Thursday, January 7, 2010

MWSB-Jan 4-8: Philippians

First week of second semester. A class on the book of Philippians. Yay! Philippians is one of my favorite books of the Bible. This class was taught by a pastor from Bozeman, MT named Brian Hughes. We went through the whole book in 4 days with a test on it on Friday. For part of our homework (but not discussed in class) we were given the book Be Joyful by Warren W. Wiersbe to read. An interesting read that went along well with what Brian taught us on. (There are other books in the series whose titles all begin with "Be . . .")

Some of the new things I learned: Learned about Textual Criticism. Textual Criticism comes from comparing various translations and why some translations say one thing and others say a different, but similar (and doctrinally sound and identical). This came up when we came across Phil. 1:16 and 17. Pause reading this a minute get out your Bibles (or go to or a similar website) and compare these two verses in NIV, ESV, NLT, or most any other modern translation with the KJV or NKJV. Notice something? Yes, they are indeed switched! During Brian's discussion on Textual Criticism, we learned the reason why: the KJV and NKJV translate from the majority of documents, meaning that their translation is what the majority of the original documents say. The NIV and it's modern "cousins" translate from the earliest documents, not the majority. This also explains why some other passages in the New Testament have an bracketed note (not part of Scripture) that says something along the lines of "The earliest and most reliable manuscripts do not have such-and-such-passage." This didn't happen at all in the Old Testament because the text was copied out only by professional scribes: if they made one mistake, no matter how far into the text they were, they threw the whole thing out and started over--talk about dedicated copying!

Fascinating isn't it?

We also learned about the history behind Paul ending up in prison from where he wrote Philippians and the other three Prison Letters/Epistles: Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon. He wrote from prison in Rome. Well, actually it was house arrest, but still a type of prison nonetheless. When Paul wrote these Prison Letters, he had been under arrest in 3 different locations (Jerusalem for a little while, Cesarea by the Sea and Rome) for a total of probably at least 4 years: 2 in Cesarea, about 2 in Rome and an unknown amount of time in Jerusalem. Doesn't seem like the best of contexts for the writing of a book about joy, eh? One of the things that Brian mentioned was that Paul was able to fulfill his desire of ministering to Rome best while under house arrest. The guards took turns guarding him, so they each got several hours of interacting with Paul and observing and having to hear whatever Paul said about Christianity. In fact, in chapter 1 of Philippians, Paul talks about this very thing: "Now I want you to know brothers that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ." That was chapter 1 verses 12-13. Notice something. Paul never considered himself a prisoner of Rome, rather he always called himself a prisoner of Christ.

Something else that I found interesting: Paul, Epaphroditus, and the Philippian church (which was founded by Lydia and her household-Acts 16:14-15 [Lydia was the first believer in all of Europe!] and the Philippian jailer and his family in Acts 16:25-40 on Paul's second missionary journey) all thought of others and never themselves. Paul was concerned for the church because they were concerned about Epaphroditus who was concerned for the church because they had heard that he was sick (not a cold sick, but like, deathly sick) and were concerned for him, the church was concerned for Paul because he was in prison, and Paul was concerned for Epaphroditus because he was sick. Just a loop of concern for everyone else but themselves. What an example of selflessness!

One more thing that I found interesting. At this time the Philippian church was off to a good start, they were nothing like the Corinthian church. But Paul had heard about some seeds of disunity that had been planted and in his letter, he was determined to nip it in the bud. Imagine something that Brian had us imagine. You're in 1st-century Philippi and the church has just gotten a letter from Paul in Rome. Euodia and Syntyche are there too. As was tradition in those days (hearing the Word rather than reading it for themselves, not usually having their own copies), someone read Paul's letter for their church service. Everyone is enjoying hearing the letter, but a few verses that briefly and subtly touch on being loving and unified start to make these two women a tad nervous. Then the reader gets to what is now chapter 4, verse 2-3: "I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. 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." Paul had the audacity to call these two women out by name as members of the church (they were believers, "whose names are written in the book of life", and they served the church "who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel"! Not typical characteristics of dissenters) who were causing disunity.

Quite some interesting stuff from such a little book (only 4 chapters), don't you think? I thought so.


  1. Excellent observations, Allison! I loved reading what you got out of the class and the book. Thanks for sharing your insights!

  2. Thanks! On Friday I will be writing a post on this week's class.