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I. Howard Marshall
W. Waro Gasque (1978-93 )
Donald A. Hagner


A Commentary on the
Greek Text

Lightfoot Professor of Divinity
Univenity of Durham
Ni 8/1
I ll...




!}fJ/tf/o/' 20 .$.99
oS. Aug. 199\l

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Lib rary or Congress Cataloging-io-Publication Data

Dunn. James D. G .• 1939-

The Epistles 10 the Colossians and Philemoo: a commentary on the
Greek tu t l by James D. G . Dunn
p. em.
- (The New International Greek Testament Commentary)
Includes bibliogmphical rd"erencc:5 and indexes.
ISBN 0-8028-244 1-2 (alk. paper)
I. Bible. N.T. Colossians - Comme ntaries. 2. Bible. N.T.
Philemon - Commentaries. I. Tille. II. Series: New Internat ional
Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids. Mi ch.)
BS2715.3. D86 1996
227'.7077 - deZO 95-26758

Paternoster Press IS BN 0 85364 571 X


Foreword x
Preface xu
Abbreviations X"
Presuppositions 24
Gnosticizing Syncretism . .. ? 27
... or Jewish ? 29
The C%ssian Philosophy 33

Thanksgiving (1.-3-8) 54
Prayer for the Colossian Recipients (I :9-14) 67
A Hymn in Pra ise of Christ (1:15-20) 83
Reconciliation and Re~;ponse (1:21-23 ) 105
Paul 's Commitment 10 the Gospel (1:24-29 ) 11 3

Paul's Commitmem to the Colossians (2:1 -5) 128
THE THEME OF THE LEI'I ER (2:6-4:6) 136
Modem Authors
FURTHER HUMAN TRADITIONS AND RULES (2:8-23) 144 Biblical and Other Ancient Works
The Scope ofChri.n's Accomplishments on the Cross (2:8- 15) 145
Beware of Claims That There Are More Importallt Praclices
and Experiences (2: 16- 19) 171
Life in Christ Does Not Depend on Obsen'ance of Jewish
Practices (2:20-23) 188
CROSS (3: 1-4:6) 199
The Per,s pective from Which Ihe ChriSTian Life Should Be
Ul'ed (3: 1-4) 202
General Guidelines and Practica l Exhortations (3:5-17) 210
HOIHehoid Rules (3:18-4:1) 242
Concludillg ExhortalioflS (4:2-6) 261
CONCLUS ION (4:7- 18) 269
Maintaining CommunicaTion (4:7-9) 271
Greetings (4:10-17) 274
A Filial, Personal Greeling (4: 18) 289


IN CONCLUS ION (21-25) 343

~e supreme aim of mis series is to serve those who are engaged in

~ nu~IStry of the Word of God and thus to glorify God's name. Our prayer
IS that It may be found helpful in this task.

I. Howard Marshall
Donald A. Hagner

lthough there have been many series of commenlaries on the English

A text of the New Testament in recent years. very few attempts have been
made to cater particularly to the needs of students of the Greek text. The
present initiative to fill this gap by the publication of the New imernalional
Greek Testam ent Commentary is very largely due to the vision of W. Ward
Gasque, who was one of the original edi tors of the series. (The present editors
would like to place on record their recognition of Dr. Gasque's work in the
establishment and development of the series umil the pressure of other dUlies
made it necessary for him to resign from his editorship). At a time when the
study of Greek is being cunailed in many schools of theology, we hope that
the NIGTC will demonstrate the continuing value of studying the Greek New
Testament and will be an impems in the revi val of such study.
The volumes of of the NIGTC are for students who want something
less technical than a full -scale critical commentary. At the same time, the
commentaries are intended to interac t with modem scholarship and to make
their own scholarly contribution to the study of the New Testament. The
wealth of detailed study of the New Testament in articles and monographs
continues without interruption. and the series is meant to harvest the results
of this research in an easily accessible form. The commentaries include,
therefore, adequate. but not exhaustive, bibliographies and attempt to treat
all imponant proble ms of history. exegesis, and interpretation that arise from
the New Testament text.
One of the gains of recent scholarship has been the recognition of the
primarily theological character of the books of the New Testament. The
volumes of the NIGTC attempt to provide a theological understanding of the
text, based on historical-crilical-linguistic exegesis. It is not their primary
aim to apply and expound the text for modem readers, although it is hoped
that the exegesis will give some indication of the way in which the text
should be expounded.
Within the limits set by the use of the English language, the series aims
to be international in c haracter. though the contributors have been chosen
oot primari ly in order to achieve a spread between different countries but
above all because of their specialized qualifications for their particular tasks.


policy makes such scholarship possible, particularly as it means more work

for those covering for their sabbatical colleagues. The exegesis was "((ied
oul" on su,:cessive final-year seminars during the academic years 1992-95.
and I remam equally graleful to my students for the stimulus of OUf theo-
logical dialogue in and through exegesis. My hope here, too, is that the
PREFACE commenlary will nOI only inform the exegesis of Colossians for its readers
bUi also provide a produc tive panner for their own theological dialogue.

James D . G. Dunn
did not expect to find the writing of a commentary on Colossians quile December 1995
I so enjoyable. For one thing, it provides an unexpectedly interesting win-
dow into the character of Christianity in Asia Minor in the second half of
the first ce ntury. Our knowledge of how Christianity developed in the second
and third generations is vel)' scanty. but it is fulle st in regard to Asia Minor
(given also not least the letters o f Revelation and of Ignatius). Colossians
provides a fa~inating third perspective, and with the infonnation it gives
about the relig ious tensions withi n which emergent Chri stianity was caught
up, not least tho se between Christianity and diaspom Judaism, we begin to
gain more of an insight into the influences and factors whic h shaped the
transition from aposto lic to subapostolic Christianity in the region.
For another, the letter represents such a crucial stage in the developme nt
of Pauline theology. Whether it was written at the end o f Paul 's life or soon
after his death (the two most likely alternatives). it indicates how Pauline
theology retained its own vital character and did not die with Paul. As the
margin between sea and land contai ns some o f the most interesting natural
pheno mena. and the tra nsition between epochs produces some of the most
interesting people and cultural expressions. so the transition from Pauline to
post-Pauline theology has a distinctive imponance for o ur understanding o f
both what went before and what came after. able to throw light on both.
Another reason , I suppose, is that having written two large co mmen-
taries on earlier Pauline letter:s (Galatians and Ro mans) I had " gonen into
the swing of it. " More to the point. since thi s commentary is part of a larger
project on Paul, who played a (probably the) decisive role in the spread,
foonation , and transfonnation of C hristiani ty in the fir:st decades of its
existence, the interaction of this fresh material with the finding s of the earlier
commentaries was panicularly stimulating and refreshing in the co nstant
fine-tuning which it occasio ned. My hope is thai others will not be over-
whelmed by the detailed workings of the commentary and ex.perience some-
thing of the same stimulus and refreshment.
The first draft of the co mmentary was researched and written during
my stud y leave in 1993. I remain gmteful to my Durham colleagues, whose
commitment to maintaining the tradition of a o ne-in-nine-term sabbatical


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G. Schneider (3 "'ols.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990-93)
EGGNT Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament
EKK E...angelisch-katholischer Kommentar
ABBREVIATIONS E,Q Evangelical Quarterly
EvTh Evangelische Theologie
£XpT Expository Times
FRLANT Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen
AB Anchor Bible Testaments
ABO The Anchor Bible Dictionary. ed. D. N. Freedman (6 vois.; New FS Festschrift
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Other Early Christian Uterature, ed. W. F. Arndt. F. W. Gingrich, HNT Handbuch zum Neuen Testament
and F. W. Danker (Chicago: Universi ty of Chicago, 1979) HTKNT Herders theologischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament
BBB Bonner biblische Beitrage HTR Ha rvard Theological Review
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BZ Biblische Zeitschrift JJS Journal of Jewish Studies
BZNW Beihefte zur ZNW JR Journal of Religion
CBQ Catholic Biblical Quarterly JSNT Journal fo r the Study of the New Testamem
CGT Cambridge Greek Testament ISNTS JSNT Supplements
CGTC Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary JTS Journal of Th eological Studies
CIG Corpus Inscriptionum Graecorum KEK Kritisch-exegetischer Kommentar tiber das Neue Testament
C/J Corpus Inscriptionum Judicarum LCL Loeb Classical Library
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'" XV Il

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Deutsche Bibelsliftung, 26 1979, 21 1993) SiT Scottish Journal of Theology
NCB(C) New Century Bible (Commentary) SNT Studien zum Neuen Testament
NDIEC New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity. ed. G. H. R. SNTSMS Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series
Horsley. el aI. (Macquarie University. 198J.) SNTU Studien zum Neuen Testament und seiner Umweh
NEB New English Bible 5tTh Studia Theologica
NeOl Neotestamentica Str-B H. Strack and P. Bilierbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testamellf
NICNT New IntemalionaJ Commentary o n the New Testament (Munich: Beck'sche, 1926-28)
NIV New International Bible SUNT Studien zur UmweJt des Neuen Testaments
NJB New Je rusalem Bible TONT G. Kinel and G. Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of tire New
NovT Novurn Te.ftamentum Teslamem, 10 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdrnans, 1964-76)
NovTSup NovT Supplements THNT Theologi scher Handkornmentar zorn Neuen Testament
NRSV New Revised Standard Version ThViat Theologia Viatorum
NRT Nouvelle Revue Theologique T12 Theologisclre Literaturzeitung
NTD Oas Neue Testament Deutsch TNTC Tyndale New Testament Commentary
NTS New Testament Studies TQ Tlreologische QuartalschriJt
NTIS New Testament Tools and Studies TRE Theologische Realenzyklopiidie (1976-)
OBO Orbis Biblicus et OrientaJis TS Theologische Studien
OCD N. G. L. Hammond and H. H. Scullard, ed., Oxford Classical TIl Texte und Untersuchungen
Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon, 1970) TynB Tyndole Bulletin
OG/S Orientis Graeci Inscriptiones Selectoe, ed . W. Dittenberger (3 7Z Theologische Zeitschrift
vols.; 1903, 1905) UBS Th e Gruk New Testament, ed. K. Aland, et a1. (New YorkILon-
OTKNT Okurnenischer Taschenbuch-Kommentar zurn Neuen Testament don : United Bible Societies, 31975, 3corrected 1983,4 1993)
OTP Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. J. H. Charlesworth (2 vols.: USQR Union Seminary Quarterly Review
London: Darton/Garden City: Doubleday, 1983, 1985) v.l. varia {ectio = variant reading
PG Patrologio Graeca, ed. J. P. Migne (1844 ) WBC Word Biblical Commentary
PGL Patristic Greek Lexicon, ed. G. W. H. Lampe (Oxford: Claren- WC Westminster Commentary
don, 1961) WD Won und Dienst
QD Quaestiones Disputatae WMANT Wissenschaftliche Monographien zum Alten und Neuen Testa-
RAC Realfexikon flir Antike und Christentum ment
REB Revised English Bible lIT) Westmi'lSter Theological Journal
RevExp Review and Expositor WUNT Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zurn Neuen Testament
RevSR Revue des sciences reUgieuses ZBK ZUrcher Bibelkomrnentar
RGG Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart 7NW Zeitschrift flir die neUleSlamemiiche Wissenschaft
RHPR Revue d 'histoire et de philosophie religieuses ZKT Zeitschrift fUr katholische Theologie
RNT Regensburger Neues Testament 7:rK Zeirschrift flir Theologie und Kirche
RSV Revised Standard Version
SBL Society of Biblica1 Literature
SBWS SBL Dissertation Series
SBLMS SBL Monograph Series
SBLSP SBL Seminar Papers
SBM Stuttgarter biblische Monographien

Abbott. T. K., A Crilical and Eregelical Commentary all Ihe Epis/les to the £p~sjans
and IV the Colossians (ICC; Edinburgh: Clark, 1897)
Aleui, J.-N .. Saini Paul Epilfe OIU Colossiens (EO: Paris: Gabalda, 1993)
Beare. F. w.. " The Epistle to the Colossians," IB, vol. 11 (Nashville: Abingdon. 1955)
133-24 1
Bieder. W. Der KoIOS!erbriej(Zurich: Zwingli, 1943)

Bruce . F. F.. The Epistles /0 the Colossians, /0 PhileTl1Qfl, and to the Ephesifms (N ICNT:
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 19&4) = revision of (with E. K. Simpson 011 Ephesians)
The Epistles of Paul to the Ephesians and tl) the CO/QssianJ (N ICNT: Grand
Rapi ds: Ecrdmans, 1958)
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(NTD 8; Gottingen: Vandenhoeck, 1°1965) 131 -56
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Regensburg: Postel, 1974)
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des Neuen Test(unenls, vol. II (G&tingen: Vandenhoeck. 319 17) 339-58
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Tannehill. R. c.. Dyillg and Risillg with Christ: A Sillily ill Pauline Theology (BZN W tronsgeschichtlic he Miszelle," NTS 32 ( 1986) 476-80
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, ' d ' The Clima.t of the COI'en/lllt: Christ and the Low in
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' E M
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/'1, 1\" Tes/antenl Cities in Western ASUJ r

19~~ . Parallels: Qumran and Colossae," BibSac 121 (1964) 141-52

' .. ~~~and the Powers of Evil in Colossians:- }SN'T3 ( 1980) 461-68 INTRODUCTION
Y="="=,= ":'C I n2 '14_ Metaphor of Forgiveness." 8 ib 1 1 (1990) 249-59
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, I . ., I7iQ 58 (1992) 95-117 THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE LETTER

," AReappraisalofCoosslans. " . " 97 \985-86) 12· 15
, " The Worship of Angels (Col . _.18 ), bpT (
Colossians could fairl y be described as the most intriguing of the Pauline
.. F De Entgeborene du schOpfung. Untersuchungen wr Formafstrnktur und lette rs. This is primarily because it serves as a bridge between the undisputed
Zeilinger. -. , . (Vi . Herder 1974)
Theologie des Kolosserbrltifes lenna. . . .' K losserbrief " in Jesus in du Paulines and those members of the Pau line corpus that are generally con-
_ _ _. " Die Trtiger def apostolischen Tradition. I~ . ~ .. hi 1976) 175-90 sidered post-Pauline . That is to say. on the one hand, it is remarkably close
VerkUndigulIg der Kin:he. cd. A. Fuchs (Fre lS! t. oc . at many points to Ephesians, whose post-Pauline authorship is a maner of
substantial consensus in Pauline scholarship. Yet at the same time, particu-
larly in its christology and ecclesiology. it is significantly less developed
than Ephesians and the Pastorals. In a post-Pa uline trajectory, Colossians
would have to be placed very close to the beginning. On the other hand.
some of its detail locates it in dose proximity to Philemon. whose Pauline
authorship has been little questioned in the hi story of Christiani ty. Yet at the
same lime, again partic ularly in its christology and ecdesiology. and also its
parenesis, it seems to be significantly developed beyond what we find in the
undisputed Paulines. In any analysis of Paul's own theology it would have
to be described as expressive of the late(r) Paul (see pp. 35ff. below).' In
olherwords. eilher way Colossians shows us how Pauline thOUght developed,
whethe r in the late phase of hi s own career or (presumably) among his close
disciples after his death. By its position within the spectrum of Pauline
theology it helps explain why the theology of the post-Pauline letters devel-
oped in the way it did and helps authenticate that theology as, in a quite
proper sense, " Pauline."
It is worth making this point right at the beginning of our study of tbe
letter because it helps put in perspective the introductory questions that must
now be dealt with (in the tradition of modem commentaries). [f what has
j ust been said is true, the significance of a verdict " Pauline" as against
"post-Pauline," or vice versa, is considerably lessened. And, more important.
(he questions themselves can be considered with greater dispassion , withoul

I. Both Lohse 166 n. 18 and Pokorny 4 allude approvingly to KIsenwm·$ ··Kolossermef··

1128: " The dating fJi lhe epistle presentS t ....o alternatives: tr genuine, then btcluse of COOtenl and
style U late as pouiblc; if not genu ine. then as early as conccivablc."

ones a lready mentioned) ... Colossae" - since the list excludes the really
the reader feeling that historical integrity and theological val~e ~i~; ~~~
art important ci ties that Pliny has mentioned earlier (5. 105-6: Ramsay. Cities
. tllall anlagonislic antithesis. But before we become m~o ve
209). Our ability to gain a clearer perspecti ve on these questions is serio usly
~:reu cont~ntioUS issues it is well for us 10 begin with the basic data. diminished by the fact thai. surprisingly. the si te of Colossae has never been
excavated, unlike Laodicea and Hierapolis (see. e.g., Yamauchi, Cities chs.
10- 12). At all events, the cities were in suc h close proximity that they must
have shared several features in common (not just tex:tiles). and there must
have been daily movement among them (cf. Col. 4 : 15- 16).2
A significant feature of the Lycus valley c ities, incl uding presumably
There is no dispute regarding where and to whom the letter was addressed:
Colossae, was the presence of a substantial Jewish minority.3 According to
"to the saints in COI?SS~e" ~~7~~m part of the Roman province of Asia. Philo, Jews were very numerous in every c ity in Asia Minor(Legum Allegoriae
Colossae was In e . r A ' Minor- 245: ' louooiOl xo:O' t.xrum,v n6AtV EtOI 1tCtjJ1tATleei~ i\O't~). In the late third
w;h' h as the southern part of western Anatoha (Analo la := sia

m em
WTurkey) The sites of settlements in the hinterland behind the -:,-ege,an
'. . d termined by the easy access into the mtenor
century BCE A ntiochus the Great had settled twO thousand Jewish families in
Lydia and Phrygia to help stabilize the region (Josephus, Antiquities 12.147-
coastline were pnnclPlal,lY Calley, One of the most important of these was 53). and in the middle of the second century a sequence of letters sent by the
n rded by the severa nver v . M d ' Ro man Senate to Asia Mino r in support of Jews living there indicates a sizeable
a o. ode r About a hundred miles upstream, one of the ean er s
the. n~~~:es the Lycus. joins it, providing the most accessible ro~le fr?m Jewish 1X'pulation (Antiquities 14.185 -267: 16.160-78). Certainly we know
that Hiera1X'lis had a Jewish conununity (a XO:'COl'x{Ct, a "colony," C/J 2.775)
~:~oast 10 Ihe' central plateau (most ~ir~CllYd~ri~gP~~ee~~::kd :::d ~:~~~ from its earliest days a~ a city (the early second century BCE; see further Hemer
. art ry of east-west commUnication
the maIO e C. . 5) The fertile Lycus vaHey also encouraged seule- 183 and n. 23). The same conclusion can be drawn fro m the attempt of A accus
'ods (Ramsay. HIes . Laod' in 62 BCE to confiscate the gold collected by Jews in Asia Minor as their pan
pen t nd three cities developed in close prox:imity to each other: . I~ea
H~era lis o n either side of the Lycus a few miles from the JunCl.1on
.th h :eander six: miles apart and within sight of each other across the
of the temple tax : we learn from Cicero's defence of Fiaccus (in 59) thai " a
little more than twenty pounds" of gold had been seized in Laodicea ( Pro
:te~e~ing plain: and Colossae about ten miles upstream o n the southern Fiacco 28.68, in GLAJJ §68). That could represent as many as fourteen
thousand adult males (bod. 30: J3- 16: eh. 10:32-33) paying the half-shekel
bank of the Lycus. 'T" C lossae (= 2 drachmae):' Evidently Laodicea was the central point for retaining the
Fo ur or five centuries before the time of the New l estament ~
large and wealthy (Xenophon Anabasis 1.2.6, Cited by collection, presumably fo r the Lycus valley alieast, so that would include the
had been popu ous, , .. th . d from Jewish iX'puiation of Colossae and HieraiX'lis.~ And il is possible that more
Lightfoot 15). its wealth due both to its pos.llion on. e malO ;:a b the
E hesus and Sardis to the Euphrates ~d .to Its wool mdJJstry. ut Y ed '
Pr ars of the Ro man Empire its slgmficance had been much reduc . 2. See further Ramsay ( ..... ith a still excellent map of the Lycus \lllley opposile p. 1); also
:~e~h~elater_founded Laodicea, which nouris~ed under Roman ru~e an? Johnson. For tbe IIlO'it m:em map of the Roman road systml in western Asia Minor see Mitchell
h' time the adm inistrative and financml center fo r the region. (It I. t2(). All the major commentaries rehe:usc the: above and some other details concerning the history
was y ISl d' . al a on 4' J 3) and Hler- 0( Colo:ssac.
was also noted fo r its tex:tiles and me Icwes; see s .. . h' d d'ly 3. For .....hat follows sa: Bruce. "Jews and C hristians" 4-8: Schllrt'r 3.17·36; Trebilco:
apolis, with its h?t .mineral spring attracting mi~il~:~~:!;lin~d ~:;~dS Mitchell 2.31·37; L H. feldman . J ew OM Gentile In Ihe Ancien! I\brld; Allifutits rllld lmeracriOlls

eclipsed Colossae \U 7porta~ce·s~0~ma~:;: t~lder Pliny. Strabo 12.8.13

from Alexander to JuS/illian (Princeton: Princeton University. 1993) 69·74; DeMaris 123-25.
4. See Trcbilco i3·I,t Other estimates are 7.500 (C. E. Arnold. ABD 1.1(89).9.00) (F. F.

~~:~~~s~~~~~~:: ~s ~e:t~A~~~Ct~dwhich Lightfoot 16 and ~~~~h;~i~~ Bruce. ABD 4.230). over 9.000 (Bruce. CoIoJsi(lllS, Philemon . F:phe!Jlons 10). more than 10.00)
(Bruce 14). and more than 11 .000 (Lightfoot 20-21. but he suggests that the Roman officials might
209 translate as "a small town ," though the term was use e s '1 'Ih not have succeeded in confiscati ng the complete sum gathered in tlie region; GnHU. KoIQsurbritf
such cities as Ecbalana and ~thens (LSJ). and. S~~bor~:~: t~x:t~~at 3). We should also note thai the social pressure on diaspora Jews to affirm their ethnic identity and
Aphrodisias. a major ci ty (there IS, ~owever. a ga~ .\O uiv;lcnt disagreement COntinUing loyal ly 10 their ance!;tnd religion would piolMbly ensUl'C a high rate of participatiQn.

renders the interpretation problema~lc) . ~nd there I ~ ~ 145 _ " Phrygia ...
5. Apamca, futther up-<:OOntry...... as another ooIleccion point. where nearly one hundred
IlOWKIs of gold ( !) ..... as seized. Cicero mentions only two other COllection point s further north in
. ' fi ance of Pliny H,stona Natura IS .
over the Sl g Oi IC . .' d' t (its most famous towns besides the Asi a Minor. but presumably there were collection points in the coastal c ities such a5 Ephesus and
oppida ibi ce\ebcmmn praeter Jam IC a .

than onc year 's collection was involved (Trcbilco 14). But when families ~re Ephesus. on the major road running up the Meander a nd Lycus valleys, and
included we may have to allow a total Jewish population of Colossae dunng since Epaphras was a native of Colossae (Col. 4: 12), it was natural that it
this period of as many as two or three thousand. Depen~ing on how large should be Epaphras who assumed the responsibility for spreading the gospe l
Colossae still was by this lime, thaI would make the Coiossmn Jews a substan- among his own people. that is. presumably, with Pau l's full suppon and
tial and possibly influential ethnic minority (as they cenain ly were later in other commissioning. This would place the beginning of the Colossian church in
cities of the region ~ see n. 33 below). ..' the mid-50s.
It should be noted that the collection of the temple lax Imphes a fairly We have no way of knowing how large the church in Colossae was by
regular communication between the dlics of the Lycus valley and the land the time the leHer was written to il. But jf " the sai nts and faithful brothers"
of Israel . These would no doubt be facilitated by the good system of roads (Col. 1:2) are not to be simpl y identified with the c hurch in the house o f
(see n. 2 above), which would probably bring a steady su-cam of Jewish Philemon (Phm, 2) andlor with the church in the hou se of Nympha, we have
travelers through a region where there were so many Jews residentJ' In the to assume the existence of more than one house c hurch in Colossae (see o n
same connection we should note that residents of Asia and Phrygia are 4: 15). The same deduction from 4; 15 can be made with regard to the churches
reported among the crowd gathered in Jerusalem on the day of Penteco.s~ in in Laodicea. The lack of mention of Hierapolis in 4; 15 presumably implies
Acts 2:9-10. A further interesting confi rmation is given by the traditIOn that Epaphras 's mission there (4: 13) had not been so successful ; any believers
reported in Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiasrica 3.31.2-5) that Phili.p th~ apostl.e who lived in Hierapolis may simply have made the d ouble journey to
(he must mean evangeli st. unless the two were the same) seu led Ifl Hlerapolts Laodicea to attend gatherings there. In that case we have 10 envisage the
with his virgin daughters (see, e.g .• Bruce. Colossialls. Philemoll, ami Ephe- Christians in the Lycus valley meeting in or as at least four small (house)
si(IJIS 16). The importance of this wi ll become evide nt as we proceed. churches.
The ch urch in Colossae was evidently founded by Epaphras (Col. The fact that the Lycus valley was ravaged by an earthquake in 60-6 110
1:6-7), Paul himself may have passed through the city. presumably without might yield vital clues o n all these matters, not least that of the date of the
pausing to preach. some years earlier (about 52). since . as already noted, the letter, were we in a position to evaluate its effects. Unfonunalely there is no
Lycus and Meander valleys provided a natural route from Galatia and Phrygia reference to damage suffered by Colossae (regarding Laodicea see Tacitus.
thro ugh the interior or upper country to Ephesus (Acts 18:23; 19:1).1 But Allnales 14.27.1), And the odd fact that the site ofColossae has never been
the more northerly valley of the Hennus is perhaps more likely (Lightfoot excavated means that we are unable to make infonned guesses on this subject
24; Bruce, Colossians, Philemoll, alld EIJhesialls 14).8 and anyway it is fairl y - not to mention other questions such as the size and likely popul ation o f
clear from Col. 2: 1 that Paul was personally unknown to the Lycus valley the c ity at the time and whether there are any indications o f a building that
churches. In accordance with his normal strategy, it would appear, Paul had may have served as a synagogue at the time.
made the major coastal city of Ephesus hi s cenler of operations fo r two years
(according to Acts 19:10), and it was probabl y his policy to se nd associate
workers to evangelize the surrounding districts (cf. Acts 19:26: "throughout THE TROUBLE AT COLOSSAE
all Asia").9 Since the Lycus valley c ities were only about 120 miJes easl of
We now turn to the more contentious issue of why the letter was written.
There is general agreement [hat one reason. probably the primary reason ,
Smyrna arK! OIher large cente rs of Jewi sh populalion like Sardis (Schlirer 3. 19-23). II is IfICI6t unlikely was to counteract teaching that might become or already was either attractive
thai J oodicea functioned as a collection poim for such cities as these . But it may well have covered or threatening to the baptized in Colossae. particularly wi th regard 10 their
other smaller scnkments in the central Meander valley (Mitchell 2.35 J'IOte$ lhat JCW5 would not
appreciation of the fulJ s ignificance of Christ. Beyond that, however. views
h.ave been confined to cities) and may have included AphrOOisias in lhe neXI valley.
6. NOIe also the TlIbbinic trOOitions ciled by Hemer 1113. vary quite considerably. Befo re we enter the debate. however. some prelimi-
7. Johnson 4-5; Reid::e. " HislOl'i C"oIl Sc"illl " 432-33, noting lhe support proYMkd by 4: 10: nary comme nts are called for.
the rcadcrll knew Barnabas, leOOer of the gospel campaign in Pisidian Anlioch.
II. D. French. " Acts arnllhe Roman Roads of Asia Minor:' in Gill and Gcmpf 49-5R (here
55 ). suggests a still more nOl"lherly roule through Pontus and Bithynia (1).
9. Ollrog 41 . 52, 111-61 . O'Brien, CoIo,lSUuu, Philemon .tJIviii . nores thai though Paul had . 10. WeddabtJrn , Bop/ism 70, notes Ii scismologist's j udgrncnt that the eanhquake look place
1101 visited the Colossian s personally he was able to speaJc of his commission as " to you " 0:25) In 60: Tacic1.l'i·s rt'pon indicace5 60 or 61 ; according 10 Lightfooc 38-40, lhe Armenian "enion of

and his sufferings as "foc your uke" ( I :24). Eusebius. ClrrQtl;ck dates the earthquake subsequent to the burning of Rome in 64.

PR ESUPPOSITIONS We should also be alert to the fact thai to describe the practitioners of
the C::0lossian ;'philosophy" (2:8) as " heretics" or "errorists" may be totally
There has been a long tradition of speak ing of " the Coiossian heresy" or 10 nusrepresent them. the character of their " philosophy," and the threat they
"false teaching" as that which Paul sought to attack and refute, a tradition posed to the CoJossian believers (cf. Schrenk 3350). and may indeed amount
that continues 10 the present. The language is potentially misleading in the 10 li llIe more than cheap and unwonhy name calli ng. For ritles like " heretic"
two assumptions that are bound up in the phmse. or "errorist" reduce the system represented by those so labeled to the Slatus
One is that there was already a clear conception of "Christian or· of no more than a corrupt growth on Christianity as the main plant, their
thodo:ty. " with clearly delineated boundaries marking ofT this "Chri stianity" whole system of religion summed up and sweepingly dismissed solely as
from other religious grou pings of the time and di stinguishing it from all ·'error. "14 This may be effective populist demagoguery, but it is hardly
counterfeits and perversions ("heresy"). Such a view can no longer be responsible historical judgment. In more or less complete contrast, as will
susta ined, at least in thai simple ronn. The fact is that the term "Christianity " become clearer in the following paragraphs, the Colossian " philosophy"
itself had not yet been coined (in our sources it does nOI appear for another seems 10 have been quite separate from the Colossian Christian group, and
half century or 50),11 And since the work of W. Bauer, it is much harder !.han probably much more established and influential on its own account. We do
once was thought to speak of "orthodoxy and heresy" as well -defined and no j~stice to. Christianity if we demean its early rival s by using such language
unifonn categories in the second century, let alone the firs!. Thi s is true to and mcapaCilate our texts from serving as role models for a Chri stianity keen
such a degree that if one persists with the idea of "ollhodoxy," it would be to respond to its contemporary challenges.
hard to deny that some of the fonns of earliesl "Christianily" would be The second assumption often bound up in talk of " the Colossian
bener designated as "heresy," at least a~ j udged by the subsequent course heresy/false teachi~g " is that the Colossian church was in crisis with a
of !.heology.12 vigorous group of teachers in Colossae attempting to subvert the gospel as
To say lbis is nOI to deny, of course. that !.here was already a system preached by Paul and actively campaigning to draw the Colossian Christians
of belief and pf"dxis that we with hindsight can properly call " Christian. " (believers in Jesus) into a different system of belief.l~ This impression is
It is ra!.her to caution against the assumption that that syste m was already probably a half-subconscious effect of two factors external to Colossians.
fully rounded and agreed upon and that its boundaries were already clearly One of those factors is that Galatians seems to provide a model for the
Jefined. In contr-lst, all the evidence of the New Testament documents, sort of confrontation that Paul had wi!.h "false leaching " ; as Paul confronted
Paul 's letters in particular, indicates that the new movement centered on what he ~w as a virulent threat 10 the gospel in Galatia, so also, it is readily
Christ Jesus was in process of defin ing itself, of developing its own self- deduced, In Colossae.1 6 Now there certainly were acti ve " troublemakers"
understanding and drawing its boundaries. Of course there was already, in the Galatian churches (probably o!.her Jewish Christian mi ssionaries)
more or less from the beginning, so far as we can tell. the primary identity whom Paul denounces in no uncenain terms (see, e.g., my Ga/alialls). But
marker and boundary of baptism in the name of this Jesus and confession there i~ n.othing in Colossians like the fie rceness and explicitness of the
of him as Lord. But this confessio n stood more at the cellter of Christian denunCiations that are such a feature of Galatians (Gal. 1:6·9; 3: 1-3; 4:8- 10;
self-definition. whereas the circumference was sli ll partial and vague (hence 5:2- 1~). Most st.riking is the contrast between the polemical epilogue to
the problems confroming Chri stian communities such as those in Galatia GalatJans. summmg up Paul's continuing deep anxieties (Gal. 6: 11- 17), and
and Corinth). Alternative ly expressed. if the christological unifying factor the relati vely calm and untroubled conclusion to Colossians (Col. 4 :7- 17).
of earliest "Christianity" was firm1 y staled and powerfully cohesive. the The other factor ex ternal to Colossians is the continuing influence of
dive rsity of formu lations in diverse simations and confrontations functioned F. C. Baur's reconstruction of early Christian hi story a century and a half
as centrifugal forces to pull the same "Christianity" into a variety of fonns
Ihal in effect left the question " Is !.his also Christianity?" not always clear • 14. Even Sappington in his otherwise rtllC $tudy faits imo this trap (ch. 6.: "1ltc Colossian
or the answers agreed .13 Enur"). '''The Colossian heresy (or false IeKhing)" cominucs to serve as the most convC1li~nI
shonhalKl for most COll1Jl1entat<n.
IS. E.g" lohse, C%nionJ and Phjf~1l1OfI 127. s~ab of a "leaching which tM:at~lICd 10
II. It firsl appears in Ignatius. Masnnians 10:3: Philippians 6:1 . el\8utf lhe community": and Gnilka. "Paulllsbild" 18 1. s~aks of "an acute dang~r " "'h, _ ,
12. This is Baller', principal Ihesis in Orthodoxy "nd 1I~~Jy in Ear/iut Christjaniry Ihreal" , _u c
(Philadelphia: Fortress. 197111...ondon: SCM. 19 n): cf. Caird 16().61. • 16. E.g .. Pokom9 106 speaks of "a passionate polemic against a heresy. " and J. T. Sanders.
13. Sec: funh« my Unit)'. SchlSmaticl 190. 198. s~aks of "a J~wish heresy" and "Judaizen."

ago. Baur saw that history a'l determinatively shaped by a massive and
long-ru nning confrontation between Je wish Christianity ~~ Genti le ~~s­
tianity. with Colossians in particular as a form of ChnstJaD Gnosticism One is the model of Hellenistic or pre-Gnostic syncretism. This is the con-
confronl ing Ebioni sm.n In the present century the dominant tendency has tinued outworking of the late nineteenth-century move away from Saur, in
been to understand the threat to the Colossian Christians more simply (!) in which, in reaction to Saur ts overemphasis on Jew-Gentile tensions, the focu s
syncretistic terms, as we shall see shonly, but the idea of a confrontation of research switched to the larger socioreligious context of the churches
wi th false teaching or "heresy" or "error" still persists. founded by Paul in Asia Minor and Greece - fi rst the mystery religions21
In contrast, the mood in Colossians is surprisingly relaxed: a lengthy and then the syncretistic soup of religious philosophical ideas that cohered
development section (1 :9-2:7) befo re the first clear warning nOles are into the later Gnostic systems.
sounded (2:8); a central section with finn rcbu na1 and relatively restrained The most influential recent treatments have been those of Bomkamm
polemic limited to 2: 16-23: and a stilllong~r concluding section ",:ith ext~n­ (" Heresy" ) and Lohse. 22 For convenience we focus on the latter. Lohse sets out
sive parenesis, again giving no clear eVidence of fa lse teachlOg belOg me case (Colossians and Philemon 127-3 1) by noting the various elements in
countered (3: 1--4:6). prior to the untroubled conclusion already mentioned. IS me letter mat, either by the frequency of meir mention or more expli citly, can
Moreover. there is only one passage (2: 19) that lends primajacie weight to be linked to the Colossian "philosophy" (2:8). But in setling them out he also
the idea that the "philosophy" was already embraced by one or more of the correlates them into a system that is his own construct and not part of the
Colossian Christians themselves (Wolter 149. 162-63: DeMaris 67), and even evidence. Thus he notes the emphasis in the letter on " wisdom " ( I :9, 28; 2:3,
thai is open to another interpretation (see on 2: 19). Perhaps, then, as M. O. 23; 3: 16; 4:5), " ;os;ght" (1:9; 2:2), and " knowledge" ( 1:6, 9·10; 2:2·3; 3: 10)
Hooker in particular has argued, the situation in Colossae, with its threat and and the references to " the elements ofthe universe" (2:8, 20), which, quite fairly,
potential trouble, was quite different 19 - nOi a " false teaching" targeted ~n he associates with the angels of 2: 18 and the cosmic powers of 2: IDand 15. But
and already winning support among the members of the church(es) m he funher assumes that the knowledge is concerned with the latter (the cosmic
Colossae, but simpl y the temptation to conform to more traditional or per- elements, eLC.), and that it is only by establishing a right relationship with the
vasive ideas and practices, or the attractiveness of teachings on offer from cosmic powers mat one can "gain entry " 10 the "pleroma" (2:9) and participate
one or more other groups in Colossae (2:4) that might for quite understand- in the divine fullness (2: 10). " Man can be suffused with the divine 'fulness ' only
able reasons appeal to some of the Colossian baptized .2(I after he proves himself subservient to the angels and powers in the 'worship of
In attempting to identify the character of the threat to the Colossian angels'." Quite fairly he deduces that observance of regulations and ascetical
baptized. at least as viewed by the writer of the letter, it is inevitable that practice is enjoined by the philosophy (2: 16, 21, 23), but he further deduces that
the discussion should focus on the only section where the warning and the philosophy took the fonn of a mystery cult. with talk of circumcision in 2: I I
rebuttal is explicit, namely 2:8·23 (so also particularly Uihnemann 49-53; pointing to " a decisive act of initiation" and 4tfkr.t:£'OClV in 2:18 indicating
Sappington 144-49; DeMaris 43-45 ). This does not exclude other passages initiatory mystery rites. And fi nally he suggests that the Colossian syncretism
from consideration, but anything they add to the discussion will be at best would have tried to find a place for Christ within this synthesis.
allusive, and the strength of the allusion will depend on the clarity gained
from that central section, where the outlines are clearest. Currently two main 21. Most influc:ntial hc:re has been Dibelius. " Isis Initimion: ' whose intClpietation. however,
options are held by those who have studied the material most closely. lumgs entirely on one word <41llatriKov) in 2: 18 (btu see the comments below on that verse).
22. For their influence see Maurer: Conulmann 148: Cerfaux. Christian 479-82: R. P. Manin.
CorossitJIII and Phi/mum 4-5. 9-19; Lihnemann pasti", .. P. Vielhauc:r. Gtschichu du 14rchriSllicMn
17. F. C . 8aur. Paul: His Life and I\brb. vol. 2 (London: Wi lliams and NorgBII:. IS15) 6-21. lileralll,. ( Ber\in: de GTu)1ef. 1975) 195: G . Strttker. "Judeochristenlum uod Gnosis," in A lln
26-3 1. See further my PaningJ ch. I. T~tlalMnt - FrlihjlUknlwn - Gnotis. ed. K.-W. Trtlger{GOtemoh : GOtersloher. 1980) 261-82 (hc:re
IS . " More: admonitory than argumentative and .. . moSl accurately chantcteri~d as a lener 273); GnUka, Kolotseroriq 163-69; Findei s 346-47: and Argall 14· 20. It was popular in the 1960s
of exhortation and enoouragemcnf' 01. P. Fumisil. ABD 1.1(90). llrKl 19705 10 characteri~e Colossians as countering the GlIOSIie soteriology/christology of the hc:retks
19. Hooter. panicularly 131-36. followed by Wright, Colossialll and Phi/~motI 27-28: d. With a more radically Gnostic srneriolOSy/chrislOlogy (Schenk. "Wklerstre:i t'" 403: Grisser 152:
Yales. " Wonhip" 14. Cf. abo Schenk., " Kolosserilri ef" 3350: not • polemic bul 1111 anemp! 10 H.-F. Weiu, " Gnosus.che Motive" 3 15). cr. s.:hmithals 120-21 and W. Marxsen's d'"l . iption of
immunize the Chri stian readers agaill$t the possibility of being misled. Colossians as "chrisu ani~ed" (near GnoMic) heresy (/rurod14Clion 10 Ihe No.' Tn lamenl IOxford:
20. As IlII imeresling Cl<ample of how features of a lener ean be used to argue quite diverse BIlI(kwelllPhiladelphia: ~ss, 19681 177-86). Gunther 3-4 provid'"l a fas.cinatin g list of lID less
cases we ma y note lhe lUIumcnt of Kiley 63-65 and Nielsen ]()4.. 7 thaI the indefiniteness of the than fony- four different suggestions te,arding the identity of Paul 's opponents in Colossae. twO-
flltaCk in Colossians is proof of it5 inauthenueity. thirds o f !hem envisagina IOfile sat of syncretistic or Gnostic mix.

II sho uld be evident how much o f the plausibility of the Gnostid mys- ... OR JEWISH?
tery cull hypothesis depends on the links thus postu lated: the ;'syncretistic"
(fusion of differem elements) characte r of the philosophy is more the effec t In recent years the pendulu m has begun to swing back loward recognition
of the way Lohse has fused the various eleme nts listed above Ihan of actual of more distincti ve ly Jewish fealures in the Colossian threat, stimulated in
connections indicated in the text of the letter. Thus, in particular. he ignores large part by the continuing impact of the Dead Sea Scrolls,21 This is the
the fact that the wisdomlknowledgelinsighl motif is focused largely on the direction in which my own sludy of the text has led, and it is incumbent on
theme of God 's " mystery" (1 :25-2:3), which is thoroughly rooted in the me to explain why in a little more detail.
Paul ine conviction of God's purpose 10 include Gentiles in his saving pur- ( I) First, we need to recall the information already provided above.
jXlse. Since the theme of divine fulln ess in 2:9 most pro bably depends on thai Colossae. and the olher Lycus valley cities. probably had substantial
the earBer reference in the " hymn " of I: 15-20, Lohse' s thesis req uires the Jewish ethnic minorities . Thi s implies the presence of (probably) several
questionable corollary that the hymn was deri ved from (or at least expresses) synagogues in Colossae, bearing in mind that just as almost all churches at
the Colossian philosophy; besides which the idea of God filling all things is this time were house churches (sec on Col. 4: 15), so many Jewish gatherings
again thoroughly Jewish (see on I: 19). The circumcision-uncircumcision for prayer must have been in private houses. If the pattern indicated in Acts
antithesis (2: 11 -1 3) presupposes a Jewish perspective and the characteristic and implied in Paul's letters applies here, we probably have to envisage a
Pauline concern to overcome that antithesis (3: I I): in contrast to which the church made up initially of Jews and God-fearing Gentiles or proselytes
suggestion that "ci rcumcision" indicates an act of initiation into a mystery (mostly the latter if I: 12, 27 and 2: 13 arc any guide), some of them drawn
cult is baseless (see further below, pp. 33f.). Likewise the suggestion that from (or indeed still members of) the synagogue (which would give the
2: 18 has in view visions of angels seen during mystery rites in the Colossian affirmations in 3: II and 4: II more poi nt).
cult (Lohse, Colossians and Philemon 114, 120) should probabl y be aban- Moreover, we must avoid the later slereotype thai Jews and Christians
doned2l since the verse can be more plausibly interpreted of entering the became clearly separate and distinct from each other almost from the first.
heavenly temple to worship with the angels (see on 2: IS). Finally, and despite On the contrary, there is clear evidence that many Christians. nOl least Gentile
the widespread assumption to the contrary, nothing in the letter itsel f clearly Christians, continued for a long time to regard the synagogue as equally their
indicates that the Colossian philosophy fitted Christ into its schema (2: 19 home and so to attend both church and synagogue. Over the next hundred
hardly indicates thi s),24 or that the Colossian " philosophy " should be re- year.; " Barnabas" had 10 warn Christians against becoming proselytes (Bar-
garded as some kind of corruption of Christian belief in Christ (" Christian nabas 3:6), Ignatius had to warn his Asia Mi nor readers further down the
he resy tt ).2~ Given the popularity of the (pre-)Gnostic hypothesis, we should ~ e ander against " living in accordance wi th Judai sm" and against "judaiz-
simpl y also note the lack of any clear indication of the dualism that is 109" (Magnesians 8: I; 10:3), and Justin Martyr spoke likewise of Christians
indispen sable 10 the hypothesis of a Gnostici sm properly so cal led and of who had adopted Judaism and "gone over to the pol ity of the law" (Dialogue
any good reason to interpret verses like 2:11 -12, 21 and 23. or even 1:13 47.4). So, too, we have to take serious note of the exhortations of such as
and 3:2, in tenns of ontological dualism. 26 Origen (Homily on Levilicus 5:8; Selecta 011 Exodus 12:46) and Chrysostom
There is too much in all this that has to be abstracted from the context (Hom ilia ad Juooeos I, PC 48.844-45) warning Christians against anending
or read into the text. Only if a more plausible hypothesis is not forthcoming synagogue on Saturday and church on Sunday, not to me ntion the canons of
would it be necessary to return to the hypothesis of gnosticizing syncretism ~e fourth-century Council of Laodicea (Canons 16. 29, 37, and 3S) forbid -
to look at it afresh and to see whether the weaknesses of Lohse's reconslruc- dlOg Christians to observe Jewish fea sts and keep the sabbath (see_ e.g..
tion could be remedied without introducing further stresses into the text. Trebilco 101 ).

23. Note.lso Pokomf~ 00ffi1T\ell1: " We are not ablew demonstrate that the gllosticsestccmed . 27. See panicul arly Fl'1Inci s. " HUmi lity": for lIIe innuencc of Frnocis see Kchl. " Ernie-
and \'CneraiM angels" ( 11 7- 18). Despite this he speaks of the CoIossian "g1IOI>tics" (1 12-20). dri~ung." especiall ), 37 1-74; Carr. "NOI:cs" 496-500: Lincol n. P(Jrluiist! 112; O ' Bricli. CoiossianJ.
24. Cf. particularly Fnmcis. "Chri ~!Ological Arg ument. " who finds "nothins that urges the PhilttnlNl 14 1-45; Evans. "ColOl'isian MySlics"; Rowland. "Apocalyptic Visions"; Willk . Nam;,,!
conc lusion that the el'T'Ol" itself was disti ned)' chri ~ological at all" (203): SappingtOil 174- 76. ~ n:.93: Bruce, Colossians. Philenlo'l. Ephesians 22-26 (26 : " an early form of merWbuh m)'sti-
25. Contrast particuhlrl)' Undemalili. KoioluTbrie/ 81 -85. who compares the Co lossian Ci~ ) . ..... ho Iw;; changed his mind from hi s fi rst edition (1 66: "a Judaism which had undergone a
te achers wi lli the German Ch ri stians of the Na;>;i ptriod in Ge nnan)' (7, 8 1-82. 88-89). ~kable fusion willi ... an earl y and simple form of g:n05ticism"): Fowl 126-29; Yates. CoIoJ-
26. I: 13 and 3:2 could. bi:)wever. q uite properly be descri bed as up~5Sing an cso;:hatolOlical 1"2'1s. 55_56; Alett i, l.pill't au.x C%lsirns 196-99, 2 11 - 13; and especi ally the whole lIIel;is of
or apocalyptic dualism (!ICe the oomlTlC'nIJ below 0 11 1: 13). SaPPington.

In other words, the members of the differenl groups in Colossae- At the same time the evidence of Jewish syncretism in these diaspora
synagogue and church - would probably not be strangers to each other or conununities is lacking. despite olderclai ms to the contrary.lO Theeasy both-and
ignorant of each other's beliefs and practices - to put the poinl no more solution to the dispute about the Colossian " heresy" - viz. neither Jewish nor
strongly. Hellenistic syncretism, but Jewish/Hellenisticsyncretism - is not SUPPOlled by
(2) We know too liuIe of diaspora Judaism in this period. but what we the evidence regarding theJewish communities in Asia Minor (see now Kraabel;
do know gives us a number of clear pointers. First, there is a persistent record Sanders. Schismatics 191 -96). And one should hesitate 10 speak of "Jewish
of Jews being anxious to maintain lheir distinct re ligious identity and of Gnosticism" or " Gnostic Judaism" at this period without fmnerevidence than
being given the right to do so. Most often mentioned are the rights of Colossians itself,)1 unless "gnostic" is being used in adiluted sense more closely
assembly and places of prayer (synagogues), payment of the temple tax , equivalent to "apocalyptic" or " mystical."32 The evidence we have from
freedo m from military service, and the right to live according to their own elsewhere in first-century Judaism is that, for example, while Jewish apologists
laws, often with particular reference [ 0 sabbath and food laws. Laodicea were very willing to make use of Greek philosophies and categories like the
features in one of these decrees (Josephus, Antiquities 14.241-42), and a figure of "wisdom, " and while apocalyptists and mystics were keen to explore
Jewish inscription from Hierapolis (el J 777) also mentions the feasts of the revelations of the heavens, it was all done wilhin ci rcles who maintai ned a
Passover and Pentecost (Trebilco 12- 19 and 199 n. 70; Feldman 70). flfTTl Jewish identity - and not least, or rather, panicuJarly when they sought
We cannot, however, assume from this that the Judaism of the Colossian thereby to enhance the stature of Judaism in Iheeyes of others (see also below).
synagogues was wholly uniform - any more than was the Judaism (or Certainly, as we shall see, the categories used in Colossians itself have to be
Judaisms) in the land of Israel, of which we have more infonnation. Around judged as consistently closer to those used in Jewish writings current at the time
their common features, the "sects" of Palestinian Judaism displayed a striking than to the later Gnostic texIS from Nag Hammadi.
diversity of specific belief and haJakhic practice.28 So with diaspora Judaism (3) Nor can we assume that the diaspora Jewish synagogues were closed
as well as with infant Christianity we shou ld hesitate to envisage or speak of a off from the communities in which they lived, despised by their neighbors and
regular pattern of orthodoxy as the nonn . Rather we might expect that some- living a sort of ghetto existence; here, too, we must avoid stereotypes drawn
thing al least of the diversity of Palestin ian Judaism was reflected in the from later history. On the contrary, we know severaJ cities in Asia Minor where
diaspora. This is not to suggest that there were fl ouri shing groups of Phari sees the Jewish community and synagogue were well integrated into the social and
and Sadducees in Colossae, but it does suggest that the older idea of Lightfoot civic life of the city.ll And the few detai ls we have from the Lycus vaJley cities.
that the Colossian "heresy" was a fonn of or shared characteri stics with including a number of Jewish epitaphs in Hierapolis, only serve to strengthen
Essenism may have more credibility than at fi rst appears (cr. more recently the impression that the Jewish communities (some Jews at least) would have
Foerster and Saunders). That the diversity of religious belief and practice in the
land of Israel cou ld be transposed into the diaspora is confmned by the presence 30. See Bruce. CoIossitmS.. Phil~mon. Ephttsiam 12· 13; Trebilco ch. 6: ~ldman. Jf'W and
of a community of Samaritans on the island of Delos in the Aegean who called G~nliI~ 74. R. P. Martin. Colossians and Phi/~mQ/1 18-19, is quitc unjustified in claiming that '"the
s)'nagogues lof Pluygial hat! a rqlutation for laxity and opcnTtCSS to speculation drifting in fnxn the
themselves " Israelites who pay flTStfruits to holy Mt. Gerizim ,. (Schtirer 3.7 1).
irllcnistic world." Pokorny 20, 116; Wolkr l6O-(illm' Slil] influenced by Ihcolder ".iew. Wedderburn
And nearer home we should recall that Paul himself seems 10 have experienced 6--12 is more eircumspccl. drawin8 a paraUel with the clearl), syncreti stic teaching of E1chasai. which
or practiced mystical ascenl (2 Cor. 12: 1-7 - a period of his life probably to emerged in Syria about fifty yeaB later. Even so, it should be clear !hat a certain amount of social
be located in Cilicia [Gal. 2:2 1; Acts II :26]), that according to Acts 19: 1-3 Paul interaction between different ethnic groups; within a socict)' structured on the sySlem of patronagc
subsequently met a group in Ephesus who had received "John's baptism," and sI"Iould nett be de$cribcd I.'ii "syncretism" an)' more than the practice commended by Paul in I Cor.
5: 10 and 10 :27. On the farllOU§ Julia Se~era inscription from Acmonia see Trebilco 58-60.
that the seer of Revelation's characteristically Jewish apocalyptic visions are
31. See. e.g .. those cited by Lohse. Co/rusu"'!J and Phil~1IIf.m 129 n. 120.
said to have taken place in Patmos (Rev. I :9; note the often observed parallel 32. It is this com:lltion Ihat eoables Scholcm to speak of Jewish m~ri4bah my~ticism I.'ii a
between Rev. 3: 14 and Col. I: 15).29 kind of " Jewish gl"lOstici~m" in Je....;!Jh G'IOstici$m .
33. Trebilco $Iooies particu larl)' Sardis. Acmonia, and Apamea, all within a 150-mile radius
or Colossae. On Aphrodisias set panicularl)' J. Rc)'oolds and R. Tannenbaum. J~"'!J aNI God[flaru-s
28. See. e.g.. m)' PartingJ 12·t3. 18. Ql Aphrodisias (Clmbridge Philological Society Supp. 12; Cambridge. 1987). On !he level of social

29. Sib)'lIi~ Oracles 4, whieh il sometimes thought 10 have originated in Asia Minor (4. 107 intereourx between Jews and Gemiks set. e.g .. S. J. D. CQhen, "Cro»ing the Boundary and
referlil to the destruction of I andicea by earthquale and 4. 150-51 10 Ihe Meander). has some curiO\lS Becoming a Jew," IrrR 82 (1989) 13·33; E. P. San(krs, "Jcwish ASS(JCialion with Gentiles and
parallels with Coloossians that may indicate that itunderwem asectarian Jewish ralaction (6-7. 33-34, Galatians 2 : 11 -14." in Studi~J if! Paul tJNJ Jolin, J. L Manyn FS. cd. R. Fonna and a. R. Gavem3
165-70). (Nashville: Abill8don. 1990) 17Q-88: my GalatiD1I11 19-2 1.

been respected and well integrated inlo the bus iness and communi ty life of Trypho.37 Apology, it should be noted, is nOl the same as evangelism or
these cities (SchUrer 3.27-28). proselytism, and, more imponant, it serves as much the purpose or boosting
Conversely we shou ld not assume thai the Jews of Colossae wou ld the self-confidence of those who wish to win respect of neighbors and
have been vigoro usly evangel istic. Here agai n the broader piclUre is clear: busi ness associates as or explai ning the unfamiliar to interested outsiders.
on the who le. Jewish communities were conte nt 10 have their rights 10 At all events, it is more likely than not that the Jews or Colossae included
practice their anceslml religion affirmed , without attempting to cooven those more Ihan ready (and able) to explai n their religious practices to
olhers to what was essentiall y an e thnic religion (the religion of the Jews); inquirers and even to take some initiati ve in providing an apologetic exposi-
at the same time, however, they welcomed Gentiles who were attracted tion of Judaism in the public forum.
to Judai sm (of whom there were many) a nd were pleased when such
God-fearing Gentiles asked for circumcision and so became proselytcs. 34
In some conlrasl, the compulsion to mi ssion was a distinctive fealUre of
the Jew ish group that identified themselves by reference to Jesus {he Against the background JUSt sketched oul. it has to be said. the threat to the
Christ. church in Colossae makes perrect sense. The implications or 1:12, 21-22;
This is not to say, however, that diaspora Jews were shy in explaining 2: 13; and 3:1 1- 12 in particular are that the presuppositional framework of
themselves. As al ready mentioned. we know of severol apologies on behalf thought for both writer and recipients focu ses on Jewish covenantal distinc-
of Jews and Judaism. in which Jewish history (particularly Moses) and the tiveness and privilege (see on these verses). Elements in 2:8-10, 15, 18,20,
peculiar beljefs and practices of the Jews are explained or expressed in and 23, which have seemed to some to require a hypothesis of Helleni stic
categories and language more conducive to winning the respect of cultured or more explicitly (pre-)Gnostic syncretism, can more easily be seen to fi t
Hellenists.3 j Philo is only the most striking example of a weU-educated Jew within Judaism (see on these verses). including the emphasis on wisdom
who used Platonic and Stoic phi losophy to demonstmte the mtional and (also in 1:9, 28: 2:3 ; 3: 16; 4:5) and fu llness (also in 1:9. 19, 25 ; 2:2; 4: 12) ;38
religious power of Judaism. And Josephus would not have been the only and indeed wi thin a JUdaism, somewhat surprisingly, given the different tone
Jew writing in Greek to describe the diffcrent Jewish "sects" as " phi loso- or its challenge and of the epistolary response, not so very different from
phies " (see on 2:8).36 We may also assume that the tradition of a Jewish that promoted in the Galatian churches (see pp. 136f. below). And, most
apologist engagi ng in di alogue with others neither began nor ended with striking of all, several other elemellls are so clearly Jewish that no other
hypothesis will serve (see on 2:11 - 14. 16- 17, 2 1-22).39 [n other words, the
34. On God-fearer.; (Of God-worshipper.;) in Asia Minoc s« Trebi lco cll. 7. and on lack of hypothesis of a syncretistic religious philosophy with only some Jewish
missionary oulrCach (prosclylizing leal ) wilhin !he 1udaism of the period .~e S. McKnight II lighl elements is both unnecessary and highly implausible,40 and easy talk of
among the Galli/a: Jewish Missionary Arril·il), in 1M S«ond Temple Period (Minneapolis: FortreSli.
1991); M. Goodman, '· Jewi~ Proselytizing in the I-ln;! Century:· in Tire Jew.• <lllton/{ PlIsans lind
Chrnlians in Ihe RmMlr Empifl'. cd 1 . Lieu. Cl al. (Loudon: Rotll lcdge. 1992) 53-78: also MissilJII 37. See particularly R. L. Witken. Juooism ami Ihe Early Chrislian Mind (New Haven: Yale
and Cmm~/Ojmr: Proulyli:inS in II~ Refig ioro· HislIJry of Ihe Roonun Emf/ire (Oxford: Clarendon. University. 1971) 28-30. 35-38. 4 t -43. 50-53.
1994) eh. 4. 38. But can we deduce 1I111t lhe Colossian philosophy w a.~ laying claim to a higlru wisdom
35. See particularly the wisdom and philosophical literature and fr~g~nl~ of Io5t Judeo- (M. e.g .. Uhnemann 33 suggests)?
H elleni~ic works in OTP 2.477-606. 775-919; C. R. l lolladay. FrogmenlS from Hellenislic Jev.-ish 39. Sevenll, e.g., Lohse. Calmsians and PhilemOf1 129 n. 119, point OUI that !he concept
AUlhors (4 vols.: Al lama: Scllolars. 1983. 1989. 1995. 1996); 5ol'C also 1. J. Collins. BefwufI A.lhens "·' is absent from Colossians. But since the law's most prominent features for diaspora Jews
and Jeru!ialem: Je ....i5h Itklllil), in 1M Hellenisric Diaspum (New York: Crossroad, 1983). (ClI"cumcision. food laws, sabbaths, and purity Tegu latioo.') are specifically mentiOned (2: t I. 13, 16.
36. With reference 10 Schweizer·s thesis tilat the Colossian philosophy was a kind of ·'Jewish 20-21). the the leon " law" itself is lacking is of no greal moment. See also Wright's more
Pythagoreani sm·· (C%S5ians 131 -33; "Christ·· 452-54: "Christianity·'). which has innuenced n:Jbust rebutlal of the point (ColossiWlS and Philemon 25·26) and the commenf$ Ix-Iow on 2: 16.
Wedderburn, C%uioru 4-7.1ltId Woller 159-62. we should note: (a) the thesis depends too much 40. Schweizer. C%nions 128: a ··world view ... with liule more than Jewish trimmings'·;
OIl a particular inlcrpretatiOll of the cnGl;tt{a in 2:8. 20 (see the comments below OIl 2:8), apart from Ste~emann 530: ". few Jewish bits and pieces ( Wrsolz,sttkken). lIOIhing 10 do with Judabm i1sc:l f ·':
which t~re is notlling diSl.inctivdy Pylhagorean aboul the fcatures of the philosophy (listed by GlIllb. KolosserbtUf 168; ". Jewish shell (Gchlluse) filled with IlII alien spirit." "Jbe ITlO!il re«nt
Schwei~. ColossiO/u 133); and (b) Josephus ..·as able to describe the Esscl\C5 as '·a group that discussions of the opponents in Colossae ]lU/SIJe essentially the ume line: ascetic visionaries who
follows a way of life laught 10 t~ Greeks by Pylhagoras·· (Antiquilia 15.371 ) as pM. of his have drawn on Judaism for some aspect! of their teachi ngs (SUIMCy 386). or a syncretistic blend
commendation o f the 1cwish sects by presenting them in Greek. garb (see further SchUrer 2.SS9-'Kl). Of. "popular Middle Pl atOllic, Jewish and Christian elemenlS lhat CQhere around lhe pursuit of
Such conside,.... tions wouk! uplain why the Colossian philosophy might gh-e the impre~ion of WIsdom·' (DeMaris, here 17). Kiky 6 1-62 provide$ a useful enu meration of the options canvassed
Pylhligoreanism without owing anything Mlbsrantive 10 it in fact. OVer the put hundred years. See also n. 34 OIl 2: 18.

"Gnostic Judaism" at this stage is probably a sign of a too casual historical Colossians and the absence there of anything quite like the fi erceness of the
imagination. reaction in Galatians further suggests that what was being confronted was
None of the features of the teach ing alluded 10 in 2:8-23 resist being not a sustained attempt to undermine or funher convert the Colossians. but
understood in Jewish terms, and several can only or most plausibly be a synagogue apol o~etic promoting itself as a credible philosophy more than
understood in Jewish lenns (cf. particularly Wright, Colossians alld Phile- capable of dealing with whatever heavenly powers might be thought to
mQII 24-27). To be more precise. the division afme world into "circumcision control or threaten human existence. To describe this as a "heresy" is quite
and uncircumcision" (2: 11- 13; 3: II ) and the observance of the sabbath (2: 16) inappropriate, and to brand it simply as " false teaching" (maintained by
would generally be recognized in the ancient world as distinctively Jewish, Colossian " errorists"!) reduces that teaching to its controverted features
as indeed also food and purity rules (2: 16, 21 ) when sel alongside circum- while ignoring what must have been many points in common between the
cis ion and sabbath (see on 2: II , 16, 21); so distinctively Jewish are they, Jews and Chri stians in Colossae. 41
indeed, that any non-Jew adopting them would be said to be "judaizi ng"
(adopting a Jewish way of life - see , e.g., my Galatians 129). As Schenk
335 1-53 observes, calendar piety, food laws, and circumci sion cannot be WHO WROTE COLOSSIANS?
regarded as random elemenlSof some syncretistic cult, but are the very norms
that provide and conflITll the identity of Israel (similarly Harrington 157-58 This is probably the most contentious of the introductory issues faci ng the
and 1. T. Sanders, Schisma/ics 190). In other words, the number of disti nc- student of Colossians. Although I have already indicated that the issue might
tively and definiti vely Jewish features are such thai it is scarcely possible to not be quite so crucial for a full appreciation of the leller's significance
envisage (he Colossian " philosophy" as a non-Jewish core (hat has attracted (pp. 19f. above), it is still important. However. since I have little or no fresh
Jewish elements; at most we have to speak of an apocalyptic or mystical insight to bring to the question I will simply refer to what seem to me the
Judaism transposed into the diaspora that has been able to make itself most decisive considerations and treatments of those considerations.
attractive to those sympathetic to Judaism by playi ng on familiar fears and First. having studied the text with the care necessary fo r a commentary
making more impressive claims. of this scope (the Introduction is, of course, written last!), I have (0 confinn
The main proponents of the Colossian " philosophy," therefore, almost the strong likelihood that the letter comes from a hand other than Paul's.
certainly have to be understood as belonging to one of the Colossian syn- This is not a mechanical judgment, based merely on vocabulary counts,
agogues. If indeed there were Jews in Colossae confident in thcir religion sentence construction . and the like, but, as with all evaluations of literary
(2:4, 8), above all in the access it gave them to the worship of heaven (2: 18) style, is dependent also on the subjective appreciation of manner and mode
through faithfulness to what were traditional (Jewish) observances (2: 16. of expression. The fact is that at point after point in the letter the commentator
2 1·23), then we should not be surprised if they professed such claims in is confronted with features characteristic of flow of thOUght and rhetorical
dialogue and debate with other Colossians. And if there then grew up in their technique that are consistently and markedly different from those of the
midst a new version of their own leach ing, proclaiming the Jewish Messiah undisputed Paulines. 42 Of course it is possible that Paul's style changed over
and the fulfi llment of ancient Jewish hopes (note again particularly I: 12 and a few years (though if Colossians was wrillen from Ephesus (see p. 40
3: 12), then. again, it would hardly be a surprise if some of the more outspoken below]. the writing of it would fall in the midst of his other letters). But it
and self-confident members of the synagogues spoke dismissively of the is more probable (given the relative constancy of Paul's style elsewhere) that
beliefs. devotions, and praxis of the new movement as compared with thei r
own. 41 . For l fuller e:xposition u( the case !IUJTI1JI&Iizc:d above: see my ""The Colossian Philo5ophy:
In short, given the various factors outlined above, including the prob- A Confident Jewish Apologia,"" 8 iblica 76 (199.5) 153-8 1.
able origin of the Colossian church from within synagogue circles. the likely 42. The most cornprehc:nsive and imprc:uive: sw dy lias been that of Bujanl. whose findings
Schweizer (ColOSSSialll 18·19) lhinkli are deci~ve: "'The letter can Il!:ither have boen written 001"
presence of Israelite sectarianism within the diaspora, the lack of other
dictated by Paul"; similarty Meeks. Urbon CllriSlimu 125: see aoo lhe extensive: summary treal·
evidence of Jewish syncretism in Asia Minor, and the readiness of some rncOI$ in Kiley 5 1·59 and Schenk. " Kohlls thief" 3327·38. cr. the documentalion in Lchsc:
Jews to promote their distinctive religious practices in self-confident apology CoWJ$ians aNI Phi/"mon S4-91. who is impressed mosl o f I II by "the pe<:Uliarity of the sente~
(see above), we need look no further than one or more of the Jewish syn- Slructurc: and sequence"" (89). but wbo thinks the evidence indecisive: (a view echoed in favor of
agogues in Colossae for the source of whatever influences were thought to Paulioe authorshi p by Percy. ProtH""'" 16-66 and KlImmel34 I-42; according to Aleni. tpil~ aux
threaten the young church there. The more relaxed style of the polemic in CoWSsi"lIS 2()8.9, tbe manner of reasoning In 2:6-23 is "rypically Pauline").

lhe hand is different. In saying this we should nx:ognize that it is nol merely (post-Pauline) Ephesians did make such use of Colossians suggests that
a maner of Paul 'dictating his letters to different secretaries. The differences Colossians itself may have provided something of a model for Ephesians -
come al the aulhoriallevel - the " fingerprint" differences of (unconscious) that is, as an expression of " late Paulinism" or as written by a Pauline
speech mannerisms and (second nature) pauerns of composition. disci ple close to Paul.
Second, it is difficult to deny thallhe theological and parenetic content On the other hand, thirdly, it is difficult to envisage a scenario where
is significantly different from what we are accustomed to in all the undisputed 4:7·17 can be easily explained on a full-blown post-Pauline (say, fifteen
Paulines:u TIle chrislology expressed in 1: 15·20 and 2:9· )0 and 15 looks to years after his death) hypothesis. It is not simply that the passage contains
be further along the trajectory (which on any count stretches from what we a sequence of personal references, as in 2 Tim. 4:9-21 and Til. 3: 12-13 (which
find in the Synoptic Jesus lfadition through John's Gospel to Ignatius and anyway could be explained as brief private letters written during Paul 's life
lcenaeus) than that of the undisputed Paulines; closest would be Rom. 10:6- and incorporated in the later Pastorals). It is more the fact that the references
13; 1 Cor. 8:4·6; and Phil. 2:6-11 , but even so the thought of 1:19-20 and are so closely related to Ihe Colossian church (see 4:7-9, 10, 12-1 3, 15-17;
2:9 is a step beyond any of those passages. So, too, the ecclesiology of I: 18, "to a concrete com muniIY," according to Gnilka. " Paulusbild" ISl-S3).
especially as correlated with 2: 10. clearly reflects a development closer to What would the Colossians (or Laodiceans). receiving the letter (ex hy-
Eph . 1:21-23 than to the ecclesiology of Rom. 12:4-S or I Corinthians 12. pothesi) in. say, 70 or 75, make of such references? Are we to envisage an
There is a clear note of realized eschatology in 2: 11-12 and 3:1, as compared older Tychicus (and Onesimus) bearing the letter to Colossae as though from
with Rom. 6:4-5 and 8:1 1, though a note of future expectation is also Paul. a letter written to boost their aUlhorilY? But what then of the reference
maintained at other points (see on 1:5,24, 27-2S; 3:4, 6, 10, 24-25). And 10 the leiter to the Laodiceans and the exhortation to Archippus (stiD in
the parenesis using the " household rules" fonn in 3: 18-4: I is again much Colossae, or only then in Colossae)? Why would a pseudepigrapher, con-
closer to Eph. 5:22--6:9 and the Pastorals than to anything we find earlier in sciously free to create his own hislory and aware that Colossae was not
PauL Here again one could speak of the development of Paul's own thought. slrictly speaking one of Paul' s churches, choose as the recipient of his
but again that would simply indicate that there is a later " Paulinism" that putative leiter. of all places. Colossae? And when we recall the possibility
can be attributed to the late Paul or to a close Pauline disciple without altering that Colossae was almost destroyed in the earthquake of 60 or 61, confidence
the character of the " Paulinism" or its authentic character as "Pauline ." in the hypothesis that the letter was firs t wrinen to Colossae some years later
In addition , we cannot ignore the degree to which Colossians and takes a further knock (see Schweizer, Colossians 19-21), without making
Ephesians overlap, sufficiently often with very si milar phraseology, struc- the suggestion that il was really written for the church in Laodicea (Lin-
ture, and content (cr., e.g., CoL 1:1-2lEph. 1:1-2; CoL 1:4IEph. 1:15; Col. demann, Kolosserbrief 12- 13 = the thesis of his earlier " Gemeinde" ) or to
H31Eph. 2:5; Col. 2: 191Eph. 4:15- 16: Col. 3: 121Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:161Eph. a third unknown church (Wolter 36. 220-21 ) any more plausible. Occam's
5:19-20; CoL 3:22-4: llEph. 6:5-9; Col. 4:7-8lEph. 6:2 1-22).44 This feature razor indicates Ihat the mOSI obvious solution is also the most trouble-free
is best explained by Ephesians being written using Colossians as a kind of (see also pp. 269f. below).
template (so most),4.5 so discussion of its full significance belongs more to Here the close overlap with Philemon at precisely the same point
a treatment of Ephesians than of Colossians. Neverthe less, the fact that becomes a raclor or some importance. The two letters name precisely the
same authors (Paul and Timothy - Col. I: I; Phm . I) and more or less the
43 . Sec. e., .. L.obsc:·s "1bc Letter to the Colossians and Pauline 1beoIogy"
UCUISUS on same list of greeters (Epaphras, Arislarchus and Mark, Demas and Luke -
(Colo.<sions and Phlltmotl 77-83): Undemann. PaulI'S 114-22: Mer~ein 37-62. !hough there is a Col. 4: I0- 14; Phm . 23·24). Such overlap can be the result only of deliberate
tendency to exaggelllte the differcuces (see. e.g .• the comments below on 1:24). MacDollilld sees in
contrivance (a later writer of Colossians simply copying Philemon, though
Colossians an example of ··convnunity,slabili.ting instiwtionaliution" (Part 2). F<w an a1te~dve
view see R. P. Martin. Coiossiaru aM Philnnon 32-38: O ·Brien. Cokmions. Philtmort xliv·xli", .
with variations difficult to explain)46 or of closeness of historical origin (both
44. See particularly C. L. Mitton. TM Episllt /a 1M Ephtsians (O",ford: C larendon, 195 1)
55-67,279·31 5. 1bc most com~bcosive synop(ic analysis has been prov iUed by G. van Kooten, 46. The literary dependence of Colossians on Philemon is common ly assumed and commonly
"1lE LiteBry Phenomenon of ·Conflation· in Paul'$ lAlltr 10 Iht ColosliullS by the Author of !he IIISStuncd to be a device to evoke the impression of Pauline author1>hip (e.g .• Lohse. CoIoMians and
Ulltr /a Iht EpMsiClns" (M .A. Thesis. Durham. 1995). Philtmon 175- n; Linde mann. KoIos~rbri'f 72, 75; Yates. Colossians 85: WollC"r 216-7: Aletti .
45. Sec. e.g.. those cited in Lohse . Colossians and Philtman 4 n. 2. For the allCmative view tpim DIU Colossitru 268: otherwise Olirog 23S-39 n. 14). E. P. Sanders. "Literary Dependence."
that Colossians presupposes ~ see Coutts. and for hlOl"tO complu theories of canonical argues the IIl(lf"e elaborate hypodw:sis that Coll)5I;il ns was contrived by someone mking pllrascs from
Colossians as the product of redaction and/or interpolation see the brief rc ..;"ws in Kiley 42-43; Paul', seven letten: but RICh a ··patchworlr. quilt .. h)'pothe$is is no more credible than the older
Bruce. C%niuM. Philtma", EPMSians 30-32. 5OUn:e-critical theories of the PentaleUoCh or the Syrtllptic Got;pcls (explained .'l(l1e1y in ICrms of

leners wrincn at about the same time: Bruce. Colossians. Philemon, and At all evenlS. whatcver the precise c ircumstances of its composition,
Ephesiwu 177). On either theory Philemon's failu re to mention Tychicus Colossians strongly suggests that the distinctions between a Paul who himsel f
(who according to Col. 4:8-9 was the principal member of the party sent by changed in style and developed in theology. a Paul who allowed someone e lse
Paul to Colossae) and the fai lure of Colossians to mention Philemon (espe- 10 interpret his thought and concerns, and a Pauline disciple writing shortly
cially when it docs mention Archippus: cf. Col. 4: 17 with Phm. 2) have to after Paul's death but seeking to be faithful to what he perceived would be the
be explained. The puzz.le is greater if Colossians was wrincn later using master 's thought and concerns in the situation envisaged in the leller become
Phi lemon's data (why include a reference 10 Onesimus but not to Phile mon?). of unccrta in and d iminishing significance. In short, to repeat what I said earlier
It could be expla ined. however, if there was a relatively brief time gap (p, 19). here we can see clearly the "bridge" chamctcr of Colossians.
between the two iellers (so that Paul's compan ions were more Of less the In what follows I leave .he issue fairly fluid, sometimes referring to
same). If in the event Ihe letters were brought to Colossac at the same time. the author as Paul and Timothy, sometimes simply as Paul to avoid tedious
Philemon by Oncsimus 10 Phile mo n and his home church and Colossians repetition.
by Tychicus to the o ther Colossian believers. that could be sufficient to
explain why each did not mention a principal fi gure to do with the olher.
Ahe rnatively. if Paul was imprisoned in not too di stant Ephesus. we could WHERE AND WIffiN WAS COLOSSIANS WRIITEN?
certai nly e nvisage a personal letter to Philemon. wi th the happy result that
Onesi mus was returned to Paul within a few days. o nly to be sent after an Of the inrrod uctory questions, this is the one I found most difficu lt to draw
interval back to Colossae with Tychicus (who had come 10 Ephesus in the out to a clear and final answer. The o ne thing that is clear is that the letter
meantime) but a fter Philemon had himself left Colossae (on business). wa<; written from prison (4:3. 10. 18), If we can now s ideline the hypothesis
The data are somewhat confusing, and no hypothesis fits it all with of a post- Pauline authorship written years after Paul's death (see above).
equal comfort. But on the whole the most plausible solution is probably that these references must refer to a period of imprisonment of Paul during which
the le tter was writte n at about the same time as Philemon but actually the letter was wrinen. That in wm pushes us to a choice betwcen a largely
composed by someone other tha n Paul himself. We may. fo r example. en· hypothetical Ephesian imprisonment and the well -known imprisonment in
visage Paul oUllining his main concerns to a secretary (Timothy) who was Romc ..!8 To choose between these, however. is very difficult.
fami liar with the broad pattern of Paul's lener-writing and being content to The main elements of the proble m have al ready been indicated. On
leave it to the secretary to fonnul ate the letter with a fair degree of license. the one hand, as we have seen, Colossians seems to locate ilSClf on the
perhaps under the conditio ns of his imprisonment at that point able only to trajectory of Pauline theology a t or near the margin of the tmnsilion from
add the briefest of personal conclusions (see o n 4: 18). If so. we should " Pau line" to "post-Pauline" theology. Without forgetting what has just been
perhaps more accurately describe the theology of Colossians as the theology said about that distinction, that locmion suggests a late date, that is. near the
of TImOlhy. o r. more accurately still , the theology of Paul as understood or end of Paul's life. which points to a Ro man imprisonment ,49 On the o ther
inte rpreted by Timothy, On the othcr hand, if Timothy did indeed write for
Paul at Paul's behest but also with Paul's approval of what was in the event bum, Hapfism 71; this view was foreshooOl':ed by H, Ewald in 18.57), A. Suhl. Paulus und ~i"t 8ritfr
written (prior to adding 4: 18), then we have to call the lettcr " Pauline" in (Gutersloh: Glittrsloha, ]975) 168 n. 93, makes a similar suggestion rellanling Epaphras. tindemann ,
the full sense of the word, and the distinction between " Pauline" and "post· ~olosst'b'itif I I and Polorny IS objectlhat Paul wwld hardly have allowed the fir'Sl-pI!l'SO!I refen:nccs
Pauline" as applied to Colossians becomes relatively unimportant. 47 tn I ;23-25; I :29-2:5; and 4:3-IS 10 stand unalte.-ed ifTUIlOlhy was the actual autllor. But there is no real
diffICUlty ifTtmolhy saw himself as writing in Paul 's name and IiOspeaking ....ith Paul's voice. as ....ould
an,ambassador; C kem's correspondence shows this to have been a qui te !K'cepted role for a sterctwy
"l iterary dependence"). Kiley 76.9t argues the mc:n limited hypolhesis of a Iener contrived using (Rkhards 49-56. 62; see earlier BlIhr475·76). BUI most Still th ink of the ]euer as po>;t-Pauline; so. e.g ..
only Philippi ans and Philemon as its souJtt; but the dqlendence in this case is not of the same Lohse, C%53illtlS and Philelt1l)" l S I ; Kiley ; Merklein 3-26: Grnu.::.. Kmosstrl"it[ 19-26; Pokorny
dllu..; ter as in the more widely II!!recd examplC:'l of such usage (Ephesian§ 01\ Colossians or 10- 19; Wolter 27-3 1: Yates. ColossillllS xi-~ii; Furnish.ABD 1, 1094.
Laodkeanson the ba sis of Col. 4 : 16) and is probably bcllerexplained assorneone thinking in P:ruline 48, E.I .. Epbems (R. P. Martin. Co/ossion! and PltilentOfl 22·32; Schweizer, CoIoSJian.r
fashion, or indeed as Paul thinking similar but variant thoughts, As Richards 5 notes in reference to 24-26; Wright. C%5Siaou and I'hilt mon 34-37), Rome (Moule, CO/VSSU"'J and Phi/timon 21-25;
Cicero's practice. " h SClems 10 have bern quite acceptable to u,;e the .same mataial , theme . or BI'UCe. Colossians, Phi/tlmlIn. Epnu iaru 32). and Caesarea (Reide. " Historical Selling" 434-38).
argument in more than one !eller, if the m:ipients were differen t," See al50 p. 307 below. II, 17,
47. I find m~lf thus pu..tJed t!)Ward the same conclusion as Schweizer. C'XQSSillllS 23-24 <see 49. In that case the likelihood that CoI~ae was seriously affected by Ihe eanhquake in
further hi s " K~ef - ...'ederpaulinillCh noch nar.:hp;wJinillChT'; 5lI alsoOllrol2J6.42 ; WWder· 60-61 would poim to a date not lo ng prior to the earthquake <see also n. 10 above).

hand. given the close proximity of Colossians to Philemon (see pp. 37-38 In the end the choice probably has to be made between two sets of
above) and the strong case thai can be made for setting Philemon in the plausibilities, each linked with sets of implausibilities. And to choose be-
conte xt of an earlier Ephesian impriso nment (see pp. 307f. below), that would tween them is a matter of fin e judgment. Not much hangs on it, as I have
point to the same originating context for Colossians and a date in the mid ~~a ~edl y stressed, but on. balance and for what it is worth I find myself
50s, that is. presuma bly prior to 2 Corinthians and Romans.5O Iflcllru ng (5?% to 45 %, ~s It were) toward the more traditional hypothesis,
An Ephesian scenario would nOi only expl ain the to-ing and fro-ing of tha ~ Colossl,ans. was wntten from Rome (simil arly O' Brien, Colossians,
Onesimus implied in Philemon (as also Paul's hope to visit Philemon on PhIlemon xhx-hv) and was thus the last Pauline letter to be written with the
release, Phm. 22) but also allow for a funher movement of Onesimus to great apostle's ex plicit approval.
Colossae (with the letter to Philemon), back to Paul , and back again 10 Colossae
(with Tychicus and Colossians), one of the most plausible suggestions with
regard to the relation of Colossians and Philemon. Moreover. the suggestion THE STRUCTURE OF COLOSSIANS
that Colossians was actually composed by Timothy (or someone else) could
go some way lOward explaining the developed character of the lheology and Colossians is characteristically Pauline in its structure. By that I mean that
parenesis: Timothy initiated (or developed Paul's thought furth er into) post- Colo,ssians has th~ typical s~c ture of a Pauli ne letter, with its disrinctively
Pauline theology while Paul was still ali ve! Yet. we also suggested the likeli- Pauline features III the openmg ( 1:1 -8) and closing (4:7- 18), its thematic
hood that in such a case Timothy would have indicated or read to Paul what he statement (2:6-7), and fully developed body comprising both theological
had written, and Paul would have made it his own by adding his signature argument (2:8-2 3) and parenesis (3: 1-4:6). The features that cause most
(4: t 8). 1t would be somewhat surprising if Paul then turned his back on such s.urp~ se for those fa miliar with the Pauline style and that strengthen the
developed christology and ecclesiology and revened in Romans to his earlier hkehhood that another hand has been acti ve in composing the letter are the
themes, only for them to be taken up and extepded fu nher in Ephesi ans (cf. substantial development of the thanksgiving ( I :9---2:5) and the incorporation
Bruce, Coloss ians, Philemon, and Ephesians 32; Furnish. ABD 1.1094-95). of household rules into the parenesis (3: 18-4: I). For full er details the intro-
On the other hand, a later (Roman impri sonment) date for Colossians duction to each section should be referred to,
would cenainly seem to best explain what I have called the bridge character
of the letter. But an initial movement of Onesimus to Rome is more difficult
to envisage, as is Paul 's simpl y expressed hope to visit Philemon (why distant
Colossae? see again the lntroduction to Philemon, pp. 307 f. below), and EXTENDED THANKSGIVING (13 -23)
almost cenainly rules out the possibility of Onesimus being returned to Paul Thanksgiving (1:3-8)
and returning again to Philemon while Paul's suppon group was virtually Prayer fo r the ColoS5ian ReCipients ( 1:9-14)
unchanged. We would then be forced back to the hypothesis that the two A Hymn in Praise of Christ (I : 15-20)
letters were written within a few days of each other, but that while Paul was Reconciliation and Response (J :2 1-23)
able to give more attention to the letter to Philemon, he chose (or some A PERSONAL STATEMENT ( I ,24--2,5)
ti ghtening of security forced him) to leave the composition of Colossians to Paul's Commitment to the Gospel (1:24-29)
someone else (Timothy?). Both situations are qu ite plausible lO envisage, Paul 's Commitment to the Colossians (2: 1-5 )
though the fo nner (choosing to concentrate on Philemon and leaving Colos-
sians to someone else) would suggest an interesti ng set of priorities for Paul THE THEME OF THE LEI'! ER (2,6-4 ,6)
(his personal obligation to Onesimus and Phi lemon overriding hi s concerns The Thematic Statement (2:6-7)
for the Colossian church as a whole) and strengthen the likelihood that the The Cross of Christ Renders Unnecessary Any Funher Human
threat to the Colossian baptized was no great or pressing crisis. Traditions and Rules (2:8-23)
The Scope of ~h rist s Accomplishmenu on the Cross (2:8-15)
Beware of Clm fflS That TI~re Are More Imponant Practices and
50, In lhe later man uscript U'lIdition some majuscuks aIS:" thai CoIo.ssians was written from Experiences (2:16-19)
Rome (see M~tlger 627): howev~r. according IU the Marcionite prologue to Colossians the lei ter
was written from Ephuus (" Apostol us iam ligatus 5Cribit eis ab Epheso," d ted in Mouk, Colrusiwu Life ill Christ Does Not Depend 0 11 Observance of Jewish
22 n. I), Practices (2:20-23)
l ourmger umvcrsltats· uno
LandesblbU.:.thek ,Jena
- -
1: I 43


The Pattern of Living That Follows from the Cross (3: 1-4:6)
Th~ P~rspective from Which lhe Christian Life Should Be Lil'ed
I Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus through God 's will, and TImothy, the brother, I
(3 .. 1-4)
2 to the saillls i/l Colossae 2 alidfaithfuP brother~ in Christ. s Grace to you
Gen~ral Guidelines and Practical Exhortations (3:5- 17)
and peace from God our Father. 6
Household Rules (3:18-4: 1)
Concluding Exhortations (4:2-6)
I: 1 nauAot; M6o-tOAo~ XpHrtO U ' l'loOU OUX 9£Ar, J.t a"t~ SEou X(r.t TIJ.t6~
CONCLUSION (407- 18) b ~~. In accordance with the conventions of the time 7 (he fi rst th ing
Maintainin g Communication (4:7-9) the rec ipients o f a letter would expect to read (or hear) is the name(s) of (he
Greetings (4: /0-17) sender(s) and confirmation that the letter had been inlended for Ihem. So
A Final, Personal Greeting (4: /8) here: " Paul ... and TImothy ... 10 . .. Colossians .. . ."
The name of Paul would be well known in all Christian gatherings in
Ihe Ro man province of Asia. News of Paul' s work on the Aegean coast. in
Ephesus in particular (Acts 19: 10), and of ils impaci (Acts 19:23-41 !), would
no doubt have been fam iliar gossip among Christian evangelists and converts
as the gospel spread up the valleys into the Asian hinterland. And Epaphras
as a close associate of Paul (Col. 1:6-7; 4: 13; Phm. 23) likely bro ught the
gospel 10 Colossae at Paul 's behest: converts of Epaphras would certainly
know and honor the name of Paul , even though most of them would never
have me t him permnally (2: I: see also Introduction. pp. 22f.). At all events,
the Colossian recipients of the leiter would have no do ubt that the Paul
named at the head of the leiter was the famo us/infamous missionary who

I. NEBIREB IllInslate ··coI.Ieagllt," O· Brien Moo- worker" : .'iCC n. 10 below.

2. SevernJ. including RSV/NRSV, Masson. O·Brien, and Alen i, run the IWO phrases logciher.
"10 the saims and faithful Inthren in Christ ~t Colos.sac·' (RSV). It would also be possible to take
trrto~ as an adjective: ··hol y and faithful brolhcrs in Christ at Colosse·· (NI V). but see, e.g., Oibelius,
KoW~ ~ Ep~St~ Philtm()fI 4; Schweizer, Colossians 30: Bruce. Colossians, Philemon, (lJU/ Epht·
nOllS 39; Harris 9 .
3. ' ·Believing brothers" (as in cffcci by R. Bultmann. TDfIfT 6.2 14, followed by Lohse.
Colossians tlnd Philcm()/l 9; O·Brien. Colossllllu. Philemo/l 4) would be tautologous (Harris 9).
NEB's ··broLhers in the faith' · and REB ·s ··fcllow·believers'" are too far from the Greek.
4. To avoid the gender·specific ··brothers.·' NRSV u-.mslates such references as ··broJbcr.>
and sisters:· In a historic text, however. il is better to retain the original usage. while DOling that
women within these congregations would have under-stood Ihallhc: term included them: to that e~tent
it was nOl gcnder specific.
5. Some manuscriplS and \~rsion s add ··ksus:' presumably because the. scribes were accus-
tomed to !he fuller title. cchoinS 1: 1. but forgetful of 01" less familial" with the regular Pauline usagc
Min ClIriSl.'"
6. Some prominent witne sses add " and the {or our] Lord ksus Christ.·· to accord with the
fuller formula, which is an almoSt invariable feature of the earlicr Pau line lctters (Rom. 1:7: I Cor.
1:3: 2 Cor. I :2: Gal. I :3; Phil. I :2: 2 Tbes. 1:2: Ptlm. 3: also Eph. I :2: I TIles. I : I is sliShlly different).
7. See, e.g.. DoIy 29·)0; and Il"IOR: gcnerally S . K. StO'olo·crs. Lmu Writing In Gre;:o.. Roman
Iwiquity (Philadelphia: WestminsteT. 1986); J. L. White, LigllJ from A,,, ( Philadelphia:
Fortress. 1986); D. E. Aune, The New Tt!stamtnt in Its Ult!rary Em'irotll7lt!nt (Philadelphia: WeSl.
minster. 1987) t58-82; D. Pardee. P. E. Dion. and S. K. Stowcrs, ABO 4.282-93: P. T. O· Bricn , DPI...
44 COLOSSIANS 1;1 45

had brought the message of a Jewish Messiah/Christ so effectively to Gen- This is all the more striking hcre if Paul was not in fact the founder
tiles. of the Colossian church. For it indicates that Paul saw his authori ty as apostle
Does any of this have any bearing on whether me leller was written/dic- extcnding more gencrally to Gcntile churchcs (Ro m . 11 : 13; Gal. 2:7, 9),
tated by Paul himself or by one of his close disciples/associates in his n am~? even though an apostle's authority related most directly to the churchcs
The answer is unclear. A letter that claimed his authority and bore hiS he/she had founded (I Cor. 9: 1-2: 2 Cor. 10: 13-16). Here a comparison with
signature (4: 18) would carry great we ight in ~ ~cnti le Christian ~o ngrega­ Romans is relevant. For there, too, Paul was w riting to churches that he had
lions of the region. And if modem scholarship IS persuaded by differences not founded. But in that case he was all 100 conscious th:lt he could not claim
of style and emphasis that the letter cannot have been compo.sedldi.ctat~ by the authorit y of the founder (Ro m. 1: 11- 12). In contms!. in Colossians there
Paul himself, that still leaves the possibility that Paul (incapac itated In poson) is no simi lar sense of embarrassmcnt at claimi ng the rig hl 10 a hearing that
approved a letter written in his name and willingly appended his signature olhcrs mig ht question. This suggests therefore a sense of personal identifi-
to a document whose central thrust and main outlines he approved of, even cation with evangelistic and paslor.t.i work c arried out by his inuncdiate circle
if the details were not stated quite as he would himself (see fUrlhcr p. 38 in of associates. which agai n wou ld help e xplain both how Paul could be
the lntroouction). Either way. the authority of the apostle lay behind the introduced as apostle in re lation to a church founded by o ne of hi s team
letter. and that would be sufficielll to ensure that the letter was treasured by (Epaphras. see o n I :7) and how a letter (perhaps) written for Paul by one of
the Colossians and/or other of the other churches to which the letter was these (Timothy?) could qui te properly bear his name and authoriry.
circulated (cf. 4: 16). subsequently to be included in the earliest colJection(s) In that case It IS to be noted that the title "'apostle" is reserved for Pau l
of Paul's letters. (contrast I Cor. 4 :9: I Thcs. 2:6-7): only Paul had that breadth of mandate
As usual in the Pauline le tters. a descriptive phrase is attached to the ("apostle to the Gentiles") wh ich gave him apostolic authority in refere nce
name itself: "an apostle of Christ Jesus." In wider usage the tcrm "apostle" to a church not founded by him.
could bear the sense "authorized emissary" (BAG D S.v. U1t60"tOAOC;). Thi s That the authoritative and authorizing agent thus represented is named
sense was familiar in the Pauline churches. as 2 Cor. 8:23 and Phil. 2:25 si mply. ~ "<:hrist Jesus" is sig nificant. Christ Jesus was evidentJy the sing le
make clear: authorized emissary of particular churches. But as always in most dlsllllctlVe and characteristic identifying and bonding fac tor for these new
Paul's claims for his own apostleship, the claim is that his commi ssion and groups. What could legitimately claim his au thority ("apostle of Christ Jesus")
authorization came directly fro m Christ Jesus. It is as a representative o f and had to be given first call on attention and obedience. Bchind the two words
spokesman for Christ Jesus. therefore, that Paul would lay claim to a hearing "Chr~st Jesus," th~refore, we must understand a whole body of preachi ng and
_ no t simply as spokesman for some agreed tradition or some church teachlll~ about Chnst Jesus, on w hic h the Colossian congregation was founded
council. And for Paul that meant a commission and authorizatio n equal in ~ whJch could be summed up in these two words (see further on 2:6). It is
weight to that of the earliest and most prominent Christian leadership ( I Cor. Important to note then the surpri sing fact that this Jesus is here identified for
15:5- 11 : 2 Cor. 12: 11 - 12; Gal. 2:7-9). In other words, the added phrase is ~th Paul and his Gentile audience simply by the epithet ··Christ. ·· The Jewish
not merely a matter of providing fuller identification, as though the name Utle " Messiah." translated iOlo Greek as "Christ." had become so fixed a<;
" Paul" was insuffic ient. It is also and stilt more a claim to authorit y and Sufficient identification o f who this Jesus was and what the message abo ut him
respect. The earlier crisis in Galatia had called Paul' s autho rit y in queslion amouOled to, that even for predominantly Gentile churches no furth er epithet
and had evidently persuaded him of the need to assert it forcefull y (Gal. Was required. That is to say, the fundamentally Jewish chamcter of this Jesus
I : I), so that in his subsequent letters where a strong display of authority was (a J~W) ~ of the message about him (Jewish Messiah) was one o f the most
necessary he made a point of introducing h imself by means of his Christ- basl.c a.xlOtns and presuppositions of the new movement, which was a lready
authorized title "apostle" (Rom . 1:1; 1 Cor. I:L 2 Cor. 1:1). Given the beglll rung to bear the name "Christian " (Acts 11 :26).
vario us paralle ls wi th Galatia ns (see the introduction to 2:6-4:6), however, The importance of this observation is only partly diminished by tbe
it is noticeable that, in contrast to Galatians. there is no hint here that Paul fact
n that "ChfISt ' " was a I ready we II on th: way 10 becoming simply another
felt his apostolic authority to be in question.S ~me for Jesus (as usual, bu t not always III Pau l, there is no definite article
With "Ch n' SI"). I n at h er words It. .IS not clear how much the titular fo rce of

8. f"{lr bibliography on ""apo§tlc" sec J. A . Kirlr.. '" Apostleship sioce Reng$l.orf: To .... ards a
Synthesi s.·· NTS 21 (1974·7S) 249.64; J .· A. BUhner. EDN1' 1.142-46; F. Agne .... , "The Origin of the
P. W. Barnel l. DPL 45,5 t. Nielsen 108·9 makes the surprising e\aim that abstnce of any n:fe~nce
l'OI' Apostle.Concept: A Review of Re:;earch," J8L lOS ( 1986) 7S· \I6; H. D. Be~ A.BD 1.309-11; to the n.·dve amounts 10 an attack on Ihem and rejection of their aposlolic !>latus.
the word Messia h wou ld still be heard by people like the Colossians (though se.e ~I s~, on 1:9 and 4: 12) as elsewhere (BAGO S.v. eD.w 2: "God/the gods
see p. 43 n. 5). Certainly it had been a fundamental concern for the first Wll hn~ ), but here the phrase rounds out a mutuaHy reinforcing mesh of
Christians to assert thai Jesus, despite or rather precisely because of hi s authonty: Paul a~ apostle of Christ Jesus. Jesus as Christ owned and autho-
suffering and death, was indeed God's Messiah, predicted by psalmist and rized by God, and God as the one God of Israel through whose Messiah and
prophet (particularly Psalms 22 and 69 and Isaiah 53), but i, was an assertion apostle good news is ex tending 10 the nations. Here not least is evoked the
which became so taken for granted already within the Gentile mission of ch~cteristic Jewish .understanding of time and history as a process working
Paul that only a few echoes of its conrroversial character remain in his letters out Ifl accordance With a predetermined purpose of God, with Ihe further
(most notably I Cor. I :23).9 Nevertheless, it remains a striking fac t that this particularly Christian inference that Messiah Jesus is the climax of that
designation of Jesus, whose signifi cance could only be made clear by refer· purpose and Paul his eschatological emissary (cf. I Cor. 4:9; see funher on
ence to distincti vely Jewish beliefs and hopes and which in Jewish thought 1:25-26),
was typically bound up with nationalistic aspirations of the Jewish people, In this opening greeting Pau l conjoins one other name: " Timothy."
could thus function for GentiJe Christians as the sole summary identification The formulation matches that of 2 Cor. I: I exactly. Timothy features more
of the Jesus in whom they believed. Thai is to say, fundamental to their freq~ently in. Paul's. letters Ihan any of Paul's other associates and is given
belief as Gentile Christians was their recognition and affirmation of Jesus SpeCial prominence ill several of the greetings (Rom. 16:2 1; 2 Cor. I: 1; Phil.
as the Messiah of Israel. I: I; I The~. I: I; 2 I:l ; Phm. 1). He also served as Paul's emissary in
In the same connection it may be relevant to note that in Colossian s seye~1 ~ehc~te negotiations (1 Cor. 4: 17; 16: 10; Phil. 2: 19; I Thes. 3:2, 6).
the word order is consistently "Christ Jesus," rather than "Jesus Chris!" All this IS remforced b.y the various Acts references (e.g., 17:1 4·1 5; 19:22)
(but see on 1:3), whereas in the undisputed PauJines " Jesus Christ" is used and th~ two leuers to Timothy and leaves the strong impression that Timothy
regul arly, in most of the letters more frequently than "Christ Jesus" (the was Widely known among the churches influenced by Paul (including, there-
precise statistics are greatly confu sed by textual variations). This is one of fore, Colossae) as Paul's most trusted right· hand man. Nevertheless his
the small stylistic features that suggest a different hand than Paul's in Colos· prominence here is somewhat surprising. For in the other cases where he
sians. More to the above poim, since "Jesus" would presumably be under· appears as coauthor he has been very acti vely invol ved with the churches
stood as the personal name, "Christ" would probably be heard as a descrip· addressed (Corinth, Philippi, Thessalonica), whereas here there is no hint
tive or honorific epithet and thus have retained something at least of ilS titular that he had had any more personal involvement wi th Ihe Colossians than
force ("Messiah Jesus") even for Greek speakers. Perhaps, then, the titular Paul himself had. This could reinforce the possibility that in thi s case, of the
significance of the name " Christ" resonated louder for the writer of Colos· two authors named. Timot.hy had in fact greater responsibility for composing
sians than for Paul himself. ~e letter than Paul had, Wi th Paul approvi ng the content, adding his personal
As in the two Cori nthian epistles (and Ephesians) the rooting of Paul's slg~alUre. and named fi rst out of respect (cf. Schweizer, Colossians 23.24;
apostolic authority in Christ Jesus is furth er clarified (or qualified) by the ~~Ilka, Kolosserbrief28; Wall 36: contrast, e.g., Yates, C%ssian.f 5: " he
addition of '; through the will of God ," a legitimation formula (Wolter 47 IS m no se~e ~o-author of the letter ": see further above, p. 38).
compares Tob. 12: 18). It is characteristic of the opening paragraphs of Paul's . The slgmficance of the description of Timothy as "brother" is not
letters that he takes care to provide what we might call balancing mentions entirely c1.ear.1t could reflect a sense of national kinship; Timothy was Jewish
of Christ and God (cf. Rom. 1:1. 7·8; Gal . 1:1; Phil. 1:3-4; 1 Thes. 1:1·3). ~ug.h hiS moth.e~ (AClS 16:.1: .cf., ~.g., Lev. 19:17; Deut. 15: 12; lsa. 66:20;
Christ Jesus is nowhere thought of as an authority independent of God. On b. 1:3). But rehglOus aSSOCiatIOns 10 the wider Hellenistic world also spoke
the contrary, the fact that God is the ultimate source of reference and authority ~f their members as " brothers" (BAGO s.v. a&A.$6c; 2; K. H. Schelkle, RA C
is repeatedly indicated . Of course, appeal to the wiU of God is something of 22~31-40: .N~/~C 2:49.50), ~s at Qumran (Josephus, War 2. 122; IQS 6: 10.
a commonplace in Paul (e.g .. Rom. 1: 10: 15:32: Gal. I :4: I Thes. 4:3: 5: 18; M ' co 6.20, 7.1-2, IQSa 1.1 8; IQ~ 13:1; 15:4,7; see also on PhIn. 2).
o~eover, Jesus was remembered as 10 effect advocating a new model of
fanul y and kinship ~ark 3:31-35), and the sense of disciples as brothers
9. See particulllrl), Juel chs.. 4 and S: "the confession of Je.~us as Messiah is ll1e presuppo!oitiOl'l
gathere~ round Jesus 10 a new family unit is strong in the Gospels (e.g.,
for NT christology but not ilS cootenC (175. I n ). Still ju5tifiabl), jnfluentialan: the e$Uys by N . A.
Dahl. " The Messiahship of Jesus in Paul " (1953) and " The Crucified Me$$iah" (1960). ~printed ~alt. 5.22·24. 47; 7:3·5; 18:15.21,35) as elsewhere in Paul (Rom. 1:1 3:
in Jaus tlot! Christ: Tht! lIiJlOricDI Origins ofChristo/Qgkal Doc,riM (Minnea polis: Fortress. 1991) 3: 1,4; 8: 12, .29; etc.; but see al so the introduction to the commenlS on
IS-47 . . 18-4: 1). It IS not surprising, therefore, that Hbrother" had become a title
48 COLOSS IANS J : 1-2 49

of respect (" the brother") and that Paul should so speak of severa,' of, hi~ to local Jewish synagogues. we may further infer that there was a fair degree
colleagues or particular Christians (Rom. 16:23: I Cor. 1: I: 16: 12: Phd . 2.25. of toleration on the part of many such synagogues for Ihese house groups
cr. 2 Cor. 8: 18: 9:3. 5: 12: 18), As such the lenn indicates warmth of rrat~mal meeting under the banner of Israel's diaspora - "the saints in Colossae,
feeling and common (spiritual) kinship rather than a title or office reslncled Laodicea, Ephesus. etc." In that case the situation seems 10 have deleriorated
to a few spec ial individuals. to _ within a generation (cc. Rev. 2:9: 3:9).
1:2 'tOIO:; £V KO/..O<Joaic; ayiOl(; xexlnHn:oic; aoc~'jc; tv XptO"t~. X&Pll; In some contrast the further epithet "faithful brothers" is without
u).I\V xed £{pflv'1 ano SEo\) 1tct'tPOC; TlI..lWv. Again as custon~ and, common parallel in Paul's greetings. "Brothers" he uses regularly as an address
sense dictated identification of aUlhor(s) is fo llowed by designauon of re- outside the salutation (see 011 I : I). but "faithful" is a category he uses
~ipients. Alth~ugh Colossae was clearly past the pe~ of its importanC,e and sparingly for humans (only five times in the undisputed Paulines) - perhaps
was now overshadowed by its near neighbor La()(hcea (see pp. 20r. In the because his theology focused so much on "faith" rather than on failhfulness
Introduction). there wa<; evidently a thriving Christian group there. T~at (see my Romalls 200-201.238). It may be significant, then. that the term
Epaphras was a nalive of the city (4: 12) would also giv~ it a particular cl:um "faithful" occurs four limes in thi s connection in Colossians (1:2, 7; 4:7, 9),
on Paul's attention. Whether the challenges confrontmg the church there twice in Ephesians, and nine times in the letters to Timothy (including " the
were more widespread (affecting also Laodicea? - cf. 4: 16) we ~~no~ say. faithfu l ones," 1 lim. 4:3. 12). Given also that one of Paul's few usages
To address his readers as "saints" is another regular and dlstlncuvely refers to Timothy himself as " faithful " (l Cor. 4: 17), it raises again the
Pau line feature of Paul's salutalions (Rom . 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2: 2 Cor. 1: I; Phil. question as to whether the letter was dictated by Paul or composed by
I: I : alsO' Eph. I : I ; but here, as in Rom. 1:7 and Phi~; I : I, .without describi~g Timothy. for whom "faithful " may have been a favorile epithet.
them as ·'church" ). The substantive ("the holy ones ) denves from ~e CUltlC On the assumption that any departure from customary practice is
idea of holiness as a being "sel apan from everyday usage, dedicated. to probably significant. we may deduce here that Pau l and Timothy chose to
God." That idea of holiness was familiar in Hellenistic cults. but oth~rwlse use this uncustomary address to reinforce their primary appeal. They wished
it is a characteristic and overwhelmingly Jewish category. As applied to 10 stress that these Chri stians. unknown to them personally, were neverthe-
persons. the most obviously "holy" individuals were the priests and Le.v~tes less brothers just as much as Timothy himself was. And they complimented
(e.g., Lev. 21:7 -8; Num. 16:5-7: 2 Chron. 35:3: Ps. 106: 16), though Nazmtes their addressees on their fai thfulness. fearing that they might prove unfaith-
(Num. 6:5-8) and prophets (2 Kgs. 4:9) cou ld also be so designated. In tenns ful (d. Lightfoot 130; Masson 89). It was precisely the Colossians' con-
of "set-apartness" to God the most holy ones are angels (e.g .• Job 15: 15; linued commitment as brothers. members of the new fami ly gathered
Ps. 89:5 , 7: Dan. 8:13: Zech. 14:5). Most relevant here. however. is the fact around Christ Jesus, that the writers wanted to encourage and sustain
that the people of Israel as a whole were quite often called " the holy (Aleni, Epilre (lUX Colossiells 46). The two phrases in the address could
ones/saints" in Jewish literature (e.g.• Pss. 16:3: 34:9; Dan. 7:18; 8:24; Tob. be taken together (see n. 2), but even if we follow the natural phrasing of
8: 15: Wis. 18:9; also Qumran: IQSb 3:2 and IQM 3:5: see funher ABD the Greek and take them separately there is no suggestion that two distinct
3.238-39). What is striking, therefore, is that Paul felt able to incorporat.e or even overlapping groups are envisaged (as though not all the "saints in
into this distinctively Jewish self-description small gatherings of predomI- Colossae" were " faithful brothers in Christ" ), simply an encouragement
nantly Gentile believers in Christ Jesus (d. E~st, Pllilipper. ~hilemo", to the saints to demonSlrate their continuing commitment and loyalty as
Kolosser. £pheser 153; Wright. Colonia"s and Ph,lemon 47). The Important brothers in Christ.
inference is that Paul understood these Gentiles to have been incorporated . That should be all the more possible because their standing and per-
into Israel. the people of God, through faith in and baptism in the name. of SIstence as brothers was "in Christ." Their brotherhood was not one of blood
Messiah Jesus - thal is, without becoming Jewish proselytes (by be~ng ~Iat.ionship, but rather the spiritual bond of the shared experience of believ-
circumci sed). And since there is no hint that this designation was offenSive I~g III Christ Jesus and knowing that they were accepted by and through
him .. And this shared experience was itself a source of enabling for their
persistence. The phrase " in Christ" is itself a classic expression of distinctive
to. As argued particularly by E. E. Ellis, "P.J.ul and his Co-Workers." NTS J7 ( 19?0-? 1) PaUline theology (occurring more than eighty times in the Pauline letters;
437.S2, reprin.w in his Prophuy 3·22: also his I'auline Thr%gy 97-98: f()llow~ by 0 Bnen. elsewhere in the New Testament only in I Peter; see SAGO s. v. tv I.Sd). It
Colo$jians, PhilelftlJfl 3: and s= A. I above. For family images used by Paul see partoc::ularly Banks.
Idea 61 -7 1: see also R. P. Martin. The Family (1I1d Ihl! F..IIOt<·slUp: New Te.Slameru /m(lll!j tf the
summed up the fact that for Paul the decisive factor in delennining identilY
Church (Exeter. Palemor;ter, 1979) 123·25.
for the people of God was no longer the Temple cult (" set apart ... in
50 COLOSSIANS t :2 51

Christ," not set apart by reference to t~e Je~salem Temple) ~nd ~o IO~lger 1 Pet. 1:2; 2 Pet. 1:2; and Rev. 1:4 also probably renect the innuence of
ethnic kinship. but thai relation to Chn st which the phrase epltoml~. . Paul's formu lation. As all commentators rightly note. Pau l seems deliberately
Whal that relation amounled to is less clear since the phrase Itself IS to have adapted the regular Greek greeting, XUiPEIV ("hait. greeting"), by
so brief. Some uses have become so fonnulaic thai they could almost be replaci ng it with Xap l~ ("grace") and to have linked it with the characteristic
translated "Christian" (as some in fact would translate passages like 2 Cor. Jewish greeting. salom = d pflvll ('" peace") .12 The more common Jewish
12: 2; Gal. 1:22 ; I Thes. 2: 14), But presumabl y the ori ginal and primary association was " mercy" with "peace" (Num. 6:25-26: Ps. 85: 10; Isa. 54: 10;
usage must have been more dynamic than that (Rom . 8: 1-2 ; 12:5; 1 Cor. Tob. 7: 12 v.i.; Sir. 50:23-24: 3 Mace. 2:19-20: Jub. 22:9: J Enoch 5:5-6
4:15b; 2 Cor. 2: 17; 5:17 ; 12: 19, etc.), Nor can il denote simpl y the act of Greek: Slremoneh 'Esrelr 19).13
believing the message about Christ. otherwise the " in" would hardly have This was an effective way of underlining one of the most important
become so established. Rather aI the rool of the phrase there seems to be a fea tures of the new Christian vocabulary. For though XaplC; would be familiar
sense of intimate and existential relmionship with Christ, as the "~ith enough in wider speech, in the sense panicularly of "favor" (LSJ), the word
Christ" also suggests - that is. with Christ as a living personality, nsen had been taken up by Christians to epitomize the dynamic outreaching
from the dead (note especially Rom. 6:3- 11; see 2: 12- 13. 20: 3:3-4). And generosity of God which they had experienced through the gospel and the
the £v seems to indicate an integration of pen;onal (and soc ial) identity with Spirit (see my Jesus 202-5: and further on 1:6 and 3: 16). Here again Paul
this Christ (in some real sense " in" Christ: cf. Gal. 2: 20). as the correlated has clearly left his stamp on Christian thought, for 100 of the 155 New
phrase " into Christ" (Rom. 6:3: I Cor. 12: 13; Gal. 3: 27; and see on 2:5) Testament uses of the word occur in the Pauline letters. and if the Pauline
and the image of " the body of Christ" (Rom. 12:4-5: I Cor. 12: 12-27;. . sections of Acts are included, we can say that more than two-thirds of New
on t : t 8) also imply (thus also a foml of Adam christology ---:- Ernst,. Phl~~I?­ Testament usage is Pauli ne. His prayer in effect is that the grace that fi rst
per. Philemon. Kolosser. Epheser 154). The fr~quency with which In set the Colossian Christians apart as "saints" will continue to enable them
Christlhimlwhom" appean; is a feature of ColOSSi ans (1 :2. 14, 16, 17, 19, to remain faithful as " brothers."
28 ; 2;3, 9, 10, 11 , 12, 15). The richness of the Jewish greeting " peace" should not be lost sight
That this involves a conception of "Christ" as one whose personal of since it denotes not simply cessation of war but all that makes for well-
identity is retained but who is more than a human individual is cII~ar enough. being and prosperity in the absence of war, and not simply individual or
but analogies from human and social experience quickJy prove madequate. inner peace, but also the social wholeness of harmonious relationships (e.g.,
We may wish to speak of a mystical identity, so long as that is not seen as Pss. 72: 1-7: 85; 147: 14: Isa. 55: 12: Zech. 8: 12: see furth er W. Foerster and
world-denying or as turning one's back on the world Ohe " in Chri st" ?f G. von Rad, TDNT2.400-420). Like " grace" it is a characteristically Pauline
Paul is also very much in the world - c.g., Rom. 15: 17- 19; Gal. 2:4; PhiL term (43 of the 91 New Testament occurrences appear in the Pauline letters:
I: 13). The crucial fearure of the phrase, however, is, as already indicated. see further on 3: 15).14 The greeting was particularl y appropriate to a com-
that it enabled Paul to realign the identity of the people of God away from munity where personal and corporate tensions were in danger of rend ing the
questions of ethnic descent and national custom to integration with this Jesus, community's harmony, as in most of the churches addressed by Paul. That
who, even as Israel's Messiah. transcended such definitions and concerns Paul and Timothy could use it in a letter to an unknown Gentile church
(particularly Gal. 3:26-29). Assuming that Epaphras was a fai thful ex ~nent implies that such churches of the Pauline mission would be as familiar with
of Paul's gospel, all this wou ld have been implicit for the Colosslan re- such Jewish heritage as they were wi th the characteristic Paul ine evocation
ci pients. . of di vine grace.
The greeting that follows is one of the most regular 10 the That God is the only source of this grace and peace could be taken for
Pauline leuers (see n. 6). Onl y I Thes. I: I differs markedly (contammg only granted, as also thai God is Father. In traditional Greek religious thought
the fi rst part _ "grace to you and peace" - perhaps an indication of i~s Zeus was regularly described as " Father of both men and gods," and the
bei ng Paul's fi rst letter. composed before he s~rtled on what became hl.~
established fonn), and I and 2 TImothy add ' grace. mercy. and peace. 12. All the utlim Bar Kokhba lellers (ABD 1.60 1-6) U!C the single word grttting, la/om.
13. See further K. Bt-rger. " Aposttlbrief und aposwiische Redc . Zum Formular frilh-
chriStJicber Bricfe." ZNW65 (1914) 19G-231. here 197-200.
I I. For the signi rlCallCe of the phTllSC see my ) I!SiU 323-24: C. F. D. Moule. The Origin of t4. lbere are 110 grounds forthe suggestion thaI the epistolary usage here rdlccu. Hellenistic
Chrisu;wgy (Cambridge: Cambridge University. 1917) 47-96: A. J. M. Wedderburn. "Some Ob5cr- IIIlderstanding or peace "and no longer the Paulinc eschatological ~h"om " (ptxfl V. Hasler. ED,VI"
v.nom on Paul's Use of the Phnls<s 'in ChriSl' .nd •... ith Christ.' n J S"'" 25 ( 1985) 83-97. 1.391).
52 COLOSSIANS 1:2-23 53

image of God/god as fat her was equally familiar in Greek philosophy and EXTENDED THANKSGIVING (1:3-23)
in the mystery culfs (BAGO s.v. 1ta'tftp 3a-c: G. Schrenk, TDNT 5.95 1-56).
The appeal here , however. is. of course, nOl 10 Ihis more widespread religious Paul's open ing prayer follows no regular pattern. At most we can say that
instinct within Hellenistic polytheism but to the one God of Israel. Here not his usual bUI by no means constant custom was to assure his readers of his
least the modem reader has to hear the taken-for-granteds thai do not need thanks and prayers for them (Rom. I :8-9: Phil. 1:3-4: 1 Thes. 1:2; Phm . 4;
explicit expression. It was so axiomatic that the Christian gospel was good so here in v. 3: also Eph. 1: 15- 16: cf. I Thes. 3:9-10). Beyond that, however,
news of the one God of Israel that it need not be spelled OUI in Paul 's leiters there is no fixed. pattern. Here the opening announcement of thanksgi ving
(as it would have to be in a first preaching: d . 1 Thes. 1;9- 10 wilh Acts and prayer ( I :3) IS expanded by the elaboration of each in tum. The closest
14, 15- 17 and In2-3 1). parollels are in Philippians and Philemon and panly 2 Thessalonians (cf. the
What is Slriking here, as in Paul 's regular use of the phrase in his analysis in Schubert 54-55):
glcctings, is that a relationship claimed particularly by Israel for itself (e.g ..
Deue 32:6; Isa. 63: 16 ; JeT. 3 1:9: Mal. 1:6; Tob. 13:3-4) and forthe righteous Col. Phi!. Phll/. 2 Thess.
within Israel (Wis. 2: 13, 16, 18; Pss. Sol. 13:9) is appropriated also by Gemile
U stalement of thanksgiving and prayer U-4 4
believers: "our God. " Paul's implicit claim is that by accepting the gospel 1,4-8 elaboration of than ksgiving 15-8 5 U- IO
of Christ and his Spirit Gentiles were incol"JX'ratcd into Israel/the fam ily of 1:9- 14 elaboration of prayer 1,9- 11 6 l:J1 -12
God, now redefined as .. the household of faith " (Gal. 6: 10; see also on 1:3).
The omission of the regu larly accompanying phrase "and of the Lord 9uite .excepti o n~l. however, is the further elaboration in the form of a hymn
Jesus Christ" (see n. 6) is surprising. It cannot be (hat Paul and Timothy did III prruse of Chnst ( I: 15-20) and its particular application to the Colossians
not want to associate Christ as an equal source of the grace and peace 0:2 1-23), which maintains the spirit of praise and thanksgiving in a way
(references in n. 6). That would hardly accord with the high status ascribed unparalleled in the undisputed Paulines (cf. Schuben 14-16 and Pokorny 45;
to Christ elsewhere in the letter (l : 15-20: 2:9), and in the very nex t breath the extended thanksgiving in I Thessalonians is more closely parallel to the
they speak of God as ';the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" ( I:3). Nevellhe- personal statement that follows in 1:24-2:5).
less, it may be deliberate that before embarking on the exposition of Christ's We may at once deduce that Paul's thanksgiving and prayer for his
full significance, the ultimate supremacy of the one Goo and Father is thus readers was by no means simply conventional. Rather, the variation of fonn
given prominence. The likelihood is strengthened by the fonnulation used and content must imply that he shaped his sentiments to reflect the real
in the thanksgiving in 1:3 (see on 1:3). ~ituations of his readers (as he knew them), even omiuing them altogether
III the case of Galatians (contrast 2 Cor. 1:3-7)~ In other words, these are
real prayers, however many conventional elements (see on 1:4) Paul or the
one writing in his name incorporated.
The extended thanksgiving here is also significant in that it indicates
that the w~ters had no urgency of anxiety regarding the silUation confronting
the Colosslan church. Again in marked contrast to Galatians, where the crisis
call~d for immediate attention, quite disrupting the nonnal epistolary pleas-
antnes, Paul and Ti~othy here seem remarkably relaxed and in an expansive
mOOd. However senous the threat posed to the Colossian believers it could
be addressed at a more leisurely pace and the response built up to gradually.

Thanksgiving (1:3-8) As in Ihe olher Pauline [etters. the Ihemes and language of the thanksgiving are
echoed in Ihe rest of the letter (0 ' Brien, TlwlIksgivings, 69; Mullins 29 1), fro m
) We thank God. tile Father of our Lord Jesu.f Christ, I always IJrayillg [or2 which MuUins concludes that the Slructure and chamcter of the thanksgiving
)'ou, 4 having heard of your faith in Christ Jes~ls and of tll~ love Ihm )'OI~ are Pauline and provide no argument for post- Pauline authorship (against
IUlve for all the safrlts 5 o n accoulIl of the hope fOld up for )'011 m the he~ vel1s. LOOse). " He might we ll be reproducing the kind of utterance he was accus-
Of this yO/I heard earlier ill the word of til e, t~lIth of~he gos!)ef, 6 wluCh,'W! tomed to make in solemn liturgica[ gathe rings of his churches .. . . the liturgical
come to yOll, just as also ill all the world If IS beaTlIIg Irwi and growmg. (or quasi-li turgical) utterances of a practical pastor and apost[e" (Ho ulden 149).
so also il is among )'011 from the day on whiell ),011 heard alld caine 10 know 1:3 EuXap UJ"tOUIl£V l<!> aE<!> ncupl lOU xupio\) T'lIl<l>v ' I'loo\) XpIOlO\)
the grace of God in truth, 1 tJS you leam ed it f rom Epaphras. our beloved naVlolE 1tEpl UIlOOv npooEux6Jl£VOI. A characteristic fealure of the ancient
fellow slave. He il' a faithful senmlt ojChrisrS 0 11 our6 behalf, 8 and he has art o f letter writing was the congratulatory thanksgi ving ) In Paul. too, it
made clear to us )'Ollr love ill the Spirit. follows a reg ular pattern: a thanksgiving (EUXapIOlEiV) addressed to God ;
stressing hi s (unceasing) prayerfu l concern for the readers, with the subject
The beginning of (he extended thanksgiving fall s naturally into a . chiaslic of thanksgiving usually the fai th they display (in I Corinthians the ir rich
pattern (Dibelius, Ko losser, Eplleser. Philemon 5; cf. Lohse, Colosswns Clnd experience of grace rather than their fai th). The closest paral[eI here is I Thes.
Phi/emo" 14): 1:2-3 and, perhaps significantly, Phm . 4-5. The plural "we thank." may imply
a conscious ly d ouble aUlhorship (Timothy and Paul). si nce elsewhere in Paul
(3) We thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, a lways praying the singular is more usual (Rom . 1:8; [ Cor. 1:4; Phil. 1:3; Phm. 4 : but note
fo r you. also I Thes. 1:2 and 2 Thes . [ :3) .8
(4) havi ng heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that The most interesting variation bere is the insenion o f the phrase " the
you have for all the sa ints (5), . . . Father o f our Lord Jesus Chri st." It is a phrase that Paul uses a number o f
Of this you heard earlier in the word of the truth of the gospeL times - usually in the fo nn " the God and Father of o ur Lord Jesus Christ"
(6) which has come \0 you, (Rom. 15:6; 2 Cor. [ :3: [ 1:3 1; al so Eph. 1:3, 17; [ Pel. 1: 3). Contai ned in
just as also in all the world it is bearing fruit and growing, it is the implicit Christian claim that God . the one God made known to Israel.
so also it is among you from the day on which you heard and is now to be understood no longer simply as Father o f Israel, but most clearly
came lO know the grace of God in truth. (7) as you learned it as the Father of Jesus Christ, and only as such ';our Father," Father of
from Epaphras . .. Gentiles as well as Jews (see on 1:2).
(8) and he has made clear to us your love in the Spirit. More to the po inl. here again, us in I :2, the re may be a deliberate
attemplto stress the sa le sovereignty of God al the beginning of a letter that
(9) That is why we also. ever since we heard, have nO( ceased to pray focuses so mucb on the divine status o f Christ (see again on I :2). The
on your behalf and to ask that you ... significance is aU the greater, the greater weight we see in the attac hment
o f XUpt~ ( "Lord") to " Jesus Christ" (see also on 2:6). Given the degree
I. The omi ss ion of " Christ" by B a nd a fe w o thers is probabl y accid ental. since the full of heavenly majesty and divine authority that that title carried (particularly
formula is characteristic of the fo nnalities at the bo:gin ning and end of Paul's !etten;. Rom . 10: 13: I Cor. 8:5-6: Phil. 2:9- 11 ; see further. e.g" my Romans 607-9),
2. Some important manuscripts ha"e c hanged the up! ("concerning") to ioltlp ("00 behal f it is imponant to recognize that Paul and Ti mothy begin by reminding the ir
of"). presumably on the ground that il strengthens the Intercessory characICT o f the ~yer ..but t~ readers that God is the Father of Jesus Chri st the Lord. or in the fulle r fonnula
former is Paurs more regular usage (Ro m. 1:8; I Cor. 1:4: I Thes.. t :2; 2 Thes. 1:3: vllip In Phll.
1:4; cr. 2 Cor. I: II and Eph. I: 16).
3. Fa di fferent ways of tak ing the Grull: §ee Harris 18. G NS eng ages in an elaborate 27 n. I: Pokorn y 44 n. SO; Wo lter 56). {boug h NA a nd UBS prefe r ~illYf"your" becau§e o f the
rewor\;i ng o f 1111. 5 and 6: '" When the true message. the Good News. fi rst came to you: you heard brtadth of SU ~ f'lI" the latter and beca use early copyists may have been influenced b y l\!J.illY and
abou t the hope it offeB. So yoor faith and love are boIsed on .... hal y~ hope f~. whICh IS kepc p re l\!J.iv in close proximity 00 ei ther side (Metzger 6 t9·20: Bruce. Colo.'l$imu. Phi/u nml. (md Ephesians
fa yoo in hca,·en. The gO&pel kccps bringing blessings and IS spn:~g. : .. 40 n. 7).
4. Some manuscripu omit " and gro .... ing." perhaps because It ... aIi Judged .1O ~ tautologous.. 7. Schuben 158~79; l>oI y 3 1-33; sununary in I...ohsc. CoIOilsimulJnd Philmwn 12; but su
5. TIle G reek could quite properly be u-ansiated here ""crvanl o f the Oms\. now Ant Sec also the introduction 10 PIlm. 4- 7 be lo w.
6. 1l>e more strongly auestcd and more diffi cu lt readi ng is undoubtedly l'u-tillY ('"ou r," 8. "Thae is no reason 10 th ink dUll SI. Paul e Ve!" uscs an 'e piSto lary' pl ural. referring to
fo llowed b y most com menta{OI1I a nd Il1I nsl ations e xcept NR SV: sec Mo ul e. C% u h"'s mw l'hile",o" himself sol el~" (Lightfoot 229 : cf. Gnilka. Ko/t»seriJrie/3 2).
56 COLOSSIANS 1:3-4 57

Paul uses more often. that God is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus And in Gal. 2: 16-3:26 he indicates by emphatic argument that this faith has
Christ. From the oulset, therefore. Paul and Timothy wish it to be understood now been given its eschatological focus in Chri st to become the single most
that the high chrislology to be enunciated shortly is kept within the con- detenninative characteristic of the new phase of God's saving purpose in-
srraints of Jewish monotheism. God the Father is the one 10 whom prayer troduced by Christ. What Paul and Timothy commend here, therefore, is the
should properly be offered (in 3: 17, as in Rom. 1:8, the thanksgiving is way in which the Colossians received the message about Christ (as Abr.tham
directed to God '; through him/J esus Christ"; Conzel mann 134 minks the received the promise of a son, Gen. 15:6; Romans 4; Galatians 3) and
mediatorship of Christ is implied also here), just as he is the ultimate source committed themselves in trust to the one so proclaimed, making Christ the
(" Father") of aU creation and all being. including the dignity and authority focu s and determinant of their lives from then on (see on 1:2, ;'in Christ").
of Jesus' Mess iahship and Lordship. One of the most interesting divergences from normal Pauline usage
The unceasing nature of this pmycr (naVTOt€, "always. at all times") comes in the phrase n:kJt\e; EV XPIOtcp ' I'looi) ("faith in Christ Jesus"). For
is one of the most characteristic features of Pau l's opening assurance of his Paul never so speaks. Normally he uses the noun phrase in the fonn niO't1e;
prayers for his readers, whether attached to the tUXaplcrt£iv C'thank" - ' ITlooi) XP10tOi) or an equivalent (Rom. 3:22, 26; Gal. 2:16, 20; 3:22; Phil .
I Cor. I :4; I Thes. 1:2: 2 Thes. I :3) or to the n:pooruX£09at ("pray." as in 3:9; see also 2:12). Some take this in the sense ;' the fait h(fuln ess) of Jesus
Rom. 1:10 and Phil. 1:4). Phm. 4, as here, could be taken ei ther way. Paul Christ," but almost cenainly it denotes "faith in Jesus Christ" (see my "Pis/is
could have meant that every time he prayed he remembered his various ChrislOu" and Gala/ians 138-39). He also uses the verbal form 7[\Ot€Ue\v
churches. Perhaps he maintained the Jewi sh practice of prayer three times a Eie; XPUJ1:0V ' ITlO'oi)v ("believe in Christ Jesus," Gal. 2:1 6; so also Rom.
day (cL Dan. 6: 11 ; Acts 3: I; 10:3: Didache 8:3), or perhaps he used the long 10: 14; Phil. 1:29 ; see also 2:5). BUI nowhere does he use EV with the dative,
hours of travel and of work in stitching to hold his churches before Goo (see as here (Gal . 3:26 is nOl an exception since the two prepositional phrases
also on 1:9 and 4:2). But not too much should be made of the language since there are independent of each other, as is generally agreed).9 In contrast the
it is an epistolary flourish characteristic of the perioo (O ' Brien, Colossians. letters more frequ ently accepted as post-Pauline use phrases similar to what
Philemon 10). The use ofm:p i ("concerning") rather than o1ttp ("on behalf we have here in 1:4 a number of limes (Eph. I: 15; I TIm . 3: 13; 2 lim. 1: 13;
of"; see n. 2) is sufficient to indicate that Paul saw his prayers not as a 3: 15; also J Clemem 22: I; 43: I). Here then is another suggestion that with
substitute for their own prayers but as a natural expression o f Christian love Colossians we are already moving beyond Paul's own usage. There is,
and concern. however, no significant di fference in meaning (if anything, the tv fonnulatio n
1:4 axoooavt£e; tilv 1Il(JtlV u~&v tv XplO'ttf,l ' hlO'oi) xaJ t~V ayun:'lv is more static), and the thought is otherwise wholly Pauline in character and
ilv fXEt£ de; n:avtru; tOUl; ayioW;. The congratulatory element focuses as emphasis.
usual on their faith (Rom. I :8) and love (I Thes. 1:3; 2 Thes. 1:3; and. The other element that draws the prayerful congratulation of Paul and
perhaps significantly. Phm. 5; also Eph. I : 15), That thi s is a malter of report TImothy is the Colossians' "'ove for all the saints." Here within the compass
rather than of personal knowledge confinns that Paul did not know the of ~ee short verses we have a third word (after "grace" and " faith") to
Colossi an church personally (though cf. Rom. I :8); the parallel with Phm. ~hlCh ,Christiani ty, and again Paul in particular (75 out of 116 occurrences
5 is again worth noting, It also reminds us that news of his churches wou ld ~n the New Testament), gave distinctive weight as a carrier of one of the
reach Paul regu larly along the trade routes. even to far-off Rome, though in I m~rtant and far-reaching emphases marking out Christianity among other
this case Epaphras seems to have made a special point of keeping Paul religl?ns of the time. For of the differen t Greek words for " love," aya1Ill
info nned ( 1:8), To be nOled also is the degree to which the vertical ("faith was htUe used al the time: it appears only rarely in nonbiblical Greek before
in Christ") was integrated with the horizontal (" love for the saints"). Paul the second or third century AD (c. Spicq, Theolog ical Lexicon of the New
would never have wanted these two to fall apart. Testamem rPeabody : Hendrickson, 1994) 1.8-22) and is relatively rare in the
Perhaps more than any other word, "faith" sums up the distincti ve
feature of the Christian gospel and life for Paul (see, e.g., G. Barth , EDNT 9, ~spile strQf\g suppol't (e.g., UghlfOOl 131: Dibelius. Kolo....tfr. EphtfStfr. PhiltfnlOn 5;
3.95). Rather like "grace" (see 1:2), Paul's use of "faith" dominates New Moule 49: Lohse. C%ulons and PJr.i/tf"lOll 16: Bruce. ColOSsians, Philemon. and EpMsiam 41 ;
Testament usage (142 of 243 occurrences). Its distinctive Pauline force is Wall 44-45; d. Masson 90 and n. 2). il is unlikely thaI tv XPI<Jt(j) should be taken as referrin 10
Ihe sphere I1Ilht:r than the objecl of ")'0lIl' faith," Where: Paul use.s nouns with "in ChriS!" (~ in
most evident in Romans 4, where he makes unforgettably clear the character R.~. 6:23; 8:39; lOr. 1:4: Gal. 2:4; 3:14), he /las in mind !be blessing thaI dcrh'es from Christ
of faith as sheer trust in the power and grace of God, as against a more ~d. IS gi \~n "in Chris!," nOl failh directed 10 Christ: and the para] leis in Ephesians and the Pastonlls
typical traditional Jewish emphasis on faithfulness (see on I :2, " faithful" ). "lIhcale clcar1y enough laIC Pau tine or post·Pauline u!i-llge (d. Mark 1:15).
58 COLOSS IANS 1:4-5 59

LXX. usually used there in reference 10 oonjugal love (though nole Jer. 2:2; nus sense is rei nfo rced by the description of the hope as " laid up
Wis. 3:9; 6: 18). Most of Pau l's references are 10 human love le.g .. Rom. (present tense) for you in the heavens." The verb has the basic sense of "be
12:9; 13: 10; I Cor. 13:1 - 14:1: 2 Cor. 2:4.8; Oal. 5:6, 13, 22): 50a150 in put away, stored up" (as in Luke 19:20). But it readil y gathered to itself the
Colossians (1:8; 2:2; 3: 14), BUI it is clear thai for Paul the self-sacrifice of richer sense o f something he ld in reserve for someone or some occasion as
Christ is Ihe definitive expression of this "love" (Rom. 5:6-8: 8:3 1-35; 2 Cor. a destiny (LSJ and BAGD s.v. an6x£I~al; Lohse, Colossians and Philemon
5: 14- 15; so also Col. 1: 13- 14: see further, e.g., O. Schneider, £DNT 1.1 0- 11). 18; so 4 Mace. 8: II ; Heb. 9:27) and in Jewish and Christian thought of
Presumably, therefore, this is what was in mind here - an active concern something retained by God fo r the appropriate time in God's fore ordained
For o ne another among Ihe Colossian Christians which did not stop short at plan (Gen. 49: 10; Job 38:23; Joseph and Asenath 15:10: "your wedding
sel f-sacrifice of personal imereslS - and not just for one another. if the "all robe ... laid up in your chamber since eternity"), including eschato logical
the saints" is to be taken seriously. Here may be indicated a network of reward (2 Macc. 12:45; 2 Tim. 4:8).11 The imagery thus gives " hope" a less
mutual support and encouragement as Ctuistians moved among the different typically Pauli ne sense of " thut which is hoped for" (rather than as the
towns in Asia Minor: a more specific reference to the collection for " the subjective experience o f hope), which some regard as another mark of
saints" in Jerusalem (Rom. 15: 16; 1 Cor. 16: I -as suggested by Ernst, post- Pauline authorsh ip (e.g., Bomkamm. " Hoffnung" 207; B. Mayer,
Philipper, Philemoll, Kolosser. Epheser 156) is less likely. Epaphras must EDNT 1.439), tho ugh the effect is the thoroughly Pauline one of expressing
have spoken very encouragingly of his Christian townsfolk. Fo r " the saints" full confidence that the sure purpose of God, not yet full y unveiled, will be
see on 1:2. revealed and realized in God's good time. This emphasis on the forward-
1:5 OU). nlV £An:i&t n'lv 6:JtOX.EI~vTlv \;IIllV tv t oi<; oupavol<;, flv looki ng character of the gospel may well be a first counter to a too realized
nporpc.oooatt tv t<!> MYf!> n;<; tUTl9€ia<; tOU Ew:yydiou. Gi ven the fac l element in the teaching to be countered in the body o f the letter (e.g., R. P.
that faith and love have already been given prominent mention, it should Martin, Colossians alld Philemoll 48; O'Brien, Colossians, Philemon 12),
occasion no surprise that the third member of the characteristic Chri stian though the letter itself has a stronger realized emphasis than the earlier
trio, £A1tt<; ("ho pe" ), should immediately appear in close connection. For Pau lines (see o n 2: 12 and the introduction to the comments o n 3: 14).
the linking of the three is another distinctive fea ture of Pauline teaching What precisely the hope is, or is directed to, is not mentioned he re,
( I Cor. 13: 13; Gal. 5:5-6; I Thes. 1:3; 5:8: cr. Rom. 5: 1-5: see fu rther Hunter but the picture becomes clearer with the o ther two references 10 hope in the
33-35). " Hope" itself is almost as distinctively a Pauline feature in the New letter, as to both its source ( "the ho pe of the gospel," I :23), its focus ("Christ
Testament (36 o f 53 occurrences). In contrast to the more uncertain. fearfu l in you"), and what is hoped for ("glory " : see o n 1:27). The location of what
note Iypical of classical (and modem) usage, the sense here is characterisli- is hoped for is, however, speci fi ed here: " in the heavens." What is hoped
caHy Jewish: hope as expectation of good, confidence in God (R. Bultmann , fo r, therefore, coul d be the exalted Christ (" their Lord in heaven:' 4 : 1),
TDNT2 .5 I 9-23). As such it is closely related to fa ith, confid enltrust in God. making for an interesting tension with I :27 ("Christ in you" ), or the Colos-
The connection with v. 4, however, is slightly puzzling - "on account sian Christians' final salvation, consisting in their being taken up to heaven
of the hope .... "10 NEBIREB (and NIV similarly) resolve the pu ~zle by and transformed into heavenly/spiritual form ("glo ry "; cf. Rom. 8: 17-25;
translating: "both (faith and love] spring from thelthat hope ...... And that I Cor. 15:44-49; 2 Cor. 5:1-5; I Thcs. 4: 14- 17).
is probably a fair rendering, since the preposition must be taken to indicate The plural form " heavens" should not be ignored, since it is hardly
that the faith and love are in some sense a response to, derived from, o r in found in no nbiblical Greek a nd therefore reflects the common Jewish view
some way dependent o n the hope. In which case, unusually in Paul, the hope that the heavenly realm aoove had a number of regions, if not many (note
is being presented as Ihe basis for the fai th and love, somewhat in contrast the repeated Old Testament phrase " heaven and the heaven of the heavens,"
to I Cor. 13: 13 and Gal. 5:5-6 (hope in God as the basis for faith in Christ Delli. 10: 14; I Kgs. 8:27; 2 ehron. 2:6; 6: 18; Neh. 9:6). If the usual top-
and love to all). At all events, the formulation here serves to underline the ography is in mind here (anything from two to te n hea vens; see H. Traub,
eschatological and forward-looking character o f the gospel message that
called forth the Colossians' faith and stimulated their love fo r their fellow 11. "There is no thoughl hC'n::. howC'\·er. of SOfI"Ioething Slored up (in heaven) by human dfon
saints (cf. Wolter 52-53). (1'5 in Man. 6:20; Luke 18:22; d. Philo, De p~miis n ~"is 104. cilal by Dibclius. KoIos5<!r,
Ii:pht5<!r. PhUtm/)fl 6) and no ground thcrefon: for seeing here an ocho of thC' apocalyplic idea of a
treasure of (good) works laid up in heavcn, which appears in 4 Eun 7:71 and 2 Boruch 14: 12 (as
10. ThC' oIder<kba1c: 00 tIH: connection oflh<esc words is reviC'''''w by Abbou 196and Masson thought by Lohmeycr 24; Gnilka. Kollnstrbrir/33; EI1ISt. PlliIi~r, Plrill'mDfI. KoIos5<!r. Eplrl'sl'r
90 n. 3. 157).
60 COLOSSIANS 1:5-6 61

TDNT 5.510-12). the implication would be that the lower reaches of heaven the truth, the gospel. " and J8 breaks the sentence a fter "(ruth" (cf. GN B in
were populated by (nonnally hostile) " principalilies and powers" (cf. par- n. 3), These renderings probably reflec t recognition thai the Greek idea of
ticularly Eph. 6: 12; see on I: 16), with God and his angels in the upper regions "truth " is involved here, that is, of truth as the unveil ing of the ';full or real
or beyond all the heavens (cr. 2 Cor. 12:2; Eph . 4: 10; see on 2: 18). The hope. state of affairs" (R. Bullmann , TDNT 1.238). Here again the eschaloiogical
then, would be for a destiny that outmaneuvers (cf. Rom. 8:38~39) and defeats overtones of the word and the Context are importa nt: the claim being made
these powers (see on 2: 15) and reaches right into the presence of God. The is that the good news of Christ Jesus unveils the reality of human destiny
sense that there are powers of evil abroad which are often strong enough to in the sure hope that it holds fo rth (cf. again I Thes. 1:9- 10; Acts 17:30-3 1).
crush whole peoples as well as individuals is. of course. not dependent on Equally, if '-the wo rd of truth" refl ects a more Jewish asseJtion of the finn
the worldview presumed here. But however such realities are conceptualized, reliability ('e fflel) of God's word (Ps. 119:43: TeSlamelll of Gad 3: I; Odes
hope remains a constant feature of the Chri slian gospel. of Solomon 8:8), the eO'ecI is simply to reinforce the confidence in God's
In Greek the sentence IUns o n: "which [hope] you heard about ear- purpose for the future already evoked by the word ;; hope" (see further Lohse,
lier.... " The reference presumably is to their first hearing of the gospel Colossialls alld Philemoll 18- 19).
from Epaphras. How much earlier is not stated. JBINJB assume that the However, it is better to retain the ful ler phra<;e, " the tnuh of the gospel,"
force of the ttpo· implies a hearing "recently," " not long ago." But neither since it pro bably also contains an echo of the same phrase used in Gal. 2:5
the Greek nor 1:7 and 4: I 2· J 3 are so specific. This gospel came to them in and 14. That is to say. implicit in the language is the emphatic Pau li ne claim
the word o f preac hing (cf. I Cor. 1: 18; 2:1-4; Phil. 1: 14; Col. 4:3; 1 Thes. that the gospel is for Gentiles also, witho ut requiring them to become pros-
1:5-8; 2: J 3). The eschatological focu s implied in the centrality of the theme elytes; the ec ho is still more explicit in I :25-27. It was th is truth of the gospel
o f hope (as in I :23, " the hope of the gospel ") suggests a preaching not (or the truth of this gospel) to which Paul dedicated his whole life as an
unlike that of I Thes. 1:9· 10, which is often taken as a summary of the apostle. At a ll events. there is probably a funher implication (as in Galatians)
gospel as preached directly to Gentiles. that this is a truth that has to be stoutly mllintai ned against teachings that (in
"Gospel" is another word baptized into Christian vocabulary by Paul this case) deny or dimini sh the eschatological thrust of the gospel's emphasis
(60 of the New Testament's 76 occurrences are Pauline). It was known in on ho pe (cf. pp. 33ff. above). This may lie behind NEBIREB's elision o f the
wider Greek usage, but almost always in the plural. in the sense of " good phrase iOlo "the message of the (rue gospel " (c f. Bruce, Colo.uians. Phile-
tidings" (LSJ s. v. EiKrrftAl0V), and the s ingular is unknown in biblical Greek mOil, and Ephesians 42: "the true message of the gospel " ), with its implied
outside the New Testament The reason that Paul. and presumably o thers warning against a fal se gospel.
among the first Christian missionaries, lighted upon it, however, is fai rly 1:6 'tOU 1[ap6vto~ Ei~ uJ.uJ:<;, xa6<i>:; xul tv rtav'tt t~ ~'!l tarlv
obvious. For the related verb, " preac h/announce good news," was prominent XCt.p1[O$opou~vov xut a~av6~EvoV xa9001; xal Ev U).ltv. 6:!jl' ~~ i\).l£Poo;
in the second half of Isaiah (40:9; 52 :7; 60:6: 6 1:1 ), that is, in passages that ~)(OooatE xul tntyvrot£ ti\v XOplV LOU OEou t v 0A1l9dt;t. The open ing
are remembered as having influenced Jesus' own self-unde rstanding of mis- phrase could be translated " which is present among you:' recognizing the
sion (M att. 11 :51Luke 7:22) a nd as summing up hi s mission (Acts 10:36), force of the present tense (Lohse, Colo.uians and Philemon 19 nn. 53, 54) .
just as they also influenced o thers in that time (Psalms of Solomon II : I : But in thi s case it can also mean " which has come to you" (and so is present
I QH 18: 14; II QMelch 18). It was natural , then, that the noun c hOSen by the among you). And that makes better sense of the preposition. which most
first Christian preachers to e ncapsulate their message about Jesus was deri ved naturally has the meaning " to o r into" (Harris 19 ),
from this verb. Implicit in this developed vocabulary is the sense of eschato- The congratulatory note continues: the gospel is (consta ntly) bearing
logical hope (so powerful in the Isaiah passages) already fulfilled in the fruit and growing among them : but since this is lrUe allover the world, they
coming of Messiah Jesus (cf. again the Psalms of Solomon and DSS refer- should not fee l particularly pleased with themsel ves. The implicalion may
ences). That the gospel is summed up here in tenns of " hope" (as agai n in be that the Colossians should hesi tate before making too much of the success
the only other use of "gospel" in the letter, 1:23) is a reminder of how of their own evangelism, and thi s prepares for the warning notes that become
closely its original eschato logical force still cl ung to the word. We should prominent from 2:8. Note sho uld also be given to the dynamic, living c haT-
also note in passing how much distinc tively Christian vocabulary appears in acter attributed to the gospel (cf. particularly Isa. 55: 10-11): " just as a tree
lhese first fi ve verses (grace, fai th, love, hope, gospel). without fru it and growth would no longer be a tree. so a gospel that bore no
To be more precise. 1:5 speaks of " the truth o f the gospel." fruit would cease to be a gospel" (, CQlossians 37).
RSVIN RSV. NIV, and NJB put the two words in apposition. " the word of The image of fruit-bearing is a natural one to indic ate res ult. o utcome
62 COLOSSIANS 1:6-7 63

(for good o r evil), or success and was familiar in Greek and Jewish thought outreaching generosity C'gr'dce") as fTansfonning power (cf. Rom. 3:24;
(F. Hauck. TDNT 3.6 14; Meeks. " One Body" 2 19 n. 26), In I: IO. as else- 5:15. 17; I Cor. 1:4-5; 15: 10; 2 Cor. 6:1; Gal. 1:6. 15; see on 1:2. "grace" ).
where, the fruit is thought of in tenns of good moral character (the verb in The addition of "in truth" reinforces the overtones of 1:5 ("the truth of the
Luke 8: 15 and Rom. 7:4; the noun in Paul : Rom. I: 13; Gal. 5:22; Phil . I: 11 ), gospel") that their encounter with the gospel was an opening of their eyes
But here it could simply denote the success of the gospel in winning more and lives to reality. what actually is God 's purpose for humankind (see on
and more to belief in Chri st Jesus and in the hope offered. The unclarity is 1:5), a purpose of grace, with the further implication that this trulh first
not he lped by the ambiguity of the second verb, which can mean either that learned thus should continue to be the touchstone of their ongoing disciple-
the gospel " is causing (its converts) to grow " (1 Cor. 3:6-7) - that is, in ship. NIB and REB catch the sense well when they translate: ;'recognised
knowledge ( I : 10). righteousness (2 Cor. 9: J 0), or fait h (2 Cor. 10: 15) - or it forlleamed what it [God 's grace) truly is" (so also Moule. Colossians and
thai the gospel " is (itself) growing." that is. like a plant (Matl. 13:32: Mark Philemon 51 ). Lohse, Colossians and Philemon 21, notes that ;' knowledge
4:8) spreading throughout the world (cr. Acts 6:7; 12:24; 19:20), with the of Ihe truth" assumes much greater importance in the later New Testament
benefit of its fruit-bearing implied. 12 Only here and in v. 10 are the two verbs writings ( I Tim. 2:4; 4:3 ; 2 Tim. 2:25; 3:7; Til. 1:1; Heb. 10:26; I John 2:2 1;
thus associated in biblical Greek (though cf. Mark 4:8); the closeness of the 2 John I).
two verses favors the idea of growth in character, bUI both ideas may be 1:7 xa9W<; Ella9E'tE a1tO 'En:a¢pa. 'tau aya1tll'tOU O\IVOoUAOU ~llWv , lSC;
implied - the success of the gospel in producing so many mature and moral E<fnV n:totOC; il1tEP Tu.uiiv OU~XOVDl; tOU XPlOtOU. Paul and Timothy extend
people. Either way. the note of triumphal ism ("in all the world" ) is striking, their note of congratulation to include the one who first brought them the
as also the implied eschatological finality of Paul's apostolic mission (cf. gospel - Epaphras. 13 As a native of Colossae (4:12) he presumably first
particu larly Munck 36-55. 275-79); and though hyperbolic (cf. Josephus. encountered Paul and was converted through his preach ing during Paul's
Contra Apionem 2.138-39. 284) it must reflect not oruy an amazing boldness long stay in Ephesus (Acts 19:8-10), some 120 miles distant on the coast
of vision but also a considerable measure of success (already within three and directly accessible by road down the Lycus and Meander valleys (see
or four decades of Jesus' death), as in innumerable towns around the Med- further pp. 20r. above). Whether he became a regular member of Paul 's
iterranean small groups met in the name of Christ Jesus. drawn together by mission team, as did so many others whose names are preserved for us in
the gospel (so also Rom. I :8; I Cor. I :2; I Thes. 1:8). Paul 's letters (see Ollrog ch. 2). we cannot say. But it may have been Paul 's
The congratul atory thanksgiving continues with a ful someness that missionary strategy to concentrate his own energies in major cities. while
results in a rather cumbersome repetition of "just as" (xaa&r; xai) and a sending out mission teams to town s in the region (Conzelmann 134-35: cf.
second relative clause (1 :5: " which you heard earlier"; 1:6: "from the day Acts 19: 10). It is not too fanc iful to imagine Epaphras. anxious to share the
on which you heard "). The clause simply indicates that the process of growth good news with his own townsfolk, volunteering to evangelize Colossae and
and fruit-bearing has been continual since the day of the Colossians' con- devoting himself to laboring for the gospel there and in the nearby cities of
version. This rhetorical courtesy would, of course, make it easier for the Laodicea and Hierapolis (4:13). In Paul's terms. therefore. Epaphras may be
recipients to hear the subsequent exhortations more favorably. called "apostle of Colossae" (cf. I Cor. 9: 1-2), though the fact that the letter
The rhetorical nouri sh may also explain the use of the more elaborate to Colossae was then written by Paul and Timothy. without including Epa-
fonn of the verb "to know" (En:rrtvcOOX£lV) rather than the more common phras as fellow author. despite his recent (?) presence ( I :8: cf. Phm . 23).
ytvc.OOx.Etv. though some prefer to give the prefix more weight in intensifying presumably implies that Epaphras saw himself si mply as Paul 's emissary
the meaning ("understood. " JB, RSY, NIY; ·'comprehended." NRSV). (see on I: I), or that the letter writer (Timothy?) did not wish to diffuse Paul' s
Either way the verb denotes the experience (Ernst, Philipper. Philemon, apostolic authority too far. This is reinforced by the reading ;'on our behalf"
Kolosser. Epheser 159) as well as the intellectual apprehension of God's (see n. 6). which again clearly implies thai Epaphras's evangelization in
Coloss ae was at Paul's behest: ;;the apostle gives his seal to Ihe teaching of
12. The similar combination in the Old TesUlmc:nt (Gen. 1:22.28: 8: 17: 9 :1.7: 17:20. ClC.) Epaphras" (Abbott 199). In view of the double commendation of Epaphras
has clearly in mind increase in numbers. Despite Gnilka. Kolosu rbri~f3~ (d. Meeks. "One Body" in 1:7-8 and 4: 12- 13, Paul and Timothy may have concluded that Epaphras
219 n. 2~), the imagery is su fficiently common that it need nOl be attributed spec ifically to influence
from apocalYpl k thought. nor. Iilematively. to GnosI k thought (cf. w. L Kno:<. Cdruilts 149 n. ~).
Li ghtfoot 133 capitalizes neatly on the somewhat surprisi ng order of the verbs: "llIe Gospel is not 13. Epaptnas is I wnmed form o f Epaphrod'tus. but it is most unlilr.:el)' that EpaphrolS is
like thou: plants whi ch ellhaust them!;elves in tJc,aring frui t and wither away. llIe e ~temal growth to be identified with the Epaphroditu s named in Phil. 2:2!I and 4;18, who is as mudl identified with
kee]ll'i pace with the reproducti~'e energy." Philippi as Epaplns i, with ColoSSIIC:.
64 COLOSSIANS 1:7-8 65

himself as well as his gospel needed some defense and su ppon (Wall 42-43). designation, therefore. is the readiness to hand over one's life completely to
AI all events, I :7-8 and Ph m. 23 ccnainly seem to indicate someone who a maste r (to sell oneself into s lavery was a policy of desperation . but not
wa.. eager to share the news of his success with Pau l and who spent enough unconunon). but to a master (Christ Jesus) whose power and authority were
li me with Pa ul to be impri soned with him, but who remained deeply con- greater than that in any o ther master-slave relation. Presumably also implicit
cerned for his townsfolk and fellow believers in Colossae. is the C hri stian conviction that only suc h unconditional handing over of
The verb used ("as you learned") may imply thai Epaphras had seen oneself can prevent o ne becoming enslaved by a more d estruclive power
his task in Colossae not simply as winning them to faith bUi as instructing (Rom. 6: 12-23).
them in the traditions and parenesis without which they would have no Epaphras is funher described as a "faithful [see on I :2] servant of
guideli nes in Ir.:lnsialing their faith imo daily living (eL Rom. 16: 17; I Cor. Chri st on our [see n. 61 behalf." "Servant" (oHx'XOY09 often retains over-
4:6; Phil. 4 :9; see al so on 2:6), tones of its original sense, "waite r at table" (John 2:5, 9; cf. Mark J :3 1;
i\yo:1t,., t6~ (" beloved") is one of Paul's favo rite words for fellow 15:41; Luke 10:40; 12:37; 17:8; Acts 6:2); and thus its range of meaning
Christians (Rom. 1: 7: 12: 19; 16:8), convens (Rom. 16:5; I Cor. 4 : 14; 10: 14; merges into "slave" as denoting obligation to offer humble service to a
15:58, etc.), and fellow workers (Rom. 16:9, 12: I Cor. 4:17: Col. 4 :7, 9 , superior (note particularly Mark 9:35: 10:43-45). Tha t the memory of Jesus'
14; Phm. I). It reinforces the sense of family belonging that seems to have actions and teaching influenced Paul's idea lind practice o f service may be
been c haracteristic of the young Christian missio n (see on I: I, '· brOlher"). suggested by such passages as Gal . 2: 17 and Rom. 15:8. At this stage the
Behind it probably lies Jewish e lection theology, the claim that the patriarchs. word seems to be still descripti ve of an individual's sustained commitment
Jerusalem, and the whole people of God are lovcd and have been chosen by (like "fellow worker") and not yet the title o f a clearly d efin ed offi ce (cf.
God (e.g., Deut. 33: 12: Isa. 4 1:8; 44 : I; Je r. 31 :20; Dan. 3:35; S ir. 24 : II ) and Rom. 16: 1; I Cor. 3:5; 2 Cor. 3:6; 6:4; 11 :23; Phil . 1: 1; Col. 1:23,25; 4 :7;
therefore the sense that the first Christia n churches shared in that e lectio n. I Thes. 3:2). If there are conscious oven o nes of the use of the te rm fo r cultic
If so. the term embodies an implic it clai m first advanced by Paul and and guild offi cials (LSJ s.v. O\(J.x.ovo ~; H. W. Beyer, TDNT 2.9 1-92; cf.
chamctcristic of a central thrust o f his gospel (see particularly Wischmeyer). A. Weiser. EDNT 1.304) we must assume that, as with Paul's use of priestly
" Fellow slave" (<1UVOOUJ..o9 is a tenn that we might have expected to language e lsewhere (Rom. 12: I; 15: 16; Phi l. 2:25). the cult has been secu-
occur more often in Paul's leHers. since he so delighted in the use o f larized and the terms appropriated for all ministry on behalf of the gospel
cruv-compounds ( w. Grundmann, TDNT 7.786-87, plus "fellow prisoner." and Christ (see also on 1:25).
" fellow workcr." "yoke fe llow," "rello w panic ipa nl ," " rellow imitato r," 1:8 6 x.o:i o'lA.roaa~ il~lv n,v u~ (i)v tXyCtn'lv tv 1tV£u~ an. The con-
" fellow soldier"), and he was quite prepared to use the tenn "slave" (of gratulatory thanksgiving is concluded with a fi nal note of appreciation to
C hrist) both for himself (Rom. 1:1 ; Gal. 1:10; Phil. 1: 1) and for other Epaphras, which also serves to make clear to the readership that Paul is well
Christians (I Cor. 7:22; Col. 4: 12; d. Rom . 6: 18. 22). In fact, however, info rmed about the ir situa tion. P resumably it was to Epaphras (cf. again
" fellow s lave" occurs o nly in Colossians (here and 4:7); Ephesians also has Phm. 23) that Paul owed knowledge of the threatening ci rcumstances at
cruv-compounds unique to it (2: 19; 3:6; 5:7). On the basis of this evidence Colossae. to which the ma in thrust of the letter is di rected (from 2:6 o n).
it is impossible to say whether this is the mark of a close disciple copying But here, as is appropriate in the letter opening, the note is all o f praise. even
Paul 's style o r Paul hi mself s imply extending his usage in coin ing ever more though it involves repetition of what has already been said well enough in
cruy- compounds. I :4 .
The slave metaphor was a potent one since the basic image was es- As hope is the main thrust of the gospel (I :5). so love (see on I :4) is
sentially negative in Greek thought - s lavery as the antithesis of the freedom ~ts main fruit (here c f. particularly 3: 14). It is described more fully as " love
that the Greek mind cherished so dearly. since, by definition, the slave was 10 (or by) the Spirit" (NEB: "God-given love" ; REB: "the love the Spirit
completely at another's beck and call (K. H. Rengstorf, TDNT 2 .26 1-65; has awakened in you"). Thi s is a nother characteristic Pau line note (d.
H. Schlie r. TDNT 2.493-96). Even so, "slave" could still be something of a panicularly Rom. 5:5 and Gal. 5:22). The love that mirrors the love of God
honorific tiLie. at least if o ne was slave of an imponant a nd powerful in- in Christ can o nly be aroused and sustained by the Spirit of God. The phrase
dividual (D . B. Martin . Slavery), and thi s was reinrorced by the more o rie nta l Carries oven o nes o f an inspiration that wells up from within, c harismatically
tradition in which the devotee of the cult saw himself as s lave of the god- enabled (Rom. 2:29: I Cor. 12:3,9. 13; 14: 16: I T hes. I :5), and that depends
not least in Jewish religious thought (e.g., Deul. 32:36; Josh. 24 :29; Pss. On COntinued openness to the Spiri t if its quality of unselfish service of others
89:3: 105:26, 42: Mal. 4:4: sec further my R OITUIIIS 7) . ImpliCit in the is 10 be maintai ned.
66 COLOSS IANS 1:8-1 4 67

Th is is the onl y direct reference to the Spirit in Colossians - a sur· Prayer for the Colossian Recipients (1:9-14)
prising fact and further indication for many thai the leller may not have been
written/dictated by Paul himself. Schweizer, Colossians 38 and n. 19 notes 9 Thai is why we also. I from the day we heard, IUlVe not ceased 10 pray on
several themes and phrases thai attract reference to the Spirit (as a kind of Jour behalf and to askl Iilm you might be filled with the knowledge oj his
reflex) in the undisputed Paulines but that do nOI do SO in Colossians; he will ;11 all wisdom and spiritual understanding, 10 that )'011 might walk wor-
suggeslS therefore that tv 1rV~an here should be taken to mean "spiritual." Ihily of the Lord, whoUy pleasing to him, bearing f ruit in every good work
But see Gnilka. Kolosserbrief38; Fee 638-40; and below on 1:9. and increasing in the knowledge of God, II being empowered with all power
i/1 accordance with his glorious might, for all patience and endurance, with
joyll2 giving thanks to the Farher, 4 who has qualifietP you6 for the share of
the inheritance of the saillls in the light, 13 He has delivered us from the
allthority of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of the son of
his fove, 14 in whom we have redemption,7 the forgiveness of sins,

The second pan of the extended thanksgiving elaborates the reassurance

given in 1:3 thai Paul and Timothy pray for the Colossians (see the intro-
duction to I :3-23). Lohse. ColossialLf alld Philemon 24, notes how much of
the language in 1:9- 11 echoes that already used in 1:4-6: "all " (vv. 4, 6.
9-10. "from the day you/we heard " (vv. 6, 9). " came 10 know the grace of
GodIknowledge of his willlknowledge of God" (vv. 6. 9-10). "bearing fruit
and growing/increasing" (vv. 6, 10).
EquaJly striking is the sequence of terms not characteristically Pauline
in 1:1 2-14: "qualify " (v. 12-only here and in 2 Cor. 3:6 in the New
Teslamenl), "share of the inheri tance" (Ju:p(<; - elsewhere in Paul only in
2 Cor. 6: 15, the Pauline authorsh ip of which is also questioned), "saints in

1. Moul e. Co/OSSillfU and Phi/emtm 52 takes the )((I( with the first Iwo words: " !his is
prttisc:l y wby." See also di§cussion ill Aletti. tpilre QUX CoiossieTl$ 68.(9.
2. "And wast " ()((II o:i~o~) is omitted by O!IC or two witnesses (including B). pert\aps
in n.cognition that it is both unusual io Paul (only I Cor. I :22; but also Eph. 3: 13 alld 20) and
tauto\Qgous here.
3. RSV, NEB. and J8 follow the old VCTK division (supponed by 1'*. which adds " and"
liter "joy") by linking "with joy" to what precedes (e.g., NEB "with fortitude, patience. and joy" ).
but in each case: the revisers (NRSV. REB , and NIB ) have followed NA 26 and UBSl in linking the
phrase with what follows (e.g .• REB "and 10 give joyful thants"). Otherwise. see. e.g.. Pokomj 50
I\. 23: earlier discussioo in AbboI:t 205. TIlere is a similar problem in PtIil. 1:4.
4. Somc signifICant manll5Cripis and versions have evidently replaced the more strOng ly
~tested "the FathCT" (tqllt(ltp!) with "God" (1(jl 9tc9). presumabl)' becau.~ dcsignution of God
SImply as the Father ab$olulely is unusual in the New Tcsta~nt outside the Johannine:s (in the
Paulines onl), Rom. 6:4: Eph. 2:18: 3:14) and une~pected here (Metlgcr 620).
5. The reading "woocallcd" (TnKAh~NTI) may have been the result of omfusiOll (with
TnIKANnI:ANTI) or the deliberate substiruriOll of a better known word for one that occurs in ooly
One Other passage in the New Testameot (Metzger 620).
6. In CQIlU'l.St w 1:7. the weight of evidence here favors "you" nlthcr than "us" (preferred
by RSV ).
7. Some IMe witnesses have harmonized the le~1 with Eph . 1:7 by adding "through his
biood.. ·
68 COLOSSIA NS 1:9 69

light" (v. 12), aorist tenses (v. 13), "transferred" (v. 13 - e lsewhere in Paul in their own Jewish heritage (see further pp. 29-35 in the Introduction,
only in the proverbial 1 Cor. 13:2), "authority," denOling domain (v. 13), and on 2:8, 16, and 18).
"kingdom of the son of his love" (v. 13), and " forgiveness" (v. 14). Else- 1:9 OIU toutO x.ed n)l£t~, 00;,' 1WEP~ fI)(.()OOCXjJ£V, ou 1[(lu6Il£90. U1tEp
where Paul never rounds off his opening with a call to thanksgiving (vo 12; UJ.lWv npOOtux61l£V"0I XCI1 (li1;OUJ.lEVOI, TV(l xATJpw6i\tt n'lv tniyvWOlV ~ou
Lohmeyer 38), 9E}..fU.l(lto~ (lUtOU tv naon oo¢ic;t xa1 auvEOEI 1[\I£\)J.I(ltlXfl· Havmg
This could suggest thai I: 12 begins a fresh line of thought. with completed his thanksgiving (I :3-8) and in view of having had so much to
£Uxo:pll:rtouvn:~ functio ning as an imperatival participle and 1:12-14 draw- give thanks for, Paul turns fro m thanksgiving to prayer, more or less repeating
ing on prefonned liturgical material as " a sort of introit which imroduces what he has already said in the second half of 1:3. "From the day we heard"
lhe solemn hymn sung by lIle community " (Lohse. Colossians and Philemon is perhaps a deliberate echo of the same phrase already used in I :6: as they
32-33),8 Bul that would detach it from the preceding participles and run were frui tful from the very day they heard the gospel, so Paul and Timothy
counter to the imperatival style used in the rest of the letter (see further have been prayerful from the very day they heard of their response to the
O'Brien, Thanksgivings 71-75 ; Aleni. Epitr€ aux Colossiens 76-77; Wolter gospel. Note again the plural, in contrast to Phil. 1:9 and Phm. 4-7 (but as
57-58,6 1-62). Nor is it obvious that the setting envisaged for such lilUrgicai in I Thes. 3:9- 10 and 2 Thes. 1: 11-12). The intensity of prayer is marked
usage would be baptism in particular (so, e.g .. R. P. Manin, Colossians and _ '1rom the day we heard, we have 1I0t ceased to pray on your behalf and
Philemon 55; Ernst, Philipper, Philemon, Kolosser; Epheser 164-65; Pokorny to ask" (cf. Rom. 1:9-10; I Thes. 1:2-3; aod especial ly Eph. I: 15- 16) - and
5 1, 54-55 ; Sappington 196); baptism was evidently a much more' spontaneous inrroduces the "fiIUfullness" motif that comes to be a feature of the letter
affair in the earliest days of Christianity (Dunn, Un ity 141-47); and no doubt, (1:9. 19,24,25; 2:2, 9. 10; 4:12, 17; O'Brien. Colossians, Philemon 20).
as now, congregations in their worship often recalled the spiritual blessings The middle voice aitEto6o.l ("ask") appears elsewhere in the Paulines only
they had received, withoUi particular reference to baptism as such (cf. in Eph. 3:20 (cf. I Cor. 1:22; Eph. 3: 13).
O'Brien, Colossians, Philemon 25). The more elaborate suggestion of It is not surprising that the prayer focuses on "knowledge of hi s (God's)
Klisemann that I: 12-20 is actually "a primitive Christian baptismal liturgy" will."tOFor a theist who believes that God's active purpose detennines the
has not won much suppon (Lohse, Colossians and Philemon 40 n. 63; ordering of the world. lies behind events on earth, and shapes their con-
Gnilka, Kolosserbrief45-46; in contrast Eckart, "Exegetische Beobachtung- sequences, one of the most desirable objectives must be to know God's will
en," in particular, wants to include ¥Y. 9-12 as the " Eingangsparanese" of The corollary, spelled out in the following phrases. is that such knowledge
a three-part baptismal IilUrgy). gives insight imo and therefore reassurance regarding what happens (often
Perhaps most stri king of all is the very Jewish character of the unexpected in human perspective) and helps direct human conduct to accord
language: "know ledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understand- with that will. Such desire to know and do God's will is naturally very Jewish
ing" (v. 9), "walk," " knowledge of God " (v. 10), ;'empowered with all in character (e.g., Pss. 40:8; 143: 10; 2 Macc. 1:3: Testament of lssachar 4:3)
power," "his glorious might" (v. I I), "the share of the inheritance of the and was, not surprisingly, shared by Jesus (Matt. 6 :10; 7:21; Mark 3:35;
saints in light" (v. 12), God as deliverer9 from the aUlhority of darkness, 14:36; Luke 12:47) and the firs t Christians (e.g., Acts 2 1:14; Eph. 5; 17; 6:6;
" the son of his love" (Y. 13), and " redemption" (v. 14 ; in each case see I Thes. 4:3: Heb. 10:36: 13:2 1; I Pel. 3:17; I John 2: 17; see also on 1: 1).
the foll owing commentary). This emphasis on (or assumption of) the No doubt the knowledge prayed for here included the teachings that foHow
Jewish character of the gospel to wh ich the Colossian Christians were in the letter (Wolter 59). but hardly need be limited to that.
committed is unlikely to be accidental. h suggests that Paul and Timothy A characteristic claim in Jewish tradition was that the necessary knowl-
thought it desirable to emphasize just this fundamen tal feature of their edge of God's will came through the law: " Happy are we, Israel, because
common faith. The most obvious reason is that the Colossians were con- we know what is pleasing to God" (Bar. 4:4); "you know his will and
fro nted by local Jews who were confident of the superiority of their own approve the things that matter, being instructed from the law" (Rom. 2: 18;
religious practice and who denigrated the claims of these Gentiles to share cr. Wis. 15:2-3; 4 Ezra 8: 12). But for Paul in particular there was now a
better and surer way of knowing God's will and of discerning what really
8. Vawter 5Il1!8C'sts that 1:12- 14 represent an earlier redaction of the chri Sioiogical hymn
(1 : 1,..20) prior to its LIse in Colon ians. 10. On whether the prcfill bu· signi ficantly strengthens the fon:e of 'f'Y(Ilot; ("knowledge")
9. Hoppe 168 nOle~ the theo-logical emphasis in!he scctioo, with " the Flllher" as the subject see Lightfoot 136; Bruce. CoiOJ5ilJlls. Phj/enwn. and Epht!sjam 46 n. 30: Harris 30; and above on
of the three aclion verbs in vv. 12- 13. 1:6. Note the more or less synonymou s use of bI.{yvwot; and yYl'/)O~ in 2:2 and 3.
70 COLOSSIANS 1:9- 10 71

mattered: by the personal transformation Ihat flowed from inward renewal above (as in Wis. 9:9- 10). And particularly to be noted is the recognition
(Rom . 12:2. probably sel in deliberate contrast to Rom. 2: 18). so that he can that wisdom and understanding come on ly from the Spiril (EXO(t. 31 :3; 35:3 1;
sum up the call 10 Christian conduct in terms of walking in accordance with Isa. 11 :2: Wis. 9: 17- 19; Si r. 39:6; Philo, De gigamiblls 22-27; 4 Ezra 14:22,
the Spirit (Rom. 8:4, 13- 14; Gal. 5:16.18.25). 39-40). It is certainly this thought that is taken up here ( " spiritual" as given
However. there is no simple contrast here between Judaism and Chris- by and manifesting the Spirit - cf. 1 Cor. 2: 12-13; 12: I. 4: 14: 1-2). Whether
tian ity so fur as the quality a nd stimulus fo r ethi cal conduct is concerned. there is an implied rebuke of an alterna tively conceived or false wisdom 13
For the recognition that obedie nce 10 the law must spring from inner con. is less clear si nce in that case we might have expected more emphasis on
secration is familiar also in Jewish thought (e.g .. Deu!. 10:1 6: Jer. 4:4; the point (as in I Corinthians 1-2); but the allusion in 2:23 does indicate
3 1:3 1-34: Ezek. 36:26-27). Even the claim that Paul's Spirit ethic was d is- thai a claim to wisdom was part of the teaching in Colossae that called forth
tinctively eschatological in character (the hopes of Jeremiah and Ezekiel now the response of this leiter (see also 2:2-3).
fulfille d) does not e nable us to draw a clear line of contrast with hi s Jew ish All this reflects the charismatic and eschatological character of Chris-
co nt7 m p?rari~ s, as ~he OSS remind us. For they, too, clai m a knowledge (of tian sel f-consciousness. not least in the transition from conviClion to praxis:
God s w!ll) gIven .dlrectly by the eschatological Spirit. though a knowledge charismatic in the sense of the immediacy of wisdom and insight that
that , as IS also eVident. focuses on a very sectarian interpretation of Torah Christians (or Paul in particular) expected to provide their lives with direction
(see, e,g " IQH 4 :9, 12; 6: 1(), 12; 11:7,10; 12: 11 , 13; 16: 11,12; IQS 5:8, 10; and motivation (the parallel with Phil. I :9-10 is very close) 14 and eschato-
9: 13; 11 : 15-18; see further Lohse, Colo!J'sial/s and Philemon 25). Thus, logical in that they (or Paul in panicular) were convinced that thi s knowledge
although the orientation to Torah comes out di fferentl y in each case (" the of God's will was the outworking of the eschatological Spirit and renewal
law of Christ" facili tating Pau l's inclusive gospel in contrast to Qumran's looked for in the prophets (hence the enthusias tic " fill ed with" and "all ";
introverted and exc lusivist interpretation). the eschatological-psychological cf. lsa. II :2: 33:6).
dynamic is similar. 1:10 1t£ptn:an;O'Cll cll;iID:; tOU xupiou d~ n:aoav clp£CJ'XEiuv. t.v n:avrl
Th.e sp iri tual sourc~ and character of this knowledge is reinforced by lpYf.!> lrya.9q:, xapn:OIjIopoUV1'~ iGat a~av6jJ£v01 .ji E1UY\'Wm:l .ou 9Eou. As
the quahfymg phmse, " m all wisdom and spi ri tual understanding," which already implied, the object or value (the infinitive signify ing object or result)
could equally well be rendered " in all spiritual wisdom and understand ing" of knowledge of God 's wi ll , of wisdom and understanding. is that it enables
(~SV'!'f.RS~. ,!V. Harris~. or "with all the wis~om and understanding that appropriate conduct. The metaphor "walk" denoting conduct in the walk of
hIS Sptnt gives (GNB). m e language and aspiration were wide ly shared life is untypical of Greek thought (BAG O s.v. Jt£plXa'ttro; H. Seescmann,
by Greco-Roman philosophy, as classically expressed in Aristotle's number- TDNT 5.941 ) but characteristically Jewish (e.g., Exod. 18:20; Delli. 13:4-5; Ps.
i?~ O'o¢liu ~,nd O'UV£O'l~ ("wi s~om" an~ "u nderstanding") with $p6vllO't~ 86:11 ; Prov. 28: 18; Isa. 33: 15; IQS 5: 10; CD 19:4: the correspondi ng Hebrew
( pru?ence ?
as the highest virtues (Ethica Nicomachea 1.1 3).11 But the verb halak gives rise to the technical tenn " halakhah " 10 denote rabbinic
I~ore Immediate background for the thought here is again. doubtless. Jewish. rulings on how the law should be interpreted in daily life). Similar exhortmions
SlllCe t~e cO~b.inati~n of "wisdom and understanding" is a repeated feature appear in other Pauline letters. but never quite as a standard fonnula : "conduct
of Jewtsh wflllngs. 2 Here, too. the wisdom in panicular is understood as yourselves (n:oAl'tEU€o6£) in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ" (Phil.
given through the law (Deu!. 4:6; , ehron. 22 :12; Si r. 24:23-26; Bar. 3:36- 1:27). "walk worthily of God" (I Thes. 2: 12), and "walk worthily of your
4 : I). but it is equall y recognized that such wisdom can come only from calling" (Eph. 4:1; cf. Rom. 6:4: 8:4; 13: 13; I Cor. 7: 17; 2 Cor. 5:7: Gal. 5: 16).
Here the thought is of conduct worthy of the Lord. that is. of Jesus (though see
Aletti , Epilre allx C%ssiells 72-73). That is particularly understandable in a
II. LighlfoOl's e~posilion ( 136) is su ll of value: he Ikfines oooin as "me mal excellence in
letter where the significance of Christ is so much in focu s, but it also underlines
its highesl and fullesl sense"; "while O1JV(Gl~ is crilicaL ~fto\~ is praclical; while mlvtGl~
apprehends Ihe bearings o f lilinKs, ~VT)Gl~ suggesls lines of IICI;on." See also H. Con~elrnllOn.
the degree to which Christian conduct was infonned and directed by the
TDNT 7.889; Lohse. Co/"ssiaru and PM/tlmOfl 26. traditions regarding Jesus ' own manner of life (see on 2:6).
12. EAod. 31:3: 35:3 1. 35; Dcul 4 :6 ; 1 Chron . 22:12: 2 ebron. 1: 10 - 12: Job 8:10; 12: 13;
28:20: 39: 17; Pss. 49:3; III: 10; Pn)Y. 1:7; 2:2-3. 6; 1<3.. 10: 13; II :2; 29: 14; Jer. 5 1: 15; Dan. 1: 17;
2:2 1: 5: 14: Jd!. 8:29: Wis. 9:4-6; Sir. 1:4 : 14:20: 15:3: 24:25-26; 37;22·2]; 39:6,9- 10: 50:27: Bar. 13. As sl,Iggesled. e.g., by LighlfOOI 131; Abbolt 202-3; Masson 9l-94: Gnilka. KoIoJJ,rbrirj
] :23; Ttls/<l"'tlfll uf abu/ufl 6: I . For DSS Ii« particularly IQS 4 :3 and funber Lohse. CoIoSJianJ 41 ; O · Brien. CoiruJwru, Phil,mQlI 22.
(md PhiltlmOfl 25. Note Ihe prnclical orienlbl ion of w moch Jewish wisdom (see. e.g .. G. Fah rer. 14. cr. panicularly Dibelius. Kolossu; £philJer, Philemon 7; Percy. Probl""'tl 122-27: see
l1JNT7.48<!_88). funher my Jesul' 222·25; Fee 64144 .
72 COLOSSIANS 1: 10-11 73

Somewhat unnecessarily. but wholly in keeping wi th (he continuing edgment of God in appropriate action (e.g., Deul. 4:39-40; Pro .... 9: 10; Dan.
rather norid style ('"aU " occurs fi ve times in 1:9· 11 ), Paul adds " 10 all 11 :32; Hos. 8: 1_3).17 According to Paul, failure thus to know and acknowl-
pleasing" (literally). The noun (cXpEcrX.E\U) occurs only here in the New edge God is m the root of human sin (Rom. 1:21 ; cf. Wis. 16: 16). The
Testament (in the LXX only in Provo31:30) and in wider Greek usage usually interdependence of experience of the divine and practical conduct is a feature
has a negative connotation ("obsequiousness"; cf. 3:22). But it does occur both of the phrase and of the present passage. Gal. 4:9 and I Cor. 13; 12 are
in a posi tive sense, and Philo uses it a number of limes of pleasing God reminders that the initi ative in this experiential knowledge is always God 's,
(BAGD S, V. cXpEO"XE1U: Lohmeyer 34 n. 2; Lohse. Colossialls and Philemon a point that Colossians immediately goes on to underline.
27·28; Woller 61). Paul also uses the verb in the same connection. usually 1: 11 tv ntwn ~U\ln~£1 /)\)VCl~OUj.l£VOI xa:ta t o xpatOe; tf\~ ~11e; ClUtO\)
with reference to God (Rom. 8:8; Gal. 1: 10; I Thes. 2:4, 15; 4: 1), bUI in £Ie; 1toocr.v i)1to~ovilv xed ~axpOeu~tClV. The sentence runs on with con-
1 Cor. 7:32 with reference to pleasing " the Lord, " as by implication here. tinued emphasis that such fruitful living is wholly dependent on divine
h is worth nOling how in several passages the tho ught is of conduc t modeled enabling. The power of God is a familiar Pauline theme (e.g., Rom. 1:20;
on thai of Christ (Rom. 15:1-2; I Cor. 10:33-11 :1: I Thes. 4:1 : see again 9: 17; I Cor. I: 18, 24; 6: 14; 2 Cor. 13;4) and prominent in Ephesians (I : 19;
on 2:6). 1.~ 3:7, 16, 20; 6: 10). It is also deeply rooted in Jewish thought (see, e.g.,
The test of this conduct, as with all conduct, will be what it produces. W. Grundmann, TDNT2 .29 1-94; Wolter 63), and though there seems to have
The imagery of " bearing fruit and increasing" echoes 1:6, but this ti me been a heightened interest in the theme in Greco-Roman religion of the
clearly in reference to moral mamrity (see on 1:6). Such is the intensity of period (Co E. Arnold. ABD 5.444-45), the Semitic doubling ("empowered
some traditional Refonnation polemic against the thought of any merit ad- with all power") is sufficient indication that the thought world here is still
hering to "good works" that it might come as a surprise that Paul should preeminently Jewish.18 Particularly noticeable in Paul's usage is the claim
ever have spoken in commendatory fas hion of " good works" (cf. Lin- actually (0 have experienced this power and to have been its instrument in
demann, Kolosserbrief2 1; contrast Aleni , tpirre aux Colossie11 s 74: " typi- his mission (Rom. 1:16; 15;19; I Cor. 2:4-5: 2 Cor. 4:7; 12:9; 1 Thes. 1:5).19
cally Pauline" ). In fact, however, he does so on a number of occasions (Rom. It is this experience of sustaining, empowering grace ("the power of the
3:7; 13:3; 2 Cor. 9:8; Gal. 6: 10; Phil. 1:6; 2 Thes. 2: 17; also Eph. 2: 10); Paul Holy Spirit" - Fee 644) for which Paul prays for the Colossians (cf. again
would think typically of almsgiving and hospitality (Rom. 12:8, 13). Any particularly Eph . 1: 19; see also on 1:29).
hint of post-Pau line authorship here derives nOI from Ihe rather odd inference As if the point were not already clear beyond doubt, the sense of
that Paul good works ·were displeasing to God but from the fact that complete dependence on divine enabling is reinforced with a further flourish:
the phrase became an intensive feature of post-Pauline usage (with fourteen "according to the might of his glory" (a Semitism = " his glorious might" ).
occurrences in the Pastorals). xpat~ (" might" ) is an understandable variant for WV< ("power" ),
The basis from which or means by which the fruitbearing and growth though it appears only in the late (disputed) Paulines; its use in Eph. I; 19
" in every good work" is to come about is the " knowledge of God."16 strengthens the parallel with this verse. Still more characteristically Jewish
Repetition of the same possibly intensive form (btiyv0XJ1.9 as in 1:9 doubles is the talk of divine glory (~Cl) , which hardly occurs in Greek writing apart
the insistence that such conduct can only grow from such knowledge. The from Jewish influence (see. e.g. , BAGD s.v. M;Cl la). Like Hebrew /wood,
tenn here includes " knowledge of his will" (see on I :9), but is much larger it denotes the awesome radiance of deity that is the visible manifestation of
in scope. including knowledge of God 's grace (see on I :6. which uses the God in theophany (e.g .• Exod. 16:10; 24:16-17; 40:34; Lev. 9:23; Pss. 63:2;
equivalent verb; Eph. I: 17-23 is a rich elaboration of the theme). Another 102:16; Isa. 6:3; 66:18- 19). Particularly influential in Jewi sh thought was
characteristic Jewish theme, " knowledge of God," includes experience of
God's dealings (e.g., I Sam. 3:7; Ps. 9: 10; lsa. 43: 10; Mic. 6:5) and acknowl- . 17. "The pious life of the Jew consists in gift and task (Gobt! und AloIjSabt!J, a continuous
IJ1teraclion (lntjnandu) of recognition and K\"' (Lohmeyer 32).
18. " A devOUI Jew could request God his Father f(Jf 11 way of life pleasing to God no more
15. Woller 60-61 prefers to take tl1e clause: in the 5ense of condll(:t thai brings to e;tpression
Clearly and intimately lhan docs Paul bere" (Lo/lmeyl:l" 33). ~ If one were 10 remove the ba!iis give n
the Colossians' bdongingne!is (b~hOrighejt) 10 lbe LonI.
16. Taking tfI bnyvwou tOO erov as an instrumet1U11 dali"Vt! (so most. e.g., Abbotl 20) .
fill" Christian oondll(:t by means of \be words ' worthy of the Lord: then the: rest the pasuge could
easily appear in I Jewish tn t" (LohJe, CoiossituU and Philemon 3 1 [my tnnslalion 0( the German
Dibclius, Kololser, Ephue r, Ph iltman 8. and O ' Brien. Colossians. Philemon 23. prefer to lake il as
Crigi nal )).
a dative of reference : "in the knowledge of God"; but in that ca..e Ihe author could hardly have
failed to complete the balance of the 5Cotenee by inserting tv ('"in"). as severa.l scribes realized in 19. Here again we may note a parnllel wilh the Qumran conununily; see Lohse. CoiossiMs
fIIId Philmwn 30.
copying the leU.
1:11- 12 75
ometimes of divine forbearance (Rom. 2:4; 9: 22; I Tim. I: 16; I Pel. 3:20;
the theophany of Exc(L 33: 17-23, which served as a constant reminder that ~ Pet. 3: 15). In Paul, more often the late Paul , it appears in lists of Christian
no one, not even Moses. can ever see God (cf., e.g., Deul. 4:1 2; Ps. 97:2; vinues (2 Cor. 6:6; Gal. 5:22: Eph. 4:2: CoL 3: 12; 2 Tim. 3: 10: 4:2). Some-
J Enoch 14:2 1: Apocalypse of Abraham 16 :3; Philo. De specialibus legibus what surprisingly. but presumably because these two words are such close
I :45; John I: 18; 6 :46; see also on 1: 15), despite the longings of the Jewish synonyms, they appear on1y occasionally together (2 Cor. 6:4-6. 21im. 3: 10;
mystics infl uenced even more by Ezek. 1:26-28, Jas. 5: 10- 11 ; J Clement 64; Ignatius, Ephesians 3: I).
Particularly nOiable here is the thought of divine glory as a manifesta- 1:12 j.1£"ta I~ (12) £Uxap tO"Coilv"tE~ 1:19 TCcr.1:pt 1:l9lxavooOovn;
tion of power (like the radian! energy of the sun), a thought equally rooted dr; tTlv j.1£pi&r. mil ,u..flpou t ooV aytOlV tv 1:19 ¢Ioo"rl. It is important t~ bear
in the folk memory of the fearful numinous power (m),sterium tremendum) in mind that in the Greek thi s is not a new sentence and that the subject of
of such theophanies (Exod. 19: 16-24; Num. 16:19-35; Isa. 6:4-5). In Paul the verb is not Paul and Timothy (repeating the opening note of I :3). Rather,
this is understood as beneficial power, transforming for the better (Rom. 6:4 ; the subject is those being prayed for by Paul and '!'lmo.thy. This prayer is
2 Cor. 3: 18; the parallel with Ephesians here is 3: 16), though with double nol on1y for knowledge and wisdom, for con d u ~t frui tful 10 good. works, and
effect in 2 Thes. 1:9- 10. Since transformation into heavenly splendor (glory) for patient fortitude in the trying and testing circumstances of life, but that
is part of the hope fo r heaven (see also on I :27 and 3:4).20 the prayer is in this may all be suffu sed by the experience of joy in th ankfu ln~s to the Father
effect for that process to be forwarded already here on earth (cf. 2 Cor. (so also 3: 17). The implication is that these g ra~es are all mterdepen~ent,
4: 16-5:5; see also 1:27; H. Hegermann. EDNT 1.346-47). That this train of that wisdom, conduct beneficial to others, and patience can only be sustamed
thought is in mind here is confi rmed by the strong eschatological and realized in that joyful honoring of Creator by creature which is the basis .of all so~nd
eschatological note in the nex t two verses. thinking and doing (Rom. I :21).22 On £\>XaptO-COUVttr; see the mtroductlOn
In the meantime, however. that is. in the circumstances of li fe in the to the comments on I :3-23 and the comments on I :3, and on God as Father
present. one of the ways this powerful empowering of glorious might comes (TCClt flp) see on 1:2.
to most effective expression is in ';all patience and endurance" (REB: The experience of joy seems to have been common among th ~ first
"ample strength to meet with fortitude and patience whatever comes"). The Christians (e.g., Acts 2:46; Phi l. 4:4-6; I Thes. 5: 16- 18), and not least In the
two nouns are near synonyms. Both are included not so much because of midst of and despite hardship and sufferi ng (2 Cor. 7:4: 8:2: I Thes. 1:6;
their distinctive meanings but to reinforce the poiO( that hope of heavenly Heb. 10:34; 12:2, 11 ; Jas. 1:2; SO also Matt. 5: 12; Rom. 5:3 4: 1 Pet. 1:6;
glory in the fu ture requ ires patience and endurance now (not least in the face 4:13). Paul evidently did not think of discipleship as a matter of grim
of alternative religious claims) and that both the present patience and the endurance, nor is the experience described Goy in sufferi ng) peculiarly
future transformation are the outworking of the same glorious might. Christian (cf. Psalms of Solomon 10: 1-2; IQH 9:24-25 ; 2 Baruc h 52:6; see
"Patience" (imoj.lovfl) was highly prized both within wider Hellen ism, par- also Lohse , Colossians and Philemon 34). However, the joy actually expe-
ticularly by the Stoics, as steadfast resistance of evil and fortitude under rienced and manifested must have been so real and sustaining as to be a
hardship (F. Hauck, TDNT 4.582-83), and in contemporary Judaism factor in attracting others to the infant Christian groups (see also on 2:7).
(frequently in 4 Maccabees to denote the steadfastness of the martyrs- The special cause for Christian thanksgiving is outlined in ~ sequ en~e
I: I I; 7:9; 9:8, 30. etc.). In the later Greek translations the use of UTCOj.lOvr, of clauses, each of them with striking features. The fi rst underlines agam,
in Job markedly increases (cf. Jas. 5: 11 ). Paul. like other New Testament as clearly as anything in Colossians, the extent to which Paul and his Gentile
wri ters, gave it a prominent place among the Christian virtues, not least, as convens understood their coming to faith in Christ Jesus as an act of divine
here, as a quality that those hoping for higher things must display (Rom. grace whereby they were " qualified or made fit " (lX(I\lcOOOovn) to share in
2:7 ; 5:3-4; 8:25; Luke 2 1: 19; Heb. 12: I Jas. I :3-4; Rev. 3: 10; 13: 10). " En- an inheritance for which they had previously been unqualified, that is. an
durance" (j.1a.xpo9u,.1icr.)21 is less frequently used in the New Testament, and inheritance thought to be exclusively Israel's (1 . H. Friedrich, EDNT 2.299-
3(0). Certainly the phrase "the share of the inheritance of the saints" is
unmistakably Jewish in character. And for anyone famili ar with the Jewish
20. Note panicuJ arly Segal's Ihesis thai Pau l uses the language of lransfoonalion gained
through contact with Jewish mysticall!pOCalypticism to e~preS5 the hope of ullimate salvation (Palll
ch. 2; see also Morra y-Jones, "Transformational MySlicism··). 22. " A Stoic in the SIOCU would have borne the discomfort calmly and unc:omplainingly.
21. "The GN:ek term ~ans literally "the 'long brealh ' which can hold oul in face of failuN: but would he at the same time: have been heard ' singi ng hymns 10 God.' as Paul and Silas did in
or opposition" (Schwei~er. C%~i(Jns 44). On the imponana: of God's forbearance within Jewish the Philippian lown jai I (ACIS 16:25)1" (Bruce. C%sswns. Phil~mI)fI. and Epilesi(J1tS 48).
though! $COC my H OfM1IJ 552 and 5511.
76 COLOSSIANS 1:J..!· 13 77

scriptures it would immediately evoke the characteristic tal k of the promised than human saints (including I Thes. 3: 13 and 2 Thes. 1: 10). The closest
land and of Ismel as Goo 's inheritance.23 Pa rticularly notable is the way the paralle ls are certain ly to be understood in that sense (Acts 26: 18; Eph . 5:8;
language could be transferred to the eschatological hope of share in the I Pel. 2:9: cf. Dan. 12:3; I Enoch 1:8; 5:7; 104:2: 2 Baruch 5 1:5. 10: Poly-
resurreclion and/or life beyond death in the eternal life of heaven (Dan. carp. Philippians 12:2). The thought, then, may rather be of hea ven as the
12: 13; Wis. 5:5; Shemoneh 'Esreh 13; cf. J Enoch 48:7). Most siri ki ng of shared inheri tance of the (human) saints. since both at Qumran ,md in the
all are the parallels in the DSS : IQS II :7-8: " God has given them (wisdom, early Chri stian gatherings the joy of shared worship was understood as a
knowledge. righteousness, power, and glory) to his chosen ones as an ever- forelaste of heaven (see further on 2: 18). Certainly the closest pamllels in
lasting possession and has caused them to inherit the lot of the saints"; I QH the New Testament (jUSt ci led) imply a strong measure o f realized escha-
I I: 10- 12: " For the sake of your glory you have purified man of sin that he tology. Either way, there is a strong sense of an inestimable privilege, pre-
may be holy for you .. . that he may be one jwithlthe children of your truth viously understood as Israel's alone, and of a hope for choice companionship
and panake of the lot of your sainLS."24 and social identiry that will extend beyond death and whose quality can be
The thought is so close that it must hel p illuminate the meaning here. experienced already in th is mortal life.
" Light" here presumably denotes the light of heaven, that transcendent I: 13 &~ tppooaTO l'l].l00; f.X -n;C; t~ooo{~ TaU o-xOmUl; xa.l ].lETECftll0EV
illumination that alone gives clari ty of vision. including clarity of self- e:t~ Tt'JV ~Clo"lAeiClV TaU ulou TIi~ 6;ya1tn ~ aUTou. The note of realized es-
perception (e.g., John 1:4-5: 3: 19-2 1: 2 Cor. 4:6; Eph. 5: 13- 14; I John 1:5 , chatology becomes even stronger in the nexi two clauses, for what is de-
7; 2 :8). Those who have received this inheritance in the Iight 25 and live scribed here would elsewhere be thought of as reserved for the end of
accordingly can be cal1ed "sons/children of the light" (as in Luke 16:8; John history/time. The first verb, pooj.tat ("rescue, deliver"), where it it is used
12:36; 1 Thes. 5:15): the Qumran covenanters understood themselves in the of spiritual deli verance elsewhere in the New Testament, normally has such
same way. In both cases, the anti thesis is explicit with the ';sons of darkness," a final sense (Matt. 6: J3 - in the fi nal testing: Rom. 7:24 = 8:23 ; II :26;
that is, those who by self-deception or demonic deception fail to understand I Thes. 1: 10; 2 TIm. 4 : 18). To be nOled also here is the fact that the deliverer
the true nature of thi ngs (see furt her on 1: 13). is God (Findeis 366-68; so by implication in Rom. 7:24 = 8: 11; but Jesus
There is some dispute. however. as to who is intended by the phrase in Rom. 11:26; 1 Thes. 1: I 0; 2 Tim. 4: 18), strengthening the echo of God 's
.. the saints in the light." They could be angels (as may well be intended in equally decisive act of deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt (e.g. ,
Wis. 5:5 and 1QS II :7-8),26 for "saintslholy ones" can be used of angels EAod. 6:6 ; 14:30; Deut. 13:5; Judg. 6:9; Psalms of Solomoll 9: I ) already
(BAGD S.V. &ylO~ I b~). And if the passage al ready has in view the claim to present in this context. 28 More striking still is Ihe fact that elsewhere in the
share in the worship of angels indicated in 2: 18, the inference would be that, Pauline corpus talk of fu11 sharing in the kingdom of God is always future
despite the disparagement of (so m ~ of) their fellow citizens in Colossae (~ Thes. 2: 12; 2 Thes. 1:5; 2 Tim. 4 : I, 18; the formulaic phrase " inherit the
(2: 18), the readers were already qualified to share with the angels their kingdom of God" in 1 Cor. 6:9- 10; 15:50; Gal. 5:2 1; cf. Eph. 5:5). There is
common inheritance (Li ncoln, Paradise 11 9·20; Sappington 199). 27 On the nothing quite like this claim that believers in Christ Jesus have already (aorist
other hand, it is doubtful whether " the saints" in Paul ever refer to any other tense) been transferred into the kingdom. like a whole people transported
from their traditional territory to settle in a new region (Josephus, Allfiqllities
9.235 and 12. 149 are cited appositely by seveml: see also on 2:12 and 3: 1).29
23. Num . 18:20; O!:UI. 10:9: 12: 12; 18: I ; 32:9; Josh. 14: 3-4; 18:6-7; 19:9. 49. 5 I ; Jtt. 16:
12:9- 10; 51: 19; Sir. 24: 12; 44 :23: 45: 22; cf. 2 Sam. 20: I : I Kgs. 12: 16. See further w. ~Ier and The deliverance achieved has been from ';the authori ty (E~O OO(cX) of
J. Herrmann, TOm' 3.759·61 . 7f1}· 76; 1. D. HeSler. 1'0141 $ C(HlCI'pl of /lliJuiWI!U (SJTOceasiooal darkness." The anti thesis between ;' Jight " lind "darkness" is made explici t
Papersl4: Edinburxh: OH"er and Boyd, 1968). (see also on I :12). In this context it is not simply the obvious moral antithesis
24. For Qumran 's nlOre predeslinarian u...e orllle same language!;oCe again Lohse. CoIQJSian.J fami liar in Jewish wisdom (e.g .• EccL 2:13; Wis. 17:20-18 :4 ; though note
and Phi/mum 35· 36.
2'i. " In the light'· probably goes with the whole phrase. nOl just with ··the ~inlS" (sec
the close pamllel with Joseph and Asellarh 8:10-11 and 15:12). but the
Lohmeyer 39 n. 3).
eschatological dualism of apocalyptic (Amos 5:18, 20; I Enoch 92:4-5;
26. So recently Lohse . CokusiUltf ond Phill'mmt 36; Gnilka. Ko/rusl'fbril'f 47: Potom9 52;
Wol~r 65. BUI see 5cb ....·ci:ter. Colossians 5 1; Benoit. ··Col. I: 12" ; O· Brien . CoirusUJns. Philelfl{}tl
26-21; B ruce , CoiossilllU. Phl/tunon. and EpIlt!:Jians 49·50; Aleni. !:p'''''1! aux COWssil'fIS 19-80. 28. For lhe typological signiHcance of lhe libenllion from Egypc in Je ..... ish though, ~ ' .
SIr· B 4.860.64. . ...
n . Compare. and OOlIttast. R. P. Martin. Colossians and Phiil'mon 54: " AI a single blow he
di spels this vencrulioo of the angelic powers (Col. 2: 18] by assuring the Colossians thaI lhey have 29. Hence Lightfoot's p;u1Iphrnsc; •. He transplanted us thenc~. and setlled us as free eolon iSI5
atUlined • ploce shared by the angels" (ef. Dibelius. KoiruSl'r. EpheSl'r. Philmwn 9) . and cilium in the kingdom of His Son."

78 COLOSSIANS I : 13 79

108 :11 - 15: 2 Baruch 18:2),30 Here agai n (as in 1: 12) the parallel with Qum- and the talk of thrones (plural) in Dan. 7:9 - a frui tfu l source of speculation
ran 's contrast between "the sons of light " and " the sons of darkness" is in Judaism of the time of the New Testament as to whom the extra throne(s)
noticeable ( IQS 1:9- 10; 3:24-25; 4:7-13 : lQM, e.g., 1:1, 8- 14: 13:5- 16). could be for (see my Partings 223-24). It was precisely the Christian claim
Presumably the language was not inte nded to imply that de li verance from that the full signi fi cance of Christ could be understood only if both passages
the power of darkness was complete and lhat transfer to the kingdom had were referred to him; he was the other " Lord " of Ps. 110: I (see on 2:6);
been fu lly carried out. They were not yet in heaven! The.'c is no hint in he shared sovereign ru le with God (Rev. 7: 17; 22: I, 3; see furth er on 3: I).
Colossians of any awareness of the danger of an overrealized eschatology As in I :3, however, the thought of Chri st's kingship here is carefully hedged
(contrast I Cor. 4:8), The language is rather the exaggerated expression of around: the deli verer and actor is God, and as in J Cor. J 5: 24~28 . so here ,
rich spiritual experience and full confidence (hope) that what had already it is a subordinate kingship, as implied by (alk of "the kingdom of hi s
been done (aorisl tcnse) would be completed without fail (cf. Phil 1:6 with beloved son. " Nevertheless, for Paul and Timothy it was a genuine king-
3:20, and Eph . 1:3 with 1: 13-1 4; cr. also Findeis 368-72). Taken in conjunc· ship, requiring a proper submission from his servants, even if in the las(
lion wi th I: 12 it may be a fai r deduction that the Chrisrian sense of already analysis it is a devotion directed to God through his Son.
established privilege (I: 12) was the converse of a sense of deli verance from Perhaps the (ension between the thought of Christ's kingdom and (by
dark powers and that reassurance of such deliverance was equal ly necessary implication) God's kingdom in this tex t is itself a reflecti on of the eschato-
to cou nter the overblown claims and disparaging attitudes stemming from logical tension characteristic of most New Testament writings. A somewhat
the Colossian synagogue (2: 16, 18). si milar tension is present in Jesus' teaching on the kingdom of God as
The weight of t~ooo{a should also be noted. It denotes an executive preserved in the Synoptic Gospels; for example, Jesus bids his disciples pray
authority, in this case a domination of darkness (though most take it in the "May your kingdom come" (Mall. 6: I 0ILuke ll :2), bUI he al so claims that
sense " domain " or " dominion" ; but cf. the same phrase in Luke 22 :53). in his ministry of exorcism "the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Matt.
The implication. therefore. is not so much that the darkness has been already 12:28JLuke I I :20). To that extent at least we may say that Jesus in his
stripped of all its power and banished . ~ather, the darkness can be legiti· ministry embodied or enacted with executive aumority the kingly rule of
mately and authoritatively resisted, as having had its license revoked (so God . In tum , in the Paulines, the Spirit, that is, the Spirit of Christ, is
Rom. 13:11 · 14; Eph. 5:8- 11 ; I Thes. 5:4-8 ; I Pel. 2:9). Within a unitary understood as the firs t installment of the fu ll share (inheritance) in God's
kingdom (cf. I Cor. 15:24) subjects of the king can reject all other claims kingdom (Rom. 8: 15-17; I Cor. 6;9- 11; 15:44-50; Gal. 3:29-4:7; 5: 16-21 ;
to fi nal authority over them (see also 1:16 and 2: 10. 15). Eph. I: 13- 14). The kingdom of Christ, insofar as it is to be distinguished
Does it make any difference that the kingdom here spoken of is " the from the kingdom of God, is a further way of expressing the tension between
kingdom of his {God's] beloved son"? In comparison with talk of " God's what has already been accomplished (the kingdom of Christ) and what is
kingdom," the idea of Chri st's kingdom occurs only infrequently in the still to be accomplished (the kingdom of God). This also means that partici-
New Testament (Malt. 13:41 and 25 :3 1 - the Son of Man; I Cor. 15:24-28; pation in Christ's kingship will always be experienced within the contradic-
also J Clemem 50:3; cf. Eph . 5:5: " the kingdom of Christ and of God") tion of a world mat does not yet own the sovereign rule of God (hence,
and lacks clarity of conception (U. Luz, EDNT 1.204-5). It was partly, no again, the joy and the need for patience and endurance, as in I: 11- 12; see
doubt, a consequence of the strong Jewish expectation of a royal Messiah : also 4, " ).
the identification of Jesus as Messiah carried with it the overtone that as This is the only time in the letter that Christ is explicitly described
Messiah he reigned as king (cf. Gnilka, Kolosserbrief 49; Schweizer, as God 's Son, and in the unusual fonnula, " Son of his love," a Semitic
Colossians 52; the influence of 2 Sam. 7: 14 was important here; see Joel fonn 31 equival ent to " beloved son" (cf. Eph. 1:6: " the beloved"). The
3). The disentangling of thi s notion from that of national ruler over Israel nearest equivalent comes in the Gospels' talk of Jesus as God's "be loved
(Mark 15:26!) was a del icate business that probably was sufficiently haz· SOn" (Mark 1:11 ; 9:7; cf. 12:6; also Matl. 22:2 and Luke 22 :29). The usage
ardous to inhibit Christian development of a christology of kingship (cf. reflects something of the range of relationship to God that could be ex-
John 18:35·37 ). The other main root must have been Ps. 110: I (note 110:2) ~ressed by this category. including especiaUy Israel, Israel's king, or the
nghteous (e.g ., Delli. 33: 12; Neh . 13:26: !sa. 4 1:8; 43:4; Wis. 4:10; Sir.
17:18; Psalms of S%morI 13:8; 18:4). That is to say, the metaphor of
30. See alSQ Lohmeyer 48 n. 2. 1lIe thought is 001 Gnostic as such. but the Slrong ~alreldy"
emphasis of the passage no doubt gave scope to later Gnostic ideas (cr. Lightfoot 141 ; Gnilka.
31. BDF 1 165; questioned by Dibelius, Kolossf'r. EpllltSf'r. PhllfttKHl 9.
Kolos~Tbri~f 48. 50; Pokorny 55).
COLOSSIANS 1: 13- 14 81

sonship to God denoted different degrees of closeness 10 G~ ~r ~avo: and redemption of Gentile as well as Jew to s hare in the new promised land
acknowledgment given by God. with the added "beloved mrllc3ung a ("the kingdom of God 's beloved Son '·).32
further degree of closeness. In the case of Je..<;us. initially this als~ may ~a~e In many ways me most astonishing fearore of this passage is the final
been no more than a matter of degree (believers could share \0 Chos! s phrase, which funher describes the ' ;redemption" as " the forgi veness of sins."
sonship: Rom. 8: 14-17 ; Gal. 4:6· 7) . But very quickly a nole of qualitati,v e that is. pardon for failure, expunging of offense from memory and conscience.
distincti on emerged, particularly through the idenlillcatioh of Jes us with The idea and language were familiar e nough in the wider Greek world (e.g.,
Wisdom (see on 1:1 5), heightened still further in John 's Gospel by the BAGO s.v. &,4>E<JH;; R. Bullmann, TDNT 1.509), and of course it was wholly
di stinction of C hri st as God's "only or un ique (}.Iovoy£vtlt;) Son," with ui6t; fami liar in Jewish thought. This latter point perhaps needs some emphasis since
(""son") reserved for Jesus. "Son" was the metaphor that most effectively it has sometimes been suggested thaI Jesus brought forgiveness to a legalistic
"caught" the relationship between God and Jesus and so became the Judaism to wh ich the theology and experience of forgiveness had become
standard way of referring 10 Christ in cla<;sical christology. See further my foreign (see. e.g., details in my Pa rtings 44-5 1). But forgiveness was at the
CirrislOiogy ch. 2 and Partillgs 245-47. hean of the sacrificial cuI! centered in Jerusalem (note, e.g., the repeated refrai n
1:14 tv OJ fxoJ.l£v rijv a1t'OAUrpwmv, n')v UQ€O'lV rwv a j.lapnwv. In in Lev. 4:20. 26. 31, 35 ; 5:6. 10.13, 16, 18; see fu rther 1. S. Kselman, ABD
the final clau~e of this striking sequence the focus switches directly to 2.83 1-33). And forgiveness continued to be a regular theme in the Judaism of
Christ. leading into the powerful "Christ hymn" of 1 : 1 5 .2~. T~e ;'in Paul's time)3 Equally it was a fam iliar theme in early Christiani ty (e.g .• Mark
whom" (the second occurrence or the "i n Christ" phrase, which IS used 1:4; Luke 24:47 ; Acts 2:38; 10: 43; Heb. 9:22; 10:18: Jas. 5: 15: I John 1:9;
so frequ e ntl y in thi s letter; see on I :2) may indicate that a more established Barnabas 6: I I; 16:8; Hemlas, Mal/dares 4.3.1).
formula is being cited or ec hoed here (cf. Rom. 3: 24 ; Eph . I :7). Accord· The surprising fea ture is rUl hc r that forgiveness of sins seems to be
ingly, "we" now embraces not only Paul and Timothy and thos.e prayed a very minor element in Paul' s theology and gospel (only in a quotation
for ( I :9) but all who are ;'in Christ. " fxoj.l£v (" we have") continues the in Rom. 4:7 in the undisputed Pau lines). The related theme o f repentance
note of realized eschalOlogy, whereas in Rom. 8:23 and Eph. I : 14 and 4 :30 fares only a little better (Rom. 2:4; 2 Cor. 7:9-10; 12:2 1). This lack of
the ;' rede mption" still lies clearly in the furore. In every case, h~we;~r, interest in suc h prominem features of Jewish theology (repentance a nd
the crucial fact is that the redemption is dependent solely on C hnst ( In forgiveness) has caused great puzzlement to ma ny scholars atte mpting to
him" ; cf. I Cor. 1:30: ' ;God has made him [our] rede mption"). So the understand Paul from a Jewish perspective (e.g. , Moore. Judaism 3. 15 1).
eschatological tension could be implicit, si milar to that between 1:27 The usu al deduction made is that Paul 's metaphor of "justification" and
("Christ in you, the hope of glory") a nd 3:4 (" When Christ who is ~ur his theology of being ;'i n Christ" absorbed within the m such alternati ve
life appears ... "): being " in C hri st" we have the (future) redempuon ways of describi ng the blessings of the gospel - though even so their
(assured). absence remains a puzzle. That the phrase occurs he re, and in very close
The word "redemption" (Ct1to).,:utpwm9, " release" (NEBfREB), parallel in Eph. 1:7, adds stre ngth to the view that this is the work of a
" freedom" (JBINJB ) is comparatively rare, but would be well e nough close disciple of Paul, glossing a more fa miliar Pauli ne motif and anxious,
known to denote the ransom of a captive or pri soner of war fro m slavery inler alia. to relate Pauline thought more closely to the other main Streams
(B AGO s.v.). Understandably, the anti thesis between light and darkness of Christian (and Jewish) thinking.34 At al l events. the phrase serves as a
( 1: 12. 13) could be readily translated into the idea of those who belonged
to the light held as pri soners or slaves by an al ien power. Hence such 32. For the older debate as 10 whether the idea of payment of a ransom price is implicil in
the use of Wto)"mj>o)(l'I; here. §l:e L Morris. nw, A.postolic p"ochinS of tile Cross (London:
exhorta tions as Rom. 6: 13 and 13: 12. in which the reality of the eschaur l)tndale1GraDd Rapids: Eerdmans. 1955) 43 ()'f!5) aDd D. Hill. Gruk WQrds ami Hebrew Me(Jflings
logical tension (that which needs yet to be done as the outworking of what ~~~.s 5; Cambridge: Cambridgc Uni versity. 1967) 73 -74 (no). See also K. Kenelgc. ED""
has already been accompli shed) becomes clear. Given the clear echo of the
settle ment of the promised land in I : 12. the compound word would prob· 4 33. See. e.g .. lQS 11:11.]4; CD 3:18; ]QH 4: 37; Psalms of SnlamQn 9:7: Tesfamtlll of J,m
2:8; Tnlflmeru of A.braham 14:12, 14; Jouph ami Me""lh 11 :18; Shemoneh 'ureh 6; see also
ably evoke thought of Israel' s ran som from slavery in Egypt and from
Sall(lc l'5. Powl index s.v. "fOJgivellf!S~"; J. H. Char]esworth. ABD 2.833-35.
captivity in Babylon, whic h were usuall y described wi th the uncompounded 34. Akrt i. t.prlre <lUX CoIoss;ellS 81-82. notes the close parallel here ( 1: tZ· 14) with Acts
verb AUt poUV ("deliver. ransom," e.g., Deut. 7:8; 9:26; 15: 15; Isa. 43: I, 26:18 (darkneSi. Iighl, Dulhorily. fO"gi\'eness of sins. lot. saints) and wonden; whether it points 10
14; 44 :22-24: 5 1: II ; 52 :3). In that case the great acts of Israel's rede mption Lukan ~Uthorshi p forColmsians. Percy. Prob/emf! &5-86. ho ....ever. llO(es that 6tc0l" tiiw l'qiapnWv
are being understood typologicall y as foreshadowing the eschatological has a hlurgicaJ ring more suited 10 the passage and that Paul wacs pn':Sumably fami tiar with the
COLO SSIANS 1: 14-20 83
reminder of how easily translatable arc the more common Pau li ne cate- A Hymn in Praise of Christ (1: 15·20)
ories into the more traditional Jewish oncs. .
g The one step clearly taken beyond Jewish thinking on vene~s 15 He i.~ the image of the invisible God,
's the location of forgi veness no longer in the cult, or even sl~ply III the firstborn of all creation.
~irectness of prayer 10 God, but once a~ain " !n C,~.ris{. " ~s..partlcul~r1Y 16 For in him were created all things
. Galatians it is the possibility of Gentiles belOg III Chmt l?at ~nngs in the heavens and on the earth,
~~em within' the sphere of God's gracious forgiveness. " [n Christ" IS the the visible and the invisible,
whether throne.~ or dominions
key to all.
or principalities or authorities;
all things were created through him alld fo r him.
17 He hims elf i.5 before all things,
and all things hold together ill him:
18 and he i.5 the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, I the fi rstborn from 2 the dead,
in order t/wl he mjght be in all things preemillent.
19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
20 and through him to reconcile all things to him. 3
HUlking peace through the blood of his cross (tl/rough him ), 4
whether the things on the earth or the things in the heavens.

It is generally agreed that at this point the writer(s) have included an already
fonned hymn .5 The marks of hymnic or poetic form are clear enough (cf.
panicularly Wolter 72):

I. NEBIREB's "origin" is acceptable. but GNB moves too far away from tite Greek: ··the
$OUfCe of the body's li fe. He is the first-born Son, who was raised fTOOlthe dead,"
2, 1"'6 and 1( "' omit !he £t, ("from") to give tbe sense " fm>tbom of the dead." that is,
strengthening the sense of identification between Christ and "!he dead": he was first of the dead to
be resurrected,
3, 11 would be possible to re ad the original ElIA YTON (wriuen without accentsOf' br-eathings)
lIS d~ <rin6v '" d~ mIJwv ("to himself" ), that is. to God (d, 2 Cor. 5: 19), ralher than as d~ m'lwv
(sec. e,g" Moule, Colossians and PhilemQII 169-70); but that would break !he triple parallel of " in
him," "through him," "to him" (1:1611:19-20),
4, l1le manoscripl at!estation is equally weighty for omiss ion as for iociusi oo of "through
him" (~I' aVrou) . It could have been inchJded by scribal reflex in view of !he repealed use of the
~ in I :16 and 20 or omined by accidenl (the scribe's eye jumping directly from the immedialely
p!'e(:eding crurou) o r design (because il is so awkward for lhe sense), The presence of the phrase
mU~1 COlIDl as !he more difficuh reading and so il should probably be iocluded (d, MelZger 62 1),
5. There have been several reviews of the debate (!khmauch 47-55; Gabathuler; R, P. Martin,
CoioUil1lls and Philemon 61 -66; Benoit, " Hymne"; Burger 3-53; O'Brien , Colossil1ll5, Philemon
32-37: on the history of !he hymn 's theological interpretation see Gnilka, Kolosserbrief 77-87), The
IllO$t com mon divisio n is of two strophes (I : 15-1&1 arid I: 18b-20), as suggested originally by Norden
2!i2, or of two main strophes ( I: 15-16c, I : 18b-20) with transitioJlaI lines in I: 17- 18a (marked by
Lord "s Prayer. See also Bruce, COIO$5;alU. Philemon, and Eph~sia,:: 54 n. 68: Woll er 69 (" an early ~lIeling of "and he is" in 17a and 1&1) Of' in 1: 16d-1 8a (marJ,;ed also by parall eling of "all things"
tn 16d and 17b). as 5lIgge:\ted first by Schweizer, "Kirche" 295 (~al so Burger 12-15; Balchin,
Christian trad ition which ... reflec\s the saving dfoct of bapnSffi ).
84 COLOSS IANS 1:15·20 85

(1) a relative clause beginning with "who" (&;), presupposing an opening strophe that sees the cosmos as sustained " in him" (I: 17) and a second thai
line that identified the object of praise and evoked the hyronic response, begins from the presupposition of a cosmos disrupted and alienated (I :20 ;
and introducing a sustained description of the one so designated (ef. cf.. e.g., Emsl, Philipper, Philemoll, Kolosser, Epheser 172-73), which is
Phil. 2:6; I Tim. 3; 16; Heb. I :3; I Pet. 2:22): presumably why NA26 prints only 1:15- 18a in poetic lines.
(2) a sequence of clauses and phrases mal fall easily into matching rhyth- An alternati\'e hypolhesis would be, then, that a one· verse hymn/poem
mic units; in praise of Christ's role in creation has been supplemented by a second
(3) a clear sUllcture of two strophes (I: 15-18n, 18b-20), marked by paral- hand (the author's) to bring out in echoing terms the significance of Christ's
leling of key mOli fs - redemptive work (particularly Benoit. " Hymne" 248-50; cr. H. Langkam-
mer. EDNT 3 .49; Yates. Colossians 15, 19,26). The difficulty with this is
I : 15 "who is the fIrstborn" U8b
Ihe d oubt whelher at that stage the first Chrislians would have composed a
I : 16 "because in him" U9
hymn sole ly in honor o f Christ's role in creation (cf. I Cor. 8:6, though that,
I :I6 "all things, rnrough him, 10 him" 1:20
more properly speaking, is an adaptation of the Jewish creed , the Shel1lil;
- by the thematic repetition of " all things" (twice each in vv. 16 and contrast Hcb. 1:1-4). This in tum raises Ihe question of whether 1:15- 18a
17, once each in vv. 18 and 20). and by a movement from the creation was in faci a pre-Christian hymn (in praise of Wisdom or Logos; apart from
of "all things in the heavens and on the earth" ( 1:16) 10 a climax of the la.. t two word.., no thing in 1: 15-18a need refer to Christ), which was
reconciliation of ;' the things on the eanh and the things in the heavens" laken over by Paul and Timothy and e laborated to ind icate both Christ's
(I :20; see, e.g., discussion in Kehl , Christushymllus 2849); "takeover" of Wisdom 's role (see the exegesis below) and the completion
(4 ) resuhing in a rounded unil whose meaning is self-contained and not of that role by his work of redemption (cf. O 'Neill) . The diffic ulty with this
dependent o n its immediale context but which nevertheless appears to understanding is Ihat. at least in Jewish circles. such a hymn to Wisdom
have been "nested" between two passages functioning as introcluction would have an immediate practical application 10 daily life or a reference (0
(1 : 12- 14: "in whom ... who") and corollary ( 1:21-23: " to reconcile the Torah (prov, 8:22-36; Sir. 24 ; Bar. 3:9-4:4) equivalent, in fact , to the
all things . . . and you he has now reconci led"), even though it disruplS elaboratio n here in Colossians by reference to Chrisl's work of reconciliation.
the context to the extent thai it interposes a third person sequence into The issue is further complicated by the queslion whether in taking over
a more personal "we/you" sequence; preformed material the authors of Colossians have added their own explan-
(5) not to mention (the least decisive consideration) the appearance of atory glosses. The most common ly agreed glosses are: ( 1) lines 5-7 in the
various terms (particularly "visible." "thrones," " hold together," above translation ("the visible .. , authorities") or lines fr7 ("whether
"beginning," "be preeminent," ';making peace," "the blood of the ~hrones ... authorities"), which were imroduced presumably because of the
cross") that are not fo und elsewhere in Paul (Deichgr'Jber 153 is Importance of their theme for the lettcr (cf. particularly 2:15) and without
overconfid ent on this point). which the " in him, thro ugh him, to him " parallels would be much tighter;
(2) " the church" ( I : 18a), by which a pre-Christi an hymn to Wisdom could
Nevenheless, it can never be finally proved that preformed material ha~e been "christianized; and (3) " through the blood of his cross" ( I :20),
has been taken up here. It is always possible that Paul himself became lyrical which would then explain how the awkwardness o f the second "through
at the thought o f all that Christians owed Christ ( I : 13-14) or simply struck him " arose (see n. 4),1
a purple passage/' Moreover, it cannot be denied that the second strophe At all events, whether taken over in pan or in who le, whether fro m
( 1:ISb-20) does not fall into such a natural o r matching rhythmic pauern as
the first ( I: 15-1 8a; so Burger 8-9). And there is some tension between a first
7. The range of suggested addit ions and t~il' varying support ha\'C been documented in
tabular fO'llI by Be noit. " Hymnc" 238; Burger 9- 11 . 15·16: Gnitka. KQI()jserbri~f 5].54' and
Bal Chin, "CoIQSsian.~ I : 15·20" 19; fOT thi s list of three additions sec also R. P. Martin. C"'Qs~ians
"Colossians 1:15·20" 1S-19; Altni. tpif~ UIU CQlossfcns 89-9]). Habermann 235-]1 regards ~ PhilntlOn 56-51. For ruller discussion see Lohse, Colossians and PhilcmQII 42-44, and Gnill.
I ; 11·1 &I as the earliest retbclion. Baugh rightl), WilmS against any assump(ion !hal a Semitic·style SS,. who conclude that ooly the last two of the three need be regarded as i~nioos (the earlier
composition would necessarily have fonned pcrl"cctly balanced symmelrical strophes. anal),sls of Klisemann, "Liturgy." has been influential 00 these poinlli), and Schweizer, Colossians
6. A pcn;iSltnl minorit), CQIlti nue to den)' the presence of pre.Pauline material here and thus S8~3 . Wen gst argues thaI only "the churc h" need be regarded a!i an addition (Fa"",,/n 172-15).
10 affirm that the " hymn" was composed by Paul himselr (e.g" Feuillet. Chris! Sagt5Se 246-7]: :~ght offers. ball1llCCd anal),$is in which nothing is omitted (" Poetry" 9'}.106); see also n. 25
Kiimmel34 2-4]; Caird 174-75; Helycr. Bakhin, "Colossians 1:15-20"). ••

86 COLOSS IANS 1: 15 87

pre-Christian or Christian materia l. whether composed entirely by Paul and 002:8. 16, 18.20). At any rate. it is worth noting again that any confrontatio n
Timothy or merely glossed by them, the passage can be quite properly intended by the authors was not so serious thai it needed to be pursued in
classified as an earl y Christian hymn in which Christ is praised in language urgent or immediately explici t terms. It was evidently suffi cient for their
used commonly in Hellenistic Judaism in reference \0 divine Wisdom. s The purpose to assert (or recall ) the high status and fu ll significance of God's
hymn. it should be noted, is nOI addressed to Christ. but is in praise of Chris I. Son as of central imponance fo r the Colossians ' own confidence and per-
The complementarity (rather than antithesis) between God's creative activity sistence (1:23).10
and redemptive activity is in a most slriking way brought out and maintained I: IS &; EcrtiV rixrov tau Bl:ou LOU i:topatotl. 1tprot6tox~ 1taOTJ~
by the crucial middle term, Christ. in, through, and to whom God has xtIO£U>;. The tv ~ (" in whom" ) of 1:14 switched the focus from God
accomplished both his creative and his redemptive purposes. (5t;, I : 13) to Christ and thus made it possible to attach the lengthy hy mnic
That Christians at such an early stage should be willing to use such description of C hrist (running to s ix verses) by means of a further s imple
language o f Christ tells us much of ;'thc intellectual vitali ty of the early 6r; ("who"). The language used is unlike other trad itional formul aic sum-
Christian communities" (Houlden 170) and of their wi llingness to use cale- maries of the gospel inlroduccd elsewhere by the same relative pronoun
gories fundamenlal to w ider philosophical thought in their attempts to ex- (such as Rom. 3:25: 4:25: 8:34). which focus on the cross and resulTection
plicate the significance of Christ and to communicate it to a wider audience. of Christ. But the same phrase (" who is the image of God") is used in
The hymn is itself a sharp reminder that there were front-rank thinkers among 2 Cor. 4:4.
the fi rst Christians eager to engage with their contemporaries in the attempt Here it is imponant to note the description o f God as " invi sible"
to explain reality. It is al so salutary 10 recall that such christological innova- (MpCltor;). The adjeclive is used of God in fou r of the fi ve New Testament
tion came in the context of worship and through the medium of hymns (cf. occulTences (here and in Rom. I :20; I Tim. I: 17: Heb. II :27) and nowhere
Hengel 95). However, again despite Klisemann, "Liturgy" (d. Schnacken- else in bibl ical Greek. but is common in Philo (see w.
M ichaelis, TDNT
burg. "Aufnahme" 42-45: Wengst, Lieder 179; Lowe 302: Meeks. "800y" 5.368: note also Adam and Eve 35:3; Teslament of Abraham 16:3-4). It is.
21 1), there is no panicular reason why it should be designaled a "baptismal" of course. a central Jewish theologoumenon that God cannot be seen (see
hymn. also on I : II). Hence the figure of "the angel of the Lord" in the patriarchal
It remains unclear what Light the passage sheds on the situation at nalTatives (e.g .• Gen. 16:7- 12; 22: 11 ~12; Exod. 3:2-6; 14:19-20) and the
Colossae. Why should this hymn be cited. and why here? Paul does tend to imporlance of the commandment against idolatry (Exod. 20:4-6; Deul. 5:8-
cite c hristological formulas at the beginnings of his letters (Rom. I :3-4; Gal. 10). In the wider Hellenistic world this chimed in with the basic Pl atonic
I :3A; I Thes. 1:9- 10: cf. I Cor. 1:7-9. 23-24. 30: 2 Cor. I : 19-20), but noth- distinction between the world of sense perception (xOOJ.lOr; ai09'lT6c;16paT6r;)
ing so extensive as here and nothing thai causes quite such a modification and the world of ideas accessible only to the mind (x60J.l o~ vOllT6c;1ci6paTor;),
o f the nonnal thanksgiving. Nor is the hymn and it.. framework ( I : 12-23) fundamental also to Philo's religious cosmology.
panicularly polemical in character, in contrast to Gal. I :6-9 or in comparison In each case the consequent crucial question was: How then can God
even with the closest christological parallel ( I Cor. 8:4-6).9 We may fairly be known ? How may one gain knowledge o f or access to this higher world,
deduce that Paul a nd Timothy thought the preeminence of Christ. in terms which is inaccessible to the senses? A common answer was found in the
both of creation and redemption , needed to be emphasized. But the absence term "image," Elxffiv, whi ch had a ra nge of meaning embracing " repre-
of polemic suggests that Christ's status and significance were being deval ued sentation. reflection, likeness" (H. Kleinknecht. TDNT 2.388-89) and
nuher than attacked. that an alternative religious system was being exalted. which Plato had used in that sense, both for the cosmos as the visible
so that a ny disparagement of the Colossian Christians ' faith and praxis was "image" of God ( Timllells 92c) and for the sun as the " image" of the "idea
mo re of a corollary than a central objective (cf. Hooker 122. 135; see also of the good" (Republic 6.509a: see fun her Kleinknecht 389; Lohse,
C% .fsians and Philemon 47). The thought of man (human being) as "i m-
II. The Wisdom ehar.!CIcr of tho: hymn is a matter of broad consensus; sec. e.g .• Percy. age of god" was also famil iar (BAG D S.v. dxrov Ib), and it is this rather
Problflmfl 7().11 ; Fiorenza: Aleni. Colossifl lL< / :/5-20 \48·52; Hurtado 41 ; Sappington 172·74; than reference to the cosmos that c haracterized Jewish usage of the word ,
Habermann 247. 262; and Wolter 76. We may speak with hindsight of a developing traj«IOI)' toWard though the theme did not feature prominently across the spectrum o f Jewish
lithe GlIO§Iic re(\e(omcr myth (so Sanders. HymJlS 75·87; Fiorenza). but 001 y~ of a GlIO§Iic
9. 'The li sl in I: I 6 ("the visible ... authorities") is often assumed to be dcrh 'e<J from "the 10. Fowl 152·54. howc,·cr, 5truUte!i 10 uncJ,.ol'Sland the hymn in terms of an uemplary
Colossian kusy" (e.g .. Dibclius. K O/U!JsfI'. I:."phe&flr, Phi/flmOll 10; Robinson 283). chri stology.
88 COLOSSlANS I : 15 89

lheology.11 None of thi s seems to be in mind here, however.12 although wisdom rather than " intermedi aries" or "hypostases" (sec fu nher Weiss,
Adam chrislology is prominent elsewhere in Paul's theology (see also on Un tersuchungen 3 18-3 1; Dunn, Chrisl% gy 168- 76, 217-30). The character
U8b and particularl y on 3: 10). and effectiveness of this divine Wisdo m become clear in wider Jewi sh usage,
More to the point here is the importance in Hellenistic Judaism of the bOth in the affirmatio n of its unknowability, unless God takes the initiative
thought of divine Wisdom as the " image of God" (particularly Wis. 7:26; (Job 28 ; Bar. 3:28-36), and in the c laim that God has expressed his wisdom
Philo, Legum allegoriae 1:43): also of the di vine Logos in Philo (De con- most clearly in the Torah (Sir. 24 :23; Bar, 3:36-4: I).
fusione Iingllumm 97, 147; De fu ga et illl't!tl i i one 101 : De .50f1IlIis 1.239; As the seque nce of paralle ls with molifs chamc le ristically used o f
2.45; Eltestcr 110). The invisible God makes himself visible in and through Jewi sh Wisdom in these verses will c onfirm. the writer here is taking over
his wisdom (Feuillcl , Sagesse 173-74), The importance of thi s in Hellenistic language used of di vine Wisdom and reusing it to express the significance
Judaism was thai "image" could mus bridge the otherwise unbridgeable gulf of Christ, if not, indeed, taking over a pre-Christian hymn to Wisdom . That
between the invisible world and God on the one side and visible creation is to say, he is idenlifying this divine Wisdom wilh Christ, just as ben Sira
and humanity on the other - denoting both that which produces the divine and Baruch identified divine Wisdom wilh the To rah (so also Heb. 1:3; cf.
image and the image thus produced. I) In Jewi sh theology Wi sdom and Logos particularly Davies, PaIlI168-75 ; Weiss, Umer.'ilIchllngell 306-8). The effect
(the two are o n en equi vaJent) thus become ways of safcg uarding the unknow- is the same: not to predicate the actual (pre)existence of either Torah or
ability of God by providing a mode of speaking of the invisible God's Christ prio r to and in creation itself, but to affirm that Torah and Christ are
self-re velatory actio n (his " imagc/likeness" being stamped, his "word" 10 be understood as Ihe c limactic manifestations of the preexistent divine
spoken) by means of which he may nevertheless be known ("the kno wledge wisdom, by which the world was created . 15 Jt is Christ in his revelatory and
of Goo"; see on 1:9 and 10) . The Wisdom and Logos of God could thus redemptive significance who is the subject of praise here; 16 "the description
function in effective Jewi sh apologetic within a wider Hellenistic milieu, is revelatory, more than ontological" (Marlin, Colossians and Philemoll 57).
where other similarly functioning terms were less suitable (" glory of God" And the praise is that his redempti ve work ( 1: 14: " in whom we have the
too Jewish, " Spirit of God" too nonrational). redemption" ) is entirely continuous and of a piece with God 's work in
This means a lso that Wisdom (and Logos) should not be understood creation, It is the same God who comes to expression in creation and
in simplistic or mechanical terms as " intermediaries " between God and his definitively in Christ; '; he who speaks of Christ speaks of God " (Gnilka,
world. No r is a teml like "hypostasis" appropriate. since only in later KOlosserbrief 61 ). In short, there is no duaJism here. Quite the contrary: this
ccnlUries did it gain the distinctive meaning that was necessary fo r it to is christo logy set within Jewish monothe ism and predicated on the Jewish
function in resolving otherwise intractable problems for the Christian under- theological axio m that the one God ha<; chosen to reveal himself in and
standing of God. 14 Rather, these terms have to be understood as ways of thro ugh his crealive power (cf. Hegermann 101 : " dynamic monism";
speaking of God's own outreac h to and interaction with his world and his Wright, " Poetry" 114 : "c hristological mo nOlheism" ).J7
people, ways, in other words, of speaking of God's immanence while The Wisdom paralle l is extended in the second phrase, " firstborn of
safeguarding his transccndence - in a word. " personifications" of God's
]5. Cf. particularly Cain! 175-78: Dunn. ChriMoIogy 194-96: Kuschel 331-40: also Yaks.
I I. Om. 1:26-27: 5: I: 9:6: Sir. 11:3; Wi s. 2:23: Twam~11f of Naphtufi 2:5: Apocal>ps~ if Colossians 18-19. 23. ·'Christ is the visible icon of lbe invisible God" (HUbner 351 ).
Mo~~., 10:3; 12: 1: 33:5; 35:2; Adam and £I'f! 14:1 ·2: 37:3: 4 Ezra 8:44; 2 ElWCh 65:2. So al so in 16. The pruent tense "shows thai SI. Paul i~ speaking of C hrist in His presenl glorified
early Ch rislianily: I Cor. 11 :7: cf . Jas. 3:9. state" (A bbon 2Q9-IO), '"the cxal ted ChrisI'· (Lohse. Colossians and Philemon 46): si mi larly Kehl,
12. Despite Masson 98-99; Bruce. ColoSJWns. Phi/~mofl, and EpMSWns 58: and Pokomj ChristushYmrn4s 81; Pokom9 76; Habamann 239. 260. 262: WolkT n ), tn some contrasl Sleinmetz
74. In a famous article Burney saw hen: an f:llpo:'iition of Gen. 1:1 by means of Prov. 8:22 (fol lo.... ed 7.5 ('"rlIdically prolOlogical" ) and Schneider 4()9·10: lhe Lordship of ChriSI over 1hc principalities
by Dav ies, Paul 150-52; Cain! 175: adapted by Wrighl. ·' Pneuy·· 1l00lJ); Manns 101 -2 draws UId aUlborities is grounded not only in his death and res=tion but also in his ....on: as crealor in
pan icu lar allcntion 10 the Targu ms on Gen . I: I: but see Lohse. Colossians and Philem fll! 46 n. 101: the beginning, Je~lL understands Chri51 as e.illlOv in lhe lighl of 1:]9 and 2:9: "The Eikon of Christ
Sc hweizer. Colrusian.'l 65 n. 25: and Aleu i. CoIrus;ens liS: other bibliography in Sappington 172 m.:ans thai God himself d .... el Is in Christ·· (224-26).
n. 3; Aleui 98 n. 43. 17. See further DuIUl, Partings chs. 10-11: Hurudo : KuscheL. ConUllSI Balch in. '·Paui"·:
13. Th is faclOl"" will also be !he source of the confusion belwet'n Wisdom chriSiology and :'1be plain ~aning bere is lhal Chrilil ~ltiS1ed !he creation of !he world.... The dangerous
Adam/Man christology here (as ill us1l1iled by Fossum). Implications ....ould have been obvious 10 Paul', monOlbeislk: countrymen" (215: cr. MalUl5 107- 10).
]4. '"TIle SW lement lhal hypostasis evt.'r nxei ved 'a se nse m idway belween "pcrson" and But there is 110 hint whatsoever at this Slage lhat monothelSlic Je .... s w~ lroubled by this langu age
"allribUle," inc lining 10 lhe fOllTler· is pure de lusion. though ;1 derived ullimalely from Harnack.'· (cf. P. M. Casey, From JIf"";slr Prophet to G~IIIi1e God . TIw. Origins mid De,,~/op,.,mt uf New
So G. L. Pmilige. God ill Patristic Thought (London: SPCK. l 1952) JU;viii. Testament Cirristo/OID' (Cambridge: ClarkeILouisvi]k:: Westminster. 199IJ 116).
90 COLOSSIANS 1: 15- 16 91

all creation, " where again the antecedent for use of the word TCpwt6roxo~ ··the visible a nd the invisible " (see also on I : IS) . Likewise in the final clause
("flfStbom ") in relation to creation is most obviously Wisdom (Prov. 8:22, of the verse, if "everything (ta n6.vta) was c reated and exists Lperfect te nse;
25; Philo, De ebrietate 30 -31; Quaestiones in Genesin 4.97; cf. De virrutibus see Turner, Ins ights 125J througb him and for him," that presuma bly also
62); it is "a commonplace of the Hellenistic synagogue" (w. L. Kno x 159 distances him from creation as creation's means and end (see also Harris
n. 3),18 Here. however, we should note the ambiguity attaching to the im- 44).
agery, since " ftrstborn " can mean first created being and/or that which has The "in him " is the beginning of a sequence of p repositional phrases by
precedence over creation (NEBIREB :Jse the similarly ambiguous phrase means of which the creation of "all things" is described: " in him, through him,
" primacy over"), The former sense, flISt created being, gave scope lO sub- 10 him." Such use of the prepositio ns " from," " by," "through," " in," and " to"
sequent Arian christology (the Son as created by God; see, e.g., Lightfoot or " for " was widespread in talking about God and the cosmos. So particularly
146-48; Feuillcl, Sagesse 178-85; Schweizer, Colossians 250-52). But we pseudo-Aristotle, De mundo 6: Ott EX 8EQU n:UvtQ )((Xl 010. 8t;ou <nWOO"tTl'X£;
should recognize that the categories at this stage were not at all so precise Seneca, Epistulae 65.8: " Quinque ergo causae sunt, ut Plato dicit: id ex quo,
(see also my Ch ristology 189). Just the same ambiguity attaches to earlier id a quo, id in quo, id ad quod, id propter quod"; Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Jewish talk of Wisdom, sometimes spoken of a~ created by God (prov. 8:22;
Sir. 1:4; 24:9) and at other times as the agency through which God created
(see on 1:16). The reason is presumably the same as in the case of Etx.rov;
125-26: to '*'
4.23: ex crou nCtvt(l., tv crolx6.vta, de; at navta ; so also Philo, De cherubim
OU, to ~ aU, to at' ou, to Ot' 5; and already in Paul (Rom. I I :36
and I Cor. 8:6, as panially also in Heb. 2: 10).19
that is, both concepts were able to bridge the gulf between Creator and Once again, however. we may deduce that the primary influence is the
created, and both try to put into words the self-revelation (becoming visible) Jewish Wisdom tradition, within which such language had already been used
of the invisible God (Schweizer, " Ko!. 1: 15 -20 " 123). In other words, of divine wisdom (Feuillel, Sagesse 206-11 ). So, e .g ., Ps. 104:24 (LXX
precisely the ambiguity that allows the words to serve their bridge func tion 103:24):"you made all things b y wisdom (nCtv·t a tv aOtlllc;t Exoil1O"a9," a
allows both meanings to be embntced. It is important theologically, therefore, very close parallel ; Provo 3: 19:"The Lord by wisdom (tfl 0"0${q:) founded
to maintain that transcendent-immanent te nsion, precisely as expressing the the earth"; Wis. 8:5:"wisdom that effect s all things (tft~ to.n6.vta EPY«~O­
continuum between the unknowable God and his self-revelation in creation ).l£VT[e;)"; Philo, Quod deterius 54:"Wisdom, by whose agency the universe
and in other all too human categories. When the choice between " begotten" was brought to completio n (01' fi~ futetW0"6 f\ to n:av)"; similarly Heres
and "created" later became an issue, the Fathers were no doubt correct to 199 and Fuga 109.
insist that the force of the word here falls on the side of transcendence (see, What does such language mean when applied to Messiah Jesus? Not,
e.g., Aletti , Ep ftre aux Colossiells 96-98; hisfory of interpretation in Hockel) ; presumably, that the Christ known to his followers during his ministry in
but the continuum is then lost sight of and the d anger is that the Son 's deity Palestine was as such God's agent in creation; in the first century no less
becomes part of a transcende nce distinct and even remote from his im- than the twentieth that would be to read imaginative metaphor in a pedan-
manence. tically literal way. It must mean rather thaI that powetful action o f God,
1: 16 ~n EV aut<!> Extia9f\ til xCtvta EV tot~ oupavot~ )((x\. En\. tfi~ yfl~, expressed by the metaphor of the female Wisdom, in and through whom the
to. 6pato. )((Xl. t o. oopa'ta, Ein: 8p6vOl £in: X\)Pt6"t11tEA; titE tlpXal. du: universe came into being, is now to be seen as embodied in Christ, its
ESoootat· to. 1tClVt(l 01' at)"l:ou )Gal. Et~ autov b:nO"'tal. That "firstborn " character now made clear by the light of his cross and resurrection ( I: IS,
must denote primacy over creatio n, and Ilotj ust within creation, is indicated 20). The subsequent desire to di stinguish more clearly God as the final cause
by the conjunction linking the two verses : he is "firstborn o f all creatio n (Ex) from Wisdom/Christ as the means o r agent (OllZ) is already evid ent in
because in him were created all things (to. x6.vta). " that is. everything, the I Cor. S:6 (cf. John 1: 1-3), as it had been imponanl in equivalent tenns for
universe, the totality of created e ntities (see BAGO s.v. no.; 2ad), including, Philo (De cherubim 125).20
as the appended phrases make clear, everything within that totality, however
it be subdivided- both " in the heavens" (see on 1:5) ;' and on the earth," 19. "The parallels were already noted by Norden 240-43, 347-48. See also panicularly
Pohlmann. Such parallels mm it dear that the reference is to the old creation, not to ··the
eschatological new creation" (despite Zeilinger. ErSI(Jtborerze, particularly 195-200; Schweizer.
18. Philo preferred to speak of the Logos as IIp<1l"t6yov<x; ("first born. first created": lk CoioSS' ilIIS 263. notes that thi5 interpretation of 1:15-17 goes back to 1lJCOdore of Mopsuestia).
agriculfUr(J 51 ; £k co"jus'one li"gJl(l/'WTI 146; £k somn's 1:215). The use of IIp(lJTOtoxo,; of the 20. "The til aut(fl therefore probably reflects tbe Hellenistic Jewish idea of the Logos ~ the
Davidic king ill Ps. 89:27 (LXX 88:28) or elsewhere of Israel (&od. 4:22; Jer. 31:9: Psalms of "place" ill which tbe world exi Sts (particulW"ly Philo, lk som,," 1.62-64; Lohmeyer 57; Schweizer,
$01010010" 18:4; 4 EU(J 6:58; IIpmOyov<X; in Prayu (Jf JoJtlph 3) is les5 relevant hen: . Colossians 69; Wolter 79; Aletti, CoIoss'e"s 99 n. 48; see also my ChriSloWgy 333 n. 118) and

What of the least common o f the three prepositions, the £l~ (,'for, 10") in order 10 add a fu rther reference to Christ's superiority over all beings in
the last line of v. 16 (never used in such contexts in reference to Jewish heaven as well a.~ on earth. Despi te Carr. Angels 48-52, followed by Yates,
Wisdom)?21 If the prepositional sequence was simply adapted from the wider Colossians 24-25 with some reserve. the most obvious inference of 1:20
philosophic usage it need nOI be indicati',c of eschatological purpose (cr. Rom. taken in conj unction with I: 13 and 2: 15 is that these powers are understood
II :36; I Cor. 8:6; Ot' 6v in Heb. 2: 10).22 Even as christianized. the lwQ strophes as somehow threatening or hostile to God 's cosmos. Wink 66 offers quite
seem to be structured on a prolo)ogyfesc hatology, old cosmos/new cosmos an effective demythologization of the four powers: " whether seats of power
distinction. with the future eschalOlogical emphasis limitcc! to the second. or spheres of influence, whether incumbents-i n-office or the legitimations
Nevertheless. because of the hymn's present context, the redemptive work also and sanctions that keep them there." See furth er on 2: 10 and 15; and for a
accomplished "in Christ" (I: 14) is presented as the key that unlocks the brief bibliography sce C. E. Arnold. ABD 5.467.
mystery of the divine purpose. '' In Christ" creation and redemption are one. I: 17 xed a ut6; t atl V npo 1[(xvt(ov )((Xl .0: n:avt(X tv autcp GUVOOtT\x£v.
In the cross and resurrection ( 1: 18, 20) both past and fUNre find the clue to The thematic emphasis on to. n:avta and on Christ's ultimacy in relation to
their ultimate significance (cr. Schweizer, COlosl'ians 70-7 1; Gnilka, Kolos.~e r· to n:av'(a is c:.:ontinu ed.2'~ Once aga in the theme reflec ts Jewish reflection on
brief66; Wolter 79·80; Aletti. Epftre aJU' C%ssiens 102-3). Wisdom. According to Sir. 1:4 "wisdom was created before all things"
The addition of ';thrones or dominions, or principalities or authorities" (xpott pa Itavtwv benoal a0¢l{a), and the second-century-ucE Jewish
does disrupt what would otherwise be a more compact and better balanced philosopher Aristobulus notes Solomon 's observation (Prov. 8:22-3 1) that
sequence of lines, unless we envisage a more complex structure in which " wisdom existed before heaven and earth " (Eusebi us. Praeparatio EvulI-
the middle two refer to the invisible things in the heavens and the outer two gelicu 13.12.11 ). Likewise, although the thought of the universe as held
to visible things on the earth (Bammel 88-95, followed by Houlden 163). together by divi ne agency is characteristic of wider Greek philosophic
But that is unlikely. Rather, we should suppose a hierarchy of heavenly thought (see. e.g., pseudo-Aristotle, ciled above in 1: 16: W. Kasch, TDNT
powers - " thrones" superior to " lordships," and so on (see particularly 7.897), in Jewish thought this is attributed particu larly to the divine Logos:
Lightfoot 151 ·52). The " thrones" are assuredly to be located in heaven (cf. thus Sir. 43:26 maintains that "by his word all things hold together" (tv
Dan . 7:9; Rev. 4:4; though cf. Wis. 7:8), nOI least because the word is used M'«!J cr:UtOU a\ty'x£\tCU to: 1tavt cr.) and similarly in Philo (Quis rerum divi-
for heavenJy beings in Testament of Lev; 3:8 (in the seventh heaven, with narum heres 23, 188; Defllga 112: De vita Mosis 2.133; Quaestiones in
"authorities"); 2 Elloch 20: I; and Apocalypse of Elijah I: I 0- 11 . Likewi se Exodum 2.1 18) and in Wis. 1:6-7 Wisdom, God, and Spirit are merged into
the " dominions" (XUPl6tllt£9 are almosl certainly to be taken as referring each other with the description . 0 GUvExO .... to: 1tavt(X ("that which holds all
to heavenly powers, in the light of Eph. 1:20·2 1 (also I Enoch 61 :10 and things together").
2 Enoch 20: I; F. Schrt:>ger, EDNT 2.332). But the same must be true of the Here again conceptuality from contemporary cosmology seems to be
" principalities" (lxpxa{) and "authorities" (esoumm) in the light of 2: 10 loaded in an undefined way on Christ But agai n it is important to realize
and IS, not to mention the other New Testament parallels ( I Cor. 15:24; that .this is not th~ language of clinical anal ysis but of poetic imagination,
Eph. 1:21 again; 3:10; 6:12; see also on 2:10). The fact that all four terms Precisely the medIUm where a quantum leap across disparate categories can
thus refer only to the invisible, heavenly realm 23 and the repeated emphasis be achieved by use of unexpected metaphor. where the juxtaposition of two
on Christ's supremacy and triumph over the " principalities and powers" in Cat~g~ ri es from otherwise unrelated field s can bring an unlooked for flash
2: 10 and 15 do therefore strengthen the likelihexxi that the two lines were of I.nslght. In this case the language is that of Platonic-Stoic cosmology, the
inserted by the author(s) of the letter. sacrificing the balance of the hymn in belief that there is a rationality (Logos) which pervades the universe and

coheres with the usc of the same phrase in I: 17 An instrumental sense. "by" (Hegermann 96; Lohse. 24. As with Itp(IJf6fOXO<; (1:1'). there is some uncatainty as to whether ItpO C"before")
CoIOJsiansand Ph i/~mQfl 50 n. 129: Fowl 109: cf. Wedderburn. The%gy 26). wouldcausecollfusion ~Id be taken to dellO!C temporal priority (Moule. CoIru£ial1s and I'hilt'mOl1 (i6.67: Ernst. Philip".,r.
with an tx reser,ed for God. . hi/~_. KoIoJ«r, Ephuflr 168: Wedderburn. 77Ieology 28; Alelti. C%uif' .... IOJ) or superiority
21. That the hymn goes beyond previollS talk of Wisdom should make us hesitate before III ~atu5 . (M~son 10 1 ? J: Lohse. Colrusiansund Philemotl52 : Cain! 179). As with ~
simply identifying Christ with Wisdom (Alctti. CQI/iJSj~I1J 16-17). ~ tmphcauOll of the Immediately anached clauses favors the former (so most translatioll$: NE B
22. Though see Eltcster 145-46. rercmd to also by DibelillS. Kolossc~ £pIrt'~r. Phil~ he e~ists ","f~ everything"; similarly JBlNJB and GNS). though the present tense (tanv) suggests
I J·1 4 : LQhse. CO/()JSians and Philemon 51 n. IJ7. the latter (Gnilka. Kolo.uf'rbri466). and with xt:.w.1\ ( 1:18) again suggesting a similar double sense
23. cr. REB : " ... not only things visible but also the invisible orders of thrones. sovereign· ....e. might be wiser to conclude that hymn and letter Writflr(S) .... cre happy to leave the ambiguity.
ties. authoriti~. and powers." deliberately choosi ng to e~clude neither sense (cf. Harris 4647).
94 COLOSSIANS 1:17· 1& 95

bonds it together (cf. Heb. I :3) and which explains both the order and reflections on reality, So, for example. humankind. like the world, " consists
regularity of natural processes and the human power of reasoning resonates of body and reasonable soul " (Quis rerum d;v;narum heres 155); heaven in
with this rationality. In lhe modem era Newtonian physics and the scientific the cosmos is like a soul in a body (De Abralwmo 272). And the Logos
investigation of " the laws of nature" were premised on a simila r axiom. The (divine reason) is the head of this body, of all things (De Somn;s 1.128;
hymn could say this of divine Wisdom, precisely because. as a personifica- QuaestiOlll!S in Exodum 2. 1I 7).27
tion of God 's wisdom in creating, it could be thought of both as personal In the original hymn (lacking " the church" ), then, the image ry would
and as pervading lhe whole world (Wis. 1:6-7: 7:22-8: 1), In identifying this be a variation on what has already been said , identifying the one prai sed as
fu nction with Christ (" in him ") the inte ntion presumably was nOllo reduce being over the body, ruler of the cosmos,28 witho ut posing that idea as in
the person of Christ to a personification, but to shed the furth er light of any degree of tension with the correlated thought of the Logos as pervading
Christ on that personificatio n: paradoxical as it may seem, the wisdom which the body, With this applied to Chri st, the significance attached to Christ
holds the universe togethe r is most clearly to be recognized in its di stinctive would be liule different from that already discussed in 1: 15-17: and once
character by reference to Chri st. This will mean, among other things, that again the motivation seems to be not so much a speculative imerest in the
the funda mental rationale of the world is "caught" more in the generous world's begi nnings as an attempt to m ake sense of the world and its rationale
outpouring of sacrificial. redempti ve love ( I: 14) than in the greed and grasp- in the light of Christ (Kuschel 339; Wolter 82).
ing more characteristic of " the authority of darkness" ( 1: 12). However, at some poi nt the last two words have, in fact , been added,
1: 18a xexl airt6c; t onv l'l Xf.:cIKlA1'l 'tau oWj.tatOC; tiir; b c:xAllo(ar;. The whether in an original Christian adaptation of olde r language or by the
hymn o r its fi rst strophe ends with a switch in imagery from the traditional author(s) of the leiter. And thereby the thought of the hymn has been abruptly
"in, through, and for" language expressing divine agency in creation. If the wrenched from a consistent and rounded theme by identification of "the
last two words, " the c hurch," were added to the line,2.5 then the original body" not with to. nCtvta but with "the church, " l'l bcxAllcr(a. The wrenching
meaning would be clear, and entirely consistent with what has gone before. in fac t is twofold. For prior to this, in Ihe earlier Paulines, " the church"
For the likening of the cosmos to a body is very ancient in Greek thought, denOled simply the assembly or coming together of Christians in particular
the cosmos understood as an ensouled and rationally controlled entity. Most houses or cities (Rom. 16: 1. 4, 5, 16; 1 Cor. 1:2; 4 :17, etc.: so also Col.
often cited are the Timaeus, where Plato speaks of God constructing t o t OU 4: 15-16). This usage of the word took over the usage in which txxAl10ia
navto~ o~a (3 1b, 32a) and of to tOU x6cr).tou a~a (32c), and the Orphic denoted the assembly of Yawheh (BAG D s.v. tX:xJ...llcria 3). as expressed
fragment 168, which describes Zeus as the " head " (X£9W.t'!) of the cosmos.26 most clearly in the phrase " the church(es) of God" (e.g. , I Cor. 1:2; I I: 16,
As might be expected, this way of envisagi ng the cosmos also penetrated 22; 15:9; I Thes. 2: 14) - each church as an assembly of Isruel. And even
Hellenistic Judaism, or at least Philo's philosophical theology. infl uenced as when the same body imagery was used (Christ likened to a body wilh many
he was to such an extent by Platonic-Stoic thought in every aspect of his members, I Cor. 12: 12; "we the many are one body in Christ," Rom. 12 :5).
the thought was clearly of the particular church as the body of Christ in these
panicular localities (so explicitly in I Cor. 12:27 : " you [Corinthians] are the
25. O·Bri~n. Colossians. Plril~morz 48· 5() prefc:n to follow F~uill~t . Christ Sagesse 217·28.
and K~hl. Christushymmu 4145 (also Hdyer 173-74 ; Wright. " Poetry" in n. 7 abtl\'e; d. D. 27
body of Chri st [that is, in Corinth] ").
below). in taking these: IlI.'it tWO werth as part of tm original lilll:. thus beginning the se"1)iId Here. however, in what seems a ruther forced fash ion, .. the church" is
soteriological KCl ion of th~ hymn wit h I: 18&. despite the obv ious parllllel of I: 18b with 1: 15. and
c:xplaining the abrup( introducti on of th~ heaUlbody imagery by reference: to the now larg~ly
discredited KIea of "corpooalt: personali!)''' (but see J. W. Rogenon. "The Hebrew Conception o f 21. Hegermann 58·59. 64 66. 149: Loh:IC. C%J£iatU and Philemon 54. Schweizer. TDNI"
Corpor.l1e Pc:nonality: A Re·Examination:· JTS21 [197011 - 16). 7. 1054-55 i5 more caulious 00 the latter point (also his Co/QuiDns 58 n. 9): P. Beasley· MLIITlIy
26. O. K~m. Orphicon.m f'rtlsmema (Berlin: Weidmann. 1922) 201. See LOO mey~r 62 n. I: 179-82 is emirety skeptical: similarly Arnold 34149.
Duponl 431·35; Hc:gennann 53. 62-63 , 94; Lohse, ColQssiatU and Philemon 53; K~hl. Clrri~m~hym · 28. The observation is ..... gularly thHt in lhe LXX x£0alT't often translates r"J in the
IUU 94; Gnilka. Kolosstrbriif68: Wedderbum. ThtoloS1 17. E. Schweizer. 7DNT1. 1029·30. 1032. tense of " ruler" or "leader " int~rc:hangcably with 6px,., (e.g .. Deul. 28: 13: Jdg . 10: 18: I I : I I : 2 Sam.
1035, 1037·38. suml up his careful analysis of lhe data: "Undoubledly, then. in NT days there is 22:44; I Kgs, 20:12: lsa. 7;8-9: see. eo& .. H . Sc:hlier. TDNT3.674-75 ). lt is possible tl\:tt the idea of
identification of the cosmos and GOO. and undoubtedly too the cosmos is .....garded as the body which ~1\ '" UpX'" ("beginning, priociple~) is also in play: see S. M. BcdaIe. '"The Meaning of l<UOl1\
is direct~d by the supreme God as world-soul or head"' (1 031·38). For laler Gnoslic parallel s see. in the Paul ine EpiSlI~s." JTS 5 ( 1954) 2 11 · 15: P. Beasl~y·Mumly 115. 18()..8 1: and partiCUlarly
e.g .. Po/r.:omy 82. The lalc:r Jewish mySlicai speculation on the famastic lize of the divin~ body Aleui. Colossitns 104·5 (bibliography n. 62): Arnold 350-53. As in I Cor. 11 ;7. the "image" is also
(notably $hi'..r Qom6I1) is not the same as speculation about the bodily character of the oosmot "head," precisely as be ing ··the irnageofGod" ( Kisemann, "Liturgy" 15().57; Sch w~iur, " Kirche "
(despite Fossum 191·201). )1) n. 56).
% COLOSS IANS I : 18 97

eq uated with the cosmic body. Or, should we rathe r say. the cosmic body is the theology of the body in Colossians must therefore await treatment of
transposed by the addition of these words into the more familiar Christian these subseque nt verses (see a150 my " Body").
conception of the church in Colossae? 1:18b l5~ EO'lW apXTJ, npurr6t oxo; EX t rov vexprov, tvo: ytVlltCU EV
In the fonner case the way is o pened up to the idea of the church as n:a(JlV o:VtOc; n:purrE"6rov. The obvio usly deliberate re petition of &; EatlV
the church universal, and not only so, but identi fied, moreover. with the ... n:purr6t oXOt; is clearly intended to parallel the opening oftbe hynm ( I: 15)
cosmic body of which Christ is head. This certainly is the line which Eph . and thus to introduce either a second strophe or an echoing supplement to
I :22-23 follows. In thai case we have 10 speak ~cre. 100, of the church under il. Either way the possibility that this, too, in its original fo nn, could be the
Christ 's headship being depic ted as the microcosm whic h mirrors (or sho uld work of a pre-Christian writer is simply not present: the npronhoxot; tx. trov
mirror) the divinely ordered cosmos. the a<;sembl y of Israel 's wilderness VExprov ( "firstborn from the dead") is bOlh integral to the second strophe
wanderings unlicipmory of and prepam tory for the new slate of society in or echoing supplement and inescapably Christian (see below))'
the eschatological promised land. the church as the greenhouse in and by In this second strophe or supplement the focus swings e mphatically
means of which the green shoots of God 's purpose in and for cremion are from a cosmology of creation to a cosmology of reconcilia tion, from the
brought 0 11. 29 divine purpose that shaped c reation in the beginning to the divine purpose
But in the laller case, if, tha t is, " the c hurc h" transposes the cosmic that retrieves creation for its intended end. fro m firs t creation to re-creation
body into the churc h in Col ossae, then the transition from cosmos to local beyond death. Implicit is the apocalyptic conviction that the origin al creation
assembly comes at the beginning of the line, and the two tho ughts (Christ' s has fallen under the authority of darkness (I : 13) and needs to be rescued
supremacy over all things a nd his headship over each indi vidual church from the malevolent domination of the principalities and authorities (2: 15).
as his body in a particular place ) are simply j uxtaposed (cf. Yates, Colos- But in both cases, as the hymn writer or his fITst comme ntator makes
siem s 26). Th e implication may the n be similar: the coherence of Christ's emphatically clear, the principal actor is the same, the "in him," " through
headship over the churc h and his priority over all things suggesting that him," a nd " for him" e mphasizing the essential coherence and continuity of
o ne o ught to reOect the othe r or provide a model for the other. As the divine purpose, as now recognized in Christ, through both epochs and span-
creati ve power of divine wisdom is now defined in te nns of Christ, so tbe ning all time and creation from beginning to end, from primal time to final
cosmos of divine purpose can (or should) now be defined in terms o f the time.
churc h. Gi ven this switch it is initially a little surpri si ng that the first de-
Either way the assertion of I: ISa does not evacuate the cosm.ic claims scriptive wo rd used is 6:PXTJ (" begi nning, origin. first cause"). For this is
of I: 15- 17 of their christological significance: to assert that Christ is head stilJ language that refl ects Jewish reOeclion on Wisdom (Prov. 8:22: wis-
of the church does not narrow his cosmic mediatorial role; rathe r. it expands dom is " the beg inning of his ways or work"; Philo, Legum Alfego riae
the significance of the claims made for the c hurch.30 And either way a 1.43: God "calls it [wisdom J 'beginning' and ' image' .. ."); note also
significant shift has been taken beyond the earlier church = body = (in ) Rev. 3: 14, " the begi nning of God's c reation," in a leiter written, perhaps
Christ imagery. For in I Co rinthians 12 the head is simply o ne among aU Significantl y, to neighboring Laodicea. But that simpl y underlines the
the members of the body (1 2:2 1). But here it de notes Christ and his relation extent to wh ich the hymn writer or its fi rst expositor has detennined to
over the body. integrate the the mes of the two strophes. For the " beginning," which is
Whatever the hym n writer may have inte nded, no firm decisio n can now expounded, is the new beginning of resurrection: n purr6toxo~ EX trov
be made between these two a lte rnatives so far as the aUlhor(s) of Colossians VExpwv, "fi rstborn from the dead."32 The phrase was, or became, an
are concerned. For the fi rst is given support by 2: 10 - Chri st as "the head identify ing title for Ch rist, significant ly in the fi rst C hristian apocal ypse
of a ll rule and authority" (d. 1:1 6 with 1: 18). And the lalle r is taken up in (Rev. J :5). As with the preceding use of npwt6tOxo~, but more clearl y,
2: 19, w ith the older church = body imagery retained also in 3: 15. I :24 comes
somewhe re in between, with I :22 and 2: II providi ng a further distinc tive 3 t . As is now gcncllllly ~ogn iud (see. e.g .• Deichgrtbcr ]S3: Gnilka, Koiossubriq 70;
use of " body" in its talk of " the body of (his) fl esh." A full e r e xposition of O'Brien. Colossinns, Phil~mOII38). against panicu]arly K!isemaon. "Uturgy" I54-S9. Wedderburn.
Hapfism 212-18 documents subsequent Gnostie diS<.X}mfon with the idea of resurrectioo.
32. In Gen. 49:3 LXX IIp(I)t6roxo.;andapXr\ II1"e usnI s)"nonymously : " Reuben, my flf$tbom.
29. On Eph. 1:22-23 see twticu1ar]y Lincoln. £ph~sj<»lJ 66-82. )'OIJ are my strength and first of my children." Wedderburn. T~oIogy 30 n. 14. notes that in Philo.
30. But to say that "creation ... happened for the saU of the church" (Hilbner 3j2) pushes IH vifa M osis 2:60. Noah is ~bed as the 6:pxr\ oh second ytv£Ou; ("beginning, generat ioo")
rhe poi nt too far. of human beinp.
98 COLOSSIANS 1: 18b-19 99

the word has a double force. For it echoes the earlier Pauline talk both of creation, but also a becoming as resurrecled one in new crealion. J6 In the
Christ's resurrection as temporally prior to the resurrection o f all in Christ, balanced. two-slrophe fonn of the passage, it cannot be said that one be-
first in order, firstfruits (1 Cor. 15:23; cf. Acts 26:23). and of Christ as com ing is more important than the other: the one as necessary for creation
the :rtp(l)t6 '[Qx~ among many brolhers, el dest in a family destined to share as the other for the work or reconciliation and (by implication) completion ;
his archetypal image (Rom. 8:29). In both senses it nicely encapsulates at the same time. since (he cross and resurrection provide the key to (he
what appears to have been the earliest Christian understanding. namely whole, the primary theological weight rests on the second strophe (Woller
that with Christ's resurrection the end-time resurrection itself had begun 89). Overall we migbt speak of (he inextricable complementarity of Paul 's
(Rom. 1:4: ';the resurrectio n of the dead "; see also n. 2). The sense of a Adam christology with hi s Wisdom christology, both emphasizing the divine
new beginnin g for creation could hardly be clearer, that with Christ's death purpose of creation and Christ's supremacy over (the res( of) creation, but
and resurrection what had been expected as the end of all thing s and the one in tenns of creation (Wisdom) and the other in tenns of creation
renewal of creation in a new age was already operative in and through redeemed (last Adam)Y
chi s same Christ) 3 1: 19 6tt t.v (XUtcp £liMXTJO"EV n:clV to n:AfJpCOI..UX x.o.tOlxiioal. The
In a hymn in praise of Christ, the focus is naturally on the significance assertion of [: 18b is further ex plained : thi s resurrection preeminence was
of the resurrection for Christ himself, though always with a view to the also the result or effect (On ) of a previous divine act (tOO6xTJO£v, aorist).
consequences for creation. It is important, then, to note that the immediate As we shall see, Ihe imagery (n:AfJpwIlOo) is consistent with the emphasis of
outcome of the resurrection is " that he might be in all things preeminent" the fi rsl Slrophe. But the repelition of the sequence of prepositional phrases
(nponc.Uwv, the only occurrence in the New Testament). And we should also begun here (t.v OoUtcp) is obviously intended to set out the second phase of
note that the clause is introduced with tva, indicating that the purpose of Christ's work in correspondence to the first ; and thi s line is bracketed by
Christ's resurrection from the dead was precisely that he might become references to Christ's resurrection (I: 18) and his peace-making work (on the
(Y£VTJtat, aorist) preeminent, " that he might come to have first place in cross - 1:20). Both facts clearly indicate that the reference here is to Christ's
everything" (BAGD s.v. n:pom:\Ku; NRSV), "'to become in all things su- miniStry climaxing in his death and resurrection. As in the last line of I: 18,
preme" (REB). therefore, we have to acknowledge a deliberale attempt (0 explain Christ's
Thi s clause stands in striking tension with the emphasis throughout the present preeminence as the result, nOI of his primordial role in the figure of
first strophe, where the equivalent is "he is the head of the body" (Heger- Wi sdom, but in his role as depicted more by the Synoptic tradition.
mann 103, 106, 115-16).34 There the emphasis was on Christ's (divine . What was it, then, about Jesus' ministry in Galilee and Jerusalem that,
Wisdom's) primordial primacy, a becoming firstborn before time. Here, in 10 addition to his resurrcction, could explain the high praise now offered to
contrast, Christ's primacy over all things is the consequence, the divinely him? The answer lies in the key word n:AfJpqLOo ("fullness"). In itself it
intended outcome of his resurrection, a becoming firstborn beyond (the other denotes completeness, as in the regular Greek use of il for a ship's crew (a
end of) lime (Jervell 224 sees two christological schemes that do not quite full complement, LSJ s.v. 3) or in the repeated phrase in LXX, " the earth
fit each other). It wou ld be unjustified to ignore thi s feature,3S since the and its fullness (all that is in it)" (e.g., Ps. 24: 1 (LXX 23: I J: Jer. 8: 16; Ezek.
tension is already implicit in the double use of n:po:,.t6t"0~ ( I: IS. 18). We 1.9:7; 30: 12). A more cosmological usage as such is not attested before this
must therefore assume that it was intentional from the first Christian use of tlll:,e; the word is never taken up in this connection by Philo, usually a sure
the material. That is to say, it was always intended that the full hymn should gUide to contemporary philosophical usage in the wider Hellen istic world.
speak of a double, or two-stage becoming of the Christ thus praised - a However, the idea of God or his Spirit as filling the world is another way
becoming (the Fathers would say " begotten ") as Wi sdom in the power of of expressing the di vine rationality that penneates the world in Stoic thought
(Seneca, De beneficiis 4.8.2: " nihil ab ilIo vacat, opus suum ipse implel"
33. $chenk, " CIui S/us" 147-~1. argues the strllined thcs i! that ItpcaWwxo.; tx 1GlY vc~ ("nothing is void of him (God); he himself fill s all his work"); Aelius
here describes !be baptism of Jesus (comparing 2: 12).
34. Glasson, however. dnllws allention to a neglected observation of J. Rendel Harris. that 36. cr. ughlfOOl. 156 ("1lle .,tvT,WI here ansWCI"$ in I manner to the I'c:mv of ' ·er. 17. Tbus
1tj>tIl"U:Uwv CQrnsponds 10 " primalum habere" in the Latin version of Sir. 24:6 (" In every people fmWand )'tvTlWI are contrasted I S the absolule being and the historical manifestatio n") with Caird
and in every race I had the primacy" ). lIS does 1: 15 to the utin o f Sit. 24:3 ( " primosenita ante I~ (" Whal Christ is de jure in God's decree. he must become de facto; and !he resurrection. by
omnem crealuram ··). IIthich he has Ixcome bead of lbe church. is !be beginnina o f !be lMoo::>oM " ). See also Il. 16 abo"e .
3~ . The view thaI this iiTIC', too. is an addition to the hymn II also quite popular (see those 37. See further my " Pau line Christology: Shapina the Fundamental Structures:' in Chris-
listed by Bw-ger 15- 16). roIogy in Dialogue. cd. R. F. Berkey and S. A. Edwards (Cleveland: Pilgrim. 1993) 96-107.
100 COLOSSIANS 1: 19 101

Aristides. Orationes 45.21 : Zeus to nCtv 1t£7[Ailpwx..e). And agai n, as we might ouraged the very syncretism against which (ex hypothesi) the letter sets
now expect in the light of our findings in the fi rst strophe, the same language ~tself. In contrast, there is no real reason why we should not attribute to the
was used in Hellenistic Judaism of divine Wisdom. Thus in Wis. 1:6-7: aulhor of Colossians the small step of development from use of the verb
" Wisdom is a kindly spirit. ... Because the Spirit of the Lord has fill ed the ItAnp6ro in the perfect tense to the noun nA.flpWJ1(l (Cerfaux , Christ 427;
world (7tEXATlP01XEV rllv olxouJ.ttvTlv)." And Philo quite freque ntly uses Benoi!. " PI ~r6ma " 137-42; so also 2:9).
similar phrases, " God (who) has filled/fill s all lhings" (navt a 1t£ltAT'jpWX£V In the light of the above discussion the solution to another contentious
69£6<;. rro:\ftCX 7tEttAT\Pomci>; 6 9E6C;; e.g. , Legum Allegoriae 3:4; De gigamibus issue becomes clearer: how the clause should be translated. Grammatically
47; De confusione finguarum 136; De Vita Mosis 2.238). At the same lime, the subject of the verb must be 1tCtV to 1tAflp{J~.u:t; but the more impersonal
we should nOI attribute the conceptuality solely to the influence of wider "fullness" does not sit easily with a verb. Ei>MXllaev. that more naturally
(Stoic) thought. since it is already present in JeT. 23:24 (" ' 00 I not fill presupIX>ses a personal subject. Moreover. this verb is used regularly in the
heaven and earth?' says the Lord") and Ps. 139:7; cf. also Aristeas 132 LXX and elsewhere in the New Testament with God as subject to describe
("God is one and his power is manifest through all things, every place fi lled his good pleasure (e.g., Ps. 68: 16: "God was pleased to dwell in it fZion] ";
with his sovereign power ").~ And the thought of divine indwelling (xat- 3 Macc. 2: 16; OIher examples in G. Schrenk, TDNT2 .738; Mark I: II ; I Cor.
OlX£W) in human beings is also familiar in Jewish thought (Wis. 1:4 - 10:5). We could assume, therefore, that the personal subject is "God in all
wisdom; Tes/ament of Zebulun 8:2 and Testament of Benjamin 6:4- his fullness" (Moule, Colossians and Philemon 70-71; Ernst, Pleroma 83-87;
GodIthe Lord; I Enoch 49:3 - the Spirit; so also Eph. 3: 17 - Christ). REB : Harris). Or if we want to respect the degree of distinction present in
The theme, then, is traditionally Jewish and is wholly of a piece with the use of such a surrogate, as in all ta lk of divine immanence which also
the Wisdom tradition, which was so powerfully influential in the fltst slrOphe. respects God 's transcendence,40 it may be better to stay closer to the Greek
The only difference is one of emphasis and metaphor, " wisdom" denoting with a slighlly expanded translation like NEB ("the complete being of God,
the mature, personal rationality that permeates creation and "fullness" the by God's own choice, came to dwell" ) or NRSV ("all the fullness of God
impersonal completeness of that permeation, that is, completeness both of was pleased 10 dwell": cf. H. HUbner. EONT 3.111: Hoppe 169-72: "theo-
God's commitment to creation and of the extent of his presence throughout logical christology"):11 A similar note of reseNe comes in the other occur-
creation. It was the potency of this imagery (" fullness") that presumably rence of 1tA.T\pCJlI.lU in the letter, in 2:9: " a1\ the fullness of dei ty (not God;
made the tenn l'tA:r\pWJ1(l so attrnctive to later Gnostic use to denote the 9E6"tl"1~ not 9£6g dwells in him" (see on 2:9).
completeness of spiritual being emanating from the hidden God, the perfec- Either way, the importance of the language is to indicate that the
tion of the highest spiritual realm (see G. Delling. TONT 6.300-301 ; Ernst. completeness of God 's self-revelation was focused in Chri st, that the whole-
Pleroma ch. 4; Lohse, Colossians and Philemon 57). ness of God's interaction with the universe is summed up in Chri st. Here
In Colossians we are at the beginning of this development in the use the thought reaches well beyond that of Wisdom or even God " dwelling in "
of this term, but only the beginning. It would be quite unjustified on the a good and compassionate person (Wi s. 1:4; Testamelll of Zebulun 8:2;
basis of the evidence to conclude that the usage here is " Gnostic"; the line Testamelll of Benjamin 6:4) to grasp at the idea of the wholeness of divine
of influence and development most obviously runs from the undeveloped immanence dwelling in Christ. As Christian devotion reflected on the sig-
usage here to the much more developed language of the later Valentinian nificance of Messiah Jesus' work, it evidently could not rest content short
Gnosticism (cf. particularly Overfield; Evans, " Meaning"). Nor is it likely of assessing him in the highest possible tenns, of God's self-expression in
that the usage is dependent on a proto-Gnostic syncretistic teaching current and through him. To be sure, the imagery was hazardous in its imprecision
in Coiossae,39 since the use of nA.flp~(l here would effectively have en-
40. The Thrgum of P$. 68:17 shows this to be a genuinely Jewish ooncem: " II pleased
38. See further Dupont 469·70; G. Delling, TDNT 6.288-89; Kehl. Ch riS/UJhymn us I 1~25: Yahwel!'$ Word to ~ ause hi s Shelrinah to dwelL upon il (Sinai).'" Cf. also J Enoch 49:3-4: '" In him
Ernst. Piuomn 26-40; also Feuill et. Sngesu 236-38, for Wisdomld~(l parallels. This bac k.- (the Elect One) dwells lhe spirit of wi!idom. the ~piri l that gives Ihoughtfu Lness, ... For he is the
ground is suffICien l to I:.lplain why the lenn can be inlrodLlCed ba"e without uplanatioo (despi te Elect One before the Lord of the Spirits according to his good pleasure ."
Oibelius. KO/oSStlf; EphtlRf; PhiitltrWtl 18). 41 . 0Iher U1IDSlations open up the di~tilll:tion between God and his fullness too mud!: NIB
39. It is a oomrnoo view thaI rhe aff1lTnalion tlefe is in reaction 10 a '"Colossian ~y" thai - " because God wanted all fullness to he found in him" ; NIV - "God was pleased to have all
envi!-llged a ranee of inlermedime powers between God and the C05m05 (so. e.g., Bruc:e, CoiliSlians, his fullness dwell in him "; with GNB still more remote and incorpotatin g patristic tennioology
Phi/timon, aM Ephuians 73-74; sec further Pokom9 64-69; but see also Percy, Probu,mtl 77; Moule. anaehronislicall y _ "it W8.'i by God's OWn decision thaI the Son has in himself tbe full nature of
Colossians and Phi/timon 166-67; and pp. 27f. above) . God."
102 COLOSSIANS 1:1 9-20 103

of defi nition. As the use of the figu re of Wisdom, first crealion of God. of darkness ").44 an o ngoing cris is now resolved in the cross (see o n 2: IS).
subseq uently gave scope (0 Arianism (see on I: 15). so now with the idea of The defeat o f these powers is a lso thc means of reconcili ng heaven and
a man significant because of an act of divine choice 10 indwell him. scope earth. 45 unusually " to him" (see n. 3), in some contrast to Eph. 2:16, which
was given 10 later Adoption ism42 and Nestorianism:u Bul 10 press either has in view specifically the reconc iliation of Jew and Genti le to God, more
corollary wou ld be unfair to the Christians who used o r composed the hymn. typical of Paul (cf. Rom. 11:15; 2 Cor. 5: 18-20). The tho ught is coherently
The obj ect here is simply to claim that divine full ness is evident in Chri st' s Jewish (cf. Isa. 11:6-9; 65: 17. 25; Jubilees 1:29: 23 :26-29; I /:.ilOch 91 : 16-17;
ministry on earth, above all in his death and resurrection. and (hat that is Philo. De specialiblls legibus 2. 192: God as "peace-ma ker" among the
anothe r way o f expl ai ning his preeminence in:.ll things (I : 18), The thought various pans of the uni verse; a sim ilar role is attributed to the Logos in De
is nOI yet of incarnation. b ut il is more than of inspir.::.tion; rather. it is o f an pltmtOliolle 10 and Qllis refilm divillorum heres 206 : see funher Hartman,
inspiratio n (in Gree k, " God-possesscc!" - t v9Eor;. tv90001a<lJ.l6r;) so " Reconciliation") and in sharp contrast to later Gnosticism , for which such
com plete ("all the fullness") as to be merging into the idea of incarnation. a reconc iliation would be unthinkable. T he implicatio n is that the purpose,
1:20 xal 01' autou u J[oxat~a\ t o. 7[UVta fie; aut 6v, eipTlv07[0l- means, and manner of (final ) reconciliation have already been expressed by
fto ae; 010. t ou aTlleltOe; tou ata upou autofl, lo\' a ut ofll dtt t o: £7[t ti'le; Yfic; God. not. that the reconci liation is already comple te. 46
£it€. to. £v t oie; ou pavoie;. That the thrust of thi s second strophe or sup- Almost as infreq uent is the word £ipllv07[m£w ( "ma ke peace": o nly
plemcntary expansion is d irected to this as the cl imactic point (Findeis here in thc New Testament: in LXX only in Provo 10: 10; the adjective o nly
392-95), to the wo rk o f rede mption accomplished in C hrist (1: 14 ). is made in Philo. De specialiblls legjbll,~ 2. 192: M all. 5:9), though. of course, the
clear beyond dispute by the two verbs used here ("reconcile." " make idea of peace as the cessatio n o f war would be more famil iar. The phrase is
peace"). TIle clause is still governed by the ~ tl at the begi nning of 1:19; almost unnecessary. panic ularly if the following six words were lacking in
that is, I :20 continues the ex pla natio n o f why the risen C hri st is preeminent the o riginal. leaving simply "making peace through him," since it simply
in all things ( I: 18). And the subject therefore is still m):v to
7[).,rlPWfln. further repeals the thought o f the preced in g verb, tho ugh it adds the richness of the
emphasizing the persona l character of "the full ness" as the completeness of Jewish concept of "peacc " (see on I :2). But the appended phrase "through
God's presence throughout creation (sec o n I : 19); in contrast, the repetition the blood of his cross" does make ex plicit what was implicit. that the act of
of the contro lling subject and verb in some translatio ns ("and through him peacemaking was accompli shed by Christ's death. In its ele ments it is
God was pleaSed to ... ," N RS V, s imilarly NE B) both modifies the subject stro ngly Pau line, but the p hra<;e itself is unique in Paul. Moreover. the
(not " the fulln ess of God ") and unwisely implies a second act of di vine combi nation of the elements (" blood" and ';c ross") a nd the p resent context
choice. put them at some remove fro m the morc characte ri stic Pauline usage: thc
The ac t of reconc iliation is d escri bed in the uniquely compounded verb " blood" of C hrist in Paul more na lUrally evokes the thought of his death as
U7[0xa-raAA.aooOJ, whi ch is used in li le rdT)' Greek on ly here, in I :22. and in a bloody sac rifice (Ro m. 3:25; I Co r. 11 :25; and cf. Eph. 2:13- 18 with Heb.
Ep h. 2: 16 and was therefo re q uite possibly coincd by Paul (F. BUchsel . TDNT 10: 19), whereas here the imagery of warfare and triumph (2: 15) suggests
1.258). Li ke the simpler fo nn. xa"tall6:aoOJ (Ro m. 5: 10: I Co r. 7: II : 2 Cor. rather the blood o f battle . And in Paul the " cross" usually evokes thought
5: 18-20), it presumes a state o f estrangeme nt o r hostility. In othe r words, of shame and embarrassme nt because o f the shameful ness o f death o n a
between the two strophes, and the two phases of di vine acti vity in Christ,
there is presupposed an unme ntio ne d event or state. that is. pres umably Lhe 44. Schweiler thinks thaI the background lies in !he idea of eosmic strife current in Greco-
fallin g of the cosmos under the d om inatio n o f the hea venly powers created Roman ehought of tile period (" Versilhnung" ; also '·Slaves." follo .... ed particularly hy Wolter 86-87).
as pan of to. navta ( I : 16), the state already spoken of in I : 13 (" the power Fi~deis .348-49, 443-45. indicates how I"l:adily Ihi s can he roexpressc:d in mon: eonlemporary
i!:A1stc'ntlal lerms of !he experience or disorientation .
45. That cosmic reconcilialion is in "iew (and not just human crelilion) is implied by the
42. Given lhe parallels with Ps. 139:7 and Wi s. 1:7 on lhe one lIand and witll Ihe IICcou nt thematic til 1tO:vta. Moule. CoIoJJjaru and Philemon 62. regards this as Ihe m~t difficult 10
of Jesus' baptism (Marl.: 1: 1I) on Ihe other. the thought oflhe Spirit"s descenl into Jesus al the Jordan l!CCOInmodale to lhe res! of Paul's thought (similarly Marshall 126); bUI cr. Rom . 8:19. 23: Phil.
may ... el1lic in lhe bar.:-kground here (d. MIITKk>rltin 271 ·73; Houlden 172: Alcni. CoIQukns 1:/J-20 2:10-11. See funhtr particularly Gnilk •. Kolo....eroriej74-76; for the older debale (only animate or
30-32; Pokorny 85-86: Schenk. ·· Kolosscrbrief." 3342-44). Others (Kehl. Clrris/ushymnu$ 124: aI!I() inanimale creru ioo. angcb as well as humans) su Abbott 22 1-24 and Michl : and for more
Gnilkll. KoI05Sl!rbri~f 73: P. Beasley·Murray 177-78; Fowl 116: Wedderburn. 1"'0010,,· 33; Woller recently posed al1cmativcs see O · Bricn. Colo.... 'nru. PhilemClfl 53-.5(i.
85). ho ...·e'"t:r. mainuin that the conte:" , requires a reference t1It""r to the resurrection (for which we . 46. Lohmeyer 43-47. 61-68 makes "recoociliation" I"" key 10 the whull' hymn and aucmpls
may cumpare: ACl~ 1):]3; Rom . I :4: and Heb. 5:5). See also on 2:9. to rnlerprel it against lhe background of the Day of AIOflCmMl; bul see l..ohsc:. CoiossiQIIs and
4]. See my CI",sw(oSY 192. wil h reference to the objooions of Benoi t. " Sody" III. Philemon 45-46 (cf. SC h....eizer. CoIms;mu 74-75).
104 COLOSSlANS 1:23-21 105

cross ( I Cor. I: 1741 8: Gal. 5: 11 ; 6: 12: Phil . 2:8: cf. Heb. 12:2). whereas here Reconciliation and Response (1:21-23)
it is itself an instrumcnl of warfare by which peace is achieved (see on
2:14·15). Here again, then, we either have to hypothesize a Paul who has 21And you, once alienated and enemies in mind in works that are evil, 22
moclified his own characteristic motifs, and so speak of the early and late he has now reconciled1 in the body of his flesh through his death, 10 present
Paul, or we can speak of a close disciple who has modulated his master's you holy alld unblemished and blmneless before him, 23 provided that you
voice to express his own adaptations and emphases. Either way weean hardly remain in the faith established and steadfast alld not shifting from the hope
avoid the adjective " Pauline" in describing the theology expressed. of the gospel which you heard, proclaimed in all creation under heaven, of
It is obviously no accident that the verse echoes the "all th ings through which I Paul became servam.2
him and 10 him" of 1: 16 -
The impression that I: 15-20 was in large measure a prefonned unit that Paul
I : 16: to. nCtvtCt St' aUTou xai d; (llYrOv fxnoUt and Timothy took over for their own purposes is strengthened by the way
I:20: ~iI ' auto\) to. no:vt(l de; Clut6v - in which 1:21-23 seem deliberately to pick up the final theme of the hymn
and to repeat and elaborate it, bringing the cosmic vision of the hymn (in
nor that the last line echoes the earlier phrase of I: 16 - third person) down to earth by relating it inunediately to the
, readers. Hence
the emphatic opening "and you . .. ." Moreover. Aletti. Epitre aux Colos-
I: 16: to. 7tav'ta £V t aic; oUpavoi~ x.o:l btl tii~ YTi~ sims 119-22. shows how pivotal 1:21 -23 are in that they gather up earlier
1:20: £i1'E 1'(X bt\ tii~ Yli~ £in: 1'a tv 1'Oi~ oupo:voU;. emphases (vv. 22a/20. 22b/12b. 2 1-22/ 13, 23/4·6) and in effect indicate the
themes to be subsequently developed :
What is being claimed is quite si mply and profoundly that the divine purpose
in the act of reconciliation and peacemaking was to restore the hannony of 21-22 23a 23b
the original creation. to bring into renewed oneness and wholeness "all 1:24-2:5 2:6-23 . 3: 1-4:1
things," "whether things on the earth or things in the heavens" (see on I: 16).
That the church has a role in this is implied in the correlation of I: 18a with 1:21 xo:l ulla~ 1t01'E 6vt~ o.1tllu.o1'PlO~£vou<;)((Xl txapou~ 1'Tl Oto:vo(<<;t
1:20. And when we include the earlier talk of the gospel " in all the world tv 1'oi~ lpYOl~ 1'oi~ 1tovl1poi~. It is now made clear that the state of alienation
(x60J.l09 bearing fruit and growing" (1:6), and the subsequent talk of the and hostility implied in I :20 had been a fact in the readers' own past, the
ages-old mystery being made known among all the nations (l :27), the im- verb " to be" with the perfect participle expressing a persisting state of affairs.
plication becomes clear: it is by its gospel living (1 : 10) and by its gospel The verb which the paniciple is from , Wroll.o1'PHXO ("estrange. a1ienate"),J
preaching (1:27) that the cosmic goal of reconciled perfection will be appears only here and in Eph. 2: 12 and 4:1 8, but the passive (used in all
achieved (1 :28; cf. Findeis 405-15, 422-26). three cases) would be familiar in reference to human estrangement (Ps.
The vision is vast. The claim is mind-blowing. It says much for the 69[LXX 68):8; Sir. II :34), and to alienation from God by sin and idolatry
faith of these first Christians that they shou ld see in Christ's death and (Ps. 58[LXX 57]:3; Ezek. 14:5.7; Hos. 9:10). That human guilt and hostility
resurrection quite (jterally the key to resolving the dishannonies of nature are in view, and not nameless fate or inscrutable destiny, is clear from the
and the inhumanities of humankind, that the character of God's creation and supplementary description: " enemies in mind" and " in works that are
God's concern for the universe in its fullest expression could be so caught wicked." Paul previously had not hesitated to speak in such lenns ("enemies
and encapsulated for them in the cross of Chri st (cf. already I Cor. 1:22-25,
30). In some ways still more striking is the implied vi sion of the church as I. n.e pusivc form ~ meets alllhc criteria to be counted as original: it is
the focus and means toward this cosmic reconciliation - the community in well supponcd (p-'6 B). it uplaim the OIher readings. and it is the most d ifficult (following il,.t~
which that reconciliation has already taken place (or begun to take place) Meu.ger 621 -22). But since the second person passive fits so badly we may bejustified in concluding
and whose responsibility it is to li ve out (cf. particularly 3:8-15) as well as that theurlycomclionlimprovement was wholly justified (cf. Ughlfoot 249-50; Moule. Coitmiwu
QNJ Phil~ 72).
to proclaim its secret (cf. 4:2-6). 2. 1( . ~ads l<i'I~ 1«I\ lvtt':IotoM>!; (" herald and apostle") in~lCad of ~UXl<OV~ ("servant "),
Pl"Csumably since the lalle.- seemed 100 imtdcquale to tx(rCss the SlaIUS of Paul.
~ 3. 11Ie passive patticiple means lilCrally " havi ng been given o~-er 10 5\11U1gcn:' 50
e5tranged." rIOt "being foreig.nen," as IB implies.
1:2 1-22 107

[of God]," Rom. 5: 10: 11 :28), though ouxvmCl (like axa.ll.otp16w) occurs (see Lona 99-1(0). " But now" (vuvl &1) is a genuine Paulinism to express
only here and in Eph. 2:3 and 4 : J 8 in the Pauline corpus. In lhis case OUlv01Cl thiS moment of divine reversal (Rom . 3:2 1; 6:22; 7:6 ; 11 :30; I Cor. 15:20;
has the force of " mind (as a kind of thinking), disposition. thought." hence Phm. \I ; see also Col. 3:8 and Eph. 2: 13; Heb. 9:26; see further Tac hau).
" hostile in attitude" (BAGO s.v. ()UlvmCl 2), " in heart and mind " The theme o f cosmic reconciliation is picked up from I :20 (with the same
(NEBIREB). II reneets the determined and self-sustained altitude illuminated verb; see on that verse) and personalized: "he (thi s same o ne 'in whom all
in Rom. 1:2 1. where human creation, having disowned its cre3lureliness. the fullness of God was pleased to dwell') has reconciled you." Unli ke 1:20,
finds a self-satisfying mode of existence in ignorance of God ( 1:2 1-32; the where the maintenance of the pattern of "in, through, to" resulted in the
thought is close to Bar. I :22). Consequently the " deeds" (see on I: 10) which thoUght of reconciliation "to him " (that is, to Ch rist), the language here,
such an attitude produces are " wicked " (cf. Testament of Dall 6:8 and freed from the poetic constraints of the hymn. reverts to the more typical
Testament of Asher 6:5). where the stronger adjective 1tovllp6C; (" wicked, Pauline thought of reconciliation thro ugh Christ to God (Rom . 5 : 10: 2 Cor.
evil "; cf. Rom. 12 :9 and I Thes . 5:22) is used rather than 'XO.xO; (" bad " ; S: 18-20; see also Marshall 125-27: Martin, Recofl ciliariofl 125-26), but here
as in Rom. 13:3). with C hrist as subject (though see n. I). as in Eph. 2: 16 (Findeis 432-33),
If we take the pamllel with Ephesians serious ly we will have to rec- As in I: 13. the aorist tense ('; has reconciled " ) indicates the decisiveness of
ognize the words written here from a Jewish perspective (a conceptuality what happened on the cross, not the co mpletio n of the whole work of
taken over from Jewish polemic against Gentiles; so Wolter 92). For in reconciliation ( I :20 ). The reconciliation of Gentiles (to be also the church)
Ephesians the alienation is "from the body politic of Ismel" and " the is the first stage in the reconciliation of the world; no te also the " not yet"
covenants o f pro mise" (E ph. 2:12) as well as "from the li fe of God " (Eph. note implied in the followi ng 7tapao"tiiaCtl, which is the objecti ve of the act
4: 18). Consequently the "evil deeds" in mind can be characterized in terms of reco nciliation , as al so in 1:28.
of the indictment of Rom . I : 18-32 (see also on 3:5 , 8; cf. Psalms oJ50fomon In this elabomtion of the imagery of I :20 the means of reco nciliation
17: 13). At the same time we should recall that it is a cosmic alienation which are explained, as already alluded to in the (likely) addi tion in I :20 (" through
is implied in 1:20 a nd that Paul e lsewhere labored to persuade his fellow the blood of his cross"). Reconciliation happened "in the body of his fl esh
Jews that they, 100, were guilty of defection from God's way of making through (his) death." Thi s is the second occurrence of o6J,.la. ( " body") in
rig hteous (Rom. 2; I I :28).4 Nevertheless, here the thought is directed specifi- the letter (after I: 18a), the second of one o f the mo st fascinating kaleido-
cally at " you (Gentiles)," with the implication that Israel' s relation with God scopes of usage that we c an imagine in a key Pauline category (see Dunn.
models the relation to which all creation shou ld aspire. as now the church " Body"). Here it clearly de notes the human body of Chri st on the cross.
(as the body of C hrist) provides that model ( 1:I8a, 24). At all events, it is though the " in" may be locative and not merely instrumental (cf. Bruce.
not surprising that Gentile converts looking back to their o ld way of life Colossians, Philemon, and Ephesians 78 n. 181 ). d enoting, thai is, not
should characterize it in strongly negative terms. Such an evalua tion need merely the means of identificatio n but also that identification with Christ
not be self-justification by means of biographical reconstruction . but here which is at the heart of Paul's " in C hrist" (see o n I :2) and "sufferi ng with
presumably reflects the sense of having shifted from one realm (where the Christ" motif (see on 1:24), The most striking variatio n at this point is the
dominant force was evil and dark) to another (1 : 13; cf. Gal. I :4). In such a addition " of fl esh" (as in the other refe rence to Christ's body o n the cross.
decisive. fi nal (eschatological) shift. the relative brightness and richness of 2:11 ), resulting in a phrase (to ac4ta til; oapx6;" " body of fl esh" ) that
life newly experienced " in Christ" would naturally make the o ld d ays seem OCCurs o nly in Colossians in the Pau line corpus.
muc h darker and illuminate their character as alienation (cf. Phil. 3:7-8). The two words aap~ and a&jJ.a are characteristically Pauline (each
1:22 VUVl ot 6.1tOiGatil~Ev tv ttJ"l o4tatl Til; oap~ a uto'll ~ha OCcurs more than ninety times in the letters attributed to Paul. more than
to'll eavatou napaotJioCtt'L; «riot>; xal lq..L<bj..Lou; Xlll av€y>U..t'!toU; ~% o f the New Testament usage of these words). And they never appear
XlltEVMtlOV auto'll. The darker the past. the more dram atic the transition hnked together elsewhere in Paul simply because thei r ranges of meaning
overlap to such an extent. The basic di stinction is that a~a denotes the fact
of e mbodiment, that aspect of human (and o ther) existence whic h gives il
4. Cf. Eu:1r.: . 14:5. 7. one expression of a regul ar warning thai idolalr}'lfollowi ng other gods place in its world and makes il possible for embodied entities to interact
resul l$ in Israel', eslCangemml from God. II is precisely in th is eOllleXI that we might have e~pcctcd upon each other (so, e.g. , I Cor. 6: 16·18; 7:4). while o6.p~ is the material
some use of the alternative ITOelaphor of j uStiftc lIlionJmakin g ri gh teous. since tha t metaphor 50
~ ubstance of which the body is composed in this world . It is always important
dominates Paul"~ earlier presenlation of a Jewish gospel for Gentiles (Romans 3-4; Galati ans );
Ph ilippi ans 3; cr. even Eph. 2:8; 4:24). 10 trying to understand Paul to remember that o &J1a does not mean " physica l
108 COLOSSIANS 1:22 109

body" as such. Thus. most clearly, the distinction he makes in I Cor. 15:44, carcass").6 At a ny rate, intentional or not, such an e mphasis would have
between the body of this age, o&jJ.o: ljf\lXI~V (" natural body"), a nd the been a bulwark against any Gnostic tendencies that attempted to question
resurrection body. aWj.Ja ltV€Ol"uxmc6v ("spirilUal body"), shows thai differ- the reality of Chri st's death :7 the firstborn o r all creation attained his status
ent embodiments are necessary for different environments. Since in Hebrew as firstborn rrom the dead by experienci ng the full reality of physical death.
anthropology disembodied existence was scarcely conceivable, traflsfonna- The divi ne ac t of reconciliation had two phases: the means ("i n the
tion of the "body" was simply the means by which transition from this world body of his fl esh through death ") and the objective (" to present you
(Q the next takes place (cf. Phil. 3:21), In contrast, " flesh" remains rootedly holy ... "). The repetition of " you " underscores how personalized was the
of this world, inextricably part of it, so that "flesh and blood " cannot inherit divine condecension; of course, it does not mean "you alone" but "you"
the kingdom (I Cor. 15:50). Nevertheless. si nce the embodiment of which among all the o ther "you"s, all of whom could count themselves the benefi -
Paul speaks most frequently is that within this world . a physical (three- ciaries of personally characte rized and directed grace. The intagery is d rawn
dimensional) world. the individual oWj.Ja in Paul does in fact usually denote rrom cult and law coun and re fl ects the degree to which these two powerfu l
physical body. A fair degree of overlap between " body" and "flesh " is fea tures of daily life in class ical soc iety were interwoven.
therefore inev itable (see also o n 2: I). n ap iatru.ll ("present" ) here signifies a fonnal bri nging before and
From the other side of the overlap between the two words in Paul, presentation in the implied hope of acceptance and acknow ledgment (as in
o"(lP~ in its mnge of meaning quic kly gathers to itself a characteristically 2 Cor. 4: 14; 11 :2; Eph. 5:27 ; 2 Tim. 2: 15; sec also 1:28). Thus il could be
negative nOle. The deglee to which OCtp~ belongs to and is part of this world used both of offering a sacrifice (he nce Ro m. 12: I) and of bringing someone
means that it shares this world' s weak, ephemeral charac te r (contrast o&!J.a, before a j udge (he nce Ro m. 14:10; see S AGO S.v. Id, e). f\yto~ ( "holy"),
2: 17) and that its corruptibility leaves it ready prey to the powerful entice- as we have already seen ( 1:2). also derives from the cuit, denoting that which
ments of sin (classically expounded in Rom. 7:7-8 :3). Thi s negalive tone is has been set apart, consecrated to God. t\~roj..I~ ("without blemish or
at its sharpest in Paul's blunt antithesis between " fle sh" a nd "Spirit" (Rom. blame") is used most commo nly in the LXX of the physical perfection
8:4-8; G al. 5: 16-1 7).:5 In contrast, o&\la as such is characte ristically neu!rdl required of the sacrificial animal (e .g. , Exod. 29:1 ; Lev. 1:3, 10, etc.; urn.
and only rarely negati ve (Rom. 8: 13 is exceptional). 6:14, etc.; Ezek. 43:22-25 ; 45:18, 23; 46:4-6, 13). though naturally such
The usage here, then. is unusual in that the unprecedented combination perfection became a metaphor for blamelessness before God (2 Sam. 22:24;
of these two terms look.. almost tautologous. Almost as striking is the degree Pss. 15:2; 18:23: 19: 13, etc.). The same overtone carries over into New
to which the second tcnn, o~ ( " flesh"), initially and more frequently in Testament use (Eph. 5:27; Phil. 2: 15; Jude 24; Rev. 14:5; explicitly in Heb.
this letter denotes mere physical presence or ex istence (l :22, 24; 2: I, 5, 11), 9: 14 and I Pet. I: 19). The parallel is panicularly close with Eph. 1:4 : Ccyiouc;
with the negative no tes more characteristic of Paul conting only in 2: 13, 23 ~l ~<<; xattvMt~ov au"t'ofi (xa"t'EVdm:\OV o nly in these two passages
and 3:22. though " mind of flesh" in 2: 18 is equally un precedented in Paul m the Pauline letters). AvtyxAlltO~ though much less common in Jewish
(see on 2: 18 end). Why then the unusual fonnu lation here? Clearly, in Pauline tradi~ion (on ly 3 Mace. 5:3 1), is drawn directly from legal procedure: f:txcr.-
terms, we can say that the mo re ne utral tenn "body" is being qualified by ).tco IS a legal technical lenn, "accuse, bring charges against" (BAGO s.v.
the traditionally more negative tenn. However, that may mean here simply ~U(O) ; so (xVtyxAl1tO~ denotes one free of accusatio n or charge, hence
a he ightening of the sense of mere physicality. In contrast to a heavenly Irreproachable, blameless" (cf. particu larly I Tim. 3: 10 and TIl. 1:6-7:
existence in the fonn of Wisdom (1 :15-17) and to a o~a identified either elsewhe re in Paul o nly in I Cor. 1:8).
with the universe as a whole o r with the church in particular ( I: 18a), the There is implicit, then, an in terplay between the idea of Christ's death
oGlj.lCt with which Christ achieved his act of reconciliation was merely that as sacrifice (1:20) and the presentation of those who are as unblemi shed as
of o ne single frail human being. " Of fl esh" ensures that this ocilJJ.Ct could
never be confused with the O"~a of I: 18. The negative here, then, would 6. The phrase also occurs in !he Grttk of Sir. 23: 17 (~IIOpvor; tv Ot4tan arapxb;
be the sharpness of the antithesis between glorious cosmic body and in- : : ) and / Enoch . 102 :5 (tql 64Lan. t~ 6ap~ il!.tffiv). See funhcr Lohse. ColQJsilJnJ and
dividual human fram e stretched out in the agonizing humility of crucifixion . - 64 n. 20. SUlCe !he conU1lS1 wnh 1;18 would be suffICient 10 explain "of flesh" licK it
lS.less eenain that a polemical o venone is presenl. diK<;tcd against teaching CUlTC11 t in Colossae (so
(cf. the similar usage in IQpHab 9:2; also 4QpNahl4Q169 2:6 = "corpse,
Ughtf~ 160; otherwise Abbott 226; Bruce. CoIruJiom. Ph i/f!mon, l»Id EphuilJns 7K; R. P. Mart in.
C%.lSlom 0IId Phi/mIOII 67; O ·Brien. CoimsiollS. Phi/mum (8 ).
5. Sec funher my " Jesus - Aesh and Spirit; An E:<position of Ronl. 1:3-4." lTS 24 ( 1973) . . 7. According 10 Tenulli an . A(/o.·trsNS M (lrciontrn 5. 19 .6. Murcion did nO( i/lClude "of l1esh"
40-68. In his ruding of Col. 1:22 and too/r.: " his body" '" Kfer '" the churc h.
110 COLOSS IANS 1:22-23 III

a sacrifice to God. In other words, there is an echo of the Pauline idea of of election by grace (Romans 4; 9:6- 11 ; II :20), Paul always insisted that
sacrificial interchange, where the spotless sacrifice by dying as a sin offering the ongoing "walk ,. ( I : I 0) of the Christian should be in direct cominuity
is somehow interchanged with the blamewonhy sinner and ilS spotlessness with and continuingly expressive of the faith by wh ich the Christian fi rst
tr-.msferrcd to the sinner (so most ex pl icitly in 2 Cor. 5:21 ). This has been entered upon that walk (the main thrust of Galatians; so, e.g., Gal. 3:2-3;
taken up in the imagery of fonnal presentation to judge or king or emperor, 5:4-6: Rom. 14:23). It is probably that faith by wh ich the Colossians first
where it is the irreproachable chamcter of those presented thai guarantees received the gospel which is referred to here: without that same basic con-
their acceptance (the two elements nicely caught in N IV's "without blemish viction and openness to the grace of God they would be unable to persist
and free from accusation") . Bul it is clearly implicit that this acceptability (Aletti. Epitre aux Colo.uiens 126). On the other hand, the defi nite anicle
has been made possible and guaranteed by the death of Christ. The sacrificial could denote an early example of the objectifi cation of faith (" the faith ";
imagery is one way of explaining how that came about, but others will be Houlden 175; O' Brien. CoiossiallS, Philemon 69) which begins to charac-
offered shortly (see 2:1 1- 15. 20; 3: 1). terize post-Pauline usage (I Tim . 3:9; 4: I, 6; 5:8; 6: 10, 2 1: etc.), though it
Also implicit is the suggestion that the presentation has not yet taken could equally denote "your fai th." Pokorny 93 thinks both meanings are
place and that it will be the fi nal climax of God's saving purpose through involved here.
Christ (Olherwise Lightfoot 160·61; Lohse, Colossians alld Philemon 65; The point is reinforced by a sequence of strengthening images. "Es-
Aleui, Epilre aI/x Colossiells 125). This is borne out by the immediately tablished" (tE6Ej.lclt<ojltvot) uses the image of a " foundation" (9f~.I.D.. toQ.
following note of caution (1:23) and the otherwise surprising indication in The verb occurs only here and in Eph. 3: 17 in the Pauline corpus, but Paul
I :24 that Christ's sufferings (on the cross) are as yet somehow incomplete. liked to .thi ~k of ~mse lf as a master builder laying a foundation of the gospel
1:23 d '(f. EnI~VEtE rfi n:((T[El tE9ql£AIW~OI xal £Spaiol xed ,.IT'I or of faith In ChrlS( (Rom. 15:20: I Cor. 3: 10- 12). The image of Christ as
j.l£tUXIVOUIlEVOI CtttO t il; £Anioo; tou M"(tf.A(OtJ OU fl'(()OOa't£, tOU XllPUX- the "foundation" on which Christians are established (I Cor. 3: II) was
8tVtO; tv no:on xti<X1 tn uno tOV oi>puv6v, ou tyEv61l11v tyoo nauAo<; presumably drawn from 15a. 28 : 16 (cf. particul arly Rom. 9:3 3; Eph. 2:20;
olaxovcx;. The con fidence in the effectiveness of the divine provision made I Pet. 2:6).9 The passive here cou ld imply Paul or Epaphras as the builder:
fo r those estranged from God by their evil and for the blameworthy by as elsewhere, the " provided that" takes its force from the gospel in whicb
Chris(s death is qualified by a matching emphasis on human responsibility. the Colossians fi rst believed ( I Cor. 15:2; Gal. 5:4-5). 'EOpCli~ ("firm,
Such emphasis on the need for persistence in Christian belief and conduct steadfast": elsewhere in the New Testament only in 1 Cor. 7:37 and 15:58;
is a regular feature in Paul (e.g .. Rom. 8: 13, 17; 11:22; 1 Cor. 9:27; 10: 11- 12; bot also in Ignatius. Ephesians 10:2; Polycarp 3: 1) comes from ~(X or
Gal. 5:4) and should not be ignored. E'( "(£ may denote confi dence more than fOpT], mean ing a " place where one sits" : the addressees are to remain as
doubt (cf. its use in 2 Cor. 5:3; Eph. 3:2; 4:2 1),8 but fi nal acceptance is fi~ly seated On the gospel as a god in his temple or a skillful rider on a
nevertheless dependent on remaining in the fai th . The parenetic and pastoral spmted horse. The third image is simply that of movement, shifting from
poi nt is that however such persistence must be and is enabled by God througb one place to another (j.t.Et Ux lvouIlClI; only here in the New Testament but
hi s Spirit ( 1:11). there must be such persistence (cf. O ' Brien, Colossians, ec~oing the i mag~ry in I Cor. 15:58; cf. Deul. 19: 14: not quite " drift away,"
Philemoll 69). as In IBINJB). TIus they must avoid, remaining fmnly attached to " the hope
That the persistence (see BAGO S. V. t1tt~W 2; the same verb as in ?of the ~osre.l, " a n~1 phrase summarizing the earlier emphasis ( I :4-5), with
Rom. 11 :22) is here described as " with reference to the faith " (tfi n{ou: t) hope agam promlOent as characterizing the " gospel " (see on 1:5).
may be signi ficant. On the one hand it catches the authentic Pauline emphasiS The recollection of the opening thanksgiving is continued with the
on "faith" (see on I :4). perhaps in some contrast to the more typicall y Jewish fU nher relative clause. " proclaimed in (= throughout) all creation (better
emphasis on " faithfulness" (see again my RomallS 200-20 1, 238). Whereas I~an " to every creature" in RSVINRSV. NIB, NIV) under heaven." This is
Jewish parcnesis focused on the ongoi ng responsibilities of the covenant Simply a variation on 1:6, using the verb Xllpoooro.. "proclaim (as a herald)"
people, without (in Paul' s view) suffi cient recall to the foundational character ~~f.. e.g., Rom. 10:8, 14- 15; 1 Cor. 1:23; 15:11), "creation" instead of
cosmos" (perhaps in echo of I: 15), and the singular " heaven" instead of
• the plural (as in 1:5, 16.20; bUi " under heaven" is not otherwise used by
8. Sec. ~ ., .• Hanis 60; J . M. Gundry Voir. PllIli oJU1 P~rU:l'~m"u (W UNT 2.37; TUbingc n:
MohrlLooisyill~ : WesuninSlerfJohnK001 , 1990) 1m n. 231 . Contrast WaIl SI : " Paul does noc tuch
a 'once SlIv~d.lI lways sav~d' kind of r~ligion ; oor does he understand faith as II 'once for all' decision Col .9. On the imagery 0( God's building in J~wish thooght see. e.g .. LoIuneyer 72 n. ] ; Lohse.
foc Christ. " Olj.UIU IlIId Phi/~mon 66 and nn . 3] and 34.
1\ 2 COLOSSIANS 1:23-29 113

Paul). The aorist tense (against the present tenses of 1:6) may. reflect the A PERSONAL STATEMENT ( 1:24-2:5)
perspective of Paul al the end of his missionary career. con~lous o~ the
nickering pinpoints of candle fl ame that he (and others) had ~mdled In so Paul's Commitment to the Gospel ( I :24. 29)
many ci ties of the Mediterranean world (ef. Gnilka, K%s!;erbn ej92; Wolter
96). But a degree of hyperbole can hardly be denied. However, the purpose 24 NOWI / rejoice in my sufferings for your sake alld I jill up what is lacking
evidently is nOI to convey any fresh thought but to round off .the . great 0/ the aJJ1ictions of the Christ in my flesh for the sake of his body. which is
sequence of thanksgivi ng a nd to provide a link into the nc~t ~ectlOn 10 ~ the church, 2.5 of which I became servant in accordance with the commission
closing words of the preceding section (another charactensllc of Pauhne which was given to mefor you, to make the word o/God/ltlly known, 26 the
style). , mystery which has been hidden from the ages and from the generations. But
In this case the transition is to a personal state ment about Paul sown noW it has been revealed 10 his saiflls, 27 to whom 2 God wished to make
involvement in the preaching of the gospel and in hi" c?ncem f Of . ~ known what is the wealrh of tIl e gloryJ of this mystery amOllg the natiOlls,
Colossians (1 :24-2:5), The link is provided by the affumatlOn ~al thiS 15 whicJr4 is, Christ ill JOu. the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, waming
the gospel of which he himself (tyro n auA.o;. with some emphasiS; cf. Gal. el'eryane (Ind leaching everyone in all wisdom, ill order that we might preselll
5:2 and I Thes. 2:18) became "servant" (SUlXOVO;; see on 1:7), ~ t~ought everyone complete in Christ.5 29 For this I (lIsa labor, striving in accord with
that is repeated with reference to the "church" in I :25. Paul. and his I~~ his energy which operales effectively ill me wilh power.
diate circle could never forget that he had been given a special and deciSive
mission as "apostle to the nations" (Ro m. 11:13). But here it is not his It was Paul's custom to write about his own missionary labors and personal
apostolic starus which is emphasi1..ed (that wa~ not u~der ~hreat .at ~olossae; involvement with his readers, most naturally after the o pening thanksgiving
see n. 2); rather, the pri vileged but hard serVice which hiS calh ng Involved (Ro m. 1:11 · 15; I Thes. 2:17-3:11; cf. the lengthy narratio in Gal. 1: 10-
(cf . I Cor. 3:5: see also O ' Brien, Colossians, Philemon 71). 2:2 1), but elsewhere a lso (Rom. 15: 14-32 ; I Cor. 16: I - I I: Phm. 2 1-22). The
irregularity of such features is simply a reminder that Paul treated mallers
of Structure and fonnat as completely adaptable to what he wanted to say.
So after the lengthy thanksgiving (cf. I Thes. 1:2- 2: 16), Pau l picks up the
fi nal clause of the last section ("of which I Paul became a minister") and
fills it out.
. Aleni. Epilre aux Colossiens 132-33. notes the prominence of revela-
~IOnlkn ow ledge language in 1:24-2:5 ()JOOll')P10V in 1:26,27; 2:2; ¢avEp6w
~~ ~ :2~; yvwp~~ro in 1:~7 ; xaLayy£ in 1:28; O"041ia. in J :28 ; 2:3; 0100 in
:-. 1, O"UVEO"I; In 2:2; £n1'(V{O(Ju; in 2:2: '(V&m; in 2:3). Again, this need not
Impl~ a s~ong " Gnostic" or hidden know ledge content in the teaching and
praxI s bemg confronted at Colossae; of the words cited, only O"O$ia (2:23)
appears within the explic itly polemical section (2:8-23), and. somewhat
SurpriSingly, clnOxaAU"lttwlWtox6J..u,¥l«; nO{ at all. The inspiration for this
language comes from Paul's own self-awareness rather than that of the
ColOSSians. Here the objective was possibly to boost further the Colossian

I. "Now" can mean "as I review my part in all this" (si milarl y Lightfoot 164) 01" " im",,· """"
_la··, ··]
m Simi arly Masson 109- 10). BUI il could be si mply resumplive. as il oOen is in common
ipeecl\ today (Moule. CoIoJsjant and Phil~mon 75).
} . Bowers'S sugge!iUOI1 thai To1; lrr(o", aUlOto is the Qnl«rd~nl of oU; ("wham." nOl "10
....hom : thesainlS as the divinely intended Igency for the Gentile mission) gained no support.
3. p46 omits "of the glory."
4. A natural COfTeCUOO was 10 change the " which" 10 " who ."
5. Another case where laler saibes thought illPPiOp,iate 10 add " Jesus."
11 4 COLOSS IANS 1:24 11 5

believers' self-esteem by reinforcing their appreciation of the riches of insight the extension of Paul's complete eschatological schema. It contains several
and glory given to them in Christ (the focus of the whole paragraph: J :24. elements: ( I) Christ's sufferings and death as the eschatological tribulation
27-28: 2:2-3. 5) and at such cost to Paul (I :24, 29; 2: I), They shou ld not ~pected as the antecedent to the new age - Paul's adaptation. renecled
allow others to denigrate the Christians' privileges (2:4, 8) or to compare particularly in Rom. 8: 18-23, of an older Jewish Iheme;8 (2) participation in
these pri vileges unfavorably with their own (2: 16, 18), (he death of Christ as itself (he means of transition from old age to new
1:24 vUv Xa(pro tv "tole; nuBflllCtO'lV urctp ullOOv xal tlvtavCtnATlPW ta (Rom. 6:3- 11 ; 8: 18-23 prefaced by 8: 17: 2 Cor. 4: 10-12 leading into 4: 16-
ixftEPflIlCl'CU trov BAi\VEOlV 'tou XPUl1:0U tv t11 oupx\: Ilou urrtp 'tOu aro,..t~'t~ 5:5: Phil. 3: 10- 11 ; Heb. 2:9- 10 offers a different model with equivalent
aino\>. ts tony 1'\ ExxATlcria. The initial statement echoes a charactcnstJc effect): and, consequently, (3) Christian existence as a lifelong process in
Pauline theme, that of rejoicing in suffering (Rom. 5:3 - boasting in affl ictions which dying with Christ leads to a share of his final resurrection (Rom. 6:5 ;
fcr. 12:12); 8: 18- sufferings not worth comparison with the coming glory Gal. 2: 19: 6: 14 - sti ll nailed to the cross with Christ [note the perfect
[similarly 2 Cor. 4: 17- 181; 2 Cor. 1:5-7 - abundance of sl!ffcrings matched tenses): Rom. 6:5: 8: 11 , 23; Phil. 3: II - resurrection still future: see further
by abundance of comfort; 2 Cor. 7:4 - "I am overflowing ~i t~ joy .in ~ur my Jesus 326-38).
affliction": I Thes. 1:6 _ "you received the word in much affliction with JOY Col. 1:24 is dearly bui lding on this theme.9 In particular, the thought
of the Holy Spirit"). As these texts show, such suffering is characteristic of that Paul's sharing in Christ's death was essential to the we ll-being of his
aJX>stolic ministry (also 1 Cor. 4:9- 13: 2 Cor. 11:23-27; Gal , 6:.17). bu.t ~ot convens is already present in 2 Cor. 4: 10-12. To be sure, the schema is
di stinctive of it either (over against that of other Christians). Nor Indeed IS It a modified in Colossians in the thought that resurrection with Christ is already
distinctively Pauline theme, since positive evaluation of suffering is to be fou nd paSI (see on 2: 12). On the other hand, the retention or at least echo of the
in Stoic sources (such as Seneca's De Providelltia 4), as also in contemporary titular force of Christ (" the Christ") reinforces the Jewish character of the
Jewish sources (e.g., lQH 9:24-25: P,m/ms a/Solomon 10: 1-2; 2 Baruch 52:6, schema (so we can speak already of "the messianic woes"; see G. Bertram,
cited in my Romam; 250). Rather, it is the response of those who recognize that TDNT9:671-72). But Paul here has also made a unique addition (0 the theme
suffering positively reacted to can be a maturing experience. as also of ~se by adding the (implied) thought that Christ's afflictions lack something
convinced of the rightness of their cause. which conviction fun ctions as an lOner (i>o-tiprllla, " lack. deficiency")IO and need to be completed in Paul 's flesh
source of slrength and (Tansfonns the sufferings into a confinnation of that
rightness. At this JX>int the line between blind fanaticism and unflinching vkariOU$ sufferings being inadequate or insufficienL 001 least since Paul never calls Christ's suffer-
ings "arnielions" (see panicularly discussi<>n in Schweizer. Colossians 101-3; Aleni. [pit" alU"
devotion can become very thin.
Colassitns 134-36). Almost a~ unani mou~ is me view that the caccgory of "mystical union with
Here at least we can say that Paul accepted suffering on behalf of olhers
Christ" is inappropnace, particularly since it lea ves unexplained tlx: "Iack in ChriSt'S afniclions'"
Coup U~UJlV) - a reminder that the sufferings were not sought in anything (~e panicularl y Lohmeyer 71-78). For exegeti cal alternatives see Kremer 174-95; Gnilka, Kolos.•er-
like a masochistic spirit, but were accepted. indeed welcomed, as the un- brie/95_96: O·Brien. C% ssi(Jfls. Philemon 77-78: and Pokorny 96--99: and for IIx: earlier history
avoidable consequence of the all-imJX>rtant objective of preaching the gos~1. ofimerpretldion!>CC Kremer 5-152.
What the sufferi ngs in view here might have involved is documented In 8. Dan. 7:2 1-22. 25-27; 12:1-3; Jubiltes 23:22-31; IQH 3:28 -36; Testamem III Mosts 5- 10:
MaiL 3: II!Luke 3: 16 (drawing on tsa. 30:27-28): Mark 10:38: AdS 14:22. Sec furtbe rSt r-B 4.977-86.
2 Cor. 11 :23-28. 9. Cf. Di~lius. Kolosser. Ephes"r, PhiltmQn 22-23; Best 130-36: Mouie, CoiossitllU and
Paul's theology of suffering. however, was still richer. For Paul suffer- Philtnwn76-79; Kamiah. " W'tc beuneill Pau lus seil\ Leidel\~"; Bauckh:un ; O· Brien. CoIoJsitlllS.
ing meanl suffering with Christ, sharing Christ's sufferings (.Ro".'. 8: 17: Philtmotl78-80. M LightfOOl 163 noIed, .. 'the amiction!; ... which QuiSI endured' ... !>CCms 10
2 Cor. 1:5; 4: I 0- 11 ; Phil. 3: 10-11). It is clearly this theme which IS laken be the only naturnl interpretation of the words:' Schweizer. Colossians 1{I4, however. mists this
fu rther here in the surprising sentence, " I fi ll up what is lacking of the whole train of Ihought when he insists that "one can understand 'Christ's amiclions ' only as the
SUfferi ngs endured in the commonity for the sake of ChrisL or 'in ChrisI' ": similarly A. Wiken-
afflictions of the Christ in my nesh." The words have caused bewi lderment hauser. Pau/int Mysticism.' Christ In lht Myslical 1eoching 0/5t Paul (Frdburg: Herder. 1960)
to generations of translators 6 and commentators. 7 But in fac t they are simply 1.59..62. The mlXif is only panially grasped also by Gnilka. KO/O'IJerbri../98 (also Thtologie 340).
~d :okomy 99-100. Thus the laner: " TIle apostle struggles and suffers in orde r that people may
rtahu' thw their salvation in Jesu~ ChriSI is already comple!ed.. .. What is sliIl ' lacking' is the.
6. NEB: " Thi s is my way of helping 10 complete, in my poor human flesh. me full ~e of lIpp! opriac ion of the already oomplele SIIlvation."
Chri st' s afflictions st ill to be enduml "; REB : " 1 am compleling what Slill remaillll for C hrist to 10. The fact that OOtt9l11aalso ~amc: a Gnostic technicallenn (~. e.g .. Mo~lie. Colossian.<
suITer in my own person"'; NJ B: "in my own body 10 make up al l the hardship!llhat still have w tlIId Philtmon 79) simply undt:rlines the danger of reading the outlines of Htlle Colossillll heresy"
be undergone by Chrisl " . . back from ti1e5e twer sources. since ic i! \'ery hanl w conceive what u§oe the "(alse leaching " would
7. The one thing on which moSI are clear is that there can be no Ihought here of Christs have been making 0( tbc concqx 10 which Paul would theo be m;pondin g.
11 6 COLOSS IANS 1;24 -25 11 7

(nvtClvct1tA.T]pcil. literally " fi ll up in place of'-: cr. the similar phrase in I Cor. iogs of Christ ("crucified wilh Chris!" ) by which the world was redeemed
16: 17 and Phil. 2:30: see Abbott 229-30: Lohse, Colossialls alld Philemon and transformed.
7 1 n. 25). This agai n is panJy a reflection of the cosmic scope of the One interesti ng corollary is that for such a theology to be realistically
reconciliation envisaged and of Paul's awareness that it is not yet complete; put forward it was almost essemial that Paul was still a li ve. If he was dead,
therefore the decisive sufferi ngs of the Christ cannot yet be complete. Fore- then his sufferings were complete, and so also (the most o bvious corollary
shadowed is the apocalyptic thought that there is an appoi med sum of 10 Ihis verse) were Chris!'s afni ctions; and where then was the end of all
suffering that must be endured in o rde r to trigger (as it were) the finaJ events things? He re is a fu rther slight indication thai the letter was probably written
of history (Rev. 6:9- 11 ; 4 Ezra 4 :33-43):11 the thought then is that the death wh ile Paul was still al ive. not by him, but with his approval. II follows further
of Chrisl has (as it were) activated the firs t trigger, but those sufferings are (despite mos!) thai the sense of eschatological expectancy in the leiter must
not yet complete, otherwise the second and fi nal trigger would have been have been still high if Paul's missionary work was nearly over. Nor should
activated too. rus subsequent death be allowed to devalue the whole line of thought over-
Central to this fun her thought is the claim tha t these remaining much. For at its heart is (he double claim that the suffe ring and dying of
afflictions are being experienced by Paul himself ("'in my fl esh").1 2 The Christ provides a key insight into the way the cosmos is constituted and into
claim is not megalomanic, as though Paul thought he could supplement the ils reclamation ( I: 15-20) and that it is only by identificat ion with th is Christ
work of di vine Wisdom-C hrist's act of cosmic reconciliation (" a theologi· in the way of suffering that those who serve the church can help it truly to
cally untenable glorificatio n of the apostle by one of his foll owers," ac· be his body, the body which mirrors the cosmos as it was inte nded to be.
cording to H. Hiibner, EDNT 3. II 0; similarl y LOwe 3 13; Nie lse n I I J- 14; To be noted, fi nally, is the further change rung on the use of aWlla. As
Be ke r, Heir:,' 68; Roloff 225·26). It is rather the most striking e xpression just implied, the thought of 1:1 8a is deliberately echoed in the last two
of a convicti on which Paul seems to have had from the beginning of his phrases of the verse: "on behalf of his body, which is the church " (see on
apostolic ministry, na mely that his mission was to fu lfill or complete that 1:I 8a), But the addition of "hi s" ("' his body") also echoes 1:22 ("the body
of the Servant of Yahweh, that is, also of the suffering Servant of deutero- of his fl esh"). We may say then that the embodiment of Wisdom·Christ,
Isaiah.13 This underl ines in tum the degree to which Paul understood his which was more impersonal in the cosmos ( I : 18), was succeeded by an
apostleship in eschatological terms as the last act on the stage of th is world embodiment in the particularity of human nesh ( 1:22), to be succeeded in
before (as we would say) the fmal curtain (particula rly I Cor. 4 :9).14 It was tum by an embodiment in the (uni versal) church (I :24), but now characte r·
because Paul saw himself as a major actor in the final drama of God's ized by the personality known in and as Jesus Chri st. While the cosmos does
reconci ling purpose that he coul d also see his all too real sufferings as not cease to be pervaded by the divi ne Wisdom, which sustains it (how could
some how bringing to completion what was sti ll o utstanding of the suffer- it then continue to hold together?), the means by which the world encounters
and inte racts with this Wisdom now recognized as Christ is primarily through
t t. See funher R. Sluhlmann. Dm uch(llolQgiJch~ M ass im N~IWI TtS/(lm~nt (FRLANT his body, the church, jusl as the means by which Christ e ncounters and acts
])2; GiIIlingen: Vandcnboeck. 1983). here 99-101; olherwise Nie lsen 112. upon the world of hu manity is primarily through his body, the church. The
12, Not " the afflictions of Chrisc·in·my·nesh" Hloulden ISO). which would require lOU
XpIO'tOU t OO tv tfI oapxi ).10\1. Rcmington also insist!; on lh= imp<XlallCe of takin8 " in my flesh"
privilege. but also obligation, of the ch urch so conceived is staggeri ng. In
in clQ5e oonjuoctiOl1 willi the pr«cding .... ords: "the am ictions of Christ as tbe y are retlectcd and the same vein we should nOI ignore the further interplay with I :22: the ac t
reproduced in the lifc and behaviour of Paul his apostle"" (81; cf. Wolter 101·2). But he does not of reconciliation took place £v t ei> a ~(m tt)<; a o.pxa<; aut ou; Paul fi lls up
give enough .... eight (() ;xnql1'lIultlJ and (() the iJlltp clause, neithc:r o f wruch. however. need delJ1lCl What is lacking of the affl ictions of Christ tv tfl a o.px t 1l0U i>7ttp tOU a~ato<;
from the finished and decisi"e character of the cross (see also n. 1 above). aUl OU. There is a degree of continuity between Christ's body of n esh and
13. Note particularly Rom. 15: 20-21 (. lsa. 52: 15); 2 Coco 6: 1·2 ( .. lsa. 49:8); Gal. I: 15- 16
(echoing lsa. 49:1·6); Ph il. 2:16 (cf. lsa. 49:4). The same cOllviction impressed itsel r on the Acts
Paul's fles h for Christ's body (cf. Ernst. Philipper, Philemon, Kolosser,
material: 13:47 ( .. lsa. 49:6); 26: 16-18 (cf. I~ 42:7); also 18:9-10 (cf. Isa. 41 : I (); 43:5). c r. BOice, Epheser 183).
Colossiuns, I 'hi/mum. and Ep~sions 82·83. 1:25 ~<; Eyev61lllv tyro OUlXOVO<; x..o.ta t T)v Olxovoll(av t OU 8t:ou tT!V
14. See further my J~SIlS 1l1·13. referri ng particularly \0 O. Cullmann. "Le c arac t~Ri oogeia av 110 \ £is UIlW; 1tATlPOO<Xl tOv A&yov toU oEOU. The astonishing
csclultologiquc du devoir missionaire CI de la conscience aplstolique de S. Paul. &ude sur ~ claim just made is at once balanced a nd modified by repetition and variation
xattxov(-GIV) de 2 Thes. 2:6-7:' RHPR 16 (1936) 2 10-45; 1\. FridOChsen. TM Apasf/t QIld HIS
of the claim made already in I :23, " the church. of which I became a servant. "
M~s&agtl (Uppsala: Lundequ.islaka. 1947); Munck 36-42. Paul is himself part of the mystery ~
proclaims (Merlclci n 29·30). In contrast, A. T. Hanson, " De"clopmcnt" 160-65 SC~ the delay III Despi te the a ttractive simplicity of translating "the c hurch o f which I became
the parouya as the key to the Ihought ~. deacon (otaxovog," we are clearly not yet at the stage where the tenn has
11 8 COLOSSIANS 1:25-26 119

become a formal and unifonn title for a recognized office in the Pauline gospel (BAGO s.V. ItATlp6w 3). As in the only close parallel use, in Rom.
churches (as subsequently in I Tim. 3:8, 12: but evidently not yet in Rom. 15:19, there is an e schatological overtone: Paw 's commission as apostle (to
16: 1 and Phil. 1: 1), 15 Paul. who was so insistent on his apostolic SlalllS, the Gentiles) was intended as a decisive factor in completing the inbringing
would hardly wish to be thought to lay claim ( 0 what subsequently was of the Gentiles and so facilitating the final climax of God's purpose (Rom.
understood as a much lower function. The thought here in fact is both much I! : 13- 15, 25-32: cf. 2 Tim. 4 : 17). 17 Certainly it is such an awesome sweep
grander and more humble. For on the one hand. the church of which Paul and scope of divine purpose whic h is in view in the continuation of the
has claimed to be servant is the church, Christ's body. microcosm of the sentence in the next two verses (see also on 1:24 end).
cosmic world body of Stoic speculation (I: 18). But on the other. it is lhe 1:26 to ]J'lKr't11PiOV to anox£xpu]J]J£vov MO tWV cdwvwv xat nov ano
church in Colossae and other places, small groups of believers in the cities y£v£wv - vuv BE E4>nVl':pW6Tl tOl<; ayiOl<; autou. "The word of God" to
of the eastern Mediterranean region. and it is the humble role aftable servam which Paul had been commissioned is further defined as " the mystery hidden
to which Paul hali laid claim (see on I :7). Here again we sbould take seriously from the ages and from the generatio ns." f\n6 ("'from") could indicate those
Paul's concern to spend himself in the service and for the benefit of others: from whom the mystery had been hidden. In that case the airovE<; and the
the love in which he was held by so many testifies to the real benefit he YEVI':ai would have to be understood as further names of heavenly powers
succeeded in bringing. (cf. I : 16). Some would argue so in regard to the first of these terms, "the
Thi s service was in accord with the otxovollla of God that had been Aions" (see BAGO s. v. aimv 4 ; Dibelius, Kolosser. Epheser. Philemoll 24~25;
given to Paul , that is, by God. "with you in view" (maintaining the personal Lohmeyer 82: Scott 33). the powers that rule over each age (a ;oll; cf. I Cor.
touch toward a congregalion he had not yet met). The verbal phmse echoes 2:6, 8: 2 Cor. 4:4). The issue is even sharper in Ephesians, which besides
one of Paul's regular ways of speaking of his commission, "the grace of the close ly parallel Eph. 3:9 also speaks of "the aiwv of thi s world" (2:2).
God given 10 me" (Rom. 12:3: 15: 15: I Cor. 3:10: Gal. 2:9). The noun would Even in this latter case, however, it is probably bener to take airov simply
normally designate the administmtion or stewardship carned out by tbe in its more common meaning of "age" (see particularly T. Holtz, EDNT
otxov61l~ ("steward or administroltor" of an estate): it is consonant w ith 1.4446; Lincoln, Ephesians 94495). And here the case is even clearer since
the U"'olin o f thought here that in the Roman Empire as a whole at this time 'YEv£ai si mply means "gencrmions" and most obviously denotes the time
the otxov6j.101 were usually of servile origin (whether slave or freed : O. 8 . spanned by numerous generations. IS It is typically semitic, as repeated
MaTtin , Slavery 15-17). But Paul applied the language to hi s own work: he phrases like "from generations to generations" make clear (e.g .. Exod. 17: 16;
saw himself as commissioned by his master, like a good steward having Pss. 10:6; 49: II ; 77:8; Is. 34: 17; Joel 2:2; so also Lk. 1:50 and Eph. 3:21).
received his orders for the master 's absence: hence I Cor. 9: 17 , and cr. Eph. And atwv£<; is regularly used in the New Testamenltodenote time understood
3:2 with here (cf. Ignatius, EpheJiclIIs 6: I and DiogllelUs 7: I). The thought as a sequence of ages: so particu larly "this age" (e.g .. Matt. 12:32; Luke
is already developing into the fuller and still more di stinctive Chri stian idea 16: 18; Rom. 12:2: I Cor. 1:20: Eph. 1: 21; 2 Tim. 4:10) and " the age to
of "God's plan of salvation" (as in Eph. I : 10: 3:9), as the transition 10 1:26 come" (Matt. 12:32; Mark 10:30: Eph. 1:2 1; Heb. 6:5): and in echo of regular
here indicates,16 bUi "commission" is slill adequate here (so also NIV and Old Testament phrases, "to the age(s)" = " forever," and "from the age" =
RSV, though NEB/ REB 's " task assigned to me by God" and NJB 's " re~ " from everlasting" (Lohmeyer 82 n. 1). Lohmeyer also no tes how often the
sJX)nsibility" are too light for the context and RSV 's "divine office" tOO words are linked (as in Exod. 40: 15: Esth. 10:3; 1sa. 51 :9: Tob. I :4; Sir.
heavy) . 24:33). So here an6 is best taken in a temporal sense and the phrase as
All thi s is confmned by the descri ption of the commission as " 10 fulfi ll meaning " from (and so throughout) the ages and generations" (so N RSV;
(li terally) the word of God, '" the latter a regular phrase to deno te the gospel. NEBIREB's "for long ages and through many generations" weakens the
delivered as it was by word of mouth (see BAGO s.v. A.6yo<; IbJ3). The verb stark strength of the phrolse).
is unu sual in this context, but mu st mean "complete" (the preaching of) the The term ]Juott'\pIOV heighte ns still further Ihe already eschatological

I S. schweizer finds here a mark of IXIS/·Paul iroe authorshi p: .. Paul ncvcr describes himself
a~ B. minlsler ofthc church" (Colo.rsiaru 106; cf. Woltcr 102-3; Yates, Colossians 31). BUI we shQllki 17. Cf. particularly Gnilka, KQ/o$yrbri~f99. Others lake 11 of a fu ll (dynamic and dfeclive)
recall how orlen Paul spoke of his won: as "mi nistry'" (lil(l)(A)~ia. Rom. II : 13 : I ':3 I: I Cor. 16: t5 : preaching (O·Brien. ColussiQl1J. Phi/enwl! 83: NEB: "to dtliver his I'IIeSS<lge in full" ; REB : "to PUI
2 Cor. 3:7-9: 4: 1: 5:18: 6:3; maxovtw. Rom. 1!i:25; 2 Cor. 3:3: 8:19·20). God', word ,nlO f\lll dIet!"'), bul thi s ignol'l'!lt~ .pocalyptic eschalo1ogical context.
16. See particularl y J. Rcumann. ·'OIlCO\-~I(l·Tenns in Paul in Compari50n with Lucan IS. A. T. Hanson. "DeveJopmenl" 16S-6Ii, foUows HOllI<k<n in Sllggestin& that !he phrase
1It11118tuhichu::' NTS 13 (1966-67) 147-67.11ere 162-63. means " from angels and ~Il. "
120 COLOSS IANS 1:26-27 121

and apocalyptic sense of bein g pri vileged to see the whole sweep of human comes to the same thing. At all events, the implication here. as 4:3-4 con·
history from Goo 's standpoint. For here it is clearly dependent on Jewish finns, is that the revelation to the saints took place particularly through Paul 's
apocalyptic usage, where " mystery " refers not so much to undisclosed preaching (Luhnnann, Offenbanmgsverstiilldnis 12 1; Aletti . Epirre ma:
secrets (as it is used in regard to the rituals of cOOiempomry Hellenistic Colossiells 140): his gospel was itself an apocalypse (cf. Rom. 16:25: Gal.
mystery cuItS)I!1 as to secrets of the divine purpose now revealed by divine U2 ; Eph. 3; 3).
agency. This usage begins wi th the first classic Jewish apocalypse, Daniel 1:27 01~ t1SD..ll0€V 6 &o~ yvwploa l d to 1[1..o'l'tO~ Tii~ 06~11~ tau
(Dan. 2: 18· 19. 27-30): " God is . . . a revealcr of mysteries." And il recurs Il00Lllplou toutOU tv toi~ fSVEOW . ~ eatlV XPIO"tO ~ £V Ulllv, 1'! e).1[\~ "t"~
regularly in subsequent apocalypses (e.g .. I Enoch 103:2; 106: 19: 2 Enoch S61;n~. But what is this mystery? The answer is provided somewhat tau·
24:3: 4 Ezra 10:38; 14:5; Rev. 10:7), as also in the DSS (e.g., IQS 3:23: tologously as the wri ter continues. "to whom God wished (but the aorist
4: 18; I QpH ab 7:5: IQ27). lt is indeed at the heart of the apocalyptic rationale: tense indicates more of a decision made, so ' willed. reso lved, chose') to
what has been " revealed" to the apocalypti sl is precisely the " mystery" of make known what is the wealth of the glory of this mystery. " To Itl..ou"tO~
how the cosmos functions and particularly of how God 's purpose will achieve tfi~ 06~1l~ (" the wealth/riches of the glory" ) has something of a litu rgical
its predetennined end.20 ring (Rom. 9:23; Phil . 4:19: Eph. 1: 18; 3: 16: cf. Rom . 2:4; Eph . 1:2 1; 2:7)
What is claimed here. then, is (he basic Jewish apocalyptic credo. wh ich and again heightens the sense both of divine condescension and that what
goes beyond the Platonic· Stoic (and apocalyptic) axiom that the cosmos is has been revealed is itself a manifestation of the heavenly majesty of God
rationally ordered (I : 15-20) and claims fu rther that not only the three di· (see on 1:11 ).23
mensions of spatial existence but also the fourth dimension of time is fir mly In other Pauline wri tings the " mystery" of God' s purpose is primarily
under divine control. The movement of world history is a li near progression his imention from the fi rst to include at the last Gentiles together with Jews
which has al so been directed by a secrel purpose determined from the as his people. In Rom. II :25-26 it is the mystery of Israel's partial hardening
beginning by the one God. It is a secret purpose. hitherto " hidden" by divine till the fu ll number of the Gentiles has come in, leading in turn to the salvation
intention (as in Luke 10:21; I Cor. 2:7: Eph. 3:9). But "now" (the eschato- of all Israel. In the addendum of Rom. 16:25-26 it is "the mystery concealed
logical vuv, simil ar to I :22), as that purpose nears or reaches its cli max (the for long ages, but now made manifest and .. . made known for the obedience
typical apocalyptic perception), it has been revealed. " disclosed" of faith for all the nations." In Eph. I :9- 10 it is Ihe divine purpose in Chri st
(NEBIREB, NIY; not the classical apocalyptic term OOtOxaAurrtro. but the "to sum up all things in Christ. things in heaven and things on earth, in
near synonym IjxlvEp6co; cr. particularly Rom. 16:26). This is what gives him." And again in Eph . 3:3-6 it is " the mystery of Christ ... that the
apocalyplicism its character: the claim to have been pri vi leged " now" with Gentiles should be joint heirs and joint members of the body and joint
an insight into God's purpose fo r creation not given to others) 1 participants in the promise in Chri st Jesus." Here there is a funh er variation,
In this case the recipients of the revelation are called "his saints" (see whose closest parallel is Rom. 16:25-26: that the mystery is to be made
on I :2).22 Elsewhere (he emphasis is more on Paul as the one who has been known " among the Gentiles." And only then the mystery is identified. in a
given the pri vilege (Rom. 11:25 ; Eph. 3:3. 4.8-9: 6:19): but since he saw phrase similar 10 that in Eph. 3:4 (" the mystery of Christ"), as the mystery
his task preci sely as making this mystery known to others (cf. Eph. I :9), it "Which is Christ in you , the bope of glory." 24
These, however. should not be taken as al ternatives. and Col. 1:27
19 . S~. e .g .. C. K er~nyi, " The MyReries of the Kabeiroi" (1944), in n.~ Mys/uie, : Papers should not be taken a~ an ignoring or or deparrure from the earlier thought
from lhe ErotIQ$ Y~arbtxJts (Princeton: Pri oceton Unh·ersity. 1955) 32-6 1 (ht're 4t-42). (so Hubner 355 ; cf. Lana 11 3- 15). For as Eph. 3:4-6 shows, the two thoughts
20. For bibliogBphy on "mysu:ry" see. e.g .. Lohse. CoIassjalU ond Philemon 74 n. 44; (the mystery of Jew and Gentile together as recipients of God 's saving grace
H. Krlimr:r. EONr 2.446. Panicularly \"aluablc is Bl"O\\'n. and the mystery or Chris!) arc two aspects or the same larger di vine plan as
21. N. A. Dahl. " Form-Critica l Ohservations Oil EW"ly Christian Prea~ hing." Jesus In Ihe
Memory of Ik Early Church (Minneapolis: Augsburg. 1976) 3().36. fou nd in Paul's talk of .
Paul had come 10 see it. It was Paul's assertion from the beginning, and
previously hidden mystery now revealed a regular "revelation panem" and suggesled that Ille
language here might indicale an underl ying fixed fonnulatioll (follo ..... ed by Liihrmann. Ojfell' ~ . 23. As Lohmeyer 84 n. I and Loh~. CoI{)$$ians and Philemon 75 n. 62. observe. the
oo rwngswmanJnis 124-33: "das Re\'tlationsscht'rna~ : cf. Lona 11(). t2). l"idlroeu" and "glory" of God are often mentioned together in tile Old TeslllJDenl. But Gn ilka.
22. Whatever "saints" refers to in 1:12. there ean be little doubt here (despite Lohmeyer KaimserlJrieJ 102 n. 56. points out lnattile references there are to earthly weal th IUld honor.
82-83) Illat it re fers 10 believers in Christ (d. Ep/l. 1:S.9: "to us"). ror PDulto use "!he sainlS" f~ 24. Brown 55_56 coml»rt:S !he Si militude$ o f Enoc h. where it il !he ElecI Ont, tile Son of
occ lc siaSlicaileadcrs alone (Bockmuc hl. Reve/otion 1 83· 8~ ) would fl y in the face of Paul ', eccleS!- Man, who. h~ vi ng bee n concealed from tile beginning. i5 now reveal ed to the sai nts (I E.noch 48:6 ;
oIogy and his idm lificatioo of Gerl1i1e be lievcn as a wbole with l....... el' l heritage ( 1:2: 3: 12) 62:7).
122 COLOSSIA NS 1:21-28 123

based precisely on the " revelation" given him on the Damascus road (Gal. betwee n " in Christ" and "S pirit in " form ulations is no problem. That a
I: 15- 16), that the gospel was also for non-Jews, that the blessing of Abraham person shou ld be sJXlken of as indwelling another no doubt poses something
had always had the future benefit of the nations in view from the first (Gal. of a conceptual difficulty, but the idea of divine immanence in a n individual
3: 8) and that Gentiles were now able to sha re in this Jewish heritage precisely is simply an aspect of the larger concept of divine immanence (see on J: 19),
by being " in Christ" (Gal. 3: 14, 16,26·29). The theology is elaborated in and gener.ltions of Christian believers have evidently found no problem in
striking terms in Eph. 2:11 -22, the leiter closest to Colossians, in its similar using suc h language to describe the experience of personal communion with
emphasis on the divine "mystery." And that double aspect of the mystery God understood in te rms of Jesus Chri st and the inner sirenglhening which
is still in view here in the assertion thaI Ihe mystery was not only to be made comes through it. All this tclls against the common assumption that the
known " among the Gentiles," but precisely as the mystery of "ChriSI (again phrase must mean " Christ among you, "15 which weakens the train of thought
the overtone of Jewish Messiah) in you. " Ihat is, in you Gentiles (cf. Moule,
Colossians Clnd Philemon 82-83).
and makes the phrase add hardly anything to the preceding "among the

Here again we should recall the cosmic and apocalyptic context within Thi s mystery of "Christ in you " is further defi ned as "the hope of
which this understanding of divine mystery is fonnulmed. The fact is that glory" (cf. Ignatius, EpheJians 21:2 and Magnes;wzs II : " Jesus Christ. our
Paul saw the reconciliation of Gentile to Jew and both as one to God as an (common ] hope" ). It is striking that fo r the third time in these opening
act of cosmic and eschatological significance. It was precisely this breaking paragraphs the lhcme of hope is given central place in the gospel (1:5. 23,
down of one of the fundamental dividing lines in human society (between 27 ; see on I :5). This is an appropriate nOle on which to wind up th is brief
Jew and Gentile; see also on 3: II) that Paul saw as the climax of the divine reference to the mystery of God's purpose shaped from before the ages and
purpose fo r creation. Such breaking down of barriers of nation and race. generations and now moving toward its eschatological climax . "Christ in
often so impcnelnlble to human resources. must therefore be for him one of you" spans the fu ll sweep of time, God 's creative power in Christ detennin-
the primary goals of the gospel. Lndeed. we might even say that such rec- ing end as well as beginni ng and blending the individual into the hannony
onciliation between the dive rsity of nationali ties a nd races was one of the of the divine composition. The hoped-for "glory" again ties the whole
main tests for the church. one of the most crucial signs of the effectiveness process into God: such glory can only be God' s (" the wealth of his glory").
of the gospel. Without the reconciliation of nation to nation. of race to race, It is the r.ldiant energy which firs t accomplished creation and which will
of social group to social group. the reconciliation of aU things "to him" accomplish its consummation. It is the glory whic h Adam first shared and
( I :20) has not even begun . then lost (Rom. 3:23) and to which it is the divine intention to restore
The specific description of the mystery here as "Christ in you" is a humanity (Rom. 8: 17-2 1). "Christ in you" is "the hope" of that " glory"
shift in focu s from the goal (reconciliation of Jew and Gentile) to the means because rctransfonnation into the divine image and glory is a lifelong process
("Christ"). In Galatians and Ephesians the means is expressed rather by the already underway in the person of fait h (see also on I: II ; 3:4. 10).
" in Christ" fonnula (Gal. 3: 14, 26.28 : Eph. 2: 13, 15- 16, 2 1-22). But the 1:28 Bv ilJ.1£t~ xatayyEAAollEV vou8E-rouvttC; xavta ltv9pwxov xat
reverse formul a is appropriate here in the light of I: 15-20: as Stoicism in lhM<JXOvtE~ xavta nv9pW7tov tv xaon aoQ(~ tva n:apaon'JoWf.1£V n:av-ra
panicular saw an identity between individual rJ.tionality and the rationality m.6pwxov ttAElOV tv XpUl't<!J. As in I :23 the line of thought trails off in
pervading the cosmos, so Ihi s divine Wisdom now identified with Christ can a sequence of more conventional descri ptions. Ka'tCtyytUw is not simply a
be seen as a n immanent power within the personality. In a similar way in varialion on Eixxjfcl(~oJ.1Ctl (" preach the gospel" ) and X11POOO£W ("pro-
Galatians Paul had personalized devotional talk of Christ's self-giving and claim." 1:23). From its usage elsewhere, it carries ovenones of a solemn
the apocalyptic idea of rescue from the present evil age ( I :4): " Christ lives intimation, as in the proclamation of a sacred festival or of imperial rule
in me .. .. who loved me and gave himself for me" (2:20). So here the: (1. Schniewind, TDNT 1.70-71). Hence the use in I Cor. 2:1 and 9: 14: and
mystery of how the cosmos was created and holds together is personalized: hence the use here, appropriate in speaking of a divine mystery which spans
" Christ in (each of) you" (cf. also Rom . 8: 10; 2 Cor. 13:5; Eph. 3:17).
Strictly speaking the divine presence indwelling individual humanity should
2.5. P.,icularly Lohse. Colossians and Philtmotl 76: Gnllb. Kolosu:rbrirf 102: Wolter 105:
be expressed in terms of the Spirit of God : hence the more typical Pauline and Akui. tpitrt 1IUl' Co/osJitns 141-42; olhelwiJe Dibelius. I(ofosu:r, EpMu:r, Philtmon 25:
balance between " us in Christ" (see on 1:2) and " the Spirit in us" (e.g., Lohmeyer 85: Con~lmann I 42; and LindeDlllnn. Kolosstrbrief 34. ln COfIU'aSI. the Eng lish langvage
Rom. 8:9, II . 15-16, 23, 26). But given the overlap between Wisdom and tradition lends to favor "in ~ou" (exceptions are Abbott 235; Moule. CoIoss jans and Philemen 83;
Spirit as ways of speaking of divine immanence, a degree of interchange Yates. Colossians 35; ]BJNJB ).
124 COLOSSIA NS 1:28 125

both space and time. " The frequency of expressions of communication (er. presentation in the final judgment (otherwise Lohse. Colossians alld Phile-
2:2) is perhaps inte nded as deliberate emphasis that the time of obscurity mon 78 n. 80; Gnilka, Kolosserbrief 104).
and silence has passed" (Pokorny 1(4), The reversion to plural form (" whom The threefold repetition of "everyone" (nCtvta ilvSpw7tov) should not
we proclaim It) is typical of the way Paul catches himself every so orten to be taken too quickly as meaning " everyone of you in Colossae" (NEBIREB
ensure that the scope of what is being said is nol being la ken in 100 restricted "each one of you"). Following so soon after the eightfold repetition of " all"
a sense: the responsibility of evangelism and its corollary is not hi s alone in the hymn in praise of cosmic Wisdom-Christ, it presumably expresses the
(otherwise Lohse, Colossians alld PiIilemoll 76), At the same time it may confident hope not only that those now believing " in Christ" (I :2, 4) will
be a funher indication of a letter consciously written by or on behalf of more be able thus to be presented before God. but also that "every person " (the
than Paul. human segment of the " all things," 1:20) will in the end be found "in Christ. "
NOueUEW and olMo"Kro are near synonyms, both meanjng " instruct." Here again the tie-in between the cosmic Wisdom christology of 1: 15-20
The fonner carries the implicati on of exhortation, warning , and correclion,26 and the historical particularity of the Christian gospel is important. The
hence "admonis h, warn" and its use in Jewish literature with reference to focusing of divine Wisdom in Chri st should not be thought of as a narrowing
God 's chastening (Job 40:4; Wis. 11 : 10; 12:2,26; Psalms o/Sololnon 13:9), of the divine purpose for the cosmos 10 a particular people or group. As in
Paul saw it as a characteristic mini stry to be exercised widely within his Galatians and Romans and given the usual conlent of the " mystery" (see
churches (Rom. 15: 14; I Thes. 5: 12, 14; 2 Thes. 3:15). The latter, Oloaaxro, on 1:27), "all" means particularly " everyone - Jews as well as Gentiles.
more characteristically refers to the skill of the teacher in imparting prac· Gentiles as well as Jews" (e.g.. Rom. I: 16; 3:22 ; 4: II ; 10:4, 11 ; Gal. 3:8,
tica1 and theoretical knowledge to the pupil (hence such usage elsewhere 26, 28). As Christ brought to focu s both divine Wi sdom and the divine
in Paul as Rom. 2:2 1; 12:7; I Cor. 11 :14; Gal . 1: 12). Paul uses it of his mystery, so the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile in Chri st brings to focus
own instruction of his churches earlier onl y in I Cor. 4: 17, though the most the reconciliation of " all thi ngs" and ;; everyone.'·27 The church that forgets
natural way of taking Acts 13: 1 designates SauUPaul still earl ier as a teacher this has lost sight of the Pauline gospel. For "in Christ," the seventh occur-
of the Antioch church. The two terms are often linked in wider Greek rence of the motif in the letter, see on 1:2.
writing (J . Behm, TDNT 4.1019 ; Lohse. Colossians and Philemon 77 The desired state for those to be thus presented is described in a rich word,
n. 72), but only here and in 3: 16 in the Pauline corpus (perhaps another mlo~ (" whole, complete": so " mature" in RSV/NRSV. NEBIREB. GNB ;
small feature in the fin gerprint of the author). It should be noted that the " perfect" in JBINJB, NJV; see H. HUbner, EDNT 3.342-43 for bibliography).
idea of proclaiming Christ is thus supplemented, or indeed explained, by (I ) In wider Greek usage this word could denote the quality of sacrificial
a double emphasis on in struction: the two belong together, and presumably victims, entire and without blemish (LSJ s.v. I ), and is so used of the Passover
the fanner without the latter would be dangerously lacking in content and lamb in Exod. 12:5. In view of the similar imagery in 1:22 such overtones are
guidance for everyday praxis. The addition of " in all wisdom" recalls the probably present here as well . (2) By natural extension it can denote the
same phrase in 1:9 (see on that verse) and reiterates the indispensability of equiValent quality of moral character. of which blameless Noah was a classic
di vinely given wisdom for daily li ving. It also reflects the link between example (Gen. 6:9; Sir. 44: 17; Philo_ De Abrahamo 34). The DSS use the
practical wisdom and the figure of divine Wisdom in the Jewish wisdom Hebrew equi valent (tamim) frequently of the blameless conduct required of
tradition. So here the wisdom necessary is that Wi sdom di splayed in the community members, the perfection of their " walk" (see I ; 10) being depen·
cosmos (the implicit Wisdom christology of the hymn in I : 15·20) and on dent on the degree to which they observe the communi ty's own interpretation
the cross. The warning and teaching in all wisdom is also the proc lamation ofTorah ( I QS 2:2; 3:9· 11 ; 9:9· 10, 19; see further Lohmeyer 88 n. 3; G, Delling.
of Christ. !DNT8.73) and presumably also Ihedcgrcc to which they accepl the Teacher 's
The goal of such instruction is stated in terms which have already been Interpretation of the mysteries of the words of the prophets ( 1QpHab 7: 1_5).211
used: presentation, that is. before God (see on I:22). This is another repetition
of theme not quite in Pauline style as we know it from his earlier cOlTespon· 27. 'The double echo of I: I:5-20 and or " aU " = Genti le as well as Jew is SIlfflCient explanation
dence. Here, however, the COnlext strengthens the eschatological note of f~ the triple " everyone." 'The emphasis is DOl quilc: what we would expc:ct had the: letter IJeo:,n
dlre(:ted against a form of spiritual el itism (as. e.g .. U ghtfOOl: 168; Abboll 23:5; Bruce. Colossilln s.
PIriI" motI. and f..phaiIJ1I$ 87; sappill&too 186) or "heretical conventicles"' (G nil .... Koirusubriq
26. In Greek moml philO!lOphy yO"\lEIE:ma " was defined as the imtillin& of sense in somf:()fle
and tea.: hing him what shou ld and should not be: done." So A. J. Malhcl"be, .. ' I'astornl Care' in the 28. Ct. particularly B. Rig8U • . "R,<;v,<;lp!ioo des Mys\tre$ et Pm ection ~ Qumrtn et dans Ie
TheuaJon ian Church:' N1S 36 (1990) 375-9 1 (here 383-84). NouYeau Testament: ' NTS 4 ( 1957-58) 237-62.
126 COLOSSIANS 1:28-29 127

That the equivalent moral quality of character and conduct is also in view here As in I : 10- 11 , however, the balance between human eftoll and divine
is implicit in the talk of "warni ng and teaching" (cf. I : 10), (3) The word is also enabling is clearly struck. ' Evtp-yEm means basically "activity." and so also
prominently used of someone whose instruction is "complete." one who has the "energy " that accomplishes acti vity; similarly the verb EVEP-,tOl. " be a t
advanced to " maturity" and become "perfect" in mastery of subject or craft, work " and so " produce, be effective." In no mlal usage the word group
The "perfect man " was a theme in Greek phi losophy. including, not least Philo usually refers to the activity of God o r other supernatural forces ( SAGO S.V.
(see Delling 69-72). This is probably the principal note here (as in most of tvtp'(Eta; G . Bertram, TDNT 2.652-53). Similarly in Paul (e.g., verb in I Cor.
Paul's other usage: 1 Cor. 2:6: 14:20; PhiL 3: 15; see also Col. 4: 12; cf. Man. 12:6, II ; Gal. 2:8: Phil. 2: 13: noun in Phil. 3:2 1; Eph. 3:7), witti the Semitic
5:48; 19:2 1). Here again there may be a gentle reminder that any of the doubling of noun and verb (as in Eph. 1: 19-20; cf. the simi l:u. doubling in
Colossian recipients tempted to look elsewhere for a " fulle r" experience and I : II) reinforcing the point. Lest the implication o f the effectiveness of this
wisdom need to look. and should look. no further than Christ for their "com- divine "activity" be lost, tv OUVO:jJ£l ("in power") is added (NRSV "all the
pletion. "29 The vis ion is again eschalo logical, with a view to the last judgmem energy that he powerfully inspires within me"). As in I: I I no room for doubt
(Sappington 189, with bibliography). The hope is for the restoration of who le- is leC! as to Paul's o wn uuerdependence o n God's enabling for the exhausting
ness throughout creation ("everyone "). As creation o nly came to existence " in schedule that he followed, or as to its effecti veness (see al so on I: II).
him," so the final restoratio n is possible o nly "in Christ. " The onward d ri ve of
creation toward ever greater refinemem ("maturity, perfection") depends on a
similar growing to maturity of humankind, of which the growi ng rnalurity of
those " in ChriSt" is the microcosm which should mirror the destiny of the
1:29 fit; a xai X01tlW o:yrovt ~6~£vOt; xata tt'lv EvtpYElaV a utou 'tT)v
Ev£P"fOu~eVTJv tv 410\ tv Suv~t. Again, as in I :23, Paul ro unds off this
vision of eschato logical and universal completeness by afflI1Tling his o wn
personal conunitment to its realization. In wide r Greek x6n:ot; means "beat-
ing," so the weariness that results from being repeatedly, and so by
analogy the physical tiredness caused by work and exertion. Consequently
the verb can mean both "become weary" and "work hard, labor, strive"
(F. Hauck, TDNT 3.827-28). Paul uses it regularly for the hard work o f
mini stry and preaching (Ro m. 16:6, 12; I Cor. 4: 12; 15: 10; 16: 16. etc.). The
emphasis is strengthened (as in 1 Tim. 4: 10) by the complementary imagery
of e ngaging in an athletic contest (O:y(J)Vi~o~Ctl, as in I Cor. 9:25), with its
equivalent implication o f g iving o neself in the utmost effort, with all the
self-discipline required to achieve the goal (he nce REB 's " Ioiling strenu-
ously").30 The imagery is extended into 2: I, and the image of hard lrain ing
to achieve the peak ("perfecti o n") required fo r success in the contest of life
is repeated in 4: 12. though again with the transpos ition that PaullEpaphras
thus applies himself for the Colossians' perfection/ maturity.

29. It does nOl necessarily follow. howe\·~r. thai. thi s rde~1lCe is directed against a form of
Colossian "perfocti onism" (the " philO$Ophy" of 2:8 (1]. as stJggested. q: .. by Dibclius. Koiou£f;
~Nr. Ph il~mffll 2S; LohJie. CoiossiOlls and Phil~ttWn 78), which . .... ere it a ~rious threat. would
prl'stlmably have required a fuller rebunal (as in 1 Cor. 2:6-3:4). Auempts 10 ded'iCe the outlines
oflhe " false teaching" III Colossae require a morecootrolied "mirror reading" with c\earcr~floctioP
of poIcmkal intent if !hey are to carry lO.·eight.
30. See further V. C. Pfitzner. PI/ul and 'h~ Agon Motif(NovTSup 16; Leiden: Brill. 1967).
who notes that Paul's striving il Il()( for his own honor but in service of others ( 194).
128 COLOSSIANS 2: I 129

Paul's Commitment to the Colossians (2:1-5) depth of concern for his churches must have been well known. The ups and
downs of his relations with the church in Corinth in particular would probably
I For J want you to know how g real is the struggle I ha ve on your behalf have been familiar to the churches of the Lycus valley, since so much of his
and 011 behalf of tlwse in Laodicea I and as mlllly as have 1I0 ( seen my face time at Ephesus had been spent agonizing over the problems of the Corinthian
in the fle sh, 2 1hat tlleir hemts might be encouraged. unitecfl in love, atUfl Chri stians and his relationships with them ( I Cor. 4:17; 16:8. 10; 2 Cor.
for alP ric"e.~ of filII assurance of understanding. for blOwledge of the 1:23- 2:4; 7:8; 12: 14). Lest it be inferred that Paul was concerned only for
mystery of God, of Christ,J J ill whom all the treasures of wisdom and those churches founded by himself, the writer(s) hasten to assure the Colos-
know/edge are hidden. 4 I say thir that no one might deceive you by plausible sian s that Paul was equally concerned for those churches founded by his
arguments. 5 For though I am absem in fle sh. yet I am with you in spirit, associates.
rejoicing at seeing your good order allli the fi rmneH of your faith in Christ. The formulation is a natural one - '; 1 want you to know," " I do not
wanl you to be unaware" - but characteristic of Paul (Rom. I: 13; 11 :25 ;
There is disagreement as to where the main section of the letter begins. I Cor. 10:1; 11:3; 12: 1; 2 Cor. 1:8; I Thes. 4:1 3P The metaphor of the
Lohmeyer and Gnilka see it beginning at 2: I, despite the cominuation of the athlelic contest (ayrov) is continued from the preceding verse - an image
~rso nal style from 1:24 10 2:5. Otbers prefer to make the break after 2:3 which Paul and his circ le used to express the concentrated and sustained
(e.g., Moule, Harris, Wall). But the fOUtO Atyw which begins 2:4 is best effort that his mini stry demanded (Phil. 1:30; I Thes. 2:2; I Tim . 6:12;
taken as referring to what has just been said (see particularly Bandstra, 2 TIm. 4:7; also Heb. 12: 1). Hence NEBIREB : " how strenuous are my
"Erron sts" 340 and Sappington 177), and 2:4-5 , therefore, as the conclusion exertions for you. " One specific contest (martyrdom [Lohmeyer 92] , against
to the paragmph begun at 1:24 . Aletti also notes the chiastic structure "false teaching ") is nOl necessarily implied (cf. O' Brien, Colossians, Phile-
embedded in 1:24-2:5: mon 92 ).
Paul makes a point of mentioning also " those in Laodicea," which
1:24 xcdpoo 2:5 was just about ten miles downstream from Colossae. These two cities,
1:27 YV<Oplocu/tJdyvWffi v 2:2 together with Hierapolis (some fifteen miles away), made a natural grouping,
1:27 TCAoUtO~ ... ).lOO"tl1P{ou 2:2 as Epaphras's evangelistic efforts in all tbree confirms (4: 13). The failure to
1:29 ixyrov.,6IU'Vo<;l/rtWvQ 2: 1 mention H.ierapolis here, however (see n. I), and the further infonnation of
4:15-16 probably indicate that the mission in the nearer and more important
The fact that 2:6 follows more naturally from I :23 than from 2:5 confirms Laodicea had been the more successful (cf. Revelation 2-3 , where Laodicea
the unified nature of the unit (I :24-2:5), without necessarily implying that is the on1y one of the three to be menlioned) and that there were quite close
the paragraph was a late insertion. relations between the two churches. Taci tus notes the earthquake devastation
2: 1 90..00 yap Ull~ EioeV(ll "f\).(xov o:ywvcr. fXU) uTCtp UllwV xal tWV tv 10 Laodicea in 60 or 61 and that il was able to be rebuilt from its own
Acr.oonc.d«;r. xa\ /SO Ol OUX t6paxav to TCp6awTC6v ).lou tv oapxi. Paul 's resources without state assistance (AliI/ales 14.27.1), which confinns its
greater importance (see also F. F. Bruce, ABO 4.229-30; p. 23 above, and
I. &nllC late witncsses intrOOuced "and of tbose in Hierapolis.'· !IO doubt in echo of 4: 13. the comments below on 4: 13).
2. Various allemplS were made by later scribes 10 tidy up the: awkwardness of the s)1ItaX and The metaphor of "seeing someone's face" naturally ex presses the
grammar M these points. On the first sec. e.g .. Harris 80. immediacy of personal encounter (cf. I Cor. 13: 12; 2 Cor. 10: I, 7; Gal. 1:22 ;
3. This phnse clearly C</.used KTi beS much peIlIlexity. as the range of modificalioos indic ates: 2:11; I Thes. 2:17; 3: 10; see also E. Lohse, TDNT6.776; K. Berger, EDNT
"of God" (alonel. follo""ed by Lohmeyer 9 1 n. I: Benoit. "CoIosskns 2:2-3"; and J8IN1B: "of
(the) Chrir.t'· (alone); ··ofGod. wbich is Chri~t"; ··ofGod. who is in Chris!" '; " of God the Father
3.18 1; NEBIREB ;'never set eyes on me" ; NJV " not mel me personally").
of Chris!" ; "of the God and Father of Christ": "of (our) God arid Father and of Christ"" (detai ls The addition of tv aapx{ is unnecessary: how else would they "see his
also in Lohse. ColoJSwns and Philemon 112). But these can ali bC' ~ easily elI pi ained as allClllptS ~ace"1 1t reinforces the merely physical sense of a«p~ which predominates
to eal;e the awkwardness of the text . which has the stl'Oll¥ SlIpport of~ and B: for detailed treatment ~n ~ese early references in Colossians (see on I :22), and though tv aapx(
see B. M . MelZget". n..e TeXl of lhe New TeSlameltl (New York.: Oxford Uni \'er.;ity. ~1968) 2)6.38: Iflllself is Pauline enough (2 Cor. 10:3; Gal. 2:20; Phil . 1:22,24), there is
cr. al so Bockmuehl. R~''e/ation 181·88. Other modem uanslat;<;JIIs under.;taooahl y polish by trans-
lating ··that is. Christ him self" (N RSV). " whkh is Quist himself" (REB ). or "namely, Christ"'
nothing here of the antithesis implied in Ihese passages. The extension of
(N I V).
4. 1lle abruptne~ of row Ai:yw caused some scribes to insen lit to improve the style. S. A regular ptnse in Greek letters (Lohmeyer 91 n. 4).
130 COLOSS IA NS 2: 1-3 131

Paul 's concern to "as many as have nol seen my face" (not every believer The further hope of the leller's beneficial effect is expressed in
in the area - he may have passed through Colossae earlier and would awkward echo of the prayer already offered in 1:9- 10, with a somewhat
probably have come to know some of the Colossian Christians during his tautologous alliterative piling up of the thought of completeness (ruxv
time in Ephesus) confinns that in hi s city bases he was al the center of a ItAOU'tO~ ti'l~ IIAT]pO<\K>pioo;. "all riches of fuJI assurance"). There is nothing
network of expanding and successful mi ssion undenaken by such as Epa. quite the same in the rest of Paul (though cr. the only othe r use of 1[AT]pO$Op(a
phras. Schenk, ;' Kolosserbrief" 3334, find s here a conscious indication that in Paul - J Thes. J:5: ItAT]Po+opiq: 1[OMn - and the use of the verb in Col.
the letter had a universal circle of addressees in view (bUI see also Woller 4:12). Nevertheless it is w holly in line with Paul's earlier thought that
109- 10). assurance was not simply a matter of cerebral conviction but something
2:2 tva n:crpaxA1le&mV (Xi xapo{cu autiilv CfUJ..lPll3aaatVt£C; tv u"Yftnn deeply felt (cr. , e.g .• Rom. 8: 15- 16; 1 Cor. 2: 1-4; I Thes. 1:5; also Heb.
xa\ Eit; n:av n:Aofrt~ t l1t; ItAllPO$Opiac; tile; auvta£~ de; bdyvcoo"lV TOU \0:22). That the thought here is of " full assurance of understanding" does
IlUO"!llP(Ol) TOi) Ow\), Xpl<f'COU. Since Paul cannot be present with them not change the sense of existential confide nce, s ince " understanding"
personally, the letter must serve in his place. The hope is that the assurance (aUvEOI~) is the same word used in 1:9, that is, an understanding granted by
whic h it brings of his personal commitment to the m will provide the en- the Spirit (see on I :9). The integration between (as we would say) mind and
couragemenl which the visible proof of his own presence would have dem- heart is an imponant feature of Paul's understanding of how the salvation
onstrated. Thai his readers might be "encouraged" or ';comfoned" was one process works oot in the indi vidual and group. That is why he can speak
of Paul's most frequent objectives in so writing (Rom . 15:4-5; 2 Cor. 1:4, here of the " riches" that come from such confi dence. " the full wealth of
6: 13: II ; I Thes. 3:2; 4: 18; see also O' Brien, Colosl"ians, PhilemOIl 92-93). conviction that understanding brings" (NEBIREB ).
Talk of " heans" being e ncouraged is confined to the disputed Paulines (Eph. The same double thrust (mind and heart) is sustained in the next phmse.
6:22; CoL 2:2; 4:8: 2 Thes. 2: 17), though it is typical of Paul to hope that This assured understanding also brings with it a growing recognition
spiritual effects would reach to the depth of their experience. where not only (E1[iyvoxn.;; see on 1:9 and 10) of " the mystery of God " (see on I :26). But
e motions were rooted, but also thought and deci sion (" hean "; see. e.g., Rom. since this mystery has already been defined as "Christ in you" (see on 1:27),
1:2 1, 24; 8:27: 9:2; 2 Cor. 9:7).6 the integration of content and motivating conviction is still a major factor.
Un like the previous prayer for the Colossians, which could be under- It is this identifi cation of Christ himself with the mystery (not with God)
stood simply in individual tenns ( 1:9- 14), the hope here is also for their which has been reiterated here. bUI with surprising awkwardness (see n. 3).
well-being as a community. The encouragement is thought of not in terms Given the of thought running through to 2:5 , there is probably an
of a sequence of individuals being ind ividually e ncouraged but of an en- implication that with such " full assurance " in their understanding of this
couragemenl which facilitates and is facilitated by their experience of being myste ry. the attmctiveness of the "seductive speech" of other religious
"held together in love." The verb is not very common. but elsewhere includes philosophers (2:4) will be al l the less. But there is no reason to see here the
the thought of being brought together and of being reconciled (G. Delling, vocabulary of such false teaching itself (as, e.g .. Ernst, Philipper. Philemon,
TDNT 7.763; Lohse, Colol"Sians and PhilemOIl 8 1 n. 103): in this sense only Kolosser, Ephe.~er190).
here, and of the body held together in 2: 19 and Eph. 4: 16. Dibelius, Kolosser. 2:3 tv <!> dow rulVtEt; 01 9T]oaupo\ 't1)~ oOf/l(~ xal yvWato>; fut6-
Epheser, Philemon 26, Scott 36 and O'Brien, Colossians, PhilemOIl 93, prefer iCptl$<n. The awkward insertion of " Chri st" at the end of 2:2 has the effect
the sense here of "instruct, teach" (as in its only other Pauline use, I Cor. (no doubt deliberate) of focusing attention back on lo Christ, thus introducing
2: 16), but " in love" is more appropri ate to an implied plea for harmony (d. what is a very tight and effecti ve summary of the main emphases of the
particularly Rom. 14: 15; I Cor. 16: 14: Phil. 2:1-2: I Thes. 3: 12; 5:13; so distinctive christology so fa r put forward in the leiter (Sappington 178-79;
also 3: 14: " 'ove, the bond of perfection"; Aletti, tpitre aux Colossiens 149). AJeui, tpflre aux Coiossiells 151 -52). The eighth "in him " recal ls the sus-
Only a love which penetrates to the heart and wells up from the heart can tained repetition of the motif in I: 14-19. and with talk once again of "wis-
sustain the son of unity that Paul sought (see also on 1:4). dom" recalls not only 1:9 (again), but also the thoroughgoing Wisdom
character of the hymn in praise of Christ ( I: 15-20).1 The imagery of "hidden
treasures or treasuries of wisdom and knowledge" also evokes Jewish wis-
6. In the Old Teswnent lhe hean is " !he principle and apn of man's pcoonal life . .. the
focus of his being and activity as a spi ritual bcin ll ... the 50t.II'Ce and seal of his mocal and religious
life" (J . Behm. TDNT' 3.6(9). See funher Behm 611 -13: R. Jewell. PfJ"l~ AmhropologicaJ Tl!:ntU 7. "AlIlhe powers and activities fonnerly attributed 10 the penonified Wisdom of God must
( Leiden: Brill, 1971 ) 305-33; A. Sand. £DNT'2.249-51. now be attributed to Christ" (Caird 187).
132 COLOSSIANS 2:34 133

dam tradition (Prov. 2:3-6; Sir. 1:24-25; Wi s. 6:22 ; 7:13- 14; Bar. 3: 15; by indicating the direction they are about to take. The abruptness of " this I
~. Zeller, EDNT 2.151). But in the wake of talk of the " mystery," the say" (see n. 4) is a modest attempt to catch allention and to reinforce the
Imagery also evokes apocalyptic ideas of heaven1y treasuries, hidden from importance of the poi nt being made (cf. I Cor. I : 12; 7:29; 15:50; Gal. 3: 17;
human eye but revealed to the visionary or heavenly traveler (particularly I Thes. 4: IS), so much so that we might speak of 2:4 as a mematic statement
J Enoch 18: I: " the storerooms [Greek 9ricraupo'6l;J of all the winds'" 46-3' of what follows, though the main thematic statement is more obviously 2:6-7 .
" the Son of Man ... wilI ,open all the hidden storerooms"; cf. Isa. '45: 3): For the first time it becomes clear that Paul and Timothy had some
No doubt part of the attractlveness of the Christian message regarding Christ concerns regarding the Colossians. These concerns can hardly have been
was the degree 10 which Jewish wisdom and apocalyptic traditions were thus serious; otherwise they would have come to the fore much more quickly (as
combined (as they had only occasionally been previously _ as in J Enoch in I Cor. I : 10; Gal. I :6: I Thes. 2: I ). Given the evident lack of urgency, we
42), It was this assurance that they, too, were " in Christ," together with all have been hesitant to identify too many echoes of a clear-cut " false teach-
the treasures of divinely given insight into the mysteries of the cosmos and ing." But here there is a clear warning against the possibility of being
of human destiny (cf. Rom. II :33; I Cor. 2:7: AaAoUf.l£V 9EOu aocjliav tv "deceived " or " deluded" - 1tapaAoy{~OJ.1al , a well-known word in wider
ll~piC!l 'rilv OOroX£XPUIlJ.tiVT]v) and me riches of the experience of the speech (Lohse, Colossians and Philemon 83 n. 12 1; elsewhere in me New
Wise in successful living, that was to give mem the confidence they needed Testament only in Jas. 1:22).
(see also 3:3). The danger, however, is posed in tenus of m9avol..oy(a. This term and
In view of the furt~er reference to " wisdom " in 2:23 the language here its cognales denOle the persuasiveness and plausibililYparticularly of popular
may weIltell us s0'!lethmg further about teaching on offer in Colossae (e.g., speakers (LSJ s.v. 1tI9av6C;). But in an interesting passage Plalo distinguishes
Sumney 380..81 ; Lmdemann. Kolosserbrief37 is confident that the "false 1t19a.voAoy{a from Wt6OE1~1t;. "demonstration," a technical term in rhetoric
teachers~' ~ere Christians from within the community). Certainly the "all" for a compelli ng conclusion drawn from acccepted premises (Theaetetus
may .a~tlclpate and dev~l ue equivalent enticements which other religious 162E: simil arl y Aristotle. Ethica Nicomachea 1.3.4; cf. Epictetus 1.8.7; held OUI to mte~sted parties (as may be alluded to in 2: 18). At Phi lo. De cherubim 9). Thus the term easily gains, as here, the overtone of
the s~e tlme',the hypotheSIS going back to Lightfoot 172, that att6xpu+ot plausible (sounding) but actually "specious arguments" (NEBIREB,
was a favoun~e term of (he Gnostic teachers." is unnecessary, given the JBINJB). Clearly impHed is the clai m that there is a power of conviction in
play between hiddenness and revelation both in Jewish wisdom tradition the gospel of Paul (the " this" referring back to 2:2-3; see also the introduction
(and alrea~y in t~e. Jesus tradition: Matt. II :25 and Mark 4:22) and in Jewish 10 the comments on 2: 1-5) which specious arguments of popular rhetoricians
apocalyptiC tradHJOn (already in Paul 's use of Il~PlOV). Moreover, and religious philosophers in the marketplace cannot match. The li ne of
Dupont,.. Gnosis 16-18, may weU be j ustified in seeing some counter to the attack is obviously similar to that in I Cor. 2:1-4 and raises the question
more Widely ~revalent Jewi sh ~iew that hidden wisdom had already been whether an older argument of Paul is in effect being rehashed (cf. Rom.
fully revealed m the Torah (cf. Sit. 24:23·26 _ law, wisdom, understanding; 16: 17-20 and my Romans 901 -7).
Bar. 3: 15-4: I - wisdom's " treasuries," hiddenness, identification with As the first clear allusion to an alternative religious system confronting
~orah; 2 Baruch 44:14· 15 - " treasures of wisdom, " "stores of insight," the Coiossian believers, the verse need imply no more than the sort of popular
truth of me Law "; 54: 13- 14 - " treasures of wisdom," law : see further religious teaching which must have often been heard in the marketplaces of
B~dstra, " Errorists" 339-43; O' Brien, Colossians, Philemon 96-97).8 And that region, much of which might have been beguilingly auractive to truth-
Gmlka, Kolosserbn'ef 11 1- 12, appropriately notes that the range of terms seeking young converts (cf. Hooker). It will become clearer that Paul and
~mystery, s~cret knowledge, hidden treasure) has again and again proved Timothy had in mind teaching and praxis particularly of the Colossian
Itself attracllve to "sectarian mentality," referring to Gnostic circles, but also synagogue(s) (see pp. 23-35 in the Introduction. and on 2:16 and 18), so the
to the Qumran scrolls, where again the claims focus on Torah . implication here is that the Colossian Jew ish community was not lacking in
2:4 toutO 'J.i:yro, Yva J.1Tl&i~ UJ.1 Cu;; napc:U.oy{~Tltat tv ttt9avOAoy{CiL Skilled apologists, but was well able to express the appeal of Iheir worship
Paul and Timothy are now ready to launch into the main theme of their letter. and code of behavior in begui ling terms (see also 2:8). Moreover. the cautious
But, in line wi th Pauline style elsewhere, they wind up the preceding section and unspecific way in which the con fron tation of 2: 16-23 is approached
continues to strengthen the li kelihood that this was the level of the threat
8. BocUnudll, R~/atio,. 189 is concerned about .KIme Kl f-conuadiction in view of !he from the synagogue - that is. a more general marketplace apology which
claim already made In 1;26-27. but ignores the 1t!Wtt<;. was proving quite appealing to God-worshippi ng Gentiles, who, after all.
134 COLOSSIANS 2:4-5 135

were claiming a share in the same heritage ( I: 12); " a cri tical situation" spec ific use o f "finn ness" is suffi ciently indicated by the cog nates in AcL<;
(Ern st. Philippa. Philemon, Kolosser. i:.;Jheser 189) would have called forth 3:7 (ankles able to bear his weight) and 2 Tim. 2: 19 (" firm fo undation "):
a less leisurely response. with reference to faith cf. Acts 16:5 and 1 Pel. 5:9. Both words could be
2:5 Ei yap x(xi tfl oapxl 6.1t€ I~t , OJ.JJ:J. tq, 1tV£UJ.l.Utl oilv uJ!lv EI/.1\, used in mili tary contexts: t~l~ = rank and file o f soldiers. drawn up in battle
Xaipwv xed ~U1[().lV uJ!&v tl'lv ",[~IV xal t o oU:p£(Oj.l.CX tii<; ei<; XptO'tov order (LSJ s.v. I; Lohse. Colossians lind Philemon 84 n. 128): on:pEOJIla =
n:l(Jt~ Ulloov. The concern nevertheless is real. Pau l wishes he could be the solid part. the slrength of an army (I Macc. 9: 14: see furth er Benrllm.
present " in the fles h" - the fourth " merely physical" use of o6p~ in thir- TDNT 7.614): so that analogy may be in mind here. II But if so. the allus ion
teen verses. At first it seems that the more traditional Pauline antithesis is at most so mewhat casual and does no t c all for a particular (mili tary)
between "nesh" and "Spirit" should have given " flesh" a more negative di sc ipline (cf. Scott 38-39). and the confidence expressed hardly implies a
note. But the implication could equally be thai Paul's " spirifUal presence" pressing c risis and numerous defec tions.
is a less adequate substitute for his physical presence. A.lthough closely That which is to remain in good order and finn is their "fai th in (£I t;)
paralle l to the equivalent concern expressed in I Cor. 5:3 (c':r.n6w tcJ> oWJ,Lan Christ. " This is the only occasion in the Pauli ne corpus where this noun
naprov BE tcJ> 1tVtUllan), there we see a much stronger assertion of a powerful phrase occurs. tho ugh it reflects the more familiar verbal phrase nUJteUtlv
" spiritual presence" ( I Cor. 5:4). Ne vertheless, the parallel does raise the Ei~ Christ (see o n 1:4), and the noun phrase d oes appear in three " Pau line"
question whether the claim was intended to be understood as something mo re passages in Acts (20:2 1; 24:24: 26: 18: cf. also Phm. 5 : n,v n:ionv. ~v fXE lt;
than the weak modem convenlional " I will be with you in spirit" (so Gnilka. n:po~ tOY XUplOV ' ITloouv, and Phm. 6: fit; XP1<rt6v). Thoroughly Pau line,
KolOJserbriej 114: " a rhetorical flouri sh lfloskelhaftell AlIs::mgef'),9 that is, however, is the conviction that the whole Chri stian position (ran k and solid·
whether Paul did not in fact think of being somehow rea lly present with the ity) stands or falls with faith in Chri st, with the furthe r implication, again
Colossians, in the spiritual realm by means of the Spirit (see my Jesus 73; chardcteristically Pauline, that anytlting which claims to be an advance upon
so also Fee 646; cf. O' Brien. C%ssialls, Phi/emOIl 98; Wall 102). In neither that fai th is in fact a retreat fro m it (cf. Conzelma nn 143). This fin al recall
case is there any suggestio n that the JtV£ulm is the rea l pen;on (escalXd from to fait h forms an incl usio with 1:4 and thus brackets the whole of the
the body): rather, that the only means of communion with the Colossians imclVening thanksgivi ng and pen;onal statement as an cxposition of that
was in the realm of the Spirit (hence a degree of ambi guity between human faith (see al so on 2:6).
spirit a nd divine Spirit).l 0 At the very least the claim rencets the intensity
of Paul's prayers for the Colossians ( I :3, 9) and presumably implies a mo re
effective presence than simply the leiter itself provided.
The implication that Pa ul ca n actually see the state o f affairs at Colossae
( "rejoicing and seeing your good order . . . ") is, of course, intended more
as an e xpression of what he would hope to see were it possible. The note of
rejoicing echoes the theme of thanksgiving with which the leller opened
( I :3-8). What Paul sees (would like to see) is the "good o rde r ( tc':r.~H;) and
flfnme ss (m€pE~a) " of their faith . The former denotes an "arrangement."
something set in orderly fashion (hence the English "taxonomy," principles
of classification): hence the only other Pa uli ne use , 1 Cor. 14:40. The laller
tenn. on:pEWila. means basically "what is made firm or thick," hence '; basis.
foundation, o r solid body. " LXX usage is largely influe nced by the Genesis
1 account of creation. where it translates ;;finnamen, " (raqia ' = the solid
vault o f heave n; see fu rther G . Bertram, TDNT 7.609- 11). But the less

9. For (-,o ntemporary uamples see G. Karlson. " Formelhatics in den Paul usb.\.'fen." I:.'m /lOs 11. LightfOOI 174: Lohmeyer 9.5: Moule. Cm"s.•ians lind Philemon 89: R. P. Martin. CiJ/us,
S4 ( 19S6) 13841. tifUll Qlid Phi/"m(lfl 76-77: Ca ird 188: Ernst. Phj/i~r, Ph iltmon, Ko/ruSt!r. Eplttur 190; Wright
10. C f. Masson 119. l..ollse. CO/WSiOfU lind Phi/~"",,, 83; Sc hweizer. Cc/ouions 119-20: C/Jh,ssions 01fd Plli!mlOl1 96; REB : "your unbroken ranks and the $Olid rront" : but NRSV'5
Dibeli lls. K"I"sur. f.iJh~ur. Plrjf~",oo 26: and Pokorny 108 thi nk si mply of [he Hol y Spirit. "morale" is [00 remole rrom ~,,;.
136 COLOSSIANS 2:6-4:6 131

THE THEME OF THE LETTER (H-4,6) (Gal. 3: 1 -~: 5:16-26). In Colossians also the appeal is to the Christians'
starting POint (Col. 2:6-7), but the corollary is drawn in more directly chris-
The main thrust of the letter, formin g the letter 's body. extends from 2:6 to wlogical than pneumato!ogical terms (perhaps the Colossians' conversion
4:6. It is thematically slated in 2:6-7, a passage which indicates clearly the had been less attended by charismatic experience than that of (he Galatians).
integratio n of faith and praxis and which suggests thai the main threat to the (3) Also common to the two leiters is the strongly Jewish character of
Colossians was failure both to recognize all that was already theirs in the me " human tradition" (2:8; cf. Mark 7:8) against which warning is given,
faith they had accepted and ex pressed in the beginning and to translate their notably the Jewish festivals (Gal. 4:10; Col. 2:16) and even the "elemental
faith into an appropriate pattern of living', This explains the structure and forces" (Gal. 4:3, 9; Col. 2:8, 20). Circumcision was evidently not a major
character of the following sections, which cannot be simply analyzed imo factor of enticement in what was being offered to the Colossians (as it had
doctrinal and practical pans, ! been in Galatia - Gal. 5:2- 12; 6: 12- 15), but the play on the metaphor of
The first main section is 2:8-23. It consists of a thJcefold warning to circumcision in Col. 2: II , the echo of a characteristically Jewish view of
the Colossians: ( I) to recognize the full scope of what Christ accomplished Gentiles (2: 13: " dead in . .. the uncircumcision of your fl esh"), and the
on the cross (2:8- 15), (2) ( 0 beware of claims that there are further spiritual discounting of any distinction between " circumcision" and " uncircumci-
experiences in the light of which the significance of the cross may be sian " (3: II ), similar to what is in Gal. 5:6 and 6: 15, all suggest that circum-
discounted (2: 16· 19), and (3) to resist any suggestion that life in Christ cision was an e lement in the makeup of the package being held out before
depends on observance of traditional Jewish laws and customs (2:20-23). !he Colossians. Similarly with food laws in both letters (Gal . 2:1 1-14; Col.
The second main section lakes up the challenge of what then should 2:2 1). Also striking is the suggestion common to both leiters that halakhic
be the appropriate lifestyl e for believers in Christ (3: 1-4:6). This consists of rules were being presented as (he means of controlling the fl esh but were
four sections: ( 1) a statemem of basic principle, the perspective from wrucb having the opposite effect (Gal . 5:13-19; 6:12- 13; Col. 2:20-23). Even the
all their ethical conduct should fl ow (3: 1-4), (2) a sequence of general distinctive element of "worship of angels" (Col. 2: 18) has parallels in the
guidelines and practical exhonations (3:5· 17), (3) some specific household similarly ambiguous reference s to angels in Gal. 3: 19.
rules (3: 18-4:1), and (4) some funher, concluding appropriate exhortations All this suggests a stronger Jewish element in the teaching being
(4:2-6). offered in Colossae than has been commonly recognized in recent decades
It thus begins to become clear how closely parallel the situations in (see. e.g., HUbner 356-57).
Galatia and Colossae were (Colossae was not much furth er from Antioch in
Roman Galatia than from Ephesus, though the route was more difficult; see
funher pp. 20f. above). Not that the crisis was anything as sharp in Colossae
as it was in Galatians, as the different tone and pace of Colossians indicate.
Nevertheless, a number of common features stand out in this section.
( I) It is clearly implied that the philosophy which threatened to seduce
some of the Colossians did not see itself as challenging the basic gospel,
but. presumably, as supplementing it. In comrast, as in Galatians (particularly
Gal. 2: 19-3:1 ; 6: 12-14), Paul insists that the other teaching has fai led to
understand the gospel of the cross properly (Col. 2:8- 15).
(2) Part of the attractiveness of the other teaching was that it gave rules
of conduct (the law in Galalians; Col. 2: 16, 20-23), which required Paul in
response to make a clear statemem of how the starting poim of fai th provided
the pauern for going on. In Galatians the appeal could be particularly to the
Galatians ' experience of the Spirit. wh ich Paul himself could recall so clearly
I. Uhnemann Ill-IS and Woller 114-16 pafer 10 \like the introdoclory unit Il$ 2:6-8; but
2:8 i~ beuer ~ I.lI the openill3 Slall'Tllent of what follows (see the introduction to the wrnments
on 2: 8-1~).
138 COLOSSIANS 2:6 139

THE THEMATIC STATEMENT (2,6-7) The clear implication is that what was in mind was the founding
traditions on which new churches were built (Meeks. Urlxm Chris/ialls
6 As there/ore )'ou received Ih e tradition of Christ Jesus as Lord, walk ill 126-27). So Moule, Colossians alld Philemoll 89: " As, therefore. you re-
him, 7 rooted and being buill up in him Qlut confirmed in [a ;lh, j ust as you ceived as tradition (the account) of Jesus as Christ and Lord." In other words,
were laughl. ovefjlowing 2 in thanksgiving. the thought is not of the reception of Chrisl's Lordship in baptism (Wegenast
126-29: cf. Ernst. Philipper. Philemoll, Kolosser, Epheser 192), far less the
Paul had already alluded ( 0 his fears for the Colossians - the danger of thought of receiving Christ into their lives (cr. I :27), for which napa-
them being deluded by specious argumems used by plausible religious sales. ~~w is never used by Paul (see my Baptism 95) and for which
men (2:4). Now he prepares to confront the danger head-on , beginning with (n:pOO')5€xollal (as, e.g., in Gal. 4:14 and Rom. 16:2) would have been more
a positive statement of his objecti ve. As in Rom. 1: 16-1 7 and Gal. I: 11 -12, suitable. Rather. Paul refers his readers back to their experience of hearing
these two verses provide a brief summary sentence of the main point to be and receiving the gospel (aorist tense») as he had in responding to the
made in the body of Ihe letter, to serve as a heading to what follows (d . equivaJent situation in Galatia (Gal . 3: 1-5). As in Galatians. this first deci sive
Liihnemann 49; Meeks, " Body " 210). As such, the emphases which the experience provides a norm and a starting point for what should fo llow: their
sentence strikes are of particular importance for o ur understanding of the ongoing life of faith should be in accord with the fai th wi th which it began .
letter. What these traditions were in the case of the Colossians we can deduce
2:6 ro; ouv 1tap~'tE lev XplO'feV 'illO'ouv lev XUptov. tv a\mi), from the actual object of the verb - literally "the Christ Jesus the Lord."
1t£pmaul'C£. In untypically Pauli ne style (~ ouv) the recall to faith is As both the Wisdom and " mystery " spoken of earlier could be simply
reexpressed ("as you received Christ Jesus as Lord ") and the appropriate identified with " Christ" ( I : 15-18; 1:27 ; 2:2), so here the preaching/teaching
concl usion (" therefore" ) drawn: Hwalk in him ." The allusion is not simply received cou ld be summed up as focused in Christ. The phrase itself cou ld
to the immediate ly preceding reference to " faith " in 2:5. which summed up be taken in different ways: " the Christ, Jesus the Lord," "the Christ Jesus,
the intent of the opening section as a whole (see on 2:5). Included therefore the Lord," "(the previously referred to) Christ Jesus as (the one who is =)
is a congratulation to the Colossians on their faith (I :4). a reminder of its Lord "; hence JB " the Christ you have received - Jesus the Lord," and NEB
amazing content (1 :13-22, 26-27), and an encouragement to remain finn on "since Jesus was delivered to you as Christ and Lord" (see funher Harris
its foundati on (1 :23, 28; 2:3). 88-89). Probably the formu lation was chosen to bring out the fWO strands
It is significant, then, that this summarizing and summary statement is of the preaching/teaching (Abbott 244).
expressed in the tcnn rrapClAcqJ.J}avw. For, as is generally recognized, this The one strand was kerygmatic tradition, summed up by the phrase
word is more or less a technical term for the receiving of tradition, and it is "the Lord" (SAGD s.v. rrapaAaj,tp(tvCll 2by: " the proclamation of him as
most often used by Paul in this sense (l Cor. 11 :23; 15:1. 3; Gal. 1:9, 12; Lo~ "!. '!'his way of speaking of Jesus goes back to the earliest days of
Phil. 4: 9; I Thes. 2: 13; 4: I; 2 Thes. 3:6). As such it is twin with rrapao{~t ~hrlsuanllY. It reflects the impact of the resurrection of Jesus on the begin-
(" hand over"), as again used by Paul ( I Cor. 11:2, 23: 15:3). Such " handing mngs of christology proper (Acts 2:36; Phil . 2: II ),4 the significance of Ps.
on" and " receiving" was crucially imponunt in the ancient world, when the 110: I as one of the main Old Tcstamenttexls to shape the earliest faith (see
continuation of so much received wisdom and knowledge depended on oral On 3.: I), and the importance of the title in earliest Christian devotion (such
transmission. Indeed, this was a principal function of teaching, the teacher that It was preserved in an Aramaic formu lation in Greek-speaking churches
handing on and the next generation receiving what the community or school [I Cor. 16:22J). 2 Cor, 4:5 indicates that the proclamation of Jesus as Lord
valued as its fonnative tradition (Plato, Theaetetus 198B; Philo, De cherubim Was one of Paul's principal emphases in preaching: by general consent Rom.
68; see further SAGD s.v. rrapa5(&q.t1 3; G. Delling. TDNT 4:11- 12; 10:9 probably reflects one of the earliest baptismal confessions (" Jesus is
A. Kretzer, EDNT 3:29-30). Precisely the same balance is struck by the Lord ");5 and the title " Lord " was Paul's favorite (about 230 occurrences in
Hebrew terms qibbel and masar, with the same emphasis on the imponance
of passing on and receiving tradition (as in Mishnah Aboth I: I; see, e.g.•
3. cr. GnilU. Kolossetbrief 116: "Christian tradi lions do DOl emetge in the COntroversy with
O' Brien. Colossians, Philemon 105). hc:n:sy, but are given precision through it."
4. See particularly P. Pokorny. 1M C,nais of Chrinology: Found/Jrlmu fo r Q T1teologyof
2. lbere is SU'OOg suppon for the addition of " in it" (that is. in faith). but it was probablY r~ New TeSlimumr (Edinburgh: Clark. 1987).
i~rted in oonscious or unconscious echo of the full phrase in 4:2 (see Metzger 6Z2). j. On kerygmaticJconfessional traditions see fwtner particularly w engsl. FO~/II 27-129.
140 COLOSSIANS 2:6-7 14 1

the Pauline corpus). Receiving (the proclamation of) C hrist Jesus as w movements. It is scarcely credible. in other words, Ihat a new movement
was thus one of the masl effective summaries of the gospel as il had neuld be gathered round a single name without a story being told (Q identify
understood from the beginning and had been preached particularly in : t name and explain its significance and thus to provide foundation (note
Pauline mission. the metaphor used in 2:7) and identity for the movement itself. And to
Since the basic sense of XUPlO~ is thai of superior to inferior Gentiles li ving in Asia Minor, but aware of Judaism and perhaps attf""dcted
to slave; king to subject; god to worshiper), with formally to its practices (cf. particularly 2:16), that story must have included a fair
rights of the former 10 command or dispose of the latter (see also 3:22 amount about Jesus' life and ministry (which had taken place less than thirty
4: 1), all would have recognized that acceptance of Christ Jesus as years earlier) a.nd. not just t.he ~re fact. of his death and resurrection.
included within it submission or the believer to this Christ and unconditional This a pnon specU lation IS suffiCientl y confirmed by (I) references to
readiness to act in obedience to him. The title had further overtones traditions being passed on as part of the process of found ing a new church,
considerable sign ificance for christology (see on 1:3). but here it is the which clearly include ethical traditions (particularly I Thes. 4: I and 2 Thes.
practical outworkings of its acceptance which are 10 the fore. Hence the 3:6), (2) indications of the importance of the role of teachers in the earliest
accompany ing urge 10 shape conduct accordingly (mpmCXteitE), which Christian communities (Acts 13: I; I Cor. 12:28: Gal. 6:6 - surely not sim-
echoes the practical exhortation of I: 10 ("wal k worthily of the Lord "; see ply repeating the bare account of Jesus' death and resurrection; see also 2:7),
on that verse; XUPIO~ is used nine or ten times in the parenesis of 3: 12-4: I), and (3) allusions to the teaching and example of Jesus (e.g., Rom. 12:14;
And the " in him" in this case is equi valent to " in the Lord," the more 13:9; 14:14; 15: 1·5; Gal. 5: 14: 6:2; here Col. 2:22).1 Here we might simply
common " in" formu lation in ethical exhortations (see also 3: 18, 20). In itself note that for traditions of Jesus as (the) Christ to provide any kind of
the phrase (" in him ") is sufficient reminder that the " walking" was not to guidelines for the Colossians' "walk," they must at least have included
be thought of simply as a following of received tradition, but also as some. illustrations of what Jesus said and did - the " in him," in other words,
thing mOliv3ted from within and from the living relation with Christ as Lord including relationship to the earthly Christ as well as to the heavenly Lord
which it expressed (Uihnemann 11 3). 'Ev autq> It£ptnClteiu: here. then, is (see also on 1:2).8 By including so many of these traditions in their Gospels
equivalent to the nvEU~Clll mpl1tcxtEi'tE of Gal. 5: 16 (pace Pokorny Ill). the Synoptic evangelists later simply formalized what must have been an
This combination of "receiving tmdition of Christ Jesus as Lord " and " walk- already long-standing practice in church found ing and catechelical forma-
ing in him is thus a neat summary of the mutual check and balance between
'j tion.
outward guideline and inward motivation which was a feature of the Pauline 2:7 tpP t ~~O\ xal btorXOOOJlOl)~Ol tv CXUt<!> xallklkuoUIl£vOI T!i
ethic (as in Gal. 5:25-6:2). nlo'tEt xa6<b<; t01oax8rjt£, 1tEPtOOEUoVtE~ tv EUXCtPtO"t(~. The point is re-
..The other strand of the preaching/teaching alluded to here is probably inforced by a sequence of forceful metaphors. These traditions of Jesus as
Imdil10n about Jesus' own ministry and leaching. summed up in the phrase Christ and Lord provide for the new community both a root for the new
" the Chris!." The point is much less clear and more disputed.6 But the echo plant and a foundation fo r the new building. The verb tH~6ro C'cause to take
of the titular usage (" the Chri st" - Moule, Colossians and Philemon 89; fOOt," only here and in Eph. 3: 17 in the New Testament) vividly images the
N. Turner. GNTG 3. 167) probably at least includes a reminder to the Colos- preaching/teaching as an effective sowing that results in a welJ-rooted plant
sians that this Jesus was ftrst and foremost Jewish Messiah. For this to make (perfect paniciple; cf. Sir. 24: 12 - of wisdom : Psalms of Solomon. 14:4 ;
sense to Gentiles in Asia Minor, and not forgetting the likelihood of a large Odes of Solomon. 38: 17-22). The importance of deep roots was well under-
Jewish colony in Colossae (see pp. 2 1f. in the Introduction), it would have
been necessary fo r some information to be given about this Jesus and his
7. See funhl-r my ·· Paurs Knowledge of tJ1.c, Jesus Trad ition : "The Evidence of Romans:' in
ministry in the Jewish homeland. Because Paul makes so few explicit ref- Clrrisrus ikuuBen. w. Trilling FS. cd. K. Kenelgc. et aI. (Leipzig: St. Renno. 1989) 19J.2Q7; llso
erences to the Jesus tradition that it is generally argued that he had no interest ··Jesus Tradition in Paul. " in StudyinS rltt: Hisrorical Jesus: E\"aJuarions of the SWle of Currrlll
in the life and min istry of Jesus, apart from his death and resurrection. But Reuarr:h. ed. B. Chiltoo and C. A. Evans (NiTS 19: Lei den: Brill. 1994) 155·78. where [point out
such a hypothesis makes little sense of what we know of the sociology of that explicit citations 0; ksus tradition would probably have been less dfe<:tive than the Illusions
10 shand ~tion , whose vc:ry character as a1 lusioos affirmed and s~ngthened the hood which the
fWnding tntd ition5 formed.
6. Though!;etl partkularly O. CUllmann, .. ~ Tl1!dil ion.·' TM Eorly Churrh (London: SCM. 8. " is IlII interesting fact that the fil1it half of the leIter is characterized by the frequent use
1956) 59· 75: C. H. Dodd. ···EvvOIl~ Xpunov," MQ~ New Tt:slamenl Srudiu (M anctH~ster. of "in Christ" (founeen or fifteen occ\llTenccs). which does 001 appear after 2:15. and the second
Mancbesl~ UniversilY. 1968) 134-48. half by ··i n lhe Lord" (foor IlCcum:nces). which does 001 appear to:.fore 3: t 8.
142 CO LOSSIANS 2:7 143

stood in Jewish tradition (e.g., Jer. 17:8; Ezek. 3 1:7; Sir. 40: 15). Naturally (£Uxaplcrtia), echoing the prayer of I: 12 (NEBIREB: " let your hearts o ver-
the image is co mple mentary to the " fruit-bearing " metapho r of I: 10, which fl oWwith thankfulness" ). As there, so here, the implication is that a charac-
rollows the same emphasis on a "walk" detennined by reference to "the leristic and fundamental feature of their relation with Jesus as Christ and
Lord." Equally it makes a natural panner in Jewish traditio n wi th the fol_ Lord should be gratitude for what God has done in and through him. As
lowing metaphor (panicularly in Jeremiah, e.g., 1:9- 10; J 8:7-9: 24:6; 31 :28; rootedn~ ss and foundation depends on the faith called forth by the gospel ,
42 : 10 : A lelti, Epilre aux Colossiens 16 1 n. 4). so growmg from the root and building up on the foundation can be successful
The prefix €ln - in btOlxoOoJ.lEro (" build on" ) likewise emphasizes the only in an atmosphere of thankfulness to God (see also on I: 12).
importance of the slarting point (the foundation; cf. Josephus, Antiquitiel
11.79: Phi lo, De somnis 2.8) as ensuring the viability and strength of what
is "being built (prese nt participle) on" it. Paul used the metaphor intensively
in I Cor. 3: 10- 14 (otherwise in Paul on ly in Eph . 2:20 ). In both cases the
metaphors underline the importance of the founding traoitions (see on 2:6),
with the tenth " in him" in Colossians here again implying (as in 2:6) a
balance between the gu idelines provided by the traditions of which "he"
was the focus and the li ving experience of a community " in him" (see again
on 1:2).
The third metaphor is drawn from the marketplace. Bt fxn o<; and Pt-
Ik u6ro were commonly used to denote the fonnal or legal guarantee required
in the transfer of property or goods (MM ; H. Schlier. TDNT t :602-3). This
technical sense is probably echoed also in Paul's other uses of these words
(Rom. 4:16; 15:8; 1 Cor. 1:6, 8; 2 Cor. 1:7. 21). Here the guarantee or
confinnation is 't'f1 1tlou:t, "with reference 10 your faith" (for alternative
ways of laking the dative see Harris 90). Once again the emphasis is on the
message (traditions) which the Colossian Christians first received and their
acceptance of it as providing the basis and guarantee of the transfer they
made in baptism to Christ as Lord (Rom. 10:9). 9 And once again typically
Pauline is the insistence that this faith (in Jesus as Christ and Lord, 2:5) is
the sum and hean of their ongoing life and walk .
.. As you were taught" confinns the TOOl..<figging. foundation-laying,
guarantee-providing character of the teaching in the establishing of a new
church. The teaching was not something additional to or less important than
the gospel. It was basic to and constituti ve of a new community of faith (see
fu nher on 2:6). Hence its importance also in I :28 and 3: 16.
With a characteristic Pauline flourish the thematic statement is rounded
off. n Eploororo. " be more than enough ." and with persons " have in abun-
dance," was one of the words Paul quite often reached for to express the
rich. overflowing character of the experience of himself and his converts
(Rom. 15: 13 - hope; 2 Cor. 1:5 - Christ's comfort; 4: 15 and 9:8 - grace;
Phil. 1:9 and I Thes. 3: 12 - love). Here the thought is of " thanksgiving"

9. "One must not at lhis stage dl1lw • &harp distinction berween failh 1.5 Je way a per!iOll
acts and fail h as the eontent of . confessional formul. which is bel ieved " (So:: hweizer. ColDSSioIIS
144 COLOSSIANS 2:8-t5 145

THE CROSS OF CHRIST RENDERS UNNECESSARY ANY The Scope of Christ's Accomplishments on the Cross (2:8-15)
8 Watch out le.n there be someone who tries to captivate you through philos-
Thi s section fonns the theological and polemical heart of the letter, balancing ophy and empty deceit in accordance with human tradition, in accordance
the morc intensively parenctic section that follows (3 :1-4:6). 2: 8 functions with the elemental forces of the world, and not in accordance with Ch rist.
as a heading and initial statement of the section's theme, in chiastic form: 9 For in him dwells all the fullness of the deity in bodily fo rm,
JO and in him you are f ulfilled,
8a polemical denunciation 16-23 who' is the head of all rule and authority.
8b in accordance with Christ 9-15 I I In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision not
perfomled by hunum hand
After the slow buildup of the letter thus far, in which the \ramings have been in the stripping off of the body of flesh,
nonspecific, the challenge confronting the Colossian believers. is b~oughl in the circumcision of the Christ,
more clearly into the open and begins to become more clearly tden.ufiable 12 having been buried with him in baptism)
as a coherent alternative. However, the possibility continues to remam open III whom also you were raised with him
that as well as the more specific religious system and praxis referred to, the through faith in the effective working of God,
writers recognized the possibili ty of other philosophies or cults proving who raised him from the dead.
attractive to their readers and framed their warnings in more general tenns
in conseq uence. At all events, jf the Colossi an a~tem~tive (us~ally de~oted \3 And though you were dead in the transgressions and uncircumcision of
as "false teaching" ) is to be given any clear Identity, the Issue Will be your flesh, he made you] alive with him, when he forgave us 3 all our
resolved from 2:8-23 or not at all (see also pp. 23ff. in the Introduction). transgressions. 14 He canceled the bond that stood against us with its
decrees, which was opposed to us, and removed it by nailing it to the cross.
15 He stripped off the rulers and the authorities, exposing them to public
disgrace, leading them in triumph in him.4

After the initial warning (2:8) Paul proceed.. to fill out the foundational
importance of the faith in and by which the Colossians had first received
Jesus as Christ and Lord and the principal cause for their continuing thank-
fulness. His first concern is to explain (or recall ) the full significance of what
happened on the cross of Christ (the central element in the found ing tradi-
tions), in relation particularly to the heavenly powers and to the question of
circumcision's continuing relevance.
From 2:9 the language assumes a semi-poetic qualilY: most notably,

I. An early gnlmmatical correction changed masculine II<; to neuter (I to agree with neuter
JI).~pc.:,.t(l in 1:9.
2. nw, less usual Christian word for baptism, ~~6;; ('·washing ·': d. Mart 1:4 ; Hcb.
6:2; 9: 10) is probably original. having bee n altered by many in transmission [0 the more usu al word
PUIttt~(l (Metzger 623). See further Lig.lllfoot 182-
3. 1bere was an understandable tendency to change 6j1W; to 1\1.100; (an early change with
lOme Mrong support) or t\jJ.iv to Vp'v (less well allestcd) to avoid the awkward shift in perwns
("·You .•.• ..J
' us .
4. tv avujl could be laken as "in il,·· referring 10 the cross (so NIV. NRSV: lightfoot 190:
~. P. Manin. C%!lSiaru and Philemon 88: Yates, Colossians 53). But it is more appropriate 10 read
It as a final chord of the '·in him·' theme (so most).
146 COLOSSIANS 2:8 147

2:9-12 is structured around a sequence of "in hi~~hom " phr~es (four i,lII but as a stronger form of fr:yw and from its two other known occurrences
all) and 2: 13c- 15 on a striking sequence of paruclples (five \0 all). nu. (set out in Lohse, Colossians lIlId Philemon 94 n. 18) the meaning "carry
has resulted in suggestions that underlying 2:9- 15 as a whol,e. .?f 2: 11-~S
off as booty or captive" is clear enough. Here then, given the fuller descrip-
(Zeilinger, Ersrgeborene 54). or 2:13c- 15,6 or 2: 14-~5 ,(MartlO , Reconc~. tion that follow s, the thought is of some popular rhetorician (2:4) or philos·
iation" 116-24) in particular,7 can be detected a Chnstlan hym~ or hymnw: opher captivating (so NJB ; REB "capture your minds") some in his audience
confession. But attempts al reconstruction have gained very little support. by the power of his rhetoric or the impressiveness of his claims. The visual
(see Deichgriiber 167-69; Uihnemann 126 n. 67; Gnilka, Kofosserbri~ metaphor is of sllch a marketplace preacher gathering together those im-
120-21' Pokorny 136-37; Sappington 205-7). The character of the Greek. pressed by his discourse and taking them off for a fulle r exposition and
inc1udi~g its awkward links, may simply be the . result of an anempt to induction. If indeed, then , the challenge to the Colossian believers stemmed
describe the effectiveness of Christ's death by usmg a sequence o~ meta- primarily from the synagogue, as appears to be the case (see pp. 29ff. in the
phors. some of them already traditional. which, however. do not Sit com- Introduction), this allusion confirms the likelihood that the Colossian Jews
fonably together: included some effective apologists and rhetoricians in their number. well
able to hold their own in learned debate.8
II circumcision The further description, however, is still not specific. ~Aoo04lio. (again
12 burial and resurrection only here in biblical Greek) means literally "love of wisdom," but had long
13 death and (new) life been used of a systematic treatment of a theme, practical as well as speculative,
14 expunging the record and so also for various schools of " philosophy" (see O. Michel, TDNT9.172·
15 stripping off and public triumph. 79). Jewish apologists made free use of it in this more technical sense in
commending their own religious system. Thus, for example, Aristeas 256
2:8 ~).t!<£tE ~~ n,
u~'" l",a, 6 cruAay<1YfiiN ["Ix <ii, .u.ooO$(~ xcii
)(£V"~ cin:a'tT1<; xatlx UlV TUXpaSoo'lV trov av6pOmO?v, xatlx taoatOlXEl(l t~
provides a definition of '-philosophy" which begins: "To havea well·reasoned
assessment of each occurrence and nOI to be carried away by impulses."
x.OOJ.tou xa\ ou xatlx Xplat6v. For the fi,:,t lim~ a spec.l,fic danger 11 4 Maccabees is set out as a philosophical discourse which begins by commend·
referred to. The imperative p).brettcan mean Simply look at. but followed ing " philosophy" as "a subject necessary to everyone fo r understanding"
by 1-11'1 has a clear note of warning: "look out, beware" (BAGO S.v. p:u .... (1 :1·2) and which later defines the value of "our (Jewish) philosophy" as
6; in Paull Cor. 8:9; 10:12; Gal. 5: 15; and Phil. 3:2). Paul regularly ref~ teaching the virtues of "sound judgment or self-control ," " manliness," "jus·
to known opponents in a somewhat diminishing allusion as "some, ce~ tice," and "godliness" (5:22·24). Josephus, in tum , did not hesitate to com·
people" (Rom. 3:8; I Cor. 4:18; 15:12, 34; 2 Cor. 3: 1; 10:2; Ga1. 1:7; 2.12. mend the different sects of Judaism (Essenes, Sadducees, and Pharisees) to his
Phil. I: 15). But here the singular (n.;), followed by the future tense (rotal). intellectual readers as $v...oo04l{cu. Philo, too, found no difficulty in presenting
suggests in contrast that a possibility is being envisaged rather than a CUI lent biblical teaching and Jewish piety as a kind of philosophy (see Michel 18 1-82;
state of affairs described: "Take heed! Perhaps there will be someone DeMaris 48-49). A century later Justin Martyr presented Christianity as " the
who ... " (J. H. Mouiton, GNTG 1:192·93 ; cr.. M~son 121 n. 3; ,B~ true philosophy."
Colossians, Philemon, and Ephesians 97; otherwise Lightfoot 176; 0 Bnell. The term as it is used here, then, is in no way disparaging or specific
Colossians, Philemon 109). in its reference in itself. It is a term which many apologists for all sorts of
This suggests in tum that the participle OUA.a:yo:rymv should be taken religious and pseudo--religious teaching would use because of its distin·
. present, "
as a conative who. lnes to ...• wh0 w an ts to : . '." (BOF
. §319). guished pedigree, as subsequently in relation to the mysteries (Lohse.
The verb itself, ouM:J:yo:rytOO, is little known (only here In biblical Greek). Colossians arid Philemon 95 ; see also G. Bomkamm. TDNT 4 .808~ IO). The
association with the next phrase, "the (so·calJed) philosophy and empty
5. Particularly G. Schille. £,;u,chrisfliche Hymnen (~rlin: EVBngelische, 21965) 31·37; d. deceit," still leaves it open that what was in mind here were the sort of
Canoon 37-49: a hymn created by the author out of traditional ma!Crials. . '. 5 • popular religious speculations which mUSt often have appeared in market·
6. Scllenke, "Gnostischc ErI6se.r " 222-~3: from a Christian GnostIC hymn, .... Ith 2~~d place discourses by self·styled " philosophers" (see also 2:23: "a reputation
"typically Gnostic presentation of a p.lbllc and UlUmphal return of ille Redeemer throup!he 5pI
of !he Archons.·· . . .
7. See ru!'lhc:r Lohse. "Bekenntnis"; also hll Colonuuuand Phll~mo" ,06; Wenpt,
0""" /It 8. wrigtn. Colossions (JM Phil~motl 100 suggests that "a COnlCmplllOUS pun .... ith ttM: word
• S6-90; Burger 79- , 14. $YRagogue" (OUV(llW'flY~) i5 inlended .
148 COLOSSIANS 2:8 149

of wisdom"), The judgment as (Q whether Paul and Timothy had a particular (he elemental forces of the cosmos"), is also enigmatic and has spawned
"philosophy" in mind is dependent on the greater clarity provided by whal a huge debate (see bibliography in G. Delling, TDNT7.670; Bandslra, Law
follows, particularly 2:16-23; but even so, Paul may have left his warning 5-30; Schweizer, HElemente" 147-48; O ' Brien, Colonians, PhilemOIl 129·
vague so that it cou ld cover a wider range of possible alternatives to his 32; Sappington 164-68). The basic meaning of o"t(nXElov is "element." a nd
gospel than the more specific challenge at Colossae. here, where the immediate context is dominated by cosmic categories
"Empty deceit" (')(£V i1~ cl1tU'tllC;) is doubly condemnatory (cf. Eph. (2:9- 10, 15), the most obvious reference in the full phrase is to the elemental
5:6), K£v~ signifies " without coment. without any basis, without truth. substances of which the cosmos was thought to be composed (earth. wate r,
without power" (BAGD s."'. 2; cf. partic ularly 1 Cor. 15: 14; Jas. 2:20), and air. and fi re - as the tenn is used in Wis. 7: 17 and 2 Pet. 3: 10, 12). by far
cl1tU'tll "deception or deceitfulness. " But again it tells us no more about the the most common usage in literature prior to Pa ul. l! However, as Philo
"philosophy" envisaged. The language, of course, is pejorative and expresses knew well, these substances could be understood (mythologized or per-
the conte mpt which Paul. confident in the rootedness and fi nnness of his sonified) as spiriL" or given the names or deities (De vita contempl(lfiva 3;
own gospel. evidently felt for me teachings masquerading as phi losophies De decalogo 53). " The divinization of the elements was a commonplace
which competed for the ear of his own audiences when he sjXlke in the open,9 in the whole Graeco-Roman period" (Wink 74).12
including probably what he (now) regarded as the fanciful claims of Jewish Whether O"'CotXEla was at this time actually being used of heavenly
mystics (see on 2: 18). bodies, the stars understood as heavenly powers that influence or deter-
This " empty deceit," or bette r the whole phrase '; philosophy and mine human destiny. is still unclear. The usage is not attested until after
empty deceit" (govemed by a single definite article), is given a further the time of the New Testament; the earliest explicit references are usually
di smissive shrug as being "in accordance with human tradition ." The use taken to be those in Testament of Solomon 8:2-4 , where seven demonic
of l'tapaooau; (" tradition ") no doubt glances back to the tradition received spirits ide ntify themselves as O"'ColXEla ("rulers of this world of dark·
(l' according to 2:6 (cf. I Cor. 11:2; 2 Thes. 2: 15; 3:6). The ness .... Our stars in heaven look small, but we are named like gods"),
tradition on which the Colossian church was fou nded was di vinely aumen· and Diogenes Laertius 6.102. who call s the twelve signs of the zodiac
ticated (Jesus the Christ was also the divine Wisdom and mystery); in "the twelve O"tOlXEta" (cf. Corpus Hemleticum 13. 12). But it is a natural
contrast, any ;'philosophy" mat discoun ted that tradition could only be of extension of the more established use, since stars were understood to be
human origin. The term " tradition" and the imponance or trad ition were composed of one of the elements, fire. Thus, in condemnatory tone, Wis.
familiar in wider Greek usage, including the mystery cults (BAGD S.v. 13:2: " th ey (Gentiles in general) supposed that either fire or wind or swift
7tCq)CtOOcrt<; I; Lohse, Colossians arul Philemon 95-96), but Paul the Pharisee air. orthe circle of the stars, o r turbulent water, or the luminaries of heaven
would be bound to think of the importance of " traditions" in the " philoso- were the gods thai rule the world." Philo describes the at01X£la as
phy" of the Pharisees, as he recalled hi s own devotion to them (Gal. 1:14). "powers" (De aeternitate Mundi 107·9), and Hennas (Vi.fions 3.13.3)
Most striking is the fact that the very same phrase, ;' the tradition of human speaks of the world as controlled (xpatElt<Xl) through the four OtOlxEla
beings" (tt'\v l'tap6.&xJtv tOw av8pc.l)7[(Ov), occurs in Mark 's account of Jesus' (cited al so by DeMaris 53· 55). And both here and in Galatians there is a
denunciation of such pharisaic traditions (Mark 7:8; Mark 7:3- 13IMatt. 15:2- clear implication that the at01XEla were closely associated with heavenl y
9). This adds strength to the likelihood that the sort of "philosophy" in mind
here was essentially a form of Jewish thought being presented as a " philos· 11. A minority oontinul"$ to uphold Ihe traditional intel'pfCtation: rodimr:ntary ideas OT
ophy " by Jewish ajXllogists (Wright. Colossians and Philemoll 101). At all ~e]cmen!afy tcaching:' as in Hcb. 5:]2 (so Maule. Colouiaru and Phi/~mon 91 ·92; Carr./lngt'is
events, Paul obviously e nvisages a '; philosophy" that could claim respect H-76; Sappington ]69: Yates., Colossians 40. 54-55; "!he ba.o;ic f(Res or Ur ..... orld. namely the law
and !he nesh ." according to Bandslnl. Law 68-72). Despite lhe e,·ideoce. which he himself notes.
by virtue of its ancient tradition. 1O DeMaris argues rather woodenly for the meaning '"flI"St prindples" (73. 79-83). set5 the Colossian
The final descript ion. i(,(lta to. OtOIX£la tOU ,WO).lO"U ("according to !;pCculatively within !he conteXI of Middl e Platonism. and compounds implausibility by
hypoth(osizing a discipline (2:23) " foste~d by Ur close scrotiny (t~fknruw) of the O"I"olxclO; ... "
9. LighrfOOl: 117 IlOICS oow little use Paul made of soch highly valued lerms as • ..wo~ (11 4-18).
and 6pen\ ("vUtllC"): "Ihe Gospel had deposed lhe terms as imu:kquate 10 lhe higher SWK!ard. 12. See further panicularly J. HJinzJer. "Lexik.alische5 zu dem Tamin us a'.I. otOl;rtlu toii
" 'helhcr of knowledge or of practice. which il had introduced.. .. lCOtlIou bei Paulus." in Sludiorlllfl PawillOrut7I Coorgn"SJUI /"'trnoliotlll/u CathollcN$ /961 (AnBib
10. "lbe argumr:m from antiquity plays I g~llt role in ~ligious conlffiVet"$y" (Cnilk&. 17·18; Rome: Pontirocal Biblical Institute, 1963) 2.42943; Schweizer. " Elemente" ]49.63;
KoIQsurbri~f ]22. appositely citing Jcr.;ephus. CQnlm /lpiQ/1t:m I. subtitled !he Antiqui ty of "Sla~$" 456-64; D. Rusam. "Neue Belege zu den O"I"OI.Xdu. TOil XOOIIDi"i (Gal. 4:3, 9: Kol. 2:8,
the Jews"; sc:e particul arly 1.2·3). 10):' z,vw 83 ( 1992) ] 19-25; !illmmary of Philo's usage in Wink 69.
150 COLOSSIA NS 2:8-9 151

beings (Gal. 4:8-9 - gods as popul arly understood ; Co l. 2: 10 - rulers ings o f the slars " wilh t o: O't OlxEta (xu, tOO; 'tWv c5:m prov etO'£t ~ XU! 'to:
and authorities»)J (J1'otx£i a). We mig ht also note thaI so me frag mentary horoscopes have been
It is imponam here 10 note that the issue does nOllUm on any distinction discovered among the DSS (4Q 1S6 and 4QMessAr), that one of the ways
of personal versus impersonal: it was com monplace. not least within in which Helle nistic Jewish apologists sought to commend Juda ism was by
Judaism, (0 think of the stars as living beings (Judg. 5:20 : Job 38:7; Dan. presenting the Jewish patriarchs as the d iscoverers o f astrology (Artapan us
8: 10; I Enoch 86; Philo. De opijicio mundi 73 ; De plamatiolle 12; Rev. 1:20; and pseudo-Eupole mus in Eusebius, Praeparatio Emllgelica 9. IS. 1 and
9; 1); likewise " fa lc" could be personified ("the Fates") or attributed to a 9, I7.S-9), and that Josephus could describe Ihe Pharisees and the Essenes in
pe rsonal oo.illWV (OeD s.v. " Fate"; LSJ s.v. 5o:ill<Ov). The allusion. in other particu lar as believers in Fate (Antiquities 13.172) and could even claim tha t
words, is 10 the belief that was no doubt then common (as still among not the Essenes prayed to the sun (War 2.12S), Ii is quite possible, the n, to
a few today) that human beings had to live their lives under the innuence conce ive o f an essentially Jewish " philosophy" in Co lo ssae that drew on
or sway of primal and cosmic forc es, however precisely conc,epruali zed (for such trJditio ns as a way of conunending the ir re ligious practices to their
an effecti ve su mmary of the case see Manin, Colossians and Philemon fellow citizens (see fu nher o n 2: IS).
10- 14). Hence (he translation "eleme ntal forces " o r "elemental spirits of The key test o f such systems for the lener writcr(s), however, was
(he universe" (RSVINRSV, NEB/REB); but " princi ples of this world" whether they accorded with Christ (xo.'tO: XP10't6v). Here the cred it buil t up
(JBfNJB : cf. N IV) is too vague . in I : 15-20 and 26 -27 is now drawn on. The C hri st who e mbodies the secret
It is particu larly interesting that precisely the same phrase is used in of both cosmos and history must obviously serve as the yardstick by which
Gal . 4 :3 and 9 (as again in Co l. 2:20 ). There it is clearly linked into the all other claims to re li gious insight (not least clai ms regarding human rela-
Jewish law, understood as itself a kind o f power set in charge over Israel tionshi ps with a nd wi thin the cosmos) shou ld be measured. It was precisely
like a slave-custod ian or guardian (Gal. 3:23-25 ; 4: 1-3, 9-10) and given the failure o f such speculation to gmsp the significance of Christ and of his
" through angels" (3: 19). The close association o f the thoughl here with talk death that de monstrated their e mptiness and deceitfulness.
of Jewi sh festivals (Col . 2: 16; c f. G al. 4: 10) and " worship o f angels " (Col. 2:9 lSn £V a ut cp xo.tOtX£t J[av J[A~p~a Til~ 9E6t1lto~ O'WfJanx(!);.
2: IS) strongly suggests that we are mov ing in the same realm of thoughl The force of XCt'tCt XPlO't6v is explained (lSn ) by a seque nce of " in him "
and association as with the same phrase in Gala tians. Here it needs to be clauses (2:9- 12) which build into a powerful exposi lio n o f the cross, Initially,
reme mbered {hat Jewish apocalyptic also spoke of spirils controlling the however, these clauses pick up the theme of the hymn in praise of C hrist,
ele ments: fo r example, Jubilees 2:2: " the angels of the spirit of fi re, the ~all i ng first the hymn's second stro phe ( I : 19) in very similar words ( " in
angels of Ihe spirit o f Ihe winds . . . " ; I Enoch 75: 1: " the leaders o f the rum, " " all the fullness," " d wells " ), and then (2: 10) the thOUght of the first
chiefs of thousands who are in charge o f alJ the stars" : 2 Enoch 4: 1: "the strophe ( I: I Sa - "head" ; I : 16 - " rule and autho rity").
rulers of the stellar o rders . .. , the angels who govern the stars" : Testamenl In 2:9, apart from the change in te nse , the on ly modification to the
of Abraham 13: II : "the arc hange l Puro uel, who has authority over ftre" language o f I: 19 is Ihe addition of lJi~ 9£6't1'l 't0c; and O'WIlCtn~ both hapax
(Lohse, Colossians and Philemoll 98, c ites I Enoch 43: 1-2 and 2 Enoch legomella in bibljcal Greek, The fonner was sufficiently fami liar in lite rary
19:1-4). I Enoch IS: 14- 16 also speaks o f slars bound and impri soned for Greek to denote the nature or essence o f d eity, that which constitutes de ity
the ir transgression, and the Grec k fra gment o f Ju bilees 2:S links " the plac- (BAGD s,v. 6E6t1lC;; for the d istinctio n from 6£t6tll~ see Lightfool 179). The
late~ c hri stology of " divine nature" and " essence" is clearly prepared fo r
but IS by no means yel present (Ernst, Philipper, Philemon. Kolosser, Epheser
13. For further details see SAGD s. v. m:o\;(dov 2-4: G. Delling, TDNT 7.672-83: Lohse. 199-2(0). The thought is no different in substance from the earlie r fonnu-
Coiossiaru and Phi/"tnOtI96-99: GniJ.ka, Kolossu bri"j l 24-26. SCh ....ei1."r. CoI(lfsiaru 13 1-33 dnlW$ lation (see o n 1: 19), only that the di vine fullness which indwelled and
all~ nt i on pan ic ularl y to the importaoc~ of the eiemmts in !he Pythagorean texIS of the fi rst century
IIC, and conc ludes that !he Colossian philosophy was a form of Je wish Pythagorean ism (Critiqued
COntinues to indwell C hrist is exp ressed in more abstract te nns. As Lo na
and developed by DeMaris 88-96. 103-4: but paa ~Maris sa n. 11 above and comments beloW 133 -34, 141 and Po korn y 12 1 n, 7 1 no te , this dependence o n the earlier
on 2:18). Bruce, CoIQ,uillns. Philf'mon. and Ephrsians 99- 100 s uggens tMt use of the phrase in phrase (assu ming that 1: 19 was pan o f the orig inal " hymn ") calls into
relat ion 10 heavcnly bod ies may ha ve been " an ori gi nal Paulioo contribution to religi ou s vocabu lary" question the mo re popular suggestion that the concept J[A"p<.OJ.Ia was deri ved
(cf. E.. PI UmaclX'r, EDNT J.:mn, I. possibility for which I1lOSI recentl y Wolter 123-24 makes DO
fro~ "the Colossian philosophy " (as, e ,g., Dibelius, Kolosser, Epheser,
al lowance ("it is hardl y p<»,~ible to identify the ' rulf'1'S and authori ties' ar 'angels' mentioned in
2: 1."i, 18 with the sw{cM;a . .. any more than with the fou r elements , .. that bind human kind to Phllemoll 29 : Lohmeyer 105; Uihne mann 117: Fowl 128-29, 136-37; but
the "·arld"). see again Benoit, " Plero ma" 137-42).
152 COLOSS IANS 2:9- 11 153

The latter addil'i on, crwl.I(X'C\xWr;. reinforces the cncounterable reality whether language current in the Colossian "philosophy" is echoed here}. The
the indwelling: as the human a& is what enables a person to be tenSC (" to be" + perfect passive partici ple) indicates a state of fullness accom-
relationship wi th other persons, so the somatic character of this i plished in the past and sustained since then. The implication, therefore, is that
meant that God could be encountered directly in and through this par in receiving the traditio n of Jesus as Christ and Lord and believing in(to) him
human being, Chri st. Here, as in 1: 19 (and as with the use of the adjective (2:5-7). the Colossian Christians already had all that is necessary fo r fullness
in Luke 3:22). O"OlJ.l.(lttxcO; underscores the accessibility (come-al-ableness) of life, unrestricted access to the divine power which will shape them, too. into
of the divine epiphany (cf. the data in Lohse, Colossians and Philemon 100 the divine image (3: 10). II is no contradiction to such thought that Eph . 3: 19
n. 46; H. Balz. EDNT 3.325) and can hardly refer 10 anything other than can pray " that you may be filled with all the fullness of God," for such imagery
Jesus ' life o n earth. though including his death (as the next fe w vcrses imply). can be both affirmative and hortatory (cf., e.g.. Gal. 3:27 with Rom. 13: 14);
At the same lime the presenllense indicates this function of Jesus as o ngoing: hence the equivalent balance between indicative and imperative in the next
Chri st in his historical embodiment still brings the characler of deity fully main section (3 :3-5 and 10-12).
to focu s. Hence NIV, "in Christ a U the fullness of the Deity Li ves in bodily The language is inflated, but the cash value would come in the daily
form," and GNB, "the full content of divine nature lives in Christ, in his walk of conduct and relationships. As with the "philoso phy" illustrated
humanity " (see also Lightfoot 180; Moole, Colossium' alld Philemon 92~94; above (see on 2:8), concern with affai rs of heaven usually had the con~
Wall 110-13). In all this a commo n concern for access to the uilimate of sequences for everyday li fe very much in view. So here, too, the reaffirmation
reality is presupposed (Fowl 137); to be a Christian is to recognil..e Christ of Chri st's headship over the cosmos (I : 18a; but cf. Wolter 127). including
as the poi nt and means of that access. i?
the heavenly powers mentioned the hymn (I : 16), is explicitly stated with
Not to be ignored is the further variation o n the theme of "body," again regard to "every rule and authonty," not as a matter of idle cosmic specu~
no doubt in deliberate counterpoint with "the body of fl esh" (2: II ): in tenns lalion, but as a matter o f vital interest to an understanding o f the way heavenly
that fore shadow the Fourth Evangelist's theology of Christ's glorification. forces determined earthly co nduct. For these " rule(r)s and authorities" were
the embodi ment of divine full ness is presented as o ne with the crucified presumably another way of speaking about the "elementa l forces " (2:8),
body of flesh. To take the word as a reference to the body = the church also understood as exercising rule and authority over a nd within the world
(Masson 124; Lohse. Colossiam alld Philemon 101 : Gnilka. Kolosserbriq of humanity (hence their names; see also on I : 16). To know that Christ was
129; but see Best, Body 117-20; Aletti. Epltre altx Colo~'siens 169) is a too above the addressees and was their head (see on I: 18a) was therefore im~
simple so lutio n whic h diminishes the richness of the play on the term (cr. portant, partly for the confidence with which othe r claims to access to such
Benoit, ;' Pler6ma " 145-49; though cf. also the Eph. 1 :22~23 ). heavenly powers could be confronted and partly fo r the "full assurance of
Alternatively, that the word here already reflects the use o f (JiiltJa in 2: 17 understanding" out of which they sought to live their own daily lives.
(as Pokorny 122 in particular argues) is less likely since the latter is so The resumption of the " head" imagery is a further e lement in the
unusual and cou ld hardly be anticipated by the hearers; though doubtless the varied " body " theology which is such a mark of this letter. In particular. it
full impact of 2: 17 depends on an awareness o f the preceding " body" is unlikely that Paul and Timothy felt any te nsion between thi s continued
language (see also Wedderburn. Theology 37-38). cosmic headship and the headship o f the body (= church. I : I Sa) resumed in
2: 10 xal tOtt tv aUt~ 1[£J[ATlP~tvOl . ~ tonv l'\ x£~T'\ nCtoTl~ apxi1~ 2: 19. The point implici t in the " body" theology is precisely that a recognition
xal ~ooo{oo;. The immediate corollary to this understandi ng of Christ is that of the " fullness of deity" in Christ enables a harmony between the cosmos
those "in Chri st" (the twelfth occurrence; see o n I :2) share in that fullness. and human society which would otherwise be impossible (since he is head
The language is, of course. rbetorical and hyperbolic (see also 2:9). II pre- of both).
sumably means simply that in Christ they have been granted a completeness 2: 11 t v ~ xal nEpl£tllil8Tlt£ 1t£P1tOllii clXElp01[Ol t\t<!l t v til a1t£xlhxJEI
and fulfillment which they could not fmd or achieve anywhere else: "you have tou (J~ato~ tf\~ (Japx6~, tv tn 1t£P1tollii tOU Xptcrtou. In what follows
come to fullness of life in him" (RSV INRSV); "he is able to bring their life to (2: II ~ 15) the main thrust and c hief emphases are clear. but the detail and
its destination" (Pokorny 123).14 That is why any thought of seeking out higher the syntax allow a varie ty of interpretations. The principal diffi culty for
or more fulfll iing experiences is fanciful and self-delusive (but it is unclear both translator a nd exegete is that the piling up of phrases seems excessive
and unnecessari Iy redundant and e ncourages them to consider renderings
14. For lhose who lake lhe "bodil y" of 2:9 as a refere nce 10 lhe church lhe carrY(Jver of
lhoughl from 2:9 is even c l(JSC:r: " you ( .. lhe church) arc fulfilled in him " (.so Gn ilka. K% $Jf!fbri,j Which reduce the redundancy by broadening the focus of meaning. But the
130). BUI thaI lu,'es 2: 1Oa si mpl y as a weakeT varialion or repetition of 2:9. key to what the authors were after is probably to recognize that the redun-
154 COLOSSIANS 2: II 155

daney is deliberate, thai is. thai they were using this technique precisely to This is the characteristically Jewish attitude which lies behind the other
focu s with greater intensity on the significance of the act of redemption references to circumcision in Colossians. The disparaging note of 2: 13-
and reconciliation already spoken of (I : 14, 20, 22). The impress ion of ;'the uncircumcision of your fl esh" - shou ld not be taken as " the uncir-
hymnic form is sustained (see the introd uction to the comments on 2:8- 15), cumcision which is your flesh," with Hfl esh" understood as a moral category
wi th the language continuing to express something of the extravagance of (NEB "morally uncircumcised," NIV ·'the uncircumcision of your sinful
worship and with the " in him " structuring maintained into 2: 12, where it narure"; so most). Rather, it echoes the classic description of circumcision
is supplemented with a sequence of (JUV- compounds (2: 12- 13). In shon. as marking God's covenant wi th Israel (Gen. 17: 11 - 14: "So shall my
2: 11 - 15 were probably intended as an elaborate attempt to describe the covenant be in your fl esh an everlasting covenant" ), a characteristic echo
importance of what Christ accomplished on the cross and in his resurrection in Pauline usage (Rom. 2:28; Gal. 6: 12-1 3; Phil . 3:3-5). " The uncircumcision
by means of a sequence of vivid mClaphors (circumcision, burial and of your flesh" means si mply "your status as Gentiles," primarily an ethnic
resurrection. death and giving life, forg iveness and cance llation of legal distinclion.L6 The thought is precisely that of Eph. 2:11: "Gentiles in the
bond. public triumph).ls flesh, those called ' uncircumcision' by the so-called 'circumcision' made by
The linking "in whom" (tv ~ xal) introduces the first image: " you human hand in the flesh." So, too, CoL 3: II repeats the distinctively Pauline
were circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hand." Why claim that with Christ " there is no 'circumcision' and 'uncircumcision,'"
this image? The answer depends on the significance of circumcision. Here where agai n it is a matter of removing labels which categorized non-Jews
at once we must note the almost inescapably Jewish dimension which the into a disadvantaged status by definition, and where again it is circumcision
image introduces. The simple fact of the matter is that in the world of this versus noncircumcision . which provided the primary and crucial differ-
time circumcision was regarded by both Jews and Gentiles as di stinctively entiation.
and characteristically Jewish. This is at first surprising since others were These considerations immediately restrict our options in interpreting
known to practice the rite (Egyptians and olhers: Herodotus 2.104 .2-3 ; Strabo 2:11. Indeed, they leave us with only one or both of two answers: (I ) The
17.2.5). But circumcision had always been central to Israel's self-understand - language simply reflects the strongly Jewish character of earliest Christianity,
ing as the people of God (al least from the formulation of Gen. 17:9-14). including the Pauline mission among Gentiles. So fu ndamental to Paul was
And the Maccabean crisis had made it a crucial mark of national and religious the conviction that faith in Christ was the outworking of the promise to
identity and loyalty, the mark which most clearly di sti nguished Judaism from Abraham and of the covenant with Israel, and so deeply impressed on his
Hellenism ( I Macc. 1:15,48.60-6 1; 2:46: 2 Mace. 6:9- IJ; Josephus. Antiq- (onnulation of the gospel had been his earlier disputes with his fell ow Jews
uities 12:24 1). Thus Josephus saw circumcision as God's way of preventing on the need for Gentiles to be circumcised (GaL 2; 5-6; Rom. 4), that a
Abraham's posterity '; from mixing with others" (Antiquities I: 192). And the thoroughly Pauline expression of the gospel was bound to use and echo the
point was well taken by outsiders such as Tacitus: "They adopted circum- characteristic Pauline altitude to circumcision and spiritualization of circum-
cision to distinguish themselves from other peoples by this difference" cision. In that case, these references would tell us nothing of the " philoso-
(Historiae 5.5.2). phy" which was in danger of leading the Colossians astray.
II is nOI surprisi ng, then, that Paul could simply translate the Jew versus (2) However, the unusualness of the reference here indicates that it is
Gentile classification of the world inlo "circumcision" versus " uncircum- not simply a matter of echoing older fonnul ations, and the frequency with
cision" (Rom. 2:25-27; 3:30; 4:9-12; Gal. 2:7-8), each group defined by their Which the circumcision versus uncircumcision motif recurs in Colossians,
most distinctive characteristic in relation to each other, circumcision provid- and the intensity of 2: II itself, is probably best explained by the hypothesis
ing the fundamental principle of classification. This perspecti ve, be it also that circumcision was indeed a factor in the threatening situation in Colossae.
noted, is thoroughly Jewish. It was Jews who regarded circumcision as a Moreover, the evidence clearly indicates that this facto r included Jews as
posi tive factor which could serve as a badge of identity; for the typical Such, with their distinctive altitude to Gentiles as " the uncircumcision"
Helleni st circumcision seemed more like a form of bodily mutilation (see (2: 13; 3: II ). Such language cannot be explained on the assumption that the
R. G. Hall, ABD 1.1027). And it was certainly not Gentiles who chose to ri te of circumcision had been abstracted from Judaism and thrown as a
identify themsel ves as "the uncircumcision (foreskin)." separate item into some proto-Gnostic, syncretistic melting pot of ideas and

LS. PokomS' L26--33 surprisingly picks 001 2:12· ]3 as COIItaining lhe argumenl of lhI:: cnlire 16. This is recogni=:l by ONB; d. JBlNJB; Abbon 253; MIlMOn 127 and n. 3; Wrighl.
epiSILe. Ihus giving undue promirw::nce 10 IWO 001 of lhe sequence of melaptKn. CoilmillllS QI1d Philrmon 109; Harris 106.
156 COLOSS IANS 2: II 151

ri tes (cf. Foerster 73 against Lohse, Colossians and Philemon 102; Lin- also Odes of Solomoll II :2: Gmpel of Thomas 53). 18 However, given what
demann, Kolosserbrief 42; and see p. 33 n. 40 above), For the attitude foHow s. including the strong sequence of <roY- compounds (2: 12· 13), it is
expressed in the distinction of circumcision versus uncircumcision is one of also possible that what was in mind was the image of Christ's death on the
ethnic identity, and not some individualistic or syncretistic ritualism. cross as itself a kind of circumcision in which believers have been included.
At the same time the contrast with Galatians al Ihis point cannOI be In that case we might have expected the coining of a further compound, in
ignored. Here there is no polem ic against circumci sion as such (contrast Gal. typical Pauline style, cru~1tEpl£tJ.l.t'le'lte. But equally it might have been
5:2- 12), We cannol deduce, therefore. a form of vigorous Jewish or Ch ri~ thought that the remainder of the verse made the point clearly enough.
tian-Jewish proselytizing in Colossae (as in Galatians and Philippians 3). There is a similar ambiguity in the next phrase, " in the stripping off
there is no evidence of strong pressure being brought on the Colossians to of thc body of flesh:' i\TItxO\)Ol~ is not attested outside Pa ul 's writings. but
be circumcised "in the flesh." At most we need only envisage a fonn of is obviously drawn from the verb meaning " take off, strip off (clothes)" (as
Jewish apologelic (rather than evangelism) in which thl! rationale of circu~ in 2: 15). The lack of an autol), ;;his flesh," would normally indicate that
cision was explained, perhaps as Philo does in De specilllibus legibus I: 1· 11 the phrase should be rende red ;'the body of the (= your) flesh. " But all the
and QuaeJtiones in Genesin 3:46-62. This at least would explain the double " flesh" references so far have denOled physical fl esh (l :22, 24 ; 2: I. 5), and
feature in the leller's treatment of circumcision: on the one hand it echoes tbe most obvious way to take the combination "body of fl esh" is once again
the typically Jewish distinctiveness as " the circumcision" over against " the as a way of emphasizing the physicality of the body (see on 1:22).19 "Strip-
unci rcumcision " (Gentile "uncircumci sion" is still understood as a dis-- ping off the bOOy of flesh," therefore, can hardly mean anything other than
advantaged state); on the o ther hand the authors use c ircumcision as I lileral death (cf. again I :22). If then the phrase was chosen precisely to
positive image. In short, in view of the lightness of the polentic and the emphasize the physical nature of the death, it is difficult 10 see it being
positiveness of the understanding of the imagery of circumcision, all that referred primarily to something that had already happened to the readers.
may be implied or envisaged here is some debate with Jews in Colossae For there is no suggestion that believers have a lready stripped off the flesh
(probably not just Christian Jews) on the spiritual significance of circumci· or the body of flesh (to the contrary, 2: I , 5).20
sion. More likely the phrase is an adapwtion of the description of physical
What then is meant by "you were circumcised with a circumcision not circumcision - astrippingoffofthe flesh (of the foreskin) - applied 10 Jesus'
made with hand"? The adjective axelpoltoll1to~ clearly rules out literal death in deliberate echo of 1:22: in this case the flesh which was stripped away
c ircumcision (NEBIREB " no t in a physical sense"). :=or though it occurs
only in the New Testament (Mark 14:58; 2 Cor. 5:1; and here) its meaning
18. Despite the assumption of many (Dibelius. KoJoSJtr, EphtJflr, PhiltlfWfl 30: Moule.
is obvious, as the opposite of X£lpo1toirrro~ ("made with hands") , used C%JJians and Philemon 94: Houlden 189 _ " fOf a believer in ChriSt. circumcision means bap·
characteristically in the LXX of idols (E. Lohse, TDNT 9.436). It denotel tism": Emst. Philipptr, PhiltlfWfl. Kolosstr, Ephtstr 202: Lona 149. 151 ·53; Gnilka. KoImJtroritj
what human hands canno t make, but o nly natural or divine agency (see 131: Bruce. Coknsians. Philtmon. and ~.sialU 103: O. Bctz. EDNT3 .80: w. Rebell. EDNT3.464:
Schweizer, Colossians 140). and so in thi s context ;'wrought by God" or Pokorny 124 - "10 begin with. the ..... riter explains that baptism is the uue circumcision": Wolter
130 _ HTaujIHsclmtidung N; Alcu i. tp'lre aux Colcmitns 172). it is unlikely IDat a referencc to
"spiritua1." 17 Here, then, the language is presumably a n adaptation of the
baptism as such is intended. Despite Gnilka. ThtoJ0Sit 345. Paul nOll.·here rejects circumcision on
long-standing recognition in Jewish circles that ci rcumci sion " in the nesh" the grounds that Christians have a more: effective ritual lei (Dunn. Hap/ism 153· 54). Cf. al so
had to be matched by circumcision of the heart (e.g., Deul. 10:16; Je r. 4:4; Wedderburn. ThtoJogy 49·50.
I QpHab I I: 13; I QS 5:5; Jubilees 1:23; Philo, De specialiblls legibuJ 1:305). 19. This is los!: sight of by scvel1li translations which seem to WlIl1t to avoid using "flesh"
That is to say. it probably contains a reference to conversion C;you were It aU COM and which produce unjustifiably tendentious Intnslations (NEB .. Io .....ernarure ... REB "old
tlllture," NJ8 "your natural self." NIV "sinful nature:' GN8 "sinful seW'). Wright, ColotSUms
c ircumcised," aorist tense), the circumcision of the heart wrought by the
and PhiltmtN1 106. leaH'" the phrase itself much 100 far behind when he translates "in the strippi ng
Spirit, referred to e lsewhere in Paul (Rom. 2:28-29; 2 Cor. 3:3; Phil. 3:3; off of the old humlll1 solidarities."
20. Thi s cooc lusion represents a change of mind from my earlicr Baptism 153. though ;t
17. II is juse possible that the very unusual Ox&lPO~1j~ here reflects a local Jcwilll strc:ngtbens its argument that the imagery of circumcision spoke directly of spiritual realitiCili and
apologetic (cf. P. W. van dt-r Hont. "A Ncw Altar of I Oodfc&f"C'r?" JJS 43 119921 32-37. reprinlltd Q(I( cl baptism. In Baptism I follo .....ed the cooscmus (c·I .. LiglxfOOl 182: MilSSOIl 126-27: Tanndlill
in his fftlltnism _ J..daism _ Chrish'aniry: on Thti' 1"'trot:,iOl1 (Kampen: Kok, 19941 49: Schweizer. CoIo:uit11lt 143: Wolttr 13 I) thai "body of flesh" W&$ in effect synonymous with
6$.72); for all the Jewish insistence on the llXElf/OllollltO<; charnctcr of their cultural religious clai!1lll "body of sin" (Rom. 6;6) and "body of death·· (Rom. 7:24) - "a slogan of the false teachers labout
(God as one and unrepr!:senlable by a X£IpOItOIIltOV idol) thcir continued high regard for the vcr'! transcending one's physical body in mystical ellperience1 which Paul has turned against thcm" (Fowl
XE!pOlIOhrrov ritual of circu mcision ran counterto their apologetic and undennined it in some degree. 140-41).
158 COLOSSIANS 2 :11- 12 159

was the whole physicaUfleshly body.21 We might Irans]ate, Hin the ful sequence of such compounds in Rom. 6:4-6 (O"Uvetoo>rU1Ev aut4l 0\0: tOU
off of the body. the fl esh/as the fl esh." This likelihood is strengthened when IJCt1['tiO'Jlmo~ ... ). though whether we s h o u l~ spe~k of Pa~l re~o r~ i n g a
we look ahead to 2: 15 (where the equivalent verb is used. "strip off") an4 familiar theme or of a close collaborator echOing hiS master s vOice IS less
realize that we are caught up in a fUJ1her play on the body of Christ theme. On clear. The imagery is forceful, of sinking below the waters of baptism as a
the cross there was a double "stripping off": his physical body in death and kind of burial. Bapti sm, presumably by immersion, represented mimetically
the rulers and authorities in triumph (see on 2: 15), If there is a moral note ill the commitment to enter the tomb with Jesus after he has been taken down
;'flesh " here, it probably reflects a variation of Paul's Adam CM Slology at this from the cross. Since burial was understood as the concl usion of the event
point. It was not simply "his" flesh thai Christ stripped off, but the fles h of the of dyi ng,23 this commitment meant the enacted willingness to identify onesclf
first Adam (cr. Rom. 8:3), represeming " all things" in their do minatio n by the with the complete event of Jesus' death. The passive tense indicates also the
powers. thi s being necessary before he could assume his Adamlc reign over yielding of those being baptized to the baptizer as indicati ve of their surrender
"all things" (cf. I Cor. 15:27, 45. 50). A cosmic circumdsion of human flesh 10 God. Here again the initial focus is on the event of conversion-initiation,
was a necessary preliminary to cosmic rule. but also in view is the effectiveness of what Christ's death accomplished. It
The final phrase, "in the circumcision of Christ," is best seen, then, is because his death was a kind of circumcision of old humanity (cf. 3:9)
simply as a summary expression of the larger imagery of the preceding that such an identification with it engages ils spiritual energy in effective
phrases. Thai is, what is in view is not primarily a circumcision effected by operation in believers' lives, both individually and corporately.
Christ (NEBIREB: NlV; GNB; e.g., Scott 45; Pokorny 124-25: in the earlier To what extent we can speak already of a " baptismal theology" or a
Paul the "circumcision of the heart " is always attributed to the Spirit - "sacramental theology" here is also unclear. Certainly the power of the
Rom. 2:29; 2 Cor. 3:3; Phil. 3:3) but a concise description of the death of symbolic, ritual action is in view: baptism as the means by which or at least
Christ under the metaphor of circumcision. It is clearly implied, of course. occasion in which this powerful spiritual conjunction (" buried with him ")
from the first phrase. that conversion-initiation could consequently be un- takes place. And a reference back to bapti sm would be important for a
derstood as a sharing in that circumcision, but it is precisely a sharing in his community which needed to affmn its boundaries (cf. Meeks, Urball Chris-
circumcision-death, not an independent act of Christians' own circumcision- tians 166-67). But the passage is not intended as an ex position of bapti sm;
death. It is because they share in a body which transmutes, as it were, from " in baptism" is mentioned almost incidentally in a sequence of vigorous
cosmic body (" head over aU rule and authority," 2:10), through body of metaphors. 24 Moreover. it is doubtful whether we can yet speak of baplism
Oesh done to death , to his body the church, that their conversion has cosmic as accomplishing spirilual circumcision (the preceding me taphor),~ since
and eschatological implications. And even more astonishing corollaries can that is always linked directly wi th the action of the Spirit (see on 2: II).
be drawn out for the church subsequently in Eph . 1:22-23. usually remembered because of its vivid experiential character, without any
2:12 O'Uvta¢€vtt~ amcp tv tcp f}a1ffiO'!lCp, tv i!> xCli O'Uv'lytp8'ltt ow reference to baptism (e.g., Rom. 5:5; 8: 15-16; I Cor. 2: 12; 2 Cor. I :22; Gal.
ni~ 1tiO't£WC; ni~ tvEpyd~ toU BEou tou ty£.ipClVt<>c; amov tx vexpffiv. The 3:2-5; I Thes. I :5-6; see funh er my Baptism). And the prominence given in
second metaphor for what was accomplished by means of the cross is burial the exposition above to the idea of baptism as expressive of the commitment
and resurrection. The sequence of O'UV- compounds (2: 12- 13) is characteris- of the one being baptized is supponed by the next clause. which li nks a
tically Pauline. 22 and its beginning clearly echoes the earlier and most power- second o'uv- passive verb with faith as the means (010: ni~ rr(crrero;, equivalenl
to the oux tou fkr:1rt(a~ato~ of Rom. 6:4) by which its action wa... accom-
2 1. So also Moule. Colossians and Philemon 95·96; G. R. Beasley·Murrny. Saprism 152-H; plished.
R. P. M!Il1in. CoIosJian$ mul PhilentOO 82·83: O'Brien. Colossians. Phi/~ffIQtI 11 6-17: Yatu. Nor is there any need to invoke precedenl in contemporary mystery
Colossians 42. Woller 1)()"3 1 noces thai the idea 0( lhe body or flesh 115 a ""gannenl"" of the soul 01
cults to explain how a powerful symbolic action could have appeared in
of SOfl"ICthing ··pUI off" was quile familiar in Greek and Jewish thought (e., .. Philo. ugumAlltg~
2.55: Quis ""nun divinoT14m hut!S ~: De jugo t!1 ;n~'enliOM 110: QUOt!SI;OI1t!$ t!1 so/utiQRtJ ill GeMsili
1.53: 2 £rwcll 22:8--9). Failure fO appreciare the alluiiim 10 circullll: ision and the force of " bodY"
and "fksh"" thus combined (see on I :22). which retains the neutral force of a6i!m as such and mak£$ 23. ''TIle evenl of dyi ng . of departure from this world . was first really concluded by burial·'
possible the positive play on ~(I wh ich is such a fealure ofthe letter. musllie behind Bomkamm'S (E. Stommel. ciled by Schnadeoourg, &pr;sm 34: similarly Wedderburn. Blip/ism 368-69),
otherwise iurprising judgmem lhat ""strippi ng off lhe body 0( nesh" is wholly un ·Jewish and mu. 24. Against. e.g .. Larsson 80-84: Pokorny 133: and MacDonald 143 il need s 10 be pointed
presufiPose a Gn06lic context of tbought (" Heresy" 128), QUt that the wbjecr of !he section is not baptism.
22. See. e.g .. my Romans 3 13; on the cr\J'" XP 'O"I"Ij) formu la and for bibliogrnphy see. e.g.. 25. cr. Conulmann 144: .. t.ptism actualizes this event {Of us" (cited also by Gnilka.
Lohse. CoiostiWIJ /JIId Philemon l04· S and n. 76: O·Brien. CoIots;ons. Philt!lIt(Jn 169·71. KoIos~rb'it!f 134).
160 COLOSSIANS 2: 12 161

Christianity (pace Argall 18-20). In point of fact, in the linle we know of the same awkward combination occurs in the parallel Eph. 2:6 - cruv" yelpev
the mysteries, there is nothing quite like baptism as an initiatory (as distinct ... t v XplO'4> " 'loo\).
from preparatory) rite. and there seems to be no clear idea of identification The idea that Christ's resurrection was something also shared by believ-
with the cull deity. In other words, the two vi tal Features in 2: 12 Jack obvious ers is, again. a natural corollary to the idea of sharing hi s burial. Here,
parallel in (he mysteries (see funher my Romans 308-11; Wedderburn. however, we can see that something of a development has taken place, For
8aprism).'1h In contrast we need look no further than a Baptist tradition prior to this Paul saw such a sharing in Christ's resurre<:lion as belonging to
which spoke of water baptism as a metaphor for the action of the Spirit the future, part of the " eschatological not yet," so that the Christian life
(Mark 1:8 pars.) and a Jesus 1'.:I.dition which spoke of Jesus' suffering and could be understood as a kind of long. drawn-out process between Chri st's
baptism (of death) as something which his disciples could share (Mark. death (in which they [bad] already shared; hence the perfe<:t tenses in Gal.
10:38-39). If Jesus spoke of his coming death as a shared baptism, il is 2:19 and 6: 14) and Christ's resu rrection (sharing in which would mark the
lillie surprise that his disciples should speak of their baptism as a sharing completion of the process of salvation; Rom. 6:5; 8: II ; 1 Cor, 15:4749;
in his death. Phil. 3: 10, 21 ). But here, as in 3: I and as with the preceding verb, lhe tense
The malching metaphor is that of resurrection - resurrection, that is, is aori st passive ; that is, for the author of Colossians, resurrection wilh Christ
with Christ. The initial tv ~ looks at first as though it should be referred to also belongs to the " already" of Christian beginnings. Thai of itself does
baptism (" in which " or " by which"; so most translations»)' This is an not mean lhat the fonnulation is post-Pauline (cL Percy, Probleme 109- 13):
understandable deduction. since it appears natural to associate sinking under Paul was quite capable of such variations, as with other metaphors like
the water with burial and rising out from the water with resurrection, The redemption (cf. Rom. 3:24 with 8:23) and adoption (cf. Rom , 8: 15 with 8:23;
problem is thai the term "baptism" did nO{ yet denOle the whole action, but cf. Moule, " New Life" 484-85). Nor need we assume that such a variation
properly speaking only the act of immersion as such.28 And in the closest meant that Paul's theology of an ongoing sharing in Christ's sufferings was
parallel (Rom . 6:4) it evidently did not occur to Pau l to make any such being abandoned (see on 1:24),30
association between Christ's resurrection and baptism; the association is In fact. the shift in emphasis is in line wi th the loftier cosmic vi sion
exclusively with burial What appears obvious to us, with a long history of of the letter; lha! is, it reflects a still higher evaluation of what happened on
sacramental theology,29 was then not yet obvious. the cross. That event meant not only that the sentence of death on the old
A further factor in 2: 12 is that £v ~ xed is the fourth of the sequence epoch, its rule(r)s and its practices, had already been passed, but also that
of " in him, in whom " phrases around which this hymn like snatch has been be lievers were able to share already in the resurrection life of the new epoch.
composed, matching the £v xa{ of 2: 11. When set out in lines. as r have The reason for this double emphasis on shared dealh and shared resurrection
above. it becomes clearer that ~Q1t'tlOJH"!l is best seen, then. not as the probably becomes .clear in the parenesis beginning at 2:20,31 That is to say,
antecedent of tv but as the end of the preceding segment. with tv ro serving
q,. it was evidently thought ne<:essary to draw in the new emphasis as a way of
as the fi nal struclura1 link back to " Christ" in 2:8. The resulting conibination encouraging positive embrace of the power of the new creation and not just
of " in him " and " with him " is stylistically but not theologically awkward: renunciation of the old (note 2:20; 3: I, 5, 9- 10, 12),32 In the event, then, the
they are bolh common and overlapping ideas in Paul anyway; and precisely shift in emphasis does not amount to much (cL O' Brien, Colossians, Phile-
mon 120): it strengthens the force of lhe indicative (what God has already
26, AUridge 483-89 claims to find in sevcnU Nag Ham madi texts ". theology of or r.dionale done in Chri st), but it does so as a means of strengthening the resolve
for bapl ism, It rationale that conceives baptism as a trnnsformation of the baptizand il1lo a heavenly necessary if the imperative is to be obeyed and the work of salvation
state thar. ena bles 'vision' of the di vine such as that accorded to angels"; bu t it is hardly clear Iblt completed (cf. Lona 164-66).
baplism played a significan t pan in Ihc: CoI05sian philosophy.
27. This is the majorily view in commentaries wri tten in English (O ·Brien. Colossions.
Phi lemon 118· 19. and Gardner are e~cepl ions); but elsewhere opini on is strongly against it (see my 30. Contrast G . Selli n, .. ' Die Auferstehu ns iSI schon geschehen: ZUI Spirit ual isicrung
&plism ] 54-55 and n. 7), with Schweizer. Colossions 14546. and Lon. 15~58 exceplions theottler apok al yptiscner Terminologie im Neuen Testame nt," NfJ~T 25 (1983) 22().37 (here 230-32),
way. 3 1. Since the assenion that "the re.surnx:tion is al..,ady past" is treated as an error and usually
28. S<: hwcizer, Colossians 145 n. JJ, ootes that Josephus uses fXurri!;l:IV frequentl y in the IlllibUied to a form of pr()u~(jll(lSticism (2 Tun . 2: 18: cf. I Cor. 1.5: 12; see also Pokorny 130) .... e
sense .. drown" .... "dive in:' as also of dipping hyssop in a stream and in the paS5l\'e of a ship Inay deduce that .such a Gnostic emphasis was not promine nt in the Colossian ·' philosophy·' (but
si nkil'lg, COntrast Mee ks, " Body" 213: "!he piCIU'" of baptism as ioJ tiating into I life 'above: " cf. Contelmann 145 and n. 28).
dramal izing " the ~I ievers' &l1I icipatoty enthronemc:nI in heaven." 32. cr. Woller 133: the author veks "to immuni>:e the community against the bacillus of
:29. Al..,ady in the fourth.cemury A poslolic Constilutions 3.17. uncertainty of salvation."
162 COLOSSIANS 2: 12- 13 163

The fin al phrdSe. "through faith in the effective wo rking of God who the thought is structured on the typical Pauline "once - now" formula, even
raised him from the dead," Uke tv tC!> pwrtlO'I.UP in the preceding clause, though VUvl is lacking.
maintains the balance between what happened in cross and resurrection and More 10 the point, the confession of God as he " who gives life to the
its appropriation in the believers' present. It is the openness of faith to divine dead " was a typical definition of God in contemporary Judaism (Shemo1leh
grace, the commitment of mind and life 10 thai which is confessed about the '£sreh 2; Joseph a1ld AsefUJth 20:7; hence Paul's use of it in Rom . 4: 17: also
resurrection, thai makes it possible for faith to serve as the conduit through John 5:2 1),35 an application no doubt of the more basic recognition that God
which the divine energy (without which all human e ndeavor would be in "gives life to all thi ngs" (Neh. 9:6: Joseph andAse fUJ th 8:3. 9; 12: I). Initially
vain) flows to energize the commitment and make more effecti ve its trans- this confession presumably was said in reference to the resurrection, as in
latio n into actio n. The di vine working is the same (cf. the parallel with Rom. Shemoneh 'Esreh and the main New Testament parallels (cf. also Tob. 13:2;
8: 11 ). and its proof is the resurrec tio n of Christ. The " fa ith" formula is the Wis. 16:13; 2 Macc. 7 : 22 ~ 23 ; Testament of Gad 4:6); the image of being
more c usto mary Pauline 1t(O't~ + genitive = " faith in" (Abbott 252; sec brought up from Sheol as a metaphor of deli verance from despair (Pss. 30:3;
further on 1:4 and 2:5). For tvtPYEtCX see on 1:29 and cr. Eph . 1:19. 88:3.6; Jonah 2:6; IQH 3:19) is an earlier version. But Joseph and Asenath
" God who raised him from the dead" is a piece of confessional formula 20:7 shows how readily the confession of God as he " who gives life to the
regularly echoed in Paul (Rom. 4:24; 8: 11 ; 10:9; I Cor. 6:14; 15: 15; 2 Cor. dead" could be adapted to the idea of Gentiles as li ving in a state of death
4:14; Gal. 1:1; I Thes. 1:10; Eph . 1:20; Kramer 20·26; Wengst. Formeln and being made alive by conversion to proselyte status.
27-48). As such it reminds us how fundamemal betief in the resurrection of It is th is last that is the governing thought here. The " you" are the
Christ was for the first Christians. Moreover, as itself an essentially apoca· Gentile believers in Colossae (as more explicitly in the immediate parallel
Iyptic category (initially fonnulated in Dan. 12:2), " resurrection" is a funher' in Eph. 2:1 -2, II ). Their "being dead " refers to their status outside the
reminder of how much this letter was influenced and shaped by a Jewish covenant made by God with Israel (cf. again Eph . 2:12). That is to say, their
apocal yptic thought world. "transgressions" (ncxpcxrrtWJ1(XtCt. usually violations of God 's commands)
2:13 'iW.l UJ.lW;; VExpO~ t5vt~ rev] toi; n:apam(o,.ulOw XUt 'tfI would be those referred to already in a similar passage ( 1:21 ), the transgres-
o:xpo~uatic;t tilt; oapx.Ot; i>jJ.&v. (J1.)V~won:o (T]CJEV " Ilell; oilv cxincit. sions of the law that from a Jewish perspective were typical of lawless
xcqn o O:IlEVOt; r,lliv n:avta ta n:apcxmcOf.1a t a. The third metaphor drawn in Gentiles (see on 1:21 ). The Jewish perspective is put beyond question with
to describe the transition effected by the cross and resurrection and by the the complementary phrase "you being dead (NEBfREB "although you were
Colossians' participation therein is death and (new) life. The impression thai dead") in . . . the uncircumcision of your fl esh." 36
it jars slightly with the preceding metaphor (conversion-initiation as the evenl The signifi cance of this should not be lost sight of, especially in view
of dying; pre-Christian condition as the state of already being dead) is of of the indications, some of them already noted (see on 2: I I). that the most
little consequence. Wilh the kaleidoscope of metaphors which Paul used to likely threat fro m an alternative philosophy in Colossae was perceived to be
express these fu ndamental transformations (of cosmos ' and history as well basically Jewish in character (see also on 2:16- 18, 21 -22 and pp. 29·35
as of individuals) some overlap and inconsistency was inevitable. Confusion above). The significance is that Paul does not attempt to avoid such a Jewish
only arises if the metaphors are treated as literal statements. The jarring, characterization and perspective; he makes no attempt. as it were, 10 outflank
however. is not so great as at first appears.3l For talk of God (now the subject) the alternative philosophy by ignoring or striking clear of the Jewish char-
making ali ve the dead is another way of speaking of the resurrection, as the acter of Christianity's message. On the contrary, he reaffirms the Christian-
New Testamem parallels show (John 5:21 ; Rom. 8: 11 ; I Cor. 15:22, 45; Jewish starting point, that Israel was in an advantaged position over other
1 Pet. 3: 18); and its formulation in a further ouv- compound (" he made you n~ti ons by virtue of God 's choice of Israel to be his special people. The
alive together with him ") is simply a variation of the preceding ow- com- difference is that the disadvantaged slate of " uncircumcision" has been
pound ("you were raised together [with him]").34 Lona 96-98 also notes thaI remedied by a " circumcision not perfonned by human hand" (2 : 11) rather

B . Wedderburn, & ptism 63. nOla that death as I figure for I life of wickedness was qui l£ 35. "Arou nd the beginning of ou r era ' He who ciV<:l life to the dead' had become all but a
familiar in Stoic and Hell en istic Jewish thought. definition of God in Judaism" (C. Bun::hard. OTP 2.234 n.).
34. We might al so note that circumci sion as I ITH:tllphor for conversion and t tpOllO{TJOIIi are . . 36. Despite Wolter 134. " flesh" is not to be understood he ~ as a power which compel s
both ex pl icitly anriOOted to the S piri t in the New Testament {c!. Rom. 2:28·29 and Phil. 3:3 with lnlh viduals to ~in (cr. Rom. 7:5, 14); the phtllSC " unci rcu mcision of your flesh" fUllClioru; in a quite
John 6:63 and 2 Cor. 3:6}. diJTe~nt context. See on 2.: I I.
164 COLOSSIANS 2: 13- 14 165

than by "ci rcumcision in the fl esh." The point. however. is not made with )GIla ' ~~Wv ("against us") confirming that the document in question was
anything like the sharpness of the polemic in Galatians. indicating a situation one of condemnation, that is, presumably the record of thei r "transgressions"
in Colossae in which the proselytizing option was not being posed with (repeated fo r emphasis in the following relative clause), " which was op-
anything like the same forcefulness as earlier in Galatia. Nevertheless. it i. posed, hostile (U7tEVCtVtlOV, another Pauli ne hapax) to US."J8
imponant to note again thai the categories of debate remain Jewish throogh Quite what the interven ing and awkward wit; ocrnlCtOW adds to the
and through, with God as the initiator and subject of the saving action picture is not so clear.l9 However, in the context the 06WCtta must be fo rmaJ
throughout (or at least to 2: 15), "decrees or ordi nances or regulations" (SAGD s. v. &YrI.tCt I ; NDlEC 4. 146),
The final clause, ';having forgiven us all our lnUlsgressions," adds the "binding statutes" (Lohse, ColmsiallJ and Philemoll 109), "legal demands"
same qua1ification as the concluding phrase in 1:14. The difference is only (RSVINRSV. REB). They presumably, thcrefore. rcfeno that which consti-
that a rather more Pauline verb is used. XClp(~O~{ll (" remit. forgive, par_ tuted the record of transgression as condemnatory ("'against us," "hostile to
don " ), which we find in Paul in this sense at least in 2 Cor. 2:7- 10 (cr. Luke us"). That is, they must refer to the divinely decreed ordering of cosmos
7:4243; Testament of Job 43 : I; Josephus, Antiquities 6: 144; K. Berger, and society and judgment consequent upon such behavior. The thought, in
EDNT 3.457; see also Col. 3:13 and Phm. 22). The awkward transition to other words, is close to that of Rom. I :32. In Helleni stic Judaism these
" us" (see n. 3) is characteristically Pauline, betraying here (as in Eph. 2:5) "decrees, regulations" were, not surprisingly, the law, the commandments
an element of self-correction: it constitutes not a denial that such transgres- of Moses (3 Macc. I :3: Phi lo. Legum allegoriae I :55: De gigantiblls 52 ;
sions are to be attribUied to Gentiles but rather a recognition that all , Jews Josephus. Contra ApiOllem 1:42). Thus, although to )(.(la' Tl~6iv x£lp6ypoo;>ov
as well. are equally guilty of such transgressions and equally in need of itself cannot be idcmified with thl! law as such (as by Abbott 255: Wright,
forgiveness. The point is not developed here, but behind it we can see the Colm'sians alld Philemoll 11 2; the otherw ise unan.iculated dative, toit; 06y-
fuller argument of Rom. I: 18- 3:20; 5: 12-2 1 (where " transgression" occurs ~(101.V , leaves the precise relationship obscure), behind it lie the decrees of
six times); 7:7-12. the law giving the xnp6ypCl90v its condemnatory force (pace Weiss, " Law "
2:14 £;aM: h¥~ to )(.(la' Tl~&v XElp6ypa$Ov tO~ &ry~aow a ~Y 310- 12; cf. the clearer formulation in Eph. 2:15, the only other occurrence
u1tEVavnov Tlf.l.iv, xexl auto ~px£v EX tOU f.I.£OOU 1tPocr11MOo"ro;; aUtO tqJ of 06y~Ct in the Pauline corpus). At all events thi s probably alludes to the
O'tCtup0· The fourth metaphor is quite different again. It is drawn from the halakhic rulings aboullO be denounced in 2:16, 21-22. which includes talk
legal world. XEtp6'ypet+oV, only here in the New Testament, meant literally of "j udgmem" (2:16) and uses the verbal equivalem (Oowat'~ro in 2:20;
a document written by the person responsible, a hologr.\ph, so " receipt," as Lightfoot 185; Dibelius. KoloHer:. EplJeser. Philemo" 32; Schweizer,
in its only occurrence in the LXX (Tab. 5:3 and 9:5). But here it has the C% ssiallS 150-5 \ ; Gnilka, Kolosserbrief 139; Sappington 2 18-20: Yates,
fun.her sense of "a certificate of indebtedness. bond," as in Testament of Job Colossian s 48: cf. N. Walter, EDNT 1.340: Aleui , Epitre allx Colossiens
II : II and Life of Aesop 122 (in A.-M. Denis, Concordance Grecque des 179).
Pseudepigraphes d 'Ancien Testament [Louvain-la-Neuve: Institut Oriental- Thi s is important, since the act of redemption on the cross under thi s
iste, 1987J 875 and 908; see fun.her MM). The metaphor is probably adapted imagery effects a wi ping out of the XEtp6ypCl90v. The verb £;ilA£(t>w is the
to the earlier Jewish idea of a heavenly book of the living (Exoct 32:32-33; natural one to use in the context, since it denotes the erasure of an entry in
Ps. 69:28; Dan. 12:1; Rev. 3:5) as developed in apocalyptic circles into that
of books wherein deeds of good and evil were recorded with a view to the 38. Walter. " Kol. 2: 14 "; also EDNT 3.464. makes the unnecessary and less persuasive
final judgment (Dan. 7: 10?; J Enoch 89:6 1-64, 70-7 1; 108:7; Apocalypse 0/ sugg~ion thai the l[lPO")'llU~" is the sinner 's own oonfession of guilt (Sdwldbd:enntnisj. Carr.
HNotes" 492.96; Angels 55·58. suggests a reference to ~nilenlial sr~wi! set up to confess guilt (a
Zeph(UJiah 7: 1-8; Testament of Abraham (A) 12:7- 18; 13:9· 14; (B) 10:7-
PfilCtice attested in Asia from the early second CCTl tUry): but the key term here is lacking. and loch
11 :7: 2 Enoch 53:2-3; Rev. 20: 12). In Apocalypse of Zephaniah 3:6-9 and a reference does not fit IIlOSt nalUrally with the term ilSclf or its accompanying imagery. namely
Apocalypse of Paul 17. chirographum (= XEtp6ypCt¢lov) itself is used for erasure (~w..eI'lfW;) and nailing 10 the cros.s (!l:pooll Wx:lw; xd.. ). For a recent survey of altcmath ·e
these heavenly books (M. R. James, The Apocryphal New Testament (Ox· interpretations ~ Yates. C%ssiafl.S 45-48; more fully his "Col. 2:14:'
fo rd : Clarendon. 1924J 534: E. Lohse, TDNT 9.435 n. 2: Sappington 100- 39. For attempts to. ~plllin the aw"wardness see. e.g.. Masson 128 n. ]: Lohse. CoJruJiaru
108.2 16-17).37 This is most obviously the background of thought here, with lUId Philemon 109-10; and Harris 1()8...9. n.e old suggesti on that ". ~ with the devil" is in view
b still defended by Lohmeyer 11 6-17. but h.a.~ no contemporary Mil" ..... ' . Lindemann. KoIoJJeroriq
44. attempts an uplanalion in traditional Lutheran terms: "Our self-accusation (v:~v) is
37. For later I1Ibbinic development of the theme see SIT-B 3:628: but thi s is not to be $imply based on out opinion that in oor re lation to God we must commit oorselves to IM.lI1l1 S, to finn
assumed as the bao::.kground to thoe thooght here. as man y do. prescri ptions" (c r. NEB ··the bond which pled ged us 10 the decrees of the law ' ·).
166 COLOSSIANS 2:1 4·15 167

a book, and is so used in several orthe above conte xts (Exod. 32:32-33; Ps. The first clause is somewhat puzzling. T he verb CtnexOuro is the cognate
69:28; I Enoch 108:3; Apocalypse of Zephaniah 7:8 [chirographum as the f the noun CtttEXOOOI<;, which appears in 2: I I , and is repeated in 3:9. It is
object); Teslament of A braham fE] I I: 10; Rev. 3:5). The expunging of the o Osl naturally understood as an intensive form of the more widely used
record confirms that none of these transgressions is any longer held "against ~Vro, "strip, take off" or in the middle voice (txOUOI1((\) " und.ress onese.lf,"
us." That does nOl mean, however, that the underlying decrees or regulations as indeed is confirmed by 2: II and 3:9, as well as by the occasIOnal JXlsslbly
cease to have force, that is, that the law no longer functions as God's yardstick. ontemporary use (Tesramefll Abraham 17: 12; Josephus, AflIiq ll iries 6.330
of right and judgment; there is no contradiction he re with Rom. 2: 12-16. It ~.l. ; see also on 3:9), The same understanding here would result in the
is simply that the record of the transgressions has been erased - another ungainly image o f God stripping off (like a s~t of clothes) .the rulers. and
way of saying " he fo rga ve us all OUf transgressions" (cf. Martin, Colossians authorities.43 Or should we assume that unconSCIOusly the subject has shifted
Q!ld Philemon 83-85; for a review of the range of interpretations see Aleui. to Christ himself, thus giving more weight to the middle form (so Lightfoot
Epitre aux C%l'siens 179-8 1). 183. 187; Moule, Colo,uians and Philemon 100-- 10 I ; Hanson, Studies 8- 1O)?
How this was done is vividly described withi n the imagery being used. Such a change of subject would be more easily explained if these clauses
He "took away, removed, destroyed" (BAGD s.v. a'ipro 4)40 the record of were quoting from some preformed hymnic material in praise of Christ (see
transgression. And he did so '; by nailing it to the cross," another way of the introduction to the com ments on 2:8- 15). The unresolved problems have
saying "by crucifying it " (BAGO s.v. 1tpoOT]A6ro). There may be a play o n encouraged commentators to regard the middle as active in force. meaning
the practice o f allaching a crucified man's indictment to his cross to indicate "disarm, despoil" (BOF §3 16, 1; BAGD s.v. 2; M . Lattke, EDNT I A09: NIV,
to onlookers what hi s crime was (cL Mark 15:26; Oibelius, Kolosser, REB : see, e.g" discussion in Abbott 258-61: Percy, Probleme 95-97: Bruce,
Epheser, Philemon 31). But that would hardly be described a .. ;; removing" Colossians, P/lilemon, and Ephesians 107 n. 82; Gnilka, Kolosserbrief 141-
the indictment. The thought is rather of the indictment itself being destroyed 42; Sappington 209-12).44 But this meaning is not attested for some time
by means of crucifixion, as though it was the indictment which was itself yet, and , more significantly, the early Greek commentators seem to have
nai led to the cross in execution. 4J The play, then, is rather wi th the thought followed the more obvious sense of the middle (taking Christ as the subject;
of Christ as himself the condemnatory bond and his death as its destruction. cf. also Gospel o/ Truth 20:30-31: " having stri pped himself of the perishable
The metaphor is convoluted, but presumably reflects again the idea of rags"), with the interpretation "despoil" not clearly understood prior to
Christ's death as a sin offering and thus of Christ as embodying the sins of Severianus Gabalensis in the late fourth or early fifth century (PGL S.V.).43
the offerer and destroyi ng them in his death. 42 Once "gain we should j ust We should therefore probably stick with the most natural meaning ("stripped
note that it is not the law which is thought of as thus destroyed, but rather off "), despite its awkwardness (see particularly Ligh tfoot 187-89).
its particular condemnation (XElp6ypaq>ov) of transgressions, absorbed in the The image then has to be understood as an extension of the cosmic
sacri fi cial death of the Christ (cf. Rom. 8:3). vision of the earlier hymn (I : 15-20) and a fu rther variation on the " body"
2:15 arrexOooCtj.u:vo<; t ix.<; apxoo:; xa\ to.<; t..';ooo(oo; €OE1WCttlOEV tv metaphor. The spiritual powers spoken of there (see o n I: 16) could be likened
ttapPll0te;:c, 6pUXfJ.f,koooo; autoU!; tv aUHj). The fifth and final metap hor to to a kind of garment draped over the cosmos, lying upon it and dominating
describe the significance of the cross is a complete reversal of the imagery it (cf. Philo, De fuga el invenrione 108- 10 - the cosmos as garment of the
of the cross in the precedi ng verse. From the idea of the cross a .. a symbol Word; De vita Mosis 2.1 17-35 - the diffe rent features of the high priest's
of destruction, the thought is transfomled into the image of public triumph.
43. It is most natural 10 take' ·the rulers 3nd authori ties" a.~ the object of the verb. given the
flexibility of the imagery (d. 3;9· 10; Gal. 3:27). A repetition of the idea of ··strippinS off the body
40. tx roil )1(00'1.>. "from the midst." simply strengthens the verb ("removed out of the way, of flesh" (2: II) is Sli ll less appropriate in the immediate context, including the suggestion of an
completely") 300 was a familiar idiom (examples in Lohse, C%niuru and Phil~"uJn I!O nn. 121. allusion to Colossian talk of " 'Slripping off the flesh' in mystical visionary experiences" (Yates,
122)_ Colossians 52). The altempt totie the metaphor to the image of the triumph (" the triumphmor di\"es~s
41. Cf. Gospel o/ Trulh 20:24-25: "he put 011 that book; he was nailed \0 a tm:." Gospel of himself of hi s banle dress"). with the metaphor reduced to the sense "preparing himself" (Carr.
TrIO/li 20:24-34, as Bruce, Colonians, Phi/I'!mon, and EpheJ'i"ru liOn. 92 points out, see ms to be Angels 61 ). simply add<; to the awkwardness of the text (cf. Aktti. /;prlre aux C%ssie".. 181-83).
an early Valcntinian interpret at ion of this section of Colo:;sians (see abo Yates. "Gnosis'· 61-62). 44. Lohmeyer 119, however, suggests thac the imagery is rather of public officials being
42_ cr. Blanchette: Ballll$tra, ww 15S-63; R. P. Manin. Cufossians and Phi/mum 85·86: degraded by being stripped of !heir digni ty.
Schwei7,er. C%nia"s 149: for !he thoology see my "Paul's Understanding of the Death of l esus 45. Wedderburn , Theology45, also appropriately asks: "how likely is illhat the author would
as Sacrifice," in Socrificl'! mill HMl'!mplion: Durham Essays in TheoioKY. 00. S. W. Sykes (Cam' introdllCe a pair of seeming new coinages:' namely rutb<OV(J\~ and c'vto<OOOf.lO:L, "but in different
bridge: Cambridge Univer>ity, 1991) 35·56. senses?"
168 COLOSS IANS 2: 15 169

robe representing the elements, O'totXe1(X).46 But the cosmos could also Carr, Angels 61-63, and Yates, Colossians 49-50 (more fully "Colos-
likened to the body of Wisdom-Chri st. so thai the cross could be likened 'ans 2:15"), argue that there is no thought of triumph over the rulers and
lum to a stripping off of that garment from Christ's body in order to discard S~thorities or of the rulers and authorities as hostile and evil. But the 2 Cor.
it. The image is certainly grotesque, but so was the image of the cross as a ;:14 parallel does not help much, since the thought there is probably of the
kind of circumcision, a discarding of the body of flesh (2: 11),47 Perhaps we apostles as pri so~ers of ~ tri~mphan~ Chr~st , their sufferings ~~h ~c h feature
should not press the delail 48 and si mply allow the powerful imagery of old so promi nently In 2 Connthlans) bemg likened to the humiliation of the
and wasted garments being discarded 10 work its effect. For the Colossians defeated foe (cf., e.g .. 4: 17- 18; 6:4- 10).51 More decisive is the contemporary
at any rate the point would be clear: the spiritual powers. including the usage which indicates that the object of 9plUJ.1~Uro would most naturally
elememal forces (2 :8), should be counted as of no greater value and signif_ refer to those over whom the triumph was celebrated.52 The flow of the
icance than a bunch of o ld rags. discussion has been: (1 ) talk of " deliverance from the authority of darkness"
The second verb, Oe lwan~ro, is another rarc word. It CQuid simply (1:13; Sappington 213, 221-22), (2) the implication of a state of cosmic
have the sense " publicize" (d. panicularly Ui.hnemann 13 1-32; Carr, Angels warfare which the cross brought to reconciliation (I :20), (3) the implication
63): bUi in its only other New Testament usage (Matt. 1:19) it clearly has that the crtolx£1a are a force opposed to Christ (2:8), from which believers
the sense "expose to public shame, make an example of. disgrace." The need to escape (2: 10), and (4) the sustained impression in the immediate
practice would be like that envisaged in a Cyprian law, to which Dio Chry- comext of a fatally disadvantaged, condemned status from which the cross
sostom 64.3 refers, according to which an adulteress's hair was cut off and. has provided deliverance (2: 11 - 15). Given this, it would be surprising if the
she was treated as a prostitute by the community (so BAGD s.v.), Vettiul authors' intention were simply 10 describe Christ's triumph here without any
Valens 43 .25-26 also used the cognate noun in association wi th "scandal" thought of what had been triumphed over or what, by implication, the
(1tEP Ij}()Tlo(oo; x.a\ OEI)1.1CltlOIlOo.; aVCloeXOVtClt). Associated. as the term is Colossian believers had been delivered from. Oddly enough. WaH 118 thinks
here. with the idea of "stripping off" and " triumph. " it is hard to avoid a that certain Christian powers and authorities, perhaps in Colossae itself,
pejorative note.49 The addition of tv napP'lo(c;:c.. "openly, in public. " simply might be in view.
reinforces the note of public shame. though the phrase could also mean The final t.v a:6tC!) (the fifteenth " in him" in the leuer and the fifth
" boldly. " since 2:9) raises another puzzle (see n. 4), but it probably is simply Paul's
9pICllJ.~ is the best known of the three verbs. though it occurs attempt to retain the focus on what has been done " in Chri st" on the cross.
elsewhere in biblical Greek on ly in 2 Cor. 2: 14. It means to ';celebrate a With such a kaleidoscope of metaphors in 2: 11 - 15 it is hardly surprising that
triumph." or more specifically " lead in triumph. " as a victorious general they trip over each other and leave an impression of some confusion. Thi s
leading his army with his defeated enemies in his train (LSJ and BAGD s. v.; applies also to the tension between this image and the earlier talk of Christ's
cf. the imagery in Eph . 4 :8).~ In a manner anticipating the Fourth Gospel's death as the means of "reconciling all things" (1 :20), where the primary
theology of glory, the cross and the ascension are merged into a si ngle thought undergirding thought is that God is and in the end will be seen to be "aU in
of triumph . "The cross on which Christ died is compared to the chariot in aU" ( I Cor, 15:28).
which the victor rode in triumph" (Scon 49). It is clear, however, that Paul and Timothy wanted to end the sequence
of metaphors on a note of triumph and to build up to this climax as a way
46. For the idea of God 's cosmic glf1"Oel1l in later Jewish mysticism see Scho1em 58-64. or preparing the ground for the practical advice to follow. The force of the
41. Here. 100, it is IQ\IlCCCSSlIry to think of a G~ti c or protO-GOO§tio; $OIlCCe for this imagery sequence of images of what happened on the cross is powerful : a spiritual
(righlly Ernst, Philip~r. Philenwn. Kolosstr. Ephtstr 2(lj). The evidence of Gospel t:( Truth circumcision achieved and body of fl esh stripped off, a burial with Christ
20:24-34 points !he: Olher way (see n. 4] abovc); see also E. H. PageJi!., Tht Gnostic Paul (Philadel-
phia: Fortress. 1915) 139.
and resurrection with Christ, a being made alive with Christ from a state of
48. Bandsua, ...... w ]64-66. ancmpts to dc monstmte Ii connection of thought between VII. 14
IIIld ]5 by identifying the body of flesh put ofT here with the IE1p6waQov wiped out in 2:14. 51. See discussion particularly in S. J. Hafcmarm. Sufftring QIId rltt Spiri/; An Engerical
49. BUI the use of It~'w.(m"ov in Num. 25:4 lIard]y provides evidence for A. T. Sn.dy of 2 COT. 2:1 4-3:3 (WUNT 2. 19; 1Ubingc:n: Mohr. 1986) 18-39: Breytenbach (see n. 50
Hanson's thesis lhat " behind Col. 2: 14-151ies the LXX of Nu. 25: ]-5" (Sludit$ 4). Meaning: The Rhctorical Strategy behind the Imagc 'Lcd
above) ; P. B. Duff, " Metaphor. MOlif. and
50. Secpartku]arly L Williamson. "'Lcd in Triumph." 111/22 ( 1968) 317-22; C . Breytcnbach. ill Triumph' i n 2 Corinlhians 2: 14," CBQ
53 (199 1) 79-92.
" Pa ul' s Proclamlllion and God's 'ThriaJTlbo8c' (NOles on 2 Corinthians 2: ]4-]6b):' N t ot 24 ( ]990) 52. As best i1!USlnlted by Slnlbo ] : Knioap 8p~lkVoor; tOY ;».6taWplya ~
257_7 1 (hffl: 260-6S). 'There is lill]e to be said for the .... gge§tion. IlS in G. Daut:r.enmg. EDNT 1lU;[6mv xal. yuyo:uc6c; . .. ; and Plutarch.
Compt.nuw Tlttsti tl Romulj 4.4 .3: «M!lIpOOlltCrr:W
2. ] 55-56. thai it mean s simply " make known, expo:se." 1IO).qJ.~ ~\ ~'" >CO iW cpt.... ,o ~\ t8plf4i~ xa.\ 1hqJ.6vor;.
170 COLOSS IANS 17 1

death. and a wiping out of the record of transgression and destruction Beware the Claims That There Are More Important Practices
record. But the final one is boldest of all : a stripping off of the rulers and Experiences (2:16·19)
authori ties as discarded rags, putting them to public shame and triu,
over them in him . Thi s is a piece of theological audacity of the same 16 Therefo re do not let anyone pass judgmenr on you over food and drink or
as dCUIcro- lsaiah 's proclamation of the God of a small . devastated in the marreroffestival, new moon, or sabbaths. 17 These things are a slw.dow
the one and only God. of what was to come, but the reality beLongs to the Christ'! 18 Lei no one
To treat the cross as a moment of triumph was about as huge a disqualify you, taking pleasure in humility and the worship of the ange/s,2
of nonnal values as cou ld be imagined, since crucifixi on was jOs' which things] he had seen on entering,2 made arrogant without cause by his
as the most shameful of demhs (M. Hengel. CrucifIXion fLood on: mind offlesh, 19 and not holding to the head, from whom" the whole body.
1 977J~. B~I in this letter it is simply of a piece with the theological supported and held together by joints and ligaments, grows with the growth
of seemg In a man, Jesus the Christ, the sum and embodiment of the of God.
wisdom by which the world was created and is sustai ned ( I :15-20). The
can on ly be to recognize that for Paul, a~ for the fi rst Chri stians 2:16 ).1 1'\ oilv"tl~ U)l(l(; XPlV£tro tv PPWo£l Xo.\ ev 11:60£1 1\ tv lJ.£pn £optil~ 1\
the cross and resurrection of Christ itself constiwted such a turning V£o}.lnvioo; 1\ oo.P~trov . Having built up to such an impressive climax
down of aJl that had previously determined or been thought to detennine life regarding (he significance of Christ's death, Paul and TImothy proceed to
that only such imagery could suffice to express its significance. The un~ draw out the immediate corollary (oilv). Clearly what is envisaged is a
powers and invisible forces that dominated and determined so much of life situation where the Colossian believers were being (or might be) criticized
need no longer be feared. A greater power and force was at work, whicb for their conduct in respect of dietary rules and festival days. Equally clearly
could rule and detennine their lives more effectively _ in a word "Christ." the line of reply is that a proper understanding of the significance of Christ's
Triumph indeed! death would render such criticism unnecessary, irrelevant. or wrong. By
implication those who made such criticism were themselves failing to grasp
the significance of the cross.
Can we be more specific? Tv; could be unspecific. as in 2:8. But with
the present imperative here and the following more detailed indications of
the issues over which the "someone" was likely to level criticism (2: 16. 18),
the readers were probably being told "you know who." That is 10 say, reports
to Paul from Colossae had given a clear enough idea of where the (likely)
trouble was coming from. Here again the details which follow point with
greatest consistency to an essentially Jewish teaching. s
It is presumably not a matter of coincidence thai the first issue men-

I. Moir mllkes the unnecessary and implausible suggeslion thai v. 17b should be attoched !O
Y. 18: '" But lei no one depriveldefrnud you of ... the body of Chris1. '·
2. Gnilka. KoIosurbriQ" 144 (accidentall y?) orru1.5 the firsl phrase ("' the worship of angels "J
and Masson 130 the second ("which things he had seen on entaing"; cf. MOIlle. Cow.UUI1U and
Pltikmon 1(6). which rather l, keS Cooze1mann 'S opening comment- ··this 5CCIi0ll cannol be
tnlnslated" ( 146) - 100 literally!
3. The more weak ly attested reading adds "not'" ("· thin gs 1101 secn"), probably indicative of
SOmc confusion on the pan of scribes as to whether "things seen" was itsel f a claim that ought 10
be disputed (Metzger 623). On further emendalions and attemptS 10 make sense of tl'fla2Uwoi see
Moule. CoiomOlU and PItil~ 105-6; Bruce, CoIoJSiQIIs, Pllikmon, and EpMSUlIIS 120 n. 130.
4. The Greek has masculine here nlther than reminine (which would be in agreemen t with
"'he-'''j, presumably because the identific ation of the head as Chrisl is taken for granted.
5. As recognited by Dupont 49()..9 L. "Eve rythin g hen [ch. 21 calls to mind Judaism"
(Lyonnet. '" AdVU5aries" 148; see also his "S-int Paul et Ie JOOSlicisme·').
172 COLOSSIANS 2: 16 173

l ion~ over which the ;'someone" might take the addressees to task is the live in mutual respect where there were differenl attilUdes to and practice
question of food and drink. The use of the verb xplVro ("criticise" in NJB regarding clean and unclean food .
"condemn" in NRSV) also indicates clearl y enough thaI what would ~ I! is true that restrictions o n diet were not confined to Jews in the
under attack was failure to observe certain dietary rules. 801h features 81 ancient world (see, e.g., Wolter 14 1-42). But it is c lear from the very use
o nce suggest the importance which traditional Judai sm laid on the food laws of the words "c1ean" and " unclean" (Rom. 14:20. 14) tha t it was Jewish
and the fi erceness with which traditional Jews insi sted on maintenance of sensibi lities which were primarily in view in Romans 14, since the laner
their practice as a vi tal test case of Jewish identity and faithfulness to God', tentl in particular (xo\V6~) is distinc tively Jewis h (see furthe r my Romans
covenant with Israel. AI the root of this concern were the important rule. 799-801, 818- 19). And though drink was not such an issue as c lean versus
regarding clean and unclean food in Lev. 11:1·23 and Deul. 14:3-2 1. These unclean food . it was quite natural for scrupulo us Jews (panicularly in the
had been given a much heightened significance by the Maccabcan cri sis, diaspora) to exercise restraint there as well because of the possibility of
:-vhere resistance o n (his issue was one of the rnake-or-break points. "Many being given wine which had been offered in libation to the gods and which
In Israel stood finn and were resolved in their hearts nOI to eal unclean food.
was therefore also contaminated by idol atry (Dan . 1:3-16 : 10:3; Add . Est.
They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food o r to profane the holy 14: 17 ; Joseph and Asetwth 8:5 ; Mishnah 'Abodah Zarah 2:3; 5:2).7 In
covenant; and they did die" (I Macc. I :62-63 ). Thereafter observance of the Testament of Reuben I: 10 and Testomem of Judah 15:4 avoidance of wine
food laws was counted a fundamental mark of loyally to nation and religion, and meat is an expression of repentance . Of the devout Christian Jew
as we may see in popular Jewish tales of the time. in which the heroes or James, the brother of Jesus. it was said that " he drank no wine or stro ng
heroines are prese nted as models of piety acknowledged by God precisely drink, nor did he eal meat " (Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 2.23.5).
in tenns of their refusal to cat the food of Gentiles (Dan . 1:3- 16 : 10:3; Tob. Hence Paul's e xpressed willingness neither to eal meat nor to drink wine
1:10- 12; Jdt. 12:2. 19; Add . Est. 14 : 17; Joseph and Asenarh 7: 1; 8:5). Such if it would help the scrupulo us Jewi sh bro ther 10 maintain his integrity
Jewi sh scruples were well known in the ancient world (see, e.g., GlAJJ (Rom. 14:2 1).
§§6 3, 196, 25 8,28 1,301). Further factors affecting Jewish eating were the In the present case, the signifi cant factor is the c loseness of the parallel
koshe r laws requiri ng thaI the blood be properly drained from an animal fit to Romans 14. There not only ~pOxnC; and 7t60"lC; are used as one of the
for food (e.g., Lev. 7:26-27; Deul. 12:16,23-24)6 and the fear prominent variant ways of posing the issue of Chri sl"ian Je wi sh sensiti vities over food
among diaspora Jews o f e ating meat from animals sacrificed in Gentile and drink (14: 17, the on ly o the r Pauline use of the latter teon). There, too,
temples, which was contaminated by idolatry (see, e.,s .. Schiirer 2 .8 1-83). as here. the question of (feast) days is bound up with that of food and drink
In sho n , observance of various restric tions on food was essential to Jewish (Rom. 14:5-6). More noteworthy still is the use of the verb xpivw. as in
identity and to a Jewish way of life in the di aspora. Rom. 14:3-4. where it clearly indicates the te ndency of the more scrupulous
The importance of such concerns is equally clear in the history of the ~o pass judgment on others who do not live according to their scruples (cf.
earliest Christian missio n. According to AclS it was precisely at this point liS use e lsewhere, e.g., Ro m. 2: 1. 3, 12; I Cor. 5 :3: 2 TIles. 2:12). Those
that the bamer had to be broken down in the case of Cornelius. Peter 's who ins ist on a mo re restricted lifestyle for themselves do so because they
response to the vision in Joppa speaks for itself: " No, Lord! for I have never think it an essential e xpress ion of their belief and identity as believers.
eaten anything that is commo n or unclean" (Acts 10: 14). And the s ubsequent They observe because they think God requires such observance. That
point of criticism leveled against him is that he had eaten with uncircumcised conviction will inevitably result in them criticizing o r even conde mning
men (Acts II :3). So also in Galatian s, even after and despite the agreement those who claim the same fundamenlal faith loyalty but who prac tice a less
that Gentile believers need nO{ be c ircumc ised (Gal . 2: 1-1O), the issue of restricted lifestyle. If God requires observance, then he disapproves of
what one could eat with whom resulted in a much more damaging confron- nonobservance, and those who ignore God's requirements are to be con-
tation and split (Gal. 2: 11 - 14). In I Corinthians the issue of food offered to demned and avoided, despite their claim to the same fundamental fa ith.
idols betrays the same essentially Jewish fear of idolatry ( I Corinthians 8-10, ~uch was the logic of the devout Jewis h traditionalist. including the tradi-
where ppCixnC; appears at 8:4). And in Romans Paul felt it necessary to devote 1J0na iist Chri stian Jew. It is this attitude which is most probably in view
the major part of his parenesis to the proble m of how local churches could here, judged 10 be more dange ro us than the equivalent attitude criliqued in

6.1OM:phus./tntiqllin·u 14.261 indicale5 thaI pro"bion fordittary observances wou ld require 7. As Wink notes. the Essc nes regarded drink as ITI()f"e susceplible to contamination than food
~al pennission. (NQlllillS 80 n. 9 1).
174 COLOSSIANS 2:16 175

Romans 14 bUI requi ring less forceful response than in Galatians, Gentiles (Philo, De vita Mosis 2:2 1; Josephus, Contra Apiollem 2:282; Ju-
sumably because the circumstances in each case were different. venal , Sotirae 14:96). but a critical or judgmental attitude on the subject, as
In short. the fi rst item of the particularities envisaged here points fairly here. is much more likely to express a traditional Jewish attitude, defensive
fi nn ly to an essentially Je wish faction in Colossae who were deeply critiell of identity and covenant distinctiveness.
of Gentile Christian failu re to obselVe the Jewish food laws. From this we But if sabbath is so clearly a distinctively Jewish festival, then the
may make a further deduction: that they should be thus critical is equally probability is that the " festival " and "new moon" also refer to the Jewish
indicati ve of the fact thm the Gen tile believers in Colossae must have re.- versions of these celebrations. The point is put beyond dispute when we note
garded themselves as heirs of Israel's inheritance. in effect part of an CJ:- that the three terms together. '·sabbaths. new moons, and feasts." was in fact
panding Judaism (see also on 1:2 and 12. and the introduclion to the com. a regular Jewish way of speaking of the main fe stivals of Jewish religion
ments on I :9· 14). Only if such claims were being made. on ly if Gentiles ( I Chron . 23; 31; 2 Chron. 2:3; 31:3; Neh . 10:33: lsa. 1:13- 14 ; I Macc.
were assuming identity markers which Jews had always understood as dis. 10:34; Ezek. 45 : 17, and Hos. 2: I I in reverse order. as here; see, e.g., Sap-
lincli vely theirs, would Jews. who otherwise lived (for the most pan) ia pington 163; A1etti, Epirre aux Colossiens 193 n. 112). In view of later
mutual respect with their Genti le fellow citizens, have found it necessary to discussion we should also note that the Essenes claimed to have received
be so critical and condemnatory. The criticism here is that of the traditionalist special revelation regarding " the holy sabbaths and glorious feasts" and also
devout Jew against would-be Fellow religionists whose claims he could not the new moon (CD 3: 14- 15: IQS 9;26-10:8). We must conclude. therefore,
really or fu lly accept. that all the elements in this verse bear a characteri stically and distinctively
The already strong implication that the Colossian "philosophy" was Jewish color. that those who cherished them so critically must have been the
basically Jewish in character is furth er strengthened by the other items over (or some) Jews of Colossae, and that their criticism arose from Jewish
which the Colossian believers might be criticized or condemned and which suspicion of Gentiles making what they would regard as unacceptable claims
'we may likewi se deduce were central to the Colossian " philosophy" : " in to the distinctive Jewish heritage withoUi taking on all that was most dis-
the matter of [see SAGD S.v. J.1€ P~ Ic] a festival or new moon or sabbath." tinctive of that heritage. s
The first of these three terms. " festival " (topn\). is unspecific : such feasts. That circumcision is not also mentioned is puzzling, but the issue
festivals, and holidays were common to all societies (LSJ s.v.). and though clearly lay in the background. and the silence here may be sufficiently
elsewhere in the New Testament the "feast" in question is one of the explained if the Jewish posture overall was more apologetic than evangelistic
tmditional Jewish feasts (Passover or Tabernacles), tt-e term itself OCCUR (see on 2; I I). In contrast to those who think the absence of any mention of
only here in the Pauline corpus. The second term (VEoJ.1TJvia) is equally the law is a decisive impediment to identifying the Colossian philosophy too
imprecise: the new moon was reckoned to have a religious significance and closely with a traditional Judaism (so Lohse. ColossiallS and Philemon
celebrated accordingly in most ancient societies, though here again that 11 5· 16 n. II ; Martin, Colossians and Philemon 91), it should be noted that
included the Jewish cult (e.g .• Num. 10:10: 2 Kgs. 4:23 ; Ps. 8 1:3; Isa, 1:13; circumcision, food laws, and sabbath were recognized by both Jew and
Ezek. 46;3, 6; see furth er G, Delling, TDNT 4 :639-41). Gentile as the most distincti ve features of the Jewish way of life based on
However. the issue is put beyond doubt by the third element, the the law (cf., e.g., Justin, Dialogue 8:4 ; see also p. 33 n. 39 above).9 And
··sabbath." The sabbath was another Jewi sh lradition which marked. out Jews those who think the Link with " the elemental forces" likewise diminishes
as distinctive from Gentiles, another essential mark of Jewish identity and the case for seeing traditional Jewi sh concerns herelo need simply recall the
covenant belonging (Exod. 31: 16- 17: Deut. 5: 15: Isa. 56:6). Even before the same link in Gal. 4:9-10.
Maccabcan crisis. " violating the sabbath " was ranked. wi th "eating unclean
food " as one of the two chief marks of covenant di sloyalty (Josephus. 8. The more th is concern for observance of days is linked 10 a lj feslyle dC"lenn ined by
Antiquities II :346). And its increasing importance for Judaism is indicated reference 10 the "elemental forces " (2:8, 20; so Lohse, CoJos~ians and Philemon 11 ~16). the closer
by the developing sabbath law. as auested both within other Jewish groups the paral lel wilh Gat. 4:9-10.
of the time (Jubilees 2: 17-33; 50:6- 13; CD 10: 14-11 : 18) and by the Gospels 9. cr. Houlden 193: " The se are Jews teaching Stnel obedjence 10 the jewish law (vv. 16.
21,23)"; Caird 197: "'Thi 5 ascclicism is the produCI o f an exagaeTllted and puritanical form of
(Mark 2:23- 3: 5 pars.). Characteristically Jewish also is the practice of re- Judaism "' : Wright. Colossians ond PhilettWII 26: ' "The regulaliOIl5 referred w in 2:16 li t the k wish
ferring to the "sabbath" in the plural."t« oa~lkX""ca, as here (Lightfoot 192; law and noth ing else"; Schenk. " Kolosserbrier ' 33~ I.
SAGD s.v. oa~~tov Ibj3). It is true that the most unusual practice of 10. Lohmeyer 122 n. 2; O .mzelmann 146; Emsl, Ph iUpper. Ph ilemon, Kolosser, Ephe.rer208;
maintaining one day in seven as a day of rest proved. attractive to sympathetic Gni lka, Kolcsserbritj 146.
176 COLOSSIANS 2:17- 18 177

2:17 a tonv oxux tfuv IJell.6vtrov, to lit. Ow,...Cl tOU XPUltou. The second modifi cation is christological: the reality. the subs tance
response to such Jewish criticism is brief and to t~e ~int: Such .''','', thu s foreshadowed, is " of Christ, belongs to the Chri st. " The Christ (the
are bul "a shadow of things to come, but the reality 1!\ with Chnst. defi nite article should be given due weight here) is the fulfi llment of
language is ultimately Platonic, but here is probably dra~n r~m the . Jewish eschatological hope. Here the closest parallel is in Paul , in Rom
lenistic Judaism which we find most clearly expressed Tn Philo. Basic 5:14: Adam as the " type of the one to come (ru 1[O~ "tou ~v...AoVtO~),"
Plato's view of reaJity was the distinction between the namely, of Ch rist. in contrast to Pl aton ic~ Ph i l onic thought, it is the Christ
the earthly copy. the fonner being the true reality. the laner, even in in all the concrete bloodi ness of the cross who is the true reality. The
physical objectivity. only a "shadow" of the. idea(l) or archet~: amalgam thus echoes the chrislo logy of the earl ier hymn ( I: 1 5~20) : Christ
makes a fair use of the lenn "shadow" (0')(U1) In a number of vanauons embodies the heaven ly reality whi ch lies beyond and sustains the percep~
this Pl atonic distinction (e.g .. LeglUlI aflegoriae 3. 100-103; De tible cosmos. But, as in Hebrews, it also affirms that Christ is the substance
27; De Abrahamo 11 9-20), Most significant is the fact that he selS to the shadow of Jewish food laws and feasts: he is the reality which casts
against OWf.tCl as the name over against thai which it represents its shadow backward in ti me ; they are the provisional, inferior copies
(De decalogo 82), or as copy to archetype (ixpIEWn:Ol;, De . "". whose inadequacy is now ev ident in the light of the real. The claim is
A brahami 12), or again : " the letter is to the oracle as the shadow to ... again bold and, it should be noted, only makes sense as a response to and
substance (cnnnc; tiVar; ooavt:t 0Wflcnoov) and the higher values therein . . rebuttal of essentially Jewis h claims. Only as a claim that Christ is the
whal really and truly exist" (De confusione fillgua rum 190. LCL fulfillm ent of Jewish eschatological expectation, which provides a Jewish
see also S. Schul z. TDNT 7.396; Lohse. Colossians and Philemon answer to a Jewish altern ative, does the rebuttal make sense (cf. Foerster
Gnilka, Ko/psserbriej 147 ). 74).
The contrds t intended here is evidently along similar li nes,1l but We should also note the funher variation on the aWj..La motif, which is
twO important modifications. The flISt is signaled by t Wv 1l£U.6\1tro\! ... ~ such a prominent feature of this leuer. Here it relates most closely to the
things to come" (for this use of the participle ~ BA?O s.v· IliUm 2). ThiI earlier play on the body of the cosmos ( I: 18a; 2: 10 - " head of every rule
no doubt is a reOeclion of Jewish eschatology. In which the longed for new and authority"): as Christ embodies the ultimate reality, the divine wisdom
age can be described as 6 a trov ~tUW\l, "the age to come" (as in lsa. 9:6 and rationality which holds the cosmos together, so he is the reality renected
LXX v.l. : Matt. 12:32; Eph. I :2 1). By the addition of this phrase, an esseftoo imperfectl y in the rules and fe stivals by which Jewish social life and time
tially static Platonic dualism (between heaven and earth) has been ~ are structured. Presumably there is also a play on oWj..La = church ( I: 18a,
fonned into an expression of Jewish eschatological hope. The stron~ 24; 2: 19), though NJB 's " the reality is the body of Christ" is too free. The
parallel is in Hebrews, where precisely the same amalgam of PI~tUiWC implicalion, then, as in 1: 18a, is that the church 's role now is to embody the
cosmology and Jewish eschatology has been carried through most effectJVely. same reality (cf. , e.g .. those cited by Pokorny 145 n. 12; but note also the
So most noticeably in Heb. 10: I: " For the law has a shadow of the good reservations of Best, Body 12 1: Bruce. CoLossians, Philemon, aruJ Ephesians
things to come instead of the (true) form of these things (muttv t6>v ~ 116-17; O' Brien, Colossians, Philemon 141).
A.6VtWV aya8<iw, oux aut"",v n,v etx6va trov n:PCXWatrov)" (see also 2:5; 2:18 ~11&1.~ u~~ xata~pa~tro 80.(0\1 tv ta1tElvO$pooUVn 'Kat
65: 9:1 1: 12: 14)." 6pl]0"X£1~ tOOV a-.,yV.rov, & t6pax£V tlllkx'tEUwv, elxn C\lOOlo\l!l£vOl; un:o wi)
~ tf]~ aapxO~ amoil. The cautionary warning of 2: 16 is repeated in
II. Francis. "Argumml" 205-6. suggests Ihat the v.'lKlI.e of v. 11 is " a qootation frodI . . Similar tenns: " Let no one .... " The verb used this time is again drawn
opponems..·· with muo. used positivel y. Bu t the contu t clearly indicates that the IWO halves of Ibt from the arena (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24~27 and Phil . 3: 14): 13P~ has the primary
\'crse an: SCI in contraSt. COIlI4 meaning of " award a prize (a j}pa~t ov) " in a contest (see 3: 15): hence
12. Schweizer, Co/ossitJns 156-57. has no doubl thaI ·· Pau~. in. speaking?! the law: • 7
x.ata~pa~6w (only here in biblical Greek and not much attested elsewhere)
never usc the relath'cly innocuou s image of the shadow of thai whIch 15 to comc. But the lIT1 5
~ean s " decide against" as an umpire, "depri ve of the prize" (BAGO), or
of the law in Gal. 3:23-24 and 4 : 1·7 are not SO negalivc as is usually assumed to be tbe case (.-
my Ga/alians) and in fact qui le complementary 10 the image here. Sec funhc:r my " Was PIIII alP~ ~ I mpl y ·'disqualify." The force of the warning at fi rst seems stronger than
the Law'1The Law in Galatians and Romans: A Tc.~t-CaseofTexl inConlext:' in Texuand Con l~ In 2: 16 (Abbott 265-66), but s ince xpivw there can have the force of "con-
Biblical TexIS in their Tu/lUll and Silu~/iona/ Con/au. L Hartman FS. cd T. Fombc:-:Z demn." the warnings are probably of si milar weight.
o H Ilholm (Oslo: Scandinl\·jan Univcrslly Prc:s5, 1995) 455-75. See also Lohmeycr 122·23. ~
Why and of what might they be deprived? The imagery, as usual with
52: ~st, Phi/ippe" Philemon, Kolosser. Ephcse r 209: Bruce. C%uia",. Phile-. and EphesiaN
Such metaphors, suggeslS both a prize aimed at and the effort required to
178 COLQSSlANS 2:18 179

achieve it. Furthennore, il paints the picture of some individual in Colossae 5.3.7. This suggests a fair degree of ascelic practice as pari of the Colossian
j udging that others were achieving the goal (of religio~s practice, 2: 16) more "phiIOSOphy".(see also 2?I" 23; cf. I lim. 4:3):16
successfully than the Colossian believers, I] What lins goal and successful " Worshi p of angels IS more problemauc. bUI a wholly nalural ren·
practice were must be given in the words which follow. But, here ~e cote:" dering would take it as worship given to ang.:ls (objective genitive).J7 It is
a nest of problems which have never ceased to test exegcllcal skill . It II tnle thai there is no close parallel to the phrase. but popular religion in Ihe
probably wisest to take the phrases step by step,I4 . Greco-Roman world did reckon with ayydol. " messengers" both from
The potential judgmentaJ auiwde is attributed to one "who dehg~ts in heaven and from the underworld CW. Grundmann, TDNT 1.75). And there
tOOt£w04\lpocni Vll and 9plloxEia twv t:J.yytJ..wv." To be noted at once IS Ibe is some evidence for worship of angels in western Asia Minor. first adduced
fac l that the verb eeAroV indicates something desired o r wanted by the subject by W. Ramsay (BAGD s.v. SpI'jO'xda: Sheppard: Trebi1co 132-33; DeMaris
of the verb. In the absence of a following personal pronoun (UJ.lW; or i>lltv) 62), though i1 may equally suggest pagan bolTowing of only half-underslOod
together with an appropriate verb (infinitive or subjunctive), aEAwv cannot: Jewish conceptS (NDlEC 5.72-73, 136: Sbeppard 86-87; Trebilco 137:
signify something imposed on the Colossian Christians or requi~d of them: Milchell 2.45-46: see also pp. 29ff. above).lB A plausible piclUre can thus
the transl ation " insisting on self-abasement" (RSVINRSV: Hams 121 : wan emerge, one whicb envisages the Colossian " philosophy" as a syncretistic
122) is therefore misleading .• s In fact, as Lightfoot 193 and others ha-..e religious mix involving ascetic practices and worship of angels. Linked with
noted. eD.rov tv is a Hebraism, reflecting the familiar lulpe~ ~ ("delight the lalk of rulers and authorities ( I: 16: 2: 15), these angels could be seen
in" ), as also in LXX (l Sam. 18:22: 2 Sam. 15:26; I Kgs. 10:9: 2 Chron. within the " phi losophy " as ei ther benevolent. and therefore 10 be worshiped
9:8; Pss. I II : I: 146: 10; Testament of Asher 1:6: see also Bruce, C%ssiatU. to altain their blessing, or malevolem, and therefore to be appeased, J9
Philemon, muJ Ephesian,f 11 8 n. 115). In other words, what is about to be How does this fil with the slrOngly Jewish characler which bas been
described is what the other sets as his own goal or reli shes as the means of evident in earlier allusions to the Colossian " philosopby"? ;' Humi]jIY" as
achieving that goal. not a goal or means of achieving it which he sets before fasting is cenainly Jewish enough. But worship of angels is something one
or wishes to impose on the Colossian Christians (pace Sappington 162). The would nOI expect in any of the form s of Judaism known to us for mi s period.
attitude is simply that "my way is superior to yours; it achieves goals whicb It is true that various second-century sources describe (or accuse) Jews of
you fall short or." It is, we might say, an essentially sectarian attitude w~icb worshiping angels: Kerygma Petri (in Clemenl of AJexandria, Stromata
is so confident of its rightness and success that any other systems, especially 6.5.41 .2); AfXJlogy of Aristides 14:4; and Celsus, in Origen 's Contra Celsum
those most closely related to it, must be judged at bl'st inadequate if nOl I:26 and 5:6 (also Grigen himself in Comm. ill Joann. 13: 17); bUI none of these
dangerously defective. can be described as a fri endly witness. 2o Pseudo-Philo 13.6 also speaks of "an
What then does this critic delight in? Ta1OClvoQpo<rUVll usually means
" humility." but most follow the observation that the LXX uses the repeattd 16. So. e .g .. Percy. Problt me 147-49: W. Grundmann, TDNT8.22; Schweiur. "Elemente"
phrase " to humble (ta1OClV6ro) one's soul" in the sense of " to mortify oneself"" 161"()2; Cain! 198: Lincoln, P(1l"(ldi~ 11 1: otherwise H. Giesen, EDNT 3.334. Lohse. Coirusi(Jns
(Lev. 16:29,3 1; 23:27, 29, 32) or more specifically "to fast" (Ps. 35: 13: lsa. and Plrilemt)fl 118 lakes tWl£lVo+PooUVll as "readiness 10 serve" : " It describes the eagerness and
58:3,5: Jdt. 4:9; see also Ps. 69: 10: Psalms of Solmoon 3:8): trut£lV09~Y11 docility with which a peDOD fulfills the cultic ordinances." DeMaris brushes aside the evidence
dn cilN and $imply asserts that «:W:tVQfpOO'livIj here is a di§linctiYely Clui5tian l'inue (63, 71. 74-75).
is clearly used in this latter sense in Hermas. Visions 3.10.6 and Similiw 17. So. most recently. Wolter 146-47 - " without doubt the ang<'l s are in view here as the
object of the worshi p": DeMaris 59-62.
IS. On whether the recently published inscriplion from nonheast of Ankara (late second or
13. Alelti . tpitrr au.:c CoIOJJims 195, 00(C5the irony of lhose who pri~81 hwni liJ)' (toX£tYO- third century 0:). in which the dedication is "10 the g~at God Most High (8£4I ' Y¥fO'U!J)" and "his
tpomlvlj) acting as judg<'s (1VeT others 10 disqualify them . holy Ingels," indicatc:5 Jewish syncretism or pagan boitowing!lee Sheppard 94-99: Trebiko 137:
14. The disputc:5 regarding this ver.;e ate indicated in the range ofU'llnsiations: e.g .. ~­ and Mitchell 2.46. Lighlfoot 65--66 already observed the interesti ng coincidence that the canons of
"You ~ not to be di squalified by the decision of ~ople woo go in for self-mortificauo.n .... the fOllnh-cenrury Counc il of 1. !IOdicea warn against Christians "judaizing," observing the sabbath
angel.worship and access to some visionary world": NJS - "00 not be cheated."!' ~our ~ze '! and other festivals. and going off to "name ange ls" (~~ 6\1Oj1~v) in o ther gatherings (29,
anyone woo chooses 10 yovel lO angels and worship them. pinning every hope on VIS~ rec~tved • )'.37. 38).
NIV _ "00 DOl let anyone who delights in raise humility and the worship of ang<'ls dilCjuahfy yCJII 19. For the role of ang<'ls in later GnoSlic sySlems see A. Sub6. " Die Engdvontellungcn
for the prize. Sucb a ~r5OII goes into great del.llil about whal he has seen.... . . ¥Om Alten Testament bis zur GrlO$is:' in A./res TesUlmem _ FrlJltjudenflun _ Gl1osis. ed. K.-W.
15. Oibelius. lC%Sler. £pheu~ Ph ilemon 34-35 preferred an old mll'l[)nty VIew that ~ TrOger (Glitc:rsloh: Glltc:rsloher. (980) 143-52.
should be treal811L'l an a.dvemial modification of the pre«ding verb ("let no one willfully di ~uahty 20. But M. Simon. Vee""~ /sroei (Oxford: O d ord University. 1986) 34'-47. is not alone in
you"). but his advocacy has not wOO it Illy more suppon. teeing in lhese lepottS evidence of Jewish Iyncretism.
180 COLOSSIANS 2: 18 181

offering for your walchers (= guardian angels?)"; I Enoch 48:5 and 62:6, 9 in heaven. II is implicit already in such Psalms as 29:1-2 and 148:1-2. But
envisage worship given to the Son orMan; and later Tosefta Hullin 2: 18 alludes it is most strikingly attested in Testamenl of Job 48- 50. where the three
to angel worship within popular Judai sm (GLA)) 2.295 ).2 1 daughters of Job speak in the language of angels. praising and worshiping
More characteristic of Judaism. however, was warning against worship God· Similarly. in Apocalypse of Abraham 17 Abraham is taught a hymn of
of the host of heaven (Deut. 4: 19; 17:3; Jer. 8:2; 19: 13: Zeph. I:5), incl uding praise by the ange l who joins with him in reciting it. The same motif is a
the repealed warnings in flfsl-ccnlury Judaism against the worship of angels feature of A.fcension of Isaiah 7: 13-9:33 (particularly 8: 17 and 9:28, 33).
(Apocalypse of Zephaniah 6:15; Apocalypse of Abraham 17:2: Philo, Dr And in Apocalypse of Zephaniah 8:3-4 the seer sees the angels praying and
fuga el ;nvenriofle 212: De somnis 1.232, 238; similarly Rev. 19:10 and 22:9; prays with them. knowing their language (see further Sappington 90-94;
Ascemioll of IS(liah 7:21);22 in Adam and E\'e 13- 15 angels are commanded Mach 239-40; Morray-Jones, " Paradise Revisited " 182; cf. Attridge).
by Michael to worship Adam as the image of God; in pseudo-Philo 34:2 Most interesting of all is the evidence thai such worship was coveted
sacrifice to angels is linked with magic and condemned ; and when in the at Qumran. ~ According to IQSa 2:8-9 the rules for the congregation of the
early second century Elisha ben Abuyah hailed a second divine power ill last days would have to be strict, "for the Angel s of Holiness are (with] thei r
heaven, he was completely disowned as apostate by his fellow rabbis (for [congregation). " But the implication of other references is that these rules
details see, e.g., Rowland, Open Heaven 33 1·39). Were the Colossian were already in operation, indicating Ihat the Qumran com munity saw itself
"philosophy " Jewish in character, on this hypothesis, we would have to as a priestly community whose holiness was defined by the presence of the
envisage a very syncretistic form of Judaism, unlike anything else we know angels (cf. panicularly 4QC()b and IQM 7:4-6 with Lev. 21 :17-21). So
of. This, however, hardly squares well with the evidence of aJewish character e~pli c itly in. IQH 3:2 1-~2: "Thou hast cleansed a perverse spirit of great
for the " philosophy " which relished not simply odd bits and pieces ab- Sill . , • that It may enter mto community with the congregation of the Sons
stracted from Judaism but the identity markers which marked out elhnic of Heaven" (similarly 1QH II : 10-13). More to the immediate point. in I QSb
Jews anxious to maintain their ancestral traditions (circumcision. food laws. 4:25-26 one of the blessings of the priest is: " May you be as an Angel of
and sabbath in particular; see on 2:11 and 2:16).23 the Presence in the Abode of HoHness to the glory of the God of [hosts]. . , .
However, an alternative hypothesis has been put forward , particularly May you attend upon the service in the Temple of the Kingdom and decree
by F. O. Francis, which has proved innuential and has been helpfully destiny in company with the Angels of the Presence." Most interesting of
elaborated by others (see p. 29 n. 27 above). This starts from the neglected all are the recently published complete (but often fragmentary) texts of the
observation that 8pTJGxdcx nov &:yy€Awv can also be taken as a subjective Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice (4Q40040S), which contain songs of praise
genitive (as in 4 Mace. 5:7; Josephus, Antiquities 12.253). denoting worship to be offered to God by angels in the heaven ly temple during the first thirteen
offered by angels to God. Such worship is implicit already in the great visions sabbaths of lhe year and in which it is clear enough (since the Songs pre-
oflsa. 6:2-3; Dan. 7: 10; and I EIIQ(.'h 14: 18-23 and explicit in I Enoch 36:4, sumably belonged to the community's liturgy) that the community itself (or
39-40: 61: 10-12; 2 Enoch 20-2 1: Apocalypse of Abraham 17-18: Testament at least its priests) joined with the angels in reciting these songs of heaven ly
of Levi 3:3-8, not to mention the Christian evidence of Luke 2: 14; Phil. worship.26
2:10-11 ; Revelation 4-5 ; and Ascension of Isaiah 7- 9,24 But more to the It is q~le possible, therefore. to en visage a Jewish (or Christian Jewish)
point here is the evidence of a desire particularly within apocalyptic and syn.agogue In Colossae which was influenced by such ideas and which
mystical circles offust -century Judaism to join in with the worship of angels delighted in worship sabbath by sabbath as a participation in the worship
of lh~ angels III heaven (cf. I Cor. 11 :10). In this case the "humility"
21. See also Mach 296-300. Lyonnet. " Adversaries" 151-5] is .... illing w speak 0( veneratiOli
assocJat~ wit~ this w~rship cou ld very well denote the spiritual discipline
of IIlI: names of the ange ls I I Qumran. ::d m~rtJfica[l~n (~artlcular~y, but nOl .only. fasti~gi see above) regarded as
22. See al~ Williams. " Cull o f Angels." particull\l'ly 4 20-32; Percy. Prob/e",e 149-5j; sentlal to mruntalll the hohness reqUIred to partiCipate with the holy ones
Hurtado 82+85. and the holy angels (see also I: 12). The association of fasting and heavenly
23. Particularly unsati!ifaclOry is DeMaris's hypolhcsi5 of. kind of Jewish M iddle PlalOlliSnl
whic h ad vocated demon w~h i p (particularly 104-8). whoM: poin ts of conlaCt willi !he lUI of
Colossi an s are hardl y obv ious alld al be !;! tangenti al alld seem 10 result from a tendenlious readina G 25. For !he sake of coovenience the following quotations of the DSS are all laken fro m
of till: lext. • Vermes. The !Had Sea Scrolls in English (LondonINew YOIt ~nqui n. 11987).
24. H. Biete nhard, Die hi"",,/iJdlf! We/I inr Uf'C'hriJI#nrum lind SplIljlllkntum (WUNT 2; 26. See C. Newsom. Sor!&J Qft~ Sabbalh Sacrifice: A. Cri/ical Edition (Allan l.l: Scholars,
llIbin ge n: Mohr, 19S I) 123-42: see furthct Mach 209-2l!. 19&5), particularly 59-72: Vellia 22 1.
182 CO LOSSIA NS 2: 18 183

revelation is stressed in such passages as Dan. 10:2-3 ; Apocalypse this single reference (E).Il3ateUOlV) is a very limited base on which to build
Abraham 9:7-10; 12:1 · 2; Testamem of Isaac 4 : 1-6; 5:4 ; 4 Ezra 5: 13; : uch a theory)] Nor, once again, does it make sense of the strong ethnic
and 2 Baruch 5:7 ; and Philo notes thaI Moses heard the strains of heavenly ~haracter of the Jewish features of the Colossian "philosophy" so far ana-
worship as a resull of having fasted fo r forty days and nights (.De Sornn;, lyzed (2: II, 16) .
1.35-37; De vita Mosis 2.67-69).27 BUI it would be equally JXlsslble 10 take In fac t, howe ver, it is dubio us whether E).Il3ateuro was, strictly speaking.
both nouns as referring 10 the angels - " delighting in the humility and a technical tenn, at least fo r entry imo a mystery cult. Its basic meaning is
worship of the angels" - as may be implic it in the very fact that sucb simply "enter," and the word was regularly used in legal papyri of entering
glorious beings also faU do wn in worship before 28
Desp.ite Lohse. into possession of an inheritance)2 So in the two Old Testament (LXX)
Co/u$.5ians and Philemon 119 n. 36; Manm, C% .wans and Ph/lemon 94; occurrence s (Josh. 19:49, 51), where the thought is of entering in to posses-
Schweizer, Colossians 159; al so "Christ" 452; W. Radl, EDNT2. 155; and sion of the promi sed land. So, too, in the Klaros inscriptions the basic thought
DeMaris 77-79, reference to 2:23 by no means rules oul this line of inter. seems to be of entering into the sanctuary to consult the o racle (Francis,
pretation (see on 2:23). And (pace Bockmuehl , Revelation 180) it is not so " Background " 199-204). And the Fathers seem unaware that the term could
much interest in angelic worship which Paul finds " reprehensible" a.. the have such sensitive ovenones (PGL s.v.). Moreover, when we set the usage
attitude of dismissive superiority which it evidently engendered among ita here against the background already sketched o ut above, we cannot but be
practitio ners ()111&l~ u).la~ :x.atal3pa!k&:tOl ... ). . aware Ihat the revelations described usually involved a visionary or mystical
The furtherc1au se, " which things29 he had seen on entenng (& t6pwC:[\I ascent to (enlI)' into) orthrough the heavens (e.g. , J Enoch 14 :8-13; 2 Enoch
E).Il3a'teUmv)," if anything strengthens the above hypothesis. To be sure, the 3; 3 Baruch 2:2; 3: 1-2; Testament of Levi 2:5-7 ; Rev. 4:1-2). It was when
most influential interpretation for most of {he present century has been that Elisha ben Abuyah " enlered a garden" (= paradise = heaven) that he com-
put forward by Dibelius, most fully in 1917 .30 He argued o n the basis of mitted the heresy of reco gnizing a second divine power in heaven.33 Indeed,
inscriptions found at the site of the sanctuary of Apollo at Klaros (a few 41l3ateUf:tv itself is attested in the sense of "enter heaven. "34 Most interesting
miles north west of Ephesus) that E).Il3an:uwv here is drawn from the language of all are the clear indication in the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice that
of the mysteries, a technical term for initiation into a mystery cult, so that heaven was seen as a temple where the angelic worship took place and the
the phrase refers to visions seen preparatory to initiation; hence the transl.. prominence given to doorways of the temple (probably on the basis of
tion of Lohse, Colossians and Philemon 114: " visions of them [angels) Ezekiel 40--4 1; see Newsom 39-59) and to the the me of entering in 4Q405
during the mystery rites" - a catchword quoted from the Colossian cult 14-15i:3-4 (" their wonderful praise is for the God of gods .. . and they sing
(Lohse 120). But since neither " the elemental forces " (see on 2:8) nor me . . . the vestibules by whic h they enler. the spirits of the most holy inner
talk of burial with Christ (see on 2: 12) need evo ke thought of mystery cults. Temple") and 4Q405 23i:8-IO (,'When the gods of knowledge enter by the
doors of glory, and when the holy angels de pan towards their realm, the
entrance doors and the gates of exil proclaim the glory of the King, blessing
27. Francis. " Humility" 167-7 1. See also Kchl. "Emiedrigung" 368-74. 383·88; 8 andsUt.
" Errorists" 335.38; I. Groenwald. Apocalyplic and Merkabah MySlicism (Leiden: 8 rill. 1980) 99- and prai sing all the spirits of God when they depart and enler by the gates").
When we add the echo of Josh. 19:49, 51 in Col. 1:12, the inference
102: Liocoln. Parodi!t! til; Sappington 65-66. 15(}-5l Thc clear implications of the evi dencc are
determinedl y resisted by DeMaris 75·77. Against 8 atldstra's thesis that the Colossians' error
thinking thcy could participate in angelic liturg ies withou t the assistance of a mtdi ~or. EvanL
w. 31. Di beli lls. KolaJJer. Epheser. Philemoo 75. draws attention tn the language of "cntering"
"Colos:sian Mystics" 199. rightly points out that there is no hint th at the need of a mediator was .. (ptrvaderem) in Apuleius. Melamorpha5CJ 11.2J. but also has to point out that "never is there a
issue in the writings cited (see also Argall 7- 14). . suggestion that the initiate suffers tbe same fate as Osiris" (77). The Nag Hammadi refereoces cited
28. Str. B 3.629. referring to Abolh de -Rabbi Nathan 12: sec also ROWl and . " ApocalypUt: by Pokorny 147 lad any "entering" motif.
Visions" 75: Sappington 160: Sumney 376-77. . ' I 32. Francis.. " 8 ackgroutld" 198·99.l.css likely is the sense suggested by H. Prc:is kcr. TDl'ff
29. This is the most natural way of taking the relative r.c (e.g .. Schwetzcr. Colo.l.'lw/1S 160-6 ). 2.535·36. and Lyonnet. " Col. 2: HI" 432-33. and strongly advocated by DeMaris 64-66: the verb
. . ~ .. (ROW1 _
CoL 3:6 prov ides anO!her e ~am ple of a neu ter pl ural relauve followwg ,enunlrlC nouns Illeans "investigate clo!i.Cly." sioce the thought in the two parallels cited (2 Mace. 2:30: l'Il
"Apocalyptic Visioo s" 77). . . and p/anta/ione SO) is primarily that of "enler (deeply) into (a subje~1):'
30. Dibel ius. " Isis In it iati on": the Colossian mystery eult. " the earlJesl certamly datable. 33. Rowland . Open Heavcn ch. 12. See !un ber A. F. Segal. " Hea venly Ascent in Hellenistic
hi slOrically rc<."OgniI.ab le cas.e of an early and germinal Chri~tian.gnostic fonnati oo" ~91): b~f1.Y JUdaism. Early Christianity and Their Enviroruncnt:' ANRW 2.23.2 (1980) 1333·94; Sappingtoo
his Ka/osser. Epheser, Philemon 35·36. The li nk was ftrst poslled by W. Ramsay early In 1912. lUI 73-75.
accou nt o f the ma tter is in his The Te(Jching of Paul in TeTm$ of (he Pruelll Day (London: Hoo;Idet. 34. Francis. " Background" 197: Evans. "Colossian Mystics" 198 n. 45; see also Carr.
1913) 286-305. "Notes" 498.99: Li llColn. Paradise 112-13: Sappington 155·58.
184 COLOSSIANS 2:18· 19 185

becomes strong that there was a prominent strand among the Colossian Je... the logos of human rationali ty, itself pan of the mediu m of the divine Logos
who thought of heaven either (or both) as a promised land into which they (hat interpenetnl.ted the cosmos (see, e.g., J. Behm. TDNT4.954-56). In such
should aspire even now to enter, or particularly as the temple of God inlO a scheme " mind" and " fl esh" were quite antithetical since it was impossi ble
which they could now entcr by means of appropriate spiritual disciplines is for the divine substance to mingle with the material. To speak of "the mind
order to share the worship of the angels in heaven. It was lheir delight thus of fles h" was therefore in effect to deny that lh is Colossian worshiper with
to " enter" sabbath by sabbath (note the preseO! tense). This would also make angels could ever have " lifted off" fro m earth: even his mind was " fl esh,"
the best sense of the other part of the phrase (& E6pax£v), which Dibetilll fast bound to earth. The phrase, in facl. is unique in Paul 36 and suggests once
treated 100 lightly. For it is precisely the characteristic of the apocalyptic agai n (hat in this letter the more strongly moral note which is such a strong
mystical Jewish traditions documented above to give prominence to "the feature of " fl esh" in the earlier Pauline leiters has been largely displaced by
things seen " (e.g.. I Enoch 14; Testament of Abraham 10; Revelation 4-3); a predomi nantly " fl esh = physical substance" sense (see further on 1:22).
we should recall that Paul himself enjoyed such a visionary or mystical Most, however, assume that " fl esh" here retains its more typical Pauline
journey (2 Cor. 12:2-4). This no doubt was why the Colossi an Jews so sense: thus RSV " his sensuous mind," N RSVINJB " a hwnan way of think-
" delighted in " these practices, so rich were the audiovisual experiences ing," NEBIREB " worldly minds. "
which they had enjoyed at least once in the past (the force of the perfect 2:19 ou xpat ci)v n)v x.Eq,w. ~ v, £; 00 1tCtV t o crlillJ,a Sll~l tWV hq>cOv
tense is nO( wholly clear).l1 And if they were persuasive word-spinners 011 XOt O'\lvOEoJ,lwv bn xopT1YO~vov xal <rulll3ljla.~6v£vov a~l tn V a~ '1crtv
the subject (2:4, 8), it is no wonder Ihat Paul and Timothy were concerned tOU 6E:ou. In some ways the most sulking notice of the Colossian " philos-
that they might well captivate the Colossian believers by the descriptions ophy " is the likely implication here that the one jusl described as " delighting
they gave and fearful lest Epapbras's convens fee l that they were indeed ill in" the angel worship, etc., was himself a Christian (disputed by Foerster
danger of being disq uali fied and depriVed of the prize of their new faith. 72).37 lltis is probably the force of ou xpatoov, since it most naturally has
The description of Colossian teaching in 2: 18 has thus far been neutral. the sense of " not holdi ng fast. " that is, fa iling to remain closely united to
But now the writers show what they think of it. Such claims to enter inlO (so BAGD s.v. xpattw 2el3; cf. the only other Pau line use, 2 Thes. 2: 15;
the very presence of God and hymn him in the company of angels was an also Mark 7:3: Heb. 4: 14: Rev. 2: 13- 15; SO most translations). The alternati ve
idle self-deceit. Anyone who made such a claim was " puffed up with conceit, sense of " take hold, grasp" usua lly has an implication of some force which
putting on airs" (BAGD s.v. q,ool6w), a term used by Pau l several times 10 would be inappropriate here. Does thi s imply, then, that the main proponent
rebuke Corinthian arrogance ( I Cor. 4:6, 18- 19; 5:2: 8: I; 13:4). Such conceit of the Colossian philosophy was a Christian Jew who had attempted to blend
was " without cause" and " to no avail " (Elxn can have both senses; cf. Rom.
his faith in Christ with more mystical practices? Or does it imply rather the
13:4 and Gal. 3:4). A contrast with the delighted in " humility " earlier in the assumption that a Jew by virtue of his own heritage was part of that corporate
verse is obviously intended. body of which the Christ (Messiah) was head and that to look to other means
The most stinging part of the rebuke, however, would have been the to enter the presence of God was to fail to hold to Christ? Either is possible,
final phrase, " by his mind of fle sh." For in a Hellenistic COnlext. as Philo though on the fonner we mighl have ex pected a more forceful denunciation.
again well illustrates, it was precisely the "mind" which would have been At least, however, we must allow for the possibility (on the basis of this
the med ium by means of which the person could enter the higher realms. verse) that there was some overlap in membershi p or attendance in syn-
agogue and church in Colossae (see funher pp. 29f. above).
35. The ..... eakeSt point of thi s thesis is the difficulty of conelatingit with the implication ill The image of Christ (clearly implicit; see n. 4) as the " head " is one more
2:8. 10. ]5.20 lhIitme Colossian pIU]osophy included beliefin heavenly powen tbat .....ere !hreatcni... Variation of the body-head metaphor. For whereas the earlier references em-
or hOlitile . This might pro~ide the best evidence that the beliefs and JDCtiees of the COIo55W1
phasized the idea of the " head" in the sense of source andlor authority (see on
syllilgogue($) ..... ere syncretistic in some measure (sec PII. 27ff. above). But the issue may equally be
resolved by the observation of Morray-Jones. "Paradise Revisited" 182·83. that heavenly ascenD
I: 18a), here the thought is more of the body's complete dependence on the head
could be fri&htcoing and dangerous ; he speaks of ". genre of horror SlOrie.s" in Jewish mysdcll
tradition ..... hich warn against ill·advised anempu to hazard such ascents as "terrifyingly dangeroul 36. Rom. 8:6 awars to be close ( ~O opOVT'f1Q ti'K oapxO.;). but is in fact an abbreviation
and forbidden." We may note in panicwar the famous warning tale of the four sages (190-208). of the fuller de.5Crlption in 8:5: 01 ... TO n)i; oap-xOt;, tpovoi)(nv ("lOOse who set their m ind~ on
\hr, things of the flesh").
This line of reflection gives added significance to Paul's re ference 10 the ~ (I(ltaV6 (2 Cor.
12:7) in his own r«Ol1eclion of such uperiences (Morray·Jones 281·83). So also in the DSS we 37. The subject of xpat6)y muSt be: the same as the SUbject of eawv. Too many assume that
read of "the . ngel of darkness." the " angel of perdilion.·· and not least the frightening.ppeanncd ~ .5ubject of 2 :19 has shifted 10 the Christian in danget of being seduced by ~ Coooian
in vi~ion of Melkiresha (I QS 3: 17·21; 4Q286; 4QAIIl11Illl). philosophy." So, e.g,. Lohse. CQlonillru IJM Philemon 12 1.
186 COLOSSIANS 2: 19 187

for its nourishment and growth. Although that idea could fo llow from the II is noticeable that the response to the spi rituality outlined in 2: 18 is
background already sketched out (I: 18a), the head as the controlling OfgaQ ot to emphasize again Christ's headship over the rulers and authori ties, as
ultimately determining all that happens in the body (so E. Schweizer, TDNI' : e might have expected. The worshiping angels as such were evidently not
7.1076), the description of how this control operates here assumes a physio- a threatening faclOr like the elemental forces, and the two categories should
logical understanding of the body (Lightfoot 198-99; Gnilka. Koiosserbnq' not be simply lumped together; at most we need to assume a recognition on
153; Arnold, " Head " 350-61). i\fjl1'l (only here and in Eph. 4: 16 in the New the part of the Colossian mystics (hat venturing into the heavens took them
Testament) is a medical technical term meani ng "joint, ligamem," and as ita into regions where other heavenly agencies exercised authority (see also
companion here. cruv&:OI1~ (literally " a fastening , that which binds together") n. 35 above). The danger at this point, however. was not so much a d iminish-
is almost synonymous, denoting "sinews, ligaments" (see particularly Light- ing of Christ as a weakening of the link between Christ and his church. "As
foot 196-98). Through these the whole body is supported, supplied with what he fought in 2:9· 15 fo r the wholeness of redemption. so now he fights for
it needs (rnt;(oprrytco; cf. 2 Cor. 9: 10 and Gal. 3:5) and thus held together the wholeness of the community (rriiv TIl offil.ia), the one body of Christ"
(cru~~l~~ro, used already in 2:2); the whole image is taken furth er in Eph. (Uihnemann 143 ). In other words, the concern here is more ecclesiological
4:15-16. The emphasis seems to be more on the interconnectedness of the than christological: failure to hold 10 C hrist is destructive of the body's un ity
members of the body than on the joints and ligaments as actually channels of and growth. At the same time, the play o n the head-body theme probably
nurture. At the same time the end nOle is one of growth, which presumably implies the same movement of tho ught as in 1: 18a (cf. Dibelius, Kolosser,
includes both growth in size (numbers becoming C hristian) and character .(d. £pheser, Philemon 36; Ernst, Philipper; Philemon, Kolosser, £pheser 211- 12 ;
1:6, 10). The growth is " the growth of God" ("from G<XI " in RSVINRSV. Gnilka, Kolonerbrief 152; Roloff 227-29): the church is the place where
"given by God" in NJB) because the head is the same Wisdom·Christ as ill Christ's headship over the cosmos should be most clearly evident, precisely
I: 15-20. "It should not be overlooked that God is and has the last word in this because it is the church which is most fu lly " plugged into" (connected with)
section " (Gni lka., Kolosserbrief 144). the source of supply and growth .
The emphasis on the interconnectedness and thus interdependence of
the members of the body is characteristically Pauli ne (particu larly I Cor.
12: 14-26). 3lI And tho ugh the identification of lhe head (obviously Christ) as
the most important part of the body is a step beyond the earlier Pauline
theology of the c hurch as body (see on 1:18a). there is no other sense of
hierarchy within the body apart from that of the head. 39 The supply and
bonding are provided to all and through all by the head. All are equa1ly
dependent on each other for that support; by implication, if any joints or
ligaments fail , other members of the body will suffer. And the growth is
corporate: there is no thought of some members growing independently or
out of step with the rest. The sense of mutual interdependence remai ns strong.
II was presumably the failure of the individual who had let go of C hrist thai
he had gone in for fligh ts of individual mystical experience. glorying in the
company of angels, without regard lO the other mem bers of the body. And
his advocacy of such experiences, criticizing and disqualifying those who
saw their spirituality in more humdrum terms, m ust have been the very
opposite of supportive of the Chri stian community,

38. cr. Perc y, LLib 54. For the development in thought from the eartier letters see my .. ''The
Body of Chris!' in Paul." in Worship, TMOlogy and Millistry ill fh~ Earl)" Church, R. P. Martin FS,
ed. M. J. Wilkins and T. Paige (Jsms 81; Sheffield: Sheffield Academk Press. 1992) 146-62.
39. II is hardly the inteDlion of the metaphor \() identify the "joints and ligaments'" as
particular ministries or offices: see Sch weizer, Colo.J$imu 164-65: Wolter ISO.
188 COLOSS IA NS 2:20 189

Life in Christ Does Not Depend on Observance of J ewish Y this would not have been the fi rst time thaI Gentile believers in Christ
Practices (2:20-23) ;~~ the clearer Jines of defi nition provided by tradilional Judaism more
anractive (Gal. 4:9- 10), and it would not be the last (see pp. 29ff. above).
20 If I you died with Christ from the elemental forces of the world, why The appeal is the same as in 2: 12. to that decisive event of baptism in
you submit /0 regulations as though living in the world? 2 1 Do not which they identified themselves with Christ in his death, taking his death
do not taste, do not handle. 22 things which are all meam f or destruction as marking the end of their identification with the world to which Christ
being consumed. in accordance with human commandments and leaching!. died (cf. Gal. 6: ]4), and yielding themselves to the power of thai death to
23 Such things have a reputation of wisdom in selfchosen worship aIf4 old ways and to the power of his life from the dead (see on 2:12· 13). The
hllmility2 - severe treatment of the body. not of value to anyone in reganl clause here is a direct echo of Rom. 6:8 (ei flt rutdI6.voJ.LEv crl:lv XPlat"4l). a
to the gratification of the flesh. particularly Pauline adaptation of the more common summary of the Chris·
tian gospel, "Christ died for ... " (Rom. 5:6. 8; 14:15 ; I Cor. 8:11; 15:3;
The reversion in a single compact sentence to talk of " dying with Chrisl" 2 Cor. 5: 15; I Thes. 5: 10; I Pel. 3: 18; see also Rom. 8:34 ; 14:9; Gal. 2:2 1:
(cf. 2:12). "elemental forces" (cr. 2:8), regu lations (cr. 2: 14), food taboot; I Th05. 4,14).
(cf. 2: 16), human traditions (cf. 2:8), and "self-c hosen worship and humility" The obvious construction to follow the intransiti ve verb to indicate
(cf. 2:18) indicates both thai the teaching in view in Colossae was an i~ what one has "died" to is the dati ve (as in the otherwise closely parallel
grated " package" and that th is sentence fun ctions as a conclusion to tt. context, Rom. 6:2 and 10; also Gal. 2:19). Here, however, 0.11:6 plus the
section 2:6-23 . The double emphasis of 2: 12 (" buried with him .. . and genitive has been chosen (cf. Rom. 9:3; BDF §211). The intention is clearly
raised with him ") is now divided into two sections (2:20 - " If you died to indicate that "from " which death has sct free (GNS; NEBIREB try to
with Christ . .. "; 3: 1 - " Uyou were raised with Christ ... "); this suggesu capture the implication by lJ'aIlslating "pass beyond reach of" ); the a1tema-
that the intention is to round oIT the critique of the Colossian "philosophy" tive €v c!> construction of Rom. 7:6 is more awkward. Here the reference is
by emphasizing what the Colossians have been rescued from (2:20-23) to " the elemental forces of the world" (see on 2:8; though Wink. Naming
before going on to spell out what is in vol ved in the new way of life (3: 1-4:6). 76-77, surprisingly argues that in 2:20 otOlxEla has a quite different sense).
In both cases it is clear that what was in mind in such metaphors was not The implication is also clear. These are the powers and authorities which
simply some mystical experience of initiation but the transition and trans- were so dec isively routed On the cross (2: 15). They therefore have no more
fonnation from one way of life to another quite different in character (see authority over those "in Christ. "
further on 3: I). The conclusion is equally clear: there is no need to live any longer " in
2:20 El 0.1t£8aVEt£ aUv Xpu:tt<j"> 0.11:0 ""[&v otOtXElcOV ""[au x6o"j.lou, ,( cilIi the world." That can hardly mean that the Colossian Christians should try
~(i)VtE~ EV x6aJJq> &1'fI.lan~o9£; For the frrst ti me a note of appeal seems to live as though physically abstracted or cui off from the world (cf. I Cor.
to enter (as distinct from a warning or instruction). And for the first time the 5:10); believers are as much still "in the world" in thai sense as they are
suggestion is made that (many/some? of) the Colossian Gentile believen still "in the flesh." II must mean that they are no longer to live under the
were finding, or beginning to find , the teaching of the Colossian JewS authority of " the elemental forces " which rule " the world," living Lives
attractive and were (in danger of) being drawn into their practices. Hooker determined by reference to these force s (cf. Lohmeyer 127; Lindemann ,
123, however, may be right in translating " Why submit?" mther than " Why Kolosserbrie! 50; Wolter 151), living as though the world itself was ulti·
do you submit?" so that the clause is still a warning against a possibility mately detennined by such factors, as though the values and conduct which
rather than an accusation in reference to already adopted practices. Either they stood for were what reruly counted in daily life) The death of Christ
spelled the end of all such systems; his death and resurrection provided the
I. A natural impulse IIJllOng later wime5Ses was to add a conjunctio n to smooth the lin k wilb key insight into the reality of the world. 4 Why look anywhere else for the
2: 19: " If IhU~f()rt yoo died .. . " basis of dail y living (cf. Phil. 3: 18·20)1
2. 1lle " and " inserted here by K A C 0 and others disrupts what would Olhcrwise be. ctoee
echo of the same combi nation (worshi p . nd humil ity) in 2: 111. It dlould probably be omitted.
thererore. with p"6' B and others, 50 thll the third item of the lisl ("severe ~atmcnl of tht; body'") 3. Hence R5VINRSV " $Iil1 belonged 10 the w(:l"ld"; NEBIRES " sUllliving the life of the
be<:omes nOl a separate ilem. bUI P further d~ription o f lhe firsl two: '"sel f-c hoscn won;hip and World."
humility [Illal is ], se vere treatment o f the body" [see o n 2:23 ). The addition of the '" and" no doobC 4. Cf. the whole thru-volume projecl by W. Wink. The Pl} ....efl (Minneapolis: Fortress , 19114.
WII5 an attempt 10 make better sense o f. diff'lCull tCJCI. 1986, 1992), of which NQJI1in8 is the Ii~t volume.
190 COLOSSIA NS 2:20-21 19 1

What "li ving in the world" amounts to in thi s case is given by the at the root of food taboos, so the next regulation is no surprise: ycio~al ,
final verb &:m.t(l't(~ro9E. II is the passive of 00w(l'[(~(I). "decree by ordi- .. taSte, partake of" food (BAGO ; as in Mati, 27:34: Luke 14:24: John 2:9;
nance, issue a decree (&'ryJ..Icr.)," and thus presumably denotes the response ActS 10:10; 20:11; 23: 14; on ly here in Paul), The third prohibition could
of those to whom the decrees have been issued. thai is. "submit to decrees again refer to food (see again SAGO S.v. a1tlW 2a), but again probably means
or regulations" (LSJ). " let yourself be regulated " ( BOP §314). There can .. touch" (with the hand. LSJ s, v. Ehyyavro I), so that " handle" becomes a
be no doubt that a reference back to the " regulations" (06'ntoo:nv) of 2: 14 way of distinguishing the two nearly synonymous words, Most translations,
is intended (the passive used of persons is attested only here, so we are however, prefer the sequence " handle, taste, touch, " following Lighlfoot
dealing with a special fannation), The decrees are thus those of "the rulers 201; but it is the sense " touch" which is appropriate for a1tto~aI in this
and authorities" (2: 15), that is, of " the elemental forces." They are what context (as the Leviticus references make clear), not the stronger sense " take
might be called "the laws of nature." Or to be more precise. they are rules hold of."
which order the cosmos and which need to be followed for life " in the These regulations could indicate the riooal practices of more than one
world." This at any rate would be the rationale of those who pressed such of the ancient religions and cults. But here again the echo of characteristically
regulations, of diaspora Jew as well as Gentile. What they meant for daily Jewish concerns is strong, and particularly purity concerns, though that is
life is indicated by the examples following. mi ssed by almost all commentators'? We have already noted the fundamental
2:21 ~" 6vn 1.11lOE "fE00n ~llot 9(m~ The regulations quoted (they imponance of observing the distinction between clean and unc lean food
could be put in quotation marks) are all to do with purity and food. It is within Jewish tradition (see on 2: 16); here we might simply underline the
striking that j ust these are chosen to illustrate the decrees/regulations by fact that a distinction between "clean" and "unclean" is essen tial ly a purity
which the Colossian " philosophy" thought it necessary to regulate this life, distinction. According to Jewish law one became impure by touching what
and not great moral rules such as those listed in 3:5 and 8. However. they was impure, particularly a corpse (Num. 19: 11 - 13), but also through physical
should not be denigrated as indicating a primitive attitude to the cosmos contact with (touching) a menstrualll, or someone with a discharge of blood
and its controlling forces. On the contrary, they are a reminder of the (Leviticus 15), or a leper (implied by the rules of Lev. 13:45-46). In short,
imponance attributed 10 riooal in all religions as a means of accessing and touching human impurity of whatever son made one impure (Lev. 5:3).8
maintaining harmony with the spi riooal forces behind perceptible real ity. Such concerns were widely shared by Jews of the late Second Temple period,
This is the Colossi an philosophy's vers ion of a "sacramental universe." as the discovery of many mikwaot (immersion pools for ritual purification)
On the other hand, the emphasi s on the via nega/iva (life lived by "Do in pre-70 Jerusalem and Judea clearly attests (Sanders, Jewish Law 21 4-27).
not"s) is probably indicative of a somewhat defensive and introvened group They lie behind such episodes as Mark 5:1-34 and Luke 10:30-32 in the
sel f-u nderstandi ng.5 Gospel s. Pharisees seem to have been still more concerned with purity, as
What precisely is in view in the three commands is not clear. "A1ITO~Cll. their very nickname (pharisees = "separated ones") indicates. a concern
" touch, take hold of," must denote a purity concem (Lohmeyer 128) ; behind focused most sharply on the meal table.9
it lies fear of defilement by physical contact with something forbidden. fear With the Essenes the concern was accentuated to an extreme degree,
of impurity being transferred by physical contact (as regu larly in Lev. 5:2-3; with srricl regulations in place to ensure and safeguard ;;the purity of the
7: 19,2 1; 11 :8. 24-28, etc.: also Isa. 52:11 , cited in 2 Cor. 6:17; Lohse. Many" ( 1QS 6-7).10 In view of the di scussion of 2: 18 above, it is panicularly
Colossians and Philemon 123 n. 77, cites Lucian, De Syria dea 54, evidenc- notable here that at Qumran we see precisely the same combination of purity
ing the same concern). It can also mean "touch food ," and so "eat " (BAGD COncerns and heavenl y worship as is implied for the Colossian " philosophy."
s. v. rutlW 2a), or " touch (a woman)." denoting sexual intercourse (Gen. 20:6; Since the Dead Sea sect saw itself as a priestly community (hence the
Prov. 6:29: I Cor. 7: I : cf. I Tim. 4:3).6 But here. without an object. the more accentuated concern for purity). anticipating the eschatological congregation
general sense is presumably intended . Even so, purity concerns are usualJy
7. Ems!. PhiIiPfHr, Pllil~mon, KoIoJUr, Eplluer 213 is IlI1 U(rption. Pok..-nj 1 ~3 does at
leas!: note Iluu. " the observance of food regulatiom Wl.'i not characteristic of lhe Gnostics."
5. Abbotl 273 noIeS: "It is a singular iIlusrration of tlie asceticism of a laler date, thaI some 8. For full detai ls see E. P. Sanders, J~;sh WW from Jesus I/J rM M,'shlWh (London: SCM.
Latin commenlal0!'5 (Ambrose, Hilary, Pelagius) regarded these prohibitiollll H the apostle', own:' (990) 137.39.
6. Th-e lallcr is favored by Gnilka. KoIo$u ~ritf I ~8: cr. Aklli, tpfrf'e 01« ColoSJi~M 2(12 9. This is !he consensus view. though chatlenged by Sanden; see my Pani'l8s " 1-42.
n. 136. SappinglOn 68-69 nOles !he possibili ty that suulllabstinence was regarded as a prcpanr.tion 10. Sec funlier M. Newton. The Concepr of Purity III Qamr(m ond i'l rh~ urrers of Puul
for receivill& hea.-enly revdltion. (Sr-rJ'S MS 53: CllI11bridge: Cammdge University, 19115). particularly 10-26.
192 COLOSSIANS 2:21-22 193

in the presence of the holy angels, and encouraged also a mystical entrance xcd lhOaoxaA(~ nov av9pro1twv. To counter this over-concern with purity
into the heavenly temple (see on 2:18), it is no surprise that purity was as of things, an effecti ve response would seem to be to point out the relative
imponant for entry into the one as for the other. As we see in IIQT 47: unimponance of the things themselves. The trouble is that in a sacramental
"The city which I will sanctify, causing my name and sanctuary to abide [in theology certai n material things do assume a central importance, preci sely
it], shall be holy and pure of all impurity with which they can become impure. because they have been found to afford that point of intersection with and
Whatever is in it shall be pure. Whatever enters it shall be pure." And the access to the spiritual. Such were the purity regulations for many or most
emphasis on holiness in the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice is likewise strong: JewS. The writers, in contrast, had found that the cross and resurrection were
"there is no unclean thing in their holy places " (4Q4oo Li.14 Newsom). the only effective point of intersection and access, so that anything which
Such emphasis on purity would, of course, be more prominent among facili tated that (such as bapti sm) was to be promoted, but whatever
those who lived in the "holy" land. But concern among diaspora Jews diminished the effectiveness of the cross and resurrection was to be
regarding corpse impurity is attested in Philo, De specia/ihus legibus 3.205-6, disowned.
and for regular purification in Sibylline Oracles 3.S92-93. Most striking here The response here could calion the precedent which Jesus himself was
is the explanation given by Arisleas 142 for the law of Moses: "So, to prevent remembered as having set. ' EaTlv d~ has the sense " be destined for" (cf.
our being perverted by comact with others or by mixing with bad influences, Acts 8:20; 2 Pet. 2: 12); (x1t6XPTJO'I~, another biblical hapax, is simply a
he hedged us in on all sides with purifications connected with meat and drink stronger fonn of xP1iO'I~ ("use"), to give the sense " using up, consumption";
and touch (Jt€pttq,pa9:V nYVEla~ xal Ola ppo:rt<iw xa\ 1to'tWv xa\ nqKi:lv) and and 41Bopa denotes dissolution and destruction of the material particularly
hearing and sight in terms of the law (VO~lx<i'>;)." The same combination of in decay and death (as in Rom. 8:21 and I Cor. 15:42. SO; see LSJ and
food and touch as here is notable. Also notable is the al most stereotyped SAGO). "All which th ings" therefore focuses the purity issue on food and
criticism in Jewish literature of other Jews for their hyIXJCrisy in claiming drink: they are " destined for destruction by being used up." that is, in
to be pure while acting impurely. Most striking here is !sa. 6S:S LXX: "They consumption . The echo is of Mark 7:19fMau. IS:17: unclean food should
say ' Keep away from me; do not come near me, for I am pure.' ,. To similar not be a matter of great concern because it goes into the stomach only to be
effect, the attack by one group (probably within Judea) against another thence expelled into the latrine (cf. I Cor. 6: 13).
faction of Second Temple Judaism in Testamem of Moses 7:9-10: "They, The echo becomes still stronger with the next phrase, which closely
with hand and mind. will touch impure things. yet their mouths wi ll speak parallel s the argument of Mark 7:7IMatt. IS :9, both quoting almost verbatim
enonnous things, and they will even say, ' 00 not touch me, lest you pollute from 1sa. 29: 13, God's rebuke of hi s people:
me in the position I occupy ... " .. where again the combination of " Do
not touch" with the criticism of high-sounding speech (as in Col. 2:4, 8, Isa. 29: 13 }.ICtTT'jv ot atfk>V'tai }.IE lhMaxovm;
l8d) is striking. See also Mishnah Makshirin 3:7-8, cited by Str-S 3.629. Mark 7:7IMau. 15:9 }.I&'tTJVlit atfJov'tai }.IE ~hM(J')(.Qv'tEC;
The likelihood, then, once again, is that the Colossian regulations in
view in 2:21 are those of Colossian Jews who are anxious to maintain the Isa. 29: 13 tvt~a'ta IZvepronwv xa\ al &r.crxaA{~
purity they regard as necessary both to maintain their status as God's people, Mark 7:7/Mau. IS:9 l)1&tcrxaA{~ £vttr.Aj.J.ata lxv6pO:lItwv
set apart by such purity rules from other nations, and for entry into the Col. 2:22 ta £vtlV.ila'ta xa\l)I&toxaA(~ tWV av9pw1twv
heavenly temple in their worship. The implication is not so much that these
Colossian Jews were trying to enforce such regulations on all the Christians, It is most unlikely that either echo is accidental; apart from anything else
simply that they were effective and forceful in explaining the theological tv'tet4a ("commandment ") occurs only in these three passages in the New
rationale of their own lifestyle and worship. The overlap between the two Testament and only in one other passage in the LXX as a translation of
groups was evidently such that several Gentile Christians were being enticed Hebrew (Job 23: 11- 12); outside the Pauline corpus o,ooaxaAia ("teaching")
by these explanations to copy or join with the Colossian Jews in their ritual appears in the New Testament only in Mark 7:7IMau. IS:9, and again rarely
purity rules with a view to sharing their access to heaven (cf. again pp. 29ff. in the LXX (from the Hebrew Sible on ly in Prov. 2: 17 and lsa. 29: 13); and
above). Paul and Timothy wrote in the hope of putting a stop to such an the definite article here strengthens the sense of an all usion to a well-known
erosion of distinctive Christian faith and identity (cr. particularly Rom. phrase (cf. Masson 137 n. 3). Almost certainly, then. Paul and Timothy here
14,17). were delibenllely alluding to the rebuke of Isaiah . This at once provides a
2:22 6: WtIV 1tav'ta Ell; ¢l90pav tfl a1tox'PflO£I, 'Xa'ta 'ta ev'ta4a'ta funher confinnation of the essentially Jewish character of the threat to the
194 COLOSSIANS 2:22-23 195

Colossian Christians: the allusion to a rebuke to Israel would only be effective use of the hymn to Wisdom-Christ (1:9, 15· 18,28; 2:3), namely that desire
if it came as a rebuke to those who understood lhemselves as the people of for wisdom and desire to practice wisdom was a prominent element in the
Israel. These regulations of which the Colossian (Christian?) Jews made so Colossian Jewish religious praxis in view (see on 1:9 and 2:3).
much were the very commandments and teachings which Isaiah had long The link back into the visionary piety of 2: 18 is clear in the next phrase.
ago warned against. The rules of 2:2 1 appear wise as a means of promoting E9eAo9pT] xed
More suiking still is the fact that the quotation of lsa. 29:13 in the t(l1tEIVoq,pomNll. The latter teon obviously refers back to the "humility"
Jesus undition comes once again in the context of the dispute between Jesus seen as integnllio either preparation for or participation in the angel worship
and the Pharisees about purity (Mark 7:1-23IMatt. 15:1-20), This second (see on 2: 18). And the fonner is obviously a special coinage for the occasion
echo of the same tradition again should be sufficienl to remove most doubts (it is not found anywhere else). As noted on 2: 18. some commentators think
(Lightfoot 202-3; pace Gnilka, Kolosserbrief 159) mal the writers here WeJe that the reference here rules out the possibility of taking 9pT]<J'xdCl trov
aware of thi s Jesus tradition (in its Greek form), including both its major Ir(yV..rov as subjective genitive. But an £Bf:Ao.. compound simply denotes an
thrust (regarding purity) and its detail, and that they deliberately echoed it action or status taken voluntarily or deliberately (see LSJ s.v. E9£).o-). The
in order to give their argument more bite with those who identified them- implied criticism here, then, like the preceding " reputation of wi sdom,"
selves religiously by their relation to Jesus (see also 2:8 - .. the tradition of which governs the phrase, is dressed in an acknowledgment of good intent;
human beings"). II was Jesus who showed the relative unimponance (ac- the " worship (of angels)" was freely chosen. 12 Alternatively. given its coin-
cording to Mark 7: 19 the complete irrelevance) of the purity laws as they age to suit the occasion, the word could be a play on the atA.wv tv ...
affected food . This presumably is one of the traditions about the Christ which 9pT]O'X.£i~ of 2: 18, denoting " deli ghted-in worship, " or it could be intended
the Colossians had " received" from Epaphras (2:6). Paul's echo of the same to convey the sense "wished-for worship, " implying that participation in
Jesus tradition in Rom. 14:14 is hedged around with more qualification, no angel worship was a figment of an overimaginative desire.1l And if the next
doubt because of the different circumstances among the Christians in Rome phrase. tXQt:loi«;l o~at~. is in apposition (see below) there could be a still
(note al so / Clement 15:2 and Justin, Dialogue 48, 78, 140). stronger negative note: severity to the body as an expression of the strength
2:23 &nva tonv A6y0v ~Ev l xovta O~hl~ tv E9E:).o6pllO'Xi~ xa\ of the desire.
t(XJtE1V~pooUVn xa\ OO>e:llHy. o<41atoc;, oux tv tl~n nv! 1t~ 1tAll<JV.ov1)v i\9£loia is yet one more biblical hapax, and it was not much used
til~ crapx6<;. The rebuke just delivered by means of the allusion to Isa. elsewhere. But it comes from the verb OOjIEllitro, " be unsparing," and thus
29: 13 was strong enough, but Paul and Timothy were probably well enough can be given the sense of unsparing discipline ("severity"), as well as the
aware of the attractiveness of such regulated religious discipline, both as a better-attested unsparing giving ("generosity, liberality," LSJ s.v.). The
mark of commitment and because of the rich spiritual experiences which it equi valent verbal expression a¢IEt&iv tOU o6ltJ.CltOl; is not uncommon in the
promised. This claim could not be ignored. The writers certainly go on to sense of courageous exposure to hardship and danger in war (Lightfoot 204;
address it. but to what precise effect is unclear. Here again the text becomes see also l...Qhmeyer 129 n. 5) . Since the term ll$£lO{Cl would normally occur
difficult (' ;hopelessly obscure" according to Moule, Colossians and Phile- in a eulogistic context (NDJEC 2. 106), we should note that once again the
mon 108), as a result of a sequence of unusual terms (most assume that terms riposte of 2:23 is disguised in terms of compljrnem; the severity of the
used in the Colossian " philosophy" are being cited) and syntax, II and again self-discipline practiced by the others in Colossae is not as such a matter for
we need to proceed phrase by phrase before trying to put the whole together. criticism.14
With "such things" (the force of attva), the reference is stiU to 2:21, Now the problems become severe .l~ The phrase Ev tlllfl ttVl is again
" have a reputation of wisdom." The lauer phrase (Myov f):£lV + genitive) highly un usual, but nj..I1'l in the sense of "value, worth" is well ~nough known
is unusual , but there are sufficient indications of its use in the sense " have
a reputation (for something)" (see Lightfoot 203; Lohse, Colossians and 12. Su also Francis, " Humility" 181 ·82: K~hl , "Emi~drigung" 390; Carr. "Notes" 500:
Philemon 126 n. 96), where the context allows the usually positive term H. Bah. EDNT 1.381: Rowl and. "Apocalyptic Visions" 76-77; O'Brien. Colossians. Pililemon 1.53.
13. NEBfREB', " forced pkty" and GN B'I " forced worship of angels" introduce an unjusti·
(A6yo9 to have a more querulous tone. 1be reference to "w isdom" confirms
flably strong negati~~ DOle. as does Wolter'5 " self·made worship" (153·.54 ).
what was implicit in the frequency of the earlier references, including the 14. DeMaris 58 oddly reganls "severe treatment of the body" Illi one 0( I~ ".ims" or.
"IOiIt" of the Colossian philosophy and as therefore indicating _leac hing and practice that has gone
beYOnd typicall y J~wish concerns.
11. For attempts 10 " mend"!be text sec, e.g .. Lol1!le, CoIoI$;IJ1.., rmd Philemon 124-26:
15. For opIions al th is point see. e.g" Schweizer. Coilll$Uut.J 169.
O'Brien. CoiOSl;OItS, Philemon 1.51·.52.
196 COLOSSIANS 2:23 197

(Lightfoot 204; LSJ s,v. II), and the phrase itself may be a Latinism (SAGO o(4u:u~ and 1tA1l0)JovT'iv rile; (Jap~ needs to be given more weight. When
s.v. 1). It is doubtful. however, whether ou ... tlVl means " not any" (Abbott we add in the likelihood that the originaJ text did not have an " and " linking
277), and GniLka, Kolosserbrief 16 1, attempts to retain t4.11'l in its normal «Q£loi«;t od:lJ.ia'to~ to what went before (see n. 2 above), we ar~ left wi th ~
sense of " honor ": " to no one does it bring honor!" (cr. H. HObner, EDNT possibility that ~lO(<<;l ad:lJ.ial"Oe; ... is attached to the pn:cedmg co~te.x t. 10
3.359), For np6<; in the sense of " for," that is, to check or prevent or cure., apposition to the antecedent dati ves (Masson 138 n. I). ThiS would dlffilOish
see again Lightfool 204-5. lfthe phrase should be taken together, a lraIlsiation the problem of the lack of an adversative. since the conlfast between the two
"oot of any value to anyone in regard to" seems best. main phrases would be suffi cient of itself to make the point. The following
We are still nOI out of the woods, however, since the next term, sense is the result: "which things have a reputation of wisdom in self-chosen
1tAT]O"llovil. is yet one more New Testament hapax. But it clearly means worship and humility - severe treatment of the body, not of value to anyone
" being fi lled, satiety," particularly with regard to food and drink. and so in regard to the gratification of the flesh."
"gratification" (SAGO). And the most obvious implication here is that The remaining problem is how to assess the force of the contrast -
" gratification of lhe fle sh" is something undesirable. If we compare its use between a commendatory (even if qualified ) reference to "severity of the
in the LXX, a neutral sense predominates (satisfaction of hunger, usually in body" and the implied condemnation of " gratifying the flesh." The most
the equivalent prepositionru phrase, de; MllOJloV1\v, e.g., Exod. 16:3, 8; Lev. obvious answer, as commentators usually argue, is that " fl esh" is being used
25: 19; Provo 3: 10; Lam. 5:6); but a negative note is probably present in Ezek. with the negative, moral force so characteristic of the earlier Paul (cf. Rom.
16:49 ("surfeit of food") and Has. 13:6 (de; 1tAllOllOV~V).16 13: 14 and GaJ. 5: 16-17: the desires of the fl esh); hence NEBIREB " in
How then should the pieces be put together into a single sentence? TIle combating sensuali ty."1 9 The difficulty is that the phrase itself suggests
most common iDlerpretation in effect makes the understandable assumption gratification of physical needs in terms of food and drink, as the Fathers
that the sentence is srructured around the contrast provided by the two tv clearly understood (BAGO S.V.1tA llOJ.lOV ~ ; G. Delling, TDNT6. J33). But if
phrases: "Such things have a reputation of wisdom in (tv) . . . but are not that sense of the phrase were pressed it would reduce the contrast of this
in value (tv 'nJlfl, i.e., "of worth") to anyone ... ."17 The difficulty here is fin al clause to something of an absurdi ty: the praclice of severity to the body,
the absence of an adversative before the oux ("but," 6:U6., or O£ to balance including self-mortification and fasting ('taJrelVO$P<><t6vll), does not make
the earlier J,ttv). It is rrue that the omission of an adversative is not exceptional any difference 10 the satisfaction of physicaJ appetites.
(BDF §447.2. 3; Moule, Colossians and Philemon 108, suggests the rather It may be, therefore. that we need to look for a third option, one which
different 2 Tim. 2:14 as a parrulel ; Hanssler 145 argues that the concessive gives more weight to the physical sense of "flesh," in line with the consistent
force of the first clause renders a O£ superfluous); but the absence of an emphasis of the word in the letter. Such a sense is given in the use of oOp~
adversative here is so striking (it would leave Paul's conclusion critically to refer to physical and ethnic identity (as regularly in the phrase "(l'tix
ambiguous) that the attempt should be made to make sense of the text withoul O'6pxa: Rom. 1:3; 4: I; 9:3, 5. 8; I Cor. 10: 18; Gal. 4:23. 29). And similarly
reading one in. A well-argued alternative takes everything from "ADyov jltv negative phrases are used elsewhere by Paulla denote too much value being
... tv '4lfl 'ttVt as a parenthesis, leaving " which things are for gratification plaCed in that flesh. ethnic flesh rather than moral fl esh, as we might say -
of the fl esh" as the main clause, itself a rebuke to the attitude expressed in in particular, ;'boasting in the fl esh" in Gal. 6:12-13 and " confidence in the
2:2 1; III but the lack of an adversative at the same point is stiU a problem and fl esh" in Phil . 3:3-4, which in Pauline terms were as much a distortion of
the whole remains awkward. the terms of grace and a pandering to the flesh as any physicaJ greed or
Perhaps a better key to structure is to note the further play on the overindulgence. " Gratification of the flesh" should possibly, therefore, be
concepts o&J1a and o~, since this has been such a feature of the letter SO taken as referring to satisfaction felt by the Colossian Jews in their ethnic
far ( 1:22 , 24; 2:11, 17- 19). That is to say, the contrast between O+EllHt;l (fleshly. xa'ta oapxa) identification as Jews, the people chosen by the one
God to be his own elect. And in view of our repeated findings that the most
16. 11 is possible 10 argue thaI 1tA'l0l40vT) t1\~ ocq:tllilt; lakes a back .... ard Slance (by way of clearly discernible features of the Colossian " philosophy" are Jewish in
conlnlSl) 10 lI~;''tp(llll.(I rltr; 8to"lW<; ~ (2:9; so Uhnemann 148-49). character. the likelihood becomes still stronger that what is being critiqued
11. "The most striking attempt here is that of NIB: '" In these rules you can indet<1 find willi
seems to be good sense.lhe cultivation of the will. and a humility that takes no KOOUnI of the body:
here is an assumption on the part of (many of) the Colossian Jews that rules
but in fact they have no value asainsl sel f·i ndulgence."
18. Reicke. " Verslindnis"; Hollenbach, follo ....ed by O' Brien, CQWssi(ms, Phikmon 151-!l 2: 19 ... 'Flesh· is humankind in its o.... n ~urces (~lbstmiichliBuil) and thereby in its
PoJwmy 154-55: Fowl 149. oppositioo ( M7tkrspruch ) W God·' (Lindemann, KrXQs~rbrief !l2).
2:23-4:6 199
for living and worship practices were ways of expressing (maintaining and. CROSS (3 :1-4:6)
marking out) their distinctiveness as Jews.
In short, the line of criticism at this point is ~robably to ackn,owledge The main line of argument so far (2:8·23), following from the thematic
much that appears admirable in the religious praxis of l~e ColossJan Jewt; statement of 2:6-7, has been primarily a response, more and more specific
here in view, but with the added final reminder that seventy 10 the bod,Y can and emphatic, to what Paul and Timothy regarded as a threat posed to the
be just another form of pandering 10 ~ fl~sh (C;f. I Cor. 13:3) .. l~ IS the Colossian believers by members of the Colossian synagogues who had
extent to which the maintenance of Jewish Identlty, as also provldmg, the developed a fo rceful apologetic rhetoric (2:8). These Jews probably included
possibility of such heavenly worship, depended on the rules ~d regulau~ some who associated with the Gentile believers in the alternative (Christian)
of 2: 16 and 2 1, which is the main focus of attack. And the hne of attack IS gatheri ng (2: 19). or at least their apologetic was provi~g at~ctive ~2: 16. ~ S)
the earlier Pauline one (particularly in Galatians), that such a concern ,for and effective (2:20) among at least some of the Gentile believers In ChriSt.
Jewish identity and Jewish privilege as Jewish is al the end of the day Just Their religious praxis, where their appeal was most direct (2:14, 16, IS, 21),
anQ{her fonn of self-indulgence or national indulgence. evidently blended the characteristic Jewish appeal to the distinctiveness of
Israel's anceslral traditions (2:S, 22 - circumcision, food laws, sabbath,
ritual purity) with an observance of such regu lations that in effect was (in
the writers' view) as dependent on the elemental forces as any Hellenistic
cult (2:8 , 14· 15,20). In pandering to Jewish pride their praxis simply reo
channeled the " fleshl iness" which their asceticism was designed to over·
come (2:23). Worst of all, it diminished the status of the Christ. who was
the focus of the Christian communiry and the reason for its distinctive
existence. by fail ing to grasp the full significance of the cross and resurrection
in particular (2: I 1·1 5) and thus also the unimponance of practices regulated
by reference to the cosmic elements (2: 15. 20). In this way the significance
of the Colossian believer's acceptance of Christ Jesus as Lord (2:6) has been
But once the authors have disowned the lifestyle and religious practices
of traditional and mystical Judaism. there is more to be said. The other clause
of 2:6 must also be expounded - what it means to "walk in him." It was
not enough to remind the recipients of the letter of the ways of life and
worship which they should have left behind and/or should not be adopting
now. It was equally imponam, ifnot more imponanl, to give a clear indication
of the characteristic fearures of Christian li ving and worship, the posi tive
a1temative to be pursued over against the negative alternative to be avoided.
The change of emphasis is indicated by the opening tenn (3: I - "Since you
have been raised with Christ"), balancing the reminder of what they had left
behind (2:20 - "Since you died with Christ"). After a statement of prin-
ciple, the perspective from which aU their ethical conduct should flow (3: 1-
4), there follows a sequence of general guidelines and practical exhonalions,
relating also to worship (3:5- 17), then some specific household rules (3: IS-
4:1) and some further, concluding exhonations (4 :2·6).
Two imponant issues have caused some dispute regarding this section.
First, it looks as though a sequence of general exhonations (3: 1-4). traditional
motifs (" put off/put on"), and standard forms (vice and virtue lists. house·
200 COLOSS IANS 3: 1-4 :6 201

hold rules) have simply been lumped together. This is in line with the,original ready" has swamped the " not yel" (resurrection with Chri st has already
observation of M. Dibelius, From Tradition to Gospel (London : NIcholson hawened, 3: I). so that a kind of Platonic or Gnostic above-below timeless-
and Watson, 1934) 238, thai " the hortatory sections of the Pauline letten ness ( 3 : 1 ~2. 5) has replaced the more typically apocalyptic forward-looking
... lack an immediate relation with the circumstances of the letter" (so here. emphasiS of the earlier Paul. the writer perhaps thus trying to "oot-
e.g., Lohmeyer 131 ; Hunter 55-56; Pokorn y 158-59; cf. J. T. Sanders, ~thicl Gnosricize" the opposition .1 But neither is this sufficiently accurate. The
79-80). BUI while the use of familiar themes is obvious, the adaptation of "not yet" is strongly present in 3:3-4, 10, 24~2.5 and 4:2. the apocalyptic
the material to the conlext is a1so evident: 3: I picks up the themes of character of 3:3-4 being particularly noticeable (cf. Percy, Probleme 116).
resurrection with Christ (2: 12) and of Christ's triumph (2: 10. 15). just as the Even more notable is the strongly Jewish cast to the whole, particularly in
lalk of baving died in 3:3 echoes 2:12 and 20: the exhortation 10 "seek/set the list of vices ("idolatry" ), the double emphasis given in 3: II to the ending
your minds on " 'ta woo (3: 1-2) i s obviously in som,e way up:>n the of the distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision ,
Colossian philosophy's delight in heavenly worshlp (2: 18), Just as the com- We echo of Jewish covenant self~identity in 3: 12 ("ele<:t, holy, and beloved"),
mendation of ta1t£woq,poouVTl within the list of virtues in 3: 12 can hardly and the various allusions to characteristic Jewish principles in the household
be without a backward glance to 2: 18 and 23: and the theme of hiddenness rules (concern for the weaker members in the threefold pairing, honoring
and (future) unveiling in 3: 3~4 clearly e<:hoes the prominence of these themes parents as pleasing 10 God. fearing the Lord. inheritance from the Lord, and
earlier in 1 :26~27 and 2 :2~3 . Similarly at the end of the section the attempt no favoritism with God).
to summarize earlier themes is obvious: In short, this section is clearly of a piece with what has gone before,
confirms the Jewish character of the Colossian opposition, and maintains a
4:2-3 prayer and thanksgiving 1:3, 9 characteristically Pauline balance between teaching and parenesis, "already"
4:3 mystery of Christ 1:26-27; 2:2 and "not yet, " heavenly perspective and everyday responsibiHty.
4:5 walk in wisdom 1:9-10; 2:6-7,

It is equally if not more striking how much the whole ~arenesis. ~

been Christianized. This is most obvious in the complete chnstocentnclt)'
of the opening paragraph (3 : 1-4). And though the vice liSLS include standard
terms (3 : 5~8). the correlated " put off/put on " exhortation (3 :9- 11 ) ~rings ~s
back at once to the motif of renewed creation where Christ is all In all, Ul
e<:ho of the earlier hymn (I : 15-20). Likewise, the following virtue list cli-
maxes with the characteristic Chrislian encouragement to forgive as forgiven,
with love and the peace of Christ undergirding the whole and the unity ~f
the body (3: 12~ 15). just as it is the word of Christ which issues in WOrs~lP
with "all things in the name of the Lord Jesus" as its desired outworklOg
(3: 16-17). And in the household rules (3: 18-4: I) it is the sevenfold referenc:e
to " the Lord" which infuses and transforms all. Despite this, Schulz, Eth,j:
560~63, presses the Colossian parenesis into a works-faith ~i~eclic ~
accuses it of a moralism wruch has left behind the charactensuc Pauhne
emphasis on justification by faith . At the same time. the degree to which the
focus on Christ has removed the Spirit from view (contrast Romans 8 and
Galatians 5) remains a puzzle, explained by Schweizer, "Geist," as a reaction
to Colossian enthusiasm, but without real support from the text.
In regard to the second disputed issue. it is regularly assumed that the ~H I . ~ lh varying emphases: ~beli us. Ko/os.ser. Ephuer. PhilelflOll 40: Bomka mm.
parenesis. while following Paul 's typical indicati ve-imperative p~ttern (e.g., Offnung : CrIss :: . 1. T. SanderJ. EthICS 69·73: Stegeman n 528·30; Schulz 5S9: Schnaeunburg.
Moule. " New Life" ; Schrage. Ethics 244-46; Marxsen. £lllIk 236-39). 80t sc huji 2. 75; Lohse. Ethics 143: HUbner J60.61 : onl y " 11aCc:s of furore escha tology" acrording
nevertheless .gives clear evidence of a later perspective in which the "al- Jo Steinmet:t 29.32.
202 COLOSSIANS 3; I 203

The Perspective from Which the Christian Life Should Be TimOlhy take up the " up side" of the same verse ("you were raised wi th
Lived (3:1-4) him"). The evenl of death-and-resurrection was two-sided for Chrisl himself
(2: 15); a message of [he c~ss w.ith~ut the resurreclion would not be gospel,
I If tlien
you have been raised with Christ, seek what is above, where t~ and a call to .emb.rac~ the Implications of the cross without a call also 10
Christ ;5,2 seated on Cod 's righl. 2 Set your minds on what;s above, not 011 emb~ce the Impllcallons of th~ resurrection would be poor teaching. So
what is on the eanh.. 3 For you died and your life has been hidden wi,,, here: II. ~as nOI e~ough 10 remmd the Colossian recipients of the li feslyle
Christ in God. " Whenever the Christ, who ;s our3 life, hO.f been revealed, and religIOUS praltls ~hat they no longer do or need follow out that would
then you also will be revealed with him in glory.4 have. been 100 much like the "00 nOI"S characteri stic of lbe Colossian Jews'
praxis (2:2 1). The message of the resurreclion has equally positi ve corollaries
As noted above, 3:1-4, panicularly 3:2. has encouraged the view mal the for th.e be liever's d~ily life, which have to be spelled OUI 10 provide a
writer has adopted a Hellenistic mystical or Gnostic perspective (Grlisser. su~clen.1 counterweIght to Ihe evidenl attractiveness of the more traditional
etc.: see n. t above), BUI this ignores the fact thai to. lIvro can as readily JeWIsh lifestyle: " 'f, therefore, ... " in Ihe sense of "Since it is the case
denote an apocalyptic perspective, which fi ts much more consistently with IhaI. . . ."

the apocalyptic-mystical character of the Colossian philosophy (cr. Findeis . ~s in 2:. 1 2~ the language is metaphorical and not literal . The resurrec-
421 n. 162). Levison, indeed , makes a persuasive case for seeing the thought 1l0~ WIth ~hnsl m a resurrection like Christ's srilliay as much in the futu re
of the paragraph as more consistently ex.pressive of apocalyptic perspective, as II ~ad Ifl the earlier lreatment in Romans 6 (see on 2: 12 and no, 'h
f " ho ". ' e e
closely similar to that evident in 2 Baruch 48:42-52:7. where the " things prommence o . pe ID 1:5, 23, and 27). The very fact that an exhortation
above" (3:2) are synonymous with the " life hidden" of Col. 3:3-4. Either 10. "seek what I~ above ....w~ r:<Juired ~d ~~ed. to be repeated ("set your
way this allempt to outflank the Colossian philosophy was somewhat haz- mmds on what IS above, 3.2) IS suffiCient mdicatlon that what was in mind
ardous - the key differe nce, and the main reason for its prominence, pre- was a change of perspecti~e, not (yet) a (complele) ontological change (see
sumably being the sustained focus on Christ throughout 3: 1-4 (Lincoln, also Lohmeyer 132-.33; Gmlka, Kolosserbrief 17 1-72; and Lincoln, Paradise
Paradise 125-28). 122-.23, ' 3 1-34, agamst Grasser's overemphasis on the "already" dimension:
Wolter 164-65 takes 3: 1-4 as the peroratio, summing up the considera- ba~llsm understood as ascension 10 heaven [150-53]). It is the sort of change
lions of the argumentatio (2:9-23) and drawing the reader to a favorable whIch follows from complele identification with another person or cause
reception of the following more specific exhortatio (3:5-4:6). when ~e service of that person or cause becomes all-consuming the basi~
3: 1 El ouv O"UvrrtEP9rl"re t<1> X ptl1"tcjl, ta. woo ~ fJ"t£itt, OU 6 XPl~
and . r o.f ai.l pr:0fltl
. .. eS, th e bubbhng
' spnng
. of a moti vation. resolution,
EO"ttV EV &-.;u~. "tou BtO\) xaiWI).ltvoc;,. As 2:20 took up what we might call . appiJcatJOn which perseveres despite even repeated setbacks, In the
the " down side" of 2: 12 ("you were buried with Christ"), so now Paul and ~clent world such self-identification would normally be with a patron and
h'~ or her cause or with a cl ub or cult. Today we might think of a mother
2. Almost all a~e that a OOIllma should be inserted here, tlv= verb ( ·'is") introduc ing a moR ;;Ih. her handicapped child or an artisl with his or her calling What the
established description (··sealed on God·s righf·): see, e.g., Harris 137. aulme gospel offered and emphasized by means of its passive fo·nnulations
3. U!illlY is more strongly attesled (Mettger 624). but it is more likely that ~ was altcnd was the promise that the change was nOI self-contrived bUI rather enabled
(del iberately 01 unconscious ly) to eonform with the cunsi..';tem JcCOnd penon plural IISIIge of the and brought bo b d· . . .
J a ut y Ivme grace, the same diVIDe grace which had raised
panlgraph. II was evidenlly a Pauline charactaistic to move awkwardly from second to lirJ;t pe~
esus from the dead (cf. again 2: 12 with Rom. 8: 11 ).
to ensure that his readers did not think that what was said applied excl usively to them (see. e....
Lighlfoot 184 and 2(8). Translators and commenUllors are as divided as the textual cul\SidernliOl'll , The key factor in this new perspeclive is the fact that Christ has been
between "our" (RSV. NEBIREB; e .•.. Abbotl 279-80: Lohmeyer 131 It. 2: O'Brien, Coiol siOlU. ~:d and exalted (the two are nOI distinguished here) 10 sit on God's righl
Phif~1fWfI 157) and ··your·· (JBiNJB . GN B. NIV. NRSV: Dibelius. Kolosur. Epltesu; Philrmon 40; n deaven . The language is formulaic, clearly echoing Ps, 110: 1: "The LoRD
Masso n 140 n. I: Pok<:n1f 162). sa, 10 my Lord ·S· . h'
enemi , It on my ng I (Ka90u EX ~trov 1-10u), till I make your
4. Note the neat WUCtural parallel between ) :3 and ) :4 (O ' Brien. CoIoss;ons, Phll~mon 159):
. es a stool for your feet. "j This was a passage which fie" ed I
For you died Whenevtr the Oui~ to earlies, Ch ' . I . . . a ur greal y
nSfian apo ogeuc, smce It provided such a good ex.planation of
and your life who is our tife
has been hidden ,}, ChriSt has b«n manifested, then you abo will
be manifested ,..j,h hi", . s. The lad; of. other specir>e aJlu.s)ons to particular Old Tes'~--
-"kin Itnd
R' . '"_
.... ..." .. pa··"ie5.n ......Jossians i~
in God . in glory. & as puuhng as the lack of clear refcrencC$ to the Spirit (apart fmm 1:8).
204 COLOSS IANS ) ; 1-2 205

what had become of the resurrected Jesus. It is explicitly ciled in Mark 12:36 The consequences for the Christian perspecti ve are thus also clear. Lf
pars.; Acts 2:34-35; and Heb. 1: 13 and clearly alluded to elsewhere (Mark Jesus, the :hri~t, is so highly favored and acknowledged to be God 's " right-
14:62 pars.: Rom. 8:34; I Cor. 15:25 ; Eph. 1:20; Heb. 1:3: 8: 1; 10: 12· 13; hand man, With aU the power and authority to effect God 's will and to
12:2 ; I Pel. 3:22). Thai makes it the Old Testament text most often alluded protect his own which is implicit in that claim. then Christian life should be
to in the New Testament.6 entirely.oriented by reference to this Christ. This is summed up in the
The picture is clear. God sits on a throne in heaven (so explicitly in eXhortallon t