Two Opposing Perspectives on Ephesians 5:21-22

The problem of verses twenty-one and twenty-two can be most easily seen in the perspectives of Max Turner and Daniel Wallace. The latter writes in Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, “In Ephesians, a more polished, less emotional letter, we are surprised to find [anacoluthon of the conjunction] at the beginning of the “house tables” (5:22): αἱ γυναῖκες τοῖς ἰδίοις ἀνδράσιν ὡς τῷ κυρίῳ (no other paragraph after 1:3 in the body of this letter begins without a conjunction).”[1] Wallace believes verse twenty-two not only begins a new sentence but a new paragraph, in accordance with the English Bible translations.

On the other hand, Max Turner disagrees.  Regarding verses 18-24, he writes, “These verses are grammatically a single sentence (obscured by all translations).”[2]

These two very different perspectives, both by respected grammarians are bewildering to me. There is a question that I would be inclined to as Wallace. You can probably imagine what it is. And I look forward to Turner’s NIGTC volume on this letter/homily.


[1]Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Zondervan and Galaxie, 1999; 2002), 658.

[2] Max Turner, “Ephesians,” n. p., in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition by D. A. Carson, ed., in The Essential IVP Reference Collection on CD-ROM (Rev. ed. of: The New Bible Commentary. 3rd ed. / Edited by D. Guthrie, J.A. Motyer. 1970; 4th ed. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1994), Eph 5:3.

10 thoughts on “Two Opposing Perspectives on Ephesians 5:21-22

  1. My question to Wallace if he think Eph 5:22 is a sentence is, “Where’s the verb?”

    My translation of Eph 5:21-22 … mutually submitting in the fear of Messiah; wives (mutually submitting) to your husbands as to the Lord.

    where the parentheses indicates the verb being brought down.

  2. Do I need or dare to reiterate my suspicion — hardening into a conviction? — that this author has not taken any great pains to structure his expression to make it what some Greeks called εὐσύνοπτον — the current buzz word seems to be “transparent.” I think it must be a thankless task to attempt a really convincing and thorough punctuation of Ephesians: one must read a mind that seems to know what it wants to say but can’t quite articulate it clearly.

  3. Mike,

    You may have noticed that Carl Conrad and I – independently, I might add – are wary of requiring Paul (or whoever wrote Ephesians) to have structured the discourse in the most transparent way imaginable.

    You asked my opinion about the flow of discourse, and I am happy to give it, but remember, I read the Greek of this letter with a certain nonchalance. I don’t plan to ever write a hundred pages or more of commentary on the pericope, as you will someday.

    I would say that Ephesians 5:15-20 hangs together with a fair degree of semantic and syntactic cohesion. Then comes 5:21-6:8, loosely connected to 5:15-20, but nonetheless a relatively autonomous unit.

    A somewhat similar transition from imperatives to participles, where the result aspect of the participles is muted and depends on a string of previous imperatives with a certain looseness, is found across 1 Peter 2:13-17, 2:18-3:7; and once again, with a transition to participles, in 3:8-9.

    I admit that my take on the structure is anything but innovative. It dovetails, for example, with the paragraphing found in Nestle-Aland 27 (the edition I happen to have).

  4. John & Carl: Actually my guess is that your view is not at all that different than my own. I agree that that the author’s structure is less than transparent.

    I would go further and say that its quite flawed here. My view, which I have not yet delineated online, makes no claim to have unraveled what the structure is. Rather I simply believe that flaws themselves are in a different place than where you (you=John) see them. As I continue blogging on the passage, my perspective will become more clear and eventually, it will be fully expounded for complete and utter scrutination under both your excellent eyes.

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