Re: The semantics of morphe in Phil 2:6

From: Edgar Gerard Foster (
Date: Thu Mar 06 1997 - 15:31:56 EST

At 08:42 AM 3/6/97 -0800, lakr wrote:

>> At 10:08 PM 3/6/97 +1300, 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.

>I have been searching high and low for a use of morphe in the Koine
>Greek outside the context of pagan religious literature and have
>come to the conclusion that one does not exist. If anyone knows
>of one, I would greatly appreciated the reference.

>I found the following reference enlightening.

>Moulton and Mulligan, "The Vocaulary of New Testament Greek". The copy
>I quote is from 1952. ' Kennedy (ad Phil 2:6 in EGT) has shown from
>the LXX usage that "the word had come, in later Greek, to receive
>a vague, general meaning, FAR REMOVED from the accurate, metaphysical
>content which belonged to it in writers like Plato and Aristotle."
>And then Moulton adds ' Hence the meaning must _NOT_ be
>over-pressed in the NT occurrences." (e.a.)

>Larry Kruper


As I know you're aware; philosophical words are often employed in the Bible,
yet carry totally different meanings. (from their philosophical
predecessors) One well known example of this is LOGOS. (Although some doubt
the Greek origin of this idea, as it appears in John)

Concerning MORFE, Zodhiates says that neither MORFE nor SXEMA represent
'subjective ideas of non-existing entities.' He also points out that neither
MORFE nor SXEMA are mere ideas, abstractions or concepts. According to this
Thd., MORFE is not representative of a subjective concept, but must
represent--Biblically--an objective reality which can be visually perceived.
"MORFE is the reality which can be EXTERNALIZED, not some shape that is the
result of pure thought." (Complete Word Study-New testament, Spiros
Zodhiates, Ed., p. 937)

Despite defining MORFE in this manner, Zodhiates comes to the conclusion
that other theologians do. He believes that the external reflection,
corresponds in every way, to the intrinsic essence of the referent. What
makes me doubt this explanation is the use of METAMORFOTHE, in Matt. 17:1ff,
in which we are told that Jesus was transfigured before the eyes of Peter,
James, and John. Did the EXTERNAL reality (on the Mount of transfiguration),
correspond to the INTRINSIC and ESSENTIAL BEING (ONTOS, OUSIA, FUSIS) of Christ?

Some Thoughts,
Edgar G. Foster
Liberal Arts Major

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