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What Does It Mean to Be Saved? An African Reading of Ephesians 2*

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Scholars have examined the vocabulary, theology, and social framework of Ephesians 2 in great detail. This article re-examines the import of its salvific message with two foci: (1) From what are people saved and (2) to what end? It examines the Greek text from an African perspective to show how certain parallel concepts, worldview, and customs in African cultures may aid our understanding of a text produced in the collectivist Greco-Roman context of the early Christians. The portrait of the pre-Christian past, the radical intervention by God, and the purpose of the salvific work of Christ becomes clear but contrary to how it was previously understood. It argues that salvation, as expressed in our text of inquiry, has both horizontal and vertical dimensions: that sin has personal, social, and spiritual dimensions, and salvation is meant to restore a broken relationship with God as well as relationships with fellow members in the multi-ethnic household of God simultaneously. Thus the division of 2.1–10 and 2.11–22 in English translations misconstrue the import of the text and engenders a view of salvation informed by the individualistic cultures of the post-enlightenment West, a view foreign to the Early Christians.

Affiliations: 1: Gordon College, 255 Grapevine Road, Wenham, ma 01984, USA,


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