Abstract

This article explores aspects of the Christology, ethics, and especially theology (proper) of Phil 2:6–11 by focusing on the interpretation of 2:6. It contends that both the concessive ("although") and the causative ("because") interpretations of the participle hyparchōn ("being") are correct and theologically significant, the former being the surface structure of the text, the latter its deep structure. The surface structure ("although...") is significant because it is part of a linguistic pattern that Paul exploits Christologically and ethically throughout his letters ("although [x] not [y] but [z]"). At the same time, because Paul says that Christ was in the form of God and that "this [anaphoric definite article to] equality with God" was properly expressed through the kenosis of incarnation and crucifixion, we can say that the deep structure of the text is causative: "because...." Thus Paul compels us to rethink God and to speak of a cruciform God or "kenotic divinity" (Crossan and Reed). The article also argues that the incarnation and cross manifest, and the exaltation recognizes, both Christ's true divinity and his true humanity, all of which lead us in a Chalcedonian direction, though with a Pauline (cruciform) twist. The understanding of God in Paul that emerges from this interpretation is then linked to John Webster's notion of divine holiness as "majesty in relation," which, for Paul, means power in weakness. This counterintuitive view of God is contrasted with popular notions of divinity that focus on (especially military) power and is offered as the foundation of a counterimperial lifestyle.

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