Colossians 1:15-20: Pre-Pauline Or Pauline? -- By: Larry R. Helyer

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 026:2 (Jun 1983)
Article: Colossians 1:15-20: Pre-Pauline Or Pauline?
Author: Larry R. Helyer


Colossians 1:15-20: Pre-Pauline Or Pauline?

Larry R. Helyer*

In Gal 1:8 Paul can boldly proclaim: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!”1 For Paul the essence of the true gospel, which he “received… by revelation from Jesus Christ” (1:12), centered in Christ “the Son of God, who loved [him] and gave himself for [him]” (2:20). Paul scolds the Galatians by forcibly reminding them how this saving deed was accomplished: “Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified” (3:1b). Against those who tried to “avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ” (6:12b) Paul asserted: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (6:16). Similarly to the Corinthians Paul crisply summarized the content of his preaching with the assertion that “we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23; cf. 2:2). Against those who gloried in the wisdom of this world Paul proclaimed a crucified “Lord of glory” (2:8). Furthermore, in his magisterial treatment of salvation in Romans Paul anchors reconciliation in the death of God’s Son (Rom 5:10–11), an event whose effect is realized in the believer’s union with Christ whereby the “old self was crucified” (6:6) and the new self is “united with him [Christ] in his resurrection” (6:5). For Paul there is no more convincing evidence of the reliability of God’s saving purpose and there is no more assuring evidence of the believer’s security in Christ than the splendid fact that God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (8:32). Beyond all cavil Paul never conceives of salvation, whether expressed in terms of justification, reconciliation or redemption, apart from the presupposition of Christ’s death on the cross.2

The purpose of this paper is to evaluate critically a particular understanding of the great Christological passage in Col 1:15–20—namely, the view that Paul h...

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