Larry J. Walker (United Church of God-AIA)1 wrote a lengthy article on these passages, relating how Herbert W. Armstrong claimed that the Colossians were being judged for keeping the Sabbath and Holy days and that the translators’ addition of the word ‘is’ after ‘body’ perverted the meaning of the verse.
However, Herbert Armstrong did not use proper Biblical scholarship.
The following was sent to us from Mike Oppenheimer (Let Us Reason Ministries) regarding a question we sent him about Larry Walker’s interpretation:
There is a twist of a complete 180 degrees. Paul is saying the festivals (Lev. 23) and the Sabbaths are all types (shadows) of Christ who has come. He is contrasting the body with the former shadows. Romans 14:1-17 would go along with that. In context of the letter and the other writings of Paul, it would be believers who do not hold to the former Jewish practices in the Old Covenant.
Paul previously told them of the riches–the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (I Corinthians 2:7), so it makes absolutely no sense that he would then uphold the Old Testament shadows as continuing, if the true reality, the substance that is Christ, is available to them.
Eliminating “is” does not change the meaning when read in context–which are a shadow of things to come. … Reality or “substance” (sōma, lit. “body”) is found in Christ.] Christ has come, therefore as Paul says in Colossians 2:20-21: “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not;”).
It was the Gnostics that believed that abstaining from foods would make them holier. They [the Colossians] were not to be judged by anyone if they kept them or did not keep them–it was a personal preference.
Walker’s view does not make sense when Paul wrote elsewhere the very same phrase–Hebrews 10:1: “For the law having a shadow of good things to come,”
In addition, William Hohmann, author of “A Critique of Which Day is the Christian Sabbath,” “Mystery of the Ages (a 2nd critical review)”, et al. [see PDF Downloads], writes the following:
What is overlooked in this diatribe [by Larry Walker] is that Paul identifies these things as being shadows in this context. What is a shadow? Something that has no substance. They are poor “reflections” or castings that are empty and hollow. This is hardly the language Paul would use if he were truly defending the Sabbath and Holy days, as the author claims, telling people not to let “Gnostic” Judaizers outside the body of Christ judge them for keeping or observing these days and festivals as though there were no such influences from within the body of Christ as evidenced in Acts 15 and other places such as Galatians chapter 3.
Whether we include the word “is” or not does not change the facts of the context. Eating and drinking, festivals, Holy days and the Sabbath are shadows without substance. That which has substance (sōma – a body) is Christ. The shadows have no “body.” Again, Christians are complete in Christ–they are now a part of His body when we take Paul’s use of analogy out to its conclusion. The shadows are not a part of this body of Christ’s, and neither is the Christian a part of the shadows.
In Michael Magill’s New Testament Transline, which is a very literal translation, he translates the passage as such:
Therefore let no one judge you in eating and [or] in drinking, or in respect to a feast [festival] or new-moon or Sabbath Which are a shadow of the coming things, but the body is Christ’s.
His marginal notes state in regards to the “body is Christ’s.”
Or, in a figurative sense, the “substance” the “reality.” The OT rituals are shadowy pointers to the coming of the future realities in Christ. Said in reverse, Christ is the body that casts the shadows contained in the rituals of the Law. He is the reality.
In Colossians 2:17, it terminates with the phrase, “tode soma tou Xristou” literally, but the body [is] of the Christ, showing possession, hence Michael Magill opting for “Christ’s” as his literal rendering.
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