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#1 Lorinda H. M. Hoover

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 11:08 AM

I'm starting a preaching series on Colossians, and I'm looking for a commentary that will deal with the Greek text and is available in Accordance as an individual purchase.  Specifically, I'm trying to decide between the NIGTC volume by Dunn and the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary by Pao.  

 

I'm a United Methodist Pastor and centrist/progressive in my theology, if that matters.  I'm aware they are both by evangelical scholars, which is not a problem for me.  That said, if one is notably more more dismissive/negative about more centrist or progressive positions than the other, that might be a factor.

 

One factor in favor of Pao for me is that he is Chinese American.

 

I currently have the following commentary series in Accordance: Tyndale, Wisdom, NIVAC, ZIBBCNT, and Exegetical Guide to the GNT.  If I didn't have Tyndale, and thus an NT Wright commentary, I'd definitely think about the NT Wright commentary series that's on sale right now.  

 

I'm open to suggestions of more application oriented commentaries as well, but, given that I have several as part of series already, for those type of commentaries I'm mostly interested in ones that are written from a more centrist/progressive perspective and/or are written by a woman or person of color.  And, only if they are good, solid commentaries. 

 

(And yes I've looked at bestcommetaries.com)


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#2 Graham Buck

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 11:58 AM

Lorinda,

 

My quick thoughts, as a user, are as follows (in no particular order):

  • Pao is nearly 100pg longer than Dunn. Granting word count is not correlative to quality, it is offers a possibility for greater depth.
  • Dunn (1996) is nearly 20 years older than Pao (2012) and thus the latter's interaction with scholarship will be more up to date.
  • That being the case, Pao interacts nearly 30 times with Dunn's commentary.
  • Dunn would be far more likely to be centrist leaning than Pao.
  • But yeah, Dunn is an old, white guy.

Have you thought to check out Wisdom Commentary vol 51? It's a part of a feminist commentary series. I've really loved the series and its particular interpretive lens.


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#3 Lorinda H. M. Hoover

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 12:01 PM

Thanks, Graham; as noted above, I already have the Wisdom commentary; bought that series as soon as it was released here.  Your comments about Pao and Dunn are good grist for the mill as I contemplate.


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#4 Graham Buck

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 12:03 PM

Ah, yes, in that list I apparently glossed over…  <_<


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#5 ukfraser

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 12:30 PM

The dunn one is available on kindle so you should be able to download a sample so you can read a sample and see how you get on with it. But obviously dont buy the kindle version.

Poa isnt though.

You may also find samples on google good read. (I always try to get samples to help me decide.)

On a personal note, im not impressed with best commentaries so wouldn't let it swing your choice too much, its useful to know what is out there and that's about it.

Edited by ukfraser, 12 June 2019 - 12:33 PM.

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#6 danielamari

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 12:47 PM

Here are my recommendations:

1) Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: Colossians and Philemon (Harris) (Murray Harris) It is available but not on mobile. I do not know why.

2) WBC Peter O’Brien (sadly, this is no longer available). Glad i got the hardcover.

3) Douglas Moo. This is recommended by D.A. Carson.

#7 Daniel Francis

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 01:09 PM

I will beat my drum again....  as a  methodist I am fairly sure you would be familiar with the New Interpreter's Bible. Having used it since it came out I am rarely disappointed when I turn to it and its reflections section while  not often spoon feeding you applications do typical contain information and ideas that are most  readily applicable.

 

-dan



#8 Lorinda H. M. Hoover

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 03:21 PM

I will beat my drum again....  as a  methodist I am fairly sure you would be familiar with the New Interpreter's Bible. Having used it since it came out I am rarely disappointed when I turn to it and its reflections section while  not often spoon feeding you applications do typical contain information and ideas that are most  readily applicable.

 

-dan

 

Thanks, Dan.  I have the 1 volume Interpreter's Bible Commentary.  I wish I had the budget for the multivolume set, but I don't.  So it's not an option for me at the moment, but it's definitely on my wish list.


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#9 Lorinda H. M. Hoover

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 03:26 PM

The dunn one is available on kindle so you should be able to download a sample so you can read a sample and see how you get on with it. But obviously dont buy the kindle version.

Poa isnt though.

You may also find samples on google good read. (I always try to get samples to help me decide.)

On a personal note, im not impressed with best commentaries so wouldn't let it swing your choice too much, its useful to know what is out there and that's about it.

Thanks for the suggestion of checking kindle's free samples.  In the US, both titles are on kindle.  Unfortunately the same for Dunn is mostly table of contents and Bibiliography; I like the feel of the author's Preface, but the sample doesn't include anything that addresses a part of the text, nor even introductory material on date, authorship, etc.  The sample for Pao's work was much more thorough.


Here are my recommendations:

1) Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: Colossians and Philemon (Harris) (Murray Harris) It is available but not on mobile. I do not know why.

2) WBC Peter O’Brien (sadly, this is no longer available). Glad i got the hardcover.

3) Douglas Moo. This is recommended by D.A. Carson.

 

I have the Exegetical Guide already.  Have you used Moo?  If so, what have you appreciated about it?  How much does he address the Greek text?


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#10 Graham Buck

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 09:10 PM

Here are a couple of related samples. I chose Col 1.9 for absolutely no reason whatsoever:

 

Pao

Structure

 

This long sentence begins with “for this reason” (v. 9a), which connects it with the previous section. The main clause points to Paul’s incessant prayer on behalf of the Colossians (v. 9c–d). He prays that they might be filled with the proper knowledge (v. 9e) in order to live properly in the Lord (v. 10a).

The four participial clauses introduced by four adverbial participles (“bearing fruit,” v. 10b; “growing,” v. 10c; “being strengthened,” v. 11a; “giving thanks,” v. 12a) modify the verb “walk” in 10a, but the exact relationship between the participles and the verb is not clear. They might characterize ways to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord,” but they might also specify the means through which such a “walk” is possible. The parallelism among these four clauses is further reinforced by the presence of an adverbial modifier within each of these clauses.

In the lengthier, fourth participial clause (v. 12a), Paul discusses the work of God in the relative clause (v. 13a–B). This clause in turn leads to the introduction of “his beloved Son” (v. 13b) and the redemptive work accomplished through him (v. 14). This “Son,” who appears here only in a subordinate clause, will become the main subject of the following section (1:15–20), which extols his supremacy both in status and in his work in and beyond history.

 

Exegetical Outline

 

 I. Occasion for Paul’s Intercession for the Colossians (1:9a–d)

II. Content: They Should Be Filled with the Knowledge of God’s Will (1:9e)

III. Purpose: So That They Can Walk in the Lord (1:10a)

IV. Means of Walking in the Lord (1:10b–12)

A. By means of bearing fruit (1:10b)

B. By means of growing (1:10c)

C. By means of being strengthened (1:11)

D. By means of giving thanks (1:12)

V. The Work of the Father (1:13)

VI. The Mediation of the Son (1:14)

 

Explanation of the Text

 

1:9a–b  For this reason we also, since the day we heard (Διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἡμεῖς, ἀφ’ ἧς ἡμέρας ἠκούσαμεν). Paul begins this prayer report by connecting it with the words of thanksgiving in vv. 3–8. “For this reason” points back to the report of Epaphras concerning the Colossians (vv. 4–8). The translation “also” (καί) reflects the adjunctive use of this conjunction,7 marking a transition from Epaphras (vv. 7–8) back to Paul and Timothy.8 In addition to giving thanks to God, Paul (with Timothy) is now interceding for the Colossians (cf. Eph 1:15). Moreover, the Pauline uses of the phrase “for this reason … also” elsewhere point to the introduction of a new act rather than a change of the subject of a verb (cf. Rom 13:6; 1 Thess 2:13; 3:5). It is significant that Paul’s exhortation for the Colossians to stand firm in their faith is grounded in the power of the gospel they have already experienced.

“Since the day we heard” recalls a similar phrase in v. 6d (“since the day you heard”). This further stresses that the basis of Paul’s request is not simply on the challenge of the false teachers, but on God’s work already evident in their lives.

 

1:9c–d  Have not ceased praying for you and asking God (οὐ παυόμεθα ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν προσευχόμενοι καὶ αἰτούμενοι). Paul begins this prayer report by highlighting his constant concern for the Colossian believers. The main clause of this long sentence is the negated verb “have not ceased,” with the two complementary participles, “praying” and “asking.” “Have not ceased” (παυόμεθα) in the middle voice means “to cease doing something.”9 The thought parallels “always” in v. 3 and refers to Paul’s deep concern for the Colossians. It may have the sense of “regularly,”10 and in reference to prayer may refer to Paul’s remembering the Colossians during his regular prayer time.11

“Praying” and “asking” form a hendiadys — that is, two words expressing one complex idea, with the second item often subordinate to and specifying the first: “we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that …” (ESV).12 In this case, Paul specifies that he is now involved in intercession for the Colossians.13 In other words, while vv. 3–8 provide an example of a thanksgiving prayer, vv. 9–14 provide an intercessory prayer. “God” in this translation is inserted for the sake of clarity, because “asking” in the context of prayer naturally refers to God as the object of Paul’s intercession.

 

1:9e  That you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding (ἵνα πληρωθῆτε τὴν ἐπίγνωσιν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ καὶ συνέσει πνευματικῇ). Paul now turns to the content of his prayer as it relates to the circumstances of the Colossian believers. “That” (ἵνα) indicates the content of the prayer.14 The passive verb “may be filled” (πληρωθῆτε) is a divine passive, where God is the implied subject and is therefore also the reference behind the possessive pronoun “his.” The use of the verb “to fill” (πληρόω) is perhaps prompted by the use of the noun “fullness” by the false teachers (1:19; 2:9; cf. 1:25; 2:10), even though this word group also appears elsewhere in Paul’s letters.15 Moreover, “knowledge” also paves the way for Paul’s argument that full knowledge can be found only in the gospel of Jesus Christ (2:2; 3:10; cf. 2:3). In this context, to “be filled with the knowledge” is to obtain both a “fullest knowledge” (NJB; cf. 1:6) as well as to be “completely certain” (TNT; cf. 2:2–5) of God’s will. Moreover, what Paul emphasizes in this prayer report is that this knowledge must come from God, not from human traditions.

“The knowledge of his will” is the knowledge of what God has done through Jesus Christ. This “will” is not concerned primarily with God’s private plan for individual believers; it is rather his salvific will as he accomplishes his plan of salvation. Paul later defines this “knowledge of his will” as “the knowledge of God” (v. 10) and “the knowledge of the mystery of God, Christ” (2:2).

“In” (ἐν) should probably be taken in an instrumental sense modifying “you may be filled”: “through all the wisdom and understanding” (TNIV, NIV; cf. NAB, NJB).16 Both the adjectives “all” and “spiritual” modify “wisdom and understanding.” “Spiritual” (πνευματικῇ) can have a general “possessive” sense: it belongs to the sphere of the Spirit. It is then contrasted with the wisdom of this world (cf. 1 Cor 2:1–13). 17 This adjective can also point to the Spirit as the source of such “wisdom and understanding.”18 The parallel in Eph 1:17 supports this reading: “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.”

“Knowledge,” “wisdom,” and “understanding” are often found in Jewish traditions (Exod 31:3; 35:31; Isa 11:2; Sir 1:19; 1QS 4:4; 10:9, 12; 1QSb 5:21; 1QH 2:18; 11:17–18; 12:11–12). Most significant is the reference to the Spirit linked with “wisdom” and “understanding” in Exod 31:3; 35:31; Isa 11:2.19 In light of the eschatological context, the allusion to Isa 11:2 is particularly possible, especially since with the “Spirit of wisdom and of understanding” there is also the “Spirit of knowledge,” which becomes the agent of the new creation. Also noteworthy is the idea of fullness, although a different word group is used: “the [whole] earth will be filled [ἐνεπλήσθη] with the knowledge of the LORD” (Isa 11:9). In any case, Paul’s prayer is not that the messianic figure in Isa 11 will come, but that God’s own entire people may likewise be filled with this “spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

 

David W. Pao, Colossians and Philemon, ZECNT; Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 67-69.

 

Dunn

Prayer for the Colossian Recipients (1:9–14)

 

9 That is why we also,1 from the day we heard, have not ceased to pray on your behalf and to ask2 that you might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, 10 that you might walk worthily of the Lord, wholly pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God, 11 being empowered with all power in accordance with his glorious might, for all patience and endurance, with joy3 12 giving thanks to the Father,4 who has qualified5 you6 for the share of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the authority of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of the son of his love, 14 in whom we have redemption,7 the forgiveness of sins.

 

The second part of the extended thanksgiving elaborates the reassurance given in 1:3 that Paul and Timothy pray for the Colossians (see the introduction to 1:3–23). Lohse, Colossians and Philemon 24, notes how much of the language in 1:9–11 echoes that already used in 1:4–6: “all” (vv. 4, 6, 9–11), “from the day you/we heard” (vv. 6, 9), “came to know the grace of God/knowledge of his will/knowledge of God” (vv. 6, 9–10), “bearing fruit and growing/increasing” (vv. 6, 10).

Equally striking is the sequence of terms not characteristically Pauline in 1:12–14: “qualify” (v. 12 — only here and in 2 Cor. 3:6 in the New Testament), “share of the inheritance” (μερίς — elsewhere in Paul only in 2 Cor. 6:15, the Pauline authorship of which is also questioned), “saints in  light” (v. 12), aorist tenses (v. 13), “transferred” (v. 13 — elsewhere in Paul only in the proverbial 1 Cor. 13:2), “authority,” denoting domain (v. 13), “kingdom of the son of his love” (v. 13), and “forgiveness” (v. 14). Elsewhere Paul never rounds off his opening with a call to thanksgiving (v. 12; Lohmeyer 38).

This could suggest that 1:12 begins a fresh line of thought, with εὐχαριστοῦντες functioning as an imperatival participle and 1:12–14 drawing on preformed liturgical material as “a sort of introit which introduces the solemn hymn sung by the community” (Lohse, Colossians and Philemon 32–33).8 But that would detach it from the preceding participles and run counter to the imperatival style used in the rest of the letter (see further O’Brien, Thanksgivings 71–75; Aletti, Épître aux Colossiens 76–77; Wolter 57–58, 61–62). Nor is it obvious that the setting envisaged for such liturgical usage would be baptism in particular (so, e.g., R. P. Martin, Colossians and Philemon 55; Ernst, Philipper, Philemon, Kolosser, Epheser 164–65; Pokorný 51, 54–55; Sappington 196): baptism was evidently a much more spontaneous affair in the earliest days of Christianity (Dunn, Unity 141–47); and no doubt, as now, congregations in their worship often recalled the spiritual blessings they had received, without particular reference to baptism as such (cf. O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon 25). The more elaborate suggestion of Käsemann that 1:12–20 is actually “a primitive Christian baptismal liturgy” has not won much support (Lohse, Colossians and Philemon 40 n. 63; Gnilka, Kolosserbrief 45–46; in contrast Eckart, “Exegetische Beobachtungen,” in particular, wants to include vv. 9–12 as the “Eingangsparanese” of a three-part baptismal liturgy).

Perhaps most striking of all is the very Jewish character of the language: “knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (v. 9), “walk,” “knowledge of God” (v. 10), “empowered with all power,” “his glorious might” (v. 11), “the share of the inheritance of the saints in light” (v. 12), God as deliverer9 from the authority of darkness, “the son of his love” (v. 13), and “redemption” (v. 14; in each case see the following commentary). This emphasis on (or assumption of) the Jewish character of the gospel to which the Colossian Christians were committed is unlikely to be accidental. It suggests that Paul and Timothy thought it desirable to emphasize just this fundamental feature of their common faith. The most obvious reason is that the Colossians were confronted by local Jews who were confident of the superiority of their own religious practice and who denigrated the claims of these Gentiles to share  in their own Jewish heritage (see further pp. 29–35 in the Introduction, and on 2:8, 16, and 18).

 

1:9 διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἡμεῖς, ἀφ᾿ ἡμέρας ἠκούσαμεν, οὐ παυόμεθα ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν προσευχόμενοι καὶ αἰτούμενοι, ἵνα πληρωθῆτε τὴν ἐπίγνωσιν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ καὶ συνέσει πνευματικῇ. Having completed his thanksgiving (1:3–8) and in view of having had so much to give thanks for, Paul turns from thanksgiving to prayer, more or less repeating what he has already said in the second half of 1:3. “From the day we heard” is perhaps a deliberate echo of the same phrase already used in 1:6: as they were fruitful from the very day they heard the gospel, so Paul and Timothy have been prayerful from the very day they heard of their response to the gospel. Note again the plural, in contrast to Phil. 1:9 and Phm. 4–7 (but as in 1 Thes. 3:9–10 and 2 Thes. 1:11–12). The intensity of prayer is marked — “from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray on your behalf and to ask” (cf. Rom. 1:9–10; 1 Thes. 1:2–3; and especially Eph. 1:15–16) — and introduces the “fill/fullness” motif that comes to be a feature of the letter (1:9, 19, 24, 25; 2:2, 9, 10; 4:12, 17; O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon 20). The middle voice αἰτεῖσθαι (“ask”) appears elsewhere in the Paulines only in Eph. 3:20 (cf. 1 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 3:13).

It is not surprising that the prayer focuses on “knowledge of his (God’s) will.”10 For a theist who believes that God’s active purpose determines the ordering of the world, lies behind events on earth, and shapes their consequences, one of the most desirable objectives must be to know God’s will. The corollary, spelled out in the following phrases, is that such knowledge gives insight into and therefore reassurance regarding what happens (often unexpected in human perspective) and helps direct human conduct to accord with that will. Such desire to know and do God’s will is naturally very Jewish in character (e.g., Pss. 40:8; 143:10; 2 Macc. 1:3; Testament of Issachar 4:3) and was, not surprisingly, shared by Jesus (Matt. 6:10; 7:21; Mark 3:35; 14:36; Luke 12:47) and the first Christians (e.g., Acts 21:14; Eph. 5:17; 6:6; 1 Thes. 4:3; Heb. 10:36; 13:21; 1 Pet. 3:17; 1 John 2:17; see also on 1:1). No doubt the knowledge prayed for here included the teachings that follow in the letter (Wolter 59), but hardly need be limited to that.

A characteristic claim in Jewish tradition was that the necessary knowledge of God’s will came through the law: “Happy are we, Israel, because we know what is pleasing to God” (Bar. 4:4); “you know his will and approve the things that matter, being instructed from the law” (Rom. 2:18; cf. Wis. 15:2–3; 4 Ezra 8:12). But for Paul in particular there was now a better and surer way of knowing God’s will and of discerning what really  mattered: by the personal transformation that flowed from inward renewal (Rom. 12:2, probably set in deliberate contrast to Rom. 2:18), so that he can sum up the call to Christian conduct in terms of walking in accordance with the Spirit (Rom. 8:4, 13–14; Gal. 5:16, 18, 25).

However, there is no simple contrast here between Judaism and Christianity so far as the quality and stimulus for ethical conduct is concerned. For the recognition that obedience to the law must spring from inner consecration is familiar also in Jewish thought (e.g., Deut. 10:16; Jer. 4:4; 31:31–34; Ezek. 36:26–27). Even the claim that Paul’s Spirit ethic was distinctively eschatological in character (the hopes of Jeremiah and Ezekiel now fulfilled) does not enable us to draw a clear line of contrast with his Jewish contemporaries, as the DSS remind us. For they, too, claim a knowledge (of God’s will) given directly by the eschatological Spirit, though a knowledge that, as is also evident, focuses on a very sectarian interpretation of Torah (see, e.g., 1QH 4:9–12; 6:10–12; 11:7–10; 12:11–13; 16:11–12; 1QS 5:8–10; 9:13; 11:15–18; see further Lohse, Colossians and Philemon 25). Thus, although the orientation to Torah comes out differently in each case (“the law of Christ” facilitating Paul’s inclusive gospel in contrast to Qumran’s introverted and exclusivist interpretation), the eschatological-psychological dynamic is similar.

The spiritual source and character of this knowledge is reinforced by the qualifying phrase, “in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,” which could equally well be rendered “in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (RSV/NRSV, NIV, Harris), or “with all the wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives” (GNB). The language and aspiration were widely shared by Greco-Roman philosophy, as classically expressed in Aristotle’s numbering σοφία and σύνεσις (“wisdom” and “understanding”) with φρόνησις (“prudence”) as the highest virtues (Ethica Nicomachea 1.13).11 But the more immediate background for the thought here is again, doubtless, Jewish, since the combination of “wisdom and understanding” is a repeated feature of Jewish writings.12 Here, too, the wisdom in particular is understood as given through the law (Deut. 4:6; 1 Chron. 22:12; Sir. 24:23–26; Bar. 3:36–4:1), but it is equally recognized that such wisdom can come only from  above (as in Wis. 9:9–10). And particularly to be noted is the recognition that wisdom and understanding come only from the Spirit (Exod. 31:3; 35:31; Isa. 11:2; Wis. 9:17–19; Sir. 39:6; Philo, De gigantibus 22–27; 4 Ezra 14:22, 39–40). It is certainly this thought that is taken up here (“spiritual” as given by and manifesting the Spirit — cf. 1 Cor. 2:12–13; 12:1, 4; 14:1–2). Whether there is an implied rebuke of an alternatively conceived or false wisdom13 is less clear since in that case we might have expected more emphasis on the point (as in 1 Corinthians 1–2); but the allusion in 2:23 does indicate that a claim to wisdom was part of the teaching in Colossae that called forth the response of this letter (see also 2:2–3).

All this reflects the charismatic and eschatological character of Christian self-consciousness, not least in the transition from conviction to praxis: charismatic in the sense of the immediacy of wisdom and insight that Christians (or Paul in particular) expected to provide their lives with direction and motivation (the parallel with Phil. 1:9–10 is very close)14 and eschatological in that they (or Paul in particular) were convinced that this knowledge of God’s will was the outworking of the eschatological Spirit and renewal looked for in the prophets (hence the enthusiastic “filled with” and “all”; cf. Isa. 11:2; 33:6).

 

James D. G. Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC-13; Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 67-71.

 

Moo (starts at v7 b/c his comments on v9 are a bit short)

7-8 Paul turns from message to messenger.37 Not only is the gospel [Col. & Phm., p. 90] they have heard an authentic and life-transforming reality, but it has also been brought to them by one who is a dear fellow servant and a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf. Epaphras is mentioned only in Colossians and in Philemon (v. 23) in the New Testament.38 Little is know about him, though we can infer that he was a native of Colossae and that he was perhaps converted by Paul himself during the apostle’s ministry in Ephesus. The mention of a co-worker at this point in a Pauline epistle is unusual, and the strength of Paul’s endorsement of him is also striking (and note also 4:12-13). Perhaps Epaphras’s reliability and commitment to the Colossians was being questioned by the Colossians and/or challenged by the false teachers.39 On the other hand, the peculiar circumstances of Paul’s letter to the Colossians may better explain this emphasis: writing to Christians he has never visited demands that Paul go out of his way to accredit his representative among them.40 Paul speaks of Epaphras’s relationship to himself, to the Colossians, and of his role as emissary from Colossae to himself.

Calling Epaphras a fellow servant in relationship to himself highlights Epaphras’s significance in Paul’s eyes: he applies fellow servant (Gk. syndoulos) to a co-worker only once else (Tychicus in 4:7 of this letter), and he rarely uses even the simple “slave” (Gk. doulos) to refer to co-workers (again in 4:12 with reference to Epaphras; cf. also 2 Cor. 4:5; Phil. 1:1). Paul uses “slave” language to connote the Christian’s total dependence upon and dedication to the Lord Jesus.41 Epaphras exhibits such dedication and is, moreover, dear (or beloved; Gk. agapētos) to Paul also. Shifting language, Paul calls Epaphras a faithful minister of Christ in relationship to the Colossians. Minister translates the Greek diakonos, [Col. & Phm., p. 91] “servant” (NASB; NLT; NJB). While the New Testament in general makes clear that all Christians are “servants” or “ministers” in the service of God to one another (e.g., 1 Pet. 4:10-11), Paul confines the language of “servant” to specific forms of ministry — thus “minister” is probably a good rendering.42 All these “ministers” belong to and are ultimately in the service of God, or Christ, as the of Christ in our text makes clear. But on whose behalf is Epaphras’s ministry carried out? A textual variant makes the answer to this question difficult, a problem to which recent translations bear witness: TNIV on our behalf (also NIV; RSV; NASB; NET; NJB; REB); ESV “on your behalf” (also NRSV; NLT; HCSB; NAB). Accepting the latter would mean that Paul is simply highlighting Epaphras’s faithful ministry to the Colossians; accepting the former would suggest that Paul adds the nuance that this ministry (implicitly to the Colossians) is ultimately on Paul’s own behalf. Since Paul is clearly at pains in this context to stress Epaphras’s reliability as a conduit for Paul’s gospel, we think the TNIV rendering is probably slightly preferable.43 Epaphras, both when he originally brought the gospel to Colossae and now as he seeks to counteract the influence of the false teachers, is acting on Paul’s own behalf. This clause would then reinforce the first clause in the verse, a relationship neatly conveyed in the NET Bible: “You learned the gospel from Epaphras, our dear fellow slave — a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf …”

If v. 7 is primarily about Epaphras’s faithfulness as a minister to the Colossians on behalf of Paul, v. 8 is about his reliability as a messenger to Paul on behalf of the Colossians. For Epaphras has communicated to Paul that the Colossians are continuing to manifest a key quality of Christian existence: love (cf. v. 4).44 In adding that this love is in the Spirit, Paul [Col. & Phm., p. 92] probably intends to suggest that it is the Holy Spirit who stimulates this love; see NLT: “the great love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you.”45

9 As we noted above, Paul regularly moves from thanksgiving to petition in these opening sections of his letters. Thus, after giving thanks for the Colossians’ reaction to the proclamation of the gospel in their midst (vv. 3-8), Paul now prays that they might continue on the course they have begun. In the Greek text, vv. 9-14 is a single complex sentence, which may usefully be broken down into three main parts. There is (1) Paul’s assertion of regular prayer on behalf of the Colossians along with the basic content of that prayer: knowledge of God’s will and the manifestation of that knowledge in a lifestyle pleasing to God (vv. 9-10a); (2) a further description of what this lifestyle looks like, employing (in the Greek) four participles: “bearing fruit,” “growing,” “being empowered,” and “giving thanks” (vv. 10b–12a); and (3) a rehearsal of the deliverance from sin provided to the readers by God the Father through the Son (vv. 12b–14). A noteworthy feature of this prayer are the number of parallels with the thanksgiving section:

 

“since the day you heard” v. 6 “since the day we heard” v. 9

“thank” v. 3 “giving … thanks” v. 12

“always” v. 3 “not stopped” v. 9

“when we pray for you” v. 3 “praying for you”46 v. 9

“understood” v. 6 “knowledge”47 v. 9, v. 10

“bearing fruit and growing” v. 6 “bearing fruit … growing” v. 10

 

The parallels are numerous enough to suggest that Paul is deliberately echoing the language of the thanksgiving in his petition. The effect is to subtly remind the Colossians again that they must continue on the course they have already begun.

Paul’s petition for the Colossians proceeds directly from his thanksgiving for them, as the connecting phrase for this reason makes [Col. & Phm., p. 93] clear.48 Especially in the face of the threat posed by the false teachers, the Colossians’ good start and genuine progress should lead not to complacency but to renewed effort.49 Yet it is not simply the threat of false teaching that stimulates Paul’s prayer for them, for he has been regularly praying for the Colossians ever since he first heard about their conversion through the ministry of Epaphras. Paul uses two verbs to indicate his prayer: “praying” (proseuchomenoi) and “asking” (aitoumenoi). (For stylistic reasons — to break up an otherwise intolerably long sentence — the TNIV has put the verbs in separate sentences.) They form a hendiadys, with “asking” perhaps added to enforce the idea of petition in the otherwise general “praying.”50 What51 Paul prays for is that the Colossians “might be filled with the knowledge of his [God’s] will.” The verb (plērōthēte) is a “divine passive,” with God as the implied agent: “filled by God.” Several English translations, including the TNIV, express this idea by explicitly adding a reference to God and turning the verb into an active: we continually ask God to fill you (cf. also NIV; NLT; NET; REB). The language of “fulfill” or “fullness” occurs at some crucial junctures in Colossians (1:19; 2:9-10), leading some to suggest that the language may have played a role in the false teaching. We think this is probably the case, although it must be noted that Paul does use this verb in similar contexts elsewhere (Rom. 15:13; Eph. 3:19; Phil. 2:2; 4:19; 2 Thess. 1:11; 2 Tim. 1:4). Paul has given thanks that the Colossians have truly understood [epegnōte] God’s grace; now he correspondingly prays that they may be filled with the knowledge [epignōsin] of his will. What Paul has in mind is not some particular or special direction for one’s life (as we often use the phrase “God’s will”), but a deep and abiding understanding of the revelation of Christ and all that he means for the universe (vv. 15-20) and for the Colossians (vv. 21-23).52 [Col. & Phm., p. 94] Paul makes clear just what kind of knowledge he is talking about by adding the phrase through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. Indeed, the TNIV through suggests that the phrase describes the means by which God will fill the Colossians with knowledge of his will. But it is better to view the phrase as qualifying knowledge by indicating two other qualities that are to accompany it.53 Wisdom (sophia) and understanding (synesis) are two of the three chief “intellectual” virtues, according to Aristotle (the third is phronēsis, “prudence”; cf. Niom. Eth. 1.13); and they are frequently paired in the Greek Old Testament and in Judaism. Some sense of the meaning of the pairing arises from the contexts in which it is used. These virtues are essential to the godly leader (e.g., Moses [Exod. 31:3; 35:31]; Solomon [1 Chron. 22:12; 2 Chron. 1:10, 11, 12]; the “shoot from the stump of Jesse” [Isa. 11:2]) and are given to those who fear the Lord (Prov. 1:7; 2:2, 3, 6; 9:10; 24:3; Job 12:13; 28:20).54 The combination thus suggests the ability to discern the truth and to make good decisions based on that truth. Of course, as the Old Testament contexts make clear, this truth comes only from God, a claim that Paul elaborates in a christological way in 2:3: in Christ (and in Christ alone) are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. As the TNIV interprets it, the adjective “spiritual” (pneumatikos) is getting at this same point: the Spirit is the source of the wisdom and understanding that the Colossians require as they negotiate their way through the maze of first–century worldview options.55


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#11 Diatheke76

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Posted 14 June 2019 - 04:16 PM

Exegetical Guide and the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary should give you all you need to preach through Colossians.
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#12 Lorinda H. M. Hoover

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Posted 14 June 2019 - 07:18 PM

Thank you everyone!  The samples were helpful.  I opted for Dunn.  


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