A Technical Commentary on Ephesians 1:3-14

William Arnold III

Grammatical Analysis · Integrity of the Text · Translation · verse 3 · verse 4 · verse 5 · verse 6 · verse 7 · verse 8 · verse 9 · verse 10 · verse 11 · verse 12 · verse 13 · verse 14 · Bibliography

Grammatical Analysis of less frequent and exegetically significant words:

Inflected Form

Part of Speech


Lexical Form


4. exelexato verb 3S, AMI eklegw he chose
katabolhV noun GSF katabolh foundation
amwmouV adj. APM amwmoV blameless
katenwpion adv. or prep.   katenwpion in the presence of
5. proorisaV part. AAP, NSM proorizw having predestined
uioqesian noun ASF uioqesia adoption
6. ecaritwsen verb 3S, AAI caritow he favored
hgaphmenw part. Perf.PP, DSM agapaw having been loved (beloved)
7. apolutrwsin noun ASF apolutrosiV redemption
8. eperisseusen verb 3S, AAI perisseuw he caused to abound
9. musterion noun NSN musterion mystery
proeqeto verb 3S, AMI protiqhmi he determined
10. oikonomian noun ASF oikonomia administration
anakefalaiwsasqai verb ADInf. anakefalaiow to head up
11. eklhrwqhmen verb 1P, API klhrow we were chosen
proorisqenteV part. APP, NDM proorizw having been predestined
proqesin noun ASF proqesiV purpose
boulhn noun ASF boulh counsel
12. prohlpikotaV part. PAP, APM proelpizw "the ones having pre-hoped"
13. esfragisqhte verb 2P, API sfragizw you were sealed
14. arrabon noun NSM arrabon down payment
peripoihsewV noun GSF peripoihsiV peculiar possession

Integrity of the Text

There are three major textual variants in this passage, two in verse six and one in verse fourteen. The first variant in verse six is either the reading of enh or ‘hV. The first is supported by alephc D G K L Y most miniscules itd,g vg syrh and goth. The latter reading, which was chosen by the committee, is supported by P46 aleph* A B P 6 33 88 330 424C 436 1319 1837 1908 2127 Origen Chrysostom and Euthalius. This is also the more difficult reading and the one more likely to have been altered than vice-versa.1 The variant reading en h which is followed by the KJV and NKJV is translated as "wherein" and "by which" respectively.

The second variant in verse six is the addition of uiw autou after ’hgaphmenw at the end of the verse. This is supported by D* F G 629 it vgcl syh** sa and Ambst. Metzger thinks it to be a scribal addition.2

The last variant which is in verse fourteen either the reading of ‘o or ‘oV. A copyist could have altered ‘oV to ‘o in order to make it agree with the gender of pneuma or ‘o could have become ‘oV by attraction to the gender of the following appabwn, according to a usual idiom. The committee opted for the former due to superior external evidence. ‘o is supported by P46 A B F G L P 6 81 104 365 1175 1505 1739 1881 al b d sy-p and Ir-lat, while ‘oV is supported by aleph D Y 33 and the majority text.3

In each of these three variant readings, I must say that I agree with the committee’s opinions. The evidence for the first two is very compelling and although the last variant is the most questionable, it still seems to have strong evidence for the reading which they chose.


3 Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who blessed us in all spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world to be {us} holy and blameless before him in love, 5 having predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ for him, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 for praise of glory of his grace which graced us in the beloved. 7 In whom we have the redemption through his blood, the remission of the transgressions, according to riches of his grace 8 which abounded to us, in all wisdom and understanding, 9 when he made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he determined in him 10 for [the] dispensation of the fullness of the times, to bring together under one head all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on the earth in him. 11 In whom also we were made an inheritance, since we were predestined according to [the] plan of him working all things according to the purpose of his will 12 so that we will be for praise of his glory who have been given hope in Christ. 13 In whom also you having heard the true word, the gospel of your salvation, in whom also having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 which is [the] down payment of your inheritance, with reference to [the] redemption of the purchased possession, for praise of his glory.


3. This entire passage comprises one long sentence, with three major divisions. Each of these divisions ends with a note of praise focusing on God the Father (3-6), his Son (7-11) and the promised Holy Spirit (12-14).4

The "to be" verb in the beginning of verse 3 is lacking here but is definitely implied. The question is whether to supply the optative "be" or the indicative "is."5 The indicative would be making a statement about God while the optative would indicate a desire of the author that God would be blessed (happy). Of the thirteen translations consulted, only two (NET and YLT) supply "is." However, both the Hebrew equivalents and the general Pauline style argue for the indicative.6

Now as much as Jesus Christ is distinguished from the Father, he is also distinguished from being God altogether. This is something Trinitarians must wrestle with. God is often called the Father of Jesus Christ, but here he is called his "God." This is not the God of God but obviously the God of man. Although Trinitarians would differ with me, in my opinion the Father-Son relationship extends only to the humanity of Jesus Christ as well. Inasmuch as God is his Father he is also his God.7

4. The word eklegomai is never found in the active and hence the definition given by BAGD is "to choose or select (for oneself)."8 It is either deponent or used only in the middle. It is used with the infinitive following twice in the Septuagint as it is here, in 1 Chron. 15:2 of God choosing the Levites "to carry the ark" and in 28:5 of God choosing Solomon "to sit upon the throne." Here it is used of God choosing us to be holy (agioV) and blameless (amwmoV). Now this is a passage Armenians must wrestle with.

One explanation is that a corporate election is in view. This is based on the fact that hmaV is plural and the theme of the book of Ephesians is the church. The idea is that God determined that he would have a church before the foundation of the world but did not determine who would be a part of that church. Paul says in 3:5,6 that the church, which includes Gentile salvation, was a mystery which had been unknown in times past. So even though God had not revealed this in the Old Testament, it was always his plan. Also, we are chosen "in Christ." It is argued that he is really the chosen one and we are only chosen because we are "in him" but we choose whether or not we want to be in him. It does not say we are chosen to be in Christ, but that we are chosen in Christ, to be holy and blameless.

To be quite honest, I really don't know what to make of the whole doctrine of election at this time. Whatever we are to make of it, it must be something simple. It is not unique to Paul and is mentioned too frequently and too casually to be very complex. This would seem to indicate that it is to be taken at face value.

The phrase en agaph at the end of the verse can be taken to modify: "chose," "holy and blameless" or "by predestining" in vs. 5. If it is taken to modify the first or the last phrase then it refers to God's motivation. If it modifies "holy and blameless" then it shows a definite relationship between holiness and love.9

5. There are a wide variety of opinions on how to translate proorisaV. One is a simply temporal, antecedent translation "having predestined us." This is followed by the KJV, NKJV, ASV, DV and YLT. But as Wallace points out, although an aorist participle is usually antecedent in time to the action of the main verb, when the main verb is aorist as well the participle is often simultaneous to the action of the main verb.10 If this is true in our case then it would seem that the focus is more on means, cause or something else and that the use of the aorist is simply to agree with exelexato "he chose." Means is very explicitly followed by the NET, "He did this by predestining us," although a causal nuance, "because he predestined," is given as a possibility in the footnotes.11 A. T. Robertson and the WNT opt for a causal nuance as well.12 Another opinion is not to treat it adverbially at all but rather as an indicative, "He predestined us." This is followed by the NASB, NIV, RSV, NRSV and NLT. One again, I find myself in agreement with the NET Bible. As it points out, "an aorist participle following an aorist main verb is more likely to be instrumental than causal."13

Adam Clark gives some insight on the meaning of this word:

The verb proorizw, from pro, before, and orizw, I define, finish, bound, or terminate, whence oroV, a boundary or limit, signifies to define beforehand, and circumscribe by certain bounds or limits; and is originally a geographical term, but applied also to any thing concluded, or determined, or demonstrated.14

Vine defines it as, "to mark out beforehand, to determine before, foreordain."15 BAGD gives the simple definition of, "decide upon beforehand, predestine."16 When this word is used with reference to believers it seems to refer to a future outgrowing of our salvation which has been predestined. In Romans 8:29 it is, "to be conformed to the image of his Son." In 1 Corinthians 2:7 it is "the things God has prepared for those who love him." Here it is, "the adoption as sons," which according to Romans 8:23 is still future, and it is possibly referring to "our inheritance" in verse 11. Never does scripture say that faith, or repentance or that an individual’s initial response to him was predestined by God.

Also, there are passages which seem to indicate that predestination is indeed based upon God's foreknowledge. Romans 8:29 says that, "those whom God foreknew he also predestined," and 1 Peter 1:2 clearly states that believers are, "elect according to God's foreknowledge." These are things which Calvinists must struggle with and give reasonable explanation for. But as I mentioned before, I have not reached a satisfactory conclusion on the Calvinism-Armenianism question. I see very strong arguments for both sides. It is interesting that here our predestination is said to be, "according to the good pleasure of his will." Somehow, all of these passages can be harmonized but I do not yet know how. Maybe God is a Cal-Minian.

6. God bestowed his grace on us, "in the Beloved." Once again, it is by being in Christ that we are blessed. When we are adopted as his sons it will be, "for praise of glory of his grace."

7. According to BAGD this word apolutrwsiV originally meant, "buying back a slave or captive, making him free by payment of a ransom."17 This fits beautifully with our redemption paid for by Christ. It is by being in Jesus that we have this redemption, which is "the remission of the transgressions." This is once again according to the riches of God's grace.

8. God didn't give his grace sparingly but gave to us in abundance. This is stated in Romans 5:20 as well. This grace brought with it all wisdom and understanding, the content of which is stated in the following verses.

9. gnwrisaV is best taken as temporal here, "having made known to us" or "when he made known to us." The latter understands it to be contemporaneous with eperisseusen "abounded" and was selected for the translation. What he made known to us was, "the mystery of his will." Paul later explains that this mystery is that "the Gentiles are fellow heirs, fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus" 3:6 NET. Basically, the mystery is the church, or the dispensation of grace where Gentiles can be saved on the same level as Jews. Even though this was formerly a mystery, God had already determined that it would be, in Christ.

10. eiV, the second most common preposition in the New Testament,18 has a diversity of nuances in meaning and since it is used only with the accusative they are all open as an option. Various translations for this passage are: toward NET, with a view to NASB, that in KJV, NKJV, as a plan for RSV, NRSV, to be put into effect when NIV, unto ASV, RNWP, for DV, WNT, in regard to YLT.

After giving this much thought, I must confess that I really do not know what to do with eiV in this passage. A simple "for" was used since it seems to me to be the most generic and is in fact a very common translation of this preposition.

"Dispensation" was used for oikonomia since it has come to be a common theological term, although "administration" (NET, ASV, NASB, DV) or even as Weymouth translates it, "government of the world" (WNT) better capture the meaning of this word. BAGD doesn't see government in view here, but states that in our passage, "oikonomia certainly refers to the plan of salvation which God is bringing to reality through Christ, in the fullness of the times."19

Concerning the word anakefalaiwsasqai the NET Bible comments:

The precise meaning of the infinitive anakefalaiwsasqai (anakephalaiosasthai) in v. 10 is difficult to determine since it was used relatively infrequently in Greek literature and only twice in the NT (here and Rom 13:9). While there have been several suggestions, three deserve mention: (1) "To sum up." In Rom 13:9, using the same term, Paul says that the law may be "summarized in one command, to love your neighbor as yourself." The idea then in Eph 1:10 would be that all things in heaven and on earth can be summed up and made sense out of in relation to Christ. (2) "To renew." If this is the nuance of the verb then all things in heaven and earth, after their plunge into sin and ruin, are renewed by the coming of Christ and his redemption. (3) "To head up." In this translation the idea is that Christ, in the fullness of the times, has been exalted so as to be appointed as the ruler (i.e., "head") over all things in heaven and earth (including the church). That this is perhaps the best understanding of the verb is evidenced by the repeated theme of Christ's exaltation and reign in Ephesians and by the connection to the kefalh- (kephale-) language of 1:22 (cf. Schlier, TDNT 3.682; LN 63.8; Barth, Ephesians, 1.89-92; contra Lincoln, Ephesians, 32-33).20

11. There are also different opinions as how to translate eklhrwqhmen. The most common are "we have obtained an inheritance" (NASB, KJV, NKJV, NRSV, NLT, DV, YLT) and "we were made a heritage/inheritance" (RV, ASV, NASB-footnote, RNWP, Wuest, Vine, Thayer, Berry).21 Others are: "we have been claimed as God's own possession" (NET), "we were also chosen" (NIV, Vulgate), "we have a heritage" (CBE), "we were made heirs" (WNT) and "[in whom] our lot is cast" (BAGD). BAGD also gives the meaning "be destined, chosen" as a possibility.22 Of the first two translations, the latter goes along with LXX usage (cf. Duet 32:8-9), brings out the passive sense and seems to be in harmony with many of the other glosses given. However, the majority of translations favor the first gloss which seems to be active although the verb is indeed passive. Since some of the most respected translations favor this gloss it must indeed be legitimate although I do not understand how.

proorisqenteV is best taken as causal, "since we were predestined" as so it was translated. This is according to the God's plan, who works all things according to the purpose of his will.

12. eiV could here be understood as purpose "in order that," or result "so that, with the result that." "So that" seems to open to both interpretations and was so used for the translation. We were made to be God's heritage so that we will be for the praise of his glory.

13. Paul affirms that the Ephesians (or other recipients of the letter) heard the true word, which is the gospel of their salvation, and they also believed. pisteusanteV "having believed / when you believed" could be taken as being contemporaneous with esfragisqhte "you were sealed", depending on your theology. Both are aorist so this is a definite possibility.23 However, it is my understanding that Acts 8:12 & 1624 very clearly teach that one does not necessarily receive the Holy Spirit the moment that they believe. Therefore I have chosen the antecedent gloss, "having believed, you were sealed."

tw pneumati could be taken as a dative of means "by means of the Spirit," or possibly as a dative of material "with the Spirit" (i.e., the Spirit is the seal). Since the Spirit is modified by "of promise" and we know that actually receiving the Spirit is what was promised, the latter category was chosen.

14. Concerning the word arrabwn BAGD comments:

first installment, deposit, down payment, pledge, that pays part of the purchase price in advance, and so secures a legal claim to the article in question, or makes a contract valid . . . in any case, arrabwn is a payment which obligates the contracting party to make further payments.25

So the Holy spirit is said to be only the down payment of our inheritance. Here eiV is taken as reference. It is only the down payment "with reference to the redemption of the purchased possession." This is when we will receive in full. Once again, this is all for the praise of God's glory.


The NET Bible. USA: Biblical Studies Press, 1999.

Bauer, Walter A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.

Berry, George Ricker Greek-English Lexicon to the NewTestament in The Interlinear KJV. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, ncd

Clark, Adam Clark's Commentary Vol. III. Nashville: Abingdon Press, ncd.

Metzger, Bruce A Textual Commentary of the Greek New Testament. Germany: Biblia-Druck, 1994.

Perschbacher, Weseley J. The New Analytical Greek Lexicon. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1990.

Robertson, A. T. Robertson's New Testament Word Pictures. (taken from CD-Rom).

Thayer, Joseph Henry A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. (taken from Online Bible Software).

Vine, W. E. Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996.

Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996.

Wuest, Kenneth S. Wuest's Word Studies Vol. I. Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing & Company, 1953.


1. Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, (New York, NY: United Bible Society, 1971), 532. <back>
2. Metzger, 532. <back>
3. Metzger, 533. <back>
4. The NET Bible, (USA: Biblical Studies Press, 1999) p. 614. <back>
5. NET, 614. <back>
6. NET, 614. <back>
7. also Matt 27:46, Mark 15:34, John 20:17, 2 Cor 11:31, Eph 1:17, (?-Col 1:3), 1 Peter 1:3. <back>
8. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979) p. 242. <back>
9. NET, 614-615. <back>
10. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996) p. 624. <back>
11. NET, 615. <back>
12. A. T. Robertson, Robertson's New Testament Word Pictures, (taken from CD-Rom). <back>
13. NET, 615. <back>
14. Adam Clark, Clark's Commentary Vol. III, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, ncd) p. 431. <back>
15. W. E. Vine, Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996) p. 165. <back>
16. Bauer, 709. <back>
17. Bauer, 96. <back>
18. Wallace, 357. <back>
19. Bauer, 559. <back>
20. NET, 615. <back>
21. Robertson, CD-Rom; Vine, 303; Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest's Word Studies Vol. I, (Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1953) Ephesians, p. 46.; Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, (taken from Online Bible Software); George Ricker Berry, Greek-English Lexicon to the NewTestament in The Interlinear KJV, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, ncd) p. 56. <back>
22. Bauer, 435. <back>
23. see comments on verse 5. <back>
24. "But when they believed Philip as he was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they began to be baptized, both men and women . . . (For the Spirit had not yet fallen upon any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)" Acts 8:12&16, NET. <back>
25. Bauer, 109. <back>

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