Ἐν τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ, Septuagintalism in Ephesians 1:6?

I have been thinking about the whole matter of Septuagintalisms in the NT, and in Sunday School we are studying Ephesians. Basically, my thesis is that in Ephesians 1:6, Paul uses ὁ ἠγαπημένος, “the Beloved,” a term to describe Israel in the Hebrew Bible and even more clearly in the LXX, to echo or signal to the readers that Christ is the New Israel and consequently the Gentile believers are the New Israel since they have been chosen in him. The post concludes by returning to the question of whether ὁ ἠγαπημένος is a Septuagintalism or whether the LXX is the primary influence on Paul in this case.

The Context of Ephesians 1:6

The text says:

Εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ,

ὁ εὐλογήσας ἡμᾶς ἐν πάσῃ εὐλογίᾳ πνευματικῇ ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ,

4 καθὼς ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶς ἐν αὐτῷ πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου εἶναι ἡμᾶς ἁγίους καὶ ἀμώμους κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ ἐν ἀγάπῃ,

5 προορίσας ἡμᾶς εἰς υἱοθεσίαν διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς αὐτόν, κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ,

6 εἰς ἔπαινον δόξης τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ ἧς ἐχαρίτωσεν ἡμᾶς ἐν τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ.

The church was blessed in Christ, chosen in Him, predestined through Jesus Christ to the praise of his glorious grace which he gave us in the Beloved.

In Greek, the discourse resumes with relative clauses down to the end of verse 14, which perhaps marks 3-6 as a unit, which is the paragraph scheme used in the NA 27. Within this unit, it is clear that the expressions ἐν Χριστῷ and ἐν τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ are in parallel with each other, since the former is at the end of the first line indicating the location of all the spiritual blessings, while the latter is at the end of the final line indicating the location of the glorious grace given to us.  The intervening lines use pronouns referring back to the first line and treat the topics of election and predestination. We will return to the significance of this parallelism later.

The latter term τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ is a PfPPtc DMS from ἀγαπάω, and it is used as a substantive with the meaning “the one having been loved” or “the beloved.” In Greek there are at least two other ways of communicating this concept: 1)use of the -τος adjective αγαπητος, which of course is how Paul addresses Christians in a number of places (e.g. Eph. 5:1 “beloved children”; 6:21) and how Matthew describes Jesus at his baptism and his transfiguration (This is my beloved Son; Matt. 3:17; 17:5); 2) the use of a simple relative clause with an active verb (e.g. “the son, whom he loved” cp. Is 3:25).

The PfPPtc is used in two ways in the LXX: 1) places where it renders Hebrew words for “love” or “beloved” including references to Israel and references to individuals in Israel’s history, and 2) places where it renders Hebrew Yeshurun, which is an unexpected translation as we shall see.

References to Israel

II Suppl (Chr) 20:7 – καὶ ἔδωκας αὐτὴν σπέρματι Αβρααμ τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ σου εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα. The participle modifies either the seed of Abraham or Abraham himself (i.e. Israel or Abraham)

Judith 9:4 – a reference to υἱων ἠγαπημένων ὑπὸ σοῦ: sons beloved by you (the LORD)

Hosea 2:23(25) – The variant to the OG equals Rom 9:25 (see Ziegler’s Edition)

Isaiah 5:1 – a clear reference to Israel as beloved

Isaiah 5:7 – “the man of Judah is a beloved young plant”

Jeremiah 11:15

Jeremiah 12:7 – God gives my beloved soul into the hands of her enemies

Baruch 3:37 – Israel who was beloved by him (God)

III Macc 6:11 – the beloved as a reference to the Jews

References to individuals

Deut 21:15-16 – in reference to a beloved wife in contrast to a hated one in case law

Deut 33:12 – Tribe of Benjamin

II Reigns (II Samuel) 1:23 – Saul and Jonathan are called beloved

2 Esdras 23:26 (Neh 13:26) – Solomon is called “beloved to God.”

Sirach 24:11 – reference to the beloved city in the A line and Jerusalem is the city mentioned in the B line.

Sirach 45:1 – a reference to Moses as beloved by God and men

Sirach 46:13 – a reference to Samuel as beloved by the LORD

LXX Da 3:35 – Abraham beloved by you (God)

It is clear that this participle refers either to Israel or to individuals in both canonical and deutero-canonical works. In all of the canonical examples, the Greek word is rendering the following Hebrew words: yadid, yadiduth, ‘ahab, sha’ashu’im, which means the Greek translations were  predictable in these instances and cannot be used to establish theologizing on the part of the translators, since it is difficult to discern what is the theology of the Hebrew Bible and what is the theology of the translators. These references, however, are not the only relevant ones in our corpus. The LXX translators also translated Yeshurun with this participle.

References to Yeshurun as Beloved by the LXX Translators

Deut 32:15

וַיִּשְׁמַן יְשֻׁרוּן וַיִּבְעָט שָׁמַנְתָּ עָבִיתָ כָּשִׂיתָ וַיִּטֹּשׁ אֱלֹוהַ עָשָׂהוּ וַיְנַבֵּל צוּר יְשֻׁעָתֹו׃

καὶ ἔφαγεν Ιακωβ καὶ ἐνεπλήσθη, καὶ ἀπελάκτισεν ὁ ἠγαπημένος, ἐλιπάνθη, ἐπαχύνθη, ἐπλατύνθη· καὶ ἐγκατέλιπεν θεὸν τὸν ποιήσαντα αὐτὸν καὶ ἀπέστη ἀπὸ θεοῦ σωτῆρος αὐτοῦ.

Deut 33:5, 26

וַיְהִי בִישֻׁרוּן מֶלֶךְ בְּהִתְאַסֵּף רָאשֵׁי עָם יַחַד שִׁבְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל׃

καὶ ἔσται ἐν τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ ἄρχων συναχθέντων ἀρχόντων λαῶν ἅμα φυλαῖς Ισραηλ.

אֵין כָּאֵל יְשֻׁרוּן רֹכֵב שָׁמַיִם בְעֶזְרֶךָ וּבְגַאֲוָתֹו שְׁחָקִים׃

Οὐκ ἔστιν ὥσπερ ὁ θεὸς τοῦ ἠγαπημένου· ὁ ἐπιβαίνων ἐπὶ τὸν οὐρανὸν βοηθός σου καὶ ὁ μεγαλοπρεπὴς τοῦ στερεώματος.

Isaiah 44:2

כֹּה־אָמַר יְהוָה עֹשֶׂךָ וְיֹצֶרְךָ מִבֶּטֶן יַעְזְרֶךָּ אַל־תִּירָא עַבְדִּי יַעֲקֹב וִישֻׁרוּן בָּחַרְתִּי בֹו׃

οὕτως λέγει κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὁ ποιήσας σε καὶ ὁ πλάσας σε ἐκ κοιλίας Ἔτι βοηθηθήσῃ, μὴ φοβοῦ, παῖς μου Ιακωβ καὶ ὁ ἠγαπημένος Ισραηλ, ὃν ἐξελεξάμην·

A few comments are in order. First, the translation of the LXX is not a straightforward “literal” translation of Yeshurun as the work of the Three Jewish Revisers shows in Deut. 32:15 (α΄ εύθύτατος “very straight”; σ΄θ΄ ὁ εὐθής “the straight one” (cp. τῳ εύθει in Deut. 33:5); contrast ο΄ ὁ ἠγαπημένος). Second, there is no possibility of scribal error in this situation, and thus the translators seem to diverge from the plain sense of their Vorlage for theologizing purposes. Their contextual rendering of the proper name still maintains the title of honor for Israel, but it focuses on God’s love for them in election (Deut 7:8 et al.). Third, the Isaiah translator is probably dependent on the work of the Deut. translator, who preceded him. LXX-Is also provides a doublet for Yeshurun when he translates it ὁ ἠγαπημένος Ισραηλ, “The Beloved Israel.” It is also important to note the theme of the election of Israel (Jacob) (ἐκλεγομαι) in Isaiah 44:1-4, which is also present in Ephesians 1:3-6.

Paul’s Use of the LXX in Ephesians 1:3-6

This analysis leads to the following conclusions in Ephesians.

1) ὁ ἠγαπημένος is used of both individuals in Israel’s history and of Israel herself. Since Deut translates Yeshurun (a title for Israel) with this form, it cannot be dismissed that this book begins the pattern for the following books, both canonical and deutero-canonical that refer to Israel as God’s Beloved. In fact Deut most probably does set the trajectory. As was noted earlier, LXX-Is combined Beloved and Election of Israel together and Paul seems to be influenced by this connection.

2) Paul is capitalizing on the term’s original meaning in the LXX. The term refers corporately to Israel and to individuals within Israel.  Paul places it in parallelism with ἐν Χριστῳ in Eph 1:3, indicating that it refers to an individual and the family of the Messiah. Primarily, via the parallelism Paul communicates that Christ is the Beloved or the New Israel. Also, the terms Χριστω and ηγαπημενος are used as incorporating (ἐν) terms. Regarding the former, N.T. Wright says, “I suggest, in other words, that Paul uses ‘Christ’ here as a shorthand way of referring to that unity and completeness, and mutual participation, which belongs to the church that is found ‘in Christ’, that is, in fact, the people of the Messiah” (Climax of the Covenant, 54; cf. 46).

3) Regarding the latter, the term was originally intended to be a title for God’s people or individual Israelites, and it denoted God’s love for them, but now Paul applies it to Jesus. This conclusion, of course, is consonant with Matthew in 3:17 and 17:5, where Jesus is called “my beloved Son.” Matthew has already made clear that Jesus is the new Israel on a new exodus from his use of the OT in chapter 2 (e.g. “Out of Egypt I have called my Son.”).

4) Εν Χριστω and εν τω ηγαπημενω, therefore, denote the people of God or the New Israel incorporated into Christ. Frank Thielman concludes, “It seems likely, therefore, that when Paul calls Jesus, “the Beloved” in this passage he has in mind Jesus’s embodiment within himself of the beloved and elect people of God” (2010; 54).

What is astounding about this observation, of course, is the overall context. Paul is commenting on the status of Gentile churches and he is saying that they are elect in Christ, that is, incorporated into the people of God, for whom the Messiah stands. By being incorporated into Christ, the Gentiles have become members of the people of God. In Christ, Israel’s history has become ours. We have truly been blessed with every spiritual blessing (Gen 12:1-3?) through identification with the people of God, who is Christ.

Septuagintalism?

Returning to the original question of whether τω ηγαπημενω constitutes a Septuagintalism, it is too difficult to know whether Paul has in mind specifically the Yeshurun texts,which would almost certainly indicate that it is, but that is not the present concern. The question is whether the LXX is the fundamental contextual influence on Paul in this text and others. The Hebrew Bible certainly preserves Israel as the beloved, but clearly the LXX (280 BC and post) in both the canonical and deutero-canonical books went beyond the Hebrew Bible in at least four cases surveyed in this post. I want to suggest that this example cannot be used as a foundational piece of evidence for Paul’s use of the LXX, but it may be a corroborative piece of evidence to a larger portfolio of Paul’s use of the OT. The LXX provides a bridge from Hebrew OT to the NT in this case, since Paul’s argument may firmly stand on the Hebrew Bible and be further strengthened by appealing to the Greek OT.

One thought on “Ἐν τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ, Septuagintalism in Ephesians 1:6?

  1. Very helpful analysis here John and very balanced conclusion. Thank you for aiding our understanding of Eph 1:3-6 and dealing with the “beloved” which is so frequently glossed over.

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