Title page for ETD etd-09252009-014024

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Nebreda, Sergio Rosell
Email sergio.rosell@centroseut.org
URN etd-09252009-014024
Document Title ‘Have this mind’ : a socio-scientific reading of Philippians 2:5-11
Degree PhD
Department New Testament Studies
Advisor Name Title
Prof S J Joubert Supervisor
  • humility
  • identity
  • modeling
  • Paul
  • Romanisation
  • slavery
  • suffering
  • honour and shame
  • friendship letters
  • colony
Date 2009-09-01
Availability restricted
This research focuses on how the Philippian Christ-followers would have received Paul’s letter addressed to them. Many studies merely take Paul’s words at face value, without a thorough analysis of the social and personal issues that were involved in the communication process. Social, historical, literary and theological elements are studied in order to understand the effect Paul wanted to create via his letter. The text of Acts 16 is used as a sort of test case, in order to assess our hypotheses. We also make use of sociological and anthropological lenses at our disposal in order to evaluate first-century Mediterranean characteristics of the society Paul was addressing, and which he also shared. Social Identity Theory supplies us with important tools to assess how ancient people might have constructed their group identity.

We defend the idea that the apostle Paul, who had greatly suffered at Philippi, and who writes from a prison somewhere in Rome, desires to affect the Philippians believers to acquire a Christ-orientation based on the Christ-hymn. Phlp 2:6-11 forms the core of Paul’s theological narrative that aims at constructing a sense of imitatio and conformatio in the Christ-following community. Paul makes use of a ‘friendly’ style in Phlp in order to produce rapport and trust in the community. Paul poses himself as examplum ad imitando following that of Christ so that the Philippians may have a concrete point of reference. It is because Paul so fully identifies with Jesus Christ that the apostle presents himself as a ‘slave’.

In the midst of a society ill with the desire for honour and power, the Christ narrative stands as a radical call for an alternative life-style, based on the exercise of humility and seeking the interest of others. Paul insists through the Christ-hymn that such a life-style reveals God’s character.

Was the message understood as Paul had intended? We cannot know it for sure, but we can observe a certain level of continuity in a letter written to the same community six decades later by Polycarp. In a different context, we can nevertheless observe similar emphasis as well as the lingering influence of the apostle. His Christ-like message, no doubt, still affected how the early Christian community aimed at living their day to day.

© 2009, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Nebreda, SR 2008, ‘Have this mind’ : a socio-scientific reading of Philippians 2:5-11 , PhD thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-09252009-014024/ > D673/ag

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