Colossians. Abingdon New Testament Commentary

By David M. Hay
Nashville : Abingdon (2000). 182 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
14.1 (Spring 2003) : 120-120

 This book is by the Professor of Religion at Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Publishers view the series as giving compact critical exegesis useful for students of theology, university users, and pastors.

In Hay’s view, authenticity concerns not who wrote the letter, but whether it gives truth. Yet the epistle claims that Paul wrote it, which is true or untrue. One also has to face forthrightly Paul’s personal greetings in 4:10 -17. How realistic is it to view the letter as reliable if it is untrue on some matters, yet truthful at other points? Hay does not think it probable that Paul wrote Colossians, yet Paul may have supervised Timothy’s writing (20, 23), or a disciple of Paul wrote after Paul died (24). As a matter of convenience in the commentary, Hay refers to Paul as if he was the writer, but this is not his own belief.

Verse by verse comments are closely-knit, often terse, yet much exegetical learning cuts to the point in many cases. On frequent points, careful, good details appear, e.g., “firstborn of all creation” (1:15; 55-57), or “filling up the afflictions of Christ” (1:24; 72-74), or on Christ’s triumph (2:15). In other cases, ambiguity is present, as in 1:23 on how a necessity to continue in faith and good works as a condition of salvation fits with NT salvation as a total gift (68).

The work responsibly traces thought in the letter, and tends to be on a scholarly level. Locating a detail on a verse in the course of general remarks on sections is sometimes hard. Headings introduce sections, but individual verses are not in boldface or listed separately. The patient student can by combing slowly find a lot on essential details. In Colossians 4 Hay’s comment on Epaphras’ intercession for spiritual growth is interesting. Since the letter calls readers to mature (1:28-29), “one can regard it as part of the answer to Epaphras’ prayers” (161).

Hay is hit or miss in relating Colossian details with biblical passages outside this epistle, and this withholds much. An example is discussing Christ’s triumph over enemies in 2:15 without mention of a possible link to “led captivity captive” (Eph 4:8) or triumph language in 2 Cor 2:14 f.

The bibliography at the end reflects broad, diligent awareness of recent literature. Overall, the work is among the somewhat helpful scholarly works that are brief on detail. Students using fuller commentaries (T. K. Abbott, Markus Barth, and Helmut Blanke, F. F. Bruce, Peter O’Brien, E. Schweizer, or even the older work by J. B. Lightfoot) will glean added assists from Hay only here and there.