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Conflicting Movements in the Early Church as Reflected in Philippians

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Assuming the dispatch of one letter from Ephesus to Philippi around 54-55 A.D., the article seeks to determine the character of the groups Paul discusses. The critics of Paul's imprisonment in Ph. i 15 ff. are linked to those "who look after their own interests" in ii 21 and identified as divine-man missionaries who felt his humiliating imprisonment jeopardized the mission. The references to the Philippian congregation are seen to reveal a piety marked by Hellenistic enthusiasm. The opponents in iii 17 ff. are identified as libertinists expelled during Paul's initial mission in Philippi who deny the saving efficacy of the cross and boast in immoral behavior. The opponents in iii 2 ff. are Judaizing missionaries who potentially threaten the congregation by offering circumcision as a means to gain perfection. The enthusiastic piety of the Philippian congregation thus lent itself to an appeal from both the libertinists and the Judaizers, and Paul's argument is seen as an attempt to establish a cross-oriented concept of humility and an apocalyptically-grounded sense of history to counter their propaganda and at the same time to correct the Philippians' viewpoint.

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