I thought I’d completed my translation of Philippians but I’d missed the final greetings. Here they are:
Share my greetings with all the holy ones in Messiah Jesus. The brothers and sisters here with me send their greetings, indeed all the holy ones send greetings, above all those of the Imperial Household! The kindness of the Lord Jesus Messiah be with you.
I take the Greek imperative ‘ Greet the holy ones’ to refer to Paul’s greetings. But does the phrase ‘in Messsiah Jesus’ go with the greetings or the holy ones? I’ve chosen the latter. If my translation is right it’s yet another illustration of what has been at the heart of this letter, the ‘shared life’ of believers with one another and with Jesus. Paul’s term ‘hagioi’ is often translated as ‘God’s people’ today, but I think he saw members of the assembly as holy and expected them to live up to this designation.
I think the reference to the Imperial Household is a made with a smile. Probably it’s the Ephesian HQ where Paul was imprisoned, and where he perhaps gained a convert or two.
In the final sentence Paul says ‘ with your spirit’ but as I don’t know what this adds to the pronoun ‘ you’ I’ve left it out.
Paul’s affectionate greetings in his letters to the church assemblies may provide guidance for the very frequent email correspondence in churches today. Email is a very rapid way of doing business, but our communications should always bear the mark of the life we share with each other and with Jesus. If some poor soul in the future has the task of looking at my present correspondence with church members, I want them to detect mutual affection, above all.
The ‘ koinonia’ (shared life so evident in this letter, is based on the ‘kindness’ of Jesus which is represented in chapter 2 in the poem or hymn that speaks of his self- emptying. As I’ve indicated, I think this hymn sets out a new human model, no longer that of Adam and Eve who grabbed at equality with God, but on Jesus whose generous humility took him to execution. I detect in Paul a quick assertion of authority, a pride in his role as an emissary of Jesus, which often gets near to arrogance. Because he detects this tendency in himself he is very acute at noticing in others, and in applying the remedy which works for him, the story of Jesus’ downward mobility.
All believers share an immersion in Jesus’ humility which frees them to appreciate each other.