AUTHOR, PLACE AND DATE OF WRITING
It appears that the apostle Paul wrote Ephesians (1:1; 3:1; but see "The Authorship of Ephesians" on p. 1919) between A.D. 60 and 62, while he was imprisoned in Rome (3:1; 4:1; 6:20), and that Tychicus delivered the letter (6:21-22).
A number of churches in the province of Asia, including the one in Ephesus. most likely read this letter. Evidently Paul had not met all of the Christians in areas where this epistle circulated, but he had heard about their faith and was aware that news of his ministry had reached them (see 1:15; 3:2).
CULTURAL FACTS AND HIGHLIGHTS
During Paul's day Ephesus was a thriving urban center and the capital of the province of Asia (see "Ephesus During the Time of Paul" on p. 1968). Rivaling Rome, Antioch, Alexandria and Corinth in importance, Ephesus' strategic location at the center of trade routes attracted people from all over the known world.
Today the ruins of Ephesus (in modern-day Turkey) still proclaim its former magnificence. In Paul's day thousands of people traveled there to worship in the temple of Artemis (Diana), one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Activities in three gymnasiums. public baths and a theater that seated 25,000 people provided some of the local entertainment and recreation.
AS YOU READ
Watch for Paul's frequent use of the phrase "in Christ" to explain the believer's new relationship to the Lord. Note Paul's systematic enumeration of the many blessings Christians possess in Christ. Look for the clear statement of God's ultimate purpose for the universe (see 1:10) and his plan for the church. Finally, notice the word pictures Paul used to describe the church and the importance of unity.
DID YOU KNOW?
Paul's letter to the Ephesians focuses on two aspects of unity:
1. The basis for unity. God's eternal purpose—"to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ" (1:10)—is evidenced in, and accomplished through, the church. Christians are chosen to be "holy and blameless" before God (1:4), were created in Christ Jesus "to do good works" (2:10) and have been called to be members of a united "household" (2:19). By his death Christ destroyed every "barrier" (2:14) that separated human beings, so believers can have true unity as members of "one body" (3:6). Through the church the "mystery" (1:9; 3:3-6) that all believers share a common identity as the one family of God is revealed and fulfilled (3:9-10).
2. Maintaining unity. Church unity is more than just an ideal; it is a reality to be experienced. Paul gave practical instructions for realizing and maintaining this unity. Old patterns of thinking and behavior, which were characterized by futility, darkness and sensuality (4:17-19). had to be "put off" (4:25). Instead, believers were to live in a manner consistent with their salvation in Christ (4:1).
II. The Divine Purpose (1:3-3:21)
III. Practical Instruction (4:1-6:20)
IV. Conclusion (6:21-24)
EPHESIANS 2 Gentiles were allowed to enter the outer temple enclosure in Jerusalem.This large, paved area surrounding the temple and its inner courts was enclosed by a double colonnade of pillars standing 37 feet (10 m) high.The perimeter of this area measured three-quarters of a mile (1.2 km). This outer court was also called the court of the Gentiles.
But Gentiles were physically prevented access to the inner courts of the temple by a 4.5 foot (1.4 m) high barrier (Paul's "dividing wall of hostility" in 2:14). The Jewish historian Josephus pointed out that 13 stone slabs with writing in both Greek and Latin were placed at intervals on the barrier, warning Gentiles not to enter., In Josephus's words,"There was a partition made of stone ... Its construction was very ele-gant; upon it stood pillars, at equal distances from one another, declaring the law of purity, some in Greek, and some-. in Roman letters,that 'no foreigner should go within that sanctuary— (Wars, 5.5.2). Archaeologists have discovered two of these warning slabs, which state:"No foreigner is allowed to enter within the balustrade surrounding the sanctuary and the court enclosed. Whoever is caught will be personally responsible for his ensuing death."
This dividing wall had great significance for Paul, who was arrested in Jerusalem for reportedly bringing a Gentile into the inner court of the temple (see Ac 21:16-30). Paul and other Jewish followers of Christ recognized that the God who had previously resided in the temple had entered humanity in the person of Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus' death on the cross and his resurrection had in effect broken down the dividing wall, effecting spiritual unity between Jews and Gentiles. As a result, Paul knew, all people have been granted access to God through saving faith in Jesus Christ.
EPHESIANS 4 Did Paul truly write the letter to the Ephesians? The answer has great significance for the let-tees canonical authority, In Ephesians 3:1-7 Paul placed great emphasis on his apostolic authority (see also 1Co 9:1-2; 2Co 12:11-12; Gal 1:1). So rejection of Pauline authorship would significantly diminish the letter's authority.
Some scholars question Paul's authorship of this book because its vocabulary differs somewhat from his other letters and its sentences are unusually long and complex.The theology of Ephesians also incorporates the idea of the church universal, suggesting that this letter might be dated to a time after the apostle's death, when the church was better established and theology was more developed (although Paul certainly espoused this concept).The letters of Ephesians and Colossians are in fact quite similar, raising the possibility that Ephesians was modeled after Colossians but written later and by a different author.
Other evidence, however, does support Pauline authorship:
EPHESIANS 5 The cult of Dionysus, the god of wine, also called Bacchus, appears to have emigrated from Asia to ancient Greece. Dionysus worship was notorious for its unrestrained, orgiastic character, involving wine, music,dance and sex (although festivals offi-cially sanctioned by Greek cities tended to downplay some of the wilder elements).
Euripides, the ancient Greek playwright, included a memorable account of Dionysus worship in his play Bacchae. This play highlights the efforts of Pentheus, king of Thebes, to stifle Dionysus worship in his city.At the end of the play,frenzied female devotees of Dionysus (a group that included Pentheus's mother) tore the unfortunate king limb from limb.
The cult remained popular throughout the Hellenistic age. Although suppressed in Rome during the second century B.C., Dionysus worship experienced a resurgence, becoming an authorized religion of the Roman Empire. Outsiders sometimes confused Jewish worship with that of Dionysus, possibly for the following reasons:
EPHESIANS 6 The Latin phrase pater familias, which means"father of the family,"signified the Roman father's place as the head of the family.' Roman writers commonly discussed family life in terms of three sets of fundamental relationships: husbands and wives, parents and children,and masters and slaves., This organizational pattern, called the"household code," was strictly hierarchical. By following the code, the patriarch/ householder adhered to the generally accepted, "proper way" to rule his household. In Roman culture people understood that society's structure and stability were rooted in the family's structure and stability. The empire itself was viewed as a great family in which the Roman emperor stood at the top and everyone else had a predetermined, designated place.
Fathers were expected to provide for their families, although mothers often imparted the most direct moral influence on young children. As a son grew up, however, the father would assume primary responsibility for his education and discipline.
The Roman mother held a place of high honor in society and was expected to behave with honor and chastity. She handled day-to-day responsibilities of her household, held the household keys and managed any domestic servants. Beginning with the Augustan Age,a Roman woman who had at least three children was free to conduct business on her own. Some Roman women were renowned for their wisdom and virtue. For example, the Roman statesman Cicero read and admired the letters of a famous Roman matron named Cornelia.
Modern Bible students do well to be cautious of popular but false generalizations stating that women and girls, even in the upper echelons of Roman society, were regarded as little more than property, on a par with domestic animals, or that Roman men had no love for their wives and daughters. Roman women definitely had fewer legal rights than men, but they and their children (including to some extent their daughters) still had rights and often enjoyed deep affection from their husbands and fathers. Cicero maintained a close relationship with his daughter Tullia and was devastated when she died. Pliny the Younger, another Roman, wrote tender love letters to his wife, Calpurnia.
Greek and Roman epitaphs often record great sorrow and affection for deceased wives and daughters, and epitaphs written for departed husbands are often equally tender. One mourning widow described how she and her husband had been bound by love from the moment they met.
We are unwise to attempt to project atti-tudes/cultural perspectives on to ancient people simply because their social order was hierarchical or their marriages often arranged. For additional information on women during the New Testament period, see "The Role of Women in Religious Life in the Greco-Roman World" on page 1879 and "The Demeanor of Wives".
Paul, in Ephesians 5:25 —6:8, not surprisingly assumed a top-down, male-dominated social order. Still, people of the Roman world would not have perceived his injunction that a husband was to love his wife (5:25 —33) as contrived, peculiar or revolutionary.