Current Trends in Pauline Research: Philippians

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Theologies".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 May 2024 | Viewed by 8878

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Torrey Honors College, Biola University, La Mirada, CA 90639, USA
Interests: Philippians; biblical studies; classics

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Biblical Studies Department, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC 27587, USA
Interests: Paul (especially, Philippians); Luke; parables of Jesus; social identity theory and violence; biblical studies; visual exegesis; classics; history of religions; reception history

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The scope and purpose of this Special Issue is to highlight the current trends and methods of approaching Paul’s letter to the Philippian Christ followers, understanding the letter’s aim(s), methods, recipients, and theological impact. Paul is an adept epistle writer, with his corpus reflecting rhetorical sophistication, pastoral sensitivity, missional zeal, and theological power, all of which are on display in his short letter to the Philippian saints. As a shorter Pauline epistle—often assumed to be merely a “warm, friendly, joy-filled letter” in the commentary tradition—Philippians has historically been under-appreciated and misunderstood in biblical studies. However, recent scholarship has corrected some of this neglect and misunderstanding, and this Special Issue seeks to present the latest insights emerging therefrom. Philippians, far from being a minor member of the Corpus Paulinum, serves as a powerful monument to Paul’s overall and mature theological, Christological, and pastoral vision.

Topics Targeted for Submission: Of special interest are developments of new approaches to reading Philippians (intertextual, rhetorical, comparative, sociological, narrative approach, theological readings, etc.), applying such approaches to specific elements of the text of the epistle. We also welcome treatments of individual passages within Philippians that interact with the latest proposals about reading Philippians in various contexts and Sitze im Leben (Greco-Roman, Jewish, etc.).

Dr. Isaac Blois
Dr. Gregory E. Lamb
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Philippians
  • hermeneutics
  • pauline studies
  • ethics
  • early Christianity
  • comparative studies
  • Paul within Judaism
  • social scientific studies
  • social identity theory
  • Carmen Christi
  • Christ Hymn

Published Papers (11 papers)

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17 pages, 397 KiB  
Article
How Might Positionality Be Used in Biblical Studies? Philippians 1:27–2:4 as an Example
by Melissa C. M. Tan
Religions 2024, 15(6), 638; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15060638 - 23 May 2024
Viewed by 330
Abstract
Using Philippians 1:27–2:4 as an example, this article will explore the role of positionality in biblical studies. Although the process of reflecting on one’s positionality is more prevalent in empirical-based research, one’s positionality is also relevant in text-based research, such as in biblical [...] Read more.
Using Philippians 1:27–2:4 as an example, this article will explore the role of positionality in biblical studies. Although the process of reflecting on one’s positionality is more prevalent in empirical-based research, one’s positionality is also relevant in text-based research, such as in biblical studies. This article will demonstrate this by observing the following: first, how some analyses of the collectivistic cultural context of Philippians have been inappropriately influenced by certain implicit individualistic perspectives; and second, how an interpretive lens derived from my positionality as a scholar from an explicitly collectivistic culture is able to highlight a mostly ignored intrinsic correlation between social relations and virtue. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Current Trends in Pauline Research: Philippians)
15 pages, 778 KiB  
Article
Schēma: A Semantic Puzzle—Some Hermeneutical and Translational Difficulties about Philippians 2:7d
by Teresa Bartolomei
Religions 2024, 15(5), 613; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15050613 - 16 May 2024
Viewed by 409
Abstract
The occurrence of the term σχήμα in Phil 2:7d is analyzed in comparison with two other crucial Pauline occurrences: 1 Cor 7:31 and Phil 3:21 (here as a semanteme included in the verb μετασχηματίσει). This comparative study aims to provide a revision [...] Read more.
The occurrence of the term σχήμα in Phil 2:7d is analyzed in comparison with two other crucial Pauline occurrences: 1 Cor 7:31 and Phil 3:21 (here as a semanteme included in the verb μετασχηματίσει). This comparative study aims to provide a revision of the current interpretation of the word as designating the outward, sensory, accidental appearance in which Christ’s human nature was manifested to those who dealt with him. This traditional reconstruction is unsatisfactory in two respects: (1) it is tributary to a substantialist ontology that identifies corporeality as a mere spatial extension, unrelated to historicity and (2) it is fraught with highly problematic theological, potentially docetic, implications. As an alternative, the term σχήμα is here interpreted within the framework of the great Pauline theology of history: as a temporal–eschatological marker designating the peculiar temporal state of transience and suffering corruptibility inherent in physicality and corporeal life. This change also clarifies the conceptual articulation of σχήμα with the parallel expression μορφὴν δούλου. According to this interpretation, contrary to the prevailing view, the locution “slave form” does not designate ‘the’ or ‘one’ ‘human form’ but the ‘creature form’, as cosmic submission to temporal finitude. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Current Trends in Pauline Research: Philippians)
8 pages, 268 KiB  
Article
Developing Christ as Consolatory Example in the Christ Encomium
by Alex W. Muir
Religions 2024, 15(5), 607; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15050607 - 15 May 2024
Viewed by 452
Abstract
While Paul Holloway’s scholarship on Philippians has been important, his classification of Philippians as a letter of consolation has gained relatively little traction. Interestingly, however, Holloway follows Karl Barth in labelling a large section of the letter, Phil 1:27–2:16, a ‘hortatory digression’, which [...] Read more.
While Paul Holloway’s scholarship on Philippians has been important, his classification of Philippians as a letter of consolation has gained relatively little traction. Interestingly, however, Holloway follows Karl Barth in labelling a large section of the letter, Phil 1:27–2:16, a ‘hortatory digression’, which could be seen to diminish the extent of consolation in this part of the letter. In this article, I seek to develop Holloway’s work to argue that the Christ encomium in Phil 2:6–11 has elements of consolatory discourse that relates to other parts of the letter. Phil 2:6–11 illustrates and exemplifies how comfort (παράκλησις), consolation (παραμύθιον), and joy (χαρά) can be derived by individuals and communities in the face of opposition or destitution (cf. Phil 1:27–2:4). I propose that Christ undergoes a form of voluntary desolation in 2:6–8 but then receives something different from consolation in his glorious exaltation and the bestowal of the divine name. Although Paul and the Philippians will not receive universal worship like Christ, they can imitate him by following in this trajectory of becoming like God, thus receiving divine consolation and transformation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Current Trends in Pauline Research: Philippians)
15 pages, 376 KiB  
Article
Rethinking Paul’s Rhetorical Intentions: An Interaction with Ryan S. Schellenberg’s Abject Joy
by Trevor A. Clark
Religions 2024, 15(5), 590; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15050590 - 11 May 2024
Viewed by 490
Abstract
Ryan S. Schellenberg recaptures a more human version of the Apostle Paul by challenging the mainstream understandings of boasting and joy as rhetorical. This essay, with reference to the concept of “rhetorical framing”, suggests that Schellenberg is right in what he affirms but [...] Read more.
Ryan S. Schellenberg recaptures a more human version of the Apostle Paul by challenging the mainstream understandings of boasting and joy as rhetorical. This essay, with reference to the concept of “rhetorical framing”, suggests that Schellenberg is right in what he affirms but wrong in what he denies and that a “strategic” understanding of boasting and joy language in Philippians is still possible, and no less human. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Current Trends in Pauline Research: Philippians)
22 pages, 437 KiB  
Article
Beyond the Greco-Roman or Jewish Monocle: Reading Philippians and Paul ‘Kaleidoscopically’
by Gregory E. Lamb
Religions 2024, 15(4), 467; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15040467 - 9 Apr 2024
Viewed by 609
Abstract
Typically, scholars view/read the enigmatic apostle Paul monolithically—that is, through either a Greco-Roman or Jewish socio-cultural lens. The traditional Lutheran (Greco-Roman/Western) lens was criticized in the mid-/late-twentieth century by scholars highlighting Paul’s Jewishness—resulting in the so-called “New Perspective on Paul” and “Paul within [...] Read more.
Typically, scholars view/read the enigmatic apostle Paul monolithically—that is, through either a Greco-Roman or Jewish socio-cultural lens. The traditional Lutheran (Greco-Roman/Western) lens was criticized in the mid-/late-twentieth century by scholars highlighting Paul’s Jewishness—resulting in the so-called “New Perspective on Paul” and “Paul within Judaism” movements. This paradigmatic post-Shoah shift of Pauline interpretation begs the questions, “Should we abandon Greco-Roman readings of Paul?” and “Should we continue to read Philippians and Paul through a singular (Jewish) lens?” Building upon the work of Markus Bockmuehl, Abraham Malherbe et al., I argue for an “eclectic and pragmatic” approach. I explain how “monocular” (Greco-Roman or Jewish) and even “binocular” (Greco-Roman and Jewish) approaches flatten Paul’s complex thought world and Sitz im Leben as an in-Christ church-planting missionary. The purpose of this study is to read Philippians and Paul “kaleidoscopically”—considering the distinct Romanitas, juxtaposed and colliding cultures, worldviews, and religions that Paul likely encountered in the cosmopolitan colonia of first-century Philippi. This article transcends the Greco-Roman/Jewish debate surrounding Paul—highlighting the literary and archaeological evidence of competing pagan, Jewish, and Pauline Christ cults in first-century Philippi—and thus encouraging scholars to read Philippians and Paul through a “kaleidoscopic” rather than a monolithic lens. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Current Trends in Pauline Research: Philippians)
16 pages, 365 KiB  
Article
Paul’s Self-Presentation in Phil 1:12–26
by Dolly Elias Chaaya
Religions 2024, 15(4), 464; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15040464 - 9 Apr 2024
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 602
Abstract
This article demonstrates how Paul’s self-presentation in Phil 1:12–26 serves as an important exemplum to the Christian community, whereby Paul, in contrast to those who “proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition” (Phil 1:17), values the Gospel, and therefore values Christ above all things. [...] Read more.
This article demonstrates how Paul’s self-presentation in Phil 1:12–26 serves as an important exemplum to the Christian community, whereby Paul, in contrast to those who “proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition” (Phil 1:17), values the Gospel, and therefore values Christ above all things. However, Paul’s synkrisis does not lead to self-boasting, but suggests that in regard to the Philippian community, “by his presence again […] their boast might abound in Christ Jesus because of him” (Phil 1:26). This sincerity guides us to focus this article on the function of Phil 1:12–26 in preparing the exemplum of Christ in Phil 2:6–11. In order to reach our desired result, it is necessarily important to underline keywords that are constantly repeated in Phil 1:12–26, such as χριστός, κυρίος, καταγγέλλω, and καύχημα, which serve as a hinge between the first three chapters of the letter to the Philippians, in addition to προσκοπή and παρρησία. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Current Trends in Pauline Research: Philippians)
18 pages, 565 KiB  
Article
“Their End Is Destruction”: Reading Philippians as Philosophical Dialogue
by Eric Covington
Religions 2024, 15(4), 462; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15040462 - 8 Apr 2024
Viewed by 514
Abstract
Paul’s address to the ekklesia in Philippi evidences an ideological conflict within the community. The letter encourages the community to persevere in a prescribed philosophy while simultaneously recognizing the presence of “opponents” (Phil 1:28) and “enemies” (Phil 3:18) against whom the community must [...] Read more.
Paul’s address to the ekklesia in Philippi evidences an ideological conflict within the community. The letter encourages the community to persevere in a prescribed philosophy while simultaneously recognizing the presence of “opponents” (Phil 1:28) and “enemies” (Phil 3:18) against whom the community must “stand firm” (Phil 4:1). Building on Pierre Hadot’s work in identifying ancient philosophy as a “way of life”, this article examines the nature of this ideological conflict by reading Philippians in light of the conventions of ancient philosophical dialogue. While the letter does not take the strict literary structure of a formal dialogue, it can rightly be understood as a philosophical text that is engaging in a critical conversation about competing philosophical “ways of life”. In this philosophical dialogue, Paul critiques the alternative way of life on offer to the Philippian ekklesia by portraying it as an insufficient way of life that will lead to destruction. He simultaneously presents his own philosophy as the one that is consistent with the appropriate “goal,” the right “mind,” and a consistent “way of life” that will help the community attain their ultimate telos. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Current Trends in Pauline Research: Philippians)
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13 pages, 326 KiB  
Article
Talking about Oneself to Talk about Christ: The Autobiographical Text of Philippians 3:1–4.1 in Light of Ancient Rhetorical Heritage
by Francesco Bianchini
Religions 2024, 15(4), 398; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15040398 - 25 Mar 2024
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 591
Abstract
In this contribution, we will proceed in three steps. First of all, we will investigate the rhetorical approach for studying the Pauline letters, considering different methodological options. In this context, we will propose the approach of the literary rhetoric as the most valid. [...] Read more.
In this contribution, we will proceed in three steps. First of all, we will investigate the rhetorical approach for studying the Pauline letters, considering different methodological options. In this context, we will propose the approach of the literary rhetoric as the most valid. Secondly, we will analyse the autobiographical text of Philippians 3:1–4:1, starting from its delimitation, textual criticism, and its arrangement, according to oral and discursive models. Then, we will proceed with genre and literary origins; here, we will discover the periautologia as the point of reference of the Pauline autobiography. This eulogy of self is a genre, well known in the rhetorical tradition, to which Plutarch dedicated the treatise On praising oneself. This discovery determines the following exegetical analysis of the text. Thirdly, we will conclude with a reflection about Paul’s way of speaking about himself in this passage. In light of ancient rhetorical heritage, he does not use his autobiography to praise himself but to praise Christ, who completely changed his life. Ultimately, Paul’s talk about himself is a way of talking about Christ for the benefit of the addressees who should creatively imitate the Apostle and his Christian life. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Current Trends in Pauline Research: Philippians)
9 pages, 284 KiB  
Article
Rhetorical Approach to the Periautology of Philippians 3:2–16
by Jean-Noël Aletti
Religions 2024, 15(2), 164; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15020164 - 29 Jan 2024
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 679
Abstract
This article examines why Paul uses self-praise, or periautology, in Phil 3:2–14 to respond to Christians who boasted of their Jewish origin. It shows the importance and relevance of this type of rhetoric, clarifies its purpose, and examines the way Paul uses it. [...] Read more.
This article examines why Paul uses self-praise, or periautology, in Phil 3:2–14 to respond to Christians who boasted of their Jewish origin. It shows the importance and relevance of this type of rhetoric, clarifies its purpose, and examines the way Paul uses it. Paul does not only use periautology in Phil 3, but it is in this passage that it has the most force and originality. As, until now, very few monographs and articles have shown the existence of periautology in the Pauline letters, this article invites exegetes to be more sensitive to the existence of literary models and their importance for better interpreting the apostle’s thought. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Current Trends in Pauline Research: Philippians)
12 pages, 977 KiB  
Article
Brave Priestesses of Philippi: The Cultic Role of Euodia and Syntyche (Phil 4:2)
by Isaac D. Blois
Religions 2024, 15(1), 127; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15010127 - 18 Jan 2024
Viewed by 889
Abstract
When Paul, in Phil 4:2, “pleads” with Euodia and Syntyche to “agree with one another in the Lord”, he is both commending them for their priestly role as gospel workers among his group of converts and at the same time calling them back [...] Read more.
When Paul, in Phil 4:2, “pleads” with Euodia and Syntyche to “agree with one another in the Lord”, he is both commending them for their priestly role as gospel workers among his group of converts and at the same time calling them back to a single-minded focus on gospel mission. Throughout the letter, the apostle has forged a link between gospel mission and cultic imagery, depicting himself and his gospel co-workers as priestly agents accomplishing sacrificial service. Thus, when he comes to this climactic exhortation at the letter’s close, he deploys this imagery as a way both to commend and correct these female leaders within the Philippian community of Christ-believers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Current Trends in Pauline Research: Philippians)

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9 pages, 290 KiB  
Essay
Shedding Some Light on Economics in Philippians: Phil 4:10–20 and the Socio-Economic Situation of the Community
by Heiko Wojtkowiak
Religions 2024, 15(6), 650; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15060650 - 26 May 2024
Viewed by 354
Abstract
This essay considers what conclusions may be drawn concerning the socio-economic situation of the Philippian community from Paul’s response to the Philippians’ gift in Phil 4:10–20. It contributes to the recent discussions of the socio-economic situation of the Pauline communities, as well as [...] Read more.
This essay considers what conclusions may be drawn concerning the socio-economic situation of the Philippian community from Paul’s response to the Philippians’ gift in Phil 4:10–20. It contributes to the recent discussions of the socio-economic situation of the Pauline communities, as well as to the current understanding of the possibilities, challenges, and limitations of a social-scientific interpretation of this letter. Phil 4:10–20 includes several potential hints about the Philippians’ socio-economic situation. These could indicate that their situation is quite precarious under shifting economic circumstances. Immediately after Paul founded the community, the Philippians supported him twice (4:15f). Afterward, however, they did not have the opportunity to do so, although they kept it in mind (4:10: ἐφ’ ᾧ καὶ ἐφρονεῖτε, ἠκαιρεῖσθε δέ). Eventually, they were able to send another, apparently large, gift to the imprisoned apostle (4:18). As a part of his response to this gift, Paul explicates his self-sufficient lifestyle (4:11–13), possibly as an example for the Philippians. He also promises them that God will satisfy all their needs (4:19), which may be understood as a consolation in view of socio-economic distress. This study reconsiders the potential socio-scientific interpretations of these hints. It explores to what extent they (even collectively) may shed light on the socio-economic situation of the Philippian community. In doing so, it also points out the uncertainties and challenges such an interpretation must address. It thus shows how the scope of social-scientific interpretation, at least in this case, is limited. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Current Trends in Pauline Research: Philippians)
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