Does Paul recount his own kenosis in Phil 3:2–11? This proposal has been affirmed and refined by quite a few scholarly voices in recent decades. Paul, it is argued, willingly and humbly gives up his Jewish privileges and embraces suffering and death in conformity to Christ; in the same way, Christ willingly “emptied himself” of his divine privileges and obediently embraced suffering and death. Paul puts himself forward as a model to be emulated by the Philippians, embodying the prototype of an ethos that is pleasing to God and that was revealed and established in Christ. This reading offers an alternative to the traditional Protestant reading that sees Phil 3:2–11 as Paul’s rejection of Jewish work-righteousness. In this article I will first briefly sketch out the proposed parallels between the Christ hymn in Phil 2 and Paul’s autobiographical account in chapter 3. I will then argue that, despite its attractive aspects, the kenosis reading of chapter 3 is resisted by the flow of the text itself. I will then suggest that there is both a gesture of violent renunciation and a gesture of willing conformity in the passage. These aspects are closely connected but must not be read along a seamless trajectory. Together they describe the destructive and constructive moment of Christian identity in the perspective of soteriology. I argue for a reading that leads beyond equally problematic notions of Jewish work-righteousness and kenotic notions of Jewish national pride.

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