Eph. 4:9 and the Genitive THS GHS

From: Edgar M. Krentz (emkrentz@mcs.com)
Date: Mon Oct 16 1995 - 13:48:07 EDT

In response to Eric Weiss <eweiss@acf.dhhs.gov> Carl Conrad wrote:

"Well, here we go again, on another new adventure into the world outside the
GNT itself. I suspect that the traditional view is right, that "the lower
regions" refers to the earth itself, and not to "some subterranean cavity."
And I suspect that there'a a background to some of the peculiar language in
Ephesians, as, for instance 6.12 KOSMOKRATORES TOU SKOTOUS TOUTOU, and it
is in the same realm as astrology and the notion that there are powers
governing the planetary spheres, each sphere being a "heaven" (whence
"seventh heaven"). I think that there's a conception of the universe as a
celestial sphere with the earth in the center constituting the "lower
parts." We don't use the term "genitive of definition" in Greek, but we do
use it in Latin, and it seems to me that's what we have here. I've never
heard the term "epexegetic genitive," but it would appear to be the same
thing as "genitive of definition"; I've also heard the term "genitive of
apposition" used. What do the real grammarians say about this?"

"Calvin D. Redmond" <102630.1150@compuserve.com> wrote

>>It should be clear that the translation "the lower parts, which consist of the
>>earth" or something similar is at least possible. The grammatical category is
>>recognized by the major grammarians, although it appears that all my other
>>grammars are in my library office which lacks a phone line.The question as to
>>whether this translation is correct will depend more on one's understanding of
>>the context and one's theology.

I agree with that last sentence completely.

David Moore responded:

> Robertson has an interesting comment on this verse. He says we
>probably do not have a genitive of apposition or definition here, but the
>ablative (read ablative use of the genitive) after the comparative
>(Robertson, _Grammar of the Greek New Testament_, p. 499).
> Blass-DeBrunner comes to about the same conclusion without
>expressing it in quite the same words: "TA KATWTERA (MERH) THS GHS is not
>partitive ... or appositive ('the lower regions', i.e. the earth ...), but
>'the regions under the earth' (Buchsel, TW III 641f.)" (Bl-DeB, _A Greek
>Grammar of the New Testament_, #167).
> IMO, the mention of Christ's ascention hUPERANW PANTWN TWN OURANWN
>(v. 10) is meant to contrast with the passage we are considering in verse
>9 - i.e. beneath the earth (in physical terms, a reference to His burial
>after death) serves as couterpoint to his ascention above all the heavens.
>So v. 9 needs to be taken in its most emphatic sense.
>David L. Moore Southeastern Spanish District
>Miami, Florida of the Assemblies of God
>dvdmoore@dcfreenet.seflin.lib.fl.us Department of Education

My comment. I am not the "real grammarian" that Carl invites to comment,
but I will try nonetheless to shed a little light:

We have now had two different grammatical analyses of TA KATWTERA (MERH)
THS GHS. (1) Carl Conrad suggests that a genitive of appostion or
definition (i.e. the earth = the lower regions) is possible.

(2) David Moore cites A. T. Robertson and BDF in favor of an ablative
genitive (also called by some grammarians a genitive of separation; i.e. =
"regions lower than the earth").

Both constructions are grammatically possible; and both find support in
what Carl calls "another new adventure into the world outside the GNT
itself." He is right, of course. One needs to do at least two things to
decide between these two interpretations: (a) determine what else in the
pauline corpus might support either interpretation; (b) ask what there is
in the world of the NT to which Ephesians might be alluding or on which it
might be building.

In support of David Moore one might cite Phil 2:10 "every knee of beings in
the superheavenly regions and of beings on the earth and of beings in the
lower regions should bend." Rev. 20:3 speaks of the "abyss," which also
supports the idea of regions below the earth. One could also go to the
literature of contemporary Jewish apocalyptic to find similar notions.

But there are also passages which support the idea that some people in the
first century thought of there being seven areas of rulership above the
earth, each ruled by one of the seven governors (the sun, moon, and five
planets they could detect with the naked eye). Ancients at least from Plato
on identified these heavenly bodies as sentient. They were also regarded as
the fulness of God extending into the universe (the PLHRWMA). (See the
description, parly based on Genesis, in the first tractate of the _Hermetic
Corpus_, the _Poimandres_, for such a view.) In this view the supreme god
dwells in the regions above the seven regions (the "ogdoad," the
EPOURANIOI). Colossians seems to use this view as it speaks of "thrones,
lordships, dominions, and powers" (Col 1:15-16) which threaten human kind.
According to Colossians Jesus alone is the PLHRWMA of God; he is both the
creator of these beings and the one who made peace between God and them by
the cross. He led them in triumphal possession.

Both are possible. Where does Ephesians stand in all this? One needs to
examine its language to see if one can discover indications. Like
Colossians it seems to speak of heavenly beings. See Eph 6:12, which
describes them as KOSMOKRATORES TOU SKOTOUS (the phrase Carl cited). In the
phrase "of darkness" the author argues against these beings having anything
to do with the illumination of the mind that comes only via baptism (cf.
Eph. 5:8-14). That is, he turns the language of the supporters of these
beings on its head! I find this supported by the phrases in Eph 2:2: KATA
That is, Ephesians refers to the god Aion, whose statue one can see in the
Vatican Museums, a leontocepehalos human, around whose body a snake coils.
He represents the rule of time (measured by the heavenly powers) over

Both interpretations given above are grammatically possible. But the other
linguistic data in Ephesians, IMHO, support the genitive of apposition, not
the ablative genitive.

Those interested in this topic might want to consult Hugo Odeberg, _The
View of the Universe in the Epistle to the Ephesians_.Lunds Universitets
Aersskrift. N.F. Avd. 1, Bd 29. Nr. 6. Lund: C. W. K. Gleerup, 1934.
Odeberg was the quite conservative Professor of NT at that university in
the 1930s.

Incidentally, I think that this same attitude is reflected in Mark
13:24-25, where the "powers of heaven" are these heavnenly bodies,
dethroned by the enthronement of the Son of Man who (as in Dan 7) goes to
the Ancient of Days on the clouds with power and great glory. But that is
another topic.

Ephesians' views, by the way, are immensely relevant in our own day in
which people (including a recent president's wife) consult "seers" who
interpret the signs of the zodiac as powers affecting human life. The
enslavement to the powers has not disappeared from history.


Edgar Krentz, New Testament
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago

Edgar Krentz, New Testament
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
Tel.: 312-256-0752; (H) 312-947-8105

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