When my wife and I were planning our wedding, I remember the long months of making sure we checked off everything in our binder. And then after the wedding day came and went, I discovered there was still one thing left to do in the binder: thank you notes. I thought all the work was done and it was time for the marriage to begin, but I was mistaken!
Introduction to the Book of Philippians
Instead, the night we opened all our gifts, we also had to take rigorous notes as to who gave us what and why it was meaningful, because apparently each thank you note had to be personal and beautiful. I never realized that thank you notes were part of the wedding process, but my wife was on it. And the thank you notes were lovely, from the heart, and even a little tear inducing. Did you know that the New Testament contains a thank you note? This brief, theologically packed four-chapter letter is, at its core, Paul writing to express his deep and heartfelt gratitude to the Philippians for their care and compassion during a challenging time in his life.
Most Bible scholars believe the letter was written around the year 60 A. Well, the city of Philippi was a pretty big deal in the ancient world.
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It was essentially a gateway between Europe and Asia, a busy city with a great deal of business coming through it. Many have called Philippi a mini Rome, with a large number of Roman citizens living there, particularly a large number of retired Roman soldiers.
Philippi was also a very wealthy town because of its gold and silver mines. For Paul, Philippi was a city and church he held very dearly. His missionary work in Europe began at Philippi, where he was the first to baptize people in the continent. This differs from many of his other letters, like the letters to the Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, etc. For the most part, this is simply, as was mentioned above, a thank you letter from Paul, a heartfelt pastoral communication between the apostle and a group of believers that were especially near and dear to his heart.
What was he thanking them for? The Philippians let Paul know they were very concerned for his wellbeing and they sent him a very generous financial gift to support him during his house arrest as he awaited an audience with Caesar. Thus, Paul wrote not only to thank and encourage them, but also to reassure them of his condition, both spiritual and physical. For a more thorough presentation of the brokerage model, see Briones The broker could certainly have operated as the patron, but only in the eyes of the client cf. Blok f. Croix In the eyes of the patron, however, the broker would have been regarded as a sort of privileged client e.
Blok If the broker could ensure that this socially enhancing exchange took place, not only would the broker increase his honour ratings in society but, more importantly, would also make his patron very well pleased. Two Relational Patterns in Philippians: Empirical vs Theological28 In examining the gift-giving relationship between Paul and the Philippians, interpreters have a choice between two markedly different perspectives: one empirical, the other theological. The empirical perspective excludes God, with only Paul and the Philippians comprising this relational pattern, whereas the theological perspective includes God, forming a tripartite relational pattern.
The Empirical Pattern On the empirical level, the relational pattern consists solely of two participants in gift exchange. The Philippians are the source of the gift and Paul is the recipient. As is well Harrison chs. Failure to do so was considered a disgraceful insult and resulted in public opprobrium. This categorical distinction, albeit a modern one, is simply an attempt to demarcate the dif- ferent ways that the relationship between Paul and the community may be interpreted. At the outset, two parties appear to be in gift exchange, but Paul includes a third participant.
What I am not arguing is that the Philippians held to an empirical view, which Paul had to correct.
While languishing in prison 1. Deprived of the necessities of life, he had no choice but to rely on the community for his well-being, seeing that prisoners in the ancient world depended on family and friends for their livelihood. Socially speaking, this would have given the community an advantage over him. Whether they seized this opportunity to exert their social power and position—like some despotic patron over a subservient client—will be discussed below.
This relational pattern mirrors the brokerage model, in that it contains three distinct—yet inextricably bound—parties in gift exchange and exhibits some of its fundamental dynamics. Since Epaphroditus, a member of the community, most likely contributed to the gift for Paul, he operated as a representative rather than a broker. A broker never directly possessed resources. He or she only mediated the resources of another. Of course, this is an argument from silence, because we have no information on whether or not Epaphroditus actually contributed to the gift. Regardless, if he were a broker, this would not disprove the primary argument of this article.
It would only make the picture drawn here more complex. Engberg-Pedersen alludes to a partial consensus concerning the unity of the letter. Philippians 1. From the outset of Phil. Beginning at 1. Several exegetical decisions have been made here. I have also subsumed the causal clauses of vv.
Morris I think this is right and that it is not just a trend that may move in the other direction in ten years. The chief reasons for partition theories are as follows: 1 the apparent shift in tone in 3. But many scholars have presented explanations for these issues, producing a strong case for the unity of the letter cf.
For an exhaustive overview of the literary debate, consult Reed , and for the Teilungshypothesen in German scholarship since World War II, see Bormann The o ti clause of 1. Commentators are split down the middle on this issue, since it can be grammatically dependent on the main verb or the preceding participle cf. Fee 85 n. Nevertheless, I follow those who subsume the o ti-clause of v.
Astonishingly, though, for this work accomplished by the Philippians in vv. Of course, to say that many disagree with this interpretation of 1. Three major objections have been made. Perhaps the most compelling case for the causal interpretation of 1. See n. In support, he appeals to Philo, Rer. Reed adds one early, unambiguous epistolary example to the list: UPZ 1. Citing P. See Bar. Joining Silva in rejecting this interpretation, inter alia, are the commen- taries of Barth , Beare 52, Hansen , Collange 43, Michael Downloaded from jnt.
Schenk But perhaps he is reacting against J. Hawthorne Lightfoot certainly overstated his case, but to omit any reference to their gift is equally mistaken. When read this way, the triangular, theological pattern emerges from 1. God is the source and the Philippians are mediators of divine provision to their imprisoned apostle.
What Is the Book of Philippians About?
Philippians 4. An identical relational pattern also emerges from Phil. To begin with, although many deny that a theological interpretation of the gift appears before v. Not only does this clause echo , but also Paul is able to insert God as the crucial third party in his relationship with the Philippians. Engberg-Pedersen A picture from Rom. See Barclay for the stark differences between Paul and Epictetus. He can do without their things, but he cannot do without them. This is not to say that the gift was delivered to God instead of Paul pace Ebner So, in 4.
However, others insist that he only has material riches in view Martin and Hawthorne But this begs the question: how will physical beings receive heavenly riches in time of need? Paul is not claiming God for himself here, as if a stark inequality, like that of exploitative gift-giving relationships in ancient society, existed between Paul and the Philippians.
It is not that the apostle here declares his private access to God, his patron contra Berry Yet we should not assume that the Philippians did not have this same access through prayer cf. Strictly speaking, in a single brokerage relationship, if one party is a broker, the other has to be a client. He incorporates God, the essential third party, and, in so doing, situates the Philippians into a mediating role as channels of divine resources.
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God is the patron, the Philippians are the broker, and Paul is the client so to speak. The giver is God. As a client of a divine patron, therefore, Paul rightly gives thanks to God in 1.
Moreover, should this practice be deemed a corrective or a conviction? This unveils a uniquely Pauline paradox Gal. But the contention of this investigation is that this thankfulness is directed solely to God for reviving their concern via their monetary gift.
Epistle to the Philippians - Wikipedia
This theory, nevertheless, erroneously assumes that a recipient of a gift, upon making a return, automatically becomes a patron in any gift-giving relationship. He certainly would have been in debt to them,66 but being in debt to someone is categorically different from becoming a client. Marshall In 1 Thess. In 2 Cor. The Corinthians give, but God unexpectedly receives the gratitude—precisely because God gives through the Corinthians. This not only alleviates the needs of the other, However, a client never became the patron in an established patron—client relationship. This view also neglects the various relationships in ancient society e.
Giving a gift made one superior in the ancient world, insofar as the recipient occupies the posi- tion of a debtor see, e. Contra Peterlin Paul never calls the community to be united with him in Philippians, but with each other 1. To assume with Peterlin, on the basis of a couple of explicit exhortations to unity and the implicit rebuke of 4.
This conviction nevertheless becomes a theological corrective in the case of the Corinthian church, which I hope to explore in a later work. Barclay, John M. Barclay and Simon Gathercole eds. Barth, Karl The Epistle to the Philippians trans. Beare, F. Fitzgerald ed. Borl, P.