Brothers and Friends in Philippi: Family Honor in the Roman World and in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians
Talbot School of Theology
The essay seeks to demonstrate the value of insights from the social sciences for New Testament interpretation by triangulating between (a) a cultural anthropological model of ancient Mediterranean family honor, (b) the social realia of the Roman colony at Philippi, and (c) Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Archaeological evidence from Philippi decidedly confirms the particular aspect of the social scientific model in view, namely, that family members in the ancient Mediterranean world ideally deferred in honor to persons within their kinship groups and competed for honor with representatives of other families. Both activities are amply attested in the inscriptions from Philippi. The presence of these values in the colony sheds light, moreover, upon portions of Philippians, since Paul viewed the Jesus community in Philippi as a family, and he sought in his letter to encourage the Philippians to treat one another like surrogate siblings. This suggests that Paul desired to establish a relational ethos among Christians in the colony which would forcefully discourage competition for honor among persons who took seriously their identity as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Philippi (Extinct city); Paul, the Apostle, Saint;
Biblical Theology Bulletin
DOI of Published Version
Hellerman, Joseph H., "Brothers and Friends in Philippi: Family Honor in the Roman World and in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians" (2009). Faculty Articles & Research. 164.