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The intenticity of the Epistle to the Colossians as being the
writing of St. Paul, and received from the first as Canonical, has never been doubted in the Christian Church till the present century. It has latterly been pronounced by some German critics to contain references to Gnostical heresies which were not developed till a later period. We shall show, however, that the germs of Gnosticism were abroad in the world long before this.
There are apparent allusions to some of its statements in Clement of Rome and the longer recension of Ignatius, but the first undeniable reference is in
Justin Martyr, ch. lxxxv.: “For every demon, when exorcised in the name of this very Son of God—Who is the firstborn of every creature.” (Dial. lxxxv.) “We have been taught that Christ is the firstborn of God.” (Apol. xlvi.)
In the Muratorian Fragment of the Canon it is reckoned as fourth among the Pauline Epistles. “ Ad Corinthios (prima), ad Ephesios (secunda) ad Philippenses (tertia) ad Colossienses (quarta),” &c.
Irenæus quotes the Epistle to the Colossians nearly twenty times. Thus Book iii. 14: “And again he says in the Epistle to the Colossians, Luke the beloved Physician greets you.”
Clement of Alexandria quotes this Epistle about twenty-five times. In the Stromata, i. 1, he mentions it by name: “ Also in the Epistle to the Colossians he writes, admonishing every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom" (i. 28).
Tertullian quotes the Epistle frequently; sometimes by name, thus:-"He testifieth of philosophy by name that it ought to be shunned: writing to the Colossians, 'Beware lest any one beguile you through philosophy and vain deceit after the tradition of men,'" &c.