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An Introduction to the New Testament



Occasion. Jülicher long ago perceived that on most accounts the natural explanation of the purpose and aim of Ephesians was to serve as an introduction to a collection of Pauline letters. I had come to that position independently and find great satisfaction in his interest in it. It was in fact only what he considered its excessive use of Colossians that prevented him from adopting that explanation and led him to declare the problem of the origin of Ephesians still unsolved. But of course the extreme use of Colossians in Ephesians simply means that the writer of Ephesians has known Colossians longest and so must be an Asian Christian. This is the explanation of that excessive influence:

The collector of the letters, aware from his possession of Colossians-Laodiceans that Paul was a powerful writer of letters, informed by the Acts of his relations with other churches, and stimulated by its heroic picture of Paul, collects all the Pauline letters he can find with its aid and writes Ephesians as a general introduction, to introduce the collected letters to the churches. In doing so he makes use of all the Pauline letters he has found, but of course he has known Colossians longest and is most pervaded by its language; hence its stamp is most deeply imprinted on


Ephesians. The degree of Colossian influence on Ephesians is simply a sign of the Asian origin of the collection.

Jülicher also remarked that no specific historical situation had been proposed in which a Paulus redivivus might be supposed to have written Ephesians.1 Here is such a situation. The collector of the Pauline letters, aware that each of them was addressed to a special situation long since passed, but confident that together they would form an inestimable treasure to the churches, writes as an introduction to them a general letter to all Christians, Eph. 1:1, commending . Paul to them in words largely Paul's own, as the champion and martyr of the Greek mission and as a Christian writer of inspired power, 3:1-5. This will explain the whole tangle of problems that beset Ephesians: its strange way of weaving Pauline phrases into a different style, liturgical and reverberating; its pseudonymity; its encyclical character, which presupposes knowledge on the writer's part of Paul as a letter writer par excellence; its laudation of Paul as the inspired interpreter of the secret of the Christ, 3:1-5;

above all, its otherwise mysterious allusion to what Paul had previously written, which they are about to read, 3:4, 5, and the writer's confidence as to the impression it will make on them: "As you read that, you will be able to understand the insight I have into the secret of the Christ.'' As Chrysostom (and Calvin)

[1] Einleitung in das Neue Testament (5th ed.), pp. 127, 128. "It is not yet settled," wrote Johannes Weiss in his Urchristentum, p. 534, "whether the author of the letter to the Ephesians is not the very collector of the Pauline corpus."


saw it is to be a subsequent reading of something previously written.

Ephesians seems to begin just where the Acts left off: Jesus the Christ has made Paul a prisoner for the sake of the heathen, "if at least you have heard how I dealt with the mercy of God that was given me for you." These sentences sound very reminiscent of the Acts, which had shown how Paul had worked among the heathen and how he had at last been made a prisoner for their sakes. How else can we so naturally explain the fact that Ephesians thinks of Paul, not as at large, as a missionary, or dead, as a martyr, but as in prison, just where the Acts left him?

The elements of the problem are certainly perplexing. Here is Ephesians-an encyclical, not a church letter; not by Paul, but taking it for granted that he was a great writer of letters to churches, otherwise an encyclical from him would have no propriety; yet among the very earliest of Paul's letters to be reflected in early Christian literature, for it was unmistakably used by Clement of Rome in A.D. 95, side by side with Romans and I and II Corinthians.

Gradually the answer emerges. Ephesians was 10 the first published collection of Paul's letters, but, being an encyclical, it could not have stood in the middle or at the end; it must have stood at the beginning, and hence have served as an introduction to the collection. But how can we test such a possibility? We can look at the letter-corpus in Revelation, which may possibly be expected to reflect such an arrangement in the original Pauline corpus, if it existed.


We open the Revelation, and behold! here is just such a general letter to all the seven churches, chapter 1, introducing the letter collection, Ephesians-Laodiceans, that follows, chapters 2, 3. It is like getting in direct touch with the first century, asking it a question that has perhaps never been asked of it before; and the Revelation gives us our answer.

We may therefore regard Ephesians as an introduction to the collected letters of Paul, probably written by the collector of them. This position finds a curious corroboration in the observation of Dr. John Knox that Marcion's list of Paul's letters [1] was evidently arranged, except for Galatians, from the longest to the shortest, Corinthians being treated as one and Thessalonians as one; except that, in Marcion's arrangement, Ephesians (his Laodiceans) follows Thessalonians, when it should in point of length precede it. But if Ephesians and Galatians have been simply transposed by Marcion, to give his preferred Galatians the leading place, this would be explained.

This may help us to understand Marcion's action in putting his preferred Galatians first (it did not mean displacing any massive letter like Romans or Corinthians but simply a letter of about equal bulk with Galatians) and, further, his naming Ephesians "Laodiceans," for when he found it at the head of the letters it probably had no name of its own, and his transposition of it made it necessary for him to provide one. He may also have begun the practice of

[1] John Knox, Philemon Among the Letters of Paul (Chicago, 1936), pp. 41,42.


naming the original Laodiceans "Philemon," when he transferred that name to what we know as Ephesians, perhaps because of Col. 4:16.

If we arrange the letters in the order of length, as given in the ancient stichometries, [1] but put Ephesians first, as, by hypothesis, Introduction, we have:

Suppose Marcion simply transposed Ephesians with Galatians; it would produce his well-known order (the stichoi numbers, it will be seen, no longer control the main arrangement):

































Marcion thus seems to have transposed Galatians (from fifth place) with Ephesians (from first place), regardless of the fact that this slightly disturbs the earlier order of length. This confirms the position that Ephesians had previously stood first in the corpus. How else can we explain the strange position of Ephesians (his Laodiceans) in Marcion's list?

Contents. Ephesians is a great rhapsody on the worth of the Christian salvation. Like Hebrews it belongs to an age when men needed to reflect on the worth of their faith. The situation lying back of it is

[1]J. Rendel Harris, Stichometry) (London, 1893), pp. 38 ff.


twofold: the sects are beginning to appear, and the Pauline letters have been discovered and collected. To introduce this collection to Christians everywhere, to remind apathetic Christians of the great values of their faith, and to check the rising tide of sect and schism Ephesians is written.

It is cast in that half-liturgical style so characteristic of the last decade of the first century; we see it in the canticles of Luke-Acts, in Revelation, Hebrews, I Peter, I Clement. The first and second chapters constitute a summary of Pauline Christianity in the form of a jubilate over the blessedness of the Christian salvation. Ephesians is like the overture of an opera, foreshadowing the melodies that arc to follow. All these great aspects of Christian truth the reader was to find more fully dealt with in the letters themselves, which of course followed Ephesians.

Second-generation Christianity needed to be reminded of the great religious values it had inherited, as the Revelation and Hebrews show. Ephesians opens with a jubilant summary of Pauline thought, 1:3-14. The writer sets forth the supreme worth of Christianity, which his contemporaries were in danger of forgetting, 1:15-23. The Christian experience is nothing less than a new life through the mercy of God, 2:1-10. The death of Christ has opened to the Greeks a way to God, 2:11-22.

Paul in his writings has declared the Greeks' full rights in Christianity, 3:1-13, as they will see when they read his letters. In a prayerful appeal the writer sets forth the grandeur of the Christian's experience


of Christ's love, and an exultant doxology marks the conclusion of the main part of the epistle, 3:14-21

Christians must be united against the sects, 4:1-15 There is but one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. We must not be blown about and swung around by every wind of doctrine through the trickery of men with their ingenuity in inventing error. Christians must live the new, upright life of purity, patience integrity, and forbearance, 4:17-5:2. They must give up their old sins and live in the new light, 5:3-21. The marriage relation is made the symbol of the union of Christ with the church, 5:22-33. Children, parents, slaves, and masters have their special duties as Christians, 6:1-9. They must all put on the Christian armor and carry on the Christian warfare, 6:10-20. The farewell, 6:21-24, mentions Tychicus, Paul's well-known messenger of Col. 4:7, Acts 20:4. This is a part of the Pauline disguise, like Timothy in Hebrews 13:23 and Silvanus and Mark in I Pet. 5:12, 13.

Problems. The leading question about Ephesians is, of course, its authenticity: Is it the work of Paul, as it expressly claims to be? In favor of this position is, first, this express claim of the letter itself, which certainly has great weight; second, the universal acceptance of it as Paul's from ancient until modem times; and, third, the wealth of Pauline phraseology contained in it-there is hardly a line in the whole letter that does not show some resemblance to one or another of the nine genuine letters, Romans-Philemon.


The letter claims to be the work of Paul both directly 1:1; 3:1, and indirectly, 4:1; 6:20, 21, etc. It is in the oldest list of Paul's letters that has come down to us that of Marcion, ca. A.D. 140, where it appears under the title of "Laodiceans." Its wealth of Pauline phraseology is fully exhibited in my Meaning of Ephesians (pp. 82-165) where a detailed Greek table of parallels with Colossians and all the other genuine letters is given. The fullest consideration must be given these facts.

But these claims, though once widely accepted, are by no means conclusive, and the more closely one scrutinizes the letter, the more dubious they become. It must be remembered that pseudonymity was a common practice in antiquity and is not unknown today. Some years ago the Atlantic Monthly published "The Letter of Kallikrates" which purported to be from a Corinthian Christian of the first century to Paul, in answer to I Corinthians. [1] It was, in reality, written by a twentieth-century Scottish minister who sought by this transparent device to reach a wider public with his message. Few classical scholars would now maintain the authenticity of all thirteen of the letters of Plato, and few New Testament scholars of the present day hold I and II Peter or I and II Timothy and Titus to be genuine apostolic writings.

But when it is further perceived that the purpose of Ephesians is to serve as introduction to the collected letters of Paul and that it is made up almost entirely of materials taken from them, its pseudonymity

[1] March, 1928.


becomes at once intelligible. What else could the writer have done? If he had put his own name to the letter modern scholars would have declared him a plagiarist His proceeding is not so different from that of Basil and Gregory when they put together the Philocalia and called it the work of Origen. They did, indeed make it up of selections from Origen, and so they ascribed the work to him. Yet Origen did not really write the Philocalia, and it would be hard to say just who did.

In his recent revision of Jülicher's Einleitung in das neue Testament ([7th ed., 1931], p. 142), Fascher says the idea that Ephesians was written to serve as introduction to the collected letters of Paul is ruled out by the fact that it does not sufficiently emphasize the characteristic Pauline ideas of faith and "justification." But, as a matter of fact, the word "faith" occurs ninety-eight times in the nine genuine Pauline letters, or about once per page, which is precisely the average maintained by it in Ephesians—eight occurrences in eight pages. "Justification" occurs fortynine times in the nine genuine letters (thirty-three of them in Romans) or about once in two pages, and three times in Ephesians, or once in two and a half pages, which is doing very well, considering that the word does not occur at all in Colossians. These figures. sufficiently answer Fascher's objection. But more than this, as Dr. A. Haire Forster points out, it is precisely in Ephesians, and not in Romans, that Paul's great doctrine reaches its classical formulation: "It is by his mercy that you have been saved through faith;


it is not by your own action, it is the gift of God," 2:8. So far from neglecting this aspect of Paul, Ephesians has given it its finest expression. Fascher is unconsciously comparing Ephesians with Romans, not with the Pauline literature as a whole. But it was not written as an introduction to Romans but to the whole collection of nine letters, in which not Romans but Corinthians stood first. The attitude of Ephesians to faith and "justification" is quite as favorable to the theory that it was written as an introduction to the Pauline corpus as it is to the idea that it was written by the apostle Paul.

Many things in the epistle itself conflict with its express claim of Pauline authorship:

1. In the first place, Ephesians is unlike any of the Pauline letters known to us in that it reflects no definite historical situation which it is intended to meet. In all the efforts to interpret the letter from the Pauline point of view, no such situation has been successfully or convincingly developed. Yet Paul's letters have an unfailing way of revealing with great clearness the conditions under which they were written and the purpose in the apostle's mind. Considered as a letter of Paul's, Ephesians is in this respect altogether baffling.

2. The writer's admiration and regard for Paul are so great as to give scholars who maintain that Paul wrote the letter great embarrassment. The representation of Paul's unique insight into Christian truth, 3:1-12, is very different from Paul's own attitude in I and II Corinthians, for example.


3. With this goes also the writer's veneration for the holy apostles and prophets as the foundations of the church, 2:20, and the mediums of revelation, 3:5 Paul thought of Christ as the foundation of the church and said there could be no other, I Cor. 3:11. The Gospel of Matthew is usually understood as speaking of the apostle Peter (or perhaps his messianic faith) as the rock on which the church was to be built. Matt. 16:18. The expression "holy prophets" recalls Luke 1:70, and the conception of the apostles as the foundation of the church reminds us of the heavenly city in the Revelation, the wall of which had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the Lamb's twelve apostles, 21:14; compare also Rev. 18:20. The grouping of holy apostles and prophets is hardly the way in which Paul, as we know him through his letters, would have expressed himself. In fact, it points to an attitude to the apostles more like that of Matthew, Revelation, and Luke-Acts than of Paul.

4. The church, in Ephesians, is always the church universal, never the individual local church; for that Ephesians seems to use patria, [1] the equivalent of familia, 3:15. But Paul uses "church" (ecclesia) in both senses. Gal. 1:2; I Cor. 16:19.

5. The church has become Greek; for the whole body of Christians addressed in 1:1 were once physically heathen, 2:2, 11. There is no room for any Jewish Christianity in the picture.

6. The writer himself had been in the same condition, 2:3,

[1] patria


and hence is a gentile Christian. Paul scrupulously distinguished between the sins of the lews and the grosser ones of the heathen, Romans, chapters 1, 2. It is these grosser ones which the writer now confesses for himself and his readers. Both he and they are Greek; compare II Cor. 11:22; Gal. 2:15; Phil. 3:4.

7. The encyclical form of the letter (that is, with no place name in 1:1), well known from the text of the great fourth-century manuscripts Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, and recently confirmed by the Ann Arbor-Chester Beatty papyrus, ca. A.D. 200, clearly implies a conception of Paul as a notable letter-writer. No one would put out an encyclical letter in the name of a man who had written no letters to speak of. But this writing of an encyclical implies that the letters of Paul have been collected, so that the writer can think of him as a notable letter-writer.

8. The sects are already beginning to appear, as in the Acts 20:30 and the Revelation, 2:6,15. Christians "must not be babies any longer, blown about and swung around by every wind of doctrine, through the trickery of men with their ingenuity in inventing error," 4:14. This is the meaning of the insistence on unity in 4:3-6.

9. While so much of the language is Paul's own, it is used in other senses than Paul's. The "secret" of Col. 1:27 is Christ in the believer; in Ephesians the "secret" is the enfranchisement of the heathen as of equal rights with the Jews in the Christian salvation, 3:6. The "principalities and dominions" that the


Colossians were tempted to worship (Col. 1:16; 2:10) have in Ephesians become the spiritual enemies with whom the Christian soldier has to grapple, 1:21; 6:12.

10. The style is reverberating and liturgical, not at all the direct, rapid, Pauline give-and-take. For example, the Spirit, or the Spirit of God, or the holy Spirit, becomes "the holy Spirit of God," 4:30.

11. The novel element in the vocabulary, that is the words used in Ephesians but not found in the nine genuine letters, is mostly akin to works like Luke-Acts, I Clement, I Peter, and Hebrews, written toward the close of the century.

12. The interest in hymnology, illustrated by the quotation of a Christian hymn, 5:14, points to the time when that interest had begun to be active in the early church, as in the canticles of Luke, 1:42, 46, 68; 2:14, 29, and the arias/choruses, and antiphonies of the Revelation.

13. The Descent into Hades, 4:9, 10, is an extraordinary thing to have to fit into the Pauline theology and is generally passed over in silence by those who seek to reconstruct Paul's thought. The instinct that leads them to do this is entirely right, for it is almost impossible to suppose such a view had any place in Paul's thinking. In fact, he virtually excludes it by what he says in Romans, 10:6, 7. The Descent into Hades is a natural sequel to Luke's doctrine of the Ascension, reflected in Eph. 4:9. To suppose Paul, who has no Ascension doctrine, should yet have had the sequel to it, in the Descensus ad Inferos, is putting the cart before the horse.


14. This brings us to the use of the Acts in Ephesians. The writer of Ephesians not only thinks of Paul as where the Acts left him, a prisoner for the Greek mission, but in several instances reflects the language of Luke-Acts, while the Descensus doctrine of Ephesians seems to be an inference from the Ascension doctrine of Luke.

15. The reference to the breaking-down of the barrier that kept the heathen out of the Court of the Men of Israel in the Temple, 2:14, while of course figurative, is certainly more natural after the Temple had been destroyed in A.D. 70 than before.

16. The jubilant review of the blessings of the Pauline salvation, with which the letter begins, is more natural in a reader of Paul's letters than in Paul himself. Paul's way was to take one of these and dwell upon it. But in chapter 1 they fairly tumble over one another, with no full treatment of any of them. This is entirely natural if the collected letters of Paul, with full treatments of all the matters so tumultuously surveyed in chapter 1, followed Ephesians.

17. The injunction in Ephesians 6:4 to bring their children up with Christian training and instruction is out of keeping with Paul's attitude; all he had to say to parents in Colossians (written supposedly at the same time as Ephesians, if the latter is by Paul) was "Do not irritate your children," 3:21.

18. Ephesians as a whole is a generalization of Paulinism much more like a later Paulinist than like Paul himself. Someone has observed that it reads like


a commentary on Paul. Even Romans is less of a generalization of the Pauline positions than Ephesians.

19. The writer of Ephesians is far more of an ecclesiastic than Paul. He finds in the church a great spiritual fellowship, built upon the apostles and prophets, 2:20-22, the medium of God's revelation 3:10, and the avenue of man's praise, 3:21. It is the bride of Christ, 5:25-32, compare Rev. 21:9, 10.

20. Ephesians shows the literary influence of every one of the nine genuine letters. Over and over again it reveals acquaintance with each one of them. Every Pauline letter displays something in common with one or more of the others, of course. But Ephesians shows knowledge of all the other nine—a state of things which cannot be matched or even approached in any other letter.[1] To some this seems proof that Paul himself wrote Ephesians. But elsewhere Paul never repeats himself to any such extent as this. Moreover, the writer uses these Pauline materials to build up something very different from Paul.

21. Not only are all nine letters used in Ephesians, but the remarkable thing is that they fully supply all the material that it contains. They satisfy it. The writer of Ephesians has used them and nothing else, except a little of Luke-Acts and some Septuagint texts. But that Paul's knowledge of his own mind should have been confined to what he had said in the nine letters which are all that we possess from him is out

[1] A. E. Barnett, "The Use of the Letters of Paul in Pre-Catholic Christian Literature," University of Chicago Abstracts of Theses ("Humanistic Series"), IX (1934), 509.


of the question. Paul had an extraordinarily fertile and active mind, and he had much more to say than is preserved in the hundred pages of the nine letters. The only possible explanation of the fact is that the writer of Ephesians knows the mind of Paul only through these nine letters; he has no independent access to it. This is a point that has never been dealt with by the adherents of the Pauline authorship, to which, of course, it is fatal. It requires no corroboration from the twenty points, small and great, listed above. It reveals the author of Ephesians as dependent for his knowledge of the mind of Paul upon the nine letters which we know and proves beyond all doubt that he was not Paul.

Such points are usually regarded as difficulties with the Pauline authorship by those scholars who still cling to it, but of course they are not difficulties; rightly regarded they are helpful and invaluable clues to the solution of the problem of the authorship of Ephesians. As a matter of fact, these points are of the greatest assistance to us in solving the problem, and it is the solving of the problem that matters, not supporting any traditional position, however cherished.

Not only are these facts thought of as difficulties, but they are dealt with one at a time, as though everything else could be harmonized if the one difficulty before us at the moment could be somehow whittled away. But this again is far from true. To treat them singly really assumes that the particular difficulty being dealt with stands alone, whereas it is. in fact,


but one of a long series. It is the cumulative effect of all these clues taken together that makes them significant.

The final test of any historical setting for an ancient document is, of course, the way in which the interpretation of it responds to the situation proposed. The interpretation of Ephesians does not respond at all to any situation that has been sought for it in the work of Paul; the examination of any commentary written from that point of view will reveal this. One candid commentator has recently said that, so understood, Ephesians shows us Paul writing "for his own satisfaction." Interpreted from the point of view here presented, however, every part of the epistle turns out to be full of pertinence and timely vigor. In particular, the neglected paragraph 3:1-12, which some would call a transition, some a digression, regains its full significance as pointing the reader to the assembled Pauline letters, which Ephesians seeks to introduce to the church general.

Professor Scott asks, "Can we believe that in the church of Paul's day there was an unknown teacher of this supreme excellence?" [1] This seems a dangerous approach to the matter, for there was in the first century an unknown great enough to write the Gospel of Matthew, and another capable of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and another who could write I Peter, and soon after another who could write the Gospel of John, and yet none of these authors can we name with certainty. Early Christian literature was largely the

[1] E. F. Scott, The Literature of the New Testament (New York, 1932), p. 180.


work of great Unknowns. Surely we shall not ascribe all these works to Paul because we do not know of anyone else great enough to have produced them.

But if a name and an identity be demanded for the author of Ephesians, the name of Onesimus of Ephesus comes at once to the mind. The Pauline corpus came into being in the days when Onesimus and Polycarp seem to have been active in Christian work in Asia—Polycarp in Smyrna and Onesimus in Ephesus. Onesimus may have been the Laodicean Christian who brought Colossians-Philemon to Ephesus; who so likely to have cherished and pored over them as he? He may have been the collector of the Pauline corpus, of which he thus had the nucleus. And he may have been the writer of the great preface which we know as Ephesians, building thus a splendid monument to his great friend and teacher, who had saved him from slavery and paganism and opened before him a new life. One would like to think so. [1]


Abbott, T. K. Epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians (New York, 1909).

Bowen, C. R. Studies in the New Testament (Chicago, 1936), pp. 110-38.

Goodspeed, E. J. The Meaning of Ephesians (Chicago, 1933).

——. New Solutions of New Testament Problems (Chicago, 1927).

[1] Jülicher remarks that many points in Ephesians suggest that a disciple of the apostle wrote it (Introduction [1904] p. 147), and Easton feels that it must be the work of a personal follower of Paul (Anglican Theological Review, XVI [1934], 30.)

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