Thesis for the degree, Doctor of Philosophy, Murdoch University, 1999
Supervisor: Professor Bill Loader

Dr Patricia Turner

Title of Thesis:

Wisdom and Law in Colossians


This thesis concerns the impact of the Jewish Wisdom tradition upon the text of Col 1:3-3:4. This section of the text is chosen because it best delineates the extent of sapiential language in Colossians. The impact of Torah is also examined, especially as it concerns the identification of Christ as both Wisdom and Torah. This is accomplished by a linguistic study of the sapiential language which occurs in the epistle.

Whereas previous research had shown the influence of Jewish speculation about ‘Wisdom’ as a semi-divine being on the author’s thought, the thesis argues that this explanation needs elaboration. It points to the association between this speculation about ‘Wisdom’ and the concept of Law, such that the latter is seen as articulating what ‘Wisdom’ asks. This is accomplished by a linguistic study of the sapiential language which occurs in the epistle. Echoed terms, chiastic structures and thematic and linguistic units carry the Wisdom/Torah motif. These are brought together to show what the writer has been doing.

The thesis demonstrates that the association of Wisdom and Law informs both the author’s portrait of Jesus Christ, who is pictured as totally embodying Wisdom and its demands, and the way the author combats the additional demands being brought to bear on the readers.  In his use of wisdom language he has been employing the language in which the opponents couched their position. Furthermore, he has used these terms to build a christology which completely assimilates the tradition which the opponents had been claiming as their own. Instead he has built a solid case for Christ as the embodiment of Wisdom and Torah. The conflict behind Colossians is then explained coherently as taking place over matters of Jewish Law and the extent to which allegiance to Christ as Wisdom should free people from its demands. The opposition group appears to have engaged in a speculative form of Judaism which linked fulfilment of ritual and other demands to veneration and appeasement of angels.

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