Friday, March 09, 2012

More on hARPAGMOS (Philippians 2:6-7)

The following is taken from my book Christology and the Trinity:

To attribute a passive sense to harpagmos appears to be unwarranted. Exploring this issue further before coming to any definite conclusions, however, we will note the exegesis of Moises Silva:

The ambiguous phrase in v. 6, [ouch harpagmon hegesato], has created a literature far more extensive than it probably deserves. In particular, one is impressed by the futility of trying to reach a decision regarding Jesus' preexistence and deity on the basis of whether harpagmon has an active meaning or a passive meaning . . . if one opts for the passive idea, is the nuance positive ("windfall, advantage") or negative ("booty, prize")? Further, if it carries a negative nuance, we must decide whether it speaks of a thing already possessed, which one is tempted to hold on to . . . or a thing not possessed, which one may be tempted to snatch. (Silva 117)

In the end, Silva concludes that a sense of retaining may be the most likely meaning of harpagmos in Philippians 2:6ff. But he is forced to admit that such a conclusion is uncertain and not central to the "hymn" of Philippians 2:6-11 (117). Furthermore, he adds that the few instances of harpagmos outside of Christian literature are all active and not passive (as is the case with harpagma). Consulting Abbott-Smith also reveals that "there is certainly a presumption in favour of the active meaning here" since the apostle does not use the LXX form harpagma. Paul thus speaks of an act of seizing: not a thing seized or a prize (A-S 60).

Though being a firm advocate of Trinitarianism, Greek Professor Daniel B. Wallace also openly admits that while it may be theologically "attractive" to construe harpagmos as having a passive sense (in Phil. 2:6), "it is not satisfactory" (Wallace 634). Wallace convincingly demonstrates that we must interpret the verse in the light of the phrase heauton ekenosen. He concludes that the only translation harmonious with Philippians 2:7 is "a thing to be grasped" (an active meaning for harpagmos). We can thus see that an objective look at the usage of harpagmos in the NT leads one to conclude that harpagmos in Phil 2:6 evidently carries the active meaning of snatching (i.e., a usurpation). This apostolic passage therefore appears to be affirming the fact that Jesus did not aspire to equality with God. To the contrary, completely antithetical to the first Adam, the one who existed en morphe theou contentedly subjected himself to his Father in heaven: "What Christ emptied himself of was his right to be served, his privileged position as the Son of God, and his visible glory [morphe] by taking the form of a slave" (Wannamaker 188).


Matt13weedhacker said...

Hi Edgar.

I tend to think what really is behind all this, is, the ( faulty ) premise that Jesus is and always was equal to God, that moves Tri{3}nitarian scholars to look for and favour a ( forced ) interpretive sense, that is not ( really ) there, i.e., the passive, rather than the ( NATURAL & TRUE )-sense of the Greek, i.e., the active.

And thus the profusion of confused and contradictory translations and literature in general surrounding Phil 2:6 and HARPAG-MOS.

Edgar Foster said...


I agree. There may be arguments on both sides of the debate, but it seems that the passive side of the discussion has been driven (primarily) by trinitarian presuppositions. Roy Hoover did some careful philological work. However, IMO, there's also some tendentiousness in that study.

Anonymous said...

Would this be an appropriate translation:

"Let this disposition be among you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, although existing with form of a god, did not contemplate a usurpation to be equal to God, but emptied himself by taking the form of a slave, by becoming in the likeness of human beings . . ."

Edgar Foster said...

As you are well aware, we can translate Phil 2:5ff a number of ways. Regarding 2:5, you could say "among" or "in" when translating the Greek ἐν. So 2:5 your rendition of looks good to me. As for 2:6, I would use "in" rather than "with" since we have the preposition ἐν here also. And while it could be rendered "a god," I am skeptical of that translation here since the anarthrousness of the construct can be explained by the genitival Θεοῦ. Context would also lead us to believe that Paul is making that kind of point as well (i.e. the Son of God resembled God himself, but he kept on being humble).

The wording "usurpation is interesting," but would the text support this choice of words? Is that how we should handle ἁρπαγμὸν?

The last part of your translation is largely a matter of preference. I don't have any major quibbles with it, in terms of translational possibilities, but I would probably not use the second "by" in my rendering although others do employ such wording.

Anonymous said...

I was trying to translate harpagmos by a single English word that I thought would be appropriate for the context. I eventually gave this up as impossible.

Would this translation of verse 6 be better or worse?

"who, although existing in the form of God, did not deem equality with God as an object of plunder"

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Edgar Foster said...

I like it better. There are many translational possibilities, and one thing we always have to consider is our target audience when translating. But I see nothing wrong with your rendering.

Duncan said...

Duncan said...

Anonymous said...

Morphe must be interpreted by the context not by philosophers who have not the Spirit of God.
Morphe of a bondservant,Becoming in the likeness of men
*Notice Morphe of a bondservant is immediately connected to the Nature of a Bondservant Thus Form of God( morphe thou) is connected to the Nature of God
He uses a Dual Usage of Morphe to Show His Definition.Not only that but Reflexive Pronoun He Himself emptied shows Christ Voluntarily Emptied thus the Pre-Existance is there.Also Huparchon in Present Active Participle Again shows He did not "become" the Form of God.
Moses saw the Form of God and Septuagint translates that as creature can share Yahweh's glory( Numbers 12:8 Lxx)
John 17:5 para followed by Dative case indicates In the Presence Of, Hebrews 1:3 Again confirming Caraktar in Noun form NOT verb form

Anonymous said...

Also I would say that Form of God is also hinted that in order to Humble Himself the Form was Glorious, thus to say the Form just meant outward appearance is not accurate because Skema was used to actually say He "appeared" outwardly as a mere Man Yet He was more thus the name Yahweh Belongs to Jesus ( Jesus is in the Genitive...The Authority of Yahweh belongs to Him by Divine Right due to the Eternal Son's Nature

Duncan said...

The morphe of a bond servant in the times of a Romans had a specific uniform & he carried out specific tasks in his rank and position. What is the visible form of god for someone to take it on?

Why nature of, as opposed to the actions of?

Glory is an overly abstract term & the insertion of this interpretive text in the LXX of Num 12:8 seems to be a clarification that moshe did NOT actually see YHWH but rather felt and observed his authority.

Duncan said...

Anonymous said...

You are misreading the verse.He does NOT say He took on the Form of God, that's why I pointed out The Present Active Participle indicating He did not "become" the Form of God.Also, as I mentioned Form( Morphe) is Visual Appearance due to Essential Attributes and is Distinct from Skema( outward appearance). The Point that Christ was Truly Man( Form of a Bondservant) He was Truly God.
You also need to look at the Overall Context, the Authority of Yahweh BELONGS to Christ( Jesus is in Genitive In Philippians 2:10). The Authority Belongs to Him by Divine Right

Duncan said...

To a Hellenised Jew do you think that genesis 1:26,27 would not be thought of with this kind of phrasing?

What "image" is being described here? Is it function and action?

What is you basis for interpreting bond servant as "man" as opposed to servant? Mat 20:28.

Anonymous said...

But Emptied Himself Taking( the participle Labon indicates the Means or Way of Emptying) The Form of A Bondservant, Being Born in the Likeness of Men
1) Being Born in the Likeness of Men Is an Expansion on the Form of A Bondservant Just as Equal With God is an Expansion on Form of God...its Parallel. That's why He Uses Morphe as well to show the Parallel.
2) In Philippians 1:1 Bondservants is used of Paul and Timothy....I think its safe to say they were Men....thus the Human Nature that the Eternal Son took on was necessary in order for Him to fulfill the role of the Suffering Servant ( Isaiah 53) Messiah( Isaiah 42:1) and Yet He is Eternal ( Micah 5:2, Hebrews 1:10-12 Applied to the Son because The Son IS Yahweh)
3) Exegesis looks at The Author and Context as well as the overall Christology of Paul( Romans 9:5, Titus 2:13, Colossians 1:16, 2:9,2:3)....its overwhelming Jesus Is The Eternal Son Who took on Human Nature for a Purpose but Never Ceased to be God.
5) Genesis 1:26, 11:7 were not understood completely. Old testament is Progressive Revelation. Exodus 6:2 an example of that, but also look at Genesis 16:9-12...The Messenger Is Called Yahweh in Verse 13..but was a Messenger.
Genesis 31:11-13...The Messenger is Also the God of Bethel
Genesis 48:14-16 Jacob asks God and the Angel( Malak...meaning Messenger ) to Bless the Lads...Bless is Singular
Isaiah 6 is quoted by John in John 12:41...Isaiah SAW Jesus's Glory
The Name Yahweh in Hebrew is Yod-Open Arm , Hei-Grace, Vav- Nail, Hei
Open Arm and Nailed... That's Picture Of Yahweh in Hebrew Alphabet.. That's Jesus

Anonymous said...

As far as Image...that's Referring to Man being spirit. God is Spirit( John 4:24) and Man is spirit...he was created in that image and then given a body.The Word Rada in Hebrew Means to Rule.
Let Us make man in Our Image and let them have Dominion( Rada) also was to Rule with Authority by Speaking...just like God does, BUT in Submission to God.

Duncan said...

MT Gen 21:13

אָנֹכִ֤י הָאֵל֙ בֵּֽית־אֵ֔ל אֲשֶׁ֨ר מָשַׁ֤חְתָּ שָּׁם֙ מַצֵּבָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר נָדַ֥רְתָּ לִּ֛י שָׁ֖ם נֶ֑דֶר עַתָּ֗ה ק֥וּם ץֵא֙ מִנ־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַזֹּ֔את וְשׁ֖וּב אֶל־אֶ֥רֶץ מֹולַדְתֶּֽךָ

"I am the mighty one of Beyt-El [House of El]"


I am THE God (ο θεος), the one appearing to you in the place of God (θεου)

The implications are somewhat different.


Gen 12:3 And I will bless the ones blessing you;

Gen 27:7 Bring to me game, and make food for me! that eating, I may bless you before the lord, before my dying.

Your last point about the proto hebrew symbols and there significance is somewhat fanciful - We could be looking for prophetic images in the symbols for every word in the Hebrew canon.

Duncan said...

Edgar & I have been discussing some points related to this video - some of which we disagree on at the moment.


Genesis 6:3
Genesis 41:38
Numbers 27:18

These do not coincide with your statement that Man is spirit (ruach).

Anonymous said...

Genesis 31:10-13 is connected to Genesis 28:20
Genesis 31:13 Ego Eimi Ho Theos ( I Am the God)
Also in this verse the Messenger says The Vow that you vowed TO ME... Jacob Vowed to God in Genesis 28:20...the Messenger is Yahweh
2nd Genesis 16:9-13 verse 13 Identifies Messenger as Yahweh
3rd ANailed Hand in the Name of Yahweh is Highly Significant because this is Yahweh's name so it Does Matter
Names and Letters in The Scriptures are Highly Significant, and Genesis 5 Genealogy has a message of the Gospel in the Names, there are Numerous examples
The First and the Last is a Title of Yahweh( Isaiah 44:6) and First and Last Letters in Hebrew Alphabet is Aleph(Ox) and Tav(Cross)
Ox symbolism of Leader or Sacrifice
Cross in the Ancient Hebrew Alphabet thus the Sacrifice On the Cross...its Consistent
Man is a spirit being who has a soul and lives in a body
Zechariah 12:1 Yahweh Forms man's spirit
1 Thessalonians 5:23 Now may the God of Peace sanctify you completely and may your whole spirit,soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 14:14 For if I Pray in a tongue my spirit prays but my understanding is unfruitful----showing distinction between soul and spirit
Hebrews 4:12 Shows Soul and spirit are not the same as well
Genesis 6:3 is in Context of Flesh as the sinful nature of man
Paul said in Philippians 3:3 to have no confidence in the flesh
Genesis 41:38 was a statement by Pharoah who didn't even know God but could see that Joseph's knowledge was supernatural but that knowledge was from God
Numbers 27:18 shows that yes man had the Holy Spirit come upon them in Old Testament such as Prophets,Kings,Priests, and those whom God equipped.
Phippians 2:10 Jesus is in the Genitive shows He Owns the Authority of Yahweh due to His Divine Nature
Quote and Study in Context

Duncan said...

Slow down - one at a time please

For Genesis 31:13 see 31:11

(WLC) וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֵלַ֜י מַלְאַ֧ךְ הָאֱלֹהִ֛ים בַּחֲלֹ֖ום יַֽעֲקֹ֑ב וָאֹמַ֖ר הִנֵּֽנִי׃

and the messenger of the Elohiym said to me in the dream....

then see 31:24

(WLC) וַיָּבֹ֧א אֱלֹהִ֛ים אֶל־לָבָ֥ן הָאֲרַמִּ֖י בַּחֲלֹ֣ם הַלָּ֑יְלָה וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לֹ֗ו הִשָּׁ֧מֶר לְךָ֛ פֶּנ־תְּדַבֵּ֥ר עִֽמ־יַעֲקֹ֖ב מִטֹּ֥וב עַד־רָֽע׃

and Elohiym came to Lavan [White], the one of Aram [Palace], in a dream of the night and he said to him....

I think you need to have a long hard think about what MALAK can or might mean in Hebrew - I think there is more to it than you realize.

Anonymous said...

In Genesis 16:13 the Messenger is Identified as Yahweh by the Narrator.Therefore the Malak(Messenger) was Yahweh.

Duncan said...

See section about El ro i.

Especially regarding the possible translation that includes "vision".

Duncan said...

Also the commentaries demonstrate that this is not an easy verse to deal with in a number of ways.

Anonymous said...

You have to understand that the Jewish literature Changed after Christ.They once spoke in the Targum about the Memra (Word) and other aspects received "new" interpretation such as Genesis 18 when Yahweh Himself speaks to Abraham.. Therefore don't base your trust on Commentaries that fluctuate and change..look at the Context and the Words.Verse 13 is clear..if you need an interpretation for the obvious then your heart is not really looking for truth its looking for your own definition of truth.The Verse is Clear the Messenger was Yahweh..only Anti-Trinitarians would object

Duncan said...

But in these the malak of yhwh is seen in vision, could the vsion be the malak?

When it comes to the accounts of avraham we get another side to Jewish interpretation of this account from the genesis apocraphon 1QapGen. Note the Three friends, one called mamre.

I am not claiming that the work is factual but it is telling as to some Jews & there interpretation of the biblical accounts.

Duncan said...

Genesis 19:24 I presume is of interest to you. Please compare 1 kings 8:1.

Anonymous said...

Genesis 19:24 was uses by Novation(A.D. 250) in his" Treatise Concerning the Trinity", but again the Scriptures are the Foundation because Scriptures are God-Breathed. In Genesis 18 you will notice that Abraham Recognizes Yahweh immediately and does not have to be told that it is Yahweh.Abraham speaks to Yahweh in 18:25 Shall not the Judge of All the earth do right?" Therefore Abraham Knew He was Speaking to Yahweh.Genesis 18:22 says how Abraham stood Before Yahweh.
Then the 2 Who Came With Yahweh in Genesis 18:2 As Revealed as Angels notice Genesis 18:22 The Men are Distinguished FROM Yahweh and GO Toward Sodom.In the Very Next Chapter the 2 ANGELS came to Sodom.
Thus 2 Angels Accompanied Yahweh in Genesis 18 showing that God Can Speak Directly to Abraham and EAT without ceasing to be God...this shows a shadow if the Incarnation.
Genesis 16 says Nothing about a "vision" and Again You Have to Submit to Scripture and verse 13 says it was Yahweh.

Anonymous said...

Therefore Genesis 18 was not the Actual Incarnation but the shadow.Ezekiel 1:26 also shows the Glory of Yahweh in Pre Existent Form...the Eternal Son before He took on the Human nature

Duncan said...

Compare deut 4:10.


How many men left in 18:16?

Duncan said...

Compare Genesis 18:3 LXX with Genesis 19:18 LXX.

Anonymous said...

Its very simple. The Context of Genesis 18 goes on to show Abraham was speaking to Yahweh in front of him( Genesis 18:22,18:25) and Genesis 19:1 There are 2 Angels...these are the 2 that just came to Sodom from Genesis 18:22 when Yahweh STAYED talking to Abraham.Genesis 18 is Yahweh and 2 Angels.. There is no 3rd Angel in Genesis 18.Yahweh means are just ignoring the text.

Duncan said...

The reason that I referenced Genesis 18:3 LXX with Genesis 19:18 LXX is this, κυριε (singular) is the koine substitution used here for אֲדֹנָי (adoni - again singular) which in turn is believed to be as substitution for Yahweh.

So the logic goes this way, if the singular term used in the Greek is in reference to Yahweh & this Yahweh remains behind to converse with Abraham then why are the two messengers (angels) in Genesis 19:18 LXX & in Hebrew also called κυριε / adoni again in the singular even though it is speaking of "them" & in this case they cannot include the same Yahweh as in verse 18.

Duncan said...

I have read in the recent works of Emanuel tov, that the scholarly consensus is moving toward the tiqqune sopherim being seen as noted textual variants rather then direct corrections but the title Yahweh could well be the correct text at 18:3, but take a look at emendation at 18:22 & compare this with Genesis 19:23 (which is not disputed & no variants are noted). Who stands before who?

I have been making a study of how אֲשֶׁר־עָמַד (standing before) is used in the Hebrew biblical text's in person to person usage & have found no other instance (as yet) of a superior standing before a subordinate. I do not think that it is a spacial description but rather seems to denote status.

I think that this may also be the real statement of issue at Exodus 17:6.

Anonymous said...

Because you are to look at the Context.Genesis 18 begins to explain there are 3 men, which only 1 of them is Yahweh while the other 2 men go towards Sodom. Genesis 19 begins explaing the 2 are are to look at context not just the definition because definitions are determined by context.Yahweh can appear as a Man if He chooses but His Essence was not changed. We are to not always read into the text but From the text

Anonymous said...

You need to prioritize the text and context more than others because interpretations are often biased. Exegesis is consistent if you break down the language and context.Abraham Knew Who Had come, the context is clear.The name of Yahweh has a Nail and hand...Jewish sources don't like to admit it but it's true

Duncan said...

This nail & hand theory is fairly new to me but I found this, so I see where you are coming from:-

But in ancient Hebrew was Vav a nail?

From what I can find regarding the early usage of Vav point at it being a hooked peg, not a nail.

As for Yud:-

The earliest images were not of a hand but an arm including a closed hand.

Duncan said...

There is only a small portion available of Genesis 18 found in the dead sea scrolls:-

See 18:22.

Anonymous said...

Arm stretched out is Consistent with Jesus's arms on the cross
Vav was early but it signified Building. Christ came to Build the New Temple but the church, the people are the temple of God with the Spirit of God

Anonymous said...

I gave clear exegesis of Philippians 2:6-10 and you had no answer about verse 10 with Jesus being in Genitive indicating He Owns the Authority of Yahweh by Nature which goes well with Hebrews 1:3 Showing He is the Exact Nature of the Father but Distinct in Person.Exegesis is clear.The Old Testament is New Testament Concealed, and New Testament is Full Revelation Revealed

Duncan said...

Sorry about delay, Please see :-

The Practical Use of the Greek New Testament, p. 84 (by Kenneth Wuest, a Trinitarian scholar)

"a station in life, a position one holds, one’s rank. And that is an approximation of morphe in this context."

The Septuagint usage of morphe:-

Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, "What kind of men were they whom you killed at Tabor?" And they answered, As you, so they; each one the *form* of the son of a king." (Judges 8:18).

Then a spirit passed by my face; the hair of my flesh bristled up. It stood still, but I could not discern its appearance; a *form* was before my eyes. (Job 14:16).

Another shapes wood, he extends a measuring line; he outlines it with red chalk. He works it with planes and outlines it with a compass, and makes it like the *form* of a man, like the beauty of man, so that it may sit in a house. (Isaiah 44:13).

Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the *form* of his face has been changed. (Daniel 3:19).

Aquilla second century translation:-

His appearance was marred more than any man and his *form* more than the sons of men.... For he grew up before him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; he has no stately *form* or majesty that we should look upon him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to him. (Isaiah 52:14; 53:2).