Easton's Bible Dictionary
was written by Paul at Rome about the same time as that to the Colossians, which
in many points it resembles.
Contents of. The Epistle to the Colossians is mainly polemical, designed to refute
certain theosophic errors that had crept into the church there. That to the Ephesians
does not seem to have originated in any special circumstances, but is simply a
letter springing from Paul's love to the church there, and indicative of his earnest
desire that they should be fully instructed in the profound doctrines of the gospel.
|(1) the salutation (Ephesians 1:1
(2) a general description of the blessings the gospel reveals, as to their source,
means by which they are attained, purpose for which they are bestowed, and their
final result, with a fervent prayer for the further spiritual enrichment of the
Ephesians (Ephesians 1:3 - 2:10);
(3) "a record of that marked change in spiritual position which the Gentile believers
now possessed, ending with an account of the writer's selection to and qualification
for the apostolate of heathendom, a fact so considered as to keep them from being
dispirited, and to lead him to pray for enlarged spiritual benefactions on his
absent sympathizers" (Ephesians 2:12 - 3:21);
(4) a chapter on unity as undisturbed by diversity of gifts (Ephesians 4:1 - 16);
(5) special injunctions bearing on ordinary life (Ephesians 4:17 - 6:10);
(6) the imagery of a spiritual warfare, mission of Tychicus, and valedictory blessing
(Ephesians 6:11 - 24).
Planting of the church at Ephesus. Paul's first and hurried visit for the space
of three months to Ephesus is recorded in Acts 18:19-21. The work he began on
this occasion was carried forward by Apollos (Ephesians 24 - 26) and Aquila and
Priscilla. On his second visit, early in the following year, he remained at Ephesus
"three years," for he found it was the key to the western provinces of Asia Minor.
Here "a great door and effectual" was opened to him (1 Corinthians 16:9), and
the church was established and strengthened by his assiduous labours there (Acts
20:20 , 31). From Ephesus as a centre the gospel spread abroad "almost throughout
all Asia" (Acts 19:26). The word "mightily grew and prevailed" despite all the
opposition and persecution he encountered.
On his last journey to Jerusalem the apostle landed at Miletus, and summoning
together the elders of the church from Ephesus, delivered to them his remarkable
farewell charge (Acts 20:18-35), expecting to see them no more.
The following parallels between this epistle and the Milesian charge may be traced:
|(1.) Acts 20:19 = Ephesians
4:2. The phrase "lowliness of mind" occurs nowhere else.
(2.) Acts 20:27 = Ephesians 1:11. The word "counsel,"
as denoting the divine plan, occurs only here and Hebrews 6:17.
(3.) Acts 20:32 = Ephesians 3:20. The divine ability.
(4.) Acts 20:32 = Ephesians 2:20. The building
upon the foundation.
(5.) Acts 20:32 = Ephesians 1:14, 18. "The inheritance
of the saints."
Place and date of the writing of the letter. It was evidently written from Rome
during Paul's first imprisonment (Ephesians 3:1
; 4:1 ; 6:20), and probably soon after his arrival there, about the year 62, four
years after he had parted with the Ephesian elders at Miletus. The subscription
of this epistle is correct.
There seems to have been no special occasion for the writing of this letter, as
already noted. Paul's object was plainly not polemical. No errors had sprung up
in the church which he sought to point out and refute. The object of the apostle
is "to set forth the ground, the cause, and the aim and end of the church of the
faithful in Christ. He speaks to the Ephesians as a type or sample of the church
universal." The church's foundations, its course, and its end, are his theme.
"Everywhere the foundation of the church is the will of the Father; the course
of the church is by the satisfaction of the Son; the end of the church is the
life in the Holy Spirit." In the Epistle to the Romans, Paul writes from the point
of view of justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ; here he writes
from the point of view specially of union to the Redeemer, and hence of the oneness
of the true church of Christ. "This is perhaps the profoundest book in existence."
It is a book "which sounds the lowest depths of Christian doctrine, and scales
the loftiest heights of Christian experience;" and the fact that the apostle evidently
expected the Ephesians to understand it is an evidence of the "proficiency which
Paul's converts had attained under his preaching at Ephesus."
Relation between this epistle and that to the Colossians (q.v.). "The letters
of the apostle are the fervent outburst of pastoral zeal and attachment, written
without reserve and in unaffected simplicity; sentiments come warm from the heart,
without the shaping out, pruning, and punctilious arrangement of a formal discourse.
There is such a fresh and familiar transcription of feeling, so frequent an introduction
of coloquial idiom, and so much of conversational frankness and vivacity, that
the reader associates the image of the writer with every paragraph, and the ear
seems to catch and recognize the very tones of living address." "Is it then any
matter of amazement that one letter should resemble another, or that two written
about the same time should have so much in common and so much that is peculiar?
The close relation as to style and subject between the epistles to Colosse and
Ephesus must strike every reader. Their precise relation to each other has given
rise to much discussion. The great probability is that the epistle to Colosse
was first written; the parallel passages in Ephesians, which amount to about forty-two
in number, having the appearance of being expansions from the epistle to Colosse.
| Ephesians 1:7
Ephesians 1:19 - 2:5
Ephesians 4:22 - 24
Ephesians 5:15 , 16
Ephesians 6:19 , 20
Ephesians 5:22 - 6:9
Colossians 2:12 , 13
Colossians 3:12 - 15
Colossians 3:9 , 10
Colossians 3:6 - 8
Colossians 4:3 , 4
Colossians 3:18 - 4:1
"The style of this epistle is exceedingly animated, and corresponds with the state
of the apostle's mind at the time of writing. Overjoyed with the account which
their messenger had brought him of their faith and holiness (Ephesians
1:15), and transported with the consideration of the unsearchable wisdom
of God displayed in the work of man's redemption, and of his astonishing love
towards the Gentiles in making them partakers through faith of all the benefits
of Christ's death, he soars high in his sentiments on those grand subjects, and
gives his thoughts utterance in sublime and copious expression."
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
was written by the apostle St. Paul during his first captivity at Rome, (Acts
28:16) apparently immediately after he had written the Epistle to the Colossians
, EPISTLE TO THE], and during that period (perhaps the early part of A.D.
62) when his imprisonment had not assumed the severer character which seems to
have marked its close. This epistle was addressed to the Christian church at Ephesus.
[Ephesus] Its contents may be divided into two portions, the first mainly doctrinal,
Ephesians ch. 1-3, the second hortatory and practical.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
1. External Evidence:
None of the epistles which are ascribed to Paul have a stronger chain of evidence
to their early and continued use than that which we know as the Epistle to the
Ephesians. Leaving for the moment the question of the relation of Eph to other
New Testament writings, we find that it not only colors the phraseology of the
Apostolic Fathers, but is actually quoted. In Clement of Rome (circa 95 AD) the
connection with Ephesians might be due to some common liturgical form in xlvi.6
(compare Ephesians 4:6); though the resemblance is so close that we must feel
that our epistle was known to Clement both here and in lxiv (compare Ephesians
1:3 - 4); xxxviii (compare Ephesians 5:21); xxxvi (compare Ephesians 4:18); lix
(compare Ephesians 1:18 ; 4:18). Ignatius (died 115) shows numerous points of
contact with Ephesians, especially in his Epistle to the Ephesians. In chap. xii
we read: "Ye are associates and fellow students of the mysteries with Paul, who
in every letter makes mention of you in Christ Jesus." It is difficult to decide
the exact meaning of the phrase "every letter," but in spite of the opinion of
many scholars that it must be rendered "in all his epistle," i.e. in every part
of his epistle, it is safer to take it as an exaggeration, "in all his epistles,"
justified to some extent in the fact that besides Ephesians, Paul does mention
the Ephesian Christians in Romans (16:5); 1 Corinthians (15:32; 16:8,19); 2 Corinthians
(1:8 f); 1 Timothy (1:3) and 2 Timothy (1:18). In the opening address the connection
with Ephesians 1:3 - 6 is too close to be accidental. There are echoes of our
epistle in chap. i (Ephesians 6:1); ix (Ephesians 2:20 - 22); xviii (oikonomia,
Ephesians 1:10); xx (Ephesians 2:18 ; 4:24); and in Ignat. ad Polyc. v we have
close identity with Ephesians 5:25 and less certain connection with Ephesians
4:2, and in vi with Ephesians 6:13 - 17.
The Epistle of Polycarp in two passages shows verbal agreement with Ephesians
in chap. i with Ephesians 1:8, and in xii with Ephesians 4:26, where we
have (the Greek is missing here) ut his scripturis dictum est. Hermas speaks of
the grief of the Holy Spirit in such a way as to suggest Ephesians (Mand. X, ii;
compare Ephesians 4:30). Sim. IX, xiii, shows a knowledge of Ephesians 4:3 - 6,
and possibly of 5:26 and 1:13. In the Didache (4) we find a parallel to Ephesians
6:5: "Servants submit yourselves to your masters." In Barnabas there are two or
three turns of phrase that are possibly due to Ephesians. There is a slightly
stronger connection between II Clement and Ephesians, especially in chap. xiv,
where we have the Ephesian figure of the church as the body of Christ, and the
relation between them referred to in terms of husband and wife. This early evidence,
slight though it is, is strengthened by the part Ephesians played in the 2nd century
where, as we learn from Hippolytus, it was used by the Ophites and Basilides and
Valentinus. The latter (according to Hip., Phil., VI, 29) quoted Ephesians 3:16
- 18, saying, "This is what has been written in Scripture," while his disciple
Ptolemais is said by Irenaeus (Adv. Haer., i.8, 5) to have attributed Ephesians
5:13 to Paul by name. According to the addenda to the eighth book of the Stromateis
of Clement of Alexandria, Theodotus, a contemporary of Valentinus, quoted Ephesians
4:10 and 30 with the words: "The apostle says," and attributes Ephesians 4:24
to Paul. Marcion knew Ephesians as Tertullian tells us, identifying it with the
epistle referred to in Colossians 4:16 as ad Laodicenos. We find it in the Muratorian
Fragment (10b, l. 20) as the second of the epistles which "Paul wrote following
the example of his predecessor John." It is used in the letter from the church
of Lyons and Vienne and by Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen
and later writers. We can well accept the dictum of Dr. Hort that it "is all but
certain on this evidence that the Epistle was in existence by 95 AD; quite certain
that it was in existence by about fifteen years later or conceivably a little
more" (Hort, Judaistic Christianity, 118).
2. Internal Evidence:
To this very strong chain of external evidence, reaching back to the very beginning
of the 2nd century, if not into the end of the 1st, showing Ephesians as part
of the original Pauline collection which no doubt Ignatius and Polycarp used,
we must add the evidence of the epistle itself, testing it to see if there be
any reason why the letter thus early attested should not be accredited to the
|(1) That it claims to be written by Paul is seen not only
in the greeting, "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to
the saints that are at Ephesus," but also in Ephesians 3:1, where we read: "For
this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles," a
phrase which is continued in Ephesians 4:1: "I therefore, the prisoner in the
Lord." This claim is substantiated by the general character of the epistle which
is written after the Pauline norm, with greeting and thanksgiving, leading on
to and serving as the introduction of the special doctrinal teaching of the epistle.
This is the first great division of the Pauline epistles and is regularly followed
by an application of the teaching to practical matters, which in turn yields to
personal greetings, or salutations, and the final benediction, commonly written
by the apostle's own hand. In only one particular does Ephesians fail to answer
completely to this outline. The absence of the personal greetings has always been
marked as a striking peculiarity of our letter. The explanation of this peculiarity
will meet us when we consider the destination of the epistle (see III below).
(2) Further evidence for the Pauline authorship is found in the general style
and language of the letter. We may agree with von Soden (Early Christ. Lit., 294)
that "every sentence contains verbal echoes of Pauline epistles, indeed except
when ideas peculiar to the Epistle come to expression it is simply a mosaic of
Pauline phraseology," without accepting his conclusion that Paul did not write
it. We feel, as we read, that we have in our hands the work of one with whom the
other epistles have made us familiar. Yet we are conscious none the less of certain
subtle differences which give occasion for the various arguments that critics
have brought against the claim that Paul is the actual author. This is not questioned
until the beginning of the last century, but has been since Schleiermacher and
his disciple Usteri, though the latter published his doubts before his master
did his. The Tubingen scholars attacked the epistle mainly on the ground of supposed
traces of Gnostic or Montanist influences, akin to those ascribed to the Colossians.
Later writers have given over this claim to put forward others based on differences
of style (De Wette, followed by Holtzmann, von Soden and others); dependence on
Colossians (Hitzig, Holtzmann); the attitude to the Apostles (von Soden); doctrinal
differences, especially those that concern Christology and the Parousia, the conception
of the church (Klopper, Wrede and others). The tendency, however, seems to be
backward toward a saner view of the questions involved; and most of those who
do not accept the Pauline authorship would probably agree with Julicher (Encyclopedia
Biblica), who ascribes it to a "Pauline Christian intimately familiar with the
Pauline epistles, especially with Colossians, writing about 90," who sought in
Ephesians "to put in a plea for the true catholicism in the meaning of Paul and
in his name."
(3) Certain of these positions require that we should examine the doctrinal objections.
|(a) First of these is the claim that Ephesians has a different
conception of the person and work of Christ from the acknowledged epistles of
Paul. Not only have we the exaltation of Christ which we find in Colossians 1:16,
but the still further statement that it was God's purpose from the beginning to
"sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the
earth" (Ephesians 1:10). This is no more than the natural expansion of the term,
"all things," which are attributed to Christ in 1 Corinthians 8:6, and is an idea
which has at least its foreshadowing in Romans 8:19 , 20 and 2 Corinthians 5:18
, 19. The relation between Christ and the church as given in Ephesians 1:22 and
5:23 is in entire agreement with Paul's teaching in Romans 12, and 1 Corinthians
12. It is still the Pauline figure of the church as the body of Christ, in spite
of the fact that Christ is not thought of as the head of that body. The argument
in the epistle does not deal with the doctrine of the cross from the standpoint
of the earlier epistles, but the teaching is exactly the same. There is redemption
(Ephesians 1:7 , 14 ; 4:30); reconciliation (Ephesians 2:14 - 16); forgiveness
(Ephesians 1:7 ; 4:32). The blood of Christ shed on the cross redeems us from
our sin and restores us to God. In like manner it is said that the Parousia is
treated (Ephesians 2:7) as something far off. But Paul has long since given up
the idea that it is immediately; even in 2 Thessalonians 2 he shows that an indeterminate
interval must intervene, and in Romans 11:25 he sees a period of time yet unfulfilled
before the end.
(b) The doctrine of the church is the most striking contrast to the earlier epistles.
We have already dealt with the relation of Christ to the church. The conception
of the church universal is in advance of the earlier epistles, but it is the natural
climax of the development of the apostle's conception of the church as shown in
the earlier epistles. Writing from Rome with the idea of the empire set before
him, it was natural that Paul should see the church as a great whole, and should
use the word ekklesia absolutely as signifying the oneness of the Christian brotherhood.
As a matter of fact the word is used in this absolute sense in 1 Corinthians 12:28
before the Captivity Epistles (compare 1 Corinthians 1:2 ; 10:32). The emphasis
here on the unity of Jew and Gentile in the church finds its counterpart in the
argument of the Epistle to the Romans, though in Ephesians this is "urged on the
basis of God's purpose and Christian faith, rather than on the Law and the Promises."
Neither is it true that in Ephesians the Law is spoken of slightingly, as some
say, by the reference to circumcision (Ephesians 2:11). In no case is the doctrinal
portion of the epistle counter to that of the acknowledged Pauline epistles, though
in the matter of the church, and of Christ's relationship to it and to the universe,
there is evidence of progress in the apostle's conception of the underlying truths,
which none the less find echoes in the earlier writings. "New doctrinal ideas,
or a new proportion of these ideas, is no evidence of different authorship."
(c) In the matter of organization the position of Ephesians is not in any essential
different from what we have in 1 Corinthians.
(4) The linguistic argument is a technical matter of the use of Greek words that
cannot well be discussed here. The general differences of style, the longer "turgid"
sentences, the repetitions on the one hand; the lack of argument, the full, swelling
periods on the other, find their counterpart in portions of Romans. The minute
differences which show themselves in new or strange words will be much reduced
in number when we take from the list those that are due to subjects which the
author does not discuss elsewhere (e.g. those in the list of armor in Ephesians
6:13). Holtzmann (Einl, 25) gives us a list of these hapax legomena (76 in all).
But there are none of these which, as Lock says, Paul could not have used, though
there are certain which he does not use elsewhere and others which are only found
in his accepted writings and here. The following stand out as affording special
ground for objection. The phrase "heavenly places" (ta epourania, Ephesians 1:3
, 10 ; 2:6 ; 3:10 ; 6:12) is peculiar to this epistle. The phrase finds a partial
parallel it in 1 Corinthians 15:49 and the thought is found in Philippians 3:20.
The devil (ho diabolos, Ephesians 4:27 ; 6:11) is used in place of the more usual
But in Acts Paul is quoted as using diabolos in Acts 13:10 and satanas in Acts
26:18. It is at least natural that he would have used the Greek term when writing
from Rome to a Greek-speaking community. The objection to the expression "holy"
(hagiois) apostles (Ephesians 3:5) falls to the ground when we remember that the
expression "holy" (hagios) is Paul's common word for Christian and that he uses
it of himself in this very epistle (Ephesians 3:8). In like manner "mystery" (musterion),
"dispensation" (oikonomia) are found in other epistles in the same sense that
we find them in here. The attack on the epistle fails, whether it is made from
the point of teaching or language; and there is no ground whatever for questioning
the truth of Christian tradition that Paul wrote the letter which we know as the
Epistle to the Ephesians.
II. PLACE AND DATE OF WRITING
The time and place of his writing Ephesians turn on the larger question of the
chronology of Paul's life (see PAUL)
and the relation of the Captivity Epistles to each other; and the second question
whether they were written from Caesarea or Rome (for this see PHILEMON,
EPISTLE TO). Suffice it here to say that the place was undoubtedly Rome, and
that they were written during the latter part of the two years' captivity which
we find recorded in Acts 28:30. The date will then be, following the later chronology,
63 or 64 AD; following the earlier, which is, in many ways, to be preferred, about
To whom was this letter written?
The title says to the Ephesians. With this the witness of the early church almost
universally agrees. It is distinctly stated in the Muratorian Fragment (10b, 1.
20); and the epistle is quoted as to the Ephesians by Irenaeus (Adv. Haer., v.14,
3; 24, 3); Tertullian (Adv. Marc., v.11, 17; De Praesc., 36; De Monag., v); Clement
of Alexandria (Strom., iv.65; Paed., i.18) and Origen (Contra Celsum, iii.20).
To these must be added the evidence of the extant manuscripts and VSS, which unite
in ascribing the epistle to the Ephesians. The only exception to the universal
evidence is Tertullian's account of Marcion (circa 150 AD) who reads Ad Laodicenos
(Adv. Marc., v.11: "I say nothing here about another epistle which we have with
the heading 'to the Ephesians,' but the heretics 'to the Laodiceans' .... (v.17):
According to the true belief of the church we hold this epistle to have been dispatched
to the Ephesians, not to the Laodiceans; but Marcion had to falsify its title,
wishing to make himself out a very diligent investigator").
2. The Inscription:
This almost universal evidence for Ephesus as the destination of our epistle is
shattered when we turn to the reading of the first verse. Here according to Textus
Receptus of the New Testament we read "Paul unto the saints which are at Ephesus
(en Epheso) and to the faithful in Christ Jesus." When we look at the evidence
for this reading we find that the two words en Epheso are lacking in Codex Sinaiticus
and Codex Vaticanus, and that the corrector of the cursive known as 67 has struck
them out of his copy. Besides these a recently described MS, Cod. Laura 184, giving
us a text which is so closely akin to that used by Origen that the scribe suggests
that it was compiled from Origen's writings, omits these words (Robinson, Ephesians,
293). To this strong manuscript evidence against the inclusion of these two words
in the inscription we must add the evidence of Origen and Basil. Origen, as quoted
in Cramer's Catena at the place, writes: "In the Ephesians alone we found the
expression 'to the saints which are,' and we ask, unless the phrase 'which are'
is redundant, what it can mean. May it not be that as in Exodus He who speaks
to Moses declares His name to be the Absolute One, so also those who are partakers
of the Absolute become existent when they are called, as it were, from non-being
into being?" Origen evidently knows nothing here of any reading en Epheso, but
takes the words "which are" in an absolute, metaphysical sense. Basil, a century
and a half later, probably refers to this comment of Origen (Contra Eun., ii.19)
saying: "But moreover, when writing to the Ephesians, as to men who are truly
united with the Absolute One through clear knowledge, he names them as existent
ones in a peculiar phrase, saying 'to the saints which are and faithful in Christ
Jesus.' For so those who were before us have handed it down, and we also have
found (this reading) in old copies." In Jerome's note on this verse there is perhaps
a reference to this comment on Origen, but the passage is too indefinitely expressed
for us to be sure what its bearing on the reading really is. The later writers
quoted by Lightfoot (Biblical Essays, 384 f) cannot, as Robinson shows (Eph, 293),
be used as witnesses against the Textus Receptus. We may therefore conclude that
the reading en Epheso was wanting in many early manuscripts, and that there is
good ground for questioning its place in the original autograph. But the explanations
suggested for the passage, as it stands without the words, offend Pauline usage
so completely that we cannot accept them. To take "which are" in the phrase "the
saints which are" (tois ousin) as absolute, as Origen did; or as meaning "truly,"
is impossible. It is possible to take the words with what follows, "and faithful"
(kai pistois), and interpret this latter expression (pistois) either in the New
Testament sense of "believers" or in the classical sense of "steadfast." The clause
would then read either "to the saints who are also believers," or "to the saints
who are also faithful," i.e. steadfast. Neither of these is wholly in accord with
Paul's normal usage, but they are at least possible.
3. The Evidence of the Letter Itself:
The determining factor in the question of the destination of the epistle lies
in the epistle itself. We must not forget that, save perhaps Corinth, there was
no church with which Paul was so closely associated as that in Ephesus. His long
residence there, of which we read in Acts (Acts chapters 19 ; 20), finds no echo
in our epistle. There is no greeting to anyone of the Christian community, many
of whom were probably intimate friends. The close personal ties, that the scene
of Acts 20:17 - 38 shows us existed between him and his converts in Ephesus, are
not even hinted at. The epistle is a calm discussion, untouched with the warmth
of personal allusion beyond the bare statement that the writer is a prisoner (Ephesians
3:1; 4:1), and his commendation of Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21 , 22), who was to
tell them about Paul's condition in Rome. This lack of personal touch is intensified
by the assumption underlying Ephesians 3 and 4 that the readers do not know his
knowledge of the mysteries of Christ. In Ephesians 3:2 and 4:21 , 22 there is
a particle (eige, "if indeed") which suggests at least some question as to how
far Paul himself was the missionary through whom they believed. All through the
epistle there is a lack of those elements which are so constant in the other epistles,
which mark the close personal fellowship and acquaintance between the apostle
and those to whom he is writing.
This element in the epistle, coupled with the strange fact of Marcion's attributing
it to the Laodiceans, and the expression in Colossians 4:16 that points to a letter
coming from Laodicea to Colosse, has led most writers of the present day to accept
Ussher's suggestion that the epistle is really a circular letter to the churches
either in Asia, or, perhaps better, in that part of Phrygia which lies near Colosse.
The readers were evidently Gentiles (Ephesians 2:1 ; 3:1 , 2) and from the mission
of Tychicus doubtless of a definite locality, though for the reasons given above
this could not well be Ephesus alone. It is barely possible that the cities to
whom John was bidden to write the Revelation (Revelation 1 - 3) are the same as
those to whom Paul wrote this epistle, or it may be that they were the churches
of the Lycus valley and its immediate neighborhood. The exact location cannot
be determined. But from the fact that Marcion attributed the epistle to Laodicea,
possibly because it was so written in the first verse, and from the connection
with Colossians, it is at least probable that two of these churches were at Colosse
and Laodicea. On this theory the letter would seem to have been written from Rome
to churches in the neighborhood of, or accessible to, Colosse, dealing with the
problem of Christian unity and fellowship and the relations between Christ and
the church and sent to them by the hands of Tychicus. The inscription was to be
filled in by the bearer, or copies were to be made with the name of the local
church written in, and then sent to or left with the different churches. It was
from Ephesus, as the chief city of Asia in all probability, that copies of this
circular letter reached the church in the world, and from this fact the letter
came to be known in the church at large as that from Ephesus, and the title was
written "to the Ephesians," and the first verse was made to read to the "saints
which are in Ephesus."
IV. RELATION TO OTHER NEW TESTAMENT WRITINGS
Ephesians raises a still further question by the close resemblances that can be
traced between it and various other New Testament writings.
The connection between Ephesians and 1 Peter is not beyond question. In spite
of the disclaimer of as careful a writer as Dr. Bigg (ICC) it is impossible to
follow up the references given by Holtzmann and others and not feel that Peter
either knew Ephesians or at the very least had discussed these subjects with its
author. For, as Dr. Hort tells us, the similarity is one of thought and structure
rather than of phrase. The following are the more striking passages with their
parallels in 1 Peter.
Ephesians 1:18 - 20
Ephesians 2:18 - 22
Ephesians 1:20 - 22
|1 Peter 1:3
1 Peter 1:3 - 5
1 Peter 2:4 - 6
1 Peter 3:22
1 Peter 1:20
1 Peter 1:12
1 Peter 1:14
The explanations that 1 Peter and Ephesians are both from the pen of the same
writer, or that Ephesians is based on 1 Peter, are overthrown, among other reasons,
by the close relation between Ephesians and Colossians.
2. Johannine Writings:
The connection with the Apocalypse is based on Ephesians 2:20 as compared with
Revelation 21:14 ; Ephesians 3:5 and Revelation 10:7 ; Ephesians 5:11 and Revelation
18:4, and the figure of the bride of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7; compare Ephesians
5:25). Holtzmann adds various minor similarities, but none of these are sufficient
to prove any real knowledge of, let alone dependence on Ephesians. The contact
with the Fourth Gospel is more positive. Love (agape) and knowledge (gnosis) are
used in the same sense in both Ephesians and the Gospel. The application of the
Messianic title, the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6), to Christ does not appear in the
Gospel (it is found in Matthew 3:17), but the statement of the Father's love for
Him constantly recurs. The reference to the going up and coming down of Christ
(Ephesians 4:9) is closely akin to John 3:13 ("No man hath ascended into heaven,
but he," etc.). So, too, Ephesians 5:11 , 13 finds echo in John 3:19 , 20 ; Ephesians
4:4 , 7 in John 3:34 ; Ephesians 5:6 in John 3:36. Ephesians 5:8 f is akin to
1 John 1:6 and Ephesians 2:3 to 1 John 3:10.
When we turn to Colossians we find a situation that is without parallel in the
New Testament. Out of 155 verses in Ephesians, 78 are found in Colossians in varying
degrees of identity. Among them are these:
Ephesians 6:5 - 9
|parallel Colossians 1:13
parallel Colossians 1:9
parallel Colossians 1:16
parallel Colossians 2:20
parallel Colossians 3:12
parallel Colossians 2:19
parallel Colossians 3:9
parallel Colossians 3:12
parallel Colossians 3:5
parallel Colossians 3:1
parallel Colossians 3:21
parallel Colossians 3:22 - 4:1
For a fuller list see Abbott (ICC, xxiii). Not only is this so, but there is an
identity of treatment, a similarity in argument so great that Bishop Barry (NT
Commentary for English Readers, Ellicott) can make a parallel analysis showing
the divergence and similarity by the simple device of different type. To this
we must add that there are at least a dozen Greek words common to these two epistles
not found elsewhere. Over against this similarity is to be set the dissimilarity.
The general subject of the epistles is not approached from the same standpoint.
In one it is Christ as the head of all creation, and our duty in consequence.
In the other it is the church as the fullness of Christ and our duty--put constantly
in the same words--in consequence thereof. In Ephesians we have a number of Old
Testament references, in Colossians only one. In Ephesians we have unique phrases,
of which "the heavenly spheres" (ta epourania) is most striking, and the whole
treatment of the relation of Jew and Gentile in the church, and the marriage tie
as exemplified in the relation between Christ and the church. In Colossians we
have in like manner distinct passages which have no parallel in Ephesians, especially
the controversial section in chapter 2, and the salutations. In truth, as Davies
(Ephesians, Paul to Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians.) well says: "It is
difficult indeed to say, concerning the patent coincidences of expression in the
two epistles, whether the points of likeness or of unlikeness between them are
the more remarkable." This situation has given rise to various theories. The most
complicated is that of H. Holtzmann, who holds that some passages point to a priority
of Colossians, others to that of Ephesians; and as a result he believes that Colossians,
as we have it, is a composite, based on an original epistle of Paul which was
expanded by the author of Ephesians--who was not Paul--after he had written this
epistle. So Holtzmann would give us the original Colossians (Pauline), Ephesians
(based on it), and the present Colossians (not Pauline) expanded from the former
through the latter. The theory falls to the ground on its fundamental hypothesis,
that Colossians as it stands is interpolated. The most reasonable explanation
is that both Colossians and Ephesians are the work of Paul, written at practically
the same time, and that in writing on the same subjects, to different people,
there would be just the differences and similarity which we have in these epistles.
The objection that Paul could not repeat himself and yet differ as these two letters
do is purely imaginary. Zahn shows us that men do just this very thing, giving
an account of Bismarck's speaking on a certain subject to a group of officers
and later to a large body of men, and yet using quite different language. Moreover,
Paul is not averse to repeating himself (compare Romans and Galatians and 1 Timothy
and 2 Timothy) when to do so will serve his purpose. "Simultaneous authorship
by one writer," and that writer Paul, is the only explanation that will satisfy
all the facts in the case and give them due proportion.
V. THE PURPOSE
If our interpretation of the circumstances, composition and destination of Ephesians
be right, we are now in a position to look beneath the surface and ask why the
apostle wrote it. To understand its central theme we must remember that Paul,
the prisoner of the Lord, is writing in the calm of his imprisonment, far from
the noise and turmoil, the conflict and strife, that marked his earlier life.
He is now able to look out on the church and get a view of it in its wholeness,
to see the part it is to play in God's scheme for the restoration of the human
race, to see God's purpose in it and for it and its relation to Him. With this
stand-point he can write to the churches about Ephesus on the occasion of Tychicus'
return to Colosse, not to correct false views on some special point, but to emphasize
the great central truth which he had put in the very forefront of his letter.
God's eternal purpose is to gather into one the whole created universe, to restore
harmony among His creatures and between them and Himself. The apostle's whole
prayer is for this end, his whole effort and desire is toward this goal: that
they may have full, clear knowledge of this purpose of God which He is working
out through Christ Jesus, who is the head of the church, the very fullness of
Him who is being fulfilled all over the world. Everything, for the apostle, as
he looks forth upon the empire, centers in the purpose of God. The discord between
the elements in the church, the distinction between Jew and Gentile, all these
must yield to that greater purpose. The vision is of a great oneness in Christ
and through Him in God, a oneness of birth and faith and life and love, as men,
touched with the fire of that Divine purpose, seek to fulfil, each in himself,
the part that God has given him to play in the world, and, fighting against the
foes of God, to overcome at last.
It is a noble purpose to set before men this great mystery of the church as God's
means by which, in Christ, He may restore all men to union with Himself. It is
an impossible vision except to one who, as Paul was at the time, is in a situation
where the strife and turmoil of outside life can enter but little, but a situation
where he can look out with a calm vision and, in the midst of the world's discord,
discern what God is accomplishing among men.
The Argument of Ephesians is as follows:
|Ephesians 1:1 , 2:
Ephesians 1:3 - 10:
Hymn of praise to God for the manifestation of His purpose for men in Christ Jesus,
chosen from the beginning to a holy life in love, predestined to adoption as sons
through Jesus Christ, in whom as the Beloved He has given us grace (Ephesians
1:3 - 6). Redeemed by the blood of Christ by whom we have forgiveness of sins
through His grace abounding in us and making us know the mystery of His purpose,
namely, to unite all in one, even the entire universe (Ephesians 1:7 - 10).
Ephesians 1:11 - 14:
For this Israel has served as a preparation, and to this the Gentiles are come,
sealed unto salvation by the Holy Spirit of power.
Ephesians 1:15 , 16 a:
Thanksgiving for their faith.
Ephesians 1:16 - 21:
Prayer that they may, by the spirit of wisdom and revelation, know their destiny
and the power of God to fulfill it.
Ephesians 1:22 - 2:10:
Summary of what God has done in Christ. Christ's sovereignty (Ephesians 1:22 ,
23), and headship in the church (Ephesians 1:22 , 23); His work for men, quickening
us from a death of sin into which man has sunk, and exalting us to fellowship
with Christ by His grace, who has created us for good works as part of His eternal
purpose (Ephesians 2:1 - 10).
Ephesians 2:11 - 13:
The contrast between the former estate of the Gentiles, as strangers and aliens,
and their present one, "near" by the blood of Christ.
Ephesians 2:14 - 18:
Christ, who is our peace, uniting Jew and Gentile and reconciling man to God through
the cross; by whom we all have access to the Father.
Ephesians 2:19 - 22:
This is theirs who as fellow-citizens of the saints, built up on the foundation
of the apostles and prophets, become a sanctuary of God in the Spirit.
Ephesians 3:1 - 21:
A digression on the "mystery," i.e. the revelation to Paul, together with a prayer
that men may grasp it. The "mystery" is that all men, Jews and Gentiles, are partakers
of the promise. Of this Paul is a minister, to whom has been given the stewardship
of that mystery, unfolding to all creatures God's wisdom, in accord with His eternal
purpose (Ephesians 3:1 - 13). Prayer that they may live up to their opportunities
(Ephesians 3:14 - 19). Doxology (Ephesians 3:20 , 21).
Ephesians 4:1 - 6:
The outcome of this privilege, the fulfillment of the Divine purpose, must show
itself in unity of life in the Christian fellowship.
Ephesians 4:7 - 16:
The different gifts which the Christians have are for the upbuilding of the church
into that perfect unity which is found in Christ.
Ephesians 4:17 - 24:
The spiritual darkness and corruption of the old Gentilelife set over against
the enlightenment and purity and holiness of the new life in Christ.
Ephesians 4:25 - 6:9:
Special features of the Christian life, arising out of the union of Christians
with Christ and making for the fellowship in the church. On the side of the individual:
sins in word (Ephesians 4:25 - 30); of temper (Ephesians 4:31 , 32); self-sacrifice
as opposed to self- indulgence (Ephesians 5:1 - 8); the contrast of the present
and the past repeated (Ephesians 5:9 - 14); general behavior (Ephesians 5:15 -
20); on the side of social relations: husband and wife exemplified in the relation
of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:23 - 33); children and parents (Ephesians
6:1 - 4); servants and masters (Ephesians 6:5 - 9).
Ephesians 6:19 - 20:
The Christian warfare, its foes and armor and weapons.
Ephesians 6:21 - 24:
The keynote to the doctrinal basis of the epistle is struck at the very outset.
The hymn of praise centers in the thought of God, the Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ. It is to Him that the blessing is due, to Him, who had chosen us from
the beginning, in whom there is redemption in Ephesians (Ephesians 1:3 - 7). God
as the very heart and soul of everything, "is over all, and through all, and in
all" (Ephesians 4:6). He is the Father from whom all revelation comes (Ephesians
1:17), and from whom every human family derives its distinctive characteristics
(Ephesians 3:15). But He is not only Father in relation to the universe: He is
in a peculiar sense the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3). The eternity
of our Lord is distinctly asserted (Ephesians 1:4 , 5) as of one existing before
the foundation of the world, in whom everything heavenly as well as earthly is
united, summed up (Ephesians 1:10; compare 2:12 ; 4:18). He is the Messiah (the
Beloved (Ephesians 1:6) is clearly a Messianic term, as the voice from heaven
at Christ's baptism, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," shows
(Matthew 3:17)). In Him we are quickened (Ephesians 2:5). He is made flesh (Ephesians
2:15). He died on the cross (Ephesians 2:16), and by His blood (Ephesians 1:7)
we have redemption (Ephesians 4:30), and reconciliation with God (Ephesians 2:16).
He whom God raised from the dead (Ephesians 1:20), now is in heaven (Ephesians
1:20 ; 4:8) from which place He comes (Ephesians 4:8), bringing gifts to men.
(This interpretation makes the descent follow the ascent, and the passage teaches
the return of Christ through His gifts of the Spirit which He gave to the church.)
He who is in heaven fills all things (Ephesians 4:10); and, from a wealth which
is unsearchable (Ephesians 3:8), as the Head of the church (Ephesians 1:22), pours
out His grace to free us from the power of sin (Ephesians 2:1). To this end He
endues us with His Spirit (Ephesians 3:16). This teaching about God, Father, Son
and Holy Spirit, is no abstract theorizing. It is all intensely practical, having
at its heart the purpose of God from the ages, which, as we saw above, is to restore
again the unity of all things in Him (Ephesians 1:9 , 10); to heal the breach
between man and God (Ephesians 2:16 , 17); to break down the separation between
Jew and Gentile, and to abolish the enmity not only between them, but between
them and God. This purpose of God is to be accomplished in a visible society,
the one church, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians
2:20), of which Jesus Christ is the head of the corner, into which men are to
be admitted by holy baptism, where they own one Lord, hold to one faith, in one
God and Father of all who is above all and through all (Ephesians 4:4 - 7).
The teaching as to the church is one of the most striking elements of the epistle.
In the first place we have the absolute use of the term, which has been already
discussed. The apostle sees the whole Christian community throughout the world
bound together into a unity, one fellowship, one body. He has risen to a higher
vision than man had ever had before. But there is a further teaching in the epistle.
Not only is the church throughout the world one body, but it is the body of Christ
who is its Head (Ephesians 1:21). He has, as Lightfoot suggests, the same relation
to the church which in Ephesians 1:10 He has to the universe. He is its Head,
"the inspiring, ruling, guiding, combining, sustaining power, the mainspring of
its activity, the center of its unity, and the seat of its life." But the relation
is still closer. If, as the evidence adduced would necessitate, one accepts J.
Armitage Robinson's explanation of pleroma, as that without which a thing is incomplete
(Eph, 255 f), then the church, in some wonderful mystery, is the complement of
Christ, apart from which He Himself, as the Christ, lacks fullness. We are needed
by Him, that so He may become all in all. He, the Head of restored humanity, the
Second Adam, needs His church, to fulfill the unity which He came upon earth to
accomplish (compare Stone, Christian Church, 85, 86). Still further, we find in
this epistle the two figures of the church as the Temple of the Spirit (2:21;,
and the Bride of Christ (5:23)). Under the latter figure we find the marriage
relation of the Lord to Israel, which runs through the Old Testament (Hosea 2:16,
et al.), applied to the union between Christ and the church. The significance
is the close tie that binds them, the self-sacrificing love of Christ and the
self-surrender of obedience on the part of the church; and the object of this
is that so the church may be free from any blemish, holy and spotless. In the
figure of the Temple, which is an expansion of the earlier figure in 1 Corinthians
3:16 ; 2 Corinthians 6:16, we see the thought of a spiritual building, a sanctuary,
into which all the diverse elements of the churches grow into a compact unity.
These figures sum up the apostle's thought of that in which the Divine purpose
finds its fulfillment. The progress forward to that fulfillment is due to the
combined effort of God and man. "The church, the society of Christian men ....
is built and yet it grows. Human endeavor and Divine energy cooperate in its development"
(Westcott). Out of this doctrinal development the apostle works out the practical
life by which this Divine purpose can find its fulfillment. Admitted into the
fellowship of the church by baptism, we become members one of another Ephesians
(Ephesians 4:25). It is on this basis that he urges honesty and patience and truth
in our intercourse with each other, and pleads for gentleness and a forgiving
spirit (Ephesians 4:25 - 32). As followers of God we are to keep free from the
sins that spring from pride and self-indulgence and any fellowship with the spirit
of evil (Ephesians 5:1 - 14). Our life is to be lived as seeking the fulfillment
of God's purpose in all the relationships of life (Ephesians 5:15 - 6:9). All
is to be done with the full armor of the Christian soldier, as is fitting for
those who fight spiritual enemies (Ephesians 6:10). The epistle is preeminently
practical, bringing the significance of the great revelation of God's will to
the everyday duties of life, and lifting all things up to a higher level which
finds its ideal in the indwelling of Christ in our hearts, out of which we may
be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17 - 19).
J. Armitage Robinson, Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians; Westcott, Epistle to the
Ephesains; Abbott, "Ephesians and Colossians," International Critical Commentary;
Moule, "Ephesians," Cambridge Bible; Salmond, "Ephesians," Expositor's Greek Testament;
Macpherson, Commentary on Ephesians; Findlay, "Epistle to the Ephesians," Expositor's
Bible; Alexander, "Colossians and Ephesians," Bible for Home and School; Haupt,
Meyer's Exeget. und krit. Kommentar; von Soden, Handcommentar; Hort, Prolegomena
to the Epistles to the Romans and Ephesians; Dale, Lectures on the Ephesians.
Charles Smith Lewis
bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, blessing, book of ephesians, compare ephesians to 1 peter, compare ephesians to colossians, epistle to the ephesians, define, new testament, paul, spiritual warfare, tychicus, unity