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TitleBy the same word: The intersection of cosmology and soteriology in Hellenistic Judaism, early Christianity and ''Gnosticism'' in the light of Middle Platonic intermediary doctrine
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A Dissertation

Submitted to the Graduate School

of the University of Notre Dame

in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements

for the Degree of

Doctor of Philosophy


Ronald R. Cox, B.S., M. Div.


Gregory E. Sterling, Director

Graduate Program in Theology

Notre Dame, Indiana

April 2005

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����������� but this time from the dead. There follows a ���� clause, of which the first

strophe lacks a counterpart. The final section, mirroring 1:16, begins with the conjunction

����, and proceeds to ground the Son’s identity in his functions as soteriological agent.

There are two sub-sections for this last part: a) the “indwelling” of the �����������������

in the Son and b) the reconciling of all things to “him” through “him” by making peace

through the “blood of his cross”. We will now explicate these three main sections.

C.1 The Son’s New Ontological Status

We are not surprised to read here that the Son is the ���(��. We have already seen

above with respect to Sophia and the Logos, who both receive this title, that such

descriptors are transitory.118 Since like his Hellenistic Jewish counterparts, the Son (in the

first strophe) is also the ������� through whom God creates and/or sustains the cosmos, we

should expect now a continuation of the Son’s cosmological status in the second

strophe.119 After all, ���(�� has this cosmological sense in the Philonic and Wisdom

passages.120 But instead of being ����������� of all creation, we read that the Son is

firstborn ����������������. This is arguably the first explicitly Christian acclamation in the

Colossian hymn.121 I read “beginning” here as both an allusion to the Jewish sapiential

tradition from which ������� originated (thus preserving an apparent continuity) as well as

118 Cf. Leg. 1.43 with Conf. 146, discussed above.

119 The relative pronoun (���) and the parallelism between v. 18b and v. 15a show this to be the

beginning of the second strophe. See part one above.

120 This likely arises out of early Jewish Wisdom traditions; see, e.g., Prov 8:23. Of course, the

cosmological sense of the term is not limited to these traditions. Cf. Rev 3:14, where Christ described as ���
�0 ����"���������
���������������������� �����"�������(�������������������
�� ��

121 See Act 26:23, 1 Cor 15:23, and Rev 1:5. The phrase in Col 1:18b recalls in particular Rom

8:29; there Paul says God predestined those whom he foreknew “to be conformed (�
�����'��) to the
������� of his Son, in order that he might be the ����������� among many brothers.” It is possible that the
term �
�����'�� and ������� function together to give the sense that, like the Logos, the Son is the seal or
paradigm which shapes the children of God.

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an effort to redirect the focus of the hymn toward soteriology. I also consider ���(��,

which appears to dangle without sufficient qualification in its present place (cn. the fuller

v. 15a), as somehow connected to ���������������� in v. 18a. It appears to be an

assumption of the second strophe that the Son is the beginning of the church by virtue of

his resurrection of the dead.122

Implicit in Col 1:18bc, especially when we contrast these lines with v. 15ab, is the

sense of the Son having an ontological status founded on an experience he underwent: he

is the “beginning” because he was first to rise “from the dead.”123 In the light of this, we

may identify two important developments in the second strophe over against the first.

First, there can no longer be any substantial question regarding to whom the relative

pronoun ����refers. Unlike the first strophe, the language of which we saw is transitory

and is applicable to the Logos or Sophia as easily as the Colossian “Son,” the second

strophe uses language applicable only to Jesus Christ. This one is an historical person

who experiences, according to Christian kerygmata, resurrection from the dead. The

second development is the question begged by the event of the resurrection, namely what

does the event signify. We should expect the impetus for the resurrection event to have

something to do with creation, at least if we are to preserve the connection between the

first and second strophes of the Colossian hymn.124

122 Could ���������������� originally (or previously) have sat at the end of v. 18b, so that it would

read: ��������������(�������������������? Cf. the � * variant of Rev 3:14: Christ is the ���(��������������������
�� ��
�. See nn. 65, 113.

123 We cannot read v. 15 similarly. To say the Son is the image of the invisible God because he is

the “first born” of all creation does not make sense.

124 There should not be any doubt that the second strophe, if its origination is distinct from the

first, was at least informed by that earlier passage and was meant to supplement it. This is seen in v. 18bcd
in the parallelism between lines bc with v. 15ab and the use of the neuter (not masculine) ���������� (cf. ����
������ in the first strophe) in line d.

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