Colossians was written during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome. Multiple sources list a variety of dates within the timeframe of 57-64 AD. Paul was under house arrest for two years in Rome, and shortly after that time period, he was martyred.
Paul was under house arrest in Rome for approximately two years. During this time, he wrote the “Prison Letters” to Colossae, Ephesus, Philippi, and Philemon. Upon delivery of the letter, Tychicus shared the state of Paul’s imprisonment with them.
Colossae was located in the Lycus valley, once an important town along the great East-West trade route in Asia Minor. Centuries later, during the time period of this letter, it was no longer flourishing as grandly but still a market city. Christians there were mostly Gentiles.
The recipients of the letter were the congregates of Christian church Epaphras had planted in Colossae. Assigned by Paul to preach to the Gentiles in the Lycus Valley, the church he founded at Colossae was well known.
Main Theme and Purpose of Colossians
The main purpose of Paul’s Letter to the Colossians was to address the heresy (false teaching) Epaphras reported back to Paul while he was in Rome. “Colossian heresy was a mixture of an extreme form of Judaism and an early state of Gnosticism.” (NIVSB) Specifically, to speak against conflicting elements of Christianity with Oriental mysticism and asceticism. Additionally, they were being falsely advised to believe angel worship would add to their faith.
The doctrinal part of Paul’s letter (Chapters 1-2) warns the Colossians from being drawn away from Christ. Paul ensured the church that everything they needed is found in Jesus, and Jesus alone. Other teachers of biblical law were adding to the gospel, and in his letter, Paul brought them back to the essential gospel principles.
The practical part of Paul’s letter defines Christian character and boldly instructs them on how to live out their faith in Christ. Christians prominently guided by Judaism sought to overthrow the church at Colossae by impressing specific elements of their teachings: circumcision, the Law, and special seasons. Paul’s letter was meant to clarify and emphasize once more their freedom from the Law through their baptism in Christ, and to strike down the proposed necessity to worship/fear anyone but the Lord. “It is to set Christ forward, in this way, as Head over all creation as very God, and out of His relation to the church and to the universe to develop the Christian life, that they apostle writes.”