Walsh and Keesmaat (Colossians Remixed) suggest we develop, alongside Paul’s and fired both by Paul’s imagination and the narrative of Scripture, an imagination that is an “alternative to the empire’s” (85).
Which they do on pp. 85-89, and I’d reproduce it here if it didn’t take so long for me to scan and edit.
Paul, as a typical Jew, when he saw the word “image” (Latin, imago; Greek, eikon; Hebrew, tselem or demut) would have made two connections: to Creation where humans are made in the Eikon of God, and to the Torah where they were told not to make “images” of humans. When Paul saw Caesar’s images he thought of idolatry not empire — empire would only follow in connotation. The first thought that came to mind for Jews when they saw images — and Josephus provides all kinds of evidence here — is this thought: Gentiles worship idols and it is contrary to our Torah.
Now I happen to like and prefer the critique I read in W-K about modern-day empire and about consumerism and materialism, but is this issue of empire an “application” of Paul to a specific problem of ours or is it the sort of thing Paul really did have in mind? You tell me. What evidence in Colossians convinces you of this?
Was Paul in trouble with Rome or was he in trouble with fellow Jews?