By JR on Sunday, November 22, 2015
Agreement between Philippians 2:6 and John 1:1
Ten years ago, I offered some comments on Philippians 2:6 which accepted the traditional understanding of the Greek word "harpagmon". Since then, however, I have caught up with current scholarship on the translation. So I thought it best that I started ab initio on a discussion of the text. Hence my recent posts on that text.
It is interesting to note that even with the traditional translation of "harpagmon", I was able to show that the text is uncongenial to the hopes of the trinitarians. Nothing can get around the fact that Jesus was described as "morphe theos" rather than "ho theos" -- "in the form of a god", not God himself.
And as I sometimes peskily note, Jesus also had a beginning. He is a created being. John 1:1 says so: "In the beginning was the Word". But the creator has no beginning. He is eternal. So Jesus is not the creator! And John 1:1 agrees with Philippians 2:6 in saying that Jesus had divine attributes even if he is not the creator. It says Jesus was "theos", not "ho theos". Both texts are careful to say Jesus was not THE God (in Greek).
I have commented on anarthrous "theos" several times previously and given authorities on the translation of that usage but I have recently acquired a copy of that massive repository of textual scholarship, The Companion Bible. Its editor/author, E. W. Bullinger, was theologically conventional but even he notes that anarthrous "theos" indicates divine qualities rather than the supreme being. The qualities he suggests are conventional: "Infinite", "eternal" etc but those are his speculations. The important thing is that he recognizes that "theos" and "ho theos" are not the same thing. Neither Paul nor John are explicit on what were the divine qualities that Jesus had but his existence as a spirit being would seem to be the obvious interpretation, or at least the most parsimonious interpretation.
While we are discussing anarthrous Greek nouns, I might note that "arche" in John 1:1 is anarthrous too. So it could reasonably be translated as "In a beginning was the Word". That would seem to be an explicit claim that Christ was created. I can see a way around that conclusion but that is the obvious conclusion.
And for those who would use the predicate status of "theos" as a get out of jail free card, I have dealt with that elsewhere.