I was reading the beginning part of 2 Chronicles where Solomon wrote his letter to Hiram, King of Tyre and saw something in the passage that give me a bit of an “aha!” moment (ever have those?). Here is part of 2 Chronicles 2:3-6 which reads:
3 Solomon sent this message to Hiram[b] king of Tyre:
“Send me cedar logs as you did for my father David when you sent him cedar to build a palace to live in. 4 Now I am about to build a temple for the Name of the LORD my God and to dedicate it to him for burning fragrant incense before him, for setting out the consecrated bread regularly, and for making burnt offerings every morning and evening and on the Sabbaths, at the New Moons and at the appointed festivals of the LORD our God. This is a lasting ordinance for Israel.
5 “The temple I am going to build will be great, because our God is greater than all other gods. 6 But who is able to build a temple for him, since the heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain him? Who then am I to build a temple for him, except as a place to burn sacrifices before him? (2010 NIV)
Now, you have to realize most of my “aha!” moments usually come a few steps behind everyone else – usually because I need to have time to think some things through – so I won’t be surprised when you all respond with “of course.” 🙂
Can you guess the connection I made yet? Well, of course! Where have we seen the following phrases before: the Sabbaths, at the New Moons and at the appointed festivals?
Exactly! In Colossians 2:16-17!! 🙂
16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (2010 NIV)
So what’s the connection? Well, not a few scholars have been talking lately about how they are realizing more and more that the background of most of Paul’s thinking isn’t all Greek/Roman/Gentile – it is mostly Jewish – the Hebrew Scriptures most often serve as the reference point for some aspect of Paul’s arguments and or teachings not Hellenistic or Roman culture per se.
With Colossians he seems to hit all the groups but I wonder if in this instance, Paul could have been thinking of this situation with the young King Solomon and could it be inferred that his thinking was not uncommon among the Hebrew people?
I see too that even Ezekiel 45:17 and a host of other passages could also been Paul’s reference points in his letter to the Colossians.
My guess is that these things were regularly practiced among the Jews and even to the point that it made the Lord sick of it all (c.f., Isa 1:14; Lam 1:14; 2:6; Hos 2:11; 9:4-6; Amos 5:21; 8:10) and though the Lord hated that they had become something other than what they were intended to be: expressions of their relationship with HIM – they persisted in them and put others down who did not practice them too, hence the reference in Colossians.
I fully realize that Paul would have been referencing or quoting the LXX most of the time, since it was the version or translation of the OT he probably read most often, but I think that may not be too relevant here. The point is Paul had to encourage and exhort the Colossians not to let that kind of thing bother them – relationship to God is now expressed through faith not through religious practice per se.
So, perhaps the people bothering the Colossian Christians weren’t just the Roman pagans but also the Jews and Judaizers. Wait, well that’s obvious isn’t it? I mean, we all knew that already – the first century Christians were persecuted by both the Jews and the Roman pagans.
Well, it was a fun connection to make anyways. 🙂
ps, I don’t have any commentaries on Colossians so I can’t see if I am super off base with this.