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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

- Ephesians

by Johann Peter Lange

to the
General Superintendent At Altenburg, Saxony









The Glory of the Church of Christ (Ephesians 1:3 to Ephesians 3:21)


a. Grateful praise of the decree of grace (Ephesians 1:3-14). After the opening verse (Ephesians 1:3) the triple foundation of the praise, through the election of eternal mercy (Ephesians 1:4-6), the carrying out of the eternal election (Ephesians 1:7-12), the personal appropriation of salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14).

b. Exhortation springing out of the Apostle’s supplication for the Church as the Body of Christ, who is the Head (Ephesians 1:15-23). With thanksgiving for the reader’s faith and love (Ephesians 1:15-16) there is joined the petition, that God would make known to them the glory of their calling and inheritance as well as of His power (Ephesians 1:17-19), which glory is manifest, actual and efficient in the exaltation of Christ over all as Head of the Church, that as His Body is the fulness of Him who filleth all in all (Ephesians 1:20-23).


a. Reminder of the previous condition of death and the glorious new creation (Ephesians 2:1-10). From the Resurrection and Exaltation of Christ the Apostle arrives first at the thought of the similar condition of death in the case of the Gentiles (Ephesians 2:1-2) and the Jews (Ephesians 2:3), and then of God’s mercy, which has quickened and blessed these miserable ones in, with and through Christ (Ephesians 2:4-7), of grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), as new creatures in Christ (Ephesians 2:10).

b. Extolling comparison of the previous and the present condition (Ephesians 2:11-22). After a detailed description of the previous condition without Christ, promise and God (Ephesians 2:11-12), Paul sets forth the fundamental trait of the present status as nearness to God (Ephesians 2:13), explaining the nature and origin of the same in and through the Person and sufferings of Christ (Ephesians 2:14-18); sketching the present condition as that of citizens in the kingdom of God, members in His family, as built into the temple and house of God (Ephesians 2:19-22).


a. The office in and for this church (Ephesians 3:1-13). In spite of bonds (Ephesians 3:1) it is an office of that grace (Ephesians 3:2), in which God has made known the mystery of Christ (Ephesians 3:4), now made manifest (Ephesians 3:5): The acceptance of all nations into the kingdom of God through the Gospel (Ephesians 3:6-7); to the humble minister the riches of Christ are entrusted (Ephesians 3:8), that thus on earth and in heaven the wisdom of God might be manifested in the Church (Ephesians 3:9-10), according to God’s eternal purpose (Ephesians 3:11), and that we might be comforted (Ephesians 3:12-13).

b. The Apostle’s petition with an exhortation for the church (Ephesians 3:14-19). Addressed to the Father (Ephesians 3:14-15), it respects strengthening in the inner man (Ephesians 3:16), and Christ’s dwelling in the heart through faith, in love (Ephesians 3:17-18 a) unto the comprehension of love (Ephesians 3:18-19).

c. Conclusion in the form of a Doxology (Ephesians 3:20-21), praising the might of the merciful God (Ephesians 3:20), who makes the church in Christ glorious unto eternity (Ephesians 3:21).


The Spirit ruling in the Church of Christ (Ephesians 4:1 to Ephesians 6:20).

A. THEME OF THE WHOLE PART (Ephesians 4:1-3): Walk worthy of the Calling in love and unity.

B. THREE MOTIVES to the preservation of the unity in the Spirit (Ephesians 4:4-6).

a. The working of the Triune God in the church (Ephesians 4:4-6);

b. The gift of Christ to individuals (Ephesians 4:7-10): Each one is cared for (Ephesians 4:7), Christ has the requisite power (Ephesians 4:8; Ephesians 4:10): He came from heaven and is exalted thither again;

c. The organization and organism of the church (Ephesians 4:11-16): The immediate end of the different offices (Ephesians 4:11) is the edification of the church (Ephesians 4:12), the ultimate aim is likeness to Christ (Ephesians 4:13), the operation depends on independence and growth through genuineness in love to Christ (Ephesians 4:14-15), from whom as Head, the Body, richly furnished with members, knit together, grows in the reciprocal service of love (Ephesians 4:16).

C. GENERAL CHRISTIAN DUTIES (Ephesians 4:17 to Ephesians 5:21).

a. Principle of the new walk with reference to the antithesis of the old and the new man (Ephesians 4:17-24): The conduct of the heathen is a type of the natural conduct in general (Ephesians 4:17-19); after a reminder respecting Christ and Christian instruction (Ephesians 4:20-21), he speaks of Christian conduct in its putting off the old man and putting on the new in deeply inward renewal (Ephesians 4:22-24).

b. Special traits of the new walk (Ephesians 4:25-32). The general basis is: no lie, but truth (Ephesians 4:25), the particular points refer to temper, disposition. Anger without sin (Ephesians 4:26-27); as respects act, honesty even to beneficence (Ephesians 4:28); as respects speech, no corrupt word, but gracious speech unto edification (Ephesians 4:29-30). The comprehensive conclusion (Ephesians 4:31-32) refers to the evil that must be removed, and to the forgiving love that should exist in the church.

c. Three points of view for the new walk (Ephesians 5:1-14):

(1) Look above thyself to follow God (Ephesians 5:1-2)!

(2) Look into thyself and think of purity (Ephesians 5:3-5)!

(3) Look about thyself and be independent as respects evil men and deeds, and be benevolent (Ephesians 5:6-14).

d. Exhortation to a walk with careful consideration of the Christian position (Ephesians 5:15-21): Wise carefulness, zealously using the time, precisely the evil time (Ephesians 5:15-16), clear as to the will of God (Ephesians 5:17), avoiding drunkenness (Ephesians 5:18), but inspiriting with social song, with private melody, continued thankfulness, and mutual submission (Ephesians 5:19-21).

D. SPECIAL CHRISTIAN DUTIES in domestic relations (Ephesians 5:22 to Ephesians 6:9):

a. Wives and husbands (Ephesians 5:22-33), to which is added a comparison with the church and Christ, in order to enjoin love upon the husbands and submission upon the wives;

b. Children and parents (Ephesians 6:1-4): the former should honor and obey; the latter should, in self-discipline train and admonish them for the Lord;

c. Servants and masters (Ephesians 6:5-9): the former should obey as the servants of Christ, in hope on Him, and the latter should deal with them without threatening.

E. CONCLUDING EXHORTATION (Ephesians 6:10-20) to be strong in the Lord (Ephesians 6:10), to contend in the armor of God, needed on account of the adversary the devil (Ephesians 6:11-13), but sufficient with its particular pieces (Ephesians 6:14-17), if prayer and supplication be added (Ephesians 6:18-20).

CLOSE OF THE EPISTLE (Ephesians 6:21-24).

A. Personal Intelligence respecting Paul and those with him is carried by the bearer of the letter (Ephesians 6:21-22).

B. Two fold salutation (Ephesians 6:23-24): Peace and Love with Faith in and among the members of the church—and grace upon and with them.


Stier is undoubtedly correct in taking “the church which is in Christ Jesus” as the fundamental thought of the Epistle; his plan, however, on account of its trinitarian division, based on ground, course and aim, in each larger and smaller group, is rather artificial than masterly. The church of Christ has its root in eternity, in God’s fatherly heart with its thoughts of peace toward a wicked yet beloved world, and lifts its head into eternity again by the throne of God, ramifying into all the institutions given in creation, even the most special, through all the centuries of developing history, and all this in Christ.

Such being the contents, it will not suffice to find in the Epistle only the carrying out of the simple grand thought, that God according to His gracious decree formed from eternity in Christ, has called the Gentiles out of the deepest darkness into His light and into fellowship with His ancient covenant people (Von Gerlach). [So Hodge substantially.] Still less is the main matter of the Epistle to be sought in opposition to the prejudice of the Jews, who did not wish to admit the Gentiles into the church (Berlenburger Bible).

[Stier’s view is adopted in the main by Alford, who accepts the threefold division in all the parts of the Epistle. “But in fact the trichotomy respecting the church rests upon another and sublimer yet. Everywhere with him the origin and foundation of the church is in the will of the Father, τοῦ τὰ πάντα ἐνεργοῦντος κατὰ τἠν βουλὴν τοῦ θελὴματος αὐτοῦ,—the work and course of the church is by the satisfaction of the Son, by our υἱοθεσίαν διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ,—the scope and end of the church is the life in the Holy Spirit,—δυνάμει κραταιωθῆναι διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν ἕσω ἅνθρωπον.”—R.]


1. The language and tone of the Epistle, as is obvious in the first part (Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 1:15-16; Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 3:13 ff.), are essentially governed by the fact, that we have here no scientific exposition nor even a dialectic development, but the thoughts roused in the praying soul of the Apostle are uttered in the continuing emotion. The thought did not then appear gradually in its parts and divisions, but as is the rule in contemplation, in its integrity and fulness. The language accordingly has difficulty in compassing the thought, struggling in a fulness and flow of words, in linked sentences, with the presentation of an idea that transcends it, as the first part repeatedly shows us.—Besides it is evident that the church was gathered mainly from among the Gentiles (Ephesians 2:1-2; Ephesians 3:11-13; Ephesians 4:17-22), and the writer, as the Apostle to the Gentiles, confronts them in the full joyous consciousness of his office (Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 3:7-8).

[Bishop Ellicott, the most grammatical of English commentators, says that “in this Epistle the cases, especially the genitive, present almost every phase and form of difficulty; the uses are most various, the combinations most subtle and significant.” While the use of particles is simple, “the intertexture of sentences, and the connection of clauses, especially in the earlier portions of the Epistle, try the powers and principles of grammatical and logical analysis to the very uttermost.—In the first chapter more particularly, when we are permitted as it were to gaze upon the evolution of the archetypal dispensation of God, amidst those linked and blended clauses that, like the enwreathed smoke of some sweet-smelling sacrifice, mount and mount upwards to the very heaven of heavens, in that group of sentences of rarest harmony, and more than mortal eloquence, these difficulties are so great and so deep, that the most exact language and the most discriminating analysis seem, as they truly are, too poor and too weak to convey the force or connection of expressions so august, and thoughts so unspeakably profound.”—So Dean Alford (Vol. III., Prolegg. pp. 24, 25): “These characteristics contribute to make our Epistle by far the most difficult of all the writings of St. Paul. All on the surface is smooth, and flows on unquestioned by the untheological reader: but when we begin to inquire, why thought succeeds to thought, and one cumbrous parenthesis to another,—depths under depths disclose themselves, wonderful systems of parallel allusion, frequent and complicated underplots; every word, the more we search, approves itself as set in its exact logical place; we see every phrase contributing, by its own similar organization and articulation, to the carrying out of the organic whole. But this result is not won without much labor of thought,—without repeated and minute laying together of portions and expressions,—without bestowing on single words and phrases, and their succession and arrangement, as much study as would suffice for whole sections of the more exoteric Epistles.”—R.]

2. What is wanting in no other Pauline Epistle will be missed most of all in the Epistle to the Ephesians, viz., historical references. Only two facts are noticed: the imprisonment (Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 4:1; Ephesians 6:20) and the sending of Tychicus with oral intelligence (Ephesians 6:21-22). This omission in view of the lively interest the writer takes in the church, and desires on the part of the church (Ephesians 1:15-18; Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 3:13-19; Ephesians 6:10; Ephesians 6:19-22), is all the more remarkable, since he had labored with great zeal in Ephesus for nearly three years (Acts 20:18-19; Acts 20:31) and, on taking leave of the elders of the church in the summer of A. D. 58 or 59, had referred to false teachers about to arise (Acts 20:29-30). Of this we find no trace here. No member of the church is saluted either by the Apostle or his companions. Not the slightest hint is given of any false doctrine. For Ephesians 3:4 does not refer to opponents attacking his apostolic authority, while Ephesians 4:15-16, relates only to general experience, and Ephesians 5:6, to moral temptations, not to any particular false teachers.

3. The Epistle is distinguished by its Universalism. This will appear most strikingly from a comparison with the Epistle to the Colossians; other characteristics will thus also become unmistakably evident.







Ephesians 1:1-2.

Colossians 1:1-2.

Ephesians 3:1-3.

Colossians 1:24-26.

Ephesians 5:3-6.

Colossians 3:5; Colossians 3:8.

Ephesians 1:4.

Colossians 1:22.

Ephesians 3:7-9.

Colossians 1:23-28.

Ephesians 5:15.

Colossians 4:5.

Ephesians 1:7.

Colossians 1:14.

Ephesians 4:1.

Colossians 1:10.

Ephesians 5:19-22.

Colossians 3:16-18.

Ephesians 1:10.

Colossians 1:20.

Ephesians 4:2-4.

Colossians 3:12-15.

Ephesians 5:25.

Colossians 3:19.

Ephesians 1:15-17.

Colossians 1:3-4.

Ephesians 4:16.

Colossians 2:19.

Ephesians 6:1-4.

Colossians 3:20-21.

Ephesians 1:18.

Colossians 1:17.

Ephesians 4:22-24.

Colossians 3:9-10.

Ephesians 6:5-9.

Colossians 3:22 to Colossians 4:1.

Ephesians 1:21-23.

Colossians 1:6-19.

Ephesians 4:25-26.

Colossians 3:8-9.

Ephesians 6:19-20.

Colossians 4:3-4.

Ephesians 2:1-2; Ephesians 2:12.

Colossians 1:21.

Ephesians 4:29.

Colossians 3:8; Colossians 4:6.

Ephesians 6:21-22.

Colossians 4:7-8.


Colossians 2:5; Colossians 2:13.

Ephesians 4:31.

Colossians 3:8.



Ephesians 1:15.

Colossians 2:14.

Ephesians 4:32.

Colossians 3:12-13.



Ephesians 1:16.

Colossians 1:20; Colossians 1:22.





In this grouping of the parallel passages in the two Epistles, regard has been had to the list of De Wette and Mayerhoff. The relationship and connection of the two Epistles is greater than the similarity between the Gospel and first Epistle of John (see Introd. 1 Jno. § 3, 2. Biblework, pp. 7 ff.) and between the second Epistle of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (see Bible work on the former, § 4, p. 7). But the thorough diversity is even more surprising than the similarity. We often find the very same word, the same form of speech, and yet a different thought; and then, too, the same thought but modified by a special manner (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:9-10), or in an entirely different connection (Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:14; Colossians 1:20), now presenting different motives, again presented under different motives (Ephesians 1:3-14; Colossians 1:3-8; Ephesians 1:16 to Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 1:15 to Colossians 2:18). If it be remembered that an agreement consisting merely in single words or phrases is very common indeed, so much so that a comparison between our Epistle and 1 Peter has been attempted with a view of maintaining the dependence of the former on the latter (Weiss, Petrin. Lehrbegriff, p. 426 ff.), a considerable number of parallel passages must either be omitted or declared unworthy of consideration, in deducing a conclusion. If, with De Wette, reference is made to the ἄπαξ λεγόμενα in our Epistle, to these we may oppose a long list from the Epistle to the Colossians (Rueckert, p. 300 f.) [comp. Alford, N. T. Vol. III. Prolegg. p. 40], while the Epistles to the Corinthians, recognized as genuinely Pauline despite the most acute criticism, have more than any other. Particular attention, however, should be paid to the phrase: ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις, which is peculiar to this Epistle (Ephesians 1:3-20; Ephesians 2:6; Ephesians 3:16; Ephesians 6:12), especially in the last passage. Following up those sections which our Epistle alone has, either with a very faint verbal echo in the Epistle to the Colossians or without any parallel whatever (Ephesians 1:3-14; Ephesians 3:10-21; Ephesians 4:5-15; Ephesians 5:1-2; Ephesians 5:7-14; Ephesians 5:23-31; Ephesians 6:10-17), we find passages containing the most important, profound, and comprehensive thoughts, sometimes in a throng of streaming words, again in the most delicate and exact coloring. Finally, it must not be overlooked that, while in the Epistle to the Colossians only a single passage can be found (Ephesians 2:21) with a reference to the Old Testament (Leviticus 5:2), in our Epistle we find: Ephesians 4:7-10, a definite quotation with an explanation (Psalms 68:19); Ephesians 5:13, an indefinite citation (Isaiah 60:1; Isaiah 26:19); Ephesians 5:31, a reference to Genesis 2:24; Genesis 6:2, to Exodus 2:12, and also allusions, in Ephesians 4:25-26 to Zechariah 8:16 and Psalms 4:5, in Ephesians 1:22 to Psalms 8:7, and in Ephesians 2:17 to Isaiah 57:19. Accordingly we are not at all warranted in inferring from the relationship of the two Epistles, a dependence of this Epistle upon that to the Colossians. If the individuality and independence of the latter cannot be denied, and this we attempt to prove in the Introduction to that Epistle (§ 1, 2), then they certainly cannot be denied in the case of the former. We thus reach the conclusion that both Epistles were written at the same time by the same Apostle. Comp. Rueckert, pp. 291–306; Harless, Introduction, lxvii.–lxxvii.

Dr. Lange (Romans, pp. 21, 22) has accurately noted the difference and peculiarity of the two Epistles. In the Epistle to the Ephesians there obtains a grand universalism in entirely peculiar independence: Here, without any reference to personal, temporal, or local relations and circumstances, we are directed on all sides to the glory of the Church of Christ and the true Christianity given in her for each and every nation, without polemics or apology, purely from her origin and appearance, her growth and consummation, her ground and aim,—so that even after the pressing entreaty for the readers’ prayers in his so trying position (Ephesians 6:19-20) and the brief reference to Tychicus, who will give further oral intelligence (Ephesians 6:21-22), the conclusion entirely universal in its scope, reverts to the brethren, to those who love the Lord (Ephesians 6:23-24), not ὑμῖν, wishing them grace and peace as in the beginning. Besides the references to the Old Testament remarked above, the well-considered interchange of “ye” and “we” is a manifest proof of the universal tendency, embracing both Jews and Gentiles. The Epistle to the Colossians, on the contrary, concerns itself with one single local congregation, its special relations and circumstances.

[On the difference between the two Epistles, see Introduction to Colossians, § 2, also Wordsworth and Alford on that Epistle; the latter accepting the priority of the shorter Epistle, speaks of this one as “the flower and bloom of his moments, during those same days, of devotion and rest, when he wrought not so much in the Spirit, as the Spirit wrought in him”—“the free outflowing of the earnest spirit—to the mere surface-reader, without system, but to him that delves down into it, in system far deeper, and more recondite, and more exquisite: the greatest and most heavenly work of one, whose very imagination was peopled with the things in the heavens, and even his fancy rapt into the visions of God.”—R.]

4. The language of this Epistle is also for the most part conditioned by this universalism. Hence Bengel, after his note in Ephesians 1:3, remarks: Paulus scribit effectu per adversa sublimato: et singulare hæc epistola specimen præbet tractationis evangelicæ in thesi, hujusque capitis v. 3–14 compendium ea evangelicum exhibet; inde nullum speciatm errorem aut vitium refutat aut redarguat, sed generatim incedit; et quantumcunque lucis in epistola ceteroqui parallela ad Colossenses ex historia ecclesiastica petatur, in hac epistola minus opus est—and on Ephesians 3:4 : Est hic liber valde sublimis et tamen omnium lectioni commissus; in hac epistola apertius et sublimius scripsit Paulus, quam antehac in ulla. The Epistle does not concern itself with matter limited by given historical relations and particular phenomena or individualities, which by its concrete character would lead to shorter sentences and simpler statements. The universality of the subject, preparing from eternity down through the centuries and now developing itself through all centuries and circumstances unto the consummation in eternity, and the enthusiasm of the spirit possessed by this thought, reflect themselves in the fulness of language and the wonderful interlacing of sentences (see especially Ephesians 1:3-14). The remarkable interruptions and resumptions (as Ephesians 2:1-5; Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 3:13) can be readily accounted for, with such a subject and in such enthusiasm, by the Apostle’s habit of dictating his Epistles. In those parts where the Apostle touches upon given relations, as in the second part (Ephesians 4-6) the language and construction, though terse and precise, are yet simple and clear. Rueckert: “We do not indeed find here the language of scientific statement, or that of sharp censure against prevailing faults, or that of deeply wounded personal feeling, as in the Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians, nor yet that of hearty affectionateness, as in the Epistle to the Philippians; there is nothing of all this in our Epistle, and in these respects no comparison can be instituted.”

5. The opinions respecting the character of this Epistle stand in remarkable agreement with each other as a whole, aside from isolated exceptions. Chrysostom: ̓́Εστι δε νοημάτων μεστὴ ἡ ἐπιστολὴ, ὑψηλῶν καὶ δογμάτων· ὑψηλῶν σφόδρα γέμει τῶν νοημάτων καὶ ὑπερόγκων· ἃ γὰρ μηδαμοῦ σχεδὸν ἐφθἐγξατο, ταῦτα ἐνταῦθα δηλοῖ. Erasmus: “Stylus tantum dissonat a ceteris Pauli epistolis, ut alterius videri possit, nisi pectus atque indoles paulinæ mentis hanc prorsus illi vindicaret.” Grotius describes the Epistle as “rerum sublimitatem adœquans verbis sublimioribus, quam ulla habuit unquam lingua humana.” Witsius characterizes it with special accuracy and excellence: “Ita universam religionis Christianæ summam divina hac epistola exponit, ut exuberantem quandam non sermonis tantum evangelici παρʼ ῥησίαν, sed et spiritus sancti vim et sensum, et caritatis Christianæ flammam quandam ex electo illo pectore emicantem, et lucis divinæ fulgorem quendam admirabilem inde elucentem, ut ebullientem potius, animadvertere liceat; idque tanta copia, ut superabundans illa cordis plenitudo ipsa animi sensa intimosque conceptus autem verba prolata, verba autem priora quæque subsequentia premant, urgeant, obruant.”—With this the most important of the latest exegetes agree. [Luther (in the editions of the New Testament up to 1537) reckons this Epistle among “the best and noblest books of the New Testament, which show Christ to thee and teach all that is necessary and blessed for thee to know, even if thou shouldst never see or hear another book or doctrine.” Coleridge (Table Talk, p. 82): “In this, the divinest composition of man, is every doctrine of Christianity, first, those doctrines peculiar to Christianity, and secondly, those precepts common to it with natural religion.” Bishop Ellicott (Preface to 1st Edition) pays a tribute to the character of the Epistle, in confessing how far his labors fall below what it demands, using language that finds an echo in the heart of every faithful student of this stupendous revelation.” Comp. Schaff, History of the Apost, Church, Am. ed., p. 326.—R.]

On the other hand the opinion advanced by De Wette is altogether untenable: that the Epistle to the Ephesians is really nothing more than a verbose expansion of the Colossian Epistle without individuality in purpose or reference, without position because without respect to false teachers, unworthy of the Apostle, poor in thought with its wordy style, overloaded with parentheses and additions, without connection. [Similarly Renan (St. Paul, p. 20), proving how the Epistle strikes a “surface reader.” Comp. on the contrary Schaff, Apost. Church, p. Eph 327: “As to style, in no other Epistle do the ideas flow in such an unbroken stream and such involved periods, as in that to the Ephesians. The perverted taste of some modern critics has pronounced this ‘diffuseness,’ ‘verbosity,’ etc. Grotius understood the matter better, when he said: ‘Rerum sublimitatem adœquans verbis sublimioribus, quam alia habuit unquam lingua humana!’ The first chapter has, so to speak, a liturgical, psalmodic character, being as it were a glowing song in praise of the transcendent riches of the grace of God in Christ and the glory of the Christian calling.”—R.] Beyschlag’s passing remark (Christologie des N. T., p. 201), that our Epistle, through its dependence on that to the Colossians as well as through the lack. of freshness and terseness of style connected therewith, can raise doubts, but that still it must be regarded as a working up of the Epistle to the Colossians by the Apostle for a wider circle of readers, as well as Hausrath’s [Der Apostel Paulus, 1865, p. 2) unproven opinion that the Epistle is “a letter to the Laodiceans wrought over by another hand,” Romans 16:1-16, being an accompanying letter to Ephesus,2 are answered by the facts adduced above (under 2), taken from the two Epistles.


1. The exalted significance of the Epistle for all time lies in the fundamental idea and thought of the Epistle: The Church of Jesus Christ a creation of the Father through the Son in the Holy Ghost, decreed from eternity, destined for eternity; it is the ethical cosmos, which Redemption purposed and has realized in the cosmos instituted in creation; it is the family of God, gathered in the world and in history and still further to be gathered, the object of His nurture and care in time and eternity.—“This age of ours so lost and wandering in every direction respecting the idea and nature of the Church” (Stier), which has stumbled about from the ultra-montane ecclesiasticism demanding unconditional obedience to all its precepts and dogmas, “clear through the rationalistic troops, who prefer to build a Pythagorean ὀμακοεῖον (common audience hall) in the place of the ἐκκλησία, as far as the free churches and churches of the future, which in Rupp’s fashion leaves only a ὄμαδος and ὄχλος without ἀκοή” (Stier), accepting even a mere religious fellowship by the side of others,—this erring age must find its bearings, be consoled and uplifted by such a thought as this.

2. The ground and goal of the Church is Christ: everything depends on the relation to Christ, according to which the relation to the Church is first determined. Where Christ is, there is the Church, even though in incipiency, and where the Church in truth is, there also Christ is and works. Christ and the Church of Christ are indeed there only, where His super-terrestrial eternal Personality is apprehended, where this is neither opposed nor in any way denied. [Hence Rationalism can flourish where the ministry is “a moral police,” sustaining some Erastian petrifactions, but confessedly cannot found a Church; nor is this Epistle with its profound ecclesiology any favorite with “liberal Christians.” This results not so much from the failure to conceive of the Church, as from the inability to sound the depths of the added and essential phrase: “in Christ.”—R.] “In Christ!” is the qualification necessarily and involuntarily joined to all truth and all life.

3. The Church is to be recognized as one, invisibly visible, thoroughly ethical life-sphere of the Holy Ghost. As above the different national churches of the same confession, variously formed, or deformed and loosely organized, one confessional church [denomination] is to be sought and found, so above the different confessional churches, each professing to be a Christian Church, perhaps the Christian Church, there is the one Church of Jesus Christ. From this super-terrestrially eternal life-sphere the Church lives and labors and blesses, in the world and in time, among the nations. In her there is carried on an ethical life-process, moving the individual in his inmost and tenderest centre, away from an ever more deceitful estrangement from God to a blessed nearness to God, from enmity and bondage to sonship and heirship with God, from lust of sin through pardon of sin to glorious purity.

4. As means of grace we have the word of God becoming personal in the individual as well as in the communion, re-echoed in faith and prayer and song, in the heart and in the Church. Yet the word of God is not made so prominent, that the Sacrament is on this account to be lightly esteemed, as the position of baptism (Ephesians 4:5) shows.

5. As regards polity, it is only required, that the organs for the ministry of the word be efficient, that the members of the congregation stand in affectionate helpfulness toward, over and under each other. For the former it is necessary, that both the susceptibility to receive it, and the activity toward the congregation be unimpaired and unincumbered. Of presbyters and bishops already existing nothing is said; nor is there the slightest hint which can be turned against the lay element, but rather every living Christian is regarded as a saint, a sanctified one, and as a member of the Body, whose Head is Christ. [It is significant that this most churchly Epistle has so little to support the exclusive claims of any form of church government. This ought to humble the pretensions of jure divino sectarianism. Indeed all Christians should be humbled, as we feel how little any one body of Christians fulfils the conception here given of the Body of Christ. It is through such humility that the true church of the future, not indistinctly alluded to here (Ephesians 4:13), will be ushered in.—R.]

6. The natural institutions, marital and domestic, established in creation, the status œconomicus, as well as politicus, find support, dignity and blessing with the status ecclesiasticus in the church, so that salvation redounds to their advantage; in fact they thus first attain their rights, in order to serve in turn the growth and good estate of the church. All that is essential for these and for moral relations in general (which have their home in the church, and like all that is human going to rack and ruin in homelessness without her) is here clearly recognized in a profound and extended view, and sketched in grand outline with wonderfully pregnant force.

In these points the exalted significance of this Epistle for all ages of the church will make itself felt.
[7. The character of the Epistle involves certain results in regard to commentators, which are obvious to one who carefully reviews their labors. “As the wonderful effect of the Spirit of inspiration on the mind of man is nowhere in Scripture more evident than in this Epistle, so, to discern those things of the Spirit, is the spiritual mind here more than any where required” (Alford). As one example, De Wette is cited, who, though so able, has allowed his prejudice against the Epistle (see § 4, 3) to make his commentary on it “hardly better than works of third-rate or fourth-rate men.” But the same principle operates in another class of commentators: those who approach it in a believing spirit, but with minds ever on the alert to prevent Paul from saying anything contrary to their pre-conceived theological opinions. This class includes those of the most opposite views. Certainly this mode of dealing with “the writing of men inspired by the Third Person of the adorable Trinity “(Ellicott) is unwarrantable. It finds no warrant in the conception of the church here presented, for this implies growth, precluding the notion that in any given post-apostolic century all theological truth was exactly stated, however valuable such statements may be.—R.]


1. The Apostle Paul is designated as the author in the Epistle itself, not only in the address (Ephesians 1:1), but also in the body of the Epistle (Ephesians 2:1), with great emotion, just as in 2 Corinthians 10:1 : αὐτὸς δὲ ἐγὼ Παῦλος�; Galatians 5:2; ἴδε ἑγὼ Παῦλος λέγων ὑμιν, and yet without imitation in a way entirely peculiar: ἐγὼ Παῦλος ὁ δέσμιος τοῦ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν τῶν ἐθνῶν. He thus refers to two things which are well known in his life: His imprisonment, mentioned in Ephesians 4:1; Ephesians 6:20 also, and that he is the Apostle to the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:7; Acts 9:15; Acts 22:21; Acts 26:17-18). As he speaks in 1 Corinthians 15:9 with humility, and in Galatians 1:1; Galatians 1:12 with confidence and certainty of having received revelations from God, so here also he speaks humbly and yet as certain of his calling and illumination, of the revelation which has been imparted to him (Ephesians 3:3; Ephesians 3:8-9), referring explicitly to σύνεσίν μου (ver. 4). Those traits may be perceived here, which are found in the Epistles to the Romans (Ephesians 1:1; Ephesians 1:5, etc.) and Galatians, and in his life.—Still another fact is to be noted: the sending of Tychicus, who is commended to the church as a beloved brother and a faithful servant in the Lord. This agrees entirely with what is known respecting him from other sources (see on Ephesians 6:21).—Finally the character of the Epistle in thought and language confirm the Pauline origin (§ 2).

2. The testimony of the ancient church points without exception to the Epistle to the Ephesians as an Epistle of the Apostle Paul. No weight can be laid upon one passage in the Epistles of Ignatius, who suffered martyrdom in Rome between A. D. 105 and 108, since in the briefer recension of the text, it is said that Paul remembered them ἐν πάσῃ ἐπιστολῇ (i.e., in every letter, except in later Greek it cannot mean: in the whole letter, see on Ephesians 2:21); in the longer recension, however, the passage reads very differently (πάντοτε ἐν ταῖς δεήσεσιν αὐτοῦ μνημονεύει ἡμῶν), while in the shortest (the oldest) it is wanting altogether. The allusions to our Epistle (Ephesians 2:8; Ephesians 4:26) in the letter of Polycarp (who suffered martyrdom A. D. 168) to the Philippians (Cap. Ephesians 1:0 : εἰδότες ὅτι χάριτί ἐστε σεσωσμένοι, οὐκ ἐξ ἕργων; cap. Eph 12: ut his scripturis dictum est; irascimini et nolite peccare, et sol non occidat super iracundiam vestram) can however be regarded as the earliest witness for our Epistle; although the first is slight, the second is quite definite and cannot refer in its conclusion to Deuteronomy 24:15, as Meyer3 supposes. The testimony of the Canon Muratori belongs to the same period. According to Wieseler (Stud. u. Krit., 1847, pp. 815–857) and Tischendorf (When were our Gospels written, p. 6), this was composed in the year A. D. 170, according to Laurent (Neutest. Studien, p. 198), before A. D. 160. This authority refers to what was then generally acknowledged, and hence to a much earlier period. It names among the Epistles to seven churches written by Paul, ad Ephesos as secunda. Nor are definite citations wanting in Irenæus, who suffered martyrdom A. D. Eph 202: Ephesians 5:30 [Adv. Hær. v. 2, 36; also Ephesians 5:13 in i. 5, 8, where it is implied that the Valentinians accepted the Epistle as authentic—R.]; in Clemens Alex, († 220): Ephesians 4:17-19; Ephesians 5:21 ff., etc. [Strom. iv. § 65, Pæd. i. § 18.—R.]; while Origen († 254) names ἡ πρὸς Ἐφεσίους as Paul’s [Philos. 6, 54], Finally Eusebius cites our Epistle among the homologoumena.

In addition to this testimony from the church that from the heretics must not be overlooked. Marcion (about the middle of the 2d century) has our Epistle in his Canon, though under the title: To the Laodiceans. Comp. § 5, 1. Valentinus, “the most profound, most rich in esprit, thought and imagination of the Gnostics,” who died about A. D. 160, cites it as a Pauline Epistle, and also as “Scripture” (see Bleek, Vorlesungen über Kolosser, p. 187, f.): [Comp. Alford, Prolegg., pp. 6 ff—R.]—Even De Wette acknowledges that the ecclesiastical recognition of the Epistle opposes powerfully the grounds for doubt on this subject.

3. Doubts respecting the genuineness of the Epistle were first published by Usteri (Paulin. Lehrbegriff, 1824), occasioned by oral expressions of Schleiermacher, who however in his lectures on the Introduction to the N. T. (pp. 165 ff., 194) only suggests the conjecture, that the Epistle to the Ephesians was written by an attendant of Paul in accordance with his suggestions. De Wette in his Einleitung, § 146, and yet more decidedly in his Commentary, sought to establish these doubts, and to prove the author to have been a gifted disciple of the Apostle in the Apostolic age. His proof did not however find general sympathy, even among the “liberal” theologians, such as Rueckert (see § 2, 2), who makes the following apt remarks in opposition to this view: “We find in this Epistle again that man, who, exalted high above his times, could have as his equal only a few, and according to history had none such, since its silence would have been impossible, had there been yet another to stand beside him or to walk in his footsteps. Only such a man as Paul can be the author. If then he is not the author, show me the spirit in those times who is equal to him! Such an one could not walk through this world and leave no trace behind; I ask then, who is he and where? In the ranks of the imitators, the compilers, the counterfeiters, he is not to be found; where then shall I look for him? It is Paul and no one else!” The attack of De Wette contains also in itself a peculiar contradiction, since it regards the Epistle to the Ephesians as a wordy expansion of the Epistle to the Colossians, denying the author’s independence, ascribing to him poverty of thought, and then charges him with the ἅπαξ λεγόμενα and ἅπαξ νοούμενα, which evidence originality and fertility.

[Alford meets De Wette’s objections thus (Prolegg., p. 9): “Let every one of De Wette’s positions be granted, and caried to the utmost; and the more in number and stronger they are, the more reason there will be to infer, that the only account to be given of a writing, so unlike St. Paul’s, obtaining universal contemporary acceptance as his, is, that it was his own genuine composition. Then we should have remaining the problem, to account for the Apostle having so far departed from himself: a problem for the solution of which much acquaintance with himself and the circumstances under which he wrote would be required.” But Alford by no means admits that the problem is reduced to this form by De Wette’s objections. Rarely does even “subjective criticism” offer so contradictory a theory. Comp. Harless (Einleitung, pp. 66. ff.); Meyer, Einleitung (4th ed., pp. 22 ff.); Davidson, Introduction, I., p. 352 ff.—R.]

The assertion of Ewald, that the Epistle is more rhetorical than Paul was in the habit of writing, yet as a whole very worthy of the name it bears on its face, placing it nearer to the Apostle than the Pastoral Epistles, and yet ascribing its authorship to a friend and pupil of the Apostle between A. D. 75–80, has no external support and this internal refutation, that no friend and pupil of the Apostle could possibly play such a prank as to represent himself as Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles in bonds, honored with revelation, praying for the church, and requiring their supplications (see 1, above). This is an entirely different matter from the question respecting the Epistle to the Hebrews, left anonymous.

That this Epistle should be rejected by the Tübingen school (Schwegler, Nachapost. Zeitalter, ii. p. 330 ff., and by Master Baur, Zeller’s Theolog. Jahrbücher, 1844, 2, p. 378 ff.; Paulus, p. 418 ff.) as a Montanist or Gnostic production, was to be expected from the animus of this school, but in the present state of exegesis and information respecting the character of both Gnosticism and Montanism, can create no uneasiness as far as the Epistle to the Ephesians is concerned. The terms πλήρωμα, ἀρχή, αἰών, κοσμοκράτωρ, κ. τ. λ. in this Epistle are not to be taken according to the Gnostic terminology, and, however it may be wished by some, it is not possible to discover in the phrase πολυποίκιλος σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ (Ephesians 3:10), the σοφία returning into the Pleroma, or in Ephesians 3:21 the doctrine of the Æons, or in Ephesians 5:28 the Syzygies of the Gnostics, especially of the Valentinians, or in Ephesians 4:13 the Montanist point of view. For there can be found in our Epistle by considerate exegesis as little of the universalistic character of Gnosticism, which is pervaded by the most adventurous theosophistic and dualistic views, teaching about a physical-life process instead of a moral one, as of the opposite Montanism, which on the basis of a prophetic system, ecstatic in form and chiliastic in origin, substitutes asceticism for morality, running off into rigorism; so that the Tübinger are peculiar enough to rest on no other basis than their own assertions, especially as the Epistle to the Ephesians existed before Montanism and even before the Gnosticism of Valentinus, while these systems stand in the most complete antagonism to the fundamental thoughts and detailed statements of the Epistle (see 2). Comp. Lange, Apostol. Zeitalter, I. 1, p. 119 ff.; Klöpper, De origine epp. ad Ephes. el Coloss., 1853; Raebinger, De Christolog. Paulin., p. 42 ff.

[Renan calls this Epistle “doubtful.” He wavers between the theory of the later origin (on the ground of Gnostic features and the conception of marriage presented here differing from 1 Corinthians 7:0, etc.) and one similar to that of Ewald: “That it was composed during his (Paul’s) life, under his eye, in his name, is not improbable.” He suggests Timothy as the writer, especially as his name is omitted here, joining with this the notion of a circular letter, afterwards called Ephesians, because coming first to Ephesus, etc. The two theories contradict each other. As for the latter, if Renan regards the Epistle as “chargée de mots inutiles et de repetitions” (p. 9), such a quasi-forger would scarcely employ useless words and repeat himself as he does in Ephesians 4:25, where he not only forbids lying, but commands to speak the truth. Still the whole theory accords better with the character of the St. Paul of Renan than with that of the St. Paul of history. There is as much truth as ever in the remark of Ellicott: “The objections have been so fairly and fully confuted that they can no longer be considered to deserve any serious attention.”—R.]


1. The address (Ephesians 1:1) contains a definition of the place, to which the Epistle is directed: ἐν Ἐφέσῳ. The circle of readers is accordingly the Church in Ephesus, if this definition be correct. It is wanting, however, in א. B., which belong to the fourth century, and in cod. 67 of the twelfth. In the first, the Sinaiticus, it was originally omitted, but it is added by the otherwise skilful corrector, whom Tischendorf designates with C. In the Codex Vaticanus the original omission was modified at a later date, as Tischendorf has shown in opposition to Hug (Stud. und Krit., 1847, p. 133); in cod. 67 it was found originally, but afterwards erased. It is found besides in A. D. E. F. G. K. L. and others. The versions from the Peshito (simple Syriac) and the Itala, which may have existed in the second century, all sustain this definition in the address. Our Epistle has been called the Epistle to the Ephesians since the middle of the second century (see § 4, 2).

In favor of the Ephesian destination of the Epistle we have also the testimony of Tertullian (contra Marcion, 5, 11): prætereo hic el de alia epistola, quam nos ad Ephesios præscriptam habemus, hæretici vero ad Laodicenos; (and the same 5, 17): ecclesiæ vertitate epistolam istam ad Ephesios habemus emissam, non ad Laodicenos, sed Marcion ei titulum aliquando interpolare gestiit, quasi et in isto diligentissimus explorator; nihil autem de titulis interest, cum ad omnes apostolus scripserit, dum ad quosdam. From this it follows: Since the middle of the second century the same Epistle, which the ancient church designated and cited as the Epistle to the Ephesians was designated and used by Marcion, and not by him only but by the other heretics, (hæretici), as the Epistle to the Laodiceans. Tertullian regarded Marcion as the author of this alteration (interpolare gestiit), which related chiefly to the title only (ἡ πρὸς Ἐφεσίους) agreeing, as it of course did, with the address (τοῖς οἶσιν ἐν Ἐφέσῳ), and not to the exact contents of the Ephesian or Laodicean letter, from which the materials for the discussion were drawn. Such a proceeding is easily explicable from the passionate, energetic and proud character of Marcion; besides he accepted Paul alone among the Apostles, and only ten of his Epistles in a very mutilated form, feeling himself entitled from his Asiatic origin to decide on this point. In the relations of the Apostle Paul to the Church at Ephesus, and in the universal character of this Epistle (§ 2, 1, 2), beside the parallel Epistle to the Colossians, and in the mention of an Epistle to Laodicea (Colossians 4:16), Marcion had occasion enough to recoin the Epistle to the Ephesians into a suitable support for his opinions and tendencies. With this agrees remarkably what is said in the Canon Muratorianus (see Wieseler, Stud. u. Krit, 1847, p. 828; Laurent, Neutestamentl. Studien, p. 198): Fertur etiam una ad Laodicenses alia ad Alexandrinos Pauli nomine fictæ ad hæresem Marcionis et alia plura, quæ in Catholicam ecclesiam recipi non poterant; fel enim cum melle misceri non congruit. When then Epiphanius cites Ephesians 4:5-6, from Marcion’s πρὸς Λαοδικέας, and Tertullian opposes Marcion out of a common text, the acceptation of a partial mutilation and alteration of the text by Marcion best meets the facts of the case, and it seems better to accept with Wiggers (Stud, und Krit., 1841, p. 429), that ἐν Λαοδικείᾳ was written and read by Marcion instead of ἐν Εφέσῳ (Ephesians 1:1) to conform with the title (ἡ πρὸς Λαοδικέας), rather than with Tischendorf and Meyer, that all closer local definition was wanting [i.e., in Marcion’s text]. For some kind of local statement is indispensably required after τοῖς οὖσιν, as will appear from a comparison of the Pauline inscriptions which enter into the discussion here (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Philippians 1:1). As regards Romans 1:7, the words ἐν Ῥώμῃ are wanted only in isolated manuscripts. So that the omission of every local definition seems rather to have arisen in consequence of this manipulation of Marcion and in view of the remarkably universal tone of the Epistle.4 It was not until the fourth century that Basil the great (Contra Eunom. 2, 19) announced himself as convinced by manuscripts, that the address of the Epistle to the Ephesians read as follows: τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖαιν καὶ πιστοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ιησοῦ. Jerome, who for his part reads ἐν Ἐφέσῳ in the text, remarks on Ephesians 1:1 : quidam curiosius quam necesse est, putant, ex eo, quod Moysi dictum sit: hæc dices filiis Israel: qui est misit me, etiam eos, qui Ephesi sunt sancti et fideles, essentiæ vocabulo nuncupatos, ut ab eo qui est hi qui sunt appellentur. Alii vero simpliciter non ad eos, qui sint, sed qui Ephesi sancti et fideles sint, scriptum arbitrantur. The former attempts to prove from the fact of Christians being called οἱ ὄντες, that Christ is first really ὁ ὥν; the latter refers, as Tischendorf (N. T. Exodus 7:0, maj. l. p. 441), affirms, to the explanation and opinion of Origen.—Accordingly this Epistle is to be regarded as addressed to Ephesus.

2. The Epistle itself and Paul’s relation to the Ephesian Church are at least not in opposition to this view. During the second missionary journey, A. D. 53 or 54 (Acts 16:1 to Acts 18:22) on his return from Corinth, Paul came with Aquila and Priscilla to Ephesus; these he left there and hastened to the feast at Jerusalem. This excellent pair in connection with Apollos labored still further for the gospel. During the third extended journey from A. D. 56 or 57–59 Paul came again to Ephesus and remained there nearly three years (Acts 19:0). Although he at first found some sympathy among the Jews, he was obliged to yield to his opponents and betake himself to the Gentiles, until Demetrius, the goldsmith (silversmith), excited an uproar against the Apostle, which drove him from the city. He won both Jews and Greeks for Christ (Acts 19:10; Acts 20:21). An intimate relation was formed between Paul and the church, as is shown in the farewell at Miletus (Acts 20:17-38), on his return to Palestine, when he fell into the imprisonment at Cesarea, A. D. 60 and 61. The church comprised both Jews and Gentiles, but the latter were in the majority, since the tumult which was excited by the silversmiths in their anxiety about their gains, was far more considerable than the Jewish opposition. The city of Ephesus, being the capital of proconsular Asia and celebrated for trade, art and science as well as on account of the temple of Diana, was a place well adapted for the formation of a church of extended activity. It now lies in ruins, and in its place stands a little village called Ajasoluk from ᾶγια θεολόγου, the holy place of the theologian, in remembrance of the labors of John the Theologian.5

Just such a city as Ephesus would give occasion to the Apostle in his imprisonment, to present his universal and cosmical view in a letter to the dear church. Even though a “more personal than official character” (Schenkel) may not be found in the address (Ephesians 1:1): τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν Ἑφέσῳ καὶ πιστοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, which is similar to that to the personally unknown church in Rome (Romans 1:7), and to Philippians 1:1, still the whole Epistle is pervaded by a lively interest in this church, the main elements of which are Gentiles (§ 2, 1). The universalism pervading throughout the Epistle throws the special references into the background and refers to the sending of Tychicus for oral communications. When the Apostle (Ephesians 1:15) writes, he had heard of their faith and love to all saints, this is to be explained by the separation for years; he does not say that he had only heard of it. From Ephesians 3:2 we can by no means infer the non-acquaintance of the church with the Apostle, nor from Ephesians 4:21 the non-acquaintance of the Apostle with the church (see Exeg. Notes in loco, and Rinck, Stud. u. Krit., 1849, p. 953 f.)—It might have been expected, that Paul would mention or hint at some special personal relatives in this Epistle; but he does not do it, though the Epistle is one addressed to a beloved church and full of lively sympathy. Yet at the same time he gives no ground for a justifiable doubt, whether this Epistle was written to Ephesus. No fact in the Epistle compels or justifies a belief that it was not intended for Ephesus, as the historical evidences require.

[The Ephesian destination of this Epistle has been denied by Conybeare (C. and Howson, Life and Epistles of St. Paul, Vol. II., pp. 486 ff.). Owing to the great popularity of this work, Dean Alford has answered its arguments in detail [Prolegg. pp. 13–18). The same popularity required at least a summing up of the question at this point, before passing to the theories mentioned below, so that the reader may see how little real ground there is for the view which these charming authors have made so current. On external diplomatic and historical grounds, only thus much is proven: that so early as the time of Basil copies existed without having the words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ in the inscription, as indeed these are now wanting in א. B., but not even he, much less the other fathers, doubted that the true title was “to the Ephesians,” as it reads in all the older Uncials; that Marcion (not the best authority) called it the Epistle to the Laodiceans. This scarcely amounts to more than a state of things just short of absolute unanimity. The most probable explanation of the fact of this omission is that of Alford, who thinks it was occasioned by the catholic subject of the Epistle, made “very possibly by churches among whom it was read, and with a view to generalize the reference of its contents.” On internal grounds but one objection deserves an answer, viz., that it is scarcely possible that Paul could have written to such a church where he was so well-known without sending personal greetings. A sufficient answer is this, that in the Epistles addressed to those churches where he was personally unknown (Romans, Colossians) there are most personal greetings to and from individuals; and in every case where he was known few or none (see the close of the various Pauline Epistles). It is to meet these two difficulties that the theories enumerated below have been suggested, though Marcion’s position has involved Colossians 4:16 in the problem.—R.]

3. The attempts to explain what is singular in this fact, which must always be recognized, fail in four directions.

a) Many, following a few manuscripts, some of them important, and Basil (see 1) reject all local designation, as Schneckenburger: “to the saints, who really are such,” Matthies: “to all the saints who are there,” Credner: “to the saints who are also real believers;” so also Weiss (Herzog’s Real encykl. 19, p. 481). This is not only against the usage of the language (see 1), the attempts at translation themselves showing that the words are incomprehensible and meaningless without a local definition, but it also stamps the Epistle as a Catholic Epistle, for which it has never been held by the church, not even by Weiss, who limits it to the totality of the churches in Asia Minor, and considers it encyclical (see ibid. p. 482). Were this letter a companion to the πρὸς Ἑβραίους, it should have been entitled πρὸς Ἕλληνας rather than πρὸς Ἐφεσίους.

b) Others consider it an encyclical letter, addressed to Ephesus and yet intended for the vicinity in a narrower or wider circle. Jacob Usher (Annales V. et N. T. ad a. 64, p. 686) started this theory, and claimed that Paul has inserted no local name, leaving it to the bearer to add it. [Eadie (p. 24 f.) gives his language in full, as well as a long list of the supporters of his theory.—R.] Following him are a great many authors who suggest the most various modifications of his view. Some consider it a circular letter for Ephesus and its affiliated churches (Harless and others), others for Ephesus and the churches connected with it (Beza and others), or for the Gentile Christians of Asia (Stier, Hofmann, Schriflbeweis I. 1, p. 372) or for these exclusive of Ephesus (Koppe and others), or for Laodicea and the neighboring churches, such as Hierapolis (Bleek). [Among the supporters of this “limited encyclical” view which implies the general correctness of the title: To the Ephesians, we must class some of the most judicious of modern historians and commentators, such as Turner, Hodge, Schaff, Ellicott, Lange. Dr. Lange with some positiveness says (Introd. Romans, p. 16) that in Colossians 4:16 : “We are to understand rather the Epistle to the Ephesians as intended also for Laodicea, the last of the Ephesian Cycle of congregations.” Hodge merely says: “Perhaps the most probable solution of the problem is, that the Epistle was written to the Ephesians and addressed to them, but being intended specially for the Gentile Christians as a class, rather than for the Ephesians as a church, it was designedly thrown into such a form as to suit it to all such Christians in the neighboring churches, to whom no doubt the Apostle wished it to be communicated.” Ellicott, while holding that the Ephesian destination “is not open to very serious doubt,” is led by the authority of א. to adopt the view of Usher, regarding the Epistle as “left studiously general in form, and free from distinctive notices.” Olshausen, Macknight, and many others, especially Conybeare (see above under 2) adopt the encyclical view, without admitting that Ephesus was the primary destination.—R.] But Paul has already shown in Galatians 1:1 : “Unto the churches of Galatia,” 2 Corinthians 1:1 : “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia,” how he designates a circular letter, and gives an example in 1 Corinthians 1:2, how he writes when in the address to a local church he has still in mind the adjacent churches, and one in particular. But of this there is no trace to be found here; hence the view that the Epistle to the Ephesians is an encyclical letter seems to be unfounded, and only an arbitrary means of avoiding a greater difficulty, all the more so, when the modern modification is added, that the Apostle had entrusted several copies to Tychicus, so that he could insert the name of the place on the spot (Bengel, Rueckert and others). Besides in that case another riddle is proposed: how does it happen that only copies for Ephesus have become known? [Nor does this theory meet the internal difficulty, since Paul in just such an encyclical letter (2 Cor.) goes into details to an extent that forbids our supposing the wider destination to have been any reason for the absence of personal greetings.—R.]

c) The opinion, based on Colossians 4:16, and Marcion, that our Epistle is that to Laodicea, is very peculiar, if it be claimed at the same time that it was intended for Ephesus also. (Grotius, Auger). The same Epistle could not be addressed to two so different churches. [Comp. Colossians 4:16, pp. 85, 86. The acceptance of “Laodiceans” and “Laodicea” in the title and address is altogether unwarranted,—a mere fiction to meet a single fact of no great importance, and involving various assumptions; and this strange inconsistency that Paul wrote two letters at the same time, one to Laodicea and the other to Colosse, sending no greetings to Laodicea in the letter intended for that point, but in the other one (Colossians 4:15) sent elsewhere. Even Renan rejects it most decidedly. Still this view has been supported by Mill, Wetstein, the younger Vitringa, Paley, Holzhausen, and others.—R.]

d) Finally we can put on record as pure hypothesis the view of Meyer: Paul, with whose circumstances the Asiatic Tychicus, who is used again as “emissary” (2 Timothy 4:12) and mentioned together with the Ephesian Trophimus (Acts 20:4), was entirely entrusted, might have had special motives (the Jewish accusation, Acts 21:28-29, and the avarice of Felix, Acts 24:26) in the circumstances of his imprisonment and the watch kept on him for composing (on the score of prudence) a letter to this very church, with which he stood on the most confident footing, without presenting any personal reference or special circumstances. [This theory of Meyer is based on his opinion that the letter was written during the imprisonment at Cesarea (see § 6). But it ought to be added that Meyer is very positive in accepting the genuineness of the words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ as well as the exclusively Ephesian destination of the Epistle, views which he distinctly re-affirms in the preface to his 4th edition.—It is perhaps well to close this section with a list of some authors who agree with the view advocated by Dr. Braune: viz., that this Epistle was addressed to Ephesus and to no other church: Calvin, Bucer, Witsius, Lardner, Prof. Stuart of Andover, Meyer, Davidson, Wieseler, Alford, Wordsworth, Eadie, Schenkel and very many others.—R.]


The time and place are dependent on each other. Paul writes as prisoner (Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 4:1; Ephesians 6:20), hence between A. D. 59 and 64, either at Cesarea or at Rome. As a starting-point we must remember that the three Epistles, to the Ephesians, the Colossians, and to Philemon, were written at the same time. The Epistle to the Colossians (Ephesians 4:10-14) shows us the Apostle surrounded by the same companions sending salutations as in that to Philemon (Philippians 1:23-24). In the Epistles to the Ephesians (Ephesians 6:21-22) and to the Colossians (Ephesians 4:7-9) we find the same messenger with the same commission; this, in connection with the many almost verbatim parallel passages, places the contemporaneousness of the Epistles above doubt. Now according to 2 Timothy 4:12, the Apostle sent Tychicus from Rome to Ephesus. At that time Luke was still with him, Demas had forsaken him, Mark was expected, and to Timothy he was writing. This points evidently to some other time than that required by our Epistles. According to Colossians 1:1, Timothy was with Paul, as in Philippians 1:1. According to Colossians 4:7-14, as well as Philemon 1:23-24, Aristarchus, Mark, Jesus Justus, Epaphras, Luke, Demas were with him. Aristarchus went with them from Cesarea to Rome (Acts 27:2). Timothy, Aristarchus, Tychicus journeyed to Jerusalem with the Apostle (Acts 20:4). Hence we can infer nothing definite respecting the time of the composition of this Epistle from Paul’s companions. The Apostle was a person of great power of attraction, restlessly active, using his helpers as became necessary. Hence constant change. That the coming together of these men about Paul, who was the centre of all missionary activity would be more easily brought about in Cesarea than in Rome, decides nothing; they did come with him to Rome, to him at Rome, and thence were sent out to return thither again. Accordingly special attention has been directed to one point, viz., the passages respecting Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21-22; Colossians 4:7-9).

The mention of Onesimus in the latter passage is of special importance. The remarks of Lange (Romans, p. 15) against Schenkel, who with Meyer [Thiersch, Hausrath] and others, following the lead of Schultz (Stud. und Krit., 1829, pp. 612–17), holds that the Epistle was written from Cesarea, are quite correct. Even Wiggers (Stud, und Krit., 1841, pp. 436–450), who after weighing with great circumspection the arguments for Cesarea and for Rome, decides for the former, does not find those drawn from the companions sufficient. It cannot be perceived why Onesimus should have fled to Jerusalem rather than to Rome; since from the intercourse with Rome, and the sea route and the prospects in the metropolis, this was much nearer. Nor can anything be inferred from the expense, since this would scarcely be reckoned with much care. The fugitive would have been afraid of the fugitivarii, but not have fled from them. Nor is any proof to be based upon the position of the cities, Colosse and Ephesus. Even the custodia militaris does not help us to decide: the confinement in Cesarea would hardly have been stricter than in Rome. Two reasons are decisive in Wiggers’ opinion: 1) that, if Tychicus travelled with Onesimus through Ephesus to Colosse, and hence came from Rome, Onesimus would have been mentioned in the Epistle to the Ephesians also; he is not named, and hence was no longer with Tychicus, but separated from him, left behind in Colosse. It is inconceivable however, why Paul ought to have mentioned in a letter to the Ephesians a slave entirely unknown to them, just as in an Epistle to Colosse, where he belonged. 2) Paul could not have said that he had sent Tychicus to Ephesus (Ephesians 6:22), if he in going from Rome [to Colosse] must of necessity pass through Ephesus; in that case the route would have led him to Ephesus, not Paul’s sending of him. This remarkable reason is rejected even by Meyer, who agrees with Wiggers.

If on the contrary we call to our aid the situation of the Apostle in his imprisonment, it is clear, that in Rome, the capital of the Empire, to which he had already addressed his most important Epistle, the importance of Ephesus, the capital of Asia, would appear with especial strength to his mind, and at the same time the universality of the Gospel, the importance of the Gentile Christian Church there, the fundamental thought of our Epistle. The place of composition, therefore, indicates the time, probably the beginning of the imprisonment. Paul was in Cesarea from A. D. 59, and from the spring of 61 or 62 in Rome. Hence the Epistle to the Ephesians was written in A. D. 61 or 62. [With the usual variations in chronology the great majority of commentators and historians agree in assigning this Epistle to the early part of the imprisonment at Rome. See Meyer for the best defence of the other view. Renan, mainly on internal grounds, thinks this group of Epistles, if genuine, was composed at Rome toward the close of the Apostle’s life (p. ix.).—R.]

The priority of the Ephesian Epistle to that to the Colossians will doubtless be accepted as most probable (see Introd. to Colossians, § 2, 1, p. 8). It is certain that nothing can be inferred in regard to this point from καὶ ὑμεῖς (Ephesians 6:21), because the contrast with the Colossians, as those to whom Tychicus first came, is not indicated at all, nor can it be proven from the context (See Exeg. Notes in loco). Nor can the priority of the Colossian Epistle be concluded from the ungrounded opinion that Colosse was the first and immediate goal for Tychicus.6 We may rather suppose that with the universal thought respecting the Church in Jesus Christ, which impelled Paul to the Ephesian Epistle, the application of the universal complex truth to the special necessities of the Colossian Church might first have come into full view, than to claim that through his writing to the church at Colosse, whose needs had been made known to him by Epaphras and Onesimus, Ephesus as capital of Asia had suggested itself to him and the universalism of the Christianity of the Gentile churches, and that he was thus led to write the Epistle to the Ephesians. The former supposition is supported further by an incidental notice. In the address to Colosse Timothy is mentioned with Paul (Colossians 1:1); in the Epistle to the Ephesians he is not mentioned and this is the more remarkable, since Timothy was well known in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3). Hence it is scarcely probable that he was at Rome when Paul wrote to Ephesus, but he must have been there when he wrote to Colosse. The most simple theory is that Paul had already finished the Epistle to the Ephesians, when Timothy returned from some errand at a distance.7 The Apostle then writes to Colosse, and both letters are sent away, the former written probably towards the end of the summer, the latter at the beginning of autumn. Finally Huther’s proof for the probable priority of the Colossian Epistle, deduced from the fact that in the Ephesian letter “an unmistakable fulness of language prevails,” while the Colossian Epistle is distinguished “by a compact brevity,” proves rather the opposite: the briefer form is usually the later one, as the shorter catechism follows the larger. Comp. my remarks on the Epistles of John, Lange’s Comm., p. 16. [Hausrath thinks that both were written at one sitting as it were, but the whole question involves conjectures merely. The view which accepts the priority of the Epistle to the Colossians admits of the beautiful theory respecting the Apostle’s state of mind in writing the two, which Alford sets forth (Prolegg. pp. 41, 42) but aside from this there is no advantage whatever to be derived from a decision of the question. As to the argument from the contents of the Epistles, it is manifestly inconclusive, since a-Lapide, Böhmer, Credner, Schneckenburger, Lardner, and many others agree with Braune in assigning the earlier origin on this ground to our Epistle, while Schleiermacher, Harless, Neander, Wiggers, De Wette, Bleek, Schenkel reach the opposite conclusion. So too Ellicott, Davidson, Alford; Eadie is very cautious in accepting this view.—R.]


Among the numerous commentaries on all or a number of the Epistles of this Apostle we mention:

Koppe: Nov. Testam. Vol. VI., Eph. ad Galatas, Thess., Ephes., Göttingen, 1778. (The 2d and 3d editions, 1791 and 1824, were revised by Tychsen).—J. D. Michaelis: Paraphrase und Anmerkungen über die Briefe Pauli an die Galat., Ephes., Philip., Koloss., Thess., Tim., Tit., Philemon., Göttingen, 1750 (2d edition, 1769).—De Wette: Exegetisches Handbuch über das Neue Testament, Band 2, Theil 4, 1843 (2d edition, 1847).—Meyer: Kritisch-exeget. Commentar über das N. Testament, Abtheilung 8, 1843; 3d edition, 1859. [The fourth enlarged and improved edition (1867) of this invaluable commentary has been used in preparing the additions in the present volume; and Dr. Braune’s citations have been carefully compared with it.—R.]—Olshausen: Bibl. Commentar über das N. Testament, Band 4, 1840. [Accessible to the English reader through the translation of Prof. Kendrick].—Schenkel in Lange’s Bibelwerk, 1862. [A second edition appeared in 1867. The work shows the author’s ability, but in point of grammatical accuracy leaves no room to doubt the propriety of translating in its stead the commentary of Dr. Braune, altogether aside from the change of theological position on the part of Dr. Schenkel, which made it necessary to offer to the German public a choice between two separate works on the three Epistles to the Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians.—R.]—Flatt: Vorlesungen über Gal. und Eph., published by Kling, 1828.—Baumgarten-Crusius: Commentar über die Briefe Pauli an die Epheser und Kolosser, published from his manuscripts and reports of his lectures by Kinnel and Schauer, 1847.—Ewald: Die Sendschreiben des Apostels Pauli übersetzt und erklärt, 1857.

Among the special commentaries the following are to be noted: Rueckert: Der Brief Pauli an die Ephesier erläutert und vertheidigt, 1834.—G. Ch. A. Harless: Commentar über den Brief Pauli an die Ephesier, 1834: 2d unaltered edition, 1858. [Pronounced by Ellicott: “one of the best, if not the very best commentary that has ever yet appeared on any single portion of Holy Scripture.” Largely used by both author and editor in the present volume.—R.]

Stier: Die Gemeinde in Christo Jesu. Auslegung des Briefs an die Epheser. Two vols., 1848, 1849.—Extracts from the same great work for popular use: Der Brief an die Epheser. Lehre von der Gemeinde für die Gemeinde. [Elaborate and diffuse, attempting to retain and combine as many interpretations as possible, yet exceedingly valuable.—R.]—Matthies: Erklärung des Briefs Pauli an die Epheser, 1834.—[Holzhausen: Der Brief des Apostels Paulus an die Epheser übersetzt und erklärt, 1833].

The following should be compared: Luenemann: De epistola, quam Paulus ad Ephes. dedisse perhibetur, authentica, 1842.—Klöpper: De origine epp. ad Ephes. et Col., 1853.—J. P. Lange: Geschichte der Kirche, I. 1, p. 117 ff.—[W. F. Rinck: Disput. ad authentiam epist. P. ad Ephes. probandam, 1848.—Also the histories of the Apostolic times by Reuss, Lechler, Thiersch, Schaff, etc.—R.]

For practical exegesis we name: Chrysostom: 2d Homilies on our Epistle.—Spener: Erklärung der Episteln an die Epheser und Kolosser, 1730.—Rieger: Betrachtungen über das N. Testament, Theil 3, 1833.—[Passavant: Versuch einer praktischen Auslegung des Briefes Pauli an die Ephesier, Basle, 1836]. Heubner: Praktische Erklärung des N. Testaments, Band 4, 1859.—Kaehler: Auslegung der Epistel Pauli an die Epheser in 34 Predigten.—On Ephesians 6:1-9, Ahlfeld: Der Chrisitliche Hausstand, 1851.

[Comp. the lists in the Introduction to the New Testament, Biblework, Matthew, p. 19, in the Introduction to the Pauline Epistles, Romans, pp. 27 f., 48 ff.—Of special value here are the commentaries of Calvin, Bengel, Meyer, Alford (the 4th edition has been used in preparing the additions), Wordsworth. Among the earliest English works on this Epistle we mention: Paul Bayne, London, 1643; Goodwin, London, Eph 1681: Boyd, London, 1652 (in Latin); Rollock, Geneva, 1593 (in Latin also).—Later works—Eadie: A commentary on the Greek text of the Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians, London, 1853; 2d edition, 1861. (Full, devout, generally accurate, containing a good list of the literature on the Epistle, and abounding in practical remarks which have been largely used in the Homiletical department).—Turner: The Epistle to the Ephesians in Greek and English, New York, 1856.—Hodge: A Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians, New York, 1856 (republished in London, 1863).—C. J. Ellicott: A critical and grammatical commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, London, 1855; 2d edition, 1859. The 4th edition (1868) has been used in preparing the volume. It differs but little from the 2d. (Without a rival in English for concise statement in the department of grammar, accompanied by a good translation, pervaded by a devout tone, and prepared with the greatest care).—J. Llewelyn Davies: The Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians, the Colossians and Philemon; with introduction and notes, and an essay on the traces of foreign elements in the theology of these Epistles, London, 1866.—Eadie enumerates among the more popular works those of M‘Ghee, Lathrop, Evans, Eastbourne and Pridham.—R.]


[1][A popular summary is: I. The doctrinal part (Ephesians 1-3): The Church is chosen, redeemed, united in Christ II. The practical part (Ephesians 4-6): Therefore let the Church walk in unity, in newness of life as regards personal and relative duties, in the strength of the Lord and the armor of God.—The reader is referred to the able Synopsis of Dr. Lange in the general Introduction to the Pauline Epistles, Romans, pp. 15, 22. In accordance with his view of the twofold theme in each Epistle, he finds the fundamental theme of this Epistle in Ephesians 1:20-23, the final theme in Ephesians 4:1-6.—R.]

[2][Prof. Hausrath does not enter into critical questions, but Dr. Hitzig, of Heidelberg, is understood to be preparing a critical work in which the same view will be defended. This theory considers Romans 16:1-16 to be genuine, but addressed to Ephesus before our Epistle was written. Renan advances the same view in connection with his theory respecting Romans as a circular letter (p. lxxiii.). See my note, Romans, p. 425. Against the Laodicean destination, see below, § 5, 3, c.—R.]

[3][Meyer (4th ed. p. 27) intimates that in his scripturis refers to the O. T., because the Apostolic fathers never thus speak of the N. T. There is the more reason for this view just here, because in sacris literis occurs immediately before. Still even Meyer admits that the connection of the two passages cited by Polycarp may arise from a recollection of our Epistle.—R.]

[4][Meyer (Einleitung, p. 9) suggests, too, the influence of the incorrect inference from passages in the Epistle, that it was addressed to those unknown to the Apostle who were moreover beginners in Christianity. On these points see below (2). The propriety of this suggestion will appear when We consider that “subjective criticism” found favor in early days as well as now. The “critical” as well as “theological” discourses of the present time are often enough those of the “seething” post-apostolic centuries.—R.]

[5][“The city stood on the south of a plain about five miles long from east to west, and three miles broad, the north boundary being Mount Gallesius, the east Mount Pactyas, the south Mount Coressus, and on the west it was washed by the sea. The sides of the mountains were very precipitous, and shut up the plain like a stadium or race-course.” (Lewin, quoted in Alford). It was, in the time of the Apostle, an influential centre, a point of importance to be won for Christ. It is highly probable that the churches of Colosse and the neighborhood (Colossians 2:1) were founded as the result of intercourse with Ephesus (see Introd. to Colossians, p. 6). As regards its history, present condition, the temple of Diana, and the worship of that goddess, see Smith’s Dictionary of Geography, and his Bible Dictionary, Winer, Realwörterbuch, in all three under the article “Ephesus;” but especially the interesting and vivacious description in Conybeare and Howson, Life and Epistles of St. Paul, Vol. II., Eph 16; comp. Eadie, pp. viii. ff., and the authorities there cited. The classical references are given by Alford, Prolegg. p. 11. The main facts are as follows: The city was wealthy and well-known, its chief attraction, aside from its importance as a trading point, being the temple of Diana, to whom the city was sacred. This wonder of the world, a Greek building of the Ionic order, was burnt by Herostratus, to gain immortality for himself, on the night of the birth of Alexander the Great (B. C. 355), but was rebuilt at great cost in the course of centuries, one may say, contributions having been made by all Greece and Western Asia. “A many-breasted idol of wood, rude as an African fetich, was worshipped in its shrine, in some portion of which a meteoric stone may have been inserted, the token of its being ‘the image that fell from Jupiter’—τοῦ διοπετοὺς” (Eadie). “Oxford in England is not more Oxford on account of its University, than Ephesus was Ephesus on account of the temple of Diana” (Hodge). On the title νεωκόρος, “temple-sweeper,” the most honorable designation of the city, see Cony. and How., ii. p. 76. The effect of the preaching of the Apostle Paul on this idolatrous worship is stated in Acts 19:17 ff. It is not necessary to find any allusion to this temple in certain passages in our Epistle (Ephesians 3:20-21), yet it does seem that it is quite as fair to adduce such a possible allusion in favor of the Ephesian destination of the Epistle, as to advance such internal grounds against it as have gained considerable acceptance. At all events the character of the city is not against the genuineness of the commonly received title.—R.]

[6][These two grounds are advanced by Meyer, who considers the internal, psychological grounds to be altogether indecisive. But the second reason falls to the ground with the theory that the Epistles were written at Cesarea. Were our Epistle referred to in Colossians 4:16, then it was certainly written first.—R.]

[7][So Hug, but Schott argues precisely the other way: that Timothy was present when the Colossian letter was written and after he had been sent on some errand, Paul wrote to the Ephesians; so inconclusive is this circumstance.—R.]

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