the weblog of Alan Knox

Markus Barth on Ephesians 4:16

Posted by on Feb 25, 2010 in community, edification, love, members, service | 1 comment

Last weekend, someone mentioned Markus Barth’s (son of Karl Barth) commentary on Ephesians. During the conversation, I remembered this great paragraph concerning Ephesians 4:16 –

(1) It is Christ, the head, alone “from whom” the body derives unity, nourishment, growth – but Christ’s monarchy and monopoly do not exclude but rather create the activity of a church engaged in “its own” growth and upbuilding. (2) All that the body is, has, and does is determined by its (passive and active) relationship to the head – but this (“vertical”) relationship establishes an essential and indispensable (“horizontal”) interrelation among the church members. (3) While Christ provides for the body as a whole and makes it a unity, and while the body grows as a unit – no individual growth is mentioned here – the distinct personality of each church member is not wiped out but rather established by Christ’s rulership and the church’s community. What Christ is, does, and gives, is appropriate “to the needs” (lit. “to the measure”) “of each single part.” If the only things affirmed in Eph 4:16 were Christ’s own activity, Christ’s rule over all Christians, Christ’s relationship to the community, then this verse would have been phrased more clearly in Greek and could be more easily interpreted in a modern language. But in this verse there are several accents, not just one: the church’s and each member’s responsive activity is not only recognized or tolerated but receives an emphasis of its own: “The body makes its own growth so that it builds itself up in love.” (Markus Barth, Ephesians: Translation and Commentary on Chapters 4-6, Anchor Bible 34a, Garden City: Doubleday: 1974, 446-47)


One Comment

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 6-15-2011

    very helpful old post-the part about ones identity established by Christ and community-i needed this!