In search of an author

An eighth century mosaic of the apostle Paul
An eighth century mosaic of the apostle Paul

The authorship of Ephesians has been much disputed in recent years.  New Testament scholarship, however, is not unanimous.  In the years 1991 – 2001 fifty percent of published scholars argued for Pauline authorship and fifty percent against Pauline authorship.

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In search of a destination

Typical papyrus manuscript
Typical papyrus manuscript

Three of the earliest original manuscripts of the letter to the Ephesians do not contain the words “in Ephesus” in 1:1. This omission has led certain scholars to doubt that the letter was indeed intended for the believers in Ephesus although all the Ephesians manuscripts, including the three mentioned, have the superscription or heading: ΠΡΟΣ ΕΦΕΣΟΥΣ (“To the Ephesians”).

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In search of a context

A typical amulet
A typical amulet

For many years the letter to the Ephesians has been regarded as a general epistle or letter, addressed to wide variety of churches and therefore containing very general instruction with no specific historical context or church issue in mind.  This general nature was believed to have set Ephesians apart from the other New Testament letters for which it is plain that some or other issue in the church caused or facilitated the letter being written.  For example, in Corinth there was sexual immorality in the church, lawsuits amongst believers, and a wrong understanding of what it meant to be spiritual that caused Paul to write 1 Corinthians.  In Galatia it was the Judaizers promoting a false gospel of faith and circumcision, and so on. 

Ephesians seemed to have no such particular issue, save perhaps the general challenge of Jewish and Gentile relations in Ephesians chapter 2.

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Spirituality kills

There are very few old school atheists around today. Most people believe in god, an unseen spiritual world and the existence of evil. Most people pray especially when facing difficulty or illness. There are numerous books on “higher consciousness”, “channelling”, “conversations with God” and your “personal angel”. Day time talk show hosts advocate prayer, though it’s your preference as to who or what you would like to pray to. Our world is very spiritual, but they have no clue about Jesus.

We could have been in Ephesus in the 1st Century. A very spiritual city – even boasting the temple of Artemis – but ignorant about Jesus. They prayed, recited special chants, wore good luck amulets to ward of evil and also believed in the existence of personal “spiritual assistants” who helped out from time to time. The average Ephesian practised magic as a way to manipulate whatever god was available to help in the desired way, like getting a girl to like you.

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