Date of Award

Spring 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Religious Studies

First Advisor

Hills, Julian V.

Second Advisor

Orlov, Andrei A.

Third Advisor

Kurz, William S.


My study challenges the consensus that there is no discernable, single purpose that shapes the entire epistle to the Philippians. I argue that Paul writes Philippians with the sole intent of persuading the church to maintain its exclusive partnership with him and his gospel mission. I examine each section of Philippians using standard historical-critical methods, rhetorical criticism, and social-scientific methods. Special attention is given to those passages where the majority of scholars have argued that Paul has changed subjects. The grammatical imperatives (especially those in 1:27; 2:2, 12, 14, 29; 3:17) factor significantly in this analysis. After surveying the scholarship on Philippians in Chapter One, I argue in Chapter Two that Phil 1:1-11, as the exordium, prefaces what is to follow regarding Paul's view of the Philippians' fellowship with him in his mission. In Chapter Three, I propose that Phil 1:12-26 (the narratio) provides the hermeneutical key for understanding the division Paul establishes between himself / his partners and his rivals. Contrary to most interpretations, I contend that Paul is not affirming the theological position of his rivals in 1:18a. In Chapters Four and Five, I consider the propositio (1:27-30) and the heart of the letter, the probatio (2:1-2:18). I maintain that Paul's attention to unity in 1:27-2:4 does not address potential fractures within the Philippian church, but is directed towards their corporate unity with him. He continues by presenting three pieces of evidence in support of the propositio: the pattern of Christ (2:5-11); the dichotomy between faithful and apostate Israel (2:12-16a); and his own posture of sacrificial giving (2:16b-18). In Chapter Six, I propose that, following Greco-Roman rhetorical convention, Paul introduces Epaphroditus, Timothy, and himself as examples (2:19-4:1). Finally, in Chapter Seven I examine 4:2-20, and argue that Paul delays discussing squarely the Philippians' gift until he has established the proper background for understanding it. Further, I suggest that Paul considers the Philippians' support to be a sanctified, righteous fruit that authenticates their faith and demonstrates their faithfulness to him and his gospel mission. In the Conclusions, I briefly summarize the study.