The characterization of the Christ as ideal king in Ephesians.
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Smith, Julien C. H.
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Lack of consensus regarding an historical situation that occasioned the writing of Ephesians has led to a recent trend in research, which seeks to read the letter as addressing more broadly the related issues of identity formation and behavior within the early Christian community. The present study will argue that in Ephesians, the characterization of the Christ as a type of ideal king, as understood within Jewish and Greco-Roman thought, would have resonated with the authorial audience's cultural expectations, thereby ensuring comprehension of the letter's argument and purpose. The letter's primary theme, the reunification of the fractured cosmos through the Christ (1:9-10), comes into sharper focus when the Christ is understood as the ideal king who establishes on earth the harmony that is understood to exist in the cosmos. Furthermore, salient aspects of the ideal king's reign function as unifying threads that tie various parts of the letter together under its main theme. "Learning the Christ" (4:20), or the resocialization into a way of life aligned with the Christian community, addresses the enablement of ethical behavior. This peculiar expression reflects the Hellenistic understanding of the ideal king as a "living law," possessing and distributing the benefits of divine reason and virtue. The casting of traditional household management codes into the realm of the Christ’s authority (5:22-6:9) reflects the belief that the reign of the ideal king ensures the stability of the social order. Above all, the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles within the Christian community (2:11-22) resonates with a pervasive cultural yearning for unity between disparate ethnic groups, and for freedom from factionalism within the social order. In both Greco-Roman and Jewish thought, such a golden age was thought to be the consequence of the reign of an ideal king.