In this post, Jefferson Vann shares his defense of particular translation choices in Philippians 1:27-30.
Philippians 1:27a Just one thing: live your lives worthy of the gospel of Christ.
The Christian Standard Bible adds the words “As citizens of heaven” with no textual reason for doing so. Paul would later tell the Philippians that he and they shared a mutual citizenship (πολίτευμα) in the sky, and that both he and they eagerly wait for Christ to return from there (3:20). The word in this verse is the verb form (πολιτεύω). Danker describes this word as meaning “function with a sense of obligation in the body politic.”¹ In both passages, Paul’s emphasis is not on a future promise of heaven when we die. Instead, both passages encourage believers to live under the obligations of their current citizenship in the sky kingdom.
Philippians 1:27b Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm with one breath, from one throat, contending together for the faith revealed by the gospel,
This verse uses both the word πνεῦμα (usually translated spirit) and the word ψυχή (usually translated soul). For many readers, the words mean the same thing: the immaterial aspect of a person’s being, presumably immortal. I have written numerous articles on both of these words.
This verse reveals that both words are used metaphorically. Both are describing the process by which the believers in Philippi are expected to stand firm. I translate ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι as “with one breath” because the basic meaning of πνεῦμα is “breath” and the basic meaning works perfectly well here. Paul is encouraging the Philippians to stand firm in unity.
The basic non-theologically charged meaning of ψυχή is “throat.” I translate the phrase μιᾷ ψυχῇ as “from one throat” because there is nothing more natural than to suggest that a single breath comes from a single throat. One need not envision an immaterial being residing inside a body here. That image detracts from what Paul wants. He wants the Philippians standing together and contending for the gospel faith in unity.
Philippians 1:28 not being frightened in any way by the opponents. This is proof of destruction, but of your rescue – and this is from God.
Paul is drawing attention to the two permanent destinies here. Those who reject God’s gospel are heading for destruction, and those who stand firm in defending it are heading for rescue. The word for destruction is ἀπώλεια, the substantive form of the verb ἀπόλλυμι. It is clear that Paul is using the word in the sense of the ultimate destruction because he later uses the same word describing the lost “whose end is destruction” (3:19). He also uses the term with reference to final destruction of the lost in Romans 9:22.
Jesus also used this word to talk about the final destiny of the lost. Following the broad road leads to ἀπώλεια (Matthew 7:13). Judas perished because he was a son of ἀπώλεια (John 17:12).
Peter used the word as a synonym for destruction in Gehenna hell at the end of the age as well (Acts 8:20; 2 Peter 2:1, 3; 3:7, 16).
The opposite of final destruction is final deliverance, and Paul uses the term σωτηρία for that. The word can refer to deliverance from any physical harm or oppression (Acts 7:25; 27:34; Philippians 1:19). But in the New Testament, it usually describes ultimate deliverance. It is clear from Paul’s paring the word with ἀπώλεια in this verse implies that the ultimate destiny of the saved will be rescue from destruction. To suggest that a person can be unsaved and yet not experience destruction is to disagree with Paul here.
Philippians 1:29 You see, it has been granted to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in him, but also to endure this for him,
The word πάσχω is usually translated “suffer” and often carries that negative meaning. It can mean to experience something, good or bad. In this context, Paul is talking about conflict with opponents because of one’s commitment to sharing the gospel.
Philippians 1:30 since you are having the same struggle that you saw in my case and now hear in my case.
Paul’s use of ἐν ἐμοὶ twice in this verse reflects a particular use of this preposition that highlights a particular person’s case. In both phrases in this verse, Paul is drawing attention to the opposition he has faced, and suggesting that what the Philippians are facing is not surprising, since they, too, seek to proclaim the same gospel.
¹ Danker, Greek NT Lexicon.