Re: The semantics of morphe in Phil 2:6

From: Mark B. O'Brien (
Date: Thu Mar 06 1997 - 16:49:33 EST

On Thu, 6 Mar 1997 08:42:58 -0800 (PST) lakr <> writes:
>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.)

This seems to be good advice from Moulton.

Another thought that perhaps makes our exegesis of Php 2 interesting is
the fact that it is, of course, poetic material. I am sometimes struck
by the fact that many do not appear to recognize the difference in genre,
and proceed to work on the passage as if it were prose. Thus, I would
imagine that there are great many features of poetic style that would
determine the words used, the meter, the word order, etc. Poetry, it
would seem, often sacrifices precision for effect, and maybe this ought
to play into how we analyze the grammatical and lexical features of a
passage such as this.

All this to say that perhaps the contrast being drawn out between the
terms in this poem/hymn may not be a precise one that is found elsewhere
in different genres. Just a thought...


Mark O'Brien
Grad. Student, Dallas Theological Seminary
Adj. Prof., Dallas Christian College

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