Monday, August 23, 2010

The New Testament in a Year: Galatians 4-6 and Ephesians 1-2

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 BibleGateway.com 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 Galatians, chapters 4-6 and Ephesians, chapters 1-2.


Chapter 4

  • Verses 8-20 - When Paul opened this letter, he quickly got to the point about how he was concerned that the Galatians were too heavily influenced by some other group that was preaching "another gospel."  We're now more than half-way through the letter, and it remains clear that this outside influence is Paul's primary concern.   
  • Verses 21-31 - Paul knew the law extremely well, yet argues that we are not to live under it.  This is a primary concern for him, as his analogy from Genesis here demonstrates.  Even so, it seems worth the reminder that we've already seen several times that Paul does not equate "no longer living under the law" with an "anything goes" morality (indeed, Paul will remind us of this in the next chapter).
Chapter 5
  • Verse 3: "I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law." - I know I pointed this out last week already, but Paul's strong argument here is at odds with what he did with Timothy in the book of Acts.  
  • Verse 12: "As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!" - Strong words, indeed!
  • Verse 22: "Against (the fruit of the Spirit) there is no law." - And if we're not under the law, why should we care? ;)
Chapter 6
  • Verse 1 - I've often wondered what Paul intends when he admonishes people to restore those in sin "gently."  Paul himself seems far from gentle at times!
Ephesians
Chapter 1
  • Verse 1 - Ephesians is one of those letters that, although attributed to Paul in the text itself, its authorship is sometimes questioned by scholars.1 I see no reason to be dogmatic one way or the other on this issue.  Perhaps less controversial is the fact that the earliest manuscripts do not explicitly state that Ephesus was the letter's destination.  The prevailing theory is that what we now know of as "the letter to the Ephesians" was originally a circular letter intended for multiple churches, with the identity of the destination church to be filled in at this point.2
  • Verses 4 and 5 - The words "in love" at the end of verse 4 are taken by the TNIV as properly beginning the sentence that continues in verse 5.  That is to say, God predestines us in love.  However, those words might actually belong at the end of the sentence just prior to it (that is, the bulk of verse 4), indicating a response of love on the part of God's people.3
  • Verse 11 - The concept of predestination shows up again, this time coupled with being "chosen" by God.
Chapter 2
  • Verse 2: "the ruler of the kingdom of the air" - The context indicates that this phrase is intended to refer to Satan, but I confess I'm not clear on the history behind the phrase.  Why is Satan connected with "air," for example (indeed, this would argue against the common conception of heaven as a place in the clouds, wouldn't it?)?

1See Arthur G. Patzia, Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (New International Biblical Commentary), Hendrickson, 1984, pp. 121-128.
2See Patzia, pp. 121-122, 146.
3Patzia, p. 153.

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