Ephesians: Introductory Notes

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   For an excellent introduction see W. G. Kümmel, Introduction to the New Testament (E.T., SCM Press, London, 1975), pp. 350-366, from which much of the following is drawn.  This material, especially the comments, is presented here to help shed light on some aspects of the chiastic materials in Ephesians.

Summary of Contents


1.  The author is not:
a. Paul
i. Because of language
(a) Numerous words are not in Paul but are found in later writings of the NT and in the Apostolic Fathers, e.g. ἀσωτία (debauchery), εὔσπλαγχνος (tender-hearted), ὁσιότης (devoutness), πολιτεία (citizenship).
(b) Different words or phrases for Pauline equivalents, e.g. ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις (in the heavenlies, 1.3, 20; 2.6; 3.10; 6.12); ὁ ἠγαπημένος (the one who has been loved, 1.6), as a predicate of Christ; the sequence αἷμα καὶ σάρκα (blood and flesh, 6.12); χαριτάω (to grace, 1.6), instead of Paul's χάριν διδωμι (to give grace).
ii. Because of style
(a) Heaping up of synonyms and genitival connectives, already found in Colossians, is much more extensive in Ephesians; cf. 1.19; 2.2; 6.18, etc.
(b) Predilection for overly long conglomerations of sentences, etc.; 1.15-23; 4.11-16, etc.
(c) The language is reminiscent of the language in the Qumran texts, and shows "such Semitic, syntactical phenomena four times as often as all othert epistles of the Pauline corpus" (K. G. Kühn).
iii. Because it exhibits verbal parallels with all the other Paulines
(except 2 Thess, and, of course, the Pastorals and Hebrews) to a far greater extent than any other Pauline epistle does.
iv. Because it is so dependent upon Colossians (see below).
b. Author of Colossians
i. Although it is clearly dependent upon Colossians
(of  155 verses 73 have parallels with Colossians - Goguel); about one-third of Colossians' words are found in Ephesians - Mitton), and this dependence runs throughout Ephesians except for short connected passages (e.g., 2.6-9; 4.5-13; 5.29-33),
ii. yet there is a basic factual difference in respect to Colossians.
E.g., Col: μυστήριον (mystery) = God's eschatological act of salvation in Christ (Col 1.26 f.; 2.2; 4.3, as in 1 Cor 2.1, 7.  In Eph 3.33 ff. (clearly linguistically echoing Col 1.26) μυστήριον   = share of Gentiles in salvation with Jews; 1.9: μυστήριον   = uniting of all in Christ; 5.32: μυστήριον = hidden analogy between marriage and union of Christ with Church.  Similar shift with οἰκονομία (economy or plan).  ἐκκλησία in Eph means universal Church; whereas in Paul (and even in Col) it indicates individual congregations as well as universal Church.
2.  The author is:
a.  Hellenistic Jewish Christian
See 1.a.ii(c) above, and note that Eph 3.5: 'which in other generations' [i.e. of humans] takes Col 1.26: 'hidden from all aeons and genea' semitically, i.e., in terms of history, not of angelic beings.
b  Knew Colossians well, but only solidly quotes it as such in the note about Tychicus (Eph 6.21 ff. // Col 4.7 f.).
c.  Had access to the collected letters of Paul (and may even have been their collector).




















To emphasize unity in the Church, stressing especially Jewish-Gentile unity (although addressed to Gentile Christians - 2.1 ff., 11 ff.; 3.1, 13; 4.17), and that 'the church of the Gentiles includes the Jewish past of the church, because it is the universal church in every sense, which will yet succeed in attaining "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (4.13)' [Kümmel, p. 257].  Note the stress on the cosmic functions of the Church - 3.10.

Since Ignatius of Antioch knows it, it cannot be later than 100 CE.  Since it depends on all the Pauline letters, it cannot antedate their collection.  Thus to be dated between 80- 100 CE [Kümmel, p.258]

'In view of the special acquaintanceship with Colossians, we would like most to look for the place of composition in Asia Minor, but that is no more than a co0njecture' [Kümmel, p. 258].

Unknown, since 'in Ephesus' is missing from 1.1. in p 46, Codex 1739, omitted by the corrector of miniscule 424 (who used a very good text), and is only added in the margin of B and א'In Ephesus' is not found in the texts used by Origen, Marcion or Tertullian.  It may  have been intended as a 'covering letter' to accompany copies of the collection of the letters.

Summary of Contents (R. H. Fuller, A Critical Introduction to the New Testament, p. 68):

Part I (Doctrinal)
Ch. 1 Thanksgiving for the revelation and redemption in Christ
Ch. 2 The call of the Gentiles into the ecclesia.
Ch. 3 The unity of Jew and Gentiles in the one ecclesia, with concluding prayer for growth (3.24-29) and doxology (3.20 f.).
Part II (Ethical - note that it begins with οὖν , 'therefore'; i.e. the ethics are the consequence of the doctrine preached.
4.1-6 Unity as a constant task as well as a gift.
4.17-5.20 Detached ethical injunctions (apparently based on the Second Table of the Decalogue).
5.21-6.9 Household code (same sequence as Col 5.18 ff., but note the strong subordination of the wife to her husband in Eph 5.24 - plus husband to wife as Christ to Church)
6.10-20 Final exhortation to Christian iconflict in the world.
6.21-24 Epistolary conclusion and blessing.

Comments on Ephesians
Author, audience and purpose  The author's use of 'we' is in the exclusive sense, i.e., it excludes those addressed, as opposed to the 'we'-inclusive, which would include them.  (Such languages as the Dravidian ones of South India have the two forms.  Although Greek does not, the author's intention is clear.)
        I.e., the author is a Jewish Christian, speaking in the name of the Jewish Christian leadership of the Church, and he addresses Gentile Christians, who formerly were 'separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and ... without God, [being] far off' (22.11-13).
        Thus 'the middle wall of partition' which has been broken down (2.14) has reconciled both Jew and Gentile (man-to-man) on analogy with inner wall of Jerusalem temple beyond which no Gentile could go without being stoned top death and also man to God on analogy of the word μεσότοιχον ('middle wall of partition') also being used for the hard-shelled firmament that was envisaged by some as preventing access between man on earth and God in heaven.
        2.    Thus 'mystery' is one body of Jew and Gentile in Christ.
        3.    Note shift from Paul in what apostles and prophets mean.  Now they represent the founding generation (the church founders ands first pastoral preachers), 'the holy apostles and prophets' to whom was revealed the (normative form of) the .mystery' (3.5), to which the recipients are now to stay true.  To reinforce this, the 'apostles and prophets' are now spoken of as 'foundation' of God's household (2.20; versus Paul in 1 Cor 3.11); as a consequence Christ is 'pushed upstairs' from 'foundation (1 Cor 3.11) to 'chief cornerstone' (Eph 2.20).  Thus in Eph 4.11 the current ministers are called 'evangelists' (= Paul's 'apostles'), 'pastors' (= Paul's 'prophets') and 'teachers' (= Paul's 'teachers').  (see
"Recognized" Ministry in the New Testament)
        4.  Note there is no overall chiasm (as in Paul's letters) but rather two major ones slightly overlapping in the centre, plus a complete series of smaller ones.
        5.  Another shift from Paul: speaking of 'having been saved' (perfect passive- versus Paul's 'being saved', 'shall be saved'), and of Christians as having already been raised with Christ (2.6; versus Paul's future resurrection of Christians).
        6. Some shifts from Colossians: (a) Col: Christ Head of the Body, the Church; Eph: Christ  Head (as ruler) in contrast to feet (i.e. term 'head' not related to 'body' but to 'feet' as cosmic ruler in Eph); (b) Col: 'fullness of divinity bodily'; Eph: our goal: 'Fullness of stature of Christ' (i.e., shift on use of 'fullness' from concern for divinity to concern for Christ's humanity as our goal); (c) Eschatology: Col: battle over, we await glory; Eph: we battle against powers in the heavenlies (i.e., not over yet and Church has a real ro9le to play in it, that is, a somewhat less inaugurated eschatology than in Colossians),
        7.  Ephesians' ethics are based on 2nd Table opf Decalogue (J. L. Houlden).  (Eph, Col and 1 Peter have 'household codes' of Hellenistic Stoic origin, i.e., dealing with master-slave, husband-wife, children-parents relationships)

Further Note regarding what God has done in and through Christ:
        Paul:  Easter Day did not change the situation we faced but rather our capacity for facing it (as per C. D. Morrison, The Powers That Be, SBT Series 1, No. 29, SCM, London, 1960).  We had enslaved ourselves to that which is not God (like a fly flying to flypaper and then unable to get free).  Our old selves have died with Christ in baptism.  Now don't 'fly' back again.  See the list in Rom 8.38-39 of things that Jews and Gentiles were afraid of or previously attached to.  (Cosmic powers only have power as we give ourselves to them.)
        Colossians:   Cosmic powers are real, and Christ has conquered them, hence freeing us.  I.e. situation we face has been changed.
        Ephesians:  Cosmic powers are real, Christ has freed us from them, but now we must continue the battle.