Power & Magic: Clinton Arnold's Groundbreaking Commentary of Ephesians

Arnold's commentary makes for excellent
pre-Lausanne Ephesians Study prep

Today I submit the following brief review of Clinton Arnold's Power and Magic: The Concept of Power in Ephesians.

Well it took some doing but I’ve just finished reading Arnold’s thematic commentary on Paul’s (yes, Paul’s) epistle to the Ephesians.  I breathed a great sigh of relief when my eyes finally reached the end of that last page.  It is a very difficult book.  For the unengaged, don’t bother.  If you don’t at least have some functional Greek, you’ll be in trouble for most of the book.  Not to mention that Arnold assumes his readers are acquainted with the kinds of debates that go on among New Testament scholars deep in the recesses of the ivory towers – he basically jumps right into the fray, and if you don’t work very hard you’ll get lost fast.
Now, having said that, I got through it.  What’s more, I think I kind of understand what Arnold was saying.  So it can be done.  The real question, of course, is whether or not Power and Magic is worth the trouble. 
My answer is an unqualified and enthusiastic, “YES!!!”  C. Peter Wagner (yeah, I know) in a blurb on the back of this book claims that Arnold’s commentary makes the classic commentaries on Ephesians “virtually obsolete.”  Well, after reading Power and Magic  myself I find that statement hard to argue with.  Arnold has undertaken to interpret Ephesians in light of its cultural and spiritual context.  I know that seems like a pretty common sense approach.  However, it also seems that no one else has every really thought of it.  Furthermore, Arnold does this with great skill.  His work on the background of western Asia Minor and Ephesus in particular are absolutely priceless.  In so many ways, Arnold has provided a long-lost key to unlocking the mysteries of Ephesians.  I am now darn near convinced that without this key (i.e. a deep understanding of the Ephesian context, especially in terms of magic and power), many of the riches of this epistle and therefore its relevance for us as followers of Jesus, students of Scripture and participants in God’s global mission will simply remain unearthed.
So, here’s my recommendation:  if you plan to do some serious study or teaching related to the book of Ephesians, do yourself a favor and read Arnold’s text.  Especially pay attention to chapter 2, “The religious climate of western Asia Minor in the first century A.D.” and the conclusion chapter (little Greek required, awesome insights).  What is needed now is a more lay-level commentary on Ephesians that effectively brings Arnold’s insights to the whole Church.  I would also like to see some work done that considers the implications of this reading of Ephesians on modern cross-cultural mission.  In particular, Arnold has painted a picture of the Ephesian church as being one not altogether different in composition and background from the present-day churches of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  A truly missiological commentary of Ephesians would be the wonderful resulting treasure for the Church.

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