Philippians 3:5
Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5, 6) The comparison with the celebrated passage in 2Corinthians 11:18-23 is striking, in respect not only of similarity of substance, but of the change of tone from the indignant and impassioned abruptness of the earlier Epistle to the calm impressiveness of this. The first belongs to the crisis of the struggle, the other to its close. We have also a parallel, though less complete, in Romans 11:1, “I also am an Israelite, of the stock of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.”

(5) Circumcised the eighth dayi.e., a Jew born, not a proselyte.

Of the stock of Israeli.e., emphatically, a true scion of the covenanted stock, the royal race of the “Prince of God.”

Of the tribe of Benjamini.e., the tribe of the first king, whose name the Apostle bore; the tribe to whom belonged the holy city; the one tribe faithful to the house of Judah in the apostasy of the rest.

An Hebrew of the Hebrews.—Properly, a Hebrew descended from Hebrews. The Hebrew Jew, who retained, wherever born, the old tongue, education, and customs of his fathers, held himself superior to the Grecian or Hellenist, who had to assimilate himself, as to the language, so to the thoughts and habits, of the heathen around him. St. Paul united the advantages both of the true Hebrew, brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, and of the Hellenist of Tarsus, familiar with Greek language, literature, and thought. Compare his own words to his countrymen from the steps of the Temple as illustrating the whole passage: “I verily am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous before God . . . and I persecuted this way unto the death” (Acts 22:3-4).

As touching the law, a Pharisee.—Comp. Acts 23:6, “I am a Pharisee, and the son of Pharisees;” and Acts 26:5, “according to the straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.” In these words St. Paul passes from his inherited Judaic privileges, to the intense Judaism of his own personal life.

3:1-11 Sincere Christians rejoice in Christ Jesus. The prophet calls the false prophets dumb dogs, Isa 56:10; to which the apostle seems to refer. Dogs, for their malice against faithful professors of the gospel of Christ, barking at them and biting them. They urged human works in opposition to the faith of Christ; but Paul calls them evil-workers. He calls them the concision; as they rent the church of Christ, and cut it to pieces. The work of religion is to no purpose, unless the heart is in it, and we must worship God in the strength and grace of the Divine Spirit. They rejoice in Christ Jesus, not in mere outward enjoyments and performances. Nor can we too earnestly guard against those who oppose or abuse the doctrine of free salvation. If the apostle would have gloried and trusted in the flesh, he had as much cause as any man. But the things which he counted gain while a Pharisee, and had reckoned up, those he counted loss for Christ. The apostle did not persuade them to do any thing but what he himself did; or to venture on any thing but that on which he himself ventured his never-dying soul. He deemed all these things to be but loss, compared with the knowledge of Christ, by faith in his person and salvation. He speaks of all worldly enjoyments and outward privileges which sought a place with Christ in his heart, or could pretend to any merit and desert, and counted them but loss; but it might be said, It is easy to say so; but what would he do when he came to the trial? He had suffered the loss of all for the privileges of a Christian. Nay, he not only counted them loss, but the vilest refuse, offals thrown to dogs; not only less valuable than Christ, but in the highest degree contemptible, when set up as against him. True knowledge of Christ alters and changes men, their judgments and manners, and makes them as if made again anew. The believer prefers Christ, knowing that it is better for us to be without all worldly riches, than without Christ and his word. Let us see what the apostle resolved to cleave to, and that was Christ and heaven. We are undone, without righteousness wherein to appear before God, for we are guilty. There is a righteousness provided for us in Jesus Christ, and it is a complete and perfect righteousness. None can have benefit by it, who trust in themselves. Faith is the appointed means of applying the saving benefit. It is by faith in Christ's blood. We are made conformable to Christ's death, when we die to sin, as he died for sin; and the world is crucified to us, and we to the world, by the cross of Christ. The apostle was willing to do or to suffer any thing, to attain the glorious resurrection of saints. This hope and prospect carried him through all difficulties in his work. He did not hope to attain it through his own merit and righteousness, but through the merit and righteousness of Jesus Christ.Circumcised the eighth day - That is, he was circumcised in exact compliance with the law. If there was any ground confidence from such compliance with the law, he had it. The law required that circumcision should be performed on the eighth day Genesis 17:12; Leviticus 12:3; Luke 1:59; but it is probable that, in some cases, this was delayed on account of sickness, or from some other cause; and, in the case of proselytes, it was not performed until adult age; see Acts 16:3. But Paul says that, in his case, the law had been literally complied with; and, consequently, all the advantage which could be derived from such a compliance, was his.

Of the stock of Israel - Descended from the patriarch Israel, or Jacob; and, therefore, able to trace his genealogy back as far as any Jew could. He was not a proselyte himself from among the pagan, nor were any of his ancestors proselytes. He had all the advantages which could be derived from a regular descent from the venerable founders of the Jewish nation. He was thus distinguished from the Edomites and others who practiced circumcision; from the Samaritans, who were made up of a mixture of people; and from many, even among the Jews, whose ancestors had been once pagan, and who had become proselytes.

Of the tribe of Benjamin - Benjamin was one of the two tribes which remained when the ten tribes revolted under Jeroboam, and, with the tribe of Judah, it ever afterward maintained its allegiance to God. The idea of Paul is, that he was not one of the revolted tribes, but that he had as high a claim to the honor of being a Jew as anyone could boast. The tribe of Benjamin, also, was located near the temple, and indeed it has been said that the temple was on the dividing line between that tribe and the tribe of Judah; and it might have been supposed that there was some advantage in securing salvation from having been born and reared so near where the holy rites of religion were celebrated. If there were any such derived from the proximity of the tribe to the temple, he could claim it; for, though his birth was in another place, yet he was a member of the tribe.

An Hebrew of the Hebrews - This is the Hebrew mode of expressing the superlative degree; and the idea is, that Paul enjoyed every advantage which could possibly be derived from the fact of being a Hebrew. He had a lineal descent from the very ancestor of the nation; he belonged to a tribe that was as honorable as any other, and that had its location near the very center of religious influence; and he was an Hebrew by both his parents, with no admixture of Gentile blood. On this fact - that no one of his ancestors had been a proselyte, or of Gentile extraction - a Jew would pride himself much; and Paul says that he was entitled to all the advantage which could be derived from it.

As touching the law, a Pharisee - In my views of the law, and in my manner of observing it, I was of the straitest sect - a Pharisee; see the notes at Acts 26:5. The Pharisees were distinguished among the Jewish sects for their rigid adherence to the letter of the law, and had endeavored to guard it from the possibility of violation by throwing around it a vast body of traditions, which they considered to be equally binding with the written law; see the notes at Matthew 3:7. The Sadducees were much less strict; and Paul here says that whatever advantage could be derived from the most rigid adherence to the letter of the law, was his.

5. In three particulars he shows how he "might have confidence in the flesh" (Php 3:4): (1) His pure Jewish blood. (2) His legal preciseness and high status as such. (3) His zeal for the law. The Greek is literally, "Being in circumcision an eighth day person," that is, not one circumcised in later life as a proselyte, but on the eighth day after birth, as the law directed in the case of Jew-born infants.

of the tribe of Benjamin—son of Rachel, not of the maid-servant [Bengel].

Hebrew of the Hebrews—neither one or other parent being Gentile. The "Hebrew," wherever he dwelt, retained the language of his fathers. Thus Paul, though settled in Tarsus, a Greek city, calls himself a Hebrew. A "Grecian" or Hellenist, on the other hand, in the New Testament, is the term used for a "Greek-speaking" Jew [Trench].

touching the law—that is, as to legal status and strictness.

a Pharisee—"of the straitest sect" (Ac 26:5).

Circumcised the eighth day; or, there was, or I had, the eighth day circumcision; so it may by a usual supply of the verb be read, (as also what follows), without a metonymy. He begins with his birth privilege, intimating that he was not proselyted, but born within the pale of the church, and dedicated to God under the seal of the covenant at the day of God’s appointment, Genesis 17:12.

Of the stock of Israel; not sprung from ethnic parents, not an Ishmaelite, or Edomite, but a genuine Israelite, Romans 11:1 2 Corinthians 11:22.

Of the tribe of Benjamin; of that more honest division where the temple stood, Joshua 18:28, of the tribe of Benjamin, the son of beloved Rachel, and his father’s darling, Genesis 44:20; under God’s special protection, Deu 33:12, forward in the reformation, Ezra 1:5.

An Hebrew of the Hebrews; a true descendant by Jacob from Abraham the father of the faithful, called an Hebrew, (Eber joined not in building Babel), Genesis 10:21,25 14:13 1 Samuel 4:6; signifying that he was of the truly ancient lineage which retained the Hebrew tongue, John 8:33,39 Ac 22:2 Romans 4:12 2 Corinthians 11:22.

As touching the law, a Pharisee; by religion and stricter observation of the law, according to the prescript most in vogue, of that sect which for learning, knowledge of the Scripture, and reputation for holiness, was the most eminent, Acts 26:5; yea, and his father was of this order before him, Acts 23:6. Circumcised the eighth day,.... Circumcision was an appointment of God to Abraham, and his male issue; to him and them God gave the covenant of circumcision: this to Abraham personally was a sign and seal, that the righteousness of faith, which he had while he was an uncircumcised person, should come upon the uncircumcised Gentiles in the times or the Messiah, when the Gospel should come among them; and it was a distinguishing character of the Jews from the Gentiles, until the coming of Christ; it was typical of the effusion of his blood to cleanse from all the impurity of original and actual sin, and represented the circumcision of the heart. The Jews valued themselves much upon it, and treated the Gentiles with contempt for the want of it; and would neither converse with them in a civil or religious way, because they were uncircumcised: but the apostle was no Gentile, or an uncircumcised person; he had this mark in his flesh to glory in as well as others, if it had been lawful to trust in it; he was the subject of this ordinance while it was a standing one, and before it was abolished by Christ; and it was performed on him at the precise time fixed in the original institution of it, which was not always observed; for not to take notice of Jewish proselytes; who were circumcised at any age, when they became such, whether in youth, manhood, or old age; and which by the way shows, that the apostle was no proselyte, but a natural Jew; Gershom, the son of Moses, was not circumcised till some years after his birth; and all the while the children of Israel were in the wilderness this ordinance was neglected, till Joshua had led them into Canaan's land, and then he circumcised all that generation that was born in the wilderness, some of whom must be near forty years of age; and in after times it was usual with the Jews, for one reason or another, to put off circumcision to a longer time. Take the following story as an illustration of this (q):

"it is a tradition of R. Nathan; once, says he, I went to the cities of the sea, and a woman came to me who had circumcised her first son, and he died; the second, and he died; the third she brought to me; I saw him that he was red, I said unto her, my daughter, "wait a while" for him till his blood is swallowed up in him; she waited for him a while, and circumcised him, and he lived; and they called him Nathan the Babylonian, after my name. And again another time I went to the province of Cappadocia (the Jerusalem Talmud (r) has it Caesarea of Cappadocia), a certain woman came to me, who had circumcised her first son, and he died; the second, and he died; the third, (the above Talmud adds, and he died, the fourth,) she brought to me, I saw that he was green, I inspected him, and the blood of the covenant was not in him, I said unto her, my daughter, "tarry a while" for him; (the Jerusalem Talmud has it, , "let him alone to another time";) till his blood fall in him, she waited for him, and circumcised him, and he lived; and they called him Nathan the Babylonian, after my name.

The Jewish canon, with regard to the time of circumcision, runs thus (s):

"an infant may be circumcised at eight days, or at nine, or at ten, or at eleven, or at twelve, neither less nor more (not less than eight, nor more than twelve), how? according to its course at eight. If it is born between the two evenings, it is circumcised on the ninth day; if between the two evenings of the sabbath eve, it is circumcised on the tenth day; if on a feast day after the sabbath, it is circumcised on the eleventh; if on the two days of the beginning of the year, it is circumcised on the twelfth. An infant that is sick, they do not circumcise him until he is recovered.

And in the last case, they reckon seven days from the time of the recovery of the child, as Maimonides (t) observes; with whom may be read other cases, in which circumcision was not always performed on the eighth day, but sometimes was deferred, and sometimes it was done the same day the child was born. But circumcision on the eighth day was reckoned most valid and authentic, and according to rule; and therefore it is not without reason, that the apostle mentions the time of his circumcision, and puts an emphasis upon it,

Of the stock of Israel; this is said to distinguish him from an Ishmaelite, or an Edomite, who were circumcised, and from the son of a proselyte, who might be circumcised on the eighth day; but he was a natural Israelite, to whom the various privileges belonged, mentioned in Romans 9:4; and therefore had as much reason to trust in the flesh as any Israelite whatever,

Of the tribe of Benjamin; who was a genuine and legitimate son of Jacob, whom he had by his lawful and beloved wife Rachel. Of which tribe was the first king of Israel, whose name was Saul, 1 Samuel 9:1, and which was the apostle's first and Jewish name, and which perhaps was common in that tribe on that account. In this tribe stood the city of Jerusalem, and the temple of the Lord; this tribe retained the true worship of God with Judah, when the ten tribes revolted and worshipped the calves at Dan and Bethel, and returned with Judah from captivity, when the others did not. And the apostle was not only able to make himself appear to be of the stock Israel, but could name the tribe to which he belonged, which many of the Jews, that were of one, or rather of the ten tribes, were not able to do, and may be his chief reason for mentioning this circumstance,

An Hebrew of the Hebrews; not so called only because he could trace his pedigree from Abraham the Hebrew, or understood, and could speak the Hebrew language, which the Hellenistic Jews could not, or was an illustrious one among them, but because both his parents were Hebrews; he was an Hebrew by the father and mother's side both; he was a genuine Hebrew. The Arabians have the same way of speaking; and with them a genuine Arab is called an Arab of the Arabs (u) as here. Some there were whose mothers were Hebrews, and their fathers Gentiles; such an one was Timothy, Acts 16:1; and there were others whose fathers were Hebrews, and their mothers Gentiles; and these are thought by some to be the same the Talmudists (w) call, "profane": they not being reckoned so holy as such whose fathers and mothers were both Hebrews; of which the latter gloried over the other,

As touching the law, a Pharisee: with respect to the interpretation and observance of the law, which was according to the traditions of the elders, and not the literal and genuine sense of it, he followed; and was of the sect of the Pharisees, which was strictest sect among the Jews, and in the greatest esteem among the people: and though they had put many false glosses on the Scripture, and held many erroneous principles, and were very tenacious of human traditions, yet they were preferable to the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection of the dead, and other things; and were more zealous in their devotion and religion, and more strict in their morals, and external holiness of life and conversation. They separated and distinguished themselves hereby from other people, and hence they had their name; See Gill on Matthew 3:7. Now the apostle was not only a Pharisee, but the son of one; he was always brought up in that strict sect and severe way, Acts 23:6.

(q) T. Bab. Cholin, fol. 47. 2.((r) T. Hieros. Yebamot, fol. 7. 4. (s) Misn. Sabbat, c. 19. sect. 5. Vid. Maimon. & Bartenora in ib. & Misn. Eracin, c. 2. sect. 2. & Bartenora in ib. (t) Hilch. Mila, c. 1. 16. (u) Pocock. Specim. A. ab. Hist. p. 3, 9. (w) T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 69. 1.

Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Php 3:5-6. Predicates of the ἐγώ, by which that ἐγὼ μᾶλλον is justified.

If those Judaizers were, as may be inferred from our passage, partly proselytes (to these the περιτ. ὀκταήμ. stands in contrast), partly persons whose Jewish descent was not so noble and pure as that implied in ἐκ γένους.… Ἑβραίων, and if they could not boast of any such law-strictness, zealous activity, and righteousness, as is described in κατὰ νόμονἄμεμπτος; and if, on the other hand, there were found conjoined in the case of Paul the elements here adduced of ancient theocratic legitimacy and perfection; the ἐγὼ μᾶλλον in Php 3:4 was completely made good.

περιτομῇ ὀκταήμ.] in respect to circumcision an eighth-day-one, not older, as were the proselytes who were only circumcised at a later period of life. The eighth-day character in the’ relation specified by περιτομῇ is conceived as a quality of the persons concerned, which distinguishes them from those circumcised later.[156] The reading περιτομή as nominative (some min. and Fathers, Erasmus, Vatablus, Cornelius a Lapide, Mill, Bengel, Matthies, Heinrichs, and others, also Elz. 1624, 1633, not 1641), so that it would stand in the concrete sense (circumcisus), is erroneous, because this usage occurs only collectively.

ἐκ γένους Ἰσρ.] that is, a descendant of Jacob, not, therefore, possibly of Idumaean blood. The theocratic name Ἰσρ. corresponds entirely with the design of the passage. Comp. on Ephesians 2:12. On what follows, comp. 2 Corinthians 11:22; Romans 11:1.

ΦΥΛῆς ΒΕΝΙΑΜ.] therefore not, possibly, an Ephraimite (Ezra 4:1); a climactic more precise definition of the εὐγένεια; εὐγενὴς γὰρ ἡ φύσις κἀξ εὐγενῶν Soph. Phil. 862 (874). For its fuller exhibition Paul finally specifies the last feature of his lineage: Ἑβραῖος ἐξ Ἑβρ., that is, a Hebrew born of Hebrew parents, so that his mother also was a Hebrew woman. His lineage is not carried further back in respect to both parents, because it was not the custom to trace back the genealogy of the wives. Inappropriate to the context is the rendering of Michaelis, following Chrysostom, Oecumenius, and Theophylact: “one speaking Hebrew, born of Hebrew-speaking parents.” It is also erroneous, following the Greek Fathers, to take ἐξ Ἑβρ. of the tota majorum series (Beza, Grotius, Storr, Matthies, Baumgarten-Crusius, and others), because this was after the two previously specified points self-evident. If, among his ancestors, Paul had had one who was a non-Hebrew, he would not have been descended from Jacob and Benjamin, but from the non-Hebrew and his forefathers. For instances of expressions quite similar to Ἑβρ. ἐξ Ἑβρ., used to denote the identity, as conditioned by birth, of a man’s position with that of his parents, see Wetstein and Kypke; they occur very frequently in classic authors.

ΚΑΤᾺ ΝΌΜΟΝ Κ.Τ.Λ.] After his Jewish ΕὐΓΈΝΕΙΑ there now follows his distinguished personal position in Judaism, set forth in a threefold climactic gradation: (1) In respect of the law (of Moses) a Pharisee. Comp. Acts 26:5; Acts 22:6. The Pharisees stood in the closest and strictest relation to the law, as they with their traditions were regarded as the most orthodox expositors, defenders, and observers of it. The interpretation of νόμον, not in its habitual historic sense, but generally as regular rule (Beza) or disciplina (αἵρεσις) (Castalio, Wolf, Grotius, Storr, Heinrichs, Rheinwald, Hoelemann, and others), is all the more erroneous, since the validity of the Mosaic law in Christianity was the very principle upheld by those Judaizers; see also below, δικαιοσ. τ. ἐν νόμῳ. (2) In respect of zeal (zealous maintenance and championship of the law-religion, 1Ma 2:58; Acts 21:20; Galatians 1:14), a persecutor of the church. Comp. Galatians 1:13 f. The present participle is used as a substantive, comp. on Galatians 1:23. What Paul, to his deep grief, had been (1 Corinthians 15:8 f.; 1 Timothy 1:13), he, with a bitter recalling of his former distinction in Judaism, throws, by way of confronting the Jewish zealots, into the scale, as a characteristic predicate not yet extinct. And precisely thus, unaccompanied by any ποτέ as in Galatians 1:23, it carries from the standpoint to which he has now attained very strong weight (in opposition to Hofmann, who holds the present sense to be impossible here). (3) In respect to righteousness, which is grounded on the law, having become blameless (Php 2:15), having carried it so far (not: having borne myself so, as Hofmann renders it; comp. on Php 2:15), that human judgment finds nothing in me to blame in this respect! That which is here denoted by δικ. ἡ ἐν νόμῳ is not substantially different from ΔΙΚ. Ἡ ἘΚ ΝΌΜΟΥ in Php 3:9; comp. Romans 10:5. It has its basis in the law, so far as it consists in the accordance of its nature with the character and the rules of that institute (Galatians 3:11; Galatians 5:4), and proceeds from the law, so far as it is produced by the precepts of the latter which man follows. In opposition to the correlation with Php 3:9 de Wette interprets: “the righteousness valid in the state of law (comp. Romans 2:12).” Calvin appropriately observes that Paul means “totam justitiam legis,” but “communi hominum existimatione;” that it is not, therefore, the real moral fulfilment of the law, but its justitia externa literalis. Comp. J. Müller, v. d. Sünde, I. p. 59, ed. 5.

[156] For instances of the personal use of such nomina dialia, see especially Wetstein on John 11:39; comp. generally Kühner, II. 1, p. 234 f.Php 3:5. The Apostle seems to feel a certain natural pride in recounting his hereditary privileges.—περιτομῇ ὀκταήμ. The dative of περιτ. must be read, expressing the sphere to which ὀκταήμ. belongs. Literally: “Eight-days-old as regards my circumcision”. A.V. satisfies the requirements. He was born in Judaism, and lost none of its advantages from the outset. Proselytes were circumcised as adults. For the usage in this sense see the elaborate list of parallels in Wetstein on John 11:39.—ἐκ γένους Ἰ. ἐκ often denotes the class or country of a man, e.g., John 3:1. Paul shared in the glories of the covenant-people. Israel was the theocratic name.—φυλῆς Β. B. This tribe stood high in Jewish estimation, not only as descending from Rachel, Jacob’s best-loved wife, but as remaining loyal to the house of David, and, after the exile, forming with Judah the foundation of the future nation.—Ἑβρ. ἐξ Ἑβρ. For the phrase cf. Herodt., 2, 143, Πίρωμιν ἐκ Πιρώμιος; Plat., Phaedr., 246 [32]A, ἀγαθοὶ καὶ ἐξ ἀγαθῶν. The force of these words has been variously estimated. Lft[33]. and others draw a contrast between Ἑβραῖος and Ἑλληνιστής, the former being a Jew who retained the Hebrew language and customs (see Acts 6:1). But Euseb., H.E., 2, 4, 2, applies the designation to Philo, and in Praep. Evang., xiii., 11, 2, to Aristobulus, both of them Greek-speaking Jews with little if any knowledge of Hebrew. Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:22. The Greek Comm[34]., Th. Mps[35]. and Thdrt[36]., believe that, in using the ancient name, Paul wishes to emphasise the purity of his lineage. Probably they are right.—κατὰ νόμον. Are we to distinguish between νόμος and ὁ νόμος in Paul? Attempts have been made (notably that of Gifford, Romans in Speaker’s Comm[37]., pp. 41–48) to show that when Paul omits the article he is thinking mainly of the principle of law as a method of justification in opposition to faith, etc. In our judgment it has been made abundantly clear by Grafe (Die paulinische Lehre vom Gesetz, pp. 1–11) that, for the Apostle, νόμος with or without the article means the O.T. revelation of the will of God. He makes no distinction between a general conception of Divine law and the special one of the Mosaic law. The Mosaic law is for him the Divine law pure and simple, and therefore has a universal bearing. There are, of course, modifications of this central idea, but they can all be satisfactorily accounted for. Often the insertion or omission of the article with νόμος is entirely a question of formal grammar. Here νόμος is plainly the law of Moses.—φαρισαῖος. Cf. Acts 23:6. For an interesting discussion of the influence of the school of Hillel upon Paul see Wabnitz, Revue Théol., xiii., p. 287 ff. The survivals of Rabbinic doctrines and methods in Paul’s thought, however, must neither be exaggerated, nor, because they are Rabbinic, be contemptuously dismissed. “If God was not moving in the Rabbinic thought of Christ’s day, what reason have we to say He … moves in the thought of to-day?” (P. T. Forsyth). Almost certainly Paul’s family must have been in thorough sympathy with strict Judaism. No doubt he would be disowned by them, and this, as Ramsay notes (St. Paul, p. 36), would give special force to his words in Php 3:8 infr.

[32]
Codex Alexandrinus (sæc. v.), at the British Museum, published in photographic facsimile by Sir E. M. Thompson (1879).

[33] Lightfoot.

[34] Commentators.

[35] . Mps. Theodore of Mopsuestia.

[36] drt. Theodoret.

[37] Commentators.5. Circumcised &c.] Quite lit., “as to circumcision, eight days old.” See Genesis 17:12; Luke 2:21. He was neither a proselyte, circumcised as an adult, nor an Ishmaelite, circumcised (as Josephus tells us, Antiquities, xii. i. § 2; see Genesis 17:25) at thirteen, but a member of the covenant from infancy.

Israel] The name may refer here either to the original and individual Israel, Jacob (Genesis 32:28 &c.), or to the collective Israel, the chosen nation. The former is more likely, in view of the next clause, and would besides be the more vivid and emphatic reference; “one of the race descended from God’s Prince.”

The words Israel, Israelite, indicate specially the sacred privileges and dignity of the Covenant People as such; see Trench, N.T. Synonyms, § xxxix., and Lightfoot, on Galatians 6:16. Cp. Romans 9:4; Romans 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:22; Ephesians 2:12; and see John 1:47; John 1:49.

Benjamin] So he had previously said, Romans 11:1. See Acts 13:21 for another mention by St Paul of his tribe, though in another connexion. He names his tribe, not only to emphasize his nationality, but no doubt because the Benjamites, descendants of the last and much loved son of Jacob, had given the nation its first lawful king (whose name the Apostle bore), and had with Judah remained “faithful among the faithless” at the great Disruption (1 Kings 12:21). Ehud early in O.T. history (Judges 3), and Mordecai late (Esther 2:5), were Benjamites. It is interesting to trace in St Paul’s character some of the characteristics of this small but remarkable tribe; stern courage and persistent fidelity. But certainly it was something better than Benjamite “obstinacy and persistency” (Smith’s Bible Dict., s.v. Benjamin) which made him resist the entreaties of the disciples and avow himself ready to die for the Lord (Acts 21:12-13).—See further, Conybeare and Howson, Life &c. of St Paul, ch. 2.

a Hebrew of the Hebrews] With R.V., omit “the.” Cp. again 2 Corinthians 11:22. The words mean that he was a Hebrew and of Hebrew lineage.—What is a “Hebrew” in N.T. phraseology? In O.T. the word is the distinctive national term, as against other national terms, as Egyptian, Philistine &c.; and is thus the term by which a heathen would designate an Israelite. By the N.T. era its bearing had changed, and in the N.T. (not in later Christian writers, or in Jewish and pagan writers,) it designates the Jew who retained, more or less fully, his national language and manners, as against the “Hellenist” who habitually spoke Greek and largely conformed to Gentile customs. See Acts 6:1. The “Hebrew” would thus naturally regard himself as one of the élite of his race, from the historical and traditional point of view. See further, Trench, as quoted just above on “Israel,” and Conybeare and Howson, ch. 2.

the law] Lit., “law”; but here, as often, the article is omitted because not needed before a word defined by use or context. Obviously the Mosaic ordinances are mainly intended.

a Pharisee] So he declares himself Acts 23:6; Acts 26:5. And see Acts 22:3; Galatians 1:14. “The Pharisees … were the enthusiasts of the later Judaism” (Conybeare and Howson, as above); the zealous and rigid votaries of religious legal precision, elaborate devotion, vigorous proselytism, and exclusive privilege. St Paul was “the son of Pharisees” (Acts 23:6; though Lightfoot suggests that this means “disciple of Pharisees”; improbably, as it seems to us), and the student-follower of the Pharisee (Acts 5:34) Gamaliel, probably “Rabban” Gamaliel, grandson of Hillel. Cp. Acts 22:3.Php 3:5. Περιτομὴ ὀκταήμερος,[36] circumcision on the eighth day) These heads [of carnal glorying], counted very briefly as it were on the fingers, render the discourse very plain. Moreover, for the sake of brevity, he puts together the abstract and concrete—circumcision, a Hebrew: as in Colossians 3:11.—ὀκταήμερος, on the eighth day) not putting it off until full age.—Βενιαμὶν, Benjamin) son of Rachel, not of the maid-servant.—ἐξ Ἑβραίων, of the Hebrews) not a proselyte, and neither the one parent nor the other being of the Gentiles.—Φαρισαῖος, a Pharisee) of the most rigid description [“of the straitest sect,” Acts 26:5].

[36] The oldest authorities have περιτομῇ, i.e. Being an eighth day person in respect to my circumcision. So fg Lucif. “circumcisione:” Vulg. “circumcisus octavo die.”—ED.Verse 5. - Circumcised the eighth day; literally, at circumcision eight days old. The apostle was not a proselyte, circumcised at his reception into the Jewish Church; nor an Ishmaelite, circumcised, like Ishmael, at the age of thirteen. Of the stock of Israel Neither were his parents proselytes; he was by descent an Israelite. He uses here the highest title of God's ancient people, the title which implied the inheritance of the covenant made with Jacob. Other nations were descended from Abraham and Isaac; the Israelites alone could claim Jacob for their ancestor; they only could glory in the covenant name given to him when he wrestled all night long with the angel, and proved himself a prince with God (comp. Trench, 'Synonyms of the New Testament,' sect. 39.). Of the tribe of Benjamin. His family had preserved their genealogy; he came from the tribe which gave the first king to Israel; which never swerved in its allegiance to the house of David; which, after the Captivity, united with Judah and the Levites to go up and build the house of the Lord (Ezra 1:5); the tribe of Esther and Mordecai; the tribe within whose boundary stood the holy city. A Hebrew of the Hebrews; rather, of Hebrews; omit the article. His father and mother were not only Israelites, but also they retained, though living at Tarsus, the Hebrew language and customs. St. Paul was not a Hellenist; he was brought up at Jerusalem under the great Rabban Gamaliel; he spoke Hebrew (Acts 21:40), and uses the Hebrew Scriptures as well as the Septuagint translation. All the descendants of Jacob were Israelites; those were called Hebrews distinctively who adhered to the use of the sacred language (Acts 6:1). As touching the Law, a Pharisee. He was by birth an Israelite, by education a Hebrew; he became by choice a Pharisee (Acts 23:6); he embraced the straitest sect "as regards Law," the sect which took the strictest view of the Law of Moses. Circumcised the eighth day (περιτομῇ ὀκταήμερος)

Lit., eight days old in circumcision; or passing the eighth day. For the idiom, see on John 11:39, and compare Acts 28:13. Converts to Judaism were circumcised in maturity: Ishmaelites in their thirteenth year. He was thus shown to be neither a heathen nor an Ishmaelite.

Of the stock of Israel

Not a proselyte, but of the original stock (γένους); not grafted into the covenant race. A descendant of Jacob, not an Idumaean nor an Ishmaelite. For Israel, see on Acts 3:12, and compare Romans 9:4; Romans 11:1; John 1:47. Descended not from Jacob, the supplanter, but from Israel, the prince of God. See Genesis 32:28.

Of the tribe of Benjamin

Not from one of the lost tribes, but from that which gave to Israel its first king; which alone was faithful to Judah at the separation under Rehoboam, and which had always held the post of honor in the army. See Judges 5:14; Hosea 5:8. Benjamin only of the twelve patriarchs was born in the land of promise. Mordecai, the deliverer of the Jews from Haman was a Benjamite. Paul's own original name, Saul, was probably derived from Saul the son of Kish, the Benjamite.

A Hebrew of the Hebrews (Ἑβραῖος ἐξ Ἑβραίων)

The (Hebrews) of the A.V. gives a wrong coloring to the phrase, as if Paul were claiming to be preeminently a Hebrew among other Hebrews. He means a Hebrew from (ἐξ) Hebrew parents. Rev., a Hebrew of Hebrews, which is no special improvement. The expression implies characteristics of language and manners. He might be an Israelite and yet a child of Greek-speaking Jews: but his parents had retained their native tongue and customs, and he himself, while understanding and speaking Greek, also spoke in Hebrew on occasion. See Acts 21:40; Acts 22:2.

The law

The Mosaic law. See on Romans 2:12. The validity of that law was the principle upheld by the Judaizers.

A Pharisee

See Acts 23:6; Galatians 1:14. Compare on the whole verse, 2 Corinthians 11:22.

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