The Friends of the Nazarene On-line Magazine

VOLUME 2 ISSUE 1 JANUARY 1998

STATEMENT OF PURPOSE: The "Friends of the Nazarene" are a research group for better Bible understanding dedicated to the preservation and publishing of Christian writings which aid the Father’s Children to "follow the Lamb no matter where the Lamb goes." (Revelation 14:5) We are apologists dedicated to the defense of the truth that "God is One." The Bible is our creed but we wish to respect the views of our multitude of Christian brethren. (1 Peter 3:15; Colosians 4:6) We are dedicated to strengthening the faith, love, and spiritual comprehension of our brothers and the physical care of the Lord’s brothers. (Luke 22:32; Colosians 1:9, 10; 2 Thessalonians 1:4)

Inside this Newsletter:

1.) Was Jesus Equal to God in Heaven?

2.) Announcements: email versions; interest

3.) Share with the Saints

WAS JESUS EQUAL TO GOD IN HEAVEN?

Philippians 2:6 --- WAS JESUS "EQUAL" TO GOD? We have before us a text, Philippians 2:6, which a dear friend has suggested proves the divinity of Jesus Christ. It reads: ‘(Christ Jesus), who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited.’ (RSV) This later word is rendered by others: MON: forcibly retained; KNX: coveted; PME: cling to; TCNT: clung to. Of course, if some of these are correct, then Jesus was not equal to God when he walked the beaches of Galilee for he did not retain, cling to, or retain such equality when he came to earth. This text is admitted by some scholars to be difficult to translate. Therefore, renderings of some of the Greek words vary widely.

For example, the King James Version has it: "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God." If this be correct, then we ask: Who or what is "God" in this verse? The Father? The Trinity? The KJV would suggest the celestial "Jesus" did not think it "robbery to be equal with God." This would imply Jesus was equal with God. If someone is in the "form of" of someone else, then that someone else is not the other in whose form he is. Is "God" in this verse limited to the Father? Or, is "God" in this verse the triune Godhead? So, that Jesus was equal to or in the form of the Trinity and thus a fourth person? Would a Trinitarian help us with this?

Let us suppose for a moment the King James is correct. What does it prove? It may prove that Christ in heaven was "equal to God" before he came to the earth. But, our friend is trying to prove the man who walked the dusty roads of Judea was "God." So, this verse, if rendered correctly, would only show that Christ was divine or God before he came to earth. For the next verse (7) says Christ "emptied himself having taken the form of a slave." Of what did he "empty himself"? His form or equality with God? Additionally, verse 9 has The God (ho theos) "highly exalting" Christ after his death and resurrection. "Highly exalted" above what Christ was on earth? If that be "God", how could Christ be exalted more? If that be "God" as in verse 5, after which Christ had been formed, how could he be exalted more than what he was previously, if he was equal to God?

We suspect something is amiss in this translation. Let us be honest: this text and others have been put through Trinitarian filters for hundreds of years. When a Trinitarian renders this verse the bias is there to make it lean toward the King James. When a modernist, who may even doubt the reality of the Nazarene as a historical person, renders the verse there is a different bias. We want to go into this area of the actual Greek wording and what meaning may be there.

However, before considering the Greek words at issue, we ponder 2:6 and its context. We note that Paul has been making a singular appeal from 2:1 against vain-glory and for lowlimindedness. The former rabbi urges a certain "mind" or attitude: that of looking after the interests of others and not self. Then, with verse 5 he draws upon an illustration or example: ‘Let this mind/thinking be in you which was also in Christ Jesus . . . ‘ And, then (??), he launches into verse 6 where Christ "thought it not robbery to be equal with God"! Something seems wrong to us. So, we check some other translations before we examine the actual Greek words.

The United Bible Societies interlinear renders the verse: "Who in the form of God existing did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped." This would seem to mean Christ was in God’s form but did not "grasp" equality with God; and, therefore, was not equal to God though in His form.

The Watchtower Society’s Benjamin Wilson Diaglott reads: "Who, though being in God’s form, yet did not meditate a Usurpation to be like God." This phrasing reminds us of two cases: Satan’s offer to Eve at Genesis 3:5, and the case of Lucifer at Isaiah 14:14. Some scholars also note this similarity and suggest Paul is playing on these as Christ’s contrasting example.

The Catholic New Jerusalem Bible: "Who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped." Would this rule out completely any equality with God, before or after becoming a man?

The Amplified, of course, amplifies: "Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God (possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God), did not think this equality with God was a thing to be grasped/retained." We suspect a strong Trinitarian filter here but that is fair enough. This would also prove Christ did not "retain" his equality when he became a man.

The New American Standard renders the verse: "Who, although Hebrews existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped." This rendering capitalizes "He" indicating a Trinitarian filter. But, this also indicates equality with God was something "not . . . to be grasped." Was it beyond his reach?

The popular New International Version: "Who, being in very nature (or, in the form of) did not consider equality with God something to be grasped." Well, we would expect such a Trinitarian filter. The later phrase, however, is like others and its places "equality with God" beyond the "grasp" of Christ.

Well, that suffices, though there are many others which give a slightly different reading . Was there a problem in the translations? Could another translation fit the context and flow of Paul’s thought better? We decided to check the key Greek words and look for a better possibility. It did not take long to see that many scholars note some difficulty with Phillipians 2:6. (We understand this when such a verse is being forced through the Trinitarian filter.) The critical word at issue is harpagmon ( αρπαγμον ). According to A GREEK-ENGLISH LEXICON (BAUER, ARDNT, GINGRICH) the context would have to determine whether the meaning is grasp, rob, snatch violently, hold to the breast, and retain. We will let others do the research on this rare Greek word and they will see some of the difficulties involved.

We thought: now Paul is showing that Christ is leaving one place and going to another. Hebrews is leaving one form for another. Hebrews is departing the celestial for the terrestrial. Not without argument, the celestial form is superior to the terrestrial. Might their be the tendency on the part of any celestial being a certain reticence in leaving his life form for a lessor one? Say, for the purposes of illustration, you are asked to leave your human form to take on the form of a "worm"? [NOTE: WORM. We choose this based on Psalms 22:6.] Might you pause for a moment and want to "retain" or "grasp to your breast" what you are already? We suggest no one would volunteer to do this unless either God commanded it, or the reason was so overpowering a selfless person would be willing to do this. Indeed, celestial beings might line up for the honor. This act of perfect and absolute selflessness would become the arch-type of humility, obedience, and self-sacrifice. Does such a model lend itself to Paul’s appeal in 2:1-4?

Permit us to print out the literal Greek of Philippians 2:6, 7 with a literal rendering and the Strong’s numerical system:

The word haragmon means literally to "snatch" or "grab." (The New Englishman’s Greek Concordance and Lexicon, page 726: "a thing to cling to, a prize, booty"; 2 Corinthians 12:2, 4; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Jude 23) Now why does someone snatch or grab something. It can be to steal something not his own. Or, it could be, as some translators feel, to "retain" or "to cling" to something already dear to oneself. With the thought of "retain" in focus, we looked anew at this verse. Christ pre-existed in a heavenly or celestial life-form (divine, some would put it, in a limited fashion) and rather than clinging (grasping to his breast) his existence in this heavenly form, rather than trying to retain his personal glory there in the spiritual realms above, as if he was not willing to give it up, our Lord gladly "emptied" himself of this god-like form. Hebrews took upon himself the "form of a slave." This fits the context perfectly for it shows Christ not seeking his own self-interest but that of others even if it meant becoming a "worm." Hebrews willingly, of his own free will, let go of his celestial and divine "form" in all humility with only the interests of mankind at heart.

There is another word which throws a wrinkle into all of this. It is the word θεω (theo) which, can, according to A GREEK-ENGLISH LEXICON (BAUER, ARDNT, GINGRICH) " . . . serve as an adjective for ‘divine’." An example of this is Acts 7:20 where some translate theo as "divinely". If this be so, then the critical phrase in 2:6 might read: "he existed in a divine form." This would be like saying, "the food is divine." We do not believe the food is god but of a marvelous character. We began to wonder if this verse ought to read quite differently. Since it has been uniquely exposed to hundreds of years of scrutiny, not without some Trinitarian bias, perhaps a fresh look might be in order. We admit this would be through a Unitarian filter, but we have our own freedom to do so without fear of being burned at the stake by our Trinitarian brethren as Michael Servetus was.

With this in mind we remembered some footnotes suggesting 2:5-9 was part of an early Christian hymn. There is some good sense in this claim for there is something of a rhyme or metre in the verses. We note the phrase morphen doulou, which means literally "a/the form of a slave" (adding the articles where it seems necessary). We wondered why this was not also done with the earlier phrase which seems to rhyme with this one, morphe theou, which can be rendered, "a/the form of (a) god."

We are well aware of the prejudiced squeals which will result from such a suggestion. However, "the form of a slave" would seem to require an equal parallel in "the form of a god." Really, more like, "a form of a god" into "a form of a slave." Liberated from a thousand years of Trinitarian bias we dare think this entire section may read correctly:

‘This be the mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus who was existing in a form of a god (but) thought not equality with the divine as something to cling to but he emptied himself taking a form of a slave having been born in likeness of men and having been found in fashion as a man becoming obedient he humbled himself unto death (but death of a stake). And thus, also, The God exalted him and gave him the name above every name that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend --- those in heaven and on earth and underground --- and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.’

Verse 9 has the Greek literally ho theos which means "the god" or "The God," much as the Moslems say Allah, the God. Now, this ho theos (the God) "exalted him." Verse 6 had not used ho theos. We would ask, Who is this ho theos that exalts another? Who is the one ho theos exalted? And, how can ho theos exalt someone who is already equal to Him? We remember in Eusebeias and his Preparation of the Gospel that Athanasias refused to discuss 2:9 in his debate with Arias. Now we can understand why. We reviewed the entire letter of Philippians and everywhere there is "God" and there is "Christ" and no where does Paul confuse or combine the two. (1:2, 8, 11; 2:9, 11; 3:14; 4:7, 19)

Now, here, we supply some comments on Philippians 2:5-11 as provided in The Formation of Christian Dogma by Martin Werner, D. D., Professor Ordinarious in the University of Bern, Germany: "The Pauline portrait of Christ corresponds in many respects to the apocalyptic concept of the heavenly Messiah as Prince of the Angels and an angelic being. ... The pre-existent Christ did indeed exist in ‘divine form’ (Phil ii, 6). ... (Paul) carefully expressed himself in the following manner: the super-terrestrial pre-existent Christ had divested himself of his ‘divine’ (i.e. heavenly) ‘form’ (morphe) he ‘substituted’ it for the ‘form of a slave . . . i.e. he appeared in a form like that of a man, he had ‘in his whole manner (schema) resembled a man’. . . (Phil ii,6 ff). (Paul) had consequently limited himself to the statement that Christ had simply divested himself of his heavenly ‘form’ in order to exchange it for the (external) ‘form’ of a man. ... Paul ‘s statement in Phil ii, 7 ‘as a man’ means the actual fleshly material of a human body. ... In this connection Phil. ii, 5-11 constituted for the Arians an important instance of scriptural evidence, which caused Athanasius considerable embarrassment. For (Athanasius), owing to the fact that he had to reject the transformation-thesis, could neither recognize a kenosis nor an exaltation of the Heavenly Christ in the Pauline sense . . . "

We conclude the above comments to our good friend to show that we are not alone in viewing the statement in 2:6, "the form of God," to simply mean, a "divine form" or "heavenly form." Our sincere friend is a saint indeed and we do not for a moment question his amazing faith in Jesus Christ. If he wishes to exalt Christ to the status of "God" in the sense of a triune participant, then we only behold what might be called an over-zealous faith. We do not judge him in this matter. On the other hand, we pray our good friend sees why we view 2:6 differently and at the same time hold Jesus Christ to be our Lord with all the intensity our friend has.

[NOTES:

1869: "who, being in the form of God, did not regard it as a thing to be grasped at to be on an equality with God." The New Testament, by G. R. Noyes.

1965: "He-truly of divine nature!-never self-confidently made himself equal to God." Das Neue Testament, revised edition, by Friedrich Pfäfflin.

1968: "who, although being in the form of God, did not consider being equal to God a thing to greedily make his own." La Biblia Concordata.

1976: "Hebrews always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to become equal with God." Today's English Version.

1984: "who, although he was existing in God's form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God." New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.

1985: "Who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped." The New Jerusalem Bible.]

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ANNOUNCEMENTS

Email versions of several works are now available free over the Internet: THE SEVEN PRINCIPLES (111 pages, a basic primer); MESSIANIC CONFESSIONS (184 pages, the life story of one of the Anointed); WHERE ARE THE DEAD? (20 pages, a work in progress on death, soul, hell, resurrection); WHO ARE THE 144,000? (10 pages)

The Seven Principles is now available on the Internet through the website NETWORK OF BIBLICAL RESEARCH http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Parthenon/1697/seven.html [Editor in 2002: this site is no longer available, but the content is available on www.nazarene-friends.org/pubs/principles/]

We received this email notice the first day the Principles was on the Internet:

Hi Mark,

Hope all is well. I made an announcement of the web version of The Seven Principles at the NBR site today on the H20 Boards and incorporated a couple of links so the friends could bookmark. I don't have counters on all the pages yet but I estimate we took 50 hits on the T7P's. In fact the entire site got bombarded pretty good, not a single page went untouched by the public today.

Will touch base later.

In His Love - Kinsman

Upcoming Issues:

FEB: Should Women Teach in the Congregation? Hospitality. John 10:30 Was Jesus Equal to God? --

MAR: Who are the 144,000? Love of Enemies --

APRIL: Memorial of Christ’s Death --

MAY: When does New Jerusalem Descend? Humility. What is a Cult?

JUNE: The Resurrection according to Paul.

Daily interest is shown in the Nazarene Saints and ongoing communication continues with Canada, Chile, Australia, South Africa, Wales, England as well as numerous states in America: Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington, Florida, New York, Idaho.

Hard copies of the above works are available for a donation to cover photo-copying and mailing. APOCALYPSE 2,000 (400 pages, a verse by verse commentary on Revelation) is only available as hard copy for $30.00. MOUNTAIN TEACHINGS (a 40 page translation with footnotes on the Sermon on the Mount) for $10.00.

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THE MANUEL OF DISCIPLINE: PERFECTING THE CHRISTIAN CHARACTER (Matthew 5:48)

A continuation of the discussion on Romans chapter 12:

Romans 12:13. (12) Share with the Saints according to their needs. This phrase is variously rendered: KJV: distributing to the necessity of saints; TCNT: relieving the wants; KNX: providing generously for the needs of the saints. Giving ought to characterize the Nazarene Saint. Jesus taught the way to perfection: ‘Give to the one asking you, and do not turn away from one that wants to borrow from you. ... You must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. ... When making a gift of charity do not blow a trumpet. ... Do not let your left-hand know what your right-hand is doing so your charitable gift is in secret. Then your heavenly Father, secretly watching, will repay you. ... Love your enemies and do good, lending without hoping for anything in return. ... Practice giving.’ (Matthew 5:42, 48; 6:3, 4; Luke 6:35, 37) Not only have masses of "Christians" deviated from what the Nazarene taught doctrinally but they have parted from his counsels regarding charity and giving. The Christian who observes the above is rare, indeed.

Proverbs 3:27 counsels: ‘Refuse no kindness to those who have a right to it, if it is in your power to perform it.’ (NJB) The Nazarene goes beyond this as shown above regarding enemies, including the wicked and unthankful. (Matthew 5:45; Hebrews 1:1) Paul also echoes his Lord when he writes: ‘For God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name, in that you have ministered to the Saints and continue ministering. ... For you both expressed sympathy for those in prison and joyfully took the plundering of your belongings, knowing you yourselves have a better and an abiding possession.’ (Hebrews 6:10; 10:34 NWT) Indeed, the Beloved Apostle John warns how charity keeps one in God’s love: ‘By this we have come to know love, because that one surrendered his soul for us; and we are under obligation to surrender [our] souls for [our] brothers. But whoever has this world's means for supporting life and beholds his brother having need and yet shuts the door of his tender compassions upon him, in what way does the love of God remain in him? Little children, let us love, neither in word nor with the tongue, but in deed and truth. (1 John 3:16-18 NWT; compare also James 2:14-17)

Note a failure to share impartially or unselfishly can cause disharmony. The first serious case of disunity in the Christian congregation involved such a matter. (Acts 6:1, 2) The word "share" here is the Greek koinonountes and means literally "have in common." This is the same word used in Acts 2:44 and 4:32 when the early Christians had "all things in common." Paul uses the same word when he opens his discussion with the Corinthians on the subject of "equalization." (2 Corinthians 8:4-21) Ideally, after the typical model of the gathering of manna in the wilderness, "an equalizing might take place," with no unequal distribution (see vs 8 above) of supplies. In reality, before the Father and his Son, all things ought to be commonly shared, though the freedom not to is demonstrated in the case of Ananias and Saphira. (Acts 5:1ff) Materialistic and selfish attitudes are disheartening to others. (Nu 32:6-10)

The Nazarene had set the pattern with his life-style and teachings for the "little flock" (Luke 12:33) and Peter professes to have done this. (Luke 18:28) However, disheartened himself, Peter quickly goes back to his fishing business, showing he may have "left" (Luke 18:28), or even "abandoned" (Matthew 4:20), his fishing boats, but he had not, in fact, "sold" them. (John 21:15 -- perhaps gesturing toward Peter’s boats, fishing nets, and fish) Paul instructs Timothy to "give orders" to the rich regarding their surplus -- "to be liberal, ready to share." (1Tm 6:17,18) Sharing contributes to joint-harmony. There is another matter worthy of note here: in the parousia-Judgment true "saints" -- brothers of the King -- would find themselves in need because of responding rightly to Luke12:33, or persecution during the Great Oppression. (Revelation 13:7, 9, 16, 17) The "sheep" are those who responded positively to this. (Matthew 25:31-40) The idea that we are to be judged on our human decency, hospitality, and charity is enough to give the Nazarene Saint pause to examine Christian character in this matter.

Finally, besides possessing the charitable spirit of giving, the manner of giving is something touched on by the Nazarene. Jesus encourages secret giving without a showy display. The Man who gave the most taught: ‘Hence when you go making gifts of mercy, do not blow a trumpet ahead of you, just as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be glorified by men. Truly I say to you, They are having their reward in full. But you, when making gifts of mercy, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, that your gifts of mercy may be in secret; then your Father who is looking on in secret will repay you.’ (Matthew 6:2-4 NWT) Giving in such secrecy demonstrates you seek no glory from observers, you are not trying to buy something with some hidden agenda, and you do not embarrass the recipient of your loving gift. "There is more happiness in giving that receiving." (Acts 20:35 NWT)

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