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Bible Commentaries
Ephesians 2

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-22

II 1-10 Convert Jews and Gentiles: What they were, and what they are (viz. members of the same Body of which Christ is the Head)—They can measure God’s power by contemplating their deliverance from Satan (whom the Jews regarded as wielding power from the air).

3. The Jews were in the same state of guilt (cf. 5): ’by nature children of wrath, even as the rest’. The context does not refer directly to original sin, and St Paul here by the expression ’by nature’ seems to mean simply ’by natural impulse’. This is the sense understood by the Greek Fathers and by St Jerome. St Augustine, however, took the sense to be ’by birth’, and he pointed to this text as a direct reference to original sin, when he was writing against the Pelagians.

5. ’Dead’in sins’: convert Jews and Gentiles alike are quickened together, not merely along with Christ, but in him—in the Body of which Christ is the head and they the members, cf.Colossians 2:13.

8. This great privilege issues from a twofold gift: grace on the part of God, faith on the part of man—faith being the instrument for grace to act. This gift is wholly from God, and the Council of Orange (529) used this text to prove that the beginnings of faith are a gift of grace (Dz 199). 10. The reason why all this issues from God and not from ourselves is that we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus—a new creation just as surely as our entry into natural life was a creation.

11-22 Christ’s Atonement— The Apostle’s readers were converts from paganism. 12. They were outside the society (DV ’conversation’) of Israel, despised by the Jews, immersed in the terrestrial order, without Christ . . . without God in this world; for before their conversion they had no clear idea of God.

13-14. How was the distance between privileged and unprivileged bridged? How did peace in Christ come about? St Paul explains that the barrier between Jew and Gentile (symbolized by the barrier in front of the Court of Israel in the Temple) was broken down by the blood of Christ, by the cross (16a). 15. This expiatory sacrifice of Christ ’in his flesh’ (14c) abrogated the Law consisting of peremptory commands enforced by the decrees of Rabbis. Rickaby translates the last word well as ’comminations’, i.e. curses on transgressors. The first result of the abrogation of the Law is that Jews and Gentiles are not merely fused into one people: they are made one in one man.

17. Christ, the author of our peace, brought the thrilling news (DV ’preached’) in person for the Gentiles, who were afar off, and for the Jews, who were nigh.

18. By his merits and propitiatory sacrifice (’by him’) we are both introduced into the presence of (’access’) the Father in One Holy Spirit. The bond of love and peace which joins the Father to the Son is also the bond of union for the members of the Church.

19-22. To explain the full enfranchisement of the Gentiles, St Paul uses metaphors, because ’the union of the Faithful with Christ is closer than words can tell’ (Rickaby). The convert Gentiles are fellowcitizens of God’s own household. The second metaphor: they are stones in the building which is the Church. This edifice has for foundations the Apostles and the NT Prophets (cf. 4:11; Acts 11:27; Acts 13:1; 1 Corinthians 12:28, etc.). And Christ himself is the corner-stone ’which binds together both the walls and the foundations’ (Chrysostom). The third metaphor (21) is complex. We have to picture the holiest part of the Temple in process of being built. At the same time this Temple is a living organism, the life and growth of which comes from Christ. In this holy-of-holies, which is also an organism, the Gentiles are living stones. Cf. the hymn ’Caelestis urbs Ierusalem’ sung at the feast of a Dedication of a church:

’Thou heavenly, new Jerusalem, Vision of peace in prophet’s dream, With living stones built up on high And rising to yon starry sky’.

( M. Britt, O.S.B., The Hymns of the Breviary and Missal, London, 1925.)

The Apostle has set forth the vocation of the Gentiles to the One Church of Christ. He now proceeds to describe how Christ is the Revealer of this mystery, and how Paul himself is the herald.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on Ephesians 2". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/ephesians-2.html. 1951.
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