by A.E. Knoch

SINCE the Authorized Version was published, scholars have criticized the reading "in Whom we have obtained an inheritance." They prefer "in Whom we were taken by lot" or its equivalent, giving as a reason the LXX use of this word in 1 Sam.14:41. There Saul and Jonathan were taken by lot kleeroutai. This, we are told, is the primary idea in this word. A closer inquiry will show, however, that all the facts have not been taken into consideration, and that the Revisers marred, instead of mended, this particular passage.

     The "primary meaning" of the word is to allot, but we must look to the grammatical forms of the word to determine whether the subject does the allotting or is itself allotted, or both. In its active form, of which we have no example in Holy Writ, it signifies to allot (Hdt. 1, 94, etc., Pind. O1. 8, 19).

     In its middle form it is used of Saul and Jonathan. They were taken by lot.

     But the word in Ephesians is neither active nor middle. It is passive. A protracted and thorough examination of many similar forms has conclusively sustained the fact that when the link which regularly joins endings to their roots is th, the word is passive. We may not deduce, from the usage of the active, that the word always means to allot, and render the passage "in Whom we allot." Neither should we use the case of Saul and his son as an example to prove that it means "in whom we are taken by lot." Just as there is a distinction between the active and the middle, so there must be a further distinction between both and the passive.

     The active means to allot something, hence the passive is the converse--to be allotted something.

     There was a custom in ancient times which helps us in understanding this phrase. The community land of a village was divided into a few large groups of fields and the farmers formed themselves into corresponding groups, choosing one man in each group as its representative. The allotment began by the heads of groups casting their lots first. Every man in a given group cast his lot in his headman, just as our lot is cast in Him Who has been allotted the headship of the universe. His portion is ours in Him.

     The universe is divided into two allotments, heaven and earth. There are two groups of allottees, Israel and the ecclesia which is His body. The former are allotted the earth in the Messiah. We are allotted the heavens in the Beloved. He, as our Representative or Headman, has been assigned the Headship of the heavens, and we share it because our lot was cast in Him. His portion is ours. On earth this cannot be, but in His universal suzerainty, the transcendent grace of God has made us joint enjoyers of His celestial honors.

     The contexts, near and remote, plead earnestly for this rendering. The passage is an expansion of the joint allotment which is the first item of the mystery. The fact that we are joint enjoyers of this allotment destroys the thought that we are the allotment. The fact that Christ is not presented here as God's allotment (and we in Him), but as having been allotted the universal headship (and we in Him) ought to be conclusive. This lot is in Him, and it must first be shown that He is God's lot, before we can be so called.

     An idiomatic rendering should read "in Whom our lot is cast." This is good English and exact scholarship combined. The revisers of 1611 were not always wrong. And the more we consider the relation of this statement to its context the more we will be impressed that, in this instance, modern scholarship is lacking, both in accuracy and spiritual insight.

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