Muddling through the Letter to the Ephesians?

From: Bill and Ginger Dickson (
Date: Tue Feb 18 1997 - 05:49:31 EST

>Carl Conrad wrote
>>>>Let me confess that one reason I am not an inerrantist is that I
>believe that God speaks to us THROUGH these imperfect writings of
>imperfect human beings, WITHOUT annulling or overriding the humanity
>of the composers. And I confess that, as a serious student of Greek
>language and style, I certainly do think the composers of the NT
>texts might have helped us modern readers out quite a bit if they had
>honestly supposed that they were writing for non-Greek-speakers two
>millennia in the future instead of just for their contemporaries. And
>I think that more than style is involved here; certainly Luke and
>Matthew write well, the more obviously so when they are compared with
>the writer of Ephesians. And while we must muddle through, with great
>effort, to understand the important things that the writer of
>Ephesians has to say to us, we cannot but be grateful, yes, and thank
>God, that Matthew and Luke took pains in their writing to make sure
>they would not be misunderstood if they could help it. Surely good
>writing IS a virtue, although that doesn't mean God can't make use of
>a bad writer.

I am not entirely pleased with the suggestion that the Letter to the
Ephesians is something one must muddle through in the original. In fact, I
believe the sustained benediction of chapter 1 is utterly stunning in its
grandeur and style. It is true that one idea cascades upon another like a
giant waterfall of inspired eulogia, but it is a piece of work which I
believe drives one to his knees not only for its content but also for its
passion and splendor. Scott, in the Moffatt series, I believe rightly
compares it to the sublime work of Handel.

"Throughout the first section, as we have already seen, the epistle takes
the form of a prayer. Ancient letters began with some pious formula,
thanking the gods for the reader's well-being, and Paul regularly follows
this practice, except that he changes the conventional phrases into the
language of heartfelt Christian prayer. In Ephesians, however, the
introductory prayer is extended over the man part of the letter. The
theological ideas are woven into the prayer. It is this that explains not
only the sustained elevation of the style but also the weight and
impressiveness of the thought. If Paul had written argumentatively he
might have felt, as we sometimes do in Romans, that he was running off into
arbitrary speculation. But he does not argue. He only utters the thoughts
that rise in his heart as he holds communion with God. Elsewhere he tells
us of a man who was caught up into Paradise and heard unspeakable words,
and in this epistle he seems to be imparting the knowledge that came to him
in those moments of ecstatic vision. Just as Handel composed the
'Hallelujah Chorus' on his knees, so Paul wrote this sublime epistle, in
which he tries to penetrate the 'mystery'--the ultimate design of God." p.


The Rev. Dr. R. William Dickson
Chaplain of All Saints Episcopal School
Tyler, TX

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