Thursday, February 05, 2009

Colossians 4:2

τῇ προσευχῇ προσκαρτερεῖτε γρηγοροῦντες ἐν αὐτῇ ἐν εὐχαριστίᾳ
Working on Colossians today, I followed my usual pattern of trying to do as much exegetical work as possible without consulting the commentaries. When I got to the word highlighted above, keeping alert; being watchful, I didn't realise that I would depart from many of the major commentaries. I take it to refer to being watchful or alert in prayer, and this with thanksgiving. But most commentators take it as a reference to the eschaton, or the immenent return of Christ (So Moo, O'Brien, Dunn, et. al.).
While Moo is right that this term refers often (12 out of 22 times) in eschatological contexts, I'm not convinced that this is the referrent here. Given the context of Colossians 4, I would suggest that it refers to being aware of God speaking, or doing something in response to the devoted prayers of his people. Besides, Paul only uses the word 4 times, and only in 1 Thess 5 is the context eschatological. The reference in 1 Cor 16:13 is clearly not.
So can we can extrapolate from one word, to an eschatological context? For this word to be a "catch-word", we would have to assume a strong awareness of the Jesus traditions of Matt 25 and Mark 13 where this word is used. Is this plausible? I can't imagine the Colossians listening to this message and jumping to an eschatological interpretation based on the memory of Jesus tradition, so if this is what Paul meant, he is being exceptionally vague. Rather, this must refer to being aware of God's Spirit moving in the congregation in response to the prayers of His people - similar perhaps to 1 Thess 5:16-22 (on this passage see Witherington's commentary, which links prayer and praise to prophecy which would then possibly answer the prayers and cause further praise).
Does this make sense? Have I missed something?

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