Interpreting Philippians 2:5-11

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
User avatar
GakuseiDon
Posts: 1214
Joined: Sat Oct 12, 2013 5:10 pm

Re: Interpreting Philippians 2:5-11

Post by GakuseiDon »

Irish1975 wrote: Tue Aug 31, 2021 6:49 pmThe problem thus stated is real no matter what theology or religious context is inferred. Christ is both of a divine form, or (perhaps) nature, and the sort of being who can choose freely either to rise up in envious rebellion against God, attempting to seize an equality that apparently he does not enjoy already, or to empty himself in humble submission, to the point of becoming human and mortal. On most conceptions of the divine being, these ideas don't fit.
I like the idea of reading Phil 2 through Adam Christology. Jesus was in the form of God in the same way as Adam was made in the image of God.

Compare Phil 2: with Gen 3:22:

Phil 2:6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

When Adam took the fruit, he became a man 'as one of us [gods]':

Gen 3:5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
...
Gen 3:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:...


So Jesus didn't do that; instead of trying to become like one of the gods, Jesus humbled himself and came in the likeness of men subject to death:

Phil 2:6 But he emptied himself, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men...

Paul compares Christ to Adam a few times:

Rom 5:14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

1 Cor 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

1 Cor 15:45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
User avatar
Irish1975
Posts: 584
Joined: Fri Dec 15, 2017 8:01 am
Contact:

Re: Interpreting Philippians 2:5-11

Post by Irish1975 »

Yes I'm familiar with that interpretation. If indeed it is one and the same Paul who is writing--contrary to the usual interpretation of this hymn as an early Christian creed--I can see making a case for that. But it doesn't sound to me like the Paul of these other passages.

There are several specific reasons I don't buy this interpretation. Being "in the form of God" is quite different from being a created being like Adam. How is it that Jesus could "try to become like one of the gods" if he was already in the form of God? I don't see how becoming "like the gods" in the knowledge of good and evil is on par with the possibility of seizing equality with God. Many others have observed that if the author had intended the parallelism with Adam, he would have said so, as the author of these other passages does so freely.
User avatar
Irish1975
Posts: 584
Joined: Fri Dec 15, 2017 8:01 am
Contact:

Re: Interpreting Philippians 2:5-11

Post by Irish1975 »

gryan wrote: Wed Sep 01, 2021 12:55 am Re: Paul's view of Christ in Philippians 2:5-11

I doubt this is prePauline. I note the use of the word harpazo--something to be grasped, taken by force, as if by a thief. This is the same word Paul uses to describe how he was taken by force to the third heaven and into Paradise. What did he learn in that ascent to the heavens? I think that he learned about what it is like to experience the reality of equality with God by participation in mystical union. But I also think that he learned painfully that in daily life, "power is made perfect through weakness." I think the hymn is a production of Paul the mystic who ascended to the third heaven as part of his participatory initiation into the Christ mystery expressed as a pattern for all in the saying: "you have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." Also, in first person language: "I have been crucified with Christ..."
Interesting. It's hard for me to make much of the harpazo connection, since the subjects and types of action are so different between the two passages. But I do think that the mystical interpretation of most Pauline and post-Pauline texts is basically right. The idea of equality with God does seem like something that tempted and tormented Paul. It was for that reason that he had to battle directly with Satan. And the second part of Philippians 2:6 suggests a thoroughly human subject who is being tested, just as Jesus is interpreted by the Evangelists as a human who is tempted by Satan to seize power over all the kingdoms of the world. But our author, "Paul," knows nothing of this other person, and is really talking about his own experience.
gryan
Posts: 407
Joined: Fri Jun 01, 2018 4:11 am

Re: Interpreting Philippians 2:5-11

Post by gryan »

Irish1975 wrote: Wed Sep 01, 2021 5:20 am It's hard for me to make much of the harpazo connection, since the subjects and types of action are so different between the two passages.
Re: The difference between the active seeking--something to be grasped--vs. being sought by a higher power--caught up.

After Paul's experience of "a man in Christ" being caught up, he might have struggled with desire to somehow make it happen again. He chose to embrace mortal weakness rather approaching unity with God as something to be grasped.
User avatar
Irish1975
Posts: 584
Joined: Fri Dec 15, 2017 8:01 am
Contact:

Re: Interpreting Philippians 2:5-11

Post by Irish1975 »

Maragaret Barker, in her book The Great Angel, made an impressive case that the earliest Christians believed the Lord Jesus whom they worshipped to be none other than Yahweh. But is it possible that 1st century Jews, who would have known Yahweh as the one who said

for I the Lord your God am a jealous God (Exodus 20:5) and I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God (Isaiah 45:5)

could have imagined him as one who "did not count equality with God as something to be seized"? Is there anything in the portrait of Jesus Christ in this hymn that resembles Yahweh in any respect?
User avatar
neilgodfrey
Posts: 4136
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 4:08 pm

Re: Interpreting Philippians 2:5-11

Post by neilgodfrey »

rgprice wrote: Thu Mar 11, 2021 4:20 am Damn, this is so obvious now. It all comes from Philo.

"9 For this reason also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name"

Philo: "but Joshua means "the salvation of the Lord," being the name of the most excellent possible character;"

But this leaves the questions:
1) Philo never says the Logos was crucified.
2) Paul never talked about Philo or the Word.
3) Philo never called the Logos the son of God (that I know of).
4) Philo equated Lord and God, he didn't call the Logos the Lord.

Perhaps Paul did not directly study Philo, he was building on teachings that were derived from Philo by others?
Re this name above all names there is an additional perspective that comes from the classicists John Moles: I posted about his views a few times, especially his view of the relationship between Jason and Jesus: https://vridar.org/?s=moles+jason
User avatar
neilgodfrey
Posts: 4136
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 4:08 pm

Re: Interpreting Philippians 2:5-11

Post by neilgodfrey »

Irish1975 wrote: Wed Sep 01, 2021 6:12 am Maragaret Barker, in her book The Great Angel, made an impressive case that the earliest Christians believed the Lord Jesus whom they worshipped to be none other than Yahweh. But is it possible that 1st century Jews, who would have known Yahweh as the one who said

for I the Lord your God am a jealous God (Exodus 20:5) and I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God (Isaiah 45:5)

could have imagined him as one who "did not count equality with God as something to be seized"? Is there anything in the portrait of Jesus Christ in this hymn that resembles Yahweh in any respect?
Did not Margaret Barker also argue that those Second Isaiah passages were written to knock the two yahwehs idea - notion of a greater and lesser yahweh - out of court?
User avatar
Irish1975
Posts: 584
Joined: Fri Dec 15, 2017 8:01 am
Contact:

Re: Interpreting Philippians 2:5-11

Post by Irish1975 »

neilgodfrey wrote: Wed Sep 01, 2021 12:11 pm Did not Margaret Barker also argue that those Second Isaiah passages were written to knock the two yahwehs idea - notion of a greater and lesser yahweh - out of court?
I think so but I can't find it at the moment. If so, the 2nd Isaiah seems to have fared as poorly at transcending this dichotomy as he did with good and evil.

What is bothering me is the harpagmon theme. It seems to be one of the features of Pauline belief that takes a new path from other styles of Judaism, unless it simply reflects the rebellion of the wicked angels. There are after all several themes here that, I believe (mainly from reading Barker), are traditional Jewish themes about God/Yahweh:

1. Being like a son of man, or in general, in human form;
2. Being manifested to humans;
3. Being enthroned;
4. The Name above all names.

What are the (apparent) novelties?

1. The harpagmon, which suggests at least the possibility of envy, rivalry, or even conflict within the godhead;
2. Becoming obedient;
3. Becoming mortal;
4. The καταχθονίa, i.e. the subterranean powers;

I don't know in which list to place the God-vs-Lord distinction. It seems as though Paul and/or the first Christians were the first to bring out the full force of the distinction, which had been suppressed in the monotheistic Deuteronomic tradition. Reading Barker, I feel like my generally Hellenic conception of the divine as a monad falters against the wildly manifold subtleties of the Jewish God/gods. Those of us raised in Christianity might be prone to take the Deuteronomic theology as more definitive than it actually was.
User avatar
GakuseiDon
Posts: 1214
Joined: Sat Oct 12, 2013 5:10 pm

Re: Interpreting Philippians 2:5-11

Post by GakuseiDon »

Irish1975 wrote: Wed Sep 01, 2021 5:06 amThere are several specific reasons I don't buy this interpretation. Being "in the form of God" is quite different from being a created being like Adam.
The argument is that "form of God" (in Greek) means the same as "image of God" (in Hebrew). If so, then it is the same thing. Adam is the son of God created as the first of his race "in the flesh"; Christ is raised from death by God to become the first of his new race "in the spirit" through the resurrection.

1 Cor 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

1 Cor 15:45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.

Irish1975 wrote: Wed Sep 01, 2021 5:06 amHow is it that Jesus could "try to become like one of the gods" if he was already in the form of God? I don't see how becoming "like the gods" in the knowledge of good and evil is on par with the possibility of seizing equality with God.
I think the author of Gen 3 lived in a conceptually different world than the author of Phil, so it is difficult to see what the Gen 3 meant. But for Paul, it's clear (assuming Adam Christology is the correct reading): Adam was in the image of God, he was disobedient and brought in death for him and his children; Christ was in the form of God, he was obedient unto death and brought in eternal life for his spiritual children.

One of the attributes of gods in Paul's time was eternal life. Being in the form of God, Jesus could have had eternal life. Instead, he emptied himself and suffered death
Irish1975 wrote: Wed Sep 01, 2021 5:06 amMany others have observed that if the author had intended the parallelism with Adam, he would have said so, as the author of these other passages does so freely.
You might be right. But if "form of God" means the same thing as "image of God", then who else could Phil 2 be talking about? There are a few non-human options, of course; but if we are talking about a man, then Adam is the only candidate that is viable AFAICS.
User avatar
Irish1975
Posts: 584
Joined: Fri Dec 15, 2017 8:01 am
Contact:

Re: Interpreting Philippians 2:5-11

Post by Irish1975 »

This mention of the καταχθόνιοι appears to be a hapax legomenon. Baur thinks it is gnostic, but the 19th century commentator Meyer, cited above by MrMacSon, insists that it reflects nothing but the Christian idea of the descent to hell or to the dead. But Baur says that this very idea is gnostic in origin.

The καταχθόνιοι appear to be not merely the dead who inhabit the underworld, but the powers that control it. The powers of hell. They are united in the cosmic praise of the Lord Jesus Christ, so to that extent they are not in rebellion. The idea seems more like a Greco-Roman or pagan one if not Egyptian.
Post Reply