Lesson 3 of 5
In Progress

Background of Colossians

The city of Colossae was located in the Lycus River Valley and was a neighboring city to Laodicea (Colossians 2:1-5; 4:15-16). Religious and philosophical currents of the first century, some of which found a home in Colossae while others moved through the city, reflect diverse religious practices, dualistic thought patterns, pagan mystery cults, worship of physical elements and powers of the universe, abstinence, asceticism, observances of festivals, and syncretistic blending of all the above. Into this mix of religious thought and practice, the Colossian letter enters around 61-63 C.E. Attempts to define an exact background against which to interpret the letter are legion and provide endless speculation.

Questions surrounding the composition of the letter itself connect to a host of issues. They reflect major interpretive concerns, revolving around authorship, use of language, theological thought, and grammatical style. These interpretive areas have been drawn upon to question whether the letter came authentically from the hand of Paul, suggesting that the letter represents thought from a later time and thus is a pseudonymous work from the hand of someone who wrote in the authority of Paul.

The Colossian letter is a literary masterpiece, no matter who finally gave it its present form. The concentric-circle literary pattern suggests that the letter was artfully composed to be remembered from an oral reading, drawing the reader into the complementary sections that lead to and follow from its center point. The letter proclaims the sovereignty of Christ over all the powers of the universe. Despite the major interpretive questions, the contemporary reader is drawn into a proclamation and teaching of the gospel that discerns and engages the context and thought of its day and becomes a paradigm for proclamation and teaching today.