Lectionary Year B
July 20, 2003
Ephesians 2:11-22

Step IV: Broader Context


1. Acts 21:27ff - catalyst of Paul's arrest was the accusation that he tried to bring Gentiles into the Temple in Jerusalem.

2. There are numerous parallels in Ephesians with themes in other Pauline epistles.

Col. 1:19-20 - God reconciles all things to God's self in Jesus Christ.
Col. 1:27 - God has chosen to reveal the mystery of salvation to Gentiles and Jews
Col. 2:9-12 - spiritual circumcision in Christ
Romans 9-11 - discourse on Gentiles as spiritual children of Abraham and heirs of covenant, grafted onto Israel.
Galatians 3:28 - unity of Jews, Greeks, men, women, slaves, free, etc. in Christ
1 Cor. 12:12ff - imagery of Christ's body, made up of many members.

3. 1 Peter 2:4-8 - imagery of Church as a spiritual household made up of "living stones"


1. Isaiah 42:6, 49:6, 49:22 - Yahweh called Israel to be a "light to the nations," and would call Gentiles as well as Jews.
2. Deut. 10:16 and Jeremiah 4:4 - Yahweh calls Israel to a spiritual circumcision, "of the heart," above and beyond the physical circumcision which marked Israelites as "heirs of the Covenant."


Material taken from F.F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, pp. 434-436


Some British commentators (cf. J.A. Robinson) see the reference related to the wall which separated the court of the Gentiles from the rest of the Temple in Jerusalem. As Josephus described it (BJ, or "Jewish War," v.194), Gentiles were forbidden to pass beyond this barrier to the inner courts on pain of death.

Some German commentators have argued that the barrier refers to the one in gnostic texts which separates the world beneath from the upper world of light (cf. H. Schlier). Dibelius (An die Kolosser, An die Epheser, An Philemon, Tubingen 1953, p. 69) wondered if the original recipients would understand the reference to the Temple, while Bruce wonders if they would understand the gnostic reference any better.

If the Temple reference is a workable one, then the Jewish and Gentile Christians now both enjoyed unimpeded access to God through Christ. There were also barriers in the Temple to women, to Jewish laymen, and etc.

Does anyone out there have more information on the Temple, or on other possible "dividing walls?"

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