I have been engaged in a discussion with an individual named Ivan Monroy, an apparent Jehovah’s Witness, or, at least a supporter of Unitarianism. Ivan questioned my post on the Watchtowers handling of Philippians 2:10-11 and responded with a very gracious post, which can be found here. I normally do not allow comments in reference to my blog posts, because it just becomes an endless tunnel of debate and it/they take me away from study topics/family/work. However, this exception has proved to be very helpful in regards to the “name” which Christ was given and also, in respect to the defense of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ in general. Below is my response to Ivan.
Thank you for your cogent response; it is truly appreciated. I figured that it would be polite to respond to you, seeing how you put some good thoughts on the board.
I feel that much of this disagreement needs to be settled in verses 6-7 of the text. If Jesus is indeed very God of very God, in the fullest sense of the word Theos, it limits available options and arguments regarding this issue. Predominantly, there are two positions held on this issue within the orthodox church; (1) that Jesus received the name of YHWH, and, (2) that the very name of Jesus Himself has been exalted to the highest of all names and to declare that “Jesus Christ is the Lord” is to declare YHWH. I will be, as you know, arguing for the latter of the two options.
It is unclear whether the “name” that Jesus received is literally the Divine Name, Jehovah, or whether the “name” refers to an office or position. Perhaps the latter is to be preferred as the text goes on to speak about Jesus having been “highly exalted.” Exaltation, of course, demands a new capacity or role wherein the newly given function can be exercised.
My first point of contention is in regards to your statement of the “divine name” being, “Jehovah.” I disagree for the reasons below;
Jehovah is derived from Yahweh, not the other way around. Jehovah is a Germanicized form, coming from the medieval period, and represents the much later Jewish prohibition on speaking the divine name. The Jews took the vowels for the term “Lord,” Adonai, and inserted them in the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, producing a false reading, but one that served the purpose of warning the reader not to read the divine name out loud. It was this ya-how-ah artificial reading that came into the developing Germanic languages and then into English as “Jehovah.” (James White: http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=1206 )
I will not argue that point any further, because it is not the topic of discussion, but, I did wish to mention it. Next, I grant that theologians have differences on this topic (the “name” given to Christ), as noted above. However, I personally do not see as great degree of ambiguity on this issue.
ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ (Phil. 2:6, NA-27)
who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Phil. 2:6, NASBU)
I list the Greek text because on an issue like this, it is vital to look at the original language to gain the authors full intent, as you know. The first word in question is the word “morphe,” where Jesus is said to be in the “form of God.” “Morphe” is also used in verse 7 of the text where it is said that Jesus took on “the form of a servant,” which is then qualified by “being born in the likeness of men.” Whatever “morphe” means in verse 7, it also means in verse 6 and it is clear that verse 7 calls for Jesus being an actual servant in human form, in the fullest sense, because He was “born in the likeness of men.” With that said, I hold to the orthodox position on this issue, that Jesus is very God of very God because the “morphe” which Jesus possessed in verse 7 (he actually took on the form of a servant by entering into humanity), signifies that He actually held divine “morphe” in verse 6 (see F.F. Bruce: International Bible Commentary, 1986: Pg. 1445). Hence, when Jesus is in the “form of God” in verse 6, the text is speaking of His ontological nature. J.A. Motyer states this idea very well when he proclaims of Jesus; “He possessed inwardly and displayed outwardly the very nature of God Himself” (Philippians Studies. Chicago: InterVarsity Press, 1966. Pg. 74).
On this point, I once again refer to the words of Dr. James White where he states;
The first phrase of verse 6 sets the tone for the theological discussion to follow. Paul says that Christ was “existing” (huparchon) in the “form of God” (morphe tou theou). What does this mean? The participle huparchon is again “timeless” in that it does not point to any moment when Jesus “started” to exist in the form of God – Christ has always been in the form of God. And what is the morphe? It is that quality or characteristic which makes something what it is rather than what it is not. God is known by his morphe, and no other being has his form. The NIV picks this up by translating the phrase, “who being in very nature God…. http://vintage.aomin.org/The_Pre_Existence_of_Christ.html
Also note the words of Dennis W. Jowers on this issue, where he cites a number of leading scholars who either speak of the “morphe” of Christ and being fully God (v. 6), or, the “morphe” of Christ in verse 6-7 being of the same nature;
The interpretation of morfhv in Phil 2:6–7 as equivalent, in meaning or at least in reference, to ou°sÇa [essence] commands widespread allegiance among evangelical scholars as well. F. F. Bruce, for instance, follows Lightfoot in holding that “the noun morphe ‘implies not the external accidents but the essential attributes.’ ”74 Leon Morris, likewise, believes that, by describing Christ as ejn morf¬Å qeouÅ, Paul unambiguously ascribes deity to him. “It is not easy,” writes Morris, “to see ‘being in the form of God’ as meaning anything less.”75 I. H. Marshall, similarly, affirms that in Phil 2:6–7 “there is described the way in which a being who had the nature of God renounced the privileges of that state and took on the form of a human servant of God.”76 David J. MacLeod contends that morfhv in Phil 2:6–7 “refers to nature or essence.”77 In the view of Gerald Hawthorne, verse 6a indicates that “Christ was God, possessed of the very nature of God.”78 Gordon Fee identifies the phrases ejn morf¬Å qeouÅ and !sa qeåÅ as “among the strongest expressions of Christ’s deity in the NT”;79 and Richard Melick declares that “the NIV correctly translates ‘in the form of God’ as ‘in very nature God.’ ”80 http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/49/49-4/JETS_49-4_739-766_Jowers.pdf
Moving on, the word “isos” is also used of Jesus in regards to His positional relationship to the Father. Here, “isos” is speaking about an equality that existed prior to the incarnation, an equality that Christ did not grasp for or hold on to, but rather, He emptied Himself according to verse 7. James Montgomery Boice makes this profound statement, which represents my position fully when he proclaims; “Paul’s use of this word in reference to Jesus teaches that Jesus is equal to God” (Foundations of the Christian Faith. 1986. Pg. 269).
This equality is what would be expected per the use of “morphe” earlier in verse 6 and this equality helps the reader round the corner in regards to the nature of Jesus and why His emptying and death was so important. Jesus, being very God, emptied Himself and placed limitations on Himself and as a result, left His prior glory to become incarnate, in the form of a servant, in the likeness of man, to die on the cross. Hence, when the text states that Jesus was “highly exalted,” it is speaking of (1) the regaining of His former glory and (2) in regards to His incarnation and work therein, and not to, as you contend, a new capacity or function. Now, it is indeed true that Jesus has been placed in a position of dominion, no doubt, and this position is now filled by the “God-man.” But, this position is in respect to His emptying, incarnation and subsequent obedience/death and not His ontological nature. Being fully God, the Son has always possessed a position of exaltation as the Second Person of the Trinity and this position has now been demonstrated to the world due to His voluntary work. R.C. Sproul states it this way; “Christ is restored to the glorious status He had at the beginning but voluntarily relinquished for a time in order to become a human being.” (Reformation Study Bible: Pg. 1721).
With all of that said, I contend that since Jesus is fully God, He has always possessed the divine name. This is confirmed in texts such as John 8:58 and 18:5-7 (c.f. Isaiah 41:4, 43:10 and 46:4) where Jesus identifies Himself as the great “I Am,” or, “ego eimi” http://vintage.aomin.org/EGO.html and He does this even in His emptied state. Meaning, the self-emptying did not reduce Jesus’ Godly nature (in the sense of making Him less of God, although He was limited) and throughout the entirety of His ministry, He retained His proper title of YHWH, as He proclaimed. Noting this and the context of Phil. 2:5-11, I feel that it is proper to declare that the name of Jesus is indeed the highest of names (I take the position of James White on this issue – see the White v. Stafford debate, cross-ex). Verse 9 states “God highly exalted Him [to His former glory I would argue], and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.” And, what is that name? Verse 10 tells the reader; “that at the NAME of JESUS…” all will bow and confess that “Jesus Christ is Lord.” And, this does no harm to the divine name because to confess Jesus Christ as Lord is to confess YHWH Himself (because Jesus is God: hence the reference to Isa. 45:23), as noted by the glory that God the Father receives at the end of verse 11. So, in short, the “name” above every name is “Jesus” and that name is exalted and given in respect to His voluntary work in the incarnation (note the words: “For this reason” in v. 9) because Jesus Christ is indeed, Lord.
Now, much more could be said, but, I have exhausted a great deal of room on this one point. I have attempted to fill in many of the cracks, but, by no means am I being exhaustive on this issue. And, I have not even touched on the messianic implications of this issue, which are far reaching in and of themselves. Moreover, there is the “dual” nature aspect to this entire issue which would need to be explored to give fair treatment of this topic as well. But, I do hope that I addressed at least some of the issues/concerns that you have.
Now, for the sake of space, I will give an overall response to your comments regarding the WTB&TS and their use of “other” and things similar. As you can imagine, I reject your explanation regarding the given texts and the Watchtower’s (WT) intent. The insertion of “other” in Phil. 2 and Col. 1 is not the only issue involved here (overall). The WTB&TS also rejects Colwell’s rule in John 1:1 http://vintage.aomin.org/JOHN1_1.html (although, I do adhere to a qualitative sense in John 1:1), the Granville Sharp Construction/Rule in 2 Peter
1:1 and Titus 2:13 http://vintage.aomin.org/GRANVILL.html, they arbitrarily add the name Jehovah into the NT Scriptures 237 times and remove the definite article at times regarding the Holy Spirit. With all of this in view, I have a hard time accepting your explanation of the WT intent, which is according to you, to clarify the verse(s) in question. The quotation which you cited, while appreciated, begs the very question that is being debated (through no fault of your own). In a sense, the WT is proclaiming; “We know Unitarianism is true, because Unitarianism is true.” Meaning, the WTB&TS is assuming a position that is unhistorical, and, a position that I (and the universal church) would proclaim as unbiblical – then, it is adding to/rearranging the Scriptures to alter the meaning of key texts due to those assumptions. Key texts which, if left in tact and not interpreted in light of Unitarianism, show the absolute divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ as Dr. Bruce Metzger would also argue: http://www.newreformationpress.com/freebies/Bruce%20Metzger%20-%20The%20Jehovah’s%20Witnesses%20and%20Jesus%20Christ.pdf .
Now, of course, I do not expect you to agree with anything which I stated above. We have a presuppositional conflict on our hands here and there is no way that either of us, given our presuppositions can agree with the other, given our ultimate starting points (Unitarianism v. Trinitarianism). However, I do appreciate the fact that you have cut to the chase and delivered thoughtful and helpful comments on an issue as important as this. Also, please forgive me if I am somehow misunderstood what you are asking/implying, in regards to this subject. I too have attempted to “cut to the chase” and address what I think are the vital points of this issue – but, as with all theological topics, one might find some particular aspect of an issue much more important than another. Finally, if I have misrepresented your position in anyway, please forgive me. The last thing I wish to do is create a “Straw Man.” This will be my final post on this issue (online issues like this take up so much time and I have work to do on the topic of self deception which you might enjoy) and I leave you with the final word on this subject. Take care…