Place and Time of Writing


Unique Characteristics






Opening Colossians Up


Why did Paul write the letter?

Philippians focused on the body—which is the church—and Colossians focused on the head—which is Jesus.  Paul needed to use that focus because the Christians in Colossae were confronted with heresies.   But, if Paul had not visited the church, how did he hear about the situation in Colossae?  He probably had friends there. 

    At this point in his life, Paul was a very well known Christian leader.  And like any very popular person or leader, he was surrounded by many people.  So, even though he was under house arrest, his many friends still visited him, and perhaps lived with him.  He mentioned some in this letter:

·         Timothy

·         Tychicus

·         Onesimus:  He is the topic of the letter of Philemon. 

·         Aristarchus

·         Mark

·         Jesus, who is also called Justus

·         Epaphras

·         Luke

·         Demas


List of heretical ideas mentioned in Colossae

First let’s define heresy:  a belief in an idea that is counter to accepted basic beliefs of a larger system.  A short phrase for it is “false teaching.”  Heresy does not only involve Christianity, but teachings against the beliefs of a large group.  For example, Paul would say that a belief that males need to be circumcised before becoming Christian is heresy:  it is counter to the accepted basic beliefs of Christianity.

    In Colossians Paul warns the Christians about heresies:  2:8:  “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” 

    Heresies described or listed in Colossians:

·         Belief that Jesus wasn’t really physical  (we will talk more about this below in the second link)

·         Males needed to be circumcised before become Christian

·         Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead

·         People needed to follow the Law of Moses:

o    Including ideas such as what to eat or drink, which religious festivals to celebrate, and the need to only worship on the Sabbath (which was Saturday)

o    This last idea does bring up a good point:  why do Christians worship on Sunday when the 10 Commandments state to worship on Saturday?  To find out about the change in worship days, go here:

·         Worship of angels

Therefore the Colossian Christians were not dealing with one heresy, such as the Galatians were with the Judaizers, but with a variety of heresies.  Two heresies that do stand out are the Judiazers’ ideas and Gnosticism/Docetism. 

    We discussed the ideas of the Judaizers in the book of Galatians.  The idea of Gnosticism and Docetism is a bit more complicated.  To read a summary of the two, please go here: 


How to live as a Christian

·         3:2:  “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

·         3:8:  “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these:  anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.”

·         4:2:  “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”

·         4:6:  “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”





1:1-14:  Greetings and thankfulness for the Colossian Christians

1:15-23:  Description of Jesus

1:24-2:5:  Paul worked to teach Christians correct ideas

2:6-23:  Paul warned against heresies and describes false teachings.

3:1-4:6:  How to live as a Christian

4:7-18:  Final remarks


Timeline so far      Additions are boldfaced     All dates are approximate



Rome Empire conquered Israel without fighting


Julius Caesar assassinated by Brutus, Cassius, and others.  Mark Antony tries to seize power, and he and Octavian (Caesar’s nephew) fight for power.


The Roman Empire made Herod the Great king of Israel


Antony married Cleopatra in Egypt


Octavian’s forces defeated Antony and Cleopatra’s forces; they committed suicide the next year.


Octavian is given name of Augustus, becomes Augustus Caesar.  This is the beginning of Pax Romana

4 BC

Jesus born

4 BC

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus flee to Egypt because Herod the Great wanted to kill Jesus

4 BC

Herod the Great died

4 BC

After Herod the Great died, the kingdom of the Jews was divided and given to Herod’s three sons:

The northern part, north of Nazareth, went to Philip.

The middle part called Galilee, north of Jerusalem but where Nazareth was located, went to Herod Antipas.  (He is referred to as “Herod” in the Gospels and so this can be confusing.)

The southern part called Judea, where Jerusalem and Bethlehem was located, went to Herod Archelaus. 


All years after this point are AD



Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned to Nazareth instead of moving to Bethlehem


Archelaus was removed from power because he was so brutal

6 and after

The Romans did not choose another of Herod’s descendants to control Judea (southern Israel) but instead appointed Roman governors


Jesus lost in Jerusalem at age 12; Joseph and Mary found him in the Temple; possible Bar Mitzvah


Jesus probably worked as a carpenter


The Roman governor in charge of southern Israel was Pilate


Jesus baptized by John the Baptist


Jesus traveled in Israel and preached, taught, and performed miracles


1.  Jesus was crucified under the Roman governor Pilate, raises from the dead three days later and ascends out of sight about a month-and-a-half later

2.  The Apostles return to Jerusalem and pick a replacement for Judas

3.  Day of Pentecost

4.  Over 3000 people become Christian

5.  Christianity spreads outside of Israel


Peter was the leader of the Christian movement


Paul became a Christian


Paul went on his First Missionary Trip


Council of Jerusalem


We do not know what John did during this time period


Paul went on his Second Missionary Trip

·         Paul wrote Galatians


Nero was Roman emperor


Paul went on his Third Missionary Trip

·         Paul wrote Romans, and I & II Corinthians


Paul arrested in Jerusalem, taken to Rome, and lived under house arrest

·         Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians


Paul released from prison and travelled; he may have gone to Spain


Fire in Rome.  The emperor Nero blamed, persecuted, and killed many Christians.  This was the first Roman persecution of Christians. 


1.  Paul back in Rome

2.  Peter and Paul martyred around this year in Rome


Some of the Jews got tired of the Roman rule and killed many Roman soldiers.  They thus took back the land of Israel for the Jews.


The Romans counter-attacked.  The Romans lost one battle, but won the war.


Mark written around this year


The Romans captured Jerusalem and burned the Temple. 


Matthew and Luke written around this year


Domitian is Roman emperor


John and Acts written around this year


1.  Persecution of Christians

2.  John was placed on the island of Patmos as a prisoner of Domitian


1.  Domitian died

2.  John was probably released from Patmos; he probably traveled to Ephesus where he stayed for the rest of his life


John died


First listing of the 27 books in a letter written by an Egyptian bishop


Two councils “closed” the NT canon to those 27 books


NT divided into chapters


NT divided into verses



©2016 Mark Nickens All Rights Reserved


Questions/comments, contact Mark at