The Book of Ephesians

I. Title

       The title of the letter is taken from the name of the city, Ephesus, to which the letter seems to be addressed. However, some early manuscripts lack the phrase "in Ephesus."

II. Author and Setting

       The author of Ephesians is Paul, based on Ephesians 1:1:

       Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
       To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

       The biggest question with regard to this letter is the question of whom it was written to. Verse one, in the later manuscripts, records "To the saints in Ephesus"; however, "in Ephesus" is missing from the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus. In addition, the strange lack of personal greetings to people in Ephesus, a city which, according to Acts, he had spent nearly three years in, seems odd, if indeed it were written to the Ephesian church.
       When the rather impersonal nature of the letter is linked with the strange fact of Marcion attributing it to the Laodiceans, and the expression in Colossians 4:16 that points to a letter coming from Laodicea to Colosse, has lead many writers to accept a suggestion made by Bishop Ussher, that the letter is really a circular letter to the churches in Asia -- especially the part of Phrygia near Colosse.

       The exact location cannot be determined. But from the fact that Marcion attributed the epistle to Laodicea, possibly because it was so written in the first verse, and from the connection with Colossians, it is at least probable that two of these churches were at Colosse and Laodicea. On this theory the letter would seem to have been written from Rome to churches in the neighborhood of, or accessible to, Colosse, dealing with the problem of Christian unity and fellowship and the relations between Christ and the church and sent to them by the hands of Tychicus. the inscription was to be filled in by the bearer, or copies were to be made with the name of the local church written in, and then sent to or left with the different churches. It was from Ephesus, as the chief city of Asia in all probability, that copies of this circular letter reached the church in the world, and from this fact the letter came to be known in the church at large as that from Ephesus, and the title was written "to the Ephesians," and the first verse was made to read to the "saints which are in Ephesus." (Charles Smith Lewis. "Ephesians, Epistle to the:" in The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, vol. II. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1939. p.958)

       It is by no means universally held that the phrase "in Ephesians" is a later addition. Markus Barth argues persuasively that the letter was written by Paul late in his life, while he was imprisoned in Rome. Barth believes that Paul is addressing people in the Ephesian church who were of gentile origin, whom he did not know personally, who had been converted and baptized after his final departure from the city. Barth suggests that the strange diction occasionally found in Ephesians results from Paul's use of hymns and other traditional materials that he quotes more extensively than he had in his other letters. (See Markus Barth, Ephesians 1-3, 4-6. The Anchor Bible, vols. 34 and 34A. New York: Doubleday, 1974)
       The letter was probably written about AD 63.

III. An Outline of Ephesians

I. Introduction 1:1-2
II. Relationship with God 1:3-2:22
III. Paul 3:1-21
IV. Relationship with People 4:1-6:20
V. Conclusion 6:21-24

Questions on Ephesians

1. When was the letter to the Ephesians written?
2. Write a commentary on Ephesians 2:8-10.
3. How does Paul's talk about good works in Ephesians 5 reconcile with salvation by grace apart from good works in Ephesians 2?
4. Reconcile Ephesians 5:12 with the fact that Paul has just gotten done listing what the disobedient do, and with the fact the Bible (especially in the Old Testament) is explicit in mentioning the sins of people.
5. What is Paul referring to when he talks about obscenity, foolish talk, and coarse joking? Be sure that your explanation makes allowance for Paul's statement in Galatians 5:11-12 and the language used in Ezekiel 16 and 23, God's sarcasm to Job in Job 38:21, and so on.