Paul wrote this brief letter while imprisoned in Rome between the years 61 and 63 CE. Philippi was an interesting town in that it was a kind of Roman Military Retirement village. That is, some Roman soldiers who served in the battles of the civil war in 42 CE received land as pension and the land they received was in and around Philippi. The city itself set on the Via Egnatia just to the east of another important town, Thessalonica. The Christians at Philippi were probably ex-soldiers and their families, which puts a whole new spin on the meaning of the text, for it must be read with this military audience in mind.
Paul evangelized the city around the year 50 during his Second Missionary Journey. It was one of his favorites, and one which was most supportive of him.
The outline of the little epistle shows the reason that it was written:
1- Greeting and Thanksgiving (1:1-11)
2- Paul Describes his Situation in Prison (1:12-26)
3- A Hymn to Christ (1:27-2:16)
4- Paul’s Wish to See them Again (2:17-3:1a)
5- Beware of False Teachers (3:1b-4:1)
6- Exhortation to Unity (4:2-9)
7- The Philippian’s Generous Gift of Support to Paul and His Gratitude for It (4:10-20)
8- Blessing (4:21-23)
This letter, then, is about Paul and his friends at Philippi, and how that friendship has been demonstrated by his love for them in sharing the Gospel and their love for him by their material support. Just as he ministered to them, so they also have ministered to him.
ASSIGNMENT: Read 1 Thessalonians, and Brown’s Introduction, chapter 18.
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