Col. 1:15

Paul, Imperial Situation, and Visualization in the Epistle to the Colossians
Michael Hardt and
Antonio Negri,
Empire. Cambridge,
Mass.: Harvard University
Press, 2000.
“Empire is materializing before
our very eyes. Over the past
several decades, as colonial
regimes were overthrown and
then precipitously after the
Soviet barriers to the capitalist
world market finally collapsed,
we have witnessed an
irresistible and irreversible
globalization of economic and
cultural exchanges.” (p. xi)
“.... critical biblical study is always
conducted in the ‘reality of empire -- an
omnipresent, inescapable, and
overwhelming sociopolitical reality.”
Fernando Segovia, “Biblical Criticism and
Postcolonial Studies,” p. 86.
“Christianity was the product of
Richard Horsley, p. 1.
Paul’s Gospel was
-political in orientation
-exposed the violence of Roman rule
-opposed the imperial cult
-suffered persecution for its anti-Roman stance
-assaulted Rome with a counter-imperial worship of God in
Pax Romana = Pax Americana
Rhetorical Situation:
“A complex of persons, events, objects, and
relations presenting an actual or potential
exigence which can be completely or partially
removed if discourse, introduced into the
situation, can so constrain human decision or
action as to bring about the significant
modification of the exigence.”
Lloyd Bitzer, “The Rhetorical Situation,”
Philosophy and Rhetoric 1 (1968): 1–18, p. 3
Imperial Situation:
An imperial situation describes the use of evocative and vivid imagery drawn from
imperial and/or civic discourse to represent listeners as participants in,
beneficiaries of, or living the consequences arising from the reign of God and
or/Christ represented as a universal rule.
With the help of imperial language and imagery listeners are made to visualize
themselves as actors on an imperial looking stage and in an imperial looking drama
whose circumstances and outcomes could be witnessed and were experienced
ubiquitously in imperial iconography, whether that took the form of coins,
monuments, household furniture, frescos, games, civic liturgies, processions,
placards, mimes, or any other of the multiple forms of visual media whose aim was
to convince audiences of or offered them avenues to champion the benefits of
Roman rule and the divinely sanctioned position of Rome and its allies as rulers of
the world.
Imperial language and imagery represented a shared vocabulary and mindset both
writer and audience relied upon to communicate and understand religious claims
of emergent Pauline Christianity.
Its usage fulfilled a precondition of ekphrastic or vivid speech, that the ideal
speaker was to place a picture of the declaimed upon topic before listeners’ eyes,
and that that picture draw upon shared experience in order to achieve its full effect.
Texts that Represent the Audiences of Colossians in an
Imperial Situation
Col. 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and
Timothy our brother,
Col. 1:2 ¶ To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ at Colossae:
¶ Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
Col. 1:3 ¶ We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
when we pray for you,
Col. 1:4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of
the love which you have for all the saints,
Col. 1:5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you
have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel
Col. 1:6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is
bearing fruit and growing — so among yourselves, from the day you
heard and understood the grace of God in truth,
Col. 1:7 as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant.
He is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf
Col. 1:8 and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
Col. 1:13 He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the
kingdom of his beloved Son,
Col. 1:14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Col. 1:15 ¶ He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation;
Col. 1:16 for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities — all things were created
through him and for him.
Col. 1:17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Col. 1:18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the
dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent.
Col. 1:19 For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell,
Col. 1:20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven,
making peace by the blood of his cross.
Col. 1:21 ¶ And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,
Col. 1:22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy
and blameless and irreproachable before him,
Col. 1:23 provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the
hope of the gospel which you heard, which has been preached to every creature under
heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Col. 2:15 He disarmed the principalities and
powers and made a public example of them,
triumphing over them in him (RSV).
Having stripped himself, he made a bold public
exposure of the principalities and rulers,
triumphing over them in it (the cross).
--Roy Yates, “Colossians 2:15: Christ Triumphant,” NTS 37 (1991):
Col. 2:15 a)pekdusa&menoj ta_j a)rxa_j kai\
ta_j e0cousi/aj £ e0deigma&tisen e0n
parrhsi/a|, qriambeu&saj au)tou_j e0n
Col. 3:5 ¶ Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication,
impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Col. 3:6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming.
Col. 3:7 In these you once walked, when you lived in them.
Col. 3:8 But now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and
foul talk from your mouth.
Col. 3:9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old
nature with its practices
Col. 3:10 and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in
knowledge after the image of its creator.
Col. 3:11 Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and
uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all,
and in all.
Col. 3:12 ¶ Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience,
Col. 3:13 forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against
another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you
also must forgive.
Col. 3:14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything
together in perfect harmony.
Col. 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which
indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.
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