The Function of δέ in Ephesians – Part II

Previously we examined the first five occurrences of δέ in Ephesians 1-4.24. As I had noted previously, I’m presently stopping at verse 24 because that is where I am studying right now. As I complete the rest of the book I intend on adding the rest of the occurrences. The rest of the hits occur in four verses and we’ll be looking at them below:

Ephesians 4:11 καὶ αὐτὸς ἔδωκεν τοὺς μὲν ἀποστόλους, τοὺς δὲ προφήτας, τοὺς δὲ εὐαγγελιστάς, τοὺς δὲ ποιμένας καὶ διδασκάλους,
“He gifted some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists and others as pastors and teachers.”

This verse picks up right after Paul’s interruptive question at 4.9-10 that discussed previously. What is unique about the use of δέ in this verse is that this is the only place in Ephesians where δέ serves to connect smaller units – individual noun phrases.

This is one place where Perhaps Buth’s description does not completely fit unless we add to the meaning of “close connection.” Specifically, this is a μὲν . . . δέ construction. It might be able to be viewed as a sort of contrast: “He gifted some as apostles, but others as prophets, but I don’t know if that would work for all such constructions. I would suggest that Paul is using δέ between the noun phrases because he wants to draw a distinction between the different gifts and the two that are tied together with a καί. This makes sense if assume Buth’s understanding of καί as marking a close connection in content with no significant change, which also fits with the use of only one article to subsume both ποιμένας and διδασκάλους. So then the sets that are separated by δέ could be considered distinct and unique gifts, separate from each other. But regardless of whether we conclude that we can fit these instances into Buth’s scheme, we do see clearly in this verse an excellent example that δέ does not mean “but.”

Ephesians 4:15: ἀληθεύοντες δὲ ἐν ἀγάπῃ αὐξήσωμεν εἰς αὐτὸν τὰ πάντα, ὅς ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλή, Χριστός,

This particular occurrence is rather interesting because it occurs within a larger clause complex rather than connecting separate paragraphs as we have generally seen. The full context is 4:11-16. I’ve put the location of our conjunction in bold.

He gifted some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists and others as pastors and teachers for the effective training of God’s people – toward building up Christ’s body until we all arrive unified in faith and knowledge of the Son of God and until we reach completion – the standard of maturity that is the fullness of Christ. He gifted these people so that we might no longer be children who are carried and tossed about by waves and every wind of teaching by the craftiness of people and their deceitful cleverness, but instead by speaking the truth in love, we might grow toward that one perfectly whole person, who is the head – Christ. Because of him the whole body, joined and held together by all the supporting ligaments, by the operation of each individual part, produces growth, building itself up in love.

But even though this instances of δέ is found within a larger sentence, it still fits the categories. Note that we have that same shift in content between two kinds of people as before (+significant change) and also a distinct contrast between them (-close connection). Here Paul sets up spiritual growth in opposition to the faddish followers of crafty and deceitful people.

Ephesians 4:20 ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐχ οὕτως ἐμάθετε τὸν Χριστόν,
“But that is not how you were taught Christ.”

We’ve now arrived to the passage I’m presently working on: Ephesians 4.20-24. And here we have occurrences of δέ. One in this verse and one below in verse 23. In this first occurrence of δέ, we have a contrast drawn between two kinds of people. Previously in verses 17-19, Paul has spent some time describing “how the gentiles walk.” Here in verse twenty, Paul bring his audience back to the right way to walk. The focus has changed by to the Christian life and Paul draws a contrast with the gentile’s life.

Ephesians 4:23: ἀνανεοῦσθαι δὲ τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ νοὸς ὑμῶν
“But be renewed in the attitude of your mind.”

Here we have a situation similar to 4.15, where δέ appears in the middle of a complex of clauses. But it is clear what is going on: Like in other places in Ephesians Paul again creates between the old humanity (22) and its behavior and the new humanity and its behavior (23-24).


Overall, I do think that Buth’s scheme provides a workable model for understanding the function and usage of δέ in Ephesians. There are times where I am not entirely sure what the “significant change” is (e.g. 4.23 right above), but in general, things are quite clear. If anything, Buth’s little chart provides a helpful and practical model for examining δέ and not being surprised with it isn’t translated as “but.”

7 thoughts on “The Function of δέ in Ephesians – Part II

Add yours

  1. Regarding 4:11, you didn’t mention that the δὲ is part of the μὲν . . . δὲ . . . construction. How does this construction fit in, alter, agree, or disagree with Buth’s understanding of δὲ?

  2. I don’t think it does fit; I’m unfamiliar with Buth’s framework except for what you have summarized thus far. According to the summary, it seems that Buth’s framework treats δὲ independently only and does not account for idiomatic constructions such as the μὲν . . . δὲ . . .

    I like the thoughts that you added in

    I’d like to add that this mini-series is very helpful work

  3. Mike, this is good stuff indeed. I’m not familiar with Buth work either, but I wish to respond to the following quote from you post:

    “I would suggest that Paul is using δέ between the noun phrases because he wants to draw a distinction between the different gifts and the two that are tied together with a καί.”

    Well, we already have “τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ προφητῶν,” “the apostles and prophets,” in 2:20, forming a unit. but not the same at 4:11. So I don’t know.

    But then we have τοὺς δὲ ποιμένας καὶ διδασκάλους, “the shepherds and teachers,” as another unit.

    I see the series of δὲ preceded by μὲν as marking a somewhat new section of thought.

  4. TC: I’d say that all 2.20 shows is that we have no reason to expect Paul to be in any way precise in the systematic theological way that we’d prefer him to be. The focus at 2.20 is the foundation of the church and has nothing to do with gifting in the body.

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