Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ephesians 3:14-21

3:14 There is a slight play on words in this verse. The word for grace is "charis"; in the accusative this is "charin." "Charin," however, is also a preposition that means because of...so the first words of this verse are "of this grace..." but really it should be translated, "For this reason..." I think the author intends the word reason but snuck a bit of grace in there!

3:14 The phrase "kneel" is literally "Bow my gonads (knee)" before the father!

3:15 A gender neutral translation here doesn't really help. This is what the author writes, "Because of this amazing grace, I continually bend my body before the father, from who every fatherhood gets its name." The word for family here is "patria" not a generic word for clan (as in 3:21, generations). The point then is that family derives from God's self, even God's name...perhaps family is not such a human construct afterall ;-)

3:16 The phrase that Paul (or pseudo-Paul; whatever) uses here for inner person is “eso anthropos,” also used in Romans 3:22 and 2 Cor 4:16. Anthropos is a fairly common word that means human (fairly gender neutral) but eso, meaning inner, is a rather uncommon word, nine times in the NT. Paul is the only one that uses this combination of words. The combo construction is not found elsewhere in the NT. Something like it does appear in some wisdom and deutero-canonical literature, but not the same linguistic (or even theological) construction.

Three directions for further reflection:
1) This might be purely Lutheran speculation, but my sense is that Paul's genesis for this bold new language is Psalm 51, where (David) talks about creating a new spirit (barah is the verb here, which is the kind of creation only God does) and desiring truth in the inner being. My sense (after a brief survey and reflection) is that OT thinking hated to divide the person into various parts, so this idea of an inner man versus outer man would have been “not kosher” in a way.
2) Paul’s writings in Ephesians help us to consider a Christological take on this idea of an inner human. The idea of a new human is mentioned in Eph 2:15 and Eph 4:24. Oddly enough, in Eph 4:24 (and Col 3:10) it talks about "being clothed" in the new human, which is a different idea, than that of the inner human! The dilemma, is solved, I believe, by understanding, as Paul writes in Eph 2:15, that the new human being is Jesus Christ. So Paul talks about being strengthened in his Spirit in the inner man, perhaps he is not referring to the inner man inside of us, but the inner man of the cosmos, who is Jesus Christ. I also think this is a valid because in the whole argument Paul is speaking to the whole people of God (3:21 even ends with praise of the church), so Paul is not speaking to you individually, but you the collective here. [I think one can even see 4:24 in this light…but that is for another day.] I confess I would need to better articulate this here, but I do think one could interpret the phrase “inner human” to be Jesus Christ, not just because of 2:15 and 4:24, but also given that chapter 1 focuses on Christ’s inner place in the creation of the universe and chapter 4 and 5 focus on Christ’s inner place in the church.
3) The clearest statement of Paul connecting the new self and the inner self is 2 Cor 16: Our inner person is begin renewed each day.

3:17 The verbs for "rooted" and "established" are in the passive perfect; they have already been done and this is the present state of affairs.

3:19 The word here for "exceeding" is literally "hyperbally"

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