The epistle to the Philippians is the last of the four “prison epistles” of Paul. This letter was not written for one single purpose. Paul had a number of reasons for writing. He wanted to update the church about his situation. He wanted to thank them for a gift they had sent. He wanted to give them information about Epaphroditus. He wanted to warn them about false teachers and encourage them to remain steadfast in the truth. He wanted to encourage unity in the church, and he wanted to exhort them to rejoice. Most of all, however, he wrote to them because he had a deep care and affection for them. The following are five of the most helpful commentaries on the epistle to the Philippians.
1. Mark Keown — Philippians 1:1–2:18, Philippians 2:19–4:23 (Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, 2017).
At over 1,400 total pages, Mark Keown’s new two-volume commentary on Philippians is currently the most thorough exegetical commentary available on this epistle. Keown goes into great depth when examining the Greek grammar and syntax of this epistle. This one is a must for pastors and teachers.
2. Moisés Silva — Philippians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2005).
For those who would like something a little less imposing than Keown, yet still very thorough, I would recommend the commentary by Moisés Silva. This new second edition is a great contribution to this growing series of commentaries by Baker.
3. G. Walter Hansen — The Letter to the Philippians (Pillar New Testament Commentary, 2009).
It is always a pleasure to read a commentary written by a scholar who has also served as a pastor in the church. It tends to prevent the commentary from becoming imbalanced. The Pillar series is one of the most consistent commentary series in existence, largely because of the editorial oversight of D.A. Carson. Hansen’s commentary is another fine contribution to this set.
4. Frank Thielman — Philippians (NIV Application Commentary, 1995).
Preachers and teachers will find the NIVAC commentary by Thielman to be particularly useful in the preparation of sermons and lessons. Thielman gives equal attention to the original context and to contemporary application. Very helpful.
5. Gerald F. Hawthorne — Philippians (Word Biblical Commentary, 2015).
For those who would like to consult another resource after checking Keown and Silva, Hawthorne is a good place to turn. As regular readers of this blog series know, I am not a big fan of the WBC format, but many of the commentaries in the series are well worth consulting. This is one of them.
There are a number of other helpful commentaries on the book of Philippians. Some of the most useful are the works by J. Alec Motyer, Gordon Fee, D.A. Carson, F.F. Bruce, Sinclair Ferguson, David Chapman, Matthew Harmon, Ben Witherington, Ralph P. Martin, Jac Muller, James Boice, and I. Howard Marshall.
Helpful Related Works
Mark Edwards’ volume in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series is helpful for those who would like to see how the early church fathers interpreted Paul’s epistle. A similar commentary edited by Graham Tomlin is available with representative exegesis from Reformation-era commentators.
This article is part of the Top 5 Commentaries collection.