Re: Philippians 2:6

Date: Fri Dec 24 1999 - 19:49:36 EST

In a message dated 99-12-24 05:14:11 EST, writes:

<< I notice in the daily digest received today that Edgar Foster took up some
comments I made yesterday in regard to Philippians 2:6, particularly in
relation to hUPARCWN's being taken as causal or concessive. I thank Edgar
for citing these; my intention had been mainly to identify hUPARCON as yet
one more element in the mix that makes this verse difficult, and particularly
to indicate the outworking of that in translation (since Grant Polle's
initial post indicated that his interest had been aroused in part through his
noting the range of translations). I think that if we were to present to
non-Greek readers some understanding of the difficulties behind the verse,
three factors come to mind: 1. hARPAGMOS. The difficulty of this word is
borne out yet again in the posts of the digest I've just read (including
those from Rod Decker, Jeffrey B. Gibson, Greg Stafford, Edgar Foster, Jon R.
Venema). Despite Rod's apparent confidence (shared by Moises Silva
[Philippians, in The Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary series, p118 and fn 38 on
that page] who says, "Hoover's essay, which reflects thoroughness and a
clear-headed method, must be regarded as having settled this particular
question"), I'm not sure we can 'nail it down', and this because the evidence
we have of it is simply too thin. To my mind, the very fact that the
literature on the verse so often resorts to the analogy of the word's
cognates is indicative of the paucity of evidence available to us.<<

J.C. O'Neill makes a similar observation:

"It has been held that R.W. Hoover's article on hARPAGMOS in Phil. 2:6 has
"undercut at a stroke" all contrary views, and that "no one has ventured to
challenge him on philological grounds." I am afraid Hoover's views, for all
the skill and knowledge he brought to bear on a complicated set of
philological phenomena, are wide open to challenge. I doubt if he really did
settle the meaning of hARPAGMOS in Phil. 2:6" (HTR 81:4 (1988) 445-449).

>>Edgar cited Professor Gerald Hawthorne as taking HUPARCWN in a causal
sense, and Richard R. Melick Jr and Moises Silva as favouring the concessive
(I didn't understand Edgar to be necessarily citing with approval either the
one or the two).<<

When I cited Hawthorne, Melick, and Silva, I was not advocating one view over
another. But as I've stated hitherto, I do in fact favor the concessive
construal of HUPARCWN in 2:6. I derive my conclusion in part from Daniel B.
Wallace, who provides pretty good reasons for understanding HUPARCWN
concessively. Wallace points out that if HUPARCWN is causal, then HARPAGMON
must mean "robbery." On the other hand, if it is concessive, then HARPAGMON
means a thing to be grasped ("who, although he existed in God's form, did not
consider equality with God as a thing to be grasped"). Wallace concludes that
"only the concessive idea for the participle and a thing to be grasped
translation for HARPAGMON fit well with v. 7," which notes that the
pre-existent LOGOS "emptied himself." See Wallace (634). Robert Young also
understands HUPARCWN in Phil. 2:6 to be concessive (Young 156).
>Richard R. Melick Jr. (NA Commentary) critiques Hawthorne's idea as
follows: "Hawthorne, Philippians, 85, takes the participle causally:
"Precisely because he was in the form of God." The idea is attractive, but
the text speaks of giving up what one has, and the concessive emphasizes that
 (Melick [1991] ).
Dr. Hopkins:
>>I myself think that Melick's point that "the text speaks of giving up what
one has" in fact argues *against* taking hUPARCWN concessively, because of
the position the adversative ALLA at the beginning of verse seven. Verse six
establishes the magnitude of what was given up by Christ Jesus, "who being in
the form of God did not consider equality with God as robbery"; then the
adversative ALLA is in its proper place to give emphasis: "*but* he emptied
himself, taking the form of a servant ".<<

With all due respect, I fail to see how the adversative ALLA would make a
difference here. In fact, Wallace explains that Phil. 2:6 "cannot be
interpreted in isolation, but must be seen in the light of the positive
statement in v. 7--"but he emptied himself" (the participle equally depends
on both hHGHSATO and EKENWSEN)." So why couldn't HUPARCWN still be
understood in a concessive sense? ALLA can mean that the clause introduced by
it is semantically prominent or it can simply mark a transition (Matt. 5:17;
Mark 16:6, 7). Even if we understand ALLA to be adversative in 2:6, how does
that argue in favor of causality?

In addition to Wallace's arguments, I think there are other matters that need
to be taken into consideration here. If Wallace is correct, when he writes
that if HUPARCWN is causal, HARPAGMON means "robbery"--then we have to ask
whether HARPAGMON likely denotes "robbery" in Phil. 2:6. IMHO, this view
seems highly unlikely. HARPAGMON in Phil. 2:6 appears to mean "a thing
grasped" (See C.F.D. Moule [1970, 1972] ).

Also, Moises Silva brings up an interesting issue when he talks about the
phrase ISA QEWi. He claims that Kasemann was correct to equate EN MORFH QEOU
with ISA QEWi. But he then makes some penetrating observations:

"To go beyond this equivalence and inquire whether MORFH tells us precisely
in what respects Jesus is equal with God (in essence? attributes? attitude?
appearance?) is asking too much from one word" ( Silva 115).

While disagreeing with Silva about Kasemann, I think he still makes a very
valid point (Wallace thinks that ISA QEWi and EN MORFH QEOU are not to be
equated). To base one's Christology on the single word MORFH and extract
manifold conclusions from this single signifier is simply "asking too much."
That being said, I agree that this literary section is one of the most
exciting and challenging grammatical accounts in all of Scripture.


Edgar Foster

"The God of biblical revelation is the God of reason, not Ultimate
Irrationality; all he does is rational" (C.F. Henry. God, Revelation, and
Authority 1:233).


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