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A Closer look at Colossians 2:14

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Although Thayer's lexicon places references to the Law of Moses in its own definition, not all other lexicons do this.  The comprehensive Liddell and Scott lexicon and the Arndt and Gingrich lexicon do not.  In those works the Law of Moses is simply another decree or ordinance to which 'dogma' might refer.  Thayer's treatment might lead one to conclude that 'dogma' of and by itself refers to the Law of Moses.  This is not the case at all.  There must be something in the context that makes it apparent the author intends the Law of Moses.  This is why the other lexicons do not place the Law of Moses in a separate category.

The Liddell and Scott lexicon divides the word into two possible definitions, "that which seems right or reasonable, opinion or belief" and "decision, judgment, public decree, ordinance"

Let’s look at some of these examples of usage where Thayer's believes the Law of Moses is intended.

Thayer's first lists 3 Maccabees 1:3. A translation of this work by Clayton Croy, (Brill publishers, 2006), actually translates the word as "teachings".  There is a close-by reference to the law, but the context would lead one to believe the subject of 'dogma' includes the whole traditional Jewish approach, which would include the oral law (Talmud) as well as the written.  This is likely why 'dogma' is included with its context as 'ancestral teachings'.  So while the Law of Moses was likely intended in the ancestral teachings, so were other ordinances, decrees and/or judgments that were not directly part of the Law of Moses, the Pentateuch.  So in this case 'dogma' is not talking of just the Law of Moses.

Thayer also quotes Philo's Allegorical Interpretation, Book 1.  "Dogma' is used in Philo's section XVI, (55).  An English translation was done by F. H. Colson and G. H. Whitaker., published in 1929.  'Dogma' is translated 'opinions' in this text.  It is not clear at all that it is limiting itself to the Law of Moses.  In fact, the subject is the creation of man and his placement in Paradise.  Although this work of Philo is a commentary on the beginning of Genesis, which is part of the Law of Moses, his use of 'dogma' has no direct connection to it.  He simply states that memory serves to preserve 'opinions'.  Specifically Philo is talking of 'holy opinions'.  That doesn't make them the Law of Moses.

Thayer’s also references Ephesians 2:15, 'the law of commandments contained in ordinances'.  What is it about this phrase that assures us it is talking of the Law of Moses?

The verse talks of Christ unifying Jew and gentile by breaking down the enmity between them.  Does the Law of Moses create enmity?  "One law shall be for the native–born and for the stranger who dwells among you." (Ex 12:49).  "You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." (Ex 22:21).  "He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. 19 Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." (Deu 10:18-19).  How does that instruction create enmity between Jew and gentile?  The rest of the Law of Moses is in accord with that instruction.  Where does the enmity come from?

Ephesians 2:14 tells us where it comes from.  "For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation".  This middle wall of separation refers to a block wall the Jews built at the approach to the temple in Jerusalem.  The gentiles were not to pass beyond this point.  It was not required by God, but added later by the Jews to highlight their status above the gentiles.  The mentality that created this wall is what created the enmity.  The Jews ratcheted up their oral traditions that distinguished them as 'holy' and the gentiles as 'common'.

Then he said to them, "You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation."’ (Acts 10:28)  It is not unlawful, because Moses said it was.  Moses said no such thing.  This was due to Jewish traditions that even Peter respected.

"For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans" (John 4:9c).  Again this is not because of the Law of Moses, but later Jewish tradition.

It is the enmity erected by Jewish tradition that Christ has destroyed.  His approach is clear, "But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him." (Acts 10:35).  "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal 3:28)

So again, we see that what some want to assume subverts the Law of Moses, doesn't reflect on the Law of Moses at all.  Careless reading of scripture has caused generations of seekers to be misled.  There may well be cases where 'dogma' refers to the Law of Moses.  If this is the case it will be clear in the context.  None of the references Thayer's lexicon used, fit the definition he tries to support.  That ought to give us pause to consider.

What then does 'dogma' refer to in Colossians 2:14?

Keep in mind the primary definition of this word.  The New Testament writers were not trying to be obscure.  They used words in the normal way everyone else used words.  Liddell and Scott often highlight the secular meanings of words as opposed to highlighting the technical 'Christian' lingo, which is promoted by some individual’s bias theology.

The Liddell and Scott definition would assume first that Paul was talking of someone's opinion, decision, decree or judgment.  It is this definition that is reflected in other uses of 'dogma' throughout the New Testament.  Besides its use in Ephesians 2:15 mentioned above and here in Colossians 2:14, 'dogma' is used three other times in the New Testament.  Twice it is referring to decrees of Caesar (Luke 2:1, Acts 17:7). The other use is talking of the judgments of the Apostles as recorded in Acts 15 (Acts 16:4).  These all use the word to describe a judgment, determination, opinion and/or pronouncement of what is felt to be appropriate.

The Emphasized Bible by J.B. Rotherham uses the word in accord with this understanding.  It also maintains the singular form of the subject and verb and uses indentation to highlight and separate thoughts.

"Having blotted out the handwriting against us by the decrees, -

Which was hostile to us, -

And hath taken away the same out of the midst.

Nailing it up to the cross:"

The single verb 'was' refers to the single noun 'handwriting', not the decrees.  It is Messiah that issues judgment.  He declares us clean. "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom 3:24-26 KJV).

Jesus Christ issues His decrees and opinions as our judge.  He declares us free from debt, because our debt is paid by His death, if we truely repent.