quoted in Raoul Dederen, ed., Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology, Commentary Reference Series, vol. 12 (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 2000), 506.

4 Derek Tidball noted in 2011 that Colossians “was probably written from Rome.” In Christ, in Colossae: Sociological Perspectives on Colossians (London: Paternoster, 2011), 11. See also Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), 471.

5 See James D. G. Dunn, “The Colossian Philosophy: A Confident Jewish Apologia,” Biblica 76, no. 2 (1995): 153.

6 Markus Barth and Helmut Blanke, Colossians: A New Translation With Introduction and Commentary, trans. Astrid B. Beck, Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday, 1994), 32.

7 Peter H. Davids, Colossians, Philemon, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2008), 229.

8 H. Dermot McDonald, Commentary on Colossians & Philemon (Waco, TX: Word, 1980), 14.

9 Ibid., 15. See also H. Wayne House, “The Doctrine of Christ in Colossians,” Bibliotheca Sacra 149 (April–June 1992): 180–192.

10 Charles H. Talbert, Ephesians and Colossians, Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2007), 181.

11 See, e.g., Curtis Vaughan, Colossians and Philemon, Bible Study Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1980), 81; N. T. Wright, The Epistles of Paul to the Colossians and to Philemon: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986), 118.

12 Bonnie Thurston, Reading Colossians, Ephesians, and 2 Thessalonians: A Literary and Theological Commentary (New York: Crossroad, 1995), 44.

13 Unless otherwise noted, verses in this chiastic structure are from the NKJV. This verse is from the New American Standard Bible.

14 Verse 16 from Revised Standard Version; verse 17 from the American Standard Version.

15 See Ian H. Thomson, “Chiasmus in the Pauline Letters,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Supplement Series 111 (1995): 153–156.

16 John W. Welch, “Chiasmus in the New Testament,” in Chiasmus in Antiquity: Structures, Analyses, Exegesis, ed. John W. Welch (Hildesheim: Gerstenberg Verlag, 1981), 222. Others who have identified the use of chiasmus in Colossians include Ralph P. Martin, Reconciliation: A Study of Paul’s Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1989), 115; and Ekkehardt Mueller, “Focus on Scripture: The Firstborn (Col. 1:15),” Reflections: A BRI Newsletter, October 2005, 7.

17 Welch, Chiasmus in Antiquity, 225.

18 In fact, “the reference to ‘circumcision’may indicate circumcision was among the practices being recommended by the false teachers; these practices clearly included many Jewish elements (2:16–23).” McDonald, Commentary on Colossians & Philemon, 106.

19 Based on the use of this term in extrabiblical literature, some have suggested that the cheirographon is “the record of debt” (ESV), or “a certificate of indebtedness.” See, e.g., James D. G. Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 164.

20 See, e.g., Francis D. Nichol et al., eds., The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6 (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1957), 1009, where Ephesians 2:15 is explained: “Law of commandments. This is generally thought of as referring to the ceremonial law.” See also, Nichol, The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 204.

21 C. R. Hume, Reading Through Colossians and Ephesians (London: SCM, 1998), 44. See also Thurston, Reading Colossians, Ephesians, and 2 Thessalonians, 45; McDonald, Commentary on Colossians & Philemon, 102.

22 Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd ed., trans. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, rev. F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick William Danker (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 201. This usage of dogma for the Mosaic law also appears in 3 Maccabees 3:1, where it talks about a “Jew by birth who later changed his religion and apostatized from the ancestral traditions [dogmatÇn]” (NRSV).

23 See, e.g., R. McL. Wilson, Colossians and Philemon: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary, the International Critical Commentary (London: T & T Clark International, 2005), 214; Murray J. Harris, Colossians & Philemon, Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991), 107–109; Curtis Vaughan, “Colossians,”in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 11, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1978), 201; House, “The Doctrine of Christ in Colossians,” 189.

24 Barth and Blanke, Colossians, 328.

25 See, e.g., Gordon Haddon Clark, Colossians: Another Commentary on an Inexhaustible Message, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Phillipsburgh, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1979), 89, 90.

26 See Wright, The Epistles of Paul, 25, 26.

27 David W. Pao, Colossians & Philemon, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 171.

28 John Woodhouse, Colossians and Philemon: So Walk in Him (Ross-shire, UK: Christian Focus, 2011), 140.

29 John Paul Heil, Colossians: Encouragement to Walk in All Wisdom as Holy Ones in Christ, Society of Biblical Literature, no. 4 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2010), 119.

30 Barth and Blanke, referring to the expression “to nail fast to the cross,” state, “We can most easily assume with E. Percy (PKE, 91) that Paul invented the image ad hoc.” Colossians, 331.

31 Vaughan,“Colossians,”201.

32 Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1958), 365.

33 This use of God being “against us” or “contrary to us” can be seen repeatedly in the counsel Moses gave Israel before he died. For example, Lev. 26:17, 21, 23, 24, 27, 28, 40, 41; Deut. 28:48, 49; 29:27; 31:17, 19, 21, 26.

34 Ellen White affirmed that “Peter here referred to the law of ceremonies, which was made null and void by the crucifixion of Christ.” The Acts of the Apostles, 194.

35 Seventh-day Adventists Believe . . . : A Biblical Exposition of Fundamental Doctrines (Silver Spring, MD: Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 2005), 274.

36 McDonald, Commentary on Colossians & Philemon, 87.

37 See Ralph P. Martin, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, Interpretation (Atlanta: John Knox, 1991), 82; Thurston, Reading Colossians, Ephesians, and 2 Thessalonians, 4; Clark, Colossians, 88.

38 Tidball, In Christ, in Colossae, 27.

39 Ibid., 19.

40 For example, recognizing several similarities between the teachers in Colossae and those in Galatia, Michael Bird comments, “In Colossians as in Galatians, freedom from the designs of the Colossian philosophers and from the Galatian proselytizers is indebted to dying with Messiah and being baptized into Messiah (Col 2:12; 3:3; Gal 3:26-27). Colossians and Galatians both refer to the freedom of the Christian from circumcision and festivals (Col 2:11-12, 16; Gal 5:2; 6:12-15; 4:10) and refer to deliverance from evil powers (Col 1:13-14; Gal 1:4).” Colossians, Philemon: A New Covenant Commentary, New Covenant Commentary Series (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2009), 19.

41 See Petr Pokorný, Colossians: A Commentary, trans. Siegfried S. Schatzmann (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991), 113, who mentions several, including Alford and Peake.

42 “The precise details of these teachings at Colossae cannot be ascertained. . . . Unquestionably they contained Judaizing tendencies. . . . The false teachers at Colossae . . . insisted on an extremely legalistic ceremonialism, following the Jewish pattern, and emphasizing circumcision . . . and observance of festivals. . . . Not only is Paul concerned to refute Judaizing legalism, he also must contend with certain pagan elements that sought to degrade or eclipse the office of Christ.” Nichol, Seventh-day Adventist Commentary, vol. 7, 184.

43 David E. Garland, Colossians/Philemon, NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 27.

44 McDonald, Commentary on Colossians & Philemon, 88. See also, Pokorný, Colossians: A Commentary, 143; T. K. Abbott, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians, International Critical Commentary, eds. C. A. Briggs, S. R. Driver, and A. Plummer, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1897), xlviii; Wright, The Epistles of Paul, 27, 119; Nichol, Seventh-day Adventist Commentary, vol. 7, 204; John MacArthur Jr., Colossians & Philemon, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1992), 118.

45 Bauer, Greek-English Lexicon, 121.

46 Harris concludes, “The Colossians should resolutely resist any effort that certain propagandists . . . might make to restrict their freedom by legalistic regulations.” Colossians & Philemon, 104.

47 See Bauer, Greek-English Lexicon, 148, 694; Barth and Blanke, Colossians, 337; Harris, Colossians & Philemon, 118.

48 Allan R. Bevere, “Sharing in the Inheritance: Identity and the Moral Life in Colossians,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Supplement Series 226 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2003), 86.

49 Nichol, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 2050.

50 For a comprehensive analysis of these 180 appearances of “sabbath” terms in Scripture, see du Preez, Judging the Sabbath, 20, 21, 39, 155–168.

51 Skip MacCarty, “Responses to Craig L. Blomberg,” in Perspectives on the Sabbath: Four Views, ed. Christopher John Donato (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2011), 371.

52 These are Num. 28:2–29:39; 1 Chron. 23:29–31; 2 Chron. 2:4; 8:12,13; 31:3; Neh. 10:33; Ezek. 45:13–17; 46:1–15.

53 Careful scholarship has shown that there is no evidence that Paul ever utilized 1 or 2 Chronicles or the book of Nehemiah in any of his writings. While Paul did paraphrase one passage from Ezekiel and allude to two other passages from Ezekiel, there is no evidence that he ever directly quoted from this book either. See Robert G. Bratcher, Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament, rev. ed. (London: United Bible Societies, 1961); Gleason L. Archer and Gregory Chirichigno, Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament (Chicago: Moody, 1983).

54 While some may question whether the issue of singulars or plurals matters, Paul’s own emphasis on number demonstrates the significance of such, especially when addressing Christological concerns. For example, consider Gal. 3:16: “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ” (NKJV; emphasis added).

55 For more information, see du Preez, Judging the Sabbath, 55–70.

56 Some allege that the final term, sabbatōn, of the calendric string in Col. 2:16 is not ambiguous, but that it is a genitive plural and cannot be singular. However, as noted above, meticulous research of the Septuagint, the Modern Greek Bible, extrabiblical works (such as Zenon, Philo, and Josephus) and deuterocanonical writings clearly shows that the lexical term sabbata was regularly used as a singular Greek word, completely interchangeably with the normal singular word sabbaton. The only time that sabbata is rightly understood to be a plural is when directly followed by a numeral, as in Acts 17:2. Hence, as various scholars have correctly concluded, the lexical term sabbata (in Col. 2:16), should be understood as a generic singular. Since all three terms in Col. 2:16 are thus seen as generic singulars, this strengthens the connection with the three key terms in Hosea 2:11, which are also generic singulars.

57 For more information, see du Preez, Judging the Sabbath, 135–137. Note: Some have wondered about the meaning of en merei in verse 16. Bauer notes that in Col. 2:16 it means “with regard to a festival.” Greek-English Lexicon, 506.

58 Furthermore, the new moon is mentioned at the center of the chiasm because it is crucial for determining the timing of the pilgrim festivals (mentioned first in this tripartite phrase) as well as the ceremonial sabbaths (mentioned last in this three-part calendric string).

59 Ronald F. Youngblood, ed., Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Nelson, 1995), s.v. “Moon.” See also Hobart E. Freeman, “Festivals,” Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 1, eds. Charles F. Pfeiffer, Howard F. Vos, and John Rea (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1975), 601.

60 See Matt. 12:2, 5, 8; 24:20; Mark 2:27 [x2], 28; 6:2; 15:42 [i.e., prosabbaton]; 16:1; Luke 6:1, 5, 6, 7, 9; 13:14 [x2], 15, 16; 14:1, 3, 5; 23:54, 56; John 5:9, 10, 16, 18; 7:22, 23 [x2]; 9:14, 16; 19:31 [x2]; Acts 1:12; 13:27, 42, 44; 15:21; 18:4 (as well as Luke 6:9 in the Nestlé Aland text).

61 See Matt. 12:5, 8; Mark 27 [x2], 28; 15:42; 16:1; Luke 6:5, 7, 9; 13:14 [x2], 15, 16; 14:3, 5; 23:56; John 5:18; 9:16; 19:31 [x2].

62 See Matt. 12:1, 5, 10, 11, 12; 28:1; Mark 1:21; 2:23, 24; 3:2, 4; Luke 4:16, 31; 6:2; 13:10; Acts 13:14; 16:13; 17:2 (as well as Luke 6:9 in the Textus Receptus).

63 Bauer, Greek-English Lexicon, 755.

64 Paul E. Deterding, Colossians, Concordia Commentary: A Theological Exposition of Sacred Scripture (St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 2003), 113.

65 Francis W. Beare, “The Epistle to the Colossians,” in The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 11 (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1983), 201. See also Bevere Sharing, 141; Vaughan, Colossians and Philemon, 83.

66 Clark, Colossians, 97.

67 Similarly, the English Version for the Deaf reads, “In the past, these things were like a shadow that showed what was coming.”

68 Bauer, Greek-English Lexicon, 799.

69 Ian K. Smith, Heavenly Perspective: A Study of the Apostle Paul’s Response to a Jewish Mystical Movement at Colossae (London: T & T Clark International, 2006), 118.

70 McDonald, Commentary on Colossians & Philemon, 89. See also MacArthur, Colossians & Philemon, 119.

71 William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of Colossians and Philemon (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1965), 124.

72 Robert W. Wall, Colossians & Philemon, IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993), 121.

73 Seventh-day Adventists Believe . . . , 287.

74 See, e.g., David W. Jones, Introduction to Biblical Ethics (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2013), 165; Robertson McQuilkin, An Introduction to Biblical Ethics (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1989), 185, 186; emphasis added.

75 Seventh-day Adventists Believe . . . , 285.

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Ron du Preez, ThD, DMin, is pastor of Stone Tower Church, Portland, Oregon, United States.

January 2015

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