The Apostle Paul: Prison Epistles; Colossians.

Today we examine Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians. This is due to the commonality this epistle has with Ephesians.

The Epistle to the Colossians is named for the city of Colossae. This is where the church to which Paul wrote was located. It is also evident that the epistle was also to be read to a neighboring church in the city of Laodicea (4:16).

The Apostle Paul is clearly identified as the epistle’s author at the very beginning (1:1; cf. v. 23; 4:18). This was customary in Paul’s letters. The testimony of the early church, including such key figures as Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, and Eusebius, confirmed that the opening claim was genuine.

Additional evidence for Paul’s authorship comes from the book’s close parallels with Philemon, which is universally accepted as having been written by Paul. As previously noted, both letters were written (c. A.D. 60–62) while Paul was a prisoner in Rome (4:3, 10, 18Philem. 9, 10, 13, 23. Additionally, the names of the same people (e.g., Timothy, Aristarchus, Archippus, Mark, Epaphras, Luke, Onesimus, and Demas) appear in both epistles. This is a strong evidence that both were written by the same author and at about the same time.

Colossae was a city in Phrygia, in the Roman province of Asia (part of modern Turkey), about 100 miles east of Ephesus in the region of the seven churches of Revelation 1–3. The city lay alongside the Lycus River, not far from where it flowed into the Maender River. The Lycus Valley narrowed at Colossae to a width of about two miles. Mount Cadmus rose 8,000 feet above the city.

Colossae was a thriving city in the fifth century B.C. when the Persian king Xerxes (Ahasuerus, cf. Est. 1:1) marched through the region. Black wool and dyes (made from the nearby chalk deposits) were important natural resources. Additionally, the city was situated at the junction of the main north-south and east-west trade routes. However, in Paul’s day the main road had been rerouted through nearby Laodicea, thus bypassing Colossae and leading to its decline and the rise of the neighboring cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis.

Colossae’s population was mainly Gentile, yet there was a large Jewish element dating from the days of Antiochus the Great (223–187 B.C.). Colossae’s mixed population of Jews and Gentiles showed itself both in the composition of the Colossian church and in the heresy that plagued it, which contained elements of both Jewish legalism and pagan mysticism.

More to come.

Soli deo Gloria!

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