Friday, May 19, 2006

NTW and the Authorship of Ephesians

Here is another choice "morsel" from Wright's "Paul: In Fresh Perspective."

"[I]t may be high time to enquire about some of the supposed 'fixed points' of scholarship which, growing as they did out of a very different era to our own, may perhaps have been allowed to remain more by fashion (and the fear of being thought unscholarly if one challenges such fashion) than by solid argument. Take, for example, the widespread assumption still common in many quarters that not only Ephesians but also Colossians are not written by Paul himself, even if they may contain some material that goes back to him. There are, of course, many interesting points to be made on this subject. But our suspicions ought to be aroused by the fact that such consensus as there has ever beeon on the subject came from the time when the all-dominant power in New Testament scholarship lay with a particular kind of German existentialist-Lutheranism for whom any ecclesiology other than a purely functional one, any view of Jesus Christ other than a fairly low Christology, any view of creation other than a Barthian 'Nein', was deeply suspect. The false/either or, as I would see it, of justification or the church, of salvation or creation, hovered as a brooding presence over the smaller arguments (which are in any case always unconvincing, given the very small textual base) from style. The extremely marked stylistic difference between 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians is far greater than that between, say, Romans and Ephesians, but nobody supposes for that reason that one of them is not by Paul. In particular, the assumption that a high Christology must mean later, and non-Pauline, authorship has been brought to the material, not discovered within it. And the argument recently advanced (in North America particularly) that Ephesians and Colossians are secondary because they move away from confrontation with the Empire to colloboration with it is frankly absurd" (18-19).

I certainly have not read everything written on the authorship of Ephesians. However, I do feel confident enough to suggest that the consensus view (non-Pauline authorship) does not seem to have the strong support that some would imagine. By the way, given my interest in "anti-Imperial rhetoric" in Ephesians, I certainly appreciate Wright's final sentence [for a helpful analysis of the relationship between the Ephesians household-code and traditional Graeco-Roman thought, see T. Gombis, "A Radically New Humanity: The Function of the Haustaufel in Ephesians," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 48 (2005): 317-30].

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Max Turner on Ephesians 1:10b

Ephesians 1:3-14 contains a number of "thorny" interpretative issues. A particularly significant problem is the meaning and translation of the infinitive anakephalaiwsasthai in 1:10b. Given that this phrase expresses a central part of the author's (Paul?) argument (scholars suggest 1:9-10 is the focal point of the passage), interpretative precision on this issue is critical to understanding this passage. Here is Max Turner's ("Mission and Meaning in Terms of 'Unity' in Ephesians" in Mission and Meaning: Essays Presented to Peter Cotterell) assessment:

"The translation of the verb anakephalaioo as "to bring back into unity" requires some brief justification. While the NIV follows an exegetical tradition that takes the verb to mean 'bring under one head', this should probably be rejected because it would suggest (incorrectly) that the verb derives from the noun kephale ('head') rather than from kephalaion ('main point', 'summary'). Etymology would thus rather support the sense 'to sum up' (as in Rom. 13:9) or possibly 'to recapitulate' (if weight is given to the prefix) . . . the phrase 'all things . . . the things in the heavens and the things on earth in him' strongly evokes the centre-piece hymnic passage of the sister letter, Colossians (1:15-20). The latter asserts that all things 'in the heavens and on the earth' were initially created in Christ (1:16), and that through the death and resurrection-exaltation of Christ 'all things' 'whether on earth or in the heavens' would eventually once more become reconciled (i.e. brought back from warring alienation into peaceful unity under God). The Colossians parallel thus suggests that the 'summing up' of all things in Christ envisaged in Ephesians 1:10 is God's bringing of them back into harmonious unity in and through Christ" (139-140).

Turner's essay also has some helpful comments on the relationship between Eph 1-3 and 4-6. Especially interesting is his discussion of the author's "new creation" theology, a motif that is implicit in Eph 1:10 and finds expression throughout the letter (cf. 2:1-10; 4:17-24).