Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Philippians 2:5-11

This passage occurs Lectionary on Palm Sunday.   It also occurs in the Narrative Lectionary.  

For a look at the entire verse Philippians 2:1-13, check out this blog post.

Summary: Although this particular "pericope" misses 2:1-4 and then 12-13, it is so powerful that it can stand alone!  The Greek words are very rich, giving translators a tricky time.  Often they translate the verbs as nouns and vice versa!  The heart of the passage isn't about translation, though its about transformation, transformation of this world in Jesus Christ!

Key words
φρονειτε (φρονεω, meaning 'think', 2:5)  This means think, regard, have a mind.  This verb is also found twice in 2:2, in which Paul calls them to have the same mind as each other.  In 2010 when I was looking over this passage I was struck by how translators translated this verb (as a noun).  This doesn't interest me as much now, although how one translates this verse is fascinating.  In essence Paul is commending us to put the interests of others above ourselves, as Christ Jesus did.

To get a sense of this verb, rather than analyze the datives in 2:5 (which I can't really figure out!!), I want to look how this verb appears elsewhere in Philippians.

1:7  It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart,
2:2  make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
3:15  Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you.
3:19  Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things.
4:2   I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.

What is interesting is that Paul presents two alternatives:
a)  Thinking about yourself first
b)  Thinking with he same mind with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Paul does not suggest there is
c) thinking for yourself and Jesus yet not being with your brothers and sisters.

Paul is suggesting that the way in which we think like Christ is to submit to the group.  This is a hard teaching for this American Christian!

A few other notes on this verb:
- Paul's inclusion of the Christ hymn (6-11) is built on the preceding verses, especially 3-4.
- Paul does not directly say, think as Christ thought.  What he literally says is this:  "This whole business of putting others first, upon this think, that was was in Christ."  In other words, he is not saying that loving the neighbor was something that Jesus thought about, but rather he is saying that the loving neighbors within a community was something internal, intrinsic to Jesus.

αρπαγμον (the α has a rough breathing, so it is pronounced 'harpagmon", meaning 'plunder', 2:6).  The standard translation here is to make "grasp" a verb. The underlying Greek word here is "harpagmon," which means booty, plunder, something to be seized (even violently, through robbing, etc). So the more natural translation is probably, "Jesus did not consider plunder to be commensurate with God."  I know that David Fredrickson of Luther Seminary definitely emphasized this!  The basic idea is that gods in the Greco-Roman world would have used their power to abuse, rape and plunder.  But Jesus did not.  This seems like a better translation in regards to the historical-cultural situation.

μορφη (morphe, meaning 'shape' or 'form', 2:6)  Jesus is said to be in the "morphe" of a God. Morph means form. The idea of form is important -- Greek gods, as any museum will show you, had beautiful forms, not those of slaves! Click here for more
I also unpack the significance of the word for the whole of Paul's letter here: Philippians 2:1-13Essentially Paul uses three separate words to describe the likeness of Jesus to God and humanity; μορφη (morphe); σχημα (like schematics); and homoioma (kind of sort of like homonym, but closer!) The most significant, I would argue is μορφη because Paul will use this word later in the letter to talk about how we will inherit the shape of Christ (symmorphos, 3:21).

κενω ('empty', 2:7).  This is a strong verb.  The power of this verb cannot be lost! Jesus emptied -- became nothing!  (Grammar Note: Paul uses a participle in an easy way to translate here-- He emptied himself, taking (participle) the form of a slave. Participles, especially in narrative, often flow much more naturally than we assume!

υπηκοος (hypokoos, meaning 'obey', 2:8)  The word obedient is found here. In Greek, the word is related to listen (ακουω).  Obey is "hypo-akou-oo" literallyr "under listening."  To put oneself under what one hears!
κυριος Ιησους Χριστος (Jesus Christ is Lord", 2:11)  The phrase to confess and profess loyalty to the Emperor was "κυριος καισαρος." (Caesar is Lord).  Christians early on made great sacrifices because they replaced Caesar with Christ.

Structural note:  I believe the Greek is structured much like a Psalm.  I believe it presents rhymes like in Hebrew, where you have pairs of connected images rather than pairs of similar sounding words.  For example:
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me besides still waters.
Same meaning, different images

In this passage, almost everything that is phrased, is paired:
He humbled himself; obedient unto death
Every knee shall bend...; every tongue confess


Unknown said...

Clearly to be in form of declares a likeness of or image of but not that being represented, validating that God being a invisible Spirit has provided for us a understanding of how if He were visible He would appear or look in our eyes and wants us to relate to being made in His image. That being said is not to allow one to declare that he is God but yet the perfect image and representation of God.

Unknown said...

One if allowing scriptures to reveal rather than be redefined can only allow the clear proven scriptures related to the ( proof provided)His resurrection from the dead that validate that He is a man appointed by God and not God incarnate,The important aspect most relevant is in context to it being the "" very thing that declares him as our Messiah"" His death,,,,Is the very thing that proves He is not God,
Scriptures are very clear that God raised our ""Lord ""from the dead, and promised us that if we have the Spirit of Him( The Holy Spirit),dwelling in us, then He will raise us up by the same Spirit that raised up the man Jesus,to eternal life,The first fruits of those that have died,Jesus is the very first person raised to eternal life by God Almighty,