Monday, November 26, 2007

Vintage Fee: Reflections on Colossians 2:2-3

Colossians 2:2-3: "My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."(NIV)

Very rarely is one persuaded to reflect and worship when reading an exegetical study, but that was exactly what happened when I was in the middle of reviewing Gordon Fee's magisterial Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Study. Some of you may wince at the above statement, but often scholarly work never penetrates more than the intellect. It is rare to find a world-class exegete that can move your heart as well, but this is exactly what Fee accomplishes throughout this study and especially in this moment of brilliance concerning Colossians 2:2-3:

...Even though most of Paul's concern from this point on is with Christ as Redeemer, he has felt compelled at the beginning to present Christ as fully divine: preexistent, Creator, the one in whom all the fullness of the Deity dwells, and the ultimate revealer of the 'mystery' of God. And all of this, apparently, is to deforck the powers and divest them of whatever hold they may have on the Colossian believers.... (And now for the good stuff !)

And this calls for a final word. One of the tragedies of this kind of exegetical exercise occurs if we focus on the 'meaning' of the passage and thus lose the Pauline focus altogether, which is on the utter greatness and glory of Christ. In trying to 'get it right' with regard to what Paul says, we are in constant danger of 'getting it wrong' as to why he says it at all--the ever-present danger of doing with this grand passage what Jesus castigated the Pharisees for doing with the law: to turn from worship and adoration to fine-tuning our exegesis and thus never returning to worship and adoration. To do that, I would argue, would in the end defeat the Christology altogether. We simply have not entered into an understanding of Paul's understanding of his Lord if we are not drawn into his absolute adoration and devotion. In the end, this passage should cause us to genuflect more than gesture (316-317).


Bryan L said...

I was listening to one of his lectures once and I started to actually tear up at one point in the lecture when he began talking about his two favorite books, Galatians and Philemon.

I remember another time reading his GEP and in a footnote he remarks about the experience of Pentecostals (who I guess generally came for a poorer class in society) and he remarked about how their experience of the Holy Spirit told them God loved them too (or something to that effect). It was powerful.

Bryan L

Matthew D. Montonini said...


I seem to recall Fee doing something like this in his Philippians commentary as well.