3 min read

Hoehner on Ephesians 1:3

I was laying awake in bed last night reviewing some scripture memory, specifically Ephesians 1:1-3. But I paused quite abruptly after verse 3, “Blessed bey the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” My initial reaction was that the English rendering wasn’t helpful because it sounded like the Father was Jesus’ God. This morning, I got up and checked the Greek text.

Εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίον ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

A literal translation would be, “Blessed [is] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” — a text so glaringly straight forward, it hardly needs to be translated.

My initial reaction was to note the missing article before πατὴρ. I knew that was suppose to mean something to me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

I was perplexed. Was Paul calling the Father Jesus’ God or is it better to think of it as “Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”? So I did what any illiterate Bible student does when he hits a wall: I took the text to my Greek professor. He starred at it for a moment and concluded, “Yeah, it could go either way.” He further noted that it didn’t matter since the Bible frequently refers to the Father as the God of Jesus.

Sure, of course, everyone knows that.

Later this evening (did I mention I’m suppose to be doing homework?), I was on the phone with a friend and we were discussing the text. The conversation got me thinking, so I reached for my favorite Ephesians commentary: Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary by Harold W. Hoehner. Hoehner writes,

The Genitives that follow, τοῦ κυρίον ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, “of our Lord Jesus Christ,” have been interpreted in two ways. First, some think the genitives refer only to “Father” and would render it “blessed be God, who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Second, others think that “God” and “Father” are in apposition and the genitives depend on both and so translate it “Blessed be the god and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The second view is best for the following reasons. First, the Granville Sharp rule applies here whereby the copulative καὶ connects two personal, singular, non-proper nouns, the first noun preceded by an article and the second noun, which is anarthrous, further describing the first noun (the first named person). Hence, “Father” further describes “God.” Second, in verse 17 Paul explicitly writes “God of our Lord Jesus Christ,” where God is further described as “the Father of glory,” and so the genitives in verse 3 surely refer to both “God” and “Father.” Third, it is certainly clear that God and Father are to be joined as one and the same in Rev 1:6 (καὶ ἐποίησεν ἡμᾶς βασιλείαν, ἱρεῖς τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρί αὐτοῦ, “and he made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father). and in 1 Cor 15:24 (ὅταν παραδιδῶ τὴν βασιλείαν τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρί, “when he delivers kingdoms to the God and Father.”) Therefore, the genitives go back to both “God” and “Father.”

I checked 9 other commentaries. Boice, Ferguson, MacArthur, Bruce, Barns and Clark don’t mention it.

Wesley notes, “He is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, as man and Mediator: he is his Father, primarily, with respect to his divine nature, as his only begotten Son; and, secondarily, with respect to his human nature, as that is personally united to the divine.” which I think clears the issue up very nicely.

Robertson (who’s mentioned in a Hoehner footnote) points out,

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (ho theos kai patēr tou Kuriou hēmōn Iēsou Christou). Kai is genuine here, though not in Col_1:3. The one article (ho) with theos kai patēr links them together as in 1Th 1:3; 1Th 3:11, 1Th 3:13; Gal 1:4. See also the one article in 2 Pet 1:1, 2 Pet 1:11. In Eph 1:17 we have ho theos tou Kuriou hēmōn Iēsou Christou, and the words of Jesus in Joh 20:17.

Matthew Henry writes,

In general [Paul] blesses God for spiritual blessings, Eph 1:3, where he styles him the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; for, as Mediator, the Father was his God; as God, and the second person in the blessed Trinity, God was his Father. It bespeaks the mystical union between Christ and believers, that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is their God and Father, and that in and through him. All blessings come from God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. No good can be expected from a righteous and holy God to sinful creatures, but by his mediation.

As of right now, I find myself compelled by Hoehner’s conclusion, but my question is this: how do you explain Ephesians 1:3 to a layperson?

(updated 9/28)