Ephesians 3

Paul's Relationship to the Divine Mystery

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus
Several early and important witnesses, chiefly of the Western text (א* D* F G [365]), lack ᾿Ιησοῦ (Iēsou, “Jesus”) here, while most Alexandrian and Byzantine mss46 א1 A B [C] D1 Ψ 33 1739 [1881] Maj. lat sy bo) have the word. However, because of the Western text’s proclivities to add or delete to the text, seemingly at whim, serious doubts should be attached to the shorter reading. It is strengthened, however, by א’s support. Nevertheless, since both א and D were corrected with the addition of ᾿Ιησοῦ, their testimony might be questioned. Further, in uncial script the nomina sacra here could have led to missing a word by way of homoioteleuton (ΧMΥΙMΥ). At the same time, in light of the rarity of scribal omission of nomina sacra (see TCGNT 582, n. 1), a decision for inclusion of the word here must be tentative. NA27 rightly places ᾿Ιησοῦ in brackets.
for the sake of you Gentiles –
if indeed
If indeed. The author is not doubting whether his audience has heard, but is rather using provocative language (if indeed) to engage his audience in thinking about the magnificence of God’s grace. However, in English translation, the apodosis (“then“-clause) does not come until v. 13, leaving the protasis (“if“-clause) dangling. Eph 3:2–7 constitute one sentence in Greek.
you have heard of the stewardship
Or “administration,” “dispensation,” “commission.”
of God’s grace that was given to me for you,
that
Or “namely, that is.”
by revelation the divine secret
Or “mystery.”
was made known to me, as I wrote before briefly.
Or “as I wrote above briefly.”
As I wrote briefly may refer to the author’s brief discussion of the divine secret in 1:9.
When reading this,
Grk “which, when reading.”
you will be able to
Grk “you are able to.”
understand my insight into this secret
Or “mystery.”
of Christ.
Now this secret
Grk “which.” Verse 5 is technically a relative clause, subordinate to the thought of v. 4.
was not disclosed to people
Grk “the sons of men” (a Semitic idiom referring to human beings, hence, “people”).
in former
Grk “other.”
generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by
Or “in.”
the Spirit,
namely, that through the gospel
The phrase through the gospel is placed last in the sentence in Greek for emphasis. It has been moved forward for clarity.
the Gentiles are fellow heirs, fellow members
Grk “and fellow members.”
of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus.
I became a servant of this gospel
Grk “of which I was made a minister,” “of which I became a servant.”
according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by
Grk “according to.”
the exercise of his power.
On the exercise of his power see 1:19–20.
To me – less than the least of all the saints
In Pauline writings saints means any true believer. Thus for Paul to view himself as less than the least of all the saints is to view himself as the most unworthy object of Christ’s redemption.
– this grace was given,
The parallel phrases to proclaim and to enlighten which follow indicate why God’s grace was manifested to Paul. Grace was not something just to be received, but to be shared with others (cf. Acts 13:47).
to proclaim to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ
and to enlighten
There is a possible causative nuance in the Greek verb, but this is difficult to convey in the translation.
everyone about God’s secret plan
Grk “what is the plan of the divine secret.” Earlier the author had used οἰκονομία (oikonomia; here “plan”) to refer to his own “stewardship” (v. 2). But now he is speaking about the content of this secret, not his own activity in relation to it.
– a secret that has been hidden for ages
Or “for eternity,” or perhaps “from the Aeons.” Cf. 2:2, 7.
in God
Or “by God.” It is possible that ἐν (en) plus the dative here indicates agency, that is, that God has performed the action of hiding the secret. However, this usage of the preposition ἐν is quite rare in the NT, and even though here it does follow a perfect passive verb as in the Classical idiom, it is more likely that a different nuance is intended.
who has created all things.
10 The purpose of this enlightenment is that
Grk “that.” Verse 10 is a subordinate clause to the verb “enlighten” in v. 9.
through the church the multifaceted wisdom
Or “manifold wisdom,” “wisdom in its rich variety.”
of God should now be disclosed to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly realms.
11 This was according to
Grk “according to.” The verse is a prepositional phrase subordinate to v. 10.
the eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,
12 in whom we have boldness and confident access
Grk “access in confidence.”
to God
The phrase “to God” is not in the text, but is clearly implied by the preceding, “access.”
because of
Grk “through,” “by way of.”
Christ’s
Grk “his.”
faithfulness.
Or “faith in him.” A decision is difficult here. Though traditionally translated “faith in Jesus Christ,” an increasing number of NT scholars are arguing that πίστις Χριστοῦ (pistis Christou) and similar phrases in Paul (here and in Rom 3:22, 26; Gal 2:16, 20; 3:22; Phil 3:9) involve a subjective genitive and mean “Christ’s faith” or “Christ’s faithfulness” (cf., e.g., G. Howard, “The ‘Faith of Christ’,” ExpTim 85 [1974]: 212-15; R. B. Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ [SBLDS]; Morna D. Hooker, “Πίστις Χριστοῦ,” NTS 35 [1989]: 321-42). Noteworthy among the arguments for the subjective genitive view is that when πίστις takes a personal genitive it is almost never an objective genitive (cf. Matt 9:2, 22, 29; Mark 2:5; 5:34; 10:52; Luke 5:20; 7:50; 8:25, 48; 17:19; 18:42; 22:32; Rom 1:8; 12; 3:3; 4:5, 12, 16; 1 Cor 2:5; 15:14, 17; 2 Cor 10:15; Phil 2:17; Col 1:4; 2:5; 1 Thess 1:8; 3:2, 5, 10; 2 Thess 1:3; Titus 1:1; Phlm 6; 1 Pet 1:9, 21; 2 Pet 1:5). On the other hand, the objective genitive view has its adherents: A. Hultgren, “The Pistis Christou Formulations in Paul,” NovT 22 (1980): 248-63; J. D. G. Dunn, “Once More, ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ,” SBL Seminar Papers, 1991, 730–44. Most commentaries on Romans and Galatians usually side with the objective view.
Because of Christ’s faithfulness. Though Paul elsewhere teaches justification by faith, this presupposes that the object of our faith is reliable and worthy of such faith.
13 For this reason I ask you
Grk “I ask.” No direct object is given in Greek, leaving room for the possibility that either “God” (since the verb is often associated with prayer) or “you” is in view.
not to lose heart because of what I am suffering for you,
Grk “my trials on your behalf.”
which
Which. The antecedent (i.e., the word or concept to which this clause refers back) may be either “what I am suffering for you” or the larger concept of the recipients not losing heart over Paul’s suffering for them. The relative pronoun “which” is attracted to the predicate nominative “glory” in its gender and number (feminine singular), making the antecedent ambiguous. Paul’s suffering for them could be viewed as their glory (cf. Col 1:24 for a parallel) in that his suffering has brought about their salvation, but if so his suffering must be viewed as more than his present imprisonment in Rome; it would be a general description of his ministry overall (cf. 2 Cor 11:23–27). The other option is that the author is implicitly arguing that the believers have continued to have courage in the midst of his trials (as not to lose heart suggests) and that this is their glory. Philippians 1:27–28 offers an interesting parallel: The believers’ courage in the face of adversity is a sign of their salvation.
is your glory.
Or “Or who is your glory?” The relative pronoun ἥτις (hētis), if divided differently, would become ἤ τίς (ē tis). Since there were no word breaks in the original mss, either word division is possible. The force of the question would be that for the readers to become discouraged over Paul’s imprisonment would mean that they were no longer trusting in God’s sovereignty.


Prayer for Strengthened Love

14  For this reason
For this reason resumes the point begun in v. 1, after a long parenthesis.
I kneel
Grk “I bend my knees.”
before the Father,
Most Western and Byzantine witnesses, along with a few others (א2 D F G Ψ 0278 1881 Maj. lat sy), have “of our Lord Jesus Christ” after “Father,” but such an edifying phrase cannot explain the rise of the reading that lacks it, especially when the shorter reading is attested by early and important witnesses such as Ƥ46 א* A B C P 6 33 81 365 1175 1739 co Or Hier.
15 from
Or “by.”
whom every family
Or “the whole family.”
in heaven and on the earth is named.
16 I pray that
Grk “that.” In Greek v. 16 is a subordinate clause to vv. 14–15.
according to the wealth of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person,
17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, so that, because you have been rooted and grounded in love, 18 you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
The object of these dimensions is not stated in the text. Interpreters have suggested a variety of referents for this unstated object, including the cross of Christ, the heavenly Jerusalem (which is then sometimes linked to the Church), God’s power, the fullness of salvation given in Christ, the Wisdom of God, and the love of Christ. Of these interpretations, the last two are the most plausible. Associations from Wisdom literature favor the Wisdom of God, but the immediate context favors the love of Christ. For detailed discussion of these interpretive options, see A. T. Lincoln, Ephesians (WBC), 207–13, who ultimately favors the love of Christ.
19 and thus to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled up to
Or “with.”
all the fullness of God.

20  Now to him who by the power that is working within us
On the power that is working within us see 1:19–20.
is able to do far beyond
Or “infinitely beyond,” “far more abundantly than.”
all that we ask or think,
21 to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

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