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The Colossian and Ephesian «Haustafeln» in Theological Context

An Analysis of Their Origins, Relationship, and Message


James P. Hering

In this groundbreaking study, James P. Hering investigates the theological and ethical motivation that informs the controversial New Testament household codes ( Haustafeln) found in the epistles to the Colossians (3:18-4:1) and Ephesians (5:22-6:9). Within most New Testament scholarship, the household code has been regarded as an imported element within its host letter, reflecting either pagan or embarrassingly sub-Christian values. Is the household code merely a nod to the pragmatic demands of culture, or can it be understood as a reflection of the author’s theological concerns? What can it teach us today? Hering provides a unique analysis of these passages, revealing the Haustafeln in their historical context and examining their theological roots. This book is of vital importance for courses on Christian ethics and New Testament backgrounds.


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Chapter Four: The Ephesian Haustafel in Theological Context 157


Chapter Four The Ephesian Haustafel in Theological Context Introduction Up to this point in our discussion, we have limited ourselves to an analysis of the Eph. HT in terms of its continuity with, and divergence from, its Col. Vorlage. This approach, we hope, has served to highlight the uniqueness of the Eph. HT, and suggested the need to treat its admonitions as expressions of the ethical vision of the Eph. author. Our analysis has shown signs of in- tentional preservation of the Col. HT material and form, while evidencing substantial and creative change. The scope of this manner of analysis, how- ever, remains too limited to ascertain the theological intentions of the author of Eph., or to indicate any paradigm for understanding the Eph. HT admoni- tions. This, we believe, can be found in the careful examination of the larger letter, particularly innovations and subtle changes in terms of vocabulary, theological themes and unifying emphasis. In this chapter we will consider shifts in the author’s theological perspective, with attention given to these elements as encountered in the Ephesian HT. These elements, if shown to be present in both the letter and the HT, may yield clues to understanding the intention of the author in his unique HT formulations. Determining the dominant theological theme(s) contained within the theological and parenetic sections of Ephesians is not necessarily a matter of recognition (a glance over any Eph. bibliography shows that the letter can be, and certainly has been, treated from several perspectives)...

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