Re: Eph 4:9 "Lower parts of the earth"

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri Oct 13 1995 - 14:52:36 EDT

At 7:51 AM 10/23/95, Eric Weiss wrote:
>Ephesians 4:9b:
> eis ta katwtera [merh] ths ghs
> into the lower [parts] of the earth
>Zerwick (BG by Examples) p. 46 ("Epexegetic Genitive") says:
> the sense seems to be not a descent into the underworld, the "lower
> parts of the earth," but of his coming into the world itself, called
> ta katwtera merh with respect to heaven.
>Richard Young in his Intermediate Grammar p. 39-40 states:
> Although some take the genitive ghs as partitive (referring to
> Christ's descent into Hades), most take it as appositional (referring
> to the incarnation). The contrast seems to be between Christ's
> ascent to heaven and His descent to earth. Thus the lower regions
> refers to the earth itself, not to some subterranean cavity (NIV,
> REB). For discussion, see Lincoln (1990:244-47).
>I'll try look at Lincoln's commentary on Ephesians (which is what Young is
>referring to) if I can find it in the seminary library or bookstore, but in
>case Lincoln doesn't provide a satisfactory answer, here are my questions, if
>someone can help:
> If, as Young and Zerwick claim, it should be translated "into the lower
> parts, that is, the earth," rather than referring to Christ's descent into
> the underworld, 1) who or what are the captives Christ led (4:8), and 2)
> how is He to fill all things (4:10) if He doesn't also descend into the
> lower parts of the earth (cf. Phil. 2:10)?
>Since I'm only on b-greek-digest, I would appreciate any responses to b-greek
>to also be cc:'d to me at

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?

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:37:30 EDT