Philippians Chapter 3

Philippians Chapter 3

3:1       There are two independent clauses. Clause 1 begins with τὸ λοιπόν, “for the rest, with respect to other matters” (cf. 4:8), a summary adverbial phrase.  The main verb is a present imperative χαίρετε (cf. 1:4, 18, 25; 2:28-29; 4:4, 10), “rejoice.” The locus of this eschatological confidence lies ἐν κυρίῳ (same phrase in 4:4). The second clause lacks a verb. The present active infinitive γράφειν (“to write”) functions as the subject, modified by the predicate adjective ὀκνηρόν “burdensome, bothersome interruption of inactivity.” This formula is found frequently in letters, where the writer asserts that penning the letter is an expression of love, friendship and concern, never a bother. The first dative ὑμῖν is the indirect object of the infinitive. The second dative ἐμοὶ is a dative of reference, i.e., “for me, with respect to me.” Note the contrast between part A and part B of this clause expressed in the μὲν…δὲ construction. The second ὑμῖν parallels ἐμοὶ in function, i.e., dative of respect, but relates to the adjective ἀσφαλές, “safe, secure.”

3:2      βλέπετε is repeated three times for emphasis. This present imperative serves to express a serious warning (cf. Mark 13:9, 23, 33). Here again Paul gives instructions. Whom do the three accusative nouns refer to (κύνας — defines opponents, ἐργάτας – describes Christian workers elsewhere, κατατομήν — mutilation, cutting, probably referencing the practice of circumcision)?

3:3       Paul surprises us by identifying himself, those serving with him and other believers as ἡ περιτομή, circumcision. Do not overlook the initial γάρ “for” indicating the reason for the wary consideration expressed in 3:2. The use of the personal pronoun ἡμεῖς adds emphasis, pointing the finger at. The subject is defined by three participles all connected by the initial article: οἱ …λατρεύοντες…καυχώμενοι… πεποιθότες. The first are present participles and the last is a perfect participle. Each is modified by a noun in the dative, defining the instrument, or by an ἐν phrase, defining the locus of their boasting or confidence. Why does Paul use the negative οὐκ, in the context of a participle? Is the emphasis in the negative on the noun phrase and not the participle? Paul has discussed “boasting” earlier in Philippians (1:26; 2:16 ); for the use of πεποιθότες cf. 1:25; repetition in 3:4). For λατρεύω check out Romans 1:9; Luke 2:37; 4:8 (Deut.6:13). It is used frequently in Paul’s defense speeches (Acts 24:14; 26:7; 27:23). Cf. Hebrews 12:28 and Rev. 7:15; 22:3. Means to “render cultic service” or “worship.”

3:4       The initial καίπερ probably should be attached to the preceding sentence, adding a concession to the main idea (even though, although). Within the clause the subject is identified as ἐγώ signaling that Paul is now making a personal reference. The present participle ἔχων might be thought to function as the main verb, but I think in reality it is modifying ἐγώ, with a meaning such as “even though I personally (might boast), if I have confidence even in flesh.” The καί is adverbial (even, also) not conjunctive, modifying the phrase immediately following. This is a frequent use in Paul’s letters. The conditional clause in the second part is marked by εἴ + present indicative and the apodosis has no other particle. This means it is a first class condition (if A is the case, then B follows). It is regarded as true by the speaker or writer. The indefinite pronoun τις seems to be modified by ἄλλος, with the sense “someone else.” Δοκεῖ has the sense of “holds a certain opinion” or “thinks, makes this evaluation” and often is used in situations of boasting, where people parade status or prestige (cf. Galatians 2:1-10). This verb is always followed by a complementary infinitive — πεποιθέναι, perfect active infinitive meaning “to trust, to have confidence in,” modified by the adverbial phrase ἐν σαρκί. The apodosis just has a subject (ἐγώ) and an adverb (μᾱλλον), with the sense “I more (than that person).” In what follows Paul gives a list of the things that provide him with special status in the human sphere.

3:5-6    Paul lists those credentials that would give him status in the Jewish world.

  1. ὀκταήμερος (pred. adjective) περιτομῇ (dative of respect) – an eight-day person with respect to circumcision.
  2. ἐκ γένους Ἰσραήλ (prep. phrase, with a genitive modifier) – from the race of Israel.
  3. φυλῆς Βενιαμίν (genitive noun, with an appositional noun attached) – belonging to the tribe, Benjamin. Perhaps this is why he was named Saul, in reference to the first king of Israel, who was a Benjaminite.
  4. Ἑβραῖος ἐξ Ἑβραίων (predicate nominative singular noun, modified by a prepositional phrase that may have a partitive significance (a Hebrew from among Hebrews) or more probably reflects a Semitic structure that expresses superlative or exceptional quality (i.e., king of kings), but the preposition would be unusual in such a case.
  5. Φαρισαῖος…κατὰ νόμον In the three κατά phrases Paul emphasizes three significant characteristics of exceptional Jewish piety. In the first he identifies which interpretive framework he used to interpret and apply scriptures — the Pharisee school of thought.

Διώκων τὴν ἐκκλησίαν…κατὰ ζῆλος. His zeal for God is measures by his passion to destroy the “assembly,” (church) a term which he does not feel needs any further definition for the Philippian Christians to understand — this is the assembly established by Jesus. Note its singular formation and its modification by the article, both of which indicate a generic concept. Γενόμενος ἄμεμπτος…κατὰ δικαιοσύνην τὴν ἐν νόμῳ. In terms of his religious allegiance to Yahweh, he claims an unblemished record, living in accord with the standard of justice defined in “law,” i.e., the Torah. The article binds the phrase to the noun, i.e., “a law-defined kind of justice.”

Why does Paul select these elements to define his credentials? How would they define him in first century Hellenistic Society, particularly in Philippi. Cf. Galatians 1:13; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Romans 9:1-4.

3:7       The sentence is fronted by a relative clause (introduced by ἅτινα indefinite relative pronoun — things of this sort) which defines the demonstrative pronoun ταῦτα (accusative pl. neuter) which is the object of the main verb. ἥγημαι is a perfect mid/pass. verb form from ἡγέομαι, a verb which Paul has used previously. Middle/passive perfect forms do not have the tense formative (κ). The personal ending is attached directly to the tense stem. In the case of a verb whose tense stem ends in the vowel epsilon, that vowel lengthens to eta before the personal ending (e.g., πεποίημαι). This verb when it has the meaning “think, consider, regard” often has a double accusative, with one object defining the other. In this case ταῦτα is the primary object with ζημίαν (loss) the second object, defining the first in a specific way. So the primary object has two defining components – the introductory relative clause and the second object. The verb is also defined by the prepositional phrase διὰ τὸν Χριστόν, which can have a causal sense (because of the Messiah) or a sense of advantage (for the sake of the Messiah).  So Paul is pitting his Jewish credentials over against allegiance to the Messiah, the epitome of Jewish hope.

In the relative clause the subject is ἅτινα, the main verb is the imperfect form ἦν and the predicative nominative is κέρδη, nom. pl. neuter noun, (gain). The verb is singular because the plural subject is neuter. The dative pronoun μοι is the enclitic short form (no accent) and identifies the person for whose advantage the gain might be attributed. Note Paul’s use of commercial language of profit and loss to evaluate his past and current credentials.

3:8       Beginning a sentence with such a cluster of particles such as ἀλλὰ μενοῦνγε καὶ requires attention. The first particle is contrastive (but), the second is emphatic, with a kind of corrective idea (rather), and the third (καί), modifies the verb (I was even considering). Paul continues to use this verb ἡγοῦμαι, but now in the present middle form, indicating a continuing action or perspective in the present, i.e., “I continue to regard/consider.” It is completed by indirect speech/thought expressed by the infinitive (εἶναι) whose subject is πάντα, with ζημίαν functioning as predicate, in the accusative case because it is related to the subject of the infinitive (πάντα), which is also in the accusative case as subjects of infinitives normally are.

In this complex phrase διὰ τὸ ὑπερέχον τῆς γνώσεως Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ κυρίου μου, Paul expands the reference in the previous verse to the Messiah and why He is the touchstone for all that Paul values. τὸ ὑπερέχον is the present participle, neut. acc. sg. of ὑπερέχω which Paul also used in Phil. 2:3; 4:7. He employs the participle subsantivally and it has the sense of “that which surpasses in quality or value.” Remember his use of prior commercial terms and their reappearance in the following relative clauses. The string of genitives following defines the quality of the greatness (i.e., knowledge), and who or what comprises this knowledge. The concept of “knowledge” here consists of revealed knowledge (compare with the revealed knowledge of the law), as well as relational knowledge, because it concerns a person. Paul used the full title of Jesus – Messiah, my lord, acknowledging the historical reality, the current power and authority, and his own relationship to Jesus (“my lord”). Note that Paul introduced himself in 1:1 as δοῦλος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, using this double name/title three times in two verses (1:1-2). Paul uses a different word order for this name and its titles than we found in 2.11.

Paul completes this sentence with a compound relative clause, within which he inserts a clause of purpose (ἵνα). The first relative clause affirms that he puts in the loss column (ἐζημιώθην aorist passive indicative, first per. sg.) τἀ πάντα (neuter accusative plural) “all these things” (everything without exception) δι’ ὃν, i.e., for Jesus’ sake. The extent of his revaluation and consequent devaluation of these credentials is expressed in the second relative clause ἡγοῦμαι σκύβαλα, using the same verb form found in the main clause, but the object means “excrement” or the unusable parts of an animal carcass, i.e., within Jewish context these are totally unclean and unusable in God’s service.  What caused this drastic revaluation is his desire Χριστὸν (note absence of article) κερδήσω, i.e., to add the Messiah to the profit column of his life. The verb is aorist active subjunctive, first pers. sg. The active voice indicates Paul’s direct involvement in this as agent. He has taken action to achieve this benefit.

3:9.      This verse continues the purpose clause introduced at the end of v. 8 and so all of this verse is part of the relative clause structure located in the main clause of v. 8, i.e., it modifies Paul’s statement “I am considering all things to be loss for the sake of the surpassing greatness of the knowledge of Messiah Jesus, my Lord.”

With the clause καὶ εὑρεθῶ ἐν αὐτῷ Paul shifts to passive voice. I think there is a sense of “discovery” in this construction. Consider how the verb is used in 1 Cor. 4:2; 15:15; Gal. 2:17. Paul used it of Jesus in Phil. 2:8. Both now and in the future Paul wants to discover that his life is fully incorporated in the work and plans of the Messiah. Paul identifies what this discovery pertains too in the adverbial participial structure that follows, namely δικαιοσύνη which is based in “faith in/of the Messiah.” Μὴ ἔχων is a present participle, nominative masculine sg. connecting with the prior verb and the action of the subject. He (v.6) described his prior claim to a just status based on his own understanding and application of the law, but he rejects this claim. Knowing the Messiah entails τὴν διὰ πίστεως Χριστοῦ and the article indicates it is referencing  the noun δικαιοσύνην. This is further defined by reference to τὴν ἐκ θεοῦ δικαιοσύνην ἐπὶ τῇ πίστει. The righteous status available in the Messiah is sourced in God’s display of his full commitment to the covenant promises and these are all related to the expression of faith (Abraham’s faith (Rom. 4) and now Paul’s faith).

3:10     I think the articulated infinitive τοῦ γνῶναι αὐτὸν picks up the prior τῆς γνώσεως Χριστοῦ in v.8, but adds a further definition of purpose as to why Paul abandoned his own law-based attempts to demonstrate his own righteous status.

καὶ τὴν δύναμιν τῆς ἀναστάσεως αὐτοῦ describes how God demonstrated his righteous completion of all elements contained in his covenant promise to Abraham and this included the resurrection of the Messiah. The gospel promises this blessing will belong to those who put faith in the Messiah. This is what Paul longs for, one of the results of “being discovered in Messiah.” What is the nature of this power? Paul hopes in Messiah for personal resurrection.  The repeated καί probably means “both…and”, with the initial article (presuming the other articles are not original) binding the two nouns (power, participation) together as one unit.

The phrase καὶ κοινωνίαν τῶν παθημάτων αὐτοῦ perhaps expresses the current manner in which knowing the Messiah finds immediate demonstration. One would desire to experience resurrection right now, but God has other plans. Note how Paul wrestled with this in chapter 1.

Just as the Messiah took upon himself the form of a human being and submitted himself to death by crucifixion, so Paul now accepts that he has taken on the form of the Messiah (συμμορφιζόμενος τῷ θανάτῳ αὐτοῦ), which includes submission to suffering and even death. Just as the Messiah took upon himself the μορφὴν δούλου (2.7), so Paul now takes on the form of the Messiah, including his suffering. The participle is present passive, nominative masculine singular, probably related to the subject of the prior ἵνα clauses. Present participles normally express an action concurrent with the main verb.

3:11     Paul ends this long complex sentence (8-11) with a clause of assumption or anticipated expectation (if perhaps εἴ πως + future, cf. Rom. 1:10; 11:14; Acts 27:12). Καταντήσω is the main verb in this clause and may be future indicative or aorist subjunctive. Other examples of these clauses in NT use the future tense.  Paul fully anticipates ‘attaining’ resurrection.  BDAG (Bauer, Danker, Arndt and Gingrich, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament) – define this form as a future indicative.

This prepositional construction Εἰς τὴν ἐξανάστασιν τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν identifies the goal of what Paul desires to attain. The compound form of the noun adds emphasis to the idea of resurrection. We have seen the use of the article to link a trailing prepositional phrase several times in this section. What ἐκ νεκρῶν adds is uncertain. Is it a reference to general resurrection or the idea that only some among the dead will experience resurrection or at least this messiah-related and empowered resurrection?

3:12     οὐχ probably implies something like οὐκ λέγω ὅτι “I am not saying that…” The ὅτι introduces a coordinated content clause of indirect discourse, using the correlative ἢ…ἢ “either…or.” The first clause has a second aorist active ἔλαβον and the second has a perfect passive first person singular form τετελείωμαι with the sense “I stand in perfection,” perhaps with the sense of being fully initiated such as it was used in the mystery religions (cf. 1:6). The δέ seems to bear a contrastive sense, “but.” The εἰ + aorist subjunctive (καταλάβω) expresses a potential condition, with the sense “win, attain” a prize. This is followed by a relative clause introduced by ἐφ’ ᾧ which may:

  1. refer to the unexpressed object of the previous clause “for which.”
  2. have a causal meaning as often in Paul’s letters “because….”
  3. or it may have a resultative sense “so that.”

The verb κατελήμφθην (aorist passive) plays off the initial usage “I have been won” with agency expressed by ὑπὸ Χριστοῦ “by Messiah Jesus.”

3:13     Paul puts emphasis upon his own situation with the double ἐγὼ ἐμαυτὸν, the first is subject of the main verb and the second is subject of the infinitive (reflexive pronoun, myself) juxtaposed. The perfect infinitive κατειληφέναι defines what Paul “does not reckon,” i.e., “to be in a position of attainment.” Note the textual variants οὐ, οὔπω.

The second clause is introduced by a structure that has no stated verb, but I presume the previous verb λογίζομαι is probably understood, i.e., “But I reckon one thing….” 13c is the introduction to v. 14 with the main verb being διώκω. It gives the content of the one thing that Paul does “reckon.” Two contrasting present participles (formed from middle verb forms) define how Paul is “pursuing.” He does this as he “forgets, on the one hand (μέν)…but (δέ) strains on the other hand.” In each case the participle is completed by a complement formed from the article and an adverb (the behind things…the before things). The verb διώκω means “to pursue,” not “to persecute” here. It is completed by two prepositional phrases:κατὰ σκοπὸν probably means in a generic sense “goal,” that which is looked towards. Normally the verb would be completed by an object, but here the prepositional phrases seem to emphasize the pursuit towards something. The κατά may reflect use with the prior compound verbs.

εἰς τὸ βραβεῖον probably has the sense of prize, whether related to an athletic contest or some other prize is uncertain. Cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24. The genitive τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως (“the above call”) may define the source of the prize or may define the prize. The second genitive τοῦ θεοῦ may be subjective, i.e., the call that God makes (subjective genitive), or it could be source, i.e., the call that originates from God. There is little to choose between these. The call is possible because it is located in the sphere of the Messiah’s work (ἐν Χριστῷ Ἱησοῦ).

3:15     Paul draws a conclusion (οὖν). The subject of the subjunctive verb φρονῶμεν (“we should think”) is defined by the initial relative clause, introduced by the more general relative pronoun ὅσοι τέλειοι (“all of us who are perfect, mature, initiated”), reflecting the cognate verb in v.12. Is Paul using the adjective in a literal sense or an ironic sense? Note the textual variant with the indicative form of the main verb. καὶ εἴ has a concessive force, “even if.” τι is the indefinite pronoun in the neuter accusative singular, being object of the verb φρονεῖτε, which in turn is modified by the adverb ἑτέρως. This conclusion essentially is a conditional clause. Paul acknowledges that some might have a different take on the essence of the Christian life. However, he is confident God will reveal (ἀποκαλύψει future indicative active) this “to you” (ὑμῖν), dative of indirect object. The repeated τοῦτο probably is referring to the same thing.

3:16     πλὴν is an adverbial particle with the sense here of conclusion with emphasis, which might be translated “except” or “however.” ἐφθάσαμεν is the aorist active, first person plural of φθάνω which means “just arrived, arrive reach, attain” and is modified by the preposition phrase εἰς ὂ “to that which,” indicating motion towards something attained or reached. “However, to that we have reached,…” τῷ αὐτῷ is the dative that defines the norm to which one’s behaviour (expressed in the infinitive) is conformed. It is the article + the third person pronoun with the sense of identity, i.e., “to the same norm.” The infinitive probably has an imperatival sense (στοιχεῖν – present infinitive). The verb has the sense of be arrayed in military formation (Galatians 5:25, “keep in step with”). Note the many variants to this difficult text

3:17     Paul begins this next section without any connecting particle and with two present imperatives (γίνεσθε…σποκεῖτε). The first imperative has a predicate nominative συμμιμηταί (noun, plural formation; “one who joins others as an imitator”), with the genitive pronoun probably indicating who should be imitated, namely Paul. The other imperative has a substantival, present active participle as its object (τοὺς περιπατοῦντας), which in turn is modified by the adverb οὕτω (a rare alternative form of οὕτως) and is linked with the correlative καθὼς (thus…according as). The verb ἔχετε has a double accusative (τύπον ἡμᾶς).

3:18-19             In these verses Paul offers further explanation, introduced by γάρ. This is followed by a second γάρ clause in vv. 20-21. He concludes the paragraph with a statement that defines his desired outcome (4:1 ὥστε). In vv. 18-19 Paul provides an example of those the Philippian believers should no longer seek to imitate. He repeats the verb περιπατοῦσιν. The relative clause introduced by οὓς defines the subject. Within this dependent clause the main verb  is an imperfect tense ἔλεγον, first person singular (note the following λέγω).

The following clause introduced by the temporal, contrastive expression νῦν δὲ, seems to use the same relative pronoun for the object of λέγω, but this verb is modified by the adverbial participle κλαίων. The implicit object of λέγω is further defined by the appositional construction τοὺς ἔχθροὺς τοῦ σταυροῦ τοῦ Χριστοῦ. I think Paul means here “whom I was reporting often to you – “‘the enemies of the cross of Messiah’ — but whom now weeping I am reporting to you – ‘the enemies of the cross of Messiah’….” v. 19 begins with two relative clauses introduced by genitive plural forms (ὧν), whose antecedent is τοὺς ἔχθροὺς. The second relative clause is a compound structure. All three relative clauses are verbless, nominal clauses. The verse concludes with a substantival present active participle οἱ φρονοῦντες. The object τὰ ἐπίγεια (cf. 2:10) refers to “earthly things/affairs” in contrast to heavenly things.

3:20-21             Paul provides a contrast to these “enemies of the Messiah’s cross.” The γάρ I would suggest follows on v.17. It is introduced by the emphatic ἡμῶν. Τὸ πολίτευμα often refers “to a colony of foreigners or relocated veterans” (BAGD). The phrase ἐν οὐρανοῖς is a predicate modifier identifying the location of the “colony.”  ὑπάρχει means “exists.” Paul adds a relative clause defining the location from which he expects (ἀπεκδεχόμεθα) “even a saviour, the Lord Jesus Messiah.” What is the antecedent of ἐξ οὗ – heaven, or the colony? Why is there no article with σωτήρα? The verb ἀπεκδεχόμεθα may be a Christian formulation to express eager expectation for Jesus’ return.

V.21 is another relative clause, but this time it defines κύριον Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν. The verb μετασχηματίσει is a future active indicative, which elsewhere in the NT refers to Satan’s ability to disguise his appearance (2 Cor.11:14-15). Paul contrasts τὸ σῶμα τῆς ταπεινώσεως ἡμῶν with τῷ σώματι τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ. Our body is changed, not destroyed. The adjective σύμμορφον (cf. v. 10) means “similar in form” and seems to relate to τὸ σῶμα. Perhaps we should provide an implicit εἶναι, infinitive of purpose, i.e., “to be similar in form to….” We should not forget the use of μορφή in 2:5-11 — Jesus changed himself so that we in turn could experience a change in our bodies. The verb is also modified by the adverbial prepositional phrase κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν “according to the (divine) power.” The noun is confined to Paul’s letters and also used with reference to God’s power. This noun in turn is defined by the articulated infinitive τοὺ δύνασθαι, perhaps with a resultative sense (so that), with αὑτόν (antecedent Jesus?) functioning as the subject of the infinitive. The verb δύνασθαι normally has a complementary infinitive and in this case it is καὶ ὑποτάξαι “also to subject,” with the indirect object αὑτῷ (to/for him) and the direct object πάντα.

4:1       ὥστε introduces the conclusion to Paul’s initial exhortation in v. 17 — so then…στήκετε. Do not be diverted from your obedience to the Lord. The long list of epithets modifying the vocative ἀδελφοί μου (beloved and desired), as well as the appositional χαρὰ καὶ στέφανός μου, all emphasize Paul’s special relationship with these people. The last two add to the eschatological flavour of the passage. Cf. 1 Thess. 2:19. The οὕτως perhaps references 3:17-21. He ends this paragraph with another present active imperative στήκετε. The prepositional phrase modifies the verb and indicates the location of the standing (ἐν κυρίῳ), but since this is a person, probably refers to the sphere of influence this person exercises (with specific reference to the description of power in v. 21).