Colossians: Chiastic Structure of 1:3- 2:5

Paul arranges the introduction to his epistle to the Colossians chiastically:

A: Thanksgiving for good report – Paul absent yet represented through Epaphras (1:3-8)

B: Prayer for Colossian’s growth in Christ (1:9-14)

C: Creation and new creation in Christ (1:15-20)

C’: New Creation in Colassae (1:21-23)

B’: Paul ministering for Colossian’s maturity in Christ (1:24- 2:3)

A’: Warning against deception – Paul absent in body yet present in spirit (2:4-5)

Bookending the section is the fact that, though Paul is not physically present with them and has not met them, he longs to be with them, and his co-laborer, Epaphras, is representing him. He begins (A) by giving thanks for the good report from Epaphras, and ends (A’) warning about dangers that could lead them away from their good beginning. He does not want his absence from them to discourage the young church or to take away from his apostolic authority.

Paul prays (B) that they will grow in their knowledge of God, and then shows (B’) how his ministry is for the goal of their maturity in Christ. The Colossian’s growth into full maturity forms the driving goal of the epistle (see also 2:8-10.)

And, central to the section is Paul’s Christ hymn (C) exalting Jesus as captain of creation and new creation, and (C’) Jesus’ new creation in Colossae. This is the basis and center for Paul’s argument throughout the letter: The world has died and been reborn in Christ, and the Colossians likewise have been made new in him. Paul’s goal of their maturity finds its basis here explicitly in 1:22 when he states that they were reconciled in order that Christ might present them “holy and blameless and above reproach,” if they persevere.

Notes on TNE, pt. 2: Language of Visual Appearance

 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.

In chapter one of Through New Eyes, James Jordan discusses how we are to interpret the world design as presented in the Bible. When readers today approach the Bible, we do say in a very modern and scientific way. We are trained to look at the world through the eyes of science; so when we talk about animals, we think of different species; when we talk about the stars, we think of what they are made of. But the Bible talks about animals that are clean and unclean, creeping animals and sea creatures. When the Bible talks about stars, we find that they are made to mark seasons and festivals, and to represent rulers and powers. Where we are used to thinking in a scientific worldview, the Bible speaks of the world in a different way all together. Jordan calls it the language of visual appearance.

We especially find the language of visual appearance used in Genesis 1. The Bible shows us that God has vested his creation with symbolism. Jordan lists two things this language accomplishes:

  • First, “…it gives a true description of the world as it is.” (pg. 12) That is to say, while the language is poetic and symbolic, it is not merely poetic and symbolic.
  • Second, “…the language of visual appearance in Genesis 1 serves to establish a visual grid, a worldview.” (pg. 12)Genesis 1 sets up the symbolic grid that carries through the rest of Holy Scripture.

Later, Jordan gives six imporules for interpretation:

  1. “…Biblical symbolism and imagery is not a code.”
  2. “…Biblical symbols do not exist in isolation.”
  3. “…we must always have clear-cut Biblical indication for any symbol or image we think we have found.”
  4. “…the heritage of the Church in systematic theology and in the history of exegesis is always a check on wild speculation.”
  5. “…Biblical symbolism must be interpreted in terms of Biblical presuppositions and philosophy.”
  6. “…the student of Biblical imagery must be alert to the work of other scholars.”

This is not to say that Genesis is not a literal, historical account. If the creation account were not literal, in fact, this symbolism would be relativized and weakened. Genesis is symbolic, typological, and poetic, but not merely so. It is also poetic. It’s the modern scientific mind that feels the need to separate the symbolic and the historical.

The purpose of the word is to reveal God. Man, the animals, the heavens and earth, the seas and mountains, are all pointers that reveal God and his truth. To understand this, we have to learn the language of visual appearance.

Language of Imagery

The Bible is not written in terms of modern science or philosophy. To a great extent, the Bible is written in the pregnant language of imagery. Genesis 1 describes the creation of the world in the language of appearance, and this sets up for us a visual, worldview grid. The world and its contents are not a bunch of random facts but were created with a design and purpose. The world and all that it contains were made, in part, as pointers to God. Thus, in some sense they “symbolize” God’s attributes to us. Because of sin, we tend not to see this, and our worldview is askew. The Bible, however, will help us see God’s world through new eyes.

– James B. Jordan, Through New Eyes, p. 17.

The Totus Christus Hermeneutic of St. Augustine

Central to the hermeneutic of St. Augustine is what is known as the totus Christus hermeneutic, the hermeneutical principle that understands Sacred Scripture to be speaking of the whole Christ, head and body, Jesus and the Church. Thus, the Bible is both Christocentric and ecclesiocentric. He summarizes here:

… knowing as we do that the head and the body- that is, Christ and His Church- are sometimes indicated to us under one person (for it is not in vain that it is said to believers, You then are Abraham’s seed [Gal. 3:29], when there is but one seed of Abraham, and that is Christ), we need be in a difficulty when a transition is made from the head to the body or from the body to the head, and yet no change made in the person spoken of. For a single person is represented as saying, He has decked me as a bridegroom with ornaments, and adorned me as a bride with jewels and yet it is, of course, a matter for interpretation which of these two refers to the head and which to the body, that is, which to Christ and which to the Church.

-St. Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, 3.31.44 (as quoted in Peter J. Leithart, Deep Exegesis)

Saint Augustine in His Study, Sandro Boticelli

Saint Augustine in His Study, Sandro Boticelli

So, when you read of Yahweh’s chosen servant in Isaiah, you are definitely reading about Jesus of Nazareth. Yet Paul, preaching in Antioch of Pisidia, can quote Isaiah 49:6 where Yahweh tells his servant Jesus “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth” and say “…so the Lord has commanded us.” (Acts. 13:47) The Christ spoken of by Isaiah and Paul is the whole Christ, head and body. The Church is brought through baptism into union with Jesus, and thus becomes members of Christ. In his death, we die; in his resurrection, we are raised (Rom. 6.) We are called as disciples, then, to live cross-shaped lives of self-giving, and to bring the reality of the resurrection to bear on the world.

In Peter J. Leithart’s important work, Deep Exegesis: The Mystery of Reading Scripturehe suggests that the “breakdown of this Augustinian hermeneutical principle has been one of the main sources of interpretive confusion among Protestants.” (p.174.) Some only see Jesus in the text, and thus allow no direct application to the Christian life. Others only find moral lessons and rule out any possibility of christological typology. A recovery of the totus Christus, however, will lead us to find our practical tropology flowing out of the christological typology. Indeed, when we see the whole Christ in the text, we learn to read like St. Paul and like Jesus.

Saint Stephen’s Day

The Collect

Grant, O Lord, that, in all our sufferings here upon earth for the testimony of thy truth, we may steadfastly look up to heaven, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and, being filled holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless our persecutors by the example of they first Martyr Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers to thee, O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right hand of God to succour all those that suffer for thee, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen

Epistle

But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.