This letter may not have been exclusively directed to the community of believers in Ephesus. In the oldest extant manuscript (P46, c. 200 CE) and the original text of fourth-century Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, the words “in Ephesus” are missing from the opening verse. Moreover, unlike Paul’s other letters, this one does not contain personal references and greetings to specific ones in the Ephesian congregation. Possibly, therefore, Paul intended the letter to be circulated among the various congregations in Asia Minor, with Ephesus having been the initial destination. That the apostle planned for the letter to be read to communities of believers where he had not personally served is suggested by his mentioning that he had heard about their faith. (1:15) In view of his having personally been in Ephesus, he would have known about their faith and so it would seem unusual for him to refer to his having heard about it.
Although Paul identifies himself as the writer of the letter (1:1), there are those who dispute that it originated with him. They base their conclusions primarily on the writing style and the use of words that do not appear in Paul’s other letters. While filling many pages, the arguments would leave the letter without an identifiable writer and contribute little toward an understanding of its message.
At the time of writing, Paul found himself in confinement and referred to himself as being “in chains.” (3:1; 4:1; 6:20) The place of imprisonment is not identified, the common view being that it was Rome. As in the case of the letter to the Colossians (4:7), Tychicus would have been the one who delivered this particular letter. Numerous similarities exist between the letter to the Colossians and the one to the Ephesians. They appear to have been written about the same time, as suggested by the reference to Tychicus and Paul’s confinement. (Compare verses 3 and 7 of Colossians 4 with verses 20 and 21 of Ephesians 6.)