1. Exposition

Did Paul have suicide on his mind?

Philippians 1:21–26 (ESV)

21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

In several publications Droge has suggested that, according to Philippians 1:21–26, Paul seriously considered committing suicide in order to be with Christ.1 According to him, what the apostle wrote in this section is best interpreted in the light of the Greco-Roman discussions concerning suicide.2 Since suicide was a deeply sensitive issue in the apostle’s time and people generally spoke about it with great hesitation and horror,3 the apostle would have spoken of it in a veiled manner in his letter to the Philippians, but the Philippians would have understood very well that the apostle sought to solve his longing to be with Christ by means of suicide.4 This explanation of the section at hand is very strange indeed. Taking one’s own life was wholly unacceptable to the early Christians. Augustine, the bishop of Hippo, clearly expressed this dismissive view of suicide. He strongly condemned suicide and even sought to have the matter canonized.5 Droge’s interpretation of Philippians 1:21–26 has to be rejected. Neither the text nor the context supports it. Paul does realize the possibility that his life may soon come to an end, but then as a result of a judicial verdict and/or martyrdom.6