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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

(Κολοσσαί in the opening of the Epistle, 1:2; in the title, which is not original, there is about equal authority for Κολοσσαεῖς and Κολασσαεῖς; in the subscription the authority for Κολασσαεῖς predominates).-The name was given to an ancient Phrygian city on the S. bank of the Lycus ( Churuk Su ), an affluent of the Maeander. It was situated at the lower end of a narrow glen about 10 miles long. Herodotus says that at Colossae ‘the river Lycus, falling into a chasm of the earth, disappears; then, reappearing at a distance of about five stadia, it discharges itself into the Maeander’ (vii. 30). No such chasm, however, exists at Colossae, and the historian has apparently misreported what he heard of the underground passage of the river at its source, as accurately described by Strabo (XII. viii. 16).

Colossae was one of three sister cities which received the gospel about the same time ( Colossians 4:13), Laodicea lying about 10 miles farther down the Lycus valley, and facing Hierapolis, which was picturesquely seated on a plateau 6 miles to the north. Behind Colossae and Laodicea rose the mighty snow-capped range of Cadmus ( Baba Dagh , ‘Father of mountains’), over 8000ft. above sea-level. Commanding the approaches to a pass in this range, and traversed by the great trade-route between Ephesus and the Euphrates, Colossae was at one time a place of much importance. Herodotus ( op. cit. ) calls it ‘a great city of Phrygia,’ and Xenophon describes it as πόλιν οἰκουμένην εὐδαίμονα καὶ μεγάλην ( Anab . I. ii. 6). But as Laodicea and Hierapolis grew in importance, Colossae waned, and in the beginning of the first century Strabo reckons it as no more than a πόλισμα (xii. viii. 13). Pliny, indeed, names it among the oppida celeberrima of Phrygia ( Historia Naturalis (Pliny) v. 41), but he is merely alluding to its illustrious past. It was visited, however, by streams of travellers passing east and west, who made it conversant with the freshest thought of the time. Its permanent population consisted mostly of Phrygian natives and Greek colonists. Jews had also been attracted to the busy trade-centres of the Lycus valley, a fact which accounts for the Jewish complexion of some of the errors refuted in the Colossian Epistle. Antioch us the Great (223-187 b.c.) transplanted 2000 Jewish families from Babylonia and Mesopotamia to Lydia and Phrygia (Jos. Ant . xii. iii. 4). The freedom and prosperity which they enjoyed probably induced many others to follow them, and there is a bitter saying in the Babylonian Talmud that the wine and baths of Phrygia separated the ten tribes from their brethren ( Shab . 147b, quoted by A. Neubauer, Géogr. du Talmud , Paris, 1868, p. 315). Cicero ( pro Flacc . 28) speaks of the multitudo Jud œ orum who inhabited the district in his time.

The Church of Colossae was not directly founded by St. Paul. There is no indication that he ever preached in any of the cities of the Lycus valley. In his second journey he was debarred from speaking in Asia ( Acts 16:6), the province to which Colossae politically belonged, and in his third tour ‘he went through the Galatic region and Phrygia [ or Galatic and Phrygian region] in order, confirming the disciples,’ and ‘having passed through the upper country (τὰ ἀνωτερικὰ μέρη) he came to Ephesus’ ( Acts 18:23;  Acts 19:1). It is not impossible that-as Renan suggests ( Saint Paul , Paris, 1869, pp. 331f., 356f.)-he followed the usual route of commerce down the Lycus valley, going straight to his destination without pausing to do any work by the way. But it is more in harmony with St. Luke’s carefully chosen words, as well as with the language of Col., to suppose that he took the shorter hill-read by Seiblia and the Cayster valley, a road practicable for foot passengers but not for wheeled traffic (W. M. Ramsay, The Church in the Rome. Emp . p. 94). During his three years’ residence in Ephesus, ‘all they that dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks’ ( Acts 19:10; cf.  Acts 19:26), and it was probably at this time that the churches of the Lycus were founded. The truth proclaimed in the virtual capital of the province-the primacy of Sardis was now only nominal-was soon carried to the remotest towns and villages. Epaphras and Philemon, citizens of Colossae, were probably converted in Ephesus, and the former was speedily sent, as St. Paul’s delegate or representative (ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν, instead of ὑμῶν, is the true reading in  Colossians 1:7), to evangelize his native valley. Five or six years afterwards, St. Paul, a prisoner in Rome, wrote to the Colossian Christians, of whose faith and love he had heard ( Colossians 1:4;  Colossians 1:9) from Epaphras and perhaps from Onesimus, but who had never seen his face (2:1). He felt as great a solicitude for them as if they had been his own spiritual children. Indirectly they were indebted to him for their knowledge of the gospel (cf. following article).

One of the non-Christian beliefs and practices which quickly threatened to submerge the Colossian Church was the cult of angels, or elemental spirits, who were supposed to intervene between a pure, absolute, unapproachable God and a world of evil. This idea proved almost ineradicable. One of the canons (the 35th) of the Council of Laodicea (held probably about a.d. 363) ran thus; ‘It is not right for Christians to abandon the Church of God and go away and invoke angels (ἀγγέλους ὀνομάζειν).… If, therefore, any one is found devoting himself to this secret idolatry, let him be anathema.’ About a century later, Theodoret, commenting on  Colossians 2:18, says: ‘This disease (τοῦτο τὸ πάθος) remained long in Phrygia and Pisidia … and even to the present time oratories (εὐκτήρια) of the holy Michael may be seen among them and their neighbours.’ The Byzantine historian Nicetas Choniates-Chonae, on a spur of Cadmus, took the place of decaying Colossae-mentions τὸν ἀρχαγγελικὸν ναόν as Standing, μεγέθει μέγιστον καὶ κάλλει κάλλιστον, in or near the ancient city; and the fantastic legend of ‘the Miracle of Chonae’ (Ramsay, The Church in the Rom. Emp . p. 465f.) reflects a popular belief in the mediation of Michael to save the inhabitants from an inundation.

Literature.-W. M. Ramsay, The Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia , London, 1895-97, vol. i., The Church in the Roman Empire , do. 1893, ch. xix.

James Strahan.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

COLOSSÆ was an ancient city of Phrygia (Roman province Asia), at one time of great importance, but dwindling later as its neighbour Laodicea prospered. It was situated in the upper part of the valley of the Lycus, a tributary of the Mæander, about 10 miles from Laodicea, and 13 from Hierapolis. The three cities naturally formed a sphere of missionary labour for Epaphras (Epaphroditus), an inhabitant of Colossæ (  Colossians 4:12-13 ), Timothy (  Colossians 1:1 ), and others. St. Paul himself never visited any of them (  Colossians 2:1 ). It has been suggested with great probability that in   Revelation 1:11;   Revelation 3:14 the single church of Laodicea must represent the other churches of the Lycus valley also. The church in Colossae had developed Judaizing tendencies which St. Paul found it necessary to combat in the Epistle which has come down to us. If, as seems certain, ‘the epistle from Laodicea’ (  Colossians 4:16 ) is our ‘Epistle to the Ephesians,’ it also was read in the church at Colossæ. Both letters were carried from Rome by Tychicus, who was accompanied by Onesimus, whose master Philemon was an inhabitant of Colossæ. See also following article.

A. Souter.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [3]

Although Colossae was on the main highway from Syria to Ephesus, Paul apparently did not visit the church there during his missionary travels recorded in Acts ( Colossians 1:4;  Colossians 2:1). Colossae was situated in a part of the province of Asia where Paul was forbidden to preach during his second missionary journey ( Acts 16:6-8; for map see Asia ).

The church in Colossae was probably founded during Paul’s stay in Ephesus on his third missionary journey, when the Ephesian converts took the gospel to the towns of the surrounding countryside ( Acts 19:8-10). Epaphras appears to have been the person chiefly responsible for the establishment of the church in Colossae ( Colossians 1:7). At the time Paul wrote his letter to the Colossian church, it met in the home of Philemon ( Colossians 4:9; Philem 1-2,10-12; see Colossians, Letter To The )

Easton's Bible Dictionary [4]

 Colossians 1:2 Colossians 1:7 4:12

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [5]

(See Colosse .)

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [6]

( Κολοσσαί ,  Colossians 1:2; but the preponderance of MS. authority is in favor of Κολασσαί , Colasse , a form used by the Byzantine writers, and which perhaps represents the provincial mode of pronouncing the name. On coins and inscriptions [see Eckhel, Doct. Num. I, 3, 147], and in classical writers [see Valcken. ad Herod. 7:30], we find Κολοσσαί ), a city of Phrygia Pacatiana, in the upper part of the basin of the Maeander, on one of its affluents named the Lycus. Hierapolis and Laodicea were in its immediate neighborhood ( Colossians 2:1;  Colossians 4:13;  Colossians 4:15-16; see  Revelation 1:11;  Revelation 3:14). Colossae fell as these other two cities rose in importance. At a later date they were all overthrown by an earthquake. Herodotus (7, 30) and Xenophon (Anab. 1:2, 6) speak of it as a city of considerable consequence (comp. Pliny, v. 29). Strabo (12:576) describes it as only a Πόλισμα , not a Πόλις ; yet elsewhere (p. 578) he implies that it had some mercantile importance; and Pliny, in Paul's time, describes it (5, 41) as one of the "celeberrima oppida" of its district. Colossae was situated close to the great road which led from Ephesus to the Euphrates. Hence our impulse would be to conclude that Paul passed this way, and founded or confirmed the Colossian Church on his third missionary journey ( Acts 18:23;  Acts 19:1). He might also have easily visited Colossse during the prolonged stay at Ephesus, which immediately followed. The most competent commentators, however, agree in thinking that  Colossians 2:1, proves that Paul had never been there when the epistle was written (but see the Stud. u. Krit. 1829, 3. 612 sq.). (See Paul).

Theodoret's argument that he must have visited Colossas on the journey just referred to, because he is said to have gone through the whole region of Phrygia, may be proved fallacious from geographical considerations; Colossae, though ethnologically in Phrygia (Herod. ''L. C''  ; Xen. ''L. C'' ), was at this period politically in the province of Asia (see Rev. ''L. C'' ). That the apostle hoped to visit the place on being delivered from his Roman imprisonment is clear from  Philemon 1:22 (compare  Philippians 2:24). Philemon and his slave Onesimus were dwellers in Colossae. So also were Archippus and Epaphras. From  Colossians 1:7;  Colossians 4:12, it has been naturally concluded that the latter Christian was the founder of the Colossian Church (see Alford's Prolegomena to Gr. Test. 3. 35). (See Epaphras).

The worship of angels mentioned by the apostle ( Colossians 2:18) curiously reappears in Christian times in connection with one of the topographical features of the place. A church in honor of the archangel Michael was erected at the entrance of a chasm in consequence of a legend connected with an inundation (Hartley's Researches In Greece , p. 52); and there is good reason for identifying this chasm with one which is mentioned by Herodotus. This kind of superstition is mentioned by Theodoret as subsisting in his time; also by the Byzantine writer Nicetas Choniates, who was a native of this place, and who says that Colossse and Chonae were the same (Chronicles p. 115). The probability is that under the later emperors, Colossae, being in a ruinous state, made way for a more modern town, Chonae ( Χῶναι , so Theophylact. Ad  Colossians 2:1), situated near it. The neighborhood (visited by Pococke) was explored by Mr. Arundel (Seven Churches , p. 158; Asia Minor , 2:160); but Mr. Hamilton was the first to determine the actual site of the ancient city, which appears to be at some little distance from the modern village of Chonas (Researches in Asia Minor, 1:508). The huge range of Mount Cadmus rises immediately behind the village, close to which there is in the mountain an immense perpendicular chasm, affording an outlet for a wide mountain torrent. The ruins of an old castle stand on the summit of the rock forming the left side of this chasm. There are some traces of ruins and fragments of stone in the neighborhood, but barely more than sufficient to attest the existence of an ancient site (Pococke, East, 3. 114; Schubert, Reise, 1:282; see generally Hofmann, Introd. in lection. ep. ad Colos. Lips. 1749; Cellarii Notit. 2:152 sq.; Mannert, Geogr. VI, 1:127 sq.; Smith, Dict. of Class. Geogr s.v.). (See Colossians (Epistle To The).)

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [7]

kō̇ - los´ē ( Κολοσσαί , Kolossaı́ , "punishment"; the King James Version Colosse ): A city of Phrygia on the Lycus River, one of the branches of the Meander, and 3 miles from Mt. Cadmus, 8, 013 ft. high. It stood at the head of a gorge where the two streams unite, and on the great highway traversing the country from Ephesus to the Euphrates valley, 13 miles from Hierapolis and 10 from Laodicea. Its history is chiefly associated with that of these two cities. Early, according to both Herodotus and Xenophon, it was a place of great importance. There Xerxes stopped 481 bc (Herodotus vii.30) and Cyrus the Younger marched 401 bc (Xen. Anab . i.2, 6). From  Colossians 2:1 it is not likely that Paul visited the place in person; but its Christianization was due to the efforts of Epaphras and Timothy (  Colossians 1:1 ,  Colossians 1:7 ), and it was the home of Philemon and Epaphras. That a church was established there early is evident from  Colossians 4:12 ,  Colossians 4:13;  Revelation 1:11;  Revelation 3:14 . As the neighboring cities, Hierapolis and Laodicea, increased in importance, Colosse declined. There were many Jews living there, and a chief article of commerce, for which the place was renowned, was the collossinus , a peculiar wool, probably of a purple color. In religion the people were specially lax, worshipping angels. Of them, Michael was the chief, and the protecting saint of the city. It is said that once he appeared to the people, saving the city in time of a flood. It was this belief in angels which called forth Paul's epistle ( Colossians 2:18 ). During the 7th and 8th centuries the place was overrun by the Saracens; in the 12th century the church was destroyed by the Turks and the city disappeared. Its site was explored by Mr. Hamilton. The ruins of the church, the stone foundation of a large theater, and a necropolis with stones of a peculiar shape are still to be seen. During the Middle Ages the place bore the name of Chonae; it is now called Chonas.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [8]

A city in the S. of Phrygia, in Asia Minor, and the site of one of the earliest Christian churches.