Thursday, June 4, 2020

Notes On The Authorship Of Philippians

Philippians, Epistle to the. 1. The canonical authority, Pauline authorship, and integrity of this Epistle, were unanimously acknowledged up to the end of the 18th century. Marcion (a.d. 140) in the earliest known Canon held common ground with the Church touching the authority of this Epistle : it appears in the Muratorian Fragment; among the ''acknowledged" books in Eusebius; in the lists of the Council of Laodicea, a.d. 365, and the Synod of Hippo, 393; and in all subsequent lists, as well as in the Peshito and later versions. Even contemporary evidence may be claimed for it. Philippian Christians who had contributed to the collections for St. Paul's support at Rome, who had been eye and ear witnesses of the re turn of Epaphroditus and the first reading of St. Paul's Epistle, may have been still alive at Philippi when Polycarp wrote (a.d. 107) his letter to them, in which (ch. 2, 3) he refers to St Paul's Epistle as a well-known distinction belonging to the Philippian Church. It is quoted as St. Paul's by Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian. A quotation from it (Phil. ii. 6) is found in the Epistle of the Churches of Lyons and Vienne, a.d. 177. The testimonies of later writers are innumerable. But F. C. Baur, followed by Schwcgler, has argued, from the phraseology of the Epistle and other internal marks, that it is the work, not of St. Paul, but of some Gnostic forger in the 2d century. 2. When written. — The constant tradition that this Epistle was written at Rome by St. Paul in his captivity was impugned first by Gsder (1731), who, disregarding the fact that the apostle was in prison (i. 7, 13, 14) when he wrote, imagined that he was at Corinth; and then by Paulus (1799), Schulz (1829), Bottger (1837), and Rilliet (1841), in whose opinion the Epistle was written during the apostle's confinement at Caesarea (Acts xxiv. 23); but the references to the "palace" (praetorium, i. 13), and to "Caesar's house hold," iv. 22, seem to point to Rome rather than to Caesarea.

3. When written. — Assuming, then, that the Epistle was written at Rome during the imprisonment mentioned in the last chapter of the Acts, it may be shown from a single fact that it could not have been written long before the end of the two years. The distress of the Philippians on account of Epaphroditus's sickness was known at Rome when the Epistle was written; St. Luke was absent from Rome; and lastly, it is obvious from Phil. i. 20 that St. Paul, when he wrote, felt his position to be very critical, and we know that it became more precarious as the two years drew to a close. In a.d. 62, the infamous Tigellinus succeeded Burrus the upright praetorian prefect in the charge of St. Paul's person; and the marriage of Poppaea brought his imperial judge under an influence which, if exerted, was hostile to St. Paul. Assuming that St. Paul's acquittal and release took place in 63, we may date the Epistle to the Philippians early in that year. 4. The writer's acquaintance with the Philippians. — St. Paul's connection with Philippi was of a peculiar character, which gave rise to the writing of this Epistle. St. Paul entered its walls, a d. 52 (Acts xvi. 12), accompanied by Silas, who had been with him since he started from Anti- och, and by Timothy and Luke, whom he had afterwards attached to himself; the former at Derbe, the latter quite recently at Troas. There, at a greater distance from Jerusalem than any apostle had yet penetrated, the long restrained energy of St. Paul was again employed in laying the foundation of a Christian church. Philippi was endeared to St. Paul, not only by the hospitality of Lydia, the deep sympathy of the converts, and the remarkable miracle which set a seal on his preaching, but also by the successful exercise of his missionary activity after a long suspense, and by the happy consequences of his undaunted endurance of ignominies, which remained in his memory (Phil. i. 30) after the long interval of eleven years. Leaving Timothy and Luke to watch over the infant Church, Paul and Silas went to Thessalonica (I Thess. ii. 2), whither they were followed by the alms of the Philippians (Phil. iv. 16), and thence southwards. The next six years of his life are a blank in our records. At the end of that period, he is found again (Acts xx. 6) at Philippi. After the lapse of five years, spent chiefly at Corinth and Ephesus, St. Paul, escaping from the incensed worshipers of the Ephesian Diana, passed through Macedonia, a.d. 57, on his way to Greece, accompanied by the Ephesians Tychicus and Trophimus, and probably visited Philippi for the second time, and was there joined by Timothy. He wrote at Philippi his Second Epistle to the Corinthians. On returning from Greece (Acts xx. 4), he again found a refuge among his faithful Philippians, where he spent some days at Easter, a.d. 58, with St. Luke, who accompanied him when he sailed from Neapolis. Once more, in his Roman captivity (a.d. 62) their care of him revived again. They sent Epaphroditus, bearing their alms for the apostle's support, and ready also to tender his personal service (Phil. ii. 25).

5. Scope and contents of the Epistle. — St. Paul's aim in writing is plainly this: while acknowledging the alms of the Philippians and the personal services of their messenger, to give them some information respecting his own condition, and some advice respecting theirs. After the inscription (i. 1, 2), in which Timothy as the second father of the Church is joined with Paul, he sets forth his own condition (i. 3-26), his prayers, care, and wishes for his Philippians, with the troubles and uncertainty of his imprisonment, and his hope of eventually seeing them again. Then (i. 27— ii. 18) he exhorts them to those particular virtues which he would rejoice to see them practicing at the present time. He hopes soon to hear a good report of them (ii. 19-30), either by sending Timothy, or by going himself to them, as be now send Epaphroditus, whose diligent service is highly commended. Reverting (iii. 1-21) to the tone of joy which runs through the preceding descriptions and exhortations — as in i. 4, 18, 25, ii. 2, 16, 17, 18, 28 — he bids them take heed that their joy be in the Lord, and warns them, as he had often previously warned them (probably in his last two visits), against admitting itinerant Judaizing teachers, the tendency of whose doctrine was towards a vain confidence in mere earthly things : in contrast to this, he exhorts them to follow him in placing their trust humbly but entirely in Christ, and in pressing for ward in their Christian course, with the resurrection-day constantly before their minds. Again (iv. 1-9), adverting to their position in the midst of unbelievers, he beseeches them, even with personal appeals, to be firm, united, joyful in the Lord ; to be full of prayer and peace, and to lead such a life as must approve itself to the moral sense of all men. Lastly (iv. 10-23), he thanks them for the contribution sent by Epaphroditus for his support, and concludes with salutations and a benediction. 6 Effect of the Epistle. — We have no account of the reception of this Epistle by the Philippians. Except doubtful traditions that Erastus was their first bishop, and with Lydia and Parmenas was martyred in their city, nothing is recorded of them for the next "forty-four years. Now, though we cannot trace the immediate effect of St. Paul's Epistle on the Philippians, yet no one can doubt that it contributed to form the character of their Church as it was in the time of Polycarp. It is evident from Polycarp's Epistle, that the Church. by the grace of God and the guidance of the apostle, had passed through those trials of which St. Paul warned it, and had not gone back from the high degree of Christian attainments which it reached under St. Paul's oral and written teaching (Polyc. i., iii., ix., xi.).

7. The Church at Rome.— The state of the Church at Rome should be considered before entering on the study of the Epistle to the Philippians. Something is to be learned of its condition about a.d. 58 from the Epistle to the Romans, about a.d. 61 from Acts xxviii. St. Paul's presence in Rome, the freedom of speech allowed to him, and the personal freedom of his fellow laborers, were the means of infusing fresh missionary activity into the Church (Phill i. 12-14). It was in the work of Christ that Epaphroditus was worn out (ii. 30). 8. Characteristic features of the Epistle. — Strangely full of joy and thanksgiving amidst adversity like the apostle's midnight hymn from the depth of his Philippian dungeon, this Epistle went forth from his prison at Rome. In most other epistles, he writes with a sustained effort to instruct, or with sorrow, or with indignation; he is striving to supply imperfect, or to correct erroneous teaching; to put down scandalous impurity, or to heal schism in the church which he addresses. But in this Epistle, though he knew the Philippians intimately, and was not blind to the faults, and tendencies to fault, of some of them, yet he mentions no evil so characteristic of the whole Church as to call for general censure on his part, or amendment on theirs. Of all his Epistles to churches, none has so little of an official character as this.

William Smith, A Dictionary Of the Bible Comprising Its Antiquities, Biography, Geography, and Natural History, p. 737-739

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