Apostolic Fathers: Ephesians

I came across this quote today in the Ephesians 4:1-2 (the Ephesians of the Apostolic Fathers…not the biblical book):

τὸ γὰρ ἀξιονόμαστον ὑμῶν πρεσβυτέριον, τοῦ θεοῦ ἄξιον, οὕτως συνήρμοσται τῷ ἐπισκόπῳ ὡς χορδαὶ κιθάρᾳ. διὰ τοῦτο ἐν τῇ ὁμονοίᾳ ὑμῶν καὶ συμφώνῳ ἀγάπῃ Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς ᾄδεται.  καὶ οἱ κατ᾿ ἄνδρα δὲ χορὸς γίνεσθε, ἵνα σύμφωνοι ὄντες ἐν ὁμονοίᾳ, χρῶμα θεοῦ λαβόντες, ἐν ἑνότητι ᾄδητε ἐν φωνῇ μιᾷ διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τῷ πατρί, ἵνα ὑμῶν καὶ ἀκούσῃ καὶ ἐπιγινώσκῃ, δι᾿ ὧν εὖ πράσσετε, μέλη ὄντας τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ. χρήσιμον οὖν ἐστιν ὑμᾶς ἐν ἀμώμῳ ἑνότητι εἶναι, ἵνα καὶ θεοῦ πάντοτε μετέχητε.

Translation: “For your body of presbyters, being worthy of its name and worthy of God, is attuned to the bishop as the strings are to a harp.  Therefore, Christ is sung in your unity and harmonious love.  And also every man must become this chorus, so that being a harmonious unity, receiving your pitch from God, you might sing in unison with one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father, in order that he might both hear and recognize you, because of the things you do well, partaking in the melody of his Son.  Therefore it is advantageous for you to be in unbroken unity, so that you might always partake of God.”

Permit me a few observations:

  1. The author of this letter hopes to pass it off as a genuine Pauling epistle.  Yet, the ecclesiology of the extant Pauline corpus does not remotely approach the hierarchical presentation of bishops ruling a synod/group/counsel of elders/presbyters ruling the laity.
  2. The pervasive nature of works righteousness has always fascinated me, especially when reading the Apostolic Fathers.  Notice that the ability to “always partake of God” seems to be contingent on remaining in unbroken unity.  This unity, as indicated in 3:2 travels up the hierarchy: the presbyters have the mind of the bishops who have the mind of Christ who has the mind of the Father.
  3. Despite the areas of theological disagreement, I found the analogy quite powerful as it draws off and is an expression of Paul’s analogy of the church as the body of Christ.  We all partake in a divine song.  Each member plays an instrument.  The piece is expressed in its fullest when every member participates.  A member of the “melody of the Son” cannot start playing chords from another tune.  He must take his pitch from the Father and play (run) the song (race) marked out (set before) him.  Let us each build up and encourage our fellow musicians.  For the more we seek to exalt ourselves so that others might be drowned out, the more we reveal that we are not “partaking in the melody of his Son.”
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