Greetings in stone: Shifting the accent from papyri to epigraphy in Colossians 4:15–17

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The greetings section of the Pauline corpus have become increasingly surveyed since Jeff Weima’s ground-breaking monograph published in 1994. The study of the salutations has relied on two main points of intersection — an infra-comparative analysis based on the canonical Pauline corpus, and an inter-comparative investigation based on the thousands of letters surviving on papyri and ostraka, mainly from Egypt, with some Judean additions and a minuscule number fortuitously preserved on lead or wood from various locations. The first approach is problematic because of a tendency to homogenize the greetings sections of letters, even though Weima had noted that for all of the structural similarity, “the apostle regularly shapes and adapts his letter closings.” The letter to the Colossians stands out as an example of distinctive emphasis. Questions of pseudepigraphy aside, the instructions for the synoiketic reading of two letters plus an enigmatic instruction to Archippos are unique in the Pauline corpus. Here I want to hone in on the valuable assistance that epigraphy can deliver. It is, I hope, a fitting tribute to Jim Harrison whose gentle yet assiduous scholarship has for decades sought to gain bread from stones. I lay a foundation in the particularity of Col 4:15–17, move to the wider context of the inter-polis tensions that operated in the Lycus Valley once Colossae lost its hegemony over the entire area in the Hellenistic to early Roman period, and then examine how some inscriptions that record greetings and their delivery might contribute to an understanding of this small sub-section of the letter to the Colossians.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGod's grace inscribed on the human heart
Subtitle of host publicationEssays in honour of James R. Harrison
EditorsPeter G. Bolt, Sehyun Kim
Place of PublicationMacquarie Centre
PublisherSCD Press
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781925730340
ISBN (Print)9781925730333
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

NameEarly Christian Studies


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