Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus.Ephesians 1:1
1. The Title
The title says to the Ephesians. The witness of the early church almost universally agrees. It is distinctly stated in the Muratorian Fragment and the epistle is quoted as to the Ephesians by Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria and Origen. To these must be added the evidence of the other existing manuscripts which are united in ascribing the epistle to the Ephesians.
2. The First Verse
When we look at the evidence for this reading we find that the two words “en Ephe’so?” [in Ephesus] are lacking in Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus (the earliest recognised manuscripts of the text of the New Testament) , and that the corrector of the cursive known as 67 has struck them out of his copy. Besides these a recently described MS, Cod. Laura 184, giving us a text which is so closely matched to that used by Origen, omits these words. Marcion attributes this letter to the Laodiceans.
We may fairly conclude that the reading en Epheso‘ was missing in many early manuscripts, and that there is good grounds for questioning its place in the original autograph.
Here I will summarise a difficult part in English for you readers of English as a foreign language, Origen evidently knows nothing of any reading “en Epheso’” , but takes the words “which are” with no following reference to mean the people of God are like God who is, who was and who is to come”. Therefore the people of God are the people who are. But this doesn’t fit well with Paul’s normal use of language. This explanation is not cogent and therefore is rejected.
3. The Evidence in the Letter Itself
The determining factor in the question of the destination of the epistle lies in the epistle itself. We must not forget that, save perhaps Corinth, there was no church with which Paul was more closely associated then that in Ephesus. His long residence there finds no echo in our epistle. There is no greeting to anyone of the Christian community, many of whom were probably intimate friends. The close personal ties are not even hinted at. The epistle is a calm discussion, untouched with the warmth of personal connection. All through the epistle there is a lack of those elements which are so constant in the other epistles, which mark the close personal fellowship and acquaintance between the apostle and those to whom he is writing.
Compare the personal touches we saw all over the Corinthian letters with the letter to the Ephesians. Ephesians is a church that is intensely close to Paul’s heart as evidenced in his farewell to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:17-38). Yet there is not a hint of that in the letter to the Ephesians.
This element in the epistle, coupled with the strange fact of Marcion’s attributing it to the Laodiceans, and the expression in Col 4:16 that points to a letter coming from Laodicea to Colosse, has led most writers of the present day to accept Ussher’s suggestion that the epistle is really a circular letter to the churches either in Asia, or, perhaps better, in that part of Phrygia which lies near Colosse. The readers were evidently Gentiles (Eph 2:1; Eph 3:1, Eph 3:2) and from the mission of Tychicus doubtless of a definite locality, though for the reasons given above this could not well be Ephesus alone. It is possible the cities to whom John wrote Revelation (Rev 1 through 3) are the same as those to whom Paul wrote this epistle, or it may be that they were the churches of the Lycus valley and its immediate neighbourhood. The exact location cannot be determined. But from the fact that Marcion attributed the epistle to Laodicea, possibly because it was so written in the first verse, and from the connection with Colossians, it is at least probable that two of these churches were at Colosse and Laodicea. On this theory the letter would seem to have been written from Rome to churches in the neighbourhood of, or accessible to, Colosse, dealing with the problem of Christian unity and fellowship and the relations between Christ and the church and sent to them by the hands of Tychicus. The inscription was to be filled in by the bearer, or copies were to be made with the name of the local church written in, and then sent to or left with the different churches. It was from Ephesus, as the chief city of Asia in all probability, that copies of this circular letter reached the church in the world, and from this fact the letter came to be known in the church at large as that from Ephesus, and the title was written “to the Ephesians,” and the first verse was made to read to the “saints which are in Ephesus.”
But when all the theories and discussion are laid out, we have a letter attested to historically that was sent and read in the church in Ephesus. Whether it was copied and used in other churches with the name of the recipients changed to suit is immaterial. (Wow Paul could have used mail merge way back then if it had been available). The fact that personal connection with the Ephesians is missing from the letter matters not. The end result is that we have a carefully worded statement examining the needs of the local church to be submitted to the will of God in their life. This is a particularly relevant message for us in this day. But it is good that you are made aware of the controversy, the discussion and the theories that lie behind the footnote on “to the Ephesians”. And let’s be honest, you didn’t notice it anyway.
What are you reading this morning? News, Bible or Blogs? (Well you are reading Bible Gems so that it is a plus.)Robb Thompson
With all these modern, convenient info storage devices, the most convenient immediately accessible device is your brain. Fill it.Ian Vail