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A Greek scholar at Dallas Seminary says this participle can be understood as "because" which gives a whole deeper level of understanding of humility, beginning with God.

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    This makes no sense either lexically or etymologically ; nor does it makes sense semantically. I think we need a supported citation as to the veracity of the quotation and the qualification of the person making the claim. Anybody can paraphrase scripture to their own liking and it remains a mere opinion. But if someone wishes to seriously contribute to the disciplined translation of scripture, departing from accepted meanings, they have to document their departure with scholarly reasons for doing so.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 18, 2021 at 23:09
  • Greek Documents contains the original Greek and Hebrew of ALL scriptures, including the Apocrypha and early church fathers. As if that weren't enough, it also has a hyperlink for each Greek word of scripture. Another inestimable resource is the Wiktionary.
    – Lucian
    Aug 18, 2021 at 23:24

3 Answers 3

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I think the operative word here in Phil 2:6 is ὑπάρχω (huparchó) which, according to BDAG's second meaning is:

  • to be in a state or circumstance, be, eg, Luke 8:41, 9:48, Acts 7:55, 8:16, 16:3, 19:31, Phil 2:6, etc, etc.

This word is a VERB and NOT a conjunction (as is "because"). Further, the verb makes a statement about what is, and not why it is. One simply cannot translate ὑπάρχω (huparchó) as "because". The BLB gives this very literal translation of Phil 2:6 -

Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider to be equal with God something to be grasped

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If you are refering to ὑπάρχων, which is a verb, I would have to say no. "Because" is not a verb, it is a subordinate conjunction and should not be substituted for ὑπάρχων.

In English, a subordinate conjunction is used to connect two parts of a sentence in which one (the subordinate clause) explains the other.

In verse 6, Paul is describing a state of being.

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Can the participle ὑπάρχων in Phil. 2:6 mean "because he was?"

To adequately answer this question properly, a list the possibilities of a participle are in the appendix. There are many. The participle here is anarthrous (no article). While because is possible. Dr. Wallace in his grammar emphasizes that there are many possibilities, but we are to look for the most probable. Most translation either leave the participle as a participle (being), leaving the interpretation to the reader, or translate it as concession (though, although) as in the ESV, NASB, LBLA.

To answer the question, yes "because he was" is possible. But, it does not seem to be Paul's probable meaning. For that we would need to find context or scripture to support this meaning.

Appendix

Participle

(declinable verbal adjective)

    I.      Adjectival Participles: adjectival nature is emphasized over verbal; if the participle is articular, it must be adjectival; if anarthrous, it may be adjectival (617–21)

         A.      Adjectival Proper (Dependent) (617–19)

             1.      Attributive Participles: who, which; functions like an attributive adjective, in any standard attributive position (618)
             2.      Predicate Participles: functions like a predicate adjective in predicate position (though usually in predicate position, the participle is adverbial) (618–19)

         B.      Substantival (Independent): the one who, the thing which; functions in the place of a substantive; can perform virtually any function a noun can; verbal aspect usually retained (619–21)


    II.      Verbal Participles: verbal nature is emphasized over adjectival; only with anarthrous participles, usually nominative and dependent on main verb (621–53)

         A.      Dependent Verbal Participles (622–50)

             1.      Adverbial (or Circumstantial): modifies the verb, answering the question When? (temporal), How? (means, manner), Why? (purpose, cause), etc. (622–40)

                  a.      Temporal: answers the question When? May be antecedent (after doing, after he did), contemporaneous (while doing), or subsequent (before doing, before he does) (623–27)
                  b.      Manner: answers the question, How? by + participle of emotion or attitude (easily confused with means) (627–28)
                  c.      Means: by means of (answering the question, How?); indicates the means by which the action of a finite verb is accomplished; defines or explains the controlling verb; usually follows the verb (628–30)
                  d.      Cause: because (answers the question, Why?); indicates the cause or reason or ground of the action of the finite verb; usually precedes its verb (631–32)
                  e.      Condition: if (implies a condition on which the fulfillment of the idea indicated by the main verb depends) (632–33)
                  f.      Concession: although (implies that the state or action of the main verb is true in spite of the state or action of the participle) (634–35)
                  g.      Purpose (Telic): translate like an infinitive or with the purpose of (indicates the purpose/intent of the action of the finite verb); usually follows main verb (635–37)
                  h.      Result: with the result of (indicates the actual outcome or result of the action of the main verb); can be internal (logical) or external (temporal); follows main verb (637–39)

             2.      Attendant Circumstance: translate as finite verb + and (it describes an action that, in some sense, is coordinate with the finite verb; “piggy-backs” on mood of main verb); five structural clues usually found:

                  •      tense of participle: aorist
                  •      tense of main verb: aorist
                  •      mood of main verb: imperative or indicative
                  •      participle precedes the main verb (both in word order and time of event)
                  •      frequent in narrative, infrequent elsewhere (640–45)

             3.      Indirect Discourse: anarthrous participle in the accusative case, in conjunction with an accusative noun or pronoun, sometimes indicates indirect discourse after a verb of perception or communication; retains tense of direct discourse
             4.      Complementary: completes the thought of another verb; e.g., “I do not cease praying for you” (646)
             5.      Periphrastic: anarthrous participle used with a verb of being to form a finite verbal idea; see table below for various combinations (647–49):

             6.      Redundant (Pleonastic): verb of saying (or thinking) used with a participle with basically the same meaning (as in ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν) (649–50)

         B.      Independent Verbal Participles (650–53)

             1.      As an Imperative (Imperatival): functions just like an imperative; participle not to be attached to any verb in the context, grammatically independent (650–52)
             2.      As an Indicative (Independent Proper or Absolute): functions like declarative indicative; participle stands alone in a declarative sense as the only verb in a clause or sentence (653)


    III.      The Participle Absolute (653–55)

         A.      Nominative Absolute: substantival participle that fits the case description of nominativus pendens—logical rather than syntactical subject at beginning of a sentence (654)

         B.      Genitive Absolute: anarthrous genitive participle with genitive substantive, functioning adverbially (usually temporal), but grammatically independent of verb in main clause (654–55)


Wallace, D. B. (1996). Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (pp. 758–760). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
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  • Would that not be more interpretive than translative?
    – oldhermit
    Aug 19, 2021 at 1:45
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    Its interpretive to translate ὑπάρχω as anything other than an English participle such as being or existing.
    – Perry Webb
    Aug 19, 2021 at 10:58
  • It would seem then that to translate ὑπάρχων as 'because' would be rather irresponsible. That would not serve to maintain the integrity of the text.
    – oldhermit
    Aug 19, 2021 at 11:26

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