RE: EN + dative in Eph 5:18 revisited

From: David L. Moore (
Date: Wed May 07 1997 - 23:55:48 EDT

Clayton Bartholomew wrote:

>Let's compare Eph 5:18 with
>John the Baptist's prophecy about baptism in/with/by the Spirit
>(Matthew: 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33, Acts 1:5, Acts 11:16).
>All these six references contain some form of:
>baptizw ---> en pneumati
>In Eph 5:18 we have:
>plhrousthe ---> en pneumati
>Now my argument is that in both examples we have a dominate semantic
>element which is the verb. What I am saying is, the verb dictates what
>the prepositional phrase can and does mean.
>Furthermore, both of these cases involve a comparison, a parallel
>comparison of the form: *this is like that*. In John the Baptist's
>prophecy, he compares his water baptism to Spirit baptism.
>So if we combine the dominant semantic element, the verb baptism with
>the: *this is like that* comparison we come up with a rather limited
>range of possible meanings for the phrase: en pneumati.
>In Eph 5:18 we have a comparison between drinking two much wine and
>being Spirit filled. If we take the meaning of the semantically dominant
>verb plhrousthe and combine it with the comparison we will come up with
>a rather limited range of possible meanings for the phrase: en pneumati.
>I would concluded from the above analysis that en pneumati when used
>with baptizw is going to have a meaning governed by the semantic value
>of baptizw in this context.
>In like manner I would conclude that hat en pneumati when used with
>plhrousthe is going to have a meaning governed by the semantic value of
>plhrousthe in this context.
>If this is all too hypothetical for some folks, let's be plain. Wine
>goes inside you and you become drunk. This is the first half of the
>comparison. Secondly, you should avoid being drunk but rather be filled
>(goes inside you, second half of comparison) with the Spirit.
>The **main point** I am trying to make is that an argument using the
>pattern *RE: EN + dative* to drive the exegesis of this passage is
>letting the tail wag the dog. The pattern *RE: EN + dative* is not the
>dominate semantic element and the above explanation is not syntactically
>or semantically impossible.

        Maybe you have some other passage in mind which clearly shows the
meaning *substance of filling* for EN + dative???

        I did a couple of Gramcord searches, one on verbs followed by EN and
the dative and another on the verb PLHROW. After going over the results -
which included quite a bit of winnowing - I came to the following conclusions.

        PLHROW is sometimes used of filling (as over against its use in the
sense of fulfilling) without any noun to indicate content. Mat. 13:48, for
instance says that when the net is filled it is pulled up on the beach.
Luke 3:5 says that every valley will be filled.... Ephesians 3:19 has hINA
PLHRWQHTE EIS PAN TO PLHRWMA TOU QEOU in which it appears that EIS begins a
phrase that indicates the Christian's goal, leaving PLHRWQHTE used without
any indicator of content.

        EN with the dative sometimes makes reference to authority or power.
This must surely be the case in Luke 11:18 where we have hOTI LEGETE EN
*BEELZEBOUL EKBALLEIN ME TA DAIMONIA. One might call this genitive
instrumental, but certainly there is a strong emphasis on the exercise of
authority. Most of the cases where we have EN ONOMATI... could also
illustrate this emphasis.

        To apply these observations to Eph. 5:18 we may understand EN
PNEUMATI not as referring here to a substance which fills, but the agent or
authority by which the filling is realized. PLHRWMA and PLHROW constitute a
prominent concept in Eph. and Col.; Paul appears to have taken these words
from his opponents and employed them in reference to our fullness in Christ.

        This interpretation agrees, largely, and in practical terms with
Edgar Krentz's calling the dative in Eph. 5:18 instrumental. My study of
the data that I went through and of reference works consulted indicate that
when the substance of filling is referred to, either the genitive or the
acusative would be employed.

Regards to all,
David Moore

David L. Moore
Miami, Florida, USA
Southeastern Spanish District of the A/G Dept. of Education
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