Re: Phil 1:27 and POLITEU/ESQE

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Feb 19 1997 - 13:41:40 EST

At 10:52 AM -0600 2/19/97, John Baima wrote:
>I was discussing this passage the other day, and "POLITEU/ESQE" was
>understood as 'discharge your obligations as citizens' (so BAGD). I.e.,
>live properly with those outside the church. However, the possibility that
>it is referring to internal church "politics" occurred to me. The idea here
>would be that if the relationship among the people *inside* the church is
>proper, then you will be one, etc., and that because you are together you
>need not be frightened, etc. Any thoughts? "Politics" is an inevitable and
>necessary part of any organization, no?

This is an interesting question. On checking LSJ, I see that the new
supplement by Glare gives "live doing one's civic duty" as a meaning
precisely suited to Phil 1:27 and Acts 23:1. It might be worth doing a
search of this word in various contexts from the 5th century down through
the Hellenistic literature. My own gut sense about the word is that it's
almost like Latin VERSARI, "engage oneself," "be involved in things."
Thucydides has a wonderful passage in the Periclean Funeral Speech (2.40.2)
expressing the fundamental importance of participation in community life
ACREION NOMIZOMEN ... "For we alone deem the man who takes no part in
[civic affairs] not as self-controlled (APRAGMWN = SWFRWN, almost) but as
useless." Rex Warner turns that nicely as "We do not say that a man who
take no part in civic affairs is minding his own business but that he has
no business here." Despite Pericles' boast, this is not at all uniquely
Athenian; Toynbee used to say that the life of a Greek was fundamentally a
"life lived in the piazza." This being the case, POLITEUOMAI, it seems to
me, takes on a sense of "participate in life" in the broadest sense. I
wonder whether the sense in Phil 1:27 doesn't come close to our "be a good
citizen," be a good camper." At any rate, I'm NOT so sure that Phil 1:27 is
a reference to life outside the community of faith, but I don't think it
need mean participate in church government either. I think it MAY mean
simply, "be involved in the life of the community (of faith)." Elsewhere
Paul is repeatedly urging people to OIKODOMEISQAI, community-building.
Maybe this is the same idea.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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