Colossae was a city about 110 miles east of Ephesus in Asia Minor that had been prosperous and populous in the fifth century b.c. because of its extensive cloth-dying industry. By the first century a.d., the time of this letter, it was well into a decline, and in a.d. 60 would be completely destroyed by an earthquake. The letter therefore was most likely written in the late 50s, shortly before the city's ultimate demise. The church here was not started by Paul, but apparently by Epaphras (1.7,8; 4.12) who was with Paul in prison when this letter was written.
The chief concern of the Epistle to the Colossians is to warn and counsel against false teachings involving retroversions to Jewish observances (dietary restrictions, circumcision, and festivals), mystical knowledge, and worship of heavenly powers (2.8-13). This letter stresses over against these practices the unique role of Christ and the gift of grace the Colossians already have received through Christ—salvation fully and freely given by God. Christians are declared to enjoy a present existence as persons “risen with Christ” (3.1), and baptism, not circumcision, is said to be the mark of Christian initiation (2.10-12). In Christ “dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (2.9), so there can be no cosmic powers that have any authority over him. The Colossians therefore do not need any further source of deliverance or care because they have everything they need in Christ. The brilliant Christ-hymn in 1.15-20 is especially noteworthy for its beautifully expressed theology. Like the prologue to John (1.1-18), it declares that God created the world through Christ and will reconcile all things also through Christ.
Tradition has long ascribed authorship of this letter to Paul, even though questions have been raised about the noticeable differences in Colossians in language use, style, and vocabulary over against those features in the other epistles of Paul. To account for these differences, some have suggested authorship by a disciple of Paul.
Greetings, Prayers, and a Hymn to Christ (1.1-23)
Countering the False Teachings with the True Faith (1.24—2.19)
Living the New Life in Christ (2.20—4.6)
Final Greetings and Advice (4.7-18)
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