Colossians 4

Gracious Parting Words


Masters, grant to your slaves that which is just and fair (Colossians 4:1).

In the Greco-Roman world, slaves sometimes had opportunities to become independently wealthy and to become freedmen. This plaque lists freedmen of the house of the Aurincei family in 1st-century Rome. In light of Paul’s broader teachings, it is better to take the words in this verse as a polemic against the cruelties of slavery in his day, rather than as condoning slavery. Paul tactfully calls slave owners to justice and fairness toward their slaves, which, when carried out fully and from the heart, would naturally lead to their emancipation.


Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6).

Salt has always been prized for the taste it adds to various dishes (cf. Matt 5:13). Salt was procured from a variety of sources in Paul’s day. It was certainly available in large quantities from the Dead Sea, like the salt pictured here, although many other sources were also available.


I have sent him to you for this very purpose (Colossians 4:8).

The letter to the Colossians was short enough that it was likely sent by Paul in the form of a small scroll. Tychicus was to carry the letter, perhaps like the young man portrayed in this statue. The body and head on this statue were originally from different statues. It is thought that the body dates to about AD 100, whereas the head dates to about AD 54–68, the same period when Paul wrote this epistle. This statue was photographed at the Naples Archaeological Museum.


I have sent him . . . together with Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you (Colossians 4:8-9).

The name Onesimus was a common slave name in Paul’s day, due to its meaning, “useful.” The altar pictured above was dedicated by an imperial freedman named Onesimus. The name Onesimus occurs in the last line of this Latin inscription. This was photographed at the National Museum of Rome at the Diocletian Baths.


I bear him witness, that he has deep concern for . . . those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13).

Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis are all located along the same valley. From Colossae, Laodicea is about 9 miles (15 km) northwest, and Hierapolis is about 12 miles (20 km) away in roughly the same direction. According to church tradition, Philip was martyred at Hierapolis in AD 80. This Byzantine church was built to commemorate his death. This demonstrates a continued ancient Christian presence at Hierapolis.

Nympha's House Church

Greet the brothers who are in Laodicea, and Nympha, and the church that is in her house (Colossians 4:15).

It is not entirely certain from the context where Nympha’s house was located. It may have been at Laodicea, but perhaps may have been located at Colossae or even Hierapolis. Archaeologists at Laodicea interpret the structure in this photo as an oratory—a chapel attached to a peristyle house. It may have been converted into a church at a later date.

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