Eph 2:14-19’s Incarnation Foundation & Reconciled Interpretation

For years scholars debated Eph 2:14’s “both one” and “the dividing wall” referent, yet no explanation fully satisfied. While all sides agree that the Gospel is a necessary prerequisite to reconciliation between Jew and non-Jew, this paper will argue that reframing the text in light of the literal aspects of the Incarnation will allow a more cohesive interpretation to emerge. Namely, Paul’s emphatic introduction of Jesus as mankind’s peace with God, applied two ways, clarifies the contextual referent of “both one” and “the dividing wall.” Paul may perhaps intend double entendre, but in this context, the order and progression matters, and the lens of literalness of the Incarnation is key. Plus, dividing by purely ethnic lines was sinful, not biblical (ex. Ruth, Tamar, Caleb). First, “He Himself” in v.14 made “both” (neuter) God and man “one” literally in Christ’s physical body. This is not simply (Dibelius, Schneider) a Gnostic “division between the upper world of light and lower world of darkness,” nor as Schlier suggests, “a cosmic redeemer” breaking down “the wall that separates the eons dividing the heavenly pleroma from the earthly world” (Melbourne). Rather, the Incarnation is Christ Himself literally (as the second Adam), i.e. God in a perishable body, at perfect peace. This is an overlooked nuance in distinction, but an incredibly important one that reconciles the mixed use of neuter and masculine between vs. 14 and 16. Secondly, Christ as High Priest reconciled “both” (masculine, v.16, Jew and non-Jew) to God, through the cross in “one Body:” His own (1 Cor 15:42-57, Heb 10:5-10), destroying “the enmity” v.14 “in His flesh,” sowing His perishable body. Consequently, it is He Himself (a sinless man) that became an eternal life-giving Spirit, v. 18 reconciling us “in one Spirit to the Father.” At most we could say Paul intends double entendre regarding ‘meaning as significance’ with regard to this reconciliation. But the thrust of vs. 14-15 emphasizes “He Himself” as the focus of the “new humanity’s” peace with God first, then with each other. He Himself, (1) made “both” God and man “one” literally and bodily, (2) destroyed the authority behind the “enmity” in His human flesh brought about by the first Adam, so that He might create in Himself (3) “the two” (Jew and non-Jew) into one new humanity, causing peace for both Jew and non-Jew with God, but only for those “in Him.” Consequently, this reframed literal incarnation context, along with the reconciliation of the grammatical “problems,” provides a cohesive interpretation, even considering the dual referents, which has caused confusion because the focus remains on man and fails to recognize Christ’s literal incarnate body.

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