7 Questions with Clint Arnold on Ephesians in the ZECNT series
Clinton Arnold enjoys teaching, speaking and writing on various aspects of the New Testament. He has had a special interest in the historical and cultural setting of the letters of Paul. He is currently serving as the Vice President of the Evangelical Theological Society.
Arnold is the editor of the four-volume Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary for which he wrote commentaries on “Acts,” “Ephesians” and “Colossians”. He is the general editor of the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament for which he has written the volume on “Ephesians”. His other books include: How We Got the Bible (Zondervan); Ephesians: Power and Magic (Cambridge/Baker/Wipf & Stock); Powers of Darkness: Principalities and Powers in Paul’s Letters (InterVarsity Press); The Colossian Syncretism (Mohr Siebeck/Baker); and 3 Crucial Questions About Spiritual Warfare (Baker).
Arnold has published in Christianity Today and was a regular columnist for Discipleship Journal. His research articles have appeared in such journals as New Testament Studies, Novum Testamentum, Journal for the Study of the New Testament and the Journal of Psychology and Theology.
Arnold, his wife and three boys are vitally involved in their local church.
1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Ephesians?
I did my doctoral work on Ephesians at Aberdeen in the mid-1980s. That research was published by Cambridge as, Ephesians: Power and Magic (now available through Wipf and Stock). Since those days, I have taught through Ephesians numerous times, preached on many of the passages in Ephesians, and written a variety of other pieces related to this text. I never tire of this great letter. It is so deep, so foundational, so challenging, and so encouraging.
2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?
This volume (as well as the entire series) was intended for anyone who preaches or teaches the Scriptures. It was not written for the academic guild, but it does address many of the key critical issues.
3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Ephesians?
Each volume in the series contains graphical displays of the text. The purpose of these is to help readers understand the flow of thought in each passage and to see how each individual passage coheres. This is particularly helpful in Ephesians where Paul often writes extremely long, elaborate, sentences filled with participles, relative clauses, and series of prepositional phrases to convey his thoughts. Ephesians 1:3-14 is a great example of this—one sentence containing 202 words in the Greek text, but so beautifully composed!
I also made a concerted effort to bring in much information from the cultural setting in first-century Asia Minor in and around Ephesus. There is much to relate that sheds helpful light on Ephesians.
4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?
I have spent a lot of time thinking about the passage on spiritual warfare (6:10-20) and why Paul chose to say so much to the Ephesians about this topic—not only here but throughout the letter. It is helpful and fascinating to see how the context of folk religious beliefs and practices (often referred to in the literature as “magic”) and the local religions (especially the Artemis cult) are important for understanding the background to the people who became Christians in this area and joined the churches. The theological emphases of this letter—especially the exalted Christology, the so-called realized eschatology, and participation in Christ—make a lot more sense when this is considered.
5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?
“You were dead in your transgressions and sins…but God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us…made us alive with Christ.” This is too good to be true. But it is true. Praise God!
6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Ephesians?
There is a new monograph recently out on Ephesians that does a superb job of showing how understanding the context of the Artemis cult in Ephesus is helpful for interpreting the letter: Michael Immendörfer, Ephesians and Artemis: The Cult of the Great Goddess of Ephesus as the Epistle’s Context (Mohr Siebeck, 2017). The cost of this volume will likely exceed most people’s budgets, but it is a gold mine of historical information and is well worth consulting if you have access to it through a library.
Frank Thielman’s commentary on Ephesians in the Baker Exegetical Commentary series is superb.
I would also recommend S. M. Baugh’s commentary on Ephesians in the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary series (Lexham Press, 2016).
Finally, John Stott’s, The Message of Ephesians: God’s New Society has long been one of my favorites, especially for the way he draws out the significance of Ephesians for the life of the church.
7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?
I am working on the Word Biblical Commentary on Colossians/Philemon.
Get Dr. Arnold’s Ephesians commentary
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