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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Observation Demo 3 (OD3)

Continuing to look at Ephesians 1:4 the third phrase we should consider is “in Him.”  This is the third mention in 4 verses of the notion of "in Christ;" the 4th mention follows in verse 5, this phrase in one form or another occurs 30 times in the first three chapters.  That seems to be significant emphasis, don’t you think?
Observation is key - we have to keep looking in Bible study.

The Greek preposition en (ἐν) always takes the dative case (sorry about the technical here but in this case it is important).  En (ἐν) is translated in, by, with or among.  This indicates the means and the position of our choosing.  He chose us in, by, and with Him.  The dative here carries all of these meanings:
  • We are chosen positionally in Christ
  • We are chosen instrumentally by Christ
  • We are chosen collectively with Christ.  This notion of with Christ is validated later in Ephesians 2:6.
So the force of this observation points to the centrality of Christ in Paul’s argument…
More to come.

The posts in this series:


  1. I would be a great help in general in Bible study (speaking as a native English speaker and pretty much limited to that) to know English grammar well. A good English dictionary is one of my best Bible study tools, but like any can take a lot of time and even skill to use.

    I started by googling dative case in the Greek language - didn't even try to read it. After a couple more fruitless tries I went to my English dictionary and looked up "in," which of course didn't mention "dative case," and listed about 30 different meanings under four parts of speech. Didn't try to read all those.

    I do have rather rudimentary Bible study tools both in key books but also digital so next I looked up the Strong's number, read those definitions and cross-referenced to my latest digital arsenal TDNT which thankfully was indexed and went right to "en." That did confirm that it is only used in the dative since that's all the meanings/illustrations they gave.

    Although I personally enjoy a search like this - up to a point - when, as in this case, the results for the time spent was essentially "0," I leave with no more info than if I had just done a basic Bible search on "in Christ," particularly in Ephesians without all the extra time and futility. I think I would have come close to the same conclusions as you did, Mike, if my own observation ability was better to begin with.

    I know that using any tool improves with use, in fact there's no other way whether in wood-working, auto mechanics or Bible study. But short of a full-time effort and high quality formal education I'm limited.
    Sometimes I feel that a "don't try this at home" disclaimer would be helpful.

    Any thoughts on how to get a balance in this for us laymen? I suspect some will do better at this than others if they have a stronger background in English grammar/structure.

    I guess an underlying question here is, can I usually be in the ball park if I rely on the English translations which we have, especially as I compare among several of the more ones generally considered reliable? And look at it carefully in context as best I can?

    I do know that your posts on things like context, repetition, comparison and contrast and observation as in these posts - basic language skills - have been and are very helpful. Please keep them up!

    1. Chuck,

      In response to your underlying question. Yes. As you know the best thing to do is to compare translations. Doing that can uncover nuances in which you may want to go deeper.

      If you wish to go deeper or the ( ine not only gives you an interlinear but also parses and declines all of the Greek words.

      Getting a simple grammar like Dana and Mantey, but I just checked the current price and you may want to go another direction. Dan Wallace's Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics is probably a better choice.

  2. There are various ways of expressing location.
    1. If I said I was at the lake, you would know where I am in one sense.
    2. If I said I was on the lake you would understand my location in another sense. This would probably involve the use a boat (except in the case of Peter on the sea of Galilee).
    3. If I said I was in the lake, you would understand my location in another sense. It would imply a much stronger sense that I am "subject to" the lake's influence. In a sense I have been "given over" to the lake's influence. Hence the use of the term "dative" (think of the Spanish verb "dar": to give). Most of the usages of the dative involve this sense. I think of four of the most common usages and relate each to our position in Christ: given for his purpose, His posession, for His benefit, and in His manner.

    1. Kent,

      You are correct that the dative took over for the locative case in NT Greek. However, that is not its only use. It performs dative function as well as instrumental. The use of the dative whether it be simple dative of relationship, locative, or instrumental is determined by the usage of the case in the context. The example I gave illustrates all shades of the use of the dative case in Ephesians 1:4. In the context of Paul’s thought all seem to be nuances of his thinking.

      Space nor purpose allow a full description of the use of NT dative here. Suffice it to say that in A. T. Robertson's grammar he devotes 23 pages to the discussion of the various usages of the dative. While locative is certainly one of the options here and a key one it is not the only option. Considering the others expands one's understanding of Paul's thinking somewhat.

      Good thoughts. I appreciate your passion and your drive for truth.

    2. That's a keeper!