all angels. This made Colossians St. Paul’s Christological epistle: his epistle on the nature of Christ.* 8
A disciple named Tychicus (‘Lucky’) was the courier entrusted to take this epistle to Colossae. This Tychicus carried another epistle besides that to the Colossians. This was a general epistle intended for circulation among the other churches of Asia. It was meant to be a general preventative against what had infected the Colossians in particular. Tychichus took this epistle to Ephesus where it was copied for distribution to the various churches of Asia. This general circular letter is today therefore known as the Epistle to the Ephesians. While Colossians was a polemic emphasising Christ’s infinite superiority over all angels, Ephesians was didactic, emphasising the worldwide Church as one with Christ.* 9
Accompanying Epaphras and Tychicus back from Rome to Asia was one Onesimus. This Onesimus was a slave who had escaped from his master, Philemon of Colossae. He had come to Rome where he was converted by St. Paul. St. Paul now sent him back with a personal letter, his Epistle to Philemon, to reconcile him with his master. The common theme of these three epistles being carried to Asia in 62 was unity: the unity of the Church throughout the world which united Christians in their local churches in a brotherhood in Christ which transcended all divisions, even that division, as in Philemon, between master and slave. Thus what was argued in Colossians was set out at more length in Ephesians, and was applied to a specific individual case in Philemon. This epistle to Philemon reflects a change which was to be of immense importance in the social history of Christian countries. For in it St. Paul made it clear that henceforth it was to be a matter of indifference to any Christian if he happened to be a slave, because his Baptism made him a freedman of Christ. In gruesome contrast the Roman historian Tacitus tells us that in 61 Nero upheld the Roman law whereby the murder of the Roman Prefect Pedanius Secundus by one of his slaves had led to his entire household of slaves being put to death. Thus St. Paul began the destruction of the till then universal institution of slavery not by attacking it directly but by making it a matter of indifference among Christians. The Roman archaeologist de Rossi tells us that whereas pagan tomb inscription always stated whether the deceased was free or a slave, of 11,000 Roman Christian tomb inscriptions only six gave any such information. No acrimonious arguments, no corrections of specific abuses are to be found in these three epistles. What St. Paul had fought for in Galatians and systematically set out in Romans, he now takes for granted. Henceforth St. Paul’s preoccupation was with preparations for the long-term future: how to ensure that the Universal Church would remain firmly united after his and St. Peter’s departure.* 10
Another visitor to St. Paul in Rome was one Epaphroditus from Philippi. During his stay in Rome this Epaphroditus had fallen dangerously ill. At about the same time, as his appeal for release under the two-year rule was due to be officially considered, St. Paul had been moved to the tighter
Published on Nov 29, 2011
Published on Nov 29, 2011
This survey of how the New Testament came to be written is also a chronicle of the first 40 years of the history of the Christian Church. It...