Book Review: Philippians (Verse by Verse), Grant Osborne

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Grant Osborne, former professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, has decided to finish his academic career by writing a commentary on every book of the NT specifically for the layperson. His three main intended uses are for devotional aids, for use in Bible study groups, and as sermon helps. The church needs teachers so that they don’t commit heresy, but studying the Bible doesn’t need to be a”a tedious duty we have to perform” (xi). Osborne wants studying the Bible to be a joy, not a burden.

As I’ve mentioned before, commentaries don’t need to be so difficult. Grant Osborne is doing pastors and teachers a big favor with his commentary series. Clocking in right at 200 pages, Osborne’s commentary on Philippians is easy to read and understand. Though written by an academic, this series is not ‘academic.’ It is not filled with terms from another language, the reader does not have to choke on reading about source-, form-, or redactional criticism (a la Bob Stein’s BECNT commentary on Mark, which I critique here), nor does the reader need to know what every other scholar thinks about a passage (if he wanted to know, he would buy their commentaries). Too many commentators give a few options without expressing their own opinion on what the text is saying. Osborne does spends some time, albeit little, on what others think about specific passages in Philippians, but he always offers his own interpretation of any passage. When he does present other views, he represents them carefully with grace.

Osborne understands the apostle Paul to be the author of Philippians, which could have been written probably in the early 60s AD during Paul’s Roman trial and imprisonment, as “the circumstances in the first three imprisonments do not fit well with what we actually see in the Prison Letters” (4). Osborne takes the genre of Philippians to be both a single “letter of friendship” and a “word of exhortation.” While he explains the circumstances leading up to the letter, he doesn’t describe the social setting of the church, such as the kind of people who lived in Philippi and how and why they were devoted to the Caesar and emperor worship (which would put pressure on the Philippian believers). He believes there are four groups of opponents confronting the church: (1) preachers opposing Paul [1.15–17], (2) Roman citizens [1.27–30], (3) Judaizers [3.2–3], and (4) Gentile libertines (3.18–19).

Osborne gives three-and-a-half pages on the theology of the letter. All focused on Christ, he presents the doctrine, the gospel, the church, and the return of Christ. The commentary ends with a two-page glossary in the back and a two-page bibliography.

Interpretive Matters

1.19: Paul’s ‘salvation’ has a double meaning. Either he will be released be with the Philippians or he will be released to be with the Lord. Either way is a deliverance to Paul.

1.21: Paul, a ‘slave’ (1.1) to Christ, knew that all value in this life or in the next was in Christ. So no matter what happened to him, he would glory in Christ.

1.28: The ‘sign’ is for both groups. The unbelievers who accepted the gospel would see that their persecution leads to God’s judgment and that believers will be vindication. Osborne states that “both outcomes—judgment and salvation—would be accomplished by God” (60). The sign was meant for all people to understand, but those who reject the gospel would remain blind.

2.7: Jesus’ emptying of himself refers to his incarnation, but he did not rid himself of his divine powers and attributes when he was on earth. Jesus ‘assumed the form/nature of a slave and served humankind’ and died on a cross to save humankind (80).

2.17: Paul’s being ‘poured out as a drink offering’ refers to his possible martyrdom.

3.1: Osborne believes that as Paul was writing his letter he may have received the message that the Judaizers were infiltrating Philippi, which led to the strange shift between Philippians 3.1 and 3.2.

Recommended?

Pastors and teachers will be pleased with Osborne’s commentary. Osborne wants to lead his readers to a knowledge of Christ that expresses itself in joy, awe, and obedience in all matters of life. Osborne is faithful to Scripture, and I would highly recommend anyone who wants to study the Bible to pick up any of Osborne’s commentaries: laypersons, pastors, and teachers. Osborne will be a great conversation partner for most who want to study the New Testament.

Lagniappe

▪ Series: Osborne New Testament Commentaries
▪ Author: Grant Osborne

▪ Paperback: 224 pages
▪ Publisher: Lexham Press (August 2, 2017)

Buy it from Amazon, Adlibris, or Lexham Press

Disclosure: I received this book free from Lexham Press. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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