Book Notice: Philippians and Philemon

James W. Thompson and Bruce W. Longenecker
Philippians and Philemon (Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament)
Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.
Available on

Out of all the commentaries I’ve read and reviewed recently, I definitely like Thompson (on Philippians) and Longenecker (on Philemon).

Thompson is very good on the Roman context of Philippi and the counter-imperial context of Paul’s epistle. He favors the literary integrity of Philippians noting the verbal and thematic links across the letter. Though I opine that he prefers a Roman setting for authorship. He thinks the ultimate purpose of Philippians was “to ensure that the community he established will be blameless at the day of Christ” (pp. 17-18). To that end, Paul’s first task is “to reaffirm the communal identity that will be the foundation for their way of life” and “communal identity requires a shared narrative that unites people, placing them within a larger story,” which is the story of Israel and Christ (p. 19). Thompson regards Phil 2.5-11 as a “poetic narrative”, most likely shaped by OT and Jewish wisdom traditions, and harpagmos means that Christ chose not to grasp what he already had. Thompson believes that there were no real opponents in Philippi and the remarks about “dogs” and “mutilators in the flesh” refers to Phantom opponents.

Longenecker’s commentary is commendable too, a nice introduction to the letter, describing ancient slavery and reconstructing the situation which called for the letter, then providing a helpful description of its actual contents.

I really liked this commentary. My favourite on Philippians is Bockmuehl, but Thompson is definitely high on my list now. This is written in a very readable style, concise, good on Greco-Roman context, and judicious in its exegesis. Longenecker too, no slouch on Philemon, sensible discussions and very helpful charts and tables.

This is worth having!

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