Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.

On Bart Ehrman’s blog site there is a lively discussion of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  It all started when someone posted the questions, “What did Paul write in his original letter?”

As is common to say these days, “That’s a great question.”  It would be nice to know the answer.

There is one possibility, that Paul said exactly the same thing in his letter that we read today in the various Bibles.  Another is that there may be small and unimportant differences between his original letter and the surviving copies.  But, one thing is certain, we do not know for sure what was in his original letter.

I understand there is a widely held conclusion Philippians is two letters cobbled together into one letter.  This raises the question why this was done, who did it and what did the original letters say that was different, if they were at all different.

Many scholars apparently agree Paul dictated most of his letters instead of writing them himself.  This opens the possibility of some editing by the original scribe.

Then, there were all the other scribes.  The oldest surviving copy of Philippians was written 150 years after the time of Paul.  One has to assume many copies were written early on to be distributed to groups.  Then these copies wore out and were recopied at many locations at many different times.  There is no way to know if changes were made by the many scribes or not.

The story of the writing and impact of Philippians is more interesting than the book itself.

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About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years. There is more about me at Wikipedia.com.
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5 Responses to Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.

  1. Michael Ross says:

    The book was written by Paul with help from his disciple, Timothy, who may well have taken dictation:

    “1Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus,
    To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: 2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

    No reason to think he “edited” Paul’s words or that it is more than one letter.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Michael 7:23 or that it was more than one letter

      My understanding is the two letter conclusion is wide spread among contemporary NT scholars. There is virtually nothing everyone of them agrees on, but this is now common, not unanimous, among believers and skeptics.

  2. Wanna B Sure says:

    Consider; 1 Cor 16,21: Gal 6,11: Col 4, 18: 2 Thess 3:17: Phil 19. “In my own hand.” Paul didn’t live in a vacuum. If there were changes to the content, he would have become aware of it. Then, as now, the understanding, is a different matter. However, at the time, I don’t believe his letters were as ambiguous as some today would make them out to be.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Wanna 7:58 If there were changes to the content, he would have become aware of it.
      The oldest copy surviving was copied 150 years after he was dead. Could he read it from the grave to make sure it was the same as what he dictated?

      • Wanna B Sure says:

        In his lifetime, silly. At least for the early generations after, they would have been familiar with the originals. I believe your desires and expectations exceed the familiarity of the early Christians.

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