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The Sentence in Ephesians

by Tim O'Hearn

Paul could be very wordy at times. Perhaps the best known is one sentence which can be found in Ephesians 1:3-14. This whole passage is one long sentence, full of clauses and sub-clauses (and since he talks about Christians, even santa-clauses). Most modern “translations” break this up into several sentences, thus becoming paraphrases rather than translations. (I have a basic objection to those who unnecessarily change the inspired word just for some sense of their own propriety.) Perhaps they are, in some ways, more readable, but at the cost of a sense of Paul’s style and logic.

Below is the entire sentence (from the King James Version). Every time I change a level of indenting at the beginning of a phrase or phrases, that level refers back to the underlined words in the previous level. To make it easier to see the changes I have changed the symbol at the beginning of each line for each new level. I once thought of diagramming the sentence as I was taught in the second or third grade, but that became too cumbersome.

Maybe this chart will make the sentence easier to understand; but probably not so much as those modern versions. To me it is of value because it shows both the level of complexity of Paul’s thinking, and that Paul, like other great writers, was not constrained by the common concept of what constituted proper grammar. This sentence alone proves what Peter said about Paul: “in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (2 Pet 3:15)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,