Vol. 8, No. 1
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Luke wrote that the city of Philippi was a colony (kolonia, Acts 16:12). Critics doubted Luke's accuracy until archaeological inscriptions showed that in 42 B.C. Julius Caesar designated Philippi a Roman colony. Then about 31 B.C. Augustus Caesar made the city even more distinctive by designating it a military colony (B-G-D 442). Coins inscribed Colonia Julia Augusta Philippensium have been found (David Smith, The Life and Letters of St. Paul, 126). Thus, once more the spade of the archaeologist has falsified Bible critics.
The use by the two Caesars of the Latin word colonia, which Luke changed into the Greek word kolonia, "often denotes a colony of foreigners or relocated veterans" (B-G-D, 686). Colonial status meant (1) libertas, self-government; (2) immunitas, immunity from imperial taxes; and (3) jus Italicum, same rights as Italians citizens (Interpreter's Bible). People in Philippi took pride in saying that they were "Romans" (Acts 16:21), though they were some three hundred miles distant.
The usual Greek word for "behavior" (anastrophe, Galatians 1:13; Ephesians 4:22; 1 Timothy 4:12; Hebrews 13:7; James 3:13; 1 Peter 1:15, 18; 2:12; 3:1, 2, 16; 2 Peter 2:7; 3:11) in the KJV is "conversation." In 1611, when the KJV was issued, the word "conversation" meant "behavior," but now "conversation" represents only one aspect of a person's behavior, his language.
So Paul's Greek word politeuomai represents only one aspect of behavior: a person's conduct as a legal member of a community. He commanded the Philippian Christians to "discharge your obligations as citizens [politeuesthe] worthily of Christ's gospel" (1:27). The margin of the ASV says that Paul's Greek word means "behave as citizens."
Inspired letters were written to Timothy, to the Hebrews, to "the scattered strangers throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia" (1 Peter 1:1), and directly to the cities of Thessalonica, Colosse, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamus, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea and to Philippi, but among these only with reference to Philippi could the word politeuomai (Philippians 1:27) have been used accurately.
The inhabitants of the other districts and citizens were all subjects of Rome, not citizens of Rome. But the inhabitants of Philippi were citizens of Rome as if they lived in the seven-hilled metropolis. Was Paul's singular use of the word politeuomai accidental? Or should one simply stand in amazement at the preciseness of verbal inspiration (1 Corinthians 2:13)?
Paul used a form of politeuomai a second time in the Philippian letter, not to teach them how to "behave as citizens" of Rome, but, building on their political citizenship, to emphasize their spiritual enfranchisement in a commonwealth better by far than the Roman: "our citizenship (politeuma) is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20). On this earth Philippi was a colony belonging to Rome, but the citizens of Philippi who had obeyed the Gospel had also become "a colony of heavenly citizens" (Dibellus, B-G-D, 686), a "colony of heaven" (James Moffatt).
The apostle Paul was a Roman citizen, though born neither in Rome nor in a Roman colony. Tarsus in Cilicia, his birthplace (Acts 21:39), though an Urbs Libera, a "free city"--free of foreign magistrates, free of a Roman garrison, was not a colonia, a colony (Conybeare and Howson, 41).
Paul's Roman citizenship was inherited: his father had that distinction, and so Paul said, "I was Roman born" (Acts 22:28). Paul's Roman citizenship (1) allowed him to demand in Philippi a dignified release from prison (Acts 16:37); (2) saved him in Jerusalem from a savage beating (Acts 22:25-28); (3) rescued him in Jerusalem from an assassination plan (Acts 23:12-27); (4) in Caesarea it allowed him to appeal to Caesar (Acts 25:11-12); and (5) in Rome it spared him the ignominy and suffering of a death by crucifixion.
But of much more value in Paul's eyes than Roman citizenship was his enfranchisement under another government: "our citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20). Paul was united with the Philippian Christians, both by being enfranchised in the city of Rome and in the City of God, Civitas Dei, "the Heavenly commonwealth" (Augustine, cited by David Smith, ibid., 512). His use of the phrase "our citizenship is in heaven" refers not only to Paul himself, but also to the Philippians, and also to faithful Christians everywhere.
After Paul had seen Jesus in the sky, he (1) believed, asking, "What shall I do, Lord?" (Acts 22:10), and (2) repented, neither eating nor drinking "for three days" (Acts 9:5); and (3) was baptized to "wash away" his sins (Acts 22:16). From that moment, he enjoyed a dual citizenship, one in Rome and one in the heavenly commonwealth (Ephesians 2:19; Philippians 3:20).
Lydia and her household, after hearing Paul's sermon on the bank of the Gangites River (one mile west of the city of Philippi), were "baptized" (Acts 16:13:15), and so, along with Paul, became "fellow citizens" in the heavenly commonwealth (Philippians 3:20; Ephesians 2:19). However, unlike Paul, Lydia was not a Roman citizen, she being from Thyatira (Acts 16:14).
The Philippian jailer (1) believed in Jesus (Acts 16:33), and (2) repented, washing the "wounds" of Paul and Silas (Acts 16:33), and (3) was baptized, and his household, even at "midnight" (Acts 16:25-34). When they arose from the water of baptism, they, like Paul, had dual citizenships. Today, under the flags of earthly governments, there are thousands of Christians who have dual citizenships, one on earth, and one in heaven.