This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus. I am writing to all of God’s holy people in Philippi who belong to Christ Jesus, including the church leaders and deacons.Phil 1:1
We boarded a boat at Troas and sailed straight across to the island of Samothrace, and the next day we landed at Neapolis. From there we reached Philippi, a major city of that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. And we stayed there several days.Acts 16:11-12
A leading question for you to answer as we get our heads around Paul’s letter to the Philippians and the background to it.
How on earth did Paul develop the special relationship he did with the Philippians if they only stayed there several days?
(Source: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia in E-Sword (ISBE)
1. Position and Name:
A city of Macedonia, situated in 41o5´ North latitude and 24o 16´ East longitude. It lay on the Egnatian Road, 33 Roman miles from Amphipolis and 21 from Acontisma, in a plain bounded on the East and North by the mountains which lie between the rivers Zygactes and Nestus, on the West by Mt. Pangaeus, on the South by the ridge called in antiquity Symbolum, over which ran the road connecting the city with its seaport, Neapolis 9 miles distant. This plain, a considerable part of which is marshy in modern, as in ancient, times, is connected with the basin of the Strymon by the valley of the Angites which also bore the names Gangas or Gangites the modern Anghista. The ancient name of Philippi was Crenides so called after the springs which feed the river and the marsh; but it was refounded by Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, and received his name.
Appian and Harpocration say that Crenides was afterward called Daton, and that this name was changed to Philippi, but this statement is open to question, since Daton, which became proverbial among the Greeks for good fortune, possessed “admirably fertile territory, a lake, rivers, dockyards and productive gold mines. Whereas Philippi lies some 9 miles inland. Daton was on the coast at or near the site of Neapolis. On the whole Heuzey’s view is that Daton was not originally a city, but the whole district which lay immediately to the East of Mt. Pangaeus, including the Philippian plain and the seacoast about Neapolis. On the site of the old foundation of Crenides, from which the Greek settlers had perhaps been driven out by the Thracians about a century previously, the Thasians in 360 BC founded their colony of Daton with the aid of the exiled Athenian statesman Callistratus, in order to exploit the wealth, both agricultural and mineral, of the neighbourhood.
To Philip, who ascended the Macedonian throne in 359 BC, the possession of this spot seemed of the utmost importance. Not only is the plain itself well watered and of extraordinary fertility, but a strongly-fortified post planted here would secure the natural land-route from Europe to Asia and protect the eastern frontier of Macedonia against Thracian inroads. Above all, the mines of the district might meet his most pressing need, that of an abundant supply of gold. The site was therefore seized in 358 BC, the city was enlarged, strongly fortified, and renamed Philippi. The mines produced over 1,000 talents a year and enabled Philip to issue a gold currency which in the West soon superseded the Persian darics. The revenue thus obtained was of inestimable value to Philip, who not only used it for the development of the Macedonian army, but also proved himself a master of the art of bribery. His remark is well known that no fortress was impregnable to whose walls an ass laden with gold could be driven.
Of the history of Philippi during the next 3 centuries we know practically nothing. Together with the rest of Macedonia, it passed into the Roman hands after the battle of Pydna (168 BC), and fell in the first of the four regions into which the country was then divided. In 146 the whole of Macedonia was formed into a single Roman province. But the mines seem to have been almost, if not quite, exhausted by this time, and Strabo speaks of Philippi as having sunk by the time of Caesar to a “small settlement”. In the autumn of 42 BC it witnessed the death-struggle of the Roman republic. Brutus and Cassius, the leaders of the band of conspirators who had assassinated Julius Caesar, were faced by Octavian, who 15 years later became the Emperor Augustus, and Antony. In the first engagement the army of Brutus defeated that of Octavian, while Antony’s forces were victorious over those of Cassius, who in despair put an end to his life. Three weeks later the second and decisive conflict took place. Brutus was compelled by his impatient soldiery to give battle, his troops were routed and he himself fell on his own sword. Soon afterward Philippi was made a Roman colony with the title Colonia Iulia Philippensis. After the battle of Actium (31 BC) the colony was reinforced by Italian partisans of Antony who were dispossessed and its name was changed to Colonia Augusta Iulia Philippensium upon which it received numerous privileges, the chief of which was the immunity of its territory from taxation.
3. Paul’s First Visit:
In the course of his second missionary journey Paul set sail from Troas, accompanied by Silas, Timothy and Luke, and on the following day reached Neapolis (Act 16:11). Thence he journeyed by road to Philippi, first crossing the pass some 1,600 ft. high which leads over the mountain ridge called Symbolum and afterward traversing the Philipplan plain. Of his experiences there we have in Acts 16:12-40 a full and graphic account. On the Sabbath, presumably the first Sabbath after their arrival, the apostle and his companions went out to the bank of the Angites, and there spoke to the women, some of them Jews, others proselytes, who had come together for purposes of worship.
One of these was named Lydia, a Greek proselyte from Thyatira, a city of Lydia in Asia Minor, to the church of which was addressed the message recorded in Rev 2:18-29. She is described as a “seller of purple” (Act 16:14), that is, of woolen fabrics dyed purple, for the manufacture of which her native town was famous. Whether she was the agent in Philippi of some firm in Thyatira or whether she was carrying on her trade independently, we cannot say; her name suggests the possibility that she was a freedwoman, while from the fact that we hear of her household and her house (Act 16:15; compare Act 16:40), though no mention is made of her husband, it has been conjectured that she was a widow of some property. She accepted the apostolic message and was baptized with her household (Act 16:15), and insisted that Paul and his companions should accept her hospitality during the rest of their stay in the city. (See further LYDIA in the ISBE).
All seemed to be going well when opposition arose from an unexpected quarter. There was in the town a girl, in all probability a slave, who was reputed to have the power of oracular utterance. Her masters reaped a rich harvest from the fee charged for consulting her. Paul, troubled by her repeatedly following him and those with him crying, “These men are bondservants of the Most High God, who proclaim unto you a way of salvation” (Act 16:17 margin), turned and commanded the spirit in Christ’s name to come out of her. The immediate restoration of the girl to a sane and normal condition convinced her masters that all prospect of further gain was gone, and they therefore seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the forum before the magistrates, probably the duumviri who stood at the head of the colony. They accused the apostles of creating disturbance in the city and of advocating customs, the reception and practice of which were illegal for Rom citizens. The rabble of the market-place joined in the attack (Act 16:22), whereupon the magistrates, accepting without question the accusers’ statement that Paul and Silas were Jews (Act 16:20) and forgetting or ignoring the possibility of their possessing Rom citizenship, ordered them to be scourged by the attendant lictors and afterward to be imprisoned. In the prison they were treated with the utmost rigor; they were confined in the innermost ward, and their feet put in the stocks. About midnight, as they were engaged in praying and singing hymns, while the other prisoners were listening to them, the building was shaken by a severe earthquake which threw open the prison doors. The jailer, who was on the point of taking his own life, reassured by Paul regarding the safety of the prisoners, brought Paul and Silas into his house where he tended their wounds, set food before them, and, after hearing the gospel, was baptized together with his whole household (Act 16:23-34).
On the next day the magistrates, thinking that by dismissing from the town those who had been the cause of the previous day’s disturbance they could best secure themselves against any repetition of the disorder, sent the lictors to the jailer with orders to release them. Paul refused to accept a dismissal of this kind. As Rom citizens he and Silas were legally exempt from scourging, which was regarded as a degradation (1Th 2:2), and the wrong was aggravated by the publicity of the punishment, the absence of a proper trial and the imprisonment which followed (Act 16:37). Doubtless Paul had declared his citizenship when the scourging was inflicted, but in the confusion and excitement of the moment his protest had been unheard or unheeded. Now, however, it produced a deep impression on the magistrates, who came in person to ask Paul and Silas to leave the city. They, after visiting their hostess and encouraging the converts to remain firm in their new faith, set out by the Egnatian Road for Thessalonica (Act 16:38-40). How long they had stayed in Philippi we are not told, but the fact that the foundations of a strong and flourishing church had been laid and the phrase “for many days” (Act 16:18) lead us to believe that the time must have been a longer one than appears at first sight. Ramsay (St. Paul the Traveler, 226) thinks that Paul left Troas in October, 50 AD, and stayed at Philippi until nearly the end of the year; but this chronology cannot be regarded as certain.
Several points in the narrative of these incidents call for fuller consideration. (1) We may notice, first, the very small part played by Jews and Judaism at Philippi.
There was no synagogue here, as at Salamis in Cyprus (Act 13:5), Antioch in Pisidia (Act 13:14, Act 13:43), Iconium (Act 14:1), Ephesus (Act 18:19, Act 18:26; Act 19:8), Thessalonica (Act 17:1), Berea (Act 17:10), Athens (Act 17:17) and Corinth (Act 18:4). The number of resident Jews was small, their meetings for prayer took place on the river’s bank, the worshippers were mostly or wholly women (Act 16:13), and among them some, perhaps a majority, were proselytes. Of Jewish converts we hear nothing, nor is there any word of Jews as either inciting or joining the mob which dragged Paul and Silas before the magistrates. Further, the whole tone of the epistle. to this church seems to prove that here at least the apostolic teaching was not in danger of being undermined by Judaizers. True, there is one passage (Php 3:2-7) in which Paul denounces “the concision,” those who had “confidence in the flesh”; but it seems “that in this warning he was thinking of Rome more than of Philippi.
Even more striking is the prominence of the Roman element in the narrative. Philippi was not a Greek or Jewish city, but a Roman colony which Aulus Gellius describes as “miniatures and pictures of the Rom people” In the center of the city is the forum (ἀγορά, agorá, Act 16:19), and the general term “magistrates” “rulers” (Act 16:19) is exchanged for the specific title of praetors (στρατηγοί, stratēgoı́. These officers are attended by lictors or “sergeants,” Act 16:35, Act 16:38) who bear the fasces with which they scourged Paul and Silas (Act 16:22). The charge is that of disturbing public order and introducing customs opposed to Roman law (Act 16:20, Act 16:21), and Paul’s appeal to his Roman civitas (Act 16:37) made the magistrates fearful of the consequences of their action and made them conciliatory and apologetic (Act 16:38, Act 16:39). Ramsay has suggested that Luke was himself a Philippian, and that he was the “man of Macedonia” who appeared to Paul at Troas with the invitation to enter Macedonia (Act 16:9).
The change from the 3rd to the 1st person in Act 16:10 marks the point at which Luke joined the apostle, and the same criterion leads to the conclusion that Luke remained at Philippi between Paul’s first and his third visit to the city.
Ramsay’s hypothesis would explain
- (a) the fullness and vividness of the narrative of Acts 16:11-40;
- (b) the emphasis laid on the importance of Philippi (Act 16:12);
- (c) the fact that Paul recognized as a Macedonian the man whom he saw in his vision, although there was nothing either in the language, features or dress of Macedonians to mark them out from other Greeks. Yet Luke was clearly not a householder at Philippi (Act 16:15), and early tradition refers to him as an Antiochene.
[Much discussion has centred round the description of Philippi given in Act 16:12. But it is convoluted and I have edited it out. If you want the full notes included in E-Sword look up Philippi in the ISBE. The linked references in the material I clipped from E-Sword for you are linked in E-Sword not on this Berean Insights site. Ian]
The Bible does not need to be rewritten but it does need to be reread.Anon
If travel broadens the mind why do I meet so many narrow minded people abroad?Lanita Adams