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The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles
Ben Witherington III

9780802824882 Retail Price: $38.00
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Format: Paperback, 382pp.
ISBN: 9780802824882
Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Pub. Date: November 26, 2007

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From The Publisher:

This volume completes Ben Witherington’s contributions to the set of Eerdmans socio-rhetorical commentaries on the New Testament.

In addition to the usual features of these commentaries, Witherington offers an innovative way of looking at Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon as interrelated documents written at different levels of moral discourse. Colossians is first-order moral discourse (the opening gambit), Ephesians is second-order moral discourse (what one says after the opening salvo to the same audience), and Philemon is third-order moral discourse (what one says to a personal friend or intimate). Witherington successfully analyzes these documents as examples of Asiatic rhetoric, explaining the differences in style from earlier Pauline documents. He further shows that Paul is deliberately engaging in the transformation of existing social institutions.

As always, Witherington’s work is scholarly and engaging. With detailed “Closer Look” sections, The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians is perfect for the libraries of clergy, biblical scholars, and seminaries.



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About the Author

Ben Witherington III is professor of New Testament interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky, and is on the doctoral faculty at St. Andrews University, Scotland. A prolific writer, he has twice won the Christianity Today best Biblical Studies book-of-the-year award.

Table of Contents



Differences in Rhetorical Style
The Different Rhetorical Situations
Other Stylistic Objections to the Pauline Character of Ephesians and Colossians
Epistolary and Rhetorical Structures
The Social Settings of Paul and of His Audiences

An Annotated Bibliography


The Epistolary Prescript — vv. 1-3

Thanksgiving/Exordium — A Refresher Course — vv. 4-7
     A CLOSER LOOK: When Rhetoric Is Not Mere Rhetoric

An Appeal for a Useful Servant — vv. 8-16
     A CLOSER LOOK: Paul in Chains, Onesimus in Bondage

Peroratio — Summing Up and Touching the Heart of the Matter — vv. 17-22
     A CLOSER LOOK: The Cost of Manumission

Epistolary Conclusion — vv. 23-24

Bridging the Horizons — Philemon


The Authorship of Colossians
Further Thoughts on the Relationship of Colossians and Ephesians
The False Teaching/Philosophy in Colossae
The Theology of Colossians
The Occasion of Colossians

Epistolary Prescript — 1.1-2

Exordium/Thanksgiving Prayer — 1.3-14

Narratio — The Pattern of Christ — 1.15-20
     A CLOSER LOOK: The Formation of the Christ Hymn

Propositio/Partitio — 1.21-23

Probatio — Argument One — Minister of the Mystery — 1.24–2.5

Probatio — Argument Two — The Bone of Contention — 2.6–3.4
     A CLOSER LOOK: The Colossian “Philosophy”
     A CLOSER LOOK: The Theological Substance of Colossians

Probatio — Argument Three — The Necessity of Virtue — 3.5–4.1
     Vice and Virtue Lists — 3:5-17
     The Household Code — 3:18–4:1
     A CLOSER LOOK: Evaluating the Household Codes Fairly in Paul’s Context
     A CLOSER LOOK: Paul on Marriage and Slavery in Context

Peroratio — Prayer and Wisdom — 4.2-6

Epistolary Closing — 4:7-18

Bridging the Horizons — Colossians


Homilies in the New Testament Era
Ephesians as a Letter to Ephesus?
Epideictic Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasive Sermon-Making

Epistolary Prescript — 1.1-2

Exordium — A Blessing of a Eulogy — 1.3-14
     A CLOSER LOOK: For Heaven’s Sake

Thanksgiving Prayer/Captatio Benevolentiae — 1.15-23
     A CLOSER LOOK: The Ethos of Community in Ephesians

Narratio — Gentiles Then and Now and Their Apostle — 2.1-22; 3.2-13

Concluding Prayer and Doxology — 3.1, 14-21

Exhortatio — Reminder of Community Values and Virtues — 4.1–6.9
     The Formation of a More Perfect Union — 4.1-16
     A CLOSER LOOK: What Goes Up Must Come Down — Pneumatic Exegesis
     New Creatures — 4.17-24; Putting Off and Putting On — 4.25-32
     The Imitation of God, the Image of Holiness — 5.1-21
     Christians in the House — 5.21–6.9
     A CLOSER LOOK: The Christian Household Code Revisited

Peroratio — Standing notwithstanding the Opposition — 6.10-20

Epistolary Postscript — The End of the Matter — 6.21-24

Bridging the Horizons — Ephesians

Index of Authors

Index of Scripture and Other Ancient Writings

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