Re-Reading Ephesians 1

It’s Sukkot (Tabernacles) right now and several of our families are camping together and enjoying long evenings in our decorated Sukkah (booth) with Christmas lights (just the tasteful white ones), Tiki torches, and a roaring campfire.

Every year we read and discuss a biblical text together. The first few years we call camped together, I would teach the traditional text for Sukkot, which is Ecclesiastes (Qohelet). Yet after a few years of this, people asked for a little more variety.

Our text for this Sukkot is Ephesians. And I’m trying to get my congregational friends to read Ephesians a little differently. Perhaps I could do the same for you . . .
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A few years ago I heard a lecture by Rabbi Dr. Mark Kinzer, simply one of the most brilliant people in our movement, about Ephesians. I emailed him recently and ask him for the notes to that lecture. I found sadly that he hasn’t written anything on Ephesians, but he did send me two audio CD’s.

Dr. Kinzer got me thinking differently about Ephesians. Especially Ephesians 1:3-14.

First, I will lay out for you the most common reading of this cosmologically brilliant text:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us [ALL BELIEVERS] in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us [ALL BELIEVERS] in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. 5 He destined us [ALL BELIEVERS] in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us [ALL BELIEVERS] in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 which he lavished upon us [ALL BELIEVERS]. 9 For he has made known to us [ALL BELIEVERS] in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 we [APOSTLES] who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also [SECOND GENERATION BELIEVERS], who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 which is the guarantee of our [ALL BELIEVERS] inheritance until we [ALL BELIEVERS] acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

If you have not deeply pondered Ephesians 1:3-14 before, it can be a lot to take in. Paul’s brilliant run-on sentences and qualifying clauses can confuse any PhD. Nowadays Paul would have an editor make his prose more comprehensible. Yet, if you have patience to ponder, this is theology on a higher plane. That’s why I call it cosmological. It’s about something big — unifying all things in Messiah (sidenote: much as we pray that our obedience to dwell in a Sukkah for this holiday season would be part of unifying God’s name).

The characteristics of the typical reading of Ephesians 1:13-14 can be summed up simply:
1. Vss. 3-10 describe the blessed characteristics enjoyed by all followers of Jesus.
2. The pronouns change starting in vs. 11, where Paul makes a distinction between “we” and “you also.”
3. The distinction is between the Apostles and their first generation of believers and the second generation (those whom the Apostles are missionizing).

But please allow me to attempt to sabotage the usual reading. There are a few things that do not fit:
1. It would seem preferable to assume more consistency in the use of pronouns in this blessing from the hand of Paul.
2. If there is consistency in pronoun use, then the “us” of vss. 3-10 is not all believers, but something else.
3. Vs. 12 is a big clue to who the “us” and “we” are.
4. For most readers, it will be impossible to understand vs. 12 unless you change “Christ” to “Messiah,” since we have the unfortunate habit of thinking of Christ as Jesus’ last name.
5. The Apostles were not the first to hope in Messiah.
6. Israel was the first to hope in Messiah.
7. We should try reading the whole thing with the “us” and “we” being Paul’s own people: Israel.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, who has blessed us [JEWS] in Messiah with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us [JEWS] in him before the foundation of the world, that we [JEWS] should be holy and blameless before him. 5 He destined us [JEWS] in love to be his sons through Yeshua the Messiah, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us [JEWS] in the Beloved. 7 In him we [JEWS] have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 which he lavished upon us [JEWS]. 9 For he has made known to us [JEWS] in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Messiah 10 as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 we [JEWS] who first hoped in Messiah have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also [GENTILES], who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we [JEWS AND GENTILES IN MESSIAH] acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Last night at our Sukkot site, I had the joy of introducing this reading to a mixed group of Messianic Jews and Gentiles. I enjoyed watching one particular friend, a Messianic Jewish woman, wrestle with a new paradigm. We discussed the potential problems with this reading of Ephesians 1:3-14:

1. But, how can we say that Israel is blessed with every spiritual blessing when Israel on the whole does not believe in Messiah?
2. But, how can we say (vs. 7) that Israel has redemption through the blood of Messiah?

The trick is to read this passage with the assumptions Paul would have and not the assumptions we have after 2,000 years of history.

Was Israel chosen before the foundation of the world? Yes. Was Israel adopted by God as family? Yes. Was Israel waiting for a redeemer to redeem? Yes. Is this talking about Israel in the simple sense of “all Jews”? No. Is this talking about Israel in the sense of faithful Israel? Yes.

It is hard to consider a new paradigm for something when the old is so ingrained. People are used to reading Ephesians 1 as being general blessings for all followers of Yeshua (e.g., Christians).

But try reading it the way I am suggesting. Chew on it. When you think of Israel or the Jewish people, don’t allow the unbelief of much of Israel keep you from seeing it. Think of Moses, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and so one when you think of Israel.

The beautiful thing is this reading of Ephesians not only makes sense, but is profound and meaningful. Paul, a Jew, is writing to a Gentile audience, and describing the blessings they would all agree are for Israel, the beloved Chosen People of God. Paul is then saying, “And you too were included in all this the moment you were believed and were sealed.” Paul, the Jew, is offering inclusion for a people that were formerly not a people, into the blessings of God for his very own Chosen People.

About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christian, Mark Kinzer, Messianic Jewish, Paul, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Re-Reading Ephesians 1

  1. Christian for Moses says:

    Hi Derek,

    Interesting thoughts as always.

    You wrote:

    Paul, the Jew, is offering inclusion for a people that were formerly not a people, into the blessings of God for his very own Chosen People.

    I have several questions:

    These people who were formerly not a people, what are they now? And into what are they included, the blessings only or also the Chosen people? And if they are included into the Chosen people, does this not diminish Jewishness? And if they are not included into the Chosen people how can you reconcile this with Ephesians 2:12? Or is there perhaps a misunderstanding that the name Israel is applied to the People of G’d but there is now an entity called the People of G’d that comprises of Israel and the believers from the Nations?

    Wish you a joyful Sukkot,

    Daniel
    christian4moses.wordpress.com

  2. Daniel:

    Non-Jews in Messiah are included in the Commonwealth of Israel. This concept is comparable to Roman provinces where the people were not Romans, but were included in the protection and government of Rome. This does not erase the Jew-Gentile distinction (any more than the male-female distinction is erased in Messiah).

    My friend, Daniel Lancaster, of First Fruits of Zion explains it this way. He says there is “legal Israel,” which requires birth or conversion, and there is “kingdom Israel,” which incorporates non-Jews into the Messianic community of the Age to Come. Non-Jews in Messiah are incorporated into “kingdom Israel” without becoming Jews.

    Derek

  3. 7jim7 says:

    Hi Derek,

    The referent of “we/us/our” in Ephesians 1:3-14 is Christians. They are repeated stated to be “in Christ.” Only Christians are “in Christ.” Whether they are Gentile or Jew in the flesh is irrelevant. As Paul repeatedly states in Galatians 3:28 and 5:6 and 6:15 and Colossians 3:9-11, the only thing that matters “in Christ” is “Christ,” where being either Gentile or Jew in the flesh or female or male in the flesh does not matter.

    The referent of “we/us/our” in Ephesians 1:3-14 is stated to be destined for God’s glory. Only Christians are destined for His glory, regardless of whether they are Gentile or Jew in the flesh. Compare Romans 9:23-24 and Ephesians 1:6 and 1:12 and 1:14.

    Only Christians have hope, and only Christians hope in Christ, regardless of whether they are Gentile or Jew in the flesh. Compare Romans 8:23-25 and 1 Corinthians 15:19 and Ephesians 1:12 and 1:18 and 2:12 and 4:4 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13.

    Only Christians (the Church) are destined to be holy and without blemish at the resurrection, regardless of whether they are Gentile or Jew in the flesh. Compare Ephesians 1:4 and 5:25-27 and 5:29-30.

    Only Christians are chosen in Christ, regardless of whether they are Gentile or Jew in the flesh. Compare 1:21-31 and Ephesians 1:4.

    The Israel in Romans 9:6-8 and the Israel in Ephesians 2:11-12 are the same Israel. Just as unbelieving Jews are excluded from this Israel in Romans 9:6-8, likewise the Gentiles at Ephesus used to be (“at that time”) excluded from this Israel in Ephesians 2:11-12, that is, before they believed in Christ. This is the Israel whose citizens are Christians (the saints), regardless of whether they Gentile or Jew in the flesh. As Paul goes on to say in Ephesians 2:19-22 (which is a corollary of 2:11-12), now, as believers in Christ (saints), the Ephesians are “the saints’ fellow citizens” (of this Israel whose citizens are the saints [Christians]).

    The “saints” (Christians) are the “citizens” of this “Israel” whose “Cornerstone” is “Christ Jesus Himself” in Ephesians 2:11-12 and 2:19-22. As Jesus Himself says in Matthew 21:42-43, The Stone (Christ) which the builders (the Israelites) rejected was made the Cornerstone of the building (Israel). The building whose Cornerstone is Christ Jesus Himself is the “Israel” that is described in Romans 9:6 and Galatians 6:16 and Ephesians 2:12, whose citizens are the Christians (both Gentile and Jew in the flesh) instead of the Jews, and whose covenant is the New Covenant instead of the Old Covenant, and whose Jerusalem is the Jerusalem that is above instead of the Jerusalem that is on earth, as explained by Paul in Galatians 4:21-31.

    Whereas Judaism (the Old Covenant) focuses on the Jews and glorifies the Jews, making the differences of the flesh (Gentile versus Jew) very important, Christianity (the New Covenant) focuses on Christ and glorifies Christ, making the differences of the flesh (such as Gentile and Jew) irrelevant.

    Just as the “pro” (before) prefix of the participle “proorisaV” (having before ordained) in Ephesians 1:5 does NOT mean that God is THE FIRST to ordain us (Christians) for adoption, likewise the “pro” (before) prefix of the participle “prohlpikotaV” (having before hoped) in Ephesians 1:12 does NOT mean that we (Christians) are THE FIRST to hope in Christ.

    Just as the participle in 1:5 means that God ordains us (Christians) for adoption BEFORE (pro) another action occurs, likewise the participle in 1:12 means that we (Christians) hope in Christ BEFORE (pro) another action occurs.

    In Ephesians 1:4-5, God ordains us (Christians) for adoption (the resurrection) BEFORE (pro) we (Christians) are holy and without blemish (at the adoption / the resurrection). Likewise, in Ephesians 1:12-14, we (Christians) hope in Christ (in this life [1 Corinthians 15:19]) BEFORE (pro) we (Christians) are for the praise of God’s glory (at the resurrection / the adoption).

    As Paul states in Romans 8:23-25, we (Christians) who are in Christ, who have the Spirit, hope UNTIL the adoption (the resurrection), at which point (the resurrection / the adoption) we (Christians) no longer hope, but see.

    Paul’s Christian doctrine throughout his epistles is that hope PRECEDES (pro) glory. So the “pro” (before) prefix does NOT prioritize one group of people ahead of another group of people in the same action. Rather, it prioritizes one action (hoping in Christ) ahead of another action (being for the praise of His glory), the same group of people (Christians) participating in both actions.

    As for the pronoun shift from “we” in Ephesians 1:11-12 to “you/your” in 1:13 to “our” in 1:14,” this is no different than the pronoun shift from “us” in Ephesians 2:5 to “you” in 2:5 to “us” in 2:7 to “you” in 2:8 to “we” in 2:10, which is no different than the pronoun shift from “we” in Galatians 4:5 to “you” in 4:6 to “our” in 4:6, the purpose of which is simply to make what is being stated regarding all believers in Christ (we/us/our) more personal for the believers to whom the epistle is written (you/your).

    That is why, instead of saying in Galatians 4:5-6, “… so that WE would receive the adoption. And because WE are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into OUR hearts,” Paul says, “… so that WE would receive the adoption. And because YOU are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into OUR hearts.”

    That is also why, instead of saying in Ephesians 1:7-14, “IN WHOM WE have the redemption through His Blood … IN WHOM ALSO WE were made an inheritance … so that WE would be for the praise of His glory (at the resurrection), the ones having before hoped in the Christ (all Christians having hoped in the Christ in this life before and until being for the praise of God’s glory at the resurrection), IN WHOM ALSO WE … were sealed by the Holy Spirit of the promise, which is a guarantee of OUR inheritance until the redemption (the resurrection) of the possession, for the praise of His glory (at the resurrection),” Paul says, “IN WHOM WE have the redemption through His Blood … IN WHOM ALSO WE were made an inheritance … so that WE would be for the praise of His glory (at the resurrection), the ones having before hoped in the Christ (all Christians having hoped in the Christ in this life before and until being for the praise of God’s glory at the resurrection), IN WHOM ALSO YOU … were sealed by the Holy Spirit of the promise, which is a guarantee of OUR inheritance until the redemption (the resurrection) of the possession, for the praise of His glory (at the resurrection).”

    That is also why, instead of saying in Ephesians 2:5-10, “and being, US, dead in the trespasses, He-made-alive-with the Christ—by grace WE are saved—and He-raised-with (with the Christ [ellipsis]) and He-caused-to-sit-with (with the Christ [ellipsis]) in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, so that He would show in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of His grace in kindness on US in Christ Jesus. For by the grace WE are saved through belief … For His work WE are, created in Christ Jesus in good works, which God before made ready, so that in them WE would walk,” Paul says, “and being, US, dead in the trespasses, He-made-alive-with the Christ—by grace YOU are saved—and He-raised-with (with the Christ [ellipsis]) and He-caused-to-sit-with (with the Christ [ellipsis]) in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, so that He would show in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of His grace in kindness on US in Christ Jesus. For by the grace YOU are saved through belief … For His work WE are, created in Christ Jesus in good works, which God before made ready, so that in them WE would walk.”

    Neither in Galatians 4:5-6 nor in Ephesians 1:7-14 nor in Ephesians 2:5-10 does Paul differentiate two different groups of people (we and you). To the contrary, in all three passages, Paul speaks of one group of people, namely, Christians (we), that is, all believers in Christ (we), and he intermittently inserts “you” (the believers to whom the epistle is written) where he would normally say “we” (all believers in Christ) in order to make what he is stating to be true of all believers in Christ (we) more personal for the believers to whom the epistle is written (you).

    The translation of Ephesians 1:12-13 that says that “we” are “the first” to hope in Christ and that “you” also hope in Him is a horrendous mistranslation of the Greek. It bears no resemblance whatsoever to what the Greek language in Ephesians 1:12-13 actually, literally states.

    Jim

    • Jim:

      We, us, and your mean the same thing in Greek (literally) as in English :-)

      Your reading of “Israel” in Romans 11 is without any merit whatsoever. I draw your attention to Romans 11:28, “they are enemies of the gospel.”

      Confronted with this evidence, will you rethink your strongly worded rebuttal or will you stubbornly retain your poorly thought out interpretation?

      Derek

  4. 7jim7 says:

    Hi Derek,

    Throughout Ephesians 2:11-22, the referent of “we/us/our” is all believers (Christians), who have been made into one new man in Christ through the cross.

    The “citizenship” of the “Israel” in 2:12 is comprised of the ones who are “in Christ” (Christians). All believers in Christ (the saints / Christians) are the citizens of this Israel, and all unbelievers (non-saints) are non-citizens of this Israel. The Ephesians USED TO BE (as unbelievers) excluded from the citizenship of Israel (the Israel whose citizens are the saints [Christians]), but NOW (as believers) they are the saints’ fellow citizens of Israel (the Israel whose citizens are the saints [Christians]). Christ is the Cornerstone of this Israel.

    This Israel in Ephesians 2:12, from which the Ephesians used to be excluded by unbelief, is the SAME Israel in Romans 9:6-8, from which Jewish unbelievers are excluded by their unbelief, which is a DIFFERENT Israel than the Israel in Romans 9:31-32 and 11:7, which is comprised of Jewish unbelievers, who have stumbled by not believing in Christ, as stated in 9:32-33.

    Paul says in Romans 11:25 that Israel is DIVIDED into TWO PARTS, a believing part (the Israel in 9:6-8), into which the Gentiles are “entering” through belief in Christ (as stated in 11:25), and an unbelieving part (the Israel in 9:31-32 and 11:7).

    The Israel in Romans 9:6-8 (the Christians) is the Israel in Galatians 6:16 and in Ephesians 2:12, which is the part of Israel that believes in Christ, whereas the Israel in Romans 9:31-32 and 11:7 (the Jews) is the OTHER Israel, that is, the OTHER part of Israel, the part that does NOT believe in Christ.

    In Ephesians 2:19-21, Paul explicitly includes the Ephesians (YOU) in the “WHOLE BUILDING,” saying, “IN WHOM [in Christ] WHOLE BUILDING (WE, all believers, including YOU) … is growing into holy temple ….” Then Paul says in 2:22, “IN WHOM [in Christ] ALSO YOU you-are-being built-together into dwelling-place of-the God in Spirit.” The phrase “in whom also you” in 2:22 does NOT exclude the referent of “you” from the phrase “in whom whole building (we)” in 2:21, in which the referent of “you” had already been explicitly included.

    Now compare Ephesians 1:11-13, where Paul says, “IN WHOM ALSO WE were-made-inheritance … for to be, US, for praise of-glory of-Him … IN WHOM ALSO YOU … were sealed by-the Spirit of-the promise, the Holy, which is guarantee of-the inheritance of-US …

    The phrase sequence “in whom also we (all believers) … in whom also you (the believers to whom the epistle is written)” in 1:11-13 no more excludes the referent of “you” (the believers to whom the epistle is written) from the referent of “we” (all believers) than the phrase sequence “in whom whole building (all believers) … in whom also you (the believers to whom the epistle is written)” in 2:21-22 excludes the referent of “you” (the believers to whom the epistle is written) from the referent of “whole building (all believers).”

    Just as there are two different covenants (the Old and the New) and two different groups of people (the Jews and the Christians) and two different Jerusalems (the earthly and the heavenly) in Galatians 4:21-31, likewise there are two different Israels (the Israel of the Old Covenant, whose citizens are the Jews and whose Jerusalem is on earth, and the Israel of the New Covenant, whose citizens are the Christians, and whose Jerusalem is in heaven). The New Covenant Israel in Galatians 4:21-31 is the Israel of God in Galatians 6:16, whose citizens walk by the rule that what matters in Christ is neither circumcision nor uncircumcision but the new creation in Christ.

    There are two Israels, just as there are two covenants (the Old and the New). The citizens of the New Covenant Isreal (the Christians) are fellow participants in the covenents of the promise, the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant being received in the New Covenant through belief in Christ.

    That’s Paul’s doctrine, whether a person likes it or not.

    To say that there is no New Covenant Israel is to deny the New Covenant prophecy in Jeremiah and to deny the necessity of the New Covenant and to deny the necessity for Christ, the mediator of the New Covenant, to go to the cross.

    Sooner or later the Old Covenant had to be replaced by the New Covenant. This happened at the cross. When this happened, part of Israel got on board and the other part of Israel did not get on board, hence the two Israels.

    Jim

  5. bography says:

    Derek I agree with you that “Israel in Romans 9:31-32;11:7;11:25;11:28 refers to ethnic Israel. So, in my book (figuratively speaking) there is a distinction between the Church (the New Israel – consisting of gentile and Jewish believers in Jesus THE Christ) and ethnic Israel, of which a remnant will come to believe in Jesus/Yeshua at a later stage.

    As for the main reading of the passage, I agree with Jim – “us” refers to all believers – Jew and Gentile, who were the believers residing in Ephesus. For all we know there might have been far more Gentile Ephesian believers than Jewish Ephesian believers.

    Regarding your criticism of the term “Christ” as a surname. I think all Ephesian Christians knew – except maybe the very ignorant ones – that “Christ” meant a title/description. After all, they all/most spoke Greek and knew that “Christ” was Greek for “anointed.” In grammar, as you know, there are “common” nouns (mechanic, baker) and “Proper” nouns (Jerusalem, Joe). When a common noun becomes closely identified with a Proper noun, they meld together so that Joe THE Baker, becomes Joe Baker, which is very proper (appropriate). That is how many surnames were formed. Think of Yossel Cohen (Joe Priest – yech!).

    So Messianic Jews shouldn’t get too upset with the term “Christ,” even if it’s all “Greek” – and treif – to them.

  6. Bography:

    Where did you get the idea that I have an issue with the term “Christ”? I do not and use Messiah and Christ interchangeably. If you saw something I wrote, please let me know.

    I’ve seen you comments on other Bible blogs and I know you to be an intelligent commentator. So I’m surprised that you take issue with my suggestion about the pronouns in Ephesians 1 but offer no evidence.

    Perhaps I need to redo an Ephesians 1 blog post and perhaps you’d like to have some exegetical dialogue. Let me know and I’ll put it on the docket for this week.

    Derek Leman

  7. bography says:

    Derek, about the first point:

    Your first change was “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah,”

    So this change was not part of the sabotage, which is focused on the pronouns? (I’m a bit confused – as we say in biblical Hebrew, full of Bilbool).I wonder why you changed “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” to “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah,” because Paul said the former in his letter.

    The other issue about the “us”:

    It is clear to me and many minds far more brilliant than mine that “us” in 1:3 (and other places) refers to Paul’s obvious audience, which is a mix of Jewish and Greek believers, who, by the way, were all familiar with the lingua franca of Ephesus – Greek.

    So the original 1:3 is the only way I can possibly understand the verse:

    1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us [ALL BELIEVERS] in Christ.

    On a personal – and amicable – note, I’m also (as well?, as well as you?) a very sensitive Jewish intellectual.

  8. Bography:

    About the first issue first: the preference in Messianic Judaism to use “Yeshua” and “Messiah.”

    Translators are always traitors. I know you know this. But here is your logic: Paul said Christ so his translators should be constrained to translate this as Christ.

    Actually, as you know, Paul said Christos. It is a Hellenistic way to say “anointed one” just as Messiah is the Hebraic way to say “anointed one.” Messiah is as valid a translation as Christ.

    For modern readers, a translator should consider what “Christ” means to most readers and what “Messiah” means. “Christ,” sadly, has been emptied of its roots in Judaism. “Messiah” has not.

    In this passage, in particular, I am saying that Jesus’ identity as the Jewish Messiah is specifically in view. Hence my translation.

    Further, if our community in Messianic Judaism prefers Messiah over Christ for reasons of history and culture, why not let us have our perfectly valid preference? At least with the more mature segment of our movement this is not in any way a rejection of or separation from Christianity.

    Derek Leman

  9. Bography:

    Regarding the second point, in which you argue that I have it wrong and that Paul is not speaking from within the Jewish people to the Ephesian gentiles, you argue as follows:
    (1) Us must include Paul’s audience because this pronoun must always include those being addressed.
    (2) Brilliant exegetes have written commentaries saying he means to include the Ephesian believers in the us of 1:3.

    Let me address (2) first. Brilliant exegetes can be wrong and some brilliant exegetes agree with my reading. I don’t have it in front of me, but I think Markus Barth (Anchor) reads it as I do. I know Mark Kinzer does. “Brilliance” is not an argument anyway.

    As for (1): I deny that “us” in an address always includes the audience. Illustration: I come to a church to speak about Messianic Judaism. I say, “God has blessed us with a new Torah scroll thanks to your prayers and support.” Note that the “us” here means “us Messianic Jews.”

    Therefore, my reading is possible. The evidence I offer for it, you have not addressed (the change in pronouns).

    Now, back to you, Bography…

    Derek Leman

  10. bography says:

    Derek you say:

    As for (1): I deny that “us” in an address always includes the audience. Illustration: I come to a church to speak about Messianic Judaism. I say, “God has blessed us with a new Torah scroll thanks to your prayers and support.” Note that the “us” here means “us Messianic Jews.”

    Let’s look at the beginning of the letter:

    1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
    To the SAINTS OF EPHESUS,the faithful in Christ Jesus:

    2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
    3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed US in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

    Surely the referrant of “us” can only be the Saints at Ephesus?

  11. Bography:

    Enjoyable exchange. I still don’t think you’ve got it.

    “Derek, a rabbi at Tikvat David by the grace of God, to you, the saints at Elm Street UMC, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

    God has blessed us with a few new Jewish families this year. Thank you for your prayers and support.”

    Note that there is no GRAMMATICAL requirement that “us” mean “Derek and Elm Street UMC.”

    Further, how are we to understand the pronoun change starting in vs. 11 and following. Who is the “you also” if the addressees were included in the original “us”?

    Derek

  12. bography says:

    From verse 12, Paul splits up “us” of the previous verses into those who “FIRST hoped in Christ” and “YOU”, the second generation. I don’t see anything amiss about that.

    11 In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 we [APOSTLES] who FIRST hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory. 13 In him YOU ALSO [SECOND GENERATION BELIEVERS], who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 which is the guarantee of our [ALL BELIEVERS] inheritance until we [ALL BELIEVERS] acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

    Chapter 2 consolidates the context of Chapter 1 (as any second chapter should).

    In Chapter 2, the different context of “us” and “you” is clear. When “you” refers to Gentiles, Paul makes it clear – “you who were Gentiles.” Furthermore, the “us” becomes even clearer (if it needed to be made clearer) when Paul talks of ONE NEW MAN later in the chapter.

    Ephesians 2

    1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you [PAUL SAYS “YOU” TO PUT THE SPOTLIGHT ON HIS READERS. SOMETIMES THE SPOTLIGHT IS ON EVERYONE – “US”, OTHER TIMES ON “YOU”. THIS IS A NORMAL COMMUNICATIVE DEVICE in a TEACHER-LEARNER SITUATION] have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

    11Therefore, remember that formerly YOU WHO ARE Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)— 12remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

    One New man

    14For he himself is OUR peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

    YOU believers (Jews and Gentiles) need to leanr who YOU are in christ, yes, WE need to learn who we are in Christ. (A common way for a teacher – who knows he/she has much to learn – addresses his/her pupils.

  13. Bography:

    Aha. Now I have you. Prepare to be skewered.

    The first to hope in Christ would not be the “first generation” of Yeshua-followers. It would be Israel. Would Paul say that the disciples and apostles were the first to hope in Messiah? Would this be consistent with his thought? No.

    It seems to me the “Christ” thing is misleading you. That is why I suggested “Messiah” puts a different light on this discourse in Paul.

    Derek Leman

  14. bography says:

    Ouch, and where it really hurts.

    Derek you said

    “The first to hope in Christ would not be the “first generation” of Yeshua-followers. It would be Israel.”

    A generation is about 40 years or so. Why can’tthe FIRST generation be a mix of Jews and Gentiles – the proportion of Jews to Gentiles not being the issue here. (I still think that this issue is peripheral).

    I’m skewered (ouch again), but might you not be – just a smigeon – skewed?

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