Ephesians, epistle to the

In the NT, the fifth of the letters of Paul. But it is more of a doctrinal treatise, dressed up as a letter by having an opening and formal greetings at the end. It was known to Ignatius (d. 107) and possibly even to Clement of Rome in 96 CE when he wrote to Corinth. Although explicitly regarded from the end of the 2nd cent. as a work of the apostle Paul, more modern scholarship hesitates to authenticate the Pauline claim. This is due to the relationship between Eph. and the (Pauline) epistle to the Colossians. Both the reference to the writer's imprisonment (Eph. 6:20; cf. Col. 4:18) and to the letter being conveyed by Tychicus (Eph. 6:21; cf. Col. 4:7) argue composition at about the same time, in quick succession. There are remarkable similarities; one-third of Ephesians' 155 verses are parallel to Col. (See e.g. the ‘household codes’ of Eph. 5:21–6:7 and Col. 3:18–4:1). On the other hand, there are striking differences between the two documents in style and content; the word ekklesia, Church, refers to the universal Church in Eph., but in Col. both to the universal Church and to the local congregation in Colossae. Key terms are used in different senses: in Eph. 1:9–10mystery’ (which means, not a mysterious secret, but the revelation of a secret), is that the purpose of God demands Gentiles as well as Jews to be equally members of the Body, whereas in Col. the ‘mystery’ is Christ himself. It is hard to believe that the same author could use so much from a letter he had recently written and yet introduce such differences.
The likelihood therefore is that the author is a disciple of Paul who had access to at least some of Paul's previous epistles and wrote this document towards the end of the century to a group of Churches. (Several early MSS omit the words ‘in Ephesus’ at 1:1 and Marcion referred to it as the epistle to Laodicea. Cf. Col. 4:16 and Rev. 3:14.) In accordance with an accepted custom it was dispatched under a pseudonym, a legitimate literary device in those days by which the writer acknowledged his dependence on his master.
The epistle does not deal with the doctrine of Justification [[➝ justification]], which so dominates Rom. and Gal., but is an exposition of Christ's supremacy over all cosmic forces (1:21); he embodies God's plan for the fullness (Greek, pleroma) of time (1:10) which is the goal of creation. It is he who draws the whole human race into a unity, Jews and Gentiles alike; and the Church, which is the fullness (pleroma) of Christ (1:23)—completely filled by him—is the means by which God's plan is to be accomplished. Christ's universal work of reconciliation must begin in the Church itself, when unity is achieved by love and mutual service. From the Body of Christ (5:30) unity is to spread outwards.
The high doctrine of the Church in the epistle and its references to ministry (4:11) and to the headship of Christ in (or over?) the Church (5:23) have given the document an important place in modern ecumenical discussions.

Dictionary of the Bible.

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  • Ephesians, Epistle to the — • The letter which, in the manuscripts containing the Epistles of St. Paul, bears the title To the Ephesians comprises two parts distinctly separated by a doxology (Eph., iii, 20 sq.) Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006 …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Epistle to the Ephesians —     Epistle to the Ephesians     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Epistle to the Ephesians     This article will be treated under the following heads:     ♦ I. Analysis of the Epistle;     ♦ II. Special Characteristics:     ♦ (1) Form:     (a)… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Epistle to the Colossians —     Epistle to the Colossians     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Epistle to the Colossians     One of the four Captivity Epistles written by St. Paul during his first imprisonment in Rome the other three being Ephesians, Philemon and Philippians. That …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Epistle To the Romans —     Epistle to the Romans     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Epistle to the Romans     This subject will be treated under the following heads: I. The Roman Church and St. Paul; II. Character, Contents, and Arrangement of the Epistle; III.… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Epistle to the Colossians — Books of the New Testament …   Wikipedia

  • Ephesians, Epistle to —    Was written by Paul at Rome about the same time as that to the Colossians, which in many points it resembles.    Contents of. The Epistle to the Colossians is mainly polemical, designed to refute certain theosophic errors that had crept into… …   Easton's Bible Dictionary

  • Epistle to the Ephesians — Described by William Barclay as the Queen of the Epistles , the Epistle to the Ephesians is one of the books of the Bible in the New Testament. [William Barclay, The Daily Bible Study: Revised Edition: The Letters to the Galatians and the… …   Wikipedia

  • Epistle to the Hebrews — Books of the New Testament …   Wikipedia

  • Epistle to the Ephesians — noun a New Testament book containing the epistle from Saint Paul to the Ephesians which explains the divine plan for the world and the consummation of this in Christ • Syn: ↑Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians, ↑Ephesians • Instance… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Epistle to the Laodiceans — An Epistle to the Laodiceans, purportedly written by Paul of Tarsus to the Laodicean Church, is mentioned in the canonical Epistle to the Colossians . Several texts bearing this title have been known to have existed, but none are widely believed… …   Wikipedia

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