The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Callan’s Introduction to the Epistle to the Ephesians

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 15, 2017


1. Captivity Epistles. Four letters of St. Paul—those to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, and to Philemon— are known as the Captivity Epistles, because the Apostle was a prisoner when he wrote them, most probably at Rome (61-63 a.d.), as mentioned in Acts 28:30. This opinion is according to a very ancient tradition which the contents of those Epistles support. First of all, there is a similarity of vocabulary and style in these four
letters, and Philippians seems to point directly to Rome when St. Paul speaks of himself as a prisoner, of the number of local preachers, and of Caesar’s household (Phil. 1:7-17, 4: 22). Moreover, that these four letters emanated from the Eternal City and were written about the same time is further made very likely from the following: (a) Timothy is associated with St. Paul in writing to the Philippians, to the Colossians, and to Philemon; (b) Rome, the capital of the Empire, was the natural resort of the runaway slave from Colossse, Onesimus, whose meeting with St. Paul occasioned the letter to Philemon (Phlm. 10-12, 18); (c) in Ephesians 6:20, the Apostle calls himself an ambassador in chains, that is, a representative of Christ the King in the imperial city, but without honor; (d) he is free to preach and to receive all who come to him (Phlm. 7 ff., 24; Eph. 3:12, 6:19, 20; Phil. 1:12, 20 ff.; Acts 28:30, 31); (e) he expects an early release, and asks Philemon to make ready a lodging for him (Phil. 2:24; Phlm, 22); (f) Tychicus and Onesimus are together in bearing these three letters to Asia (Eph. 6:21 ; Col. 4:7-9; Phlm. 12, 22).

In view of these considerations there is nothing of moment to be said in favor of the opinion that the three letters last named were written during the Caesarean captivity (58-60 a.d.). The arguments just given favoring Rome would not fit Caesarea. Still less can be said in support of the opinion which makes Ephesus the place whence St. Paul wrote the Captivity Epistles (see Pope, Aids to the Study of the Bible, vol. III., p. 160).

As to the order of these four Epistles, it is evident from what has been said above that those to the Ephesians, the Colossians, and Philemon are not to be separated; but whether the Colossian Epistle preceded or followed the composition of that to the Ephesians cannot be determined with any degree of certainty, though it is clear that both were carried from Rome at the same time by Tychicus (Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:7). Nor can it be decided whether the letter to the Philippians was the first or the last of these four Captivity Epistles.

With regard to their general contents Dr. Voste, O.P., very appropriately remarks that “there is nothing in the whole New Testament which so nearly approaches the doctrinal and mystical sublimity of the Fourth Gospel as do these Epistles. There is the same loftiness of dogmatic and ethical teaching, the same marvelous boldness of expressions, the same divine revelation of the union of the faithful with Christ or of the branches with the vine, and finally the same glorification of the love and person of Christ. John, the beloved disciple, has revealed to us the glory of the Word made flesh; Paul, rapt to the third heaven, has made known to us the glory of Christ exalted on high. And then, also, it was that the Apostle described this sublimity when, like the exile of Patmos, he was an ambassador in chains for Christ; when, like Stephen the First Martyr when being stoned to death, he saw the heavens opened and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Ep. ad Eph., Introd., pp. 6, 7).

The style and manner of treatment in these Captivity Epistles is very different from that in St. Paul’s previous letters—Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians. In those great Epistles the Apostle was at the height of his career; he was founding Churches; he was unfolding his great revelations; he was defending his authority and his teachings; he was in the thick of the battle. In these letters his work is mostly done; he is quietly surveying the fruits of his many labors, and is only anxious that they may be preserved. He is now reflective, meditative, and on the whole at peace in his mind.

His surroundings are also very different here. Formerly he was writing from Greek cities, with their individualistic outlook and cultured environment; but now he is writing from Rome, the centre of the great empire, with its worldwide outlook and its emphasis upon the family, the community, the state, and the race. Hence, Paul’s vision assumes a wider range here—especially in Ephesians, Colossians and Philippians—taking in the whole world and uniting all men of all time under the universal sovereignty of Christ. Christ, the King, and His universal Church are uppermost in the Apostle’s mind in these letters.

2. Ephesus. Situated on the great highway of trade between the East and the West, and under Roman rule the capital of Proconsular Asia, Ephesus was one of the most important cities of ancient times. It was to the province of Asia what Corinth was to Greece, what Antioch was to Syria, and what Alexandria was to Egypt. It was built on the Cayster River only about three miles inland from the Ægean Sea, and was the sea terminal of the great trade route which extended eastward, up the valley of the Maeander to that of the Lycus, and thence to central Asiatic and far eastern points. Miletus was indeed the natural terminus and seaport of the road which, from central Asia Minor and eastern lands, led down the valleys of the Lycus and the Maeander to the West, but the journey was shortened some thirty miles by a pass only six hundred feet high over the mountains from the Maeander to Ephesus. Moreover, during later centuries, and especially under the Romans, the silt carried down by the Maeander seems to have been permitted to spoil the harbor of Miletus, thus giving Ephesus undisputed supremacy as the seaport of Proconsular Asia until, in course of time, a similar fate befell the port of Ephesus through the alluvium which the Cayster deposited at its mouth. Even in St. Paul’s age the channel between Ephesus and the sea had to be cleaned out repeatedly, but later, after the sway of Rome had passed away, it was allowed to fill up and become a mere marsh, and the glory of Ephesus as a port and the great coastal terminal of trade from Central Asia and eastern countries ceased to exist and became a mere matter of the past.

In the days of its prosperity the trade and wealth of Ephesus were augmented also by the coast-line ships from north and south, and by the vast numbers of visitors who were passing from Rome to the East or from the Orient to the West, as well as those who came to the city to worship at the shrine of Diana, to enjoy the Roman festivals, and to assist at the public games and shows. For, as already said, Ephesus was the principal seaport of the Roman province
of Asia and the roads from the interior all converged there, thus making it most easily accessible for land travelers. Just outside the city stood the marvelous Temple of Diana (Artemis), one of the seven wonders of the world, and on the western side of Mt. Coressus was the largest theatre of the Hellenic world, open to the sky, and capable of accommodating 50,000 spectators; while a little to the north was situated the Stadium or Race Course where the public games and fights were exhibited.

The road from Ephesus to the east up the valley of the Cayster was too steep and precipitous for commercial purposes, but, as it was considerably shorter than the lower and more level route down the valleys of the Lycus and the Masander, foot-passengers, like St. Paul, naturally preferred it. Hence, the Apostle going on foot from Pisidian Antioch to Ephesus would follow the higher, though steeper, Cayster route; and this is why he seems never to have
visited Colossse and Laodicea, which were on the main highway of trade down the valleys of the Lycus and the Maeander.

3. The Church of Ephesus. Being so situated, the terminal of trade and travel from Asia and the East westward, and as the Asiatic port for commerce and travelers from the West to the East, Ephesus was naturally sought by St. Paul as a centre from which his preaching and missionary activities should radiate. Already at the outset of his second great journey (51 a.d.) he seems to have had Ephesus in mind as his goal, but being “forbidden by the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia” (Acts 16:6), he passed through Mysia over to Troas, and from there to Neapolis and Philippi, and then down through Macedonia and Greece (Acts 16:11-18:18). But at the close of that missionary journey, on his way
from Greece to Syria, he paid a brief visit to Ephesus, leaving there, as he proceeded back to the East, Aquila and Priscilla whom he had brought thither, and promising to return later himself (Acts 18:18-21).

Accordingly, on his third missionary journey (55-58 A.D.), St. Paul, after visiting the Churches previously founded in Galatia, came directly to Ephesus by way of the “upper coasts,” that is, following the Cayster valley route (Acts 19:1). The seed planted there on his first brief visit and nourished to some extent by the efforts of Aquila and Priscilla, aided for a time by Apollo, had already produced a little fruit in the establishment of a small group of catechumens
who had received only the baptism of John (Acts 19:1-3). These St. Paul at once instructed and baptised, imposing hands upon them and thus endowing them with the gifts of the Spirit (Acts 19:4-7). Then entering the synagogue where he had preached on his first visit to Ephesus, “he spoke boldly for the space of three months, disputing and exhorting concerning the Kingdom of God,” until, forced by the opposition of some of his Jewish hearers, he made “the school of one Tyrannus” his place of worship and instruction (Acts 19:8-9). In this new abode he continued his
spiritual labors for two whole years, discoursing every day and proving by miracles the divinity of his doctrine and claims, with the grand result that great numbers embraced the faith in Ephesus, the magical practices in honor of Diana were exposed as frauds, and the Gospel was heard by both Jews and Greeks throughout the whole province of Asia (Acts x19:10-26). It seems that St. Paul himself remained in Ephesus all the time (Acts 20:18), but his influence and efforts were extended by co-workers, like Epaphras and Tychicus of Colossse, and by the multitudes who came to Ephesus for various purposes, and, having heard the glad tidings of the new religion, carried them back to their homes. Although his personal work in Ephesus was nearly finished and he was contemplating an early visit to Macedonia and Corinth (1 Cor 16:5 ff.), the Apostle’s stay was somewhat shortened by the tumult raised by the silversmith Demetrius and his craftsmen; whereas he had intended to prolong his labors in that fruitful field until Pentecost, and then go to Macedonia and Achaia (Acts 19:21 ff.; 1 Cor 16:8-9).

On his way from Corinth back to Syria at the close of his third missionary journey (58 a.d.), St. Paul, unable to spare the time for a visit to Ephesus itself, halted at Miletus on the coast of Caria (Acts 20:15), some thirty miles southwest of Ephesus, and called thither the ancients of the Church of Ephesus, and addressed to them the solemn discourse of which St. Luke has given us the substance in Acts 20:18-35—which discourse is at once an indication of the strong and flourishing condition of the Ephesian Christian community and of St. Paul’s abiding interest in and affection for the Church there.

The next mention of Ephesus in connection with St. Paul is in the Pastoral Epistles, written towards the end of the Apostle’s life. In 1 Tim. 1:3 ff., we read that Paul exhorted Timothy to remain at Ephesus as head of that Church to teach and to correct, while he himself went to Macedonia; and in the Second Epistle to Timothy, written during the Apostle’s last imprisonment in Rome and shortly before his death, ‘he recalls the kindness of the Ephesian Onesiphorus (2 Tim. 2:18), and says he has sent Tychicus to Ephesus (2 Tim. 4:12).

Ephesus is mentioned twice in later Apostolic history, namely, in Rev 1:11; 2:1. There it was, after Timothy had passed, that St. John the Evangelist, as Bishop of that see, spent his declining years and wrote his Gospel and Epistles; there he was heard by Polycarp, Ignatius Martyr, and Papias; and there he died and was buried about the close of the first century of our era.

The Church of Ephesus continued to exercise a great influence for many centuries. It was the scene of the Ecumenical Council of 431 and of the “Robber Synod” of 449, and at the end of the fourth century its Bishop bore the title of Exarch or Grand Metropolitan of Asia. Ultimately, however, the primacy of Asia was taken over by the Patriarch of Constantinople, and the Christian community of Ephesus gradually declined with the rest of the city
its present desolate state of a small Turkish village.

4. To Whom Ephesians Was Addressed. It is extremely difficult to decide for whom this letter was destined. A great variety of opinions have been advanced, the merits of all of which it is neither possible nor useful to discuss here. Hence we shall confine ourselves to those which seem most likely, and which are or have been most generally held.

According to tradition this Epistle was intended for the faithful of the city of Ephesus, which St. Paul visited at the close of his second missionary journey and where he spent over two years on his third journey. In favor of this opinion we have: (a) the testimony of all extant Manuscripts containing St. Paul’s Epistles, which—with the exception of the Vatican (B), the Sinaitic (S), the cursive 67, and that of Mt. Athos recently found—read ἐν ᾿Εφέσῳ
(at Ephesus) in Eph 1:1; (b) the title given this Epistle by every known MS., which has “To the Ephesians”; (c) the most ancient versions, going back to the middle of the second century, which follow the MSS. in reading “at Ephesus” in 1:1, and which therefore seem to indicate that this reading was already old when they were made; (d) the Muratorian Fragment in Rome, St. Irenaeus in Gaul, Tertullian in Africa, and Clement in Alexandria. These Fathers appear to have held the Ephesian destination of this letter on the authority of tradition, and not on the evidence of the MSS. before them. Thus it seems that, at the end of the second century, tradition was wellnigh unanimous in affirming that this letter was written for the faithful of Ephesus. Internal evidence, however, in support of this ancient opinion is, practically speaking, entirely lacking.

Against the Ephesian destination we have: (a) the indirect and negative testimony of the four MSS. referred to above, two of which are the oldest and best in existence, going back to about the middle of the fourth century; (b) Marcion, about the middle of the second century, who said this letter was addressed to the Laodiceans, and who, since he could have had no dogmatic reason for saying so, may have been guided by some ancient codex which read this way;
(c) Tertullian, who, arguing against Marcion for the Ephesian destination, was influenced only by tradition, making no reference to the words “at Ephesus” in 1:1, which must therefore have been absent from the MSS. known to him; (d) Origen, St. Basil, and St. Jerome, from whose writings we see that the phrase “at Ephesus” in 1:1 was lacking in the MSS. they made use of. With regard to the argument from Marcion, just given above, we are not obliged to believe that he had before him a codex which read “to the Laodiceans,” for his opinion may have been based only on the reference in Colossians to a letter at Laodicea (Col. 4:16). However, all this external evidence seems to show, at least, that the words ἐν ᾿Εφέσῳ of verse 1 of this Epistle are not authentic, and consequently do not prove anything for the Ephesian destination of the letter.

Internal evidence is strongly opposed to an Ephesian destination. For example, (a) this Epistle has no personal greetings of any kind, which is nearly impossible to understand if Paul was writing to Ephesus where he had lived and labored so long and so successfully; (b) the tone of the letter is formal and distant, terms of familiarity and endearment (like “beloved” and “brethren”), being entirely absent; (c) there is no allusion to the Apostle’s previous
relations with his readers (as in Thess., Gal., Corinth., etc.), but, on the contrary, he seems to be unknown to the recipients of this Epistle, he has only heard of their faith (Eph 1:15), they have perhaps heard of the ministry committed to him (Eph 3:2 ff.), and he hopes they have been taught aright regarding Christ (Eph 4:20-21). We cannot imagine St. Paul addressing the Ephesians, either exclusively or inclusively, in this manner; and hence it seems to us that not only was this letter not addressed solely to the faithful of Ephesus, but it also could not have been written to any group of Churches which would include Ephesus.

If, therefore, we are to follow the theory commonly accepted nowadays (namely, that this was a Circular Epistle addressed to a number of Christian communities in Asia Minor), we ought to exclude the Church at Ephesus, and perhaps confine ourselves to the faithful of Laodicea and Hierapolis. But here again we encounter difficulties. Since these cities were only a few miles from Colossae, and must therefore have been affected by the same errors as endangered the faithful to whom Colossians was sent, it is hard to see why two letters so different in tone and object should have been directed to readers so near together and so similarly circumstanced. We admit, of course, that this objection has weight only in the supposition that Ephesians was addressed exclusively to the Churches at Laodicea and Hierapolis, and not to a group of Churches of which those two were only a part. If then we hold that we have here a Circular Epistle, and yet exclude the Church at Ephesus for the reasons given at the end of the preceding paragraph, and also the Churches at Laodicea and HierapoHs because of their nearness to Colossae, what group of Churches unknown to St. Paul shall we designate as readers of this letter? In reply it must be observed, first of all, that it seems next to certain that the readers addressed by this Epistle were living in Asia Minor somewhere and not too far from Colossae, since Tychicus was the bearer of this Epistle and of that to the Colossians at one and the same time. Arguing thus, some scholars have concluded that this letter was written for that rather isolated group of Churches in northeastern Asia Minor, near the Black Sea, to which St. Peter addressed his first letter (1 Pet. 1:1). The Ephesian designation given the letter, we are told, was due to the fact that, when the official collection of St. Paul’s Epistles was prepared some time in the second century, the copy which had been made at Ephesus when Tychicus first arrived there with the original from Rome, and which naturally bore the inserted reference to that central Church of Asia, was the one that was chosen for the Canon and that was copied generally in subsequent codices (cf. Ladeuze, Cath, EncycL, vol. V, pp. 487, 488; Revue Bihliquc, 1902, pp. 573-580.) This conjecture is worth some reflection, but one may well ask why St. Paul sent the crown of all his Epistles only to such a comparatively insignificant body of the faithful.

In view of the unsatisfactory character of the conclusions so far arrived at touching the destination of this letter, perhaps it is best after all to hold with the majority of modern scholars that we have in Ephesians a circular letter written to the various Churches of Asia Minor, including Ephesus, Laodicea and Hierapolis, and that the impersonal tone and distant, formal character of the Epistle are to be explained by the very fact that so many of the faithful were addressed, not a few of whom were strange and unknown to the Apostle. Along with this opinion the words ἐν ᾿Εφέσῳ (at Ephesus) which are found in so many MSS., can be explained quite reasonably as in the preceding paragraph.

The opinion of Harnack, however, which Fr. Knabenbauer regarded as not improbable and which Dr. J, M. Voste, O.P., adopts in his learned work on Ephesians, deserves our serious consideration. The opinion goes back to Marcion’s view that our Epistle was addressed to the Laodiceans. We give here a summary of Dr. Voste’s reasoning on this theory.

In the first place, the best text of verse i of this Epistle seems to be defective, as if the name of a city which ought to be in it had dropped out or had been purposely omitted. After the words τοῖς οὖσιν (who are) we should expect a noun, as in Rom. 1:7 τοις ουσιν εν ρωμη (to all in Rome), and in Phil. 1:1 τοις ουσιν εν φιλιπποις (to all in Philippi); (cf. also 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:2; Col. 1:2). Therefore, it is concluded that verse 1 of Ephesians ought to read: τοις ουσιν εν λαοδικεια (to those that are at Laodicea, etc.). The phrase εν λαοδικεια (at Laodicea), we are told, was in time suppressed because of the unworthiness which later crept into the Church of Laodicea, and to which St. John refers in Rev 3:14-19; but that it belongs there and that this Epistle was consequently directed to the Laodiceans is further made probable by the following references to the Church at Laodicea in the Epistle to the Colossians:

1. “For I would have you know what manner of care I have for you and for them that are at Laodicea, and whosoever have not seen my face in the flesh” (Col. 2:1). Here we observe that, while speaking to the Colossians, only the Laodiceans are expressly named.

2. St. Paul says of Epaphras: “For I bear him testimony that he hath much labor for you, and for them that are at Laodicea, and them at Hierapolis” (Col. 4:13). These three cities—Colossae, Laodicea and Hierapolis—were not far apart in the valley of the Lycus River.

3. The Apostle says to the Colossians: “Salute the brethren who are at Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church that is in his house” (Col. 4:15). Here Hierapolis is not included.

4. Finally, the Apostle says: “And when this Epistle shall have been read with you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans: and that you read that which is of the Laodiceans” (Col. 4:16). Here again there is question only of the Churches at Colossae and Laodicea, and both have received a letter from St. Paul.

As Dr. Voste goes on to observe here, it is manifest from the foregoing texts that the Churches at Colossae and Laodicea were intimately connected one with the other and in the heart of the Apostle. And hence it would a priori be very strange if, while the Epistle to the Colossians has been preserved, that to the Laodiceans should have been lost—all the more so, since, having been read at Colossae, most likely a copy of it would have been made by the Colossians That no copy of a letter so important as this one seems to have been should have come down to us, while that to the Church of Colossae and even the little personal letter to Philemon written at the same time have been preserved, borders on the incredible. But, on the other hand, if among the Epistles of St. Paul that we have there is one which, as regards time of composition and contents, is like our Epistle to the Colossians, though its traditional
inscription gives rise to various hypotheses, there results great probability that this is the Epistle to the Laodiceans.

Now, we have an Epistle to the Ephesians, written at the same time as the Epistle to the Colossians and in many ways very much like it, which seems certainly not to have been written to the Ephesians but to some other Church. The suspicion, therefore, naturally arises that this letter which now bears the title “to the Ephesians,” but which in the best MSS. and in ancient tradition appeared without any special inscription, is that lost Epistle of St. Paul’s which was sent to the Laodiceans. With this admission, we shall find no difficulty in the absence of salutations and of particular characteristics, because, as a matter of fact, the Laodiceans had never seen St. Paul, and, moreover, certain things in the Epistle to the Colossians, which was also to be sent to the Laodiceans, would pertain to the latter.

Hence, it seems very probable that our Epistle to the Ephesians in the beginning carried in its salutation the phrase εν λαοδικεια (at Laodicea) and that Marcion in the middle of the second century still read these authentic words in his text. We can account for the early suppression of the Laodicean designation, as said above, by the great corruption which invaded the Church of Laodicea towards the end of the first century (Rev 3:14-19), and which rendered it no longer worthy of so great a privilege and special distinction. This suppression would naturally be soon forgotten at large, and in course of time, when the collection of St. Paul’s Epistles was made, the illustrious name of Ephesus, the capital city of Roman Asia where St. Paul had lived so long, was substituted for the omission, in order to satisfy the grammatical construction ot the first verse of the letter, as well as to give to this glorious Epistle a complete and specific inscription, like those of St. Paul’s other letters. The fact that not all MSS. adopted the Ephesian inscription only proves that the Epistle had for long been known to lack the name of any special city or place.

The foregoing explanation is in substance the theory of Harnack as given by Dr. Voste in his work on Ephesians (Introduction, pp. 18 ff.) . As said above, this opinion was also accepted by Fr. Knabenbauer, S.J., as not improbable, and it has been followed by a number of non-Catholic exegetes. To us it seems very plausible, though not entirely free from difficulties. Perhaps it is open to fewer objections than any of the other explanations.

5. Authorship of Ephesians. This letter was circulated in the Church to some extent by the end of the first century, at the close of the second century it was in common use and widely known and it was always ascribed to St. Paul as its author. In fact, the authenticity of this Epistle was admitted without question by every ancient authority that can now be cited. Thus, the Muratorian Canon includes Ephesus among the Churches to which St. Paul wrote letters. St. Irenseus quotes Eph 5:30 as the words of “the blessed Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians.” Tertullian argues against
Marcion for the Ephesian destination of this letter. Clement of Alexandria, Origen and St. Basil are equally explicit; and Eusebius includes this Epistle among the sacred writings which were admitted by the whole Church without hesitation.

It is even probable that we have an allusion to this Epistle in Col. 4:16, and a number of references to it in the First Epistle of St. Peter. For the latter compare Eph. 1:3-14 with 1 Pet. 1:2; Eph. 1:20 with 1 Pet. 3:22; Eph. 2:18-22 with 1 Pet. 2:4-6; Eph. 3:10 with 1 Pet. 1:12; Eph. 4:9 with 1 Pet. 3:19; Eph. 5:22-6:9 with 1 Pet. 2:18-3:7. There are also quotations from and allusions to this Epistle, or echoes of it, in the writings of St. Ignatius Martyr, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Tatian, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, and the Epistle of Barnabas.

Moreover, the heretics of the second century not only admitted that St. Paul was the author of this letter, but they even cited it as Sacred Scripture. Marcion, for example, included it in his Canon (cf. St. Epiphanius, Haer., xlii. 9), Valentine made use of it to justify his own doctrine (cf. St. Iren., Adv. Haer., i. 3, 8), Basilides did likewise (Philosoph., vii. 26), and other heretics likewise had recourse to it when they thought it served their purpose.

Among modern Rationalists and non-Catholic writers there are some who have doubted or denied the authenticity of our letter, but there is an equal if not a greater number who admit its genuineness, or incline towards it. In the former group are Schleiermacher, De Wette, Weizacher, Ewald, Baur, Holtzmann, Renan, Schwegler, Davidson, Cone, Moffatt, Dobschutz, Pfleiderer, Clemen, Scott, von Soden, etc.; whereas in the latter group we find such names as Weiss, Zahn, Shaw, Knowling, Lunemann, Lock, Robertson, Bacon, Schenkel, Salmon, Godet, Harnack, McGiffert, Howson, etc. Dr. Hort says he is sure that Ephesians bears “the impress of Paul’s wonderful mind.” Julicher appears to be uncertain.

One of the main reasons for suspecting the authenticity of this Epistle is based upon its similarity to Colossians, from which it is concluded that one or the other or both are the work of some falsifier, living perhaps early in the second century.

We may reply, in the first place, by freely conceding that the resemblances between these two letters are many and striking. For example, (a) the salutations are practically the same; (b) both have the same general structure; (c) in both the principal subjects and leading thoughts are much the same, the relations of Christ to His Church and to the Universe being the dominant thoughts in Ephesians and Colossians respectively; (d) there are many parallel passages, the same words, phrases and similitudes, and, in the practical part, the same counsels and exhortations. But are not these similarities just what we should expect in two letters written by the same author at about the same time to two Churches in practically the same spiritual condition and general environment? They are both Captivity Epistles (Eph. 6: 20; Col. 4:10), and Tychicus is the bearer of them both (Eph. 6:21-22; Col. 4:7-9), very probably
to neighboring Churches known to him. Is it surprising, then, that both letters should discuss similar themes in a similar style?

In the second place, let it be observed that, while there are notable resemblances between Ephesians and Colossians, there are also marked differences. Thus, (a) Colossians is personal and concrete, Ephesians impersonal and general in application, (b) The former inclines to the controversial and polemical; the latter is poetical and mystical, and more Johannine than any other of the Pauline writings. “In Colossians Paul is the soldier, in Ephesians the builder”
(Farrar). “Colossians is a letter of discussion, Ephesians of reflection. In the former we behold Paul in spiritual conflict, in the latter his soul is at rest” (Findlay). (c) The former is Christological, dealing with Christ’s relation to the universe; the latter is the ecclesiastical Epistle, treating of the relation between Christ and the Church. Under this last heading there are five passages in Ephesians which have no parallel in Colossians, namely, Eph 1:3-14, 4:4-16, 5:8-14, 5:22-33, 6:10-17. (d) There are twelve references to the Holy Ghost in Ephesians, and only one in Colossians; there are nine quotations from the Old Testament in the former Epistle, and none in the latter.

In view of the foregoing, it seems to us that no valid argument against the Pauline authorship of Ephesians can be drawn from the resemblances between that Epistle and Colossians. But our objectors find another difficulty in the style and diction of this letter, where, we are told, there are some forty strange words or expressions (ἅπαξ λεγόμενον = hapax legomenon) that do not occur elsewhere, either in the writings of St. Paul or in the whole New Testament; and some forty more which, while they are found elsewhere in the New Testament, are not to be found in St. Paul. Moreover, it is objected that the style here is dull and sluggish; that it is overtaxed with phrases, clauses, synonyms and qualifying epithets; and that it is lacking in the sharpness, vigor, and overpowering eloquence so characteristic of
St. Paul. Hapax legomenon is a term employed by scholars to refer to words and phrases that appear only once or very rarely in a book or an author’s body of work.

In reply to the first difficulty it need only be said that peculiarities of expression may be found more or less in all the letters of St. Paul, and as frequently in those whose authenticity the Rationalists admit as in the others. Thus, for example, we find ninety-six ἅπαξ λεγόμενον (hapax legomenon) in the Epistle to the Romans; ninety-one in 1 Cor.; ninety-two in 2 Cor.; thirty-three in Gal.; thirty-six in Philippians, etc. On the other hand, it should be noted that this letter contains many words not found in the New Testament except in the writings of St. Paul, which is an additional, positive proof of its authenticity.

As regards peculiarities of style and composition, we can say that these are easily and satisfactorily explained by a consideration of the time, place, and conditions in which Paul wrote this letter, as well as the circumstances of the faithful to whom he addressed it. The Apostle was nearing the end of his eventful life; he was a prisoner in Rome, the central city of a vast empire, and he had leisure for meditation on the great mysteries that had been revealed to him. He was writing to Churches unknown to him, at least for the most part, with which he had no reason for discussion or controversy, but which he wished to remind of the spiritual treasures that were theirs. In language, therefore, which often takes on the qualities and proportions of a hymn of adoration he unfolds to his readers in this letter the wealth of sublime thoughts and reasonings that flooded his soul. It is not wonderful, then, that his language here becomes rich and overflowing, soaring up like a cloud of incense to the very throne of God. Paul was writing from his prison cell in Rome, but his heart and soul were with Christ in heaven; he was enchained to a Roman soldier, but his mind swept over the vast Roman domains and took in the conditions of all the Churches scattered throughout the Christian world; he was still bound to his earthly tabernacle, but his thoughts penetrated to the “heavenly places” and pondered the mystery, the plenitude, the light, the love, the peace and glory of the Godhead as revealed in Christ and made known to the Church.

There are few advocates today of the argument against the authenticity of this letter which Baur, Schwegler and other Rationalists based on the Epistle’s relation to the Gnosticism of the second century. First of all, it is well known now that the Gnosticism which was a developed system in the second century had its beginning and early growth in the time of St. Paul. On this point we need only consult Irenaeus (Adv. Har., i. 23), Clement of Alexandria (Strom.,
vii. 18), and Eusebius (Hist. EccL, ii. 13 ; iv. 7).

In the second place, it is altogether doubtful whether there is any allusion in the Epistle to the Ephesians to Gnosticism, as it appeared in the second century. It is far more likely, on the contrary, that the propagators of this heresy made deliberate use of some of the expressions of St. Paul in this letter to help the spread and acceptance
of their own doctrines.

6. Date and Place of Composition. At the close of Paul’s third missionary journey, while he was fulfilling a vow in the Temple at Jerusalem, he was arrested by the Jewish authorities on a false charge (Acts 21:26 ff.) and carried away as a captive to Csesarea, where he was kept in prison for two years (Acts 23:23-24:27). At the end of this period, when the Roman Governor Festus was about to bring him to trial, the Apostle asserted his Roman citizenship and appealed to the tribunal of Cassar; and Festus, having heard Paul’s story and found him guilty of no crime, decided to send him to Rome (Acts 25:1-27). After making the long and perilous journey Paul with Luke finally arrived in the Eternal City and was there kept in prison two more years (Acts 27:1-28:31).

Now we shall assume that the Csesarean imprisonment occurred 58-60 A.D., that St. Paul set out from Caesarea for Rome in the autumn of 60 a.d., arriving in the latter city in the spring of 61 a.d., and that consequently the Apostle’s ensuing Roman captivity was from 61 to 63 A.D. We accept these years, not because they are certain or the only ones, but because they are just as probable as (if not a little more so than) any others that may be given. With these data premised, we ought not to find it difficult to fix the date and place of composition, not only of Ephesians, but also of the three other Captivity Epistles—Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon— on account of the very close relationship between these four letters.

As in the case of the three last-named Epistles, the Apostle was a prisoner on behalf of the Gentiles when he wrote our letter (Eph. 3:1; 4:1; 6:20), and his imprisonment had lasted a considerable time (Eph. 3:1; 6:22). Our letter was carried to its destination by a certain Tychicus (Eph. 6:21), who was at the same time entrusted with a similar letter to be delivered to the faithful at Colossae (Col. 4:6), and who therefore was recommended to both these Churches in almost the same words. On this mission Tychicus was accompanied by Onesimus, a fugitive slave from Colossas, whom the Apostle was sending back with a letter of commendation to his master, Philemon, a well-to-do Christian of that city (Col. 4:7-9). From these clear indications it seems evident that Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon were all written from the same place, during the same imprisonment, and therefore about the same time. But whether Rome or Csesarea was the place of Paul’s captivity at this time is still a disputed question, with the great weight of evidence pointing to Rome. For, if we examine the letter to the Philippians, we shall find that that Epistle was written either shortly before or shortly after these other three, while the Apostle was in the same imprisonment (Phil. 1:12 ff.), and that the indications are all Romeward. Thus the reference to the prsetorium in Phil. 1:13, the relations
between Jewish and Gentile Christians as reflected in Phil 1:15-20, the mention of Caesar’s household in Phil. 4:22, the freedom to preach and teach which St. Paul enjoyed (Phil. 1:12; Eph. 6:23; cf. Acts 24:32 ff., 28:31 ff.), are all much more applicable to Rome than to Caesarea. Again, it must have been when St. Paul was in Rome that he was expecting a speedy release ( Phlm. 22), for surely he was not expecting a release from Caesarea that would soon enable him to visit Philemon in Colossae. Finally, the points of contact between these four Epistles and the Pastoral
Epistles in phraseology, in Christology, in the stress laid on an organized Church and family life, etc., all indicate the later date, and so favor Rome, during the Apostle’s first captivity there between 61 and 64 A.D. (cf. Hastings, Dict, of The Bible, vol. I, p. 718).

In conclusion, then, we hold with the traditional opinion that not only Ephesians, but also Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, were written by St. Paul in the Eternal City, during his first Roman captivity (61-63 a.d.).

7. Occasion and Purpose. We have just seen that the Apostle was a prisoner in Rome when he wrote this letter. Epaphras had brought him news of the dogmatic and moral errors that were springing up in the Church at Colossae and the neighboring cities. Perhaps the Apostle had been accused of a lack of interest In those Churches which he had not personally evangelized, and which had not seen his face (Col. 2:1-5). He had heard of the faith and charity of the “Ephesians,” and he was greatly pleased at this (Eph. 1:15-16); they also had heard of him and of his work among the Gentiles (Eph. 3:2 ff.).

While, therefore, dispatching Tychicus with a letter to the Colossians, St. Paul seized the opportunity to send this letter to those other Churches which he addressed in this Epistle, to remind them of their dignity as Christians and of the glorious life in Christ; to assure them that, though not evangelized by him, they were nevertheless members of the one vast Catholic Church which had been predestined before the ages to unite all mankind, Jews and Gentiles, in one common brotherhood living the life of God ; to exhort them, consequently, to a higher activity and a greater unity in accordance with God’s eternal decrees and purposes for His Church; to warn them against the dangers of sin and possible errors which would imperil their divine life here on earth and their sublime prospects in the eternal life hereafter; and to stimulate them to ever greater efforts in the pursuit of virtue and in the fulfillment of their various
duties. That such were the occasion and purpose of the letter to the “Ephesians” an analysis of its contents seems to show, as well as the hints that we can gather from the Epistle to the Colossians.

8. Argument and Division. In general, this Epistle consists of a brief introduction, in which St. Paul greets his readers
in his usual manner (Eph 1:1-2); a dogmatic part, in which he discusses God’s eternal purpose, realized in Christ, of uniting all mankind, Jews and Gentiles, in the one Church of Christ (Eph 1:3-3:21); a moral part, in which are outlined the duties incumbent upon the members of the Church in the Christian life (Eph 4:1-6:20); and a conclusion, containing some personal matters and a benediction (Eph 6:21-24). A more detailed analysis of the dogmatic and moral parts will help to a better understanding of the Epistle.

A. Dogmatic Part (Eph 1:3—3:21).—(a) A solemn act of thanksgiving to God for our union with Christ (Eph 1:3-14). In lyric fashion, the Apostle begins by recalling the divine benefits for which Almighty God from eternity has chosen and predestined us, that, namely, through the grace of Christ we should be His holy and adopted children (Eph 1:3-6). It was Christ, he says, who in time carried out the divine decree, redeeming us from our sins by His blood, and revealing to us the supreme mystery of God, which was to reconcile to Himself all things in Christ (Eph 1:7-10); for in Christ we have become God’s portion, both we Jews, who had the Messianic promises, and you Gentiles, who by faith have also received the Holy Ghost, the pledge of our eternal inheritance (Eph 1:11-14).

(b) A prayer that the Ephesians may understand the glories of being united to Christ in His Church (Eph 1:13-23). In a special manner the Apostle first thanks God for the faith and love which are already characteristic of the “Ephesians” (Eph 1:15-16). He then prays for a still greater outpouring of the Spirit upon them that they may realize their Christian dignity and their future glory, as well as the greatness of the divine power exerted in our behalf (Eph 1:17-19), and pre-eminently manifested in raising Jesus from the dead, and in making Him Lord of the universe and head of the Church, which is His mystical body (Eph 1:20-23).

(c) The Gentiles’ former heathen life and condition are contrasted with their present privileges in the Church of Christ (Eph 2:1-22). Formerly the “Ephesians” were dead in their sins, walking according to the course of this world and obeying the lusts of the flesh; but God out of pure mercy raised them from their miserable state to a participation in the resurrection and glorification of Christ, by whose grace we are saved (Eph 2:1-10). In order that the “Ephesians” may understand the greatness of the grace they have received, St. Paul bids them recall the state in which they were living before their conversion, and to contrast that with the exalted benefits they now enjoy through their union with Christ (Eph 2:11-13), who has broken down the wall that separated Jews and Gentiles and has
reconciled both the one and the other with the Father (Eph 2:14-18). Henceforth the “Ephesians” are admitted to full membership in the household of God and are made parts of His spiritual edifice (Eph 2:19-22).

(d) A renewed prayer that the “Ephesians” may know and appreciate the greatness of their Christian vocation (Eph 3:1-19). At the thought of the call of the Gentiles into the Church of Christ, St. Paul breaks forth in an act of thanksgiving (Eph 3:1); but the very mention of the Gentiles causes him to interrupt his prayer and to digress upon the part his preaching and ministry have had in their admission into the Church (Eph 3:2-13). Resuming his prayer
(Eph 3:14), the Apostle asks God out of the riches of His glory to give the “Ephesians” spiritual strength and the grace necessary to become perfect Christians (Eph 3:14-19).

(e) Doxology, which concludes the Dogmatic Part of the Epistle: Glory to God in the Church, and in Christ Jesus, the head of the Church, throughout all coming generations, to all eternity (Eph 3:20-21).

B. Moral Part (Eph 4:1-6:20).—(a) The general character of the Christian Ufe, as manifested in the diversity of gifts and functions  of the members of the Church within the one Church (Eph 4:1-16). The Apostle, bound a prisoner in the Lord, exhorts his readers to live a life worthy of their vocation in all charity, being careful to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:1-6). The diversity of the gifts of the Holy Ghost should not be an obstacle to unity, but rather a means of greater solidarity, because all the faithful are members of the one mystical body of Christ
(Eph 4:7-16).

(b) The contrast between the old life of paganism and the new life of Christianity (Eph 4:17-24). The “Ephesians” must live no longer as they did as pagans, in ignorance and impurity (Eph 4:17-19); but, putting away the old man according to the flesh, they must put on the new man according to God (Eph 4:20-24).

(c) Virtues required of all Christians (Eph 4:25-5:21). Our life and unity in Christ require that we refrain from the vices of lying, anger, etc., and practice the contrary virtues (Eph 4:25-32), that we be followers of God and imitators of Christ in our lives, avoiding the works of darkness and walking as children of light (Eph 5:1-14). Let us be truly wise, using well our time, fulfilling the will of God, filled with the Holy Spirit, etc. (Eph 5:15-21).

(d) Admonitions for special classes in the Church (Eph 5:22-6:9). After a general exhortation to obedience (Eph 5:21), the Apostle now takes up the duties of special classes in the Church, namely, those of wives and husbands (Eph 5:22-33), of children and parents (Eph 6:1-4), and of slaves and masters (Eph 6:5-9)—all of which duties are to be
faithfully discharged for the sake of Christ and in Christ.

(e) The warfare of the Church (Eph 6:10-20). From a consideration of things pertaining to the internal welfare of the Church, St. Paul now turns to external needs and reminds his readers of the battles that must be fought against spiritual forces without. Each member of the Church must be prepared to do his part in this warfare, and his weapons must be those of God Himself.

So much for the Dogmatic and Moral Parts. The Conclusion, like the Introduction, has been noticed at the beginning of this section.


Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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

%d bloggers like this: