Friday, August 27
Job 5: Job is addressed eight times by his three comforters, an arrangement that permits the first of those speakers, Eliphaz the Temanite, to address him three times. It is probably because he is the eldest of the three men (cf. Job 15:10) that Eliphaz speaks first, and this is surely also the reason why, near the end of the book, God addresses Eliphaz directly as the spokesman of the group (42:7).
A native of Teman, Eliphaz exemplifies the ancient wisdom of Edom
(cf. Genesis 36:11), concerning which Jeremiah inquired, “Is wisdom no more in Teman? Has counsel perished from the prudent? Has their wisdom vanished?” (Jeremiah 49:7). Eliphaz represents, then, the “wisdom of the south,” the great desert region of the Negev and even Arabia, where only the wise can survive.
In his initial response to Job (chapters 4—5), Eliphaz appeals to his own personal religious experience. Eliphaz, unlike the other two comforters, is a visionary. He has seen (4:8; 5:3) and heard (4:16) the presence of the divine claims in an experience of such subtlety that he calls it a “whisper” (shemets—4:12). This deep sense of the divine absolute, born of Eliphaz’s religious experience, forced upon his mind a strongly binding conviction of the divine purity and justice. This profound certainty in his soul became the lens through which Eliphaz interprets the sundry enigmas of life, notably the problem of human suffering.
If we compare Eliphaz to Job’s other two comforters, moreover, we observe a gradated but distinct decline in the matter of wisdom. Eliphaz begins the discussion by invoking his own direct spiritual experience, his veda. The second comforter, however, Bildad the Shuhite, can appeal to no personal experience of his own, but only to the experience of his elders, so what was a true insight in the case of Eliphaz declines to only an inherited theory in the case of Bildad. Living mystical insight becomes merely an inherited moral belief.
The decline progresses further in the case of Job’s third comforter, because Zophar the Naamathite, unlike Bildad, is unable to invoke even the tradition of his elders. He is familiar with neither the living experience of Eliphaz nor the inherited learning of Bildad; his is simply the voice of established prejudice.
In these three men, then, we watch insight decline into theory, and then theory hardens into a settled, unexamined opinion. As they individually address Job, moreover, each man seems progressively less assured of his position. And being less assured of his position, each man waxes increasingly more strident against Job.
Consequently, along with the decline of moral authority among these three men, there is a corresponding decline in politeness, as though each man is obliged to raise the volume of his voice in inverse proportion to his sense of assurance. Thus, we find that Eliphaz, at least when he begins, is also the most compassionate and polite of the three comforters.
In the present chapter, Eliphaz is shocked by Job’s tone. Instead of asking God to renew His mercies, Job has been cursing his own life. And since God the Creator is the source of that life, Job’s lament hardly reflects well on God. This perverse attitude of Job, Eliphaz reasons, must be the source of the problem. Job’s affliction, consequently, is not an inexplicable mystery, as Job has argued, but the result of Job’s own attitude toward God. Job’s lament, Eliphaz believes, is essentially selfish, expressing only Job’s subjective pain. Therefore, Eliphaz becomes more severe in his criticism of Job, referring to him as “foolish” (5:2,3).
Saturday, August 28
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11: In this passage Paul deals with, among other subjects, the theme of vigilance. This was not a theme peculiar to Paul, but part of he common catechetical inheritance of the Church, going back to Jesus Himself (Mark 13:33-37). Being common, it is found in other New Testament writers as well (1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 3:2-3). When Paul speaks on this subject, therefore, he is saying something Christians generally expected him to say (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:13; Colossians 3:2).
The life in Christ includes a vigilant, heightened consciousness, a stimulated awareness, a certain kind of mindfulness, clear and sharp thinking, intelligent questioning. This vigilance will have some trouble with the general sense of stupor common in contemporary culture, where piped-in music prevents a person from hearing his own thoughts, and great efforts are made in the advertising world to prevent us from seeing the complications of things. Every single project—from the offering of new deodorant on the market to the construction of a new bridge or road—involves an underlying philosophy and a set of metaphysical presuppositions. The alert mind will search out these things, for the simple reason that its adversary, the devil, goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
Job 6: Job now answers the first of his “comforters,” not with a point-by-point refutation, but by a more detailed analysis of his own experience.
Each of us tends to universalize or absolutize his religious experience, and Job believes that this is what Eliphaz has done—he has projected the limitations of his own experience onto Job. Basing his objections to Job solely on his own limited vision, Eliphaz has failed to appreciate the unique dimensions of Job’s suffering.
Job says that he expected better of this friend; Eliphaz and the others know him well enough not to take him for the sinner they now imagine him to be. They have interpreted Job’s sufferings as evidence of his sinful state, whereas they should be trying to see his affliction as Job himself sees it; they have not sufficiently weighed his grief, Job says (6:2).
Now Job’s comments will begin to take more direct aim at God. Eliphaz, after all, has set himself up as God’s spokesman, and Job’s response will respect that arrangement. Eliphaz had called God “the Almighty” (Shaddai in 5:17), the divine title that is now taken up by Job himself (6:4, 14). That is to say, the God that Job now addresses is specifically God as identified by Eliphaz. He is arguing—at this point—not with God, but with Eliphaz’s representation of God.
Job insists that his complaint is no more unreasonable than that of an animal denied its basic sustenance (6:5). He wishes that God would take away his life (6:8–10); he knows that he has not betrayed God and does not deserve this suffering.
We readers, who are familiar with the prologue of the book, are aware that Job is right. Indeed, whereas Job has only the testimony of his own conscience, we readers have the testimony of God Himself, who has already declared Job to be a just man.
Thus, when Job reproaches his friends, we readers stand with him; like dried-up streams, those friends have failed the parched traveler who looked to them with hope (6:14–20). Job has asked so little of them— nothing beyond their simple friendship (6:22–23). Instead of showing compassion for a suffering friend, however, Eliphaz has treated those sufferings of Job chiefly as an occasion to rehearse the religious convictions born of his own limited experience.
Like the friends of Job, many men are too quick to blame, especially when faced with unexplained suffering. Commenting on this chapter, St. John Chrysostom refers to the rash judgment of the citizens of Malta when they saw Paul bitten by the snake in Acts 28:4—“No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.” Similarly, the apostles, when they beheld the man born blind, immediately wanted to place the blame on somebody (John 9:2). Thus the self-appointed comforters of Job add the grievous burden of calumny to the already heavy load of his sufferings.
Sunday, August 29
Mark 16:9-20: Because these final verses of the canonical text of Mark are found neither in the more reliable manuscripts (Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) nor in other ancient versions (Armenian, Georgian, etc.), it is reasonably conjectured that we have received them from a hand later than Mark himself. It would appear that they were added by a copyist who felt that Mark 16:8 was too abrupt an ending, so he added these post-Resurrection appearances in order to make the ending of Mark more closely resemble the endings of the other gospels.
In fact, the components of thi
s material are largely drawn from those sources: The story of Mary Magdalene (verses 9-11) is drawn from John and Luke; the account of the two journeying disciples (verses 12-13) is taken from Luke; the Great Commission (verses 14-18) is adapted from Matthew, Luke, and the Acts of the Apostles; and the Lord’s Ascension comes from Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.
These considerations, however, have to do solely with literary history, not theology. They impugn neither the divine inspiration nor the canonical authority of Mark 16:9-20, inasmuch as the Church has received this text as Holy Scripture.
Job 7: Job addresses God, asking only that God will “remember” him (verse 7), for he knows that God regards him (verse 8). To die, however, as Job sees it, is to disappear even from the sight of God (verses 9–10); the finality of death is addressed several times in this book (7:21; 10:21; 14:10, 12, 18–22; 17:13–16). Death represents, for the author of Job, the major preoccupation, and a hopeful quest for a life after death is one of the deepest and most moving aspects of the book (19:25–27).
Job then begins to turn his lament into a prayer (7:11–21). His spiritual dilemma comes from the knowledge that all these terrible things have befallen him, even though throughout his life he has known God as someone who loves him and whom he loves. Has God now become his enemy? Or will God return to search for him once more? And if God does come to look for him, will He arrive too late? Will Job be already dead and gone (verses 8, 21)?
Whereas for Job’s friends his sufferings raise the question of justice, for Job himself those sufferings raise, rather, a question about friendship. Is he still God’s friend? This, for Job, is the crucial question.
Psalm 114: From the perspective of style, this psalm (Greek and Latin 113A) is a perfect illustration of Hebraic parallelism, a feature found in so much of the Bible’s poetry and the aphorisms of its wisdom literature. The references to Egypt/barbarous people, mountains/hills, stone/flint, rams/lambs, sanctuary/domain, are synonymous parallels, in that they are roughly repetitious. They serve the function of slowing down our prayer, making us take a calmer, more contemplative pace.
Others of the parallelisms here, Red Sea/Jordan and Judah/Israel, are merismatic, the merismus being a device of dividing a whole into representative components and addressing them separately. This serves the function of making our prayer more discursive and analytical. Our psalm combines both techniques very effectively.
In all such cases, the intent of the literary construction is to slow down our reading of the poem, making us go over everything twice, forcing the mind to a second and more serious look at the line, prolonging our prayer, obliging us not to go rushing off somewhere. Such poetry is deeply meditative, and the reader who resists its impulse will find himself with acid indigestion of the mind, serious “heartburn” in a most radical and theological sense.
There are two events described in this psalm, the turning back of the Red Sea at the Exodus, and the identical phenomenon of the Jordan River at Israel’s entrance into Canaan. These two occasions, which are also juxtaposed in Joshua 4:23, form the psalm’s twin poles, Israel’s departure from Egypt and her entrance into the Promised Land. Between these two events lie the giving of the Law and the forty years’ wandering of God’s people in the wilderness. Whereas the two poles of that crucial period, the Red Sea and the Jordan, are marked by God’s removal of the waters from their native settings, the time in between them is marked by God’s miraculously given water for His people wandering through the dry sands of the desert.
God reverses, in short, the expected course of things. He makes wet places dry, and the dry places wet. As for mountains and hills, what could be better symbols of stability, standards of the normal and expected? Mountains and hills, it would seem, are not easily moved. Nonetheless, God moves them, as was demonstrated in the earthquake shaking Mount Sinai when the Law was given. Because of the face of the Lord, that face that Moses prayed to behold on Sinai, the mountains and the hills jumped around like sheep, as it were, the normal and expected state of things becoming unstrung before the awesome face of God. Hills go skipping about!
Monday, August 30
Luke 1:1-4: When God's Son assumed the form of flesh and entered history, a kind of logic called for His life to assume the form of letters and to enter historiography. The four Gospels were literary extensions, as it were, of the Incarnation. Indeed, for St. Bonaventure the writing of the Gospels as so "logical" an inference to be drawn from the premise of the Incarnation that he believed exactly four gospels were required. Why? Because they were applications of Aristotle's Four Causes!
That inference was not drawn at once, of course, and we are able to trace certain steps in the process. Oral transmission came first. The story of Jesus, before it was recorded on parchment, was told by word of mouth, as we see in the sermons in the Acts of the Apostles (10:36-37; 13:23-25).
St. Mark's work was the decisive point, apparently, where the proclaimed Gospel was transformed into a written narrative. Indeed, an indication of this transition is the fact that the chronological limits of Mark's account are identical to those in the apostolic sermons, namely, "all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism by John to the day that He was taken up from us" (Acts 1:21-22). Mark began with John's baptism and ended with the empty tomb.
In addition, there were early testimonies linking Mark's Gospel directly to the apostolic preaching. Papias of Hierapolis, about A.D. 140, quoted an anonymous elder who called Mark the "interpreter of Peter" (Eusebius, History 3.39.15), a description repeated within a generation by both the Roman Anti-Marcionite Prologue and Irenaeus of Lyons (Adversus Haereses 3.1.2).
The testimony of Papias is particularly instructive, because it lists in detail the implications of Mark's relationship to the preaching of Peter. He tells us that Mark "did not compose an orderly account of the things concerning the Lord." Mark left out nothing of what Peter had remembered, insisted Papias, and he wrote nothing untrue. Still, Mark composed with "the needs of his readers" in mind, as did Peter in his preaching. It was the written expression of a homiletic impulse.
Not for a minute do I think this description of Papias does justice to the literary merits of Mark. I cite it only because it clearly points to the oral transmission of his material and its sermonic setting. Mark's narrative reflected, and was closely tied to, the Gospel as preached. It was not yet historiography in the sense of a work studiously researched and set out in a critically constructed sequence. Mark was, rather, the point of transition when preaching became literature.
With regard to Matthew (who is significantly named after Mark in Eusebius), the testimony of Papias is shorter, but it still reflects the same setting. He tells us simply that Matthew arranged "the sayings" (ta logia) of Jesus (Eusebius, 3.39.16).
As in the case of Mark, let me mention that Matthew's literary accomplishment seems to me much subtler and far more complex than the description of Papias indicates. I cite it only as testimony that in Matthew we do not yet have a closely researched historical study of the subject. Both Mark and Matthew were developments in that direction, however, steps moving from preaching toward historical literature in a stricter sense.
Among the Evangelists, it is in Luke that we first meet a historian, in the full sense of someone who explicitly and consciously thought of himself as &
quot;doing" history. In the first prologue affixed to his double work, Luke described his enterprise in exactly this way, saying, "it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account" (Luke 1:3).
Aware that he was about to do something different, Luke spoke of the earlier efforts of those who had "taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us." Of this group, which certainly included Mark, Luke was not critical, because they too had relied on "those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word" (1:1-2). Nonetheless, Luke was aware he was embarking on a venture new to Christian literature, and I believe a close, critical study of his work will show what he had in mind to do.
Tuesday, August 31
Colossians 1:24—2:17: Paul’s entire ministry was devoted to the proclamation of what God has wrought in Christ. And, if Paul suffered as a result of this ministry, his sufferings took their place with the sufferings of Christ Himself, because he suffered for the sake of the Church, as did Jesus (verse 24).
Paul had earlier written of this close association between the apostolic ministerial experience and the Passion of Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:14-16; 2 Corinthians 1:5-7; cf. Acts 5:40-42).
Thus, “to fulfill (plerosai) the word of God” (verse 25) means “to fill up (antanaplero) . . . what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.” If this is something that Paul experiences in his own flesh, it is for the sake of Christ’s body, “which is the church” (verse 24). It was for the sake of this latter body that Christ died “in the body of His flesh” (verse 22).
The “mystery” proclaimed by Paul is the destiny of the world itself, unknown until revealed to the Church. This hidden mystery is the calling of the nations (ethnesin) to share in the glory of God (verse 26).
This glory is already present in hope, because the risen Christ abides in His saints. The final revelation will be the unveiling of this hidden presence (verse 27).
This mystery is not secret in the sense of being reserved for a few chosen initiates. It is, rather, the common doctrine handed down in the Church as a public record, available to “every man” (three times in verse 28).
Paul’s struggle (agonizomenos in verse 29; agoni in 2:1) for this cause involves more than his human effort. He is sustained, rather, by God’s “energy energizing” him “in might” (energeian . . . energoumenen . . . en dynamei).
Christ’s headship over Creation is radical and total. The human race has no other mediation with God. This is Paul’s answer to those who teach of the veneration of the angels as cosmic intermediaries.
This is the argument that Paul makes, after he brings the strictly doctrinal opening of this epistle to an end with verse 3. In this verse he speaks of Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (cf. also 1:27; 1 Corinthians 1:24,30), an expression perhaps derived from Isaiah 45:3 (“I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name”) and Proverbs 2:3-5 (“if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God”).
When the Church’s earliest creedal formulas interpreted the saving work of Jesus Christ “according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), this expression was understood to embrace all of the Old Testament, including the Ketubim, or “Writings,” that third part of the Hebrew Scriptures in which we find the Wisdom books. The doctrinal challenge facing the Church at Colossae furnished the providential occasion for the Apostle Paul to explore the relationship of Christ to the Bible’s Wisdom literature.
Much of the apostolic writings (another name for the New Testament) is devoted to Christ as the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. The Epistle to the Colossians is one of those places more dominantly preoccupied by the theme of Christ as the fulfillment of the Bible’s Wisdom books.
Having established the doctrinal basis for doing so, Paul now directs his attention to the heretical teaching to which the believers at Colossae had been exposed (2:4—3:4).
The worst feature of these heresies, says he, is that they sound attractive (pithanologia —verse 4). Long ago, immediately following his failure to reach most of the philosophers who heard him in Athens (cf. Acts 17:22-34), Paul had resolved not to engage in fine-sounding rhetoric in the proclamation of the Gospel (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:20—2:5). Paul yet adheres to that policy. Otherwise there is simply too much danger of a deceptive message that merely sounded erudite (verse 8).
The Colossians, in order to avoid the false teachings prevalent in their area, must steadfastly adhere to what they have “received” (parelabete —verse 6; cf. Galatians 1:9; Philippians 4:9; 1 Corinthians 11:23) and “learned” (edidachthete —verse 7). We observe in this admonition that the proper safeguard against heresy is the inherited tradition of the apostolic teaching mission. The Christ that the Colossians have already “received” is the Christ to whom they must adhere.
This traditional teaching of the Church is contrasted with the mere traditions of men, which Paul describes as “philosophy” (verse 8, the only occasion on which that word occurs in the New Testament).
The “fullness of the Godhead” dwells in Christ in a bodily way, which is to say that God’s eternal Wisdom is identical with the person of Jesus Christ (verse 9), the literal embodiment of God’s Word.
The Christian’s adherence to Christ is to be accomplished with “thanksgiving” (eucharistia —verse 7), which is a virtual sub-theme of this epistle (cf. 1:12; 3:15,17; 4:2).
The realm of angelic beings, “all principality and power,” is subject to Christ, who is the Head of the Church (verses 10,15).
Paul now goes on to discuss our communion with Christ, initiated through Baptism, the sacrament that fulfills and replaces the Old Testament initiatory rite of circumcision (verse 11). Although Baptism is a bodily thing, it does not, like circumcision, leave a bodily mark. The “mark” of Baptism is visible only to God. The flesh of the baptized Christian looks exactly like all other flesh. His real life is “hidden with Christ in God” (3:3).
Yet, Baptism does involve a definite “putting off” (apekdysis, a word found only here in the New Testament) of “the body of the flesh.” This latter expression, as is indicated by the (textually unreliable, alas) reading “sins of the flesh” found in the King James Version, means the ascetical life of the believer, who lives no longer under the dominance of the fleshly passions.
Paul’s point here, then, is a contrast between circumcision, whereby the initiate lose only part of his flesh, and Baptism, by which the believer completely abandons a fleshly way of life.
This latter way of life is a spiritual circumcision (cf. Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4; Romans 2:29; Philippians 3:3), here called “the circumcision of Christ.” The following chapter will spell out what this spiritual circumcision means in practice.
Baptism is no mere ritual (much less, merely a symbol), because through it the believing initiate is mystically united to the burial and Resurrection of Christ Himself (verse 12; cf. Romans 6:1-11). To be baptized, therefore, is a supreme act of faith in the God who raised Jesus from the dead. (Baptism actually accomplishes that which it symbolizes, which is the definition of a sacrament. It is not a “work” performed by the believer. It is a work of the living Christ Himself. No matter who the minister of Baptism is, it is always Christ who baptizes.)
This union with Christ in Baptism is indicated by the preposition and prefix “syn-,” meaning “with.” Thus, we believers died “with Christ” (syn Christo—verse 20), were buried “with Him” (syntaphentes avto), were raised “with Him (synegerthete—verse 12), and were “made alive with Him” (synezoopoisen . . . syn avto—verse 13, cf. Ephesians 2:5).
Unlike the Baptismal imagery of dying and rising in Romans 6, where the Christian’s resurrection is stated in terms of the end of history, the accent here in Colossians is on union with Christ in the here and now. (Indeed, this difference of perspectives, from the future to the present, is in general one of the chief ways in which Colossians and Ephesians differ from Romans.) Even now this union with Christ is accomplished by the divine energy (energia tou Theou) at work in us. Paul has ready recourse to this word energia in Colossians (here and 1:29) and Ephesians (1:19; 3:7; 4:16).
The “handwriting of requirements that was against us”—or more literally, “the bond written against us in decrees”—refers to the burden of the Mosaic Law, particularly those parts of the Torah threatening punishment to those who fail to observe its precepts (verse 14; Ephesians 2:15; cf. Deuteronomy 30:19). Christ assumed this burden and debt upon Himself, when He was nailed to the Cross, laying down His life in atoning sacrifice on our behalf (cf. Isaiah 53:4-5).
At this point in Colossians the expression “principalities and powers” does not refer to angelic beings in general, but to those demonic forces — fallen angels — by whom humanity without Christ is held in bondage (verse 15).
The “in it” of verse 15 should more properly read “on it” (exactly the same preposition in Greek), referring to the Lord’s Cross. It was on that Cross that Jesus was victorious over the demons by
His blood-bought abolition of our sins. The death of Christ not only altered our relationship to God; it altered our condition with respect to the demons. That is to say, the Cross of Christ was not only expiatory, but it was also triumphant.
Wednesday, September 1
Job 10: Job essays in this chapter various theories to elucidate the problem under consideration, only to reject all those theories in the end. Is God cruel (verse 3), or deceived (verse 4), or shortsighted (verse 5) with respect to Job? No, Job answers. God knows that he is innocent (verse 7).
Having mentioned God’s “hand” in verse 7 (“there is no one who can deliver from Your hand”), Job goes on, in verses 8–12, to meditate on God’s fashioning him by hand (“Your hands have made me and fashioned me”). This moving text is especially reminiscent of Psalm 139 (138):13–15.
All this care did God take in this creation and preservation; was everything for naught, Job wonders? Does he himself value this “life and mercy,” Job inquires, more than God does? Not a bit. God holds these matters in His heart, he says (verse 13). Feeling full of confusion at such thoughts, Job pleads only that God look upon his sufferings (verse 15).
Aware that he is not a wicked man, Job is compelled to imagine that God afflicts the just as well as the unjust, for reasons best known to Himself (verses 16–17). We readers, in fact, know this to be the case. We know exactly what those reasons are. We have the advantage of overhearing those early conversations between God and Satan in the first two chapters of the book.
In this respect we readers of the Book of Job enjoy a great interpretive edge over the human characters within the story itself, because from the very beginning of the story we have known its true dynamics and direction. Remembering that Job is being tried by a God who has great confidence in him, we readers are entirely on Job’s side in this contest and hope he will not fail his period of probation.
For this reason we also know that the speculations of Job’s three friends are far wide of the mark.
At the same time, especially as Job expresses his longings in these lengthy soliloquies, we readers become conscious of the deeper dimensions of his character, levels of soul more profound than what might have been expected of that observant doer of God’s will introduced back in chapter 1. God, of course, has known these things all along; God was already thoroughly familiar with Job’s heart.
Thursday, September 2
Colossians 3:12—4:1: Christian striving is not only negative, because there are positive qualities that the believer is called to cultivate, qualities having to do chiefly with his social relationships (verses 12-14). When he was baptized, after all, the believer entered into a social body, the Church, the extension of Christ’s own body (verses 15-16). Especially important is forgiveness (verse 13; cf. Ephesians 4:32; Matthew 6:12).
None of this is possible, says Paul, without the joy of music (verse 16). A congregation that does not, on all possible occasions, sing hymns and psalms can make no convincing claim to being a Christian congregation (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:26). All this singing and praying, however, must be done in Jesus’ name (verse 17; Ephesians 5:19-20).
The practical points of the Christian moral life, partly enumerated in 3:5-14, must now be applied to concrete situations, first within the home (3:18—4:1) and then outside (4:5).
The home is the first place to be transformed “in the Lord” (verse 18). Indeed, the “Lord” (Kyrios) is explicitly spoken of six times in this section on the Christian home (3:18,20,23, 24 twice; 4:1), indicating that the Lordship of Jesus is to dominate all of the relationships in the home. Surely, if Jesus is not the Lord of a believer’s home, it is not likely that He will be the Lord of any other part of his life.
In this respect, we may note that in this section on the Christian home, everything is regarded under the aspect of duty, not of rights. Rights have to do with the political order. The home, however, is the true pre-political institution.
The first relationship in the home is that between husband and wife. Paul views the wife’s self-subjugation to the husband as a matter of decency, order, and propriety—“as is fitting” (aneken—3:18). Her relationship to her husband, on the other hand, is to be rendered easy by the latter’s love and gentleness toward her (verse 19). The verb Paul uses for “love” in this instance is agapan, the highest and most spiritual kind of love (cf. Ephesians 6:21-33).
From the home all bitterness is to be excluded, and the husband/father is to provide the example in this (3:19,21).
In this section on the home, the relationship receiving the most attention is that between master and servant, a fact suggesting that among all domestic relationships, this may present the most problems (3:22—4:1). Indeed, within the home this is the only relationship that is not “natural,” not biological. It is purely economic and most related to the political order. To this extent, it is also somewhat artificial, unlike other domestic relationships, which are pre-political and rooted in nature itself. Paul’s own reflections here tend to mitigate the inequality inherent in this relationship (3:25; 4:1).
Friday, September 3
Colossians 4:2-18: From within the Christian home, the believer relates to “those outside”(tous exso—4:5). These relationships chiefly require the Christian governance of the tongue (4:6).
Paul’s comments on prayer (4:2-3) should be compared with Ephesians 6:18-20 (cf. Romans 12:12).
As usual at the end of his epistles (and many of the letters that we ourselves send even today), Paul finishes with a series of greetings.
We now learn that this epistle is borne to Colossae by Tychicus, an Asian Christian who had accompanied Paul to Jerusalem to carry thither the offering taken up for the relief of the poor in that city (Acts 20:4). Tychicus has apparently been in Paul’s entourage ever since and is now dispatched back to Asia to bear this epistle (verses 7-8), a second to the congregation at Laodicaea (Ephesians 6:21), and evidently a third to Philemon, a Colossian Christian.
This last epistle concerns the runaway Colossian slave, Onesimus, who will accompany Tychicus back to Asia (verse 9). These two will bring to Colossae the latest news concerning Paul.
Other companions, who will remain at Caesarea with Paul, also send greetings to the congregation at Colossae. These include Aristarchus (verse 10), a Macedonian Christian from Thessaloniki (Acts 19:29), who had also accompanied Paul in his final trip to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4), was with him still at Caesarea (Philemon 24), and would soon travel with him to Rome (Acts 27:2).
Mark sends greetings as well. Since he had been directly involved in a sharp altercation between Paul and Barnabas some twelve years earlier (Acts 13:13; 15:36-40), Paul mentions Mark especially, making sure that the Colossians are aware that there was no longer bad blood between them (verse 10). We know that Mark is with Paul at Caesarea (cf. Philemon 24), but we lose track of him briefly after this. Shortly before Paul’s death, however, the Apostle instructed Timothy to bring Mark to Rome (2 Timothy 4:11), where we find him as an associate of Simon Peter (1 Peter 5:13). It was in Rome that Mark wrote his Gospel (Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus Haereses 3.1.2; Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 2.15.1-2; 3.39.15), before going on to found the Christian church at Alexandria in Egypt (Eusebius, ibid. 2.16.1).
Greetings are also sent from Epaphras, himself an Asian (verse 12), to whose zeal for his countrymen Paul here bears witness (verse 13). One is disposed to think that it was Epaphras who brought to Paul’s attention the concerns that prompted the writing of this epistle.
Greetings are likewise sent from Luke (verse 14), who has been with Paul since the two joined company at Philippi for the final trip to Jerusalem (Acts 20:6) He will be with Paul till the end (Acts 27:2; 2 Timothy 4:11), though Demas, also mentioned here (cf. Philemon 24), will not (2 Timothy 4:10).
It is worth remarking that this presence of Mark and Luke at Caesarea at the same time seems to be the only recorded instance of two Gospel writers being together in one place simultaneously. It is not difficult to imagine what they may have talked about!
The Archippus in verse 17 is known to us from Philemon 2. The cryptic message in this verse was doubtless clearer to the Colossians than it is to us.
The Colossians are to exchange epistles with the congregation at Laodicea, which is also receiving an epistle in this mailing (verse 16). This latter work is most likely to be identified with the epistle handed down to us as Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians.