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Ephesians 1:15-18

Biblical Text
"For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all his people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his people," (Ephesians 1:15-18, TNIV)

Commentary from the Early Church Fathers(1)
The Eyes of the Heart. Jerome: His phrase “eyes of the heart” clearly refers to those things we cannot understand without sense and intelligence…. Faith sees beyond what the physical eyes see. Physical eyes are in the heads of not only the wise but the unwise. Epistle to the Ephesians 1.1.15 seq.

These Eyes Have Become Opened Among the Gentiles. Ephrem the Syrian: The signs manifested to the external eyes of the Jews did them little good. But faith opened the eyes of the hearts of the Gentiles. Homily on Our Lord 32.

That You May Know by Insight and Revelation. Marius Victorinus: Let us understand that we arrive at the full mystery of God by two routes: We ourselves by rational insight may come to understand and discern something of the knowledge of divine things. But when there is a certain divine self-disclosure God himself reveals his divinity to us. Some may directly perceive by this revelation something remarkable, majestic and close to truth. … But when we receive wisdom we apprehend what is divine both through our own rational insight and through God’s own Spirit. When we come to know what is true in the way this text intends, both these ways of knowing correspond. Epistle to the Ephesians 1.1.17–18.

My Comments
I really like Jerome's line, "Faith sees beyond what the physical eyes see" and Ephrem points out that the Jewish authorities of Jesus' day saw many signs and it did them no good whatsoever, as they still refused to believe.

I include the comments from Victorinus not because I agree with him (as I do with Jerome and Ephrem) but because I think he's mistaken. A number of theologians embrace this dualistic knowledge of God often referred to as natural and special revelation. While I agree that there is biblical support for the position that God is revealed through natural means (Psalm 19:1 and Romans 1) come to mind, there is also a common theme that comes out particularly in the Romans passage. People seem to get natural revelation wrong. As Paul notes what has revealed has been made plain from what has been made (Romans 1:19-20) but according to Paul people rejected this knowledge.

The other point of contention that I have with Victorinus comes from my recent study of Moltmann. What Moltmann argues, and I think persuasively, is that at least in the West classical theism, or "The Spy in the Sky Theology" (NT Wright's phrase) dominates people's understanding of who God is. So when people talk about God they talk about the creator of the universe – not the crucified Jesus the Christ.

On a more personal note, as I prepare for my final few weeks at Northmont I found Paul's words very relevant to my own feelings as I am preparing to leave the church that I have been apart for the past three years as both a volunteer and staff member.

Notes(2)
Jerome (c. 347–420). Gifted exegete and exponent of a classical Latin style, now best known as the translator of the Latin Vulgate. He defended the perpetual virginity of Mary, attacked Origen and Pelagius and supported extreme ascetic practices.

Ephrem the Syrian (b. c. 306; fl. 363–373). Syrian writer of commentaries and devotional hymns which are sometimes regarded as the greatest specimens of Christian poetry prior to Dante.

Marius Victorinus (b. c. 280/285; fl. c. 355–363). Grammarian of African origin who taught rhetoric at Rome and translated works of Platonists. After his conversion (c. 355), he wrote against the Arians and commentaries on Paul’s letters.

  1. All comments taken from: M. J. Edwards, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT 8. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999), ???.
  2. Biographical information is from: ACCS Introduction and Bibliographic Information, Ancient Christian commentary on Scripture. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2005).
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