Skip to content

“We are the circumcision” (Philippians 3:3) is a reference to Jewish preachers (i.e. Paul and Timothy), not to all Christians

In my book, I argue for a vocational reading of Philippians 3:3:
Paul and the Vocation of Israel: How Paul's Jewish Identity Informs his Apostolic Ministry, with Special Reference to Romans

The third-person [sic: should be first-person] plural pronoun “we” is often assumed to be a reference to Paul along with all of his Philippian addressees. If this were the case, Phil 3:3 would be an example of Paul using the term περιτομή in order to ascribe Jewish identity directly to Christ-believing Gentiles. Yet, despite the popularity of this interpretation, it is not the best way to understand the third-person plural pronoun here. It should, rather, be understood as a reference to Paul and Timothy, as Jewish teachers of Gentiles. Paul is using the term περιτομή in order to claim a status for himself and Timothy as true (Jewish) teachers of Gentiles (cf. Col 4:11), in direct opposition to rival Jewish teachers, whom he has just labelled κατατομή (Phil 3:2). (p. 53)

I demonstrate that this vocational interpretation:

  1. fits with the particular terms Paul chooses to describe the activities of the “circumcision” in Phil 3:3
  2. fits into the general pattern of Paul’s self-references in the letter as a whole
  3. helps us to make sense of Paul’s subsequent discussion.

The details of the argument and further references may be found in chapter 3 of the book. The chapter is available from the publisher in electronic format:

Windsor, Lionel J. Paul and the Vocation of Israel: How Paul’s Jewish Identity Informs his Apostolic Ministry, with Special Reference to Romans. BZNW 205. Berlin / Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2014.

Published inPaulPhilippians

Explore lionelwindsor.net

Publications

  • The Named Jew and the Name of God: A new reading of Romans 2:17–29

There are over 600 posts on lionelwindsor.net on biblical, theological and ministry topics. Explore them all here:

Latest posts:

See the latest posts on this site

Map of the whole site:

Road map
See a map of everything on this site

Most used tags on the site:

1 Corinthians 1 Timothy Acovenantalism Series Atonement Bible talks Biblical theology Christian living Church Church History Covenant covid-19 Creation Death Environment Ephesians Epistemology Eschatology Ethics Evangelism Faith Galatians General GoThereFor Grace Greek Isaiah Jewish Identity Justification Law LiftYourEyes Ministry Mission Moore College Paul Paul and the Vocation of Israel Prayer Psalms Revelation Romans Sexuality Speech and Salvation Spirit Sustainable Sacrifice Wisdom wordworks-isaiah

All content copyright Lionel Windsor