Michael Bird’s commentary on Colossians and Philemon in the New Covenant Commentary Series pays close attention to the socio-historical context and meaning for the contemporary church today. He also examines the flow and dynamics of the text, the argumentative strategies, and theological messages.
Bird situates Colossians in the context of Paul’s Ephesian ministry and describes how Paul attempts to persuade a congregation in the Lycus Valley to remain firm in the gospel and to grasp the cosmic majesty of Jesus Christ over and against the views of certain Jewish mystics who have thrown the Colossians into confusion. He shows how, in the letter to Philemon, Paul intercedes for a slave estranged from his master through a carefully crafted feat of pastoral persuasion from a missionary friend of Philemon. The commentary combines exegetical insight, rhetorical analysis, theological exposition, and practical application all in one short volume. Bird shows Paul at work as a theologian, pastor, and missionary in his letters to the Colossians and Philemon.
“In sum, as the image of the invisible God, Jesus is: (1) of the same likeness or form of God; (2) the beginning of the new eschatological humanity; and (3) the one who reveals God to human beings in his very person.” (Page 52)
“The object of Paul’s praying and petitioning is for the Colossians to grasp the source and content of true knowledge. This form of knowledge accords with God’s will or purpose, it is spiritual as opposed to philosophical, and derives from a God-centered wisdom rather than a human derived tradition.” (Pages 41–42)
“In Hebrews, ‘firstborn’ implies a special status and higher rank over and above others (e.g. Heb 1:6). As the firstborn Jesus is: (1) God’s appointed ruler over all of creation with priority in time and primacy in rank; (2) Israel’s Messiah; and (3) a Son of God like Adam and Israel.” (Page 53)
The New Covenant Commentary Series, compiled by contributors form a diverse range of backgrounds, devotes itself to the task of biblical interpretation and theological reflection. It unwraps each biblical book section-by-section, providing a clear view of the theology and application within. Focusing on both the text and various contexts of each book, the series illustrates the impact they had on faith and tradition at the time of their composition—and the significance they continue to have in contemporary life, faith, and ministry. The goal is that these volumes will represent serious engagement with the New Testament writings, done in the context of faith, in service of the church, and for the glorification of God.
Every generation needs to grapple anew with the Bible, and every pastor needs a series that pushes the text into the community. This commentary series accomplishes these tasks. May God bless these commentaries to yield communities that live out God’s gracious covenant with us.
—Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary
Michael Bird’s treatment of Colossians and Philemon is incisive, informative, and independent. He guides readers with a light touch, accurately setting out competing positions, but judiciously weighing the merits of each of these alternatives. The commentary is built on a foundation of mature, balanced, and sane exegesis—and from this firm foundation Bird draws weighty theological implications. This is a masterpiece of succinct writing and an auspicious start to the New Covenant Commentary Series.
—Paul Foster, senior lecturer in New Testament language, literature, and theology, University of Edinburgh
Michael F. Bird is lecturer in theology at Ridley Melbourne College of Mission and Ministry. He is the author of several books, including Jesus and the Origins of the Gentile Mission, The Saving Righteousness of God, and with James Crossley, How Did Christianity Begin?