Essay, Research Paper: Ephesians Letter

Religion

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As one begins to read the letter to the Ephesians, he is intrigued not only by
the many topics that the letter mentions, but also the fact that there are some
major differences between this book and Paulís other writings. The purpose of
this essay is to explore the book of Ephesians by commenting on critical issues,
such as date, authorship, and setting, major theological themes, the purpose of
the letter, and to offer an outline of the book itself. Critical Issues Critical
issues include those things such as the date the letter was written, who the
letter was written by, and where the letter was written. This section of the
essay will identify these elements and mention the problems that come about when
one thinks logically about the information presented in the letter to the
Ephesians. The letter to the church at Ephesus was written about the same time
as the letters to the churches at Colosse and Phillipi. A combination of all of
my sources suggests this was somewhere between the years of A.D.60-64. A major
problem that needs to be addressed is the question of setting. Was the letter to
the Ephesians only written to the church at Ephesus? Most sources suggest that
it was not. The oldest manuscripts, such as codex Vaticanus and codex Sinaiticus,
do not have the church at Ephesus as the recipient of the letter; this was added
into later manuscripts (Donzť et al, 534). Many state that Ephesians was a
circular letter, a letter that was meant to circulate among all of the churches
in the area and not meant to be specifically addressed to one church. This
theory is supported by the fact that there are very few proper names in the
letter, unlike the other letters Paul wrote, and the fact that it does not
address specific problems of the church, only general statements are mentioned.
Also, if the letter were, in fact written solely to the Ephesians, Paul would
probably have included some reference to the fact that he was the pastor of the
Ephesian church for two years (Ramsay, 454). Instead of doing this, the author
uses phrases such as ďI have heard of your faithĒ (1:15), implying that Paul
and the people have not been acquainted (Ramsay, 454). These arguments are what
lead modern-day scholars to believe that the letter to the Ephesians was not
written only to the Ephesians. The problem of setting is not the only problem
that arises in the letter to the Ephesians. Another problem is the question of
authorship. Was Ephesians really written by Paul? In my opinion, this is the
hardest question to answer because there are very strong arguments that come
from both sides of thinking. Some say that Timothy, or some other disciple of
Paul for that matter, wrote the letter and support this claim with the fact that
there are some eighty-two words in the letter to the Ephesians that are found
nowhere else in any of Paulís writings. Furthermore, of those eighty-two
words, thirty-eight of those are found nowhere else in the entire New Testament
(Ramsay 454). There is also the fact that the sentences are longer and more
complex than those of Paulís other letters. These facts are what lead some to
believe that Ephesians must have been written by someone else and simply signed
by Paul. On the other hand, Paul was in jail at the time he wrote this letter.
He calls himself ďthe prisoner of ChristĒ (Ephesians 3:1), ďthe prisoner
of GodĒ (Ephesians 4:1), and ďan ambassador in bondsĒ (Ephesians 6:20).
Being in jail would have given him ample time to read the letter and revise it;
he had plenty of time to write a well-constructed letter with words that he
would not normally use and longer, more complex sentences than if he was writing
a letter in a hurry. Another strong argument that leads one to believe that Paul
wrote Ephesians is the fact that there are fifty-five verses that are exactly
the same in the letter to the Colossians (Barclay, 72). Now what is the belief?
Did Paul write the letter to the Ephesians, or did Timothy? Maybe it was someone
else. No one can be totally positive, which is why this is the major problem in
this letter. Purpose of the Book The purpose of this letter is to celebrate the
fact that, through Christ, God is uniting all peoples in Christís church
(Ramsay, 456). Ephesians is written to celebrate that unity and encourages
Gentile converts to live as members of that church (Ramsay, 456). The first
three chapters use praise and prayer to renew the believersí vision of God and
the second half encourages the unity of the church (Bowker, 429). Major
Theological Themes The major themes that show up in the letter to the Ephesians
are those of building the body of Christ and Christian practice, unity, holiness
in life, and responsibility in the household (Bowker, 429). The letter mentions
the fact that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Christians gives them
resurrection power (3:16) and it also points out the importance that Christians
suffer for their beliefs, using Paulís imprisonment as an example (3:1-14).
The second half on the letter encourages everything that sustains the life of
the church. It says that the Ephesians need to maintain their common life,
because loss of confidence threatens the unity and identity of the church (Bowker,
429). Outline of the Letter I. Chapter One-A celebration of Godís plan to
unite all people in Christ A. Verses 1-10-Praise to God for choosing to include
us in Godís plan B. Verses 11-14-All Christians share the spirit C. Verses
15-23-A prayer for the understanding of Godís plan II. Chapter Two-Godís
plan for the Gentiles A. Verses 1-10-The Gentiles have been saved by Godís
grace B. Verses 11-22-They are now united with the Jewish Christians in the
church III. Chapter Three-Paulís Prayer that the Gentiles share Godís plan
and be strengthened by it A. Verses 1-13-Paulís concern to share his insight
into Godís plan B. Verses 14-21-Paulís prayer for understanding and strength
IV. Chapters Four ,Five, and Six-Four charges to Gentile converts A. Verses
4:1-16-Promote the churchís unity B. Verses 4:17-5:20-Part with pagan ways C.
Verses 5:21-6:9-Manifest Christian unity through Christian family life D. Verses
6:10-20-Be good soldiers in Godís army V. Chapter Six, verses 21-24-Concluding
note and benediction Conclusion The letter to the Ephesians is a book of the
Bible that creates many arguments between theologians and Bible commentators. It
poses many questions about the critical issues in the letter and the
authenticity of the letter. The arguments that are brought forth for each
different stand or opinion are what make the book of Ephesians such an
interesting piece of work, worthy of the critical eye of the reader.

BibliographyBarclay, William. (1958). Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians.
Philadelphia. The Westminster Press. Bowker, Donzť, E.H. et al. (1942).
Commentary on the New Testament. Washington, DC. The Catholic Biblical
Association. Ramsay, William M. (1994). The Westminster Guide to the Books of
the Bible. Louisville. Westminster John Knox Press.
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