historian has apparently misreported what he heard
of the underground passage of the river at its source,
as accurately described by Strabo (XII. viii. 16).
Colossse was one of three sister cities which re-
ceived the gospel about the same time (Col 4 13 ),
Laodicea lying about 10 miles farther down the
Lycus valley, and facing Hierapolis, which was
picturesquely seated on a plateau 6 miles to the
north. Behind Colossseand Laodicea rose the mighty
snow-capped range of Cadmus (Baba Dagh, ' Father
of mountains '), over 8000 ft. above sea-level. Com-
manding the approaches to a pass in this range,
and traversed by the great trade-route between
Ephesus and the Euphrates, Colossaj was at one
time a place of much importance. Herodotus (op,
cit. ) calls it ' a great city of Phrygia,' and Xenophon
describes it as ir6\iv olKovfjL^vrjv evda.lfji.ova xal /j.eyd\7]v
(Anab. I. ii. 6). But as Laodicea and Hierapolis
grew in importance, Colossse waned, and in the
beginning of the first century Strabo reckons it as
no more than a TrdXiayta (XII. viii. 13). Pliny, in-
deed, names it among the oppida celeberrima of
Phrygia (HN v. 41), but he is merely alluding to
its illustrious past. It was visited, however, by
streams of travellers passing east and west, who
made it conversant with the freshest thought
of the time. Its permanent population consisted
mostly of Phrygian natives and Greek colonists.
Jews had also been attracted to the busy trade-
centres of the Lycus valley, a fact which accounts
for the Jewish complexion of some of th i errors re-
futed in the Colossian Epistle. Antiochus the Great
(223-187 B. C. ) transplanted 2000 Jewish families from
Babylonia and Mesopotamia to Lydia and Phrygia
(Jos. Ant. XII. iii. 4). The freedom and prosperity
which they enjoyed probably induced many others
to follow them, and there is a bitter saying in the
Babylonian Talmud that the wine and baths of
Phrygia separated the ten tribes from their brethren
(Shab. 147 , quoted by A. Neubauer, Geogr. du
Talmud, Paris, 1868, p. 315). Cicero (pro Flacc. 28)
speaks of the multitudo Judaorum who inhabited
the district in his time.
The Church of Colossse was not directly founded
by St. Paul. There is no indication that he ever
preached in any of the cities of the Lycus valley.
In his second journey he was debarred from speak-
ing in Asia (Ac 16 6 ), the province to which Colossse
politically belonged, and in his third tour ' he went
through the Galatic region and Phrygia [or Galatic
and Phrygian region] in order, confirming the dis-
ciples,' and ' having passed through the upper
country (ra avwrepiKa. n^py) he came to Ephesus'
(Ac 18^ 19 1 ). It is not impossible that as Renan
suggests (Saint Paul, Paris, 1869, pp. 331 f., 356 f.)
he followed the usual route of commerce down the
Lycus valley, going straight to his destination
without pausing to do any work by the way. But
it is more in harmony with St. Luke's carefully
chosen words, as well as with the language of Col.,
to suppose that he took the shorter hill-road by
Seiblia and the Cayster valley, a road practicable
for foot passengers but not for wheeled traffic (W.
M. Ramsay, The Church in the Rom. Emp, p. 94).
During his three years' residence in Ephesus, 'all
they that dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord,
both Jews and Greeks ' (Ac 19 10 ; cf. 19 26 ), and it was
probably at this time that the churches of the
Lycus were founded. The truth proclaimed in the
virtual capital of the province the primacy of
Sardis was now only nominal was soon carried to
the remotest towns and villages. Epaphras and
Philemon, citizens of Colossse, were probably con-
verted in Ephesus, and the former was speedily
sent, as St. Paul's delegate or representative (inrtp
, instead of vfj.wv, is the true reading in Col I 7 ),
COLOSSIAtf S, EPISTLE TO THE
COLOSSIANS, EPISTLE TO THE 227
to evangelize his native valley. Five or six years
afterwards, St. Paul, a prisoner in Rome, wrote to
the Colossian Christians, of whose faith and love
he had heard (Col I 4 -") from Epaphras and perhaps
from Onesimus, but who had never seen his face
(2 1 ). He felt as great a solicitude for them as
if they had been his own spiritual children. In-
directly they were indebted to him for their know-
ledge of the gospel (cf. following article).
One of the non-Christian beliefs and practices
which quickly threatened to submerge the Colossian
Church was the cult of angels, or elemental spirits,
who were supposed to intervene between a pure,
absolute, unapproachable God and a world of evil.
This idea proved almost ineradicable. One of the
canons (the 35th) of the Council of Laodicea (held
probably about A.D. 363) ran thus : ' It is not right
for Christians to abandon the Church of God and go
away and invoke angels (dyytXovs dvondfav). . . .
If, therefore, any one is found devoting himself to
this secret idolatry, let him be anathema.' About
a century later, Theodoret, commenting on Col 2' 8 ,
says : ' This disease (TOUTO rb irdffos) remained long
in Phrygia and Pisidia . . . and even to the present
time oratories (c&Krrjpia) of the holy Michael may be
seen among them and their neighbours.' The By-
zantine historian Nicetas Choniates Chonse, on a
spur of Cadmus, took the place of decaying Colossae
mentions rbv dpxa-yyf^iKbv va6v as standing, fieytdti
fj^yiarov Kal /cdXXet Ka.\\i<?Tov , in or near the ancient
city ; and the fantastic legend of ' the Miracle of
Chonse' (Ramsay, The Church in the Rom. Em.p. p.
465 f.) reflects a popular belief in the mediation of
Michael to save the inhabitants from an inundation.
LITERATURE. W. M. Ramsay, The Cities and Sinhopricg of
Phrygia, London, 1895-97, voL L, The Church in the Roman
Empire, do. 1893, ch. xix. JAMES STRAHAN.
COLOSSIAN8, EPISTLE TO THE. 1. Introduc-
tion. St. Paul himself had never preached in the
Lycus valley. On his third missionary journey he
took another route (Ac 19 1 ), and that he did not
visit that district during his two years' stay at
Ephesus is sufficiently proved by the allusions in
his letter to the Church at Colossae (Col I 4 - 7 - 9 2 1 ).
Colossse was at this time a small town of declining
importance, overshadowed by its great neighbours,
Laodicea and Hierapolis, some 10 miles down-
stream. In all three towns churches had been
founded by the labours of Epaphras (I 7 4 12 - 1S ), him-
self a native of Colossae (4 12 ), who had met St.
Paul, probably at Ephesus, and had become a dis-
ciple. The date of the foundation of these churches
may be assigned with some confidence to about the
years A.D. 55 and 56 (adopting C. H. Turner's dat-
ing ; cf. art. ' Chronology in HDB), and Epaphras
may well have been acting as the direct agent of
St. Paul (cf. the better reading ' on our behalf ' in
I 7 ). This would account in some degree for the
authoritative attitude which St. Paul takes in his
Though Colossae itself was but a small town, its
Church may well have been the most important
of those in the Lycus valley. It was evidently
closely connected with the Cnurch at Laodicea (2 1
4 16 ), and it is even possible that the work in the
latter place was in charge of Archippus, the son of
Philemon of Colossae (4 17 , Philem 2 ). In each
place the work seems to have centred in the house
of one of its most prominent members ; cf. the
house of Aquila and Priscilla at Rome, Ro 16 5 (if,
indeed, Ro 16 was not addressed to Ephesus), that
of Philemon (Philem 2 ) in Colossse, that of Nyrn-
phas, or Nympha, in Laodicea (Col 4 15 ). A well-
attested reading suggests that the latter, a woman's
name, niay be correct in spite of the improbability
of this Doric form being used. If this is so, Nym-
pha, like Priscilla, takes her place with the women
who played an honoured part in the life of the
Colossae lay in Phrygian territory, and its popu-
lation was doubtless largely Phrygian, with a ven-
eer of Greek ci vilization. Philemon's wife, Apphia
(Philem 2 ), bore a Phrygian name. The Jewish
trader had doubtless reached Colossae, but there
is no sign of any permanent settlement of Jews
there such as was made by the Seleucid kings
at Laodicea or Tarsus. That the Church there
was entirely or at least predominantly Gentile is
shown clearly eneugh by the Epistle (I 21 - 27 2 13 ; cf.
St. Paul's anxiety in 4" to show how few among
his helpers are of Jewish race ' who alone of the
circumcision are my fellow- workers . . .'). And the
Jews of Laodicea, together with any who may have
dwelt at Colossae, were doubtless, like most of the
Jews of the Diaspora, largely affected both by
local tendencies of thought and by the wider in-
fluences which centred in Alexandria.
The Church of Colossae had been in existence
only a few years when Epaphras rejoined St.
Paul, then in prison for the faith (I 24 4 10 - 18 ). He
brought with him good news of the infant Church
(]? 2 s ). But yet there were grave reasons for
anxiety. Both at Colossae and at Laodicea (4 W ) a
new and dangerous form of teaching was abroad.
Who the teachers were we do not know. The
heresy may even have been due to some one influen-
tial leader (cf. Zahn's comment on 2 18ff -, where the
participles are in the singular \Introd. to NT, L
479]). But whether the teachers were one or more,
it is at least clear that it was not with a recurrence
of the Galatian trouble that St. Paul had now to
deal. The stress of this new ' philosophy ' lay not
so much upon the Law as upon theosophical tenets
and ascetic practices, which were supposed to con-
stitute a higher Christianity (2^ * 8 ).
For the present this teaching had not made much
headway in the Church at Colossae. But St. Paul
saw the need of striking while there was yet time.
And he had other reasons for sending one of his
agents to Asia at this time. There was Onesimus,
the converted slave of Philemon, ready at St.
Paul's bidding to return to his master. There was
also the desirability of sending a pastoral letter
to the Churches of Asia. Tychicus was at hand,
ready to convey both the circular letter, now
known as the Epistle to the Ephesians, and the
short note to Philemon about Onesimus. By his
hand, therefore, St. Paul writes to the brethren at
There has been much discussion whether a fourth
letter, to Laodicea, accompanied the other three,
based on the command to the Colossians that they
should read the Epistle ' from Laodicea.' The old
hypothesis of Theodore of Mopsuestia and Calvin
that this was a letter written from the Laodicean
Church to St. Paul is rendered impossible by the
context. It remains therefore to decide whether
this is some lost letter by the Apostle or whether
it can be identified with any of his existing letters.
The suggestions of John of Damascus, who iden-
tifies it with 1 Tim., and of Schnecken burger, who
identifies it with Heb., can safely be passed over.
In 1844 Wieseler suggested that Philemon really
lived at Laodicea, and that the lost letter is out
Epistle to Philemon. This would certainly make
it easier to account for the apparent connexion of
Archippus with Laodicea, but otherwise the theory
has little point and has not met with any accept-
ance. A more probable hypothesis is to "be found
in the identification of this letter with Ephesians.
If this was a circular letter, intended for all the
Asiatic churches, it would naturally come to
Colossae as a letter brought by Tycnicus from
Laodicea (see art. EPHESIANS). If this identifica-
tion is rejected the letter to the Laodiceans is lost
228 COLOSSIANS, EPISTLE TO THE
COLOSSIA^S, EPISTLE TO THE
beyond recall. It is interesting that more than one
attempt was made to supply this gap in the Paul-
ine Canon during the early days or the Church.
In several MSS the words ' written from Laodicea '
were added at the end of 1 Timothy. More
curious still, an Epistle was made up out of a col-
lection of Pauline phrases, possibly as early as the
2nd cent, (so Zahn) but probably later, and was
given the title ad Laodicenses. Jerome (Vir.
Illustr. v. ) mentions this work, ' legunt quidam et
ad Laodicenses, sed ab omnibus exploditur,' and, de-
spite his condemnation, it was widely read through-
out the Middle Ages. Traces of this Epistle have
been found only in the West, and it has commonly
been regarded as a Western forgery. Lightfoot,
however, argues that it shows traces of being from
a Greek original, despite the fact that all known
MSS are in Latin. The early date of the docu-
ment also points in the same direction. (This Ep.
ad Laod. is discussed at length by Lightfoot in an
appendix to his Colossians, p. 274 ff. ; cf. also West-
cott, Canon of NT 6 , 1881, Appendix E ; A. Souter,
Text and Canon of NT, 1913, p. 193.)
a. Contents. St. Paul, associating Timothy with himself in
his opening greeting (I 1 - 2 ), passes on in his customary manner
to a thanksgiving for the good news which he has heard from
Epaphras. In this thanksgiving he alludes especially to the
true gospel which had been preached to his readers by Epaph-
ras, and reminds them that it is this gospel and no other that
has borne fruit in all the world (I 3 - 8 ). This is followed by a
prayer which widens out, as hi Eph.. into a statement of doc-
trine with regard to the Person of Christ (I 9 - 23 ). This doctrinal
section is expanded with a special view to the heresies which it
is St. Paul's purpose to combat. In opposition to the ' philo-
sophy ' which was being preached, he prays that the Colossians
may be filled with ' all spiritual wisdom and understanding ' (19).
In opposition to the theosophy which recognized and trembled
before ' the principalities and the powers,' he thanks God that
they have been delivered from 'the power of darkness* and
made members of ' the kingdom of the Son of His love ' (113).
In opposition to the position accorded to angelic beings, he
breaks into a paean in honour of the Son (a) as sole Redeemer
(1H) ; (&) as the visible Representative of the invisible God (115) ;
(e) as prior to and supreme over all creation, including these
very angelic powers ; as the present stay, and ultimate consum-
mation, of creation (1 15 -17); (d) as the supreme Head of the
Church in virtue of His Resurrection (118) ; (e) as One in whom
abide completely all the perfections of the Godhead (li) ; (/) as
One whose death has made atonement not only for human
in but also for all the disorder that exists in heavenly places,
so that not only are the angels unable to ' make peace,' but
they themselves need the mediation of the Son (120-23). gt.
Paul then passes on to emphasize his own position as a minister
of this, the one true gospel, a gospel which does not merely
save a few elect, but which is valid for every man who will
receive it (l 2 *-^).
Ch. 2 is devoted to warnings against the false teaching which
had been reported by Epaphras. It opens with a renewal of
the prayer of 1. St. Paul again reiterates that in Christ alone,
and not in any human plausibility, can the hidden treasures of
knowledge and wisdom be found (2i-). He warns his readers
against esoteric cults which have dealings with the angel
world, instead of with Christ, the supreme Head of all (2-i).
He reminds them that as Christians they need no special and
mysterious ceremonies, but only faith in Christ, who has can-
celled all ceremonial obligations through the power of the
Cross, thereby depriving hostile spiritual powers of their
weapon against mankind (2U-15). The Colossians are therefore
not to be misled into thinking that there is some higher way of
leading the Christian life, consisting in special ordinances or a
higher asceticism, even if commended by a show of esoteric
In i ch. 3, St. Paul passes, by way of contrast, to the practical
implications of life in Christ. For Christians there is indeed a
true asceticism, but it consists in a putting to death
old man,' and a putting on of the 'new man,' not men
rely in a
therefore be not the rule of ascetic ordinances but the warm
and living rule of love, of Christ dwelling in the heart (S^iT).
A short passage follows in which brief words of counsel are
iddressed to wives, husbands, children, fathers, servants,
masters (318-41), and one or two general exhortations lead up to
the salutations with which the letter cl
3. Date and place of composition. It has been
customary to regard the four ' Epistles of the Cap-
tivity ' as all written from Rome during the two
years (A.D. 59-61) alluded to in Ac 28 30 . There is
no good reason for giving up this view in the case
of Colossians. Phil, at least must be from Rome.
If, with Bleek and Lightfoot (Philippians 4 , 1878,
p. 30), we place Col. later than Phil., on the ground
of the closer affinity of the latter with Rom. both
in style and doctrine, the Roman origin of Col.
woula be unquestionable. It is not possible, how-
ever, in a writer like St. Paul, to postulate so orderly
an advance in these respects. His doctrine at least
must have been thought out long before he wrote
Romans. And, on the other hand, the allusions in
Ph I 7 - ia - 18 - 2 - 25 2 23 point to a date near the very close
of the Roman imprisonment. We must thus date
Col. earlier (Ph I 1 -' 14 seems to reflect Col 4 3 - 4 ). But
this leaves open the possibility that it was written
not from Rome but during the two years spent at
Csesarea. This view has been held by quite a
number of scholars, e.g. Meyer, Sabatier, Weiss,
and Haupt. So also recently E. L. Hicks, Inter-
preter, 1910. But the arguments on the other side,
as set out e.g. by Peake ('Col. 5 in EOT, p. 491),
seem conclusive. Haupt's argument that a con-
siderable interval of time must lie between the
statements of doctrine found in Phil, and Col. has
no weight. Weiss points out that St. Paul gives
a different account of his plans in Phil., where he is
hoping to visit Macedonia, from that in Philem.,
where Colossae is his goal. But the two statements
#re not incompatible in letters both written from
Rome. The one plan might easily involve the
other. And, further, there are serious objections
to the Csesarea hypothesis. It is impossible to
think that St. Paul at Csesarea was already plan-
ning a visit to Colossse. It was upon Rome that
his eyes were fixed, and at least towards the end of
his days at Csesarea he knew that he would be sent
thither. But most decisive of all is the little com-
panion note to Philemon. It must have been at
Rome, the natural refuge of the runaway slave,
that St. Paul came across Onesimus, and from
Rome that he sent him back to his master with
Tychicus. Finally, it would be most remarkable,
in a letter written from Csesarea, that there should
be no salutation from Philip.
In view of the fact that Col. and Philem. were
probably sent together, it has caused comment that
there is some variation in the salutations. Not only
is the order of the names different a point of little
significance but in Col. Aristarchus, in Philem.
Epaphras, is given the place of honour as 'my
fellow- prisoner.' The reason for this is obscure.
Fritzsche's suggestion that St. Paul's friends took
turns in sharing his captivity is only a suggestion.
As Peake points out, the divergence is a proof of
the authenticity of both Epistles, since no imitator
would have made so unnecessary and self-condem-
natory an alteration.
4. External evidence for authenticity. This is
quite as strong as could reasonably be expected.
At the end of the 2nd cent. Col. was known to
Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria.
It is mentioned by name in the Muratorian Canon.
Its acceptance by Marcion carries the knowledge
of it at Rome to before 150. This renders the
description by Justin of Christ as ' first-born of all
creation ' (Dial. 84, 85, 100) an almost certain echo
of l w , especially as the parallel phrase in Philo is
not irpwrdro/coj but irpwrfyovos. Earlier references
are all rather uncertain, especially in Barnabas and
Clement of Rome. It is, however, probable that
Ignatius quotes Col 2 14 in Smyrn. i. 2, and I 18 in
Trail, v. 2. Lightfoot also points out Ignatius'
use of (rfodov\ot as a term for deacons ; cf. I 7 4 7 .
This evidence is insufficient in itself to prove
authenticity, and throws us back upon a discussion
of the many problems which the Epistle itself
5. The Colossian heresy. The teaching attacked
by St. Paul is described in 2 s - 18 - 2S , verses which in
addition to their brevity present many problems
COLOSSIA_N T S, EPISTLE TO THE
COLOSSIANS, EPISTLE TO THE 229
both of translation and of text. Theories as to its
character have been varied and numerous. The
principal facts that can be gleaned are as follows :
(1) The teaching was Christian ; cf. 2 19 , which,
however, suggests that it did not give Christ His
(2) It was, at least in part, Judaistic. This
would not necessarily be proved by the reference
to ' the bond written in ordinances ' in 2 14 , though
it is on the whole probable that the Mosaic Law
is intended. But the specific allusions in 2 16 , 'in
meat or in drink or in respect of a feast day, or a
new moon, or a sabbath day,' are obviously Jewish.
It is true that the Law says nothing about ' drink,'
but the later Rabbinism certainly included such
regulations, as is shown by He 9 10 . And this very
Rabbinism is clearly alluded to in 2 s , ' the tradition
of men.' The references to circumcision (2 11 3 11 )
show that the false teachers assigned some value
to it. Yet this Judaism cannot have been very
like that attacked in Gal., as the whole tone of the
letter shows. It was less definite, and mingled
with other elements of a peculiar type.
(3) It claimed to be a ' philosophy f (2 s ), which St.
Paul calls a ' vain deceit.' It seems to have been
regarded as the revelation of a secret ' wisdom and
knowledge ' (2 2 - 3 ). Here, just as much as in 1 Co
1, we are certainly moving in Greek, or at least
Hellenistic, regions of thought. Philo could speak
of a 'Jewish philosophy.' And the Judaism of
Colossse, like that of Alexandria, was at least given
a Hellenic colour. As Hort has shown (Juda-
istic Christianity, p. 119ff'.), the term 'philosophy'
might easily have been used of esoteric lore about
angels, or even, though this usage is a later one,
of an ascetic ethical cult, features which both
appear at Colossse.
(4) Some sort of worship of angels seems to have
been practised, and possibly, if the reading is
correct, emphasis was laid upon visions communi-
cated by them (2 18 ). St. Paul charges the teachers
with reliance upon the spirits that control the ele-
ments of the universe rather than upon Christ (2 s ).
That this is the true meaning of <rroixa in this
passage, as well as in Gal 4 3 - 9 , is shown by the
exegesis, which implies in each case personal agents.
'And the emphasis laid by St. Paul upon the
superiority of Christ to ' thrones or dominions or
principalities or powers ' ( I 16 ; cf . I 20 2 15 ) confirms
this view. That there was angelolatry of some
sort is certain, though the language in which it is
described cannot be pressed too closely, since St.
Paul may be using the language of his own angel-
ology to describe the view of his opponents. In the
4th cent, the Council of Laodicea round it necessary
to condemn angel- worship. In the 5th cent. Theodo-
ret says that the archangel Michael was worshipped
in the district, and this worship continued for
several centuries (see Zalm, op. cit. p. 476 f. ; cf.
Lightfoot, Col. p. 68).
(5) Whatever 2^ precisely means, it shows that
stress was laid upon asceticism, for which special
rules were given (2 18 - - 21 ). This was the natural
outcome of a ' philosophy ' in which the spirits that
ruled material things were the objects of fear and
reverence. The angels who were the objects of the
Colossian cult were powers who if not propitiated
might be hostile to man, who must therefore guard
himself by mortifying his material body. This is
the point of St. Paul's counter-statement of the
true Christian asceticism (3 5ff> ).
It has been made clear by the work of recent
scholars that there is nothing in all this which
need point to a date later than A.D. 60. The
Tubingen school, from Baur to Hilgenfeld, thought
that Col. reflected the great Gnostic systems of the
2nd century. The powers, etc., were the Valen-
tinian aeons, forming the Pleroma, to which they
saw an allusion in I 19 . Asceticism, again, was a
typical Gnostic feature, as was the emphasis on a
secret wisdom or Gnosis (cf. 2 3 ) confined to an inner