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Bible Gem 649 - Paul's digression on the basis of the grammatical clues (Eph 3:1-4 and 14)

March 31, 2018

When I think of all this, I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the benefit of you Gentiles . . . 

assuming, by the way, that you know God gave me the special responsibility of extending His grace to you Gentiles. 

As I briefly wrote earlier, God Himself revealed His mysterious plan to me. 

As you read what I have written, you will understand my insight into this plan regarding Christ. (Eph 3:1-4. )


Is this an example of Paul losing track of what he was saying or not?

Do you see a way that all of this connects or not? That is the essential question.


There are two alternatives to making sense of this unit and working out how it connects with the rest. Likewise there are two ways of finding out. Either you have to look at the versions and see how they handle it. In addition to that, use the commentaries to see what the "experts" say. I put the word "experts" in inverted commas because they don't always evidence expertise in these matters.  


How do the various versions handle the first verse?


The following versions leave it hanging or disconnected: AMP, ASV, BBE, EMTV, ESV, KJV, LITV, NASB, NLT, RV, Webster, YLT 


The problem is that there is no finite verb in the first verse which enables it to stand alone. Thus the versions above finished the verse with (--) inferring there is more to come with this thought, or in the case of NLT which finishes the sentence with . . . 


The versions below solve the problem by supplying the verb to be. In this case "am" to agree with the first person singular use of the subject "I, Paul".


(GW)  This is the reason I, Paul, am the prisoner of Christ Jesus for those of you who are not Jewish. 

(ISV)  For this reason I, Paul, am the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you gentiles. 

(MKJV)  For this cause, I, Paul, am the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you nations, 

(Murdock)  On this account, I Paul am a prisoner of Jesus the Messiah, for the sake of you Gentiles: 


The following versions take a more creative approach and supply a verb not there in the original. 


(CEV)  Christ Jesus made me his prisoner, so that I could help you Gentiles. 

(GNB)  For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles, pray to God. 

(MSG)  This is why I, Paul, am in jail for Christ, having taken up the cause of you outsiders, so-called. 


Eugene Peterson in the Message turns "for this cause" into a verbal phrase "having taken up the cause". But it still requires a context or setting. 

The Good News Bible supplies pray which connects to the second occurrence of "for this cause" in Eph 3:14. Hence the reason why the GNB has chosen "pray". Paul starts in 3:1 with "for this cause" and then repeats it again in 3:14. It is perhaps likely that he has returned to his thought again.   


In other words in NLT Paul comes back to his point again with "When I think of all this . . ." and his digression is ended. 


A look at the commentaries yields us the following clues:



This would be more correctly rendered, “For this cause I, Paul, am the prisoner,” etc. Tyndale renders it, “For this cause I, Paul, the servant of Jesus, am in bonds.” So also Locke, Rosenmuller, Doddridge, Whitby, Koppe, and others understand it. By this construction the abruptness now manifest in our common version is avoided. . . 

. . . Made a prisoner at Rome on your behalf, because I maintained that the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles. 

 The cause of his imprisonment and of all his difficulties was, that he maintained that the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles; that when the Jews rejected it God rejected them; and that he was specially called to carry the message of salvation to the pagan world.



of Jesus Christ — He digresses at “For this cause,” and does not complete the sentence which he had intended, until Eph_3:14, where he resumes the words, “For this cause,” namely, because I know this your call of God as Gentiles (Eph_2:11-22), to be “fellow-heirs” with the Jews (Eph_3:6), “I bow my knees to” the Father of our common Savior (Eph_3:14, Eph_3:15) to confirm you in the faith by His Spirit. “I Paul,” expresses the agent employed by the Spirit to enlighten them, after he had been first enlightened himself by the same Spirit (Eph_3:3-5, Eph_3:9).


Either of these two approaches solve the problem but we still have to connect the meaning of the point for us to understand it. 


Is your problem really your problem, or is your attitude toward your problem the real problem? Joyce Meyer


To see sin without grace is despair. To see grace without sin is arrogance. To see them in tandem is conversion. Max Lucado


The reason God seeks our praise is not that he won't be fully God till he gets it, but that we won't be fully glad till we give it. John Piper



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