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EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS

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Originally appearing in Volume V06, Page 726 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS, the twelfth book of the New Testament, the authorship of which is ascribed to the Apostle Paul. Colossae, like the other Phrygian cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis, had not been visited by Paul, but owed its belief in Jesus Christ to Epaphras, a Colossian, who had been converted by Paul, perhaps in Ephesus, and had laboured not only in his native city but also in the adjacent portions of the Lycus valley,—a Christian in whom Paul reposed the greatest confidence as one competent to interpret the gospel of whose truth Paul was convinced (i. 7; iv. 12, 13). This Epaphras, like the majority of the Colossians, was a Gentile. It is probable, however, both from the letter itself and from the fact that Colossae was a trade centre, that Jews were there with their synagogues (cf. also Josephus, Ant. xii. 149). And it is further probable that some of the Gentiles, who afterwards became Christians, were either Jewish proselytes or adherents who paid reverence to the God of the Jews. At all events, the letter indicates a sensitiveness on the part of the Christians not only to oriental mysticism and theosophy (cf. Sir W. M. Ramsay, Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, and Church in the Roman Empire), but also to the Judaism of the Diaspora. Our first definite knowledge of the Colossian Church dates from the presence of Epaphras in Rome in A.D. 62–64 (or A.D. 56-58), when Paul was a prisoner. He arrived with news, perhaps with a letter (J. R. Harris, Expositor, Dec. 1898, pp. 404 ff.), touching the state of religion in Colossae. Paul learns, to his joy, of their faith, hope and love; of the order and stability of their faith; and of their reception of Christ Jesus the Lord (i. 4, 8; ii. 5-7). He sees no sign of an attack upon him or his gospel. On the contrary, loyalty to him and sympathy with him in his sufferings are everywhere manifest (i. 9, 24; ii. 2; iv. 8); and the gospel of Christ is advancing here as elsewhere (i. 6). At the same time he detects a lack of cheerfulness and a lack of spiritual understanding in the Church. The joy of the gospel, expressing itself in songs and thanksgivings, is damped (iii. 15, x6), and, above all, the message of Christ does not dwell richly enough in them. Though the believers know the grace of God they are not filled with a knowledge of his will, so that their conduct is lacking in that strength and joy and perfection, that richness of the fulness of knowledge expected of those who had been made full in Christ (i. 6, 9-11, 28; ii. 2, 7, 10). The reason for this, Paul sees, is the influence of the claim made by certain teachers in Colossae that the Christians, in order to attain unto and be assured of full salvation, must supplement Paul's message with their own fuller and more perfect wisdom, and must observe certain rites and practices (ii. 16, 21, 23) connected with the worship of angels (ii. 18, 23) and elementary spirits (ii 8, 20). The origin and the exact nature of this religious movement are alike uncertain. (T) If it represents a type of syncretism as definite as that known to have existed in the developed gnostic systems of the 2nd century, it is inconceivable that Paul should have passed it by as easily as he did. (2) As there is no reference ootCrys.,:ool s. Chinese Wall a. Entrance to New Discovery 3. Entrance to Wild Goose Chase and River Region e. Uncle Tom's Pool g lizard Spring 6.Twin Pits 7. Ruins of Carthage 8.8001 Island •.8 g.Randstons Tumbledown ed W. Ruins of Martinique sn Register Avenue U. Stany Heavens and Milky Way ts.Bearskin Robe te. Phosphate Mountain uy.Null of the Great Westyn ab.Catacornbs 16 \ Dining a7. Pulnit Rook oom Colossal Dome
End of Article: EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS
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