Monday, August 30, 2010

The New Testament in a Year: Ephesians 3-6 and Philippians 1

For my own personal study, I am using a combination of tools. These include listening to an audio version of the Bible (TNIV) and a series of commentaries in addition to the text itself. I recognize that not everyone will have access to these materials. I can at least provide a link to the Biblical text itself. For this purpose, I've found that is a very useful tool. Not only does it include the TNIV, which enables me to link to the same text as what I'm listening to with the audio version, but one can easily switch to another translation (if one so desires) simply by using the drop-down menus. I hope that this is helpful.

This week, I am working through Ephesians, chapters 3-6 and Philippians, chapter 1.

Chapter 3

  • Verses 3-6 - I'll admit to not pulling out a concordance to check, but I don't think I've seen this idea (that the Gentiles and Jews share in the gospel) referred to as a "mystery" before.  It seems to me that's not a word that gets used by accident....
Chapter 4
  • Verses 17-19 - I find it intriguing that "Gentiles" are being written of in this way.  In other letters, Paul complains that the Jews have been "hardened" against the gospel.  Of course, this passage is less about race and more about those who are in Christ (regardless of race).  It is almost as though Gentile doesn't mean "non-Jew," but rather "non-Christian."
Chapter 5
  • Verses 21-33 - As I'm writing this (on August 30th, which means I'm already late for my usual Monday morning posting time!), it is my 7th anniversary.  While reflecting on my (then-upcoming) anniversary, I stumbled upon a post I wrote nearly five years ago, contrasting my own wedding service with another that happened two years later in the same worship space. We both used (most of) this passage of Scripture as our central text, but the differences are rather telling.  In the interest of fairness, it should be acknowledged that scholars are divided as to whether verse 21 should go with the preceding verses, or with the verses that follow, as in the TNIV (in contrast with the NIV), and as my own wedding officiant used this passage1.
Chapter 6
  • Verse 4: "Fathers, do not exasperate your children" - One wonders what Paul had in mind here.  Patzia says that the Greek word means "provoke to anger."2  Was there some common practice that Paul was especially writing against?
  • Verses 5-9 - Concerning slavery.  That Paul seems not to condemn the practice, but indeed exhorts obedience of slaves to their masters, has been a source of contention for ages.  Perhaps it is too flippant to acknowledge that the passage reflects the laws and morality of the time (however true that may be) as if to suggest that such passages hold no weight anymore.  It is perhaps important simply to recognize that many Christians of this era were slaves,3 and thus it was important to recognize that God had something to say to them in their new state as believers. 
  • Verses 10-17 - This passage describing "the full armor of God" is surprisingly detailed.  I wonder why it was considered necessary to engage in this extended metaphor.
Chapter 1
  • Verse 7 - This is the first of quite a number of times that Paul refers to his "chains" in this letter.  It is apparent that Paul is imprisoned.  Yet he mentions his imprisonment almost off-handedly.  I'm left to assume that Paul's readers knew about his condition before they even got the letter.  I wonder how long he had been "in chains" by this time?
  • Verse 14 - I'm especially curious as to how Paul's condition (which, while it could be worse, is clearly not what one might prefer) is actually such an encouragement to other Christians, such that they can "proclaim the gospel without fear."

1See Arthur G. Patzia, Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (New International Biblical Commentary), Hendrickson, 1984, pp. 264-265.
2Patzia, p. 279.
3See Patzia, p. 91.

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