Re: Eph 5:18

Dale M. Wheeler (
Fri, 04 Oct 1996 22:32:16 -0700

>Dan Wallace in his BEYOND THE BASICS grammar has an interesting discussion on
>Eph 5:18. If I recall what he says correctly (my book is at home and it's
>6:30 in the morning and I haven't had my coffee yet!), he argues based on
>other verses that this is a dative of means, and then explains that the agent
>is Christ (he also has a lengthy discussion on dative of agency vs. dative of
>means) and the content is God--i.e., Be filled (with all the fullness of God--
>Eph 3:18) by means of (Christ using the) Spirit (to fill you). Note the
> You (agent) by (means of) wine get (yourself) drunk
> Christ (agent) by (means of) the spirit fills you with God
>I believe that's the point he makes. Certainly a different view from most.
>I'm not saying I agree, but his argument is worth reading and thinking about.

The grammatical point Wallace is making is that with a passive voice verb, ie.,
"be filled", its unlikely that a naked dative or EN + dative would be used to
indicate the Personal Agency (it is also unlikely in the extreme that EN +
dative indicates the content of the filling, as many English readers read the
text, ie., "Be filled (as a container) with the (contents of the) Spirit.";
"content" is seen in Acts with the genitive after PIMPLHMI and PLHROW). BDF
lists one _possible_ example of a dative of agency (though they don't think
its valid themselves, and I'm inclined to agree). The supposition is that
EN + dative in this stock Pauline/Ephesian phrase should be treated as a naked
dative, and thus cannot be the Agent. On the other hand, EN + dative does seem
to be used to indicate the Impersonal Means/Instrument with passive verbs (eg.,
"pray EN PNEUMATI..."). If that's the case, then the Agent of the passive verb
is unexpressed in this passage, as is the content of that filling. If all the
above is true, then perhaps the Agent and Content can be found within the
theology of Ephesians when the concept of "filling" is discussed; on this I
agree with Wallace that when you look at those pasages (PLHROW and PLHRWMA) you
see that Christ is the Personal Agent and that the content is the "unity of
the Godhead (which is to be reflected in the Church)." Thus the metaphor of
"filling" is pointing to the literal idea of "control" which is then
seen in the following participles which display the character of a church
under the control of the Head (as opposed to the pagan displays of "worship"
brought on by drunkeness).

Dale M. Wheeler, Th.D.
Research Professor in Biblical Languages Multnomah Bible College
8435 NE Glisan Street Portland, OR 97220
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