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« The Basics of Verbal Aspect: 1 of 5 by Constantine Campbell | Main | James 4—Insights on Business under God (Commentary and Discussion with Mariam Kamell) »


This is an excellent post! I have often been intrigued by this interpretive "problem;" not just here in the Philippians context, but in numerous other contexts, even in the Hebrew Scriptures. In the Pentateuch, for example, God seems to address Israel often rotating between second person singulars and plurals. In the Shema of Dt 6:4, it says, "Hear O Israel, ..." But then Dt 6:5 begins with the exhortation, "And you (singular) shall love the Lord your God ..." Obviously, there was to be no hiding behind the group. Every individual Israelite was expected to love God with all of their (singular) heart, soul, and might. But, again, in the Pentateuch, one finds God's commands to Israel frequently drifting from second person plurals to singulars to plurals again. I've often wondered if we do a disservice when we delineate only two types of second person pronouns: singulars and plurals. I wonder if there aren't really three: (1) second person singulars that legitimately address the individual, (2) second person plurals that address the group as a whole, and (3) second person plurals that address the aggregate/conglomerate of individuals (that comprise a group). In other words, the individuals in that same group are being addressed as individuals. We can perhaps say, then, that this last type retains its full individual force. Of course, this is merely my supposition. There are typically no semantic or morphological clues that tip us off as to usage. Ultimately, only context will decide and, unfortunately, context won't always be conclusive. But I believe that many second plurals that are used in the scriptures are intended to address individuals that happen to comprise a group rather than a group of individuals whose individuality has now been lost or subsumed in the group. Thanks Dr. Mounce for a great post!

Thanks for the insights Dr. Mounce! I too have wondered if this verse can be interpreted or applied to individual believers, and I appreciate your research on this point. Thanks.

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