The Colossian Hymn in Context

Gordley, Matthew E.  The Colossian Hymn in Context. An Exegesis in Light of Jewish and Greco-Roman Hymnic and Epistolary Conventions
2007. IX, 295 pages. WUNT II 228

ISBN 978-3-16-149255-6
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Matthew E. Gordley

The Colossian Hymn in Context

An Exegesis in Light of Jewish and Greco-Roman Hymnic and Epistolary Conventions

The suggestion that the New Testament contains citations of early Christological hymns has long been a controversial issue in New Testament scholarship. As a way of advancing this facet of New Testament research, Matthew E. Gordley examines the Colossian hymn (Col 1:15-20) in light of its cultural and epistolary contexts. As a result of a broad comparative analysis, he claims that Col 1:15-20 is a citation of a prose-hymn which represents a fusion of Jewish and Greco-Roman conventions for praising an exalted figure. A review of hymns in the literature of Second Temple Judaism demonstrates that the Colossian hymn owes a number of features to Jewish modes of praise. Likewise, a review of hymns in the broader Greco-Roman world demonstrates that the Colossian hymn is equally indebted to conventions used for praising the divine in the Greco-Roman tradition. In light of these hymnic traditions of antiquity, the analysis of the form and content of the Colossian hymn shows how the passage fits well into a Greco-Roman context, and indicates that it is best understood as a quasi-philosophical prose-hymn cited in the context of a paraenetic letter. Finally, in view of ancient epistolary and rhetorical theory and practice, an analysis of the role of the hymn in Colossians suggests that the hymn serves a number of significant rhetorical functions throughout the remainder of the letter.

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