Reading Ephesians in Dialogue with the Powers in Colossians
Vicky Balabanski (Ph.D, University of Melbourne) Rev. Dr. Vicky Balabanski is senior lecturer in New Testament at Flinders University Department of Theology and Director of Biblical Studies at the Uniting College for Leadership and Theology
Abstract: This chapter focuses on interpreting the powers in Colossians, a letter with close connections with the Letter to the Ephesians. It begins with three contemporary scenarios where the perception of the powers among indigenous Christians is contrasted with that of non-indigenous Christians. This demonstrates that any discussion of the powers is conducted in a culturally and theologically contested space. From the perspective of the positive reference to the powers in Colossians 1:16, it examines the more negative references in Colossians 1:13 and 2:15. It sets all these references against the background of Hellenistic cosmology, including the depiction of the powers in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, 1 Enoch 64:1–2, and Jude 14-15. The reference to angelic worship in Colossians 2:18 is also discussed. The chapter concludes by comparing the portrayal of the powers in Colossians and Ephesians, arguing that Western Christianity is right to emphasize the victory of Christ over all powers, but foolish to lose belief in the reality of the powers themselves.
Keywords: Powers in Colossians, Indigenous theology, Hellenistic cosmology, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, sinful angels in 1 Enoch, angelic worship, thrones, dominions, rulers and powers.