What does the word harpagmos mean in Philippians 2:6
In his book "TRUTH IN TRANSLATION Accuracy and Bias in English translations of the New Testament" Jason David BeDuhn an associate professor of religious studies at Northern Arizona University, analyzes the word “harpagmos” in Philippians 2:6. Below are extracts of the chapter.
How to translators handle "harpagmos"
YTL- thought [it] not robbery to be equal to God,"
NRSV -Something to be exploited,
NIV-Something to be used to his own advantage,
KJV- thought it not robbery.
NWT-gave no consideration to a seizure,
ESV-a thing to be grasped.
ASV-a thing to be grasped,
HCSB-something to be used for His own advantage.[a] or( to be grasped)
NIRV-But Jesus did not take advantage of that fact.
NASB-a thing to be [a]grasped .or (utilized or asserted)
RSVCE-a thing to be grasped.
NABRE- something to be grasped.
Berean Study Bible -something to cling to.
So we have "a thing to be grasped", "something to be grasped".
The English word "grasped" can mean either grabbing at something one does not have in order to get it, or clinging to something one already has in order to hold onto it. So by using "grasped" those translations leave it ambiguous whether Paul means that Christ already had equality with God and refrained from clinging onto it, or did not have it and refrained from snatching it.
The KJV, YTL, translate as "robbery" and NWT as "seizure". Both words suggest snatching at something one does not possess.
On the other side ,NRSV as "Something to be exploited",HCSB as "something to be used for His own advantage", NIRV as" take advantage ",B S Bible -"something to cling to".
So what does the Greek noun harpagmos "αρπαγμον"mean?.
The Liddell & Scott Greek dictionary defines "harpagmos" as "robbery",
"rape", and "prize to be grasped". But the third definition is it self
based on Philippians 2:6, L & S dictionary does give any other case.
Rolf Furili states that. "When a noun with the ending -mos was made from a verb , it became a verbal noun entailing the activity of the verb" (Furili page 263) . Harpagmos is such a noun based upon the verb harpazo.
The Liddell & Scott Greek dictionary provides the following meanings for the verb harpazo": 1/ snatch away, carry off; 2/ seize hastily, snatch up; 3/ seize, overpower, overmaster; 4/seize, adopt; 5/grasp with the senses; 6/captivate, ravish; 7/ draw up.
SO, HOW IS THE WORD USED IN THE WRITINGS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT?
Harpagmos, appears only in Philippians 2:6 , however several related words are noted in the New Testament, the verb "harpazo" appears 13 times: Mat. 11:12, 13:9, John 6:15, 10:12, 10:28-29: Acts 8:39, 23:10; 2 Corinthians 12:2 , 12:4; Thessalonians 4:17: Jude 23; and Revelation 12:5.
How do some of our translations use the verb "harpazo".
KJV : Mt.11:12 take by force. Mt.13:19 catcheth away. John 6:15 take by force. John 10:12 catcheth. John 10:28-19 pluck. Acts 8:39 caught away. Acts 23:10 take by force. Jude 23 pulling. Rev. 12:5 caught up.
NASB : Mt.11:12 take by force. Mt.13:19 snatches away. John 6:15 take by force. John 10:12 snatches. John 10:28-19 snatch. Acts 8:39 snatched away. Acts 23:10 take away by force. Jude 23 snatching. Rev. 12:5 caught up.
YTL: Mt 11:12 take it by force. Mt.13:19 snatches away. John 6:15 take by force. John 10:12
NRSV: Mt 11:12 take it by force. Mt.13:19 snatches away.John 6:15 take him by force.
NIV: Mt. 11:12. raiding it. Mt.13:19 snatches away.John 6:15 make by force.
ASV: Mt.11:12 take it by force.Mt.13:19 snatcheth away.John 6:15 take by force.
It apparent from our translations above that the verb "harpazo" from which the noun "harpagmos" is derived and used in Philippians 2:6 always means to snatch something away, take it by force, pluck, and caught away. All our translations recognize the meaning, they never translate it to mean holding on to something one already has.
The adjective “harpax” appears in four passages Matthew 7:15, Luke 8:11, 1 Corinthians 5:10-11 and 6:10 . In the order above, KJV uses the words; ravening, extortioners, extortioners, extortioners. NRSV; ravenous, thieves , robbers , robbers . TEV; wild, greedy, thieves, thieves.
The noun “harpage” appears three times, Matthew 23:15, Luke 11:39, Hebrews 10:34. Again translators use words, such as extortion, ravening, robbery, greed, plunder, and confiscation.
We observe that in all cases the words used imply the basic idea of something being seizing something violently from someone else.
Therefore “Harpagmos” means grasping at something one does not have, that is a “seizure”. Christ did not even think of grabbing at equality with God but instead humble himself to self-sacrifice.