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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Philippians Epistle to the

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1. Author.-This document purports (1) to be a letter sent from St. Paul and Timothy to the Christian community in Philippi. Although Timothy is mentioned in the address as joint author, the letter throughout is St. Paul’s own. He commences at once in the 1st person singular-εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ μοῦ (Philippians 1:3)-and continues so throughout. When he does use the plural (1st person), it is not at all clear that he simply means Timothy and himself. Thus in Philippians 3:3 -ἡμεῖς γὰρ ἐσμεν ἡ περιτομή-the meaning seems to be that Christians are the real people of God. Zahn (Introd. to the NT, Eng. tr._, i. 538) opposes this view, maintaining that St. Paul and Timothy alone are meant, because they were circumcised; but his argument is forced and inconclusive. What St. Paul says is that ‘we who worship in the spirit of God and put no confidence in the flesh’ are the true circumcision, and this would apply to Pauline Christians generally, not simply to St. Paul and Timothy. Again, in Philippians 3:17, ‘Brethren, unitedly imitate me, and mark (approvingly) those so walking even as you have us as an example’ (καθὼς ἔχετε τύπον ἡμᾶς), other leaders are probably included as well as Timothy. And in Philippians 3:15; Philippians 3:20 f, Philippians 4:20, and in those passages of inferior MS_ authority where the 1st plur. occurs, e.g. Philippians 1:3 -ἐγὼ μὲν εὐχαριστῶ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν (a reading approved by Zahn, op. cit. i. 535, and by Haupt in Meyer’s Kommentar über das NT7, in loco, for different reasons)- Philippians 1:28-29 (ἡμῖν for ὑμῖν), the reference is general. Not even in Philippians 4:21, the final salutation, where one might naturally expect it, is Timothy mentioned. Moreover, he is spoken of in the 3rd person, and his character and intentions are described quite objectively (Philippians 2:19-23): ‘But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy speedily to you, that I may be encouraged, when I come to know your affairs. For I have none like-minded with him, who will genuinely concern himself about your affairs. For all seek their own, not the things of Christ Jesus. But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with a father, he served with me in spreading the gospel. Him then I hope to send at once, whenever I come to know how my affairs turn out.’

The letter, then, on its face value is St. Paul’s own, nor is there any reason for exercising false subtlety to account for the presence of Timothy’s name in the address. His presence with St. Paul at the time of writing, and especially his intimate relations with the Philippians in the past, and his coming visit are a sufficient explanation. (Timothy was with St. Paul at the founding of the Church [Acts 16:12 ff.]. When St. Paul left, he seems to have stayed behind. He was sent to Corinth through Macedonia [Acts 19:22, 1 Corinthians 16:10]. When 2 Cor. was written, he was again with St. Paul in Macedonia.) Nor is there any reason to doubt the genuineness of the letter because of St. Paul’s use of the 1st person singular throughout in spite of Timothy’s name at the beginning (as W. C. van Manen, EBi_ iii. 3705). In Colossians 1:3, 1 Thessalonians 1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:3, and 2 Corinthians 1:5 the joint authorship is indeed remembered, but we have a parallel in 1 Corinthians 1:4, where it is at once forgotten, as here.

Besides Timothy, St. Paul associates with himself in the closing salutation the brethren, οἱ σὺν ἐμοὶ ἀδελφοί (Philippians 4:22). Who these were we are not told, but they can have had no part in the composing of the letter, as they are evidently those referred to in Philippians 2:21 and accused of selfishness. Their own interests came before the interests of the Philippian Church, to which St. Paul probably asked them to convey authoritative tidings of himself. Nor would the saints as a whole (i.e. the Christians generally, but especially those of Caesar’s household) know anything of the letter save that it was being sent. The saints of Caesar’s household were not members of the ruling family but freedom and slaves connected with the imperial court (cf. Lightfoot, Philippians, p. 171 f.; Zahn, op. cit. i. 550).

It is possible that the letter was written by Epaphroditus (that Epaphroditus is mentioned in the 3rd person is no absolute objection to this) if the phrase ‘true yokefellow’ (γνήσιε σύνζυγε, Philippians 4:3) is to be taken as an appellative. The meaning is, however, very doubtful, and the most varied suggestions have been made-Christ, Lydia, Paul’s wife, Timothy, Peter, Paul’s brother, an allegorical personage, etc. Lightfoot (in loc.) and Zahn (op. cit. i. 537) are of the opinion that Epaphroditus, who was either beside St. Paul as he wrote or who actually wrote the letter, was directly addressed in this way. This Epaphroditus was a messenger (ἀπόστολος) sent by the Philippian Church to St. Paul with a monetary gift (Philippians 4:18), and his experience is described in the letter: ‘I think it needful to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow-worker and fellow-soldier, your messenger and minister of my need. For he was home-sick for you all, and distressed because you heard he was ill. And indeed he was nigh to death; but God had pity on him, and not on him alone but also on me, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am sending him then all the more eagerly, that you may rejoice again when you see him, and that I may sorrow the less. Receive him then in the Lord with all joy; and have such in honour, because on account of the work of Christ he came near to death, hazarding (παραβολευσάμενος)_ his life to make up what was wanting in your ministry to me’ (Philippians 2:25-30).

But it is perhaps better to regard Synzygus as a proper name-possibly the person to whom the letter would directly come before it was read in the church assembly. The author, in a passage full of earnest passion, runs hurriedly over certain autobiographical details. He was of true Hebrew descent-circumcised on the eighth day, of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, as regards the Law a Pharisee, as regards zeal persecuting the Church, with a clean record as far as Law-righteousness went. But all these privileges he considered loss and still so considers them for Christ’s sake. To knew Christ (perhaps γνῶσις is here used as being admitted to His intimate friendship; cf. σεβαστόγνωστης; Deissmann, Licht vom Osten, p. 288, Eng. tr._, p. 383), to gain Him, to be found in Him, that is worth all, and the rest is worth nothing in comparison with it. Earthly fortune, future, and fame are but stable-sweepings compared with this (Ramsay says Paul gave up literally his patrimony and was disowned, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, London, 1895, p. 34 ff.). For by faith in Christ the writer has been pardoned and empowered to live a new righteous life-the very thing the Law could not do. Thus the power which animated Christ in His resurrection, in His life and Passion, in His death is working in St. Paul, and St. Paul is energizing to live in the absolute newness of life that this implies. Absolute attainment is not yet his, but it is his single aim. Whatever his past progress may have been, he is not contented with that. Past attainment is not perfection, but it brings nearer the realization of what is implied in the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:4-14).

Here then is a letter purporting to be from one with such a history who specially associates Timothy with himself, who sends greetings from brethren, especially those of Caesar’s household with whom was Epaphroditus, to a Christian community in Philippi. Does a careful study of the letter itself substantiate such a view? Is there anything in the letter itself (as Baur and others think) inconsistent with its own account of its origin and authorship?

Before we can answer we must ask who were the recipients and what were their relations with the writer.

2. The recipients of the letter.-The letter is written to all the saints in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons (Philippians 1:1). Throughout the letter, however, there is no further mention of officials; and there is a remarkable impartiality as well as cordiality towards the members of the community as a whole (cf. the use of πᾶς, Philippians 1:1; Philippians 1:4; Philippians 1:7-8; Philippians 1:25, Philippians 2:17; Philippians 2:26, Philippians 4:21). We have an account by an eye-witness in Acts 16:12-40 of the founding of the Philippian Church-a Church interesting to us as being the first Christian community on European soil. It is, however, to be remembered that the distinction between Europe and Asia was not anything like so real to men in ancient times as it is now. Dubiety is at once raised by the mention of ‘bishops and deacons,’ but this is largely due to modern associations. We think of these words in their modem sense or in their 3rd cent. sense. That they are not so used here is evident from the fact that what we have is ‘bishops,’ not ‘bishop.’ That the author of the letter is not advocating any special ecclesiastical organization is evident from the casualness of the reference, and from the absence of any further allusion to those officials. It may be taken for granted that every church would have an organization of some sort. It was not easy-perhaps not possible-for the individual Christian to maintain his position without the social strength of his brethren behind him. Is it possible, then, to think of two orders in a church like that of Philippi, in the lifetime of St. Paul? There were officers in the Thessalonian Church called οἱ κοπιῶντες, οἱ προϊστάμενοι, οἱ νουθετοῦντες (1 Thessalonians 5:12), but it is clear that their authority was a moral one, and their position due to their spiritual influence. The terms used evidently describe the same persons from different points of view. Haupt regards both terms in our letter as applied to the same persons, but it is probable that two orders are in view.

Elsewhere (Acts 20:2 ff.) we understand that the essential constituted officials were πρεσβύτεροι, and that these were also known as ‘bishops.’ They formed the essence of church government.

From the Pastorals also it is clear that πρεσβύτεροι and ἐπίσκοποι are interchangeable terms (Titus 1:5 ff., 1 Timothy 3:1-2). With the alterations in later times in the usage of these terms we are not concerned; only with this, that there seems no ground for suspicion as regards their occurrence here. It is certainly preferable to regard them as interpolations than to reject the whole letter as spurious, but it is not necessary to do this if the terms are dissociated from later associations. As we shall see, one main cause of writing the letter was to thank the Philippians for monetary help, and it is not inappropriate to regard these persons as being instrumental in the collecting and dispatching of this money.

Certain individuals are mentioned by name, especially two women-Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2-3). ‘Euodia I beseech, and Syntyche I beseech that they show practical agreement in the Lord.’ It is surely the reductio ad ridiculum of criticism to find here, under assumed names, subtle references to church parties. Zahn gives an account of the subtle hidden meanings found in these names (now proved to be so common, although not yet attested for Philippi) by Schwegler, Baur, Hitzig, and Holsten, and calls them ‘fantastic conceits’ (op. cit. i. 561 f.). This is now the unanimous opinion, so that one need not further dwell on it. What we have to do with is a quarrel between two women, the origin or extent of which we know not (although it cannot have been serious). A certain person (Synzygus) is asked to help in their reconciliation: ‘I would request you (ἐρωτῶ), genuine Synzygus (or yoke-fellow), help those women, inasmuch as they laboured with me in the gospel and with Clement and other fellow-labourers of mine whose names are in the book of life’ (Philippians 4:2-4). There is some doubt as to the interpretation of the passage. Some take the writer to mean that Clement and his fellows should help in settling this difference (Lightfoot, Zahn); others-and this seems the only feasible view-that the women laboured with the apostles and with Clement. Indeed, from the tone of the passage one would naturally conclude that Clement was already dead. To identify this Clement with Clement of Rome on the ground that no other of that name is known to us from either history or legend (Baur, Paul, Eng. tr._ 2, 2 vols., London, 1873-75, pp. 63, 77), is foolish, as the name Clement seems to have been common (cf. Zahn, op. cit. i. 534). Moreover, this Clement is a Philippian, not a Roman. That women should have a conspicuous place in the Philippian Church agrees with Acts 16, and, indeed, as Lightfoot points out (Philippians, p. 56), with the conditions in Macedonia generally. Various attempts have been made to identify one or other of these women with Lydia, on the ground that Lydia is not a proper name but simply moans ‘the Lydian lady’; but there is no certainty in the results. It is certainly curious that neither Lydia nor the jailer is mentioned, but the omission of their names is no ground for identifying the one with Euodia or Syntyche or the other with Clement. It seems a strong proof of authenticity rather than the reverse.

The only other person mentioned in the letter as belonging to Philippi is Epaphroditus (see above). He is, however, with the writer at the time of writing, preparing to go back after having delivered their gift to St. Paul: ‘I am filled, having received from Epaphroditus the things that come from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God’ (Philippians 4:18).

That St. Paul should have written to Philippi is a priori very probable. Is there any reason to reject our present letter, then, as an authentic communication by the Apostle to this church? It is extremely difficult to see anything in this artless affectionate letter which raises any suspicion, and the onus probandi lying on him who would reject it owing to difficulties which may reasonably be explained otherwise is very great.

3. Purpose of the letter.-As Edith Bellenden’s letter revealed its purpose in a postscript (see Scott, Old Mortality), so this letter also. The Philippians had sent monetary help by Epaphroditus, and St. Paul hereby acknowledges receipt of it (ἀπέχω [πάντα], a terminus technicus, as is now abundantly proved) (Deissmann, Neue Bibelstudien, Marburg, 1897, p. 56, Eng. tr._, Bible Studies, Edinburgh, 1901, p. 229, Licht vom Osten, p. 77 f., Eng. tr._, p. 110 f.; see also Exp_, 7th ser., vi. [1908] 91). The language of the whole passage is full of half-humorous allusions to a financial transaction. He tells them how he is filled with Christian joy because of the proof it furnished him of the revival of their interest in him. They had, indeed, always thought about him (that he knew), but they lacked opportunity (very probably owing to poverty; cf. Philippians 1:9-11, where possibly he expects that by a more enlightened ἀγάπη on their part this may be avoided in the future). His joy is not that of one whose material necessities have for the moment been relieved. The fact is that he has learned the true secret of contentment (αὐτάρκεια), and is able to endure any material situation. He can do this not in his own strength but in the strength of Him in whom is his life (cf. ἐμοὶ γὰρ τὸ ζῆν Χριστός) and the source of his energy. Nevertheless, he feels keenly the transparent goodness of their succour when thus they shared in his affliction. It is, indeed, what was to be expected of them, in view of their past liberality. For he is glad to recall that at the very beginning of his European mission they opened, as it were, a bank account with him-even sending twice help to him while he was yet in Thessalonica, and, besides, when he had left Macedonia they regularly contributed to his support (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:8-9). It is not the present gift itself, qua gift, that pleases him, but the spiritual reality it represents. It shows him that they feel their indebtedness to him. As he gave them spiritual riches, so they give him material help. His God is thus become their banker, and He pays large interest, now and especially hereafter, when Christ through whom His riches are mediated appears in glory. Their gift then-as an exhibition of their spiritual gratitude for His unspeakable gift (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:15)-is a sweet-smelling savour and an acceptable and well-pleasing sacrifice to God (Philippians 4:10-20).

Now that Epaphroditus has sufficiently recovered and is about to return to them, St. Paul thus acknowledges their generosity. He takes advantage of his intended departure to dispatch this letter (cf. Cic. ad Atticum, I. ix. 1). It may seem strange thus to postpone mention of their gift if this be the main object of sending the letter, but there are references in the very beginning also when the Apostle thanks God for their κοινωνία in the furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now (cf. Philippians 4:15, ‘in the beginning of the gospel’); and for this very reason he feels convinced that God will carry on in them the good work till Christ’s day and complete it. Their spiritual condition, as evidenced by their liberality, is a proof that the perseverance of the saints shall be effective in them.

He cannot otherwise regard them-his affections being witness-for, indeed, they are fellow-participators with him in grace because thus they have shown their identity with him both in his chains and in his defence and confirmation of the gospel. What more graceful reference could be made than this, and what more spiritual inferences drawn from Christian liberality?

Besides, there is the reference to their offering in Philippians 2:25 (ὑμῶν δὲ ἀπόστολον καὶ λειτουργὸν τῆς χρείας μου).

There are, however, other objects for the letter as well as this main one. For one thing, the Philippians had heard of the sickness of Epaphroditus and were anxious about him (Philippians 2:26), and the Apostle tenderly refers to him and commends him to them, in view of his return, for his work’s sake. Epaphroditus was evidently sent by the Philippians in order to stay with St. Paul and minister to him, and his return home so soon needed explanation, perhaps apology, and the Apostle does this in graceful and affectionate language. How he came to know of their feelings as regards Epaphroditus we are not told, but it is natural to infer that they had meanwhile written to him about this and other matters as well. Indeed, the letter becomes much more intelligible when we regard it as answering questions and meeting a situation unfolded in an actual correspondence of recent date from Philippi, which was before the Apostle as he wrote, and which may well have conditioned the order of his topics. (That such communications took place is self-evident. He would surely have acknowledged their previous gifts, and these would be accompanied by writing.) There is some ground, indeed, for explaining the difficult passage (Philippians 3:1) as referring to a letter written shortly before this by the Apostle to them. At any rate, to explain the τὰ αὐτά from the contents of the letter itself is not easy, and the reference to other communications is a feasible one. Zahn has used this clue in the interpretation of the letter (cf. also W. Lock, Exp_, 5th ser., vi. [1897] 65 ff.; and especially J. Rendel Harris, ib., 5th ser., viii. [1898] 161 ff.).

It is clear that the Philippians were inclined to take a pessimistic view of the effect of St. Paul’s imprisonment and situation in general on the cause of the gospel. The statement in Philippians 1:12 ff. is a correction of this, and we may well explain the repeated injunctions to joy as proof that they were apt to be dispirited owing to the seeming failure of the Apostle’s missionary activity.

Perhaps also they needed to be told that their gifts were thoroughly appreciated by the Apostle, and that there was no feeling of disappointment in his mind in regard to the tardiness or smallness of their liberality. ‘The Philippians must recently have expressed their dissatisfaction with what they had done to support Paul and his work, and their doubt as to whether Paul had been satisfied with the same. The tone in which Paul speaks of the matter throughout the letter (Philippians 2:17; Philippians 2:25; Philippians 2:30, Philippians 4:10-20) is natural only on the supposition that this feeling had been very strongly expressed, and the Church had lamented and apologised for the smallness and tardiness of their last remittance’ (Zahn, op. cit. i. 527).

St. Paul also is anxious to tell of his intention to visit them (Philippians 2:24, πέποιθα δὲ ἐν κυρίῳ ὅτι καὶ αὐτὸς ταχέως ἐλεύσομαι) and to assure them that their prayers help to this end. It is possible that they spoke of him in their letter as their καύχημα (Philippians 1:26; cf. Rendel Harris, Exp_, 5th ser., viii. 178). The sharp change of tone in Philippians 3:2 may also be due to a fear expressed by the Philippians of a possible Judaistic propaganda among them. It may, however, be quite well explained out of St. Paul’s own experience.

Besides all this, there are the differences of opinion in the Church itself and the consequent reiterated charges to present a united front to the enemy, and as in all his letters there are the Christian moral injunctions based on the great Christian verities. It is not difficult thus to get a pretty clear conception of the purposes and aims of the writer in this Epistle, nor can it be held that there is anything in this incompatible with the Pauline authorship. What one has to fear in interpretation is over-subtlety and the tendency to forget that the canons of criticism that apply to a modern theological treatise are not applicable to an informal letter which its author never intended as a κτῆμα ἐς ἀεί.

4. Genuineness

(a) External evidence.-So much attention is given by recent critics to internal evidence that the external is apt to be undervalued or overlooked, although it is as strong as one can reasonably expect. The first unmistakable reference of a direct kind to St. Paul’s Epistle is found in Polycarp’s letter to the same church (ad Phil. iii. 2):

‘For neither I nor anyone else like me can attain to the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul, who while he was among you taught those then living the words of truth accurately and vigorously, who also in his absence wrote letters to you’ (ὃς καὶ ἁπὼν ὑμῖν ἔγραψεν ἐπιστολός).

That our letter is referred to here seems clear. Indeed, it is evident that Polycarp knew it well, as there are distinct echoes of it in his short epistle (cf. ad Phil. i. 1=Philippians 2:17; Philippians 4:10; ii. 1=Philippians 2:10, Philippians 3:21; ix. 2=Philippians 2:16 [or Galatians 2:2]; x. 1=Philippians 2:2-5; xii. 3=Philippians 3:18). The difficulty is to account for the plural ‘letters.’ It is sometimes explained as if it were simply equivalent to the singular (cf. examples in Lightfoot, Philippians, p. 140 ff.). Others, however, point out that Polycarp appreciates the difference between the singular and the plural in this epistle (cf. xiii. 2), and that we must here understand a real plural. Zahn (op. cit. i. 536) and others accordingly explain it on the supposition that 1 and 2 These. and Philippians formed a Macedonian group, and Zahn shows that Tertullian so regarded them (Scorp. 13), and probably Polycarp himself (xi. 3); cf. also Harnack, TU_, new ser., Philippians 3:3 [1900] 86 f. It may be said, however, that a later tradition supports the theory of more letters than one (cf. Georgius Syncellus, who quotes Philippians 4:3 as occurring in St. Paul’s first letter [Chronographia, i. 651]; cf. also Studia Sinaitica, ed. A. S. Lewis, i. [Cambridge, 1894] 11 ff., for the mention of a Second Epistle in the Syrian Canon, c._ a.d. 400). As we shall see later on, this is used freely to support modern theories of fusion in our extant Epistle, but it remains to be proved on its own merits that the present Epistle contains two or more letters joined together; for there is every likelihood that many letters written by St. Paul are now lost, and possibly among them one or more to Philippi. It is, however, problematical if lost letters are here referred to, as it is quite possible to explain the plural otherwise, and it is not likely that if more letters than one existed in Polycarp’s time they would have been lost afterwards.

The statement in ad Phil. xi. 3-‘qui estis in principio epistolae eius’-is difficult. Some supply ‘laudati’ (‘you who are praised’) in the beginning of his letter. Others, however, say the text is meaningless (sinnlos) (cf. E. Hennecke, Handbuch zu den neutest. Apokryphen, Tübingen, 1904, p. 103), and translate ‘in the beginning of his gospel [cf. Philippians 4:15] or his mission,’ ἀποστολῆς (E. Nestle acc. to Zahn, op. cit. i. 536). Others again, referring to 2 Corinthians 3:2-3, make ‘epistolae’ plural, ‘Yon who are his epistles.’ The latter is not likely. There can be no doubt, however, that Polycarp (c._ 125-130] knew our letter, although it is doubtful if he knew of more than one. It is also quoted in his Martyrdom, i. 2 (= Philippians 2:4).

There is also cumulative evidence that both Ignatius and Clement of Rome were acquainted with our letter (see Lightfoot, Philippians, p. 75 f.). It is quoted by Eusebius (HE_ v. ii. 2) in the Epistle from Lyons and Vienne. According to Clem. Alex. and Hippolytus it was recognized by the heretical Valentians and Sethites who quoted Philippians 2:6, the latter to prove their own doctrine. The Apologists recognize it (Epistle to Diognetus, Philippians 2:9 = Philippians 3:20 and elsewhere), and it is found in all the 2nd cent. canons as well as in the Apostolicum of Marcion. Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Origen also recognize it. The fact is, the genuineness of the letter was never questioned till within recent times, and that solely on internal grounds (see Vincent, ICC_, ‘Philippians and Philemon,’ Introd.; C. R. Gregory, Canon and Text of the NT, Edinburgh, 1907, and, indeed, all books on the Canon of Scripture).

(b) Internal evidence.-It is impossible and fortunately unnecessary to review in detail the various arguments that have been brought against the authenticity of the Epistle to the Philippians since F. C. Baur (Paul, Eng. tr._ 2, ii. 45-79). Perhaps the three most formidable opponents are Baur himself, Holsten, and van Manen. Baur laid special stress on Gnostic affinities, especially in Philippians 2:6 ff. According to him, the writer knew the theories concerning the aeon Sophia, its bold actus rapiendi to gain an equality with the All-Father and its consequent degradation into the region of darkness and emptiness (ἐν σκιαῖς καὶ κενώματος τόποις). The occurrence of words like μόρφωσις and κένωμα (not ἁρπαγμός) lends colour to this view, and the Gnostic descent into hell was, it is held, well known to the writer. The whole passage is thus explicable only on the supposition ‘that the writer’s mind was filled with certain Gnostic ideas current at the time’ (Eng. tr._ 2, vol. ii. p. 46). The writer was not, of course, advocating these ideas, but they were employed by him with the necessary modifications for his own purpose. O. Pfleiderer still holds to this view (Das Urchristentum, Berlin, 1887, p. 320 f.), although he believes in the genuineness of the letter, and so is compelled to regard the passage as interpolated (ib. p. 153). It was, however, given up by Holsten, and van Manen (EBi_, art._ ‘Philippians [Epistles]’) does not refer to it.

More recently attempts have been made to trace the genesis of the conceptions used in the passage to primitive apocalyptic traditions (see W. Bousset, Hauptprobleme der Gnosis, Göttingen, 1907) of an ἀρχάνθρωπος, or Urmensch, pre-existent in the highest heaven, who descended to the lowest, such a view for instance as is given in the Ascensio Isaiae, x. 29 f. Isaiah hears God telling His Son to descent into the world, and the stages of this descent through the heavens are given. In the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs we have phrases which readily suggest affinity with Philippians 2:6 ff. (cf. Benj. x. 7: ‘worshipping the king of the heavens who appeared on earth, ἐν μορφῇ ἀνθρώπου; Zeb. ix. 8: ἐν σχήματι ἀνθρώπου). These, however, are probably borrowed from Christian traditions. It is well known that Philo had the conception of an ideal man (de Conf. Ling., ed. Mangey, i. 411), and that there are vague indefinite references in Enoch (Simile), Psalms of Solomon, Apocalypse of Baruch, etc.

Moffatt quotes (LNT_, p. 172) from Poimandres (after Reitzenstein) the description of this Original Man: ἀθάνατος ὣν καὶ πάντων τὴν ἐξουσίαν ἔχων τὰ θνητοῦ πάσχει ὑποκείμενος τῇ εἱμαρμένῃ· ὑπεράνω γὰρ ὢν τῆς ἁρμονίας ἐναρμόνιος γέγονε δοῦλος.

Holsten was greatly concerned with the representation of Christ in Philippians because it contradicted the ‘heavenly man’ view of Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15. But it is clear, on a careful examination of these passages, that what St. Paul has in mind is the contrast between the glorified pneumatic body of the Redeemer and the earthly bodies of His people. Holsten is right, however, in maintaining that in Philippians what we have is not a Christ originally man-but a Divine Being, and a Divine Being showing His Divinity in becoming man and in the energy of His exalted power. It is extremely doubtful if St. Paul has in his writings at all the conception of a pre-existent man either ideal or actual (see H. A. A. Kennedy, Exp_, 8th ser., vii. [1914] 97 ff.). The danger in these researches into origins is to conclude that vague hints in popular traditions suggest to St. Paul the facts. The facts were prior and creative, causes not effects. They were not suggested by his early acquaintance with a Rabbinic doctrine of a Heavenly Man.

Whatever the affinities or affiliations with vague traditions may be-whether he has Adam, Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12-15) or an ἀρχάνθρωπος in mind is very uncertain; what is certain is that Christ’s life on earth and St. Paul’s own experience of His exalted power necessarily suggest to him these transcendent views of His worth (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9, and especially Col.).

The attempts of Baur to find in the γνήσιε σύνζυγε (Philippians 4:3) a mediator of the two extreme parties in early Christianity and the identification of the Clement of our Epistle with Clemens Romanus and T. Flavius Clemens need not be further commented on (see above). Objections also to our Epistle on the ground of what Baur calls ‘the questionableness of some of the historical data’-viz. the references to the Praetorium and the saints of Caesar’s household-are due to an inadequate exegesis, and Baur himself readily admits their credibility were it not for his theory of a conflict of parties in the early Church. Besides, the mention of bishops and deacons (Philippians 1:1) lends no support to the theory of false historical references when one remembers that bishops are just the presbyters found in all churches, and the deacons servants of the Christian community under them. We are not to think of these officers as sacramentally mediating grace, but as spiritually guiding the community. One feels that the objections to such terms are to a large extent exhibitions of annoyance at our own ignorance of 1st cent. conditions, and are largely biased by modern associations.

The objections on the score of doctrinal divergences from the Hauptbriefe are forcibly set forth by Holsten (as also by Baur) and van Manen. It is said that the Epistle is vague and nebulous, that it lacks any leading idea, that it is characterized by monotonous repetition, by lack of profound connexion of ideas, and by poverty of thought, of which the author himself is conscious when he writes Philippians 3:1. St. Paul is said here also to show a desire for self-glorification (Philippians 3:4-17); his acknowledgment of the Philippians’ gift is lacking in grace; his acceptance of it is contrary to his statement in 1 Corinthians 9:12 ff.; he shows uncertainty as to his future, even expressing doubt as to his participation in the resurrection (Philippians 3:11). His views of justification, perfection, and the Parousia are not what we would expect from the genuine St. Paul. He imitates freely and skilfully, especially 2 Cor. and Rom.; but, like all imitators, wrongly (cf. his use of ἐπιχορηγία τοῦ ΙΙνεύματος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, Philippians 1:19). His attitude of rejoicing in the preaching of those who preach Christ in pretence is wholly unlike the real St. Paul. Holsten collects words used which are un-Pauline and anti-Pauline as well as non-Pauline. The autobiographical section is based on 2 Corinthians 11:13 ff. In short, whatever agrees with the Hauptbriefe is imitated, and whatever does not is invented. This kind of criticism looks too much like the story of the wolf and the lamb to carry conviction save by opposition. Let any one read van Manen’s column (EBi_ iii. 3709) as to the views of the writer of Philippians concerning Christ, arranged by the critic to convince us that they could not have been held by St. Paul, and one feels at once that if these were not St. Paul’s views we simply know not what they were.

Van Manen feels it necessary to defend the writer from the charge of fraudulency, declaring that he wrote more from modesty than from arrogance. His very defence shows the uneasiness of his conscience. There are difficulties in the Epistle to the Philippians, but they are not difficulties like the above. One of these-perhaps the must serious-is the change of tone in Philippians 3:1 ff.; and the unsatisfactoriness of the various attempts to explain the γράφειν τὰ αὐτά reveals the difficulty and has given rise to various theories as to the integrity of the letter itself-all more or less motived by this so-called chasm. Many feel as if here two distinct strata appear; and, although it is not possible to say definitely where the second ends, it is, they say, clear that it begins here. This leads us to consider various theories regarding the integrity of the letter.

5. Integrity.-Various attempts since Heinrichs (1810) and Paulus (1799) have been made to find in our Epistle two or more letters fused together. The suggestion was first put forward in 1685 by S. le Moyne (Moine or Mayne), in Varia Sacra, ii. 332 ff., and it is the view (in varying forms) favoured still by many critics (cf. Bacon, The Story of St. Paul, London, 1905, p. 367 f.; and Kirsopp Lake, Exp_, 8th ser., vii. [1914] 487 f.). There is, however, little unanimity as to what portions make up the different letters, or, indeed, how many letters are incorporated in the single canonical Epistle (J. E. Symes, Interpreter, x. 2 [1914] gives five). The view of Heinrichs is that Philippians 3:1 to Philippians 4:19 is an interpolated communication addressed to the leaders of the Philippian Church, and that Philippians 1:1 to Philippians 2:30, Philippians 4:21-23 was a letter to the church as a whole. It is difficult to reconcile this view with Philippians 4:10 where the whole church is addressed and where the tone of rejoicing is again heard. Accordingly, Kirsopp Lake adopts the theory that the interpolated letter stops at Philippians 4:3. Both are genuinely Pauline letters. A simpler view is that we have two letters, chs. 1 and 2 forming the first (but in time the second), and 3 and 4 forming the second-in point of time the first (Hausrath, Paulus, Heidelberg, 1865, p. 486 ff.; cf. also Bacon, op. cit. It may be objected to this view that neither of these sections is a complete letter in itself, and also that we have no clear mention of their gift in the first one save the allusion in Philippians 2:25, for although the Apostle speaks of their ‘fellowship’ yet this is too indefinite in itself to be a thanksgiving for their contribution. Besides, it is doubtful if it really explains anything, although it creates fresh difficulties. It is meant to free us of Philippians 3:1 ff., as indeed all such theories are, but with little success. It is surely not necessary to see any contradiction in what is said in Philippians 2:21 regarding the brethren with St. Paul and what is said in Philippians 1:14, nor to equate those spoken of in ch. 3 with those referred to in Philippians 1:18 (so also Moffatt, LNT_, p. 175). The view elaborated by D. Völter (Theol. Tijdschrift, 1892, pp. 10-14, 117-146) and others as to various interpolations is also due to a large extent to the difficulty of explaining the τὰ αὐτά of ch. 3 and its different tone, as is also Ewald’s view that St. Paul wrote first chs. 1 and 2, and then after an interruption the remainder, possibly in two postscripts. This is in itself quite conceivable and less violent than the other theories of a similar kind.

Is there any external ground for holding to the theory of a double letter? We have already discussed the evidence in Polycarp (see above), of which so much is made, and have come to the conclusion that nothing definite can be found there to substantiate a double letter. Nor is the comparison with 2 Corinthians 10-13 wholly convincing. There is nothing a priori improbable in the idea that St. Paul wrote more letters than one to Philippi; indeed, there is every reason to suppose this to have been the case, yet it goes no way towards proving that we have these communications fused together in our extant Epistle. If this theory can be established, it must be established on other grounds, and it must satisfy the facts better than the one-letter theory. The chief difficulty is to explain the τὰ αὐτὰ γράφειν. Does this refer to the contents of the letter itself, or to some special prominent thought in it? Some find this leading idea to be ‘rejoicing.’ This is Baur’s idea: ‘The τὰ αὐτὰ γράφειν refers to nothing but the χαίρετε ἐν Κυρίῳ, that is, to the contents of the Epistle generally, for the key-note and the leading thought of it are expressed in this constantly recurring χαίρετε’ (Paul, Eng. tr._2, vol. ii. p. 70). But it cannot be said that this is convincing although it is the most natural thought that one would gather from the words. The idea occurs often in the letter (Philippians 1:18; Philippians 2:17-18; Philippians 2:28; Philippians 3:1; Philippians 4:4; Philippians 4:10; also Philippians 1:4; Philippians 1:25, Philippians 2:2; Philippians 2:29, Philippians 4:1), but why should there be special safety in repeating it?

Others say that the reference is to the dangers of dissensions already present in the Church at Philippi (Philippians 1:27, Philippians 2:2-4) (Lightfoot), and this agrees with the passage following, although the language (ὀκνηρόν, ἀσφαλές) is very strong considering the vagueness of the allusions to these previous dissensions. Some critics find the idea referred to in δικαιοσύνη, or in ταπεινοφροσύνη (so Maurice Jones, Exp_, 8th ser., viii. [1914] 471), but both these suggestions are far from self-evident. The idea that perhaps St. Paul was referring to previous written communications accordingly suggests itself, and perhaps satisfies the conditions better, or the similar idea that he was interrupted, and that in the meantime he had received disconcerting news of probable Jewish aggressiveness in Philippi. It may however, be explained on subjective grounds. If St. Paul himself was at this point suddenly arrested by the experience of Jewish fanaticism towards himself, it might very well occasion this outburst, which is undoubtedly characteristic of the Apostle, although it is difficult to account for τὰ αὐτά on such a view.

At any rate there is not here sufficient ground either for eliminating Philippians 3:1 or, what is worse, discrediting the unity of the letter itself. This unity is apparent in spite of the admitted difficulty; and no one has recognized it more clearly than van Manen: ‘The epistle as a whole does not present the appearance of patchwork. Rather does it show unity of form: we find a letter with a regular beginning and ending (Philippians 1:1 f., Philippians 4:20-23); a thanksgiving at the outset for the many excellences of the persons addressed (Philippians 1:3-11; cf. Romans 1:8-12, 1 Corinthians 1:4-9), notwithstanding the sharp rebukes that are to be administered later; personalia; exhortations relating to the ethical and religious life; all mingled together yet not without regard to a certain order. Here and there some things may be admitted to interrupt the steady flow of the discourse; Philippians 3:1 or Philippians 3:1 b raises the conjecture of a new beginning; the “things” spoken of here are not different from those which we meet with elsewhere in other Pauline Epistles-even in Romans , 1 and 2 Cor., Gal. There also, just as here, we repeatedly hear a change of tone, and are conscious of what seems to be a change of spirit. Yet even apart from this, to lay too great stress upon the spiritual mood which expresses itself in Philippians 3:2-6, as contrasted with that of Philippians 1:3-11, or, on the whole, of 1-2, would, be to forget what we can read in Philippians 1:15-17, Philippians 2:21 and the calm composure shown in 3f.’ (EBi_ iii. 3708). What one has to remember is that in real letters we must expect such sudden changes. A recent editor (J. D. Duff) of Pliny’s Letters (bk. vi., London, 1906, Introd. p. xix) says: ‘… these letters [i.e. Pliny’s] are not genuine letters in the sense that they were not written merely for the information or pleasure of the person addressed but mainly with an eye to future publication. If they are compared with genuine letters such as Cicero’s the difference is at once apparent. Pliny never repeats himself, never sends news which has to be corrected in a later letter, never betrays a sign of real excitement or depression. He never jumps from one subject to another, and then back again as everyone does in a natural letter to a friend.… Few people are so fortunate in their surroundings that their letters to intimate friends contain nothing but praise of the persons mentioned’ (cf. Philippians 2:21). If these be the criteria of a real letter, they are all present in this one-repetitions, excitement, depression, jumps from one subject to another, and possibly expectations that were not fulfilled.

The τὰ αὐτὰ γράφειν is not explained by fusion, for it is even more probable that a redactor would see the break sooner than St. Paul himself would. We must either hold that the reference is to earlier communications which have been lost, or, to explain it of our present letter, admit that we cannot be sure what exactly in it is spoken of, recognizing, however, that the change of tone is quite in the manner of St. Paul. The double τὸ λοιπόν (Philippians 3:1 and Philippians 4:8) might lend colour to the view of amalgamation, but it is possible that with St. Paul it is not very much stronger than οὖν (cf. Kennedy, EGT_, ‘Philippians,’ in locis, and G. Milligan, Thessalonians, London, 1908, on 1 Thessalonians 4:1). At any rate in a letter one is not astonished to find such usages. There is nothing in the style either to suggest spuriousness or fusion. It is simple and artless, rising at times to a rhythmical height. This is clearly seen in Philippians 2:6 ff. and also in Philippians 4:11-13 (cf. J. Weiss, Beiträge zur paulin. Rhetorik, Göttingen, 1897, pp. 28, 29). One can naturally explain this as due to emotion such as even an ordinary preacher often feels and which produces a rhythmic poetic style. Philippians 3:1 b is an iambic trimeter, ἐμοὶ μὲν οὐκ όκνηρόν, ὑμῖν δὲ ἀσφαλές-possibly a quotation, more probably due to accident and unconscious. Baur has noticed the repetition of the same word (Philippians 1:9; Philippians 1:18; Philippians 1:25, Philippians 2:17-18; Philippians 2:27, Philippians 3:2, Philippians 4:2; Philippians 4:17) and the use of synonyms (Philippians 1:20, Philippians 2:1-2; Philippians 2:16; Philippians 2:25).

Certain words occurring nowhere else in St. Paul are suggestive, as ἀρετή, Philippians 4:8; προκοπή, Philippians 1:12; προσφιλῆ and σεμνά (only in Pastorals) as well as unusual combinations of common words, e.g. θλίψιν ἐγείρειν, ἐξομολογεῖσθαι ὅτι, τὰ ἔμπροσθεν (noun). The latter can be explained, however, by LXX_ usage; and possibly the former. There is nothing astonishing in St. Paul’s acquaintance with such common words, which perhaps came to him through popular Stoic usage (see Lightfoot, Philippians 4, ‘St. Paul and Seneca,’ p. 270 f.), nor can any safe general inference be drawn from them as to a change in his style away from the LXX_ towards a more literary form.

A more thorough kn


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Philippians Epistle to the'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/p/philippians-epistle-to-the.html. 1906-1918.

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Monday, October 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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