My last couple of posts have been on the “Christ Poem” found in Philippians 2:6-10. Many years ago when I talked about the poem and argued that it was in fact a poem, a reader (who apparently knew Greek!) objected that the poetic lines I suggested don’t actually work. I answered that question before moving on to showing just how amazing the poem is: it ends by giving the resurrected Jesus the authority of God Almighty himself.
That may not seem surprising to Christians who already think it’s true. But just imagine how it would resonate with someone living in the first century who knew that Jesus was publicly executed for crimes against the state. It might help if you imagine how you would feel if someone made a claim like this for someone who was condemned as an enemy of the of the state for insurrection against the United States who suffered the death penalty — and someone claimed he had become God, the Lord of the universe. Uh, really? Yup, that’s what Paul’s poem claims about Jesus. Really astounding when you think about it.
This ‘rhythmic structure’ just does not work in Greek. The first ‘stanza’ with three ‘lines’:
Who, although he was in the form of God
Did not regard equality with God
Something to be grasped after;
In Greek the ‘third line’ is only one word and it appears in the middle of the ‘second line’, after only the first word of the so-called second line. There are a few different views of the structure, but they all must be based on the Greek text.
RESPONSE AND FURTHER COMMENT:
That’s exactly right – you make a good point. For my translation I arranged the poem in three stanzas of three lines each; but in Greek it’s different. But even there there are still three stanzas of three lines each, but because of the grammatical difference, it works differently. In Greek it’s like this for the first part of the poem:
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