Colossians 2:14 and Paul’s Letter Carriers

There is a keyword in Col 2:14 which often gets mistranslated: cheipographon. The word literally means “hand-written” from “cheiro” for hand and “graphon” for written. Here’s a rundown of typical translations:
KJV “handwriting of ordinances”
RSV, NAB “bond”
NIV “written code”
NASB “certificate of debt”
ESV “record of debt”

The TDNT itself is a little ambiguous on the meaning of the word and Liddell & Scott is not helpful. It merely lists “note of hand, bond, manuscript note” as the definition. NIV has by far the worst translation of the ones listed above. “Written code” brings to mind the Mosaic Law and other things that have nothing to do with what Paul is talking about. The confused translations result, I think, from the following phrase: “with its regulations” (NIV) or “with its legal demands” (ESV). These demands are NOT the demands of the Old Covenant Law, but the demands of a promissory note. cheirographon is a record of debt, like a credit card bill. It is this credit card bill or mortgage statement that was “nailed to the cross.” The “demands” or statuatory implications of the handwritten record are only those of debt, not those of the Mosaic Law. The NASB and the ESV do the best job in relating the real meaning of this word and making sense of the whole passage. Paul is talking about financial debt and using it as a metaphor for the debt we owed to God because of sin.

Paul’s Letter Carriers
I made a quick list today of the people who carried Paul’s letters. For some of the letters, it is not clear who carried them, but here’s my list anyway:
1. Romans – 16:1 – Phoebe
2. 1 Cor – 16:17 – Possibly Stephanas, Fortunatus, Achaicus
3. 2 Cor – unknown
4. Gal – unknown
5. Eph – Possibly Tychicus, cg. 2 Tim 4:12
6. Phlp – 2:25 – Epaphroditus
7. Col – 4:7,9 – Tychicus and Onesimus
8. Philm – 10 – Onesimus (on the same trip as the Colossians delivery)
9. 1 Thess – unknown
10. 2 Thess – unknown
11. 1 Tim – unknown
12. 2 Tim – unknown
13. Titus – unknown
14. Hebrews – unknown

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