Classic Repost: Ephesians 1 in Context

I include here an excerpt from an October 2009 post which in itself is a repost of an October 2008 post about Ephesians 1. I first learned that Ephesians 1 could be read this way from a lecture series by Mark Kinzer in 2008. After the excerpt is a link to go and read the whole article:

In Ephesians, again and again, we see Paul comforting and edifying a non-Jewish community of Yeshua-followers who felt second class. These humble believers faced persecution from the synagogue. It is quite likely that in the heart of the Roman Imperial Cult (Asia Minor was a hotbed of rabid emperor worship), these non-Jews were being threatened by the synagogue as illegal cultists to be turned in to the authorities.

I do not have space here to detail the well-known issues of Roman law about religion, the exception made for Judaism, and the status of early believers in Roman eyes as a Jewish sect. If you’d like to know more, say so in the comments and perhaps I can gather some historical support and make a blog post of that as well.

Now, keeping in mind the Ephesians were suffering from a non-Jewish inferiority complex, read Ephesians 1:3-14 carefully, noting the pronouns such as us, we, and you.

Who does Paul mean by us and we? There are three main possibilities:


About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
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6 Responses to Classic Repost: Ephesians 1 in Context

  1. James says:

    I first learned that Ephesians 1 should be read this way from a lecture series by Mark Kinzer in 2008.

    Interesting article and I can certainly see the point you’re making, but I have a slight issue with the phrase “should be read”, which implies that it’s the only way to read Ephesians 1 and that Kinzer’s interpretation is the exclusively correct interpretation. Usually, under these circumstances, people say something like “this is my preferred way to interpret the passage” or “this is a unique, and I believe, illuminating way to read this passage”…something like that.

    I always get a little skittish when someone implies (and I don’t believe this was your intent) that they are right and everybody else is wrong. The Messianic movement in all its forms, has too many people who present themselves this way and legitimate scholars and leaders need to avoid giving that impression.

  2. Good point. I’ll change it to “could be read.” But I’ll leave your comment here.

  3. dorla says:

    Is the word “predestined” supposed to be in verse 5? Are your comments for Ephesians completed for the whole book of Eph., something that can be used for a Bible study or is it just here on the blog?
    We would like to study Ephesians. Can you recommend one? Someone suggested Kay Arthur – but I don’t think that is what I am looking for.

    • Ephesians 1:5 in almost all English versions has “predestined” or “predestinated.” The word could also be translated “decided beforehand.”

      No, I do not have a commentary on Ephesians. I would recommend Markus Barth in the Anchor series, but that is an academic commentary and it does not sound like you are looking for an academic one. I don’t have an Ephesians chapter in my Paul book, unfortunately.


  4. James says:

    Actually, given recent conversations I’ve had in my little corner of the world, I’d be interested in a similar analysis of Ephesians 2.

    Oh, thanks for responding to my “concern”. Much appreciated.

  5. benicho says:

    I believe Paul addresses many more congregations in this manner. On James’ site we discussed Romans 2 (verses 25-27) with this regard, it does seem as if Paul is consistently addressing gentiles who feel as if they’re second class citizens in the Judeo realm. By taking into account this perspective it makes sense why the gentiles then go out and perform the ritual aspects before “circumcision of the heart”. Indeed, Paul is right, what good is circumcision without circumcision of the heart first? It seems as if the gentiles tried to do all these things to fit into the society first or as a way to become more acceptable among the Jewish people. This seems to be something that has come back. For nearly 2000 years we gentiles separated ourselves and put a gravestone on Judaism and the law, now we read Paul’s letters and it’s almost as if he’s addressing us today.

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