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The letter to the Ephesians begins with the phrase "...to the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus." This question considers the manuscript evidence surrounding the words in Ephesus which are not found in a small number of manuscripts, but those manuscripts are considered among the best.

Based on the manuscripts, the letter might be addressed to τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν καὶ πιστοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ or it might be addressed to τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν Ἐφέσῳ καὶ πιστοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ.

  • the saints who are [and?] faithful in Christ Jesus
  • the saints who are in Ephesus and faithful in Christ Jesus

Assuming in Ephesus is included is there still a question about who exactly is addressed? Is there a single group, the saints, known by two characteristics, in Ephesus and faithful in Christ Jesus?

  • Option A [One Group]: τοῖς ἁγίοις [the saints]
  • Characteristic 1: τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν Ἐφέσῳ [those in Ephesus]
  • Characteristic 2: πιστοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ [faithful in Christ Jesus]

Or are there two different groups, the saints in Ephesus and [those] faithful in Christ Jesus?

  • Option B: [Group 1]: τοῖς ἁγίοις [the saints] τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν Ἐφέσῳ [the saints, those being in Ephesus]
  • Option B: [Group 2]: πιστοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ [and faithful in Christ Jesus]

Or are there two different groups of saints, those in Ephesus and those faithful in Christ Jesus?

  • Option C: [Group 1]: τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν Ἐφέσῳ [(the saints) those being in Ephesus]
  • Option C: [Group 2]: [τοῖς ἁγίοις] πιστοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ [(the saints) and faithful in Christ Jesus]

Which option is grammatically preferable?

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With the exception of the "in Ephesus", the rest of the text of Eph 1:1 is essentially undisputed. Thus, the text could read:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints being in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:

However, with "in Ephesus" absent, the text would read:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints being, and faithful in Christ Jesus:

The "and" almost demands something and this absence (of "in Ephesus") makes the grammar awkward. Note the comments of Bruce Metzger in his "Textual Commentary of the GNT".

The words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ are absent from several important witnesses (P46, א*, B*, 424c 1739) as well as from manuscripts mentioned by Basil and the text used by Origen. Certain internal features of the letter as well as Marcion's designation of the epistle as "To the Laodiceans" and the absence in Tertullian and Ephraem of an explicit quotation of the words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ have lead many commentators to suggest that the letter was intended as an encyclical, copies being sent to various churches, of which Ephesus was chief. Since the letter has been traditionally known as "To the Ephesians", and since all witnesses except those mentioned above include the words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ, the committee decided to retain them, but enclosed withing square brackets.

I agree. It is much more likely that this letter was intended as a "catholic" (= universal) letter to be read by all churches - we have some basis for this and, indeed, some have suggested that this letter was that intended for Laodicea on the basis of Col 4:16. However, this is quite uncertain.

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  • Can you indicate whether τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν καὶ πιστοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ identifies one group or two? Jun 17, 2023 at 3:30
  • @RevelationLad - it is not quite grammatical, but it is those "saints" who have faith in Jesus Christ. It cannot refer to two groups.
    – Dottard
    Jun 17, 2023 at 4:06
  • I open a chat room chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/146721/ephesians but "not quite grammatical" is the issue, especially when compared to other letters like Philippians. Plus what other type of "saints" are there that Paul needs to add something which is both unnecessary and potentially confusing? Jun 17, 2023 at 4:15
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Ephesus was a Greek city in which Paul had begun a work and in which a church had been established. Paul is writing specifically to those in Ephesus who are of that church, and in referring to "the saints in Ephesus," he singles them out from the rest of the city's populace.

παῦλος ἀπόστολος ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν ἐφέσῳ καὶ πιστοῖς ἐν χριστῷ ἰησοῦ (Ephesians 1:1, Greek TR)

That is the reading of the Majority Text, clearly specifying "the saints being in Ephesus." But that is also the reading of many manuscripts outside the MT. While the ESV has a footnote to this verse stating: "Some manuscripts saints who are also faithful (omitting in Ephesus)," it does not specify which manuscripts those might be, and it includes the expression in its translation.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: (Ephesians 1:1, ESV)

All major English translations include "Ephesus" in this verse, including: KJV, RSV, ASV, Darby, Wycliffe, YLT, BBE, Weymouth, NASB, NKJV, and NIV. While being included in the majority of translations may not be definitive, it lends some credibility to the wording.

Addressing those "who are in Ephesus" would include all of the city's inhabitants were it not for the qualifying "and faithful in Christ Jesus" portion of the verse, affectionately called "the saints." As not all of the city is Christian, Paul is addressing specifically those who are.

Grammatically, the verse is a bit enigmatic. The words saints and faithful in Greek are both adjectives in dative masculine plural form. However, there is no noun in the verse which is masculine plural. The definite article preceding each of these adjectives inspires their translation as nouns in English. Adding the verb of being found between them, the three words are the only ones in masculine plural in the whole verse. Grammatically, this connects them; whereas the word Ephesus is in feminine singular form (cities are usually feminine), and Christ Jesus is in masculine singular, as are Paul and apostle. So, the faithful and the saints reference the same entity.

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With the assumption that Ephesus is included there is not enough information to say for certain. It makes clear sense if "in Ephesus" is omitted. See the NABRE version:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the holy ones who are [in Ephesus] faithful in Christ Jesus:

However, with "in Ephesus" included, the grammar is uncertain and readers may choose according to their preference. The letter itself says little if anything that is specific to the Ephesian congregation, which is not the case in the other epistles attributed to Paul. So my personal preference would be to consider it as a general epistle sent first to Ephesus but addressed to the church generally. The idea of it being a general epistle is supported by the editors of the NABRE, who say:

The letter is seemingly addressed by Paul to Christians in Ephesus (Eph 1:1), a place where the apostle labored for well over two years (Acts 19:10). Yet there is a curiously impersonal tone to the writing for a community with which Paul was so intimately acquainted (cf. Eph 3:2 and Eph 4:21). There are no personal greetings (cf. Eph 6:23). More significantly, important early manuscripts omit the words “in Ephesus” (see note on Eph 1:1). Many therefore regard the letter as an encyclical or “circular letter” sent to a number of churches in Asia Minor, the addressees to be designated in each place by its bearer, Tychicus (Eph 6:21–22).

Among the choices provided in the OP, I would opt for Option C: those in Ephesus and (also) other saints faithful to Christ.

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  • Can you indicate whether τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν καὶ πιστοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ identifies one group or two? Jun 17, 2023 at 3:30
  • the inclusion of kaí ('and') makes it sound like two groups. But I am not certain. I would lean to what NASBE's editors say: a "circular letter” sent to a number of churches in Asia Minor, the addressees to be designated in each place by its bearer, Tychicus (Eph 6:21–22). Jun 17, 2023 at 3:45

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