ΠΑΥΛΟΣ ΑΠΟΣΤΟΛΟΣ ΧΡΥ ΙΗΥ ΔΙΑ ΘΕΛΗΜΑΤΟΣ | ΘΥ ΤΟΙΣ ΑΓΙΟΙΣ ΟΥΣΙΝ ΚΑΙ ΠΙΣΤΟΙΣ ΕΝ ΧΙΩ | ΙΗΥ ΧΑΡΙΣ ΥΜΕΙΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΙΡΗΝΗ ΑΠΟ ΘΥ ΠΡΣ | ΗΜΩΝ ΚΑΙ ΚΥ ΙΗΥ ΧΡΥ Ο ΕΥΛΟΓΗΣΑΣ ΗΜΑΣ ...
PAUL AN-APOSTLE OF-CHRIST JESUS THROUGH THE-WILL | OF-GOD, TO-THE SAINTS BEING AND BELIEVERS IN CHRIST | JESUS. GRACE TO-YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE-FATHER | OF-US AND LORD JESUS CHRIST [omitted (v.3, 1st half): Blessed be the God & Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ] THE-ONE HAVING-BLESSED US ...
Chester Beatty Papyrus P46, generally dated by writing style between ad.150 & ad.250, with an earliest assessment of c.ad.80. This part of P.Mich.inv.6238 ( Folio 146. recto) is the start of Paul's epistle to the Ephesians, vss.1-3.
P46 was a book.
The folio is headed 'To the Ephesians', but no church is mentioned in the salutation.
(Note the use of Nomina sacra (overlined) in this early copy of the NT.)
Paul knew the church at Ephesus well. He spent more than two years there (Acts 19-20)—longer than he spent in any other single city during his missionary work. One would therefore expect his letter to this church to be particularly intimate and personal. But in fact this "Letter to the Ephesians" is the least personal of all those attributed to Paul. It contains no hint that the writer was personally acquainted with his correspondents—indeed the impression given by such verses as 1.15 and 3.2-4 is that he had never met them; and it seems impossible to believe that the letter was really written by Paul to his friends at Ephesus. A further peculiarity of the letter is that, compared with the majority of Paul's letters, it is about nothing in particular. There is, of course, plenty of solid teaching in it about the church, about the unity of all Christians, about the institutions of marriage and slavery, and about the fight against supernatural powers; but, even if one may occasionally suspect a particular danger or heresy to have been in the writer's mind, there is no point at which the letter is clearly addressed to a specific situation or problem. The tone is throughout general, never particular, and in fact the letter reads more like a circular letter or homily than like a document from a missionary's correspondence. Add to this the fact that the words 'at Ephesus' in the first verse are omitted in a number of manuscripts, and may therefore have been added at a much later date, and it is difficult to resist the conclusion that originally the letter was never intended for this or any other particular church, but that the writer, using the form of a letter (as was not unusual in antiquity), was in fact composing a treatise of general interest to Christians, wherever they might be.
The letter purports to have been written by Paul from prison (1.1; 3.1; 6.19-22). But this does not necessarily settle the question of authorship. In antiquity, the writing of literary works under the name of a distinguished master was not regarded in quite the same light as it would be now. It might be felt, for instance, that certain ideas of the master's which he had not committed to writing but which were remembered by his disciples ought to be given wider circulation; and for this purpose a book might legitimately be written under the master's name and so far as possible in his style. A generation or so later, when the circumstances surrounding the production of the book had been forgotten, it might be included, in all good faith, among the collected works of the master. Many such cases are known from antiquity, and several of the New Testament writings may have originated in this way. Among the letters attributed to Paul, Ephesians is one of those which, since early in the last century, has most frequently come under a similar suspicion.
There are a number of minor peculiarities in the letter—its formal structure, its vocabulary, its style—which distinguish it from the other letters of Paul. But the one really remarkable feature is its relationship with Colossians. Several paragraphs are almost identical; only Colossians, out of all the New Testament letters, offers any parallel to the extraordinarily elaborate style of Ephesians; and the number of verbal resemblances is so great that the author of Ephesians must either have had Colossians fresh in his mind or had an actual copy of it in front of him.There are also frequent reminiscences in Ephesians of other passages in Paul's writings. Now these facts, however curious, do not make it impossible that Paul was the author; but another widely held explanation of them is that the letter was composed by an early Christian writer who was steeped in Paul's works and whose ideas were only a slight development of those which Paul had expressed in his letter to the Colossians.
The result, however, is by no means slavish imitation. The writer of this letter, whether it was Paul or another, may have drawn freely on the language of Colossians, but he made it carry a new and different message. What is said here about the church—its nature and its place in the divine ordering of the universe (The glory of Christ in the church)—is unique in the New Testament, and there are many other passages in which, though the language is more-or-less familiar, the thought is striking and original. The questions raised by the origin and purpose of this letter, the strangeness of its style and its curious ties with Colossians, are ultimately of little importance beside the richness of the ideas which find expression in it.
The greeting, which follows the usual Christian pattern (see above on Romans i.i), does little more than name the writer and the recipients. The writer is described as an apostle of Christ Jesus, commissioned by the will of God (1)—a status which receives fuller treatment in the opening verses of Galatians; and the recipients are called believers incorporate in Christ Jesus. Where the English has incorporate in, the Greek has simply "in". But the conception of believers being "in" Christ is a rich and complex one, and is most easily understood in terms of Paul's doctrine that Christians are 'limbs of Christ's body' (1 Corinthians 12.27). The NEB translators have introduced the expression incorporate in to draw out this meaning.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (3). This Christian adaptation of one of the commonest of Jewish religious phrases ("Blessed be God, who ...") seems to have become already a stereotyped expression in the church (it occurs in identical words at 2 Corinthians 1.3 and 1 Peter 1.3). In 2 Corinthians 1 the burst of praise is evoked by the experience of God's 'consolation' given in this present life to Christians undergoing tribulation. Here the motive is a promise of a different kind: spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. Christians have a great destiny, to be fulfilled not only on earth but in heaven. That is to say (and this is an important theme of the letter), they are to share in Christ's ascendancy over all supernatural powers which may be held to influence life on earth: they are to take their place above all such beings in the heavenly realms.
This high destiny is expressed in terms borrowed from the language used by the Jewish people about themselves. To the Jews, it was axiomatic that they had been chosen from all other races in the world to receive a unique inheritance; and when they reflected on the question when the act of divine choice took place, it seemed logically necessary to push this moment of choosing as far back in history as possible—indeed, even beyond its beginnings. But then, in the formless time before the world was created, how could God have made a choice? What object could have existed for God to point to and say, That is what I choose? One answer was found in the figure of the Messiah. The Messiah was thought of as a divinely appointed person of the future, whose main function would be to usher in the new age of Israel's glory. That such a person should at some future moment make his appearance and fulfil his prescribed destiny was intended by God from the beginning. Indeed, God had determined who this person was to be. As later Jewish scholars were to put it, the "name of the Messiah" was one of the things which existed before the world began. But if God had chosen the Messiah before the world was founded (4) he must also have chosen the people whom that Messiah was to deliver. There was a sense in which God had chosen Israel "in" the Messiah.
All this could be given a Christian interpretation. Jesus was the Messiah (that is, the Christ), and Christians were the true Israel. It was as represented by Christ that God, even before history, had chosen his new people for their destiny: In Christ he chose us before the world was founded (4).
A description of this destiny is attempted first in Jewish terms: to be dedicated, to be without blemish, is a metaphor drawn from the temple sacrifices—Christians were to be made by God (what they could never be otherwise) all that a victim needs to be if it is to be acceptable;they were to be accepted as his sons (5)—though no longer because, like the Jews, they belonged to a particular nation which was accustomed to regard God as its "father"; they were to have release (7), which was one of the commonest expressions of the Jews for the removal of all the obstacles, physical and political as well as spiritual, which prevented them from fulfilling what they believed to be their true destiny (and this was always understood to involve an unmerited act of God by which sins would be forgiven); and they were to have full wisdom and insight (8). This last gift moves beyond the strictly Jewish horizon. It was the promise of every religion and every philosophy to provide insight into the pattern and purpose of the universe, and Christianity was soon challenged to do the same. Its answer was that the Christ who was now revealed to Christians had existed since before the world began, and had represented all along the hidden purpose of God (9). He contained within himself the principle of unity (10) and completeness which was manifest already in the comprehensiveness and universality of the new people of God—the church, Christ's body—but was also to be revealed in the whole universe.
In Colossians, this last point is worked out on a cosmic and metaphysical scale. In Ephesians, the concern is more with a particular application of it. One of the most flagrant cases of disunity in the universe was seen by this writer to be the racial intolerance which existed between Jews and non-Jews; and one of the most dramatic changes brought about by Christ was the removal of this barrier. The Jews (with whom this author appears to identify himself when he says we (11)) had long looked forward to a glorious fulfilment of their destiny, and associated this fulfilment with the coming of a Messiah (a Christ); but they had always thought of this as something reserved for themselves alone, to the exclusion of all other nations, and so their expectations had had the effect of merely accentuating the religious and social exclusive-ness of their culture. But the newly revealed Christ cut right across this distinction. Gentiles (you too (13), to this writer) were now to share the heritage as much as Jews—indeed both alike were already experiencing a new force in their lives which was a guarantee of their future destiny: the seal of the promised Holy Spirit. This reversal of an age-old prejudice seemed to this author one of the most significant moments in the 'hidden purpose' of God.
The whole of the last two paragraphs consists, in the Greek, of one continuous sentence. The pivot is the opening formula, 'Praise be to God, who ...', and the rest is an elaborate conglomeration of subordinate clauses, loosely attached together and creating, more by accumulation than by any logical sequence, a sense of the magnitude of the blessings for which God is to be praised. As such, it presents the most extreme example in the New Testament of a style which also appears elsewhere (particularly in Colossians), and which doubtless originates in the language of worship: its somewhat general and repetitive phrases build up a strongly devotional atmosphere. The thanksgiving is followed (as so often in New Testament letters) by a prayer, which is a little more personal, though it continues in somewhat the same richly loaded style, and is still in fairly general terms. Yet it is noticeable that the gifts which are prayed for seem concentrated around one of the points which has come up in the previous section, namely wisdom (17). Usually, such prayers are more diverse, and have a practical slant; but here, the prayer (which draws on some of the language of the great paragraph which precedes it) is entirely for a certain kind of knowledge. The reason for this may be that the author has in mind a situation somewhat similar to that which elicited the letter to the Colossians. There may have been a tendency in the church to suggest that Christ offered only limited power and limited knowledge, and that there were other powers and other mysteries abroad which could not be mastered without stronger resources than Christ alone could supply. To which this author replies by appealing (as the early Christians loved to do) to the first verse of Psalm 110: (20)
"The Lord says to my lord:
' Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool.'"
and to Psalm 8.6: (22)
"Thou hast put all things under his feet."
These words, they believed, declared the truth about Christ. They proved that his place was above all other powers, not only in the present order of the universe, but also (in the terminology they had taken over from the Jews) in the age to come (21). Not that Christ is thereby removed in lofty majesty from creation: on the contrary, he is organically related to it through the church, which is his body (22). Indeed, it is by means of the church that he fills the universe and explains its mystery—such seems to be the drift of the last sentence of the chapter, which (at least to modern ears) seems more impressive in sound than precise in meaning.
Time was ... (2) The following paragraph reads almost like a summary of the main theme of Romans. Not only Gentiles (again addressed as you) but Jews as well (we too), by reason of the standard of moral conduct they all displayed, lay under the dreadful judgement of God (Romans 1-2). And yet, even when we were all in this condition (Romans 5.8), God brought us to life with Christ (5) (Romans 6.11), not because of anything we had done or deserved, but entirely by his grace (Romans 3.24). There is nothing for anyone to boast of (9) (Romans 3.27-8); but on the other hand, we are now under obligation to devote ourselves to the good deeds for which God has designed us (10) (Romans 8.12). All this is familiar Pauline theology; yet at two points it breaks new ground.
(i) Both Romans and Ephesians describe the general state of mankind, as it was before the advent of Christ, in straightforward moral and psychological terms. We all lived our lives in sensuality, and obeyed the promptings of our own instincts and notions (3) is language typical of both letters. But Ephesians also adds another dimension, which is only hinted at in Romans. Immorality is thought of not only as endemic in man (due to our natural condition(3)) but as originating outside, inflicted by demonic powers. Such powers were believed to exist in the space immediately above the earth (the air(2)), and their commander was, of course, Satan. The means by which Satan and his underlings worked upon men was through an evil spirit which inclined them to immorality (a similar idea is prominent in the Dead Sea Scrolls); and although the effect was psychological, the ultimate cause was often thought to be a personified form of evil working upon men from outside. This conception is of some importance later in the letter.
(ii) In union with Christ Jesus he raised us up (6). This is exactly the same point as is made in Romans 6.5-11, where it is the intimate solidarity of Christians with Christ, not only in his death but in his resurrection, which explains the new life they now enjoy, and gives them a sure hope for the future. But here the idea is taken a stage further. Our union with Christ extends beyond the resurrection to the ascension: he ... enthroned us with him in the heavenly realms (6). This is what releases us from the 'spiritual powers of the air' just mentioned: by our solidarity with Christ, we occupy a place far superior to theirs.
The magnitude of the change brought about by Christ can be seen from another point of view. Gentiles were not only (in Jewish eyes) proverbially prone to moral laxity, they suffered from a radical disadvantage. When the Jews called the Gentiles 'the uncircumcised' (11) they meant far more than the empirical fact that Gentiles (unlike Jews) belonged to a culture in which circumcision was not practised—though Jewish Christians had now karnt that this was nothing after all but an outward rite. They meant that the Gentiles were deprived of all those ultimate advantages and privileges which the Jews deemed themselves to possess—even the Gentiles' worship of many 'gods' and many 'lords' (1 Corinthians 8.5) left them ultimately in a world without hope and without God (12). With regard to the coming judgement, the Jews believed that their only ground of confidence was membership of the community of Israel—and this was barred to Gentiles. There was no means by which (according to a common Jewish interpretation of Isaiah 57.19) those who were far off could be brought near (13). But the shedding of Christ's blood had changed all this. Christ, being the proclaimer (verse 17) and maker (verse 15) and very essence (verse 14) of peace, had broken down the enmity which stood like a dividing wall between them (15). It has sometimes been thought that the key to this metaphor is the balustrade in the temple area in Jerusalem which marked the point beyond which Gentiles must not go (see above on Acts 21.29). But this is probably too recondite. Another figure of speech was the "wall" with which the Jews protected and defined the exclusive identity of their people—the observance of the Law of Moses. If this was the "wall" referred to here, then we can understand the point of saying that Christ annulled the law with its rules and regulations.
The result was a completely new community, a new solidarity between men who had formerly been deeply estranged. Gentiles, who had always been made to feel, in their relations with the Jews, like aliens in a foreign land (19), had now become fellow-citizens with God's people. The resultant community could be described as a building, still in progress from its inception by the apostles and (doubtless Christian) prophets (20), founded upon
It is, then, one particular result of the work of Christ which receives emphasis in this letter: that through the Gospel the Gentiles are joint heirs with the Jews (6). But this is also the key to the career of Paul. It is clear from the letter to the Galatians (1.15-16) that Paul's experience on the road to Damascus (his revelation (3)) was not merely a personal conversion to Christ, but included an explicit commission to work among the Gentiles. I have already written a brief account of this (4)—these words perhaps refer to some other letter of Paul's which contained this important piece of autobiography. On the face of it, the new gospel was as Jewish as the environment out of which it came, and it was at first (even for the church) difficult to believe that it was addressed to anyone but the Jews. Paul's commission, to preach to the Gentiles, would have seemed quite incompatible with the special destiny of the Jews as revealed in the Old Testament, were it not for what was called earlier in the letter the 'hidden purpose of God' or, as here, the secret of Christ (4)—that is, the newly created possibility, at best only dimly presaged in Scripture, but now ... revealed by inspiration to his dedicated apostles and prophets (5), of the Gentiles sharing in the inheritance, the community and the promises hitherto reserved for the Jews. It was the proclaiming and bringing about of this new state of affairs which had been Paul's particular task and privilege, and it was this, inevitably, which had led him into the fiercest opposition and the acutest sufferings. It was because of this, even now, that Paul was a prisoner (1).
But here, as so often, the letter is less concerned with immediate consolation for present sufferings than with the ultimate destiny of Christians in the realms of heaven (10) (a frequent and characteristic phrase in Ephesians). And the startling thought now appears that this hidden purpose (9) (the adoption of the Gentiles) is not only something to be proclaimed and experienced on earth, but is also, as part of the wisdom of God in all its varied forms (10), still to be made known at the supernatural level to the rulers and authorities in the realms of heaven; and this (since the church has a footing in that supernatural world) is to be done through the church.
In the light of this high destiny, the prayer for the church, begun in 1.17 and since somewhat interrupted, is resumed and concluded with greater precision. It is addressed to the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name (15)—a solemn phrase which, in the Greek, exploits the fact that "father" and "family" are both words derived from the same root; and it asks again that, along with strength and power (16), which are needed not only in the endurance of physical trials but also in the formation of that inner being which is the real reward of endurance (2 Corinthians 4.16), Christians may be endowed with a love that will make them aware of the true dimensions of the love of Christ, and may be able to take part in that ultimate unravelling of the secrets of the universe which is here again, as in 1.23, impressively rather than clearly expressed in terms of the fullness of God himself. The prayer ends with an elaborate ascription of glory to God.
I entreat you, then (1). The remainder of the letter, like the final section of many of Paul's letters, consists almost entirely of moral exhortations. Ephesians is exceptional only in that between the opening prayers and thanksgivings (which are greatly extended in this letter) and the concluding ethical passages there are no paragraphs devoted specifically to doctrinal or practical questions; and the absence of any central section concerned with specific problems is the strongest reason for thinking that this letter, unlike all those which are certainly to be attributed to Paul, was written without any particular church or any particular situation in mind. On the other hand, the first part of the letter, despite its somewhat diffuse and devotional character, contains a fair amount of solid doctrine, and reverts again and again to the theme of the new unity between men (especially men of different races) which has been made possible in Christ. This theme of unity—the unity which the Spirit gives (3)—leads naturally into the first exhortation: an attitude of humility and peaceableness is essential if this new possibility of unity is not to be frustrated by ordinary human shortcomings. Indeed, this unity is not merely desirable in itself: unity of worship and unity of worshippers is a reflection of the oneness of God himself, who (according to a conventional religious formula which occurs also in 1 Corinthians 8.6) is over all and through all and in all (6).
But what will this new community be like? Must unity mean uniformity? Are all its members to have the same function and the same gift? The answer to this question is already familiar from 1 Corinthians 12. The one Spirit has a variety of gifts to impart, and the unity of a Christian community consists in the interdependence of different gifts and offices, enabling some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers (11) (evangelists and pastors are an addition to the list in 1 Corinthians 12.28, reflecting perhaps a slight change in the needs of the church). The point is proved, as so often, by a quotation from Scripture, though the s application is a little complicated. Psalm 68.18 runs, in both the Greek and Hebrew versions,
"Thou didst ascend into the heights
with captives in thy train
having received gifts among men."
These words were doubtless addressed originally to a victorious king returning to Jerusalem; but Jewish tradition had come to interpret them as referring to Moses ascending Mount Sinai in order to receive the Law, and in so doing it seems to have made current a version of the text somewhat closer to that which is quoted here, substituting "given" for "received". According to this text and interpretation, the "gifts" became, not the tribute of conquered nations, but the blessings proceeding from the Law. Now the point which the text is quoted to prove is that Christ gave, not one gift, but a variety of gifts to his people; and the proof lies in the words he gave gifts to men. But first it has to be shown that the subject of the verse is neither a king of Israel, nor Moses, but Christ; hence the importance of the first words of the quotation. He ascended suggests a previous descent. Who could be meant, who had both descended and ascended, if not Christ? For Christ, having been from the beginning up above with God, came down to the lowest level (9) of the heavens-and-earth universebefore ascending once again to that position of supremacy which has already been described in 1.20-3. Given this way of thinking, and given this method of interpretation, the passage could be claimed, like many others in the Old Testament, to be a prophecy of Christ; as such, it proved that the church had received, not just one uniform gift for all, but a variety of gifts (11).
The quality of men bound together in such a unity and exercising their gifts in close interdependence is shown above all in their maturity. Their personality must develop towards the new possibilities revealed for humanity in Christ, and they must grow out of their childish susceptibility to every fresh gust of teaching (14). The most powerful metaphor at the writer's command for expressing the unity and vitality of such a community (though for Paul it is usually more than a metaphor, as is clear from 1 Corinthians 12.13) is once again that of Christ's body (12); and the language here is an elaboration (though with a slightly different slant) of the same metaphor as it is worked out in Colossians 2.19.
This then is my word to you (17). The moral exhortations now continue in earnest. There are striking similarities between the language of these paragraphs and that of other passages in the New Testament, and many of the sentiments can also be paralleled in Jewish and Greek literature. The explanation appears to be that the early church, needing an ethical code which could be taught to new converts whatever their background, drew on a number of different sources. Some rules of conduct went back to the teaching of Jesus, or were forged out of distinctly Christian principles; others had long been a part of Jewish education and were recognized by Christians as still valid for themselves; others, again, were the common property of the civilization of the time. All these strands were woven into the Christian ethical tradition, without any attempt to label each according to its origin. The resultant code, consisting both of radically new demands and of long-accepted standards, was endorsed by the Christian community as representing its own distinctive way of life; and in this sense the whole code, or any part of it (whatever its origin), could be urged in the Lord's name (17).
Give up living like pagans. The letter, it is clear (1.12-13), is addressed by a Jewish Christian writer to Gentile Christians. With regard to Gentiles, the prevalent Jewish assumption was that, having no respect for the Jewish law, and having no strict moral code of their own, Gentiles were bound to fall into the vices characteristic of a pagan civilization. So here: verses 18-20 use the conventional language of Jewish attacks on the pagan way of life, and the tone is similar to that which Paul adopts, for the same purpose, in the first chapter of Romans. But the Christian way of life (for all that Jewish anti-Christian propagandists might say) was not like this. That is not how you learned Christ (20)—which appears, from what follows, to mean that the act of accepting Christ as Lord—which is, in fact, the moment of baptism—involves not only a course of instruction in the truth as it is in Jesus, but a "laying aside" of the old nature and a "putting on" of the new, so that the whole pattern of life is changed. The language here is all familiar from what Paul says about baptism in passages such as Romans 6 and Colossians 3.
The next exhortations follow no particular order. Do not let anger lead you into sin is an allusion to Psalm 4.4 (the roughness of the Semitic way of expressing this, "Be angry and do not sin", is softened in this translation). Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God (30) is an Old Testament idiom (Isaiah 63.10), but takes on a special meaning for Christians, since their baptism (also called a seal in 1.13) places them in a new relationship with the Spirit, as well as giving them a foretaste and guarantee of their future destiny. In verses 4.32-5.2 the example of Christ himself is appealed to, with an allusion to the sacrificial language of passages such as Exodus 29.18 and Psalm 40.7. In verses 4.29 and 5.5 some curiously un-Greek expressions (which can hardly be reproduced in translation) suggest a Hebrew original. These verses are a good example of the diverse origins of Christian moral teaching.
At verse 6, however, the writer seems to have a specific danger in view: shallow arguments suggest a rival religion or rival philosophy; and one may hazard a guess at the character of this rival from the "darkness" which seems to go with it. It is possible that what are being attacked are certain rites and doctrines which were clothed in secrecy and so attracted (as Christianity itself subsequently attracted) suspicions of immoral practices. Now as Christians you are light (8)—and the supporting quotation is not, this time, from any known part of Scripture, but is doubtless (as indicated by the NEB rendering, which inserts the word hymn (14)) a fragment of a very early Christian hymn. Immediately after this, the paragraph returns to general moral exhortation, and comes in two places (16 and 19-20) very close to Colossians (4.5 and 3.16).
At verse 21, the injunctions fall into a distinctive pattern. A regular topic of moral teaching in antiquity was the domestic relations between different classes of persons—husbands and wives, fathers and children, slaves and masters; and this teaching tended to be set out in a more or less stereotyped form. The New Testament writers more than once appear to make use of this conventional form, adding to it new implications drawn from the Christian faith (see below on Colossians 3.18). So here: under the general heading, Be subject to one another (21) (which was a guiding principle in Christian communities: Galatians 5.13, 1 Corinthians 16.16), a Christian version of this conventional type of teaching is introduced, beginning with the category of wives and husbands.
Wives, be subject to your husbands as to the Lord (22). As to the Lord is the important phrase. The Christian experience of subjection and obedience to Christ is the pattern which wives should follow in their behaviour towards their husbands. But (it could be asked) does the analogy hold? Does what applies to the relationship of Christians to Christ apply also to the relationship of wives to their husbands? The answer is simple and logical. The Christian, as a member of the church, is a part of that body of which Christ is the head (4.16). His obedience to Christ is therefore the obedience which the body owes to the head. But it was an accepted figure of speech (as we can see from 1 Corinthians 11.3, though we do not know where the idea came from) that the man is the head of the woman (23). It follows that the 23 wife's obedience to her husband is also the obedience which the body owes to the head. Therefore what applies to Christians' obedience to Christ must also apply to wives' obedience to their husbands.
The converse relationship, that of husbands to wives, needs a different model, since "subjection" (at least in antiquity) could hardly describe it. Again, a new Christian experience is appealed to: love your wives, as Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for it (25). The point is taken further than is required by the argument: Christ's death made possible Christian baptism (Romans 6) which, by virtue of the cleansing and (perhaps) the invocation which accompanied the rite (water and word (26)), made the church what it could never be by its own efforts, a sacrifice perfectly acceptable to its Lord (the metaphor in verse 27 contains clear allusions to the
Jewish sacrificial system). But this is by the way. More relevant to the behaviour of husbands is that that is how Christ treats the church, because it is his body (30). But (it could be asked once again) does the analogy hold? Why should husbands behave to their wives as Christ behaved to his body? The answer, this time, is found in that verse of Genesis (2.24) which was the basis of Christ's own view of marriage: 'the two shall become one flesh' (31). This shows that the husband's wife is his body, and therefore that what holds of Christ's treatment of his body, the church, holds also of the Christian husband's treatment of his body—his wife. It is a great truth that is hidden here (32). Christ's relationship with his church has deeper and richer implications than this; but here it serves the purpose of casting a new and brilliant light upon married life.
Children's subjection to their parents (1-3) is to be grounded in the fifth commandment (Exodus 20.12). Fathers' behaviour to their children, on common sense and the principles of a Christian upbringing (4). For slaves, the fact that all Christians are now slaves of Christ (6) is an encouragement to behave, even in literal slavery, with full responsibility; and masters are exhorted to humanity on the strength of the basic Old Testament proposition (2 Chronicles 19.7) that, at least with regard to social class, God has no favourites (9).
Finally then, find your strength in the Lord (10). All the exhortations so far have been to action which a man may take on his own initiative, as a response to the new demands of Christ, or as an attack against the weaknesses of his own nature. But this writer (as has already appeared above, 2.1-2) does
not think of evil merely as a human and psychological phenomenon. Our fight is not against human foes, but against cosmic powers (12). Evil is an objective and external fact, a superhuman force which bears upon men from outside and brings them into compulsory subjection. In unsophisticated Jewish religion (as we can see from the gospels) this force was identified quite simply with Satan and his attendant demons. But the popular philosophies and religions of the time offered to the more cultivated thinker a wide range of concepts for describing this objective and personified power of evil. There was the late Jewish myth of fallen angels; there was the popular world-view which saw the space between heaven and earth as peopled with spiritual beings, some benign, but mostly malignant and in revolt against God; and there were the doctrines of astrology, which invested the heavenly bodies with ineluctable power over the lives of men. This author draws freely on such concepts. In 2.2 he talks of 'the spiritual powers of the air'. Here, he paints a still more sombre picture of men pitted against cosmic powers, against the authorities and potentates of this dark world, against the superhuman forces of evil in the heavens (12). The letter began, it is true, with a vision of the ultimate destiny of the church raised, in unity with its Lord, to a position high above these supernatural powers; and this great destiny is in course of fulfilment. Yet meanwhile the powers are still abroad, and the Christian, like all men, is exposed to their influence. For this, his own strength is inadequate, and he is urged to put on all the armour which God provides (11). The metaphor is magnificently worked out; and by means of the last term in the exhortation—pray for me (10)—a gentle transition is made to the personal remarks at the end of the letter.
Verses 21-2 are almost identical with Colossians 4.7, on which see below.