Ephesians 4:20-24

Ephesians 4:20-24

4.20  ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐχ οὕτως ἐμάθετε τὸν Χριστόν,

ὑμεῖς δὲ — The particle δέ introduces a new thought in the discourse. It could be contrastive with the previous discussion since the subject is ὑμεῖς in distinction to τὰ ἔθνη. However, it could merely signify the shift to a new topic, i.e., “now you….” The explicit pronoun gives prominence to the subject, as well as its position in the clause.

οὐχ οὕτως ἐμάθετε – the combination of adverbs offers a rather emphatic negation “not so,” occurring in the focal point of the clause prior to the verb. The verb is aorist active indicative. The act of learning lies at the heart of discipleship. The curriculum is the Messiah and the entire “mystery” of God’s plans which the incarnation is revealing. The learning ties in with references to intellect, mind, ignorance which Paul used in vv. 17-19.

τὸν Χριστόν – It is highly unusual in Greek literature for this verb to take as an object a person. How do you “learn” a person in the same way to learn science? But this seems to be what Paul intends and perhaps his language is deliberately provocative.

4.21  εἴ γε αὐτὸν ἠκούσατε καὶ ἐν αὐτῲ ἐδιδάχθητε, καθώς ἐστιν ἀλήθεια ἐν τῷ Ἰησοῦ,

εἴ γε αὐτὸν ἠκούσατε – Paul inserts a first class condition, which assumes the reality of what is proposed. γε is a particle, an enclitic, that adds a bit of emphasis, perhaps “if indeed….” The writer places the object before the verb, putting it in the focal point of the clause. The verb is aorist active indicative. In Classical Greek an accusative object with this verb often indicated the content of what was heard. I am not sure whether we should translate this as “heard him” or “heard about him.” I think the second is more likely.

καὶ ἐν αὐτῲ ἐδιδάχθητε – The καί is coordinating the two conditional clauses. The verb is aorist passive indicative. Paul does not indicate the agency responsible for the teaching. The adverbial prepositional phrase is not expressing agency, but rather more likely has a referential sense, i.e., about him.

καθώς ἐστιν ἀλήθεια – Paul adds a comparative clause which qualifies the acting of hearing and teaching about Jesus. It is compatible with the truth which is located in and associated with Jesus. The equative verb affirms that “there is truth in Jesus” or “truth is in Jesus.” The claim to truth contrasts with crafty deceptions mentioned in 4:14 and the futility and ignorance that characterizes the nations (4:17-18).

ἐν τῷ Ἰησοῦ — This adverbial prepositional phrase probably has a locative sense with a resultant idea of association. The truth is located in Jesus. It is unusual for Paul to refer simply to Ἰησοῦς and here he may emphasizing his incarnational ministry – life, death and resurrection, as well as his message.

4.22  ἀποθέσθαι ὑμᾶς κατὰ τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον τὸν φθειρόμενον κατὰ τὰς ἐπιθυμίας τῆς ἀπάτης,

ἀποθέσθαι ὑμᾶς – This infinitive probably relates to the two verbs of hearing and teaching and introduces the indirect discourse which defines some of the content of that message. It is an aorist middle infinitive, with the middle indicating the involvement of the subject in the action in a way that it is affected. The subject is the accusative ὑμᾶς.

κατὰ τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν – The adverbial prepositional phrase precedes the object and this ordering ensures that the audience hears why it is necessary to discard “this old person.” κατά + the accusative indicates a standard which is being described. In this case they discard the kind of person who acts according to the standard which guided the “former conduct.”

τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον – This is the object of the infinitive. The article points to a specific element. Paul’s use of terms such as προτέραν and παλαιὸν heightens the contrast with what replaces the kind of person/personality. Exactly what Paul means psychologically by this term is debated, but probably in his mind it has to do with the human person who is part of the fallen world system and living under the curse of sin. It is part of the idea that conversion is a creative act of God that results in everything being new.

τὸν φθειρόμενον – This present passive participle functions adjectivally and qualifies the “old person” as “being corrupted.” The concept of corruption in Greco-Roman thought spoke of the disintegration and mortality that humans faced both physically and spiritually. It was the great human problem for which no solution could be found in pagan religion and philosophy.

κατὰ τὰς ἐπιθυμίας τῆς ἀπάτης – This is a second adverbial prepositional phrase that indicates the standard which defines this “corrupting” action, i.e., it is in conformity with desires that deceive. The term ἐπιθυμία can be positive or negative, depending upon the context.  These desires have the appearance of pleasure and life, but are fundamentally deceptive in that they merely characterize the reality of corruption. The genitive τῆς ἀπάτης characterizes the nature of these desires/lusts. Perhaps it is an attributed genitive, i.e., “deceitful desires.”

4.23  ἀνανεοῦσθαι δὲ τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ νοὸς ὑμῶν

ἀνανεοῦσθαι δὲ — The particle δέ is continuative here, connecting this infinitive with the previous one and indicating it is part of the truth that is in Jesus. It is a present middle infinitive indicating an incompleted action is in view.

τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ νοὸς ὑμῶν – The dative suggests a dative of reference or perhaps means. This marks the human element that is being renewed.  What does πνεῦμα refer to? Some translations interpret this as an action of the Spirit. Others seem to take spirit as referencing some element of the human psyche. The function of the genitive will change depending on how one interprets πνεῦμα. If it refers to the Holy Spirit, then presumably the genitive indicates where or how the Spirit is affecting the human person, i.e., in the mind. If the spirit is a term of human psychology, then the genitive could simply be descriptive.

4.24  καὶ ἐνδύσασθαι τὸν καινὸν ἄνθρωπον τὸν κατὰ θεὸν κτισθέντα ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ καὶ ὁσιότητι τῆς ἀληθείας.

καὶ ἐνδύσασθαι τὸν καινὸν ἄνθρωπον – This is the third infinitive in the series and seems coordinated particularly with ἀνανεοῦσθαι as two positive changes that occur in believers. The “putting on” metaphor contrasts with the previous reference to discarding something. The infinitive is aorist middle as is ἀποθέσθαι. The accusative noun is the object. καινὸν contrasts with the previous παλαιὸν. This refers to the “new creation in Christ.”

τὸν κατὰ θεὸν κτισθέντα – Paul qualifies ἄνθρωπον with an adjectival participle (aorist passive) which describes the origin of this “new person.” This is God’s creative work and is fully compliant with his standard, i.e., his plans and intentions. The element of creation was already mention explicitly in 2:10. Presumably this is the “new creation.”

ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ καὶ ὁσιότητι τῆς ἀληθείας. – In contrast to the corrupt behaviour of the people who exist under sin’s regime, this new creation exists in the realm of righteousness and holiness, both of which give expression to this truth found in Jesus. The adverbial prepositional phrase seems to be locative in force, indicating “where” spiritually this new creation now exists. This new location then defines behaviour and conduct which must conform to God’s standards.