The Letter to the COLOSSIANS Fr Harry Vas 9th. Dec 2007
Colossae is located in Phrygia in the upper valley of the Lycus river, this place is in Asia Minor. It had a flourishing wool & textile industry; & its name Colossae was used for a dark red dye for wool This letter was written earlier the Ephesians, The author of the letter to Ephesians borrowed the idea of the ‘head’ & developed on it.
Ephesians focuses on Church as the body of Xt, where Xt is the Head. Eph shows the relationship between Xt & his Church
Colossians focuses on it major theme the Lordship of Xt
Colossae was eclipsed by its neighboring city Laodicia which was larger. An earthquake destroyed both these cities in 60 -61 AD Laodicia was restored while Colossae was not. Its ruins were however found in 1835 but not excavated.
Authorship : Who actually wrote the letter, whose authority lies behind the letter.
A trusted disciple / secretary ( persona secretary) of Paul, composed this letter according to the mind of Paul, expressing the thoughts & the message of Paul. Deutro Pauline letters written by the disciples of Paul, coming after Paul but coming from the Pauline school.
Colossians seems to have many opponents; their thinking is causing trouble in the doctrinal part.
(Galatians refused to circumcise)
Composition of the Letter it Outline:
1 : 1 – 2 Op Greeting
1 : 3 – 14 Thanksgiving that includes the prayer or intercession.
1 : 15 – 2 :5 Doctrinal – leadership of Xt over creation & the church.
2 : 6 – 23 Lordship of Xt compromised. ( Doctrinal) contains things that are going on, are not
Understanding the Lordship of Xt. The Lordship of Xt must be central.
3 : 1 – 4 : 6 Life in the Lordship of Xt in Practice
4 : 7 – 18 Conclusion & Last Message
Traditional material a hymn. 1 : 15 – 20
Baptismal catechesis 2 : 6 - 15
List of vices & virtues 3 : 5 – 17
Household conduct 3 : 18 – 4 : 1.
Application & Transition 1 : 12 -14; 21 – 23; 2 : 1 – 5; 3 : 1 – 4; 4 : 2 – 6
Ch 1 Vs 4- 5: for we have heard of your faith in XT & of the love that you have for all the saints because of the hope laid up for you in heaven
This triad in Pauline theology appears frequently in the NT. Faith, hope, & Love are absolutely essential characters of the Xtian community
Faith Gk pistis
) in Christ Jesus seen also in 2 : 5,7.
& developed in 1 : 23.
as a condition to be presented holy & blameless before Xt. & in. 2 : 12
as one of the means by which the believers have been raised with Xt. Faith is given when it accepts hope & love.
Love Gk agape )
Love of Xt in & among the people, love is the practice within the Xtian community that holds the body together 1 : 4, 8; 2 : 2; 3 :14
Hope : (Gk elpis ) Hope in contrast of the earlier 2 dispositions of the believers is something outside the believer. Hope helps the community to look ahead.
Believe into = Gk eis= complete self surrender
Eucharist = thanksgiving, always giving thanks, it is lived practically in the community living.
Vs 5: Links faith, hope & love with the Gs.
Vs 6 : abundant fruit , the fruit needs to increase.
Vs 7 : Ephesians missionary sent by Paul to the community.
Vs 3 – 7 ; is Thanks & Praise
Vs 9 :we have not ceased. Is followed by 3 practices of praying, asking & thanksgiving… the prayer expands the idea of faith love & hope.
Colosians were filled by the Knowledge = gnosis Gk = Da’at Heb ) of his will
( Thelema )
( Gk gnosis ‘ good knowledge’ this is not abstract knowledge.
Da’ at Hb = Knowing the Law of God , You know God intently when you know his will
Daat in the OT is the covenant body of love thro the intimate knowledge of Gods will.
( Thelema ) in all Sp wisdom = Gk Sophia ( Philo sophy ) heb Hokma & understanding = insight = Gk synesis, = Heb bing
Vs 9,10……in all wisdom. The OT makes a big difference between Knowledge of wisdom & knowledge of the Tora. Hakoma heb is the ability to discern, learn from experience, to discern true happiness. Knowledge of the will often comes from wisdom.
Heb bina = understanding, or standing under, bearing fruit in every Gods works.
Vs 9 – 11: NJBC Knowledge, wisdom & understanding these key words indicate a practical not speculative goal; knowledge demands obedience to Gods will. The 3 corresponding Heb terms da’ad, hokma, & bina are connected with the revelation of mysteries, which recounts the ways of the Spirit of Truth which includes humility & forbearance; understanding, knowledge , & wisdom; zeal for just ordinance, a firm inclination, & discretion concerning the mysteries.
Vs 11: endure every thing with patience. Endurance is the ability to withstand suffering.
Joyful = but with hope.
Vs 12: The three virtues of faith love & hope are the characteristics of saints = people attaches to God
Sainthood is the universal call to be holy in the Lord. Saints are all those who are brothers & sisters in the Lord. Saints associate themselves with light not darkness.
NJBC share in the lot of the saints in light.
This calls to mind again the teaching of the ethical dualism of light & darkness
& the portion & lot which is a predetermined destiny meted out to human beings
saints refer to both the faithful community & to heavenly beings.
Vs 12 – 14: These are an introduction to or connected with the early xtological hymns in the NT
Col 1 : 14 – 20; Phil 2 : 5 -13; Jn 1 : 1 – 18 Heb 1 : 1 – 4. Four earlier universally accepted Xtological hymns. Xtological hymns are those sung to or about JC. They contain the early insight in to the mystery of Xt. They have some things in common.
Vs 15 : The theme is the role of Xt in creation which alludes to wisdom motif in the OT prov 3 : 19. wisdom is described as an agent of creation. in Prov 8 : 22 – 31 wisdom, created first is partner in the work of Yahweh. Image: for Xt as the image of God 2 Cor 4:4; Gen 1 : 27 Paul also speaks of human beings being in the image of God = eikon.Gk Icons painted in the medieval times were premeditated.
The world was made in the image = eikon of God. Plato called Xt the image of God.. Man is the image of the cosmos. Gen 1 :27 we resemble God not only in the outward resemblance.. Humanity is modeled to be of God. We are patterned with what God is like. Xt is the image of the invisible God, He is like God, in every way & every sense. Xt is supreme & most perfect in the image of God. Xt is praised in whom God reveals fully. Xt is called the first born. Xt is the prototype = model. Xt is the proto tokos = first fruit = offer the first & the best to God ( Able). First born always expresses the fullness.
Vs 16: Thrones or dominions… principalities or powers these created entities are presented in Col as angelic beings that are subordinate to Xt. In Collasae these entities may have been thought to be rivals of Xt or being that provided supplementary power to that of Xt.
Vs 17: before every thing. The hymn presents Xt as preexistent, another reflection of wisdom speculation in Hellenistic Judaism. Preexistence of Xt – as the lagos = 2nd person of the trinity. Preexistent WORD became Jesus of Nazareth.
Vs 18: the head of the body the Church. Head = Gk kephale. Eph 5: 23-24. In Greek philosophy kephale was often used. According to the Gk philosophy head is the coordinating organ of the body. The metaphor Head governs the body, this is applied to xt & the church. Xt is he head & body is the church. Rom 12; 1 Cor 12. The Church is described with its many members as its foundation of the body. Head ensures coordination unity harmony. This is the role that XT fulfills in the church. Gods people brought together under the lordship of Xt. The root of all problems is not putting Xt first, Xt should be first in every thing.
The radical phrase ‘the church’ alters the idea of Xt the head of the cosmic body to Xt as the head of the Church an Imp. Theme in Col ( 1:24,27; 2:17,19; 3:15)
Vs 19: all the fullness was pleased to dwell = Gk pleroma (was the whole body of heavenly powers & spiritual emanations that came forth from God) Because Gods fullness dwells in him because he is the first.
Vs 20: to reconcile. Reconcile all things to God, bring together, bring one with, common union, communion
Vs 21: alienated & hostile in mind, in evil deeds. Before the Gs was brought to the community by Epaphras, their situation was the opposite of what the author prays for in vs 9 – 14 Knowledge wisdom & Sp understanding. In contrast to their having being alienated & hostile in mind; doing every good work in contrast to their evil deeds.
Vs 22: his fleshly body. = ordinary human body. The imp. & dignity of Jesus human body in the saving function contrast with the depreciation of the bady that seems to have been part of the false teaching of Collossae. Recalling again the imp Theme of body of Xt, thro. Death. reconciliation thro death of Jesus.
Vs 23: hope of the Gs. ie. the hope & the Gs are the same.
Vs 24: The experience of the suffering apostle Paul is presented as an inspiration to the community to accept his present limitations & still continue to strive for the fulfillment of the Xt purpose. Gods plans is beyond suffering & death.
I completed what was needed of the Xtian suffering in my flesh for his body.
Vs 21 – 23: Reconciliation.
Ch 1 :24 – 2:5. The apostles commission to proclaim the completeness as Xt as Lord & what is lacking in the suffering of Xt. Not= Xt suffering was lacking in any way & the apostle was making up for what was lacking. How ever some things still need to be done to make Xt suffering effective now truly effective in the life of his followers. In that sense the church is suffering, takes part/ shares in the suffering of Xt. That shared suffering is still incomplete i9s lacking & this needs to be shared in the suffering of Xt.
There are 3 kinds of suffering. Mystical suffering: by belonging to the body of Xt, to share in his suffering. Xt suffering is beyond space & time. 2ndly: It belongs to the struggling with the suffering community with persecution. 3rdly: Suffering martyrdom Act 9:16. The church at all times participates in the suffering of Xt.
Vs 26: the mystery. In the Jewish & the Hellenistic cuts the mystery was Knowledge of the cosmos or religious secrets was only available to a privileged few. The mystery here is the universal revelation open to all , the word of God, Xt among you, the glorious hope & the divine plan of history. Eph 9-10.
Vs 28: admonishing & teaching. Here this is the task of the apostles.
Ch 2: Vs1: I wasn’t you to know: This section repeats the theme of wisdom, knowledge & understanding. Xt as the mystery of God the joy of the apostles & the faith of the community
Vs 5: trouble in the community, beware of false teachers.
Vs 6: therefore as you receive Xt Jesus the Lord. Here therefore marks the transition to a new section.. Gk paralambano = technical term for receiving a tradition. The content of the tradition is receiving JC the Lord.
Vs 8: be on your guard. The community is here warned of the dangers of world traditions, world elements & spirits that were conceived as personal power. This was a Collosian error, The elements were viewed as angelic powers that performed some fn of mediation between God & the world & had some control over cosmic order.
Vs 9-10: in him. Here what Paul prayed for has been fulfilled. Xt is the head of the body, the church, here he is the head of every every rule & power. All the spirits that the philosophy revered are subject to Xt. The fullness of divinity is in XT.
Vs 11- 15; The theme is participation in the death & resurrection of Xt through baptism.
Vs 11: identifies baptism with circumcision Circumcision is a metaphor in the initiation in XT.
Vs 12: buried with him in baptism… raised with him through faith. In Rom 6:5 those who have died with Xt in baptism will in the future be united with him in resurrection. In Col this Resurrection has already happened. The only initiation you should submit to is your baptism. In your baptism you have submitted under Xt in Lordship & participated in his victory.
Vs 13: and you. A change to 2nd persons directs the Xtological proclamation to all the members of the community. Describing the result of being in union with xt the forgiveness of sins here forgiveness of sins is connected with baptism.
Vs 14: cancelled the note of debt that was against us.The subject is God who has brought about the union with Xt. It introduces the image of debtor & creditor used frequently in the OT & in the NT to describe the relationship between God & his people.
Vs 15: In Xt we have the victory over all powers, you are not under any demonic power. God has vanquished all demonic powers through Xt.
Vs 16-17: therefore marks a transition to a new section You must maintain this right, important to the external happening attach power to other things but to the prince of peace. The observance of regulations, is a shadow of what is to come, the ultimate criterion for judgment ie belonging to the body of Xt.
Vs 18: let no one condemn you insisting on humility & religion of angels. In 3:12 humility is a Xtian virtue but here it has something to do with objectionable practices .. it could also mean readiness to serve or fast or some kind of self abasement…( religion of the angels) joining the angels in worship.
Vs20-23: The believers have been freed from the human tradition of regulations by dying with Xt in baptism.
Ch 3: Vs 1: at the right hand of God. This creedal statement based on Ps 110:1 was used in the early church to show that the messianic promise had been fulfilled in XT.
Vs 3 – 4: Although the resurrection has already taken place, all the conditions of the end are not present. There is still a gap between what is on earth & what is in heaven & the fulfillment of the body of Xt is hidden ‘with Xt in God’ but finally, Xt & the believers will appear in glory.
Vs 3 : 5 – 4 : 6—This section consists of lists of vices, list of virtues, & a household list. All of which are chiefly traditional material. Lists of vices & virtues were common in Hellenistic philosophical writings. These lists are general & are not intended to offer instructions that are specific to the context in which they occur.
Vs 5-10. In Col the list of vices Vs 5-8 are set in eschatological context Vs are the baptismal imagery ie put to death, put off the old nature, put on the new nature. The first list Vs 5 enumerates the sins of the body & passion & the second Vs 8 includes sins that would arise in the intellect. On account of our sins—which are part of the old nature, not the body of Xt-- & the wrath is coming
Vs 11 – 17: The exhortation to the virtue begins with the ‘baptismal reunification formula’ & build to the proclamation ‘ Ct is all & in all’.
Vs3:18-4:1.The household code is a general type of exhortation & instruction that can be found in popular Hellenistic philosophy. It has been given the Xtian perspective. The code is not directed to a specific situation.3 pairs are addressed wives & husbands; children & parents; slaves & masters. The subordinate members of each pair are first admonished to be subjects & then the othert member is charged with responsibility., these are to be practiced as is(18) fitting in the Lord.,(20) fearing the Lord., (22)serving the Lord
Vs 4 – 6: The final exhortation is to pray & be watchful. The author asks for prayers, refers again to his ministry of declaring the mystery of Xt. & mentions his imprisonment.
Vs 7-9: Tychicus & Onesimus are sent to Colossians to bring news & encouragement to the community.
Vs 10-16: Greetings are sent.
Vs 17: a specific message is sent.
Vs 18: The author closes with a specific note of authencity.