HT: Mark Goodacre
There is an ongoing commentary on Ephesians being produced at the blog, Bread of Life Fellowship. The commentary seems to have an eye on the original language, which is essential. Check it out and see it for yourself. Wrestle with it. Discuss it. Study it. The following list includes all of the posts that have been produced thus far in this ongoing commentary:
In his book, The Resurrection of the Son of God, N. T. Wright devotes a small section on the Pauline corpus outside of Corinthians dealing with resurrection. In this chapter, he treats resurrection in Ephesians but combined with Colossians. The section starts from page 236 and is concluded on page 240. Specifically, the section concerning Ephesians is found in pages 236-238.
Wright says that the language of inheritance (Eph 1:14) is eschatological language identifying Paul’s view of both continuity and discontinuity for the present Christian experience and the final hope. The inheritance is both assured but not yet possessed. He emphasizes that Eph 1:3-14 is a re-telling of an exodus story.
This retelling, Wright says, leads Paul into a celebratory prayer, for the church is awaiting its final inheritance (Eph 1:15-23). This section is a re-telling of the Jesus story. He was raised from the dead; he was sat at the right hand of the throne of God; all things were put under his feet. Wright points out that Psalm 8:6 is a very important background text for the Jesus story here in Ephesians. It indicates that the rule of the Messiah fulfills the divine intention for humanity. Furthermore, the divine power that accomplished these things in him is also at work in the believers.
Wright points to Eph 2:1-10, being primarily focused on vv. 5-6, saying that in the Messiah all of humankind has been brought from death to life. Those who are in the Messiah have been resurrected, and they have been seated with him. What can be said of Christ in Eph 1:20-23 can also be said to be true of those who are in the Messiah. For Paul, in Ephesians the concept of resurrection pertains to the restoration of humankind through the gospel; it is the return from death to life. Wright says that resurrection language can be adapted, and indeed it was: “for we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance for us to walk in them” (Eph 2:10).
This adaptation enabled Paul to demonstrate how all of humanity is joined together in the Messiah in Eph 2:11-22 according to Wright. The covenant has been abolished, therefore destroying the enmity between Jew and Gentile, because in the Messiah there has been created a new humanity. This new humanity is to grow up into the Messiah so that it becomes mature. Wright says, “Resurrected humanity, it seems, is humanity reaching its full goal.”
This new humanity has resurrection as its basis for present Christian living, which is what the song or poem of Eph 5:14 points toward. This concept, shining in the darkness, is clearly connected with Daniel 12:3, for believers must shine.
So, although the word “resurrection” is not in Ephesians, Wright says that the concept is present. It is the resurrected Jesus that makes the new humanity possible. It is the same power that was at work in the resurrected Jesus that is currently working in the believers. It is the future hope of the resurrection that provides the encouragement for present Christian living in combination with the reality of the present aspect of the resurrection.
There has been some discussion about cussing, and an appeal to Eph 5:3-4 has been made.
After attempting to summarize the types of cases put forth by his opponents, the author makes the following appeal:
But notice what Paul himself said about lewd and off-color language. He classifies it as impurity in Ephesians 5:3-6, where he treats indecent language as one of several worldly substitutes for love. The Greek term Paul uses is akatharsia, a word that refers to every kind of filth and pollution—”uncleanness” in the KJV. Paul is talking about real spiritual uncleanness, not ceremonial defilement, but moral filth.
And when he gives some specific examples of akatharsia in verse 4, all of them have to do with the misuse of language: “obscenity,” “foolish talk,” and “coarse jesting.” He is talking about the words we use, the things we talk about, and the spirit of our conversation. He covers all the bases.
The rest of the author’s post focuses on “filthiness . . . foolish talk . . . coarse jesting,” and how it is that contemporary pop culture reflects such things and that Christians should not. It advocates being “intentionally counter-cultural” amongst a culture that insists on such things as risqué wit and the like.
There is much that we can agree with from that article. However, there are some things that should be clarified and challenged. We should consider Eph 5:3-4 ourselves to determine if the above appeal is valid.
In Eph 5:3, akatharsia is listed after porneia. Sexual immorality and every moral corruption or greediness must not even be named among the believers, as it is fitting for saints. The next list, found in v. 4, isn’t clarifying akatharsia as has been suggested by some. The next list is actually an extension of the first list of things not be identified among the believers. So far, sexual immorality and general corrupted morality and greediness are not to be named among the believers. Additionally, neither is aischrotes, morologia, or eutrapelia.
Let’s break it down. The following items are not to be named among you: porneia, akatharsia, pleonexia, aischrotes, morologia, or eutrapelia. The first three are part A. Part A is not to be named among them. It is fitting for believers not to mention these things. The second three are part B. Part B does not belong, so they are not to be named among them. What belongs? Thanksgiving belongs and is fitting for believers.
Defining our Terms
Akatharsia = [BDAG] In general has to do with something that is not clean; figuratively it marks the moral corruption of someone or something. This word is used in connection with sexual sins, as it is in Eph 5:3. It is used earlier in Eph 4:19 to describe the Gentiles who had been given over to moral corruption. It’s a broad term and does not mean filthy language; it deals with one’s cleanliness, either literally (dirty) or figuratively (morally corrupt). [LSJ] In a moral sense, it means “depravity,” and it’s cognates describe that which is morally impure or that which contains impurities.
Aischrotes = [BDAG] Concerning behavior that flouts social and moral standards; it pertains to that which is socially or morally unacceptable. This word is the abstract form of the concrete cognate aischrologia. This cognate refers to speech that is generally considered to be of a poor quality or taste. The cognate could be rendered “obscene speech” while aischrotes would be “obscenity.” [LSJ] This word means “ugliness” in terms of one’s appearance, but in terms of behavior it means “filthy conduct.” It is used as a euphemism for fellatio (Scholia Aristophanes Ranae, 1308), so the word itself as well as its cognates have strong ties to sexual conduct.
Morologia = [BDAG] Foolish or silly talk. Its cognate moria is used generally for worldly wisdom. [LSJ] Silly talk. Its cognates refer to silly tales and simply speaking foolishly.
Eutrapelia = [BDAG] Literally, “good turn,” has to do with wittiness, but in Ephesians it is a bad sense along the lines of crude jokes. [LSJ] It typically means to have “ready wit” or “liveliness.” Only in Ephesians does it have a bad sense similar to the word bomolochia (coarse jesting, buffoonery, ribaldry). Its cognates refer to the ability to easily turn with an answer; jesting; tricky, dishonest.
Against what some have stated, the ones from part B are not examples of akatharsia from part A. There is no support linguistically or contextually for substantiating the claim that aischrotes, morologia, and eutrapelia are examples of akatharsia. Furthermore, against what has also been suggested, aischrotes, morologia, and eutrapelia do not convey anything specific regarding the words we use or the spirit of the conversation. These words do, however, describe for us the things that are not to be named or identified among us, which is another way of saying what we are not to include amongst ourselves. In other words, along with sexual immorality, general moral corruption, and greediness, also not to be identified among the believers is aischrotes, morologia, and eutrapelia, because such things do not belong.
What Others Have Said
[Witherington, The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians, 306-307] Porneia [and akatharsia] and pleonexia are not even to be named, not to mention performed, among the believers. In addition, neither is aischrotes, morologia, nor eutrapelia even to be named among them. Morologia has to do with language “that lacks wisdom or a godly perspective on life,” while eutrapelia in a negative context “refers to coarse humor, sexual innuendoes, or even dirty jokes.”
Note: Witherington does not make a connection between akatharsia and the latter three items in Eph 5:3-4. However, he completely passes over akatharsia in favor of discussing porneia and pleonexia; similarly, he only mentions aischrotes in passing and doesn’t say anything else except that it means “obscenity” and it is similar to aischrologia, a cognate that is found in the Colossian counterpart, 3:8.
[Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, 160-163] Aischrotes is taken completely independently from all that precedes and all that follows it. These six items are taken as shameful sins that are not even to be talked about never mind jested.
Note: Barclay does not make a connection between akatharsia and the latter three items in Eph 5:3-4. He doesn’t give a detailed explanation of each item, but rather he sums them up under a section regarding the seriousness of jesting that which ought not even be talked about.
[Stott, The Message of Ephesians, 191-193] Sex is no joking matter. Believers should not jest about it, but rather, they should show thanksgiving for it. As for aischrotes, morologia, and eutrapelia, all three refer to a dirty mind and dirty conversation.
[MacDonald, Colossians and Ephesians, 311-312] Talking about such things as porneia, akatharsia, and pleonexia is the equivalent to encouraging them. Aischrotes, morologia, and eutrapelia are also equivalent towards encouraging improper behavior, and therefore they do not belong.
Note: MacDonald does not make a connection between akatharsia and the latter three items not to be named. However, she does not devote much conversation at all to akatharsia or the other three except to say that akatharsia is usually listed along with porneia in other vice lists from the Greco-Roman world and she defines each of the latter three, placing emphasis on eutrapelia as that which demonstrates one’s superiority over another through the display of wit.
[O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, 359-361] In connection with porneia, akatharsia can refer to sexual impurity more broadly, but the way it is used here with pasa indicates it is even broader. But the presence of both of these vices would demonstrate the immoral state of the old life. Combined also with pleonexia, believers should not even mention or think about these things. Pleonexia can refer to greed, but in this context it likely indicates “that insatiable desire to have more, even the coveting of someone else’s body for selfish gratification.” The first three items in this list cover sexual immorality more broadly. The second three concern speech that takes sexual sin lightly. In sum, these three terms regarding speech “refer to a dirty mind expressing itself in vulgar conversation.”
See also Hoehner, Ephesians, 651-657; Lincoln, Ephesians, 321-324; Barth, Ephesians 4-6, 560-562; Snodgrass, Ephesians, 268-269.
Of all these commentators, Hoehner is the only one who takes the items in Eph 5:3-4 in a more broad or general sense, so that they do not all refer to sex in one way or another. However, not even he makes the case that the latter three are examples for akatharsia in the first set. Furthermore, he never mentions that cussing is in view, but only general moral impurity. However, all of them agree that the six items here are things that are not to be involved in the lives of the believers, not even in thought or in deed.
Paul is not addressing lewd off-color language in the sense of cussing. Unless you take a view like Hoehner, in which he is alone compared to the other scholars in the field, you will have to concede that the language in question, that which is prohibited, is language that makes light of or does not take seriously sexuality and sexual sins. Specifically, what is being prohibited is not cussing in general but sexually crude jokes that exploit obscene sexual behavior to obtain a laugh. Such language might include a few choice swear words, but it would also include other crude language, topics, and themes. Furthermore, not a single commentator demonstrated a connection between akatharsia and the latter three vices listed in v. 4. The latter three don’t cover all the bases of words, subject, and spirit of the conversation either. They mark the subject primarily, but specific words themselves are not identified, nor is the spirit of the conversation. As a result, we must conclude that when Paul is talking about obscenity, silly talk, and coarse jesting, he is not providing examples of “every impurity,” but he is using multiple terms to prohibit any form of communication that would cause one to mention and therefore think about and dwell on sexual sin. Ephesians 5:3-4 has nothing to do with cussing per se, but it might include it if the cussing were part of the language that takes sexual immorality lightly.
The appeal at the top of the page is certainly not valid. Paul is not concerned with cussing (lewd or colorful language). Rather, Paul is concerned with preventing Gentile believers from lapsing back into the old lifestyle that was originally marked by sexual immorality and all impurity along with insatiable greed. To prevent them from lapsing, he told them that they could not even talk or think about it. This prohibition also extended to obscene language, foolish talk, and coarse joking that took such things lightly, because they essentially promote such activities. The concern of the author who made the appeal is duly noted. We agree with such a concern. Holiness is an important matter. Having a godly effect on the culture is also important. But Eph 5:3-4 does not concern cussing. Therefore, if a case is to be made against cussing, it will have to be made elsewhere.
Mike Aubrey, at his blog, ΕΝ ΕΦΕΣΩ (evepheso.wordpress.com), has translated Ephesians 1-3. He is a linguist with much enthusiasm for the Greek language. Check out his translation of Ephesians 1-3 in three parts:
First, Ephesians 1.
Second, Ephesians 2.
Third, Ephesians 3.
If he adds Ephesians 4-6 later, I will add them in a separate post.
Tonight I came across an interesting form of didômi (δίδωμι: “I give”) in Eph 1:17. The form is δώῃ. This word has a variant reading, as seen in Codex Vaticanus (B), 1739, and a few other manuscripts. The variant reading has δῷ. Regardless of which variant is original, I was intrigued by the form of δώῃ. It is clear that what we have here is a subjunctive, as indicated by the ἵνα clause. However, the subjunctive form of δίδωμι in the third person singular active is δῷ, not δώῃ. I looked up the form in the Blue Hymnal, a.k.a. The Basics of Biblical Greek by Mounce. At first glance, this form, δώῃ, looks like a present subjunctive. It has the stem (δο) that appears to be lengthened and it has the third person singular active subjunctive ending (ῃ). But it is not so. If it were a present active subjunctive, there would need to be a reduplication of the first letter of the stem, which it does not have. Indeed, the second aorist subjunctive form of δίδωμι is δῷ. So what is the δώῃ of Eph 1:17? The Blue Hymnal doesn’t acknowledge this form in its appendix, which shows the various forms of the subjunctive for δίδωμι. None of the following commentaries discuss this form: Lincoln’s Ephesians; O’Brien’s The Letter to the Ephesians; Snodgrass’ Ephesians; Hoehner’s Ephesians; and Barth’s Ephesians 1-3. Both BDAG and BDF list δώῃ as a subjunctive form of δίδωμι without any explanation. So what’s going on? Let’s first take a look at δῷ, and then we will look at δῴη, and finally we will look at δώῃ.
1) δῷ: third person singular aorist active subjunctive δίδωμι “he might give”
The stem of δίδωμι is δο. To form the aorist active subjunctive, which will be a second aorist, we simply start with the stem. But the stem vowel can ablaut, and in this case, it lengthens to an omega. From here, we add on the lengthened form of the present active indicative ending for the third person singular, which is ει. This form must combine with the omega. As I learned it, a dead fish (ω) plus a crab (ε) becomes a dead fish (ω). Then the iota becomes a subscript. Thus, the third person singular aorist active subjunctive form of δίδωμι is δῷ.
2) δῴη: third person singular aorist active optative δίδωμι “he may give”
Starting with the stem and its lengthened vowel due to ablaut, δω, δίδωμι can form the aorist active optative by adding an omicron connecting vowel and ιη at the end for the mood formative, which yields δωοιη. The omega and omicron would contract into an omega and the iota would become a subscript, leaving the eta on the end (δῴη). If we remove the diacritical marks, the optative would look like the stripped form of what we find in NA27, δωη. Is NA27 making an editorial decision by putting it in as δώῃ instead of as δῴη? So far, we have come up with a logical reason as to how we can get the δωη form, that is if it is an aorist active optative. But the use of ἵνα indicates subjunctive. According to BDF (§ 369), ἵνα is never used with the optative in the NT. Likewise, it is interesting that BDAG (s.v. ἵνα § 1.d) states that ἵνα is not used with the optative “in our literature,” which implies that in other ancient literature it is used with the optative. It also adds that in Eph 1:17, δώῃ is the correct reading and it is certainly subjunctive. However, we have not seen a valid explanation as to how δώῃ is a valid subjunctive form.
3) δώῃ: third person singular aorist active subjunctive δίδωμι “he might give”
As we have already seen, the aorist active subjunctive would be formed by putting together δο and ει. Again, when it comes to μι verbs, the stem vowel can experience ablaut. In this case, it lengthens from an omicron to an omega. If we take the ει ending in its lengthened form for the subjunctive, we end up with ῃ, which adds with the omega to form δώῃ.
Based on this information, both δῷ and δώῃ are valid forms of δίδωμι. Now, the NA27 has δώῃ as the original text, whereas the likes of B have δῷ. Which one is original? That’s for a different time. At least I now know where the δώῃ form comes from. It is apparently common enough that commentators don’t feel the need to explain it, and yet, for those who are students of the Blue Hymnal, it can be a rather confusing form. Furthermore, it is possible that there could be a ἵνα + optative construction, but it has been ruled out as a valid NT construction; hence, it is not an option for Eph 1:17, at least according to BDF and BDAG. For this reason, it is likely that NA27 uses the subjunctive rather than the optative. Yes, it appears to be an editorial decision to use the diacritical marks to identify δωη as subjunctive, but it is based on the use of ἵνα throughout the rest of the NT that apparently excludes the use of the optative in this construction, and therefore it is an educated and well-grounded editorial decision.
In its immediate context, Ephesians 5:14 arises out of a discussion regarding the former person. In the section of Ephesians that 5:14 resides, Paul is considering the former person in juxtaposition with the new person. He addresses the things of the former life, porneia and akatharsia, for example, and proclaims that these were characteristics of the non-Judeans, which also characterized their former life. They were to put these off in favor of the new life. The new life is marked with different characteristics. Paul uses a metaphor of light and darkness to demonstrate the contrast between the former and new life. They used to be darkness. But now that they have been revealed, they are light. The quotation of Ephesians 5:14 caps the metaphor. Furthermore, Ephesians 5:14 and its section is in a parallel stance to Ephesians 2:11-22. This earlier section deals with the former and new person. The new person was made in Christ, joining the non-Judeans with the Judeans. Christ broke down walls, barriers, and hostility to make this new person, that the people would be drawn near to God. The new person is the result of Christ’s work. His work, by means of a metaphor, shines upon the people. When they are revealed, they become light and are no longer darkness. Ephesians 5:14 emphasizes this light imagery. Instead of sleeping, which is what people do in the dark, they are to wake up and Christ’s light will shine upon them. To be raised from the dead is to be taken out of the darkness; to be raised from the dead is to have Christ shining upon us.
What is being quoted? In the margins of NA27, it simply says, “unde?” It may actually be an interpretive echo from Isaiah 60. It begins, “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (v. 1). Christ has come and risen, and now he shines upon the new person. Is. 60 continues, “For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you” (v. 2). Darkness is over the people; for this reason Paul says that the former person is characterized with darkness. Is. 60:3 says, “Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” Paul has already stated in Ephesians that the church is the contemporary vessel for revealing the wisdom of God to the powers and authorities (3:10). Is. 60 later speaks of the Lord as the Savior and Redeemer of the people (v. 16). The Lord is also seen as the one who brings peace and the one who leads them to righteousness (v. 17). The Lord also provides salvation and praise (v. 18). Savior, redeemer, peace, righteousness, salvation, and praise are all topics of the letter to the Ephesians, where Christ is seen to provide such things for the new person. But Is. 60:19-21 is of particular interest. It says, “The sun shall no longer be your light by day, . . . but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. . . . Your people shall all be righteous; they shall posses the land forever. They are the shoot that I planted, the work of my hands, so that I might be glorified.” Not only is the light language similar to that of Ephesians 5:14, but the language as a whole seems closely connected with the language of the letter to the Ephesians. The message of Is. 60 is precisely the thought of Eph. 2:11-22 and Eph. 4:17-5:14. Perhaps Paul, in good rabbinic tradition, took the whole of Is. 60 along with other scriptural material, summarized it in a few beautiful lines and attributed to Christ what Scripture attributed to the Lord. The whole purpose of the new person, being made by God in Christ, is to be marked by light–peace, righteousness, praise, and glory–which radiates from Christ, the everlasting light.
What do you think? Might Ephesians 5:14 have Isaiah 60 in mind? What other passages of the Hebrew Bible might be echoed in Ephesians 5:14? If not Isaiah 60, what other candidates are there? Might it be from an extra-biblical source instead?