“Imitatio Christianorum” The Function Of Believers As Examples In Philippians -- By: Paul S. Cable
TynBull 67:1 (2016) p. 105
The Function Of Believers As Examples In Philippians
In Philippians, Paul has pastoral, paraenetic aims: the Philippians are to adopt a Christian phronesis – a way of thought and life determined by their relationship to the crucified, humiliated, and risen Christ consisting specifically, in Philippians, of (1) an others-focused mindset; and (2) an attendant boldness and willingness to accept suffering and the burdens of others on behalf of the progress of the gospel. These paraenetic emphases are then embodied and illustrated by multiple examples: Christ is the ultimate exemplar and the source of the content of the exhortation. Paul himself is also one who embodies these qualities, though imperfectly. Timothy especially exemplifies others-focus, and Epaphroditus the willingness to suffer in the service of Christ. Euodia and Syntyche, finally, serve Christ boldly but lack the others-focus and unity that Paul exhorts. We conclude, then, that Paul understands the provision of such Christ-like examples and the imitation of those examples by those in Christ within Christian communities to be an important means by which the community progresses in holiness, that is, to be increasingly conformed to Christ.
For Paul, the ecclesial community is instrumental in the progress of individual believers1 toward maturity, as James Samra and others have
TynBull 67:1 (2016) p. 106
shown well.2 In this paper we argue that Paul is demonstrating in Philippians that for him inter-believer imitation (imitatio Christianorum) is an important and strikingly democratised aspect of the ecclesial community’s corporate role in influencing its individual members toward Christ-likeness, and that this community role has been under-appreciated and under-examined.
1.1 ‘Imitation’ In Pauline Scholarship
Especially since the 1930s, works on imitation in Paul have tended to construe his imitation language primarily as an attempt to assert, re-establish, or consolidate his authority.3 Indeed, Wilhelm Michaelis’s paradigm-setting 1933 article on μιμέομαι persuaded many scholars to view mimesis in Paul as primarily the demand for obedience to authoritative teaching rather than for imitation of an example.4 For instance, Eduard Lohse, in concert with many twentieth-century Pauline scholars, ex...
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