Colossians 2.16ff. is a locus classicus for discussing the Protestant doctrine of adiaphora, or things indifferent. 1 In his commentary on Colossians (1566), Niels Hemmingsen provides a convenient treatment of the issue in his exegesis of the first two verses of the passage. We’ll look at what he has to say over the course of two or three posts.
“Therefore let no one judge you in food and drink, or in a part of a festival day or a New Moon or a sabbath, which are a shadow of future things, but the body is of Christ.”
The conclusion has to do with the cataloging of certain rites that the Judaizing Christians wanted to impose on the Colossians as necessary for salvation and the completion of the gospel. “Let no one,” he says, “judge you.” Do not fear the judgment of any man by which they want to prosecute you as defendants until you are condemned, as if you were violators of the decrees of God. For that which he called “decrees” above, he now expounds by a division of the Mosaic rites–not, indeed, a complete and full one, but rather he leaves the rest to be understood after having named a few general types. For the judgment and the reasoning is the same for all of them. But doesn’t the Word of God commend the choice of foods, festivals, etc. to the people of God? Indeed it does commend them, but in accordance with the time, in order that they might be shadows of future things, that is, obscure representations of the absent Christ. But after the body has come in Christ Jesus, it is not fitting that we pursue shadows. Consequently the vindication of Christian liberty from the Mosaic rites and other human traditions should be observed here. 2
In the next post, we shall examine the rules (regulae) 4 that, in Hemmingsen’s view, govern the observance of Christian festivals.