Philippians and Pharisees

Philippians and Pharisees April 17, 2016

I’m not sure why it never struck me before, but I just recently realized that Paul’s mention in Philippians about his being or having been a Pharisee ought to get more attention. Paul assumes that the Philippians know what a Pharisee is. Perhaps we can assume that he told them on some previous occasion. But it might also hint at two other possibilities – that he assumed they knew stories about the Pharisees and Jesus such as would appear later in the Gospels, or otherwise the Pharisees were much more widely known than we otherwise have evidence for in Jewish sources. Either would be significant!

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  • Erp

    Or that Philippi had a sizable Jewish population and that many Paul was writing to had been familiar with the Jews even if not actual Jews.

    • Marcus Maher

      If there was no specifically Pharisaic presence in Philippi, would Gentiles in Macedonia have known enough about Judean Jews to know about their different groups or parties? That’s actually a pretty high level of knowledge you’re positing.

      • Mark

        I don’t see reference to any independent evidence like synagogue remains but Acts 16 : 12-20 suggests there was was some kind of Jewish community. The character Lydia whom Paul is supposed to have converted there seems to be a gentile hanger-on of a Jewish community of one form or another – they meet her while looking for prayer on Sabbath. Likewise maybe with the fortune-telling slave: her reference to theos hypsistos vaguely suggests Jewish fellow-traveling.

  • Matthew Green

    I suspect that the Pharisees were widely known in Jewish circles. Even the Pharisees, as we know, were splintered into at least two sects or more. IIRC, Josephus discussed the Pharisees in his work.