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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

To Whom, From Where, When, and Why.

1.

Were the letter written by Paul we could date it firmly to the early 60s, presumably from his imprisonment in Rome, and not long before his death. Would it then have been a general letter to his churches? If so, why should that purpose not be indicated? And if it was a final summation of his message we might have expected it to come more in the form of a final testament (cf. Acts 20:18–35 ).

2.

In the light of the above conclusions, however, the more obvious answer is that Ephesians is a meditative tract on Paul's theology, teaching, and significance in the form of a Pauline letter; for unspecified use, but probably to be read in church gatherings for worship and teaching; and written some time after Paul's death, but by someone close to him, and so within ten or so years of his death (that is, some time in the 70s or 80s). The close link with Colossians, the mention of Tychicus in particular ( 6:21–2 ), and the fact that the churches of the province of Asia attracted other letters over the following decades (Rev 2–3 ; Ignatius) suggests that it was written in Asia, and in the event became most closely associated with Ephesus in particular.

3.

More specific purposes have been suggested: for example, an early attempt to draw in Gnostic ideas, or to provide a covering letter for an early collection of Paul's letters. However, nothing in the letter itself gives any real support to such views. At best we can deduce that the churches addressed continued to be concerned about Christianity's identity as Israel's heir and about the proper integration of Jews and Gentiles within the church.

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