Paul’s short, affectionate letter to the Philippians has been much belabored of late by biblical scholars keen to analyze it in light of Greco-Roman letter-writing conventions. Yet Ben Witherington argues that Philippians shouldn’t be read as a letter at all but, rather, as a masterful piece of long-distance oratory—an extension of Paul’s oral speech, dictated to a scribe and meant to be read aloud to its recipients.
With this in mind, Witherington analyzes Philippians in light of Greco-Roman rhetorical conventions, identifying Paul’s purpose, highlighting his main points and his persuasive strategies, and considering how his audience—denizens of a society of limited literacy yet saturated in highly skilled oral rhetoric—would have heard and received Paul’s message.
Offering verse-by-verse commentary, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians is a fantastic addition to the Socio-Rhetorical Commentary Series (8 Vols.) already available in Logos and is perfect for scholars, students, and laity. With our digital format, you can link your favorite Bible to Paul’s Letter to the Philippians for ease of scrolling, and running a Passage Guide search will provide results from Witherington’s work.
Ben Witherington III is Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky, and is on the doctoral faculty at St. Andrews University, Scotland. Witherington has twice won the Christianity Today best Biblical Studies book-of-the-year award, and his many books include We Have Seen His Glory: A Vision of Kingdom Worship and socio-rhetorical commentaries on Mark, Acts, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians. He writes a blog at patheos.com and can also be found on the web at benwitherington.com.
“Paul in Philippians is not mainly correcting problems but rather ensuring progress in Christian maturity, progress in working out one’s salvation with fear and trembling, progress in leaving the pagan past behind and striving for the goal of being fully conformed to the image of the crucified, risen, and glorified Savior.” (Page 15)
“Philippi in Paul’s day was a town of approximately 10,000 and most importantly that it was a Roman colony city named Colonia Iulia Augusta Philippensis.” (Page 4)
“Paul is not so much trying to change the course of the Philippian Christians’ behavior as to keep them united and on track by providing good examples (and pointing out negative examples), the chief good exemplum being Christ himself.” (Page 15)
“Paul is indeed talking about personal salvation, in this case sanctification and final salvation, and is saying that both the believer and God, and indeed the community collectively, have roles to play in this matter. But it is ‘your own’ salvation, not some abstract concept but something deeply personal, affecting and transforming each individual.” (Page 159)
“Here Paul is not exhorting individuals to work out their private or individual salvation all by themselves. That much is clear. But he is talking about the community helping one another work out their personal salvation.” (Page 159)