Epistle to the Philippians
The Epistle (or letter) to the Philippians is a short book in the New Testament. It is a letter to the church at Philippi in Macedonia from Saint Paul. It was written while Paul was in jail for telling people about Jesus.
Most everyone thinks that Paul wrote what is in the book. Some think it was a single lettter, but others think that it puts together three letters into one. The letter or letters were written in Greek in about 50 to 60 A.D.
In Chapters 1 and 2 of Philippians, Paul tells the Philippians that he is about to be tried in Rome. He says he is not afraid of death,[Phil 1:18b–26]. He tells the readers to be happy no matter what happens.[Phil 2:14–18] He says that being in jail is helping to spread the Christian message, rather than stopping it. [Phil 1:12–15] He says that Epaphroditus is a hard worker and is a hero. The Philippian church had sent Epaphroditus to visit Paul and bring him gifts.[Phil 2:25–30] Some time during his visit with Paul, Epaphroditus got sick.[Phil 2:26–27] But he got better before being sent back to the Philippians.
In Chapter 3, Paul warns the Philippians about those Christians who insist that circumcision is necessary for salvation. Circumcision is the removal of skin from the male sex organ for religious reasons. It is practiced by Jews and Muslims. He testifies that he once was a strong follower of this and other Jewish laws, but he now considers these things to be like trash compared to the gospel of Jesus. He says that being right with God comes from faith in Jesus and not by keeping religious laws.[Phil 3:2–10]
In Chapter 4, Paul tells the Philippians to get along with each other.[Phil 4:2–3] In the last part of the chapter, Paul thanks the Philippians for gifts they had sent him, and tells them that God will reward them for being kind to him.[Phil 4:15–20]
Paul seems to feel happy in the letter and he is hopeful that he will get out of jail, and so he says he will send Timothy to the Philippians to help them,[Phil 2:19–23] and thinks he will also pay them a visit.[Phil 2:24]
Chapter 2 of the epistle contains a famous poem telling who Christ is and what he did to save us. Paul says we should follow this example of humble service.
Who, though he was in the form of God,
- Did not regard being equal with God
- Something to be grasped after.
But he emptied himself
- Taking on the form of a slave,
- And coming in the likeness of humans.
And being found in appearance as a human
- He humbled himself
- Becoming obedient unto death— even death on a cross.
Therefore God highly exalted him
- And bestowed on him the name
- That is above every name,
That at the name of Jesus
- Every knee should bow
- Of those in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth.
And every tongue should confess
- That Jesus Christ is Lord
- To the glory of God the Father.— Philippians 2:5-11, translated by Bart D. Ehrman
Because of its style, scholars agree that this is an early Christian poem that was written by someone before Paul's writings, as early as the 40s AD. The Christ poem is important because it strongly suggests that there were very early Christians who understood Jesus to be a God like being who who chose to take on human form, rather than a human who was later raised to a divine status.
- Section X. Testimonies to the Canonical Authority of the Fourteen Epistles of Paul. Canon of the Old and New Testaments Ascertained, or The Bible Complete without the Apocrypha and Unwritten Traditions. Alexander, Archibald (1772–1851).
- Ehrman, Bart D. (2014). "7. Jesus as God on Earth: Early Incarnation Christologies". How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee. HarperOne. ISBN 978-0-0617-7819-3.
- Martin, Ralph P. (1997). Philippians 2:5-11 in Recent Interpretation & in the Setting of Early Christian Worship (2nd ed.). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. pp. vii–ix. ISBN 0-8308-1894-4.