God the Savior – Translating Ephesians 1:3-10

From before history until the end of time, God is bringing all things together in Christ. This is the hopeful message the Apostle Paul is reminding the Ephesians. That God, who lives and has his being on beyond our experience of time has redeemed us. God has made his mysterious will known to us in the person of Christ.

Ephesians 1:3-10
God the Savior

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, *
    who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing, in the heavenly places, in Christ. 
4For He chose us, in Him, before the world began, † 
    that we would be holy and blameless, *
    present before Him in his love.
5He always knew we would be his adopted children †
    through Jesus Christ, *
    because it is His good pleasure and desire. 
6To the praise of his glorious grace, *
    that he freely gave to us in the Beloved Son.
7In Him we have redemption, by His blood, *
    the forgiveness of sins. 
According to the riches of His grace, †
8    which He lavished upon us, *
    with all wisdom and understanding.
9He made known to us the mystery of his will, *
    according to his good pleasure, that he set forth in Christ. 
10His plan for the fullness of times *
    is to unite all things together in Christ,
all things in the heavens, *
    and the things of the earth.

In some regards this was a very straight forward translation. The Apostle Paul is doing a stream of consciousness writing as he thinks on the goodness and gloriousness of God and of Christ throughout time past and yet to be.

Yet this poses some issues with how to break apart his writing into digestible pieces. Since there is almost no punctuation in the Greek, we must decide when and how to group the texts. The verse numbers were also a much later addition to these texts. I have a strong preference for shorter sentences that the writings of Paul often struggle against.

All things in Christ

There is a strong theme through this canticle of being ‘in Him’ or ‘in Christ’. It is a refrain which is returned to in nearly every sentence. The only sentence which lacks this phrasing still is focused on something within Christ.

According to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, with all wisdom and understanding.

It is clear that we find ourselves in a situation where some things have come to pass, and others are yet to come. Here is a list of the things Paul explicitly highlights for us which are in or through Christ/Him:

  • Blessed with every Spiritual Blessing (v3)
  • Chosen by God (v4)
  • Present before God (v4)
  • Adopted as Gods children (v5)
  • Freely given Gods grace (v6)
  • Our sins/faults forgiven (v7)
  • Understand Gods mysterious will (v9)
  • To be reunited with all things in the future (v10)

From past to future

After his opening exaltation, the Apostle Paul takes us through the sweeping span of time. We see in verse 4 that Paul is talking about something which took place before the world began. Sometimes translated as “foundations of the earth” which feels much more epic, but far less clear to Paul’s point. Before the beginning of all things God decided that we could, and would, be holy and blameless in his presence.

In the same way, God knew that we would become his adopted children. While Paul does not use the word Love in his reasoning in verse 5, it is a natural summary for the feelings of good pleasure and desire. I did explicitly choose to avoid any words along the lines of “predestined.” While this is one way you can translate προορίσας it feels out of step with verse 10. People have taken this to mean that some are chosen while others are not. Yet the final line of our canticle clearly states that all things on earth and in the heavens will be united in Christ. It makes much more sense to connect this idea of knowing with the same sense of knowing in the previous line.

To put it another way. To tell someone you always knew you would love them is sweet sounding. Telling someone that you were predestined to love them is not a healthy thing to think or say.

Selecting a Title

All things come together in Christ, and through what Jesus has done. In this very clear and direct way we can see that God has saved us all. There are many ways that it could be phrased as a title. But the succinctness of God the Savior is hard to beat. This is also the name from the Latin, which in this case I do not think has room for improvement.

Translations for Urban Monastic are open to refinement and improvement. This has been translated. Yet, this is a reminder that no translation is ever complete. Cultures change, languages change, we better understand the source texts and languages, and adapt them as they get used in context. We will continue to refine and enhance our translations. If you are interested in helping, please let us know!

Photo Credit
Paul Prins on 31 March 2021 at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, France.