Colossians 2:14 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

What exactly was nailed here

1) The decrees/ordinances which were against us

2) The debt that we owed as a result of our transgressing the law

  • 1
    εξαλειψας exaleiphas ('blotting out' KJV) conveys the removal of what was engraved. What was nailed to the cross had no writing on it. 'The against us handwriting of the decress which was adverse to us' (EGNT) expresses commandments. I can see no mention of 'debt' in the Greek, myself. A good question (+1).
    – Nigel J
    Aug 21, 2018 at 14:06
  • The symbolism that was portrayed by Jesus is that our flesh needs to be symbolically nailed to a cross, which means that our flesh is our enemy and needs to be debased. This is achieved through spiritual warfare with weapons such as; fasting, speaking in tongues, recital of powerful biblical proverbs, prayer, etc. Jan 11, 2021 at 12:59

10 Answers 10


It's clear that what has been "nailed to the cross", is also that which has been "taken out of the way", which is the cheirographos which has been obliterated (or been "cancelled out" in the NASB), i.e. the "bond document" or (in NASB) "certificate of debt":

ἐξαλείψας τὸ καθ ἡμῶν χειρόγραφον τοῖς δόγμασιν ὃ ἦν ὑπεναντίον ἡμῖν,
exaleipsas to kath hēmōn cheirographon tois dogmasin ho ēn hypenantion hēmin,
having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us;

καὶ αὐτὸ ἦρκεν ἐκ τοῦ μέσου
kai auto ērken ek tou mesou
and He has taken it out of the way,

προσηλώσας αὐτὸ τῷ σταυρῷ·
prosēlōsas auto tō(i) staurō(i)
having nailed it to the cross.

cheirographos is a neuter singular noun; the two instances of auto = "it", in the translation above, are likewise neuter singulars, and have their common antecedent in cheirographos.

The answer to OP's options 1 and 2, then, is "neither" precisely -- but that which bears the "decrees/ordinances which were against us", i.e., what lies behind option 1.

See further: T.K. Abbott, Ephesians and Colossians (ICC; 1897), pp. 256-7; A.S. Peake, "Epistle to the Colossians", in Expositor's Greek Commentary (1897), pp. 527-8.

  • 'Bond document' and 'certificate of debt' are not translations of the Greek. They are interpretations. There is no warrant to bring in the concept of debt in the text.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 22, 2018 at 3:13
  • 2
    @NigelJ - please click the link to the Liddell & Scott entry for cheirographos in the answer, above. See also the Moulton & Milligan entries. I'm not sure why you are so dogmatic (and, I'm afraid, wrong) about what this term does not mean. In any case, the question isn't about the meaning of cheirographos, but what is the object of the nailing, and that (I trust!) is clear. ;)
    – Dɑvïd
    Aug 22, 2018 at 8:24
  • Cheir is the hand. Grapho is to write. It is handwriting and nothing else. There is no scope whatsoever to attach an interpretation to the word.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 22, 2018 at 10:19
  • 5
    I take it that's because neither of you are interested in evidence or in usage. I would like to know what you think a "pineapple" is. PLEASE read and contemplate the Moulton and Milligan evidence (let alone that in LSJ for χειρόγραφ* terms, or BAGD, or any lexicon that cites examples in context). Having read them, check the references, then refute them if that's your considered conclusion. (Preferably in a new Q&A, since this one is not about the meaning of that term!) Meanwhile, the claim that "the literal meaning is handwriting" remains patently false. Sorry.
    – Dɑvïd
    Aug 27, 2018 at 10:36
  • 1
    A 'pineapple' is a fruit (a kind of apple) that comes from a tree (like a pine tree). The variations of meaning arrive at a singular concept that relates to both fruit and tree. Such is language. So 'hand' and 'writing' combine to express the concept of handwritten words.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 27, 2018 at 12:25

There are two very different approaches to studying the Bible, eisegesis and exegesis.

Most other answers will use the former approach, but that isn't necessarily the right one. You need to understand the difference, and decide which study method leads to the truth.


I learned the truth from my Church. It is comforting to be able to read the scriptures and confirm what I know.

That stern and strict JHVH of the Old Testament made a lot of laws that were useful at the time, but which are long outdated and no longer needed.

Colossians 2:14 is one instance that confirms the general case, just as Peter's vision confirms that all animals are fit to eat, and as other scriptures confirm that Sunday is the appropriate weekday on which to rest and worship.

This verse not only corroborates the fact, but provides the additional detail that the moment that the old laws were done away with happened at the same time as Jesus's death.


I believe that the Bible is the source of truth. If it contradicts my ideas, then it must be my ideas that are wrong.

In Matthew 5:17, Jesus said "Think not that I am come to destroy the law". This makes me doubt that the law was done away with. I will read the scriptures with an open mind to see what they really say about the matter.

In Colossians 2:14, the word "handwriting" is a translation of the Greek word "cheirographon" (χειρόγραφον). That word appears only once in the Bible, so I can't compare its usage there. But it also appears in other contemporary documents, and while those documents aren't reliable scripture, they can provide an indication of how people used the word.

Based on other writings from the time (Tobit 5:3 Tobit 9:5; Plutarch, mor., p. 829 a. de vitand. aere al. 4, 3; Artemidorus Daldianus, oneir. 3, 40), the Outline of Biblical Usage and Thayer's Greek Lexicon each say that "cheirographon" can mean:

a note of hand, or writing in which one acknowledges that money has either been deposited with him or lent to him by another, to be returned at an appointed time.

So if "handwriting" actually means a written record of debt, an IOU, what does Colossians 2:14 mean?

In "nailing it to his cross", "it" obviously refers to this IOU, and "blotting out" obviously refers to getting rid of the IOU. So what the verse means is that Jesus's death caused our IOU's to be cancelled.

And that interpretation makes sense and is consistent with the rest of the Bible. Many other scriptures say that Jesus offered his life to pay our debt. In fact, that is the central doctrine of Christianity. Romans 6:23 says that "The wages of sin is death" while Romans 3:23 confirms that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God".

So, it really wasn't the Law that was done away with, it was the debt of our penalty for violating that law that was destroyed by Christ's sacrifice.

  • 1
    Well said, thx for sticking with the text! (and not makin stuff up)
    – Steve
    Oct 23, 2020 at 10:12

14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; - KJV

The reference to “handwriting of ordinances” (KJV) is a clear reference to the Law of Moses. To understand this application, we’ll need to understand the references to “rudiments of the world” (verse 8 – see below).

Please reference (below) Galatians chapter 4:3,9 and the usage of “elements of the world”. This is the same word in Greek (STOICHEION – “first principals”) as “rudiments” in Colossians 2:8. Paul demonstrates that once your are saved from the first principals of the law, why would you want to back again to bondage under the law. Hence, the law was nailed to the cross and “taken out of the way”!

Ephesians 4:1-10 (KJV)

Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; 2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: 4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. 8 Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. 9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? 10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.

The Book of Galatians is one huge discourse about the inferiority of the Old Covenant of the Law verses the superiority of the New Covenant of Grace. Paul is fighting off the doctrine of the Judeizers who want to bring the dogma of following the law into the lives of the Galatian church. In 4:3, Paul is speaking specifically about the law (elements of the world) and how mankind was under bondage to that law. Then in verse 9, he says that once you have been saved by grace (from the law) and now have known God, why would you want to go back to the “weak and beggarly elements” (elements is same word STOICHEION in Greek) of the law.

In Colossians 2 (see below), Paul is basically stating the same premise as Galatians 4. In verse 4 he warns the Colossians of men trying to “beguile” them with false doctrine of the law. In verse 8, he expressly refers to the law, “after the traditions of men after the rudiments (STOICHEION) of the world”. He then states in verse 11, that the Christian’s circumcision is not made with hands (via the law). In verse 16-17, he states that these ordinances of the law are but a shadow of things to come. Same idea is communicated in Hebrews 10:

Hebrews 10:1 (KJV)

For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.

Paul then puts an exclamation point on the discussion in verses 20-21 stating that if you are now saved by grace FROM the rudiments/elements of the world, why then would you want to be subject again to ordinances like “touch not, taste not, handle not” – clear references to the ordinances of the Law of Moses.

Colossians 2:4-21 (KJV)

4 And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. 5 For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ. 6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: 7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. 8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. 9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: 11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. 16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. 18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. 20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, 21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not;

  • Excellent answer. If I could up-vote again, I would. Thank you.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 22, 2018 at 3:14
  • @alb says I can murder and steal now? :)
    – colboynik
    Sep 19, 2018 at 23:14
  • 1
    @ Jack - I never said that. In fact, Paul says “God forbid” to those types of statements, by my count 7 times. I’m just agreeing with Paul when he says “all things are lawful to me but all things are not expedient”. He also said it’s the “love of Christ constrains us”, not the law. By making those types of statements, you completely discount the Holy Spirit and His role in the life of the believer.
    – alb
    Oct 21, 2018 at 21:55
  • 1
    For the record, I'm saying that I agree with Andrew Lloyd Jones. “If your presentation of the Gospel does not expose it to the charge of Antinomianism you are probably not putting it correctly….The Gospel, you see, comes as this free gift of God–irrespective of what man does….Now, this doctrine of the Scriptures–this justification by faith only, this free grace of God in salvation–is always exposed to that charge of Antinomianism….Paul’s preaching was charged with Antinomianism…So I say, it is a very good test of preaching.” Andrew Lloyd Jones
    – alb
    Oct 21, 2018 at 22:13
  • Thank you so much @alb it brings a lot of clarity :-) Apr 7, 2020 at 7:36

There are two matters here:

1. χειρόγραφον (cheirographon)

The pivotal word here is χειρόγραφον which is given the following meanings:

Thayer: a handwriting; what one has written with his own hand (Polybius 30, 8, 4; Dionysius Halicarnassus 5, 8; others); specifically, a note of hand, or writing in which one acknowledges that money has either been deposited with him or lent to him by another, to he returned at an appointed time (Tobit 5:3 Tobit 9:5; Plutarch, mor., p. 829 a. de vitand. aere al. 4, 3; Artemidorus Daldianus, oneir. 3, 40); metaphorically, applied in Colossians 2:14 ((where R. V. bond)) to the Mosaic law, which shews men to be chargeable with offences for which they must pay the penalty.

BDB: a handwritten document, specifically, a certificate of indebtedness, account, record of debts.

2. What does "it" refer to?

Col 2:13b, 14 says (NASB)

having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Thus, it is quite clear that what was "cancelled" and nailed to the cross is our indebtedness of sin.

Note, the "it" that was cancelled cannot be the "ordinances" because that word is plural and the "it" is singular. Therefore, what was cancelled is the handwriting of debt, that is debt of sin [which is defined by the ordinances) - a common metaphor in the NT, Rom 4:3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 22, 23, 24, 2 Cor 5:19, Gal 3:6, James 2:23.

Ellicott reaches the same conclusion:

(14) Blotting out the handwriting—i.e., cancelling the bond which stood against us in its ordinances. The “handwriting” is the bond, exacting payment or penalty in default. (Comp. Philemon 1:19, “I Paul have written it with mine own hand; I will repay it.”) What this bond is we see by Ephesians 2:15, which speaks of “the law of commandments in ordinances,” there called “the enmity slain by the cross.” ... The metaphor, however, here is different, and especially notable as the first anticipation of those many metaphors of later theology, from Tertullian downwards, in which the idea of a debt to God, paid for us by the blood of Christ, as “a satisfaction,” is brought out. The Law is a bond, “Do this and thou shalt live.” “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” On failure to do our part it “stands against us.” But God for Christ’s sake forgives our transgressions and cancels the bond. It is a striking metaphor, full of graphic expressiveness; it is misleading only when (as in some later theologies) we hold it to be not only the truth, but the whole truth, forgetting that legal and forensic metaphors can but imperfectly represent inner spiritual realities.

Nailing it to his cross.—At this point the idea of atonement comes in. Hitherto we have heard simply of free forgiveness and love of God. Now the bond is viewed, not as cancelled by a simple act of divine mercy, but as absolutely destroyed by Christ, by “nailing it to His cross.”



The handwriting of “ordinances” = the hand writing of “dogmas”.

In ancient Greek, “dogma” meant literally "that which one thinks is true" and is from “dokeō” , "to seem good".

The handwriting of “dogmas” speaks of the handwritings of the church scribes of which many have thought in their own minds that they were “good” to keep. They go to the “church” body that is built upon the first principles of the handwriting rather than one built upon Christ.

The keeping and serving of the handwriting of church dogmas leads to divisions among us (denominations) and many judge others using these handwritings and so they are still “dead” in sins and the uncircumcision of the flesh as many fight and hate each over their respective handwritings.

Many set aside the commandment of God (to have love for one another) in order to keep and serve the transmissions of men….their handwritings of doctrines and commandments of men that are not saving the flesh of anyone.

Colossians 2: KJV (13) And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

These church scribe handwritings of dogmas (of which many think are “good” to keep within their own minds) are really against us getting along with one another as they divide us. They are contrary to us…and contrary or near to the doctrine of Christ who teaches us to have love for one another. They place the handwriting along with the teaching of Christ (to have love one another) and yet the handwriting nullifies His teaching as many worship and serve the handwriting of dogmas by fighting and hating one another.

Yet, the Lord takes the handwritings of church denominations out of the way and has nailed to His cross as we are forgiven for the keeping and serving of them. We must awake to His righteousness and depart those who are still worshipping and serving their handwritings of dogmas.

(14) Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; (15) And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

Let no man judge you according to the handwriting of a church scribe (the engraved teachings and commandments of men) that was wrested out of the Scriptures.

(16) Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: (17) Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

The church scribe has intruded/trespassed into the Scriptures with his fleshly mind (without the mind of Christ) and has wrested out of the Scriptures commandments for his “church” to keep….and many think it good to keep them. They desire to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. (1 Timothy 1:7)

Many willingly subject themselves to these handwritings of church “dogmas” of which Paul calls “will worship”. They see themselves as wise in doing so and judge others.

They are desirous of their own vain glory: wanting to be seen as wise. They envy and provoke one another with their handwriting of dogmas while being desirous of their own vain glory…..wanting to be seen as the wise one.

Let no man beguile you of your reward: the eternal life of Jesus being manifest in our mortal flesh in this earth.

(18) Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,

There are fleshly-minded men who cause divisions among us and teach things (their stumbling blocks….their handwritings) that are contrary or beside the teaching which we have learned (have love for one another). They have no understanding as they do not hold the Head....the mind of Christ.

(19) And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. (20) Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (21) (Touch not; taste not; handle not; (22) Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?

These things have a “show of wisdom in will worship” and humility but do nothing to save the mortal flesh as many are perishing from this earth by the using of the doctrines and commandments of men engraved for them to keep by the church scribes.

(23) Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.

The “rudiments of the world” are the handwritings (such as “constitutions”) of the governments of the nations of this world so to speak.

A “constitution” means:

1a : the basic principles and laws of a nation, state, or social group that determine the powers and duties of the government and guarantee certain rights to the people in it b : a written instrument embodying the rules of a political or social organization

A “church” does not need a “constitution” or other named handwritings patterned after the “rudiments”…the elements…of the world that separate people. A nation is built upon those first elements...as defined in their handwritings...their constitutions. The nations of this world do not serve our God in the kingdom of God.

The body is the Christ and not a body of people based or built upon a handwriting of church dogmas that men think are good.

Yet, this is what we find in all of men-built churches….a handwriting of church dogmas. Many set aside the commandment of God in order to serve and worship the handwriting.

In vain do they worship Him, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Mark 7:7-9 KJV (7) Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

They lay aside the commandment of God (to have love for one another) in order to hold the tradition (the transmission…the handwriting passed down from the church scribes) of men.

(8) For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. (9) And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

Many think that their particular church is the “right” church while the others are wrong (judging others) and they are the “wise” ones to belong to the correct one and wisely keep the correct handwriting.

They think that they have the law of the LORD with them….but the pen of the scribes is false.

Jeremiah 8:8-9 KJV (8) How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain.

What wisdom is in them as they reject the commandment of God in order to keep the handwriting that the lying pen of the scribes have written?

(9) The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the LORD; and what wisdom is in them?

They change the truth of God into THE lie and worship and serve the “creature” (ordinance) more than the Creator. They set aside the commandment of God to have love for one another in order to keep the handwriting that they thought in their own minds was good for them to keep and serve and worship by judging others with.

Romans 1:25 KJV (25) Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

When one speaks evil of another (labeling them as an “evildoer” because one does not worship and serve their particular denominational handwriting of dogmas), then he is not a doer of the Law (to have love for one another) but is a “judge”.

James 4:11-12 KJV (11) Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.

There is only One Lawgiver…only One Judge. We are not judges for God using the handwriting of dogmas....the "law" of the commandments of men.

(12) There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?

This is the practicing of the lie. We are not as “gods”….judges. A judge supposedly knows who and what is “good and evil”. We are not being a “judge” for God by using the handwriting of a church scribe which we think is good to speak evil of other. There is only One Lawgiver. There is only One Judge.

Genesis 3:4-6 KJV (4) And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: (5) For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Wanting to be seen as wise, people use their tongues to speak evil of others who do not follow their own carnal commandment that they thought was good to keep. The woman in the garden added her own commandment (“neither shall you touch it”) to God’s and then presented it as though He commanded it. Many are doing the same today.

(6) *And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes**, and a tree to be desired to make one wise,** she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.*

People are as trees. Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing of God and cursing of men which should not be. We are not blessing God by cursing others who do not keep our particular handwriting of church dogmas.

James 3:8-12 KJV (8) But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. (9) Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. (10) Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. (11) Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? (12) Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.

Many desire to be seen as wise and speak evil of another who do not keep their carnal commandment that they think is good (the woman in the garden added the carnal commandment “neither shall you touch it” to God’s commandment).

They think that they are doing God “service” by “killing” another with their tongues….being judge (labeling them as “evil doers”), jury, and executioner of another.

The woman in the garden wanted to be seen as wise. But those who are truly wise and endued with knowledge among us are to show it out of a good behavior his works with meekness of wisdom.

James 3:13-18 KJV (13) Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. (14) But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. (15) This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. (16) For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. (17) But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. (18) And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

But our Lord is merciful. He has forgiven us of the sins and trespasses that come with the serving and worshipping of the handwriting of dogmas which are nailed to His cross retroactively.


According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, the common form of crucifixion involved a "palus", which was a stake permanently fixed in situ at the place of execution, and a "patibulum", a board upon which the charges against the condemned (the "titulus") were written:

...The crosses used were of different shapes. Some were in the form of a , others in that of a St. Andrew's cross, , while others again were in four parts, . The more common kind consisted of a stake ("palus") firmly embedded in the ground ("crucem figere") before the condemned arrived at the place of execution (Cicero, "Verr." v. 12; Josephus, "B. J." vii. 6, § 4) and a cross-beam ("patibulum"), bearing the "titulus"—the inscription naming the crime (Matt. xxvii. 37; Luke xxiii. 38; Suetonius, "Cal." 38). It was this cross-beam, not the heavy stake, which the condemned was compelled to carry to the scene of execution (Plutarch, "De Sera Num. Vind." 9; Matt. ib.; John xix. 17; See Cross). The cross was not very high, and the sentenced man could without difficulty be drawn up with ropes ("in crucem tollere, agere, dare, ferre"). His hands and feet were fastened with nails to the cross-beam and stake (Tertullian, "Adv. Judæos," 10; Seneca, "Vita Beata," 19); though it has been held that, as in Egypt, the hands and feet were merely bound with ropes (see Winer, "B. R." i. 678)...

Pilate wrote the charges against Jesus in his own handwriting:

[Jhn 19:17-22 NLT] (17) Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull (in Hebrew, [Golgotha]). (18) There they nailed him to the cross. Two others were crucified with him, one on either side, with Jesus between them. (19) And Pilate posted a sign on the cross that read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." (20) The place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, so that many people could read it. (21) Then the leading priests objected and said to Pilate, "Change it from 'The King of the Jews' to 'He said, I am King of the Jews.'" (22) Pilate replied, "No, what I have written, I have written."

In Paul's metaphor of the forgiveness of sins, the charges against the Christian were added to the charges against Christ by nailing the titulus against them on his cross.


Let's begin with the complete sentence of Col. 2: 13-15.

"13 And you -- being dead in the trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh -- He made alive together with him, having forgiven you all the trespasses,

14 having blotted out the handwriting in the ordinances that is against us, that was contrary to us, and he hath taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross;

15 having stripped the principalities and the authorities, he made a shew of them openly -- having triumphed over them in it." (YLT)

Vs. 13 states the context - tresspasses and uncircumcision of the flesh. The last part of vs. 13 is restated in the first part of vs. 14 so that "having forgiven you all the trespasses" is the same as "having blotted out the handwriting".

The handwriting in the ordinances was the record of the charges against us. The word translated as "handwriting" is Strong's Gr. 5498, "χειρόγραφον," or "cheirographon". It means a handwritten document, a legal note, or a bond. (1)

In legal usage it was a list of the charges brought against a man or woman for the crimes they had committed. The crimes brought against a man or woman under the laws of the land / king were "charged" to them for a debt or repayment due the king.

In matters of money owed, it was a handwritten note of an amount due to another that must be paid; a debt owed and acknowledged / signed / certified by our own hand.

It was not the Mosaic law that was nailed to the cross. It was the list of the charges against us - the list of our crimes / sins against God - that was nailed to the cross.

"for, verily I say to you, till that the heaven and the earth may pass away, one iota or one tittle may not pass away from the law, till that all may come to pass." (Matt. 5:18, YLT)

"34 Verily I say to you, this generation may not pass away till all these may come to pass. 35 The heaven and the earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." (Matt. 24:34-35, YLT)

The Jews called the temple "heaven and earth", where God met with man. God used the phrase "heaven and earth" for the Mosaic covenant (Lev. 26:19; Deu. 4:26; 31:28). The prophets used "heaven" and "earth" for the ruling kings, and the people to whom they warned of coming judgment (Isa. 1:2).

Recognizing the Jewish idioms, then we can paraphrase in the English.

Matt. 5:18, "... till that [the temple] shall pass away...

Matt. 24:35, "...[the Mosaic covenant] shall pass away, but my words..."

The Mosaic Law of all of the temple fence ordinances that governed the sacrifices, and feast days, and washings and fasts would remain in place until the temple was destroyed. Hebrews told them,

"for the priesthood being changed, of necessity also, of the law a change doth come," (Heb. 7:12, YLT)

"13 in the saying new,' He hath made the first old, and what doth become obsolete and is old [is] nigh disappearing. (Heb. 8:13, YLT)

So, the Mosaic covenant, the laws of the temple worship system were getting ready to pass away when Hebrews was written about AD 60-65. The old Mosaic covenant, Moses words would pass away, and be replaced by the gospel of Christ, His words which would never pass away.

And, under the gospel of Christ, when we are covered by His blood, and clothed in His righteousness, the charges / handwriting against us are forgiven as we repent of them (Acts 3:19; 8:22; 17:30; Rom. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9, etc).

Note 1: Strong's Gr. 5498 Biblehub


What was nailed to the cross in Colossians 2:14

BDAG .1083 s.v. on Colossians 2:14 tn the translation of χειρόγραφον (cheirographon), refers to it as “a certificate of indebtedness.”

ΠΡΟΣ ΚΟΛΟΣΣΑΕΙΣ 2:14 1881 Westcott-Hort New Testament (WHNU)

14 εξαλειψας το καθ ημων χειρογραφον τοις δογμασιν ο ην υπεναντιον ημιν και αυτο ηρκεν εκ του μεσου προσηλωσας αυτο τω σταυρω

The Greek word "αυτο" = auto =" it" in the verse refers back to the "χειρογραφον"= cheirographon= law (NIRV)= certificate of debt (NASB)

Colossians 2:14 (NIRV)

14 He wiped out what the law said that we owed. The law stood against us. It judged us. But he has taken it away and nailed it to the cross.

Colossians 2:14 (NASB)

14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Why did God give the Law, in the first place?

The Mosaic Law was to be a temporary arrangement. Writing to fellow Christians, the apostle Paul described it as a "guardian leading to Christ."

Galatians 3:24-25 NASB

24 Therefore the Law has become our guardian to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

From the footnotes NET Bible. [παιδαγωγός=paidagogos= guardian/tutor]

"{According to BDAG 748 s.v. παιδαγωγός, “the man, usu. a slave…whose duty it was to conduct a boy or youth…to and from school and to superintend his conduct gener.; he was not a ‘teacher’ (despite the present mng. of the derivative ‘pedagogue’…When the young man became of age, the π. was no longer needed.” L&N 36.5 gives “guardian, leader, guide” here."}

Similarly, the Mosaic Law was designed to lead God-fearing Jews to Christ. Jesus promised that he would be with his followers “all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 28:20) Once the Christian congregation was formed, therefore, the “guardian”​—the Law—​served no further purpose.(Gal. 3:25 ) "But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian " And Roman 10:4 reads " For Christ is the end of the law, with the result that there is righteousness for everyone who believes." (NET) From the scripture, we note that some Jewish Christians were slow to grasp this vital truth. As a result, they continued observing features of the Law even after Jesus’ resurrection. Such observances of the Law ended in 70 C.E.when the Roman armies destroyed the city and the temple.

Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice and “abolished . . . the Law The apostle Paul explained that Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice and “abolished . . . the Law of commandments consisting in decrees” and " and taken it out of the way and nailed it to the cross." (Eph 2:15; Col. 2:14)

Ephesians 2:15 NASB

15 by abolishing in His flesh the hostility, which is the Law composed of commandments expressed in ordinances so that in Himself He might make the two one new person, in this way establishing peace;

Colossians 2:14 NASB

14 having canceled the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.


What was canceled and nailed to the cross?: The Law, when the Messiah, Jesus Christ, came, twenty centuries ago, the time of this law was up. It had served its purpose. By its being fulfilled it was taken out of the way. The Bible so informs us in these words:

Colossians 2:13-14 (NASB) Emphasis **[Mosaic Law]**mine

13 And [a]when you were dead [b]in your wrongdoings and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our wrongdoings, 14 having canceled the certificate of debt [ The Mosaic Law] consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.


The "1) decrees/ordinances against us" or 2) "the debt we owed due to transgression of law?" But I think the question needs a correction or, at least, a precision, because the very Law is nothing else than a set of decrees and ordinances, which entails also making somebody transgressing them to be indebted due to this very transgression.

So, what was abolished by Jesus' nailing to the Cross? - In fact, the very reason for which God set the Law with all its ordinances and decrees! And this reason is our sinfulness, the sin (in singular, for the reason why Paul uses this term in singular is that he speaks not about some specific sin, but sin as an ontological condition of the post-lapsarian humanity) that besets all humanity since Adam's fall. Because through Adam's transgression the infection of sin and its consequence - death became a lot of mankind (Romans 5:12). Now, until is not yet abolished the infection of sin and the reign of death (Romans 5:21), the mankind needed Law with its decrees and ordinances in order to check our sinful proclivities, the drive and drag, or gravity, of sin; however, those proclivities are in no way healed by the Law but only made known and restrained by it (cf. Romans 7:7).

Thus, we remain enemies of God, who puts upon us the decrees that restrain and interfere with our proclivities and desires, and thus also God becomes in this way our enemy, for He deprives us of a right to freely follow our much desired, fallen-natural proclivity for the sweetness of sin, revealing Himself to my ill and weak conscience as the Tyrant. Will not an alcoholic perceive a doctor who deprives him of whiskey as a tyrant, unless doctor can also heal his unrestraint desire for whiskey? Moreover, God's Law punishes us if we, out of sudden, get pissed off with such a schizophrenic and humiliating tension between what we aught to do (Law) and what we want to do (sinful desire), and with a rebellious sigh of a relief tear up those decrees and indulge in giving a free and delightful vent to our sinful proclivities! But what follows this desperate revolt against God, against Adam, against the very sick condition of our existence? Does the free and kingly (because it is free and, somehow, dignified by the very presence of a rebellious self-willed freedom) sinning give any relief to this sick condition? No! On the contrary: first, we get disappointed in our expectation that sinful delights would make us happy (for fulfilled sin generates nothing but death /James 1:15/) and, second, we find ourselves punished by our conscience that we have transgressed the divine Law, and feel even more miserable. This horrible situation of our consciences is referred to by Paul as our mutual "enmity with God" (Eph. 2:16).

Now, Jesus by Him being crucified on the Cross healed and destroyed altogether the very infection of sin in human nature and everybody who will participate in the life of Jesus, will overcome and vanquish the reign of sin and death through Him. Now, if the sin is vanquished, then there is no need of the Law either, which was established with a sole purpose of checking, without being able to heal, the sin.

Thus, to finally answer the question: both ordinances/decrees and our indebtedness that was based on those ordinances were crucified and abolished; for even if we did not outwardly transgress those ordinances of Law, nevertheless, without Christ, sin was reigning in us and thus we still were indebted to God through His Law, if not for the actual outward transgressions, then by all means for the unhealed latent proclivities for those transgressions.


I have found the laws my fellow Christians are wanting to see go away are, civil, ceremonial laws governing the temple services laws of clean and unclean meats and just one of the original ten commandments. Adam and Eve were given 'laws' about what was to be considered food, when they were sinless in the garden of Eden. So if they had never sinned we all would be in Eden still, and not eating any meat, because that was added to our diet by God after we exited Eden. Laws pertaining to the services of the sanctuary / temple were given to Moses during the exodus. Almost every phase of this service pointed to what Jesus would do for us on the cross. So after the cross, they were pretty pointless. But note that the 4th commandment is the only one of the ten that anybody has any interest in nailing to the cross. Yet it was given to us in Eden before sin and therefore has nothing to do with resting form the law, or giving us a rest from sin. Yes we are under grace, but why do we need grace if God's law is done with?

  • 1
    Reading your answer, I would be no further forward (did I not know already) in understanding what was nailed to the cross. Which was the question to be answered. I would be left only with your (unsubstantiated by a single text of scripture) opinion on a variety of subjects. This is an hermeneutic site. Please see the Tour and the Help (below, bottom left) as to the purpose and the functioning of the site.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 28, 2020 at 14:39

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