We won the Jackpot! – Thursday, 28th Week in ordinary time – Ephesians 1:1-10
For the next two weeks, the liturgy of the Eucharist will present and ponder texts from the letter to the Ephesians. Without debating and presenting every scholarly opinion on the why’s and how’s of this book it is sufficient to say the following as an introduction.
Even though Ephesians 1:1 says that the letter is “addressed to the saints in Ephesus” we are not sure who this letter was addressed to as the earliest manuscripts do not mention the word Ephesians. This ‘epistle’ or letter is not really written in the style of Paul’s letters though its opening and closing make it appear so. Scholars have called it ‘a circular letter’ or a ‘theological discourse’ or ‘an encyclical’ sent to various Churches in Asia. The letter itself is not from the hand of Paul though in many ways may reflect his mind. When you compare the themes that Paul dwells on or his style of writing or words used, this ‘epistle’ reads far from the Paul we are familiar with.
So, who wrote Ephesians and when? Scholars have opined that Ephesians was written between 80-100 AD after the Pauline corpus of letters were written in the post apostolic era. At best we can say that it was written by an admiring disciple of Paul. We know that Paul visited Ephesus twice; during his first missionary journey (Acts18:19-28) and again on the third missionary journey when he stayed there for three years. Yet when you read Ephesians 3:2-4 it sounds that the Ephesians were not personally squinted with him. Hence the letter was written pseudonymously after Paul’s death. This was not meant to deceive us but was a style of writing in antiquity to honour the person one admired or to continue to keep his teaching or thoughts alive.
The author writes as a Jew to a largely Gentile audience with the message that in Christ God has “made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us” (Ephesians 2:14). It is not easy living together as two groups who have previously been at odds with one another on religious grounds. The letter acknowledges that living with differences requires effort: it takes humility, gentleness, and patience (cf. Ephesians 4:2-3). And yet this is not written to settle congregation issues as in 1 Corinthians or Galatians, it was written to explain some of the great themes and doctrines of Christianity.
Our opening verse is written in typical Pauline style yet if you look at verses 3-14, it is one very long sentence in the Greek text. While most of Paul’s letters begin with a salutation thanking God, this text takes the form of a liturgical blessing of God’s name. The opening verses are part of a hymn of thanksgiving or what we call a “doxology” because it recites what God has done. The term comes from the Greek word doxa which means ‘glory’.