March 13, 2014
Professor Stephen Chester
Introduction to Philippians
With possibly fourteen of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament, and no less than seven attributed to him, the Apostle Paul of Tarsus undoubtedly altered and continues to alter the course of Christianity. Through his extensive mission work, preaching, and letter writing, Paul has left behind an immense legacy that few people in history can compare to. To this day, some two thousand years later, Paul and his writings are extensively researched, discussed, and debated across all of Christianity and much of the non-Christian world. For most practicing Christians, Paul’s teachings from his letters hold extreme weight and significance in their attempt to follow the teachings and life of Jesus in conjunction with the Bible. One such writing of Paul’s that was canonized into the Bible is his letter to the church at Philippi. This work will serve as an introduction to the Pauline epistle of Philippians.
The letter to the Philippians is one that scholars and theologians alike find to undoubtedly be written by Paul as the style of writing and the topic of the writing fit well with other known Pauline literature. Although, the joyous and friendly tone of much of Philippians is not necessarily the status quo for the rest of Paul’s writings, scholars merely reason that this is due to Paul’s positive relationship with the Philippians. The topic that is most hotly debated in relation to Philippians is the question of the date that it was written. It should be made known that Paul writes this letter while imprisoned, although he does not specify where, and the location of his imprisonment is the basis of the theories of the date of Philippians. He references his chains and guards in the letter itself: “For whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel . . . it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.” (NIV Study Bible, Phi. 1:7, 1:13) There are three accepted theories on the date of the penning of Philippians. The most widely accepted date of writing is from AD 60 to AD 62, where Paul would have been imprisoned in Rome, as depicted in Acts 28. Burge, Cohick, and Green describe the strong argument for an early AD 60’s writing: “In the second century, the Latin prologue to this book [Philippians] identified Rome as the place of composition, as do the postscripts added to a number of New Testament manuscripts.” (358) Furthermore, the three authors also explain that when Paul writes of the palace guard in the letter to Philippi, he uses the word for Caesar’s personal guards in the original Greek manuscripts in Philippians 1:13 whose headquarters were established within Rome. (358) With both verification from the letter itself and from Roman texts, the argument that Paul wrote Philippians in the early AD 60’s is convincing.
The other two theories on the date of Philippians hold much less...