Last year was a hectic an amazing Autumn at GCU and awaiting the birth of my daughter. This year will likely be all sorts of [awesome] hectic too. However, since there are no new humans on the way this year in my household, I’m stoked to be headed to ETS and SBL in San Antonio in November to reconnect with the academic conference scene and some friends from around the world. After a year out of the loop, and with no Ecclesia and Ethics conference being held this year [getting the first EE book out while starting academic jobs nearly wrecked us all, we needed a mega break], I’m eager to be re-immersed in the stuff of Greek New Testament and Theology with my peers and colleagues.
I found out last week that my paper proposal “MELOS as ‘Melody’ in Colossians 3:5,” was accepted for the 2016 Annual Meeting in the Disputed Paulines program unit. The meeting will be held in San Antonio, TX from 11/19/2016 to 11/22/2016. Below is the abstract:
μέλος as ‘Melody’ in Colossians
In Colossians 3:5 the author exhorts his readers to “Put to death τὰ μέλη τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς.” Typically translated as “earthly members” (KJV), “what is earthly in you” (RSV, ESV), or even “whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (NIV), the phrase can also be rendered “the earthly melodies.” Against the majority of the contemporary renderings of Col. 3:5, this paper will argue that μέλος is, in fact, best translated as ‘melody’ in Colossians. This thesis will be substantiated on the basis of two main points.
In the first movement of the paper, an exegetical revision of common approaches to Col. 3 will be presented. The typical exegetical and translational approach to Col. 3:5 situates the verse’s usage of the noun μέλος within the well-known genuine Pauline binary parallel metaphor of: instruments for righteousness or unrighteousness (Rom. 6:13), instruments for impurity/lawlessness or righteousness/sanctification (Rom. 6:19), and members of Christ or of a prostitute (1 Cor. 16:15). It will be shown that in the genuine Pauline epistles when the μέλος metaphor is utilized in this formula it is always presented in terms of binary opposites, in each case indicating both a negative and a positive instrumental usage of μέλος. In contrast, in Colossians the usage is one-sided with only a negative μέλος mentioned, and with the positive half of the usual Pauline formula left strangely absent. On the basis of this distinction between the genuine Pauline usage of the μέλος formula and that which appears in Colossians, a fresh exegesis of Colossians 3 will be conducted which will demonstrate that within the Colossian context there is a focus on ecclesial ethical transformation which is tied to the rare Deutero-Pauline concept of being taught and admonished by means of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Col. 3:16; cf. Eph. 5:18-20). Through this exegesis it will be shown that three foci—namely the ethical, the transformational, and the musical foci—are working together to express the ecclesio-pneumatic reality of moral formation in Col. 3 through a musical metaphor in a manner which is entirely unique in the New Testament, and completely absent from the other undisputed Pauline epistles.
Secondarily, the use of μέλος in Colossians will be compared with a similar pattern of usage which is attested in several ethical passages in the works of Philo of Alexandria which utilize the word μέλος and the concept of music (both actually and metaphorically) to refer to the experience of moral transformation. Thus, the writings of Philo will be shown to present a parallel usage of μέλος which is derived from within Hellenistic Judaism by a writer who was roughly contemporaneous with the author of Colossians. The paper will conclude by offering some possible deductions that could be made based upon the uniqueness of the usage of μέλος as ‘melody’ in Colossians in comparison with its usage as ‘member’ in the undisputed Pauline occurrences of the term.