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Paul's Prayer for Glorious and Lavish Strength (Eph 3:6) - Mondays with Mounce

Categories Biblical Studies Greek

Because Greek sentence structure, especially Paul’s, can line up a series of clauses that are not necessarily sequential, it can be difficult for us to know how to make sense of it in English. If we simply translate in Greek order, we run the risk of miscommunicating.

Paul says that he kneels before God (Eph 3:4) — keeping the English in Greek word order — “in order that he may grant you according to the riches of his glory with power to be strengthened through his Spirit in your inner being (ἵνα δῷ ὑμῖν κατὰ τὸ πλοῦτος τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ δυνάμει κραταιωθῆναι διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν ἔσω ἄνθρωπον).”

What is the content of Paul’s prayer? Certainly it is “to be strengthened,” but this is obscured a bit by the words between “grant” (δῷ) and “to be strengthened” (κραταιωθῆναι).

Secondly, what does “with power”modify? It makes no sense to connect it with “glory,” and so most agree it modifies the following “to be strengthened.” However, in English, it is usually confusing to put the modifier before the head noun.

Thirdly, a translator has to decide if “glory” is a Hebraic genitive or not (e.g., “glorious riches,” NIV, also NLT).

This is why we use punctuation and change the order of the clauses; otherwise, we miscommunicate what is relatively clear in the Greek, as I have illustrated with the graphic above. Paul’s prayer is that we be granted strength, strength with power.

The ESV keeps the order of the words except that it rightly places δυνάμει after κραταιωθῆναι: “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.”

The NIV starts a new sentence (and hence supplies the subject from v 4) but it translates with an Hebraic genitive (NLT also): “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.”

The NASΒ, CSB, and NRSV set off the intervening clause with commas, which is helpful: “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” (NASB).

I think the commas are important, but when the intervening phrase is as short as it is in the NIV (5 words) they are not critical.

In terms of your phrasing, if you don’t mind changing the order of the words, you may want to put δυνάμει under κραταιωθῆναι, showing that there are actually three qualifiers about our strengthening.

In these days of the Covid-19 pandemic and our fears, we need to remember that Paul’s prayer for us continues to be that we rely on the powerful strengthening we receive from God’s Spirit, a lavish strengthening that draws from his glorious riches. Yes, social distance. Yes, wear masks and gloves when you are forced into a closed environment. looking for yet another roll of toilet paper (like we need twenty rolls as backup). But we don’t live in fear, as those who have no hope.

May God’s Spirit mightily strengthen your inner person. May we be a light in the current darkness so that those we meet may see something different in us and ask us why — at six feet apart.


Professors: Request an exam copy of Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, Fourth Edition, here.

Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash.

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