Internet Verse Search Commentaries Word Analysis ITL - draft

Ephesians 4:9


Now what is the meaning of “he ascended,” except that he also descended 1  to the lower regions, 2  namely, the earth? 3 


Ge 11:5; Ex 19:20; Ps 8:5; Ps 63:9; Ps 139:15; Pr 30:4; Mt 12:40; Joh 3:13; Joh 6:33,62; Joh 6:33,38,41,51,58; Joh 8:14; Joh 16:27,28; Joh 20:17; Ac 2:34-36; Heb 2:7,9

NET © Notes

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.

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.

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.

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