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Reviews of Commentaries on Philippians

 

Philippians, Fee NICNT

Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, NICNT (Eerdmans: 1995).

Gordon Fee’s commentary on Philippians is excellent. Fee argues for Pauline authorship and for the traditional view that Rome was his place of writing. He is thorough and scholarly, but not unreadable. If you are looking for a single commentary on Philippians to read, this is your commentary! It is hefty and sometimes wordy, but Fee’s depth of insight is superb. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Moisés Silva,Philippians (2nd Edition), BECNT (Baker Academic: 2005).

Moisés Silva’s commentary on Philippians is roughly half the size of Fee’s commentary, but Silva’s commentary is much more reader-friendly. Silva also argues for Pauline authorship and Roman provenance. Silva provides his own translation, and although perhaps a handful of his conclusions are far-fetched, his scholarship leads him to many valuable insights of which Fee does not write. Silva’s own excellent translation and highly readable commentary make his work a must-have for those who preach through Philippians. 4 out of 5 stars.

Gerald F. Hawthorne, revised and expanded by Ralph P. Martin, Philippians, WBC (Thomas Nelson: 2004).

Of other WBC New Testament commentaries I have read, Philippians is my least favorite. Like Silva, Hawthorne/Martin offer their own translation. Unlike Silva, Hawthorne/Martin often depart from traditional translations, which in most instances produces far-fetched conclusions. Particularly in the first two chapters of Philippians, Hawthorne/Martin regularly offer differing translations than those given in most English Bibles. Furthermore, Hawthorne/Martin seem to be more amenable to secular scholasticism; they regularly nod to rhetorical criticism, and unlike other conservative commentators who, even hesitatingly, adopt the theory of Rome as being the place of Paul’s writing, Hawthorne/Martin adopt the provenance theories of Caesarea and Ephesus, respectively. Furthermore, Hawthorne/Martin speculate (not edifyingly) as to Paul’s psychological state. Commenting on 2:6, they write of the phrase “form of God”:

This somewhat enigmatic expression, then, appears to be a cautious, hidden way for the author to say that Christ was God, possessed of the very nature of God, without employing these exact words. It appears to be a statement made by one [Paul] who perhaps, althrough reared as a strict monotheist and thus unable to bring himself to say “Christ is God,” was compelled nevertheless by the sheer force of personal encounter with the resurrected and living Christ to bear witness as best he could to the reality of Christ’s “divinity,” to use the language of later creedal formulations. (114; cf. lxii-lxiii)

Coupled with this psychological speculation, Hawthorne/Martin’s speculative translations greatly detract from their commentary’s hermeneutical value. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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