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Das Weltbild des Epheserbriefes: Eine religionsgeschichtlich-exegetische Studie.

Das Weltbild des Epheserbriefes: Eine religionsgeschichtlich-exegetische Studie. By Rainer Schwindt. Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 2002. xiii and 649 pages. Cloth.

A dazzling tour of ancient wonderlands featuring a multi-leveled universe populated by varieties of suprahuman entities awaits the reader of Rainer Schwindt's analysis of the kind of world that challenged the writer of Ephesians to find a meaningful way to express the gospel.

Much of the value of this work surfaces in Schwindt's determined effort to trace the evolution of thought relating to the basic problem of finding a way for humans to manage their search for identity and significance in a world of bewildering, transcendent entities. In the end, Ephesians emerges as a site for exhibition of the principal motifs and the main players in attempted frustration of God's plans and purposes.

In the first chapter Schwindt sketches the religious-historical inquiry relating to Ephesians, beginning with F. C. Baur and climaxing in accolades to E. Faust, Pax Christi et Pax Caesaris (Freiburg, Sw./Gottingen, 1993), for his discussion of religious-historical, tradition-historical, and social-historical aspects. Schwindt's aim is to advance the discussion with further attention paid to Philo as representative of Hellenistic Judaism. The chapter ends with the following conclusions about author and provenance: The letter is deuteropauline and builds on Colossians; Ephesus is the seat of a Pauline school; the letter was not written prior to 80; and it was addressed first of all to Ephesus but with a view to all of the province of Asia. An indication of what awaits the reader in succeeding chapters is Schwindt's observation that the Hebrew Bible and the Classics have too frequently been dissociated.

True to Schwindt's goal of understanding Ephesians within a broad stream of Mediterranean culture as well as many of its tributaries, the next chapter provides a detailed tour of the cultural-religious length, width, and depth of Ephesus. Schwindt's description of the pantheon that finds defining expression at the city is but one of the many gems in his work. Not lost to the reader is the immensity of the formidable challenge posed to the writer of Ephesians.

One thing leads to another, and Schwindt's third chapter traces the various views held by ancient writers in various parts of the Mediterranean world, beginning with Mesopotamia, and on through cultures enriched by the pre-Socratics (especially Heraclitus of Ephesus), Plato, the Old Academy (especially Xenocrates), eminent Stoics, and the Middle Platonists Plutarch and Apuleius (with focus on their views of daemons). These expositions take a logical turn into discussion of beliefs in the Hellenistic and imperial period relating to the heavenly bodies and powers associated with them, with focus on astrological interest involving angels and daemons. Philo of Alexandria becomes a main source of information in this section.

With the help of these program notes readers are prepared for Schwindt's detailed study of phrases and terms in Ephesians in the light of themes and motifs developed in the course of centuries in the world in which Ephesus came to play a dominant role. The words arche (archon), exousia, dunamis, and kuriotes receive ample due. The distinctive aspect of "in the heavenlies" (en tois epouraniois) in contrast to "the heavens" (ouranoi) as area in which the drama of encounter with the daemonic powers is enacted, is certain to invite readers' attention. One may venture to predict that the chief point for questioning of an area of Schwindt's exposition will arise from what appears to be a tortuous understanding of the participle in 2:23.

Schwindt's centerpiece is his concluding discussion of Christology in its cosmic and ecclesiastical dimension. Of special interest in this connection is the careful manner in which he describes gnostic-type strains in Ephesians while cautioning against equation with later Gnosticism, which deviated from the core message of God's involvement in and with the world.

In the end, God emerges triumphant through the work of Christ whose redemption spells release for people buffeted about in a world of competing deities, spirits, and forces. God cuts through cosmic red tape, and God's peace spells hope for humanity, with the polupoikilos sohia tou theou (the multi-hued wisdom of God, with suggestion of Artemis's colorful investiture as backdrop) finding distinctive expression in the gospel. In a concluding sentence Schwindt suggests the special relevance of Ephesians for our contemporary world, with its multiplication of entities competing for mastery of bodies and souls.

No graduate program with interest in Pauline studies can responsibly pass up this book. For pastors able to read German, this book not only serves up an enriched course in the social-cultural-political-religious context within which Ephesians took shape but also offers a penetrating exegetical study of Ephesians as a whole and in part. Whatever the price, it is a bargain. To aid one's pilgrimage, Schwindt offers a lengthy bibliography, an index of biblical, apocryphal/pseudepigraphic writings, Qumran literature, Philo, Josephus, later ecclesiastical writers, rabbinic writings, ancient Greek and Roman polytheists, Gnostic writings, inscriptions from Ephesus, and magical papyri. Author and topical indexes ensure further entry for intellectual and spiritual profit taking.

Many studies offer a few and sometimes only one nugget beyond recycled information. This one provides a sackful.

Frederick William Danker

Emeritus Prof. of New Testament

Christ Seminary--Seminex/Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
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Author:Danker, Frederick William
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Date:Aug 1, 2007
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