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Deceptive Quote: Trinitarian

Trinitarians take both the active and passive of "harpagmos" (grasped). Martin flat out says that both are possible in the Greek. But either way, the text still teaches that Jesus was either equal to God as a possession or able to be equal with God, as an inherent right that the Father could not refuse.

Here is how Martin interprets the passage: "The eternal Son of God, however, faced with a parallel temptation, renounced what was his by right, and could actually have become his possession by the seizure of it, viz. equality with God, and chose instead the way of obedient suffering as the pathway to his lordship."

Notice that Martin takes the active, just like JW's but still comes to the conclusion opposite to JW!

Ralph P. Martin: Ralph P. Martin, M.A., Ph.D.: The Epistle Of Paul To The Philippians; An Introduction And Commentary (Professor of New Testament and Director of Graduate Studies Program, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California)

How anti-Trinitarians quote the source

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"In this regard, Ralph Martin, in The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, says of the original Greek: "It is questionable, however, whether the sense of the verb can glide from its real meaning of 'to seize', 'to snatch violently' to that of 'to hold fast.'"" (As quoted in, Should you believe the Trinity?, Watchtower publication, John 10:30; p 416-423)


Although Martin says that "to hold fast" is questionable (in his opinion), he outright states in the same article that it is clearly permitted in the Greek.

What they left out of the quote:

  • Being in very nature God looks back to our Lord's pre-temporal existence as the second person of the trinity. The verbal form translated being, [hyparchon] need not necessarily mean this, but it seems clear that this sense is the only satisfactory one in the context.
  • Something to be grasped is one translation of the key-word harpagmos which may be taken actively as in AV/KJV or passively as in Rsv: 'did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped'. Both versions are linguistically possible.
  • In his pre-existent state Christ already had as his possession the unique dignity of his place within the Godhead.
  • The eternal Son of God, however, faced with a parallel temptation, renounced what was his by right, and could actually have become his possession by the seizure of it, viz. equality with God, and chose instead the way of obedient suffering as the pathway to his lordship.

Deception exposed:

 The Watchtower creates the false impression that Martin agrees that Jesus is a creature, when in fact, Martin takes one of several trinitarian views of Phil 2:6.

Full documentation of Text:

Ralph P. Martin, M.A., Ph.D.: The Epistle Of Paul To The Philippians; An Introduction And Commentary

C. THE 'WAY' OF CHRIST (2:5-11)

5. The Philippians are here faced with the greatest possible incentive to unity and humility in the picture of the Lord himself whose attitude is described in the noble verses which follow. While this is true, the meaning of the present exhortation is more exactly: 'Let this mind be among you, as also in Christ Jesus', which is the literal translation. There is no verb in the second part of the sentence, and some recent commentators supply, not the verb 'to be' (though C. F. D. Moule has offered reasons to retain this verb: see p. 103), but the same verb as in the first part. (See Hawthorne for a variant.) Grayston gives the admirable rendering: 'Think this way among yourselves, which also you think in Christ Jesus, i.e. as members of His church', commenting 'This attitude of mind (described in verses 1-4) they are to have in their personal relations, because it is the only attitude proper to those who are "in Christ".' This interpretation gives to 'in Christ Jesus' the regular Pauline meaning of 'in union with Christ', which is often tantamount to 'in the fellow-ship of his people'.

In fact, verse 5 holds the key to all that follows, and since the Greek is cryptic with no verb in the second half, it becomes an important exegetical issue to know what verb to supply- ('The options are set out in Martin, Philippians (NCB, 1976-1980), PP. 91-93, with preference given to Grayston's suggestion referred to above. See also Craddock for helpful comment.)

Thus 'among you' (en hymin) does not imply the inculcation of personal virtue based on a moral example, but means 'in your church fellowship', so sorely harassed by strife and plagued by arrogance. Paul, by the citation of the hymn to Christ in verses 6-11, would show, in an unforgettable and convincing manner, that the community created by the incarnate and enthroned Lord must share his spirit, and be controlled by the pattern of self-effacement and humility which his incarnation and cross supremely display. One of the topics to do with this passage that has occasioned much discussion is whether the basis of Paul's ethical appeal is some kind of 'imitation of Christ' or a grounding of Paul's call to unity and humility in a way of life befitting those 'in Christ', whose mind-set is determined by the events of salvation celebrated in the hymn of verses 6-:11. All are agreed that the appeal of the hymn serves a hortatory purpose; the question is, What is the nature of this exhortation? Is it a call to follow in Jesus' steps by taking the pattern of these verses as example, or to respond to life 'in Christ' as those who have entered the community of salvation by obedience to the incarnate, obedient and, now exalted Lord? The second option is followed in this commentary, as Paul's purpose is thus understood. No one has seen the issue more clearly than James Denney. (Second Corinthians, Expositor's Bible (Hodder & Stoughton, 1894), pp. 140-141.) An extended quotation makes 'the point: 'When Paul thinks of (the glory of Christ) he does not look back, he looks up ... men [and women] were saved, not by dwelling on the wonderful words and deeds of One who had lived some time ago, and reviving these in their imagination, but by receiving the almighty, emancipating, quickening Spirit of One who lived and reigned for evermore. . . . And so it must always be, if Christianity is to be a living religion.' This intention of the apostle leads on directly to the Christological section.

6. The following notes try to give the meaning of the words in the text. See the Additional Note (pp. 110-114) for a consideration of the form, style and authorship of the verses.

Being in very nature God looks back to our Lord's pre-temporal existence as the second person of the trinity. The verbal form translated being, [hyparchon] need not necessarily mean this, but it seems clear that this sense is the only satisfactory one in the context. RV margin translates 'being originally, and this must refer to the pre-incarnate state to which Paul elsewhere makes reference (see Rom. 8:3; 1 Cor. 10:4; 2 Cor. 8:9; Gal. 4:4). 'The form of God' (Niv margin) may be taken in two ways. The older commentators (e.g. Gifford, Lightfoot, followed by Hawthorne) interpret the term in its philosophical sense as here meaning the essential attributes of God 'in a sense substantially the same which it bears in Greek philosophy'. (Lightfoot, p. 132; cf. E. Gifford, The Incarnation (Longmans, Green, 1911 edition), pp. 12 ff. and Hawthorne, pp. 83, 84.) A newer view suggests that there is a connection between 'form', morphe, and the term 'glory', doxa. ('See the present writer's contribution in the ExpT, 7o, 1959, PP- '183, 184, and Carmen Christi (Eerdmans/Patemoster, '1983), pp. xix-xxi; 102-120.) When this fact is applied to the apostle's teaching on the person of Christ there is ample attestation that he saw in the pre-existent and glorified Christ both the image (i.e. 'form') and glory of God (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15); and these terms are rooted in the Old Testament tradition of Adam as created in the image of God (Gn. 1:26-27; cf. 1 Cor. 11:7) and reflecting the divine kabod or splendor (Ps. 8:5 hints at this) which he subsequently forfeited at the fall.

Equality with God is again a phrase which has been taken in a number of ways. The main issue is whether it is equivalent to being in the 'form of God' (Hawthorne), or is to be regarded as something future in the 'experience' of the pre-incarnate and incarnate Lord and which he could have attained but refused to do so.

Some writers regard the first possibility as correct in one of two ways. On the one hand, it is held, following Lightfoot, that the pre-incarnate Son already possessed equality with the Father and resolved not to cling to it. Or, on the other view, he had no need to grasp at divine equality because he already possessed it as the eternal Son of God. It is questionable, however, whether the sense of the verb can glide from its real meaning of 'to seize', 'to snatch violently' to that of 'to hold fast'; and the second interpretation hardly does justice to the structure of the whole sentence as well as to the force of 'exalted to the highest place' in verse 9. Attempting a different approach, Kennedy and those who see as a background -here the Genesis story and the temptation presented to Adam to 'be like God' (Gn. 3:5) ('See especially J. D. G. Dunn, Christology in the Making (SCMf Westminster, ig8o), pp. 114-121.) draw the parallel between the first and the last Adam. The former senselessly sought to grasp at equality with God, and through pride and disobedience lost the glorious image of his maker; the latter chose to tread the pathway of lowly obedience in order to be exalted by God as Lord (v. 9-1o), i.e. to be placed on an equality which he did not have previously, because it is only by 'the suffering of death' that he is /crowned with glory and honour' (Heb. 2:9, Rsv).

Something to be grasped is one translation of the key-word harpagmos which may be taken actively as in AV/KJV or passively as in Rsv: 'did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped'. Both versions are linguistically possible. The real difficulty is encountered in the questions: Does it mean that Christ enjoyed equality with God and surrendered it by becoming man, or that he could have grasped at equality with God by self-assertion, but declined to do so and embraced rather the will of God in the circumstances of the incarnation and the cross? Or is the hymn saying that 'Jesus reckoned God-likeness not to be snatching' (C. F. D. Moule)?

Here once more, if the key to the text his in the intended parallel between the first Adam and the second Adam, one of the latter options is to be preferred; and this is the generally prevailing modem view which Stauffer believes has been definitely settled: 'So the old contention about harpagmos is over: equality with God is not a res rapta ... a position which the pre-existent Christ had and gave up, but it is a res rapienda, a possibility of advancement which he declined." (E. Stauffer, New Testament Theology (ET, SCM, 1955), p. 284, note 369.) There is, however, another possibility which may be briefly stated as follows. (It is developed in my Carmen Christi, pp. xxi-xxiii, 134-164.) Harpagmos can have the meaning of 'a piece of good fortune, a lucky find'. Bonnard takes the illustration of a "spring-board (tremplin) with the same essential thought of an opportunity which the pre-existent Christ had before him. He existed in the divine 'condition' or 'rank' as the unique image and glory of God, but refused to utilize this favoured position to exploit his privileges and assert himself in opposition to his Father.

The key-word harpagmos is here interpreted as the holding of a privilege which opens up the future possibility of advantage if only the possessor will exploit it to his own profit. In his pre-existent state christ already had as his possession the unique dignity of his place within the Godhead. It was a vantage-point from which he might have exploited his position and, by an assertion of his right, have seized the glory and honour of the acknowledgement of his office. At this point he made his pre-incarnate choice. He considered the appropriation of divine honour in this way a temptation to be resisted, and chose rather to be proclaimed as equal with God as the 'Lord' by the acceptance of his destiny as the incarnate and humiliated one.

This verse has given rise to such diverse opinion that it seems presumptuous to state baldly an interpretation and pass over in silence much that has been suggestively and plausibly written. All we can do here is to pursue one line of inquiry that seems to be the most fruitful for an understanding of these profound words. (A fuller presentation of the problems and solutions of these verses is attempted by the author in the Tyndale Lecture, An Early Christian Confession: Philippians ii. 5-11 in recent interpretation (Tyndale, 196o), and further in Carmen Christi: Philippians 2:5-11 in recent interpretation and in the setting of early Christian u7orship SNT'SMS, 4 (Cambridge University Press, 1963; Eerdmans/Patemoster '1983) and Philippians (NCB, i976=iggo), pp. 94-0. Of the many recent studies one deserves special mention: C. F. D. Moule, 'Further Reflections on Philippians 2:5-1" in Apostolic History and the Gospel, pp. 264-276.) The association of thought is the Old Testament, and there is an implied contrast between the two Adams. Less probably it has been proposed that the temptation and fall of Satan (see Is. 14) as interpreted by later Jewish writers is the clue to the passage (so Stauffer).

'The form of God' (Rsv; Niv being in very nature God is more an interpretative paraphrase rather than a rendering of en morphe theou) takes us back to the 'status' of Christ in eternity. Attempts to deny this aspect (E.g. in Dunn, Christology in the Making, pp. 114-121.) come to grief on the requirement (from v. 6b) that the element of choice necessitates a 'state' to be left his pre-temporal glory John 17:5) -if he is to become incarnate. Yet once we are firm at the point of Christ's pre-existing we can see how the model of the 'two Adams' could have dictated the flow of the passage. Adam in Genesis :i reflects the glory of the eternal Son of God who from all eternity was 'with God' (Jn. 1:1; 17:5) as the exact image of the ineffable and invisible God (Heb. 1:3). The 'act of robbery' was attempted as Adam, the son of God (Lk. 3:38) and made a little lower than God (Ps. 8:5, NIV marg.), asserted himself to be 'as God' (Gn. 3:5, 22), i.e. to be lord in his own right and independently of God his maker. But he failed in this aspiration.

The eternal Son of God, however, faced with a parallel temptation, renounced what was his by right, and could actually have become his possession by the seizure of it, viz. equality with God, and chose instead the way of obedient suffering as the pathway to his lordship. The circumstances of this tremendous decision are described in the verses which follow.

7. The upshot of the momentous choice of verse 6 is here recorded. As he did not clutch at equality with his Father he perforce, accepted the consequences of this renunciation. But made himself nothing, which is, more literally, 'but emptied himself', heauton ekenosen - a phrase which has given its name to the so-called 'kenosis' theory of the incarnation (See Beare's commentary for kenoticism, pp. 159-174 (E. R. Fairweather's essay). There are some acute criticisms of and comments on this theory in L. Morris, The Lord from Heaven (Tyndale, 1958), pp- 73, 74.) - is best interpreted in the light of the words which immediately follow. It will then refer to the 'pre-incarnate renunciation coincident with the act of "taking the form of a servant" ', (V. Taylor, The Person of Christ in New Testament Teaching (St. Martin's/Macmillan, 1958), P. 77, and my short contribution to IBD, 2, pp. 848, 849.) and this reading of the text stands over against the original 'kenotic' idea that in becoming man he divested himself of the relative attributes of deity, viz. omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence, and even suffered the extinction of his eternal self-consciousness. The present verse says nothing about such things, but rather teaches that his 'kenosis' or self-emptying was his taking the servant's form, and this involved the necessary limitation of his glory which he laid aside in order that he might be born in human likeness.

The very nature of a servant is taken by most older exegetes as a vivid description of his humanity. He shared our human nature in all its frailty and finitude (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:7, 14), and entered upon his earthly fife circumscribed by the restrictions imposed by that nature with the glorious exception that he was without sin. His true stature was concealed in the weakness of his mortality, and his glory was veiled in his humanity. The 'kenosis' was this act of self-abnegation in which his native glory which he had enjoyed from all eternity Jn. 17:5, 24) was laid aside in his becoming man.

There is another possibility, however, which starts from the position that servant, which is, in Judaism, a title of dignity (so Lohmeyer quoted earlier on P. 57), may here refer to the servant of God par excellence, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah's prophecy. Admittedly the LXX translates the Hebrew 'ebed Yahweh by pais and not doulos as in the verse here, but this is not an insuperable difficulty as both terms are used interchangeably, and Aquila reads ho doulos in place of the Lxx ho pais in Isaiah 52:13.

Much has also been made of the use of Isaiah 53 in understanding verse 7. The expression of our text heauton eken6sen, 'he emptied himself, is found nowhere else in Greek and is grammatically harsh, a fact which may point to an underlying Semitic original, of which our verse is a translation. Jeremias finds this original in Isaiah 53:12: 'he poured out his life unto death', declaring that 'the expression implies the surrender of life, not the kenosis of the incarnation'.' This novel exegesis, which had been recognized earlier but never taken seriously in the commentaries, removes the verse completely from the theology of the incarnation and concentrates all attention upon the cross as the price he paid in obedience to the divine will for our redemption. But there are difficulties.' It may well be that the hymn speaks of Jesus' acceptance of doulos for simpler reasons: (1) to establish the role of Jesus as one of Israel's righteous sufferers, called 'God's servants'; (2) to mark out Jesus as having no rights or privileges and so to underscore his decision to 'give himself away' (v. 8: so Moule); and (3) to set up an antithesis with what he ig given by God's grace, the rank and name of 'Lord' (v. ii).

8. The further description of being found in appearance as a man appears simply to repeat what has been said in the previous sentence, and those who stress the metrical and liturgical structure of the hymn (e.g. Dibelius) regard this merely as a piece of poetic repetition. But it does make plain that our Lord was truly man and not only that he became like a man (as v. 7 'being made in human likeness' might suggest). On the other hand, some scholars, especially Lohmeyer, have lessened the force of this, unequivocal statement of the Lord's humanity by treating the phrase in appearance as a man as representing an Aramaic term, kebar enash, meaning 'as a son of man, i.e. a man carrying the appearance of a divinity as in Daniel, Enoch and the Ezra Apocalypse, i.e. chapters '13 of 2 Esdras in the Apocrypha (cf. Rev. 1:13; 14:14). This title could mean' on this reading, not his humanity but his transcendental state as the heavenly man who came to earth to accomplish a saving mission for the world. The doctrine of the heavenly man has been traced elsewhere in Paul's writings (e.g. i Cor. 15:45ff .), but not convincingly. Bruce sees a parallel in verse 8 to Daniel 7:13-14 but in the sense that the one who 'looked like a human being' (GNB) is now exalted as the 'one who received from God such power and honour' that his kingdom is forever.

In the search for parallels it is better to consider the phrase as suggesting a connection between the two Adams based on the Genesis account; or, more preferable still because it prepares for what follows, to relate it to the presentation of the figure of the Servant of the Lord in Isaiah 52:14 or 53:3. He humbled himself refers to his entire life upon earth in its devotion to the Father and the acceptance of our human lot. But undoubtedly the climax of his life is most prominently in view, namely, his humiliation in the passion and death at Calvary. Here there is a parallel in Isaiah 53:8 where the Lxx reads en ti tapeindsei corresponding to etapeinlisen heauton, he humbled himself.

His obedience is a sure token of his deity and authority for, as Lohmeyer says in a brilliant insight, only a divine being can accept death as obedience; for ordinary people it is a necessity. He alone as the obedient Son could choose death as his destiny; and he did so because of his love, a love which was directed both to his Father's redeeming purpose and equally to the world into which he came: 'I have come to do your will' (Heb. 10:7). It is this complete embracing of the will of God which gives value to his culminating obedience to death. But we must not be too quick to read the text as though it said explicitly that obedience was rendered to God. It does not, and leaves open the question. Perhaps it says no more than that Jesus' whole life was one of submission, for this is the determining characteristic of a slave who owes all obedience to his master (Collange).

The solemn words to death perhaps signify more than the utter limit of his humiliation. They may contain a hint of a descent to the underworld and enslavement by the demon power of death (Lohmeyer; this idea is taken up by Kdsemann, quoted on P. 113, and Beare). For this thought of the tyranny of death, see Hebrews 2:15. However strange this idea may seem to us, it lies firmly embedded in the New Testament (see Acts 2:27, 31; Rom. lo:6-8; Eph. 4:8-lo arid, above all, 1 Pet. 3:19).

Death on a cross must be understood from two points of view. It would have special meaning for the Christian readers who were resident in a Roman city where revulsion against this form of capital punishment would be strong. 'This most cruel and hideous form of punishment' is the way it is described by Cicero, who expresses his feelings about crucifixion as follows: 'Far be the very name of a cross, not only from the bcdy, but even from the thought, the eyes, the ears of Roman citizens'. (See the wealth of detail in M. Hengel, Crucifixion (ET, SCM, -1977).)

It will also be remembered that the writer was a Jew (3:5) to whom death by Roman crucifixion came under the rubric of Deuteronomy 2-1:23 and meant that the victim was outside the pale of Israel, and that he was under a ban of excommunication from God's covenant. It was this thought which proved the stumbling-block of the cross to the Jew (i Cor. 1:23); but, to Paul the Christian, it became the very nerve-centre of his doctrine of the cross and reconciliation (see Rom. 5::[-"; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13).' But here the teaching of the purpose of the cross is assumed. It is the fact which is alone stated, and some scholars find in this omission evidence of the pre-Pauline authorship of the hymn. See the Additional Note, pp. 110-114. At all events, the story of Christ reaches its first climax at this point. These three stanzas (vv. 6-8) lead in one great sweep, from the highest height to the deepest depth, from the light of God to the dark-ness of death (Lohmeyer).

9. At this juncture in the sequence of thought the chief actor in the drama of incarnation and atonement changes. Attention has, up to this point, been focused on the self-humbling and obedience of the Son of God. Now it is God who, as it were, takes the initiative. And the name of Jesus Christ is introduced; it is absent from verses 6-8.

The obedience of Christ the Son is crowned by the act of exaltation in which the Father raises his Son from the dead and elevates him to the place of honour. The resurrection and glorification of the Lord are the Father's response to the filial obedience which led him to the cross. This pattern of exaltation following humiliation is thoroughly biblical, and especially evident in the teaching of Jesus (see Mt. 18:4; 2-3:12; Lk. 14:11; 18:14; cf. 2 Cor. 1.1:7; Phil. 4:12).

Therefore (giving the result of his obedient submission to death) God exalted him to the highest place (giving the verb an elative or superlative sense, which is probably correct) is a phrase including the resurrection which is tacitly assumed, but it is aimed primarily at expressing the truth of the ascension as in Acts 2:33 (cf. Acts 5:31). (Exaltation is described pictorially as sitting at God's right hand, which denotes co-regency, i.e. the receiving and enjoyment of a dignity equal with God: so W. Foerster, 7DNT, 3, P. 1088.) The LXX uses the same verb, here translated exalted, Isaiah 52:13. Bruce sees a link with Daniel 7:13-14 as we have noted.

He who stooped so low is now lifted up to the glorious rank of equality with God, i.e. the enjoyment of that dignity which was ever his by right but which he never clutched at as his personal possession. The elevation is, then, not in regard to his nature or inherent place within the Godhead. It is rather an ascription to him of what could only be his after the submission and sacrifice of his earthly life, and specifically relates to his lordship as king of the universe.

This honour now conferred is expressed by the bestowal of the name, i.e. a character, which he chose to assume not by right or seizure (the harpagmos of v. 6), but by obedient humiliation. The honour which he refused to arrogate to him-,elf is now conferred upon him by the Father's good pleasure: gave him (echarisato) bears this sense of 'granted by the exercise of a favour' (charis). The human name 'Jesus' is important not least because it declares that lordly power is seen as committed to the hands of the historical person of Jesus of Nazareth, who is not some cosmic cipher or despotic ruler but a figure to whom Christians could give a name and a face. This factor controls the next assertion about his office as Lord.

In the light of verse 11, the supreme name is that of 'Lord'. The root meaning of this term (kyrios), used in the LXX to translate the divine name Yahweh, though with a possible Christian influence at work, denotes rulership based upon competent and authoritative power, the ability to dispose of what one possesses. In view of its spe~ial connection with the name of God in the Old Testament the giving of the name in this context declares that Jesus Christ is installed in the place which properly belongs to God himself as Lord of all creation. Of this fact there are, according to the subsequent verses, two outstanding proofs.

In his name, the name which is above every name., every knee must bow, and every tongue confess (i.e. proclaim) that Jesus Christ is Lord. Both aspects of this acknowledgment are based on Isaiah 45:23 in a context which -proclaims the unique greatness of Israel's God. No clearer proof could be forth-coming of our Lord's pre-eminent position at the Father's right hand than the use of this Old Testament quotation in reference to him. Yet we should also trace here a claiming of a Jewish proof text for the oneness of God. On the other hand, he occupies his exalted status to the glory of God the Father. His throne is no rival to his Father's (Rev. 3:21), but his lordship is based upon the sovereignty and express intention of the God whose purpose is that he might gather in one all things in Christ (Eph. 1:10; cf. Eph. 1:20-23) so that ultimately God might be all in all (i Cor. 15:28).

The cosmic authority of our Lord Jesus. Christ is expressed in the triadic phrase, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. These words are represented in the Greek by three adjectives with connecting particles. The Av/Kjv and RV take the adjectives to refer to implied neuter nouns, hence 'things' (so Lightfoot). This view, concludes that if the adjectives are neuter the most we can say is that the text speaks of 'the overall notion of universality of homage to God'.' But it is more likely that the reference is a personal one, as in the parallel thought of Ignatius (Trallians g.:i). It is intelligent beings in heaven, earth and the underworld (see (iNB) who bend the knee in submission and whose lips make the confession which formed the earliest Christian creed, Jesus Christ is Lord.


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