|MIDDLE WALL |
Term is found in
Ephesians 2:14 and variously translated: “middle wall of partition” (KJV); “dividing wall of hostility” (NRSV; NIV); “barrier of the dividing wall” (NASB); “barrier of enmity which separated them” (REB). Investigation of the term has yielded several possible interpretations: (1) The wall that separated the inner and outer courts of the Temple and prevented Jews and Gentiles from worshiping together. Inscriptions in Greek and Latin warned that Gentiles who disregarded the barrier would suffer the pain of death. (2) The curtain that separated the holy of holies from the rest of the Temple. This curtain was rent at the death of Jesus (see
Mark 15:38) and is representative of the separation of all humanity from God. (3) The “fence” consisting of detailed commandments and oral interpretations erected around the law by its interpreters to ensure its faithful observation. In reality, the fenced-in law generated hostility between Jews and Gentiles and further divided them, as well as furthering the enmity between God and humanity. Destruction of the law's mediators opens a new and living way to God through Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:18;
Hebrews 10:20). (4) The cosmic barrier that separates God and persons, persons themselves, and other powers in the universe (Ephesians 1:20-21)—angels, dominions, principalities. (5) Echoing
Isaiah 59:2, the term refers to the separation of humanity from God as a result of sin.
No one interpretation is sufficient by itself. The writer of Ephesians stressed that every conceivable barrier that exists between persons and between God and humanity has been destroyed by God's definitive work in Jesus Christ. See Ephesians; Gentiles; Law; Salvation; Sin; Temple.
William J. Ireland, Jr.