Table of contents
Occasion for writing
Colossians begins: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace and peace to you from God our Father” (1:1–2), thus identifying both the sender and receiver of this letter. This opening line also mentions Timothy, but in the rest of the epistle Paul often uses the first person (“I”—1:24–25, 29; “me”—4:7; etc.). As with Philippians, Paul’s authorship was affirmed by the early church fathers and has not been seriously disputed through the centuries. One of the strongest arguments for Paul as the author of Colossians is this letter’s relation to Philemon. Both letters sent to the same city, probably by the same messenger, contain many of the same names: Paul, Timothy, Onesimus, Archippus, Epaphras, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke. The similarity of Colossians to Ephesians has caused some to propose that Colossians may have been written by someone else (copying Ephesians and using Paul’s name on Colossians or vice versa). But similarities should be expected when two letters are written at the same time but sent to different churches in different locations. Consider the following comparison of Colossians and Ephesians. Some similarities include: • Both were to be read aloud in the churches (Colossians 4:16). Ephesians may be the letter from Laodicea (4:16). • The letters are very similar in style.
• Both letters were delivered by the same messenger—Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21–22; Colossians 4:7–8). • The letters contain some of the same expressions: “your faith in Jesus Christ and your love for all the saints” (Ephesians 1:15 and Colossians 1:4 NIV); “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Ephesians 1:7 and Colossians 1:14 NIV). • The letters have similar features: the prayers (Ephesians 1:15–23 and Colossians 1:9–14); references to unity in the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:1–16 and Colossians 3:12–17); instructions for households (Ephesians 5:22–6:9 and Colossians 3:18–4:1). Differences include:
• Ephesians is substantially longer than Colossians (six chapters to four). • The central theme of Ephesians is the church (body) of Christ, while the theme of Colossians is Christ as head of the church. • Ephesians has no hint of the controversy (proto-Gnostic heresy) that is dominant in Colossians. Setting
Written from a Roman prison in approximately a.d. 60. (Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary) Colossians was written in the same year as Ephesians and Philemon. According to the reference in 4:3 to being in chains, in 4:10 to fellow prisoner Aristarchus, and in 4:18 to his chains, clearly Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter. Evidently Epaphras, who was visiting Paul or was imprisoned with him (Philemon 23), told him of the problems in Colosse (1:7) (Grant Robert 63). Audience
The believers in Colosse
Colosse lay about one hundred miles east of Ephesus, in the Lycus River valley in Phrygia, a district of Asia Minor (Turkey) that had been incorporated into the Roman province of Asia in the second century b.c. Located on the great east-west trade route linking the Aegean Sea and the Euphrates River, Colosse thrived as a center of commerce. At one point the city also may have been a military base. Colosse was known for the distinctive, glossy, deep purple wool from the sheep that grazed in the surrounding hills. By the time of Paul’s missionary journeys, the trade route had changed, placing Colosse off the beaten path. Thus Colosse had been surpassed in power and importance by Laodicea and Hierapolis (see 4:13), neighboring towns in the Lycus Valley. Colosse was further reduced by an earthquake at about the same time this letter was written (Grant Robert pg 65) The population of Colosse...
Bibliography: Barton, Bruce B.; Comfort, Philip Wesley: Philippians, Colossians, Philemon. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 1995 (Life Application Bible Commentary),
Chad, Charles, Archie, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Tennessee, Holman Bible Publishers, 2004.
Erdman R. Charles, The Epistle of Colossians, Philadelphia Westminster Press, 1935
Grant M. Robert, Historical Introduction to the New Testament, New York, Harper and Row Publishers, 1998
Lucado Max, The Story, USA, Zordervan, 2008.
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