COLOSS2E (Gr. Ko),occra(, sah-ee'), improperly spelled Colosse (Col. i:2), a city of Phrygia, on the river Lyclis (now Gorduk), not far from its confluence with the Mmander, and near the towns of Laodicea, Apamea, and Hier °polls (Col. i; ; ..:1; .v:13, 15; Comp. Plin. Hist. Nat. v:41; Strabo xii, p. 576).
A Christian church was formed here very early probably by Epaphras (Col. i :7; iv:12 sq.), con sisting of Jews and Gentiles, to whom Paul, who does not appear to have ever visited Colossm in person (Col. ii:t) addressed an Epistle from Rome. Not long after, the town was, together gins with the salutation of Paul and Timothy to the Christians of Colossx, (i :1-2), which is fol lowed by an expression of thanksgiving for the grace of God manifested in the experience of the Colossian Christians, (i :3-C). Then comes a gen eral prayer for their enlightenment and confirma tion in faith, (i :9-23). This leads to the state ment of the cardinal doctrine of the faith, which is the "mystery hid from all eves, but now mani fested to the saints of God," i. c. the indwelling Christ, (i:24-29). The theme thus brought be fore the reader is then taken up and the doctrine of the supremacy of Christ is cleared and estab lished by the repudiation of speculative concep tions regarding the constitution of the spi.•itual universe and certain ceremonial usages deduced from them, (ii :1-23). As against these useless ritual practices, the writer then commends certain ethical principles and precepts of life, (iii and iv). These grow out of participation in the life of the Risen Lord, (iii :1-4). The fruit of them is the mortification of the sinful nature, (iii :5-10, whose counterpart is the vivification of the new or holy character, (iii :12-17). Practically, the new life should evince itself in ideal domestic harmony, (iii:18-25), and in prayer and unblemished con duct among men, (iv :t-6). The writer then adds some items of a personal nature and closes with a common salutation, or benediction, (iv:7-18).
(2) The Colossian Heresy. The subject of the epistle is the supremacy of Christ over all prin cipalities and powers conceivable. Such powers and principalities, it appears, were being com mended by the adherents of a certain "philosophy." By implication, Christ's authority and sphere of ac tion were presented as limited and remote from men. There was here, of course, the influence of the pagan polytheism, and the design of the epistle is to check this influence and restore to the Colossian Christians their absolute and pure con fidence in Christ as the all-in-all of the Universe. The exact classification of this philosophy and of those who taught it at Colossx have been a question in dispute among critics. One of the earliest views regarding them was that they were disciples of John the Baptist (Heinriehs Nov.Test. !Cop. vii. pt. ii. p. 158) Michaelis & Storr thought they were Esscnes. Hug believed they were Mag ians (Introd. vol. h. p. 449. Eng. tr.). Neander
made them syncretists who attempted to com bine Oriental theosophy and asceticism with Chris tianity (Planting and Training of the Church, Chap. i. p. 374). Lightfoot describes them as a class of incipient Gnostics who sprang from the Esscnism of the preceding age. It has been put be yond doubt that there were, even before the advent of Christ, heretical sects within Judaism, especial ly at the centers where Judaism came in contact with Hellenism. These interpreted the Old Testa ment in a speculative manner and developed their speculations into a cosmogony and a theology quite similar to the theogonics and cosmogonies of the later Gnostic sects. The errors taught at Colossi were kindred to these speculations. They constituted a system ("philosophy") characterized by intellectual exclusiveness. as against which Paul contends for the universality of the Gospel. (i:28), which he designates as the true "wis (eheos1, "knowledge," and "perfect kiniwledge," Itrhvc,,atn, (i:9, 28: ii :2, 3; 16; iv:5). As the teach ers of the error constituted themselves into an organization and practiced rites of initiation, the Apostle "contrasts with these the one univer sal, comprehensive mystery, the knowledge of God in Christ." This mystery exhausts all wis dom. It contains "all the treasures of wis dom and knowledge hidden in it." If the false teachers said "We. and we alone. pos sess wisdom." the apostle responded, "True wis dom is offered to all in the revelation of God through Jesus Christ." But the philosophy taught by these teachers included a doctrine of beings intermediate between God and the world. The function of these beings was to bridge over the chasm supposed to exist between the true God and the coarse material universe. They were supposed to have a share in the creation and government of the world. Against this doctrine the Apostle sets over the doctrine of the One Eternal Son, the Word begotten before the worlds. (i:15-2o; ii: 9-t5). Christ was the word become Incarnate, and in him men had all they required. Ile was the image of the invisible God. Ile was before all things, and by him all things consist. In him they were complete and he would present them to God, holy, unblamable, and unreprovable, provided they continued steadfast in the faith. Further. this "philosophy" led to asceticism. It drew a distinc tion between kinds of meats and drinks (ii:t6), and insisted that those forbidden should not even be handled or tasted or touched (ii :21), with the intent of checking fleshly indulgence ( ii :23). All of these prescriptions, Paul consistently with Ins whole attitude towards the doctrine of salvation by works, denounces as valueless. Christians have risen above them (ii :8. 20-22). They have found the true and only remedy for sin—the resurrec tion of the inner man through Christ, In this way a new life has been born within them which is able to overcome the evil tendencies that work through the flesh.