Philippians 2 and the Person of Jesus Christ

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Philippians 2 and the Person of Jesus Christ

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Post by YourWordIsTruth »

Philippians 2 and the Person of Jesus Christ

In this passage from Philippians chapter 2, we have one of the clearest Accounts in the Bible, on the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. We read of His absolute Deity from eternity past, “in the very nature of God”, and was coequal with the Father. Then we read, that at The Incarnation, when Jesus Christ was Conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary, that He took on “the very nature of a servant [human]”, thereby giving up for a short time, His equality with the Father. Jesus Christ walked this earth as a Human Person, Who was fully God and fully human, without any sin, and became, “ὁ θεάνθρωπος”, which is, “The God-Man”. We read of Jesus Christ as being “Highly Exalted” by God the Father, and is Yahweh.

“Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the very nature of God, counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God, but emptied himself, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient [even] unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of [things] in heaven and [things] on earth and [things] under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)

Verse 6 in the Greek is, “ος εν μορφη θεου υπαρχων”, literally, “Who in the very nature of God existing”. The participle “υπαρχων” is in the masculine singular, and present tense. The KJV, NKJV, etc, render it as “being”.

To when does this “υπαρχων” refer? Are we to accept the meaning as suggested by the margin reading of the 1881 Revised Version, “Gr. being originally”, which is what Dr Thayer says in his Greek lexicon. But, this is very much misleading, as it strongly suggests that, Jesus Christ “was in the nature of God before His Incarnation”, and “gave this up”, when He became Man. This is not what the Greek says here, nor, what the Apostle Paul is meaning. “υπαρχων”, does have the meaning of, “to be already in existence”. But, this is not all that it means, as it does also include “continuation”.

Acts 7:55, “But he, being (υπαρχων) full of the Holy Spirit”
Acts 14:8, “being (υπαρχων) a cripple from his mother's womb”
Galatians 2:14, “If thou, being (υπαρχων) a Jew”

In each of these examples, past and continued actions are meant.

How are we to understand the Greek “μορφὴ ϑεοῦ”, translated in many English Versions as “form”, and in the NIV, as “very nature”. Do we understand this word, as Professor Danker does, “μορφὴ ϑεοῦ signifies a divine air/demeanor Phil 2:6, in contrast to μορφὴ δουλοῦ slavish demeanor vs. 7” (The concise Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament, p.250). And, the much used Greek lexicon by Dr J H Thayer, “the form by which a person or thing strikes the vision; the external appearance”. Thayer was a Unitarian and rejected the Deity of Jesus Christ. “μορφη” is used 3 times in the New Testament, in Philippians 2:6 and 7 (form of a servant, KJV), and Mark 16:12. Then, we have other Greek works, that define “μορφη”, as “being in the nature of God” (Edward Robinson). And, “very nature” (Mounce, Expository Dictionary). So, which definition is the correct one? To the Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, the former is what they would accept. To those who believe that Jesus is GOD, the latter is correct. Both, however, cannot be right.

I will show that the correct meaning of the word in the passage in Philippians 2, is found in the other use of it, in Mark 16:12. Here it reads that Jesus appeared, “εν ετερα μορφη”. Firstly, of the adjective, “ετερα”, which here means, “of another kind, different”. After His Resurrection, the Body of the Lord Jesus Christ was “essentially transformed”, as He could disappear (Luke 24:31). He could walk through closed doors (John 20:19). Though His “outward appearance” was exactly the same after the Resurrection. This is very clear from Jesus’ Road to Emmaus conversation with the two he walked with, in Luke 24. In verse 16, when Jesus had joined the two men, it says, “But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him”. And in verse 31, “And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight”. It is clear the God had here “prevented” these two from “recognizing” Jesus. This would not have been necessary, if Jesus’ “outward appearance”, had changed in any way. It is clear from this passage, which is the same time of Mark’s account, that “μορφη” means “essential”, and not “outward”. This is exactly what Paul means in Philippians.

Next we have, “οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο”, = “considered it not a thing to be grasped”.

In the original sense, “ἁρπαγμὸν”, has the meaning of “the act of seizing”, hence the reading of Versions like the KJV, etc. However, the noun can also be used in a passive sense, rather than active, with the meaning, “to be grasped”, or “held on to”. This phrase, “οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο”, must be taken with, “τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ”, which is translated, “to be equal with God”. “ἴσα” is in the neuter plural, and used as an adverb, with the meaning, “on equal terms, without advantage to either side”.

Thus far we have, “Jesus Christ, Who from eternity past, existing in the very nature as God, did not consider His being on equality with the Father, something to be held on to”. This is clearly seen from a couple of examples, as in Hebrews 2:7, 9, “You made Him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned Him with glory and honor…But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” “ἠλαττωμένον”, means to “to make lower than, to be inferior to”. Because Jesus, the eternal God, “became flesh”, and suffered on the cross. In this sense He was “lower”, than even the angels. This was only “for a little while”, for the duration of Jesus’ Incarnation, while on earth. Just before Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension, He says to the Father: “And now You, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world existed”. It was the “Glory” that He from all eternity had with the Father, thus making Him COEQUAL, is what Jesus did not “hold on to”, when He became the God-Man.

We then have, “ἀλλὰ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν μορφὴν δούλου λαβών”. literally, “but Himself emptied the very nature of a bond-servant having taken”. This “emptying” that Paul speaks of, is because Jesus Christ “took upon Himself”, the “very nature of a bond-servant”. The “emptying” has nothing to do with “μορφὴ ϑεοῦ”, which we have seen from, “υπαρχων”, is a continued existence. “ἐκένωσεν”, is from, “κενόω”, literally, “to empty”. The one Who does the “emptying”, is Jesus Christ “Himself”. What is “κενόω” used here for? There is a passage in the Greek writer, Herodotus, where he uses this verb, as “stripped” (see, LSJ, Greek lexicon). The meaning of “strip” here, as defined in Webster’s, “to divest of honors, privileges, or functions”. Clearly from this passage in Philippians 2, we read of Jesus Christ as “stripping Himself of the honor and privilege”, that He had with the Father from all eternity, by becoming the God-Man. As Weymouth’s New Testament rightly reads, “He stripped Himself of His glory”. God cannot cease to be God, and Jesus Christ, Who IS Almighty God, cannot for any time, not be God! “μορφὴν δούλου”, is in the same way “μορφὴ ϑεοῦ” is understood, as the “very nature” of a human, except sin. One Person, Jesus Christ, verse 5, Two “natures”, God and Man, at His Incarnation, verse 6-7.

Next, “εν ομοιωματι ανθρωπων γενομενος”, that is, “being born in the likeness of man”. What does Paul mean here, by “likeness”? This does not mean that the “human nature” of Jesus Christ, was unreal, and just a phantom, as some in the early Church taught. To understand what this means, we can look at another verse in Paul, Romans 8:3, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh”. Same Greek word, “ὁμοίωμα”, (to resemble). The “human nature” of Jesus Christ, is very real, but, it is without any sin, which is not true of any human being ever born. In Matthew 1:16, we read, “Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ”. The Greek is very important, “ἐξ ἧς”, literally, “out of HER”, feminine, singular, which shows that Mary was the biological “mother” of Jesus Christ, Who actually derived His “human nature” from her. This is also seen in Luke 1:35, “therefore also that Holy Child Who shall be born of thee (ἐκ σοῦ, singular, “out of you”) shall be called the Son of God”

In the Greek, Paul is very careful in how he writes. He says, “κατεκρινε την αμαρτιαν εν τη σαρκ”, “condemned sin in the flesh”. Had he written, “κατεκρινε την αμαρτιαν την εν τη σαρκ”, this would have made sin in the flesh of Jesus Christ. It is clear from both these passages taken together, what Paul does mean when he says, “in the likeness of man”.

“And being found in fashion as a man”, Weymouth translates, “And being recognized as truly human”. “σχῆμα”, here translated as “fashion”, is more than just the “outward appearance”. It also is used for, “character, characteristic propetry”, that which makes a “real human”. When those who lived with Jesus looked at Him, they “saw” a real human being like themselves. But, in His One Person, He was the God-Man, 100% God and 100% Man, except for sin.

Then we have Jesus’ “submission” to God the Father, “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”. This “obedience”, is “μέχρῐ”, “till the end of His life”, “as long as”. At which point in time, that “submission” to the Father was ended. This is what the passage in Hebrew 2 says, that it was for “a little while”, that Jesus was “made lower than the angels”, for the duration of His Incarnate Life on earth.

The next three verses are to be taken together, “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”

The Name Jesus was given to Mary by, the Father, through the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:31). His Name is Highly exalted above all other names. So Great is Jesus Christ, that He is to receive all the Praise, Worship and Adoration, that is for Almighty God Himself. The words that Paul uses here, for The Lord Jesus Christ, and from the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah:

“Declare and present it. Yes, let them take counsel together. Who has shown this from ancient time? Who has declared it of old? Haven't I, Yahweh? There is no other God besides Me, a Just God and a Saviour; There is no one besides Me."Look to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and will not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath.” (45:21-23)

In this passage, Yahweh is the Speaker, Who says that He is The Saviour, and there is no other besides Him. In Luke 2:11, we read, “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord”. In Titus 2:13 we read, “looking for the blessed hope and appearance of the glory of our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ”. In John 4:42, Jesus Christ is called “The Saviour of the World”. The fact that Jesus Christ IS The Saviour of the world, as acknowledged by all, and that in Isaiah He is called Yahweh.

Further, the words in Isaiah are Spoken by Yahweh Himself, to Whom “every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath.”. The Apostle Paul has taken these words from this passage, and directly applied them to The Lord Jesus Christ, thereby identifying Jesus Christ as Yahweh. It would be blasphemy for Paul to have done this, if Jesus Christ Himself is not Almighty God.

Interestingly, the Jehovah’s Witnesses publication of the Emphatic Diaglott, which is a Greek-English New Testament, has for verse 10, “in order that in the NAME of Jesus Every Knee should bend, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those beneath”, a cross-reference to the passage in Isaiah 45:23! Clear evidence even in the JW’s publication, to the fact that Jesus Christ IS Yahweh.

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Re: Philippians 2 and the Person of Jesus Christ

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Post by SacredBishop »

Read your passage slightly different as an experiment. Replace Jesus, and his pronouns with God. Especially verse 9: "God highly exalted God, and bestowed on God the name above every name." Or verse 6 " although God existed in the form of God, God did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped." Seems awkward to me.

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Re: Philippians 2 and the Person of Jesus Christ

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Post by tigger 2 »

[Replying to YourWordIsTruth in post #1]

Although it has been rejected by even many trinitarian Bible scholars, some others attempt to force an interpretation of morphe (μορφῇ) that includes the idea of “essence” or “nature.” They do this only at Phil. 2:6 (Jesus “was in the form [morphe] of God”) because the true meaning of morphe will not allow for the trinitarian interpretation that Jesus is God. But with their forced interpretation of morphe at Phil. 2:6 they can say that Jesus had the “absolute essence” and “full nature” of God!

As even many trinitarian Bible scholars admit:

Morphe is instanced from Homer onwards and means form in the sense of outward appearance.” - The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 1986, Zondervan, p. 705, vol. 1.

Thayer agrees that morphe is
“the form by which a person or thing strikes the vision; the external appearance” - Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 418, Baker Book House. [Also see Young’s Analytical Concordance]

Those who complain that Thayer was a Unitarian are evidently trying to say that a Unitarian [even one as highly respected as Thayer] cannot be trusted. Not only is this ridiculous, but Thayer himself stated in his Lexicon that he was translating German trinitarian Grimm’s noted work. He wrote in the foreword that he did not attempt to change anything Grimm had written, but when he wanted to insert his own view, he always inserted it in brackets. The above quote was not in brackets.

Liddell and Scott’s An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, p. 519, Oxford University Press, 1994 printing, tells us that morphe can mean “form, fashion, appearance” but does not include a meaning for “nature” or “essence.” It also shows that if one truly intends the meaning of “being, essence, nature of a thing” it is defined by the Greek word ousia (p. 579) or phusis (p. 876) not morphe.

The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (abridged in one volume), Eerdmans, 1985, says “In general morphe in all its nuances represents what may be seen by the senses and not what is mentally apprehended.” - p. 608. It also tells us that when “nature” is intended by Paul, he uses physis (phusis). E.g., Ro. 11:21, 24; Gal. 2:15;4:8. - p. 1286.

The highly-esteemed BAGD (and BDAG) also defines morphe as “form, outward appearance, shape.” - p. 530.

It’s easy to see why even many trinitarian scholars disagree with the forced “nature” interpretation of morphe when you look at all the scriptural uses of morphe (according to Young’s Analytical Concordance, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1978 printing and A Concordance of the Septuagint, Zondervan Publishing House, 1979 printing): Mark 16:12; Phil. 2:6, 7 in the New Testament and in the Old Testament Greek Septuagint of Job 4:16 “there was no form [morphe] before my eyes;” Is. 44:13 “makes it [a piece of wood] as the form [morphe] of a man;” Dan. 4:33 “my natural form [morphe] returned to me;” 5:6, 9, 10 “the king’s countenance [morphe] changed;” 7:28 “[Daniel’s] countenance [morphe] was changed.” - The Septuagint Version, Greek and English, Zondervan, 1976 printing.

Morphe is found at Mark 16:12 which is part of the “Long Ending” for the Gospel of Mark. Many scholars do not consider this as inspired scripture, but, instead, a later addition by someone to Mark’s original inspired writing. However, even if this is the case, it is still an example of how morphe was used in those times since copies of the “Long Ending” were in existence at least as early as 165 A.D. (Justin Martyr).
So notice especially how the New American Bible (1970), the Living Bible, The New English Bible, the Douay version, the New Life Version, and the Easy-to-Read Version translate morphe at Mark 16:12:

“he was revealed to them completely changed in appearance [morphe]” - NAB.
“they didn’t recognize him at first because he had changed his appearance [morphe].” - LB.
“he appeared in a different guise [morphe]” - NEB.
“he appeared in another shape [morphe]” - Douay.
“he did not look like he had looked [morphe] before to these two people” - NLV.
“Jesus did not look the same” - ETRV.
Mark 16:12 - “He appeared in another form. Luke explains this by saying that their eyes were held. If their eyes were influenced, of course, optically speaking, Jesus would appear in another form.” - People’s New Testament Notes.

Later, Jesus showed himself to two of his followers while they were walking in the country, but he did not look the same as before. - NCV.

These trinitarian translations show the meaning of morphe to be that of “external appearance” not “essence” or “nature”!

The trinitarian Living Bible even renders morphe at Phil. 2:7 as “disguise”! And the 1969 French lectionary rendered morphe at Phil. 2:6 as image!

Also notice how these early Christian writers understood the meaning of morphe at Phil 2:6 itself:
“... who being in the shape of God, thought it not an object of desire to be treated like God” - Christian letter from 177 A.D. sometimes ascribed to Irenaeus, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (ANF), p. 784, vol. 8.

“... who being in the image of God, ‘thought it not ...’” - Tertullian, about 200 A.D., ANF, p. 549, vol. 3.

“...who being appointed in the figure of God ...” - Cyprian, about 250 A.D., ANF, p. 545, vol. 5.

We can see, then, that, with the originally-intended meaning of morphe, Paul is saying that before Jesus came to earth he had a form or an external appearance resembling that of God (as do the other heavenly spirit persons, the angels, also).
So one in the morphe of a slave is one who has the appearance of a slave (but is not in actuality - thus, “taking the disguise [morphe] of a slave” - Phil. 2:7, Living Bible.).

This is the obvious meaning of “form” here and it is still used in this sense even today. As an example The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (TNIDONTT) says:
“According to Gen 18:1 ff., God appeared to Abraham in the form of three men.” - p. 706, vol. 1.

Although scripturally incorrect, some trinitarians today say that God was in the form of three men (or angels). Obviously, they mean only that he appeared that way to men, but really was not what his outward appearance seemed: he was not actually three men!!

Isaiah 44:13, for example, says in the Septuagint: “The artificer having chosen a piece of wood, marks it out with a rule, and fits it with glue, and makes it as the form [morphe] of a man” - Zondervan, 1976 printing. Now a “Wooditarian” might well claim that the wood in this scripture ‘clearly has the full and complete essence, nature, etc. of Man,’ but no objective, reasonable person would accept his wishful interpretation! Instead an honest interpretation can only be that the artificer made the piece of wood to appear like a man.
The fact that it is in the form (morphe) of a man shows conclusively (as we should know anyway) that it is not a man! If the writer of this scripture had somehow intended to say that the artificer had indeed made the piece of wood into a real man, he would not have used morphe. He would have written that the artificer “makes it into a man.” And, of course, it is equally true that Paul would not have said Jesus was in the form (morphe) of God if he had meant that Jesus was God! The use of morphe there shows that Jesus was not God!

Yes, the fact that a few trinitarians insist that morphe can mean the very essence or nature of a thing does not make it so. We know that ‘essence,’ ‘nature,’ ‘essential nature,’ etc. were not intended here by Paul simply because of the way this word is always used in scripture. We know it also by the fact that there were words available to Paul which really did mean ‘essence’ or ‘nature.’ If Paul, or any other Bible writer, had ever wished to use a word indicating the nature, substance, or essence of something, he could have used phusis or, possibly, even ousia.

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Re: Philippians 2 and the Person of Jesus Christ

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Post by tigger 2 »

Harpagmos in Phillipians ("grasp" or "forcefully seize")

Notice how these two trinitarian Bibles have rendered it:
1. “He did not think to snatch at [harpagmos, ἁρπαγμὸς] equality with God” - NEB.
2. “He did not think that by force [harpagmos] he should try to become equal with God” - TEV (and GNB).

We believe that the translations by the trinitarian NEB and TEV Bibles of this part of Phil. 2:6 must be the intended meaning of the original writer of this scripture because (in part, at least) of the obvious meaning of the New Testament (NT) Greek word harpagmos (ἁρπαγμὸς).

There could be some doubt about the meaning of the word harpagmos if we looked only at the NT Greek Scriptures (since harpagmos occurs only at Phil. 2:6 in the entire New Testament). We would then only have the meaning of the source words for harpagmos to determine its intended meaning.

Even so, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (by trinitarian writer and trinitarian publisher) tells us that harpagmos means “plunder” and that it comes from the source word harpazo which means: “to seize ... catch away, pluck, take (by force).” - #725 & 726, Abingdon Press, 1974 printing.

“725 harpagmós – to seize, especially by an open display of force. See 726 (harpazō).” - HELPS Word-studies, copyright © 1987, 2011 by Helps Ministries, Inc.

And the New American Standard Concordance of the Bible (also by trinitarians) tells us: “harpagmos; from [harpazo]; the act of seizing or the thing seized.” And, “harpazo ... to seize, catch up, snatch away.” Notice that all have to do with taking something away by force. - # 725 & #726, Holman Bible Publ., 1981.

In fact, the trinitarian The Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1967, pp. 436, 437, vol. III, tells us:
“We cannot find any passage where [harpazo] or any of its derivatives [which include harpagmos] has the sense of ‘holding in possession,’ ‘retaining’ [as preferred in many trinitarian translations of Phil. 2:6]. It seems invariably to mean ‘seize’, ‘snatch violently’. Thus it is not permissible to glide from the true sense [‘snatch violently’] into one which is totally different, ‘hold fast.’ ”

Even the trinitarian NT Greek expert, W. E. Vine, had to admit that harpagmos is “akin to harpazo, to seize, carry off by force.” - p. 887, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.

And the trinitarian The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology tells us that the majority of Bible scholars (mostly trinitarian, of course)
“have taken harpagmos to mean a thing plundered or seized..., and so spoil, booty or a prize of war.” - p. 604, vol. 3, Zondervan, 1986.

The key to both these words (harpagmos and its source word, harpazo) is: taking something away from someone by force and against his will. And if we should find a euphemism such as “prize” used in a trinitarian Bible for harpagmos, it has to be understood only in the same sense as a pirate ship forcibly seizing another ship as its “prize”!
We can easily see this “taken by force” meaning in all the uses of harpazo (the source word for harpagmos) in the New Testament. But since harpagmos itself is used only at Phil. 2:6 in the NT, Bible scholars must go to the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament (which is frequently quoted in the NT), the Septuagint.

In the Septuagint harpagmos (in its forms of harpagma[2,3] and harpagmata) is used 16 times according to trinitarian Zondervan’s A Concordance of the Septuagint, p. 32, 1979 printing. And in every case its meaning is the taking of something away from someone by force. Here they are in the Bagster Septuagint as published by Zondervan: Lev. 6:4 “plunder;” Job 29:17 “spoil” (a “prize” taken by force); Ps. 61:10 (Ps. 62:10 in most modern Bibles) “robberies;” Is. 42:22 “prey;” Is. 61:8 “robberies;” Ezek. 18:7 “plunder;” Ezek. 18:12 “robbery;” Ezek. 18:16 “robbery;” Ezek. 18:18 “plunder;” Ezek. 19:3 “prey;” Ezek. 19:6 “take prey;” Ezek. 22:25 “seizing prey;” Ezek. 22:27 “get dishonest gain” (through the use of “harpazo” or “force”); Ezek. 22:29 “robbery;” Ezek. 33:15 “ha robbed;” and Malachi 1:13 “torn victims” (compare ASV).

So, in spite of some trinitarians’ reasonings and euphemistic renderings, it is clear from the way it was always used in scripture that harpagmos means either taking something away by force (a verb), or something which has been taken by force (a noun).

Many trinitarian translators, however, either make nonsense out of the meaning of Phil. 2:6 by actually using the proper meaning of “robbery” or “taken by force” without showing God’s clear superiority over Jesus which the context demands, or, instead, making sense of it by choosing a word that doesn’t have the proper meaning of “taking by force.”

For example, the King James Version (KJV) does use “robbery” (a nearly-accurate meaning for harpagmos) but obviously mangles the meaning of the rest of the statement so that it doesn’t even make proper sense: “thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” This is a nonsensical statement even by itself. In context it is even more inappropriate!

Yes, as we have seen above, even in the KJV it is apparent from context that the purpose of this example is to emphasize lowliness of mind, humility: to regard others as better than yourself (vv. 3-5). Paul certainly wouldn’t destroy this example of humility for fellow Christians by saying that Jesus is thinking that it isn’t robbery for him to be equal with the Most High! Besides being a nonsensical statement, it is just the opposite of humility! Instead, to be in harmony with the purpose of Paul’s example, we must find a Jesus who regards God as superior to himself and won’t give even a moment’s thought about attempting to take that most high position himself, but, instead, humbles himself even further.

Trinitarian scholar R. P. Martin, for example, feels the context (especially the obvious contrast of verses 6 and 7) clearly proves that harpagmos in verse 6 means Christ refused to seize equality with God. Emphasizing the fact that this is a contrast with verse 6, verse 7 begins with “but [alla].” In accord with this, he tells us,
“V[erse] 6b states what Christ might have done [or could have attempted to do], i.e. seized equality with God; v. 7 states what he chose to do, i.e. give himself.” - The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 3, p. 604.

When even a number of the best trinitarian scholars are willing to admit the actual meaning (or even an equivalent compromise) of harpagmos at Phil. 2:6, it becomes necessary for honest-hearted, truth-seeking individuals to admit that Phil. 2:6 not only does not identify Jesus as God, but that it clearly shows Jesus is not God!

The highly regarded (and trinitarian) The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 1986, Zondervan, says:
“Although the Son of God in his pre-existent being was in the form of God, he resisted the temptation to be equal with God (Phil. 2:6). In his earthly existence he was obedient to God, even unto death on the cross (Phil. 2:8) .... After the completion of his work on earth he has indeed been raised to the right hand of God (Eph. 1:20; 1 Pet. 3:22) .... But he is still not made equal to God. Although completely co-ordinated with God, he remains subordinate to him (cf. 1 Cor. 15:28).” - p. 80, vol. 2.

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Re: Philippians 2 and the Person of Jesus Christ

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Another less than forthright rendering of “being in form of God (or a god)” by a few trinitarian scholars involves the Greek word huparcho (translated “being” above). Huparcho (huparchon [ὑπάρχων in Greek letters] is the actual form of huparcho used in this scripture) is sometimes “interpreted” by a few trinitarians in an attempt to show an eternal pre-existence (see TEV).[10] This is done in an attempt to deny the actuality of Jesus’ creation by God. Similarly, Dr. Walter Martin in his The Kingdom of the Cults declares:

“Christ never ceased to be Jehovah even during His earthly incarnation. It is interesting to note that the Greek term uparchon, translated ‘being’ in Philippians 2:6 [KJV], literally means ‘remaining or not ceasing to be’ (see also 1 Corinthians 11:7), hence in the context Christ never ceased to be God.” - p. 94, 1985 ed.

If huparchon really had such a meaning, we would expect it to be used especially for God. What else that exists has an eternal existence? But search as we will we never see this word used for God! Some examples where we would expect to see it used (if it really meant ‘eternal existence’) in the Bible Greek of the ancient Septuagint are Is. 43:10, 25; 45:15, 22; 46:4, 9. Like all other scriptures referring to God, they use forms of the “be” verb (eimi), which may be used to mean an eternal existence, but they never use huparchon to show his eternal existence! (Is. 45:22, for example, says, “I am [eimi] the God and there is no other.” - cf. James 2:19 [estin, form of eimi]) So why is huparchon never used to show the eternal existence for the only thing that has always existed (and which will never cease to exist)?

Huparchon is never used for God because it actually, literally means (in spite of Martin’s “scholarly” declaration above):
“to make a beginning (hupo, ‘under’; arche, ‘a beginning’)” - W. E. Vine’s An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 390.

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance also defines huparcho as “to begin under (quietly), i.e. COME INTO EXISTENCE” - #5225.
And the authoritative (and trinitarian) An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon by Liddell and Scott tells us:
“[huparcho] ... to begin, make a beginning ... 2. to make a beginning of ... 3. to begin doing ... 4. to begin [doing] kindness to one ... Pass. to be begun” - p. 831, Oxford University Press, 1994 printing.

So, even though it may be rendered into English as “existed” or “is,” it nevertheless seems that it must also be understood as something that has come into existence at some point. In that sense, then, uparchon may be very much like another NT word, ginomai, γινόμαι [#1096, Thayer’s], which also literally means “become” or “come into existence” but is sometimes translated into English as “is,” “are,” etc. E.g., 1 Peter 3:6 “whose daughters ye are [ginomai],” KJV, NKJV, NAB, RSV, NIV, is more properly understood as “you have become [ginomai] her children,” NASB, NRSV, NEB, NWT - Cf. John 6:17, “It was [ginomai] dark.”

As respected trinitarian NT Greek expert Dr. Alfred Marshall tells us:
“[Ginomai] denotes the coming into existence of what did not exist before.... This verb [just like huparchon - T2] is therefore not used of God....” Marshall further explains that although ginomai is often translated into English as “is,” “are,” “were,” etc. it must nevertheless be remembered that it still retains the additional meaning of having come into existence! - p. 106, New Testament Greek Primer, Zondervan Publishing House, 1978 printing.

For another good example of the similarity of huparchon with ginomai see Luke 16:23 and 22:44.
Lk. 16:23 - “he lifted up his eyes, being [huparchon] in torment,” NASB.
Lk. 22:44 - “and being [ginomai] in agony he was praying,” NASB.
In very similar statements Luke has used the very similar (in meaning) huparchon and ginomai and the highly respected NASB has rendered them both “being.” But in both cases their fundamental meanings of “coming into existence” (or “coming to be”) must be remembered. In other words, the person had not always been in torment or agony, but at some point had “come to be” in such a condition!
If you examine the following examples of the Biblical usage of huparcho, you will find they are clearly speaking of conditions which once did not exist but which have come into existence (“have begun to be”): Luke 16:23; Acts 2:30; Acts 7:55; Acts 8:16; Ro. 4:19; 1 Cor. 11:18; 2 Cor. 8:17; James 2:15.

These last four verses not only show a state that has begun recently but a state that is transient, temporary - e.g., Abraham hadn’t always been [huparchon] 100 years of age and certainly wouldn’t continue to be 100 years of age: he had begun to be [huparchon] about 100 years old at this point - Ro. 4:19.

1 Cor. 11:18, KJV says:
“I hear that there be [huparchon] divisions among you [the Corinthian congregation].”
Such divisions had not always existed there. Nor must they always continue to be there, or Paul would not have bothered to counsel them to heal their divisions. The complete understanding for this verse is, obviously:
“I hear that there have begun to be [huparchon] divisions among you.”

2 Cor. 8:16, 17 tells us:
“But thanks be to God, who puts the same earnestness on your behalf in the heart of Titus. For he [Titus] ..., being [huparchon] himself very earnest, he has gone to you of his own accord.” - NASB.

It should be obvious to everyone that Titus hasn’t been earnest from all eternity. He obviously came to be earnest at some point in time. And, in fact, we are even told in verse 16 that at some point in time God put this earnestness in Titus’ heart. Obviously it was not always there if God put it in his heart at some point! The meaning of huparchon as “having come [or begun] to be” is very certain from the context alone in these two verses.

James 2:15 tells us, in the KJV: “If a brother or sister be [huparchon] naked [‘without clothes’ - NIV, NASB],” we must help him to become clothed again. Obviously the brother has not been naked for all eternity but has very recently come to be in this condition. It’s equally obvious that the brother will not always continue in this condition. In fact his brothers are commanded to ensure that he not continue in this naked state. (Famed trinitarian Bible scholar Dr. Robert Young noted the correct, complete meaning for huparchon in this verse: “BEGIN to be [uparchon] naked” - Young’s Concise Critical Bible Commentary, Baker Book House, 1977 ed.)

Therefore, huparcho (or huparchon) does not mean “eternal pre-existence” as claimed by some trinitarians, and it certainly does not have to mean a condition that must continue to exist as Dr. Walter Martin also implies. Notice the solitary example (1 Cor. 11:7) he has selected to “prove” that huparchon means “not ceasing to be”: “For a man ... is [huparchon] the image and glory of God” - NASB. My trinitarian NASB reference Bible refers this scripture to Gen. 1:26; 5:1; 9:6; and James 3:9. These scriptures all state that man was created or made in the image of God. (In fact James 3:9 literally says that men “have come to be [ginomai, #1096] in the likeness of God” and is usually translated in trinitarian Bibles as “have been made [or created] in the likeness of God.” - NASB, NIV, RSV.)
So there is the real parallel meaning for the huparchon of 1 Cor. 11:7 - created! There obviously was a time (before he was created) when a man was not the image of God. Furthermore, this solitary “example” given by Martin states that “a man” (NASB) is the image of God. This means that every man who lives has these qualities in some degree. However, not every man will have these qualities forever. Many, when they return to the dust of the earth, will cease to reflect God’s qualities and glory! It would be much better to translate this verse literally as “For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he has come into existence [huparchon] in the image and glory of God.”

There is little doubt about what huparchon was actually intended to mean (regardless of how modern translators choose to translate it). Noted trinitarian scholar and translator Dr. Robert Young (Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible; Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible; etc.) has even admitted in his Young’s Concise Critical Bible Commentary (p.134, Baker Book House, 1977) that his own rendering of huparchon as “being” at Phil. 2:6 in his own published Bible translation should be, to be more literal,
beginning secretly [huparchon] in (the) form of God ....” - Phil. 2:6.

So, rather than any “eternal pre-existence” being implied by Paul’s use of huparchon at Phil. 2:6 (“who ‘always having been’ in God’s form” - cf. TEV), it is more likely just the opposite: “Who came into existence (or was created) [huparchon] in a form [morphe] similar to God (or in God’s image)”! Of course, if Jesus first came into existence in God’s image, then he cannot be the eternal, always-existent God of the Bible (nor even the always-existent God of the trinity doctrine)!

Or, put even more simply, since huparchon is never used in scripture for God himself, then its use for the pre-existent Jesus indicates, again, that Jesus cannot be God!

What we really have at Phil. 2:6-7, then, may be more accurately rendered:
“who, even though he had come into existence [huparchon] as a glorious spirit person in a likeness [morphe, ‘external form or guise’] of God (or a god), never gave even the slightest consideration that by force he should try [harpagmos] to become equal to God (in even a single aspect or quality), but, instead, emptied himself of his glorious form and took on the likeness [external form or guise] of a slave, being born in the likeness of men.”

Phil. 2:6 is, in reality, proof that Jesus has never been equally God with the Father!

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