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Reference is also made to 1 Tim. iv. 3, where it is implied that teachers of erroneous doctrine, similar to these at Colosse, enjoined celibacy at Ephesus. In favour of the latter, their notion in regard to matter, and the prevailing belief of most heretics afterwards called gnostics, appear to speak. But at the commencement, heresies were not developed in all their consequences; and the ascetics at Rome whom Paul mentions, were not docetic, (Rom. xiv.) Perhaps they did not hold these forms of asceticism. Certainly the data on which such peculiarities are assigned to them are indefinite and doubtful. The tendency of mind described is indeed one that would consistently lead to these manifestations of superstition; but the contents of the epistle scarcely justify the assumption. Thus the whole passage justifies the idea, that the false philosophy combated by the apostle need not be derived in part from a source foreign to Judaism. It was the product of Jewish mind speculating upon divine things, and prying into curious questions, beyond the reach of human research. The traditions which the Judaists had received from their fathers, the cabbala with its complexity and its orders of beings, together with their own investigation of unseen things, sufficiently account for the opinions in question. These heretics did not adopt their peculiar creed directly from any other quarter. They found it in their own books; or rather, it had been already excogitated, and was then current. We need not, therefore, have recourse, with Kleuker, Hug, and Stuart, to the Chaldee or oriental philosophy, of which a full exhibition is given by Jamblichus. The legal rites of the Mosaic economy, in conjunction with those rabbinic-traditional observances which Jewish superstition had superadded, had been brought into the domain of Christianity. Thus the great doctrine of justification by faith alone was virtually impugned. Judaism was idealised; and a rigid asceticism founded upon the inherent evil of matter was practised. The errorists, whose principles we have been considering, indulged in philosophic and theosophic theories based upon ancient traditions; and were reluctant to renounce their pretensions to higher wisdom or their connexion with spirits, for the humbling doctrine of the gospel. Their pride could not deign to bow itself before the cross. They sought to cast christianity into the mould of their own theosophy. But although it is superfluous to go beyond Judaism for the theosophy of the false teachers, yet there is reason for the opinions of such as find the source and exposition of the philosophy condemned by the apostle in the magian or emanationphilosphy. Were it expedient to trace the causes of the Jewish motions then so prevalent in Asia Minor, it might appear, that
the traditional belief of the Jews had been affected by that peculiar offspring of the oriental mind. Ever since the Hebrews resided in Babylon, they were, more or less, influenced by the religion of their Chaldean conquerors. Doubtless, that religion contributed to enlarge or to modify the previous articles of their faith. The Jewish people were ever inclined to engraft foreign superstitions on their national worship. The mixed race, afterwards called Samaritan, the majority of whom came from beyond the Euphrates, would probably vitiate the creed of their neighbours by a tincture of idolatry; for on the return from captivity, many of the restored exiles became intimately associated with that people. There was also a constant communication between the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the myriads of Jews who continued to reside beyond the Euphrates. The latter attended the festivals, and carefully observed other customs peculiar to their native land. Hence it is natural to suppose, that several features of the Magian religion would be communicated to the national belief. But this oriental philosophy was not the principal source from which the gnosticism of the errorists in question emanated. It had only an indirect and distant bearing upon their sentiments. There is also ground for the opinions of such as recognize in these false teachers ChristianPlatonists, or Platonising-Judaists. There is little doubt that the influences arising from the new Platonism current in Alexandria, affected Cabbalistic Judaism. But it is not consistent with our present purpose to trace the history of Jewish opinions and traditions, else we should investigate with minuteness the Alexandrian tendencies as they contributed to form and change the speculations of the Jews residing in Egypt. It might be shewn, in like manner, that such as find a condemnation of the Pythagorean philosophy in the present epistle, are not wholly in error. Plato adopted many of Pythagoras's opinions, especially his doctrines of ideas, and of the transmigration of souls. In the time of the Ptolemies, several philosophers of this sect fled from Italy to Alexandria, where Platonism was prevalent. Still, however, it is not expedient to travel beyond the Judaism of the period for explanation of the passage in which the tenets of the false teachers are alluded to, since Magianism, Platonism, the philosophy of Greece, and Cabbalism as far as it was the genuine product of the Jewish mind itself, had previously imparted a considerable tincture to the creed of the Jewish people. Whatever portions of these systems were incorporated with Judaism, had been so intimately associated with it before the advent of Christ, as to form a part of its nature. They had been already wrought up into its component elements; and, unless we go backward, to trace the history of philosophy, the intermingling of different systems, the points of contact they presented to traditional Judaism, and the localities where they were found by the ancient people of God, it is sufficient to take the current belief as it was. Nor should the attention be confined to Jewish opinions and tendencies. The direction of the cultivated heathen mind of Phrygia and Asia Minor generally should also be marked, as affected by the combined elements of different philosophical systems blending together. After this illustration of the peculiar tenets propagated by the errorists at Colosse, it may be useful to state other opinions. Some think that philosophy in general, all philosophy, is forbidden. So Tertullian, Euthalius, and Calixtus. Others restrict the warning given by the apostle to certain classes of philosophers, to the Epicureans, as Clement of Alexandria; the Pythagoreans, as Grotius; or to such as joined together the Platonic and Stoic doctrines, as Heumann imagines. None of these opinions can claim to be regarded with approval. Heathen philosophy the apostle cannot mean by taxogotia, because it is spoken of as an emanation of Judaism, or, at least, as standing in close connection with it. Schoettgen, Schmidt, and Schulthess, refer the description to the Pharisees. But the mental tendency described, is the opposite of the Pharisaic. The Pharisaic Jews were far removed from gnostic speculation and false asceticism. They were occupied with the outward and visible, to the neglect of that spiritual, world in which the imagination of the contemplative finds its congenial aliment. Others think, that the false teachers were Sabians or followers of John the Baptist. So Heinrichs. But this sect lessened the dignity of Christ, and unduly exalted the Baptist. They cannot, therefore, be the individuals here designated. Denying, as they did, the true Messiahship of Jesus, they excluded themselves from the pale of christianity. Besides, there is no trace of their worshiping angels. Much nearer the truth are those who find the Essenes in this epistle. So Chemnitz, Zachariae, Storr, Flatt, Venturini, Michaelis, Credner, and Bertholdt. Many of the features drawn by Paul agree with the character of this sect as described by Josephus. Their asceticism is quite similar to that of the heretics who endeavoured to seduce the Colossian converts. The objection stated against this view, viz., that the Essenes were only to be found in Palestine and Syria, is of no force, as is shewn by Credner. Neither does their disinclination to proselytism form a valid objection; since other influences may have modified their original character. Perhaps, too, it is not conclusive to urge against it, the virtuous principles ascribed by Josephus to the Essenes, viz., their modesty, piety, love of justice, benevolence, &c., as contrasted with the affected humility and empty pride of these false teachers. But the hypothesis is too narrow. There is no good ground for confining the individuals to the Essenes alone. Other Jews, besides the Essenes, manifested the mental bias delineated by the apostle, although it is quite probable that this sect furnished the majority of the errorists. They led a contemplative life, which agrees well with the general statements of our epistle; but they were not the only persons of that age, to whom the description applies. The true view, as it appears to us, has been given by Boehmer, Neander, Mayerhoff, and Olshausen. The hypothesis of Scheckenburger and Feilmoser may perhaps require a separate notice. It is a modification of Eichhorn's. According to Eichhorn's opinion, the false teachers must have rejected Christ absolutely; but, according to this qualified aspect of it, they placed him among the mediating spirits whom they regarded with superstitious reverence as subordinate guides to the Supreme Deity. Thus the Saviour was lost, as it were, to view, amid a host of angels; and the question of his messiahship was naturally put aside by the errorists. Hence, their main object was to metamorphose into Jews such as had embraced christianity.* Their chief design was to bring over the christian church at Colosse into the territory of Judaism, rather than to connect their former theosophic views, by which they had spiritualized their Jewish creed, with the simplicity of the gospel. Thus, they are regarded as Jews rather than Judaizing christians. They ascribed to Christ a subordinate position, .viewing him as the prophet of the heathen world; and to his religion, as intended for the heathen, a subordinate value. It is difficult, however, to see, how the apostle's reasoning is suited to the particular case of such persons. Doubtless his arguments refute these sentiments; but the question is, do they primarily and directly apply to them. It must be assumed that the apostle knew the exact nature of the errors disseminated. Whether he had received an account of them from Epaphras, or whether he had become acquainted with them from a supernatural source; in either case, ignorance of their precise form cannot be attributed to him. The more insidious the methods taken to seduce the Colossians, and the more artful the snares laid to corrupt them, the more imperative became the duty of tearing away the mask, and unfolding with the greatest plainness the real belief entertained by the heretics. But the apostle has of xparāv ráv xstax#v, not Xav rāv xstaxov ; and in the eighth verse of the second chapter, the words, and not accordiny to Christ, as subjoined to the preceding, would be irrelevant, not to say trifling, on the ground of these teachers being merely Jews. Besides, the writings of Paul show, that Judaising christians were far more frequent than mere Jews, that the latter gradually lost their proselytizing spirit as christianity prevailed, and that, when they adopted the new religion in any mode, however imperfectly, they sought to amalgamate it with their former creed, giving a preponderance to the peculiarities of the one or the other as their mental temperament, or previous habits, or degree of faith disposed them. The milder aspect of Judaism towards christianity, which Schneckenburger so ingeniously urges, would lead them all the more readily to incorporate the old religion with the new ; or rather to embrace christianity as promising superior wisdom; and afterwards, upon partial disappointment, to bring it into the bosom of their former Jewish creed, instead of absolutely rejecting what they had once adopted. In proportion to the leniency with which they regarded christianity, would be the disinclination to proselytize to mere Judaism ; and the consequent desire to go over, at least nominally, to the new religion. The truth of these observations will probably be more apparent when it is recollected, that the Ebionites are always regarded as a sect within the enclosure of visible christianity, though holding very few of its tenets, and but slightly differing, as Origen affirms,” from mere Jews. It is possible that the Ebionites may have been originally nothing but Jews; although we believe that they were always Jewish christians who denied the divinity of Jesus, asserting that he was only a man. A comparison of the pastoral epistles will also serve to prove, that the false teachers were Judaising Christians; since individuals holding the same tenets farther developed had elsewhere appeared,—Jewish gnosticising christians, as Paul's polemic observations in those epistles plainly teach. If there be any weight in these remarks, they will apply to every hypothesis which assumes that the heretical teachers were Jews alone, and must be carried back to the view already stated and commonly received, viz. that they were simply Essenes. One thing is certain, that the individuals in question are alluded to in such a manner as shows that they still stood by themselves, without the enclosure of the church. It may be also observed, that no definite line of separation is drawn between the members who had imbibed erroneous motions, and those who steadfastly adhered to the simple faith of the gospel. The collected body of believers is addressed as forming one community. The wavering and the faithful are still joined in the fellowship of the church. This is implied in * Commentar. in Matthaeum, tom. xi. p. 249, vol. i. (Ed. Huet., 1679).