To Philippi

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In Acts 16:9-10, Paul received a vision that opened up the spread of the good news of Yeshua to Macedonia (modern day Greece):

“There a vision appeared to Sha’ul at night. A man from Macedonia was standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia ansd help us!” As soon as he had seen the vision, we lost no time getting ready to leave for Macedonia; for we concluded that God had called us to proclaim the Good News to them.” (Acts 16:9–10, CJB)

 

Upon receiving this vision, Paul set out immediately to share the message of Yeshua with the People of Macedonia. In Acts 16:12, Paul comes to Philippi, a Roman colony and major city in Macedonia.
Philippi was named after Phillip II, father of Alexander the Great. Philippi’s status as a Roman colony was granted by Emperor Augustus after Philippi had been the site of his and Mark Antony’s victory over Brutus and Cassius, the lead assassins of Julius Caesar in 42 BCE. Later Augustus would defeat of Mark Antony in 31 BCE, that guaranteed his place as the successor to Julius Caesar. Augustus named the city in honor of the Julian family calling it, Colonia Iulia Augusta Philippensis.

 

The majority of the populace of Philippi were Greek, yet as a Roman colony, the administration and political hierarchy were held by Romans (Keown 2017, The Town of Philippi). The religion of Philippi included elements of Greek, Roman, Thracian, Egyptian and other religions including hero worship and syncretic mixing of various religions (Hartog 2016, Macedonia).

 

Unlike most of the cities that Paul would visit on his missionary journeys, there does not appear to have been a large enough Jewish community in Philippi for there to be a synagogue, which would require at least ten Jewish men. According to Acts 16:13, those who met for prayer on Shabbat met at the riverside and the only people mentioned that were worshipping there were women. Interesting enough the one woman mentioned Lydia is a “God-fearer,” which could mean that the Jewish worshippers of Philippi may have been made up of “God-fearers,” Gentile adherents of Judaism without there being a local Jewish population. It is also possible that among these women were converts to Judaism, given that conversion to Judaism for Gentile women did not require circumcision as for men, which allowed for more women converts to Judaism (Lieu 2002, 84) . This can also be seen in Bockmuel’s comments on Phil 1:1:

 

Without concluding too much from silence, these observations do lend a heightened significance to the unusual presence of an exclusively or at any rate predominantly female Sabbath congregation. This phenomenon may well correspond to the common numerical predominance of women among proselytes and god-fearers, due partly to the absence of circumcision as a deterrent and partly to the relatively more respected status of women within Judaism (Bockmuehl 1997, 10).

 

Starting with Lydia and her household coming to believe in Yeshua (Acts 16:14-15), the Messianic community in Philippi began. By the conclusion of Paul’s first visit to Philippi (Acts 16:40), there appears to be a group of Yeshua followers meeting at Lydia’s house which would be the beginning of the Philippian Messianic community that Paul will send his letter.

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