The final sentence of Ephesians 2 (vv. 19–22), which describes gentile inclusion using an extended construction metaphor, is awash with interrelated exegetical issues. These include the much-discussed issue of whether πᾶσα οἰκοδομή (2.21) is wholative (“the whole construction”), or distributive (“every construction”). This paper outlines and defends a reading of Eph 2:19–22 which understand this phrase distributively as “every construction”. Most interpreters exclude this line of interpretation, primarily for contextual reasons: the theme of unity is normally seen as so strong in Eph 2 that it rules out any notion of ecclesiological plurality.
The paper first outlines a summary post-supersessionist reading of Eph 2:1–18, demonstrating that within and alongside unity, ecclesiological plurality is a significant feature. In vv. 1–3, there is a marked distinction between two groups, “you” gentiles and “we” Jews. In vv. 11–13, circumcision is not annulled but placed in a broader prophetic and Christological perspective so that it is no longer a tool for Jew-gentile hostility. In vv. 14–18, the unity envisaged consists in “peace” between these two groups, who nevertheless remain distinct.
In light of this re-examination of the context, the paper proceeds to a close reading of Eph 2:19–22, highlighting new interpretative possibilities for the passage that allow for ecclesiological plurality alongside unity. The resulting translation reads:
So then, you [gentiles] are no longer foreigners and resident aliens, but you are fellow-citizens of the holy ones and family members of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, the cornerstone being Christ Jesus himself, in whom every activity of edification, because it is combined with [the others], effects growth into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built along with [the others] into a dwelling-place for God by the Spirit.
Ephesians 2:19–22 (proposed translation)