The Provenance of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians


Philippians was written when Paul was imprisoned, but through which imprisonment and precisely exactly where? It has traditionally been claimed that Paul wrote Philippians through a Roman imprisonment in the early 60s, when other individuals have recommended Caesarea in the late 50s, and other individuals once more Ephesus as the location of writing in the mid 50s CE. Whilst certainty is not possible, I favor a setting in Ephesus with a date in the mid 50s for many motives:

1st, an Ephesian imprisonment is a sound inference drawn from Paul’s reference to the “troubles we knowledgeable in the province of Asia,” his “many adversaries” there, his enigmatic remark about “how I fought wild beasts at Ephesus,” all of which could effectively be allusive for an imprisonment and a potentially capital trial in Ephesus (two Cor 1:eight-9  11:23 1 Cor 15:32 16:9). A scenario largely agreeing with Luke’s report of Paul’s tumultuous time in Ephesus through his journey for the collection (Acts 19:1-40). Correct, Luke does not explicitly mention an Ephesian imprisonment, but that is most most likely mainly because his narration is an episodic and epitomized summary of Paul’s profession.

Second, Timothy is named as the co-author of Philippians, but we have no proof that Timothy accompanied Paul to Rome and he much more most likely remained in Ephesus exactly where the pastoral epistles also location him.

Third, the polemical sections in the letter to the Philippians (1:15-18 three:two-21) recommend an anxiousness in Paul that has argumentative affinity and chronological proximity with his mindset, mood, rhetoric, and reaction following  the Antiochene incident (Gal two:11-21) and the Galatian crisis (Gal five:12) of the late 40s/early 50s. In other words, Philippians must be dated quickly immediately after Paul has energetically engaged with the dilemma of Jewish Christ-believing proselytizers harassing his Gentile converts in the early to mid 50s, rather than immediately after his much more diplomatic and sanguine remarks about Christ, Torah, and gospel which he wrote in his letter to the Romans about 57-58 CE.

Fourth, the movements described in the captivity letters (Philippians, Philemon, Colossians, and Ephesians) are far much more plausible if Paul is imprisoned in Ephesus rather than in Rome.

For instance, in Philippians alone we observe: (1) Somebody travelled from wherever Paul was to Philippi to inform them of Paul’s imprisonment, (two) Epaphroditus travelled from Philippi to Paul’s place to offer him with material and moral assistance (three) Then a person traveled back from Paul’s imprisonment to Philippi to let the church know that Epaphroditus was seriously ill (four) in response the Philippians despatched a letter to Paul expressing their concern for each Paul and Epaphroditus (five) Paul says that he intends to send Epaphroditus and Timothy back to Philippi in the close to future and (six) Paul expects to be reunited with the Philippians himself some time quickly which implies returning to Philippi (see Phil 1:26-27 two:22-27 four:18). It is far much more most likely that these fast back and forth trips are across the Aegean Sea (250 miles) rather than across the Aegean and Adriatic Seas (800 miles).

In addition, and somewhat parallel to the movements amongst Paul and persons in Philippi, are the journeys to and from Colossae to Paul’s location of detainment. The flight of Onesimus from Colossae to seek out Paul, Onesimus’s return to Colossae with Tychichus, and Paul’s stated intention to go to Philemon in Colossae is once more far much more plausible if Paul is imprisoned someplace closer such as Ephesus rather than in Rome (Philm 10, 22 Col four:7-9).

In addition, if Paul truly was in Rome when he wrote Philippians, then we know from his letter to the Romans that if he was released from custody that he was intending to head westward to Spain at very first chance (Rom 15:23-28), which tends to make a prior eastern sojourn back to Macedonia and central Asia Minor not just circuitous but patently absurd.

Fifth, when quite a few suppose that Paul’s reference to “the praetorium” and the “saints of Caesar’s house” implies a Roman provenance, this is far from particular (Phil 1:13 four:22).

(1) The praitōrion basically implies “general’s tent” or “headquarters.” Even if it refers to the men and women who make up the “imperial guard” (NRSV) or “palace guard” (NIV) that guard operates in a location recognized as the praetorium and Paul is merely referring to the men and women who function there, irrespective of whether soldiers, slaves, freedman, servants, or administrators. Now, on the one particular hand, it is hardly beyond comprehension that Ephesus – as the “Light of Asia” and the “First and Greatest Metropolis of Asia,” holding immense strategic and financial significance, and comprising the seat of imperial worship in Asia – would have an imperial residence with administrators and a skeleton garrison of praetorian soldiers and imperial slaves. In truth, that is much more than a proposal, there is inscriptional proof that praetoriani have been stationed in Ephesus because members of the elite imperial bodyguard supervised the imperial bank in Asia. On the other hand, and much more most likely for my thoughts, the reference to the praitōrion designates the proconsul of Asia’s personal residence and the employees functioning in his headquarters and/or military garrison.

(two) The mention of the saints of Kaisaros oikias (“Caesar’s household”) does not imply members of Nero’s household and inner-circle who have develop into believers. Far much more most likely, it is the Christians who worked in the residence and headquarters of the procurator who was the emperor’s official representative in a area to take care of his domains and interests, probably imperial slaves. Whereas the proconsul was a senatorial appointee, the procurator was an imperial appointee. Tacitus tells us that at the commencement of Nero’s reign (ca. 54 CE) that Iunius Silanus was the proconsul of Asia, when Publius Celer and Helius have been the procurators (who, it turned out poisoned Silanus at the behest of Agrippina, Nero’s mother). Caesar’s household require not be administrators or slaves in the Emperor’s residence in Rome, but can apply just as effectively to these in Ephesus who worked for the procutators, persons tasked with hunting immediately after Caesar’s affairs.

In sum, Paul declares that members of the Ephesian proconsul’s retinue know that he is chains for Christ and the Christians amongst Caesar’s household managed by the Ephesian procurators share their greetings with the Philippians.


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