K:JNWTS 31/2 (December 2016): 39-40

Book Review

Alan H. Cadwallader, Fragments of Colossae: Sifting Through the Traces. Hindmarsh, South Australia: ATF Press, 2015. 229pp. Paper. ISBN: 978-1-925232-53-0. $49.

This is an impressive volume, beautifully illustrated with color photos, easy to read and thorough in its coverage of the archaeology and history of the city the apostle Paul never visited (Col 2:1), but to whom he wrote his noted epistle. As the cover photograph indicates, the irony of Colossae is that its huge dual mound (höyük, in Turkish) has never been excavated. Here is this major city of Asia Minor, on the great trade and military road from Ephesus to Mesopotamia, situated in the fertile Lycus River Valley near modern Honaz, in the shadow of Mt. Cadmus, still buried beneath tons of grass, dirt and sand. Cadwallader is part of an Australian research team which is attempting to remedy this oversight. His book is an overview of the history of locating Colossae (chapter 1), the military use of the city (chapter 2), the gods worshipped in the city (chapter 3), the amphitheater (common to all Hellenistically influenced cities, chapter 4), the cloth industry (chapter 6), the baths (chapter 7) and the necropolis (chapter 8). The book also contains a glossary of terms, excellent maps and helpful indices.

Anyone working on Paul’s epistle will benefit from Cadwallader’s superb background survey. Throughout, he tips his hat to the “great surface archaeologist” (39), Sir William Ramsay, whose pioneering work revealed the seven churches of Asia Minor (Rev 2-3) in historico-biblical significance (work supplemented by the late C. J. Hemer). Our author notes his strong disagreement with the higher critical 19th century liberal, Ernst Renan, who disparaged Colossae as “second-rate” and was followed by J. B. Lightfoot (and virtually all others since) in his opinion that Colossae was a city in decline after the famous earthquake of 60/61 A.D. struck the region of Hierapolis, Laodicea and Colossae (19). Cadwallader produces substantial evidence of a flourishing Colossae after recovery from that tremblor—prosperity into and beyond the reign of the Emperor Hadrian (117-38 A.D.) (36-37).

Our author provides occasional reflections on the meaning of passages from Paul’s epistle. These are penetrating and important considerations which enliven the arena of the apostolic letter. In fact, this volume is now essential for comprehending the city and culture into which Paul sent his prison epistle. To begin work on Colossians, the pastor and student now need to read Cadwallader’s book as an introduction to the epistle. Magnificent piece of work.

—James T. Dennison, Jr.