A το δε Ανεβη τι εστιν ει μη οτιB και καταβη εις τα κατωτερα μερη της γης?
B’ ο καταβας αυτος εστιν
A’ και ο αναβας υπερανω παντων των ουρανων, ινα πληρωση τα παντα
The bold type indicates the main rhetorical features. Even if you don’t know Greek, you can see the repetition of words. In English it could be rendered something like this:
A But the one who already ascended, what does this mean except that,B he also descended to the lower parts of the earth?
B’ The one who descended is He
A’ who also ascended high above the highest heaven, so that he might fill all things.
In a more simple form the structure can be presented like this.
A το δε αναβηB και κατεβη
B' ο καταβας
A' και ο αναβας
A The one who ascendedB also descended
B’ the one who descended
A’ Also ascended
This rhetorical structure helps us in at least three ways.
- First, it puts the emphasis on the descent rather than the ascent. It is true that a chiastic structure can throw emphasis on its outer limits as easily as its inner context. But since the context of Ephesians assumes that Jesus ascended, there is no reason to emphasize the ascent. Hence, it is the descent that is emphasized here.
- Second, the apostle seems to focus on an order of events. Paul seems to be trying to clarify that there was a descent after an ascent. This seems important to his argument. It is subtle, but the order of presentation of events may be important here. This will be especially true if Paul is talking about something other than the incarnation, because the incarnation requires a descent (incarnation) and then an ascent (ascension/exaltation). Here Paul seems to be emphasizing the opposite, that there was an ascent and then a descent.
- Third, the one who ascended is also the one who descended. Paul makes a special effort in verse 10 to show that the identity of the one who descended is the same as the one who ascended.
To make further progress we have to return to our exegetical toolbox.