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Ephesians’ Dependency upon Ezekiel 37: Some Brief Thoughts

Ephesians’ Dependency upon Ezekiel 37: Some Brief Thoughts

Few biblical scholars that I have read (maybe, I have not read enough!) have identified an allusion to or an echo of Ezekiel 37 in Ephesians 2. This is probably because there is only faint verbal similarity between the two texts, which has led to little consideration of the significance Ezekiel 37 might have for the writer’s reconciliatory efforts, presumably Paul [1], in Ephesians 2. Regardless, based on an examination of the text, I would submit that it is entirely plausible that Paul did in fact allude to Ezekiel 37 in Ephesians 2.

There are some noteworthy comparisons of how the LXX attempts to unsnarl what seems like nebulous Hebrew language found in the Masoretic Text (MT). Here, I will elaborate on what I think are some of the most significant comparisons. In Ezekiel 37:7 the phrase אֶל־עַצְמֽוֹ עֶ֖צֶם [literally “bone unto bone”] is used. The LXX attempts to ameliorate the language found in the Hebrew MT by using the Greek word ἁρμονίαν [noun, fem., acc., sing. – joint]. However, when brought back into NT Greek the verbal participle forms of συναρμολογουμένη and συναρμολογούμενον [verbal present participles, nom., fem./neuter, sing., – being joined together] are employed. A stupefying moment of pause should come when one realizes that ἁρμονίαν only appears twice in the LXX and both times are in Ezekiel. Likewise, συναρμολογουμένη and συναρμολογούμενον also only appear twice in the NT and both times are in Ephesians (2:21; 4:16). Therefore, it highly probable that Ephesians is at least somewhat dependent upon on Ezekiel 37.

The fact that this is not a precisely expressed echo should not attract too much critical opprobrium. It is malleable to some degree, because the echo is tacit. That is, it was a “somewhat” unconscious act on the part of a writer whose mind was completely suffused in the scriptures of ancient Israel. As many others have already pointed out (i.e., Wagner, Hays, et al.), the writer’s mind was most certainly inundated with this ancient narrative.

Footnotes

[1] Of course, I am aware that the Pauline authorship of Ephesians is often disputed on the grounds of theology, vocabulary, literary style, hapax legomena words, etc… However, at the very least, most scholars understand Ephesians to be written by someone close to Paul. Therefore, it can be argued the Ephesians is an extension or further development in Paul’s own thinking. In my opinion, there is not as much discontinuity as first thought by early critical scholarship (e.g., F.C. Baur). Ephesians, like Paul’s non-disputed letters, expounds a redemptive narrative via Israel’s restoration. The central theme of Ephesians is restoration and reconciliation. The purpose was “to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph. 1:10), i.e., Jew and Gentile united into a single family.

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