Geographical and historical environment of Colossae

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For this thesis, specific components of Egger’s Historical-Critical methodology are utilized to ascertain the meaning of the text as well as the historical-cultural context in which it was written. 1 The goal of this research is to apply selected aspects of the Historical-Critical methodology, integrated within an approach utilizing four analytical components for investigation of the text. These four components contribute to the overall hermeneutical understanding of the text and how to interpreted it in its original historically contextual environment. The text is further analyzed with respect to its inner textual composition and its inter-textual correlation to other texts based on a linguistic, semantic, and structural analysis. The theological nature of the text is analyzed from five textural “threads,” each augmented with the additional investigation of appropriate inter-textural theological parallels. Because this research is located within the discipline of Christian spirituality, this methodology also encompasses an investigation into the spiritualities embedded within the rhetoric as well as four effects that occur within the lives of those interacting with the text.2
All of the selected methodological readings are interrelated and when viewed from a cohesive perspective come together to form an understanding of the text with a unique richness of theological textures. The inner and inter-textual analyses each possess an embedded theology that contributes to the spirituality texture that runs parallel through each of the other textures. While the interconnectedness of the theological and spirituality textures expresses overall cohesion, there is also an embodiment texture that runs linear to all of the other textures. This spirituality texture of embodiment is the culmination of several factors and finds expression in two significant ways.
The first expression of embodiment is exhibited in the reality of textual impact on a personal, lived experience of faith. Interaction with the sacred text forms a realized spirituality as the text is embraced and incorporated into the life of the individual. This expression is described as the internalization of the text. The reality of the intersection of God with the human life creates one or more spiritualities in the life of the person internalizing the text. These spiritualities potentially transform the way the person sees God, others, and their own life and place in the world.
The second expression is the resultant embodiment of the spiritualities created by the internalization of the text. The embodiment is conveyed as God is revealed to others through the individual. This manifestation is described as the externalization of the text. The internalization of the text creates spiritualities in the life of the person. As the person embodies those spiritualities, the text is externalized as God is revealed to others through the life of the person.
The goal of this research is to use these four methodological components to provide a missing thickness to the interpretation of the selected text and its integral and critical relationship to the overall understanding of a process of character transformation.

Inductive and Library Research

The overarching research methodology is inductive in principle and utilizes library research as well as extensive analysis of journals and related academic resources. Online documents are included where deemed academically sound and are critically evaluated before incorporation into the body of research. Integral to the research into is an investigation into disciplines which contribute significantly to an understanding of character and character transformation. This research examines the contributions made in the areas of philosophy, psychology, sociology and education, theology, and spirituality. Inductive methodology safeguards objectivity and maintains exegetical accuracy. The application of inductive research to the specific components of the Historical-Critical methodology facilitates a reliable synthesis of findings and conclusions.

Historical Reading

The Historical Reading extensively and critically examines the selected text in order to ascertain the meaning of the text within the historical and cultural framework of the original audience. This approach relates the text to the event that led to the writing. It also relates the text to the broader place in the “Old Testament and the New Testament, and between the Word of God and human existence.” 3 Such an approach facilitates answering several critical questions that arise when reading the focal pericope: 1) What is the content of the teaching on character and transformation of character at that time in history? 2) What is the background for that teaching? 3) How are the issues of character and transformation of character communicated and is there a commonly accepted venue for that communication? This research examines aspects of the community that received the Colossian epistle: 1) Who were the Jews and Gentiles of the Colossae community and what were their lives like? 2) How did they act? 3) What was their conduct from the perspective of a social and cultural background? 4) What was happening in that time and within that community that led to the writing of this paraenetic text at this particular time? According to Wilson, “one of the chief concerns of paraenesis is to furnish an overall conceptual framework in which the author’s behests to think and behave in certain ways make sense in light of the recipient’s situation and experience.”4 The socio-cultural context of the pericope provides the background to the interpretation of the text and the environment in which it is received.
This research investigates the theme of transformation of character within the methodological framework of historical reading. In the timeframe surrounding the Colossian epistle, what are the prevailing thoughts and attitudes towards character and the potential for character transformation? If transformation was deemed possible, how did such a change occur and what are the factors that contribute to such a process? Is there any cohesion and congruence with the way character transformation is expressed within the pervading culture and the manner in which such a transformation is presented within the focal pericope? A process of interpretation and actualization is applied to the focal text using appropriately selected principles outlined by Egger. This application is undertaken in order to achieve a reading of the text that is accurate to the intent of the author and those who would interact with the text.

Textual Reading

The Inner Textual Reading5

The inner textual reading focuses on issues emanating out of the selected pericope related to the language chosen to communicate the intended message. This research analyzes the inner textual composition of the passage and its inter-textual correlation to other texts based on a linguistic, semantic, and structural analysis. The rhetoric utilized in the passage is examined as well as various stylistic features that enable a reliable hermeneutic of the pericope.6 A central part of the exegesis is the use of discourse analysis of the Greek text. The discourse analysis allows for a thorough examination of the structure of the discourse and brings understanding to semantic choices made by the writer. In this regard, this research reflects and expands upon work done by Christopher, Van der Watt, Porter and Reed, and Callow.7
As part of the exegesis, the pericope is examined for any textual variants that exist. These variants are evaluated based on the significance of interpretive meaning and historical reliability. Key to this analysis is the utilization of the Greek text in conjunction with relevant existing manuscripts.

The Intertextual Reading

The intertextual reading examines the language and message of the pericope within the broader context of related biblical and extra-biblical literature. According to Waaijman, a text does not stand alone in isolation but is “an intersection of fragments, allusions and resonances of other texts.”8 While the work on the discourse analysis gives primary focus to the semantic networks embedded within the focal pericope, the larger text of Colossians is taken into consideration in order to locate the pericope within the overall structure of the epistle. This analysis of the pericope within the framework of the entire epistle contributes to an understanding of the pericope and the overall intent of the author concerning the issue of character transformation. Where applicable, this research also critically examines other Pauline writings as well as other relevant biblical texts in both the New Testament and the Old Testament. This examination is undertaken in order to ascertain the impact of those texts upon the interpretation of the pericope. Attention is also given to apocryphal, pseudepigraphal, and other relevant extra-biblical texts that utilize similar wording or structure such as the use of vice and virtue lists, similar imagery of putting off and putting on, or attention given to transformation of character. This aspect of the methodology is done from a textual perspective in order to determine the interrelatedness of the other documentation and the impact on the meaning and interpretation of the focal text.

Theological Reading

The theological reading of the text involves an investigation into the sacred texture of a text. As one encounters sacred texts, there is an intersection between human life and the divine.9 It is noted that a person’s encounter with the divine is not limited to Scripture. However, in this research, the theological reading is limited to the selected Colossian pericope. Encountering the divine within the texts of Scripture would seem to be a reasonably obvious encounter. However, people encounter God on a myriad of levels and in a diverse number of ways. This research examines the selected text in Colossians from the perspective of five “threads” in order to express the particular thickness of the sacred texture of the text.10


Scripture is one of the sacred spaces in which God reveals God’s self. One of the prevailing themes of Scripture is God’s revelation of God’s self to humanity and the development of God’s desired relationship with humanity. When one comes to the selected text of Colossians, how does God choose to reveal God’s self? What does the text reveal about the nature and character of God? What does the author want to reveal about God to the target audience? In the pericope, the author refers to God (τῷ θεῷ or alternate form) six times. Each of those occurrences reveals a specific aspect of God’s nature. There is one reference where the person of God is implied, but rather than τῷ θεῷ; the author utilizes a nomen agentis to express a specific aspect of God’s nature. Why does the author choose to highlight these particular character traits of God? Is there intentionality that directly impacts a possible process of character transformation for those who encounter the text?
A theological reading provides a richness and depth to the texture of the text. This research examines these interactions between human beings and the divine with particular attention given to a possible process of transformation of character.

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Holy Person

Robbins states that often within a passage of Scripture there is the identification of a person who has a special relationship with God. The example par excellence in the sacred text of Scripture is the person of Christ.11 One of the fundamental assumptions of this research is the equality of Christ in the divine Trinitarian person of God. The person of Jesus who is the Christ is concomitantly deity and, by nature of his deity, he is also a holy person.
Often the writers of Scripture include other characters, either good or evil, to highlight the degree of goodness of one or the disparity between the good and the evil. In the Colossian pericope, the person of Christ is mentioned nine times. Five of those instances reflect a locative sphere of relationship. Does the intentional locative description convey a theology of place? What does the author desire to communicate to the recipients about their lives in relationship to Christ? How should this locative sphere of existence impact one’s character? Four of the occurrences relate to a specific aspect of the nature of Christ’s character. What does the author desire to create within the lives of the recipients
with regards to their characters and concerning the expressions of Christ’s character?
Within the pericope, there is an apparent contrast between the person of Christ and the lives of the recipients. There is a further contrast between the pre-conversion and post-conversion lives of these recipients as the paraenetic passage develops. Further, there is referential evidence that the Colossian believers are themselves “holy persons” (Col. 3.12). Is there a model of holiness that reflects a characterological transformation in the lives of those who interact with the message of the text? This research examines the call to a particular lived expression of character reflected in the pericope and compares it with the textual relationship to the character possessed by the holy person of Christ.

Human Commitment

Salvation is God’s work of redemption. Humankind responds to God with the commitment to following God’s ways. 12 Commitment can be observed in the act of obedience to live according to the commands of God. For the follower of Christ, the appropriate motivating factor becomes love in response to God’s activity rather than fear of judgment. In Colossians 3, the writer presents a salvific reality with eschatological implications. It is out of that environment of salvation that the recipients are commanded to focus the activity of their bodies and minds upon the things of God as an aspect of their faith commitment. What role does this human commitment play in the process of character transformation? Are there articulate directives of commitment that lead to observable characterological change? Is the process of character transformation initiated by the person as a result of the salvation experience? This research investigates the divine-human activity in character transformation. Further, this research explores the possibility of a process that allows for human responsibility and divine participation in the recreation of character according to a divine model.

Religious Community

Discipleship is both an individual and community activity. In the justification-sanctification-glorification model of redemption, there is an opportunity for the individuals who experience faith in Christ to join together as a community. This community has both a spiritual and physical connotation. The sacred text of Scripture refers to this community of faith as the Body of Christ. The Body has a responsibility to build up the members through following Christ. This responsibility is part of the task of discipleship, and it is one of the many functions of the faith community. The goal of the discipleship is maturity in the faith and growth in Christlikeness. Within the Colossian pericope, can one find the aspect of community and how does that community factor into the process of transformation of character? What are the expectations of a member of that community towards other members and how can they co-facilitate characterological change?


Character shapes ethical behavior. That behavior flows from deeply held values and beliefs built upon the foundation of what one considers as right or wrong, on both private and corporate levels. The model of right and wrong for the follower of Christ is the moral standard set by God in Scripture. The struggle of redeemed humanity is the conflicting desire to both adhere to and to rebel against the commands of God. The Colossian pericope presents a clear picture of the spiritual struggle that exists in the lives of believers. It portrays both the pre-conversion activity (in vices) as well as the activity that should typify the life of a follower of Christ (in virtues). The lists of vices and virtues serve as a model of things to abandon in life and things to which one should seek to develop, respectively.
A writer chooses words in order to influence the reader to respond in a particular fashion. Is the writer of the passage advocating a self-generated transformation of character achieved through a process of refusal to act according to vice and consciously choosing to act in a virtuous manner? Is the goal of character transformation behavior that aligns with the commands of God? Within the passage, is there a model of character after which followers of Christ are being shaped? If so, what is the origin of that model and how can Christ-followers facilitate the process of transformation? To what end is the believer being transformed? What is the τέλος of character transformation?
This research seeks to discern the intent of the writer of the selected text and determine any correlation between that intent and the transformation of character. Why is character transformation necessary? What is its purpose and what are the implications of that transformation? What is the writer’s image of a transformed character? The methodology of theological reading seeks to discover the possibility of a model of the transformational process that applies to the lives of those who interact with the text.

Spirituality and Embodiment

Spirituality can be defined as a lived expression of faith. Multiple spiritualities can be created within a person as their perception of reality is altered by an encounter with the divine. This transformed perception of reality finds expression through belief and behavior. This research investigates the spiritualities created by interaction with the divine from two specific standpoints arising in the pericope: internalization and externalization.
The first methodological approach of the research into a spirituality reading is an examination of the spiritualities created within the lives of the recipients as they encounter the text of the pericope itself. The writer of the text chose words with intentionality and specificity to create potential spiritualities in the lives of the recipients. The passage does not exist in a contextual vacuum. The writer communicates to individuals in their particular context. As an individual interacts with the text and subsequently embraces the text, there is an internalization of the ideological values represented in the message of the passage. These values are incorporated, and they impact the perception and behavior of the recipient. The depth of impact can alter the recipient’s worldview and potentially run counter to the prevailing worldview of the culture in which the recipient lives. If embraced and internalized, how does the selected passage potentially alter the worldview of the recipient? What spiritualities are created within the recipient’s life? Is there a desired outcome based on the structure and rhetorical choice made by the writer?
The internalization of the text leads to a lived experience of faith. As a person interacts with and embraces the text, the creation of spiritualities leads to an embodiment of the text. The spiritualities created through the internalization of the text lead to the externalization of the text as God is embodied to others through the lives of the recipients. What is the character of God that is externalized through the embodiment of the pericope? Is there a teleological goal of embodiment and what does that look like as it is expressed and externalized in the lives of the recipients? What is the role of the community of faith in the embodiment? Is there any connection to the imagery of the faith community as embodiment? If so, is there a connection between a person’s externalization and the broader, corporate embodiment? Does the text present a model for embodiment?
The methodologies undertaken in this research allow for an examination of character and transformation of character from a broad spectrum of disciplines. The investigation into the selected biblical passage utilizes multiple approaches in order to ascertain the writer’s intent concerning the transformation of character and the teleological goal for that transformation. After the application of the investigative methodologies, this research synthesizes the findings and presents conclusions regarding transformation of character and the existence of a proposed process of transformation that arise from the Colossian pericope.

1.1 Background for an Understanding of Character
1.2 Background for the Research in Transformation of Character
2.1 An Examination of Relevant Commentaries and Related Monographs
2.2 Research Problems
2.3 Title, Objective and Purpose of Thesis
2.4. Academic Contribution to Pauline Scholarship
3.1 Inductive and Library Research
3.2 Historical Reading
3.3 Textual Reading
3.4 Theological Reading
3.5 Spirituality and Embodiment
3.6 Thesis Structure
3.7 Delimitations and Final Matters
4.1 Colossae: An Introduction to the Cultural and Religious Milieu
4.2 Geographical and historical environment of Colossae
4.3 Cultural and religious environment of Colossae
4.4 The Apostle Paul: the impact of his cultural and religious background
4.5 Conclusion
5.1 The Inner and Intertextual Analysis of Colossians 3.1-17
5.2 The rhetorical strategies and the spiritualities fostered within the pericope
5.3 Informal Strategies
5.4 Conclusion to the Inner and Intertexture of Colossians 3.1-17
6.1 Defining the Interconnectedness Between Theology and Spirituality
6.2 Theological and Spirituality Textures Embedded in the Networks
6.3 The Embodiment Texture as the Substance of Character Transformation
6.4 Conclusion to the Theological and Embodiment Textures of Colossians 3.1-17 and the Spiritualities Fostered Through Textual Encounter

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