Barclay brings to light the literary and historical connections between Colossians and Philemon. Paul’s theology and the early influence of Gnosticism, and he reexamines the Colossian hymn. Barclay also outlines Paul’s Christology in relation to the doctrine of creation, doctrine of God, doctrine of salvation, other-worldly powers, and the church. Regarding Philemon, Barclay concerns himself with the story behind the letter, its strategy and its outcome.
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“Thus here in Colossians Christ is seen not merely as the instrument of creation, the tool of God’s creative power, but as the one to whom all creation tends, the goal and purpose of its existence.” (Page 80)
“It is perhaps no accident that our author describes Christ as ‘mystery’, since this term represented the supreme commodity offered both by Jewish apocalyptic theology and by Graeco-Roman ‘mystery’ cults. Correspondingly, the benefit of faith is repeatedly described as ‘knowledge’ (1:6, 9, 10, 27; 2:2, 3; 3:10), ‘wisdom’ (1:9, 28; 2:3, 23; 3:16; 4:5) and ‘understanding’ (1:9; 2:2), terms of international currency in both Jewish and Gentile traditions. Here a burgeoning international religion claims access to ‘all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’; they are to be found in its distinctive cult focus and saviour, Christ.” (Page 79)
“That phrase may be given some explanation in 2:9 where it is said that ‘all the fullness of deity (theotēs) dwells in him bodily/substantially (sōmatikōs)’: that gets about as near to calling Christ ‘God’ as it is possible to go without actually doing so.” (Page 81)
“At the same time, the sense of distinction represented by the particularism of the letter made the church robust enough to maintain its special identity, not allowing its theology to become dissipated in a general sense of ‘universal good’ nor letting its community lose its sharply differentiated profile. One cannot claim that Colossians had a unique influence in this regard, but it clearly lies behind the further reflections of Ephesians, and the two letters together had a considerable impact on early Christian thought.” (Page 94)