Taking up a Small Point

I’ve been perusing the comments of a thread of 400 here.

In one comment, HERE, John Hobbins wrote,

One clear reason is that 5:21 was normally read until the discovery of P46 with what precedes, not with what follows.

I take issue with that. The YLT, Darby, & ASV all read 5:21 with what follow.

I could write about Ephesians 5:18-24 all night.

But I won’t.


I might take this as an excuse to update and revise my SBL paper from 2003. Maybe I’ll post it as I do.

9 thoughts on “Taking up a Small Point

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  1. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for taking another look at these questions. I am still under the impression that before the discovery of P46, 5:21 was *normally* (not always) read with what precedes. Wasn’t there a lectionary break between 5:21 and 5:22 in the ancient church? Perhaps I am misinformed.

    I’m not familiar with your SBL paper. Sounds very interesting!

    In general terms (not in all details), I am comfortable with the exegetical arguments and conclusions of Andrew Lincoln, James Dunn, and John Elliot on the respective parallel passages in Ephesians 5-6, Colossians 3-4, and 1 Peter 2-3.

    I mention all three passages because it stands to reason, based on structural, thematic, and verbal similarities that these passages are saying basically the same thing, whatever that “thing” is.

    Does that sound to you like a cogent working hypothesis?

    As far as I can see, that “thing” is that Paul and Peter sought to uphold the institutions and cultural expectations of their environment even as they transformed those expectations from within by means of a Christological criterion. Lincoln, Dunn, and Elliot, it seems to me. come to the same conclusion.

  2. That’s probably true, though I would prefer to say that it was a more progressive change – i.e. that as Vaticanus became more prominently used in Greek editions – e.g. Alford, Tischendorf, Tregelles, WH, etc. (who all read the ellipsis reading) there was a growing inclination among scholars to place verse 21 with 22. So what was “normal” was definitely a progressive change,

    The problem is both divisions are grammatically impossible and simply wrong.

    As to the interpretation itself, I’m probably between you and Sue. I also consider that passage from Clement to be significant to understanding how the original audience understood the passage, though I think I interpret its value slightly differently than she does, though I’m not entirely sure on that one. I do know that there’s no such thing as an imperatival participle, neither in Ephesians 5 or in 1 Peter.

  3. My question about participles is, what function do they have in hortatory discourse? I fine with the idea that they are not to be conflated with strict imperatives. In that case, what is their function in hortatory discourse?

  4. That’s a very good question. The case is much easier for 1 Peter (see this Dissertation). Ervin Starwalt is much better equipped to answer that question.

    For Ephesians 5, its a question of the previous participles. If we want to simply vote, an imperatival interpretation loses according to Glenn Graham’s An Exegetical Summary of Ephesians. Most believe that the participles denote the result of the command to “be filled with the Spirit.” This is a valid inference since only the “be filled” command is passive whereas the rest are active except for submit which is middle (but the point still stands). And since Graham was published, Hoehner, Wallace, Turner, O’Brien, Liefeld and a number of others have followed the results view. In fact, as far as I am aware every single interpreter of Ephesians since Markus Barth has taken the participles of 19-21 as participles of result rather than imperatival (key words: “as far as I am aware”).

    And this is where my problem begins with how this passage is handled. Peter O’Brien, whose exegesis is normally so delightfully stimulating is a prime example. O’Brien 1) argues quite well that the five participles of verses denote the result of being filled, 2) places a pericope divions between verses 21 & 22, and 3) writes, “Although the verse does not contain any verb, ‘submit’ carries over from v. 21, with the imperative being understood instead of the participle (O’Brien, 411).

    For my SBL/Logos Tech paper from 2007, I dug through 1009 instances of verbless clauses in Paul’s letter. Granted many of them were nominal clauses, not ellipsis, but I sorted through them, separated ellided clauses from nominal ones. What I found was that there is absolutely no other instance where an ellided clause either begins a new pericope or sentence – much less imply a change in mood. Simply put, unless they follow the later manuscript readings) there is no exegetical bases for the fact that all English translations read an imperative at verse 22 (or for that matter a basis for placing a pericope division either between 20 & 21 or 21 & 22).

    Right now I’m working on revising the paper, my conclusion still stands, but I wrote it about three months before I began studying linguistics and I have some things to add too it and much terminology to change.

    Anyway, I’ve now gone well beyond your initial question, though I hope you’ve been entertained by it.

  5. From a a thematic and form-critical point of view, if you know what I mean, to make all of Ephesians 5:19-6:8 depend, pragmatically and rhetorically, on “Be filled with the Spirit” in 5:18 seems a stretch. On the other hand, as you also suggest, O’Brien’s solution is even less convincing.

    Without knowing how to label things, at this point (I’m certainly open to examining other options), the best structural parallel to the transition from imperatives to participles in Ephesians 5:18-21 that I know of off-hand is that in 1 Peter 5:17-18. The transition there has a certain semantic roughness about it, too, though not as much and with not as much heterogeneity as that in view in Eph 5:18-21.

    Furthermore, if we assume that these authors (perhaps based on some misconfigured notion of inspiration and inerrancy) necessarily made a flawless use of grammar, we are assuming too much.

    I daydream sometimes and imagine meeting Paul in heaven. “Hey,” he says, “I really did write Ephesians, though I dictated it to Theophrastus, and out of respect for my wording, he even failed to smooth out some of my bad grammar. Sorry to have caused you guys such headaches. I didn’t know at the time that what I wrote would be read in the ages.”

  6. Well this is the thing: If you look at Ephesians as a whole, the Paul writes in sort of circular manner, which many people have taken to be some sort of grand chiasm or even a chiasm of chiasms.

    If that’s the case here. I would suggest a new paragraph at either 23 or 24.

  7. Mike,

    I have not published my opinion on what Clement wrote. It took me several days to convince John Hobbins that the BDAG referenced the passage from Clement with respect to Eph. 5:21. Since establishing facts that are right before one’s eyes is a lost cause with some people, I have little interest in discussing speculative issues.

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