The Triumph of God in Christ Divine Warfare in the Argument of Ephesians -- By: Timothy G. Gombis

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 56:1 (NA 2005)
Article: The Triumph of God in Christ Divine Warfare in the Argument of Ephesians
Author: Timothy G. Gombis

The Triumph of God in Christ
Divine Warfare in the Argument of Ephesians1

Timothy G. Gombis

The Letter to the Ephesians finds itself in an odd situation. While it has held an esteemed position in the history of the Christian church and has been a rich resource for Christian theology through the centuries, it has been a puzzle for New Testament scholars and has endured some rather unflattering descriptions. It has been called ‘confusing’, an ‘enigma’, and ‘sublime yet elusive’. This state of affairs in Ephesians scholarship has come about because of the difficulty involved in discerning the internal coherence of the letter. While scholars agree on the presence of major themes within the letter, such as corporate unity, the people of God and cosmic Christology, the manner in which they are integrated into an argument remains a mystery. If there is anything approaching a consensus on this matter, it is that the letter is largely a reinterpretation of the essence of Pauline theology for a new generation of Christians. As such, Ephesians does not contain an argument, but is rather a pastiche of Pauline traditions woven together by a Pauline disciple. Complicating matters further for those attempting to find a coherent argument is the appearance of works arguing that there is no integral relationship between the two halves of the letter: chapters 13 and 46. One recent monograph has argued that the unity of Ephesians is not found in a thematic or theological coherence, but rather in a rhetorical scheme.

This letter, then, which has been so influential and which has enjoyed a place of such prominence in the Christian tradition has come to be regarded as only barely coherent and, as a result, has suffered relative neglect in New Testament scholarship. Recent attempts to situate the letter in a first-century context have provided no help in discerning the argument of its author. A fresh reading, therefore, is

needed, one that seeks to determine whether there is a coherent argument within Ephesians, and how this argument unfolds.

In this thesis, I argue that Ephesians does indeed contain an argument and that it has a tight coherence that binds together the letter’s two halves. When read through the ideology of divine warfare from the ancient world, the argument comes into view. This argument has to do with asserting and defending the triumph of God in Christ over all competing cosmic powers. The author claims that God has triumphed over the power...

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