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The Catholic Study Bible A special version of the New American Bible, with a wealth of background information useful to Catholics.

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Commentary on Colossians

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Text Commentary side-by-side

1, 1–2 :

For the epistolary form used by Paul at the beginning of his letters, see the note on Rom 1, 1–7 . On holy ones or “God's people,” see the note on Rom 1, 7 . Awareness of their calling helps this group to be faithful brothers and sisters in Christ, i.e., dedicated to the tasks implied in their calling.

1, 3–8 :

On thanksgiving at the start of a letter, see the note on Rom 1, 8 .The apostle, recalling his own prayers for them and the good report about them he has received ( 3–4 ),congratulates the Colossians upon their acceptance of Christ and their faithful efforts to live the gospel ( 3, 6–8 ).To encourage them he mentions the success of the gospel elsewhere ( 6 ) and assures them that his knowledge of their community is accurate, since he has been in personal contact with Epaphras ( 7–8 ), who likely had evangelized Colossae and other cities in the Lycus Valley of Asia Minor (cf 4, 12.13; Phlm 23 ). On faith, love, and hope (4.5.8), see the note on 1 Cor 13, 13; cf 1 Thes 1, 3; 5, 8 .

1, 7 :

Epaphras: now with Paul but a Colossian, founder of the church there.

1, 9–14 :

Moved by Epaphras' account, the apostle has prayed and continues to pray fervently for the Colossians that, in their response to the gospel, they may be filled with the knowledge of God's will ( 9; cf 3, 10 ). Paul expects a mutual interaction between their life according to the gospel and this knowledge ( 10 ), yielding results (fruit; 10; cf 6) in every good work: growth, strength, endurance, patience, with joy ( 11 ), and the further giving of thanks ( 12 ).

1, 12–14 :

A summary about redemption by the Father precedes the statement in vv 15–20 about the beloved Son who is God's love in person ( 13 ). Christians share the inheritance…in light with the holy ones, here probably the angels ( 12 ). The imagery reflects the Exodus (delivered…transferred) and Jesus' theme of the kingdom. Redemption is explained as forgiveness of sins (cf Acts 2, 38; Rom 3, 24–25; Eph 1, 7 ).

1, 15–20 :

As the poetic arrangement indicates, these lines are probably an early Christian hymn, known to the Colossians and taken up into the letter from liturgical use (cf Phil 2, 6–11; 1 Tm 3, 16 ). They present Christ as the mediator of creation ( 15–18a) and of redemption (18b–20 ). There is a parallelism between firstborn of all creation ( 15 ) and firstborn from the dead ( 18 ). While many of the phrases were at home in Greek philosophical use and even in gnosticism, the basic ideas also reflect Old Testament themes about Wisdom found in Prv 8, 22–31; Wis 7, 22–8, 1; and Sir 1, 4 . See also the notes on what is possibly a hymn in Jn 1, 1–18 .

1, 15 :

Image: cf Gn 1, 27 . Whereas the man and the woman were originally created in the image and likeness of God (see also Gn 1, 27 ), Christ as image (2 Cor 4, 4 ) of the invisible God (Jn 1, 18 ) now shares this new nature in baptism with those redeemed (cf 3, 10–11 ).

1, 16–17 :

Christ (though not mentioned by name) is preeminent and supreme as God's agent in the creation of all things (cf Jn 1, 3 ), as prior to all things ( 17; cf Heb 1, 3 ).

1, 18 :

Church: such a reference seemingly belongs under “redemption” in the following lines, not under the “creation” section of the hymn. Stoic thought sometimes referred to the world as “the body of Zeus.” Pauline usage is to speak of the church as the body of Christ (1 Cor 12, 12–27; Rom 12, 4–5 ). Some think that the author of Colossians has inserted the reference to the church here so as to define “head of the body” in Paul's customary way. See v 24 . Preeminent: when Christ was raised by God as firstborn from the dead (cf Acts 26, 23; Rv 1, 5 ), he was placed over the community, the church, that he had brought into being, but he is also indicated as crown of the whole new creation, over all things. His further role is to reconcile all things ( 20 ) for God or possibly “to himself.”

1, 19 :

Fullness: in gnostic usage this term referred to a spiritual world of beings above, between God and the world; many later interpreters take it to refer to the fullness of the deity ( 2, 9 ); the reference could also be to the fullness of grace (cf Jn 1, 16 ).

1, 20 :

The blood of his cross: the most specific reference in the hymn to redemption through Christ's death, a central theme in Paul; cf 2, 14–15; 1 Cor 1, 17.18.23 . [Through him]: the phrase, lacking in some manuscripts, seems superfluous but parallels the reference to reconciliation through Christ earlier in the verse.

1, 21–23 :

Paul, in applying this hymn to the Colossians, reminds them that they have experienced the reconciling effect of Christ's death. He sees the effects of the cross in the redemption of human beings, not of cosmic powers such as those referred to in vv 16 and 20 (all things). Paul also urges adherence to Christ in faith and begins to point to his own role as minister ( 23 ), sufferer ( 24 ), and proclaimer ( 27–28 ) of this gospel.

1, 24–2, 3 :

As the community at Colossae was not personally known to Paul (see Introduction), he here invests his teaching with greater authority by presenting a brief sketch of his apostolic ministry and sufferings as they reflect those of Christ on behalf of the church ( 24 ). The preaching of God's word (25) carries out the divine plan (the mystery, 26 ) to make Christ known to the Gentiles ( 27 ). It teaches the God‐given wisdom about Christ (28), whose power works mightily in the apostle ( 29 ). Even in those communities that do not know him personally ( 2, 1 ), he can increase the perception of God in Christ, unite the faithful more firmly in love, and so bring encouragement to them ( 2 ). He hopes that his apostolic authority will make the Colossians perceive more readily the defects in the teaching of others who have sought to delude them, the next concern in the letter.

1, 24 :

What is lacking: although variously interpreted, this phrase does not imply that Christ's atoning death on the cross was defective. It may refer to the apocalyptic concept of a quota of “messianic woes” to be endured before the end comes; cf Mk 13, 8.19–20.24 and the note on Mt 23, 29–32 . Others suggest that Paul's mystical unity with Christ allowed him to call his own sufferings the afflictions of Christ.

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