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Colossians Remixed 46

Final thoughts on Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat’s study, Colossians Remixed.
First, this is a definitive study of using empire ideology to comprehend both a Pauline letter and bringing those insights into our world. It selectively looks at Colossians in light of that empire ideology.
Second, the “commentary” is one of the few so conversant with postmodernity and how postmoderns hear a text like one of Paul’s letters.
Third, I’m unpersuaded of the centrality of the empire theme in Colossians. It can be “read into” Colossians but I’m not so sure it is that easy to “read it out of” Colossians. The “image” connection isn’t persuasive to me; the lordship connection clearly has implications for empire — whether in Paul’s mind or not.
Fourth, this book taps into the anti-Bush, welfare state-leaning critique of Western, esp USA culture and for this reason I predict, if a Democrat wins the next election, this book will no longer have any biting edge. Which is to say, it is a tract for our times for some of us. It is not an exposition of Colossians for all times. My own political independence attracts me at times to some of what they write but many times I come to similar conclusions for other reasons.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. I liked most of it; I disagreed at times because I didn’t think the case was proven. If I can see empire implications in the theology of Paul that does not mean that I think Paul had that in his mind as he wrote this letter.
It would be fun to teach Colossians with this book as a constant point of interaction. How, I would ask in that setting, does Colossians speak to our world? For me, it would be other than empire.

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posted November 19, 2007 at 11:44 am

Is this a commentary you would recommend as a primary or supplementary source? I was not enthused from reading your reviews of the book.

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posted November 19, 2007 at 5:42 pm

So, Scot, how would you say Colossians speaks to our world? What is a central theme/metaphor for our world?

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Scot McKnight

posted November 19, 2007 at 8:58 pm

I’m not impressed … I know lots like it but for me it is so-so. Not enough Colossians; too much empire; good stuff on postmodernity.

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Jason Barr

posted November 20, 2007 at 8:57 pm

If I was going to use it as a source for a study on Colossians I would read it alongside N.T. Wright’s commentary on Colossians/Philemon, which engages the exegetical issues much more fully IMO. But I don’t see how you can read Colossians without reading it alongside Philemon and Ephesians anyway.
I tend to think Colossians is a tract against empire in about the same fashion I think Genesis 1 is a tract against the Mesopotamian societies based on chaoskampf ideology – I think they speak to it in terms of the inherent intertextuality caused by the social setting, but am not necessarily convinced that it’s the primary purpose – just as I don’t primarily see the church as counterculture, but as “the real thing”, as God’s intent for humankind in the redeemed world. I think we have to be defined primarily by what we are, not by what we’re against (and I thank Yoder for that insight, as well as a conversation a few weeks ago with Steve Long of Marquette University that helped me clarify some of my thoughts on the matter).

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