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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature

Philippians Epistle to the

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Of this part of the Apostle Paul's writings the authenticity has never been questioned. Professing to be written by that distinguished servant of Christ, it bears on every part of it the impress of his peculiar style, manner of thought, and form of doctrine; and the internal evidence of authenticity arising from the incidental allusions in it to persons and circumstances is very strong.

From allusions in the epistle itself, it is evident that it was written at Rome during the period of the apostle's two years' imprisonment in that city, and in all probability towards the close of that period (;;;; ). It seems to have been composed on the occasion of the return to Philippi of Epaphroditus, a member of the church in that place, who had been deputed to Rome with a pecuniary contribution from the church in aid of the apostle. Full of gratitude for this work of friendly remembrance and regard, Paul addressed to the church in Philippi this epistle, in which, besides expressing his thanks for their kindness, he pours out a flood of eloquence and pathetic exhortation, suggested partly by his own circumstances, and partly by what he had learned of their state as a church. That state appears to have been on the whole very prosperous, as there is much commendation of the Philippians in the epistle, and no censure is expressed in any part of it either of the church as a whole, or of any individuals connected with it. At the same time the apostle deemed it necessary to put them on their guard against the evil influences to which they were exposed from Judaizing teachers and false professors of Christianity. These cautions he interposes between the exhortations suggested by his own state and by the news he had received concerning the Philippians, with which his epistle commences and with which it closes. We may thus divide the epistle into three parts. In the first of these (Philippians 1-2), after the usual salutation and an outpouring of warm-hearted affection towards the Philippian church (), the apostle refers to his own condition as a prisoner at Rome; and lest they should be cast down at the thought of the unmerited indignities he had been called upon to suffer, he assures them that these had turned out rather to the furtherance of that great cause on which his heart was set, and for which he was willing to live and labor, though, as respected his personal feelings, he would rather depart and be with Christ, which he deemed to be 'far better' (). He then passes by an easy transition to a hortatory address to the Philippians, calling upon them to maintain steadfastly their profession, to cultivate humanity and brotherly love, to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, and concluding by an appeal to their regard for his reputation as an apostle, which could not but be affected by their conduct, and a reference to his reason for sending to them Epaphroditus instead of Timothy, as he had originally designed (; ). In part second he strenuously cautions them, as already observed, against Judaizing teachers, whom he stigmatizes as 'dogs' (in reference probably to their impudent, snarling, and quarrelsome habits), 'evil-workers,' and 'the concision;' by which latter term he means to intimate, as Theophylact remarks (in loc.), that the circumcision in which the Jews so much gloried had now ceased to possess any spiritual significance, and was therefore no better than a useless mutilation of the person. On this theme he enlarges, making reference to his own standing as a Jew, and intimating, that if under the Christian dispensation Jewish descent and Jewish privileges were to go for anything, no one could have stronger claims on this ground than he; but at the same time declaring, that however he had once valued these, he now counted them 'all but lost for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ' (). A reference to his own sanctified ambition to advance in the service of Christ leads him to exhort the Philippians to a similar spirit; from this he passes to caution them against unnecessary contention, and against those who walk disorderly, concluding by reminding them of the glorious hopes which, as Christians, they entertained (). In the third part we have a series of admonitions to individual members of the church at Philippi (), followed by some general exhortations to cheerfulness, moderation, prayer, and good conduct (); after which come a series of allusions to the apostle's circumstances and feelings, his thanks to the Philippians for their seasonable aid, and his concluding benedictions and salutations ().

This epistle is written throughout in a very animated and elevated style. It is full of the most sublime thoughts and the most affectionate exhortations. It resembles more the production of a father addressing his children, than that of an apostle laying down authoritatively what is to be received and followed. The whole of it shows, as Theophylact observes, how very much he loved and estimated those to whom it was addressed.





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Philippians Epistle to the'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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