I came across an interesting interpretation difference today at church and figured I would put it up here for thoughts/discussion.  On a tangent in his sermon this morning, my Pastor quoted Phil 2.6.  He quoted it from the NRSV and that’s when I noticed a significant difference.

In NIV this passage reads

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

6Who, being in very nature God,
      did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

7but made himself nothing,
      taking the very nature of a servant,
      being made in human likeness.

NASB also uses grasped and this is how I have heard this verse translated previously.  TNIV and NRSV use the word “exploited.”  I find this significant because “exploited” has a very different connotation than “grasped.”  I tried to look at the Greek via an interlinear Bible, but I’m not there yet as I have not yet taken Greek and the interlinear was very obtuse in this passage. 

The reason this piqued my interest is I am in Systematic Theology 1 right now and this verse came up in our discussion of kenosis or the idea that Christ willingly emptied himself of his diety in taking on human form.  The translation of “exploited” would potentially provide a lot less support for this idea.

Photo by: j. Gresham

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6 Responses to “Translation”

  1. Ruth Says:

    From my interlinear it appears that the word in question is arpagmon, which has both abstract and concrete meanings, but both mean “robbery”. FWIW.

  2. pinkhammer Says:

    Hmmmm…that is all together not helpful to me. : ) How’d tey go from “robbery” to “grasped” or “exploited”? I kinda see “exploited” but only kinda.

    Well, it’s interesting none the less. : )

    Thanks for digging into the interlinear!!

  3. Ruth Says:

    Well, I agree it’s totally not helpful if you’re looking for a quick definition. But on the other hand, it’s helpful to realize that our grasp of a text is often very inadequate, for many reasons, including our inability to really understand the words that were used. So we stand back from those words with humility, and an appreciation for nuance, and are open to multiple meanings. I think this word plays into the whole idea of kenosis. Unfortunately it makes the concept even more difficult! And it is already a difficult concept. How are we to understand the relationship between Christ’s humanity and divinity? Certainly Jesus made choices. He chose to abandon some possibilities and grasp others. I’m intrigued by the idea of what tempted in — and surely the desire to hang onto/hook into divinity, when it was handy, was a powerful temptation . . . . just random thoughts here. . .

  4. pinkhammer Says:

    Definitely…fully Divine yet fully human…a paradox for sure! The nuance is the part I like…it’s the nuances that seem to speak the spirit of the text…it seems to take the words off the page a bit more. Kenosis is a very thought provoking concept…that’s why this translation hit me like it did I think. The temptation of Jesus….yeah….what did that look like? Was it possible for him to sin or not? If it was, is he less than perfect? If he wasn’t was he fully human? Or is it that he was free to do what he really wanted to do which because he was perfect meant he wanted to obey the Father? Questions that lead to questions… : )

  5. tenaciousweed Says:

    Thinking in pictures, it does not seem quite as large a gulf to swim. First, a digression… The idea of reaching out to grasp, hold, strangle, wrap the fingers around a thing given by God does kind of rob God (and the one with whom He’s chosen to share a thing) of the freedom to give and the intended recipient of the blessing of receiving, wouldn’t it? That’s just a humanity perspective/application of the modeling Christ shows through His relationship to the Father. But I did want to respond to your fantasmagorically cool word discovery in the spiritual arena.

    I mean, Jesus, part of that Holy Trinity that was, is and ever shall be, already had equality, though differing functionality, in many respects with God the Father. In that equality, He would have been free to remain in that mystic unity entirely *if* He so chose. Stick with me. I know this may be a little cryptic…

    However, in not taking advantage of His status as part of the Trinity, He had to choose willfully to stand in agreement with the plan that would place Him in a position where He must choose to function in obedience in order to allow God to work through Him as a teaching tool for what can occur through human obedience, even though He most likely could have functioned in that capacity on His own had He so chosen. He chose not to exploit His position by being a lame-o.

    The idea of, “Well, yeah, of course HE could do all that stuff! HE WAS JESUS!!!” sums up the disconnect under which I used to live spiritually. Considering that Jesus made it through all of the temptations/frustrations/irritations by sheer willful obedience really put a different spin on it for me. He gave God ultimate authority to “send” Him on mission. And, my guess is, since that Holy Cluster created time, He knew the deal before He put on His skin of ordinariness and knew that it would be brutal, and joyful, and difficult, and exhilarating, and tiring, and quickening.

    Wish I had a plug to download the stuff racing through the cortex onto the screen ;-)

  6. tenaciousweed Says:

    Holy cow!!! I just had a wild, electric brain trigger. Wonder if anything in that would mirror the inner conflict that humans sometimes have. Things that make you go hmmmmmm.

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