Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Notes on Philippians 2:6-7 (MORFH, Participles, etc)

From the first century, the evidence is overwhelming that μορφή denoted the outward shape or form of an entity. LSJ (a Classical Greek resource) provides examples of how μορφή meant "shape" or "form" in Homer and Plato. Homer uses the word to signify "beauty, grace" (Cunliffe), and even in Aristotle, we may find the meaning "form or shape."

Richard R. Melick Jr (NA Commentary on Philippians, Colossians and Philemon) points out that ὑπάρχω once meant "to exist originally." However, the term later came to signify "really exist" (102). BDAG contains pretty much the same information. It just adds that ὑπάρχω eventually became a "widely used substitute" for εἶναι in Hellenistic Greek "[with] a predicate noun." Moreover, ὑπάρχω occurs quite frequently "in the [participle with] a predicate noun."

I would say that ἁρπαγμὸν carries an active sense in Philippians: better to understand it as "grasping" or "snatching." But see BDAG under ἁρπαγμός and ὑπάρχω.

Keep in mind that words change in time. So while etymologically, ὑπάρχω may have (at one time) meant "under beginning," it eventually came to denote "existence."

I might just add that there is a debate in Biblical scholarship over whether ἁρπαγμός/ἁρπαγμὸν is passive or active (RES RAPTA vs. RES RAPIENDA) in Philippians. If it is active, it would probably imply grasping after that which one does not already possess. The word may also imply a violent seizure (as in a robbery) though it does not necessarily refer to the act of robbery at all times.

(1) Remember that ὑπάρχων is probably a concessive participle in 2:6. So you might render it as "although he was existing" or something to that effect.

(2) ὑπάρχω, by NT times, does not simply refer to a beginning or coming to be.

(3) Although μορφή is anarthous, I would be inclined to definitize "external appearance" since there is only one form of God.

(4) The phrase "taking by force an equality with God" might also be a little awkward. Maybe you should construe ἁρπαγμὸν as a direct object (i.e., he did not consider "a seizure" or "snatching").


The phrase ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ presents the first crux in our passage. Μορφή (here dat. sg. fem.) is best trs. “form” (most EVV; BDAG 659c). The NIV’s “in very nature God” (“truly God” [CEV]; “God” [NLT]; “possessed of the very nature of God” [H-M 114]) constitutes an interpretation that is neither well supported by the usage of the term in HGk. nor particularly suitable to the surrounding context. Although the term can be used substantially (Plato Phaed. 103e; Resp. 381c; Aristotle Met. 11.1060b; Phys. 2.1.193b; Plut. Quaest. plat. 1003b; Def. orac. 429a; Philo Spec. 1.327–28), there is no semantic component in μορφή that necessarily involves a corresponding “nature” (NIV) or ontology (pace Fee 204; H-M 114). The great majority of instances where μορφή and its cognates occur in HGk. mean simply “outward appearance” (Dan Fabricatore, Form of God, Form of a Servant: An Examination of the Greek Noun μορφή in Philippians 2:6-7 [University Press of America, 2009]; “form, outward appearance, shape” [BDAG 659c]; that “which may be perceived by the senses” [J. Behm, TDNT 4:745-46]).

The comments from the linked blog have been written by J. Hellerman.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Tertullian's Use of the Latin Term "Substantia"

(1) Aristotle makes a distinction between PRIMA SUBSTANTIA and SECUNDA SUBSTANTIA. Think of the former as an individual substance (i.e. a dog, cat or lamb) and the latter as a reference to an essential classification of being (i.e. essences). However, as Joshua Hoffman and Gary S. Rosenkrantz point out in The Divine Attributes (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2002), pages 23-24, it is probably more accurate to think of Aristotle's developed theory of SUBSTANTIA as a delineation of form and matter.

(2) Tertullian's use of SUBSTANTIA in Adversus Praxean is fraught with many conceptual difficulties. Harnack proposed juristic definitions for SUBSTANTIA and PERSONA that have pretty much been rejected by modern scholars. One of the best studies I consulted for my M.Th. thesis was George Stead's "Divine Substance in Tertullian," JTS N.S. 14 (1963): 44-66. Another writer who addresses Tertullian's use of SUBSTANTIA is Eric Osborn. See Tertullian: First Great Theologian of the West (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003). In my thesis, I argued (based on Tertullian's De Anima 32) that the apologist utilizes SUBSTANTIA vis-a-vis the Godhead to mean "a concrete particular." That is to say, Tertullian is primarily conscripting the Stoic notion of SUBSTANTIA, as opposed to the Aristotelian concept of PRIMA or SECUNDA SUBSTANTIA. Stuart G. Hall writes that Tertullian uses "substance" (in the context of Adversus Praxean) to mean "a being." See his study Doctrine and Practice in the Early Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992).

My thesis later became the book Angelomorphic Christology and the Exegesis of Psalm 8:5 in Tertullian's Adversus Praxean. I hope that it contributes to an understanding of Tertullian's use of substantia, among other things.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The NIV Rendering of Luke 18:14

Luke 18:14 (NIV) reads: "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God" rather than the wording "justified by God."

But knowledge of the NIV's theological orientation suggests that the NIV is not trying to say the tax collector was proved righteous by his actions. With all due respect, I believe that the NIV is trying to convey the idea that God (as the implicit agent of the verb DEDIKAIWMENOS) justified the tax collector. I also checked my commentary on Luke written by Alfred Plummer and he writes concerning the Greek wording KATEBH hOUTOS DEDIKAIWMENOS: " 'This despised man went down justified in the sight of God,' i.e. 'accounted as righteous, accepted'" (see p. 419).

Studying this verse has also helped me to understand what the NWT is doing in Luke 18:14: it is treating DEDIKAIWMENOS as a passive used reflexively whereas other translations appear to be treating it as a passive simpliciter. The comparison of the passage in Luke with Genesis 44:16 and Revelation 22:11 is interesting. The KJV and the NWT both render Genesis 44:16 in a way that suggests the brothers of Joseph want to know how they might justify themselves or prove themselves righteous. But see BDAG for Genesis 44:16 and Luke 18:14.

I have no real problem with the NWT rendering. However, it helps to review translational possibilities for this verse.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Translating Greek (2 Corinthians 3:16-17)

There is hardly one way that a text must be understood in Greek. There are usually numerous options given to one who translates ancient Greek. For example, A.T. Robertson (in his big grammar) argues that both substantives (κύριος and πνεῦμα) in 2 Cor 3:17 are definite and interchangeable. He bases his remarks on the fact that the subject and predicate in this passage both have the definite article. However, as Maximilian Zerwick says concerning the way he understands 2 Cor 3:17, that is only one interpretation of this construction.

Zerwick thinks that both articles in 2 Cor 3:17 are anaphorical, speaking of that which precedes rather than what follows. Therefore, he views ὁ δὲ κύριος as continuing the thought expressed in 2 Cor 3:16, whereas τὸ πνεῦμά references the spirit mentioned in the preceding context. But he notes that this is one way of many to interpret the Bible verse. See section 169 of Zerwick's Biblical Greek.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Petr Pokorny on Colossians 1:16

"This is a confession-like formula that describes in good Jewish fashion the one God as the only creator, but who, from the Christian perspective, created everything through Jesus Christ. The purpose of the accumulation of prepositions, which is elsewhere documented as a linguistic phenomenon accompanying Stoic pantheism, is to emphasize creation's total dependence upon the creator, whose purpose Jesus Christ represents. Since God the Father is the initiator of creation, the preposition 'from' is not used here. Otherwise it is difficult to distinguish the functions of the various prepositions from one another. They, as a whole, are to have a cumulative effect. 'In' (instrumental EN) and 'through' mean almost the same thing; only the phrase 'for him' is capable of pointing to the eschatological goal of creation (cf. Rom. 11:36)."

See Pokorny, Colossians: A Commentary. Trans. Siegfried S. Schatzmann (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991), p. 78-79.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Questions on the Gospel of John

A reader poses these questions. If anyone can provide some helpful input, it would be appreciated. I'll try to do the same. She writes:

Can anyone answer these questions for me please. Thanks

What was it that Jesus had said or done that caused the Pharisees to say that He was claiming to be God in John 10:33?

What was it about what Jesus said in John 8:58 that caused the Pharisees to want to kill Him?

From the New World Translation perspective, what is it about saying, "I have been" (John 8:58) that would motivate the Jews to want to kill Jesus?

Do we see any prior account of anyone in the Bible being killed for claiming to pre-exist if Jesus was merely claiming pre-existence?

Could you please explain what it was the Pharisees misunderstood and what they were misunderstanding to cause them to say what they did about Jesus' claim?

sorry for choosing anon but i do have a facebook account

Friday, February 10, 2012

DIA in Colossians 1:15-17 Rather Than hUPO

One of my favorite books is Emil Brunner's Dogmatics (Volume I) entitled "The Christian Doctrine of God."
On page 308 of his work, Brunner writes concerning Colossians 1:15-17:

"In this connexion the truth which we have already seen acquires new significance, that the world, it is true, was created THROUGH--DIA--the Son, but not BY--hUPO--the Son, that it has been created IN Him and UNTO Him, but that He Himself is never called the Creator. It has pleased God the Creator to create the world in the Son, through the Son, and unto the Son. The fact that between the Creator and the Creation there stands the Mediator of creation means that the world is an act of the freedom of God, that it does not proceed from the Logos."

While Brunner thinks that the Son of God is "eternal," he does not reason that Christ is ever called "Creator" in Scripture. He argues that the LOGOS is the mediate agent of creation or the one through whom God brings forth the KOSMOS. But the Son is never referred to as Creator in Scripture. Furthermore, not only does the apostle Paul describe the role of the LOGOS in passive verbal terms at Col 1:15-17--he does not employ hUPO to delineate the LOGOS' office vis-à-vis creation.

Brunner insists the Greek preposition hUPO demonstrates that Christ is not being identified as the Creator in Col 1:15-17. I concur with his assessment and suggest that a comprehensive study of Greek literature will support this specific point. If Paul had wanted to identify Jesus as the Creator in Col 1:15-17, it seems that he would have employed hUPO instead of DIA.