Mastering The Basics: Philippians, by Lyman Coleman and Richard Peace
The second  book of this series that I had the chance to read, this particular book deals with one of the more irenic of Paul’s epistles , to a longtime congregation that had supported him and encouraged him for a great many years. This is the sort of commentary and study guide that I am going to like a lot more than others, not least for the fact that the authors comment that the real point of Philippians is an urging of internal unity in the face of threats from false teachers, unity that is hurt because of the quarrels between two women who are leaders of the church. Since few of the readers of this book that I know will consider that likely, it is probable that this book would be less appreciated by those whose view of the leadership roles of women in the early church is less egalitarian than my own views. I considered the idea to be a possibility, and certainly something worth considering and musing over, though by no means a proven certainty. Many readers are likely to be less charitable and as a result their enjoyment of this book will be lessened materially.
Like the previous volume of this series, this book has the same body of introductory material and the same structure of text, study, group agenda, notes, and comments in each of its lessons. Like the preceding volume, the book is divided into a seven week plan (although there is also a thirteen-week option for those particularly slow groups or individuals). However, there are some differences as well. For example, the authors make as their focus the need for unity. This concern pops up remarkably often in the Pauline epistles, and given the fractious nature of the Church of God, it is more of a surprise that we do not dwell more on what Paul has to say about unity and what lessons we can learn and apply in an effort to avoid further division or recover unity that has been lost because of our struggles with Christian ethics. The structure the authors find in the book of Philippians is quite intriguing, with the vast majority of the material devoted to the need for unity and examples about unity in three relationships. Likewise, the authors find in this book a personal letter full of an informal approach and the frequent change of subject and tone, making this book “the antithesis of Romans (11).” All in all, this is a worthwhile book.
Again, although this book is a worthwhile one, it is not without faults. The authors appear to desire to use this book as a way of attacking those who would hold to a pronomian view, and the perspective of the authors is certainly more than a little bit skewed when it comes to God’s laws. Likewise, the fact that the authors use the Alexandrian text base makes this book somewhat incomplete compared to the superior majority text versions. Apart from these flaws, this book is likely to be a polarizing one. Your feelings about this volume will depend largely on the extent to which you are willing to entertain the possibility of the authors’ speculations on the importance of women in the Church of God in Philippi. Those who find the role of women in the early church neglected will likely enjoy this book more than it deserves, and those who find the author’s willingness to consider the division of two women as the real, if somewhat indirectly dealt with, cause for the letter to be offensive will not like this book much at all. Consider yourself duly warned.
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