A Review of Dawes’ “The Body in Question”

Gregory Dawes’ book, The Body in Question: Metaphor and Meaning in the Interpretation of Ephesians 5:21-33, seeks to study Eph 5:21-33 in light of theories concerning metaphors. This study is very technical concerning metaphor theory. The book does excel in three ways: first, it explains the theory of metaphor and explains the metaphors in the Ephesians text in light of the theory, which aids the interpreter in better understanding the argument of the ancient author; second, it explains how κεφαλή should be translated as “head” and not “authority” or “source,” because it is being used as a metaphor; and third, it understands that the ancient readers and listeners do not share the same presuppositions and values as modern readers, and, therefore, we must consider how they would have read and understood this passage. However, in this book Dawes does make the following non-critical error: he seeks to consider the context of the letter as a whole, but, instead, he only considers selected parts of the rest of the letter for understanding Eph 5:21-33. We will review the book by starting with a summary of its contents, then we will highlight the three ways it excels, and then we will finish with a brief critique of the book. What we will see is that this book is somewhat of a helpful aid for understanding the argument of Eph 5:21-33.

Dawes introduces his book by summarily describing several different positions for understanding Eph 5:21-33. First, there is the conservative group, the right wing, which interprets Eph 5:21-33 at face value, and it argues that all Christian marriages universally throughout all time and space require wives to subordinate to their husbands and for husbands to love their wives, and it posits that the husband bears authority over the wife (2-4). Second, there is the liberal group, the left wing, which interprets Eph 5:21-33 as an archaic and outmoded set of instructions that do not apply for Christian marriages today, and even that pervert the original Christian ideal, in Christ there is neither male nor female (4-6). Third, there is intermediate group, the middle position, that reinterprets this passage in Ephesians so that the hierarchy of the Christian marriage is minimized (6-8). Fourth, there are those who are undecided and conflicted with this passage but do not take one of the three previous positions. Ben Witherington is listed as an example. According to Dawes, Witherington argues in Women in the Earliest Churches that the author of Ephesians used Christ’s relationship with the church to reform the patriarchal construction for Christian marriage. Furthermore, we should consider the intention for reform and the limitations of this argument (8-9). According to Dawes, Marlis Gielen points out that while the text does support such a patriarchal construction, the text met a different situation, for today’s households are very different from the First Century C.E. (9-10).

Dawes then transitions and looks at Eph 5:21-33 in its context, both the immediate context and the context of the entire letter. He notes rightly that this passage constructs an analogy between the husband and wife and Christ and the church using several key terms, κεφαλή, σῶμα, and μυστήριον, and the language of unity (10-11). He gives a brief amount of space to discuss other interpretive methods for understanding Eph 5:21-33. One method would be the historical-comparative approach. This approach, such as of David Balch’s Let Wives Be Submissive, for example, looks at how women functioned in marriage in the Greco-Roman world and compares that information to the selected passage of the NT. This method is complicated in relation to Ephesians for several reasons. Pauline authorship of Ephesians is disputed. Ephesus as the recipient of the letter is contested. The debate continues as to when Ephesians was written. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to try to reconstruct the situation prompting the letter, who wrote it, why, and to whom, so it cannot be properly compared to the wives of the Greco-Roman world. Yet, the passage in question can be studied in its literary context, and generally speaking the broad context of the Greco-Roman world can be compared, which is what Dawes states that he will be doing in this book (13-16). Another method for studying Eph 5:21-33 is to compare it with what are to be considered the genuine Pauline letters. Dawes indicates that he will occasionally make remarks from this method through the use of footnotes (17).

Dawes gives us a map for his book, an outline, showing that he will break it up into several parts. First, he will survey metaphor theories. Second, he will explicate Eph 5:21-33. And three, he will interpret Eph 5:21-33 for the contemporary reader (17-18). In addition to this map, he explains why he is studying Eph 5:21-33 and not, for example, Eph 5:22-24 or Eph 5:22-33. In sum, Dawes states that Eph 5:21-33 is a complete argument, and to support this statement he shows that v. 21 and v. 33 form an inclusio with the use of the word “fear,” and, furthermore, v. 22 does not have a verb of its own, meaning that it relies on v. 21 for a verb, which indicates that v. 21 and v. 22 are connected (18-21). Thus concludes the introduction.

In chapter one, Dawes explains how metaphors function. He looked at several key theorists, all of which are from the modern era. He highlights one theorist’s understanding of meaning first, that of I. A. Richards’ The Philosophy of Rhetoric. Richards understood meaning in this way: context determines meaning (26-27). Also from Richards, he simplified the function of metaphor as the interaction of thoughts within context. Furthermore, according to Dawes, Richards said that a metaphor has two parts, the tenor and the vehicle. The tenor is the subject that will be compared. The vehicle is the subject that sheds light on the first subject (27). But Richards was not the only philologist to speak about metaphors.

Max Black used different language to describe the parts of a metaphor. Unlike Richards’ tenor-vehicle language, Black spoke of a metaphor as the combination of the focus and the frame. The focus is the part of the metaphor that is not used literally, whereas the frame is the rest of the sentence, which is used literally. What this description means is this: simply put, the frame is the context, and the context determines if the word or phrase is to be understood as a metaphor (28-29). Black also spoke of a primary and secondary subject. As reported by Dawes, the primary subject is the principal subject, while the secondary is the subsidiary. Black held that one should understand the secondary subject to be a system–system of associated commonplaces, system of relationships, or implicative complex (29-30). Dawes notes the complexities and problems with Black’s theories (30-32). However, he highlights some of Black’s later points on the function of metaphor. In a metaphor, the two subjects are constructed in such a way as to invite the reader or listener to draw parallel properties and interpret the words. Specifically, the secondary subject is drawn upon to create an implication complex from which to compare with the primary subject (32-34). In addition to his focus-frame and primary-secondary language for describing metaphors, Black also speaks of models. According to Dawes, Black argues that every metaphor has either a scale or an analogue model behind it. Scale models rely on identify for imitating the original though it is not a reproduction. Analogue models rely on identity for reproducing the structure of the original. In other words, the analogue model minimizes the role of the imagination. According to Dawes, what Black calls “model” he is really speaking of the aforementioned “implication complex” (34-35). Additionally, Black argued that metaphors actually structure our view of reality subconsciously (36).

From here, Dawes goes on to speak of living metaphors. But first, he speaks of models in two ways. There can be implicit, underlying models, and there can be explicit, surface level models. Dawes clarifies that when he speaks of a metaphor’s model, he will be using the first sense, that of implicit models. He defines such models as a consistent pattern of thought through which two subjects may be related. this definition implies three things according to Dawes. First, any similarity between the subject and the model will be partial, for the primary and secondary subjects by definition cannot be perfectly similar otherwise they would be identical. What this implication means is that metaphors have the ability to deceive, because there is room for misidentification in the similarities. Second, when we use a metaphor, we may not be fully aware of all of its similarities between the subjects and the model. Therefore, a metaphor can be a tool for discovery. Finally, a metaphor highlights the primary subject’s relationships to the secondary subject. In other words, through the model, the two subjects can be held together in the mind (37-40).

Moving on from Black’s theories, Dawes examines Monroe Beardsley’s work on metaphor. According to Dawes, Beardsley labeled metaphors as self-contradictory attributions, where an attribution is any expression that contains no less than two words, and one of those words must denote and characterize a class. He claims that an attribution has both a subject and a modifier. In his theory, the modifier in “large dogs” is “large,” and the subject is “dogs,” for example. There are attributions are logically empty in one of two ways, either they are self-implicative or self-contradictory. By self-implicative we mean that the modifier’s sense is already contained in the subject (Dawes lists “two-legged biped” as one of Beardsley’s example), and by self-contradictory we mean an incompatibility between the sense of the modifier and the subject (the example given is “four-legged biped”). According to Dawes, metaphors belong to this second kind of logically empty attributions. In his definition, metaphors invite the reader or listener to skip the indirect self-contradiction and interpret the attribution (40-42).

Beardsley adds that metaphors can also be attributions that are clearly false. When a modifier is attributed to a subject in which they can have no part, then there is an obvious falsity in the attribution, and such would be another kind of metaphor. In either case, a metaphor is considered to be “a miniature poem” by Beardsley. When interpreting a metaphor, there are two key principles involved, that of congruence and that of plenitude. The principle of congruence limits the possible connotations to those that fit the context. The principle of plenitude allows for as many possible connections to be made or found as is permissible (42-43).

Dawes notes that Beardsley’s work is not without its own problems. Is it possible to distinguish between an obvious falsity and a self-contradictory attribution? What is the difference between a direct and indirect self-contradiction? What distinguishes the denotation from the connotation of a word (44).

Beardsley does have some things to offer in response to those questions. He claims that metaphors create meaning through verbal-opposition (as opposed to object-comparison). He does not accept that the modifier of a metaphor denotes the same objects that in other contexts it would denote literally (this explanation concerns object-comparison). However, he does accept that the predicate of a metaphor does not retain its ordinary sense as it is given a new one created by tension or opposition within the metaphor itself. Although not all metaphors will create meaning, those that do will transform a property into a sense, thus creating a new sense (45-47). Dawes concludes that models and metaphors do not furnish proofs, because they are creative in meaning and have the capacity to deceive. As a result, he urges great care for using metaphors in argumentation (48).

After having considered the various ways of speaking about metaphors based on three key philologists, Dawes turns to a consideration of the qualifications of a metaphor. How can a person determine if something is a metaphor? According to Beardsley, there are four qualifications. First, a metaphor will contain an implicit contradiction when the predicate is taken in a literal sense. Second, a metaphor will contain some sort of absurdity. Third, a metaphor will present an obvious truth of its statement when it is interpreted literally. Finally, a metaphor is created when there is a semantic tension between the expression and its surrounding context (49-50). Dawes discusses the complexities of these qualifications and the problems they have. In the end, he concludes that one criterion for determining if one is dealing with a metaphor is semantic impertinence, meaning that the words indicate that they simply cannot be taken literally. He offers a second criterion, that a metaphor uses language that is dependent on another use of language (50-55).

In chapter two, after having determined the two basic criteria for determining if one is dealing with a metaphor, he sets out to discuss metaphor and meaning in more detail. He discusses whether there is any such thing as metaphorical meaning with words. The words themselves, as thought by Donald Davidson, do not have meaning. Metaphor pertains only to use (55-60). Dawes offers three noteworthy comments about Davidson’s theory. First, Davidson is helpful because he pays attention to certain aspects of metaphor functions. Metaphors function through literal meaning; it is a secondary use of language, meaning that it is dependent. Metaphor requires an interpreter to produce a creative interpretation. Second, Davidson’s claim that metaphors do not have meaning does not in any way derail Dawes’ study, because it has already been established that metaphor has meaning not in the words themselves but in a particular context, which includes how a metaphor is being used. Third, Davidson’s theory is not without its own difficulties, and, in the end, it simply is not persuasive for Dawes. Davidson contradicts himself when he first says that there is no hidden message in a metaphor, only to say later that there can be a paraphrase of a metaphor to help the reader see what the author wanted him or her to see. Dawes’ highlights this tension: on the one hand, there is the paraphrase of the metaphor; on the other, the paraphrase cannot be described as the message of the metaphor. Clearly there is a conflict in Davidson’s argument. Dawes also points out that Davidson does not account for the fact that a metaphor may be lead by an entire group of people into the same understanding. Furthermore, with dead metaphors, which are metaphors that have lost their ability to encourage critical thinking, the meaning of a metaphor is preserved (60-64).

Dawes determines that metaphors do have meaning. Then he sets out to define his terms, albeit somewhat late into the book. Dawes defines a metaphor as a figure of speech in which we speak about one thing in terms that are seen to be suggestive of another. He defines a dead metaphor as a metaphor that has become commonplace, thus void of metaphoric force, the ability to encourage thinking; it is language that is no longer dependent or speaking of one thing in terms of another (65). He goes on to describe not two categories but four categories of metaphors: active, hidden, dormant, and extinct. One can speak of metaphors as either living or dead, or as active, hidden, dormant, or extinct, or also as novel, familiar, standard, hidden, or retired. Dawes favors the second option, that of active, hidden, dormant, or extinct. In this understanding, the former two, active and hidden, are living metaphors. They are dependent. The latter two, dormant and extinct, are dead metaphors, and they are independent. Dawes concludes that one must be able to distinguish living metaphors from dead ones in order to properly ascertain its meaning (65-76). As a result, he determines that his markers for determining if one is dealing with a metaphor are also the markers for determining if one is dealing with living metaphors. But a word on context must be said. Dawes states that a metaphor is made up of the frame and the focus, and the meaning of a metaphor exists in the interaction between the frame and the focus. The focus is the word or phrase that is being used metaphorically, and the frame is the immediate setting in the text containing the focus. Therefore, the context is key. But which context? The immediate literary context, the general social and historical context, or the specific context of utterance? In our case, a study of Eph 5:21-33 must consider at least the literary context, but also, if at all possible, the general social and historical context as well (76-78).

Now that he has defined his terms and set the stage for studying Eph 5:21-33 in terms of metaphor theory, Dawes turns in part two of the book to an analysis of this text of Ephesians. In chapter three, he looks specifically at the argument of Eph 5:21-33. He looks first to an analysis of the argument in vv 22-24. Dawes notes that there are two equally valid understandings of these verses. The first understanding describes these verses as an A-B-a pattern, in which the introductory verse exhorts the wives (A), the next verse gives a reason for the exhortation (B), and the final verse reiterates the exhortation (a). This A-B-a pattern is referred to as the paraenetic understanding of Eph 5:22-24. But there is different understanding, being equally valid, called the mimetic structure, and it follows an A-B-b-a pattern. This structure depends on the use of comparative particles (καθώς, ὡς, and οὕτως). The wives are addressed in relation to the husbands in vv 22-23a (A), then Christ is addressed in relation to the church in v 23b (B), then the church is addressed in relation to Christ in v 24a (b), and wives to their husbands in v 24b (a). Dawes understands Eph 5:22-24 in light of the mimetic structure (82-84).

However, v 23c is a problem for either the paraenetic or mimetic structure. Dawes discusses how Stephen F. Miletic argues that v 23c is the central theological point of Eph 5:22-24, but he rejects Miletic’s argument in favor of one that treats v 23c as an aside, which is supported by the use of the conjunction ἀλλά in the next verse. This conjunction indicates that the author is returning to his main point after having given way to an aside. The author’s main point in this case is the subordination of wives. This understanding, that v 23c is an aside and is not the central point of vv 22-24, according to Dawes is even further supported by the mimetic structure. Indeed, v 24 is concerned not with Christ as the savior of the body; the thought process is discontinued from v 23c going into v 24. Dawes determines that v 23c has two roles. First, by mentioning Christ as the “savior,” the author prepares the audience for the exhortation to the husband in v 25. Second, it is branching off from the use of κεφαλή earlier in the verse and is tying it together with σῶμα (84-89).

Miletic also draws attention to v 22b with the significance of the words “as to the Lord.” According to Miletic, as Dawes interprets, there are two relationships that the wife has. One is with her husband, and the other is with Christ. Miletic is arguing that these words “as to the Lord” qualify the exhortation: wives, submit to your husbands as though it is part of your service to the Lord. Dawes does not dispute Miletic on this point. He does say that Miletic overstates his case, but in the end he agrees with Miletic. He shows that the analogy, the wife is to the husband as the church is to Christ, when coupled with “as to the Lord” contains a second analogy, so that the wife is linked to Christ. The second analogy is that the wife is to the husband as the wife is to Christ. Her subordination to her husband is to be modeled on her subordinate relationship to Christ according to Dawes (90-91).

In speaking of Eph 5:25-33, Dawes notes that it also follows a mimetic structure. He describes this passage as a two part structure. Ephesians 5:25-28a, the first part, explains how the husband is to love his wife, while Eph 5:28b-32, the second part, explains why (91). He notes that the exhortation for the husband, to love his wife, is compared with Christ’s love for the church. It explains how, not why, they are to love their wives. The structure of Eph 5:25-28a is as follows: exhortation for husbands to love their wives in v 25a (A); how husbands are to love is explained by comparison with Christ’s love for the church in vv 25b-27 (B); and the return to the husband’s love for their wives in v28a (a). The point of comparison is only love. None of the other features described relate to the husband (91-94). In fact, the description of Christ’s love is two fold. First, he sanctifies the church through cleansing her with the washing of water in the word. Second, he presents the church in splendor to himself. This presentation has both a positive and negative aspect. Negatively, he presents her not with spot or blemish. Positively, he presents her as holy and blameless. But these actions are not attributed to the husband. The husband is instructed only to love (94-95).

But after v 28a, the A-B-a structure ends. The comparative particles continue the exhortation to the husbands after making a comparison with Christ’s love for the church. Husbands are instructed to love their wives as their own bodies. Dawes takes this use of ὡς to mark identity, which makes the comparison ambiguous. Is the husband to love his wife as though she is his own body? Or is the husband to love his wife in the same way that he loves his own body? There is no indication in the text that one is preferred over the other. But this comparison is tied together with the reflexive pronoun. The husband’s wife is linked to this reflexive pronoun in v 28a, body in v 28b, husbands themselves in v 28c, and flesh in v 29. In fact, as a result, the σῶμα of v 28b is linked to the σάρξ of v 29 by way of the reflexive pronoun. These two terms are interchangeable in this context (95-99). Dawes takes γάρ in v 29 to explain what immediately precedes the conjunction, but this explanation is grounded in the mystery of Christ and the church, and, therefore, it has a double-referent both to redemption (one flesh between Christ and the church) and creation (one flesh between husband and wife). It is in v 30 that the argument returns to the comparison to husbands and wives relative to Christ and the church. Wives and the church are associated together by use of the term σῶμα. Instead of ending the argument for the exhortation to the husbands at v 30, the author of Ephesians continues on (99-101).

Ephesians 5:31 is a quotation from Gen 2:24, and it further extends the exhortation of the husband to love his wife. But is Gen 2:24 functioning in Eph 5:31 to bolster an already accepted argument? He argues against Sampley who claims that Eph 5:21-33 follows a basic New Testament pattern in which women are instructed to be submissive and this instruction is supported by the Torah in a reference that explicitly concerns submission. Dawes follows Lincoln to refute such a claim, concluding that Gen 2:24 does not have an explicit reference to submission. Instead, Dawes argues for a dual function of Gen 2:24 in Eph 5:31. First, it provides the proof that the husband, when he loves his wife, is indeed loving his “self.” Second, it provides the proof that the relationship between Christ and the church is such that the church can be called Christ’s “body.” In both instances, the two have become one. But the union between the husband and the wife is a great mystery. In Eph 5:32, the author applies the statement of Gen 2:24 to the relationship between Christ and the church as well. With v 32, the argument of Eph 5:25-32 comes to a close. Ephesians 5:33 recapitulates the whole of Eph 5:21-32 (102-106).

Within Eph 5:21-33, which relationship has precedence? Is it Christ and the church? Or is it the husband and the wife? Dawes points out scholars who support the former and others who support the latter, while others suggest that it is impossible to determine. He concludes, based on Lincoln’s position, in the end that the primary aim of the author is to provide instructions for the wives and the husbands, since Eph 5:21-33 is part of the haustafeln (Eph 5:21-6:9). He claims that the relationship between Christ and the church serves the relationship between husbands and wives in this passage. The two relationships are so intertwined that the reader and listener could easily forget the paraenesis, which is why the author uses πλήν in v 33, to help bring the audience back to the main purpose of the argument (107).

In chapter four, Dawes distinguishes between argument, analogy, and metaphor. He claims that Eph 5:21-33 is making an argument in which an analogy is being made, and, specifically, it is being done through the use of metaphor. In the argument, an analogy is made between the husband and wife, and Christ and the church. The use of σῶμα and κεφαλή are instances of metaphor functioning in the analogy. The issue as Dawes sees it rests in whether the metaphors are isolated or if they are dependent on a model (110).

In order to determine if the metaphors are dependent or isolated, Dawes sets out first to highlight the difference between analogy and metaphor. He appeals to Aristotle’s Poetics (chapter 21 according to Dawes), which speaks of metaphor as the application of one thing to another, whether genus to species, species to genus, or species to species, or else it will be an analogy. He takes issue with Aristotle’s definition, because it looks to the word as the focus of the metaphor and neglects the frame. He emphasizes that metaphor exists with the interaction of a word within its context. He goes on to show that Aristotle’s classification and definition is really where metaphor is a condensed analogy. As Dawes puts it, in an analogy form where A is to B as C is to D, a condensed analogy in the form of a metaphor would say B is D (110-111).

Dawes argues from here that some people might speak of Eph 5:21-33 as an analogy expressed through simile, not metaphor, because of the comparative particles. But Dawes rightly notes that the analogy is being made by use of comparative particles, so there is no condensed metaphor. Despite having just made the case for speaking of similes, Dawes continues speaking of metaphor in Epheisnas. The metaphors are being attributed similarly to different parties. The husbands are not being identified as the Christ or Savior of the wives. Christ is not identified as the husband of the church. The two parties are seen to be similar only by way of another term, κεφαλή (111-113). Not only is Christ not called the husband of the church, but the church is not called the bride of Christ (113).

Dawes returns to his discussion of similes, saying that they are either closed or open. When they are open, they are not spelled out. When they are closed, it is identified how they are similar. In Eph 5:21-33, we have closed similes. What is going on according to Dawes is a drawing of metaphors from a model. He argues that the metaphors are not isolated, but, rather, they are dependent on the model of the human body. He makes this case based on the fact that κεφαλή and σῶμα occur so often together, they both occur alongside of other anatomical language, such as ἁφή (“joint,” see Eph 4:15-16), and they both link their referents with one another (115-118).

Dawes argues in the end that when these terms appear together they interact. They are dependent. They are not isolated. Dawes acknowledges that other scholars do not agree with his position, such as Herman Ridderbos and J. K. McVay as well as others who argue that the metaphors are isolated. In his defense, he appeals to the fact that whenever κεφαλή occurs it is in close proximity to σῶμα, and such scholars have not given careful consideration to this use of the terms. Additionally, these scholars have neglected the fact that these metaphors link their referents to each other, which would not happen if they were isolated (118-120).

Chapter five is all about the use of κεφαλή in Ephesians. He looks first to how it is used in Eph 5:21-33. Is κεφαλή metaphorical or literal? If it is metaphorical, then, if it were taken literally, it could not possibly make sense. He concludes that it is metaphorical because it simply does not make sense if taken literally. Furthermore, he argues that κεφαλή conveys the idea of authority through its use as a living metaphor. This word is also used in connection with σῶμα, so it clearly is dependent, which further demonstrates that it is functioning as a metaphor (122-124).

But does κεφαλή convey authority? Might it be “source” instead? Dawes shows how some scholars are divided as to whether κεφαλή should be understood to convey authority or to convey source. Some scholars appeal to the context of Eph 4:15 to argue for κεφαλή as source. Dawes responds by arguing that one context may be different from another. He looks at how κεφαλή was used in ancient medical documents. He demonstrates that κεφαλή is seen in an instance of conveying source. But in several instances it is used to convey the idea of authority, since it bears the controlling function of the body. Dawes concludes that one could legitimately take κεφαλή to bear the idea of authority if the context demands it. He argues further that the context of Eph 5:21-33 demands such an understanding. However, while it might convey the idea of authority, it still ought to be translated as “head,” otherwise the translation would lose the metaphor (124-134).

Dawes argues that κεφαλή is a live metaphor and as a metaphor it is being used to convey the idea of authority. It is the use of this word that links the husband with Christ in Eph 5:22-24. In this use, some attributes or aspects are highlighted, others downplayed, and caused a third group of attributes to disappear. The highlighted aspect is authority. In no way does this lead the husband to compare himself to his wife in the way that Christ is related to the church as the κεφαλή. Instead, Eph 5:25-33 leads the husband to treat his wife in the way that Christ treats the church with respect to love. As Dawes rightly points it, this comparison avoids encouraging a tyrannical husband (137-138).

After having looked at κεφαλή in Eph 5:21-33, Dawes moves to look at this word in the rest of Ephesians. He looks at κεφαλή in Eph 1:22, Eph 1:10, and Eph 4:15, respectively. With regards to Eph 1:22, Dawes concludes that κεφαλή here also conveys the sense of authority, which is especially clear with the use of Ps 8:7 (“he has placed all things under his feet”). Furthermore, κεφαλή is here seen with σῶμα, which demonstrates that it is dependent. However, the referents of κεφαλή and σῶμα are kept separate. Christ is head over all things and not only over the church. However, the church is the body of Christ and it is not all things that is the body of Christ (139-142).

The word κεφαλή is not in Eph 1:10, but its cognate, ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι, is used instead. This word is the verb ἀνακεφαλαιόω, which is a cognate to κεφάλαιον, which means “the main point, the summary.” It should not be thought to include the idea of headship according to Dawes. While it might be possible that this word was chosen to echo κεφαλή, it is best not to understand it as anything more (142-144).

In Eph 4:15, κεφαλή is demonstrated to be dependent not only on interaction with σῶμα, but also with ἁφή (“joint”) and αὔξησις (“growth”). The author of Ephesians is drawing upon the same underlying model, that of the human body. Once established, this metaphor can lead to others. Christ is exclusively the referent of this metaphor. In this instance, κεφαλή conveys the idea of source while still conveying the idea of authority according to Dawes (144-147).

Dawes concludes chapter five by claiming that κεφαλή, while having two separate uses, one as authority and one as source, is still consistently used throughout Ephesians. Christ is both the one in authority over and the source of life for the church. The only inconsistency is in Eph 1:22 where the church is distinguished from all things. Finally, while everywhere else in Ephesians κεφαλή only has one referent, Christ, in Eph 5:21-33 it has two, Christ and the husbands, and it bears the same metaphorical sense with reference to both (147-149).

Chapter six is all about the use of σῶμα in Ephesians. Dawes looks first to Eph 5:21-33 and the use of σῶμα in this text. He treats the use of σῶμα in Eph 5:23c, Eph 5:28, and Eph 5:30, respectively. With regards to Eph 5:23c, he concludes that there is little doubt that σῶμα is being used metaphorically. He argues that it is dependent as it occurs with κεφαλή in context, and it simply will not fit if understood literally. It is a metaphorical reference to the church. In Eph 5:23c, σῶμα links together the arguments of Eph 5:21-24 and 5:25-33. While σῶμα is used metaphorically in Eph 5:23c, it is not used similarly in Eph 5:28. The author of Ephesians uses σῶμα in Eph 5:28 to refer to the husband’s own body according to Dawes, which calls for the husband to love his wife as though she is his own body. Dawes appeals to the fact that the author later says that every one who loves is loving “his own flesh”, where σάρξ (“flesh”) is interchangeable with σῶμα. The argument is appealing to the husband’s physical body. Therefore, σῶμα fits literally, and it cannot be understood metaphorically . In Eph 5:30, σῶμα is used metaphorically. Another word, μέλη (“members”), appears along with σῶμα, which seems to be from the same underlying model, indicating that σῶμα is functioning metaphorically. Both husbands and wives are included in the μέλη, so that husbands are reminded that their wives are also members of the body of Christ (150-156).

After addressing the use of σῶμα in Eph 5:21-33, Dawes considers the use of this word elsewhere in Ephesians, namely Eph 1:23, Eph 2:16, Eph 3:6, Eph 4:4, and Eph 4: 12, 16, respectively. In Eph 1:23, σῶμα is found along with κεφαλή, indicating that it is dependent and it is being used metaphorically. What does σῶμα reference? Is it the cosmos? One might think it is, but the author of Ephesians says that the σῶμα is the church. While Christ is the head over all things, it is only the church that is Christ’s body. Eph 2:16 has σῶμα independent of κεφαλή. However, the use of σῶμα in this verse points to the church in connection with Christ. In Eph 3:6, σῶμα is not used, but a cognate, an adjectival form, σύσσωμος, and it is used to underline the fact that the Gentiles have been made members of the body of Christ along with Jewish believers. Therefore, it is similar to the use of σῶμα in Eph 2:16, especially because it is also independent from κεφαλή. As in Eph 2:16; 3:6, σῶμα is present without κεφαλή in Eph 4:4. It is being used here to underline the unity of the believers. Finally, Dawes addresses the use of σῶμα in Eph 4:12, 16. In Eph 4:12, σῶμα is used without the presence of κεφαλή, but it is used in reference to Christ as “the body of Christ.” It is dependent. In context, it is speaking of the building up of the church. In Eph 4:16, σῶμα occurs twice. It does occur alongside of κεφαλή in this instance. Together, these words show the complete dependence of the church on Christ, for, as Dawes writes, if the church lost its head, it would die, since the head is the source of life and growth. Dawes concludes that the author of Ephesians simply is not consistent in the use of σῶμα. He says that σῶμα is used in one of two ways throughout the letter. Either it is used as a body in relationship to its head, or it is used as a body without reference to its head. The first use is a more narrow sense, or what Dawes calls “partitive,” where the body is a part of the whole. The second use is much more broad, which Dawes calls “unitive.” The unitive use of σῶμα references the entire body, which includes the head. But in Eph 4:16, Dawes says, these two uses clash, for they are both used (156-165).

Dawes concludes by stating that the use of σῶμα in Eph 5:28 is central to Eph 5:21-33. He states also that both the unitive and partitive uses of σῶμα are present in Eph 5:28-33. The church is identified with Christ as members, but it is not identical to Christ (166-167).

Chapter seven deals with the use of “one flesh” and mystery language in Ephesians, and he does so in two parts. First, Dawes treats the use of “one” (169-178). In Eph 5:21-33, “one” appears in Eph 5:31. The two have become μία σάρξ. This use of “one” refers to both of the relationships, so that it is not simply between husband and wife but also between Christ and the church. It is a double referent. With reference to the husband and wife, it could be understood literally (physical, sexual union). But in reference to Christ and the church, it can only be metaphorical. In this sense, according to Dawes, it is not consistent (169-170). Dawes considers the use of “one” not only in Eph 5:31 but also in the rest of the letter. In Eph 2:11-22, “one” is in reference to the Jews and the Gentiles, two formerly estranged groups, being made together into a new person as a result of the work of Christ, and this new person is reconciled to God in one body  in one Spirit. This use of “one” language shows how two become one. It is a horizontal unity between people, and is not vertical between God and humans (170-175). In Eph 4:1-16, the same horizontal use of “one” is applied, noting how the believers are unified in one Lord, one faith, and one baptism, and they are to keep, maintain, and build up this unity (175-177). The use of “one” outside of Eph 5:31 can be understood in one of two ways, either doctrinally (the joining of the two, the Jews and the Gentiles) or paraenetically (to keep, maintain, and build unity). But neither of these two options fit Eph 5:31. The doctrinal option is closer, in that there is a joining of two, but it is between two different individuals, the husband and the wife, and it is between Christ and the church (177-178).

Second, Dawes treats the use of μυστήριον (178-191). He discusses the use of μυστήριον in Eph 5:32 first, and then looks at the use of this term elsewhere in Ephesians. In Eph 5:32, he seeks to determine the referent of this term. Some scholars, according to Dawes, argue that it is an exegetical mystery, so that it is referring to some Hebrew text. He notes the importance of the two ways in which the author of Ephesians uses μυστήριον. He used it in a genitive construction (Eph 1:9; 3:4; 6:19) or with an explanatory proposition (Eph 3:3, 9). Dawes states that the use of μυστήριον in Eph 5:32 falls into the latter category. The opening words of Eph 5:32, ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω, emphasize the μυστήριον as Christ and the church, and Dawes suggests that the mystery is the union of Christ and the church in that they have become μία σάρξ (178-185). In Eph 1:3-14, specifically in v 10, μυστήριον means the summing up of all things in Christ, which is God’s will. But this process is not yet complete. In Eph 3:1-13, especially in v 4 and v 9, μυστήριον means the joining of Gentiles and Jews as heirs in the promise in Christ. This term is broad in scope in Eph 1 and narrow in Eph 3. This μυστήριον is no longer hidden. It has been revealed. In Eph 6:10-20, specifically v 20, the μυστήριον is associated with the gospel. In general, μυστήριον is God’s summing things up in Christ, which is what Eph 1:10 references, but specifically it also deals with the work of Christ, the gospel, and the joining of the Gentiles and Jews (185-189).

Dawes concludes chapter seven by stating that the use of μυστήριον in Eph 5:32 is a vertical union between Christ and the church, which is different than the rest of the letter in which a horizontal union is mentioned throughout. Therefore, the use of μυστήριον in Eph 5:32 cannot be equated to the uses elsewhere in the letter.

In part three of his book, The Body in Question, Dawes offers a new interpretation of Eph 5:21-33. Chapter eight is a soft introduction, a lead-in or segue, to his new interpretation. In this chapter, he will discuss the use of the metaphor of the body in Ephesians, especially as it pertains to Eph 5:21-33, and he will consider the ethical instruction to the wives in relationship to Eph 5:21, which calls all believers to subordinate themselves to each other (195).

Dawes sets out first of all to discuss the aims of interpretation. He notes that some people today find the body metaphor in Eph 5:21-33 highly offensive, but why? He suggests that they are offended not by the analogy itself but the use of the body metaphor and how the author of Ephesians spells it out, especially because it lacks reciprocity (195-197). The ethical commands in Eph 5:21-33 contain two elements. First, there is a new ethic: in your marriage, imitate the relationship of Christ and the church. Second, the body metaphor describes the relationship of Christ and the church. This description assumes male authority. It is this aspect that some find offensive (197). But is it possible to remove the assumption of male authority? Dawes determines that if the interpreter’s task is simply to uncover the original author’s view, then male authority must be retained. However, if the interpreter’s task also is to determine how successful was the original author’s argument and what implications of the argument was the author unawares, and, finally, what other implications of the text itself might the author have not explicitly intended alter our interpretation, then much more can be said about the text in addition to a plain reading. The best interpretation will consider not only what the original author explicitly intended but also the complexities of the text in relationship to the plain reading (198-199).

Dawes then sets out from here to discuss love and the body metaphor. He notes that in Eph 5:22-24, the body metaphor is partitive, so that the κεφαλή and σῶμα are seen separately. In this part of Eph 5:21-33, the husband is described as κεφαλή, which allows for the wife to be told to be subordinate. However, in Eph 5:25-32, the body metaphor is unitive, so that the use of σῶμα expresses the idea that the husband and wife are together μία σάρξ. It is for this reason that the husband should love his wife. But the σῶμα also refers to the church, so that the husband and wife come together not only as one flesh physically but also within the membership of the church. In both senses they are seen as equals. Therefore, the idea that the wife equals the church, which equals subordination, simply does not stand, for both the wife and the husband belong in the church with reference to Christ (201-203).

Dawes notes also the conflict of metaphors with respect to the model, the human body. As noted earlier in the book, σῶμα is not used consistently, which causes conflicting metaphors. This conflict leads the audience away from creating a single image. When σῶμα is used independently, it refers to the unitive body. When used dependently, it is partitive. However, as seen in Aristotle’s Politics, the whole takes precedence over the part, because without the notion of the whole, the part could not exist. Dawes admits that there is no way of knowing if the original author shared Aristotle’s understanding, so he concedes to leave this fact as a secondary influence in the new interpretation that will follow in the next chapter (203-204).

Dawes considers also the command for husbands to love. The commands to the husbands and wives are not symmetrical, meaning that they lack reciprocity. However, when addressing husbands in Eph 5:25-32, the author of Ephesians, according to Dawes, seems to have overlooked the inclusiveness of σῶμα, for it implies reciprocity. If husbands are to love their wives because they are both part of the same body, then the same may be said of wives. This term, σῶμα, does not divide, but, rather, it unites the wife and the husband (205-206).

Dawes notes also the command for husbands to love in the context of Ephesians. Earlier in the letter, namely Eph 5:1-2, Christ is said to have given himself up in love for the church, and believers are instructed to love each other in the way that Christ loved the church. Therefore, as Dawes rightly notes, this call to love is not for husbands alone, but in the context of Ephesians as a whole, all believers are called to love in this way (206).

Dawes then sets out from here to discuss mutual subordination. What he is setting out to do is to understand with greater accuracy the ethical instruction to the wives. Ephesians 5:21, itself not part of the ethical instruction to the wives, supplies the verb for the instruction to the wives in v 22. The verb, ὑποτάσσω (ὑποτάσσομαι, if middle), is found earlier in Ephesians, where it is said that all things have been placed under (ὑποτάσσειν, active) Christ’s feet (Eph 1:22). In Eph 5:21, it is either a middle or passive participle. Dawes takes it to be passive. If it is middle, it would be reflexive. But, according to Dawes, as passive, which is evident in the usage of this word throughout the New Testament when it is not in the active, one is to be subordinate to one who is in authority. This subordination concerns losing or surrendering one’s will to another (206-212). The use of ἀλλήλοις is to be understood with respect to its context. Ephesians 5:21 exists in relationship to the call for the audience to be filled by the Spirit (Eph 5:18), which is in itself connected with the call to live wisely (Eph 5:15). This section concerning wise living is directed to all believers, not simply some of them. It seems that in marital terms the author of Ephesians is attempting to restrict this call for all believers to be subordinate to each other to the wives (213-216).

Dawes makes an aside to address the concept of mutual subordination in connection with human rights. Why speak of mutual submission and not use the language of human rights? He notes first that human rights and the New Testament simply do not fit. Human rights, for the purposes of New Testament studies, are an anachronism. Furthermore, human rights are focused on the individual, a point of view that is not shared by New Testament authors from the First Century C.E. Second, he notes the idea of “natural rights.” Natural rights are tied to natural law, and natural law has come under general disfavor, because it simply is politically charged and does not possess a significant moral function. Third, Dawes notes that the language of human rights falls short of the Christian ideal of self-sacrificial love. Actions performed based on the rights of individuals but absent of love are found wanting in interpersonal relationships. Fourth, using the language of mutual subordination avoids one partner claiming equal rights, which can lead to marital conflict. Because of these reasons, the language of human rights is avoided, and the use of mutual submission is preferred (216-221).

Chapter nine is where Dawes brings his argument to a close. It is here that his new interpretation of Eph 5:21-33 is found. He starts this chapter by discussing the ethical instructions of Eph 5:21-33. He states first that the instruction in Eph 5:21  to the believers to be subordinate to each other is paradoxical. Yet, this instruction is restricted in Eph 5:22-24 to the wives in the marital relationship. This restriction is done by use of the body metaphor. His instruction is assimilated in the patriarchal worldview, and it is unclear why according to Dawes (222-223).

Second, the husband is instructed to love his wife just as Christ loved the church. The unitive use of σῶμα implies that this instruction may also be said of the wife. Even still, this command to love is a narrowing in scope from Eph 5:1-2, just as the command for wives to be subordinate is a narrowing in scope of Eph 5:21. The author of Ephesians is attempting to restrict these general instructions for all believers to gender-specific roles within marriage (223-224).

Third, Dawes looks at both of the commands and their relationship. An asymmetrical ethic is created by the author of Ephesians, but these commands bear similarity. Dawes states that the use of ὑποτάσσομενοι ἀλλήλοις concerns a surrendering of one’s own will to another bears similarity to the call to love sacrificially. Furthermore, whatever authority the husband has over the wife is bound to the instruction to love. Most certainly the husband is not instructed to be domineering or tyrannical. But there is a different in the two instructions, and it ought not be forgot. The husband does have authority over the wives in the view of the author of Ephesians according to Dawes (224-225).

Fourth, Dawes discusses the role of μυστήριον. The use of this word does not provide the grounds for restoring the relationship between the marriage partners, nor does it apply to the unity of the two individuals. Both of these ideas are based on an understanding of μυστήριον outside of its use in Eph 5:21-33. According to Dawes, μυστήριον is used rather differently in Eph 5:21-33 in comparison to the rest of the letter. Elsewhere, μυστήριον refers to the horizontal union of Jew and Gentile or all things in Christ. In Eph 5:21-33, it is a vertical union between Christ and the church (225-227).

Finally, the intention of the author in using the commands to be subordinate and to love is discussed. It is important to recall that these same instructions are given to all believers earlier in the letter, whether in Eph 5:1-2 or Eph 5:21. The letter itself contains tensions despite the author’s intentions that prevent a patriarchal reading. While the author attempts to retain the patriarchal ordering, the general Christian ethic holds it in tension (227-228).

At this point, the new interpretation has finally arrived. The intention of the author cannot be ignored. The author of Ephesians was indeed attempting to establish a patriarchal order in marriage. Yet, the imagery that the author uses immediately re-interprets his intention. The marriage relationship is established to be one body, which is a unified body. The immediate literary context must be considered in addition to the letter as a whole. Arguing that the preferred interpretation of a text is the one that explains the most characteristics of a text, which means it must be able to explain the surface level as well as those complexities, tensions, and ambiguities that may be under the surface, and it must strive for the highest level of consistency, Dawes argues that the best interpretation of Eph 5:21-33 does not stop at the surface level, the patriarchal ordering of marriage, but rather allows the context to redirect the exhortations to both partners in this case. There is more reciprocity than initially thought from the surface level. Ephesians is actually calling both marital partners to mutual subordination and self-sacrificial love following the example of Christ. Furthermore, these instructions are not based solely on their status of being one flesh, but also on the fact that they are both equal members within the church. In the end, Dawes notes that this hierarchical ordering is inevitable when speaking of women and men, as seen throughout history, because thought functions through hierarchical opposition (a few examples of which are superior/inferior, sun/moon, day/night, man/woman, etc.). But one of these hierarchical sets, husband/wife, has been called into question by Dawes. In Eph 5:21-33, it is more complex than a hierarchical opposition. Instead, they are one body, so that, as seen in Paul’s words from 1 Cor 11:11, the wife is not separate from the husband and the husband is not separate from the wife in the Lord (232-235).

To summarize Dawes’ new interpretation, we may highlight his argument in five points, and then we can offer a conclusion. First, Eph 5:21-33 does acknowledge and resort to patriarchy. Second, this use of patriarchy is not consistent, as is evident in the use of σῶμα, which implies a certain reciprocity. Third, the immediate context reinterprets the wifely subordination (Eph 5:21). Fourth, the letter as a whole reinterprets the patriarchal ordering (Eph 4:10-16, 5:1-2). Fifth, with the reinterpretation from the context, the result is that both wives and husbands are called to love and subordinate to each other. In sum, it is not appropriate to hold a purely hierarchical or egalitarian position as the text itself has a mixture of both.

In his appendix, Dawes takes the body metaphor in relation to Christ and the church and explores the distinction between the two. He summarizes his discussion of the two uses of σῶμα in Ephesians, either as unitive or partitive, and comments that the relationship of Christ to the church is also inconsistent in its use of σῶμα in the same as as the relationship between the husband and the wife is described. This tension, the inconsistent use of σῶμα, had specific implications for the marital relationship. Could it be, Dawes asks, that it has implications for the relationship between Christ and the church? His appendix attempts to address this question (236-237).

Dawes admits that he cannot fully answer this question, so his sole purpose in the appendix is merely to articulate more clearly the heart of the question and to proffer some observations. He looks first to Eph 1:23 where the church is called the fullness of Christ. Dawes is attempting to show through Ephesians how exactly the church is the body of Christ. But this phrase, the fullness of Christ, is ambiguous, and this ambiguity reflects the ambiguity of the relationship of Christ and the church. He spends much time on trying to understand the phrase, but, in the end, he concludes that we cannot understand it and that it remains ambiguous (237-248). He concludes his appendix by speaking briefly of the body metaphor in relation to Christ and the church. Again, Christ can be the κεφαλή and the church the σῶμα, so that σῶμα is partitive, but when κεφαλή is not present σῶμα is unitive, so that Christ and the church are inseparable. Therefore, the church in relationship to Christ is that which is filled and that which fills, and it can even complete Christ (248-250).

As stated before, Dawes excels in three areas. He explains metaphor theory and applies it to Eph 5:21-33, which helps the interpreter to understand the argument therein. He also explains how κεφαλή should be translated literally as “head” and should not be interpreted in the translation as “authority” or “source.” Finally, he also emphasizes that we must make the best effort to read and understand the selected text in the same way that the original audience would have read it.

Dawes spends a sufficient amount of time explaining the theory of metaphor. After laying the foundation, he then demonstrates that Eph 5:21-33 contains several metaphors, that of head and body, based on an underlying model, the human body. The metaphors can be misunderstood and misapplied if they are not considered in relation to the same model. Dawes shows that these metaphors are used to speak of two relationships: first, between husband and wife; and second, between Christ and the church. The husband is compared to Christ with respect to κεφαλή, and the wife is compared to the church with respect to σῶμα. Concerning κεφαλή, Dawes rightly notes that the particular meaning emphasized is “authority” in Eph 5:22-24, but it is not “authority” that is the main comparison between Christ and the husband in Eph 5:25-33. Instead, it is “love.” Here is an important distinction, for the husband is not instructed to rule or to bear authority, but, rather, he is instructed to love as the “head” of his wife. The metaphor’s meaning is determined by context, a point that Dawes recognizes and emphasizes. Without the context, it could be stated that the husband is to bear authority. Dawes’ excellent use of metaphor theory, which highlights the importance of context for interpretation, prevents such an erroneous interpretation.

Dawes explains how κεφαλή should be translated as “head” and not “authority” or “source,” because it is being used as a metaphor. As we have seen, he gave the details of the debate and how there are two main positions: either κεφαλή means “authority” or it means “source.” Clearly, as Dawes explains, this word is used as a metaphor, so it should not be translated as either of these two options. Instead, it should be translated literally, for κεφαλή is a figure of speech that calls the reader to consider, think, and interpret it. And this metaphorical use could permit either option to be interpreted by the reader, though in context it indicates authority. Dawes’ explanation is excellent.

Finally, Dawes understands that the ancient readers and listeners do not share the same presuppositions and values as modern readers, and, therefore, we must consider how they would have read and understood this passage. If we read Eph 5:21-33 through the lens of contemporary feminist concerns, then we will likely miss the way the text re-interprets itself, and we will dismiss the instructions of text, perhaps even going so far as claiming the instructions found in the haustafeln is outmoded and archaic. If we read Eph 5:21-33 through the lens of contemporary hierarchical concerns, then we will likely emphasize the face value of the text over and against its re-interpretation. We need to read the text as the original audience read it. The original audience was part of a patriarchal society. And, yet, there are aspects in Ephesians as well as Eph 5:21-33 that are counter cultural, that go against patriarchy. We have to consider both of these aspects before we can understand it and apply it in our contemporary setting. Dawes’ discussion highlights this importance if we want to better understand and correctly apply Eph 5:21-33.

There are a few notable quibbles. Dawes understands ὑποτασσόμενοι being passive and not middle in Eph 5:21 (208). He fails to discuss Quintialian’s views of metaphor, found in Institutio Oratoria (VIII.vi.4-18), which is contemporary with Ephesians. Actually, it is a big deal that he did not consider the primary resources concerning ancient theories on metaphor in connection with Ephesians, and, therefore, his study is lacking. And the appendix Dawes includes has nothing to do with the fundamental argument of the book. Of course, the book has the typical Brill typographical-editorial errors. But these are minor issues. What is next is a notable failure, but, still, it is not a critical error.

We have stated that Dawes sets out to consider the context of the letter as a whole, but, instead, he only considers selected parts of the rest of the letter for understanding Eph 5:21-33. What he does consider is helpful indeed. But he does not, for example, consider the rhetorical composition. Had he looked at the composition, he might have been able to acknowledge the location of Eph 5:21-33 within the letter’s structure, which, in itself, would add further support for his argument in the end. Ephesians 5:21-33 is within the last main section of the exhortatio. Indeed, Eph 5:21-33 is within the section concerning wise living and being filled with the Spirit. He did acknowledge this connection. But the initial concern of the exhortatio is about walking worthily according to the believers’ calling, which is also connected. Furthermore, the exhortatio is the aim of the narratio. The theological points provided in Eph 2-3 find their end in Eph 4:1-6:9. Therefore, the instructions found in Eph 4:1-6:9, which includes the selected text for The Body in Question, is predicated on what is found in Eph 2-3. Dawes mentions such a connection by looking at κεφαλή and σῶμα earlier in the letter, but the only real connection he maintains is a semantic connection. The argument of those sections is followed slightly, but not wholly. Had he considered the arguments over and above the semantic connections, he could have furthered his own argument by appealing to the fact that the metaphors found in Eph 5:21-33 are dependent, not only with the underlying model, but also on the whole of the narratio: just as Gentiles and Jews, wives and husbands have been brought together in Christ as believers, and both have a common goal, to do the good works God has prepared in advance for them to do, and together they are to proclaim the good news of God’s grace to the rulers, powers, and authorities. To further his end argument, Dawes could have appealed to this connection with the narratio and drawn the conclusion that the narratio re-interprets the patriarchical instructions of Eph 5:22-24, for example, so that, not only does Eph 5:21 re-interpret it along with Eph 5:1-2, but so does Eph 2-3.

Even though there are minor quibbles throughout the book, The Body in Question is a somewhat helpful monograph. It highlights the importance of understanding metaphors in order to understand the use of κεφαλή and σῶμα in Eph 5:21-33 more properly, the importance of understanding the metaphorical use of κεφαλή in the text, and the importance of reading the text in the way that the original audience would have read it. It also highlights the importance of the literary context, though it had a few drawbacks in its approach. Overall, the book is not worth the cost, for his discussion does not offer anything that one could not arrive at through a careful and close study from the literary context, but it would be worth a series of library visits, because metaphors can be daunting, and this book helps one work through the metaphors in Eph 5:21-33.

Ephesians 4-6 as Deliberative Rhetoric?

We have said that Ephesians is of the epideictic class of rhetoric. But should we consider Eph 4:1-6:9 to be deliberative rhetoric rather than epideictic? Two contemporary commentaries take opposing positions. Lincoln argues that Eph 4:1-6:9 is deliberative, whereas Witherington argues that it is epideictic, like the first three chapters of Ephesians. We will look at the arguments of both commentators, and then we will look at two ancient manuals, the Ad Herennium and Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria, concerning deliberative rhetoric, so that we can draw a conclusion in the end.

Lincoln argues that Ephesians combines both epideictic and deliberative genres. To support his thesis, he appeals to R. R. Jeal, “The Relationship Between Theology and Ethics in the Letter to the Ephesians,” Ph.D. dissertation (University of Sheffield, 1990); Lausberg, Handbuch der literarischen Rhetorik, 53-61; Berger, Formgeschichte, 17-19; and G. Lyons, Pauline Autobiography: Toward a New Understanding, 64. But his appeal simply refers to these works and does not make an effort to explain their arguments (xli). Lincoln goes on to define deliberative rhetoric as that which persuades to take certain actions. Furthermore, paraenesis is not deliberative necessarily as it can function in both epideictic or deliberative classes. In epideictic rhetoric, paraenesis reiterates common values, while in deliberative it calls for a change, and this change is to be taken in the future. In support of this distinction between the use of paraenesis with epideictic and deliberative rhetoric, Lincoln appeals to Aune, The New Testament in Its Literary Environment, 191, 208. Lincoln concludes that while some of Eph 4:1-6:9 reiterates common values, much of it is concerned with adjusting behavior to be more distinctly Christian, which is to be done in the future, and, therefore, it is deliberative mainly. As part of his defense, he also appeals to T. C. Burgess, “Epideictic Literature,” Studies in Classical Philology 3 (1902): 89-261 (xlii). When discussing the division of Ephesians into two parts, he concludes that Eph 1-3 is epideictic, Eph 4:1-6:9 is deliberative, and Eph 6:10-24 is epideictic. In this discussion, he says, “Characteristic of the style of Ephesians are the repetition and parallelism of its many long, and in some cases, exceedingly long sentences. In the latter category are 1:3-14; 1:15-23; 2:1-7; 3:1-7; 4:11-16; 6:14-20” (xlv). But long periods are an epideictic feature; if Eph 4:1-6:9 is deliberative, why would it have a long period, which Lincoln recognizes? Lincoln’s response to this question would be this statement, taken from the next page in his commentary: “But there are places where something of the style of the first half of the letter flows over into the second, particularly in 4:1-16; 5:21-33; 6:10-20. It is noticeable that these are places where the writer’s distinctive concerns are added to the traditional material” (xlvi). Therefore, the long period itself, according to Lincoln, is not an indicator of epideictic rhetoric in this situation. Thus far, Lincoln has not interacted with Ephesians to demonstrate its deliberative features in Eph 4:1-6:9. We should look to his commentary of the text and see what he offers in defense of his thesis from that which is evidenced in Ephesians.

Lincoln, when speaking of Eph 1-3, says, “They secure the audience’s goodwill, inspire them, convince them of the rightness of the writer’s perspective on their situation, and dispose them to carry out the specific injunctions of the exhortatio” (224). Lincoln is trying to set the stage for the exhortatio as deliberative rhetoric, a set of paraenesis that calls the listeners to change in the future. If it were epideictic, the exhortatio would be a set of paraenesis that reaffirms that which the listeners already know. But why, then, does Lincoln say, when explaining Eph 4:17-24, “. . . The use of traditional material means that instruction about the distinctive ethical implications of the new identity can take place by way of reminder of what the readers should already know . . .” (291)? His explanation of Eph 4:17-24 as a reminder of what the listeners already know describes an epideictic use of paraenesis, not deliberative. Furthermore, when explaining Eph 4:25-5:2, Lincoln says, “. . . Costly, sacrificial love is to become the distinguishing mark of the readers’ lives because, as the traditional formulation embellished by the writer’s rhetorical flourish puts it, Christ loved them and gave himself up for them as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (341). Lincoln is highlighting an epideictic feature, amplification or embellishment, or, as Lincoln says, “rhetorical flourish.” If Eph 4:25-5:2 is deliberative, why would it include such an epideictic feature? In his defense, it was possible for Asiatic rhetoric, whether deliberative or epideictic, to contain amplification, so, in and of itself, the rhetorical flourish he mentions does not prove that Eph 4:25-5:2 is epideictic. However, Lincoln does not seek to clarify the evidence or straighten out his argument. Absent from Lincoln’s commentary is any demonstration or explanation of Eph 4:1-6:9 as deliberative rhetoric. He neglected his thesis from the commentary’s introduction, that Eph 4:1-6:9 is mainly deliberative paraenesis, when he was commenting on and explaining those verses. The only evidence he provided in support of his thesis is found in the commentary’s introduction, and said evidence is weak as he makes indirect appeals to other secondary sources. Therefore, his thesis is unconvincing. Witherington’s thesis is rather convincing in contrast to Lincoln’s.

Witherington argues first and foremost that deliberative and epideictic rhetoric are similar in part because they share similar themes, so that, while deliberative advises certain things, epideictic praises those same things, and he appeals to Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria III.vii.28 to defend this statement (221). He appeals to R. R. Jeal, Integrating Theology and Ethics, 43 (the book is adapted from the dissertation), who sees Eph 4:1-6:9 as deliberative rhetoric, which calls for specific future behavioral change (222). Then he asks the following question: “Is Eph 4-6 essentially an attempt to laud the proper behavior and criticize improper behavior (and so an exercise in praise and blame), or is Paul in fact trying to change the behavior of the audience in the near future?” (222). Witherington concludes that Eph 4-6 is hortatory material that is epideictic in character, but maintains the possibility that it could be deliberative in nature (222). Taking the position that Eph 4:1-6:9 is epideictic, he supports his claims by appealing to Quintilian, who said that epideictic is not solely concerned with praise and blame (Institutio Oratoria, III.vii.28; 222), and epideictic required proof when dealing with practical matters (III.vii.4; 280). He concludes that in epideictic rhetoric, practical exhortations are to be substantiated in inartificial proofs such as authoritative documents or logical rationales for the behavior being urged. Ephesians 4:1-16 is substantiated with an appeal to Ps 68, for example (280). Furthermore, as Quintilian states, epideictic’s function was to “amplify and embellish its themes” (III.vii.6), which is what happens in Eph 4:1-6 (281). Witherington says, “Quintilian is right that epideictic and deliberative oratory are close in that the things usually praised in the former are advised in the latter, and since exhortations can be found in both forms, there is something of a thing line between the two rhetorical species when it comes to ethical exhortations (III.vii.28)” (281). But Witherington has already started building a case to demonstrate that Eph 4:1-6:9 is epideictic, such as with the appeal to Ps 68 in Eph 4:1-16, and that epideictic was also known to deal with practical matters. Now Witherington will go on to demonstrate further that Eph 4:1-6:9 is epideictic.

Concerning Eph 4:3, Witherington says that Paul exhorts the listeners to keep the unity, which is a call to contemporary, present action, which is an epideictic exhortation. It is not introducing a new instruction, but rather it is reinforcing what the listeners already know (285). Witherington argues that Eph 4:1-6:9 are filled with exhortations for the present to reinforce what they already know, which is epideictic paraenesis.

Concerning Eph 4:16, Witherington says,

Paul’s imagery and redundancies run away with him, but such was permitted in Asiatic and epideictic rhetoric. He speaks of being put together and fitted together by the ligaments, which supply the nutrients one needs to make the body grow, by which he means the building up of each person in love. Here we also have the anomalous idea of the body growing up into the head and in the likeness of the head. Perkins is right to note that in deliberative rhetoric the discussion of unity is brought on by the need to overcome disunity and discord, as in 1 Corinthians. But “Ephesians does not point to a crisis of disunity. Exhortation serves the function of reminding the audience of what has already been true of its experience.” In other words, this is an epideictic use of the theme . . . . (293; Witherington is quoting Perkins, “Ephesians,” The New Interpreter’s Bible: Second Corinthians–Philemon, vol. 11, 423)

Witherington argues that Eph 4:1-6:9 is not concerned with changing behavior but reinforcing behavior, which is epideictic paraenesis.

When speaking of Eph 4:17-32, Witherington underscores the use of “learned Christ.” Clearly this phrase indicates that the listeners have already been instructed in a particular way of life. Paul is not introducing anything new. Instead, he appeals to their already having learned certain things, which is an epideictic use of paraenesis (293-294). Witherington argues that Eph 4:1-6:9 is concerned with reinforcing behavior, indicating that it is epideictic rhetoric.

Regarding Eph 4:17-32, Witherington also appeals to Quintilian. First, Quintilian said that epideictic rhetoric was a serious task when praising or blaming laws or rules of behavior (Institutio Oratoria II.iv.33). Second, it was important to periodize the material when speaking of the before and after (III.vii.10-13). Third, sometimes the praise should be divided and various virtues should be dealt with separately; furthermore, deeds done under said virtues ought to be described (III.vii.15). Finally, Quintilian said that it was necessary to praise or denounce in accord with what the audience has already learned in order to encourage growth in the direction they have already chosen (III.vii.23; Witherington also makes reference to Aristotle, Rhetoric, i.9). Witherington says that Eph 2:11-22 is an example of what Quintilian meant by periodizing the material when speaking of the before and after, while Eph 4:17-32 is an example of separating the virtues and describing the deeds done under them (295). He concludes with the following argument:

The undergirding assumption of Eph 4:17-32 is that the audience has already “learned Christ” and so learned a particular way of living that is Christ-like, and will readily assent to what Paul is saying here as a familiar and already embraced code of conduct. Some of the themes introduced in this section (darkness, impurity, greed, error, righteousness) will recur later in the discourse. Perhaps more importantly, what we have throughout this section is a reworking of earlier material would recognize that Paul was embellishing and amplifying on already received and accepted teaching in the Christian community. This, too, reflects the epideictic nature and strategy of this discourse. (295)

Witherington argues that Eph 4:1-6:9 is epideictic because it is reinforcing what the listeners already know.

As a matter of comparison, Witherington notes that Eph 4:24, which praises righteousness and holiness, lists the very virtues that Quintilian says should be praised in epideictic rhetoric (III.vii.15; 299). Witherington is arguing that Eph 4:1-6:9 is epideictic because it includes the same things that Quintilian described ought to be included in epideictic rhetoric.

In discussing Eph 5:1-21, Witherington states that Paul reinforces teaching and does not introduce new things. Paul used praise and blame of attitudes and conduct, amplification of traditional material made explicitly his own and explicitly Christian, implying that epideictic features are utilized and, therefore, it is clearly epideictic paraenesis (304). Commenting on Eph 5:1-2, Witherington states that imitation, though primarily a deliberative theme, was used to reinforce the call to graciousness, so it is epideictic in this instance (306). Witherington explained that in Eph 5:3-4 there are more epideictic themes, such as appropriate conduct that is honorable and praiseworthy (307). When explaining Eph 5:5, Witherington notes that Paul recognizes that his audience already knows the things he is instructing. Therefore, the approach Paul uses is “the essence of epideictic hortatory material” (308). Witherington argues that Eph 4:1-6:9 is of the epideictic class of rhetoric as it contains various epideictic features and is concerned with reinforcing that which the listeners already know.

When explaining the household code, Witherington says that the rhetorical force of the haustafeln depends on four things, which are as follows: first, the audience’s familiarity with the material. Paul is making an appeal to already received code with embellishment, which indicates that it is epideictic rhetoric. Second, ready assent is produced through self-explanatory rationale. Third, an egalitarian trajectory is given in address of the male figure throughout the code. Last, there is an emphasis on the marriage relationship. Witherington’s main argument here is that Eph 5:21-6:9 is an expansion on the Colossians haustafeln, which means it is epideictic. He says, “There is no reason to assume that Paul is drawing on any sources other than Colossians in his treatment of the household code, whatever sources he may have relied on in composing the Colossian code, and so we are dealing with rhetorical amplification of a known source . . .” (314-315). Later, specifically when speaking about Eph 6:1-4, he says, “. . . Again we see that the code in Ephesians seems to be an expansion on what we find in Colossians” (335). Since there seems to be an expansion or amplification, the Ephesians haustafeln is of the epideictic class. The epideictic character of the household code is further demonstrated in the exhortation to the wives to submit to their husbands in all things. Witherington says, “. . . Again, Paul is envisioning the ideal situation here, not addressing particular problems that could and do arise. This is the nature of praise and wisdom in an epideictic piece of rhetoric in any case” (326, note 205). Furthermore, the epideictic class is evidenced also in the haustafeln in that it appeals to what they already know. When discussing Eph 6:5-9, Witherington says, “V. 8 brings in a reference to eschatological reward. Paul in good epideictic fashion relies in both v. 8 and v. 9 on what the audience already knows about their Lord and their faith (eidotes hoti in both verses). . . .” (341). Witherington argues that Eph 4:1-6:9 is epideictic rhetoric because it appeals to that which the listeners already know, thus reinforcing a way of life already chosen by the listeners, which is evident in the language of “knowing” and the use of the familiar code that has been amplified and expounded.

Witherington gives a very convincing argument for Eph 4:1-6:9 as epideictic rhetoric. He demonstrates throughout that the concern of Eph 4:1-6:9 is to reinforce that which the listeners already knew. He demonstrates also that this large part of Ephesians is filled with various epideictic features, such as praise and blame, discussion of virtues and associated deeds, amplification and embellishment, and appealing to and expounding upon traditions and other authoritative sources.

We have thus seen that Lincoln argues unconvincingly for Eph 4:1-6:9 as deliberative whereas Witherington for epideictic. What can we learn about Eph 4:1-6:9 based on the ancient rhetorical manuals, the Ad Herennium and the Institutio Oratoria, in terms of the deliberative class? We will look not only for a broad understanding of deliberative rhetoric but also in particular its use of paraenesis, and we will compare such material to Ephesians.

For Ad Herennium, deliberative rhetoric is concerned with policy through embracing the art of persuasion or dissuasion (I.ii.2). It would, through a question, require a choice between two or more courses of action (III.ii.2). The deliberative orator would properly set up advantage as the goal of the speech. Ad Herennium discusses political deliberation as it regards advantage. The goal of political deliberation is of either security or honor. For security, which is the advising of a plan for avoiding a danger, it is broken down into two subtopics, might, which are armies, fleets, etc., and craft (or strategy), which are the means, money, promises, etc. For honor, there are two subtopics, right and praiseworthy. Under the subtopic of right, there are four categories, which are as follows: wisdom, the intelligence to distinguish between good and bad; justice, the equity that is proportionate in giving in direct relation to worth; courage, the reaching for great things and contempt for what is mean; and temperance, self-control that moderates our desires (III.ii.3). In deliberative rhetoric, virtues of these kinds are to be enlarged upon if they are being recommended, but they are to be depreciated if they are to be disregarded. Such opposites would be cowardice, sloth, and perverse generosity for justice, impertinent, babbling, and offensive cleverness for wisdom, inaction and lax indifference for temperance, and reckless temerity of a gladiator for courage (III.iii.6). The other subtopic, praiseworthy, concerns that which produces an honorable remembrance at the event and afterwards. When something is shown to be right, in deliberative rhetoric it is also necessary to show that it is praiseworthy (III.iii.7). Deliberative rhetoric, which has advantage as its goal, will either argue both for security and honor, or it will argue one over the other. One’s argument had to include a promise of what they were setting out to do, either to prove both or just the one (III.iii.8). Deliberative rhetoric followed the following construction: introduction; statement of facts, which was not required; proof and refutation; and conclusion (III.iii.8-9). The section for proof was where the orator would establish in his favor the topics for security or honor (III.iii.8). It was to be filled with the following structure for arguments: the proposition; the reason; the proof of the reason; the embellishment; and the résumé (II.xviii.28). In the proposition, the orator had to set forth in summary fashion what he intended to prove. In the reason, he had to set forth the basis for the proposition through brief explanations, and in so doing establish the truth of what he is urging. In the proof of the reason, the brief reason already stated is corroborated through additional arguments. In the embellishment, which could be left out in certain situations, the argument is adorned and enriched once the proof has been established. Finally, in the résumé, which could be left out when the full argument is brief enough, a brief conclusion of the argument is provided (II.xviii.28, 30).

In the light of the description of deliberative rhetoric in Ad Herennium, we have at least three questions to consider. First, Is Eph 4:1-6:9 concerning advantage in terms of security or honor? It does not appear that advantage is the aim, but certain terms could be seen to be related to honor as categorized and explained in the Ad Herennium. For example, “Therefore, I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to walk worthily . . .” (Eph 4:1). Take for example Eph 5:15-16, which says, “Therefore, give careful attention how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of the time, . . .”  The first example is a general term that some could interpret to be a term of honor. The second example is a subcategory of honor as set forth by Ad Herennium, wisdom. But again, advantage is not the aim.

Second, Is Eph 4:1-6:9 establishing in the author’s favor the topics previously set forth to be of the secure or honorable goal? It appears that there is no pressing and immediate connection between Eph 1:1-3:21 and Eph 4:1-6:9. Furthermore, the topics in Eph 1:1-3:22 are not being established favorably in Eph 4:1-6:9. However, Eph 4:1-6:9 does reiterate a few themes mentioned earlier in the letter, but not in any particular order. For example, the building theme (“being joined together”) is used in Eph 2:21 as well as in Eph 4:16, whereas the new person theme is used in Eph 2:15 and Eph 4:24. Yet, these themes are not reiterated in the exhortatio to establish them favorably. They are presented in such a way that does not match deliberative classification. There is simply no indication that honor is being established.

Last, deliberative rhetoric advances its argument through the introduction, statement of facts, proof and refutation, and conclusion, so why would the author of Ephesians not properly develop his argument by using epideictic themes and style prior to and after Eph 4:1-6:9? It seems unlikely that the exhortatio is of the deliberative class when the rest of the letter is epideictic, for deliberative rhetoric according to Ad Herennium used the structure of the speech to develop the argument and secure the advantage.

Of particular note, Ad Herennium makes no mention of paraenesis or a use of an exhortatio in deliberative rhetoric whatsoever. However, deliberative rhetoric is the class that pertains to policy. Ephesians 4:1-6:9 does appear to be laying out Christian policy, only it is not doing it in a way to persuade with an aim towards establishing honor. It is an oddity for sure. Perhaps Quintilian has something to say about it?

In the Institutio Oratoria, Quintilian stated that some rhetoricians held that paraenesis was a valid form of figure (IX.ii.103). Figures were a way to add eloquence to the matter, but they were associated with proof (IX.i.19). Additionally, every orator was to instruct, move, and charm the hearers according to Quintilian (III.v.2). Paraenesis in itself does not provide sufficient evidence in favor of epideictic or deliberative rhetoric. But Quintilian’s discussion of deliberative rhetoric does not sound like Eph 4:1-6:9.

Quintilian described epideictic (panegyric or demonstrative) rhetoric as something concerned with lots of themes, especially that which is honorable (III.vii.28), but in comparison deliberative is solely concerned with that which is honorable and expedient (III.viii.1, 22). Furthermore, he noted that the epideictic and deliberative classes are related to each other, for what epideictic praised deliberative advised (III.vii.28). But deliberative rhetoric is the advisory department. It deliberates on the future and makes inquiries of the past. Its function was to advise and dissuade (III.viii.6). Furthermore, deliberative’s sole concern is advantage, whereas epideictic is praise (III.viii.7). All deliberative speeches were to be based on comparisons for advantage versus disadvantage (III.xviii.34). As a final note, Quintilian understood that each class of rhetoric was mutually aided by the others, so there are similarities that run across epideictic, deliberative, and forensic classes. Epideictic could deal with justice (typically of forensic) or expediency (typically of deliberative); deliberative could deal with honor (which could also be epideictic generally); forensic could include both honor, expediency, and justice (III.iv.16).

We have already asked questions about Eph 4:1-6:9 in light of our findings in the Ad Herennium. Now we must ask more questions based on the Institutio Oratoria. We have no less than five questions to consider. First, is Eph 4:1-6:9 concerned solely with what is honorable and expedient?  We have seen already that Eph 4:1-6:9 contains the language of honor. However, as Quintilian noted, epideictic rhetoric also concerned honor. The language of honor itself is not sufficient to demonstrate the use of deliberative rhetoric. It could be said that the language of unity in Eph 4:1-6 lends itself to that which is expedient. Additionally, the whole of Eph 4:1-6:9 can be described as expedient as it is a series of instructions or advice to the audience to do that which is proper for believers and not to do that which is improper. But expediency had more to do with ready advantage than it did with the language of propriety. Yet, Eph 4:1-6:9 is not solely concerned with expediency or honor.

Second, does Eph 4:1-6:9 deliberate on the future? There is no indication in the text of Ephesians that the future is in view for the purposes of deliberation. Note that we are not talking about eschatology. Instead, for example, there are no questions concerning what will be done. There are some uses of the future in Eph 6:1-9. Children are instructed to obey, slaves to do good, and lords to do the same. Children will be rewarded with long life for obedience; slaves will be rewarded for their good work; lords will not be shown favoritism. But the future tense is not a key indicator of deliberations on the future. Questions are not being asked concerning a choice between at least two options. Instead, the future tense is used to indicate what will happen. The futures are used either as gnomic or predictive future verbs, but in either case there is no question about it.

Third, does Eph 4:1-6:9 make inquiries of the past? There are no inquiries of the past in the text. No information from the past is requested, for example.

Fourth, is Eph 4:1-6:9 concerned with advantage? There does not seem to be any indication in the text that it is concerned with advantage or disadvantage. Ephesians 6:1-3 could be listed as an example, for children are exhorted to obey their parents, and they will be rewarded as a result. Ephesians 6:4-8 could also be listed as an example, for slaves are exhorted to do good knowing that they will be rewarded by their Lord in heaven. Likewise, Ephesians 6:9 could also be an example, for lords are exhorted to do good because the Lord will not show favoritism. These concerns seem to indicate advantage is in view, at least in these examples. But these are merely three examples out of the whole text. The rest of Eph 4:1-6:9 does not have such a concern.

Finally, does Eph 4:1-6:9 make comparisons towards advantage or disadvantage? No, Eph 4:1-6:9 does not make any such comparisons. It makes a few assertions that do pertain to advantage, as we have seen in the previous question’s answer, but it does not consider the disadvantages and make comparisons.

There are many similarities between epideictic and deliberative classes. Furthermore, as Quintilian saw it, each class of rhetoric could help the others. It was therefore possible to have elements of one class in another. It is possible for Ephesians, as a result, to be epideictic with deliberative themes or vice versa. However, Eph 4:1-6:9 does not match the style of the deliberative class very well. It does have some deliberative themes, such as honor and expedience, and arguably advantage. But advantage is not its sole concern, and, in addition, it is not solely focused on that which is honorable. It does not deliberate on the future nor make inquiries of the past. The key features of deliberative rhetoric simply are not present. We have already demonstrated that Ephesians is epideictic. Since we cannot demonstrate the letter’s exhortatio to be of the deliberative class, and certainly it is not forensic, we should continue to understand it in light of epideictic rhetoric. Simply because it is paraenesis does not mean that it is deliberative rhetoric. We do know that Quintilian associated the figure of paraenesis with proof, and since epideictic did not need to prove anything, the author of Ephesians could have used an exhortatio in place of proof. Furthermore, every orator from any class was to be able to instruct, move, and charm his audience. Any speech could have an element of instruction just like Ephesians. We may conclude that Witherington’s argument is correct, that Ephesians 4:1-6:9 is epideictic, not deliberative. There simply is not enough evidence to support Lincoln’s assertion. The use of the present verbs throughout and the concern for present circumstances, the use of redundancy or amplification (e.g., Eph 4:14-16), the reinforcement of an already accepted way of life (e.g., Eph 4:20-24), and the embellishment and amplification of traditional Christian material (e.g., Eph 5:22-6:9) demonstrate that Eph 4:1-6:9 is epideictic rhetoric.

Rethinking the Literary Structure of Ephesians

In an earlier post, I argued for the following chiastic structure in Ephesians:

A. Epistolary Prescript (Eph 1:1-2);
B. Exordium (Eph 1:3-23);
C. Narratio (Eph 2:1-3:13);
D. Prayer and Doxology (Eph 3:14-21);
c. Exhortatio (Eph 4:1-6:9);
b. Peroratio (Eph 6:10-20);
a. Epistolary Postscript (Eph 6:21-24).

In another post, I explained the complexities of the exhortatio in an effort to show that there is still only three broad sections there, so that the three sections of the narratio would still correspond neatly.

I looked at Ephesians first in light of rhetorical arrangement (exordium, narratio, exhortatio, peroratio), and then determined that there is a corresponding literary structure (a chiasm). I argued further that there is a smaller set of chiastic structures in both the narratio and exhortatio, so that there are several parallel points of comparison. I must admit, it seems as though such an analysis is getting to be so complex that I think my analysis is more genius than what the original author intended.

In addition, there are still some complexities with this arrangement and analysis that I do not think I can explain without coming up with an ingenious solution that the author did not intend. Here are two examples. First, if the narratio is made up of a chiasm, then the first and last points should have similarities. Ephesians 2:1-10 talks about grace, and Ephesians 3:1-13 mentions grace. Therefore, I concluded that they are similar and the narratio is arranged in such a way so as to form a chiasm. But this similarity is founded on a single word. Am I arguing that a single word is enough to form the connection and to construct a chiasm? It seems that I was attempting to make that argument. For the moment, we can say that I have a valid point and that there is such a chiasm. If that is the case, then the chiasm is betrayed by οἰκοδομὴ (Eph 2:21; cf. Eph 4:12), which breaks outside of the parallel and corresponding sections of the separate chiasms. My original literary structure is therefore not able to account for all everything in Ephesians. Therefore, it is not likely to be correct.

Second, the exhortatio is made up of more rhetorical units than what the narratio contains. I attempted to explain how it contains only three literary units that correspond with the three literary units of the narratio. But if that is the case, how does my explanation account fully for the use of περιπατέω (Eph 4:1, 17; 5:1, 15)? The exhortatio is marked up into separate units through the use of περιπατέω, which gives us at least four units, whereas the narratio only has three. In my original explanation, I maintained that the two middle units function together as one unit in two parts. While there may be some merit to my explanation, it does not quite account for everything. Would an audience who hears the letter read aloud also hear the two middle sections as one, or would they simply hear περιπατέω and associate it with a new section? Furthermore, how is it then that there is a connection between Christ’s sacrifice in Eph 5:1 and in the last literary section with Eph 5:25? These sections are supposed to be unrelated, and yet there is a strong connection. My explanation simply cannot suffice.

Therefore, it is better to adhere to the basic rhetorical arrangement and not attempt to find any sort of intricate literary structure. The style of epideictic rhetoric is itself redundant and permits for words and phrases to be used several times and embellished, which accounts for the things I have not been able to explain. Through the epideictic style, οἰκοδομὴ can be reused at any point, and likewise for περιπατέω. The same is true also of Christ’s giving himself up. Even though they are reused in different rhetorical units within the letter’s arrangement, the epideictic style not only permits it, but it expects it and it accounts for everything. There is no need to look further or deeper since the style itself provides us with a perfectly good explanation.

We will leave the letter’s arrangement to the following structure:

Epistolary Prescript (Eph 1:1-2);
Exordium (Eph 1:3-23);
Narratio (Eph 2:1-3:21);
Exhortatio (Eph 4:1-6:9);
Peroratio (Eph 6:10-20);
Epistolary Postscript (Eph 6:21-24).

Does Ephesians Have a Propositio?

It may be appealing to find a propositio in Ephesians, a formal section containing the premise of the argument, not least because the concept of thesis has been associated with propositio. As such, with the general contemporary understanding that oral and written pieces contain some sort of thesis, it follows in theory that no rhetorical work could lack a propositio. Does the Letter to the Ephesians have a formal propositio? In an effort to determine if Ephesians has a propositio, we will look first to the works of Lincoln and Witherington, and second to the works of Aristotle, Quintilian, and Ad Herennium, and, in the end, we will note the importance of this discussion.

We must remember first and foremost that Ephesians is epideictic rhetoric, which will prove important in our discussion from the primary sources. Second, two influential commentaries on Ephesians concerned with rhetoric have mixed information in support of a propositio in Ephesians, which are Lincoln’s Ephesians (vol. 42, WBC) and Witherington’s The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians. In his rhetorical outline of Ephesians found in his introduction to his commentary, Lincoln does not recognize a propositio whatsoever (xliii). His commentary has been a standard rhetorical treatment of Ephesians for a while now, and, yet, he does not recognize a propositio in Ephesians. In Witherington’s introduction to his commentary, he does not formally recognize a propositio as indicated in his rhetorical outline of Ephesians, but by way of a footnote he informally declares that Eph 1:9-10 functions as a propositio (20). However, in his discussion of both the eulogy (Eph 1:3-14; 227-237) and specifically Eph 1:9-10 (236), Witherington does not support his brief claim that Ephesians does have a propositio. He mentioned it in passing through a footnote, but he did not support that claim in any way.

Thus far, the secondary evidence for a propositio is rather weak, and it only gets weaker. Witherington argues later that Eph 1:15-23 is a sort of propositio as it is comparable to the peroratio, and he refers his readers to Schnackenburg’s Ephesians (85) to find support for that claim. Because Ephesians is epideictic rhetoric, Witherington claims that this propositio is not something to be proved as in deliberative or judicial (forensic) rhetoric, but rather it is something to be praised and expounded (239).

These two commentaries together have not been helpful and have merely raised additional questions. Lincoln’s work is not confusing. Clearly he does not support the view that Ephesians contains a propositio. Witherington is rather confusing. First, he unfoundedly argues for Eph 1:9-10 to be the propositio, and in his discussion of said verses he makes no mention or explanation of them being the propositio. Second, he argues for Eph 1:15-23 as the propositio but does not provide any support; instead, he points to a different work as evidence of his claim. But now we have some more questions. If Eph 1:9-10 is the propositio, what is Eph 1:15-23? Are there two present in Ephesians? If Ephesians does have a propositio, is it true that it would be of a different kind than that of deliberative or forensic rhetoric? Does epideictic rhetoric provide a propositio not to prove it but to expound it? At this point, we can only turn to the ancient documents in an effort to answer such questions.

In The Art of Rhetoric, Aristotle says very little about the use of a propositio in a rhetorical piece. For him, an enthymeme is a syllogism consisting of propositions (any necessary signs, probabilities, or signs that deal with the possible or impossible, that which has actually happened or not, that which is great or small, or that which is universal or particular). Aristotle says that every kind of orator must have propositions at hand (I.iii.7-9). Based on what he stated, it logically follows that Ephesians would have some sort of propositio. But what Aristotle is describing is a rhetorical tool and not a formal section of a rhetorical piece. In other words, he is describing a tool for making a good argument as opposed to a formal section of the argument that must fall in order and contain certain features. Since Aristotle does not go into any other details and because what he has written does not seem to help answer our questions at this time, we should move on to the next ancient document, Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria.

When discussing forensic rhetoric, Quintilian states that there is an order to follow, which is the exordium, the narratio, the proof, the refutatio, and the peroratio. He identified that the section of proof could be broken down into a propositio and a digressio that are placed prior to the refutatio (Institutio Oratoria III.iv.1). He claims Aristotle as listing the propositio after the exordium (The Art of Rhetoric III.xiii), but Aristotle does not say the propositio goes after the exordium; instead, what he does say is that a basic statement is always necessary while a full statement is essential for forensic rhetoric, and he even provides the order of the speech as follows: exordium, statement of facts, proof, and epilogue. It seems that Aristotle and Quintilian do not mean the same thing when they use the word propositio (to be clear, Aristotle did not speak Latin, so we are speaking anachronistically; the term Aristotle used was προτάσις, meaning “proposition” or “premise”). Here is our first clue that there is a distinction between a formal section of the speech, the propositio, from figures of speech or premises of the argument being made, the propositions.

Quintilian states later that it was possible for the narratio to be left out and the propositio to fill its place, where it would function as a brief summary statement of the facts (IV.ii.30). He also lists the proposition first before the statement of facts as it is reported to be in the school of Theodorus (III.ii.27). Quintilian never permits such a thing, but it appears that there was some flexibility in the order in some opinions and schools in antiquity. Again, while discussing forensic rhetoric, Quintilian describes the propositio as the beginning of the proof. He provides two kinds of examples. First, the demonstration of the main question. Second, the enunciation of individual arguments. Whens speaking of the first kind, he says also that it is not always necessary to use the propositio (IV.iv.1). In any case, the propositio must always be clear and lucid, for its purpose is to prevent obscurity. Furthermore, it must be brief and contain neither any excessive words nor redundancy, for its purpose is to explain what will be said. Finally, whatever is the order within the propositio, it must be followed exactly in the proof section of the speech (IV.v.26).

In sum, Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria discusses the propositio as a formal section of the speech, which is not the same as how Aristotle speaks of it. His manual also discusses the propositio in connection with forensic rhetoric. Ephesians is not of the forensic type, but rather it is epideictic. However, there are some things that we can determine at this point. First, as a formal section of a rhetorical speech, the propositio followed the narratio. Second, there was the opinion that existed prior to or during the time Quintilian wrote that allowed the propositio to precede the narratio. Third, the propositio is connected to the proof. Fourth, the narratio could drop and the propositio could take its place. Last, the function of the propositio was to provide in summary form the order of the proofs about to be taken up; it functioned like a road map complete with directions for where the orator was taking his audience. Because he discusses the propositio in connection with forensic rhetoric, we must be cautious to attribute this information from Quintilian to the Letter to the Ephesians. We should look also to Ad Herennium to attempt to answer our questions.

This ancient text has some important aspects for this discussion, not least because it is the only one to go into more detail for epideictic rhetoric, while Aristotle and Quintilian discuss the propositio in terms of forensic rhetoric only. But even in Ad Herennium there is some flexibility of terminology or some confusing aspects. When discussing the perfect argument for forensic speeches, the use of the propositio is included as the first part of the argument. It is followed by the reason, then the proof of the reason, then the embellishment, and concluded with the résumé. It is the propositio that sets forth in a summary form what is intended to be proven (II.xviii.27-28). We see agreement here between Quintilian and Ad Herennium in that the propositio is like a road map for the speech. However, Quintilian speaks of it as a formal section of the speech, whereas Ad Herennium speaks of it as the beginning of an argument. Both are speaking in terms of forensic rhetoric. We must determine if the two texts are speaking of the same thing, however, for we have seen how Aristotle and Quintilian, while utilizing the same terminology, had in mind two separate things. Shortly after speaking of the perfect argument, Ad Herennium uses a different term, expositio, in reference to what we called the propositio earlier (II.xx.32), which is our second clue that the terminology between the two texts are concerned with different things. It seems that Ad Herennium is talking about something else than Quintilian, something more along the lines of Aristotle’s use of the term.

Ad Herennium speaks of two kinds of arrangements, first of the individual argument, and second of the entire speech. We have seen the order suggested for the individual argument, which starts with the propositio or expositio. For the entire speech, it should have an introduction, a statement of facts, a division, a proof, a refutation, and a conclusion. This ancient text permits for a different order of the whole speech, such as the proof before the statement of facts, but only when the situation demands it. Still, this discussion in Ad Herennium is concerned with forensic rhetoric (III.ix.16-17). This arrangement is similar to Quintilian’s with the addition of the division. The division, according to Ad Herennium, is the part of the speech that identifies what matters are not only agreed upon but also contested, and it also identifies what points are going to be taken up (I.iii). What Quintilian calls the propositio sounds quite like what Ad Herennium calls the division. As indicated already, what we have seen thus far in this ancient text has pertained only to forensic rhetoric. However, it does discuss epideictic rhetoric, and we will focus on what it says about the division.

In epideictic rhetoric, the speech should be structured according to four sections, which are as follows: the introduction, the statement of the facts, the division, and the conclusion. In the portrayal of life, the external circumstances, physical attributes, and qualities of character of the person being praised or blamed functions in and of itself as the proof of the speech, which is why there is no section of proof or refutation (Ad Herennium III.vi.10-11). The statement of facts is permitted to be skipped if the introduction is done correctly, but if it is to be included, Ad Herennium requires that it follow the method of forensic rhetoric (III.vii.13; cf. I.viii.12-I.ix.16). It is the division that sets forth the things intended to be praised or blamed. It is the division that recounts the events, observing their precise sequence and chronology, and the portrayal of the life should follow a specific order, first by observing the external circumstances, second by observing the physical advantages, and last return to external circumstances (III.vii.13).

To summarize the situation, it appears that Ad Herennium’s division sounds like Quintilian’s propositio, while Ad Herennium’s propositio sounds like Aristotle’s propositio. Quintilian’s propositio is a formal section of the entire speech, while Aristotle’s and Ad Herennium’s is a formal section of a proper and perfect argument within the speech. Only Ad Herennium discusses the arrangement of epideictic rhetoric itself, but it does not include the use of propositio in said arrangement.

Based on our findings, we can now attempt to answer our questions, and we will do it in one fell swoop. It is difficult to say if the letter includes a formal section identified as a propositio. Aristotle did not consider a propositio to be a formal section of a speech and does not discuss it in relation to epideictic rhetoric. Quintilian did recognize the propositio to be a formal section of a speech, but he does not discuss it in relation to epideictic rhetoric. Ad Herennium recognizes the division to be a formal section of a speech, and it sounds rather similar to Quntilian’s understanding of the propositio, and it discusses the division in relation to epideictic rhetoric. However, in its discussion, it states that the narratio comes first and then the division. Ephesians does have a narratio, but after it concludes it goes straight into an exhortatio, a paraenetic section functioning as the proof. If Ad Herennium’s division is the equivalent to Quintilian’s propositio, it is hard to show one present in Ephesians following the narratio. We did see that there was an opinion present at the time of Quintilian’s writing that listed the propositio before the narratio, so it could be possible at the very least to have the propositio precede the narratio. However, even if that is the case in Ephesians, and if Eph 1:9-10, 1:15-23, or 1:20-23 is considered to be the propositio, the expected exactness and summary fashion for a propositio betrays these verses as they are not precise, they do not set forth exactly the points that are about to be taken up by the author, and they are not in summary form, but rather, they are redundant and superfluous. Furthermore, where the propositio precedes the narratio is discussed it is in relation to forensic rhetoric. We still have no indication that it was possible or acceptable to have such an order in epideictic rhetoric. The closest we get is in Ad Herennium’s acceptance of the narratio dropping out and the division taking its place in epideictic, but we know Ephesians contains a narratio. Even if Ephesians did have a propositio, there is no indication in Aristotle, Quintilian, or Ad Herennium that the purpose of propositions differ from epideictic to forensic rhetoric as Witherington suggested, that the propositio is something to be expounded rather than proven. What we see here is how difficult it is to provide a good explanation in support of a propositio in Ephesians. It seems very unlikely that one is present if we take the term to mean a formal section of the rhetorical piece.

We can look at Ephesians itself and see if it contains a propositio, so that we are not relying on the ancient rhetorical manuals only. We know that Witherington has argued for both Eph 1:9-10 and Eph 1:15-23 to be the propositio. Disregarding the fact that the propositio was supposed to follow the narratio, we can entertain these two portions of Ephesians. Starting in Eph 2, we have the following thought structure: grace and gift (Eph 2:1-10); new person, alienated (Eph 2:11-22); wisdom, mystery, household (Eph 3:1-13); walk worthily of the calling in unity, in grace, and with the gifts (Eph 4:1-16); walk not as the Gentiles but as God does in love, as a new person no longer alienated (Eph 4:17-5:14); carefully walk in wisdom even in the household (Eph 5:15-6:9); be strong in the Lord (Eph 6:10-20). Is there a verse or a set of verses in Ephesians that carefully details each of these points to be taken up? Witherington first asserted Eph 1:9-10 as the propositio, which reads, “revealing to us the mystery of his will, according to his good will which he predestined in him for the plan of the full measure of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, all things in the heavens and all things on the earth in him” (my translation). Comparing the thought structure to this translation, there seems to be no premise clearly defined and laid out indicating where the author is headed. Ephesians 1:9-10 cannot be a propositio. Witherington also asserted Eph 1:15-23 as the propositio. Due to length, we will summarize that section of Ephesians. It starts out by expressing personal feelings from the author to the audience (vv. 15-16). It talks of faith, love, and giving thanks. The author declares the content of his prayer (vv. 17-19). He wants God to give them a spirit of wisdom and a revelation in his knowledge. He wants them to be enlightened for for them to know the hope of his calling. He wants them to know the riches of his glorious inheritance and the overpassing greatness of his power. In vv. 20-23, the power mentioned in v. 19 is further explained. That power was at work in Christ when he was raised from the dead and caused to sit down at God’s right hand in the heavenly places. All things were placed under his feet and he was given as head over the church, which is his body. To be sure, there are themes present here that are found later and earlier in Ephesians, so we can say that it is connected to the rest of the letter. But as a propositio, it does not work, for it is lengthy, redundant, and it does not provide any set of premises that will be taken up in any particular order. Comparing its content to that of the thought structure of Ephesians, there is no apparent relationship.

We can thus conclude that Ephesians bears no propositio. It does not have a road map indicating where the orator is headed in exact detail. It does not have a section in connection with proof that lists the premises of the argument. It does not have a brief and non-redundant thesis following the statement of facts that provides the points to be taken up. Ephesians does not have a propositio, which is an acceptable fact because the letter is epideictic rhetoric and does not require one in the way that forensic or deliberative does.

We have only looked at three ancient texts. Surely others ought to be examined. However, The Art of Rhetoric, Institutio Oratoria, and Ad Herennium are three powerhouse texts on ancient rhetoric. If these three texts cannot be combined to demonstrate the presence of a propositio in Ephesians, it is doubtful that other texts would prove otherwise. It seems that our conclusion is safe, but there is a possibility of another ancient text informing our understanding, thus requiring a change, and, therefore, we must remain open to the possibility of being wrong. Yet, we are in good company, for Lincoln did not recognize a propositio in Ephesians, and, even though he argued for two different texts in Ephesians to be the propositio, Witherington did not provide any concrete evidence in support of one.

Why is this discussion important? Does it really matter if Ephesians has a propositio? This discussion is ultimately important for understanding Ephesians as a whole. Ephesians is constructed of several different rhetorical parts that relate to each other. One cannot fully understand and appreciate a smaller part of Ephesians without understanding the letter’s bigger picture. It is essential for understanding the context of Ephesians to consider its rhetorical features. If it did have a propositio, we would see a central set of premises that would be taken up in a particular order. We would be able to follow the argument of the author and know which parts of the letter are the major premises through a metaphorical road map. But Ephesians does not have one. It is imperative that Ephesians be understood according to its kind, epideictic rhetoric, and that we do not try to force other rhetorical features onto this letter, such as a propositio. If we force other features onto the letter, we can draw incorrect conclusions about the letter and its contents. We need to be careful and not careless. If we want to be true to the text, we have to let it speak for itself. Ephesians does not bear the markers of a propositio in accord with the ancient texts we examined. Therefore, based on such evidence it is important for us to conclude that Ephesians does not have a propositio, and, as a result, we can more properly study the other features that it does possess, an exordium, narratio, exhortatio, and peroratio, in order to accurately ascertain its meaning and value, which is why this discussion is important.

“The Faith of Jesus Christ” and Ephesians: Two Views

Bird and Sprinkle’s recent book, The Faith of Jesus Christ: Exegetical, Biblical, and Theological Studies (Milton Keynes, U.K., and Peabody, Mass.: Paternoster and Hendrickson, 2009), concerns Ephesians with two particular chapters. Paul Foster argues for the subjective reading (faith of Christ: Christ’s faithfulness) in Eph 3:12 in the book’s sixth chapter, which is followed by Richard Bell’s chapter arguing for the objective reading (faith of Christ: faith in Christ) instead. They both treat Eph 3:12 together with Phil 3:9, but our concern here is with Ephesians. We will summarize the relevant sections of both chapters and then compare and contrast the two positions before determining who has presented the better argument.

In chapter 6 (pp. 91-109), Foster treats Eph 3:12 from pp. 100-109. He begins the chapter with a few comments on what is at stake in the debate. The debate is not concerned about orthodoxy, nor is it focused on any theological ramifications or the end result. Instead, the debate is about obtaining a clear understanding of what Paul was saying when he used the genitival construction in question. Foster mentions how the objective view can be grossly misrepresented as arguing that human individual faith is a “work” activating the salvation found in Christ while the subjective view can be wrongfully heralded as the solution to the aforementioned objective view so as to prevent anyone from thinking that his or her faith puts salvation into effect. According to Foster, such arguments are not helpful. He recognizes that it is the task of the scholar to perform exegesis, which is “not an exercise in ‘rescuing’ ancient authors to make them more palatable to modern taste” (p. 92). He wants to discuss the debate using Paul’s own terms while knowing full well that Paul’s terms, phrases, and theology have gaps, they are at times underdeveloped, and even have their own inconsistencies (pp. 91-93).

Foster begins his discussion of Eph 3:12 by noting three reasons why this verse is typically excluded from the πίστις Χριστοῦ debate. First, and most likely, because the authorship of Ephesians is debated among scholars and not commonly considered to be genuinely Pauline, Eph 3:12 is not included. If it is not Paul writing it, then Eph 3:12 does not reflect necessarily Paul’s use and understanding of the genitival construction. Foster responds to this point by saying that Pauline authorship is not imperative because the author of Ephesians, if it was not Paul, then it was most likely from someone who was a disciple or follower of Paul and could think and write like him, and very well may have continued to use the genitival construction in a similar way.  Second, πίστις itself is not directly linked to Jesus like the other texts in the debate, but rather it is connected to him indirectly through the use of αὐτός. Last, the structure of the phrase in question is different from the other texts in the debate as well. Unlike the others, this text includes the definite article before πίστις. Some have said rather strongly that subjective genitives in use with πίστις practically always have the article, whereas objective genitives are anarthrous. Foster concludes that such tests are inconclusive, stating that the presence of the article in Eph 3:12 does not clarify between a subjective and objective genitive. He motions towards understanding the context of the letter to best determine the use of this genitival phrase rather than relying on syntax (pp. 100-103).

Foster looks first at the immediate context within which Eph 3:12 is found—Eph 3:1-12. He acknowledges what Paul says of himself: he is a possessor of the mysteries of Christ (3:3-4); he is a minister of the gospel (3:7); and he is an appointed preacher to the Gentiles (3:8). Foster appeals to Andrew Lincoln’s commentary on Ephesians to demonstrate that the mystery of Christ is especially concerned with the church, and the mystery itself is revealed in Eph 3:6. He argues that Eph 3:6 is filled with participatory language, which places the emphasis on Christ. According to Foster, Eph 3 is focused on Christ, and this focus remains in the foreground throughout the rest of the section. Foster then entertains how the revelation of the mystery leads to the boldness and confidence in Eph 3:12; he appeals to “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (3:8) and Phil 2:6-11, where wealth is bestowed on Christ because of his willful obedience and faithfulness. He argues that believers participate somehow in this process by sharing in Christ’s riches (Foster notes that Peter O’Brien in his commentary on Ephesians shares this position about Christ sharing his wealth with believers). As a result, the text leads up to Eph 3:12 in the following way: the mystery is stated that Gentiles are partakers of the promise of Christ (3:6), thus making them benefactors of Christ’s riches (3:8), the result of which is boldness and access (3:12). Just as Harold Hoehner states in his commentary, according to Foster, it is in Christ that believers have boldness and access to the Father, which is indicated by ἐν ᾧ. In conclusion, the immediate context of Eph 3:12 has the key theme of revelation linked inseparably with Christ’s faithfulness (pp. 103-104).

Foster then turns to the wider context of Ephesians, specifically Eph 2:18 and 2:8, respectively. Ephesians 2:18 shares a similar construction to 3:12, yet the basis for both verses are highlighted instead by Foster. Both texts concern access to the Father, but on what grounds? Foster claims that Eph 2:11-22, including 2:18, finds its basis in 2:13: Christ’s blood. He explains that Christ’s blood is language that refers to Christ’s death on the cross. Christ’s death on the cross has brought the Gentiles, those who were far away, near to God, providing them with access to the Father. For Eph 2:18, the basis of the access to the Father is Christ’s death. For Eph 3:12, the basis of the access to the Father is διὰ τῆς πίστεως αὐτοῦ, which Foster takes to mean Christ’s death or his faithfulness and obedience on the cross (pp. 105-106). He concludes this point with these words: “If the author has been consistent in his understanding of that basis of access, then πίστεως αὐτοῦ would refer to Christ’s faithfulness and obedience described both in Eph 2:18 and 3:12” (p. 106). Foster looks also at Eph 2:8 in connection with 3:12. He notes that πίστις is anarthrous in Eph 2:8 just as it is in the other texts in this debate, but here it does not have a genitive. He highlights the fact that this verse emphasizes that the faith is not from the believers, but rather, it is from God as a gift. Appealing to Markus Barth’s commentary on Ephesians, Foster argues that a believer’s faith is dependent on God who himself is faithful, and the faith of Eph 2:8 is predicated on God’s faithfulness (pp. 106-107).

Foster concludes that διὰ τῆς πίστεως αὐτοῦ in Eph 3:12 is best understood to have a subjective genitive when understood alongside of Eph 2:8, 18. This subjective genitive marks Christ’s faithfulness and obedience on the cross, through which Gentiles have been brought near and provided access to the Father (p. 107).

Foster acknowledges that his argument has not removed all doubt (p. 107). He even considers other possibilities: plenary genitive (the genitive is at once both subjective and objective) or whether Paul actually had a clear understanding to begin with (perhaps instead he was using an artful phrase that was familiar and had good rhetorical effect, but it did not have a specific distinction between the objective and subjective). However, he concludes that the subjective genitive argument is the stronger one in Eph 3:12, not because of the presence of the definite article, but because the immediate and broader contexts of Eph 3 points to Christ’s faithfulness. He adds at the end that the author of Ephesians interpreted Paul’s (the undisputed letters where the debate is mentioned) use of πίστις Χριστοῦ language in a subjective sense, a measure of which needs to be given full consideration.

In chapter 7 (pp. 111-125), Bell makes the case for the objective reading in Eph 3:12. In this chapter, he devotes pp. 120-125 to Eph 3:12. He opens the chapter by simply stating his purpose: to argue from exegetical and theological reasons for the objective reading, “through faith in him” (p. 111). No other introductory matters are discussed. He immediately starts in presenting his arguments. He states as though it is a matter of fact that the objective reading “gives an excellent sense to Eph 3:11-12” (p. 121, sic). He supports this claim by appealing to two parallel verses: Rom 5:1-2, and Eph 4:13, respectively. In Rom 5:1-2, similar vocabulary is used to what is in Eph 3:12. Bell implies, but does not explicitly state, that faith in Rom 5:1-2 clearly is faith in Christ, and, therefore, because Eph 3:12 parallels Rom 5:1-2, faith in Eph 3:12 should be understood similarly, i.e., that the faith in question is faith in Christ. This point is rather underdeveloped. It seems that he is relying on the second parallel, Eph 4:13, where he says that it is a parallel because both Eph 3:12 and 4:13 have “the Son of God” as the object of the “knowledge,” which is in fact “faith.” But “knowledge” is not the same as “faith” necessarily, and there are no other syntactical or vocabulary parallels to the two verses whatsoever, so it remains unclear as to how he can see them as parallels (pp. 120-121).

From this point onward, Bell begins to critique his opponents in three ways. First, he looks at Barth’s position on Eph 3:12 and he raises a syntactical issue as a rebuttal to Barth’s translation, as Barth utilizes the subjective genitive. Bell argues that it is often suggested that the lack of the definite article marks an objective genitive, whereas the presence of the article indicates a subjective genitive, and he admits that as a general point of usage, Paul does seem to follow this sort of pattern, but there are plenty of exceptions to the rule, so that it is possible to have a subjective genitive without the article and an objective genitive with the article. He concludes that grammar itself simply cannot settle the debate, and so he must turn to exegesis. Note that he never once critiqued Barth according to any criterion Barth set forth. He quoted Barth and then turned to the works of Foster to describe how those of the subjective view make their case (pp. 121-122).

Second, Bell critiques Foster for claiming that Eph 3 implies Christ’s faithfulness. Bell argues that subjective view supporters look certain ideas into the text, ideas that simply are not present. Bell attempts to disarm such an argument by claiming that elsewhere in Paul the emphasis is on God acting in Christ, so that Christ was not actually being faithful or obedient to the Father; furthermore, sacrificial language marks God’s gift of grace, which he brought about through Christ, and it does not mark Christ’s faithfulness to God. He turns to Rom 5:18-19 to support the idea that even when speaking of Christ’s obedience the real emphasis is on the free gift of the grace of God found in Christ (Rom 5:15-17), which, Bell states, is the same point being made in Eph 2:8-9 (pp. 122-123).

Finally, Bell makes the case that faith in Eph 2:8 is the believer’s faith in Christ, even though Foster, Barth, and O’Brien argue that it is Christ’s faith. Appealing to Hoehner, he argues that in Eph 2:8b τουτοῦ is not linking to πίστις, but rather it is pointing back at the entire preceding phrase, whereas his opponents argue that it does link to πίστις. Bell argues that Eph 2:8 is all about God’s gracious provision of salvation. He sees the phrase “by grace you are saved” (Eph 2:8) as being inseparably linked to “through faith in Christ” (Eph 3:12), and, as a result, he implies and does not state it explicitly, the faith of Eph 2:8 is how we should understand the faith in Eph 3:12 (pp. 123-124).

In his conclusion, Bell emphasizes that those of the subjective view are depending on Hebrews and even James for a theology of Christ’s obedience and reading such a theology back into Paul, including Eph 3:12. He determines in the end that faith is different in Ephesians than it is in Hebrews or Revelation because of the threat of apostasy and persecution (p. 125).

Now that we have seen the arguments as presented by both sides of the debate, we can compare and contrast them. Both do acknowledge that syntax alone will not resolve the issue. Both authors attempt to appeal to exegesis to provide a solution to the answer, yet they arrive at different results. However, their methods for exegesis are somewhat similar: they both look at internal and external texts that they believe to be similar to the one in question. They do not compare the text to the same parallels in every situation. Foster looks to Phil 2:6-11 as well as Eph 3:1-12 and Eph 2:8, 18. Bell looks to Rom 5:1-2 and Eph 4:13 as well as Eph 2:8, though he mentions it as a matter of critique primarily and not directly as support for the objective position. Of particular importance is the direct support that Foster provides towards the subjective view. He focused on the immediate context within which Eph 3:12 exists, something that Bell neglected to do. Furthermore, Foster addresses an additional issue: why is Eph 3:12 typically not included in the debate? Bell has no comment on the matter. Finally, Foster recognizes that some other options should be considered, such as the plenary genitive, and the debate should include those other options, which is a way of humbly stating that he has not proven his case but has put forth his best efforts. In contrast, Bell simply states that the objective view is best and does not mention other possibilities. Unlike Foster, Bell spends most of his time critiquing the opposite view. Instead, he should have been offering positive support for the objective view rather than presenting two brief, underdeveloped, and, therefore, weak parallels and then indirectly attempting to support his view by trying to deflate the subjective view. While Foster did the same thing, Bell used outside texts to support the objective view. However, Foster used outside texts as a supplement, whereas Bell used them as the foundation. Curiously enough, the very thing that Bell critiqued for subjective view proponents is what he himself does: he used outside texts to look into what is in Eph 3:12. He relied on Rom 5:1-2 to provide the grounds for best understanding Eph 3:12. While this practice is not unacceptable, he could have at least grappled with the immediate context in Eph 3:12, as Foster had done.

Ultimately, both authors failed to address the Eph 3:12 alongside of Eph 3:17, which says, “κατοικῆσαι τὸν Χριστὸν διὰ τῆς πίστεως ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν.” It lacks the use of αὐτοῦ, but otherwise it bears a similar construction. Questions could be asked and entertained by either side. Additionally, a similar construction occurs in Eph 1:7 and 3:6 (διὰ + genitive article + genitive noun + αὐτοῦ), and these could have been considered in the debate. Other uses of faith in Ephesians could have been addressed as well, such as Eph 1:15 or 6:23, where the former appears to be an instance of believer’s having faith in the Lord while the latter appears to be an instance of faith itself being something that comes from God or peace and love with faithfulness is bestowed upon them from God and Christ’s faithfulness.

In the end, Foster’s presentation was the better argument. Bell’s argument was rather weak as he did not spend enough time providing positive support for his own view. In fact, when he did offer positive support for his own view, it was underdeveloped and brief. Furthermore, said support was weak in itself, because his first and main point came not from within Ephesians but from Romans, and his second point did not seem to be a parallel like he suggested. How can one make an argument based on an external point and off of a parallel that is rather loose? Foster humbly offered his support for his view, first dealing with the immediate context of Eph 3:12, allowing external texts to supplement the internal, and second dealing with other texts of Ephesians as it pertains to Eph 3:12. He was not focused on taking the wind out of the sails of his opponents, but he was focused on providing as much positive support for his view as he could. As a result, his approach was much more helpful and persuasive. Foster’s argument was better than Bell’s, and in this debate the subjective view has won.

On a side note: I obtained the book from Nijay Gupta in a contest that he held over at his blog, and in the comments Douglas Campbell, one of the book’s contributors, offered a brief critique about a statement in my submission for the contest.

A Review of Sampley’s ‘And the Two Shall Become One Flesh’

J. P. Sampley’s monograph, ‘And The Two Shall Become One Flesh’: A Study of Traditions in Ephesians 5: 21-33 (SNTSMS 16; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), is a thorough treatment of the wives-husbands set of the Ephesian household codes. Sampley takes some of Ernst Käsemann’s observations about Ephesians, develops them into a working hypothesis, and explores Ephesians to see if Käsemann was correct. He works with three key points from Käsemann: first, Ephesians consists of an arrangement of smaller traditions; second, the Gentile Christians, the recipients of Ephesians, were in danger of separating themselves from their Jewish heritage; and third, Ephesians is not concerned with the OT for understanding the existence of the church (p. 3). Throughout the book, he demonstrates that Käsemann was correct concerning points one and two but incorrect on point three. We will summarize the content of this monograph prior to analyzing it briefly. Although Sampley’s treatment of this text lacks both a comparison of NT and classical household codes and an understanding of the rhetoric of Ephesians, which leaves some of his concluding implications to be found wanting, overall his monograph is invaluable for studying Eph 5:21-33 due to its lucid treatment of its underlying traditions, its explication of the text’s movement of thought, and its detailed analysis of each verse. To a summary of his monograph we now turn.

While bearing in mind Käsemann’s three points, Sampley sets out a roadmap to follow for examining Ephesians. First, he will uncover the traditions that Eph 5:21-33 contains. Second, he will determine the author’s movement of thought for assimilating these traditions into the text. Finally, he will see how Eph 5:21-33 functions in the letter (p. 2). He thus provides us with the broad scope of the book and where he will be heading. To start, Sampley provides an outline of Ephesians and combines it with information of the author’s readers, which is not much. The author is writing to Gentile Christians, but he does not seem to have an intimate relationship with them (pp. 6-15). He follows this information with a chapter, an important one in terms of his broad scope to be sure, on the traditions behind Eph 5:21-33, namely the household codes, Lev 19:18, the hieros gamos, Gen 2:24, “head,” “body,” “member,” and purity (pp. 16-76).

The Ephesian household codes consist of three sets: wives and husbands (5:22-33); children and fathers (6:1-4); and slaves and masters (6:5-9). Through observing the other NT haustafeln, Col 3:18-4:1, 1 Pet 2:17-3:9, 1 Tim 2:8-15, 6:1-10, and Titus 2:1-10, it is apparent that the household codes were adaptable to the author’s purposes. The codes could be expanded, and three characteristics of expansion can be observed. First, common language provides the basis for the expansion of the instruction. Second, a christological appeal provides a reminder for the instruction. Third, an appeal to the OT may be made to support the instruction. Since the codes were not a rigid and fixed tradition, those places where the author modified and expanded them were highlighted as of special concern (pp. 17-23).

After making some brief comments regarding the Colossian and Ephesian household codes (pp. 23-25), Sampley applies his observations of the NT haustafeln to the Ephesian one in particular (pp. 25-30). He notes that Ephesians contains common language for expanding the instructions (e.g., Eph 5:29, “no man ever hates his own flesh”). Additionally, he notes that Ephesians makes christological appeals for the instructions: “just as also Christ cares for the church” (Eph 5:29). Finally, he notes the use of the OT in this haustafeln, especially Gen 2:24 in Eph 5:31. The Ephesian household codes, Sampley observes, spend more words treating the wives-husbands set than both the children-fathers and slaves-masters sets combined (pp. 25-26). Finally, before exploring the formal features of the Ephesian haustafeln, Sampley provides the reasoning behind rightly studying Eph 5:21-33 as a unit within the Ephesian household codes, which is as follows: it contains a set, wives-husbands; this set is concluded by Eph 5:33; the christological expansions for the instructions are fully integrated throughout; and Eph 5:21 is syntactically linked to 5:22-33 through the use of ὑποτασσόμενοι (pp. 26-27).

Sampley, to start exploring the formal features of the Ephesian household codes, lists the admonitions for wives from Eph 5:21-33 alongside of the other instances from the NT haustafeln. It becomes apparent that it was a standard feature to utilize some form or cognate of ὑποτάσσομαι for instructing wives. Furthermore, while also listing the admonitions for husbands in Eph 5:21-33 alongside the other NT household codes, it is evident that these codes consistently instructed the one with reference to the other: “wives submit to husbands; husbands (verb) wives” (pp. 28-29).

Furthermore, Sampley shows how the instructions for the wives and the husbands follow a threefold pattern. First, the author provides the relevant instruction. Second, the author develops and expands the instruction. Finally, in the end, the author recapitulates the instruction (pp. 29-30). For the wives, Ephesians opens with the instruction (5:22). Then the instruction to the wives is expanded by christological appeals and common language (5:22-23). Finally, this instruction is recapitulated (5:24). The instruction for the husbands starts with the instruction to the husbands (5:25). This instruction is expanded on by utilizing common language, appealing to christological explanations, and providing Scriptural support, namely Gen 2:24 (5:25-32). For the husbands, the instruction in Ephesians is then recapitulated (5:33).

The haustafeln is not the only tradition behind Ephesians 5:21-33. Sampley shows also that Lev 19:18 is an important tradition involved in this text. He demonstrates clearly how a man’s wife could be referred to intimately as his “neighbor” in the Septuagint (LXX; πλησίον, “neighbor,” in Cant 1:9, 15; 2:2, 10, 13; 4:1, 7; 5:2; 6:4). Furthermore, he shows that other OT texts referring to one’s neighbor could be applied in Judaism of one’s wife, as in b. Yebam. 37b, which is an appeal to Prov 3:29 to discourage a man from marrying a woman if he intends to divorce her, because he should not devise evil against his neighbor. There is an underlying tradition then in which a man’s wife can interchangeably be referred to as his neighbor. Therefore, this tradition is firmly planted in Lev 19:18, and it bears striking resemblance in Eph 5:28, for a husband is instructed to love his wife as himself (cf. Lev 19:18b, “love your neighbor as yourself”). He also shows how a man’s wife is seen to be the same as his own body in later Judaism by quoting b. Ber. 24a and b. Yebam. 62b. He is demonstrating that it was a common string in Judaism for the wife to be seen as the body of the husband, and, therefore, it was important for the husband to love her as himself. Ephesians seems to follow this same string. Leviticus 19:18 is consonant with the use of Gen 2:24, Sampley concludes, in Eph 5:21-33 when the wife is considered to be one flesh with the husband and when the husband is instructed to love his wife as himself (pp. 30-34).

Sampley spends much time discussing the hieros gamos (“holy marriage”) as part of the background of traditions in Eph 5:21-33. Before examining any background traditions, he breaks down the elements of Eph 5:25-27. First, there is the self-sacrificing love that Christ had for the church. Second, there is Christ’s action of sanctifying the church with the washing of water. Third, there is the goal of Christ’s action, that the church might be presented ἔνδοξος. Sampley notes specifically the parallel between Eph 5:25 (Christ’s sacrificial love for the church) and Eph 5:2 (Christ’s sacrificial love for the believers). In Eph 5:2, there is an element not present in Eph 5:25, that Christ gave himself up as a sacrifice and fragrant aroma offering to God. Sampley points out that this language draws on OT texts, such as Exod 29:18 and Ezek 20:41. Furthermore, he compares Eph 5:2 with Gal 2:20 and Rom 8:32. He concludes that what is said in Eph 5:2, 25 is obviously part of a traditional formulation of the early Christian community in reference to Christ’s death (pp. 34-37).

But there are earlier traditions in the text, earlier than the NT. Sampley locates two such traditions, one in Ezekiel and the other in Canticles. He says that the hieros gamos between YHWH and Israel can ultimately be seen as a tradition behind Eph 5:21-33. He turns to Ezek 16 to support this view first. He shows how YHWH revealed to Israel its abominations (Ezek 16:2). Then YHWH passed by Israel in two separate times. First, at birth while she was wading in her own blood, he commanded her to grow up like a plant in a field, and she did, but, though she was fully formed, she was naked and bare (Ezek 16:3-7). Second, at the age for love, he passed by her, spreading his skirt over her, therefore covering her nakedness, then entering into a covenant with her. At this point, after having passed by twice on separate occasions, YHWH bathes her in water and washes her blood off, and he anoints her with oil. He clothed her and decorated her. She grew exceedingly beautiful to the point of renown, and she was indeed with splendor, and YHWH had bestowed it upon her (Ezek 16:8-14). It is striking, according to Sampley, the parallel connections between Ezek 16:8-14 and Eph 5:25-27, especially with the language of purity and splendor. The emphasis in both instances is what is done for the bride to cleanse her and present her in splendor. In Ezek 16, YHWH cleanses Israel with water and betroths her, adorning her as his bride. In Eph 5:25-27, Christ cleanses the church with water and presents her to himself in splendor (pp. 37-42).

Sampley takes the time to show how in b. Qidd. 2a, 41a קָדַשׁ refers to the taking of a wife, thus separating her for himself from all other men, which parallels with the use of ἁγιάζω in Eph 5:25-27. He is attempting to show further how Eph 5:25-27 is using the tradition of the hieros gamos, which can be found elsewhere in Judaism. Then he shows how the hieros gamos itself has an earlier tradition in Sumerian literature, from which even Ezekiel drew upon. The difference between the Sumerian text describing Dumuzi’s betrothal with Inanna and Ezekiel is that Inanna cleanses herself whereas YHWH cleanses Israel. In short, Ezekiel seems to use a tradition of hieros gamos in the ANE but adapts it for his own purposes, and Eph 5:25-27 relies on Ezekiel’s adaptation (pp. 42-45).

In addition to Ezekiel, Canticles is an important factor in the traditions behind the hieros gamos tradition. Early on Canticles was allegorized as a way of talking about YHWH’s relationship with Israel, and perhaps earliest in 4 Ezra 5:24-27. Through the work of Hippolytus, Origen, Jerome, and Augustine, Christians reapplied Canticles to Christ’s relationship with the church (pp. 45-46).

It is noteworthy that in Canticles beauty and love directly coincide. Sampley, in comparison, demonstrates not only that Christ’s love for the church and his causing it to be presented in splendor relate to each other, just as love and beauty relate in Canticles. But love is central. For example, Cant 2:4, “His banner over me is love,” ties together beauty, the banner, with love, and Eph 5:25, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” In Canticles, the wife is called “beloved bride” or “my beloved” (1:9, 15; 2:2, 10, 13; 4:1, 7; 5:2; 6:4), and “loved one” (7:7). Love is a key factor in the relationship between the lover and the loved one; YHWH and Israel; Christ and the church. And beauty is closely associated with love. In Canticles, the wife is called “fairest among women” (1:8; 5:9; 6:1); the lover says to the bride, “you are beautiful” (1:15; 4:1); the lover says to the bride, “You are all fair” (4:7); the lover refers to his bride as “my fair one” (2:10-13); finally, the lover exclaims that his bride is fair (7:7). Clearly the bride is beautiful and with splendor. And the bride is also referred to as “my perfect one” (Cant 5:2; 6:9). In the LXX, the beauty of the bride is described as τελεία (Cant 5:2; 6:9). The bride is beautiful in the sense of perfection. Ephesians 5:25-27 shows how the church is sanctified and cleansed, being without spot, wrinkle, blemish, or any such thing (pp. 46-49).

In addition to Ezekiel and Canticles, Ps 45 seems to be part of the tradition of the hieros gamos, but to a lesser degree. Sampley observes three key similarities between Ps 45 and Eph 5:25-27, which are as follows: first, the beauty of the bride is that of splendor, and it is emphasized; second, the splendor described in both is done by use of δόξα and its cognate ἔνδοξος; third, the husband is the lord of the bride, and, as a result, she is instructed to submit to him (pp. 49-51).

To summarize the hieros gamos tradition, the formulations for describing the relationship between YHWH and Israel proved helpful for the purposes of Eph 5:25-27.

Since it is in fact quoted in Eph 5, Sampley discusses the tradition of Gen 2:24. However, there is a textual variant here in Eph 5, so that some manuscripts include Gen 2:23 as well. Sampley concludes that those manuscripts including Gen 2:23 are epexegetically expanding the previous clause. Therefore, in his view, Gen 2:23 is not likely to be part of the original text of Ephesians (p. 51). Having taken the view that only Gen 2:24 is quoted in Eph 5:21-33, Sampley then looks at the context of Gen 2.

It is possible that the original readers or at least the author of Ephesians understood Gen 2 to include the archetypal marriage of Adam and Eve, for Adam’s name in Hebrew means man. Philo used Gen 2:24 several times, but the only instance that is germane is found in QG I, 29. It is here that Philo clarifies the relationship of a man to his wife, noting in particular that the man is to leave his family and join the wife, and it is the wife who is subservient, for he has the authority of a master, yet they are one flesh, able to feel and think things together. Both Philo and Ephesians recognize the authority of the husband and the submission of the wife in Gen 2:24 (pp. 51-55).

Sampley notes further that Gen 2:24 is used primarily in tannaitic traditions to specify or clarify acceptable marital relationships. More importantly, Gen 2:24 was referenced in Judaism as the divine ordination of marriage. Sampley highlights how Sir 13:15-16 demonstrates the importance of Gen 2:24 in Judaism during the early Christian era. These verses depend on Lev 19:18 in addition to Gen 2:24. This combination of Lev 19 with Gen 2 closely parallels the combination of these same texts in Eph 5:21-33, which may suggest that Ephesians was not the first to combine them, but rather it used an earlier tradition or formulation. Additionally, Sampley highlights 1 Esd 4:13-25 as being of particular importance. It describes Zerubbabel’s description of that which is strongest, wine, the king, or women. Zerubbabel concludes that wine and the king are both strong, but women are stronger still, for men depend on women for their existence. Furthermore, a man can be stopped dead in his tracks by a woman’s beauty, and, through loving his wife, a man will forget his father and mother. This text clearly uses Gen 2:24, though it does edit it slightly so as not to include “and his mother.” Yet, this text also seems to be using Ps 45. Psalm 45:10 commands the woman to forget her people and her father’s house; First Esdras 4:20-21 describes the husband as forgetting father, mother, and country. Sampley says that it is at least possible that Ps 45 is being utilized in 1 Esd 4. If it is correct, then here is an instance in which both Ps 45 and Gen 2:24 were combined in a traditional formula, which Ephesians may also have used (pp. 55-59).

Sampley notes also some connections between Ephesians and Tobit. In Tob 6, Tobias fears death when he performs his levirate duty to his kinsman’s wife, for she had been married seven times, and each one of them had died on the night of their consummation. Raphael encourages him, which causes Tobias in the end to love her and to cleave his heart unto her (v. 17, RSV). While we cannot be certain Gen 2:24 is used in Tob 6, both use the same verb, κολλάω, as does Eph 5:21-33. Furthermore, in Tob 6, Raphael says that Tobias will save her, which is not altogether different from Eph 5:25 where it says that Christ is the savior of the body (pp. 59-60).

In connection with Gen 2:24, Sampley notes Jub. 1:22-23, which portrays also the hieros gamos between YHWH and Israel. It incorporates the verb, κολλάω, as in Gen 2:24. But it ends by saying that YHWH will be Israel’s Father, and Israel will be YHWH’s children. With that difference aside, Jub. 1:22-23 is particularly noteworthy as it describes how YHWH cleanses Israel with the purpose that Israel would be faithful to him for all eternity. This purpose, according to Sampley, is found also in Eph 5:21-33, for Christ cleanses the church in order that she might be presented to himself blameless and in splendor (pp. 60-61).

Genesis 2:24, alongside of Lev 19:18 and the hieros gamos, provided more traditional material for the author of Ephesians. However, there is more, for Ephesians uses organic language, such as “head” and “body.” Sampley explores whether this organic language is indebted primarily to Greco-Roman literature or to later Gnostic development. He concludes that it is dependent on Judaism and Greco-Roman literature and traditions as opposed to Gnostic ones. To support this conclusion, he appeals to Seneca. In Ep. 95, 51 and following, Seneca speaks of everything being part of one great body. In Clem. I.v.1, Seneca speaks of Nero showing mercy to himself when he shows mercy to the body, the people. The author of Ephesians utilized the organic language tradition which was widespread during the time of the NT (pp. 61-66).

Following the use of organic language traditions, Sampley discusses traditions of purity found in Eph 5:21-33. He highlights, in connection with Ezek 16, that purity is bestowed and not achieved. In addition, there was a pattern, found not only in the NT but also in classical literature, in which a set of contrasting forms could be used, one with an ἐν prefix and a similar or the same term with the alpha privative. For example, in 1 Cor 9:21, mentioned by Sampley as a citation found in BDF 120.2, which has a contrasting set: ἄνομος-ἔννομος. Sampley claims that such a contrasting set is also found in Eph 5:21-33: ἔνδοξος-ἄμωμος. Canticles 4:7 describes the bride as having no spot (μῶμος). Furthermore, ἔνδοξος stands in contrast not to ἄμωμος but what is in between, namely σπίλος and ῥυτίς. The former means “spot” or “blemish” while the latter means “wrinkle.” The church is not to have spot or wrinkle or any such thing. This last clause, Sampley states, is inclusive. The author of Ephesians is not concerned with listing every single thing that the church is not to have, but rather he makes a broad sweep to include anything undesirable in terms of purity. Sampley notes also that the last and final clause concerning the purity of the church (Eph 5:27c) functions as a summary. All positive statements about the church’s purity is summarized with ἁγία, while all negative ones are summarized with ἄμωμος (pp. 66-69).

This purity relates to the traditions concerning husband and wife as well as the hieros gamos in the OT. In Deut 24:1, if a husband finds an indecency (עֶרְוַה) with his wife, he can send her off with a divorce certificate. This word, עֶרְוַה, in this context means indecency or improper behavior, and such behavior would give cause for the husband to divorce his wife. According to Sampley, the same grounds were understood in the hieros gamos and then also between Christ and the church. These same grounds were applied to the priesthood, for any man having any sort of blemish (מוּם) could not be a priest (Lev 21:17-23). He cites Ketub. 7:7, highlighting the last sentence, which says, “All defects which disqualify priests, disqualify women also.” This purity tradition then extended even to animal sacrifices (Bek. 7:1), and in Qumran it extended to every member of the community (1QSa II, 3-9a). In connection with Lev 21:23, purity cannot be obtained, but it comes only through sanctification, which is done by the Lord. In Eph 5:21-33, while purity is expected of the church, it is bestowed, not obtained, being brought about by the sanctifying work of Christ (pp. 69-74).

The two key words from the last clause concerning the purity of the church, ἁγίος and ἄμωμος, occur earlier in Ephesians, and Sampley compares the earlier occurrences with the passage under consideration. Ephesians 1:4 says that God chose the church to be holy and blameless. Now, in the OT blemishes could concern physical or moral, but predominantly it was understood with reference to the former. In Ephesians, it is the latter that takes emphasis. In fact, Sampley emphasizes, the church can only be pure when it rests upon the sanctification of Christ, relying on him to nourish and sustain her. (pp. 74-75). After having discussed the traditional materials underlying Eph 5:21-33, Sampley then sets out in the next chapter to discuss the similarities and differences between this text and the homologoumena (pp. 77-85).

Sampley compares Eph 5:21-33 to three texts from the homologoumena, which are as follows: 1 Cor 6:12-20; 1 Cor 11:3; and 2 Cor 11:1-6. He says that these three texts demonstrate the identifiable set of traditions concerning marriage, especially with Gen 2:24 being combined with organic language. The result of this demonstration is the apparent originality of the way the author of Ephesians has adapted the Christ-church relationship with other traditions (pp. 84-85).

In the next chapter, Sampley considers the various hermeneutical issues inherent in Eph 5:21-33. In particular, what is the function of μυστήριον in Eph 5:32? What does it refer to? And is μέγα modifying it as an attributive or predicate adjective? Sampley turns to the next clause in the verse to answer the question, saying that ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω is the key. He concludes that this phrase was a widespread standard form from Judaism for opposing other interpretations. What follows after this phrase is the new interpretation that stands over and against what was generally accepted already. In the case of Ephesians, the new interpretation was provided prior to the quotation of Gen 2:24. Therefore, the μυστήριον is referring either to the quotation or to the institution of marriage. Since the formal features of the haustafeln suggest that marriage was no mystery, and because οἰκονομία always appears with μυστήριον in Ephesians, it must not be referring to the institution of marriage. Instead, it is referring to the quotation. It is applied to Christ and the church, so the μυστήριον is the new interpretation of Christ and the church. Indeed, earlier in Ephesians, much more is discussed about the μυστήριον.  The μυστήριον was previously hidden, it concerned God’s plan, this plan is now revealed and is understood in the work of Christ, it has in view the final fulfillment of all things, and it is to be seen or found in the church. This understanding of μυστήριον is appropriate for how the word is used in Eph 5:21-33 as well (pp. 86-96).

Additionally, Sampley considers why the OT quotation is given at all. We have seen already (pp. 17-23) that it was part of the convention to tie the Torah into the command for wives to submit. Sampley here examines 1 Tim 2:8-15, 2 Cor 11:2-3, 1 Cor 14:33b-4, and 1 Pet 3:1-6, showing how each refers to Adam and Eve in one way or another in support of the command for wives to submit to their husbands. He shows how in 1 Clem 57:2-3 the same pattern is present but it deviates from the convention in that it uses other OT texts to support wifely submission, for it quotes Prov 1:23-33. Sampley claims that the author of Ephesians is taking Gen 2:24, a text that was well-known but also applied to the ordination of marriage and provides a different interpretation, that it applies to Christ and the church. He argues further that Gen 2:24 applies to the very start of the passage under consideration. It does not enter as an afterthought, but it is present from the very beginning when the author instructs wives and then husbands (pp. 96-102).

In the next chapter, Sampley examines the movement of thought in Eph 5:21-33. He notes especially the use of ὡς, οὕτως, καθώς, and πλήν. Aside from the OT quotation, the rest of Eph 5:21-33 follows two groupings, which is made evident in the use of these words in particular. The first grouping concerns husbands and wives; the second concerns Christ and the church. The passage starts with group one (vv. 22-23a). Here we find the exhortation to the wives. With the use of ὡς it transitions to group two (vv. 23b-24a). Here we have a description of the Christ-church relationship. Group one is then addressed, introduced with οὕτως (vv. 24b-25a), which is a closing statement concerning the exhortation to the wives and an introduction to the exhortation to the husbands; following καθώς group two is addressed (vv. 25b-27), which is the discussion of Christ’s work on behalf of the church. The οὕτως-καθώς pattern repeats: group one with οὕτως (vv. 28-29b); group two with καθώς (vv. 29c-30). The former is a section concerning the husband’s duties concerning his wife, while the latter provides a concluding statement for Christ and the church. Then comes the quotation (vv. 31-32a). Following the quotation, we have the conventional statement, ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω (v. 32b). This sentence concerns group two. With the use of πλήν, group one is addressed (v. 33). But why was πλήν used rather than ὡς or one of its cognates? First of all, there is no comparison being made following the OT quotation. Second, πλήν itself is used for closing discussions while summarizing the main points. What then do we see but an A B A B A B A pattern? Sampley shows that this passage is a chiasm. Furthermore, there is a relationship between group one and group two, so that the verbs for one can be used for the other (pp. 103-108).

Sampley devotes nearly 40 pages to a detailed analysis of Eph 5:21-33 in the next chapter (pp. 109-147). Before he gets into the text, he mentions briefly the role of Gen 2:24. First of all, the haustafeln is the primary influence on the text. However, Gen 2:24 operates within the household cold concerning husbands and wives to reinforce both commands, first for the wife to submit, and second for the husband to love. Not only does it apply to husbands and wives, but Gen 2:24 is applied to Christ and the church (pp. 110-114). From here, Sampley goes on to provide a detailed analysis of each verse in Eph 5:21-33.

Concerning Eph 5:21, Sampley notes the difficulty in understanding the participle, ὑποτασσόμενοι. Does this participle relate purely to what comes after, or does it also relate to what comes prior? Based on James M. Robinson’s work on patristic formulations and how they relate to 1 Cor 14, Sampley concludes that it is related to both, for the concept of submission was typically connected to ecstatic speech in ethical instruction, and because Eph 5:22 lacks a verb, it is clear that it is dependent on v. 21 while v. 21 is dependent on what is prior. However, Eph 5:21 is not itself part of the haustafeln. While all in the church are exhorted to submission, it is clear that the masters, the husbands, fathers, and slave-owners, were still in authority in the household code. But this exhortation for all to submit stands as a critique of the haustafeln. The authority that the masters bear is qualified by Eph 5:21, which is indeed a rubric for the entire household code (pp. 114-117).

The participle itself is qualified with the words ἐν φόβῳ χριστοῦ. Mutual submission is to be done out of fear of Christ. Both wives and slaves are instructed based on this same concept. In Eph 5, φόβος means neither “fright” nor “reverence,” but instead, according to Sampley, it refers to Christ’s act of cleansing the church and taking the initiative on behalf of the believers to make them holy (pp. 117-121).

Concerning Eph 5:22, Sampley notes that there is no verb and it is assuming the verb, ὑποτάσσομαι, from v. 21. While κύριος could here refer to the husband as master, it is more likely that it is referring to Christ as Lord. He bases this understanding on what comes in Eph 5:23-24. With v. 23c removed, the remaining text of 23-24a form a chiasm, which is as follows: the husband is head of  his wife (v. 23a); Christ is head of the church (v. 23b); the church submits to Christ (v. 24a); wives submit to their husbands (v. 24b). The first line in this chiasm is introduced with the conjunction, ὅτι, which provides the reason for wifely submission. Wives are to submit because the husband is the head of his wife. The husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church. Christ’s headship speaks of authority and power, as is evidenced in Eph 1:22-23. The same concept is reiterated in Eph 4:15. When the same language is applied in Eph 5, not only does the reader recall what was said in Eph 1 and 4, but the reader also infers it concerning the headship of the husband. But in comes this seemingly awkward parenthetical phrase: αὐτὸς σωτὴρ τοῦ σώματος (Eph 5:23c). This phrase is differentiating Christ from the husband. While the husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church, the husband is not the savior of his wife like Christ is the savior of the church. In contrast to this parenthetical statement, Eph 5:24 uses ἀλλά to return to the chiasm, since Eph 5:23c interrupts it. In the concluding statement of the chiasm, the author qualifies the wifely submission to the husband to be done in all things. While the husband’s authority is not the same as Christ’s authority, the wife is still instructed to submit in everything (pp. 121-126).

Concerning Eph 5:25, Sampley highlights the point that Christ’s love was both defined in and demonstrated by his sacrificial death for the church. The ἵνα clauses found in Eph 5:26-27 further explain this love: he gave himself up in love in order to make her holy having cleansed her with the washing of the water with the word and to present her to himself in splendor. The first phrase recalls the Christ-church relationship in parallel with the hieros gamos tradition but then re-applies it to baptism with the words ἐν ῥήματι. The second phrase refers to Christ’s eschatological presentation of the church to himself as pure and holy. When the author says that Christ will present the church in splendor, he defines what he means: the church will not have any spot or blemish or any such thing. Furthermore, she will be holy and blameless (pp. 126-139).

Concerning Eph 5:28-30, Sampley notes the connection between love and purity. In b. Nid. 17a, the husband is instructed not to make love to his wife during the day lest he see something undesirable in her, because he is to fulfill the command, “love your neighbor as yourself.” On account of her impurity he may break the command. There is a connection of love and purity. In Eph 5, in terms of the comparisons being made, the wife and the church are to be pure, and now in vv. 28-30, the connection to love is brought in. Since Gen 2:24 is the main underlying tradition of Eph 5:21-33, the author of Ephesians, according to Sampley, can speak of the wife being the body of the husband, for a man’s wife is the same as himself or his own body. At this point, Sampley notes that the author of Ephesians is combining Gen 2:24 with Lev 19:18, for the husband is exhorted to love himself. Therefore, whoever loves his wife fulfills Lev 19:18. The author further explains that no one ever hates his own flesh, but instead nourishes and cares for it. The love commanded is that of nourishing and caring for one’s wife. This command to love is not about emotion but continual, tender care, and it is the same love that Christ has for the church. Sampley notes that the author concludes the entire Christ-church and husband-wife comparison with v. 30, “for we are part of his body (pp. 139-146).

Concerning Eph 5:31-32, Sampley refers back to his previous comments concerning the quotation of Gen 2:24 (pp. 97-100), and refers back to his comments on the phrase, τὸ μυστήριον τοῦτο μέγα ἐστίν (pp. 86-96), concluding that Gen 2:24 refers not only to husbands and wives but also to Christ and the church (pp. 146-147).

Concerning Eph 5:33, the last verse in the study, Sampley briefly comments on the function of this verse in the structure of the entire section. Ephesians 5:33 repeats, essentially, Eph 5:25a and Eph 5:22 with a link to Eph 5:21. It shows that Eph 5:21-33 must be understood as a unit. It also completes the unit with a chiasmus, so that wives are addressed first (Eph 5:22-24), then husbands (Eph 5:25-30), then husbands again (Eph 5:33a), and finally wives (Eph 5:33b). This ending helps to transition into the next set of relationships, that of children and fathers, as provided by the haustafeln (p. 147).

Following his detailed analysis of each verse in Eph 5:21-33, Sampley provides five concluding remarks. First, he comments on the interrelationship of Eph 5:21-33 with the rest of the Ephesian haustafeln. He emphasizes that Eph 5:21, though grammatically related to Eph 5:22, functions as the introduction to the household code as a whole. Sampley expects that the rest of the household code will integrate various traditions as did the section concerning husbands and wives (pp. 148-149).

Second, he addresses the interrelationship of Eph 5:21-33 with the rest of Ephesians. He notes above all the use of family language throughout Ephesians. He notes also the use of organic language elsewhere in Ephesians. Additionally, he comments that Ephesians uses several metaphors for unity, such as house, building, body, and temple, which is similar to Eph 5:21-33. He points out that the church is only ever the recipient of Christ’s work and is never in a position to merit anything. The same is true in Eph 5:21-33, for Christ cleanses the church, making her holy and pure, even splendorous. Furthermore, Ephesians calls the believers to humility, not unlike the call in Eph 5:21-33 with mutual submission. Finally, the hieros gamos has not become void, but it has been reapplied to the church, and the church has been set out on a mission to the world. Ephesians 5:21-33 reflects this reapplication and mission (pp. 150-153).

Third, Sampley comments on the portrait of the church in Eph 5:21-33. He notes that the death of Christ functions as the defining marker for the church, distinguishing it from Israel. But while his death was a single event, his nourishing and caring for the church is ongoing. Furthermore, Christ is not identified to be the equivalent to the church, Sampley says, and is not said to be “one flesh” with the church. Instead, he is always the head, meaning that he is always continuing on as the founder and savior of the church. Moreover, he claims that Eph 3:9-10 is of utmost importance for Eph 5:21-33, for the church has been given a cosmic function, and Eph 5:21-33 is part of that function (pp. 153-157).

Fourth, he discusses about marriage in Eph 5:21-33. He notes that the command for wives to submit has often been taken out of context and understood only as a product of the culture. He notes rightly that in truth the command has been preserved from the haustafeln, but in context Eph 5:21 must be given its full force. In addition, he notes correctly that Gen 2:24 with Lev 19:18 further qualifies the wifely submission (pp. 157-158).

Fifth, he draws his final conclusions about the traditions in Eph 5:21-33. He asks why there might be so many traditions incorporated into the passage, and concludes that since the author did not know the Ephesians he relied on a certain pool of traditions to draw from perhaps established as part of catechetical studies. He asks also why these traditions were chosen and not others, determining that they were both germane and helpful for the current situation of the Ephesians. Sampley recapitulates the various traditions utilized: Gen 2:24; Lev 19:18; the hieros gamos, namely Ezek 16, Canticles, and Ps 45. He concludes that the author of Ephesians is addressing an issue in which Gentile Christians are in danger of separating with Jewish Christians on the ground that they believe they are better than their Jewish brothers and sisters. He states that Käsemann is correct, not only concerning the use of traditions, but also that Ephesians was written to Gentile Christians who reject the Jewish Christians. Sampley firmly states that the author of Ephesians in 5:21-33 argues that the Gentile Christians cannot be understood independently of Israel, for they are bound inseparably with Jews in God’s overall cosmic plan. But as for Käsemann’s third assertion, that Ephesians is not concerned with Jewish Christianity as the context for understanding the church, Sampley disagrees, for it is clear, he says, that Eph 2 and 5 demonstrate the dependence of Jewish background in relation to the church. He concludes in the end that Eph 5:21-33 is an intricate yet not labored passage that was constructed with care throughout (pp. 158-163).

Now that we have summarized the contents of Sampley’s book, we may now comment briefly on the minor shortcomings of ‘And the Two Shall Become One Flesh’ prior to highlighting its major benefits for discussing Eph 5:21-33.

Sampley’s monograph suffers only in the sense that it lacks to important comparisons. First, it lacks a comparison of classical household codes to that of the NT and the Ephesian haustafeln. Had Sampley taken the time to consider the stark contrast between classical household codes, then in his concluding chapter, when discussing marriage in Eph 5:21-33, he could have even more forcefully demonstrated that the call for wifely submission is somewhat counter-cultural when understood in the light of the husband’s responsibility to love his wife. Not only that, but it would have been helpful in demonstrating that the author was going against cultural standards simply by addressing wives at all. He leaves his conclusions regarding wifely submission in this aspect incomplete. Second, Sampley’s monograph lacks an understanding of rhetoric, and therefore, it lacks a rather important comparison between Eph 3:1-13 and Eph 5:21-33. It is clear that Eph 3:1-13 is part of the narratio in Ephesians, while Eph 5:21-33 is part of the exhortatio. However, the exhortatio functions as the moral end of the narratio. While he does well to conclude that the church has a purpose and a mission, he fails to demonstrate how this relates to wifely submission and husbandly love. In a patriarchal society that clearly expected wifely submission, wives are here commanded accordingly, not merely as a reflection of society, but as a means of bringing about the church’s mission. If wives did not submit, the surrounding culture could discredit the church as a whole, thus nullifying its mission. The author of Ephesians thus gives wives an important role in the church. But Sampley fails to recognize this moral end of the church’s goal as it affects wives in the marriage relationship, which leaves his conclusions regarding marriage found wanting. However, ‘And the Two Shall Become One Flesh’ has three important benefits that clearly outweigh any shortcomings.

Sampley provides us with a lucid treatment of the traditions behind Eph 5:21-33, a fantastic explication of the text’s movement of thought, and a thorough analysis of each verse. The treatment of the traditions in itself is clearly worth the cost of the book. One simply cannot understand the text unless full measure is given to the traditions that helped construct and inform the passage. Sampley has demonstrated how the haustafeln is the major underlying tradition behind the passage, and not that one only, but also Gen 2:24, Lev 19:18, Ezek 16, Canticles, Ps 45, purity traditions, and organic language. No discussion of Eph 5:21-33 that leaves out an understanding of the underlying traditions will suffice. As Sampley has demonstrated, it is simply impossible for a study of this passage to glean a solid understanding without considering these traditions. Moreover, Sampley’s explication of the text’s movement of thought is absolutely essential. His chart is in itself also worth the cost of the book. He shows with utmost clarity the transitional movements and comparative relationships between each phrase throughout the passage, which is also necessary for understanding the text. Sampley has made a most helpful observation in the use of ὡς language in Eph 5:21-33, and his chart is even more helpful. Finally, his detailed analysis of each verse is exemplary. He helps anyone studying this passage to understand each clause in how it is being used syntactically. Based on his work on the underlying traditions and the movement of thought, he also explains with clarity several of the troubling sections of Eph 5:21-33. The book’s aforementioned strengths undoubtedly combine significantly to outweigh its shortcomings. Any discussion of Eph 5:21-33 must utilize, incorporate, and debate with this thorough monograph.

Ephesians 5:22, Wifely Submission

I have engaged with a commenter at a different blog on wifely submission in Eph 5:22. The author of the post sparking my first comment said,

Men, treat and love  your wife just as Jesus did the church.  (tall order!) and wives, let a man lead out of respect for the Lord.  When you let a man be what God calls him to be and you line up with that who are you submitting to?? THE LORD!

I responded as a matter of conversation that ὑποτάσσω does not mean “lead” or “let lead.” This verb means to submit to, to subject to, to fall in line. A soldier does not let the superior officer lead him or her. No, the soldier finds the place where he or she belongs and takes that position. I do see the point that to submit is in practice to let someone else lead. The issue here is about emphasis. Paul did not say, “Wives let your husbands lead.” The emphasis of what Paul is saying is active submission, actively placing oneself under someone else. To say, “let him lead,” is rather weak, as if to say, “You could lead, but let him do it instead.”

I have already commented on this verse elsewhere. The point here, however, is the force of ὑποτάσσω in Eph 5:22. To understand ὑποτάσσω to mean “let him lead” is incorrect, as it bears a different nuance than what is intended. If Paul intended “let him lead,” he would have used a different word, such as ἐξάγω. Paul, being a male, probably did not share the nuance of the female commenter when he used ὑποτάσσω. Furthermore, the word itself refers to one’s own action and not to the action of the other person. The command is to the wives, not to the husbands. Paul is instructing wives to submit, i.e., to actively place themselves under their husbands. The emphasis is on their own activity. It should not be downplayed or lessened.

Not only here and at the aforementioned blog post, debate on the use of ὑποτάσσω in Eph 5:21-33 continues even among scholars. However, none of the scholars, not even female scholars such as Margaret MacDonald, argue that ὑποτάσσω means “let him lead.” Indeed, she translates it as “be subject to” (Colossians and Ephesians [SP 17; Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2008], 326).