Colossians 2:16-18,20-23: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. 18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in …… worship of angels …… vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind …… 20 …… if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why …… do you subject yourselves to regulations– 21 ‘Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,’ 22 …… according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed …… neglect of the body, but are of no value ……” — New King James Version
The context or subject content here IS NOT about Biblically forbidden food or the Mosaic festival days or the Sabbath days themselves, but a warning by Paul to the Colossians to ignore criticism by a local group of ascetic heretics within the church condemning the gentile Christians in Colossae for physically enjoying the feast meals on the Sabbath and holy festival days. The city of Colossae was renowned for its asceticism. These verses actually confirm that the law keeping gentile Colossians were observing the Saturday Sabbath and the Mosaic festival days, because the new Christian church had taught them to obey those laws. If the Colossians had not been observing these days, the heretics would have had no basis for their objections to the eating and drinking aspects, the feasting part, of the holy days and the Saturday Sabbath. The Colossian Christians were primarily gentile. Yet Paul in his letter to the Colossians never said or even hinted that obeying the Sabbath and holy day laws was no longer necessary.
Many of the residents of Colossae adhered to a pagan philosophy of self denial and abstinence from pleasure in an attempt to achieve perfection. They also thought that anyone who was religious should behave as they did. Even many of the new members of the Christian church in Colossae brought their pagan philosophies with them, adversely influencing other Christians. As a result of obeying Biblical laws such as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, The Feast of Tabernacles, etc., the converted Colossians were learning how to enjoy life as God intended, but the ascetics began to look down on them and condemn them. In verse 16 Paul told the church members to essentially ignore what the non-Christians thought about their enjoyment of eating good food, drinking wine, and pleasurably celebrating the Sabbath and the festival days.
The original Greek word for “food” is brosis, Strong’s number 1035, which has as its first definition “the act of eating.” That definition places emphasis on eating in general, not on any specific kind of food such as the forbidden foods. The Greek word for “drink” is posis, Strong’s 4213. Posis is defined as or suggests “the act of drinking and that which is drunk.” So brosis and posis both emphasize the act of eating or drinking, and posis places little importance on what is drunk. THE VERY FACT THAT “DRINK” IS IN VERSE 16 IS AN IMMEDIATE TIP THAT JUDGMENTAL CRITICISM WAS BEING DIRECTED AT SOMETHING OTHER THAN THE BIBLICALLY FORBIDDEN FOODS SINCE NONE OF THE FOOD LAWS PROHIBIT WHAT ONE CAN DRINK. The Scriptures elsewhere, though, do forbid drinking blood according to Genesis 9:4 and Acts 15:20, but blood, of course, never was an accepted drink in civilized societies. Therefore the Colossian Christians were not drinking blood. “Drink” was probably referring to popular wines or other good tasting drinks.
The Greek word for “regarding” is meros, Strong’s 3313. The primary definition of meros is “a part, portion.” Meros in the New Testament is defined as “part” 24 times, “portion” 3 times, “coast” 3 times, “behalf” 2 times, “respect” 2 times, and has miscellaneous definitions 9 other times. Therefore Paul was advising the Colossians to not let others judge them concerning only a part or portion of the festivals, new moons, and sabbaths. The emphasis was only on some part (apparently the aesthetic consumption of tasty feast meals) of those special days, not on the entirety of those days.
The next step is to Biblically verify that it was the pagan influenced ascetics, not righteous Christian believers, who were most likely doing the judging in Colossians 2:16. The following NKJV verses within the second chapter of Colossians give us good clues.
Colossians 2:8: “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to THE TRADITION OF MEN, according to THE BASIC PRINCIPLES OF THE WORLD, and not according to Christ.” The forbidden foods, Mosaic festival days, and sabbaths never were part of the traditions of men or the basic principles of the world.
Colossians 2:18: “Let no one cheat you of your reward, TAKING DELIGHT IN false humility and WORSHIP OF ANGELS, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” THE PEOPLE JUDGING THE COLOSSIANS IN VERSE 16 WERE PEOPLE THAT WORSHIPPED ANGELS, SO THEY DEFINITELY WERE NOT RIGHTEOUS CHRISTIANS OR RIGHTEOUS JEWS BECAUSE THE BIBLE NOWHERE ALLOWS CHRISTIANS OR JEWS TO WORSHIP ANGELS.
Colossians 2:20,21,22,23: “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why as though living in the world, DO YOU SUBJECT YOURSELVES TO REGULATIONS— 21 ‘DO NOT TOUCH, DO NOT TASTE, DO NOT HANDLE,’ 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—ACCORDING TO THE COMMANDMENTS AND DOCTRINES OF MEN? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in SELF IMPOSED RELIGION, false humility, AND NEGLECT OF THE BODY, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” The words in italics and the man made, self denying regulations prohibiting certain kinds of touching, tasting, and handling very strongly suggest that excessive asceticism was a major part of the beliefs of those heretical Christians doing the judging. The words “ACCORDING TO THE COMMANDMENTS AND DOCTRINES OF MEN?” clearly do not refer to the Mosaic dietary, festival, and Sabbath laws because those laws are divine, not man made.
The last part of verse 17: “…… but the substance is of Christ” is not as accurate or literal as the Greek. In the first place, the word “is” has been artificially added. The Greek for “substance” is soma, Strong’s 4983 which means “the body” or “the body as a whole.” The Greek for “of Christ” is Christos, Strong’s 5547 which means Jesus Christ. Verses 16,17: “So let no one judge you …… but the body (or church) of Christ.” is probably a much better translation. Paul is advising the Colossians to be concerned about being judged by only the Christian Church, that is, its righteous members, not by people inside or outside the church with unBiblical, heretical, man made philosophies. For additional study please visit http://www.ucg.org/bible-study-lesson/bible-study-course-lesson-12-gods-festivals-keys-humanitys-future/what-did-paul-really-say-c/. Another great site is http://lifehopeandtruth.com/bible/law-and-grace/colossians-2-16/.