Paul as model: The rhetoric and Old Testament background of Philippians 3:1-4:1

Bruce Lester Fields, Marquette University


This dissertation is an investigation of Paul's rhetorical strategy in Philippians 3:1-4:1, a passage unique for a number of reasons, among them is the form and content of the autobiographical section in vv. 5-6. Paul uses deliberative rhetoric to persuade the Philippian believers toward a particular mind-set in relating to Christ and to the apostle, himself. This section in Philippians is found in the probatio. Through the use and development of three enthymemes, Paul accomplishes three things. First, he obtains positive ethos from the Philippian believers, i.e. his personal character is enhanced. Second, Paul effectively warns them against potential enemies who may lead some away from a proper perspective of both Christ and a particular way of life. Third, he establishes an eschatological perspective focusing on the meaning and significance of Christ's post-resurrection return that should serve as a bearing-setting principle in their temporal existence. Paul uses a historical exemplum from Old Testament tradition to aid not only in establishing a positive ethos for himself, but also in teaching the Philippian believers the meaning of living in a covenant relationship with God. This relationship is the result of their being in Christ. In the process of writing, Paul functions much like the later Old Testament prophets, calling the people back to reflection and action appropriate to their belief in God and what it means to be a member of his people. The Introduction outlines what types of studies have been done on Philippians in general, and 3:1-4:1 specifically. Of greatest concern for this work are the issues of the integrity of the letter and the identity of Paul's foes. Two other categories introduced in this section are the contributions of sociological studies to New Testament studies and my interest in interacting with liberation and black theology in light of this study. Paul is a contributor to the rhetorical situation with the Philippian believer. He is in turn a product of Old Testament tradition. Chapter 1 is a study of a few relevant themes in the Old Testament tradition, establishing major themes from some of the major prophets and sections of the Pseudepigrapha of which Paul may have been aware. This awareness did influence Paul's reflections on the relationship of God with his Old Covenant people, thus providing needed lessons for God's New Covenant people. Chapter 2 surveys some of the contributions to recent New Testament studies from rhetorical criticism. It is essentially the rediscovery of an ancient art, the use of which sheds much light on the nature of the early church communities. The contributions of rhetorical analysis and Old Testament background are brought together in Chapter 3. Paul uses his own personal history to teach lessons to the Philippian believers on the results of faithfulness to God and unfaithfulness to God. Verbal and conceptual connections between Philippians 2 and 3 establish the centrality of Jesus Christ as a model, the one whom Paul himself emulates. Chapter 4 is a summary on matters of the integrity of the letter and the identity of Paul's foes in Philippians 3:1-4:1. It is also the major point of interaction between lessons learned from Paul's rhetorical strategy in this section and certain emphases in liberation and black theology.

Recommended Citation

Fields, Bruce Lester, "Paul as model: The rhetoric and Old Testament background of Philippians 3:1-4:1" (1995). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9600848.