AN INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT by A H McNeile. Copyright A H McNeile - first published at the University Press, Oxford 1927. 2nd Edition revised by C S C Williams 1953. - This Edition prepared for Katapi in Arial Unicode MS by Paul Ingram 2003.

Chapter VI Part 3



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(The form 'Colassians' is the reading of B A P", 'Colossians' that of א D F G.]

Place of writing | Cause of writing | The Colossian danger | Contents | Genuineness | Top

Place of writing.

On the traditional view, the epistle was written from Rome, as is shown by its close connexion with Philemon (see pp. 180 ft. for the theory of the Ephesian origin of the imprisonment letters).
In both epistles Timotheus joins in the opening salutation;
Epaphras, Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke are mentioned (iv.7-14, Philem.23, 24), and Archippus is greeted (iv.17, Philem. 2);
and Onesimus accompanies both (iv.9, Philem.10-12).
Further, the words 'the mystery of the Gospel on account of which I liave also been put in bonds' (iv.3) and 'Remember my bonds' (iv.18) show that St. Paul was writing in imprisonment, or in the custody that is related in Acts xxviii.
There is no adequate reason for the conjecture accepted by several writers that he wrote it at Caesarea.
Still less for the curious ab Epheso in the Latin prologue to the epistle (see p. 148, n. 2).

Cause of writing.

It is probable that St. Paul had never been to Colossae (see ii. i with Lightfoot's note).
He had reached Ephesus from the east on his third tour by 'the higher parts' (Acts xix.1), and not by the main road through the valley of the Lycus, in which stood Colossae and Laodicea.
He had sent others to preach to them, one of whom was a Gentile named Epaphras or Epaphroditus (not the Christian of that name who is mentioned in Phil. ii.25, iv.18).
This seems to be indicated by the description of him in i. 7, 'a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf'.
[See Lightfoot, ad loc. ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν - (huper hemon) (B א A P46 D* G Lat.) is better attested than ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν - (huper humon).] But he thought of them as his own children in the faith, who needed a letter to guard them from a spiritual peril that threatened them.
Epaphras had brought him a report of their condition.
He had told him, on the one hand, as St. Paul says, of 'their faith in Christ Jesus, and the love which they had towards all the saints' (i.4), and of 'their love in the Spirit' (v.8).
They were still true to the Christianity to which they were converted.
But, on the other, he told him that they, and the Laodiceans for whom also the letter was intended, were in danger of being led into false ideas, which made it necessary to put before them, probably with much greater intellectual power than Epaphras or any other teacher had possessed, the central and fundamental fact of Christ.
In writing to Churches in Asia Minor he uses language and methods of argument such as we find in no other epistles.

Τhe Colossian danger.

The Colossian Christians were Gentiles, whom Jewish Christians were trying to seduce from pure Christianity.
What they inculcated was not the plain Judaism, which had been the chief trouble in Galatia a few years earlier.
The danger now arose from a different quarter.
Greek philosophical speculations were combining with a variety of oriental ideas to form a strange amalgam of mystical theosophy.
Foreign religions, cults, and mysteries were being eagerly sought after by Western minds, which had given up the ancient mythologies and longed for 'salvation' in some form or other.
Christianity in its own way offered salvation; but false teachers had tried to persuade the Colossian Christians 'not that Judaism with its circumcision and other ordinances was a necessary step towards Christianity, but that Christianity, as Epaphras had taught it when he evangelized Colossae, was only a preliminary step towards a deeper, vaster, and therefore humbler "philosophy"' (ii. 8).

Two chief aspects of their teaching are combated by St. Paul, arising from (1) astrology, and (2) philosophical dualism.

  1. Oriental thought on the whole was tied and bound by a belief in the powers exercised by the cosmic forces of nature, and especially the stars, over the destinies of men.
    These forces were personified as supernatural or angelic, i.e. demonic, beings.
    The Colossians were in danger of being persuaded that merely to believe in Christ was an immature form of religion:
    they ought to go farther and be perfected (cf. i.28, 'perfect in Christ') by initiation into something greater.
    Since man was brought into relationship with the Pleroma of the Godhead by angelic emanations or powers, the worship of Christ was not so 'perfect' as the worship of the angels with humility (ii. 18), which St. Paul characterizes as 'self-imposed worship ἐθελοθρησκεία - (ethelothreskeia) and humility' (v.23).
  2. But these theosophical ideas were bound up with the errors of dualism.
    God, it was thought, can have no contact with, nor can He be held responsible for, matter.
    To reach the Pleroma of the Godhead through the mediumship of the angels, man must free himself from the evil influences of matter.
    In particular he must purge himself from the malign effects of his material body.
    This involved a strict asceticism: 'handle not, taste not, touch not' (ii.21); man must neglect his body (v.23); to which St. Paul retorts that such neglect is of no value to remedy indulgence of the flesh.
    [See Lightfoot, ad loc. Over-ascetic rules 'have a rational or apparent justification in a voluntary form of worship, in "humility" and (om. P46 B al.) in bodily mortification but not in the honour, so to speak, which they pay to sensual gratifications; cf. H. S. Bettenson, Theology, xxvi, 1933, pp. 154-6.]
    While asceticism was one result of a dualistic philosophy, libertinism was another.
    If matter has no relation to God, the material body has no relation to religion; therefore man can indulge his body without restraint.
    But this deadly mistake is not referred to in the epistle (see p. 190 and n.).
    What St. Paul had to meet was the danger that his readers would submit themselves to Jewish rules of asceticism, man-made ordinances, injunctions, and teachings (ii.21, 22), which included circumcision (yv.11-13) restrictions as regards foods and drinks (v.16), and probably combined with astrological ideasthe observance of festivals, new moons, and Sabbaths (ibid.).
    This was a recrudescence of the old Judaistic mistake in a far more perilous form.
    It was a return to 'the tradition of men according to the elements (stoicei'a - (stoicheia)) of the world and not according to Christ' (v.8).
    It was from these 'elements' that Christ died, and Christians with Him (v.20).
    ['The 'elements of the world' are probably not merely 'elementary ideas' though that thought is not absentbut the elemental forces of nature that would be included in the angelic or demonic personifications, which the Colossians were enticed to worship.
    Since angels, according to Jewish tradition, were instrumental in giving the Law at Sinai (cf. Gal. iii.19), St. Paul thought of the Jews, in their obedience to Law, as 'enslaved under the elements of the world' (Gal.iv.3).
    Christ, by being 'born under the Law' and dying and rising again, burst free from them and so conquered them. Cf. Col.ii.5, referred to below, and 1 Cor.ii.6, 8; cf. W. H. P. Hatch, J.T.S. xxviii, 1926-7, pp. 181-2.]

    At a later date these oriental ideas became greatly developed in contact with Christianity, and full-grown Gnosticism, claiming to be a higher, esoteric form of Christianity, became one of the most pressing dangers through which the Church ever passed.
    But there is little doubt that our epistle depicts it at an early stage in the form in which it was beginning to fascinate the Jewish mind in Asia.  

To meet the danger St. Paul was not content with contradicting the false ideas.
He held up before the Colossians in all its fullness the fact of Christi.e. of Him who was not one Emanation among many, but 'the Son of God's love' (i.13); 'the Image of the invisible God, the First-begotten of every creature' (v.15); in whom (so far from created matter being alien from God) all things were created, including 'the invisible things, whether thrones or lordships or principalities or authorities' (v.16); the Agent and End of creation, prior to all things, and the centre of cohesion of all things (v.17); the Head of the Body, the Church (cf. ii.19), the Beginning,
[On the fullness of the meaning which St. Paul gives to ἀρχή - (arche) see Burney, J.T.S. xxviii. 173-7; cf. A. E. J. Rawlinson, The New Testament Doctrine of the Christ, 1926, pp. 163-5; W. D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism, 1948, pp. 150-8.]
First-begotten from the dead, in whom all the Pleroma dwells (cf. ii.9) (v.18), through whom all things are reconciled to God.
He reconciled them in the body of His flesh through the Cross (vv.20, 22).
He is 'Christ in you, the hope of glory' (v.27); the Mystery of God, even Christ, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hid' (ii.3), and not in any pagan mysteries or esoteric theosophies; the Head of every [angelic] principality and authority (v.10); who on the Cross 'stripped off' the domination of these principalities and authorities, and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it'i.e. by virtue of His death on it (v. 15).
Thus the fact of Christ is that He is the centre and the whole of the circle of all things that are.


The epistle does not lend itself to exact analysis; but it falls roughly into four parts. After the opening salutation, and a thanksgiving and prayer for the readers (i.1-14), the apostle plunges in mediam rem.

A.  i.15-20. Christ is the true Mystery.
  v. 15a He is presented to the readers in His relation to God,
  vv.15b-17 to the Universe,
  v.18 to the Church,
    a threefold relationship which was necessary for the fulfilment of God's ultimate purpose of cosmic reconciliation to Him.
B. i.21-ii.3. The Colossians, as Gentile converts, had a share in this reconciliation,
  i.21-29 having been taughtowing to St. Paul's ministry and stewardship the mystery of the indwelling Christ
  ii.1-3 And he longs that they may be led to a full understanding of it
C. ii.4-iii.4. Warnings against being led astray by the flattery and specious philosophy of false teachers.
D. iii.5-iv.6. Exhortations to live the moral life that is involved in the participation in the mystery.
Some personal matter and salutations conclude the epistle.



There are critics who credit St. Paul with no ability to think on a plane other than that of 1, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans.
This excludes his authorship of i,2 Thessalonians on the one hand, and Colossians and Ephesians on the other.
But no genius can safely be judged in so rigid a manner.
In style and vocabulary a difference is indeed noticeable.
The following Pauline words are absent from Colossians: ἀποκάλυψις, δικαιοσύνη, καυχᾶσθαι, νόμος, πιστεύειν, σωτηρία - (apokalupsis, dikaiosune, kauchasthai, nomos, pisteuein, soteria;
also the following Pauline particles (cf. the list of particles absent from the Pastorals); ἄρα, διό, διότι, ἔτι, οὐδέ, οὔτε, οὐκέτι - (ara, dio, dioti, eti, oude, oute, ouketi).
But since the readers and the subjects, of which he treats are of very different types, this is not unnatural.
The style is smoother, less rapid, and more diffuse, grander and more rhetorical, as befits his theme.
On the other hand he uses throughout characteristic words and expressions that are found in his earlier epistles, while those, which do not occur elsewhere, can be mostly accounted for by the needs of his subject.
The stress which he lays on such words as 'wisdom', 'perfect', 'knowledge' (cf. 1 Cor.i.24-27; i.2, 8), 'Pleroma', 'mystery', is due to the language of the errorists themselves.
The Christology, which is the main theme, is not essentially different from that in 1 Cor.i. viii. 6: 'one Lord Jesus Christ through whom are all things and we through Him'.
And the doctrine that the death of Christ was a conquest over evil powers is found in 1 Cor.ii.6, 8, where, however, it is only incidental, not, as here, central to his theme.
There is nothing in the epistle that warrants any serious doubts as to the authorship.
Theories of editorial interpolations or glosses, made in order to explain the combination of Pauline elements with those, which are thought to be sub-Pauline, may be seen in Moffatt, Intr. Lit. N.T., pp. 155-8; cf. M. Goguel, op. cit. iv. i, pp. 29 f.; iv.2, pp. 413 f. 

C. Masson (L'Epitre de Sl. Paul aux Colossiens, p. 86.] has reached the same conclusions as did H. J. Holtzmann (Kritik der Epheser- und Kolosserbriefe, 1872, refuted by H. von Soden, Jahr-bucher f. protestantisclie Theologie, 1885, pp. 320-68, 497-542, 672-702.] (but by a different route) that Colossians 'in its actual form is a revision and development of the primitive Epistle of Paul to the Colossians by the author of the Epistle to the Ephesians, who, publishing both letters under Paul's name, has related them closely one to the other'.
Moffatt's comment on Holtzmann's theory can be applied to Masson's too; 'such filagree-criticism has failed to win acceptance; the literary criteria are too subjective'.
Many scholars, however, including Masson [Op. cit., pp. 104 f.], treat i.15-20 as a source that St. Paul used; its style is liturgical or it may be part of a Christological hymn.
If so, the Christology of the community that produced it was more 'advanced' than most Form critics have recognized hitherto.
The same conclusion may follow if Phil.ii.6-11 is also taken to be a hymn.
[E. Lohmeyer, Der Brief an die PhiKpper, 1928, pp. 90 ff., cf. his treatment of Eph. i. 3-14, Theol. Blotter, 1926, p. 120.]  

The Pauline authorship of Colossians would, indeed, be impossible if the dangers against which the readers are warned were the fully developed Gnosticism of the second century.
But evidence has been accumulating that the germs of that development, which came into being owing to the meeting of oriental and Jewish thought, were present in the area of the Dispersion some years before the time of St. Paul.
It is idle to try to identify the errors attacked with any particular system Ebionism, Mithraism, Gnostic Ebionism, and so on.
Features of all of them were spreading gradually westward, and St. Paul wished to supply a universal antidote.


Purpose& content | Time & place | Top

Purpose and content.

Philemon, to whom the letter was addressed, was a Christian living, probably, at Colossae.
This is shown by the fact that in writing to the Colossians St. Paul describes Onesimus, as he does Epaphras, as 'one of you' (Col.iv.9, 12), and states that he is sending him thither with Tychicus (vv.7, 8).
Onesimus, Philemon's slave, had run away from him, found his way to Rome, and been converted by St. Paul, who now sends him back with an affectionate recommendation to his master, who had also been converted by the apostle (Philem.19), to receive him no longer as a mere slave but as a Christian slave, a beloved brother (v.16).
A runaway slave was usually treated with such harshness that it was a somewhat delicate thing to ask a master to receive him; and that is shown by the extremely tactful and tender way in which St. Paul pleads for him. 

It is remarkable that in the collection of St. Paul's epistles made by the early Church there should be included a short note to an individual [It was addressed, however, also, not only to two who were doubtless members of his family, but to 'the Church in thy house'.] on a purely personal matter.
But this brief note was rightly felt to be of lasting value, not only for the picture that it affords of the apostle himself his warmhearted love for his slave convert, and his delicacy of touch in advancing his causebut for the principle which he lays down, which in the long run was to undermine the massive fabric of slavery.
To have given any specific injunctions against the practice would have been futile.
All ancient races accepted it as part of the natural order of things; and to incite a few slaves to break loose would do nothing but harm.
In 1 Cor.vii.20-24 his advice to Christian slaves is exactly the reverse.
His principle was that Christianity places men in a status above the social distinctions of master and slave (y. 16; cf. i Cor..13; Gal.iii.28;, 9; Col.iii.11).
All alike were 'bought' by Christ for His service (1 Cor.vii.22 f.).
And therefore, while he sends the slave back to his master, he does not suggest that Philemon should release him, but asks him to love him.
In the early Church 'no effort was made to put a stop to the system of slavery, but its sting was drawn by the glad recognition of the fact that all were brothers in Christ'.
[J. W. C. Wand, A History of the Early Church, 1937, p. 91.]

time and place.

The letter was written in captivity (vv.9, 13), at the same time as Colossians (see p. 158), and probably from Rome.
It cannot have been the imprisonment at Caesarea (Acts xi.33), because he tells Philemon to prepare him a lodging, since he hoped soon to be allowed to visit him (v.22).
At Caesarea, where he appealed to Caesar and was waiting to be sent to Rome, he could have had no such hopes.
And a runaway slave would be much more likely to escape to Rome than to Caesarea (but see below, pp. 180 ff.).


Contents | Genuineness | Luke & Acts | Pastoral Epistles | 1 Peter | Johannine writings | Galatians | Doctrine | Time & place of writingDestination | Top


As in Colossians, the rhetorical flow of language that is called forth by the sublimity of the theme makes exact analysis impossible.
But the doctrinal portion (i.3-iii.13), concluding with a prayer and doxology (iii.14-21), is distinct from the hortatory portion (iv.1-vi.20), concluding with personal references to himself and Tychicus, greetings, and the Grace (vi.21-24).

A.   Doctrine,
  i.3-14: The purpose of God is the holiness, the sonship, the redemption of Christians; and Christ is the Medium in whom this is being accomplished, the ultimate aim being the summing up of all things in Him.
  i.15-19 An assurance to the readers of the apostle's prayers for them that they may have wisdom to understand and know the great things of God introduces i.20-23:
    The method of God.
God (1) raised Christ from the dead,
and (2) set Him at His right hand, gave Him victory over His enemies,
and made Him Head over all things to the Church,
  ii.1-10: The purpose of this was that in Christ God might also
(1) raise Christians from the death of sin,
and (2) set them with Him in the heavenlies.
  ii.11-22: The result of this plan was the unity of Jews and Gentiles in Christ.
  iii.1-13: And this great mystery was entrusted to St. Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, to proclaim.
B.   Exhortation.
    The moral exhortations are mainly concerned with the nature and the preservation of the unity which God intended,
  iv.1-6: The readers are exhorted to live in unity.
  iv.7-16: It is the unity of a living and growing Body, the members of which possess a wide diversity of gifts and functions, and which receives its vital force from Christ the Head.
  iv.17-v.21: As converted Gentiles they must put off all that constitutes the old Self, the 'old man', and put on all that constitutes the 'new man',
  v.22-vi.9: Particular injunctions towards the preservation of unity are added
  v.22-33] for wives and husbands,
  vi.1-4), children and parents,
  vi.5-9 slaves and masters.
  vi.10-20: For such a life
  vi.10-17 the whole armour of God is required,


with prayer and intercession.


A glance at the epistle is enough to show the very close connexion between it and Colossians.
Moffatt [Introd. Lit. N.T., pp. 375-81.] prints the parallels in full, which amount to large portions of both the epistles; cf. M. Goguel, op. cit. iv. 2, pp. 458 ft., and E. J. Goodspeed, The Meaning of Ephesians, 1933, pp. 82-165, where Goodspeed prints parallels to Ephesians from all the authentic Pauline epistles.
Moffatt says (p. 375) 'Those who hold that both were written by the same author either place them together in the second century or attribute them both to Paul.
On the latter hypothesis he read over Colossians (or a copy of it) before writing Ephesians, or else composed the letter when his mind was still full of what he had just addressed to the Church of Colosse.
The relationship in this event would resemble that of the Thessalonian letters, when 2 Thessalonians is accepted as genuine.'
That the epistle was written (or is represented as having been written) at the same time as Colossians is indicated in vi. 21, 'Now that you also may know my affairs, &c.', an allusion to Col. iv. 7.
But many who accept Colossians as the work of St. Paul doubt or deny the genuineness of Ephesians on account of its language and style, its affinities with other writings, and its doctrine.

(a) Language.

This undoubtedly shows marked differences from that of the earlier epistles.
But since the readers and subject matter are different, this alone, some scholars maintain, would be no more evidence of spuriousness than it is in the case of Colossians.
Where the subject matter is closely allied to that of Colossians the similarity of its language is very close, though some differences are noticeable.
Differences are sufficiently accounted for, on this view, by saying that St. Paul possessed enough literary power to express similar thoughts with a variety of expression.
Moffatt [Ibid., pp. 385 f.] notes that it contains thirty-eight words that are not used elsewhere in the New Testament literature, and forty-four [Forty-three ἅπαντες - (hapentes) (Gal. iii. 28) is included, otherwise forty-two (Goguel, op. cit., p. 456).] which, while employed elsewhere in the New Testament, are never used by St. Paul.
But others can balance figures like these.
The length of Colossians is to that of Ephesians about as eleven to sixteen.
It contains thirty-eight words of the former type (a much larger proportion) and eighteen of the latter.
To these must be added eleven which occur only in Colossians and Ephesians and would be hapax legomena in Colossians if they were not imitated in Ephesians: ἀνθρωπάρεσκος, ἀπαλλοτριοῦσθαι, ἀποκαταλλάσσειν, αὔξησις, ἁφή, ὀφθαλμοδουλεία, πλήρωμα(of God], ῥιζοῦσθαι, σθνεγείρειν, σθνζωοποιεῖν, ὕμνος - (anthropareskos, apallotriousthai, apokatallassein, auxesis, haphe, ophthalmodouleia, pleroma (of God), hrizousthai, sunegeirein, sunzo-opoiein, hymnos, and seven which are found elsewhere in the New Testament but not in St. Paul's epistles outside Colossians and Ephesians: δόγμα, θεμελιοῦσθαι, κατοικεῖν, κράτος, κυριότης, σύνδεσμος, ῲδή - (dogma, themeliousthai, katoikein, kratos, kupiotes, sundesmos, ode).
It is clear that hapax legomena and 'non-Pauline' words alone cannot settle the question.
It is remarkable, further, how large a number of words in Ephesians or [and] Colossians have New Testament parallels only in 1 or 2 Corinthians.
And there are at least twenty-five thoroughly Pauline words and expressions in Ephesians (found in Rom., 1, 2 Cor., Gal., Phil.) which do not occur in Colossians.
Thus 'the linguistic data may be allowed to leave the problem of the authorship fairly open' (Moffatt, p. 387), unless we deduce with Goodspeed that the writer, c. 90-96, was familiar with a Pauline corpus.

(b) Style.

This must be used with caution as a criterion, since much depends on the reader's individual feelings as to what is probable and improbable in a writer's change of style.
The epistle is nearer to being a poem in prose than any other of St. Paul's writings.
What was said above on the style of Colossians is true of that of Ephesians in an advanced degree.
It is lyrical, diffuse, and elaborate.
The train of thought is slow.
The author is fond of synonyms and epexegetical genitives (Goguel).
But while in Colossians he had definite enemies in view, here he has none.
And the question, which does not admit of a confident answer, is whether one who could pass from the style of the four Hauptbriefe to that of Colossians could not pass farther to that of Ephesians, the change being accounted for by his freedom from the pressure of controversy, and by the sublimity and cosmic vastness of his subject. 

The theory that a Paulinist wrote the epistle in his master's name cannot be ruled out as impossible.
The bulk of the material in the Pastoral Epistles is probably to be explained in that way (sec p. 194 and n.); and 2 Peter is certainly pseudonymous.
But in the case of Ephesians the problem has a psychological aspect.
It is not easy to decide whether a follower of St. Paul, writing in his name, with his mind steeped in the language and thoughts of Colossians, and greatly influenced also by the other Pauline epistles, could or could not have risen to the height, and reached the wide expanse, attained in this epistle.
It is this, which places the problem on a different plane from that of any other imitation, or use of sources, in the New Testament.

(c) Literary affinities.

Affinities with other writers, in so far as they are not merely reflections of the common language of early Christianity, might arise from more than one cause.
Either they are due to the direct influence of the epistle on the writers, or to the influence of the epistle on the totum of Christian thought which they inherited, or the author of the epistle, together with the other writers, shared in a development of Christian thought and language which grew up spontaneously in the Church after St. Paul's death.
In other words, did the author of our epistle breathe with others an existing atmosphere, or did he help to create it?
As far as language goes, the affinities that are pointed out do not, for the most part, amount to very much.

Luke and Acts.

Moffatt [Intr. Lit. N.T., p. 384.], who notes some dozen words peculiar to Ephesians and St. Luke's vocabulary, also gives the following parallels: men are the objects of the divine εὐδολία - (eudokia) (Lk.ii.14; Eph.i.5), and the Ascension is emphasized (Lk.xxiv.51; Eph.i.20; iv.8, 10); he compares Lk..47, 'that slave which knew his lord's will and prepared not nor did according to his will', with Eph.v.17; vi.6; Lk..35, 'Let your loins be girded', with [But the thought is different. The former is a simile of household slaves, the latter of soldiers.]; and gives two parallels (ii.5; v.18) with the parable of the Prodigal Son, from which he notes that Resch [Paulinismus, 1904, pp. 373 f.] draws a long series of parallels with Eph.ii.1-19, a passage which may well be compared with the parable for purposes of devotional study, but which can hardly be imagined to have any literary connexion with it. 

All the similarities to our epistle that he suggests in the Acts are in St. Paul's address at Miletus: the βουλή - (boule) of God (i.11), the commission of the apostle (iii.2, 7; iv.11), the purchasing of the Church (i.14), the 'inheritance' of Christians (i.14), and the 'shepherding' of the Church (iv.11).
But St. Paul's commission or διακονία - (diakonia) was a fact on which he laid frequent and vehement stress in earlier epistles; the inheritance of Christians is the subject of Rom. iv. 14; viii. 17; Gal. hi. 18, 29; iv. 7; and the purchasing of the Church in Ephesians and Acts respectively is probably derived from two different passages of the Old Testament.
[The former (περιποίησις - (peripoiesis)) from Exod.xix.5 (quoted in i Pet.ii.9 with the same word, instead of the LXX περιύοσος - (periousios); the latter (περιεποιήσατο - (periepoiesato) from either Is.xliii.21 (LXX λαός μου ὃν περιεποιησάμην - (laos mou hon periepoiesamen) or Ps.lxxiv [lxi].2 in some current translation of Old Testament logiα (LXX τῆς συναγωγῆς σου ς ἐκτήσω - (tes sunagoges sou hes ekteso)).
With 'He purchased through His blood' he also compares Eph.i.7, 'the redemption through His blood'.]

Other passages to which he attaches significance are Acts xx.21 'faith in (εἰς - (eis)) our Lord Jesus' and Eph.i.15, 'your faith in (ἐν - (en) the Lord Jesus'; xx.19 and Eph.iv.2, vi.7, 'humility' and 'serving God'; xx.32, 'to give JWM the inheritance among them that are sanctified', and Eph.i.18, 'the wealth of the story of His inheritance in the saints'.
The differences are at least as noticeable as the similarities.
But parallels would be sufficiently accounted for if St. Paul wrote Ephesians, and if St. Luke obtained a more or less trustworthy summary of the contents of his address at Miletus.
Alternatively, a Pauline disciple writing towards the end of the first century may have had access to a copy of Acts or to material used by Luke.

Pastoral epistles.

There are several parallels of thought and language which place the Pastoral epistles somewhat nearer to Ephesians than to the earlier epistles of St. Paul.
Moffatt, however, dismisses them with the remark, 'But beyond suggesting a sub-Pauline milieu of thought and language, these coincidences amount to very little'.
The question, as said above, is whether the sub-Pauline author of Ephesians lived in the same milieu, or whether St. Paul himself by his epistle helped to create it.

1 peter.

In this case a difference of opinion exists as to whether there are any significant parallels at all.
There are not many verbal coincidences; the most striking are 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Eph.i.3; 1 Pet.i.3), πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου - (pro kataboles kosmou)(Eph.i.4; 1 Pet.i.20), κρογωνιαον - (akrogoniaion) (Eph.ii.20; 1 Pet.ii.6), περιποησις - (peripoiesis) (Eph.i.14; 1 Pet.ii.9), τοῖς ἰδίοις ἀνδράσιν - (tois idiois andrasin) (Eph.v.22; 1 Pet. iii.1), εὔσπλαγχοι - (eusplegchnoi) (Eph.iv.32; 1 Pet.iii.8).
But there are distinct echoes of thought that cannot safely be explained as expressing, independently, current Christian ideas. Few, probably, would agree with H. A. A. Kennedy's (Ex. T. xxvii, p. 264.] verdict: 'while there are a few vague parallels, it is hard to trace any close interrelation of ideas.'
Hort [The First Epistle of St. Peter, i. i-ii. 77, p. 5. M. Goguel discusses the parallels (op. cit. iv. 2, pp. 447-50) and concludes that Eph. and 1 Pet. are independent one of the other.), on the other hand, holds that 'the connexion, though very close, does not lie on the surface.
It is shown more by identities of thought and similarity in the structure of the two epistles as wholes than by identities of phrase.'
If Ephesians is not the work of St. Paul, the writer may have borrowed from 1 Peter; but if it is, the probability is much greater that 1 Peter, which made large use of Romans, also used Ephesians.

Johannine writings.

There is an approach towards the doctrinal position of the Fourth Gospel and 1 John (see below). Moffatt and Lock [Hastings's D.B. i. 716 f.] collect several similarities of thought, some of which, however, find parallels in St. Paul's earlier writings.
But there is very little linguistic parallelism.
Moffatt holds that 'the likelihood is that the unknown auctor ad Ephesios was a Paulinist who breathed the atmosphere in which the Johannine literature afterwards took shape'.
Similarly of the parallels with Hebrews he says that they do not 'prove more than a common atmosphere of religious feeling and phraseology'.
But if St. Paul wrote Ephesians it is more likely that he began to create the atmosphere which was afterwards charged more deeply with the particular significances represented by the Johannine writings and Hebrews respectively.


C. F. D. Moule (Ex. T. Ix, 1949, p. 225.] has drawn attention to the reference in Eph.iii.3 to the writer having already described in writing how the mystery of the inclusion of the Gentiles in the Church had been known to him by a revelation so that his readers could assure themselves of his understanding in these matters by reading what he has written.
The passage in our Pauline corpus exactly fitting this reference is Gal.i.10 ff., where Paul states that it was through a revelation that he was called to preach the good news among the Gentiles.
'On Goodspeed's showing, the readers only had to look in the new Pauline corpus to which Eph. (by a disciple) formed an introduction, to find the reference in Gal.'


This is the criterion to which most importance can be attached, and upon it those who deny the genuineness of the epistle lay the chief weight.
It must be remembered, however, that if Colossians is genuine, it is not enough to point to the undoubted fact that St. Paul's thoughts show an advance in several respects upon those in the epistles of the earlier groups.
They must show an advance upon the doctrine of Colossians marked enough to render the unity of authorship improbable.
This is not the case with several of the minor Johannine parallels that can be found.
The doctrinal differences between the two epistles can be explained, to a considerable extent, by the fact that Colossians is polemical and Ephesians is not.
In the former, Christ is declared to be supreme and central in the cosmos;
in the latter, the immanent Principle in the unity and spiritual growth of the Church.
Thus the subject matter of the two epistles is in some degree different, and it is impossible to maintain that while the former could be emphasized by St. Paul the latter could not, and must be sub-Pauline.
This will account for some of the affinities with the Johannine writings noted by Moffatt (p. 385): 'The unity of the church, including Gentiles as well as Jews, is the divine object of Christ's death'; 'the church is the πλήρωμα - (pleroma) of Christ and of God'; 'exceptional stress is laid on the functions of the Spirit, the word, and baptism, the unity of the church as the result of the divine unity between Christ and God and as the means of advancing the gospel'; 'the emphasis on ἀγιάζειν- (hagiazein) and cleansing' and 'on the duty of Christian love'.
One of the notable similarities between the two epistles is the absence of Jewish eschatological ideas.
A faint trace of the old language is seen in Col.iii.4, 'When Christ shall be manifestedour Life then shall ye also with Him be manifested in glory'.
But the idea is not that of a Parousia, but of an inward and spiritual triumph.
Similarly in Ephesians the writer looks forward to a great End, but it is spiritualized; it is a consummation to be reached in the far future by the spiritual growth of the Church; it is the (final) redemption of the purchased possession, of which the seal of the Spirit is the present pledge (i.14 f.); similarly iv.30; hence 'this age' can be contrasted with τῷ μέλλοντι - (to mellonti) (i.21); the Body of Christ must be built up 'till we all attain to the unity of faith in, and knowledge of, the Son of God, to a perfect Man' (iv.13); the inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God is a present one (v.5; cf. Col.i.13); so also is the coming of the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience (v.6); and this leaves room for 'ages to come' (ii. 7).
This spiritualizing of the great End was part of St. Paul's advance in thought [Cf. R. H. Charles, Eschatology, 1913, pp. 437 ff.; C. H. Dodd, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, xvii, 1933, pp. 91-105, and xviii, 1934, pp. 68-110; W. L. Knox, St. Paul and the Church of the Gentiles, 1939, pp. 111 ff.], which many [J. Lowe, J.T.S. xlii, 1941, pp. 129-42 and (for a well-informed criticism) W. D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism, 1948, pp. 285-320.] have unaccountably refused to admit, and was due to the lapse of time, in which his early expectations of the imminence of the Parousia were unfulfilled.

The differences between Colossians and Ephesians are mainly concerned with the meaning of Christ's Person and Death.
With this is connected the thought of the union of Jew and Gentile, which in Ephesians plays an important part, while in Colossians it appears only in iii.11, 'where there cannot be Greek and Jew, &c.', a sentence directed against the exclusive pride of Gnostic claims.
In Colossians the Mystery is 'Christ in you, the hope of glory' which is preached to the Gentiles (i.27); 'the Mystery of God, (even) Christ' (ii.2); 'the Mystery of Christ', i.e. the Mystery which is Christ (iv.3).
These passages emphasize the indwelling of Christ in Christians, which Gentile Christians were privileged to experience.
But in Ephesians 'the Mystery of Christ' is the fact that the Gentiles were allowed to be fellow-heirs (iii.5 f.). It is their inclusion that is the mystery.  

In Col. μυστήριον - (musterion) is equated with Christ, the Word of God. ...
Compared with Paul's earlier uses, it is a new and remarkable development.
Clearly Paul himself feels that this is so.
For the time being it is the dominant feature of his thinking.
If Ephesians were also from his hand, written at the same time as Colossians, we should expect to find some echo of this significance when the word was used again.
But we look in vain in the three contexts (i.9, iii.4, v.32) for any trace of it.
Here the meaning of the word is not only different (though partially related) but, as with πλήρωμα - (pleroma), lacking in precision and clarity.
[C. L. Mitton, Ex. T. Ix, 1949, pp. 320 f. In Eph.v.32 μυστήριον  - (musterion) may be used in a sense derived from the theology of the 'mystery' cults, cf. W. L. Knox, St. Paul and the Church of the Gentiles, pp. 182 f. and 227 f.] 

Correspondingly, the reconciliation effected through Christ's death is in Colossians (i.20) that of 'all things', 'whether things on earth or things in heaven', the latter being the angelic powers; and with all these the Gentiles also are reconciled to God.
In Ephesians, on the other hand, the cosmic significance of His death is not mentioned; His cosmic function of 'summing up all things' (i.10) is not connected with His death; the reconciliation is that of Jew and Gentile in one Body (ii.14-16).
Further, in Ephesians Christ's death is the means of redemption (i.7).
In Colossians it is His Person (i.14).
But the former is the more usual Pauline thought.  

In Colossians it is maintained that in Christ 'dwelleth all the Pleroma bodily', i.e. in concrete reality (ii.9).
This is in opposition to the Gnostic idea that Christ is only one among many emanations proceeding from the Pleroma.
And He is the Head of every (angelic) principality and authority (ii.10).
In Ephesians He as the Pleroma of God is immanent in Christians, the full spiritual wholeness towards which they must strive (iii.19, iv.13).
And He is the Head as the centre of coherence and unity of the Body, the true safeguard against false teaching and schism (iv.15 f.). C. L. Mitton argues that apart from Colossians and Ephesians the use of πλῆρομα - (pleroma) is without theological significance but that in Colossians it is used in a new and daring way to mean that the sum total of the divine character inhabited the human personality of Jesus but that in Ephesians it is used differently in a vague and obscure way, which would not be possible if Ephesians were Pauline and were written soon after Colossians (op. cit.).  

There might seem to be an advance of thought in respect of the Agent of reconciliation. In Col.i.20-22 (as in 2 Cor.v.18) it is God who reconciles to Himself all things in heaven and earth, supernatural powers and sinners, 'through Christ', 'through the blood of His Cross', 'in the body of His flesh'.
In Eph.ii.16 it is Christ Himself [Similarly, as Moffatt points out, in 1 Cor..28 God is the giver of spiritual gifts; but in Eph.iv.11 it is Christ.] who reconciles Jew and Gentile in one Body to God through the Cross.
But that can be balanced by a converse difference: in Eph. iv. 32 'God in Christ forgave you', while in Col.iii.13 'the Lord (i.e. Christ, as another reading has it) forgave you'.

Apart from these fundamentals there are expressions that might suggest a date later than St. Paul.
Perhaps the most striking are the use of 'the devil' (iv.27, vi.11), as in the Pastoral epistles, instead of 'Satan' as in 1, 2 Thess., 1, 2 Cor., Rom., the unique 'in the heavenlies' (i.3, 20, ii.6, iii.10, vi.12), the mention of 'His holy apostles and prophets' as having received the revelation of the mystery (iii.5), and of 'the apostles and prophets' as a recognized body constituting the foundation of the Church (ii.20).

These facts will appeal differently to different minds.
To some they will seem to be real differences in points of view, which could have been reached only by a 'sub-Pauline' writer approximating to the Johannine position, a Paulinist with a style of his own and the beginnings of a later vocabulary.
Any conclusion must be reached with hesitation.
If Ephesians is not Pauline, there is much to be said for Goodspeed's view that it served as an introductory epistle by a disciple to a Pauline corpus of letters.

Time and place of writing.

The indications suggest that the epistle was written at Rome, at the same time as Colossians.
The writer was in captivity; see iii.1, 'I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles'; iv.1, 'I the prisoner'; vi.20, 'the mystery of the Gospel, on behalf of which I am an ambassador in a chain'.
And, if Ephesians is St. Paul's, his conception of the Church as an organic unity, kept and controlled by Christ its Head, may well have owed something to the fact that he was in Rome, the capital of an empire which was highly organized and closely knit into a unity under Caesar its head.
The similarities with Colossians place the epistles, if St. Paul was the author of both, in immediate juxtaposition.
And Tychicus is spoken of (vi.21 f.) as bringing news of the writer, in words almost identical with Col.iv.7 f. [See p. 166.]


This is an enigma.
According to the Textus Receptus, followed in our AV and RV, the opening words are 'Paul ... to the saints which are at Ephesus (ἐν Ἐφέσῳ - (en Epheso) and the faithful in Christ Jesus'. But the most important authorities [B א P46, 1739, ancient codices known to St. Basil, Origen.] omit ἐν Ἐφέσῳ; Marcion (and, according to Tertullian [Adv. Marc. v. 11.], other heretics) styled the epistle 'to the Laodiceans'.
A place-name is required by the sense, τοῖς ἁγίοις  - (tois hagiois) and πιστοῖς - (pistois), 'the saints' and 'faithful', being a double description of the same persons, [J. P. Wilson has suggested that ἑνί - (heni) could easily have dropped out between οὖσιν and καί - (ousin and kai). If so, the original sense was 'to the saints who are one and faithful in Christ Jesus'. (Ex. T. Ix, 1949, p. 225.)], unless we take τοῖς οὖσιν - (tois ousin) to mean 'local', cf. the phrase in papyri τοῦ ὄντος μηνός - (tou ontos menos) 'the current month', ὁ ὤν - (ho on) meaning 'local' of place and 'current' of time, cf. Acts v.17, 'The local school of the Sadducees'.
Without it the words would mean 'to the saints who are also faithful', which is next to impossible.
And yet, if the epistle was written to the Christians at Ephesus, it is surprising that it contains no greetings to individuals, and even more so if the theory is correct that Rom.xvi.1-23, with its numerous salutations, was a letter to Ephesus (see pp. 154, 158 f.).
This has led many to think that it was a circular letter intended for more than one Church, so that no salutations were possible, and that St. Paul's amanuensis left a blank to be filled in with the name of each Church to which Tychicus was to carry a copy.
The further suggestion has been made, assuming that the theory of the circular letter is correct, that that letter is referred to in Col.iv.16 in the injunction that the Colossians are to 'read the letter that is [i.e. that will be forwarded to them] from Laodicea'.
It is thought that since the Colossians were receiving a letter of their own, St. Paul might think it unnecessary to send them also a copy of the circular letter.
But this is unlikely, because if he wished them to read it as well as their own, it would be more natural that he should send them a copy.
But the circular letter theory is not without its difficulties.
If the amanuensis wrote out several copies, it was as easy for him to insert the place-name as for anyone else.
And even if he left a blank, why should he omit the preposition ἐν - (en)? Did it drop out after ἑνι - (eni)?
Moreover, our earliest manuscripts, all of which omit ἐν  and the place-name, must have been copied from earlier manuscripts, which finally go back to an archetype, which omitted them, for it is impossible to think that any scribes would omit them if they found them in the archetype.
We are thus reduced to the improbable supposition that the archetype of our manuscripts was a spare copy which omitted them, and which was never delivered.
If Ephesians was a circular letter, a solution which is just possible would be that the Laodiceans, being bidden to send it on to Colossae, and not wishing to part with their own letter, sent a copy which they made themselves, omitting ἐν Λαοδικίᾳ - (en Laodikia); that this was the copy used when the collection of Pauline epistles was made, and if, as is possible, that took place at Ephesus the words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ - (en Ephesoi) were inserted later.
Yet another solution has been proposed that the letter was written to a single Church, and originally ended with some salutations, but that when a desire was felt to use it for general purposes in the Church, editors omitted ἐν and the place-name together with the salutations.
In this case, if Ephesus was not its original destination, Marcion and others may have been right after all in styling it 'to the Laodiceans'.
After the collection of letters was made, the presence of a place-name in the other letters made its absence in this one noticeable, and ἐν Ἐφέσῳ was inserted.
Harnack suggests, rather fancifully, that the name Laodicea was omitted when it had become a name of ignominy in the Church (see Rev. iii. 1416).
But there are two objections to the theory.
The writing is much more suitable as a general epistle than addressed to a particular Church.
And the general salutations in the last two verses'peace be to the brethren', 'grace be with all those who love', &c. make it difficult to think that they were originally preceded by particular salutations.
Perhaps the true solution has yet to be found, unless Goodspeed's theory is accepted, that Ephesians was written by a Pauline disciple as a preface to a corpus of Pauline letters.


Contents | Unity | Time & place | Top


Apart from iii.2-iv.1 (see below) this affectionate letter to St. Paul's best-loved converts is mainly concerned with personal matters.
After the opening salutation, thanksgiving, and prayer (i.1-11) he gives an account of himselfthe spiritual result of his imprisonment (i.12-18), and his hopes of 'salvation', i.e. probably his acquittal and release from bonds; for himself he would prefer death, but for their sakes he wants to live, and is confident of regaining his freedom and of seeing them again (i.19-26).
He will send Timothy, of whom he speaks in the highest praise, as soon as his own affairs are settled (ii.19-24).
Meantime he is sending Epaphroditus, who had brought a contribution from them.
Epaphroditus had almost worked himself to death in supplying the apostle's needs, and was greatly troubled that the Philip-plans had heard of his consequent illness (ii.25-30).
He concludes the letter by expressing his thanks for their contribution, adding that he quite understood that their lack of opportunity had prevented them from helping him earlier.
He had learnt, indeed, to be content in any circumstances, but their kindness was good, and they knew that he had accepted help, when he left Macedonia, from no other Church (iv.10-18).
And he ends with a closing prayer for them, salutations, and the Grace (iv.19-23).  

But with all these friendly messages he was obliged to speak of things that were not right with them.
There were dissensions among them, so that he must appeal to them to show a united front (i.27-30); and to live in unity and humility (ii.1-4).
This he enforces, in a sublime passage [Derived from a Christian hymn perhaps, cf. E. Lohmeyer, Der Brie/an dit Philipper, 1928, pp. 90 ff.], by pointing to the Self-emptying of Christ and of His glory which followed (ii.5-11).
They must 'therefore avoid murmurings and disputings, and set a shining example to the non-Christians round them (ii.12-18).
He begins to draw the letter to a close (iii.1), but is constrained to renew his appealfirst, to two women, Euodia and Syntyche, who were probably the chief source of the dissensions (iv.2, 3), and then to all, to let everyone see their selfless yielding of their own rights and wishes, because Christ is coming soon who will put everything right, to pray and give thanks and be guarded in the peace of God (iv.4-7).
If their minds are set on the highest things, the God of Peace will be with them (iv.8, 9).

The contents, as here sketched, form a complete and simple whole.
The remaining passage, iii. 2-iv. i, is quite foreign to it, and raises the question of the unity of the epistle.


In the midst of grateful messages, and gentle and loving admonitions, this unexpected passage reveals the apostle in a wholly different mood.
His pen suddenly becomes the rapier of the combatant, with which he attacks a twofold enemy,

  1. He is on fire against Judaizers, as in Galatians.
    He hurls at them the epithet 'dogs', which they used of Gentiles, and scornfully speaks of circumcision as 'concision', mere mutilation (iii.2).
    And, as in 2 Corinthians, he asserts with vehemence his own authority, high status, and aims as a Christian (vv. 4-14), calling upon the readers not to take a retrograde step (vv.15 f.), but to imitate him (v.17).
  2. He laments that many do not.
    They are not only Judaizers, but, like the false teachers attacked in Rom. xvi. 17 f. (see p. 155), libertines, 'the enemies of the Cross of Christ, whose end is perdition, whose God is their belly and whose glory is in their shame, whose mind is centred upon earthly things'.
    The body of the true Christian, on the contrary, belongs already to the heavenly polity, whence Christ will appear, and is being prepared for the final transformation into the body of His glory (vv.17-21). 

It is scarcely possible to resist the conclusion that this is a fragment of another letter written by St. Paul to other readers.
There is no evidence that the simple-minded Philippians were troubled either by Judaism or by libertinism.
And Lightfoot's artificial explanation is unconvincingthat St. Paul was interrupted in his writing, and in the interval heard that these enemies were making trouble at Philippi, so that when he sat down to write again he plunged into violent controversy before resuming his affectionate appeal to the readers to be at unity.
That fragments were incorporated in other letters has been shown to be probable in the case of 2 (pp. 139f.), and possibly Rom. xvi.1-23 (pp. 1541.).
Many would add 2 Cor.x-i (pp. 139 ff.). Opinions differ as to 'whether the words of iii.1b, 'To write the same things unto you is not irksome to me but safe for you', belong to the fragment or not.
'To write the same things' may mean 'to bring up the subject of your dissensions again' (so Lightfoot; and the setting of the verse in Westcott and Hort's text implies the same).
If this is right, it is almost certain that iv.2 ff., in which the subject is brought up again, must have followed immediately.
Another explanation is that the half-verse belongs to the fragment, and 'to write the same things' means to bring up again the subject of the heresies, which we must suppose the apostle had already attacked in the earlier, lost portion of the letter to which the fragment belongs.
But the former seems the more probable.

Time and place.

The theory has been so widely accepted that our epistle, together with the other three in this group, was written in captivity at Rome that it was thought best to study it at this point.
The apostle was clearly a prisoner, for he speaks three times of his 'bonds' (i.7, 13, 17).
And this could not have been at Caesarea.
Just before starting for Rome, since he hoped soon to visit the Philippians (ii.24), and speaks of his renewed presence with them (i.26).
But it is possible that he wrote the letter at Ephesus during his long stay there after leaving Antioch for the third time for missionary work.
The arguments for Rome and Ephesus respectively are as follows:

1. Rome.

(a) He says that 'his bonds have become manifest in Christ in the whole praetorium, and to all the rest' (i.13).
The last words make it probable that the praetorium is not the Emperor's 'palace' (AV), nor its barracks, nor the military camp outside the walls, but a body of persons.
And these have been held to be either the 'praetorian guard' (RV, following J. B. Lightfoot [Philippians, pp. 99-104.]) or the imperial court, 'the whole body of persons connected with the sitting in judgment' (Ramsay [St. Paul, the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, p. 357.]).
Lightfoot (p. 19) thinks of 'the praetorian soldiers, drafted off successively to guard him and constrained while on duty to bear him company'.
But since they numbered some 9,000 men, and one soldier guarded him at a time, the words must be hyperbolical, not literal.
If, however, the words were written at Rome, this remains the best explanation.
The objection to Ramsay's meaning is that there is no evidence for it.

(b) Among the Christians who send greetings are 'especially they of Caesar's household' (iv.22).
There were, no doubt, Christians to be found in the enormous numbers of the Emperor's slaves and courtiers.
See Lightfoot, Philemon, p. 319, and Sanday and Headlam on the households of Aristobulus and Narcissus, Rom.xvi.10, 11.

(c) Timothy joins in the opening salutation as in Colossians and Philemon. 

But among those who accept this evidence there is a difference of opinion as to whether the epistle was the earliest or the latest of the Roman group. 

(i) For the earlier date Lightfoot points to the very close affinity in language and thought with Romans (see his parallels, Philippians, pp. 43 f.), and the great difference from them of the language and thought of Colossians and Ephesians.
He says, 'The heresies, which the apostle here combats (sc. in Col. and Eph.), are no longer the crude, materialistic errors of the early childhood of Christianity, but the more subtle speculations of its maturer age'.
But these differences are, in fact, too great to render the argument safe, since on the theory of Rome as the place of writing all the development and growth to maturity take place within the two years or so of his imprisonment there.
It would be easier to recognize that the minds of the Philippians were simpler and more elementary than those of the Asiatic Christians, and therefore needed different teaching.

(ii) For the later date it is argued:

(a) That some time was needed for the communications between St. Paul and the Philippiansfor them to send a contribution by Epaphroditus, for him to fall ill by overwork on St. Paul's behalf, for the news of it to reach them, and for St. Paul to hear that they had received the news.
Lightfoot contrives to explain it all by two journeys; but in any case, if the journey between Rome and Philippi occupied about a month, as he reckons, not more than, say, five months are required,

(b) St. Paul's 'defence (apologia) of the Gospel' (i.16) is explained by Ramsay as the defence of his own case in the Emperor's court; and his 'salvation' (v. 19) as the acquittal which he expected with some confidence, though he was prepared for the possibility of martyrdom (ii. 17).

(c) If Ramsay's explanation of the word praetorium is correct, it is another indication that the trial was actually in process.
The epistle would thus be placed close to the end of the captivity of Acts xxviii.

2. Ephesus.1

1(The arguments for the Ephesian theory are discussed by F. B. Clogg, Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 67-80, and C. H. Dodd, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, xxiv, 1934, pp. 92 ff., cf. M. Goguel, op. cit. iv. i, pp. 414 ff. The fullest defence of this theory is to be found in G. S. Duncan's St. Paul's Ephesian Ministry, 1929.] 

The three arguments for Rome can be used with equal force for Ephesus.

(a) An inscription [J. T. Wood, Discoveries at Ephesus, 1877, App. 7, p. 4: "T. Valerio T. F. Secundo Militis Cohortis VII Praetoriae Centuriae Seven.'] found there shows that praetorian soldiers were stationed in the city.
And they would be much fewer in number than in Rome, so that St. Paul's words could be understood literally,

(b) Another inscription [Ibid., p. 18: 'Quorum [a monument and sarcophagus] Curam Agunt Collegia Libertorum Et Servorum Domini Nostri August;.'] speaks of 'the slaves of our Lord Augustus', which shows that they and his freedmen were numerous enough to form burial clubs,

(c) Timothy was with the apostle at Ephesus (Acts.xix.22), but there is no certainty that he was at Rome.
(If Heb. was addressed to Rome, Heb.i.23 suggests that he was known there.)

(d) Further, the similarities with Romans can be accounted for if the epistle was written at Ephesus just before St. Paul started to go via Macedonia to Corinth, where he wrote Romans,

(e) And his expectation to visit the Philippians soon was natural, since he would certainly stop at Philippi on his way through Macedonia.

(f) The Philippians had waited a long time to send him a contribution, because, as he says, they 'had lacked opportunity' (iv.10).
If he wrote from Ephesus this was really the case, because he had been far away in Palestine and Galatia since leaving Corinth (Acts xviii.18-23, xix.1).
But if he wrote from Rome, it was after staying three months in Corinth (Acts xx.3), when they could easily have sent him supplies as they had done during his previous Corinthian visit.
Indeed they could actually have given them to him in person when he was passing through Macedonia to Corinth.
Written from Rome the words convey a rebuke, which, however gentle and tactful, is unexpected after their previous liberality on more than one occasion, which he gratefully records in iv.15, 16.

(g) The Parousia of Christ is still thought of as imminent; 'the Lord is at hand' (iv.5) is similar to 'Maran-atha' (1 Cor.xvi.22).
It is difficult to place this in close conjunction with Colossians and Ephesians, in which, as has been said, the eschatology is largely spiritualized.
The same must be said of the fragment iii.2-iv.1, in which 'heaven' is that 'from which we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ' (iii.20); and the transformation of our bodies at the Parousia (v.21) carries on the thought of 1 Cor.xv.51-53.

No one would hesitate to regard this evidence as conclusive were it not that there is no mention in the Acts of an imprisonment at Ephesus.
But neither is there any mention of the acute sufferings and perils of which the apostle himself speaks.
His fighting 'with beasts at Ephesus' (1 Cor.xv.32), whether this refers to men1 or to actual wild animals, implies physical hardships, which point to imprisonment.
And the same is true of his affliction in Asia, an overpowering burden that made him despair of life (2 Cor.i.8), and the anguish of mind and body depicted in 1 Cor.iv.9-13 (written at Ephesus), and in 2 Cor.iv.8-12 (written shortly afterwards, cf. Acts xx.18 f. Moreover, the sufferings recounted in 2 f., xi.23-27, including 'prisons' in the plural, the only imprisonment previously related in the Acts being that at Philippi (xvi.24), show how little weight can be attached to St. Luke's silence about one at Ephesus.
1[With the metaphorical use cf. Ignatius, Rom.5.
But if 'beasts' is literal, the words must be rendered 'If after the manner of men I had fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage would it have been to me, &c.?', since a Roman citizen could not suffer the disgrace of the arena.
If he was condemned ad leones, and escaped only because his Roman citizenship was discovered (cf. Acts xvi.38 f., x.26-29), he was almost Certainly in prison for a short time.]

That silence makes it impossible to place the writing of the epistle with complete certainty at Ephesus, but the theory has great probability.
If it is accepted, Philippians must be placed in the second group, in close conjunction with 1 Corinthians and probably Galatians, and before 2 Corinthians and Romans.
And the fragment iii.2-iv.1 was probably written at the same time, perhaps to some neighbouring Church in Asia.

Dr. T. W. Manson [Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, xi, 1938, pp. 182 ff.] would go farther, arguing that if the Roman origin of Philippians is abandoned, there is no need to suppose that when St. Paul wrote this letter he was in prison.
The references to the 'bonds' in i.7 can be taken to mean all the unpleasant experiences which he underwent from his first day at Philippi; ii. 17 can be taken to mean, 'We are in the same straits; let us show the same invincible joy in facing the odds together.' In iv.14 θλψις - (thlipsis) need not mean 'the tribulation of imprisonment' but tribulation in the widest sense, such as lack of food, shelter, and friends.
The reference to the Praetorium in i.13 is taken to indicate a 'Government house' somewhere in the provinces.
The suggestion is that St. Paul had been detained while awaiting trial but that now the trial is over; St. Paul has been acquitted and, being free, he can propose to visit Philippi.
This letter may well be from Ephesus, says Dr. Manson, but not from prison.

Similarly, H. Wedell [Theology, l, 1947, pp. 366-72.] has considered the Pauline words like (σύν]δοῦλος, δέσμιος, δεσμός, συναιχμάλωτος, ἅλυσις - ((sun) doulos, desmios, desmos, sunaichmalotos, halusis), and he finds that they are all used metaphorically to express 'spiritual imprisonment' or 'total apprehension in the service of Christ'.
But this may well seem a reductio ad absurdum of this theory.

Most scholars, however, are prepared to admit that, despite the silence of Acts, St. Paul may have been imprisoned at Ephesus even if they treat as a different question whether St. Paul wrote any other letters, besides Philippians possibly, from Ephesus.
Setting aside the late tradition of the lion to whom St. Paul was thrown at Ephesus licking his feet or of the building there known as his prison or of the Monarchian Prologue to Colossians, probably Marcionite in origin despite Lagrange, which speaks of St. Paul thus, 'Apostolus iam ligatus scribit eis ab Epheso', and which is as unreliable as the other Prologues ascribing Philemon and 'Laodiceans' to Paul at Rome, we have references in 2 Cor.i.8-10; xi.23; 1 Cor.xv.30-32; Rom.xvi.3, 7, which are best explained by the theory that St. Paul was imprisoned at Ephesus, though St. Luke did not think it necessary to include a reference to it in Acts.
But whether Colossians, Philemon, and Ephesians (if Pauline) were written from Ephesus possibly during imprisonment is a different matter.
When the two former letters were written, St. Luke was with St. Paul.
We are told that he was with him in Rome, but we do not learn that they were together in Ephesus; as Acts xix is not part of the 'We-sections' the implication is that if Luke wrote Acts he was not with Paul at Ephesus.
Against that, Timothy, another companion of the imprisonment letters, is known to have been with Paul at Ephesus but is not known for certain to have been with him at Rome.
It is doubtful, it may be argued, whether Onesimus, the runaway slave, would have fled to Ephesus or to distant Rome, to escape detection.
If Colossians, with which Philemon must go closely, was written from Ephesus, it was penned not long after 2 Cor.i-ix, which seems unlikely. [C. A. A. Scott, J.T.S. xxxi, 1929-30, pp. 197-9.] F. B. Clogg [Op. cit., p. 80.] has concluded, 'The cumulative evidence may seem to favour Ephesus as the place of writing of Philippiansbut it does not amount to proof.
On the other hand, the balance of evidence supports Rome, the traditional place of writing of the other three captivity epistles.'


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W. L. Knox,

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K. Barth (1926, trans. by Sir E. C. Hoskyns, 1933), E. Brunner (1948), C. H. Dodd (1932), K. E. Kirk (1937). M. J. Lagrange (1931) H. Lietzmann (yd ed., 1937), W. Sanday and W. Headlam (1900), E. F. Scott (1947]


E. B. Allo (1935), E. Evans (1930), H. L. Goudge (1903), J. Hering (1948), H. Lietzmann (1949), N. Micklem (1920), J. Moffatt (1938), A. Robertson and A. Plummer (1911), J. Weiss (9th ed., 1910).


E. B. Allo (1937), A. Crosthwaite (1919), H. L. Goudge (1927), A. Menzies (1912), A. Plummer (1915), R. H. Strachan (1935) H. Windisch (1924).


F. Amiot (1946), A. W. F. Blunt (1925), E. de W. Burton (1921), G. S. Duncan (1934), C. W. Emmet (1912), M.J. Lagrange (4th ed., 1942), H. Lietzmann (1932), J. B. Lightfoot (loth ed., 1890), Sir W. M. Ramsay (1899), H. Schlier (1949). Ephesians: T. K. Abbott (1897), C. Gore (1898), W. Lock (1929), J. Armitage Robinson (1903), E. F. Scott (1923), B. F. Westcott (1906).


E. J. Bicknell (1932), M. Dibelius (1937), J. E. Frame (1912), E. Lohmeyer (3rd ed., 1937), G. Milligan (1908), W. Neil (1948), A. Plummer (1918).


P. Bonnard (1950), M. Dibelius (1937), M. Jones (1918), J. B. Lightfoot (2nd ed., 1869), E. Lohmeyer (1937), J. H. Michael (1928), A. Plummer (1919), E. F. Scott (1923), M. R. Vincent (1897).


T. K. Abbot (1897), M. Dibelius (192 7), J. B. Lightfoot (1875,) E. Lohmeyer (1930), C. Masson (1950), L. B. Radford (1931).