form of God forms an inclusio with glory of God in the Christ-poem (vv. 6, 11).
(2:6) Form of God
(2:11) Glory of God
The Greek word ''morphe'' means “form, outward appearance, shape.” (BDAG, p. 659)
The Greek word ''doxa'' means "the condition of being bright or shining, brightness, splendor, radiance" and the idea, "honor as enhancement or recognition of status or performance, fame, recognition, renown, honor, prestige''. (Doxa, BDAG 257-258, 1 and 3).
Commentators generally agreed that the form of God in Philippians 2:6 is related to the glory of God. The the pre-existent Jesus Christ who shared glory with God in John 17:5 before he was incarnated.
He who wrote the prologue (John 1:2, 18) meant that, as the Logos had been πρὸς τὸν Θέον and εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ Πατρός, and at a special epoch "became flesh," the beamings forth of his glory on earth were those which belonged to human life, to the form of a servant, and were profoundly different from that μορφὴ Θεοῦ in which his innermost self-consciousness, the center of his Personality, originally dwelt. And now he seeks to carry this new appanage of his Sonship, this God-glorifying humanity, up into the glory of the pre-existent majesty (cf. Philippians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:8, 13). The δόξα which was visible to the disciples on earth (John 1:14) was glory limited, colored, conditioned, by human life and death; but so complete was the Lord's union with the Logos, that it did not quench his memory of the glory of his omnipresent, eternal Being, nor his remembrance of absolute coexistence with the Father before all worlds. (Pulpit Commentary).
ἐν μορφῇ Θεοῦ ὑπάρχων] not to be resolved, as usually, into “although, etc.,” which could only be done in accordance with the context, if the ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγεῖσθαι κ.τ.λ. could be presupposed as something proper or natural to the being in the form of God; nor does it indicate the possibility of His divesting Himself of His divine appearance (Hofmann), which was self-evident; but it simply narrates the former divinely glorious position which He afterwards gave up: when He found Himself in the form of God, by which is characterized Christ’s pre-human form of existence. Then He was forsooth, and that objectively, not merely in God’s self-consciousness—as the not yet incarnate Son (Romans 1:3-4; Romans 8:3; Galatians 4:4), according to John as λόγος—with God, in the fellowship of the glory of God (comp. John 17:5). It is this divine glory, in which He found Himself as ἴσα Θεῷ ὤν and also εἰκὼν Θεοῦ—as such also the instrument and aim of the creation of the world, Colossians 1:15 f.—and into which, by means of His exaltation, He again returned; so that this divine δόξα, as the possessor of which before the incarnation He had, without a body and invisible to the eye of man (comp. Philo, de Somn. I. p. 655), the form of God, is now by means of His glorified body and His divine-human perfection visibly possessed by Him, that He may appear at the παρουσία, not again without it, but in and with it (Php 3:20 f.). (Meyer's NT Commentary).
Bible scholar Crispin-Louis Fletcher spoke of Hellenistic influences in Philippians 2:6-7:
The main reason is that in my work on the Christ hymn in Phil 2 I have been forced to acknowledge dimensions of Phil 2:6–11 which I had missed and parts that I had, in the past, misunderstood. I am relieved to report that my mind is now settled and I am now in the writing up stage of the Philippians chapter. But I have had to go through a paradigm shift in my thinking. The shift has been precipitated by two factors: lexical semantics and historical context. In short, I have come to see that some of the words do not mean what I thought they meant and I have, progressively, come to the realisation that the hymn, especially its first half, has to be interpreted in a Greco-Roman (pagan), not just a Jewish, cultural context. (The underlying ideas are thoroughly biblical, but their presentation is Greco-Roman). In the last month I have presented the results of my latest research and thinking on this passage to two university NT Seminars (one at the University of Gloucestershire and one in Cambridge), and the reception I received on both occasions has encouraged me to think I am on the right path...the second half (vv. 9–11) cites biblical prophecy (Isa 45:23), the first half lacks scriptural language. Instead it employs Greco-Roman language, especially the conventional terminology for the gods’ self-transformations; stories of gods taking on a new “form (μορφή)” to visit human communities in disguise. Besides the shared language that has been noted especially by German scholars (D. Zeller, U. B. Müller and S. Vollenweider, cf. A. Y. Collins), there are other ways in which verses 7–8 employ the distinctive terminology of divine self-transformations that have hitherto escaped commentators’ notice. Together, Phil 2:6–11 and 3:20–11 also echo distinctive themes of those stories, for example in the combination of divine self-transformation (2:6–8) and the gods’ transformation of human beings (3:21). Christ is a divine ruler who comes to earth in a way that is comparable to the poetic vision of Octavian as a self-transforming God who comes to earth as Rome’s saviour in Horace Odes 1:2 (lines 42ff). However, in other ways Christ’s divine self-transformation is like no other: he empties himself and lives a whole human life, dying on a cross (see vv. 7a, 8a–c), things that the pagan gods never do (A Whole New Approach to the Christ Hymn in Phil 2, Crispin Fletcher-Louis, 2017)
I wrote an article about this scholarly source about the Hellenistic and Jewish nature of Philippians 2:9-11.
The Christ-poem, even if originally composed in Aramaic, still heavily used Hellenistic ideas specifically in the use of Hellenistic phraseology (the form of a god/ equal to god'') as well as in the use of hellenistic theology of a god's ''metamorphosis'' into a man (being in the form of a god...becoming in the likeness of men). The latter part of the passage (Philippians 2:9-10) alluded Hebrew scriptures in Greek (LXX) at least two from psalms (97:9, 132:8) and one from Isaiah (45:23) through Romans 14:11. This shows that the Christ-poem was composed with a Semitic influence. Philippians 2:9-11 is a poem which is of Semitic origins as well as of Greek origins. The parallelism of Philippians 2:6-11 was a Semitic influence whilst the terms morphe theou and iso theo as well as its concept of a god's metamorphosis into a man (huparchon en morphe theou....genomenon en homoimati anthropoi) were of Hellenistic influence. (Primitive Hellenistic-Palestinian Community'' of Christians in Jerusalem as the Origin of the Christ-Poem in Philippians 2, Origines de la Christologie Radz C. Brown 2021).
Philippians 2:7 and John 1:14 both used the same verb γίνομαι.
Philippians 2:7 γίνομαι (became)
John 1:14 γίνομαι (became)
Based on Greek Lexicons, all of the definitions of γινομαι have a unifying sense of "coming from X to Y" that can be categorised into two types:
(1) coming into existence" ( in this sense the thing/person/event has
come from non-existence to existence) e.g. to happen, to occur, to
(2) coming to a new state/kind of existence" (in this sense the
thing/person/ event has a prior existence) e.g. to become, to transform, to be born
I am taking excerpts from my article ''The Meaning of ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος in Philippians 2:7'' (2020). I hope it helps:
In Philippians 2:7, the context (v. 6) tells us that Jesus already existed ''in the form of God'' (ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ). Thus, the Greek word γενόμενος (an aorist participle in v. 7) should refer to Jesus ''coming to a new state of existence'' (i.e. to become). γενόμενος as an aorist participle: ''had become''.
Paul used the phrase ''in the likeness'' (ἐν ὁμοιώματι) twice in Romans (1:23, 8:3). The meaning of the phrase points to similarity only, not equality or being identical:
- Romans 1:23: ἐν ὁμοιώματι εἰκόνος φθαρτοῦ ἀνθρώπου (Literally, ''in
the likeness of the image of mortal man''). The ''image of man''
(φθαρτοῦ ἀνθρώπου) refers to the visible appearance of a man himself
(i.e. bodily, in the flesh). The ''likeness of the image of man''
refers to the ''image that is like a man'' (i.e. not referring to
the man's body itself, but to its likeness, engraved in a wood or
- Romans 8:3: ἐν ὁμοιώματι σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας (Literally, ''in the
likeness of flesh of sin''). The ''flesh of sin'' (σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας)
refers to the ''flesh'' (σαρκί) where ''nothing good lives'' (οὐκ
οἰκεῖ...ἀγαθόν), the flesh that makes one ''cannot do what is good''
(τὸ καλὸν οὔ) even if ''one wanted'' (θέλειν παράκειταί μοι,) to:
''I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For I
want to do the good, but I cannot do it.'' (Romans 7:18 NET).
Jesus Christ (God's ''own Son'' Grk. ἰδίου υἱοῦ, Romans 8:32) was
not sent ''in the flesh of sin'', but rather, he was only sent ''in
the likeness'' (ἐν ὁμοιώματι) of it. Jesus was sent like one who had
a flesh of sin (one who had nothing good dwelling in his flesh and
one who cannot do good even if he wanted to). Jesus resemble the
flesh of those people who had a flesh of sin but it actually was
different in the sense that it no qualities that a flesh of sin had.
This means that Jesus had good dwelling in his flesh and he could do
good as he willed. In terms of mortality, Jesus did have the same
mortal body as others (Romans 5:6: "Christ died" Grk. Χριστὸς...
Paul did not say ''became a man''. Paul did not say ''became in the likeness of a man''. Paul said ''became in the likeness of men'' (ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος). That is, became like the humans (ἀνθρώπων is plural, referring to humans in general).
How did Jesus become like the humans? Jesus became like the humans by being born as a mortal. These humans experience both birth and death.
Jesus became like the humans by being born of a woman (Galatians
4:4). Paul used γενόμενον in Galatians 4:4 to refer to the 'birth' of Jesus: having come from a woman, which implies Jesus' birth. Paul used a similar idea in ὁ ἀνὴρ διὰ τῆς γυναικός (man came from the woman) (1 Corinthians 11:12)
Jesus also become like the humans by experiencing death on a
cross (Philippians 2:8).
John was using ἐγένετο in its denotation "to come into existence" or "was made" (1:3, 1:10 NASB/NKJV). The Word "came into human existence (sarxi egeneto) and dwelt among us 1:14ab). It refers to the new existence of the Word (who was already God (theos) in 1:1c) as human (sarx). The same sense which is in the majority of English translations (the Word became flesh - NRSV, NASB, ESV). Also in other Ancient Versions, like that of the Old Latin (Vetus Latina) of the 2nd century A.D. and Vulgate (et Verbum caro factum 1:14a). In Syriac: (ܘܡܠܬܐ ܒܤܪܐ ܗܘܐ ܘܐܓܢ) (the Miltha (the Word) ܒܤܪܐ [became] flesh. 1:14a).
"From that time on, Wisdom appeared on earth and lived among us."
Baruch 3:37 (GNT with Apocrypha, 1996)
Philippians was written in A.D. 61 whilst the Gospel of John was written in A.D. 90. Paul died circa A.D. 68. This shows that John was aware of the primitive christology circulating in the days of Paul.
It was mostly likely that John had read of the Pauline epistles. In John 20:28, Jesus is Lord ( =Yhwh) and God. John alludes to both Romans 9:5 (Jesus is God) and Romans 10:13 (Jesus is Lord [ =Yhwh]). Two chapters (9 and 10) in the middle of Romans showed that the divinity of Jesus was higlighted in this epistle. John 1:1 also highlights that Jesus is God in the chiastic structure of this verse.
A In the beginning was the Word,
B and the Word was with God,
C and the Word was God;
B He was with God
A in the beginning
This chiastic structure highlights that Jesus is θεος (God) in the very beginning of John's gospel. This showed that he deemed the Logos as a heavenly being/divine being, and not human being.
John 1:14 and Philippians 2:5-8 describing the same event. Both John 1:14 and Philippians 2:7 used the Greek word γίνομαι to refer to the pre-existent Jesus Christ ''becoming'' a mortal ( flesh = in the likeness of men) so as to experience ''death on a cross'' (θανάτου δὲ σταυροῦ) (v. 8).
An inclusio occurs when an author places the same idea, word, phrase, or character both at the beginning and end of a unit of thought (source).
The word ''lord'' was used to Abraham, a land-lord, an angel and many other persons in the Bible. But specifically, the Greek New Testament used the word Kyrios (lord) as the substitute for the Tetragrammaton (Yhwh). We will not find a single extant Greek New Testament manuscript with the Tetragrammaton because when the N.T. quoted the name of God from the O.T., they used Kyrios (lord). The Kyrios in Acts 2:21, 2:36 refers to Jesus Christ.