Expositor's Greek Testament
THE EPISTLE OF PAUL
1. EPHESUS. The city with which this sublime Epistle is traditionally associated had a notable name in the ancient Greek world. A remarkable place belongs to it also in the history of the origins of the Christian Church. It emerges far back in pre-Christian times, and the glimpses which we get of it from point to point in the course of its fortunes show us things of great and varied interest. Its rise into an importance which became world-wide, its achievements during the palmy period of its prosperity and power, the changes through which it passed from the days of its pre-eminence in Asia Minor on to its destruction by the Goths and its miserable survival in the insignificant modern village of Ayasaluk make an impressive story. Its inhabitants were drawn from various sources, Hellenic and Oriental. It was one of the chief centres of the Ionian settlers. But we are told of strangers who occupied the place or its neighbourhood long before the Ionian immigration. These are referred to by Pausanias (vii., 26), who speaks of them as Carians; but some modern scholars suppose them to have been Hittites (cf. article “Ephesus” in Encyc. Biblica). The city was colonised mostly from Athens, and something of the Athenian genius may be recognised in its people. But it is clear that it had a large infusion of Asiatic elements.
In ancient times Ephesus was a place of commanding commercial importance. It owed this not less to its geographical position than to the energy and enterprise of its people. No Greek city in Asia Minor was more advantageously planted. It stood at the meeting point of roads which carried trade with them and converged on the great line of communication between the East and the metropolis of the world. It was the chief city of one of the four great river valleys that penetrated Asia Minor, being to the Caÿster what Miletus was to the Meander, Pergamus to the Caïcus, and Smyrna to the Hermus. The most important of the Asiatic trade routes and great lines of intercourse between Rome and the East was the one that passed up by the Meander and the Lycus to Laodicea and Apamea. This being so, the commercial supremacy was held by Miletus for a length of time, the road which was commanded by it having the advantage of being shorter and less difficult than that to which Ephesus was the key. But under the operation of influences which we can only partially trace things changed in the later period of the Greek sovereignty, and under the Romans Ephesus had the place which had once belonged to Miletus. It gained largely by the decline of other great commercial cities. The overthrow of Smyrna by the Lydians about B.C. 525 and that of Miletus by the Persians in B.C. 494 contributed much to its ascendency. Thus it came about that during the Roman Empire it ranked with Antioch and Alexandria as one of the three great emporia of the trade of the Eastern Mediterranean, and formed the commercial capital for the wide and varied territory west of the Cilician gates. It rose to the dignity of metropolis of the Roman Province of Asia. It was a free city. It had an “assembly” and “council” of its own, and a governor, or pro-consul, ἀνθύπατος (cf. Acts 19:38). In the general and natural decay of popular government, however, under the Imperial system, power fell into the hands of officials, and in Ephesus the γραμματεύς, the “town-clerk” (Acts 19:35) or “recorder,” was the great authority.
Ephesus was originally a sea-port. It stood on the left bank of the Caÿster, it is true, a few miles up from the sea, but for a length of time the channel of the river was carefully attended to and kept open. It was never an easy task, however, to maintain a clear way between the harbour and the sea. The quantity of silt deposited by the Caÿster was great. Blundering engineering, undertaken in the second half of the second century B.C. under Attalus II. Philadelphus, made matters worse. By Paul’s time the passage had got into such a condition that, though the city still retained its pre-eminence, mariners avoided Ephesus if they could. A serious attempt to improve the channel was made by the Governor of Asia, as Tacitus informs us (Ann., xvi., 23), about A.D. 65. But effort slackened again, and things were left to take their course. The result in course of time was that the once famous harbour became a troublesome marsh. Ephesus ceased to be a sea-port, its trade declined, and the life went out of the city.
The importance of Ephesus, however, in ancient times was not due to its commercial position alone. It had a considerable name as a school of art. The great painters Parrhasius of the fifth century B.C. and Apelles of the fourth belonged to the city. Above all, it was a place of paramount religious interest. It was the centre of the worship of the goddess who was known among the Greeks as Artemis and among the Romans as Diana. The temple erected in her honour was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, a splendid structure of shining marble, stated by Pliny (Nat. Hist., xvi., 40, 213) to have been 425 feet long and 220 wide (but by Mr. J. T. Wood to have measured 343 feet by 164), with 127 columns some 60 feet high. It is reported to have taken about 220 years to finish. In it was treasured an image of the goddess which was believed to have fallen from heaven in remote times. Behind the shrine was the “treasury,” which was the bank of Asia. The temple was destroyed by the Goths in A.D. 262.
Magnificent as the temple was, it was not the only architectural wonder possessed by Ephesus. There was the great theatre, on the west side of Mount Coressus, a vast structure, the largest Greek theatre in Asia Minor and in the ancient Greek world, reputed to accommodate 50,000 spectators. North of it was the stadium, where races were run and wild beast fights were conducted. It was the temple, however, that made the chief glory of the city. It was the temple that added more than anything else to its importance. The chief boast of Ephesus was the title of νεωκόρος, or “temple-warden” (literally “temple-sweeper”), rendered “worshipper” in Acts 19:35 by the AV, and “temple-keeper” by the RV. It is true that the title was more usually given to Asiatic cities as wardens of temples of the Imperial worship, and Ephesus was νεωκόρος first of one temple, then of two, and later still even of three. But an inscription of the second century and coins of the third bear witness to the fact stated in Acts 19:35 that Ephesus had the title of Warden of the Temple of Diana (cf. Prof. Ramsay’s article on “Ephesus” in Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible). This vast temple was not the only sacred structure that found a place on the slopes of the hill which made the original religious centre. Here was built the great Christian Church which was dedicated by Justinian to St. John the Evangelist. Here, too, at a later date, was erected the mosque which is reported to have been one of the best specimens of Arabian-Persian art.
2. THE CHURCH IN EPHESUS. It is with the great names of Paul and John that the story of the primitive Christian community in Ephesus is specially associated, both in the New Testament itself and in tradition. John’s connection with the Ephesian Church belongs to the latter part of the first century. We have every reason to believe that, after the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the members of the mother Church, that Apostle made Ephesus his home. The historian Eusebius speaks of his residence there, and reports certain interesting occurrences which took place during his stay. Other names known to us in the sacred history have also certain associations with the Ephesian Church. One of these is that of Timothy, who appears to have been commissioned by Paul towards the end of his career to do some special work in Ephesus. In 1 Timothy (Ephesians 1:3) the Apostle is represented as reminding this his “own son in the faith” that he had besought him to abide “still in Ephesus,” while he himself went into Macedonia, that he might “charge some that they teach no other doctrine”. It may also be inferred from what is said of John Mark in different passages of the New Testament (Colossians 4:10; 1 Peter 5:13; 2 Timothy 4:11) that he too had not a little to do with the Churches of Asia; and that being so, it can well be understood that he was known to the Church of Ephesus and visited the city in his journeyings. It has been supposed by some that the Evangelist Luke also had some connection with Ephesus. But there is no historical foundation for this. Mr. J. T. Wood indeed takes the name borne by the modern village which represents the ancient Ephesus to be a corruption of αγιος λουκας, “St. Luke”. But Ayasaluk or Ayassaluk appears to be a corruption of Ayo-theolog, Ayo-tholog, αγιος θεολογος, the name being taken from the Church of St. John built there by Justinian.
It is with Paul himself, therefore, that the beginnings of the Church of Ephesus are associated. Men from Asia were among the multitudes in Jerusalem who heard the Apostles speak with tongues on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:9), and it is possible that the first tidings of the new faith may have been carried by some of these to the capital of the Province. But of that there is no record. The testimony of the Book of Acts is that Paul, at the beginning of his second great missionary journey, after he had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, was “forbidden of the Holy Ghost” to preach the word in Asia (Acts 16:6); but that at the close of that journey, when he was on his way from Greece to Syria, he did visit Ephesus and “reasoned with the Jews in the synagogue”. That he made some impression on this occasion appears from the fact that he was asked to stay. This he could not do, because he had to press on to Jerusalem to keep the feast there. But he left Aquila and Priscilla in Ephesus and promised himself to return (Acts 18:19-21). To this brief visit of the Apostle of the Gentiles, followed up by the efforts of Aquila and Priscilla, the planting of a Christian Church in the capital of the Province of Asia appears to be due. When Paul was away in Syria and Asia (Acts 18:22-23) something further was effected in another way. Apollos came to Ephesus, knowing only of the baptism of John. He had the way of God expounded to him more fully by the two devoted friends whom Paul had left behind him in Ephesus. The result was that, understanding better as he now did the fulfilment of the promised Messianic salvation, he “mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ” (Acts 18:24-28). After Apollos had passed on to Corinth Paul returned, as he had undertaken to do, to Ephesus (Acts 19:1). On this occasion his stay was a protracted one, extending over more than two years and three months (Acts 19:8; Acts 19:10), or as he expressed it in round numbers in his address to the elders at Miletus “by the space of three years” (Acts 20:31).
First he devoted himself to the instruction of certain disciples who had been baptised only unto John’s baptism and knew nothing of the Holy Ghost (Acts 19:1-7). Then for three months he spoke of the things of the Kingdom of God to the Jews in the synagogue. In this he had only partial success, and soon he had to encounter bitter opposition. He gave up his appeal, therefore, to the Jews, and took the school of “Tyrannus,” in which he “disputed daily” for the space of two years. He did this with such result that he turned many from the practice of the magical arts which were in great favour in Ephesus, and “all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10; Acts 19:20). In other words, the report of the Gospel which Paul preached penetrated through the Province, being carried no doubt to the great cities by travellers who visited Ephesus, and by missionaries or messengers like Epaphras. And for the purpose of disseminating the knowledge of the new faith through the Asiatic Province, Ephesus was not less singularly fitted by its geographical position and commercial communications than was Antioch for Syria or Rome for the further West. The tumultuous opposition, however, which was roused by Demetrius against Paul as a destroyer of the silversmith’s craft and a subverter of the worship of Diana, brought his work in Ephesus to a close and compelled him to hasten his departure into Greece (Acts 19:21 to Acts 20:1). During his last voyage to Syria he did not visit Ephesus itself; but, touching at Miletus, he sent for the elders of the Ephesian Church and took his pathetic farewell of them there (Acts 20:17-38).
So far as the Book of Acts is concerned, that is the last glimpse we get of Paul in his connection with Ephesus. In the Pastoral Epistles, however, we have some further references to Ephesus and to Paul’s care for the Church there. In 1 Timothy (Ephesians 1:3), as we have seen, we find that Timothy had been placed in the city with a view to the preservation of sound doctrine, and that Paul desired him to remain there when he himself went into Macedonia; and in 2 Timothy mention is made both of the way in which Onesiphorus ministered to Paul in Ephesus (Ephesians 1:18), and of the fact that Tychicus was sent by Paul to Ephesus (Ephesians 4:12). The relations, therefore, between Paul and this Church were of the closest and most confidential kind. As to the composition of the Christian community, it appears to have included from the first both Jews and Greeks (Acts 19:1-10; Acts 20:21). The Gentile element, however, seems to have been the larger and to have grown more and more, so that the Epistle deals with the Church as practically a Gentile-Christian body.
In 1 Peter (Ephesians 1:1) those in Asia, including doubtless the members of the metropolitan Church, are named among the strangers scattered throughout various lands, towards whom the writer has a certain responsibility and to whom he addresses his Epistle. In the Apocalypse which bears the name of John, the Church of Ephesus appears among the seven Churches of Asia to which John’s message is directed; and that the Ephesian Church was recognised as the chief of the seven may be inferred perhaps from the fact that it has the first place in the list and in the address (Ephesians 1:11, Ephesians 2:1). It is also with John that tradition connects the Ephesian Church after Paul’s decease. Of its later history, it is enough to say that it long retained its importance among the Churches, and that, among other things, it was the seat of one of the great Œcumenical Councils (A.D. 431), and also of the notorious Robber-Synod (A.D. 440).
3. THE EPISTLE—ITS GENERAL CHARACTER, CONTENTS AND PLAN. Among the Epistles bearing the name of St. Paul there is none greater than this, nor any with a character more entirely its own. There have been students, it is true, who with an almost incredible lack of insight have considered it an insipid production or a tedious and unskilful compilation. Among these must be named even so acute a scholar as De Wette. Such pronouncements, however, belong to the failures and eccentricities of criticism, and count for little. With few exceptions scholars of all different schools who have studied and interpreted this Epistle have been at one in regarding it as one of the sublimest and most profound of all the New Testament writings. In the judgment of many who are well entitled to deliver an opinion, it is the grandest of all the Pauline letters. There is a peculiar and sustained loftiness in its teaching which has deeply impressed the greatest minds and has earned for it the title of the “Epistle of the Ascension”. It tarries largely among “the heavenlies,” and lifts us into the eternities a parte ante and a parte post. It is characterised by a dignity and a serenity which are entirely in harmony with the elevation of its thoughts. It takes little to do either with the questions of ceremonialism or with the personal vindications which fill so large a space in others of the greater Epistles of St. Paul. The polemical element is conspicuous by its absence. There is scarcely even an echo of the great controversies which ring so loudly in the Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians. If they were still active in any measure or at all in the writer’s view when he addressed himself to these Asiatic Churches, they are not on the surface at least of this majestic Epistle. The nearest approach to any explicit allusion to such things is in what is said in a single verse (chap. Ephesians 2:11) regarding the Circumcision and the Uncircumcision.
There is a remarkable cohesion, too, in the composition, part fitting in with part naturally and without effort. In its structure the Epistle is an unmistakable unity. The whole argument moves round a few great ideas. The plan is simple. The Epistle opens and closes in the usual Pauline way, and it divides naturally into two great sections, one doctrinal and the other practical or hortatory. There is first the usual inscription or greeting (Ephesians 1:1-2), followed by a thanksgiving which takes the form of a solemn ascription of praise to God for the spiritual blessings enjoyed by the writer and his readers. The mention of these blessings develops into a doctrinal statement which deals with the lofty themes of election, predestination, redemption and the forgiveness of sins; the mystery of the Divine will; the grace of the Holy Spirit as seal and earnest; the power of God in the resurrection and exaltation of Christ; the sovereignty of Christ over the world and His Headship over the Church; the Divine quickening of the spiritually dead; the abrogation of the Law that formed the wall of partition between Jew and Gentile; the love of Christ and His indwelling in the believer. Each of these great themes leads easily to the next. In the course of their exposition the Apostle enlarges especially on the ultimate purpose of God to sum up all things in Christ (Ephesians 1:9-11); the relation in which Christ stands to the universe and to the Church (Ephesians 1:20-23); the absolutely gracious character of the salvation, the new life, and the gifts bestowed upon believers by God (Ephesians 2:1-10); the revelation and fulfilment of the purpose of God, hidden for ages, to make the Gentile partaker with the Jew (Ephesians 2:11-22); and the marvel of the grace that has established equality and unity where once there were pri ilege and separation (Ephesians 3:1-19). This first of the two primary divisions of the Epistle concludes with a doxology, which again celebrates that gracious power of God which works all for us and within us.
As the doctrinal section occupies the first three chapters, the hortatory section extends over the last three. These chapters are taken up with practical matters—the necessity of a walk in harmony with the Divine call; the commendation of humility, meekness, forbearance, concord, peace and all good brotherly relations; the duty of growing in likeness to Christ and in obedience to Him; the forsaking of all heathen vices; the practice of truthfulness and honesty, abstinence from all corrupt communications, from all bitterness and wrath and evil-speaking and malice; sedulous watchfulness against any falling back into easy compliance with the two characteristic pagan forms of moral evil, sensuality and greed, or into any slackness in the sense of their deep sinfulness; the reverent regard of the Christian relations between husband and wife, parents and children, masters and slaves, and the careful observance of the duties arising out of the Christian idea of these relations; the need for the full spiritual equipment provided by God for the withstanding of all evil. These various ethical requirements and recommendations are presented as all having their roots in the great facts and doctrines of grace which are expounded in the former division of the Epistle, and as all growing up out of that soil. In their enforcement special prominence is given to the maintenance of concord and peace in the Church (Ephesians 4:4); the great object which all Christian gifts are meant to serve (Ephesians 4:12-16); the forswearing of all sins of uncleanness as things wholly alien to the Christian life (Ephesians 5:3-14); the sacredness of the primary domestic and relative duties, those above all pertaining to the relations of husband and wife (Ephesians 5:22 to Ephesians 6:9); the seriousness of the Christian’s warfare and the sufficiency of the Christian’s armour (Ephesians 6:10-18). The Epistle is brought to its close by some personal references bearing on the writer’s requirements and commission (Ephesians 6:19-20); a brief notice of the mission of Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21-22); and a final salutation or benediction, which is given in terms of grace and peace (Ephesians 6:23-24).
In the course of thought thus followed out in the Epistle there are certain great ideas that have peculiar prominence given them. Of these the largest is that of the Divine grace—the term χάρις occurring under one aspect or another some thirteen times. Another is that of “the heavenlies,” which has an entirely peculiar place and application in this Epistle. Much, too, is made of the conceptions of the Divine fulness (πλήρωμα); the mystery (μυστήριον); the economy (οἰκονομία); the spiritual understanding (γυῶσις, ἐπίγνωσις, σοφία, σύνεσις, φρόνησις) proper to the Christian and in which he is to increase. There are also the ideas of union and unity, union with Christ, union and fellowship one with another, the unity of the Church, the oneness of Jew and Gentile, the unity in the diversity of gifts, the unity of the faith. These great conceptions run through the Epistle, and express themselves in such compound forms as συνεζωποίησε, συνήγειρε, συνεκάθισεν, συμπολῖται, συγκληρονόμοι, συναρμολογουμένη, συνοικοδομεῖσθε, σύσσωμος.
The Epistle is remarkable also for the use which it makes of a series of terms of far-reaching significance, which belong to the very essence of its thought and nowhere get the place and the iteration which they have here, except in some measure in the Epistle to the Romans. Among these are the counsel (βουλή) of God, His will (θέλημα), His purpose (πρόθεσις), His good-pleasure (εὐδοκία), His foreordaining or pre-determining (προορίζειν), His afore preparing (προετοιμάζειν), etc.
The vocabulary of the Epistle also is singular and full of interest. The letter contains a number of words and phrases which are peculiar to itself and the sister Epistle to the Colossians, so far as the New Testament writings are concerned—such as ἀνθρωποπάρεσκος, ἁφή, ἀποκαταλλάσσειν, ἀπαλλοτριοῦσθαι, αὔξειν, and its noun αὔξησις, ὀφθαλμοδουλεία, ῥιζοῦν, συζωοποιεῖν, συμβιβάζειν, ἐκ ψυχῆς. It has others which are confined to itself and certain others of the Pauline Epistles: ἀγαθωσύνη, ἀληθεύειν, ἀνεξιχνίαστος, ἐπιχορηγία, εὔνοια, εὐωδία, θάλπειν, κάμπτειν, περικεφαλαία, πλεονέκτης, ποίημα, πρεσβεύειν, προετοιμάζειν, προσαγωγή, προτίθεσθαι, υἱοθεσία, ὑπερβάλλειν, ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ.
On the other hand, there are a good many words which occur in this Epistle alone of all claiming to be by Paul, although they are found occasionally elsewhere in the New Testament, such as ἄγνοια, ἀγρυπνεῖν, ἀκρογωνιαῖος, ἀμφότεροι, ἄνεμος, ἀνιέναι, ἅπας, ἀπειλή, εὔσπλαγχνος, μακράν, ὀργίζεσθαι, ὁσιότης, ὀσφύς, πανοπλία, πάροικος, περιζωννύναι, πλάτος, ποιμήν, in the sense of pastor, πολιτεία, σαπρός, σπῖλος, συγκαθίζειν, σωτήριον, ὕδωρ, ὑποδεῖσθαι, ὕψος, φραγμός, φρόνησις, χαριτοῦν, χειροποίητος. Some of these obviously are of small moment. Others have some significance. On these lists see Abbot’s Crit. and Exeg. Comm. on the Epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians, and more especially Holtzmann’s Einleitung and Kritik der Epheser- und Kolosser-Briefe. In addition to these we have a considerable list of pure ἅπαξ λεγόμενα, including ἄθεος, αἰσχρότης, αἰχμαλωτεύειν, ἀνανεόω, ἄνοιξις, ἀπαλγεῖν, ἄσοφος, βέλος, ἐκτρέφω, ἐλαχιστότερος, ἑνότης, ἐξισχύειν, ἐπιδύειν, ἐπιφαύσκειν, ἑτοιμασία, εὔνοια, εὐτραπελία, ὁ ἠγαπημένος, as applied to Christ, θυρεός, καταρτισμός, κατώτερος, κληροῦν, κλυδωνίζεσθαι, κοσμοκράτωρ, κρυφῆ, κυβεία, μακροχρόνιος, μέγεθος, μεθοδεία, μεσότοιχον, μωρολογία, πάλη, παροργισμός, πολυποίκιλος, προελπίζειν, προσκαρτέρησις, ῥυτίς, συμμέτοχος, συμπολίτης, συναρμολογεῖν, συνοικοδομεῖν, σύσσωμος. In the case of two of these, αἰχμαλωτεύειν and εὔνοια, the TR gives each in one other passage (2 Timothy 3:6; 1 Corinthians 7:3), but on insufficient documentary evidence. The introduction of some of these terms no doubt is due to circumstance. But an analysis of the vocabulary as a whole brings out the fact that in language as well as in thought this Epistle has a character of its own.
4. THE AFFINITIES OF THE EPISTLE. There are some resemblances which deserve notice between the terms of this Epistle and those of the address recorded in Acts (Acts 20:17-38) as delivered by Paul to the Ephesian elders at Miletus, e.g., μετὰ πάσης ταπεινοφροσύνης, Ephesians 4:2., cf. Acts 20:19; ἐκληρώθημεν, κληρονομία, Ephesians 1:11; Ephesians 1:14, cf. Acts 20:32; the Divine βουλή, Ephesians 1:11, cf. Acts 20:27; the Divine δύναμις and κράτος, Ephesians 1:19, cf. Acts 20:32; the being builded, συνοικοδομεῖσθε, Ephesians 2:21, cf. Acts 20:32. But apart from these we find a number of resemblances between this Epistle and other NT writings which are of interest, and which may point to certain relationships between them. There are a few points of contact, e.g., between this Epistle and the three Pastoral Epistles (e.g., in 2 Timothy 1:9-10; 2 Timothy 2:1), which have been considered to go some way to establish identity of authorship, or at least of ultimate source. But these do not amount to much. There are other correspondences which are thought to indicate a certain affinity between this Epistle and the Fourth Gospel. Among these are reckoned the prominence given in both to the great conceptions of ἀγάπη and γνῶσις; the designation of Christ as ὁ ἠγαπημένος (Ephesians 1:4) as compared with the terms of John 3:35; John 10:17; John 15:9; John 17:23-24; John 17:26; the ἐξελέξατο πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου of Ephesians 1:4, and the ἠγάπησάς με πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου of John 17:24; the common use of the figures of light and darkness (Ephesians 5:11; Ephesians 5:13; John 3:20-21), and the particular phrases ὡς τέκνα φωτὸς περιπατεῖτε (Ephesians 5:8), περιπατεῖτε ὡς τὸ φῶς ἔχετε (John 12:35); the designation of the work of regeneration as a quickening of the dead (Ephesians 2:5-6; John 5:21; John 5:25; John 5:28). In both writings again we have the work of redemption presented under the aspect of a sanctification or setting apart (ἁγιάζειν, Ephesians 5:26; John 17:17; John 17:19); and in both this is given as taking effect by way of a cleansing or purifying by the word—καθαρίσας … ἐν ῥήματι (Ephesians 5:26), καθαρὸς διὰ τὸν λόγον (John 15:3). We have also the idea of grace according to measure (ἡ χάρις κατὰ τὸ μέτρον τῆς δωρεᾶς τοῦ Χριστοῦ, Ephesians 4:17), and grace without measure in the one case of Christ (John 3:31). The striking resemblance between the ἀνέβη … κατέβη, ὁ καταβάς … ὁ ἀναβάς in Ephesians 4:9-10, and the declaration οὐδεὶς ἀναβέβηκεν εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν εἰ μὴ ὁ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καταβάς in John 3:13 is also noticed. But less can be made of this, as the terms in Ephesians are drawn from an OT quotation. Nor can much be made either of the contention that what is said of Christ as the point of union or restoration for a divided world in Ephesians 1:10 is essentially the same as the representation of Him as the Λόγος in the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel; or of the parallel in such passages in John as John 10:16, John 11:52, John 17:20-21 to the terms in which this Epistle enlarges on the inclusion of the Gentiles (Ephesians 2:13-22, Ephesians 3:6). The more relevant of these coincidences, however, may perhaps be taken to indicate an acquaintance on the part of the writer of the Fourth Gospel with this Epistle. They show at least that the authors of these two writings had much in common both in terms and in ideas.
There are certain points of contact also between Ephesians and the Apocalypse, of which much has been made by Holtzmann. Minor resemblances are discovered between such passages as Ephesians 1:8 and Revelation 13:18; Ephesians 2:13 and Revelation 5:9; Ephesians 3:9 and Revelation 4:11; Revelation 10:6; Ephesians 3:18 and Revelation 11:1; Revelation 21:15-17; Ephesians 5:32 and Revelation 1:20. But these are too uncertain and remote to trust to. Of more importance are the coincidences between the view of Christ’s relation to the Church in Ephesians 5:25, etc., and the figure of the Church as the Bride of the Lamb in Revelation 19:7; the mention of the Apostles and prophets in Ephesians 2:20 and Revelation 21:14; the μυστήριον revealed (ἀπεκαλύφθη) “to His holy Apostles and prophets (Ephesians 3:5) and the μυστήριον Θεοῦ in Revelation 10:7; the μὴ συγκοινωνεῖτε τοῖς ἔργοις τοῖς ἀκάρποις of Ephesians 5:11 and the ἵνα μὴ συγκοινωνήσητε ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις αὐτῆς of Revelation 18:4. It cannot be said, however, that these amount to much. Few would pronounce them sufficient to prove any literary or doctrinal dependence of the one writing on the other. Holtzmann, however, infers from them that the writer of Ephesians made some use of the Apocalypse.
Another writing with which Ephesians is thought to be in affinity is the Epistle to the Hebrews. Considerable resemblance is found between the two in their view of the Person of Christ, e.g., in Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 1:20-22; Ephesians 4:8-10; Ephesians 4:15 and Hebrews 1:8-13; Hebrews 2:9; Hebrews 10:12-13, etc. The seating of Christ on the right hand of God appears in both Epistles (Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 10:12). So is it also with the use of the term παρρησία with reference to access to God (Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:16); with the conception of Christ’s work as a sanctifying (ἁγιάζειν, Ephesians 5:25-26; Hebrews 13:12; Hebrews 10:10); and with the place given to the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:12). In the use of terms, too, there are resemblances of some significance. In both we have the phrases αἷμα καὶ σάρξ (for the more usual σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα), ὑπεράνω πάντων τῶν οὐρανῶν, αἰὼν μέλλων, προσφορὰ καὶ θυσία, εἰς ἀπολύτρωσιν. And certain expressive words are found in both, such as ἀγρυπνεῖν, κραυγή, ὑπεράνω, βουλή. These things have been supposed to point to the priority of Ephesians, while some, on the other hand (e.g., von Soden), have regarded them as indicating that Hebrews is the earlier writing. But it would be in the highest degree precarious to draw any inference from such data with respect to the chronological relation of the one Epistle to the other.
Of more interest is the connection between our Epistle and 1 Peter. The points of affinity between these two writings have been exaggerated, it is true, and conclusions have been drawn from them with a confidence which they do not warrant. They undoubtedly deserve attention, however, both for their number and for their significance. At the same time the lists prepared by Holtzmann and others require to be carefully sifted and considerably reduced. Among the more relevant coincidences are the following: the place given to hope; the connection of the Christian hope with the resurrection of Christ and with the κληρονομία (Ephesians 1:18-20; 1 Peter 1:3-5); the prominence of the idea of the Divine power (δύναμις Θεοῦ, Ephesians 1:19; 1 Peter 1:5); the mention of the access or introduction (τὴν προσαγωγὴν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα, Ephesians 2:18) to God which we have through Christ in the one, and the definition of the object of Christ’s sufferings in the other (ἵνα ἡμᾶς προσαγάγῃ τῷ Θεῷ, 1 Peter 3:18); the mystery hid πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου in Ephesians 3:9, and the fore-ordination of Christ πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου in 1 Peter 1:20. Perhaps of yet greater significance are the parallels in idea and in expression with regard to the ascension of Christ (Ephesians 4:8-10; 1 Peter 3:22); the session of Christ at God’s right hand in heaven (ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ αὐτοῦ ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις, Ephesians 1:20; ὄς ἐστιν ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ Θεοῦ, πορευθεὶς εἰς οὐρανόν, 1 Peter 3:22); the subjection of all angelic powers to Christ (Ephesians 1:21; 1 Peter 3:22).
There are other coincidences to which great importance has been attached, but which are of more doubtful relevancy. The most striking of these are the analogous statements about the prophets, the hiding of the meaning of their prophecies from themselves, and the extent of the revelation made to them (1 Peter 1:10-12; Ephesians 3:5; Ephesians 3:10). But it is not the same class of prophets that is in view in both. In 1 Peter it is the OT prophets; in Ephesians it appears to be the NT prophets. The resemblance between Ephesians 2:18-22 and 1 Peter 2:4-6 must be discounted to a considerable extent, because both writers are quoting the familiar passage in Psalm 118:22, or have its terms in mind. Nor does the coincidence between the opening doxologies (1 Peter 1:3; Ephesians 1:3—in both εὐλογητὸς ὁ Θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ) carry us very far. On the other hand there are some marked resemblances in syntax and construction, especially in the paragraphs immediately following these doxologies.
On these data very contradictory conclusions have been suspended. Some have inferred that the author of Ephesians was a debtor to 1 Peter (Hilgenfeld, Weiss). Others have taken the author of 1 Peter to be a borrower from Ephesians. The theory has also been broached that both Epistles proceed from one hand, possibly that of the writer of Acts and the Third Gospel. Others have explained the case by supposing that Peter may have heard Paul in Rome, or that there may have been converse between the two Apostles in Rome which is reflected in these parallels. So different are the aspects in which these things present themselves to different minds. One thing at least it is very difficult to imagine. That is, that a writer of the genius and power which the Epistle to the Ephesians discloses could have been a borrower even from the author of 1 Peter.
The question of greatest interest, however, is that touching the relation between the Epistle to the Ephesians and the Epistle to the Colossians. Here the resemblances and the differences are equally striking and unmistakable. The general likeness in the structure of the two writings arrests attention at once—in the division of the matter between the doctrinal and the practical, in the form of the paragraphs, and in much of the diction. It is calculated, indeed, that in some seventy-eight out of 155 verses we have much the same phraseology. Lists have been compiled by De Wette and others including the following passages: Ephesians 1:4; Colossians 1:22 : Ephesians 1:6-7; Colossians 1:13-14 : Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:20 : Ephesians 1:15-17; Colossians 1:3-4 : Ephesians 1:18; Colossians 1:27 : Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 1:16 : Ephesians 1:22 f.; Colossians 1:18 f.: Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 2:12; Colossians 1:21 : Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 2:13 : Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14 : Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 2:20 : Ephesians 3:1; Colossians 1:24 : Ephesians 3:2; Colossians 1:25 : Ephesians 3:3; Colossians 1:26 : Ephesians 3:7; Colossians 1:23; Colossians 1:25 : Ephesians 3:8 f.; Colossians 1:27 : Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 1:10 : Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:12 f.: Ephesians 4:3 f.; Colossians 3:14 f.: Ephesians 4:15 f.; Colossians 2:19 : Ephesians 4:19; Colossians 3:1; Colossians 3:5 : Ephesians 4:22 f.; Colossians 3:8 ff.: Ephesians 4:25 f.; Colossians 3:8 f.: Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 3:8; Colossians 4:6; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:12 f.: Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5 : Ephesians 5:4; Colossians 3:8 : Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5 : Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6 : Ephesians 5:15; Colossians 4:5 : Ephesians 5:19 f.; Colossians 3:16 f.: Ephesians 5:21; Colossians 3:18 : Ephesians 5:25; Colossians 3:19 : Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20 : Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21 : Ephesians 6:5 ff.; Colossians 3:22 ff.: Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1 : Ephesians 6:18 ff.; Colossians 4:2 ff.: Ephesians 6:21 f.; Colossians 4:7 f.
These parallels are by no means all of the same value. Yet with all necessary deductions they are remarkable both in number and in quality. Taken along with the large resemblance in matter, which extends in some parts over considerable sections, they exhibit a relationship close enough to warrant us to speak of the two as sister Epistles.
It does not follow from this, however, that the one is dependent on the other. There are, indeed, important differences between the two kindred writings which make it difficult to regard the one as made up out of the other. The style is different, that of Ephesians being round, full, and rhythmical, where that of Colossians is more pointed, logical and concise. The question of the Church has no such place in the latter as in the former. The Epistle to the Ephesians has much more of an OT colouring than that to the Colossians. In the latter we have only one OT quotation or allusion. In the former we have eight or nine, viz.: Genesis 2:24 (Ephesians 5:31); Exodus 20:12 (Ephesians 6:2); Psalm 4:4 (Ephesians 4:26); Psalm 8:6 (Ephesians 1:22); Psalm 68:18 (Ephesians 4:8); Psalm 118:22 (Ephesians 2:20); Song of Solomon 4:7 (Ephesians 5:27, perhaps); Isaiah 57:9 (Ephesians 2:17); Isaiah 60:1 (Ephesians 5:14). There are phrases which are distinctive of the Epistle to the Ephesians, but which do not reappear in that to the Colossians, e.g., τὰ ἐπούρανια. And besides all this there are whole paragraphs in Ephesians which have nothing like them in Colossians—those dealing with the union of Jew and Gentile in the one Church of God as the subject of the Divine predestination (Ephesians 1:3-14); the unity of the faith and of the Church (Ephesians 4:5-16); the contrast between the light and the darkness with their corresponding results (Ephesians 5:8-14); the mystery of the marriage-union as a reflection of the union between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33); the description of the panoply of God (Ephesians 6:10-17). And in like manner there are whole sections in Colossians, such as the polemical passage in chap. 2 and the salutations in chap. 5, which have no place in Ephesians.
The question raised by the co-existence of these likenesses and differences has been very variously answered. Some have inferred that Colossians must have been the original writing, and that Ephesians resembles it at so many points because it has been borrowed largely from it. Others have regarded Ephesians as the earlier and more original composition. The scholar who has gone most laboriously into the details of this question, viz., H. J. Holtzmann, came to the conclusion that the priority could not be given wholly to either Epistle, but that there were sections of Ephesians (e.g., Ephesians 1:4, cf. Colossians 1:22; Colossians 1:6-7, cf. Colossians 1:13-14; Colossians 3:3; Colossians 3:5; Colossians 3:9, cf. Colossians 1:26; Colossians 2:2) which pointed to the priority of that Epistle, while there were a considerable number that pointed in the opposite direction. He took refuge, therefore, in the complicated theory that Colossians as we have it is not the Epistle as it originally was; that there was a briefer Pauline Epistle to the Colossian Church on which the author of the Epistle to the Ephesians based his work; that the Colossian Epistle was afterwards enlarged by this author; and that the hand that did all this was not Paul’s own, but perhaps that of the writer who added the closing doxology to the Epistle to the Romans.
This is a far-fetched explanation, and one beset by many difficulties. The terms supposed to have been taken from the Epistle to the Colossians come in quite simply and naturally in the sister Epistle, but by no means in the same context or connection. The most distinctive sections of the Colossian Epistle, those dealing with the strange, speculative views of Christ’s person and relations, have no place in the Ephesian Epistle, and it is surely a surprising circumstance that a borrower such as the compiler of Ephesians is supposed to be should have so carefully avoided these things and should have appropriated only the least characteristic parts of the writing which he chose for the basis of his own communication. It is still more surprising that a writer capable of producing the Ephesian Epistle should have thought of using another composition in this dependent manner. In point of fact there is nothing in the Epistle to the Ephesians, whether of likeness or of unlikeness, that may not be accounted for in a far simpler and more natural way. A writer addressing himself in two different communications, prepared much about the same time, to Churches in the same part of the world, not widely separated from each other, with much in common, but with something of difference also in their circumstances, their dangers and their needs, naturally falls into a style and a tenor of address which will be to a considerable extent the same in both writings and yet have differences rising naturally out of the different positions.
5. AUTHORSHIP OF THE EPISTLE. The historical evidence in favour of the Pauline authorship of this Epistle is very strong. We have the best reason for saying that by the end of the second century it was generally regarded as the work of Paul. There is evidence also that it was in circulation by the close of the first century or the beginning of the second. The place which it had then, and the use which was made of it, also indicate that it was recognised as more than an ordinary writing—that it was accepted indeed for what it professed to be. In short, in oldest antiquity there is nothing to show that the claim which it bore upon its face was questioned, or that it was assigned to any other writer than Paul.
It is possible that within the NT writings themselves we have an important indication of the authorship. In Colossians 4:16 mention is made of an Epistle “from Laodicea”. If Colossians is accepted as what it professes to be, and that Epistle “from Laodicea” can be identified, as many hold it can, with our Epistle to the Ephesians, we have a very direct witness to the Pauline authorship. But apart from that there are things of great interest in relation to the question of authorship in very early Christian literature. Even in Clement of Rome there are forms of expression which look like echoes of ideas and terms characteristic of this Epistle. Thus the phrase ἠνεῴχθησαν ἡμῶν οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ τῆς καρδίας in chap. 36 recalls Ephesians 1:18. The statement in Ephesians 1:4 of our election of God in Christ (καθὼς ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶς ἐν αὐτῷ, etc.) may perhaps be reflected in what is said of Christ Himself and us in chap. 64—ὁ ἐκλεξάμενος τὸν Κύριον Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν καὶ ἡμᾶς διʼ αὐτοῦ εἰς λαὸν περιούσιον. The paragraph on unity, too, in Ephesians 4:4-6 may be reflected in chap. 46—ἢ οὐχὶ ἕνα Θεὸν ἔχομεν καὶ ἔνα Χριστόν; καὶ ἓν πνεῦμα τῆς χάριτος τὸ ἐκχυθὲν ἐφʼ ἡμᾶς, καὶ μία κλῆσις ἐν Χριστῷ. The most that can be said, however, of these analogies is that they are suggestive. Still less can be made of the witness of the Didaché or of certain passages in the Epistle of Barnabas (vi. 15, xix. 7). In the first of these two writings we have these two statements which have a general, but only a general, resemblance to Ephesians 6:5; Ephesians 6:9, viz., ὑμεῖς δὲ οἱ δοῦλοι ὑποταγήσεσθε τοῖς κυρίοις ὑμῶν ὡς τύπῳ Θεοῦ ἐν αἰσχύνῃ καὶ φόβῳ (Did., iv., 11), and οὐκ ἐπιτάξεις δούλῳ σου ἢ παιδίσκῃ τοῖς ἐπὶ τὸν αὐτὸν Θεὸν ἐλπίζουσιν, ἐν πικρίᾳ σου. But this is all.
It is different with the testimony of Ignatius. It is claimed indeed by some excellent scholars that in one interesting passage Ignatius speaks definitely and unmistakably of Paul as the writer of an Epistle to the Ephesians. That is the statement in Ep. ad Eph., c. 12, Παύλου συμμύσται (ἐστε) τοῦ ἡγιασμένου … ὃς ἐν πάσῃ ἐπιστολῇ μνημονεύει ὑμῶν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. The difficulty attaching to the interpretation of the second clause is seen perhaps in certain ancient variations of reading—in the substitution of μνημονεύω in the Armenian Version, and in the amplification ὃς πάντοτε ἐν ταῖς δεήσεσιν αὐτοῦ μνημονεύει ὑμῶν which it receives in the longer form of Ignatius. In order to make it carry the inference drawn from it the rendering “in all the Epistle” or “in every part of the Epistle to you” must be given it. But, not to speak of the inept meaning that would thus be the result, it is very doubtful whether that rendering can be accepted as grammatically justifiable. None of the few instances which are adduced in support of the contention that πᾶς without the article can mean “the whole” can be said to be free of doubt. Some, e.g., πᾶσα Ἱεροσόλυμα (Matthew 2:3), πᾶς Ἰσραήλ (Romans 11:26), are not pertinent, inasmuch as the nouns are proper names. Others are almost equally doubtful for other reasons, e.g., ἐπὶ παντὸς προσώπου τῆς γῆς (Acts 17:26), where the phrase πρόσωπον τῆς γῆς has much the force of a proper name, there being only one such thing. The same in effect is the case with πᾶν σῶμα in a passage of Aristotle which has been very confidently appealed to, viz., δεῖ τὸν πολιτικὸν εἰδέναι πῶς τὰ περὶ ψυχῆς· ὥσπερ καὶ τὸν ὀφθαλμοὺς θεραπεύοντα, καὶ πᾶν σῶμα (Eth. Nic., i., 13, 7). For σῶμα is used there not in the sense of any particular body, but in that of body as distinguished from soul. If the sentence must be translated in accordance with the stated force of πᾶς in conjunction with an anarthrous noun, viz., as = “in every letter,” it cannot safely be concluded that Ignatius had in his mind a particular Epistle of St. Paul’s known to be addressed to the Ephesians. It would be strange, indeed, as Professor Abbott remarks (ut sup., p. xi), that if Ignatius wished to remind the Ephesians of Paul’s regard for them he should “only refer to the mention of them in other Epistles, and not at all to that which had been specially addressed to them”. But allowing this contested passage to stand aside, we find Ignatius elsewhere using words or phrases which appear to indicate an acquaintance with characteristic expressions in our Epistle, such as πλήρωμα, προορίζεσθαι, ἐκλέγειν, θέλημα τοῦ Πατρός, λίθοι ναοῦ πατρός, ἡτοιμασμένοι εἰς οἰκοδομὴν Θεοῦ πατρός (chap. ix.; cf. Ephesians 2:20-22), μιμηταὶ ὄντες τοῦ Θεοῦ (chap. i.; cf. Ephesians 5:1).
The witness of Polycarp, Hermas and Hippolytus is also of some significance. In Polycarp we have two passages which have all the appearance of quotations from our Epistle or reminiscences of its terms, viz.: χάριτί ἐστε σεσωσμένοι, οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων (Ep. ad Philipp., chap. i.; cf. Ephesians 2:5; Ephesians 2:8-9); and (in the Latin form, the Greek not being extant) “ut his scripturis dictum est, irascimini et nolite peccare et sol non occidat super iracundiam vestram” (chap. xii.; cf. Ephesians 4:26). In Hermas, not to mention other sentences which are less definite, we have these—μηδὲ λύπην ἐπάγειν τῷ πνεύματι τῷ σεμνῷ καὶ ἀληθεῖ (Mand.; cf. Ephesians 4:30); and ἔσονται εἰς ἓν πνεύμαι καὶ ἓν σῶμα (Sim., ix., 13; cf. Ephesians 4:4-5). From Hippolytus we gather that Ephesians 3:4-18 was quoted as γραφή by the Valentinians (Philos., vi., 34).
The judgments of scholars have differed and no doubt will continue to differ as to the relevancy and the value of these testimonies. But with Irenæus at least and the Muratorian Canon we reach sure and indisputable ground. Irenæus refers to Paul by name as the author of our Epistle and quotes it as his. He cites Ephesians 5:13 as words of Paul (Adv. Hær., 1., 8, 5); and he expresses himself thus—κάθως ὁ μακάριος Παῦλός φησιν ἐν τῇ πρός Ἐφεσίους ἐπιστολῇ· ὅτι μέλη ἐσμὲν τοῦ σώματος αὐτοῦ, ἐκ τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ καὶ τῶν ὀστέων αὐτοῦ (Adv. Hær., v., 2, 3; cf. Ephesians 5:30). The Muratorian Canon mentions the Ephesians as one of the Churches to which Paul wrote Epistles. The testimony of Clement of Alexandria is like that of Irenæus. Thus, after citing 2 Corinthians 11:2 as an injunction of the Apostle’s (ὁ ἀπόστολος ἐπιστέλλων πρὸς Κορινθίους φησίν), he introduces Ephesians 4:13-15 in these terms—σαφέστατα δὲ Ἐφεσίοις γράφων … λέγων· μεχρὶ κατατήσωμεν οἱ πάντες εἰς τὴν ἑνότητα τῆς πίστεως, κ.τ.λ. (Paed., i., 18). In the same way he quotes 1 Corinthians 11:3 and Galatians 5:16 ff. as words of Paul (φησὶν ὁ ἀπόστολος), and proceeds thus—διὸ καὶ ἐν τῇ πρὸς Ἐφεσίους γράφει· ὑποτασσόμενοι ἀλλήλοις ἐν φόβῳ Θεοῦ, etc., as in Ephesians 5:21-25 (Strom., iv., 65). The testimony of Marcion is to the same effect, although he gave the Epistle the title “ad Laodicenos” (Tert., Adv. Marc., v., 17); while Tertullian, his opponent, mentions Ephesus among the Churches that had original, apostolic Epistles, and corrects Marcion only on the matter of the destination—Ecclesiae quidem veritate epistolam istam ad Ephesios habemus emissam, non ad Laodicenos (Adv. Marc., v., 17). And from the latter part of the second century the stream of testimony to the fact that the Epistle was recognised as Paul’s flows steadily on.
Notwithstanding the strength of the external testimony, however, there have been not a few in modern times, from Schleiermacher and Usteri on to the present day, who have doubted or denied the Pauline authorship. Among these De Wette, Baur and Holtzmann occupy a conspicuous place. It is to be observed, however, that some who have most strenuously questioned the genuineness of the Epistle still admit it to be of very early date—as early as A.D. 75 or 80. De Wette, e.g., allows it to be a product of the Apostolic age, the work indeed of some highly gifted scholar of the Apostle’s, and Ewald’s position is something similar. Others take up an indeterminate position. The conclusion of Jülicher, e.g., is that the Pauline authorship can neither be certainly accepted nor absolutely denied.
The arguments leading up to the doubt or denial of the genuineness of the Epistle are based upon internal considerations—style, language, peculiar usages, the nature of the ideas, etc. Thus De Wette regards the composition as unlike Paul’s way of writing—in its want of connection and its many parentheses, in much of its phraseology, and in the poverty of its contents. To him it is a composition copious in words but poor in ideas, lacking originality, so dependent indeed on the Epistle to the Colossians as to look like a “verbose amplification” of it, the work not of Paul himself but of an imitator. But the similarities between Ephesians and Colossians, as we have seen, admit of a simple explanation, and it is a surprising judgment, one that few certainly will accept, which De Wette pronounces on our Epistle when he speaks of it as having no distinctive character, as a dependent production, and non-Pauline in style. We should rather say with Meyer that it is so like Paul in tone, tenor and much else as to make it hard indeed to imagine that it can be the work of a mere imitator; all the more so if it is, as De Wette thinks it, without any special object.
Baur, Schwegler, and other adherents of the Tübingen School dilate chiefly on its doctrinal character as inconsistent with the Pauline authorship. They find it full of Gnostic and Montanist thought and terminology. They lay stress on the use of such terms as πλήρωμα, on the peculiarities of the Christology, etc., and judge it to be the product of the second century, when Gnostic speculations had taken shape and had become familiar. But this view of the Epistle is no longer asserted with the former confidence or in the pronounced form in which it was elaborated by Baur himself. It is acknowledged more generally now that the phenomena in the Epistle on which the old Tübingen School fastened may be accounted for by the operation of ideas which were in affinity with those known as Gnostic, but which came short of the developed Gnosticism of the middle of the second century; and further that the passages most insisted on by Baur, when fairly interpreted, are quite consistent with the form of doctrine found in the primary Pauline Epistles.
The objections most generally urged against the Pauline authorship take the following forms. In the first place the vocabulary of the Epistle, it is said, presents great difficulty. The ἅπαξ λεγόμενα are thought to be so numerous and of such a kind as to raise a very serious question. But when the list is examined the case is considerably modified. The whole number of words which are found in this Epistle and nowhere else in the NT is forty-two. The number of words found in this Epistle and occasionally elsewhere in the canonical books, but in none of the other writings generally recognised as Pauline by the critics in question, is thirty-nine, according to the reckoning of Holtzmann. But the Epistle to the Colossians and the three Pastoral Epistles are left out of account in this computation, and at the most the number of these ἅπαξ λεγόμενα is not proportionately greater than in some of the acknowledged Pauline Epistles. In Galatians, e.g., there are thirty-three words used only there and nowhere else in the NT; in Philippians there are forty-one; in 2 Corinthians there are ninety-five; while in Romans there are no less than one hundred and in 1 Corinthians one hundred and eighty. Further, some of these terms, e.g., those belonging to the description of the panoply of God in chap. 6, are obviously the products of the figure or the occasion. Some, again, are but single occurrences, and in the case of several there are related forms found in others of the Epistles. For example, καταρτίζω, κατάρτισις, ὁσίως, προσκαρτερεῖν appear elsewhere, though καταρτισμός, ὁσιότης, προσκαρτέρησις happen to be used only in Ephesians.
In the second place it is objected that there are certain Pauline words which get a new sense in this Epistle. Instances of this are alleged to be found in such terms as μυστήριον, οἰκονομία, περιποίησις. But with respect to the first of these the only passage in which it can be said to have anything like a novel application is Ephesians 5:32. In the other four occurrences it is used in reality very much as it is used elsewhere by Paul. The term οἰκονομία, again, as it is handled in this Epistle, has the same general sense of stewardship as it has in 1 Corinthians 9:17, though with a different application. And if περιποίησις, which has the abstract sense in 1 Thessalonians 5:9, 2 Thessalonians 2:14, has to be understood as concrete here in chap. Ephesians 1:14, that is a variation which appears in the use of other terms in the Pauline writings and elsewhere.
In the third place it is objected that in this Epistle certain ideas are expressed by terms which differ from those employed by Paul elsewhere for the same purpose. To this class are sometimes reckoned such words and phrases as ἀγαπᾶν τὸν Κύριον, ἀγαπᾶν τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, δίδοναί τινα τί, ἀγαθὸς πρός τι, δέσμιος, ἴστε γινώσκοντες, εἰς πάσας τὰς γενεὰς τοῦ αἰῶνος τῶν αἰώνων, πρὸ καταβολῆς τοῦ κόσμου, σωτήριον, αἱ διάνοιαι, τὰ θελήματα, πνεῦμα τοῦ νοός. Little need be said of peculiarities of this kind. Some of them have their explanation in the nature of the subject or in simple variety in style and expression. Others have affinities elsewhere in the Pauline writings. How varied, e.g., is Paul’s way of speaking of understanding, spirit, etc. Is a writer like St. Paul to be shut up to the same stereotyped forms of expression in one writing after another? Is he to be debarred from using the word ἀγαπᾶν with reference to Christ or to the Church in this Epistle, merely because in other Epistles he uses it with regard to God? And is it impossible for him to address his hearers as τέκνα ἀγαπητά when the imitation of God is in view, because elsewhere he may use that designation with regard to their relations to himself?
Some of the instances most commonly cited, however, deserve more attention. There is, e.g., the use of φωτίζειν in Ephesians 3:9, in application to the Apostle’s commission to enlighten or instruct. This, it is urged, is an application of the word not found elsewhere in the Pauline writings. But that might be the case and yet its use here might have its justification. The reading is not certain. The question is whether πάντας should be inserted or not. If it is omitted, then the aspect of the question is changed. If it is inserted, there are analogies to this use of φωτίζειν in the LXX (Jdg 13:8; 2 Kings 12:2; 2 Kings 17:27-28), and Paul may have followed these. There is again the designation of God as ὁ Θεὸς τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (Ephesians 1:17). This indeed is a rare designation, and for that very reason one most unlikely to have been used by a forger or a mere imitator. But it is a designation perfectly consistent with the highest view of Christ’s Person, and one which has its justification in Christ’s own words, as recorded in the Fourth Gospel (John 20:17). The phrase τὰ ἐπουράνια, which is used five times in this Epistle and, as it seems, with the local sense, is confined, it is true, to this one writing among all those attributed to Paul. But the adjective, ἐπουράνιος, in the sense of heavenly, is used also in 1 Corinthians 15:40; 1 Corinthians 15:48-49; Php 2:10. It is difficult to see why Paul should not be thought at liberty to use or even to coin such a phrase, or why he might not select the term τὰ πνευματικά instead of τὰ πνεύματα in the large and special sense which it has in this Epistle. Why, too, should it be thought that a word like κοσμοκράτωρ, or a phrase like ὁ ἄρχων τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ ἀέρος, so appropriate to the ideas in hand, must be alien to Paul? So is it also with the word διάβολος which meets us in this Epistle, while in others, it is said, Paul speaks only of Σατανᾶς. But διάβολος is also used in 1 and 2 Tim. The two words indeed are practically the same in sense. They are employed interchangeably by other NT writers, e.g., the authors of the Fourth Gospel and the Book of Acts. Why should a writer of the power and the versatility of Paul be tied down to the use of one of these words in all his writings, later as well as earlier? There remains the phrase of which perhaps most has been made, τοῖς ἁγίοις ἀποστόλοις καὶ προφήταις. This, it is said, smacks of the later period when men’s thoughts of the Apostles and the prophets of the NT Church had changed. Its use here has been felt to be such a difficulty by some that they have tried to dispose of it as a gloss or as a case of dislocation in the text. But there is nothing so very strange in this application of the term ἅγιος if we give the word the broad sense which is its proper sense, and which it has indeed in the very same context in the phrase ἐμοὶ τῷ ἐλαχιστοτέρῳ πάντων ἁγίων (Ephesians 3:8).
In the fourth place serious objection is taken to the Pauline authorship on the ground of what is held to be the un-Pauline type of thought which appears again and again in the Epistle. It is said, e.g., that the question of the inclusion of Jew and Gentile in one Church is presented in a different light from that in which it is seen in other Pauline Epistles. Only here, it is said, is it put before us as the great object or, at least, a primary object of Christ’s work and of the Divine predestination (Ephesians 2:13-22, Ephesians 3:5, etc., Ephesians 4:7-16); and what is more, it is introduced simply as a matter of revelation and not as a thing over which there had been sharp controversy. It is certainly a remarkable place that is given in this Epistle to the thought of the unity of the Church and the perfect equality of Jew and Gentile within it. But there is no contradiction between this way of looking at the inclusion of the Gentiles and that which prevails in the other Epistles. The statement is in harmony with the general disposition of the Epistle, which is to carry all things back to the eternal will and purpose of God. The controversy, moreover, was ended, and Paul had no occasion to revive the memory of it in the message needed by those whom he addresses here.
The view, again, which is given of the Law in this Epistle is thought to be singular. The Law is not exhibited, it is said, as having any real moral value or religious use, but as having simply a typical significance and as the cause of enmity and separation between Jew and Gentile. And Circumcision itself, it is added, is presented as a merely formal thing, and contemptuous words are spoken of it (ἡ λεγομένη περιτομή, Ephesians 2:11) which would come strangely from Paul, himself a circumcised Jew and one who elsewhere attaches religious value to circumcision and says good things of it. But where he had for his special subject the oneness of Jew and Gentile as effected by Christ and as seen in the Church, it was matter of course that he should speak particularly of the dividing effect of the Law as it was witnessed in the pre-Christian times. And he does not speak elsewhere of the Law only in one way. He has very different things to say of it according to circumstances; and he presents it in aspects which seem even contradictory, speaking of it, as he does, now as holy (Romans 7:9) and again as incompetent (Romans 8:3); now as a παιδαγωγὸς εἰς Χριστόν (Galatians 3:25) and again as carrying a curse (κατάρα) and condemnation with it (Galatians 3:10). And the same is true of the ways in which circumcision is regarded in the Pauline Epistles: cf. Romans 2:26-29; Romans 3:1; Galatians 5:6; Galatians 6:15; Php 3:5; Colossians 2:11; Colossians 2:13, etc.
A very different position, too, is thought to be given to the Death of Christ in this Epistle from what it has in the acknowledged Pauline writings. In Epistles like those to the Romans, the Galatians and the Corinthians its expiatory and propitiatory value is the theme on which Paul dwells with most emphasis. But here this is passed over in silence, and comparatively little is made of the Death of Christ even in other aspects. It is rather His exaltation with all that it involves that is dwelt on. But the difference, so far as it exists, is due to the occasion and to the state of those addressed. It is true that it is as the means by which the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile is effected that the Cross is specially mentioned (Ephesians 2:16), and it is with reference to the imitation of God that Christ’s giving of Himself is described as an offering and a sacrifice to God. But there is nothing in this to make it impossible to suppose that the same author, writing with an eye on other conditions, might speak of the Cross and the Death of Christ in connection with the reconciliation of the world or of the individual. Moreover, we have here the blood of Christ, redemption through His blood, and the forgiveness of sins as related to His blood—all which are distinctly Pauline, if they are also Johannine, terms and ideas (Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 2:13).
Further, this Epistle is alleged to depart widely from the recognised Pauline Epistles in its Christology, its doctrine of Christ’s Headship, and its view of the Parousia. With regard to the first of these particulars this Epistle is more in affinity with that to the Colossians than with any other, in so far as it exhibits Christ in His largest relations to creation, and presents Him as designed in the eternal purpose of God to be the bond of union or reunion for a world existing at present in a condition of dislocation and division. But there are at least the rudiments and foretokens of this doctrine of Christ’s cosmical relations elsewhere. There is, e.g., the statement of the “one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things,” in 1 Corinthians 8:6; and there is the larger analogy in the great paragraph on the Evangel of Creation in Romans 8:19-20. It may be, again, that in other Pauline passages the body is said to be as Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12) or be in Christ (Romans 12:4-5), and the head is reckoned simply among the members (1 Corinthians 12:21); whereas here, as in Colossians, believers are the members, Christ is the Head, and the Church is the body. But the different applications of these figures have their sufficient explanation in the different subjects. In the present case the subject is the relation between Christ and the Church; in the others it is the relation between the members of the Church themselves. And as regards the Parousia, the assertion is that, instead of looking, as Paul does elsewhere, to that great event as the near and certain conclusion of the world’s end and the consummation of the Kingdom of God, the writer of this Epistle views the future as made up of a series of ages following one upon the other. But this overlooks the consideration that the αἰῶνες ἐπερχόμενοι may be those that are to make up the Eternity which opens after the Second Coming. The fact remains, however, that the Parousia does not occupy the place which it has in such Epistles as those to the Thessalonians, and that there is nothing to show that it fills the writer’s vision here as it does there. But this Epistle is separated by years from those earliest writings attributed to Paul. Much had taken place in the interval; the Return of Christ had not been witnessed, but the Kingdom of God had been seen establishing itself far and wide by the preaching of the Gospel. Even in the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians it is recognised that the Parousia cannot enter until certain things have happened; and in the further experience of God’s ways as regards the times and the seasons, the Second Coming, though the expectation of it was not lost, came to be regarded as a less immediately impending event.
Finally, it is affirmed that this Epistle differs essentially from the acknowledged Pauline writings in its view of the Church, and that in more than one respect. It is singular, it is said, in speaking of the Church as one, and it gives a view of the Church which could not have emerged till a considerably later date than that to which Ephesians must be assigned if it is by Paul. To this it is enough to reply first that there is nothing in the Epistle to point to a highly developed condition of the Church. The organisation of the Church is not one of the subjects dealt with. The gifts bestowed upon the Church are brought into view, and are shown to be of various kinds. But they are not such as infer a comparatively late period. There is no mention of rule by bishops and deacons, nor does the external unity of the Church form a feature of this Epistle. The view which is given of the Church as one is indeed the highest found in the Pauline writings. But it is not wholly new. It has its foundations at least in earlier Pauline writings, as, e.g., in 1 Corinthians 12:28 (ἔθετο ὁ Θεὸς ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρῶτον ἀποστόλους, etc.); 1 Corinthians 15:9 (διότι ἐδίωξα τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ Θεοῦ); Galatians 1:13 (ἐδίωκον τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ Θεοῦ); Php 3:6 (διώκων τὴν ἐκκλησίαν); cf. in the Book of Acts (the composition of a Pauline writer), τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ Θεοῦ [Κυρίου] ἣν περιεποιήσατο διὰ τοῦ αἳματος αὐτοῦ, Acts 20:28. In the sister Epistle, too, the term ἐκκλησία is used both of the local Church and of the universal Galatians 1:18; Galatians 1:24, Galatians 4:15-16). But, apart from that, the unity is a spiritual unity, a oneness which consists in the union of individuals, the ἅγιοι, in faith—not the unity of a corporation or an organisation. There is nothing in this important section of the teaching of the Epistle to make it necessary to suppose that it was written at a time when the multitude of separate local Churches were driven by the needs of defence to form themselves into one large, strong organisation.
In none of these particulars in which this Epistle is asserted to stand apart is there any essential difference between it and the acknowledged Pauline Epistles. There are differences, but they are differences which admit in each case of a natural explanation, and which in no case amount to anything that is incompatible with the recognised Pauline doctrine. On the other hand, as scholars like Jülicher frankly admit, we find in this Epistle many distinctive Pauline ideas, turns of expression, and qualities of style—the use of characteristic terms not found elsewhere in the NT, of particles like διό, ἄρα οὖν, etc.; of ideas like that of the Divine riches, etc., as well as the broad lines of Pauline doctrine. Allowing all reasonable weight to the internal considerations, of which so much is made, they come far short of balancing the strong and consistent argument provided by the historical testimony to the Pauline authorship.
6. THE DESTINATION OF THE EPISTLE. The traditional view is that the Epistle was addressed to the Ephesian Church—to that Church definitely and by itself. This view has still the support of some important authorities. In modern times, however, it has come to be largely held that the Epistle is an Encyclical letter, meant not for the Ephesian Church specifically, but for a number of Churches, or rather for the Christian people found in the Roman Province of Asia, or more particularly in the Phrygian territory. The question is—Which of these two views of the destination of the Epistle best satisfies the data at our disposal, internal and external?
At first the case for the traditional view seems to be far stronger than the other, especially on the side of the historical testimony. Here much depends on how the reading ἐν Ἐφέσῳ in the inscription is regarded. The textual question is not by any means the only element in the case. But it is an important element, and the facts which come into view are of great interest. They are also plain and indisputable. First there is the fact that all manuscripts, both uncial and cursive, with the exception of three, have the words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ in the opening verse. There is the second fact that all manuscripts, so far as known to us, without any exception have had this express note of destination in the inscription at one time or other. There is the third fact that the description of the intended readers as the saints in Ephesus is found in all the ancient Versions. And in addition to this we have the fact that everywhere the title of the Epistle bears that it is addressed to the Ephesians. These things make their impression. They are taken by so high an authority as Meyer to mean that the entire ancient Church (Marcion being discounted), from the Muratorian Canon (somewhere about A.D. 180), Irenæus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian, held the Epistle to be addressed to the Ephesians.
The argument from historical testimony in favour of the retention of “in Ephesus” in the inscription is also supported by such considerations as these—that in the Epistles generally acknowledged to be by Paul the readers in view are definitely designated, even when the Apostle is not writing to the Christians of a single Church or city (Galatians 1:2; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1); that if ἐν Ἐφέσῳ is omitted, the letter becomes a circular letter “without any limitation whatever of locality or nationality,” as Meyer puts it, and that this does not fit in either with the declared mission of Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21), or with what is said in such passages as Ephesians 1:15, Ephesians 2:11, Ephesians 3:1, Ephesians 4:17, etc. It is further urged that in every other case in which Paul makes use of the phrase τοῖς οὖσιν in an inscription, he attaches to it the name of the city or territory to which the readers belong (as in Rom., Cor., Phil.), and that without ἐν Ἐφέσῳ the τοῖς οὖσιν does not admit of a sense that is adequate or even natural. It may be added that some think there is an allusion to the world-famed temple of Diana at Ephesus in chap. 2. It is also strongly argued that it is incredible that no letter should have been addressed by Paul to a Church like this with which he had so many intimate connections, and which was of such importance in the fulfilment of his mission. The case as thus stated seems well-nigh concluded.
But there is another side to it. The arguments last mentioned are obviously of the most precarious kind. There are other Churches with which Paul had very close connections, but which have no letter specifically addressed to them among all the Pauline writings that have come down to us. If there is an allusion to any particular temple in chap. 2. it might be that of Jerusalem rather than that of Ephesus. The phrase τοῖς οὖσιν may be construed satisfactorily, as we shall see (cf. Notes on Ephesians 1:1), even if ἐν Ἐφέσῳ is omitted. The letter may be a circular letter of another kind than that supposed by Meyer to be indicated by the contents. And there may be a sufficient reason for Paul’s departure in this case from his usual habit of designating by their locality the readers he addresses.
But it is of more importance to see how different an aspect the textual question assumes when it is more closely examined. For the weighty fact presents itself that the words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ are not found in our two oldest and best manuscripts, א . They have also been struck out of cursive 67 by a second hand which may have some affinity with B. This is a fact of essential importance in view of what these two great uncials have been proved to be in respect of value as well as age. It is reinforced by transcriptional probability, it being far less likely that a local designation so much in Paul’s way, if it belonged to the original text, should have been dropped out or deleted by a succession of scribes than that, not forming part of the original inscription, it should have been inserted by later hands. Nor can the witness of the ancient Versions outweigh this textual evidence. For, important as that witness is, it is the witness of documents, the extant manuscripts of which are not equal in antiquity to the Greek uncials.
א Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.
 Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.
But the textual case does not end here. It is supported by Patristic testimony of great significance. From Tertullian we learn that Marcion and his followers spoke of the Epistle as addressed to the Laodicenes. The relevant passages are these two: (1) Praetereo hic et de alia epistola, quam nos ad Ephesios praescriptam habemus, haeretici vero ad Laodicenos (Adv. Marc., v., 11); and (2) Ecclesiae quidem veritate epistolam istam ad Ephesios habemus emissam, non ad Laodicenos, sed Marcion ei titulum aliquando interpolare gestiit quasi et in isto diligentissimus explorator; nihil autem de titulis interest, cum ad omnes apostolus scripserit, dum ad quosdam (ib. 17). In face of this statement it is difficult indeed to suppose that Marcion could have had the words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ in his text.
Then it appears from what is reported of Origen’s commentary that he, too, had not the words in his text. The passage runs thus: Ὠριγένης δέ φησι, ἐπὶ μόνων Ἐφεσίων εὕρομεν κείμενον τὸ “τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσι,” καὶ ζητοῦμεν εἰ μὴ παρέλκει προσκείμενον τὸ “τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσι” τί δύναται σημαίειν· ὃρα οὖν εἰ μὴ ὥσπερ ἐν τῇ Ἐξόδῳ ὄνομά φησιν ἑαυτοῦ ὁ χρηματίζων Μωσεῖ τὸ ὤν, οὕτως οἱ μετέχοντες τοῦ ὄντος, γίνονται ὄντες, καλούμενοι οἱονεὶ ἐκ τοῦ μὴ εἶναι εἰς τὸ εἶναι, “ἐξελέξατο γὰρ ὁ Θεὸς τὰ μὴ ὄντα” φησὶν ὁ αὐτὸς Παῦλος, “ἵνα τὰ ὄντα καταργήσῃ,” etc. (Cramer, Catena). Here Origen states distinctly that the phrase was without ἐν Ἐφέσῳ, and that this was peculiar to the case of Ephesians; and he proposes a particular way of getting a suitable meaning out of the phrase, giving it a metaphysical sense.
Further, as regards Tertullian, from the passages already quoted, it may be inferred with much probability that he, as well as Marcion, did not have ἐν Ἐφέσῳ in his text. For it is of the title that he speaks, and what he charges Marcion with falsifying is not the text itself but the title. If he had had the words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ in the text he would surely have appealed to that in refuting Marcion. But instead of that he appeals to the veritas ecclesiae.
Then we have a statement of great importance made by Basil. It is as follows: τοῖς Ἐφεσίοις ἐπιστέλλων, ὡς γνησίως ἡνωμένοις τῷ ὄντι διʼ ἐπιγνώσεως ὄντας αὐτοὺς ἰδιαζόντως ὠνόμασεν, εἰπών· τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσι καὶ πιστοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ· οὕτω γὰρ καὶ οἱ πρὸ ἡμῶν παραδεδώκασι καὶ ἡμεῖς ἐν τοῖς παλαιοῖς τῶν ἀντιγράφων εὑρήκαμεν (Adv. Eunom., ii., 19). Here Basil is obviously referring to the ἐν Ἐφέσῳ; not, as some painfully endeavour to make out, to the τοῖς or to the οὖσι. In doing so he gives us to understand that the local designation was absent, and his statement is the more important because he speaks not only of the ancient copies themselves, but also of the tradition of the men who were before him, and describes the clause as being in both cases simply τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσι καὶ πιστοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ.
There are other witnesses that are considered to speak to the same effect. But they are less certain and at the best only of subordinate importance. There is a statement by Jerome to the following effect: Quidam curiosius quam necesse est putant ex eo quod Moysi dictum sit “Haec dices filiis Israel: qui est misit me,” etiam eos qui Ephesi sunt sancti et fldeles essentiae vocabulo nuncupatos.… Alii vero simpliciter non ad eos qui sint, sed ad eos qui Ephesi sancti et fideles sint, scriptum arbitrantur (On Ephesians 1:1; vol. vii., p. 545). In this Jerome seems to refer to Origen and his interpretation of τοῖς οὖσι, and to the peculiar reading. But it is at least possible, as Meyer takes it, that the words eos qui Ephesi sunt sancti et fideles may represent τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν Ἐφέσῳ καὶ πιστοῖς; or it may be, as others, e.g., Alford, think, that Jerome is dealing only with two possible interpretations of τοῖς οὒσιν, without saying anything to imply that the words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ were absent from the inscription.
There is, however, something to notice in the case of certain Latin commentators. In some of these the inscription is dealt with in a way that suggests either that they had not the word Ephesi in the copies they followed, or that it occupied a different place. Thus Ambrosiater passes over the word Ephesi in his comment—non solum fldelibus scribit, sed et sanctis: ut tunc vere fideles sint, si fuerint sancti in Christo Jesu. Victorinus Afer’s statement points to a different arrangement of the words—sed haec cum dicit “Sanctis qui sunt fidelibus Ephesi” quid adjungitur? “In Christo Jesu” (Mai, Script. Vet. nova Collect., iii., p. 87). At a much later period Sedulius Scotus also comments on the passage thus: Sanctis. Non omnibus Ephesiis, sed his qui credunt in Christo. Et fldelibus. Omnes sancti fldeles sunt, non omnes fldeles sancti, etc. Qui sunt in Christo Jesu. Plures fldeles sunt sed non in Christo, etc. (cf. Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, pp. 384, 385, and Abbott, ut supra, pp. ii, iii). The strength of the case on the side of Textual Criticism, however, lies with   and the testimonies of Marcion, Origen and Basil. It amounts to this, that there is no evidence that the words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ formed part of the Greek text of the first three centuries. It is not till we come to the latter half of the fourth century that we have any certain indication of the local designation being included in the inscription, and that indication is found in Basil’s implied distinction between the ancient copies (τοῖς παλαιοῖς τῶν ἀντιγράφων) and others.
 Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.
 Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.
But the question does not terminate there. The character of the Epistle itself and the relations between Paul and the Ephesian Church form weighty elements in the case. Everything goes to show how intimate these relations were, how peculiar was the place that this Church had in the Apostle’s heart, how much it was his care. Not only was he the founder of the Church of Ephesus, but he spent some three years preaching and teaching in the city. During that long residence his interest in his Ephesian converts was so keen and anxious and his labours in their behalf so great that he describes himself as “ceasing not to warn every one day and night with tears” (Acts 20:31). Various things that are mentioned or alluded to in his Epistles indicate how constantly he had them in his mind. And the farewell which he took of their elders at Miletus is among the most pathetic passages of the NT. On his side there were words of tender solicitude and loving warning; on theirs thankfulness, affection, an emotion so profound that they “fell on his neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more”. It is difficult to suppose that Paul could have written a letter intended specifically for this Church without giving some indication of what it was to him personally, without some reference to what he had done for it and the grateful response which his labours had found in it, without letting his feeling towards its members express itself in some form.
Yet this Epistle is in all these respects a singularly neutral composition, without the personal note that makes itself felt in such Epistles as those to Corinth and Philippi, with nothing to say about any individual but the bearer of the letter, with nothing to connect it with the particular locality, with little or nothing to recall Paul’s stay in Ephesus or any of the many things that made his work among the Ephesians so memorable and the terms on which he and they stood to each other so close and affectionate. In the present case there is only the very general salutation which is given in the last two verses; and that is something less particular than the salutation with which the Epistle to the Philippians closes; while there are none of those personal touches throughout the Epistle to relieve the impersonal conclusion such as we find in these other letters. And in addition to the argument which founds on this neutral, impersonal quality of the Epistle, there are expressions here and there which perhaps suggest relations of a different kind from those which we know to have existed between Paul and the Ephesians. Not to speak of such passages as Ephesians 1:15, there is the statement in Ephesians 3:4, which seems to some to mean that those addressed had yet to learn what Paul’s “knowledge of the mystery in Christ” was; which could not be said of the Ephesians. There are also the two passages in which Paul uses the formula: “if indeed” (Ephesians 3:2, Ephesians 4:21-22); of which it may be said that, although εἴγε does not necessarily express actual doubt, it is a particle more in place where the speaker’s own experience or work is not in view, than where he addresses those who owe to him what they are and with whom his relations are direct and intimate.
The result, therefore, to which many have been led since Archbishop Ussher first threw out the suggestion is that this Epistle is a circular letter meant for a number of Churches in a particular part of the Asiatic province, of which Ephesus was one. This view is accepted in one way or other by such authorities as Bengel, Neander, Harless, Olshausen, Reuss, Ellicott, Lightfoot, Hort, Weiss, Woldemar Schmidt, Abbott, etc. This general conclusion, however, is put in more than one form. Some regard the sentence as complete in itself and as requiring nothing to be inserted after the τοῖς οὖσιν. Bengel, e.g., looking to the κατὰ τὴν οὖσαν ἐκκλησίαν of Acts 13:1, and the αἱ δὲ οὖσαι ἐξουσίαι of Romans 13:1, rendered it “sanctis et fidelibus qui sunt in omnibus iis locis, quo Tychicus cum hac Epistola venit”. But the introduction of ἐν Ἀντιοχείᾳ in the former and the force of the οὖσιν in the latter make these imperfect parallels. Others give the words the sense of “the saints who are really such” or “the saints existing and faithful in Christ Jesus”. But neither of these readings can be justified. The only interpretation of the clause that is quite consistent with grammar, in making it a sentence complete within itself, is “the saints who are also faithful”. Adopting this, some (e.g., Abbott, following Reiche, Ewald, etc.) take the Epistle to be addressed not to any particular Church or Churches as such, but generally to all the Christian people in the Phrygian parts. This hypothesis, it is held, explains the absence of local particulars; avoids the necessity of supposing that a blank space had been left after the τοῖς οὖσιν; and enables us to understand the phrase “the epistle from Laodicea” in Colossians 4:16. Others, however, think the case is better met by supposing that a space was left in which the name of the particular church might be inserted to which the letter was addressed in the course of its circular journeyings; or, as Hort prefers to put it, that the blank in the original copy sent with Tychicus was filled in with the name of the Church of each place in which it was read.
The last is perhaps the most natural explanation. And on the whole question it may be said that it is much easier to understand how the local designation should have come to be inserted than to imagine how, if originally in the text, it should have come to be omitted, and that, too, at so early a date. The fact that the Ephesian Church was the Church of the chief city of the Asiatic Province and the most important Church in all these parts would account for the insertion of ἐν Ἐφέσῳ, especially if, as is most probable, it was from Ephesus that copies were sent elsewhere. The fact that the Epistle was meant for a wider audience than that found in Ephesus itself would account for the circulation of such a letter as that referred to as “the epistle from Laodicea”. On the other hand, the supposition that the Epistle was meant originally only for Ephesus, and that the ἐν Ἐφέσῳ came to be dropped either by accident or by design, is one hard to entertain. It is difficult to imagine how mere accident could account for the omission, and to say that the local designation was struck out of certain very ancient copies because it did not appear to be in harmony with the contents of the letter is to attribute to these very early times the operation of a criticism of which we have very little evidence.
7. TIME AND PLACE OF COMPOSITION. The date has been put variously, e.g., at A.D. 55–58 (McGiffert); 60 or 61 (Meyer); 62 (Zahn); 61–63 (Lightfoot); 75 to 80 (Ewald); about A.D. 80 (Scholten); about A.D. 100 (Holtzmann, Mangold); 130–140 (Baur, Davidson). The question of the date depends largely on the question of the place. The Epistle itself makes it clear that Paul was a prisoner when he wrote it (Ephesians 3:1, Ephesians 4:1, Ephesians 6:20). It contains things, too, which point to some affinity between it and other Epistles in which the writer is a prisoner. The reference to Tychicus as the bearer connects it with the Epistles to Philemon and the Colossians (cf. Ephesians 6:21, Philemon 1:13, Colossians 4:7), and suggests that these three letters belong very much to the same period, and that they were written when Paul was occupied very much with the same questions. Two imprisonments, however, come into view—the one in Cæsarea (Acts 23:35; Acts 24:27), the other in Rome (Acts 28). Each of these has its supporters.
The view that this Epistle belongs to the period of the Cæsarean Captivity is advocated with great ability by Reuss and Meyer among others. Reuss contends that the theory that the various Epistles of the Captivity were all written from Rome rests mostly on “un-authenticated tradition”; that the mood of the Apostle in the Epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon suits his circumstances in Cæsarea better than those in Rome; that there are chronological difficulties of a serious nature in the way of referring these three Epistles together with Philippians and 2 Timothy to Rome; that this makes it necessary to divide the five between Cæsarea and Rome; and that the various allusions to individuals, such as Tychicus, Timothy and Demetrius, in these Epistles are best harmonised, and certain particular statements, such as the πρὸς ὥραν in Philemon 1:15, best understood, on the theory that those to Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon were written in Cæsarea.
Meyer admits that some of the arguments thus used by Reuss cannot be pressed, especially those founding on such indications as the πρὸς ὥραν, and on the idea that the friends of Paul mentioned in Colossians (Ephesians 4:9-14) and Philemon (Philemon 1:10; Philemon 1:23) could not have been with him at Rome. But he attaches great importance to these considerations—viz., (1) that it is more probable that Onesimus should have sought safety in Colossæ than that he should have risked the long journey by sea to Rome, and the possibilities of capture in Rome; (2) that if Ephesians and Colossians had been sent from Rome, Tychicus and Onesimus would have arrived at Ephesus first and afterwards at Colossæ; in which case it would be reasonable to suppose that Paul would have mentioned Onesimus to the Ephesians, as he does in the Epistle to the Colossians; (3) that the ἵνα εἰδῆτε καὶ ὑμεῖς in Ephesians 6:21 implies that when Tychicus reached Ephesus he “would already have fulfilled the aim here expressed in the case of others,” and these others are the Colossians (Colossians 4:8-9); and (4) that in Philemon 1:22 Paul asks a lodging to be prepared for his speedy use—a statement implying that his place of imprisonment was not so distant from Colossæ as Rome was.
These arguments, however, when narrowly examined, are not so convincing as they appear at first sight to be. A runaway slave would in reality be more likely to escape discovery in the thick masses of the population of the world’s metropolis than in Cæsarea. Our ignorance of the circumstances of the flight of Onesimus and the supposition that the Epistle is an Encyclical make the argument from the lack of any such mention of Onesimus as we find in Colossians uncertain. The ἵνα δὲ εἰδῆτε καὶ ὑμεῖς does not necessarily imply what Meyer infers from it, and the same may be said of the reference to the lodging in Philemon.
On the other hand there are weighty objections to referring this Epistle to the Cæsarean imprisonment. Thus, the circumstances of the captivity seem to suit Rome better than Cæsarea. For when we compare Acts 24:23 with Acts 28:16, etc., we gather that the Apostle had less liberty in Cæsarea than in Rome, and this accords ill with such passages as Ephesians 6:19-20. The number of friends mentioned in these Epistles of the Captivity as companions of Paul—Aristarchus, Marcus, Jesus Justus, Lucas, Demas, Epaphras, Tychicus, Onesimus—is considerable, so considerable as to make it probable, as Alford, e.g., contends, that he was in Rome; for it was there rather than in Cæsarea that so many might have been with him. Then there is the argument drawn from the relations between the Epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians. If these letters belong to much the same period in Paul’s career (and there is much to favour that), then the mention of “Cæsar’s household” in Php 4:22 points much more to Rome than to Cæsarea as the place of the Apostle’s residence when he wrote these kindred communications; and the same holds good of the statement of his progress in Php 1:21, etc. In neither case can Cæsarea be fairly said to suit the circumstances, or to be of the importance implied. The expectation also which the Apostle appears to entertain when he wrote Philippians was that of speedy release and a visit to Macedonia (Php 1:26, Php 2:24, Philemon 1:22); but what he looked to when he was in Cæsarea was rather that he might go to Rome.
These arguments will become all the stronger if it is made out that Philippians was written before Ephesians. There is the greater reason then for taking the latter to have been written at Rome. This is a question which need not be discussed at length here. It is enough to say that the arguments against the priority of Philippians in the line of these four letters of the Captivity are neither very certain nor very weighty, while there are various internal considerations which favour the priority. Of these the most important perhaps is found in the points of contact on the one hand between Philippians and the earlier Pauline Epistles, especially Romans, and on the other hand between Philippians and the other three Epistles of the Captivity. These have been worked out with care by Lightfoot among others, at once with regard to particular expressions and to parallels in thought. They have led him and others to the conclusion that the Epistle to the Philippians is the middle link between the great letter to the Romans and those to the Ephesians, the Colossians, and Philemon. The majority of scholars, therefore, take our Epistle to have been written at Rome. If so, its date may be about A.D. 62 or 63.
The question has also been considerably discussed whether our Epistle is prior to that to the Colossians or posterior to it. That it is prior is argued from its more general aim; from the more abstract character of its contents; and from the consideration that, as it is an Epistle which would be much more difficult to draw up than that to the Colossians, the resemblances between the two are best accounted for by supposing that some of the ideas thought out in the former were transferred to the latter. On the other hand, it is held that, as Colossæ was nearer Cæsarea and would be reached by Tychicus before he got to Ephesus, it is more natural to think that the Epistle to that Church would be written before the other, as it would be delivered before it. But this presupposes that the place of composition was Cæsarea. And the same is the case with the contention that the καὶ ὑμεῖς of Ephesians 6:21 refers to the Colossians (cf. Colossians 4:7), and presupposes that Paul had already communicated with Colossæ. These are all very precarious arguments, and the question must be regarded as undecided.
8. THE DOCTRINE OF THE EPISTLE. The teaching of the Epistle is at once so lofty and so profound as to more than justify all that has been said of the grandeur of the composition by discerning minds in ancient and in modern times. Chrysostom speaks of the Epistle as “overflowing with lofty thoughts and doctrines”—one in which Paul expounds things “which he scarcely anywhere else utters”. (ὑψηλῶν σφόδρα γέμει τῶν νοημάτων καὶ ὑπερόγκων· ἃ γὰρ μηδαμοῦ σχέδον ἐφθέγξατο, ταῦτα ἐνταῦθα δηλοῖ.) Theophylact, Grotius, Witsius and others speak of it in similar terms. Adolphe Monod, in his Explication, describes it as “embracing in its brevity the whole field of the Christian religion,” as expounding “now its doctrines, now its morals with such conciseness and such fulness combined that it would be difficult to name any great doctrine or any essential duty which has not its place marked in it”. And Coleridge wrote of it as “one of the divinest compositions of man,” embracing “every doctrine of Christianity—first those doctrines peculiar to Christianity, and then those precepts common to it with natural religion” (Table Talk).
What gives it its peculiar majesty is the way in which it carries everything back to God Himself, His will, His eternal purpose and counsel. It is a distinctively theological Epistle, in the sense in which the Epistle to the Romans is distinctively anthropological or psychological, and that to the Colossians Christological. The great subjects of predestination and the Divine plan, eternal in the mind of God, centring in Christ and fulfilled in Him, have a larger and more definite place in this Epistle than in any other, excepting Romans 8-11. It has at the same time, however, a rich Christology. Christ is set forth as the Son of God (Ephesians 1:3, Ephesians 4:13); the Beloved of the Father (Ephesians 1:6); pre-existent (Ephesians 1:4); raised from the dead and exalted to supreme sovereignty over all things—King of the universe and Head of the Church (Ephesians 1:20-23, Ephesians 2:6, Ephesians 4:9; Ephesians 4:12, Ephesians 5:23); the Giver of all spiritual gifts (Ephesians 4:7-8); the Treasury of all knowledge and riches (Ephesians 3:8-10); having the place given in the OT to Jehovah (Ephesians 4:8).
Its Soteriology also is of wide compass. It speaks of Christ as the medium of God’s forgiveness of sinners (Ephesians 4:32); of redemption as coming to us by Him (Ephesians 1:7); of the offering and the sacrifice made to God in Christ’s giving of Himself (Ephesians 5:2); of the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile as accomplished by Him; of the gracious results of His work as being effected by His blood and His cross (Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 2:16). The doctrine of the Church also reaches its highest point in this Epistle. Not only is the Church the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-27) and His Body and the fulness of His gifts, but it is the Church ideal—one great, catholic, spiritual body including all the chosen, redeemed and sanctified. And among other doctrines which have a place in it is that of the Holy Spirit as active in the prophets (Ephesians 3:5), and as the believer’s seal and earnest (Ephesians 1:13-14, Ephesians 4:30); that of regeneration as the operation of God (Ephesians 2:2-5); and that of the existence and power of evil spirits (Ephesians 2:2, Ephesians 6:12). The deep foundations of the confessional doctrine of original sin are also found by many in Ephesians 2:3, and the great Reformation doctrine of the priority of grace has its roots in Ephesians 2:5-8.
9. THE LITERATURE OF THE EPISTLE. The literature is copious. Not to mention the well-known books on New Testament Introduction, the various works on the Biblical Theology of the New Testament, and the articles in the great Bible Dictionaries and Encyclopædias, there are many treatises of importance in addition to the formal commentaries. Among these may be mentioned C. F. Baur’s Paulus der Apostel Jesu Christi; H. J. Holtzmann’s Kritik der Epheser- und Kolosser-briefe; J. Köstlin’s Der Lehrbegriff des Evang. und der verwandten N. T. Lehrbegriffe; A. Lünemann’s De Epistola ad Ephesios Authentia; J. F. Raebiger’s De Christologia Paulina contra Baurium Commentatio; C. von Weizsäcker’s Apost. Zeitalter; L. Usteri’s Entwicklung des Paul. Lehrbegriff’s; O. Pfleiderer’s Der Paulinismus (Paulinism, tr. by E. Peters) and his Urchristentum; A. Sabatier’s L’Apôtre Paul (The Apostle Paul, tr. by A. M. Hellier); J. T. Wood’s Modern Discoveries on the Site of Ancient Ephesus; A. C. M’Giffert’s History of Christianity in the Apostolic Age; G. G. Findlay’s Ephesians (The Expositor’s Bible); R. S. Candlish’s Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, expounded in a series of Discourses; J. Pulsford’s Christ and His Seed, central to all things, being a series of Expository Discourses on Ephesians; R. W. Dale’s The Epistle to the Ephesians, its Doctrine and Ethics; J. B. Lightfoot’s Biblical Essays; P. J. A. Hort’s Prolegomena to St. Paul’s Epistles to the Romans and the Ephesians; W. M. Ramsay’s Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, Historical Geography of Asia Minor, Church in the Roman Empire, and St. Paul the Traveller.
Among commentaries the following may be noticed: those by Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret, Theophylact, Jerome and Œcumenius in ancient times; those by Luther, Bugenhagen, Bucer and Calvin in the Reformation period—of which Calvin’s is by far the best; P. Bayne’s Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians (1643); J. Ferguson’s A Brief Exposition of the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians (1659); Thomas Goodwin’s Exposition (1681); L. Ridley’s Commentary (1546); R. Rollock’s In Ep. Pauli ad Ephesios Commentarius (1580); also H. Zanchius, Comment. in Ep. ad Ephesios (1594); R. Boyd of Trochrig, In Epistolam Pauli Apost. ad Ephesios Praelectiones (1652); John Locke, Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul to the Galatians, Corinthians, Romans, Ephesians (1707); J. D. Michaelis, Paraphrase u. Anmerkungen über die Briefe Pauli an die Galat., Eph., Phil., Col. (1750, 1769); S. F. N. Morus, Acroases in Epp. Paulinas ad Galatas et Ephesios (1795); P. J. Spener, Erklärung der Episteln an die Epheser und Colosser (1706); G. T. Zachariæ, Paraphrastische Erklârung der Briefe Pauli an die Gal., Eph., Philip., u. Thess. (1771, 1787).
Of works of more recent date those by the following may be mentioned: Dr. Alfred Barry, in Ellicott’s New Testament Commentary for English Readers; L. F. O. Baumgarten Crusius, Comm. über die Briefe Pauli an die Eph. u. Kol. (1847); J. A. Beet, Commentary on the Epistles to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon; J. T. Beck, Erklärung des Briefes Pauli an die Epheser; F. Bleek, Vorlesungen über die Briefe an die Kol., d. Philemon, u. d. Epheser; K. Braune, in Lange’s Bibelwerk; J. G. Candlish, The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians; J. L. Davies, The Epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon; John Eadie, Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians; C. J. Ellicott, Critical and Grammatical Commentary on Ephesians, with a Revised Translation; G. H. A. Ewald, Die Sendschreiben des Ap. Paulus übers. u. erklärt, and Sieben Sendschreiben des N. B.; J. F. Flatt, Vorlesungen über die Briefe an die Gal. u. die Epheser; G. C. A. Harless, Comm. über den Brief Pauli an die Epheser; C. Hodge, Commentary on Epistle to the Ephesians; J. C. K. von Hofmann, Der Brief Pauli an die Epheser; F. A. Holtzhausen, Der Brief an die Epheser übers. u. erklärt; M. Kähler, Der sogen. Eph. des P. in genauer Wiedergabe seines Gedankenganges; A. Klöpper, Der Brief an die Epheser; J. Macpherson, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians; F. K. Meier, Commentar über d. Brief Pauli an die Epheser; H. A. W. Meyer, Kritisch-exegetisches Handbuch über den Brief Pauli an die Epheser; the same, edited by Woldemar Schmidt (1878, 1886), and by Erich Haupt (1897); H. C. G. Moule, “The Epistle to the Ephesians” (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges); H. Oltramare, Comm. sur les Epîtres de S. Paul aux Coloss., aux Ephés. et à Philémon; L. J. Rückert, Der Brief Pauli an die Epheser erläutert und vertheidigt; G. Schnedermann, in Strack u. Zöckler’s Kurzgef. Kommentar (1885); H. von Soden, in Handcommentar zum N. T.; R. E. Stier, Die Gemeinde in Christo Jesu: Auslegung des Briefes an die Epheser; B. Weiss, Die Paulinischen Briefe im berichtigten Text, mit kurzer Erläuterung; G. Wohlenberg, Die Briefe an die Epheser, an die Colosser, an Philemon u. an die Philipper ausgelegt (Strack u. Zöckler’s Kurzgef. Comm., 1895).
Abbreviations.—The abbreviations adopted in this Commentary are either those usually employed or such as explain themselves.
TITLE.—Ancient documents give the title of this Epistle in various forms. In our oldest manuscripts,    , etc., it is simply προς Εφεσιους, and this is followed by LTTrWH. Later, it becomes προς Εφεσιους επιστολη, as in k; επιστολη προς Εφεσιους, as in l; Παυλου επιστολη προς Εφεσιους, as in ; του αγιου αποστολου Παυλου επιστολη προς Εφεσιους, as in ; προς Εφεσιους επιστολη του αγιου αποστολου Παυλου, as in h. Nor are these the only forms. In   we have αρχεται προς Εφεσιους; Cod. am. gives incipit epistula ad Ephesios, and f has τοις εφεσιοις μυσταις ταυτα διδασκαλος εσθλος. The form followed by the AV is that of the Elzevir text, Παυλου του αποστολου η προς εφεσιους επιστολη.
 Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.
 Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.
 Codex Alexandrinus (sæc. v.), at the British Museum, published in photographic facsimile by Sir E. M. Thompson (1879).
 Codex Mosquensis (sæc. ix.), edited by Matthæi in 1782.
 Codex Porphyrianus (sæc. ix.), at St. Petersburg, collated by Tischendorf. Its text is deficient for chap. Ephesians 2:13-16.
 Codex Angelicus (sæc. ix.), at Rome, collated by Tischendorf and others.
 Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.
 Codex Augiensis (sæc. ix.), a Græco-Latin MS., at Trinity College, Cambridge, edited by Scrivener in 1859. Its Greek text is almost identical with that of G, and it is therefore not cited save where it differs from that MS. Its Latin version, f, presents the Vulgate text with some modifications.