In the ESV, Ephesians 1:8 (with some of verse 7 for context) is:

according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight

thus connecting "wisdom and insight" with the immediately previous context (the lavishing of grace).

In contrast, the NIV begins a new sentence:

in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding,

This implies that the "wisdom and understanding" are for the context following verse 8.

Which translation is more accurate?

4 Answers 4


So the Greek goes

κατὰ τὸ πλοῦτος τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ ἧς ἐπερίσσευσεν εἰς ἡμᾶς (A), ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ καὶ φρονήσει (B), γνωρίσας ἡμῖν τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ (C) ...

which would be the equivalent of

according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us (A) in all wisdom and prudence; (B) Having made known unto us the mystery of his will (C)

(I prefer the KJV, hope it's not a problem)

The question is if B modifies A or C. Looking at the Greek, B is written between commas and to be honest, it could modify either A or C. The KJV chose the variant of B modifying A, whereas ESV chose the variant of B modifying C. I really think both can be right. If you think of it, B modifies either the verb he hath abounded/lavished or the verb Having made known, but the subject of both is Christ. So either it modifies one verb or the other in all wisdom and prudence/integrity is meant to describe the person of Christ, His action of benefitting us. The fact is that He performs all things towards us in all wisdom and prudence/integrity.

Having said that, we see that A and B are part of one verse, while C is in the next verse. That might have convinced some that B modifies A and not C. But speaking strictly from a syntactical point of view, it is impossible to know.


The popular Greek noun φρόνησις (phronésis) occurs only twice in the NT: Luke 1:17 and Eph 1:8. BDAG offers just two meanings for this noun -

1. the faculty of thoughtful planning, way of thinking, (frame of) mind, Luke 1:17.

2. the ability to understand, understanding, insight, intelligence, Eph 1:18.

Thus, according to BDAG, the meaning of φρόνησις (phronésis) in Eph 1:8 is best translated by "understanding, insight, intelligence".

Barnes offers these comments:

And prudence - The word used here (φρονήσις phronēsis) means understanding, thinking, prudence. The meaning here is, that, so to speak, God had evinced great "intelligence" in the plan of salvation. There was ample proof of "mind" and of "thought." It was adapted to the end in view. It was far-seeing; skillfully arranged; and carefully formed. The sense of the whole is, that there was a wise design running through the whole plan, and abounding in it in an eminent degree.

Matthew Poole is also helpful:

Wisdom and prudence; either the doctrine of the gospel, which contains more perfect and higher wisdom than that the Greeks sought after, 1 Corinthians 1:22, and for lack of which they counted the gospel foolishness; or rather, by wisdom is understood that knowledge or faith whereby we receive spiritual truths revealed to us, and to be believed by us, so as to their excellency, and have our hearts affected with them; and by prudence, the knowledge of the rule of our duty, with skill to govern ourselves according to it: and so wisdom is no other than faith, and prudence the same in effect with holiness; the former relates to the things we are to believe, the latter to the things we are to do. In the working these two in the soul, consists inward and effectual calling, which the apostle mentions in this verse, as he doth the outward likewise, by the preaching the word of the gospel, in the next.

  • Thanks @dottard. That's some useful information that I didn't know before. But the question isn't about what the greek words mean, but whether they refer to the previous context (ESV) or the trailing context (NIV).
    – cdjc
    Commented May 15, 2021 at 22:13
  • @cdjc - 7In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9And He has made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to bring all things in heaven and on earth together in Christ. - This simply says that God lavished His grace according to His wisdom and understanding. I am sorry but I do not understand your question.
    – Dottard
    Commented May 15, 2021 at 23:07


"according to the riches of HIS grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight" (Ephesians 1:8; ESV) that God "...gives grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ" (Ephesians 4:7).

"in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding" (Ephesians 1:8; NIV) that God "...gives grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ" (Ephesians 4:7).

Therefore NEITHER is implying that we have "...all wisdom and insight" (ESV) or "understanding" (NIV) only "...according to God's grace of the gift of Christ" that He deals in "measure" (Ephesians 4:7).

When a true Christian one has been baptized with the Holy Ghost (I Corinthians 12:11-13) and have "proof" (Mark 16:20) they are a Christian who have been given the "Spiritual gifts" of "wisdom" and "knowledge" (I Corinthians 12:8).

Grace doesn't fall out of a tree just because people believe Jesus died and rose again like MOST today's Christians believe. Everything belongs to God (Isaiah 45:7).

"But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ" (Ephesians 4:7).

Do you see "...according to the measure of the gift of Christ" (Ephesians 4:7)?

What is "the gift" and how are we "measured?"

Romans 6:23 says "The gift is eternal life" and "The Gift" is defined as Holy Spirit baptism in Acts 11:17!

Now that we know "The Gift" is Holy Spirit baptism, how are we "measured?"

"But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart" (I Samuel 16:7).

"Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8)!

Jesus said in John 15:16

"Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ORDAINED you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you."

"Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, MUST one be ORDAINED to be a witness with us of his resurrection" (Acts 1:22)!

"For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence" (Acts 1:5).

"But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

Consequently we couldn't have been there over 2000 years ago to "...must one be ordained to be a witness of His resurrection" (Acts 1:22) but we "witness His power" (Acts 1:8) that comes upon us" (Acts 1:8) after Holy Spirit baptism (Acts 1:5) which is "His resurrection" (Acts 1:22) since "Christ was raised up by the glory of the Father" (Romans 6:4) and is "His power" (Acts 1:8) we receive after Holy Spirit baptism (Acts 1:5).

Now we know we must "hear" the message in order to "believe" the message from a "sent preacher" (Romans 10:14-15). God subsequently "looks at hearts" (I Samuel 16:7) searching for "a pure heart" (Matthew 5:8) Who gives "the gift" (Romans 6:23) the day "He chooses and ordains us" (John 15:16) when "He baptizes us with the Holy Ghost" (John 1:33; Acts 1:5) and His "power comes upon us to be a witness" (Acts 1:8) of "His resurrection" (Acts 1:22) Who "...gives grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ" (Ephesians 4:7).

Afterwards we receive the "Spiritual gifts" of "wisdom" and "knowledge" (I Corinthians 12:8) after Holy Spirit baptism (I Corinthians 12:13).

6 "To the praise of the glory of HIS grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of HIS grace;

8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;" (Ephesians 1:6-8; KJV) that God "...gives grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ" (Ephesians 4:7).

"For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:" (Isaiah 28:10).

"But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but [by] the Spirit of God" (I Corinthians 2:10-11).

  • 1
    Hi Norine. I appreciate you've put a lot of work into this answer, but it doesn't really answer the question of translation from the greek that I was asking.
    – cdjc
    Commented May 15, 2021 at 21:51

To what do sophia and phronēsei refer to in Ephesians 1:8?

For more than 4,000 the mystery which was hidden from angels and men was revealed in Jesus Christ.(Vs 26), God now revealed this mystery to his holy people (Vs 26). And was now being preached to the Gentiles. (Vs 27)

Colossians 1:26-28 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition

26 The mystery of which was hidden for ages and generations [[a]from angels and men], but is now revealed to His holy people (the saints), 27 To whom God was pleased to make known how great for the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ within and among you, the Hope of [realizing the] glory. 28 Him we preach and proclaim, warning and admonishing everyone and instructing everyone in all wisdom ([b]comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God), that we may present every person mature (full-grown, fully initiated, complete, and perfect) in Christ (the Anointed One).

God’s provision of the ransom for the salvation of obedient mankind and his purpose for a Kingdom government, headed by his Son and able to end all wickedness, were revealed. Since God’s grand purpose is founded on and centered in his Son, Christ Jesus “has become to us [Christians] wisdom from God.” (Compare 1 Cor. 1:30)

1 Cor. 1:30 ESV says: " And because of him[a] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption. ESV)

Wisdom (Sophia) refers to --comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God,

According to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight, here Paul stresses that true spiritual riches are connected with God’s "riches of his grace."

Ephesians 1:8-11 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition

8 Which He lavished upon us in every kind of wisdom and understanding (practical insight and prudence), 9 Making known to us the mystery (secret) of His will (of His plan, of His purpose). [And it is this:] In accordance with His good pleasure (His merciful intention) which He had previously purposed and set forth in [a]Him, 10 [He planned] for the maturity of the times and the climax of the ages to unify all things and head them up and consummate them in Christ, [both] things in heaven and things on the earth.

Having this certain knowledge of his purpose and seeing that it circles around Jesus Christ his Son, we can act with all wisdom and good sense. Knowing that God “operates things according to the way his will counsels,” we can wisely keep in harmony with his will, and not be disappointed or frustrated by having our selfish plans and arrangements broken up because of their being contrary to God’s will.

Insight (phronesei) refers to --practical insight and prudence.

For example, a person may obey a certain command of God due to recognizing the rightness of such obedience, this is wisdom on his part. But if he gets real understanding of the reason for that command, the good purpose it serves and the benefits accruing from it, his heart determination to continue in that wise course is greatly strengthened.

Proverbs 21:11 ESV

11 When a scoffer is punished, the simple becomes wise; when a wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge.

Proverbs 14:33 ESV

33 Wisdom rests in the heart of a man of understanding, but it makes itself known even in the midst of fools.[a]

Which translation is more accurate?

ESV is the more accurate translation as Paul’s letter stresses that true spiritual riches are connected with God’s " riches of his grace.." this being so God enlightened the eyes of your hearts (Vs 1: 18) --with wisdom and insight--in the unsearchable riches of Christ (Vs 3: 8)

Ephesians 1:18 English Standard Version

18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,2:7; 3:8)

Ephesians 2:7 English Standard Version

7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ.

Ephesians 3:8 English Standard Version

8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

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