Watch out for whom?
: Reconstructing the historical background of Paul’s rhetoric in the letter to the Colossians

  • Adam Kyle Copenhaver

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (awarded by OU/Aberdeen)


Scholars have long debated the nature of Paul’s opponents in the book of Colossians. This thesis approaches the debate from a methodological standpoint and contends that Paul was not actually confronting active opponents when he wrote the letter. This thesis seeks to demonstrate that the challenge of reconstructing a singular opponent arises not only from the limitations of textual and historical evidence but also from the assumptions
and methodologies inherent to historical approaches to the text. By modifying these assumptions and adjusting the methodology, Paul’s letter takes on a new relationship to its historical context. Paul writes the letter to the churches in the Lycus Valley in a desire to develop their identity as a new people in Christ and to appeal to them to live a new kind of life in Christ. His warnings in Col 2 function as oppositional rhetoric contrasting the religious practices of the Lycus Valley with this new life in Christ. Paul’s warnings are therefore broadly representative of the ancient world yet focused especially on two threads of historical referents, Judaism and pagan religions. This thesis engages in
epistolary, rhetorical, and historical analysis to demonstrate how Paul uses the historical practices of these two referents to create a broad contrast between the body of Christ and the religious world of the Lycus Valley.
Date of Award14 Aug 2012
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJason Maston (Supervisor), Michael Bird (Supervisor) & Max Turner (Supervisor)

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