Episco-Fact #148
July 11, 2019

Francisco-fact: OK, I have heard of a letter to the Corinthians, even about "two" Corinthians, what is this letter to the Colossians?

The letter to the Colossians is part of the Pauline corpus. It can be found in the New Testament between the letter to the Philippians and 1 Thessalonians. The location of the town is Turkey, near Ephesus, an area where Paul was known to have evangelized. It is unlikely Paul actually visited the city himself but knew it through his network of fellow evangelists (Col. 2.1).

The letter begins with Paul introducing himself and Timothy, a known companion of the Apostle, with a blessing for the people of the community, but some scholars think the letter is either ghost written or written by a scribe on Paul's behalf. There are some aspects of style, vocabulary, and theology which seem to be different than the indisputably Pauline letters (Romans, I & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon). None of these issues are in conflict with Paul's vision in the aforementioned letters. Therefore, whether Paul or someone writing in his name, the message of the letter is consistent with the world of the Apostle.

The letter itself is a bit of a jewel. It provides a compact encouragement to a community of Christians. According to the letter, the Christians in Colossae were worried whether or not their faith would be sufficient for them to be included in the Kingdom of God, and whether or not their faith would be sufficient to ward off the powers of this world. In this letter, the Kingdom of God is most likely to mean that changed world that Jesus would bring when he returned to earth, not "heaven" as an up in the sky place where their souls would be housed. And the powers of this world meant those powers like the gods and goddesses of Rome which stood as a challenge to the power of Christ.

It seems easier that people in Paul's understood the cosmic nature of their battle against the powers than we understand in our time. In Colossae and other towns and cities of the empire, the powers had godly names—Aphrodite, Athena, Apollo, Jupiter, Dionysus, and more. Even the city of Rome was closely identified with Jupiter, Best and Greatest. It would have been hard for a Roman to describe the capitol city without the thought of their Jupiter in the background. Therefore, the individual Christians' battle and the community's battle was with the powers and principalities that were manifest in great cities and daily interventions of the unseen powers.

What is the answer to all of this in the letter of Paul to the Colossians? Just this:

When you were dead in your sins, and in your physical uncircumcision, God made you alive together with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, because he blotted out the record of our legal offences: in fact, he nailed it to the cross. He stripped the powers and authorities naked; he made a public example of them, he celebrated his triumph over them.

Our sharing in Jesus means the man who defeated death, through God's power, gives us the power to defeat powers and death too. So, we have that going for us, just as the Colossians did.

David