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Harold W. Hoehner. Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002. Pp. xxix + 930. ISBN 0-8010-2614-8. US $54.99.

1. Dr. Harold W. Hoehner is distinguished professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. He holds a Th.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary (1965) and a Ph.D. from Cambridge University (1968). Earlier works by Harold Hoehner include: "Chronology of the Apostolic Age" (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1965), Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (1977), and Herod Antipas: A Contemporary of Jesus Christ (1972, 1980). Thus, anyone consulting this massive volume will recognize the result of many years of research and reflection on the part of an able and experienced scholar.

2. The book, bulky as it is, is far from long-winded. There is in fact economy of expression, containing little unnecessary repetition.1

3. The introduction mainly collates arguments and data collected and formulated by others, carefully considered and digested by the author. In the commentary section more of his own primary research is involved, but even here the work is mainly compiling. Most of the time Hoehner chooses from interpretations that have been suggested before, providing ample argumentation for his preferences. Every detail is treated extensively. One hardly ever looks in vain for a discussion of ambiguities in the text of Ephesians. Readers will seldom find any new hypotheses. The strength of the commentary is in its completeness and in the evaluation of existing interpretation. This is to be expected of such a massive work.

4. Hoehner lists 125 commentaries on Ephesians, from the main patristic exegetes to the most recent scholarly treatments of the epistle. His actual discussions of passages show he worked intensively with most of them. While showing a preference for older works,2 he proves to be perfectly aware of current research as well.3

5. Sometimes his handling of lexical data is rather mechanical. For instance, on p. 103 the frequent use of the word ei[j (as in ei[j e3kastoj, an expression actually listed by Hoehner!) is to prove that "unity" is an important theme in Ephesians.

6. Another weak point is his frequent failure to take into account evident parallels in Colossians (e.g., p. 249 n. 5). At p. 31 Hoehner contends that the similarity between these epistles "is not as formidable as it might first appear." The statistics that follow, which are intended to prove his point, will fail to impress anyone who has taken a close look at the synoptic phenomenon of these writings. Deciding the textual problem in Eph 1:15 without taking into account the close parallels in Col 1:14 and Phlm 5 (p. 249 n. 5) seems illegitimate. The same objection applies to Hoehner's translation of xari/zomai in 4:32 (pp. 639 f.: "be gracious," and not "forgive"). Someone who claims Pauline authorship for both Ephesians and Colossians really does need to explain how key terms in evident parallels (Col 2:13; 3:13) can have a different meaning.

7. In general the syntactical discussions are well thought through and generously documented. A few exceptions prove the rule. On pp. 314-315 Hoehner declines the possibility of a neuter noun in apposition with a feminine. Similarly, he objects to perfectly possible constructions on p. 342, last paragraph.

8. In his discussion of 4:25 Hoehner should at least have discussed the possibility of understanding the aorist participle as imperative. NIV translates correctly: "Therefore each one of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor" (compare perizwsa/menoj diako/nei in Lk 17:8). When the aorist adverbial participle precedes the imperative by which it is governed, it is included in the imperative idea more often than not. Or, to put it in a formula: aorist participle + imperative (or cohortative) = double imperative (or cohortative); for example: Mt 2:8, 13, 20; 5:24; 9:6, 18; 11:4; 17:27; 21:2; 28:7; Mk 11:2; Lk 5:14; 7:22; 9:60; 13:32; 14:10; 17:7,8,14,19; 19:5,30; 22:8, 32, 46; Acts 5:20; 9:11; 10:20; 15:36; 21:24; 22:10, 16; 2 Tim 4:11; Heb 12:1; Jas 1:21; 2 Pet 1:5.

9. The last paragraph on p. 455 is either illegible or nonsensical. How can "the accusative of the thing" be "expressed in the nominative case"? Probably Hoehner is referring to the impersonal object of the infinitive. However, most of his syntactical considerations are reasonable and convincing.

10. While as a rule Hoehner's arguments are decently developed, in sections that are theologically sensitive he tends to get impatient, engaging in theological considerations and bringing in scarcely related passages from elsewhere in the NT. Sophistic reasoning and hasty conclusions blur the argument. As such, the commentary is not consistently objective and detached. It is awkward to read Hoehner's complaints on p. 358 about Hendriksen's interpretation of the "covenants" in 2:12: "This theory should not be taken seriously for it is an example of theology controlling exegesis rather than exegesis controlling theology."

11. Just a few examples of flawed reasoning:

12. Very few modern commentaries pay as much attention to textual criticism as this one. Almost every variant referred to in NA27 or in UBS4 is discussed, even when only spelling is at stake.4 Anyone who is familiar with NA will be able to interpret the information in Hoehner's wealth of text-critical footnotes.

13. Hoehner took most of his information on textual witnesses from NA26 and 27. On occasion he corrects the information in NA (e.g., p. 228 n. 1; p. 338 n. 2). He makes incidental use of Tischendorf's eighth edition (e.g., p. 477), and a few times he accepts the reading of papyri on the authority of Stephen Emmel ("Greek Biblical Papyri in the Beinecke Library," Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 112 [1996]; e.g., pp. 589, 660). However, in ninety-nine percent of the cases, the information on the textual witnesses for the readings exactly matches the data provided in the NA27 apparatus.

14. As to his methodology, Hoehner is much less dependent on Aland. In his preface (p. x) he calls his method of textual criticism "reasoned eclectic." Hoehner gives much weight to geographical distribution of textual witnesses. In practice he denies the privileged status the Alexandrian witnesses have for most textual scholars today:

It is generally true that the dates of the Western and Byzantine manuscripts are not as early as the Alexandrian. This is not difficult to explain when one considers the conducive climate for many of the Alexandrian manuscripts. If one is concerned with the earliest manuscripts, then the Alexandrian text-type will always win. Is it not fairer to consider which are the earliest manuscripts in each text-type? One cannot expect as early uncials in the Byzantine tradition although there may be early readings in that text-type (p. 146).

15. One should not expect the resulting text to be entirely different from NA. Hoehner seldom goes against NA27:

16. Disagreement with NA is always on external grounds. This has to do with Hoehner's somewhat stepmotherly treatment of internal evidence. When he calls a reading "strong" or "not strong enough" (e.g., p. 490 n. 2), he is often thinking exclusively of external evidence.

17. Geographical distribution is used as a Swiss army knife; i.e., a tool for all jobs. One problem with this approach is the difficulty of "geographically" categorizing witnesses; for example, Codex Y, which is considered Alexandrian by Hoehner, is listed by K. and B. Aland in their category III ("Handschriften eigenen Charakters").

18. On only a few occasions does Hoehner leave his standard procedure; for example, in Eph 3:8 (p. 453), where the inclusion of the preposition e0n "is supported by the Western and Byzantine texts and some Alexandrian manuscripts, whereas the omission is supported only by the Alexandrian text. However, there is a great tendency in the Western and Byzantine texts to add words for clarification. Hence, the shorter reading is preferred." This is quite understandable, but why didn't this logic prevent Hoehner from accepting longer Western and Byzantine readings elsewhere (e.g., 3:14; 4:6)?

19. In fact Hoehner seems to engage seriously in internal reasoning only when the votes are equally divided (e.g., p. 690). Most of the time when Hoehner appeals to internal evidence, he is thinking exclusively of intrinsic evidence. Transcriptional evidence, often pointing in the other direction, is seldom in the picture (e.g., p. 714 n. 5, p. 771 n. 1). Intrinsic evidence is usually preferred over transcriptional evidence; e.g., 5:19 p. 712, where Hoehner accepts the reading e0n tai=j kardi/aij because "normal style is to include the preposition." But that's exactly why many think the preposition was added!

20. Corrigenda: Undoubtedly this monumental commentary on Ephesians will be a standard for decades. That makes it worthwhile to correct in a next edition the multitude of small mistakes that disfigure the work:5

21. In particular, references to non-English sources in the footnotes should have been copied more carefully:

Of course these freckles will not keep students of the text of Ephesians from profiting from this tremendous scholarly volume.

© TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 2003.


1There is some repetition, however, in the 130-page introduction, more than once announced with "as mentioned above" (pp. 23, 47, 48). The textual problem in 1:1 (e0n e0fe/sw|) is examined pp. 78-79, p. 140, and again pp. 144-148. Another example of overlap is in the lexical discussion of kefalh/ p. 286 and again at p. 739, where a cross-reference might have sufficed.

2E.g., Charles Hodge's Ephesians, Greek Grammars by Winer and by Robertson, Trench's Synonyms of the NT. P. 143 n. 4 lists "some recent literature" on the term Xristo/j. The seven titles in his inventory were published between 1959 and 1983! See also p. 6: "Extensive defense of Pauline authorship has been maintained in recent times by Percy [1946] and van Roon [Dutch original: 1969]."

3See Hoehner's excellent list of literature on pseudonymity in n. 4 pp. 40-41 and on authorship pp. 114-130. A.D. Baum's monograph, Pseudepigraphie und literarische Fälschung im frühen Christentum: Mit ausgewählten Quellentexten samt deutscher Übersetzung (WUNT 2.138), may have appeared too late (2001) to be taken into account in his treatment of pseudonymity in the world of ancient Christianity.

4E.g., e0gkakei=n versus e0kkakei=n in 3:13.

5More problematic, but luckily less characteristic, are some substantial inaccuracies. E.g., on pages 44-45 The Acts of Paul and Thecla is categorized as a "writing in epistolary form." On p. 536 Hoehner refers to "the same construction (ei0j ta\ katw/tera me/rh th=j gh=j)" in Ps 62:10 LXX as in Eph 4:9. However, the LXX wording in the psalm is ei0j ta\ katw/tata th=j gh=j. As the inclusion of ei0j ta\ katw/tera me/rh th=j gh=j in Eph 4:9 is at stake, such a crucial difference should not have gone unnoticed! See also e0n toi=j katwta/toij th=j gh=j in the Prayer of Manasseh v. 13, which Hoehner doesn't mention.

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