By Charles H. Welch
To these who have seen that Acts 28 is the dispensational boundary, the epistle to the Ephesians is like the Magna Carta is to English freedom. There, the member of the Body of Christ learns the nature and sphere of this high calling, and with this epistle as his standard he can freely range all Scripture, receiving blessing and illumination from Law, or Prophets, from Psalm or Gospel, yet without confusing the various callings or robbing others of their own peculiar blessings. Ephesians is one of five PRISON EPISTLES and under that heading the inter-relationship of these epistles has been set out. Let us first of all see the structure of the epistle, and then seek to discover some of its distinctive teaching. Upon examination, it will be found to divide itself up into two main portions, chapters 1 to 3:13 being mainly DOCTRINAL, chapters 4 to 6 being mainly PRACTICAL, the whole pivoted as it were upon the great central prayer, chapter 3:14-21.
This balance of subject matter we have set out in the form of a tree, each branch bearing three fruits, and each branch corresponding with another on the other side of the tree.
The epistle to the Ephesians has seven sections of Doctrine, seven corresponding sections of Practice, and a
central section devoted to Prayer that leads up to ‘All the fulness of God’.
THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS
The Structure of the epistle as a whole
A 1:1,2. EPISTOLARY. a 1:1. PAUL’S COMMISSION.
A 6:21-24. EPISTOLARY. a 6:21,22. TYCHICUS’ COMMISSION.
We read in the R.V. at Ephesians 1:1 that ‘some very ancient authorities omit at Ephesus’, and some have leaned to the idea that the epistle to the Laodiceans, mentioned in Colossians 4:16 is the epistle to the Ephesians. For a fuller examination of this question, the reader is directed to an article in The Berean Expositor, Vol. 35, page 169, where the matter is considered from several angles, and the conclusion arrived at, is there thus stated.
The question of whether any particular epistle was or was not addressed to Ephesians, Galatians, Romans or Corinthians is mainly of historic interest only, and if that were the only thing that mattered we could no more take ‘Ephesians’ to ourselves than we could ‘Hebrews’. For no reader to-day lives in literal ‘Ephesus’. We therefore have to remember that a personal letter addressed to a specific company, long passed away, remains a living message from the living God, to all those whose dispensational position and characteristics are comparable with the original recipients. As we, Gentile believers, today, are on this side of Acts 28, we cannot be, if we wished to be, ‘wild olives’ grafted contrary to nature into the olive tree of Israel. As we have believed the testimony of the Lord’s prisoner, we have as much right to the epistle to the Ephesians, as any believer living in Ephesus in the years A.D. 64-66.
It is one thing to be able to answer to the description ‘to the saints which are at Ephesus’ but quite another ‘to the faithful in Christ Jesus’. By virtue of redemption the believer is a ‘saint’ even though his walk may be far from ‘saintly’ (see 1 Corinthians where the Corinthians are called ‘saints’ yet were rebuked for gross immorality). It is otherwise with the word ‘faithful’. No one is ‘faithful’ by reason of redemption, faithfulness is an act of a responsible agent, however much it may be the outcome of Divine grace. It is obvious that pistos ‘faithful’ cannot be translated simply by the word ‘believing’ in such passages as:
The word occurs in the Prison Epistles nine times as follows:
‘The saints’ therefore are ‘the faithful’ and both are ‘in Christ Jesus’. The double title suggests the two-foldedness of their calling. As saints they have been redeemed, called, sanctified and assured of glory. This, however, does not mean that because salvation is not of works, it is not unto works. Those who are thus called and sanctified are expected to respond. They rise and walk in newness of life, and this is largely expressed in faithfulness. More than half the passages cited from the Prison Epistles, are connected with service. It is therefore not entirely to be unexpected, that some who are most certainly believers in Christ, yet who are prevented from being ‘faithful’ by reason of undispensational views, tradition and denominational bonds and practices, the fear of men, the refusal to contemplate a lonely path, ‘the other things’ that choke the Word, fail to ‘see’ the transcendent glory of the calling here revealed, who say with the traditionalists who were before them ‘the old is better’.
We have called Ephesians 1:3-14 ‘the charter of the Church’ because it includes some of the distinct features that
make this Church a unique company in the Scriptures. One way in which the teaching of Ephesians 1:3-14 can be
set before the eye of the reader is to take the recurring word ‘according’ as the pivot, and make a simple alternation
A Eph. 1:3. BLESSING.
A Eph. 1:5. PREDESTINATION and SONSHIP.
A Eph. 1:9-. REVELATION.
A Eph. 1:11-. PREDESTINATION and INHERITANCE.
This fourfold revelation of blessing beyond compare is interlinked with four statements of purpose, immutable grace, irreversible will, unfaltering counsel, and unalterable purpose.
The word ‘according’ could be translated ‘in harmony with’, ‘in accord’. Viewed externally, the promises of God appear to be baulked by evil, and threatened with extinction, yet viewed from the Divine standpoint, there is complete ‘accord’. He rules and overrules. We read in the Old Testament that Jacob and his mother ‘believed God’, but they attempted to help God fulfil His purposes by using the despicable means of fraud and deceit. What Jacob received from Isaac by deceit, he never enjoyed. Isaac pronounced the words ‘plenty of corn and wine’ (Gen. 27:28), but what a hollow mockery this promise must have sounded when Jacob was obliged to send his sons down to Egypt to buy corn! Nevertheless, in God’s own time and way, the original promise made to Jacob was given freely and without constraint (Gen. 28:3,4).
While this alternation of ‘blessing’ and ‘purpose’ is useful, it does not quite present the structure of this passage. Upon reading carefully, it will be perceived that Ephesians 1:3-14 is punctuated three times with the refrain:
On one occasion we remember likening this passage to a hymn of three verses and a refrain, and made the
suggestion that someone in the congregation might be led to write such a hymn for our use. The next week a fellow
believer and reader of The Berean Expositor who was present at the meeting, handed to us the following hymn,
which is incorporated in the hymn book used at the Chapel of the Opened Book and in many meetings along similar
lines up and down the country. The reader may like to see this, and if he so chooses, to interrupt his reading by a
song of praise.
With this song of praise in our ears and hearts, we may the better appreciate the structure of Ephesians 1:3-14
which is as follows:
Ephesians 1:3-14. All spiritual blessings
A 1:3-6. THE WILL OF THE FATHER.
A 1:7-11. THE WORK OF THE SON.
A 1:12-14. THE WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT.
We have seen that the opening section of Ephesians is threefold, and deals with:
Each department in this great passage is devoted to one phase of the truth and together make up the charter of the Church. We go back in time to ‘before the foundation of the world’ (Eph. 1:4), and on to the future day of redemption (Eph. 1:14 with 4:30). This redemption comes under the heading ‘The Work of the Son’ for He alone is the Mediator, He alone the Redeemer, for He alone offered Himself without spot an offering and a sacrifice for sin. The Spirit’s seal and earnest follows, and does not precede this great redemptive work; the Witness of the Spirit combines together the ‘Promise’ given before age times (2 Tim. 1:8-10 and Eph. 1:4) and the ‘Redemption’ accomplished by Christ.
In Ephesians 1:3-6 we have ‘The Will of the Father’.
WHAT does the believer inherit? The answer is: ‘All spiritual blessings’. WHERE will this inheritance be enjoyed? The answer is: ‘In heavenly places’. WHEN was this will made? The answer is: ‘Before the foundation of the world’. WHO will inherit? The answer is: those who receive ‘The adoption’. WHY did the Father thus choose? The answer is: ‘The good pleasure of His will’.
While these five subdivisions of this mighty subject do not actually state all that is written, it will be found that they will help us as we endeavour to grasp something of the stupendous revelation which is here made to us. ‘All spiritual blessings’.
Our blessings are not so much in mind in this opening passage as an overwhelming sense of grace. ‘Blessed be God’. No petition rises to the Father, no confession, no vows of reform, no statement of failure, but thanksgiving and worship, full and free ascends unto the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. No blessing is sought or desired, ‘all blessings’ are acknowledged. The opening words of this glorious revelation are NOT ‘May I be blessed’, but ‘May HE be blessed.’ This note struck so early, should never be forgotten by the reader as he follows his guide through chamber after chamber of unspeakable glory.
‘He hath blessed us’. The word ‘blessings’ eulogia is derived from the verb ‘to bless’ eulogeo, which is a compound of eu ‘well’ and lego ‘to speak’. The reader will recognize that this word is the origin of the English ‘eulogy’ a word meaning a high form of praise. Once, the word translated ‘blessings’ in Ephesians 1:3 is actually translated ‘fair speeches’ namely in Romans 16:18 which reveals the primary meaning of the word. Eu is an adverb, and is found in Ephesians 6:3: ‘That it may be well with thee’. It is of frequent use as a particle in combination with other words as is most familiar to the reader in the word evangel or ‘gospel’ where the letter ‘u’ is pronounced ‘v’ in English.
Writing to the believer, before the great dispensational landmark of Acts 28, Paul speaks of ‘the blessing of Abraham’ coming on the Gentiles, but Abraham is never mentioned in the ‘Prison Epistles’, and no blessing of Abraham is associated either with ‘heavenly places’ or ‘before the foundation of the world’. There are some terms used in the Scriptures, which by their very nature, and the place they occupy in the scheme of salvation, come over and over again in the writings of the apostles. Such terms as ‘faith’, ‘redemption’ ‘justification’ will come to the mind immediately, and are found in many of the epistles whether written before or after Acts 28. No one moreover could deny the use of the word ‘blessing’ when speaking of these great doctrines of salvation, yet the fact remains that Romans 15:29, ‘the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ’, 1 Corinthians 10:16, ‘the cup of blessing which we bless’ and Galatians 3:14, ‘the blessing of Abraham’ are the only other occurrences of the word in Paul’s epistles. So far as the Prison Epistles are concerned, Ephesians 1:3 stands alone, the word ‘blessing’ meeting us in the very opening words of the new revelation, and never again employed in any capacity by the apostle. Terms such as ‘seated together’ and ‘blessing’ receive emphasis by their glorious solitariness. They stand alone and are beyond compare.
These blessings of Ephesians 1:3 are moreover peculiar in this, that they are ‘all spiritual’. As the record stands in the A.V. ‘all spiritual blessings’ must be considered as plural. The fact is, however, that in the original the word is singular, and a literal rendering is ‘In (or with) every blessing (that is) spiritual’. Where the Greek word pas ‘all’ is used of one it means ‘the whole’, ‘entire’ or ‘all the ...’ but if it be used to cover several items, it means ‘every’. Green, in his handbook says that where the adjective pas ‘all’ in the singular number is written without the article ‘the’ it signifies ‘every’, but with the article it means ‘the whole of’ the object which it qualifies. Thus pasa polis means ‘every city’, pasa he polis or he pasa polis ‘the whole city’, and he polis pasa would have a slightly different meaning - either ‘the city, all of it’ or ‘the city in every part’.
The Church of the One Body is blessed ‘with every blessing that is spiritual’. This is even wider in its scope than to say ‘all spiritual blessings’ for if the number of the blessings were but few - say four, they could be defined as ‘all spiritual’, whereas the mind reels as it endeavours to grasp the fact that there is no blessing that comes under the category of ‘spiritual’ that is omitted. It is highly improbable that while we are in this life we shall be able to appreciate a tithe of what is here so freely bestowed.
We turn our attention from this vision of unspeakable glory, to consider the nature of the blessings thus bestowed. They are ‘spiritual’ Greek pneumatikos. Pneuma ‘spirit’ is derived from the idea of ‘breath’ and goes back to the equivalent terms that are found in the Hebrew. It would be a mistake, however, just here and now, to attempt a dissertation of the origin and usage of pneuma for that would take us so far afield that we should be in danger of forgetting our immediate quest. We discover that pneumatikos occurs three times in Ephesians.
Without comparison or consideration we might have been tempted to think that ‘spiritual’ blessings, must mean any blessing that comes from God, that they must be good, that they must refer to redemption and so on. But Ephesians 6:12 gives us pause, for there we read of ‘spiritual WICKEDNESSES’. It is manifestly absurd to speak of ‘good’, ‘holy’ or ‘Divine’ wickedness, and therefore we realize that the word spiritual has other and different connotations if it can be used in the same epistle of both ‘blessings’ and ‘wickedness’. In Ephesians 6:12 ‘spiritual’ wickedness is set over against ‘flesh and blood’. It is evident that the word ‘spiritual’ is the opposite of the word ‘corporeal’, and this is what we find elsewhere. Paul writing in the epistle to the Romans, places the idea of the ‘spiritual’ over against the ‘carnal’. ‘For we know that the law is spiritual pneumatikos; but I am carnal sarkinos’ (Rom. 7:14). ‘For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things’ (Rom. 15:27). In 1 Corinthians he not only contrasts spiritual with carnal, but with ‘natural’.
The ‘carnal’ things of Romans 15:27 were good. We can learn from other passages, that the apostle was very earnest in his endeavour to fulfil the injunction received at Jerusalem that in the exercise of his ministry among the Gentiles, he should remember the poor saints at Jerusalem, and quite a large portion of the epistles to the Corinthians is occupied with this ‘collection’. These ‘carnal’ things would include food and drink and clothing, and other necessities of this life. The ‘natural’ is placed over against the spiritual, for the spiritual is supernatural and is enjoyed on resurrection ground. In complete contrast with the spiritual blessings of the Mystery, are the ‘carnal’ or ‘natural’ blessings of the law.
How completely opposite all this is from the experience of the believer under the dispensation of grace. Like Paul, he may know what it is to suffer need, to be in want, to know what it is to be continually in trouble. He will have no guarantee of a settled dwelling place, he has no promise of special protection during periods of danger, his ‘basket and store’ may show impoverishment, while the ungodly may appear to prosper. It would be foolish to assess a man’s spiritual worth today by the size of his bank balance, or the weight of his watch chain. Ephesians 1:3 does not speak of daily bread, of dwelling place, of home comforts, or of business success, it visualizes a new plane, the spiritual, which is on resurrection ground. The earnest of our inheritance is not a bunch of grapes as it was when the spies returned with the grapes of Eshcol, neither are our enemies men of flesh and blood, but spiritual foes.
The individual believer, like the rest of mankind, must needs find the means of living and provide things honest in the sight of all men, but these come to him as the blessings of the wilderness. They are no more ‘spiritual blessings’ than the ‘manna’ of the wilderness was the fruit of the land of promise. A member of the One Body may be rich or poor, sick or well, in trouble or tranquil, but such conditions have no reference to ‘every blessing that is spiritual’ for two reasons.
The second reason refers of course to the words ‘in heavenly places’ and this we must now examine.
In heavenly places. En tois epouraniois. We have said elsewhere that this phrase is unique, that it occurs in the epistle to the Ephesians and nowhere else. The unwary can easily be disturbed when they read that in spite of what we have said, epouranios occurs in fifteen other places, outside of Ephesians, as widely distributed as Matthew, John, 1 Corinthians, Philippians, 2 Timothy and Hebrews. We have been accused of misleading God’s people and of misquoting the Scriptures, and yet, in spite of all that has been or can be said we repeat that the phrase ‘in heavenly places’ en tois epouraniois is unique, occurring nowhere else than in the epistle to the Ephesians.
The word ‘heavenly’ epouranios most certainly occurs elsewhere, this we have never denied. We read in Matthew 18:35 of ‘My heavenly Father’, and in John 3:12 of ‘heavenly things’, in 1 Corinthians 15:40 of ‘celestial bodies’ and in Hebrews of those who ‘tasted the heavenly gift’. No one, so far as our knowledge permits us to say, has ever maintained that those Hebrews who had tasted of the heavenly gift, had actually ascended up to heaven itself in order to taste it. Many things may be heavenly in origin and in character that are not enjoyed ‘in heaven’.
First let us consider the implications of this term ‘in heavenly places’. What justification is there for the added word ‘places’? The reader will agree that the word ‘places’ answers the question ‘where?’ and our first consideration must be to examine the Scriptures to see whether ‘this is so’. Pou is an adverb of place, and is used elliptically instead of the full expression eph hou topou ‘in what place’. We read in Colossians 3:1, ‘seek those things which are above WHERE Christ sitteth on the right hand of God’. Presently we shall see that ‘heavenly places’ is synonymous with ‘where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God’, and that it is moreover allied with the word ano ‘above’ which also is directly connected with these heavenly places. This one passage, Colossians 3:1 establishes that Christ is represented as being someWHERE, and if He is said to be seated at the right hand of God in heavenly places in Ephesians, no more need be said on that score. That such a statement is true, every reader is aware, for Ephesians 1:21,22 directs our wondering attention to the exalted position of Christ, Who being raised from the dead was set ‘at His own right hand in the heavenly places’. Now this sphere of exalted glory is further defined, it is said to be ‘Far above all principality and power’ (Eph. 1:21). The simple connective ano is sufficient to take us to ‘where’ Christ sitteth at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1), consequently the intensive huperano employed by the apostle, and translated ‘far above’ in Ephesians 1:21, cannot, certainly mean less, it must mean more than the simple ano. If we allow the apostle to speak for himself, we shall be left in no doubt as to the nature of this exaltation. In Ephesians 4 we read:
Let us notice one or two important features in this passage. ‘He ascended up’ anabaino literally means ‘to go up’ as one would a mountain (Matt. 5:1); or as the false shepherds who ‘climb up’ some other way (John 10:1). The Ascension is put in contrast with His ‘descent’ katabaino. This also primarily means ‘to go down’ as rain descends (Matt. 7:25); or when one descends a mountain (Matt. 17:9). Ephesians 4 tells us that His descent was to ‘the lower parts’ katoteros and that His ascent was ‘far above all heavens’, and lest we should be tempted for any reason to set a limit to this ascent, we are further informed that this descent and this ascent was in order that He may ‘fill all things’. Consequently, the Saviour ascended to the highest conceivable position in glory.
Now this position described as huperano, ‘far above all heaven’ is found in Ephesians 1:21: ‘Far above all principality and power’. They are coextensive in scope and meaning. In other parts of the New Testament we read of this Ascension and one or two passages give further meaning and point to the phrase we are examining ‘in heavenly places’. For when the apostle speaks of the Ascension, when writing to the Hebrews, he says of Christ that He ‘is passed into the heavens’, which the R.V. corrects to read ‘passed through the heavens’. The word here is dierchomai ‘passed through’ as Israel passed through the Red Sea (1 Cor. 10:1) or as the proverbial camel is spoken of as going through the eye of a needle (Matt. 19:24). Again, in Hebrews 7:26 Christ is said to have been made ‘higher than the heavens’. We can therefore understand that the epi in the compound epouranios does really indicate position and place - every reference so far considered points to that one fact, this is ‘where’ Christ sits, this is ‘where’ all spiritual blessings will be enjoyed.
We have not yet concluded our examination, however. Christ is said to be ‘in heaven’ (Heb. 9:24) in the
self-same epistle that says He ‘passed through the heavens’. How can this be? The Hebrew reader acquainted with
the first chapter of Genesis would need no explanation. The heaven, which is ‘at the right hand of God’ is the
heaven of Genesis 1:1. The heavens through which Christ ‘passed’ and above which He ascended are called the
‘firmament’ or ‘expansion’ in Genesis 1:6. This ‘heaven’ spread out during the ages, ‘as a curtain’ and ‘as a tent to
dwell in’ is to pass away. The Lord is far above this limited ‘heaven’ and so is the sphere of blessing allotted to the
Church of this dispensation. While there are references in the Old Testament Scriptures as well as in the New
Testament which show that saints of old knew that there were ‘heavens’ beyond the limited firmament of Genesis
1:6, no believer ever entertained a hope that the sphere of his blessing was THERE where the exalted Christ now sits
‘far above all heavens’, yet this is what we are now to learn. The expression en tois epouraniois occurs five times in
Ephesians as follows:
A Eph. 1:3. ‘In heavenly places’. Dispensation of fulness of times.
A Eph. 3:10. ‘In heavenly places’. Dispensation of the grace of God.
We will not attempt to examine these references here, but each one will come before us in its turn, and will be given the attention that such a revelation of grace demands. We have been concerned with one thing only in this study. To establish two things:
The Mystery, concerning which Ephesians was written, is the only calling of believers that goes BACK so far, even to ‘before the foundation of the world’ (an expression that awaits examination), it is the only calling of believers that goes UP to where Christ ascended when He passed through the heavens, when He ascended up ‘far above all heavens’. If these two features alone do not make the calling of the Church of the One Body UNIQUE, language is emptied of its meaning, and our attempt to let the Scriptures speak for themselves is so much waste of time. If ‘unique’ means ‘having no like or equal; unmatched, unparalleled, unequalled, alone in its kind of excellence’, these references to the phrase en tois epouraniois do most certainly indicate a sphere of blessing ‘unparalleled, unmatched, unequalled’ in all the annals of grace or glory.
The unique blessings of the Church of the One Body are ‘according’ to an elective purpose. Now, it is by no means true to say that ‘election’ or ‘predestination’ is a peculiarity of the dispensation of the Mystery, the very distribution of these terms sufficiently disproves such a statement, and no one has ever put such a proposition forward. Yet there is something unique in Ephesians 1:4, that when once perceived, makes the calling of the Church of the One Body, completely separate from that of any other company spoken of in the Scriptures. The peculiarity of this calling does not rest on the word ‘foundation’ whatever that word shall ultimately prove to be, it rests on the word ‘before’, this is the unique feature.
All other callings are related to a choice and a purpose that is dated ‘from’ or ‘since’ the foundation of the world, this calling of Ephesians alone, is related to a choice and a purpose that goes back ‘before’ that era. As a certain amount of doctrine must be built upon these two prepositions ‘before’ and ‘from’, some acquaintance with them seems called for.
Pro ‘before’ is a preposition that indicates time, place or preference.
Apo ‘from’ is a preposition that indicates separation or origin. The primary use of apo is with reference to place, but by a recognized transition, it can be employed of the distance of time, of the temporal terminus ‘from which’:
The two expressions ‘from the foundation of the world’ and ‘before the foundation of the world’ occur as
FROM THE FOUNDATION
BEFORE THE FOUNDATION
Comment upon the most obvious difference between these two sets of passages is unnecessary. Let us, however, not miss one precious item of doctrine that is revealed by comparing the three references to ‘before the foundation’ together. In John 17:24 Christ was ‘loved’ agapao, in 1 Peter 1:19,20 He was ‘without blemish and without spot’ amomos. In Ephesians 1:4 the believer is said to have been chosen before the foundation of the world ‘in love’ agape, to be ‘blameless’ amomos. Here, those who were chosen in Christ, were looked upon as being so closely identified with Him, that the same terms are used. No wonder that as we proceed we read of further identification with the Beloved that not only speaks of being ‘crucified together with Christ’, but ‘raised together’, ‘seated together’ and ultimately to be ‘manifested together with Him in glory’. These two sets of terms ‘before’ and ‘since’ indicate two distinct time periods. Further studies will show that ‘before’ and ‘since’ the age times is a somewhat similar set of terms, but before this we must arrive at some understanding of the meaning of the word ‘foundation’.
Our thoughts naturally turn to such passages as Job 38:4 and Isaiah 48:13 where the Lord speaks of ‘laying the foundation of the earth’. Now, happily, we have a New Testament quotation in Hebrews 1:10, where the word ‘foundation’ is expressed by the word themelion, but when we turn to any of the passages where the words ‘before’ or ‘from’ the foundation of the world occur, themelion is not found, but instead the word katabole is employed. It is impossible to argue, that Paul for some peculiar reason would not and did not employ the word themelion, for it occurs as the translation of the foundation of a temple in Ephesians 2:20, ‘the foundation of the apostles and prophets’, and again in 1 Corinthians 3:10 and 2 Timothy 2:19. There must be, therefore, some good reason for choosing so different a word as katabole.
This word has entered into our own language as a biological term - metabolism, being the name given to the process in an organism or a living cell, by which nutritive material is built up into living matter, and this process is divided into (1) constructive metabolism, which is called anabolism, by which protoplasm is broken down into simpler substances to perform special functions; and (2) destructive metabolism, which is called katabolism. In its biological use, katabole indicates ‘destruction’.
It is strange, if the word means to place upon a foundation, that it should have been adopted by scientists to indicate disruption. The verb kataballo is used three times in the New Testament.
indicate clearly the meaning of the word. In Hebrews 6:1 the word is used with themelion, the true word for a foundation, and there it appears to have its primitive meaning ‘cast down’ but not in the sense of overthrowing, but of laying a foundation.
Examples can be adduced to show that in some passages of classical Greek, the words katabole and kataballoapproximate to the translation of the A.V. and speak of laying a foundation, but there are many references that can be brought forward to prove exactly the opposite sense. Liddle and Scott in their Lexicon give in explanation of kataballo to throw down, cast down, overthrow, lay down, to strike down, kill, to bring down to nothing, to let fall, drop down, to cast off, reject, neglect, abandon and only in the middle voice are examples given of laying down a foundation. So under katabole, the meaning is divided between laying foundations and paying down instalments, and periodical attacks of illness and generally any disease, a cataract in the eye. It will be seen that classical usage points in two ways, but with the preponderant weight in favour of the translation ‘overthrow’.
The Septuagint version knows no such diversity. This version comes down solid for the translation ‘overthrow’ and uses the verbal form of themelion (foundation, Eph. 2:20) when it wishes to speak of laying a foundation, see for example Joshua 6:26, 2 Chronicles 8:16 and Job 38:4. If the apostle wished to speak of ‘laying a foundation’ he had this word themelioo right to hand. In Ephesians 1:4, he evidently did not wish to speak of ‘laying’ a foundation, and so chose by divine inspiration a word that consistently means in the Septuagint ‘overthrow’. It should be remembered, moreover, that there is no word for ‘foundation’ in Ephesians 1:4 apart from katabole, the word under review.
It is possible to dig out from the writings of antiquity examples that go to prove that katabole and kataballo are employed to mean ‘to lay a foundation’, and similar examples can be found of most important words. When, however, the believer learns that the Septuagint consistently uses kataballo to mean ‘overthrow’ and employs themelioo to mean ‘lay a foundation’ the matter is settled. If the apostle, when writing to the Ephesians, introduced a word with a new meaning from that which had been associated with it in the sacred books of the Jews for over two centuries, then it would have been necessary for him to have warned his readers of the change.
With these prefatory remarks, the reader is invited to consider the scriptural meaning of the words of the apostle translated in the A.V., ‘before the foundation of the world’.
Kataballo occurs some thirty times in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament Scriptures. It will strengthen
the faith of many, and deepen the conviction of most, if these references which contain the word kataballo are
quoted, but to avoid occupying a disproportionate amount of space, verses will not be given in full. We will also
quote from the A.V. instead of giving translations of the LXX version, except in those cases where the LXX has an
entirely different text. Those who have access to the LXX will not be hindered, and those who cannot refer to it will
This is rather a formidable list, and the verification of each reference is no light task, yet we believe it is
impossible for any reader not to be impressed with the solidarity of its witness. Every single reference is for the
translation ‘overthrow’, not one is for the translation found in the A.V. of Ephesians 1:4. This, however, is not all.
If each reference be read in its context, the references will be found to be those of battle, of siege, of destruction, of
judgment, which tilt the beam of the balances still further. If still further we discover what Hebrew words have been
translated by kataballo in the LXX our evidence will be complete. These we will supply, for the benefit of any who
may not have the facilities to discover them.
Not a solitary Hebrew word is here that means to build, to lay a foundation, to erect, but a variety of words all meaning destruction, spoiling, causing to fall. This is ‘proof positive’, no reasoning is necessary except the most elementary recognition of fact when it is presented. From every point of view, the word katabole in Ephesians 1:4 should be translated ‘overthrow’. The Church of the one Body consequently is blessed with peculiar blessings, these blessings are to be enjoyed in a peculiar sphere, and now we learn, they are according to a purpose made and to a peculiar period.
Where, and what is intended by the words: ‘The overthrow of the world’? We can do two things at this point. Summarily deal with this particular passage, and condense all that we have to say into the closing paragraphs of this article, or, seeing the importance of the subject, we can devote a complete article to its examination. The reader is accordingly directed to articles entitled TOHU AND BOHU, FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD, CHERUBIM and ANGELS, for other aspects of this great subject.
We cannot give an exposition of Ephesians in this analysis, but we believe that the exhibition of these distinctive features, when supplemented by reference to articles bearing such titles as BODY; MYSTERY ; PRINCIPALITY AND POWER ; BAPTISM ; HEAD ; PRISON EPISTLES ; DISPENSATION , and the like will make it abundantly clear that in the epistle to the Ephesians we have a fundamental epistle for the Church of the present dispensation.