Ephesians 1 – Spiritual Blessings in Christ & Lost Cities of the Americas: Pueblos of Chaco Canyon (2 of 7)

Hands Out1 1The Jews have always thought they were Your Chosen Ones, but even though You have Your favorites to perform certain duties, I now You love everyone the same (Acts 10:34).

The Jews hated the Gentiles, kind of like the Muslims do, and they set laws against them so tomorrow we’ll look at…

Ephesians 1
Spiritual Blessings in Christ

1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:

“By the will of God” – Paul not only stresses his authority under God, but also anticipates the strong emphasis he will make later in this chapter and book on God’s sovereign plan and purpose.

2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

1:3-14 – all one sentence in Greek, this section is often called “doxology” because it recites what God has done and is an expression of worship to honor Him. 

  Paul speaks first of the blessings we have through the Father, then of those that come through the Son and finally of those through the Holy Ghost.

“Heavenly places” – occurs five times in Ephesians, emphasizing Paul’s perception that in the exaltation of Christ (His resurrection and enthronement at God’s right hand) and in the Christian’s union with the exalted Christ ultimate issues are involved – issues that pertain to the divine realm and that in the final analysis are worked out in and from that realm.

2 1At stake are God’s eternal eschatological purpose and the titanic conflict between God and the powerful spiritual forces arrayed against Him – a purpose and a conflict that come to focus in the history of redemption.

Here (v. 3) Paul asserts that, through their union with the exalted Christ, Christians have already been made beneficiaries of every spiritual blessing that belongs and comes from the heavenly places.

In vv. 20-22, he proclaims Christ’s exaltation to that realm and His elevation over all other powers and titles so that He rules over all for the sake of His church (Christians).

According to 2:6, those who have been made alive with Christ (2:5) share in Christ’s exaltation and enthronement in heaven.  Thus (3:10) by the gathering of Gentiles and Jews into one body of Christ, God triumphantly displays His “manifold wisdom” to “the principalities and powers” in the heavenly places.

As a result, the spiritual struggle of the saints here and now is not so much against “flesh and blood” as against the great spiritual forces that war against God in heaven (6:12).

4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

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“Chosen” – divine election is a constant theme in Paul’s letters.  In this chapter it is emphasized in the following ways:

(1) “he hath chosen us.”

(2) “predestined us.”

(3) “also we have obtained an inheritance.”

(4) “being predestinated.”

“Holy and without blame” – holiness is the result – not the basis – of God’s choosing.  It refers both to the holiness imparted to the believer because of Christ and to the believer’s personal sanctification.

5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

“Redempti4 1on” – See vs. 14, 4:30; Rom 3:24; Tit 2:14.  The Ephesians were familiar with the Greco-Roman practice of redemption: Slaves were freed by the payment of a ransom. 

Similarly, the ransom necessary to free sinners from the bondage of sin and the resulting curse imposed by the law (see Gal 3:13) was the death of Christ (called here “his blood”).

8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;

9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:

10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

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14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,

16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;

17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:

18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,

6 1“Eyes of your understanding” – your mind or inner awareness.

“Saints” – those whom God has called to be His own people, i.e., all Christians.  The word carried the idea of dedication to a deity.

19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,

In this verse Paul piles term upon term to emphasize that the extraordinary divine force by which Jesus Christ was raised is the same power at work in and through believers.

20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,

“Right hand” – the symbolic place of highest honor and authority.  The term “left” always pertains to the dark or evil.

21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:

“All principality…every name that is named” – including whatever supernatural beings his contemporaries might conceive of, for in his day many people believed not only in the existence of angels and demons, but also in that of other beings.  Christ is above them all.7 1

“This world…that which is to come” – like the rabbinic teachers of his day, Paul distinguishes between the present age, which is evil, and the future age when the Messiah will consummate His kingdom and there will be a completely righteous society on earth (which is in the near future).

22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,

“Under His feet” – Ps. 8:5-6 emphasizes the destiny of man, and Heb 2:6-9 shows that ultimately it is the Son of man who rules over everything.

“Head” – Christ is not only the head of the church, but the head of everything.

23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Lost Cities of the Americas:8 Pueblos of Chaco Canyon 1 1Pueblos of Chaco Canyon (2 of 7)

Location: New Mexico
Date of Construction: c 10th Century C.E.
Abandoned: Late 12th Century C.E.
Built By: Ancestral/Ancient Pueblo Peoples (also known as Anasazi)
Key Features: Great Houses; Pueblo Bonito; Kivas (ceremonial chambers); Turquoise Beads; Road System.

The United States  Army surveyors, cattle herders and cowboys of the 19th and 20th centuries who first sought to open up to settlement the arid canyons and deserts of (what is now) the Four Corners area of the Southwest USA were astonished to discover the remains of enormous buildings concealed within obscure canyons.

9 Fajada Butte 1 1
Fajada Butte is a striking sight rising from the canyon floor.

Impressive multistory walls of stone and brick enclosed masses of rooms and chambers, in what are often described as apartment complexes. Who could have built such wonders and even more mysteriously, how could the large populations of these mini-metropolises possibly have been supported in the midst of a barren desert?

The desert canyons of the Southwest USA are deeply inhospitable. Today they support only a meagre population at an extremely low density, yet somehow this same area supported several complex societies centered on communities that may have numbered 10,000 or more.

These communities vanished before Columbus, leaving the empty remnants of the largest buildings in pre-Columbian America  -structures that would not be topped until the building of the first steel girder skyscrapers in Chicago in the 1880s.

These buildings are known as Great Houses, and are the grandest form of pueblo, or village, constructed by the pre-Columbian inhabitants of the area. Although they are popularly known as the Anasazi, from the Navajo word for “ancient ones”, the Navajo themselves were post-Columbian immigrants to the area, and archaeologists and historians now prefer to refer to the prehistoric residents as the Ancient Pueblo Peoples, or, in reference to their latter-day descendants the Hopi and Zuni (see below), the Ancestral Pueblo.

The Anasazi were just one of several neighboring cultures in this part of the Americas, but it is their remains that are the most noteworthy. Among these, the most impressive and best known are the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde and the pueblos of Chaco Canyon (in northern New Mexico), which include the biggest Great House of all, known as Pueblo Bonito, and which constitute the largest cluster of archaeological remains in the USA.

Rise of the Ancestral Pueblo Peoples

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Pueblo Bonito, the largest building at Chaco Canyon.
According to the National Park Service website, Pueblo Bonito “is the most thoroughly investigated and celebrated cultural site in Chaco Canyon.
Planned and constructed in stages between 850 A.D. and 1150 A.D. by ancestral Puebloan peoples.”

Although the region was probably settled by hunter-gatherers from the time of the original peopling of the Americas (probably c 12000 B.C.), it took a long time for agriculture to spread north from Mesoamerica.

By the start of the Common Era crops such as corn, squash and beans were grown in the region by increasingly sedentary people and population densities began to increase.

Around 600 CE farmers moved to Chaco Canyon, where they initially lived in underground pit houses, where a pit was dug, lined with flat stones, walled with logs and roofed over with poles and woven matting.

By around 700 CE they started to build stone structures above ground, eventually adopting an accomplished form of rubble-core dry-stone masonry, where carefully selected and shaped brick-like stones are used to form twin veneers, the space between which is filled with rubble and adobe.

By 920 CE buildings at Pueblo Bonito were two stories high, and from around 1000 CE Chaco Canyon Anasazi culture reached its climax, although it lasted for only a brief period until its catastrophic collapse in around 1150 CE.

At its height Chaco Canyon was a thriving population hub centered on Pueblo Bonito and 12 other Great Houses along the canyon, spaced at intervals of about a mile.

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Pueblo Bonito Great House in Chaco Canyon.
The large round structured are kivas. Note the wall running towards the camera across the central plaza, with a kiva on either side.

This wall runs north-south and divides the pueblo in two.

 Holes in the canyon’s northern walls, drilled for wooden roof beams, show that much of its length was lined with houses, while the remains of hundreds of small settlements have been found on the canyon’s southern side.

Taken together with the size of Great Houses like Pueblo Bonito, this would seem to indicate that up to 10,000 or more people lived here.

On the other hand, the consensus among most archaeologists is that even with the Anasazi’s expertise at dry land agriculture, the meagre natural resources of the region would have limited the maximum population to less than 5,000 and this would appear to be borne out by the finding that many of the rooms in Pueblo Bonito were unoccupied for long stretches of time.

One suggestion is that the Great Houses were ceremonial centers that were only periodically occupied and that the permanent population of the canyon was relatively low, swelling on special occasions.

Chaco Canyon was also the hub of a sophisticated network of roads that linked it to tens of thousands of smaller Anasazi settlements across the Four Corners region; 22,000 have been identified in New Mexico alone.

The roads are up to 59 1/2  miles long and 42 1/2 feet wide and some still show evidence of stone kerbs, indicating that they were carefully constructed and maintained.

The presence of trade goods at Pueblo Bonito shows that these roads were used to import food, timber and other raw materials, particularly luxury goods such as turquoise, shells and even exotic bird feathers from as far away as Mexico.

The roads may also have had military uses, allowing the rapid transit of soldiers directed from the center of power at Chaco Canyon.

An alternative point of view, however, is that the roads were primarily religious or spiritual in significance and function. Unlike most Native American roads, they do not follow the contours of the landscape or detour around obstructions; rather they run in straight lines, converging on Chaco Canyon like spokes on a wheel.

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Across the canyon from Pueblo Bonito is a giant subterranean kern called Casa Rinconada, precisely arranged along a north-south axis.
Around the walls are 28 niches and six crypts. At the summer solstice a beam of sunlight coming through the northeastern entrance illuminates one of the niches.

It seems likely that this is an accident, though, and that when the kern was in use this alignment would have been impossible to see because structural beams and other rooms probably blocked the light.

One theory is that the roads were sacred highways and functioned as ceremonial routes and religious symbols.

The writer Paul Devereux has shown that many different cultures in history have shared the concept of ghost or spirit roads -actual geographical routes that spirits follow, including the souls of the dead, shamans on spirit quests and other supernatural entities – and that the defining characteristic of these is that they run in straight lines.

Given the suspected importance of Chaco Canyon as a spiritual and religious center for the Anasazi, is it possible that they built these roads to facilitate the free passage of spirits to and from their natural home (thus helping to propitiate and draw power from them)?

Pueblo Bonito

The jewel in the Anasazi crown was the Great House at Pueblo Bonito. This was the biggest Anasazi structure. It was up to six stories high and comprised over 600 rooms, all jumbled together into a contiguous structure not dissimilar to Qatalhoyuk with entrance to upper levels via flat roofs, which themselves were the site of communal activities.

It was built with timber roof supports made from huge single logs up to 16 feet long, weighing as much as 700 pounds. Over 200,000 of them were used in the construction of the Chaco Canyon pueblos, which took shape over the course of two centuries.

At first, pinyon pines from the local area were used, but when these were exhausted the Anasazi had to look further afield. Analysis of mineral isotopes in surviving timbers has allowed experts to determine the exact locations these logs came from – the Chuska and San Mateo mountains, around 50 miles away.

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Chetro Ketl, built around 1050 A.D. features three kivas.
The Great Kiva in Chetro Ketl at Chaco Canyon.

The Anasazi had no carts or pack animals, so they would have had to bring the logs down from the mountains by muscle power alone. The timber, well preserved in the dry desert air, has also helped archaeologists to date the settlements through the science of dendrochronology – counting tree rings to determine dates and also information about climate.

Most of the rooms in Pueblo Bonito are around 13 x 16 feet, but there are several large circular chambers called ‘kivas’ after contemporary Native American structures that seem to be identical.

Contemporary kivas are used for rituals and tribal gatherings and it is assumed that Anasazi kivas served similar functions. Other rooms in the pueblo were food storage chambers, while beneath the floors of some rooms were burials complete with rich grave goods, including great quantities of valuable turquoise beads.

The skeletons of those buried here are taller and larger than at lesser Anasazi sites, suggesting that the well-fed Anasazi elite lived in the Great Houses and were supported by the produce and labor of the lower orders who dwelt at outlying settlements.

Seeds of Destruction

Two of the greatest mysteries regarding Chaco Canyon and the Anasazi are how they supported a dense population in such a barren region and why their civilization collapsed.

The two are probably closely linked. The upland desert of the Four Corners region appears to be highly unsuitable for agriculture. Rainfall is low, sporadic and unpredictable, and tends to occur in sudden intense bursts that cause flash flooding where most of the runoff is lost.

Temperatures at high elevations, where rainfall is higher, are very low and the conditions mean that forest growth and soil fertility replenishment are slow.

The Anasazi used several techniques to overcome the limits of the environment. They devised sophisticated water management schemes in Chaco Canyon, damming the main canyon and feeder canyons to catch and store runoff.

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Part of Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde, the largest cliff dwelling in North America.
Like Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde was an important population center for the Ancestral Pueblo.

They grew crops at sites such as the alluvial bottom of Chaco Canyon where the water table was close enough to the surface for the roots of their crops to reach and they founded agricultural colonies or stations over a wide area so that at least some of them would garner enough rainfall to produce a surplus big enough for redistribution.

But in the success of the Chaco Canyon Anasazi lay the seeds of their downfall. Their system of agriculture was marginal – in good years, with decent rainfall, it could support a large population, but they could only store corn for two years (after this it will rot and become inedible), making them vulnerable to drought.

At the same time, the urban model they adopted at Chaco Canyon was unsustainable in this impoverished ecosystem.

Analysis of plant remains in packrat middens (nests of dried litter left by packrats, which can survive for thousands of years in the desert) has shown that after 1000 CE the Chaco Canyon Anasazi had deforested the local area, which in turn led to problems with soil erosion and loss of fertility.

Eventually Chaco Canyon became a largely unproductive center, dependent on the rest of the wider Anasazi world to supply it with everything from food and timber to luxury goods, presumably because by then the Anasazi had developed a strict hierarchical society centered on the canyon and the elite who lived in the Great Houses.

By the 12th century the growing environmental problems caused by the dense population combined with a prolonged drought period caused the collapse of the Chaco Canyon Anasazi.

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Explorer ascending to an Ancestral Pueblo cliff dwelling, built, like the far larger Cliff Palace, into an alcove in the cliff.
In the 19th and early 20th century, many Ancestral Pueblo sites were visited and stripped by looters.

Dendrochronology shows that the last timber used at Pueblo Bonito was cut in 1117, while the youngest anywhere in the Canyon dates to 1170. Other Anasazi sites show evidence of fortification, warfare and cannibalism, and it seems likely that as crops failed and famine spread, the center could not hold and the society descended into disorder and warfare.

Some of the Anasazi appear to have survived by moving to new areas and the lack of useful artefacts at many Anasazi sites shows that the residents effected a planned evacuation, taking their important objects with them.

It is believed that the Pueblo Peoples, including the Hopi, Zuni and Acoma, who still live in pueblos and practice dry land agriculture, are at least partly descended from the Anasazi.

…the Dividing Wall of the “Court of the Gentiles” in Herod’s Temple.

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