Ephesians 3:5
Which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) Which in other ages (rather, to other generations) was not made known unto the sons of men.—For the general sense comp. Colossians 1:27. The phrase “the sons of men” (except that it is once used in Mark 3:28) is peculiar to the Old Testament, where it is of frequent use in the poetical books, and it is notable that in Ezekiel it is the name by which the prophet himself is constantly addressed. Hence, although it is probably wrong to restrict to the children of Israel, or to the prophets, words which by their very nature apply to all mankind, yet the phrase seems to be used with a suggestion of the contrast between the old dispensation and the new. (Comp. our Lord’s words in Matthew 11:11, “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”)

As it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.—The application of the epithet “holy” to the Apostles has been thought strange as coming from one of their number; and it is worth notice that this exceptional application is certainly more appropriate to the comparatively impersonal style of an encyclical epistle. But the epithet (applied to the Old Testament prophets in Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21; 2Peter 3:2), like the frequent use of it as the substantive “saints,” in application to all Christians, refers not to personal character, but to official call and privilege. In this passage it is clear that it is used thus, in emphatic contrast with “the sons of men” above, and in connection with the following words, “in the Spirit.” The contrast here briefly conveyed is the same which is drawn out in 1 Corinthians 2 between the “wisdom of men,” and the “wisdom of God,” sanctifying, and so enlightening, the Christian soul.

3:1-7 For having preached the doctrine of truth, the apostle was a prisoner, but a prisoner of Jesus Christ; the object of special protection and care, while thus suffering for him. All the gracious offers of the gospel, and the joyful tidings it contains, come from the rich grace of God; it is the great means by which the Spirit works grace in the souls of men. The mystery, is that secret, hidden purpose of salvation through Christ. This was not so fully and clearly shown in the ages before Christ, as unto the prophets of the New Testament. This was the great truth made known to the apostle, that God would call the Gentiles to salvation by faith in Christ. An effectual working of Divine power attends the gifts of Divine grace. As God appointed Paul to the office, so he qualified him for it.Which in other ages - The great purposes of God in regard to the salvation of mankind were not revealed; see the notes at Romans 16:25.

And prophets - Those who exercised the office of a prophet or inspired teacher in the Christian church; see the notes at 1 Corinthians 12:1.

By the Spirit - This proves that those who exercised the office of prophet in the Christian church were inspired. They were persons endowed in this manner for the purpose of imparting to the newly formed churches the doctrines of the Christian system. There is no evidence that this was designed to be a permanent order of people in the church. They were necessary for settling the church on a permanent basis, in the absence of a full written revelation, and when the apostles were away. When the volume of revelation was finished, and the doctrines of the gospel were fully understood, the functions of the office ceased.

5. in other ages—Greek, "generations."

not made known—He does not say, "has not been revealed." Making known by revelation is the source of making known by preaching [Bengel]. The former was vouchsafed only to the prophets, in order that they might make known the truth so revealed to men in general.

unto the sons of men—men in their state by birth, as contrasted with those illuminated "by the Spirit" (Greek, "IN the Spirit," compare Re 1:10), Mt 16:17.

as—The mystery of the call of the Gentiles (of which Paul speaks here) was not unknown to the Old Testament prophets (Isa 56:6, 7; 49:6). But they did not know it with the same explicit distinctness "As" it has been now known (Ac 10:19, 20; 11:18-21). They probably did not know that the Gentiles were to be admitted without circumcision or that they were to be on a level with the Jews in partaking of the grace of God. The gift of "the Spirit" in its fulness was reserved for the New Testament that Christ might thereby be glorified. The epithet, "holy," marks the special consecration of the New Testament "prophets" (who are here meant) by the Spirit, compared with which even the Old Testament prophets were but "sons of men" (Eze 2:3, and elsewhere).

Which in other ages; in the times before Christ’s coming in the flesh.

Was not made known unto the sons of men: that the Gentiles should be called was formerly known and foretold, but not as since, viz. as to the time and manner of it, and the means whereby it should be effected.

Prophets; New Testament prophets, Ephesians 4:11 Romans 12:6 1 Corinthians 14:1,3.

By the Spirit; either by the Spirit’s being poured out on the Gentiles, it was known that they should be co-heirs with the believing Jews; or rather, by the Spirit instructing the apostles and prophets, and immediately acquainting them with this mystery. Which in other ages was not made known unto, the sons of men,.... That is, which mystery of Christ, and of the Gospel, was not made known to men in general, nor so clearly as under the Gospel dispensation. Some hints were given of it to Adam, immediately after his fall; and the Gospel was before preached to Abraham, Moses, and David, and others knew something of it; and it was still more fully dispensed in the times of the prophet Isaiah, and other following prophets: but then the knowledge of it was not so extensive, nor so clear as now; it lay hid in types and shadows, in obscure prophecies and short hints. Moreover, this may have respect particularly to the calling of the Gentiles, as appears from the following words; this was, in some measure, made known, as that in Christ all the nations of the earth should be blessed; that when Shiloh came, to him should the gathering of the people be; that the Messiah should be an ensign of the people, and to him should the Gentiles seek; that he should be the covenant of the people, and a leader and a commander of them; and that there should be great flockings to him; but then this was not known to many, and the time, mode, and circumstances of it were but little understood, and comparatively speaking, it was not known: however, it was not so known,

as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the spirit. The apostles and prophets were the superior officers in the Gospel dispensation; the former design the twelve apostles of Christ, and the latter such who had the gift of interpreting the prophecies of the Old Testament, and of foretelling things to come, having received gifts from Christ to fit them for such offices, some apostles, some prophets; and to these a revelation was made of the mystery of the Gospel in general, and of the calling of the Gentiles in particular, by the Spirit, who searches the deep things of God, and reveals them, and leads into all truth; and who, by falling upon the Gentiles, as upon Cornelius and his family, and by the success which he gave to the Gospel in the Gentile world, made their calling clear and manifest. The Complutensian edition reads, "by the Holy Spirit"; and so the Arabic and Ethiopic versions.

Which in {b} other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

(b) He does not mean that no one knew of the calling of the Gentiles before, but because very few knew of it. And those that did know it, such as the prophets, had it revealed to them very obscurely, and by means of symbols.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Ephesians 3:5. Not an explanation, to what extent he was speaking of a mystery (Rückert, Meier): for that the readers knew, and the design of bringing in a mere explanation would not be in keeping with the elevated solemn style of the whole verse; but a triumphant outburst of the conscious exalted happiness of belonging to the number of those who had received the revelation of the mystery—an outburst, which was very naturally called forth by the sublime contents of the μυστήριον.

ἑτέραις γενεαῖς] may be either a definition of time, like the dative at Ephesians 2:12 (so taken usually); in that case γενεαῖς is not periodis or temporibus in general, but: in other generations (comp. on Ephesians 3:21); or it may express the simple dative relation, so that γενεαῖς is generationibus (Vulgate): which to other generations was not made known, according to which τοῖς υἱοῖς τῶν ἀνθρ. would form a characteristic epexegesis (Lobeck, ad Aj. 308; Bernhardy, p. 55; Nägelsbach, Anm. z. Ilias, ed. 3, pp. 272, 307). This was my previous view. Yet the former explanation, as being likewise linguistically correct, and withal more simple and more immediately in keeping with the contrast νῦν, is to be preferred. The ἕτεραι γεν. are the generations which have preceded the νῦν; and τοῖς υἱοῖς τῶν ἀνθρ. (not elsewhere occurring with Paul) has the significance, that it characterizes men according to their lower sphere conditioned by their “ortum naturalem” (Bengel), under which they were incapable in themselves of understanding the μυστήριον. Comp. Genesis 11:5; Psalm 8:5; Psalm 11:5; Wis 9:6. That specially the O. T. prophets are meant by τοῖς υἱοῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπ., as Bengel supposed,[169] is wrongly inferred from τοῖς ἁγίοις ἀποστόλοις κ.τ.λ., since the contrast does not lie in the persons,[170] but in the time (ἑτέραις γενεαῖςνῦν). It is true Ezekiel often bears the name בֶּן־אָדָם (Ezekiel 7:1; Ezekiel 12:1, al.), not, however, as prophet, but as man; and thereby likewise his human lowliness and dependence upon God are brought home to him.

Ὡς] By this expression, which (in opposition to Bleek) is to be left as comparative, the disclosure made to Abraham and the ancient prophets of the future participation of the Gentiles in Messiah’s kingdom (Galatians 3:8; Romans 9:24-26; Romans 15:9 ff.) remains undisputed; for “fuit illis hoc mysterium quasi procul et cum involucris ostensum,” Beza; hence the prophetic prediction served only as means for the making known of the later complete revelation of the mystery (Romans 16:26).

ΝῦΝ] in the Christian period. Comp. 1 Peter 1:12.

ἈΠΕΚΑΛΎΦΘΗ] not a repetition of ἘΓΝΩΡΊΣΘΗ, but the distinguishing mode in which this manifestation took place, is intended to be expressed: ΚΑΤᾺ ἈΠΟΚΆΛΥΨΙΝ ἘΓΝΩΡΊΣΘΗ, Ephesians 3:3.

ΤΟῖς ἉΓΊΟΙς ἈΠΟΣΤ. Κ.Τ.Λ.] is not to be divided by a comma after ἉΓΊΟΙς (Lachmann, Bisping), so that ἈΠΟΣΤ. ΑὐΤ. Κ. ΠΡΟΦ. would be apposition or more precise definition, whereby the flow of the expression would be only needlessly interrupted. The predicate holy was already borne by the Old Testament prophets (2 Kings 4:9; Luke 1:70; 2 Peter 1:21), and this appellation at our passage by no means exposes the apostolic origin of the Epistle to suspicion (de Wette derives ἁγίοις from the passage Colossians 1:26 recast in post-apostolic times; Baur: from the post-apostolic reverential looking back to the apostles); but it is very naturally called forth by the context, in order to distinguish the recipients of the revelation amidst the mass of the υἱοὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, in accordance with the connection, as God’s special messengers and instruments, as ἅγιοι Θεοῦ ἄνθρωποι (2 Peter 1:21); whereupon the apostolic consciousness in Paul was great and decided enough not to suppress the predicate suggested by the connection,[171] while he is speaking of the apostles and prophets in general, whereas, immediately afterwards, at Ephesians 3:8, in speaking of himself in particular, he gives full play to his individual deep humility. How can we conceive that the author should thus in one breath have fallen out of his assumed part at Ephesians 3:5 with τοῖς ἁγίοις, by a “slip” (Baur), and then have resumed it at Ephesians 3:8 with ἐμοὶ τῷ ἐλαχιστοτέρῳ!

αὐτοῦ] not of Christ (Bleek), but of God, whose action is implied in ἐγνωρίσθη and ἀπεκαλύφθη.

καὶ προφήταις] quite as at Ephesians 2:20.

ἐν πνεύματι] The Holy Spirit is the divine principle, through which the ἀπεκαλύφθη took place. Comp. Ephesians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 2:10 ff. Rückert wrongly takes it as: in an inspired state, which πνεῦμα never means, but, on the contrary, even without the article is the objective Holy Spirit. Comp. on Ephesians 2:22. Koppe and Holzhausen connect ἐν πνεύματι (sc. οὖσι) with προφήταις. In this way it would be an exceedingly superfluous addition, since prophets, who should not be ἐν πν., are inconceivable, whereas a revelation was conceivable even otherwise than through the Spirit (by means of theophany, angel, vision, ecstasy, etc.). Meier connects ἐν πν. even with ἁγίοις, so that the sense would be: in sacred enthusiasm! and Ambrosiaster (comp. Erasmus) with the following εἶναι κ.τ.λ. Baur, p. 440, knows how to explain ἐν πνεύματι from a Montanistic view, and thinks that it is only on account of the prophets that it is applied to the apostles also.

[169] In quite an opposite way Jerome would exclude the ancient patriarchs and prophets from the υἱοῖς τῶν ἀνθρ.; for these were rather sons of God!

[170]
The ἀπόστολοι and προφῆται were also υἱοὶ τῶν ἀνθρ., but a sacred ἐκλογή of the same.

[171] A side-glance at the Jews, who would have seen a blasphemy in the apostolic message of the joint-heirship of the Gentiles (Lange, Apostol. Zeitalt. I. p. 128), is utterly remote from the connection.Ephesians 3:5. ὃ ἐν ἑτέραις γενεαῖς οὐκ ἐγνωρίσθη τοῖς υἱοῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπων: which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men. The TR inserts ἐν before ἑτέραις, as in Syr.-Phil. and Copt. But the insertion is due probably to the double dative, and the ἐν (which is not found in [219] [220] [221] [222] [223] [224] [225] [226], etc.) is rightly omitted by LTTrWHRV. The γενεαῖς, therefore, is the dat. of time; the term γενεά, like the OT דּו̇ר (of which it is the usual rendering in the LXX), meaning the period covered by a generation of men (Luke 1:20; Acts 14:16; Acts 15:21; Colossians 1:26) as well as the generation or race itself. By τοῖς υἱοῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπων are to be understood, not the OT prophets (Beng.) as contrasted with the “Apostles and prophets” of the next clause, but men generally and in the absolute sense, in conformity with the γενεαῖς.—ὡς γῦν, ἀπεκαλύφθη τοῖς ἁγίοις ἀποστόλοις αὐτοῦ καὶ προφήταις ἐν πνεύματι: as now it was revealed to His holy Apostles and prophets in the Spirit. The ὡς has its proper comparative force. The fact of the revelation made in pre-Christian times to the fathers and the prophets is not questioned. The matter in view is the measure or manner of the revelation. The νῦν = “now,” in these Christian times, and the aor. ἀπεκαλύφθη defines the fuller revelation as made definitely at a former period in these times. The verb also has its proper force, as distinguished from the ἐγνωρίσθη and as describing the way, viz., by revelation, that the truth was made known. The prophets of the OT dispensation were designated ἅγιοι (2 Kings 4:9; Luke 1:20; 2 Peter 1:21). Those of these Christian times are in like manner designated ἅγιοι, as men separated and consecrated to the office and distinguished from the mass of the υἱοὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων. They are further described as His (αὐτοῦ), i.e., God’s Apostles and prophets, God being the subject implied in the ἐγνωρίσθη and the ἀπεκαλύφθη. The terms ἀποστόλοις and προφήταις have the same sense here as in Ephesians 2:20, viz., the Christian Apostles and prophets. The clause ἐν Πνεύματι defines the ἀπεκαλύφθη; not the προφήταις, as if = προφῆται θεόπνευστοι (Holzh., Koppe), for the προφῆται need no such definition. As in Ephesians 2:22 the πνεῦμα here is the Holy Spirit, and the ἐν would most naturally be taken in the same sense as these. Here, however, most understand it as the instrumental ἐν. It seems to combine the two ideas of agency and element or condition, and describes the revelation as having been made in and by the Spirit.

[219] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[220] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[221] Codex Alexandrinus (sæc. v.), at the British Museum, published in photographic facsimile by Sir E. M. Thompson (1879).

[222] Codex Ephraemi (sæc. v.), the Paris palimpsest, edited by Tischendorf in 1843.

[223] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.

[224] Codex Augiensis (sæc. ix.), a Græco-Latin MS., at Trinity College, Cambridge, edited by Scrivener in 1859. Its Greek text is almost identical with that of G, and it is therefore not cited save where it differs from that MS. Its Latin version, f, presents the Vulgate text with some modifications.

[225] Codex Mosquensis (sæc. ix.), edited by Matthæi in 1782.

[226] Codex Angelicus (sæc. ix.), at Rome, collated by Tischendorf and others.5. ages] Better, generations. The reference (see next words) is to human time, and the periods before the Gospel.

unto the sons of men] A designedly large phrase; mankind in general, both inside and outside the Jewish pale. Outside, the secret was wholly unknown; inside, it was only dimly and sparingly intimated, though certainly intimated (cp. Acts 13:47; Romans 15:8-12). That it was in some measure revealed is suggested by the phrase here, “As it is now &c.” On the present scale, in the present mode, it was not then revealed; but not therefore quite concealed. But the O.T. hints were after all little more than prepared materials for N.T. revelation.

his holy apostles and prophets] On the “prophets,” see note on Ephesians 2:20.—The recipients are called “holy” to mark their special nearness to, and knowledge of, the revealing God, and so the absolute truth of their report.

by the Spirit] Lit., and better, in [the] Spirit. They were “in the Spirit” (Revelation 1:10) while receiving the knowledge of the great mystery. The Holy Ghost possessed them, that He might inform them.Ephesians 3:5. , which) This refers to Ephesians 3:3, as the repetition of the verb γνωρίζω, I make known, indicates.—ἑτέραις γενεαῖς, in other ages) Time in the ablative, as Acts 13:36.—οὐκ ἐγνωρίσθνη, was not made known) He does not say οὐκ ἀπεκαλύφθη, was not revealed. Making known by revelation (Ephesians 3:3) is the source of making known by preaching. Revelation is somewhat more special; making known is done in the hearing of others also: revelation is only made to the prophets.—τοῖς υἱοῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπων, to the sons of men) A very wide appellation, expressing the cause of ignorance, natural descent, to which the Spirit is opposed; comp. Matthew 16:17. He speaks of their former state in the idiom of the Hebrew language. Moreover, the antithesis of the apostles and prophets of the New Testament to the sons of men leads to the conclusion, that by this appellation the ancient prophets are principally intended; for example, Ezekiel, who is often called בן אדם, son of man, and has copiously described the city and house of God, as Paul does in this place.—ἐν Πνεύματι, in the Spirit) the gift of whom was reserved for the New Testament, with a view to the glorifying of Christ.Verse 5. - Which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations. Though not a new purpose, the knowledge of it is new. Abraham, David, and the prophets, however much they knew of Christ and the fullness of blessing in him for all the families of the earth, did not know the full extent of God's grace to the Gentiles - did not know that the middle wall was to be wholly broken down, and all inequality removed. This might seem to throw some doubt on the reality of this doctrine; but it was on purpose that God kept it secret, and those by whom he has now revealed it are worthy of all regard. As it has now been revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit. It is not revealed to Paul only, although he has got the privilege of announcing it to the Gentiles, but to the whole body of "holy apostles and prophets." The designation, "holy apostles," is rare; it is used here to magnify the office, to show that those whom the Head of the Church had set apart for himself were fit instruments to receive so important a revelation. "Prophets" here are undoubtedly New Testament prophets (see Ephesians 2:20), the contrast being with "sons of men in other generations." Reference may be made to the experience and decree of the Council of Jerusalem, guided by the Holy Spirit (see Acts 15:28). Other generations (ἑτέραις)

Other and different. See on Matthew 6:24.

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