June 20, 2009

Ephesians 1:1-2; A Devotional

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ through God's will. To the saints: the residents1 in Ephesus2 and the faithful3 in Christ Jesus: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.4 -Ephesians 1:1-3 (MGV)
Paul uses three terms to denote the recipants of his letter: saints, residents, and faithful. I found it very difficult to determine the exact relationship between these three denotations, and I found that most translations simply skipped the second (residents). But I feel that this misses the relationship between being 'in Ephesus' and 'in Christ Jesus' which is a bit more obvious in the Greek, and I wanted to tease this out.

Though the purpose of this text is to say hi essentially, Paul always likes to squeeze in a little theological teaser into the salutation. In this case, I would say that it is the introduction to the concept of being 'in Christ' which we will hear a lot about throughout the book. If we take the concept of being in Ephesus and believing in Christ Jesus as an intentional contrast, we get a sense of the ecclesiastical dominance of the image of Christ.

The word 'resident' in the Greek is literally 'being', which doesn't really mean the same thing in English since this word can also mean 'a belonging' or 'a resident': connotations which our word 'being' doesn't have. By 'the beings in Ephesus' it means the ones who are physically present in Ephesus. This is compared to the phrase 'the believers in Christ Jesus' or those who are faithfully present in Christ. Now, how is one faithfully present in Christ?

This reminds us that in Scripture, there is a sense where the church is an extention of Christ Himself. Throughout Hebraic thought, there is a sense where the found of the people is the people, and the people is an extention of the person. We see this in how the OT relates the Israel the nation to Israel the person, or Edom to Esau like the famous Malachi text: "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated" (Malachi 1:2-5). The same is true here. In the same way that those in Ephesus belonged to Ephesus, so do we belong to Christ, and exist within Him as His people.

This union of Christ and His people is strong, and as such, if you reject His people, you are rejecting Him, and visa versa. Now we all know that sometimes the church isn't as faithful to Christ as Christ is to them. Nor is the church as faithful to each other as they should be.

But the book of Ephesians calls us out on this very reality anyway, and Paul introduces us to the concept of the Church being Christ off the bat to establish a theological foundation for church harmony, grace, and peace. Are we being faith to the church which is Christ? Or are we only as faithful to the church as the humans within it are faithful to us? If we remember that Christ is the church, then we do not judge the church's worth purely on its membership, but also by its head, and we treat the church in a higher form than it leaves for we see the spiritual reality of the church which is beyond our perceptions.

Therefore, this week, and especially tommorrow, I call you to love the church, and be devoted to it. Love the church as you love Christ, for through such love, you'll recieve the love of Christ in return.

Translation notes

1The word 'ousin' doesn't really have an equivalent in English. It is a dirivitive of the word 'eimi' or 'to be', so would be most etymologically simular to 'being'. But it is far more basic of a word than 'being' and doesn't hold as restrictive of a connotation. This would make it more simular to our word 'thing', and indeed, in most contexts this would probably be the more accurate word: a basic word for something with is. Likewise, it often denotes a person's possession ("ousin mou" would very neatly translate to "my things" or "my stuff").
However, it can also be used in terms of physical presence. (For instance, Parousia refers to the return of Christ when He will be present with us). Thing, naturally, doesn't have this meaning, and this is the sense being used here. English doesn't really have a word for this (at least not a common word), and I felt that 'resident' simply did a better job since it retained the same word form, rather than the option of "those who are" which I found in other translations.

2 The word 'en Epheso', isn't found in early manuscripts. I've included it since I don't have the credentials to argue otherwise. However, to remove it would make the rhetoric of the passage much neater. It would essentially change it to: "To the saints, residents and believers in Jesus Christ". Though it is true that such a rendering would not contradict the theological points made above, it would make them more obvious since Paul would be directly calling us residents in Christ, rather than comparing residing Ephesus with believing in Christ. Still, it can't be beauty which determines our translations, but accuracy.

3 I had many different options to translating this. The word 'to' is not actually in the Greek, but is instead implied by the dative form of 'hagiois', 'ousin', and 'pisteuois'. As such, some different rendering option would include:
  • To the saints: residents in Ephesus and believers in Jesus Christ
  • To the saints, to the residents in Ephesus, and to the believers in Jesus Christ
  • To the saints, residents in Ephesus, and believers in Jesus Christ

I chose the one that most emphasized what I felt was the point Paul was making.

4This one was annoying since 'God', 'our', 'Father', 'Lord', 'Jesus', and 'Christ' are all in the genitive. As such I saw two possible renderings, the one above and "from God, the Father of us and of the Lord Jesus Christ." Since I didn't really know, I went with the traditional rendering, since they know more than me anyway.


Dan Martin said...


I was intrigued by your footnote number 4, and I went and compared your translation to my Mom's. She chose the alternate reading as her main one, but offers the same alternatives you do:

(From) Paul, (who is) sent out by Christ Jesus according to God's will, to the holy folks [God's
people] in Ephesus who are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 grace to you all, and peace, from God -- our father
and the Lord Jesus Christ's. [or, from God our father anf from the Lord Jesus

I'll point her to your comments here and see if I can get her to discuss it with you; or, you could do the same over at PNT.

Jc_Freak: said...

Intriguing. I think I'll rather have her comment here since this post is new, while hers is not. Plus, I would have to find the appropriate place to comment, and she would have to know I comment...

Though a big reason why I went with the choice that I ddid was that I found that the word patros or father was also in the genitive. Origially I thought it was nomative because of the os ending. I would love to hear her thoughts about that. I'm not really an expert in Greek, and much of this exercise is for me to learn my way around the language better.

I would also be very curious what she thinks about my use of the noun 'residents'.

Ruth said...

Hello -- this is Dan's mom. I welcome you to check out my translation and notes as he suggested, and comment as you see fit. However, as you will see if you look at the introductory material, I am interested in linguistic, not theological critique, having found that most of the latter bears little resemblance to the actual New Testament text.
Regarding your point of "residence", it is virtually impossible to get that out of a simple present participle of "to be." There are several other ways to say that, if one intends to communicate residence. Additionally, you will note if you check the textual footnotes in any responsible Greek text, that the words "en epheso" do not appear in most early manuscripts. (See my intro to Ephesians in the Notes.)
It may have been a "circle letter" -- which in no way would detract from its authenticity or authority.
Your emphasis on "in Christ", on the other hand, is much needed, and I applaud your bringing it to people's attention. I have also dealt with that in the Notes several places. It is one of Paul's most common phrases, and I think we have never plumbed its depths.
Your reference to the Body, likewise, is a subject that needs a great deal more attention; but it does not derive from this passage. Exegetical work garners much more respect if it sticks to the text one claims to exegete, rather than hopping all over in "doctrinal" fashion.
Regarding "patros" -- the nominative is "pater" -- I offered two equally valid readings: either use both Jesus and the Father as a source genitive, or pair "Jesus" with "our" as possessive. The grammar would allow either.
A friendly note: decide whether you are going to translate or theologize. There is a HUGE difference, and the combination can create a monster.

Jc_Freak: said...

Thank you Ruth very much for your comments. I would like to clarify what my intent here is a little bit though. I'm not translating for the sake of having a "better" translation than what's out there (though I do think that there is an overreliance on the KJV even in recent translations). My intent is two-fold:

First, I'm doing a devotional, which means I am more interesting at expressing the meaning of the text rather than giving the best translation. I don't have a high enough opinion of my own talents to do a proper translation justice. Therefore, to some degree, I am theologizing. But this isn't because I think it is proper to theologizing to translate, but rather I am going back to the Greek to theologize, and I am translating to explain what I found when I did.

My secondary intent is to learn Greek better. In that sense, I humbly take any correction in my understanding of grammar and rhetoric that you may see.

Apart from that, I am very glad that you liked some of the points that I made. I'm glad I'm not far off the mark :)

The part about residents I knew I was taking a risk, but there was seomthing about the rhetoric of the passage that I wanted to communicate. I personally believe that many translation philosophies underestimate the value of rhetoric and overestestimate the consistancy of words. Words themselves are incredibly dynamic little buggers, and if you approach the text with the idea that "well this word means this" you are ultimately going to miss some things.

I think it is important to also attempt to translate the actually rhetorical structures being used as much as possible. This was my attempt with the word residents. In my opinion, the term 'en Epheso' shouldn't really be there, which leaves us with a list of three nouns: "tois hagiois tois ousin kai pisteuois". I see here a rhetorical triad describing who we are in Christ and as such I believed it important to keep 'ousin' in the same word form (i.e. noun) as 'hagiois' and 'pisteuois'. Now it is possible that I might be misunderstanding the use of the participle in Greek (which is quite possible and might also be applicable to what I do with Eph 1:3-6), but this was my foundation for using the word 'resident'.

Do you think there's any legitmacy to this, or am I misunderstanding the participle use?

Ruth said...

Hello again.
I think I did something wrong in trying to send a reply to yur questions yesterday. I'll try again.
A participle,basically, is a verb form that is used as an adjective. Like other adjectives, it can also serve as a noun with the flavor of "a person who...", or even become a part of a whole clause. When used with other nouns, it is usually considered adjectival. It was interesting to look again at that introductory statement. This time, my curiosity was piqued by the use of "kai" -- (and). One possibility, which I had not seen when I did my translation, would be "to those chosen ones ("saints") who are also faithful ..." the more I think of it, the better I like it. It would fit with Paul's usual practice of weaving compliments into his introductions when he honestly could.
It would be worth your time to do a word study on hagios and pistos. Both contain riches we usually do not realize.
If you are serious about incorporating translation into your commentary, you would do well to invest in a good lexicon: the Oxford (Liddell -Scott) is the best. This provides you with the fascinating historical development of words, and helps you sort out whether the interpretations you hear or read have any linguistic validity. (Many don't.)
You should also invest in a good grammar. For my money, grammar trumps rhetoric every time: primarily because rhetorical forms in one language seldom transfer accurately into another. There is a great deal more to be learned from Greek grammatical structure than just tenses and parts of speech. I have a very brief summary of some of these in the Appendix to my Translation Notes, but you need a lot more than that.
I hope this is helpful. I think your work has potential -- especially if you can manage to distinguish what is actually derived from the text, and what comes from other "teaching."