Paul explains God's vision for Jews and Gentiles together in the Body of Messiah
An original translation from the Greek by Jeffrey J. Harrison.
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Why a new translation? After 1,500 years of almost exclusively Gentile Christianity, it's easy for Christians to misunderstand the relationship of Jews and Gentiles in the earliest churches. A good example is Paul's mention of the "we, the first to hope in the Messiah" in Eph. 1:12. Many suppose this refers to the first generation of Christians, and the "you" of vs. 13 to the generations that follow. But if this is so, then what does it mean in vs. 11 when he says of this "we" that they have been chosen by "sacred lot"? Was the salvation of the first generation on a different basis than other generations? Or is Paul calling salvation a matter of mere chance? Without more information, we miss Paul's point entirely, and might even think that he's contradicting himself on this important doctrine.

Who then is Paul talking about? The early believing community was made up of two very different groups of people: Jews raised with a knowledge of God and the Bible since infancy in a culture shaped around the knowledge of God; and Gentiles coming fresh out of paganism from a society in rebellion against God. Here in Ephesians, the "you" mentioned by Paul are directly identified by him as Gentile believers in Jesus (in 2:11, 3:1, and following); the "we," by context and contrast, as Jewish believers in Jesus (1:12, 2:5, 2:12-14, etc.). In the example given above, Paul is not speaking of his generation, but rather of "we" the Jewish believers in Jesus, and of the divine selection of the Jewish people (by sacred lot) from all the peoples of the earth. This simple clarification, when applied to the entire book, not only restores Ephesians to its original setting, it revives its original intention: to provide a concise prophetic summary as to how these two very different groups of people are to live together in the Body of Messiah.

One of the reasons we misunderstand Paul in English is that we no longer make a distinction between you singular and you plural (except in areas where y'all is used as a plural). To clarify Paul's language, you singular and its derivatives have been marked with a "*", you plural with a "#".

Another difficulty is the structure of Paul's writing. Ephesians 1:3-14, for example, is all one big sentence. That's fine in Greek, but hard to translate into English. Most translators break up this section into as many as 5 to 8 sentences. We've taken a different approach: each phrase has been separated slightly from the one before and the referent identified, where necessary, in italics or [brackets]. This clarifies Paul's thought using information available in Greek while preserving the original structure of the letter.

Parallel phrases have been identified by indentation. This, too, clarifies Paul's thinking in ways that, while clear in the Greek, might prove confusing in English.

Another distinctive is using the word "Messiah" to clarify the meaning of the Greek word Christos (Christ). For the Greek reader, Christos preserves a time-honored association with both its root meaning (the "Anointed One") and with Messianic passages of the Old Testament. (Christos appears as the translation of Messiah in the Greek Old Testament [the LXX]).

The English reader lacks these helpful associations. The English Christ never appears in any Old Testament passage, and its root meaning is not commonly known. Therefore, we have translated Christos with Messiah, to better preserve a connection with the rest of the Bible, and have avoided the more awkward, though more accurate expression, "the Anointed One."

Alternate readings and the referents of Biblical quotes and allusions are provided in brackets. The notes (indicated by a "" in the translation, and by the verse number in the notes section) supply interpretive and historical information.

The Greek text used for this translation is the 26th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, with consideration of the punctuation adopted by the 3rd edition of the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament.

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Updated 11/12/07. Copyright © 1992, 2001, 2006, 2007 by Jeffrey J. Harrison. All rights reserved.
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