He led captivity captive


by Mike Ratliff

1 Παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς ἐγὼ ὁ δέσμιος ἐν κυρίῳ ἀξίως περιπατῆσαι τῆς κλήσεως ἧς ἐκλήθητε, 2 μετὰ πάσης ταπεινοφροσύνης καὶ πραΰτητος, μετὰ μακροθυμίας, ἀνεχόμενοι ἀλλήλων ἐν ἀγάπῃ, 3 σπουδάζοντες τηρεῖν τὴν ἑνότητα τοῦ πνεύματος ἐν τῷ συνδέσμῳ τῆς εἰρήνης· 4 Ἓν σῶμα καὶ ἓν πνεῦμα, καθὼς καὶ ἐκλήθητε ἐν μιᾷ ἐλπίδι τῆς κλήσεως ὑμῶν·
5 εἷς κύριος, μία πίστις, ἓν βάπτισμα,
6 εἷς θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ πάντων,
ὁ ἐπὶ πάντων καὶ διὰ πάντων καὶ ἐν πᾶσιν.
7 Ἑνὶ δὲ ἑκάστῳ ἡμῶν ἐδόθη ἡ χάρις κατὰ τὸ μέτρον τῆς δωρεᾶς τοῦ Χριστοῦ. 8 διὸ λέγει·
ἀναβὰς εἰς ὕψος ᾐχμαλώτευσεν αἰχμαλωσίαν,
ἔδωκεν δόματα τοῖς ἀνθρώποις. Ephesians 4:1-8 (NA28)

1 Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, encourage you to walk worthy of the calling by which you were called, 2 with all humility of mind and meekness with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, 3 being eager to keep the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace. 4 As there is one body and one Spirit, as also you were called in one hope of your calling;
5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 one God and Father of all,
the one over all and through all and in all.
7 But to each one of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Wherefore it says,
“Having ascending to the height he led captive
captivity,
He gave gifts to men.” Ephesians 4:1-8 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

It wasn’t until I started studying and learning Koine Greek that I ran into the puzzling verse above (Ephesians 4:8). After all, the English translations I have always used did not read like I translated that verse above. No, the NASB translates v8 as:

 Therefore it says,
“WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH,
HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES,
AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.” Ephesians 4:8 (NASB)

However, the Greek reads as I translated it. I have actually heard sermons and teachings based on the English renderings of this verse that viewed “captivity” in v8 as referring to Old Testament saints who though saved, were held in some sort of captivity. Supposedly, then, Jesus went into hades (hell), retrieved them from their captivity, and took them to heaven. However such a teaching is actually rooted in Roman Catholic tradition, not Sacred Scripture, and it does not even come close to the imagery of the phrase. Continue reading