The common reading of plhro/w in Col 1,25 has emphasized the apostolic task of preaching the gospel everywhere. We agree with other scholars that such a completion has not only spatial meaning but also a qualitative one. Yet, our research goes further: what kind of quality is this? The rhetorical devices of «accumulation» and «reversal» combined in 1,24-29 point to an ethical purpose. In this sense, «bringing to completion the word of God» means preaching the word, but also making everyone mature in Christ. The phrase includes both the diffusion of the gospel and the achievement of its ethical purpose.
Exegesis and theology hope to gain important insights and fresh impetus for the Christian-Jewish dialogue from the metaphoric speech of Paul about the olive tree. The strong mutual penetration of figurativness and interpretation as well as their primary paraenetic character imply however a varied semantics. The electing and promising word of God is the primary and decisive parameter of reference in the interpretation of the metaphoric structure. The interpretation of the individual image-elements as persons has to derive of it secundary. Their assignment is determined by the peculiar morphology of the olive tree. A look at growth and figure of the olive tree shows, that its roots, beeing nearly as strong as the trunk, can hardly be distinguished from it. Therefore a reference of the tree to Christ can be excluded. The traditional interpretation of the root as Abraham (or rather the patriarchs) and of the olive tree as Israel have the greatest plausibility on the secundary level. Both, Abraham and Israel, represent the electing and promising
Logos of God. The faith-motive and further contextual indications give this theological basic dynamics a christological component too. The faith in Christ puts under the promising word of God. Pagans and jews will take part on the olive tree of life, which is nourished on the promising of God, the faith of the patriarchs and the gospel of Christ.