I thought that I would examine the birth stories in the Gospel of Matthew but found I had done this a year or so back , bible blog 2024. There is nothing therefore to stop me proceeding to my next project, a translation of the Letter to Colossians, with comment.
Most modern scholars have concluded that it was not written by Paul in spite of the claim in chapter 1 verse 1 that it was. Certainly in literature of the first century CE the practice of pseudonymous writing was well-established and appreciated. It could be used to provide material in the spirit of the named author, or to use the named author as a perspective from which to view the present. In the case Colossians, which contains many words and kinds of sentence not found in the undisputed letters of Paul, scholars assume that a disciple of Paul wrote this letter to continue his mission, and to make use of his authority.
I am not wholly convinced by the arguments, although I recognise the facts upon which they rest. Indeed I was exposed early in my acquaintance with Pauline scholarship to the investigations, now unfairly neglected, of A Q Morton whose computer analysis of literary style was then novel and extremely challenging. He considered that Colossians was not written by Paul.
I hesitate, because I see the theology of this letter as profound and as a possible development of Paul’s. He may not have written it, but I consider that its author had a deep understanding of Paul’s gospel and the spiritual capacity to apply it to a new situation. Accepting the best scholarship while representing my own view, I shall name the author, “the Disciple.”
COLOSSIANS CHAPTER 1
From Paulos, an emissary of Messiah Jesus by God’s choice, and from Timotheos our brother,
To the holy ones in Colossae, our faithful brothers and sisters in Messiah, kindness and peace be yours from God our father.
We are always thanking God the father of our master Jesus Messiah, when we pray for you, since we have heard of your trust in Messiah Jesus, and the love you have for all the holy ones, enabled by the hope awaiting you in the heavens. You already heard about this in the truthful preaching of the joyful news, which has been present amongst you; and just as in the world at large it is bearing fruit and increasing, so also among yourselves, from the day you heard it and experienced in reality the kindness of God, as you learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow slave. He is, on our behalf, a faithful servant of Messiah, and has in spirit made your love evident to us.
One of the characteristics the Disciple shares with Paul is is wobbly syntax. Greek as an inflected language has ways of indicating syntactical relationships which English lacks, so it may seem slightly more wobbly in translation than it is in the original. But Luke or the author of Hebrews never pens such loose sentences.
The customary thanksgiving for the recipients of the letter seems sincere and is expanded to remind the Colossians that they are part of a world-wide gathering based on the “joyful news of Jesus Messiah. It is through him that the recipients are “holy ones” in receipt of God’s. “kindness” and have “a hope awaiting them in the heavens.” Modern readers should note this vocabulary which persuasively defines the unique experience of believers. The rhetoric would not have worked if it had not related to the felt reality of being part of the Assembly of Jesus in Colossae.