Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Philippians 2:6-11: is this passage “clear in teaching the Deity of Christ”?

Our Reformed brother in Christ, Ken Temple, recently responded to some reflections I made in the combox of the The Beggars All thread – No one can change the Words of God, with the following:

Philippians 2 is clear in teaching the Deity of Christ. It is amazing to me that one who claims to be a Christian would imbibe interpretations that seek to overcome the teaching of the Deity of Christ. Isn't that your Jehovah's Witness background coming through and effecting you?

What “is amazing to me” is the penchant of many Reformed folk to enlist ad hominem tactics when addressing those who differ with their interpretation(s). Rather than defending his rather bold assertion that the scholars I invoked who differ with his understanding of the famous Qur’anic passage (4.157 -which was being discussed in the thread linked to above), are “just playing with words and getting the opposite meaning of what is clear; kind of like the homosexuals arguing that the bible really doesn't not condemn homosexuality, when it fact it does”, Ken instead makes sweeping ad hominem charges—I say “sweeping” because there are a considerable number of NT scholars (conservative, moderate, and liberal) who agree with my assessment that the Phi. 2:6-11 is anything but “clear”, but rather, is a very “complex” passage that has a, “number and variety of interpretations”, including the phrase “in [the] form of God” (ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ). For instance, one Evangelical scholar (who affirms the Deity of Christ) wrote:

What did Paul mean when he wrote that Christ Jesus always existed ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ? If the number and variety of interpretations given to the expression have any meaning it must be because it is of crucial importance for understanding the whole of the Christ-hymn, of fundamental significance for determining the Christology of the entire passage. The difficulty of this phrase in proverbial, stemming not so much from the fact that the word μορφή (“form”) appears only three times in the New Testament—twice in our “hymn” and once in the longer ending of Mark (16:12)—nor from the paucity of its use in the Greek Bible, nor from an ignorance of its meaning in Greek literature as a whole, but from an inability to know with certainty what Paul meant when he used this word to say that Christ Jesus existed “in the form of God” (ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ), and thus from a sense of helplessness or inadequacy as to how to translate it here in 2:6-7. [Gerald F. Hawthorne, “In the Form of God and Equal with God (Philippians 2:6)”, in Where Christology Began: Essays on Philippians 2, ed. Martin and Dodd, pp. 97, 98.]

I first became cognizant of the incredible diversity of interpretations concerning Phil. 2:6-11 way back in the 1980s as I dialogued with friends of mine who had also left the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but still retained an ‘Arianian’ understanding of God and Jesus Christ. Books like James D.G. Dunn’s, Christology in the Making, exposed to English readers the complexity that lies behind so many of the ‘traditional’ Christological verses, including Phil. 2:6-11.

Perhaps the most solid, and scholarly, defense for the ‘orthodox’ understanding of Phil. 2:6-11 in English, came back in 1967 when Ralph P. Martin released his famous book, Carmen Christi (I own the revised 1983 edition). And yet, Martin’s very first words in the preface of the book should be noted:

There are certain passages of scripture which both provoke and baffle study. Philippians ii. 5-11 is one such section, as all who have tried their hand at its interpretation know full well. (Page vii, 1983 ed.)

So, in ending, while I can understand Ken’s sense of frustration with the comments I made concerning Phi. 2:6-11, I sincerely hope that he can appreciate the fact that I was merely trying to be accurate and honest in my assessments.


Grace and peace,

David

17 comments:

Nick said...

From my study on this, which basically is only a brief study on the word being used, is that the word morphe ("in the form of") is used in *parallel* in Phil 2:6. Once in regards to Jesus in the "form of" God and in the next verse when Jesus took the "form of" a man.

Since Jesus really was man (by nature), then to maintain the parellel use of the Greek word indicates He had the Divine Nature as well. That's an important factor to consider when dealing with this.

Ken said...

David,
How was my comment an "ad hominem attack" ?

I am asking you a question, is your Jehovah's Witness background affecting your view of the Deity of Christ and Philippians 2? (Now that you no longer believe in the Papacy and the RCC as infallible; which is a good thing by itself)

Good for Nick, at least he defends the Deity of Christ based on Scripture, and not what Rome or a Council says. The first 4 Ecumenical councils were right because they based the doctrinal decisions on Scripture; although I think Cyril and his party were unjust to Nestorius in the Council of Ephesus.

Are those scholars (Hawthorne, Dunn, Martin) inerrantists? I don't think Dunn is; isn't one of the ones that Shabir Ally quotes all the time, ammo against the Deity of Christ?

If they are not, then I don't have much respect for them. Give me Daniel Wallace, D. A. Carson, James White, and others, even Arminians who at least respect the Scripture and understand that this passage is teaching the Deity of Christ; those scholars like them who treat the Scriptures with respect.

Bernard Ramm said something like in his hermeneutics book, in order to interpret Scripture properly, "one must have a deep respect for Scripture". If those scholars do not believe in inerrancy, then they don't respect the Scriptures enough, so their interpretations go wrong.

Continued because my post was too long.

Ken said...

Now, David, I think the participles of Philippians 2:6-8 are the more complicated aspects, even more than the “morphe” and “kenosis” issues; but really, the issue is not complicated compared to the one passage in the Qur'an (4:157) with 3:54-55 providing more of what the Muslims themselves say is their interpretation.

This new stuff (Lawson, C-5/ Insider’s movement /radical contextualization (syncretism)and saying and claiming that Surah 4:157 is complicated, etc. by Lawson and those guys is an attempt (it seems to me) to help the Muslims save face, for they have denied historical reality for centuries; and it is so embarrassing that even Shabir Ally has had to modify and actually go against the standard Orthodox Islamic view that has been taught by Muslims for centuries. This maybe the biggest lie of all history, (except the atheist who says, “There is no god” – Psalm 14) – the second biggest lie – “Isa Al Masih did not die on the cross and was not crucified.”

Do you believe that Jesus Christ was nailed to a Roman cross in Israel/Palestine around 30 AD instigated by the Jewish leaders, Pharisees, chief priests, under Pontius Pilate, the Roman Procuator, under Tiberius Ceasar?

Even Bart Ehrman and John Dominic Crossan believe that is historical. Josephus (the non interpolated aspects are clear) and Tacitus and others testify to this; Ignatius, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, Clement, Origen, Cyprian, Polycarp, Athanasius, Chrysostom, Augustine, Ambrose, etc - all wrote on this for centuries before Islam. The historical evidence is too much and Islam falls under the crushing weight of just this one fact.

As I wrote in my response to your link to the Lawson book, and the quotes you provide, on the Quran and the Crucifixion - "it asserts that the Qur'an does not really deny the crucifixion and death of Jesus, but it doesn't explain how Surah 4:157 really does not teach that Jesus was not crucified nor killed.

Do you doubt the Deity of Christ and the Trinity now?

Make the commitment; come to Christ fully. Steve Hayes may be blunt and “in your face” in interacting with you, but he seems to be right on this, that you are so open to so many possibilities and religions that you never make the commitment.

A true Christian does not doubt the Deity of Christ. "My Sheep Hear My voice". John 10:27-30 "I and the Father are one"

continued

Ken said...

Although the details of the Greek and the participles of Philippians 2 may be complicated; I don’t deny that – can you work with the Greek text? (I have looked at it before, but it is too much to get into the comboxes); My point was that it is not complicated compared to the Islam/Quran/Surah 4:157 issue.

The passage is clear that Jesus was God and yet was incarnated and became flesh, etc. Good scholars who do not doubt inerrancy have done a good job on interpreting this passage. Dr. James White has an excellent article on the participle issues and interpreting the passage and the "kenosis" issue. (You have probably seen it and commented on it; I seem to recall.) Especially when we have John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1, Revelation 1; Romans 9:5, I John 5:20 and many, many other passages that all teach the Deity of Christ, etc.; I honestly don't see how you can compare that to the few little snippets of Qur’anic verses on the issue of the crucifixion - one (4:157) or two (with 3:54-55) or three (19:33) passages in the Qur'an about the death of Jesus.

You make things much more complicated than they are. I want to encourage you to stop making it complicated and make the commitment to Christ and His Lordship (meaning He is God and the Trinity is true, based on Scripture) and all other claims of revelation are false.

"sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts" - I Peter 3:15 - notice I Peter 3:14 and the quote for Isaiah 8:12, and then Isaiah 8:13 is clearly saying Yahweh is to be regarded as holy in our hearts - So I Peter 3:14 is a quote and I Peter 3:15 is an allusion to the next verse, Isaiah 8:13 - which shows that Jesus is Yahweh!

You cannot do biblical apologetics of “being prepared for answers” in I Peter 3:15 until you first set Christ apart as Lord (kurios, Yahweh) in your heart and fear Him above the fear of man and the intellectual respectability of all the books and knowledge in the world. ( on treating God as holy – along with Isaiah 8:12-13; see also Deut. 32:51; Lev. 10:1-3; Matthew 6:10)

I like your manner in discussing things, and I respect all your reading and knowledge, and I do pray for you, but I am concerned for your soul, because you do seem to doubt many things that are basic Christian truths, and unwilling to take the step of commitment to Christ and His Deity and the Trinity; and by logic and reason this follows that JW, Mormons, Islam, Bahai are all wrong and false religions.

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

Thanks for taking the time to respond; you wrote:

>>How was my comment an "ad hominem attack" ?

I am asking you a question, is your Jehovah's Witness background affecting your view of the Deity of Christ and Philippians 2? (Now that you no longer believe in the Papacy and the RCC as infallible; which is a good thing by itself)>>

Me: I saw your initial response/question as ad hominem because it was of a personal nature. I suppose psychologists would argue that all of our life experiences affect us in some way; but, I personally do not think that my JW background has anything to do at all with what I said concerning Phil. 2:6-11—my research into this complex passage has relied upon non-JW scholars (most of whom are Evangelical).

>> Are those scholars (Hawthorne, Dunn, Martin) inerrantists? I don't think Dunn is; isn't one of the ones that Shabir Ally quotes all the time, ammo against the Deity of Christ?>>

Me: Dunn is not, but I honestly do not know if Hawthorne (whose commentary on Philippians was published by Word Publishers, which is solidly Evangelical), and Martin are strict inerrantists; but I do know that the latter two affirm the full Deity of Christ. (BTW, JWs are inerrantists.)

More later, the Lord willing…


Grace and peace,

David

Ken said...

I don't think JWs count as true inerrantists since they are so wrong on the Greek text, translating it wrong in John 1:1 and Colossians 1:15 and other places.

It is not a Christian organization; It is a cult.

Nick said...

Ken,

Ironically, the JWs are more or less correct on John 1:1...*they* just don't realize it:
http://catholicnick.blogspot.com/2010/06/jws-are-correct-about-john-11-jesus-is.html

David Waltz said...

Hi Nick,

I sincerely appreciate that you took to the time to respond to my opening thread. Before I get back to Ken’s posts, I would like to comment on the following you wrote:

>> From my study on this, which basically is only a brief study on the word being used, is that the word morphe ("in the form of") is used in *parallel* in Phil 2:6. Once in regards to Jesus in the "form of" God and in the next verse when Jesus took the "form of" a man.>>

Me: The actual morphē *parallel* between v.6 and v.7 is “form of God” (μορφῇ θεοῦ) with “form of a slave/servant” (μορφὴν δούλου), to which is added “made in the likeness of men” (ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος).

The morphē *parallel* seems to be more of an idiomatic parallel, than a literal one.

Any further thoughts on this?


Grace and peace,

David

Nick said...

What do you mean by an 'idiomatic' parallel? If Jesus truly became man, then it makes sense to me that it's literal.

David Waltz said...

Hello again Ken,

You asked the following:

>> Do you believe that Jesus Christ was nailed to a Roman cross in Israel/Palestine around 30 AD instigated by the Jewish leaders, Pharisees, chief priests, under Pontius Pilate, the Roman Procuator, under Tiberius Ceasar?>>

Me: A big YES. What I question is what has become the ‘traditional’ reading of ayah 4.167 by most Muslims and Christians. Lawson and other Islamic scholars have noted that some early Muslim commentators believed that the ayah is not addressing the physical death of Jesus at all—the other ayat I referenced in THIS THREAD sure seem to support this earlier understanding—which is why I wrote the following:

“My studies, along with the fact certain verses in the Qur’an affirm Jesus’ death (e.g. 3.55; 5.117; 19.33), convinced me that something was seriously defective with the ‘traditional’ understanding of Jesus’ crucifixion held to by most Muslims.”

If anything, 4.157 refutes the JW position (i.e. that Jesus’ soul was killed/annihilated).


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi again Nick,

You posted:

>>What do you mean by an 'idiomatic' parallel? If Jesus truly became man, then it makes sense to me that it's literal.>>

Me: I guess I am not being very clear—sorry about that—let me try again. The noun morphē is not used in conjunction with “man”, but rather, with “slave”. Jesus was not literally a “slave”.

That Jesus was literally a man is certainly taught in other Bible verses with indisputable clarity; however, Phil. 2:7 is not one of those verses. Personally, I would use other Biblical passages/verses than Phil. 2:6-11 to argue for the hypostatic union of our Lord.


Sincerely hope I have been a bit clearer this time.


Grace and peace,

David

Ken said...

In looking at your post, again, and reading it for probably the 10th time; on the article about Lawson's book and the crucifixion in the Qur'an; the three quotes you provide are just re-interpreting 4:157 as a spiritualizing or allegorical way or metaphorical way; that His body was crucified, but His spirit lives; they couldn't kill Him, etc.

This is a big stretch, because they are embarrassed, because of clear history.

Obviously, the Divine Nature of Jesus was not killed; God cannot die; but He really died as a human and then He rose Himself up - John 10:18 from the dead.

Have you watched the 2 new debates that Dr. White has up on his you tube page against
Shabir Ally (on Jesus (in OT) and Muhammad prophesied and Bible?)
and
Abdullah Andalusi (on the Trinity)

First time I have seen a Muslim really understand more about the Trintiy than usual.

I haven't finished - it keeps getting stuck halfway through the streaming / buffering, etc.

http://www.youtube.com/DrOakley1689#p/a/u/1/hI5AiO_UCz0

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,


As always, thanks for responding. You wrote:

>>the three quotes you provide are just re-interpreting 4:157 as a spiritualizing or allegorical way or metaphorical way; that His body was crucified, but His spirit lives; they couldn't kill Him, etc.

This is a big stretch, because they are embarrassed, because of clear history.>>

Me: But the Qur’an itself seems to suggest that Lawson’s interpretation has some merit:

Do not say that those who are killed in the way of God, are dead, for indeed they are alive, even though you are not aware” (2.154 – Ahmed Ali trans.)

Though the physical bodies of those who die for the cause/way of God are killed, “they are alive”. If one keeps 2.154 in mind when reading 4.157 Lawson’s interpretation seems more than just plausible. And don’t forget the Qur’anic ayat which state that Jesus did die—e.g. 3.55; 5.117; 19.33—what died/was killed, and what remained alive, and was taken to God?

So, since Jesus was “was killed in the way of God” we are to say to those who killed Him, that He is “alive, even though” they “are not aware”.


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Ken,

Forgot to thank you for the link to the Ally/White video...will try to watch it tomorrow.

Lvka said...

It means that Christ was the Face or Image of God, as when God appeared to the Prophets and Patriarchs in human Form. (See here and look in the Early Church Fathers as well).

Lvka said...

I think this small gem of an article (don't mind saying so myself :D ) will also prove useful.

TheScott92 said...

The word "God" in verse 6 should be translated indefinitely because it is in contrast to the indefinite "slave" of the next verse.

The sense is: "Let this disposition be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, inherently existing with the form of a god, did not regard this likeness to God as a thing to be retained, but emptied himself of it by taking the form of a slave"

If it is the form of A slave, it must be the form of A god.