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Paul explains God’s vision for Jews and Gentiles together in the Body of Messiah

A literal translation from the Greek by Jeffrey J. Harrison. You can also print out this translation as a booklet


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Why a new translation? After fifteen hundred years of almost exclusively Gentile Christianity, it’s easy for Christians to misunderstand the original context of the book of Ephesians. At the time, people were still trying to figure out the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in the Body of Messiah. Paul was writing, in part, to help clarify this relationship.

A good example is Paul’s mention of the we, the first to hope in the Messiah (Eph. 1:12). Many suppose this refers to the first generation of Christians. The you of Eph. 1:13 is then thought to refer to the generations that follow. But if so, what does it mean when he says that this we has been chosen by sacred lot (Eph. 1:11)? Was the salvation of the first generation of believers on a different basis than that of other generations? Or is Paul calling salvation a matter of mere chance? Without more information, we miss Paul’s point entirely. We might even think 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. The Jewish people were raised with a knowledge of God and the Bible since infancy in a culture shaped around the knowledge of God. Gentiles were instead coming out of a pagan society in rebellion against God. In Ephesians, the you Paul mentions are directly identified as Gentile believers in Jesus (in Eph. 2:11, 3:1, and following). The we, identified by context and contrast, are Jewish believers in Jesus (Eph. 1:12, 2:5, 2:12-14, etc.). In the example given above, Paul isn’t speaking of a certain generation of believers but rather of we the Jewish believers in Jesus and their divine selection (by sacred lot) from all the peoples of the earth. When we apply this type of simple clarification, it restores one of the book’s main intentions: to explain how Jews and Gentiles can live together in the Body of Messiah.

One of the reasons we misunderstand Paul is that in English 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 an asterisk (*). You plural is marked with a pound sign (#).

Another difficulty is the structure of Paul’s writing. Ephesians 1:3-14, for example, is all one big sentence in the original language. That’s fine in Greek, but hard to translate into English. So most translators break this section up into as many as five to eight 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 is the translation of Messiah in the Greek Old Testament.) The English reader lacks these helpful associations. 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.

Alternate readings along with the verse references of Bible quotes and allusions are provided in brackets. The notes (indicated by clickable arrows in the translation and by verse numbers 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.

Ephesians 1 ⮞

Translation and notes by Jeffrey J. Harrison. Copyright © 1992, 2001, 2006-2007, 2021 by Jeffrey J. Harrison. Title photo collage by Jeffrey J. Harrison using royalty-free images from Turkey Picture Gallery, copyrighted by
Unattributed photos are by the author. All rights reserved.