What is "The Dividing Wall" in Ephesians 2:14?

In Ephesians 2:14, Paul references a “dividing wall” that has been “broken.” Theologians have debated over the what the dividing wall was and what it separated.  This article will examine the grammar, syntax, historical background and theology of the passage.

Introduction

“Having demolished the dividing wall of separation...”

In Ephesians 2:14, Paul brings up the subject of a “dividing wall” (τὸ μεσότοιχον) that has been “broken” (λύσας). Unfortunately, this is the only use of the Greek word μεσότοιχον in the New Testament (NT) and it is not used in the Septuagint (LXX). This makes it difficult to interpret the term and discover Paul’s intending meaning. Though it is clear this wall existed, separated two things, and then was destroyed, commentators have come to a variety of conclusions as to what the wall is and what is separated.

Getting in Context

In Ephesians 2, Paul discusses the affects of salvation on the individual believer (2:1-10) and on humanity as a whole (2:11-22). Both sections follow a pattern of explaining a prior condition (Eph. 2:1-3; Eph. 2:11-13), the work of Christ to overcome that condition (2:4-9; 2:14-18) and the results of his work (2:10; 2:19-22).