The form of angels (as spirit)
The form spoken of in Job 4:16 was the form of an angel. Thus, we have here an instance of the μορφη of an angel (appearance of an angel).
It stood still,.... That is, the spirit, or the angel in a visible form; it was before going to and fro, but now it stood still right against Eliphaz, as if it had something to say to him, and so preparing him to attend to it; which he might do the better, it standing before him while speaking to him, that he might have the opportunity of taking more notice of it: but, notwithstanding this advantageous position of it:
I could not discern the form thereof; what it was, whether human or any other: (Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible)
The form of man (in an idol)
Isaiah 44:13 was speaking of the μορφη of a man (the appearance of a man) in a statue/image of an idol. The form was described as resembling the 'beauty of a man**.
“The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house.” Isaiah 44:13
The form of parents in children
4 Maccabees 15:4 (NRSV)
4 In what manner might I express the emotions of parents who love their children? We impress upon the character of a small child a wondrous likeness both of mind and of form (μορφη). Especially is this true of mothers, who because of their birth pangs have a deeper sympathy toward their offspring than do the fathers.
The idea is that the children look like their parents outwardly (in appearance). in the text, it shows that μορφη had a distinctive meaning which is much concrete than homoia (likeness in the sense of 'similarity').
The form of God
“who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,” Philippians 2:6
What does morphe theou mean in Phil 2:6?
i discovered 3 possible explanations based on the first century Second Temple Judaism:
1. The visible outward appearance of God
Both Deuteronomy 4:12 and John 5:37 told us that no has seen God in his form (using another Greek word for 'form' which is eidos).
The Greek word eidos is also referring to visible form like morphe as evident in its usage in Luke:
and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form (eidos), like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well. Luke 2:32
it is noteworthy that only Luke described the descending of the Holy Spirit with the Greek word eidos, all the other gospels merely described the Holy Spirit with the Greek word 'hos' (as, like) (Matthew 3:16, 1:10, John 1:32 ). Thus, in light of Deuteronomy 4:12 and John 5:37, the descending of the Holy Spirit in the Lukan gospel was a theophany. John also described that Jesus himself 'saw it' and thus, explains how Jesus saw God in John 6:46: not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.
The glory or light (doxa) in the LXX refer to the Shekinah (the presence of God himself). The Shekinah is usually associated with fire or flames of fire manifesting as bright radiance or light, the underlying substance or nature of God as known in ancient Judaism. In the LXX, doxa and morphe are synonyms.
In the Pentateuch, the Hebrew word ‘temuna’ is translated as ‘morphe’ in Job 4:16 LXX and as ‘doxa’ in Numbers 12:8, Psalm 16:15 LXX. In Isaiah 52:14, the Hebrew word ‘to’ar’ is translated as ‘morphe’ by Aquila and as ‘doxa’ in the LXX.
Angels , being made of both fire and pneuma (spirit, wind, breath) were similar to Yahweh in substance because Yahweh was also spirit (John 4:24) and fire. And like Yahweh, angels were also described as 'glorious ones' (doxas) (2 Peter 2:10).
However, in the book of Hebrews, the angels who were made of flames and spirits (Hebrews 1:7) were contrasted against the Son of God who was eternally begotten 'radiance from the glory''.
Hebrews 1:3 teaches us about the eternally generated "radiance from the glory" (the eternal begetting of the Son from the Father). Here the "radiance is the stamp of the substance [υποστασις - reality, nature] of the glory" (the Son is the stamp of the reality of the Father, which means that the Father cannot live without the Son because the Son makes the Father real or truly existing. Hence, they are coeval [of the same age: eternal]. It makes sense because you cannot be light without radiance.
The Greek word apaugasma was used only once in the Septuagint to refer to Wisdom (Wisdom 7:26) and the author of Hebrews was applied this to Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:3).
The author of Hebrews specifically applied characteristics of Wisdom to Jesus like being ''the radiance of eternal light'' (Wisdom 7:26) ''only begotten'' (Wisdom 7:22)''begotten before all the ages'' (Proverbs 8:24-25, Sirach 1:4).
The Old Testament Wisdom was merely personified as eternally begotten from God, but Jesus was a real person who was himself truly eternally begotten from God.
The Father's substance which is flames of fire (glory, light) can eternally beget the person or hypostasis of the Son. How is it possible to beget a divine hypostasis from 'light' or 'fire'? Well, how did Adam came to be a person? Adam was made from the dust or soil from the earth! Eve herself was made from the human rib of Adam! and the angels themselves were created from wind and fire! Are we to ask again how possible is it for God to eternally beget the Son from his own substance? Why would the eternal generation of the Son from the substance of the Father be impossible? The Father was never without radiance for he never stops radiating as glory. Thus, the Son was eternal for he was that very radiance of the Father as Hebrews 1:3 says. These teaching were found also in summarised form in the creed of Nicaea in 325 C.E.
2. The nature or essence of God
The Greek word μορφη usually refer to visible appearance of someone or a thing in the Septuagint. At least in two cases, μορφη refers to the appearance with its associated nature (as in the angels who were spirits in Job 4:16 LXX or in the children who were humans in 4 Macc. 15:4 LXX).
Μορφη θεου refers to the very nature of God (NIV). In this case, morphe is synonymous with physis and ousia. In this sense of nature, the phrase μορφη θεου is also synonymous with θεοτης (deity, divinity) of Col 2:9.
Dennis Jowers (2006) had concluded that morphe refers to nature in his THE MEANING OF MORFH IN PHILIPPIANS 2:6–7. (https://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/49/49-4/JETS_49-4_739-766_Jowers.pdf)
According to scholars, the historical priestly background of the creation of man in Genesis shows how eikon was related to nature (The Transubstantiated Humanity: The relationship between the Divine image and the Presence of God in Genesis 1:26 ).
> In Ancient Near East, the image or statue of the god shares the nature of the
> transcended god it depicts so that the image or statue is a theophany
> It is the presence of god on earth so that earth itself
> contains paradise or heaven. The statue or image of the god is considered to be
> alive after the incantation or recitation of magical words usually
> through the invocation of the name of the god by the priests.
> After consecration, it is no longer called a statue
> but is called after the name of the god it transforms into. The
> particular statue or image , being a god, is treated as if a living
> being. It is being bath daily and offered food. Anyone who destroy the
> statue or image of the god must be destroyed (death penalty) because
> what he destroyed is not mere stone but a living image of the god.
The following are biblical characters who had eikon related to 'nature' (whether divine or human):
Man being made the living image of God meant Adam had divine nature (Gen 1:26-27, Acts 17:29) which meant killing any man (destroying the image of the god) is forbidden because man is the living image of God himself (Gen 9:6).
Adam begat Seth in his own image and likeness (Genesis 5:3). Ergo, they are of the same human nature.
The king in ANE and biblical worldview is called god because he share in the nature of God (much like the pattern in the NT see Acts 17:29, 2 Pet 1:4) specifically in the Israelite king who embodies the glory of Adam and is called god, participating in the divine nature through the anointing of Yahweh's spirit. So in antiquity every king biblical or pagan had the ruler as ontological god. 2 Chron 29:20
Jesus is the living image of God which means he share the nature of God ( which is normal to any images of gods in the ANE and biblical times). Now Jesus has the nature of God not only in his flesh (when his flesh participated in divine nature after he was raised from the dead) but also in his previous existence as a divine spirit in the names Word and Wisdom of God (Proverbs 8:25, 30, John 1:1-3, 1:14, Phil 2:6-8).
3. The behaviour of what is it like to be a true God
i think Philo of Alexandria (circa A.D. 50) who had used the phrase 'theou morphe' is
also important in knowing the meaning of morphe theou of Phil 2:6 not only because the phrase looks very similar but also because of being contemporary with the apostles with the same culture of 1st century Judaism.
It is similar to Philo’s theou morphe (Embassy to Gaius 110-14). In Philo, morphe is synonymous with physis and ousia. However, morphe here being nature and substance refers not to the totality of divine attributes but to behaviour exemplified by a true Paean (i.e. a true god).
Paul deliberately used morphe rather than any of its synonyms homoia, eikon doxa and eidos because by using the Greek word morphe he cleverly applied all of its range of meanings to Jesus Christ:
Jesus was not only like (homoios) God, but that he was really in very nature (eikon, physis) God, and that when he became man, he still had the nature of God bodily (eidos). it also speaks of his glory or radiant light (doxa) which he emptied through his body and which he received when he was raised from the dead (John 17:5, Revelation 1:16). Christ promised the same glory (body of glory) to his people which he will give through his own power at the last day (John 17:22, Philippians 3:20-21).
The true nature of God was manifested in the self-emptying of Christ:
'Jesus did not think that to be equal with God is a thing to be used for his own benefit but rather, he chose to empty himself by becoming human. He did this so that he can use his equality with God for the benefit of others.' (Philippians 2:6-8).