We recently began a class study of Paul’s letter “to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are of Colossae” (Col. 1:2) in our local congregation. Knowing somewhat of the geographical setting helps one to enter the biblical world as the text is studied.
Colossae (also spelled Colosse) was a city in the Roman province of Asia, located in the Lycus River Valley about 100 miles east of Ephesus. It was situated near the cities of Hierapolis and Laodicea (see map here).
I took a group to biblical sites in Greece/Turkey this past October, and Colossae was included on our itinerary.
During the Persian period, Colossae was a prosperous city, but by the time of the 1st century, it declined in importance, being eclipsed by Laodicea and Hierapolis. “Though commercially less successful, Colossae continued to be a place of importance in the Roman imperial period, as is shown by an inscription of this time and by second and third century A.D. coins that depict the usual city officials, showing that it had the rights of a city under the Romans” (Mare, W. H. (1976). “Archaeological Prospects at Colossae.” The Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin, 7, 43).
Back in 2006, Ferrell Jenkins and I made a personal study trip that included this site. Here is a photo from that occasion, giving a more distant shot than that above.
Unlike many of the recipients of Paul’s letters, Paul had not personally established the Colossian church, but apparently those who learned the truth of the Gospel during Paul’s stay at Ephesus (Acts 19:10), had taught and converted the Colossians.
Further, a comparative reading of Colossians with the personal letter to Philemon will show that Philemon was a Colossian also, so in reality two of the New Testament books were directed initially to this location.
- Both letters were written when Paul was in chains.
- Timothy joined Paul in both.
- Epaphras, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas & Luke joined in salutations.
- Onesimus was one of the messengers by whom Colossians was sent.
- Archippus is addressed in both.
Colossae has not been excavated as of yet. Click on photos for larger view.