I enjoyed sharing with you some reflections from one of my favorite books — Colossians — and decided I'd follow in Frank's footsteps, and start a series of occasional posts, drawing from the notes of my detailed study in the letter.
What Was Colosse? Colosse was located in the Roman province of Asia, built on the southern bank of the Lycus River, which is a tributary of the Maeander River (Hiebert's Introduction).The Greek historian Herodotus called it a “great city” in the fifth century, and Xenophon called it a “populous city, wealthy and large” a century later (O’Brien). By Paul’s time, however, it had been surpassed by neigh¬boring Laodicea (10 mi. W, founded and named in wife’s honor by Antiochus II [261-246 BC]) and Hierapolis (12 mi. NW); still had a thriving wool industry, however, and a color of wool named after it.
Importance of location. At this point the Lycus Valley is 10 mi. X 2 mi., “walled in by great precipices (Hiebert). It is “a strategic spot on the important highway from Ephesus to” the Euphrates Valley (ibid.) For this reason, it would host travellers going back and forth from the distant spots of Rome and the Euphrates Valley. I'll refer back to this when I talk about the "Colossian heresy," DV, as I will also refer to...
Populus. Colosse would have had plenty of native Phrygians and Greek settlers (O’Brien). Josephus said that Antiochus III (“the Great”; 223-187 BC [new ISBE]) moved 2000 Jewish families into Lydia and Phrygia. Note: these Jews were not brought in from Palestine, but from Babylonia and Mesopotamia (O’Brien, p. xxvii). In ca. 62 BC it is calculated that there were about 11,000 free Jew¬ish males in nearby Laodicea (O’Brien, p. xxvii). So the populus was a mixture of
- Native Phrygians
- Greek settlers
- Jews via Babylon and Mesopotamia
What was Paul's involvement, then? See the account of his ministry in Acts 19:8-10. During this extended ministry, the word of the Lord spread abroad, drawing many to saving faith. I would surmise that Epaphras was one of Paul’s converts during this time. The apostle instructed Epaphras of Christ and the Good News, then Epaphras returned to his hometown area, evangelized, and started at least one church in Colosse. Ephaphras still carried the apostle's commendation as a faithful preacher of the Gospel (1:7), and a servant of Christ Jesus (4:12)
But then after the planting of the church, Epaphras ran into some trouble, which I plan to study with you in a future post. He went to Paul in Rome for some help — which he got, in the form of this power-packed little jewel of a letter.
To be continued, Lord willing....
SERIES NOTE: unless specified, all translations from Colossians are my own ad hoc renderings of the Greek text, as are translations from other books when designated DPUV [Dan Phillips' Unauthorized Version]. Unspecified translations from other books are ESV.