Digital A Complete New Strategy to the Christ Hymn in Phil two


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The writing of volume two of my Jesus Monotheism series has taken longer than anticipated.

The most important purpose is that in my function on the Christ hymn in Phil two I have been forced to acknowledge dimensions of Phil two:6–11 which I had missed and components that I had, in the previous, misunderstood. I am relieved to report that my thoughts is now settled and I am now in the writing up stage of the Philippians chapter. But I have had to go by means of a paradigm shift in my considering.

The shift has been precipitated by two things: lexical semantics and historical context. In brief, I have come to see that some of the words do not imply what I believed they meant and I have, progressively, come to the realisation that the hymn, particularly its initially half, has to be interpreted in a Greco-Roman (pagan), not just a Jewish, cultural context. (The underlying suggestions are completely biblical, but their presentation is Greco-Roman).

In the final month I have presented the final results of my most recent study and considering on this passage to two university NT Seminars (a single at the University of Gloucestershire and a single in Cambridge), and the reception I received on each occasions has encouraged me to believe I am on the proper path.

Right here is an abstract of the Cambridge presentation. (A complete version of the paper is out there on my web page exactly where it is also attainable to leave comments on the specifics of the argument):

As lots of have now observed, Phil two:6–11 (along with three:20–11) is a classic hymnic piece that utilizes Greco-Roman language for divine rulers to express a type of “imperial Christology.” While the second half (vv. 9–11) cites biblical prophecy (Isa 45:23), the initially half lacks scriptural language. Rather it employs Greco-Roman language, particularly the traditional terminology for the gods’ self-transformations stories of gods taking on a new “form (μορφή)” to check out human communities in disguise. Apart from the shared language that has been noted particularly by German scholars (D. Zeller, U. B. Müller and S. Vollenweider, cf. A. Y. Collins), there are other methods in which verses 7–8 employ the distinctive terminology of divine self-transformations that have hitherto escaped commentators’ notice. With each other, Phil two:6–11 and three:20–11 also echo distinctive themes of these stories, for instance in the mixture of divine self-transformation (two:6–8) and the gods’ transformation of human beings (three:21). Christ is a divine ruler who comes to earth in a way that is comparable to the poetic vision of Octavian as a self-transforming God who comes to earth as Rome’s saviour in Horace Odes 1:two (lines 42ff). Even so, in other methods Christ’s divine self-transformation is like no other: he empties himself and lives a entire human life, dying on a cross (see vv. 7a, 8a–c), points that the pagan gods never ever do.

All this points to a fresh method to the a great deal-discussed issue of the harpagmos clause in Phil two:six. The use of the uncommon word ἁρπαγμός is not satisfactorily explained by the theory of Roy Hoover that, in this context (ἡγέομαι + a double accusative), it indicates “something to take benefit of”. Also, v. 6c indicates “being in a manner equal (ἴσα) with God”. It does not imply “equality with God”. Following David Fredrickson current and stimulating discussion of the language of want in Philippians (Eros and the Christ: Longing and Envy in Paul’s Christology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013), I present a 3-layered interpretation of two:6ff that requires seriously the constant lexicographical proof (of Plutarch On the Education of Kids 15 Vettius Valens Anthology two.38 and Ms Va of Pausanias Description of Greece 1.20.three) that ἁρπαγμός indicates “abduction for marriage”. Initially, Christ reckons that the divine identity is not constituted by the type of aggressive and deceptive erotic pursuits ascribed to Zeus and the other gods. Secondly, he reckons that “being in a manner equal with God” does not imply, as Caligula (and probably other kings and emperors) claimed (Cassius Dio Roman History 59.26.five), that as a divine ruler a single is entitled to imitate the immortal gods by seizing and raping whoever turns you on. Thirdly, by this contrast with the gods and with soidisant divine rulers, the hymn sets forth the life of Christ as a revelation of the accurate character of God’s want (ἐπιπόθησις—cf. Phil 1:eight two:26 four:1) for humanity a want focused on humanity’s, not Christ’s, interests (cf. 1:four).

Fortunately, my altering my way of reading the text does not adversely have an effect on the general argument of the 4 volumes of Jesus Monotheism. Certainly, it confirms one of the principal contentions of the entire project, namely that incarnation was a lot more important—historically and theologically—for the earliest Christology than has been recognised by most current scholarship. The hymn starts with a clear and emphatic statement of incarnation. The reader (or hearer) does not have to wait till the second half to hear a Christology of divine identity by means of exaltation, as if Christ’s biography is modelled on the pattern of imperial apotheosis that prevailed in Roman political discourse. In addition, by adopting the language of the gods’ self-transformations to inform the the story of Christ’s incarnation Paul (and whoever was the author of the hymnic piece) are accurate to the texts’s incarnational theology. A theology of incarnation requires the linguistic—and cultural—form that the audience will recognise. Kind reflects content material.

Some could wonder no matter if this offers proof to believe that Paul (or the earliest believers) came to a Christology of pre-existence as a outcome of exposure to modern pagan methods of considering. There are lots of causes why this is very unlikely. For a single factor, as I note in the Cambridge paper, the God-coming-to-earth-as-a-divine-ruler model was uncommon in the Roman planet. So there is no purpose to believe pagan beliefs about rulers would have exercised a stress on the earliest Christians to believe the very same way about their king (Messiah Jesus). On the contrary, there is considerable evidence—much of it hitherto unnoticed—that belief in Christ’s incarnation arose in the Jewish context of his personal life and reflection on it in the instant aftermath of his crucifixion.


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