By Charles H. Welch
Family. This word occurs but once in the N.T., where it translates the Greek word patria (Eph. 3:15). Patria itself occurs three times:
Patria is obviously a derivative of pater, "father", and is itself one of a "family" of words derived from this "parent" stock. So we have patroos "the fathers", patris "country", patriarches "patriarch". The family therefore is a community owning a common father. The R.V. reads at Ephesians 3:15 "every family" instead of "the whole family" as in the A.V. The employment of the English word "family" here has somewhat limited the teaching of the Apostle. The word "family" is derived from the Latin famulus, a servant, whereas the Greek word so translated here is derived from the word "father". Joseph was of the lineage of David, but scarcely of his family. The blessing of Abraham is to flow out to all kindreds of the earth, rather than to all families.
Patria is a word in common use in the LXX, where we read many times of "the house of the fathers", as in Exodus 12:3, and in Numbers 1 :2, we read that the census of Israel was to be taken "after their families, by the house of their fathers" . As late as the prophet Zechariah, the people of Israel were still spoken of as "the family of the house of David" or "the family of the house of Nathan" (Zech. 12:12-14), but it must be noted that the Greek word used here is not patria but phule "tribe" . The word family is more domestic in its implications than the word house, lineage or race. We speak of a respectable family, or of the royal family, but we speak of an illustrious house and of the house of Bourbon or of Hanover.
Strictly speaking, it is not too happy a thought that the One Father has many families, and so while we must acknowledge that the translators of the A.V. knew very well that the words pasa patria must mean "every" patria, not "the whole" patria, yet, because they chose to use the word "family" they sacrificed the grammar to the higher claims of truth. If we do not use the word "family" here, but use something more in line with the LXX usage like lineage, kindred, father's house, we shall be nearer to the intention of the Apostle in Ephesians 3:15.
"Of Whom." This expression can refer to the Father, or to the Lord Jesus Christ, and commentators are divided in their opinion. As no one can be a child of God apart from redemption, and no one can call God "Father" apart from Christ, we incline to the interpretation that the words "of Whom" refer to Christ, although of course, ultimately, even though through Him, all fatherhood must go back to the Father Himself. In Deuteronomy 18:8, we find the word "patrimony", a word that translates the Hebrew al ha aboth "concerning the father's (clans)" or kata patrian of the LXX. An allied term patronymics deals with the name of a clan or tribe; in Greek, this was indicated by the ending ides, as Tydides-the son of Tydeus; in English by the word son, as Johnson-the son of John. Norman-French patronymics are often formed by the prefix Fitz as Fitzwilliam; Irish and Scotch by Mac., Mc and 0'. It is utterly impossible to incorporate all this into a translation of Ephesians 3: 15 but something of this meaning is implicit in the wording.
The epistle to the Colossians not only speaks of Christ as the Head of the Church, but of all principality and power (Col. 1: 18, 2:10), reconciliation is applied to things in heaven as well as things on earth (Col. 1 :20,21). Dr. Lightfoot cites a Rabbinica1 authority, saying, "The mother's family is not to be called a family", hence the genea10gies of Scripture come through the male line. Wetstein cites passages from Rabbinical writings to show that the Jews spoke of angels as the upper family and His people on the earth as His lower family. All of whatever race, rank or sphere, bear the name of their Head. We append a note given in The Companion Bible on page 1771 as a supplement: