Epistle of Paul Called “Ephesians”

Approximate date: 60-62 C.E.
Time period: season of great expansion of the gospel among those needing encouragement
Author: the Apostle Paul
Location of author: Rome
Target audience and their location: Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in Asia Minor, and eventually Ephesus

The letter that has come to be known as “Ephesians” has been traditionally classified among the Prison Epistles (also including Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon). The Epistle of Ephesians has a significant amount of controversy associated with it, as there are issues surrounding its intended audience, its authorship, and among theologians today, its contents. The authorship of Ephesians is not widely challenged by conservatives, in spite of the fact that the letter lacks a personal greeting. The author plainly identifies himself as Paul (1:1; 3:1), and he does indicate that he is in some kind of confinement (4:1; 6:20). While a strong defense has been made in favor of genuine Pauline authorship of Ephesians, most liberal theologians today deny that Paul wrote this letter.

Was the Apostle Paul the author of the Epistle of Ephesians? The letter was known to various Christian leaders by the end of the First Century and early Second Century, such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Hermas, and Polycarp,[1] requiring Ephesians to have been written by the late First Century. Explicit Pauline authorship is attested by the late Second Century, as Irenaeus would testify, “the blessed Paul declares in his Epistle to the Ephesians, that ‘we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones’ [Ephesians 5:30]” (Against Heresies 5.2.3).[2]

Claims against genuine Pauline authorship of Ephesians have been present in New Testament studies since the Nineteenth Century. Those who doubt that Paul is the author of Ephesians tend to offer support for their position, claiming that some of the letter’s theological themes[3] and various terms employed,[4] are not witnessed in the agreed-upon genuine Pauline letters.[5] But if the Apostle Paul is not the author of Ephesians, then who is it? Those who deny Pauline authorship of Ephesians might propose that someone in Paul’s inner circle, like Onesimus or Luke, composed it sometime after his death. Generally among liberals, though, one finds the view that some kind of anonymous members of a Pauline school, a collection of second generation Believers wanting to honor the Apostle and his legacy, wrote this letter in his honor to preserve his teaching legacy. Some liberals, who deny Pauline authorship of Ephesians, are keen to point out that this does not mean abandoning the letter’s theological and spiritual value.[6] A liberal like Furnish, perhaps surprisingly, has to admit, “At least in a general way, the overall structure of Ephesians conforms to that of the other letters in the Pauline Corpus” (ABD).[7]

Those who would affirm genuine Pauline authorship of Ephesians would take issue with the claims that the theological themes of the letter are too unique to be from the Apostle, as well as the idea that the employment of various terms places the letter outside of the Apostle’s composition ability. Those supporting genuine Pauline authorship of Ephesians draw the attention of readers to the kind of epistle Ephesians was intended to be, and how some unique vocabulary would needed to have been employed for the circumstances the author intended to address. “The versatility of Paul himself is obvious enough from his acknowledged writings and is broad enough to accommodate the rich theology of Ephesians” (Marshall, ECB).[8] In Marshall’s dialoguing with a somewhat liberal audience in ECB, he actually calls the author of Ephesians “Paul” in quotation marks.[9] A sound case, when evaluating the positions of liberals who deny genuine Pauline authorship of Ephesians, can be made for genuine Pauline authorship—as the arguments against its themes or vocabulary coming from the Apostle himself are not as strong as purported.[10]

Who was the audience of Ephesians? Going by what most readers of the letter tend to encounter, it is to be historically recognized that Ancient Ephesus became the third most important city for the early Messianic community, after Jerusalem and Antioch. Ephesus was a major emporium and urban center in the Eastern Roman Empire, standing on the most direct sea and land route to the eastern provinces. It was a major center of Artemis (Diana) worship, boasting a huge temple. The early Messianic community established a major presence in Ephesus, so significant that it is one of the assemblies that Yeshua directs a word to in the Book of Revelation. In the Epistles of 1&2 Timothy, one witnesses how Paul’s disciple Timothy served the Ephesian Believers with great care.

Not enough laypersons are actually aware of the significant debate, even among conservatives who accept genuine Pauline authorship, as to who the target audience of the epistle entitled “Ephesians” really was.[11] When encountering Ephesians 1:1 in the RSV, for example, one reads: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are also faithful in Christ Jesus.” The words en Ephesō are missing from the oldest manuscripts.[12] Noting that “in Ephesus” is not present in some of the earliest copies of the letter, as well as seeing that the author is not too personally acquainted with the audience (1:15; 3:2; 4:21)—which seems strange considering that Paul spent three years in Ephesus (Acts 20:31)—there have been various propositions as to what the purpose of “Ephesians” was. As Marshall notes, “it remains curiously impersonal and general in its contents, so that it is very difficult to pick up any clues that would enable us to reconstruct the situation and the identity of the recipients” (ECB).[13]

While there are conservatives who will argue that the Epistle of Ephesians was written to the Ephesians, there are many others who would argue instead that the letter, which would become known as “Ephesians,” was actually a general epistle written by Paul to congregations in Asia Minor. The oldest Greek copies of Ephesians actually have a blank space, where “in Ephesus” appears in later copies, giving support to the idea that Paul’s courier Tychicus (6:21) could have carried this letter to various assemblies, and then written their name in this space. “It is widely held that Ephesians, designated as a circular, was written at the same time as Colossians and Philemon and was probably taken to various churches in the province of Asia by Tychicus” (Guthrie).[14] Carson and Moo further describe how, “Perhaps the best form of the circular-letter theory is that which sees Paul as having sent such a letter with Tychicus when he sent Colossians and that the letter was copied and circulated from Ephesus. Since it was a circular, there would be a blank instead of the name of the recipients, but the letter would be known to be associated with Ephesus, and in time that name was attached to it.”[15]

Viewing the letter we now call Ephesians, as originally an epistle to various assemblies of Messiah followers in Asia Minor would have been something that eventually made its way to Ephesus, given the importance of Ephesus for the First Century ekklēsia. The Ephesians could have been one in a series of intended audiences for the letter, and that is why the letter did come to be known as “Ephesians.” Yet, given its rather broad theological tones, Paul’s visit to Ephesus in Acts can, at best, be used as indirect background material. Ephesus does play a role in understanding Ephesians, but only in a general or indirect sense. Also important to keep in mind is how viewing the letter we now call “Ephesians,” as a general epistle written to assemblies in Asia Minor, could very well answer the question of what letter Paul sent to Laodicea, which was to be read to the Colossians (Colossians 4:16). While some have searched endlessly for a non-extant Epistle to the Laodiceans,[16] such a letter coming from Laodicea, could very well have been the general epistle that came to be known as “Ephesians.”

It is undeniable that the Epistle of Ephesians and the Epistle to the Colossians have some kind of a relationship, as there is a great deal of overlap often witnessed between the themes of the two letters[17] (Ephesians 1:4/Colossians 1:22; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14, 20; Ephesians 1:15-16/Colossians 1:4, 9; Ephesians 3:1-5/Colossians 1:25-27; Ephesians 3:9/Colossians 1:26; Ephesians 4:2/Colossians 3:12; Ephesians 4:31-32/Colossians 3:8, 12; Ephesians 5:19-20/Colossians 3:16-17; Ephesians 6:21-22/Colossians 4:7-8).[18] If one accepts genuine Pauline authorship of both Ephesians and Colossians, then Ephesians and Colossians being written at around the same time is probable. (There are some scholars who consider Colossians to be authentically Pauline, but Ephesians to not be. Colossians was used, then, as a basis for Ephesians as a second generation doctrinal piece.)[19] Was Ephesians written first, then being “compressed” into Colossians? Or, is Ephesians a more expanded and generalized version of Colossians? More expositors tend to favor Ephesians being written after Colossians. Guthrie details, “The close connection between this epistle and Colossians has a direct bearing on its purpose. The same themes are dealt with although in a modified way. It seems probable that the apostle, with the positive doctrine of the Colossian letter still in his mind, wrote it down again in a general way without the specific background of the heresy.”[20] Carson and Moo also observe,

“It is not unreasonable to think of Paul as producing Colossians with a specific situation in mind, and not long after, as writing Ephesians with broader purposes. It is also possible that he made use of an amanuensis and allowed him some freedom in one or another of the letters.”[21]

Arnold astutely directs us, “The precise nature…of the relationship between Ephesians and Colossians continues to stand in need of careful research from a literary, linguistic and theological perspective.”[22] At the very least, readers of both Ephesians and Colossians may find clarification on an issue, from additional statements made in either letter.

The traditional place of Ephesians’ composition is regarded as being Rome, likely between 60-62 C.E. A few believe that a fair case can be made for Paul actually being imprisoned in Ephesus itself, but this would require an earlier dating.

No case for a Hebrew or Aramaic origin of this letter has ever been made by either conservative or liberal examiners. Given the likely Roman origin of the letter, and a Greek-speaking audience encompassing parts of Asia Minor in the vicinity of Ephesus, a Greek composition of the letter is definite. However, simply because the letter was written in Greek does not mean that it should be separated from its Jewish-Pauline context. “Although the OT quotations in Ephesians are not numerous…there are many allusions evidenced by the author’s dependence on OT phraseology, terminology and concepts” (Arnold).[23]

The Epistle of Ephesians is sometimes described as having a “meditative quality” (Gundry).[24] It is also observed that “Colossians has in it the intensity, rush, and roar of the battlefield, while Ephesians has a calm atmosphere suggestive of a survey of the field after the victory” (NIDB).[25] Ephesians emphasizes the final authority and supremacy of the Messiah Yeshua (1:10, 22), but also His grand service for Believers via His atoning sacrifice (2:16; 5:25). The letter has no specific false teaching in mind to address (even though some connections may be seen to the Colossian false teaching). Ephesians focuses on important themes such as the fulfilled life that Believers have in Yeshua (1:1), the mystery of God’s people fully understood in Yeshua (3:1-6), and the different spiritual gifts that God has given to each one of us (4:1-16). Paul also discusses the proper balance of Believers’ personal lives and their relationships with others, specifically in the context of marriage (4:17-6:9).

There are various parts of the Epistle of Ephesians, which are understandably quite important for today’s evangelical Christians. Sections which uplift the supremacy of Yeshua the Messiah, and the great reconciliation to the Father that people are to experience in Him as Savior, are obviously most significant. Also key, for today’s Body of Messiah, are noting a respect for its diversity, as born again Believers have each been given a variety of gifts, talents, and skills that are to benefit everyone (4:4-6, 11-13). A great amount of discussion and debate, though, over the family instruction (5:21-6:4) given, has been witnessed in the past two to three decades, among complementarians and egalitarians, as Paul appears to deliberately subvert some ancient Greco-Roman and Jewish views of the sexes in the First Century Mediterranean. This particularly concerns the concept of mutual submission of Believers to each other (5:21, 30), and what the term kephalē (kefalh,) or “head” means (5:23), as either “authority” or “source.”[26] If the latter is to be preferred, then it definitely implies that husbands are to treat their wives with a great deal of respect—like their own bodies (5:28)—as woman came from man. Those in the Messiah are to regard themselves as incorporating a “one new humanity”[27] (2:15, NRSV/CJB/TNIV) that has emerged as a direct result of His sacrificial work.

It is worth noting that throughout much of post-Reformation history, various Protestant traditions (particularly the Reformed Church) have not looked at Ephesians 2:15 as abolishing the Mosaic Torah in its entirety, but instead just the so-called “ceremonial law.” A correct interpretation of this will take into consideration what “the barrier of the dividing wall” (2:14, NASU) actually represented for an ancient First Century audience.[28]

For Messianic Believers today, the Epistle of Ephesians is often highly valued. Paul expresses the unity that Jewish and non-Jewish people are to have in Messiah Yeshua as a part of the Commonwealth of Israel (2:11-12; 3:6). Anything that unnecessarily separated these two distinct groups of human beings should be regarded as inoperative in Him. Yet in much of the contemporary Messianic movement, what such a Commonwealth of Israel represents has been debated.[29] There are struggles witnessed as to what the “one new humanity” actually is and what was abolished by Yeshua’s sacrifice (2:15), if this was not the Torah of Moses. Few of today’s Messianics are that well informed, or even aware, of the discussions in evangelical Christianity over mutual submission in the home, and some rightful criticisms of what has been commonly (and incorrectly) called “male headship.” While Ephesians is a highly regarded text of the Apostolic Scriptures by many Messianics, there is much room for improvement, and more detailed examination will need to take place in the future.

Consult the commentary Ephesians for the Practical Messianic by J.K. McKee for a more detailed examination of Ephesians.

Arnold, C.E. “Ephesians, Letter to the,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, pp 238-249.
Blaiklock, Edward M. “Ephesus,” in NIDB, pp 315-316.
Carson, D.A., and Douglas J. Moo. “Ephesians,” in An Introduction to the New Testament, pp 479-497.
Dahl, N.A. “Ephesians, Letter to the,” in IDBSup, pp 268-269.
Danker, F.W. “Ephesians, Epistle to the,” in ISBE, 2:109-114.
Furnish, Victor Paul. “Ephesians, Epistle to the,” in ABD, 2:535-542.
Gundry, Robert H. “The Prison Epistles of Paul,” in A Survey of the New Testament, pp 390-420.
Gundry-Volf, Judith M. “Ephesians, Letter to the,” in EDB, pp 411-413.
Guthrie, Donald. “The Epistle to the Ephesians,” in New Testament Introduction, pp 496-540.
Hiebert, D. Edmond. “Ephesians, Letter to the,” in NIDB, pp 314-315.
Johnston, G. “Ephesians, Letter to the,” in IDB, 2:108-114.
Marshall, I. Howard. “Ephesians,” in ECB, pp 1385-1393.
Martin, Ralph P. “Ephesians,” in NBCR, pp 1105-1124.
Tree of Life—The New Covenant, pp 313-323.
Wood, A. Skevington. “Ephesians,” in EXP, 11:3-92.

NOTES for Introduction

[1] G. Johnston, “Ephesians, Letter to the,” in IDB, 2:108.

Clement of Rome: 1 Clement 36:2 (Ephesians 4:18); 59:3 (Ephesians 1:18); 46:6 (Ephesians 4:4-6); Ignatius: To the Smyrnaens 1:2 (Ephesians 1:23; 2:16); To Polycarp (Ephesians 4:2ff); 5:1 (Ephesians 5:25); Polycarp: To the Philippians 1:3 (Ephesians 2:8); 12:1 (Ephesians 4:26).

[2] BibleWorks 8.0: Schaff, Early Church Fathers.

[3] Johnston, “Ephesians, Letter to the,” in IDB, 2:108; F.W. Danker, “Ephesians, Epistle to the,” in ISBE, 2:109-110; Victor Paul Furnish, “Ephesians, Epistle to the,” in ABD, 2:540.

[4] Johnston, “Ephesians, Letter to the,” in IDB, 2:109-110; Furnish, “Ephesians, Epistle to the,” in ABD, 2:540, 541.

[5] The agreed-upon genuine Pauline letters, by both liberals and conservatives, are: Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, Philemon.

[6] Johnston, “Ephesians, Letter to the,” in IDB, 2:112.

[7] Furnish, “Ephesians, Epistle to the,” in ABD, 2:535.

[8] I. Howard Marshall, “Ephesians,” in ECB, 1386; cf. Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 510.

[9] Ibid.

[10] For a defense of genuine Pauline authorship of Ephesians: Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, pp 496-499, 509-528; C.E. Arnold, “Ephesians, Letter to the,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, pp 240-243; Carson and Moo, 486.

[11] Danker, “Ephesians, Epistle to the,” in ISBE, 2:110-111, 113; Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, pp 528-535; Furnish, “Ephesians, Epistle to the,” in ABD, 2:535; Arnold, “Ephesians, Letter to the,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, pp 243-245; Carson and Moo, pp 488-490.

[12] Aland, GNT, 654.

[13] Marshall, in ECB, 1385.

[14] Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 530.

[15] Carson and Moo, 489.

[16] Cf. Charles P. Anderson, “Laodiceans, Letter to the,” in ABD, 4:231-233.

[17] Danker, “Ephesians, Epistle to the,” in ISBE, 2:110; Furnish, “Ephesians, Epistle to the,” in ABD, 2:536-537; Arnold, “Ephesians, Letter to the,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, pp 242-243.

[18] Cf. Marshall, in ECB, 1386.

[19] Danker, “Ephesians, Epistle to the,” in ISBE, 2:112; Judith M. Gundry-Volf, “Ephesians, Letter to the,” in EDB, 413.

[20] Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 536.

[21] Carson and Moo, 481.

[22] Arnold, “Ephesians, Letter to the,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, 243.

[23] Ibid., 239.

[24] Gundry, “The Prison Epistles of Paul,” in A Survey of the New Testament, 397.

[25] Edward M. Blaiklock, “Ephesus,” in NIDB, 315.

[26] For a summary of views, consult C.C. Kroeger, “Head,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, pp 375-377; Alan F. Johnson, “A Meta-Study of the Debate over the Meaning of ‘Head’ (Kephalē) in Paul’s Writings,” Priscilla Papers Issue 20:4, Autumn 2006; “Ephesians 5:21-33 and Colossians 3:18-19: Husband-Wife Relationships,” in Philip B. Payne, Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), pp 271-290; Lynn H. Cohick, “Headship,” in Joel B. Green, ed. et. al., Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011), pp 349-350; Richard S. Cervin, “On the Significance of Kephalē (Head): A Study of the Abuse of One Greek Word,” Missing Voices: A special edition journal of Christians for Biblical Equality 2014.

Consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, Male Headship.”

[27] Grk. kainon anthrōpon.

[28] Consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, Ephesians 2:14-15.”

[29] Consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, Commonwealth of Israel.”



 1 Paul, an apostle of Messiah Yeshua by the will of God, to the holy ones who are also faithful in Messiah Yeshua:[1]
 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Yeshua the Messiah.

Spiritual Blessings in Messiah

 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the Heavenly places in Messiah,
 4 even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love
 5 having predestined us to adoption as children through Yeshua the Messiah to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace,
 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and insight,
 9 making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Him
 10 to an administration of the fullness of the times, to sum up all things in Messiah, the things in the Heavens and the things upon the Earth. In Him, I say,
 11 in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,
 12 to the end that we would be to the praise of His glory, we who had previously hoped in Messiah.
 13 In Him you also, having heard the word of the truth, the good news of your salvation—in whom, having also believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,
 14 who is a pledge of our inheritance, to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

Paul’s Prayer

 15 For this reason I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Yeshua which is among you, and your love toward all the holy ones,
 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
 17 that the God of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,
 18 having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the holy ones,
 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of the strength of His might
 20 which He worked in Messiah, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the Heavenly places,
 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come.
 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet[2], and gave Him as source[3] over all things to the assembly,
 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

NOTES for Ephesians 1

[1] Grk. tois hagiois tois ousin [en Ephesō] kai pistois en Christō Iēsou, with a significant textual variant present, with various early witnesses lacking en Ephesō or “in Ephesus” for 1:1. There are various major versions, and other specialty versions, which have chosen to exclude this from their rendering of 1:1:

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are also faithful in Christ Jesus” (RSV).

“PAUL, by the will of God an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the saints who are faithful in Jesus Christ” (Moffat New Testament).

“Paul, by God’s will an apostle of Jesus Christ, to God’s people who are faithful in Jesus Christ” (Williams New Testament).

“Paul, by the will of God an apostle of Christ Jesus, to God’s holy people, faithful in Christ Jesus” (New Jerusalem Bible).

“From: Paul, an apostle of the Anointed One Jesus through God’s plan. To: The people devoted to God who are faithful to the Anointed One Jesus” (Source New Testament).

Comfort, New Testament Text & Translation Commentary, pp 577-579 favors the view that en Ephesō is not original to Paul’s letter, and supports the proposition that this was a general letter or encyclical to assemblies in the vicinity of Asia Minor. He actually favors 1:1 being rendered as “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through God’s will to the saints living in ______ and faithful in Christ Jesus,” with a blank space.

[2] The CJB has bolded “put all things under his feet” for 1:22, noting a possible allusion to Psalm 8:6(7): “you had him rule what your hands made, you put everything under his feet” (CJB).

[3] Grk. kephalē; more lit. “head,” but akin to source, per “the head or source of a river” (LS, 430); “source, origin” (BibleWorks 9.0: LSJM Lexicon (Unabridged)); The Source New Testament has “to the assembly as the source of everything it needs” for 1:22.


From Death to Life

 1 And you He made alive, being dead in your trespasses and sins,
 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the children of disobedience.
 3 Among them we also all once lived in the lusts of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Messiah (by grace you have been saved),
 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the Heavenly places, in Messiah Yeshua,
 7 that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Messiah Yeshua.
 8 For by grace have you been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
 9 not of works, that no one should boast.
 10 For we are His handiwork, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we would walk in them.

One in Messiah

 11 Therefore remember, that once you, the nations in the flesh—who are called “Foreskin” by the ones called “Circumcision,” which is in the flesh, made by hands[1]
12 remember that you were at that time separate from Messiah, alienated from the Commonwealth of Israel[2], and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
 13 But now in Messiah Yeshua you who were once far off, have been brought near in the blood of Messiah.
 14 For He is our peace, who made both groups one, and broke down the middle wall of partition,
 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, the religious Law of commandments in dogmas[3], that He might create in Himself the two into one new humanity[4], so making peace,
 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the wooden scaffold,[5] having killed the enmity by it.
 17 And HE CAME AND ANNOUNCED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR OFF, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR [Isaiah 57:19[6]; 52:7[7]; Zechariah 9:10[8]];
 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.
 19 So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones, and of the household of God,
 20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Messiah Yeshua Himself being the corner stone,
 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord;
 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

NOTES for Ephesians 2

[1] Grk. cheiropoiētos; “made by human hands” (BDAG, 1083), is used most frequently throughout the Greek Septuagint in relation to idol-making (Leviticus 26:1, 30; Isaiah 2:18; 10:11; 16:12; 19:1; 21:9; 31:7; 46:6; Daniel 5:4, 23; 6:28).

[2] Grk. tēs politeias tou Israēl; “the community of Israel” (NEB); “citizenship in Israel” (NIV); “the national life of Isra’el” (CJB).

The key term of interest is politeia, widely meaning both “the right to be a member of a sociopolitical entity, citizenship” and “behavior in accordance with standards expected of a respectable citizen, way of life, conduct” (BDAG, 845).

[3] Grk. ton nomon tōn entolōn en dogmasin; “the law of commandments in decrees” (Marshall, 565), “the law code of mitzvot contained in regulations” (TLV); “the principle of mitzvot by decrees” (Messianic Jewish Shared Heritage Bible-TLV).

Much needs to be recognized how the term dogma can mean both “a formal statement concerning rules or regulations that are to be observed” and “something that is taught as an established tenet or statement of belief, doctrine, dogma” (BDAG, 254). Dogma is not used at all in the Septuagint translation of the Pentateuchal books to describe any category of Torah commandments. It principally appears in the Book of Daniel to describe the decrees of the Babylonians and the Persians (Daniel 2:13; 3:10, 12; 4:6; 6:9ff, 13f, 16, 27; cf. Acts 17:7), as it can certainly be referring to “an imperial declaration” (Ibid.).

In the Apocrypha an apostate Jew is said to leave all of tōn patriōn dogmatōn or “the ancestral traditions” (3 Maccabees 1:3), and a brother who is martyred testifies to have been raised on dogmasin or various “teachings” (4 Maccabees 10:2), neither of which has to be the Torah/Pentateuch proper.

The specific kind of dogmas, representing itself as “religious Law,” and which the work of Yeshua would have had to decisively abolish, are the kinds of decrees such as those seen in the Dead Sea Scrolls, where members of the Qumran community were permitted to hate those on the outside (1QS 1.9-11). This kind of attitude would do far more to keep people out of God’s intention than welcome people in. This is something that would have been epitomized by the dividing wall in the Second Temple complex, erected between the Court of the Gentiles and the inner court, which if a non-Jew crossed demanded his death (Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 15.417; Wars of the Jews 5.194).

The ISR Scriptures (2009), a Sacred Name Bible which will be seen from time to time within the broad Messianic community, actually renders 2:15 with, “the torah of the commands in dogma.”

[4] Grk. hena kainon anthrōpon; more commonly appearing as “one new man,” but the generic anthrōpos for humankind is witnessed, justifying a rendering of “one new humanity” (NRSV/TNIV) or “a single new humanity” (CJB).

[5] Grk. noun stauros or verb equiv. stauroō; “to fasten to a cross, crucify” (BDAG, 941). History fully attests that criminals in the Roman Empire were crucified upon some kind of a cross. It was an extremely brutal, humiliating, and painful way to suffer and die. It was intended to serve as a public warning to others not to infuriate the Roman state:

“Under the Roman Empire, crucifixion normally included a flogging beforehand. At times the cross was only one vertical stake. Frequently, however, there was a cross-piece attached either at the top to give the shape of a ‘T’ (crux comissa) or just below the top, as in the form most familiar in Christian symbolism (crux immissa). The victims carried the cross or at least a transverse beam (patibulum) to the place of the execution, where they were stripped and bound or nailed to the beam, raised up, and seated on a sedile or small wooden peg in the upright beam. Ropes bound the shoulders or torso to the cross. The feet or heels of the victims were bound or nailed to the upright stake. As crucifixion damaged no vital organs, death could come slowly, sometimes after several days of atrocious pain” (Gerald G. O’Collins, “Crucifixion,” in ABD, 1:1208-1209).

A Messianic version the CJB often uses an alternative like “execution-stake,” instead of the more traditional “cross” for stauros, some of which is intended to counter traditional Jewish hostility to the sign of the cross. A Messianic version like the TLV, however, will frequently use the traditional “cross” for stauros, although it may also use “execution-stake” as well. The PME uses the new alternative, “wooden scaffold.”

[6] “‘Creating the praise of the lips. Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,’ says YHWH, ‘and I will heal him’” (Isaiah 57:19, PME).

[7] How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (Isaiah 52:7, PME).

[8] I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; and the bow of war will be cut off. And He will speak peace to the nations; and His dominion will be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the Earth” (Zechariah 9:10, PME).


Paul’s Ministry to the Nations

 1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Messiah Yeshua on behalf of you, the nations—
 2 if indeed you have heard of the administration of the grace of God which was given to me for you;
 3 that by revelation was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief.
 4 To which, when you read, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Messiah,
 5 which in other generations was not made known to the children of humanity, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;
 6 that is, that the nations are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Messiah Yeshua through the good news,
 7 of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God which was given to me according to the working of His power.
 8 To me, the very least of all holy ones, this was grace given, to announce to the nations the unsearchable riches of Messiah,
 9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things;
 10 in order that now through the assembly the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to the principalities and the powers in the Heavenly places.
 11 This was according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Messiah Yeshua our Lord,
 12 in whom we have boldness and access in confidence, through His faithfulness[1].
 13 Therefore I ask that you may not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which are your glory.

To Know the Love of Messiah

 14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,
 15 from whom every family in Heaven and on Earth is named,
 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner self;
 17 that Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
 19 and to know the love of Messiah which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to all the fullness of God.
 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,
 21 to Him be the glory in the assembly and in Messiah Yeshua to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

NOTES for Ephesians 3

[1] Grk. dia tēs pisteōs autou; the rendering “through His faithfulness” treats the genitive clause as subjective (cf. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 115); it has been more traditionally approached as an objective genitive: “through faith in Him” (NASU).

The subjective “faithfulness” is employed to represent the Son’s willful obedience to the Father, to be submissive to die for the sins of humanity.


The Unity of the Body

 1 I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, exhort you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling in which you were called,
 2 with all humility and gentleness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love,
 3 being diligent to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, just as you also were called in one hope of your calling;
 5 one Lord, one faith, one immersion[1],
 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
 7 But to each one of us the grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Messiah.
 9 (Now this saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that He also descended into the lower parts of the Earth?
 10 He who descended is He who also ascended far above all the Heavens, that He might fill all things.)
 11 And He gave some to be apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
 12 for the equipping of the holy ones for the work of ministry, to the building up of the body of Messiah;
 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man[3], to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah,
 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human trickery, in craftiness with deceitful scheming;
 15 but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all ways into Him, who is the source[4], the Messiah,
 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body to the building up of itself in love.

The Old Life and the New

 17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you no longer walk as the nations also walk, in the futility of their mind,
 18 being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;
 19 who having become callous, have given themselves up to licentiousness, for the practice of every kind of uncleanness with greediness.
 20 But you did not learn Messiah this way,
 21 if indeed you heard Him, and were taught in Him, just as truth is in Yeshua,
 22 that you put away, as regarding your former manner of life, the old self, which is being corrupted according to the lusts of deceit,
 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
 24 and put on the new self, which according to God, has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Rules for the New Life

 25 Therefore, putting away falsehood, LET US SPEAK TRUTH, EACH ONE WITH HIS NEIGHBOR [Zechariah 8:16][5]; for we are members one of another.
 26 BE ANGRY, AND DO NOT SIN [Psalm 4:4][6]; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
 27 neither give place to the Devil.
 28 Let him who steals, steal no longer; but rather let him labor, working with his hands at something good, so that he may have something to share with the one who has need.
 29 Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but only such as is good for edifying, as the need may be, so that it may give grace to those who hear.
 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed unto the day of redemption.
 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and blasphemy be put away from you, along with all malice.
 32 And be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, as God in Messiah also forgave you.

NOTES for Ephesians 4

[1] Grk. noun baptisma; verb equiv. baptizō, more neutrally meaning, “wash ceremonially for purpose of purification, wash, purify, of a broad range of repeated ritual washing rooted in Israelite tradition,” but more theologically meaning “to use water in a rite for purpose of renewing or establishing a relationship w. God, plunge, dip, wash, baptize. The transliteration ‘baptize’ signifies the ceremonial character that NT narratives accord such cleansing” (BDAG, 164).

Perhaps due to some of the varied and diverse Christian traditions—across the spectrum—regarding “baptism,” Messianic people prefer to speak in terms of “immersion.” This is not because the term “baptism” is at all wrong, but more because of the intense amount of Christian-cultural associations or baggage that can come with it. A common term that you will hear across the Messianic community is mikveh, which is a “gathering of water, esp. the ritual bath of purification” (Jastrow, 829).

[2] You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives; You have received gifts among people, even among the rebellious also, that YHWH God may dwell there (Psalm 68:18, PME).

There is a difference between the Hebrew of Psalm 68:18 and what Paul quotes in 4:8. The Hebrew verb laqach can mean “take to or for a person” (BDB, 542), in regard to fetching something that is to later be distributed, so laqach can be extrapolated as “to give,” something that Paul may have imported into his letter via the Greek didōmi.

The reflection of “taking” actually meaning “giving” is seen in a Targum on Psalms. Its view of Psalm 68:18 compared the scene to Moses’ ascension of Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, who then was responsible to give it to the people of Israel:

“You ascended to the firmament, O prophet Moses; you captured captives, you taught the words of Torah, you gave gifts to the sons of men, and even the stubborn who are converted turn in repentance, [and] the glorious presence of the Lord God abides upon them” (Edward M. Cook (2001), trans. The Psalms Targum: An English Translation. Accessible online at <http://targum.info/>).

[3] Grk. eis andra teleion; “to mature manhood” (RSV); the term anēr is legitimately rendered as “man” here, being connected to the Son of God immediately preceding.

[4] Grk. kephalē; more lit. “head,” but akin to source, per “the head or source of a river” (LS, 430); “source, origin” (BibleWorks 9.0: LSJM Lexicon (Unabridged)); The Source New Testament has “so that we will realize our closeness with our source of growth” for 4:15.

[5] These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates” (Zechariah 8:16, PME).

[6] Tremble, and do not sin; meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah” (Psalm 4:4, PME).


 1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;
 2 and walk in love, even as Messiah also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a fragrant aroma.
 3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among holy ones;
 4 also no filthiness and foolish talking, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.
 5 For this you know with certainty, that no fornicator or unclean or covetous person, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Messiah and God.

Walk as Children of Light

 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience.
 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them;
 8 for you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light
 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth),
 10 discerning what is pleasing to the Lord.
 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead even expose them;
 12 for the things which are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of.
 13 But all things, when they are exposed, are made visible by the light, for everything that is made visible is light.
 14 Therefore it says, “Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Messiah will shine on you.”[1]
 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise people, but as wise,
 16 redeeming[2] the time, because the days are evil.
 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
 18 And do not get drunk with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,
 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah to God, even the Father.

Husbands and Wives

 21 Be submissive to one another in the fear of Messiah.
 22 Wives to your own husbands, as to the Lord[3].
 23 For the man is the source[4] of the woman, as Messiah also is the source of the assembly, being Himself the Savior of the body.
 24 But as the assembly is submissive to Messiah, so also the wives to their husbands in everything.
 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Messiah also loved the assembly, and gave Himself up for it[5];
 26 that He might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word,
 27 that He might present the assembly to Himself gloriously, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it would be holy and without blemish.
 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;
 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as Messiah also does the assembly,
 30 because we are members of His body.
 32 This mystery is great; but I speak with reference to Messiah and to the assembly.
 33 Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

NOTES for Ephesians 5

[1] The quotation of 5:14 is likely a synthesis of several Tanach passages, including, but not limited to: Isaiah 26:19; 51:17; 52:1; 60:1 (cf. Aland, GNT, 666).

[2] Grk. verb exagorazō; “to gain someth., esp. advantage or opportunity, make the most of” (BDAG, 343); “ making the most of your time” (NASU); “ making the most of every opportunity” (NIV).

[3] Grk. hai gunaikes tois idiois andrasin hōs tō Kuriō; notice how the ASV added “be in subjection” in italics, followed by the NASU with “be subject”; “the wives to their own husbands as to the Lord” (Brown and Comfort, 681).

[4] Grk. kephalē; more lit. “head,” but akin to source, per “the head or source of a river” (LS, 430); “source, origin” (BibleWorks 9.0: LSJM Lexicon (Unabridged)).

While 5:23 is commonly rendered with “For the husband is the head of the wife” (NASU), the alternative rendering of kephalē is present in The Source New Testament: “The man is the source of the woman just as the Anointed One is the source of the assembly.”

While fiercely debated for sure among examiners, the advantage of approaching kephalē as “source”—and not as “head” akin to authority—is how it would have directed ancient men/husbands in Asia Minor to look at women/wives as originating from them. Husbands were to treat their wives the same as their own bodies (5:28; cf. Genesis 2:23), something to stir love and respect (5:29), not disparagement.

For a summary of views surrounding the term kephalē, consult C.C. Kroeger, “Head,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, pp 375-377; Alan F. Johnson, “A Meta-Study of the Debate over the Meaning of ‘Head’ (Kephalē) in Paul’s Writings,” Priscilla Papers Issue 20:4, Autumn 2006; Lynn H. Cohick, “Headship,” in Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics, pp 349-350; Richard S. Cervin, “On the Significance of Kephalē (Head): A Study of the Abuse of One Greek Word,” Missing Voices: A special edition journal of Christians for Biblical Equality 2014.

[5] The pronoun autēs is obviously feminine, as it refers to the ekklēsia or assembly. A variety of versions prefer to render autēs as “her.”

[6] For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, PME).


Children and Parents

 1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
 2 HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER [Exodus 20:12[1]; Deuteronomy 5:16] (which is the first commandment with a promise),
 4 And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but nurture them in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Slaves and Masters

 5 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your lords according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as to Messiah;
 6 not in the way of eyeservice, as people-pleasers, but as slaves of Messiah, doing the will of God from the heart.
 7 With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to people,
 8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.
 9 And, lords, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that He who is both their Lord and yours is in Heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.

The Battle Against Evil

 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might.
 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the Devil.
 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the
Heavenly places.
 13 Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
 15 and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOOD NEWS OF PEACE [Isaiah 52:7][5];
 16 with all these things, taking up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the Evil One.
 17 And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION [Isaiah 59:17][6], and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;
 18 with all prayer and supplication, praying at all times in the Spirit, and being watchful to this in all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones,
 19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in opening my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the good news,
 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

Final Greetings

 21 But that you also may know my affairs, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you,
 22 whom I have sent to you for this very purpose, so that you may know the things about us, and that he may comfort your hearts.
 23 Peace be to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Yeshua the Messiah.
 24 Grace be with all those who love our Lord Yeshua the Messiah with a love incorruptible.

NOTES for Ephesians 6

[1] Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which YHWH your God gives you” (Exodus 20:12, PME).

[2] Honor your father and your mother, as YHWH your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with you on the land which YHWH your God gives you” (Deuteronomy 5:16, PME).

[3] Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, and faithfulness the belt about His waist” (Isaiah 11:5, PME).

[4] He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; and He put on garments of vengeance for clothing and wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle” (Isaiah 59:17, PME).

[5] How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (Isaiah 52:7, PME).

[6] He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; and He put on garments of vengeance for clothing and wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle” (Isaiah 59:17, PME).