Ephesians 4.11-16

[7] But grace was given to each one of us as much as Christ measured out to be given. [8] That is why it says,

When ascending to the heights,
He led the captives captive,
He gave gifts to men.

[9] But what does “he ascends” mean if not that he also descended into the lower part that is the earth? [10] The very one who descended is also the one who ascended above the heavens, so that he might fill all things.

11 καὶ αὐτὸς ἔδωκεν τοὺς μὲν ἀποστόλους, τοὺς δὲ προφήτας, τοὺς δὲ εὐαγγελιστάς, τοὺς δὲ ποιμένας καὶ διδασκάλους, 12 πρὸς τὸν καταρτισμὸν τῶν ἁγίων εἰς ἔργον διακονίας, εἰς οἰκοδομὴν τοῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ,
[11] And he gifted some apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers [12] for the effective training of God’s people – toward building up Christ’s body.

13 μέχρι καταντήσωμεν οἱ πάντες εἰς τὴν ἑνότητα τῆς πίστεως καὶ τῆς ἐπιγνώσεως τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ, εἰς ἄνδρα τέλειον, εἰς μέτρον ἡλικίας τοῦ πληρώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ,
until we all arrive unified in faith and knowledge of the Son of God and until we reach completion – the standard of maturity that is the fullness of Christ

14 ἵνα μηκέτι ὦμεν νήπιοι,
that we might no longer be children

κλυδωνιζόμενοι καὶ περιφερόμενοι παντὶ ἀνέμῳ τῆς διδασκαλίας ἐν τῇ κυβείᾳ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἐν πανουργίᾳ πρὸς τὴν μεθοδείαν τῆς πλάνης,
who are carried and tossed about by waves and every wind of teaching by the craftiness of people and their deceitful cleverness,

15 ἀληθεύοντες δὲ ἐν ἀγάπῃ.
but instead by speaking the truth in love.

αὐξήσωμεν εἰς αὐτὸν τὰ πάντα,
that we might grow toward that one perfectly whole person

ὅς ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλή, Χριστός,
who is the head – Christ.

16 ἐξ οὗ πᾶν τὸ σῶμα συναρμολογούμενον καὶ συμβιβαζόμενον διὰ πάσης ἁφῆς τῆς ἐπιχορηγίας κατʼ ἐνέργειαν ἐν μέτρῳ ἑνὸς ἑκάστου μέρους τὴν αὔξησιν τοῦ σώματος ποιεῖται εἰς οἰκοδομὴν ἑαυτοῦ ἐν ἀγάπῃ.
Because of him the whole body, joined and held together by all the supporting ligaments, by the operation of each individual part, produces growth, building itself up in love.

καὶ αὐτὸς ἔδωκεν τοὺς μὲν ἀποστόλους, τοὺς δὲ προφήτας, τοὺς δὲ εὐαγγελιστάς, τοὺς δὲ ποιμένας καὶ διδασκάλους – These verses pick up the gift giving of the previous section, with verse 11 in particular naming the gifts that Jesus gave to his people. Despite the appearances of the English translation there is verbal continuity in the Greek text between the “giving” of gifts to his people and the “appointing found at the beginning of this verse. δίδωμι is a highly flexible verb with a much larger semantic range than the English “to give.” Comparative in flexibility (though not in meaning) would be the English word “get,” which can be used in an overwhelming number of ways.

But with this connection to the previous verses, there are also factors that unified these verses (11-16) as a unit as well. One example is the repetition of the phrase “εἰς οἰκοδομὴν” at the end of 12 and the end of 16.

The words ποιμένας καὶ διδασκάλους toward the end of verse 11 have cause a significant amount of dispute. Are they the same gift? While much ink has been spilt over this question and I could spill quite a bit here myself, just a couple observation suggest that they are:  διδασκάλους, the second of the two words, is the only word in the entire list lacking both the article (note just previously) AND also the δέ conjunction found before each other word. This second point suggests that the two should be read together as part of the same NP. There is no reason for Paul to have introduced such a change for the sake of style or variety.

πρὸς τὸν καταρτισμὸν τῶν ἁγίων εἰς ἔργον διακονίας, εἰς οἰκοδομὴν τοῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ – The PP that concludes this particular thought expresses the purpose of the giving of these gifts. The movement function πρὸς is extended here so as to express aim toward a goal: that God’s people (lit. saints, τῶν ἁγίων) might be trained effectively for serving to build up the church – the body of Christ.

μέχρι καταντήσωμεν οἱ πάντες – But with that said, for Paul it is clear that the building up of the church is not an end in of itself in verse 13. The goal of such building, maturing is unity. The goal of such building is eschatological, where the church (an inclusive of both Jews and Gentiles – note the “we all” [οἱ πάντες]) reaches a state of perfect unity, completion, and maturity.

The conjunction μέχρι builds adverbially off ἔδωκεν. This suggests that the gifts Christ gives are temporary for the “already” rather than the “not yet.”

εἰς τὴν ἑνότητα τῆς πίστεως καὶ τῆς ἐπιγνώσεως τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ, εἰς ἄνδρα τέλειον, εἰς μέτρον ἡλικίας τοῦ πληρώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ – Here in this verse, Paul essentially repeats himself with three statements. The clause consists of a single verb – καταντάω, which consistently takes an adjunct, in the New Testament particularly εἰς. The repetition of εἰς is what suggests Paul’s restatement. For Paul then, spiritual arrival in Ephesians 4.13 consists of a oneness in faith and knowledge, the final perfection of each individual believer, and full maturity as that exemplified by Christ.

ἵνα μηκέτι ὦμεν νήπιοι – The following adverbial ἵνα clause does not develop Paul’s thought from the verb καταντήσωμεν in verse 13, but rather goes back to the verb ἔδωκεν in verse 11. While verse 13 states that the gifts are only temporary and will disappear when we as believers “arrive,” verse 14 provides the purpose of the gifts themselves in the present time: that we might no longer behave as infants. Thus, and parallel each other both develop from the same verb, both are adverbial conjunctions that take the subjunctive mood.

The implication for the eschatology of Ephesians in this statement is that while previously perfect maturity is something in the future, Paul does not allow for any wiggle room for those who might behave in any manner they would like since such maturity is a eschatological event. Regardless of the time, present or future, the standard of measurement is still Christ and for that reasons God has given these gifts of apostleship, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers. The believers are being trained for service in the present in anticipation of the future.

κλυδωνιζόμενοι καὶ περιφερόμενοι παντὶ ἀνέμῳ τῆς διδασκαλίας ἐν τῇ κυβείᾳ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἐν πανουργίᾳ πρὸς τὴν μεθοδείαν τῆς πλάνης, – These following two participles with their modifiers function as an expansion of νήπιοι. They are anarthrous attributive participles. It is highly unlikely that they are predicative participles – i.e. “that we children might no longer be tossed and thrown.” Even though the participles are anarthrous, the constituent order VSC (Verb, Subject, Complement) in ειμί clauses is exceedingly rare. It only occurs 62 times of 985 in the NT according to Opentext.org’s analysis. With that said, it is possible that they are adverbial participles, but since the verb in the clause they would modify is a copula, there is virtually no difference in meaning at all compared with the attributive understanding of them. This is because the copula is semantically empty and the complement is functioning as the semantic predicate.

Paul’s point is that we shouldn’t be a childish believer who is easily thrown and tossed by the various teachings that come and go. That’s why God has given apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastors/teachers. The teaching that carries the believer like the wind comes from crafty and deceptive people, who teach error (πλάνης). This is a rather polemic position for Paul to take. He views his teaching as being from God. Anything that deviates from this gospel is false teaching distracting the childish and immature from the truth.

ἀληθεύοντες δὲ – This third participle parallels the first two in tense, case, number, and gender. But it is not an attributive participle with the others. It is set off with a different conjunction, δὲ, marking the contrast. This contrast continues with the main verb of the clause. The participle is also marked off by its voice as well. The first two participles are passive voice, while this one is active. Paul seems to be making a distinction between those who are led and carried by other teachings passively and those who actively speak the truth. Considering the context of teaching, it is likely that what Paul has in view is his own teaching (and God’s) as the truth to be spoken. If this is the case, then this participle functions as a mitigated exhortation by Paul to his audience to take a stand against false teaching wherever it arises. This is at the very least an exhortation to those who God has gifted as apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastors/teachers, but considering the goal is the entire church’s maturity, there is no reason why such a call should not also be seen as applying to everyone else as well.

The participle’s relationship to the following verb is probably best understood as expressing means, that is, by speaking the truth (i.e. Paul’s gospel) in love, weight might grow in everything toward him.

ἐν ἀγάπῃ – It has been a regular question throughout this letter concerning whether this reoccurring phrase should be taken as functioning within the preceding clause or the proceeding clause. The phrase should be understood as in the preceding clause with ἀληθεύοντες δὲ (For argumentation, see HERE [I’ll have this posted this coming weekend]).

αὐξήσωμεν εἰς αὐτὸν τὰ πάντα – This following clause picks up several important points from this whole section. Paul takes the building up language (repeated in 12 & 16) and puts it into the body of Christ metaphor. With that also comes the building up baggage of maturity described in verse 13, continuing the contrast against the immaturity of verse 14. This understanding makes the best sense of this clause, especially with its relative clause following. The point of εἰς αὐτὸν is not “grow in him,” but rather points back to Christ as the standard of maturity in verse 13. This makes much more sense of the context.

The function of the phrase τὰ πάντα here deserves some discussion. First of all, πάντα should be understood as functioning intensively (Porter’s term, 119), so that the concept of completeness or wholeness is the focus of the phrase.

More controversially, the function of this phrase within the whole clause is highly debated. Some (see those cited by Lincoln) consider the phrase to function as the object of αὐξήσωμεν. By this view, the phrase would be understood as “but rather, speaking the truth in love, we may let the cosmos grow up or cause the cosmos [a relatively frequent referent of τὰ πάντα in Ephesians) to grow up to him who is its head.” (Lincoln’s translation). But this is unlikely. This verb is rarely transitive and never so in Ephesians or Colossians. Also nowhere in Ephesians is the Cosmos viewed or described in such a manner. The focus is consistently on the church in this letter.

Others consider the phrase to be an accusative of reference – i.e., that the phrase functions adverbial to the verb, “We might grow in him in everything” (Lincoln, O’Brien, Hoehner). This does more justice to the syntax of the verb, but still has a problem. In fact, there is a serious syntactical barrier to both of these possibilities: the following relative clause. If a relative pronoun has an antecedent, then the relative will function within the Noun Phrase of its antecedent at some level. Thus unless scholars intend to suggest that what we have here an extremely impressive Hyperbaton (the transposition a constituent to an unexpected position, in this case τὰ πάντα is moved between the relative pronoun and its antecedent), it must function in relationship to the prepositional phrase, which in context makes perfect sense. The difference in gender (i.e. masculine pronoun & neuter quantifier) is more easily explained by the context than the separation of the relative cause from its mother node. For example in verses 10-13, Christ fills all things (τὰ πάντα) and is the fullness of the standard of maturity to which we all should aspire (πληρώματος). Both and function in the same semantic domain (L&N 59c – All, Any, Each, Every [Totality] [59.23-59.34]), especially in this context. Thus it is likely that τὰ πάντα is a reference to Christ as the standard of maturity to which we should grow.

ὅς ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλή, Χριστός – This following relative clause is quite straight with a copula clause with the title Χριστός (though it is possible that by this time in the first century the word was simply a name rather than a title) functioning in apposition to ἡ κεφαλή. Contextually preeminence is the more likely match because of the emphasis on Χριστός as the standard by which maturity is measured in verse 13. The use of τὰ πάντα (as noted above) in the previous clause combined with the repetition of the title (name?) Χριστός points the audience back to that theme.

16 ἐξ οὗ πᾶν τὸ σῶμα συναρμολογούμενον καὶ συμβιβαζόμενον διὰ πάσης ἁφῆς τῆς ἐπιχορηγίας κατʼ ἐνέργειαν ἐν μέτρῳ ἑνὸς ἑκάστου μέρους τὴν αὔξησιν τοῦ σώματος ποιεῖται εἰς οἰκοδομὴν ἑαυτοῦ ἐν ἀγάπῃ – The preposition is probably best understood as source, but the meaning deserves to be nuanced more than that. Christ is the source of grow. But on the basis of the verb ποιεῖται (present middle indicative) following in the clause the sense of causation should also be understood as being in view. Both senses are probably present as a whole since both can be viewed as maximally redundant in this context (i.e. κεφαλή in 15 and ποιεῖται in 16).

The word πᾶν always expresses completeness regardless of its position in the Noun Phrase. But when it is in the so called “predicative” position (as here) it also carries the sense of various being considered together. Unfortunately this cannot be maintained in the translation of the word itself, but the context of the clause as a whole maintains that emphasis anyway since the discussion is about the various parts of the body being joined together as a whole.

As mentioned in a previous post (HERE) there are two possibilities for how this whole verse could be understood depending upon how one views the participles to function. To summarize the possibilities, if attributive they function within the subject noun phrases and the main verb is ποιεῖται. If predicative, then the participles function as the semantic predicate of a verbless copula clause. Depending on which view is taken there is a somewhat significance in meaning. If the former is accepted, then the preposition is taken to modify the verb ποιεῖται – “Because of [Christ] the body causes itself to grow.” If the participles are understood as predicative, then the preposition modifies the participles – “Because of [Christ] the whole body is join and held together. . .”

There are two very good reasons for taking these participles as attributive rather than predicative. For one, predicative participles are significantly less common than attributive ones. But this is not completely determinative since an argument against something with statistics is often dubious. The fact that a construction is uncommon in the surviving literature does not mean it was uncommon in everyday speech. Luckily, there is another hurdle for the predicative view as well. The phrase following the participles, διὰ πάσης ἁφῆς τῆς ἐπιχορηγίας, conveys how and why the by the body is held together. If the body is “join and held together by all the supporting ligaments by the operation of each individual part,” how likely is it that the body is also held together “Because of Christ”? To me this fact is definitively against the predicative view (which by the way, no scholar that I’ve read considers).

Conclusion:

These verses are full of theology, particularly eschatology. We (the church) have been given some extremely valuable gifts that might prepare up spiritually and guide us toward attaining that perfect standard of maturity – Christ. God has blessed us through his Spirit with these gifts that we might cause ourselves to grow as one body, a group of individual parts that together are one. Maturity as a Christian cannon be separated from the unity of the church. There is not a one man game and our individualistic society here in the West cannot but hinder us from that aim. Rather as a whole body joined together we must grow. The encouraging part is that our grow as believers and as a church is fully dependent upon Christ. He is the source and the cause of our growth.

Much more could be said, but I’ve written so much already that I would encourage you to draw your own conclusions regarding the theology expressed in this passage and how it relates to the rest of the letter.

Translation:

And he gifted some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers for the effective training of God’s people – toward building up Christ’s body until we all arrive unified in faith and knowledge of the Son of God and until we reach completion – the standard of maturity that is the fullness of Christ. He gifted these people so that we might no longer be children who are carried and tossed about by waves and every wind of teaching by the craftiness of people and their deceitful cleverness, but instead by speaking the truth in love, we might grow toward that one perfectly whole person, who is the head – Christ. Because of him the whole body, joined and held together by all the supporting ligaments, by the operation of each individual part, produces growth, building itself up in love.

2 thoughts on “Ephesians 4.11-16

  1. Great post; I’m working on this passage myself right now. Just a note on something you said:

    “Unlike the other gifts listed in the list, τοὺς μὲν ἀποστόλους, τοὺς δὲ προφήτας, τοὺς δὲ εὐαγγελιστάς, these two function within the bounds of Granville Sharp’s rule – that is two singular nouns joined by a καὶ and sharing a single article.”

    Both ποιμένας and διδασκάλους are plural nouns, and thus do not fit Granville Sharp.

    Daniel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s