Insights from Greek on the Book of Ephesians

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One of the unique features of the volumes in the Big Greek Idea series is the “nugget” insights found throughout each book.  These short explanations, set apart from the main text, provide brief but illuminating insights into numerous passages in the book under consideration.  There are six categories of nuggets (grammatical, syntactical, semantical, lexical, theological, and text-critical), but below we’ll look at three that shed helpful light on some passages in Ephesians.  These are helpful for understanding the meaning of the text, and can also be useful for incorporating into sermons.

Theological Nugget: What does it mean to “grieve the Holy Spirit” [Ephesians 4:30]? The Greek word λυπέω means to “vex,” “irritate,” “offend,” or “insult” (BDAG, s.v. “λυπέω” 1, p. 604). Most English versions render the verb as “grieve”; the NLT translates the verb: “do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit.” The actions of the believer can sadden the Spirit, implying that the Spirit is personal (Hoehner, 632; Arnold, 306). The prohibition may allude to Isaiah 63:10, where the prophet describes the rebellion of the Jewish people after the exodus, which “grieved his Holy Spirit” (παρώξυναν τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον αὐτοῦ). The believer faces a similar danger: even though they have been sealed for the day of redemption (cf. Eph. 1:13–14), their actions may still inflict pain on the Spirit. The prohibition points to the spiritual implications for harmful speech [Ephesians 4:29]. This kind of talk not only hurts others, but it also breaks down the community that the Spirit works to build (Eph. 2:21–22; 4:11–12).

Lexical Nugget: What does Paul mean by the “evil day” [Ephesians 6:13]? The prepositional phrase “in the evil day” (ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ πονηρᾷ) is temporal. The reference is debated. Paul could be describing an intense day of evil prior to Christ’s return. Most English translations bring out this notion by rendering the phrase as a point in time: “in that evil day” (ESV, RSV, CSB, HCSB, NASB) or “on that evil day” (NRSV, NET), the NIV renders it “when the day of evil comes.” The problem is that Paul seems to be describing the present life of the believer. It could refer to the current present age, which Paul describes as evil (Thielman, 423; Lincoln, 446). Finally, it could refer to a specific time in the life of the believer. Earlier, Paul exhorted the readers to redeem the time, because “the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16), suggesting that the believers are living in these evil times, but experience this evil more intensely at different times in their life. The final two views are not mutually exclusive. Paul probably has both of these in mind (Osborne, 228; Hoehner, 834; Arnold, 450).

Semantical Nugget: What does the phrase “in chains” (ἐν ἁλύσει) mean [Ephesians 6:20]? The prepositional phrase “in chains” (ἐν ἁλύσει) expresses sphere. The phrase metaphorically refers to Paul’s imprisonment (BDAG, s.v. “ἅλυσις” 2, p. 48). The image is paradoxical. An ambassador would have been appointed as a high-ranking official to represent the senate or even the emperor. In order to speak on behalf of the government that they represent, they never would be faced with the kind of incarceration in which Paul suffered. This would have given them the freedom to speak boldly, which is part of Paul’s request (vv. 19c, 20b) (Arnold, 468; Hoehner, 864).

Learn more about Ephesians: An Exegetical Guide for Preaching and Teaching (Big Greek Idea) or or request a faculty examination, media, or blog review copy.

cover image of Ephesians Big Greek Idea











Greek New Testament Photo: Luke Jones / Flickr



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