The Book of Colossians
Aims of the Class: By studying the apostle Paul’s Epistle to the
Colossians, one of his four ‘imprisonment letters’, we gain access to the
historical, cultural and theological understanding of the early Christian
ministry. We learn not only the pre-eminence of Christ but also the importance
of the true Gospel and the Holy Spirit in our work for the Lord. In the matter
of the doctrines of salvation, we know how to repudiate the false teaching, and
in our Christian life, the Colossians teaches us that the ever-renewing life in
Christ is the assured victory we can have in this degenerate world.
Method of Class Instruction:
Exegetical exposition 75%; discussion and oral report 25%. A final essay
due toward the end of the class is required as a fulfillment of the course.
Cultural Geography: Colossaie was situated in the Lycus
valley of SW
Phrygia about 80 miles east of Ephesus. Hellenised
and partly Romanised in a gradual process of
assimilation to its neighbors, Colossae
shows a city of cultural importance, especially by the excavation of its
inscriptions and coins.
Paul and the Church at Colossae: Paul did not establish church at Colossae. Epaphras (1.7) working under the direction of Paul during
the latter's Ephesian ministry founded the church and
the neighboring communities of faith.
The occasion for the Epistle: The
epistle was to be carried by Tychicus and Onesimus
(4.7,9), a slave to be returned to his master Philemon
in Laodicae (or Hierapolis,
or perhaps Philadelphia
(Phm 10,12, cf. Col 4.17). The apostle writes to combat a dangerous
local heresy and to buttress the church (emphasis on the 'truth' 1.5f, 1.23,
2.4,7f, 16,18). The warnings may be aimed at one false
teacher who has already made serious inroads (2.20, 22).
During the second century
Colossians seems to have been accepted by all the churches as a genuine part of
the Pauline corpus, and this view held the field until 1838. Weighty
considerations against its authenticity stem from the perspectives of
vocabulary and style, its very 'high' Christology, and the large element of
Gnosticism or proto-Gnosticism in it,
People may argue that 1) thirty-four
words are peculiar to Colossians, in which ten are common to Colossians and
Ephesians alone and fifteen used also in Ephesians appear in no other genuine
Pauline letter; 2) important Pauline theological terms like righteousness,
fellowship, laware missing; 3) like
Ephesians, it contains long sentences, many participles, genitives which are
piled up, explanatory infinitives, and so on.
But (in our judgment) it is abundantly plain that this author is
writing to real and specific people and the document is full of authentic
personal touches (1.2, 5-8, 27; 2.1, 16, 20, 4.3, 7ff).
People, who see the doctrine of
Christ in Colossians as compatible with 1 Cor 1.24, 2.7ff, 4.1, 4.6; 2 Cor 4.4-6,
5.18f; Rom 5.10, 8.3; Phil 2.6-11, may argue that Colossians appears to go
somewhat beyond these other texts in the direction of a theory of Incarnation. But it is not at all inconsistent with
the Pauline Christology as a whole.
Furthermore, people may argue that
the Gnostic favor in Colossians seems to point to a non-Pauline writing. But the words and ideas of Colossians
are certainly not post-Pauline at all. In this Epistle, Paul might have
borrowed from the heretical vocabulary in order to refute his opponents.
Let us sum up. Significant
parallels between Phil and Col
help to substantiate the genuineness of Colossians. It is a brilliant defense
of the all-sufficiency of Christ as the redeemer and revealer. Paul writes
vigorously, with powers undimmed. By any reckoning Col is one of the precious gems of the NT.
Probably sent from Rome about 61-63, before
the writing of Phil, for Paul does not appear to contemplate his imminent
1.1-2.1 The Address
1.13-23 The Pre-eminence of Christ
1.24-2.5 Paul’s Ministry as an Apostle of the Lord
2.6-15 An Answer to False Teaching: (A) the
Victory of Christ
Answer to False Teaching: (b) the Irrelevance of Legalism
Answer to False Teaching: (c) the True Source of New Life
3.5-17 The Old Life and the New
3.18-4.1 The Christian Family
4.2-6 Final Instructions
4.7-18 Messages and Greetings
What is the COLOSSIAN HERESY implied in this
The heresy contained doctrinal and practical
elements: 1) Christ as related to a relatively minor place, and certain angelic
principalities (Gk. stoicheria)
were necessary to the fullness of knowledge and life, i.e. to salvation; 2) It
was argued further that salvation also depended on the observance of festivals
and dietary rules, and esoteric rituals of a sensual type. Visions too played a
On the whole, the mixture of
liturgical, ascetic, and mystery cult disciplines points to a syncretistic form
of Christianity, with strong Jewish as well as proto-Gnostic constituents. The
Jewish side has close affinities with the Essene
piety of Qumran. For the Jewish-Gnostic
elements of truth, knowledge, wisdom, times, humility, angles and mysteries,
see G. Vermes,
The Dead Sea Scrolls in English (1962,
72-78, 89, 150-53, 170, 186-91, 210-13).
As an extension, heretic
teachings mentioned in the New Testament can be summarized: 2Cor 11.4; 1 Tim 4.1ff; 1 Jn 4.1ff; Jude 3-8;
11-16; Rev 2.2.14f.
What are the characteristics of
the false teachers and what do they teach?
What is the best strategy for us
to win a spiritual battle over the falsehood and evil spirit?
Discuss how the mystery of God lies in Christ,
which exemplifies the fullness of God (1.15-23). Consider the divine wisdom as
God’s first-born in Prov. 8.22, Gen 1.1; Christ as the very eikon (image) of God in Hebrews 1.1-3, the incarnate Word as a
manifestation of the invisible God in John 1.1-18;. Discuss how the incarnation
and death of Jesus Christ reconciles the entire universe of things and angels
and men to God, so as to make peace also in Eph 1-2, Php
2.6-11 (cf. Rom 5.6-8).
That Christ is the head of the Church (1.18) can
be also found in Eph 1.23 and 1 Cor 12.12-17.
In what ways Paul was a deacon (minister) of the
church, a preacher of the Word, a watchman, a teacher of wisdom, a pastor who
presents to God a people holy and mature?
Refer to Acts 19.8-12; 20.17-35; Rom 1.9-12; 1 Thess
2.3-8; 11-13; 1 Cor 11.1; Phil 4.8-9.
Discuss the ethical instruction in Colossians
3.1-11 (a new life in Christ); 3.12-17 (love, holiness); 3.18-25 (family and
social relationship); 4.1-6 (watchful, prayerful, and wise) as a key to a
commendable Christian way of life which has a direct bearing on our ultimate
salvation (cf. Eph 4.17-24; Rom 12.6-12;
1 Thess 4.1-12; Heb 13.1-9).