Captured by Christ Jesus: Paul as Christ’s Trophy Slave in Philippians 3:12c -- By: Annang Asumang

Journal: Conspectus
Volume: CONSPECTUS 12:1 (Sep 2011)
Article: Captured by Christ Jesus: Paul as Christ’s Trophy Slave in Philippians 3:12c
Author: Annang Asumang

Captured by Christ Jesus: Paul as Christ’s Trophy Slave in Philippians 3:12c

Annang Asumang1


Paul’s autobiographical account of his Christian existence in Philippians 3 has been a source of immense encouragement to believers, as well as a subject of extensive academic debate. An aspect of this debate is the group of grammatical, conceptual, and theological problems presented by his transitional disclaimer in Philippians 3:12. Several proposals for resolving these questions have been made; but the full import of his cryptic statement in 3:12c, that he was κατελήμφθην ὑπὸ Χριστοῦ ᾿Ιησοῦ appears not to have received the attention it deserves. By examining Paul’s self-understanding throughout the epistle, and pertinent data in the secondary literature on the Roman triumphus, during which prized captives of war were proudly paraded as the victor’s trophy, this article argues that Paul describes himself in Philippians 3:12c as Christ’s captive trophy slave. The merits of the proposal, including how it rebutted the arguments of Paul’s opponents and how it helps elucidate the link between Philippians 3 and the rest of the epistle, are also discussed.

1. Introduction

1.1. The problem

The challenges posed to the interpretation of Philippians 3:12, which in the NRSV reads, ‘Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own’, are well known. They basically emanate from the ambiguities created by Paul’s use of extensive paronomasia and punning on the Greek words of this three-part sentence. As eloquently put by Fee, the style results in the apostle saying ‘some things in unusual ways which are very difficult to transfer into English (it’s like trying to tell a joke in a second language’ (1999:153; cf. Watson 1988:57-88).

These interpretive problems may be categorized into grammatical, conceptual, and theological ones.2 Since the theological problem is dependent on the resolution of the grammatical and conceptual questions, its full discussion is not immediately germane to the present enquiry. Nevertheless, for completeness and to summarize, the theological problem relates to whether τετελείωμαι, a Pauline hapax le...

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