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Bible Commentaries

Alford's Greek Testament Critical Exegetical CommentaryAlford's Greek Testament Commentary

- Ephesians

by Henry Alford





1. THE ancient testimonies to the Apostle Paul having been the author of this Epistle, are the following:

( α ) Irenæus adv. Hær. v. 2. 36, p. 294:

καθὼς ὁ μακάριος Παῦλός φησιν ἐν τῇ πρὸς Ἐφεσίους ἐπιστολῇ ὅτι μέλη ἐσμὲν τοῦ σώματος , ἐκ τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ , καὶ ἐκ τῶν ὀστέων αὐτοῦ ( Eph 5:30 ). Again i. 8. 5, p. 42, τοῦτο δὲ καὶ ὁ Παῦλος λέγει · πᾶν γὰρ τὸ φανερούμενον , φῶς ἐστίν ( Eph 5:13 ).

( β ) Clem. Alex. Strom. iv. § 65, p. 592 P.:

διὸ καὶ ἐν τῇ πρὸς Ἐφεσίους γράφει (cf. supra, § 61, φησὶν ὁ ἀπόστολος , where 1 Corinthians 11:3 , &c. is quoted, § 62, ἐπιφέρει γοῦν , citing Galatians 5:16 ff.: and infra, § 66, κἀν τῇ πρὸς Κολοσσαεῖς … from which it is evident that the subject of γράφει is ‘St. Paul’) ὑποτασσόμενοι ἀλλήλοις ἐν φόβῳ θεοῦ κ . τ . λ . Ephesians 5:21-25 .

( γ ) ib. Pæd. i. § 18, p. 108 P.:

ὁ ἀπόστολος ἐπιστέλλων πρὸς Κορινθίους φησίν , 2 Corinthians 11:2 .… σαφέστατα δὲ Ἐφεσίοις γράφων ἀπεκάλυψε τὸ ζητούμενον ὧδέ πως λέγων· μέχρι καταντήσωμεν οἱ πάντες κ.τ.λ. Ephesians 4:13-15 .

2. Further we have testimonies to the Epistle being received as canonical Scripture, and therefore, by implication, of its being regarded as written by him whose name it bears: as e.g.:

( δ ) Polycarp, ad Philippenses, c. xii., p. 1013 ff.:

“Ut his scripturis dictum est, ‘Irascimini et nolite peccare,’ et ‘Sol non occidat super iracundiam vestram.’ ” Eph 4:26 [4] .

[4] Meyer, Einl. p. 24, prefers to consider both these citations as made from the O. T. Psalms 4:4 , and Deuteronomy 24:15 (?), on the ground of the title ‘Scripture’ never occurring of the N. T. in the apostolic fathers.

( ε ) Tertullian adv. Marcion. Deuteronomy 24:17 , p. 512 (see below, § ii. 17 c).

( ζ ) Irenæus several times mentions passages of this Epistle as perverted by the Valentinians: e.g. ch. Ephesians 1:10 (Iren. i. 3.4, p. 16): Ephesians 3:21 (Iren. i. 3. 1, p. 14): Ephesians 5:32 (Iren. i. 8. 4, p. 40): and in many other places (see the Index in Stieren’s edn.) cites the Epistle directly.

3. I have not hitherto adduced the testimony ordinarily cited from Ignatius, Eph. 12, p. 656, on account of the doubt which hangs over the interpretation of the words [5] :

[5] The chapter itself is wanting in the ancient Syriac version published by Mr. Cureton. But this will hardly be adduced as affecting its genuineness. Hefele’s view, “pius ille monachus, qui versionem Syriacam elaboravit, omnia omisisse videtur quæ ipsi et usui suo ascetico minus congrua minusve necessaria putabat,” seems to be the true one.

πάροδός ἐστε τῶν εἰς θεὸν ἀναιρουμένων , Παύλου συμμύσται τοῦ ἡγιασμένου , τοῦ μεμαρτυρημένου , ἀξιομακαρίστου , οὗ γένοιτό μοι ὑπὸ τὰ ἴχνη εὑρεθῆναι ὅταν θεοῦ ἐπιτύχω , ὃς ἐν πάσῃ ἐπιστολῇ μνημονεύει ὑμῶν ἐν χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ .

I conceive however that there can be little doubt that these expressions are to be interpreted of the Epistle to the Ephesians. First, the expression συμμύσται seems to point to Ephesians 1:9 , as compared with the rest of the chapter, to ch. Ephesians 3:3-6 ; Ephesians 3:9 . And it would be the very perversity of philological strictness, to maintain, in the face of later and more anarthrous Greek usage, that ἐν πάσῃ ἐπιστολῇ must mean, ‘in every Epistle,’ and not ‘in all his Epistle.’ Assuming this latter meaning (see note on Eph 2:21 ), the expression finds ample justification in the very express and affectionate dwelling on the Christian state and privileges of those to whom he is writing making mention of them throughout all his Epistle [6] .

[6] Pearson’s remarks on this point are worth transcribing: “Hæc a martyre non otiose aut frigide, sed vere, imo signanter et vigilanter dicta sunt. Tota enim Epistola ad Ephesios scripta, ipsos Ephesios, corumque honorem et curam maxime spectat, et summe honorificam corum memoriam ad posteros transmittit. In aliis epistolis apostolus eos ad quos scribit sæpe acriter objurgat aut parce laudat. Hic omnibus modis perpetuo se Ephesiis applicat, illosque tanquam egregios Christianos tractat, evangelio salutis firmiter credentes, et Spiritu promissionis obsignatos, concives sanctorum, et domesticos Dei. Pro iis sæpe ardenter orat, ipsos hortatur, obtestatur, laudat, utrumque sexum sedulo instruit, suum erga cos singularem affectum ubique prodit.” Vindieiæ Ignatianæ, pt. 2 Chronicles 10:0 , end.

4. In the longer recension of this Epistle of Ignatius, the testimony is more direct: in ch. 6., p. 737, we read,

ὡς Παῦλος ὑμῖν ἔγραφεν · ἓν σῶμα καὶ ἓν πνεῦμα κ . τ . λ . (Ephesians 4:4-6 .)

And in ch. 9., p. 741,

δι ʼ οὓς ἀγαλλιώμενος ἠξιώθην δι ʼ ὧν γράφω προσομιλῆσαι τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν Ἐφέσῳ , τοῖς πιστοῖς ἐν χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ

5. As we advance to the following centuries, the reception of the authorship of St. Paul is universal [7] . In fact, we may safely say that this authorship was never called in question till very recent times.

[7] See Orig. contra Celsum, iii. 20, vol. i. p. 458; Tert. de Præscr. Hær. c. 36, vol. ii. p. 49; De Monog. c. 5, ib. p. 935; Cypr. Testim. iii. 7, p. 737; Ep. lxxv.

6. Among those critics who have repudiated our Epistle as not written by the Apostle, the principal have been De Wette and Baur. The ground on which they build their reasoning is, for the most part, the same. De Wette holds the Epistle to be a verbose expansion of that to the Colossians. He describes it as entirely dependent on that Epistle, and as such, unworthy of a writer who always wrote in freshness and fulness of spirit, as did St. Paul. He believes he finds in it every where expressions and doctrines foreign to his diction and teaching. This being so, he classes it with the Pastoral Epistles and the first Epistle of Peter, and ascribes it to some scholar of the Apostles, writing in their name. He is not prepared to go so far as Baur, who finds in it the ideas and diction of Gnostic and Montanistic times. On this latter notion, I will treat below: I now proceed to deal with De Wette’s objections.

7. First of all, I would take a general view of their character, and say, that, on such a general view, they, as a whole, make for , rather than against, the genuineness of the Epistle. According to De Wette, a gifted scholar of the Apostles, in the apostolic age itself, writes an Epistle in imitation, and under the name, of St. Paul. Were the imitation close, and the imitator detected only by some minute features of inadvertent inconsistency, such a phænomenon might be understood, as that the Epistle found universal acceptance as the work of the Apostle: but according to our objector, the discrepancies are wide, the inconsistencies every where abundant. He is found, in his commentary, detecting and exposing them at every turn. Such reasoning may prove a passage objectively (as in the case of Mark 16:9-20 , or Joh 7:53 to Joh 8:11 ) to be out of place among the writings of a particular author, all subjective considerations apart: but it is wholly inapplicable when used to account for the success of a forger among his contemporaries, and indeed acts the other way.

8. Let us view the matter in this light. Here is an Epistle bearing the name of St. Paul. Obviously then, it is no mere accidental insertion among his writings of an Epistle written by some other man, and on purely objective grounds requiring us to ascribe it to that other unknown author; but it is either a genuine production of the Apostle, or a forgery . Subjective grounds cannot be kept out of the question: it is a successful forgery: one which imposed on the post-apostolic age, and has continued to impose on the Church in every age. We have then a right to expect in it the phænomena of successful forgery : close imitation, skilful avoidance of aught which might seem unlike him whose name it bears; construction, if you will, out of acknowledged pauline materials, but so as to shun every thing unpauline.

9. Now, as has been seen above, the whole of De Wette’s reasoning goes upon the exact opposite of all these phænomena. The Epistle is unpauline: strange and surprising in diction, and ideas. Granting this, it might be a cogent reason for believing an anonymous writing not to be St. Paul’s: but it is no reason why a forgery bearing his name should have been successful, on the contrary, is a very sufficient reason why it should have been immediately detected, and universally unsuccessful. Let every one of De Wette’s positions be granted, and carried to its utmost; and the more in number and the stronger they are, the more reason there will be to infer, that the only account to be given of a writing, so unlike St. Paul’s, obtaining universal contemporary acceptance as his, is, that it was his own genuine composition. Then we should have remaining the problem, to account for the Apostle having so far departed from himself: a problem for the solution of which much acquaintance with himself and the circumstances under which he wrote would be required, and, let me add, a treatment very far deeper and more thorough than De Wette has given to any part of this Epistle.

10. But I am by no means disposed to grant any of De Wette’s positions as they stand, nor to recognize the problem as I have put it in the above hypothetical form. The relation between our Epistle and that to the Colossians, I have endeavoured to elucidate below (§ vi. and Prolegg. to the Col., § iv.). The reasonings and connexions which he pronounces unworthy of the Apostle, I hold him, in almost every case, not to have appreciated: and where he has appreciated them, to have hastily condemned. Here, as in the instance of 1 Tim., his unfortunate pre-judgment of the spuriousness of the Epistle has tinged his view of every portion of it: and his commentary, generally so thorough and able, so fearless and fair, is worth hardly more than those of very inferior men, not reaching below the surface, and unable to recognize the most obvious tendencies and connexions.

11. The reader will find De Wette’s arguments met in detail by Rückert (Comm. p. 289 ff.), Hemsen (der Apostel Paulus, pp. 629 38); and touched upon by Harless (Comm. Einleit. p. lxvi ff.), Neander (in a note to his Pfl. u. Leit. edn. 4, p. 521 ff.), and Meyer (Einl. p. 20 ff.). Davidson also treats of them in full (Introd. to N. T. vol. ii. pp. 352 60), and Eadie very slightly (Introd. p. xxx f.) [8] .

[8] See also “Ad Ephesios revera dabatur Epistola illa canonica, Paulo non Pseudopaulo auctore:” a Prælectio which I read at Cambridge in 1849; the chronological view of which I have seen reason to modify, but not its argument respecting this Epistle.

12. Baur’s argument will be found in his ‘Paulus, der Apostel Jesu Christi, &c.’ pp. 417 57. It consists, as far as it is peculiar to him, mainly in an attempt to trace in our Epistle, and that to the Colossians (for he holds both to be spurious), expressions and sentiments known to be those of Gnosticism and Montanism: and in some few instances to shew that it is not probable that these heresies took their terms from the Epistles, but rather the Epistles from them. This latter part, on which indeed the conclusiveness of the whole depends, is very slightly, and to me most inconclusively done. And nothing is said in Baur of the real account of the occurrence of such terms in the Epistle, and subsequently in the vocabulary of these heretics: viz. that the sacred writer laid hold of them and employed them, so to speak, high up the stream of their usage, before they became polluted by heretical additions and misconceptions, the heretics, lower down the same stream, when now the waters were turbid and noxious: his use of them having tended to impress them on men’s minds, so that they were ready for the purpose of the heretics when they wanted them. That those heretics used many other terms not known to these Epistles, is no proof that their account was the original one, and this of our Epistles borrowed from it, but simply proves nothing. Some of these terms were suited to the Apostle’s purpose in teaching or warning: these he was led to adopt: others were not so suitable, those he left alone. Or it may be that between his writing and their development, the vocabulary had received additions, which consequently were never brought under his notice. Eadie refers, for an answer to Baur, to Lechler, das apostolische u. nachapostolische Zeitalter, u. s. w. Haarlem, 1852, a work which I have not seen.

13. Taking then the failure of the above objections into account, and strengthening it by anticipation with other considerations which will come before the reader as we advance, we see no reason whatever against following the universal view of the Church, and pronouncing St. Paul to be, as he is stated to be (ch. Eph 1:1 ), the author of our Epistle.



1. In treating of this part of our subject, that city and church seem first to deserve notice, to which the Epistle, according to our present text, is addressed. We will first assume, that it was an Epistle to the EPHESIANS.

2. EPHESUS, in Lydia, was situated in an alluvial plain (Herod. ii. 10) on the south side of and near the mouth of the Caÿstrus. “The city stood on the S. of a plain about five miles long from E. to W., and three miles broad, the N. boundary being Mount Gallesius, the E. Mount Pactyas, the S. Mount Coressus, and on the W. it was washed by the sea. The sides of the mountains were very precipitous, and shut up the plain like a stadium, or race-course.” Lewin, i. p. 344. See his plan, p. 362: and the view of the site of Ephesus in C. and H. vol. ii. p. 83, edn. 2. For its ancient history, see Lewin, and C. and H. ib., and the art. ‘Ephesus,’ in Smith’s Dict. of Geography. It was a place of great commerce (Strabo xiv. 641), but was principally noted for its beautiful temple of Artemis (Herod. i. 26; ii. 148. Strabo. l. c. Plin. v. 37. Pausan. vii. 2. 4; iv. 31. 6, &c.), which was at the head of its harbour Panormus, and was from very ancient times the centre of the worship of that goddess. This temple was burnt down by Herostratus, in the night of the birth of Alexander the Great (B.C. 355; see Plut. Alex. c. 3; Cicero de Nat. Deor. ii. 27), but rebuilt at immense cost (Strabo, l. c.), and was one of the wonders of the ancient world. On the worship of Artemis there, &c., see Acts 19:24 ff. and notes, and Winer Realw. ‘Ephesus.’ The present state of the site of the city, the stadium, theatre, supposed basement of the temple, &c., are described in Smith’s Dict. of Geogr., his Bible Dict., and in C. and H., as above.

3. St. Paul’s first visit to Ephesus is related Acts 18:19-21 . It was very short, as he was hastening to reach Jerusalem by the next Pentecost. The work begun by him in disputations with the Jews, was carried on by Apollos (ib. Act 18:24-26 ), and by Aquila and Priscilla (ib. Act 18:26 ). After visiting Jerusalem, and making a journey in the Eastern parts of Asia Minor, he returned thither (ib. Act 19:1 ) and remained there τριετίαν (ib. Acts 19:19 ; Act 20:31 ): during which period the founding of the Ephesian church must be dated. From what is implied in Acts 19:20 ., that church was considerable in numbers: and it had enjoyed a more than usual portion of the Apostle’s own personal nursing and teaching. It will be important to bear this in mind when we come to consider the question of this section.

4. On his last recorded journey to Jerusalem he sailed by Ephesus, and summoned the elders of the Ephesian church to meet him at Miletus, where he took what he believed to be his last farewell of them, in that most characteristic and wonderful speech, Acts 20:18-35 .

5. At some subsequent time (see Prolegg. to the Pastoral Epistles), he left Timotheus behind in Ephesus, at which place the first Epistle was addressed to him ( 1Ti 1:3 ), and perhaps (?) the second. The state of the Ephesian church at the time of these Epistles being written, will be found discussed in the Prolegomena to them.

6. Ecclesiastical tradition has connected the Apostle John with Ephesus: see Vol. I. Prolegg. ch. v. § i. 9 ff.: and his long residence and death there may with safety be assumed.

7. To this church our Epistle is addressed, according to our present text. And there is nothing in its contents inconsistent with such an address. We find in it clear indications that its readers were mixed Jews and Gentiles [9] , that they were in an especial manner united to the Apostle in spiritual privilege and heavenly hope [10] : that they resided in the midst of an unusually corrupt and profligate people [11] .

[9] ch. Ephesians 2:14 ff. Compare Acts 19:10 .

[10] ch. Ephesians 1:3 ff. and passim.

[11] ch. Ephesians 4:17 ff.; Ephesians 5:1-13 .

8. Nor are minor indications wanting, which possess interest as connecting our Epistle with the narrative in the Acts. He had preached to them to τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς χάριτος τοῦ θεοῦ , Acts 20:24 ; and he commits them τῷ λόγῳ τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ , Acts 20:32 . In this Epistle alone, not in the contemporary and in some respects similar one to the Colossians, do we find such expressions as δόξης τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ , Ephesians 1:6 , τὰ πλοῦτος τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ , ib. Ephesians 1:7 , and Ephesians 2:7 , and an unusual recurrence of χάρις in all its forms and energies. If he preached among them ‘the good tidings of the grace of God,’ this may well be called ‘the Epistle of the grace of God.’ In no other of his writings, not even in the Epistle to the Romans, is grace so magnified and glorified. Again in Acts 20:22 f. we read δεδεμένος ἐγὼ τῷ πνεύματι πορεύομαι εἰς Ἱερουσαλήμ , τὰ ἐν αὐτῇ συναντήσοντά μοι μὴ εἰδώς , πλὴν ὅτι τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον κατὰ πόλιν διαμαρτύρεταί μοι λέγων ὅτι δεσμὰ καὶ θλίψεις με μένουσιν . And accordingly, here only in his Epistles addressed to churches [12] , and not in that to the Colossians, do we find him calling himself ὁ δέσμιος (ch. Ephesians 3:1 ; Eph 4:1 ).

[12] The other cases are in those addressed to individuals; 2 Timothy 1:8 . Philemon 1:1 ; Philemon 1:9 ;.

He had not shrunk from declaring to them πᾶσαν τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θεοῦ ( Act 20:27 ): and accordingly, in this Epistle alone is βουλή used by St. Paul of the divine purpose, κατὰ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ , ch. Ephesians 1:11 .

In Act 20:28 it is said of God and the church, ἣν περιεποιήσατο διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου : and in Ephesians 1:14 , we have the singular expression εἰς ἀπολύτρωσιν τῆς περιποιήσεως , i.e. of that which He περιεποιήσατο (see note there).

In Acts 20:32 , he commits them to God and the word of His grace, τῷ δυναμένῳ οἰκοδομῆσαι καὶ δοῦναι τὴν κληρονομίαν ἐν τοῖς ἡγιασμένοις πᾶσιν . Not to lay any stress on the frequent recurrence of the image of οἰκοδομή , as being common in other Epistles, the concluding words can hardly fail to recall Ephesians 1:18 , τίς ὁ πλοῦτος τῆς δόξης τῆς κληρονομίας αὐτοῦ ἐν τοῖς ἁγίοις , Ephesians 1:14 , ὅ ἐστιν ἀῤῥαβὼν τῆς κληρονομίας ἡμῶν , and Ephesians 5:5 , οὐκ ἔχει κληρονομίαν ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ (see Act 19:8 ) τοῦ χριστοῦ καὶ θεοῦ .

9. I would not lay the stress which some have laid on the prevalence of the figure of ‘the spiritual building’ in this Epistle, as having any connexion with the famous temple of Diana. We should, I think, be suspicious of such supposed local and temporal references (see on 1Co 5:7 ), unless the context (as e.g. in 1Co 9:24-25 ) plainly points them out.

10. But various objections have been brought against the view that this Epistle was really addressed to the Ephesians. I will take these as recently summed up by Conybeare and Howson, Life and Epistles of St. Paul, vol. ii. pp. 486 ff.

11. “ First, it would be inexplicable that St. Paul, when he wrote to the Ephesians, amongst whom he had spent so long a time, and to whom he was bound by ties of such close affection (Acts 20:17 , &c.), should not have a single message of personal greeting to send. Yet none such are found in this Epistle .” It may be well, in dealing with this, to examine our Apostle’s practice in sending these greetings. They are found in greatest abundance in the Epistle to the Romans, written to a church which, as a church, he had never seen, but which, owing to its situation in the great metropolis, contained many of his own friends and fellow-labourers, and many friends also of those who were with him at Corinth. In 1 Cor., written to a church which he had founded, and among whom he had long resided ( Act 18:11 ), there is not one person saluted by name [13] ; and one salutation only sent, from Aquila and Priscilla. In 2 Cor., not one personal salutation of either kind. In Gal., not one: a circumstance commonly accounted for by the subject and tone of the Epistle: and if there, why not here also? In Phil., not one: though an approach may be said to be made to a personal greeting in μάλιστα οἱ ἐκ τῆς καίσαρος οἰκίας . In Col., the Epistle sent at the same time as this, and by the same messengers, several of both kinds. In 1 Thess. and 2 Thess., none of either kind. In 1 Tim., sent to Ephesus (see Prolegg. to Pastoral Epistles), none: in 2 Tim., several of both kinds: in Philemon, salutations from brethren, but not to any.

[13] It is plain that the salutations sent from persons who were with the Apostle , would depend on his circumstances at the time, and on the connexion between those with him and the church to which he was writing. When he wrote from Corinth to Rome they were abundant.

The result at which we thus arrive, without establishing any fixed law as to the Apostle’s practice, shews us how little weight such an objection as this can have. The Philippians were his dearly beloved, his joy and his crown: yet not one of them is saluted. The Galatians were his little children, of whom he was in labour till Christ should be formed in them: yet not one is saluted. The Thessalonians were imitators of him and of the Lord, patterns to all that believed in Macedonia and Achaia: yet not one of them is selected for salutation. The general salutations found in several of these cases, the total omission of all salutation in others, seem to follow no rule but the fervour of his own mind, and the free play of his feeling as he writes. The more general and solemn the subject, the less he seems to give of these individual notices: the better he knows those to whom he is writing, as a whole, the less he seems disposed to select particular persons for his affectionate remembrance. May we not then conceive it to be natural, that in writing to a church with which he had been so long and intimately acquainted, in writing too on so grand and solemn a subject as the constitution and prospects of Christ’s universal church, he should pass over all personal notices, referring them as he does to Tychicus, the bearer of the Epistle? I own I am unable to see any thing improbable in this: but it seems to me, as far as we can trace his practice, to be in accordance with it.

12. “ Secondly, he could not have described the Ephesians as a church whose conversion he knew only by report ” (ch. Eph 1:15 ).

The answer to this is very simple. First, he nowhere says that he know their conversion only by report, but what he docs say is, ἀκούσας τὴν καθ ʼ ὑμᾶς πὶστιν ἐν τῷ κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ , καὶ τὴν [ ἀγάπην τὴν ] εἰς πάντας τοὺς ἁγίους : an expression having no reference whatever to their conversion, but pointing to the report which he had received of their abounding in Christian graces; and perfectly consistent with, nay, explained as it seems to me most simply on, the hypothesis of his having known their previous circumstances well. Any supposition of allusion to their conversion robs the καθ ʼ ὑμᾶς of its fine distributive force, and misses the point of the sentence. But, secondly, if there were any doubt on this point, if any were disposed to charge us with thus understanding the words merely as a help out of the difficulty, their meaning is decided for us by the Apostle himself. Philemon was his ἀγαπητός and συνεργός ( Phm 1:1 ). He was his son in the faith ( Phm 1:19 ). Yet he addresses him in almost the same words, and in the same connexion with εὐχαριστῶν κ . τ . λ . He says, ἀκούων σου τὴν ἀγάπην καὶ τὴν πίστιν ἣν ἔχεις εἰς τὸν κύριον Ἰησοῦν καὶ εἰς πάντας τοὺς ἁγίους . It is strange that after this had been pointed out, the objection should ever have been again raised.

13. “ Thirdly, he could not speak to them as only knowing himself ( the founder of their church ) to be an Apostle by hearsay (ch. Eph 3:2 ), so as to need credentials to accredit him with them ” ( Eph 3:4 ).

This objection, as will be seen by the notes on Ephesians 3:2 , is founded on inattention to the force of εἴ γε [14] , and of the aorist ἠκούσατε . The meaning is not, as E. V., ‘If ye have heard,’ implying a doubt whether they ever had heard, but as given in my note in loe., ‘If, that is, ye heard,’ i.e. ‘assuming that, when I was with you, ye heard;’ and the words convey a reminiscence of that which they did hear. The credential view of Eph 3:4 falls with this mistaken rendering of Ephesians 3:2 ; not to mention that it could not for a moment stand, even were that other possible, the reference being to what was before written in ch. 1. [15]

[14] In Conybeare’s version he gives the force of εἴ γε , but, as so often, renders the aorist by a perfect, ‘for I suppose that you have heard.’

[15] This indeed is confessed in Conybeare’s note, in loc. p. 497.

14. “ Fourthly, he could not describe the Ephesians as so exclusively Gentiles (ch. Ephesians 2:11 ; Eph 4:17 ), and so recently converted ” (Ephesians 5:8 ; Ephesians 1:13 ; Eph 2:13 ).

To the former objection I reply, 1) that the Ephesian church, as other churches out of Judæa, would naturally be composed for the most part of Gentiles, and as such would be addressed in the main as Gentiles: so we have him writing to the Romans 11:13 , ὑμῖν δὲ λέγω τοῖς ἔθνεσιν . And if exception be taken to this reference, and it be understood as rather marking off the Gentile portion of those to whom he was then writing, the same exception cannot be taken to 1 Corinthians 12:2 , where, in writing to a mixed church (Acts 18:4 ; Act 18:8 ), he says, almost in the same words as in Ephesians 2:11 , οἴδατε ὅτι ὅτε ἔθνη ἦτε , κ . τ . λ .: 2) that in this Epistle, of all others, we might expect to find the distinction between Jew and Gentile pass into the background, the subject being, the constitution and glories of the universal Church: 3) that, as before remarked (under 7), indications are not wanting of the mixed composition of the Ephesian Church. Surely the ἵνα τοὺς δύο κτίοῃ ἐν αὐτῷ εἰς ἕνα καινὸν ἄνθρωπον ( Eph 2:15 ) would not have been written to a Church exclusively Gentile.

To the latter objection I answer, that in no one of the passages cited is there the slightest intimation of their having been recently converted; but, if any temporal conclusion can be drawn from them, all three testify rather to a considerable period having elapsed since that event. In ch. Eph 5:8 we have, ἦτε γὰρ ποτὲ σκότος , νῦν δὲ φῶς ἐν κυρίῳ : in Ephesians 1:13 , ἐν ᾧ καὶ πιστεύσαντες ἐσφραγίσθητε …: in Ephesians 2:13 , ὑμεῖς οἱ ποτὲ ὄντες μακρὰν ἐγενήθητε ἐγγύς .

Of the first and third of these, we may observe that the same ποτέ designates their unconverted state, by which he designates his own in Galatians 1:13 ; Gal 1:23 bis, Titus 3:3 ; yet his conversion was by many years antecedent to that of the Ephesians. Of the second and third, that the aorists serve to remove both the things spoken out of the category of recent events. Had their conversion been recent, and its presence, as an act, still abiding, we should have read perfects here and not aorists [16] .

[16] The force of the former aorist is preserved in Conybeare’s version, “you believed in him and received his seal:” but the latter is made into a perfect, “ye who were once far off have been brought near;” this not being one of those cases where νυνί makes such a rendering in English necessary. See note there.

15. Having endeavoured to give a reply to these internal objections to the Ephesian view of the Epistle, I go on to notice the external difficulties besetting the view which I have taken.

16. They may be summed up in a discussion of the various reading in ch. Ephesians 1:1 (see var readings), by which ἐν Ἐφέσῳ is omitted from the text. Basil the Great, contra Eunom. ii. 19, vol. i. p. 254 f., says: τοῖς Ἐφεσίοις ἐπιστέλλων ὡς γνησίως ἡνωμένοις τῷ ὄντι δι ʼ ἐπιγνώσεως , ὄντας αὐτοὺς ἰδιαζόντως ὠνόμασεν εἰπών · τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν καὶ πιστοῖς ἐν χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ . οὕτω γὰρ οἱ πρὸ ἡμῶν παραδεδώκασι , καὶ ἡμεῖς ἐν τοῖς παλαιοῖς τῶν ἀντιγράφων εὑρήκαμεν . From this we infer, that Basil received our Epistle as really written to the Ephesians, but read ch. Eph 1:1 without the words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ , both traditionally, and because he had seen it so read in ancient MSS. The testimony then does not touch the recognition of the Epistle as written to the Ephesians , but simply the insertion or omission of the words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ in the text: a matter with which we will deal below.

17. “ This assertion of Basil’s is confirmed by Jerome, Epiphanius, and Tertullian .” C. and H. vol. ii. p. 487.

(a) Jerome: “Quidain … putant … eos qui Ephesi sunt sancti et fideles essentiæ vocabulo nuncupatos, ut … ab eo qui EST, hi qui SUNT appellentur.… Alii vero simpliciter non ad eos qui sint (al. sunt), sed qui Ephesi sancti et fideles sint, scriptum arbitrantur.” Ad Eph. i. 1, vol. vii. p. 545.

Doubtless this may point to the various reading, and I have allowed it in the Digest as a testimony that way but it is by no means a decisive one. It may be fairly interpreted on the contrary hypothesis, as indeed Meyer takes it. “Eos qui Ephesi sunt sancti et fideles” represents τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν Ἐφέσῳ καὶ πιστοῖς . This he may be assumed to have read without dispute. Then he proceeds to say, that τοῖς οὖσιν was interpreted in two ways: either as an essentiæ vocabulum , or as belonging to ἐν Ἐφέσῳ . His whole sentence need not point to any omission of the words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ .

(b) “ Epiphanius quotes Ephesians 4:5-6 , from Marcion’s πρὸς Λαοδικέας .” C. and H. ib., note.

But to this I must demur, for Epiphanius in reality does no such thing. Having cited the words, εἷς κύριος , μία πίστις κ . τ . λ ., he proceeds, οὐ γὰρ ἔδοξε τῷ ἐλεεινοτάτῳ Μαρκίωνι ἀπὸ τῆς πρὸς Ἐφεσίους ταύτην τὴν μαρτυρίαν λέγειν , ἀλλ ʼ ἀπὸ τῆς πρὸς Λαοδικέας (i. 3. 12, vol. i. p. 375). Therefore his testimony shews merely what he knew before, that Marcion, among his recognized Epistles of St. Paul, had καὶ πρὸς Λαοδικέας λεγομένης μέρη : that this passage was one of such μέρη ; and that Epiphanius blames him for not quoting it from the Epistle to the Ephesians, where accordingly we infer that he himself read it.

(c) Tertullian. His testimony is the following, contra Marcion. Ephesians 4:11 , vol. ii. p. 500, “Prætereo hie et de alia epistola quam nos ad Ephesios præscriptam habemus, hæretici vero ad Laodicenos:” and ib. c. 17, p. 512, “Ecclesiæ quidem veritate epistolam istam ad Ephesios habemus emissam, non ad Laodicenos, sed Marcion ci titulum aliquaudo interpolare gestiit, quasi et in isto diligentissimus explorator. nihil autem de titulis interest, cum ad omnes apostolus scripserit, dum ad quosdam.”

Hence it is commonly argued, and conceded even by Meyer (Einl. p. 4), that Tertullian did not read the words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ , or he would have charged Marcion with endeavouring to falsify the text as well as to supply a new title. Certainly, it might be so: but it might also be, that he used the word titulum in a wide sense, including the title and the corresponding portion of the text. It might be again, since, as Epiphanius tells us (see above), Marcion acknowledged only fragments of an Epistle to the Laodiceans, that the beginning of our Epistle was not among them.

18. If it be thought necessary to deal with the fact of the omission of ἐν Ἐφέσῳ in [17] and other ancient MSS., we may find at least an illustration of it in the words ἐν Ῥώμῃ ( Rom 1:7 ) being omitted in G al. It seems to have been done with reference to the catholic subject of the Epistle, very possibly by churches among whom it was read, and with a view to generalize the reference of its contents [18] .

[17] The CODEX VATICANUS, No. 1209 in the Vatican Library at Rome; and proved, by the old catalogues, to have been there from the foundation of the library in the 16th century. It was apparently, from internal evidence, copied in Egypt. It is on vellum, and contains the Old and New Testaments. In the latter, it is deficient from Heb 9:14 to the end of the Epistle; it does not contain the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon; nor the Apocalypse. An edition of this celebrated codex, undertaken as long ago as 1828 by Cardinal Angelo Mai, has since his death been published at Rome. The defects of this edition are such, that it can hardly be ranked higher in usefulness than a tolerably complete collation, entirely untrustworthy in those places where it differs from former collations in representing the MS. as agreeing with the received text. An 8vo edition of the N.T. portion, newly revised by Vercellone, was published at Rome in 1859 (referred to as ‘Verc’): and of course superseded the English reprint of the 1st edition. Even in this 2nd edition there were imperfections which rendered it necessary to have recourse to the MS. itself, and to the partial collations made in former times. These are (1) that of Bartolocci (under the name of Giulio de St. Anastasia), once librarian at the Vatican, made in 1669, and preserved in manuscript in the Imperial Library (MSS. Gr. Suppl. 53) at Paris (referred to as ‘Blc’); (2) that of Birch (‘Bch’), published in various readings to the Acts and Epistles, Copenhagen, 1798, Apocalypse, 1800, Gospels, 1801; (3) that made for the great Bentley (‘Btly’), by the Abbate Mico, published in Ford’s Appendix to Woide’s edition of the Codex Alexandrinus, 1799 (it was made on the margin of a copy of Cephalæus’ Greek Testament, Argentorati, 1524, still amongst Bentley’s books in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge); (4) notes of alterations by the original scribe and other correctors. These notes were procured for Bentley by the Abbé de Stosch, and were till lately supposed to be lost. They were made by the Abbate Rulotta (‘Rl’), and are preserved amongst Bentley’s papers in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge (B. 17. 20) 1 . The Codex has been occasionally consulted for the verification of certain readings by Tregelles, Tischendorf, and others. A list of readings examined at Rome by the present editor (Feb. 1861), and by the Rev. E. C. Cure, Fellow of Merton College, Oxford (April 1862), will be found at the end of these prolegomena. A description, with an engraving from a photograph of a portion of a page, is given in Burgon’s “Letters from Rome,” London 1861. This most important MS. was probably written in the fourth century (Hug, Tischendorf, al.).

[18] See Meyer, Einl. p. 7.

19. It is necessary now to deal with two hypotheses respecting the readers to whom our Epistle was addressed; both obviously falling to the ground with the genuineness of the words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ , but requiring also separate treatment. The first of these is, that it was to the Laodiceans . So (see above) Marcion: so Grot., Hammond, Mill, Pierce, Wetst., Paley, and many more. But this idea has not even tradition to stand on. All the consensus of the ancient Church is against it. It has nothing to rest on but conjecture, arising out of the mention of an Epistle ἐκ Λαοδικείας , in Colossians 4:16 , which seems to have induced Marcion to alter the title. No single MS. fills in the gap produced by omitting ἐν Ἐφέσῳ with the words ἐν Λαοδικείᾳ . Again, if this had been really so, is it conceivable that the Laodicean church would without protest and without any remaining sign of their right to the Epistle, have allowed that right to be usurped by the Ephesians and universally acknowledged by the church as theirs? See other minor difficulties of the hypothesis alleged by Meyer, Einl. pp. 9, 10, 19, and Harless, Einl. p. xxxix. This failing, another way has been struck out, possessing much more plausibility, and gaining many more adherents [19] . It has been supposed that the Epistle was encyclical , addressed to more churches than Ephesus only. But I cannot help regarding this hypothesis as even less worthy of our acceptance than the other. It has against it, 1) and chiefly, its total discrepancy with the spirit of the Epistle, which, to whomsoever sent, is clearly addressed to one set of persons throughout, coexisting in one place, and as one body, and under the same circumstances: 2) the improbability that the Apostle, who in two of his Epistles (2 Cor., Gal.) has so plainly specified their encyclical character, should have here omitted all such specification: 3) the even greater improbability that he should have, as on this hypothesis must be assumed, written a circular Epistle to a district of which Ephesus was the commercial capital [20] , addressed to various churches within that district, yet from its very contents (as by the opponents’ hypothesis) not admitting of application to the church of that metropolis, in which he had spent so long a time, and to which he was so affectionately bound: 4) the inconsistency of this hypothesis with the address of the Epistle, and the universal consensus of the ancient church, who, however they read that address, had no doubt of its being properly entitled. Nor is this objection removed by the form of the hypothesis suggested by C. and H., that copies were sent, differently superscribed, which superscriptions, perplexing the copyists, were left out, and then, as copies of the Epistle became spread over the world, all imported from Ephesus, it was called ‘the Epistle from Ephesus,’ and so the name of Ephesus came into the text: for this would, besides being very far-fetched and improbable, not account for the consensus throughout the church, in the Asiatic portion of which, at least, traces of the accurate addresses would be preserved. 5) Another objection, running counter to 1) but not therefore inconsistent with it, is that if it had been encyclical , some notice at least would have been found of special local (or rather regional ) circumstances, as in those to the Corinthians and Galatians. The absence of such notice might easily be accounted for, if it were indeed written to the Ephesians alone: but not, if to various Asiatic churches, some of which were so far from having the Ephesians’ intimacy with the Apostle, that they had never oven seen him. There could be no reason for his addressing in common the churches of Laodicea, Hierapolis, Philadelphia, and others (I take the names from C. and H. ii. 489), except the existence of some common special dangers, and need of some common special exhortation, of neither of which do we find any hint. See various ramifications of this hypothesis dealt with and refuted in Meyer, Einl. pp. 11 13.

[19] The hypothesis was started by Usher, in his Annals, on the year 64; and is upheld by Bengel, Benson, Michaelis, Schmidt, Eichhorn, Hug, Flatt, Hemsen, Schott, Feilmoser, Schrader, Guerike, Schneckenburger, Neander, Rückert, Credner, Matthies, Harless, Olshausen, Stier, Conybeare and Howson, and many more, with various sub-hypotheses as to the central church to which it was sent and the means by which it was to be circulated.

[20] See C. and H. ii. 489.

20. I infer then, in accordance with the prevalent belief of the Church in all ages, that this Epistle was VERITABLY ADDRESSED TO THE SAINTS IN EPHESUS, and TO NO OTHER CHURCH.



1. The contents of the Epistle afford no indication of its having sprung out of any special circumstances of the Ephesian church. Tychicus and Onesimus were being sent to Colossæ. The former was charged with a weighty Epistle to the church there, arising out of peculiar dangers which beset them; the latter, with a private apostolic letter of recommendation to his former master, also a resident at Colossæ. Under these circumstances, the yearning heart of St. Paul went forth to his Ephesians. He thought of them as a church in Christ of his own planting as the mystic Body of Christ, growing onwards for an habitation of God through the Spirit. And, full of such thoughts, he wrote this Epistle to them at the same time with, or immediately subsequent to, his penning of that to the Colossians (on their relation, see below, § vi., and principally, Prolegg. to Col. § iv. 4 ff.).

2. This being so, the object of the Epistle is a general one to set forth the ground, the course, the aim and end, of the CHURCH OF THE FAITHFUL IN CHRIST. He speaks to the Ephesians as a type or sample of the Church universal. He writes to them not as an ecclesiastical father, united with others, Timotheus or the like, directing and cautioning them, but as their Apostle and prisoner in the Lord, bound for them, and set to reveal God’s mysteries to them.

3. To this intent and this spirit the contents admirably correspond. Through the whole Epistle, without one exception, we read of ἡ ἐκκλησία in the singular, never of ἐκκλησίαι in the plural. Of this Church, through the whole, he describes the origin and foundation, the work and course, the scope and end. Every where, both in its larger and smaller portions, this threefold division is found. I have endeavoured, in the notes, to point it out, as far as my space would enable me: and those who wish to see it traced yet farther, will find this done even with more minuteness than I should be disposed in every particular to subscribe, in Stier’s very elaborate and diffuse commentary. But in fact, the trichotomy respecting the Church rests upon another, and sublimer yet. Every where with him the origin and foundation of the Church is in the WILL OF THE FATHER, τοῦ τὰ πάντα ἐνεργοῦντος κατὰ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ , the work and course of the Church is by the SATISFACTION OF THE SON, by our υἱοθεσίαν διὰ Ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ , the scope and end of the Church is the LIFE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT, δυνάμει κραταιωθῆναι διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν ἔσω ἄνθρωπον .

4. The various sections will be found indicated in the notes. I will here give only a general summary of the Epistle. In ch. 1., after the introduction of the subject by an ascription of praise to the Father, who chose us to be holy to Himself in Christ by the Spirit [21] , he opens the counsel of the Father [22] , whose will it was to sum up all things in Christ [23] , and above all His Church [24] , composed of Jews and Gentiles, believers in Christ, and sealed with His Spirit. Then with a sublime prayer, that the eyes of their hearts might be enlightened to see the magnitude of the matter [25] , he brings in the PERSON OF CHRIST [26] , exalted above all for His Church’s sake, to which God hath given Him as Head over all things. Thence [27] he passes to the fact of their own vivification in and with Christ, and the fellowship of the mystery which he, the Apostle of the Gentiles, was set to proclaim to the world, viz. that spiritual life, by which, rooted and grounded in love, they might come to know the knowledge-passing love of Christ, that they might be filled up to all the fulness of God. Thus having laid forth the ground, course, and scope of the Church, he ends this first part of his Epistle with a sublime doxology [28] .

[21] Ephesians 1:3 ff.

[22] Ephesians 1:8 ff.

[23] Ephesians 1:10 .

[24] Ephesians 1:11 ff.

[25] Ephesians 1:15 ff.

[26] Ephesians 1:20 ff.

[27] ch. Ephesians 2:1 ff.

[28] Ephesians 2:20 f.

The rest from ch. Ephesians 4:1 , is principally hortatory: but here also we have the same tripartite division. For he begins by explaining [29] the constitution of the Church, in unity and charity and spiritual gifts, by Christ: then [30] he exhorts to all these graces which illustrate the Christian life, laying the foundation of each in the counsel of God towards us, and proposing to us their end, our salvation and God’s glory. And this he carries [31] into the common duties of ordinary life into wedlock, and filial and servile relations. After this, in a magnificent peroration [32] , he exhorts to the putting on of the Christian armour, by which the great end of the militant Church may be attained, to withstand in the evil day, and having accomplished all things, to stand firm. And most aptly, when this is concluded, he sums up all with the Catholic benediction and prayer of ch. Ephesians 6:23-24 .

[29] ch. Ephesians 4:1-16 .

[30] Ephesians 4:17 . Ephesians 5:21 .

[31] Eph 5:22 to Ephesians 6:9 .

[32] Ephesians 6:10-20 .



1. When St. Paul wrote our Epistle, he was a PRISONER; ch. Ephesians 3:1 ; Ephesians 4:1 ; Ephesians 6:20 . This narrows our choice of time to two occasions, supposing it to have been written before the period when the history in the Acts terminates:

A) his imprisonment at Jerusalem and Cæsarea ( Act 21:27 to Act 26:32 ), from Pentecost 58, to the autumn of 60 (see Chronological Table in Vol. II. Prolegg. pp. 23 25):

B) his imprisonment at Rome, commencing in February 61, and lasting to the end of the history in the Acts, and probably longer.

2. Further, the three Epistles, to the Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon, it can hardly be questioned, were sent at one and the same time. The two former are connected as well by their great similarity of contents, as by the fact that Tychicus was the common bearer of both: the two latter, by the common mention of Onesimus as sent to Colossæ, and the common mention of Epaphras, Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, as sending salutations. In speaking therefore of the time and place of writing this Epistle, we are dealing with those others likewise.

3. The view (A) has been taken by some distinguished scholars of modern times in Germany; Schulz (Stud. u. Krit. 1829, p. 612 f.), Schneckenburger (Beitr. p. 144 f.), Schott, Böttger, Wiggers (Stud. u. Krit. 1811, p. 436 ff.), Thiersch (die Kirche im apostol. Zeitalter, 1852, p. 176), and Meyer (Einl. p. 15 ff.).

4. The arguments by which it is supported are best and most compendiously stated by Meyer, and are as follows:

a ) Because it is more natural and probable that the slave Onesimus fled from Colossæ to Cæsarea, than that he undertook a long sea-voyage to Rome.

b ) If our Epistle and that to the Colossians were sent from Rome, Tychicus and his fellow-traveller Onesimus would arrive first at Ephesus and then at Colossæ: in which case we might expect that St. Paul would, in his notice of Tychicus to the Ephesians (ch. Eph 6:21-22 ), have named Onesimus also, as he has done in Colossians 4:8-9 , to gain for his beloved Onesimus a good reception in Ephesus also. Whereas, if Tychicus and Onesimus travelled from Cæsarea, they would come first, according to the purpose of Onesimus’s journey, to Colossæ, where the slave would be left with his master, and thence to Ephesus: in which case Onesimus would naturally be named in the Epistle to the Colossians, and not in that to the Ephesians.

c ) In Ephesians 6:21 , ἵνα δὲ εἴδητε καὶ ὑμεῖς καί shews that, when Tychicus should arrive at Ephesus, he would already have reported the affairs of the Apostle to some others. These others are the Colossians, whom Paul knew that he would visit first : which again speaks for Cæsarea, and not for Rome, as the place of writing. Had it been the latter, the καί would have appeared in Colossians 4:8 , not in Ephesians 6:21 .

d ) In Philemon 1:22 , the Apostle begs Philemon to prepare him a lodging, and seems to anticipate occupying it soon; which assumes a direct journey to Phrygia after his liberation, which he would reach almost contemporaneously with the arrival of Onesimus. Now it appears from Philippians 2:24 , that on his liberation from his Roman imprisonment, he intended to go to Macedonia, which is inconsistent with visiting Philemon.

5. The view (B) has been the general belief from ancient times downwards. Its upholders urge that every circumstance of the Epistle fits it; and reply to the considerations urged above,

a ) That there is no weight in this: a fugitive slave would be in fact more likely than otherwise to get on board ship and take refuge in the great metropolis. And there, notwithstanding what Meyer says to the contrary, he would be more likely to escape the search of the ‘fugitivarii,’ whose knowledge and occupation, we may presume, were principally local, hardly in strict organization over the whole empire.

b ) This evidently requires, to be good for any thing, the assumption, that it fell in with the Apostle’s plan, to recommend Onesimus to the Ephesians. But in the absence of any allusion to personal matters in this Epistle, in the reference of all such things to Tychicus, accordant with the very general purpose and subject of the Epistle itself, this assumption cannot be received. Meyer argues that the general character of our Epistle cannot be pleaded with regard to the one passage in it which is individual and personal. But surely, it is perfectly legitimate to say, even with regard to such a passage, that the same plan, which induced the Apostle to insert only one such passage in the Epistle, would also induce him to insert one personal notice only in such passage. To found an argument on any such omission in our Epistle, would be unsafe.

c ) This, it is maintained, falls entirely to the ground on the different rendering of καί , adopted in the following commentary (see note in loc.), viz. referring it, not to another party who were to receive notices of the Apostle, besides those to whom he was writing, but to the reciprocal introduction of ὑμεῖς , ‘you also concerning me, as I have been long treating concerning you.’

d ) No argument can be raised on ground so entirely uncertain as this. It is very possible that altered circumstances may from time to time have changed the Apostle’s plans; and that, as we have some reason to believe his projected journey to Spain ( Rom 15:22-24 ) to have been relinquished, or at all events postponed, so also other projected journeys may have been, according as different churches seemed to require his presence, or new fields of missionary work to open before him. Besides which, it may be fairly said, that there is nothing inconsistent in the two expressions, of Php 2:23 and Philemon 1:22 , with the idea of the Apostle projecting a land journey through Greece to Asia Minor: or at all events a general visitation, by what route he may not as yet have determined, which should embrace both Philippi and Colossæ.

6. On the positive side of this view (B), it is alleged, that the circumstances of the Roman imprisonment suit those of these Epistles better than those of the Cæsarean. From Ephesians 6:19 ; Ephesians 6:2 , we gather that he had a certain amount of freedom in preaching the Gospel, which is hardly consistent with what we read in Act 24:23 of his imprisonment at Cæsarea, where, from the necessity of the case, a stricter watch was requisite (cf. Act 23:21 ), and none but those ascertained to be his friends ( οἱ ἴδιοι αὐτοῦ ) were permitted to see him. Among any such multitude of Jews as came to his lodgings on the other occasion, Acts 28:23 ff., might easily be introduced some of the conspirators, against whom he was being guarded.

Besides, we may draw some inference from his companions , as mentioned in these Epistles. Tychicus, Onesimus, Aristarchus, Marcus, Jesus Justus, Epaphras, Lucas, Demas, were all with him. Of these it is very possible that Lucas and Aristarchus may have been at Cæsarea during his imprisonment, for we find them both accompanying him to Rome, Acts 27:1-2 . But it certainly is not so probable that all these were with him at one time in Cæsarea. The two, Lucas and Aristarchus, are confessedly common to both hypotheses. Then we may safely ask, In which of the two places is it more probable that six other of his companions were found gathered round him? In the great metropolis, where we already know, from Romans 16:0 , that so many of the brethren were sojourning, or at Cæsarea, which, though the most important place in Palestine, would have no attraction to gather so many of his friends, except the prospect of sailing thence with him, which we know none of them did?

Perhaps this is a question which never can be definitely settled, so as absolutely to preclude the Cæsarean hypothesis: but I own it appears to me that the whole weight of probability is on the Roman side. Those who firmly believe in the genuineness of this Epistle, will find another reason why it should be placed at Rome, at an interval of from three to five years after the Apostle’s parting with the Ephesians in Acts 20:0 , rather than at Cæsarea, so close upon that event. In this latter case, the absence of all special notices would be far more surprising than it is at present.

7. We may then, I believe, safely assume that our Epistle was written FROM ROME, and that probably during the period comprised in Acts 28:30 , before St. Paul’s imprisonment assumed that harsher character which seems to come before us in the Epistle to the Philippians (see Prolegg. to that Epistle, § iii).

8. This would bring the time of writing it within the limits A.D. 61 63: and we should not perhaps be far wrong in dating it A.D. 62.



1. As might be expected from the account given of the object of our Epistle in § iii., the thoughts and language are elevated and sublime; and that to such a degree, that it takes, in this respect, a place of its own among the writings of St. Paul: ὑψηλῶν σφόδρα γέμει τῶν νοημάτων καὶ ὑπερόγκων · ἃ γὰρ μηδαμοῦ σχεδὸν ἐφθέγξατο , ταῦτα ἐνταῦθα δηλοῖ , Chrys., who subjoins examples of this from ch. Ephesians 3:10 ; Ephesians 2:6 ; Ephesians 3:5 . Theophylact says, ἐπεὶ οὖν δεισιδαίμων τε ἦν οὕτως ἡ πόλις , καὶ οὕτω σοφοῖς ἐκόμα , πολλῇ σπουδῇ κέχρηται Παῦλος πρὸς τοὺς τοιούτους γράφων , καὶ τὰ βαθύτερα δὲ τῶν νοημάτων καὶ ὑψηλότερα αὐτοῖς ἐπίστευσεν , ἅτε κατηχημένοις ἤδη . So also Grotius, in his preface: “Paulus jam vetus in apostolico munere, et ob Evangelium Romæ vinctus, ostendit illis quanta sit vis Evangelii præ doctrinis omnibus: quomodo omnia Dei consilia ab omni ævo eo tetenderint, quam admiranda sit in eo Dei efficacia, rerum sublimitatem adæquans verbis sublimioribus quam ulla unquam habuit lingua humana.” Witsius, in his Meletemata Leidensia (p. 192; cited by Dr. Eadie, Commentary on the Ephesians, Introd. p. xxxi) thus characterizes it: “Ita vero universam religionis Christianæ summam divina hac epistola exponit, ut exuberantem quandam non sermonis tantum evangelici παῤῥησίαν , sed et Spiritus Sancti vim et sensum, et charitatis Christianæ flammam quandam ex electo illo pectore emicantem, et lucis divinæ fulgorem quendam admirabilem inde elucentem, et fontem aquæ vivæ inde scaturientem, aut ebullientem potius, animadvertere liceat: idque tanta copia, ut superabundans illa cordis plenitudo, ipsa animi sensa intimosque conceptus, conceptus autem verba prolata, verba denique priora quæque subsequentia, premant, urgeant, obruant.”

2. These characteristics contribute to make our Epistle by far the most difficult of all the writings of St. Paul . Elsewhere, as in the Epistles to the Romans, Galatians, and Colossians, the difficulties lie for the most part at or near the surface: a certain degree of study will master, not indeed the mysteries of redemption which are treated of, but the contextual coherence, and the course of the argument: or if not so, will at least serve to point out to every reader where the hard texts lie, and to bring out into relief each point with which he has to deal: whereas here the difficulties lie altogether beneath the surface; are not discernible by the cursory reader, who finds all very straightforward and simple. We may deduce an illustration from secular literature. Every moderately advanced schoolboy believes he can construe Sophocles; he does not see the difficulties which await him, when he becomes a mature scholar, in that style apparently so simple. So here also, but for a different reason. All on the surface is smooth, and flows on unquestioned by the untheological reader: but when we begin to enquire, why thought succeeds to thought, and one cumbrous parenthesis to another, depths under depths disclose themselves, wonderful systems of parallel allusion, frequent and complicated underplots; every word, the more we search, approves itself as set in its exact logical place; we see every phrase contributing, by its own similar organization and articulation, to the carrying out of the organic whole. But this result is not won without much labour of thought, without repeated and minute laying together of portions and expressions, without bestowing on single words and phrases, and their succession and arrangement, as much study as would suffice for whole sections of the more exoteric Epistles.

3. The student of the Epistle to the Ephesians must not expect to go over his ground rapidly; must not be disappointed, if the week’s end find him still on the same paragraph, or even on the same verse, weighing and judging, penetrating gradually, by the power of the mind of the Spirit, through one outer surface after another, gathering in his hand one and another ramifying thread, till at last he grasps the main cord whence they all diverged, and where they all unite, and stands rejoicing in his prize, deeper rooted in the faith, and with a firmer hold on the truth as it is in Christ.

4. And as the wonderful effect of the Spirit of inspiration on the mind of man is nowhere in Scripture more evident than in this Epistle, so, to discern those things of the Spirit, is the spiritual mind here more than any where required. We may shew this by reference to De Wette, one of the ablest of Commentators. I have mentioned above, § i. 6, that he approaches this Epistle with an unfortunate and unworthy pre-judgment of its spuriousness. He never thinks of applying to it that humble and laborious endeavour which rendered his commentary on the Romans among the most valuable in existence. It is not too much to say, that on this account he has missed almost every point in the Epistle: that his Handbuch, in this part of it, is hardly better than works of third-rate or fourth-rate men: and just for this reason that he has never come to it with any view of learning from it, but with the averted eyes of a prejudiced man. Take, as a contrast, the two laborious volumes of Stier. Here, I would not deny, we have the opposite course carried into extreme: but with all Stier’s faults of two minute classification, of wearisome length in exegesis, of unwillingness to lose, and attempts to combine, every divergent sense of the same passage, we have the precious and most necessary endowment of spiritual discernment, acquaintance with the analogy of the faith. And in consequence, the acquisition to the Church of Christ from his minute dissection of this Epistle has been most valuable; and sets future students, with regard to it, on higher spiritual ground than they ever occupied before.

5. It is not to be wondered at, where the subject is sui generis , and treated of in a method and style unusually sublime, that the ἅπαξ λεγόμενα should be in this Epistle more in number than common, as well as the ideas and images peculiar to it. The student will find both these pointed out and treated of in the references and the notes. I would again impress on him, as against De Wette and others, that all such phænomena, instead of telling against its genuineness, are in its favour, and that strongly. Any skilful forger would not perhaps make his work a mere cento from existing undoubted expressions of St. Paul, but at all events would write on new matter in the Apostle’s well-known phraseology, avoiding all words and ideas which were in his writings entirely without example.



1. I reserve the full discussion of this subject to the chapter on the Epistle to the Colossians. It would be premature, until the student is in full possession of the object and occasion of that Epistle, to institute our comparison between the two.

2. It may suffice at present to say what may be just enough, as regards the distinctive character of the Epistle to the Ephesians. And this may be done by remarking, that we have here, in the midst of words and images common to the two, an entire absence of all controversial allusion, and of all assertion as against maintainers of doctrinal error. The Christian state, and its realization in the Church, is the one subject, and is not disturbed by any looking to the deviations from that state on either hand, nor guarded, except from that fundamental and directly subversive error of impure and unholy practice.

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