An Introduction to the New Testament

By Adolf Jülicher


Chapter 1 - Section 11


§ 11. The Epistles to the Colossians and Ephesians

[Cf. H. A. W. Meyer, vols. viii. and ix. 2, 3, in which Col., Ephes. and Philem. are undertaken by E. Haupt (1897); Hand Commentar, vol. iii. 1; Col. Ephes. Philem. and the Pastorals by H. von Soden (1893); ʽInternat. Critical Commentaryʼ (1897); Col. and Ephes. by T. K. Abbot. Also the special commentaries of J. B. Lightfoot, 1886 (for Colossians and Philemon see p. 44); of H. Oltramare (in French, published at Geneva, 1891 and 1892) on Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon (the latter a very conservative although in parts extremely careful exegesis), and of A. Klöpper, Colossians (1882) and Ephesians (1891). The critical questions are stated with the greatest accuracy and independently discussed in H. J. Holtzmannʼs ʽKritik der Epheserund Kolosserbriefeʼ (1872)].

The connection between these two Epistles is so close that they must be treated together. Even a passing glance at their contents will be sufficient to show this, although by no means fully.

1. Colossians begins with address and greeting. The next verses contain a thanksgiving for the conversion of the Colossians, accomplished by Epaphras, and a wish for the continual improvement of their standing in the kingdom of. Christ, the mention of whose name immediately calls forth a Christological digression1 upon the majesty of the Son, who is the source of all blessings and transcends all greatness. Then2 Paul defines his own task within this kingdom—to proclaim its universality—and tells his readers that he labours and struggles especially for their advancement.3 After this preparation he assails them with entreaties not to let themselves be bewildered again by teachers who deluded them with a show of false perfection by setting all manner of misleading human wisdom in the place of the one Christ, and who by the stress they laid on the worship of angels and certain special ascetic and ritual observances drew them away from Christ, their head.4 How to serve him is now described in the practical part of the Epistle5—the Colossians must be raised above all earthly things and ʽthe old man with his doings,ʼ they must put on the spirit of Christ in love and peace and in joyful thanksgiving to God the Father.6 Paul now proceeds to specify more minutely the duties of man and woman, of child and father, of servant and master7—it is the Christianʼs domestic code—and then, returning to the broader tone, he urges them all once more to steadfast prayer—not forgetting the work to which he himself had been called—and bids them win the unconverted through their conduct and by a right use of the Word.8 Then come personal matters, the commendation of the bearers, greetings and commands, and finally the farewell written with his own hand.9

2. Not less clearly does Ephesians fall into two parts of equal bulk, the one theoretical and the other practical. After the address and blessing of vv. 1 and 2 there follows a very lengthy thanksgiving,10 the first part of which11 consists in a general extolling of God for having chosen us from the beginning of his own free will, while the second12—for which verse 12 is a preparation—is concerned more particularly with the readers, for whom the writer declares he gives thanks and offers prayers continually, because they had found the way to Christ, the universal Lord and head of their Church. From death by sin we had been transported to the heavenly world of the risen Christ—a transformation accomplished by Grace alone, without any act of ours13—and the fatal barrier between the heathen ʽunder the flesh,ʼ to whom the Ephesians once belonged, and the people of promise, was now done away by the blood of Christ.14 After the destruction of those ordinances which stirred up enmity and created the gulf between ʽyou that were far offʼ and ʽthem that were nigh,ʼ the holy temple had been rebuilt upon a new foundation, and all who had obtained access to God through the one Spirit were made use of in equal measure as stones in the building thereof.15 The glory of proclaiming this secret of the joint inheritance of the Gentiles had been granted to him, Paul, the prisoner of the Lord,16 and he therefore prayed that they, far from losing heart at his bonds, would become ever more perfect in faith, love and knowledge. With the doxology of iii. 20 the writer returns to the point from which he started17; in reality the whole of this first part of the Epistle is merely an unusually elaborate parallel to the thanksgivings with which Paul always loved to preface his Epistles—a solemn contemplation of the majesty which, through Christ, had given mankind the Gospel of atonement, of re-creation and of peace.

The exhortation now begins18 with an injunction to the readers to give practical proof of the restored unity of the Spirit in all lowliness, steadfastness and love, and to root out every trace of the old heathen life.19 Paul then proceeds to warn them more particularly against falsehood, wrath, stealing, corrupt speech and an unforgiving heart,ʼ and in the next two verses holds up God and the love of Christ as the models after which his readers were to strive. Then come some further moral precepts in the same strain as those of chap. iv.20; once more the contrast is vividly brought out between what was and what is, between unclean and clean, darkness and light, foolish and wise. This is followed by a domestic code21 touching upon the various classes in the same order as that of Colossians iii. 18, and then, in a boldly drawn picture of the putting on of the spiritual armour,22 the Apostle spurs his readers to battle against the powers of evil both of the natural and the supernatural worlds, and urges them to make supplication on his behalf, seeing how eagerly he longed to be free once more to take part in such a fight. After a word of commendation for the bearer, Tychicus,23 the Epistle ends with a benediction.

3. If we assume that both Epistles are authentic there can be no doubt as to the date of their composition. Paul is a prisoner,24 and he sends the Epistles by the hand of Tychicus,25 whose station and business are described in both Epistles in almost identical terms. This alone would be enough to prove their nearly simultaneous composition. That Timothy is not named in Ephesians, as he is in Colossians,26 as joint writer of the Epistle, is no greater discrepancy than that the last chapter of Ephesians differs from Colossians27 in not containing any special greetings; we are not to conclude from it that Paul was in different circumstances, but only that different relations subsisted between him and his addressees. Colossians, again, is intimately connected through Onesimus with the Epistle to Philemon, for Onesimus was to arrive at Colosse in company with Tychicus28 and would certainly have been charged with the latter document; in both, Paul and Timothy are the joint authors, and in both Paul sends greetings from Epaphras, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke. Jesus Justus is the only person mentioned in Colossians29 who does not appear in Philemon, but this is probably only because he was personally unknown to the readers of the latter; while as to Paulʼs ʽfellow-prisoners,ʼ his friends may very likely have relieved each other in that capacity, so that the different application of the title in the two Epistles30 need not surprise us. As to the relation between these three Epistles and Philippians it is best not to dogmatise; but the mournful tone of the latter might easily have given place to the more cheerful mood of Colossians and Philemon, especially as in Philippians itself it does not last throughout the Epistle.31 And in Col. iv. 11 there is certainly a slight echo of the bitter tone of Philip. ii. 20 fol. At any rate, we must assign a common date to Philemon, Colossians and Ephesians, and in all probability Paul wrote them at Rome in the year 62 or 63. Some time in the sixties the country round the Lycus, where Colossae lies, was visited by a terrible earthquake, and if Paul had known of this he would probably have mentioned it in the Epistle to the Colossians; but there is so much uncertainty about the date of this earthquake that we cannot derive any help from it towards the chronology of our Epistles.

4. The town of Colosse lay in South-West Phrygia, in the fertile valley of the Lycus, quite close to two larger cities, Laodicea and Hierapolis, whose Christian communities, it seems, carried on an active intercourse and exchange of communications with that of Colossae.32 Probably they all arose in the same way33 and followed similar lines of development. They did not belong to the churches founded by Paul himself, even though a few individual members might have received their faith from him,34 for according to ii. 1 Paul had never seen Colosse. Their founder seems to have been a Colossian named Epaphras,35 probably a disciple of Paul, but at any rate one who proclaimed the gospel there in Paulʼs own manner.36 How long these communities had already existed is not be determined from the Epistle, and we possess no other evidence. But since their founder was a Gentile Christian37 we may consider the communities also to have been such, and passages like i. 21 and 27 and especially ii. 18 confirm this view. Some time before, this said Epaphras had come to Rome from Colosse to visit Paul, and had been able, in the name of the community, to give proof of its sympathy with the Apostle and to deliver a report38 of the state of affairs there which was on the whole extremely satisfactory. It was natural, therefore—if only because the Colossians were now deprived of their valued leader—that when an opportunity arose, such as was afforded by the sending back of Onesimus (while Tychicus, too, was instructed to pass through Colosse), Paul should thank them for their love and self-sacrifice, should assure them of the warm love he bore them in return and should urge them to continue along the path of righteousness. Part of the Epistle would thus be quite adequately accounted for. There was, however, something besides this which the Apostle of the Gentiles seems to have considered himself in duty bound to impress upon the Colossians with the whole weight of his authority. False brethren had appeared in the community, and there was some danger lest when left to itself it should gradually fall into the power of these men. Whether Epaphras had already striven against them, but without success, or whether they had not made their appearance until after his departure, so that the news of their proceedings had reached him—and through him Paul—but recently, we do not learn. At any rate, to unmask these apparently harmless innovators, to proclaim them dangerous seducers, and to shield his own gospel against such corruption were among the principal objects of the Epistle.

5. In the picture of these ʽfalse brethrenʼ of Colosse the mingling of different features is very remarkable. The emphasis with which Paul impresses upon his readers that they were ʽcircumcised with a circumcision not made with hands,ʼ39 the stress which he lays upon faith and baptism,40 the declaration especially that the ʽbond which was against usʼ—i.e. the Commandments—had been nailed to the Cross and therefore done away with,41 and the warning against the distinctions made in foods and days—feast-days, new moons and Sabbaths42—all recall the Judaistic agitators with whom we are best acquainted through the Epistle to the Galatians. And their transferring the position due to Christ to the ʽrudiments of the worldʼ43 reminds us directly of Galatians iv. 8 and 9. But their love of classifying both meat and drink,44 and their ascetic tendencies and anxieties45 do not exhibit the manners of strict Pharisaism, but rather the fundamental qualities of a mystical form of piety such as that of the ʽweakʼ of Romans xiv. The reproach that they had sought to mislead the Colossians by the tradition or the doctrines of men46—which cannot be explained in this context by Mark vii. 8—and by ʽphilosophy and vain deceitʼ47 takes us still further away from Judaism. Paul would not have called the service of the Law ʽwill-worshipʼ (ἐθελοθρησκία),48 but a more exact definition of this may be found in u. 18, where besides hypocrisy or artificial humility (ταπεινοφροσύνη), he warns his readers against the worship of angels (θρησκία τῶν ἀγγέλων) which some had attempted to impose upon them by appeals to fictitious revelations.

The Apostle himself was not attacked by these false brethren. It is true that he repeatedly emphasises his deserts49 and his right of ministry in the Gospel,50 but one is left with the impression that he did not intend thereby to ward off attacks from outside so much as to strengthen the belief of his readers positively in his own right and power to instruct them. The innovators of Colosse had not branded the faith held till then by the community as a false but as an incomplete Christianity; they belonged to the class which according to 1. Cor. iii. 12 sought to build up hay and stubble upon the unchanging foundation of the faith; they flattered themselves that they had reached a higher stage of Christian knowledge, and offered to initiate others also into the perfect worship and into the secret depths of wisdom. The phrases used by the Apostle are directed against this from the very beginning: cf. i. 6, ἐπέγνωτε ἐν ἀληθείᾳ, ver. 9, ἐπίγνωσιν ἐν ’πάσῃ σοφίᾳ καὶ συνέσει πνευματικῇ, ver. 10, τῇ ἐπιγνώσει τοῦ θεοῦ, ver. 27, γνωρίσαι τί τὸ πλοῦτος, ver. 28, ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ ἵνα παραστήσωμεν πάντα ἄνθρωπον τέλειον,51 and it is surely in reference to the claims of his opponents that Paul speaks so often here of ʽfillingʼ and ʽfulnessʼ; perhaps, indeed, he was borrowing their very terms. We should probably do the practical philosophy of which they made such show too much honour by ascribing it to a dualistic scheme of things. Itmust have been a mixture between certain fantastic speculations, on the one hand, concerning the spirit world—for the transition is easy between the mystic and the spiritualist—i.e. concerning the intermediate beings who lay between the invisible Godhead and lowly man, and whose favour must be secured or whose tyranny avoided; and, on the other, a host of precepts for reaching the goal through the practice of cults and through ascetic observances. Considerable relics of heathen, Hellenic and Oriental customs would here appear, though clothed in Christian forms; the old gods, whether good or evil, would be called Angels, and the ceremonial indispensable to the mind once nurtured amid the mysteries of the East fitted as closely as possible to that prescribed in the holy Scriptures of Israel, which the Gospel also acknowledged, but of course with a certain wilfulness (ἐθελοθρησκία) in points of detail. The ascetic temperament also had its part, as with all the religious movements of that age. Whence the elements of their wisdom of mysteries really came, the false brethren themselves did not know, nor did they observe, any more than was observed by the later worshippers of the Virgin Mary and of the Saints, that it resulted in the expulsion of Christ from his unique position; they imagined that they had discovered perfect knowledge through the study of the Scriptures and the Gospel itself. Here, then, we have, in its main features, a tolerably clear picture of these heretics. 6. With this interpretation, moreover, the chief objection against the tradition, which never omits Colossians from among the Pauline Epistles, is removed. Baur imagines that he recognised in the misleaders of Colosse the Gnostics who in the second century jeopardised the existence of the Church, and that the Epistle was composed in order to deal a death-blow at Gnosticism in the name of the great Apostle. Others, again, have considered that in the polemical parts of the Epistle there were two layers lying one above the other, one of which was Pauline and contended against false prophets of the type of the ʽweak brethrenʼ of Rome—except that here they laid down as rules what at Rome they merely practised on their own account—while the other was later by many decades and dealt with Gnosticism as the arch-enemy. Here the picture of the heretics was painted over in such a way as to cause the Gnostic of the second century to be recognised in it. But all the traits that are in any way distinctive in the Epistle can easily be understood as united in a single class of ʽteachers,ʼ and these teachers again might very well have arisen in Paulʼs time. There is nothing that points to any of the greater Gnostic systems, which we can date with tolerable certainty—in fact the ʽGnosticismʼ that is attacked in Colossians is actually older than Christianity. It is true that we have no other evidence of such philosophers in South-Western Phrygia about the year 63, but, considering the state of our knowledge concerning that time and district, we have no right to expect such evidence, especially when it is a question, as here, of transitory phenomena. Moreover, if a Christian of the third or fourth generation A.D. were here attacking the Gnosticism of his time, we should justly be surprised at his silence upon the worst charges which from his point of view could be brought against it, and at his working instead with such feeble weapons.

If, on the other hand, Paul had to deal with men of the type described above, the course he adopted here was exceedingly natural. He does not attempt to go into details, because he was not accurately enough informed; he is content to emphasise the fact that, after what he had heard, he must affirm that they had fallen back into the bondage of outward ordinances and into a misconception of the dignity of Christ. But he has no cause to enter upon an angry invective against the supposed idolatry of the Colossians, still less to point out that these Jewish philosophers entertained, side by side, contradictory and irreconcilable theories: the latter was unnecessary, because he had no intention of delivering a lecture on logic, and the former because these false teachers, with their worship of angels, did not call the monotheistic idea in question any more than Paul himself, with his worship of the Lord Jesus. Not God, but Christ in his position of the highest52 was here threatened, and it was Paulʼs object to insist upon the unique position of his Master. The formula in which he here expresses the incomparable superiority of Christ over all the powers of this world, culminating in the words ʽin him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,ʼ53 are not, it is true, to be found in the earlier Epistles, and in i. 15-20 one might even recognise a change from the old Pauline Christology in a cosmological direction,ʼ54 new points of view and new interests being brought into the foreground. But if it was only by this means that he could put down grievous errors, he might well have accomplished such a change within himself; and the new formula were forced upon him by his new opponents. The idea, too, of the Church, i.e. the whole body of the Saints, as the Body of Christ55—which is to be met with both in 1. Corinthians56 and in Romans57—satisfies the needs of this controversy; it meant that all Christians without distinction should depend upon Christ, without any other mediators, advocates or contrivances for bringing them to salvation. There indeed was an occasion for the picture of the Head and the Body, which also illustrated so admirably the duty of holding fast to the Head. Nor is this conception of the Church by any means post-Pauline, for as early as 1. Corinthians58 Paul divides mankind into Jews, Gentiles and the Church of God. Colossians certainly does not aim at the glorification of the Church as the sole means to salvation, extra quam nulla salus, in the sense of a later time, but only at the preservation of all the rights of its Head: ʽChrist alone,ʼ ʽall of us one in Christ,ʼ have now, in consequence of the change of foe, become the watchwords in place of the anti-Judaistic ʽsola fide.ʼ The mention of the sufferings endured by the Apostle for the Church, the ʽbody of Christʼ— sufferings by which he ʽfilled up on his part that which was lacking of the afflictions of Christʼ59—would be intolerable in the mouth of a later writer, but Paulʼs Christian mysticism thereby attains its most characteristic expression. This participation, he means to say, exalted him so highly in all his sufferings that through them he approached nearer and nearer to Christ, and, as he says in Philippians,60 ʽbecame conformed unto his death.ʼ

None but the Tübingen school have discovered a conciliatory tendency in an epistle so devoid of the slightest concessions to the Jewish Christians, and accordingly the only remaining argument worth mentioning against its authenticity is that of the difference of style. In syntax and vocabulary the Epistle to the Colossians has many peculiarities, particularly in the way of long strings of clauses and interminable periods, which look very much like patchwork, while, on the other hand, much of Paulʼs most habitual phraseology is absent. But the amount of agreement is, after all, much larger, and the long-winded style only occurs in passages directed against the false doctrine; nor must it be forgotten that Paul was not so thoroughly accustomed to these views as he was to those described in the Epistle to the Romans, and that excitement did not here lend him wings, as in the case of Galatians or 2. Corinthians. Moreover, the parallel argument in Philippians ii. 5-11 bears a stamp somewhat similar to that of the obnoxious parts of Colossians, and who could expect that Paul in his imprisonment and old age would overcome such difficult and complex dogmatic problems with the triumphant freshness and precision that he had displayed when in the zenith of his powers?

Against the hypothesis which Holtzmann has so ingeniously put forward, that the present Epistle to the Colossians represents a composite product—a genuine Pauline foundation with later interpolations from the hand of the author of Ephesians—we have the fact that the suspicion of such interpolation into this Epistle, which runs on in an even flow without obstacle or gap, would never have arisen but for the presence of the Epistle to the Ephesians beside it. Colossians in itself fulfils all the conditions which can reasonably be expected of an Epistle written by Paul to Colosse—entirely without collaboration—in the circumstances represented above.

7. The purpose of the Epistle to the Ephesians is, in contradistinction to all the Pauline Epistles we have yet examined, little dependent upon the particular circumstances and needs of its readers; the writerʼs object is to impress upon them as decisively as possible the idea of the divinity and unity of the Church of Christ, a unity which did away with all distinctions between Jewish and Gentile Christians and all hesitation and error in doctrine; and, further, to unfold the consequences which ensued there-from for the conduct of the members of this Church. Provided we are justified in defending its Pauline authorship at all, we might apply the name of ʽthe last testament of the dying Paulʼ to this Epistle61 far rather than to Philippians, for although it hardly touches upon certain important sides of Paulʼs gospel—assuming them to be well known beforehand—it nevertheless gives a rich and wide development to some of its most fundamental ideas.

The very widespread and searching doubts entertained in this case even by scholars who are otherwise friendly to tradition relate principally to two questions: (1) whether Ephesians is to be considered as an epistle addressed by Paul to Ephesus, and (2) whether or not it is to be considered as a Pauline Epistle at all.

8. The answer to the first question should undoubtedly be in the negative. Paul could not have written to his Ephesian community, to which he had devoted several years of his best powers, and with which, according to Acts xx. 17-38—not to mention Romans xvi. and the hypothesis of the Ephesian Epistle—he had maintained such close relations ever since, in the calm tone of the Epistle to the Ephesians. He sends no special greetings either to or from anyone, and he writes only in his own name, even though Timothy, who was well known at Ephesus, was with him now, as he was when the Epistle to the Colossians was written. Writer and readers are here personally unknown to one another.62 Yet our Epistle, written from prison as it was, could not have been composed before Paulʼs long sojourn at Ephesus, simply because of its close connection with Colossians and Philemon; so that Paul, who since about the year 54 had known more definitely than by hearsay of the faith and love of the Ephesians, could not have written it to them at all. Moreover, the crucial ἐν Ἐφέσῳ of the address is textually untrustworthy. It is true that the Roman Canon of Muratori (circa 200 A.D.) knows of the Epistle as one directed to Ephesus, while an uninterrupted line of further witnesses to this tradition might be enumerated down to the present day; but the earliest Christian to whom we can refer for the superscriptions of Pauline Epistles, Marcion, sets down the Epistle as one ʽto the Laodiceans,ʼ and cannot therefore have read ʽin Ephesusʼ in verse 1. From the way in which Tertullian proceeds against Marcion on this occasion we must conclude that he considered this superscription as an invention of his adversaryʼs, but not as one involving the erasure of anything in the original text; in fact, Tertullian does not seem to have read any indications of place in verse 1 at all. And that manuscripts merely with the words τοῖς ἁνγίοις τοῖς οὖσι καὶ πιστοῖς were handed down as late as the fourth century, we have abundant evidence, amongst others, in Origen, Basil and Jerome.

Now, that anyone should intentionally have struck out an original ἐν Ἐφέσῳ is presumably not to be thought of—for it would have been replaced by something else and not simply erased—and the idea that there was originally no indication of place at all is even more fantastic, for the addresses of 2. Corinthians, Romans63 and Philippians effectually prove that this was indispensable. We must assume, then, that the original mention of the addressees has accidentally disappeared, and that the words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ are the conjecture—although certainly an ancient one—of a copyist who wished to fill up the intolerable gap after τοῖς οὖσιν and who had received the superscription ʽto the Ephesiansʼ from tradition, which even Zahn here accuses of being in error. All sorts of explanations have been put forward of the origin of this mistake, but to me the simplest appears to be that the collector into whose hands the Epistle had fallen, unaddressed, could not endure the absence of superscription and put in a conjectural πρὸς Ἐφεσίους from the idea that the community of Ephesus, where Paul had laboured for three years, must surely have received a letter from its Apostle at one time or another.

Unfortunately, we are not in a position to replace this singularly mistaken conjecture by a better one. The ʽLaodiceaʼ of Marcion is possibly but another conjecture, though that of the most attentive reader of the Pauline Epistles. The fact that an epistle of Paul to Laodicea was mentioned in Colossians, but had already disappeared, would make it natural that the unaddressed document should be considered as the epistle there mentioned, especially as there was no desire to acknowledge the definite loss of any Apostolic Epistle. The conjecture is not a bad one, for the Laodicean epistle cannot have been written much before Colossians, so that the great similarity between the two would thereby be conveniently explained. The Laodiceans were personally unacquainted with Paul,64 as ver. i. 15 of Ephesians would require, and Tychicus was probably the bearer of the epistle to Laodicea as well as of that to Colossae, which fits in admirably with — Eph. vi. 21 fol. But, on the other hand, one cannot imagine any motive which could have induced Paul to treat the Laodiceans, with whom in reality he stood on the same footing as with the Colossians, in such a totally different way, to avoid all individualising with them, and to show himself so distant with them while so friendly with the latter. In my opinion it is inconceivable that the Apostle should have taken up this tone towards any single community, but as we are nevertheless concerned with an epistle in which the writer draws a sharp distinction between himself and his readers—these latter merely forming a very large body, upon whom he impresses what all stood in equal need of—the assumption that Paul is here addressing the whole Gentile Christian world is misleading. In that case the words in question would originally have run ʽτοῖς οὖσιν ἐν ἔθνεσιν.ʼ But, as a matter of fact, we learn nothing about the addressees from the Epistle except that they were now believers,65 and had once been heathens.66 Another objection to this hypothesis is that the remark about Tychicus in vi. 21 presupposes a more contracted circle of readers, for he had naturally not been charged to go round among all the Gentile Christian communities. Moreover, in several passages67 the readers are distinguished from ʽall the saints,ʼ and ver. iii. 18 alone would prevent us from looking upon these latter as referring only to the Jewish Christians, or even, as some contend, to the community of Jerusalem.

If, therefore, we are dealing with a genuine epistle and not with the religious opinions of a later Christian, trying, clumsily enough, to act the part of an Apostle of the Gentiles writing to one of his communities, there is but one supposition left to us: Ephesians is a circular epistle addressed to a group of Gentile-Christian communities which had arisen without Paulʼs direct co-operation, which were on the whole in possession of the true Gospel, and upon which he was anxious to exercise a direct influence and to bestow some spiritual gift as soon as opportunity arose. The mission of Tychicus, who was going from Rome to Colosse, now made it possible that these communities should be sought out; more than this it is not worth while to conjecture. It is but small satisfaction to declare that this circular epistle is identical with that ʽfrom Laodiceaʼ mentioned in Colossians iv. 16, and it is decidedly bold to conclude from the word ἐκ (τὴν ἐκ Λαοδικίας) that Paul was not referring there to an epistle to the Laodiceans but merely to one from Laodicea—that is, to one intended for Colosse after Laodicea, but not destined to rest even there. Every unprejudiced reader would surely take these words as referring to the exchange of two equally valuable possessions by communities lying side by side. Thus, then, Paul must have written three epistles contemporaneously with Philemon—Colossians, Ephesians and the lost epistle to the Laodiceans—and we can therefore hardly wonder at finding constant repetitions and a certain tone of fatigue in the latest in date of the three. Of course Paul would not have left the addressees unnamed in the circular epistle; he needed only to choose the name of the province (or provinces), or else some other geographical term embracing the desired area; but the suggestion that Paul had had a number of copies of the epistle prepared, each with a blank after τοῖς οὖσιν, so that Tychicus should there insert the name of each new community that he visited—and in this way the words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ would have originated from the hand of Tychicus!—is an idea, after all, that savours too much of the modern practical spirit. According to our hypothesis, Ephesians would be definitely placed on the dividing-line between the Epistles proper and the Catholic Epistles, in which the epistolary element is reduced to a literary form, and curiously enough there are not a few material points of contact, too, between our Epistle and these latter.

9. But the importance of the question above discussed shrinks to the vanishing point if Ephesians was merely foisted upon Paul, and if its addressees have as little reality as its nominal author. It is true that the external evidence is favourable to the Epistle; it was much used by the Christian literature of the second century, very probably as early as the First Epistle of Peter; indeed, it has actually been proposed to ascribe both these Epistles to the same writer. This alone is enough to prevent our assigning it to a date later than 100 a.p., so that the hypotheses of the | Tübingen school as to its anti-Gnostic or anti-Montanist tendencies are negatived by the date of its composition. On the other hand, the supposed literary obligations of this Epistle to the four Principal Epistles or to any written Gospels are nowhere so much as rendered probable. But there is no lack of very serious considerations. The Epistle possesses a quite unusual amount of words peculiar to itself; for instance the devil, regularly spoken of by Paul under the name of Satan—though once called the ʽTempterʼ and once Beliar— is here ʽδιάβολος,ʼ68 and the unwonted stiffnesses of style in Colossians i. and ii. are here substantially exaggerated and multiplied. Cumbrous chains of sentences, full of participles and relative pronouns, are the rule; there are numerous lengthy passages69 each consisting in reality of a single sentence—into which only a few arbitrary stops can be introduced. Instances of the coupling of two synonymous nouns by means of a genitive or a preposition are remarkably numerous70; there is an obvious overcrowding and diffuseness of style (e.g. ii. 18: ʽto apprehend . . . what is the breadth and length and heightʼ &c.) and the thoughts are often obscured, as though stifled, by the rush of words. On the other hand, much that is specifically Pauline may be found in Ephesians, such as the metaphorical use of οἰκιδομή,71 περισσεύειν used transitively,72 the words καταντᾶν, ἀρραβών, ἀπολύτρωσις, ἀνακεφαλαιοῦσθαι, and so on, and in both parts of the Epistle we are continually being reminded of Pauline ideas and modes of expression. At any rate, since style is greatly influenced by the mood of the writer (see pp. 137, 141), we could not, if the pros and cons were otherwise evenly balanced, let this argument turn the scale.

We may, however, perceive here no less than in Colossians a development of the Pauline doctrine in the direction of Johannine theology. The lively interest in the universal Church which dominates the Epistle is certainly a new feature; but here again it is a question of a development of existing germs, a thing that could not have been the mere work of a later writer. The lack of definite features in its teaching is unquestionable; in fact, Ephesians almost gives one the impression of a printed sermon; but then we possess no other circular epistle from Paulʼs hand to use as a standard by which to reject this one. To say that the falseness of the situation appears in the statements made by the Apostle concerning himself or his readers is surely an exaggeration, and the hyperbole of iii. 8—in minimis Deus maximus—has by no means an un-Pauline ring. The readers are represented—quite in accordance with the circumstances of the case—as having formerly been Gentiles, and as still standing much in need of greater perfection in knowledge and morality, but there is no indication that the writer is addressing a second generation, which would of course have contained a certain number of Christians by birth. The few sentences that are tinged with controversy73 would suit the mood—and the date as well—of the Epistle to the Colossians. The struggle against Judaism seems indeed to be laid aside, but why should Paul have carried it on in a place where the danger that threatened was from heathenism alone? Of course the whole tone of the Epistle would be quite comprehensible on the supposition that a Pauline Christian of about the year 90 was its author, but with a general work like this the only question is whether it would be incomprehensible as coming whence it professes to come, i.e. from Paul, and whether it becomes more comprehensible as to purpose, form and ideas if we assume that it was the work of a later ʽforger.ʼ

The greatest difficulties are presented by individual passages; not indeed by iv. 5, for the words ʽone faith, one baptismʼ become perfectly natural when considered in their context, and πίστις does not mean a profession of faith, but faith itself, the sole condition of salvation, as baptism is the assurance of it. But vv. iv. 11, ii. 20 and iii. 5 do present such difficulties. In the first of these the Church offices established by God are enumerated—ʽApostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachersʼ—and here the absence of the ecstatic ʽspiritual gifts,ʼ which Paul had rated so highly in 1. Corinthians xii.-xiv., is considered to be a sign of later authorship.

But, in the first place, the ʽprophetsʼ undoubtedly belong to this missing class, and, in the second, the list is not intended to be a complete one; moreover in this setting, where Paulʼs thoughts are turned towards the building up of the Church in unity of spirit, his choice is by no means ill directed. Evangelists are certainly not mentioned by Paul in any other Epistle. Yet how else was he to describe the men who had first proclaimed the Gospel in these Asiatic communities, but had claimed the title neither of Apostles nor of Prophets? Gratitude, if nothing else, obliged him to mention them, and the term ʽteacherʼ was not comprehensive enough. Again, the words of ii. 20, that the Church ʽis built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner-stone,ʼ would certainly, ceteris paribus, seem to point to an Apostleʼs disciple rather than to an Apostle as the author, while it sounds stranger still from the lips of Paul that the mystery of Christ was now revealed ʽunto his holy apostles and prophets in the Spiritʼ (iii. 5). Nevertheless, as early as 1. Corinthians74 the Apostles are already treated in some sort as a self-consistent order, and if in carrying out the simile of the building-up of the Church. the position of corner-stone was reserved for Christ, it was natural that the Apostles should be assigned the part of foundation which in 1. Corinthians75 had been assigned to Christ. The self-confidence shown in 1. Corinthians iii. 10 is also scarcely less than that expressed in Ephesians ii. 20. And in defence of iii. 5 it may be pointed out that the title of ʽholyʼ means more to our perceptions than it would have to Paulʼs, for he calls every believer a ʽsaint.ʼ Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that it is one thing to count oneself as belonging to the community of saints, and quite another to speak of the ʽholy Apostlesʼ as including oneself in their number, and I am unable to attribute such a breach of taste to Paul. But might not the word ἁγίοις have been an interpolation prompted by primitive piety?

But, whatever be the decision at which we arrive, the relationship between Ephesians and Colossians must always remain remarkable. The points of resemblance both in expression and matter are so numerous as to exclude all idea of coincidence. Except for a few verses in chap. i., the passages in which Colossians stands alone, without parallels in Ephesians, are only four,76 while, on the other hand, Ephesians contains but seven77 which are independent of Colossians. Even in these, frequent points of agreement with Colossians may be found. This is all the more remarkable because the anti-heretical purpose of Colossians is by no means that of the author of Ephesians; nor can there be any question of a simple absorption into the one Hpistle of integral parts of the other, for the parallels to Col. i. 3-27, for instance, are scattered through the first four chapters of Ephesians in an entirely different order. What is true of Colossians, indeed, may also be affirmed of Ephesians, viz. that no one who did not have Colossians before him would imagine the Epistle to have been composed by patchwork and the interpolation of extraneous pieces. Professor Holtzmann, however, after the most searching examination of the materials, has conceived the idea that the indebtedness belongs partly to Ephesians and partly to Colossians; but if we reject as too complicated the hypothesis he has built up upon it, by which Ephesians would come to lie between a genuine epistle of Paul to Colosse and our present Epistle to the Colossians (which he considers as the product of a later re-casting in which Ephesians was drawn upon), the simplest explanation would still be that one man—in this case Paul—had written the two related Epistles, at short intervals, but Ephesians probably a little later, and that certain thoughts and modes of expression which were still in his mind from the earlier Epistle had found their way plentifully into the later. For it would only be true to say that the author must have had the earlier work before him when he wrote the later, if we assume that Ephesians was the work of a later writer, but even on comparing Eph. vi. 21 fol. with Col. iv. 7 fol. it would not be true of Paul, precisely because the reproduction of the one in the other is not literal enough. The curious mixture in it of original thought-exposition with dependence on the parallel Epistle— which must always be admitted—can best be explained by supposing that in both Epistles the same writer was pouring forth his soul, and that since his circles of readers were not contiguous he did not too anxiously avoid repetition.

Nor has a clear hypothesis of the circumstances under which a Paulus redivivus might have composed the Epistle to the Ephesians ever been provided, for it is impossible to see what purpose he could have served or why he made such a particularly thorough use of Colossians, when he himself did not lack independent ideas and was also acquainted with other Pauline Epistles. Many separate points in the Epistle would certainly become more intelligible on the assumption that it was written by an Apostleʼs disciple—though even then he must have come into extraordinarily close contact with his master—but not so the Epistle asa whole. Although, then, Ephesians may not belong to our unquestioned Pauline heritage, if would yet be equally impossible to deny the Apostleʼs authorship with any confidence.



1) Vv. 14-23.

2) i, 24-29.

3) ii. 1-3.

4) ii, 4-23.

5) Chap. iii. fol.

6) iii. 1-17.

7) iii. 18-iv. 1.

8) iv. 2-6.

9) iv, 7-18.

10) i, 3-23.

11) Vv. 3-14.

12) Vv. 15 fol.

13) i, 1-10.

14) ii. 11-13.

15) ii. 14-22.

16) i, 3 fol.

17) iv. 1-16.

18) iv. 17-24.

19) iv. 25-32.

20) v. 3-21.

21) v. 22-vi. 9.

22) vi. 10-20.

23) vi. 21 fol.

24) Col. iv. 3 and 18; Eph, iii. 1 and vi. 19 fol.

25) Col. iv. 7 fol.; Eph. vi. 21 fol.

26) i. 1.

27) iv. 10 fol.

28) iv. 9

29) iv. 11.

30) Col. iv. 10; Philem. 23.

31) See p. 123.

32) Col. iv. 13 and 15 fol., ii. 1.

33) Col. iv. 13.

34) Philem. 19.

35) Col i. 7,  iv. 12,

36) i. 4, 7 fol., ii. 5 fol.

37) iv. 11 and 12,

38) ii. 5.

39) ii. 11.

40) ii. 12.

41) ii. 14.

42) ii. 16.

43) στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου, ii. 8 and 20.

44) ii. 16.

45) ii, 23 and 21.

46) ii. 8 and 22.

47) ii. 8 and 18 (ʽpuffed up by his fleshly mindʼ).

48) ii. 23.

49) i. 25 fol., ii. 1.

50) i, 23 and 25.

51) Cf. iii. 14.

52) i.18: ἐν πᾶσιν αὐτὸς πρωτεύων; cf. 1.15: πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως.

53) ii. 9.

54) See especially i. 16, 19, 20, ii, 10.

55) i 18, 24; ii, 19.

56) xi. 27 fol.

57) xii. 5.

58) x. 32.

59) i. 24.

60) iii. 10.

61) In spite of vi. 19.

62) iii. 2-4 and i. 15.

63)1 Rom. i. 7.

64) Col. ii. 1.

65) i. 13, 15 fol.

66) if, 1, 11-13, 17 fol., iii. 1, iv. 17.

67) i. 15, iii, 18, vi. 18.

68) iv. 27, vi. 11.

69) i. 3-14, i. 15-23, ii. 1-10, ii. 1-19.

70) E. g. ii. 14, τὸ μεσότοιχόν τοῦ φραγμοῦ; ii. 15, ὁ νόμος τῶν ἐντολῶν ἐν δόγμασιν ; iv. 13, εἷς μέτρον ἡλικίας τοῦ πληρώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

71) ii, 21, iv. 12, 16 and 29.

72) i. 8.

73) iv. 14 fol., v. 6.

74) xv. 9—11.

75) iii. 11.

76) ii. 1-9 and 16-23 (though with vv. 7 and 19 excepted), iii. 1-4, iv. 9-18.

77) i. 3-14, iii. 13-21, iv. 1-16, 17 fol., 20 fol., v. 23-32, vi. 10-17.