The Epistle to Philippians is a book included in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It is a letter from St. Paul to the church of Philippi.
Authorship and date
Pauline authorship of Philippians is "universally accepted" (Beare, p. 1) by virtually all bible scholars, ancient and modern, with the exception of the kenosis passage in Philippians 2:5-11. This may have been an early Christian hymn that Paul quoted, rather than an original Pauline composition.
In 1845, F.C. Baur challenged the authencity of Pauline authorship of Philippians based on his belief that the "bishops and deacons" in Philippians 1:1 must have been an ecclesiastical development that post-dated Paul. However, most scholars have rejected this argument as there appears to be no evidence that such offices could not have existed in Paul's day.
Paul is believed to have written Philippians during the two years when he was "in bonds" in Rome (Philippians 1:7-13), probably in early 62 or late 61 C.E.
The letter was written to the church at Philippi, one of the earliest churches to be founded in Europe. They were very attached to Paul, just as he was very fond of them. They alone of all the churches helped him by their contributions, which he gratefully acknowledges (Acts 20:33-35; 2 Cor. 11:7-12; 2 Thess. 3:8). The generosity of the Philippians comes out very conspicuously (Phil. 4:15). "This was a characteristic of the Macedonian missions, as 2 Cor. 8 and 9 amply and beautifully prove. It is remarkable that the Macedonian converts were, as a class, very poor (2 Cor. 8:2); and the parallel facts, their poverty and their open-handed support of the great missionary and his work, are deeply harmonious. At the present day the missionary liberality of poor Christians is, in proportion, really greater than that of the rich" (Moule).
The Philippians had sent Epaphroditus, their messenger, with contributions to meet the needs of Paul; and on his return Paul sent back with him this letter. With this precious communication Epaphroditus sets out on his homeward journey. "The joy caused by his return, and the effect of this wonderful letter when first read in the church of Philippi, are hidden from us. And we may almost say that with this letter the church itself passes from our view. To-day, in silent meadows, quiet cattle browse among the ruins which mark the site of what was once the flourishing Roman colony of Philippi, the home of the most attractive church of the apostolic age. But the name and fame and spiritual influence of that church will never pass. To myriads of men and women in every age and nation the letter written in a dungeon at Rome, and carried along the Egnatian Way by an obscure Christian messenger, has been a light divine and a cheerful guide along the most rugged paths of life" (Professor Beet).
The contents of this epistle give an interesting insight into the condition of the church at Rome at the time it was written. Paul's imprisonment, we are informed, was no hindrance to his preaching the gospel, but rather "turned out to the furtherance of the gospel." The gospel spread very extensively among the Roman soldiers, with whom he was in constant contact, and the Christians grew into a "vast multitude." It is plain that Christianity was at this time making rapid advancement in Rome.
The doctrinal statements of this epistle bear a close relation to those of the Epistle to the Romans. Compare also Phil. 3:20 with Eph. 2:12, 19, where the church is presented under the idea of a city or commonwealth for the first time in Paul's writings. The personal glory of Christ is also set forth in almost parallel forms of expression in Phil. 2:5-11, compared with Eph. 1:17-23; 2:8; Col. 1:15-20. "This exposition of the grace and wonder of His personal majesty, personal self-abasement, and personal exaltation after it," found in these epistles, "is, in a great measure, a new development in the revelations given through St. Paul" (Moule). Other minuter analogies in forms of expression and of thought are also found in these letters that Paul is believed to have written while he was in prison.
Beare, F. W. (1959). A Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians. Harper & Row; reprint, Harper’s New Testament Commentaries, ed. Henry Chadwick. (1987). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.
Moule, H. C. G. (1981). The Epistle to the Philippians. Baker Book House.
Online translations of the Epistle to the Philippians:
Last updated: 08-01-2005 13:50:51