Ephesians 3:9


"And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:"

The Textus Receptus uses the Greek word, "koinonia" (fellowship). However, almost all Greek manuscripts of this passage use the Greek word, "oikonomia" (dispensation or stewardship). To this, James White states,

"We have already noted the fact that the TR has a very unusual reading of "fellowship," found only in the margin of minuscule manuscript 31 and a few other very late manuscripts, rather than the reading of all uncials, 99% of the minuscules, and all the early Fathers, which have "administration."" (King James Only Controversy, [Bethany House, 1995], 179.)

Although we may have cause to question the statistical information provided, White is correct in stating that almost all of the Greek manuscripts and Church Fathers used the word "oikonomia" (administration). However, in addition to the minuscule manuscript 31, we may also add minuscule 57 (twelfth century) as using the word "koinonia" (fellowship). Additionally, Metzger notes that, "a few other minuscules," contain the Greek word "koinonia." (Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary On The Greek New Testament [New York: United Bible Societies, 1968], 603.). Thus there are at least three or four Greek manuscripts which have the Greek word "koinonia." In favor of the Greek word "oikonomia," we have P46, Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, and the correctors of Codices D, G, K, L, and P. Among the minuscules 17, 37, and 47 support the use of "oikonomia" instead of "koinonia."

Early English versions, being based on the Textus Receptus of the Reformation, used the Greek word "koinonia" and thus the English word "fellowship." The much beloved Geneva Bible reads, "And to make cleare unto all men what the felowship of the mysterie is, which from the beginning of the worlde hathe bene hid in God, who hathe created all things by Jesus Christ."

"Oikonomia" is translated as "stewardship," "administration," and "dispensation" in various modern versions in Ephesians 3:9. On the other hand the word, "koinonia" is translated as "fellowship" (Acts 2:42), "communion" (2 Corinthians 6:14), "contribution" (Romans 15:26), and "distribution" (2 Corinthians 9:13) in the Authorized Version. There is a commonity here among these English words, and even among the two Greek words, for all of them reflect one who gives what he is a part of.

Dr. A. W. Thorold (Lord Bishop of Rochester) noted this in 1882. Commenting on Ephesians 3:9 he writes, "'Fellowship.' or, dispensation, in making Gentiles fellow-heirs with the Jews." (A. W. Thorold, "The Epistle to the Ephesians," in Commentary On The New Testament, vol. 2 [London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1882].) John Locke tied "fellowship," "communication," and "dispensation" together in 1707. Locke cites the Authorized Version's reading of "fellowship" and then uses the meaning of "communicated" in his own paraphrase.

"Tis h koinonia, What is the Communication, i.e. that they may have light from me, to see and look into the Reason and Ground of the Discovery or Communication of this Mystery to them now by Jesus Christ, who is now exhibited to the World, into whose hands God has put the Management of this whole Dispensation." (John Locke, A Paraphrase And Notes On The Epistles Of St. Paul To The Galatians, 1 And 2 Corinthians, Romans, Ephesians, Arthur W. Wainwright ed., vol. 2 [1707; reprint, Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1987], 640-641.)

Further, Dr. G. W. H. Lampe demonstrates that among the writings of the early Church Fathers, such as Justin Martyr and Clement, "koinonia" carried the meaning of distribution and imparting. (G. W. H. Lampe, A Patristic Greek Lexicon, [Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1961], 764.) Still further, the English word "fellowship" carries this same meaning which demonstrates a mutual sharing. Thus, the Greek words and all the English words reflect the meaning of giving what we are partakers of, which is the meaning of the passage in Ephesians 3:9.

In light of the definition, the use of the words, and the textual support, it seems rather ridiculous to cite this passage as an example of errata in the King James Bible. This passage can hardly be compared to places in modern editions where the Traditional Text is rejected and whole verses are missing or the context is completely changed.

 

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