“...in the beginning of the gospel” (Phil 4:15)

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
Post Reply
User avatar
Irish1975
Posts: 268
Joined: Fri Dec 15, 2017 8:01 am

“...in the beginning of the gospel” (Phil 4:15)

Post by Irish1975 » Mon Sep 14, 2020 10:07 am

Here’s a funny line from the apostle:

14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel [ἐν ἀρχῇ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου] when I left Macedo′nia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving except you only; 16 for even in Thessaloni′ca you sent me help[a] once and again. [RSV]

It’s one of those verses that make translators desperate, as in the NIV:
“...as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia...”
The combination of the words “beginning” and “gospel” appear in a later, rather important place:

Ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου (gMark 1:1)


What is Paul talking about? What is “the beginning of the gospel” in this text, and what did it have to do with the Philippians, or with Paul’s leaving Macedonia?

User avatar
Ben C. Smith
Posts: 7891
Joined: Wed Apr 08, 2015 2:18 pm
Location: USA
Contact:

Re: “...in the beginning of the gospel” (Phil 4:15)

Post by Ben C. Smith » Mon Sep 14, 2020 10:44 am

Irish1975 wrote:
Mon Sep 14, 2020 10:07 am
Here’s a funny line from the apostle:

14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel [ἐν ἀρχῇ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου] when I left Macedo′nia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving except you only; 16 for even in Thessaloni′ca you sent me help[a] once and again. [RSV]

It’s one of those verses that make translators desperate, as in the NIV:
“...as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia...”
The combination of the words “beginning” and “gospel” appear in a later, rather important place:

Ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου (gMark 1:1)

What is Paul talking about? What is “the beginning of the gospel” in this text, and what did it have to do with the Philippians, or with Paul’s leaving Macedonia?
Not that I have a firm answer to your question, but I have noticed the word "beginning" being used in ways reminiscent of how we find it in Philippians 4.15 before. There is this Clementine passage, for example, which uses the exact same phrase of the (first) letter to the Corinthians:

1 Clement 47.1-2: 1 Take up the epistle of the blessed Apostle Paul. 2 What did he first write to you in the beginning of the gospel [ἐν ἀρχῇ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου]?

A couple of lines from the Johannine letters and one from Hebrews might be similar:

1 John 3.11: 11 For this is the announcement which you have heard from the beginning [ἡ ἀγγελία ἣν ἠκούσατε ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς], that we should love one another.

2 John 1.5-6: 5 Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but rather which we have had from the beginning [ἣν εἴχομεν ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς], that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning [αὕτη ἡ ἐντολή ἐστιν, καθὼς ἠκούσατε ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς], that you should walk in it.

Hebrews 3.14: 14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance [τὴν ἀρχὴν τῆς ὑποστάσεως] firm until the end.

The beginning of the gospel of Mark, which you have already mentioned, has been compared to a famous Augustan piece of propaganda:

Priene calendar inscription, circa 9 before Christ: Ἔδοξεν τοῖς ἐπὶ τῆς Ἀσίας Ἕλλησιν, γνώμῃ τοῦ ἀρχιερέως Ἀπολλωνίου τοῦ Μηνοφίλου Ἀζανίτου· ἐπε[ιδὴ ἡ θείως] διατάξασα τὸν βίον ἡμῶν πρόνοια σπουδὴν εἰσεν[ενκαμ]ένη καὶ φιλοτιμίαν τὸ τεληότατον τῶι βίωι διεκόσμη[σεν ἀγαθὸν] ἐνενκαμένη τὸν Σεβαστόν, ὃν εἰς εὐεργεσίαν ἀνθρώ[πων] ἐπλήρωσεν ἀρετῆς, <ὥ>σπερ ἡμεῖν καὶ τοῖς μεθ’ ἡ[μᾶς σωτῆρα χαρισαμένη] τὸν παύσαντα μὲν πόλεμον, κοσμήσοντα [δὲ εἰρήνην, ἐπιφανεὶς δὲ] ὁ Καῖσαρ τὰς ἐλπίδας τῶν προλαβόντων [εὐανγέλια πάντων ὑπερ]έθηκεν, οὐ μόνον τοὺς πρὸ αὐτοῦ γεγονότ[ας εὐεργέτας ὑπερβαλόμενος, ἀλλ’ οὐδ’ ἐν τοῖς ἐσομένοις ἐλπίδ[α ὑπολιπὼν ὑπερβολῆς,] ἤρξεν δὲ τῶι κόσμωι τῶν δι’ αὐτὸν εὐανγελί[ων ἡ γενέθλιος ἡμέ]ρα τοῦ θεοῦ, τῆς δὲ Ἀσίας ἐψηφισμένης ἐν Σμύρνῃ.... / [Ben C. Smith:] It was seemly to the Greeks in Asia, in the opinion of the high priest Apollonius of Menophilus Azanitus: since providence, which has ordered all things of our life and is very much interested in our life, has ordered things in sending Augustus, whom she filled with virtue for the benefit of men, sending him as a savior both for us and for those after us, him who would end war and order all things, and since Caesar by his appearance surpassed the hopes of all those who received the good tidings, not only those who were benefactors before him, but even the hope among those who will be left afterward, and the birthday of the god was for the world the beginning of the good tidings through him; and Asia resolved it in Smyrna.... / [Craig Evans:] It seemed good to the Greeks of Asia, in the opinion of the high priest Apollonius of Menophilus Azanitus: Since providence, which has ordered all things and is deeply interested in our life, has set in most perfect order by giving us Augustus, whom she filled with virtue that he might benefit humankind, sending him as a savior, both for us and for our descendants, that he might end war and arrange all things, and since he, Caesar, by his appearance excelled even our anticipations, surpassing all previous benefactors, and not even leaving to posterity any hope of surpassing what he has done, and since the birthday of the god Augustus was the beginning of the good tidings for the world that came by reason of him, which Asia resolved in Smyrna....

ΤΙ ΕΣΤΙΝ ΑΛΗΘΕΙΑ

User avatar
Irish1975
Posts: 268
Joined: Fri Dec 15, 2017 8:01 am

Re: “...in the beginning of the gospel” (Phil 4:15)

Post by Irish1975 » Mon Sep 14, 2020 12:52 pm

It’s one of those verses that make translators desperate
I can’t resist citing the example of that latter day Athanasius, the sublimely cantankerous David Bentley Hart, who published his transaltion of the NT in 2017:

Nevertheless, you did nobly in together keeping communion with me in my affliction. And know also, you Philippians, that when I departed from Macedonia, at the very start of my proclamation of the good tidings, in the matter of giving and receiving not a single assembly kept communion with me save you alone...

He inserts “of my proclamation,” (a term Paul uses all the time when he wants to), as if Paul must have meant that even though he says no such thing and there are zero textual discrepancies.

On the flap of my wife’s hardback edition, we are informed by Yale University Press that Hart “[reproduces] the texts’ often fragmentary formulations without augmentation or correction...”
:thumbdown:

As a reader, mind you, it’s perfectly OK by me if you want to infer that Paul meant the time when he himself began preaching the gospel. But to hell with these tendentious “translators,” these dishonest churches and ideologues twisting the scriptures to suit and perpetuate their own cramped understanding.

Ok I’m done now.

User avatar
Irish1975
Posts: 268
Joined: Fri Dec 15, 2017 8:01 am

Re: “...in the beginning of the gospel” (Phil 4:15)

Post by Irish1975 » Mon Sep 14, 2020 12:57 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Mon Sep 14, 2020 10:44 am
I have noticed the word "beginning" being used in ways reminiscent of how we find it in Philippians 4.15 before. There is this Clementine passage, for example, which uses the exact same phrase of the (first) letter to the Corinthians:

1 Clement 47.1-2: 1 Take up the epistle of the blessed Apostle Paul. 2 What did he first write to you in the beginning of the gospel [ἐν ἀρχῇ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου]?

Interesting, since the only NT mention of Clement is in this same chapter of Philippians (4:3).

User avatar
Secret Alias
Posts: 12459
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:47 am

Re: “...in the beginning of the gospel” (Phil 4:15)

Post by Secret Alias » Mon Sep 14, 2020 1:37 pm

It might also be an attempt to redefine the term 'gospel' away from its association with the announcement of the Jubilee on Yom Kippur to the loose meaningless terminology that Christians employ since the late second century.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

User avatar
MrMacSon
Posts: 6219
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 3:45 pm

Re: “...in the beginning of the gospel” (Phil 4:15)

Post by MrMacSon » Mon Sep 14, 2020 1:57 pm

Irish1975 wrote:
Mon Sep 14, 2020 12:57 pm
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Mon Sep 14, 2020 10:44 am
I have noticed the word "beginning" being used in ways reminiscent of how we find it in Philippians 4.15 before. There is this Clementine passage, for example, which uses the exact same phrase of the (first) letter to the Corinthians:

1 Clement 47.1-2: 1 Take up the epistle of the blessed Apostle Paul. 2 What did he first write to you in the beginning of the gospel [ἐν ἀρχῇ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου]?

Interesting, since the only NT mention of Clement is in this same chapter of Philippians (4:3).
Philippians 4:3 seems to be a give away too -

3 And I ask you also, true yokefellow, help these women [Eu-o′dia and Syn′tyche, 4:2] for they have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Would they [all] have been laboring in writing 'the gospel' or in spreading it, or both?

Moreover, Philippians is all about Paul (well, the first four chapters, at least): it's full of first person pronouns, it's incredibly self-indulgent, eg. -

.
Phil 1:12-13
12 I want you to know, brethren, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ

Phil 2:12, 16-18
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling ... 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured as a libation upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

Phil 3:12
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

Phil 4:10ff
10 I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me; you were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.
.

eta:
Phil 4:14
Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble


User avatar
Irish1975
Posts: 268
Joined: Fri Dec 15, 2017 8:01 am

Re: “...in the beginning of the gospel” (Phil 4:15)

Post by Irish1975 » Tue Sep 15, 2020 11:09 am

What is Paul talking about? What is “the beginning of the gospel” in this text, and what did it have to do with the Philippians, or with Paul’s leaving Macedonia?
Paul Nadim Tarazi makes quite a lot of this verse and has a theory about it:

Until his dispute with Barnabas, in Antioch, Paul had evangelized with him areas that used to be part of the Seleucid kingdom that extended over Syria, Babylonia, and Asia Minor, i.e., the “home” of the Judaism of apostolic times as well as of nascent Judaism. Upon his break with Barnabas Paul left his Jewish “home” and ventured alone outside its safe boundaries into Macedonia (the land of Alexander) and later into Achaia (the land of the Greeks, the gentiles par excellence). There, his gospel—and by the same token, his apostleship—was about to be put to the test since he was “the apostle to the gentiles.”

Besides being a Macedonian city, Philippi in Paul’s time was also a Roman colony, i.e., a city whose main inhabitants were Roman veteran soldiers and their families...[Philippi’s] importance is mirrored in the fact that it lay on the Via Egnatia, the famous Roman road that crossed the Balkan peninsula and linked Italy to the East. So Philippi was in Paul’s eyes a “little Rome” and, for him, anchoring the gospel there was tantamount to planting it at the heart of the Roman Empire itself, which was the oikoumene, the entire inhabited world...Should one Philippian accept the gospel, then Paul would have proven “that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham” has indeed “come to the Gentiles” (Gal 3:14)...

Only this understanding can explain the strange passage in Philippians 4:15. Strange indeed, for why would Paul link the “beginning” of the gospel with his departure from Macedonia rather than his arrival there? The only answer is that this “beginning” reflected the time that in Paul’s own mind the truth of the gospel he was preaching was corroborated, the time when it became the gospel in the eyes of all, Jews and gentiles, because the “nations”—represented by the Philippians—as well as the Jews accepted it....It seems even that starting in Philippi he drew for himself a fixed path he would abide by until the end—and later when he penned his letter to the Philippians he referred back to that determination as the “beginning of the gospel.”

Paul and Mark (1999), pp. 11-13.

On this telling, Paul’s original success in Philippi would have represented a critical pivot in his career, with his work among essentially Jewish populations in the regions of “Galatia” and Antioch all behind him, and his more successful work in Thessaloniki and Corinth ahead of him. Tarazi seems to be getting this chronology only from the letters, not from Acts of course, and he’s appealing to the symbolic importance (for Paul himself, at least) of the cultural and geographical dividing lines between Jews and Gentiles. The fact that Paul was also writing Philippians while in Roman captivity, when he was having success preaching the gospel even to the soldiers of the Praetorium in Rome and to member’s of Caesar’s household, is certainly not without significance. The mission to the gentile world was succeeding beyond his wildest dreams, allowing him to finally write off “the dogs” in the Jewish homeland who rejected his gospel.

Stuart
Posts: 612
Joined: Mon Apr 14, 2014 12:24 am
Location: Sunnyvale, CA

Re: “...in the beginning of the gospel” (Phil 4:15)

Post by Stuart » Tue Sep 15, 2020 5:05 pm

Secret Alias wrote:
Mon Sep 14, 2020 1:37 pm
It might also be an attempt to redefine the term 'gospel' away from its association with the announcement of the Jubilee on Yom Kippur to the loose meaningless terminology that Christians employ since the late second century.
So you are accusing Augustus of trying to appropriate what you see as a "Jewish only" term here. :facepalm:

The Roman usage, in Greek, and specifically by the pre-Flavian first century propagandist in Asia, where it is likely much of the NT was written, might indicate that the term was more ubiquitous in usage, applying to all sorts of proclamations, and it's venerable usage, much like Pontifex Maximus in Latin, was not exclusive to any single religion.
“’That was excellently observed’, say I, when I read a passage in an author, where his opinion agrees with mine. When we differ, there I pronounce him to be mistaken.” - Jonathan Swift

User avatar
Secret Alias
Posts: 12459
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:47 am

Re: “...in the beginning of the gospel” (Phil 4:15)

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Sep 15, 2020 7:00 pm

Yes Christianity only became associated with Judaism in the last decade or so
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

Post Reply