Colossians

Scholars continue to debate whether this letter was written by Paul or whether, like Ephesians, someone who claimed Paul’s authority wrote it.  Perhaps in this case the author was someone who knew Paul. The final verse, 4:18, claims that Paul wrote the final greeting, suggesting that a secretary penned the rest of the letter. For some, this would sufficiently explain the difference in the Greek style of Colossians compared to letters that are not disputed.

Colossians has some overlap with Ephesians. Both refer to believers as having already been raised from the dead, meaning they have been given a new life in Christ and their behaviors should thus follow (3:1-17). Above all, being raised with Christ should bring unity to the body through the practice of live and humility.The list of household rules in 3:18-4:1 also parallel Ephesians 5:22-6:9.

The letter is also marked by a high view of Christ and the difference that fact should play in the life of the church. In 1:15-17, we see that Christ is the image of God, the one through whom all things were created, and the one who has authority over all things. The exalted Christ is also head of the church, the first of those born from the dead (1:18). Christians, therefore, are connected with Christ in his resurrection at this very moment. This fact must work its way into the details of one’s life, in what one says and does, and especially in how members of the church treat each other.

We see in Colossians 1:26 that the preached gospel is the revelation of a mystery. In religions of the time, mystery religions held that some secret information was available to a select few. The gospel, however, is the public revelation of a mystery. The mystery is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27), which is a mystical, spiritual bond between believers and Christ that is also fully available to the Gentiles. That bond even includes the suffering of Christians. Christian suffering fills up what is still “lacking” in Christ’s suffering (1:24). This does not mean that Christ did not suffer enough, but that our suffering is Christ’s by virtue of this spiritual bond.

These emphases suggest that the recipients of this letter were unclear or wrong about these matters. They may have fallen into a view similar to that of the mystery religions, which kept knowledge secret. Alternatively, the Christians in Colossae may have been in error because they held a low view of Christ, rather than Christ as the exalted and resurrected Son of God. They may also have had some tendencies toward asceticism and ceremonialism, judging by 2:6-23. Being in Christ relieves one of the need for maintaining such strict religious regulations.

– Peter Enns