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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Philippians: Historical Problems, Hierarchical Visions, Hysterical Anxieties
Marchal, Joseph A.

Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2014 pp. 102. $19.95

Series Information
Phoenix Guides to the New Testament, 11

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Description: Relatively brief and seemingly unassuming, Philippians is frequently underestimated by its readers and users. This Guide shows that what lies within this letter is much more complicated and dynamic than many expect. After surveying the major historical problems and the methods scholars use to arrive at competing solutions, Marchal focusses on the letterís famous hymn of Christóa rare glimpse into a tradition created by the community in Philippi, even earlier than Paulís letter. Given its impact and potential, the hymn deserves sustained attention, including its connections to slavery and other modes of social power. Turning to the letter as a whole, Marchal asks how this letter fits with types of argumentation in Greco-Roman culture, moving then into a detailed sketch of the rhetorical patterns in the letter, from unity and sameness to hierarchy and modeling. Feminist and empire-critical approaches are presented alongside more traditional assumptions and ideas throughout, signaling how choices in approach and starting points have historically affected the scholarly visions and communal uses for Philippians. In the final chapter the letter is put to a series of atypical, even strange uses, as the insights of queer theories are brought into surprising interaction with the arguments in the letter. Tarrying over unmentionable ideas and provocative moments that readers typically race past, this chapter takes the reader from the hierarchical heights of a cosmic Christ to the depths of excrement being emptied from the same body, from the arguments of waste to revealing asides about human waste and feminine lack. The performative power and possibilities of Paulís letters has never been stranger nor more subversive of the too often destructive and dehumanizing uses of biblical images, ideas and arguments.

Subjects: Bible, New Testament, Pauline Epistles, Phillipians, Literature, Methods, Ideological Critique, Gay/Lesbian Approaches, Theological Approaches, Biblical Theology, New Testament Theology, Other Methods

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Review by Katherine A. Shaner
Published 9/15/2016
Citation: Katherine A. Shaner, review of Joseph A. Marchal, Philippians: Historical Problems, Hierarchical Visions, Hysterical Anxieties, Review of Biblical Literature [] (2016).

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