Some time ago my attention was drawn to the idea that nothing in the first twelve verses of Ephesians is directly concerned with the Gentiles; and the surprising claim was made that this idea was stated by the late A. E. Knoch in Unsearchable Riches, Vol. 19 (1928) P.270. This turns out to be so, and he even added: "But, first of all, it applies to Paul and those of the Circumcision who received his message."
Before going into the evidence submitted, it is as well to study those first twelve verses again. The first is addressed, literally: "to the saints—all." Whether or not this is followed in the original text by "who are in Ephesus" is beside the point here, for the question of "circumcision" does not arise in either alternative, and the word is absent from Chapter 1, as also are the words covenant, Israel, Jew; so why it was dragged in is a puzzle. Not only is it absent, but the 1930 C.V. Note to v. 1 says explicitly: "The epistle is confined to those who, in contrast with the Circumcision, base their blessings on His present heavenly exaltation, rather than on His future glorious manifestation to the earth for the blessing of Israel and other nations." Furthermore, in the same Vol. 19, on p. 329, only 59 pages further on, we read: "All of Paul's writings are for us, all the rest are for the Circumcision." Although this assertion is disputable, the fact cannot be avoided that it flatly contradicts the passage quoted from the earlier page. As all three quotations must have been written at about the same time, there is no way now of settling this confusion. I often wonder why it was thought necessary to introduce the word "circumcision" into such discussion. Nobody seems to know.
So Paul said, "to the saints—all," and, on this theory, two of the passages quoted can only mean "to some of the saints"—unless, that is, we follow another curious theory and assert that the expression "the saints" applies to Israel only. If this were so, we would have also to confine Eph. 1:15, 18; 3:18; 4:12; 5:3; 6:18 to Israel, leaving Eph. 2:11; 3:1, 6, 8; 4:17 to Gentiles and creating a problem of partitioning or "rightly dividing" impossible to solve.
The evidence submitted by A.E.K. succeeds his statement. Of what Paul writes in Eph. 1:1-12 he says: "It is all in the first person. Six times he speaks of us, twice of we, once of our. In contrast to this he begins verse thirteen with an emphatic you—to the Uncircumcision, the nations."
But this is precisely what Paul does not do in v. 13 or any where else in this chapter; for neither word, akrobustia or ethnE occurs in it.
If we read those twelve verses as they are, with unprejudiced eyes and minds, we must perceive that the we, us and our can only refer to those described in v. 1, namely, Paul and those to whom he addresses the epistle. After v. 12, he plainly turns from himself to them exclusively, and in v. 15 he turns back to himself, an emphatic "I".
Suppose for the sake of argument, that in Eph. 1:1-12 the us, etc., applies to Paul and all the saints, and in Eph. 1:13 the you applies to the Gentiles, we come up against the fact that never have more than an extremely small proportion of the Gentiles been describable by the terms used in vv. 13, 14.
Again, for the sake of argument, let us suppose that those twelve verses concern Israel and do not directly concern the Gentiles. Then the blessings of Eph. 1:1-12 are Israel's, and not ours. Then we must drop any idea of "every spiritual blessing among the celestials" being a matter that concerns ourselves. Yet, strangely enough on this assumption, we may search the Hebrew Scriptures through and through and never find any trace whatever of these particular blessings. They are, simply, not there. And, perhaps even more strangely, these new and unexpected blessings for Israel abruptly vanish after v. 12 and, instead, a great and majestic secret concerning the Gentiles appears in Eph. 3:6-12. How any sane person can take so fantastic a suggestion seriously is beyond my under standing!
Still supposing that those twelve verses concern Israel, then yet another problem arises; for we have in consequence to believe that when Ephesians was written the distinction between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians must still have persisted, in flat contradiction of Gal. 6:15. Can it really be that this glorious epistle of liberty had already become obsolete when Ephesians was written or, alternatively, that it had not yet come into force. Most people would require very strong evidence indeed before accepting such an idea, yet no genuine evidence at all is offered. I have long, and most strongly, opposed the dogmas of Coles and his successors whereby Galatians and Ephesians are cut apart yet, here is another and even more flagrant form of that error. Paul's Epistles form a splendid and majestic unity, their doctrine advancing through logical steps from Romans through Galatians to Ephesians. That fact stands plainly on their surface; and the deeper we penetrate them the greater and more extensive the confirmation of it becomes. Yet we are expected to scrap it merely because a strange theory about Eph. 1:1-12 demands such a drastic act.
However, we soon discover what lies at the back of this theory—it is our old enemy, the error that Acts 28:28 is the great dispensational frontier. So we read, under the heading "The Counsel of His Will" the following: "Jehovah had counselled with His people Israel concerning their blessing and destiny. It was quite clear even to the apostle Paul that he would have his place in the earthly kingdom of which the Hebrew prophets and our Master Himself had spoken. How could he look forward to aught else but what Jehovah had revealed? But now, without explanation, his blessing and destiny both are changed. . . . . It always was His intention that Paul (and we) should be associated with Christ's heavenly headship. And it was His will that this should be kept secret until Israel had been thrust aside." (pp. 270, 271).
Although the strange doctrine set out in this quotation is absolutely definite and entirely false, no attempt was made to support it from the Scriptures. There can be no doubt that A.E.K. wrote all that erroneous guessing with mind entirely bemused by Coles' error. It must have seemed to him too obvious to need comment, let alone proof; and the shameful thing about it is that many of us, including myself, must have read it and apparently accepted it also without any qualms of doubt whatever.
At the very start, Saul was awakened to realities and commissioned. We have the terms of his commission, and detailed accounts of the way, as Paul, he carried it out; and there is in them no trace of this doctrine and no room for any. We are told in Rom. 11:29 that the grace-acts and the calling of God are not subject to change of mind or afterthought; yet we are also told by A.E.K. that God made this alteration and based the new departure on His own will.
Claiming that Eph. 1:1-12 has anything to do with the circumcision or that it was addressed to the Jew or to Israel prompts the question whether Paul ever addressed or referred to Jew or Israel except explicitly by name. He certainly named one or other in such passages as Rom. 2:17-24; 3:1; 9:1-5 (contrast 10:1-3 and the you and they in 11:17-28); and repeatedly his choice of pronouns made his meaning fully clear.
Careful attention to such matters is the least that is required of us in our studies; yet expositors all too often fail in that duty. It has even been asserted that "our fathers" in 1. Cor. 10:1 proves that the Corinthians were Jews! Yet to the very same people Paul writes in 1. Cor. 10: 18: "Observe Israel according to flesh"; so it is equally plain that they were not Jews! There is no excuse for getting ourselves tied up in a tangle of difficulty over so simple a matter as this. Even if common-sense did not indicate that in 1. Cor. 10:1 "I" referred to Paul, "you" to the Corinthians and "our" to Paul and Sosthenes, the concordance would show that "our" only includes the Corinthians when the context demands it, as in 1. Cor. 1:2, 3, 7, etc.; and not otherwise as in 1. Cor. 7:8. Such inclusion is obviously wrong, too, in 2. Cor. 1:4, 5, 7 (compare the "you"), 8 (similarly), etc.; whereas in 1:2, 3 it is obviously right. The whole thing is no more than a matter of simple common-sense.
The suggestion has even been made that "in Whom our lot is cast" (Eph. 1:11) must refer to Jewish Christians; but the word "allotment" occurs in vv. 14, 18, outside the supposedly Jewish section.
The same notion is applied to having-before-expected, proElpikotas, the idea being that these supposedly Jewish Christians had an expectation in the Christ before the Gentile Christians did. That this is a travesty was long ago shown by Mr. Alexander Thomson in his book: "Is the Concordant Version Reliable?" He pointed to the parallel passage in Col. 1:5. This is what he says:—
The same splitting process is found in the treatment by the
C.V. of Eph. 1:15. This verse reads literally: "Therefore I
also, hearing of the faith among you" (or "according to you")
"in the Lord, Jesus; and the love the into all the saints, do not
cease giving thanks. . ." That is entirely clear, for "the love
the into" is naturally rendered in English, "the love that is
into." Paul has heard of both things and accordingly gives
thanks. But here comes a difficulty, for in the three oldest codices
"the love" is omitted. The corrector "S2" and
practically every other manuscript keeps it. However, the C.V. rejects
In the careless, inaccurate way so disastrously common among us, most translators and commentators have quietly skated over the difficulty involved in the expression the according to you faith, or the among you faith, the two accepted alternative renderings of kata followed by an accusative. This form is rare. We find in Acts 17:28 "some of the according-to-you poets" or "some of the poets among you." Also is found "And of law of the according-to-you" (Acts 18:15), that is, "and of law among you." "The according-to-you prescribing" in Acts 24:22, that is, "the affairs among you." Lastly, James 2:17, very literally reads; "Thus, also, the faith, if so be it may not be having works, dead it is according to self" that is to say, "by its own standards." Apart from this last, these renderings are hardly satisfactory; for they do not cover the idea of reference to some standard of comparison. I suggest, therefore, that it is legitimate in all these to resort to bold paraphrase, thus:
The ordinary gloss might, however, pass but for the problem set by what follows: "and the—into all the saints." Most texts have" love" in this blank space; and this certainly makes a plain and well-rounded statement. Its rejection involves an implied repetition of "faith" in the blank space; and the result of this, in turn, is that the passage then implies that there are two sorts of faith. Is this idea tenable?
In Unsearchable Riches, Vol. 19, p. 333, A.E.K. writes: "This Greek connective, kata, is never used simply to denote possession. . . The apostle is not changing his subject. He is continuing it. This is evident from the conjunction, therefore." So far, so good; provided that "faith" here is taken as meaning a degree or standard of faith which measures up to the standard of truth set in the first fourteen verses; but then the logic of the implied repetition of the word "faith" overtakes A.E.K., and he defines the second kind of "faith" as a terrestrial inheritance for Israel and the Gentiles blessed with and through them.
Difficulty immediately arises, and it appears most plainly in the middle portion of the quotation, left out above. This reads: "It refers to that peculiar body of truth which was theirs to receive." This sounds quite plausible until we ask ourselves where, in Scripture, pistis, faith, means "a peculiar body of truth"; and this enquiry opens up a very important subject.
Basically, "faith" means believing or trusting someone, or the word of someone, or believing some thing, as in Heb. 11:1 and, indeed, the rest of that chapter. Each of the persons named believed and trusted God, and acted on that belief and trust.
However, the matter is not so simple as that, as I discovered as soon as I began to check it with a concordance; when it became apparent that in some passages "the faith" does imply a body of truth of some sort. Soon the outstanding examples in Jude 3 and 20 presented themselves. Unfortunately, this study is itself not very simple and it is closely bound up with other issues, so it has been transferred to another paper.
Assuming that "the faith in the Lord Jesus according to your standard" is a particular "body of truth" given to the Ephesians and to all those in a similar position to theirs, including ourselves; we still have to answer the question: What is this body of truth which is into (or, for) all the saints? Note, "all the saints." It must be some faith which is universal among the saints yet distinct from that special faith which Paul was setting out for the Ephesians, "the special faith for us," "the new revelation just divulged," to use A.E.K.'s own words. It must be "that body of belief which includes all of God's family, under His rule, and in whom He dwells." What is it?
A.E.K.'s answer is already given on p. 333 of his paper. It is "a terrestrial inheritance for the Circumcision and all the nations which are blessed with and through them." And this, we are to suppose, is "that body of belief which includes all of God's family" and therefore ourselves. As "all" must include ourselves, otherwise it would not be all; this must mean for us a terrestrial inheritance as well as our celestial, spiritual inheritance. This is plain, so anyone would suppose; yet in spite of the definite words "for all the saints," we presently are told of a distinction between our special faith "and that for other saints."
That this matter was never thoroughly thought out is all too evident.
Yet we are even told that in Eph. 1:1-12 "we have been reading of the supreme place accorded to some of the Circumcision, who are associates with Paul." How such an extra ordinary perversion of Scripture could ever have been invented is altogether incomprehensible; for "uncircumcision" is even dragged into vv. 13, 14. Neither it nor "circumcision" (nor "Israel") is to be found in this chapter. Such confusion would never have come about but for the equally outrageous idea that there existed some sort of border on one side of which was Acts from which Paul stepped over in writing 1. Thessalonians.
There is no need for such complicated inventions to be devised. There is no evidence that the Evangel which Paul declared in Acts differs in any way from that which he presented to the Thessalonians or anyone else. The great secret in Eph. 3:6-12 is through the evangel of which Paul became dispenser. On this Evangel is based everything he did, and it is an unqualified perversion to declare otherwise. The only difference between his epistles is that each one added something to those he had written before—not a very exciting fact, but one which is entirely in accord with reason and good sense, as was everything which Paul did. It would be a very great blessing to us all if the sort of speculative writing we have been considering could be dropped. There is still plenty of material in the Scriptures that calls for prolonged patient and reverent research. Certainly we are not so short of material that we must perforce invent theories unsupported by Scripture and only to be toppled over the instant they are challenged from Scripture.
The attempt to split the faith into two kinds is encouraged by a textual problem already mentioned. A.E.K. wrote: "Even during Paul's lifetime all in Asia turned away from him. The saints lost all knowledge of their own special faith, and could not understand any reference to it or any distinction between it and that for the saints. So the editor of Sinaiticus adds the words 'the love.' This was widely spread among other manuscripts. It was an effort to make some sense out of the clause." Once again, it is what we are not told that matters. How do we know that the editor of Sinaiticus made an addition and did not instead restore an omission? Notice, too, the subtle change from "all saints" to "other saints."
The word faith is succeeded by the word love in quite a number of passages in the Apostle Paul's Epistles, but nowhere else; and most of them are in the later epistles. Any reader who has doubts about the genuineness of "love" in the text of Eph. 1:15 would do well to compare Col. 1:4 with it; for, surely, it is an echo of it. Also the others should be studied. These are 1. Cor. 13:2, 13; 16: 13, 14; 2. Cor. 8:7; Gal. 5:6; Eph. 3:17; 1. Thess. 1:3; 3:6 ("and bring to us the good message of your faith and of your love." This is not an "evangel" in the special sense used elsewhere) and 5:8; 2. Thess. 1:3; 1. Tim. 1:4, 5; 14; 2:15; 6:11; 2. Tim. 1:13; 2:22; 3:10; Titus 2:2. In some other passages the order is reversed, but these are not to the point here.
R.B.W. Last updated 25.5.2006