The Meaning of Colossians 3:11 Explained

Colossians 3:11

KJV: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

YLT: where there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, foreigner, Scythian, servant, freeman -- but the all and in all -- Christ.

Darby: wherein there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ is everything, and in all.

ASV: where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ is all, and in all.

What does Colossians 3:11 Mean?

Verse Meaning

There is no national or racial distinction that determines one"s acceptability to God nor is there any religious, cultural, or social distinction. Jesus Christ is essentially all that we need for new birth and growth. He indwells every believer and permeates all the relationships of life. "In all" probably means that Christ is everything (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:28; Galatians 3:28). [1] A barbarian was one who did not know Greek; his or her language was foreign. Scythians originated from the Black Sea and Caspian Sea area, and the Greeks thought of them as the lowest type of barbarian. [2]
"The new man lives in a new environment where all racial, national, religious, cultural and social distinctions are no more. Rather, Christ is now all that matters and in all who believe. The statement is one of the most inclusive in the New Testament and is amply supported by the pre-eminence of Christ in New Testament theology. It is a particularly appropriate statement for the Colossians and affords an excellent summary statement of the teaching of the letter. There are three realms, relevant to the Colossians , in which He is all. He is everything in salvation; hence there is no place for angelic mediation in God"s redemptive work (cf. Colossians 1:18-22; Colossians 2:18). He is everything in sanctification; hence legality and asceticism are out of place in the Christian life (cf. Colossians 2:16-23). He is our life ( Colossians 3:3-4). Finally, He is everything necessary for human satisfaction; hence there is no need for philosophy, or the deeds of the old man ( Colossians 1:26-28; Colossians 2:3; Colossians 2:9-10). He fills the whole life, and all else is hindering and harmful." [3]

Context Summary

Colossians 3:1-11 - Seeking The "things That Are Above"
Let us repeat the glorious truth, which was doubtless the heart of Paul's teaching, that our old nature has been nailed in Christ to the Cross, and laid in the grave; and that our real self, the second Adam, has entered the new world of resurrection. We belong to the world on the threshold of which Jesus said, "Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended." We must guard against the defiling touch of the world, of sin, and of the old self-life. We stand between two worlds, each solicits us: let us yield to the influences that pull us upward, and not to those that anchor us to this sinful and vain world. Our eternal blessedness has begun, let us walk in it.
In Christ we profess to have put off the old man, i.e., the habits of our former life, Colossians 3:9; now let us actually do so, in the power of the Holy Spirit. We profess to have put on the risen Christ, Colossians 3:10; now let us don the attire and habits of the new man. Too many Christians resemble Lazarus, quickened from his death-sleep, but still arrayed in grave-clothes. Too few array themselves in the radiant beauty of the risen Lord, which is the common heritage of all who believe in Him, whatever their rank or nationality. [source]

Chapter Summary: Colossians 3

1  He shows where we should seek Christ
5  He exhorts to holiness;
10  to put off the old self, and put on Christ;
12  exhorting to charity, humility,
18  and other duties

Greek Commentary for Colossians 3:11

Where [οπου]
In this “new man” in Christ. Cf. Galatians 3:28. [source]
There cannot be [ουκ ενι]
Ενι — Eni is the long (original) form of εν — en and εστιν — estin is to be understood. “There does not exist.” This is the ideal which is still a long way ahead of modern Christians as the Great War proved. Race distinctions (Greek ελλην — Hellēn and Jew Ιουδαιος — Ioudaios) disappear in Christ and in the new man in Christ. The Jews looked on all others as Greeks (Gentiles). Circumcision The Greeks and Romans regarded all others as barbarians A Scythian (Σκυτης — Skuthēs) was simply the climax of barbarity, bar-baris barbariores (Bengel), used for any rough person like our “Goths and Vandals.” Bondman Class distinctions vanish in Christ. In the Christian churches were found slaves, freedmen, freemen, masters. Perhaps Paul has Philemon and Onesimus in mind. But labour and capital still furnish a problem for modern Christianity. But Christ is all (αλλα παντα Χριστος — alla panta Christos). Demosthenes and Lucian use the neuter plural to describe persons as Paul does here of Christ. The plural παντα — panta is more inclusive than the singular παν — pān would be. And in all Locative plural and neuter also. “Christ occupies the whole sphere of human life and permeates all its developments” (Lightfoot). Christ has obliterated the words barbarian, master, slave, all of them and has substituted the word αδελπος — adelphos (brother). [source]
A Scythian [Σκυτης]
(Σκυτης — Skuthēs) was simply the climax of barbarity, bar-baris barbariores (Bengel), used for any rough person like our “Goths and Vandals.” [source]
Bondman [δουλος]
Class distinctions vanish in Christ. In the Christian churches were found slaves, freedmen, freemen, masters. Perhaps Paul has Philemon and Onesimus in mind. But labour and capital still furnish a problem for modern Christianity. But Christ is all (αλλα παντα Χριστος — alla panta Christos). Demosthenes and Lucian use the neuter plural to describe persons as Paul does here of Christ. The plural παντα — panta is more inclusive than the singular παν — pān would be. And in all Locative plural and neuter also. “Christ occupies the whole sphere of human life and permeates all its developments” (Lightfoot). Christ has obliterated the words barbarian, master, slave, all of them and has substituted the word αδελπος — adelphos (brother). [source]
freeman [ελευτερος]
Class distinctions vanish in Christ. In the Christian churches were found slaves, freedmen, freemen, masters. Perhaps Paul has Philemon and Onesimus in mind. But labour and capital still furnish a problem for modern Christianity. But Christ is all (αλλα παντα Χριστος — alla panta Christos). Demosthenes and Lucian use the neuter plural to describe persons as Paul does here of Christ. The plural παντα — panta is more inclusive than the singular παν — pān would be. And in all Locative plural and neuter also. “Christ occupies the whole sphere of human life and permeates all its developments” (Lightfoot). Christ has obliterated the words barbarian, master, slave, all of them and has substituted the word αδελπος — adelphos (brother). [source]
But Christ is all [αλλα παντα Χριστος]
Demosthenes and Lucian use the neuter plural to describe persons as Paul does here of Christ. The plural παντα — panta is more inclusive than the singular παν — pān would be. [source]
And in all [και εν πασιν]
Locative plural and neuter also. “Christ occupies the whole sphere of human life and permeates all its developments” (Lightfoot). Christ has obliterated the words barbarian, master, slave, all of them and has substituted the word αδελπος — adelphos (brother). [source]
Where there is [ὅπου ἔνι]
Where, in the renewed condition; there is, better, as Rev., can be: ἔνι strengthened from ἐν insignifies not merely the fact but the impossibility: there is no room for. [source]
Greek, Jew, etc. []
Compare Galatians 3:28. National, ritual, intellectual, and social diversities are specified. The reference is probably shaped by the conditions of the Colossian church, where the form of error was partly Judaistic and ceremonial, insisting on circumcision; where the pretense of superior knowledge affected contempt for the rude barbarian, and where the distinction of master and slave had place as elsewhere. [source]
Circumcision []
For the circumcised. So Romans 4:12; Ephesians 2:11; Philemon 3:3. [source]
Barbarian, Scythian []
See on 1 Corinthians 14:11. The distinction is from the Greek and Roman point of view, where the line is drawn by culture, as between the Jew and the Greek it was drawn by religious privilege. From the former stand-point the Jew ranked as a barbarian. Scythian. “More barbarous than the barbarians” (Bengel). Hippocrates describes them as widely different from the rest of mankind, and like to nothing but themselves, and gives an absurd description of their physical peculiarities. Herodotus describes them as living in wagons, offering human sacrifices, scalping and sometimes flaying slain enemies, drinking their blood, and using their skulls for drinking-cups. When a king dies, one of his concubines is strangled and buried with him, and, at the close of a year, fifty of his attendants are strangled, disemboweled, mounted on dead horses, and left in a circle round his tomb. The Scythians passed through Palestine on their road to Egypt, b.c. 600, and a trace of their invasion is supposed to have existed in the name Scythopolis, by which Beth Shean was known in Christ's time. Ezekiel apparently refers to them (38,39) under the name Gog, which reappears in Revelation. See on Revelation 20:8. [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for Colossians 3:11

Acts 28:2 The barbarians [οι βαρβαροι]
The Greeks called all men “barbarians” who did not speak Greek (Romans 1:14), not “barbarians” in our sense of rude and uncivilized, but simply “foreign folk.” Diodorus Siculus (Acts 28:12) says that it was a colony of the Phoenicians and so their language was Punic (Page). The word originally meant an uncouth repetition In Colossians 3:11 Paul couples it with Scythian as certainly not Christian. These are (with Acts 28:4 below) the only N.T. instances. [source]
Romans 1:14 Both to Greeks and to Barbarians [ελλησιν τε και βαρβαροις]
The whole human race from the Greek point of view, Jews coming under βαρβαροις — barbarois On this word see note on Acts 28:2, Acts 28:4; note on 1 Corinthians 14:11; and note on Colossians 3:11 (only N.T. instances). The Greeks called all others barbarians and the Jews termed all others Gentiles. Did Paul consider the Romans as Greeks? They had absorbed the Greek language and culture. [source]
1 Corinthians 7:21 Use it rather []
Whether the apostle means, use the bondage or use the freedom - whether, take advantage of the offer of freedom, or, remain in slavery - is, as Dean Stanley remarks, one of the most evenly balanced questions in the interpretation of the New Testament. The force of καὶ evenand the positive injunction of the apostle in 1 Corinthians 7:20and 1 Corinthians 7:24, seem to favor the meaning, remain in slavery. The injunction is to be read in the light of 1 Corinthians 7:22, and of Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11; 1 Corinthians 12:13, that freeman and slave are one in Christ; and also of the feeling pervading the Church of the speedy termination of the present economy by the second coming of the Lord. See 1 Corinthians 7:26, 1 Corinthians 7:29. We must be careful to avoid basing our conclusion on the modern sentiment respecting freedom and slavery. [source]
1 Corinthians 15:28 That God may be all in all [ινα ηι ο τεος παντα εν πασιν]
The final goal of all God‘s redemptive plans as Paul has so well said in Romans 11:36. Precisely this language Paul will use of Christ (Colossians 3:11). [source]
Galatians 3:28 There is [ἔνι]
Only in Paul (1 Corinthians 6:5; Colossians 3:11) and James 1:17. Ἔνι is the abbreviation of ἔνεστι thereis in or among. [source]
Galatians 3:28 Male or female [ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ]
Comp. Matthew 19:4. He said “Jew nor Greek”; “bond nor free.” Here he says “male and ( καὶ ) female”; perhaps because political and social distinctions are alterable, while the distinction of sex is unalterable, though absorbed in the new relation to Christ. Yet see Colossians 3:11, where we find, “not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision.” [source]
Galatians 3:28  []
d With this putting on of Christ, the distinctions of your ordinary social relations - of nation, condition, sex - vanish. Comp. Romans 10:12; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 3:11. [source]
James 1:17 From the Father of lights [ουκ ενι]
“Of the lights” (the heavenly bodies). For this use of εν — patēr see Job 38:28 (Father of rain); 2 Corinthians 1:3; Ephesians 1:17. God is the Author of light and lights.With whom (ενεστι — par' hōi). For ενι εν — para (beside) with locative sense for standpoint of God see εινε — para tōi theōi (Mark 10:27; Romans 2:11; Romans 9:14; Ephesians 6:9.Can be no This old idiom (also in Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11) may be merely the original form of παραλλαγη — en with recessive accent (Winer, Mayor) or a shortened form of παραλλασσω — enesti The use of παραλλαχις — eni en in 1 Corinthians 6:5 argues for this view, as does the use of τροπης αποσκιασμα — eine Old word from Αποσκιασμα — parallassō to make things alternate, here only in N.T. In Aristeas in sense of alternate stones in pavements. Dio Cassius has αποσκιασμος — parallaxis without reference to the modern astronomical parallax, though James here is comparing God (Father of the lights) to the sun (Malachi 4:2), which does have periodic variations.Shadow that is cast by turning απο σκια — Tropē is an old word for “turning” (from αποσκιαζω — trepō to turn), here only in N.T. η τροπης αποσκιασματος — Aposkiasma is a late and rare word Ropes argues strongly for this reading, and rather convincingly. At any rate there is no such periodic variation in God like that we see in the heavenly bodies. [source]
James 1:17 Can be no [ειναι]
This old idiom (also in Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11) may be merely the original form of παραλλαγη — en with recessive accent (Winer, Mayor) or a shortened form of παραλλασσω — enesti The use of παραλλαχις — eni en in 1 Corinthians 6:5 argues for this view, as does the use of τροπης αποσκιασμα — eine Old word from Αποσκιασμα — parallassō to make things alternate, here only in N.T. In Aristeas in sense of alternate stones in pavements. Dio Cassius has αποσκιασμος — parallaxis without reference to the modern astronomical parallax, though James here is comparing God (Father of the lights) to the sun (Malachi 4:2), which does have periodic variations.Shadow that is cast by turning απο σκια — Tropē is an old word for “turning” (from αποσκιαζω — trepō to turn), here only in N.T. η τροπης αποσκιασματος — Aposkiasma is a late and rare word Ropes argues strongly for this reading, and rather convincingly. At any rate there is no such periodic variation in God like that we see in the heavenly bodies. [source]

What do the individual words in Colossians 3:11 mean?

where not there is Greek and Jew circumcision uncircumcision Barbarian Scythian slave free but - all in all Christ [is]
ὅπου οὐκ ἔνι Ἕλλην καὶ Ἰουδαῖος περιτομὴ ἀκροβυστία βάρβαρος Σκύθης δοῦλος ἐλεύθερος ἀλλὰ ‹τὰ› πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν Χριστός

ὅπου  where 
Parse: Adverb
Root: ὅπου  
Sense: where, whereas.
ἔνι  there  is 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: ἔνι  
Sense: is in, is among, has place, is present.
Ἕλλην  Greek 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: Ἕλλην  
Sense: a Greek either by nationality, whether a native of the main land or of the Greek islands or colonies.
Ἰουδαῖος  Jew 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: Ἰουδαῖος  
Sense: Jewish, belonging to the Jewish race.
περιτομὴ  circumcision 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Feminine Singular
Root: περιτομή  
Sense: circumcised.
ἀκροβυστία  uncircumcision 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Feminine Singular
Root: ἀκροβυστία  
Sense: having the foreskin, uncircumcised.
βάρβαρος  Barbarian 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: βάρβαρος  
Sense: one whose speech is rude, rough and harsh.
Σκύθης  Scythian 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: Σκύθης  
Sense: a Scythian, an inhabitant of Scythia or modern day Russia.
δοῦλος  slave 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: δοῦλοσ1 
Sense: a slave, bondman, man of servile condition.
ἐλεύθερος  free 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: ἐλεύθερος  
Sense: freeborn.
‹τὰ›  - 
Parse: Article, Nominative Neuter Plural
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
Χριστός  Christ  [is] 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: Χριστός  
Sense: Christ was the Messiah, the Son of God.