Monday, August 31, 2009

Quote of the Day

Last night I was reading through Doug Moo's excellent commentary The Letters to The Colossians and to Philemon, particularly his discussion on the so-called Christ hymn of Col. 1.15-20. What caught my attention in particular was his exegesis of Colossians 1:17-"He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (TNIV); καὶ αὐτός ἐστιν πρὸ πάντων καὶ τὰ πάντα ἐν αὐτῷ συνέστηκεν, (Gk).

Moo is worth quoting in full here:

The hymn thus far has focused in Christ's role at the beginning ("in him," "through him," "before all things") and at the end ("for him") of creation. Now the focus turns to the present role of Christ in creation: in him all things hold together (italics original). The verb here (synestēken, from synistēmi) means in this context, "hold together," "cohere," and the use of the perfect tense suggests a stative idea: the universe owes its continuing coherence to Christ. This concept has analogies in the wisdom/word tradition, which, in turn, is probably reflecting certain Platonic and Stoic emphases about the cohesion of the universe. Again, however, the idea that an aspect of God's character or immaterial concept holds the universe together is a far cry from the startling claim that a man who had recently lived and been crucified by the Romans was the one in whom all things are held together. What holds the universe together is not an idea or a virtue, but a person: the resurrected Christ. Without him electrons would not continue to circle nuclei, gravity would cease to work, the planets would not stay in their orbits. As is true of every line in this "hymn," there is particular application to the Colossian Christians, who were perhaps being tempted to find coherence by pursuing other religious options in their context. In response, Paul wants them to understand that things make sense only when Christ is kept at the center" (emphasis mine; pp.125-126).


Sean said...

Great quote. Reminds me of this one,
The Colossian hymn professes that Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God – God’s Son in whom all things were created, in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through whom all things were reconciled to God. How within fifty years (at the latest) did Christians come to believe that about a Galilean preacher who was crucified as a criminal?
Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, pg. 617

Matthew D. Montonini said...

Hey, Sean.

Great quote and indeed reminiscent!