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Topic: Genesis 1–3

JBMW 21.1 | The New Household in Christ: How Wives and Husbands are to “Put on the New Self” in Colossians 3:18-19

May 23, 2016
By William M. Marsh

William M. Marsh | Assistant Professor of Theological Studies
Cedarville University
Cedarville, Ohio


The aim of this study is to argue that Colossians 3:18-19 represents Paul’s vision for the “new household in Christ” that is clothed with “(re)newed garments” and enjoys the power of the gospel in an estate that has existed under the curse of Adam’s sin. The Apostle Paul’s injunction for wives to submit to husbands “as is fitting in the Lord” and for husbands to love their wives without being harsh in 3:18-19 flows out of the initial command in 3:9-10 for all Christians to “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”[1] Although the tradition within biblical studies has been to seek to situate Paul’s account of the so-called Haustafeln (household codes) in Colossians and Ephesians primarily within the cultural setting of the Greco-Roman world through a form-critical approach, it is the contention of this presentation that the backdrop against which Paul addresses wives and husbands is Genesis 1-3.

I will seek to demonstrate this thesis in three stages. First, the subject of the OT’s presence and material influence upon Colossians will be treated. A brief survey of recent approaches to Paul’s use of the OT in this letter will be covered followed by a suggested proposal concerning authorial composition that builds upon other scholars’ explanations for the nonoccurrence of scriptural quotations who likewise assume Pauline authorship for Colossians. Second, Genesis 1-3 will be argued as the scriptural backdrop to the whole of Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians. Despite the letter’s historical particularity, a strong case can be made that by Colossians 3, Paul has already been instructing these believers whom he has never met from within the context of the biblical world of OT Scripture since the letter’s earliest moments. And third, an interpretation of 3:18-19 will be proffered that understands Paul’s injunctions for wives and husbands as still literarily underneath the exhortation to be clothed in the “new self” (3:10) while “stripping off” the former garments of the “old man” (3:9; cf. Gen 3:21); these are the garments soiled by sin that humans wear prior to experiencing renewal after image of their Creator that is found in Christ Jesus, the true image of the invisible God (Col 1:15; 3:10). Hereby the orders instituted in the Garden by God can be restored through “the new household in Christ.”

The Old Testament in Colossians

A perennial question for investigations into Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians is the nature of the letter’s relationship to the OT Scriptures. This concern is due to the absence of any direct citation or quotation from the OT in Colossians. Evaluated within its place in the so-called “Prison Epistles” (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon), Colossians does not appear to be alone regarding this question. Only Ephesians contains explicit OT references whereas Philippians takes a similar approach to Colossians in its omission of direct citations. The presence of the OT in Philemon is so remote that editors G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson did not even include a chapter on it in the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (CNTOT).[2] In this context, the query is not unique to Colossians regarding Paul’s authorial practices.

On the other hand, many scholars regard Colossians and Ephesians to share considerable verbal and thematic overlap due to the likelihood that they were composed in close proximity both in respect to time and provenance. If Ephesians merited multiple direct OT quotations, why not Colossians? The question is amplified whenever the literary relationship between the two epistles is cast as one being dependent upon the other.[3] Whatever rationale Paul had for giving Ephesians explicit quotations and Colossians none continues to be a topic under investigation.[4] For now, the prime interest of this study is the nature of the OT’s presence in Colossians and its implications for the Apostle Paul’s address to wives and husbands in 3:18-19.

A Survey of Approaches

In recent years, several studies have emerged on Paul’s use of the OT in Colossians. One of the frontrunners has been Christopher Beetham’s substantive 2008 monograph, Echoes of Scripture in the Letter of Paul to the Colossians.[5] He submits that “the reason for the present study is that no monograph or even journal article has probed the use of the Old Testament in Paul’s letter to the Colossians.”[6] However, later in his introduction, Beetham updates this assessment noting that as he completed his work, he discovered Gordon Fee’s independent study on, “Old Testament Intertextuality in Colossians: Reflections on Pauline Christology and Gentile Inclusion in God’s Story,” for a now published Festschrift for the late NT scholar, E. Earle Ellis.[7] Additionally, Beetham admits that his work was coterminous to G. K. Beale’s (his doctoral supervisor) own intentional research into the manner of the letter’s use of the OT for Beale’s forthcoming commentary on Colossians in the Baker Exegetical series. In the meantime, Beale’s initial findings and conclusions can be observed in his contribution to the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament on this Pauline epistle.[8] More recently, OT scholar Christopher Seitz has engaged the issue of Paul’s use of the OT Scriptures in Colossians in his respective volume for the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible series. Although other commentaries and studies outside of these four consider Colossians’ relationship to the OT, these contributions will be the primary dialogue partners for the current study due to the fact that their research has given particular attention to this subject matter and its consequences for interpreting the theological message of Colossians.

In his opening section on “Introduction and History of Research” for Echoes of Scripture in the Letter of Paul to the Colossians, Beetham concludes that one of the major reasons why no focused study upon the OT’s presence in Colossians had heretofore appeared is because the traditional biblical studies approach to the question of the NT’s use of the OT was preoccupied with explicit quotations and direct citations, hence, Colossians seemed not to apply.[9] Yet, with the advent of Richard Hays’ influential work on Pauline hermeneutics and biblical intertextuality, more scholarly attention has been allotted than previously to the presence of OT echoes and allusions in the NT writings. In light of Hays’ work, Beetham declares that the harvest is ripe, and likely, the laborers will not soon be few pertaining to the field of this type of study in Colossians as well as other NT writings.[10] Both Beetham and Beale’s methodology consists of identifying OT echoes and allusions in Colossians according to a set of criteria each with their own modifications, yet in agreement that the occurrences are to be “author-oriented.”[11]

Likewise Fee, whose essay also was being constructed and published contemporaneous to Beetham and Beale’s works, takes an intertextual approach to perceiving Colossians’ relationship to the OT Scriptures. Throughout his article, Fee similarly enlists the hermeneutical language of echoes, but his overall thesis is that this literary device serves a greater purpose for Paul to include the Gentile Colossians into Israel’s story through Christ.[12]

More recently, the discussion has been continued by Seitz in his volume on Colossians for the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. Selecting Seitz to comment on this particular Pauline letter in this particular series could not have been a more fitting pairing to further insight into Colossians’ relationship to the OT. Not only is Seitz a recognized OT scholar in the realm of biblical studies who was trained in the historical-critical method, he also has been a significant voice for a canonical approach to biblical theology and the task of theological interpretation of the Bible in the vein of the precritical tradition according to the rule of faith.[13] In his own words, Seitz recognizes this dynamic and suggests it might give him a potential advantage as a commentator on Colossians:

My hope has been that because the “oracles of God entrusted to the Jews” are central to my own training and my own understanding of the character of Christian scripture, I might be in a position to stand closer to Paul—even in my own Gentile DNA—than many commentators working at present in a field of biblical studies where two divisions of labor have opened up, spawning in turn innumerable subspecies of study. I am not a New Testament scholar at work in an academic shop set up in the modern academy. I am also not an Old Testament/Hebrew Bible scholar who believes that a “historical sense” can set aside canonical and theological considerations.[14]

From outset in the “Author’s Preface,” Seitz reflects:

Rusty [R. R. Reno] probably had no business inviting an Old Testament scholar to pretend he was a theologian writing a commentary, consistent with that discipline in its modern guise, on a letter in the New Testament. All the same, I like to imagine my grasp of the Old Testament and its rhythms as placing me closely alongside Paul himself, in ways that the New Testament guild or theologians properly speaking come at it less directly.[15]

Indeed, the prospect of a commentary by Seitz on a NT writing is timely given the book he published immediately prior to the Colossians volume was his dense proposal on the hermeneutical relationship between the Testaments in The Character of Christian Scripture: The Significance of a Two-Testament Bible.

So how is Seitz’s view of Paul’s use of the OT in Colossians distinct from the allusions/echoes, intertextuality approach explored by Beetham, Beale, and Fee? In short, Seitz believes that the OT’s material influence upon the NT authors and their writings cannot be reduced to mere human and/or authorial intention that is determined by an analysis of citations and allusions.[16] In the first place, Seitz contends that the OT shapes the NT canon both formally and materially. The former assumption leads him into a discussion on the possibility of seeing the Book of the Twelve in the OT canon as the antecedent to the formation of a thirteen-letter Pauline collection in the NT canon.[17] Next, he transitions to consider the OT’s material presence in Colossians.

Seitz notes the “author-oriented” approach of Beetham and Beale for explaining the manner in which “the Old Testament makes its force felt through allusions.”[18] He chooses Beetham to interact with more in depth, who claims that Paul’s avoidance of direct citation in favor of allusions/echoes is because he is laboring to have the Gentile Christians identify Christ as Torah and Wisdom.[19] This perspective, according to Seitz, restricts itself perhaps inappropriately to a rigid view of “authorial conscious intention.”[20] Instead, Seitz wishes to shift the focus from “Paul the author” to “Paul the authored.”[21] The OT material shaping of Paul’s thought in Colossians is not reducible to identifying self-conscious allusions in some formulaic “tidy exegetical grid.”[22] Nor should one envision Paul guarding against direct citations of OT Scripture for fear that the Gentile Christians in Colossae would prioritize written Torah over Christological wisdom. A driving aim behind Seitz’s rejection of Beetham’s thesis wherein allusions lead to transfer of authority from Torah to Christ is that the OT must not be relegated to first-story level of importance to the NT.[23] This construal of the Testaments subordinates the OT to the NT, which for Seitz is severely problematic concerning the ontological status of the Hebrew Bible as the Word of God and Christian Scripture as well as the role it serves proving and extending authority to the emergence of a Second Testament that is making claims to being the selfsame Word of God.

What could be occurring is that through Paul’s “deep educational internalization” of the OT Scriptures, their literal sense has pressured its way into his thought and theology to declare their own explanation of “the mystery of Christ.”[24] In this way, “Paul the authored” is Paul authoring Colossians from a mind that is wholly grasped by the OT Scriptures beyond perchance his own comprehension to demonstrate the apostolic teaching’s accordance with God’s prior scriptural Word concerning its literal sense witness to Christ.[25] Hoping for an alternative to “conscious authorial intention,” Seitz proposes,

The way, then, that the scriptures will function is not as foundations but as declarative of mysteries they genuinely guard in their own literal sense, which are coming to light in ways Paul cannot himself fully grasp, but only be grasped by. The scriptures of Israel, the Christian Old Testament, will be heard in the church as reading Paul and clarifying his apostolic word.[26]

Throughout the commentary, Seitz handles Paul’s use of the OT in a more precise manner; however, he consistently resists placing Paul into any form of methodical or deliberately constructed interpretative scheme for embedding the OT into the Colossians’ letter or for future readers’ hermeneutical imitation. In sum, Seitz contributes significantly, if not provocatively, to the study of the OT’s material influence upon Colossians, much less the rest of the NT. His suggestion that Paul is not operating in a formulaic way, but rather is writing from a mind molded and saturated by OT Christian Scripture that is making known its literal sense concerning Jesus Christ in an extemporaneous manner should be considered and weighed. In what follows, I would like to attempt to bring together the merits of both the “author-oriented” allusion/echo approach and Seitz’s non-formulaic view of Paul’s authorial apostolic testimony for the sake of understanding the presence of Genesis 1-3 in the Epistle to the Colossians.

Authorial Composition from within the Textual World of the Bible

Charles Spurgeon famously gushed over John Bunyan’s immersive knowledge of the Scriptures by saying,

Read anything of his, and you will see that it is almost like the reading the Bible itself. He had read it till his very soul was saturated with Scripture; and, though his writings are charmingly full of poetry, yet he cannot give us his Pilgrim’s Progress—that sweetest of all prose poems — without continually making us feel and say, “Why, this man is a living Bible!” Prick him anywhere—his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God. I commend his example to you, beloved.[27]

In light of Seitz’s comments, perhaps Bunyan was simply embodying Paul’s example. Spurgeon’s lavish description of Bunyan captures well Seitz’s aforementioned impression of how to account for the material presence of the OT in a Pauline letter devoid of explicit quotations. From this viewpoint, Seitz is resolved to resist any diminishing of the OT in Paul’s thought to merely a foundation for the NT where the consequence might entail that the First Testament perceptively stands inferior to the Second one. On the contrary, Seitz clarifies, “the scriptures are declaring their own Christological purpose, and they are doing so in a way that Paul may only partly comprehend but not fully track or compass. That we can see them now through careful study, moreover, is a sign of our own present knowledge of these scriptural texts.”[28]

Undoubtedly, the Apostle Paul, “a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee” (Phil 3:5), was an apostolic writer whose heart and mind was saturated with the Hebrew Bible, but now read and wrote about its meaning equipped with enlightened eyes of the heart, filled with “a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of [Christ]” (Eph 1:17-18). Even though Seitz’s point is well taken that the process of moving from prophetic/apostolic word to letter writing has been “in large measure hidden from view,” one must grant that scriptural authorship operates within the realm of meaningful composition of a text.[29] Beetham acknowledges this dilemma in a preliminary discussion of the nature of an “echo,” when he suggests that it can be “consciously or unconsciously executed.”[30] Nevertheless, Beetham responds,

Even if Paul only unconsciously echoed a text simply out of his saturation with Scripture, we can still speak of Paul “doing” something as an author with and in the words he wrote. In such a case, Paul still expressed himself with phraseology whose language stems from a particular text that he had read on a previous occasion, whether he himself was aware that he was doing it or not.[31]

In other words, biblical readers are always left with biblical texts that are made up of authorial compositions in order to convey meaning.

Must one choose between conscious authorial intertextuality and supposed subconscious biblical permeation that overflows into literary forms and practices? If the process is out of reach historically for defining the exact manner with which Paul engaged the OT Scriptures to produce his apostolic written testimonies, it is not necessary then to assume that the same mind that is grasped wholly and deeply by the prophetic OT Word of God is unable to grasp at a cognizant level the saturation of his own literary practices with the antecedent scriptural witness to Jesus Christ. Once again, a helpful approach is to take into serious consideration that no apostolic authorial composition exists outside the realm of the biblical world, or rather, “the textual world of the Bible.”[32] Because Paul writes with the understanding that the OT Scriptures present a historical, realistic narrative of the “real world,” what other language would he borrow in order to explicate the meaning of new creation in Christ than the counterparts from original creation in Genesis?[33] In fact, as another OT scholar John Sailhamer notes, figuration only works if the events that share similarity can be linked by a “real” historical connection.[34]

From this vantage point, Fee’s summation of Paul’s approach to “OT intertextuality” in Colossians has much merit. According to Fee, Paul’s intertextual device is employed for a twofold pattern that has to do “(1) with the Colossians’ own relationship to the biblical story, and (2) with the role of Christ in incorporating them into that story.”[35] Put differently, Paul’s composition of Colossians occurs from his permanent residence in the “textual world of the Bible,” and he seeks to awaken and educate his Gentile audience to the true reality concerning the new status of their citizenship (1:13-14), finding their lives “hidden with Christ in God” (3:3), the Firstborn of creation and the dead (1:15, 18). For the Apostle Paul, OT Christian Scripture obtains its meaning in Christ, therefore, as Orthodox theologian John Behr has insightfully explained, “the scriptures were not used merely as a narrative of the past, but rather as a thesaurus, a treasury of imagery, for entering into the mystery of Christ, . . . In this it is not so much scripture that is being exegeted, but rather Christ who is being interpreted by recourse to the scriptures.”[36]

This discussion has been relevant to the present study for two main reasons. First, if Paul is an apostolic author engaged in biblical composition through the literary form of letter writing, who is about “the business of world making,”[37] then it would be fitting to comprehend the pervasive and consistent allusions/echoes to Genesis 1-3 as the encompassing “textual world” for Colossians’ particularity. And second, perceiving Colossians holistically against the canonical backdrop of Genesis 1-3 plays an important role for what an interpreter does when confronted with a passage such as Colossians 3:18-4:1 (3:18-19 mainly in view) that many biblical commentators have regarded as foremost an accommodation of a first century Greco-Roman household code. In other words, if Paul’s authorial composition that produces the material presence of the OT in Colossians is only evaluated by way of fragmented instances of formulaic allusions/echoes, then Seitz’s cause is lost for “the scriptures to speak their word over and alongside [Paul’s],” whereby their literal sense horizon is “now being heard in the apostolic cause of speaking forth Christ and explicating his eternal significance as they bore and bear witness to this mystery.”[38] Otherwise, the OT’s relation to Colossians is piecemeal at best. In sum, the words of the sixteenth century German Reformer, Martin Luther, express the matter well: “And what is the New Testament but a public preaching and proclamation of Christ, set forth through the sayings of the Old Testament and fulfilled through Christ?”[39]

The New Household in the New Self: A Theological Exegesis of Colossians 3:18-19

With these recent studies on Colossians’ relationship to the OT, this letter can no longer be considered ineligible for inclusion in the ongoing discussions over the NT’s use of the OT. Whether or not one grants their methodologies or the rationales submitted for why Paul chose the route of intertextual allusions and echoes instead of direct quotations, these authors have persuasively demonstrated the overt presence of the OT Scriptures throughout the entire fabric of the epistle. A quick summary of their findings will paint a clear picture of the undeniable pervasiveness and consistency of Paul’s use of the OT in Colossians.

Genesis 1-3 in Colossians

In Beetham’s study, he identified twelve instances of allusions/echoes. For the purposes of this study, the cases most related to Genesis and the creation/new creation themes are: (1) Gen 1:28 – 1:6, 10 [echo]; (2) Isa 11:2, 9 – 1:9-10 [echo]; (3) Creation by way of Prov 8:22-31 – 1:15-20 [allusion]; and (4) Gen 1:26-27 – 3:10.[40] For his independent research on Colossians for the CNTOT, Beale submitted seventeen OT allusions/echoes. Again, the ones most pertinent to Genesis and the creation/new creation themes are: (1) Gen 1:28 – 1:6, 10; (2) Exod 31:3, 35:31-32, Isa 11:2 – 1:9-10; (3) Gen 1:27 – 1:15; (4) Possibly “Wisdom” in 1:15-17; and (5) Possibly Gen 3:7-21 – 3:9-10.[41] Next, in his article on, “Old Testament Intertextuality in Colossians,” Fee identifies ten echoes; those whose intertext was Genesis and creation/new creation are: (1) Gen 1:26, 28 – 1:15; (2) Isa 11:2 – 1:9-10; (3) Gen 1:1 – 1:18; and (4) Gen 1:26, 28 – 3:9-10.[42] As noted above, Seitz bows out of putting forward a definite set of such allusions/echoes, yet his reticence to lock Paul into a precise method does not prevent Seitz from still treating the OT Scriptures as the primary source for the typical (intertextual) moments and additional ones where its material force is felt.

More generally, Seitz contends early in the commentary that Genesis 1-3 is the scriptural canvas for the entire letter. He sees Colossians 1:15-2:23 as the major body of text that sets this stage clearly, especially the so-called “Christ hymn” of 1:15-20.[43] In the first place, Seitz suggests that if one yields to textual priority as the properly historical question for interpreting Colossians, then it reveals that the sheer “collocation of terms we find in these six verses best suits the primary source of scripture and not the refraction of that in Philo or other contemporaneous Jewish sources.”[44] Behr similarly responds to the approach taken by Eduard Lohse in his commentary on Colossians and Philemon for the Hermeneia series stating, “[Lohse’s] work tends to prefer to find the background for understanding Col 1:13-20 in Platonism, Stoicism, and Hellenistic Judaism. It would seem methodologically more sound, however, to have such recourse only when something is clearly to be so explained, or cannot be explained in terms of the OT.”[45] And for Behr, Seitz, and even Fee, the strongest evidence against presupposing an extrabiblical or cultural source as Paul’s prime material for 1:15-20 is as, Seitz reflects, “the density of reference to a single scriptural text: Gen 1.”[46]

Moreover, these Gentile Colossian Christians, who are “new creation” fruit borne by “the word of the truth, the gospel,” need a Christology (Col 1:15-20) that corresponds to the Genesis context already established by 1:6 and sustained into 3:9-10 so that they may have a frame of reference for the experience of “new/true humanity” through renewal of their image after the Image of their Creator. Contrary to the view that sees Paul transferring authority from Torah/Wisdom to Christ as the reason why he is not quoting direct citations from the OT, Seitz says that the Torah never intimates that Christ will one day stand where OT Scripture once stood.[47] Furthermore, Seitz continues,

The oracles of God entrusted to the Jews do not make this latter claim as a first-order affair anyway: it is a derivative notion, which can be observed in Philo and Sirach. Paul understands that one critical aspect of scripture is the existence of the book of Genesis, which he mines precisely because it stands prior to the law in the strict sense and yet is part of the Torah; . . . Paul does not quote scripture in Colossians, arguably because his audience not know it. His work of bringing them to maturity entails accustoming them to scripture’s main patterns and themes, in a language they can comprehend.[48]

The force of this argument is felt when read in line with Paul’s sober reminder to his Gentile audience in 1:21-22 of their prior estrangement, alienation, and hostility in mind towards God, but now have been brought near through reconciliation “in [the Son’s] body of flesh by his death” and renewal “in knowledge” in the “new man” (3:10). To borrow similar verbiage in Ephesians, Paul understands the import of linking Genesis to new creation in Colossians to situate the Gentile Christians in the scriptural world where their estrangement/alienation was from “the commonwealth of Israel,” causing them to be “strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12-13). Thus, Paul couches their understanding of reconciliation and renewal within the realm of life in the Son, the Second Adam, who is the Firstborn of creation and the Firstborn from the dead, preeminent over all original and new creation. Herein lies the Gentile dilemma in distinction from Israel and their possession of the Law, yet Paul toils to show the OT Scriptures to be in accordance with Christ, “maintaining one cross for God’s single work of reconciliation in his only Son.”[49]

Another significant moment in Colossians 1:15-2:23 for supporting the continuation of Genesis 1-3 as Paul’s primary scriptural context for reflection is Colossians 2:14, one of the most difficult places of translation and interpretation in the letter. The key words are ceiro,grafon (“the record of debt” [ESV], or “a certificate of indebtedness”)[50] and toi/j do,gmasin (“legal demands,” [ESV], or “ordinance/commands,” “decree,” “doctrine/dogma”).[51] An extensive exegesis of this verse is beyond the limitations of this study, but Seitz’s fresh interpretation is worthy of consideration. An assortment of positions on 2:14 have been put forward over time such as the Mosaic Law, natural law, a pact with Satan, an IOU from humanity to God, and a heavenly book.[52] As one surveys them, it becomes clear that this text is a “hard saying.”

Commentators Peter O’Brien and Douglas Moo represent perhaps the most common interpretation that the ceiro,grafon is an IOU document of indebtedness to God on the basis of comprehending toi/j do,gmasin as God’s “commands/ordinances” discernible for the Gentiles through natural law/conscience, yet are concretely encapsulated in the “decrees” of the Law of Moses.[53] In most cases, identifying the “decrees” in 2:14 with the formal declaration of the Mosaic Law results from being normed by Paul’s only other usage of the do,gma in Ephesians 2:15, where the Law appears to be more easily recognized as the referent.[54] For added support, Moo is favorable towards James Dunn’s enlistment of Romans 1:32, perceiving it to have wording close to Colossians 2:14 regarding God’s “decrees” (to. dikai,wma tou/ qeou/) to which all of humanity is obligated for obedience and worthy of death when disobeyed. Here Dunn sees the Law of Moses as the immediate context.[55]

Seitz believes Paul is moving in a direction other than the Law. He rejects the governance of Ephesians 2:15 for the meaning of toi/j do,gmasin in Colossians 2:14 on two main grounds: (1) Colossians itself is not involved in a discussion on the Mosaic Law, and (2) Ephesians is not concerned with “debt” (ceiro,grafon) in relation to its “decrees.” Most likely, Seitz suggests, Paul is associating the Gentile audience, as well as all of humanity, with Adam in the scriptural world of Genesis 2-3.[56] “As a consequence of the debt of Adam,” Seitz continues, “God rendered a decree of death that encompassed all humanity.”[57] To connect the Gentile’s “debt” or IOU with Adam’s disobedience and God’s decree of the curse (i.e., death) and curses in Genesis 3 (Gen 3:14-19) seems plausible in light of the preceding context.

One potentially significant line of defense of Seitz’s view that appears to have been overlooked by commentators is the relationship between Colossians 2:14 to 2:13. Much could be said of how the latter can inform the former, but I will give attention to one particular point. In Colossians 2:14, Paul uses “trespasses” (para,ptwma) twice. The first instance speaks towards the Gentiles’ “death” (nekro,j) in their toi/j paraptw,masin. The second instance declares God’s forgiveness for “all our trespasses” (h`mi/n pa,nta ta. paraptw,mata), which comes by way of Christ’s cross and its cancellation of humanity’s debt in view of God’s “decrees.” It seems that ceiro,grafon (certificate of indebtedness) should correspond to the “trespasses” that brought “death.” Although undeniable overlap can be observed in Colossians 2:13 with Ephesians 2:1, 4-5, one is compelled to consider if Paul is also working within the Adam-Christ analogy akin to Romans 5:12-21 given the Genesis 1-3 background already established.

O’Brien notes that when Paul uses the plural, “trespasses,” it is in reference to actual sins that people commit against the will or law of God, but when he makes the word singular, it describes Adam’s disobedience as witnessed in Romans 5:15-18.[58] In Romans 5:15, the Apostle Paul enlists para,ptwma instead of a`marti,a as he begins in Romans 5:12. These two words appear to be synonymous of the “one man’s” disobedience that ushered death into the world. To reinforce Seitz’s view that Colossians 2:14 is not concerned with the Mosaic Law, Paul likewise emphasizes the point that Adam’s deathly “trespass” brought sin and death into the world “before the law was given” (Rom 5:13). If a fine distinction must be made between Paul’s plural and singular usage of para,ptwma, then it can be assumed that the toi/j paraptw,masin of Colossians 2:14, wherein the Gentiles were “dead” could perhaps be associated with Paul’s teaching in Romans 5:12 that “death spread to all men because all sinned (h[marton).” Similarly restated in Romans 5:15, Paul says that “many died through one man’s trespass (paraptw,mati).”

In sum, Adam’s trespass brought sin and death into the world, resulting in humanity’s inheritance of the curse/curses because they committed trespasses and continued in sin. Therefore, even if “trespasses” is plural in Colossians 2:14, this form does not necessarily create distance from the Adam-Christ link antecedent to the Law in Romans 5:12-21, though overlap can also be argued with Ephesians 2:1-5 where the Mosaic Law is traditionally understood in view. As Seitz reflects,

Working from the one cross of Christ, he describes a debt cancellation that reaches back to Adam and encloses both the circumcised who reflected long on the character of debt and guilt, as well as the uncircumcised, who Paul nevertheless believes, on the basis of Gen 2-3, will grasp what he is intending to say: that one cross avails for both Jew and Gentile. . . . The one bond that against “us” (Jew and Gentile) was revealed in the Genesis account of the disobedience of Adam. The new Adam canceled that bond when he nailed it to the cross in his own dying and rising. He evacuated it and its force.[59]

Injunctions for Wives and Husbands Clothed in the Renewed Image

How does Paul’s permeated use of Genesis in Colossians affect one’s interpretation of his meaning in the so-called “household table” in Colossians 3:18-4:1? More particularly, how does one approach the injunctions to wives and husbands in 3:18-19 given its close literary proximity to the creation/new creation language that resurfaces explicitly in 3:10? Beetham, Beale, and Fee all identify 3:10 as a clear intertextual allusion/echo to Genesis 1:26-27. Would it be appropriate to divorce Paul’s direct address to wives and husbands in Colossians 3:18-19 from considering the ground of his exhortations in the declaration of “new humanity” in 3:10 and against the scriptural horizon of Genesis 1-3? Putting asunder these two texts seems all the more problematic when one notices that Paul has omitted “male and female” from his “one in Christ” list in 3:11 whereas he included them in the parallel passage in Galatians 3:28-29.

The Household Code: Greco or Garden?

For many commentators, the literary unit of “new life in Christ” beginning in Colossians 3:1 stops at 3:17. For example, O’Brien says that 3:18-4:1 “is introduced without any connecting particle and constitutes an independent, self-contained paraenetic unit.”[60] Dunn likewise observes that “it has the appearance of a free-standing unit.”[61] Besides structural analysis, others have understood this section as a stand-alone passage because commentators have identified its source in the Greco-Roman culture or Hellenistic Judaism versions of the “household code.” Representative of a typical form-critical approach is Eduard Lohse, who considers 3:18-4:1 “a self-contained and clearly delimited section within the letter.”[62] This section is packaged as such because its source is found in Hellenistic Judaism, and on these terms, Lohse suggests that the unit is “the oldest Christian ‘rule for the household’—it is clearly discernible how the ethical teaching was adopted and Christianized.”[63] In slight contrast, Roy Yates proves to be somewhat of an exception. He believes that 3:1-4:6 is a complete paraenetic section, but still maintains that “the ethical lists, the household code, and the topoi, [have their] antecedents in Hellenistic and Jewish religious life.”[64]

Against such prevailing views, there are good textual reasons to consider Paul’s injunctions in particular to wives and husbands (3:18-19) as still part of the ethical and practical overflow of 3:1-17 for those who have “put on the new self” in Christ. In the first place, as previously mentioned, the absence of “male/female” in Paul’s list in 3:11 anticipates the special attention they will receive shortly in 3:18-19. “Slaves” are referenced twice between 3:11 and 3:22, but this most likely is due to Colossians’ relationship to Philemon and Paul’s hopes for Onesimus (4:9).[65]

Second, rather than treating 3:17 as a full stop and considering 3:18-4:1 as grammatically disconnected, the verse can be understood as a hinge text.[66] Paul’s admonition to do whatever one does, whether in “word or deed,” to do it in “the name of the Lord Jesus” can look backwards and point forwards. In 3:5-16, the Apostle Paul has placed extra emphasis upon the speech and words of those who live in the “new self.”[67] As he digresses in 3:17, Paul reflects upon the ethical and communal exhortations that are “word-based” and then glances onwards into the “deeds” or “duties” of the Christian social order. Paul also introduces the verbiage of “in the Lord” in 3:17 that becomes undeniably connected to the various “deeds” to be done “in the name of the Lord” in 3:18-4:1. In the nine verses of 3:18-4:1, nine instances of ku,rioj occur.[68] This textual dynamic alone ought to be sufficient evidence to guard against compartmentalization of the so-called “household code.” On these grounds, Seitz remains unconvinced that Paul is simply Christianizing a preexistent Greco-Roman “household table.” Paul’s formulation is too distinct both in order and theological qualification. Instead, this section continues Paul’s flow of thought of the full livelihood of the “new self.” He writes, “Doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus includes what is fitting, pleasing, and reverent to the Lord, within the family of his new designing. Proper service and proper justice are within the single domain of the Lord Christ (3:24).”[69]

If one will grant that the OT’s material influence upon Colossians finds its primary locus in Genesis 1-3, then Paul’s transition to address “the new household in Christ” can hardly be nothing more than prescribing Christian motivations in the midst of tolerating first-century social structures and duties.[70] Moreover, the “new self” in 3:10 that now clothes wives and husbands “in the Lord Jesus” is best understood as a person’s “new nature” whereby the imago Dei is set free from the “old self” (“old Adam”) with its practices, and is now being renewed in knowledge.[71] Even “knowledge,” Beale notes, “may echo the Genesis context, where ‘knowledge’ was at the heart of the fall” (Gen 2:17).[72] Furthermore, the clothing/garmenting imagery in connection with “image” certainly also has its bearings in Genesis 1-3.[73] With these aspects in mind, Seitz offers a compelling reflection upon the terrain he has trekked thus far in favor of including the so-called “household code” as an integral, if not inevitable, unit within a grander scheme of the scriptural world of Genesis for the letter to the Colossians:

Given the Gen 1-3 background of so much of this letter—in my view going back at least to the decrees of the writ against us in Col 2:13[14]; and before that, to the relationship of the Son to the invisible God in 1:15-20 (“image,” “firstborn of creation,” “beginning”); and before that, to the fruitful multiplying of the gospel in 1:6—it is difficult to leave this unit out of the same general pattern.[74]

If Seitz is correct, then the proper question would be, “Is Paul describing ‘the new household in Christ’ as it would have been in Eden if Adam’s disobedience had been delayed or not occurred at all?”[75]

On Wives and Husbands

From this vantage point, Paul’s injunctions follow the pattern of God’s “decrees” (Col 2:14) addressing the wives first and then the husbands to show that as they have “put on the new self” in Christ, the curse upon the household estate can be reversed (Gen 3:14-19).[76] Thus, when Paul delivers the exhortation in Colossians 3:18, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord,” he is not commending them to adapt to the patriarchy of their culture and time so long as it lasts; rather, Paul’s concern for wifely submission is the fulfillment of a role that has pre-Fall roots, though it has since been garmented in the corrupt nature of the “old man/Adam.” But, now as a beneficiary in Christ’s new creation, the call to return to this role’s rightful creation-design is a response that can be enacted clothed in the power of the “new self” with a renewed image in true knowledge “after the image of its creator.” This reading would also affirm the interpretation of God’s “decree” of the curse in Genesis 3:16 that the woman would be plagued with the “desire” to usurp her husband’s headship as had been committed already in her yielding to the temptation of the serpent.[77] Paul’s tag line, “as is fitting in the Lord,” is not a Christian consolation for endurance underneath a form of social, hierarchical domination, but instead, harkens back to what the LORD God intended to be “fitting” for the wife in the Garden in relation to her husband before there was sin, corruption, and death. As George Knight comments, “To put it theologically, redemption in Christ undergirds and commends the wife’s submission to her husband according to God’s design at creation rather than, as some feminists claim, overturning a submission rooted only in the fall.”[78]

Seitz posits that “as is fitting in the Lord” also doubles for both sides of Paul’s injunctions.[79] Just as the wife’s submission is “fitting in the Lord” as she experiences the renewal of the “image” in Christ, so also it is “fitting in the Lord” for her husband to love her well according to his own role in a pre-Fall order (Col 3:19). Though the virtue of “love” is king in today’s world, the word must mean something that does not relativize all distinctions and roles. Perhaps no different than when some people treat the coexistence of “truth and love” as a zero-sum game, others can apply the same principle in like manner to the exhortation for husbands to love their wives as an implicit command to discard the office of headship in the home.[80] Further, against this Genesis canvas, the scriptural world of Genesis 3 continues to make its presence known when the Apostle Paul adds, “and do not be harsh with them.” As the wife submits “in the Lord” (3:10, 17), he must also set aside the domineering temptations of the “old self” to see the curse of Adam’s trespass undone. Moreover, Paul has already identified “putting on the new self” in 3:10 with “putting on love” in 3:14, which he says, “binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger summarize the effects of the curse in Genesis 3:16 as, “The loving harmony that prevailed before the fall will be replaced by a pattern of struggle in which the woman will seek to exert control over her husband (interpreting ‘desire’ as ‘desire for control,’ cf. Gen 4:7), who will respond by asserting his authority.”[81] But Paul has gospel news for this broken household filled with strife and perennial conflict. By “putting on the new self,” the husband can love his wife “as is fitting in the Lord” both by not failing to execute godly leadership whereas Adam passively resided in the background surrendering Eve to the craftiness of the serpent and by resisting harshly domination, which should be unnecessary with a wife who likewise shares in the renewal of the “image” in true “knowledge” in Christ, finding the spiritual power to fulfill her God-designed role “in the name of the Lord.”[82] Conversely, wifely submission underneath her husband’s “law of love,” so to speak, should be quite natural and “fitting” as the kind of biblical submission God intended in Genesis 1-2 “finds its divinely ordered purpose.”[83]


After the Fall, Adam and Eve knew their nakedness and “sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” (Gen 3:7). Following God’s “decree” of the curses, the LORD God rejected their self-made clothing; He Himself “made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (Gen 3:21). These garments are the ones Paul summons them “to strip off/put off” (avpekdusa,menoi) in Colossians 3:9.[84] Yet as one set of clothes is removed, another is put on. And just as Adam and Eve were unable to make their own coverings in Genesis 3:7 acceptable unto God, so also men and women today still wearing the “old self” cannot change their spiritual clothes by themselves. Just as the LORD God Himself had to make acceptable garments for the first husband and wife before their exile east of Eden, so also husbands and wives today must be clothed by God in Christ, who will dress them in the image of his Son, the Image of the invisible God (Col 1:15) and transfer them back into the Son’s kingdom (Col 1:13-14). In doing so, wives and husbands will find their “images” renewed in right knowledge of God revealed in Jesus Christ and his gospel. These “clothes” will “correspond to that divine intention before the fall.”[85]

In a passage that encompasses the train of Paul’s Genesis-driven thought beyond 3:18-19 into 4:1, Seitz’s condensed reflection serves as a “fitting” summary for conclusion and further consideration:

But in this case, the sequence wives, husbands, children, slaves tracks with the decrees of Gen 3. Their effects are now reversed because a new life has been made available in Christ. Wives submit to husbands as is fitting in the Lord, as against them both acting independently in disobedience. Husbands love their wives and do not seek to assign them blame. Children (Eve is the mother of all) are to obey parents and not unleash tragic violence we see in Gen 4-11. Toil is now not under curse but can be serving the Lord with proper hopefulness of inheritance (Col 3:24). This would also explain why Paul does not include the Galatians pairing in Col 3:11 (“neither male nor female”), for here the context is one of a proper new Adam in Christ and the conditions of being male and female in him. He means to get to that after his description of the “new man that is being renewed in knowledge after the image of the creator” (3:10). And he does, still speaking of the slave but defining his toil in a different world than the world east of Eden.[86]


[1]  Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, 2001.


[2]  A glance at the table of contents will show the exclusion of Philemon as George Guthrie’s entry on Hebrews immediately follows 1, 2 Timothy and Titus by Philip Towner.


[3]  For a thorough survey of the positions, see Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 8-21. Cf., Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Publishers, 1990), xlvii-lviii.


[4]  Christopher Beetham has proposed that Paul omits direct references to OT Scripture because his desire is for the Colossians to see Christ as Torah and Wisdom, thus citing Scripture may infringe upon the preeminence of Christ that Paul is seeking to uphold in the letter. Christopher A. Beetham, Echoes of Scripture in the Letter of Paul to the Colossians, Biblical Interpretation Series (Atlanta, Society of Biblical Literature, 2008), 260-62. In his recently published volume on Colossians in the Brazos Commentary series, Christopher Seitz rejects Beetham’s thesis and suggests that “Paul does not quote scripture in Colossians, arguably because his audience does not know it. His work of bringing them to maturity entails accustoming them to scripture’s main patterns and themes, in a language they can comprehend.” Christopher R. Seitz, Colossians, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2014), 105.


[5]  This monograph is the publication of Beetham’s 2005 dissertation, “The Scriptures of Israel in the Letter of Paul to the Colossians.” PhD diss., Wheaton College Graduate School.


[6]  Beetham, Echoes of Scripture in the Letter of Paul to the Colossians, 2.


[7]  Gordon D. Fee, “Old Testament Intertextuality in Colossians: Reflections on Pauline Christology and Gentile Inclusion in God’s Story,” in History and Exegesis: New Testament Essays in Honor of Dr. E. Earle Ellis on his 80th Birthday, ed. Sang-Won (Aaron) Son (NY: T&T Clark, 2006), 201-21.


[8]  G. K. Beale, “Colossians,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, eds. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 841-70.


[9]  Beetham, Echoes of Scripture in the Letter of Paul to the Colossians, 2.


[10] Ibid., 1-2; see also Richard Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989).


[11] Beetham distinguishes between “author-oriented” and “audience-oriented” approaches opting for the former for his methodology. He defines an “author-oriented” approach as one that discerns echoes and allusions according to the language of the author, whether conscious or unconscious. The validity of the allusion/echo is not determined by the reconstruction of the audience’s epistemic ability to recognize the latent reference. Beetham, Echoes, 13-14; see also Beale, “Colossians,” 841-42.


[12] Fee, “Old Testament Intertextuality in Colossians,” 201-2. In contrast to Seitz, Fee does not regard Paul’s omission of direct scriptural OT quotations from Colossians because his readers would have no knowledge of the Hebrew Bible. In fact, Fee argues that it is highly probable given the nature of the OT echoes that the Gentile Colossian Christians would have known Israel’s Scriptures well even if they were illiterate. A major component of Fee’s position is his assumption that the Septuagint would have been used in Gentile congregations connected to Paul’s mission.


[13] See esp., Christopher R. Seitz, Word without End: The Old Testament as Abiding Theological Witness (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998); idem., Figured Out: Typology and Providence in Christian Scripture (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001); idem., The Character of Christian Scripture: The Significance of a Two-Testament Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011).


[14] Seitz, Colossians, 56.


[15] Ibid., 16.


[16] Ibid., 38-39.


[17] Ibid., 39-43. Seitz’s provocative thesis has appeared elsewhere prior to his commentary on Colossians. See e.g., Christopher R. Seitz, The Goodly Fellowship of the Prophets: The Achievement of Association in Canon Formation, Acadia Studies in Bible and Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), 103: “In its formal and material givenness, the Law and the Prophets pattern has influenced the formal and material development of the NT as canon. Here Deuteronomy’s function finds a correlate in John’s relationship to the Synoptics, which shows concern for the post-Easter appropriation of the heart of Jesus’s message by the apostolic generation inspired by the Holy Spirit, who are enabled to remember Jesus’s words and to understand the witness to Jesus accomplished by the OT. The individual and associative aspects of the Twelve find analogies in the Pauline-Letter collection, where both the individual and the associative aspects must be carefully handled. Hebrews, the Catholic Epistles, and Revelation occupy a similar hermeneutical position to the Writings of the OT canon.”


[18] Seitz, Colossians, 43.


[19] Ibid., 44; cf. Beetham, Echoes, 247-52


[20] Seitz, Colossians, 44.


[21] Ibid.


[22] Ibid., 45.


[23] Ibid.


[24] Ibid.


[25] Ibid.


[26] Ibid.


[27] Charles H. Spurgeon, “Mr. Spurgeon as a Literary Man,” in The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon, Compiled from His Letters, Diaries, and Records by His Wife and Private Secretary, vol. 4, 1878-1892 (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1892), 268.


[28] Seitz, Colossians, 45.


[29] Ibid.


[30] Beetham, Echoes, 13.


[31] Ibid., 13-14; cf., “I have tried to include for study those OT allusions whose validity are attested by the best evidence and that I consider to be probable. However, some may still wonder whether Paul has intended to make a particular allusion, and they may question that if Paul really intended to convey all the meaning from an OT text for which I am contending, why he did not make the links with that text more explicit. In such cases I would allow for the possibility that Paul merely may have presupposed the OT association in his mind, since he was such a deep and long-experienced reader of the OT Scriptures. This would mean that there is no semantic link with the OT text under discussion, but rather that Paul perhaps was either unconscious of making the reference or was not necessarily intending his audience to pick up on the allusion or echo.” Beale, “Colossians,” 842.


[32] This phrase is borrowed from Michael B. Shepherd’s, The Textual World of the Bible, Studies in Biblical Literature 156 (NY: Peter Lang, 2013).


[33] Shepherd’s opening lines to his book offer a basic description of the concept of “biblical realism”: “The Bible is the real world. It is not a worldview or a template set over against the real world and in competition with other worldviews. It is the biblical authors’ representation of reality. The Bible does not merely document a period of history. It seeks to encompass all of history from creation to new creation and does this by means of a pattern of figuration based on the sequence of events narrated in Genesis—Kings.” Ibid., 1.


[34] John H. Sailhamer, The Meaning of the Pentateuch: Revelation, Composition, and Interpretation (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009), 91.


[35] Fee, “Old Testament Intertextuality in Colossians,” 201.


[36] John Behr, The Mystery of Christ: Life in Death (NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2006), 17.


[37] Shepherd, The Textual World of the Bible, 1.


[38] Seitz, Colossians, 45.


[39] Martin Luther, Preface to the Old Testament, trans. Charles M. Jacobs and rev. E. Theodore Bachman, in Word and Sacrament: I, ed. E. Theodore Bachman, vol. 35 of Luther’s Works, ed. Helmut T. Lehman (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1960), 236. For a study on Luther’s vision of biblical (narrative) realism, see the excellent work from Robert Kolb, Luther and the Stories of God: Biblical Narratives as a Foundation for Christian Living (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012). A related passage to the discussion above reads: “Luther believed that all stories in Scripture occur, as all other events in human history, in a sequence that began with creation and will end with Christ’s return to judge” (6).


[40] Beetham, Echoes, 267-70.


[41] Beale, “Colossians,” 841-70.


[42] Fee, “Old Testament Intertextuality in Colossians,” 201-21.


[43] Given this position, Seitz says the interpreter must not fail to ask the question of how 1:15-2:23 relates to Colossians 3 and 4. In Seitz’s impression, Paul never apparently transitions from the scriptural backdrop of Genesis 1-3 when he moves to the “new life in Christ” content of Colossians 3 and 4. Seitz, Colossians, 86.


[44] Ibid., 90-91.


[45] John Behr, “Colossians 1:13-20: A Chiastic Reading,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 40 (1996): 247, fn. 2; italics added. See Eduard Lohse, Colossians and Philemon, Hermeneia (Philadelphis: Fortress Press, 1968), 46-61.


[46] Seitz, Colossians, 94. Both Seitz and Fee reject the view that identifies the source for Paul’s articulation of 1:15-20 as Wisdom Christology derivative of Proverbs 8 and other Wisdom tradition, non-scriptural writings. Beetham and Beale (tentatively) take the position of Proverbs 8 and Wisdom Christology as the intertext for this passage.


[47] Ibid., 105.


[48] Ibid.


[49] Ibid., 105.


[50] BAGD, 7910.


[51] BAGD, 2060.


[52] For an overview of interpretations on Colossians 2:14 see, Roy Yates, “Colossians 2:14: Metaphor of Forgiveness,” Biblica 71 (1990): 248-59. Yates offers a “proposed solution” to the quandary of making sense of Paul’s language and thought here. He suggests “a mystical assent” view that sees the toi/j do,gmasin as pointing to the ascetic rules and ceremonial ordinances described in 2:16-20 that are supposedly the means for arriving at true mystical (contra the flesh) spirituality (256-57). Paul previously unfolds a Christology that dismantles this practice of supposed Christian spirituality by emphasizing that the Gentile Colossians have been “reconciled in [Christ’s] body of flesh” (1:22).


[53] Peter T. O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, Word Biblical Commentary (Waco, TX: Word Publishing, 1982), 124-25; Douglas J. Moo, The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 209-11.


[54] O’Brien, Ephesians, 197; Moo, Colossians and Philemon, 210.


[55] Moo, Colossians and Philemon, 210; On the use of Romans 1:32, see James D. G. Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 165; Romans 1:32, “Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”


[56] Seitz, Colossians, 128-29; see also John Eadie, Commentary on the Epistle to the Colossians, Classic Commentary Library (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1957; reprint, 1856), 166-67, who recounts a possible view that “supposes the handwriting to be the broken covenant which God originally made with Adam.” Eadie acknowledges this position within the history of interpretation, but is inclined to understanding the indebtedness to the Mosaic Law which is an indictment not only against Israel, but all of humanity.


[57] Seitz, Colossians, 129.


[58] O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, 122; idem, Ephesians, 56-57.


[59] Seitz, Colossians, 130-31.


[60] O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, 214, 219.


[61] Dunn, Colossians and Philemon, 242.


[62] Lohse, Colossians and Philemon, 154.


[63] Ibid., 156.


[64] Roy Yates, “The Christian Way of Life: The Paraenetic Material in Colossians 3:1-4:6,” Evangelical Quarterly 63 (1991): 251.


[65] Seitz takes this position, “These are categories of the old Adam. They remain as renewal is taking place, but they are no longer determinative. They cannot have the place of priority they once had. A new denominating is in place. In my view ‘male and female’ are not in the list here because Paul will be speaking about them very shortly. In the case of Gal 3:28, Paul is in the context of Abraham and his offspring, not Gen. 3.” Seitz, Colossians, 160.


[66] One possible path of grammatical argument could be in viewing the conjunction kai. that sits in the first position in 3:17 as a continuative that does not intend to isolate 3:1-16 from 3:18-4:1, but rather, keeps Paul’s thought moving by way of a brief digression in 3:17 from a focus upon the implications of the “new self” for Christians’ “word(s)” to their “deeds” in the name of the Lord Jesus. For concise comments on the syntax of 3:17, see Constantine R. Campbell, Colossians and Philemon: A Handbook on the Greek Text (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 60-61), 2013.


[67] For example: “slander,” “obscene talk from your mouth” (3:8); “do not lie to one another” (3:9); “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (3:16); “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (3:16).


[68] “Fitting in the Lord [evn kuri,w|]” (3:18); “this pleases the Lord [evn kuri,w|]” (3:20); “earthly masters [kuri,oij]” (3:22); “fearing the Lord [to.n ku,rion]” (3:22); “work heartily, as for the Lord [tw/| kuri,w|]” (3:23); “knowing that from the Lord [avpo. kuri,ou]” (3:24); “serving the Lord Christ [tw/| kuri,w| Cristw/|]” (3:24); “Masters [Oi` ku,rioi]” (4:1); “Master [ku,rion] in heaven” (4:1).


[69] Ibid., 168; against the standard form-critical assessment, see also the recent critical work of James P. Hering, who argues similarly for the Colossians’ Haustafel to be included within the overall theological message of Paul’s letter instead of viewed as something primarily imported into Colossians. Regarding 3:17, Hering contends that the Haustafel is the place where Colossians’ preoccupation with the Lordship of Christ theme finds concrete application: “The kurios language provides a literary link to the broader letter’s vision of Christ’s dominion. It is in the HT where we find this theological aspect taking concrete, ethical form. The kuri,ou Cristo.j assumes the central position of influence, which then creates the possibility to cast common relations in a truly Christian manner.” James P. Hering, The Colossian and Ephesian Haustafeln in Theological Context: An Analysis of Their Origins, Relationship, and Message, American University Studies (NY: Peter Lang, 2007), 77.


[70] Though not alone in defense of this view, one can consult, I. Howard Marshall, “Mutual Love and Submission in Marriage: Colossians 3:18-19 and Ephesians 5:21-33,” in Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity without Hierarchy, 2nd ed., eds. Ronald W. Pierce and Rebecca Merrill Groothuis (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2005), 186. Interestingly, Marshall admits upfront that “Greco-Roman ‘household tables’ offer no precise parallels to the New Testament material, although the general pattern of giving teachings structured according to household roles, addressed to the same three pairs of people and inculcating reciprocal duties, can be traced back to Aristotle.” This textual observation does not seem to generate for him the same impulse heard earlier from John Behr, who considers methodologies deficient that locate the source of Paul’s thought in extrabiblical sources without having first exhausted the avenues for OT explanation. See Behr, “Colossians 1:13-20: A Chiastic Reading,” 247. Similar to Marshall’s admission, Hering’s intensive study on the Haustafeln in Colossians and Ephesians shows that the form-critical approach cannot account for the unique features of the “household code” in Colossians, despite some overlapping features to ancient, extrabiblical texts. As noted above, Hering’s thesis is that the Haustafel in 3:18-4:1 can only be truly accounted for as the product of Paul’s sustained Christian theological reflection and message for the entire epistle. Hering, The Colossian and Ephesian Haustafeln in Theological Context, 2-4, 61.


[71] Jung Hoon Kim, The Significance of Clothing Imagery in the Pauline Corpus (NY: T&T Clark, 2004), 164-65; see also Seitz, Colossians, 158-59; Beetham, Echoes, 231-45; Beale, “Colossians,” 865-68; Some have argued for a more corporate identity of “new man” (a;nqrwpon) that is concerned with the bringing together of Jew and Gentile in Christ envisioned in Ephesians 2:15. Some examples are: O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, 190-92; Moo, Colossians and Philemon, 267-68, and Darrell L. Bock, “‘The New Man’ as Community in Colossians and Ephesians,” in Integrity of Heart, Skillfulness of Hands: Biblical and Leadership Studies in Honor of Donald K. Campbell, eds. Charles H. Dyer and Roy B. Zuck (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994), 158-60.


[72] Beale, “Colossians,” 866; see also, Seitz, Colossians, 159. “We are being renewed in knowledge—not of the tree of knowledge—that brings about renewal, as the garments of our old Adam are being replaced by the garments of Christ the new Adam. The garmented fellowship enjoyed by Adam and Eve before the fall is here intimated, as Christ restores the fellowship for us that he enjoys with the Father, ‘highly exalted’ in consequence of his sacrifice on our behalf. ‘Knowledge’ here is the form of Christian provisioning that stands in contrast to the deathly knowledge in disobedience.”


[73] Kim, The Significance of Clothing Imagery in the Pauline Corpus, 152-71; Beale, “Colossians,” 866-68; Constantine R. Campbell, Paul and Union with Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 310-23, who affirms Kim and also the view that in Col 3:9-10 “the permanent spiritual reality referred to involves putting on the new self, not Christ.” In other words, Campbell’s exegetical analysis indicates that the “clothing” imagery is associated with Paul’s concept of union with Christ, whereby men and women receive “new natures” out which Paul issues forth ethical injunctions.


[74] Seitz, Colossians, 171.


[75] Ibid., 148.


[76] Ibid., 148, 171; Moo, Colossians and Philemon, 292-93, recognizes that Col 3:18-4:1 ought to be understood as exhortations to fulfill particular roles within the “new humanity” from 3:10.


[77] For a brief defense of this translation of Genesis 3:16, see Ray C. Ortlund, Jr., “Male-Female Equality and Male Headship: Genesis 1-3,” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, eds. John Piper and Wayne Grudem (Wheaton: Crossway, 2006), 108-9. One may also consult, Susan T. Foh, “What is the Woman’s Desire?,” Westminster Theological Journal 37 (1975): 376-83; Allen P. Ross, Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 145-47; Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 1 (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987), 81-82; Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, New American Commentary, vol. 1 (Nashville: B&H, 2002), 250-52; Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, New International Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 201-2; John H. Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 107-8.


[78] George W. Knight III, “Husbands and Wives as Analogues of Christ and the Church: Ephesians 5:21-33 and Colossians 3:18-19,” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, eds. John Piper and Wayne Grudem (Wheaton: Crossway, 2006), 174; cf. Andreas J. Köstenberger and Margaret E. Köstenberger, God’s Design for Man and Woman: A Biblical-Theological Survey (Wheaton: Crossway, 2014), 47-48.


[79] Seitz, Colossians, 172; cf., Eadie, Colossians, 259, who similarly ponders, “It would almost seem, however, as if the phrase, ‘as is fitting in the Lord,’ enforced both the duty recorded before it, and that which stands after it.”


[80] On the issue of “truth and love” as a zero-sum game, see the immensely helpful chapter by D. A. Carson, “The Church and Christian Truth Claims,” in The Intolerance of Tolerance (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012), 97-126.


[81] Köstenberger and Köstenberger, God’s Design for Man and Woman, 47. See fn. 77 for additional resources on this translation/interpretation of the curse in Genesis 3:16.


[82] Ibid., 48; Seitz, Colossians, 172, “To be subject is not to be subjugated.” Seitz also carefully notes, “To say that a wife is to be subject to her husband and that he must love her as his chief responsibility stands under what Paul has stated thus far. The submission of the wife is not the obedience of the child, which is in turn due both parents equally. Paul adds to the exhortation to love the charge not to be harsh, for this is inconsistent with the fivefold garment set forth in 3:12 with its elaborations in 3:13-16” (173).


[83] Seitz, Colossians, 172.


[84] Moo, Colossians and Philemon, 266; BAGD, 844. The word avpekdu,omai typically means “to take off, strip off” clothing.


[85] Seitz, Colossians, 147; he goes on to say, “Instead of a tree of knowledge wrongly chosen and so the means of humanity’s disobedience, we have reference in 3:10 to renewal in knowledge of a different, life-giving kind. This knowledge is the gospel itself and Paul’s conveyance of it to the Colossians.”


[86] Ibid., 148.


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