The following comment opens up chp 11 in Walsh and Keesmaat, Colossians Remixed, and it’s a good one.
“We can argue,” they put into the mouth of “Anthony,” “until we are blue in the face that Colossians is good news for an oppressed and marginalized community at the heart of the Roman empire, but unless this good news is for those truly at the margins — slaves, children and women — it is nothing but a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal” (201).
Question: Do you think Col 3:18–4:1 is oppressive? Second question: How to apply this text? Woodenly or flexibly? If flexibly, how do we do such a thing and maintain the integrity of the text?
Col. 3:18 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.
Col. 3:20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is your acceptable duty in the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, or they may lose heart.
22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, 24 since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong has been done, and there is no partiality. 1 Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, for you know that you also have a Master in heaven.
With a creative twist, they compose a letter from Onesimus (slave) to Paul in which he reports on how folks heard his teachings at Colosse …
1. Some see Paul affirming the structure of society they inherited from Aristotle.
2. Some see Paul softening the structure into a “love patriarchy.”
3. Archippus argues that Paul is appealing to the story of Israel and to forgiveness and to Jubilee and to the need for us to be a “slave-releasing community” (206). There is no longer slave nor free! Paul strips masters of their ultimacy as they all submit to the Master Jesus. “The categories — of Col 3:18-4:1 — are completely undermined by Paul’s language here. They no longer have validity” (208).
Paul had to mask this theology in words that are not so revolutionary so that, if the letter were confiscated, to protect us. “It appears to uphold the status quo while advising tolerance” (209). For those with ears to hear something else is being said.
Then Nympha speaks up: “What about women?” Tomorrow.