How to Make Adverbial Conditional Conjunctions Interesting

There are many methods and resources for teaching through books of the Bible, but when I was teaching through Philippians this year, I discovered one that was immensely helpful. Dr. Steve Runge’s High Definition Commentary: Philippians is based on an in-depth discourse analysis of the text, and it is presented in a way that is both approachable and thorough.

I found Dr. Runge’s commentary to be a particular help when preparing my study on Philippians 2. He looks at the adverbial conditional conjunction Εἴ  (if) in the first verse, and with it draws the reader to an understanding of Paul’s main point—the outworking of πληρώσατέ μου τὴν χαρὰν (complete my joy).

Perhaps an excerpt will illustrate the usefulness of this resource:

HDCP screenshotI was teaching through Philippians when a woman asked, “Which if is this in 2:1—the one that means ‘if’ or the one that means ‘since’?” In other words, if all of these if statements are true, why not use “since” instead? After thinking about it for a moment, it became clear that Paul knew exactly what he was doing. He was drawing attention to his big idea.

Since Paul was using a Greek convention, I wondered how we would accomplish the same thing in English. What if Paul had reframed the conditions as yes/no questions? Would that have the same effect? Take a look:

Is there any encouragement in Christ? (Well, yes, I suppose there is.)
Is there any consolation of love? (Well, yes, I guess so.)
Is there any fellowship of the Spirit? (OK, that too.)
Is there any affection and compassion? (Yes, I suppose so.)

Big Idea: If all of these things are true, then complete my joy by agreeing!

Paul’s goal was not to make us question these things, but to remind us that they are present.

This passage reminds me of how my dad used to ask me questions about “what I knew to be true” as a means of correcting me. He would work me into a corner using obvious questions that challenged me to reconcile my (negative) behavior with what I claimed to be true:

Do you love your sister? (Well, yes.)
Do you want her to be kind to you? (Yes, I suppose I do.)

Big Idea: If so, then …

Framing true statements in the form of conditions has the same effect. By framing 2:1 in this way, Paul leaves the reader with no choice but to accept what follows.

The command in 2:2 to complete my joy functions as a meta-comment—it’s a comment on what he is about to say. Statements like “I don’t want you to miss this!” do the same thing, where “this” refers to an important idea coming up. The meta-comment is another way that Paul highlights the big idea of the passage: that we should be in agreement.

If indeed encouragement, consolation, and fellowship can be found in Christ, then why can’t Christians get along with each other? It’s because we have forgotten the things that make Christian unity possible. The statements in 2:2b–4 spell out what it (practically) looks like to agree. The elaborations give us real-life insight into what it takes to get along—with unity of love, spirit, and purpose being the key.

The High Definition Commentary: Philippians has been prepared with all the rigor of  the New International Greek Commentaries, yet it remains immanently readable. The transition time from preparation to presentation is much shortened since I don’t have to translate the grammatical and original language jargon to teaching English. If you’re studying or teaching through Philippians, you will find this resource to be a tremendous aid. Additionally, don’t miss the Romans commentary that is currently available for pre-order.

Add the High Definition Commentary: Philippians to your Logos library today!

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Jonathan Watson
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Written by Jonathan Watson