Sunday, August 31, 2008
Pronouns in Ephesians
It is a strange week when two people, in two different continents, email you on consecutive days with the same question about the personal pronouns in Ephesians, but that is what happened to me recently.
On pronouns, I've always been interested in the "we" of Gal. 2.16: "we know that no one is justified on the basis of works of law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ". Who is the "we"? I think it refers to Jewish Christians which demonstrates that justification by faith was not a Pauline novum, but something that was transparently part of the faith of the early church (see R. Hays ABD 3.1131 and E.P. Sanders PPJ 519 for the same point).
In Ephesians (leaving authorship aside for a moment) there is a constant switch between first person and second person pronouns in chs. 1-2. My student and friend David Kirk writes to me and notes:
"Paul uses first person pronouns for 1:3-12; then second person for 1:13-18. He uses second person for 2:1-2, then first person for 2:3-10, then second person for 2:11-13. In Chapter 2, it is clear that to some degree the second person pronoun refers to Gentile believers. Does the first person pronoun then refer to Jews? If so, Paul's argument is that Gentiles have been incorporated into blessings which were first and foremost for the Jews, which seems a thoroughly Pauline thought, and is what Paul goes on to argue in 2:13ff. In it's favour is that 1:3-12 then makes a lot of sense, with God's choice being of Israel (a thought with strong roots in the OT), adoption as sons being a predestined eschatological goal for the Jews; the 'mystery of his will' in verse 9 then becomes the revelation by Law and prophets with a view to the summing up of all things in Christ. Also 2:1-3 makes sense, especially 'even as the rest'. If my speculations are correct, 2:1-2 refers to Gentiles, 2:3 refers to Jews."
I think the Kirkmeister is on the money and made a good observation. Hopefully he'll blog about this fairly soon himself. Update: David Kirk has posed on this here.