1. Colossians 1:5 (ESV)
  2. Exposition

How should this verse be translated?

Colossians 1:5 (ESV)

5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel,

There lies a challenge in translating this verse, because it starts with a preposition. The question among commentators is: to what does this preposition connect? The challenge is heightened by the fact that it seems as though Paul is using hope as the grounds for faith and love, which we read about in verse 4. To some, this is strange, because often in his writing Paul mentions them together, all finding their basis in God. Here hope is presented as the basis of the love and faith of verse 4.

There are three views on translating this verse:

  1. Since the object of the opening preposition is in the accusative case, this preposition must be connected to the verb in verse 3 (We thank). So, the text will have a reading like this: Since we heard about your faith and love…we thank God for the hope… There are two main arguments against this reading:

    1. The connection with verse 3 is very tenuous. As this letter was read aloud to the church, it would have been difficult for the hearer to make such a connection in relation to all that is being said from verses 3–5.

    2. Such a reading breaks apart the trio of faith, love, and hope that commonly occurs in Paul’s letters. But it is clear that the way this trio is expressed in these verses is different from the typical way Paul writes about them.1

  2. The preposition must be connected with the last word of verse 4, which is love. If this reading is accepted, then the text will read something like, of the love that is due to the hope. Read in this way, only love is connected with hope, and hope is treated as the basis of love. Though such a reading has merits, it is still difficult to argue why it is that only love is connected to hope and not faith as well. It is clear that in verse 4 faith and love are mentioned together.2

  3. This preposition connects to both faith and love, thus making hope the grounds of both faith and love. Thus the text will read, Faith and love that springs from hope… This reading makes sense even though one has to acknowledge that it is not common for Paul to write in this way. Though it may not be common for him to write in this way, it is not strange, because in Titus 1:2 Paul makes the hope of eternal life the grounds of faith and knowledge.3 In Colossians, Paul does not mention eternal life; however, this does not mean that it is excluded when one considers the context. So this reading is the preferred one.