Search related sites

Friday, October 16, 2009

PHIL 2:6

Note: Although Watchtower Society (WTS) research and scholarship is usually at least the equal of (and often superior to) that of other sources, I have tried to rely most heavily on other sources in Christendom itself (preferably trinitarian) or my own independent research to provide evidence disproving the trinitarian `proof' being examined in this paper.  The reason is, of course, that this paper is meant to provide evidence needed by non-Witnesses, and many of them will not accept anything written by the WTS.  They truly believe it is false, even dishonest.  Therefore some of the following information, all of which helps disprove specific trinitarian "proofs," may be in disagreement with current WTS teachings in some specifics (especially when I have presented a number of alternates).  Jehovah's Witnesses should research the most recent WTS literature on the subject or scripture in question before using this information with others. – RDB.


                     Philippians 2:6-8 [pt 1]

[From the RDB Files]

6 ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ, 7 ἀλλὰ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν μορφὴν δούλου λαβών, ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος· καὶ σχήματι εὑρεθεὶς ὡς ἄνθρωπος....
"Who, being [huparchon] in the form [morphe] of God [theou], thought it not robbery [harpagmos] to be equal [ison] with GodBut ... took upon him the form [morphe] of a servant, and was made in the likeness [homoiomati] of men:  And being found in fashion [schemati] as a man...." - Phil. 2:6-8, KJV.

"Who, although He existed [huparchon] in the form [morphe] of God [theou], did not regard equality [ison] with God a thing to be grasped [harpagmos], but emptied Himself, taking the form [morphe] of a bond-servant and being made in the likeness [homoiomati] of men.  And being found in appearance [schemati] as a man...." - Phil. 2:6-8, NASB.

Some trinitarians insist that this scripture proves that Jesus was (and is) "equal with God."  But all the real evidence proves just the opposite!  Phil. 2:6 is, in reality, proof that Jesus has never been equally God with the Father!

To begin with, as the Watchtower Society has pointed out, the context of Phil. 2:3-8 indicates how Phil. 2:6 should be understood.  The context stresses the concept of humility and obedience, and Phil. 2:6 itself is clearly meant as the prime example of this for all Christians.  The extremely trinitarian The Amplified Bible, for example, translates Phil. 2:3, 5 this way:

"Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself.... Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus. - Let Him be your example in humility."

Then that very example of Jesus (Phil. 2:6-8) is given. - Cf. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 1, p. 547.

Most trinitarian interpretations of Phil. 2:6, however, as above, do not show Jesus as regard-ing God as "better than and superior to himself" in the beginning (as the context demands for this example)!  Most of them, instead, twist that proper example of humility into just the opposite: an example of a person who regards himself already as equal to the Most High, Almighty God ("thought it not robbery to be equal to God").  Such an interpretation destroys the very purpose (Phil. 2:3) of Jesus' "example in humility" here! 

Paul is not telling us to regard ourselves as equal to others.  (Whether we obey them or not is very important but is not the main point here.)  He is clearly using Jesus as his example to teach that each Christian must, as the very trinitarian Amplified Bible above puts it, "regard others as better than and superior to himself"!  And yet most trinitarian translations show Jesus doing the very opposite in this "example in humility" for all Christians!

Something, then, is very wrong with the translation of Phil. 2:6 in most trinitarian Bibles!




Now notice how these two very trinitarian Bibles have rendered it:

1.  "He did not think to snatch at [harpagmos, ἁρπαγμὸς ]  equality with God"[1]  -  NEB

2.  "He did not think that by force [harpagmos] he should try to become  equal with God" - TEV (and GNB).

We believe that the translations by the trinitarian NEB and TEV Bibles of this part of Phil. 2:6 must be the intended meaning of the original writer of this scripture because (in part, at least) of the obvious meaning of the New Testament (NT) Greek word harpagmos.
 There could be some doubt about the meaning of the word harpagmos if we looked only at the NT Greek Scriptures (since harpagmos occurs only at Phil. 2:6 in the entire New Testament).  We would then only have the meaning of the source words for harpagmos to determine its intended meaning.

Even so, Strong's Exhaustive Concordance (by trinitarian writer and trinitarian publisher) tells us that harpagmos means "plunder" and that it comes from the source word harpazo which means: "to seize ... catch away, pluck, take (by force)." - #725,  726, Abingdon Press, 1974 printing.

“725 harpagmós – to seize, especially by an open display of force. See 726 (harpazō).” - HELPS Word-studies, copyright © 1987, 2011 by Helps Ministries, Inc.
And the New American Standard Concordance of the Bible (also by trinitarians) tells us:  "harpagmos; from [harpazo]; the act of seizing or the thing seized."  And, "harpazo ... to seize, catch up, snatch away."  Notice that all have to do with taking something away by force. - # 725 and #726, Holman Bible Publ., 1981.
In fact, the trinitarian The Expositor's Greek Testament, 1967, pp. 436, 437, vol. III, tells us:

"We cannot find any passage where [harpazo] or any of its derivatives [which include harpagmos] has the sense of `holding in possession,' `retaining' [as preferred in many trinitarian translations of Phil. 2:6].  It seems invariably to mean `seize', `snatch violently'.  Thus it is not permissible to glide from the true sense [`snatch violently'] into one which is totally different, `hold fast.' "
Even the very trinitarian NT Greek expert, W. E. Vine, had to admit that harpagmos is "akin to harpazo, to seize, carry off by force." - p. 887, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.
And the trinitarian The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology tells us that the majority of Bible scholars (mostly trinitarian, of course)
"have taken harpagmos to mean a thing plundered or seized..., and so spoil, booty or a prize of war." - p. 604, vol. 3, Zondervan, 1986.
The key to both these words (harpagmos and its source word, harpazo) is: taking something away from someone by force and against his will.  And if we should find a euphemism such as "prize" used in a trinitarian Bible for harpagmos, it has to be understood only in the same sense as a pirate ship forcibly seizing another ship as its "prize"!
We can easily see this "taken by force" meaning in all the uses of harpazo (the source word for harpagmos) in the New Testament.  But since harpagmos itself is used only at Phil. 2:6 in the NT, Bible scholars must go to the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament (which is frequently quoted in the NT), the Septuagint.
In the Septuagint harpagmos (in its forms of harpagma[2,3]  and harpagmata) is used 16 times according to trinitarian Zondervan's A Concordance of the Septuagint, p. 32, 1979 printing.  And in every case its meaning is the taking of something away from someone by force.  Here they are in the Bagster Septuagint as published by Zondervan:  Lev. 6:4 "plunder;" Job 29:17 "spoil" (a "prize" taken by force); Ps. 61:10 (Ps. 62:10 in most modern Bibles) "robberies;" Is. 42:22 "prey;" Is. 61:8 "robberies;" Ezek. 18:7 "plunder;" Ezek. 18:12 "robbery;" Ezek. 18:16 "robbery;" Ezek. 18:18 "plunder;" Ezek. 19:3 "prey;" Ezek. 19:6 "take prey;" Ezek. 22:25 "seizing prey;" Ezek. 22:27 "get dishonest gain" (through the use of "harpazo" or "force"); Ezek. 22:29 "robbery;" Ezek. 33:15 "has robbed;" and Malachi 1:13 "torn victims" (compare ASV).
So, in spite of some trinitarians' reasonings and euphemistic renderings, it is clear from the way it was always used in scripture that harpagmos means either taking something away by force (a verb), or something which has been taken by force (a noun).
Many trinitarian translators, however, either make nonsense out of the meaning of Phil. 2:6 by  actually using the proper meaning of "robbery" or "taken by force" without showing God's clear superiority over Jesus which the context demands, or, instead, making sense of it by choosing a word that doesn't have the proper meaning of "taking by force."
For example, the King James Version (KJV) does use "robbery" (a nearly-accurate meaning for harpagmos) but obviously mangles the meaning of the rest of the statement so that it doesn't even make proper sense: "thought it not robbery to be equal with God."  This is a nonsensical statement even by itself.  In context it is even more inappropriate!
Yes, as we have seen above, even in the KJV it is apparent from context that the purpose of this example is to emphasize lowliness of mind, humility: to regard others as better than yourself (vv. 3-5).  Paul certainly wouldn't destroy this example of humility for fellow Christians by saying that Jesus is thinking that it isn't robbery for him to be equal with the Most High!  Besides being a nonsensical statement, it is just the opposite of humility!  Instead, to be in harmony with the purpose of Paul's example, we must find a Jesus who regards God as superior to himself and won't give even a moment's thought about attempting to take that most high position himself, but, instead, humbles himself even further. 
Trinitarian scholar R. P. Martin, for example, feels the context (especially the obvious contrast of verses 6 and 7) clearly proves that harpagmos in verse 6 means Christ refused to seize equality with God.  Emphasizing the fact that this is a contrast with verse 6, verse 7 begins with "but [alla]."  In accord with this, he tells us,
"V[erse] 6b states what Christ might have done [or could have attempted to do], i.e. seized equality with God; v. 7 states what he chose to do, i.e.  give himself." - The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 3, p. 604.
The Phil. 2:6 footnote for ‘grasped’ (harpagmos) in the NAB (2002, by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) :

[6] "Either a reference to Christ's preexistence and those aspects of divinity that he was willing to give up in order to serve in human form, or to what the man Jesus refused to grasp at to attain divinity.  Many see an allusion to the Genesis story: unlike Adam, Jesus, though . . . in the form of God (Genesis 1:26-27), did not reach out for equality with God, in contrast with the first Adam in Genesis 3:5-6."

The NASB, on the other hand, chooses an English word for harpagmos that doesn't clearly bring out its full intended meaning: "[Jesus] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped [harpagmos]," when, of course, it should be: "did not regard equality with God a thing to be taken by force [harpagmos]."  (Review the quote from the Expositor's Greek Testament above.)[4]
An excellent illustration of the trinitarian's dilemma concerning an honest translation of Phil. 2:6 can be shown by the 1971 "Palm Sunday Controversy" in France (see  June 15, 1971 WT):
At every Palm Sunday Mass, Phil. 2:5-11 is read.  The 1959 lectionary for France's Catholic Church read:  "Being of divine status, Christ did not greedily hold on to [harpagmos] the rank that made him equal to God."

In 1969 the Roman Catholic bishops of France authorized a new lectionary for their country.  The Holy See in Rome approved it on September 16, 1969.  In this new lectionary Phil. 2:6 was translated:  "Christ Jesus is God's image [morphe, `form']; but he did not choose to seize by force [harpagmos] equality with God."
This new translation, needless to say, started a great controversy and demonstrations by many Catholics throughout France.  As one French Catholic magazine explained:  "If he [Jesus] refused to seize it [equality with God], it must be that he did not already possess it."
So much pressure was brought to bear upon the Church in France that the trinitarian Catholic bishops who had insisted upon the new honest translation were forced to change it.  So, in an attempt to compromise, they rendered it:  "He [Jesus] did not choose to claim to be the same as God."

This newest version was also thoroughly condemned by the same trinity-defending French Catholic magazine.  It noted that if Christ "did not choose to claim to be the same as God," this implied that he was not "the same as God," and "the practical effect of this substitution amounts to heresy and blasphemy."

But, in spite of threats and demonstrations, the French episcopate refused to compromise any further.  Le Monde reported,

"this translation ... was accepted by the entire body of French-speaking bishops.  The Permanent Council of the French Episcopate, that has just met in Paris, has ratified it; so it will stand."

Why did these trinitarian Catholic scholars and Church officials insist on a translation of Phil. 2:6 that so obviously denies the "central doctrine" of the Catholic Church?    
This question was answered by an article in Le Monde (6 April 1971):

 "The scholars responsible for this change - a change ratified by the majority of French bishops - consider the new translation more faithful to the Greek text than the former [1959] one was."

So the French Catholic cardinals, archbishops, and bishops found themselves in a dilemma.  They could either give up their new, more honest, translation of Phil. 2:6 which would show they are more loyal to their trinitarian traditions than to the truth of the inspired scriptures (Matt. 15:6-9; 1 Cor. 4:6; Gal. 1:8, 9; 2 Tim. 4:3, 4; John 8:31-32), or they could keep their new official translation and thereby admit that many other French trinitarian Bibles (as well as many translations in other languages) have mistranslated Phil. 2:6.  In order to take the latter course required not only a strong stand against tradition but the strength and courage to stand against the desires (and demonstrations, politics, economic pressures, etc.) of a large number of their countrymen.  Courage of such a magnitude is rare in the ranks of tradition-bound Christendom!

When even a number of the best trinitarian scholars are willing to admit the actual meaning (or even an equivalent compromise) of harpagmos at Phil. 2:6, it becomes necessary for honest-hearted, truth-seeking individuals to admit that Phil. 2:6 not only does not identify Jesus as God, but that it clearly shows Jesus is not God!

The highly regarded (and trinitarian) The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 1986, Zondervan, says:

"Although the Son of God in his pre-existent being was in the form of God, he resisted the temptation to be equal with God (Phil. 2:6).  In his earthly existence he was obedient to God, even unto death on the cross (Phil. 2:8) .... After the completion of his work on earth he has indeed been raised to the right hand of God (Eph. 1:20; 1 Pet. 3:22) .... But he is still not made equal to God.  Although completely co-ordinated with God, he remains subordinate to him (cf. 1 Cor. 15:28)." - p. 80, vol. 2. [Emphasis found in quotations is nearly always added by me, as it also is here.]


                                                           Ison: "Equal"

Of course most trinitarians ignore the proper translation of harpagmos.  Among such "scholars" was the influential Dr. Walter Martin, the anti-"cult" Trinity defender.  He tells us, in fact, that the word "equal" here further proves Jesus' absolute equation with God [but only if you mistranslate harpagmos first, of course].

(Please consider:  Being "equal to someone or something" [like being "the image of someone"] is really a statement that you are not really that person or thing at all!  When we intend to identify someone or something, we come right out and say it.  We do not say, "David is equal to the king of Israel;" "Jesus is equal to the Christ;" "Jehovah is equal to God;" etc.!  No, we clearly say, "David is King over Israel" - 2 Sam. 5:17; "Jesus is the Christ" - 1 Jn 5:1; "Jehovah is God" - 1 Ki 18:39, Living Bible, ASV, Young's, and The Interlinear Bible; Ps 100:3, ASV, Young's, and The Interlinear Bible.  - - - Remember, "LORD" in most Bibles is a mistranslation of "Jehovah.")

 "The term `equal' here," Martin writes, "is another form of ison [see MINOR 7-10], namely isa, which again denotes absolute sameness of nature, thus confirming Christ's true Deity." - p. 68, KOTC

So Martin tries to tell us that Phil. 2:6 is asserting that Jesus "thought it not something to be retained [harpagmos] to be of the absolute same nature with God."  But, as we have seen (MINOR 7-11), isos does not mean "absolute equality of nature" - cf. Matt. 20:12; Luke 20:36 (esp. LB). 

Even the highly acclaimed trinitarian authority The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology admits that ison (and its related forms)

"indicates more strongly an external, objectively measurable and established likeness and correspondence"  - p. 497, vol. 2.  

A careful study of the NT uses of this word not only shows that it means an external likeness but that it may even be limited to a likeness of only one aspect of the original [MINOR 8 - "John 5:18 (`Equal': Ison)"].

Isos (isa, neut.) "ἴσος ... prob. from 1492 [eido] (through the idea of seeming); similar (in amount or kind)" - Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.

 So when one thing is described as isa [ison] with another thing, they are still two separate different things.  One is merely like or similar to another in a certain aspect.

The very trinitarian The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, vol. 2, p. 968, discussing isos, reveals:

"In Mt 20:12, `made them equal' means `put them upon the same footing,' i.e. regarded their brief service as though it were the very same as our long hours of toil.  In Lk 20:36 the context restricts the equality to a particular relation." - Eerdmans Publ., 1984 reprint.

In other words, ison at Matt. 20:12 makes the workers measurably "equal" to one another in only one external aspect: the amount of money they were to receive.  They were really very unequal otherwise.  Also in Luke 20:36, as the trinitarian reference quoted above tells us, those resurrected humans and God's angels are not necessarily considered equal in essence in this scripture but in only one particular relation: they will not die again.  (See Living Bible.)

And we see the same thing in the OT Septuagint:

"so thy quarrel and enmity shall not depart, but shall be to thee like [isos] death." - Prov. 25:10, Septuagint Version, Zondervan Publ., 1970, p. 813. 

"Quarrel" and "enmity" certainly are not absolutely equal to death (in spite of the fact that some could render this "shall be equal [isos] to death")!   The similarity of the single quality of permanence is the only thing being equated here.  The "quarreling" and "enmity" are a never-ending condition, like death itself.

Furthermore, the fact that isa is neuter in this verse in Philippians means that Paul is not saying that Jesus is perfectly equal to God himself.  You see, the word `God' here is the masculine form of the word, and for the word `equal' (whatever its intended meaning) to be applied wholly to the word `God' itself it must be of the same gender (masculine in this case - isos). - see the similar use of the neuter `one' used for the masculine `God' in the ONE study. 

Therefore, even if isa could mean absolute equality, only some thing (or things) about God are being considered - not God as a whole.[5]  So Jesus is refusing to seize some thing or things (authority, power, immortality, ...?) that are similar to God's.

That is why 4th century trinitarians were forced to use a non-Biblical word instead of isos in an attempt to provide just such a meaning for their trinitarian creeds (see MINOR 8-9). 

So if we translated this passage with the actual, full meaning of the word ison, the literal NT Greek - ("not taking by force [harpagmos] considered [hegeomai] the to be `equal' [isa] with god [theo]") - would be rendered: "did not even consider forcefully trying to become like God (even in any single aspect)."


                                          Theos: "God"/"a god"

Another thing we should know about Phil. 2:6, 7 concerns the phrase "of God" (θεοῦ or theou).  A perfectly honest alternate translation of this verse can be: "though he was existing in the form of a god [i.e., `a mighty individual' in a similar sense that the Bible calls angels and Israelite judges `gods' - see the DEF and BOWGOD studies]."  The NWT does not translate it that way, but grammatically and doctrinally it is a perfectly honest rendering and probably accounts for the 1959 French translation of Phil. 2:6, "being of divine status" and the NEB's "divine nature" and the renderings in Moffatt and the JB.  (See the first part of the DEF study which discusses "god/divine.")

This scripture contrasts Jesus as, first, being in "form of god" (morphe theou) and, then, (2:7) being in "form of slave" (morphen doulou).  Both of these phrases use the word "form" followed by an anarthrous genitive noun.  This means that we are being given a contrast of two grammatical parallels.

If we should decide to translate the second half of this parallel as "form of a slave," then there can be no honest objection on grammatical grounds for translating the first part of this parallel as "form of a  god."  In fact it would seem more appropriate to translate it this way instead of "form of [the] God."

That means it would certainly not be improper to interpret Phil. 2:6, 7 as "although he was existing in the form of one in a high position of mightiness and/or authority (as, in a lower sense, the position of angels, and even certain Israelite judges and kings, qualified them to be called `gods' occasionally in the inspired scriptures), he never even gave a thought about an attempt to seize equality with God, but instead, he gave up that exalted position he already had and took on the form of one in a lowly position."

To show further that the anarthrous genitive theou ("God" or "a god") as found at Phil. 2:6 may be honestly translated "of a god," compare Acts 12:22 in any NT Greek-English interlinear Bible  - "the voice of a god."

The Watchtower Society, however, interprets Phil. 2:6 to mean that Jesus  was in the form of God.  That is, he was a spirit person as are all heavenly persons - see WORSHIP-1.  The Father is a spirit person (John 4:23, 24 KJV, ASV); the angels are spirit persons (Heb. 1:7 KJV - also see Aid book, p. 1542 - and pp. 39 and 593 in the trinitarian Today's Dictionary of the Bible); men resurrected to heaven become spirit persons (Phil. 3:20, 21; 1 Cor. 15:44-53); and Jesus is (and was in the beginning also) a spirit person (1 Pet. 3:18, 1 Cor. 15:45).



Although it has been rejected by even many trinitarian Bible scholars, some others attempt to force an interpretation of morphe (μορφῇ) that includes the idea of "essence" or "nature." They do this only at Phil. 2:6 (Jesus "was in the form [morphe] of God") because the true meaning of morphe will not allow for the trinitarian interpretation that Jesus is God.  But with their forced interpretation of morphe at Phil. 2:6 they can say that Jesus had the "absolute essence" and "full nature" of God!
However, as even many trinitarian Bible scholars admit: 

"Morphe is instanced from Homer onwards and means form in the sense of outward appearance."  -  The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 1986, Zondervan, p. 705, vol. 1. 

Thayer agrees that morphe is

"the form by which a person or thing strikes the vision; the external appearance" - Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 418, Baker Book House.  [Also see Young's Analytical Concordance (also compare the closely-related morphosis) and Liddell and Scott's An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, p. 519, Oxford University Press, 1994 printing.]

It's easy to see why even many trinitarian scholars disagree with the forced "nature" interpretation of morphe when you look at all the scriptural uses of morphe (according to Young's Analytical Concordance, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1978 printing and  A Concordance of the Septuagint, Zondervan Publishing House, 1979 printing): Mark 16:12; Phil. 2:6, 7 in the New Testament and in the Old Testament Greek Septuagint of Job 4:16 "there was no form [morphe] before my eyes;" Is. 44:13 "makes it as the form [morphe] of a man;" Dan. 4:33 "my natural form [morphe] returned to me;" 5:6, 9, 10 "the king's countenance [morphe] changed;" 7:28 "[Daniel's] countenance [morphe] was changed." - The Septuagint Version, Greek and English, Zondervan, 1976 printing. 

Morphe is found at Mark 16:12 which is part of the "Long Ending" for the Gospel of Mark.  Many scholars do not consider this as inspired scripture, but, instead, a later addition by someone to Mark's original inspired writing.  However, even if this is the case, it is still an example of how morphe was used in those times since copies of the "Long Ending" were in existence at least as early as 165 A.D. (Justin Martyr).

So notice especially how the New American Bible (1970), the Living Bible, The New English Bible, the Douay version, the New Life Version, and the Easy-to-Read Version translate morphe at Mark 16:12:

"he was revealed to them completely changed in appearance [morphe]" - NAB.

"they didn't recognize him at first because he had changed his appearance [morphe]." - LB.

"he appeared in a different guise [morphe]" - NEB.

"he appeared in another shape [morphe]" - Douay.

"he did not look like he had looked [morphe] before to these two people" - NLV.

"Jesus did not look the same" - ETRV.

Mark 16:12 - "He appeared in another form. Luke explains this by saying that their eyes were held. If their eyes were influenced, of course, optically speaking, Jesus would appear in another form." - People's New Testament Notes.

These trinitarian translations show the meaning of morphe to be that of "external appearance" not "essence" or "nature"![6] 

The hyper-trinitarian Living Bible even renders morphe at Phil. 2:7 as "disguise"!  And the 1969 French lectionary (see section on harpagmos above) rendered morphe at Phil. 2:6 as image!

The further uses of morphe, the very same form as used at Phil 2:6, by those first Christian writers to write after the NT itself was written (the Apostolic Fathers - about 90 A.D. to 150 A.D.) make a trinitarian rendering at Philippians 2:6 even more incredible:

      "There was no form [μορφῇ] before my eyes, but I heard a breeze and a voice." 1 Clem. 39:3, The Apostolic Fathers, Sparks, 1978, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publ.

      "I want to show you what the holy Spirit, which spoke with you in the form [μορφῇ] of the Church, showed you" - Hermas, Sim. 9:1:1, Sparks.

Also notice how the first Christian writers after the Apostolic fathers understood the meaning of morphe at Phil 2:6 itself:

"... who being in the shape of God, thought it not an object of desire to be treated like God" - Christian letter from 177 A.D. sometimes ascribed to Irenaeus, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (ANF), p. 784, vol. 8.

"... who being in the image of God, `thought it not ...'" - Tertullian, about 200 A.D., ANF, p. 549, vol. 3.

"...who being appointed in the figure of God ..." - Cyprian, about 250 A.D., ANF, p. 545, vol. 5.

We can see, then, that, with the originally-intended meaning of morphe, Paul is saying that before Jesus came to earth he had a form or an external appearance resembling that of God (as do the other heavenly spirit persons, the angels, also).[7] 

So one in the morphe of a slave is one who has the appearance of a slave (but is not in actuality - thus, "taking the disguise [morphe] of a slave" - Phil. 2:7, Living Bible.). 

This is the obvious meaning of "form" here and it is still used in this sense even today.  As an example The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (TNIDONTT) says:

 "According to Gen 18:1 ff., God appeared to Abraham in the form of three men." - p. 706, vol. 1. 

Although scripturally incorrect (see the IMAGE study: "Actual physical representations") some trinitarians today say that God was in the form of three men (or angels).  Obviously they mean only that he appeared that way to men, but really was not what his outward appearance seemed: he was not actually three men!!).

Isaiah 44:13, for example, says in the Septuagint: "The artificer having chosen a piece of wood, marks it out with a rule, and fits it with glue, and makes it as the form [morphe] of a man" - Zondervan, 1976 printing.  Now a "Wooditarian" might well claim that the wood in this scripture `clearly has the full and complete essence, nature, etc. of Man,' but no objective, reasonable person would accept his wishful interpretation!  Instead an honest interpretation can only be that the artificer made the piece of wood to appear like a man. 

The fact that it is in the form (morphe) of a man shows conclusively (as we should know anyway) that it is not a man!  If the writer of this scripture had somehow intended to say that the artificer had indeed made the piece of wood into a real man, he would not have used morphe.  He would have written that the artificer "makes it into a man."  And, of course, it is equally true that Paul would not have said Jesus was in the form (morphe) of God if he had meant that Jesus was God!  The use of morphe there shows that Jesus was not God!

Yes, the fact that some trinitarians insist that morphe can mean the very essence or nature of a thing does not make it so.  We know that `essence,' `nature,' `essential nature,' etc. were not intended here by Paul simply because of the way this word is always used in scripture.  We know it also by the fact that there were words available to Paul which really did mean `essence' or `nature.'    If Paul, or any other Bible writer, had ever wished to use a word indicating the nature, substance, or essence of something, he could have used phusis or, possibly, even ousia.

Phusis, "φύσις... nature, i.e,  ....  d. the sum of innate properties and powers by which one person differs from others" - Thayer, #5449.

 Phusis, "φύσις, ... the nature, natural qualities, powers, constitution, condition, of a person or thing" - Liddell and Scott, p. 876.

"Phusis (φύσις), ... signifies (a) the nature (i.e., the natural powers or constitution) of a person or thing" - W. E. Vine, p. 775.

Ousia, "οὐσία ... that which is one's own, one's substance, ....   III. the being, essence, nature of a thing" - p. 579, Liddell and Scott's An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, Oxford Press.

For example, Philo, the most popular Jewish scholar and teacher of these times (early to middle first century A.D.), used these two terms in speaking of God's nature:

"[The prophet asks concerning the Creator:] Is He a single Nature (phusis) ... or a composite Being? .... Nevertheless he did not succeed in finding anything by search respecting the essence [ousia] of Him"  -  p. 99, Philo, vol. V, "On Flight and Finding," Harvard University Press, Loeb Classical Library, 1988 printing.

(Philo, as well as all other Jewish and Christian writers of this time never considered God to be more than one person, the Father alone! - see CREEDS, ISRAEL, and LOGOS studies.)

Paul himself was very familiar with at least one of these terms:

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to beings that by nature [phusis] are not gods. - Gal. 4:8, NRSV.  (Cf. 2 Pet. 1:4)

Yes, if Paul had intended `nature,' `very essence,' etc., he certainly would not have used a word which means only external appearance (morphe).   He would have used one of the words which really mean absolute nature!

We also have morphe and isa as parallels in the "exalted pre-existent" (Phil. 2:6) first part of this passage.  And we have morphe, homoiomati, and schemati as parallels in the humble "fleshly existent" follow-up (Phil. 2:7-8).  Furthermore, the latter humbled "fleshly" part of this passage ("himself emptied taking morphe of a slave, becoming in homoiomati of men and having been found in the schemati of a man") is the antithetic parallel of the first "exalted" part ("morphe of God").

In other words, there is a common meaning in all these parallel terms.  They are used nearly synonymously.  For example, even hyper-trinitarian W. E. Vine admits:

"`It is universally admitted that the two phrases ["morphe of God" and "morphe of a slave"] are directly antithetical, and that `form' [morphe] must therefore have the same sense in both.'"  - extreme trinitarian Vine is quoting from extreme trinitarian Gifford's "The Incarnation." -  An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words,  p. 454.

Therefore, if we can determine the meanings of the descriptive parallels (homoiomati and schemati) to "morphe" in the `humbled, fleshly' portion of this scripture, we will then know exactly what was intended by the word morphe in that phrase ("morphe of a slave").  And if we thus determine the meaning of morphe in "morphe of a slave," we will know exactly how morphe was intended to be understood in its exalted parallel: "morphe of God."

What meaning do all these parallel words share?  Like "image" they all mean, not the actual thing but a representation, a similarity, something with only the outward appearance of some other thing.  Therefore, since "morphe" in the phrase "morphe of a slave" is proven by its synonymous parallels (homoiomati, schemati) to mean merely a likeness, then "morphe" in the further parallel of "morphe of God" must also mean merely a likeness!  So, just with its own internal meaning alone, Phil. 2:6-8 shows that "morphe of God" must mean in a form like God's or similar to God!

In other words, when we see `morphe of a servant' being further paralleled (and explained) by "likeness [homoiomati] of men" and "in fashion [schemati] [8]  as a man," there should be no doubt left as to what Paul actually intended when he wrote `morphe of a servant'!  Homoioma (which, of course, includes the form used in Phil. 2:7 - homoiomati) means nothing else but `likeness'![9]  

Even if, as a few trinitarians improperly claim, homoiomati meant "the same as" [and it clearly does not!], it would be asinine to say "he came to be the same as a man" if you intended to say "he came to be a man"!  Either he is a man, or he is not!  Saying he is "the same as" a man clearly indicates he is not really a man! 

And when we know that `morphe of a servant' means `external appearance like that of a servant,' then we know that this morphe's parallel in `morphe of God' must mean an "external appearance like that of God (or `a god')"!

Paul simply would not have written that Jesus was merely SIMILAR in appearance (morphe) to God (as all real evidence plainly shows) if he thought that Jesus was God!


                                           Huparchon (or `Uparchon')

Another less than forthright rendering of  "being in form of God (or a god)" by a few trinitarian scholars involves the Greek word huparcho (translated "being" above).  Huparcho (huparchon or uparchon [ὑπάρχων in Greek letters] is the actual form of huparcho used in this scripture) is sometimes "interpreted" by a few trinitarians in an attempt to show an eternal pre-existence (see TEV).[10]   This is done in an attempt to deny the actuality of Jesus' creation by God. Similarly, Dr. Walter Martin in his The Kingdom of the Cults declares:

 "Christ never ceased to be Jehovah even during His earthly incarnation.  It is interesting to note that the Greek term uparchon, translated `being' in Philippians 2:6 [KJV], literally means `remaining or not ceasing to be' (see also 1 Corinthians 11:7), hence in the context Christ never ceased to be God."  - p. 94, 1985 ed.

If uparchon really had such a meaning, we would expect it to be used especially for God.  What else that exists has an eternal existence?  But search as we will we never see this word used for God!  Some examples where we would expect to see it used (if it really meant `eternal existence') in the Bible Greek of the ancient Septuagint are Is. 43:10, 25; 45:15, 22; 46:4, 9.  Like all other scriptures referring to God, they use forms of the "be" verb (eimi), which may be used to mean an eternal existence, but they never use uparchon to describe his existence!  (Is. 45:22, for example, says, "I am [eimi] the God and there is no other." - cf. James 2:19 [estin, form of eimi])[11]  So why is uparchon never used for the only thing in existence that has always existed (and which will never cease to exist)?

Uparchon is never used for God because it actually, literally means (in spite of Martin's "scholarly" declaration above):

"to make a beginning (hupo, `under'; arche, `a beginning')" - W. E. Vine's An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 390. 

Strong's Exhaustive Concordance also defines huparcho as "to begin under (quietly), i.e. COME INTO EXISTENCE" - #5225. 

And the authoritative (and trinitarian) An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon by Liddell and Scott tells us:

"[huparcho] ... to begin, make a beginning ... 2.  to make a beginning of ... 3.  to begin doing ...   4.   to begin [doing] kindness to one ...  Pass. to be begun" - p. 831, Oxford University Press, 1994 printing. [12]

So, even though it may be rendered into English as "existed" or "is," it nevertheless seems it should also be understood as something that has come into existence at some point.

In that sense, then, huparchon is very much like another NT word, ginomai, γινόμαι  [#1096, Thayer's], which also literally means "become" or "come into existence" but is sometimes translated into English as "is," "are," etc.  E.g., 1 Peter 3:6 "whose daughters ye are [ginomai]," KJV, NKJV, NAB, RSV, NIV, is more properly understood as "you have become [ginomai] her children," NASB, NRSV, NEB, NWT - Cf. John 6:17, "It was [ginomai] dark."  

As respected trinitarian NT Greek expert Dr. Alfred Marshall tells us:

"[Ginomai] denotes the coming into existence of what did not exist before.... This verb [just like huparchon] is therefore not used of God...."[13]  

Marshall further explains that although ginomai is often translated into English as "is," "are," "were," etc. it must nevertheless be remembered that it still retains the additional meaning of having come into existence! - p. 106, New Testament Greek Primer, Zondervan Publishing House, 1978 printing.

For another good example of the similarity of huparchon with ginomai see Luke 16:23 and 22:44.

Lk. 16:23  -  "he lifted up his eyes, being [huparchon] in torment," NASB.

Lk. 22:44  -  "and being [ginomai] in agony he was praying," NASB.

In very similar statements Luke has used the very similar (in meaning) huparchon and ginomai and the highly respected NASB has rendered them both "being."  But in both cases their fundamental meanings of "coming into existence" (or "coming to be") must be remembered.  In other words, the person had not always been in torment or agony, but at some point had "come to be" in such a condition!

If you examine the following examples of the Biblical usage of huparcho, you will find they are clearly speaking of conditions which once did not exist but which have come into existence ("have begun to be"): Luke 16:23; Acts 2:30; Acts 7:55; Acts 8:16; Ro. 4:19; 1 Cor. 11:18; 2 Cor. 8:17; James 2:15.

These last four verses not only show a state that has begun recently but a state that is transient, temporary - e.g., Abraham hadn't always been [huparchon] 100 years of age and certainly wouldn't continue to be 100 years of age: he had begun to be [huparchon] about 100 years old at this point - Ro. 4:19.

1 Cor. 11:18, KJV says:

 "I hear that there be [huparchon] divisions among you [the Corinthian congregation]." 

Such divisions had not always existed there.  Nor must they always continue to be there, or Paul would not have bothered to counsel them to heal their divisions.  The complete understanding for this verse is, obviously:

 "I hear that there have begun to be [huparchon] divisions among you."

2 Cor. 8:16, 17 tells us:

"But thanks be to God, who puts the same earnestness on your behalf in the heart of Titus.  For he [Titus] ..., being [huparchon] himself very earnest, he has gone to you of his own accord." - NASB

It should be obvious to everyone that Titus hasn't been earnest from all  eternity.  He obviously came to be earnest at some point in time.  And, in fact, we are even told in verse 16 that at some point in time God put this earnestness in Titus' heart.  Obviously it was not always there if God put it in his heart at some point!  The meaning of huparchon as "having come [or begun] to be" is very certain from the context alone in these two verses.

James 2:15 tells us, in the KJV: "If a brother or sister be [huparchon] naked [`without clothes' - NIV, NASB]," we must help him to become clothed again.  Obviously the brother has not been naked for all eternity but has very recently come to be in this condition.  It's equally obvious that the brother will not always continue in this condition.  In fact his brothers are commanded to ensure that he not continue in this naked state.  (Famed trinitarian Bible scholar Dr. Robert Young noted the correct, complete meaning for huparchon in this verse: "BEGIN to be [huparchon] naked" - Young's Concise Critical Bible Commentary, Baker Book House, 1977 ed.)

Therefore, huparcho (or huparchon) does not mean "eternal pre-existence" as claimed by some trinitarians, and it certainly does not have to mean a condition that must continue to exist as Dr. Walter Martin also implies.  Notice the solitary example (1 Cor. 11:7) he has selected to "prove" that uparchon means "not ceasing to be":

"For a man ... is [huparchon] the image and glory of God" - NASB

My trinitarian NASB reference Bible refers this scripture to Gen. 1:26; 5:1; 9:6; and James 3:9.  These scriptures all state that man was created or made in the image of God.  (In fact James 3:9 literally says that men "have come to be [ginomai, #1096] in the likeness of God" and is usually translated in trinitarian Bibles as "have been made [or created] in the likeness of God." - NASB, NIV, RSV.)

So there is the real parallel meaning for the huparchon of 1 Cor. 11:7 -  created!  There obviously was a time (before he was created) when a man was not the image of God.  Furthermore, Martin's solitary "example" states that "a man" (NASB) is the image of God.  This means that every man who lives has these qualities in some degree.  However, not every man will have these qualities forever.  Many, when they return to the dust of the earth, will cease to reflect God's qualities and glory!  It would be much better to translate this verse literally as "For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he has come into existence [huparchon] in the image and glory of God."

There is little doubt about what huparchon was actually intended to mean (regardless of how modern trinitarian translators wish to translate it).  Noted trinitarian scholar and translator Dr. Robert Young (Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible;  Young's Literal Translation of the Holy Bible; etc.) has even admitted in his Young's Concise Critical Bible Commentary (p. 134, Baker Book House, 1977) that his own rendering of huparchon as "being" at Phil. 2:6 in his own published Bible translation should be, to be more literal,

"beginning secretly [huparchon] in (the) form of God ...." - Phil. 2:6 [14] 

So, rather than any "eternal pre-existence" being implied by Paul's use of huparchon at Phil. 2:6 ("who `always having been' in God's form" - cf. TEV), it is more likely just the opposite:  "Who came into existence (or was created) [huparchon] in a form [morphe] similar to God (or in God's image)"![15]    Of course, if Jesus first came into existence in God's image, then he cannot be the eternal, always-existent God of the Bible (nor even the always-existent God of the trinity doctrine)!

Or, put even more simply, since huparchon is never used for God himself, then its use for the pre-existent Jesus shows, again, that Jesus cannot be God!

[To be honest, I must admit that a friend who is a NT Greek scholar disagrees with my understanding of huparchon. He believes that it is properly used as 'being' without regard to 'beginning.']

What we really have at Phil. 2:6-7, then, may be more accurately rendered: 

"who, even though he had come into existence as a glorious spirit person in a likeness [external form or guise] of God (or a god), never gave even the slightest consideration that by force he should try to become equal to God (in even a single aspect or quality), but, instead, emptied himself of his glorious form and took on the likeness [external form or guise] of a slave, being born in the likeness of men."

When all is examined, Phil. 2:6 is, in reality, proof that Jesus has never been equally God with the Father!

Part 2 - Notes


Anonymous said...

The Greek word Huparchon, which you translate "coming into existence" is used of God in Acts 17:24. Hence it does not have to mean something that comes into existence.

Also, the word "God" in verse 6 should be translated indefinitely. It should be "the form of A god" to match "the form of A slave"

Elijah Daniels said...

Hi, Scott.

The word huparchon in Acts is used with "Lord of heaven and earth.

"The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is [huparchon] Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands" - NASB.

He did not become Lord of heaven and earth until they were created.

"God" is explained in the study.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Elijah. I must have missed your explanation of the indefinite "god" in Phil. 2:6.

Regardless, it still cannot be said that God CAME INTO EXISTENCE as the creator of heaven and earth.

Elijah Daniels said...

"The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is [huparchon] Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands" - NASB.

God existed long before he BECAME “Lord of heaven and earth.” He wasn’t “Lord of heaven and earth before they were even created. But when He finally created them He CAME TO BE “Lord of heaven and earth.”

We are not saying that “God CAME INTO EXISTENCE” at this time.

As noted in the study, there is no scripture using huparchon for God. This is speaking, of course, of his EXISTENCE: “I AM God,” for example. Such expressions are found many times in the Septuagint, (some of them listed in the study above) but none of them uses huparchon.

Timitrius said...

I apologise if this has been posted twice, I'm not sure if my tablet submitted the comment properly.

I have heard Trinitarians argue that "morphe theou" must mean the essential nature of Christ as God because he became a servant, thus he was truly man (morphe doulou) therefore he must have been truly God (morphe theou).

In other words, "morphe" cannot mean "image but not essential nature" because that would mean that Christ was not essentially and truly human when he became a man, or a "servant".

How would you respond to this?

tigger2 said...

We know the pre-existent Messiah was not equally God from the actual meaning of 'harpagmos.'

“although He existed in a/the form [morphe] of a god/God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be seized/taken by force.”

Since he did not have equality with God in the beginning here, "morphe of God" when applied to him cannot mean essentially God. And since even some trinitarian sources admit a different meaning for morphe (visibility), why should we insist on one which denies the rest of the scripture?

Look at the three terms in Phil. 2:6,7 which are parallel in describing Jesus after he was sent to earth: "schema"; "homoiomati"; and "morphe". We have here a good idea of what Paul meant by "morphe" by determining their meanings.

See end notes 6-9 for the Phil 2:6 study. With the understanding of these terms we can see what "morphe" meant to Paul.

Joe Caruana said...

The New Living Translation backs up the viewoint you have presented of huparchon = come into existence or created
1 Corinthians 11:7 NLT
A man should not wear anything on his head when worshiping, for man is MADE in God’s image and reflects God’s glory. And woman reflects man’s glory.