The Epistle to the Ephesians

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Karl Barth is widely acknowledged as one of the great theologians of the church. This masterful example of theological interpretation of the biblical text presents Barth's insights on an important Pauline epistle.

In 1921-22, the same period he prepared the groundbreaking second edition of his Romans commentary, Barth lectured on the exposition of Ephesians at the University of Göttingen. As he did for his courses on other New Testament texts, Barth lectured from a detailed and carefully researched manuscript. The resulting set of lectures, now available in English for the first time, introduces theological and exegetical issues pertinent to the study of Ephesians. The book also includes introductory essays by two world-renowned scholars, Francis Watson and John Webster.


Editor's Introduction
R. David Nelson
Translating Barth's Ephesians Lectures
Ross M. Wright
Barth, Ephesians, and the Practice of Theological Exegesis
Francis Watson
"A Relation beyond All Relations": God and Creatures in Barth's Lectures on Ephesians, 1921-22
John Webster
Exposition of Ephesians, Winter Semester 1921-22
Karl Barth
Ephesians 1:1-2    
Ephesians 1:3-14    
Ephesians 1:15-23    
Ephesians 2-6    
For Further Reading


"With this carefully translated and edited text of Barth's lectures on Ephesians from the early 1920s, Ross Wright takes us into Barth's Göttingen classroom during the exciting days of the turbulent debate set off by his Romans commentary. The volume, with its excellent interpretive essays by Francis Watson and John Webster, is an important enrichment of the Barth library in English. It demonstrates how relevant Barth's theological project continues to be, especially for the Christian church struggling with the decline of western Christendom.  Baker Academic is to be warmly commended for publishing this exciting book."

Darrell Guder, Henry Winters Luce Emeritus Professor of Missional and Ecumenical Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary

"Throughout my more than forty years of preaching, Karl Barth's scriptural exegesis and exposition have been a constant companion and most valued source. After I have done all the preparatory work, I turn to Barth for final inspiration. It is therefore a major event to have his lectures on Ephesians translated into English for the first time. This great epistle lends itself particularly to Barth's powerful proclamation of the gospel, as anyone who has read his sermon 'Saved by Grace' knows. Preachers, heed this opportunity!"

Fleming Rutledge, author of The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ and Not Ashamed of the Gospel

"The publication of Barth's early lectures on Ephesians, while a noteworthy event in itself, is even more significant in light of, first, ongoing debates about Barth's later revolutionary understanding of Jesus Christ as subject and object of election and, second, continuing ferment over the relationship of exegesis and theology. That the book includes essays by Francis Watson and the late John Webster on precisely these points is simply the hermeneutical and dogmatic frosting on the dialectical cake."

Kevin J. Vanhoozer, research professor of systematic theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"This is an exciting addition to the libraries of the theologian and the Bible scholar. Barth is one of the greatest theological minds in the church and arguably one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century, period. His thinking always took shape in close relation to the biblical text, which he read carefully, imaginatively, and provocatively. As so many today are asking how to relate the Bible to theological concerns, having this window into Barth's engagement during his Göttingen period with this magisterial Pauline text is both fascinating and highly instructive."

Douglas A. Campbell, professor of New Testament, Duke Divinity School

"In his introduction Francis Watson observes that Barth's theocentrism can result in some startling exegetical insights. That is not only true but also well on display in this new translation and edition of Barth's lectures on Ephesians. To recommend a book by Barth is a given, but those who read these lectures will discover a Barth who is determined to make his audience attend to the fact that God has revealed himself in Christ."

Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Divinity and Law, Duke Divinity School

"These lectures, delivered when Barth was making the transition from pastoral to full-time academic work, will prove fascinating to anyone interested in the history of theology in the twentieth century. The themes that the youthful theological master explores--grace, divine otherness, apostleship, the centrality of Jesus Christ--will prove compelling to anyone endeavoring to teach or preach the Christian faith. This sparkling text has the verve, energy, and challenge that typifies the work of Karl Barth."

Most Reverend Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles

The Author

  1. Karl Barth

    Karl Barth

    Karl Barth (1886-1968) is widely regarded as one of the most significant Christian theologians since the Reformation. He was a professor of theology at several universities in Germany and later taught in Basel, Switzerland. His works include Church...

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"Published in English for the first time, the lectures not only provide insight into Barth's earliest days teaching at the University of Göttingen, they further expose his brilliant, developing theology. . . . . In typical fashion, Barth stays true to Christian orthodoxy and takes up the appropriate academic questions, while disrupting his readers' expectations and opening their eyes to a truth previously unseen. . . . . These lectures not only weave together themes from the Epistle's rich theological heritage, but highlight key elements of its syntax and diction. Though there is no one starting point for readers of Barth, Nelson and Wright have provided a new inlet through this volume, offering a biblically-grounded foundation for many of the themes that are later developed in Church Dogmatics."

Catherine C. Tobey,

Reading Religion

"An excellent addition to any pastor's library. . . . Barth reads the Scriptures carefully, imaginatively, and with a sense of humor, recognizing the possibilities and the limits of human knowing. . . . Barth's exposition of Scripture is deeply pastoral, constantly mediating between God's revelation and human discovery. . . . John Webster and Francis Watson provide two essays interpreting Barth. Webster and Watson each read Barth wisely, themselves models of careful and humble reading, both of Paul and Barth. . . . Proclaiming is what we pastors have been called to do 'by God's grace and mighty power' (Eph. 3:7 NLT). And Barth offers us a fine example to follow."

Zen Hess,

Theology Forum blog

"This volume is extremely important for readers of Barth, and anybody interested in Ephesians. . . . The volume opens with two essays, one by Francis Watson, and the other by the late John Webster, a foremost authority on Barth. These two essays alone are worth getting the book, because in them you have the squaring off, as it were, of two of the greatest scholars of the last decade, each approaching Barth's theological exegesis with a different perspective. . . . For those teaching the Pauline literature or theology in a university or seminary setting, there couldn't be a better place to turn for an example of unflinching theological interpretation."

Tavis Bohlinger,

Logos Academic blog