William Varner on Philippians 1:2

(August 18, 2017) 8:18 AM William Varner’s vlog on Phil. 1:2 has been posted. It’s an excellent overview of the Greek text. A few additional observations, for what they’re worth.

1) This greeting is more than mere phatic communication. “(By “phatic” I mean communication that seeks to reach out and engage someone. A handshake is such a gesture. It’s more than a polite social convention but indicates an attempt to “contact” another person in a warm and personal¬† fashion.) The greeting here in Phil 1:1 is like every other greeting in the Pauline letters in that it points to the blessings of grace and peace, not in a general sense, but as needed by the readers.

2) Grace is mentioned first. Thus at the very beginning of his letter, Paul subtly reminds the Philippian Christians that their life in Christ is a gift of God’s grace they’ve received through simple faith, not through obedience to the ceremonies of the Jewish law. This is key to understanding later portions of the letter in which Paul issues an invective against (apparently) Jewish Christians who promote circumcision and law-keeping among Gentile Christians (see 3:2 ff.).

3) Few seem to remark on the position of the “peace” blessing. Paul could have written “Grace and peace to you.” Instead, he wrote “Grace to you, and peace.” Here “peace” is set off in the Greek text, quite possibly for emphasis. There’s little question that the issue of disharmony is one of Paul’s major concerns in writing this brief letter. Peace is (at least) the cessation of hostilities (again, see 4:2, where Euodia and Syntyche are singled out). But peace involves much than that. If the background of Paul’s use of the word here is Hebraic in nature (shalom), as Will suggests, then the idea would also include concepts of wholeness, spiritual health, vitality, and well-being. As Paul will state in 2:12, “You are, as a congregation, in your relationships with one another, to live out the salvation [Gerald Hawthorne: spiritual health] Christ has brought you.” As Fee points out (p. 104), “This is therefore not a text dealing with individual salvation but an ethical text dealing with the outworking of salvation in the believing community for the sake of the world.” Once again, the letter’s theme is evident: Harmonious relationships in the church for the sake of the Gospel. This implication of “peace” in 1:2 should not be overlooked.

4) Finally, as Will points out, this passage is loaded with theology, and, I might add, theology that foreshadows some of the main subthemes of the letter. A rich example is Paul’s use of “Lord” (kurios) to refer to Jesus. Without doubt, in a city like Philippi, which was a Roman colony where citizens took their civic duties very seriously indeed, the term “Lord” would have been a reminder for the believers there that their ultimate allegiance is not to Caesar (who loved to use the title kurios with reference to himself) but to another kurios, whose coming from heaven is now awaited with eager anticipation (3:20). It is to this Lord, who died the death of a common criminal but was raised from the dead, God gave the name that is above all names, the name of the Lord God Himself. One can scarcely miss the theological connotations.

How, then, are we to render verse 2? Wycliffe’s SSA (Semantic Structural Analysis) of Philippians suggests something like this (I’ve modified it a bit):

We pray that God, who is our Father, and Jesus Christ, who is our Lord, will continue to act graciously toward you and will, in addition, continue to cause you to have peace/be peaceful.

Let’s not forget, though, that “peace” seems to be set apart for special emphasis.