Re: Eph 4:22-24

From: Dale M. Wheeler (
Date: Tue Feb 11 1997 - 12:13:02 EST

Tom Launder wrote:

--Responses interspersed...

>I was challenged recently to study whether or not a believer has two
>natures or one. Is a believer simultaneously old man and new or has the
>old man died and now the believer is new only. The text which can
>answer this question is Eph 4:22-24 and the three infinitives.
>. . . EDIDAXQhTE. . . APOQESQAI (aorist inf)
> ANAEOUSQAI (present inf)
> ENDUSASQAI (aorist inf)
>Imperatives or indicatives? This is the question!

I think its important to explain--so that the rest of what I say makes some
sense--that what Tom is referring to is Indirect Discourse, since it is
clear that the verbs in question are infinitives; thus his question is not
what are they--imp'vs or ind's--but what *were* they in the original
statement, ie., do the infinitives of the Indirect Discourse go back to
original Impv's or Ind's in the Direct Statement.

>The shift in tense appears to be very important here. If these were
>commands wouldn't it be assumed that all should be present tense? If
>the believer is being commanded to put off and put on, why aorist tense?
>Doesn't the aorist point to an undefined action, but other places Paul
>wants put off and on to be continuous activity?

The first thing to remember is that in Greek--unlike English--the Tense of
the original statement is retained in the Indirect statement; thus when the
teaching originally took place (EDIDAXQHTE...) the verbs "Put on...Put off"
were Aorist and the verb "Be Renewed..." was present (BTW, I'm not saying
that Tom doesn't understand this, I think he does from the nature of his
question; again I'm explaining to make the rest of this make sense). The
thing about "put on...put off" your clothes is that it is the verbal action
of VERB that takes priority, not the tense; the tense (aorist) is chosen
because it appropriate to the idea of "putting on" your clothes, ie., one
tends to view this action from a distance, wholistically, not with respect
to its parts. Indeed a quick GRAMCORD search for APOTIQHMI, ENDUW and EKDUW
and all of their prefixed forms (eg., APEKDUW) in the present and imperfect
in the NT finds no examples; they are all either Aorist or Perfect (I think
I read an article once that EKDUW [or was it both ENDUW and EKDUW] only
occur in the present one time in Greek, and that is the story of a soldier,
a general I believe, who was in the process of removing his armor when he
got a spear in the back; don't quote me on this...Carl may be able to quote
the passage for us from memory (-: ). Thus the tense of the originals has
virtually nothing to do with whether the original statments were impv's or

>A close parallel passage in Colossians 3:9-10 states,
>Here both appear as aorists and seem to point to an action in the past.
>They are used as the basis for moral behavior (Do not lie to one

Again, the fact that they are aorist doesn't automatically indicate past
time; ie., the normal supposition that the aor ptc precedes the present
main verb in sequence *may* be overridden here because of the preponderance
of usage of the APOTIQHMI/ENDUW/EKDUW roots with the aorist. Thus they may
not be the basis (causal ptcs) of "Don't lie..." but parallel imp'v ptcs.
But even if we say that they are antecedant and causal, that doesn't
necessarily mean that they refer to some action which took place at
regeneration; they could just as easily refer to a change of attitude which
took place subsequent to regeneration, ie., "Don't deal falsely with one
another, since you have already made up your mind to put off acting like
the "old man" and..."

>Romans 6:6 has,
>Again the old man is crucified in an aorist event.

I would suggest that Romans IS NOT the appropriate parallel to Ephesians
(though I personally think Paul wrote both of them); the readers of the
Ephesian correspondance are NOT reading Romans--and there is a hidden
premise in this type of interpretation, namely that terms in the first
century are technical already, something that I think is generally, if not
wholly false. I would suggest that the proper parallel to Eph 4:22ff. is
Eph 2:15 where Paul has already predifined how he wants the reader of THIS
letter to understand Old Man/New Man and it certainly doesn't have anything
to do with "natures". For Eph, the New Man is the corporately reconciled
body of Jews and Gentiles...thus the Old Man must be the opposite. If you
read 4:22 in light of this, I think you will come to the conclusion that
Paul is speaking of a change of perspective which results in a change of
behavior; both Gentile and Jewish believers MUST understand that in God's
eyes they are equal in the "Body" (cf., 4:1ff) and thus should behave
towards one another accordingly. That's why he has all this talk in the
context of the Old Man and the unregenerate lifestyle; that's why v25 uses
the same image to refer to lifestyle change; that's why the Col passage is
filled with the same type of lifestyle change talk. I would suggest that
another intriguing feature of this passage, the statment that "truth is in
Jesus" points in the same use the name Jesus I think
suggests, that if you want to understand how to relate to one another as
former enemies you need to look at how the MAN Jesus lived as a human (not
Messiah Jesus or Jesus Messiah or the Messiah, but simply the man Jesus;
eg., the woman at the well, the Gentile territory trips he took, etc.)

BTW, I don't think Rom 6 is talking about "natures" either; look at the
discussion of this and similar passages in Ridderbos' Pauline Theology and
Ladd's NTTheology.

>These Scriptures seem to portray the old man as a put off and crucified
>entity. But the key text is Eph 4:22-24. If that passage is imperative
>than the old man still lives though dead and must be put off. If not
>then the old man is dead and believers are new only and put off sinful
>deeds not the old man.

Thus, in conclusion, I agree with you that the originals in this passage
(and perhaps Col as well) were imperatives not indicatives. The attitudes
of prejudice, hatred, malice, slander, etc., etc., which characterized the
Old Man/associations/lifestyle are still "alive" for Christians and they
must be rejected and we must continually allow the Spirit to renew our
minds when it comes to how we think and act towards our brothers and
sisters in Christ.

As a sidelight, I don't believe in the exchange of "natures" either; you
are a person, whole and created by God; you didn't become some perfect new
soul, mind, body, with perfect emotions, thoughts, etc. at
regeneration...all that happened was that God began to transform you, from
the inside out, from your soul outwards to your "physical" behavior. But
enough of that, this is a discussion of Greek, not psychology or


Dale M. Wheeler, Th.D.
Research Professor in Biblical Languages Multnomah Bible College
8435 NE Glisan Street Portland, OR 97220
Voice: 503-251-6416 FAX:503-254-1268 E-Mail:

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