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Colossians Remixed 42

Nympha is on trial, an imaginary trial, as Walsh and Keesmaat dramatically close off their book: Colossians Remixed. She’s been confronted with the “image” of God poem of Colossians 1:15-20, which the magistrates think is subversion of Caesar.
Indeed, she says: it is a confession that the God who is One has created and sustained all through his Son. She’s accused of denying the lordship of Caesar.
Do you no longer have murals with Caesar’s image in your home? Someone claims she has eliminated them all. And she is accused of releasing her slaves, given farms aways to the poor, etc. etc. She’s accused of undermining the social fabric.
She agrees: Yes, the text subverts Caesar just as the Hebrew Scriptures do.
But the Body of Christ is different. Our ekklesia is different; we challenge everything; we live out justice and peace.
Caesar’s peace is not real peace, she says.
They move to gather them all into prison. Her last words to them are that she believes Jesus is Lord.

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posted November 13, 2007 at 9:12 am

this may be splitting hairs, but are we called to challenge, or transform?

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posted November 13, 2007 at 9:27 am

With the caveat that I have not read W-K, the kind of trial and confrontation portrayed seems to draw from the martyrdoms of ca. 100-200 AD. Is this reading early Christian history into the letter of Paul to the Colossians – or is the story of Nympha set later reflecting on the meaning of Colossians in the early church? This seems not so much a reflection on the “original meaning” of Colossians as a reflection on the earliest interpretation and impact of this letter on the church. Is it accurate?

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posted November 13, 2007 at 9:29 am

Interesting. It certainly illustrates how “Jesus is Lord” conflicts with “Pax Romana is Lord” and/or “Caesar is Lord”.
I had the impression that W-K believe Paul was rather cryptically embedding his anti-empire message. I think I must have been mistaken as this passage is seen in the Nympha story as being prima facia anti-empire. I feel a little confused about how direct W-K suppose Paul was being.
I believe Scot’s opinion, as stated previously, is that “Christ” points to the Jewish Messiah, and “eikon” reminds more of Gen 1 than of statues of Caesar. If so, I agree with that.
But it is an interesting point that in a politically touchy situation, Col 1:15ff certainly seems the sort of poetry that could get someone in trouble. I suppose that one could claim this prioritizes the Roman government officials’ (mis)reading over the more Jewish reading by the original audience in the Colossian church.

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posted November 13, 2007 at 10:57 am

Like this post a lot. Liked this “application” of Paul’s letter by this character.
For those that find this story strange or too directly confrontational to be a proper or even intended application of the letter, do you think that our current use of words like ‘lord’ and even ‘christ’ in almost exclusively religious or ancient historic ways is to blame? These just aren’t our current political terms at all in the West. If our current governments were kingdoms, and the men of power within them called ‘lords’, etc., I think we’d read Colossians, and say–frequently–with eyebrows raised, “Did he just say what I think he said?” Paul’s use of the same language for Jesus as was currently in use for the top political powers of the time made this letter very different for its first readers than for the typical Western reader today. The political and linguistic (as well as the historical Jewish) context is key. In this vein, I don’t think the historic Jewish context makes this story any less plausible or faithful–it only makes it more so to me.

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