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Contents Foreword Preface Abbreviations Introduction Ephesians Ephesians 1:1/2 Ephesians 1:3/14 Ephesians 1:15/2:10 Ephesians 2:11/22 Ephesians 3:1/21 Ephesians 4:1/16 Ephesians 4:17/5:21 Ephesians 5:22/6:9 Ephesians 6:10/20 Ephesians 6:21/24 Colossians Colossians 1:1/2 Colossians 1:3/23 Colossians 1:24/2:5 Colossians 2:6/23 Colossians 3:1/4:6 Colossians 4:7/18 Bibliography Index of ancient sources Index of modern authors list of figures to come Foreword Paideia: Commentaries on the New Testament is a series that sets out to comment on the final form of the New Testament text in a way that pays due attention both to the cultural, literary, and theological settings in which the text took form and also to the interests of the contemporary readers to whom the commentaries are addressed. This series is aimed squarely at students; including MA students in religious and theological studies programs, seminarians, and upper-divisional undergraduates; who have theological interests in the biblical text. Thus, the didactic aim of the series is to enable students to understand each book of the New Testament as a literary whole rooted in a particular ancient setting and related to its context within the New Testament. The name "Paideia" reflects (1) the instructional aim of the series; giving contemporary students a basic grounding in academic NT studies by guiding their engagement with New Testament texts; (2) the fact that the New Testament texts as literary unities are shaped by the educational categories and ideas (rhetorical, narratological, etc.) of their ancient writers and readers; and (3) the pedagogical aims of the texts themselves; their central aim being not simply to impart information but to form the theological convictions and moral habits of their readers. Each commentary deals with the text in terms of larger rhetorical units; these are not verse-by-verse commentaries. This series thus stands within the stream of recent commentaries that attend to the final form of the text. Such reader-centered literary approaches are inherently more accessible to liberal arts students without extensive linguistic and historical-critical preparation than older exegetical approaches, but within the reader-centered world the sanest practitioners have paid careful attention to the extratext of the original readers, including not only these readers' knowledge of the geography, history, and other context elements reflected in the text but also to their ability to respond correctly to the literary and rhetorical conventions used in the text. Paideia commentaries pay deliberate attention to this extratextual repertoire in order to highlight the ways in which the text is designed to persuade and move its readers. Each rhetorical unit is explored via three angles: (1) introductory matters; (2) tracing the train of thought or narrative flow of the argument; and (3) theological issues raised by the text that are of interest to the contemporary Christian. Thus, the primary focus remains on the text and not its historical context or its interpretation in the secondary literature. Our authors represent a variety of confessional points of view: Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Greek Orthodox. What they share in common, beyond being New Testament scholars of national and international repute, is a commitment to reading the biblical text as theological documents within their ancient contexts. Working within the broad parameters described here, each author brings his or her own considerable exegetical talents and deep theological commitments to the task of laying bare the interpretation of Scripture for the faith and practice of God's people everywhere. Mikeal C. Parsons Charles H. Talbert Preface This volume has grown out of a doctoral seminar on Ephesians offered at Baylor University in 1996, 2002, and 2004. As usual, my students have consistently been my colaborers and frequently my teachers. My friends, I thank you. The volume itself was written during a sabbatical semester spent as a visiting professor at Duke Divinity School, spring 2005, where I taught a Greek exegesis course on Ephesians to eleven bright and interesting students and made good use of the wonderful libraries. For all the support system that enabled me to do my work, I owe a debt of gratitude to Dean L. Gregory Jones, Senior Associate Dean Willie Jennings, and Mrs. Jacquelyn Norris, Staff Assistant, Academic Programs. For a gracious, congenial community within which to live and work, I heartily thank Prof. Richard Hays (who was the catalyst behind my stay at Duke), Prof. Joel Marcus, Prof. Douglas Campbell, longtime friend Prof. James Crenshaw, Prof. Stephen Chapman, Emeritus Professor Moody Smith, and Prof. Curtis Freeman, Director of the Baptist House of Studies, with whom I had many late-afternoon conversations about matters of import. This project would never have been completed had it not been for the five months at Duke. I thank you one and all. I thank Family Ministry: Empowering through Faith for the permission to use material from my article, "Are There Biblical Norms for Christian Marriage?" (15/1 : 16/27). I appreciated the opportunity to share my views on the Haustafeln with students and faculty at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond in April 2005. Dean Richard Vinson and Prof. Scott Spencer made my visit a memorable one. I am deeply indebted to my graduate assistant, Julien Smith, for his careful and dedicated efforts designed to bring my manuscript into line with the expectations of Baker Academic. None of this effort would have been possible had it not been for my wife, Dr. Betty W. Talbert, Director of Spiritual Formation at Baylor's Truett Seminary, who shouldered my family duties in addition to her own professional responsibilities to make my sabbatical semester a reality. Abbreviations throughout conform to those set forth in The SBL Handbook of Style (ed. Patrick H. Alexander et al.; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999). Translations of biblical material are my own or from the NRSV unless otherwise indicated. Translations of Greek and Roman sources are usually from the Loeb Classical Library; those from the Pseudepigrapha are from James M. Charlesworth, editor, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (2 vols.; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983, 1985); those from the Dead Sea Scrolls are from Florentino Garc¿a Mart¿nez, The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated (2nd ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996) unless otherwise indicated; gnostic documents are usually cited from James M. Robinson, editor, The Nag Hammadi Library (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1977); material cited from the church fathers is normally taken from Philip Schaff et al., editors, Ante-Nicene Fathers and Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (repr., Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994) It is my hope that this small volume will facilitate communication between modern readers and these two ancient letters, Ephesians and Colossians. There is much benefit to be gained therefrom. Charles H. Talbert Easter 2006 Abbreviations list of abbreviations to come Ephesians and Colossians Introduction Understanding the Relations between Ephesians and Colossians Why, one may wonder, are Ephesians and Colossians separated by Philippians in the New Testament? The thirteen letters attributed to Paul in the Christian Bible (= canonical Paul) are arranged according to two principles. First, the letters are divided into two groups, the letters to the seven churches (Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians) and the letters to the three individuals (Timothy, Titus, Philemon). Second, the letters are placed in the order of descending length in each group. Romans is the longest of the letters to the churches, 2 Thessalonians is the shortest; 1 Timothy is the longest of the letters to individuals, Philemon is the shortest. The one possible exception to this second principle is the respective lengths of Galatians and Ephesians. At least in the way length was counted by those responsible for the current order, Galatians is deemed longer than Ephesians, Philippians longer than Colossians. These formal principles account for the current positions of Ephesians and Colossians. Map 1 goes on a page near here. Title: The Roman Province of Asia The Roman province of Asia encompassed a number of Greek cities in the western portion of the Anatolian peninsula, which came under Roman control during the second century BC. In this commentary series, however, Ephesians and Colossians are treated together because of their similarities. Paul writes from prison in both (Eph 3:1; 4:1; 6:20; Col 4:3; 4:10; 4:18). Tychicus delivers both letters (Eph 6:21/22; Col 4:7/9). The style shared by the two letters is more elaborate than the rest of the canonical Pauline writings (numerous relative clauses and parallel expressions, genitival constructions, etc.). Their contents are similar, sometimes in the same order. (See table 1.) Ephesians Colossians Eph 1:1/2 // Col 1:1/2 Eph 1:3/ 18 // Col 1:3/11 Eph 3:1/ 13 // Col 1:24/ 2:5 Eph 4:17/ 6:9 // Col 3:5/ 4:1 Eph 6:18/ 20 // Col 4:2/4 Eph 6:21/ 22 // Col 4:7/9 Table 1. Similar Passages in Ephesians and Colossians These similarities have sometimes led scholars to posit a literary dependence of some kind, analogous to the way the similarities among the Synoptic Gospels or between 2 Peter and Jude are interpreted. A few have argued that Colossians used Ephesians as a source (Synge 1941; Coutts 1958). Most scholars hold that Ephesians used Colossians as a source (see Lincoln 1990, xlvii/lviii). Still others have contended that Colossians and Ephesians used a third letter (e.g., van Roon 1974, 426). The argument for the use of a written source is based on the similarities in order. Upon closer examination, the evidence of order unravels. The elements found in the same order consist primarily of the salutation, the prayer form, the parenesis, and the closing. These four components are standard ingredients in a Pauline letter and are in their natural order. When a more complete collection of similarities between the two letters is displayed, the impression is very different. Take the list of thirty-nine similarities set forth by Abbott (1897, xxiii; reproduced in table 2). Ephesians Colossians Eph 1:7 // Col 1:14 Eph 1:10 // Col 1:20 Eph 1:15/ 17 // Col 1:3/4 Eph 1:18 // Col 1:27 Eph 1:21 // Col 1:16 Eph 1:22 // Col 1:18 Eph 2:1, 12 // Col 1:21 Eph 2:5 // Col 2:13 Eph 2:15 // Col 2:14 Eph 2:16 // Col 2:20 Eph 3:1 // Col 1:24 Eph 3:2 // Col 1:25 Eph 3:3 // Col 1:26 Eph 3:7 // Col 1:23, 25 Eph 3:9 // Col 1:26 Eph 4:1 // Col 1:10 Eph 4:2 // Col 3:12/ 13 Eph 4:3/4 // Col 3:14/ 15 Eph 4:16 // Col 2:19 Eph 4:22/ 23 // Col 3:8/10 Eph 4:25/ 26 // Col 3:8/9 Eph 4:29 // Col 3:8; 4:6 Eph 4:31 // Col 3:8 Eph 4:32 // Col 3:12 Eph 5:3 // Col 3:5 Eph 5:4 // Col 3:8 Eph 5:5 // Col 3:5 Eph 5:6 // Col 3:6 Eph 5:15 // Col 4:5 Eph 5:19/ 20 // Col 3:16/ 17 Eph 5:22* // Col 3:18 Eph 5:25* // Col 3:19 Eph 6:1* // Col 3:20 Eph 6:4* // Col 3:21 Eph 6:5/ 8* // Col 3:22/ 25 Eph 6:9* // Col 4:1 Eph 6:18/ 20 // Col 4:2/4 Eph 6:21/ 22 // Col 4:7/8 Table 2. Comparative Ordering of Similar Passages in Ephesians and Colossians Taken as raw data, this list shows the violations of order (sixteen out of thirty-nine). The asterisks (*) indicate the household code's components (= traditional material). This evidence shows that where the two letters share a similar content, they do not agree in their order about 40 percent of the time. The agreements in order, moreover, are sometimes to be attributed to the order of the tradition used. If this is taken into account, then the two letters disagree on the order of the similar material about half the time. One must also take into account the idiosyncrasies of the content of Colossians and Ephesians. That is, common material is developed or used in different ways. Selected examples should illustrate the point. In Colossians Christ is the creator of the cosmos (1:15/17); in Ephesians God is creator of the cosmos (3:9), while Christ is creator of a new humanity (2:15). In Colossians God's fullness fills Christ first and then the church (1:19; 2:9/10); in Ephesians Christ fills the church and all things (1:22/23; 3:19; 4:10). In Colossians Christ is the mystery (1:26/27; 2:2; 4:3); in Ephesians God's plan is the mystery (1:9; 3:3/4; 6:19). In Colossians the mystery is revealed to all the saints (1:26); in Ephesians the mystery is revealed to the apostles and prophets (3:5). In Colossians all things in heaven and earth are reconciled and the powers are defeated through the cross (1:20; 2:15); in Ephesians only through the resurrection of Christ are the powers defeated and the saints saved (1:18/2:10). In Colossians the saints are already filled with the fullness of God (2:9/10); in Ephesians the saints are being filled with the fullness of God (3:19). Colossians speaks of spiritual circumcision (2:11); Ephesians is silent on this matter. In Colossians Israel is not explicitly called the forerunner and partner of Gentiles in God's covenant; in Ephesians Israel is the forerunner and partner with the Gentiles in a new humanity (2:11/22; 3:6). In Colossians God is to be praised directly (3:16); in Ephesians God is praised through the Lord Jesus Christ (5:20). Colossians mentions the Spirit only once (1:8); Ephesians refers frequently to the Spirit (1:13/14; 1:17; 2:18, 22; 3:5, 16; 4:3/4, 30; 6:17/18). In Colossians Paul is the only apostle; in Ephesians, he is one among other apostles, even if the chief among them (2:20; 3:5). In Col 4:15/16, ekkl_sia refers both to the local church (4:15, 16) and to the church universal (1:18, 24); in Ephesians it always refers to the universal church. In Colossians oikonomia refers to Paul's assignment or commission to preach the gospel (1:25); in Ephesians it refers to God's plan for the world's reunification (1:10), or it could mean either God's plan or Paul's stewardship (3:2, 9; Barth and Blanke 1994; Mitton 1951). These data, together with the disagreements in order, raise questions about either letter's use of the other. Indeed, the data also raise a question about the possibility of both letters' having come from the same mind within a short space of time. If literary dependence is assumed, it is virtually impossible to detect which letter is the source for the other. The case for dependence can be argued for either side. For example, analyzing the alleged conflations, Polhill (1973) argues that Ephesians conflates in 1:7 (Col 1:14, 20); 1:15/16 (Col 1:4, 9); 2:1/5 (Col 2:13; 3:6), whereas Colossians conflates in 1:23 (Eph 3:7, 17); 1:21/22 (Eph 1:4; 2:16); 1:20 (Eph 1:10; 2:13). In other words, the directional indicators run both ways. Barth and Blanke (1994) and Best (1997; 2004, 159 [Eph 1:15/16], 166 [Eph 1:18], 336 [Eph 3:13], 410 [Eph 4:16], 613/14 [Eph 6:21/24]) argue that there are times when the directional indicators point to the priority of Ephesians. At times, however, they do not. The former contend, for example, that Col 1:20 is best explained if Colossians excerpts and condenses Eph 2:11/16 into one brief sentence; also that Col 4:2/6 culls the elements from Eph 4:29; 5:15/16; 6:18/20 and combines them (Barth and Blanke 1994, 75/76, 79/80). They conclude, "While a close relationship of Colossians and Ephesians is certain, the question whether the dependence of one or both of these letters can be demonstrated is as yet open" (101). The complexity of the evidence has led some to think that the two letters were written by two different authors from the same Pauline circle of disciples, who drew on early Christian oral tradition (King 1952) and opposed related forms of doctrine and practice (Dahl 1963, 71/72; 2000, 458; Best 1997). This proposal has significant support within the scholarly community. Barth and Blanke (1994, 125), Cannon (1983), and others, however, continue to argue for Pauline authorship of both letters. Their proposals agree on the literary independence of Colossians and Ephesians and seek a hypothesis that will account for both the similarities and differences between the two writings. In this commentary Colossians and Ephesians are taken together because of their similarities. To say they are similar, however, does not mean that one used the other as a source. We will treat the two letters as literarily independent writings, even if related closely by common thought worlds and traditions. Nor do the similarities and differences determine one's answer to the question of authorship. Authorship The idea of authorship in antiquity was complex and covered a broad spectrum of practices. First, "authorship" could mean the author wrote the work with his own hand. At the end of Galatians, Paul writes "See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand!" (Gal 6:11; cf. 1 Cor 16:21; Col 4:18; 2 Thess 3:17; Phlm 19). Varieties of Authorship: Illustrations from Cicero 1. Authorship as writing in one's own hand: "I do not think you ever before read a letter of mine that I had not written myself."; Letters to Atticus 2.23.1 2. Authorship as writing by dictation: "The bare fact that my letter is by the hand of a secretary will show you how busy I am."; Letters to Atticus 4.16.1 3. Authorship as collaboration in writing: "For my part I have gathered from your letters; both that which you wrote in conjunction with others and the one you wrote in your own name; what I saw myself too. . . ."; Letters to Atticus 11.5 4. Authorship as authorizing someone else to write: "If there are any people to whom you think that letters ought to be delivered in my name, pray compose them and see them delivered." Cicero, Letters to Atticus 3.1.5 "I am so fearfully upset both in mind and body that I have not been able to write many letters; I have only answered those who have written to me. I should like you to write in my name to Basilus and to anyone else you like, even to Servilius, and say whatever you think fit."; Letters to Atticus 11.5 5. Writing "as if" by the putative author: "But, good heavens! what credit I have given you in his eyes! I read him the letter written, not by you, but by your amanuensis."; Letters to Atticus 6.6 Second, it could also mean the author dictated the writing. Thus Paul is the author of Romans, in which the person who took dictation adds "I, Tertius, the writer of this letter, greet you in the Lord" (Rom 16:22). A secretary's role varied greatly. Some secretaries took dictation in longhand, a procedure that often required the use of multiple secretaries. According to Pliny the Elder, Julius Caesar would dictate from four to seven letters at once, using multiple secretaries (Nat. 7.91). Other secretaries knew a form of shorthand. Seneca spoke about "signs for whole words, which enable us to take down a speech, however rapidly uttered, matching speed of tongue by speed of hand" (Ep. 90.25). Quintilian expressed his concern that such rapid dictation resulted in sloppy writing (Inst. 10.3.19/20). (Further on shorthand in the first century BC, cf. Plutarch, Cat. Min. 23.3/5; in the first century AD, cf. Suetonius, Tit. 3.2, and Dio Cassius 55.7.) A secretary in antiquity had considerable leeway in what was written, as secretaries do today (Richards 1991). Some secretaries went beyond being copyists to being copy editors who even corrected slips made by their employers (Cicero, Fam. 16.17.1). Third, collaborators could have functioned as coauthors (cf. 1 Thess 1:1, "Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy"; 1 Cor 1:1; 2 Cor 1:1; Gal 1:1/2; Phil 1:1; Col 1:1; 2 Thess 1:1; Phlm 1). Fourth, someone could have authorized the writing, causing it to be written. Thus the NRSV translates "wrote" as "had . . . written" in John 19:19 ("Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross"); we may translate the same verb similarly in John 21:24: "This is the disciple who has caused these things to be written." Fifth, a piece could be written "as if" by one individual but actually composed by a friend or disciple. Thus Cicero once dictated a letter to himself, using the secretary of Atticus and under Atticus's name. The letter contained words of praise for Caelius. In order to gain Caelius's favor for Atticus, he then read the letter to Caelius, as if it had come from Atticus. The letter had not been authorized by Atticus. (See Cicero, Att. 6.6.) To this practice we may compare the Pastoral Epistles or 2 Peter. The "as if" category of authorship is the one that is often applied to Ephesians. An exercise in ancient rhetorical education was the composition of speeches as though one were some ancient noteworthy figure. In such a composition one took the identity of another and spoke in his vocabulary and style, and with his values. This practice was called pros_popoeia. One took on the "face" (identity) of another and spoke for him in first person as if the past figure himself were speaking. When ancient Pythagoreans wrote not in their own names but in the name of their master, Pythagoras, this is what they were doing (Metzger 1972). The practice of writing in the name of one's teacher was also a way to acknowledge the source of the ideas. This practice, then, was the moral equivalent of the modern footnote system. The practice of speaking in the voice of another came from rhetorical training; the function of the practice in this type of case was the acknowledgment of the source of one's ideas. As Tertullian (Marc. 4.5) put it, "The works that disciples publish belong to their masters." A sixth and final possibility is outright forgery (2 Thess 2:2, "Do not be shaken or alarmed . . . by a letter, as though from us, that says the day of the Lord has already come"). The difference between an "as if" letter and a forgery one was that the former maintained continuity with the master's thought while the latter distorted it, manifesting discontinuity with his teaching. If Colossians is understood to have been written by Paul, it would represent a combination of the first, second, and third types: the author's own handwriting, dictation to a secretary, and coauthorship. Paul and Timothy agreed on the content, which was then dictated to a scribe in one way or another. At the end Paul would have written his authenticating sentence in his own hand. If, as Dunn hypothesizes, at the end of his life the apostle authorized Timothy to write to the Colossians, it combines the first, second, and fourth forms: Paul would have authorized Timothy to write, Timothy would have dictated the letter, and then at the end Paul would have written his authenticating sentence in his own hand. If one believes, as most scholars do, that Colossians is deutero- Pauline, this would involve the second and fifth types of authorship. A close disciple of Paul who knew the apostle's mind would have invoked the apostle's authority in a new situation. He would have dictated the letter to a secretary and then have added the authenticating sentence, allegedly from Paul. Because the content of the letter reflected continuity with the apostle's thought, it would not have been considered a forgery but an expression of genuine Pauline conviction. The same processes would apply to Ephesians as well. Scholars who consider Colossians or Ephesians, or both, deutero-Pauline (the fifth type, "as if") do so largely because their theology seems to differ at points from that of the authentic seven letters. Several examples illustrate the matter. For Paul, baptism is a dying with Christ and resurrection is future (Rom 6), whereas for Colossians baptism is being buried and rising with Christ (2:12; 3:1, 3) and for Ephesians baptism is the raising of those who were dead through trespasses and sins (2:5). For Paul, "mystery" refers to an eschatological teaching about the participation of believers in the glory of the world to come (Rom 11:25; 1 Cor 2:6; 15:51), but for Colossians the mystery is Christ (1:27; 2:3; 4:3) and for Ephesians the mystery is God's plan to reunify the cosmos, which involves inclusion of the Gentiles in the people of God (1:9/10; 3:3/6). For Paul, "church" refers to the local church (e.g., 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor 1:1; Gal 1:22; 1 Thess 1:1; Phlm 2). The Lord will return and take believers to be with him (1 Thess 4:13/17). For Colossians, the church is both local (4:15/16) and universal (1:18, 24). Believers are now hidden with Christ in God and will be manifested when Christ is (3:3/ 4). For Ephesians, the church is always universal. It is growing through time toward the full stature of Christ (4:12/13). There is no mention of the Lord's return. Paul occasionally refers to Satan (1 Cor 5:5; 2 Cor 12:7; 1 Thess 3:5) but never to the devil or to the prince of the power of the air. Though powers are mentioned (Rom 8:38/39), there is no sense of intense, ongoing spiritual warfare. In Colossians, the leader of the evil forces is the authority of darkness (1:13), and his legions are the stoicheia of the cosmos (2:8, 20) and the rulers and authorities (2:10, 15). Christians have died to these powers (2:20). In Ephesians, the enemy is the devil (4:27), the ruler of the power of the air (2:2), and a host of evil spirits that dwell in the heavens (2:2; 6:12; Kirby 1968, 10/17, agreeing with Masson's arguments). Colossians and Ephesians lack characteristic Pauline terms like sin, law, promise, and righteousness/justification. Nothing is said about Christ's victory over sin, law, and death. The stress is on Christ's triumph over the cosmic powers. Imminent eschatology is gone (Lohse 1975, 178). Many scholars see these differences as evidence of a profound change in Pauline theology. Paul, therefore, cannot be considered to be the direct or indirect author of these letters; rather, theologians of the Pauline circle composed the letters to deal with a new situation in the life of the church. While Romans and Galatians, genuine Pauline letters, are focused on the problem of the Gentiles, Colossians and Ephesians are concerned with the problems of Gentile Christians. Attribution of Authorship to an Honored Teacher Pythagoras, a thinker and teacher of the sixth century BC who made important discoveries in mathematics and music theory and founded a religious society, may have left no writings of his own, but his devoted followers customarily signed his name to their works, as the author of a much later biography states: "But the men shut out all lamentation and tears and the like, letting neither gain nor desire nor anger nor love of honor nor any other such thing become a cause of difference. Rather, all the Pythagoreans have the same attitude toward each other as a diligent father would have toward his children. And they consider it a noble thing to attribute and allot all of their investigations to Pythagoras, claiming none of the honor for themselves; unless perhaps rarely, for there a very few whose writings are known to be their own."; Iamblichus (AD 250/324?), Life of Pythagoras 31.198 To modern ears, the claim that Colossians and Ephesians are pseudonymous documents, written by a disciple or disciples of Paul in his name after his death, often sounds like a charge of forgery; a dishonest practice. According to ancient sensibilities, however, the letters would be perceived as forgeries only if the ideas presented were not in continuity with those of the alleged author. So modern scholars treat Colossians and Ephesians as deutero-Pauline letters, meaning that they differ enough from the authentic Pauline letters to show that they do not come from Paul himself, but they exhibit sufficient continuity with his letters to warrant the conclusion that they were written by followers of his who saw themselves as carrying on his work and writing under his authority. Since Colossians and Ephesians are in the canon and part of canonical Paul, their religious authority for the church is unaffected by issues of authorship. Date External evidence locates both letters in the early Christian period. Ephesians was known, used, and revered early. There may be an echo of Eph 4:4/6 in 1 Clement 46.6. Ignatius, in To the Ephesians, echoes Eph 1:3/5 (prescript) and alludes to Eph 2:20/22 (9.1). Polycarp, in To the Philippians, echoes Eph 2:5, 8/9 (1.3). Elsewhere he echoes both Eph 4:26 and Ps 4:4, calling both scripture and making Ephesians the first New Testament book to be called scripture by the early fathers (Pol. Phil. 12.1). No exact quotations from Colossians can be found among the Apostolic Fathers. Marcion, however, quotes from every chapter of Colossians but omits, or deletes, Col 1:15/17 and 2:17, which have to do with Christ's "body." The Valentinians also used Colossians quite early. Colossians and Ephesians show similarities with the Pauline letters commonly deemed authentic. This data can be interpreted in two very different ways. On the one hand, the similarities can be taken as evidence that Colossians and Ephesians depend literarily on the authentic Pauline letters, indicating that these two letters are deutero- Pauline (for Ephesians: Goodspeed 1927, 1933, 1956; Mitton 1951; for Colossians: Sanders 1966; Leppa 2003). Or if deutero-Pauline authorship is assumed, then the echoes or allusions of the authentic letters may reflect the Pauline school's intimate knowledge of their foundational literature. In either of these scenarios, Colossians and Ephesians are later than the authentic seven. On the other hand, if Paul is the author, one would expect to hear echoes of his earlier letters. Even so, Colossians and Ephesians must come from a period after the letters they "echo." Taken together, the data locate Colossians and Ephesians between the late 50s and the end of the first century. Locale Map 2 goes near here. Title: Cities of the Province of Asia The cities of Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis were located in the fertile Lycus River Valley. Colossae was about 120 miles east of Ephesus, 11 miles southeast of Laodicea, and 15 miles south-southeast of Hierapolis. An earthquake devastated the area in AD 60 or AD 64. The links between the letters to the Ephesians and the Colossians, and the links between Colossians and the other cities of the Lycus River valley (Laodicea and Hierapolis, Col 4:13, 16), together with key Colossian individuals' connections with Ephesus and the province of Asia (Timothy, 1 Tim 1:3; Tychicus, 2 Tim 4:12) point to the province of Asia, or at least western Asia Minor, as the likely geographical setting for the two letters. Purpose Taking Ephesians first, scholarship breaks into two main camps on this issue. In the first, scholars attempt to isolate a particular problem that Ephesians addresses and see the purpose of the letter in relation to that problem. Proposed problems include persecution (Lindemann 1985), gnostic tendencies (Pokorn_ 1992), threats from hostile powers (Arnold 1989), Gentile Christians' contempt for Jewish Christians (D. C. Smith 1977; R. P. Martin 1978, 224), a Paulinism that has lost its Jewish roots (Meade 1986, 149), and Jewish Christian visionaries (Goulder 1991). Since, however, no particular problem is specifically mentioned in the letter, all attempts to find a purpose for Ephesians in the correction of or defense against a single problem have failed. The fact that no specific issue is being explicitly combated has led another group of scholars to a more general proposal. Some of these scholars identify the purpose of Ephesians as identity formation (Sampley 1993, 23; Hendrix 1988, 10; Snodgrass 1996, 23; Lincoln 1990, lxxv; Lincoln and Wedderburn 1993, 82, 145; O'Brien 1999, 56/57; Mouton 2002, 112) or reorientation/resocialization/character formation (Mouton 2002, 46, 47, 186). Others do not employ such terminology but seem to point in the same direction, although using a variety of schemes. When Best (2004, 75) says the purpose of Ephesians is to tell converted Gentiles the nature of their new life and the conduct required of them in it, or when Dahl (2000, 416) describes the contents of Ephesians as baptismal anamn_sis (remembrance) in chapters 1/3 and baptismal parenesis (instruction) in chapters 4/6, or when Kirby (1968) argues that Ephesians is a prayer (Eph 1/3) and a discourse (Eph 4/6) used liturgically as a call for the renewal of baptismal vows, or Jeal (2000, 59, 60/61) contends that the author's concern is for his audience's growth and maturity, even though the language of identity/character formation is not used, the idea is present. One may speak, therefore, of an emerging front in the study of Ephesians that sees the purpose of the letter as identity formation in a more general sense than the correction of a specific problem. The purpose of Colossians has usually been seen as the defense against the problem of the "Colossian philosophy" (2:8). The debate among scholars has then been over the nature of the philosophy, whether it is a problem caused by mystery religion piety, Neopythagorean or Cynic philosophy, Judaism, or syncretistic folk religion (see the commentary on 2:6/23 for details). For this camp of scholarly opinion, Colossians is a defense against a worldview that is alien to Christian convictions. Recently, however, Meeks and Wilson have mounted a case for seeing Colossians against the backdrop of Hellenistic philosophy's strategies to form the moral character of its adherents. Colossians certainly does employ the main strategies used by moral philosophers in the Mediterranean world of the time (see the commentary on 1:1/2 and 1:3/23 for details). The letter seems to be a Christian adaptation of conventional philosophic strategies to form the readers of Colossians so that they might make progress in their Christian walk. Approach Both Colossians and Ephesians are to be read as efforts to shape Christian identity and enable Christian growth. They differ in that Colossians aims at progress in the face of a specific problem, while Ephesians is not focused against a specific problem but directed to Christian identity formation and growth within the context of the general cultural ethos of the early imperial period. This difference requires different approaches to the two letters. Colossians is less problematic because scholars are accustomed to interpreting Pauline letters that focus on a particular problem. This traditional tack, combined with attention to the strategies of Hellenistic moral philosophers, should suffice to make for an intelligible reading of the Colossian letter. The case of Ephesians is more complex. This letter has proved to be "something of an enigma" to modern scholars who work with the historical method (O'Brien 1999, 3). As one contemporary scholar puts it, "The trouble with Ephesians can be summed up quite simply; it has no setting and little obvious purpose" (Muddiman 2001, 13). Consequently, E. J. Goodspeed described Ephesians as "the Waterloo of commentators" (1933, 15). The normal historical questions do not yield the necessary answers: To whom was the letter sent? Where did it originate? Who was its author? What were its sources? What problem is it trying to solve? This commentary is able to conclude only that Ephesians is probably a deutero-Pauline letter written between the late 50s and AD 100, literarily independent of Colossians, likely addressed to some audience in western Asia Minor, and intended to reinforce their Christian identity and promote their Christian growth. This is very general. What is needed is a different set of questions, a different perspective, a different approach that will render Ephesians less of an enigma. To help find this new perspective I make two suggestions. First, one must recognize that the audience functions not only as the cause of the composition of Ephesians but also as the catalyst for the selection of its language, style, arguments, and topoi. That is, the author would have had to adapt himself to his audience in order to establish a mutual frame of reference between them (Mouton 2002, 117). There is nothing radical here. Communicators in general attempt to produce texts that are maximally relevant to their audiences. This requires the use of information shared with an audience as a springboard for introducing new information (Sperber and Wilson 1986). Ephesians must reflect to some degree the cultural, intellectual, and religious ethos of its intended audience. If so, from the letter one may infer various dimensions of the Zeitgeist of the readers. This "world" of the audience may then be fleshed out from what we know otherwise about the milieu. Second, a reading of Ephesians should then be done in terms of the authorial audience (Rabinowitz 1977, 1987, 1989). The questions to ask are: How would the ancient auditors at the end of the first century have heard Ephesians? What would it have meant to them in their "world"? This involves a close reading of the text of Ephesians in dialogue with aspects of the culture that have been signaled by the letter's argument. In this approach, it is not this or that particular problem that is addressed but the culture at large, or at least the parts of the larger culture reflected in the topics addressed in the argument of the letter. Because of the ongoing dominance of the historical paradigm in New Testament studies it is necessary to say a word about comparative material and its use in this commentary. In the History of Religions School, parallels detected in the larger culture were assumed to demonstrate borrowing by Christians from non-Christian sources. Christianity was portrayed as a syncretistic religion created out of pieces taken over from here, there, and everywhere. Commentators who rejected this approach and defended the integrity of the Christian movement were tempted to discredit pagan parallels with arguments like, "The parallel material is too late to have been of use by the New Testament authors," or, "The parallels may reflect verbal similarity but lack essential continuity with Christian positions and are hence irrelevant for New Testament studies." This is not the way comparative material is understood or used in a reading that is sensitive to the authorial audience; rather, one should ask, "How would the original auditors have heard what was said?" It is assumed that the Christian movement has its own essential integrity. It is also assumed that no one could communicate in the Mediterranean world without some participation in the culture. Every reader brought a cultural repertoire to the text. In this method, then, parallels are used to reconstruct the authorial audience. Only thereby can one hope to answer the question, "How would an ancient Mediterranean auditor have heard Ephesians?" In what immediately follows, I will attempt to describe those parts of the ancient cultural repertoire that seem indicated by the points of interest in Ephesians (and Colossians as well). Unity Given the pervasive theme of unity in Ephesians, the "world" of Ephesians must have included a desire for or emphasis upon unity and the overcoming of factions. In other sources geographically and chronologically close to Ephesians, one also hears arguments urging unity on divided factions (Dio Chrysostom, Orations 34, 38/41, 48; Aelius Aristides, Orations 23/24; Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 4.8/9; Pliny, Epistles 6/8). These sources continued a long Greek tradition (e.g., Isocrates, Ep. 1, 2, 3, 9; Demosthenes, Epistles 1; cf. Mitchell 1991, 62/63). That factions were also a problem for early Christian communities is evident from 1 Cor 1/4, in the 50s, and 1 Clement, in the 90s. Alexander the Great as the Great Uniter "[Alexander] came as a heaven-sent governor to all and as a mediator for the whole world; those whom he could not persuade to unite with him, he conquered by force of arms, and he brought together into one body all men everywhere, uniting and mixing in one great loving-cup, as it were, men's lives, their characters, their marriages, their very habits of life. He bade them all consider . . . as their stronghold and protection his camp."; Plutarch, On Alexander's Great Fortune and Virtue, Moralia 4.329C Augustus as the Great Bringer of Peace "Janus Quirinus, which our ancestors ordered to be closed whenever there was peace, secured by victory, throughout the whole domain of the Roman people on land and sea, and which, before my birth is recorded to have been closed but twice in all since the foundation of the city, the senate ordered to be closed thrice while I was princeps."; The funerary inscription of Augustus (Res gestae divi Augusti 13) "Never have the Romans and their allies thrived in such peace and plenty as that which was afforded them by Augustus Caesar from the time he assumed absolute authority."; Strabo, Geography 6.4.2 "Dread Sire and Guardian of man's race, "To thee, O Jove, the Fates assign "Our Caesar's charge; his power and place "Be next to thine. "Whether the Parthian, threatening Rome, "His eagles scatter to the wind. "Or follow to their eastern home "Cathay and Ind, "Thy second let him rule below "Thy car shall shake the realms above; "Thy vengeful bolts shall overthrow "Each guilty grove." ; Horace, Ode 1.12 (trans. John Conington) Mediterranean peoples looked back to Alexander the Great as the great uniter. For Plutarch, ever since Augustus, the Caesars had assumed the role of Alexander the Great and were fulfilling what he had begun. "Rome's political and military successes were the means of overcoming factionalism and establishing a single state in which all would be governed under a single justice and obey a single purpose" (Odell-Scott 2003, 161). A dominant theme in the propaganda of imperial Rome was that the ideal king, Augustus, had restored order and brought peace to the Mediterranean world, the pax romana (e.g., Virgil, Aen. 6.851/53; Ecl. 4). In the ancient Mediterranean world it was widely assumed that the harmony of the political unit was an imitation of the concord of the universe. The king's rule was necessary to produce this ideal condition (Cairns 1989, 10/28). This unity, Roman propaganda asserted, the Caesars had accomplished. Horace describes Augustus as Jupiter's terrestrial regent and viceroy (Odes 1.12.49/52). Ephesians would have been heard by people who shared this concern about overcoming factionalism and restoring order and were familiar with Roman imperial propaganda that touted the pax romana. Given this cultural obsession for a unity that would overcome the deep divisions among peoples, and given the Roman propaganda that this reunification of the cosmos is precisely what the Caesars had done, the theme of the reunification through Christ in Ephesians (e.g., 1:10; 2:14/15; 3:10; 4:3, 13, 31/32; 5:22/6:9) would certainly have shaped the identity and formed the character of readers from western Asia Minor over against the regnant imperial propaganda. This letter's focus on unity and the reunification of the cosmos takes on fresh meaning when read against the background of the Mediterranean hunger and thirst for just such a reality. Hostile Powers Given the repeated references to evil powers in Ephesians, the "world" of the letter must surely have been concerned about such hostile forces and their effect on human lives. This is the significant contribution of Arnold (1989) to the study of Ephesians. The Greek magical papyri reflect this ethos. "The people whose religion is reflected in the papyri agree that humanity is inescapably at the whim of the forces of the universe. . . . Individuals seem to be nothing but marionettes at the end of power lines, pulled here and there without their knowledge by invisible forces" (Betz 1986, xlvii). Magic provided a sense of security to the insecure, a sense of help for the helpless, and a sense of comfort for the hopeless. For example, a first/second-century papyrus is concerned with gaining relief from demon possession (PGM LXXXV. 1/6). Plutarch says that magi instructed those who were possessed by demons to repeat to themselves magical words in order to drive out the evil spirits (Quaest. conv. 7.5). These words were the Ephesian Grammata, six terms (askion, kataskion, tetrax, lix, danameneus, sision) believed to have power over evil spirits (so Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 5.242; cf. Usami 1983, 17). People also felt victimized by an impersonal, amoral Fate that affected them down to the minutiae of their lives and by fickle Fortune that seemed like a tempest at sea. Best summarizes the situation well: "Almost everyone in the ancient world believed that the way they lived was controlled by the stars, various deities and sub-deities and by magic exercised by other people. Fate . . . determined what should happen" (Best 2004, 48). No deity who did not offer relief from such oppression could expect devotees in this milieu. So in an aretalogy of Isis from the end of the first/beginning of the second century, the goddess says, "I am Isis. . . . I overcome Fate. Fate hearkens to me" (Grant 1953, 133). In Apuleius's Metamorphoses, when Isis has delivered Lucius from being in the form of a donkey, the priest says to him, "Fortune has no power over those who have devoted themselves to the majesty of our goddess" (11.15, Grant 1953, 139). He declares, "See, here is Lucius, freed from his former miseries by the providence of the great goddess Isis" (Grant 1953, 140). At the end of Book 11, Lucius addresses the goddess: O holy and eternal guardian of the human race. . . . Neither day nor night, nor any moment in time, ever passes by without thy blessings, but always on land and sea, thou watchest over men; thou drivest away from them the tempests of life and stretchest out over them thy saving right hand, wherewith thou dost unweave even the inextricable skein of the Fates; the tempests of Fortune thou dost assuage and restrainest the baleful motions of the stars. Thee the gods above adore, thee the gods below worship. (Grant 1953, 143) When Mediterranean peoples heard Ephesians and Colossians read, they would have understood their words about hostile powers and would have listened intently to what they said about victory over these alien forces. The proclamation that Christ was exalted "far above all rule and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come" (Eph 1:21), with "all things under his feet" (1:22) was a claim to which citizens of Mediterranean antiquity would listen with rapt attention. The assertion that Christians also have been exalted and are seated together in the heavenlies (2:6) would have made a Gentile's heart beat faster with its promise of deliverance from victimization. The assurance that the very armor of God could be assumed by Christians to enable them to stand against the hostile powers (6:11/17) would have been thrilling. For followers of Christ to experience such saving strength and to think of themselves as free from alien powers would have been an identity-shaping event. Benefaction The readers of Ephesians lived in a world whose public spaces were knee deep in honorific inscriptions. These decrees were the most ubiquitous public documents of Greco-Roman antiquity. They were designed to honor benefactors, both human and divine, for significant public or private service. DESIGN: Illustration A, if usable, goes near here. (For captions, credits, file names, etc, please refer to the document titled "Illustrations for Talbert, Eph-Col." Although the format of these decrees could vary, either by omission or relocation of some of the elements, the basic structure was as follows (Harrison 2003; Gauthier 1985, 9/10; Ma 1999, 183/84): 1. A preamble, which named the magistrate under whom the proposal was made, the date of the proposal, and other information that helped identify the resolution (e.g., "To Domitian when the proconsul was Marcus Fulvius Gillo"). 2. An announcement that a resolution had been passed (e.g., "It was resolved by the people and the city and the ephors to praise Poseidippos"). 3. Identification of the one who proposed the resolution (e.g., "Dionasodorus Alopekethen the son of Zopyros moved the motion"). 4. The eulogy, introduced by "whereas" and followed by the reasons for honoring the benefactor (e.g., "Whereas Krateia, the priestess, both offered the sacrifice at the beginning of the year and came to offer the remaining sacrifices on behalf of the guild . . ."). The style of this section involved long, ponderous sentences that could go on perhaps for as many as eighty lines. 5. A manifesto clause, introduced by "therefore" and summing up the response of the people to the generosity of the one just eulogized (e.g., "In order that our gratitude is manifest, we shall show our goodwill and shall reverence Tiberius, son of Augustus, and we will consider his friends our friends and his enemies our enemies . . ."). The ethos of reciprocity is evident here: the return of favors for favors done. 6. A wish for good fortune for the resolution's implementation. 7. The resolution proper, listing the honors apportioned to the benefactor (e.g., "It was resolved to set up this decree on a stone stele in the most conspicuous place in the gymnasium"; or, "It was resolved to praise Krateia and crown her with an olive branch crown and to set up this decree on a stone monument"). These honorific decrees reflected the reciprocity system of ancient Mediterranean culture. That is, a gift was given; a gift was returned; the gift returned then became an incentive for more benefactions, and so the cycle continued (e.g., "Whereas X has acted for the common good, therefore we honor this benefactor so as to show proper gratitude and so that others, when they see us bestowing honors on deserving people, will themselves be moved to do the same type of things for our city"). The apostle Paul knew this system and wrote about benefaction, both human and divine. An example of human benefaction is found in the letter of Philemon. One hears of the slave, Onesimus, who seeks out the apostle to intercede for him with his master. Paul was the respected spiritual father and benefactor of Onesimus's master, Philemon, and so was in a position to appeal for a return on his prior benefaction on Philemon's behalf (Harrison 2003, 328/43). An example of divine benefaction may be found in Rom 1:18/ 32. There Paul portrays God as the dishonored benefactor. Whereas the culture regarded it as axiomatic that humans owed the gods honor (tim_) and glory/repute (doxa) for their beneficence, Paul portrays unregenerate humanity as incapable of giving appropriate honor and glory to their creator. God, then, is a dishonored benefactor. Yet in Rom 5:6/ 11 God is depicted as responding with an unparalleled act of favor: Christ died for the ungrateful enemies of God (Harrison 2003, 215/27). Recently there has been an attempt to view Ephesians not only within the system of ancient benefaction, with its reciprocity principle, but also as a Christian adaptation of the honorific decree (Danker 1982; Hendrix1988; Mouton 2002). Ephesians, however, does not conform to the formal structure of the honorific decree sketched above. It is, therefore, not possible to call it such. Having said this, however, it should be noted that the ethos of the system of benefaction and its accompanying principle of reciprocity are found beyond honorific decrees. Consider the royal letter from Ptolemy II to Miletus (262/261 BC; Welles 1934, 71/73). The king says that he has formerly shown kindness to the city. He then says that the city has demonstrated goodwill toward him. He praises the city and says he will try to return benefactions to them. He then summons or encourages (parakaloumen) them to maintain the same policy of friendship toward him in the future, so that in view of their faithfulness he may exercise even more care for the city. Here the reciprocal exchange between the king and the city continues in an ongoing cycle. It is recounted in the first person by the king. Letter of Ptolemy II to Miletus (c. 262/261 BC) "King Ptolemy to the council and the people of Miletus, greeting. I have in former times shown all zeal in behalf of your city both through a gift of land and through care in all other matters as was proper because I saw that our father was kindly disposed toward the city and was the author of many benefits for you and had relieved you of harsh and oppressive taxes and tolls which certain of the kings had imposed. Now also, as you guard steadfastly your city and our friendship and alliance; for my son and Callicrates and the other friends who are with you have written me what a demonstration you have made of good-will toward us; we knowing these things praise you highly and shall try to requite your people through benefactions, and we summon [parakaloumen] you for the future to maintain the same policy of friendship toward us so that in view of your faithfulness we may execise even more our care for the city. We have ordered Hegestratus to address you at greater length on these subjects and to give you our greeting. Farewell." ; trans. Welles 1934: 72/73. Ephesians portrays God as a divine benefactor. The letter, however, does not have God speaking in the first person, recounting his blessings, benefactions, and grace directed toward humanity. Instead, God's ambassador (Eph 6:20) speaks. He is an ambassador to whom the divine benefactor has revealed his eternal plan for the cosmos (3:3, 7/9; cf. Col 1:25/26). "Paul" begins by blessing God. Ephesians 1:3/14 is a eulogy (berakah) of the divine benefactor that looks forward to the expected, appropriate response of praise (1:6, 12, 14) for the divine benefactions bestowed. The ethos of the benefaction system is clearly present. Furthermore, the intercessory prayer (1:16b/19; 3:13, 14/19) offered by the ambassador asks God for the auditors of the letter to have experiential awareness of the divine benefactions. The doxology (3:20/21) then offers praise to the divine benefactor for the power of his working in the readers. Again the ethos of the benefaction system is present. Since the reciprocity system involved the beneficiaries in the performance of certain duties on behalf of the benefactor, duties that expressed their continuing gratitude and loyalty, Eph 4:1/6:20 can be read as part of the expected response of Christians to their divine benefactor. It begins, "I, therefore . . . summon [beseech, encourage; parakal_] you to walk worthily [axi_s] of the calling with which you were called." The term parakalein was used in royal letters that reflected the benefaction system to call beneficiaries to an appropriate response. Two examples suffice. The letter of Ptolemy II to Miletus, cited above, has the king say, "We summon [parakaloumen] you to maintain the same policy of friendship in the future" (Welles 1934, 71/73, line 12). The letter of Antiochus II to Erythrae, after 261 BC, relates how the city sent the king an honorific decree. The king accepts the honor and responds by granting the city autonomy and tax exemption. He then summons (parakaloumen) the city to remember suitably those by whom they have been benefited (Welles 1934, 78/80, line 30). In Eph 4:1, God's ambassador uses the technical term employed in the benefaction system to call for an appropriate response from the beneficiaries. Such a response would include maintaining the unity God has given in uniting Jew and Gentile in one new humanity (4:1/16); putting off the ways of Gentile excess and putting on the truth as they have learned it in Jesus (4:17/5:21), which includes not only one's daily walk but also one's way of worship; concord in the household (5:22/6:9); and empowered resistance to spiritual forces of evil (6:10/20). One may legitimately conclude that although Ephesians does not adhere to the structure of the honorific decree and is not precisely a royal letter, it does breathe the same air of benefaction and reciprocity. It is difficult to think that the Gentile auditors in western Asia Minor would have heard it otherwise. The very participation of the letter in the culture of benefaction with its corollary of reciprocity would, however, have posed significant risks for the Christian ethos of Ephesians (and Colossians) if left without critique and uncorrected. These dangers were most ominous in the sphere of soteriology. The cultural assumption of many was that the gods were beneficent and showed it through their gifts to humans. Human gratitude to the gods originates here in the divine initiative (Seneca, Ben. 2.30.2). There would have been no problem for a Paulinist here. Paul and his school believed the same thing. The culture held two other assumptions, however, that would have raised a red flag for the Pauline tradition. First, the reciprocity system of antiquity supposed that the gifts given by the gods elicited gratitude from humans. This gratitude was believed to be the motivation and driving force for an appropriate response of humans to the gods. The Pauline tradition, however, held that humans, in and of themselves, are incapable of showing honor and gratitude to their divine benefactor (cf. Rom 1:18/32). The reciprocity system did not take human sinfulness adequately into account. If humans are to respond rightly to God, God must enable it (cf. Phil 1:27; 2:13). Second, the reciprocity system assumed that once the divine beneficence had been shown to humans, the gods placed themselves under counter-obligation. Humans through proper cultic activity could obligate the gods so they would be required to show gratitude to their worshipers. The Pauline tradition, however, held that in the divine-human relationship God always has the initiative, humans always respond. Any attempt by humans to seize the initiative in the relationship and obligate God to respond favorably is regarded as legalism, false religion. In summary, for the Pauline tradition God always has the initiative and humans always respond. Further, when humans respond rightly, it is only because God has enabled them to do so. Ephesians, then, uses the cultural phenomenon of benefaction in its understanding of God. At the same time, however, Ephesians corrects the cultural understanding of reciprocity. As the late first-century auditors listened to the reading of the letter, they would have been aware throughout of a variety of devices whereby the author of Ephesians focused repeatedly on the divine enablement of humans' relationship to their heavenly benefactor (e.g., in Christ, sealing, exaltation, the working of God's power in believers, believers' being clothed with God's armor, etc.). Loose Living, Disorderly Worship Yet another concern in the world of the auditors of Ephesians (and Colossians) in western Asia Minor would have been "loose living" and disorderly worship. The Ephesian letter reflects on the readers' loose living as a problem before their conversion (2:1/2, "You were dead in trespasses and sins in which you once walked"; 2:5, "we were dead through our trespasses") and after their initiation into Christ (4:17, "no longer live as the Gentiles do"; 4:22, "Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life"; 4:28, "Let the thief no longer steal"; 5:11, "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness"; 5:18, "Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery"). Some, starting from Eph 5:18, have contended that the auditors were influenced by the practices of the cult of Dionysius that, according to Plutarch (Ant. 24.3) existed in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamon, and Philadelphia (Rogers 1979). This cult certainly involved drunkenness, but this vice was not limited to just the one cult. Achilles Tatius relates, "It was the festival of Artemis and drunken people were roaming everywhere, so that all night long a crowd filled the entire agora" (Leuc. Cli. 6.3). Quite apart from religious cults, there was also the everyday debauchery such as one reads about in Petronius's Satyricon (e.g., Trimalchio's nighttime revelries). Others have linked the cult of Demeter/Cybele in Hierapolis to crude language and shameful things done in secret (Kreitzer 1998b). Once again, things done in secret have a much broader scope than one specific cult. Fear of secret nighttime meetings was widespread in antiquity. Such gatherings were generally suspect of both conspiracy (e.g., Cicero, Cat. 1.1; 3.5/6; Juvenal, Sat. 8.231/35) and immorality (e.g., Cicero, Leg. 2.35; Livy 39.8). Furthermore, the issues addressed in Ephesians are broader than drunkenness or secret nighttime gatherings. Wisdom of Solomon's critique of Gentile culture covers a broad spectrum closer to what we read about in Ephesians. In 14:22/27 a roll call of Gentile misbehavior is described. It is not enough for them to err about the knowledge of God, but they live in great strife . . . and they call such evils peace. . . . They no longer keep either their lives or their marriages pure, but they treacherously kill one another, or grieve one another by adultery, and all is a raging riot of blood and murder, theft and deceit, corruption, faithlessness, tumult, perjury, confusion over what is good, forgetfulness of favors, pollution of souls, sex perversion, disorder in marriage, adultery, and debauchery. For the worship of idols . . . is the beginning and cause and end of every evil. (RSV; emphasis added) Against the background of such a value system, Gentile converts had to be taught a different way. Ephesians refers to being "taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus" (4:21; cf. Rom 6:17; 1 Thess 4:1/2; 2 Thess 3:6). Early Christian worship also sometimes took on the disorder of disreputable pagan cults. Acts 2:13 indicates that some opponents believed the Christians' enthusiasm was due to drunkenness ("They are filled with new wine"). In 1 Cor 14:23, prophecy was preferred over uninterpreted tongues because if the latter characterized Christian worship "and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad?" In 1 Cor 14:26/ 33 the apostle instructs the congregation to worship in an orderly fashion "for God is a God not of disorder but of peace." Jude 12/13, 16, speaks about Christians who were blemishes on the church's love feasts (cf. 2 Pet 2:13; 1 Cor 11:21, "and another becomes drunk" at the supper). Gentiles needed guidance about both loose living and disorderly worship. These data indicate that Gentile values were at odds with the Jewish and Christian tradition and that a thorough reeducation of Gentile converts was needed. The Christian walk had to be spelled out at length. Against such a background, it is not at all surprising to be confronted with an elaborate Two Ways form in Eph 4:17/5:21 (and Col 3:1/17). Christian formation had to address Gentile loose living and disorderly worship. Resocialization was an imperative. Households For Romans in the early imperial period, the household provided the basic undergirding of the state. The health of the household was considered essential to the stability of the state (Jeffers 1998, 376). According to Aristotle a household (oikos), in its simplest form, involved property, a marriage partner, and either an ox or a slave (Pol. 1.1252b 10). Several households made up a city; several cities made up a state. Hence Pythagoras (Iamblichus, Vita 30) says, "For again, a just arrangement of household [oikia] concerns is the principle of good order in cities. For cities are constituted from households (oik_n)." Given the centrality of households to cities and to states, it is not surprising that there was a science of household management. Several extant manuals are known. Xenophon's Oeconomicus is a discussion about estate management, as is pseudo- Aristotle's Oeconomica. In addition, one finds numerous portions of such instruction remaining from antiquity (cf. Balch 1988). One stream of opinion about household management comes from the Neopythagorean moralists. One may get a feel for the ethos of the times by listening to this succession of opinion (for which see Balch 1992, the source of the following references). Bryson says, "The topos 'household management' is complete in four things. The first of them concerns money, the second slaves, the third the wife, and the fourth children" (Oecon.). We may take first the relation of wife and husband. Consider Callicratidas, who discusses the husband's rule of the wife: "But he does not rule over her with despotic power: for he is diligently attentive to her welfare" (De dom. felic. 106.1/10). Also, he says, proper wives "are also naturally well disposed to be instructed by and to fear (phob_th_men) and love their husbands" (107.8/11). Charondas commands, "let everyone love his lawful wife" (Proem). The relation of children and parents may be taken up next. Iamblichus has Pythagoras teach that children should love their parents (Vita 22.13), honor them (22.18/ 19), and be obedient to them (23.8/9). Regarding parental responsibility, Diotogenes asks, "What therefore is the principle of every polity? The education of youth" (De piet. 76.2/4). Regarding slaves, the Neopythagoreans address only masters. Zaleukos says, "It is fitting that slaves should do what is just through fear" (Proem 228.13/14). Theano says, "Too much relaxation produces the dissonance of disobedience, but where severity is urged too far, nature herself gives way. In all things, moderation is the best policy" (198.25/28). In the societies of Gentile western Asia Minor, where the health of a household was the barometer of the health of the state, the issue of household management would have been a central concern. That society understood household health in terms of the proper submission of wives, children, and slaves. The converted Gentile readers of Ephesians and Colossians would have wanted to know what difference Christ made in the organization and management of a Christian household. Having thus begun to enter into the social world of the late first-century AD and to get a feel for what concerned its citizens, it is time to proceed from introduction to interpretation. But first let us note one final implication of the similarities between Ephesians and Colossians. Since the two letters cover much of the same content, there will inevitably be some repetition in the commentary. Since Ephesians will be treated first, the greatest amount of detail will be encountered there. When reading the commentary on Colossians in the parts with parallels in Ephesians, the reader, after perusing the commentary on Colossians, is urged to turn to the similar content in Ephesians for additional information. When reading the commentary on Ephesians, the reader should consult the parallel in Colossians, where there may also be comments that supplement the material in Ephesians. Ephesians
Library of Congress Subject Headings for this publication:
Bible. N.T. Ephesians -- Commentaries.
Bible. N.T. Colossians -- Commentaries.