his inheritance in/among the saints
So far I have been unable to figure out what is meant by either of these wordings. Although the words and syntax are English, I suspect that the semantic collocational restrictions upon the words are not. Let's see if the problem is just mine or that of these translation wordings.
If we have the phrase translated as "his inheritance" (from the Greek tes kleronomias autou) with the noun "inheritance" modified by a possessive pronoun, as it is here by "his", my understanding of English is that the two words refer to something which a male has inherited. Perhaps the referent of "his" is God. But I do not know what God would inherit, unless perhaps we would view believers as a kind of inheritance that God receives, perhaps due to the death of Christ.
As a side note, the prepositional phrase "in the saints" would almost never be used in normal, natural English. I don't think it would be used in this context of inheritance. The preposition "among" sounds slightly better in this context to me, but I still do not know what it would mean for God to have an inheritance among the saints.
Perhaps Paul was referring in this verse to what saints have inherited from God. If that is the case, then I do not think that it would be accurate to refer to "his inheritance" where "his" refers to God. I might be wrong, but I don't think that is how possession works in English with the word "inheritance." If we want to refer to something someone has willed or bequeathed to someone or a group of people, I think we would not use the wording "his inheritance." Maybe I am mistaken and there may be English speakers who can speak of "his inheritance" where inheritance could refer either to what someone has bequeathed or to what someone has inherited, so I'm raising questions here to see if anyone else can get some sensible meaning from the wording "his inheritance in/among the saints."
There are English versions which have "unpacked" the semantic relationships of the tight Greek of this verse and translated that meaning to wordings which make sense to me. These include:
- glorious is the share he offers you among his people in their inheritance (REB)
- glorious are the blessings God has promised his holy people (NCV)
- the wonderful blessings he promises his people (TEV)
- the glorious blessings that will be yours together with all of God's people (CEV)
- the glorious wealth that God's people will inherit (GW)
- glorious inheritance he has given to his people (NLT)
UPDATE: Isn't Internet communication great (at times, anyway)?! Following is a response I received from one of the Bible translation committees concerning my preceding post:
Scholarly opinion differs. The N.T. members of ----- convinced the Committee that Andrew Lincoln (WORD: Ephesians) probably has it right when he writes: Here the riches of glory are linked particularly to God's inheritance among his people. Many commentators have assumed that the writer is thinking of the believers' inheritance. But whereas 1:14 talked about that...and believers obtaining their inheritance coincided with God's taking complete possession of his people and thereby his glory being praised, here in 1:18 the talk is of..."his inheritance," God's inheritance, which focuses not so much on what he gives his people as on the other side of the thought of 1:14, his possession of his people. In the OT God's inheritance is frequently used as a synonym for his people, Israel (cf. Deut. 4:20; 9:26,29; 2Sam 21:3; 1Kgs 8:51,53; 2Kgs 21:14; Pss 28:9; 33:12; 68:9; 78:62,71; 94:14; 106:5,40; Isa 19:25; 476; 63:17; Jer 10:16; 51:19). Here his inheritance involves the people of God from both Jesus and Gentiles, for it is..."among the saints." (p. 59)So, there we have an explanation for the rendering I have been unable to understand. Those who translated the Bible versions which use that rendering intended the meaning to be that it is God who inherits something. From this I have learned an exegetical option for Eph. 1:18 which I had not previously known. I hope you have enjoyed this field trip.
Ephesians [here] uses similar words to those in Col 1:12 but with a different relationship among them and in a difficult (sic: "different"?) context. Here it is God's inheritance which is in view and his inheritance consists of the believers who now constitute his people (cf. also Abbott, 30; Gaugler, 69; Houden, 275; Ernst, 288; Mitton, 68-69). ... A reference to believers as a whole does best justice to the inheritance in 1:18 being God's and not believers', to the emphasis in the euology on the people of God as his possession, to the other hagioi references in Ephesians...and to the focus in this leltter on the Church and glory in the Church.... This part of the writer's petition, then, is that the readers might appreciate the wonder, the glory of what God has done in entering into possession of his people...and the immense privilege it is to be among these saints. (P. 60)