Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Notes On The Authorship Of Ephesians

Ephesians, the Epistle to the, was written by the Apostle St. Paul during his first captivity at Rome (Acts xxviii. 16), apparently immediately after he had written the Epistle to the Colossians [Colossians, Ep. To], and dating that period (perhaps the early part of a.d. 62) when his imprisonment had not assumed the severer character which seems to have marked its close. This sublime epistle was addressed to the Christian church at the ancient and famous city of Ephesus, that church which the Apostle had himself founded (Acts xix. 1 sq., comp. xviii. 19), with which he abode so long (Acts xx. 31), and from the elders of which he parted with such a warm-hearted and affecting farewell (Acts xx. 18-35). The contents or this epistle easily admit of being divided into two portions, the first mainly doctrinal (ch. i.-iii.), the second hortatory and practical. With regard to the authenticity and genuineness of this epistle, it is not too much to say that there are no just grounds for doubt. The testimonies of antiquity are unusually strong. Even if we do not press the supposed allusions in Ignatius and Polycarp, we can confidently adduce Irenaeus, Clem. Alex., Origen, Tertullian, and after them the constant and persistent tradition of the ancient Church. Even Marcion did not deny that the epistle was written by St. Paul, nor did heretics refuse occasionally to cite it as confessedly due to him as its author. In recent times, however, its genuineness has been somewhat vehemently called in question. De Wette labors to prove that it is a mere spiritless expansion of the Epistle to the Colossians, though compiled in the Apostolic age: Schwegler, Baur, and others, advance a step further, and reject both epistles as of no higher antiquity than the age of Montanism and early Gnosticism. For a detailed reply to the arguments of De Wette and Baur, the student may be referred to Meyer, Einleit. z. Eph. p. 19 sq. (ed. 2); Davidson, Introd. to N. T., ii. p. 352 sq.; and Alford, Prolegomena, p. 8. Two special points require a brief notice : — ( 1 . ) The readers for whom this epistle was designed. In the opening paragraph the words iv 'E^eoy are omitted by a, B, 67, Basil, and possibly Tertullian. This, combined with the somewhat noticeable omission of all greetings to the members of a Church with which the Apostle stood in such affectionate relation, and some other internal objections, have suggested a doubt whether these words really formed a part of the original text. At first sight these doubts seem plausible ; but when we oppose to them (a) the over whelming weight of diplomatic evidence for the insertion of the words, (6) the testimony of all the versions, (c) the universal designation of this epistle by the ancient Church (Marcion standing alone in his assertion that it was writ ten to the Laodiceans) as an epistle to the Ephesians, (d) the extreme difficulty in giving any satisfactory meaning to the isolated participle, and the absence of any parallel usage in the Apostle's writings, — we can scarcely feel any doubt as to the propriety of removing the brack ets in which these words arc enclosed in the 2d edition of Tischendorf, and of considering them an integral part of the original text. — (2.) The question of priority in respect of composition between this epistle and that to the Colossians is very difficult to adjust. On the whole, both internal and external considerations seem some what in favor of the priority of the Epistle to the Colossians.

William Smith, A Dictionary Of the Bible Comprising Its Antiquities, Biography, Geography, and Natural History, p. 248


  1. Jesse,
    I apologize that I took so long to respond, I am very busy nowadays. I certainly always find it important to defend the authorship of the New Testament. But it is very hard to determinably prove that an author actually wrote a book. It seems even more logical, and the outcome of Ockham to just accept the authorship of Paul. You have adequately laid out the main points. Though I do have a question, does the legitimacy of Scripture rest on the authors that have been traditionally accepted, given their connection to Jesus? If so, it would seem that all Christians must accept some level of tradition, especially in regards to the Gospels and some of the letters, like Hebrews or even 2 Peter.
    I also would recommend using indents while putting down references. The middle text of is some what jumbled and hard to navigate.
    But all in all, this was a good read.

  2. Hello Sean,

    I would say that authorship (whether an author was an apostle or close associate) was a factor used in the early church as the New Testament canon was being crystallized. We would have to accept some degree of early church tradition due to the fact that the biblical authors are not alive today.