Study Guide

Galatians, Philippians, and Philemon

Galatians, Philippians, and Philemon Introduction

Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby.

Sorry…we're not trying to romance you. (Um, unless it was working?) We're just trying to make a statement. You know it's true: people love things that are real. Real men. Real geniuses. Real monsters. Real American heroes. And of course, those cookies made from real Girl Scouts are the best.

Here we have Paul's letters to the Galatians, Philippians, and Philemon. Aside from the fact that they're all in the Bible and are pretty heavy on the Jesus references, these books also have one other thing in common: they were all really, truly, and actually written by Paul the Apostle.

Weirdly enough, there are quite a few books in the Bible that are written by Paul pretenders (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Hebrews, we're looking at you). Others (like Ephesians and Colossians) are questionable at best. But, Galatians, Philippians, and Philemon? They're made up of 100% authentic Pauline wisdom.

So what kinds of answers will you get straight from the pen of the guy who's arguably one of the most important writers in the history of Christianity? Here's a taste:

  • Wanna get on the stairway to Heaven? Try believing in Jesus. 
  • Wonder if you should get circumcised anytime soon? Oh, no. Put those scissors down.
  • Interested in whether or not Christians can own slaves? Well…that one's kind of complicated.

Knowing that these ideas were written by one of the main guys in the early church means that they come from a source that a whole lot of people trust. Of course, it's a source who never actually met Jesus…but a source nonetheless.

Ready to get real? Then dig in.

What is Galatians, Philippians, and Philemon About and Why Should I Care?

Old vs. new.

It's the age-old battle. Should we stick to doing things the way we've always done them? (Change is scary!) Or should we try a new approach? (Ah! Change is still scary!)

Sure, we love dinosaur bones and the Declaration of Independence. And finding a vintage Nirvana concert tee while poppin' tags is pretty exciting. But the old ways aren't always the best ways.

In Galatians, Philippians, and Philemon, Paul's struggling a lot with the way things have always been done. According to lots of people, since Jesus is the Jewish messiah, that means that Christians need to be following Jewish laws, too. God gave his commandments to Moses thousands of years ago and nothing's changed since then. Tradition!

But Paul thinks that Jesus is like the latest iPhone. He's shiny and new and makes all the stuff that's come before him seem obsolete. (There's an app for that.) Paul believes that Jesus's life and death did away with the need for the law. After all, why do we need to go down some thou-shalt-not holy checklist every day when Jesus says all you need is love?

Naturally, this didn't go over well. People do tend to freak out when anyone tries to change longstanding traditions. Just look at some of the historical fights we've had in the good old U.S. of A. Should we free our slaves? Why? Things are cool the way they are. Should women vote? That would be a disaster! You get the picture.

Paul was willing to toss out the old and embrace the new. As a result, he was able to lead Christianity into the future where it became a powerhouse of faith (over 2.1 billion served). He was like the Steve Jobs of the first century.

Galatians, Philippians, and Philemon Resources

Websites

Philemon Ministries
This charitable organization started in Kenya is dedicated to providing help to former prisoners. Hmm. Maybe they should have called it Onesimus Ministries instead.

St. Paul's Cathedral in London
Named for our favorite biblical author, this is one of the must-see sites in London. The cathedral famously survived bombings during WWII and hosted the wedding of Charles and Diana as well as the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill. So, yeah, it's kind of a big deal.

The Word of St. Paul
The Word of St. Paul is a term for what happens when an authoritative source, other than the original author, fills in key information about a book, movie, or TV show. Yup, that sounds like Paul all right.

Tokyo Woman's Christian University
Every year, this Japanese college holds an event called the Vera Festival. It's named for the Latin translation of Philippians 4:8: "Quaecunque Sunt Vera." In English it means "Whatsoever is true." Way to bring the truth, ladies.

Movies or TV Productions

Peter and Paul
A 1981 movie starring Anthony Hopkins as Paul, in conflict with fellow apostle Peter. What else is new?

Saint Paul
This mini-series follows the story of Paul throughout his entire life. We promise it's still "mini."

Paul
A 2005 play that portrays Paul as being tricked by Peter and Mary Magdalene into seeing Jesus on the road to Damascus. Hilarity does not ensue.

Historical Documents

The Epistle to the Galatians
Here's the New Revised Standard version of this bad boy.

The Epistle to the Philippians
Because we know how much you love reading through other people's old mail.

The Epistle to Philemon
For all your anti-slavery arguing needs.

Video

Jesus Confronts Paul
In the movie The Last Temptation of Christ, Jesus imagines that he survives the crucifixion and then runs into Paul preaching about him years later. It's kind of awkward.

Paul's Journeys
The creator of Veggie Tales has an awesome (and super adorable) web series called What's in the Bible, which includes this video detailing all the places Paul ever visited.

Audio

On the Hunt
Professor John Dominic Crossan talks about his book In Search of Paul on Fresh Air.

If They Had a Savior
New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman discusses the lives of three major followers of Christ: Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene.

"The Ways of Zion Do Mourn" by George Frideric Handel
This funeral anthem for Queen Caroline of England quotes from Philippians 4:8 when complimenting her late Royal Highness: "If there was any virtue, and if there was any praise, she thought on those things." She sounds like one swell lady.

Here I Am to Worship
Tim Hughes picked up his guitar to write this contemporary hymn after being inspired by reading Philippians 2: "Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down, here I am to say that you're my God." We think Paul would approve.

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
The second verse of this hymn—"Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, save in the death of Christ, my God"—is inspired by none other than Galatians 6:14.

Images

Paul's Travels
A map of the Roman Empire with all Paul's favorite vacation spots highlighted.

Paul in the Flesh
A facial composite of what Paul might have looked like live and in person.

Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin
One of the stained glass windows of this church shows Jesus surrounded by the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23. Sadly, mangos are not included.

It's All Greek to Us
A tiny fragment of parchment from Paul's Epistle to Philemon. Only about a thousand more pieces to go and we'll have the whole thing!

Reaping and Sewing
Misspellings give us the giggles.

St. Peter's Basilica
One of the largest churches in the world, St. Peter's Basilica in Rome is also rumored to be the place where Peter's body was buried. If it were up to Paul, this would have just been called Cephas' Place.

Basilica of St. Paul
Not quite as big and not quite as famous as St. Peter's, but it's still nice. We guess Peter won this round. Sorry, Paul.

British Broadcasting Company
In 1934, the BBC's logo briefly bore the Latin slogan "Quaecumque." Which, because you've got loads of Latin and biblical smarts, you know translates to "Whatsoever" and is a reference to Philippians 4:8. Duh, right?

Northwestern University
Seriously, colleges really love Paul. The words on the seal of Northwestern University also read "Quaecumque sunt vera," the Latin translation of Philippians 4:8.

Church of St. Paul in Tarsus
Located in his birthplace, which is now in modern day Turkey, this church dedicated to Paul hasn't held up quite as well as St. Paul's in London.