Re: historical setting

Carl W. Conrad (
Sun, 22 Dec 1996 07:14:36 -0600

At 6:52 PM -0600 12/21/96, Gail Froese wrote, inter alia:
>> My particular interest is in the first two chapters of Colossians and
>>in particular, Paul's use of the "stoicheia tou kosmou". In Col 2:8 Paul
>>makes it clear that he is contrasting two methodologies; one 'kata ta
>>stoicheia tou kosmou' and the other 'kata Christou'. Are these simply the
>>"ABC's" of the world (philosophical assumptions that the unconverted live
>>by) or are they a bit more concrete than that.<<

If you really want to get into the historical background of Colossians,
there are some pretty good resources right on the web. Let me first note,
however, that STOIXEIA TOU KOSMOU and KOSMOKRATWR and related expressions
in Colossians were the subject of a doctoral dissertation at Tulane
University, about 1956, by my first Greek teacher, Joe Billy McMinn, also a
one-time colleague of Carlton Winbery at New Orleans Baptist Seminary. I
imagine that dissertation is available from Ann Arbor--the U.Mich.
dissertation archives. That dissertation has surely been superseded, as
there have been exhaustive investigations into the Mystery religions of
later antiquity from all over Europe at different sites, and those volumes
have been rolling off the presses, most of them, I think,published by E.J.
Brill in Leiden. One of the better commentaries with regard to
Sitz-im-Leben on Colossians is the Semeia commentary by Lohse, published by

On the web, of particular value is the Ecole initiative, a set of articles
on various aspects of the early history of the church and of the pagan
background, each carefully written and with good bibliographies:

There's a very good article on Mithraism there, one of the more significant
elements in the background of what you're looking at. There's also an
e-text of a short book just recently published by Oxford by David Ulansey,
a Jungian investigator of arcane religious traditions, at

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR