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Aus der Welt eines GefangenenDie Kommunikationsstruktur des Philipperbriefs im Spiegel seiner Abfassungssituation

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Abstract It is well known that Philippians was written in prison. However, very few have investigated whether the living conditions of ancient imprisonment are reflected in Philippians. Even less frequently studied are the specific structures of communication for those in Roman custody. This article argues that the situation of composition in prison demanded a degree of ambiguity in speaking and writing that produced difficulties for interpreters of Philippians then and now. For a letter written in prison has to reckon with being read by more than the immediate addressees, like the prison guards, police personnel, and judges. Thus, a letter from prison is always an “open interaction between the subordinates and those who dominate,” or, as James Scott has called it, a “public transcript.” The question, however, arises, whether behind the public transcript, that is the letter to the Philippians, we may also discover a hidden transcript, a discourse that takes place “offstage,” beyond direct observation by power holders. This article seeks to clarify what Paul is conveying in Philippians by reading it against ancient prison life and the circumstances of writing and communicating from therein. It finally asks how the community in Philippi might have read the letter beyond what is (and is not) obviously communicated in it.

Affiliations: 1: Marburg


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