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Bible Gem 595 – Similarities with other letters

March 27, 2018


Ephesians bears a close resemblance to other New Testament writings:



The closest is Colossians


Out of 155 verses in Ephesians, 78 are found in Colossians in varying degrees of similarity. Among them are these: 

Eph_1:6 // Col_1:13; Eph_1:16 // Col_1:9; Eph_1:21 // Col_1:16; Eph_2:16 // Col_2:20; Eph_4:2 // Col_3:12; Eph_4:15 // Col_2:19; Eph_4:22 // Col_3:9; Eph_4:32 // Col_3:12; Eph_5:5 // Col_3:5; Eph_5:19 // Col_3:16; Eph_6:4 // Col_3:21; Eph_6:5-9 // Col 3:22 through 4:1.  There are at least a dozen Greek words common to these two epistles not found elsewhere. 


Over against this similarity is to be set the dissimilarity. The general subject of the epistles is not approached from the same standpoint. In one it is Christ as the head of all creation, and our duty in consequence. In the other it is the church as the fullness of Christ and our duty - put constantly in the same words - in consequence thereof. In Ephesians we have a number of Old Testament references, in Colossians only one. In Ephesians we have unique phrases, of which “the heavenly spheres” (ta epourania) is most striking, and the whole treatment of the relation of Jew and Gentile in the church, and the marriage tie as exemplified in the relation between Christ and the church. In Colossians we have in like manner distinct passages which have no parallel in Ephesians, especially the controversial section in chapter 2, and the salutations. 


This situation has given rise to various theories. The most reasonable explanation is that both Colossians and Ephesians are the work of Paul, written at practically the same time, and that in writing on the same subjects, to different people, there would be exactly the differences and similarities which we see in these letters. The objection that Paul could not repeat himself and yet differ as these two letters do is purely imaginary. (Maybe Paul could have done with a computer and cut and paste function back then. It would have saved him writing out the same thing to two different churches.)  Paul is not averse to repeating himself (compare Romans and Galatians and 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy) when to do so will serve his purpose. “Simultaneous authorship by one writer,” and that writer Paul, is the only explanation that will satisfy all the facts in the case and give them due proportion.


Remember that Paul said he wanted the letter to the Colossians read in the Laodicean and Hierapolis churches. (Col 4:13-16). These are two churches in the Lycus Valley. Ephesus is only 120 miles away from these churches. Note too that the Ephesian letter appears to be a general letter. It is not specifically addressed to the Ephesians it seems. We will deal with the reference in 1:1 tomorrow as we start to get into the text. Furthermore note that there are no personal greetings in the letter. This is surprising as Paul had spent two years living among them. He had not visited Rome yet and yet his letter is filled with personal greetings to them. (Rom 16) We saw the intricate connections which unfolded in his two letters to the Corinthians. But there is none of that in the Ephesian letter. No personal touches at all even though this is a letter sent assumedly to people with whom he spent much time. 


Think about that, more tomorrow.


There are two other sources which share similarities with Ephesians


1 Peter - The connection between Ephesians and 1 Peter is not beyond question.  it seems that Peter either knew Ephesians or at the very least had discussed these subjects with its Paul. The similarity is one of thought and structure rather than of phrase. The following are the more striking passages with their parallels in 1 Peter: Eph 1:3 (1Pe 1:3); Eph 1:18-20 (1Pe 1:3-5, Eph 2:18-22 (1Pe 2:4-6); Eph 1:20 22 (1Pe 3:22); Eph 3:9 (1Pe 1:20); Eph 3:20 (1Pe 1:12); Eph 4:19 (1Pe 1:14). The explanations that 1 Peter and Ephesians are both from the pen of the same writer, or that Ephesians is based on 1 Pet, are overthrown, among other reasons, by the close relation between Ephesians and Colossians.


John's Writings - The connection with the Apocalypse is based on Eph 2:20 as compared with Rev 21:14; Eph 3:5 and Rev 10:7; Eph 5:11 and Rev 18:4, and the figure of the bride of the Lamb (Rev 19:7; compare Eph 5:25). The contact with the Fourth Gospel is more positive. Love (agápē) and knowledge (gnō̇sis) are used in the same sense in both Ephesians and the Gospel. The application of the Messianic title, the Beloved (Eph 1:6), to Christ does not appear in the Gospel (it is found in Mat 3:17), but the statement of the Father's love for Him constantly recurs. The reference to the going up and coming down of Christ (Eph 4:9) is closely akin to Joh 3:13 (“No man hath ascended into heaven, but he,” etc.). So, too, Eph 5:11, Eph 5:13 finds echo in John in Joh 3:19,  Joh 3:20; Eph 4:4, Eph 4:7 in Joh 3:34; Eph 5:6 in Joh 3:36. Eph 5:8 f is akin to 1Jo 1:6 and Eph 2:3 to 1Jo 3:10.



The universe is full of magical things waiting for their revelation as our wits to grow sharper to find them. 


What if God doesn't owe us an explanation? What if He is...God!? Andy Stanley


“Cover yourself with the dust of [your rabbis] feet”. Mishnah – i.e. following so closely behind him that you have his dust all over you.





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