Philippians 2: 3-11

Topics: New Testament, Christianity, Philippi Pages: 7 (2267 words) Published: June 21, 2013
a) Comment on points of historical, theological and interpretative

interest, setting the passage into its immediate context. Additionally, make comments on significant factors such as language, genre, form / source / redaction and other relevant bible passages. Philippians 2: 3-11 The passage of scripture chosen for this essay is taken from a letter which is “almost universally acknowledged” (Murray, 2001:1180) to have been written by the apostle Paul. As is clearly stated in the opening verses of the letter it is written “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi...” (Philippians 1:2a), which was the first city within Macedonia that Paul reached with the gospel (Acts 16:12-40). Some concern is however expressed as to whether this letter is actually one contiguous unit or an amalgam of various letters (O’Brien, 1991:11ff; Martin & Hawthorne, 2004:xxxff). The date of the letter is also uncertain with the traditional view that it was penned during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, which would have placed the date around 60 CE, being called into question and the suggestion instead that it was written during an earlier incarceration, possibly in Ephesus, and the date earlier to the mid-50s. Paul’s reason for writing is seen by the majority of scholars to be an attempt to encourage the Christians in Philippi to stand firm in their faith even though they were facing persecution for their beliefs. It is therefore unsurprising that the verses being studied find their place within a section of text that deals with the standards that should be evident within the Christian community, namely Philippians 1:27 – 2:18 (Murray, 2004:1183; O’Brien, 1991:143; Marshall, 1991:34). Indeed

Philippians 2:3-4 are most commonly treated together with verses 1-2, with verses 5-11 being commentated on separately. Within the preceding verses Paul encourages the believers to “live ... in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that ... I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27a). This sense of a need for unity within the congregation is echoed later when Paul writes that they should “be of the same mind, having the Page 1 of 9

same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Philippians 2:2b). Clearly, unity within the congregation was an essential aspect of Paul’s instructions for the Philippians. Robert Murray suggests that the exhortations in these preceding verses make it a distinct possibility that there were divisions within the Philippian church that Paul was seeking to address (Murray, 2001:1184) as unity is a “...hallmark of the gospel” (Abate, 2006:1443). Philippians 2:3 sees a move from a general overview of unity into some specific examples of what this would entail (Marshall, 1991:45). It seems that rather than writing simply about the concept of unity Paul seeks to ground the teaching he gives with practical examples. This would appear to reflect the understanding of the letter as being written to encourage the Philippian Christians. The issues which Paul

warns against, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit...” (Philippians 2:3a) are balanced perfectly by his instruction that they should “...in humility regard others as better than [themselves]” (Philippians 2:3b). This understanding of humility as a being virtuous was not something that was accepted at that time but had become so within the fledgling Christianity through the teaching of Jesus (Abate, 2006:1443; Martin, 1987:97). Paul’s teaching continues by saying that they “should look not to [their] own interests, but to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4) and parallels similar teaching that he gives to other churches such as “Do not seek your own advantage, but that of others” (1 Corinthians 10:24). It has been suggested that this

understanding of a Christian’s attitude towards others is a hallmark of Paul’s teaching to the community of believers as...

Bibliography: Marshall, Howard 1991 Martin, Ralph P. 1987 Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Philippians (Revised Edition). Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press The Epistle to the Philippians. London: Epworth Press
Martin, Ralph P
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