Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL, THE APOSTLE,
TO THE PHILIPPIANS.
Philippi, a considerable city in Macedonia, so called from Philip, father of Alexander the Great. St. Paul had preached there. (Acts xvi.) Those people had a great veneration for him, and supplied his wants when he was at Corinth, and again when he was a prisoner at Rome, sending to him by Epaphroditus, who is thought to have been the bishop of Philippi. St. Paul sent this letter by him to the Philippians, (written during his imprisonment) from Rome; but whether during his first or second imprisonment, is uncertain. (Witham) --- It is generally believed that St. Paul wrote it about the year 62, in his first confinement. In it he testifies to the faithful his most tender gratitude and acknowledgement for the assistance they had sent him, and a zeal the most ardent for their salvation. He felicitates them on their courage under sufferings for the cause of Jesus Christ, on their good works also, and forcibly excites them to confidence and joy. --- The Philippians were the first among the Macedonians converted to the faith. St. Paul, in this epistle, recommends charity, unity, and humility; and warns against false teachers, whom he calls dogs, and enemies of the cross of Christ. He also returns thanks for their benefactions. It was written about twenty-nine years after our Lord's ascension. (Challoner)
With the bishops and deacons. By bishops many understand those who were only priests; for the name of priests, at that time, was common to those who were by their ordination priests or bishops, though the order as well as the functions were different. St. John Chrysostom also takes notice, that the name of deacon then signified any minister of Christ. St. Paul also might mean the bishops, or priests and deacons, not only of Philippi, but also of the adjacent places. (Witham)
Cum episcopis et diaconis, Greek: sun episkopois kai diakonois. St. Jerome, St. John Chrysostom, &c. take notice, that though the office of bishop and priest was different, yet both these different orders were sometimes expressed by the word bishop, Greek: episkopos; sometimes by the word priest, Greek: presbuteros. St. Jerome, tom. 4. in Titum. p. 413.: Quia eosdem episcopos illo tempore, quos et presbyteros appellabant, propterea indifferenter de episcopis quasi de presbyteris est locutus. See again, tom. 4, part 2, Epist. ad Oceanum, p. 648. and Ep. ad Evangelium, p. 802. St. John Chrysostom on this place: Tunc nomina erant communia; atque etiam ipse episcopus vocabatur diaconus. (tom. 4. Greek: log. a. p. 5. Ed. Savil.) Tous presbuterous outos ekal. Tote gar ekoinonoun tois onomasi, kai diakonos o episkopos elegeto.
For your fellowship. This word is divers times used by St. Paul for a contribution of charitable alms, which it may also signify in this place; though others expound it of their being made partakers of the graces of Christ, by the gospel. (Witham)
In the defence, &c. being then a prisoner, waiting for his trial; and the defence he could make for himself, and the sentence of the judge. (Witham)
That your charity, &c. It is worthy of remark, that St. Paul does not beg that the Philippians may enjoy temporal blessings, but that they may be rewarded with an increase of spiritual favours; (Calmet) and as he remarks in the succeeding verses, that they may be filled with the fruits of justice.
Now I desire, &c. From hence it appears, that what was indeed as the greatest hindrance to the propagation of the Christian religion, eventually proved the most direct method of extending it. St. Paul was not less zealous in prison, and in chains, than when he laboured under no obstacles to his designs: how much the reverse is the conduct of our late reformers!
In all the court, or in the whole palace of the emperor, and to all others, or in all other places at and near Rome. (Witham)
In omni Prætorio, Greek: en olo to praitorio.
And many of, &c. encouraged by the intrepidity and perseverance of the apostle. (Calmet) --- Knowing that sufferings undergone for the cause of Jesus Christ were most honourable, and the portion truly enviable of all the saints, as by sufferings they were known to be his disciples, and by sufferings they were to purchase that eternal weighty of glory prepared for all that suffer patiently and joyfully for God's sake.
Some...out of envy and contention publish and preach Christ, thinking perhaps that this would displease me, or exasperate any persecutors against me; but whatever their motive be, if they preach the true doctrine of Christ, I rejoice. (Witham)
I know that this shall turn to my salvation, &c. It may either signify to his spiritual good and the salvation of his soul, or to his safety and deliverance out of prison: if this was his first imprisonment. (Witham)
Whether it be by life, or by death. To live longer, if God pleaseth, or to suffer death at this time, he shews himself resigned to either. (Witham)
To live is Christ. If it be his will that I live, my life shall be spent in his service. --- To die, and suffer martyrdom, will be my gain, by coming to the enjoyment of Christ sooner. (Witham)
This is to me, &c. His meaning is, that although his dying immediately for Christ, would be his gain, by putting him presently in possession of heaven; yet he is doubtful what he should choose, because by staying longer in the flesh, he should be more beneficial to the souls of his neighbours. (Challoner) --- What I shall choose I know not: though my earnest desire is to be dissolved from this mortal body, and to be with Christ, as my greater happiness, yet if it be the will of God that I labour longer, as necessary for your good, and that I again come to you, let God dispose of me according to his holy will. (Witham)
And having this confidence. In effect St. Paul escaped this first danger, for after having remained two years at Rome, he was taken from his confinement. (Calmet) --- I know (or am persuaded, as in the Greek) that I shall remain....by my coming to you again. This is one argument that this epistle was written during his first imprisonment at Rome: yet this is not agreed upon by the interpreters, and especially whether he ever returned again to Philippi. (Witham)
Whether when I come, and see you, &c. This implies a doubt of his seeing them again. At least endeavour you to lead a life worthy of the gospel, according to the principles of your faith; and be not terrified by your adversaries and persecutors: God permits this for your salvation, though an occasion of perdition to your persecutors: you having the like to combat as you have seen in me, when whipped at Philippi. See Acts xvi. (Witham)
The adversaries. Either by the persecutions of the Jews and Gentiles, or by the doctrine of false brethren.