Saturday, April 14, 2012

Philippians - An Introduction - Pete's Bible Commentary

The Apostle Paul has for generations been the undisputed author of the book of Philippians. He claims to be the author in Phil 1:1. In Phil 3:5,6 he outlines some personal information relating to his upbringing (circumcised on the eighth day, from the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew and was a Pharisee in relation to the law) and this may well be enough in itself to claim Paul as the author of Philippians.

M.S. Enslin says that, 'no letter can make a stronger claim to be from Paul' (Cited in Gerald F. Hawthorne's Word Biblical Commentary - Philippians). Also, as Hawthorne writes, 'There apparently never was a question in the minds of the Fathers of the Church as to the canonical authority of Philippians or about its authorship'. We may well debate the book of Revelation being a part of the Canon, or whether Paul in fact wrote the book of Ephesians, but it is seemingly clear that Paul of Tarsus wrote the letter we now call 'Philippians', and that it holds importance and rightfully has a place in today's Biblical writings.

Paul wrote this letter from prison (Phil 1:13), and it was addressed to the church in Philippi. Philippi was a town founded by the father of Alexander the Great (Philip II of Macedon), and was established in 358-357 BC.

The book of Acts outlines some converts to the Christian faith, who resided in Philippi. Lydia was the first convert to Christianity and her story is told in Acts 16:13-15. Paul also preached to the Jailer who gave his life to Jesus and his family were saved also (see Acts 16:31-34). Interestingly the predominant group that were becoming converts to the faith in Philippi were Gentiles.

The arguments of where Paul in fact wrote the book of Philippians is extensive. The consensus seems to be with Rome, being the place of authorship for the biblical letter. If Philippians was written in Rome, it would have been between 60-62AD. Some have argued for Caesarea, Ephesus or Corinth as possible other places of authorship of Philippians.

Philippians is an encouraging book, and by way of introduction is one where you sense the suffering and pain Paul has endured, but you find yourself inspired by his optimism and joy despite those sufferings. Think of verses from Philippians such as:

Philippians 4:8 - "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

Be inspired by the book of Philippians and if you find yourself surrounded by trouble, infliction and suffering, be encouraged by this book, as Paul wrote from the heart to the church at Philippi.

An Introduction to the Book of Philippians is part of Pete's Bible Commentary.

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