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Liturgical Press

Sacra Pagina: Colossians and Ephesians

Margaret Y. MacDonald

Sacra Pagina: Colossians and Ephesians
Sacra Pagina: Colossians and Ephesians

ISBN: 9780814658192, 5819

Details: 410 pgs, 6 x 9
Publication Date: 10/01/2000

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No two works in the Pauline Epistles resemble each other as closely as Colossians and Ephesians. Often recognized for their majestic tone and powerful theological statement, Colossians and Ephesians also present many challenges of interpretation. Most commentaries on these letters seem preoccupied with the same few issues, particularly the question of authorship. As MacDonald addresses these classic questions, she offers a fresh perspective on Colossians and Ephesians by making use of insights from the social sciences. Moreover, by paying attention to subtle differences between the two letters, she brings their distinct perspectives into sharp relief.

MacDonald highlights the interplay between Colossians and Ephesians and the social life of New Testament communities. She illustrates how the texts reflect ancient cultural values and are influenced by particular aspects of community life such as worship and household existence. In particular, she reflects on the issues faced by these communities as they formed institutions and interacted with the society around them. She shows the struggles of the New Testament communities to survive and maintain a distinct identity in first-century society.

Chapters under Colossians are "Greeting (1:1-2)," "Thanksgiving for the Colossians (1:3-8)," "Prayer on Behalf of the Colossians (1:9-14,)" "The Christ-Hymn (1:15-20)," "Application of Hymn to the Situation in Colossae (1:21-23)," "Paul's Authority in Colossae and Laodicea (1:24-2:7)," "Debate with the Opponents: The Power of the Risen Christ (2:8-15)," "Debate with the Opponents: Warnings Against Ascetic Practices (2:16-23)," "New Life in Light of the Resurrection (3:1-4)," "Ethical Guidelines for a New Life (3:5-17)," "The Households of Believers (3:18-4:1)," "Prayer, Mission, and Contact with Outsiders (4:2-6)," "Conclusion: Personal Notes and Greetings (4:7-18)."

Chapters under Ephesians are "Greeting (1:1-2)," "Blessing (1:3-14)," "Thanksgiving and Prayer (1:15-23)," "The Consequences of Life Together with Christ (2:1-10)," "The Unity of Jews and Gentiles Created by Christ (2:11-22)," "The Apostle as Interpreter of the Divine Mystery (3:1-13)," "Prayer and Doxology (3:14-21)," "The Unity of the Spirit (4:1-16)," "The Sons of Disobedience and the Children of Light (4:17-5:20)," "The Households of Believers (5:21-6:9)," "Doing Battle with Evil (6:10-20)," "Conclusion: Personal Matters and Final Blessing (6:21-24)."

Margaret Y. MacDonald is a professor in the department of religious studies at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia.

Reviews

This commentary is well worth reading on many levels. For pastors, graduate students, and specialists in Paul who may be unfamiliar with or wary of a social-scientific approach, this is a good introduction to the method. For those not familiar in detail with scholarly work on Ephesians and Colossians, it provides a basis for further investigation.
Louvain Studies

This entire series, and MacDonald's volume is no exception, ought to be essential reading for the preacher, the teacher, the college or high school student, and anyone who wants to read the new Testament texts with deeper insight and understanding.
Catholic Library World

. . . a superb addition to the corpus of commentaries on Colossians and Ephesians. . . . This excellent commentary will be accessible and useful to a broad range of readers, including scholars, clergy, students and any others interested in these letters. The social scientific-approach, readable style and appropriate attention to the afterlife and impact of these letters make the community concerns and struggles reflected in Colossians and Ephesians come alive in a manner rarely found in the commentary genre.
Studies in Religion

In this extremely helpful commentary, Margaret MacDonald gives a fresh reading of Colossians and Ephesians that places these two letters in the context of nascent Christianity in such a way as to illuminate both the letters and the shape of the early Church.
Toronto Journal of Theology

. . . offers solid, nuanced interpretations of both letters. Its pressing of social-scientific questions should help readers rethink the relation of theology and ethics to historical context.
Interpretation

A highly recommended reference source for scholars and pastors.
Religious Studies Review

Mitchell presents relevant Jewish background material, surveys secondary literature, and discusses the range of textual variants (pp. 112-14) in a very clear manner. Her treatment of both epistles makes this one of the `stand-out' volumes in the series.
The Expository Times

As the authors of Colossians and Ephesians well knew, making the invisible visible and the hidden known is itself a daunting task. Margaret MacDonald has deftly met the challenges these letters present to their interpreters, by offering a convincing explanation of their literary relationship and an interesting description of the social world out of which they emerged. All students of Colossians and Ephesians will appreciate her valuable contribution to our knowledge of the growth and development of post-Pauline Christianity and will be grateful for her clear, readable style.
Alan C. Mitchell, Georgetown University, Washington, DC