The Portrait Of The Readers Prior To Their Coming To Faith According To Ephesians -- By: Christoph W. Stenschke

Journal: Southeastern Theological Review
Volume: STR 05:1 (Summer 2014)
Article: The Portrait Of The Readers Prior To Their Coming To Faith According To Ephesians
Author: Christoph W. Stenschke

The Portrait Of The Readers Prior To Their Coming To Faith According To Ephesians

Christoph W. Stenschke

University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Forum Wiedenest, Bergneustadt, Germany

1. Introduction

In recent academic study of Ephesians attention has been paid to issues of authorship and pseudonymity, to the particular historical situation for which the letter has been written, to the reconstruction of the relationship between Jewish Christian and Gentile Christians and how it is addressed in the letter, to the conceptual background of the head-body metaphor, to the religious background of the letter either in some form of Gnosticism or in the Old Testament and Hellenistic Judaism and to the portrayal of Paul in the letter and its implications for issues of authorship and the nature of the letter.1 To some of these issues we shall return in this essay.

In current New Testament studies issues of identity have received a fair amount of attention.2 Such studies primarily focus on the new identity of the believers and the new community which they constitute. Particular attention has been paid to the manner of the construction of this new identity. What constitutes the identity of early Christians vis-à-vis other religious and social groups in the ancient world such as Jewish synagogues or Hellenistic mystery religions or the ancient associations? What is their origin and ethos? In

such discussions, one significant aspect of identity has often been neglected, namely the former identity and behaviour that the new converts have left behind?

Issues of identity also play a major issue in Ephesians. Carson and Moo note that in the letter “in general there is an effort to give Paul’s readers a distinctively Christian identity.”3 While not employing the concept and language of identity, Arnold describes three areas where Ephesians aims at constructing the new identity of the readers:

Being converts from a Hellenistic religious environment—mystery religions, magic, astrology—these people needed a positive grounding in the Pauline gospel ... Their fear of evil spirits and cosmic powers was also a great concern, especially the question of where Christ stands in relation to these forces [1]. Because of their pagan past, they also needed help and admonishment in cultivating a lifestyle consistent with their salvation in Christ, a lifestyle free from drunkenness, sexual immorality, stealing and bitterness [2]. Although there were many Jewish C...

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