Book Summaries

A letter written by the apostle Paul, in association with Timothy, to the believers at Philippi in Macedonia (Php 1:1; 2:9). In the earliest extant manuscripts, which go back to the 3rd cent., this epistle bears the simple title Pros Philippesious, "to [the] Philippians." In ch 4:15 Paul refers to the occasion when he first laboured at Philippi (Acts 16:12 ­40), and to the liberality of that church in supporting his later labours. The unanimous testimony of early Christian writers leaves no doubt concerning the authenticity of the epistle. About the middle of the 2nd cent. Polycarp, in his epistle to the Philippians, wrote concerning Paul that "when absent from you, he wrote you a letter, which, if you carefully study, you will find to be the means of building you up in that faith which has been given you" (Polycarp, To the Philippians, ch 3, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, p. 33). Some modern scholars have assigned the letter to Paul's imprisonment at Caesarea, from the spring of about a.d. 58 to the autumn of a.d. 60, but from earliest times--as generally, today--Rome has been considered its place of origin. The apostle's expressed hope of imminent release and of another visit to Philippi (Php 2:24; cf. Phm 22) indicates the 1st of the imprisonments at Rome instead of the 2d, which ended in martyrdom and from which he did not anticipate release (see 2 Ti 4:6 ­8). Paul's 1st imprisonment began about the spring of a.d. 61 and continued to about the year a.d. 63. His anticipation of release "shortly" (Php 2:24) implies that the epistle was written toward the close of his 1st imprisonment, perhaps late in a.d. 62 or early in a.d. 63.

Because Philippi was the 1st great European city to hear Paul proclaim the gospel (see Acts 16:8 ­12) and because of the personal devotion of its converts to him (Acts 16:14; 2 Cor 11:9; Php 4:14, 15), Paul felt more than usual affection for them (Php 1:3 ­7). His 1st visit to Philippi took place during the course of his 2nd Missionary Journey, about a.d. 50 or 51. His 2nd visit was made c. a.d. 57, while on his way from Ephesus to Corinth, and the following spring he celebrated the Passover there (see Acts 20:6). Apparently there had been some tendency toward discord (Php 4:2; cf. ch 2:2), but in no place does Paul reprove the believers in that city for moral corruption or erroneous doctrine, as he did the Corinthians and the Galatians in his letters to them. The epistle reflects joy and thankfulness, and the mutual esteem and fellowship he enjoyed with them. During Paul's imprisonment at Rome they had sent Epaphroditus to convey gifts and to minister to him (chs 2:25; 4:18). Apparently Epaphroditus was entrusted with the epistle upon his return to Philippi (chs 1:26; 2:24). There is no record of a later visit by Paul to Philippi, but he doubtless made such a visit during the 3 years between his release and his 2nd imprisonment (a.d. 63 ­66).

In the epistle to the Philippians Paul addresses the believers as their pastor, giving them spiritual counsel and acknowledging their loving help. He tells of his experience in prison, of the success of his efforts to proclaim the gospel at Rome, and of the attempts of certain misguided persons to undo his work (Php 1:12 ­17). He tells of joy and peace even in affliction, and takes solace in their sympathy and friendship. He is uncertain of the future, though he anticipates release from prison (vs. 19 ­24). He appreciates the Philippians' gifts and the many evidences of their friendship and solicitude (ch 4:14 ­17). Though he is bound in body because of the gospel, his spirit is free, and he declares, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (v 13). The theme of the epistle is joy in Christ through the vicissitudes of life. The words "joy" and "rejoice" fall from his pen again and again. This experience of joy and peace becomes possible through Christ.

Following the introduction (Php 1:1 ­11), Paul reviews his experiences and shares his feelings (vs. 12 ­26). He exhorts the believers to unity in the faith and to self-denial (chs 1:27 to 2:16). He explains his plans for the future, of sending Epaphroditus and later Timothy, and of visiting them again himself (Php 2:17 ­30). He warns against the twin errors of Judaism and materialism--of works versus grace on the one hand and the sensual versus the spiritual mind on the other (chs 3:1 to 4:9). The epistle closes with an acknowledgement of the Philippian gift, certain greetings, and a benediction (ch 4:10 ­23).

Horn, Siegfried H., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association) 1979.