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Epistle to the Ephesians

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Epistle to the Ephesians, also called the Letter to the Ephesians and often shortened to Ephesians, is the tenth book of the New Testament. Its authorship has traditionally been attributed to Paul the Apostle but starting in 1792, this has been challenged as Deutero-Pauline, that is, written in Paul's name by a later author strongly influenced by Paul's thought, probably "by a loyal disciple to sum up Paul’s teaching and to apply it to a new situation fifteen to twenty-five years after the Apostle’s death.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7]:p.47

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Paul's letter to the Ephesians the story of how Paul came to the city of Ephesus it's really interesting you can go read about in Acts chapter 19 Ephesus was a huge City it was the epicenter of worship for most of the Greek and Roman gods and for over two years Paul had a really effective missionary presence there and lots of people became followers of Jesus years later after being imprisoned by the Romans Paul wrote this letter the movement of thought in the letter divides into two really clear halves in the first half Paul is exploring the story of the gospel how all history came to its climax and Jesus and in his creation of this multi ethnic community of his followers the second half of the letter is linked to the first by the word therefore and here Paul explores how the Gospel story should affect how we live every part of our life story personally in our neighborhoods and communities and in our families so let's dive in and we can see how Paul develops all of this chapter one opens with a beautiful Jewish style poem where Paul praises God the Father for the amazing things that he has done in Christ Jesus from eternity past the father has purpose to choose and bless a covenant people and think here the family of Abraham and Genesis chapter 12 verses 13 and through Jesus now anyone can be adopted into that family Jesus's death covers our worst sins are worse failures and in Jesus we find God's grace in fact Paul says that Grace has opened up a whole new way for us to understand every part of our lives he says in chapter 1 verse 10 the god's purpose was to unify all things in heaven and on earth under Christ which is a title that means Messiah God's plan was always to have a huge family of restored human beings who are unified in Jesus the Messiah this divine purpose became clear Paul says when we were first made into that family and here he is referring to ethnic Jews in the family of Abraham but then Paul talks about how you and here he means non-jews you all heard about Jesus and the salvation through him and you were also brought into this family by the work of the holy spirit and so here he is referring to the events told in the stories of Acts about how god's spirit brought together Jew and non-jew into one family in Jesus it's just like God promised to Abraham long ago notice also how in this poem Paul begins by talking about God the Father but then about Jesus the Son and then here the end about the spirit all three work together as Paul tells the story of the gospel to really cool after the poem Paul responds with a prayer he prays that these followers of Jesus would not just know about but personally experienced the power of the gospel that they would be energized by the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and placed him as The Exalted head of the whole world now chapter 2 Paul goes back and he elaborates on some key ideas from the poem in chapter one especially God's grace and this new multi-ethnic family of Jesus he begins by retelling the story of how these non Jewish Christians came to know Jesus before hearing about Jesus they were physically alive but they were spiritually dead they were trapped in a purposeless life of selfishness and sin and they were deceived by dark spiritual forces of evil but amazingly god is great love and mercy he saved them he forgave all of their sins and he joined their lives to Jesus's resurrection life and he's brought them back to life too and so now having been created as new human beings through Jesus they have the joy of discovering all of the new calling and purposes and tasks that God has set before them not only have they been showing God's grace they've also been invited into a new family before hearing about Jesus these non-jewish people they were not just cut off from God they were cut off from his covenant people the family of Abraham and for a really practical reason the commands of the Sinai covenant they formed like a boundary line around the family they were like a barrier that kept most non-jewish people away but in Jesus the laws of the Torah have been fulfilled and the barrier is removed the two ethnic groups have become as puppets it a new unified humanity that can live together in peace paul goes on in chapter 3 to marvel at the unique role that he got to have been spreading this good news to non-jewish people and no he's in prison he's thanking god for the chance he's had to see this covenant family grow so huge so Paul closes the first half of the letter with another prayer this time he prays that Jesus's followers would be strengthened by God's Spirit to simply grasp and comprehend the love that Christ has for his people the second half of the letter begins with Paul shifting gears and he starts challenging the reader to respond to the Gospel story by how they live their own life story so he starts in chapter 4 with just the everyday life of the church the church is a big family with lots of different kinds of people but he emphasizes that they are one and one is a keyword in this chapter they are one body that's unified by one spirit they have one Lord with one faith they have one baptism they believe in one god it's a lot of unity however Paul says unity is not the same thing as uniformity he goes on to explore how Jesus is new family consists of lots of very very different kinds of people but they're all empowered by the one Holy Spirit each using their unique talents and passions to serve and to love each other and to build up the church and here he uses to really cool metaphors one is building up the church as a new temple and the second is that they are all becoming a new humanity with Jesus as the head in this new humanity is a metaphor he's gonna then run with for the next couple chapters Paul challenges every Christian to take off their old humanity like a set of old clothes and to put on their new humanity in which the image of God is being restored and he then goes on into this long section where he compares this new and old humanity so instead of lying new human speak truth instead of harboring anger they peacefully resolve their conflicts instead of stealing new humans are generous instead of gossiping they encourage people with their words instead of getting revenge new humans forgive instead of gratifying every sexual impulse new humans cultivate self control of their bodily desires instead of getting drunk new humans come under the influence of God's Spirit and he spills out what that influence looks like in four different ways the first to have to do with singing singing together but also singing alone and this is really interesting that the first thing that Paul thinks of about how the Spirit works in the lives of Jesus people is singing and music the third sign of the spirits influence is being thankful for everything and the fourth is that the Spirit will compel Jesus's followers to put themselves underneath others and to elevate others as more important than themselves and Paul actually expands on this fourth point by showing how it works in Christian marriage so you have a wife who follows Jesus she is called to respect and her allow her husband to become responsible for her and husband is called to love his wife and to use his responsibility to laid down his selfish agenda to prioritize his wife's well-being above his own it Paul says it's this kind of marriage that's actually reenacting the Gospel story the husband's actions mimic Jesus and his love and self-sacrifice the Weiss actions mimic the church which allows Jesus to love her and to make her new Paul then applies the same idea to children and parents as well as slaves and masters Paul closes out the letter by reminding these Christians of the reality of spiritual evil these are beings and enforces that will try to undermine the unity of Jesus's people in to compromise their new humanity and so Paul challenges them to stand firm and to put on this metaphorical set of body armor which he describes in detail and Paul has drawn all of these pieces of body armor from the book of isaiah and isaiah depicted the Messianic King and so now as the Messiah's followers we need to make the Messiah's attributes our own since we make up Jesus's body practically I think Paul means for Christians to begin to form habits proactively using prayer and the scriptures and our relationships with each other to help us grow and mature as followers of Jesus and that's the letter to the Ephesians very powerful it's where Paul summarizes the whole gospel story and how it should reshape every part of our life story



According to New Testament scholar Daniel Wallace, the theme may be stated pragmatically as "Christians, get along with each other! Maintain the unity practically which Christ has effected positionally by his death."[8]

Another major theme in Ephesians is the keeping of Christ's body (that is, the Church) pure and holy.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

In the second part of the letter, Ephesians 4:17–6:20, the author gives practical advice in how to live a holy, pure, and Christ-inspired lifestyle.[citation needed]


According to tradition, the Apostle Paul wrote the letter while he was in prison in Rome (around AD 62). This would be about the same time as the Epistle to the Colossians (which in many points it resembles) and the Epistle to Philemon. However, many critical scholars have questioned the authorship of the letter and suggest that it may have been written between AD 80 and 100.[3][4][5]


The first verse in the letter identifies Paul as its author. While early lists of New Testament books, including Marcion's canon and the Muratorian fragment, attribute the letter to Paul,[9] more recently there have been challenges to Pauline authorship on the basis of the letter's characteristically non-Pauline syntax, terminology, and eschatology.[10]

Biblical scholar Harold Hoehner, surveying 279 commentaries written between 1519 and 2001, found that 54% favoured Pauline authorship, 39% concluded against Pauline authorship and 7% remained uncertain.[2] Norman Perrin and Dennis C. Duling found that of six authoritative scholarly references, "four of the six decide for pseudonymity, and the other two (PCB and JBC) recognize the difficulties in maintaining Pauline authorship. Indeed, the difficulties are insurmountable."[6] Bible scholar Raymond E. Brown asserts that about 80% of critical scholarship judges that Paul did not write Ephesians.[7]:p.47

There are four main theories in biblical scholarship that address the question of Pauline authorship.[11]

  • The traditional view that the epistle is written by Paul is supported by scholars that include Frank Thielman, Ezra Abbot, Asting, Gaugler, Grant, Harnack, Haupt, Fenton John Anthony Hort, Klijn, Johann David Michaelis, A. Robert, and André Feuillet, Sanders, Schille, Brooke Foss Westcott, and Theodor Zahn.[1] For a defense of the Pauline authorship of Ephesians, see Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary by Harold Hoehner, pp 2–61.[2]
  • A second position suggests that Ephesians was dictated by Paul with interpolations from another author. Some of the scholars that espouse this view include Albertz, Benoit, Cerfaux, Goguel, Harrison, H. J. Holtzmann, Murphy-O'Connor, and Wagenfuhrer.
  • Currently, most critical scholars think it improbable that Paul authored Ephesians. Among this group are Allan, Beare, Brandon, Bultmann, Conzelmann, Dibelius, Goodspeed, Kilsemann, J. Knox, W.L. Knox, Kümmel, K and S Lake, Marxsen, Masson, Mitton, Moffatt, Nineham, Pokorny, Schweizer, and J. Weiss.
  • Still other scholars suggest there is a lack of conclusive evidence. Some of this group are Cadbury, Julicher, McNeile, and Williams.

Place, date, and purpose of the writing of the letter

While most English translations indicate that the letter was addressed to "the saints who are in Ephesus" (1:1), the words "in Ephesus" do not appear in the best and earliest manuscripts of the letter, leading most textual critics, like Bart Ehrman, to regard the words as an interpolation.[3] This lack of any internal references to Ephesus in the early manuscripts may have led Marcion, a second-century heresiarch who created the first New Testament canon, to believe that the letter was actually addressed to the church at Laodicea, for details see Epistle to the Laodiceans.[9] The view is not uncommon in later traditions either,[citation needed] considering that the content of the letter seems to suggest a similar socio-critical context to the Laodicean church mentioned in the Revelation of John.

Furthermore, if Paul is regarded as the author, the impersonal character of the letter, which lacks personal greetings or any indication that the author has personal knowledge of his recipients, is incongruous with the account in Acts of Paul staying more than two years in Ephesus.[12] For these reasons, most regard Ephesians to be a circular letter intended for many churches.[10][12][13] The Jerusalem Bible notes that some critics think the words "who are ..." would have been followed by a blank to be filled in with the name of "whichever church was being sent the letter".[14]

If Paul was the author of the letter, then it was probably written from Rome during Paul's first imprisonment (3:1; 4:1; 6:20), and probably soon after his arrival there in the year 62, four years after he had parted with the Ephesian elders at Miletus. However, scholars who dispute Paul's authorship date the letter to between 70–80 AD.[5] In the latter case, the possible location of the authorship could have been within the church of Ephesus itself. Ignatius of Antioch himself seemed to be very well versed in the epistle to the Ephesians, and mirrors many of his own thoughts in his own epistle to the Ephesians.[5]

The major theme of the letter is the unity and reconciliation of the whole of creation through the agency of the Church and, in particular, its foundation in Christ as part of the will of the Father.[citation needed]

In the Epistle to the Romans, the author writes from the point of view of the demonstration of the righteousness of God—his covenant faithfulness and saving justice—in the gospel; the author of Ephesians writes from the perspective of union with Christ, who is the head of the true church.[citation needed]


Ephesians contains:

Founding 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[18:24–26] 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 Cor 16:9] and the church was established and strengthened by his diligent labours there.[Acts 20:20,31] From Ephesus the gospel spread abroad "almost throughout all Asia."[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 a farewell charge,[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 = Eph. 4:2. The phrase "lowliness of mind".
  2. Acts 20:27 = Eph. 1:11. The word "counsel", denoting the divine plan.
  3. Acts 20:32 = Eph. 3:20. The divine ability.
  4. Acts 20:32 = Eph. 2:20. The building upon the foundation.
  5. Acts 20:32 = Eph. 1:14,18 "The inheritance of the saints."


The purpose of the epistle, and to whom it was written, are matters of much speculation.[15]:229 It was regarded by C.H. Dodd as the "crown of Paulinism."[15]:229 In general, it is born out of its particular socio-historical context and the situational context of both the author and the audience. Originating in the circumstance of a multicultural church (primarily Jewish and Hellenistic), the author addressed issues appropriate to the diverse religious and cultural backgrounds present in the community.[citation needed]

German inscription of the text, "One Lord, One faith, One baptism," (Ephesians 4:5).
German inscription of the text, "One Lord, One faith, One baptism," (Ephesians 4:5).

The author exhorts the church repeatedly to embrace a specific view of salvation, which he then explicates. It seems most likely that the author's Christology of sacrifice is the manner in which he intends to effect an environment of peace within the church. In short: "If Christ was sacrificed for your sake, be like him and be in submission to one another." The author addresses hostility, division, and self-interest more than any other topic in the letter, leading many scholars[who?] to believe that his primary concern was not doctrinal, but behavioral.[citation needed]

Some theologians, such as Frank Charles Thompson,[16] agree the main theme of Ephesians is in response to the newly converted Jews who often separated themselves from their Gentile brethren. The unity of the church, especially between Jew and Gentile believers, is the keynote of the book. This is shown by the recurrence of such words and phrases as:

Together: made alive together;[Eph 2:5] raised up together, sitting together;2:6 built together.2:22

One, indicating unity: one new man,[Eph 2:15] one body,[2:16] one Spirit,[2:18] one hope,[4:4] one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.[4:5–6]

The Pauline theme of unity based on a sacrificial Christology may also be noted in the epistle to the Philippians.


Ephesians is notable for its domestic code treatment in 5:22–6:9, covering husband-wife, parent-child, and master-slave relationships. In 5:22, wives are urged to submit to their husbands, and husbands to love their wives "as Christ loved the Church." Christian Egalitarian theologians, such as Katharine Bushnell and Jessie Penn-Lewis, interpret these commands in the context of the preceding verse, 5:21 for all Christians to "submit to one another."[17][18] Thus, it is two-way, mutual submission of both husbands to wives and wives to husbands. But according to Peter O'Brien, Professor Emeritus at Moore Theological College, this would be the only instance of this meaning of submission in the whole New Testament, indeed in any extant comparable Greek texts; by O'Brien's account, the word simply does not connote mutuality.[19] Dallas Theological Seminary professor Daniel Wallace understands it to be an extension of 5:15–21 on being filled by the Holy Spirit.[8]

In the period leading up to the American Civil War (1861–65), Ephesians 6:5 on master-slave relationships was one of the Bible verses used by Confederate slaveholders in support of a slaveholding position.[20]

See also


  1. ^ a b Authenticity of Ephesians
  2. ^ a b c Hoehner, Harold. Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary. Baker Academic, 2002. ISBN 978-0-8010-2614-0
  3. ^ a b c Ehrman, Bart D. (2004). The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. New York: Oxford. pp. 381–84. ISBN 0-19-515462-2.
  4. ^ a b "USCCB – NAB – Ephesians – Introduction". Archived from the original on 4 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-17.
  5. ^ a b c d See Markus Barth, Ephesians: Introduction, Translation, and Commentary on Chapters 1–3 (New York: Doubleday and Company Inc., 1974), 50–51
  6. ^ a b Perrin, Norman; Duling, Dennis C. (1982). The New Testament: An Introduction. Second Edition. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. pp. 218–22. ISBN 0-15-565726-7.
  7. ^ a b Brown, Raymond E. The churches the apostles left behind, Paulist Press, 1984. ISBN 978-0809126118.
  8. ^ a b Wallace, Daniel B. "Ephesians:Introduction, Argument, and Outline." Web: [1] 1 January 2010
  9. ^ a b Bruce, F. F. (1988). The Canon of Scripture. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. pp. 142, 158–60. ISBN 978-0830812585.
  10. ^ a b Attridge, Harold W.; Meeks, Wayne A., eds. (2006). The HarperCollins Study Bible (Revised ed.). New York: HarperCollins. pp. 1982–83. ISBN 978-0061228407.
  11. ^ These four views all come from Markus Barth, Ephesians: Introduction, Translation, and Commentary on Chapters 1–3 (New York: Doubleday and Company Inc., 1974), 38
  12. ^ a b O'Brien, Peter T. (1999). Carson, D. A., ed. The Letter to the Ephesians. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans. p. 5. ISBN 978-0802837363.
  13. ^ Snodgrass, Klyne (1996). The NIV Application Commentary: Ephesians. Zondervan. p. 21. ISBN 978-0310493402.
  14. ^ Jerusalem Bible (1966), Footnote a at Ephesians 1:1
  15. ^ a b Bruce, F.F. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Eerdmans, 1984, 1991. ISBN 0-8028-2401-3.
  16. ^ Thompson, Frank C. Thompson Chain Reference Study Bible (NIV). Kirkbride Bible Company, 2000. ISBN 978-0-88707-009-9
  17. ^ Bushnell, Katharine (December 1930). "Dr. Katharine C. Bushnell: A Brief Sketch of Her Life Work" (PDF). Biblical Recorder: 13. Archived (PDF) from the original on 25 June 2016. Retrieved July 5, 2016.
  18. ^ Haddad, Mimi (Spring 2008). "Jessie Penn-Lewis's Cross Theology: Gender Relations in the New Covenant" (PDF). Priscilla Papers. Christians for Biblical Equality. 22 (2): 7. Archived (PDF) from the original on 5 July 2016. Retrieved July 5, 2016.
  19. ^ O'Brien, Peter T. (1999). Carson, D. A., ed. The Letter to the Ephesians. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans. pp. 401–04. ISBN 978-0802837363.
  20. ^ E.N. Elliott, ed. Cotton is king, and pro-slavery arguments comprising the writings of Hammond, Harper, Christy, Stringfellow, Hodge, Bledsoe, and Cartwright, on this important subject. Augusta, Ga. : Pritchard, Abbott & Loomis, 1860. Christy, David; Bledsoe, Albert Taylor; Stringfellow, Thornton; Harper, Robert Goodloe; Hammond, James Henry; Cartwright, Samuel Adolphus; Hodge, Charles (1860). Cotton is King – Google Books. Retrieved 2009-03-13.


External links

Epistle to the Ephesians
Preceded by
New Testament
Books of the Bible
Succeeded by
This page was last edited on 7 January 2019, at 12:41
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