Colossians 1.24—2.3; Psalm 61; Luke 6.6-11
Colossae was an ancient Phrygian city, 10 miles or so southeast of Laodicaea, about 100 miles east of Ephesus. The city was famous for its wool trade; writing in the 5th Century BC, Xenophon described it as a populous city, wealthy and of considerable magnitude. Archaeological excavations suggest a population of 25 to 30,000. By the 1st Century AD, however, the city had dwindled considerably in size and significance. There was a Jewish community there, but the religion of the city was syncretistic, incorporating in particular a cult centring on the Archangel Michael, who was claimed to have caused a curative spring to gush up from a fissure in the earth. The city was decimated by an earthquake in the 60s AD.
St Paul likely never visited Colossae [cf 2.1]. Paul writes that Epaphras, ‘one of our closest fellow workers,’ had taught the Christian faith to the Colossians. [cf 1.7-8] Later Epaphras is described as a Colossian ‘fellow citizen’ [4.12] and tradition calls him the first Bishop of the city. Paul says that he is writing from prison [4.10], probably from Rome and therefore in the early 60s. A direct personal message to someone called Archippus [4.17], who in the personal letter to Philemon is called Paul’s ‘fellow soldier’ [Philemon 2], suggests that Philemon hosted the Colossian Church in his own house. (Tradition makes Philemon the second Bishop of Colossae.) Paul writes to help the Colossians to grow spiritually and to help their naïve enthusiasm come to maturity.