Monday, February 11, 2013

Examining Ephesians 2:15 thru' the Interlinear

In the post on the "Mechanics of Studying the Bible" we listed the various ways that you can use to study the bible. Here, we look at a verse I am recently studying and see how the study methods can be applied. I hope the general reader will be able to persevere, and stay with me. I think the results is worth it. It is like climbing the mountain. The climb may be steep, but you do get to see the high view once up there.

I was studying Ephesians 2:15. I use the WEB (it refers to the World English Bible) regularly. And it says this:

having abolished in the flesh the hostility, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man of the two, making peace; (WEB)

However, different bible versions do say it a little differently (see resource section below for the versions). KJV and NASB are recognized as the best formal equivalence translation (translate word-for-word) and they are about the same as WEB. However, NIV, NLT, ESV, HCSB all did not contain the word "hostility" or "enmity". Including that word could make a difference to the way we read this verse. This is because WEB and KJV seems to infer that the law of commandments is an enemy to us that the Lord need to bear it in His own flesh to abolish. This is even more explicit in NASB.

So the next step I did is to look at the interlinear, where the Greek language and English language are written side by side. The link is You will see that if you try to read the verses in English from the interlinear you nearly cannot. This is because the original language is Greek so literal translation into English is awkward at best. 

First, from the interlinear, I check that verse 14 is complete on its own and there isn't a part of verse 15 that is found in verse 14. This can happen, as verse numbers are manually placed into the original text for indexing purpose. So we cannot be too careful. You also also notice that verse 15 can be split into 2 parts. The first part of the verse comprises of the words before the word "that" with Strong's number 2443. The second part of the verse comprises of the words starting with word "that". We will concentrate on the first part of the sentence, which is where our interest lies. Notice the last line of the interlinear contains abbreviations. These are the Greek grammar of each word. At the original interlinear webpage if you put your cursor over the abbreviations, you will be able to see the grammar in detail. 

The sentence, with the case of the noun in brackets would then look like:
"the hostility (accusative) in the flesh (dative) of him (genitive), the law (accusative) of commandments (genitive) in decree (dative) having annulled (nominative)"

Nominative case refers to the subject of the sentence. Thus, "Jesus having annulled" is the main action of this sentence. Accusative case refers to the object of the sentence. This means the annulling is done on the two nouns with the accusative case - the "hostility" and the "law". Genitive case is a noun that qualifies another noun and thus give it another additional layer of description. Thus the "flesh" is that of Jesus' ("him") and the "law" is that of the commandments. Dative case shows the means by which something is done. Thus, how is the hostility annulled? Ans: by means of the Lord's flesh. How is the law of commandments given? Ans: It is decreed. If you put all these understanding together you will find that WEB, KJV and NASB are accurate, while the rest of the translations mentioned, which did not mention the world "hostility" or the world "flesh", are not as good.

This is important. Why? This is because the original text has the meaning that the law of commandments that were decreed is hostile to us. And that it is by the death of Jesus that it is taken away - thus it is a valid process. These are important foundational truths for a believer to know.

To the credit of the other versions, now while WEB and KJV inferred that the hosility that the Lord annulled in His flesh is the law of commandments decreed, the rest of the versions simply state that what is annulled is the law. Why?

I believe this has got to do with the gender of the words. The word "having annulled" has the masculine gender. For the two nouns with the accusative case ("hostility" and "law"), only "law" has masculine gender, while "hostility" has the feminine gender. Thus, while the word "hostility" appears first in the sentence, the grammar itself could have help to link the subject to the accusative noun "law" through the gender of the words. This could have equated the annulling action to both "hostility" and "law", linking the two together if we read between the lines.

Thus, the most accurate translation, in my opinion, is the NASB. Cool, isn't it :)


1)  To learn what the cases of nouns mean in a quick way go to

2) Interlinear on Ephesians 2:15 cut and paste from

3)   Ephesians 2:15 in different versions

KJV - Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

NASB - by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,

NIV - by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace,

NLT- He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.

ESV - by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,

HCSB - He made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace.

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