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The Catholic Study Bible A special version of the New American Bible, with a wealth of background information useful to Catholics.

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Commentary on Philippians

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1, 1–2 :

See the note on Rom 1, 1–7 , concerning the greeting.

1, 1 :

Slaves: Paul usually refers to himself at the start of a letter as an apostle. Here he substitutes a term suggesting the unconditional obligation of himself and Timothy to the service of Christ, probably because, in view of the good relationship with the Philippians, he wishes to stress his status as a co‐servant rather than emphasize his apostolic authority. Reference to Timothy is a courtesy: Paul alone writes the letter, as the singular verb throughout shows ( 3–26 ), and the reference ( 2, 19–24 ) to Timothy in the third person. Overseers: the Greek term episkopos literally means “one who oversees” or “one who supervises,” but since the second century it has come to designate the “bishop,” the official who heads a local church. In New Testament times this office had not yet developed into the form that it later assumed, though it seems to be well on the way to such development in the Pastorals; see 1 Tm 3, 2 and Ti 1, 7 , where it is translated bishop. At Philippi, however (and at Ephesus, according to Acts 20, 28 ), there was more than one episkopos, and the precise function of these officials is uncertain. In order to distinguish this office from the later stages into which it developed, the term is here translated as overseers. Ministers: the Greek term diakonoi is used frequently in the New Testament to designate “servants,” “attendants,” or “ministers.” Paul refers to himself and to other apostles as “ministers of God” (2 Cor 6, 4 ) or “ministers of Christ” (2 Cor 11, 23 ). In the Pastorals (1 Tm 3, 8.12 ) the diakonos has become an established official in the local church; hence the term is there translated as deacon. The diakonoi at Philippi seem to represent an earlier stage of development of the office; we are uncertain about their precise functions. Hence the term is here translated as ministers. See Rom 16, 1 , where Phoebe is described as a diakonos (minister) of the church of Cenchreae.

1, 2 :

The gifts come from Christ the Lord, not simply through him from the Father; compare the christology in 2, 6–11 .

1, 3–11 :

As in Rom 1, 8–15 and all the Pauline letters except Galatians, a thanksgiving follows, including a direct prayer for the Philippians (9–11 ); see the note on Rom 1, 8 . On their partnership for the gospel (5), cf 29–30; 4, 10–20 . Their devotion to the faith and to Paul made them his pride and joy ( 4, 1 ). The characteristics thus manifested are evidence of the community's continuing preparation for the Lord's parousia ( 6.10 ). Paul's especially warm relationship with the Philippians is suggested here ( 7.8 ) as elsewhere in the letter. The eschatology serves to underscore a concern for ethical growth ( 9–11 ), which appears throughout the letter.

1, 6 :

The day of Christ Jesus: the parousia or triumphant return of Christ, when those loyal to him will be with him and share in his eternal glory; cf 10; 2, 16; 3, 20–21; 1 Thes 4, 17; 5, 10; 2 Thes 1, 10; 1 Cor 1, 8 .

1, 12–26 :

The body of the letter begins with an account of Paul's present situation, i.e., his imprisonment ( 12–13 ; see Introduction), and then goes on with advice for the Philippians (1, 27–2, 18). The advance of the gospel ( 12 ) and the progress of the Philippians in the faith ( 25 ) frame what is said.

1, 13 :

Praetorium: either the praetorian guard in the city where Paul was imprisoned or the governor's official residence in a Roman province (cf Mk 15, 16; Acts 23, 35 ). See Introduction on possible sites.

1, 14–18 :

Although Paul is imprisoned, Christians there nonetheless go on preaching Christ. But they do so with varied motives, some with personal hostility toward Paul, others out of personal ambition.

1, 18 :

Rejoice: a major theme in the letter; see Introduction.

1, 19–25 :

Paul earnestly debates his prospects of martyrdom or continued missionary labor. While he may long to depart this life and thus be with Christ ( 23 ), his overall and final expectation is that he will be delivered from this imprisonment and continue in the service of the Philippians and of others ( 19.25; 2, 24 ). In either case, Christ is central ( 20.21 ); if to live means Christ for Paul, death means to be united with Christ in a deeper sense.

1, 19 :

Result in deliverance for me: an echo of Jb 13, 16 , hoping that God will turn suffering to ultimate good and deliverance from evil.

1, 27–30 :

Ethical admonition begins at this early point in the letter, emphasizing steadfastness and congregational unity in the face of possible suffering. The opponents ( 28 ) are those in Philippi, probably pagans, who oppose the gospel cause. This is proof … ( 28 ) may refer to the whole outlook and conduct of the Philippians, turning out for their salvation but to the judgment of the opponents (cf 2 Cor 2, 15–16 ), or possibly the sentence refers to the opinion of the opponents, who hold that the obstinacy of the Christians points to the destruction of such people as defy Roman authority (though in reality, Paul holds, such faithfulness leads to salvation).

1, 30 :

A reference to Paul's earlier imprisonment in Philippi (Acts 16, 19–24; 1 Thes 2, 2 ) and to his present confinement.

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