An Exegetical Commentary

by the Sangre de Cristo Seminary Class of 1999,

with Professor, Dr. Dwight Zeller


Edited by Nate Wilson



Philippi was named after Philip of Macedon (father of Alexander the Great), in 358 B.C.. It later became a Roman city after the battle between victorious Mark Anthony and his adversaries, Brutus and Cassius, on the fertile plain of Philippi. Located 9 miles from the Aegean Sea on the Via Egnatia (Great Highway), it was a principal stop in Macedonia for trade between Rome and Asia, and was also famous for its gold mines (Zodhiates, Unger).


Paul went to Philippi during his second missionary journey as a result of his Macedonian call and established the first church in Europe there (Acts 16:9-40). It was in Philippi that Paul met Lydia and converted the Philippian jailer. This church was very generous to Paul throughout his subsequent ministry, sending him gifts on more than one occasion, and even sending Epaphroditus as a helper (Acts 18:5; Phil. 4:15-16, II Cor. 11: 8-9), (Unger, Zhodiates). For this reason, and also for the reason that he seems to find little fault with them, Paul addresses the Philippians as “brothers” who have been “partnering” with him (Gilchrist).


Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians later during his imprisonment in Rome (around 61AD – Gilchrist, Unger, Acts 28:30-31). He thanks them for their generosity toward him and writes primarily about how the Gospel of Christ results in Christian attitudes of joy, boldness, purity, humility, and peace. He also address the issue of rivals, showing a generous nature toward them while upholding his apostleship (marked by the preaching of the Gospel, the gathering of the saints in Philippi, and the joyful endurance of suffering for Christ’s sake). Paul and Timothy wrote the letter and Epaphroditus was the courier.


Gilchrist notes that while some scholars hold that Philippians was written from a prison in Caesarea or Ephesus, the evidence for placing the date during Paul’s Roman imprisonment is overwhelming. Gilchrist places the date at the end of Paul’s imprisonment in Rome because there had to be time for previous communication between Paul and the church in Philippi and because he believes that the book is a report on the proceedings of the trial in Rome (the Judiazers mentioned in the first chapter being his accusers in court), with Paul anticipating a positive outcome to the trial in the near future. I’m not sure what I think of that interpretation, but I must agree with Gilchrist that this letter is the “best introduction to Paul’s thought life.”


Sequence Of Events:

1.      Paul goes to Rome under guard

2.      Philippians hear and send Epaphroditus with a gift

3.      Epaphroditus gets sick

4.      Philippians write with concern for Epaphroditus

5.      Paul writes Philippians and sends it home with Epaphroditus


KEY VERSE: Phil. 2:5 “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus...”


About This Commentary

This commentary was composed as a class project at Sangre de Cristo Seminary by the class of 1999, under the teaching of Dr. Dwight Zeller. The Greek text of Philippians was divided up among the four students and the professor, and we commented on the Greek texts themselves, giving textual variants, analysis of all the verbs and verbal words, translations into English, commentary on the text, applications of the text, and a syntactical-logical flow of the text. Following is a brief description of each of these sections:


Proceed to Commentary on Philippians chapter 1



The Greek New Testament published by the United Bible Societies is the basis of this study. I have decided to use the Greek alphabet rather than transliterate the Greek text into English because once you know the alphabet, it is easier to work with the Greek text than to work with transliterations. The Greek alphabet along with equivalent English letters or pronunciations is as follows:


a = a (short)

b = b

g = g

d = d

e = e (short)

z = z

h = a (long)

q = th

i = i (short)

k = k

l = l

m = m

n = n

x = x

o = o (short)

p = p

r = r

s = s

t = t

u = u (ooh)

f = f

c = ch

y = ps

w = o (long)



·         If a word ends in “s,” the s changes in shape to look like s.

·        If a vowel is at the beginning of a word, it will have either ‘ or ’ over it. The ’ indicates to pronounce the vowel like we normally would (beginning with a glottal stop), but the ‘ indicates to pronounce the vowel with an “h” before it (i.e. ’a= “ha.”).

·        One other thing, two gammas in a row (gg) are pronounced “ng.”



Textual NOTES

The Bible was originally hand-written and hand-copied. This tends to result in more textual variants than is the case nowadays in printed copies. Our study is based on the United Bible Society’s Greek New Testament, which is essentially a comparison of hundreds of Greek Papyri, Uncial (ancient all-capital-letter) documents, Miniscule (old all-lower-case) documents, pottery fragments, lectionaries (Bible Readings printed for  liturgical worship services), as well as modern Greek traditions (Byzantine) still used in Greek Orthodox churches, and ancient translations of the Greek New Testament into other languages such as ancient Latin Italia, the old Latin Vulgate, and ancient translations into Coptic, Syriac, etc. Each of these documents has a special abbreviation which we will try to explain and give the century the document was copied (usually in Roman numerals). In this study, more weight will be placed on older documents than on younger ones.



Verbal Analysis

In this section, we highlight all the verbal words, including verbs, infinitives, participles, etc. Each verbal in the Greek text is numbered with a superscript number following the verb. This will correspond to the number in the chart and the number in the first English translation in the list of translations.




If the verbal indicates person, it will be labeled 1 (I, we), 2 (you), or 3 (he, they). We also note if it is singular or plural (s/p) and masculine, feminine, or neuter (m/f/n).



The following cases are used in New Testament Greek to indicate the relationship of a word to other words in the sentence:

·        Nominative (Nom.): designation; indicates a subject

·        Dative (Dat.): usually translated with “to,” indicating motion toward, location, or instrumentality/means

·        Genitive (Gen.): usually translated with “of,” indicates a possessive or description, also sometimes a separation

·        Accusative (Acc.): limitation; Indicates an object

·        Vocative (Voc.): An exclamation or direct address (rarely used)




Then the tense of the verbal is noted. Following is an explanation Greek Tenses:

·        Present (P or Pres.): indicates continuous action, usually in the present time, usually ongoing – not completed.

·        Aorist (Aor.): indicates a one-time act, often used as a sort of past tense, action is completed

·        Perfect (Perf.): indicates an action in the past which has results continuing into the present. (There is also a rarely-used Pluperfect which indicates action done in the distant past which affected events between it and the present, but not necessarily the present.)

·        Future (Fut.): simple or progressive action in the future

·        Imperfect (Impf.): Progressive or repeated action in the past




There are three voices in New Testament Greek:

·        Active (A or Act.): The subject is acting upon the object

·        Middle (Mid.): The subject is acting upon itself

·        Passive (Psv.): The subject is being acted upon

However, occasionally, a verb will be written in middle-voice form, yet not be definite as to which voice it is, in which case, it is labeled “Deponent” (Dep.).



Greek verbs also have a mood, which gives more information about the action. The three basic moods are:

·        Indicative (I or Ind.): Statement of fact or question

·        Subjunctive (Subj.): indicates contingency, potential, or uncertainty (There is also an Optative mood which is similar, but weaker, and rarely used.)

·        Imperative (Imptv.): Direct command or prohibition



Other verbal forms include the Infinitive (Inf.), a verbal noun, and the Participle (Ptc.), a verbal adjective.



The use of the verbal in the context of the sentence:

·        M.V.: Main Verb

·        Adj.: Adjectival use of a verb

·        Apodosis: The result in an if-then statement

·        Appos.: Apposition; a phrase which is equivalent to another phrase and could be substituted for it.

·        Cause.: Causal (A circumstance which caused the action)

·        Compl.= Complimentary verb (dependent on another--usually volitional--verb)

·        Cond.: Conditional (May be True, Ambiguous, or False)

·        Conces.: Concession, Contrary conditions which might have kept the main verb from happening, but didn’t.

·        D.O.: Direct Object

·        Dir. Disc.: Direct Discourse or Quote

·        Explan.: Explanatory

·        Hort.: Hortatory "let us"

·        Id. Act.: Identical Action as previous verb

·        I.O.: Indirect Object, the recipient of the Object.

·        Inst.: Instrumental – the instrument by which the Main Verb was effected.

·        Loc.: Indicates location

·        Manner: The manner in which the main verb was done

·        Means: The means by which the action of the main verb was accomplished.

·        Manner: The manner in which the main verb was done

·        Pred. Nom.: Predicate Nominative (Usually with a verb of being)

·        Protasis: The Condition in an if-then statement.

·        Purp.: Purpose (The end which the subject had in mind when he did the action)

·        Rel. Cl.: Relative Clause (beginning with "who," "which," etc.)

·        Res.: Result (The result of an action)

·        Subj.: A participle or infinitive can act as a substantive noun in the subject of a sentence.

·        Temp.: Temporal (time of action)


English Translations


KJV = King James Version

NKJV = New King James Version

ASV = The American Standard Version of 1901

NAS = New American Standard Version

NIV = New International Version

Although the NIV was O.K., the previous four were much better.



DFZ = Dr. Dwight F. Zeller

NAW = Nathan A. Wilson, M.Div.

RK = Ronald Kruis, M.Div.

JBC = Joshua B. Coffin

SRH = Stephen R. Hicks


Comments & Application

We used both word-study material and commentary material for this section, referencing our sources as we went. Abbreviations are as follows; see Bibliography at end for more information on these sources:

·        A&G: Arndt & Gingrich & Danker’s Greek Lexicon

·        A. or Alf.: Alford’s Greek New Testament with Commentary

·        ATR: A.T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the N.T.

·        C. or Cal.: John Calvin’s Commentary

·        Clark: Gordon Clark’s Commentary on Philippians

·        Commentary original to the student or professor was annotated with their initials (see Personal Translations section above).

·        Earle: Ralph Earle’s Word Meanings in the N.T.

·        H. or Hannah: Hannah’s Grammatical Notes on the New Testament.

·        L. or Light: The classic commentary on Philippians by Lightfoot

·        NW 1987 – This is to distinguish some devotional notes written by Nate Wilson in 1987 from Nate’s more technical commentary (NAW) in 1999.

·        Persh: Pershbacher’s Analytical Lexicon

·        R or R&R: Abbreviated word study book started by Rienecker and edited by Rodgers and his son.

·        Vin.: Vincent’s Word Studies on the New Testament






1.      In Christ's service, Paul and Timothy are writing to all the Christians in Philippi.

2.      Paul always prays concerning them, thanking God for their consistent partnership and praying for their continued fruitfulness to the end.

3.      Paul's imprisonment has led to the furtherance of the Gospel -- by both those sympathetic and unsympathetic -- and he rejoices in that.

4.      While looking forward to gaining Christ in death, Paul nevertheless hopes to live long enough to see the Philippians and help them grow spiritually

5.      Paul exhorts the Philippians to unity in Godly conduct despite the inevitable persecution.

6.      Be humble like Christ was so that you can be united in Godly conduct. This will complete Paul's joy.

7.      Joy will come from humbly working out your faith in righteous living in the midst of the world.

8.      So that they might all have joy, Paul sends Epaphroditus and Timothy to the Philippians with high commendations, hoping to follow soon himself.

9.      Forget the self-righteous flesh; rejoice in the Lord and His righteousness.

10.  Follow the right example -- set your mind on Christ in heaven rather than on earthly things.

11.  Stand firm in the Lord, loved ones.

12.  Help unify Euodia and Syntyche.

13.  Rejoice in the Lord always: This attitude is wrought by God as we pray and are thankful.

14.  Think about what is godly and practice what Paul taught and modeled, and God will be with you.

15.  Paul thanks the Philippians for their gift while modeling contentment and seeking their blessing.

16.  & 17. Closing Greetings and blessing.



The two most-used words in Philippians are "joy/rejoice" and "mind/think/feel/have attitude." This epistle is really all about how a Christian thinks. The repeated word, fronew, which Paul uses can be defined as "an attitude of thinking from God, involving emotions and intellect, producing good thoughts of others, harmony, love, and rejoicing" (DFZ). Paul holds himself up as a model of Christian thinking; he also holds up Jesus Christ as a model. He even holds up Eapaphroditus and other church leaders as models. Joy is to be the hallmark of Christian thinking and feeling, and Paul repeats that over and over again. Joy is defined in this context by Dwight Zeller as "a progressive state of contentment from God in relation to others." Partnership and Unity are also an important part of the Christian mindset, and Paul not only exhorts specific individuals in the church to this kind of unity, but praises the church for their partnership and calls them to continued unity. Although it is not as prominent, an underlying theme of the book is the call to stand firm in Godly conduct in the midst of an evil world.


How to sum it up in one sentence? It's hard to do adequately, but I'd say, "In the midst of this world, Let us rejoice in Christ!"





Alford, Henry. Alford’s Greek Testament: An Exegetical and Critical Commentary. Grand Rapids: Guardian Press, 1856, 1976.

Arndt, William and Gingrich, Wilbur. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957, 1965.

Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible: The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1957, 1959.

Bruce, F.F. Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1977.

Clark, Gordon. Philippians. Jefferson, MD: Trinity Foundation, 1980.

Earle, Ralph. Word Meanings in the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1974, 1986.

Gilchrist, Paul. Notes from Epistles Class. Lookout Mtn., TN: Covenant College, 1986.

Green, J.P., Ed. and Trans., The Interlinear Bible. Peabody, MS: Hendrickson, 1976, 2nd ed. 1986.

Hanna, Robert. A Grammatical Aid to the Greek N.T. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983.

Holy Bible: New American Standard, The Lockman Foundation, Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers 1960, 1977.

Kent, Homer A., Jr. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978.

Lightfoot, J.B. The Epistles of St. Paul: Philippians. London: MacMillan & Co., 1868, 1908.

Perschbacher, Wesley. The New Analytical Greek Lexicon. Peabody, MS: Hendrickson, 1990.

Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1931.

Rodgers, Cleon L. Jr., and Cleon L. III. The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1998.

Thayer, Joseph. Greek-English Lexicon. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1901, 1977.

The Bible, American Standard Version (1901). Albany OR: SAGE software, 1996.

The Greek New Testament, Third Ed. Stuttgart: United Bible Societies, 1966 ... 1983

The Holy Bible: New International Version. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Bible Publishers 1987

Unger, Merril F. The New Unger's Bible Dictionary, Ed. R.K. Harrison. Chicago: Moody Press, 1957, 1988.

Vincent, Marvin. Word Studies in the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1890, 1946.

Wilson, Nate. Q.T. Notes on Philippians. Unpublished 1987.

Zeller, Dwight. Greek Exegesis Class Notes. Westcliffe, CO: Sangre de Cristo Seminary, 1997, 1999.

Zodhiates, Spiros. The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible: King James Version. World, 1990.


Advance to Commentary on Philippians chapter 1

Advance to Commentary on Philippians, chapter 2

Advance to Commentary on Philippians, chapter 3

Advance to Commentary on Philippians, chapter 4

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