Lest any man spoil you (μὴ τὶς ἔσται ὑμᾶς ὁ συλαγωγῶν)
The Greek is more precise and personal: lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil. So Rev. Συλαγωγέω to carry off booty, only here in the New Testament. A very strong expression for the work of the false teachers; make you yourselves a booty. The A.V. is ambiguous, and might be taken to mean corrupt or damage you.
Philosophy and vain deceit (τῆς φιλοσοφίας καὶ κενῆς ἀπάτης)
Rev. gives the force of the article, his philosophy: καὶ and is explanatory, philosophy which is also vain deceit. Hence the warning is not against all philosophy. Φιλοσοφία, philosophy, only here in the New Testament. It had originally a good meaning, the love of wisdom, but is used by Paul in the sense of vain speculation and with special reference to its being the name by which the false teachers at Colossae designated not only their speculative system, but also their practical system, so that it covered their ascetic practices no less than their mysticism. Bishop Lightfoot remarks upon the fact that philosophy, by which the Greeks expressed the highest effort of the intellect, and virtue (ἀρετή), their expression for the highest moral excellence, are each used but once by Paul, showing “that the Gospel had deposed the terms as inadequate to the higher standard, whether of knowledge or practice, which it had introduced.”
After the tradition
Connect with the whole phrase philosophy and vain deceit, as descriptive of its source and subject matter. Others connect with make spoil. The term is especially appropriate to the Judaeo-Gnostic teachings in Colossae, which depended for their authority, not on ancient writings, but on tradition. The later mystical theology or metaphysic of the Jews was called Kabbala, literally meaning reception or received doctrines, tradition.
See on 2Pe 3:10. Rudimentary teachings, as in Heb 5:12; applicable alike to Jewish and to Gentile teaching. Ceremonialism - meats, drinks, washings, Essenic asceticism, pagan symbolic mysteries and initiatory rites - all belonged to a rudimentary moral stage. Compare Col 2:11, Col 2:21, and Gal 4:9.