The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father MacEvilly’s Introduction to Colossians

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 9, 2019


Who were they?—The Colossians, to whom this Epistle was addressed, are supposed by many to have been the people of the Island of Rhodes, called by the name of Colossæ, owing to the famous colossal statue of the sun which stood there, reckoned as one of the seven wonders of the world. This opinion is, however, generally rejected as improbable; and the Colossians are commonly believed to have been a people of Phrygia in Asia Minor. The city of Colossæ was not far distant from Laodicea and Hieropolis, as appears from Col 2:1; 4:16-17, &c., of this Epistle. It is most likely, nay, almost certain, that St. Paul was never at Colossæ. This is clearly inferred from Col 2:1, and from the fact, that, throughout the entire Epistle, he never makes the most remote allusion to the exercise of his Apostleship there, which he ordinarily does, when addressing those whom he himself converted. On the contrary, he ascribes their conversion to Epaphras (Col 1:7). The common opinion, then, is, that Epaphras was the first who preached the Gospel to the Colossians. But, although St. Paul did not in person preach to them; still, in character of Apostle of the Gentiles, having “the solicitude of all the churches,” he feels himself called upon to address them on subjects of faith, regarding which the weight of his Apostolic authority might be required to secure them against the wiles and snares of the false teachers. And although he was not the founder of their Church, immediately, still he might be regarded as such in a certain sense, inasmuch as the Gospel came to them at least mediately through him.

Occasion of.—The occasion of this Epistle was to guard the Colossians against the false teachers, who endeavoured to introduce corrupt doctrines amongst them. The heresies which St. Paul combats in all his Epistles might be classed under two heads. To the first, belonged the heresies of the Judaizantes. These were certain Jewish fanatics, who ascribed too much efficacy to the ceremonial law of the Jews, and while admitting Christ to be a model of virtue and the consummator of faith, still maintained that the observance of the Mosaic law was necessary to confer justice, and should be associated with the Christian religion. Against this class the Apostle specially directs his Epistles to the Romans, Galatians, Philippians, and Hebrews. Under the second, were comprised the errors of the Gnostic heretics, who wished to join the Platonic system of philosophy with the Christian religion. To these belonged Simon Magus, Ebion, Cerinthus, Valentinus, and the Manichees. Against this class were specially directed the Epistles to the Colossians, Ephesians, Timothy, Jude, and Second of St. Peter. It was to guard the faithful of Colossæ against this latter class of false teachers, St. Paul, in character of Apostle of nations, wrote this Epistle.

The second part of this, as in the case with all the Epistles of St. Paul, is chiefly employed in inculcating several duties of Christian morality.

When and where written.—It is generally supposed to have been written from Rome. The subscription of the Greek copies asserts, that it was sent by Tychicus and Onesimus, whom St. Paul had converted when in chains. It is supposed to have been written during his first imprisonment, about the year 62, and to have been conveyed to its destination, by the bearers of the Epistles to the Ephesians, Philippians and also of that to Philemon.

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