Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Not sure if the Letter to the Ephesians was written to the Ephesians...

The readers were Christian[1] “saints” (1.1) from the Gentile group (2.11, 3.1).[2] The latter part of the letter that filled with exhortation for order in social structure – wives/husbands, children/parents, slaves/masters[3] – in the community suggests that the letter was directed to the entire believing community (4.1-6.20).

The letter does not mention individuals or the local problems that were facing the congregation. The only named person is Tychicus, Paul’s messenger to the letter’s readers (6.21-22). We know from the accounts in Acts that it was Paul who founded and work closely with local Jews and Gentiles in the congregation at Ephesians (Acts 18.19-21, 19.1-2, 8, 10, 20.1, 31).

So the ‘impersonal’ tone of the letter gives the impression that it is either a circulated general epistle like 1 Peter, or a letter to the subsequent generation of converts who have not met Paul personally based on 1.15 (Paul said that he has ‘heard’ the reader’s exemplary living-hood). Add to the fact that the “in Ephesus” in 1.1 is probably a later interpolation since the earliest textual evidences that we have such as Papyrus 46, Codex Vaticanus, and Codex Sinaiticus omit this reference. Other ancient authors such as Tertulian and Origen do not contain the reference. Marcion perceived the readers of the letter as “Laodiceans”. All these external evidences suggest that there is no “in Ephesus” in the original text.[4]

[1] See further discussion in Ernest Best, Ephesians (UK: T&T Clark, 1998), 1-6.
[2] Frank S. Thielman, “Ephesians,” in Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament, G. K. Beale, D. A. Carson, ed., (USA: Baker Academic, 2007), 813.
[3] Peter O’ Brien, The Letter To The Ephesians, (USA: Eerdmans, 1999), 70.
[4] See fuller discussion in Markus Barth, Ephesians 1-3 (USA: Doubleday, 1974), 10-11, 67; Peter O’ Brien, The Letter To The Ephesians, (USA: Eerdmans, 1999), 47-49, 84-87.

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