The Bride of Christ in Light of Old Testament Usage: Part II

In our last post, we presented some lexical and conceptual evidence for a connectionwedding p. 2 between Ephesians 5 and Ezekiel 16. Now, we will turn to a fuller treatment as to the bearing this connection has on Paul’s teaching in Eph 5.

Before embarking on this though, a few additional comments need to be made regarding Eze 16, especially regarding the broader context of the passage.

It is commonly recognized that Ezekiel’s ministry was situated during the time of the Babylonian captivity of Israel (Eze 1:1-3; cf. 2 Kgs 24:12-15), which has immediate bearing on Eze 16. In Eze 16, you’ll recall, the Lord is dealing with the “abominations” of Jerusalem (16:1). By the time of Ezekiel’s ministry and thus this particular prophesy, Jerusalem had already been established as both the religious and governmental seat of the Southern kingdom of Israel. It is hear where the temple resided and from where the kings in the line of David ruled. Thus, the two primary institutions of Israel, namely, the temple and the king, were integrally connected to Jerusalem. Ezekiel 16 deals most specifically with the royal institution (cf. vv. 12-14), yet, the institution of the temple cannot be far from Ezekiel’s mind (16:63; cf. e.g., Eze 40-48). So, by way of summary, as we move toward our discussion of Eph 5, we will note the various themes at play in Ezekiel 16; themes which will be important for understanding Paul’s use of Eze 16 in Eph 5.

First, we have a description of the Lord strengthening Jerusalem and, in turn, making her his bride (vv. 1-16). Second, we see Jerusalem’s descent into adultery/idolatry, compromising with the surrounding nations (Egypt, Assyrians, Chaldeans) (vv. 17-58). Third, we see a familial relationship, both paternal and sororal, between Jerusalem and the surrounding nations (vv. 44-52). Fourth, the restoration of Jerusalem is hinted at, yet, it is one alongside the restoration of those with whom Jerusalem bears a family resemblance (vv. 53-55); indeed, this will take place “in their midst” (v. 53b). Fifth, Ezekiel prophecies of the Lord establishing an “everlasting covenant” with his bride (vv. 59-62).

Because of the significance of this last point, some further observations regarding must be observed. For one, this new covenant will be built on the Lord’s prior covenant relationship with Jerusalem (v. 60). Secondly, building on our fourth point, it is prophesied that the Lord will give “your elder and your younger” sisters (Samaria and Sodom, respectively; v. 46) as daughters (v. 61). Lastly, characteristic of this new covenant is that they will “know that I am the Lord” (v. 62) and all her sins will be atoned for (v. 63). Continue reading “The Bride of Christ in Light of Old Testament Usage: Part II”


The Bride of Christ in Light of Old Testament Usage: Part I

by Thomas Haviland-Pabst

15128f6779b1b168b3b1a3994eea7e18--wedding-girl-anime-weddingEphesians 5:22-33 is a passage of Scripture that plays a large role in discussions of the role of women and men in marriage, and, by way of extension, in the church. This kind of discussion is one that needs continual attention, and, as such, has much value. But, often, these more pragmatic concerns, as important as they are, miss some of the more theological rich elements of the passage that lay beneath the surface. It is thus our purpose in this essay to attempt to draw out these theological elements, with specific attention given to a discernable OT background to Eph 5:25-27.

It is our contention that Ephesians 5:25-27 directly alludes to Ezekiel 16. The latter passage is one which is not easy reading, especially if children or the like are around. It is graphic and brutally honest. Moreover, Paul’s allusion to this passage, it is our contention, pulls in other themes found in his letter to the Ephesians. That is to say, the allusion to Eze 16 draws together significant themes in Paul’s thought thus deepening our understanding of Paul’s teaching in Eph 5:22-33.

Before commencing with an analysis and exposition of the relation between Eph 5 and Eze 16, it would be helpful to give some space to discuss the basic content and teaching of Eze 16. In this passage, the Lord gives Ezekiel a prophetic parable to deliver to Jerusalem regarding “her abominations” (16:1-2). In vv. 3-5, the Lord described the foreign, pagan origins of Jerusalem which involved her being “abhorred … on the day that [she] was born” (v. 5). In vv. 6-7, the Lord describes how he saw Jerusalem and, seeing her in her abandoned condition, caused her to live and grow to maturity (“Your breasts were fully formed”) with the qualification that she was still “naked and bare” (v. 7b). Eze 16:6-7 pictures then “the pre-Israelite” history of Jerusalem (Iain Duguid [1999: 210])

Yet, this providential care of Jerusalem is for a bigger purpose, which becomes clear as we read on. In v. 8, the Lord passes by her again and sees her. Yet, this time, there is shift from the Lord’s mere providential care for her. She is “at the age of love,” i.e., of marital age. With the Lord seeing this, numerous things result: (1) he covered her nakedness (v. 8a; cf. v. 7b); (2) he made a covenant with her and she “became [his]” (v. 8b; cf. v. 5); (3) he bathed her, washing off her blood and anointing her with oil (v. 9; cf. v. 4); and, (4) the Lord, furthermore, clothed  and adorned with her fine garments and beautiful jewels; and, fed her with delicacies befitting a queen (vv. 10-13). Hence, it comes as no surprise that she is described as “advanc[ing] in royalty” (v. 13c), with her renown (lit.: ‘name’) going “forth among the nations” (v. 14a) due to the beauty and splendor the Lord “bestowed on” her (v. 14b).

It is clear that 16:8-14 describes Jerusalem as the bride of the Lord, which stands out strikingly as the Lord proceeds, in 16:15-58, to describe with powerful imagery the adultery that Jerusalem has committed against the Lord. She is described as “playing the whore” (v. 15) and as a “prostitute” (v. 35). In fact, so heinous was her adultery (= idolatry) that Jerusalem became “more corrupt than they [Samaria, Sodom] in all [her] ways” (v. 47), which shows how far the Lord’s bride had fallen since Sodom, now her “sister,” was once a “byword [i.e., archetype of moral and spiritual depravity] in [her] mouth” (v. 55). Despite the bleak situation outlined in 16:15-58, the Lord is not finished with his bride, as is evident in the word of hope he gives to her in 16:59-62. We will discuss this concluding section of Eze 16 in more detail below.

Having summarized the content of Eze 16, we will now look at some reasons for our assertion of a direct connection between Eph 5:25-27 and Eze 16.[1] Most directly, Paul writes, “Christ loved the church … having cleaned her by the washing of the water” (Eph 5:26). Here, “the washing of the water” (τῷ λουτρῷ τοῦ ὕδατος) parallels “bathed you with water” (Eze 16:9 LXX ἔλουσά σε ἐν ὕδατι). Now, this may not seem like much on its own, but, we have to remember the shared conceptual world of these two passages. Both are speaking of the Lord loving his bride. Indeed, the Lord bathing his bride with water in Eze 16:9 is in the context of the marital covenant he made with her (16:8). Moreover, this phrase in Eze 16:9 alludes to the state of the Lord’s bride prior to his covenant of love as not having been “washed with water to cleanse you” (16:4) (LXX ἐν ὕδατι οὐκ ἐλούσθης). The significance of this dramatic reversal will become clear as we move forward, but, it must be noted at this point that Eze 16:9, which is most clearly alluded to in Eph 5:25-27, is within the context of a marital covenant and refers to a reversal from a prior state.

Beyond this, further conceptual parallels reinforce the allusion to Eze 16 by Paul. First, Christ’s presentation of his bride “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:27) appears to parallel in some significant ways, “I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness [and] washed off your blood from you” (Eze 16:8a, 9). Second, while more tentative, “sanctify” (ἁγιάζω) in Eph 5:26 could to have some conceptual overlap with “anoint” (Eze 16:9 LXX χρίω; MT סוך) as the latter can denote “anoint in token of consecration” (LSJ) and the former “to dedicate to the service of and to loyalty to” God (L&N 53.44). Third, Christ’s presentation of his bride “in splendor (ἔνδοξον)” (Eph 5:27) has some conceptual overlap with “splendor” (LXX ἐν εὐπρεπείᾳ ἐν τῇ ὡραιότητι; MT בַּֽהֲדָרִי֙) and “renown” (LXX ὄνομα; MT שֵׁם) in Eze 16:14.

So, in sum, there are lexical and well as conceptual parallels between Eze 16 and Eph 5, which, taken together support[2] our contention that Paul is alluding to Eze 16 in his discussion of Christ and the church. But, you may ask: to what end?

See part 2 of this post for the remainder of our argument.  


[1] The reader should note our early description of this connection as an allusion. An allusion is to be distinguished from a direct quotation (e.g., Eph 5:31 quoting Gen 2:24 LXX) and an echo. The latter being a more subconscious and possibly unintentional use of an OT passage by an NT author; the former being the most intentional and conscious. Thus, a quotation, allusion, and an echo, respectively, reflect, roughly speaking, different degrees of intentionality. It is commonly understood that an allusion, while not admitting to the same obvious degree of intentionality as a quotation, is nonetheless still intentional and consciously used by the author. It is our view that the lexical and conceptual connections between the two passages under question warrant categorizing the relation between Eph 5 and Eze 16 as an allusion; a view we trust our evidence demonstrates. 

[2] We recognize that not every piece of evidence for an allusion to Eze 16 by Paul is equally persuasive. But, we would argue that the cumulative weight of the evidence supports at least the plausibility of the allusion.

The Indivisible Will of the Trinity: Some Reasons Why it Matters

by Thomas Haviland-Pabst

It is been increasingly recognized in recent times that the doctrine of the Trinity (or, indeed, a Trinitarian approach to theology) is of the utmost importance. The recent popular-level debate that spread like wild fire regardtrinitying the question of the eternal subordination of the Son (a question that, prior to its popular-level expression, had been in existence for some time) is indicative of this trends as our the various recently published books on the Trinity. With this in mind, the purpose of this post is to note some ways in which one particular facet of Trinitarian theology has bearing on other theological loci, namely, the doctrine of the one will of the Godhead.

In orthodox Trinitarian theology, it is affirmed that the Godhead, which consists of three persons and one divine being or essence, possesses one will. That is to say, each person of the Triune God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—is not a person in the discreet, independent sense of the word person. Or, to put it in terms that correspond with this post’s purpose, each person does not possess his own distinct will, setting him, in turn, in purposeful contradistinction from the other two persons of the Godhead. There is one will of the Godhead yet this is a threefold will, reflecting the three persons of the one divine being. Put negatively, the one will of the one divine being does not exist in such a way which conflates the three persons with the one divine being; rather, the one will is expressed in three persons.

Having summarized, however briefly, the indivisible and singular will of the Triune God, we turn now to the Trinity opera ad extra (i.e., the work of the Trinity in creation and redemption). It naturally follows that if the Triune God has one will, then the works of the Trinity ad extra are also indivisible. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not divided, nor in fact can they be, in the work of creation or redemption. This leads to a few different implications, which serve to demonstrate, in turn, the importance and necessity of affirming the indivisible and singular will of the Triune God considered both ad intra and ad extra. Continue reading “The Indivisible Will of the Trinity: Some Reasons Why it Matters”

Theology as an Act of Worship; or, the Character of Theology

by Thomas Haviland-Pabst

In a lieu of a more rigorous theological piece (don’t worry, many more of those will be forthcoming), I feel compelled to write something on the character of Christian theology. Such a piece was in fact in my mind as something that I was concerned to communicate at the outset of my blog in order to set the tone, but, it was ‘put on the back-burner,’ as it were. So, with that, I would like the readers of this blog to consider the Christian character of Christian theology.

Theological inquiry and construction are not merely intellectual exercises. Despite the sometimes heard description of theology as a “sacred science,” which gives the implication that it is a science of sacred (i.e., religious) things, it is far more, although not less thclassrooman, a “science.” Theological inquiry and construction—or, more briefly, theologizing—is an extension of one’s character. This can have both ill and beneficial consequences for if a person’s character is inclined toward in a less than desirable direction, then so will their theology be.Admittedly, though, this is to put it rather simplistically. Rather, we are, in one very real sense, a mixture of good and evil. If one is apart from or without Christ, one is, at base, evil, yet, even still, as being made in the image of God (Gen 1), there is a reflection of God’s good character. To illustrate my point, there is a code or standard of ethics even among the most heinous of murders or cunning of thieves.

And, indeed, for the one united to Christ, there is a mixture of good and evil, albeit in a far different sense than the prior example for the starting point of such a person is in Christ and therefore the indwelling sin is an aspect of that person which will one day pass away but is currently remaining, awaiting the consummation of redemption at Christ’s return. To put in scholastic terms, the sin in a believer’s life is accidental.

The purpose of this brief foray into Christian anthropology (i.e., the doctrine of humanity) is to the set the stage for our point in this post, namely, that Christian theologizing ought to be an extension of one’s Christian character. This ‘ought’ is an ethical ought. That is to say, it is not true to say that such theologizing is an extension of one’s Christian character for if this were the case than all theologizing would be, of necessity, reflecting of a person’s union with Christ, and, therefore, reflective of Christ. But we know, perhaps all too well, that this is far too often not the case.

Now, the importance of the ethical component of theologizing must not be missed. All truth, in one very real and tangible sense, is ethical in orientation. Truth is, as it were, an ought that should be affirmed and acted upon. Truth stands against lies, falsehood and inaccuracy. Truth, moreover, is deeply personal. Ethics do not stand outside of nor can they be abstracted from persons. Even a code of ethics in a particular profession (say, e.g., the medical professional) is crafted by an individual or group of individuals who have certain principles and situations in mind upon crafting such a code. Therefore, theologizing, which seeks to clear a way for theological accuracy, understanding, and, dare we say, truth is entirely ethical and entirely personal. To divorce theologizing from the ethical and, consequently, the personal dimension is to undermine the very nature of truth.

To put in more positive biblical terms, theologizing must be guided by two great commandments as taught by Christ: “[y]ou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. … [y]ou shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:37, 39 ESV). These two commandments summarize the entirety of that which God requires of humanity (cf. Matt 22:40) and hence it encapsulates and envelopes all Christian theologizing, if one grants the assumption that theologizing is necessarily ethical and personal (as I trust we’ve demonstrated, even if incompletely).

Put simply, theologizing has both a Godward and human-ward direction. Expounding on Jesus’ teaching, to love God with one’s entire being is to worship God; to love our neighbor as ourselves is to uphold the value and dignity of human beings, who are made in the image of God, and, therefore, is to worship God byFrederic_Edwin_Church_-_Vision_of_the_Cross_-_Google_Art_Project honoring and valuing what he honors and values. Put negatively, to fail to love God in such an all-absorbing way is to fail to worship God, replacing God, in turn, with something less than God: an idol. Given that love for one’s neighbor entails worshiping God, failure to do so “as oneself,” indeed self-sacrificially (cf. Lk 10:30ff; Jn 15:13; Phil 2:1-11), is to lapse into idolatry.

The height and breadth of these two commands should give any theologian, whatever his or her status or rank, some pause. If one grants the correctness of our exposition of these two great commandments, then it naturally follows that, to varying degrees and in varying ways, we are all guilty of and often lapse into idolatry. The bearing of this on theologizing should be clear. Theologizing is a task (or action or endeavor) which is, at bottom, concerned with God; whether it is God in relation to human beings, the entirety of creation, or himself. And, it is also necessarily personal and ethical; indeed, in light of the two great commandments, it is an aspect of worship.

We can all admit that we worship God imperfectly, that is, we vacillate between worship of the true God and false gods, which are in fact not gods. Therefore, we can (or should) also admit that, despite our best efforts, intellectual endowments, traditions, etc., we are, at best imperfect and consistently inaccurate or, to put it bluntly, a perpetrator of lies. For, if the two great commandments envelope theologizing, then, just as we fail to, in the plainest sense, fulfill these commandments, so we fail to fulfill them as they apply to and undergird theologizing.

We will round off our discussion here noting what the apostle Paul says in Gal 6:1: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” As was implied above, theologizing, as worship, is a spiritual activity, whether for God’s glory or for the robbing of the same. Therefore, we ought to help those who are transgressing truth, attempting to restore them (here’s the logic: truth is ethical, lack of truth or suppressing truth is a lie, therefore, theological error can be construed as a transgression), recognizing that we ourselves are in great need, oft-blind to our own moral and spiritual failures, and therefore, we should do so with gentleness. Or, as the apostle says it elsewhere, we must speak “the truth in love” (Eph 4:15). Love, humility, gentleness and worship of God must be the foundation and direction toward which we press in our theological inquires and constructions.

Although much more could be said, we will conclude with a final teaching from Scripture. After noting that “all is vanity” (Eccl 12:8), the author of Ecclesiastes writes, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (12:13). Notice that the two things, “fear God” and “keep … commandments” is taken as one (“this is” or זֶה) rather than two; that is, fearing God by obeying him is our “whole duty” toward him—worship, which includes theologizing, is full-orbed (i.e., in light of the two great commandments). Therefore, failure to treat theologizing as an act of worship of the Triune God—in Christ, by the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father—is to undermine the very task at the outset.


What we are …

This is the post excerpt.

‘A Humble Inquiry’ is a blog named as such because it is our view that it is at the place of true inquiry into a subject that one begins to understand it, or, in some cases, realize how little one actually understands.  Thus, it is our assumption that true inquiry requires a level of (hopefully growing) humility.

With this, the main areas of inquiry which will characterize this blog will be, in the main, those pertaining to Christianity, and, as such, our inquiry will be theological, philosophical, apologetic, analytic, historical, pastoral, and, most importantly, biblical. So, at the outset, a disclaimer must be made: there will be, we hope, something in here for everyone yet not everything in here will be for just anyone. This is necessarily the case as our interests, while narrow as mainly limited to Christianity, are decidedly broad.