Powers Of Darkness: An Evaluation Of Three Hermeneutical Approaches To The Evil Powers In Ephesians -- By: Annang Asumang

Journal: Conspectus
Volume: CONSPECTUS 05:1 (Mar 2008)
Article: Powers Of Darkness: An Evaluation Of Three Hermeneutical Approaches To The Evil Powers In Ephesians
Author: Annang Asumang


Powers Of Darkness:
An Evaluation Of Three Hermeneutical Approaches To The Evil Powers In Ephesians1

Annang Asumang2

Abstract

The Book of Ephesians remains one of the main sources for understanding Paul’s doctrine of the nature, influence and conquest of the evil powers. Yet, the process of applying this teaching into the contemporary setting has been fraught with difficulties. The continental differences in worldviews significantly affect the hermeneutical process. This article aims to review a number of current hermeneutical approaches to understanding the nature and influence of the evil powers in Ephesians. Though Paul’s teaching is timeless, it is salutary that he refrained from over systematizing the doctrine. The interpretation in the African, Asian and Southern American contexts therefore require a modest appreciation of the shared understanding with the biblical worldview of spirits. Yet, it also necessitates cautious discernment against reinventing superstition.

1. Introduction

In the introduction to his classic Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis (1962:3) makes the astute observation that, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist and a magician with the same delight”. This timeless caution is particularly true when interpreting the nature and influence of the evil powers in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. The most important factor, it appears, is the presuppositions and worldviews3 with which an interpreter approaches the biblical data. Yet, as we shall discover, no worldview is immune to either error.

In this article, I aim to illustrate Lewis’ point by evaluating three contemporary hermeneutical approaches to the interpretation of the evil powers. Beyond illustration, another objective is to highlight the need for careful discernment and constant re-evaluation in evangelical understanding of Scripture, regardless of one’s location.

2. The Evil Powers In Ephesians

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians4 is matched only by his letter to the Colossians for its emphasis on the comprehensive victory of Christ over the powers. Words such as dunamis, (power), exousiai (authorities), kosmokratōr (rulers), archai (principalities), kuriotēs (d...

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