Lectionary Year B
April 2, 2000
Step III: Immediate Context
A. IMMEDIATE CONTEXT
Pre: The author has greeted the recipients and reminded them of the blessings of Jesus Christ and their (our) redemption through him. In the
same spirit, the first part of chapter 2 encourages the recipients and
continues to rehearse the author's doctrine of Christ's power.
Post: An address specifically to those converts who were non-Jewish, also encouraging and reminding them of Christ's freeing humanity from the Law, so that they are now full citizens of "the household of God." Following this, he proceeds to talk about the Church, its mission and meaning.
(JH) The boundaries of the immediate context stand at 2:1-10. However, one can not ignore the Prayer of Thanksgiving that immediately precedes. It uses similar heightened language in describing God, and describes the great power of God, and how God works through the unity of the body -- the church. The bookend to this pericope is 2:11-21, a discourse on who constitutes the unified church -- Jew and Gentile reconciled. Verse 2:11 actually starts with "so then" language.
B. COMPOSITIONAL WHOLE
a. Address - 1:1-2
(JH) Follows trend of second thought under "general" below. The text runs to build a climax:
b. Theological statement; why we are chosen by God - 1:3-14
c. Expansion on this by reminders of the past and encouragement for the future 1:15 - 2:22
d. What the Church is; its mission and meaning. (Closed with a prayer)
e. What the church should be; unity of one body with many gifts/parts.
f. How to BE the Church; how to behave. Chapters 5 and 6.
Vss1-3 Describes how one is dead in transgressions and sins (nekros language)
Vss 4-9 Starting with a "BUT BECAUSE" statement, talks of the attributes of God and what God did for us. (language of "light"). Trinitarian language (raised up, sit with him, in heavenly places)
Vs 10 Result is God's creation - men and women - for the purpose of responding with good works.
(JH)1. Introduction: Greetings and Prayer (1:1-23)
2. New Life in Christ - Reconciled with Christ and One Another - Prayer at end (2:1-:21)
3. Unity in the Body of Christ - Maintaining both Unity and Accepting Diversity (4:1-16)
4. How Do We Live as Children of God (4:17-5:21)
5. Specific Relationships Discussed (5:22-6:9)
6. Conclusion - Stand Strong against Darkness and Final Greetings (6:10-24)
(SA) This epistle is often attributed to Paul, but many modern scholars feel that it is not one of the authentic Pauline letters and that it is doubtful that it was even addressed specifically to the Ephesians. Among the reasons are:
a. The writer seems not to be familiar with the people in the church at Ephesus. Paul had spent considerable time there and in other letters he included personal addresses to or about people he knew. There are none here. This may negate either or both of the issues of authorship and address.
Some commentators make a case that the epistle was written by a Jewish
disciple of Paul, possibly someone who knew him in Rome but had not been
acquainted with the actual churches in Asia Minor. The letter/treatise was
possibly written after Paul's death, after the fall of the Temple, and after
Christianity had become a religion in which most adherants were former
pagans, not Jews. (However one commentary said that it seems to have been
known to the author of I Peter ( before AD 112), so it likely was
first-century. It possibly was not intended for any particular church, but
for several. The manuscripts containing the words "en Efesw" are not among
the oldest or most reliable. It is likely that there was no original name of
b. Paul tended to write letters to specific churches about specific issues. This is much more general in tone. It does not address a controversy (according to The Interpreter's Bible) but is more of "... a devotional meditation."
c. There are differences in vocabulary and language style.
d. His address to the Gentiles seems to be as "non-Christians" rather than non-Jews. Some think that this indicates a maturity of the Christian church that is later than Paul.
e. "Paul" refers to himself in ways not entirely consistant with his self-references in authentic epistles; the tone is somewhat self-congratulatory.
(JH) It has long been generally believed that Paul wrote this epistle to the church in Ephesus from prison in Rome around 59-62 c.e. However, modern scholars are beginning to question Paul's authorship. I will offer only one, as a way of sharing how one scholarly discourse progress. The epistlesof Ephesians and Colossians are generally linked together because of similarity of language. However, unlike the other epistles to churches, Ephesians makes no specific references to people within the church community by name. Paul had spent two years at Ephesus, and it seems strange that, as he had done in other epistles, would address specific people within that community. Therefore, it is believed that it may either be a "general" letter that could have circulated around several of the churches. Another possibility is that it was written by a follower of Paul shortly after Paul's death. But, whether by Paul or not, the language is clearly marked as a Pauline text -- it still resonates Paul's voice and pen.
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