Original Research - Special Collection: NWU Africa Conference: Evil spirits in Africa

Perspectives from the Christ hymn in Colossians 1:13–20 on cosmic powers and spiritual forces within an African context

Francois P. Viljoen
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 53, No 4 | a2433 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v53i4.2433 | © 2019 Francois P. Viljoen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 November 2018 | Published: 10 June 2019

About the author(s)

Francois P. Viljoen, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


The central argument of this article is that the way in which the author of Colossians makes use of this Christ hymn can provide useful perspectives within the African context where people often struggle with assumed threats of cosmic powers and spiritual forces. The author of the letter positions and utilises a Christ hymn in a strategic and functional way. This hymn forms a pivotal point in his letter and mentions the crucial theological issues that are at stake. The Colossians were threatened by false teachings according to which they were subjected to different forces and powers. Christ is, however, exalted and praised as superior to all these powers. As such, the hymn lays the basis for the refutation of all the deceiving arguments. The hymn describes the significance of Christ. He is the mediator of creation, the reconciler of the world, and the head of the church. Dependence on Christ sets one free from ties to all the proposed powers. The author assumes that his readers would also associate with the contents of the hymn regarding the supremacy of Christ. If so, the author in effect wins his argument. He, therefore, does not need to convince them of his theological viewpoint anew, but can immediately continue warning them about the dangers of false teachings threatening their community.


Colossians; Christ hymn; Traditional African Religion; Ancestor; Powers; Spirits; Healing; Liturgy; Cosmic forces


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