I’m going to attempt to blog my way through the entire book of Ephesians in the manner that I wrote on Ephesians 3.14-21 (click here to read it).
I would like to discuss as much about the text as possible…though currently, since I’m coming up to the end of my semester, I can’t make too many promises. about things like textual criticism and what not. But I will do the best I can.
This first post will be short since its only focusing on verses one and two.
Παῦλος ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν [ἐν Ἐφέσῳ] καὶ πιστοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ,
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the holy people in Ephesus and faithful followers of Christ Jesus:
2 χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.
Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
These first two verses are essentially the typical formula that Paul writes at the beginning of his letters. They are the formulaic introductory greeting of a letter. The first phrase, Παῦλος through, θεοῦ parallel those of Colossians 1.1 and 2 Cor 1.1. Paul use the word, ἀπόστολος , in a technical sense referring to those specifically called and sent by Christ himself. This makes the most sense in such a formal introduction to his letter, especially since he is not simply a messenger delivering a message to the Ephesians, but indeed, an apostle “of Christ Jesus by the will of God. In Romans 1.5 and Galatians 1.1, he speaks of receiving his apostleship through Jesus Christ. Thus, to be an apostle of Jesus Christ is not a mere messenger status but one a divine appointment to the bringing of the gospel.
While the words, “διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ” (by the will of God) are common in the introductions to Paul’s letters, the concept of God’s will is especially important in Ephesians and will be occur multiple times in the following verses (1.1, 5, 9, 11). All of the following references to God’s will deal with some aspect of God’s saving Paul in general and seem to climax with the bringing of “everything together in heaven and on earth.” Reconciliation is an essential theme of the book and is clearly connected to the “will of God.”
I wish I had time to discuss the textual issue regarding ἐν Ἐφέσῳ, especially since it is the name of my blog, but that will have to wait for another time since I have way too much other homework to be doing right now (note: you can expect my next post theme of “old” and “new” in Paul). If it were up to me, I’d be going through the manuscript evidence for the whole letter to establish what is the most important external evidence…another time perhaps…
I’m translating “οὖσιν” as people since “ones,” while appearing in English, is not common. Thus, Paul is writing to the holy people, the believers in Ephesus. For the time being, taking the ἐν Ἐφέσῳ as original, I think we have two possibilities: a), either writing to believers is churches surrounding the city of Ephesus, or b), Paul is writing to believers who have become Christians since he left the city, perhaps in the various house churches which have popped up throughout, since Ephesus was a major city (perhaps 250.000 people (according to O’Brien, Ephesians, 48), economically, culturally, and religiously (remember Acts 19?). Either of these are possible, and since it is clear that Paul does not know the recipients (cf. 1.15) and throughout, the letter does not seem to deal with any extremely specific problem or issue, neither option greatly affects our understanding of the letter. Thus regardless of where they live, we do know the recipients are believers and are “faithful followers of Christ Jesus” (NLT) – I take the “πιστοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ” as a dative of association, that is: “faithful in relationship to Christ Jesus.” I really like the NLT’s rendering and have borrowed it above. That is, Paul aligns them with himself. Just as he is an apostle of Christ Jesus, the recipients of the letter are faithful followers of Jesus. Paul, right from the outset of his letter, emphasizes the unity between himself and those to whom he writes.
The second clause is again the typical formula in Paul’s letters. Colossians is unique in that it lacks, “and the Lord Jesus Christ,” but Ephesians falls in line with Paul’s other letters. Many scholars note that the typical introduction to a letter would be “Grace to you,” but that Paul adds the Jewish element, “and peace,” making this clause function not only as a greeting, but also as a blessing from one believer to another (or others, plural, I should say).
The words, “God our Father” continue in the strain above regarding the unity between Paul and the Ephesian believers, strengthening the bond between them. Not only do they follow the same Christ Jesus (Messiah Jesus), but they also share the same Father (another theme developed later in the book, see my previous post on 3.14-21), putting them into the same kinship group (Go read David DeSilva’s book Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity on pages 168ff. to see what I’m talking about).