From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Jun 12 1996 - 21:04:32 EDT

"Well", he said to himself when first he saw this 'innocent' little query,
"here's grist for somebody's mill!" And behold! Hours have passed since its
posting and no one has yet responded. But this is so much more than a
grammar problem, for all that it begins as one. It goes to the very heart
of Paul's understanding of Christian religious experience. And surely
nobody is going to argue that GINWSKW in this passage refers to
intellectual understanding or recognition of the truth of a proposition.

At 9:36 AM -0500 6/12/96, Eric Weiss wrote:
>Philippians 3:10 SUMMORPHIZOMENOS
>Depending on which lexicon I check, this is either passive ptc. of
>SUMMORPHIZW (BAGD, Abbott-Smith) or is from the deponent (I guess)
>SUMMORPHIZOMAI (Louw-Nida, UBS dictionary), if a -OMAI lexical entry means
>the verb is deponent. LSJ on Perseus lists it under SUMMORPHIZOMAI and calls
>it passive. Is this participle passive ("being conformed to the likeness
>of"), middle ("conforming myself to the likeness of") or deponent
>("conforming [what?] to the likeness of")?

I would call it middle or (as I am about to decide to do unilaterally)
rather I would call it "reflexive"--"deponent" means nothing, so far as I
can tell, but that the grammarian is irked that the verb's morphology
doesn't follow the pattern of the corresponding verb in his/her own
language. I would understand Paul here as meaning that he wants to
participate mystically in the actual death of Jesus as an experience that
will lead ultimately to participation in his resurrection. The MORFH
element here ought to be understood, of course, as referring to personal
mystical assimilation of the death-suffering of Jesus; I don't know whether
this means that Paul is actually undergoing that exercise of medieval
mystics like St. Francis of stretching out the arms as if being crucified
and awaiting the reception of the STIGMATA. I don't know the history of
that process, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that this passage is a
primary source for it. On the other hand, I think there is a sense of
personally experiencing the pains of the dying Jesus, and I think the
language here is too strong to be purely analogical or meditative. At any
rate, I take the sense to be, "bringing myself into essential oneness with
his death in the endeavor somehow to reach (all the way) to resurrection
from the dead."

>Also, if SUMMORPHIZOMENOS is adverbially modifying TOU GVWNAI AUTON ("for the
>purpose that I might know him"), how is it related:
> Instrumental ("by being conformed to the likeness of his death")?
> Modal ("in the manner of being conformed to the likeness of his
> death")?
> Telic ("for the purpose of being conformed to the likeness of his
> death -- if [or "so that"] somehow I might attain unto the out-
> resurrection from the dead").
> Resultative ("with the result that I am being conformed to the
> likeness of his death")
>Or is it just "attendant circumstance" ("and be conformed to the likeness of
>his death")?
>Are all these possibilities valid?

I think one has to go all the way back to 3:8 to reconstruct what's going
on in this very emotional sequence of statements that has been unleashed by
the thought of Judaizers attempting to bring circumcision and Torah into
this most beloved of the churches Paul has founded. There is the swaggering
boast about all that he is by birth and upbringing, then the contemptuous
renunciation of every ground of pride (I can't help but compare Cassandra
in Aeschylus' "Agamemnon" stripping off the mantic gown of Apollo and
trampling it as she denounces the god)--in view of the all-surpassing worth
of "knowing (GNWSEWS) Christ Jesus my Lord. This is a mystic "knowing"--and
that expression is followed by the declaration of his sole and ultimate
restatement of the substance of DIA TO hUPEREXON THS GNWSEWS in 3:8 which
was then picked up in hINA XRISTON KERDHSW KAI hEUREQW EN AUTWi, and then
I would understand SUMMORFIZOMENOS in none of the ways you suggested above
but more simply as TEMPORAL: "to know him and the miracle of his
resurrection and sharing in his sufferings, as I put myself into the
pattern of his death ..." I guess you could call this by one of those fancy
names used to distinguish adverbial participles--but I don't think he's
saying more or less than that mystical knowledge of Christ means for him
the experience of participating in the process of his death and
resurrection: WHEN Paul "knows" Christ, this is HOW he knows him--does
that make it "modal"? I still think "temporal" is probably a better term
here, because I think it is important that the participle SUMMORFIZOMENOS
is in the present tense.

I read this query this afternoon with interest when I was too busy to
respond; I see that nobody has picked up on it thus far. It is a
fascinating passage in many ways, not least in that it is the nearest Paul
ever comes in expression to something like the mystical participation of
believers in the fate of the redeemer in the Mystery Cults.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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