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Monday, March 23

Where O where did our inheritance go? (Eph 1:11)

I got caught ignoring my own advice. I have always said that before you preach or teach on a topic, you should check multiple translations to see if there is any significant difference in the text. This is especially true if you use the KJV, or if your church uses it and you read from a more modern translation.

I was lecturing on the spiritual blessings in Ephesians 1. I have always taught out of the ESV, but this time through I was trying the NIV. Paul calls us to praise God for all our spiritual blessings (v 3), and then he praises him by enumerating those blessings:

  • election to holiness (v 4)
  • predestination for adoption (v 5)
  • redemption (v 7)
  • revelation of the mystery of his will (v 9)
  • inheritance (v 11)

I was looking at my notes, talking about our inheritance, and when I went to the NIV to read it, I couldn’t find my verse. V 11 reads, “In him we were also chosen.” I assumed my notes were wrong, but the more I looked the more frustrated I became. Finally, my eyes dropped to the footnotes where I saw, “Or were made heirs.

The ESV simply has “In him we have obtained an inheritance” without any footnote. Almost every other translation goes with the idea of an inheritance; the NET that has the uncharacteristically dynamic, “In Christ we too have been claimed as God’s own possession.”

ἐκληρώθημεν is from κληρόω, which means “appoint by lot” or simply “receive.” It is a NT hapax. BDAG suggests,“in whom we have obtained an inheritance” for the passive.

I assumed there was a textual issue, but there is not. There is a variant ἐκλήθημεν (A D F G), making the reference to election clear, but UBS doesn’t even list the textual issue.

So the question is what does the idea of “appoint by lot” really mean? A quick reading of Hoehner show how confusing the issue really is. Based on the parallel to ἐκλέγομαι in v 4, it is easy to see how the idea of election fits with our passage and explains the NIV decision. Because the word only necessarily refers to something obtained by lot, and because the cognate noun κλῆρος is commonly used in the OT of the inheritance of the tribes of Israel, we also see why most translations go with some idea of an inheritance.

So regardless of where you end up exegetically, the moral of the story is: listen to what I say and not what I do! Read multiple translations before teaching and preaching.