captivity epistles


captivity epistles
Traditionally the letters to the Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, and Ephesians; they are grouped together because they all mention Paul's current imprisonment. But where was the prison? It is probable that the first three of these epistles were written in Paul's relatively relaxed regime in prison at Rome (Acts 28:30 f.), but it is all too likely that this final imprisonment was not the only one (cf. 2 Cor. 6:5), and accordingly some modern scholars have argued for their composition at Caesarea or at Ephesus. For the former suggestion, there is little or no evidence; it is just that it is perfectly possible. For Ephesus, there is support from 1 Cor. 15:32: ‘I fought with wild animals at Ephesus’—but this is not a reliable support, since from such an ordeal in the amphitheatre Paul would hardly have survived. The words are surely metaphorical, and refer to human opposition. Probably therefore these three epistles were written in Rome about 58–60 CE, and then the references to the praetorian guard (Phil. 1:13) and Caesar's household (Phil. 4:22) are natural enough, though admittedly it would not be impossible to associate them with Ephesus. The letter was presumably taken to Philippi by Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25) as a visible reassurance that he had recovered from his illness (2:26). The journeys required for these exchanges might have taken some four months, but such a delay does not rule out the Roman hypothesis. The distance on the other hand from Colossae to Rome, and so the problem of the journeys of Onesimus, the absconding slave, give Ephesus more plausibility as the place of composition for the epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon; but the advanced theological thought of Col. argues a late, i.e. Roman, date for these two epistles.
There is a fairly wide agreement that the epistle to the Ephesians comes from the Pauline circle rather than from Paul himself. The Church is predominantly gentile [[➝ Gentiles]] (Eph. 2:11–22), and this composition is accepted without having to defend it against Jewish Christian opposition, as in earlier days; and the Church has received a structure of leadership and administration (Eph. 4:8–12) rather different from the looser conglomeration of diverse gifts which threatened anarchy at Corinth (1 Cor. 12).

Dictionary of the Bible.

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