Paul’s Imprisonment As The Glory Of The “Ethnē”: A Discourse Analysis Of Ephesians 3:1–13 -- By: Aaron Sherwood

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 22:1 (NA 2012)
Article: Paul’s Imprisonment As The Glory Of The “Ethnē”: A Discourse Analysis Of Ephesians 3:1–13
Author: Aaron Sherwood


Paul’s Imprisonment As The Glory Of The “Ethnē”:
A Discourse Analysis Of Ephesians 3:1–13

Aaron Sherwood

Roanoke College

In Eph 3:2, Paul is moved to interrupt his prayer for the audience by something he has said in v. 1, and he does not resume the prayer until 3:14, after the digression of vv. 2–13. The reason for Paul’s digression and how it satisfactorily addresses whichever concern prompted it represents a lacuna in Ephesians scholarship. This essay engages in a discourse analysis of Eph 3:1–13 to clarify its structure, thereby revealing the purpose it serves in its immediate context as well as its role within the letter as a whole. So that the audience might accept his instruction, Paul argues that, because his imprisonment is defined by his apostleship, his imprisonment is not a source of shame that undermines God’s purposes but rather a source of honor that confirms God’s eschatological plan. Consequently, the prayer in 3:1, 14–19 now has behind it not just the audience’s narratio of 1:20–22 but the joint force of the audience’s narratio together with Paul’s narratio in 3:1–13.

Key Words: digression, discourse, Ephesians, gift, honor, imprisonment, shame, structure

Chapter 3 of Ephesians opens with a prayer that gets interrupted after just a few words and is not resumed until 3:14. The intervening material is theologically packed, as well as arguably the most intensely personal pericope of Ephesians. But the purpose of the interruption and why, apparently satisfied, Paul resumes his prayer are not explicit in the text.

Scholars generally agree that 3:2–13 is a digression of some sort.1 Chapter 2 discusses the redemption of Gentile believers alongside Jewish fellow

believers, and 3:1 begins with an anaphoric τούτου χάριν, “as if intending to launch into a prayer related to [2:11–22].”2 Then the reuse of το...

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