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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Reconstructing the Historical Background of Paulís Rhetoric in the Letter to the Colossians
Copenhaver, Adam

London: Bloomsbury, 2018 pp. xvii + 268. $114.00

Series Information
Library of New Testament Studies, 585


Description: In approaching the debate surrounding the opponents in Colossians from a methodological standpoint, Copenhaver contends that Paul was not actually confronting active opponents when he wrote the letter. Rather, Copenhaver takes the view that Paul's letter was written 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. His warnings in Colossians 2 function as oppositional rhetoric, contrasting the religious practices of the Lycus Valley with this new belief. Paul's warnings are therefore broadly representative of the ancient world, while at the same time focused especially on two threads of historical referents, Judaism and pagan religions. Development of the above argument demonstrates 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 in historical approaches to the text. By modifying these assumptions and adjusting the methodology, Copenhaver can show how Paul's letter takes on a new relationship to its historical context.

Subjects: Bible, New Testament, Deutero-Pauline Epistles, Colossians, Literature, Methods, Historical Approaches, History, Greco-Roman Period, Literary Approaches, Rhetorical Criticism

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Review by Matthew S. Collins
Published 5/2/2019
Citation: Matthew S. Collins, review of Adam Copenhaver, Reconstructing the Historical Background of Paulís Rhetoric in the Letter to the Colossians, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2019).


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