Place and Time of Writing


Literary Character






Opening Philippians Up


Why did Paul write the letter?

Paul was in Rome under house arrest in the early 60s.  While there Epaphroditus visited him.  The Christians in Philippi heard that Paul was in need of money and sent him a gift of money.  Epaphroditus shared with Paul about the situation of the Christians in Philippi, and Paul decided to write this letter.


A letter of thanks

Paul mentions the gift of money that the Christians in Philippi sent him:  from the last part of 4:18:  “I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent.”  That would help to answer a question I have not asked yet but needs to be asked:  how was Paul able to afford to rent a house while under house arrest in Rome?  Because Christians like those in Philippi (and we assume Christians in Rome) sent Paul money.

    But why would the Christians in Philippi send money?  We have covered the letter to the church in Ephesus, and there is no evidence that they sent Paul money.  The answer is probably because the Christians in Philippi had a history with Paul that included his being arrested plus of helping Paul with money. 


Instructions about Jesus’ incarnation and instructions on humility

Philippians contains one of the clearest descriptions of the incarnation of Jesus.

·         2:6-8:  “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.  Therefore God [the Father] exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.” 

The idea of the incarnation is one of the most confusing in Christianity.  In the next letter [Colossians] you will learn about a group that misunderstood incarnation and created an alternative idea of Jesus.  Please stop for a minute and reread the one-paragraph summary with illustration concerning the incarnation of Jesus: 

    We will discuss this more in the next letter.


Encouragement to stay strong during persecution

The Philippian Christians may have been facing persecution in the near future.

·         1:27-30:  “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.  Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the Gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.  This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.  For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” 

Paul, therefore, encouraged them to remain firm in the upcoming opposition.  But yet he does have an “unusual” way of encouraging them:  he tells them the suffering will be a privilege. 

    One reason for this “encouragement” is that the Philippian Christians will better understand the suffering that Jesus experienced.  Think about it this way:  it is the difference between sympathy and empathy.  “Sympathy” means to feel sorry for someone without knowing what he/she is experiencing.  “Empathy” means to feel sorry for someone while understanding what he/she is experiencing.  Being persecuted will cause them to have empathy for the sufferings of Jesus and to understand love at a higher level:  If they are beaten, then they will understand what it means to forgive those who are beating you like Jesus did.


How to live as a Christian


·         4:4-7:  “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again:  Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

·         4:8:  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”


Outline of Philippians



1:1-2:  Greetings

1:3-11:  Thankfulness and prayer

1:12-30:  Suffering produces positive results

2:1-11:  Look to Jesus as an example

2:12-18:  Encouragement to lead successful Christian lives

2:19-30:  Paul describes that actions and motives of Paul and Epaphroditus

3:1-11:  Warning against Judaizers

3:12-4:13:  How to live as a Christian

4:14-23:  Final remarks


Verses from Philippians


Timeline so far      Additions are boldfaced     All dates are approximate



Rome Empire conquered Israel without fighting


Julius Caesar assassinated by Brutus, Cassius, and others.  Mark Antony tries to seize power, and he and Octavian (Caesar’s nephew) fight for power.


The Roman Empire made Herod the Great king of Israel


Antony married Cleopatra in Egypt


Octavian’s forces defeated Antony and Cleopatra’s forces; they committed suicide the next year.


Octavian is given name of Augustus, becomes Augustus Caesar.  This is the beginning of Pax Romana

4 BC

Jesus born

4 BC

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus flee to Egypt because Herod the Great wanted to kill Jesus

4 BC

Herod the Great died

4 BC

After Herod the Great died, the kingdom of the Jews was divided and given to Herod’s three sons:

The northern part, north of Nazareth, went to Philip.

The middle part called Galilee, north of Jerusalem but where Nazareth was located, went to Herod Antipas.  (He is referred to as “Herod” in the Gospels and so this can be confusing.)

The southern part called Judea, where Jerusalem and Bethlehem was located, went to Herod Archelaus. 


All years after this point are AD



Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned to Nazareth instead of moving to Bethlehem


Archelaus was removed from power because he was so brutal

6 and after

The Romans did not choose another of Herod’s descendants to control Judea (southern Israel) but instead appointed Roman governors


Jesus lost in Jerusalem at age 12; Joseph and Mary found him in the Temple; possible Bar Mitzvah


Jesus probably worked as a carpenter


The Roman governor in charge of southern Israel was Pilate


Jesus baptized by John the Baptist


Jesus traveled in Israel and preached, taught, and performed miracles


1.  Jesus was crucified under the Roman governor Pilate, raises from the dead three days later and ascends out of sight about a month-and-a-half later

2.  The Apostles return to Jerusalem and pick a replacement for Judas

3.  Day of Pentecost

4.  Over 3000 people become Christian

5.  Christianity spreads outside of Israel


Peter was the leader of the Christian movement


Paul became a Christian


Paul went on his First Missionary Trip


Council of Jerusalem


We do not know what John did during this time period


Paul went on his Second Missionary Trip

·         Paul wrote Galatians


Nero was Roman emperor


Paul went on his Third Missionary Trip

·         Paul wrote Romans, and I & II Corinthians


Paul arrested in Jerusalem, taken to Rome, and lived under house arrest

·         Paul wrote Ephesians and Philippians


Paul released from prison and travelled; he may have gone to Spain


Fire in Rome.  The emperor Nero blamed, persecuted, and killed many Christians.  This was the first Roman persecution of Christians. 


1.  Paul back in Rome

2.  Peter and Paul martyred around this year in Rome


Some of the Jews got tired of the Roman rule and killed many Roman soldiers.  They thus took back the land of Israel for the Jews.


The Romans counter-attacked.  The Romans lost one battle, but won the war.


Mark written around this year


The Romans captured Jerusalem and burned the Temple. 


Matthew and Luke written around this year


Domitian is Roman emperor


John and Acts written around this year


1.  Persecution of Christians

2.  John was placed on the island of Patmos as a prisoner of Domitian


1.  Domitian died

2.  John was probably released from Patmos; he probably traveled to Ephesus where he stayed for the rest of his life


John died


First listing of the 27 books in a letter written by an Egyptian bishop


Two councils “closed” the NT canon to those 27 books


NT divided into chapters


NT divided into verses



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