Corps de l’article

I repeat the conclusion of “Part I” here, word-for-word, to situate the reader.

The first part of my article suggests the questioning of the structural debates on Phil 2:5/6-11, since Lohmeyer’s 1928 formulation of it. I argue that the preoccupation with structural analyses, either in agreement with Lohmeyer’s or Jeremias’ conclusions offer a number of disservices to the exegesis of Phil 2:6-11. One of the disservices is the fact that it makes it difficult to concentrate on the synchronic and canonical form of Phil 2:6-11, because of suggestions of which parts to excise from it. I then provide the incongruences that exist with structural analyses, especially Jeremias,’ when one considers the six steps in discerning a preformed material. In other words, the science of structural analysis has evolved since Lohmeyer and Jeremias, and make the weaknesses of their approach to Phil 2:6-11 apparent. I allude to the earliest and most used Christological formula of the New Testament – ‘sit at my right hand’ – as a judicious formula that leads one’s mind away from too much preoccupation with Christology to a monotheistic Christian/Pauline theology of Phil 2:6-11, because the formula ‘sit at my right hand’ subsumes the title/naming of ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ in ‘to the glory of God the Father’ (Phil 2:11b). This is the first step in clarifying the semantics of ‘structure’ and ‘naming’ of Phil 2:6-11 that are at variance.[1]

Let us now turn to the arguments of Part II.

PART II. Tradition, Redaction and Theology in Phil 2:9-11: The Mystery of Christ in a Monotheistic Perspective

2. God (Theology) in the Letter to the Philippians vis-à-vis “The name that is above every name” (Phil 2:9) and “to the Glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11)

Since I have shown that the “Lordship” of Christ is demonstrable from both Pauline and non-Pauline texts of the New Testament, although the examples given are limited, through the formula “sit at my right,” I now want to analyse the link between the “Lordship” of Christ and the reason for Christ’s exaltation as “Lord” – “The name that is above every name” (Phil 2:9). It is important for us to do this because “naming” is an identity marker. In the words of Gourgues, “For the Bible, a name does not simply serve to differentiate one person from another. A name expresses the identity and the essential being of a person. To recognize Jesus Christ as ‘Lord’ is to recognize both his transcendental identity and communion in the exercise of ‘Lordship’ with God.”[2] To bring out the identity of God both in Philippians as a whole and in Phil 2:6-11, we need to present the pivotal role of God in Philippians, in a condensed summary.

2.1 Ho Theos and the Message of Philippians

Contrary to Kyrios (Lord), which gained currency in general Greco-Roman worship,[3] Paul presents the distinctiveness of Philippians through the concept of ho Theos (God) as a principle of integration or coherence in the letter. This portrays Paul’s intent to be different from ambient religious presentation of Kyrios by reorienting everything towards ho Theos. Gordon D. Fee is emphatic in his claim that the concept of God is the organizing principle of Philippians, given the strategic places the term occurs in the epistle.[4] A descriptive study of the language of God in the places it appears reveals that ho Theos has contents for Paul. He is the God of the Jews (Paul) and Gentiles/Philippians, the God of Time, the God of Salvation, the God of Communion and Peace/Shalom and the God who is a Father (God our Father).

To describe these attributes (the contents) of ho Theos, we need to explore the interventions of ho Theos in Philippians. Of the nine instances (Phil 1:6, 8; 2:9, 13, 27; 3:15, 19; 4:9, 19) where ho Theos appears in the nominative[5] case, these three, 1:6, 2:9 and 4:9 are of paramount interest to us because they enunciate God’s relationship with Jesus Christ and human beings – “the one [God] who began a good work among you” (1:6), “God highly exalted him [Jesus Christ]” (2:9) and “the God of peace will be with you” (4:9). These three instances correlate the role of God in the conferment of human filiation and citizenship (identity markers), the importance of the sacrifice of Christ as a form of relationship with God, and the prayers of Christians as they relate to or form communion with God. The lone accusative or objective (4:6) role of God, sustained by three dative usages (1:3; 4:18, 20), makes him the object and recipient of prayers, respectively. In the genitival use of ho Theos (1:2, 11, 28; 2:6, 11, 15; 3:3, 9, 14; 4:7), their enunciations boil down to the description of God as Father.

a) Ho Theos: The God of Time

In his description of ho Theos, Paul implicates the concept of “time” to explain how God becomes the God of the Philippians. Some of the time referents he uses include ordinal number (prôtos) and diurnal (hèmera): “from the first day (prôtès hèmeras) until now” (1:5), “by the day (hèmera) of Christ” (1:6), “in the day (hèmeran) of Christ” (1:10), “eis hèmeran Christou – [into the] on day of Christ” (2:16). Generally, Paul demonstrates this time referent with the nominative concept of God (1:6) and corroborates it with a genitive case (1:2).

The very first subjective usage of the concept of God, “the one [God] who began a good work among you” (1:6), frames God’s relationship with the Philippians within a chronological perspective. It comes on the heels of “from the first day (prôtès hèmeras) until now” (1:5). God is the active subject of “time,” chronological time, because his activities have a beginning and continue into the future, to the day of Jesus Christ: “the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ” (1:6). This situates differently the origins of the Philippians’ encounter with God, from that of the Jews, a member of which Paul belongs (3:4-6). Since the Philippians were not Jews,[6] the time of their first encounter with God has to be extra-Jewish. Paul’s evangelizing ministry to them and the gospel to the gentiles is their context. Paul suggests this in the following words, “your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (1:5). Paul’s God becomes the God of the Philippians through preaching and faith. This chronological perspective and the non-Jewish origin of the Philippians’ faith enables us to imagine the meaning of the “good work” to which God is the active agent as well as show the distinctiveness of his attribute as “God of Time” through his relationship with the Philippians.

b) Ho Theos: The God of Salvation

If, on the one hand, ho Theos is the one whose actions give meaning to events, because he is “God of Time” and works through time, on the other hand, the monumental attribute of ho Theos that has left a definitive imprint on chronological time is God’s attribute as Savior (Phil 1:28). Paul is explicit that salvation is from God— hymôn de sôtèrias, kai touto apo Theou (1:28).[7] If God became the God of the Philippians, through the gospel Paul preached to them, the origin of that gospel predated the time when Paul preached it to them. The origin of Paul’s gospel coincides with God’s work of salvation, through Jesus Christ. It follows that salvation also has a time referent in God’s intervention.[8]

Paul describes God’s attribute as “God of salvation” by referencing God’s work in Jesus Christ “the harvest (karpon) of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ” (1:11). This reality took place prior, chronologically, to Paul’s evangelization of the Philippians (the “when” question). Paul demonstrates the “how” through God’s gifts of grace, peace and righteousness (1:2,7) to the Philippians, but through Jesus Christ. “Time” helps to delineate God’s work of salvation and the origins of the concepts of grace and righteousness: “having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God” (1:11). God is “God of salvation” because he offered salvation through Jesus Christ. When the gospel of God’s salvation reached the Philippians through Paul and they accepted it, God became their God, that is, their God of salvation.

c) Ho Theos: The God of Communion/Peace

The concepts of “communion” and “peace” have rich Greek and Hebrew precedents to their Pauline usage. They both describe vividly the image of God as communion. While Aletti[9] underscores the Greek concept of koinônia as background text to its innovative use in Philippians, Ralph P. Martin does the same with the Hebrew concept of “Shalom.”[10] The importance of the attribute of God as “God of Communion/Peace” derives from Paul’s statement: “because of your sharing in the gospel (epi tè koinônia hymôn eis to euangelion) from the first day until now” (1:5). Paul’s understanding of koinônia is different from that of the Greeks. The usages of koinônia for political purposes among Greek philosophers emphasize two meanings: 1) the foundation of a community, and 2) sharing in something. While Paul retains the Greek aspect that denotes a founding of a community, the primary difference between the Greek understanding of koinônia and Paul’s is the meaning of “sharing in somebody” instead of the Greek sharing “in something.”[11]

For a clear picture of “the God of communion” to be discernible, it is important to look at the six places where koinônia and its cognates appear: Phil 1:5, 7; 2:1; 3:10; 4:14, 15. The transition from the koinônia of the gospel (1:5) to the koinônia of grace (1:7) superposes the communion of the gospel (citizenship) on that of salvation (grace): “for all of you share (tou euangeliou synkoinônous mou) in God’s grace with me” (1:7). For God wrought human salvation (grace) prior to its proclamation to the Philippians, before they received citizenship. These two perspectives on koinônia, as Paul describes them, paint the image of the God of communion through the foundation of the Philippian community or Church and the appropriation of salvation received through faith. The double mention of citizenship (1:27; 3:20) grounds the metaphysics of the Christian community of Philippi or the divine origin of the Church of Philippi. This may also ground the meaning of a “good work” of 1:6, as the connecting verse linking the meaning of 1:5 to 1:7.

The correlation I make between koinônia and church/community is borne out by their affinity to this statement: “no church shared (oudemia ekklèsia ekoinônèsen) with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone” (4:15). Salvation and community/church bind all those who profess the same faith and belief, “and every tongue should confess (exomologèsètai) that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (2:11). This koinônia, in salvation and faith, leads to concrete solidarity in times of suffering/need, which is the case when the Philippians helped Paul. Paul testifies to the presence of koinônia even in suffering: “In any case, it was kind of you to share (synkoinônèsantes) my distress” (4:14). Suffering is not limited to imprisonment, it includes slavery and the cross (2:6-8), where Christ is already a model for the Philippians: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing (tèn koinônian) of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death” (3:10). If 3:10 makes koinônia practical, 2:1 makes it conceptual and moral, because of its macro-context (2:1-11) and the imperative to imitate Christ (1:5): “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing (koinônia) in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy” (2:1).

The contribution of “shalom” to the image of “the God of communion” is its ritual perspective. “Peace sacrifice” or “communion sacrifice” is the Jewish primordial sacrifice.[12] It presents God as relational and the guarantor of salvation or grace. The sacrificial language with which Paul expresses his gratitude correlates this stance: “now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice (thysian) acceptable and pleasing to God” (4:18).

d) Ho Theos and “God our Father” (1:2): the Filiation of Philippians

We need to give more space to the question of “God our Father” because it harmonizes the other perspectives we have delineated regarding ho Theos. O’Brien subscribes to the argument that the raison d’être for Philippians is to demonstrate the conferment of citizenship through the gospel (1:27-30),[13] but one cannot separate that fact from the filial relation that makes Philippians God’s children (2:15): both (citizenship and children of God) are identity markers. In order to indicate how God became the Father of the Philippians and the Philippians God’s children, it behoves us to correlate the active agency of God (1:6) with the genitival (1:2); when we do this, one notices the indicator of a time referent in 1:2: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Judaism does not contain a formula of prayer/greeting that includes “the Lord Jesus Christ.” This will imply the Christ event (time referent) as the origin of such a greeting, which will be an addendum to the Jewish concept of “Peace”-Shalom[14] and the Fatherhood of God to Israel that Paul knew well as a Jew (3:4-6) and it is reflected in the first part of the prayer of 1:2.

When the beginning and the end of the letter are juxtaposed (1:2; 4:23), first, it shows that 1:2 combines two formulae that are separable, and they are from two different sources (Judaism and Christianity, respectively); second, there is a new insight into what image of God is presented – the Fatherhood of God – on the heels of which God’s mastery over “time” and his unique “good work” (singular) follow (1:5-6). The analysis of the multiple attestations of the formulae in 1:2 and 4:23 is helpful, since Philippians begins with an apparent two sources of grace and peace, “from God our Father” and “Lord Jesus Christ” (1:2). The end of the epistle also has a similar formula, mutatis mutandis: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (4:23). Let us tabulate the verses concerned, on the basis of their similarity (multiple attestations), for better analysis, beginning with the macro-context of 1:2, 6 (1:1-11):

“Grace to you and peace from God our

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be

Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:2)

with your spirit” (4:23)

Both verses (1:2 and 4:23), situated at the beginning and end of the letter, agree and disagree. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:2) appears[15] to make the giving of peace and grace to be a joint action of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. This synergy is missing in “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (4:23). Here, the action of “God our Father” is left out. The Old Testament notion of God as Father[16] proves its prior usage, chronologically, to Philippians. Also, 4:23 addresses the gift of “grace” to the “spirit” of the Philippians, while leaving out the gift of “peace.” It is our contention that “and the Lord Jesus Christ” is an adjunct to “God our Father” in 1:2.

An exegesis of 1:1-11 suggests that 1:2 (“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”) is a redemptive formula,[17] with “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” (4:23) as its christic version. This is the conclusion one arrives at after comparing the active agency role of God (1:6) and his genitival function (1:2). Let us analyze this macro-context (1:1-11), deciphering three sections in “first person,” “second person” and “third person,” to make our point.

i) The section in “first person” states the persons offering the prayer – Paul and Timothy (1:1), and the nature of the prayer – thanksgiving and remembrance (1:3). Paul remembers (hè mneia) two things, on account of which he gives thanks in prayer: first, what/something God has done and begun for the Philippians – “good work” (1:6). Concretely, Paul recalls what has been done for and given to the Philippians as “God’s grace” and “grace (tès charitos) of the gospel” (1:7); here, “good work” is named “grace.” Second, Paul formulates his wish (subjunctive – perisseuè [1:9]), for the Philippians, “to abound” in dikaiosynēs (1:11). Implicitly, Paul argues that a new dawn had begun for the Philippians – the dawn of “grace” and “righteousness” – that requires a new way of life: “Be citizens (politeuesthe) worthy of the gospel of Christ.”[18] Paul shows how this new state of affairs – “righteousness/justification” and citizenship – affects his personal life: “Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ” (3:7).[19] The end result of citizenship and “righteousness/justification” (dikaiosynè) is in the future – “by[until – achri] the day of Jesus Christ” (1:6, 10; 2:16; 3:20-21).

This section in “first person” provides “God’s mastery of time” and innovation – the Christ event or salvation; by extension, what God did for the Philippians – when and how. In sum, God gives the Philippians dual citizenship of the gospel and heaven (1:27; 3:20). It is by examining how God’s actions in history redefine “Time” that the formulae Paul use in Philippians – “God our Father” and “God the Father” (1:2; 1:11; 2:11; 4:20) make sense.

ii) The section in “second person” indicates the intention of the prayer (you may be excellent, pure, blameless, etc.), its beneficiaries (Philippians) and the relationship between the person praying (Paul) and those (Philippians) for whom he is praying – communion/synkoinônos (1:7). If the “grace” or “righteousness of the gospel” creates a common-relationship/communion (synkoinônos) or sharing between Paul and the Philippians, it further creates a common destiny for them as well: here and now, they are citizens of the gospel of Jesus Christ (1:27; 3:20), but their citizenship looks forward to the day of Christ (1:6, 10; 2:16; 3:20) and they are “children of God” (2:15), on account of which God is their Father or “God our Father.” The qualification to share in the day of Christ hinges on bearing the fruit of righteousness and fidelity (1:11; 2:16), the act of maintaining their citizenship. For the present time, good moral comportment vivifies the “grace” of justification/righteousness – “having produced the harvest of righteousness” (1:11) – as well as God’s support keeping them faithful (2:13).

iii) Most importantly, for our formulaic purposes (1:2), the section in “third person” expresses the form and purpose of the “grace” Paul requests for the Philippians: “The righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (1:11). “Righteousness” has its form in the Christ event, but its purpose is for “the glory and praise of God.”[20] Apparently, there is a particular time in which this “grace” was received (1:5 –

“from the first day until now” – dovetailing with 1:27– “Be citizens worthy of the gospel of Christ?”), and Paul’s prayer is that this “grace” may endure “until the day of Jesus Christ” (1:6) or “to the day of Christ” (1:10). Both verses (1:6, 10) suggest that the “day” of Christ is in the future; when it does arrive, there will be a conformation to Christ (3:21). Our pericope makes God the efficient cause of “righteousness” (dikaiosynè) – “the one [God] who began a good work . . .” (1:6) and Jesus as the formal cause of grace (1:11) and the glory of God and communion with God (1:5; 3:21) its final cause.

In a lot of ways, 1:1-11 schematizes the core of Philippians. What is evident, besides the formula in 1:2, is the fact that only God is the active agent of all the activities related to “grace” (1:6), “good work” by God (1:6), “good fruit” by Philippians (2:13), “glory” and “praise” (1:11; 2:11; 4:20), and “peace” (4:7, 9). “Lord Jesus Christ” did not make it to the active subject position of the pericope under review.[21] The nominative role of ho Theos in 2:9 – “Therefore God also highly exalted him” explains how Paul subsumes the actions of Christ in God. This is seen in the singular act of God – in conferring the title of “Lord” upon Jesus Christ (2:10-11) and it correlates the status and identity of “children of God” God confers on human beings (2:13-15).[22] On a horizontal perspective, the active agency actions of God create a communion among human beings as well as with Jesus Christ, with the hope of greater communion on the “day of Christ,” when Christians will become like Christ or be conformed to him.

e) Ho Theos and Sacrifice/Worship/Prayer

Another nominative case of God – “God of peace will be with you” (4:9) – takes our description of ho Theos a step further; this time, into the spheres of sacrifice. “For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ” (3:18a) alludes to the fact that the fundamental sacrifice or the “governing metaphor”[23] from where Christian sacrifices derive their meaning is “communion sacrifice” or zebah šelāmiym[24] (זֶ֣בַח שְׁלָמִ֖ים).[25] Two instances suggest that the death of Jesus Christ (2:5-8) is a communion sacrifice: first, “For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God” (3:3) and, second, the “gifts” and “fragrant offering” of the Philippians to Paul (4:18).

The transition from the “righteousness (dikaiosynèn) under the law” (3:6), mediated by the ritual of circumcision (3:3), to the “righteousness from God (ek Theou dikaiosynèn) based on faith” (3:9), mediated by the efficacy of Jesus’s death (2:8) and spelt out as “righteousness (dikaiosynès) that comes through Jesus Christ” (1:11), undergird Christ’s death as communion-sacrifice because of the “communion” it creates and the ritual of sacrifice it presupposes.[26] Not only that “communion sacrifice,” through the death of Jesus Christ, propels Paul to want to be sacrificed like Jesus Christ, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing [koinônian] of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death” (3:10), it has become a hermeneutic principle for understanding Christian suffering, solidarity and life as “worship” or “liturgy” of and “sacrifice” to God: “even if I am being poured out as a libation (spendomai) over the sacrifice (thysia) and the offering (leitourgia) of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you” (2:17).

The active agency use of ho Theos – “God of peace will be with you” (4:9) – begs the question: how was peace achieved or arrived at? To answer this rhetorical question is the nominative use of ho Theos in 2:9: “God also highly exalted him.” The exaltation of Jesus as “Lord” (2:10-11) presupposes his obedient death, that is, death planned for him by God (2:8). The death of Jesus Christ (2:8) is not the culminating point, either for Jesus or for Christians, the resurrection and exaltation are. This is where the quintessential role of God vis-à-vis Jesus Christ comes to play: “God also highly exalted him [Jesus]” (2:10-11), an action that presupposes the resurrection. The communion sacrifice of the death of Christ becomes didactic for Paul and the necessity to imitate it. Let us explore the communion-sacrifice that the death of Jesus Christ establishes as the channel of grace, peace and for God’s praise.

In Judaism, “peace” and “blessing”/“grace” evoke rituality – sacrifice.[27] The Jewish fundamental sacrifice is peace-sacrifice. Israel’s peace-sacrifice or grace-sacrifice further substantiates the undertone description of God in Philippians – “God of peace” (4:9).[28] The sacrificial language – “the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” (4:18) that anticipates – “To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen” (4:20) – agrees with Paul’s opinion that God alone receives glory, and agrees with the Old Testament idea that sacrifices are offered to God alone.

f) Ho Theos and Monotheism

One finds the vestiges of Old Testament stance on sacrifice, when Paul correlates worship and directs it “to the glory and praise of God” (1:11), “to the glory of God the Father” (2:11) and “To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen” (4:20). Paul’s reconstruction of monotheism, from the worship of God, in Philippians, may be adduced from 4:14-23 by coordinating the statements in first, second and third persons within it.

The section in “first person” situates the context of Paul – distress. He needed help. The help did come to him, which he acknowledges as a sharing/communion (koinônia). Paul announces his location – Thessalonica – and the bringer of the article of koinônia/gifts –

Epaphroditus. Paul’s response to the gifts he receives is a prayer for God to replenish the purses of his benefactors and benefactresses. If the section in “first person” were to be the only section we have, a lot of lacunae would have remained, for example, the meaning of koinônia and the theological import of “gifts” as “communion sacrifice.”

The section in “second person” complements the section in “first person.” It shows that the concept of koinōnia (communion/sharing/partnership) establishes the relationship between Paul and the Philippians – mutual help (synkoinônèsantes [4:14]; ekoinônèsen [4:15]). This help is material, from the Philippians to Paul. In a special way, Paul grounds “synkoinônein – to share-with/koinônein – to share” in the reality of the Philippians as constituting a church. There is a suggestion here that something makes/forms the Philippians as a church. The answer to what constitutes the Philippians as a church and grounds their obligation to support Paul is the koinônia from the “beginning of the gospel” (4:15). This strongly implies that God establishes the Philippians as a church through Paul’s preaching of the gospel to them. This is already stated in 1:5, 7, where Paul argues that he and the Philippians are partners or sharers in something (church/salvation) “because of your partnership [koinônia] of the gospel, … partnership (synkoinônous) of grace” (1:5, 7).[29]

Having explained the meaning of “church” via koinônia between Paul and the Philippians – “I-You” relationship, the exchange of “gifts” concretizes koinônia, when one of the parties is in need – “You entered into partnership [of] giving and receiving with me”[30] (4:15). Two complementary relationships further strengthen koinônia between Paul and the Philippians through “prayer” and “blessing.” It is true that the word “blessing” is missing in our text, but it is suggested by “you sent me help … the profit [blessing] that accumulates to your account” (4:16-17). The generosity of the Philippians or sharing (koinônia) between Paul and the Philippians results in some benefits for the Philippians. This is the first aspect. The second aspect is the fact that Paul prays for them to God, so that God might take care of their needs. This is a transition from general prayer (1:4) to particular prayer (4:19-20) addressed to God.

The section in “third person” shows the role of God in the whole relationship of prayer, gifts and church. Although Paul does not repay the Philippians for their kindness to him, either in cash or kind, God takes the initiative to repay the Philippians. It is here that the nature of the gifts they gave is made manifest: “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” (4:18). The language of sacrifice (osmen, euôdias, thysian dektèn, euareston tô Theô [4:18]) is unmistakable here, albeit, metaphorical. Paul construes the “gifts” of the Philippians to him as sacrifice offered to God, which God rewards. The remarks of Gary A. Anderson are apt, at this point, in order to situate Paul’s statement within Second Temple Judaism:

I have argued that one of the reasons that charity gained such extraordinary significance is that it was understood as more than a horizontal action involving a donor and recipient; it also had a vertical dimension. To give alms was to perform an act of worship of God (avodah). The Greek translation of Hosea 6:6 captured this perfectly: ‘I desire mercy [toward your neighbor] no [just] sacrificial service.’ Just as service at the sacrificial hearth provided food for God (as though he suffered from hunger), so donation of goods to the poor is considered a loan to God (as though he has fallen on hard times).[31]

From the perspective of Second Temple Judaism, the section in “third person” makes it abundantly clear that it is God who receives the sacrifices offered (“a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” [4:18]), because God blesses acts of kindness (“I seek the profit that accumulates to your account” [4:17]),[32] and he answers prayers (“my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” [4:19]). To conclude, Paul suggests that all these actions of his and those of the Philippians have a common and one direction and culminating point—“To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen” (4:20). On this verse and its equivalents (1:11; 2:11) hinge Pauline monotheism in Philippians.

2.2 Ho Theos and the Cross in Phil 2:6-11

From the syntactic schema of Phil 2:6-11, New Testament scholars explore a hidden semantic of the pericope under review. The varied dispositions of verbal and nominal choices of the pericope pose the question of harmony and probable interpolations.[33] Let us take a close look.

6a ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων

7c ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος

6b οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ

7d καὶ σχήματι εὑρεθεὶς ὡς ἄνθρωπος

7a ἀλλὰ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν

8a ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτὸν

7b μορφὴν δούλου λαβών

8b γενόμενος ὑπήκοος μέχρι θανάτου


[θανάτου δὲ σταυροῦ].[34]

Verses 6-8 present almost a perfect correspondence chiastically, on surface (morphologically) and depth (verbal resonances) levels, to the expression of structuralists.[35] The same claim is not possible from 9-11. However, when the structure of Phil 2:9-11 is inverted chiastically, as we show below, Phil 2:6-8 relates to Phil 2:9-11 notionally and consequentially. The consequences of Phil 2:6-8 are presented in Phil 2:9-11. In other words, our argument is, firstly, that the Cross of Christ (Phil 2:8b), which scholarship has shown to be a Pauline addition,[36] has the primary purpose of accentuating the glorification of Christ as a consequence of the humiliation of the Cross. The Cross is also a source of the sacrifice of communion offered to God, as we have shown earlier, through Christ, on the basis of which two identities were establish: for Christ, exaltation as “Lord,” and for Christians, their identities as children of God and citizens of heaven. This is clearly seen, I suppose, with an inverted chiasm of Phil 2:6-11. Secondly, an inverted chiasm forestalls an excessive emphasis on the “worship of Jesus” when every glory is seen to be “to the glory of God the Father.”[37]

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The use of verbs in the third person (hègèsato, ekenôsen, etapeinôsen), except those verbs with God as subject (hyperypsōsen and echarisato), strengthens the argument that Phil 2:6-11 refers to Jesus Christ. The admixture of verbs in aorist (hègèsato, ekenôsen, etapeinôsen, hyperypsôsen and echarisato) denoting actions that took place once and for all, without time extension, along with participial verbs (hyparchôn, genomenos, labôn and euretheis) arouse curiosity as to how to understand the nuance they embody. For example, “who existing (hyparchôn) in the form of God, . . . but emptied (ekenôsen) himself having taken (labôn) a slave’s form.” How is one to understand the act of “self-emptying,” which took place once and for all, expressed by the aorist tense? Is it the emptying of “divinity” or is it a metaphor for humility? The “human likeness” (en homoiômati anthrôpôn) and “slave’s form” (morphèn doulou) assumed, in order to die the death on the cross, do they exclude the divinity of Jesus Christ? Perhaps the statement, “he did not consider his attachment (harpagmon) to his being Godly (isa Theô)”—ouch harpagmon hègèsato to einai isa Theô, seems to point to an answer. “Attachment” (harpagmon) to his divine form would have prevented him from taking a different form. In other words, the human Jesus Christ did not lose his divinity in assuming human form, because the act of becoming (genomenos) human is not contradictory to divinity, especially when divinity is at liberty to choose its forms. More so, it was necessary for him, given the medium of the cross, to assume human form in order to die on the cross. The verb hyparchôn – “being” (Phil 2:6), participle present, corroborates the fact that the divinity of Christ was not absent, even when he took human form.

From our inverted chiasm above, if it is accepted that the Cross and the role of the Messiah is to be a Saviour (Jesus), arguing from second-Isaiah, it follows that both Jesus and the Cross which shows the medium through which he saved humanity, are “to the glory of Father God” because the exaltation of Jesus Christ is based on them. To accept this conclusion is to accept a huge hermeneutical shift in contemporary interpretation of Phil 2:6-11. Instead of Phil 2:6-11 serving as a hymn in praise of Christ’s humility (kenosis in obedience) alone, it becomes a lesson on God’s approbation of Christ’s death and resurrection for human salvation. The constitutive element leading to Jesus Christ’s exaltation is his obedience to become human and undergo the humiliation of the Cross. In other words, the act of saving the world through Christ’s death and resurrection has double consequences: God exalted Christ as a result, and God approves the sacrifice of Christ’s death for the reconciliation of humanity with himself (the meaning of “to the glory of God the Father”). To this end, Rm 1:3-4 becomes a hermeneutical key for understanding Phil 2:6-11, as its shorter version, as well as Paul’s own explanation of Phil 2:6-11.

What is evident from the use of aorist participial verbs (genomenos, labôn and heuretheis) is the description of a state or an adjectival reality. In this regard, “having become” and “having taken” (genomenos, labôn) the form of a human being, re-emphasize the human in contradistinction to the divine, at least from human perception. Here, the statement – kai schèmati heuretheis hôs anthrôpos – “And being found in human form” (Phil 2:7) is key. The importance of this statement stems from the oblique subject of the statement – human beings. It is human beings who see this human likeness in Jesus Christ.[41] This proves that there are two actions at work and two major actors – Jesus Christ and God. The humanity and crucifixion of Christ make Jesus the major actor of human salvation, and the first part of Phil 2:6-11, that is, Phil 2:6-8, concentrates on this point, while the divine response to the humanity and crucifixion of Christ is a reward or glorification of Jesus as Lord, through the action of “God the Father”; this is shown in Phil 2:9-11. In this instance, the nomenclatural difference between Jesus Christ and God is the “Fatherhood” of God (“to the glory of God the Father”). If this is the case, the new title of Jesus Christ is “Lord,” which God the Father confers on him, on account of which the “worship of Christ” is asserted.

If human beings, in the statement kai schèmati heuretheis hôs anthrôpos, recognize the human form of Jesus Christ, then, God recognizes Jesus’ divine form in the statement dio kai ho Theos auton hyperypsôsen, kai echarisato autô. The question that remains unanswered is how human beings or Paul specifically came by the knowledge of the divinity of Christ? The explanation of the life of Jesus Christ, via the reality of the Cross, is through the terrestrial life of Jesus. Could we infer that Paul was extrapolating from the experience of the Christian community or Paul’s own unique experience on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19)?[42] I adduce, from the text, a probable origin of the conclusion of the divinity of Christ postulated by Paul, since the theory of Phil 2:6-11 as pre-formed is sometimes contested.[43] However, we see that, even if one says that everything in Phil 2:6-11 is not pre-Pauline, the aspect or section of it dealing with “death on the cross” is definitely pre-formed and pre-Pauline (1 Cor 15:3-5), because it is historically pre-Pauline (formulation) conversion and letters.

At this juncture, let us briefly synthesize the gains of this section (2.0-2.2), that include: 1) God is the subject of the activities of salvation, communion, justification, worship and identity conferment in Philippians; by implication, theology trumps Christology. 2) It follows that Phil 2:6-11, where God (ho Theos) is the protagonist of Jesus’ exaltation and conferment of the title of “Lordship” as his new name (Phil 2:9), lays emphasis on theological action, rather than Christology. If Jesus Christ is compared to God (Phil 2:6-8) with the relative pronoun hos, it is their difference that becomes accentuated in Phil 2:9-11. Also, in contrast to “Jesus” and “Jesus Christ” mentioned twice (Phil 2:10-11), God is mentioned four times (Phil 2:6 [2x], 9, 11) to support Carmen Dei instead of Carmen Christi. 3) Worship in Philippians is offered to God and not to Jesus Christ, even if the divinity of Jesus Christ is not contested, but it is because monotheism has to be maintained.

3. The Unity of God in the Fatherhood of God

Remaining with the text of Philippians itself, there are other instances where “Lordship” is attributed to Jesus Christ (Phil 2:11), and other places where God is called Father, not only of Jesus Christ, but also of all Philippians (Phil 1:2). Furthermore, we have exemplary statements where glory is attributed to God (Phil 1:11; 4:20), just like in Phil 2:11. We will look at these contexts and examples presently, before going elsewhere in Pauline corpus to seek corroboration of this opinion, namely, that everything contained in Phil 2:6-11 leads “to the glory of God the Father.” By the way, since the “achievements of Christ are those of God,” it follows that the perspective on monotheism remains intact.

A contextual analysis of the uses of “to the glory of God the Father” in Philippians harmonizes the different trajectories of the meaning of “to the glory of God the Father” as a harmonizer or organizing principle of unity of God in that formula. In Philippians alone, there are three unambiguous uses of the said formula, that explain their semantics: eis doxan Theou patros (Phil 2:11), eis doxan kai epainon Theou (Phil 1:11) and eis tous aiōnas tōn aiōnōn, amēn (Phil 4:20).

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Hardly any serious Pauline scholar will contest the understanding that the formula eis Christon ebaptisthète (Gal 3:27) means configuration/conformation/aggregation into Christ. What about eis doxan Theou? What is contextually clear is that eis doxan Theou pointuates and serves as the culmination of the actions of God in Phil 1:3-11, 2:6-11 and 4:20 to make it clear that the achievements of Christ are those of God. Moreoever, the choice of word Christos suggests that the activities of the Messiah are not distinct from God’s; in fact, they accrue to God’s glory – eis doxan Theou.

It is possible to divide the contextual uses of eis doxan Theou into three, from the theological perspectives they developed: Phil 1:1-11 (the consequence of justification as identity conferment for Christians as “citizens of heaven” and “children of God”), Phil 2:11 (the consequence of “obedience” or the Cross for Christ as identity conferment of “Lordship”) and Phil 4:20 (the capitulation of worship as revelator of the identity of God as omnipotent and eternal). From these three contextual utilization of “to the glory of God,” we have three identity markers that prioritize Theology over Christology.

If we just considered the beginning and end of the pericope Phil 1:6-11, two statements stand out: “work of God” and “justification of God.” God stands out as the “worker” of the Philippians’ “justification,” in the statement “the [God] one who began a good work among you” (Phil 1:6); and, the “good work of God” is named as “justification,” in my literal translation, “being filled with the fruit of justification” – peplèrômenoi karpon dikaiosynès (Phil 1:11).[44] The conclusion of Aletti, crafted in scholastic language, concerning Pauline conception of justification, that “its operator, [is] God, who took the initiative, [and] (ii) its instrumental cause, [is] Christ” corroborates the reading of eis doxan Theou as a formula of monotheism because the Christ-event is inseparable from “to the glory of God” (Phil 1:11).

Paul adduces a “secularist” understanding of “justification,” when he uses the Roman citizenship concept in Phil 1:27: Monon axiôs tou euangeliou tou Christou politeuesthe (Phil 1:27). My literal translation is “only be worthy citizens of the gospel of Christ.” The verbal imperative “be citizens” – politeuesthe speaks to the new identity of the Philippians, through the “good work of God” (Phil 1:6) and the “justification” that that work accomplishes. However, Paul contrasts and subverts Philippians’ identity with the secularist term in vogue thus: “But our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil 3:20). On the one hand, the identity of Philippians is contrasted with the secularist Roman citizenship; on the other, Paul introduces a familial concept, very much in vogue in Judaism of his time: “children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil 2:15). In other words, while using the concept of “children of God” to maintain a Jewish connection, Paul subverts the “Roman citizenship” concept by negating it.

In all, some of the identity makers of Philippians are that they are “justified people,” “citizens” and “children of God.” All these accrue “to the glory of God” (Phil 1:11). When one looks at Phil 2:6-11, the identity markers of Jesus Christ are outlined. Our interest is the title of “Lordship” as a culminating point of a concatenation of life events. If Paul adduces the Philippians’ identity formation process in Phil 1:6, 11, 27, he is doing the same here (Phil 2:6-11) for Jesus Christ, as the process or Christ event that not only explains how that “justification” of the Philippians and their citizenship came about, “on account of Christ” (ton dia Jēsou Christou [Phil 1:11]), but also how they are related to God with Jesus Christ, on whom God confers “Lordship.”

Notice that neither the nomenclature “children of God,” because of Jewish monotheism nor “justification” and “citizenship” because of the contemporary legal process of “Roman naturalization” and Paul’s clarification of “citizenship” in Phil 3:20 refer to Jesus, but Paul contrasts the “Lordship” of Jesus Christ with the Greco-Roman concept of “lordship” in the Roman Imperial cult of the time. The difference in the formulations explains their contextual uses. While the absence of the “Father” in the version of Phil 1:11 (eis doxan Theou) is understandable for lack of possible ambiguity, and that in Phil 4:20 (eis tous aiônas tôn aiônôn, amèn) as its liturgical evolution and format, that in Phil 2:11 (eis doxan Theou Patros) needs the addition of “Father”[45] to guarantee Christian monotheism through the “Fatherhood” of God, and makes a distinction between Jesus and the Father.

3.1 Monotheism Despite Everything

If the right conception of time and period is necessary for a good grasp of Pauline theology, all the more reason to keep in view the fact that Paul’s theology and Paul’s tradition retain Jewish monotheism in Christianity, mutatis mutandis. The citations below will suffice to make this point crystal clear:

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Paul’s claim to the Corinthians that as far as Christians are concerned, “there are no idols” (1 Cor 8:4b, 6) continues an earlier (chronologically) position of Paul – “For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols,[46] to serve a living and true God” (1 Thess 1:9). With the coming of Christ a new age dawned which moved the Thessalonians away from believing in idols to the belief in “a living and true God,” an expression which evokes Jewish monotheism. According to Langevin, 1 Thess 1:9-10 expresses a double confession of faith without engendering a rupture in Jewish monotheism in Christianity:

Paul reports a double confession of faith in 1 Thess 1,9-10. One is addressed to the ‘true and living God’: rooted solidly in the Old Testament in order to attach it forever to the New [Testament]. The second profession of faith has ‘Jesus, Son of God,’ the resurrected One of yesterday whose return in glory is awaited (…) The fact that they [double confessions of faith] reunite θεός and Ἰησοῦς on the same level, by a simple καὶ, is already significant. One learns that ‘Jesus’ did not eliminate the ‘true and living God’: the cult of the same ‘living God’ reunites the New and Old Testaments; no radical rupture with the authentic Jewish tradition marks the birth of the Christian faith.[47]

Although the point of Langevin is well taken, the transition from the monotheism confessed in Judaism and the way Christianity confesses it is better explained from the perspective of Gal 4:4-7. Here, instead of a “double confession,” there is the double sending of God, first of his Son and, second, of the Spirit of his Son, which enables us to argue that the liturgical formula in 2 Cor 13:13, “[t]he grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you,” in Pauline theology, only expresses the double actions of God in the salvation of humanity, instead of inaugurating a complication in Jewish monotheism.

A supportive argument for our position is Paul’s insistence that God alone is responsible for creation, even though God does that through his Son, Jesus Christ, but the principal agent remains God.[48] This is what Paul writes concerning the agency of the one God, “yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Cor 8:6). The double order of Gal 4:4-7 is maintained, with the exception of the Holy Spirit. However, if we take seriously two assertions, “the Spirit of Christ” (Rom 8:7) and “the Lord is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:17), the Holy Spirit is implied in the “Lordship” of Christ (Rom 1:4).

Furthermore, if we apply our knowledge of Paul’s progression in faith, from Judaism to Christianity, the statement of Rom 11:36, “[f]or from him [God] and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever,” is more ancient than that in 1 Cor 8:6 because it does not mention Christ. More so, this conclusion makes sense, since Paul, from Rom 11:1, turns his argument to the effect that God did not abandon the Jewish people; so, the argument of Rom 11:36 is Jewish but in support of continuity rather than total rupture between Judaism and Christianity. Where this continuity is most evident is monotheism!

If it is true that everything flows from God through Christ, one important agreement between Phil 2:11 and Rom 11:36 is the fact that ‘To him [God] be glory forever” (Rom 11:36). The “glory” of Phil 2:11, “to the glory of God the Father,” then, does not diminish Judeo-Christian concept of monotheism but brings out the theology of God’s revelation to his people as God conceived it and how Paul expounds it in the context of justification by faith.


In this article, I argue that, 1) the two cola of Phil 2:6-8 and 9-11 make clear that the activities of Christ on earth brought glory to God and bestowed God’s exaltation upon Christ; 2) in fact, the death of Christ, that warranted Jesus’ exaltation and Paul’s addition of the cross to the formula of Phil 2:6-11, is comparable to the idea of sacrifice and prayer that Paul argues in Philippians as directed exclusively to God; 3) I further show that Paul’s theology of identity provides the best place for understanding how he grapples with the place and role of God in Paul’s soteriology in Philippians; 4) that the identity markers Paul provides for Christians suggest, by extension, the significance of the title “Jesus Christ is Lord” as identity marker for Jesus, not a title for Phil 2:6-11; 5) that the general use of ho Theos in Philippians orientates the reading of Phil 2:6-11 towards the dominant role of God who exalts Jesus Christ, the God who is mentioned explicitly twice as much as Jesus Christ (Phil 2:6-11); 6) that the copious use of Ps 110:1 in the New Testament and in Pauline corpus is suggestive of the prime importance of the One who confers honor (God) over him who receives honor (Jesus Christ) in the context of “to the glory of God the Father); 7) that the distinguishing metaphor of God as Father separates the identities of God and Jesus in Phil 2:6-11; and, 8) that Judeo-Christian monotheism remains intact in Paul’s understanding of God with the statement “to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11), with its multiple (three) attestations in Philippians alone, and other mentions of it in Pauline and non-Pauline writings of the New Testament.