Introduction To The Epistle Of Paul To The Colossians
As has already been detailed in the Life for Today Study Bible Notes, Introduction to Ephesians, the epistle to the Colossians and Paul's epistle to the Ephesians are remarkably similar. Therefore, Paul's teaching can be better understood by closely comparing them with each other.
Paul stated his purpose for writing this letter very clearly in Col 2:1-8. He wanted to make sure they had a full revelation of Christ and what He had accomplished for them, while warning them against false teaching. Paul believed that the Colossians' best defense against false teaching was for them to be fully aware of all they had in Christ. So, in the remainder of Col 2 and into Col 3, Paul expounded on the completeness we have in Christ. Paul exhorted the Colossians to a holy lifestyle and concluded with instructions to parents, children, slaves, and masters, as he did in the letter to the Ephesians.
Colosse was just fourteen miles from Laodicea, one of the seven churches of Asia to whom John wrote the book of Revelation (Re 1:4 and 3:14-22), and about 100 miles east of Ephesus (see note 3 at Ac 18:19). Colosse was an important city in Phrygia (see note 15 at Ac 2:9) on the upper Lycus River in what is known today as south-central Turkey. It served as a trading center at a crossroads on the main highway from Ephesus to the east.
Colosse was close to Hierapolis (Col 4:13) and Laodicea, both of which are mentioned in the New Testament. Colosse was known as a prosperous city as early as the fifth century B.C., but by the start of the Christian era, it was beginning to be eclipsed by its two neighbors.
In A.D. 61, the cities of the Lycus Valley suffered a devastating earthquake. Laodicea, which is mentioned four times in this letter (Col 2:1; 4:13, and 15-16) and twice in the book of Revelation (Re 1:11 and 3:14), suffered the greatest damage. They rebuilt the cities, but Colosse was increasingly overshadowed by Laodicea and Hierapolis. However, it retained considerable importance into the second and third centuries A.D. Later, the population of Colosse moved to Chonae (modern Honaz), three miles to the south.
There is no mention in the book of Acts that Paul ever went to the city of Colosse, a city of Asia Minor (see note 3 at Ac 16:6). In fact, Paul mentioned in Col 2:1 that the people of Colosse had not seen his face. Therefore, it can be assumed that the Colossians were some of those to whom the Gospel had been taken while Paul preached in Ephesus for three years (Ac 20:17 and 31). Ac 19:10 says that the Gospel spread from Ephesus (Ac 19:1) into all of Asia.
Since Ephesus was a capital city, the Colossians would have done business there, and the Ephesians would have traveled to Colosse as well. It appears that Epaphras, who was from Colosse (Col 4:12), was a convert of Paul's preaching in Ephesus. He returned home to Colosse and shared the Gospel with others, thus beginning the church there (Col 1:7).
The author of this epistle is Paul the apostle, as stated in Col 1:1, 23; and 4:18. Early church leaders such as Eusebius (A.D. 330), Origen, Tertullian, and Irenaeus all attested to Paul as its author. Colossians is one of the four prison epistles written by Paul, the others being Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon.
Date And Place Of Writing
Paul wrote this letter from prison (Col 4:3, 10, and 18). It is commonly believed that this took place during his imprisonment in Rome. The earliest this epistle could have been written would be A.D. 61, and some believe it may have been written as late as A.D. 64 (see Life for Today Study Bible Notes, Introduction to Ephesians, Date and Place of Writing). Epaphras, who was a Colossian (Col 4:12), was the bearer of this letter and apparently the one who took the Gospel to the Colossians (Col 1:7).