Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Colossians Remixed 39

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.

Comments read comments(6)
post a comment

posted November 8, 2007 at 7:13 am

I take it that early Christians are understanding the radical nature of the equality and love Jesus and Paul preach and are using this to rebel against their subordinate status: They are seeing the gospel as revolutionary and political, which perhaps it is, but not the way they understand it. Paul is saying the socila change is not about an overt political revolution but about something more radical. It’s not about role reversal but about role transformation. If people behave as Christians, the whole role of the slave, the woman and the child is transformed into something served and blesed, not something oppressed. This is what makes sense against the no slave or free verse , etc. It’s also a message for the radically Christ-transformed community and not the world at large.

report abuse


posted November 8, 2007 at 7:17 am

Sorry about the typos above. I have to take dau. to school so am rushed. As I remember (correctly?) from this blog, doesn’t the original Greek leave out subject to your husband and merely say, “to your husband,” as to the lord? If we go back to John, Jesus tells his followers to obey God out of love and so we can see if we obey God out of love, we submit to our husbands out of the same love, as to God. This transforms the very notion of submission: if freely given and not coerced, it’s a beautiful thing not an oppression.

report abuse

Keith Schooley

posted November 8, 2007 at 7:49 am

I don’t think this passage is oppressive; it only becomes so when the advice to the person in a subordinate position is applied and the advice to the person in a dominant position is ignored. What Paul says, if taken in its entirety, does transform all the relationships.
I don’t much like this theme: ‘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).’ It seems to me a version of the authorial fallacy–to assume that we can know what Paul was Really Thinking, apart from what he actually wrote. My general response to W-K is that I think they will find a way to inject whatever they want into Paul’s writings. And the retort, “Modernists have done the same thing unconsciously for generations,” doesn’t validate their own treatment of the text.

report abuse


posted November 8, 2007 at 8:14 am

I agree with you on authorial fallacy and especially when we start on Paul having a secret agenda … if we start on that, where does it end?

report abuse


posted November 8, 2007 at 8:22 am

I don’t find either this passage (Col. 3:18-4:1) or the expanded parallel passage (Eph. 5:22-6:9) oppressive (or for that matter 1 Cor. 7). As Keith points out – we must take the entirety – and the entirety is transformative rather than oppressive.
On the other hand I have heard it preached or taught in a manner where it becomes oppressive, but always in the context of an anthropology and sociology derived from 1 Cor. 11 and 1 Tim. 2 etc.
This has been an interesting series on W-K’s book – not for the insights I?ve gained into Colossians, but for the insights I have gained into a segment of our 21st century church.

report abuse


posted November 8, 2007 at 9:25 am

I agree with Keith. However, I do think W-K have a point here. Paul did not radically reject status quo but he also reminded masters that they have a master in heaven. Further, if Kruse is right about his approach to household codes (and I have only read about 5% of his blog on this so far), then Paul did swim against status quo as it concerns that paterfamilias controlling the family. Further still, Paul pressured Philemon to set Onesimus free (“It’s your choice, Philo, but don’t forget: you owe me your life! But really, it’s your choice.”)
From a pastoral perspective, I think it is important to remember that some well-meaning believers have felt obligated to be oppressive based upon what they have been taught about these passages. While the passages themselves were likely not oppressive to the original audience, the received interpretation today very well may have a significant amount of oppressive baggage that pastors ought to address, at least among the more conservative communities.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More Blogs To Enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Jesus Creed. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Red Letters with Tom Davis Recent prayer post on Prayables Most Recent Inspiration blog ...

posted 11:15:58am Aug. 16, 2012 | read full post »

Our Common Prayerbook 30 - 3
Psalm 30 thanks God (vv. 1-3, 11-12) and exhorts others to thank God (vv. 4-5). Both emerge from the concrete reality of David's own experience. Here is what that experience looks like:Step one: David was set on high and was flourishing at the ...

posted 12:15:30pm Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Theology After Darwin 1 (RJS)
One of the more important and more difficult pieces of the puzzle as we feel our way forward at the interface of science and faith is the theological implications of discoveries in modern science. A comment on my post Evolution in the Key of D: ...

posted 6:01:52am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Almost Christian 4
Who does well when it comes to passing on the faith to the youth? Studies show two groups do really well: conservative Protestants and Mormons; two groups that don't do well are mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics. Kenda Dean's ...

posted 12:01:53am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Let's Get Neanderthal!
The Cave Man Diet, or Paleo Diet, is getting attention. (Nothing is said about Culver's at all.) The big omission, I have to admit, is that those folks were hunters -- using spears or smacking some rabbit upside the conk or grabbing a fish or ...

posted 2:05:48pm Aug. 30, 2010 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.