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The Access Bible New Revised Standard Bible, written and edited with first-time Bible readers in mind.

The Letter of Paul to The Ephesians - Introduction

Ephesians has traits in common with both a liturgy * and a letter. It reads like a liturgy about the powerful and beneficent love of God in bringing Jews and gentiles * into one body and in exalting that body to a cosmic level. Praise and thanksgiving celebrate God's predetermined plan of love in raising Christ from the dead, in placing him over all things, in sealing the church with the Holy Spirit, and in making Christ the head of the universal church, his body ( 1.3–23 ). The liturgical flavor is also found in the stirring call to arms against cosmic powers and a sonorous request for sustained alertness, prayer, and supplication with which Ephesians ends ( 6.10–20 ). The work also reads like a typical Hellenistic * letter. Epistolary notices ( 1.1–2; 6.21–24 ) introduce and conclude the document, and its contents are reminiscent of other Pauline letters, especially important reminders of Paul's mission ( 3.1–21 ), and a set of exhortations * toward unity and full stature in Christ ( 4.1–6.9 ).

As a letter, however, the work is puzzling in several respects. First, the earliest manuscripts lack the words “in Ephesus” (v. 1), so that it could have been written to Laodicea (thus supplying the letter mentioned in Col 4.6 ), or perhaps as a circular letter to several communities. As a result, the specific addressees are not certain, and not even the mention of gentiles ( 2.11; 3.1 ) among the recipients narrows the target. The inclusion of the words “in Ephesus” in later manuscripts and links with Colossians suggest a setting in Asia Minor, the location of Colossae, but the exact setting remains a conjecture.

Second, though it shares much with Colossians (similar openings and closings, twenty-nine words in common, similar rhetorical * structure, and a similar set of household codes * ), Ephesians lacks Colossians' specific concern about “heresy” (see the introduction to Colossians).

Third, there are questions about authorship and dating. Arguments for or against Paul's authorship each have their proponents, but the peculiar style, unique diction, and distinctive viewpoints of the letter lend more weight to a post-Pauline authorship. The proportion of words unique to this letter is greater than the number found in any of the undisputed letters. In addition, the letter extends the meaning of typical expressions from the undisputed letters in uncharacteristic ways; for example, the church is universal and Christ is the head of the body ( 1.22 ). As for its distinctive viewpoints, it assumes that the status of the gentiles in the church is a settled issue ( 3.6 ) and that Christians are already saved and resurrected with Christ. Accordingly, many scholars date the letter to early post-Pauline times (around 80 CE) when the hopes of a quick return of the risen Lord had faded. Again, because of the general character of the letter, the dating is uncertain.

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