I have spent significantly of the final couple of years revising my understanding of Phil two:6–11. The journey has been uncomfortable. For the duration of the time you are forced to rearrange your mental furnishings there can be nowhere comfy to sit. But the rearrangement has been required and the finish outcome has far reaching implications.
I figured a revision was required when I investigated very carefully some of the passage’s language, and at the Cambridge New Testament seminar subsequent Tuesday I will present some of my conclusions about the precise which means of the expression τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ that Paul employs in Phil two:6c.
These words are typically taken to imply an ‘equality with God’ and several have insisted this is only a status, not a nature or essence. The phrases is treated as a parade instance of the conclusion that, across the earliest Christological texts, Christ’s divinity was not conceived in the anachronistic terms of later Patristic discussions of ontology, that had been influenced by dialogue with Greek philosophy. On the other hand, remarkably no 1 has undertaken a thorough investigation of comparable Greek expressions and the arguments of several in the nineteenth century (and 3 German scholars in the twentieth) that the Greek can’t imply ‘equality with God’ have been ignored.
I have identified far more than 140 texts, from Homer down to the early third century C.E., that use ἴσος/ἴσα + θεός in strategies that are comparable to Phil two:6c, in 5 discrete syntactic constructions. Phil two:6c must now be categorised as a seldom attested building, but 1 which would almost certainly sound Homeric in the initial century, considering the fact that it initial seems in Iliad five:441–2 and 21:315. Phil two:6c is closest to a line in Homeric Hymns five, line 214 (exactly where ἶσα θεοῖσιν modifies an optative kind of the verb εἰμί), but is equivalent also to a section of Pseudo-Perictione’s On the Harmony of Ladies (two texts which have not, till now, figured in the interpretation of Phil two:six). According to the simple guidelines of Greek and, in maintaining with these (and a handful of other) comparative texts, Phil two:6c will have to imply ‘being in a manner equal with God’, or far more precisely, ‘a/the becoming that is in a manner equal with God’s manner of being’ (as our nineteenth century forebears saw). The ἴσα θεῷ is an adverbial, ‘in a manner equal with God’, not an adjectival ‘equal with God’.
In many respects, even so, the words τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ are special and they have a precise two-fold objective in this passage that has till now been missed by all commentators.
1. The expression τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ has a strongly active, verbal, force. (This has been missed, in portion, since commentators have not appreciated the reality that the Greek verb εἶναι can have a durative and active force—’to reside, be alive, to dwell, be present, or be available’). This is fitting since, inside the οὐκ … ἀλλά building that orders the believed sequence in vv. 6–8, τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ is interpreted by Christ in his act of self-emptying and his becoming human in vv. 7–8. 1 burden of these verses is to say that, strangely and scandalously for Greco-Roman readers, Christ exegetes divine equality by his becoming human by incarnation.
two. In verse 6c τὸ εἶναι is employed completely, to denote ‘Being’. (In Greek τὸ εἶναι can be employed either predicatively or completely, as in English also. In English ‘being’ can be employed predicatively as in the sentence, ‘Being the brightest in her class she won the competition’, or it can be employed completely, as in, ‘The mystic sat cross-legged and meditated on the nature of ‘Being’). So the initial half of the hymn, in its description of the incarnation, utilizes language that is hugely suggestive of the Platonic distinction amongst becoming and becoming, as can be noticed in this English translation:
‘who becoming (ὑπάρχων) in the kind of God, thought of becoming (τὸ εἶναι) (that is) in a manner equal with God’s becoming, not harpagmos, but emptied himself, … becoming (γενόμενος) in human likeness … becoming (γενόμενος) obedient to death.
A two-fold becoming defines Christ’s pre-incarnate, heavenly, existence. A two-fold becoming describes his contingent, earthly, existence (that ended in death). This is the simple Platonic distinction amongst becoming and becoming. It is correct that Plato typically utilizes the words (τὸ) ὄν and οὐσία for ‘being’. But the verb γίνομαι is the typical Platonic verb for becoming. Additionally, sometimes Plato used τὸ εἶναι for ‘being’ and passages in Philo and Plutarch show that in the middle Platonism of the initial century C.E. τὸ εἶναι was often employed in this way and that the verb ὑπάρχω (and its nominal kind) also figured in such contexts.
Plato and his followers insisted that ‘being’ can’t ‘become’. Paul’s Christ hymn describes, by contrast, the life of 1 who, in current history, demonstrated a becoming equal to God’s becoming precisely in the act of his becoming human and mortal. The hymn most definitely describes Christ’s divine identity in ontological terms, although it does so to offer you a new type of dynamic, incarnational, divine ontology.
Currently, ahead of Paul wrote to the Philippians, the earliest followers of Jesus had been describing Jesus’ divine identity in terms of a type nature or ontology—in terms of divine becoming.