Essay New Testament Studies

Understanding the Praetorium of Philippians 1:13

ABSTRACT: Paul understood Praetorium as the Imperial Guard centralized in Rome, not a palace or building.



Praetorium as a Building

Flaws of the Palace View

Praetorium as the Imperial Guard

Praetorium, Provenance, and Purpose



Key to understanding the provenance and purpose of Philippians is one historical term. This single word can potentially altar the reader’s exegesis of Paul’s inspired epistle. Philippians 1:13 contains this Pauline anomaly, praetorium, “so that it has become known throughout the whole praetorium and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ.” The term, often translated as “palace guard,” “imperial guard,” or “governor’s palace,” is, “one of the cruxes of this letter and impinges on the question of Paul’s location at the time of writing.”[1] More specifically, “the (Greek) phrase ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ πραιτωρίῳ, “among the whole imperial guard,” uses πραιτώριον, a loanword from the Latin praetorium.”[2] If praetorium specifies the Praetorian Guard – the Roman emperor’s personal, elite soldiers – the provenance of Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome can be affirmed.[3] Along with a mention of “the saints of Caesar’s household” in Philippians 4:22, the reference to praetorium in 1:13 sufficiently refutes theories that Paul’s correspondence with Philippi originated from Ephesus or Caesarea Maritima. But this task is more than a mere academic exercise, for great theological weight rests upon the traditional rendering of praetorium, as used in this thoroughly Roman epistle.

In order to assert a non-Rome provenance, one must argue praetorium refers to a building (henceforth the “palace view”). This paper will explicate the dissenting palace view before revealing its flaws, and offering the “imperial guard” position as far more theologically, historically, and biblically consistent. Finally, it will be shown how one’s understanding of this single term affects his interpretation of Philippians as a Christian hortatory letter of friendship.[4]

Praetorium as a Building

The ongoing debate over the provenance of Paul’s prison epistles, and thus Philippians, is crucial for identifying bias in one’s interpretation of Philippians 1:13. If one assumes a Roman provenance, Paul’s use of praetorium is best translated “imperial guard”. Yet any other theory of provenance essentially and necessarily limits praetorium to designate a royal building. Keener explains, “Some commentators have suggested that “palace” or “praetorium” here may refer to a provincial governor’s residence, such as the place of Paul’s detention in Caesarea (Acts 23:35).”[5] By this reckoning, praetorium must be understood as a metonym, “The phrase ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ πραιτωρίῳ signals a metonym, a spatial descriptor to indicate the people (τοῖς λοιποῖς πάσιν) who had access to the πραιτώριον.”[6]

Those arguing for the palace view understand praetorium as being used broadly in the Julio-Claudian period. It must be acknowledged that praetorium has a wide lexical range, with abounding extra-biblical evidence of its usage. It originally denoted a general’s tent or his staff or council.[7] Subsequently, the term was variously adapted to signify the residence of a provincial governor, a pleasure villa, official road-side rest-house, or emperor’s residence.[8] In a permanent fort, praetorium was distinguished from the principia – with the former designating the commander’s house and the latter a headquarters building.[9] Aside from this diversity of possible designations regarding physical buildings, praetorium, “is also regularly used for the forces or services of the Praetorian Prefect.”[10]

Recognizing the extra biblical data, one must give even greater credence to the canonical context of Scripture. How did the New Testament authors understand and utilize πραιτώριον? Those ascribing to the palace view conclude Paul’s usage of πραιτώριον in Phil 1:13 mimics Luke’s designation of the same term in Acts 23:35. In this Lukan text, πραιτώριον clearly refers to the residence of a provincial governor. Taking Acts 23:35 plainly, Luke clearly relates that Paul is facing an impending trial before Felix, who, “(gave) orders for him to be kept in Herod’s Praetorium.” Here the Latin loan word πραιτώριον is used in the dative πραιτωρίῳ, being the subject of the possessive genitive τοῦ Ἡρῴδου, thus the reading “πραιτωρίῳ τοῦ Ἡρῴδου.” Seven of the eight uses of πραιτώριον in the New Testament are similarly translated into English as the subject of a possessive not specified in the Greek, “the governor’s headquarters” (Mt 27:27; Mk 15:16; Jn 18:28 NASB, ESV), “his headquarters” (Jn 18:33, Jn 19:19 NASB, ESV). Suffice it to say that seven of the eight uses of πραιτώριον in the New Testament indisputably reference a building. This leaves Philippians 1:13 as the only anomalous usage and sole instance within Paul’s letters.

If the palace view of πραιτώριον is to be accepted in Philippians 1:13, very little limitation can be offered regarding provenance for Paul’s letter. One may posit any locale within the Roman Empire – assuming the praetorium represented some administrative subsection of a complex or building. Those functioning within a “headquarters building” would necessarily be tied to a provincial government role, owing to another significant verse, Philippians 4:22, “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.”[11] Paul’s reference to Caesar’s household (τῆς Καίσαρος οἰκίας), so often linked to 1:13, certainly refers to the familia Caesaris.[12] If Paul’s location is understood as static during his penning of Philippians, the praetorium and “those of Caesar’s household” must be understood as existing in the same municipality.

Where the palace view is espoused, it is commonly suggested that slaves and freedmen within Caesar’s household were spread throughout the empire. These individuals would be serving governmental functions – and thus necessarily tied to a Roman praetorium building.[13] Interestingly, only a Roman provenance for Paul’s Epistle is untenable where πραιτώριον is understood as a palace. Lightfoot explains, “While ‘prætorium’ is a frequent designation of splendid villas, whether of the emperors or others, away from Rome, the imperial residence on the Palatine is not once so called. Indeed the word seems to have suggested to a Roman the idea of a country seat… In Rome itself, prætorium would not have been tolerated.”[14] In other words, praetoriums such as those at Jerusalem (Mt 27:27; Mk 15:16; Jn 18:28, Jn 18:33, Jn 19:19) and Caesarea (Acts 23:35) were the seats of local rulers who derived their power from the emperor. The imperial residence on Palatine Hill in Rome would not be equated with headquarters located elsewhere in the empire.

Of secondary significance to the palace argument is Colossians 4:10–15, wherein Paul lists an extensive group of helpers alongside him in his imprisonment. As a prison epistle, this letter is thought to have the same provenance as Philippians. Scholars have thus questioned how a detained Paul could have such an abundance of assistance while imprisoned. Due to this circumstance, some have concluded that Paul was imprisoned in Asia or Syria-Palestine (specifically Ephesus or Caesarea Maritima).[15] Either provenance would certainly explain the large number of coworkers, given Paul’s ministries in both locales. Paul simply did not have the same influence in Rome.[16] In addition, Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea for two years (cf. Acts 24:27) and held perhaps his most impactful, personal Asian ministry at Ephesus (see Acts 20:17–38).

Flaws of the Palace View

Several critical assumptions must be made to hold the palace view of praetorium in Philippians 1:13 and the associated conclusion of non-Roman provenance. It should be stated at the outset that a wide variety of scholars adopt this non-traditional view, including some conservative scholars who affirm biblical reliability.[17] Nevertheless, it bears mentioning that dismissal of Roman provenance, and thus the imperial guard conclusion, commonly stems from source-critical biases. More specifically, a rejection of congruity between the undisputed Pauline Epistles and Acts (as well as the pastoral epistles) is typically assumed.[18] While this certainly does not represent every scholar asserting non-traditional provenance, it’s often critical scholars who have no desire to synthesize all the new Testament data.

A timeline considering Acts and the Pastorals suggests two Roman imprisonments. In contrast to this orthodox assumption, many critical scholars deny that Paul ever made it to Rome.[19] It remains to be shown that a synthesis considering all 27 New Testament books as of equal historical value presupposes a Roman imprisonment that best fits Paul’s bondage as described in Philippians. Here it will prove beneficial to briefly relay the orthodox, traditional timeline of Paul’s arrival in Rome.

In Acts, Luke recorded the life and ministry of Paul as essentially progressing toward his ultimate imprisonment in Rome. After three missionary journeys, Paul set his mind on Jerusalem – understanding he would be persecuted and arrested (cf. Acts 20:22–23). The Apostle was indeed arrested in Jerusalem, and would then spend two years in custody at Caesarea Maritima (cf. Acts 24:22–27). Because of his appeal to Caesar, Paul assures a capital trial in Rome (Acts 25:11; 26:32; 28:19). The Apostle then finds himself under house arrest in the capital city, “And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him,” (Acts 28:16). Luke further records that Paul was “wearing a chain” (cf. 28:20). And finally, Acts ends abruptly with Paul still imprisoned, “He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance,” (28:30–31).

Since critical scholars largely reject this narrative, they feel no obligation to factor in a Roman imprisonment in Paul’s timeline. Acts 28 in particular is often rejected as spurious.[20] Without being bound to correlate Acts 28 with Philippians 1:13 and 4:22, these scholars simply suggest a different provenance that concurs with Paul’s self-testimony in the undisputed letters. This is especially prevalent in the prominent offering of Ephesus as the place of writing, which is more easily concluded without Luke’s testimony. Alternatively, the less commonly held Caesarea Maritima provenance finds corroboration with Paul’s two-year imprisonment found in Acts 24. Since scholarship appears to be moving toward Ephesian/Asian provenance, this view will be considered over others.[21] The historical reliability of the New Testament will heretofore be assumed.
Ephesian provenance for Philippians is lacking in several key respects. To start, the Acts narrative relates two instances where Paul was imprisoned for a sufficient period of time to account for his language in the Macedonian letter. Paul’s suffering and imprisonment are central themes in Philippians. Paul expresses his situation repeatedly by the phrase “δεσμούς μου” (Lit. “my chains”); in Philippians 1 vv. 7, 13, 14, and 17; “in my imprisonment,” “my imprisonment is for Christ,” “by my imprisonment,” “afflict me in my imprisonment.” It’s widely acknowledged that Paul is awaiting a capital trial while writing this, as his life-or-death language makes clear (cf. 1:19–25).

These verses alone correlate well with the house arrest situation of Acts 28. Luke records Paul himself describing his first Roman imprisonment as, “τὴν ἅλυσιν ταύτην περίκειμαι (lit. “wearing this chain”). There is striking similarity between Paul’s bondage in Philippians and that of Luke’s Acts 28 narrative. Luke’s account further specifies that Paul’s bondage took place in “his own hired dwelling” wherein he “welcomed all who came to him” (Acts 28:30). This bears a striking correlation with Paul’s successful prison ministry detailed in Philippians 1:13 and 4:22. If it can be shown that Philippians 1:13 and 4:22 are best explained by a Roman provenance, the correlations go even deeper.

Paul in Philippians 1:13 recorded his successful witness to the Praetorium, who, if understood to be the imperial guard, are also apart of Caesar’s household (4:22). Further, it has been noted that based on a less reliable textual tradition, Acts 28:16, “Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him,” speaks specifically of a soldier within the praetorian guard.[22] Even if the textual variant is rejected, the current reading of Acts does not preclude that this soldier was a part of the Praetorium. Both the Lukan and Pauline texts bear significant similarities and no major diverging details. The wholistic narrative unity of Acts and Philippians must therefore be maintained. The student of Scripture should presuppose unity within the text, rather than dismissing certain books, chapters, or verses that don’t fit an arbitrary or presupposed narrative. Holloway rightly dismisses the Ephesian provenance theory as the work of redaction critics.[23] Further, to suggest Paul faced a drawn-out imprisonment in Ephesus, while awaiting a capital trial, dismisses the biblical witness which would suggest otherwise.[24]

Another weakness of the palace view lies in the grammar of Philippians 1:13 and 14. Holloway contends,

The whole expression reads ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ πραιτωρίῳ καὶ τοῖς λοιποῖς πᾶσιν, “in the whole πραιτώριον and all the rest,” where “and all the rest,” given Paul’s usage elsewhere, is most naturally interpreted as a reference not to other buildings but to other personnel, something like “and everyone else.” This would imply that πραιτώριον similarly is a reference to personnel. This interpretation makes excellent sense of 1:14, where Paul continues, “and the majority of the brothers in the Lord, etc.” Taken together, vv. 13–14 would then describe the effect of Paul’s imprisonment first on persons outside the church (v. 13) and then on persons inside (v. 14).[25]

Those “outside the church” are best understood as Romans within this same circle as the praetorium, who were forced to accompany Paul. Therefore, καὶ τοῖς λοιποῖς πάσιν must be more closely linked to ὅλῳ τῷ πραιτωρίῳ in Philippians 1:13. The second phrase, “all the rest” necessarily precludes the palace view of praetorium.[26] Paul clearly speaks of personnel, not buildings here. To be sure, this accords with the central thrust of his letter – that even through trials and chains, the Gospel was still advancing to the top echelons of society. If praetorium here is not understood as metonymy, the connected phrase “all the rest” would be rendered unintelligible. One could scarcely imagine the Gospel writers or Luke utilizing this phrase in conjunction with Herod’s Palace, for example. As will be argued in defense of the imperial guard view of praetorium, Philippians 4:22 is central to understanding the present text.

Praetorium as the Imperial Guard

Lightfoot has most convincingly defended the position that Praetorium, as utilized in Philippians 1:13, signifies a body of men.[27] He argues, “…more frequently it denotes the prætorian regiments, the imperial guards. This in fact is the common use of the term.”[28] Evidence of this common usage abounds in Latin inscriptions and literature.[29] One early Greek example utilizing the Latin loaner word is found in Josephus, “…and the very emperor’s guards seemed under the like fear and disorder with private persons, the band called pretorian, which was the purest part of the army, was in consultation what was to be done at this juncture.”[30] Latin historians from Tacitus to Pliny similarly appropriated this word.[31]

This imperial guard was first established by Augustus in Rome and adjacent municipalities.[32] Tiberius would then bring all these elite soldiers to Rome, giving them a permeant camp.[33] The praetorians were well paid, highly respected, and influential.

Grammatically, the use of “all the rest” makes little sense alongside a translation rendering preatorium as “the governor’s headquarters.”[34] If the palace view is to be followed, the translation of Philippians 1:13 must be rendered, “So that is had become known throughout the whole governor’s headquarters and to all the rest…” At best this leaves tremendous ambiguity in identifying the broad, undefinable “all the rest”. Again, if “governor’s headquarters” is taken as a metonym, the phrasing would still be awkward and unnatural.[35] Taking this position would also divorce Philippians 1:13 from 4:22, verses that are better understood in harmony. To be sure, one could not confidently assert that those in a provincial governor’s headquarters belonged to Caesar’s household. When the letter is understood holistically and interpreted as a single unit, Paul’s appeal to a far-reaching Roman ministry best stratifies the textual evidence. Caesar’s personal, imperial soldiers, with about 9,000 total in Rome, would be given the task of defending Paul – who was awaiting a high profile capital trial (1:13).[36] These elite bodyguards would by necessity belong to Caesar’s household (4:22),

They were the emperor’s elite bodyguard under the praetorian prefect. Viewed as clients of the emperor (thus part of his household), they were kept loyal with the highest pay in the Roman military; they were also kept loyal by the leadership of a prefect who could never legally become emperor (being a knight rather than a senator).[37]

Holloway offers one final clue for the present conclusion, “The hyperbolic rhetoric of 1:13—“in the whole πραιτώριον and all the rest,” where both “whole” and “all” are emphatic by position—also supports a reference to the Imperial Guard, which by this time was at least six thousand. Roman governors, on the other hand, typically had relatively small staffs.”[38] The impact of Paul’s language, which serves to emphasize his successful Gospel ministry in Rome, would be dulled if Praetorium refers to a colonial palace.

Michael Flexsenhar’s conclusion that Paul was too unimportant a prisoner to warrant tying up Nero’s most valuable bodyguards must be rejected at this point. This conclusion is simply conjecture, that again undermines Acts and the historical realities of Paul’s movement, the Flexsenhar, Michael. “The Provenance of Philippians and Why It Matters: Old Questions, New Approaches1.” Journal for the study of the New Testament 42, no. 1 (September 2019): 18–45.radical Jewish opposition he faced, and his opportunity to defend himself before Felix, Festus, Herod Agrippa, and Bernice. (Acts 24–26).[39] Paul certainly caused great tension within the Empire, and especially in the notoriously volatile Judea. And even the waves of this far-reaching ministry were subsumed under the far greater Christ-movement. Ultimately, even Flexsenhar admits some prisoners were worthy of being guarded by the Empire’s most elite.[40] He just doesn’t consider Paul important enough, or his trail significant enough, to enjoy the emperor’s involvement. This judgement call is far too subjective and arbitrary, without any real methodology offered for how the emperor may have allocated his praetorian guard. Addressing Acts 25:11–12, F. F. Bruce emphatically concludes, “Having made his appeal to the emperor, Paul was the emperor’s prisoner (although he preferred to think of himself as “the prisoner of Christ Jesus”), and while he waited for his case to be heard, he “was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him” (Acts 28:16).”[41]

Numismatology has also helped scholars better understand Rome’s relation to Philippi and the colony’s experience with the Praetorium. The existence of the Praetorian guard is witnessed on coinage dating to the time of Claudius or Nero. The editors of RPC have dated RPC 1651 to the time of these Julio-Claudian, emperors based on metallurgical studies.[42] This coin, which commemorates Augustus’ victory over Mark Antony at the battle of Actium in 31 BC, has the reverse legend COHOR PRAE PHIL for “Cohort Praetorium Philippi”.[43]  It’s been suggested that Augustus himself sent retired praetorian guards to Philippi, a province quickly becoming a haven for veterans.[44] RPC 1651 thus affirms that Philippi was aware of the Praetorium in the time of Paul, when these coins were in circulation. It has additionally been suggested that the coin itself celebrates Augustus’, “settlement at Philippi of a cohort of praetorians when he refounded the colony in 30 BCE.”[45] If this coin was indeed minted during the reign of Claudius, as all evidence seems to suggest, Paul’s reference to the imperial guard in Philippians 1:13 takes on incredible significance. Burnett states in RPC, “The types of the larger presumably refer to the battle of Actium (VIC AVG) and the settlement of veterans from the praetorian cohort at Philippi (COHOR PRAE PHIL).”[46]

With RPC 1651 circulating in Paul’s time, the Philippians present in Macedonia would be familiar with the Latin inscriptions and imagery on their coins. They would transact daily with these very pieces of copper, seeing the clear inscription Praetoria and acknowledging its relation to Philippi. One might conclude this is exactly why Paul uses the terminology of “the whole Praetorium” in Philippians 1:13.[47]Any suggestion that this coin, fraught with the imagery of war banners and Victoria, refers to an administrative palace must be rejected. It is far more likely that the Philippians understood Praetoria, the Latin loan word for Praetorium, to mean the imperial guard. Holloway concludes, “It not only dates the striking of the coin close to the time of Paul’s letter but, more importantly, attests to Philippi’s continuing pride in its praetorian foundations, a fact that Paul, now a prisoner of the Guard, would presumably to be alluding to.”[48]

Vincent summarizes the imperial guard position of Philippians 1:13 thusly, “The unquestionable fact that ‘prætorium’ was used to denote the prætorian guard makes it unnecessary to assume that the apostle in this passage refers to any place, and furnishes a simple explanation and one entirely consistent with the narrative in Acts 28.”[49] The coherence of Paul’s imprisonment narrative under the watch of imperial guards best synthesizes the biblical data. It must lastly be shown why alternate understandings of praetorium provenance are untenable. Bo Reicke convincingly argues that, “the word (πραιτώριον) was not used for the personnel of a governor either in Greek or in Latin.”[50] This would severely handicap the conclusion that πραιτώριον is simply a metonym, applicable to a wide range of administrative or provincial personnel. Regarding 1:13 potentially speaking of Ephesus, Reicke further states that the governor of Ephesus was a proconsul, not a propraetor.[51] The author also rejects a Caesarean provenance, stating, “Auxiliary troops under the supervision of the procurator were stationed here (Caesarea), but none of the élite soldiers of the praetorium.”[52]

Praetorium, Provenance, and Purpose

Although scholarship is far from a consensus on the matter, there’s sufficient reason to conclude Paul wrote Philippians from Rome. Some of the earliest attestations to Roman Province include that of the Marcionite Prologues, “According to the Prologues, Paul wrote to the Colossians from Ephesus, already in chains (iam ligatus), and to the Philippians from prison in Rome.”[53] Concurring with this conclusion are Philippians 1:13 and 4:22, as detailed above. While it’s certainly true that Paul’s proximity to the praetorian guard tells us something about provenance, it’s also significant what an assumed Roman provenance tells us about the praetorium. Indeed, if Paul was writing from Rome, the reader can better understand his purpose in mentioning the Praetorium at all. Surely great significance must be ascribed to Paul’s claim of evangelizing some of the Roman Empire’s most elite and powerful individuals. This is absolutely crucial to the main contentions and intentions of this apostolic letter. Paul’s witness to the imperial guard, who were included in Caesar’s household, highlighted his focus on heavenly citizenship, joy amidst suffering, and a radical gospel focus.

Philippi’s history as a Roman colony, and even its founding under Philip II of Macedonia, all highlight the military foundations of this colony. From Macedonia to Julio-Claudain Rome, some of the world’s most powerful leaders purposefully packed Philippi with significant military figures – including soldiers from the Praetorian guard. And Rome was especially generous in granting this Macedonian colony the title and benefits of Roman citizenship. That Paul wrote from Rome itself, the heartbeat of Philippi and her citizens, thus carries significant importance.

Reicke comments, “The Roman capital also provides the background for those images used by Paul in Philippians which refer to the political realm. This is true in the case of the exhortation to a worthy evangelical behaviour as a citizen (πολιτεύεσθε, Phil. 1:27), as well as of the reference concerning the true, heavenly commonwealth (πολίτευμα, 3:20).”[54] The Philippians understood who Paul was as a Roman citizen, imprisoned for the gospel.[55] Paul was willing to suffer all things for the Gospel. His allegiance was not to Rome, but to Christ. Paul was a citizen of heaven. This message, which Paul calls the Philippians to emulate (3:17), becomes all the more powerful given Paul’s situation in Rome, under the praetorium. The Apostle evangelized even Rome’s most elite soldiers, the empire’s top citizens. The proud Romans citizens of Philippi would have recognized Paul’s courage, drive, and submission to God’s will. As is apparent by their coinage, the Philippians were fully aware of the praetorian guard. It was a source of pride, in that the praetorium was the progenitor of their own Roman identity in many ways.

Regarding joy and suffering, Paul faced unjust trial and restrictive imprisonment in the kingdom he rightfully belonged to. The Apostle was able to confidently assert, 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). He saw even his chains as an opportunity to reach others with the gospel, that “most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (v. 1:14). The Christians in Philippi were facing the same persecution under the same Roman yoke,For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have” (vv. 1:29–30). Undoubtedly the Philippians, within the context of their thoroughly Roman colony, faced persecution by Pagan Romans.[56] Yet there was hope. God sovereignly planned to use even Paul’s suffering for His glory, evidenced by the Apostle’s incredible opportunity to witness to Rome’s elite,

“It is in this light that the Philippians would hear Paul’s triumphant note about the whole Praetorian Guard—the emperor’s own select troops—coming to know about the gospel through Paul’s imprisonment. So also with the final word of the letter (before the concluding grace-benediction), “all the saints (in Rome) greet you, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household”—who themselves join you in saying “Jesus is Lord.” The gospel, with its proclamation of a heavenly Lord who had become the incarnate Savior, had penetrated the household of the (merely earthly) Roman “lord and savior,” who stands ultimately behind “the same struggle” both Paul and the Philippians are currently experiencing.”[57]

Much would be lost if praetorium in Philippians 1:13 is not understood as the emperor’s personal guard, centralized in Rome. Paul’s gospel appeals, empathetic statements, and focus on heavenly citizenship would be deprived of their personal force. Further, the Apostle’s permeating appeal to the struggles and benefits of life as Roman citizens would be lost if an Asian or Syria-Palestinian provenance is asserted. Ultimately, Paul’s desire for this unique letter – a Christian hortatory letter of friendship – would become far less clear if God was not truly using the Apostle’s suffering to reach the highest levels of Rome.[58] Reciprocal, empathetic motifs of friendship are what pervade this epistle. Paul encourages his Philippian friends as fellow Christians, not fellow Romans, by showing how God had placed him before even “Caesar’s household” and “the imperial guard.” All this was to advance the Gospel as a worthy citizen of heaven.


[1] Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), 113.

[2] Mark J. Keown, Philippians, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, ed. H. Wayne House, W. Hall Harris III, and Andrew W. Pitts (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017), 190.

[3] This is the conclusion most notably defended by Lightfoot. Commenting on Philippians 1:13, he noted, “‘throughout the prætorian guard,’ i.e. the soldiers composing the imperial regiments. This seems to be the best supported meaning of πραιτώριον.” Joseph Barber Lightfoot, Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament (London: Macmillan and Co., 1913), 88.

[4] Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 32.

[5] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Php 1:13.

[6] Michael Flexsenhar, “The Provenance of Philippians and Why It Matters: Old Questions, New Approaches,” Journal for the study of the New Testament 42, no. 1 (September 2019), 36.

[7] Ian Archibald Richmond, “Praetorium” in The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 2nd ed, ed. N. G. L. Hammond and H. H. Sculland (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), 874.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Flexsenhar, “The Provenance of Philippians,” 19.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid., 23.

[14] Lightfoot, Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, 100.

[15] See Michael J. Hugh for Ephesian provenance view: Michael, J. Hugh, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, The Moffatt New Testament Commentary, ed. James Moffatt (London: Hodder and Stroughton, 1928). And Gerald Hawthorne for the Caesarean Provenance view: Gerald F Hawthorne and Ralph P. Martin, Philippians, Rev. ed. (Word Biblical Commentary 43. Dallas: Word Books, 2004), 43–44.

[16] Paul first arrived in Rome c. 60 AD for his first imprisonment. Although he had not previously ministered in Rome, a church was already established there (Acts 28:14–15).

[17] See Hugh, Philippians, 1:13 and Hawthorne, Philippians, 43–44.

[18] Michael Flexsenhar, “The Provenance of Philippians and Why It Matters: Old Questions, New Approaches,” Journal for the study of the New Testament 42, no. 1 (September 2019): 18–45.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Paul A. Holloway, Philippians: A Commentary, ed. Adela Yarbro Collins, Hermeneia—A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2017), 21.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid., 21–22.

[26] Lightfoot, Philippians, 99-101.

[27] Ibid., 101–102.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, trans. William Whiston (Project Gutenberg, 2001), 19.3.1.

[31] Lightfoot, Philippians, 102.

[32] Marvin Richardson Vincent, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles to the Philippians and to Philemon, International Critical Commentary (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1897), 16–17.

[33] Ibid.

[34] See note under “Flaws of the Palace View” above.

[35] Ben Witherington III, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Company, 2011), 79.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Php 1:13.

[38] Holloway, Philippians, 22–23.

[39] Flexsenhar, “The Provenance of Philippians,” 18–45.

[40] Ibid.

[41] F. F. Bruce, Philippians, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (Peabody, MA: Baker Books, 2011), 41.

[42] A. Burnett, M. Amandry, P.P. Ripolles, Roman Provincial Coinage, vol. I (The Julio-Claudians) (London: British Museum Press, 1992), 308.          

[43] Ibid.  

[44] Theodore John Cadoux, “Philippi” in The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 2nd ed, ed. N. G. L. Hammond and H. H. Sculland (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), 816.

[45] Holloway, Philippians, 88.

[46] Ibid., 308.

[47] Ibid., 88.

[48] Ibid., 88.

[49] Marvin Richardson Vincent, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles to the Philippians and to Philemon, International Critical Commentary (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1897), 52.

[50] Bo Reicke, “Caesarea, Rome, and the Captivity Epistles,” Apostolic History and the Gospel: Biblical and Historical Essays Presented to F.F. Bruce, ed. W. Ward Gasque & Ralph P. Martin (Exeter: The Paternoster Press, 1970), 284.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Niles Dahl, “The Origin of the Earliest Prologues to the Pauline Letters,” Semeia 12: The Poetics of Faith, Part 1: Rhetoric, Eschatology, and Ethics in the New Testament (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 1978), 246.

[54] Reicke, Caesarea, 285.

[55] After being wrongfully beaten and imprisoned in Philippi, Paul asserted his privilege as a Roman citizen (cf. Acts 16:37). This displays Paul’s understanding of the prerogatives of Roman Citizenship and longstanding willingness to face injustice for the Kingdom. Further, the Philippian official’s response speaks to their understanding and respect of Roman citizenship (cf. Acts 16:38–39).

[56] As opposed to the common persecution from Jews, who had a miniscule presence in Philippi (cf. Acts 16).

[57] Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 32.

[58] Ibid. 34.


Backgrounds, Surveys, and Introductions

DeSilva, David Arthur. An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods & Ministry Formation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004.

Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. 2nd ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014.

Köstenberger, Andreas J., L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L. Quarles. The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament. 2nd ed. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2016.

Carson, D. A. and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Magie, David. Roman Rule in Asia Minor to the End of the Third Century after Christ. 2 Vols. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950.

Concordances, Dictionaries, and Encyclopedias

Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996.

––––––. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2001.

Freedman, David Noel. Anchor Bible Dictionary. 6 Vols. 1st ed. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

Silva, Moisés, ed. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis. 5 vols. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014.

Bauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Edited by Frederick William Danker. Translated by William Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich. 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Blass, Friedrich, and Albert Debrunner. A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Translated by Robert W. Funk. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961.

Hammond, N. G. L. and H. H. Sculland. The Oxford Classical Dictionary. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970.

Hornblower, Simon, Anthony Spawforth, and Esther Eidinow. The Oxford Classical Dictionary. 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.


Hawthorne, Gerald F and Ralph P. Martin. Philippians. Rev. ed. Word Biblical Commentary 43. Dallas: Word Books, 2004.

Lightner, Robert P. “Philippians.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures 2. Edited by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985.

Bruce, F. F. Philippians. Understanding the Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011.

Bruce F. F. The Books of Acts. New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988.

Melick, Richard R. Jr. “Philippians, Colossians, Philemon.” The New American Commentary 32. Edited by David S. Dockery. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1991.

Polhill, John B. “Acts.” The New American Commentary 26. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1992.

Reumann, John. Philippians. Anchor Yale Bible 33B. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008.

Fitzmyer, Joseph A. The Acts of the Apostles. Anchor Yale Bible 31. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008.

Hansen, G. Walter. The Letter to the Philippians. Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009.

Anders, Max. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians & Colossians. Holman New Testament Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999.

Silva, Moisés. Philippians. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992.

Bock, Darrell L. Acts. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007.

Martin, Ralph T. Philippians. Tyndale New Testament Commentary 11. Edited by Leon Morris. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987.

Marshall, I. Howard. Acts. Tyndale New Testament Commentary 5. Edited by Leon Morris. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1980.

MacArthur, John. Philippians: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2001.

Metzger, Bruce M. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 2nd ed. German Bible Society: Stuttgart, 1994.

Fee, Gordon D. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995.

Witherington III, Ben. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Socio-Rhetorical Commentary Series. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011.

Witherington III, Ben. The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Socio-Rhetorical Commentary Series. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997.

Whitacre, Rodney A. John. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series 4. Edited by Grant R. Osborne. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999.

Fowl, Stephen E. Philippians. The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2005.

Fee, Gordon D. Philippians. The IVP New Testament Commentary. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999.

Bockmuehl, Markus. The Epistle to the Philippians. Black’s New Testament Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1997.

Thompson, James W. and Bruce W. Longenecker. Philippians and Philemon. Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2016.

Vincent, Marvin. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles to the Philippians and Philemon. International Critical Commentary. Edited by Samuel Rolles Driver, Alfred Plummer, and Charles Augustus Briggs. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1897.

Barrett, C. K. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, Volume 2. International Critical Commentary. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1998.

Holloway, Paul A. Philippians: A Commentary. Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2017.

Keown, Mark J. Philippians: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary. Evangelical Exegetical Commentary. Edited by H. Wayne House, W. Hall Harris, and Andrew W. Pitts. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017.

Reumann, John H. P. Philippians. Anchor Yale Bible. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008.

Hawthorne, Gerald F. and Ralph P. Martin. Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 43: Philippians. Rev. Ed. Word Biblical Commentary. Thomas Nelson: Edinburgh, 2004.

Peterson, David G. The Acts of the Apostles. Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009.

Schnabel, Eckhard J. Acts. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012.

Keener, Craig S. Acts: An Exegetical Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014–2015.

Lightfoot, Joseph Barber. Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament. London: Macmillan and Co., 1913.

Michael, J. Hugh. The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians. The Moffatt New Testament Commentary. Edited by James Moffatt. London: Hodder and Stroughton, 1928.

Journals and Dissertations

Gasque, W. Ward., Ralph P. Martin, and F. F. Bruce. Apostolic History and the Gospel: Biblical and Historical Essays Presented to F. F. Bruce on His 60th Birthday. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970.

Bruce, F. F. “St Paul in Macedonia.” Academic Journal Article (1979): 337–354.

Burnett, A. M., Amandry, P.P. Ripolles, Roman Provincial Coinage, vol. I (The Julio-Claudians). London: British Museum Press, 1992. Reprinted with corrections 1999, reprinted 2006.

Dahl, Nils. “The Origin of the Earliest Prologues to the Pauline Letters.” Semeia 12: The Poetics of Faith, Part 1: Rhetoric, Eschatology, and Ethics in the New Testament. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 1978.

Flexsenhar, Michael. “The Provenance of Philippians and Why It Matters: Old Questions, New Approaches.” Journal for the study of the New Testament 42, no. 1 (September 2019): 18–45.

Reicke, Bo. “Caesarea, Rome, and the Captivity Epistles.” Apostolic History and the Gospel: Biblical and Historical Essays Presented to F.F. Bruce. Edited by W. Ward Gasque & Ralph P. Martin. Exeter, UK: The Paternoster Press, 1970.

Translated Volumes

Eusebius. “Ecclesiastical History, Books 1–5.” In the Fathers of the Church 19. Edited by Roy Joseph Deferrari. Translated by Roy Joseph Deferrari. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1953.

Jerome. “Against Palagians.” In Dogmatic and Polemical Works. Translated by John N. Hritzu. Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1965.

Rufinus. History of the Church. The Fathers of the Church 133. Translated by Philip R. Amidon. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2016.

Herodotus. The Persian Wars. 8 Vols. The Loeb Classical Library: English. Translated by A. D. Godley. London: Heinemann, 1922.  

Appian. Roman History, Volume I. Loeb Classical Library. Edited and translated by Brian McGing. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2019.

Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Translated by William Whiston. Project Gutenberg, 2001.