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Friday, February 25, 2011

Jesus reveals & conceals his divinity: Phil.2:5-11

For an adequate understanding of the incarnation Phil.2:5-11 is an important  text. A serious exposition of this difficult passage would be hundreds of pages.

Phil. 2:5 Τοῦτο φρονεῖτε ἐν ὑμῖν ὃ καὶ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ,  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  8 ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτὸν γενόμενος ὑπήκοος μέχρι θανάτου, θανάτου δὲ σταυροῦ.  9 διὸ καὶ ὁ θεὸς αὐτὸν ὑπερύψωσεν καὶ ἐχαρίσατο αὐτῷ τὸ ὄνομα τὸ ὑπὲρ πᾶν ὄνομα,  10 ἵνα ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ πᾶν γόνυ κάμψῃ ἐπουρανίων καὶ ἐπιγείων καὶ καταχθονίων  11 καὶ πᾶσα γλῶσσα ἐξομολογήσηται ὅτι κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς εἰς δόξαν θεοῦ πατρός. — NA27

Phil. 2:5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  8 And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.  9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name,  10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. — RSV
Jesus Christ in the preincarnate state was ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ in the form of God and possessed equality with God (inferential)[1] but did not cling to his divine prerogatives. In verses seven and eight we see the mystery of the incarnation, God the Son becomes humble and a servant, sharing the woes of humanity even as far as death. Did Jesus Christ cease to be God in his incarnate state? No, but he did restrain the manifestation of his divine δόξα καὶ δύναμις power and glory to the extent that he could be treated and mistreated by men as any other man. The ultimate climax of the kenosis[2] was the crucifixion. The power and the glory ἡ δόξα καὶ ἡ δύναμις were mostly hidden but there were brief glimpses, like raising Lazarus from the dead and the transfiguration.   
[1] The statement  οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ is difficult. I read ἁρπαγμὸν something to be forcibly retained Louw & Nida 57.236. This cleary implies Christ's preincarnate possession of equality with God. 

[2] kenosis:  ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν he emptied himself


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