Thomas Moore and Timothy D. Sprankle, Philippians

Moore, Thomas and Timothy D. Sprankle. Philippians. Kerux Commentaries. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Ministry, 2019. 293 pp. Hb. $27.99   Link to Kregel Ministry  

As with each volume in the Kerux Commentary series, the two authors are an exegete and a preacher. In this case, both have experience in the academy and the church. Moore serves as an adjunct professor for Columbia International University, Luther Rice University, and Bryan College and currently pastors at Fellowship Church in Knoxville. Sprankle is senior pastor at Leesburg Grace Brethren Church in Northern Indiana and contributed to the Zephaniah-Malachi volume of the Kerux series.

Moore and Sprankle, PhilippiansIn the thirteen-page introduction, the authors state that there is no good reason for doubting the authenticity of Philippians. The only exception would be 2:6-11 which may be an early church hymn (whether or not Paul wrote it). They survey arguments for Philippians as a composite letter, although they ultimately find them unconvincing. They then offer five arguments in favor of the unity of the letter. Regarding the place of writing, Paul certainly wrote the letter from prison, but which imprisonment? They offer the typical arguments for Rome, Caesarea and Ephesus and conclude that since there is no consensus, they assume the traditional view, Rome 60- 62. But the decision on where Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter does not greatly affect interpretation.

Regarding the occasion for the writing of Philippians, there are several interlocking issues. First, Paul’s imprisonment led to sending Epaphroditus from the church to assist him. The letter explains why Epaphroditus is late in returning and thanks the church for assistance provided. In addition, the Philippian church is experiencing threats and intimidation, including false teachers. Paul therefore writes to encourage the church concerning his own imprisonment and to encourage them toward Christian thinking and behavior in several areas, summarized as living “a life worthy of the gospel.”

The introduction includes an overview of the founding of the Philippian church (Acts 16:11-40) and some suggestions concerning Paul’s longstanding partnership with the church. The authors discuss the history and culture of Philippi, including the Jewish presence of the city in the mid-first century.

The introduction briefly discusses the doctrinal and practical theological emphasis of the book. With respect to doctrine, Philippians focuses on the preexistence and deity of Christ, his self-emptying in the incarnation, and his exaltation after the resurrection (2:5-11). The letter discusses God’s work sanctifying believers and the need for unity in the church. This unity is to be achieved through following Christ’s humble example as a paradigm for the Christian life.

Since one goal of the Kerux series is preaching, Philippians is divided into 18 preaching passages with an exegetical idea, theological focus, and preaching idea (short one line) and “preaching pointers” (usually two paragraphs). The authors helpfully summarized these preaching passages on pages 11-23 of the commentary and then repeat them at the beginning of each section of the commentary.

In the exposition section of the commentary, there is no new translation provided. Moore often discusses vocabulary in a sidebar comparing various English translations, especially when there is a wide variation (later volumes in the Kerux series call this “translation analysis”). The comments in the exposition are heavily weighted towards lexical issues, usually citing BDAG or theological lexicons. There seems to be less syntactical discussion in this volume than others in the series, although there are occasional references in the rare footnotes to grammars such as Daniel Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. The commentary treats textual critical issues in sidebars, although only eight variants appear in the entire commentary. This makes the commentary quite easy to read. The prose is clear and very well organized.

The homiletical section of the commentary begins with a brief paragraph summarizing the theological focus of the unit. As with other volumes in this series, the preaching and teaching strategies summarize the exegesis into a preaching idea and offers presentation guidance under three headings: What Does it Mean? Is it True? Now What? For each section, the Sprankle provides suggestions for creativity in presentation. These are suggestions for illustrating the text from contemporary culture, including films (The Lego Movie, Remember the Titans), sports and a few personal anecdotes.

Each unit concludes with a series of discussion questions and occasionally suggestions for further reading. These bibliographical lists appear five times in the commentary at the end of major sections in the outline rather than at the end of each chapter.

The commentary includes several helpful sidebars in each chapter. For example, there are brief notes on love/agape; Paul and knowledge; circumstances of Paul’s imprisonment; the praetorium; Humility; What does Preexistence Mean? There are brief biographies of Timothy and Epaphroditus. One of the best sidebars in the commentary is a note on Paul’s use of the phrase “in the flesh” in Philippians 3:3 (p. 177). There is an excellent chart comparing Philippians 2:6-11 to Hellenistic hymns (p. 122). In fact, the most detailed section of the commentary is the Christ Hymn. This is not unexpected since there are entire books written on this important passage. However, the preaching section for the Christ hymn is exactly the same length as the other chapters.

Conclusion. Like other volumes in the Kerux series, Moore and Sprankle combine a solid exegetical analysis and clear theological focus with preaching and teaching strategies which will be of value to pastors and teachers preparing to preach the book of Philippians.

 

NB: Thanks to Kregel for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Other volumes reviewed in this series:

 

Published on Reading Acts, January 28, 2022

 

One thought on “Thomas Moore and Timothy D. Sprankle, Philippians

  1. This post reminded me of much of the content in the introduction of Hebrews which highlight similarities between both Hebrews and Philippians.
    First and foremost, both books comprise some doubt about their authorship. It is possible however that they were written by the same author as the apostle Paul has been suggested as the scribe for both books (ESV Study Bible, 1996 and 2078).
    Secondly, both books are letters written to an audience encouraged to persevere in the midst of persecution. A method of endurance and faith is ushered with all confidence and urgency to it’s audience.
    Thirdly, the setting of both books would take place in a similar time and circumstance. Professor Long conveys the written theory that Philippians was written in Rome in AD 60-62. While the introduction to Hebrews dates the letter to AD 70 (ESV Study Bible, 2078). This dates the letters to be written an estimated 10 years apart. At this time the message of suffering well was new to the people, but of the most importance because Christians everywhere were threatened by persecution to the point of death. The message of both books reigns a true challenge even to this day. However, I cannot imagine the emotion and-or reaction of the Christians taking this in in AD 60-75. They had to meet the news with some sort of combination of comfort and doubt.
    Finally, as is mentioned in the passage above, Philippians “focuses on the preexistence and deity of Christ.” This discussion in a book written 10 years prior support the message of Hebrews of Jesus as High Priest and as deity. By which we should not be surprised as the nature and purpose of both Jesus and Paul’s ministry does not change and should not be written to contradict themselves.

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