Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Colossian Hymn

Larry Hurtado briefly discusses the Colossian hymn/poem in his massive study: Lord Jesus Christ. Drawing on the work of Christian Stettler, Der Kolosserhymnus: Untersuchungen zu Form, traditionsgeschichtlichem Hintergrund und Aussage von Kol 1,15-20 WUNT 2/31 (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000) Hurtado comes to the following conclusions:
  • On account of the self-contained nature of the passage, its compact phrasing, and its cadences (more evident in the Greek than in translation), 1:15-20 is widely thought to be a devotional poem or “hymn.”[1]
  • Unity and coherence speak against adaptation of an existing hymn.
  • Probably originated in the context of Christian worship.
  • Conceptual categories most likely derived from Greek speaking Jewish circles [LXX].
  • Stettler characterizes this as a “Christ-Psalm” lauding Jesus in the cadences of the Psalter.

What is most interesting to note is the lack of attention paid to προτοτοκος. Hurtado does not even entertain the thought that the mutation/explosion among early Christians as to the worship of Jesus, may have gone astray from monotheism to an adoptionistic Christology [a thought entertained by Dunn in Christology in the Making?]. Unless προτοτοκος is adequately dealt with, this conclusion remains a distinct possibility. Col 1:15-20 must be carefully exegeted to see if this conclusion is warranted. Failing that, an analysis of devotion to Jesus within a monotheistic framework remains incomplete.

I hope to address προτοτοκος in an upcoming blog...
Your thoughts?

[1] Hurdato, Lord Jesus Christ, pg. 505

1 comment:

J. B. Hood said...

I love Colossians, though I can't say I fully understand it. I don't have time to dig out my commentaries but here's one thought:

In v. 18 'prototokos' from the dead is coordinated with his identity as "the beginning." In my mind, this sits well with "New Adam" business--that is, he is FIRSTBORN because he is the FIRSTBORN of all creation as the FIRSTBORN of a New Creation, "the [new] beginning" (Matt 19:29, the first two words of Matt's Gospel, Romans 5 I think, etc). Not only that, but the rest of the context seems to suggest this sort of new creation motif: he has reconciled ALL THINGS, is HEAD OVER ALL THINGS, and his good news is being preached in ALL CREATION (23).

Not only is He involved in the origin of Creation; his 'firstborn'-ness ensures the New Creation, and results in the message of the New Creation which has broken into the world; for if any one is "in Messiah" there is NEW CREATION.

Furthermore, v. 16 and 17 ("before all things", the one by/through whom they were created) is not at all at odds with pre-existence. I don't think 'prototokos' suggests adoptionism; it certainly doesn't demand it.