Unger's Bible Dictionary: Colossians
COLOSSIANS, EPISTLE TO THE
COLOS'SIANS, BOOK OF. An epistle of Paul written apparently from his Roman imprisonment (Acts 28:30-31; Col 4:3,10,18). Belonging also to this third group of Pauline epistles are Philemon, Ephesians, and Philippians.
Occasion and Date. The epistle is a strong polemic against a Judaic-Gnostic heresy with its ceremonialism and doctrine of emanations. This unsound teaching sought to reduce Christianity to a legal system and Christ to the position of a lesser god. Paul directed the impact of revealed truth against the Jewish element (circumcision, meats, drinks, fast days, new moons, and Sabbaths; Col 2:11-16), an ascetic element (2:20-23), and a false philosophical and speculative element (2:8), with the worship of intermediary beings (2:18-19). Apparently, Epaphras and his colleagues were unable to handle this situation and went to Rome to consult Paul about it (1:7-8). The letter of reply was sent by Tychicus and Onesimus (4:7-9) toward the middle of Paul's two-year imprisonment at Rome, about A.D. 60 AD.
Plan. Paul attacks the errors at Colossae by the clear presentation of counter truths. After first giving thanks for the Colossians' achievements and interceding for their progress (Col 1:1-12), he expounds the supremacy of Christ over all principalities and powers (1:13-19), the fullness of His redemption (1:20-23), and his own hardship in making known the gospel message (1:24-2:3). He warns the Colossian church against philosophic errors that set aside the provision of full deliverance from sin and freedom from legalism (2:4-15). He warns them accordingly to reject ritual prescriptions and the worship of inferior beings (2:16-19), emphasizing their complete position in Christ (2:20-3:4). He urges them to appropriate Christ's death and resurrection in practical Christian living (3:5-17) and in discharging the various special relations of life (3:18-4:6). He explains the mission of Tychicus and Onesimus (4:7-9) and sends salutations (4:10-17), ending with a benediction (4:18).
BIBLIOGRAPHY: H. C. G. Moule, Colossian and Philemon Studies: Lessons in Faith and Holiness (n.d.); W. R. Nicholson, Popular Studies in Colossians (n.d.); J. Eadie, Commentary on the Epistle of Paul to the Colossians (1957); C. F. D. Moule, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Colossians and to Philemon (1958); J. B. Lightfoot, St. Paul's Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon (1959); W. Hendricksen, Exposition of Colossians and Philemon (1964); E. Lohse, Colossians and Philemon (1971); R. P. Martin, Colossians: The Church's Lord and the Christian's Liberty (1971); H. C. G. Moule, Studies in Colossians and Philemon (1977); W. G. Scroggie, Studies in Philemon (1977); F. B. Westcott, Colossians: A Letter to Asia (1981).
(from The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)
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