Re: The semantics of morphe in Phil 2:6

From: Edgar Gerard Foster (
Date: Thu Mar 06 1997 - 14:28:41 EST

At 09:38 AM 3/6/97 -0500, Carl W. Conrad wrote:

>At 4:08 AM -0500 3/6/97, Timothy Mora wrote:

>>I'm looking for clarification on the meaning of morphe in Phil 2:6. I have
>>understood it of late to refer to the essential essence or nature of
>>something as opposed to Schema which is concerned more with outward
>>appearances. Is this so and does it have ramifications for our understanding
>>of the incarnation?

>>I'm doing a bible study on this next week so thought I would just ask to try
>>out the waters of this forum.

>Well, you may well discover that a "trial of the waters of this forum" is
>something not altogether unlike a "baptism of fire."

>"What does MORFH QEOU mean? Some say it is the "essential nature of
>being to whom MORFH belongs," and for this reason they assert that God
>& Christ exist separately but in the same divine form: Christ's
>essential nature in a pre-incarnate existence is the same as that of
>God. But the problem is not solved by understanding MORFH thus: why,
>if MORFH means "essential nature" in 2:6, does it not mean the same
>thing two verses later, when we read that Christ assumed the MORFH
>DOULOU? Is there an "essential nature" of a slave?"

According to some theologians, MORFH as utilized in Phil. 2:6 *does* denote
the same thing--two verses later. "If "form of God" implies anything less
than fully God, then "form of a bondservant" in Phillipians 2:7 would have
to mean that on earth Christ was something less than a servant. But the full
reality of His being a Servant is the point of the passage. Likewise, the
full reality of his deity is the point of "form of God" in verse 6." (Basic
Theology, Charles Ryrie, p. 261)

While this view may seem reasonable and tenable to some, I cannot affirm
this view. Without a long diatribe or dialogue; let me say that Thayer's
defines MORFH as 'external appearance.' The word appears in various forms in
Scripture, and all of them indicate externality. Mark 16:12, whether
canonical or not, also helps us to understand MORFH. Note also Matt. 17:1-9,
and its employment of MORFH.

I would also like to add that while on earth, Jesus "externally appeared" as
a Servant. In fact, he was much more. He was also O DIDASXALOS XAI O XURIOS.
(John 13:13-15)

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

Edgar G. Foster
Liberal Arts Major

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