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The Meaning Of ἁρπαγμός In Philippians 2:6 - An Overlooked Datum For Functional Inequality Within The Godhead

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Editor's Note:
Denny Burk was one of my interns for the 1999-2000 school year. This paper (with slight revisions both by Denny and me) is what he presented at the southwestern regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in spring 2000. Denny also wrote a Th.M. thesis that incorporated much of this material.
Daniel B. Wallace


INTRODUCTION TO THE PROBLEM

The Problem

The precise meaning of the enigmatic term ἁρπαγμός in Phil 2:6 is a question that has been the subject of much debate in New Testament studies. Whereas much ink has been spilled over the lexical issues involved in interpreting this term, some of the most important grammatical issues at stake have not received much discussion at all. Indeed, in many cases, the grammatical concerns that would contribute to our understanding of the meaning of this term have been largely either assumed or ignored.

One notable exception to this general observation is N. T. Wright's important analysis of this term. In his article titled “ἁρπαγμός and the Meaning of Philippians 2:5-11,” Wright proposes that the article in the articular infinitive τὸ εἶναι has a semantic force. Specifically, he contends that this articular infinitive carries with it an anaphoric significance. He writes,

A further reason, not usually noticed, for taking τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ in close connection with ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων is the regular usage of the articular infinitive (here, τὸ εἶναι) to refer 'to something previously mentioned or otherwise well known.'1

Thus, on grammatical grounds, Wright anaphorically links Christ's equality with God (τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ) to His preexisting in the form of God (μορφῇ θεοῦ).2 Wright's interpretation has exerted considerable influence on subsequent interpretations of this passage. Ever since Wright, many other commentators have linked equality with God and form of God on the basis of this supposed anaphoric reference.3 To this end, Kenneth Grayston even goes so far as to say that τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ and μορφῇ θεοῦ are “equivalent phrases.”4 If this assumption about the significance of the articular infinitive is valid, then at least one interpretive implication emerges—equality with God and the form of God are phrases that denote the same reality. Such an interpretation has profound theological implications and must be examined critically from a grammatical standpoint.

Some Assumptions

Before we turn to the grammatical analysis of Wright's thesis, I need to set forth some of my assumptions that I bring to this text. First of all, I will assume a certain meaning for the form of God (μορφῇ θεοῦ). Namely, I take it that this phrase refers to Christ's existence in his essence as true deity. Secondly, because I see verse seven as referring to Christ’s coming in the incarnation, I understand all of verse six to be referring to events that took place before the Son’s arrival on Earth. Therefore, Christ's existing in the form of God refers to His preexistent unity of essence with God the Father before the incarnation. In other words, Philippians 2:6 refers to events and realities that took place in eternity past.

The most significant assumption that I will make regards the lexical signification of ἁρπαγμός. I regard ἁρπαγμός to be concrete and passive.5 Thus I translate the term a thing to be grasped for. In other words, the Son did not want to or try to grasp for equality with God. Even though I am assuming a certain meaning here, it needs to be said that the following grammatical analysis will affect one's interpretation no matter what lexical sense is adopted. With that being said, we will now move into the grammatical analysis.

EXAMINATION OF WRIGHT'S APPROACH TO THE ARTICULAR INFINITIVE

Problems in N. T. Wright's Analysis

Wright briefly argues that the article bears an anaphoric significance in two ways: (1) by citing Blass, Debrunner, and Funk's article on the semantic significance of the articular infinitive6 and (2) by citing two New Testament texts in which the articular infinitives clearly denote anaphora.7 I want to point out at least two reasons why these two arguments fall short. First of all, Wright only cites a portion of BDF's definition of the significance of the article in articular infinitives.8 BDF actually says a bit more:

In general the anaphoric significance of the article, i.e. its reference to something previously mentioned or otherwise well known, is more or less evident. Without this anaphoric reference, an infinitive as subject or object is usually anarthrous.9

The word usually is key here. Because BDF indicates that non-anaphoric infinitives are usually anarthrous, it follows that non-anaphoric infinitives are sometimes articular. In this way, BDF indicates that there are some instances of the articular infinitive that do not in fact denote anaphora.10 Therefore, because BDF does not mean to say that anaphora is a feature of every articular infinitive, we cannot build a case for taking τὸ εἶναι as such on the basis of BDF's article alone.11 If Wright is to establish this point, he must argue on the basis of features within the context which promote the article’s anaphoric sense.

Secondly, citing two verses (Rom. 7:18; 2 Cor. 7:11) in which the articular infinitives clearly have anaphoric significance does not establish the same significance for the articular infinitive in Philippians 2:6. The main reason for this is because of the critical lack of analogy between Philippians 2:6 and the two verses that Wright cites. The articular infinitives in Romans 7:18 and 2 Corinthians 7:11 each have identical lexemes as referents in their preceding contexts—a phenomenon which appears in every clear anaphoric use of the articular infinitive.12 The same cannot be said of the articular infinitive in Philippians 2:6.13 There are no clear cognate parallels between τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ and the μορφῇ θεοῦ. When there are no identical lexemes as referents in the preceding context, a case must be made from context in order to attribute an anaphoric sense to the articular infinitive. For instance, in Philippians 1:24 the remaining on in the body (τὸ δὲ ἐπιμένειν ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ) could be taken as an anaphoric reference to the living in the body (τὸ ζῆν ἐν σαρκί) in verse 1:22. Although the infinitives themselves do not comprise identical lexemes, it is clear enough that Paul's remaining in the body refers back to his living in the body. The context and the similar phraseology make this link clear.

However, it is more difficult to posit a similar link between equality with God (τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ) and form of God (μορφῇ θεοῦ) where neither context nor similar lexemes/phraseology make this anaphoric connection clear. One might argue that there is a strong conceptual parallel between τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ and μορφῇ θεοῦ and on that basis propose an anaphoric use of the article. In that case, one would be assuming a certain meaning for equality with God (τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ)—namely, that it means the same thing as the form of God (μορφῇ θεοῦ). However, if one assumes a conceptual parallel between the two phrases, one would be assuming what he is setting out to prove on the basis of anaphora—namely, the synonymy of the phrases. This is circular reasoning. Without an adequate explanation as to why equality with God should be taken as synonymous to form of God, one cannot argue for the anaphoric link. Anaphora does not establish a synonymous link between phrases; rather, anaphora follows when such a link is already manifestly clear. Therefore, one cannot consider the two phrases in Philippians 2:6 as synonymous based on a supposed anaphoric reference. This reasoning stands out as a critical weakness in Wright's remarks concerning the significance of the articular infinitive.

Non-anaphoric Instances of the Articular Infinitive14

Because Wright links Christ's equaltiy with God (τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ) to His being in the form of God (μορφῇ θεοῦ) on the assumption that the articular infinitive regularly denotes anaphora, it is necessary to examine whether or not articular infinitives indeed regularly denote anaphora. I believe that the evidence clearly demonstrates that not all articular infinitives denote anaphora and thus that one cannot argue that every articular infinitive carries this semantic nuance.15 For instance, the articular infinitive when used after a preposition never denotes anaphora, and there are about two hundred such infinitives in the New Testament.16 The same can be said for virtually all genitive17 and dative18 articular infinitives that do not follow prepositions; these account for about another eighty-three articular infinitives.19 In all these cases, the article serves syntactically as a function marker. This is the thrust of BDF's remarks in its introduction to the articular infinitive,

The infinitive, however, has no case endings so that wherever it is necessary to express the case of the infinitive, especially in the gen. and dat. and after prepositions, the article is used with no other significance than to make the case and substantivization clear.20

Virtually all of the genitive and dative articular infinitives fall into this category and so do accusative infinitives that follow prepositions; therefore, the article in such instances bears no semantic weight at all. Daniel B. Wallace makes a similar observation concerning the use of the article in general. He says, “When the article is used as a grammatical function marker, it may or may not also bear a semantic force. But even when it does bear such a force, the grammatical (structural) use is usually prominent.”21 If this is the case with the use of the article in general, it is even more so in the above mentioned articular infinitives where BDF says that the article “has no other significance” but the syntactical one.22

With that being said, we are left with the nominative/accusative examples of this construction (that are not governed by a preposition). These account for about fifty of the overall instances of this construction. But even here, we find that there are numerous examples of nominative/accusative infinitives that do not function anaphorically. Although some nominative/accusative articular infinitives are anaphoric, it is clear that many are not. Briefly, I would like to point out some non-anaphoric examples from both the nominative and accusative cases. Although the nominative examples of this construction usually denote anaphora, at least four of them clearly do not.23 Three of these four nominative articular infinitives function as the subject of the sentence (1 Cor 7:26; 2 Cor 9:1; Heb 10:31). In these three instances, the subject is related to an anarthrous pre-verbal predicate adjective. Although the article is not needed to distinguish the subject, it nonetheless serves a syntactical function in relationship to the subject. Concerning this use of the article as a function marker, Wallace observes, “Normally a subject will have the article (unless it is a pronoun or proper name).”24 The fourth non-anaphoric nominative articular infinitive, which is found in Philippians 1:29, has a similar syntactical function as the former three. If there is a semantic force in view at all, it is kataphoric. Hence the suffering (τὸπάσχειν) points forward to Paul's own sufferings in the following verse—Philippians 1:30. In each of these four instances, the nominative infinitive does not have an anaphoric semantic force.

There are many non-anaphoric examples of the articular infinitive in the accusative case as well—indeed, many more than in the nominative case. In fact, it is difficult to construe an anaphoric reference for the majority of the accusative examples of this construction.25 At least fifteen of the accusative articular infinitives are clearly non-anaphoric (Acts 4:18; 4:18; Rom 13:8; 14:13; 2 Cor 2:1; 8:10; 8:10; 10:2; Phil 2:13; 2:13; 4:10; 1 Thes 3:3; 4:4; 4:6; 4:6). However, we should note that, although none of these articular infinitives are anaphoric, some of them yet possess a semantic force if not an anaphoric one.

In eight of these accusative articular infinitive constructions (Acts 4:18; 4:18; Rom 14:13; 2 Cor 2:1; 10:2; 1 Thes 3:3; 4:6; 4:6), the negative particle μή follows the article. BDF says that in this construction, “τὸ μή …is the equivalent of a ι῞vνα μή-clause and is to be compared with classical τὸ μή after verbs of hindering.”26 Classical grammarian Herbert Weir Smyth says of this construction, “[it] is either an accusative of respect or a simple object infinitive.”27 In either case, the articular infinitive does not imply an anaphoric reference; the article serves a purely syntactical function, marking the infinitive phrase as the grammatical object. I will illustrate this use with one example from 2 Corinthians 10:2. The Greek text reads, δέομαι δὲ τὸ μὴ παρὼν θαρρῆσαι τῇ πεποιθήσει ᾗ λογίζομαι τολμῆσαι ἐπί τινας, “I ask that when I am present I may not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some.” In this sentence, the accusative article τό marks the infinitive phrase as the grammatical object.

Of the seven accusative infinitives that remain, two of them probably bear a “well-known” semantic force (Rom 13:8; Phil 4:10). The articular infinitive to love one another (τὸ α᾿λλήλους ἀγαπᾶν) in Romans 13:8 is probably referring to the well-known commandment that one should love his neighbor (Matt 22:39). Likewise, in Philippians 4:10, the Philippian church's concern (τὸ ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ φρονεῖν) for Paul was probably well known. Even though BDF considers the well-known use of the article as a subset of the anaphoric use,28 we should make one distinction here—namely, that in these two instances there is no previous reference in the immediate preceding context to which the article refers. Therefore, these two are not anaphoric in the strict sense. The other five articular infinitives (2 Cor 8:10; 8:10; Phil 2:13; 2:13; 1 Thes 4:4) have a purely syntactical function. The article in these instances seems to bear no semantic force whatsoever but functions to mark the infinitive as the grammatical object. None of these last five makes a reference to something previously mentioned in the immediate context.

AN ALTERNATIVE APPROACH TO UNDERSTANDING THE ARTICULAR INFINITIVE

The Article as a Function Marker

Having thus established that most articular infinitives indeed do not denote anaphora, we may now consider an alternative approach to understanding the significance of the articular infinitive in Philippians 2:6. Three things are certainly clear concerning the significance of the articular infinitive based on the preceding analysis. First of all, we cannot simply assume that every articular infinitive (even nominative and accusative ones) refers anaphorically to some element in the preceding context. Second, we must affirm that the article in the articular infinitive most often serves as a grammatical function marker. Third, we must observe that, even when the article does bear a semantic force, the grammatical/syntactical function is most often prominent.29

Therefore, in approaching the articular infinitive in Philippians 2:6 we should expect to see the article bearing more of a grammatical/syntactical function than of some supposed semantic force. As a matter of fact, the grammatical context of the sentence requires the presence of the article in this particular infinitive phrase. If the article were not present in Philippians 2:6, the sentence would make little if any grammatical sense. For this reason, Wallace disagrees with N. T. Wright's analysis of the article's significance. He says,

Wright argues that the article is anaphoric, referring back to μορφῇ θεοῦ. As attractive as this view may be theologically, it has a weak basis grammatically. The infinitive is the object and the anarthrous term, ἁρπαγμός, is the complement. The most natural reason for the article with the infinitive is simply to mark it out as the object.30

The implication of Wallace's remark is that the article is required in this context as a function marker to distinguish the accusative object from the accusative complement. In order to illuminate exactly what is at stake here grammatically, we must examine briefly the semantics of the object-complement construction.

The Semantics of the Object-Complement Construction

The two accusatives in Philippians 2:6 comprise an example of the object-complement construction.

An object-complement double accusative is a construction in which one accusative substantive is the direct object of the verb and the other accusative (either noun, adjective, participle, or infinitive) complements the object in that it predicates something about it.31

The presence of this particular grammatical category is widely known and even has a counterpart in English grammar. However, what is not so widely known is the criteria by which one might distinguish the accusative object from the accusative complement. In English usage, where nouns are not inflected for case, word order is usually the key. However, in Greek usage, substantives are inflected for case, and word order is not nearly so determinative. Wallace notes that “Although normally the object comes first, about twenty percent of the examples reverse this order.”32 Because the object-complement construction shows up in the New Testament in various syntactical arrangements, word order is by no means an accurate criterion by which to distinguish the direct object from the complement in Greek.33

Therefore, in 1984 Wallace addressed this grammatical lacuna by demonstrating the semantic equivalence of the subject-predicate nominative construction and the object-complement construction.34 His thesis is as follows:

the object-complement construction is semantically equivalent to the subject-predicate nominative construction. Thus, any principles which apply to subject-predicate nominative constructions (e.g., “Colwell's Rule”) are equally applicable to object-complement constructions.35

In demonstrating the analogy between these two constructions,36 Wallace opened up a way by which we can identify the components of the object-complement construction.37 In short, the principles that are used to distinguish the subject from the predicate nominative can be used to distinguish the object from the complement. Wallace sets them forth as follows:

  • If one of the two is a pronoun, it will be the object;
  • If one of the two is a proper name, it will be the object;
  • If one of the two is articular, it will be the object.38

These rules are particularly helpful in sorting out the object from the complement when the normal word order is reversed. Indeed, when the object and complement are in a reversed order, these three rules are the only way to distinguish the object from the complement. In such reversed order situations where neither of the accusatives is a proper name or a pronoun, the presence of the article is syntactically required in order to indicate which accusative is functioning as the object. Such is the case in Philippians 2:6.

To demonstrate this point, we should observe that, in every instance of a reversed order object-complement construction39 in which neither of the accusatives is a pronoun or a proper name, the article is present as a function marker to distinguish the grammatical object from the complement. For instance, in 1 Timothy 6:5 the complement comes before the object (νομιζόντων πορισμὸν εἶναι τὴν εὐσέβειαν, considering godliness as gain). In this sentence, the only way to distinguish the object from the complement is by the presence of the article in connection with godliness (εὐσέβειαν). Likewise, in James 5:10 the presence of the article is the only way to distinguish the prophets as the grammatical object (ὑπόδειγμα λάβετετῆς κακοπαθίας καὶ τῆς μακροθυμίας τοὺς προφήτας, receive the prophets as an example of suffering and patience). In 2 Peter 2:13, the article also appears as a function marker to distinguish the object from the complement (ἡδονὴν ἡγούμενοι τὴν ἐν ἡμέρᾳ τρυφήν, counting their self-indulgence in the daytime as a pleasure). Without the article in this case, we would be altogether unsure as to which accusative substantive is the object and which is the complement. Without the article, the sentence would most likely be translated as follows, counting pleasure as self-indulgence in the daytime. However, the presence of the article clears up any potential confusion in translation.

Application of the Principle to Philippians 2:6

Likewise, the article in the articular infinitive in Philippians 2:6 functions to distinguish the grammatical object from the accusative complement. Indeed, the article is required in this case in order for the clause to be grammatically intelligible. Notice the word order in Philippians 2:6, οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ. Without the article, by virtue of word order we would naturally be more inclined to consider ἁρπαγμόν as the grammatical object instead of the infinitive. In such a scenario, there would be some confusion as to how to view the object ἁρπαγμόν in relationship to the infinitive. The infinitive would not be the complement, but the neuter plural ἴσα would. Of course this would make almost no grammatical sense as ἁρπαγμόν is singular and ἴσα is plural. The syntactical confusion that would accompany the absence of the article in such a hypothetical situation illustrates the necessity of the article's presence in this clause. In Phil 2:6 we have an example of a reversed order object-complement construction. Therefore, the article serves to mark the accusative infinitive phrase (τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῶ'/) as the grammatical object of the finite verb (ἡγήσατο), thereby distinguishing it from the accusative complement (ἁρπαγμόν).

For this reason, the syntactical use of the article as a function marker is the primary reason for the article's presence in Philippians 2:6. Indeed it is a necessity. Thus, certainly in this situation it is clear enough that the grammatical/structural significance of the article is far more prominent than any supposed semantic significance. Whereas there is really no evidence to attribute a semantic force to the article, there is every reason to attribute a syntactical one to it. This being said, we should not equate equality with God (τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῶ'/) with form of God (μορφῇ θεοῦ) simply because of the presence of the article. If one is going to equate these two phrases, he/she must argue for this identification on other grounds. The presence of the accusative article simply does not support equating the two phrases.

CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS

Exegetical Conclusions

I propose that if the author had intended to equate the two phrases he could have simply stated, although He existed in the form of God, He did not regard being in the form of God as a thing to be grasped for (ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ/). However, the very fact that the author chose to use different phraseology indicates that he wishes to denote differing realities, not synonymous ones.

The question arises then as to how this phrase can be theologically intelligible; how can this interpretation make sense given that μορφῇ θεοῦ refers to the Christ's preexistent essence as deity? Should not Christ's equality with God (τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῶ'/) be considered just another way of referring to his preexistent essence as deity (μορφῇ θεοῦ)? The answer to the last question is “no” if we consider the possibility that μορφῇ θεοῦ refers to essence while τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῶ'/ refers to function. “If this is the meaning of the text, then the two are not synonymous: although Christ was true deity, he did not usurp the role of the Father.”40

If ἁρπαγμός be understood according to the above analysis, then Christ is said not to have snatched at or grasped for equality with God. Though he was himself true deity existing in the form of God, he did not try to grasp for this other aspect which he himself did not possess—namely, equality with God. On the contrary, Christ emptied himself. This emptying consisted in taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men (v. 7). Therefore, the contrast between verses six and seven is made very clear. Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, did not try to snatch at an equality with God which properly belongs only to the first Person of the Trinity. On the contrary, Christ embraced those duties which were appointed for the second Person—taking the form of a servant and being made in the likeness of men. In this way, Christ did not attempt to usurp the peculiar role of the first Person of the Trinity, but in submission he joyfully embraced his own in the incarnation.

Theological Implications

I think this interpretation opens the way for us to see an orthodox subordinationism within the Godhead.41 Although the Father and Son are one in their essence (that is, both of them existing in the form of God), they are distinct in their persons (that is, they each respectively fulfill certain roles and functions that are peculiar to their own Person).42 The character of this intra-Trinitarian relationship is what makes redemption possible. According to the Father's predetermined plan (Acts 2:23), the Father sends the Son into the world as a man and as a servant.43 The Son does not try to abdicate his role by grasping for functional equality with the Father (Phil 2:6). On the contrary, the Son obeys the Father and enters onto the stage of human history (Phil 2:7). In this sequence of events, we see that the Son not only obeys the Father in his incarnation but that he also obeys the Father from all eternity. For this reason, if the Son were not obedient to the Father's sending him into the world and if he were not distinct from the Father in his Person (and thus in his role and function), then redemption would have been impossible, for the Son never would have obeyed the Father, and there never would have been an incarnation.

There are some ecclesiological ramifications that emerge from this view of the Trinity. First of all, it is neither unbiblical nor disrespectful to say that men and women fulfill different roles in the church and in the home. Because the great apostle has said elsewhere that the relationship of God the Father to God the Son is the paradigm for the relationships that exists between husband and wife in the home and men and women in the church (1 Cor 11:3), there is a great dignity in fulfilling the role that God has appointed for each individual. Just as the Father and Son are One in essence but distinct in their Persons, so there is a corresponding reality in earthly relationships between men and women. For instance, though wives are commanded to fulfill a role of obedience to their husbands (1 Pet 3:1), redeemed husbands and wives are one in their standing before God; they are fellow heirs of the grace of life (1 Pet 3:7). There is no essential inequality here, only a functional one. In this understanding, the man is no more superior in worth or significance over his wife than the Father is over Christ. On the contrary, the fulfilling of the roles appointed by God is ultimately a very glorious thing (Phil 2:11).

Whatever we conclude about this text, we must agree that Phil 2:6 stands as one of the most sublime statements of Christology in all of the New Testament. In it we see the self-humiliated love of the Son of God manifested in pre-incarnate submission to his Father. Herein is set forth the great paradigm of subservience to God the Father. Here is Christ, in all of his exalted lowliness, showing forth the demure obedience that would characterize his entire earthly life and work. And here we see that his magnificent obedience was not one that was born in a manger two thousand years ago, but was one that was born in eternity within the glorious intra-Trinitarian mystery. In love, the Father appointed His Son to do His bidding in the incarnation. The Son's obedience, born in eternity, accomplished not only the redemption of sinners but also the very manifestation of the love of God. Jesus said, “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do. And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was” (John 17:4-5). Amen.


1 N. T. Wright, “ἁρπαγμός and the Meaning of Philippians 2:5-11.” The Journal of Theological Studies NS 37 (October 1986): 344.

2 In linking these two phrases, N. T. Wright is attempting to strengthen R. W. Hoover’s argument that equality with God already belonged to Christ, “it should be observed that this understanding of the ἁρπαγμός statement carries with it the assumption that τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ represents a status which belonged to the preexistent Christ” (R. W. Hoover, “The Harpagmos Enigma: A Philological Solution,” HTR 64 [1971]: 118; cf. Wright, “ἁρπαγμός,” 344).

3 “On grammatical grounds τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ is to be taken in close connection with ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων and might be rendered 'this divine equality'“ (Peter T. O‘Brien, The Epistle to the Philippians, NIGTC [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991], 216).

“The definite article in τὸ εἶναι implies that this second expression is closely connected with the first, for the function of the definite article here is to point back to something previously mentioned (BDF 399, 1). Therefore τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ should be understood thus: 'the equality with God of which we have just spoken equivalently by saying ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων'“ (Gerald F. Hawthorne, Philippians, WBC, vol. 43 [Waco, TX: Nelson, 1983], 84).

“This, then, is what it means for Christ to be 'in the “form” of God'; it means 'to be equal with God,' not in the sense that the two phrases are identical, but that both point to the same reality” (Gordan D. Fee, Paul's Letter to the Philippians, NICNT, ed. Gordon D. Fee [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995], 207). “…the definite article…is probably anaphoric, pointing to 'something previously mentioned or otherwise well known'“ (Ibid, note 62).

4 Kenneth Grayston, The Letters of Paul to the Philippians and the Thessalonians, Cambridge Bible commentary: New English Bible (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967), 27.

5 See pages 20 through 38 in my master’s thesis for an argument for this meaning (Dennis Burk, “The Meaning of Harpagmos in Phillippians 2:6” [Th. M. Thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 2000], 20-38).Regarding the terminology “concrete and passive,” a few words are in order. Four Latin terms have emerged as labels for the various interpretations of ἁρπαγμός: raptus, res rapta, res rapienda, and res retinenda.

Scholarly discussion has arranged these four terms under two interpretive rubrics: active and passive. Raptus is generally associated with what is known as the active translation of ἁρπαγμός. Even though raptus itself is passive, it is employed as the active label because it emphasizes the action of the verb as abstracted from any concrete object. For this reason, res is not included in the label, but raptus stands alone. Generally speaking, those who translate ἁρπαγμός as raptus do so with an active nuance—for instance snatching, seizing, or even perhaps robbery. However, raptus can be understood to denote a passive nuance, in which case α῾ρπαγμός is suggested to mean rapture. In both of these, no concrete object is in view, and the abstract, verbal character of the noun comes through.

Res rapta, res rapienda, and res retinenda have come to be known as the passive interpretations. These three labels are considered passive because each of them translates ἁρπαγμός as denoting a concrete object that receives the passive action of the respective Latin verbal. Therefore, res (“thing”) appears in each of these three passive labels. Thus, the translations properly indicated by the passive labels are as follows: “a thing having been seized” (res rapta), “a thing yet to be seized” (res rapienda), and “a thing yet to be retained” (res retinenda) [Dennis Burk, “The Meaning of Harpagmos,” 13-14].

6 Friedrich Blass, and Albert Debrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, translated and revised by Robert W. Funk (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961) §399. [BDF]

7 The usage of these texts could be construed as fallacious argumentation because it is an “appeal to selective evidence.” The two references cited hardly constitute an adequate sampling of NT instances of the construction in question. I will demonstrate that anaphora is not a semantic nuance that is attached to every articular infinitive (D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, 2nd edition [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996], 93-94).

8 “A further reason, not usually noticed, for taking τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ in close connection with ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων is the regular usage of the articular infinitive (here τὸ εἶναι) to refer 'to something previously mentioned or otherwise well known'“ (Wright, “ἁρπαγμός,” 344; cf. BDF §399).

9 BDF §399 (italics mine).

10 In fact, some of the verses put forward as anaphoric are labelled “Less clearly anaphoric.” In this way, even Blass-Debrunner shows caution in ascribing this semantic nuance to every context (Ibid.).

11 I should mention that BDF counts the articular infinitive in Philippians 2:6 as anaphoric (BDF §399[1]). I think this is mistaken and will demonstrate why later.

12 Compare “τὸ ...θέλειν “(Ro. 7:18) with “ θέλω “(Ro. 7:15). Also compare “τὸλυπηθῆναι”(2 Cor. 7:11) to “ λύπη “(2 Cor. 7:10). See also Mt. 15:20; 20:23; Mk. 9:10; 10:40; 12:33; 1 Cor. 11:6; Phil. 1:21.

13 At this point it will be useful to say another word about the helpful grammatical distinction between affected and unaffected meanings. “By 'unaffected' is meant the meaning of the construction in a vacuum—apart from contextual, lexical, or other grammatical intrusions. By 'affected' is meant the meaning of the construction in its environment—i.e., 'real life' instances…Since the unaffected or ontological meaning is an abstraction that can only be derived from observed phenomena, it is imperative that any deduction about ontology be made on the basis of carefully scrutinized and representative phenomena” (Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996], 2-3). Anaphora seems to be a function of the articular infinitive's affected meaning. For this reason, one must not take any one meaning of the form in context and force that meaning onto the same form in other contexts. This fact is especially relevant to our understanding of the articular infinitive in Phil 2:6. Just because articular infinitives denote anaphora in some contexts does not mean that they will do the same in every context.

14 The search results contained in this section come from my own search of every articular infinitive in the New Testament. I used GRAMCORD's database for this (The GRAMCORD Greek New Testament Morphological Database & Research System. The GRAMCORD Institute, 1999). Appendices A and B in my master's thesis contain the lists and tables that resulted from my own search (using GRAMCORD's database and search engine) of every articular infinitive in the New. In Appendix A of my master's thesis, my search results are set against that of Clyde W. Votaw and James L. Boyer (James L. Boyer, Supplemental manual of information: infinitive verbs, [Winona Lake, Indiana: Boyer, 1986], 35-42; Burk, “The Meaning of Harpagmos”; Clyde W. Votaw, “The Use of the Infinitive in Biblical Greek,” [Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1896], [Text-fiche]; 30-40, 47). I did this to show the relative consistency among our respective searches and to refine my own. The slight difference in some of the numbers can be accounted for by disagreement over some of the examples. For instance, Boyer incorrectly tagged some of his examples (See 1Cor. 14:39 which Boyer classified as anarthrous but which are clearly articular [Boyer, Supplement; 24]). I also disagree with Boyer concerning whether or not one particular articular infinitive is governed by a preposition (See Acts 8:40 which I say is not governed by a preposition).

15 See Appendix F in my master's thesis for a brief overview of previous grammatical analyses of the articular infinitive (Burk, “The Meaning of Harpagmos”).

16 Matt 5:28; 6:1; 6:8; 13:4, 5, 6, 25, 30; 20:19, 19, 19; 23:5; 24:12; 26:2, 12, 32; 27:12, 31; Mark 1:14; 4:4, 5, 6; 5:4, 4, 4; 6:48; 13:22; 14:28, 55; 16:19; Luke 1:8, 21; 2:4, 6, 21, 27, 43; 3:21; 5:1, 1, 12, 17; 6:48; 8:5, 6, 40, 42; 9:7, 18, 29, 33, 34, 36, 51; 10:35, 38; 11:1, 8, 27, 37; 12:5, 15; 14:1; 17:11, 14; 18:1, 5, 35; 19:11, 11, 15; 22:15, 20; 23:8; 24:4, 15, 15, 30, 51; John 1:48; 2:24; 13:19; 17:5; Acts 1:3; 2:1; 3:19, 26; 4:2, 2, 30, 30; 7:4, 19; 8:6, 6, 11; 9:3; 10:41; 11:15; 12:20; 15:13; 18:2, 3; 19:1, 21; 20:1; 23:15; 27:4, 9; 28:18; Rom 1:11, 20; 3:4, 26; 4:11, 11, 16, 18; 6:12; 7:4, 5; 8:29; 11:11; 12:2, 3; 15:8, 13, 13, 16; 1 Cor 8:10; 9:18; 10:6; 11:21, 22, 22, 25, 33; 2 Cor 1:4; 3:13; 4:4; 7:3, 3, 12; 8:6, 11; Gal 2:12; 3:17, 23; 4:18; Eph 1:12, 18; 6:11; Phil 1:7, 10, 23, 23; 1 The 2:9, 12, 16; 3:2, 2, 5, 10, 10, 13; 4:9; 2 The 1:5: 2:2, 2, 6, 10, 11, 3:8, 9; Heb 2:8, 17; 3:12, 15; 7:23, 24, 25; 8:3, 13; 9: 14, 28; 10:2, 15, 26; 11:3; 12:10; 13:21; Jas 1:18, 19, 19; 3:3; 4:2, 15; 1 Pet 3:7; 4:2. Also, see appendices A and B in my master's thesis. For an extended discussion of this construction, see Appendix E (Ibid., 73-76; 88-91).

17 2 Cor 8:11 contains perhaps the only exception to this observation. The genitive τοῦ θέλειν may anaphorically refer to τὸ θέλειν in verse 8:10. The other genitive articular infinitives not governed by a preposition are as follows: Matt 2:13; 3:13; 11:1 13:3; 21:32; 24:45; Luke 1:9, 57, 73, 77, 79; 2:6, 21, 24, 27; 4:10, 42; 5:7; 8:5; 9:51; 10:19; 12:42; 17:1; 21:22; 22: 6, 31; 24:16, 25, 29, 45; Acts 3:2, 12; 5:31; 7:19; 8:40; 9:15; 10:25, 47; 13:47; 14:9, 18; 15:20; 18:10; 20:3, 20, 27, 30; 21:12; 23:15, 20; 26:18; 27:1, 20; Rom 1:24; 6:6; 7:3; 8:12; 11:8, 10; 15:22, 23; 1 Cor 9:10; 10:13; 16:4; 2 Cor 1:8; 7:12; 8:11; Gal 3:10; Phil 3:10, 21; Heb 2:15; 5:12; 10:7, 9; 11:5; Jas 5:17; 1 Pet 3:10; 4:17; Rev 12:7. See Appendix D in my master's thesis for a printing of the verses containing genitive articular infinitives not governed by a preposition (Ibid., 80-87).

18 I found but one example of a dative articular infinitive not governed by a preposition—2 Cor 2:13. οὐκ ἔσχηκα ἄνεσιν τῷ πνεύματί μου τῷ μὴ εὑρεῖν με Τίτον τὸν ἀδελφόν μου (I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there, NIV). Thus the dative articular infinitive as a causal nuance. There is no anaphoric referent in view.

19 See Appendices A and B in my master's thesis for a count and listing of verses which contain articular infinitives that are not governed by a preposition (Burk, “The Meaning of Harpagmos”).

20 BDF §398.

21 Wallace, Exegetical Syntax, 238.

22 BDF §398.

23 Here is the list of verses containing nominative articular infinitives not governed by a preposition: Matt 15:20; 20:23; Mk 9:10; 12:33; Rom 7:18; 14:21; 1 Cor 7:26; 11:6; 2 Cor 7:11; 8:11; 9:1; Phil 1:21, 22, 24, 29; 10:31. See Appendix C in my master's thesis for a printing of these verses in parallel with an English translation (Burk, “The Meaning of Harpagmos,” 77-78).

24 Wallace, Exegetical Syntax, 242.

25 Here is the list of verses containing accusative articular infinitives not governed by a preposition: Acts 4:18; 25:11; Rom 13:8; 14:13; 15:5; 1 Cor 14:39; 2 Cor 2:1; 8:10, 11; 10:2; Phil 2:6, 13; 4:2, 10; 1 The 3:3; 4:6. See Appendix C in my master's thesis for a printing of these verses in parallel with an English translation (Burk, “The Meaning of Harpagmos,” 78-79).

26 BDF §399 (3).

27 Herbert Weir Smyth, Greek Grammar, Revised by Gordon M. Messing (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1956; Original edition, 1920), 623.

28 BDF lists several of the well-known instances of the accusative articular infinitive under the anaphoric heading (BDF §399 [1]).

29 See once again Wallace's remark to this effect (Wallace, Exegetical Syntax, 238).

30 Ibid., 220.

31 Wallace, Exegetical Syntax, 182. See Appendix G in my master's thesis for a summary explanation of the object-complement construction (Burk, “The Meaning of Harpagmos”).

32 Wallace, Exegetical Syntax, 184.

33 “With reference to the identification of the components of an object-complement construction, it has already been pointed out that word order is not an infallible guide. Therefore, some other criteria must be used to supplement if not supplant the principle of word order” (Daniel B. Wallace, “The Semantics and Exegetical Significance of the Object-Complement Construction in the New Testament,” Grace Theological Journal 6 [1985]: 101).

34 Wallace, “Object-Complement Construction,” 91-112.

35 Ibid., 91.

36 Ibid., 102-103.

37 Actually, as Wallace notes, Eugene Van Ness Goetchius first suggested the analogy between the two constructions. On this basis, he proposes five criteria for distinguishing the object from the complement (Eugene Van Ness Goetchius, The Language of the New Testament [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1965], 46; 142-44). However, Wallace puts some needed refinements to Goetchius' rules, so the present analysis will focus on Wallace's formulation (Wallace, “Object-Complement Construction,” 103-105).

38 Wallace, Exegetical Syntax, 184.

39 Dr. Daniel B. Wallace was kind enough to grant me access to his unpublished notes which contain the raw data that provided the empirical basis for his article “The Semantics and Exegetical Significance of the Object-Complement Construction in the New Testament.” From these notes I counted fifty-nine verses that contain examples of reversed order object-complement constructions. Twenty-five of the examples had a participle or an adjective as a complement. In such cases the object was easily distinguished from the accusative complement (Matt 3:3; 12:16; 20:12; 26:73; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:4; 8:35; 22:45; 24:33; John 5:18; 16:2; Acts 10:27; 10:28; 13:46; 28:4; 1 Cor 9:18; Eph 5:27; 1 Tim 1:12; Heb 6:5; 7:24; Heb 11:23; 11:26; 2 Pet 1:10; 1:13; Rev 21:5). The other thirty-four references all have substantives for both object and complement (Matt 3:9; 16:13; 16:15; Mark 1:3; 8:27; Mark 8:29; 10:6; Luke 3:8; 9:20; 18:19; John 5:18; 8:41; 8:53; 19:12; 19:17; Acts 2:36; 5:36; 8:9; 13:23; 17:7; Rom 4:17; 10:9; Gal 2:18; Phil 2:11; 3:17; 1 Tim 6:5; James 5:10; 1 Pet 1:17; 3:6; 2 Pet 2:13; 1 John 1:10; 5:10; Rev 2:9; 9:11). In these cases, the rules that Wallace set forth for distinguishing the object from the complement hold true.

40 Wallace, Exegetical Syntax, 220.

41 Although he reached his conclusion through an exegesis different than my own, in 1875 Heinrich August Wilhem Meyer arrived at a theological conclusion that is very similar to mine, “in this pre-existence the Son appears as subordinate to the Father, as He does throughout the entire New Testament, although this is not …at variance with the Trinitarian equality of essence in the Biblical sense. By the ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγεῖσθαι κ.τ.λ., if it had taken place, He would have wished to relieve Himself from his subordination” (H. A. W. Meyer, Critical and Exegetical handbook to the Epistles to the Philippians and Colossians, Translated from the fourth edition of the German by John C. Moore, Translation revised and edited by William P. Dickson [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1875], 83-84).

42 This statement is contrary to Bilezikian's claim that all Subordinationism must be rejected as Arianism (Gilbert Bilezikian, “Hermeneutical Bungee-Jumping: Subordination in the Godhead,” JETS 40 [1997]: 64-68). Indeed, this kind of Subordinationism has a long history in orthodox Christian faith. I will mention two prominent examples from the Reformed tradition. “there is a kind of distribution or economy in God which has no effect on the unity of essence…The subordination of the incarnate Word to the Father is no counterevidence [to his deity]” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeil, translated and indexed by Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics, vol. XX, ed. John Baillie, John T. McNeill, Henry P. Van Dusen [Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960], 128, 154). Charles Hodge agrees, “The creeds are nothing more than a well-ordered arrangement of the facts of Scripture which concern the doctrine of the Trinity. They assert the distinct personality of the Father, Son, and Spirit; their mutual relation as expressed by those terms; their absolute unity as to substance or essence, and their consequent perfect equality; and the subordination of the Son to the Father, and of the Spirit to the Father and the Son, as to the mode of subsistence and operation” (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 1 [U.S.A.: Hendrickson, 1999; Original Edition, 1871], 462).

43 It was the Father's sending that resulted in the Son's coming to the world in the incarnation. The Gospel of John is replete with this language that speaks of the Father's sending His Son into the world (John 4:34; 5:23, 24, 30, 37; 6:38, 39, 44; 7:16, 18, 28, 33; 8:16, 18, 26, 29; 9:4; 12:44, 45, 49; 13:20; 14:24, 15:21; 16:5; 20:21).

Related Topics: Grammar