Ephesians 1:1–2

Address and Greeting

The pattern of letter-writing practices in the ancient world is followed in this opening. The writer’s name is given first. The Christian distinctive is seen in the note of authority sounded with the phrase “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” The use of Paul’s name is intended to claim apostolic sanction for what follows and is in line with his practice of appealing to his vocation as one who had a special ministry in the churches. The basis for that vocation is Paul’s having seen the risen Lord (I Cor. 9:1) who charged him to fulfill a ministry to the Gentiles. The ground is thus laid for what will come in 3:1–8, namely, Paul’s role as apostle to the non-Jews par excellence, which in turn gave a basis for the Pauline mission after his death.

The writer, in Paul’s name, greets the readers, whom he does not know personally (see 1:15; 3:2), under the titles of their Christian standing. They are “the saints” and “the faithful”—two terms borrowed from the simpler text of Col. 1:2. The Ephesians author uses these two parallel terms to designate the role of Christians as God’s holy people in tandem with Israel (Exod. 19:5–6; Lev. 19:1–2; Deut. 7:6; 14:2) and as faithful believers in the messianic salvation. “In Christ Jesus” denotes the sphere of their existence as incorporate in the new society, a theme elaborately worked out in 3:6.

For the reasons behind the omission of “at Ephesus” from the RSV and most modern translations, see Introduction, section “The Purpose, Occasion, and Background of the Letter.” The two Greek words are lacking in the leading manuscripts and in the important papyrus known as P46, dated about 200 C.E. Moreover, early Christian writers endorse or imply the view that “at Ephesus” was not found in the earliest texts. The textual evidence is not easily explained, as Ernest Best, who provides one of the clearest expositions of what the data and the various amendments and translations have to offer, concedes (see his chapter “Ephesians 1:1,” Text and Interpretation, pp. 29–41). The three main options are (1) to render “to the saints who are (also) faithful in Christ Jesus” as representing the original text, which a later copyist altered by the addition of “in Ephesus”; (2) an attempt to supply an emendation, made by Richard Batey (p. 101), who wants to propose an original reading of “to those who are in Asia,” which a later scribe garbled as “the saints” by mistake; and (3) the most plausible option (in our view), which sees the two expressions “saints” and “faithful” as parallel terms, perhaps representing the two wings of early Christianity: Jewish believers called the “saints” in Rom. 15:25–31 and Gentile Christians dubbed “the faithful” (so Caird). But no single translation is wholly satisfactory or does justice to the Greek once “in Ephesus” is left out to expose the original text. There is a consensus that the earliest manuscripts lacked this place-name; but the conundrum of how to render accurately the remaining Greek words once the variant is removed is not yet resolved.

The greetings of “grace” and “peace” are traditional to Pauline prayers (I Thess. 1:1; I Cor. 1:3; Gal. 1:3; Phil. 1:2). “Grace” is the saving action of God to redeem and restore the creation which has gone awry from God’s purpose; the effect is seen in “peace,” the attainment of harmony and wholeness (akin to shalom) as the new order reflects its unity with the Creator’s plan, seen in 1:10.