Jerry L. Sumney

in Biblical Studies

ISBN: 9780195393361
Published online January 2012 | | DOI:

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Colossians is often seen as a letter on the edge of the transition from Pauline to post-Pauline thought, being identified as either the last authentic letter or the first written in Paul’s name after his death. The debate about authorship continues, with over half the field finding it to be pseudonymous. Colossians’ Christology is among the most exalted in the New Testament. The preformed liturgical piece of 1:15–20 has received more attention from interpreters than any other text or topic in Colossians. This liturgy identifies Christ as God’s agent in creation and as the one who subdues all hostile powers and reconciles all things to God. This understanding of Christ is the central affirmation that supports the argument of Colossians against a teaching that contends that those who do not have visionary experiences are not forgiven of their sins. Colossians uses its Christology to assure its readers of their salvation. The identity of the opponents is also a topic of continuing debate. Questions include whether the opposed teaching comes from inside the church or from outside, whether it is related to Judaism or a different religion or philosophy, and whether it encourages the worship of angelic beings. The answers given to such questions shape the way interpreters perceive the letter’s argument and theology. Colossians presents Paul as the one who cares for the readers enough to suffer for them and as the faithful proclaimer of the true gospel to which the readers must adhere to receive and retain their salvation. This description of Paul intends to convince the readers to listen to Paul’s voice in this letter rather than the other teachers. The ethical instructions in this letter serve an important role in its theological argument. Thus they demonstrate that such instructions are not simply added with little thought about the occasion or argument of the letter. Since Colossians contains the first appearance of the household code form, this literary form and its implications for the development of ethics in the early church remains a topic of discussion in relation to this letter.

Article.  12280 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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