Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V06, Page 727 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: it!
COLOSSAL CAVERN KENTUCKY d. From survey by Edgar Vaughan Dome and W.L. Marshall. with additions by John M.Nelson Scale of Feet 0 acoav0300 400500 to celibacy, communism and the worship of the sun, it is improbable that the movement is identical with that of the Essenes. (3) The phenomena might be explained solely on the basis of Judaism (von Soden, Peake). Certainly the asceticism and ritualism might so be interpreted, for there was among the Jews of the Dispersion an increasing tendency to asceticism, by way of protest against the excesses of the Gentiles. The reference in ii. 23 to severity of the body may have to do with fasting preparatory to seeing visions (cf. Apoc. Baruch, xxi. 1, ix. 2, V. 7). Even the worship of angels, not only as mediators of revelation and visions, but also as cosmical beings, is a well-known fact in late Judaism (Apoc. Bar. lv. 3; Ethiopic Enoch, lx. r1, lxi. ro; Col. ii. 8, 20; Gal. iv. 3). As for the word " philosophy " (ii. 8), it is not necessary to take it in the technical Greek sense when the usage of Philo and Josephus permits a looser meaning. Finally the references to circumcision, paradosis (ii. 8) and dogmata (ii. 20), directly suggest a Jewish origin. If we resort solely to Judaism for explanation, it must be a Judaism of the Diaspora type. (4) The difficulty with the last-mentioned position is that it under-estimates the speculative tendencies of the errorists and ignores the direct influence of oriental theosophy. It is quite true that Paul does not directly attack the speculative position, but rather indicates the practical dangers inherent therein (the denial of the supremacy of Christ and of full salvation through Him); he does not say that the errorists hold Christ to be a mere angel or an aeon, or that words like pleroma (borrowed perhaps from their own vocabulary) involve a rigorous dualism. Yet his characterization of the movement as an arbitrary religion (ii. 23), a philosophy which is empty deceit (ii. 8), according to elemental spirits and not according to Christ, and a higher knowledge due to a mind controlled by the flesh (ii. 18); his repeated emphasis on Christ, as supreme over all things, over men and angels, agent in creation as well as in redemption, in whom dwelt bodily the fulness of the Godhead; and his constant stress upon knowledge,—all these combine to reveal a speculation real and dangerous, even if naive and regardless of consequences, and to suggest (with Julicher and McGiffert) that in addition to Jewish influence there is also the direct influence of Oriental mysticism. To meet the pressing need in Colossae, Paul writes a letter and entrusts it to Tychichus, who is on his way to Colossae with Onesimus, Philemon's slave (iv. 7, 9). (On the relation of this letter to Ephesians and to the letter to be sent from Laodicea to Colossae, see EPHESIANS, EPISTLE TO THE.) His attitude is prophylactic, rather than polemic, for the " philosophy " has not as yet taken deep root. His purpose is to restore in the hearts of the readers the joy of the Spirit, by making them see that Christ fulfils every need, and that through faith in Him and love from faith, the advance is made unimpeded unto the perfect man. He will eliminate foreign accretions, that the gospel of Christ may stand forth in its native purity, and that Christ Himself may in all things have the pre-eminence. The letter begins with a thanksgiving to God for the spiritual growth of the Colossians, and continues with a prayer for their fuller knowledge of the divine will, for a more perfect Christian life, and for a spirit of thanksgiving, seeing that it is God who guarantees their salvation in Christ (i. 1-14). It is Christ who is supreme, not angels, for He is the agent in creation; and it is solely on the basis of faith in Him, a faith expressing itself in love, that redemption is appropriated, and not on the basis of any further requirements such as ascetic practices and the worship of angels (i. 15-23). It is with a full message that Paul has been entrusted, the message of Christ, who alone can lead to all the riches of fulness of knowledge. And for this adequate knowledge the readers should be thankful (i. 23-ii. 7). Again he urges, that since redemption is in Christ alone, and that, too, full redemption and on the basis of faith alone, the demand for asceticism and meaningless ceremonies is folly, and moreover robs Christ, in whom dwells the divine fulness, of His rightful supremacy (ii. 8-23). And he exhorts them as members of the Body of Christ to manifest their faith in Christian love, particularly in their domestic relations and in their contact with non- Christians (iii. 1-iv. 6). He closes by saying that Tychichus will give them the news. Greetings from all to all (iv. 7-18). A letter like this, clear cut in its thought, teeming with ideas emanating from an unique religious experience, and admirably adjusted to known situations, bears on the face of it the marks of genuineness even without recourse to the unusually excellent external attestation. It is not strange that there is a growing consensus of opinion that Paul is the author. With the critical renaissance of the early part of the 19th century, doubts were raised as to the genuineness of the letter (e.g. by E. T. Mayerhoff, 1838). Quite apart from the difficulties created by the Tubingen theory, legitimate difficulties were found in the style of the letter, in the speculation of the errorists, and in the theology of the author. (r) As to style, it is replied that if there are peculiarities in Colossians, so also in the admittedly genuine letters, Romans, Corinthians, Galatians. Moreover, if Philippians is Pauline, so also the stylistically similar Colossians (cf. von Soden). (2) As to the speculation of the errorists, it is replied that it is explicable in the lifetime of Paul, that some of the elements of it may have their source in pre-Christian Jewish theories, and that recourse to the developed gnosticism of the 2nd century is unnecessary. (3) As to the Christology of the author, it is replied that it does not go beyond what we have already in Paul except in emphasis, which itself is occasioned by the circumstances. What is implicit in Corinthians is explicit in Colossians. H. J. Holtzmann (1872) subjected both Colossians and Ephesians to a rigorous examination, and found in Colossians at least a nucleus of Pauline material. H. von Soden (1885), with well-considered principles of criticism, made a similar examination and found a much larger nucleus, and later still, (1893), in his commentary, reduced the non-Pauline material to a negligible minimum. Harnack, Julicher and McGiffert, however, agree with Lightfoot, Weiss, Zahn (and early tradition) in holding that the letter is wholly Pauline—a position which is proving more and more acceptable to contemporary scholarship. Ephesians " in Smith's Bible Dictionary (2nd ed., 1893), and the article of A. Julicher on " Colossians and Ephesians " in. the Encyclopaedia Biblica (1899); the Introductions of H. J. Holtzmann (1892), B. Weiss (1897), Th. Zahn (1900) and Julicher (1906); the histories of the apostolic age by C. von Weizsacker (1892), A. C. M'Giffert (1897) and O. Pfleiderer (Urchristentum, 1902); and the commentaries of J. B. Lightfoot (1875), H. von Soden (1893) T. K. Abbott (1897), E. Haupt (1902), Peake (1903) and P. Ewald (1905). (J. E. F.)
End of Article: COLOSSAL

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.