Following is a summary of background material on Colossians .. It helps to understand this information, to understand that these were real people, in a real place, at a real time, and with real problems.The Letter to the Colossians
In the New Testament, Colossians is the 12th book, coming after Philippians and, in our modern translations, is broken up into 4 chapters.Who Wrote It?
Paul has always been accepted as the Author and the letter itself claims Pauline authorship in the opening verses of greeting ( Col 1:1 ), in the body of the letter ( Col 1:23 ) and in a typical Pauline conclusion ( Col 4:18 ). Pauline authorship was never disputed by the early church and was included in the earliest list of canonical NT books by Marcion (early 2nd Century) and the Muratorian canon (late 2nd or early 3rd Century).
Although some modern scholars are disputing Pauline authorship, yet they cannot dispute the close connection between Colossians and Philemon shown by the same people being mentioned in both letters, which suggests both letters were written at the same time (Colossians 4:7-17 ; c/w. Philemon. 1:23-24 ).Where Was It Written
From the letter itself it is apparent that Paul is writing from prison (4:3,10,18), which makes the most likely place of writing in Rome. This also best explains the mention of Onesimus (see Philemon). This would make the time of writing about AD 60-61, during Paul's (first) Roman imprisonment.Who Was It Written to?
To a Church at Colossae, a small town in the Lycus Valley in Asia Minor. It is likely that the church first heard the Gospel while Paul was preaching at Ephesus (AD 52-55) as reported in Acts 19. One of Paul's 'fellow-workers' named Epaphras returned to evangelize his hometown of Colossae (see Col.1:7; 4:12).
The lack of references to Jewish/Gentile reconciliation in the letter makes it probable that the church was made up of mainly Gentiles converts (see also Col.1:21,24,27).Why Was it Written?
It is probable that Epaphras traveled to Rome to visit Paul while he was under house arrest, to bring him news about the churches in the Lycus valley, including Colossae.
From Paul's letter it seems that while the church was growing (1:4,8; 2:5), yet there were some problems with false teaching. Although we only have one side of this conversation, it is possible to reconstruct the problems from Paul's arguments. In 1:14-22;2:8-15 Paul speaks of the creative and redemptive work of Christ .. To counter empty philosophies based on human speculation (2:8-15). There also seemed to be an emphasis on the keeping of Jewish rituals and traditions (2:8, 16, 21) . which Paul counters by referring to their completeness in Christ and Christ's fullness (1:19-20; 2:9-15). Paul emphasizes that Christ is the only mediator between God and man, so there is no need fear or obey angelic or other spiritual powers.Geography and Background of Colossae
1.1. The City. The ancient city of Colossae was situated 100 miles east of Ephesus in Phrygia on the southern bank of the river Lycus (in modern Turkey), and its fertile valley produced large crops of figs and olives. Colossae lay on the main road from Ephesus and Sardis to the Euphrates. In the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. it was described as populous, large and wealthy, its commercial significance being due to its wool industry. Later the city declined in importance so that in Roman times it had become a "small town" (Strabo Geog.12.8.13, though the text is debatable) and had been surpassed by Laodicea and Hierapolis which were also in the Lycus valley. By the time Paul wrote to the Christians living at Colossae the commercial and social importance of the town was already on the wane, though coins and inscriptions attest to the civic life of the town in the second and third centuries A.D.Resources Used in preparing this Summary :
1.2. Its People. Laodicea, Hierapolis and Colossae belonged to the proconsular province of Asia. Colossae's population consisted mainly of indigenous Phrygian and Greek settlers, but in the early part of the second century B.C. two thousand Jewish families from Babylon and Mesopotamia were settled in Lydia and Phrygia by Antiochus III (Josephus Ant.12.3.4 Ã‚Â§Ã‚Â§ 147Ã¢â‚¬â€œ53 ). According to grave inscriptions in the area Jews had become part of the Asian culture by the first century B.C. So the Colossae of Paul's day seems to have been a cosmopolitan place in which differing cultural and religious elements mingled.
(Dictionary of Paul and His Letters - COLOSSIANS, LETTER TO THE P. T. O'Brien)
Dictionary of Paul and His Letters
The New Bible Commentary
The New Bible Dictionary, Third Edition
Background on Colossians - By: J. Hampton Keathley, III , Th.M.http://www.bible.org/page.asp?page_id=1619