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Ephesians 4:7-10


4:7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 4:8 Therefore it says,When he ascended on high he captured 1  captives; he gave gifts to men.” 2  4:9 Now what is the meaning of “he ascended,” except that he also descended 3  to the lower regions, 4  namely, the earth? 5  4:10 He, the very one 6  who descended, is also the one who ascended above all the heavens, in order to fill all things.

1 tn Grk “he led captive captivity.”

2 sn A quotation which is perhaps ultimately derived from Ps 68:18. However, the wording here differs from that of Ps 68 in both the Hebrew text and the LXX in a few places, the most significant of which is reading “gave gifts to” in place of “received gifts from” as in HT and LXX. It has sometimes been suggested that the author of Ephesians modified the text he was citing in order to better support what he wanted to say here. Such modifications are sometimes found in rabbinic exegesis from this and later periods, but it is also possible that the author was simply citing a variant of Ps 68 known to him but which has not survived outside its quotation here (W. H. Harris, The Descent of Christ [AGJU 32], 104). Another possibility is that the words here, which strongly resemble Ps 68:19 HT and LXX (68:18 ET), are actually part of an early Christian hymn quoted by the author.

3 tc The majority of mss (א2 B C3 Ψ Ï) read πρῶτον (prwton, “first”) here in conjunction with this verb: “he first descended.” The shorter reading, which lacks πρῶτον, should be considered original on the basis of both external and internal evidence: It has strong external support from the Alexandrian and Western texttypes (Ì46 א* A C* D F G Ivid 082 6 33 81 1739 1881 pc); internally, the inclusion of πρῶτον is most likely an addition to clarify the sense of the passage.

4 tc The Western texttype (D* F G it) lacks the plural noun μέρη (merh, “regions”); the shorter reading cannot be dismissed out of hand since it is also supported by Ì46 (which often has strong affinities, however, with the Western text). The inclusion of the word has strong external support from important, early mss as well as the majority of Byzantine cursives (א A B C D2 I Ψ 33 1739 1881 Ï). Certain scribes may have deleted the word, thinking it superfluous; in addition, if the shorter reading were original one would expect to see at least a little variation in clarifying additions to the text. For these reasons the inclusion of μέρη should be regarded as original.

5 tn Grk “to the lower parts of the earth.” This phrase has been variously interpreted: (1) The traditional view understands it as a reference to the underworld (hell), where Jesus is thought to have descended in the three days between his death and resurrection. In this case, “of the earth” would be a partitive genitive. (2) A second option is to translate the phrase “of the earth” as a genitive of apposition: “to the lower parts, namely, the earth” (as in the present translation). Many recent scholars hold this view and argue that it is a reference to the incarnation. (3) A third option, which also sees the phrase “of the earth” as a genitive of apposition, is that the descent in the passage occurs after the ascent rather than before it, and refers to the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost (cf. Acts 4:11-16). Support for this latter view is found in the intertestamental and rabbinic use of Ps 68:18 (quoted in v. 8), which is consistently and solely interpreted as a reference to Moses’ ascent of Mt. Sinai to “capture” the words of the law. The probability, therefore, is that the comments here in v. 9 reflect a polemic against the interpretation of Ps 68:18 in certain circles as a reference to Moses. See W. H. Harris, The Descent of Christ (AGJU 32), 46-54; 171-204.

6 tn The Greek text lays specific emphasis on “He” through the use of the intensive pronoun, αὐτός (autos). This is reflected in the English translation through the use of “the very one.”

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