Periodical Reviews -- By: Carisa A. Ash
BSac 172:688 (October-December 2015) p. 482
By The Faculty and Library Staff of Dallas Theological Seminary
“Philippians 2:6-11 as Subversive Hymnos: A Study in the Light of Ancient Rhetorical Theory,” Michael Wade Martin and Bryan A. Nash, Journal of Theological Studies
Michael Martin is associate professor of New Testament at Lubbock Christian University and faculty mentor to Bryan Nash, a graduate student at Lubbock Christian University. In this compelling article on the relationship between ancient rhetorical theory and the poetic material found in Philippians 2:6-11, Martin and Nash exhibit the importance of understanding background contextual materials that influenced composition of the New Testament. Their article is an attempt to “vindicate the now centuries old reading of Phil. 2:6-11 as a hymn” (p.
Martin and Nash begin by surveying the rhetorical genre categories typically proposed for the Philippians material. They determine, based on prescriptive indicators found in ancient textbooks on rhetoric, that the author of the material most likely intended his poem to be interpreted as a “hymn.” Through this, Martin and Nash intend to demonstrate how the author of the Christ hymn of Philippians intentionally disobeyed prescribed hymnic conventions in order to highlight the intensely subversive nature of Christ’s example of humility.
After establishing the passage as hymnic, the authors compare the various subjects addressed in the Christ hymn with those typically contained in ancient hymns. They note several areas in which traditional Mediterranean values are inverted in order to positively illustrate the countercultural value of humility exemplified in the work of Jesus Christ. For example, a typical hymn might praise what was popularly considered a life of virtue. The hymn found in Philippians “displays almost none of the characteristics normally thought praiseworthy in the ancient Mediterranean world” (p.
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