“Paul and Timothy”
Thus begins this ancient letter, the New Testament epistle to the Philippian saints. Its author, the apostle Paul, wrote at least twelve other New Testament epistles. Although the salutation is from Paul and Timothy (Timotheus is the Greek form of the name, transliterated accordingly in the KJV), the pronouns and subject matter throughout the epistle show that the thoughts being communicated, humanly speaking, are Paul’s.
Paul and Timothy first visited Philippi about ten years prior to this epistle if Paul wrote to them from a Roman imprisonment around AD 62, the same time period as the composition of Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon (the other “prison epistles”). The view that Paul wrote from Rome is the traditional one, and the only view that is older than competing theories that have surfaced in the last few hundred years.
After a life-changing encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 9), Saul of Tarsus (later called Paul) was changed from a chief enemy of the church into a follower and apostle (officially commissioned and sent messenger) of Jesus. He went on to spread the good news of Christ to many others, planting numerous churches, including the church at Philippi.
Acts 16 records the first meeting of Paul with the Philippians. He arrived at Philippi on his second missionary journey. This encounter brought the gospel to European soil for the first time. Silas, Luke, and Timothy accompanied Paul during this part of his journey. Acts 16 contains the Bible’s first mention of Philippi (16:12), and it also contains the first mention of Timothy (16:1), the son of a believing Jewish mother and a Greek father.
The Philippians would have remembered Timothy, and Paul communicates not only his intention go to the Philippians in person, but also his desire to send Timothy to them as soon as possible (Philippans 2:19-24). Timothy, who was highly regarded by those who knew him in Lystra and Iconium (Acts 16:2) and by Paul himself (Philippians 2:20-22), was evidently present at the writing of this epistle (Philippians 2:19, 23).
The majority of Paul’s thirteen epistles designate others as sending the letter along with him. Only five epistles designate Paul as the sole sender, and three of those are addressed to individual recipients (Romans, Ephesians, 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus). Including the epistle to the Philippians, Timothy is listed as a co-sender of five of Paul’s letters (the others are 2 Corinthians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon). Paul demonstrated his approval of and partnership with Timothy by designating him in the salutation.
In the next article of this series, we will consider the significance of the identification of Paul and Timothy as servants, or slaves, of Jesus Christ.