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Hanna-Maria Hengel

The city of Colossae was situated in the Phrygian part of the Roman province of Asia Minor on the bank of the Lycus River, in proximity to Laodicea and Hierapolis. All three cities appear in the Letter to the Colossians in the New Testament. The city of Colossae, however, has long been neglected in scholarship due to a long-held presumption that it had vanished in an earthquake that occurred at the beginning of the 60s of the first century AD. Based on this and other prior assumptions, the Letter to the Colossians was qualified as pseud-epigraphic, for no city of Colossae would have existed at the presumed time of the letter’s composition.

Recent scholarship, however, has refuted the destruction of Colossae, for the city existed until Byzantine times. With this, the field is open to breaking new ground on how a Christian community that was not founded by Paul came into being in a midsize city in Asia Minor.

The project on Colossae will engage with questions regarding the circumstances of the founding of the Lycus Valley churches and regarding the network that seems to have connected Pauline coworkers with other Christ-groups: when and how did Christianity come to the Lycus Valley? What role did Epaphras and others play in this? Can we assume missionary work from Ephesus or elsewhere? How was Christianity able to gain a foothold in Colossae and the neighboring cities? Were there structures and currents which it made use of and/or to which it adapted itself? What were the characteristics of the Christianity that reached the Lycus Valley? What special features did it develop? For which groups was Christianity attractive? What kind of networks were created by the new Christ-groups?

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