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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament


- Philippians

by William Robertson Nicoll








THE CHURCH ADDRESSED. The town of Philippi occupied a commanding situation on the rocky slopes of a steep hill which overlooked, on the one side, the spacious plain of Drama watered by the Gangites (or Angites, Herodot., vii., 113), and, on the other, the pass between Mount Pangseum (south-west of Philippi) and the spurs of Hæmus. Through this pass ran the famous Roman road, the Via Egnatia (see Tafel, De Via Militari Romanorum Egnatia , Tübing., 1842), connecting Dyrrhachium on the Adriatic with the Hellespont. Its importance as a strategic position was manifest. Its value as a commercial centre was no less evident, standing as it did on the busy Roman thoroughfare which joined East and West, and being itself the emporium of a large industry which circled about the rich gold mines dotted over the surrounding region. Originally it had borne the name of Κρηνίδες (or αἱ Κρηνίδες ), derived, perhaps, from the copious streams which flowed through the plain (Strabo, vii., Frag . 34, ταῖς Κρηνίσιν ὅπου νῦν οἱ φίλιπποι πόλις ἵδρυται ; Appian, B. C. , iv., 105, οἱ δὲ φίλιπποι πόλις ἐστὶνΔάτος ὠνομάζετο πάλαι καὶ Κρηνίδες ἔτι πρὸ Δάτου ). Philip of Macedon, in his victorious career, quickly discerned the value of the country bordering on Mount Pangæum. He recognised a source of vast profit in the gold and silver mines, which, up till now, had only been partially exploited. But a local centre of influence was necessary to command this coveted territory. Accordingly, by enlarging the former Krenides, he founded a new city, to which he gave his own name, Philippi (see Diod. Sic., xvi., 8, 6, ταύτην μὲν ἐπαυξήσας οἰκητόρων πλήθει μετωνόμασε φιλίππους ἀφʼ ἑαυτοῦ προσαγορέυσας · τὰ δὲ κατὰ τὴν χώραν χρυσεῖα μέταλλα παντελῶς ὄντα λιτὰ καὶ ἄδοξα ταῖς κατασκευαῖς ἐπὶ τοσοῦτον ηὔξησεν ὥστε δύνασθαι φέρειν αὐτῷ πρόσοδον πλεῖονταλάντων χιλίων ).

This Greek city attracted the notice of Augustus after his defeat of Brutus and Cassius in its immediate neighbourhood in 42 B.C. Having to find places of settlement for Italian soldiers who had served their time and could not be maintained in Italy, he established at Philippi, among other towns, a Roman colony, to which he granted the jus Italicum as an attraction to settlers. This privilege included ( a ) exemption from the oversight of the provincial governor, ( b ) immunity from the poll and property taxes, ( c ) rights to property in the soil regulated by Roman law (see Marquardt-Mommsen, Römische Staatsverwaltung , Bd. I., pp. 363 364; Mommsen, Provinces of Roman Empire , i., pp. 299 302).

But, in addition to its industrial and military importance, Philippi could boast of the religious zeal of its inhabitants. MM. Heuzey and Daumet, in their exhaustive and invaluable Mission Archéologique de Macédoine (Paris, 1876), have pointed out that the rocks near the ancient site of Philippi are “a veritable museum of mythology” (p. 86). Traces have been found of a temple dedicated to Silvanus, one of the most popular deities of the Imperial epoch, who was worshipped as the sacred guardian of the Emperor (pp. iii, 75). The Oriental god Mên seems also to have had his votaries there, and in the neighbouring mountains Dionysus, the favourite divinity of the Thracians, had “the most revered of his sanctuaries” (p. v). This was the spiritual soil upon which the Gospel of Christ had to work, a picture in miniature of the strangely cosmopolitan character of religion in the Roman Empire at that stage in its history. We can easily conceive how, amidst these surroundings, the maiden “possessing a spirit of divination” was sure to drive a flourishing trade.

The account of Paul’s work at Philippi is given in Acts 16, a chapter belonging, in part, to the “we-sections,” which are regarded as extremely valuable even by the most negative critics. (For attacks upon the authenticity of this account see Knowling on A. 16., ad fin. , in vol. ii. of this work.) It was thoroughly in accordance with the Apostle’s well-weighed plan of operations to choose as the starting-point of his labours in Europe a typical city of the Roman Empire, lying on one of the main trade-routes, where he might count upon protection against violence, and from which any strong influence he might exert must extend itself towards East and West (see Ramsay, Church in Rom. Emp. , pp. 56, 70, 148 et al. ). Paul seems to have attached himself to a little company of Jews and proselytes (A. 16:13 ff.). Mention is only made of some women who assembled for prayer by the river side on the Sabbath day. From this it may probably be gathered that Judaism had no firm hold at Philippi. It is worthy of note that the charge of being Jews is set in the forefront by the enraged Philippians who drag Paul and Silas before the Praetors. [1] (For the ancient hatred of Jews in the Roman world, see esp [2] Reinach, Textes … relatifs au Judaïsme , Paris, 1895.) Lydia, a seller of purple dyed garments, a native of Thyatira, famous for its dyeing trade, became the nucleus of a Christian congregation. She was already a God-fearer ( σεβομένη τὸν Θεόν , see Schürer, Jewish People , ii., 2, p. 314). As the result of Paul’s preaching she and her household were baptised, and the Apostle, with his companions, accepted her hospitality (see esp [3] A. 16:15). This spirit of generosity was to become characteristic of the Church at Philippi and of early Christian life as a whole.

[1]See Henle, Tüb. Thcol. Quartal. Schr. , 1893, Hft. 1, p. 82.

[2] especially.

[3] especially.

It is needless to dwell on the sharp crisis through which Paul and Silas had to pass. The arrest, the illegal flogging ( cf. Cic., in Verr. , v., 66: facinus est vinciri civem Romanum, scelus verberari, prope parricidium necari ), the extraordinary deliverance, the repentance, conversion and baptism of the jailor, the release in presence of the panic-stricken magistrates, all these experiences must have made a deep impression on the minds of the Philippians. Already there were brethren there (A. 16:40), whom they exhorted as they were on the point of leaving Philippi for Thessalonica. Strangely enough, the “ we ” introduced at A. 16:10 ceases with ch. 16, only to be resumed at ch. 20:6, when Paul leaves Philippi after another visit. Perhaps it is not unreasonable to believe with Ramsay ( St. Paul the Traveller , p. 219) that Luke was left behind at Philippi to extend and consolidate the good work which had been done. In any case the Church must have made rapid progress. For Paul had scarcely left Macedonia when the Philippian Christians began to minister to his needs. From that time onwards they occupy a chief place in his affections.

It is difficult to point to anything like fixed data as regards the component parts of the Church at Philippi. Schinz in his important dissertation, Die christliche Gemeinde zu Philippi (Zürich, 1837), brings forward many arguments to prove that it was essentially a heathen-Christian community (see esp [4] p. 57 ff.). Certainly much, both in the Epistle and in the narrative of its founding, goes to confirm this opinion. As we have seen, it was a proselyte, a woman of Asiatic birth, who took the leading place in the early fortunes of this Church. Jews seem to have been a negligeable quantity at Philippi, for, apparently, there was no synagogue in the town. From the evidence of the Epistle, devoted women of heathen extraction (as their names show, see ch. Philippians 4:2 ) stood in the forefront of Christian work. This was not peculiar to Philippi. Nothing is more remarkable than the place taken by women in the Apostolic Church as a whole. The Christian faith was their true emancipation. It gave scope for their most characteristic activities (see an interesting summary in Rilliet, Commentaire sur l’Épître … aux Phil. , pp. 312 313; also Renan, St. Paul , pp. 147 150; Lft [5] , Philippians , pp. 55 56, who hints with good reason, on the evidence of Inscrr [6] , that women occupied a specially favourable position in Macedonia; H. Achelis, Zeitsch. f. N. T. Wissensch. , i., 2, pp. 93, 97 98, and cf. notes on ch. Philippians 4:2 ). It is worthy of notice that the only definite information we have as to any friction in the Philippian Church attaches itself to two of these Christian matrons, Euodia and Syntyche. In all likelihood the friction was slight. The Apostle does not deal with it in strong terms. Evidently it was some personal variance connected with Church life and work, or, perhaps, associated with the possession of particular spiritual gifts. We know how this latter endangered unity at Corinth (see 1 C. 12). It is possible that we have a hint of its character in the warnings given against a false self-satisfaction in ch. Philippians 3:12-16 . Here and there, throughout the Epistle, there are echoes of it (see ch. Philippians 1:27 , Philippians 2:2-4 ; Philippians 2:14 , Philippians 4:5 ), and these point to a certain danger of selfish assumptions of superiority. But there are no traces of doctrinal controversies like those which rent some of the other Pauline Churches. On the whole, Paul feels unmingled satisfaction and joy in their condition. It is evident, therefore, that if there were any Jewish-Christians in the Church, they had not made themselves obnoxious by laying special emphasis on the characteristic tenets of their party. Indirect evidence on this point is afforded by incidental statements in the Epistle. Paul was accustomed to accept gifts from the Philippians. This was a course which he took care to avoid in Churches where a minority of Jewish-Christians could bring it up as a reproach against him. (Contrast his attitude, e.g. , towards the Church at Corinth.) Further, when he does burst forth in words of solemn warning against his adversaries (ch. Philippians 3:2 ), it may be clearly seen that he is dealing with persons entirely outside the Philippian Church, but persons who may at any moment intrude into their midst and work serious havoc (see notes ad loc. ). It seems, therefore, reasonable to conclude that this Church was composed mainly (if not exclusively) of heathen-Christians, at one in their loyalty to the Faith and to him who had first proclaimed it in their hearing; exposed, at the same time, to hurtful influences which might invade them from outside, and liable to those mutual differences of feeling which make themselves manifest in every Christian community.

[4] especially.

[5] Lightfoot.

[6]nscrr. Inscriptions.

THE OCCASION OF THE LETTER. In ancient times letters were written to correspondents at a distance when a favourable opportunity presented itself of forwarding them to their destination ( cf. Cic., ad Attic. , i., 9, 1). In the present instance this was afforded by the return of Epaphroditus to Philippi (ch. Philippians 2:28 ). Prom ch. Philippians 4:15-16 it may be inferred that Paul had frequent communications with the Philippians. [7] The letter before us is evidently the reply to one which Paul had received. The recognition of this gives the proper clue to its interpretation. Dr. Rendel Harris, in a suggestive paper in the Expositor (v., 8, p. 403), advances the hypothesis that “when Paul replied to a letter he held the letter that he was replying to in his hand, and followed closely the points in it that needed attention” (see also Lock, ibid. , v., 6, p. 65 ff.). We believe this to be, in large measure, true of Philippians . Traces of a definite reply seem to emerge at Philippians 1:12 (where he answers their eager inquiries as to his health and prospects), Philippians 1:26 (they had probably spoken of him as their καύχημα , cf. Harris, op. cit. , p. 178), Philippians 2:19 (where he reminds them that he is as much concerned to hear good news as they are), Philippians 2:26 (their reference to the illness of Epaphroditus), Philippians 3:2 (the abruptness with which the warning is introduced is best explained by some disconcerting tidings from Philippi), Philippians 4:10 (they had apologised for their remissness in attending to his wants), and perhaps Philippians 4:14-15 (they may have felt a little doubtful whether Paul would be willing to accept their gift, for here and there in the Epistle we have the slightest hints that he has to disabuse them of a notion that he had not been entirely pleased with them. See notes on Philippians 1:3 ).

[7] No argument, however, can be based on the fact that Poycarp, Ep. ad Philipp. , 3., says of Paul: ὃς καὶ ἀπὼν ὑμῖν ἔγραψεν ἐπιστολάς , as the plural is frequently used to describe a single letter. See Lft. ad loc.

It is manifest that the Apostle had received a gift from the Philippian Church through Epaphroditus, who spent some time, at least, in his company at Rome (ch. Philippians 2:30 ). We cannot tell whether a letter had accompanied this gift, or, if so, whether Paul had acknowledged it in any way before. At all events, our Epistle is written considerably later, and presupposes a communication which came to Rome from Philippi while Epaphroditus was still at Paul’s service. This is necessary from ch. Philippians 2:26 , ἀδημονῶν διότι ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἠσθένησεν . Perhaps even the order of subjects in the Letter is regulated by the arrangement of topics in that from Philippi. The chief matter involved, the acknowledgment of their gift, is introduced at the beginning (ch. Philippians 1:3-5 , this is at least a likely interpretation) and end (ch. Philippians 4:10-19 ) with a graciousness and delicacy of feeling unsurpassed in the annals of letter-writing.

PLACE AND DATE OF WRITING. ( a ) It is all but universally agreed that this Epistle was written from Rome. That is the early tradition, and no contrary evidence has been forthcoming strong enough to refute it. Of course the matter must be determined by comparing what we gather concerning Paul’s circumstances from the Epistle itself with our information from other sources. The Apostle is a prisoner. He is residing in some centre of activity where the preaching of Christ has extended with amazing rapidity. His trial is about to reach a critical point. There is still the possibility that he may have to suffer as a martyr. But, on the whole, his outlook is very hopeful, and he can speak with joyful confidence of the speedy prospect of seeing his friends at Philippi again. Incidentally he mentions that the real character of his offence is now known in the “Prætorium,” and he concludes his letter by sending greetings from the Christians of Caesar’s household. It seems to us that this situation can only correspond to one particular epoch in the Apostle’s history, that the beginning of which is outlined in A. 28:16, 30 31. The only alternative hypothesis which has ever been seriously put forward is that of Cæsarea . This was first done by H. G. Paulus (in a Programm , Jena, 1799), and later, more acutely, by Böttger ( Beiträge , ii., p. 47 ff., Gött., 1837). Böttger lays stress on the point that prisoners at Rome could not have experienced the delay which is presupposed in this Epistle in the case of Paul. This argument is invalidated by the fact that processes of appeal were peculiarly subject to protracted delays. These were caused in particular by the necessity of having all the declarations of witnesses, informations, etc., handed in writing to the appellant before the higher court heard the appeal (see Geib, Geschichte d. röm. Criminalprocesses , esp [8] pp. 688 690). Böttger also tries to show that πραιτώριον (ch. Philippians 1:13 ) and οἰκία Καίσαρος (ch. Philippians 4:22 ), almost the only local references in the Epistle, apply equally well to Cæsarea. This argument is emphasised by O. Holtzmann ( Th. LZ [9] , 1890, col. 177), who adds these others, ( a ) that we know nothing of a sojourn of Timothy at Rome, ( b ) that the bitterness against the Judaisers is far more intelligible on the supposition that Paul’s experiences of the Jews at Jerusalem were fresh in his remembrance. No one would deny that πραιτώριον is used of an Imperial residence outside Rome. And possibly οἰκία Καίσαρος might be equivalent to πραιτώριον , i.e. , in this case, according to Holtzmann, τὸ πραιτώριον τοῦ Ἡρώδου (A. 23:35). This supposition Holtzmann believes to be the best explanation of μάλιστα (ch. Philippians 4:22 ), for he considers the use of that word to point to those in Paul’s immediate neighbourhood. But the assumption is quite gratuitous. He has already sent greetings from οἱ σὺν ἐμοὶ ἀδελφοί , and in adding those of the ἅγιοι he singles out οἱ ἐκ τῆς Καίσαρος οἰκίας . This was most natural, since we know from other sources (see notes ad loc. ) that there was a large body of Christians in the Imperial household, some of them perhaps connected with Philippi, and, in all probability, this movement had assumed greater proportions during Paul’s sojourn at Rome. His converts there, in their new-born enthusiasm, would be likely to show a peculiarly lively interest in that far-distant Church which had manifested so remarkable an appreciation of their father in the Faith. An unbiased reader must feel that there is something far-fetched in the reference of οἰκία Καίσαρος to Cæsarea. The context of πραιτώριον indicates that Paul writes from a centre of eager Christian activity, a place of much higher importance than Cæsarea, which had long since heard the Gospel (A. 10), and could scarcely, in any case, be supposed to exert a pre-eminent influence. As to the other arguments of Holtzmann, there is nothing to oppose the hypothesis that Timothy visited Rome; in fact, it would be surprising if he had never seen his beloved master during so long a period of suspense. And certainly it did not require any recent experiences of Paul to call forth stern denunciations of those Judaisers who had dogged his steps from the beginning to the close of his career.

[8] especially.

[9] Theologische Literaturzeitung .

But the decisive argument for Rome, in our judgment, is Paul’s situation . He expects a speedy termination of his case. How could this be possible at Cæsarea? There, on the first favourable opportunity that presents itself, he appeals to Cæsar. Only when that appeal has been heard can any decision be come to. And many hints in the Epistle suggest that the all-important moment was close at hand (see ch. Philippians 1:12-13 ; Philippians 1:19-20 ; Philippians 1:26 , Philippians 2:24 , probably Philippians 1:7 ; also a discussion by the author in Expository Times , x., 1, pp. 22 24, and an excellent dissertation, The Epistle of St. Paul’s First Trial , by R. R. Smith, Camb., 1899). It is perhaps needless to deal with Spitta’s argument in favour of Cæsarea ( Apostelgeschichte , p. 281) that the expectation of Felix that he should be offered a bribe by Paul was roused by the gift of money which the Apostle had lately received from Philippi.

( b ) We believe that the arguments adduced above are sufficient to fix Rome as the place from which the Epistle was written. They also suggest a late date in Paul’s sojourn at Rome, for he is awaiting the final decision in his trial. Lightfoot has attempted to show that Philippians stands first in order among the Imprisonment-Epistles. His main argument is greater similarity (especially in thought) to Romans than to Colossians and Ephesians . But this method of reasoning is precarious. Are we at liberty to break up the thinking of a man like the Apostle Paul, as it is expressed in a small group of occasional letters, into a series of well-marked stages? These letters were, after all, the products of special circumstances, of special situations. Paul did not write as one who gradually, in successive works, presents a system of thought to the world. We may readily admit that more parallels may be found, on careful search, between Philippians and Romans than between it and the other Imprisonment-Epistles (although this statement must be made with caution, see Von Soden, Hand-Comm. , iii., 1, p. 16, on the marked resemblances between Phil. , and Coloss .). But that does not touch the question of date. Paul’s letters must be interpreted from the historical background of each of them. To use as an argument for the ante-dating of Philippians the fact that the other two letters of the Captivity “exhibit an advanced stage in the development of the Church” (Lft [10] , Phil. , p. 45) seems, to say the least, hazardous, when, on Lightfoot’s own showing, no more than a year can have elapsed between the earlier and the later writings. The “advanced stage in the development of the Church” emerges suddenly in view of the dangerous situation in which the Christians of Asia were placed at the time.

[10] Lightfoot.

It is more difficult to speak with any confidence as to the actual date. The chronology of Paul’s life has recently been the subject of keen discussion. For our purpose the crucial date is that of the arrival of Festus as Procurator of Judæa. Everything depends on determining the year in which the Procurator Felix was recalled and replaced by Festus (see Harnack, Chronologie d. altchristl. Litt. , p. 233). It is impossible here even to give a sketch of the various lines of argument used to fix approximately the all-important date. O. Holtzmann, who depends upon the authority of Tacitus and Josephus, and is followed, among others, by Harnack (who emphasises, in addition, the testimony of the Chronicle of Eusebius), argues for the end of the year 55 or the early part of 56. This would make 57 the year of Paul’s arrival in Rome, and thus, if our former arguments are valid, Philippians would have to be assigned to the year 59, as he approached the close of his two years’ captivity at Rome. This dating is much earlier than the received chronology, which would refer the recall of Felix to 60 and the Apostle’s arrival in Rome to 61. In that case our Epistle would fall somewhere within the year 63. We are inclined, however, to accept the view of Mr. C. H. Turner in his masterly article on the Chronology of N. T. in Hastings’ Bible Dict. After a fair-minded and cautious survey of all the arguments, he is led to adopt 58 as the year of the recall of Felix and the arrival of Festus in the province of Judæa. Paul would thus have reached Rome early in 59. Hence, in all likelihood, Philippians was written towards the close of the year 61, when matters had taken so favourable a turn that the Apostle could reasonably expect a speedy release (see Turner’s article, op. cit. ). For the new chronology see O. Holtzmann, N. T. Zeitgeschichte , p. 125 ff., Harnack, Chronologie , p. 233 ff.; for the received view, Schürer, Jewish People , i., 2, pp. 182 184, and note 38 with exhaustive list of literature, and in Zeitsch. f. wiss. Th. , Bd. xli., Hft. 1, pp. 21 42. On the whole question of place and date consult Steinmetz, Die zweite röm. Gefangenschaft d. Ap. Paulus , Leipz., 1897, pp. 4 9, and especially Th. Zahn, Einleit. in d. N. T. , Bd. I., pp. 380 392, whose arguments appear quite conclusive for placing Phil. after Eph., Col. and Philem.

GENUINENESS. ( a ) There is no lack of external evidence for this Epistle. References are found to it in Church writers from the earliest times. These begin with Polycarp ( πρὸς φιλ ., iii., 10 [ Παῦλος ] … ὃς καὶ ἀπὼν ὑμῖν ἔγραψεν ἐπιστολάς ), and include the ancient letter from the Christians of Vienne and Lyons (Eusebius, H. E. , v., 2), as well as the Fragment of Muratori on the Canon.

( b ) The internal testimony is equally convincing. Perhaps no Pauline epistle bears more conclusively the stamp of authenticity. There is an artlessness, a delicacy of feeling, a frank outpouring of the heart which could not be simulated. Like 2 Corinthians, this letter is a mirror of the Apostle’s personal life. It reflects his varying moods at a great crisis in his history. It throbs from first to last with eager emotion. It gives a most vivid picture of Paul’s intimate relations with the Churches which he has founded. The whole composition of the letter is devoid of any artificial plan. The Apostle moves from subject to subject by rapid transitions and unexpected turns of thought. If this Epistle betrays the compiler’s hand, no internal proof of authenticity may be held valid at all, and literary criticism becomes irrelevant. For, in the case before us, every circumstance can be understood from the conditions existing in the life and times of Paul. This is the problem with which criticism has always and alone to deal.

None the less has the genuineness of Philippians been stoutly challenged. Baur was the first to enter the field in his Paulus , Bd. II., p. 50 ff. The objections he raised were: (1) the echo of Gnostic ideas in ch. Philippians 2:6-9 , (2) the lack of a genuine Pauline content, (3) the extraordinary nature of some of the historical details. To a sober judgment these difficulties do not exist. The Gnosticism of ch. 2 is the phantasy of a biased imagination. If the content in this Epistle be not Pauline, we may be said to know nothing of the Apostle’s thoughts or feelings. The historical details, so far from being extraordinary or unaccountable, afford us some of the most valuable sidelights we possess on a particular epoch of Paul’s history, otherwise obscure. Since Baur’s time comparatively few critics have been bold enough to renew the attack on our Epistle. A complete history of its criticism will be found in Holsten’s articles in the Jahrb. f. protestant. Theol. (1876), pp. 328 372. No more searching scrutiny of the Epistle with a view to proving its spuriousness has ever been carried out than that of Holsten himself ( op. cit. , 1875, p. 425 ff.; 1876, p. 58 ff.). In these discussions he brings all his well-known acuteness and subtlety of reasoning to bear upon the minutest points of the letter. He willingly admits that it belongs to the Pauline school, but decides from such indications as the method of dealing with the Judaisers in ch. 1, the conception of Christ in ch. Philippians 2:6-9 , etc., etc., that it cannot be the work of Paul. But any fair-minded reader of Holsten’s articles will feel bound to agree with the verdict of an unbiased scholar like Schürer that his “arguments are so foolish that one is sometimes tempted to put them down as slips of the pen” ( Th. LZ [11] , 1880, col. 555). Probably Pfleiderer’s statement may be taken as representative of present-day opinion: “The genuineness of this letter is not to be doubted. The accounts of Philippians tally thoroughly with the presuppositions of Romans ” ( Urchristenthum , p. 153). Among many elaborate defences of the authenticity of Phil. we may mention as especially worthy of note those of Hilgenfeld in Zeitsch. f. wiss. Theol. , xvi., 2, p. 178 ff.; xviii., 4, p. 566 ff.; xx., 2, p. 145 ff.; xxvii., 4, p. 498 ff.

[11] Theologische Literaturzeitung .

The unity of the Epistle has also been questioned. This was done as early as the beginning of last century by Heinrichs ( N. T. , ed. J. Koppe, vol. vii., pars 2, proll., p. 31 ff.), who supposed it to consist of two letters, one (ch. Philippians 1:1 to Philippians 3:1 ; Philippians 4:21-23 ) being addressed to the Church in general, the other (ch. Philippians 3:2 to Philippians 4:20 ) to the more prominent authorities in it. (For a full account of such attempts see Clemen, Einheitlichkeit d. paulin. Briefe , 1894, p. 133 ff.) Völter ( Theol. Tijdschr. , 1892, pp. 10 44, 117 146) put forward the theory that we have here a genuine Epistle consisting of ch. Philippians 1:1-7 ; Philippians 1:12-14 ; Philippians 1:18-26; Philippians 1:18-26Philippians 1:18-26 ; Philippians 2:17-29 ; Philippians 4:10-21 ; Philippians 4:23 , and also a spurious one made up of ch. Philippians 1:8-10 ; Philippians 1:27-30 ; Philippians 2:1-16 ; Philippians 3:1-9; Philippians 3:1-9Philippians 3:1-9 , 22, the remaining verses being added by the redactor whose compilation is before us. It is difficult to take so arbitrary a scheme as this seriously, and Völter entirely fails to show what aim or motive his hypothetical redactor had in his work. This would require to be stated with some appearance of reason before we could consider the likelihood of finding in a simple, apparently spontaneous letter, a document so complicated as that which Völter discovers. C. Clemen, in the work above cited and also in his Chronologie d. paulin. Briefe , 1893, attempts to prove that two genuine letters have been combined in one Epistle. The first, composed of ch. Philippians 2:19-24 ; Philippians 3:0 ; Philippians 4:8-9 , he holds to be the earliest of the Captivity Epistles, the second, embracing ch. Philippians 1:1 to Philippians 2:18 , Philippians 2:25-30 ; Philippians 4:1-7 ; Philippians 4:10-23 , to be the latest (see Table in Chronol. , p. 292). While laying stress upon the presence of numerous repetitions and paragraphs which have no connexion with their context, he bases his position mainly on what he conceives to be inexplicable contradictions between ch. Philippians 2:20 and ch. Philippians 1:14 ; Philippians 1:16 , and also between ch. Philippians 3:2 ; Philippians 3:18 and ch. Philippians 1:18 ; Philippians 1:28 . The theory, at first sight, is certainly plausible. There is no a priori reason ( cf. the case of Paul’s Epistles to the Corinthians) why two letters or fragments of letters to the Philippians should not, by some accidental circumstances of which we know nothing, have been combined. Only there must be some strong basis for such an hypothesis, derivable from the Epistle itself. We cannot feel that such a basis is presented by the arguments briefly alluded to above. In the groups of passages brought forward the contradiction appears to us imaginary. An exegesis which takes careful account of the historical background of the Epistle and recognises that the Apostle, like other men, had his moods of strong feeling, leaves no ground for maintaining that his statements in the one group are irreconcilable with those in the other [12] (see, for the details, the notes on these passages, and a most interesting parallel drawn from the criticism of Cicero’s Letters in Deissmann, Bibel-studien , pp. 220 222, 250).

[12] Clemen has recently withdrawn his objections to the unity of Philippians (see Th. I.Z. , 1901, col. 293).

SPECIAL CHARACTERISTICS. The perusal of the Epistle cannot fail to produce the impression of artlessness . That is another way of saying that it precisely fulfils the conditions of a letter. Had this most prominent characteristic been always kept in view, much futile theorising both in the exegesis and in the criticism of the Epistle would have been avoided. The only plausible objections that have been brought against its genuineness or integrity would have been recognised as the natural consequences of its epistolary character ( Brieflichkeit , a more convenient expression than English affords). For here, as in all his letters, the Apostle speaks for the occasion. He pictures his Christian brethren at Philippi as listening to his conversation. All is spontaneous and free. He draws up no fixed scheme which has to be followed, although, perhaps, the letter (or letters) from the Philippian Church may in some degree have suggested the course which his thought pursues. He feels thoroughly at home with his readers. Thoughts crowd in upon him as he writes. His reminiscences of Philippi supply secret links of connexion between paragraphs which might seem isolated from one another, links of connexion which we can no longer trace. Many of his ideas he does not require to elaborate. A brief hint will bring his readers into touch with the Apostle’s mind.

It is quite plain, from a comparison of this with his other letters, that no Church held a deeper place in Paul’s affection . This may be accounted for in various ways. Evidently the Judaising section of the Church had not, as yet, been able to gain a footing at Philippi, although there is little doubt that attempts must have been made. The Christians there refused to lend their ears to insinuations against their well-tried teacher and friend. They believed in the Gospel as Paul had presented it to them. This unflinching loyalty of theirs would be a genuine consolation to the Apostle amidst so many disheartening experiences endured through the fickleness of once promising converts. No wonder that he calls them his joy and crown. [13]

[13] On fidelity as characteristic of the Macedonian people see an interesting note in Lightfoot, Biblical Essays . p. 248, note 5.

But, besides, there was, in all likelihood, a certain frank open-heartedness, an affectionate simplicity of nature, which appealed directly to the mind of Paul. The Macedonians, as a people, had preserved the manners of a more artless time. They had suffered comparatively little from the corruption of an enervating age. They had maintained, perhaps, above all other parts of Greece, a healthy tone of life, a sturdy morality ( cf. Renan, St. Paul , pp. 136 139). When the Gospel came to them they received it with a child-like responsiveness. And their appreciation of its worth remained no mere empty feeling. It took practical shape. No sooner had Paul left Philippi than they began to consider his needs and, with unhesitating generosity, to minister to them (see ch. Philippians 4:15-16 ). And when the Apostle made his great collection for the poorer Christians at Jerusalem, the Churches of Macedonia amazed him by their liberality. It was natural that Paul should be drawn into a specially cordial intimacy with such a people. He had proved their loyalty; he had received numerous tokens of their affection. A man of his open and enthusiastic temperament would rejoice to find a Church to which he could unveil his heart without any doubts or misgivings.

The undertone of the Epistle is a deep, restrained joy. This springs partly from his unalloyed satisfaction in the Christians at Philippi. All that he has experienced at their hands, all that he has heard of them by report, calls forth from him nothing but thankfulness. Even any word of warning which he may feel to be needful is uttered with the most delicate courtesy and tact. But further, his mood at the time of writing is cheerful and bright. He is a prisoner, but, none the less, the work of Christ has richly prospered. He has discovered that it is altogether independent of the human agents employed. Hence, although enmity or opposition may silence the preacher, the Gospel has free course. It remains the power of God unto salvation. But the progress of events, also, has led him to believe that his work is not done. Things seem to be shaping towards his release. The clouds, indeed, have not wholly vanished. Therefore a dark shadow flits, for a moment, across the page. But hope returns, a hope not baseless, but resting on what he feels to be the mind of God. So his farewell greeting can utter itself in exulting strains: “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice”.

LITERATURE. (1) Earlier Commentaries. The most valuable are those of Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia (ed. H. B. Swete, Camb., 1880) and Theodoret; in the Reformation period, Calvin.

(2) Modern Works. Out of a large number which have been consulted we may mention Commentaries by Hoelemann (1839), Rilliet (1841), De Wette (ed. 2, 1847), Meyer (Engl. Tr.), Wiesinger (in Olshausen’s Com. , Engl. Tr.), B. Weiss (1859, most exhaustive), J. C. von Hofmann, Alford, Ellicott, Lightfoot, Eadie, Beet, Moule ( Cambr. Bible; Cambr. Gr. Test. ), A. H. Franke (Exodus 5:0 of Meyer, 1886), R. A. Lipsius (in Holtzmann’s Hand-Commentar , 1892, admirable for terse exposition), A. Klöpper (1893, thorough), Gwynn (in Speaker’s Com. , 1893), Wohlenberg (in Strack-Zoeckler’s Komm. , 1895), B. Weiss ( Die paulin. Briefe im berichtigten Text , 1896, brief notes), Vincent ( International Crit. Comm [14] , 1897), E. Haupt (Exodus 6:0 of Meyer, 1897, very suggestive), and K. J. Müller (Freib. i. Br., 1899).

[14] Commentators.

Of a more homiletic or practical character are the works of Braune (in Lange’s Bibelwerk ), Vaughan (1882) and Von Soden (1889, a model of its kind). To the same category belong Rainy’s exposition of the Epistle ( Expositor’s Bible , specially valuable on the theology), and Moule’s Philippian Studies (1897, devotional). Bengel’s Gnomon is always worth consulting.

Most valuable articles dealing with the Epistle are those of Holsten ( Jahrb. f. protestant. Theol. , 1875, 1876, see section on “Genuineness” in the Introduction supr. ), Zahn (Luthardt’s Zeitsch. f. kirchliche Wissensch. u. kirchl. Leben , 1885) and Henle ( Tübingen Quartal-Schrift , 1893). See also the articles quoted in the Introduction.

Useful dissertations are those of Schinz, Die christliche Gemeinde zu Philippi (Zürich, 1833), Mynster, Kleine theolog. Schriften , p. 169 ff., Rettig, Quaestiones Philippenses (Giessen, 1831), Laurent, Neutestamentliche Studien , and R. R. Smith, The Epistle of St. Paul’s First Trial (Cambr. 1899). For the literature on Philippians 2:6-11 see the notes ad loc. A good list of discussions against and in favour of the genuineness of the Epistle will be found in the Com. of Lipsius, pp. 211 212. A very full and interesting examination of all matters of Introduction is presented in Zahn’s Einleitung in d. N. T. , Bd. I., pp. 368 398.

On points of grammar and language, in addition to the ordinary grammatical works, frequent use has been made of Hatzidakis, Einleitung in d. Neugriechische Grammatik (Leipz., 1892), Viteau, Études sur le Grec du N. T. (I. Le Verbe ; II. Sujet, Complemént et Attribut ), 2 vols. (Paris, 1893, 1896), W. Schmid, Atticismus , 5 vols. (Stuttgart, 1887 1897), and especially G. A. Deissmann, Bibelstudien (Marburg, 1895) and Neue Bibelstudien (Marb., 1897).

Quotations from LXX follow Swete’s ed. For the critical notes, besides the great editions of the text, Weiss, Textkritik d. paulin. Briefe (Leipz., 1896), has been largely used.

The abbreviations used in the notes which may require explanation are:

al = Alford’s Greek Testament .

Alf. = Alford’s Greek Testament .

Chr. = Chrysostom.

Comm. = Commentators.

CT. = Cambridge Greek Testament .

Dsm. = Deissmann ( BS. = Bibelstudien, NBS [15] = Neue Bibelstudien ).

[15] Neue Bibelstudien

Edd. = Editors.

Ell. = Ellicott.

esp. = especially.

Gw. = Gwynn.

Hatz., Einl. = Hatzidakis, Einleitung in die Neugriech. Grammatik .

Hfm. = Hofmann.

Hltzm. = Holtzmann.

Hpt. = Haupt.

Inscrr. = Inscriptions.

Kl. = Klöpper.

Lft. = Lightfoot.

Lips. = Lipsius.

MT. = Moods and Tenses (Burton, Goodwin).

Myr. = Meyer.

Pfl. = Pfleiderer.

Phil. = Epistle to the Philippians.

SH. = Sanday and Headlam ( Romans ).

SK. = Studien und Kritiken .

Thdrt. = Theodoret.

Th. LZ. = Theologische Literaturzeitung .

Th. Mps. = Theodore of Mopsuestia.

TK. = Textkritik d. paulin. Briefe (Weiss).

W-M. = Moulton’s Ed. of Winer’s Grammar .

W-Sch. = Schmiedel’s Ed. of Winer.

Wohl. = Wohlenberg.

Ws. = Weiss.

Zw. Th. = Zeitschr. f. wissenschaftl. Theologie .

The recognised contractions have, as a rule, been used in the critical notes.