Introduction to Colossians

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What do we know about the author and his relationship to the audience? What was his location and circumstances when writing (provenance)? How do these things inform and aid our understanding of the book?

Author: The apostle Paul (1:1).

  • Apostle of Jesus Christ.
  • Former persecutor of Christ’s church.
  • Paul apostle to Gentiles (cf. Col 1:24-2:5).

The book makes this claim (1:1). But it’s also supported by a considerable amount of personal and circumstantial details. The author talks about his personal ministry and sufferings (e.g., 1:24-2:5); he references his current circumstances (i.e., imprisonment, see 4:3-4, 18); he requests prayer (4:2-6); he provides specific names of his companions and fellow laborers (1:7; 4:7-17); and he concludes the letter by saying, “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand” (4:18).

The claim to Pauline authorship is disputed among critical scholars for reasons of vocabulary, writing style, theological differences (supposed contradictions), and theological omissions compared to Paul’s other writings.

“No early Christian doubted Paul’s authorship, and the letter to the Colossians was received into the developing Christian canon of Scripture with no apparent controversy.” (Douglas Moo, PNTC)

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