Monday, November 28, 2005

To Ephesus?

The first verse of Ephesians reads:
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus...”
(NIV, italics mine)

The phrase εν Εφεσωι is excluded from the earliest manuscripts:
P46 א* B* 6. 1739; (McionT,E cf Inscr.)
versus א2 A B‎2 D F G Ψ 0278. 33. 1881 Majority Text latt sy co which have εν Εφεσωι.

Without this reference there is nothing in Ephesians to address the letter. In fact, it would seem to be one of the least personal and more theological of the letters as it does not address problems.

Romans 1:7, 2 Corinthians 1:1 and Philippians 1:1 all use the same grammatical construction (ousin en ...) which suggests that it is a Pauline construction... or the type of construction that a scribe would insert thinking that it had been left out. (Note Romans 1:7 is also textually suspect, albeit much less so than Eph. 1)

The irony is that the stronger the argument which a scholar makes for the construction εν Εφεσωι being Pauline, the stronger the argument is for another scholar who argues that it was inserted and then preserved in later documents because of its Pauline nature.

Did they include this solely on the ground of church tradition? Should it be included?


  1. I should have thought that the variants omitting 'Rome' in Rom. 1:7 and 1:15 show precisely what someone would do if they wanted to make Romans into a circular. A similar thing could be said to have occurred with the text of Ephesians.

  2. In general it is a simpler thing to suppose that an author had a particular style than to suppose that:
    a) an author had a particular style;
    b) a very early scribe noticed that style;
    c) a very early scribe came across a case where it looked like that style had not been followed; and
    d) a very early scribe conformed the text to the style (s)he had noticed elsewhere.

  3. People should note the earlier post (and comments) at Eph 1.1 Up-date

  4. Aleph and B do identify Ephesus as the recipient city in the subscriptio. So that leaves P46 as the only early witness that does not mention Ephesus anywhere in this letter. Also, if the original letter were merely an encyclical with no special relationship to Ephesus at all, then I would expect the absence of a recipient to invite multiple different scribal insertions. NA27 lists Marcion as a witness to the inscriptio "ad Laodicenses." But, even though he was 2nd century, I would relegate him to a secondary status as a witness, due to his editorial/recensional habits. If the letter circulated for even a little while without being connected to Ephesus, either explicitly, or via knowledge of its origin, then why wouldn't other early witnesses also give a competing view?

    I realize this comment is straying away from the precise textual problem of Eph 1:1, but the subscriptios do seem germane when this variant is brought to bear on matters of introduction to the letter. Also, perhaps another option for the origin of the variant in 1:1 is that the/an original papyrus did identify Ephesus in its subscriptio and some very early scribes added it into the text on that basis.

  5. Eric,

    It is certainly relevant that the witnesses which lack 'in Ephesus' from the text nevertheless all in some fashion indicate that the letter was 'to Ephesians'. P46 shouldn't be excluded from this. I believe this accounts for all the manuscript evidence cited for the omission/minus.

  6. Very helpful comments. I find the comments regarding the simplest reconstruction (comment 2) and the lack of competing insertions (comment 4) particularly insightful. I continue to be thankful that are scholars willing to do the "grunt work" that is textual criticism.

  7. Thanks. We also have the benefit of actually enjoying the work.