Tonight while savouring sips of Barefoot Merlot (wine maker of the year 2007!) in front of our gas fireplace, I put down one of my required readings for this year (What is Social-Scientific Criticism, by John H. Elliott)
and read through a chapter of F. C. Baur’s Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ, Volume 2.
Although I am skeptical about some of Baur’s conclusions regarding the coherence of Ephesians and Colossians (the title of the chapter is “Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians”), I felt compelled to quote the following, in which he affirms the centrality of Christology to these letters. Notice the extremes he identifies that Christ has reconciled, and then pay particular attention to why this all matters (italics added by me; from pp. 35–36):
“The central idea around which everything else revolves in [Ephesians and Colossians] is to be found in their Christology, but it is impossible to assume that the object for which they were written was the purely theoretical one of setting forth those higher views of the person of Christ. The occasion out of which they arose must have been some practical need in the circumstances of the time; and even the idea of the person of Christ is at once brought into a certain definite point of view. Christ, it is manifest, is taken here as the centre of the unity of all opposites. These opposites embrace the entire universe; heaven and earth, the visible and the invisible, and everything that exists has in Christ the basis of its existence; in him, therefore, all oppositions and distinctions disappear; even up to the highest spirit-world there is nothing that has not its hightest and absolute principle in him. This metaphysical height is sought, however, only in order to descend from it to the immediate present and its practical necessities; for here also there are opposites of which only Christ can be the reconciling and atoning unity.”
I just love when a scholar plunges his hands into the dark mud of practicality, sticks it under his nose and breathes deeply, and then hands it to you to do the same.