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]).
Friday, December 26, 2014
Dr. Joe Hellerman Offers Commentary on Philippians 2:6 and MORFH