Paul's Letter to the Philippians
by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.

Introduction | Outline | Themes | Questions | Bibliography

[still under construction]


Various Outlines of Paul's Letter to the Philippians:

Note: Many scholars theorize that the so-called "Letter to the Philippians" is actually a later compilation of three originally separate letters:

This possibility is sometimes reflected in the outlines suggested for this letter. First, here is my own structural outline of the letter as it now stands in the NT canon:

  1. Letter Opening (1:1-11)
    1. Sender & Recipients (1:1)
    2. Formulaic Greeting (1:2)
    3. Thanksgiving (1:3-11)
  2. Letter Body (1:12—4:9)
    1. The Spread of the Gospel (1:12-30)
    2. Unity and Humility in the Christian Community (2:1—3:1)
    3. Arguments against Circumcision (3:2—4:1)
    4. An Appeal to Euodia & Syntyche (4:2-9)
  3. Letter Conclusion (4:10-23)
    1. Thanks for Gifts Received (4:10-20)
    2. Individual Greetings (4:21-22)
    3. Final Blessing (4:23)

Some Other Proposed Outlines:

Raymond Brown, An Introduction to the NT

Pheme Perkins, Reading the NT

Address/greeting and Thanksgiving (1:1-11)

Paul's situation in prison and attitude toward death (1:12-26)

Exhortation based on example of Christ (christological hymn; 1:27—2:16)

Paul's interest in the Philippians and planned missions to them (2:17—3:1a)

Warning against false teachers; Paul's own behavior (a separate letter?; 3:1b—41)

Exhortation to Euodia and Syntyche: unity, joy, higher things (4:2-9)

Paul's situation and the Philippians' generous gifts (4:10-20)

Concluding greeting, blessing (4:21-23)

Sections from other letters that have been used in Phil:

  1. Note thanking the Philippians for their gifts, which Epaphroditus had just brought (4:10-20)
  2. Letter warning the Philippians against the preaching of “Judaizing” missionaries (3:1—4:1)

Letter delivered by Timothy as Paul’s case is about to be decided:

  • Greeting (1:1-2)
  • Thanksgiving for the “partnership in the gospel” with the Philippians (1:3-11)
  • Paul’s situation: Whatever happens, it will advance the gospel (1:12-26)
  • Philippians’ situation: Continue to be “one of mind” in following Christ (1:27—2:18)
  • Timothy and Epaphroditus are to come to Philippi (2:19-30)
  • [Against Judaiziers]
  • Exhortation: Euodia and Syntyche are to be reconciled (4:2-3)
  • Exhortation: Rejoice and be at peace (4:4-9)
  • [Thank you for the gift]
  • Final greetings (4:21-23)

Major Themes:

Philippians as a "Letter of Friendship"

Questions for Review and Discussion:

For Further Reading and Study 

Electronic New Testament Educational Resources

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This page was last updated on May 9, 2006
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