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Bible Commentaries

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker


- Philippians

by Joseph Parker


(Rome, a.d. 63)

[Note. "Assuming that the Epistle was written at Rome during the imprisonment mentioned in the last chapter of the Acts, it may be shown from a single fact that it could not have been written long before the end of the two years. The distress of the Philippians on account of Epaphroditus' sickness was known at Rome when the Epistle was written; this implies four journeys, separated by some indefinite intervals, to or from Philippi and Rome, between the commencement of St. Paul's captivity and the writing of the Epistle. The Philippians were informed of his imprisonment, sent Epaphroditus, were informed of their messenger's sickness, sent their message of condolence. Further, the absence of St. Luke's name from the salutations to a Church where he was well known, implies that he was absent from Rome when the Epistle was written: so does St. Paul's declaration, Philippians 2:20 , that no one who remained with him felt an equal interest with Timothy in the welfare of the Philippians. And, by comparing the mention of St. Luke in Colossians 4:14 , and Phm 1:24 with the abrupt conclusion of his narrative in the Acts, we are led to the inference that he left Rome after those two Epistles were written and before the end of the two years' captivity. Lastly, it is obvious from Philippians 1:20 , that St. Paul, when he wrote, felt his position to be very critical, and we know that it became more precarious as the two years drew to a close. In a.d. 62 the infamous Tigellinus succeeded Burrus, the upright Praetorian præfect, in the charge of St. Paul's person; and the marriage of Poppæa brought his imperial judge under an influence, which, if exerted, was hostile to St. Paul. Assuming that St. Paul's acquittal and release took place in 63, we may date the Epistle lo the Philippians early in that year.

"Strangely full of joy and thanksgiving amidst adversity, like the Apostle's midnight hymn from the depth of his Philippian dungeon, this Epistle went forth from his prison at Rome. In most other epistles he writes with a sustained effort to instruct, or with sorrow, or with indignation; he is striving to supplement imperfect, or to correct erroneous, teaching, to put down scandalous impurity, or to heal schism in the Church which he addresses. But in this Epistle, though he knew the Philippians intimately, and was not blind to the faults and tendencies to fault of some of them, yet he mentions no evil so characteristic of the whole Church as to call for general censure on his part, or amendment on theirs. Of all his Epistles to Churches, none has so little of an official character as this. He withholds his title of 'Apostle' in the Inscription. We lose sight of his high authority, and of the subordinate position of the worshippers by the river side; and we are admitted to see the free action of a heart glowing with inspired Christian love, and to hear the utterance of the highest friendship addressed to equal friends conscious of a connexion, which is not earthly and temporal, but in Christ, for eternity. Who that bears in mind the condition of St. Paul in his Roman prison can read unmoved of his continual prayers for his distant friends, his constant sense of their fellowship with him, his joyful remembrance of their past Christian course, his confidence in their future, his tender yearning after them all in Christ, his eagerness to communicate to them his own circumstances and feelings, his carefulness to prepare them to repel any evil from within or from without which might dim the brightness of their spiritual graces? Love, at once tender and watchful, that love which 'is of God,' is the keynote of this Epistle: and in this Epistle only we hear no undertone of any different feeling. Just enough, and no more, is shown of his own harassing trials to let us see how deep in his heart was the spring of that feeling, and how he was refreshed by its sweet and soothing flow." Smith's Dictionary of the Bible. ]