Book Notice: Philippians by G. Walter Hansen

G. Walter Hansen
The Letter to the Philippians
PNTC; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009.
Available at Amazon.com.

I have a number of favourite Philippians commentaries (Bockmuehl, Fee, O’Brien), but I do have to say that there are some  likable elements to G. Walter Hansen’s Philippians commentary in the Pillar series.

Hansen regards Philippians as a letter of friendship and he accepts the integrity of the letter on the grounds that there is no textual evidence for a fragmentary hypothesis and there is no agreement among the fragmentary hypotheses. Hansen also, rightly I believe, contends that Philippians was written from Ephesus rather than from Rome!

One of the biggest highlights of the book is the discussions on “The Gospel of Christ” (pp. 31-32). Hansen writes: “The content of the gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ is Lord. Pulsating with praise for the humility and exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Christ hymn (2:6-11) is the heart of the letter … Living according to the gospel is a process of pressing on to apprehend the surpassing worth of Jesus Christ and being apprehended him him (3:12). Progress in the Christian life is not measured by ‘righteousness based on the law’; instead, it begins with the gift of ‘righteousness that comes from God through faith in Christ’ (3:6-9).”

Enjoyable also is the discussion of the meaning of union with Christ (pp. 87-90). Hansen writes: “When he looked at the cross of Christ, Paul thought, ‘That is my destiny! As Christ embraced the cross in humble obedience to God, so I desire to embrace my death as a witness to my union with Christ.”

On the Christ Hymn, Hansen accepts an Adam/Christ contrast but not in such a way as to deny that the pre-existence of Christ is being set forth. He also prefers the objective genitive to pisteos Christou in 3:9. Regarding the NPP issue, Hansen states: “This Jew/Gentile distinction is the social context of Paul’s language [about 'righteousness']. But Paul’s argument goes beyond the immediate social problem in its renunciation of all self-achieved righteousness. To limit Paul’s reference to his own righteousness to his membership in the Jewish nation ignores Paul’s emphasis on his own personal achievement” (p. 239).

Hansen believes that there were women leaders in the Philippian church including Lydia, Euodia, and Syntyche (pp. 5, 284).  On Phil 4:2, “These two church leaders were engaged in a power struggle to expand their spheres of influence and control over the church.”

All in all, a helpful book that is certainly worth consulting on Philippians!


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