The name of one of the didactic books of the New Testament, written from Rome by Saint Paul the Apostle some time during his first Roman captivity (from 61 to 63). The right of this epistle to a place in the canon of inspired books has never been contested, while its Pauline authorship is proclaimed both by its style and contents, and by the universal testimony of antiquity.
The explicit statement of 1:1 would seem to indicate that the letter was written to the Christians who dwelt at Ephesus, but the absence of any allusion to time or place or definite persons, together with the omission of the words “at Ephesus” from some manuscripts, have led many even conservative scholars to regard the work as a circular letter rather than a message to a particular church. These same reasons make it difficult to determine the precise purpose for which the letter was written. The subject of the letter is “the union of all the faithful, both Jew and Gentile, with Christ and in Christ, as members of the one mystical Body of which Christ is the Head.” In the first three chapters, this theme is presented under a three-fold aspect
- the union of all men in Christ is a plan of God, conceived with infinite love from all eternity,
- carried out in fact by the establishment of the Church, the Body of Christ, and
- revealed to the Gentiles by the preaching of Paul
The remaining three chapters are taken up with moral precepts in keeping with the dogma just explained. The words “to reestablish all things in Christ” (1:10) were the battle-cry of the pontificate of Pius X. The description of the Church in 4:4-17, helped to convert Cardinal Manning. In 5:32, the Council of Trent assures us, Paul hints at the sacramental character of matrimony. A section of the third chapter forms part of the Mass and Office of the Sacred Heart, while a passage from the fifth chapter is read as the epistle of the Nuptial Mass.