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writing things down…

Back to Eph 2:14-15

Now that I’ve got Greek fonts on the blog, I am going to try to get back around to my intended post about Eph 2:14-15.

Here’s the section in question, with the two phrases under consideration colored red and blue:

καὶ τὸ μεσότοιχον τοῦ φραγμοῦ λύσας τὴν ἔχθραν ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ αὐτοῦ τὸν νόμον τῶν ἐντολῶν ἐν δόγμασιν καταργήσας

Before moving ahead, let me make a few general comments about issues I will not be discussing:

1) I’m translating λύσας as “breaking down.” It’s in reference to a wall. Breaking down seems appropriate imagery. “Destroying” is just as well and may pop up in the discussion.

2) I’m translating καταργήσας as “rendering inoperative.” In the context of Ephesians where ἐνεργέω has appeared three times already (1:11, 20; 2:2), “rendering inoperative” seems an acceptable antonym. I think the author had in mind to contrast these two words.

3) τὸ μεσότοιχον τοῦ φραγμοῦ is typical of the style in Ephesians—more words than is necessary. In order to hold on to all of the Greek words I have rendered it with the wordy phrase “middle wall of partition.

4) The participle καταργήσας can be seen in at least two ways: causal or means/manner—either “by rendering the law inoperative” or “because he rendered the law inoperative.” There is little difference when we get down to it, but I think means/manner is the better rendering, especially in light of the conclusions I come to below.

5) ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ is shorthand for Jesus’ life, especially his death on the cross.

6) There is much more to consider in the sentence of vv. 14-16. I am only looking at this section in order to discuss the reading of the two phrases highlighted.

At least four options for how to read this section:

1) τὴν ἔχθραν is in apposition to τὸ μεσότοιχον τοῦ φραγμοῦ and ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ modifies ἔχθραν, thus rendering the section something like:

…and breaking down the middle wall of partition, the hostility in his flesh, by rendering inoperative the law of the commandments in decrees…

It is a bit awkward to say hostility was in Christ’s flesh; though, I suppose one could make a case that it was a way to say that in being human Christ carried the hostility humanity had with God. This rendering would imply that the hostility is between God and humanity. It is true that Christ bore our sins in his flesh and in so doing destroyed the wall of hostility between God and humanity, but in the context of Ephesians 2, the wall of hostility is torn down between Jews and Gentiles. Plus, it is likely that the prepositional phrase would be preceded by an article if it were an attributive phrase.

2) τὴν ἔχθραν is in apposition to τὸ μεσότοιχον τοῦ φραγμοῦ and ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ modifies λύσας, thus rendering the section something like:

…and in his flesh, breaking down the middle wall of partition, the hostility, by rendering inoperative the law of the commandments in decrees…

One could more easily and more rightly read the hostility as that hostility between Jews and Gentiles. But, I follow Hoehner in believing this rendering particularizes the meaning a bit too much. Here, Christ’s death is directly connected to the breaking down of the dividing wall. Surely the wall was destroyed with Christ’s death, but its destruction was a secondary effect.

3) τὴν ἔχθραν is in apposition to τὸν νόμον and ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ modifies καταργήσας, thus rendering the section something like:

…and breaking down the middle wall of partition, by rendering, in his flesh, the hostility, the law of the commandments in decrees inoperative…

Though popular with many English translations, this rendering has a few shortcomings, as Hoehner notes:

  • making “hostility” in apposition to “the law” does not resonate with the rest of Scripture. The law is never presented as hostile. Take for instance Ro 7, where there is much discussion of the law. There the law is holy (Ro 7.12), spiritual (Ro 7.14), a delight (Ro 7.22; Ps 1.2) and good (Ro 7.12, 16; Ps 19:7). The law may cause hostility (7.18) but in itself it is not hostile.
  • the hostility is again placed between God and humanity. This does not fit the context that is focused more on the hostility between Jews and Gentiles.
  • “rendering the hostility inoperative in his flesh” does not fit well. “Abolishing” or “putting to death” works better given that Christ was put to death in the flesh. But, καταργήσας is better rendered as “make or render inoperative.” The context would rather imply that the hostility between Jews and Gentiles is destroyed not just made inoperative; only the law is made inoperative.
  • ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ sits between τὴν ἔχθραν and τὸν νόμον, which are seen to be in apposition. That seems a bit too odd.

4) τὴν ἔχθραν is in apposition to τὸ μεσότοιχον τοῦ φραγμοῦ and ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ modifies καταργήσας, thus rendering the section something like:

…and breaking down the middle wall of partition, the hostility, by rendering inoperative, in his flesh, the law of the commandments in decrees…

This rendering, with τὴν ἔχθραν in apposition to τὸ μεσότοιχον, addresses the notion that the hostility is broken down and not just made inoperative as it would be if in apposition to the law. ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ, however, being connected to καταργήσας signifies that in Christ’s death, the law was rendered inoperative, not necessarily destroyed. This is consistent with other Pauline texts where the believer is no longer under the law (Ro 1.1-6; 10.4; Ga 2.19; 3.24-25). So the thinking would be something like the following:

  • There was hostility between Jews and Gentiles because the law was misused.
  • The stipulations of the law were to protect the Jews from the practices of the world. They were to keep the law as a testimony to God, since they were the kingdom of priests.
  • The law then was meant to provide opportunity to witness to their Gentile neighbor of God’s wonderful deliverance and care.
  • But, rather than using the law as a witness, it became a tool that enabled them to look down on the Gentiles whom they considered sinners.
  • This caused hostility.

It was not the law that was hostile but the wrong conception and use of it which resulted in hostility on both sides. To solve the problem, the law was rendered inoperative in Christ’s flesh and therefore Jews and Gentiles in Christ would not have the law as their mode of operation. The hostility was destroyed!

—————-
Listening to: Arr Eleventic – Bodh Gaya
via FoxyTunes

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5 Comments»

  Mike Aubrey wrote @

You’re right. My discussion of the participles is lacking – I like your translation of λύσας and καταργήσας. Your reasoning is clear and I wish I had made that connection (would you mind if I borrowed them?).

I agree that τὴν ἔχθραν is in apposition with τὸ μεσότοιχον τοῦ φραγμοῦ, but I’m still thinking through my thoughts about ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ and the relationship between ἔχθραν and νόμον. Your arguments for and against are making me rethink these verses – though I fear that the semantic and rhetorical strength of what I’ve already written might get the best of me. I don’t know if my post fits into any of your categories simply because I kind of ignored the syntactical question for the sake of style and I think Paul might have done the same.

  Chris wrote @

Mike, but some of the syntactical issues (esp. the participles) call into question your proposed chiastic structure. For instance, I’m inclined to see ποιήσας and λύσας in parallel, being joined by the καὶ. But, καταργήσας is subordinate to λύσας, stating the means by which the wall is broken down. In order to maintain your chiastic structure, you have λύσας subordinate to ποιήσας and καταργήσας parallel to λύσας. The chiastic structure nicely focuses on ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ, but doesn’t treat the syntax of the participles fully. In general, I think chiasm is overdone. In Ephesians, it seems to me that the style is more often digressive than chiastic. The author starts off on something, which triggers something related, which triggers something related, etc., until he finally comes back around to the main point. In 2:14-16, I would produce a block outline more like the following:
Αὐτὸς γάρ ἐστιν ἡ εἰρήνη ἡμῶν

ὁ ποιήσας τὰ ἀμφότερα ἓν

καὶ τὸ μεσότοιχον τοῦ φραγμοῦ λύσας, τὴν ἔχθραν

ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ αὐτοῦ τὸν νόμον τῶν ἐντολῶν ἐν δόγμασιν καταργήσας,

ἵνα τοὺς δύο κτίσῃ ἐν αὐτῷ εἰς ἕνα καινὸν ἄνθρωπον

ποιῶν εἰρήνην

  Mike Aubrey wrote @

Okay, yes, I see what you’re saying, though I did not intend my outline to convey, “λύσας subordinate to ποιήσας and καταργήσας parallel to λύσας.” My original proposal was that all three participles are substantival, sharing one article, that technically, none of them are subordinate I do mention the other view (and I’ll concede more likely view – and if so I would take the last participle as temporal “when he rendered inoperable”). If I remember correctly, my reasoning for that suggestion was the fact that they are all identical in form – aorist, active, nominative, masculine, singular participles. I thought it was all rather pithy. I still think the chiasm works with this rendering:

14 Αὐτὸς γάρ ἐστιν ἡ εἰρήνη ἡμῶν

ὁ ποιήσας τὰ ἀμφότερα ἓν

καὶ τὸ μεσότοιχον τοῦ φραγμοῦ λύσας, τὴν ἔχθραν

ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ αὐτοῦ

15 τὸν νόμον τῶν ἐντολῶν ἐν δόγμασιν καταργήσας,

ἵνα τοὺς δύο κτίσῃ ἐν αὐτῷ εἰς ἕνα καινὸν ἄνθρωπον

ποιῶν εἰρήνην

My reasoning behind this suggested structure is exactly the issue that you’re dealing with specifically in this post. Where does εν τη σαρκι fall into all of this? This is precisely the reason I made two different outlines. I agree that chiasm is overdone. That’s why I was thoroughly disappointed by John Heil’s recent book (I think there’s a RBL review now and I agree with it). But there isn’t enough text for mere digression in these couple verses. Rather we have significant semantic parallelism: the repetition of “peace” in verse 14a & 15c “one” in verses 14b & 15b (and the two synonyms ποιήσας/κτίσῃ). The weakest point is the λύσας/καταργήσας relationship, but L&N at the very least considers them to have semantic overlap in domain 13. With all of this said, its difficult for me not to see this structure semantically once I’ve recognized it once – which might be why I’m still able to recognize the structure even after admitting that the third participle should be adverbial.

Finally, thank you for this discussion, I’ve been hoping for someone to comment on what I’ve written since I began this series last year. I really appreciate it.

  Mike Aubrey wrote @

Oh and I’m revised my block diagram and am rewriting part of it as we “speak.”

[…] a bit of discussion with Chris about chiasm I am less sure about whether this is a chiasm or not. But I don’t want to give it up just […]


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