Philippians 3:1-11
Paul is boldly but humbly putting himself forward as a great model of Christ's humility
Published September 11th, 2021; Updated September 16th, 2021
Share / Groups / About Author
Greek Cross Training, Class 7
Overall analysis of Chapters 2 and 3
Greek Cross Training, Class 7
Philippians 3:1-11
What to be careful of so as to keep your joy: those who have a false confidence
The command
Τὸ λοιπόν, ἀδελφοί
Reference of 1c
χαίρετε ἐν κυρίῳ.
τὰ αὐτὰ γράφειν ... ... δὲ ἀσφαλές.
Manner 1 of 1c
ὑμῖν ἐμοὶ μὲν οὐκ ὀκνηρόν,
Βλέπετε τοὺς κύνας,
Manner 2 of 1c
βλέπετε τοὺς κακοὺς ἐργάτας,
βλέπετε τὴν κατατομήν.
The ground: WE have a true one
ἡμεῖς γάρ ἐσμεν ἡ περιτομή,
Ground of 2a-c
οἱ ... λατρεύοντες
Explanation 1
καὶ καυχώμενοι ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ
Explanation 2
καὶ οὐκ ἐν σαρκὶ πεποιθότες,
Explanation 3
What not putting confidence in the flesh (false confidence) means
His former confidence (bad)
καίπερ ἐγὼ ἔχων πεποίθησιν καὶ
ἐν σαρκί.
Εἴ τις δοκεῖ ἄλλος πεποιθέναι
ἐν σαρκί,
ἐγὼ μᾶλλον•
Explanation 1 (former life of Paul)
περιτομῇ ὀκταήμερος,
Expl 1-4(general)
ἐκ γένους Ἰσραήλ,
φυλῆς Βενιαμίν,
Ἑβραῖος ἐξ Ἑβραίων,
κατὰ νόμον Φαρισαῖος,
Expl 5-6 (personal)
κατὰ ζῆλος
διώκων τὴν ἐκκλησίαν,
Explanation of 6a
κατὰ δικαιοσύνην
Expl 7 (personal)
τὴν ἐν νόμῳ
Explanation 1-2
γενόμενος ἄμεμπτος.
His new confidence (good)
[Ἀλλʼ] ἅτινα ἦν μοι κέρδη,
ταῦτα ἥγημαι ... ζημίαν.
Explanation 2 (new life of Paul)
διὰ τὸν Χριστὸν
Ground of 7b
ἀλλὰ μενοῦνγε καὶ ἡγοῦμαι πάντα ζημίαν εἶναι
Explanation of 7b
διὰ τὸ ὑπερέχον τῆς γνώσεως
Ground of 8a
Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ
τοῦ κυρίου
διʼ ὃν τὰ πάντα ἐζημιώθην,
καὶ ἡγοῦμαι σκύβαλα,
Explanation of 8f
ἵνα Χριστὸν κερδήσω
Purpose of 8f
καὶ εὑρεθῶ ἐν αὐτῷ,
Explanation of 8h
μὴ ἔχων ἐμὴν δικαιοσύνην
τὴν ἐκ νόμου
ἀλλὰ τὴν διὰ πίστεως
Explanation 2 of 8h
τὴν ἐκ θεοῦ δικαιοσύνην
Explanation of 9d
ἐπὶ τῇ πίστει,
τοῦ γνῶναι αὐτὸν
Explanation 2 of 9d
καὶ τὴν δύναμιν
Explanation 3 of 9d
τῆς ἀναστάσεως
καὶ [τὴν] κοινωνίαν [τῶν] παθημάτων
Explanation 4 of 9d
συμμορφιζόμενος τῷ θανάτῳ
Result of 9d
εἴ πως καταντήσω εἰς τὴν ἐξανάστασιν
τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν.
I worked up my observations and discoveries in a very long note under this phrase. I learnt a lot! Also, due to the length of the phrase and the number of right indents I made, the formatting on the page might seem a little "squished"
Βλέπετε τοὺς κύνας, βλέπετε τοὺς κακοὺς ἐργάτας, βλέπετε τὴν κατατομήν.
ἡμεῖς γάρ ἐσμεν ἡ περιτομή, οἱ πνεύματι θεοῦ λατρεύοντες καὶ καυχώμενοι ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ καὶ οὐκ ἐν σαρκὶ πεποιθότες,
καίπερ ἐγὼ ἔχων πεποίθησιν καὶ ἐν σαρκί. Εἴ τις δοκεῖ ἄλλος πεποιθέναι ἐν σαρκί, ἐγὼ μᾶλλον•
περιτομῇ ὀκταήμερος, ἐκ γένους Ἰσραήλ, φυλῆς Βενιαμίν, Ἑβραῖος ἐξ Ἑβραίων, κατὰ νόμον Φαρισαῖος,
κατὰ ζῆλος διώκων τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, κατὰ δικαιοσύνην τὴν ἐν νόμῳ γενόμενος ἄμεμπτος.
[Ἀλλʼ] ἅτινα ἦν μοι κέρδη, ταῦτα ἥγημαι διὰ τὸν Χριστὸν ζημίαν.
ἀλλὰ μενοῦνγε καὶ ἡγοῦμαι πάντα ζημίαν εἶναι διὰ τὸ ὑπερέχον τῆς γνώσεως Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ κυρίου μου, διʼ ὃν τὰ πάντα ἐζημιώθην, καὶ ἡγοῦμαι σκύβαλα, ἵνα Χριστὸν κερδήσω
καὶ εὑρεθῶ ἐν αὐτῷ, μὴ ἔχων ἐμὴν δικαιοσύνην τὴν ἐκ νόμου ἀλλὰ τὴν διὰ πίστεως Χριστοῦ, τὴν ἐκ θεοῦ δικαιοσύνην ἐπὶ τῇ πίστει,
τοῦ γνῶναι αὐτὸν καὶ τὴν δύναμιν τῆς ἀναστάσεως αὐτοῦ καὶ [τὴν] κοινωνίαν [τῶν] παθημάτων αὐτοῦ, συμμορφιζόμενος τῷ θανάτῳ αὐτοῦ,
εἴ πως καταντήσω εἰς τὴν ἐξανάστασιν τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν.
Οὐχ ὅτι ἤδη ἔλαβον ἢ ἤδη τετελείωμαι, διώκω δὲ εἰ καὶ καταλάβω, ἐφʼ ᾧ καὶ κατελήμφθην ὑπὸ Χριστοῦ [Ἰησοῦ].
ἀδελφοί, ἐγὼ ἐμαυτὸν οὐ λογίζομαι κατειληφέναι• ἓν δέ, τὰ μὲν ὀπίσω ἐπιλανθανόμενος τοῖς δὲ ἔμπροσθεν ἐπεκτεινόμενος,
κατὰ σκοπὸν διώκω εἰς τὸ βραβεῖον τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ.
Τὸ λοιπόν, ἀδελφοί μου, χαίρετε ἐν κυρίῳ. τὰ αὐτὰ γράφειν ὑμῖν ἐμοὶ μὲν οὐκ ὀκνηρόν, ὑμῖν δὲ ἀσφαλές.
Overall analysis of Chapters 2 and 3
After thinking about the overall flow of thought in Philippians Chapter 2-3, and after doing this phrase on 3:1-11 this time, this is what I have found, and the Greek has given some really, really interesting insights. The central thrust and major point of these two Chapters is, I believe, 2:1-4, where Paul asks the Philippian church to be united and humble amongst each other. (I see 2:12-18 as merely a detailed working out of the command of 2:1-4) Paul then goes on to give 3 models of what this humility looks like: 1. the greatest model of all, Jesus himself (2:5-11) in his humility of incarnating himself as a baby, and then emptying and stripping himself by death on the cross; 2. The 2 selfless ministry workers Timothy and Epaphroditus (2:19-2:30); and then finally 3. Paul himself (3:1-14)... .... Paul's Bold Claim in Chapter 3: that he himself is actually the supreme model of Christ's humility! ... The astonishing thing working through the Greek this time: I truly think Paul is actually very audaciously highlighting himself as one who has most truly followed the pattern of Christ ( 2:5-11 ). Paul would never say such a thing ever for self-gain, but I think that in both the very structure of 3:1-11 and its parallels to 2:5-11, and also in the self-consciously chosen lexemes ( language choices) that he uses, he really is setting up himself as the pattern of Jesus ( 2:5-11 ) fulfilled, and thus the greatest pattern (besides Christ) for the Philippians to copy, at least from this letter. Reason 1 for why I think Paul is saying that he himself is such a model: the structural parallels of 2:5-11 and 3:1-11 (or also including all of 3:1-14)) At a structural level, there is the parallel of how both Jesus and Paul had great glory, yet gave it all up and emptied themselves. Jesus had the glory of being the very Son of God, of being of equal essence with the Father (2:6), but then comes the dramatic shift which happens in 2:7 when he gives it all up, emptying himself, by coming down to this earth., stripped of all his heavenly glory. Paul, in the same way, had the “glory” of being one of the most qualified and greatest of all Jews, which he clearly describes by listing up 7 amazing qualifications (from the standard of the world perhaps, but nevertheless, still highly impressive) that he has, in 3:4-6. I would argue that Paul, in using πεποίθησις and its related verb a number of times, is drawing attention to the fact that this is a kind of “confident glory” that he had, a kind of parallel (though of course(!) not on the same level) with the perfect glories the Son had whilst in heaven. Even the word καυχαομαι (3:3) can be translated as “to glory in”, further highlighting that Paul had a certain kind of parallel glory with Christ, albeit at a lower level. But then, just as the dramatic “emptying” takes place with Christ, and it is Christ’s own decision to empty himself in 2:7, in 3:7 Paul himself also decides to empty himself, by rejecting his past and following Christ, counting it all as ζημίαν (loss), which is parallel to Christ giving up his position as the Son in heaven in order to become nothing. Paul gives up the albeit earthly glories for something which, perhaps by a worldly surface glance, seems first as nothing compared to what he once had, but is, paradoxically, everything (this “nothing”= gaining Jesus himself!) Reason 2 for why I think Paul is saying that he himself is such a model: the lexical similarities in the Greek between the 2:5-11 and the 3:1-11 passages. Beyond the first point above, what surprises me is not merely the structural content-based similarities between 2:5-11 and 3:1-11 (or including 3:12-14 as well), but also Paul’s conscious lexical parallels comparing himself with Jesus. First, Paul uses the very same word ηγεομαι in 2:6 (when Christ did not “consider, or reckon” it robbery to be stripped of the equal glory he had with the Father), also with regards to himself, when he uses the same lexeme ηγεομαι twice in 3:7 and 3:8, referring to how he himself "stripped himself"(counted as nothing) of the previous 7 glories of 3:4-6, “considering” them as a loss (or in a sense "emptying" himself of such things), just as Christ emptied himself of his own position (temporarily, while on earth). Second, is the word θανάτος , which Paul uses in reference to the the cross in 2:8, but also links it to his own deep desire to be united in Christ’s death in 3:10. Finally is the word ευρισκω (to find) which Paul uses only twice in this letter, but again in these 2 parallel passages, furthering this connection of himself as a model of Christ's kenosis and humility. He says of Christ, that he was ”found” (ευρισκω) as a man, which is also a passive aorist, and then also for himself in Chapter 3, using the somewhat awkward but obviously intentional language of “being found in him"( 3:9 ), the same lexeme, again perhaps not coincidentally using again an aorist passive (though in a different mood). So from the intentional use of these same lexemes, and in the light of Reason 1 above, I come to the conclusion that Paul really is setting himself up in direct parallel with Christ himself of 2:5-11 (and even in a positive light, though this is no boasting of a worldly kind, but a true, real, godly, even correct boasting). The similarities for me therefore are too many to have any other kind of conclusion for why Paul gives such a lengthy autobiography in Chapter 3. Reason 3 for why I think Paul is saying that he himself is such a model: For he is putting himself forth as a model of imitation, though he does it with deep humility. Later in 3:17, Paul says Συμμιμηταί μου γίνεσθε, ἀδελφοί (“imitate me, brothers.”) If Paul is setting himself up as a really, really good model in 3:1-14 , that, in many ways, he is just like Christ (of course he is not saying in all ways), as I argue above, then asking Philippi to imitate himself would makes sense as being fully in line with this train of thought . But why does he not urge the Philippians to imitate Timothy, or Epaphroditus, since they too are excellent models? Well, it is because he sees himself as the best example of someone who has carried out the supreme humility which was described in 2:5-11. And, one could even perhaps argue (though this is by no means conclusive, and perhaps debatable) that by using Τὸ λοιπόν as a marker to set forth a new section in the letter (3:1), rather than just Paul now moving to a completely new section of the letter, he might actually be pointing to himself as the final and greater model of humility to imitate, even beyond the great humble examples of Timothy and Epaphroditus. And using Τὸ λοιπόν strengthens this emphasis. But lastly, just to make sure that Paul is not in any way suggesting that he is someone arrogant as of the world (we would never accuse Paul of this), he shows in 3:11-13 that even though he really is consciously setting himself up as the supreme pattern of humility in this epistle for the Philippians to imitate, he also quite clearly says that he is not exactly like Christ, that he he has “not yet arrived, nor yet taken hold of it (the resurrection) yet.” He has not gotten the resurrection from the dead (3:11) in contrast to Christ (2:9), and he Paul does not have the “name above every name", which our Lord definitely does have. My overall conclusion : To conclude, through having looked at the Greek, and by doing this phrase, I do see Paul as making the very bold claim that he himself is the great model of Jesus’ great humiliation (2:5-11), and that he Paul is a worthy such model for the Philippians to imitate. Yet, he in his careful but also bold language shows that this claim does not flow from any human arrogance or fleshly confidence, like the “dogs” of 3:2, but rather, that however audacious his claim may seem, that his presentation of himself as such a worthy model for the Philippians to imitate is being done, truly, in Christ. A Personal Application : So, by extension, this truth really does show us that Paul himself is truly a worthy man to imitate as a life model, one who had such love, such warmth, such humility, and was full of sharing the love of Christ with others, and was joyful in even the most extreme of opposing circumstances. These are all some of the very greatest qualities for anyone to aspire to, and are available to all who are in Christ, though they will take much time to develop. What an astonishing man, whose life is given to us by God through these letters!
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.