Ephesians 2:11-22

2.11 διὸ μνημονεύετε ὅτι ποτὲ ὑμεῖς τὰ ἔθνη ἐν σαρκὶ, οἱ λεγόμενοι ἀκροβυστία ὑπὸ τῆς λεγομένης περιτομῆς ἐν σαρκὶ χειροποιήτου,

Verses 11-13 form a section in this discourse defining the previous condition of those Paul is addressing and the transformation which has occurred.

διὸ μνημονεύετε –The initial particle διό (“inferential”) signals that this section builds on what precedes and is marking some action to be followed (see usage at 3:13 4:25). The verb is a present active imperative.

ὅτι ποτὲ ὑμεῖς τὰ ἔθνη ἐν σαρκὶ — ὅτι indicates a discourse, content clause functioning as object of the main verb. Defines what the recipients are to “remember.” It is a nominal clause. The adverb ποτέ indicates the expression refers to the past. How should we render τὰ ἔθνη – the nations, Gentiles? Does it make a difference? ἐν σαρκί as a prepositional phrase is referential and may in this context which discusses circumcision indicate that “the nations” are different “in reference to flesh,” i.e., they were ἀκροβυστία. So if this is what they were at one time, what are they now?

οἱ λεγόμενοι ἀκροβυστία – The articulated participle is nom. masc. pl., functioning substantivally, and is appositional to ὑμεῖς.  ἀκροβυστία is part of a subject-complement structure following λεγόμενοι “those being called….” The active transformation would be “they say that you are ἀκροβυστία.” ἀκροβυστία is only found in biblical Greek, initially in the Greek Pentateuch, and specifically means “foreskin.” By metonymy it describes people who are uncircumcised, i.e., they still have their foreskin and so are not Jews.

ὑπὸ τῆς λεγομένης περιτομῆς ἐν σαρκὶ χειροποιήτου – The prepositional phrase defines the agent of the previous passive participle λεγόμενοι. The present participle λεγομένης probably here has the sense “so-called” and is adjectival, modifying περιτομῆς (circumcision). χειρποιήτου is a two-termination adjective placed in the predicate position to give it some emphasis, presumably (cf. Col. 2:11-12). It underlines this as physical circumcision, as does the prepositional phrase ἐν σαρκί (reference), not circumcision of the heart. The entire structure is a metonymy for “Jews.”

2.12 ὅτι ἦτε τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ χωρὶς Χριστοῦ, ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι τῆς πολιτείας τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ καὶ ξένοι τῶν διαθηκῶν τῆς ἐπαγγελίας, ἐλπίδα μὴ ἔχοντες καὶ ἄθεοι ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ.

ὅτι ἦτε τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ χωρὶς Χριστοῦ — An adverbial causal clause giving a reason for information given in the main clause of the prior ὅτι content clause. Note that the subject continues (you plural). This is an equative clause, using an imperfect verb and indicating the category in which the subject belongs. The dative phrase expresses time at which, specifying the previous ποτέ. καιρός perhaps means “timeframe, occasion, era,” i.e., a time when there was no Messiah. The prepositional phrase uses an infrequent preposition denoting exclusion or separation, here with the sense “without or separate from.” It occurs most often in Paul, Hebrews and James. Should we consider Χριστοῦ as indefinite, i.e. “without/ separate from a Messiah?” This prepositional phrase may be the general statement whose significance the following expressions define.

ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι τῆς πολιτείας τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ – The perfect passive participle (cf. 4:18) could be read several ways. It could be adverbial and resultative, i.e., “with the result that you were in a state of alienation or exclusion….” Or it could be read as a complement of ἦτε, parallel with χωρὶς Χριστοῦ. Or it might even be considered part of a periphrasis ἦτε…ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι, but the intervening elements probably makes this less likely. πολιτεία describes a “socio-political entity” which has certain definition and rights. The genitive marks separation. τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ probably is descriptive, but it could be epexegetical.

καὶ ξένοι τῶν διαθηκῶν τῆς ἐπαγγελίας – καὶ probably is conjunctive, joining ξένοι with ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι to form a compound expression. However, it could be read as ascensive, i.e., “indeed, unfamiliar with…” further commenting on the nature of or reason for this exclusion. ξένοι could be read as an adjective (“unfamiliar, unacquainted with”) or a noun (“foreigners, strangers”). The genitive τῶν διαθηκῶν is a genitive of separation. τῆς ἐπαγγελίας may be attributive (“the promised covenants”), epexegetical (“the covenants,” i.e., the promise”), but in that case one might expect a plural form, i.e., the promises, or it could simply be descriptive. “The nations” have no part in the covenants. I wonder if this represents Paul’s theological position in his pre-conversion, Pharisee experience. What would be included in the plural διαθηκῶν?

ἐλπίδα μὴ ἔχοντες καὶ ἄθεοι ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ — The lack of another καί suggests that this element should be read in distinction from the previous compound expression. The participle ἔχοντες would have the same function as ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι. It is a present participle. ἔλπιδα is the object of the participle. Its position gives it prominence. It is compounded with ἄθεοι, creating a parallelism with the previous compound expression. It is an alpha-privative adjective and could simply mean “without god” or more negatively “atheist.” However, it might have sense “god-forsaken.” The prepositional phrase is locative and κόσμος perhaps means “the world of humanity” in contrast to the socio-political entity of Israel. Or, it could be a reference to world/universe, heightening the sense of hopeless, i.e., godless in the universe.

2.13 νυνὶ δὲ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ ὑμεῖς οἵ ποτε ὄντες μακρὰν ἐγενήθητε ἐγγὺς ἐν τῷ αἵματι τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

νυνὶ δὲ ἐν Χριστῷ  Ἰησοῦ — νυνὶ contrasts with the previous ποτὲ…τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ and functions as a temporal adverb modifying ἐγενήθητε. It is placed in the most prominent position in its clause. The longer form νυνί may also express some emphasis. Given the chronological contrast, δέ probably marks that contrast. The prepositional phrase defines the new situation that characterizes Paul’s audience – “in the sphere of/in relationship with Messiah Jesus.” Presumably his use of Χριστῷ is a deliberate contrast with the previous prepositional phrase χωρὶς Χριστοῦ.

ὑμεῖς οἵ ποτε ὄντες μακρὰν – The pronoun defined by the attributive participle is the subject of the main verb. Its expression and modification gives it some prominence. The accent on the article οἵ reflects the following enclitic and is not to be confused with a form of the relative pronoun. The repetition of the ποτε enhances the contrast with the preceding νυνὶ but also recapitulates what Paul has just affirmed in the previous two verses. The adverb μακρὰν uses a spatial metaphor to indicate the magnitude of the change. The participle probably is adjectival, but it could be construed as a substantive in apposition with the pronoun, i.e. “you, the ones who at one time were distant, became….”

ἐγενήθητε ἐγγὺς — The aorist passive form ἐγενήθητε indicates that these people “became” something. The aspect of the aorist tense form presents this as a completed action. ἐγγὺς is another spatial adverb and it modifies the main noun. It is another way by which Paul emphasizes the change which has occurred – μακρὰν…ἐγγὺς. When used with locative adverbs or an εἰς prepositional phrase indicating movement, γίνομαι can signify “to make a change of location in space, move” (BDAG 198). So perhaps here Paul intends to say “you… moved near.” By implication (cf. v.17) “the near” would be the people of Israel.

ἐν τῷ αἵματι τοῦ Χριστοῦ. – The prepositional phrase is instrumental in force. The genitive construction indicates possession. Note that p46 B both omit the genitive. Does it change the meaning at all? The reference to the Messiah’s blood undoubtedly references motifs of sacrifice and atonement, but also of covenant-making.

2.14 αὐτὸς γάρ ἐστιν εἰρήνη ἡμῶν, ποιήσας τὰ ἀμφότερα ἓν καὶ τὸ μεσότοιχον τοῦ φραγμοῦ λύσας, τὴν ἔχθραν ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ αὐτοῦ,

Verses 14-17 provide explanation for how this transformation has become possible. The Messiah not only creates this opportunity by his sacrifice, but he also proclaims this good news. Note the repetition of ὑμῖν τοῖς μακρὰν καὶ…τοῖς ἐγγύς.

αὐτὸς γάρ ἐστιν εἰρήνη ἡμῶν – The subject is marked and put in the most prominent position. γάρ marks this clause as an explanation for what precedes. ἡ εἰρήνη is a predicate nominative and in this equative clause describes the category to which the subject belongs. It is contrasted with the following τὴν ἔχθραν and is repeated in vv. 16 and 17. The genitive pronoun may be objective, i.e., making peace for us or it may simply be possessive. Why does he switch to first person plural here, given his use of second plural pronouns previously? Does v. 17 gives us the reason?

ποιήσας τὰ ἀμφότερα ἓν – This attributive participle is compounded with λύσας and by virtue of the single article (Granville Sharp rule) both participles together define αὐτός. The aorist tense form indicates a completed action. ποιέω takes a double accusative (object-complement) when it means “making something something.” ἓν is the accusative form of the numeral “one.” This description of the transformation is repeated and further explained in vv. 15-16 with many of these terms repeated.

καὶ τὸ μεσότοιχον τοῦ φραγμοῦ λύσας – καὶ is conjunctive here. τὸ μεσότοιχον is the object of the following attributive participle. Paul may be referring by analogy to the wall separating the court of the Gentiles in the Temple precinct from the inner courtyard reserved for Jewish males. If this is the case, then the inscriptions set in that wall have been recovered and they contain warnings to non-Jews that they could be killed for violating the inner precinct. τοῦ φραγμοῦ means “fence, hedge or partition” and repeats the sense of the head noun. So the genitive be attributive or epexegetical.

τὴν ἔχθραν ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ αὐτοῦ — There is debate as to whether these expressions belong to what precedes or to what follows. If they go with what follows, then they modify τὸν νόμον. If they go with what precedes, then they define the wall which the Messiah has destroyed. τὴν ἔχθραν indicates that this division between the nations and Israel is not benign, but generates hostility on both parts. Philo testifies to this in his descriptions of the pogroms against the Jewish community in Alexandria during his lifetime and he was Paul’s contemporary. Paul may also have in mind the tense relations which existed in Palestine between the Jews and the Roman occupiers. God acts in Christ to bring reconciliation not just between himself and humanity, but among all humanity. The prepositional phrase marks instrument. However, the repetition of σαρκί reminds us of its use in v. 12 where it defines the physical condition of and distinction between the nations and the Jews. Jesus uses his physical reality to create peace, not as a means to mark difference and hostility. Is this similar to Paul’s use of the circumcision motif in Colossians 2:11-12 to describe the Messiah’s death?

2.15 τὸν νόμον τῶν ἐντολῶν ἐν δόγμασιν καταργήσας, ἵνα τοῦς δύο κτίσῃ ἐν αὐτῷ εἰς ἕνα καινὸν ἄνθρωπον ποιῶν εἰρήνην

τὸν νόμον τῶν ἐντολῶν ἐν δόγμασιν καταργήσας – The second part of previous v. 14 has the compound attributive participles. We continue in this verse with an adverbial participle καταργήσας which describes the circumstances under or the means by which the Messiah “is” our peace and adding further understanding about how he has made peace and destroyed enmity. The nominative form links it to the subject and the aorist tense form indicates a completed action – he has destroyed/annulled or invalidated/made ineffective. The object of this action is τὸν νόμον which refers to the Law of Moses which put in place the boundaries distinguishing Israel from the nations. The genitive τῶν ἐντολῶν could be attributive or epexegetical. The prepositional phrase describes what “the law of the commands” consists of, i.e., “ordinances.”

ἵνα τοῦς δύο κτίσῃ ἐν αὐτῷ εἰς ἕνα καινὸν ἄνθρωπον – Probably indicates the purpose that motivates the Messiah’s action, presuming that the Messiah is the intended subject. The object of the verb is pre-posed and occupies the focal point of the clause. The verb is aorist active subjunctive. The first prepositional phrase is locative and probably is a form of the ἐν Χριστῷ construction. κτίζω + object + εἰς phrase means “make something into something” (cf.  the usage in 2:10). The repeated use of the numeral one or the adjectival form in these verses should be noted. It can be used as a noun or as an adjective, as here. What does καινὸν ἄνθρωπον mean (cf. 4:24)? Alternatively, καινὸν ἄνθρωπον could be appositional to ἕνα.

ποιῶν εἰρήνην – Note the  use of the cognate noun ποίημα in connection with κτισθέντες in 2:10. ποιῶν is an adverbial participle related to the action of the subject. Is it defining the result of Christ’s action, which enables him “to be our peace” (v.14). The participle is a present tense form indicating that the action is incomplete in some way. Perhaps “producing peace” would communicate the continuing effect of his action.

2.16 καὶ ἀποκαταλλάξῃ τοὺς ἀμφοτέρους ἐν ἑνὶ σώματι τῷ θεῷ διὰ τοῦ σταυροῦ, ἀποκτείνας τὴν ἔχθραν ἐν αὐτῷ.

καὶ ἀποκαταλλάξῃ τοὺς ἀμφοτέρους – The aorist subjunctive verb form is the second main verb in this compound purpose clause begun in v. 15b. This double compound verb is only found in Christian literature (cf. Col. 1:20, 22).  This is the second of three uses of ἀμφότερος in vv. 14 (neuter form), 16 (masculine), 18 (masculine). It picks up the previous τοὺς δύο in 16b. Note that in this clause the verb is first in its clause, which seems to be a default position. The Messiah would continue to be the subject.

ἐν ἑνὶ σώματι τῷ θεῷ διὰ τοῦ σταυροῦ — The first prepositional phrase may be locative, indicating where this reconciliation occurs, i.e., among the people of God, but also seems to have a nuance of goal or outcome that results from this act of reconciliation. The dative τῷ θεῷ functions as the indirect object of the verb. διὰ τοῦ σταυροῦ defines the means used for enabling reconciliation to occur (cf. ἐν τῷ αἵματι in v. 13).

ἀποκτείνας τὴν ἔχθραν ἐν αὐτῷ — This aorist adverbial participle defines the result the Messiah intends to achieve through this act of reconciliation. ἀποκτείνας picks up the nuance of execution that the previous σταυρός implies. The prepositional phrase indicates means or instrument and refers to the cross. ἔχθραν picks up its previous usage in v. 14.

2.17 καὶ ἐλθὼν εὐηγγελίσατο εἰρήνην ὑμῖν τοῖς μακρὰν καὶ εἰρήνην τοῖς ἐγγύς·

καὶ ἐλθὼν εὐηγγελίσατο – What movement of Christ is expressed by the adverbial participle ἐλθὼν? Is this incarnation, the resurrection pronouncements, or the expression of the good news through Christ’s representatives, the apostles (cf. 1 Corinthians 5)? The aorist middle εὐηγγελίσατο probably intensifies the emotion involved in this action and aspectually indicates a completed action – “he proclaimed good news….”

εἰρήνην ὑμῖν τοῖς μακρὰν καὶ εἰρήνην τοῖς ἐγγύς – The double εἰρήνην is the compound object of the main verb. The repetition is a means of emphasis. There is also a compound indirect object, with the first member being ὑμῖν, defined by the attributive τοῖς μακρὰν (the article here linking the adverb with the pronoun adjectivally), and the second being τοῖς ἐγγύς. The article with the adverbs functions as a nominalizer. Paul affirms that both the nations and Israel requires this peace-making project, implying that Israel too lacks reconciliation with God, despite all of its privileges, perhaps implying its failure to be a “light to the nations” as God purposed.

2.18 ὅτι διαὐτοῦ ἔχομεν τὴν προσαγωγὴν οἱ ἀμφότεροι ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι πρὸς τὸν πατέρα.

ὅτι διαὐτοῦ ἔχομεν τὴν προσαγωγὴν – This is a causal clause which explains what Christ’s action of reconciliation accomplishes for the nations and Israel. δι’ αὐτοῦ indicates means and references Christ. The first person plural present indicative verb picks upon the mention of both groups in v. 17 and indicates a incomplete action. The object of the verb is τὴν προσαγωγὴν – “access, entrance” (cf. 1 Peter 3:18).

οἱ ἀμφότεροι ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι – οἱ ἀμφότεροι modifies the subject of the verb, i.e., “we both.” The prepositional phrase indicates the means by which this access is provided, namely the Holy Spirit, who is the same for both parties. The Trinitarian expression should be noted. Or perhaps ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι should be interpreted in a way similar to ἐν Χριστῶ.

πρὸς τὸν πατέρα – The prepositional phrase indicates a spatial idea, defining goal or direction. Cf. 3:15 for a reference to God as father and having a family.

2.19 ἄρα οὖν οὐκέτι ἐστὲ ξένοι καὶ πάροικοι ἀλλἐστὲ συμπολίται τῶν ἁγίων καὶ οἰκεῖοι τοῦ θεοῦ,

ἄρα οὖν οὐκέτι ἐστὲ ξένοι καὶ πάροικοι – The two initial particles when found together express a transition (οὖν) to a result (ἄρα), i.e., “so then.” The adverb οὐκέτι expresses a negative, temporal idea “no longer.” The equative verb characterizes the second person plural subject with two predicate nominatives. ξένοι means “foreigner, stranger” and πάροικος means “a stranger who lives alongside, but who has no citizenship rights” (used in 1 Peter 2:11-12). The clause indicates a change in status.

ἀλλἐστὲ συμπολίται τῶν ἁγίων – The ἀλλά marks what replaces the previously excluded option. This is another equative clause, with συμπολίται being the predicate nominative, “fellow-citizens, members of the same state” (cf. τῆς πολιτείας τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ  in v. 12). The genitive τῶν ἁγίων probably marks association and this term “holy ones” frequently defines believers in the Messiah in Ephesians.

καὶ οἰκεῖοι τοῦ θεοῦ — This is a second predicate nominative and places the subject in the category of “household members.” The genitive identifies who owns the household. So συμπολίται…καὶ οἰκεῖοι contrast with the preceding ξένοι καὶ πάροικοι. The οἰκο—root is probably repeated deliberately.

2.20 ἐποικοδομηθέντες ἐπὶ τῷ θεμελίῳ τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ προφητῶν, ὄντος ἀκρογωνιαίου αὐτοῦ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ,

ἐποικοδομηθέντες – This is an adverbial aorist passive participle, revealing something about the subject in v. 19, i.e., “having been built/constructed upon.” If it is closely connected with the previous equative verb, then it might function attributively, defining the subject in an additional manner to the previous predicate nominatives (cf. the use of the equative verb in v.12 and the following participles). However, the distance from ἐστέ probably precludes this interpretation.

ἐπὶ τῷ θεμελίῳ τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ προφητῶν – The prepositional phrase picks up the ἐπι – prefix in the compound verb. It functions locatively/spatially. The genitive construction is another example of Granville Sharp’s rule. The “foundation” includes both “apostles and prophets.” There is continued debate as to whether this refers only to NT period leaders or includes also OT leaders, i.e., prophets. The word order often is seen as indicative of only a NT period reference, but we cannot be sure because Paul may be including a self-reference here, given his comments that follow in 3:1-13, as one who proclaims good news to the nations. However, 3:5 probably indicates NT period people.

ὄντος ἀκρογωνιαίου αὐτοῦ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, — The genitive absolute allows the writer to add a separate piece of information which is essential, but not syntactically related to what precedes. It may signal attendant circumstances. Paul has in this section positioned Messiah Jesus as the one responsible for enabling and proclaiming reconciliation and so he rightly is viewed as the critical foundation/corner stone for this new edifice of people that God is constructing. ἀκρογωνιαίου is genitive because it is the predicate of an equative clause whose subject is genitive. It is uncertain whether it refers to foundation stone or capstone. The previous mention of θεμελίῳ probably tips the scales in favour of “foundation stone. αὐτός probably functions here as the self-identifying pronoun – “Messiah Jesus himself.” Ἰησοῦ is genitive of apposition.

2.21 ἐν πᾶσα οἰκοδομὴ συναρμολογουμένη αὔξει εἰς ναὸν ἅγιον ἐν κυρίῳ,

ἐν πᾶσα οἰκοδομὴ — The referent in the prepositional phrase is probably “Messiah Jesus” which immediately precedes. πᾶσα οἰκοδομὴ is the subject of the clause and πᾶσα has the sense of “entire.” Why is there no article? Should we render it as “an entire building, tightly fitted together, will grow…”?

συναρμολογουμένη – This present passive participle is probably attributive, modifying οἰκοδομὴ and indicating that it is “being tightly joined together” (cf. 4:16). The agent is undefined. It suggests that the building process is being done well and joints between the stones square and tight.

αὔξει εἰς ναὸν ἅγιον ἐν κυρίῳ — The present indicative verb indicates a construction program that is incomplete. The εἰς phrase indicates the goal of the construction. In the OT Yahweh gave the constructions for the tabernacle to Moses and for the temple to David. He knows how to build “a holy temple” and now proceeds again with such a project, but this time the building materials are his people. ἐν κυρίῳ probably is synonymous with the more frequent ἐν Χριστῷ with the preposition indicating association. Who is κύριος here? It lacks an article and so could refer to Yahweh or to Jesus Christ.

2.22 ἐν καὶ ὑμεῖς συνοικοδομείσθε εἰς κατοικητήριον τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν πνεύματι.

ἐν καὶ ὑμεῖς συνοικοδομείσθε – The initial prepositional phrase picks up the previous κυρίῳ. καὶ is ascensive emphasizing ὐμεῖς. Note the explicit subject and its position prior to the verb, both of which signal prominence. The writer returns to the second person plural pronoun. The present passive indicative indicates that something is being done to the subject, i.e., “being build together.” With whom are they being associated in this building process?

εἰς κατοικητήριον τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν πνεύματι – The prepositional phrase εἰς κατοικητήριον marks the goal or expected outcome of the building process. The noun κατοικητήριον means a “places where dwelling occurs, a dwelling or place of habitation.” It occurs at the end of the Song of Moses in Exodus 15:17 as εἰς ἕτοιμον κατοικητήριόν σου where it seems to refer to be parallel to εἰς ὄρος κληρονομίας σου.. The translator of Exodus goes on to describe it as ὃ κατειργάσω, κύριε, ἁγίασμα, κύριε, ὃ ἡτοίμασαν αἱ χεῖρές σου. It is unclear precisely what the translator of Greek Exodus meant by the expression which seems to be a description the land of Canaan. Often in the OT it refers to the Temple of Solomon. However, Paul’s formulation seems to echo this language, but why is unclear, unless he intends to suggest that what God is doing in Christ is in fact the fulfilment of what he had promised to Israel, i.e., their inheritance. The final prepositional phrase indicates that the Spirit is the means by which this construction is completed. Again note the Trinitarian formulation connected with this building project.