10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), 11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. 14 Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. Colossians 4:10–14 (ESV).
O’Brien notes the diversity of opinion:
These three men are said to be the only Jewish Christians who have remained faithful fellow-workers of Paul for the kingdom of God (the expression οἱ ὄντες ἐκ περιτομῆς, “those of the circumcision,” is best connected with what follows, οὗτοι μόνοι, “these alone,” so Abbott, 301, and Meyer, 473; note Moule’s discussion, 137). The expression οἱ ὄντες ἐκ περιτομῆς, “those of the circumcision,” is normally taken to refer to Jewish Christians generally (so most commentaries and note Meyer, TDNT 6, 81). However, E. E. Ellis (“The Circumcision Party and the Early Christian Mission,” Prophecy, 116–28, published in an earlier form as “ ‘Those of the Circumcision’ and the early Christian Mission,” SE 4  390–99) has put forward an interesting alternative: he claims that the generally accepted definition is neither self-evident from the passage nor does it accord with the meaning of the phrase elsewhere (the expression occurs six times in the NT: Acts 10:45; 11:2; Rom 4:12; Gal 2:12; Titus 1:10, as well as this passage; it does not turn up in the LXX or the intertestamental literature, while Justin’s Dialogiue with Trypho 1, 3 is the earliest parallel in the patristic writings, so Ellis, Prophecy, 116). “Those of the circumcision” is to be understood within the framework of a twofold diaspora mission (according to Ellis, Prophecy, 117–19, who follows Cullmann, Schmithals and others, the expressions “Hebrews and Hellenists” in Acts point primarily to distinctive Jewish attitudes toward the Jewish cultus and customs: “Hebrews designated those Jews with a strict, ritualist, viewpoint; and Hellenists those with a freer attitude toward the Jewish law and cultus” [118, 119]. Both Hebrews and Hellenists were present in pre-Christian Palestinian Judaism and from the beginning both were represented among the followers of Jesus. Ellis suggests that these differences in ritual and discipline between the two groups had important implications for the structure of the early Christian mission, a mission to the diaspora that had a twofold character). On this hypothesis our text is referring to Jewish Christian preachers who took a nonproselytizing attitude to the law and worked with Paul as they evangelized Jews. “Paul and certain Hebrews were pursuing their distinctive missions in a co-operative fashion” (Ellis, Prophecy, 124, who notes that this “venture in ecumenical Christianity” probably also occurred at Antioch [Acts 11:20], while Paul’s Hebrew opponents of 2 Corinthians were the reverse; that Paul should say at Col 4:11 οὗτοι μόνοι, “these alone,” suggests that the cooperative effort was failing). Martin, NCB, 143, claims this description of a concordat sounds a little too modern while Ladd, RevExp 70 (1973), 510, considers it is difficult to see any particular Jewish emphasis in the mention of the kingdom of God.
Peter T. O’Brien, vol. 44, Word Biblical Commentary : Colossians-Philemon, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), 251-52.