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Ephesians

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Letter
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(3/5) ***
Reliability of Dating:
(2/5) **
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Greek
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Estimated Range of Dating: 80-100 A.D.

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Information on Ephesians

Kummel provides three arguments that have persuaded most scholars to consider Ephesians to be deutero-Pauline (Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 358-361): language and style, dependence upon Colossians, and theological differences.

  1. Many terms in Ephesians aren't found in genuine Paulines but are found in the later NT writings and early patristic writings. Also, the author of Ephesians uses different words for important Pauline concepts. "Although these and related linguistic and stylistic differences alone could not prove the Pauline authorship of Eph to be impossible, they make extremely difficult the supposition that Paul could have written Eph in the form in which it has been handed down."

  2. Almost all of Ephesians evinces verbal contacts with Colossians, indicating that the author of Ephesians wrote in imitation of Colossians, and the author also shows contact with the rest of the Pauline corpus (excepting II Thess). "Decisive against assuming that the same author wrote Col and Eph very quickly one after the other are those instances where Eph manifests clearly (a) literary dependence or (b) at the same time a really substantive difference from Col."

  3. Kummel shows five different ways in which Ephesians clearly has a further developed theology than Colossians. Moreover: "If these developments beyond Paul are in any case completely inconceivable in a letter of Paul written at almost exactly the same time as Col, other ideas and formulations in Eph stand in any case in irreconcilable opposition to Paul. In characteristic fashion, Eph 2:10 in reworking Col 1:10 employs the plural erga agatha which Paul always avoids (see 21.4.1). Equally characteristic is the fact that Eph in contrast with Col uses several en-formulae that Paul does not have: en tw cristo ihson (3:11), en tw ihson (4:21), en tw kurio ihson (1:15). And in 1:15 pistis is linked with kurios, while in Paul it is linked only with cristos. Also it cannot be an accident that only in Eph 1:17; 3:14 (in contrast to all the Pauline letters) do we hear God addressed as Father in petition. Still more essential than these divergences, however, are three other factors which cannot be reconciled with Pauline authorship. First, in contrast to all the Pauline letters including Col 3:4, there is lacking in Eph any mention of the expectation of the parousia. With its formulation eis pasas tas geneas ton aiwnos twn aiwnwn, Eph 3:21 is scarcely counting on a near eschaton. The valuing of marriage as the image of the heavenly union of Christ and his church (5:25 ff) is scarcely open to the same Paul who wrote I Cor 7. Finally, the statement that Paul's commissioned office was to proclaim the unity of Jews and Gentiles in the promise of Christ (3:2 ff) is contradicted by his own statements including Col 1:25 ff, and the self-designation of Paul as egacistoteros pantwn agiwn (3:8) is scarcely a conceivable overstatement of egacistos ton apostolwn (I Cor 15:9)."

Richard Heard writes (An Introduction to the New Testament): "These developments of Pauline thought are of great value and importance, but seem to be the building of another thinker on Pauline foundations rather than Paul's continuation of his own work. This impression is confirmed by the nature of the epistle itself which does not address itself to a particular situation, as all of Paulís genuine epistles do, but is more of a treatise than a letter. The personal references (3:1, 4:1, 6:21-22) appear to be selected from Colossians, and the reference to 'holy' apostles (3:5) sounds strange from Paul's pen, although natural to a writer of the next generation."

A. D. Howell-Smith writes (Jesus Not a Myth, pp. 132-133):

If the Pauline authorship of Colossians is doubtful, that of Ephesians is still more so. In style it differs even more than the Epistle to the Colossians from the earlier Epistles attributed to Paul. Though it has stylistic peculiarities, as well as expressions, which differentiate it from Collosians, there are such close resemblances, in places, between the two as to suggest that Ephesians was written in imitation of the other work. The Christologies of both Epistles are similar. It is hard to believe that Paul wrote that the Church is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets" (Ephes. ii, 20); would one who had to fight so hard for his claim to apostleship against those who denied it have spoken in this impersonal way of the Apostles as a closed and sacred body? Still harder is it to regard as Pauline the statement that the "mystery which from all ages has been hid" - to wit, "that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs" of the Gospel of Christ - has been now revealed "unto (Christ's) holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit" (Ephes. iii, 5, 6, 9). The "holy apostles" are here represented as joint recipients of the same revelation, and Paul is merged in the group as having no special status of his own in the divine economy. That which Paul called "my Gospel" is no longer recognized as such, and the long struggle he had undergone to win for his Gentile converts spiritual equality with Jewish Christians has been quite forgotten.

Against Wallace, it is not the case that 1 Clement is familiar with Ephesians. The earliest author to show clear dependence upon Ephesians is Ignatius (Eph 12:1, Polyc 5:1). Kummel reasons (op. cit., p. 366): "If, then, it is determined that Eph was written in the post-Pauline period, the fact that Ignatius knows it implies a date no later than the first decade of the second century. A more exact date might be determined if we could prove a literary dependence of I Peter on Eph, but in view of the common paranetic tradition this is not convincing. And since Eph seems to know the collected Pauline letters, an earlier date is not likely. The date of writing cannot be determined more closely than sometime between 80 and 100."

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