Time: Prob AD 60 or 61.
Origin, place of writing: Since Paul was a prisoner at the
time Philippians was written (Phi 1:7,13,16), identification of this
imprisonment would make possible the fixing of the date and place of origin of
the Epistle. Three possibilities must be considered:
1. Caesarea. Paul was a prisoner in Caesarea for two years
(57-59) and his friends had access to him (Acts 24:23,27). The fugitive slave
Onesimus could have fled there (this assumes that the Epistles to the Colossians
and Philemon came out of the same imprisonment as Philippians). The "praetorium"
(Phi 1:13; NIV, "palace guard") could [possibly] be understood of Herod's palace
at Caesarea (Acts 23:35). Furthermore, the warning and argument against Jewish
teachers (Phi 3:1-16) fits well the period of Jewish-Gentile controversy. This
theory has not been widely adopted, because there is no positive evidence
favoring it. Paul expected prompt release (Phi 2:24), but there was little
reason for optimism while he was at Caesarea, and this prospect was no longer
possible after he had appealed to Caesar. Lack of any mention of the prominent
Philip, who lived at Caesarea and had been Paul's host (Acts 21:8-10), also
makes this view doubtful.
2. Rome. The traditional view places the writing of
Philippians during Paul's first imprisonment in Rome during 59-61 (Acts 28:30).
This is the most natural understanding of "palace guard" (Phi 1:13) and
"Caesar's household" (Phi 4:22). Paul's trial was evidently going on during the
writing, and its outcome could bring either life or death. Apparently there
could be no appeal from its verdict (Phi 1:19-24). This was not the situation at
Caesarea, for there he could appeal to Caesar (Acts 25:10-12). His circumstances
reflected in the letter fit the Roman imprisonment better than the one at
Caesarea, since he had freedom to arrange travel plans for his associates and
opportunity to carry on considerable correspondence. He hoped to visit Philippi
soon (Phi 2:24); at Caesarea, however, his aim was to go to Rome, and his appeal
to Caesar made a trip to Philippi out of the question. The Marcionite Prologue
(c 170) states that Philippians was sent from Rome. This view is the one most
3. Ephesus. This view places the writing in 53-55 during
Paul's three-year stay in Ephesus (Acts 19). The problem that Acts mentions no
imprisonment of Paul in Ephesus is met by explaining Rom 16:4,7; 1Co 15:32; 2Co
1:8-10; 11:23 as pointing to such an imprisonment. But this is by no means
established, for it demands treating these passages in Corinthians with wooden
literalness rather than as the dramatic figures they are. Furthermore, this view
requires taking Rom 16 as written to Ephesus rather than to Rome, a conclusion
not warranted by the documentary evidence.
Summary: Paul's main purpose in writing this letter seems to
have been to thank the Philippians for the gift they had sent him when they
heard he had been imprisoned at Rome (Phi 1:5; 4:10–19). But Paul also
discusses several other issues. He encourages the Philippians to stand firm in
the face of persecution, and he exhorts them to humility and unity. He also
commends Timothy and Epaphroditus to the church and warns the Philippians
against people who encourage a return to the Jewish law. The letter is
outstanding in its emphasis on joy; the word "joy" occurs 16 times.
Key verse: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in
everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to
God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds
in Christ Jesus" (Phi 4:6,7).
Phi 1: Christ the Christian's life.
Phi 2: Christ the Christian's pattern.
Phi 3: Christ the Christian's object.
Phi 4: Christ the Christian's strength.
1. Greetings and thanksgiving: Phi 1:1–11
2. Paul's personal circumstances: Phi 1:12–26
3. Exhortations: Phi 1:27 – 2:18
a) Living a life worthy of the gospel: Phi
b) Following the servant attitude of Christ: Phi
4. Timothy and Epaphroditus: Phi 2:19–30
5. Warnings against false teachers: Phi 3:1 –
6. Final exhortations, thanks and conclusion: Phi
a) Exhortations: Phi 4:2–9
b) Thanks: Phi 4:10–20
c) Greetings and benediction: Phi 4:21–23