The Kenosis And Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Analysis Of Phil 2:6-11 -- By: Paul D. Feinberg

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 001:1 (Spring 1980)
Article: The Kenosis And Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Analysis Of Phil 2:6-11
Author: Paul D. Feinberg


The Kenosis And Christology:
An Exegetical-Theological Analysis Of Phil 2:6-11

Paul D. Feinberg

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

The Person and work of Jesus Christ are at the heart of Christian theology. Historically, this has led the theologian to an investigation of the incarnation and humiliation of the savior. Thus, a consideration of the kenosis has been thought to be unavoidable in christology. The term “kenosis” comes from the Gk verb in Phil 2:7, translated variously as he “emptied himself” or “made himself of no reputation.” It is first found in Patristic literature, and is used thereafter almost as a synonym for incarnation. The central concern is with the nature of Christ’s condescension and humiliation while he was in the flesh. Clearly the most important biblical text on this topic is Phil 2:6–11, although 2 Cor 8:9 and John 17:5 have been recognized as parallels.

Because of the centrality of this text, much has been written on the passage. However, the depths of what is taught in this great christological hymn have by no means been exhausted. One is confronted with a host of important and perplexing problems. Reginald H. Fuller expresses it well:

Phil 2:5–11 is perhaps one of the most controversial and most treated passages in Scripture. Is it a hymn? If so, was it composed by Paul himself, or is it pre-Pauline? What is its structure? What is its setting in its immediate context? Is it quoted as part of an imperative to humility, or is it an indicative statement of the life which believers have in Christ? Does it enunciate a two stage (humiliation-glow) or three stage (pre-existence-incarnate life-exaltation) Christology? Is its Sitz im Leben Aramaic, Hellenistic-Jewish-Christian, Hellenistic-Gentile? Is there a Gnostic redeemer or heavenly man myth in the background? Or alternatively, is it using a suffering servant-Son of Man, or second adam, Christology? Then again, almost every phrase is controverted. What does en morphe theou mean? Is ‘arpagmos equivalent to res rapienda or res rapta? …1

Given the sheer number of problems, it should be clear that this discussion must omit certain issues. In this paper I would like to examine three christological questions, along with the issues connected with them, that Phil 2:6–11 seems to false. These questions are as follows: (1) Does You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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