Philippians, Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern
1. In conclusion, my brothers: rejoice in union with the Lord. It is no trouble for me to repeat what I have written you before, and for you it will be a safeguard:
2. beware of the dogs, those evildoers, the Mutilated!
3. For it is we who are the Circumcised, we who worship by the Spirit of God and make our boast in the Messiah Yeshua! We do not put confidence in human qualifications,
Apparently there was a problem with Judaizers in Philippi as there was in Galatia (see Ga 2:14b&N); indeed, I believe this was the major cause of dissension in Philippi. Some suppose from the shift of tone in v. I that Sha'ul had planned to end his letter here but was suddenly apprised of new activity among the Judaizers and responded with the sharp warning which follows. But I think he had already decided to repeat what he had written... before (namely, the exhortation to humility of Chapter 2), by restating it negatively as a warning not to boast (v. 3), since humility excludes pride. Further, just as he used the Messiah himself as the supreme positive example (2:5-11), he uses the boasting Judaizers as a counterexample (vv. 2-9).
There is good reason to think that these Judaizers were not Jews by birth but fanatical Gentile proselytes preoccupied with physical circumcision, in which they took inordinate pride, regarding it as the necessary means of initiation into the people of God (see 1С 9:20b; Ga 5:2-4&N, 6:12-13&N). Against this hypothesis is raised the objection that Sha'ul would not list all his Jewish credentials (vv. 5-6) if the Judaizers had none themselves; hence the Judaizers must have been born Jews. My response comes from what Sha'ul himself writes. In effect, he asks, "Are they Jews? If so, they are Jews only by conversion, while 1 am 'an Israelite by birth' (v. 5), which is a more telling claim." Judaism forbids embarrassing a proselyte by reminding him of his non-Jewish origins (see also Ro 4:16N), but here Sha'ul effectively rules that protecting the faithful against those who prey on them is a weightier point of halakhah. Distressed at having to recommend himself, Sha'ul hastens to add that he does not put confidence in human qualifications and regards them as "garbage" (v. 8). He introduces them only because those who oppose him consider their own meager qualifications so impressive.
Mutilated... circumcised. Greek katatome... peritomi. a play on words, literally, "cut down... cut around." Sha'ul is saying that circumcision does not provide the Judaizers with any spiritual advantage but results in their spiritual mutilation (compare Ga 5:12&N).
On the contrary, the spiritually circumcised are we who have "circumcised hearts and ears" (Ac 7:5 l&N, alluding to metaphors found in the Tanakh; see references there), we who have had the "foreskins of our old nature" removed (Co 2:1 l-13a&N), we who worship by the Spirit of God and make our boast in the Messiah Yeshua,... not... in human qualifications of any sort (vv. 4-9), literally, "not in flesh," not in "a circumcision... done by human hands" (Co 2:11).
An important question for Messianic Judaism is whether Sha'ul is teaching here that believing Gentiles are counted as the Circumcised and unbelieving Jews no longer are. The answer is that this is a verse with several levels of meaning, so that it teaches several things; but it is important not to get the levels confused. The p 'shat (Mt 2:15N) is not that unbelieving Jews are not the Circumcised, or, as some Christians claim, that "Christians are the true Jews." Rather, he is saying that Gentiles who undergo an outward conversion to Judaism without an inward change of heart are certainly not the spiritually Circumcised, even though they claim to be.
Back to basics: Jews are Jews — have been, are, will be. Messianic Jews are Jews. Non-Messianic Jews are Jews. Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles — Jews and Gentiles who put their trust in Yeshua the Messiah — constitute the Body of the Messiah, the Messianic Community. By their faith Gentiles become Christians, not Jews; as Christians they become joined to Israel without becoming Jews. Gentiles can become non-Messianic Jews by conversion to non-Messianic Judaism.
Conclusions: A believing Gentile, spiritually circumcised but physically uncircum-cised, has been grafted into Israel by faith (Ro 11:16-26&NN, Ep 2:11-16&NN), so that the promises given to Abraham apply to him as well (Ga 3:6-14&NN, 26-29&N). Yet he remains a Gentile and should not receive physical circumcision except possibly under very special circumstances (Ac 16:1-3&NN. 1С 7:17-20&NN, Ga 5:2-4&NN). On the other hand, a non-Messianic Jew. physically circumcised but spiritually uncir-cumcised because he does not trust in Yeshua the Messiah, is nevertheless a Jew; and even though he is a cut-off branch, he can be grafted back in again (Ro 11:16-24&NN). A Messianic Jew, circumcised both physically and spiritually, should take vv. 4-9 as a warning not to make this "double circumcision" into a ground for boasting, which is always a temptation; for in God's Messianic Community there is no first- and second-class citizenship based on whether one is circumcised (1С 7:19; Ga 5:6,6:15) or Jewish (Ep 2:14) or on any other external criterion (Ga 3:28, Co 3:11). For a fuller discussion of these issues see Ro 2:28-29&N and Ga 6:16&N.
4. even though I certainly have grounds for putting confidence in such things. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for putting confidence in human qualifications, I have better grounds:
5. b’rit-milah on the eighth day,
by birth belonging to the people of Isra’el,
from the tribe of Binyamin,
a Hebrew-speaker, with Hebrew-speaking parents,
in regard to the Torah, a Parush.
Circumcised the eighth day, in accordance with the Torah (Genesis 17:8-12, Leviticus 12:3), not on a later occasion, which would have been a less faithful fulfillment of the command (see Ac 16:1-3, where Sha'ul himself circumcised Timothy as an adult, and discussion of circumcision in notes there and at Yn 7:22-23). An Israelite by birth, not by conversion, like the Judaizers. See vv. 1-3N. From the tribe of Binyamin. Many Jews by this lime could not trace their genealogy, or were descended from proselytes. Presumably Sha'ul was named after King Sha'ul, also from the tribe of Benjamin.
A Hebrew-speaker, with Hebrew-speaking parents, literally, "a Hebrew of the Hebrews." My understanding is supported by many scholars; it can hardly mean "a Jew of Jews," since this has already been said twice: and nothing of substance is added if it is interpreted as meaning, "a real, genuine Hebrew." Contrary to what some scholars have asserted, Hebrew was still spoken by many Jews in the first century (Mk 5:41N). In an age when 85% of the Jews in the world were living in the Diaspora, being a Hebrew-speaker would confer higher status as a Jew.
In regard to the Torah, a Parush, a Pharisee; Sha'ul called the P'rushim "the strictest party in our religion" (Ac 26:5). Indeed, he was no ordinary Parush but was "trained at the feet of Gamli'el in every detail of the Torah of our forefathers" (Ac 22:3&N), Rabban Gamli'el I being the outstanding teacher among the P'rushim of that time. Moreover, wrote Sha'ul, "since I was more of a zealot for the traditions handed down by my forefathers than most Jews my age, I advanced in traditional Judaism more rapidly than they did" (Ga 1:14&N).
6. in regard to zeal, a persecutor of the Messianic Community,
in regard to the righteousness demanded by legalism, blameless.
In regard to zeal, a persecutor of the Messianic Community (the ekklesia, the Church). See the evidence at Ac 7:58; 8:1-3; 9:1-2, 13-14; 1С 15:9; Ga 1:13, 23; I Ti 1:12-15.
As a result of all these things, he was in regard to the righteousness demanded by legalism, blameless, which is far more than the Judaizers were (Ga 6:12-13) but far less than Z'kharyah and Elisheva were (Lk 1:6&N). On the very crucial decision to translate "nomos" as "legalism" and not "law" or "Torah" see Ga 2:!6bN, especially the quotation from Cranfield's Commentary on Romans. Sha'ul was following all the rules as he had learned them, yet his heart was full of pride, which excluded trust, since trust requires humility, the opposite of pride. But trust is the primary requirement of the Torah (Ro 9:30-10:10&NN), and this Sha'ul lacked. Therefore he was by no means blameless in regard to the righteousness demanded by the Torah as it truly is, only in regard to the righteousness demanded by the system which results when the Torah is perverted into legalism. This matter is taken up again in v. 9.
7. But the things that used to be advantages for me, I have, because of the Messiah, come to consider a disadvantage.
8. Not only that, but I consider everything a disadvantage in comparison with the supreme value of knowing the Messiah Yeshua as my Lord. It was because of him that I gave up everything and regard it all as garbage, in order to gain the Messiah
Sha'ul does not mean that all the deeds which he did as a non-Messianic Jew were contemptuous, but that his pride in them he now regards as contemptuous.
9. and be found in union with him, not having any righteousness of my own based on legalism, but having that righteousness which comes through the Messiah’s faithfulness, the righteousness from God based on trust.
The Messiah's faithfulness to God by being "obedient unto death" (2:6-8), not Sha'ul's faith in the Messiah (on this understanding see Ro 3:22N, Ga 2:16cN). Sha'ul's faith in the Messiah is adequately covered by the phrase, "based on trust," at the end of the verse. On the word "righteousness," see Ga 2:16aN. The present verse summarizes Sha'ul's teaching in Galatians and Romans on the subject of how people are made righteous by God.
Gentiles who have accepted circumcision have less ground for boasting than Sha'ul (v. 4), who lists his external qualifications (vv. 5-6). seven of them in ascending order, only to dismiss them as not merely neutral but a disadvantage in comparison with the supreme value of knowing the Messiah Yeshua as my Lord (vv. 7-8), indeed, as garbage (literally, "dung"), so far as their usefulness for attaining righteousness from God (v. 9) is concerned.
10. Yes, I gave it all up in order to know him, that is, to know the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings as I am being conformed to his death,
11. so that somehow I might arrive at being resurrected from the dead.
12. It is not that I have already obtained it or already reached the goal — no, I keep pursuing it in the hope of taking hold of that for which the Messiah Yeshua took hold of me.
13. Brothers, I, for my part, do not think of myself as having yet gotten hold of it; but one thing I do: forgetting what is behind me and straining forward toward what lies ahead,
14. I keep pursuing the goal in order to win the prize offered by God’s upward calling in the Messiah Yeshua.
So that somehow I might arrive at being resurrected from the dead (v. 11). It sounds as if Sha'ul were not sure; there is an apparent conflict with the certainty of 1 Yn 5:11 ("God has given us eternal life"). The common factor is that a believer cannot rest on his laurels — this is pride, lack of humility. He must keep pursuing the goal (v. 14; compare 1С 9:24-27, where Sha'ul uses the same imagery of running a race), or, as Yochanan puts it, he must "keep trusting in the person and power of the Son of God" (I Yn 5:13).
15. Therefore, as many of us as are mature, let us keep paying attention to this; and if you are differently minded about anything, God will also reveal this to you.
16. Only let our conduct fit the level we have already reached.
17. Brothers, join in imitating me, and pay attention to those who live according to the pattern we have set for you.
Brothers, join. Another call to unity (1:27, 2:2; see also 4:2-3). In imitating me. Compare 1С 11:1.
18. For many — I have told you about them often before, and even now I say it with tears — live as enemies of the Messiah’s execution-stake.
19. They are headed for destruction! Their god is the belly; they are proud of what they ought to be ashamed of, since they are concerned about the things of the world.
Sha'ul seems to be referring not only to the Judaizers (vv. 2-3) but also to other enemies of the Messiah's execution-stake. Compare Ro 16:17-20.
20. But we are citizens of heaven, and it is from there that we expect a Deliverer, the Lord Yeshua the Messiah.
21. He will change the bodies we have in this humble state and make them like his glorious body, using the power which enables him to bring everything under his control.
This summarizes the teaching of I Corinthians 15.
- chapter 1
- chapter 2
- chapter 3
- chapter 4