Dr. Krisopher K.
CHR 503 Biblical
Hermeneutics and Exegesis
28, January, 2018
Questions – Philippians
The essential literary questions provide a
roadmap to help find the meaning of a text.
Only by asking these questions can one begin to grasp the background
needed to understand the meaning of the passage. The essential literary questions are: Who wrote it?
When was it written? To whom was
it written? Why was it written? This paper will attempt to answer those
questions for the book of Philippians
WHO WROTE IT?
The book of
Philippians opens with the author introducing himself. In verse 1 it says “Paul and Timothy,
servants of Christ Jesus” (NIV). Based
on this one could make a case for shared authorship between the two or the
possibility that one was the primary author and the other was present with some
contributions. According to The
Article on Philippians in The New
International Dictionary of the Bible the best scholarships supports Paul
as the author. Much detail is given
about Paul in the book of Acts where we see him be a former member of the
Pharisees who murdered and imprisoned Christians before being converted during
an encounter with Jesus during his travels (Acts 9). Paul, along with Timothy and Luke, were also
the founders of the church at Philippi according to Acts 15 and 16.
WHEN WAS IT WRITTEN?
The text itself gives a few clues
as to the date of writing for the book of Philippians. The first clue we have comes in verses 13 and
14. Pauls says he is in chains and that
the whole “Palace Guard” has realized that he is in chains for Christ. By this we can know that Paul wrote the letter
to the Philippians during his imprisonment.
According to A Survey of the New
Testament there are three times that Paul was imprisoned that could be
origin points for the book. Those three
imprisonments are Rome, Caesarea, and Ephesus.
It also points out that Caesarea is the least likely option. According to Williams Barclay’s commentary on Philippians Rome is the only
choice. But The New International Dictionary of the Bible points out that
modern scholarship validates the possibility of Ephesus. The difference between
the two places would be significant in dating the book. If written from Ephesus then the date would
be some time not long after the churches founding in 49CE. If Rome, it would be during Paul’s
imprisonment there which Bible.org places
between 60-62CE. This seems to be an
open question in scholarship. Both sides
have merits and problems that are beyond the scope of this assignment. Based on my reading an earlier date from
Ephesus seems most likely, though a late date from Rome is very possible as
TO WHOM WAS IT WRITTEN?
Following the introduction of
Paul and Timothy the letter states in verse 1 “To all the saints in Christ
Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons” (NIV). According to The New International Dictionary of the Bible Philippi was a Roman
colony in Macedonia (modern day Greece) named after it’s founder Alexander the
great’s father Philip II. It became a
Roman colony around 31 BC. It was known
for its school of medicine. Acts 16
informs us that Paul was directed there by a vision from God and quickly
converted a woman named Lydia upon arriving.
Some time after, Paul and Silas were imprisoned there and during the
imprisonment converted the jailer and his family. These believers seem to be the founding
members of the church at Philippi. Hailey’s Bible Handbook states that
Luke, who have have been from Philippi and attended the medical school, was the
minister of the congregation for its first 6 years following its founding in AD
WHY WAS IT WRITTEN?
It appears that Paul is writing
to thank the church at Philippi for their recent gift of support to him. This is supported by A Survey of the New Testament which points out that it was likely
delivered to him by Epaphroditus. A Survey of New Testament goes on to
suggest that Paul used this opportunity to warn against divisiveness and
Judaizers, as well as to let them know that Timothy would visit soon and if at
all possible Paul himself. The letter
itself reinforces these themes throughout.
The letter itself reads as very encouraging and very personal. It would seem that Paul intended it to be an
encouragement to very close friends.
Barclay, William. The letters to the
Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians. Philadelphia: Westminster Press,
Douglas, James D., and Merrill C. Tenney. The new international dictionary of
the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987.
Gundry, Robert Horton. A survey of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI:
Zondervan Pub. House, 1994.
Halley, Henry H. Pocket Bible handbook: an abbreviated Bible commentary. Grand
Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1965.
Herrick, Greg , PHD. “Introduction, Background, and Outline to
Philippians.” Bible.org. June 24, 2004. Accessed January 28, 2018. https://bible.org/seriespage/introduction-background-and-outline-philippians