Monday, September 16, 2013

The Epistle to the 'Philippians'

Introduction

This was a letter originally written from Rome by James to the prophets of Jerusalem.  It was similar to the letter that James wrote to the 'Romans'. (See  http://raphaelgolb.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/the-epistle-to-romans.html ) James, a Jewish prophet, and a friend of Agrippa I was living in Claudius’s palace at the time he wrote this letter.  He was a religious tutor to Nero and the Claudian family.  James befriended Nero while the latter was under the care of Agrippa I at Ein Gedi in Israel where there was a palace.  The text was changed later to give the impression that Paul was writing from Jerusalem to supposed Christians living at Philippi.  It is this earlier material, based on James, which causes some scholars to say that Paul wrote the extant letter around 40 to 50 CE.  

Originally, James wrote this letter to the prophets in Jerusalem because he knew what danger they were in from the priests.  He was concerned about the prophets he had left behind.  In Rome, James was experiencing persecution from the visiting priests Ananus and his brothers.  These priests said that the Jews should obey the Law and that sacrifice was necessary for forgiveness of sins.  James proclaimed the Spirit that must be obeyed to achieve purity, and that sacrifice was a waste of time.  There was no mention of Jesus.
The writer/editor's later compromise was that Jesus had been sacrificed for the sins of the world. Jesus was a fabrication, and so was Paul.  The fictitious Paul was never chained up in prison in Rome.  He never had the privilege of sending Epaphroditus and Timothy on his errands. This was just fanciful thinking on the part of the editor.  Epaphroditus was a servant in Claudius's household.  

Later, at the time of the editor, the Roman government was interested in promoting the Christian message.  To give authority to his fictitious Paul, the editor created the impression that Paul existed at the time of the early Christians.

Far from languishing in a Roman prison, James was highly respected by the Emperor's family.  He could write something to the effect:  "Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Spirit of God.  As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace and to everyone else that I pray in the Spirit of God".  

Seneca, Nero's tutor, influenced by the teaching of James, could write: "God is with you, He is within you.  So I say unto thee, Lucillius, a Holy Spirit dwells within us.  Our good and evil He observes, having our own custody.  As we treat this Spirit, so he treats us.  In truth, no man is good without God".  

The extant letters purporting to be between Paul and Seneca were derived from earlier letters between James and Seneca.   

Throughout this extant letter to the Philippians, there is threat in the writer's/editor's tone.  He writes "make my joy complete" and "do nothing out of selfish ambition", never mind about the writer's desire for converts to Christ.   The writer was imposing his gospel conquistodor-like.  He uses language that is characteristic of a soldier.  He has all the appearance of being in the Roman mililitary, responsible for the forcible conversion of the Empire to the Christian message: 

-"Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ will overflow on account of me".(1:25,26)
- "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow", and "every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord". (2:10,11) 
"therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence - continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling". (2:12) 
- "do everything without complaining". (2:14)    

Chapter 1

1.1.[Paul] {James} [and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus], to all the [saints] {prophets} in [Christ Jesus] {the Spirit} at [Philippi] {Jerusalem} [, together with the overseers and deacons:].

1.2.Grace and peace to you from God{.} [our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ].

1.3.I thank my God every time I remember you.

1.4.In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy

1.5.because of your partnership in the [gospel] {Spirit of God} from the first day until now,

1.6.being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of [Christ Jesus] {the Lord}.

1.7.It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since
I have you in my heart; for whether I am [in chains] {praying in the Spirit}, or defending and confirming the [gospel] {the Spirit}, all of you share in God's [grace] {Spirit} with me. 

1.8.God can testify how I [long] {pray} for all of you with the affection of [Christ Jesus] {a brother}.

1.9.And this is my prayer: that you[r love] may abound more and more in [knowledge] {the Spirit},

1.10.so that you may be able to discern [what is best] {impure spirits}, and may be pure and blameless until the day of [Christ] {the Lord}, filled with the [fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ] {the Spirit} to the glory and praise of God.

1.12.Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the [gospel] {Spirit of God}. 

1.13.As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace and to everyone else that I [am in chains] {pray in the Spirit} [for Christ] {of God}. 

1.14.Because of my [chains] {prayers}, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to [speak] {proclaim} the [word] {Spirit} of God more.

1.15.It is true that [some] {Ananus and his brothers} preach [Christ] {the Law} out of envy and rivalry [, but others out of goodwill. 

1.16.The latter do so in love], knowing that I am put here for the defence of the [gospel] {Spirit of God}.

1.17.[The former] {They} preach [Christ] {the Law} [out of selfish ambition, not sincerely,] supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I [am in chains] {pray in the Spirit}.

1.18.[But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.  And because of this I rejoice.  Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,
1.19. for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.
1.20.I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always the Spirit will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 
1.21.For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 
1.22.If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me.  Yet what shall I choose?  I do not know!  
1.23.I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;
1.24.but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.] 

James promises to return to Jerusalem to help in the struggle against the priests who were led by Ananus

1.25.Convinced of this, I know that I will [remain] {come to you}, [and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith],

1.26.so that through my being with you again your joy in [Christ Jesus] {the Spirit} will overflow [on account of me].

1.27.Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in [a manner worthy of] the [gospel] {Spirit} of [Christ] God.  Then, [whether] {when} I come [and see you or only hear about you in my absence], I will [know] {see} that you stand firm [in one spirit], contending as one man for the [faith] {Spirit} of [the gospel] {God},

1.28.without being frightened in any way by [those] {Ananus and his brothers} who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be [destroyed] {condemned} [, but that you will be saved -- and that] by God. 

1.29.For it has been granted to you [on behalf of Christ] {in the Spirit} not only to [believe on] {obey} him, but also to suffer for him,

1.30.since you are going through the same struggle [you saw] I had[, and now hear that I still have].


Chapter 2

The writer interjects his gospel - there is a switch to the message of Christ. 
His letter was superimposed upon an earlier and much shorter prophetic letter.  Originally, this was a very short section giving encouragement to the prophets to obey the Spirit. James is confident that he will come to them soon.  That Paul will send Timothy and Epaphroditus is fabricated.  The writer would have known that Epaphroditus (2:30) had probably been murdered along with Nero. 

2.1.If you have any encouragement from being united [with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship] with the Spirit,

[if any tenderness and compassion,
2.2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.   
2.3.Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 
2.4.Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 
2.5.Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
2.6.Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
2.7.but made himself nothing, taking the nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
2.8.And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross. 
2.9.Therefore God exalted him to the highest place, and gave him the name that is above every name,
2.10.that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth,
2.11.and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
2.12.Therefore my dear friends, as you have always obeyed– not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence -]

continue to [work out] {obey} [your salvation] {the Spirit} with fear and trembling,

2.13.for it is God who works in you

[to will and to act according to his good purpose.
2.14.Do everything without complaining or arguing,]

2.15.so that you may become blameless and pure

[, children of God without fault impurity in a crooked and depraved an impure generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe
2.16.as you hold out the word of life -- in order that I may boast on the day of Christ the Lord that I did not run or labour for nothing. 
2.17.But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith ill in your service, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 
2.18.So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
2.19.I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 
2.20.I have no-one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. 
2.21.For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 
2.22.But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 
2.23.I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 
2.24.And]

I am confident in the [Lord] {Spirit} that I [myself] will come soon.

2.25.[But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow-worker and fellow-soldier, who is also your messenger, and whom you sent to take care of my needs. 
2.26.For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 
2.27.Indeed he was ill, and almost died.  But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 
2.28Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. 
2.29.Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honour men like him,
2.30.because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.]


Chapter 3

Prophets have no confidence in sacrifice

The text has been switched from animal sacrifice (3.2) to circumcision (3.3).  In 3.3, the editor borrows the idea of worship by the Spirit.  This is close to the prophetic idea of worship in the Spirit.  Also, he has glory in Christ Jesus, whereas the prophets glory in the Spirit.  He knows that the text was originally about sacrifice, and that prophets put no confidence in sacrifice.  3.3 to 3.21 is fiction.

3.1.Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the [Lord] {Spirit}!  It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 

3.2.Watch out for [those dogs, those men who do evil] {Ananus and his brothers}, those [mutilators] {sacrificers} of [the flesh] {animals}. 

3.3.For it is we who [are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who] put no confidence in [the flesh] {sacrifice}.

3.4.[-- though I myself have reasons for such confidence. 
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:
3.5.circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee;
3.6.as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
3.7.But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 
3.8.What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus, for whose sake I have lost all things.
I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ  
3.9.and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 
3.10.I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
3.11.and so, somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead. 
3.12.Not that I have  already obtained all this, but I press on to take hold of that for which  Christ Jesus took hold of me. 
3.13.Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. 
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead,
3.14.I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.
3.15.All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. 
And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 
3.16.Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
3.17.Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.
3.18.For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 
3.19.Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.
Their mind is on earthly things. 
3.20.But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,
3.21.who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that we will be like his glorious body]. 

Chapter 4

Continued from 3.3. – Stand firm and rejoice in the Spirit.

4.1.Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, [my joy and crown,] stand firm IN the [Lord] {the Spirit}[, dear friends]!

4.2.[I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. 
4.3.Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow-workers, whose names are in the book of life.] 

4.4.Rejoice in the [Lord] {the Spirit} always. I will say it again: Rejoice {in the Spirit}! 

4.5.Let your gentleness be evident to all. The [Lord] {Spirit of God} is near. 

4.6.Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 

4.7.And the [peace] {Spirit} of God [, which transcends all understanding] will guard your hearts [and your minds in Christ Jesus].

4.8.[Finally, brothers, 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.
4.9. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me -- put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.]

4.10.I rejoice greatly in the [Lord] {Spirit} that [at last] you have [renewed your] {been} concern{ed} for me{.}

[.  Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 
4.11.I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 
4.12.I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 
4.13.I can do everything through him who gives me strength. 
4.14.Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 
4.15.Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only;
4.16. for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. 
4.17.Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. 
4.18.I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that]

I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, [an acceptable sacrifice,] pleasing to God. 

4.19.[And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
4.20.To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 
4.21.Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus.]    

The brothers who are with me send greetings,  
4.22.[All the saints send you greetings,] especially those who belong to Caesar's household


4.23.The [grace of the Lord Jesus Christ] {Spirit of God} be with your spirit.  Amen.