I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

If you post comments here at Theos Project, please know that I will respond and engage your thoughts in a timely manner.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Love and Divine Union: Exegetical Notes on Ephesians 3:14-19

For this reason I bow my knee before the father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, in order that he might give to you according to the riches of his glory/divinity (doxes), empowering you to be strong through his spirit in the inside person (eso anthropon), Christ living in you (katoikeo) through faith in your hearts, being firmly rooted and firmly established in love (agape), in order that you might be able to fully understand with all the saints what is the width and length and height and depth, to know the surpassing knowledge (gnosis) of the love (agape) of Christ, in order that you might be filled to all the fullness of God.

In this post, I would like to share a few exegetical notes here, commenting on specific phrases, etc. In the next post, I will provide a few summary thoughts on the passage taken as a whole.

Exegetical notes of interest:

Verses 14 through 19 are are all one, long sentence, a continuous prayer made by Paul on behalf of the believers in Ephesus. Paul prays that the believers in Ephesus might experience a union with God through Christ and a comprehension of divine love.

The family of God the Father (v. 14-15)
In these verses, Paul suggests that every "family" takes its name from the "father." This brings the entire cosmos into the family of God.

"The father, then, is the Creator and Lord of all family groupings; their existence and significance is dependent on him." (A.T. Lincoln's Word Biblical Commentary, p. 203)

Clearly Paul is speaking here, not just of those who believe but of the entire cosmos.

"The God who is Father of all families is the same God who is Father of Jesus Christ and who is at work to redeem a cosmos which has become alienated from him." (Lincoln, p. 203)

Compare Ephesians 1:10 as the plan in the fullness of time, to unite all in Christ, those in heaven and on earth.

Whether Paul is making a universalist claim here in his letter to the Ephesians is not really the point. What is the point, I think, is that he presents a powerful and positive vision for a time when all things might be brought together in Christ. In other words, universalism is clearly the end goal and vision of the Gospel: uniting all things together because all things already "derive their name" from God the father.

Giving of the divine glory v. 16
God is giving. To me this is one of the most basic truth of the Gospel: that God gives. The Gospel is the gift. In verse 16, Paul is praying that God’s gift would be of God’s own self.

The NIV translates the doxes of verse 16 as "glorious riches," but this seems as though it entirely misses the structure of the Greek, unless perhaps I am missing something. I translate this (as do most of the other translations) as "the riches of his doxes"; that is, Paul is praying that God would give out of the richness of God's own glory and divinity.

Some of us may perhaps be used to thinking that this doxes, this glory and divinity of God, belongs to God alone. For example, in Romans 3:23 Paul says that all of have sinned and fallen short of the "glory/divinity" of God. And "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen." (NRS, Romans 11:36) However, in this verse, Paul's prayer is clearly that humanity would share of God's divinity and glory.

Paul suggests something similar in 2 Corinthians 3:18 "And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit." (NRS)

Also note that in 2 Peter 1:4 humanity can "participate (or "partake," "share" koinovos) in the divine nature (Theios phusis). John speaks repeatedly of "abiding" in Christ and records Jesus' prayer in John 17:22, "The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one" (NRS, emphasis added).

The “inside person” v. 16
Paul prays that God would give of his/her own glory and divinity. The gift of God’s divine nature is for the purpose of empowering the “inside person” (eso anthropon). To me, this language implies the “self” that we have discussed. As Kierkegaard says, “the self is a relation that relates itself to itself.” There is a sense in which we have an inner self (or spirit or soul) that we relate to and with. A self has a certain consciousness of being a self. As human beings, we contemplate our place in the universe and the cosmos, we form a sense of identity, we look for meaning, try to discover our purpose, and we reflect on ourselves. We ask the “who am I?” questions.

Paul affirms this existential sense of ourselves with the interesting term, the “inside person.”

Lincoln has some interesting commentary on this term:
The strengthening through the Spirit is to take place in “the inner person,” a notion in popular use derived from Hellenistic anthropology of a dualistic variety. Plato had talked similarly of “the person’s inward person” (Rep. 9.589a), and Philo wrote also of “the person within the person,” which he equated with “the mind” (Congr. 97; cf. also Plant. 42; Deter. 23). In the Corpus Hermeticum this inner person is held to be imprisoned in Adam’s earthly body (1:15; 9:5; 13:7, 14), while in later Gnostic anthropology, according to the church fathers, it is used as one of the terms for the divine spark within humanity (cf. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 1.21.4, 5; Hippolytus, Ref. 5.7.35, 36; cf. also K. Rudolph, Gnosis, tr. R. McL. Wilson [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1983] 88–113). The terminology is found in Paul in 2 Cor 4:16 and Rom 7:22, and R. Jewett (Paul’s Anthropological Terms [Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1971] 391–401) has in fact argued that Paul took over the term from Corinthian Gnostics. It is just as likely, however, that he was familiar with the phrase “the inner person” from its popular usage and chose to use it for his own purposes—in 2 Cor 4:16 in connection with the believer, and in Rom 7:22 in connection with the Jew under the law. In 2 Cor 4:16, it stands for the inner part of a person’s being, not accessible to sight, where the renovating power of the age to come is now in operation. It appears to be equivalent to the term “heart” used in the surrounding context in 2 Cor 4:6; 5:12. Elsewhere, in Rom 12:2, it is the mind, in particular, that is said to be renewed. In Rom 7:22, the inner person is equivalent to the mind (cf. vv 23, 25), and the focus is on the ability to make value judgments. Of course, context determines whether the use of such language conveys dualistic connotations. In Paul these are not present, for the inner person appears to be that part of a person which is accessible to God but which, in the case of the person under the law, is ultimately in bondage to the powers of the flesh and sin, and, in the case of the believer, is being constantly renewed. Here in Ephesians the concept is used in a similar way. It is not to be equated with the new person or new humanity of Eph 4:24 (contra Schlier, 169), but is instead the base of operation at the center of a person’s being where the Spirit does his strengthening and renovating work. In the parallel clause in v 17a its equivalent is again the heart, and in 4:23 it is the spirit of the mind which is said to be renewed. 1 Pet 3:4 has an interesting variation on this terminology when it speaks of ὁ κρυπτὸς τῆς καρδίας ἄνθρωπος, “the hidden person of the heart.” (p. 205)

For more on Kierkegaard’s view of self, see Kierkegaard and the self as well as Kierkegaard and the Self: The Fantasy of the Infinite

"Christ living in you" (v. 17)
This continues the theme of union with the divine. Christ “living” in/with us. “Living” (katoikeo) is the common word for a person’s physical dwelling place. In the Gospels, this word is used from time to time to describe the houses, residences, or cities where Christ would stay. Here in verse 17 it is used to describe how Christ lives in the souls of human beings.

It is interesting to compare this with Acts 7:48 and 17:24, where it is suggested that the most high does not live (katoikei) in temples made by human hands. Yet here in Ephesians, Paul suggests that Christ does in fact find his home in the human heart.

Also of interest is Colossians 1:9, which speaks of the Father being pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Christ. The fullness of God in Christ and Christ dwelling in the human soul. Similarly in Colossians 2:9, Christ is the one in whom the fullness of the deity (theotetos) lived in bodily form.

As verse 17 continues, Paul prays that the “living” of Christ might be “through faith in your hearts.” A.T. Lincoln comments, “As in the OT, so in Paul and now here in Ephesians, the heart is understood as the center of the personality, the seat of the whole person’s thinking, feeling, and willing.” (p. 206)

Love v. 17-19
After speaking of union with the divine, Paul quickly moves into a prayer for love. Union with God is manifested through love: being firmly rooted and firmly established in love, being able to fully understand the love of God, fathoming the vast dimensions of love (the width and length and height and depth), and knowing the surpassing love of Christ.

Love is at the heart of union with God.

Filled to the Fullness of God v. 19
The closing prayer to be filled to the fullness of God builds on the knowledge of love. Knowing the surpassing gnosis of the love of Christ, in order that one might be filled with all the fullness of God.

This idea of being filled to the fullness of God is remarkable for its scope. It is not merely a prayer for having a bit of God or drinking of an ounce or two of the divine. The prayer is for the “fullness” (pleroma) of God.

No comments: