1. Who wrote the Letter to the Ephesians?

1.1. Who is the author of the Letter to the Ephesians according to Eph 1:1; 3:1?

In the salutation author identifies himself as "Paul, the apostle of Christ Jesus," and again in 3:1: "I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ."

1.2. By the end of the second century, it is clear that the church accepts the Letter to the Ephesians as a work of Paul. Irenaeus (130-200) quotes Eph 5:30, and introduces it with "as blessed Paul declares in his Letter to the Ephesians" (Adv. Haer. 5.2.3). On several other occasions also he attributes the letter to Paul (Adv. Haer. 1.8.5; 5.2.3; 5.8.1; 5.14.3; 5.24.4). No doubt reflecting the generally-held view, Marcion believed that the letter was written by Paul, although he thought that its destination was Laodicea (Tertullian, Adv. Marc. 5.17). After quoting 1 Cor 11:3 using "says the apostle," followed by a quotation from Gal 5:16-23, Clement of Alexandria (150-215) then introduces a quotation from Eph 5:21-25 as follows: "Therefore also in the Letter to the Ephesians he writes" (Strom. 4.8). The implication is the same apostle wrote all three letters. Similarly, Clement also quotes Eph 4:13-15 as from the same apostle who wrote 2 Corinthians (Paed. 1.5). In the Muratorian canon, the Letter to the Ephesians is listed as one of Paul's letters. Finally, Tertullian (160-220) believed that the letter was written by Paul (De Monog. 5; De praes. 36; Adv. Marc. 4.5.1).

1.3. Objections to Pauline Authorship

Many scholars have disputed the Pauline authorship of the Letter to the Ephesians, arguing that an imitator of Paul wrote it in the sub-apostolic period. 

1.3.1. The vocabulary of the Letter to the Ephesians and its stylistic peculiarities are believed to support the hypothesis of its non-Pauline authorship, since both are different from the undisputed Pauline letters.

A. Vocabulary

1. The Letter to the Ephesians has a total vocabulary of 530 words, of which forty-one are hapaxlegomena (words that occur only once in the New Testament). Excluded from this count are two hapaxlegomena that are part of quotations from the Old Testament (aichmalôteuô = Ps 68:18 [4:8]; machrochronios = Deut 5:16 [6:3]).

atheos (without God) (2:12) aischrotês (obscenity) (5:4) ananeoomai (to renew) (4:23)
anoixis (opening) (6:19) apalgô (become desensitized) (4:19) asophos (unwise) (5:15)
belos (missle) (6:6) elachistoteros (least) (3:8) enotês (unity) (4:3, 13)
exischuô (to have strength for) (3:18) epiduô (to go down) (4:26)

epiphauô (to shine upon) (5:14)

extrephô (to care for) (5:29; 6:4) hetoimasia (readiness) (6:15) eunoia () (6:7)
eutrapelia (coarse jesting) (5:4) ho hêgapêmenos = (the beloved) (used of Christ) (1:6) thureos (shield) (6:16)
katartismos (perfecting) (4:12) katôteros (lower) (4:9) klêroô (to choose) (1:11)
kludônizomai (to be tossed by the waves) (4:14) kosmokratôr (world ruler) (6:12) kruphê (in secret) (5:12)
kubeia (craftiness) (4:14) megethos (greatness) (1:19) methodeia (scheming) (4:14; 6:11)
mesotoichon (dividing wall) (2:14) môrologia (foolish talk) (5:4) palê (struggle) (6:12)
parorgismos (anger) (4:26) ta pnematika (the spiritual beings) (6:12) polupoikilos (much varied) (3:10)
proelpizô (to hope before) (1:12) proskarterêsis (perseverance) (6:18) rutis (wrinkle) (5:27)
summetochos (partner) (3:6; 5:7) sumpolitês (fellow citizen) (2:19)
sunarmologeô (to fit together) (2:21; 4:16)
sunoikodomeô (to build together) (2:22) sussômos (one body) (3:6)

The letter also has forty-four words that, although used elsewhere in the New Testament, are not found in Paul's letters excluding the Pastorals (if the Pastorals were included, this total would drop to thirty-seven). (* = found in the Pastorals)

agnoia (ignorance) (4:18)
agrupneô (to be awake, watchful) (6:18)
akrogôniaios (cornerstone) (2:20)
*alusis (chain) (6:20; 2 Tim 1:16)
ta amphotera (the two) (2:14)
anemos (wind) (4:14)
aniêmi (release, give up) (6:9)
hapanta (all) (6:13)
apatan (deceive) (5:6)
apeilê (threat) (6:9)
*asôtia (debauchery) (5:18; Titus 1:6)
*diabolos (devil) (4:27; 6:11; 1 Tim 3:6, 7, 11; 2 Tim 2:26; 3:3; Titus 2:3)
eperchomai (to come) (2:7)
ta epourania (the heavenlies) (1:3; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12)
ergasia (practice, performance) (4:19)
*euaggelistês (evangelist) (4:11; 2 Tim 4:5)
eusplagchnos (compassionate) (4:32)
katabolê (foundation) (1:4)
legô eis (to speak about) (5:32)
makran (far) (2:13, 17)
orgizomai (to be angry) (4:26)
hosiotês (holiness) (4:24)
osphus (belt) (6:14)
*paideia (discipline) (6:4; 2 Tim 3:16)
panoplia (armor) (6:11, 13)
paroikos (alien) (2:19)
patria (homeland) (3:15)
perizônnumi (to gird around) (6:14)
platos (wide) (3:18)
poimên (shepherd, pastor) (4:11)
politeia (citizenship) (2:12)
sapros (corrupt) (4:29)
spilos (stain) (5:27)
sugkathizô (to seat with) (2:6)
*sôtêrion (salvation) (1:13; 2 Tim 2:10; 3:15)
*timaô (to honor) (6:2; 1 Tim 5:3)
hudôr (water) (5:26)
huperanô (above) (1:21; 4:10)
hupodeomai (to be put under) (6:15)
hupsos (height) (3:18; 4:8)
phragmos (fence, barrier) (2:14)
phronêsis (understanding) (1:8)
charitoô (to give freely) (1:6)
cheiropoiêtos (made with hands) (2:11)

The fact that so many words occur in the Letter to the Ephesians that are hapaxlegomena or not found in any other Pauline letter excluding the Pastorals has been interpreted to mean that someone other than Paul wrote the letter. The assumption is that the vocabulary would not be so unique if Paul wrote the letter.

2. There is a large number of expressions in the Letter to the Ephesians that are not found in the undisputed Pauline letters, such as "the desires of the flesh and the thoughts" (ta thelêmata tês sarkos kai tôn dianoiôn) (2:3), "before the foundation of the world" (pro katabolês tou kosmou) (1:4), "to enlighten" (phôtizein) (as a function of an apostle) (3:9), "the ruler of the power of the air" (ho archôn tês exousias tou aeros) (2:2), "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ" (ho theos tou hêmôn Iêsou Christou) (1:3, 17), "the Father of glory" (ho patêr tou doxês) (1:17), "the spirit of the mind" (to pneuma tou voos) (4:23), "the holy apostles and prophets" (hoi hagioi apostoloi kai prophêtai) (3:5), "You can be certain of this" (touto iste ginôskontes) (5:5), "to give to be" (didontai + acc.) (1:22; 4:11), "to be good for something" (agathos pros ti), (4:29), "to love the Lord Jesus Christ" (agapan ton Kurion Iêsoun Christon) (6:24), "through all generations forever" (eis pasas tas geneas tou aiônos tôn aiônôn) (3:21), "against blood and flesh" (pros haima kai sarka) (6:12). The existence of so many unique expressions has been interpreted as supporting the non-Pauline authorship of Ephesians, since it is assumed that Paul would be more consistent in his expression from one letter to another.

3. Some of the hapaxlegomena in the Letter to the Ephesians are particularly significant because they are used to denote the same realities that are expressed by other terms in Paul's undisputed letters. The word "the devil" (diabolos) occurs in Ephesians (4:27; 6:11), whereas Paul uses "Satan" (satanas) in his undisputed letters. (Only in the disputed Pastoral letters does the word diabolos occur, 1 Tim 3:6; 2 Tim 2:26.) Similarly, the phrase "in the heavenlies" (en to epouraniois) (1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12) occurs in Ephesians, but not in Paul’s undisputed letters; in the latter, the apparently synonymous term "in the heavens" (en tois ouranois) occurs (2 Cor 5:1; Col 1:5, 16, 20). Similarly, the phrase "the spiritual beings" (ta pneumatika) (6:12) does not occur outside of Ephesians, although Paul uses various terms, including "demons" (daimonia) (1 Cor 10:20-21) and "other spirits" (pneuma heteron) (2 Cor 11:4). Another example is the occurrence of “to endue with grace” (charitoun) (1:6): in the undisputed letters one finds “to give grace” (charin didomi) (see Rom 12:3, 6; 15:`5; 1 Cor 1:4; 3:10; 15:57; 2 Cor 2:16). To express the idea of "to renew" the verb ananeoomai is used in Eph 4:23, rather than the verb anakainoun found in 2 Cor 4:16; Col 3:10. This phenomenon is interpreted as supporting the position that an author other than Paul wrote the Letter to the Ephesians, because it is thought that an author would always use the same word or phrase to express an idea.

4. In the Letter to the Ephesians, typical Pauline words are used with different meanings than in his undisputed letters. Paul uses the term “mystery” (mustêrion) in Ephesians (1:9; 3:3-6, 9-11; 5:32; 6:19) with a different meaning than in Colossians (1:26-27; 2:2; 4:3).  In the former, there are two mysteries identified: the mystery that gentile are heirs together with Israel (3:3-6, 9-11) and that of the existence of a unity between Christ and the church (analogous to the union between a man and wife) (5:32). In the latter, the mystery is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27). Likewise, the term oikonomia occurs with a different meaning in Eph 1:10; 3:2, 9 than it has in its other occurrences in the undisputed letters. In Ephesians the word means dispensation or administration, whereas in Col 1:25 and 1 Cor 9:17, it denotes Paul's own stewardship, what has been given in trust to him. Finally, in Eph 1:14, the word peripoiêsis refers concretely to believers whereas its use in 1 Thess 5:9; 2 Thess 2:14 is abstract. These data suggest that the same author did not write both letters, because one would expect a consistency of usage.

B. Style

1.  The Letter to the Ephesians contains ninety-five genitive constructions, many more than are found in Paul’s undisputed letters. The fact that there are a disproportinate number of genitive constructions suggests that Paul did not write the Letter to the Ephesians. Moreover, untypical of Pauline style, many of these genitive constructions are redundant, epexegetic formations, such as “the spirit of the mind” (to pneuma tou noos) (4:23); "the council of the will" (hê boulê tou thelêmatos) (1:11), "the working of the power of strength (hê energeia tou kratous tês ischuos) (1:19) and "the age of this world" (hê aiôn tou kosmou toutou) (2:2). Also, some of these genitive constructions are unusual expressions for any author to use, such as "ligament of support" (aphê tês epichorgias) (4:16) and "desire of deceit" (epithumia tês apatês) (4:22).

2. Compared to the undisputed Pauline letters, the Letter to the Ephesians exhibits an excessive occurrence of the prepositions en (“in”) (125 times) and kata + acc. (“according to”) (twenty-four times). The unusual frequency of these prepositions suggests an author other than Paul for the letter, for otherwise it is difficult to explain why Paul would depart from his usual style.

3. Stylistically, unlike Paul’s undisputed letters, the Letter to the Ephesians contains long sentences full of subordinate clauses, which also tend to pile up synonyms (see Eph 1:3-14; 1:15-23; 2:1-7; 2:11-13; 2:14-16; 2:19-22; 3:1-7; 3:8-12; 3:14-19; 4:1-6; 4:11-16; 4:17-19; 4:20-24; 5:3-5; 5:18-23; 5:25-27; 5:28-30; 6:1-3; 6:5-8; 6:14-20). For this reason there are fewer punctuation marks in the letter than in Paul's undisputed letters.

1.3.2. The theological content of the Letter to the Ephesians is supposed to be so different from that of the undisputed Pauline letters that the former could not have been composed by the same author as the latter.

A. In Ephesians the church (ekklêsia) is one and universal, the union of believing Jews and gentiles; moreover, the creation of the church is a purpose of Christ's work (Eph 1:22; 2:13-19, 19-22; 3:5-13, 21; 4:7-16; 5:23-25, 27, 29, 32). In the undisputed letters, however, when he uses the word "church," Paul refers to the local congregation.

B. The reference to the "apostles and prophets" as the foundation of the church (2:20; 3:5) is unique to the Letter to the Ephesians, and so stands out as non-Pauline, especially since, in 1 Cor 3:11, Paul identifies Christ as the foundation of the church. Such a reference seems to presuppose the apostles as a fixed group from the past and so suggests that the composition of the letter postdates Paul's apostolic career.

C. Nothing is said of the return of Christ in the letter, which is a departure from Paul's usual literary practice. Rather, Paul seems to envision a open-ended future for the church: "To God be the glory in the church and in Jesus Christ for all generations for ever and ever" (3:21; see also 2:7; 4:13).

D. In his soteriological expression, the author of Ephesians does not use the terms "to declare righteous" (dikaiein) or "righteousness" (dikaiosunê), unlike what is found in Paul's undisputed letters (especially Galatians and Romans). Where one would expect Paul to use such terminology, the author uses the concept of being saved instead (sôthênai), so that, rather than saying that a person is declared righteous by grace through faith, the author writes that a person is saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:4-9).

E. It is claimed that Paul would not write approvingly of marriage and family (5:22-6:4) and use an image from marriage to illustrate the relationship between Christ and the church (5:25-32) when he was opposed to marriage, as indicated by 1 Cor 7:1-2, 26-38.

F. Although there are a few references to it, nevertheless, unlike Paul's undisputed letters, in Ephesians the death of Christ seems to recede into the background in terms of its theological importance. Rather, the author writes much more about Christ's exaltation to a position of absolute cosmic authority.

G. Paul's rejection of the significance of circumcision in 2:11 ("the so-called uncircumsion by the so-called circumcision") is said to contradict his other statements to the effect that circumision has religious significance (Rom 3:1-2; Phil 3:5).

1.4. Defense of Pauline Authorship

1.4.1. The Letter to the Ephesians is not anonymous, but claims to have been composed by Paul (Eph 1:1; 3:1). Indisputably, as early as the end of the second century, the early church was quoting from the letter as a work of the apostle Paul. In addition, there are many personal references in the letter consistent with Pauline authorship (see Eph 1:15-16; 3:1; 4:1; 3:3-5, 7-9, 13; 5:32; 6-19-20, 21-22).  In denying Pauline authorship, one must assume that the alleged sub-apostolic forger or imitator went to great lengths to disguise his true identity. Also, if the author was writing in the sub-apostolic period, after the death of Paul, he would be assuming the identity of someone known by his readers to be long dead! It should also be noted that the letter contains seventeen words found only in the Pauline letters (excluding the Pastorals) and not in any other book in the New Testament: "goodness" (agathôsunê) (5:9); "to speak the truth" (alêtheuô) (4:15); "unsearchable" (anexichniastos) (3:8); "support" (epichorêgia) (4:16); "sweet smell" (euôdia) (5:2); "to cherish" (thalpô) (5:29); "to bend" (kamptô) (3:14); "helmet" (periephalaia) (6:17); "greedy person" (pleonektês) (5:5); "workmanship" (poiêma) (2:10); "to be an ambassador" (presbeuô) (6:20); "to prepare beforehand" (proetoimazô) (2:10); "access" (prosagôgê) (2:18); "to purpose beforehand" (protithêmai) (1:9); "adoption" (huiothesia) (1:5); "to surpass" (huperballô) (1:19, 2:7; 3:19); "most exceedingly" (huperekperissou) (3:20). This datum further confirms Pauline authorship. Given such evidence, the burden of proof shifts to the one who would deny Pauline authorship. The evidence adduced, however, is insufficient to disprove the authenticity of the Letter to the Ephesians.

1.4.2. Arguments from Vocabulary and Style

A. Vocabulary

1. The Letter to the Ephesians has no more hapaxlegomena and no more words that do not occur in Paul’s other letters than any of the undisputed letters.  For example, Paul's Letter to the Galatians is a similar length to Ephesians, and has thirty-five hapaxlegomena.

2. The large number of expressions in the Letter to the Ephesians that are not found in the undisputed Pauline letters is not significant because there are similar collections of unique expressions found in Paul's other letters. Moreover, it unreasonable to expect an author to use the same expressions in every letter that he writes over a period of many years. It should also be taken into account that the content of a given letter largely determines which expressions are used in it.

3. That some of the hapaxlegomena in the Letter to the Ephesians are used to denote the same realities that are expressed by other terms in Paul's undisputed letters is more weighty as evidence, but still not conclusive, unless one can prove that Paul could not have varied his vocabulary in these ways. Such a position is impossible to prove, however, since Paul's literary remains are relatively meager and there is no other access to Paul's total Greek vocabulary, nor its evolution, over the period of his letter writing career. In fact, that Paul could vary his vocabulary is suggested by the fact that he refers to "Satan" by the designation "Beliar" in 2 Cor 6:15, but only there. If Paul can refer to "Satan" as "Beliar" in one letter, then surely he could refer to him as "the devil" (diabolos) in another (Eph 4:27; 6:11).

4. Paul could easily have used the word mustêrion (“mystery”) in more than one sense, especially as the term has two meanings in the Letter to the Ephesians itself. The same is true of the words oikonomia and peripoiêsis. It is unreasonable to expect an author to use a word in only one sense in his lifetime as a writer.

B. Style

There is no denying that the Letter to the Ephesians is unique stylistically. Its stylistic peculiarities are much better indicators of its non-Pauline authorship than its vocabulary, because a writer's style tends to be constant from one letter to the next. Nevertheless, it should be noted that Paul writes long sentences in his other letters, especially in prayers and doxologies (Rom 8:38-39; 11:33-39; 1 Cor 1:4-8; Phil 1:3-8; 1 Thess 1:2-5; 2 Thess 1:3-10; see Eph 1:3-14, 15-23; 3:14-19), in sections with significant doctrinal content (Rom 3:21-26; 1 Cor 1:26-29; 2:6-9; see Eph 2:1-7; 3:2-13) and in horatory material (1 Cor 12:8-11; Phil 1:27-2:11; see Eph 4:1-6, 11-16; 6:14-20). What neutralizes the use of style as evidence of non-Pauline authorship, however, is the fact that Paul made regular use of an amanuensis. The particular contribution of each of Paul's amanuenses could vary from merely taking down verbatim what Paul dictated to him to actually writing the letter under Paul's direction and supervision (Only one of Paul's amanuenses, Tertius, identifies himself, in Rom 16:22). It is possible that over the years Paul allowed the whole gamut of contributions from his amanuenses, but this is, of course, impossible to establish as fact. Such a probable blending of style (and vocabulary) of Paul and his various amanuenses makes it impossible to use style as a criterion of Pauline authorship. Moreover, that there are stylistic differences actually tells against an imitator, because surely someone who intended to pass his own work off as that of Paul would be careful not to depart from the more usual Pauline style and vocabulary; otherwise his forgery would be easily detectable as such.

C. The unique theological content of the Letter to the Ephesians is not evidence of non-Pauline authorship. It would only be if there were undeniable contradiction between it and other of Paul's letters, but this is not the case. What is interpreted as contradiction can more easily be seen as a complementary perspective on a topic or a fuller development of it. Besides, there are many Pauline theological ideas in the letter, such as being made saved by faith and not by works (2:5-8). To argue that the letter is so different theologically that it could not be from the hand of Paul is a circular argument, since it is excluded a priori from being a source for Pauline theology. The alleged theological discrepancies between Ephesians and Paul's undisputed letters are easily set aside.

1. Paul can conceive of the church as both local and universal without contradiction; in fact, Paul refers to the universal church outside of Ephesians (1 Cor 15:9; Gal 1:13; Phil 3:6; Col 1:18, 24).

2. Paul's statement that the foundation of the church is the "apostles and prophets" (2:20; 3:5) does not contradiction his statement that Christ is the foundation (1 Cor 3:11), but complements it, since both can be foundations in different respects. Besides, in Eph 2:20, Paul does call Christ the chief cornerstone, which is similar to his statement in 1 Cor 3:11. Also, there is no necessary implication that the time of the "apostles and prophets" lies in the past.

3. It is unrealistic to expect Paul to use the concepts of "to declare righteous" (dikaiein) or "righteousness" (dikaiosunê) exclusively, because his soteriological vocabulary is varied in his undisputed letters. When he does use such terminology it is usually in dispute with Judaizing opponents, who are absent from Paul's mind when he is writing Ephesians. It should also be noted that Paul does use the soteriological concept of being saved (sôthênai) numerous times in his undisputed letters, so that it is reasonable that Paul would eventually write of being saved by grace through faith as conceptually complementary to being declared righteous by grace through faith.

4. That no mention is made in Ephesians of Christ's second coming does not mean its rejection by the author (see the eschatological thrust of Eph 1:14; 4:30; 5:6; 6:8). To argue that the absence of a theological idea in a work means that its author did not hold to such an idea is unwarranted. Many of Paul's theological beliefs are found in only one letter, such as his teaching about speaking in tongues (1 Cor 12-14), so that there is no reason to conclude that the unique theological ideas in Ephesians cannot be Pauline.

5. Because Paul recommended singleness to the Corinthians does not mean that he would never say anything positive about marriage and family. Indeed, Paul concedes in 1 Cor 7:7 that each person has his own charisma from God.

6. The fact that in Ephesians Paul does not focus on the death of Christ, but prefers to speak of Christ's exaltation, does not mean that for him the death of Christ has little theological importance. One must always remember that Paul's letters are occasional, and therefore their contents are determined by the situation of the intended readers. Besides, Paul does refer to the blood of Christ (1:7; 2:13) and the cross (2:16); he also interprets Christ's death as a sacrifice pleasing to God (5:2) and says that Christ gave himself for the church (5:25).

7. Paul's reference to "the so-called uncircumcision" and "the so-called circumcision" does not contradict his other statements on the advantages of being a Jew (Rom 3:1-2; Phil 3:5). While there may be advantages to being a Jew, Paul is adamant that simply being a Jew by virtue of being circumcised is of no advantage at the final judgment, for God judges impartially (Rom 2:26-29). For this reason, Paul can sometimes minimize the value of circumcision, especially when appealed to presumptuously to the disadvantage of gentiles, the uncircumcised. Paul makes a similar disparaging remark about the significance of physical circumsion in Phil 3:2-3: "Watch out for the evil workers; watch out for the mutilaton. For we are the circumcised who worship God in the spirit."

1.5. What does Eph 6:21 indicate about how the letter would make its way to its intended readers?

It indicates that Tychicus would carry the letter.

2. To whom was the Letter to the Ephesians written?

2.1. What does Eph 2:1-2, 11-13; 3:1; 4:17-24; 5:8 indicate about the ethnicity of the intended readers of the Letter to the Ephesians? In other words, were the intended readers Jews or gentiles?

Paul gives clear indications that his intended readers are gentiles. In Eph 2:11-13, he states explicitly that his readers were "gentiles by birth" (2:11) and, therefore, considered by Jews to be "strangers to the covenants of promise" (2:12). Similarly, in Eph 3:1, Paul informs his intended readers that he is a prisoner "on behalf of you gentiles." Moreover, in Eph 2:1-2, Paul describes his intended readers' pre-Christian past as if they were gentiles: "dead in trespasses and sins," "walking according to this world" and "walking according to the ruler of the power of the air." I Eph 5:8, he also describes them as once being "darkness." Finally, Paul exhorts his readers not to live as gentiles, that is, as they used to live (Eph 4:17-24).

2.2. What do Eph 1:15-16; 2:1-2; 4:20-24; 5:8; 6:19-20 indicate about the relationship of the author to the intended readers?

These passages indicate that the author, Paul, knew something, at least, about his readers, because he is thankful for them because of their "faith in the Lord Jesus and their love towards the holy ones" (1:15-16a) and he knows details about their pre-Christian past (Eph 2:1-2; 4:20-24; 5:8). Paul also knows them well enough to pray for them (Eph 1:16b) and to ask them to pray for him (Eph 6:19-20). 

2.3. Whom does Eph 1:1 indicate as the intended readers of the Letter to the Ephesians?

It indicates that the intended readers were "the holy ones, those in Ephesus, and to those who believe in Christ Jesus."

2.4. When they defeated Antiochus III (the Great) in 190 BCE, the Romans gave the city of Ephesus to their ally Eumenes II, king of Pergamum. In 133 BCE, Attalus III Philometor, the last king of Pergamum, bequeathed Ephesus along with the remainder of his kingdom to the Romans. The Romans organized the territory into the province of Asia; eventually Ephesus became the capital of this province, supplanting Pergamum. The province was governed by a proconsul. Ephesus was situated c. five kilometers inland from the Mediterranean Sea on the River Cayster; in the time of Paul, the river was navigable up to the city. Ephesus was on the main route from Rome to the east, and prided itself on being "warden of the temple of Artemis." Josephus explains that Hyrcanus II negotiated with Dolabella, proconsul of Asia, for exemption from military service for the Jews who resided in Ephesus and the right to live by their own religious customs (Ant. 14.10.11-13; 223-29). Augustus confirmed the Jews in Asia in these privileges (Ant. 16.6.1-2; 160-65).

2.5. From what Luke records in Acts 18:18-22; 19:1-20:1; 20:15-21:1, describe the history of Paul’s relationship with the church in Ephesus.

Paul first went to Ephesus at the close of his second missionary journey (Acts 18:18-22).  He arrived there with Aquila and Priscilla from Cenchrae (near Corinth), and he reasoned with the Jews of the city in the synagogue. Although the Ephesian Jews asked him to stay longer, he declined, and continued on to Caesarea and eventually to Antioch. Presumably, Paul left behind the nucleus of the Ephesian church at this time. During his third missionary journey, Paul traveled overland to Ephesus (Acts 19:1). When he arrived he found some “disciples” (twelve men) who had received only John’s baptism and had not yet received the Holy Spirit. Paul baptized them "in the name of the Lord Jesus," whereupon they began to speak in tongues and prophesy (Acts 19:1-7).  (Who these disciples were is no clear; they were, however, probably Jews since they had received John’s baptism).  Paul spoke in the synagogue again for three months, but, when he was opposed, he began to use the lecture hall called Tyrannus; he did this for two years (Acts 19:8-10). Luke records that many miracles were done by Paul (Acts 19:11-12), and notes the incident of the seven sons of Sceva who tried disastrously to drive out demons in the name of Jesus (Acts 19:13-16).  Paul had many gentile converts in Ephesus, some even who had practiced sorcery: as part of their confession, publicly burned their sorcery-related scrolls (Acts 19:17-20). A riot broke out over the decline in revenue for the silversmiths who manufactured statues of the goddess Artemis, whose temple was in the city (Acts 19:23-41). After this Paul left Ephesus for Macedonia, after staying for a total of three years (Act 20:31). On his way to Jerusalem from Achaia and Macedonia, Paul stopped at Miletus, where the Ephesian elders met him (Acts 20:17).  Luke records Paul’s address to them. Although the Ephesian elders protest, Paul explained that he must got to Jerusalem, in spite of the dangers that awaited him there; he also warned that false teachers would arise from within seeking to lead believers astray (Acts 20:19-38.)

2.6. It should be noted, however, that there is some justification for questioning the Ephesian destination of the letter.

2.6.1. The phrase "in Ephesus" (en Ephesô) in Eph 1:1 following "to the holy ones, those..." is weakly supported in the manuscript evidence; it is lacking in many important manuscripts (P46, , B, 424c, 1739) (In three cases, the phrase has been added.) Origen and Basil provide evidence that in some versions of the letter, at least, the phrase "in Ephesus" was lacking in the salutation (see Basil, Adv. Eunom. 2.19). Also Marcion (c. 140) did not have it in his text, as pointed out by Tertullian (Adv. Marc. 5.11, 17), and neither did Tertullian, because he does not correct Marcion on this point. Marcion claims that the letter was written to the Laodiceans, being the lost letter to this church referred to in Col 4:16; Tertullian does not cite Eph 1:2 in refutation of Marcion but instead only refers to the title of the letter: "To the Ephesians" (pros Ephesious). The earliest evidence for the existence of the title "To the Ephesians" is the Muratorian canon, dated to the late second century. If the phrase "in Ephesus" is not original, then the intended readers of the letter are simply  "the holy ones, those who believe in Christ Jesus." 

2.6.2. Paul's relationship to the Ephesian church must have been close, since he stayed in Ephesus for three years during his third missionary journey. He had an emotional reunion with the elders of the church again a few months later in Miletus on his way to Jerusalem (Acts 20:13-38). Thus, it is strange that there are no greetings in the letter and no concrete details about Paul's relationship with the church. It is true that Paul rejoices at his readers faith (Eph 1:15-16), and claims to know how they “learned Christ” (Eph 4:20). Paul also encourages his readers not to be easily influenced by false teachers (Eph 4:14), and exhorts them not to be led astray by empty words (Eph 5:6).  In addition, he asks his readers to pray for him (Eph 6:19-20). The letter, in other words, is not a theological treatise intended for a general readership. Nevertheless, in contrast to some of his other letters, the Letter to the Ephesians is far from personal and intimate, contrary to what one would expect if Paul was writing to the Ephesian church. He deals with no specific issues or problems in the church, nor does he send greetings to anyone in the conclusion of the letter, which is unexpected since he must have known many believers in Ephesus.

2.6.3. What Paul writes in Eph 1:15 implies that he does not know the recipients of the letter personally: "Having heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love to all the holy ones." It is possible to interpret this to mean that Paul has only heard of these, that is, he has received this information from a secondhand source. (Now Eph 1:15 could be taken to mean that he has heard of these things secondhand since his departure from Ephesus; in other words, he is expressing his satisfaction that they are continuing in faith and love.) Likewise, in Eph 3:2, Paul says that surely his readers have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God that was given to him, implying that they did not hear of this from him personally.

2.6.4. If the phrase "in Ephesus" is not original to the text, what might you conclude about the intended readership?

If the phrase "in Ephesus" is not original, then the intended readers of the letter are "the holy ones, those who believe in Christ Jesus." In other words, it is possible to conclude that the letter was intended for a more general readership, but not too general since he does seem to be addressing a distinct group in Eph 1:15-16. It is arguable that the letter was intended as a circular letter, destined for more than one church in Asia, including Ephesus, Laodicea and Hierapolis. It is possible that a scribe made multiple copies of the letter and wrote in each destination after the phrase "to the holy ones, those..." 

3. When was the Letter to the Ephesians written?

3.1. What do Eph 3:1; 4:1; 6:20 indicate about Paul's circumstances when he wrote the Letter to the Ephesians?

These passages indicate that Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter.

3.2. From what you know about Pauline chronology, when could Paul have written the Letter to the Ephesians? (It must be remembered that Paul was in prison in Caesarea for two years sometime during the period of 54-60, and his first Roman imprisonment, lasting at least two years, occurred sometime during the period of 56-62.) 

As with the Letter to the Colossians, Paul may have written the Letter to the Ephesians as early as 54 or as late as 62.

3.3. It is probable that Paul wrote the Letter to the Ephesians at the same time that he wrote the Letter to the Colossians. First, both are to be delivered by Tychicus (Col 4:7-8; Eph 6:21-22). Unless Tychicus went to the Roman province of Asia twice as a letter carrier, it is probable that he carried the two letters at the same time. Second, the note concerning Tychicus is identical, word for word, in both letters: "whom I sent to you for this purpose in order that you know matters concerning me and that he might encourage your heart." This fact suggests that Paul wrote both letters at once and copied this sentence from one letter into the other. If he wrote it at the same time that he wrote the Letter to the Colossians, when did Paul write the Letter to the Ephesians?

He wrote the Letter to the Ephesians c. 56-60.

4. Where was the Letter to the Ephesians written?

If he wrote it at the same time that he wrote the Letter to the Colossians, where was Paul when he wrote the Letter to the Ephesians?

Paul was in prison in Rome when he wrote the Letter to the Ephesians.

5. What is the Letter to the Ephesians?

5.1. Outline of the Letter to the Ephesians

A. 1:1-23 This section represents the introduction to the letter.

1. 1:1-2 This is the salutation of the letter.

2. 1:3-23

Paul gives thanks in general and in particular.

a. 1:3-14

Paul gives thanks in general to God for how God has chosen believers, predestined them to be blameless in His sight and to be adopted as sons. Paul says that redemption, the forgiveness of sins, comes by Christ's death. The mystery of God, the summing up of all things in Christ, is now made known. The believer is sealed by the Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing the inheritance.

b. 1:15-23

Paul gives thank in particular for the Ephesians for their faith and love, and he prays that they may understand fully their hope. He describes Christ as having been exalted to the right hand of God over all things.

B. 2:1-6:17 This represents the main body of the letter.

1. 2:1-3:21

In this section, Paul teaches about the nature of salvation and the church.

a. 2:1-10

Paul explains that his readers were once dead in sin, subject to the world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, but now have been made alive by grace through faith, seated with Christ in the heavenlies.

b. 2:11-22

Paul teaches that his readers, formerly gentiles without hope, have now been brought near to God through Christ's death. Paul says that Christ is their peace, because Christ has destroyed in his flesh the law with its commandments. Christ has created a new people out of Jewish and gentile believers. Paul compares this new people to a holy Temple in which God lives by His Spirit.

c. 3:1-12

Paul explains the nature of his commission to be an apostle to the Gentiles. Paul's commission is to preach the mystery of Christ, formerly concealed but now made known. This mystery is that gentiles would become heirs together with Israel, sharing in the promise. Through the church, the wisdom of God is revealed to rulers and authorities in the heavenlies.

d. 3:13-21

Paul offers a prayer for his readers that God may strengthen them, in order that Christ may dwell in their hearts by faith, that they may be rooted and established in love and be able to know the extent of the love of Christ. He concludes with a benediction.

2. 4:1-6:17

In this section, Paul offers practical instruction to his readers.

a. 4:1-6

Paul exhorts his readers in various ways. He also says that there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and father of all.

b. 4:7-13

Paul describes how God has given spiritual gifts to the church, thereby creating certain spiritual functions: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. The purpose of these functions is to prepare believers for works of service, in order that the body of Christ may be built up.

c. 4:14-16

Paul exhorts his readers no longer to be like children, unable to detect false teaching. The goal is to grow up into Christ.  Paul describes Christ as causing the church, the body of Christ, to grow in building itself up in love.

d. 4:17-5:21

Paul gives another series of exhortations to his readers, many of which warn his readers against certain sins.

e. 5:22-6:9

Paul gives regulations for households. He sees a divinely established hierarchy in relationships, requiring the submission of wives to husbands, children to parents and slaves to masters.

f. 6:10-17

Paul instructs his readers about spiritual warfare against spiritual powers. The believer's weapons include truth, righteousness, the proclamation of the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the word of God. He concludes with more exhortations to his readers and a request for prayer that he would be without fear in his preaching.

C. 6:18-24

This represents the conclusion of the letter. Paul explains that he is sending Tychicus to give more information about Paul and his colleagues, and gives a benediction.

5.2. The Letter to the Ephesians is literarily very close to the Letter to the Colossians, more so than any other two of Paul's letters. This fact requires an explanation.

5.2.1. About one third of the vocabulary of the Letter to the Colossians appears in the Letter to the Ephesians, so that, not surprisingly, there are many verbal coincidences between them. There are ten words that only the two share: suzôopoieô (to make alive together) (Eph 2:5; Col 2:13); sunegeirô (to raise together) (Eph 2:6; Col 2:12; 3:1); apallotrioomai (to be alienated) (Eph 2:12; 4:18; Col 1:21); apokatallassô (to reconcile) (Eph 2:16; Col 1:20, 22); rizoomai (to be rooted) (Eph 3:17; Col 2:7); aphê (ligament) (Eph 4:16; Col 2:19); auxêsis (growth) (Eph 4:16; Col 2:19); humnos (hymn) (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16); ophalmodoulia (eye-service) (Eph 6:6; Col 3:22); anthrôpareskos (pleaser of men) (Eph 6:6; Col 3:22). There are also thirteen words that the two have in common that appear elsewhere in the New Testament but not in other Pauline letters (including 2 Thessalonians and the Pastorals): katenôpion (before) (Eph 1:4; Col 1:22); aphesis (forgiveness) (Eph 1:7; Col 1:14); kratos (strength) (Eph 1:19; 6:10; Col 1:11); kuriotês (dominion) (Eph 1:21; Col 1:16); dianoia (mind or understanding) (Eph 2:3; 4:18; Col 1:21); dogma (regulation) (Eph 2:15; Col 2:14); auxanô (used intransitively) (to grow) (Eph 2:21; 4:15; Col 1:, 10; 2:19); aiteomai (to ask) (Eph 3:13, 20; Col 1:9); katoikeô (to dwell) (Eph 3:17; Col 1:19; 2:9); themelioô (to be established) (Eph 3:17; Col 1:23); sundesmos (sinew) (Eph 4:3; Col 2:19; 3:14); ôdê (song) (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16); adô (to sing) (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16). This amount of agreement in vocabulary is greater than average among the Pauline letters.

5.2.2. The Letter to the Ephesians has numerous close literary parallels with the Letter to the Colossians.

Eph 1:1-2 = Col 1:1-2 Eph 1:4-5 = Col 1:22 Eph 1:6-7 = Col 1:13-14, 20 Eph 1:8 = Col 3:16-17
Eph 1:9 = Col 1:27 Eph 1:10 = Col 1:16, 20 Eph 1:15-17 = Col 1:3-4, 9-10 Eph 1:18 = Col 1:27
Eph 1:20 = Col 2:12; 3:1 Eph 1:21 = Col 1:16 Eph 1:22-23 = Col 1:18-19, 24 Eph 2:1 = Col 2:13
Eph 2:2 = Col 3:7 Eph 2:3 = Col 1:21; 3:6 Eph 2:5 = Col 2:13 Eph 2:6 = Col 3:1
Eph 2:10 = Col 1:10 Eph 2:11 = Col 2:11 Eph 2:12-13 = Col 1:21 Eph 2:15 = Col 2:14, 20; 3:10
Eph 2:16 = Col 1:20-22 Eph 2:19-21 = Col 2:7, 12, 19 Eph 2:22 = Col 2:7 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 3:8-9 = Col 1:25-27
Eph 3:10 = Col 1:16 Eph 3:13 = Col 1:24 Eph 3:15 = Col 1:16, 20 Eph 3:16 = Col 1:27
Eph 3:17 = Col 1:23; 2:7 Eph 3:19 = Col 2:9-10 Eph 4:1 = Col 1:10 Eph 4:2 = Col 3:12-13
Eph 4:3-4 = Col 3:14-15 Eph 4:13 = Col 1:28; 2:2 Eph 4:14= Col 2:22 Eph 4:15-16 = Col 1:18, 29; 2:2, 19
Eph 4:17 = Col 2:4 Eph 4:18 = Col 1:21 Eph 4:19 = Col 3:5 Eph 4:20 = Col 2:6
Eph 4:21 = Col 2:7 Eph 4:22-24 = 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 3:12-13 Eph 5:1 = Col 3:12-13 Eph 5:3 = Col 3:5, 8
Eph 5:5 = Col 3:5 Eph 5:6 = Col 3:4-6, 8 Eph 5:11 = Col 3:20 Eph 5:12 = Col 3:8
Eph 5:15 = Col 4:5 Eph 5:19-20 = Col 3:16-17 Eph 5:21 = Col 3:18 Eph 5:22-23 = Col 3:18-19
Eph 5:25 = Col 3:19 Eph 5:27 = Col 1:22, 28 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
Eph 6:24 = Col 4:18

In one case, the two letters have an identical sentence consisting of twenty-nine words (Eph 6:21-22 = Col 4:7-8). The numerous other instances of literary parallels consist of common words and phrases in the same sequence when dealing with a similar topic; the agreement varies, but is no more than consecutive seven words (Eph 3:2 = Col 1:25; Eph 3:9 = Col 1:26 have seven consecutive words in common in Greek). Some of the closest such literary parallels include Eph 1:4 = Col 1:22; Eph 1:6-7 = Col 1:13-14; Eph 2:5 = Col 2:13; Eph 3:2 = Col 1:25; Eph 4:2 = Col 3:12-13; Eph 4:15-16 = Col 2:2, 19; Eph 4:22-24 = Col 3:8-10; Eph 4:32 = Col 3:12-13; Eph 5:19-20 = Col 3:16-17.

Eph 1:4: Just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world that we be holy and blameless before him. Col 1:22: But now he has reconciled [you] in the body of his flesh to present you holy, blameless and without fault before him.
Eph 1:6-7: to the praise of [the] glory of his grace which he has grace to us in the beloved, in whom we have the redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of trespasses according to the riches of his grace. Col 1:13-14: Who rescued us from the power darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the son of his love, in whom we have the redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Eph 2:5: And we being dead with respect to transgressions he made us alive [with] Christ—you are saved by grace. Col 2:13: And you being dead with respect to transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive with him, forgiving all our transgressions.
Eph 3:2: If, indeed, you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God given to me for you. Col 1:25: Of which I have become a servant according to the dispensation of God given to me for you.
Eph 4:2: With all lowliness of mind and humility with patience forbearing one another in love. Col 3:12-13: Therefore put on as the elect of God, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, humility, patience, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another.
Eph 4:15-16: And speaking the truth in love we will grow up into him in all things, who is the head, Christ, from whom all the body joined and held together through every ligament of support, according to the proportionate working of each several part, carries on the growth of the body for the building of itself up in love.  Col 2:2, 19: 2 In order that their hearts may be encouraged, being held together in love, for the purpose that they might have all all the riches of the fullness of understanding, to know the mystery of God, Christ. 19 And not holding fast to the head, from whom all the body through the ligaments and sinews supported and held together grows the growth of God.
Eph 4:22-24: To put off the old man according to the former way of life, that which is corrupted according to the desires of deceit, to be renewed with respect to the spirit of your mind. And put on the new man, that according to God, created in righteousness holiness of truth. Col 3:8-10: But now you are to put off anger, rage, malice, blasphemy, obscenity from your mouth; do not lie to one another, putting off the old man with his works, and putting on the new [man], the one renewed in the knowledge according to the image of the one who created it.
Eph 4:32: Become kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another just as God in Christ forgave you. Col 3:12-13: Therefore put on as the elect of God, holy and beloved, compassion kindness, lowliness of mind, humility, patience, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another.
Eph 5:19-20: Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and psalming [in] your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God and the Father. Col 3:16-17: The word of Christ dwells in you richly in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, spiritual songs in grace singing in your hearts to God, and everything that you do, in word and deed, do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

5.2.3. As evident in the first table in 5.2.2., in some cases, Ephesians has parallels to Colossians that are found in more than one passage in the latter, whereas at other times, Colossians has parallels to Ephesians in more than one passage in the latter. An example of each will suffice.

Eph 1:15-17

Because of this
, having heard of that faith of yours in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the holy ones, I do not cease to give thanks on behalf of you, remembering [you] in my prayers.

Col 1:3-4, 9

3-4 We give thanks to God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the holy ones.

9 Because of this we also, from the day that we heard, have not ceased praying on behalf of you and asking that you would be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.

Col 3:12-13: Therefore put on as the elect of God, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, humility, patience, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another.

Eph 4:2: With all lowliness of mind and humility with patience forbearing one another in love.

Eph 4:32: Become kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another just as God in Christ forgave you.

Eph 5:1: Therefore become imitators of God as beloved children

5.2.4.  From what you have concluded about the authorship and the date of the composition of the Letter to the Ephesians, how do you account for these parallels between it and Colossians?

Since Paul wrote the letters to the Ephesians and to the Colossians about the same time, it is not surprising that there would be these literary parallels between the two letters. It is reasonable to suppose that Paul that both sets of readers needed to hear the same things, which explains why the same themes occur in both letters expressed by the same or similar vocabulary. If an amanuensis was involved in the writing of one of the two letters, the same amanuensis was involved in the writing of the other letter. The shared sentence concerning Tychicus is the result of the copying from the first letter written.

6. Why was the Letter to the Ephesians written?

From what has been concluded so far about it, what was Paul's purpose in writing the Letter to the Ephesians?  (Keep in mind the question of the intended readers.)

If Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, it is difficult to determine any specific reasons for Paul’s writing of it beyond providing general teaching and admonition. Paul’s request for prayer is the only specific purpose identifiable (Eph 6:19-20).  If we assume that Ephesians was a circular letter, then its purpose was to build up Paul’s churches in the Roman province of Asia by means of general teaching and admonition. Paul had ample opportunity for reflection and letter writing while under house arrest.



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