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Philippians

At a Glance
Treatise
Genre:
(5/5) *****
Reliability of Dating:
(2/5) **
Length of Text:
Greek
Original Language:
Ancient Translations:
Modern Translations:

Estimated Range of Dating: 50-60 A.D.

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Information on Philippians

Philippians is generally accepted to be authentic Pauline correspondence.

Edgar J. Goodspeed indicates that there are a few problems with thinking that Philippians is a unity (An Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 90-92).

Norman Perrin would divide the letter into three fragments (The New Testament: An Introduction, pp. 105-6). In his scheme, 4:10-20 is part "of a letter of thanks to the Philippians for revival of their concern for Paul and the gifts sent to him at the hands of Epaphroditus." Verses 1:1-3:1 contain another letter expressing thanks "for the concern the Philippians have expressed for Paul, who is now enduring a considerable period of imprisonment." Finally, in 3:2-4:9 we have a letter with polemical intent "warning the Philippians of the dangers of the 'circumcision party'" in a situation similar to the one that Paul faced in his letter to the Galatians. Perrin suggests that this letter was the first written, while the other two have an "attitude of thanksgiving for dangers passed and harmony achieved."

Udo Schnelle argues that the letter to the Philippians is to be understood as a literary unity (The History and Theology, pp. 135-137).

Burton Mack writes (Who Wrote the New Testament?, pp. 144-145):

The letter is actually composed of three letter fragments, accidentally saved as it appears and crudely joined together at some later time by those who collected the letters of Paul in the name of the Pauline school (Phil. 4:10-20; 1:1-3:1; 3:2-4:9). The first two seem to have been written from Ephesus around the time of Paul's imprisonment there (ca. 54-55 C.E.), or five to eight years after Paul first established the congregation in Philippi. . . It is possible that this third letter fragment was not originally addressed to Philippi at all but inserted between the other two letter fragments because of the personal tone.

Schnelle argues (The History and Theology, p. 131): "Which place of imprisonment corresponds to this situation in the apostle's life? Of the three suggestions that have been made by scholars (Rome, Caesarea, Ephesus), Rome is the most likely location. The portrayal of the Roman imprisonment in Acts 28.30-31 fits very well with the mild form of imprisonment presupposed by Philippians. Moreover, the most direct way to understand the references to the Pretorian Guard (Phil. 1.13) and the imperial slaves (Phil. 4.22) is in terms of a Roman imprisonment." Schnelle continues with other reasons:

(1) The lack of reference to the offering indicates that at the time Philippians was written the collection had already been concluded. (2) Philippians presupposes an imprisonment that had lasted some time. If the letter had been written in Ephesus, there would be no explanation for the silence of Acts about such a long imprisonment in Ephesus, while the two years of the Roman imprisonment (Acts 28.30) fits very well with the situation presupposed in the letter. Paul's allusion to mortal danger he had experienced in the province of Asia (2 Cor. 1.8) is not necessarily evidence for the Ephesian hypothesis, since this report indicates only the fact of the mortal danger, not the circumstances involved. So also the fighting with 'wild animals' in 1 Cor. 15.32 is no evidence for an extended imprisonment in Ephesus. (3) The somewhat distant manner in which relationships are described at the place where Paul is presently imprisoned (Phil. 1.12-18, esp. vv. 15, 17 and cf. 1 Clem. 5.5!) suggests that the church there had not been founded by the apostle himself. (4) The term episkopoV (overseer) that appears in the authentic Pauline letters only in Phil. 1.1 (cf. further Acts 20.28; 1 Tim. 3.2; Titus 1.7) presupposes a development in the church situation in the direction of the Pastoral letters. (5) The investigation of the Pauline language of Philippians by H. H. Schade shows that the linguistc features of the proemium, in the use of the title 'Christ,' in the use of 'we' and 'I,' and in the presence of rare words (cf. esp. Beniamin [Benjamin] only Rom. 11.1; Phil 3.5; 'EbraioV (Hebrew) only 2 Cor. 11.22; Phil. 3.5; ergathV (worker) only 2 Cor. 11.13; Phil 3.2; fulh (tribe) only Rom. 11.1; Phil 3.5) all indicate that Philippians is to be located chronologically after Romans.

Brown mentions the christological hymn of 2:5-11 (An Introduction, p. 492):

Proposals about the background of the hymn (exclusive or in combination) include: gnostic reflections on the Primal Man; the Poimandres tractate in the Hermetic literature (p. 85 above); the Genesis story of Adam and speculations about a second Adam; the Suffering Servant imagery in deuteroIsaiah; the personified figure of divine Wisdom in postexilic Judaism. A relation to the OT is clear; other proposed references are not.

Mack writes of Paul's theology as revealed in this letter (op. cit., p. 146):

In Paul's mind, the Christ was now a historic person, now a son of God, a "corporate personality" representing a collective humanity, a cosmic king, a spiritual power pervading the cosmos, the hidden meaning behind the significant events of Israel's history, and the incarnation of the very mind, promise, and intention of God for humankind. That is an extremely dense symbol. A Jewish penchant for personified abstractions and divine agency merged with a Greek prediliction for conceptual abstractions and cosmic order. The Christ had become an overwhelming, all-encompassing symbol of the agency of a Jewish God in a Greek world.


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