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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

- Philippians

by Robert Jamieson; A.R. Fausset; David Brown


The INTERNAL EVIDENCE for the authenticity of this Epistle is strong. The style, manner of thought, and doctrine, accord with Paul's. The incidental allusions also establish his authorship. PALEY [ Horæ Paulinæ, ch. 7] instances the mention of the object of Epaphroditus' journey to Rome, the Philippian contribution to Paul's wants, Epaphroditus' sickness ( Philippians 1:7; Philippians 2:25-30; Philippians 4:10-18 that Timothy had been long with Paul at Philippi ( Philippians 1:1; Philippians 2:19 the reference to his being a prisoner at Rome now for a long time ( Philippians 1:12-14; Philippians 2:17-28 (compare Philippians 1:23 the reference to the Philippians having seen his maltreatment at Philippi ( Philippians 1:29 Philippians 1:30; Philippians 2:1 Philippians 2:2

The EXTERNAL EVIDENCE is equally decisive: POLYCARP [ Epistle to the Philippians 3:11 ]; IRENÆUS [ Against Heresies, 4.18.4]; CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA [ The Instructor, 1.1, p. 107]; EUSEBIUS [ The Epistle of the Churches of Lyons and Vienne, in Ecclesiastical History, 5. 2]; TERTULLIAN [ On the Resurrection of the Flesh, 23]; ORIGEN [ Against Celsus, 1.3, p. 122]; CYPRIAN [ Testimonies against the Jews, 3.39].

Philippi was the first (that is, the farthest from Rome, and first which met Paul in entering Macedonia) Macedonian city of the district, called Macedonia Prima (so called as lying farthest eastward). The Greek ( Acts 16:12 chief city," as English Version, but as above [ALFORD]. Not it, but Thessalonica, was the chief city of the province, and Amphipolis, of the district called Macedonia Prima. It was a Roman "colony" ( Acts 16:12 over Brutus and Cassius. A colony was in fact a portion of Rome itself transplanted to the provinces, an offshoot from Rome, and as it were a portrait of the mother city on a small scale [AULUS GELLIUS, Attic Nights, 16.13]. Its inhabitants were Roman citizens, having the right of voting in the Roman tribes, governed by their own senate and magistrates, and not by the governor of the province, with the Roman law and Latin language.

Paul, with Silas and Timothy, planted the Gospel there ( Acts 16:12 &c.), in his second missionary journey, A.D. 51. Doubtless he visited it again on his journey from Ephesus into Macedonia ( Acts 20:1 Acts 20:3 Acts 20:6 Greece (Corinth) to Syria by way of Macedonia. His sufferings at Philippi ( Acts 16:19 between him and his Philippian converts, who also, like him, were exposed to trials for the Gospel's sake ( 1 Thessalonians 2:2 supplies for his temporal wants, twice shortly after he had left them ( Philippians 4:15 Philippians 4:16 Epistle ( Philippians 4:10 Philippians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 11:9 part was, perhaps, also in part due to the fact that few Jews were in Philippi, as in other scenes of his labors, to sow the seeds of distrust and suspicion. There was no synagogue, but merely a Jewish Proseucha, or oratory, by the riverside. So that there only do we read of his meeting no opposition from Jews, but only from the masters of the divining damsel, whose gains had been put an end to by her being dispossessed.

Though the Philippian Church was as yet free from Judaizing influence, yet it needed to be forewarned of that danger which might at any time assail it from without ( Philippians 3:2 influences had crept into the Galatian churches. In Philippians 4:2 Philippians 4:3 a trace of the fact recorded in the history ( Acts 16:13 Acts 16:14 female converts were among the first to receive the Gospel at Philippi.

As to the state of the Church, we gather from 2 Corinthians 8:1 2 Corinthians 8:2 members were poor, yet most liberal; and from Philippians 1:28-30 that they were undergoing persecution. The only blemish referred to in their character was, on the part of some members, a tendency to dissension. Hence arise his admonitions against disputings ( Philippians 1:27; Philippians 2:1-4 Philippians 2:12 Philippians 2:14; Philippians 4:2

The OBJECT of the Epistle is general: not only to thank the Philippians for their contribution sent by Epaphroditus, who was now in returning to take back the apostle's letter, but to express his Christian love and sympathy, and to exhort them to a life consonant with that of Christ, and to warn them against existing dissensions and future possible assaults of Judaizers from without. It is remarkable in this Epistle alone, as compared with the others, that, amidst many commendations, there are no express censures of those to whom it is addressed. No doctrinal error, or schism, has as yet sprung up; the only blemish hinted at is, that some of the Philippian Church were somewhat wanting in lowliness of mind, the result of which want was disputation. Two women, Euodias and Syntyche, are mentioned as having erred in this respect ( Philippians 4:2 Philippians 4:3 three parts: (1) Affectionate address to the Philippians; reference to his own state as a prisoner at Rome, and to theirs, and to his mission of Epaphroditus to them (the first and second chapters). Epaphroditus probably held a leading office in the Philippian Church, perhaps as a presbyter. After Tychicus and Onesimus had departed (A.D. 62), carrying the Epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, Paul was cheered in his imprisonment by the arrival of Epaphroditus with the Philippian contribution. That faithful "brother, companion in labor, and fellow soldier" ( Philippians 2:25 himself by the fatigues of the journey a dangerous sickness ( Philippians 2:26 Philippians 2:30 ( Philippians 2:26 relieve their anxiety on his behalf, in respect to his sickness; and the apostle gladly availed himself of the opportunity of writing to them a letter of grateful acknowledgments and Christian exhortations. (2) Caution against Judaizing teachers, supported by reference to his own former and present feeling towards Jewish legalism ( Philippians 3:1-21 (3) Admonitions to individuals, and to the Church in general, thanks for their seasonable aid, and concluding benedictions and salutations ( Philippians 4:1-23

This Epistle was written from Rome during the imprisonment, the beginning of which is related in Acts 28:16 Acts 28:20 Acts 28:30 Acts 28:31 "Cæsar's household" ( Philippians 4:22 ( Philippians 1:13 Greek, " Prætorium, " probably, the barrack of the Prætorian bodyguard, attached to the palace of Nero) confirms this. It must have been during his first imprisonment at Rome, for the mention of the Prætorium agrees with the fact that it was during his first imprisonment he was in the custody of the Prætorian Prefect, and his situation, described in Philippians 1:12-14 agrees with his situation in the first two years of his imprisonment ( Acts 28:30 Acts 28:31 written towards the close of that imprisonment: (1) He, in it, expresses his expectation of the immediate decision of his cause ( Philippians 2:23 hear of his imprisonment, to send Epaphroditus to him, to hear of Epaphroditus' arrival and sickness, and send back word to Rome of their distress ( Philippians 2:26 other Epistles sent from Rome, namely, Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon; for Luke is no longer with him ( Philippians 2:20 would have been specified as saluting them, having formerly labored among them, whereas he is mentioned as with him, Colossians 4:14; Philemon 1:24 Again, in Ephesians 6:19 Ephesians 6:20 Philippians 1:13-18 not himself, but others, preached, and made his imprisonment known. Again, in Philemon 1:22 which contrasts with the more depressed anticipations of this Epistle. (4) A considerable time had elapsed since the beginning of his imprisonment, for "his bonds" to have become so widely known, and to have produced such good effects for the Gospel ( Philippians 1:13 There is evidently an increase in the rigor of his imprisonment implied now, as compared with the early stage of it, as described in Acts 28:1-31 probable clue to account for this increase of vigor. In the second year of Paul's imprisonment (A.D. 62), Burrus, the Prætorian Prefect, to whose custody he had been committed ( Acts 28:16 guard"), died; and Nero the emperor having divorced Octavia, and married Poppoea, a Jewish proselytess (who then caused her rival, Octavia, to be murdered, and gloated over the head of her victim), exalted Tigellinus, the chief promoter of the marriage, a monster of wickedness, to the Prætorian Prefecture. It was then he seems to have been removed from his own house into the Prætorium, or barrack of the Prætorian guards, attached to the palace, for stricter custody; and hence he writes with less hopeful anticipations as to the result of his trial ( Philippians 2:17; Philippians 3:11 custody of him before, would then naturally make known his "bonds," in accordance with Philippians 1:13 the palace the report would spread to the general permanent Prætorian camp, which Tiberius had established north of the city, outside of the walls. He had arrived in Rome, February, 61; the "two whole years ( Acts 20:30 date of this Epistle, written shortly after, evidently while the danger was imminent, would be about spring or summer, 63. The providence of God averted the danger. He probably was thought beneath the notice of Tigellinus, who was more intent on court intrigues. The death of Nero's favorite, Pallas, the brother of Felix, this same year, also took out of the way another source of danger.

The STYLE is abrupt and discontinuous, his fervor of affection leading him to pass rapidly from one theme to another ( Philippians 2:18 Philippians 2:19-24 Philippians 2:25-30; Philippians 3:1 Philippians 3:2 Philippians 3:3 Philippians 3:4-14 Philippians 3:15 warm expressions of love. In Philippians 4:1 sufficient to express all the extent and ardor of his affection for the Philippians: "My brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved." The mention of bishops and deacons in Philippians 1:1 at a time when the Church had begun to assume that order which is laid down in the Pastoral Epistles, and which continued the prevalent one in the first and purest age of the Church.

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