Robert M. Royalty, «Dwelling on Visions.On the Nature of the so-called ‘Colossians Heresy’», Vol. 83 (2002) 329-357
This paper argues that Revelation provides a social-historical, theological, and ideological context for the reconstruction of the Colossian opposition. The proposal is that the author of the Apocalypse arrived in Asia after the Jewish-Roman war; his "dwelling on visions" and prophetic activity challenged the emerging hierarchy within the churches, provoking a response in Paul’s name from the church leadership. Correspondences and parallels between the description of the opposition in Colossians and Revelation are developed exegetically, showing that eschatology and Christology were key issues in the dispute. This paper reexamines the heresiological rhetoric of Colossians, raising methodological questions about other scholarly reconstructions of the opposition as non-Christian.
For almost 120 years, reconstruction of the Colossian opposition has focused on sources outside the NT1. Lightfoot drew on the Gnostic and Second Temple Jewish texts available at the time2. Dibelius’ Gnostic proposal brought Apuleius’ Metamorphoses and the inscriptions from the Apollo sanctuary at Claros to bear on the problem 3, while Bornkamm’s reformulation of the Gnostic proposal as Jewish Gnosticism included comparisons to the Book of Elchasai and the Pseudo-Clementines4. In keeping with this trend, the discoveries of the Nag Hammadi and Qumran texts fueled new proposals for the Colossian opponents as either Gnostic, Jewish Gnostic, or "purely" Jewish5. Recent proposals have focused on