Ephesians 6:12
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
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(12) For we wrestle.—Properly, For our wrestling is. That there is a struggle, a “battle of life,” must be assumed at once by all who look at the world as it is; the question is whether it is against flesh and blood, or against a more unearthly power of evil.

Flesh and blood.—Or rather (as perhaps also in Hebrews 2:14), blood and flesh. So in John 1:13, “Not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh.” In Matthew 16:17, 1Corinthians 15:50, we have “flesh and blood.” The sense is clearly, as the comparison of all these passages shows, “mere human power.” Possibly the word “blood” is here put first to prevent even a moment’s confusion with the idea of wrestling against “the flesh” as an evil power within ourselves. In many passages of this Epistle St. Paul had dwelt on the opposition of the Christian to the heathen life, and the duty of rebuking and putting to shame the works of darkness; but here he warns us that the struggle is not a struggle with the “flesh and blood” of wicked men—a struggle which may still admit of some reserve of sympathy—but a truceless war with the spiritual powers of evil themselves.

Against principalities, against powers.—See Note on Ephesians 1:21.

Against the rulers . . .—“Principalities” and “powers” describe simply angelic powers, whether of good or evil. But in the following clauses St. Paul defines them as powers of evil, and appears to indicate two different aspects of this evil power. The original phrase is striking and powerful, “against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual powers of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

The rulers of the darkness.—Properly, the world-rulers of this darkness. This phrase is simply a poetical expression of the idea conveyed by the title “the prince of this world,” applied to Satan in John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11 (on which see Notes). For “this darkness” is obviously (as our version renders it, following an early gloss on the passage) “the darkness of this present world,” as a world overshadowed by sin, and so kept, wholly or partially, from the light of God. The title “the prince of this world,” was applied by the Jews to Satan, especially in reference to his power over the heathen, as lying outside the safety of the covenant. St. Paul applies it in a corresponding sense here to those outside the wider covenant of the gospel; just as in 1Corinthians 5:5, 1Timothy 1:20, he speaks of excommunication from the Church as a “delivery to Satan.” The spirits of evil are therefore spoken of as wielding the power which the Tempter claims for himself (in Luke 4:6) over such souls as are still in darkness and alienation from God. This is a power real, but limited and transitory, able only to enslave those who “yield themselves” to it, and destined to be overcome; and it seems to refer especially to the concrete power of evil, exercised through physical and human agency.

Spiritual wickedness in high places.—The “spiritual powers” are not spiritual principles, but “spiritual hosts” of wickedness; and the phrase “in the heavenly places,” corresponding to “the power of the air” in Ephesians 2:2 (where see Note), stands obviously in antithesis to “the darkness of this world.” The sense, as in all other cases, seems to be local. (See Note on Ephesians 1:3.) The spiritual hosts of evil are described as fighting in the region above the earth. But the meaning underlying this figure surely points to the power of evil as directly spiritual, not acting through physical and human agency, but attacking the spirit in that higher aspect, in which it contemplates heavenly things and ascends to the communion with God. As the former idea corresponds to the gross work of temptation on the high mountain, so this to the subtler spiritual temptation on the pinnacle of the temple.

Ephesians 6:12. For we wrestle not — Greek, ουκ εστιν ημιν η παλη, our struggle is not; against flesh and blood — Not merely against human adversaries, however powerful, subtle, and cruel, nor against fleshly appetites; but against principalities, against powers — The mighty princes of all the infernal legions: and great is their power, and that likewise of the legions which they command. Against the rulers of the darkness of this world — Greek, προς τους κοσμοκρατορας του σκοτους, του αιωνος τουτου, against the rulers of the world, of the darkness of this age. Dr. Whitby explains this of “those evil spirits that ruled in the heathen nations which were yet in darkness,” and of “those that had their stations in the region of the air.” “Perhaps,” says Mr. Wesley, “these principalities and powers” (spoken of in the former clause) “remain mostly in the citadel of the kingdom of darkness; but there are other evil spirits who range abroad, to whom the provinces of the world are committed.” By the darkness of this age, that spiritual darkness is intended, which prevails during the present state of things. “Evil spirits,” Macknight thinks, “are called rulers of this world, because the dominion which, by the permission of God, they exercise, is limited to the darkness of this world; that is, this world darkened by ignorance, wickedness, and misery, and which is the habitation or prison assigned them, until the judgment of the great day, Jude, Ephesians 6:6.” Against spiritual wickedness — Or rather, wicked spirits, as the Syriac translates the expression. The word πονηρια, rendered wickedness, properly signifies malice joined with cunning, and is fitly mentioned as the characteristic of those wicked spirits with whom we are at war; and it is a quality so much the more dangerous, in that it exists in beings whose natural faculties are very great. And it must be observed, that they continually oppose faith, love, holiness, either by force or fraud, and labour to infuse unbelief, pride, idolatry, malice, envy, anger, hatred. In high places — Greek, εν τοις επουρανιοις, in, or about, heavenly places. Those who translate it in the former way, think the expression refers to those places where they rebelled against the God of heaven, and drew in multitudes who were before holy and happy spirits, to take part with them in their impious revolt. But it seems more probable the sense is, about heavenly places; namely, the places which were once the abodes of those spirits, and which they still aspire to, as far as they are permitted; labouring at the same time to prevent our obtaining them. Dr. Goodwin, however, thinks that not heavenly places, but heavenly things are intended; namely, spiritual and eternal blessings, about which we may be properly said to wrestle with them, while we endeavour to secure these blessings to ourselves, and they to hinder us from attaining them.

6:10-18 Spiritual strength and courage are needed for our spiritual warfare and suffering. Those who would prove themselves to have true grace, must aim at all grace; and put on the whole armour of God, which he prepares and bestows. The Christian armour is made to be worn; and there is no putting off our armour till we have done our warfare, and finished our course. The combat is not against human enemies, nor against our own corrupt nature only; we have to do with an enemy who has a thousand ways of beguiling unstable souls. The devils assault us in the things that belong to our souls, and labour to deface the heavenly image in our hearts. We must resolve by God's grace, not to yield to Satan. Resist him, and he will flee. If we give way, he will get ground. If we distrust either our cause, or our Leader, or our armour, we give him advantage. The different parts of the armour of heavy-armed soldiers, who had to sustain the fiercest assaults of the enemy, are here described. There is none for the back; nothing to defend those who turn back in the Christian warfare. Truth, or sincerity, is the girdle. This girds on all the other pieces of our armour, and is first mentioned. There can be no religion without sincerity. The righteousness of Christ, imputed to us, is a breastplate against the arrows of Divine wrath. The righteousness of Christ implanted in us, fortifies the heart against the attacks of Satan. Resolution must be as greaves, or armour to our legs; and to stand their ground or to march forward in rugged paths, the feet must be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Motives to obedience, amidst trials, must be drawn from a clear knowledge of the gospel. Faith is all in all in an hour of temptation. Faith, as relying on unseen objects, receiving Christ and the benefits of redemption, and so deriving grace from him, is like a shield, a defence every way. The devil is the wicked one. Violent temptations, by which the soul is set on fire of hell, are darts Satan shoots at us. Also, hard thoughts of God, and as to ourselves. Faith applying the word of God and the grace of Christ, quenches the darts of temptation. Salvation must be our helmet. A good hope of salvation, a Scriptural expectation of victory, will purify the soul, and keep it from being defiled by Satan. To the Christian armed for defense in battle, the apostle recommends only one weapon of attack; but it is enough, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. It subdues and mortifies evil desires and blasphemous thoughts as they rise within; and answers unbelief and error as they assault from without. A single text, well understood, and rightly applied, at once destroys a temptation or an objection, and subdues the most formidable adversary. Prayer must fasten all the other parts of our Christian armour. There are other duties of religion, and of our stations in the world, but we must keep up times of prayer. Though set and solemn prayer may not be seasonable when other duties are to be done, yet short pious prayers darted out, always are so. We must use holy thoughts in our ordinary course. A vain heart will be vain in prayer. We must pray with all kinds of prayer, public, private, and secret; social and solitary; solemn and sudden: with all the parts of prayer; confession of sin, petition for mercy, and thanksgiving for favours received. And we must do it by the grace of God the Holy Spirit, in dependence on, and according to, his teaching. We must preserve in particular requests, notwithstanding discouragements. We must pray, not for ourselves only, but for all saints. Our enemies are mighty, and we are without strength, but our Redeemer is almighty, and in the power of his mighty we may overcome. Wherefore we must stir up ourselves. Have not we, when God has called, often neglected to answer? Let us think upon these things, and continue our prayers with patience.For we wrestle - Greek, "The wrestling to us;" or, "There is not to us a wrestling with flesh and blood." There is undoubtedly here an allusion to the ancient games of Greece, a part of the exercises in which consisted in wrestling; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 9:25-27. The Greek word used here - πάλη palē - denotes a "wrestling;" and then a struggle, fight, combat. Here it refers to the struggle or combat which the Christian has to mainrain - the Christian warfare.

Not against flesh and blood - Not with people; see the notes on Galatians 1:16. The apostle does not mean to say that Christians had no enemies among men that opposed them, for they were exposed often to fiery persecution; nor that they had nothing to contend with in the carnal and corrupt propensities of their nature, which was true of them then as it is now; but that their main controversy was with the invisible spirits of wickedness that sought to destroy them. They were the source and origin of all their spiritual conflicts, and with them the warfare was to be maintained.

But against principalities - There can be no doubt whatever that the apostle alludes here to evil spirits. Like good angels, they were regarded as divided into ranks and orders, and were supposed to be under the control of one mighty leader; see the notes on Ephesians 1:21. It is probable that the allusion here is to the ranks and orders which they sustained before their fall, something like which they may still retain. The word "principalities" refers to principal rulers, or chieftains.

Powers - Those who had power, or to whom the name of "powers" was given. Milton represents Satan as addressing the fallen angels in similar language:

"Thrones, dominations, princedoms, virtues, powers."

Against the rulers of the darkness of this world - The rulers that preside over the regions of ignorance and sin with which the earth abounds, compare notes on Ephesians 2:2. "Darkness" is an emblem of ignorance, misery, and sin; and no description could be more accurate than that of representing these malignant spirits as ruling over a dark world. The earth - dark, and wretched and ignorant, and sinful - is just such a dominion as they would choose, or as they would cause; and the degradation and woe of the pagan world are just such as foul and malignant spirits would delight in. It is a wide and a powerful empire. It has been consolidated by ages. It is sustained by all the authority of law; by all the omnipotence of the perverted religious principle; by all the reverence for antiquity; by all the power of selfish, corrupt, and base passions. No empire has been so extended, or has continued so long, as that empire of darkness; and nothing on earth is so difficult to destroy.

Yet the apostle says that it was on that kingdom they were to make war. Against that, the kingdom of the Redeemer was to be set up; and that was to be overcome by the spiritual weapons which he specifies. When he speaks of the Christian warfare here, he refers to the contest with the powers of this dark kingdom. He regards each and every Christian as a soldier to wage war on it in whatever way he could, and wherever he could attack it. The contest therefore was not primarily with people, or with the internal corrupt propensities of the soul; it was with this vast and dark kingdom that had been set up over mankind. I do not regard this passage, therefore, as having a primary reference to the struggle which a Christian maintains with his own corrupt propensities. It is a warfare on a large scale with the entire kingdom of darkness over the world. Yet in maintaining the warfare, the struggle will be with such portions of that kingdom as we come in contact with and will actually relate:

(1) to our own sinful propensities - which are a part of the kingdom of darkness;

(2) with the evil passions of others - their pride, ambition, and spirit of revenge - which are also a part of that kingdom;

(3) with the evil customs, laws, opinions, employments, pleasures of the world - which are also a part of that dark kingdom;

(4) with error, superstition, false doctrine - which are also a part of that kingdom; and,

(5) with the wickedness of the pagan world - the sins of benighted nations - also a part of that kingdom. Wherever we come in contact with evil - whether in our own hearts or elsewhere - there we are to make war.

Against spiritual wickedness - Margin, "or wicked spirits." Literally, "The spiritual things of wickedness;" but the allusion is undoubtedly to evil spirits, and to their influences on earth.

In high places - ἐν τοῖς ἐπουράνιοις - "in celestial or heavenly places." The same phrase occurs in Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 2:6, where it is translated, "in heavenly places." The word (ἐπουράνιος epouranios) is used of those that dwell in heaven, Matthew 18:35; Philippians 2:10; of those who come from heaven, 1 Corinthians 15:48; Philippians 3:21; of the heavenly bodies, the sun, moon, and stars, 1 Corinthians 15:40. Then the neuter plural of the word is used to denote the heavens; and then the "lower" heavens, the sky, the air, represented as the seat of evil spirits; see the notes on Ephesians 2:2. This is the allusion here. The evil spirits are supposed to occupy the lofty regions of the air, and thence to exert a baleful influence on the affairs of man. What was the origin of this opinion it is not needful here to inquire. No one can "prove," however, that it is incorrect. It is against such spirits, and all their malignant influences, that Christians are called to contend. In whatever way their power is put forth - whether in the prevalence of vice and error; of superstition and magic arts; of infidelity, atheism, or antinomianism; of evil customs and laws; of pernicious fashions and opinions, or in the corruptions of our own hearts, we are to make war on all these forms of evil, and never to yield in the conflict.

12. Greek, "For our wrestling ('the wrestling' in which we are engaged) is not against flesh," &c. Flesh and blood foes are Satan's mere tools, the real foe lurking behind them is Satan himself, with whom our conflict is. "Wrestling" implies that it is a hand-to-hand and foot-to-foot struggle for the mastery: to wrestle successfully with Satan, we must wrestle with God in irresistible prayer like Jacob (Ge 32:24-29; Ho 12:4). Translate, "The principalities … the powers" (Eph 1:21; Col 1:16; see on [2375]Eph 3:10). The same grades of powers are specified in the case of the demons here, as in that of angels there (compare Ro 8:38; 1Co 15:24; Col 2:15). The Ephesians had practiced sorcery (Ac 19:19), so that he appropriately treats of evil spirits in addressing them. The more clearly any book of Scripture, as this, treats of the economy of the kingdom of light, the more clearly does it set forth the kingdom of darkness. Hence, nowhere does the satanic kingdom come more clearly into view than in the Gospels which treat of Christ, the true Light.

rulers of the darkness of this world—Greek, "age" or "course of the world." But the oldest manuscripts omit "of world." Translate, "Against the world rulers of this (present) darkness" (Eph 2:2; 5:8; Lu 22:53; Col 1:13). On Satan and his demons being "world rulers," compare Joh 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; Lu 4:6; 2Co 4:4; 1Jo 5:19, Greek, "lieth in the wicked one." Though they be "world rulers," they are not the ruler of the universe; and their usurped rule of the world is soon to cease, when He shall "come whose right it is" (Eze 21:27). Two cases prove Satan not to be a mere subjective fancy: (1) Christ's temptation; (2) the entrance of demons into the swine (for these are incapable of such fancies). Satan tries to parody, or imitate in a perverted way, God's working (2Co 11:13, 14). So when God became incarnate, Satan, by his demons, took forcible possession of human bodies. Thus the demoniacally possessed were not peculiarly wicked, but miserable, and so fit subjects for Jesus' pity. Paul makes no mention of demoniacal possession, so that in the time he wrote, it seems to have ceased; it probably was restricted to the period of the Lord's incarnation, and of the foundation of His Church.

spiritual wickedness—rather as Greek, "The spiritual hosts of wickedness." As three of the clauses describe the power, so this fourth, the wickedness of our spiritual foes (Mt 12:45).

in high places—Greek, "heavenly places": in Eph 2:2, "the air," see on [2376]Eph 2:2. The alteration of expression to "in heavenly places," is in order to mark the higher range of their powers than ours, they having been, up to the ascension (Re 12:5, 9, 10), dwellers "in the heavenly places" (Job 1:7), and being now in the regions of the air which are called the heavens. Moreover, pride and presumption are the sins in heavenly places to which they tempt especially, being those by which they themselves fell from heavenly places (Isa 14:12-15). But believers have naught to fear, being "blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places" (Eph 1:3).

We wrestle not; not only, or not principally.

Against flesh and blood; men, consisting of flesh and blood, Matthew 16:17 Galatians 1:16.

But against principalities, against powers; devils, Colossians 2:15: see Ephesians 1:21.

Against the rulers of the darkness of this world; either that rule in the dark air, where God permits them to be for the punishment of men; see Ephesians 2:2: or rather, that rule in the dark places of the earth, the dark minds of men, and have their rule over them by reason of the darkness that is in them; in which respect the devil is called the god of this world, 2 Corinthians 4:4, and the prince of it, John 14:30. So that the dark world here seems to be opposed to children of light, Ephesians 5:8.

Against spiritual wickedness; either wicked spirits, or, emphatically, spiritual wickednesses, for wickedncsses of the highest kind; implying the intenseness of wickedness in those angelical substances, which are so much the more wicked, by how much the more excellent in themselves their natures are.

In high places; or heavenly, taking heaven for the whole expansum, or spreading out of the air, between the earth and the stars, the air being the place from whence the devils assault us, as Ephesians 2:2. Or rather, in for about heavenly places or things, in the same sense as the word rendered heavenly is taken four times before in this Epistle, Ephesians 1:3,20 2:6 3:10; being in none of them taken for the air; and then the sense must be, that we wrestle about heavenly places or things, not with flesh and blood, but with principalities, with powers, &c.

Objection. The Greek preposition will not bear this construction.

Answer. Let Chrysostom and other Greeks answer for that. They understood their language best, and they give this interpretation.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood,.... The Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, and some copies, read "you", instead of "we". This is a reason why saints should be strong in the Lord, and why they should put on the whole armour of God, and prepare for battle, since their enemies are such as here described: not "flesh and blood"; frail mortal men, such as were wrestled against in the Olympic games, to which the apostle alludes. For this wrestling, as Philo the Jew says (e), concerning Jacob's wrestling, is not of the body, but of the soul; see Matthew 16:17; and the meaning is, not with men only, for otherwise the saints have a conflict with men; with profane men, and wrestle against them, by bearing a testimony against their enormities, and by patiently enduring their reproaches, and conquer them by a constant adherence to Christ, and an exercise of faith upon him, which gets the victory over the world; and with heretical men, and maintain a conflict with them, by watching and observing the first appearance of their errors and heresies, and declaring against them, and by using Scripture arguments to confute them, and by rejecting the stubborn and incorrigible from church communion: yet they wrestle not against these only,

but against principalities, against powers; by whom are meant not civil magistrates, or the Roman governors, though these are sometimes so called, Titus 3:1, and may be said to be the rulers of the darkness of this world, or of the dark Heathen world, and were in high places, and were of wicked and malicious spirits, against the people of Christ; yet these cannot be opposed to flesh and blood, or to men, since they were such themselves; and though they were in high, yet not in heavenly places; and the connection with the preceding verse shows the contrary, the enemy being the devil, and the armour spiritual; wherefore the devils are here designed, who are described from their power, rule, and government; see Gill on Ephesians 1:21, both in this clause, and in the next:

and against the rulers of the darkness of this world; that is, over wicked men in it, who are in a state of darkness itself; and so Satan is called the prince, and god of the world, John 12:31. The Jews use this very word, the apostle does here, of the angel of death; who is called darkness (f); and the devil is called by them, , "the prince of darkness" (g); and mention is made by them of , "the darkness of the world" (h); from whom the apostle seems to have taken these phrases, as being in common use among the Jews; who also use it of civil governors (i), and render it, as here, "the rulers of the world", and say it signifies monarchs, such as rule from one end of the world to the other (k): some copies, and the Ethiopic version, leave out the phrase, of this world. It follows,

against spiritual wickedness in high places; or wicked spirits, as the devils are, unclean, proud, lying, deceitful, and malicious; who may be said to be in "high" or "heavenly places"; not in places super celestial, or in the highest heavens, in the third heaven, where God, angels, and saints are; but in the aerial heavens, where the power or posse of devils reside, and where they are above us, over our heads, overlooking us, and watching every advantage against us; and therefore we should have on our armour, and be in a readiness to engage them; and so the Syriac and Ethiopic versions render it, "under", or "beneath heaven"; and the Arabic version, "in the air".

(e) Leg. Allegor. l. 2. p. 96, (f) Vajikra Rabba, sect. 18. fol. 160. 1. & Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 25. 4. (g) Pesikta in Kettoreth Hassammim in Targum in Gen. fol. 9. 4. Raziel, fol. 13. 1.((h) Zohar in Lev. fol. 19. 3.((i) Bereshit Rabba, sect. 58. fol. 51. 2.((k) Tanchuma & Aruch in Guidon. Diet. Syr. Chal. p. 169.

{13} For we wrestle not against flesh and {g} blood, but against {h} principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

(13) Secondly, he declares that our chiefest and mightiest enemies are invisible, so that we may not think that our chiefest conflict is with men.

(g) Against men, who are of a frail and brittle nature, against whom are set spiritual wiles, a thousand times more mighty than the flesh.

(h) He gives these names to the evil angels, by reason of the effects which they work: not that they are able to do the same in and of themselves, but because God gives them permission.

Ephesians 6:12. I am warranted in saying πρὸς τὰς μεθοδ. τοῦ διαβόλου; for we have not the wrestling with feeble men, but we have to contend with the diabolic powers. This contrast Paul expresses descriptively, and with what rhetorical power and swelling fulness! Observe, moreover, that the conflict to which Paul here refers is, according to Ephesians 6:13, still future; but it is by ἔστιν realized as present.

οὐκἀλλά] The negation is not non tam, or non tantum (Cajetanus, Vatablus, Grotius, and others), but absolute (Winer, p. 439 ff. [E. T. 622]); since the conflict on the part of our opponents is one excited and waged not by men, but by the devilish powers (though these make use of men too as organs of their hostility to the kingdom of God).[299]

ἡ πάλη] The article denotes generically the kind of conflict, which does not take place in the case of the Christians (ἡμῖν); they have not the wrestling with blood and flesh. Nothing else, namely, than lucta, a wrestling, is the meaning of the πάλη (Hom. Il. xxiii. 635, 700 ff.; Xen. Mem. iv. 8. 27; Plat. Legg. vii. 795 D; and Ast, ad Legg. p. 378), a word occurring only here in the N.T., and evidently one specially chosen by the apostle (who elsewhere employs ἀγών or ΜΆΧΗ), with the view of bringing out the more strongly in connection with ΠΡῸς ΑἿΜΑ ΚΑῚ ΣΆΡΚ. the contrast between this less perilous form of contest and that which follows. Now, as the notion of the ΠΆΛΗ is not appropriate to the actual conflict of the Christians ΠΡῸς ΤᾺς ἈΡΧΆς Κ.Τ.Λ., because it is not in keeping either with the ΠΑΝΟΠΛΊΑ in general or with its several constituent parts afterwards mentioned Ephesians 6:14 ff., but serves only to express what the Christian conflict is not; after ἀλλά we have not mentally to supply again Ἡ ΠΆΛΗ, but rather the general notion of kindred signification ἡ μάχη, or ΜΑΧΕΤΈΟΝ,[300] as frequently with Greek writers (see Döderlein, de brachyl. in his Reden u. Aufs. ii. p. 269 ff. Krüger, Regist. zu Thucyd., p. 318), and in the N.T. (Buttmann, Neutest. Gramm. p. 336 [E. T. 392]) we have to derive from a preceding special notion an analogous more general one. What we have to sustain, Paul would say, is not the (less perilous) wrestling contest with blood and flesh, but we have to contend with the powers and authorities, etc. We have accordingly neither to say that with πάλη Paul only lighted in passing on another metaphor (my own former view), nor to suppose (the usual opinion) that he employed πάλη in the general sense of certamen, which, however, is only done in isolated poetic passages (Lycophr. 124, 1358), and hence we have the less reason to overlook the designed choice of the expression in our passage, or to depart from its proper signification.

πρὸς αἷμα καὶ σάρκα] i.e. against feeble men, just as Galatians 1:16. Only here and Hebrews 2:14 (Lachmann, Tischendorf) does αἷμα stand first, which, however, is to be regarded as accidental. Matthies (so already Prudentius, Jerome, Cajetanus) understands the lusts and desires having their root in one’s own sensuous individuality; but this idea must have been expressed by πρὸς τὴν σάρκα alone without αἷμα (Galatians 5:17; Galatians 5:24, al.), and is, moreover, at variance with the context, since the contrast is not with enemies outside of us, but with superhuman and superterrestrial enemies.

πρὸς τὰς ἀρχάς] This, as well as the following πρὸς τὰς ἐξουσίας, designates the demons, and that according to their classes (analogous to the classes of angels),[301] of which the ἀρχαί seem to be of higher rank than the ἐξουσίαι (see on Ephesians 1:21), in which designation there is at the same time given the token of their power, and this their power is then in the two following clauses (πρὸς τοὺςἐπουρανίοις) characterized with regard to its sphere and to its ethical quality.[302] The exploded views, according to which human potentates of different kinds were supposed to be denoted by ἀρχ., ἐξουσ. κ.τ.λ., may be seen in Wolf.

πρὸς τοὺς κοσμοκράτ. τοῦ σκότ. τούτου] i.e. against the rulers of the world, whose domain is the present darkness. The σκότος τοῦτο is the existing, present darkness, which, namely, is characteristic of the αἰὼν οὗτος, and from which only believers are delivered, inasmuch as they have become φῶς ἐν κυρίῳ, τέκνα τοῦ φωτός (Ephesians 4:8-9), being translated out of the domain opposed to divine truth into the possession of the same, and thus becoming themselves ὡς φωστῆρες ἐν κόσμῳ (Php 2:15). The reading τοῦ σκότους τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου is a correct gloss. This pre-Messianic darkness is the element adverse to God, in which the sway of the world-ruling demons has its essence and operation, and without which their dominion would not take place. The devils are called κοσμοκράτορες (comp. Orph. H. viii. 11, xi. 11), because their dominion extends over the whole world, inasmuch as all men (the believers alone excepted, Ephesians 2:2) are subject to them. Thus Satan is called ὁ θεὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου, 2 Corinthians 4:4, ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου, John 12:31; John 16:11 (comp. John 14:30), and of the world it is said that ὁ κόσμος ὅλος ἐν τῷ Πονηρῷ κεῖται, 1 John 5:19. The Rabbins, too, adopted the word קזמוקרטור, and employed it sometimes of kings, while they also say of the angel of death that God has made him κοσμοκράτωρ. See Schoettgen, Horae, p. 790; Buxtorf, Lex. Talmud, p. 2006 f.; Wetstein, p. 259. Later also the Gnostics called the devil by this name (Iren. i. 1), and in the Testamentum Salomonis (Fabricius, Pseudepigr. i. p. 1047) the demons say to Solomon: ἡμεῖς ἐσμεν τὰ λεγόμενα στοιχεῖα, οἱ κοσμοκράτορες τοῦ κόσμου τούτου. The opinion that the compound has been weakened into the general signification rulers (Harless) is not susceptible of proof, and not to be supported by such Rabbinical passages as Bresh. rabba, sect. 58 f., 57. Ephesians 1 : “Abrahamus persecutus quatuor κοσμοκράτορας,” where κοσμοκράτ. denotes the category of the kings, and this chosen designation has the aim of glorifying. See also, in opposition to this alleged weakening, Shir. R. 3, Ephesians 4 : “Tres reges κοσμοκράτορες: dominantes ab extremitate mundi ad extremitatem ejus, Nebucadnezar, Evilmerodach, Belsazar.”

ΠΡῸς ΤᾺ ΠΝΕΥΜΑΤΙΚᾺ Τῆς ΠΟΝΗΡΊΑς] against the spirit-hosts of wickedness. The adjective neuter, singular or plural, is collective, comprehending the beings in question according to their qualitative category as a corporate body, like τὸ πολιτικόν, the burgess-body (Herod. vii. 103); τὸ ἱππικόν, the cavalry (Revelation 9:16); τὰ ληστρικά, the robbers (Polyaen. v. 14, 141), τὰ δοῦλα, τὰ αἰχμάλωτα κ.τ.λ. See Bernhardy, p. 326. Winer, p. 213 [E. T. 299], correctly compares τὰ δαιμόνια according to its original adjectival nature.

Τῆς ΠΟΝΗΡΊΑς] genitivus qualitatis, characterizing the spirit-hosts meant; ἐπειδὴ γάρ εἰσι καὶ οἱ ἄγγελοι πνεύματα, προσέθηκε τῆς πονηρίας, Theodoret. Moral wickedness is their essential quality; hence the devil is pre-eminently ὁ πονηρός. The explanation spirituales nequitias (Erasmus, Beza, Castalio, Clarius, Zeger, Cornelius a Lapide, Wolf, and others) is impossible, since, if ΤᾺ ΠΝΕΥΜΑΤΙΚΆ expressed the quality substantively and raised it to the position of subject (see Matthiae, p. 994; Kühner, II. p. 122), we should have to analyse it as: the spiritual nature, or the spiritual part, the spiritual side of wickedness, all of which are unsuitable to the context.

ἘΝ ΤΟῖς ἘΠΟΥΡΑΝΊΟΙς] Chrysostom, Theodoret, Photius, Oecumenius, Cajetanus, Castalio, Camerarius, Heinsius, Clarius, Calovius, Glass, Witsius, Wolf, Morus, Flatt, and others incorrectly render: for the heavenly possessions, so that it would indicate the object of the conflict, and ἐν would stand for ὑπέρ or διά. Against this view we may urge not the order of the words, since in fact this element pushed on to the end would be brought out with emphasis (Kühner, II. p. 625), but certainly the ἘΝ, which does not mean on account of,[303] and τὰ ἐπουράνια, which in our Epistle is always meant in a local sense (see on Ephesians 1:3). The view of Matthies is also incorrect, that it denotes the place where of the conflict: “in the kingdom of heaven, in which the Christians, as received into that kingdom, are also constantly contending against the enemies of God.” τὰ ἐπουράνια does not signify the kingdom of heaven in the sense of Matthies, but the heavenly regions, heaven. Rückert, too, is incorrect, who likewise understands the place where of the conflict, holding that the contest is to be sustained, as not with flesh and blood, so also not upon the same solid ground, but away in the air, and is thus most strictly mars iniquus. Apart from the oddness of this thought, according to it the contrast would in fact be one not of terrestrial and superterrestrial locality, but of solid ground and baseless air, so that Paul in employing ἐν τοῖς ἐπουραν. would have selected a quite inappropriate designation, and must have said ἐν τῷ ἀέρι. Baumgarten-Crusius gives us the choice between two incorrect interpretations: the kingdom of spirits, to which the kingdom of Christ too belongs, or the affairs of that kingdom. The correct connection is with τὰ πνευματικὰ τῆς πονηρίας, so that it expresses the seat of the evil spirits. So Jerome, Ambrosiaster, Luther, Beza, Calvin, Vatablus, Estius, Grotius, Erasmus Schmid, Bengel, Koppe, and many, including Usteri, Meier, Holzhausen, Harless, Olshausen, de Wette, Bleek. This “in the heavenly regions” is not, however, in accordance with the context, to be understood of the abode of God, of Christ, and of the angels (Ephesians 3:10);[304] but, according to the popular view (comp. Matthew 6:26)—in virtue of the flexible character of the conception “heaven,” which embraces very different degrees of height (compare the conception of the seven heavens, 2 Corinthians 12:2)—of the superterrestrial regions, which, although still pertaining to the domain of the earth’s atmosphere, yet relatively appear as heaven, so that in substance τὰ ἐπουράνια here denotes the same as ὁ ἀήρ, by which at Ephesians 2:2 the domain of the Satanic kingdom is accurately and properly designated.[305] This passage serves as a guide to the import of ours, which is wrongly denied by Hahn (Theol. d. N.T. I. p. 336 f.) on the basis of an erroneous interpretation of ἀήρ, Ephesians 2:2. According to the Rabbins, too, the lower of the seven heavens still fall within the region of the atmosphere. See Wetstein, ad 2 Corinthians 12:2. And the reason why Paul does not here say ἐν τῷ ἀέρι is, that he wishes to bring out as strongly as possible the superhuman and superterrestrial nature of the hostile spirits, for which purpose to name the air as the place of their dwelling might be less appropriate than to speak of the heavenly regions, an expression which entirely accords with the lively colouring of his picture.[306] Semler and Storr, ignoring this significant bearing and suitableness of the expression, have arbitrarily imported a formerly, as though the previous abode of the demons had any connection with the matter! Schenkel has even imported the irony of a paradox, which has the design of making the assumption of divine power and glory on the part of the demons ridiculous, as though anything of the sort were at all in keeping with the whole profound seriousness of our passage, or could have been recognised by any reader whatever! Hofmann finally (Schriftbeweis, I. p. 455) has, after a rationalizing fashion, transformed the simple direct statement of place into the thought: “not limited to this or that locality of the earthly world, but overruling the same, as the heavens encircle the earth.” The thought of this turn so easily made Paul would have known how to express—even though he had but said: τὰ ὄντα ὡς ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις, or more clearly: τὰ ὄντα πανταχοῦ ὑπὸ τὸν οὐρανόν. The absence of a connective article is not at all opposed to our interpretation, since τὰ πνευματικὰ τῆς πονηρίας ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις might the more be combined into one idea, as it was the counterpart of such spirits upon earth. Comp. τοῖς πλουσίοις ἐν τῷ νῦν αἰῶνι, 1 Timothy 6:17, and see on Ephesians 2:11, Ephesians 3:10.

The πρός, four times occurring after ἀλλά, has rhetorical emphasis, as it needed to be used but once. Comp. Dem. 842, 7: πρὸς παίδων, πρὸς γυναικῶν, πρὸς τῶν ὄντων ὑμῖν ἀγαθῶν, Winer, p. 374 [E. T. 524]; Buttmann, Neutest. Gramm. p. 341 [E. T. 398].

As at Ephesians 2:2, so here also, Gnosticism is found by Baur in expression and conception, because, forsooth, Marcion and the Valentinians designated the devil as the κοσμοκράτωρ, and the demoniac powers as τὰ πνευματικὰ τῆς πονηρίας (Iren. i. 5. 4, i. 28. 2). This is the inverting method of critical procedure.

[299] Comp. already Augustine, De verbo Dom. 8: “Non est nobis colluctatio adversus carnem et sanguinem, i.e. adversus homines, quos videtis saevire in nos. Vasa sunt, alius utitur; organa sunt, alius tangit.”

[300] Comp. Plato, Soph. p. 249 C: πρός γε τοῦτον παντὶ λόγῳ μαχετέον.

[301] “As every kingdom as such is inwardly organised, so also is the kingdom of the evil spirits,” Hahn, Theol. d. N.T. I. p. 347.

[302] Observe how in our passage every word rises up as a witness against all attempts to make of the devil a mere abstraction, a personified cosmic principle, and the like. Beyschlag too, Christol. d. N.T. p. 244 f., contests, without, however, at the time entering into a detailed argument, the personality of Satan, as of the world of angels and spirits in general, and regards him as the vital principle of matter, the self-seeking of nature, etc.

[303] Where it is rendered so according to the approximate sense, the analysis follows another course. See on Matthew 6:7; John 16:30; Acts 7:29; 2 Corinthians 9:4.

[304] In opposition to Hahn, Theol. d. N.T. I. p. 345.

[305] Comp. Philippi, Glaubensl. III. p. 309 f. Prudentius has already, Hamartigenia, S13 ff., in a poetic paraphrase of our passage, correctly apprehended the meaning:—

[306] Entirely uncalled for, therefore, and less in keeping with the colouring of the passage, would be the alteration already discussed in Photius, Quaest. Amphiloch. 94, whereby, namely, τίνες had changed the ἐπουρανίοις into ὑπουρανίοις—a conjecture approved by Erasmus, Beza, and Grundling (in Wolf). Luther, who translates “under the heaven,” probably did so, not as taking ἐν for ὑπό,—like Alting subsequently (in Wolf),—but by way of explanation. Already in Homer οὐρανός is, as is well known, employed of the higher region of air (under the firmament). See Nägelsbach, Hom. Theol. p. 19.

“Sed cum spiritibus tenebrosis nocte dieque

Congredimur, quorum dominatibus humidus iste

Et pigris densus nebulis obtemperat aër.

Scilicet hoc medium coelum inter et infima terrae,

Quod patet ac vacuo nubes suspendit hiatu,

Frena potestatum variarum sustinet ac sub

Principe Belial rectoribus horret iniquis.

His conluctamur praedonibus, ut sacra nobis

Oris apostolici testis sententia prodit.”

Comp. Photius, Quaest. Amphil. 144.

According to Ascens. Isaiah 10, it is the Jirmamentum, in which the devil dwells.

Ephesians 6:12. ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν ἡμῖν [ὑμῖν] ἡ πάλη πρὸς αἶμα καὶ σάρκα: for our [your] wrestling is not against flesh and blood. Reason for speaking of the μεθοδεῖαι τοῦ διαβόλου as dangers against which the Christian must stand his ground. The ὅτι is explanatory, = “the wiles of the Devil, I say, for it is not mere men we have to face”. The term πάλη, which occurs only this once in the NT, is used in classical Greek occasionally in the general sense of a battle or combat (in the poets, e.g., Aesch., Cho., 866; Eurip., Heracl., 159), but usually in the specific sense of a contest in the form of wrestling. If it has its proper sense here, as is most probable, there is a departure for the time being from the figure of the panoply, and a transition to one which brings up different ideas. Has Paul, then, who elsewhere uses the more general figures of the μάχη, the ἁγών, etc., any special object in view in selecting πάλη here? There is nothing to indicate any such special object, unless it be to bring out the hand to hand nature of the conflict, “the personal, individualising nature of the encounter” (Ell.). The defines the πάλη in view, viz., the physical struggle, as not the kind of πάλη with which we are concerned—which is “for us” (ἡμῖν). The ἡμῖν of the TR has the support of [803] [804] [805]3[806] [807] [808], most cursives, and most Versions; ὑμῖν is read by [809] [810]*[811], Eth., Goth., etc. The case is somewhat evenly balanced. TrWH place ὑμῖν in the margin; Lach., Tisch., etc., keep ἡμῖν. The form αἷμα καὶ σάρξ occurs only here and (acc. to the best critics) in Hebrews 2:14. Elsewhere it is σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα; but the sense is the same, = feeble humanity. The phrase occurs four times in the NT, always with the same general sense of man in the character of his weakness and dependence, but with slightly varying references; e.g., with regard to our corporeal being in 1 Corinthians 15:50; Hebrews 2:14; our intellectual power in Matthew 16:17; our spiritual capacity as contrasted with invisible, diabolic agents (cf. Ell. on Galatians 1:16). The idea of carnal desires or passions which is ascribed to the phrase here by some (Jer., Matthies, etc.) would be expressed by σάρξ without αἷμα.—ἀλλὰ πρὸς τὰς ἀρχάς: but against the principalities. The formula οὐκἀλλά indicates not a comparative negation, as if = “not so much against flesh and blood as against the ἀρχαί,” but an absolute. Meyer regards the clause as a case of brachylogy, some term of more general sense than πάλη, e.g., μάχη or μαχετέον having to be understood, = “for us there is not a wrestling with flesh and blood, but a fight with the principalities”. This on the ground that the idea of wrestling is inconsistent with that of the panoply. But while it is true that there is a change in the figure for the time being, there is nothing strange in that, neither is there any incongruity in representing the Christian’s conflict as a wrestling—an individual encounter and one at close quarters. On the sense of ἀρχαί, principalities or rulers applied here to the powers of evil, see on Ephesians 1:21 above.—πρὸς τὰς ἐξουσίας: against the authorities. On ἐξουσίαι, here designating demonic authorities, see on Ephesians 1:21 above.—πρὸς τοὺς κοσμοκράτορας τοῦ σκότους [τοῦ αἰῶνος] τούτου: against the world-rulers of the darkness of this world (or, of this darkness). τοῦ αἰῶνος is inserted after σκότους by the TR, and is found in most cursives, and in such uncials as [812]3[813]3[814] [815] [816] [817]. It is omitted in [818] [819] [820] [821]*[822] [823], 17, 672, etc., and is rejected by LTTrWHRV. In the NT we have such designations as ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμους τούτου (John 14:30), ὁ Θεὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου (2 Corinthians 4:4), applied to Satan. The phrase κοσμοκράτωρ τοῦ σκότους τούτου occurs only here. The noun κοσμοκράτωρ is found in the Orphic Hymns (iii., 3, of Satan), in inscriptions (C. I., 5892, with ref. to the emperor), in Gnostic writings (of the devil), and in the Rabbinical literature in transliterated Hebrew form (of the angel of death, and of kings like the four pursued by Abraham, and Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-Merodach, Belshazzar; cf. Wetstein, in loc.; Fischer’s Buxtorf, Lex., p. 996, etc.). According to usage as well as formation, therefore, it means not merely rulers (Eth., Goth.), but world-rulers, powers dominating the world as such and working everywhere. τοῦ σκότους limits their dominion, however, to the world as it now is in the darkness of its ignorance and evil, and suggests the destined termination of their operation.—πρὸς τὰ πνευματικὰ τῆς πονηρίας: against the spirit-forces of wickedness. The repetition of the πρὸς before each of the four powers named in the clause has rhetorical force. Such renderings as “spiritual wickedness” (Tynd., Bish., AV), “spiritual craftiness” (Cran.), spirituales nequitiae (Erasm., Beza, Wolf., etc.), are inadequate. The phrase τὰ πνευματικά is not the same as τὰ πνεύματα, but means properly speaking the spiritual things (so Wicl., “the spiritual things of wickedness”). It is possible that the neut. adj. has the collective force here; in support of which Meyer and others adduce such phrases as τὸ πολιτικόν, τὸ ἱππικόν, τὰ λῃστρικά, etc. But τὸ πολιτικόν seems to mean the whole of that section of the community which consists of πολῖται; τὸ ἱππικόν, also τὰ ἱππικά (Polyb., iii., 114, 5) means cavalry; and τὰ λῃστρικά is used for pirate-vessels. The form τὸ λῃστικόν, however, has both the sense of piracy (Thucyd., i., 4, 13), and that of a band of robbers (Thucyd., ii., 69). This may perhaps justify the sense of spirit-bands or spiritual hosts here. But it seems most consonant with usage to give the term τὰ πνευματικὰ τῆς πονηρίας the simple sense of “the spiritual things,” i.e., “elements or forces of wickedness,” without connecting with it the doubtful connotation of armies, hosts, or hordes (cf. Abb., in loc.). The πονηρίας is the gen. of quality, = the spirit-forces whose essential character is wickedness.—ἑν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις: in the heavenly regions. On τὰ ἐπουράνια see under Ephesians 1:3 above. The phrase, of which this is the fifth occurrence in the Epistle, is most naturally understood in the local sense which it has in the previous instances. Some depart from this sense and make it = the heavenly blessings, giving at the same time the meaning of “for,” “in behalf” to ἐν, = “for the heavenly possessions”. So even Chrys., Theod., and Oec., followed by Witsius, Wolf., etc. But ἐν cannot = ὑπέρ or περί, not even in Matthew 6:7; John 16:30; Acts 7:29; 1 Corinthians 9:4. Others, retaining the local sense, take the phrase as a designation of the scene of the combat, e.g. = “in the kingdom of heaven,” that being the region in which Christians contend with the enemies of God (Matthies), or “in the air” as contrasted with the solid ground (Rück.). But the term qualifies τὰ πνευματικά. Forming one idea with that, it dispenses with the article; cf. τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ ἀέρος, Matthew 6:26; τοῖς πλουσίοις ἐν τῷ νῦν αἰῶνι, 1 Timothy 6:17, etc. It defines the domain of these spirit-forces. Their haunts are those superterrestrial regions, not the highest heavens which are the abode of God, Christ, and angels, but those lower heavens which are at once subcelestial and superterrestrial. The phrase and the idea may be suggested by the Jewish notion of a series of seven heavens, each distinguished from the other, the third or (later) the fourth, e.g., being identified with Paradise. Cf. Morfill and Charles, Book of the Secrets of Enoch, p. xl. The phrase expresses, therefore, much the same idea as the phrase τοῦ ἀέρος in Ephesians 2:2. The reason why Paul uses ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις and not ἐν τῷ ἀέρι here may be, as Meyer suggests, his wish to “bring out as strongly as possible the superhuman and superterrestrial nature of these hostile spirits”.

[803] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[804] Codex Alexandrinus (sæc. v.), at the British Museum, published in photographic facsimile by Sir E. M. Thompson (1879).

[805] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.

[806] Codex Mosquensis (sæc. ix.), edited by Matthæi in 1782.

[807] Codex Angelicus (sæc. ix.), at Rome, collated by Tischendorf and others.

[808] Codex Porphyrianus (sæc. ix.), at St. Petersburg, collated by Tischendorf. Its text is deficient for chap. Ephesians 2:13-16.

[809] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[810] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.

[811] Codex Boernerianus (sæc. ix.), a Græco-Latin MS., at Dresden, edited by Matthæi in 1791. Written by an Irish scribe, it once formed part of the same volume as Codex Sangallensis (δ) of the Gospels. The Latin text, g, is based on the O.L. translation.

[812] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[813] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.

[814] Codex Sangermanensis (sæc. ix.), a Græco-Latin MS., now at St. Petersburg, formerly belonging to the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Its text is largely dependent upon that of D. The Latin version, e (a corrected copy of d), has been printed, but with incomplete accuracy, by Belsheim (18 5).

[815] Codex Mosquensis (sæc. ix.), edited by Matthæi in 1782.

[816] Codex Angelicus (sæc. ix.), at Rome, collated by Tischendorf and others.

[817] Codex Porphyrianus (sæc. ix.), at St. Petersburg, collated by Tischendorf. Its text is deficient for chap. Ephesians 2:13-16.

[818] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[819] Autograph of the original scribe of א.

[820] Autograph of the original scribe of א.

[821] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.

[822] 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.

[823] Codex Boernerianus (sæc. ix.), a Græco-Latin MS., at Dresden, edited by Matthæi in 1791. Written by an Irish scribe, it once formed part of the same volume as Codex Sangallensis (δ) of the Gospels. The Latin text, g, is based on the O.L. translation.

12. we wrestle] Lit., our wrestling is. War and the games are associated in the language of 2 Timothy 2:4-5. But here, as Ellicott observes, there need be no mingling of metaphors. War involves wrestling, in many a hand to hand encounter.—The Gr. word (palê, wrestling) is found only here in Gr. literature, but is cognate to palæstra, and other familiar words.

The Apostle takes it for granted that the Christian life is, from one point of view, essentially a conflict. “We” obviously, by context, means all Christians as such. Cp. 1 Corinthians 9:25, &c. But it is a conflict maintained, in Christ, with Divine power and from a dominating position.

flesh and blood] Lit., “blood and flesh”; but English usage makes the other order better, as a rendering. The phrase occurs (in the opposite order of words) Matthew 16:17; 1 Corinthians 15:50; Galatians 1:16; Hebrews 2:14. It denotes (as 1 Corinthians 15) humanity in its present mortal conditions, or (other reff.) humanity simply. “Man,” as now constituted, will not inherit the eternal kingdom; “man” did not illuminate St Peter; “man” did not teach the Gospel to St Paul; Christ so became “Man” as to be able to taste death. The thought here is not that we are not wrestling with our bodily desires, or weaknesses, but that we are not wrestling with mere mortal men. True, they may be our ostensible and immediate enemies or obstacles, but behind them is the central force of evil in the spirit-world. See the language of Revelation 2:10, and Abp Trench’s note upon it (Epistles to the Seven Churches, p. 104). It will be observed how forcible is the testimony of the Apostle here to the objective existence of the world of evil spirits. He not merely takes it for granted, but carefully distinguishes it from the world of humanity. See further, Appendix G.

principalities … powers] Lit., the principalities, &c. See Ephesians 1:21, Ephesians 3:10; and notes. Here, as Romans 8:38; Colossians 2:15; the ref. obviously is to personal evil spirits as members and leaders of an organized spirit-world. For allusions to such organization, under its head, cp. the visions of the Revelation, esp. Revelation 12:7; Revelation 12:9. And cp. Matthew 25:41; 2 Corinthians 12:7. Note also the “Legion” of evil spirits (Mark 5:9; Mark 5:15; Luke 8:30), compared with the “more than twelve Legions of (holy) angels”, Matthew 26:53. Great numbers and organized action are at once suggested by the military word; a word used on both occasions with profound earnestness and appeal to fact.

The leaders of the host of evil are alone mentioned here, and in the parallels, as are the leaders of the host of good in Ephesians 1:21, &c. The “plebeian angels militant” (Par. Lost, x. 442), are taken for granted, represented in their chiefs.

the rulers of the darkness of this world] Lit. as R. V., the world-rulers of this darkness. The words “of this world” (or rather “age”) are probably an explanatory insertion.

This darkness” is the present order of things on earth, in its aspect as a scene of sin. As such it is dark, with the shadows of delusion, woe, and death. See Luke 22:53 (a suggestive parallel) and other reff. under Ephesians 4:18.

The world-rulers:—the context obviously points to personal evil spirits, exercising rule, in some real sense, over the world; and the question is, what does the world (cosmos) mean here? See in reply Ephesians 2:2 and note. “The world” here, as very often in St John, and often in St Paul (esp. in 1 Cor.), denotes not the Universe, nor the earth and sea, but humanity as fallen and rebel. As such, it is the realm of these powers of evil. Their Head is the usurping, but permitted, Cæsar of this empire, which is not so much local as moral; and his subordinate spirits are accordingly “imperial rulers” within it, for him.—The Gr. word (cosmocratôr) appears in Rabbinic literature, transliterated (see Ellicott here). It is used sometimes there as a mere magniloquent synonym for “king.” But we may be sure of a more special meaning in a passage like this.

For allusions to the mysterious “authority” of the Evil Power over the human “world,” in its ethical aspect at least, cp. Luke 4:6; John 14:30; John 16:11; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 5:18. It has been asked whether this authority is connected with a previous lawful presidency of the great Spirit now fallen, over this region of the Universe. But “God knoweth” is the best answer to such enquiries, till the veil is lifted. The fact of the present authority is our chief concern; and in this respect we are plainly warned that there is a real antagonism between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of the Evil One, and that in both cases we have the phenomenon of a spiritual dominion expressing itself through human organization and institution. See further on Ephesians 2:2, above.

spiritual wickedness in high places] Lit., the spiritual things of wickedness in the heavenly places. R.V. paraphrases “the spiritual hosts, &c.”; and this well gives the meaning. The idea is of beings and forces, spiritual as distinguished from material, belonging to and working for “wickedness.” Wickedness is viewed as having its visible and invisible agents, and these are the invisible.

In the heavenly places:—the fifth occurrence of the phrase in this Epistle (cp. Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 1:20, Ephesians 2:6, Ephesians 3:10). The adjective occurs also Matthew 18:35; John 3:12; 1 Corinthians 15:40; 1 Corinthians 15:48-49; Php 2:10; 2 Timothy 4:18; Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 6:4; Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 9:23; Hebrews 11:16; Hebrews 12:22. The connexion of it with anything evil is confined to this passage, and is confessedly startling. Of the several expositions offered, the oldest, given by St Jerome here, seems best to meet the case; that which interprets “heaven” as the large antithesis to “earth” (cp. Matthew 6:26, “birds of the heaven”; &c.), and “heavenly,” accordingly, as “un-earthly,” super-terrestrial, belonging to the region of things unseen and (in power) superior to man, of which the impalpable sky is the parable. See above on Ephesians 2:2, “the authority of the air.” The import of the words, then, is that we have to deal, in the combat of the soul and of the Church, with spiritual agents of evil occupying a sphere of action invisible and practically boundless.—In St Ignatius’ Ep. to the Ephesians, c. xiii, the same Gr. adjective is used, with an almost certainly similar reference. See Bp Lightfoot there (Ignatius, vol. ii. p. 66), and our Introduction, p. 28.


We have remarked in the notes on the strong testimony given by this verse, with its exact wording, to the real and objective existence of such personal beings. We may add that such testimony still gains in strength when it is remembered that it was first addressed (at least among other destinations) to Ephesus, and that Ephesus (see Acts 19) was a peculiarly active scene of asserted magical and other dealings with the unseen darkness. Supposing that the right line to take in dealing with such beliefs and practices had been to say that the whole basis of them was a fiction of the human mind, not only would such a verse as this not have been written, but, we may well assume, something would have been written strongly contradictory to the thought of it. As it stands, the passage is in full accord with main lines of Scripture doctrine, in both Testaments.



  Genesis 2:24,



  Ephesians 5:31.



  Exodus 20:12,



  Ephesians 6:2.



  Psalm 4:4,



  Ephesians 4:26  (see note).


  Psalm 8:6,

  referred to


  Ephesians 1:22.



  Psalm 68:18,



  Ephesians 4:8.



  Psalm 118:22,

Ephesians 6:12. Οὐκ ἔστιν, is not) The evil spirits lurk concealed behind the men who are hostile to us.—ἡ πάλη) the wrestling.—πρὸς αἷμα καὶ σάρκα, against blood and flesh) Comp. Matthew 16:17, note. דם ובשר, blood and flesh, viz. (mere) men, were weak, even at Rome, where they kept Paul a prisoner.—ἀγγὰ, but) After a very distinct mention of good angels, ch. Ephesians 1:21, Ephesians 3:10, he thus appropriately speaks also of bad spirits, especially to the Ephesians; comp. Acts 19:19. The more plainly any book of Scripture treats of the Christian dispensation and the glory of Christ, the more clearly, on the other hand, does it present to our view the opposite kingdom of darkness.—πρὸς, against) Against occurs four times [after ἀλλὰ]. In three of the clauses the power of our enemies is pointed out; in the fourth, their nature and disposition.—κοσμοκράτορες, the rulers of the world) ‘mundi tenentes,’ The holders of the world, to use the word of Tertullian. It is well that they are not holders of all things; yet the power not only of the devil himself, but also of those over whom he exercises authority, is great. There seem to be other kinds of evil spirits, that remain more at home in the citadel of the kingdom of darkness: principalities, powers. This third class is different, inasmuch as they go abroad and take possession, as it were, of the provinces of the world: rulers [holders] of the world.—τοῦ σκότους, of the darkness) Herein they are distinguished from angels of light. This is mostly spiritual darkness, ch. Ephesians 5:8; Ephesians 5:11; Luke 22:53, which has wickedness presently after as its synonym; yet even to them natural darkness is more congenial than light. The contest is much more difficult in darkness.—τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου, of this world) The word κοσμοκράτορας, the holders (rulers) of the world, directly governs the two genitives σκότους and αἰῶνος, of the darkness and of this world, according to [in relation to] either part of the compound word. Κόσμος, world, and αἰῶν, age, are to be referred mutually to each other, as time and place.[99] The term, Holders (rulers) of the world, is the ground on which this wickedness is practised. There are princes of the darkness of the world in the present age. The connection between κόσμος, world, and αἰὼν, age, is not grammatical but logical: κόσμος, world (mundus), in all its extent; αἰὼν, world, age (sæculum), the present world, in its disposition (character), course, and feeling. I cannot say κόσμος τοῦ αἰῶνος, as, on the contrary, I can say αἰὼν τοῦ κόσμου.—τὰ πνευματικὰ, the spiritual things) The antithesis is blood and flesh. These spiritual things are opposed to the spiritual things of grace, 1 Corinthians 12:1, and are contrary to faith, hope, love, the gifts [of the Spirit], either in the way of a force opposite [to those graces], or by a false imitation of them. Moreover, as in the same epistle, 1 Corinthians 14:12, spirits are used for spiritual things, so here spiritual things are very aptly used for spirits. For these spirits make their assault with such quickness and dexterity, that the soul does not almost think [generally is not aware] of the presence of these foreign existences lurking beneath, but believes that it is something in itself within which produces the spiritual temptation; and even πνευματικόν, spiritual, in the singular, may be taken as a kind of military force, in the same way as τὸ ἱππικὸν, horsemen, is applied in Revelation 9:16, and τὸ στρατιωτικὸν is else where used of an army; so that here τὰ πνευματικὰ, viz. τάγματα, may be used as in Zosimus, 1. 3: τὰ πεζικὰ τάγματα, ξενικόν, The bands of infantry, a foreign force. Aristot. 3, pol. 10, p. 210.—ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις, in places above the heavens) Even enemies, but as captives (ch. Ephesians 4:8, note), may be in a royal palace, and adorn it.

[99] Κόσμος refers to place; αἰὼν to time: The world-rulers of the age; the world-rulers of the darkness. But Engl. V. makes αἰῶνος governed by σκότους, of the darkness of this world.—ED.

Verse 12. - For we wrestle not against flesh and blood. Our conflict is not with men, here denoted by "flesh and blood," which is usually a symbol of weakness, therefore denoting that our opponents are not weak mortals, but powers of a far more formidable order. But against the principalities, against the powers. The same words as in Ephesians 1:21; therefore the definite article is prefixed, as denoting what we are already familiar with: for though all of these, evil as well as good, have been put under Christ the Head, they have not been put under the members, but the evil among them are warring against these members with all the greater ferocity that they cannot assail the Head. Against the world-rulers of this [state of] darkness (comp. Ephesians 2:2). "World-rulers" denotes the extent of the dominion of these invisible foes - the term is applied only to the rulers of the most widely extended tracts; there is no part of the globe to which their influence does not extend, and where their dark rule does not show itself (comp. Luke 4:6). "This darkness" expressively denotes the element and the results of their rule. Observe contrast with Christ's servants, who are children of light, equivalent to order, knowledge, purity, joy, peace, etc.; while the element of the devil and his servants is darkness, equivalent to confusion, ignorance, crime, terror, strife, and all misery. Against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. The natural meaning, though questioned by some, is, either that these hosts of wickedness have their residence in heavenly places, or, that these places are the scene of our conflict with them. The latter seems more agreeable to the context, for "in heavenly places" does not denote a geographical locality here any more than in Ephesians 1:3 and Ephesians 2:6. When it is said that "we have been seated with Christ in heavenly places," the allusion is to the spiritual experience of his people; in spirit they are at the gate of heaven, where their hearts are full of heavenly thoughts and feelings; the statement now before us is that, even in such places, amid their most fervent experiences or their most sublime services, they are subject to the attacks of the spirits of wickedness. Ephesians 6:12We wrestle (ἔστιν ἡμῖν ἡ πάλη)

Rev., more literally and correctly, our wrestling is. Πάλη wrestling, only here.

Flesh and blood

The Greek reverses the order.

Principalities and powers

See on Colossians 1:16.

Rulers of the darkness of this world (κοσμοκράτορας τοῦ σκότους τούτου)

Rev., more correctly, world-rulers of this darkness. World-Rulers only here. Compare John 14:30; John 16:11; 1 John 5:19; 2 Corinthians 4:4.

Spiritual wickedness (τὰ πνευματικὰ τῆς πονηρίας)

Lit., the spiritual things of wickedness. Rev., spiritual hosts of wickedness. The phrase is collective, of the evil powers viewed as a body. Wickedness is active evil, mischief. Hence Satan is called ὁ πονηρός the wicked one. See on Luke 3:19; see on Luke 7:21; see on 1 John 2:13.

In high places (ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις)

Rev., more literally, in the heavenly places. Used in the general sense of the sky or air. See on Ephesians 2:2.

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