Ephesian’s Present Pleroma, Paul’s Future Parousia

This is the second of two parts of the author’s reflections on Ephesians, the theme of this quarter's Adult Bible Study Guide. Last week's focus was on Ephesians's theme of the here and now

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/sabbath-school/2023/ephesians-present-pleroma-pauls-future-parousia
1 Like

Kudos to Dr. Weiss on openly acknowledging that the author of Ephesians is unknown and pretending to write as Paul. This should bring out the apologists in force.

However, he fails to justify any reason why a forger (the author of Ephesians) should be read as inspirational, much less as authoritative on anything.

Where did the forger get his information? Noises in his head?

Who was the author/forger? Perhaps Marcion, the second century heretic who was the first to give attestation to the document? ca 144

1 Like

Isn’t it time to admit that the gospel has failed, not only in its mission to bring peace and harmony to the the world, but also in its attempts to unify the church purportedly established by Jesus?

I.e., hasn’t history shown that Jesus “good news”-whatever there may have been that was actually “new” about it-has proven to have been very bad news for countless people over the past two millennia, whether they believed that news or not?

Of course, all of this assumes that Jesus wanted to start a new religion and that he did so at the behest of the creator of the cosmos, which assumptions are arrived at without any basis in fact and despite having absolutely no conclusive evidence that either Jesus or his dad exist in anything other than literature and mythology.

1 Like

From NT Wright

N. T. Wright says

“…we are God’s artwork, created in the Messiah…”

I find the first part of this assertion to be upside down and backward much as I consider the second part a classic example of unjustified Christian snobbery.

First, a preponderance of the evidence shows that gods are creations of men, i.e., gods are the product of human artifice requiring constant revision and interminable remanufacture.

This fact clearly renders the italicized phrase worse than meaningless as it adds a layer of complication to a process that is completed as soon as a person is born. IOW, there is absolutely no physical evidence that Jesus created even so much as a church, to say nothing of a superior class of human beings currently scattered about the earth, arrogantly trying to demonstrate, by their words and work, that their mysterious “rebirth” supposedly sets them apart, and necessarily above, the unwashed and more debased members of their race.


To describe the author as a “forger” is to apply modern criteria to the writings of ancient times. The ancients were not at all guided by von Ranke’s dictum that history must be written as much as possible “as it actually happened.” Ancient authors were guided more by their own agendas than by what had happened. Any reading of the four gospels makes clear that none of their authors was concerned with telling it as it had been. Pseudoepigraphy was quite common then, especially among the Jews and Christians with an apocalyptic agenda. I would not attach the moral criteria of today to the actors of antiquity who lived in a totally different symbolic universe. There is no question, of course, that once one recognizes that different biblical authors worked with different symbolic universes, the notion that the Bible was indirectly “written” by God, as one former Dean of the SDA Theological Seminary taught, and the first of the 28 Fundamentals affirms, is declared invalid by the evidence. The door is open for an intelligent discussion of “biblical inspiration.” But that is another topic.


OK. I’ll drop the term “forger” and simply call the author “one who pretended to write as another person in his name in order to gain credibility, with good intententions.” As you said in the opening paragraph, “The letter to the Ephesians purports to be written by Paul”…an untruth presented for pious purposes.

I would agree with that. Books such as The Apocalypse of Peter, The Gospel of Pilate, Daniel, Colossians, Enoch, 2nd Isaiah, 1 Tim, 2 Tim, Titus, 2 Thess, 1 Peter, 2 Peter are good examples. The problem is more on the side of moderns who struggle for their authenticity/authority in order to preserve beliefs based upon them.


1 Like

I suppose we are all inevitably slaves to first and second person person perspectives and points of view; pulling at individual threads from the same immense ball of string. Hopefully Gods omniscient purpose is that as people tug on their cord of choice, that they sooner or later end up meeting at some pre-existent but currently imperceptible point that can be acknowledged and accepted as Truth’.
Language though imperfect and limited is - again inevitably - the best option we having for communicating meaning, exploring ideas and concepts and expressing understanding. Then, of course there is the shaky bridge between what we say as an expression of what we believe to what it heard and our brains juggle with to form what we understand.
The best we can do is keep pulling on the threads of subjective ‘truth’ in the hope that it will lead us to a tangible, single, objective and absolute truth.

My only excuse for the terrible spelling and grammar is that it’s late and it’s Day 2 of the six week holiday from school!

1 Like

This is an unsubstantiated assertion, and a religious assumption, which is contradicted by facts.

It is an axiomatic that actions speak louder than words, that some percentage-probably the majority-of human communication is non verbal and that absolutely nothing is easier to say than to do.

Thus, logic suggests that unbiased, emotionally detached observation-to the extent that our observations can be unbiased, objective and neutral-is superior to anything one reads in a book and that secular science is, in all likelihood, the most reasonable path to an ever-increasing, if perpetually incomplete, understanding of our creator.

What a conundrum! As a contemporary “christian” basing personal religious belief(s) on principles of the teaching(s) of the, allegedly, primary author of the New Testament,(13 books?), and (unknown?) others that are now proving to be of questionable authority, to be “resurrected or not resurrected”, that is one of the questions. And to what kind of after life? Is there truly a reward of an after life in a heavenly, (whatever that may mean), paradise for living a “good” life here on earth, or is living a “good” life here on earth, in itself, its only reward? It appears that one is left to one’s own scriptural interpretations, the mind being incredibly deceitful and evil. A very scary situation, indeed! So, what are we left with? To paraphrase Solomon, “to eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die”? If not, then, what is the meaning of life? Building communities and looking after one another, or, survival of the fittest? All very confusing, indeed…

For a different take, I refer the reader to Lynn Cohick’s commentary on Ephesians- her introduction. She goes into specific detail on pseudepigraphy at that time. In conclusion, this is what she says:

“In closing, I justify the time spent reviewing the evidence concerning pseudonymity in the Greco-Roman world and early church because the issue is often treated as a fait accompli: the Ephesians letter is pseudepigraphic, but not deceptive both because the early church accepted the wider conventions of pseudonymity, and because the ancients had little sense of intellectual property. This survey has cautioned against accepting these claims. Instead, the evidence suggests the church did not accept (knowingly) pseudepigraphic letters or works. If Ephesians is determined to be pseudepigraphic, then the use of Paul’s name and personal data were included in an effort to pass off the letter as genuine. In that case, it was an attempt, in the end successful, to deceive the audience. This conclusion must then be processed with issues of canon (a difficult subject in its own right) and of apostolic authority.” Cohick, Lynn H.
Ephesians: a new covenant commentary, 2010, Cascade books

1 Like

Let us not forget that ancient writers, including authors of biblical letters, used secretaries (Rom. 16:22), who worked from notes to create rough drafts, reworking the material until the author was satisfied.

This is if one accepts that Romans 7 is speaking of the experience of those who have faith. There is an entirely different take on this…Paul is describing life under the law and not the Christian experience of life in the Spirit in this chapter. This has been argued ad infinitum…

But Paul does refer to the forgiveness of sins in Romans 4 and the blessedness of it by quoting the Psalms. While I agree with the emphasis stated above about dying with Christ and freedom from the power of sin and the law, I don’t necessarily agree that the two positions between Ephesians and Paul’s authentic letters are so mutually exclusive…Romans 4 being a pivotal chapter describing JBF that includes explicit reference to forgiveness of sins.

While no explicit mention of resurrection is made in Ephesians, there is reference to the future inheritance and the future redemption of the bodies of believers. It also speaks of the helmet of the hope of salvation. This all doesn’t seem to be a stretch to connect this to future resurrection. Without such a connection, what would the author of Ephesians actually be talking about by making such assertions of the future, and a salvation to be hoped for?


1 Like

Every bit of Christianity that assumes any, much less absolute knowledge of the future is a stretch.

But for those obsessed with what’s at the end of the tunnel, here’s a prediction: unless Christianity can finally admit it has no infallible crystal ball nor an absolutely reliable oracle and therefore does not know what’s going to happen tomorrow, much less for the remainder of the eternity, and until the religion acknowledges that its god’s ability to see what’s coming is as limited as their own, Christians will continue to disappoint future generations just as all of their purported prophet’s predictions have proven false for the past two millennia.

On the other had, and if a so-called Christian wants to ignore this prediction and go on pretending that the bulk of their prophecies are “pending”, there’s apparently no one, including their supposedly omnipotent god, who has the power to stop them.

That is, the fact that god doesn’t put a halt to all of these failed prognostications on the grounds that they make him look bad when done “in his name”-combined with the fact that his self-acclaimed sycophants seem incapable of living good lives knowing nothing for certain other than that a life so lived is its own immediate reward-is simply more evidence to support an intelligent person’s disbelief in the existence of a future-prescient god.


Couldn’t it equally and ‘reasonably’ asserted that just about everything begins with assertions and assumptions which are either confirmed, supported or contradicted by the discoveries we call ‘facts’. But even as scientists we must agree that facts is no longer a word that can be used as a synonym for ‘truth’. Albert Einstein’s explanation of his purported brilliance was that he was insatiably inquisitive. I think this is a more accurate definition of ‘reasonable’ as science does not often claim facts as ‘truth’ because human history has been a history of enquiry, assertions, and assumptions that have at some time been either proved or disproved by discovery.
Of course there was a time that the greatest ‘scientists’ were religious in the sense of searching for some evidence of what might be ‘true’. The compartmentalisation and separation of science and religion as opposed to doctrinal dogma as led to an emnity between the two that historically did not exist because minds were unbiased… It is still a scientific fact’ that only those who seek are those who will find, only those who ask will find answers; only those who ‘knock’ have doors opened. Some might say that that’s religious assumption but it sounds like science to me! Of course, what you choose to do with your discoveries afterwards becomes your subjective truth. Yet we still use religion in in adverbial sense to describe a commitment to a task which we undertake ‘religiously’ - it’s just the way we use language to communicate meaning.
Can I dare to quote Johnny Nash (which will no doubt define me in an unsubstantiated way!)

There are more questions than answers
Pictures in my mind that will not show
There are more questions than answers
And the more I find out the less I know

Is that religion or is it science or is it something we should all reasonably accept, instead of setting ourselves up to fail by claiming we have the ‘truth’?


Given, as you say, that facts are not truth and are subject to constant reevaluation as new facts come in, combined with the fact that no one has all the facts, whatever any person considers “reasonable” is a tentative conclusion as opposed to absolute truth.

So yes, I agree with your comment.

Therefore, and to be more precise, I suppose I should say on a personal level, the reason I prefer science to religion-and not that this preference is explicable in objective terms-is that scientists (or at least the ones I perceive to be most honest) admit that while they are seeking to understand the truth about everything, they can never be certain about anything, again due to the transient nature of facts and the limitations of human intellect and perceptions.

This is something one never hears from religious people who insist that between themselves and their god, they know absolutely everything!


(BTW, you make a very good point about the enmity between science and religion and that this is a more recent development; that is, some of the greatest scientists began their explorations into the workings of the cosmos on what must be considered a religious quest to understand the perspective and methods of our creator.)

I find it absolutely beyond reason to refer to Romans 4 as a pivotal reference to Paul’s understanding of the cross as bringing about the forgiveness of sins. Can you quote a verse in support of your assertion?

I agree that the crux of the chapter is about Abraham’s faith being considered righteousness, God counted Abraham as right with him because of his faith. And, while that faith was based in Abraham’s trusting that God had the power to do what he had promised, giving a son to Abraham and Sarah essentially giving life to the dead, and while this is given as the example of being set right with God before circumcision, ostensibly before the giving of the Torah thus illustrating that righteousness and life does not come to Gentiles by circumcision and observance of Torah (becoming Jewish), Paul drafts in this passage from the Psalms, a second witness to reveal the same blessedness being available apart from the deeds of the Torah:

6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:

7 “Blessed are those
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
8 Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord will never count against them.

This second example of the blessing open to all regardless of circumcision and the performance of the deeds of the law is now cast in the language of the forgiveness and covering of sins and transgressions. While certainly secondary to Paul’s main emphasis of life from the dead, it is nonetheless still there in the flow of his argument…forgiveness of sin is not absent from his thinking regarding what God has done through his messiah for all…Jews and Gentiles equally.

If one sees in justification any shade of legal or court language, then the idea of debt or charges being forgiven is also present, as well as the declaration in Romans 8:1 that, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” for Jews and Gentiles alike. This is why I stated that while the emphasis of Romans is certainly different from Ephesians regarding these issues, the two are not mutually exclusive. Both contain references to God giving life to the dead and forgiving sin, essentially through Christ.


1 Like

Should we not understand/consider that God made the original covenant arrangement with Abraham autonomously; even changing his name from Abram to emphasise that this was not a contractual negotiation but God asking Abram/Abraham to trust him implicitly. Remember that Abraham would have been happy with just a son (it was him who brought up the specifics of a actual child whereas God had only hinted at in the promise) and it was God who had to take him outside of the tent and pointed him to the sand and the stars as the big picture of the covenant.
Over the next 25 years Abraham wavered repeatedly while God remained faithful. When Abraham succumbed to Sarah and produced Ismael with Hagar this certainly was not an act of faith as asked God that Ismael would be the one to ‘live before thee’. When Abraham was 99 and Ismael 13 (and both he and Sarah had pretty much let of any remaining hope) God commanded him to circumcise himself and all his household. Now, as if being and OAP wasn’t bad enough, Abraham also had to endure the pain of a slowly healing body .With nothing left to do except to believe God, Abraham fathered Isaac ‘at the time God had planned’.
So circumcision was not a symbol of faith, but a reminder of Gods faithfulness to His side of he covenant regardless of how unfaithful men were, even when they literally could keep their end up. (Sorry couldn’t help myself) When the text says that Abraham believed God, I think this means that he got to the point where he really had no other options, and though he didn’t deserve or earn it God produced a act of grace (undeserved favour) .
Pauls point is, I think, that no one - Jew or Gentile actually deserves or can earn righteousness (all have sinned and come short of the glory of God). But God, a an exhibition of his loving character, takes a punt with Abraham who then becomes an example of what is possible if one just believes.
There is a bigger picture which Paul and later Joh the Revelator understood, in that ultimately it is God who always opens himself up to the judgement of his character and motives by being proactive in his relationships .Abraham is faithful not so that God will be faithful to him but Abraham is finally faithful precisely BECAUSE God is proven to be faithful first.

1 Like