Lectionary Year A
March 10, 2002
Step III: Composition
A. Immediate Context
(JW)This short pericope is in the middle of the second half of Ephesians. It is toward the end of a chapter and a half (4:1-5:20) in which Paul is contrasting the way that nonbelievers live to the way that believers in Christ are called to live. What might be the pericopes on either side of this, which are 5:3-7 and 5:15-20, may be seen as prescriptive counsel on how to, and how not to, behave as a Christian. In the middle of these, the passage at hand gives theological identity to the unChristian behavior as "darkness," and the Christian behavior as "light."
(JP)As we look at the inner margin of Nestle, we see that our passage is part of a larger pericope that is in Ephesians 5:3-22. However, as we take a closer look at the text, we can see that verses 21 and 22 are actually a part of the introduction to the household codes, so they should actually be a part of the next pericope. Therefore our surrounding pericopes are 4:17 - 5:2 and 5:21 - 6:9.
Within our preceding pericope, we see that it acts as an excellent introduction to our passage, as it talks about how we have put on a new self and therefore we must lay aside all falsehood. In this manner our passage follows by saying that although we were in darkness, we are now in the light, so we should walk in the light. As for the following pericope, it tells us about the household codes. Specifically, it reveals how husbands, wives, slaves, and masters should deal with each other now that they are in Christ. I think that this pericope fits very well into our passage simply because this whole section is talking about Christian conduct in relation to the world. Whereas the world acts in one way, those who walk in the light walk a different path. And now that we have seen the path, even our relationships must show Christ-like features.
(CB)Following the inner margin guidelines of the Nestle-Aland text, it can be observed that, according to Eusebius, the subject pericope (Eph. 5:8-14) is included within a much larger pericope, beginning in 5:3 and ending at 5:21. In this larger pericope, the vices are listed which should not be spoken of or fitting to the saints. Those who exhibit the behaviors listed are said to have no inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God. The author encourages the reader/hearer not to participate in these behaviors before moving into the imperative statements to walk "as children of light." Further, the text continues beyond the liturgical speech with warnings to be careful of being unwise or foolish. Finally, the Eusebian pericope ends with praise and thanksgiving in the name of Jesus Christ and God the Father.
Within the Eusebian pericope guidelines, one notes the preceding pericope of Eph. 5:3-21 begins at 4:17 and ends at 5:2. Likewise, the Eusebian pericope following the larger text begins at 5:22 and ends at 6:9. It is interesting to note that an asterisk is placed at the end of v. 21,indicating that the present edition differs in its choice of verse division from that of the kephalaia.
The choices presented in the margin indicate the preceding pericope address the moral standards of the church whereas the following pericope describes life in the Christian household.
B. Organization of the Compositional Whole
(JW)Outline of Ephesians
Chapters 1-3 - Theological insight into God's grace
1. Greeting / every spiritual blessing / Intercessory prayer for enlightenment
2. Saved by grace / wall of separation destroyed
3. The mystery / prayer for spiritual strengthening
Chapters 4-6 - Leading a life worthy of the calling
4. Unity / spiritual gifts / farewell to the life of futility
5. Living in the light / mutual submission (household codes)
6. Household codes / spiritual warfare / close
The outline in the Zondervan NASB Study Bible is similar to the one that I have drawn above, but makes even smaller divisions of passages in chapters 2-6. That study Bible entitled chapters 4:1-6:20 "Practical Ways to Fulfill God's Purpose in the Church." Chapters 4:17-5:20 were given the subheading of "Renewal of Personal Life." In my outline and the outline in that resource, Eph. 5:8-14 is recognized as standing in the middle of a section dealing with a new standard for living in Christ.
Praise to Christ 1:3-14
Prayer of Thanksgiving 1:15-23
Mystery of Christ 2:1-3:21
1. Resurrection 2:1-10
2. Work of Christ 2:11-22
3. Paul as Steward 3:1-13
4. Prayer and Doxology 3:14-21
1. Promote unity of the Church 4:1-16
2. Old Self vs. New Self 4:17-5:20
3. Household Codes 5:21-6:9
Concluding Appeals 6:10-20
1. Armour of God 6:10-17
2. Pray for Paul and each other 6:18-20
Greeting to Tychicus 6:21-22
In this outline, I compared my outline with that of the Anchor Bible Dictionary and The Interpreter's Bible to come up with this version. As a whole, I believe that the Epistle of Ephesians is focusing upon how we are new in Christ, and what that newness looks like. Therefore, out passage fits very well into the compositional whole.
(CB)Greeting Eph. 1:1-2
Christological Affirmation Eph. 1:3-14
Prayer of Thanksgiving and Hope Eph. 1:15-23
Life in the Church Eph 2:1 - 5:20
God's Gift of Community in Christ Eph. 2:1-21
The Ministry of the Church Eph. 3:1-20
Ethical Standards and Further Affirmations Eph. 4:1-5:20
Life in the Christian Household Eph. 5:21 - 6:9
Words of Encouragement Against Evil Eph 6:10-19
Final Greeting Eph. 6:21-24.
I compared my outline with that of the New Interpreter's Bible. Pheme Perkins has chosen to divide the Ephesians text in the following manner. There are five major subgroups: Greeting, Eulogy on Salvation, Thanksgiving Prayer Report, Body of the Letter, and Final Greeting. Perkins further divides the "Body of the Letter" into "Theological Reflection on Salvation in the Body of the Exalted Christ," Ethical Exhortations on Living as Christians, and "Peroration: Be Armed with the Power of God."
In the comparative analysis, there seems to only slight differences in the divisional choices and categorizations. Perkins chooses to separate out the "Body of the Letter" in a fashion that excludes the Christological Affirmations and Prayer of Thanksgiving. Though only a minor difference, I would argue that Body of the Letter includes these sections, as well.
C. Issues of Authorship
(JW)The author of Ephesians identifies himself as the Apostle Paul. It seems from the reading of this letter that the author is speaking of a renewed life that he himself has experienced, which contrasts his former way of life in the same way that light contrasts darkness. This is the experience that he feels everyone will have upon hearing and believing "the word of truth, the gospel of [their] salvation." But he also prays that the recipients of this letter will grow in their understanding of immensity of what has happened to them through Christ Jesus. The author feels he has a very good "understanding of the mystery of Christ" which should be obvious to everyone upon reading this letter.
(JP)While much has been made about whether or not Paul wrote this particular epistle, the truth is that no one really knows for sure. However, there are enough arguments on both sides that are rather convincing. For example, those in the early church never doubted that this document originally came from Paul, and as we compare other texts that we know to come from Paul, such as Romans or I Corinthians, we see many similarities, such as let us be transformed by the renewing of our minds, not of the world (Rom 12:2) and that we are to be pure people, for the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God (I Cor 6:9). On the other hand, there are textual issues that cannot be avoided. In Ephesians, the author has written 9 sentences that are over 50 words in length, whereas nowhere else in Paul's writings do we see that large amount of length. In addition to this, Ephesians has a much higher usage of participles than that in Romans, leading one to at least believe that if Paul did write Ephesians, that we changed his grammatical style drastically. Furthermore, the mention of Christ being the head is mentioned nowhere else about Christ, except in Colossians, which is also of doubtful authenticity. However, all of this information does not have to diminish the authority of Ephesians; all it does is allow us to ask some unanswerable questions.
As we discussed in class, one more possibility is that the disciple John wrote this epistle. If we are to look closely at John and I John, we see a reoccurring theme of light and darkness, which is a major theme to our passage. While I am not actually suggesting that this is the case, I am however offering up the idea that someone who was interested in light and dark imagery wrote this book, and John could be that very person.
(CB)Ephesians has been considered as an authentic document attested in the early church and uncontested as a letter of Paul through Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria (Kümmel, 317). However, Erasmus noticed stylistic differences with other Pauline documents and in 1792, Ephesians was declared a forgery by Edward Evanson (K, 357). Dating of the letter shifted to the second century and debate ranged from its "being typical of early Catholicism" to a "not yet interpolated Col[ossians?]" (K,357).
What can be ascertained in the Letter to the Ephesians is that it differs from other Pauline documents in language and style. For example, Marcus Barth, in The Anchor Bible, asserts that "more than eighty words not found in other Pauline letters occur in Ephesians. (Barth, 4)." He notes that Ephesians does not address the audience as "Brethren," that Jews are never called "Jews," that "justify" is not used when discussing the salvation of humanity, and that rather than using "Satan," the author of the Ephesians uses the word, "devil" (4). Further, Barth notes other stylistic differences such as the use of synonyms, especially "with preference combined by genitive construction or the conjunction 'and'" (B, 5). He notes that there are is an abundance of attributes added to nouns and pronouns. Barth also stresses that indirect questions are a "favorite stylistic mean" (B, 5). Though not an all-inclusive list, Barth maintains that the evidence is ambiguous of Pauline authorship.
Pheme Perkins, in The New Interpreter's Bible, in questioning the authenticity of Paul's authorship of Ephesians, notes that stylistically the author fails to demonstrate a personal greeting so prevalent in other correspondence. There are no "associates or fellow Christians" mentioned as "co-senders" (Perkins, 351). Nevertheless, in spite of questionable authorship attributed to Paul, Perkins points our that the letter's authority is not diminished (P, 351).
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