The book of Ephesians is part of a group of Pauline letters we commonly call the “prison epistles.” These are letters which Paul wrote while he was imprisoned in Rome (Ephesians 3:1; 4:1).
The book is a companion letter to Colossians. The two books parallel one another in content. Notice a few examples:
|Ephesians 1:7||>>>>>>>>>>||Colossians 1:14|
|Ephesians 1:9||>>>>>>>>>>||Colossians 1:26|
|Ephesians 1:11||>>>>>>>>>>||Colossians 1:12|
|Ephesians 1:19||>>>>>>>>>>||Colossians 1:16|
|Ephesians 1:22-23||>>>>>>>>>>||Colossians 1:18|
|Ephesians 2:1||>>>>>>>>>>||Colossians 2:13|
|Ephesians 2:11-14||>>>>>>>>>>||Colossians 1:20-21|
Though we call the book Ephesians, and the city of Ephesus is referenced in 1:1, it is questionable whether it was in fact written to the Ephesian church. There is nothing else in the book which links it to Ephesus but thus verse, and not all manuscript copies identify Ephesus as the recipient. Marcion (85-160) believed it was written to Laodicean, though he was labeled a heretic for this (among other things). Tertullian (155-220) believed it was to Ephesus, not due to 1:1, but because it was “…the true tradition of the Church.” Neither Origin (185-254) nor Basil (330-379) cited it as the letter to Ephesus.
What strikes me about the book is the lack of personal remarks. Paul worked with the Ephesian church for 3 years (Acts 19:8-10; 20:31). Paul worked in the city of Corinth for half that time, had a difficult relationship with the church there, and yet we see him give personal greetings (1 Corinthians 16:15-17) and speak about times he visited (1 Corinthians 2:1; 2 Corinthians 1:23). He spent much less time in Philippi and had never been to Colossae, but he gave personal greetings to both (Philippians 4:2, 18; Colossians 4:12, 17). He also references visits to Galatia, Philippi, and Thessalonica (Galatians 4:11-14; Philippians 1:27, 30; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12), but there are no personal greetings or mention of visits in the book we identify as Ephesians. Also, there is no mention of the troubles which he spoke of to the Ephesian elders when they met him in Miletus (Acts 20:17, 26-30).
Why would Marcion think the letter was to the Laodiceans rather than the Ephesians? In the parallel letter, we find this:
Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. (COLOSSIANS 4:16)
There’s a “Laodicean letter” in existence, but it is not authentic and has been universally rejected. But, if the Laodicean letter mentioned in Colossians 4:16 is an inspired letter, it cannot have just disappeared. 1 Peter 1:24-25 says God’s word endures forever! I am of the mind that the letter we call Ephesians is to Laodicea. Should we then identify it as Laodiceans? Such would be confusing since the traditional name dating back to before Tertullian is Ephesians. There is no harm calling it Ephesians, but hopefully it is helpful to consider the above stated information.
Here is a summary of the book of Ephesians:
- All Spiritual Blessings (1:1-14)
- Making Mention of you in my Prayers (1:15-23)
- Salvation by Grace (2:1-10)
- Reconciliation in Christ (2:11-22)
- The Mystery of Christ (3:1-13)
- I Bow my Knees (3:14-21)
- Walk worthy of the Calling (4:1-16)
- No longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk (4:17-32)
- Walk in Love … Light … Wisdom (5:1-21)
- Wives, Submit … Husbands, Love (5:22-33)
- Children … Bondservants … Masters (6:1-9)
- The Whole Armor of God (6:10-24)
Next time, we’ll look at Philippians.