Theology is a particularly beautiful discipline. Indeed, we can confidently say that it is the most beautiful of all disciplines. To find academic study distasteful is the mark of the philistine. The theologian who labours without joy is not a theologian at all. Sulky faces, morose thoughts and boring ways of speaking are intolerable in this field.
Friday, March 31, 2006
Thursday, March 30, 2006
- Colossians: Robert W. Wall (Th.D., Dallas Theological Seminary) is professor of biblical studies at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, Washington.
- Articles about Colossians by Brian Walsh explore Colossians in the context of empire.
- Reconciliation and the Blood of the Cross: Forgiveness and Subversive Politics in Paul by Sylvia C. Keesmaat explores Romans 13:1-7 and Colossians 1:15-20 as subversive challenges to imperialism. Available in PDF format.
- Barth L. Campbell, Colossians 2:6-15 as a Thesis: A Rhetorical-Critical Study.
From Peter Kirby, we also gain this quote from Werner Kummel Introduction to the New Testament, who adduces several considerations in favor of authenticity (op. cit., p. 345):
If the substantive differences of Col can be understood on the basis of the concrete polemical argument of the letter, then there are substantive matters which support the assumption of Pauline authorship as well. (a) The assumed relationship of the writer to the readers corresponds in several points to Phlm: in both letters there are greetings from Epaphras, Aristarchus, Mark, Luke, Demas (Col 4:10 ff; Phlm 23 f); both letters mention the sending of Onesimus (Col 4:9; Phlm 12) and have special words for Archippus (Col 4:17; Phlm 2). These agreements do not occur in the same relationships and formulations, however, so that the thesis is unconvincing that the indubitably Pauline Phlm has been imitated by a non-Pauline writer only in these personal remarks. (b) The household admonitions in Col 3:18-4:1 show a remarkably small christianizing, especially in compraison with Eph 5:22-6:9, which is much less easily understood for a non-Pauline writer than for Paul himself. (c) In contrast to Eph, the use of the formulas en cristo and en kurio in Col correspond completely to Paul's usage. (d) J. Knox has pointed out that the letter, which was intended for Laodicea (4:16a) was probably addressed to the smaller city Colossae because Onesimus was from Colossae and Paul sought contact with the community in which Onesimus' master lived, since it was he to whom Phlm brought so grave a request. Besides, the unusually comprehensive rule for slaves is best understood (3:22-25) if the business with the slave Onesimus were to be settled at the same time. Even though all these arguments may not be of equal weight, together they strengthen the supposition that Col originated with Paul.
This seems to be quite sensible, and commentators like Wright and others have nuanced the argument for Pauline authorship to make it rather plausible. But the evidence must still persuade some who err on the side of scepticism.
What was the situation in Colossae, and what was the relevance of what he says in this letter to that situation? Is Colossians an exception to the general rule, written by Paul when he was perhaps occupying his time in prison in writing pastoral letters without any particular or pressing purpose in mind? 
If false teaching exists, then it cannot be serious, either in character or magnitude; one glance at Galatians reminds us of the way in which Paul reacts when he feels that faith in Christ is being undermined. 
Exhortation to avoid a certain course of action certainly does not necessarily indicate that those addressed have already fallen prey to the temptation, as ever preacher and congregation must be aware. 
Even if the letter is written out of a general pastoral concern for the Christians in Colossae, rather than because of some dangerous error there, we may expect Paul’s words to reflect knowledge of the state of the church. Aspects of the gospel which he includes in his thanksgivings, as well as points which he emphasises in his exhortations, may well indicate tendencies within the community, new of which has obviously reached Paul. 
To suppose that belief in such forces can only be the result of explicit ‘false teaching’ in the Colossian Christian community is to underestimate the pressures of the pagan environment, and to forget the background of these converts. 
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
It seems to be accepted by all commentators and writers on Colossians that the basic reason for the letter’s composition was the existence of some kind of aberration in the Colossian community. Sometimes this is referred to as a ‘heresy’; more cautiously it is described as ‘false teaching’ or ‘error’. Its proponents are variously thought to be members of the Christian community spreading corruption from within, or outsiders attacking the church’s beliefs; the teaching has been interpreted as Jewish, as Gnostic, or as a mixture of the two. But that the Church was under some kind of serious attack, and that the letter was written to meet this attack, does not seem to be questioned. In attempting to reconstruct the situation behind Paul’s writings, the danger of circularity is inevitable; it is all too easy to use what hints there are in a letter to build a false picture of events, and then read this back into what is said. Our own attempt to answer the problem of Colossians can, of course, like any other, only use the evidence of the letter itself, and is open to the same danger of circularity. What we are questioning is the theory that they are under attack by a specific group of teachers who are advocating a particular doctrine which can be properly termed ‘the Colossian error’. Hooker offers substantial arguments that question the notion of a specific Colossian heresy. Before I carry on and offer my comments, what do you think? Is Hooker right to question the scholarly paradigm of Colossians being a direct respons to false teaching in the Church? Or are there others ways to understand and appreciate this letters contribution to the NT Corpus?Comments, questions and criticisms are welcomed!For those interested, I. H. Marshall also has a wonderful essay: Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earlier Christianity as well as Edwin M. Yamauchi essay: Pre-Christian Gnosticism, the New Testament and Nag Hammadi in recent debate. Marhsall's essay briefly touches on Colossians, while Yamauchi deals with the notion of Gnosticism in particular, without reference to Colossians.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Friday, March 24, 2006
... practical wisdom is more truly embodied in action than expressed in rules of action...  Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge: Toward a Post-critical Philosophy (1958) pp. 53-54This applies not only to the art of exegesis [Recall Ben Witherington's comment: Good exegetes are not born, they are made and moulded, and the process is more helpful and less painful if you are learning from the best.] but also to our relationships, and to authority. In fact, thoughts are brewing in my reflections as to how this relates to Vanhoozer's The Drama of Doctrine. But maybe more reflections on that, later...McLaren finished his discussion with some helpful comments on how this relates to discipleship and working together. Although I think McLaren is at his best when he's writing, hearing his voice was a deep reminder that here is someone who is trying to take Jesus and the Kingdom seriously, even if I part ways on one or three issues... So well done Brian!
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Monday, March 20, 2006
- The contributors include not only New Testament specialists, but also theologians and ethicists
- The essays address subjects not usually covered in standard introductions to the gospels, including their impact on Christian lives, spirituality and worship
- Interdisciplinary and international, the book will be of interest to an unusually wide audience, including theology students, religious professionals, academics, and theologically literate lay people
Friday, March 17, 2006
The love that mirrors the love of God in Christ can only be aroused and sustained by the Spirit of God. The phrase carries overtones of an inspiration that wells up from within, charismatically enabled (Rom. 2:29; 1 Cor. 12:3, 9, 13; 14:16; 1 Thes. 1:5), and that depends on continued openness to the Spirit if its quality of unselfish service of others is to be maintained.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
So what are the “identifying beliefs” of Christian faith? It seems to me that there are two related ones: Christian faith is identified both by its christological character and by its trinitarian character. And at the core of both of these identifying characteristics is a single, central belief: a belief in the unity between Jesus Christ and God.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
In short, this view believes the wrath of God (the Father) was poured out on the Son and absorbed by the Son. In this way, the balance of justice is maintained: sin brings judgment (wrath) and the wrath of God must be propitiated. The book’s emphasis is out of balance if one is seeking for anything like a comprehensive theory of atonement in the Bible — for there is more than one (the judicial) story.
In sum, Paul was not converted because he had a psychological crisis brought on by a vision, but because it was made clear to him that his patron, God, was asking something new and different from him, and the loyal response of acquiescence was the only way to go.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
- Traffic in Truth by Polkinghorne
- Five Speeches that Changed the World by Meyer
- Jesus the Seer by Witherington
- The Climax of Prophecy by Bauckham
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Friday, March 03, 2006
Because [the letters of] Paul are innocent of any attempt to convey new information about the historical Jesus, such information as they do contain, being incidental, is the more valuable and must be taken carefully into account.Thus, it should be argued that not only accidental information in the gospels [as Mark points out with regards to the possibility of Jesus owning a home.] but also incidental information that may unknowingly fill us in on some juicy details of what the historical Jesus was like and possibly, what he was up to. Of course, now there will another massive discussion on whether or not the information is actually accidental or incidental but at least this may serve to enlighten us in some areas. As Mark is currently suggesting... Interesting discussion which could have some fruit for our studies... Yes? No?  Barnett, Jesus and the Logic of History, pg. 25. Italics mine.