Peter & Kelly

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Peter & Kelly + Lukas + Emmet + Danai

Going to Heaven: The concept of heaven in the Bible and Christian teaching
Research Paper (All Nations Christian College) 2 June 2004 — Peter Passchier

Is participation in Freemasonry wholesome for disciples of Jesus?
Advanced Religions Paper (All Nations Christian College) 7 May 2004 — Peter Passchier

Passages from Colossians and Hebrews compared
Assignment Christology (All Nations Christian College) 5 December 2003 — Peter Passchier

Is Israel's election related to any inherent qualities?
Assignment Old Testament Theology (All Nations Christian College) 28 November 2003 — Peter Passchier

The Gospel and the Religions
Reading Report Theology of Mission (All Nations Christian College) 11 November 2003 — Peter Passchier

Efforts towards unity within the church
Assignment Churchplanting (All Nations Christian College) 27 June 2003 — Peter Passchier

Jesus: transactional or transformational?
Assignment Leadership (All Nations Christian College) 20 June 2003 — Peter Passchier

Isaiah in crises
Assignment History and Literature of the Hebrew Bible (All Nations Christian College) 17 March 2003 — Peter Passchier

Do missionaries destroy cultures?
Assignment Social Anthropology (All Nations Christan College) 6 December 2002 — Peter Passchier

Temple Tumult
Assignment New Testament: Gospels and Acts (All Nations Christian College) 29 November 2002 — Peter Passchier

Acts
Initial Assignment (All Nations Christian College) 1 October 2002 — Peter Passchier

A Narrow Escape
A Narrow Escape (Creative writing) 13 September 2015 — Kelly Passchier



Assignment Christology (All Nations Christian College) 5 December 2003 — Peter Passchier

Compare and contrast any two of the Christological Passages studied, taking into account possible contextual factors. Draw out the relevance of one of our chosen texts for a contemporary cultural and religious context in which you are interested.

Selected passages: Colossians 1:12-20 and Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-18.

Introducing the letters to the Colossians and to the Hebrews

Colossians

Colosse was situated in the Lycus valley, one of the main cities of Phrygia, although it had lost its former prominence to neighbouring Laodicea and Hierapolis. The whole valley was hit by a severe earthquake in AD 63, and no major archaeological has been done on Colosse. The letter was written by Paul (O'Brien:xli-xlix) while he was in prison (Colossians 4:3,10,18), probably in Ephesus (somewhere around AD 52-57, see Schweizer, 1982:25-26; Wright, 1986:35) or otherwise in Rome (AD 60-61, see O'Brien, 1987:xlix-liv). The Laodiceans were also supposed to read this letter — and the Colossians were supposed to read theirs (Colossians 4:16). Colossians is remarkably similar to the letter to the Ephesians — they were probably written around the same time (Wright, 1986:37-39). Ephesians does not polemise against false teachings like Colossians; the religious context of Colosse was probably syncretistic (Arnold, 1996:310-312): the Greek pantheon, mystery religions, Judaism (primarily, according to Hooker, in O'Brien, 1987:xxxi; Wright, 1986:27, see Colossians 2:11,16) and possibly early Gnosticism (see also O'Brien:xxx-xxxviiii). The passage of Colossians 1:12-20 is part of Paul's intercession for them (Colossians 1:9-23); verses 12-14 contain first person plural pronouns while 15-20 have third person singular pronouns. Wright (1986:21) considers verses 1:15-20 to be the driving force behind the whole letter — Christ the Lord in creation and redemption (also O'Brien, 1987:liv), these verses are often construed to be a hymn — although not in the classical sense of hymn or poem (O'Brien, 1987:33).

Hebrews

Hebrews was —contrary to ancient tradition (Ellingworth, 1993:3-7)— most probably not written by Paul: it does not explicitly say so — like all known letters from Paul. It has a different style & atmosphere, the Greek is more refined and the reasoning more thoughtfully conceived, verse 2:3 —implying second hand revelation— can hardly have been said by Paul, and the author has a marked preoccupation with cultic worship nowhere else found in Paul's letters. The author remains a mystery, none of the plausible candidates like Barnabas and Apollos seem to comfortably fit (Manson, 1951:167-172). The book of Hebrews does not have all the usual hallmarks of a letter (Doty, in Lane, 1991:lxx), it is a sermon, a 'word of exhortation' although chapter 13 makes it look more like a letter. It was probably written after Paul's death and before the fall of Jerusalem: the temple in Jerusalem was still around (for instance Hebrews 10:1-3), the eschatological expectations were still quite immediate (Hebrews 1:2), and there is a solitary reference to Timothy (Hebrews 13:23). The reference to persecutions in Hebrews 10:32 are probably to the Edict of Claudius, which expelled Christians from Rome in AD 49, the persecution under Nero after the great fire of Rome in AD 64 must have started at the time of writing (Lane, 1991:lx-lxvi), and quite likely Hebrews was directed to Christians around Rome (being greeted by their countrymen abroad in Hebrews 13:24, see Lane, 1991:li-lx, Guthrie, 1988:27). It is addressed at those in the dispersion, this doesn't necessarily mean Jews, because of the general persecutions around that time. The author is very eloquent, seems to know his audience (Hebrews 5:11, 6:9-10, 10:34, 13:17-24) who seem to be (Hellenistic — Lane, 1991:xlix) Jewish Christians (Guthrie, 1988:38). The Old Testament is often referenced, mainly the Pentateuch, but also the Psalms and the Prophets. The passage of Hebrews 1:1-4 is about God's revelation through the Son and Hebrews 2:5-18 describes the humiliation and glory of Jesus and His work on man's behalf (Guthrie, 1988:58).

Topics for comparison

The Father

The passages of both Colossians and Hebrews start with the Father, Colossians Paul mentions giving thanks to the Father because he provided our qualification to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light by rescuing us out of the authority of the darkness and translating us into the reign of the Son of His love (Colossians 1:12). Out of darkness fits in with the inheritance being in the light, and the Son of His love alludes to Jesus' baptism where God pronounces Him His beloved Son —the promised king— but even more to the Son as the true and faithful Israel (conform Hosea 11:1). In Hebrews thanksgiving only appears in the final chapter, but it plainly starts off saying that God of old many times in many ways spoke to the fathers through the prophets. This stresses both the continuity of what the Father does —speaking, revealing Himself— and the discontinuity of speaking through the prophets and the new way He starts in expressing Himself in Jesus (Hebrews 1:1-2).

The relationship between the Father and the Son

Both Colossians and Hebrews move towards the Son in the second verses of the passages, and both state that the Son is somehow reflecting the Father. Colossians says the Son is the image (eikwn) of the invisible God, reflecting the reality of the Father in heaven in His incarnation; image here is not solely visual, but in the sense of a representation, likeness. Hebrews says that He is the impress (carakthr: engraving, copy) of his subsistence (upostasiV: foundation, substance, person) (Hebrews 1:3), using a more tactile simile. Subtle differences apart, these phrases are referring to the same truth: Jesus is embodying the Father. This is also consistent with Hebrews 1:2 when it reads that the Father spoke in His Son —acoustic/verbal representation— in these last days and appointed Him as heir —legal representation— of all things. Colossians proceeds (Colossians 1:19-20) to express God's sovereign initiative in the incarnation and propitiation by stating that it pleased the Fullness —God— to tabernacle in the Son and to reconcile all things (ta panta) —upon earth and in the heavens— to Himself through the Son. This thought is echoed in Colossians 1:13 where it says that is is the Father who transferred us into the Son's reign. Hebrews emphasises the grace of God over His sovereignty in submitting that Jesus might taste death for everyone (uper pantoV) by God's grace (Hebrews 2:9). It is interesting how the passages in both letters are open to universalistic interpretations of redemption, and how esoteric interpretations can arise on account of 'in the heavens'. Of course there is much in each letter to limit and qualify such boundless interpretations, so the verses can best be taken to express God's unlimited sovereignty and grace. Furthermore, Hebrews mentions that (Hebrews 1:2) the Father made the ages or worlds through the Son —to be discussed under Creation— and that finally the Son has sat down —in contrast with the high priest who had to stand in God's presence— at the right hand of the Greatness in the highest (Hebrews 1:3) — this is not revealed in Colossians at all. Then there are several quotes from the Old Testament in Hebrews (Hebrews 2:6-8,12-13) that all relate to the Son of Man (Psalm 8:4-6, 22:22, 18:2b, Isaiah 8:18), not too explicitly referring to the Messiah, but therefore more effectively expressing both the incarnation and the substitution.

The Son

Colossians 1:18 states the primacy of the Son: head of the assembly and the firstborn out of the dead, and verse 20 that He is the peacemaker through the blood of His cross. Verse 18 is the pivoting point where the Son is described in terms of the new creation, whereas before He is the creator (Colossians 1:15-17). In Hebrews the ideas of the Son's primacy can be found in His relationship with the Father, in His role in creation, and in His position relative to the angels — there is a lot more material on the Son in these passages of Hebrews compared to the passage in Colossians. Although He was made a little less than angels (Hebrews 2:9) because He had to die — Hebrews 1:4 testifies that He became so much better and received a more excellent name. This is Hebrews' champion-theme — bringing many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10, see also Lane, 1991:55-67). This glory is the same as in verse 9, and also found in Psalm 8:5b, it testifies that Jesus' death was according to God's plans, and that there is a sublime destination for the saints, to be transformed into His likeness, able to receive crowns.

Creation

With respect to creation, Colossian makes it clear that the Son became first (Colossians 1:18): He created all things (Colossians 1:16) —including angelic beings— and all consist in Him, He is before all (Colossians 1:17), firstborn (Colossians 1:15). The list of types of spiritual beings in verse 16 is one of the more comprehensive ones in the Bible, and suggests that these were known to the Colossian Christians. Hebrews describes God making the ages or worlds (Hebrews 1:2) through the Son —who upholds all by the might of His saying (Hebrews 1:3)— but stresses foremost that all is by and for Him (Hebrews 2:10) and all is made subject to Him (Hebrews 2:6-8) — although we do not see it at the moment (Hebrews 2:8), a sobering realistic statement... Colossians overall is written more from the viewpoint of realized eschatology, supporting the earlier dating of the letter.

Angels and the Devil

Colossians stresses the creation of all kinds of angelic beings —probably known names to the addressees— by the Son. Hebrews does not unambiguously state such, but emphasises in many verses that the Son is better and more exalted (Hebrews 1:4) than angels —although temporary a little lower because He had to die (Hebrews 2:9)— and that angels will not rule the future (Hebrews 2:5) because God has humankind on His mind (Hebrews 2:6-8,16). Colossians 1:13 says that the Father rescued us from the authority of darkness, the Devil is nowhere mentioned as such. Hebrews 2:14 states that the Devil has power over death and that the Son through His death will destroy the Devil (Revelation 20:10).

Saints & Salvation

It is interesting that much of salvation is attributed to the Father in Colossians, this is not found in Hebrews except the faint foreshadowing in the quote from Isaiah 8:18 in Hebrews 2:13. Hebrews has Jesus squarely as the author of salvation, perfecting us through suffering (Hebrews 2:10), sanctifying and yet identifying with the saints — calling them brethren (Hebrews 1:11). They are all of one, which can have several fitting meanings, natural —of Adam— or spiritual — of the Father. Hebrews 2:14 makes the natural meaning more likely: partaking in flesh and blood. Colossians ascribes our redemption more to Jesus' blood (Colossians 1:14,20) which brings the forgiveness of sins, while Hebrews stresses the —sufferings of— death of the Son (Hebrews 2:9-10) that delivers us from bondage (Hebrews 2:15). In Hebrews 2:18 suffering is mentioned again, here in connection with temptation: here he can help those who are tempted — Jesus seems to be more on the same level with the saints.

Conclusions

Colossians emphasises the Father's sovereignty and realized eschatology, Hebrews more His grace and the unfulfilled state of the world. In Colossians in general the Father is thanked more than in the whole of Hebrew, where this is mentioned only once. Hebrews has far more quotations from the Old Testament and also more on Jesus' role. Colossians presents the Son as the creator of all angelic beings, Hebrews stresses Jesus' dominion over them, also eventually destroying the Devil. The Father is attributed a more direct role in the work of salvation in Colossians, as opposed to Hebrews' focus on Jesus as being more on our level, functioning as a high priest for us in offering up Himself unto the sufferings of death. Both have the Son representing the Father, and a wide formulation of redemption.

Relevance of the passages from Hebrews to Mahayana Buddhists

Reading through Hebrews 1:1-4, the first striking word is God: of course formally Buddhists are not concerned with God, the Buddhist pursuit does not deal with God, the ultimate goal is to escape the cycle of rebirths, but who is behind it, who designed the system is of no consequence. But to conceive of a creator-God —an ultimate being— is not hard, and the Buddha never said that there was no God — contrary to popular understanding. The idea that God spoke to the ancestors through selected people fits in well with Buddhist tradition — all religions rely on revelation delivered through human agents. The main message is about the Son, appointed as heir of all, obtaining dominion —becoming Lord— of all, and through whom God also made the ages — or worlds. The Buddha never addressed creation —not even when asked— because that knowledge was not deemed necessary and he did not know, but the idea of several worlds or ages existing is not exotic to Buddhism. The claim that here is a message from that Creator or that Son is quite bold, but also intriguing. Everything that is said about the Son in verses 3-4 is not inordinate: being glorious, representing the God of old, upholding all things through the saying of His might —not unexpected if being the agent of creation— sitting at the right hand of that great God, being higher than any other angelic being — all except for the reference to sin. Sin would be understood as deeds causing bad karma, or more specifically Buddhist: keeping one in ignorance, lust and hate. How even the most powerful being could change the immutable laws of the universe —karma: cause and effect— and cleanse people —us!?— from bad karma is inconceivable — too good to be true. At this point it would be worth expanding on how this works, like is done in Hebrews 2:9-18, but also verses 5-8 are not entirely unhelpful, as they focus on the importance of humanity over angels — this conforms to the teaching of Buddha that for salvation the state of being human is best, better even than being a god (as in verse 16). In verse 9 it explains that by God's grace Jesus' death may count for all; the concept of grace is quite naturally understood but more difficult to apply to God, because it seems to defy righteousness to a mind used to the inherent justice of karma law. It is here that a more detailed explanation of Jesus' identification both with the Creator and with humankind —supported by verses 10-13— that enables Jesus to annul the power of sin. Besides that, Jesus' suffering in verses 9-10 needs to be addressed, because —overcoming— suffering is the whole focus of the Buddha's teaching, and it is quite a paradigm shift to view suffering in a more positive light, although the concept of vicarious suffering of God can be easily grasped within the Bodhisattva tradition — sacrificing personal gains for the salvation of many. Verses 14-16 introduce the Devil as binding people in fear, and this is less problematic than it may seem — not only are evil beings part of many folk traditions, also the Buddha himself had to battle with Mara —represented by a serpent— in order to attain enlightenment. The ontology of evil developed substantially from intertestamental times onwards, and not all of this has found its way into the Buddhist mindset, so some teaching on bondage —verses 15 and 18— is profitable. Verse 17 helps explaining that the propitiation for sins has been done through Jesus, no other sacrifice is needed — He is our offering Himself as the ultimate High Priest.

Bibliography

Arnold, C.E. (1996) The Colossian Syncretism, The Interface between Christianity and Folk Belief at Colossae (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

Ellingworth, P. (1993) The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Lane, W.L. (1991) Hebrews 1-8 (Dallas: Word).

Manson, W. (1951) The Epistle to the Hebrews (London: Hodder & Stoughton).

Meyers, R. (2003) 'e-Sword 7.0.5 ' at <http://www.e-sword.net>, November 2003.

O'Brien, P.T. (1987) Colossians, Philemon (Milton Keynes: Word).

Schweizer, E. (1982) Colossians (London: SPCK).

Wright, N.T. (1986) Colossians and Philemon (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).


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