Just in case you are wondering what Walsh and Keesmaat’s understanding of Colossians and postmodernity might look like, they have “updated” Colossians 1:1-14, what the ancient Jews called a “targum.” This is from:Colossians Remixed.
I feel this question coming on — what are the best commentaries on Colossians — so I’ll answer it:
First, for simple, straightforward analysis of the Greek grammar and syntax, you can’t do better than Murray Harris, Colossians and Philemon.
Second, for the debates about meaning and exegesis, I like Peter O’Brien,Colossians-Philemon.
Third, for the most recent commentary I like James D.G. Dunn, Colossians and Philemon.
Fourth, at a more popular level, I recommend David Garland’s fine Colossians and Philemon and Tom Wright’s shorter, but always suggestive, Paul for Everyone.
Now on to W-K’s suggestive “targum” of 1:1-14. Is there any substantial difference here between what this targum is doing and how we “apply” the Bible, both in sermon and in personal reading?
Colossians 1:1-14 Targum
Brian and Sylvia, disciples of Messiah Jesus by the grace of God, to the covenanted community of faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in the totally wired world of the new global economy. At the dawn of a new millennium, and in the face of a world of terror, may you experience the all-encompassing shalom and wholeness that is received as a wonderful gift from God our Father.
Col. 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
Col. 1:2 To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father
[Now notice what they do with the next couple of verses. Here they are: Col. 1:3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all his people— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true word of the gospel 6 that has come to you.]
We want you to know that thankfulness permeates our prayers for you. We continue to give thanks to God, the Father of our sovereign Messiah Jesus, as we hear the stories of struggling and daring discipleship that continues to characterize his followers. We have heard that your faith and trust in Jesus is proved true because it takes on the real flesh of love in your midst – a love that is manifest in your care for the poor, providing shelter to the homeless, food for the hungry and hospitality to the stranger. Such faith and love are inseparable: one cannot exist without the other. But neither is possible without hope. And here at the end of a century of such bloodshed, betrayal and broken promises, it is an amazing thing to be a community animated by hope. May that hope sustain you in a world addicted to violence.
But your hope is not the cheap buoyant optimism of global capitalism with its cybernetic computer gods and self-confident scientific discovery, all serving the predatory idolatry of economism. You know that these are gods with an insatiable desire for child sacrifice. That is why your hope is not the shallow optimism of the “‘Long Boom” of increased prosperity. Such optimism is but a cheap imitation of hope. Real hope – the kind of hope that gives you the audacity to resist the commodification of your lives and engenders the possibility of an alternative imagination-is no human achievement; it is a divine gift. This hope isn’t extinguished by living in “the future of a shattered past,” precisely because it is a hope rooted in a story of kept promises, even at the cost of death.
You didn’t get this hope from cable television, and you didn’t find it on the Net. This hope walked into your life, hollering itself hoarse out on the streets, in the classroom, down at the pub and in the public square, when you first heard the good news of whole life restoration in Christ. This gospel is the Word of truth – it is the life-giving, creation-calling, covenant-making, always faithful servant Word that takes flesh in Jesus, who is the truth. So it is not surprising that the Word of truth is no detached set of objective verities committed to memory and reproduced on the test. No, this Word of truth is active, bearing fruit throughoUt the cultural wilderness of this terribly scorched earth. From the beginning blessing, “Be fruitful and multiply,” God has always intended that creation be a place of fruitfulness. Now the Word of truth is producing the fruit of a radical discipleship, demonstrated in passion for justice, evocative art and drama, restorative stewardship of our ecological home, education for faithful living, integral evangelism, and liturgy that shapes an imagination alternative to the empires.
In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.
And when that kind of fruit is evident in your lives, you don’t need to choke on the word truth – you don’t need to whisper it through your tears. You see, once you have comprehended the grace of God in truth and your life bears witness to the power of this truth, then you can speak — indeed you can sing — of truth with integrity. You have learned all of this well from prophets and singers, teachers and preachers, artists and storytellers who have come before us, and again, they all testify to your love in the Spirit.