Colossae (Honaz) Col. 1:2
Along a main inland road from Ephesus to the Euphrates River,
Colossae shared the beauty of
the Lycus Valley with its sister cities: Hierapolis (12 miles
northwest) and Laodicea (12 miles west). The original roads from
Ephesus and Sardis joined there, and this defensible and
well-watered hill became a strategic point in antiquity.
Declining in importance by the time of St. Pauls Epistle to them, they had already been surpassed in size by the other Lycus Valley cities. Strabo lists Colossae with smaller villages, not with major cities. The city received an Epistle because of the unique and insidious errors taking hold there, not because of its size. The site is abandoned today, near the village of Honaz.
By the C5BCE, Herodotus noted the large city of Phrygia. The center of a large and prosperous textile and wool industry, Xenophon remarked this was a well populated city, large and wealthy. The dark red wool from the region took the special name colossinium. The attraction of wealth and industry brought together a mix of Jews, Phrygians, and Greek traders.
This combination no doubt helps the modern reader of Colossians account for the variety of philosophies addressed in the corrective Epistle.
The gospel probably arrived in Colossae with St. Pauls preaching in Ephesus (cp. Acts 19:10) on the third journey. Perhaps Epaphras, the Lycus Valleys own evangelist heard St. Paul at Ephesus and returned with the message. It is impossible to know for sure, but it seems as though St. Paul had not yet visited at the time of the writing of the Epistle to the Colossians. Philemon and his slave Onesimus apparently were both natives of Colossae.
The omission of any reference by St. Paul to the great earthquake of 60 CE, causes many scholars to believe St. Paul had not yet heard the news, or the Epistle predates the quake (Tacitus records the quake, Annals 14.27). Epaphras visited St. Paul during his house arrest, and brought news of the Lycus Valley to St. Paul, refreshing him during the imprisonment.
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