Help! What are the Controversial/Debated Issues in Ephesians?

I am currently reviewing an Ephesians commentary and I am just now through the introduction and getting into the commentary notes. Writing a review of a commentary is very difficult because there is so much information and it is more of a reference work than a monograph (how do you review a dictionary, for example?). There are many things to mention regarding Ephesians in general – authorship, purposes for the text, “Paul and Politics” issues, engaging with the “New Perspective,” etc… I will, of course, treat these issues.

What about the commentary text itself? For any of you more familiar with the history of scholarship on Ephesians, what are the key debated texts and issues of interpretation? I have some idea (esp in view of similar issues in Colossians), but I thought I would throw the question out there.

Again: what are the most debated texts and issues in Ephesians? (My own interest is in the use of the OT, and also the purpose and theological perspective of the household code.)

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8 thoughts on “Help! What are the Controversial/Debated Issues in Ephesians?

  1. One of my former professors, David Alan Black, has mentioned that for some this is a dead issue, but he personally thinks it should be addressed: in the greetings section of the letter, the phrase “in Ephesus” is an important textual variant. It helps to identify purposes of the letter based on providence.

  2. Some major issues I have come across are 1) the Dispensationalism vs. Covenant Theology debate in the first half of the book, along with 2) the Cessationalist vs. Continualist debate on passages such as 2:20 and 4:11.

  3. Tim Gombis has noted many of the controversial elements of Ephesians in his various articles. Here are a couple: a) Does Ephesians contain a single argument, or is it just loosely connected thoughts? b) What is the relationship between 3:1-13 and the rest of the letter?

    Hope that helps.

  4. I concur with the other comments. I’d be interested to know if the author considers exegetically significant the religious context of western Asia Minor generally and first century Ephesus in particular (esp. Clint Arnold’s thesis about magic in Ephesus). Also, is 3:1-13 apologetic, or does it serve another function? And what is up with the three instances of oikonomia in Ephesians?

  5. In the local church, people will be interested in the armor of God. There is some debate over how the pieces of armor should be interpreted. I have an article on the “breastplate of righteousness: virtue or imputation?” in Tyndale Bulletin in the 2006 (?) volume.

  6. The letter itself speaks in a lot of generalities, so it is hard to pick a controversial subject. Other than the obvious one of women and men and the subject of submission. The only other one I can think of at this moment is the theology of Ephesians/Colossians teaching that we are with Christ in the heavenly realms, which according to Dr. Ehrman paints a totally different teaching than Romans, Galatians, Corinthians that the resurrection is a future event not a present one

  7. Not quite a controversy, but Julien Smith’s Christ the Ideal King argues that Ephesians depicts Jesus as, um, the ideal king according to the assumptions about monarchy in Ephesus. It’s worth checking out re: the structure and rhetoric of Ephesians.

  8. I think the background and significance of the “power”, and also “revelation” language in Ephesians has not received as much attention as it deserves. I suspect a link with Daniel is inevitable, even though not many have explored that link.

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