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.
Context is King!
‘Context’ is the most vital element to understanding and interpreting the Word of God. In order to fully comprehend the meaning of any verse in the Bible, one must frame that verse with the resources and objects of the surrounding text.
Context is: the series or parts of the composition/discourse that precede and follow the passage of interest, which define and outline the subject matter, clarifying its meaning.
If you ‘cherry-pick’ a single verse, or part of a verse, all by itself out of the Scriptures, without the surrounding verses for context, you can make it say or mean anything that you want it to. When taken out-of-context, the Word of ‘God’ itself states that, ‘there is no God’! | Psalm 10
The vast majority of the time you have to read multiple verses or even chapters before and after the quoted verse, and sometimes the entire letter/book, in order to understand who is doing the talking, who is the writer’s audience, who or what is the topic of discussion, and why is it even being discussed.
What we’ve been taught for centuries by the mainstream Christian denominations regarding the letter to the Colossians is wrong, because the context has been ignored!
The mainstream theological system is currently teaching incorrect interpretations of what the apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 2:16 and 17. They’re assuming a doctrinal position that is based solely on 2 isolated verses; they have completely ignored the text surrounding those 2 verses.
In order to correct this error of interpretation, all you have to do is just read the 2nd and 3rd chapters together without allowing any preconceived denominational notions to fog the actual context; also, an investigation into the original Greek parsing is required, because this has been translated incorrectly as well. We’ll being doing both in this study…
The CRITICAL errors in the mainstream teaching of 2nd Colossians are twofold:
- The antagonist in the dialogue
- The ‘Tense’ of the original Greek
Because of these two errors, false doctrine has emerged regarding the following verses:
Colossians 2:16-17 16Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days 17which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. (KJV)
Colossians 2:16-17 16Let no one, then, judge you in eating or in drinking, or in respect of a feast, or of a new moon, or of sabbaths, 17which are a shadow of the coming things, and the body [is] of the Christ; (YLT)
Colossians 2:16-17 16Therefore 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 17these are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. (ESV)
Let’s start with the First Error: the antagonist.
Who was judging the Colossians? What people group was Paul warning them about? The apostle Paul wrote one-third of this letter, not just this one sentence, admonishing and warning the Colossians about the deceitful teachings and philosophies of someone.
For generations we have been taught by the mainstream Christian system that it was ‘Jews’ who were judging these poor Colossians because they were not eating kosher, or celebrating Sabbaths, New Moons and the biblical Holy Days/Feasts… but is that what the verses state? Is that what the text in ‘your’ Bible says?
Who was Paul condemning, and who did he actually say was trying to influence, persuade and judge these poor Colossians? Don’t we want to know what Paul actually said, or are we going to toss aside the letter he wrote without reading it for ourselves???
Let’s look at the surrounding verses for context…
What does the text say?
I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. | Colossians 2:4
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy [Acts 17:18] and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. | Colossians 2:8
Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, | Colossians 2:18
20If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch 22referring to things that all perish as they are used— according to human precepts and teachings? 23These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. | Colossians 2:20-23
5Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6On account of these the wrath of God is coming | Colossians 3:5-6
As you can see, this section of the letter to the Colossians is rife with Paul declaring ‘don’t listen to human philosophy, human precepts, human teachings, angel worship, self-made religion and ascetism’. These doctrines that Paul was warning the Colossians about originated solely “from man”. These doctrines most certainly do NOT originate from God and His Laws. The Law of God Almighty, given through Moses, forbids all of those teachings and practices!
Those “human precepts and teachings” are actually philosophical practices that are Pagan in origin, most notably those of ‘Gnosticism’, which was rampant at the time of Paul’s writings. The Colossians were former Pagans, whom Paul had preached to, and taught to believe in and obey the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Colossians were being influenced and judged ‘by Pagans’ who were trying to deceive them with human philosophy in order to turn them away from the their new found beliefs in the one true God.
Today’s mainstream Christian system incorrectly teaches that, ‘the Colossians were being influenced and judged by Jews because they weren’t observing Feasts/Holy Days, New Moons and Sabbaths from the Word of God‘; the verses do not say that! Those words are NOT in the text; it is a fictitious, assumed doctrine by the mainstream theological system.
The Israelites (Jews) of the time who correctly obeyed the Laws of God given through Moses did not adhere to ‘Human Philosophies’, or ‘Angel Worship’, ‘Elemental Spirits of the World’, ‘Self-Made Religion’, or ‘Ascetism’. The Law of Moses forbids all of those practices.
Paul’s congregants in chapter 2 were NOT being judged by Law-abiding Jews; it was Gnostic-Pagans who were judging those Colossians.
So, with that being understood, does it make any sense that non-believing Pagans, who didn’t keep the Biblical Sabbaths, were judging those Colossians for not keeping the Biblical Sabbaths? Of course not; they would have been praising them for it.
If the Colossians that Paul was addressing in chapter 2 weren’t keeping the Sabbath, as mainstream theology claims, why in the world would the gnostic-pagans be judging them for it???… Utter nonsense.
The ONLY logical interpretation is that the ‘non-believing pagans’ were judging the Colossians “for keeping” the Sabbaths!… ‘Don’t let any humanistic-pagan judge you in Sabbath keeping’…
The same logic applies to the food/eating and drinking, Holy Days/Feasts of God, and observing New Moons; all of which are instructions of the Almighty given through Moses. The Colossians were observing the Feasts, New Moons and Sabbaths, and they were getting grief because of it from pagans who didn’t observe them.
Again, contrary to what we’ve been taught, the Scriptures state that Paul was telling those Colossians to not let the “gnostic-pagans” judge them because now they were “keeping” the Biblical Holy Days and Sabbaths and New Moons, when before they weren’t. Their humanistic, paganistic and gnostic acquaintances were condemning them and judging them because they were “now” ‘feasting-it-up’ according to the Almighty’s Feast Day instructions, instead of following the ascetic rites of self-neglect and self-denial, i.e., ascetism.
Paul’s congregants in Colossi were observing and keeping the Sabbaths, New Moons and Feasts of the Almighty, and people that they knew were judging them for obeying God, rather than obeying human teachings and ascetic precepts. THAT is what the text says when you read ALL of the context of chapter 2 and 3 together.
Gnostic paganism and ascetism was one of the greatest cultural influences of the first century. Paul warned Timothy about it as well…
Just like 1 Timothy 4:3 ~
1 Timothy 4:3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.
The Law of the Almighty does not forbid marriage, so He can not be referring to the Law of Moses.
Paul also warned those in Galatia about returning to the ways of the world before they knew the one true God.
What does the text say?
Galatians 4:8-9 8Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 9But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?
Paul was warning those in Colossi about being judged and ridiculed by Pagans, because those Pagans didn’t approve of them keeping and guarding the Biblical Sabbaths and Feasts. Paul told the Colossians to ignore them because the Sabbath day, the New Moon Observance and the Feasts commanded by the Almighty have great and wonderful prophetic meanings.
Paul went on to explain about this in the next verse…and his statement in verse 17 is further PROOF that the Colossians were keeping the Sabbath, New Moon Observance and the Feasts of the Almighty. In verse 16 Paul was reassuring them that there is a very good reason to guard and observe them, and verse 17 is that good reason….
What does the text say?
Colossians 2:17 these are a shadow of the things to come, and the substance belongs to Christ.
Which leads us now to the second critical error of interpretation of Colossians 2 by mainstream theology.
The Second Error: The original Greek ‘Tense’ of Colossians 2:17
This error in the interpretation Colossians 2:17 is not only critical, it is extremely deceptive and heretical on the part of some of the modern “translators”.
Colossians 2:17 is in the “Present Tense” NOT past tense, which is how a number of Bible versions deceptively present it. The Greek is blatantly obvious, therefore, those companies that printed it in the past tense are knowingly misleading their readers.
The critical deception by Bible printing companies doesn’t stop there, as many versions add the word ‘only’ or ‘mere’ into the verse.
There is absolutely no excuse for purposefully changing the Word of God!
The Bibles that incorrectly have the verse in the past tense are the following versions:
- ABPE, CSB, HCSB, NIV, WNT
The Bibles which have added English words to the Word of God, which are not found in the original manuscripts, are the following versions:
- NASB, NET, NLT, RSV
In Colossians 2:17 Paul wrote:
ἅ ἐστιν σκιὰ τῶν μελλόντων τὸ δὲ σῶμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ
Ha estin skia tōn mellontōn tōn de sōma tōn Christou
Which “ARE” shadow the “COMING” the and body the Christ
As you can see, the parsing reveals that this verse is in the ‘Present’ tense NOT the past tense. The English word ‘are’ is Present Indicative Active and the word ‘coming’ is Present Participle Active.
‘Present Participle’ – Continuous or Habitual Action: it refers to an action that is currently taking place or which takes place repeatedly.
‘Present Active Indicative’ shows that the action happens in the present time, that the subject carries out the action, and that it is a true statement.
The apostle Paul wrote that the Sabbaths, the Feasts and the New Moon observances “are” ‘shadows/outlines’, NOT ‘were’!
If your Bible has the word “were” in this verse, then you are being purposefully deceived!
Next, these ‘outlines/shadows’ are coming, and ‘coming’ is Present Participle Active. This means that the Sabbaths, Feasts and New Moons are an outline of things still to come. They represent a sketch or symbolic representation of something that has not happened yet. It’s still in our future!
Lastly, the English word ‘shadow’ is Strong’s G4639, and Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states this to mean: a shadow, i. e. an image cast by an object and representing the form of that object: opposed to σῶμα, the thing itself, Colossians 2:17; hence, equivalent to a sketch, outline, adumbration, Hebrews 8:5; opposed to εἰκών, the ‘express’ likeness, the very image.
The apostle Paul wrote that the ‘present tense Sabbaths and Feasts’ are a likeness of the future coming Messiah and all that it entails. They represent an outline of things to come; i.e., the future fulfilling of the Fall Feasts by Jesus. Just as He fulfilled the spring Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits and Shavuot (Pentecost), He will fulfill the Fall Feasts.
Every Bible scholar, professor and pastor that has studied the Scriptures knows (or at least they should) that Jesus fulfilled the first four Feasts of God, but has yet to fulfill the last three. Please click this link and read the study, ‘The LORD’s Feasts’.
The Colossians observed and kept the Holy Days, New Moons and Sabbaths “because” they “ARE” an outline/shadow of Messiah and His still-to-come prophetic fulfillments! The Fall Feasts are a foreshadow of the things-to-come, i.e. the Seconding coming of Messiah, just as the Spring Feasts were a foreshadow of the first coming of Messiah. The Sabbath Day is a foreshadow of the “coming” Millennium… future tense, NOT past tense!!!
In His first coming, Jesus fulfilled the outline/shadow prophesies of the following Sabbaths &/or Feasts:
- Passover/Unleavened Bread
- First Fruits
- Feast of Weeks
However, He has not fulfilled these fall Sabbaths &/or Feasts yet:
- Day of Trumpets
- Day of Atonements
- Feast of Booths
Notably, the ‘Day of Trumpets’ is the only Feast Day/Festival of the LORD to fall on a New Moon; that’s one of the reasons why I believe Paul mentioned ‘New Moon’ observances in verse 16.
Festivals are a big problem for the Ascetic-Gnostics, who ‘deny the flesh (feasting)’ and ‘worship angels’. So, it makes perfect sense that they would have a serious problem with those in Colossi eating and drinking and feasting-it-up! That’s why the Colossians were being judged for celebrating the Festivals and New Moon.
Colossians 2:16-1716Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days 17which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. (KJV)
Colossians 2:16-1716Let no one, then, judge you in eating or in drinking, or in respect of a feast, or of a new moon, or of sabbaths, 17which are a shadow of the coming things, and the body [is] of the Christ; (YLT)
Colossians 2:16-1716Therefore 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 17these are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. (ESV)
The apostle Paul told the Colossians that the New Moon, the Sabbaths and the Holy Days/Feasts are a shadow/outline of the coming King Himself, so don’t let anyone judge you with respect to celebrating and observing them. The Messiah is returning again, and these ‘shadows’ are an outline of Him, of the things to come regarding Him. We are to honor and celebrate everything about Him, and since He isn’t here yet, we are to continue to honor Him by observing His very ‘shadow’.
Final Thought: We are being lied to, and whether or not it’s intentional is beside the point, it is still deception!
Mainstream Christendom has been teaching the wrong interpretation of these verses for centuries, which has led to false doctrines and beliefs about the Word of God.
The apostle Paul told the Colossians to not let anyone judge them in keeping Sabbaths and New Moons because he himself kept, guarded and observed all of the Laws of God given through Moses, so they obviously have not been abolished; please read the Scriptural study that proves this, ‘You Yourself Also Live in Observance of the Law | Acts 21:24’. Paul observed and kept the LORD’s Feast as commanded by God given in the Law of Moses, so again, they obviously were not abolished; again, please read the study, ‘The LORD’s Feasts’.
Acts 18:21 But bade them, I [Paul] must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus. (KJV)s
Acts 21:24 “Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law.” | James speaking to Paul
The apostle Paul kept the Feasts/Holy Days from the Law of Moses and lived his life in observance of the Law decades after the ascension of Jesus. Period. The Law of Moses, including the Feasts/Holy Days of God, were not abolished, at least according to the apostle Paul.
- For further study of Paul’s teachings, as well as the original Greek, see the ‘Links’ at the top of this page or the blog posts at the bottom. Be like the Bereans, and test Paul’s doctrines to the “Scriptures”; look up for yourself more than 60 of the “forever verses” listed directly below. Please ‘share’ this study. Thank you for your time!