Wednesday, August 09, 2023

Carolyn Osiek and Philippians 2:6-7--Does Not Teach "Absolute Divinity" (Philippians and Philemon, Pages 60ff)



Roman said...

The ambuiguity of divinity is ancient religion 101 ... this applies to both Genitle and Jewish religion, divinity is a spectrum :).

aservantofJEHOVAH said..."Wherefore(The)God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: "

Edgar Foster said...

Roman, if we could only convince most Trinitarians of this point ☺

Roman said...

I mean one just has to look at ancient history to know this, even ancient Jewish history, and Hellenistic Judaism. It's interesting to see how people who are aware of the ancient ambiguity about divinity try and come up with vague and often arbitrary obfuscations to try and make Jesus ontologically the most-High God of Israel without obviously and blatantly reading back fourth century metaphysics.

Even worse you have some theologians who just take the modern concept of "monotheism" at face value and uncritically. I personally don't like the term monotheism, and since it requires so many qualifications I think it's just just to drop the term, especially when talking about history.

aservantofJEHOVAH said...

1Corinthians ch.8:4NIV"So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but ONE.” Monotheism is a good term for what the bible writers are trying to convey re: JEHOVAH'S Godhood, necessary qualifications notwithstanding.

Roman said...

If you read the rest of that passage you'll see that Paul affirms the existence of other deities, there are many called gods but for us there is one God the Father.

This is not metaphysical monotheism. It might be the claim (which I think is in the bible) that there is only one God worthy of worship and this God is the ground of all being and the creator.

But there is no claim that there exists only one deity. So in the modern sense of moderntheism there is no monothesim in the bible.

If you want to call the claim that God is the only a see, necessary God, i.e. the most-high sole infinite God, monotheism; sure, then we agree, but if the claim is that no deities exist but the God of Israel, no.

The claim about idols is that they are nothing, i.e. they are not themselves Gods, but another Christian claim was that demons (i.e. the god's of the nations) were those who received worship through the idols.

aservantofJEHOVAH said...

He alone is auto-theos and auto-kurious every other God and Lord in a positive sense is such at his pleasure got it.

Edgar Foster said...

In a similar vein, the WT once said there is one true God: the others are either images of the true God (belonging to the class of genuine Elohim) or they're false. Can a monotheistic framework accommodate such a view of deity? I think it can as more than one scholar has attested (D.S. Russell, Ralph Smith).

Anonymous said...

Question for trinitarians: if John only believed in the "One God" - Why did he and Paul use the plural form theoi? there would be no need too.

Nincsnevem said...

"Question for trinitarians: if John only believed in the "One God" - Why did he and Paul use the plural form theoi?"

John recalls a dialogue originally in Aramaic in Greek, where the pun can only be conveyed in this way. "Elohim" is a more general word than the Greek "theos". (Translating Jesus' words into Greek is also problematic in other places, e.g. in Matthew 16:18, petros-petra, the first had to be agreed with the gender of the male Simon, and the second with the grammatically feminine word "ekklesia", even though Jesus said "cepha" twice ). The Hebrew 'elohim' means "gods" only if the verb is plural after it (with a few exceptions, pagan gods), but if the verb is singular, then it means "the Godhead" or "the Deity" (after all, the Hebrew language gives the noun the forms an abstract noun with its plural form).

And Paul spoke about "so-called gods", that is, about the false gods of the pagans, whom they called their gods, but in fact do not exist. Or maybe you think Zeus, Artemis, Horus, etc. really exist?

Anonymous said...

Still, it's worth learning from Jehovah's Witnesses! The authors of the "Reasoning From the Scriptures" book posed an excellent question: "Which thought agrees with the context?" Indeed... one can delve into the mysteries of ancient ("koine") Greek, but most Bible readers can only get closer to the original text with the help of dictionaries, which is a considerable disadvantage, considering that the Scriptures are not an easy read in Hungarian either. So, the context!

What does the Apostle Paul teach in Philippians 2? Let's look at the background! Here are some key verses, emphasizing certain words: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves." (Phil. 2:3,) "Who, being in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness." (Phil. 2:6,7) "who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." (Phil. 2:6,7.)

The Lord Jesus Christ is a worthy example to follow - not in His divinity (we humans were not or are not "in the form of God") but in how He humbled Himself willingly and lovingly, despite His divinity, came in human form, and lived an absolutely self-sacrificing life on Earth! In my opinion, the Watchtower Society's explanation conspicuously goes awry when it also deviates from the "New World Translation" in its interpretation of the Philippians' verse about seizing equality with God. The NWT itself, in my opinion, and if I translate it correctly, states that Jesus did not cling to His divinity as if it were a prize but did not think to seize equality with God (Jehovah.) I believe this approach accurately and wisely represents the Scriptures' teaching.

Of course, there is a very serious controversy surrounding the identity of Jesus Christ in Christian theology, which the interpretations of this passage naturally reveal. As seen, the Jehovah's Witnesses see Jesus as a created being who could not claim equality with God, whereas mainstream Christianity sees Jesus as eternally God and therefore equal with God the Father.

As is often the case with controversial texts, the best way to approach understanding them is to read them within the larger context of the whole of Scripture. The Bible does contain many passages that affirm the deity of Christ (John 1:1, 14; Colossians 2:9, Hebrews 1:3, etc.) and the distinctiveness of the persons of the Trinity while maintaining the unity of God. Engaging in deeper study with the guidance of well-regarded theologians who have devoted themselves to these questions can further enhance understanding.

Anonymous said...

It's worth learning from Jehovah's Witnesses! The Authors in the "Reasoning From the Scriptures" book formulated a very good question: "Which thought agrees with the context?" Indeed ... one can delve into the mysteries of ancient ("Koine") Greek, but most Bible readers can only get closer to the original text with the help of dictionaries, which is a significant disadvantage - considering that reading the Scriptures in Hungarian is not easy either. So, the context!

What does Paul the Apostle teach in Philippians 2? Let's look at the background! Observe a few "key verses," and I will highlight the emphasized words: "Do nothing out of rivalry or vain conceit, but in humility consider others more significant than yourselves." (Phil. 2:3,) "Although He was in every way equal to God, even equal to God. However, He did not cling to this at all costs as His rightful property but voluntarily gave up everything and agreed to become a servant. When He was born on Earth and became human, He was truly like a servant." (Phil. 2:6,7) "who, when He bore the form of God, did not consider equality with God a prize to be seized but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. And being found in the appearance of a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross."

The Lord Jesus Christ is a worthy example to follow, but not in His deity (we humans were not, nor are we "in the form of God"), but how despite His deity, He voluntarily and out of love humbled Himself, came in human flesh, and lived a life of absolute self-sacrifice on Earth! In my opinion, the Watchtower Society's explanation conspicuously slips up right there, when its explanation even differs from the "New World Translation": In harmony with the biblical context and the majority of Bible translators, the creators of the "New World Translation" translate Philippians 2:6 as: "who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God."

Just think about it for a little ... if someone exists in human form, do they need to strive to be human? They cannot exist in any other way! (It's a different topic that we need to strive to live a life that is human according to God - that is, we need to grow up to live in harmony with our mission.) If Jesus Christ existed in the form of God, then He was God. I don't read about anyone similar. I agree with the creators of the "New World Translation" that "he did not consider it robbery to be equal with God". Why would he have had to strive for this? (Especially "with force" ...?!) If someone is born human, ("is in human form/lives in human form") why would they have to "strive with force" to be human? To me, the Watchtower Society's explanation seems like saying, for example, that John Smith, as an American citizen, did not strive with force to become an American citizen. The true reform and renewal would be if the Governing Body admitted: Yes, Jesus Christ lived/exists in the form of God, and all creation came into existence through Him, and there is not a single creature that was made without Jesus Christ. (See: John 1:3!) Therefore, He did not need to strive to be God (to be in the form of God), because He was already in it!"

Anonymous said...

slightly different to what you portray here (as usual) but anyhow..
The point was humility in the previous verses therefore to then go and say he existed in Gods form and didn't grasp at equality with God, because he already had it is pointless.
The word Harpagmos is only ever used of things someone doesn't have (to my knowledge) it means to snatch away or seized [violently]

(double accusative doesn't matter see Goodspeed and Mofatt)

your examples assume someone has to strive for something they already have, phil 2 conveys the exact opposite. - void argument

defeats the point of the whole message

and you have no proof that Elohim refers to the "Godhead" - "Father" is only ever applied to "God the Father"
- WHere is the holy spirit called Father?
- see NET footnote for Isaiah 9:6 - interpreting a messianic prophecy, in regards to proving the Godhead is called Father is dangerous, as that opens the door for other arguments and raises an important question

Anonymous said...

"And Paul spoke about "so-called gods", that is, about the false gods of the pagans, whom they called their gods, but in fact do not exist. Or maybe you think Zeus, Artemis, Horus, etc. really exist?"
- Paul uses 2 terms, its debatable for them "existing" (as a concept) because they do in a way(before you yell blasphemy or polytheism - READ!) if they didn't why can we identify them. I think Paul's point is more they are not literally gods (powerful mighty beings) Its significant that in Isa the true God emphasises Godship by "foretelling the outcome" "Doing whatever [he] pleases" etc while those other gods not only do not have that ability but are "abstract" concepts and non-living.
i.e they exist but are not living.
(saying they "don't exist" is slightly misleading.)

and your point doesn't really answer my question
- talks around with an opinion, but fails to prove anything. (about as much Colwells rule)

(I use capitals and lowercases because this is English, in Greek they did not make a difference between, HOWEVER this is English and we have common nouns and proper nouns, we use the "idiom" of the language we speak - when its a common noun I lowercase. - before you play that trick like many trinitarians try.)

Nincsnevem said...

Existing in the 'morphē' of God (has the Bible ever said that about any angel before?), and did not regard as "harpagmos" to BE (einai) equal (isa) with God. What does it mean not regarding/considering something as "harpagmos"? This expression can only be described as something that you cling to at all costs, by force, approx. as Gollum clings to the One Ring "my precious"). So he didn't cling, insist on his equality with God (which he already had), by continuing to stay in the morphē of God, BUT etc.

If being "in the form of God" only means that he existed as a spirit and nothing more, then why does the Bible never claim that angels exist "in the form of God"? Furthermore, the second half of the verse makes it clear that His existence "in the form of God" also meant "equality with God", just he did not consider this a "harpagmos" (a booty, what he needs/wants to retain at all cost), so he did not cling to this glory arising from equality with God at all costs, etc.

The rare word 'harpagmos' elsewhere only appears in the active sense of "robbery," which loses its meaning in this context. Based on its analogy with the more common 'harpagma', expressing consciousness, a passive interpretation is suggested, both in the sense of being seized by something (res rapta), and in the sense of being seized by something (res rapienda). The text context really requires the first meaning, to seize something and cling to it (res rapta et retinenda).

The Greek text of this verse could be translated as: (Christ Jesus), who, being in the form of God, did not consider equality with God (in equality with God) to be something acquired by force (robbery); or the latter words can be understood as: he did not consider it to be something that he had to cling to forcefully, a thing to be clung to. Since the corresponding Greek word (harpagmos: literally “rapine,” “robbery”) is used in the Bible only here by the apostle Paul, the only way to determine its meaning is to consider the context in the text. And since the apostle then says that Christ Jesus exchanged his divine existence for a human-like existence and took on human form, it seems more likely that Christ Jesus did not cling forcefully to equality with God, but became like us, humans. Jesus Christ was in the "form of God": Christ, the second divine person, was in divine glory and majesty according to his divine essence and nature. Before the Incarnation, his form, or mode of existence, was the glorious and majestic divine existence. - Equality with God: Christ was essentially equal to God the Father and the Holy Spirit, and before the Incarnation, he was equal in the manifestation of divine glory and majesty.

Here, the state of being of God is explicitly attributed to Jesus as an existing state, and the word God is without an article just as much as when mentioning equality with God in the next verse. Therefore, it is entirely natural to refer both mentions of "theos" to the same thing. In addition, equality with God appears as something instead of which Jesus became human, so we must imitate this self-sacrificing mindset. But Paul does not emphasize that we should not strive higher than we deserve, but that we should not even seek what is rightfully ours, and consider others superior to ourselves (Philippians 2:3). From this, it is highly probable to take the word "harpagmos" (looted thing, booty) in the sense of "res rapta" (seized thing), and not what your translation suggests, namely that Jesus did not want to seize equality with God.

Nincsnevem said...

The Gothic translation made by the Arian Wulfila (Ulfias) is a good example of this, Philippians 2:6, which correctly means "thought it not robbery [harpagmos] to be equal with God", the Gothic Arian Bible has "thought it not robbery to be similar (galeiko) with God".

The beginning of the sentence states that Christ was "in the form of God"; the original term for "form" (morphe) primarily means the exterior, that shape in which someone appears identifiable and recognizable to others; it is no coincidence that several translators interpret it as "existence" or even "nature". The translated word "existed" (hyparkhon) is the participle of the verb 'hyparkho' (to exist, to subsist, to be in existence) indicating continuous action ("...being" or "...existing").

As for the first disputable detail, the meaning of the negation 'ukh' is "not", and it negates the verb (hegesato). The 'hegesato' is the aorist form of the verb 'hegeomai' (whose role here only indicates past tense), which means to deem, to think, to believe, to regard, to see someone or something as something (Phil 2:3,25, 3:7-8, 2Cor 9:15, 1Tim 1:12, Acts 26:2 etc.). The meaning of 'harpagmos' is robbery, loot, stolen, forcibly acquired thing; it derives from the verb 'harpadzó', which means "to rob" (see Mt 11:12, 12:29, Jn 10:19), or to snatch (Jn 6:15, Acts 8:39, 23:10, Jude 23, Mt 13:19, 1Thess 4:17); from this verb stems the words harpax (predator, robber, plunderer) and harpagé (robbery, desire to rob). 'Harpagmos' is rare in ancient Greek, and it only appears here in the New Testament.

The second clause refers to what the Son did not consider robbery: to 'einai' is a noun derived from the verb eimi (to be). The meaning of 'isa' (dictionary: 'isos') is equal, the same, similar in size etc.; from this stems isotes = equality, identity, fairness. Therefore, Christ did not consider being equal to God as robbery, in other words, being equal to God. The natural translation of the two details: "Being in the form of God, he did not consider it robbery" to be "equal to God". It is crucially important that being "equal" to God is continuous, state-like. The Son did not acquire this, as if there was a time when he was not in the form of God. He was originally in this form of existence, so it could not have been an achievable goal for him. He originally "existed in the form of God". The WTS, however, represents it in exactly the opposite way, as if he should not have thought of becoming equal with God, and since he did not do this, he became an example for the Philippians.

Paul does not claim that Christ "did not want to rob" (ukh hegesato harpadzein) what was His from God. Nor does he say that Christ refrained from "being equal to God", from becoming equal to God (see the purpose clause of NWT: "that..."), or "making himself equal to God" (cf. Jn 5:18).

Nincsnevem said...

Every attempt to render "harpagmos" here with "seizing" or a similar action and argue on this basis that Jesus "did not entertain the idea of usurpation to become equal with God", or as the NWT renders it: "did not even consider the idea of trying to be equal to God." is entirely fruitless. The word "hegeomai" does not mean "to consider," but "to regard as." It has a well-defined complement in Greek, which is grammatically expressed with a double accusative. In light of this, the above interpretation would lead here: "Jesus did not regard being equal with God as robbery" - which would grammatically mean exactly the opposite of what JWs want to get out of it: that is, he considered it something that is due to him. This is the basis for Furuli's argument, who wants to exploit that the "-gmos" suffix primarily creates active-minded nouns.

The continuation ("but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant") states that Jesus did not demonstrate his humiliation by not seizing equality with God, but by not clinging to it. Otherwise, Paul's illustrative example would have lacked even the semblance of aptness. How would the example of Jesus, who does not reach above his own due, justify that we consider others superior to ourselves? To encourage this, Paul had to present a Jesus who does not cling to what is his, but voluntarily renounces it.

Edgar Foster said...

I don't have time to address all of your errors, Nincsnevem, and I've written about Philippians 2:6ff here and elsewhere anyway. Let's just say it's a highly contentious verse: Osiek and Maurice Casey along with Charles Wannamaker contradict much of what you post. Ralph Martin's book about the Carmen Christi likewise shows why your dogmatic statements won't hold water, and appealing to Roy Hoover won't work either.

Edgar Foster said...

You claim that hegeomai does not mean "to consider" but means "to regard as." Really?


That's an elementary error you commit to suggest that hegeomai does not mean "to consider."

Edgar Foster said...

From BDAG entry for hegeomai:

2 to engage in an intellectual process, think, consider, regard
(Trag., Hdt.+) ἀναγκαῖον w. inf. foll. (s. ἀναγκαῖος 1 and cp. BGU 824, 4; PRyl 235, 4) 2 Cor 9:5; Phil 2:25. δίκαιον w. inf. foll. I consider it my duty to 2 Pt 1:13 (Just., A I, 4, 2 and D. 125, 1). περισσὸν ἡγεῖσθαι w. articular inf. foll. consider superfluous (POxy 1070, 17 τὸ μὲν οὖν γράφειν … περιττὸν νῦν ἡγησάμην) Dg 2:10. Foll. by acc. w. inf. (Hdt. 3, 8, 3; SIG 831, 13; Philo, Agr. 67; Jos., Ant. 19, 107; Just., A I, 9, 1 al.) Phil 3:8a (s. also ζημία); ἀποστόλους πιστοὺς ἡγησάμενος
εἶναι PtK 3 p. 15, 18.—W. double acc. look upon, consider someone or someth. (as) someone or someth. (Aeschyl., Hdt. et al.; Wsd 1:16; 7:8; Philo, Cher. 70; Jos., Ant. 7, 51; Just., A I, 9, 3 and D. 12, 1 al.) Ac 26:2 (the perf. ἥγημαι w. pres. mng., as Hdt. 1, 126; Pla., Tim. 19e; POslo 49, 3 [c. 100 a.d.]; Job 42:6); Phil 2:3, 6; 3:7, 8b (=AcPl Ha 2, 23); 1 Ti 1:12; 6:1 (Job 30:1; JosAs 3:4 cod. A [p. 42, 20 Bat.]); Hb 10:29; 11:11, 26; 2 Pt 2:13; 3:15; in vs. 9 one acc. is supplied by the

Edgar Foster said...

One other nit to pick: einai is not a noun but an infinitive. Whether "to" substantivizes einai in Phili. 2:6 is an open question, but einai as such is not a noun but a verb (infinitival form).

Nincsnevem said...

"You claim that hegeomai does not mean "to consider" but means "to regard as."

I clarify my statement, it can be translated as "to consider" in English, but not in the sense of considering a thought (to think of doing, for example "I am considering buying a new car"), but ONLY in the sense of "to consider something as something" (double accusative, to assign some quality to, to deem, to regard as, to think of as) sense.

Edgar Foster said...

Consider the work here:

Edgar Foster said...

Thanks for the clarification but I disagree that it can only be understood as you propose. Please see the dissertation I mentioned and I can provide other sources that show it is not necessarily limited to that definition. Scholars are now doing work that challenges old presuppositions on hegeomai, etc.

Nincsnevem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nincsnevem said...

So 'hēgéomai' means to believe, hold, consider, regard something as something, but not "considering an idea" etc. Look at how this word is used in the NT: Philippians 3:7-8, 1 Thessalonians 5:13,15, 1 Timothy 6:1, Hebrews 11:11, Hebrews 11:26, 2 Peter 3:15, James 1:2.

So if we break it down:
oukh - harpagmon - hēgēsato - to - einai - isa - Theō
not - harpagmos (acc.) - He ragered - the - equality (acc.) - with God

Arranged in meaningful word order
He did not regard/deem/hold the equality with God as a "harpagmos"

Now it can be argued what "harpagmos" is, but that it was about "considering" some idea of trying to do something of not ("did not even consider the idea of trying to be equal to God", NWT ), it is not in the text at all.

I think "harpagmos" here is not the act itself of obtaining something by robbery (raptus), but rather the result of rapture, a looted thing, something taken by force (res rapta). Based on the context, it means that he did not insist, cling on this, he was ready to give it up voluntarily, out of humility, thus the expression acquires the meaning "res rapta et retinenda".

According to the sentence structure, "οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο" contrasts with "ἀλλὰ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν." That is, the opposite of "considering/regarding as »ἁρπαγμός«" is "emptying oneself." What Christ emptied himself of, what he was completely free from, is the "ἁρπαγμός" – thus described as a selfish ambition concerning equality with God. It refers to the arrogant self-assertion that destroys those who bear human greatness. I think a good literary parallel is the fundamental conflict of the well-known novel "The Lord of the Rings." The way the Ring of Power turns all its possessors into slaves of the desire to possess the Ring forever, how Gollum calls it "my precious," and spends his life gazing at it or yearning for it when he loses it, precisely illustrates what Christ did not consider as his equality with God.

Edgar Foster said...

Grammar as Theology: A Linguistic Rereading of Philippians 2:6-7a
Ellis, Gerard Majella.

Cite this item: Ellis, G. M. (2013). Grammar as Theology: A Linguistic Rereading of Philippians 2:6-7a (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy). University of Otago. Retrieved from

Nincsnevem said...

There are numerous other words in Greek that would mean what the NWT wants to show here, "to consider an idea, e.g. to carry out a plan": βουλεύω (cf. John 11:53), σιλόγίζομαι, διενθυμέομαι, διαλογίζομαι.
Here are some sources regarding Philippians 2:6:

Edgar Foster said...

Hegeomai is just fine and others render it "consider," not just the NWT:

NIV, NASB, (NASB 1995 has "regard"), CSB-"did not consider equality,",

Catholic Pub Domain Version: "who, though he was in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be seized."

Nincsnevem said...

"Hegeomai is just fine and others render it "consider," not just the NWT:"

Okay, but which sense of the English verb "to consider"?
Because the Greek word 'hegeomai' covers the 5th meaning given here of the verb "to consider", but not the 1a in which the NWT uses it.

In English, we use the verb "to consider" in the sense of "considering" an idea, plan, to do something etc., and also in the sense of "considering" something (as) something. This English word "to consider" covers both meaning, but the original Greek term does not.

Nincsnevem said...

This Ellis study seems quite detailed with its 772 pages, I just skimmed it. What I miss is a summary of how this was interpreted according to early Christian extra-biblical sources. E.g.

Edgar Foster said...

In Gordon Fee's commentary on Philippians, he writes:

First, by the structure of the clause. In Greek ἁρπαγμὸν … τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ is a double accusative which functions as the object of the verb ἡγήσατο (“consider”). Thus it is a form of indirect discourse; in direct discourse “to be equal with God” would the subject and ἁρπαγμόν the predicate noun of a sentence that would read: “to be equal with God is harpagmon,” which is not Christ’s mindset (cf. Käsemann [“Analysis,” 62]). But by putting “not harpagmon” in the emphatic first position, Paul indicates that the infinitive that follows refers back to the initial participial phrase, in a kind of A-B-A structure. Thus, “in his being in the form of God (A), not harpagmon did Christ consider (B) his being be equal with God (A′).