Commentaries I Use: The Epistle to the Philippians

I have done a substantial amount of studying in the epistle to the Philippians especially examining what is called the Carmen Christi (Philippians 2:5-11). It is a passage in scripture that truly makes me reflect on the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  There is much more to the letter than this one passage and a good commentary on this epistle is appropriate for anyone desiring to acquire some insight into the riches of Paul’s writing.

I have numerous commentaries on the epistle but I will name three that I use that I feel are worth recommending. The first I would recommend is by one of my favorite expositors, Peter T. O’Brien. The commentary is from the New International Greek Testament Commentary (NIGTC) series and titled “The Epistle to the Philippians”. O’Brien is the Vice Principle of Moore Theological College in Sydney Australia. This commentary series is intended for more scholarly minds however this particular volume I found to be much more readable than the rest. With that said; if someone doesn’t know how to even read Koine Greek then this commentary might be a little difficult for them to understand. There are many instances where Greek is not required but to really get the full appreciation for what O’Brien has produced, reading Greek is certainly beneficial. O’Brien spends time dealing with textual variants and often explains his reasons for certain readings. The commentary is approximately 600 pages long and filled with numerous footnotes to help further the understanding of his arguments as well as comments on other individual’s writings concerning his arguments. O’Brien writes one of the best expositions on the Carmen Christi that I have encountered to date. He spends approximately 50 pages on the text and really thinks through the text while examining various different interpretations of the text. For those of you who are looking to delve deeper into the text in a more scholarly way, this is the commentary for you!

Another commentary I’ve used when studying this epistle is from F.F. Bruce. F.F. Bruce (1910-1990) was a tremendous scholar especially for his writings on the New Testament Documents and the New Testament Canon. The commentary is from the New International Biblical Commentary series based upon the translation called the New International Version. This is a short commentary at only 182 pages and it is the paperback edition that I have available to me. What I enjoy about this commentary by Bruce is that it is a far more “readable” commentary than O’Brien’s and knowledge of Greek and the manuscript traditions is not necessary to really appreciate this volume. I feel it is the perfect companion to O’Brien’s commentary as it spends more time explaining the text itself and less time probing other individual’s argumentation. This commentary would be appreciated by people who just want to get to the meaning without examining the text too meticulously.

The final commentary I would like to suggest is, once again, from the Pillar New Testament Commentary series called “The Letter to the Philippians” written by G.Walter Hansen. I must admit that if I would have purchased this commentary prior to O’Brien’s and Bruce’s volumes that I might not have purchased them. The reason for this is that Hansen’s commentary is a nice balance of the two previously mentioned volumes. The commentary is approximately 355 pages long with a large amount of footnotes. The commentary is understandable to the average student and no knowledge of Greek is necessary. One thing that I truly appreciate about this commentary is that Hansen spends the time proving his arguments by quoting other scriptural references to substantiate the biblical testimony. O’Brien does this as well however Hansen seems to spend much more time doing this. His commentary on the Carmen Christi was superb as well. I feel that in that section, Hansen compliments O’Brien very well and both commentaries together provide an enormous insight into the text.

Again, please feel free to make your recommendations. I’m always looking to find good commentaries.


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