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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Ephesians Overview
























I HAVE at length the pleasure of issuing the last volume of the English translation of Dr. Meyer’s own part in the great work which bears his name, and of thereby completing an undertaking on which I have expended no small amount of time and labour at intervals for the last eight years. I am aware that I have taxed considerably the patience of the subscribers and of the publishers, but I felt it due to them, as well as to Dr. Meyer who had entrusted me with the charge of seeing his work faithfully reproduced, that the work should be done with care rather than with haste.

The present volume has been translated with skill and judgment by Mr. Evans from the fourth edition of the German—the last form, in which this portion of the Commentary had the advantage of Meyer’s own revision. A fifth edition has since appeared (in 1878), under the charge of Professor Woldemar Schmidt of Leipzig, in which he has treated the book in a way similar to that adopted by Dr. Weiss with the Commentary on Mark and Luke, although not altering it to an equal extent. It is difficult to see why he should have followed such a course, for he himself states that he “has never been able to approve the custom of allowing other hands to remodel the works of the departed.” I have already expressed, in the prefatory note to the volume on Mark and Luke, the grounds on which I take exception to the plan so pursued, and I content myself with here referring to them as equally applicable in principle to the less important changes made by Dr. Schmidt. I find a striking corroboration of my remark as to the work manipulated by Dr. Weiss being “to a considerable extent a new book by another author, and from a standpoint in various respects different,” in the judgment pronounced by Dr. Schürer, in a recent review (Theol. Literaturzeitung, 9th October 1880), on the same editor’s treatment of the Commentary on the Gospel of John, when, after mentioning various features of “complete independence” and “thorough remodelling,” he states that the result of the whole is “an essentially new work.” Dr. Schürer indicates approval of the course pursued; but it seems to me alike unfair to the memory of Meyer, and uncalled for under the circumstances. It is quite open to an editor to write a book of his own on the subject, or to append as much as he deems necessary to his author’s text by way of addition and correction; but it is not open to him thus to recast an epoch-making work of exegesis, and to retain for its altered shape the sanction of the author’s name. At any rate, I have thought it right, so far as the English reader is concerned, to present, according to my promise, the work of Meyer, without addition or subtraction, in its latest and presumably best form as it left his hands.

I may add, that whatever care may have been bestowed on the revision of the Commentary by Dr. Schmidt has not apparently extended to the correction of the press, for many errors, which have been discovered and corrected by Mr. Evans and myself in preparing the translation, still disfigure the new edition of the German. It is, of course, extremely difficult to avoid such errors in a work of the kind; and I have no doubt that, notwithstanding the care of the printers, to whose excellent arrangements I am much indebted, the reader may light on not a few mistakes, as concerns references, accents, and the like; but, as Dr. Meyer was not a particularly good corrector of the press, I trust that the English edition may be found in that respect fully more accurate than the original.

In the General Preface prefixed to the first volume issued (ROMANS), I stated the grounds that had induced me to undertake the superintendence of the work, and the revision of the translation, in the interests of technical accuracy and of uniformity of rendering throughout. And in order that the subscribers may be assured that the promise therein implied has been fulfilled to the best of my ability, I think it right, in conclusion, to state for myself (and I believe that the same may be said for my friends Drs. Crombie and Stewart, who lent me their aid at a time when other work was pressing heavily upon me) that I have carefully read and compared every sentence of the translation in the ten volumes which I edited—collating it for the most part in MS., as well as subsequently on its passage through the press; that I have not hesitated freely to make such changes on the work of the translators as seemed to me needful to meet the requirements which I had in view; and that, under these circumstances, I alone am formally and finally responsible for the shape in which the Commentary appears. All concerned in the enterprise have much reason to be gratified by the favour with which it has been received. I have, indeed, seen some exception taken to the style, and to the frequent use of technical terms such as telic, protasis, and the like; but our object was to translate the book into intelligible English, not to recast its literary form (which, as I have formerly explained, has suffered from the mode in which the author inserted his successive alterations and additions); and it is, from its very nature, destined mainly for ministers and students, who ought to be familiar with the import of those convenient technical terms.

At the close of the article by Dr. Schürer, of which I have spoken before, he asks leave to repeat an urgent wish which he had some years ago expressed, that “there might be appended to the introduction of each volume of the German Commentary a list of the exegetical literature.” He does not seem to be aware that in the English edition this want has been supplied with considerable fulness. I shall be glad to place the lists—all of which were prepared by me, except that prefixed to the Gospel of John, for which I am indebted to Dr. Crombie—at the service (a few errors apart) of any future editors of the original.

In order to complete the present series, a supplementary volume accompanies this one, containing Dr. Gloag’s translation of Lünemann’s Commentary on the Epistles to the Thessalonians. And I learn from Messrs. Clark that they have received encouragement to issue also the remaining volumes, for which Dr. Meyer called in the aid of accomplished scholars. These volumes are of much value in themselves, and as serving to supplement the work of Meyer; but as they proceed from different authors, and my main object was to secure uniformity in the rendering of the several portions that issued from Meyer’s own hand, I have not thought it necessary to undertake any similar revision or editorial responsibility in their case; and I can only express my best wishes for the success of the further enterprise in the hands of the experienced translators.



October 1880.


S INCE the year 1859, when the third edition of this Commentary was issued, there has appeared hardly any contribution of scientific importance to the exposition of the Epistle to the Ephesians. The Commentarius Criticus of the late Dr. Reiche contains, doubtless, many good exegetical remarks; but they are subservient to his main aim which is critical, and elucidate merely detached passages or expressions; while the Lectures of Bleek are very far from having the importance which has been justly recognised as belonging to the previous series of Lectures by him on the Synoptic Gospels.

But while thus, apart from various able discussions of particular passages, I was less directly stimulated by new literary apparatus to subject my work to revision, the labour itself was not thereby rendered the lighter. The dies diem docet could not but, in the case of a task so momentous, have its title fully conceded; and it will be found that I have sought to place much on a better and more complete footing, so as to do fuller justice to the great object of ascertaining thoroughly, clearly, and dispassionately the meaning of the Apostle’s discourse. By this I do not understand the discovery of those fanciful illusions [Phantasmagorieen] that people call profound. For the latter there is assuredly little need in the case of Paul, who, with the true penetration characteristic of his views and ways of unfolding them, knows how to wield his gifts of discourse so that his meaning shall be clear and palpable and apt; and least of all in the case of this very Epistle, where the Christological teaching rises of itself to the utmost height and embraces heaven and earth. This distinctive character cannot be injured by the circumstance that the apostolic writing, as a letter to the Ephesians,—such as, according to the critically-attested address, it is and will remain,—continues to be, at all events, an enigmatical phenomenon, and its historical conceivableness in so far an open question. Its elevation above the changes and controversies of Christological formulae and modes of conception cannot be thereby affected, and its prominent position in the New Testament as at once a testimony and a test of the truth cannot, amid any such change and strife, be prejudicially endangered.

HANNOVER, 10th Nov. 1866.




[FOR commentaries and collections of notes embracing the whole New Testament, see the list prefixed to the Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew; for those which treat of the Pauline, or Apostolic, Epistles generally, see that which is prefixed to the Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. The following list includes only those expositions which relate to the Epistle to the Ephesians or to the Epistle to Philemon, or in which one of these Epistles holds the first place on the title-page. Works mainly of a popular and practical character have, with a few exceptions, been excluded, as, however valuable they may be in themselves, they have but little affinity with the strictly exegetical character of the present work. Monographs on chapters or sections are generally noticed by Meyer in loc. The editions quoted are usually the earliest; al. appended denotes that the book has been more or less frequently reissued; † marks the date of the author’s death; c = circa, an approximation to it.]

ATTERSOLL (William), Minister at Infield, Sussex: A commentary upon the Epistle to Philemon. Lond. 1612. Second edition. 2°, Lond. 1633.

BATTUS (Bartholomaeus), (1) 1637, Prof. Theol. at Greifswald: Commentarius in Epistolam ad Ephesios.… 4°, Gryphisw. 1619.

BAUMGARTEN-CRUSIUS (Ludwig Friedrich Otto), (3) 1843, Prof. Theol. at Jena: Commentar über den Brief Pauli an die Epheser.… Herausgegeben von Ernst Julius Kimmel.… 8°, Jena, 1847.

BAYNE (Paul), (4) 1617, Minister at Cambridge: An entire commentary upon the whole Epistle … to the Ephesians.… 2°, Lond. 1643.

BLEEK (Friedrich), (5) 1859, Prof. Theol. at Berlin: Vorlesungen über die Briefe an die Kolosser, den Philemon und die Epheser.… 8°, Berl. 1865.


BOYD (Robert) of Trochrig, (6) 1627, Principal at Glasgow and Edinburgh: In Epistolam ad Ephesios praelectiones supra cc.… 2°, Lond. 1652, al(7)

BRAUNE (Karl), Superintendent in Altenburg: Die Briefe S. Pauli an die Epheser, Kolosser, Philipper. Theologisch-homiletisch bearbeitet. [Lange’s Bibelwerk.] 8°, Bielefeld, 1867.

Translated from the German, with additions [Ephesians], by M. B. Riddle, D.D. 8°, New York, 1870.

CROCIUS (Johann), (11) 1659, Prof. Theol. at Marburg: Commentarius in Epistolam ad Ephesios. 8°, Cassellis, 1642.

DAVIES (John Llewelyn), Rector of Christ Church, Marylebone. See PHILIPPIANS and COLOSSIANS.

DEMME (Jakob Friedrich Ignaz): Erklärung des Briefes an den Philemon 1:8°, Breslau, 1844.

DINANT (Petrus), (13) 1724, Minister at Rotterdam: De Brief aan die van Efeze verklaart en toegepast. 4°, Rotterd. 1711, al(14)

DYKE (Daniel), (15) c. 1614, Minister at St. Albans: A fruitful exposition upon Philemon 1:4°, Lond. 1618.

ELLICOTT (Charles John), D.D., Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol: A critical and grammatical commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. 8°, Lond. 1855, al(17)

ESMARCH (Heinrich Peter Christian), (18) 1831, Rector at Schleswig: Brief an die Epheser übersetzt. 8°, Altona, 1785.

EWALD (Georg Heinrich August), (19) 1876, Prof. Or. Lang. at Göttingen: Sieben Sendschreiben des Neuen Bundes uebersetzt und erklärt. [Sendschreiben an die Heidenchristen (die Epheser).] 8°, Götting. 1870.

HARLESS (Gottlieb Christoph Adolf von), (25) 1879, President of the Consistory at Münich: Commentar über den Brief Pauli an die Epheser. 8°, Erlang. 1834, al(26)

HEINRICHS (Johann Heinrich), Superintendent at Burgdorf. See KOPPE (Johann Benjamin).

HODGE (Charles), D.D., (27) 1878, Prof. Theol. at Princeton: A commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians. 8°, New York, 1856, al(28)

HOFMANN (Johann Christian Konrad von), (29) 1877, Prof. Theol. at Erlangen: Die heilige Schrift Neuen Testaments zusammenhängend untersucht. Theil iv. 1. Der Brief Pauli an die Epheser. iv. 2. Die Briefe an die Kolosser und an Philemon 1:8°, Nördlingen, 1870.

HOLTZMANN (Heinrich Johann), Prof. Theol. in Strassburg: Kritik der Epheser- und Kolosser-Briefe.… 8°, Leip. 1872.

HOLZHAUSEN (Friedrich August): Der Brief an die Epheser übersetzt und erklärt. 8°, Hannov. 1833.

HUMMEL (Johann Heinrich), (30) 1674, Dean at Berne: Explanatio Epistolae ad Philemonem. 2°, Tiguri, 1670.

JONES (William), D.D.: A commentary on the Epistles to Philemon and Hebrews.… 2°, Lond. 1635.

KÄHLER (C. N.): Auslegung der Epistel Pauli an die Epheser. 8°, Kiel, 1854.

KOCH (August): Commentar über den Brief Pauli an den Philemon 1:8°, Zürich, 1846.

KOPPE (Johann Benjamin), (31) 1791, Superintendent at Gotha: Novum Testamentum Graece perpetua annotatione illustratum. Voll. i.–iv. 8°, Götting. 1778–83. [Vol. vi. Epp. ad Galatas, Ephesios, Thessalonicenses. Editio tertia emendata et aucta. Curavit H. Chr. Tychsen. Vol. vii. 1. Epp. ad Timotheum, Titum, et Philemonem. Continuavit J. H. Heinrichs, 1798. Editio secunda. 8°, Götting. 1828.]

KRAUSE (Friedrich August Wilhelm), (32) 1827, Private Tutor at Vienna: Der Brief an die Epheser übersetzt und mit Anmerkungen begleitet. 8°, Frankf. a. M. 1789.

KÜHNE (Franz Robert): Die Epistel Pauli an Philemon in Bibelstunden … ausgelegt. 2 Bändchen. 8°, Leipz. 1856.

LIGHTFOOT (Joseph Barber), D.D., Bishop of Durham. See PHILIPPIANS and Colossians.

LOCKE (John), (34) 1704. See GALATIANS.

LUTHER (Martin), (35) 1546, Reformer: Die Epistel an die Epheser ausgelegt, aus seinen Schriften herausgegeben von Chr. G. Eberle. 8°, Stuttg. 1878.

MATTHIES (Conrad Stephan), Prof. Theol. at Greifswald: Erklärung des Briefes Pauli an die Epheser.… 8°, Greifsw. 1834.

MEIER (Friedrich Karl), (37) 1841, Prof. Theol. at Giessen: Commentar über den Brief Pauli an die Epheser. 8°, Berl. 1834.

MORUS (Samuel Friedrich Nathanael), (38) 1792, Prof. Theol. at Leipzig. See GALATIANS.

MUSCULUS [MEUSSLIN] (Wolfgang), (39) 1573, Prof. Theol. at Berne. See GALATIANS.

OOSTERZEE (Johannes Jakob van), Prof. Theol. at Utrecht: Die Pastoralbriefe und der Brief an Philemon. Theologisch-homiletisch bearbeitet. [Lange’s Bibelwerk, XI.] 8°, Bielefeld, 1861.

Translated from the German, with additions, by Horatio B. Hackett, D.D. 8°, New York, 1869.

PASSAVANT (Theophilus): Versuch einer praktischen Auslegung des Briefes Pauli an die Epheser. 8°, Basel, 1836.

POPP (G. C.): Uebersetzung und Erklärung der drei ersten Kapitel des Briefs an die Epheser, nebst einer kurzen Einleitung.… 4°, Rostock, 1799.

Et commentarii … pars altera, cum brevi Epistolae ad Colossenses exegesi. Ed. Dion. And. Roell. 4°, Traj. ad Rhen. 1731.

ROLLOCK (Robert), (41) 1598, Principal of the University of Edinburgh: In Epistolam Pauli ad Ephesios commentarius. 4°, Edin. 1590, al(42)

Et in Epistolam ad Philemonem.… 8°, Genev. 1602.

ROTHE (Moritz): Pauli ad Philemonem epistolae interpretatio historico-exegetica. 8°, Bremae, 1844.

ROYAARDS (Albertus): … Paullus’ Brief aan de Ephesers schriftmatig verklaart. 3 deelen. 4°, Amsterd. 1735–38.

RÜCKERT (Leopold Immanuel), (43) c. 1845, Prof. Theol. at Jena: Der Brief Pauli an die Epheser erläutert und vertheidigt. 8°, Leip. 1834.

SCHENKEL (Daniel), Prof. Theol. at Heidelberg: Die Briefe an die Epheser, Philipper, Colosser. Theologisch-homiletisch bearbeitet. [Lange’s Bibelwerk, IX.] 8°, Bielefeld, 1862.

SCHMID (Sebastian), (45) 1696, Prof. Theol. at Strassburg: Paraphrasis super Epistolam ad Ephesios. 4°, Strassb. 1684, al(46)

SCHNAPPINGER (Bonifacius Martin Wunibald), (47) c. 1825. Prof, at Heidelberg: Brief an die Epheser erklärt und erläutert von Bonifaz vom heil. Wunibald. 4°, Heidelb. 1793.

SCHÜTZE (Theodor Johann Abraham), (48) 1830, Director of the Gymnasium at Gera: Commentarius in Epistolam Pauli ad Ephesios. 8°, Leip. 1778.

SPENER (Philip Jakob), (49) 1705, Consistorial-Rath at Berlin: Erklärung der Episteln an die Epheser und Colosser.… 4°, Halae, 1706, al(50)

STEVART (Peter), (51) 1621, Prof. Theol. at Ingolstadt: Commentarius in Epistolam ad Ephesios. 4°, Ingolstad. 1593.

STIER (Rudolph Ewald), (52) 1862, Superintendent in Eisleben: Die Gemeinde in Christo. Auslegung des Briefes an die Epheser. 8°, Berl. 1848–49.

TURNER (Samuel Hulbeart), D.D., (55) 1861, Prof. of Bibl. Interpretation at New York: The Epistle to the Ephesians in Greek and English, with an analysis and exegetical commentary. 8°, New York, 1856.

TYCHSEN (Thomas Christian), (56) 1834. See KOPPE (Johann Benjamin).

VINCENT (Jean): Explicatio familiaris in Epistolam D. Pauli ad Philemonem. 2°, Paris, 1647.





A T Ephesus, the capital of proconsular Asia, a flourishing abode of commerce, arts, and sciences, and the seat of the world-renowned worship of Artemis,—which, formerly one of the principal settlements of the Ionian population, has, since its destruction by the Goths, had its site marked only by gloomy ruins, and now by the small village of Ajasaluk, or, according to Fellows, Asalook (see, generally, Creuzer, Symbol. II. p. 113 ff.; Pococke, Morgenl. III. p. 66 ff.; von Schubert, Reise in das Morgenl. I. p. 284 ff.; Guhl, Ephesiaca, Berol. 1842; Fellows, Journal written during an Excursion in Asia Minor, London 1838, p. 274 f.),

Paul planted Christianity (Acts 18:19; Acts 19:1, etc.); and his successful labours there, during a period of nearly three years, placed him in the close confidential relations to the church, of which his touching farewell to the elders (Acts 20:17 ff.) is an imperishable memorial. The church was on its foundation a mixed one, composed of Jewish and Gentile Christians (Acts 19:1-10; Acts 20:21); but at the later date, when our Epistle was composed, the Gentile-Christian element, which already appears from Acts 19:26 extensively diffused, so greatly preponderated, that Paul could address the church a potiori as a Gentile-Christian one; see Ephesians 1:12 f., Ephesians 2:1 ff., Ephesians 2:11; Ephesians 2:19, Ephesians 4:17, Ephesians 3:1. Hence it must not be inferred from this, that the Epistle could not have been addressed to the Ephesian church (Reiche, Bleek, and others).

Our Epistle is expressly addressed, in Ephesians 1:1, to the Christians at Ephesus.(61) For the words ἐν ἐφέσῳ are so decisively attested, that they cannot be deprived of their right to a place in the text, either by isolated counter-witnesses, or by the internal grounds of doubt as to the Ephesian destination of the Epistle. Among the manuscripts, א has ἐν ἐφέσῳ only from the hand of a later corrector; B has the words only in the margin, and (in opposition to Hug, de antiq. Cod. Vat. p. 26) not from the first hand (see Tischendorf in the allg. K.-Zeit. 1843, No. 116, and in the Stud. und Krit. 1847, p. 133); while in the Cod. 67, proceeding from the twelfth century,(62) it was placed certainly in the text by the first hand, but was deleted by a second hand (which betrays generally an affinity with B). The evidence of the versions is unanimous for ἐν ἐφέσῳ; but in the Fathers we find undeniable indications that the omission in B א *, and the deletion in Cod. 67, are founded upon older codices, and have arisen out of critical grounds. For Basil the Great, contra Eunom. ii. 19 (Opp. ed. Garnier, I. p. 254), says: τοῖς ἐφεσίοις ἐπιστέλλων ὡς γνησίως ἡνω΄ένοις τῷ ὄντι (that is, to Him who is existent, in the absolute sense) διʼ ἐπιγνώσεως, ὄντας αὐτοὺς ἰδιαζόντως ὠνόμασεν εἰπὼν· τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν καὶ πιστοῖς ἐν χριστῷ ἰησοῦ. οὕτω γὰρ καὶ οἱ πρὸ ἡμῶν παραδεδώκασι, καὶ ἡμεῖς ἐν τοῖς παλαίοις τῶν ἀντιγραφῶν εὑρήκαμεν. From this passage it is clear that Basil considered it indeed certain that the Epistle was written to the Ephesians, but looked upon the words ἐν ἐφέσῳ as non-genuine, to which conclusion he had been led not merely by way of tradition, but also through the old MSS. existing in his time, which he had himself looked into, and which had not ἐν ἐφέσῳ.(63) It has, however, been incorrectly asserted that Jerome also did not find ἐν ἐφέσῳ in MSS., but knew it merely as a conjecture (Böttger, Beitr. 3, p. 37; Olshausen). He says, namely, on Ephesians 1:1 (Opp. ed. Vallars. VII. p. 545): Quidam curiosius, quam necesse est, putant ex eo, quod Moysidictum sit [Exodus 3:14]: haec dices filiis Israel: qui est misit me, etiam eos, qui Ephesi sunt sancti et fideles, essentiae vocabulo nuncupatos.(64) … Alii vero simpliciter non ad eos, qui sint, sed qui Ephesi sancti et fideles sint, scriptam arbitrantur. But this “scriptam arbitrantur” does not refer to the fact that these “alii” had thought that the readers of the Epistle were the Ephesians; to Jerome, on the contrary, ἐν ἐφέσῳ is quite an undoubted part of the text (sanctis omnibus, qui sunt Ephesi, is his reading), and he only adduces two different explanations of τοῖς οὖσιν, by which, however, ἐν ἐφέσῳ is not affected. According to the one interpretation, the Christians at Ephesus were designated as existing in the metaphysical sense; according to the other, τοῖς οὖσιν was taken in the usual simple sense, and consequently the Epistle was regarded as directed not to the existent Ephesian Christians, but to the Christians who were to be found at Ephesus. Thus Jerome has not mentioned the omission of ἐν ἐφέσῳ, and therefore probably was not aware that the opinion of those “quidam” had originated from the very reading without ἐν ἐφέσῳ; on which account he looked upon this opinion as a curiosity. Hence he furnishes, almost contemporaneously with Basil, an important counterpoise to his testimony. But if Basil in his time stands alone, he has a precursor, whose testimony points back to a considerably greater antiquity, in Tertullian, who says, contra Marc. v. 11: “Praetereo hic et de alia epistola, quam nos ad Ephesios praescriptam(65) habemus, haeretici vero ad Laodicenos;” and at v. 17: “Ecclesiae quidem veritate epistolam istam ad Ephesios habemus emissam, non ad Laodicenos, sed Marcion ei titulum aliquando interpolare (i.e. to make it otherwise, alter it) gestiit, quasi et in isto diligentissimus explorator; nihil autem de titulis interest, cum ad omnes apostolus scripserit, dum ad quosdam.” According to this, in Tertullian’s time the Epistle was acknowledged by the orthodox church, and by Tertullian himself (comp. cont. Marc. iv. 5, de praescrip. haer. 36), as an Epistle to the Ephesians, and only heretics like Marcion regarded it as addressed to the Laodiceans; but Tertullian cannot have read or known of ἐν ἐφέσῳ, Ephesians 1:1, because otherwise he would not have spoken merely of a change in the superscription (praescriptam, titulum; comp. on this last, de pudic. 20, al.), and would not have appealed to the “veritas ecclesiae,” but to the text. It has been objected, indeed (see especially, Harless and Wiggers, and compare also Lünemann), that this is an inference from the critical standpoint of our time, and that it would have been quite natural in Tertullian summarily to bring in the “veritas ecclesiae.” But this, would only have been natural for him in the event of the question relating to a falsification of the text by Marcion. The question here concerns a falsification of the titulus, which, if the words ἐν ἐφέσῳ had stood in the text, would have been at variance with the text; and what would have been in that case more natural than to appeal to the apostolic ἐν ἐφέσῳ? The invocation of the “veritas ecclesiae” serves precisely to prove that an apostolic ἐν ἐφέσῳ was not known to Tertullian. This at the same time applies in opposition to the remark of Wiggers, I. 1, p. 429, that Marcion could not have read anything else than ἐν ἐφέσῳ in the address, if he had discovered anything to be changed in the superscription, which was naturally (?) of the same tenor ( πρὸς ἐφεσίους ἐπιστολή). No, he not merely may, but must have read in the address nothing at all of the place for which the Epistle was destined; otherwise he must have falsified the address also, and not merely the traditional superscription—which is not to be assumed, since Tertullian brings a charge against him merely as concerns the titulus, and, on his own part, betrays no knowledge whatever of an ἐν ἐφέσῳ in the address. How, then, could Tertullian dismiss the falsification of Marcion with the evasive nihil autem de titulis interest, cum ad omnes, etc., if he had before him in the apostolic text ἐν ἐφέσῳ, before which the title πρὸς λαοδικέας would at once have broken down? Little as it fell in with Tertullian’s purpose to assail Marcion at length on account of his falsification of the title, since he was occupied in confuting his dogmatic errors, surely it would have required no more words to dispose of the falsifier of the title by an appeal to the text, than to get rid of the matter with the superficial nihil autem de titulis, etc. And how could Marcion himself (evidently on the ground of Colossians 4:16) have hit upon the idea of changing the title of the Epistle, if he himself had read ἐν ἐφέσῳ in Ephesians 1:1? Dogmatic reasons, which at other times determined the heretic in his critical proceedings, did not exist here at all. If, in accordance with all this, the testimony of Tertullian, as well as the procedure of Marcion, to which he bears witness, is adverse to the ἐν ἐφέσῳ; that, on the other hand, of Ignatius, ad Eph. 12, is not to be used either for or against, whether we look at his words in the shorter or the longer recension.(66)

But although, when the matter is thus cleared up, Basil on the ground of older MSS. rejected ἐν ἐφέσῳ, and Marcion and Tertullian did not read the words, they are yet to be most decidedly retained as original, for the following external and internal reasons (in addition to the attestation, upon which we have already remarked, of all other still extant witnesses, and especially of the versions):—(1) The entire ancient church has designated our Epistle expressly as Epistle to the Ephesians (Irenaeus, Haer. v. 23; Clemens Alex. Strom, iv. 8, p. 592, ed. Potter; Tertullian, Origen, and others, even as early as the Canon Murat., and Valentinus in the Philosoph. Or. vi. 34), without even a single voice, with the exception of Marcion’s, being raised against this view. But if the words ἐν ἐφέσῳ had been wanting from the outset, and the Epistle had thus borne on the face of it no place of destination, such a consensus would have been quite as inexplicable in itself as at variance with the analogy of the other Epistles, in which throughout the judgment of the church as to the first readers coincides with the superscription, where there is one, and beyond doubt depends upon it. (2) In all his Epistles Paul designates in the address the recipients most definitely, even when he does not write to the Christians of a single town (1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1), or to a single church (Galatians 1:2). Accordingly our Epistle, if fairly regarded in accordance with the address, should ἐν ἐφέσῳ not be genuine, would be marked out as a catholic one, without any limitation whatever of locality or nationality of the readers,—a view with which the contents (Ephesians 1:15, Ephesians 2:11, Ephesians 3:1, Ephesians 4:17, etc.) as well as the mission of Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21) would be decidedly at variance. (3) On each occasion, when St. Paul in the address has used τοῖς οὖσιν, it serves to specify the locality of the readers. See Romans 1:7 : τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν ῥώμῃ; Philippians 1:1 : τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν φιλίπποις; 1 Corinthians 1:2 : τῇ οὔσῃ ἐν κορίνθῳ, and even so 2 Corinthians 1:1. Compare the addresses in the Ignatian Epistles. (4) If Paul had written τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν καὶ πιστοῖς, we should have a form of address, which does not even admit of any tolerable explanation. It would yield the meaning: to the saints, who are also (not merely saints, but also) believing.(67) But what a diffuse and inappropriate severance of the ideas “saints and believing,” which should rather be conjoined into unity (comp. Colossians 1:2)! With the apostle there are no saints, who are not also believers. The explanation of Meier is chargeable with the same inappropriateness: to the saints, who are also faithful (since the unfaithful have ceased to be saints); and, moreover, it is to be taken into consideration that πιστοῖς is not defined to have the sense of faithful by the context, but rather, when used in the address, and connected with ἐν χ. ., most naturally presents the sense of believing, as in Colossians 1:2.(68) Credner, Einl. I. 2, p. 400, translates: to the saints, who are in fact also believers, and this is held to mean: to the saints, who are true believers; in the mouth of Paul equivalent to Pauline Christians. But, in this case, τοῖς οὖσιν could not, without risk of being misapprehended, dispense with a defining addition (in fact), or Paul at least must have written τοῖς καὶ οὖσιν πιστοῖς, in which case by means of καί the special emphasis of οὖσιν might be indicated (who are not merely called believers, but also are so). Yet even thus the expression would not be clear, and the meaning: to the Pauline Christians, would be purely imported. In a context, where Pauline and anti-Pauline Christians were spoken of, the reader might without further indication understand under true believers the former; but not in the address, where this reference is not suggested by anything, and the less so, seeing that this contrast does not come once under discussion in the Epistle itself. Schneckenburger and Matthies attach τοῖς οὖσιν to τοῖς ἁγίοις. The latter (comp. Bengel) explains: τοῖς οὖσιν, who are there (namely, in Asia Minor, whither Tychicus was journeying to visit them), which imputes to Paul a strange clumsiness. But Schneckenburger (Beitrage, p. 133) renders: to the saints, who are in fact such. But even thus Paul, in order to obviate misunderstanding (and in the address of an official writing at any rate people express themselves definitely and clearly), could not have dispensed with some defining adjunct (in fact) to τοῖς οὖσιν; and, even apart from this, how unsuitable would the address be, whether we explain the true saints as standing in contrast to the nominal Christians or to the Jews! The former would yield an indefinite designation of the readers, and would contain an exclusion and separation unsuited to the apostolic spirit and working. And the latter would be quite out of place, since the Epistle has nothing at all to do with the contrast to Judaism. All explanations without ἐν ἐφέσῳ are fanciful impossibilities, unless we keep to the first-given simple translation of the words. Weiss does this in Herzog’s Encykl. XIX. p. 480; rejecting ἐν ἐφέσῳ, he makes the saints, who are believers also on Christ,(69) to be said of the New Testament saints in contrast with those of the Old Testament. But this contrast would itself be quite without any motive in the contents of the Epistle; indeed, in the καί (also) there would be implied a side-glance at the unconverted Jews, which would be out of place and unsuitable.

In view of all that has been said, we must defend ἐν ἐφέσῳ, Ephesians 1:1, as decidedly genuine. But wherefore was it omitted at so early a period (Marcion, Tertullian, the old MSS. in Basil) in a portion of the codices? Certainly this omission was not a mere transcriber’s error (Lünemann); for not only is such an error in itself improbable at the very main point of the address, but it would not have obtained any considerable diffusion. Further, the possible reason, which may account at Romans 1:7 for the absence of ἐν ῥώμῃ in various MSS., namely, though a transcript of the Epistle for public reading in another particular church, is here at any rate improbable, since the manuscripts not containing ἐν ἐφέσῳ must have been circulated in very different regions (Asia and Africa) and in very considerable number. This latter fact might point to the hypothesis that, by omitting ἐν ἐφέσῳ, it was sought to give to an Epistle so general in tenor and weighty, the impress of a Catholic one (comp. Wieseler, Chronol. des apost. Zeitalt. p. 438). But, in point of fact, the apostolic Epistles directed ad quosdam were already of themselves regarded as written ad omnes (Jerome, c. Marc. v. 17), and hence there was no need of the procedure indicated. Equally inadmissible, moreover, is the view (see below), that from the very first in a portion of the manuscripts the place for the local name was left vacant, and thereby ἐν ἐφέσῳ was omitted.(70) Nor yet can we accept the dogmatic reason, that the name of the place was deleted with a view to favour the metaphysical explanation of τοῖς οὖσιν, specified in Basil and Jerome, since the converse alone is natural, namely, that the metaphysical interpretation of τοῖς οὖσιν arose from the fact of the text being already deprived of the ἐν ἐφέσῳ.

The omission would rather appear due to ancient historical criticism. From the contents of the letter at a very early period the inference had been drawn, that it was addressed to persons who were as yet personally unknown to the apostle, and still novices in Christianity.(71) And how naturally did this lead to the view that the Ephesians had not been the recipients, and so to the deletion of ἐν ἐφέσῳ! The text written without ἐν ἐφέσῳ was soon laid hold of to support the metaphysical explanation of τοῖς οὖσιν, which had arisen out of it; and the favour and diffusion which the latter received from its accordance with the taste of the age necessarily contributed to the spread of the text which was denuded of the ἐν ἐφέσῳ. The omission of these words, thus originated and diffused, could not indeed do away with the correct ecclesiastical tradition of the Epistle being destined for Ephesus, or frustrate the preservation of ἐν ἐφέσῳ and the triumph of that original reading (supported as it was by all the versions), which had been already achieved by the time of Jerome; but it did make it possible for Marcion, seeing that he already found ἐν ἐφέσῳ no longer in the text, to alter, in opposition to tradition, the title πρὸς ἐφεσίους into πρὸς λαοδικέας, regarding the Epistle on the basis of Colossians 4:16 as addressed to the Laodiceans—in the service of the same criticism, under which, only handled in a negative sense, ἐν ἐφέσῳ had disappeared.

But, it is said, the contents—quite general in tenor, without personal reminiscences and references, without salutations (not even Timotheus and Aristarchus are mentioned, as in Colossians 1:1; Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24), without any trace of that close intimacy in which Paul had stood to his Ephesian converts, as a father to his children(72)—are of such a character that the Epistle of itself betrays that it was not directed to the Ephesians; and the passages, Ephesians 1:15, Ephesians 3:1-4, Ephesians 4:21, point to readers who had not been in any personal connection with the apostle. Mainly based on this internal character of the Epistle, we find two hypotheses concerning the readers for whom it was destined:

I. Following Marcion, Grotius, Hammond, Mill, Pierce, du Pin, Wall, the younger Vitringa, Venema, Wetstein, Paley, et al., including, recently, Holzhausen and others (see on Colossians 4:16), as well as Räbiger, Christologia Paul. p. 48, have supposed(73) that the Epistle was addressed to the Laodiceans, as being personally unknown to the apostle (Colossians 2:1). While this hypothesis (to which Baur, p. 457, is also inclined) falls of itself, if the genuineness of ἐν ἐφέσῳ is established, it may, moreover, be urged in opposition to it—(a) that from Marcion’s procedure we may not infer an Asiatic tradition. For the ecclesiastical tradition is quite unanimous in regarding the Ephesians as readers of the Epistle; there is no trace of deviation; the heretic stands alone with his adherents, without any anticipation or echo of his critical paradox. (b) Since, according to. Colossians 4:16, the Epistle to the Laodiceans had at the very first become known in two different churches,—in Laodicea and Colossae,—and without doubt was disseminated from both by copies, it is the more incomprehensible how the Ephesians could appropriate to themselves the Laodicean letter, and how universal ecclesiastical tradition could support this view without meeting with opposition in the church itself. The appeal to the earthquake, which, according to Tacitus, Ann. xiv. 27, in the year 60 (according to Eusebius, Chron., and Orosius, Hist. vii. 7, only at a later date; see Wieseler, p. 455) destroyed Laodicea (according to Eusebius and Orosius, Colossae and Hierapolis also), yields no result, since, according to Tacitus, l.c., Laodicea was soon restored; and the Christian church there cannot have perished (Revelation 3), still less the knowledge of the Epistle which Paul had written to them. No doubt, in view of Colossians 4:16, there must have been an affinity of contents between the Epistle to the Laodiceans and that to the Colossians, which seems to tell in favour of the identity of our Epistle with the former; but may not Paul, besides our Epistle and that to the Colossians, have written a third kindred in its contents? which has perished, like a letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 5:9), one to the Philippians (see on Philippians 3:1, Remark), and perhaps also others, which have left no traces behind. (c) If our Epistle is the Epistle to the Laodiceans, it must have been written before the Epistle to the Colossians (Colossians 4:16), which, according to § 2, is not to be assumed. Indeed, at Ephesians 6:21 and Colossians 4:7, there might possibly be not even meant one and the same journey of Tychicus (which yet forces itself on us so undeniably in pursuance of the words and the geographical relations), seeing that Paul, in the Epistle to the Colossians (Ephesians 4:15), directs the Laodiceans, and an individual among them, to be saluted,—which, from the nature of the case, he would hardly have done, if he had been sending to them at the same time a letter, and that by so trusted a fellow-labourer,(74) who, besides, had to travel by way of Laodicea to Colossae (see on Colossians 4:16, Remark). (d) What Holzhausen says of Colossians 2:2, that it was written with a consciousness of the Epistle to the Ephesians, is purely imaginary. See, in opposition to it, Harless, p. xxxix.

II. Following Beza,(75) and Ussher in his Annales ad ann. 64, Garnier, ad Basil. l.c., Bengel, Benson, Michaelis, Zachariae, Koppe, Ziegler (in Henke’s Magaz. IV. 2, p. 225 ff.), Justi (vermischte Abhandlungen, II. p. 81 ff.), Stolz, Haenlein, Schmidt, Eichhorn, Bertholdt, Hug, Flatt, Hemsen, Sohott, Feilmoser, Schrader, Schneckenburger, Neander, Rückert, Credner, Matthies, Meier, Harless, Böttger, Anger, Olshausen, Thiersch (Kirche im apost. Zeitalt. p. 145 sqq.), Guericke, Lange, Bleek, and others have, though with manifold variations in detail (see Lünemann, p. 33 sqq.), regarded our Epistle as a circular letter. In that case Ephesus has mostly been included in the circle of churches concerned, but sometimes—as by Koppe, Haenlein (who has even lighted on the Peloponnesus!), Eichhorn, Bertholdt, and Reiche—entirely excluded; while Laodicea and its neighbourhood have been in various ways brought in (according to Credner, e.g., one copy of the letter was sent to Ephesus to be circulated among the churches on the west coast of Asia Minor; and another copy to Laodicea, to be circulated among the churches in the interior), in fact, have even been regarded as the locality for which the Epistle was primarily and specially destined; Bleek being withal of opinion that the Ephesians only got it to read from Tychicus on his journey to Phrygia, and retained for themselves a copy of it. But, in opposition to the view of any sort of encyclical destination, we may decisively again urge—(a) the universal and undivided ecclesiastical tradition, which does not exhibit the very slightest trace of such a destination. Indeed, both the orthodox and Marcion are here at one, since both name only one church as the receiver of the Epistle. And when we remember what a high honour any church could not but consider it to have received an apostolic writing, the utter disappearance of all knowledge that our Epistle had belonged to other churches, or had been claimed by them as their property, would be quite inconceivable. (b) Even apart from the circumstance that Paul does not in the Epistle give the slightest hint of any encyclical destination for it, the words of the address ἐν ἐφέσῳ, which cannot critically be dislodged, expressly testify against it. Paul could not thus address it, if he had intended it for more extended circulation, or even for other localities.(76) How very differently he knew how to stamp on the face of the Epistles to the Corinthians the body of readers for whom they were intended! But if the ἐν ἐφέσῳ is held to be spurious (against this view, see above), then the address, which with ἐν ἐφέσῳ is too limited for a circular letter, would without these words be too wide for the purpose; for then no local definition of the readers whatever would be indicated, and the Epistle would present itself not as an encyclical, but as a catholic(77) Epistle. (c) If, with Rückert and Olshausen, we should assume that Paul, in the several copies which he gave to Tychicus, had left blank the name of the place in order that it might be subsequently filled up with the names of the churches concerned (Ussher first suggested this, followed by Garnier, Bengel, Eichhorn, Hug, and others), or that at least in some copies a vacant space was left to be filled up at pleasure (Moldenhauer, Michaelis, Bertholdt, Hemsen, and others), this is ( α) altogether an arbitrary transplanting of a modern procedure from the counting-houses of the present day back into the apostolic age, from which we have circular letters indeed, but no trace of such a process of drawing them out, the mechanical nature of which would hardly square with the spirit of the apostolic age. And ( β) would not the Epistle, even if every church concerned had received a copy provided with its own name, have yet remained a circular letter? Thus, indeed, in the individual church-names of the different copies there would have been just so many contradictions to the proper destination of the Epistle. Why, then, should not Paul—in case of his giving to Tychicus the alleged circular letter in several copies—have named in every address uniformly the recipient churches as a whole? ( γ) It would have been utter folly (comp. Matthaei, ed. min. III. p. 293) if Paul in a portion of the copies had left the name of the place blank to be filled up according to pleasure in a manner which had not already been fixed. Could he write Ephesians 1:15 ff., Ephesians 6:22, without having quite a definite conception what churches he had in view? ( δ) If only the name was to be left blank, why was ἐν also omitted? why did not the copies run τοῖς οὖσιν ἐνκαὶ πιστοῖς κ. τ. λ.? ( ε) How inexplicable, that only copies with ἐν ἐφέσῳ, and, in addition, those having no name whatever, should have had the good fortune to be preserved and distributed! Each of the churches in question would have sought to preserve and to multiply the copy addressed to it under its name; and different traditions with regard to the readers would inevitably have been current at a very early date in the church side by side. ( ζ) If Laodicea was in the circle of churches in question, Colossae also was so (Colossians 4:16). But Colossae did not get the alleged circular letter through the despatch of a copy intended for the Colossians, and addressed to them, but had to procure for itself the Laodicean Epistle from Laodicea (Col. l.c.). These arguments tell at the same time against Bleek’s hesitating conjecture, that Paul in the Epistle, which was primarily intended for Laodicea, Hierapolis, etc., had left a gap after τοῖς οὖσιν, because, at the time of writing the letter, he was not yet able to specify all the several churches; as likewise against Anger’s view, that the circular letter, primarily destined for Ephesus, had at the same time been destined for the daughter-churches of Asia, and among these, also for Laodicea; that Tychicus had to bring it first to Ephesus, from whence it was to make its way to the other churches, and so to Laodicea, and from thence to Colossae. In opposition to this view, see Zeller, Theol. Jahrb. 1844, I. p. 199 ff.; Wieseler, Chronol. d. ap. Zeitalt. p. 442 sq. Similarly Laurent in the Jahrb. f. Deutsche Theol. 1866, p. 131, who assumes that Paul had intended the Epistle for the two churches, Laodicea and Ephesus, but had only despatched one copy for the two, in which he left the designation of the place open. Thus copies with designations of the place had arisen through transcripts, some with ἐν λαοδικείᾳ, some with ἐν ἐφέσῳ, the latter of which obtained the upper hand. But from the evidence of Tertullian (see above) we cannot gather that he had seen MSS. with ἐν λαοδικείᾳ. Besides, there would subsist no reason at all why Paul, if he had written to these two churches, should not also have mentioned both of them in the address.

In accordance with the foregoing discussion, no other critical procedure in ascertaining the readers of the Epistle rests on a historical basis but that adopted by most of the later commentators, which arrives at the conclusion that our Epistle was directed to the Ephesians and to no further church, in pursuance of the genuine ἐν ἐφέσῳ, and in agreement with the primitive and universal tradition of the church. So among the later commentators Whitby, Wolf, Cramer, Morus, and more recently Rinck, Sendschr. der Korinther, p. 31 ff., and in the Stud. u. Krit. 1849, p. 948 ff.; Wurm in the Tüb. Zeitschr. 1833, I. p. 97 f.; Wiggers(78) in the Stud. u. Krit. 1841, p. 412 ff.; Wieseler, Chronol. d. apost. Zeitalt. p. 443. We must, however, candidly confess that, while the difficulties of the individual passages Ephesians 1:15, Ephesians 3:1-4, Ephesians 4:21, may be elucidated by their exegesis, the tone and contents of so general a tenor, the absence of any reminiscences of personal connection with the readers, the want of salutations, etc., in an Epistle to the Ephesians, remain more surprising than would be the case in any other Epistle. The appeal made by Wieseler (p. 449) to the elevated and didactic character of the Epistle is not sufficient to explain this strange phenomenon; we lack the historical information for this purpose, and scientific modesty and prudence prefer to confess in this case the non liquet, rather than to construct hypotheses which, as has been shown, fall to pieces of themselves.(79) There must have existed historical circumstances which occasioned the Epistle to receive the strange form that it undoubtedly has, but we are not acquainted with them. It is very natural, however, to think of the phenomenon in question as, in part at least, causally connected with the mission of Tychicus. In accordance with Ephesians 6:21 f., Paul may have reserved all details to be orally communicated by the latter, who seemed specially fitted for this purpose, since he, as an inhabitant of Asia,(80) as a witness of Paul’s farewell to the presbyters (Acts 20:4), and also named elsewhere as an emissary to Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:12), was undoubtedly very accurately acquainted with the relations of Paul to the Ephesians; whilst on the part also of the apostle himself there might be special motives (based possibly on the accusation brought against him by the Jews, Acts 21:28-29, and on the covetousness of the venal Felix, Acts 24:26), arising from the conditions of his imprisonment and surveillance, for his deeming it advisable by way of precaution to compose his Epistle to this particular church, with which he was on the most intimate footing, without setting forth personal relations and special circumstances. Nevertheless, this Epistle, as an apostolical letter to the Ephesians, with its so general, and, even in various particulars, surprising contents, remains an enigma awaiting further solution; and we must confess that if Ephesus had not been given as the place of destination, criticism would least of all have been likely to light upon this church among the Asiatic churches known to us.


St. Paul was a prisoner when he wrote the Epistle, Ephesians 3:1, Ephesians 4:1, Ephesians 6:20. It has always been the prevailing opinion that this imprisonment was the captivity at Rome, narrated in the Acts of the Apostles. But David Schulz in the Stud. u. Krit. 1829, p. 612 ff., and after him Schneckenburger, Beitr. p. 144 f.; Schott;(81) Böttger (in connection, doubtless, with his hypothesis that that Roman imprisonment only lasted a few days); Wiggers in the Stud. u. Krit. 1841, p. 436 ff.; Thiersch, d. Kirche im apost. Zeitalt. p. 176; Reuss, Gesch. der heil. Schr. N.T. § 114; Schenkel (comp. also Weiss in Herzog’s Encykl. XIX. p. 718); and Zöckler in Vilmar’s Pastoral-theol. Blätt. 1863, p. 277 f., have decided in favour of the captivity at Caesarea. And rightly so. Not, however, as if the friends of Paul, who are named in the contemporary letters to the Colossians and to Philemon (Colossians 4:9-14; Philem. 10 ff., 23 f.), could not have been with him at Rome, as has been sought to be inferred from the Epistle to the Philippians, which only (Ephesians 1:1) mentions Timotheus;(82) nor, again, on account of πρὸς ὥραν, Philemon 1:15, which expression as contrasted with αἰώνιον by no means presupposes merely a quite short separation of the runaway Onesimus from his master; nor yet because Paul at Rome could not have obtained sufficiently accurate information concerning Colossae, for this might, in fact, have been got sufficiently by means of Epaphras (Colossians 4:12);—but, (1) because it is in itself more natural and probable that the slave Onesimus had run away from Colossae as far as Caesarea, than that he should have fled, at the cost of a long journey by sea, to Rome, the more especially as the fugitive was not yet a Christian. The objection (see Wieseler, p. 417), that in the great city of Rome he would have been more secure from being tracked by the fugitivarii, who were everywhere on the look-out for runaway slaves, cannot be maintained, since this police-agency was certainly most to be dreaded in the capital itself and in the company of a state-prisoner. (2) If our Epistle and the Epistle to the Colossians had been sent from Rome, then would its bearer Tychicus, who was accompanied by Onesimus (Colossians 4:8-9), have arrived at Ephesus first, and then at Colossae; and accordingly we might reasonably expect that Paul would have mentioned to the Ephesians along with Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21-22) his companion Onesimus (as he does in Colossians 4:8-9), in order by that means to prepare for his beloved Onesimus a good reception among the Ephesians. If, on the contrary, Tychicus started with Onesimus from Caesarea, he arrived by the most direct road, in keeping with the design of the journey of Onesimus, first at Colossae, where he left the slave with his master, and thence passed on to Ephesus; accordingly Paul had, in the circumstance that Onesimus did not go with Tychicus to Ephesus, a natural reason for not including a mention of Onesimus in the Epistle to the Ephesians. Comp. Wiggers, l.c. p. 440 ff. It is not enough to explain this non-mention from the general absence of individual references in our Epistle (Wieseler), since here the question concerns a single passage, which is really of an individual and personal tenor. (3) In Ephesians 6:21, ἵνα δὲ εἰδῆτε καὶ ὑμεῖς, this καί indicates the conception that, when Tychicus should come to the Ephesians, he would have already fulfilled the aim here expressed in the case of others. And these others are the Colossians (Colossians 4:8-9), with regard to whom, therefore, Paul knew that Tychicus would come first to them, which again tells in favour not of Rome, but of Caesarea, as the starting-point. If the messenger had been despatched from Rome, and so had proceeded from Ephesus to Colossae, we should then have expected the καί at the corresponding passage in the Epistle to the Colossians.(83) Further, (4) Paul, in Philemon 1:22, asks Philemon to prepare a lodging for him, and that, too, for speedy use. (See on Philem. l.c.) This, on the one hand, presupposes the fact that his present place of imprisonment was much nearer to Colossae than the far distant Rome, especially considering the slowness of navigation in those days; on the other hand,—and this is withal the main point,—we must assume, in the light of this request, that Paul thought of coming from his place of imprisonment, after the speedy release which he hoped for, direct to Phrygia, and in particular to Colossae unto Philemon, without making any intermediate journeys, since otherwise there would be no motive for the request as to the immediate preparation of a lodging for him at the house of Philemon simultaneously with the taking back of Onesimus. But now it is plain from Philippians 2:24 that Paul, when he was lying a prisoner at Rome and was there hoping for his liberation, intended to journey to Macedonia (not to Spain, to which his views had been directed earlier, Romans 15:24),—which, after what has been said above, is not in keeping with the bespeaking of a lodging with Philemon. This bespeaking, on the other hand, is quite appropriate, if Paul was at Caesarea. From that place, after the speedy release which he hoped for, he intended to journey through Phrygia and Asia generally, and next to carry out his old plan, which was directed to Rome (Romans 1:10 ff.; Acts 19:21). Whether at this time he still entertained his earlier plan of a journey to Spain (Romans 15:24; at Philippians 2:24 he had given it up), is a matter of indifference for our question. But it is certain that Paul at Caesarea, considering his gentle treatment and the lax prosecution of his trial under Felix, might hope for speedy liberation (Acts 24:23; Acts 24:26). It has been maintained (see Wieseler, p. 420, Guericke, and others) that neither the freedom to preach (Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 4:3 f. is not here relevant), nor the conversion of Onesimus (Philemon 1:10), suit his condition at Caesarea, but that they suit only his position at Rome according to Acts 28:30 f.; but this is to assert too much, for the notice at Acts 24:23 leaves sufficient scope for our recognising such activity on the part of the captive Paul even in Caesarea. Comp. Introd. to Col. § 2.

If, accordingly, Paul composed the Epistle in Caesarea, the date of its composition is either A.D. 60 or A.D. 61.

Finally, the question whether this Epistle or that to the Colossians was first written, is not to be answered on a psychological basis(84) by considering their inner relationship and peculiar character, because in that case there is too much scope left for subjectivity,—as, indeed, on such grounds some have found the Epistle to the Ephesians the earlier (Cornelius a Lapide, Böhmer, Credner, Schneckenburger, Matthies, Anger, Guericke, Reuss), and others that to the Colossians (Schleiermacher, Harless, Neander, Meier, Wiggers, de Wette, Bleek, Weiss); nor yet by inferring, with Hug, from the non-mention of Timothy in the Epistle to the Ephesians, that this Epistle was written earlier than the letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, because in the latter Timothy shares in the salutation, and must thus have joined Paul later.(85) But that the Epistle to the Colossians was written before that to the Ephesians, is to be assumed for the following reasons: (1) As Colossae was the first and nearest goal which Tychicus, in company with the Colossian Onesimus, would reach from Caesarea (see above), it could not but be the most natural and obvious course for the apostle to write the letter to the Colossians sooner than the letter which was to be delivered only at a further stage of his friend’s journey; (2) καὶ ὑμεῖς, Ephesians 6:21, refers to the passage Colossians 4:7, and presupposes that Paul had already written and had in his recollection this latter Epistle. If, indeed, the Epistle to the Laodiceans were identical with the Epistle to the Ephesians, then, according to Colossians 4:16, the Epistle to the Colossians would necessarily be the later. But see § 1, and on Colossians 4:16.

SEC. 3.


After previous expressions of doubt on the part of Schleiermacher (Vorl. üb. Einl. I. N.T. p. 165 f., 194) and Usteri, de Wette has come forward more decidedly than before, assailing the genuineness of the Epistle (exeget. Handbuch, zweite Aufl. 1847, and Einl., fünfte Aufl. 1848); and the critics of Baur’s school (Schwegler, krit. Miscellen zum Epheserbr., in Zeller’s theol. Jahrb. 1844, 2, p. 378 ff.; nachapostol. Zeitalt. II. p. 330 ff., 375 ff.; Baur, Paulus, p. 418 ff., comp. also his Christenth. d. drei ersten Jahrh. p. 104 ff.) relegate the Epistle to the age of Gnosticism and Montanism, whereas de Wette (comp. Schleiermacher) still allows it to belong to the apostolic age, and to a gifted disciple of the apostle as its author. So too Ewald (Sendschr. d, P. p. xii.; Geschichte d. apost. Zeit. p. 243 ff.); he denies that it was written by Paul, but yet places it much nearer to the great apostle than the Pastoral Epistles; while Weisse (Dogmat. I. p. 146) lightly characterizes it as an unapostolic paraphrase of the Epistle to the Colossians, and Hausrath (d. Ap. Paulus, 1865, p. 2, 138) speaks of it as an Epistle to the Laodiceans retouched by another hand.

De Wette’s reasons, in addition to his finding the destination for Ephesus unsuitable, are as follow: that the Epistle, which is devoid of all specially distinctive character in its aim and references, is so dependent on the Epistle to the Colossians, which is almost a mere verbose amplification of it, as to be out of keeping, when divested of the reference to the false teachers. Such a copying from himself is unworthy of the apostle; the style, too, is un-Pauline, overladen as it is with parentheses and accessory clauses, involving a want of connection (Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 2:5, Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 3:13), copious in words but poor in thoughts; so, too, are the divergences in particular expressions,(86) as well as in the thoughts, doctrinal opinions, and mode of teaching.(87) But (a) while the absence of any concrete and direct peculiarity of character in its aim and references is surprising, it is altogether unfavourable to any doubts as to its genuineness, partly because the bringing out at all of a writing under an apostle’s name and authority makes us presuppose more definite tendencies and more readily recognisable conditions as aimed at in it; partly because, in particular, the circumstances of the Ephesian church, and the close relationship of the apostle to them, must have been so generally known, that a non-apostolic author would either have deliberately taken account of and employed them, or else, if the design of his undertaking permitted it, would have made another and happier selection of an address than this very ἐν ἐφέσῳ. He who could prepare under the name of the apostle an Epistle of so thoroughly Pauline a tenor, must have been quite able to imitate him in the mention and handling of concrete circumstances, and would, by such an omission of those matters as is apparent in our Epistle, neither have satisfied himself nor have answered his design of personating Paul—so much would he have failed in acting his part. The very fact that the Epistle, as an Epistle to the Ephesians, had its genuineness so generally recognised by the ancient church, is, when we consider the general nature of its contents, which always remains mysterious, a doubly valid evidence that this recognition has historically arisen out of immediate and objective certainty. Further, (b) as regards the relation of the Epistle to that to the Colossians, there appear, as is well known, many resemblances in matter and form—some even literal—between the two Epistles.(88) This may, however, be sufficiently explained, in part subjectively from the fact that Paul had just written the Epistle to the Colossians before writing to the Ephesians, so that his mind was still full of and pervaded by the ideas, warnings, and exhortations which he had expressed in the former; in part objectively from the fact that the state of affairs at Ephesus must have been well, enough known to the apostle to induce him to repeat various portions of the writing which he had just composed for another Asiatic church, and that to such a degree that he considered it fitting even to reproduce various things word for word from the Epistle to the Colossians, which lay before him. To declare this a course unworthy of the apostle is rash, since we have no other pair of letters from his hand issued so contemporaneously and under the influence of so similar a train of thought. But while certainly several elements from the Epistle to the Colossians have been amplified as to verbal expression in ours, there are also several that are reproduced in a more concise form (e.g. Ephesians 1:15-17 compared with Colossians 1:3-4; Ephesians 2:16 with Colossians 1:20; Ephesians 4:32 with Colossians 3:12 f., and others); and those amplifications admit of natural explanation from renewed dwelling on the same thoughts, in which Paul did not proceed mechanically, and a mind such as his easily had recourse to more words rather than fewer in setting forth the subject afresh. At any rate, de Wette’s judgment of it as almost nothing but a verbose amplification, is exaggerated, seeing that the two Epistles present in their course of thought, tenor, and mode of treatment very essential differences (see Harless, p. lxix. ff.; Lünemann, de Ep. ad Eph. authentiâ, etc., p. 10 ff.), and the conclusion that a pseudo-Paul was at work would, at all events, be too hasty, so long as it was not from other sufficient grounds clear that Paul could not have been himself the amplifier. On the other hand, it is scarcely conceivable of an amplifying imitator, that one so intimately acquainted with the apostle’s ideas and diction, should have chosen a single Pauline Epistle for the sole and often literal basis of his work; for thereby he would merely have imposed an unnecessary restriction on himself, and have increased the probability of his fiction, made up though it might be in the best sense, being recognised as such. A man, who could think and write in so Pauline a manner as that wherein the portions not parallel to the Colossian Epistle are thought and written, might with ease have given to his pretended apostolic treatise a shape quite different and not so palpably exhibiting any single source. (c) With respect to the objections taken to the style of the Epistle as too diffuse, loaded with parentheses and accessory clauses, carrying with it a want of connection (Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 2:5, Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 3:13), verbose, and poor in new ideas, it is to be observed, first, and generally, that this verdict is an unfavourable judgment resting on taste and subjective in character; and, secondly, that in its individual concrete references it relates to a certain peculiarity of the Epistle, which yet is not un-Pauline, seeing that, in fact, the unity of mould and flow, the pectus atque indoles Paulinae mentis (Erasmus), which pervades it from beginning to end,(89) leads us more fairly and justly to set down the greater diffuseness, and what is called overloading, to the account of the apostle himself, deeply moved as he was by his subject. There is greater diffuseness certainly, but how natural is this, when we consider the general character of the grand subject-matter and of its evolution, and the absence of casual contents! There are a number of parentheses and accessory clauses certainly, but not after an un-Pauline fashion, and natural enough to a writer so full of the ideas concerned and the collateral thoughts suggested by them. Nowhere is there in reality want of connection, as it is the province of the exposition to show. A poverty of new ideas is merely apparent in proportion to the standard of the expectation cherished a priori; the letter abounds in many-sided modifications and expanded statements of thoughts which were vividly present to the writer’s mind, in part from the Epistle to the Colossians, but a rich accession of new ideas was neither withal intended nor called forth by dialectic controversy (as to the copiousness of diction, see above). As respects (d) the particular divergences of style, ἅπαξ λεγόμενα are found in every Epistle of Paul, as well as other peculiar modes of expression, as may readily be conceived in the case of a letter-writer having so delicate and comprehensive a mastery of the Greek language; but no one of the proofs brought forward by de Wette (which are in part inappropriately selected, and, on the other hand, might have had their number increased) is at variance with the idiosyncrasy of the apostle. And, further, (e) ἅπαξ νοούμενα are not appropriate grounds for doubting the genuineness of a writing in dealing with one whose mind was so inexhaustibly rich, and whose conception moved with such admirable freedom and many-sidedness in the Christian sphere, as was the case with St. Paul. Everything which is adduced as surprising in conception and doctrine may be psychologically and historically explained as standing in full accord with the pure Pauline Gospel (see the exposition), and the objections which are taken to the mode of teaching find analogies in other Pauline Epistles, and rest upon aesthetic presuppositions, which in a historico-critical examination of the New Testament writings supply us with but very uncertain criteria, seeing that in such a case modern taste is much too easily called in as an extraneous ground influencing the judgment. The more candidly de Wette speaks out as to the Epistle not having been composed in the apostolic age, and makes a gifted disciple of Paul to be its author, the more insoluble he makes the riddle, that such an one should have left his treatise without trace of individual historical relations of the apostle to the Ephesians, which it would have been so easy for him to interweave. Lastly, the reasons urged by the school of Baur, according to which this Epistle and the companion Epistle to the Colossians, forming a spurious pair, are held to be a product of Gnosis in opposition to Ebionitism (comp. on Col. Introd. § 3), are disposed of, when the exposition, dealing in a strictly objective manner, demonstrates in the very places which have been called in question simply Pauline contents. See, in opposition to Baur’s contrast, specially Klöpper, de orig. epp. ad Eph. et Col., Gryph. 1853; and with regard to the Christology of our letter and that to the Colossians, Räbiger, de Christologia Paulina, p. 42 ff.; Lange, apost. Zeitalt. I. 1, p. 119 ff.(90) The more decisive in that case becomes the weight, which the external attestation by uninterrupted church-tradition throws into the scale. This attestation has been even dated back to the Apostolic Fathers; but in Ignatius, Eph. 12, the Epistle is not at all directly mentioned (see above, § 1), and in Polycarp, Phil. 12, where it is said: “ut in his scripturis dictum est: Irascimini et nolite peccare, et: Sol non occidat super iracundiam vestram,” there is no quotation of Ephesians 4:26, but rather, as in his scripturis (comp. immediately before: in sacris literis) and the intervening et prove, the citation of two Old Testament sayings, namely, Psalms 4:5 and Deuteronomy 24:13; Deuteronomy 24:15, though the connecting of these two passages may be based on a reminiscence of our Epistle.(91) Apart from the citations in the interpolated Ignatian letters, the undoubted and express ecclesiastical attestation begins with Irenaeus, Haer. v. 2, 3, and v. 14. 3, and is not interrupted by any contradiction (Marcion held it as Pauline, but as addressed to the Laodiceans). Even the Valentinians already in Irenaeus, i. 8. 5, cite Ephesians 5:13 expressly as a saying of Paul, and in the Philosoph. of Origen, vi. 34, as γραφή.

See the table in de Wette, p. 286 ff. Comp. Bemmelen, Diss. de epp. ad Eph. et Col. inter se collat., Lugd. Bat. 1803.


The apparent resemblances to the first Epistle of Peter of expressions and thoughts in the Epistle to the Ephesians (see Weiss, Petrin. Lehrbegr. p. 426 ff., who has, however, adduced under this head far too much) are too little characteristic adequately to justify us in presupposing a dependence of our Epistle on that of Peter (Weiss, who considers both genuine; Schwegler, who regards both as spurious). We should rather assume the converse, when we remember how strictly Paul preserved and acutely vindicated his apostolic independence; but it is quite sufficient to take our stand on the creative power of the church-language formed by Paul, from which Peter was neither able nor willing to hold himself aloof, while it remains an open question whether he had read Epistles of Paul. 2 Pet. (Ephesians 3:15 f.) is not genuine.


We are unable to perceive from the letter itself any special occasion given for it on the part of the Ephesians; hence it seems to have been called forth by mere accident through the mission of Tychicus and Onesimus to Colossae—an opportunity, which Paul made use of to send Tychicus also to Ephesus, in order not only to supply the Christians there with (oral) news of him, and to obtain news of them, but also to address to them a written discourse, partly on the glory of redemption and of their state as Christians, partly on the conduct in keeping with it, in order to strengthen and further them in stedfastness and unity of faith and Christian morality; yet not so, that the proper aim of the Epistle (de Wette) is to be discerned in the irenic section Ephesians 4:1-16. There are no traces of Ephesian false teachers, similar to those at Colossae (this in opposition to Michaelis, Haenlein, Flatt, Schott, Neudecker, and others), in the Epistle (for Ephesians 4:14 f. may be explained from the general experience of the apostle, and Ephesians 5:6 relates to moral seductions); neither is a precautionary regard to such theosophy and asceticism (see Schneckenburger, Beitr. p. 135 ff.; Olshausen; comp. also Meier and Weiss) at any rate capable of proof, since in the Epistle itself it is not at all hinted at. Bengel well says: “Singulare haec epistola specimen praebet tractationis evangelicae in thesi … inde nullum speciatim errorem aut vitium refutat aut redarguit, sed generatim incedit.” Paul may, however, have had in the background the thought of the possible approach of that Gnostic danger, though he did not consider it necessary or suitable at this time to furnish an express reference or warning to that effect.

As regards contents, the Epistle divides itself into a predominantly dogmatic and a predominantly hortatory portion. The dogmatic portion is a lofty(92) effusion over the glory and blessedness of the redemption effected through Christ, to which also the readers, formerly Gentiles, had attained, and thereafter over the relation of the apostle to this saving dispensation, and to the share of the readers therein (chap. 1–3.). The hortatory portion summons them to a conduct worthy of their calling, and, first of all, to Christian unity (Ephesians 4:1-16); and then to a moral walk opposed to their previous Gentile life—which is illustrated in detail as concerns very diversified conditions and relations (Ephesians 4:17 to Ephesians 6:20). By way of conclusion, Paul refers, as regards his personal relations, to Tychicus, of whose mission he specifies the object (Ephesians 6:21 f.), and ends with a double benediction (Ephesians 6:23 f.).

Luther (in his editions of the N.T. down to 1537) reckons the Epistle among “the genuine and noblest books of the New Testament, which show to thee Christ, and teach everything which it is necessary and good for thee to know, even though thou shouldest never see or hear any other book or doctrine.”


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Bibliography Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Ephesians:4 Overview". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.

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