Ver. 1. S. Chrysostom takes notice, in his preface to this epistle, that the doctrinal part in the first three chapters is treated in a very sublime manner, with long periods and sentences, which makes the style more perplexed and the sense more obscure than in his other epistles. On this account I shall first give the reader a paraphrase as literal as I can, and then make some short notes on the difficulties in the text. Wi.
EPISTLE OF S. PAUL, THE APOSTLE,
TO THE EPHESIANS.
Ephesus was a famous city, the metropolis of Asia Minor, upon the Ægean Sea, now called the Archipelago. In it was the temple of Diana, one of the seven wonders of the world. S. Paul had staid there two years, and preached another year thereabouts. See Acts xx. The chief design of this Epistle was to hinder the Ephesians, and others in the neighbouring cities, from being seduced by false teachers, who were come among them. In the first three chapters he extols the grace of God, in mercifully calling the Gentiles. It was written when S. Paul was a prisoner; (see C. iv. 1. and vi. 20.) but whether during his first imprisonment, at Rome, an. 62, or in the latter imprisonment, as others judge about an. 65, is uncertain. Wi.
---Ephesus was the capital of Lesser Asia, and celebrated for the temple of Diana, to which the most part of the people of the East went frequently to worship. But S. Paul having preached the gospel there for two years the first time, and afterwards for about a year, converted many. He wrote this Epistle to them when he was a prisoner at Rome, and sent it by Tychicus. He admonishes them to hold firmly the faith which they had received; and warns them, and also those of the neighbouring cities, against the sophistry of philosophers and the doctrine of false teachers, who were come among them. The matters of faith contained in this Epistle, are exceedingly sublime, and consequently very difficult to be understood. It was written about twenty-nine years after our Lord's ascension. Ch.
--- Ephesus was the chief city in Asia Minor, much given to superstitions, and not less to debauchery and libertinism. In it was the famous temple of Diana. S. Paul had preached in this place three years; (Acts xx.) so that all, both Jews and Gentiles, heard the word of the Lord, till he was driven away by Demetrius, the silversmith. At his departure, he left Timothy (1 Tim. i.) to maintain the purity of the gospel, and preserve them from the fables, which S. Paul had warned the Ephesians, would be introduced among them by rapacious wolves, and men talking perversely, to lead disciples after them. The Gentile converts held fast to the doctrines they had received from S. Paul: the Jews were the chief innovators. To the former the apostle writes this Epistle, praising their steadfastness, and instructing them more fully in the hidden mysteries of faith, viz. redemption, justification, call of the Gentiles, predestination, and the glorification of Christ, and his body, the Church. In the fourth, and succeeding chapters, he exhorts them to the practice of morality, and to fulfill their respective duties of parents, children, masters, servants, &c. and finally reminds all the soldiers of Christ, to be armed with spiritual weapons against all the assaults of the devil. S. Jerom observes that this Epistle, especially the first three chapters, are intricate and difficult; probably owing to the sublimity of the subject. The last three contain the most interesting morality. Estius. passim. See also Acts xviii. 19. et seq. and xix. 1. et sequ.
--- When Cardinal Pole was consulted by what method the obscure passages of S. Paul's Epistles could be best unfolded, he replied: Let the reader begin with the latter part, where the apostle treats of morality, and practise that which is delivered there; and then let him go back to the beginning, where points of doctrine are discussed with great acuteness and subtilty.
Ver. 3. With all spiritual blessings in heavenly places: lit. in heavenlies,† or celestials, which some expound and translate, in heavenly things; but this being expressed just before by spiritual blessings, it rather seems to be understood of the glory prepared for us in heaven, or in the heavenly mansions; in which sense it seems to me, according to the interpretation both of S. Jerom and of S. Chrys. in their commentaries on these words. Estius takes notice that the same expression, in the celestials, is used five times in this epistle, and in all of them signifies places above us. Wi.
--- Blessed be the God, who, through his Son Jesus Christ, made man, hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings and gifts; and by his grace, infused into our souls, has given us a title to a happy eternity in heaven. Wi.
--- In heavenly things; (in cælestibus) i.e. all spiritual blessings for heaven, or for eternity. This is the object of all the blessings we receive from God; and we ought, according to the first intention of them, to refer them all to eternal or heavenly beatitude. S. Paul distinguishes the blessings which we receive in Jesus Christ from those bestowed upon the Jews, which were temporal and limited to this earth. Calmet. Ch.
[†] V. 3. In cælestibus, en toiV epouranioiV, in supercælestibus. S. Jerom, (p. 324, tom. 4. nov. edit.) Spiritualia in cælestibus expectanda . . . thesaurizamus nobis in cælis. See S. Chrys. log. a. p. 765.
Ver. 4-8. As by his eternal decree, according to the purpose of his good will and pleasure, he hath made choice of us to be his adoptive sons, and predestinated us to be saved and glorified by the merits and grace of his beloved Son, our Redeemer, without any merits of ours to the glorious praise and riches of his grace, by which he hath made us abound in all wisdom and true prudence. Wi.
Ver. 6. To the praise of the glory of his grace; i.e. unto the glorious praise or commendation of his grace. Wi.
Ver. 8. In all wisdom and prudence; which may be either referred to the wisdom and prudence of God, the giver of grace, or to the gifts of wisdom and prudence bestowed upon the elect. Wi.
Ver. 9. That he might make known to us, and to all men, the mystery of his will and pleasure in establishing his new law, of calling all Gentiles, as well as Jews, to believe in his Son, made man for us, in the dispensation of the fulness of times, (that is, at the time decreed from eternity) to establish, to accomplish, and, as it is in the Greek, to recapitulate all things in heaven and on earth, in Christ, and through him, and his merits; on earth, by fulfilling all the types, figures, and prophecies concerning the Messias; and in heaven, by filling up the number of his elect. Wi.
--- The mystery of his will. The word mystery signifies a secret, an unknown design. It was the will of God, to reveal to us the great design he had in the incarnation of his Son, viz. the formation of one great body of true adorers; composed, without distinction, of Jew and Gentile: till (v. 10) when the time appointed shall come, he will reunite and perfect in or under Christ this one body, composed of the Church triumphant, Angels and saints in heaven, and the Church militant upon earth. S. Chrysostom, Estius, &c.
--- Which he hath purposed in him;† i.e. in Christ: but in the Greek the sense is, in himself; i.e. in God the Father, who sent his Son. Wi.
[†] V. 9. In eo; but in the Greek, en autw, in seipso.
Ver. 10. In the dispensation of the fulness of times. It may perhaps be translated, at the appointed fulness of time, which is generally expounded to signify at the time decreed from eternity.
--- To establish (or restore) all things in Christ.† The Greek is to recapitulate, or, as the Prot. translation, to gather together all things in Christ; which S. Jerom expounds, by a fulfilling at once in Christ all the ancient figures and prophecies of the former law. Wi.
[†] V. 10. Instaurare, anakefalaiwsasJai, recapitulare. See S. Jerom, p. 330.
Ver. 11. In Christ we also are called by lot; i.e. to this happy lot, this share and state of eternal happiness, (he seems to speak with an allusion to the manner by which the lands of a temporal inheritance was distributed to the Israelites, in Palestine) that we (v. 12) who are saved, may be to the praise of his glory; might praise God for ever in the kingdom of his glory; particularly we Jews, who before hoped in the Messias to come, and also you Gentiles, who now having heard the gospel, have believed in Christ, and who, together with all Christians, have been now sealed as it were with the holy Spirit of promise; i.e. by the Spirit promised, and all those spiritual graces which are an earnest and pledge, which give us an assurance of our future glory and happiness. For our redemption from our sins, and in order to the acquired possession, to the possession of that glorious happiness which Christ, by his incarnation and death, hath acquired for us. Wi.
Ver. 13. In whom you . . . . were sealed, &c. Having been regenerated in baptism, you have received the Holy Spirit and the supernatural gifts which he communicates, by which he has, as it were, impressed upon you the seal of your sanctification and the pledge of your salvation. It is not an external impression, such as that by which soldiers are marked by their sovereigns, nor circumcision, as of old, but it is a mark within you... the grace with which you are filled... which shews itself outwardly by miraculous effects, &c. Calmet.
--- Some refer these words, in whom you were sealed, to the sacrament of baptism; others to confirmation: both, with the sacrament of holy orders, confer a character, or mark, of which S. Paul seems to speak whenever he speaks of God sealing us.
Ver. 14. The redemption of acquisition;† i.e. in order to the acquired possession, or to the obtaining of that glory which Christ, by redeeming us, hath acquired for us. Wi.
[†] V. 14. Acquisitionis, peripoihsewV. See S. Jer. and S. Chrys.
Ver. 15, &c. Wherefore . . . hearing of your constancy in the faith of Christ, and of your charitable love to all the saints, or faithful, I give always thanks to God; I pray that God may be more revealed to you, that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, (v. 18) that you may know what ground you have to hope in the transcendent greatness of God's almighty power, who raised Christ from the dead, (v. 20) and set him on his right hand in heaven, above all the choirs and orders of blessed spirits, putting all things under his feet, making him, as man, head over all his Church militant on earth, and triumphant in heaven: which Church is his mystical body, who is filled all in all, (v. 23) or as others have translated, who filleth all in all; the sense is, that the glory of Christ, as head of all, is filled and increased by the salvation and happiness of all his chosen members, and of all his elect, to the end of the world. Wi.
Ver. 19. His power. The greatest exertion of the power of God, or that action by which he shewed his power most, is the resurrection from the dead, which he exercised in Christ, when he raised him from the tomb, and placed him over all the Angels of heaven; and which shall likewise be exercised over us all, when we too shall be raised from the dead, and constituted members of the triumphant Church, and rewarded with a share of glory proportioned to our merits. These are the hopes to which we are called.
Ver. 21. All principality. The Fathers agree that there are nine orders of blessed spirits, of which some are specified here; in the Epistle to the Colossians we have the order of thrones, to which if we add the cherubim, seraphim, Angels, and Archangels, we shall have nine. Calvin and other heretics strive to bring into doubt, and to corrupt many points of Catholic doctrine, sufficiently clear in holy writ, and sanctified by the general belief of the Universal or Catholic Church.
Ver. 22. As Christ is king, and yet men are kings also; so Christ is head of the Church, and yet man may be head thereof also. Jesus Christ is bishop and pastor of our souls; (Heb. iii.) but is that a reason why there should be no other bishop and pastor of our souls?
Ver. 23. Who is filled all in all.† In the Latin the words have a passive signification, is filled; in the Greek may be signified, who filleth all in all. Wi.
[†] V. 23. Qui omnia in omnibus adimpletur, panta en pasi plhroumenou; which may either be in the passive or middle voice. S. Jerom, in his exposition, (p. 337) expressly says: Non ait, qui omnia in omnibus adimplet, sed qui omnia in omnibus adimpletur . . . sicut ergo adimpletur Imperator, si quotidie ejus impleatur exercitus, sic dominus Jesus, &c. See S. Chrys. in Lat. edit. (p. 869) and in the Greek, (p. 776. lin. 31) dia pantwn oun plhroutai to swma, where the whole text requires a passive sense.