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Contributions of the Philippian Community to Paul and to Earliest Christianity*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 February 2009

John Reumann
(Lutheran Theological Seminary, 7301 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19119, USA)


Pauline studies have long dealt with the theology (and sometimes the ethics) of Paul and the career of the apostle to the Gentiles. Lesser attention has been given to the communities of Paul. When Victor Furnish's Forschungsbericht took up ‘the Pauline congregations’, as part of what he termed an ‘overdue refocusing’, the emphases were on (1) relations with Jewish Christianity; (2) Paul's opponents; and (3) social history. The first area still often reflects hypotheses of the Tübingen School; the second, conflicts with rampant Judaizers or Gnostics or both as the opposition. Social world research looks to accumulate descriptive data from antiquity or also to use some modern sociological theory, to interpret Pauline church life and structures.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1993

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1 Cf. the research reports from Schweitzer, A., Paul and His Interpreters: A Critical History (German original, Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1911; London: A. & C. Black, 1912; reprinted New York: Macmillan, 1956)Google Scholar to Hubner, H.Paulusforschung seit 1945’, ANRW 2.25/4 (1987) 2649–840.Google Scholar

2 ‘Pauline Studies’, The New Testament and Its Modern Interpreters (ed. E. J. Epp and G. W. MacRae; Philadelphia: Fortress/Atlanta: Scholars, 1984) 329–31.Google Scholar

3 E.g., Georgi, D., The Opponents of Paul in Second Corinthians (German original, Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1964; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986)Google Scholar; for Philippians, Gunther, John, St Paul's Opponents and Their Background: A Study of Apocalyptic and Jewish Sectarian Teachings (NovTSup 35; Leiden: Brill, 1973).Google Scholar Johannes Munck paid some attention to the individual churches in Paul and the Salvation of Mankind (German original, Copenhagen: Munksgaard, 1954; London: SCM, 1959)Google Scholar, though in his essays Philippi goes undiscussed.

4 Pesch, R., Paulus und seine Lieblingsgemeinde (Herderbücherei 1208; Freiburg: Herder, 1985).Google Scholar

5 Cf. Herbert Braun, Monatsschrift für Pastoraltheologie (= GPM) 40.8 (1951) 215.

6 Schubert, Paul, Form and Function of the Pauline Thanksgivings (BZNW 20; Berlin: Töpelmann, 1939) 184.Google Scholar

7 On setting, see Reumann, J., ‘The Theologies of 1 Thessalonians and Philippians: Contents, Comparison, and Composition’, SBL 1987 Seminar Papers (SBLSPS 26; Atlanta: Scholars, 1987) 521–36Google Scholar, where Paul ‘in dialogue with the Christians’ in a congregation is stressed (1.3) and the chart (at 3.1) makes the Philippians central. This paper develops what was suggested there.

8 Morris, L., ‘KAI AΠAΞ KAI ΔIΣ’, Nov T 1 (1956) 205–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar, followed by Gnilka, J., Phil. (HTKNT 10/3; Freiburg: Herder, 3rd ed. 1980) 172, 178Google Scholar, and O'Brien, P. T., Phil. (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991) 535–6, 515Google Scholar (as above).

9 Rather than Φιλιππεîς or some other form; cf. W. M. Ramsay, ‘On the Greek Form of the Name Philippians’, JTS 1 (1900) 115–16; E. Lohmeyer, Phil. (MeyerK; Göttingen: Vanden-hoeck & Ruprecht, 1930) 184 n. 2; G. F. Hawthorne, Phil. (WBC; Waco, TX: Word Books, 1983) 203; Gnilka 177 n. 134; W. Schenk, Die Philipperbriefe des Paulus: Kommentar (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1984) 40.

10 So Ewald, P., Phil. (Zahn's KzNT 11; Leipzig: Deichert, 1908) 211Google Scholar n. 1; G. Wohlenberg (4th ed.; 1923) 227 n. 1. Further, Schenk, 40, 64–5, 336.

11 The phrase is from K Holsten (so O'Brien 517, cf. 528 n. 91; contrast Gnilka 173 n. 108) and has been employed by commentators like Dibelius, Phil. (HNT 11; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1937)Google Scholar and Lohmeyer; contra any ‘thankless thanks’, see O'Brien 517; Schenk 43.

12 Pesch, 60–3 reconstructs one, in part from 1.3, 9 and 4.10.

13 Holmberg, B., Paul and Power: The Structure of Authority in the Primitive Church as Reflected in the Pauline Epistles (ConBNT 11; Lund: Gleerup, 1978) 11, 92–3.Google Scholar

14 Ibid., 94. Not a business partnership, with Lydia or others in Philippi, as Fleury, J. proposed in ‘Une société de fait dans l'Église apostolique (Phil. 4:10 à 20)’, Mélanges Philippi Meylan 2: Histoire du Droit (Lausanne: Lausanne Université, 1963) 4159Google Scholar, which is rightly rejected by Sampley, P., Pauline Partnership in Christ: Christian Community and Commitment in Light of Roman Law (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980) 51, 58–60Google Scholar; nor am I convinced by Sampley that κοινωνία refers to a Latin, legal societas; if correct, this would result in an utterly unique ecclesiology for Paul and the Philippians (and another section to this paper). My reasons are indicated in part in SBLSPS 26 (above, note 7) 3.4.

15 Holmberg, Paul and Power, 94.

16 No one background, as O'Brien 197 puts it, ‘is able to give an account of the hymn in its entirety’, though there is considerable agreement ‘that the hymn was composed independently of and prior to the writing of Philippians’. The enigma includes the fact that 2.6–11 is so Pauline, yet not always precisely characteristic of Paul himself. Limitations in space make it impossible here to cite and enter into engagement with the extensive literature on 2.6–11 or in Part 3 on ‘bishops and deacons’.

17 O'Brien, 196–8.

18 1 Cor 15.45–9; so Dunn, J. D. G., Christology in the Making (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1980) 114–21.Google Scholar

19 Hurtado, L. W., ‘Jesus as Lordly Example …’, From Jesus to Paul (FS F. W. Beare; ed. Richardson, P. and Hurd, J.; Waterloo, Canada: Wilfred Laurier University, 1984) 113–26.Google Scholar

20 Luke 14.11; Hawthorne, Phil., 78–9, 95, assumes a common tradition on which Paul and John 13 drew.

21 Beare, , Phil. (Black's/HNTC; New York: Harper, 1959) 76–8Google Scholar.

22 ‘Jesus Christ and Alexander the Great’, JTS 46 (1945) 4551Google Scholar, reprinted in Ehrhardt's The Framework of the New Testament Stories (Manchester; Manchester University, 1964) 3743Google Scholar. The passage, Alex. Virt. aut Fort. 1.8 (Mor. 330D), has been cited since Wettstein for its use of ȁρπαγμα, not to mention σχηματίζω.

23 Ehrhardt 50 = 43.

24 H. Hendrix, ‘Philippi’, ABD 5.315.

25 ‘The Concept of Immortals in Mediterranean Antiquity’, JBL 94 (1975) 419–36Google Scholar; ‘The Descending-Ascending Redeemer in Mediterranean Antiquity’, NTS 22 (1976) 418–40.Google Scholar

26 Talbert, C. H., What Is a Gospel? (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977) 72.Google Scholar

27 Deichgräber, R., Gotteshymnus und Christushymnus in der frühen Christenheit (SUNT 5; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1967) 132Google Scholar. Cf. Bauer, W., ‘Der Wortgottes-dienst der ältesten Christen’ (SGV 148; Tübingen: Mohr, 1930)Google Scholar, reprinted in Bauer's Aufsätze und kleine Schriften (ed. G. Strecker; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1967) 155209.Google Scholar

28 Schenk, Phil., 173–5,192–3,195, 202, 209, 336; ANRW 2.25/4 (1987) 3299–308.

29 There is nothing on the hymn's origins in the discussions in Semeia 48 (1989) 135–69 by D. Dormeyer, J. W. Voelz, and H. J. B. Combrink, or in the commentaries by O'Brien, or here in Silva, M., Phil. (Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary; Chicago: Moody, 1988)Google Scholar. More negative are Knoch, O., TPQ 134 (1986) 79Google Scholar; M. Rissi, in ANRW 2.25/4 (1987) 3314. More positive is Dormeyer in a review in BZ 29 (1985) 284–7.

30 The use of Isa 45.23LXX in v. 10 and the possible reflection of the Isaianic servant in v. 7 and an Adam contrast in 6–7. Old Testament material is rare in Philippians. Even Hays, Richard B., Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (New Haven: Yale University, 1989)Google Scholar, finds little, even at the supposed echo of Job 13.16LXX at 1.19. But cf. 1.11 (Prov 3.9; Amos 6.12LXX) and 2.15 (Deut 32.5).

31 As elsewhere. For Isa 45.23, cf. Rom 14.11; for Adam, 1 Cor 15.45–9; for Isa 53, cf. Rom 5.15 and 19 and 4.24.

32 Semeia 48, 147, 155–6. The context is literary criticism, about ‘The Implicit and Explicit Readers …’, and ‘the whole OT’ overstates the case, but actual learning of Israel's Scriptures by Christians in Philippi is meant.

33 BDF §493, repetition for emphasis.

34 Hunzinger, C.-H., ‘Zur Struktur der Christus-Hymnen in Phil 2 und 1. Petr 3’, in Der Ruf Jesu und die Antwort der Gemeinde (FS. Jeremias; ed. Lohse, E.; Göttingen: Vanden-hoeck & Ruprecht, 1970) 150–4Google Scholar. For Dibelius, see Phil., 79. Cf. Hofius, O., Der Christus-hymnus Philipper 2,6–11 (WUNT 17; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1978) 24–5Google Scholar; Schenk, 192–3.

35 So Hofius.

36 Cf. 1 Kings 19.18 = Rom 11.4; Eph 3.14; Schenk, 210 cites also 1 Kings 18.39 and 2 Chron 7.3, where the phrase is ‘fall on one's face’; H. Schlier, ‘κάμπτω’, TDNT 3.594–5.

37 E.g., Schenk, 78–82.

38 Lemaire, A., Les ministères aux origines de l'église (LD 68; Paris: Cerf, 1971) 96103, 186Google Scholar, compared Deut 16.18 (‘judges and officials’, , LXX κριτ⋯ς κα⋯ γραμματο-εισγωγεîς) and then sought to take Did. 15.1 (⋯πισκόπους κα⋯ διακόνους) and 1 Clem. 42.4–5 (same phrase) also as, each, one group, ‘bishops who serve’. Cf. Collange, J.-F., Phil. (CNT 10a; Neuchâtel/Paris: Delachaux & Niestlé, 1973) 40Google Scholar (trans. [London: Epworth, 1974] 39); Hawthorne, 9–10; O'Brien, 48 n. 21).

39 Thus O'Brien, 48; Holmberg, Paul and Power, 101 n. 29; Schenk, 80 n. 18.

40 Cf. Braun, H., Qumran und das Neue Testament (Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1966) 2.326–33Google Scholar. LXX ⋯πισκεπ- = MT , not ; is singular in the texts, not plural as at Phil 1.1; links through the Jerusalem church run into Luke's failure to use ⋯πίσκοπος in Acts, except at 20.28, where it rests on Ezek 34.12–16, as does CD 13.7–9; Jerusalem leadership is not monarchic (cf. Gal 2.6, 9). The proposals of Thiering, B. E., ‘MEBAQQER and EPISKOPOS in the Light of the Temple Scroll’, JBL 100 (1981) 5974Google Scholar, and elsewhere, whereby episkopoi exercise an ‘outer ministry’, flounder, among other reasons, on the absence of the term in places with a Jewish population like Thessalonica and its presence in Philippi.

41 Lietzmann, H., ‘Zur altchristlichen Verfassungsgeschichte’, ZWT 55 (1914) 97153Google Scholar, reprinted in his Kleine Schriften 1 (TU 67; Berlin: Akademie, 1958) 141–85Google Scholar, and in Das kirchliche Amt im Neuen Testament (Wege der Forschung 189; ed. Kertelge, K.; Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1977) 93143Google Scholar. M. Dibelius, ‘“Bischofe” und “Diakonen” in Philippi’, Phil., 60–2, reprinted in Amt, 413–17.

42 Lietzmann, 101 (reprint 105); Georgi, Opponents, 29–31; cf. Rengstorf, K., ‘⋯πόστολος’, TDNT 1.409–12.Google Scholar

43 Jos. Ant. 4.214, 287 = 4.8.14, 38; cf. Deut 16.18; Str-B 4.1.145, 7b and 6Bi, pp. 144–5; 2.641–3.

44 See Lietzmann and Dibelius (n. 41 above).

45 Opponents, 27–32.

46 Diakonia, ; Re-interpreting the Ancient Sources (New York: Oxford University, 1990)Google Scholar; ‘Georgi's “Envoys” in 2 Cor 11:23’, JBL 93 (1974) 8896Google Scholar. I am dubious that diakonos was a technical title for some of Paul's co-workers (so Ellis, E. E., ‘Paul and His Co-Workers’, NTS 17 [1970–1971] 437–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar, reprinted in his Prophecy and Hermeneutic in Early Christianity [WUNT 18; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978] 322Google Scholar, esp. 7–10; they then must include itinerants (with Paul) and the persons at Phil 1.1. Contrast Ollrog, W.-H., Paulas und seine Mitarbeiter (WMANT 50; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1979) 74 n. 64Google Scholar. If the title did derive from such a Pauline background, it would be one like apostolos that locals took over for reference in the community to leaders of their own.

47 For a fuller list see Dobschütz, E. von, Die Thessalonicher-Briefe (MeyerK 10; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 7th ed. 1910) 216–17Google Scholar, repeated in Holmberg, Paul and Power, 102, and Maier, H. O., The Social Setting of the Ministry as Reflected in the Writings of Hermas, Clement and Ignatius (Dissertations SR 1; Waterloo, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University, 1991) 36–7.Google Scholar

48 ‘Bishops and Deacons: Philippians 1.1’, SE 4 (TU 102; Berlin: Akademie, 1968) 371–6.Google Scholar

49 Ollrog, Mitarbeiter, 184 n. 108; Silva, 41.

50 Schnackenburg, R., ‘Episkopos and Hirtenamt. Zu Apg 20,28’, Episkopos (FS von Faulhaber; Regensburg: Pustet, 1949) 6688Google Scholar, reprinted in Schnackenburg's Schriften zum Neuen Testament (Munich: Kösel, 1971) 247–67Google Scholar, and in Amt, 418–41 with Nachwort. Merklein, H., Das kirchliche Amt nach dem Epheserbrief (SANT 33; Munich: Kosel, 1973) 362–92.Google Scholar

51 Dassmann, Ernst, ‘Hausgemeinde und Bischofsamt’, in Vivarium (FS Klauser, JAC Ergänzungsband 11; Münster: Aschendorff, 1984) 8297Google Scholar; with Schöllgen, G., ‘Haus II (Hausgemeinschaft)’, RAC 13 (1986) 801–95Google Scholar, esp. 886–901; Schöllgen, G., ‘Hausgemeinden, oikos-Ekklesiologie, und monarchischer Episkopat’, JAC 31 (1988) 7490.Google Scholar

52 Betz, H. D., 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 (Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986) 139Google Scholar, regards these as two ‘administrative letters’, a category in which he also places Letter A to Philippi (4.10–20).

53 Georgi, D., Geschichte der Kollekte des Paulus für Jerusalem (TF 38; Hamburg-Bergstedt: H. Reich, Evangelischer, 1965) 87Google Scholar; Nickle, K., The Collection (SBT 48; London: SCM, 1966) 68Google Scholar; Munck, Salvation, 294–5; Ollrog, Mitarbeiter, 52–8; Betz, 2 Cor., 50–2, 94.

54 Ollrog, Mitarbeiter, 58 n. 265; cf. Georgi, Kollekte, 80.

55 2 Cor., 75.

56 Héring, J., The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (French original CNT 1959; London: Epworth, 1967) 60Google Scholar: ‘recapitulation’ of 2.5–11; Georgi, Kollekte, 61 n. 227; H. D. Betz, 2 Cor., 61–3: it is a quotation (ὅτι) but formulated ad hoc.

57 Georgi, Kollekte, 68–72; Windisch, H., 2. Korinther (MeyerK 6; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 9th ed. 1924) 276.Google Scholar

58 ‘Thanksgiving’ and the ‘Glory of God’ in Paul (Borna-Leipzig: Robert Noske, 1929)Google Scholar.

59 Paul Schubert, Pauline Thanksgivings, 89–92; Furnish, 2 Cor., 125, 203, 261, 287, 451; Betz, 2 Cor., 118–20, asks if this ‘speculative “thanksgiving” theory’ also lurks behind Phil 1.4.

60 2 Cor., 100.

61 E.g., Cranfield, C. E. B., Romans (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark) 2 (1979) 565–6.Google Scholar

62 Hendrix, ABD 5.315.

63 ‘Philippians 3.20–1 – a Hymnic Fragment?’, NTS 30 (1984) 593609Google Scholar. Cf. Becker, J., Auferstehung der Toten im Urchristentum (SBS 82; Stuttgart: KBW, 1976) 109–10.Google Scholar

64 326–7.

65 J. T. Fitzgerald, ‘Philippians, Epistle to the’, ABD 5.318–26, esp. 320; White, L. M., ‘Morality Between Two Worlds: A Paradigm of Friendship in Philippians’, in Greeks, Romans, and Christians (FS Malberbe; ed. Balch, D. L. et al. ; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990) 206–15Google Scholar, where Sampley's ‘quasi-legal setting of contractual societas’ is expanded as no longer adequate into a letter-of-friendship approach (210); Schenk, 62. On 4.10–20 specifically, O'Brien, 514, 534; Ebner, M., Leidenslisten und Apostelbrief (FB 66; Würzburg, : Echter, 1991) 331–64Google Scholar. Note above (n. 52) Betz's suggestion of an ‘administrative letter’.

66 Schenk, 63–5.

67 Beker, J. C., Paul the Apostle: The Triumph of God in Life and Thought (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980) 1113Google Scholar; chap. 14, on the church, thinks almost entirely universally, about Israel and ‘the world’, not locally.

68 E.g., Schenk, 15; but cf. 19–20.