Perfection Of God’s Good Work: The Literary And Pastoral Function Of The Theme Of ‘Work’ In Philippians -- By: Annang Asumang
Conspectus 23:1 (March 2017) p. 1
Perfection Of God’s Good Work: The Literary And Pastoral Function Of The Theme Of ‘Work’ In Philippians
One of the reasons for the demise of the partition theory of Philippians is the identification of several integrating themes running through the letter. It is thus surprising that the repeated occurrence of lexemes and morphemes allied to the concept of ἔργον (work) that is initially broached at the letter’s beginning has not received the deserved attention. This article contributes to the current state of scholarship in three ways. Firstly, it demonstrates that Paul’s expression of confidence as part of his thanksgiving-prayer report, that God who began ἔργον ἀγαθὸν (a good work) in and among the Philippians (1:6) will perfect it by the day of Christ, commences a consistent theme on ‘work’ that spans the letter, and thus further buries the partition theory. Secondly, it argues that this theme integrates four theological ideas, namely, (a) God’s gracious ongoing inner transformation of
Conspectus 23:1 (March 2017) p. 2
the believers, (b) its practical moral and social outworking in the unity of the fellowship, (c) their steadfast rejection of the false teachers who perverted the Gospel and (d) their continued missional partnership with Paul. The article concludes that in this way, the theme of ‘work’ directly engages the situational context behind Philippians and so plays a fundamental pastoral function in the letter.
1.1. The Problem
The scholarly debate over the literary integrity, or contrarily stated, the partition of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, appears now to be all but settled in favour of integrity. Apparently originating with Le Moyne (1685)2, those who preferred the partition theory based their notion on a number of difficulties posed by the text in its current canonical form. Firstly, they argued that Paul’s travel plans in 2:19-30 appear uncharacteristically early in the letter, and so generate the possibility that the travelogue section belonged to a separate communication. Secondly the apostle’s use of Τὸ λοιπόν in 3:1 (traditionally translated as ‘finally’ in KJV, ESV, ASV, NRSV among others), gives the impression that Paul was at that point about to bring his letter to a close, something which fails to materialize for a coup...
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