On the Articular Infinitive in Philippians 2:6: A Grammatical Note with Christological Implications -- By: Denny Burk

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 55:2 (NA 2004)
Article: On the Articular Infinitive in Philippians 2:6: A Grammatical Note with Christological Implications
Author: Denny Burk


On the Articular Infinitive in Philippians 2:6:
A Grammatical Note with Christological Implications

Denny Burk

Summary

Many commentators and grammarians see ‘form of God’ and ‘equality with God’ as semantic equivalents. This semantic equivalence is based in part on the erroneous assumption of a grammatical link between ‘form of God’ and ‘equality with God’. This supposed grammatical link consists of an anaphoric use of the articular infinitive, the being equal with God (τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ). This essay contends that this link has little grammatical basis and should be discarded. The exegetical result is that it is grammatically possible to regard ‘form of God’ and ‘equality with God’ not as synonymous phrases, but as phrases with distinct meanings.

1. Introduction

No introduction to an essay on Philippians 2:6 would be complete without the standard disclaimer concerning the inability of the interpreter to account for the voluminous secondary literature on this text. So I shall not shrink from offering the same here. Having written my master’s thesis on this text, I have become somewhat of a connoisseur of such disclaimers. My favourite comment so far comes from a 1997 article by Markus Bockmuehl, ‘none but the most conceited could claim to have mastered the secondary literature, and none but the dullest would find pleasure or interest in wading through it.’1 In keeping with Bockmuehl’s opinion, the aim of this short study

is not to rehearse the old disputes and give a comprehensive history of interpretation. This task has already been ably done elsewhere.2 My purpose here is to highlight an overlooked grammatical item in Philippians 2:6 and to briefly note its impact on our interpretation of this seminal Pauline text.3

I render the key phrase, ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ as follows, ‘who, although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something that he should grasp for.’ In my translation, I have already given an indication as to where I stand with respect to some of the more well-known interpretive disputes. But the grammatical issue that I wish to address concerns the double-accusative at the end of this verse – the first accusative being

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