What is it about?

Paul and Epaphroditus confront varying degrees of ‘emotional’ pain in Philippians: Paul, in ch. 1, grapples with anxiety at the prospect of martyrdom; Epaphroditus, in 2:25–30, battles distress related to a ‘near-death weakness’. Greco-Roman moralists view unemotional behavior as a sign of progress in virtue; Paul and Epaphroditus ultimately vanquish rising emotion with techniques similar to those championed by the moralists. The Philippians, by contrast, still appear anxious about persecution in general (and death in particular). Their deficient moral progress jeopardizes their work for the Lord; thus, Paul returns Epaphroditus to them as a model to emulate in his absence.

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Why is it important?

Modern emotion theory is inadequate for understanding emotional experience in the New Testament; this paper offers a working definition apropos a first century CE Greco-Roman milieu.


Some classicists argue that mini-narratives or scripts are preferable to emotion lists and lexical categories for describing Greco-Roman emotion theory. This study takes seriously the narrative aspect of emotion theory among moralists ca. 1st cent. CE.

Dr. Richard James Hicks
Fuller Theological Seminary

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This page is a summary of: Moral Progress in Philippians: Epaphroditus’ “Near-Death Weakness” in Paul’s Rhetorical Strategy, Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, January 2016, De Gruyter,
DOI: 10.1515/znw-2016-0013.
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