The Berean Expositor
Volume 31 - Page 34 of 181
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Was "Ephesians" a circular letter?
pp. 106 - 108
To every believer, who has by grace become a member of the Body of Christ, and
who has appreciated the distinctive character of the present dispensation of the mystery,
the epistle to the Ephesians must ever be held in high esteem. We have, in early volumes
of The Berean Expositor, attempted an exposition of this epistle, which occupies the
greater part of the Volume entitled "The Testimony of the Lord's Prisoner". We return to
its pages, again and again in the course of our ministry, and now, in the present series we
approach the epistle from yet another angle. In the course of exposition, much that needs
explanation is crowded out, much has to be omitted because of the fact that all readers
have not attained the same degree of advancement. We therefore commence a new
series, and entitle it Ephesia, which we hope indicates the character of these studies. We
are here concerned with the material out of which the epistle is built. We want to provide
the reader with information, points of grammar, number of occurrences, and various
details that cannot be introduced in the ordinary way.
To the Ephesians.--The Revised Version retains the words "at Ephesus" in chap. 1: 1,
but includes in the margin the note: "Some very ancient authorities omit at Ephesus."
We learn from Col. 4: 16 that Paul had written a letter to the Laodiceans, and
Marcion believed it to be the same as the epistle to the Ephesians. It has been suggested
that Colossians was a similar letter to be sent round the other churches (Col. 4: 16), but it
must be remembered that this epistle contains the words: "To the saints and faithful
brethren in Christ which are at Colosse" (Col. 1: 2), and that the authority for this
designation has never been questioned.  Ephesians consequently could have been a
circular letter, and yet retain the "at Ephesus".
There is a passage in Basil (A.D.350) which shows that the words "at Ephesus" were
omitted from the epistle as he read it, for he says that Paul spoke of the saints "who exist"
(Tois ousin) and his comment is:
"Truly united by knowledge of the Existing One (to onti) denominating them in a
singular manner (idiazontos), as existing (ontas)."
Origen (A..D230) had observed earlier:
"We found this expression `to the saints that exist', used only in the case of the
Jerome, speaks of Origen's explanation (he goes back to Exod. 3: 14):
"as too subtle, and he affirms that other Expositors are of the opinion that the true
reading here is not `to those who are', but `to those who are holy and faithful at