Friday, January 14, 2011

Not even all devils ...

would wrest this passage from me.

This is what Calvin wrote about Philippians 2:6,
6. Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

6. Qui quum in forma Dei esset, non rapinam arbitratus esset, Deo aequalem se esse:

In the Latin Vulgate, the Greek word harpagmos, ἁρπαγμός, had been translated as rapina, meaning "rape, pillage, plunder and robbery." This is how Luther and Calvin also understood this word harpagmos. Calvin wrote,
Thought it not robbery. There would have been no wrong done though he had shewn himself to be equal with God. For when he says, he would not have thought, it is as though he had said, “He knew, indeed, that this was lawful and right for him,” that we might know that his abasement was voluntary, not of necessity. ....

For where can there be equality with God without robbery, excepting only where there is the essence of God; for God always remains the same, who cries by Isaiah, I live; I will not give my glory to another. (Isa 48:11.) Form means figure or appearance, as they commonly speak. This, too, I readily grant; but will there be found, apart from God, such a form, so as to be neither false nor forged?

As, then, God is known by means of his excellences, and his works are evidences of his eternal Godhead, (Ro 1:20,) so Christ’s divine essence is rightly proved from Christ’s majesty, which he possessed equally with the Father before he humbled himself. As to myself, at least, not even all devils would wrest this passage from me — inasmuch as there is in God a most solid argument, from his glory to his essence, which are two things that are inseparable.

However, at least since the RSV, harpagmos has been translated as "a thing to be grasped." This phrase occurs in the NIV 1984, NASB and ESV. The NRSV, on the other hand, has translated harpagmos as "something to be exploited" and the NIV 2011 as "something to be used to his own advantage."

The significant thing here is that some theologians writing for the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood have interpreted "did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped" as an indication that Christ is in some way not equal to God. Here Denny Burk writes for the CBMW,
First, this verse affirms that Christ has ontological equality with the Father with respect to his deity. That's what "existing in the form of God" means. Second, the verse affirms that in his pre-incarnate state Christ did not try to obtain (or "grasp for") another kind of equality which he did not have in his pre-existent state.

What kind of "equality" did he refuse to grasp for? He refused to "grasp for" a functional equality with the Father that would have usurped the Father's role as Father. In contrast to grasping for that kind of equality, the Son "emptied himself" and took the form of a servant (v. 7). In other words, in eternity past Christ determined not to usurp the Father's role but decided to embrace his own role in the incarnation. Thus what we have in this text is both an affirmation of Christ's ontological equality with the Father (vis a vis his deity) and a passing reference to his functional distinction from the same.

While Burk says that Christ did not have a certain kind of equality with God, Calvin writes that this means that Christ can be equal to God without robbery. For Burk, Christ is ontologically equal but functionally distinct, or "not equal"; and for Calvin, Christ's essence and his majesty, (in my view this means his authority and power) are inseparable, and Christ is equal to God in both.

If you wish to undestand Calvin and Luther, if you wish to feel close to the original Greek, then you could do a great deal worse than read the King James Versions,

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
You might also want to dip into the translation of the Brethren scholar, J. N. Darby,

who, subsisting in the form of God, did not esteem it an object of rapine to be on an equality with God;
Dear Reader,

If you want both heritage and transformation, if you value traditional Christianity, if you are curious about the religion of the Reformers, of the orthodox church through the ages, read the King James Version. I am delighted to see, however, that in many places, the NIV 2011 has returned to the original meaning of the King James Version, closer to a literal understanding of the Greek, than the NIV1984.

I write with feeling about this passage, as it was one of two passages which my grandfather had the habit of reading out loud in the meeting. He would stand and read Phil. 2, wavering back and forth as he stood, Bible open, reciting this chapter from memory. We all value the Bible we had from our childhood, the Bible in our own heart language.

For more on this passage, read the post at Biblegateway by Craig Blomberg.


EricW said...

Glad to see you're back blogging!

I checked the Greek resources I have in my Logos software, and found ἁρπαγμός only in Philippians 2; nowhere else in the NT, nor in the LXX, Philo, Josephus or the Apostolic Fathers.

For these related words:

I found:
NT: 22 results
LXX: 62 results
Philo: 44 results
Josephus: 156 results
Apostolic Fathers: 7 results

And on an unrelated note, I saw the 2009/2010 Revised version of Barclay Newman's USB Greek-English Dictionary at the store recently. His entry for αυθεντεω reads:

αυθ|εντεω (αυτος + εντεα = instruments, gear [of any kind]) domineer, have authority over [1 Tim 2.12]

Kevin Knox said...

Grrrr. The first time I read "thing to be grasped" I hated it. And now it's getting ugly. Thanks for defending the truth.

J. K. Gayle said...

You couldn't be any clearer here, but you've been way too gentle. Whether used by Paul to Greek readers in Philippi (Macedonia) Greece or by any other NT writer or LXX translator, the word ἁρπαγμός and its variants always implied violence and/ or injustice. In Acts 23:10, the Greek writer uses a verb form of the word to describe the force with which the military had to rescue Paul from a dangerous situation. Likewise, Matthew 12:29 puts the word in Jesus' mouth as he tells a parable of potential plundering and robbery of goods. Similarly, John 10:28 has Jesus promising his followers that they will never perish and that no one will ἁρπάσει them ["snatch them" or "steal them violently"] out of his hand. The Greek writings beyond scripture use the word in similar ways, with no gentle "grasping" ever. Gorgias, for example, defending Helen of Troy's actions, accuses her ἁρπάσας [her "rapist" or her "abductor"].

Hence, as you summarize, "Calvin writes that this means that Christ can be equal to God without robbery," but Calvin rather is actually writing that Christ IS equal to God without the violence or injustice of robbery.

(Willis Barnstone and Ann Nyland, both classicists, in their respective NT translations also correctly have "robbery." "He was in the form of God from the beginning," translates Nyland, for example; and she goes on, with apt punctuation:

"He didn't think it was robbery to be equal with God!"

But classicist Richmond Lattimore's translation is even better by conveying this, as Paul does in Greek, without much gentleness:

"He was in the form of God, but did not think to seize on the right to be equal to God.")

Donald Johnson said...

Seems clear to me that Calvin and some who claim to be Calvinist are 2 different things or perhaps equal and not equal at the same time??!!

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Hi guys,

It is good to hear from you all. I would like to see how Barnestone translates this verse.

I have been thinking more and more, since the publication of the NIV11 and its rejection by CBMW that there really is a very significant gap opening up between conservative, complementarians and egalitarians. The problem is that this leaves evangelical egalitarians in between the conservative and liberal positions. It might be a lonely place to be.

On the other hand, complementarianism is taking on some very heterodox nuances on the trinity.

Donald Johnson said...

As I see it, I own my faith, whether that puts me in a majority or minority among any particular group does not matter, what matters is that I am faithful to the revelation God has revealed to me.

J. K. Gayle said...

Below is Barnstone's English rendering, after Paul's Greek. Barnstone treats it as poetry, forcing line breaks, which may create some new ambiguity for the English reader. (I've added the slashmark to show a line's end.) But the last phrase (ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν or "He came empty"), implies Barnstone, cannot be separated from the set of three stanzas. Thus, he gives a footnote after his translation to explain.

ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων /
οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι /
ἶσα θεῷ ἀλλ’ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν /

He shared the form of God, but had /
No thought of robbery, of being /
Equal to God. He came empty, /

Donald Johnson said...

An article on the KJV.

J. K. Gayle said...

The translation of William Tyndale:

Which beynge in the shape of god and thought it not robbery to be equall with god.

Barnstone on the Tyndale and KJV:

[A]fter the King James Version there is little to praise, except for the 1883 lineation of the KJV, designating poetry from prose. Apart from carrying on the identity theft of main personages, obfuscating the Jewish identity of Jesus, family, and early followers, including all earliest saints, the archaic language of the traditional translation is pious and pedestrian in an artificial tongue never spoken or written by anyone. We could call it “Biblespeak,” honoring Orwell’s “Newspeak.” The best early version was William Tyndale’s New Testament in 1525. For his outrageous act of translating it from the original Greek rather than the Latin Vulgate, Henry the VIII had him tied to a stake, garroted, and burned. His truly demotic version appeared 86 years before the magnificent King James Version in 1611. Tyndale’s sixteenth-century language is a bit remote, but full of memorable phrases, now inherent in English such as “to give up the ghost,” and “a luckie fella,” which in upscale King James is “a fortunate gentleman.” To my knowledge Tyndale produced the only wondrous version in demotic English that matches the quality of the Greek.

Kristen said...

So to put all this in the vernacular:

What the modern version does is take the thing which Jesus considered it natural to claim as his own (equality with God) and turns it into something which he decided not to take hold of.

Which results in making the meaning the opposite of what was intended. Not that Jesus considered himself equal with the Father and then laid it down to join in our humanity-- but that he never considered it appropriate to "grasp" being considered equal with the Father in the first place.

Subtle. Blech.

Kristen said...

Also, the context repudiates such a meaning. If Jesus never "grasped" equality with the Father in the first place, what was it he "emptied himself" of? "Emptied himself" becomes meaningless.


Anonymous said...

" have been thinking more and more, since the publication of the NIV11 and its rejection by CBMW that there really is a very significant gap opening up between conservative, complementarians and egalitarians. The problem is that this leaves evangelical egalitarians in between the conservative and liberal positions. It might be a lonely place to be"

Oh, this is becoming a bigger problem than we think. Many celebrity comp's are pushing for more patriarchy.

Here is an exchange between Dever and Stinson (CBMW)

“Russell Moore: “I hate the term ‘complementarian’…”

Here’s an interesting statement by Southern Baptist Seminary’s Russell Moore unburdening himself about the nomenclature of the sex battles; and more particularly, expressing his extreme dislike for the word ‘complementarian’ and preference for ‘patriarchy.’ He’s exactly right.

Tune in at 29:45, and you will hear this:

Russell Moore: Gender identity and complementarianism… I hate ….the word ‘complementarian’, I prefer the word ‘patriarchy’…

Again at 37:00 ff….

Mark Dever: So then, why is it you don’t like the word complementarianism?

Russell Moore: Because complementarianism doesn’t say much more than the fact that you have different roles. Everyone agrees that we have different roles, it just a question of on what basis you have different roles? So an egalitarian would say, “Yeah, I’m a complementarian too, it’s on the basis of gifts.” I think we need to say instead, “No you have headship that’s the key issue. It’s patriarchy, it’s a headship that reflects the headship, the fatherhood of God, and this is what it looks like, you then have to define what headship looks like…

Mark Dever: So, Randy (Stinson of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood), are you rewriting the CBMW materials to take out the term complementarianism?”

Suzanne, what I am seeing is that evangelical egalitarians are now the more Orthodox Christians. They are "conserving" the Truth about the Trinity.

The labels are no longer working. Too many comps are acting and living as egals.


Wayne Leman said...

I have never liked any translation of this verse which sounds like Christ was grasping for something that was not already his.

Thanks for this good post, Suzanne.

J. K. Gayle said...

Mark Liberman has a good post on the Greek word, ἁρπάζω, as it's been poorly translated "rapture."

It's fascinating that most translators see fit to convey the violence in Acts 23:10, when it's about Paul ("to take him by force from among them"; "take him away from them by force"; "to drag Paul back to"; or even the NLT's softer "rescue him by force").

But most translators won't allow the violence of the Greek word, when written by Paul about people being seized and snatched away, as in the act of rape or by an unwilled abduction.

The best I've found:

for I Thessalonians 4:17, for Paul's ἁρπαγησόμεθα, is Clarence Jordan's "will be whooshed up" (i.e., in Jordan's The Cotton Patch Gospel);

for 2 Corinthians 12:2 and 12:4, for Paul's ἁρπαγέντα, the best is Nyland's "was seized and carried off"; and GOD'S WORD® Translation's and ISV's "was snatched away".

When Paul writes about it, such rapture really is rape-like. And the best English translators show this connotation.

Kristen said...

That was a very interesting link, Kurk; thanks! I notice you have made your own blog private. I'm sad; I was learning so much from you. I don't suppose you would consider changing your mind?

J. K. Gayle said...

That is a very nice comment! Send me an email (jkgayle at g mail dot com) if you'd like an invite to read the for-now-dormant blog. (I'm just having to take a good hiatus from blogging).

And please know how much I've learned from you, through your comments. (Speaking of comments to learn from, did you see this one that Sue made?!)

Kristen said...

And thank you for the nice comment as well, Kurk! Thanks for directing me to Sue's quote; it is indeed a pithy one. I have posted on T.C.R's blog in response to his responses to her.