Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Few Thoughts on Philippians 2:7

I am working on a paper for my Pauline class taught by Dr. Guy Waters here at RST. Here are a few exegetical thoughts I have for Philippians 2:7, "but made himself nothing, taking the nature of a slave, becoming the form of a man and being found as human likeness."

1) There is a whole theory of the incarnation, the ‘kenotic’ theory, that is built on this passage, in fact on one phrase, avlla. e`auto.n evke,nwsen,, “but emptied himself,” or literally, “but himself emptied.” This theory teaches that at the incarnation Christ emptied himself of the form of God. That is, at the incarnation Christ divested himself of all the distinctive of deity; he set aside is infinitude. To this theory we can make the following objections. First, it is illegitimate to translate evke,nwsen as ‘emptied.’ All of the other uses of evke,nwsen in the New Testament have a metaphorical uses, such as 1 Corinthians 1:17, “the cross of Christ should be of no effect.” Second, and more formidably, this passage says nothing as to what was ‘emptied.” Thus, even if we grant the translation of ‘emptied,’ the theory still cannot find support in this text because this text is silent as to what was ‘emptied’ in the incarnation. However we understand evke,nwsen it cannot mean that Christ ceased to be what he was, God. Now, given the context of Paul’s exhortation, it seems best to take evke,nwsen to mean the humiliation or the ‘lowering’ Christ did at the incarnation (Macleod, 19-26)

2) e`auto.n is a reflexive pronoun. This is frequently done to denote that the subject is also the object of the action of the verb. In this case it indicates that Christ is the one who did the action and the one who received the action (Wallace, 350).

3) At least one thing Paul has in mind by morfh.n dou,lou labw,n is the fact that Christ became under the law. That is, in the incarnation Christ voluntarily subjected himself to the Law of God (Macloed, 27). Paul spells this out more clearly in Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

4) The two participial phrases here (1. taking the nature of a slave and 2. becoming the form of a man) should be seen as model. That is, they explain the mode or way in which Christ “made himself nothing” (Fee, 211).

5) Further, these two participial phrases (from #4) are in such close relationship (both are model participles and as such they complete the main verb) that their meaning should be seen as parallel. In other words, Paul is saying the same thing in two different ways (Melick, 104).

6) There is a textual variant in this text. P46, with support by some versional and patristic evidence, read avnqrw,pon instead of avnqrw,pwn. The reason for this should not be seen in theological motivation, but rather as a simple assimilation to the singular dou,lon. This is a common scribal error in the P46 manuscript.

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