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Bible Commentaries

International Critical Commentary NT

Ephesians 3

Verses 1-99

3:1-7. This truth, that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs with the Jews, was hidden from former generations, but has now been revealed to the apostles and prophets; and unworthy though I am, yet to me has been given the privilege of making it known, and of preaching Christ to the Gentiles

1. τούτου χάριν ἐγὼ Παῦλοςδέσμιος τοῦ χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν τῶν ἐθνῶν. (Tischendorf omits Ἰησοῦ, with א* D* G.) “For this reason, I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles.” “For this reason,” “hujus rei gratiâ,” Vulg., i.e., as Theodoret says, “Knowing well both what ye were and how ye were called and on what conditions, I pray God to establish you in the faith.”

Chrysostom supplies εἰμί. I am the prisoner of Christ Jesus, etc. So the Peshitto and many moderns, including Beza, Meyer, Macpherson, “in order that ye may be built up to the habitation of God—in this behoof, that your Christian development may advance to that goal.” But this is to give too great prominence to the assertion of his imprisonment, as if it were a main point in the discourse, instead of being incidental. Besides, we should expect in that case δέσμιος without the article. St. Paul was not likely thus to designate himself as “the prisoner of Christ Jesus,” even with the addition “for you Gentiles.” The notoriety of the fact does not explain this. Moreover, this view makes τούτου χάριν and ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν rather tautologous. The analogy of ch. 4:1 is in favour of taking ὁ δ. in apposition with ἐγὼ Παῦλος.

Calvin’s “legatione fungor” is a rendering of πρεσβεύω, the reading of D (from 6:20). Three cursives add κεκαύχημαι.

Origen (Catena) supposes a solecism; that, in fact, what St. Paul ought to have written was τ. χαρ. … ἐγνώρισα τὸ μυστ. Jerome also, following Origen, declares that after diligent search he could not find the continuation of the sense. But the true key was given by Theodore Mops., followed by Theodoret, viz. that vv. 2-13 is a parenthesis. ταῦτα πάντα ἐν μέσῳ τεθεικὼς Titus 1:5. But then ὁ δέσμιος would have no point, and, besides, ver. 8 is closely connected with 6 and 7. It is much more satisfactory to assume, with Theodore and Theodoret, that the sense is resumed with the same words, τούτου χάριν, in ver. 14. The supposition of a resumption in ch. 4:1, adopted in the AV., rests apparently only on the repetition of ὁ δέσμιος, and unnecessarily lengthens the parenthesis.

“The prisoner of Christ Jesus,” so he calls himself in 2 Timothy 1:8 and Philemon 1:9, and in this Ephesians 4:1, “prisoner in the Lord.” He looks on his imprisonment, not merely as suffered in the service of the Lord, but as part of the lot assigned to him by Christ, so that he was Christ’s prisoner. Somewhat similarly in ch. 6:20, ὑπὲρ οὗ πρεσβεύω ἐν

“In behalf of you Gentiles.” Since it was his preaching the free admission of the Gentiles that led to his persecution at the hands of the Jews and to his present imprisonment, Acts 21:21, Acts 21:28, Acts 21:22:22.

2. εἴγε ἠκούσατε τὴν οἰκονομίαν. “If, indeed, ye have heard of the dispensation.” This seems decisive against the supposition that the Epistle was addressed to a Church which had been personally instructed by the writer. The utmost force that can be claimed for εἴγε is that, in Hermann’s words, it is used “de re quae jure sumpta creditur,” “if, as I take for granted,” being less hypothetical than εἴπερ. According to Lightfoot on Galatians 3:4, this rule requires modification when applied to the N.T., where εἴγε is less directly affirmative than εἴπερ.

Eadie says it is “undeniable” that εἴγε is used in the N.T. of things that are certain, quoting 4:21 and Colossians 1:23. The former passage is in the same case with the present; in the latter, hope only is expressed, not certainty. The only other places where εἴγε occurs in the N.T. are Galatians 3:4 and in the Received Text 2 Corinthians 5:3 (εἴπερ, B D). It is found also in Romans 5:6 in B. But allowing that the particle implies certainty as strongly as Hermann’s rule asserts, it could not be used of a fact in the writer’s own experience. A preacher addressing a strange congregation might say “I am sure,” or even “I know that you have been taught so and so,” but no preacher addressing those whom he himself had taught would ordinarily express himself in this way.1


It is said, indeed, that this argument proves too much, since “what was known of Paul in the Ephesian Church would practically be known of him throughout the missions of Asia” (Moule). But this is just the kind of case in which the particle may be properly used, viz. where the writer may be “practically” certain, but doubt is conceivable. Besides, the details which follow might be but imperfectly known to those who had not heard them from St. Paul’s own lips. And again, would he, in writing to the Ephesians, refer them to what he has just now written, that they may appreciate his knowledge in the mystery of Christ? Had they not had much more full proof of this during his long ministry? Every other attempt to evade this conclusion is equally unsuccessful. Thus ἠκούσατε has been rendered “intellexistis” (Anselm, Grotius), a meaning which the verb can have only when “hearing” is included; or, again, “hearing” the Epistle read (alluding to earlier passages in this Epistle); but cf.

As the explanation which follows is “that by revelation,” etc., it is best to understand τ. χάριτος as the genitive of the object, viz. the dispensation or plan or arrangement (namely, God’s arrangement) with respect to the grace,” etc. Chrysostom, followed by Oecum., takes the genitive as that of the subject. οἰκ. χαρ. τὴν 1 Corinthians 9:17), he could hardly speak of it as “given to him.” Nor does this interpretation agree with the circumstance that the following words take the form of an explanation. The explanation of οἰκ., as the apostolic office or stewardship, is also not consistent with the explanation, in which it is the act of God that is spoken of, not any conduct of the apostle. It is tempting to suppose, with some expositors, that the writer, in using the word οἰκονομία, has in his mind the building just referred to. But although οἶκος might suggest the idea of an οἰκονόμος, οἰκοδομή and οἰκητήριον do not; and the figurative use of οἰκονομία was so common, that it the apostle had intended such an allusion, he would have made it more distinct.

3. ὅτι κατὰ Galatians 1:12. In the latter passage, κατά could not have been used on account of Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ following.


ἐγνωρίσθη is the reading of א A B C D* G P, Vulg., Boh., Arm., Chrys. The Rec. has ἐγνώρισε, with Dc K L, Theoph. Oec. For τὸ μυστήριον see on ch. 1:9. Here, not the “mystery” of redemption in general is meant, but the particular “mystery” of the inclusion of the heathen, for it is thus explained in ver. 6.

καθὼς προέγραψα ἐν ὀλίγῳ. “As I have just written in brief.” προ- is local, not temporal (cf. Galatians 3:1, προεγράφη), and the reference is to the present Epistle, not to an earlier one, as supposed by Chrysostom, Calvin, al., contrary to the present participle 1 Corinthians 5:9, ἔγραψα ἐν τῇ ἐπιστολῇ and 1 Peter 5:12, ἔγραψα διʼ ὀλίγων. The reference is doubtless to the whole preceding exposition about the Gentiles.

ἐν ὀλίγῳ, equivalent to ἐν βραχεῖ, used by Demosthenes. Theodoret, indeed, and some moderns connect this with the προ- in προέγραψα, as if it meant “paulo ante,” which would be πρὸ ὀλίγου. ἐν ὀλ. in a temporal sense would mean, “in a short time” (Acts 26:28). Wetstein correctly, “pauca tantum attigi cum multa dici possent.” Oecumenius gives a peculiar turn, οὐκ ἔγραψεν ὅσα ἐχρῆν

4. πρὸς ὅ is, “according to which, or looking to which,” namely, to what I have said. Comp. “πρὸςἔπραξεν,” 2 Corinthians 5:10; πρὸς τὴν Galatians 2:14; πρὸς τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῦ, Luke 12:47. But the usage is quite classical.


ἀναγινώσκοντες, present, because it is “while reading,” or “as ye read.”

νοῆσαι. Where it is indifferent whether the aorist or present infinitive is used, the aorist is more frequent (Winer, § 44. 7), especially after such verbs as δύναμαι, θέλω, etc. Hort thinks this Matthew 24:15. But there the passage “read” is distinctly specified, and although in Mark 13:14 Daniel is not named, he is quoted.

τὴν συνεσίν μου ἐν τῷ μυστηρίῳ τοῦ χριστοῦ. “My understanding in the mystery of Christ.” The article is not required before ἐν τῷ μ., because συνιέναι ἐν is a frequent expression (Joshua 1:7; 2 Chronicles 34:12).

μυστ. τοῦ Χρ. We have the same expression in Colossians 4:3, where it clearly means the doctrine of the free admission of the Gentiles (διʼ ὃ καὶ δέδεμαι). It is the same here, as explained in ver. 6. Similarly, in Colossians 1:27 we have τοῦ μ. τούτουἐστιν Χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν. That passage has been used (by Alford, Ellicott, Meyer) to prove that the genitive here is one of apposition or identity; but it fails in this, since there it is not Χριστός but Χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν, that constitutes the μ. It is better, therefore, to understand “the mystery (or doctrine) relating to the Christ”; the genitive being that of the object.

Critics who question the genuineness of the Epistle regard this verse as the expression of a boastfulness not in accordance with the dignity of an apostle, and only a clumsy imitation of 2 Corinthians 11:5, 2 Corinthians 11:6, where St. Paul is merely claiming for himself that in which his opponents claim to surpass him. But there is no self-laudation in this assertion of σύνεσις (see, on the contrary, ver. 8); nor even as high a claim to exceptional knowledge as is involved in κατὰ

5. ὃ ἐτέραις γενεαῖς οὐκ ἐγνωρίσθη τοῦς υἱοῖς τῶν Acts 14:16, ἐν ταῖς παρῳχημέναις γ.; and for the dative of time, 2:12, ἑτέραις, i.e. other than the present.

“The sons of men,” an expression frequent in the O.T. and simply = “men.” Comp. Mark 3:28 (the only N.T. parallel) with Matthew 12:31. It is needless, therefore, to adopt Bengel’s remark, “latissima appellatio, causam exprimens ignorantiae, ortum naturalem cui opponitur Spiritus.” Bengel, indeed, thinks that the prophets are especially referred to, because Ezekiel, who writes largely of the temple, as St. Paul does here, calls himself the son of man; but this is peculiar to him. It seems equally erroneous to find in the words a marked contrast with “His holy apostles,” namely, because these were Θεοῦ ἄνθρωποι (2 Peter 1:21) (Ellicott). This is far-fetched. The apostles and prophets were not the less sons of men; and we might, with as much reason, follow Jerome, who would exclude the O.T. patriarchs and prophets because they were “sons of God.”


ὡς νῦν

“His holy apostles.” How can the writer, if himself an apostle, use such an expression? Some critics answer unhesitatingly that it is incredible that an apostle should do so, and that the expression betrays the view which belonged to a later age. Baur thinks the ἁγίοις an oversight. And the writer who was so unskilful as to be guilty of this palpable oversight, is so mindful of his assumed character that in the same breath he says, ἐμοὶ τῷ ἐλαχιστοτέρῳ πάντων ἁγίων. The difficulty seems to arise from the use of the word “holy,” and the corresponding words in other modern languages, to express the personal character of “holiness.” But ἅγιος is used of any thing that is set apart for a sacred purpose. So we have “holy prophets,” Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21. All Christians are by their calling ἅγιοι, and St. Paul frequently uses the word where he himself is included (e.g. 1 Corinthians 6:2 and Colossians 1:26). When he calls all believers ἅγιοι, what delicacy should prevent him from calling the apostles by the same word? A clergyman is not expected to be prevented, by a feeling of delicacy, from speaking of his “reverend brethren,” or a bishop of his “right reverend brethren.”

Lachmann and Tregelles place a comma after ἁγίοις, the following words being in apposition: “to the saints, His apostles and prophets,” or rather “apostles and prophets of His.” But such a separation of the adjective from the following substantive is harsh, although it must be admitted that it is suggested by the parallel in Colossians 1:26.


A more considerable difficulty seems to arise from the statement that the mystery of the free admission of the Gentiles had been revealed to “the apostles and prophets,” viz. as a body. For this is precisely the special doctrine which St. Paul seems elsewhere, and here in ver. 3, to claim as his own, and which, at least at first, was not accepted by the other apostles (Gal_2.). In ver. 8, also, this is recognised as the distinctive characteristic of St. Paul’s apostleship. For this reason Reuss makes the suggestion that the second half of ver. 5 is a gloss. In favour of this suggestion, it may also be observed that αὐτοῦ has no expressed antecedent, unless, indeed, in opposition to most expositors, we take it to be Χριστοῦ. In the parallel in Colossians 1:26, τοῖς ἁγίοις αὐτοῦ, the antecedent Θεοῦ occurs just before. But the authority of the MSS. is too strong for this suggestion to be accepted. B, indeed, omits

The difficulty, however, is met by the consideration that, not-withstanding the doubts which the other apostles at first entertained, they afterwards fully accepted the doctrine as taught by St. Paul, Acts 15., Galatians 2:7 ff., and that long before the present Epistle was written. The “prophets” are manifestly Christian prophets. ἐν πνεύματι must be joined with the verb, not with προφήταις, to which it would be a superfluous addition, or ἁγίοις or the following εἶναι.

6. εἶναι τὰ ἔθνη συγκληρονόμα καὶ σύσσωμα … (namely) “that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs (or joint possessors) and fellow-members of the body.” Epexegetical; stating, not the purpose, but the content of the μυστήριον. The “should be” of AV. is not grammatically tenable. συγκληρονόμα, fellow-heirs, not with Christ, as in Romans 8:17 (and Jerome here), for it is “in Christ,” but with the believing Jews. The word συγκληρονόμος is found four times in the N.T. and once in Philo, but not elsewhere. σύσσωμα, incorporated with them into the body of which Christ is the Head. The word is not found elsewhere (except in the Fathers), and is supposed to have been perhaps formed by St. Paul. But as Aristotle has the compound συσσωματοποιεῖν (De Mundo, iv. 30), it is more probable that the adjective was in use.


καὶ συμμέτοχα τῆς ἐπαγγελίας ἐν χριστῷἸησοῦ

The Received Text has αὐτοῦ after ἐπαγγ., with Dbc G K L, al.; but the word is absent from א A B C D* P 17, al. Χριστῷ of the Text Rec. rests on nearly the same MS. authority, with the addition of D; while ΧριστῷἸησοῦ has the authority of א A B C P 17.

“And joint-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus.” The accumulation of epithets is due to the importance of the matter; there is no climax, for συμμέτ. is not stronger than σύσσωμα. The former word is found outside this Epistle only in Josephus, but the verb συμμετέχω occurs in Xen. and Plato. Jerome renders the words “cohaeredes et concorporales et comparticipes promissionis,” defending the inelegance of the Latin by the importance of correctly representing the Greek. The genitive ἐπαγγ. depends only on συμμετ. The promise is the promise of salvation, of a part in the kingdom of the Messiah; and to be partakers of the promise is to be joined with those to whom the promise is given. There is no need, then, to take ἡ ἐπαγ. as = the thing promised, still less to understand this specially of the Holy Spirit. In the passages to which Eadie and others refer in support of such a restriction, the Spirit is expressly named, e.g. Galatians 3:14; ch. 1:13.

ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ and διὰ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου refer to all three epithets. “In Christ Jesus through the gospel.” In Christ, not διά, for He was not simply the means; it was in His person that this effect was produced. Cf. 1:7; and for an analogous distinction between ἐν and διά, even where both substantives are impersonal, 1 Peter 1:5, ἐν δυνάμει Θεοῦ φρουρουμένους διὰ πίστεως, and Hebrews 10:10, ἐνθελήματι ἡγιασμένοι ἐστε διὰ τῆς προσφορᾶς κ.τ.λ.

7. οὗ ἐγενήθην διάκονος. “Of which I became a minister” (ἐγενήθην, א A B D* G; but ἐγενόμην, C Dc K L). The use of γενηθῆναι instead of the Attic γενέσθαι is condemned by Phrynichus, who calls it Doric; but it is frequent in later Greek writers (Polybius, Diodorus, Dion. Hal. etc.), as is shown by Lobeck (ad Phryn. p. 109). There is no ground, then, for assigning to the word here a passive shade of meaning, as is done by Oecum., οὐδὲν γὰρ ἐγὼ ἔργον ἐμὸν συνεισήνεγκα τῇ χάριτι ταύτῃ. Compare, on the contrary, Colossians 4:11, ἐγενήθησάν μοι παρηγορία; 1 Thessalonians 2:14, μιμηταὶ ἐγενήθητε.

διάκονος. Harless maintains that δ. denotes the servant in his activity for that service, while ὑπηρέτης denotes him in his activity for the Master, apparently on the ground that διακονεῖν τι or τινί τι is said, and he compares 1 Corinthians 4:1 with Colossians 1:7. But ὑπηρετεῖν τινί τι is also said (Xen. Anab. vii. 7. 46; Soph. Phil. 1012), and the distinction cannot be maintained; see 2 Corinthians 11:23, διάκονοι Χριστοῦ εἰσι; 1 Timothy 4:6; and for ὑπηρέτης, Acts 26:16; Luke 1:2.


κατὰ τὴν δωρεὰν τῆς χάριτος τοῦ Θεοῦ τῆς δοθείσης μοι κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ. According to the gift of that grace of God which was given to me “by virtue of the exercise of His power.” τῆς δοθείσης is the reading of א A B C D* G, Vulg., Boh. The accusative is read by Dc K L, Syr., Chrys. The genitive is one of apposition, the gift being the grace given, so that the two readings do not differ in sense; but logically the genitive has the advantage, as the grace required this further definition more than the gift.

κατὰ τὴν ἐν. αὐτοῦ. These words, which are to be connected with δοθείσης, are by no means superfluous, but express the everpresent consciousness of St. Paul that his mission as an apostle was not due to anything in himself, it was the grace of God given with Divine power that alone changed the persecutor into the apostle. Hence the accumulation δωρεά, χάρις δοθείσης ἐνέργεια, δύναμις, proceeding from the feeling of his own unworthiness, suggested by οὗ διάκ. ἐγενήθην. “Nolite respicere quid sim meritus, quia dominus ultro mihi sua liberalitate hoc contulit ut sim apostolus gentium; non mea dignitate sed ejus gratia. Nolite etiam respicere qualis fuerim; nam domini est homines nihili extollere. Haec est potentiae ejus efficacia, ex nihilo grande aliquid effcere.” See Dale, Lect. xiii. p. 235.

8. ἐμοὶ τῷ ἐλαχιστοτέρῳ πάντων ἁγίων ἐδόθηχάρις αὕτη. τῶν is added before ἁγίων in the Received Text, against a great preponderance of authority. ἁγίων is used as a substantive. “To me who am less than the least of all saints” (i.e. all Christians) “was this grace given.” Closely connected in thought with the preceding, as expressing his own unworthiness in contrast with God’s grace. Ἐλαχιστότερος. Double forms of comparatives and superlatives are frequent in the poets. Wetstein quotes Eustathius, who has collected numerous instances. But they also occur in the later prose writers, e.g. μειζότερος (Malalas, 490. 9; also 3 John 1:4); ἐλαχιστότατος (Sextus Empir.; also Matt. iii. 54, ix. 406), apparently without any increase of meaning. The instances in earlier prose writers (Xen. Aristot.) seem to be invented by the respective writers. The present instance is remarkable as a combination of superlative and comparative. It has a curiously parallel form in Aristotle, Metaph. x. 4. 7 (Bekker), οὔτε γὰρ τοῦ ἐσχάτου ἐσχατώτερον εἴη ἄν τι; but there the form is introduced only as expressing an impossible conception, and is construed as a comparative; here, on the contrary, ἐλαχιστότερος appears to express a definite idea, not only least of all saints, but even less than this implies. It may therefore be considered a unique formation. The expression can hardly be interpreted, with some eminent expositors, as referring to his consciousness of enduring sinfulness, as to which he could not place himself lower than all saints. True it is, no doubt, that every Christian, when he looks into his own heart, and is conscious of the sin that still dwells there, and knows that he cannot see what is in the heart of others, may be ready to exclaim, ἐγὼ ἐλαχιστότερος πάντων ἁγίων; but this does not express a deliberate comparison, and whatever such a one may feel at such moments, he would act unwisely if, when instructing and exhorting others, he should thus proclaim his own inferiority to them. Such a confession would be likely to be misunderstood, and either called hypocritical or made the ground of the retort, Why, then, take upon you to instruct and reprove your betters? Certainly St. Paul gives us little reason to think that he would take such a view. He declares that he has “lived in all good conscience toward God”; that if any one might have confidence in the flesh, he might, being blameless as touching the righteousness which is in the law. And as one of the ἅγιοι, he does not reckon himself amongst the babes in Christ, but the mature, τέλειοι (Philippians 3:15). He affirms that in nothing is he behind the ὑπερλίαν Romans 7:17, to which Harless refers, he is describing the state from which he has been delivered (ib. ver. 25, 8:2).


His recollection, ever vivid, of his former career as a persecutor is quite sufficient explanation of the expression here used.

The same writers who hold that the ἅγιοι 1 Corinthians 15:9, “I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle.” But there was no occasion there for any comparison with believers in general; he is only speaking of himself as one of the apostles; here he speaks of a grace that distinguished him above other believers, and, “now undeservedly,” is his natural feeling. Indeed, we may with more justice say that this striking and unique expression could not proceed from calculated imitation; it has the stamp of a spontaneous outflow of an intense feeling of unworthiness. Nor does it really go beyond the passage in 1 Cor.; for there he declares himself not only the least of the apostles, but not meet to be called an apostle; here he does not say that he is not meet to be reckoned amongst the ἅγιοι. For the reader will not fail to note that notwithstanding the depth of his self-depreciation he still counts himself (or is represented as counting himself), and that not with hesitation, amongst the ἅγιοι, the very term which when joined with


τοῖς ἔθνεσιν εὐαγγελίσασθαι τὸ

ἀνεξιχνίαστον. Theodoret well remarks: καὶ πῶς κηρύττεις εἴπερπλοῦτος Romans 11:33 (where the same word 1 Corinthians 8:9-12, “We know in part,” etc., and Philippians 3:10.

9. καὶ φωτίσαι [πάντας]. The reading is doubtful. φωτίσαι without πάτας is read by א* A 672, Cyr., Hil. and apparently Jerome. πάντας is added by אc B C D G K L P, Ital, Vulg., Syr., Chrys., al.; Tisch. Treg. Westcott and Hort leave out the word. The insertion seems easy to account for, as the verb seemed to require an accusative, which it usually has in the N.T. As to the sense, the advantage seems to be on the side of the omission. The general meaning is, indeed, pretty much the same with either reading, since the result of bringing the οἰκ to light is that all men are enabled to see it. But πάντας would seem to represent this result as attained by opening the eyes of men, whereas, since it was by revelation that the apostle learned it, opening men’s eyes would not be sufficient; the mystery itself had to be brought to light. Besides, the meaning given to φωτίσαι with the reading πάντας, viz. to enlighten by way of instruction, has no parallel in the N.T., although it is so used in a few passages in the Sept. (Judges 13:8; 2 Kings 12:2, 2 Kings 12:17:27, 28). Moreover, if πάντας is read, although it is not emphatic, it cannot be limited to the Gentiles, and it would hardly be in St. Paul’s manner to claim as his the office of enlightening all men as to the mystery.


τίςοἰκονομία τοῦ μυστηρίου. The Rec. Text has κοινωνία, a remarkable variation, but found in few MSS. οἰκονομία is in all the uncials, most cursives, and the versions and Fathers.

“What is the arrangement, or administration, of the mystery?” The mystery is that indicated in ver. 6, and that which was ordered or arranged as to the carrying out of this is the οἰκ. τ. μυστ. This was entrusted to St. Paul; cf. ver. 2. This seems more natural than to interpret οἰκ. as the arrangement which consisted in hitherto concealing the mystery and now revealing it. Comp. Colossians 1:25, τὴν οἰκ. τοῦ Θεοῦ τὴν δοθεῖσάν μοι εἰς ὑμᾶς πληρῶσαι τὸν λόγον τοῦ Θεοῦ τὸ μυστήριον τὸ

τοῦ Romans 16:25. Comp. also 1 Corinthians 2:7, καλοῦμεν Θεοῦ σοφίαν ἐν μυστηρίῳ τὴν

ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων, equivalent to χρόνοις αἰωνίοις Romans 16:25, “from the beginning.” The expression occurs only here and Colossians 1:26 in the N.T. Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21, Acts 15:18. ἐκ τοῦ αἰ., which is used by St John 9:32, is also found in Greek writers. Comp. πρὸ τῶν αἰώνων, 1 Corinthians 2:7.


ἐν τῷ Θεῷ τῷ τὰ πάντα κτίσαντι. “In God who created all things.” The Rec. Text adds, διὰἸησοῦ Χριστοῦ, with Dc K L, Chrys., Theodoret, Oec. But the words are omitted by א A B C D* G P, Vulg., Syr-Pesh and Harcl (text) and other versions, Tert., Jerome, Augustine, al.

It is not quite clear what is the point here of the words τῷ τὰ π. κτίσαντι. When the words διὰἸ. Χρ. were read, a reference to the spiritual or new creation was naturally thought of; but these words being omitted, such a reference is excluded. But, in fact, it is remote from the context, and unsuitable to the emphatic and unrestricted πάντα as well as to the simple κτίσαντι.

It is clear that κτίζειν cannot be applied to the μυστήριον, which is not a thing created. The simplest explanation seems to be that the Creator of all was free to make what arrangement He pleased as to the concealment and revelation of His purpose. As Bengel remarks: “Rerum omnium creatio fundamentum est omnis reliquae oeconomiae pro potestate Dei universali liberrime dispensatae.” Harless connects the words with the following: “Created all things in order to reveal in the Church His varied wisdom.” But so important an assertion as this would hardly be made in so incidental a manner in a subordinate clause, especially as it has no analogy elsewhere in the N.T. Moreover, νῦν in the following clause is against this view; see on ver. 10.

10-13. It is God’s purpose, that even the angelic powers should learn through the Church the varied wisdom of God as shown in His eternal purpose in Christ

10. ἵνα γνωρισθῇ νῦν ταῖς

ταῖς 1 Peter 1:12, “which things angels desire to look into.”

V. Soden, comparing Colossians 2:10-15, understands the words of the angelio powers which ministered the law on the one hand, and on the other hand the elemental spirits which claimed the veneration of the heathen. To both was it now made manifest that the enmity was at an end.


ἐν τοις ἐπουρανίοις local, cf. 1:3, 20. It qualifies the preceding substantive notwithstanding the absence of the article, which is not necessary in the case of local definitions. Cf. Demosth. c. Pantaen, p. 967, τοῖς ἔργοις ἐν Μαρωνείᾳ: Aeschines, Fals. Leg. 42, τὴν τρίτην πρεσβείαν ἐπὶ τὸ κοινὸν τῶν Ἀμφικτυόνων (Bernhardy, p. 322 f.).

διὰ τῆς ἐκκλησίας, i.e. as Theodoret expresses it, διὰ τῆς περὶ τὴν ἐκκλησίαν οἰκονομίας. The Church is the phenomenon, which by its existence is a proof and exhibition of the Divine wisdom as manifested in a scheme of redemption which is world wide.

πολυποίκιλος does not mean “very wise,” as has been hastily inferred from the use of ποίκιλος in Aesch. Prom. Vinct. 315, where, however, the word means “crafty.” πολυποίκιλος is used by Eurip. Iph. Taur. 1149, of cloth; by Eubulus, ap. Athen. 15, p. 679d, of flowers. In a figurative sense, as here, it occurs in the Orphica (lxi. 4, of discourse), and in Theophilus. The Latin here has “multiformis.” The word probably refers to the variety of God’s dealings with Jews and Gentiles in former times, which are now seen to have worked to one end. Gregory of Nyssa (Hom. viii. in Cant. Cant. followed by Theoph. and Oecum.) gives a striking interpretation. “Before the incarnation of our Saviour the heavenly powers knew the wisdom of God only as simple and uniform, effecting wonders in a manner consonant with the nature of each thing. There was nothing ποίκιλον. But now by means of the οἰκονομία, with reference to the Church and the human race, the wisdom of God is known no longer as simple, but as πολυποίκιλος, producing contraries by contraries; by death, life; by dishonour, glory; by sin, righteousness; by a curse, blessing; by weakness, power. The invisible is manifested in flesh. He redeems captives, Himself the purchaser, and Himself the price.” The thought is no doubt striking, but the adjective πολυπ. does not suggest παράδοξον. Perhaps, indeed, the word has been too much pressed by some expositors, and is only suggested by the thought of the great apparent difference and real harmony between the Christian dispensation and that which preceded it.

11. κατὰ πρόθεσιν τῶν αἰώνων. “According to the purpose of the ages.” The genitive does not seem to be correctly taken as that of the object, the purpose concerning the ages, the foreordering of the ages (Whitby), since the writer is speaking of the one purpose carried out in Christ. Nor can πρόθεσις be taken as = foreknowledge (Chrys.). Modern commentators generally take it as = eternal. Ellicott compares πρόθεσινπρὸ χρόνων αἰωνίων, 2 Timothy 1:9; but then the latter words are connected with δοθεῖσαν, not with πρόθ. A better sense is obtained by taking the genitive as one of possession, “the purpose that runs through the ages.” Cf. Tennyson, “through the ages one increasing purpose runs.”

ἣν ἐποίησεν ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ Κυρίῳ ἡμῶν. “Which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It is questioned whether ἐποίησεν means “formed” or “executed” the purpose. The immediate connexion favours the former view; but it is urged by Meyer, Ellicott, al., that what follows belongs to the execution, not the formation of the purpose; and this has been thought also to account for Ἰησοῦ being added, since it was not the formation of the purpose, but its accomplishment that took place in the historical Jesus. For the use of ποιεῖν in this sense we are referred to ch. 2:3; Matthew 21:31; John 6:38, and in the Sept. 1 Kings 5:8; Isaiah 44:28. But in all these passages the object of the verb is θέλημα, which primarily means that which is willed, so that the exact meaning of π. θέλημα is to perform that which God, e.g., has willed. It could not mean to form a purpose. With πρόθεσις it is otherwise. This properly means the purpose as an act, although by a natural figure it may also be used of that which is purposed. The natural meaning of ποιεῖν πρ., therefore, is to form a purpose, and the passages cited do not prove that any other sense is possible. Meyer also compares ποιεῖν γνώμην, Revelation 17:17; but even if this were quite parallel, we cannot explain St. Paul’s Greek by that of the Apocalypse. In any case, when it is a πρόθεσις τῶν αἰώνων that is in question, ποιεῖν would be a very weak verb to use. The addition of Ἰησοῦ is sufficiently accounted for by this, that the apostle desired to bring to the mind of his readers the thought that He whom they know as Jesus their Lord is none other than the Christ in whom God had from eternity formed His purpose. So likewise ch. 1:4.


12. ἐνἔχομεν τὴν παρρησίαν καὶ προσαγωγὴν ἐν πεποιθήσει διὰ τῆς πίστεως αὐτοῦ.

So א A B 17 80, Greg-Nyss. The Rec. Text. has τήν before προσαγωγήν, with C Dc K L P, Ath., Chrys., al.

D*c have τὴν προσαγωγὴν καὶ τὴν παρρησίαν.

G: προσαγωγὴν εἰς τὴν παρρησίαν. The article seems more likely to have been inserted for grammatical reasons than omitted either accidentally or otherwise.

“In whom we have our boldness and access in confidence through our faith in Him.” παρρησία is primarily freedom of speech, and is frequently found in that sense in the N.T., as well as in that of “plainness of speech,” John 16:25, John 16:26. It occurs in the sense of “confidence” in the Apocrypha and in Josephus, e.g. 1 Macc. 4:18, λήψετε τὰ σκῦλα μετὰ π.; Wisd. 5:1, στήσεται ἐν π. πολλῇδίκαιος; so Philippians 1:20; 1 Timothy 3:13; Hebrews 10:19; cf. 1 John 2:28, 1 John 3:21, 1 John 4:17, 1 John 5:14. The transition of meaning seems not to be by way of generalisation from confidence in speaking to confidence generally; for the primary meaning is not “confidence,” but “freedom, openness” of speech. But freedom of speech (in the active sense) implies the absence of fear or shame; see the passages just referred to in 1 John 2:28, “have π., and not be ashamed”; 4:17, “π. in the day of judgment.” In John 3:21 and 4:12, π. is connected with prayer.

On προσαγωγή see 2:18. The intransitive sense is obviously the more suitable here. If the article is not read we must either suppose παρρησία and προσαγωγή to form parts of one conception, or we must connect the following words with the latter only. What has just been said of παρρησία shows that the former alternative is quite possible, παρρησία καὶ προσαγωγή being nearly equivalent to προσαγωγὴ μετὰ παρρησίας, and the idea would be the same that is expressed in Hebrews 4:16, προσερχώμεθα μετὰ παρρησίας τῷ θρόνῳ τῆς χάριτος. The other alternative would leave παρρησία very indefinite.

How grandly is this confidence expressed in Romans 8:38, Romans 8:39 ! (Meyer.)

πεποίθησις is a word of the later Greek. It occurs several times in Josephus, also in Sextus Empiricus and in Philo, but only once in the Sept. 2 Kings 18:19.

διὰ τῆς πίστεως αὐτοῦ. The genitive is that of the object, the πίστις is defined by its object. So in Mark 11:22, ἔχετε π. Θεοῦ, Romans 3:22, Romans 3:26; James 2:1, μὴ ἐν προσωποληψίαις ἔχετε τὴν πίστιν τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν, and elsewhere. The words are to be connected with ἔχομεν, not with πεποιθήσει.


13. Διὸ αἰτοῦμαι μὴ ἐγκακεῖν ἐν ταῖς θλίψεσί μου ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν. Διό, viz. because I am the minister of so great a matter; connected, not with the preceding verse only, but with 8-12. The greater the office, the less becoming would it be to lose heart.

The following words, however, admit of two interpretations. Either, I pray that I may not lose heart, or, I entreat you, not to lose heart. The latter view is adopted by the Syr., Theodoret, Jerome, Bengel, Harless, Olshausen, Braune. In its favour it is alleged that it is much more natural to supply the subject of the infinitive from that of the substantive verb; and, secondly, that it is difficult to understand ἐν on the other view. But the chief objection to the first-mentioned interpretation, according to Harless, is from the structure of the whole passage. Either St. Paul resumes in these words the course of thought begun in ver. 1, or he does not. Now it is the thought of supplication for his readers that separates the subsequent context from the parenthesis. If, then, he does not here resume ver. 1, how can we suppose that he could express the same thought in the parenthesis itself without observing that the parenthesis was thereby removed? If he does here resume ver. 1, the τούτου χάριν after διό, instead of καί, is inexplicable, or rather intolerable. The argument assumes that αἰτοῦμαι means, I pray (God), and is set aside by taking that word as = I entreat you. The difficulties in Theodoret’s interpretation are greater. First, if αἰτοῦμαι is, I pray God, Θεόν could hardly be omitted. The passages cited as parallel, viz. Colossians 1:9 and James 1:6, are not really so. In the former, αἰτούμενοι only expresses the content of the prayer mentioned in προσευχόμενοι, which, of course, means prayer to God. In the latter, αἰτείτω repeats the αἰτείτω of the previous verse, which is defined by παρὰ τοῦ δίδοντος Θεοῦ πᾶσιν. Moreover, the words ἥτις ἐστι δόξα ὑμῶν supply much more naturally a motive for the readers than for the apostle. The μου after θλίψεσι, too, would be superfluous if the apostle were praying for himself. And we may add that the implied apprehension lest he should be disheartened by persecution is not in harmony with the apostle’s character or with his other utterances. He gloried in tribulation, and took pleasure in persecution (Romans 5:3; 2 Corinthians 12:10; Colossians 1:24). Compare also the passage just referred to in Romans 8:38, Romans 8:39. But he might have reason to fear that some of the Gentile converts might be tempted to lose heart when they saw the persecution to which the apostle was subjected just because of his proclaiming the doctrine, here insisted on, of the free and equal participation of the Gentiles in the blessings of the Messiah’s kingdom.

ἐν ταῖς θλίψεσί μου ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν. “In my tribulations on your behalf.” Namely, those which came upon him by reason of his being the Apostle of the Gentiles. Compare his touching words, Philippians 2:17, “Even if I am offered on the sacrifice of your faith, I rejoice.” ἐν denotes the circumstances in which, etc.; ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν is clearly to be joined to θλίψεσί μου, not to αἰτοῦμαι (as Harless). The article is not required, since θλίβεσθαι ὑπέρ τινος is possible (2 Corinthians 1:6); cf. Galatians 4:14.


ἥτις ἐστι δόξα ὑμῶν. ἥτις introduces a reason; it is not simply equivalent to ἥ, but implies that what is predicated belongs to the nature of the thing, “quippe qui,” “inasmuch as this.” It is referred to μὴ ἐγκακεῖν by Theodoret, followed by Harless, Olshausen, Braune, al. This, of course, supposes the preceding prayer to be for the apostle himself. On this view it would be his personal fortitude that is the glory of the Ephesians, which would be a strange expression. If it be asked how his afflictions could be their glory, Chrysostom replies, “Because God so loved them as to give His Son for them, and to afflict His servants; for in order that they should obtain so great blessings Paul was imprisoned.”

14-19

. Prayer for the readers, that they may be given spiritual strength; that Christ may dwell in their hearts; and that they may learn to know His love, which surpasses knowledge

14. τούτου χάριν κάμπτω τὰ γόνατά μου. Resumes ver. 1, “On this account,” referring to the train of thought in the latter part of ch. 2. Although the construction was broken off in ver. 2, the thought has continued to turn on the same ideas. “I bend my knees,” this expresses the earnestness of the prayer, τὴν κατανενυγμένην δέησιν ἐδήλωσεν, Chrys. “A signo rein denotat,” Calvin. Some, as Calv., have with strange literality supposed that the apostle actually knelt while writing; (against πρός, see below). The usual posture in praying was standing: “when ye stand praying,” Mark 11:25; “stood and prayed,” Luke 18:11; “the publican standing afar off,” ib. 13. But kneeling is mentioned, 1 Kings 8:54 (Solomon); Daniel 6:10; and, in the N.T., Luke 22:41; Acts 7:60, Acts 20:36, Acts 21:5. Eusebius mentions it as the custom proper to the Christians: τὸ οἰκεῖον τοῖς χριστιανοῖς τῶν εὐχῶν ἔθος (H.E. v. 5). Justin Martyr and Basil represent kneeling as a symbol of our fall by sin. See on Luke 22:41.

πρὸς τὸν Πατέρα. κάμπτειν γόνυ in the literal sense takes the dative (Romans 11:4, Romans 11:14:11; both places, however, being quotations). Here as the words were equivalent to προσεύχομαι, πρός is used as indicating the direction of the prayer.


After Πατέρα the Rec. Text has τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, with אe D G K L, Syr., Vulg., Chrys., al.

The words are wanting in א* A B C P 17 67**, Boh., Aeth., Jerome (expressly), and many others. The insertion of the words is easily accounted for; there would be no reason for their omission. Although Jerome expressly states, “quod sequitur … non ut in Latinis Codicibus additum est, ad patrem domini nostri Jesu Christi, sed simpliciter ad patrem legendum ut dei patris nomen non domino nostro Jesu Christo sed omnibus creaturis rationabilibus coaptetur” (vii. 599), yet a little before he had himself written, “ad patrem domini nostri Jesu Christi.” Whether the reading there is due to him or to a copyist, it serves as an illustration of the fact that the evidence of readings furnished by quotations in the Fathers as distinguished from express statements must be used with caution.

15. ἐξ οὗ πᾶσα πατριὰ ἐν οὐρανοῖς καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς ὀνομάζεται. “From whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” We meet here with a perplexity similar to that in 2:21 (πᾶσα οἰκοδομὴ), except that here no MSS. appear to have the article. We should rather have expected the apostle to say “the whole family,” which would require πᾶσαπατριά. Indeed, many commentators and translators have so taken the words as they stand. This was perhaps even more natural in the case of those who read the addition τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, since it appeared easy to take these words as the antecedent to οὗ, the sense thus yielded being that “the whole family” was named from Christ. Whether that addition be accepted or not, if πᾶσα π. is rendered “every family,” the antecedent must be τόν Πατέρα. But if those words are omitted, the rendering “the whole family” loses much of its plausibility. Grammatically it cannot be maintained.

Πατριά is a quite classical word (although in classical writers πατρά is more common). It occurs in Herodot. in the sense “race” or “tribe,” as when he says there are three πατριαί of the Babylonians (i. 200). In the Sept. it occurs in a similar sense of those descended from a common ancestor, narrower, however, than φυλή, and wider than οἶκος; see Exodus 12:3; Numbers 32:28; but also in a wider sense, as in Psa_21(22):28, πᾶσαι αἱ πατριαὶ τῶν ἐθνῶν. So in Acts 3:25, πᾶσαι αἱ πατριαὶ τῆς γῆς, for which we have in Genesis 12:3 and 28:14 φυλαί, and in 22:18 and 26:4 ἔθνη. In Luke 2:4 we have ἐξ οἴκου καὶ πατριᾶς Δαβίδ. See note ad loc.


Some of the ancients take π. in the present passage as = fatherhood, πατρότης. Thus Theodoret says: ὃς

ἵνα δῷ ὑμῖν κατὰ τὸ πλοῦτος τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ. “That He would grant you according to the riches of His glory.” δῷ is the reading of א A B C G, whilst δῴη is read by D K L and most MSS. The ἳνα depends on the idea of προσεύχομαι implied in the preceding, so that this and the following verses express the content of the prayer. For ἵνα cf. Colossians 1:9. “Riches of His glory,” Romans 9:23. Not to be limited to power or to grace, but in accordance with His whole glorious perfection. The term πλοῦτος is particularly suitable when the thought is of God as a giver.

δυνάμει κραταιωθῆναι διὰ τοῦ Πνεύματος αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν ἔσω ἄνθρωπον. “To be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inward man.” δυνάμει is instrumental, “ut virtute seu fortitudine ab eo acceptâ corroboremini,” Estius. Harless understands it as denoting the form in which the strengthening takes place, viz. a strengthening in power, not in knowledge or the like, comparing Acts 4:33, “with great power gave the apostles witness”; but this does not seem parallel. In the present case this would be a tautology, “be strengthened with strength.”


κραταιόω, from the poetic κραταιός (used also in later prose and in Sept.), is a later form for κρατύνω.

εἰς indicates the direction of the gift. The meaning of ὁ ἔσω ἄνθρωπος appears to be decided by Romans 7:22, “I delight in the law of God,” κατὰ τὸν ἔσω ἄνθρωπον. It is not therefore the καινὸς 2 Corinthians 4:16.

It has been maintained, not without plausibility, that the expressions ὁ ἔσω ἄνθρ. and ὁ ἔξω ἄνθρ. are derived from the school of Plato, not directly, but through Plato’s use having influenced common speech. We find in Plato, τοῦ 1 Thessalonians 5:23, points in the same direction. With St. Paul, however, the contrast between the inward man and the outward man is not that between the pure and the impure. The inward man includes not only the Reason, which accepts the law of God and approves of it, and the Conscience, which pronounces the obligation and condemns the violation of it, but also the Will from which action proceeds; see Romans 7:17, Romans 7:18, where ἐγώ is used of both parts. St. Paul’s view of the relation of the man to virtue and vice is much more like that of Aristotle. The man knows the right, but at the moment of action appetite blinds him.

It deserves notice also that St. Paul does not use πνεῦμα of the unregenerate. In them the higher principle is νοῦς, which ineffectively protests against the σάρξ, while in the regenerate πνεῦμα is superior (Romans 7:25, Romans 7:8:4, Romans 7:9). That he does not mean πνεῦμα and ψυχή to be a complete division of the human faculties, would appear from 1 Corinthians 14:14, 1 Corinthians 14:15.

17. κατοικῆσαι τὸν Χριστὸν διὰ τῆς πίστεως ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν. “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” κατοικῆσαι is, by many expositors, taken as the end or result of κραταιωθῆναι on account of, 1st, the asyndeton; 2nd, the emphatic position of the verb; and 3rd, the difference in the construction of the two clauses, which otherwise must be taken as co-ordinate. But although the use of the infinitive of end or result is often very lax, none of the instances cited in the grammars are parallel to this. Setting aside the cases in which the principal verb is one which means “to will, order,” etc., or which otherwise involves the notion of purpose, in those which remain the subject of the infinitive is the same as that of the verb on which it depends. The emphatic position of κατοικῆσαι seems sufficiently accounted for by the importance of the idea it expresses, and the rhetorical advantage of giving it a position parallel to that of κραταιωθῆναι. The asyndeton need cause no difficulty, considering the structure of the whole sentence. κατοικ. is not something added to κραται., but is a further definition of it. κατοικεῖν is found in N.T. only here and Colossians 1:19, Colossians 2:9 (but ἐγκατοικεῖν, 2 Peter 2:8). It is very frequent in Sept. (as in classical authors also), and is opposed to παροικεῖν as the permanent to the transitory; cf. Genesis 37:1, κατῴκει Ἰακὼβ ἐν τῇ γῇ οὗ παρῴκησενπατὴρ αὐτοῦ; and Philo, de Sacrif. Ab. et Cain, § 10, ὁ γὰρ τοῖς ἐγκυκλίοις μόνοις ἐπανέχων παροικεῖ σοφίᾳ, οὗ κατοικεῖ (Thayer). It is hardly probable that there is any allusion to the figure in 2:21, 22, for the indwelling here spoken of is not in the Church, but in the individual hearts. “How does Christ dwell in the hearts?” says Chrysostom. Listen to Christ Himself saying, “I and the Father will come and make our abode with him.” “In your hearts,” “ut sciamus non satis esse si in linguâ versetur aut in cerebro volitet,” Calvin.

18. ἐν Colossians 2:2, ἵνα παρακληθῶσιν αἱ καρδίαι αὐτῶν, συμβιβασθέντες, ib. 3:16, ὁ λόγος τοῦ Χρ. ἐνοικείτω ἐν ὑμῖν. … διδάσκοντες; 2 Corinthians 9:10, 2 Corinthians 9:11, and 12, 13. Examples in classical authors are frequent.

More prominence is thus given to the thought, and the transition to the following clause is made more easy. The result of Christ dwelling in their hearts is that they are firmly rooted in love, and the consequence is that they are enabled to comprehend, etc. This is the view adopted by Origen, Chrysostom, the ancient versions (except the Gothic); and amongst moderns, Harless, Olsh. De Wette, Ellicott, Eadie, Alford. The principal objection made to it is founded on the tense of the participles, which, being the perfect, would express, not the condition into which the readers are to come, but that in which they are already assumed to be. This, it is said, would be very illogical in connexion with the wish that they should be strengthened, and that Christ might dwell in their hearts. The perfect ἐρριζωμένοι in Colossians 2:7 is, it is alleged, not parallel, since there the reception of Christ is represented as preceding παρελάβετε τὸν Χριστόν. To this it may be replied, first, that in ch. 2:20 the readers are said to be ἐποικοδομηθέντες, and yet in ver. 22 there is still a συνοικοδομεῖσθε necessary; secondly, that the participles here express their complete fixedness on the foundation, which does not imply that their building up is complete; and accordingly in Colossians 2:7 we have ἐρριζωμένοι καὶ ἐποικοδομούμενοι, the former perfect, the latter present. The fixedness, too, is clearly the result of κατοικῆσαι. The present participle would be here quite out of place, “ye being in process of being rooted and grounded.” What follows depends, not on the progress, but on the completion of their grounding.

The alternative construction adopted by Photius (ap. Oecum.), also Meyer, Braune, Oltram., the English Versions (Authorised and Revised), is to take the participles with the following clause: “to the end that ye, being rooted,” etc. This construction is hardly justified by the passages cited in support of it. In Romans 11:31 we have τῷ ὑμετέρῳ ἐλέει ἵνα …; in 2 Corinthians 2:4, τὴν 1 Corinthians 9:15, ἢ τὸ καύχημά μου ἵνα τὶς κενώσῃ (but here the best texts read οὐδεὶς κενώσει): Galatians 2:10, μόνον τῶν πτωχῶν ἵνα μνημονεύωμεν: John 13:29, τοῖς πτωχοῖς ἵνα τι δῷ: Acts 19:4, λέγων εἰς τὸν ἐρχόμενον μετʼ αὐτὸν ἵνα πιστεύσωσι. In all these instances there is a particular emphasis on the words which precede ἵνα, here there is none; the emphasis is on the words that follow it.

That there is a mixture of metaphors here, as in Colossians 2:7 and 1 Corinthians 3:9, is not to be denied; nor is this disproved by showing that ῥιζόω was often used without reference to its primitive meaning as simply = “to establish firmly,” e.g. a tyranny, Herodot. i. 64, or the city (Plutarch), or even a road (Soph. Oed. Col. 1591). All that this proves is that there is no reason to suppose that the apostle had two images present to his mind. The best ancient writers were less critical in this matter than the moderns. Cicero, for example, has sometimes a strange mixture of metaphors (see In Cat. i. 12). Lucian has ῥίζαι καὶ θεμέλιοι τῆς ὀρχήσεως (De Saltat. 34).

It may be inferred from the use of the two words that St. Paul (like Lucian in the place cited) did not intend the reader to think definitely of either image, but used the words in their applied sense. This seems the true answer to the difficulty that has been raised as to the designation of love as the foundation,—a position elsewhere ascribed to faith (Colossians 1:23, Colossians 2:7), from which love springs (1 Timothy 1:6). Beza asks: “Radicis et fundamenti nomen quomodo fructibus tribuas?” Harless meets the difficulty by supplying the missing object of the participles from the clause to which they belong, viz. ἐν Χριστῷ for which there is no sufficient reason, especially as we have already a definition by ἐν, so that the readers could not think of applying another ἐν. Love is, as it were, the soil in which they are firmly fixed. This is not to be understood of Christ’s love or God’s love, either of which would require some defining genitive, but the grace of love in general as the “fundamental” principle of the Christian character. Faith retains its usual position (διὰ τῆς π.), but it is love that is the working principle.1

There is no difficulty about the absence of the article before 2 Corinthians 2:8; Galatians 5:6.


Westcott and Hort connect ἐν

ἵνα ἐξισχύσητε. “That ye may be fully able.” καταλαβέσθαι, “to comprehend.” The active alone seems to occur in classical writers in this signification (Plato, Phaedr. 250 D), but the middle is interpreted by Hesychius as = κατανοεῖσθαι. It occurs in this sense in Acts 4:13, “perceiving that they were unlearned”; 10:34, “of a truth I perceive”; and 25:25, “finding that he had committed nothing,” etc. The first and last of these instances are sufficient to show that there is no need to call in the idea of “the earnestness or spiritual energy with which the action is performed”; the voice simply implies, “to grasp for oneself.” Kypke (Obs. vol. ii. p. 294) takes the word to mean “occupare,” “ut possitis occupare latitudinem quandam,” etc., comparing the sense to that in ver. 19, as if (“mutato accentu”) τὶ τὸ πλάτος stood for τὸ πλάτος τι, as by a similar transposition we have in Acts 8:36, ἐπί τι ὕδωρ. Apart from other objections, the article is fatal to this.


τί τὸ πλάτος καὶ μῆκος καὶ ὕψος καὶ βάθος. “What is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth.” As to the order of the words. ὕψος precedes βάθος in B C D G 17, Vulg,. Boh., al.; the contrary, א A K L, Syr. al.

The four words seem intended to indicate, not so much the thoroughness of the comprehension as the vastness of the thing to be comprehended; hardly, however, “metaphysically considered by the ordinary dimensions of space,” which has only three dimensions.

But what is it of which the readers are to learn the dimensions? Chrysostom replies, “the mystery,” τοῦτʼ ἐστι τὸ μυστήριον τὸ ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν οἰκονομηθὲν μετὰ

V. Soden combines these two views, regarding the μυστήριον as the principal conception, the description of which, however, is finally summed up in the figure of the temple. De Wette finds the object in Colossians 2:3, which he supposes to have been before the writer’s mind; thus taking it to be the wisdom of God; cf. Job 11:8. Alford supposes the genitive to be left indefinite, “of all that God has revealed or done in and for us”; and this yields a very good sense. However, we need not travel beyond the immediate context to find a suitable object; it is given us in


Some of the ancients sought to find a special meaning in each of the four dimensions, and to such the Cross naturally suggested itself. We find this idea already in Origen, “All these the cross of Jesus has, by which He ascended on high and took captive a captivity, and descended to the lowest parts of the earth … and has Himself run to all the earth, reaching to the breadth and length of it. And he that is crucified with Christ comprehends the breadth,” etc. (Catena, p. 162). Gregory Nyssen also says that St. Paul describes the power which controls the whole by the figure of the Cross, τῷ σχήματι τοῦ σταυροῦ (Cont. Eunom. Orat. 4. p. 582). By the height he understands the portion above the crossbeam, by the depth that below; and so St. Augustine, who explains the mystery of the Cross, “sacramentum crucis,” as signifying love in its breadth, hope in its height, patience in its length, and humility in its depth. But he was not writing as a commentator. According to Severianus, the height alludes to the Lord’s divinity, the depth to His humanity, the length and breadth to the extent of the apostolic preaching. Jerome is still more fanciful, and finds in the height an allusion to the good angels, in the depth to the bad, in the length to men who are on the upward path, and in the breadth those on the broad way that leadeth to destruction. There are other varieties. Such fancies (not altogether extinct even in our own days) only deserve notice as a warning of the unprofitableness of such fanciful methods of interpretation. As Calvin well observes, “Haec subtilitate sua placent, sed quid ad mentem Pauli?” Nothing, indeed, could be more un-Pauline.

19. γνῶναί τε τὴν ὑπερβάλλουσαν τῆς γνώσεως

“Suavissima haec quasi correctio est,” Bengel. As if the very word “know” at once suggested the thought that such knowledge was beyond human capacity. “But even though the love of Christ surpasses human knowledge, yet ye shall know it if ye have Christ dwelling in you,” Theophylact. There is a relative knowledge which increases in proportion as the believer is filled with the spirit of Christ and thereby “rooted and grounded in love,” for by love only is love known. γνῶναι, then, is used in a pregnant sense. τὸ γνῶναι, says Theodore Mops., Romans 1:20, τὰ

A quite different interpretation is adopted by Luther in his edition of 1545 (not the earlier), viz. “to love Christ is better than knowledge.” Holzhausen defends a similar view, on the ground (amongst others) that to express the other meaning St. Paul would have said, as in Philippians 2:4, ὑπερέχουσα πάντα νοῦν. But he desired to express the thought as an oxymoron, thus making it more striking. Dobree renders, “the exceeding love of God in bestowing on us the knowledge of Christ” (Advers. i. p. 573). He gives no reason, and it is hard to see how the rendering can be defended.


“The love of Christ,” i.e. Christ’s love to us. But knowledge of whatever kind is not the ultimate end, therefore he adds, not as a parallel clause, but as the end of the whole, ἵνα πληρωθῆτε εἰς πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ Θεοῦ, “that ye may be filled up to all the fulness of God.”

This is not of easy interpretation. Chrysostom gives two either the πλ. τοῦ Θεοῦ is the knowledge that God is worshipped in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, or he urges to strive ὥστε πληροῦσθαι πάσης Matthew 5:48, “ye shall be τέλειοι as (ὡς) your heavenly Father is τέλειος, ” is not in point, for what is there referred to is the single virtue of love, which is to be as allembracing as that of God. “They who love those that love them are incomplete in love; they who love their enemies are τέλειοι, ” Euthymius, cf. 1 Peter 1:15. To be filled as God is full, could at most be set forth as the ideal to be attained or rather approached in a future state. When it is urged (by Olsh. and Ellic.) that where Christ dwells there πᾶν τὸ πλήρ. τοῦ Θεοῦ is already (Colossians 2:9), this is really to confound two distinct interpretations. Oltramare, taking πλήρωμα to mean “perfection,” and πληροῦσθαι “to be perfected,” understands the words to mean, “that ye may be perfect even to the possession of all the perfection of God.” “The highest moral ideal that can be presented to him in whose heart Christ dwells, who has comprehended the greatness of love, and has known the love of God.”


Theodore Mops. appears to interpret the words of the Church, “ita ut et ipsi in portione communis corporis videamini in quod vel maxime inhabitat Deus”; and so some modems, but does violence to the language.

Theodoret interprets: ἵνα τελείως αὐτὸν ἔνοικον δέξησθε; and this has much in its favour. εἰς, then, would be as in 2:21, 22, so that ye become the πλήρ. (as the result of loading a ship is that it becomes a πλήρωμα). God, then, is that with which they are filled, as in 1:23 and 4:13 it is Christ. So κατοικητήριον τοῦ Θεοῦ, 2:22, is parallel to κατοικῆσαι τὸν Χρ. ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις, 3:17 (v. Soden). But “to be filled with God” is an expression which, though capable of defence, would be open to misconception, and has no distinct parallel in the N.T. It appears more consonant with St. Paul’s language generally to understand πλ. τοῦ Θεοῦ as the fulness of the riches of God, all that is “spiritually communicable to the saints, [who are] the ‘partakers of Divine nature,’ 2 Peter 1:4” (Moule). This is substantially Meyer’s view.


B has a peculiar reading: ἵνα πληρωθῇ πᾶν, which is also that of 17, 73, 116, of which, however, 17 reads εὶς ὑθᾶς instead of τοῦ Θεοῦ. Westcott and Hort admit the reading of B to their margin, “that all the fulness of God may be filled up.” Comp., however, the loss of -τε of ἐσφραγίσθητε in B, cap. i. 13.

20, 21. Doxology suggested by the thought of the glorious things prayed for.

20. τῷ δὲ δυναμένῳ ὑπὲρ πάντα ποιῆσαι ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ ὧν αἰτούμεθανοοῦμεν. “Now to Him who is able to do more than all abundantly beyond what we ask or think.”

The object of the prayer was a lofty one; but, lofty as it is, God is able to give more than we ask, and even more than we understand. Neither the narrowness of our knowledge nor the feebleness of our prayer will limit the richness of His gifts. Surely a ground for this ascription of praise, which gives a solemn close to the first portion of the Epistle.

ὑπέρ is not adverbial; coming as it does close to πάντα, no reader could take it otherwise than as a preposition; besides, as an adverb it would be tautological. ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ, which occurs again 1 Thessalonians 3:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:13, is one of those compounds with ὑπέρ of which St. Paul was fond, cf. ὑπερλίαν, 2 Corinthians 11:5; ὑπερπερισσεύω, Romans 5:20; 2 Corinthians 7:4. Indeed, St. Mark also has ὑπερπερισσῶς, 7:37. Ellicott notes that of the twenty-eight words compounded with ὑπέρ, twenty-two are found in St. Paul’s Epistles and Heb., and twenty of these are found there alone.


ὧν is not to be connected with πάντα, as there is no difficulty about joining it with ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ, which by the idea of comparison can govern the genitive (i.e. = τούτων ἅ).

κατὰ τὴν δύναμιν τὴν ἐνεργουμένην ἐν ἡμῖν. “According to (or by virtue of) the power that worketh in us.” ἐνεργ. is clearly middle, not passive (as Estius). Onthovius, indeed, defends the latter view, maintaining that ἐνεργεῖται is always passive in the N.T., even Romans 7:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; James 5:16 (Bibliotheca Bremensis, Classis 4ta, p. 474). According to Winer, St. Paul uses the active of personal action, the middle of non-personal. Comp. Colossians 1:29.


21. αὐτῷδόξα ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ καὶ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. “To Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus.” So א A B C 17, al., Vulg., Boh., Jerome. But καί is omitted by Db K L P, Syr. (both), Arm., Eth., Goth., Chrys., Theodoret, Theoph., Oecum. D* G transpose, and read: ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ καὶ τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ. This transposition is perhaps due to the thought that “Christ” should precede “the Church.” It is not very easy to see why καί should have been omitted if genuine; on the other hand, it is easy to see a reason for its insertion. It is, however, hard to resist the documentary evidence for the insertion. If καί is omitted we understand “in the Church,” in which thanks and praise are given, “in Christ Jesus,” not simply “through”; but as St. Paul so often uses this expression, and “in the Lord”; He is not the medium merely, but by virtue of His union with the Church it is in Him that it gives glory to God. Olshausen and Braune, with some older commentators, connect ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ with τῃ ἐκκλησίᾳ. The absence of the article is not inconsistent with this, but the addition would be superfluous, since the ἐκκλ. can only be that which is in Christ Jesus.

If καί, however, is read, we must apparently interpret ἐν similarly in both cases. The Church, then, is that by whose greatness and perfection the δόξα of God is exhibited, as it is also exhibited in Christ Jesus (v. Soden and Moule).

εἰς πάσας τὰς γενεὰς τοῦ αἰῶνος τῶν αἰώνων Galatians 1:5; Philippians 4:10; 1 Timothy 1:17; 2 Timothy 4:18, besides the Apocalypse; εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τῶν in 3 Esdr. 4:38; and ἕως τοῦ αἰ. τῶν αἰ., Daniel 7:18 (Theodot.). There seems to be no difference in the meaning. The phrase is understood by Meyer and others as designating the future αἰών, which begins with the Parousia, as the superlative age of all ages. It seems much more natural to explain it as the αἰών which includes many αἰῶνες “in omnes generationes quas complectitur ὁ αἰών, qui terminatur in τοὺς αἰῶνας perpetuos,” Bengel. But when we consider the difficulty of giving a logical analysis which shall be also grammatical of our own “world without end,” we may be content to accept the meaning without seeking to analyse the expression.









1 On εἵγε and εἴπερ compare Sanday and Headlam, Comm. on Romans 3:30, with the quotation there from Monro’s Homeric Grammar.


W. Schmidt Woldemar Schmidt, Editor of Meyer’s Comm. on Ephesians.

Boh Bohairic. Cited by Tisch. as “Coptic,” by Tregelles as “Memphitic,” by WH. as “me.”

Arm Armenian.

Ital Old Latin.

Tisch. Tischendorf.

Treg. Tregelles.

Syr-Pesh The Peshitto Syriac.

Harcl The Harclean Syriac.

1 A somewhat analogous difficulty has been raised in connexion with Luke 7:47: see note ad loc.


Eth Ethiopic.

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Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on Ephesians 3". International Critical Commentary NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/icc/ephesians-3.html. 1896-1924.