If the negative particle ouk in Philippians 2:6 is tied to harpagmon instead of hegesato, does it mean then that Jesus deemed equality with God as something not attainable? Does the actual Greek text say "“counted equality not something that could be grasped.”? and thereby reinforce John 14:28 and Isaiah 40:25?

Some (Dottard) have claimed that ouk modifies hegesato because it is NOT an adjective and so cannot modify the noun ἁρπαγμὸν (harpagmon). However, Hebrews 12:8 shows "ouk" modifying the noun that follows "son". Why is the noun/verb sequence changed in the translation of Philippians 2:6?

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Isaiah 40:25 ASV To whom then will ye liken me, that I should be equal to him? saith the Holy One.

John 14:28 ASV Ye heard how I said to you, I go away, and I come unto you. If ye loved me, ye would have rejoiced, because I go unto the Father: for the Father is greater than I

  • Hebrews 12:8 - εἰ δὲ χωρίς ἐστε παιδείας ἧς μέτοχοι γεγόνασιν πάντες ἄρα νόθοι καὶ οὐχ υἱοί ἐστε. As you can see in the screen capture of Hebrews 12:8, οὐχ is "adv" which is an adverb. It negates the verb ἐστε, not the noun, υἱοί. The meaning is "not are sons" contrary to your incorrect interpretation of, "not sons." Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 4:32
  • @RevelationLad. The screen shot shows the word sequence. Ouk is before the word sons. I am interested in your answer to this Q. You can always answer it if you feel like saying more about it. Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 5:08
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    A basic aspect of Greek is that the order of the words do not determine the meaning of a passage. Placing a noun in between an adverb and the verb it attaches to does not change the adverb into an adjective, as the screen capture clearly shows: οὐχ is an adverb. Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 6:50
  • @RevelationLad.The screen capture clearly shows not sons. Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 6:53
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    Questions like this should be closed for low level, opinion based. People who don't know Greek or not studying Greek should not be allowed to ask such grammatical questions on translation.
    – Michael16
    Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 3:31

4 Answers 4


In response let me offer the following grammatical points:

  1. The negative adverb, οὐχ (not) definitely modifies the VERB ἡγήσατο (hegestato) because it is NOT an adjective and so cannot modify the noun ἁρπαγμὸν (harpagmon).
  2. Therefore, if I translate very literally we get:

Who [Jesus] existing in the form of God, [it was] not considered something to be grasped to be equal with God

  1. To try and make the ungrammatical connection between οὐχ (not) and the noun would render the sentence non-sensical and self-contradictory.

  2. The verb "unattainable" does not appear in the Greek. Neither could the negative adverb apply to the verb "εἶναι" (to be) as it is too far away in the sentence.

  3. The sense of "not something that could be grasped" would involve a completely different verb mood (the subjunctive) which it is not - the verb ἡγήσατο is actually: aorist indicative middle.

  4. Again, "not something that could be grasped" is an attempt to turn the noun ἁρπαγμὸν (something to be grasped) into a verb which one cannot do!

Thus, the OP's suggestion is ungrammatical and syntactically inadmissible.

The OP loves to quote John 14:28 (which is obvious during the incarnation because Jesus' voluntarily self-imposed limitations of humanity according to Phil 2:7, 8!) but equally appears to be blind to the following verses:

  • Phil 2:6 - [Jesus] existed in the form of God ...
  • Matt 1:23 - … and they will call Him Immanuel, which means, “[the] God with us”. (This declares Jesus as ὁ Θεός = ho theos.)
  • John 5:17, 18, “In his defense, Jesus said, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.’ For this reason, they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was calling God his own Father, making him equal to God.” See also Luke 22:69-71.
  • John 5:23, “so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”
  • John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” (Compare Deut 6:4.)
  • John 20:28, “Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God.’” (This declares Jesus as ὁ Θεός.) [Compare this statement with Ps 35:23, “Contend for me, my God and Lord.” See also V24.]

Lastly, Isa 40:25 is not reinforced by the OP's views as one of the central points of the NT is to show that Jesus is Jehovah of the OT, eg,

  • Isa 41:4, 44:6, 48:12 all declare Jehovah to be the "First and the Last" as Jesus is in Rev 1:17, 18, 2:8, 22:13.
  • Isa 43:3, 11, 45:17, 21 declare Jehovah as the only Savior, just as Jesus the only Savior in Matt 1:21; Acts 4:12; 2 Tim 1:10; Tit 1:4, 2:13, 3:6; 2 Pet 1:1, 11
  • Ps 23:1, Isa 40:11 says that Jehovah is our Shepherd just as Jesus is in John 10:11-16; Heb 13:20, 1 Peter 2:25, 5:4; Rev 7:17.
  • Ps 27:1, Micah 7:8 declare Jehovah to be the light of the world just as the NT does in John 1:9, 8:12, 9:5, 1 John 1:5-7.
  • Deut 10:17, Ps 136:3, 26 declares Jehovah to be the "Lord of Lords" just as Jesus is in Rev 17:14, 19:16.

... and so forth. Now, if Isaiah correctly askes who is likened to the LORD, the NT would answer (as above) that Jesus is the LORD as is done when it quotes OT passages like Heb 1:6, 8, 9, 10-12, etc.

There is no contradiction at all.

  • Jesus is not Jehovah of the OT. the construction of theophoric names, starting with the letters “Jeho” is evidence that God’s name is actually ‘Jehovah’ (and that Christ’s name is actually Jehoshua)” – Smith’s 1863 “A Dictionary of the Bible” Section 2.1. You cited incarnation in your answer, does incarnation teach that God became flesh? None of the verses you cited proves that Jesus is Jehovah. Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 20:57
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    With your use of Matthew 1:23 to support your Jesus is Jehovah view, does it mean that God became flesh and came to a specific location on earth to be among his people..Did the people of God believe that the child Jesus was God Almighty?. Why was Jesus named Jesus and not Emmanuel? Is Jesus name really his name at the time he was given the name Jesus? Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 22:10
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    You misquoted the verse by saying God became flesh. The verse say the word became flesh. That is not quoting the bible alone and that is not what it says. None of the 'All the evidence' stated support what you call incarnation. If as you say 'during incarnation God /Jesus voluntarily self limited" then he is not equal. The said self impose limitations are not found in the bible. Your answer about Jesus being God Almighty and a man is self contradictory. Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 0:04
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    The corrupted version. like the one you cited, has "God" instead of "He"., which can be a good Q too. Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 1:20
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    I quote the Bible alone and report what it says. If only that were true. I find it quite bizarre that an educated and knowledgeable person has to misquote, find odd translations, inject erroneous theology and reject simple logic to support a Trinitarian view. Well, not really that bizarre - the bible is a secondary source of truth after the Creeds so it makes sense that this reality is observed.
    – Steve
    Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 9:56

The word harpazo (to snatch) means taking away life a thief or trickster something that rightly belongs to another. For example:

John 10:28-29 And I give them life everlasting; and they shall not perish for ever, and no man shall snatch them out of my hand. 29 That which my Father hath given me, is greater than all: and no one can snatch them out of the hand of my Father.

The connotations are thievery, cheekiness, trickery, robbery.

Therefore, the sense in this passage is that equality with God is not thievery to Jesus, since He has it by nature but nonetheless takes on the form of a slave out of condescension and love for us. This is wherein Jesus as the example of humility consists here in this passage.

This rhetorical use of negation ("did not consider equality with God robbery but...") is that used elsewhere such as in Jesus' prayer: "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil," inasmuch as "lead into" and "deliver" are opposites, and no one is supposed to expect God to lead us into temptation, but rather it serves to maximize the force of what follows ("deliver us [rather]") by the contrast existent between the two.

In summary, the gist of the passage in St. Paul's Epistle is 'far from Jesus being out of place as equal to the Father, it was His eternal right, and as such His decending to take flesh and serve us worms was all the more an example of humility." Hence, "have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus." Note that Jesus is the perfect example of seeing to the things of others as opposed to "the things of oneself," which here in Jesus' example is just "being in the form of God," which is the things of Himself, but which He 'gave up' as it were to become man and serve us in the manner of the Redemption.

  • If we are to interpret Philippians 2:6 according to your answer, relating to Paul's command to "have this same mind in you" were the Philippians adviced to divest themselves of their Godly attributes which were theirs before they were born? How can God add human essence to Himself? Did God not possess human essence before Jesus' birth? Was God missing what He needed in order to become man? Commented Aug 11, 2022 at 20:35
  • Philippians is telling us that we need to empty ourselves of our strength and power just as Jesus did, so that we become a mere vessel for the Father as Jesus was when on this earth
    – Robert
    Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 17:49
  • @Robert. I am interested with what you have to say to the Q. You can turn your comment to an answer. What was left in Jesus after he emptied himself? Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 22:56


Paul is talking about rights. The Church in Phillipi was disunited, complaining that someone took some perk or property away from someone else, or that someone infringed on their position, or was unfairly taking advantage, etc.

And Paul was pleading with them, saying "For the love of God " - except Paul was more diplomatic: 'if any bowels and mercies' - stop looking to defend your rights! Stop worrying about whether someone is stealing from you. Look to Christ as an example, who gave up his rights, humbling himself to be a man, and even further suffering death on the cross."

"It is the cross that should put an end to all you Philippians moaning about 'justice', 'fairness', 'equity', and related nonsense because there is nothing fair, just, or respectful about the cross, nor is there any equity in it. Moreover whatever is happening to each person cannot be as unjust as what happened to Christ and we are to be imitators of him. Thus we must give up all our rights as Christ did."

John 13:14–16 (KJV 1900)

If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.

For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.

The above is an explanation of what Paul was saying. If you do not have this understanding of the passage, you will mistranslate the verse in question.

Onto the verse.

Philipians 2:3-8

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Who, being in the form[μορφή] of God, thought it not robbery[ἁρπαγμός] to be equal with God:

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form[μορφή] of a servant, and was made in the likeness[ὁμοίωμα] of men:

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

  • ἁρπαγμός is defined as "to take [unrightfully] by force. To steal." There must be this sense of stealing, of violation of rights, to contrast with the sense of rights, since Paul is using this as a double negative and thus to claim that it was his right.

There is a chiasm contrasting form of God with form of slave, robbing (taking something not rightfully yours), with emptying (giving up what is yours by right). Moreover you have wordplay between "robbery"(ἁρπαγμός) and "took"(λαμβάνω) - overall the KJV translators did an excellent job here.

  ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων [who, although he existed in the form of God]
       οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο [did not consider (it) robbery]
            τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ [to be equal with God]
       ἀλλὰ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν [but emptied himself]
  μορφὴν δούλου λαβών, [by taking on the form of a slave]

I don't see the purpose of asking whether the particle is associated to the linking verb or the noun, as these are equivalent in terms of sense. E.g. "I (didn't) think it was robbery" is the same as "I thought it was (not robbery)", just as there is no difference between "(you aren't) sons" and "you are (not sons)".

The key is understanding that the verb is "robbery". The sense of the text will be lost if this is mistranslated as "something to be attained" or even "something that can be attained". That does violence to the overall meaning of the passage as well as to ἁρπαγμός which simply does not mean "attainable" but has in it the inescapable meaning of "theft" or "lawless forceful seizure" and the negation of the lawless seizure means that it wasn't lawless seizure but was lawful -- it was his right, and Christ gave it up, which is what the Philippians are also supposed to be doing - giving up their rights and esteeming others as better than themselves.

  • The verse does not say that it was Jesus' right to be equal with God? to say that it his right is imposing on Jesus what he refused, "to be equal with God". Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 22:59

The OP states in Hebrews 12:8, the adverb οὐχ modifies the noun υἱοί: enter image description here

The Interlinear Bible identifies οὐχ as "Adv," an adverb, which in this case modifies the verb, ἐστε. However, the OP claims the adverb modifies the noun on the basis of word order; since the adverb was placed before the noun, υἱοί (sons) it modifies the noun and means "not sons." There are two reasons to reject this grammatically incorrect interpretation.

First, the admonishment is focused on the action, not on the consequences. The verb ἐστε begins and ends the passage. In between is a second verb γεγόνασιν. The sequence of verbs is ἐστε...γεγόνασιν...ἐστε. In English, "are...have become...are." If one "has become," then they no longer "are" and both grammatically and logically, the adverb modifies the second use of ἐστε: ἐστε...γεγόνασιν...οὐχ ἐστε. That is, "are...have become...not are." In context, the use of the verbs and adverb is straight forward if one has become, γεγόνασιν, they no longer are.

The second reason may be seen from the textual variant:

TR:   εἰ δὲ χωρίς ἐστε παιδείας ἡς μέτοχοι γεγόνασιν πάντες ἄρα νόθοι ἐστε καὶ οὐχ υἱοί
mGNT: εἰ δὲ χωρίς ἐστε παιδείας ἧς μέτοχοι γεγόνασιν πάντες ἄρα νόθοι καὶ οὐχ υἱοί ἐστε

The TR placed the second use of ἐστε before the contrasting item: "...illegitimate children you are and not sons." If this were correct, the phrase οὐχ υἱοί would mean "not sons." However, the text which places the verb in the grammatically correct location means: "...illegitimate children and sons you are not."

Hebrews 12:8 cannot be used to misinterpret Philippians 2:6.

  • Which word did the negative particle "not" negated in Hebrews 12:8. Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 22:53
  • @AlexBalilo ἐστε Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 22:56

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