Philippians 2:6-11

In an effort to get my Koine Greek up to par again, with the hopes that I can move into Attic and Ionic soon, I’ll be posting my personal translations on here for all to see and comment on. Since my goal in learning Attic is so that I can translate poetry, I’ll begin with one of the most poetic Koine passages: Paul’s recitation of a hymnic formula in Philippians 2:6-11. Since I’m doing one verse a day, I’ll be editing this every day.

(6Gr) ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ

(6En) who, possessing1 the nature2 of God, did not consider it robbery3 to be equal4 with God,

1I chose this wording, eschewing the ἐν that naturally occurs, in order to bring out the meaning of ὑπάρχων. This word (Strong 5255) connects to (Strong 5223) ὕπαρξις, which is the term for a possession or property.
2Hotly debated word throughout the ages, I translated it as “nature” in order to avoid the theological slipperiness of “form.” Though both meanings are possible, Paul’s use of “equal with God” makes it clear that “form does not get across the whole story.
3The use of “robbery” here makes tons more sense when contrasted with Paul’s use of “possession” earlier.
4The word here is is-os, meaning “equal,” which you might remember from the math term isosceles, meaning “equal legs.”

2 Comments on “Philippians 2:6-11”

  1. Jared Owen says:

    I have to disagree with your philosophy of translation here, Ben. I think when we render the μορφὴ θεοῦ as the “nature of God” we are imposing a theological debate on this passage that does not belong here. Paul is constructing (or more probably quoting) a hymnic liturgy and we should not assume that he is writing a Christological treatise that would prophetically speak to Arius and Nestorius like Athanasius and company tried to force it to.
    Sure, the more likely translation “form” may leave us a little uneasy theologically, but that is when the role of theologian and pastor becomes more important in rightly determining and proclaiming the theological ramifications of this passage as it relates to the nature of Christ.
    Not trying to argue, just making conversation…

    • W.B. Hurst says:

      Completely valid point, and one I’m going to take into serious consideration. Since I didn’t pull out my full lexicon on this one, I went with what I thought was the safe choice: nature. How do you think the rest of the verse came out?

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