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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2

Introduction

EPHESUS, the capital of Asia Minor, was distinguished for its wealth, and famed for the Temple of Diana, reckoned among the seven wonders of the world. To the faithful of this city, the present Epistle was specially addressed. By some it was formerly styled “The Epistle to the Laodiceans” in consequence, perhaps, of its being a circular addressed to all the Churches of Asia Minor, and among the rest to the Laodiceans; but, as Ephesus was the capital of that region, it is entitled, the Epistle to the Ephesians. Moreover, it is expressly addressed to “The Saints at Ephesus.”—(Chapter 1 verse 1).

CANONICITY OF.—The Canonicity, or Divine authoriry of this Epistle, has never been questioned in the Church; it is also admitted to have been written in Greek, the language spoken in the city of Ephesus.

OCCASION OF.—From the history of his life, it appears that St. Paul had preached for three years at Ephesus. This he himself states in his memorable address delivered to the Elders of that Church at Miletum, on his last journey to Jerusalem (Acts, chapter 20). Having, on that solemn occasion, exhorted the Bishops, whom “the Holy Ghost had placed to rule the Church of God,” to the vigilant and zealous discharge of their exalted functions, he predicted that, after his departure, there would enter among them ravenous wolves devouring the flock; and that from amongst themselves men would spring up, speaking perverse things, to draw disciples after them. This prediction, as appears from the Epistle to Timothy, was fully verified. In Asia, the apostacy was very great, particularly among the Jewish converts; but, the greater part of the Gentiles, who formed the mass of the population, remained steadfast and firm. The occasion, then, of this Epistle was: Firstly, to commend the Gentile converts, to whom it was addressed, for their fidelity and adhesion to the faith; secondly, to caution them against the insidious snares of their enemies. The errors which he combats were principally those of the Gnostics—the early illuminati, or pretended reformers of the infant Church. He combats the errors of the Jewish zealots also, many of whom joining the Gnostics, united the errors of Judaism, regarding the legal ceremonies, with the more corrupt and perverse doctrines of the latter. Hence, in the three first chapters, which form the dogmatical part of this Epistle, the Apostle treats of eternal predestination; of the redemption of man by the death of Christ; and of the union of both Jews and Gentiles, angels and men, under one head, Christ, who was raised above all creatures. Their errors were not confined merely to matters of faith. They erred in morality also. Hence, in the three concluding chapters, the Apostle dwells on certain duties of morality, regarding which these men erred, and cautions the faithful against following their corrupt example.

TIME AND PLACE OF.—It is certain that this Epistle was written from Rome, while the Apostle was in chains, and that it was sent by Tychicus, a Deacon, is testified by some Greek, and by the ordinary Latin, subscriptions. Whether during his first or second imprisonment is a controverted point, upon the determination of which will depend the question of time. If written during his first imprisonment, its date may be referred to the year, 62. If during his second, the year 65, or thereabouts, may, with great probability, be fixed upon.

STYLE OF.—It is remarked by the Holy Fathers, and by Expositors of SS. Scriptures, that the Epistles written by St. Paul in prison, may be justly compared to the last note of the dying swan. They are distinguished for a burning and impassioned vehemence, with the order of expression confused and inverted; and display evident marks of labour and difficulty, on the part of the Apostle, to convey in suitable language the sublime feelings which animated him, panting for the crown of martyrdom, and for the long expected hour of dissolution and of eternal union with God.








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