64 Flesh and bones of Jesus? Eph.5;30

Are members of the Church the flesh and bones of Jesus? Eph.5;30

In Ephesians 5:21-32 Paul addresses the roles of husband and wife in the marriage relationship. He likens the love and care the husband must have for his wife, and the respect the wife should have for her husband to the relationship between Jesus and his Church.
In the older translations of the Bible like the King James Version, verse 30 reads: “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones… “
In modern translations like the New International Version, the words in dark are omitted: “…for we are members of his body.”

What could have been the words Paul had written in the original Autograph? If the words in dark had been added to the original, what could possibly be their origin?

Let us first examine the manuscript evidence:

Ephesians 5:30.

Possibilities: Lacking: Included:
Witness: Greek: Translations: Church Fathers: Greek: Translations: Church Fathers:
101-200 papyrus 46
201-300 Sahidic Origen*, Methodius Irenaeus
301-400 Sinaiticus, Vaticanus Bohairic Vulgate Ambrosiaster, Victorinus-Rome
401-500 Alexandrinus, Codex 048 Ethiopic Euthalius, Pseudo-Jerome 1 Old Latin, 1 Syriac, Armenian Chrysostom*, Jerome, Theodore, Theodoret
501-600 Claromontanus
601-700 1 Syriac
701-800 Athous-Laurae 1 Old Latin John-Damascus
801-900 Minuscule 33 Boernerianus, Porphyrianus, Mosquensis, Byzantine Lectionary 5 Old Latin
901-1000 1 Minuscule 1 Old Latin
1001-1600 1 Minuscule 18 Minuscules 2 Old Latin

External criteria.
Greek manuscripts: These words are lacking in all five pre 500 A.D. Greek uncial manuscripts, the oldest dating before 200 A.D. The first Greek manuscript to contain these words is the codex Claromontanus (±550). Most minuscule manuscripts, all later than 1000 A.D. do contain this elaboration.
Translations: This elaboration is also lacking in the oldest translations. The Vulgate compiled by St. Jerome (±382) at the request of Pope Damasus is the first translation to contain it but thence it is very common in Latin translations. It is also found in two later Syriac translations as well as the Armenian.
Writings of Church Fathers: Origin, (†254 A.D.) who left us a commentary on the whole New Testament, like Methodius (†312 A.D.) does not know this elaboration. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, (†202 A.D.), could however be the source of this elaboration in his polemic (both in Greek and Latin), against the Gnosis of Valentinus. “In his recapitulation theory Irenaeus emphasized that Jesus, the second Adam, had been obedient in every failure of the first Adam. Genesis 2:23-24 could have played a part in his thinking.” (Prof. Francois Malan). From then onwards this elaboration is common in the writings of Latin Church fathers.
The facts in all three groups of manuscripts point to this elaboration being a later addition to the original autograph.

Internal criteria.
One of the common practices of scribes was to rather include than leave out words that were in doubt in fear of leaving out something that could have been part of the original. That explains why later manuscripts tend to be longer than older.

Intrinsic criteria.
The third criterion is the delicate evaluation of what Paul typically would have written himself. Paul referred to the body of Christ in quite a few places.
In 1Corinthians 10:16-17 as well as 1Cor.11:12-19 Paul explains Holy Communion emphasizing that the bread and wine represent the body and blood of Christ. These two aspects are necessarily linked.
In 1Cor.12:12-27 Paul utilizes the Body model as a description of the Church as body of Christ. The body parts of Christ play no role.
In 1Cor.15:35-44 Paul explains the resurrection body as a spiritual body. Surely this is how Paul would have seen Christ’s body at this time. Again the body parts like flesh and bones play no role at all. Why would it be important in Ephesians 5?
In the epistle to the Ephesians Paul refers another 7 times to the body of Christ, again the body parts not mentioned once.
It is the same in Philippians 3:21 and Colossians 1 18-23.
Nowhere does Paul use the expression of “flesh and bones”
The intrinsic evaluation indicates that this clause is alien both to Paul’s use and his vocabulary.

The context of Eph.5:21-32 is the marriage relationship. The relationship between Christ and his Church is presented as an example and norm for the relationship between husband and wife. In this instance the present elaborations plays no role at all to enlighten the example.

According to all three criteria as well as the context, it seems most likely that this elaboration represents a later addition to the original autograph, possibly taken from Genesis 2:23-24. Irenaeus could be the origin, but this cannot be confirmed without doubt.

This elaboration has no function nor does it add any insight to Scripture.

God bless,


Remarks at the bottom of this page welcome.

About Herman of bibledifferences.net

The reasons for the differences between older Bibles like the King James Version and newer Bibles like the New International Version have fascinated me ever since my studies in Theology at the University of Pretoria in the seventies. I have great respect for scribes through the ages as well as Bible translators, so there must be good reasons for the differences. With more than 5600 Greek manuscripts and more than 19000 manuscripts of ancient translations to our disposal, the original autographs of the New Testament can be established without doubt. I investigate the reasons behind the differences and publish the facts in a post on my blogs www.bibledifferences.net (Afrikaans: www.bybelverskille.wordpress.com) to enable my readers to judge for themselves. Personally I love to make an informed decision based of facts. That is why I endeavor to provide that same privilege to the readers of my blogs. Since 1973 I am married to my dear wife and greatest friend, Leah Page, founder director of Act-Up Support (www.actup.co.za) a prayer ministry for families struggling with drug-, occult- and other dependencies. We are blessed with two daughters and two sons, four grand sons and two grand daughters. God is alive and omnipotent! Glory to His Name! Herman Grobler.
This entry was posted in Church Fathers, External Criteria, Internal Criteria, Intrinsic Criteria, KJV/NIV Controversy, Vulgate and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 64 Flesh and bones of Jesus? Eph.5;30

  1. Scott Sherrell says:

    I actually think that in this case the longer reading is almost certainly authentic because it is more difficult. Here Paul speaking metaphorically. The word “members” is literally “limbs.” A good paraphrase would be “We are like limbs of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.”
    Furthermore the citation of Genesis 2:24 in the next verse almost presupposes the words “of his flesh, and of his bones” in this verse, otherwise the connection between the two verses is unnatural and the transition between the two verses is hard to follow.
    Moreover, if these words originated as a scribal gloss in the margin, the scribes would have quoted Genesis 2:23 more directly and written “bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh,” instead of the paraphrase “of his flesh, and of his bones.”
    Furthermore, although all five of our earliest manuscripts omit these words, all five of these manuscripts are Egyptian. With the exception of the manuscripts and versions found in Egypt and Ethiopia, this phrase is present in all ancient manuscripts and all versions. Thus the longer reading has broader geographical attestation.

    The ommission was likely due to one of three causes: 1) the docetists purposefully removed this clause in some manuscripts, 2) early scribes omitted this phrase accidentally due to homoioteleuton when their eyes skipped from autou to autou 3) early scribes omitted this phrase because they had a difficult time understanding how Christians could be members of Christ’s flesh and bones. The last possibility is the most probable because it is for this very reason that scholars today argue that this phrase should be omitted.

    Paul is speaking metaphorically. We are like limbs of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. Just as Eve derived her life from Adam’s side, so also we derive our salvation from the blood that flowed from Christ’s side, which we spiritually partake of in the Lord’s Supper.

    Paul knew that the words “of his flesh, and of his bones” could easily be misunderstood, which is why he calls this teaching “a great mystery.”

    In conclusion, the longer reading in Ephesians 5:30 is almost certainly authentic. It is the more difficult reading and has broader geographical attestation.

    • Dear Scott,
      Somehow this very important comment you made got filed elsewhere on my blog. I just discovered it now.
      You make some very important points and I have great respect for all.
      However, Papyrus 46 dating from about 200 A.D. makes a strong appeal. This manuscript had probably not been written in Egypt since its text has clear signs of a development from the Alexandrian towards the Western type of text. It had probably been copied elsewhere and brought to Egypt at a later date, where it was discovered in Cairo.
      With the words only appearing in the Claromontanus (550) and then after 700 A.D. in Greek manuscripts, I doubt its originality.
      I have great respect for your reasoning. Please visit again and comment

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