A Little Background
Entering the world of Biblical commentary is always quite enlightening. When I read the first verse of Colossians - Paul, and apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother - I trust that means that the book was written by Paul, with Timothy. But delve into a scholarly commentary, and you find there is disagreement among modern scholars about who wrote Colossians, siting its relationship to Ephesians and the other Pauline writings! I like being a simpleton Bible-lover, unconcerned with these things, but thought you might be interested to know this as we begin.
Also up for debate is what the "Colossian heresy" against which Paul was warning the Colossians. The short story? There seem to be some links to Jewish regulations (especially since the Sabbath is mentioned) but not of the same nature as issues addressed in the letter to the Galatian church (circumcision and all that jazz.) Thus it has lead scholars to think it was some kind of mystic and ascetic form of Judaism, "for a spiritual elite who were being urged to press on in wisdom and knowledge so as to attain true 'fulness.'"*
Here's where Colosse was, located in modern day Turkey, near the Lycus River. Scholars agree on this! :)
While there are alternative thoughts (you surprised?), many believe this letter was written around 60 A.D. during Paul's imprisonment in Rome. Also, Paul did not evangelize Colosse, Epaphras (who heard the Gospel in Ephesus) did. (1:7) It could be that Paul heard of the false teachings threatening the Colossian Christians from Epaphras himself.
Here's my take on all of the disagreement among scholars. Their job and goal as scholars is to discern - using their training and access to resources - as best they can, what was really happening, who was really writing, where they were, what time it was in history, and why things were written. I do not want to dismiss any disagreements lightly, but I also don't want us to get hung up there. God's Word is living and active. My main concern as a Christian and as a writer is to delve into how we can connect to God's Word, (specifically this month in the letter to the Colossians) and let it
- introduce us to new things about God
- drive "old" truths home, and
- challenge and change us as we interact with it.
I look forward to getting into the text with you over the next twenty-eight days!
*New Bible Commentary , IVP p.1261 ( In addition, I'll be reading F.F. Bruce's commentary on the book.)