Debra Boone

Religion 314

November 12, 2002

Dr. Cranford


The Theology of Ephesians

1.      Authorship and historical setting

2.      Audience

3.      Purpose

4.      Key themes


Authorship and Historical Setting

Although there is currently some disagreement as to who wrote Ephesians, it was generally accepted up until the last two hundred years that the apostle Paul wrote this epistle while imprisoned in Rome sometime around 60-61 AD.   



Although the churches at Ephesus have traditionally been thought of as the recipients of this letter, some of the earliest and most reliable manuscripts, Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and a papyrus from the second century (P46) do not include the references “to the Ephesians” in the superscript and “ in Ephesus” in the prescript in 1:1.[1]  Because of this lack of personal reference and the overall general nature of the letter it has been suggested that this epistle was not written to a specific church but was written specifically with the intention of it circulating among several churches.[2]


Ephesians has much in common with Colossians. More than half of Ephesians is paralleled in Colossians.[3] T. Moritz suggests that Ephesians is possibly “Colossians re-written”, with the intention of it being for a slightly different audience with the shared purpose of addressing the issue of syncretism.[4]  This purpose is carried by focusing on the issues of unity within the congregation, and the importance of living a Christ-like life.[5]

To this end Ephesians is divided into two distinct sections. The first section, chapters 1-3, utilizes more of the language and style of praise, worship, and prayer. The second section, chapters 4-6, is more practical in addressing specific aspects of Christian conduct. According Moritz, “Ephesians accounts for more than a quarter of the exhortations in the Pauline corpus to conduct oneself…in a way worthy of Christ.”[6]  


Key Themes

The theme of “grace” is used quite often in the text of Ephesians. This is especially true of chapter two with the repetition of the phrase “by grace you have been saved”. The Greek word used here is caris.[7] This word carries the idea in this context of favor or goodwill, specifically the favor or goodwill of God.

 The “unity of the spirit” (Eph. 4:3) and the “body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12) are also key themes. Paul encourages the readers to work together in order to build up the “body of Christ.”



Arnold, C. E. “Letter to the Ephesians” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, eds. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1993.


Bauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.


Cranford, Lorin. “Relationships among the Prison Letters.”


_______. “Time Lines of Ancient History.”


_______. “List of Epistolary Divisions in Paul’s Letters.”



Dunn, J. D.G. “Pauline Legacy and School.” Dictionary of the Later New Testament and its Developments. Ralph P. Martin, Peter H. Davids, eds. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1997.


Moritz, T. “Ephesians”. New Dictionary of Biblical Theology.  Alexander, T. Desmond, Brian S. Rosner, eds. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2000.



[1] Arnold

[2] Dunn

[3] Cranford

[4] Moritz

[5] Arnold

[6] Moritz

[7] Bauer