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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

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Commentary on The Letter of Paul to the Colossians

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1.3–14 : Thanksgiving and prayer.

9–10 :

True wisdom and understanding produce a worthy manner of life. Probably there is an implied contrast with the false wisdom which involved the worship of spiritual powers (see 1.16 n. ).

12–14 :

In the OT the heritage of God's people was the land. Here the heritage is in the realm of light, i.e. a share in Christ's kingdom. As Israel was delivered in the Exodus from Egypt, so too the Christians have been rescued. The words release (lit, redemption), heritage, and rescued draw upon the Exodus tradition to interpret Christian experience as release from the domain of darkness, i.e. of evil and evil powers.

1.15–20 : A hymn to Christ.

Most scholars agree that these verses are taken over and modified by Paul from an earlier hymn. Hence, many currents of thought, even pagan, are suggested as lying behind the hymn. The dominant source of its themes, however, is probably the OT and noncanonical Jewish Wisdom literature. Israel's developed portrait of divine Wisdom (see Prov. 8.22–31; Ecclus. 24.1–22 ) is the forerunner of the portrayal of Christ as creator and redeemer.

15 :

The image of the invisible God: see Wisd. 7.26 . His is the primacy over all creation: see Prov. 8.22 .

16 :

Since all else was created through him (see Wisd. 7.22 ) and for him, he is superior to all, as the source and end of their being. Invisible orders: in the religious currents of the time, it was believed that many divine beings (thrones, sovereignties, authorities, and powers) existed; in some thought, these were represented as angelic beings (compare 1 Cor. 2.6–8 n. ). The passage subordinates such spiritual beings to Christ, for they too are created things (v. 15 ).

18 :

In the earlier Pauline letters Christ and Christians form one body (see 1 Cor. 12.12 ); in Col. and Eph. a distinction is made between the body (the church) and its head (Christ). Also distinctive is the fact that here church means the entire Christian community, not simply a local church as in the earlier Pauline usage. The first to return from the dead: lit. the firstborn from the dead.

19 :

The entire fullness of God dwells in Christ. This has been interpreted by some scholars as a rebuttal of the notion that God's attributes were distributed among many angelic beings who mediate between God and humanity. Others doubt that that concept was current so early as to have called forth a rebuttal from Paul.

20 :

The whole created order (all things) is understood as having been estranged from God, and rebellious; this estrangement has been overcome by the reconciliation effected by the death of Christ (the shedding of his blood on the cross).

1.21–23 : The reconciled community.

The universal reconciliation ( 1.20 ) is here applied to the local church.

22 :

Without … blemish: the phrase draws on OT sacrificial requirements (Exod. 12.5; Lev. 9.3 ; and often).

1.24–2.5 : The apostle's suffering and dedication.

24 :

The expression what still remains for Christ to suffer does not imply a lack in sufferings of the historical Jesus; rather, these afflictions are to be borne by the apostle and are “Christ's” because they will be endured for the sake of Christ's body, i.e. the church. The passage also reflects the apocalyptic notion that God's victory over evil would be preceded by a period of trial and suffering; see Rev. 6.11; 1 Thess. 3.3 n.

2.1 :

Laodiceans: neighbors of the Colossians.

3 :

The notion that these treasures lie hidden in Christ is possibly derived from Prov. 2.3–5 , which likens wisdom to buried treasure; see also Isa. 45.3 .

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