Looking at Scripture Mastery - Ephesians 4:11-14

Looking at Scripture Mastery - Ephesians 4:11-14

Greek: 11 καὶ αὐτὸς ἔδωκεν τοὺς μὲν ἀποστόλους, τοὺς δὲ προφήτας, τοὺς δὲ εὐαγγελιστάς, τοὺς δὲ ποιμένας καὶ διδασκάλους, 12 πρὸς τὸν καταρτισμὸν τῶν ἁγίων εἰς ἔργον διακονίας, εἰς οἰκοδομὴν τοῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ, 13 μέχρι καταντήσωμεν οἱ πάντες εἰς τὴν ἑνότητα τῆς πίστεως καὶ τῆς ἐπιγνώσεως τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ, εἰς ἄνδρα τέλειον, εἰς μέτρον ἡλικίας τοῦ πληρώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ, 14 ἵνα μηκέτι ὦμεν νήπιοι, κλυδωνιζόμενοι καὶ περιφερόμενοι παντὶ ἀνέμῳ τῆς διδασκαλίας ἐν τῇ κυβίᾳ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐν πανουργίᾳ πρὸς τὴν μεθοδίαν τῆς πλάνης

My Translation: 11 And he gave, on the one hand, apostles, and on the other hand prophets, and on the other hand bringers of good news, and on the other hand shepherds and teachers 12 towards the perfecting of the saints in labor of service, in the building up of Christ's body, 13 until everyone has attained unity towards faith and knowledge of the son of God, towards the perfect male, and towards the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we are children no longer, tossed and carried about by every wind of doctrine with the cunning sleight of humans in craftiness with methodical deceit;

KJV: 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

My translations are purposefully stretched and should not be viewed as more accurate than the KJV translation unless I say so in the post. I'm trying to show the range lying between the original Greek text and the English.

A Translation Issue With This Scripture Mastery

A translation of this verse is problematic as it is a list of groups God gave to keep the "church" unified. Because of the construction of the lists, these are meant to be read as discrete groups of people. The final group, the "shepherds and teachers" could be read as being the same group or a continuance of the listing. So we either have four groups named or we have five. The grammar, however, seems to indicate four groups. The author uses the same conjunction, δἐ de, which is much like saying "and on the other hand". Think of Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof" where is his internal discussions with himself he keeps jumping from one thought to another by saying, "but on the other hand". That's what the author is using to jump from one group to the next, except for the last two groups named. Unlike in English where we get weary from having too many conjunctions (such as only saying "and" before the last item in a long list), Greek has no problems with endlessly using the same conjunction. So the grammar seems to indicate that the last two groups are to be seen as a single unit: the shepherds and teachers. So the list seems to be a list of four groups. But it could simply be an artistic flourish to end a list differently than how it was begun and perhaps the author meant to list five separate groups. The grammar thus leans more towards four groups, but it would not be impossible for five different groups to be intended.

Anyways enough about the actual translation. We're in a different letter now, Ephesians. What's going on here?

Did Paul Actually Write Ephesians?

First off, we need to talk a bit about pseudepigrapha. There are generally three groups of letters that are claimed to be by Paul: the pastorals, the disputed letters, and the genuine letters. Nearly all scholars recognize that the pastoral epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) are not actually by the historical Paul but were written many years later by someone else. This writer was writing as though they were the now-dead Paul, possibly because they felt their ideas would be easier to accept if the readers thought it was by Paul, possibly because they believed that the letters contained teachings that Paul himself would have given had he actually written the letter, or both. The second group, the disputed letters, are letters where scholars are still divided on whether the historical Paul wrote them. Some of these letters are more uncertain than others, and if one was actually written by Paul it does not mean that all of them were. The disputed letters are Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians. The genuine letters are the ones that the majority of scholars feel were actually written by the historical Paul. They are Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. And while he was traditionally viewed as the author of the anonymously written Hebrews, the evidence against Paul's authorship has been known for so long that today there is no debate that Paul is not the author of Hebrews.

So the letter this verse comes from is still disputed between scholars as to whether or not Paul really wrote it. Part of the problem is its similarity to many parts of Colossians. Though there is still debate about both letters, many scholars who believe that Paul might be the author of one posit that the other was almost certainly constructed from it and is not by Paul. In other words, if Paul wrote Ephesians, most scholars believe that someone else used it to construct Colossians, and vice versa. And many scholars feel that Colossians is the more likely of the two to be the original work, and that Ephesians copied much of its contents from Colossians.

Did Paul Change His Perspective?

One of the main reasons is that the Paul of Ephesians and Colossians has a very different view of himself and of the Christian movement than the Paul we've been reading in Romans and 1 Corinthians. In the genuine letters, Paul celebrates what Jesus's death and resurrection means for him and all believers. Genuine Paul feels that the Jewish Torah has been superseded by the new covenant of Christ. For genuine Paul, sin can only occur when a Christian is attempting to live within the old covenants, or in other words is attempted to keep the Law of Moses. With the author of Ephesians andColossians, sin occurs always when a Christian depends upon "good works" for salvation as opposed to trusting in the "grace" of God. There is little mention of the Law meaning the Jewish Torah. And the apocalyptic perspective of the genuine letters is gone. While genuine Paul is concerned about being saved from the violence of the rapidly approaching Kingdom of God and believes the resurrection will occur before the end, the author of Ephesians believes that he has already been saved and even seems to indicate that the resurrection has occurred! These may seem like very small distinctions, but even small distinctions matter. If I were to give you a General Conference talk written by either Jeffrey R. Holland or Thomas S. Monson, chances are that a Mormon familiar with their particular styles would easily be able to tell which one had written the talk. They're both Mormons who believe very similar things, but they have very different styles.

Also, when genuine Paul is writing to churches he uses the word to mean "congregations": the Church in Rome, the Church in Corinth, the Church in Galatia, etc. But the author of Ephesians and Colossians uses the word ekklesia "Church" much the same way that the author of Matthew uses it: as a general word meaning all believers in Jesus. Whether they live in Rome or Corinth the author of Ephesians is referring to everyone when he uses the word "church". This is very different than how we've been reading Paul before now. For these reasons and more we should be extremely cautious about approaching this letter assuming that the historical Paul wrote it.

Do Mormons Have Evangelists?

Chapter 4 of Ephesians has the author employing that the Church be unified. He states that there is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism", and implies that the various offices within the Church were given for the purpose of helping Christians remain unified through life. That is the context for the verses as given: unity.

One of the "articles of faith" formulated by Joseph Smith in 1844 reads:

We believe in the same organization that existed in the primitive church: namely, prophets, apostles, pastors, teachers, evangelists, etc.

So most Mormons look at this verse as a description of a well-ordered Church with many different roles. Part of the problem, of course, is that some of these positions do not exist within the LDS under the same names. The solution is usually to claim equivalence between a term listed by Paul and a role within the LDS Church. Pastors are usually interpreted by be bishops, and there is a very definite linguistic connection between these two words. However, "evangelists" are said to be Patriarchs. In the LDS Church, a Patriarch is an actual position whose calling is to provide a ritualized blessing upon members o the ward. This blessing is usually prophetic and mean to provide guidance for the member's life. However, the term Paul uses, εὐαγγελιστάς euangelistás, is a complex word meaning "speakers of the good news". It is the word behind "evangelist" (change the u to a v and you'll see it) or "evangelism". For Paul and other early Christians, the word is usually related to missionary work. While Paul could be referring to a position were someone delivers "good news" in the same way that a Patriarch is usually expected to offer a divine guide for the future, it is an odd choice of words to use a term that is already used almost exclusively in another way elsewhere.

Also, when Joseph Smith made the statement that the LDS Church "believed in the same organization that existed in the primitive church" (which is different than saying that they have the same organization) the hierarchical structure of the 1844 LDS Church was extremely complex beyond this listing given by Paul. Also, the structure of the LDS Church has always been in flux among the Latter-day Saints. Joseph's first official calling within his Church was not as Prophet or President, but was rather as it's "First Elder". High Priests and the office of President appeared after Sidney Rigdon joined; some of the Book of Mormon witnesses felt that the introduction of these positions only occurred because the sophisticated Rigdon argued that Joseph's simple church should have more positions. Apostles were introduced in Kirtland soon after, first designed to be a group of missionaries that only fully developed into purely leadership roles after the movement of Brigham Young's followers to the Great Basin. Joseph Smith also had many other groups that did not last beyond the 19th Century, such as the Council of Fifty and the Annointed Quorum. Under Brigham Young the Priesthood callings were organized as a youth program (before this, deacons, teachers, priests, and elders were all adult men and advancement in the LDS Priesthood did not necessarily move from deacon to teacher to priest to elder). In the 1970s the office of Seventy was removed at the local level, reserved only to a collection of Church-wide Quorums of Seventy that assist the LDS Apostles. Who knows what changes the future will bring to the structure?

Throughout all of these changes, members have continued to recite this article of faith, usually believing that all early Christians had the same organization they enjoyed. However, finding this organization in the New Testament requires a lot of assumption. And everything we currently understand about the early Christian movement reveals a collection of very different groups with very different approaches, beliefs, practices, and organization.

When Paul is writing his angry letter to Galatia or to the unvisited Christians in Rome, or is answering questions and responding to internal problems in Corinth why doesn't he write to the local leaders? In most letters outside of Ephesians/Colossians and the Pastorals (which nearly all scholars feel were not actually by Paul), Paul doesn't refer to a Church structure or to Church offices apart from servants (deacons, both men and women), apostles (again, both men and women), and widows (which soon after the time of Paul when the Christian communities began to be more organized, were an actual office for women in the Church that were set apart to serve as widows).

So while this is a good list showing groups that some early Christians felt belonged to the Jesus movement, it would be very difficult to say that either 1) this verse lists offices that must be found in the Christian Church, or 2) this verse matches up very well against the current 21st Century structure of the LDS Church. It's not misused or misinterpreted (well, apart from claiming that "evangelists" are Patriarchs), but it isn't a very good selection to define what the LDS Church should look like.

Why Do I Think This Is Part of Scripture Mastery?

I think this scripture was chosen because it is quoted by Joseph's Articles of Faith. It's reference to "Prophets" and "Apostles" is seen as evidence that the original Christian movement still have prophets within it. However, even if there were prophets, this verse doesn't actually mean that they were in charge or even that the Church continued to have them. The author could be referring to the Prophets from the history of Israel. Besides, there is good reason to be cautious about assuming the authenticity of these verses as having been written by the historical Paul. The most they show is that some early Christians believed in various offices within the Christian movement that mostly seem to line up with similarly named offices in the LDS Church, but the relationship between both churches is much more problematic than it may originally appear.

See other posts in my Scripture Mastery New Testament Series

Tom Doggett

Tom Doggett

I'm a programmer, Ancient Greek reader, feminist, spouse and partner, and a dad.

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