Saturday, October 20, 2012


The Literary Structure of Ephesians

Ancient cultures sometimes structured their literature differently than we do today. Here is a typical outline that we are used to:
  1. Introduction
    1. Sub point 1
    2. Sub point 2
  2. Point 1
    1. Sub point 1
    2. Sub point 2
  3. Point 2
    1. Sub point 1
    2. Sub point 2
  4. Point 3
    1. Sub point 1
    2. Sub point 2
  5. Conclusion
That is the typical Western style outline but the ancient Hebrews used a different type of outline that is called a chiasmus. The Western way of outlining is hierarchal in nature, whereas, the chiasmus is more cyclical in nature. It looks something like this:


A chiasmus uses inverted parallelisms so that the words or idea in A is somehow reflected in A′.
X marks the main point and is somewhat similar to the “conclusion” in the western outline.

Ephesians is also structured in a chiasmus and is structured as follows:

A 1:1-2
B 1:3-14
C 1:15-23
D 2:1-10
E 2:11-22
F 3:1-13
G 3:14-21 
H 4:1-9
H' 4:10-16
G' 4:17-32
F' 5:1-6
E' 5:7-14
D' 5:15-6:9
C' 6:10-13
B' 6:14-22
A' 6:23-24

Ephesians does not have an X but rather H and H′ act as the center points. I’ve based my chiasmus on “Ephesians: empowerment to walk in love for the unity of all in Christ” by John Paul Heil but have used different wording so that the parallelisms are simplified and more obvious:

A Favor to you.  Peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
A' Favor be with all.  Peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
B You heard the Word of Truth, the gospel of your salvation and have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.
We have spiritual blessings and are holy and to us He has made known the mystery of his will. 
We are in Jesus Christ, the Beloved.
B' Stand with truth, the gospel of peace, the helmet of salvation, and the Sword of the spirit.
Spiritual prayer for all the holy ones and for Paul to make known the mystery of the gospel.
The sending of Tychicus, a beloved brother.
C His mighty power raises Christ in the heavenly places; above principalities and powers.
C' His mighty power raises us in the heavenly places; against principalities and powers.
D You once walked according to the age of this world
Fulfilling the will of the flesh and of the mind.
His great love with which He loved us.
D' Watch carefully how you walk
Fulfilling the will of God from the heart,
Love as Christ loved the Church.
E Once you were in the flesh,
but now you are a holy temple in the Lord.
fellow citizens being connected.
E' Once you were in darkness,
But now you are light in the Lord.
Do not be fellow partners (with those in darkness), having no connection.
F Gentiles are fellow heirs
Prisoner of Christ; Mystery of Christ
Grace of God; Wisdom of God
F' Inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God
Imitators of God; Wrath of God
G Your strength is through His Spirit in the inner man.
Christ dwells in your heart through faith.
To Him be glory in the church by Christ.    
G' Put off the old man and put on the new man. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit.
Through wickedness you did not learn Christ.
Forgive one another even as you are forgiven in Christ.
H Bear one another in love
Unity of the Spirit
The measure of Christ's gift.
He who ascended, first descended
H' Build the body in love
Unity of faith
Measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ
He who descended is also the One who ascended

For those looking to learn more about the chiasmus structure, there are examples over at

Related Verses: Eph. 4:8