After publishing the post When Jesus Emptied Himself” He Was Still Fully God I decided to ask: “Philippians 2:7 says that Jesus emptied himself. When he did, was he less than God making him not God at all?” on Quora the mega social networking Q&A site where anyone can ask a question and get answers.
Before I give you the answers that I got let me tell you a little about Quora. Anyone can ask a question and people answer. Quora gets around 100 million monthly visitors. It is different from the other major players in the reference space, with its focus on cultivating an environment dominated by subject matter and topic experts, such as doctors, economists, Ph.Ds. and other industry and professional insiders. Through a “credits”-based Q&A ranking system the answers that are delivered generally have more depth and expert opinion than the straight fact based delivery of information one would find on Wikipedia and other sites.
Because a very large number of Quora users consider themselves experts in their fields many of the answers are written to impress others resulting in many answers with much to much theory, intellectualism, and bravado. It doesn’t mean that you should disregard the answers just be aware that you may have to wade through the fluff to find the the “jewel”
Four years ago I asked “Which side are you on in the religion versus science debate?” As I expected most people answered that they were on the side of science. I was a little surprised at the answers to my most recent question because most of those answering did acknowledge believe Jesus did walk the earth, and that He was crucified. The answers are all over the map but most question or deny that Jesus is God. The other thing that his exercise did for me was to really understand the warnings throughout scripture against false prophets and teachers.
Jeremiah 23:16 (NKJV)16 Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak a vision of their own heart, Not from the mouth of the LORD.
Matthew 24:24 (NKJV)24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NKJV)3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
2 Peter 2:1 (NKJV)1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.
The people answering this question as you will see consider themselves experts. I’m reminded by what Paul said;
1 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV) desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.
I know the names and some background of the people who gave the following answers however I will not identify them in this post. I will do more of this from time to time and will share the answers with you.
Philippians 2:7 says that Jesus emptied himself. When he did, was he less than God making him not God at all?
* NO! This willingness not to stand on his own dignity, resulted in Jesus making “himself nothing” (2:7). The King James Version translates this as “he emptied himself” and this rendering has long been used in support of a view which treated Jesus as only human (eg-Jehovah’s Witnesses). He was regarded as having emptied himself of his own deity by virtue of becoming incarnate. But that is not how the KJV translation should have been understood. To conceive of the possibility that one who was God should cease to be God should have been a thing unthinkable.
How then, should the KJV expression ‘he emptied himself’ have been understood ? At the outset it should be said that the beguiling question “what did he empty himself of?” should not be asked, if only because the passage does not provide an answer to that. Instead, we should ask “what did it mean for him to empty himself?” Two answers are provided to that question in the New Testament.
- The first is to see the verb as having a metaphorical sense and meaning something like “being without effect” or “counting for nothing”. That is how it is to be understood in the other places in the New Testament where it occurs (See Romans 4:14, 1 Corinthians 1:17; 9:15; 2 Corinthians 9:3). Understood in this way it points to something wonderful and amazing. It declares that the one who counts for so much — seeing that he possesses the form of God — discounted himself in his own reckoning for the benefit of others (see John 13:1–3). The verb for “empty himself” is used in the Greek Old Testament to translate a Hebrew word which means ‘to pour out” (Genesis 24:20), and that same Hebrew word is used in Isaiah 53:12. He was not self-regarding, though he knew who he was and all that he possessed.
- The words “taking the form of a servant” and “being born in the likeness of men” indicate what he resolved to do while in the form of God, and what he did in his incarnation. This self-abnegation was not a laying side, or a leaving behind of something that he had, but a taking to himself of something which he never had before, namely human nature in the status of a servant.
This is what can justly be termed a “making of himself as nothing” because of the immeasurable distance between deity and Humanity, sovereignty and servanthood. God became the God—man.
*You need to read it from verse 3 to get the full context of the verse. Paul was talking about cultivating humility, and he proceeded to use Jesus as a model to imitate.
Verses 5 and 6 shed more light on what is referred to in verse 7:
Keep this mental attitude in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God So while Jesus was in heaven, he didn’t become presumptuous and try to be equal to God.
Verse 7 proceeds to show the extent of Jesus’ humility:
No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and became human. i.e. he was so humble that not only did he avoid reaching out to try to be like God, he was willing to be “degraded” even further to the state of a human, a lower form of life.
Verse 8 concludes with how far he went to humbly fulfill God’s will:
More than that, when he came as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, yes, death on a torture stake
He was “degraded” further by being executed like a common criminal.
Verses 9 and 10 again show that Jesus has always been and continues to be under the authority of God:
For this very reason, God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend—of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground— and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
Notice that GOD is the one who exalts Jesus, not Jesus himself; and acknowledging Jesus meant glory to the one higher than him, God the Father.
*THE MAN-GOD OF NAZARETH
The “soul” for the Middle Eastern cultures at the time of Christ was not a separate concept from the body and the soul of a person was thought to be essentially interdependent with the body. The Christian understanding of “soul”, as a separable entity, was originally developed by the ancient greeks and only later adopted by the Christians.
Nowadays, we are much more familiar with the concept of an immaterial, independent, interactive and all-performing soul, that can be literally independent from the body; if such is the case, we would not need the awkward body ascension to heaven. But Judaism had not developed that concept. So if Christ resurrected and went up to Heaven, the first Christians had to insist that he “went up” with his body too. Hence the Ascension story.
We reject the “fully man-fully god, at the same time” dogma about Christ. We think it more adequate to say that Christ was god and man, not at the same time, but sequentially. We understand that He began to exist before the beginning of time as the first created being, the Son of God. To incarnate, he surrendered his godly powers, began to live as a man, with very little memory of his former being, but of course keeping some of his powers.
After the Ascension, he returns to his full powers and keeps the memories of his life as a human. He ceases to have any development of his former human character, and keeps only his human soul. This is an important point because if someone pretends to have found the bones of Christ, Christianity will then be able to just shrug it off. If you are God, you don’t need a human body after your life on earth. In that sense, his body was no longer necessary.
Come to think about it, it would absolutely be cumbersome, and therefore his body may afterwards have been left behind, to be buried, while He returned to Heaven. Or just disappeared in a flash, no remnants. No need for the Ascension of the body which, by the way, is a very odd act. We, unlike the ancients, do not believe that heaven is “up”. Gods may have their places, another dimension perhaps, but definitely not “up”. But the Gospels report that Christ went up, until he disappeared into the clouds. How very embarrassing, this story!
The concept of an active independent soul, as we understand it today, was not a common knowledge. The common thought at the time was that the dead had their souls in a semi comatose state, waiting for the bodily resurrection to become active again. So it was essential for the first Christians to believe that Christ, body and soul, went up to heaven.
So now Christ’s time sequence reads: “god-human-god again”. An updating of Christianity, incorporating this scheme, would make it far more resilient to attacks than it is now. It would make easier to incorporate the new archaeological findings that will surely come up. It would make even possible to accommodate that perhaps he was married. We are not here actually supporting that idea but we are pointing that if it came to that, we could handle it, following the principles we exposed here.
*This is an important question because it strikes at the heart of the statement by Jesus- “the works that I do you shall do also and greater works than these shall you do.” John 14:12
How can we do greater works if Jesus is God?
The problem with the church is that they have trouble separating the Jesus of now, as he is, Jesus is Lord, with the Jesus born in a manger, growing in wisdom, favour and stature with God and with man.
Can God grow in wisdom?
Philippians can be interpreted with a little help from John 17:4-5 4 I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane just before the arrest. He acknowledged that he had laid aside glory which he had before he came to earth. This means he removed something which made him God.
How can a man who is God sweat blood due to stress of the pending crucifixion? Was Jesus so compartmentalised he separated humanity and God within himself? That is an extraordinary deception to play on humanity.
I believe that Jesus was divine while on the planet because God was his father but he was not Lord, he was not God. Jesus did nothing on the planet in his godhead power. He consistently said he only does what he sees his Father do.
“Of myself I can do nothing” John 5:30
When he was resurrected he did nothing in his new divine power and position except teach and instruct his disciples.
The Amplified bible has a fuller translation of Philippians 2:6-7 6 Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained,7 But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being.
The works Jesus did he was able to do because he was anointed by the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:18)
I Co 15 calls Jesus the second Adam. Jesus was as human as Adam was when he was created, and Adam was as much God as Jesus was. The other thing they shared was they were both righteous (before the fall).
What Jesus had was his humanity and the dominion given to all men, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit to fulfill his calling. He was not God on this earth.
“5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:” - Philippians 2 (KJV)
In other words, we are to think like Christ did, that it wouldn’t be robbery for us to be God. That’s right, “you had one job to do”. (Oh wait, did the translators in 1611 say that they’re time-traveling Mormons?)
The Catholic contemporaries of the Protestant KJV translation team should have had the biggest laugh of the 17th century at them, and probably would have, if only they hadn’t been so busy making exactly the same mistake in the Douay-Rheims Bible.
That’s what both translation teams get for repurposing verbiage from another eisegetic Bible translation; this one from the 16th century, the Bishops Bible.
To make it comprehensible, let’s read all this from a Bible that doesn’t play that game:
“5 Yes, keep this attitude in you that the Anointed Jesus had. 6 For though he once existed in the same form as God, he didn’t consider trying to make himself equal to God. 7 Rather, he emptied himself into the shape of a slave and became a human.” Philippians 2 (2001 Translation)
By letting verse 6 show us what verse 5 is really telling us to do, we may understand that though Jesus was in the same form as God, that didn’t make him equal with God to begin with, let alone make Jesus God himself.
Therefore, what Jesus was, that he emptied, was being in the same form as God.
*Yes. That is exactly true.
However, what is more, he was already less than God before emptying himself. Notice just before the verse you asked about, in verse 6 it says who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God (New World Translation)
who, when he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as a prize, (Byington Bible)
who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, (American Standard Version)
It is clear from verse 6 that, while in heaven, Jesus did not consider himself equal to god. In fact the New World Translation, quoted first, says it would’ve been a “seizure”. That is the translation of the Greek word ἁρπαγμὸν (harpagmon) which means to seize, plunder, or rob something. So according to hat verse Jesus considered the thought of equality with God to be seizing authority that did not belong to him.
Instead, as we learn in verse 7, he humbly emptied himself and became human, lower even than the angels as Hebrews 2:9 says.
(Of course that begs the question, why then does it say that Jesus existed in God’s form? Well, when we compare that to Colossians 1:15 which says
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; (New World Translation)
Who is image of the invisible God, firstborn of all creation, (Byington Bible)
who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; (American Standard Version)
and Hebrews 1:3 which says
He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact representation of his very being, and he sustains all things by the word of his power. And after he had made a purification for our sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (New World Translation)
being beam of his glory and imprint of his essence, and actuating all things by his word of power, took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high when he had made purgation of sins, (Byington Bible)
who being the effulgence of his glory, and the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; (American Standard Version)
It becomes clear that this does not mean he was God. Rather, like the scriptures says, he existed in his form. He was a spirit creature, just like God. He was the firstborn, the “spitting image” of his Father as the saying goes. He perfectly reflect his Father’s glory and yet, he never thought of being equal to him. Instead he humbled himself and became even lower, a human. And then lowered himself even further to be put to death as a criminal. And all of that for his Father’s name and for our salvation.
That is what that scripture is saying. And it’s a really beautiful lesson about Jesus.
*Phil 2:6 …who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
The commonly accepted interpretation is absurd, seeing that firstly they tell us that God was in the form of God(??) and did not seek equality with himself(?) (because this is supposed to be what took place in heaven preceding the incarnation) then they tell us that God divested himself of Godliness to make himself human. The problem is you can’t identify Jesus as being in heavenbecause that name is given to Mary’s son. The verse actually says that Jesus—the man, born of a woman—lived as an example of true humility and emptied himself of kingly aspirations, not that God emptied himself of the attributes of God to become a man.
These are the problems caused by trying to teach doctrine in a circular manner; the teaching you want to prove only exists in the verse you are using to prove it. They patently mislead the reader, having a preconceived notion by which they deliberately make the verse say what it isn’t saying.
What it really means:
Paul is speaking about humility and saying that Jesus, son of a carpenter, did not use his power as Messiah to make himself king but subjected himself to God’s will. This is described in his wilderness experience where he rejected the temptation to show some Messianic signs to convince the multitudes or to take the kingdoms of the world by force, Rome in particular.
The interpretation of Philippians 2 is difficult due to Greek idiom. Misguided trinitarian scholars see in it an opportunity to make out as if Paul believed in the pre-existence of Jesus but that assumption would have us believe that Paul suddenly decided to include an unprecedented doctrinal point in a letter to an ecclesia that was miles off topic and would have put a millstone around his neck.
His lesson was about the humility of Christ, the son of a carpenter who lived among the poor and gave his life on the cross, not seeking the majesty of his role as Messiah which he could have taken by force.
Here is my unofficial translation:
6 Who, though he was in the image of God, did not try to grasp equality with God but emptied himself of all aspirations to privilege, taking the role of a servant, having been born as a common man. And living as that ordinary man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Here is a very poor analogy. You have a cake factory, and you supply the whole world with cake. If you take a piece of cake home from the factory, what is it? it is still cake.
Jesus is the same “stuff” Just as the Father is YHWH - So Jesus is still YHWH. But by entering his creation by being born, Jesus is also 100% human as well.
I think St. Augustine’s version may be a little better than mine.
That the Son is Very God, of the Same Substance with the Father. Not Only the Father, but the Trinity, is Affirmed to be Immortal. All
*God creates the universe in stages. I believe that Jesus had a particular beginning in time as Creator Son. God exists outside of Time and Space, then God creates Time and Space and God creates Time and Space inside Himself - so things are both complicated and also difficult to explain. If Jesus emptied Himself as Paul said, then it occurred in God’s universe, actually inside God since everything is in God. Without God, none of this could take place.
As far as the details of your question, that is something we don’t have access to. Paul said what he said about it and he doesn’t go into any more detail about it. We can speculate about such things but I don’t know if there is any place to get more information. Jesus emptied Himself and God held onto Jesus soul and kept His Son safe. I’m not sure why you would ask for further details except out of curiousity.
God sets the universe up to be a certain way. To have God’s power, you have be loving and humble and walk by faith. These rules also applied to Jesus who was also the very Son of God.
*That was not quite the point of these verses. The NIV reads:
Who, being in very nature[a] God,did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;7 rather, he made himself nothingby taking the very nature[b] of a servant,being made in human likeness.8 And being found in appearance as a man,he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death--even death on a cross!
The notion that he made himself nothing is the very act of not-only placing others before himself, but he took on the human form for the soul purpose of enduring all the hardships that we as humans face so that his “sacrifice” would be real. It was also done as an example for others to follow. It’s much in line with his teaching that we treat others better than ourselves. It’s also well in line with “he that is last shall be first”. Jesus took the role of the servant a few times in the gospels. Notably when he washed the feet of his disciples (again, he was leading by example).
- Matt 27:1 17 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
- There he was "transfigured"… (metamorphosed, aka the Greek Bible),...before them.
3. Just then,... (during his change back to the son of man),... there appeared before them Moses and Elijah,... (having left the body of Jesus),... talking with Jesus.
Fri *“Emptying himself out” refers to the metamorphosis called the Transfiguration in English. He emptied the spirit of Elijah, out his psyche.
*Yes. Jesus didn’t tell he is Jehovah God. He always said he is the Son of God.
- Lk 1:35 The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
- Mt 26:63 But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God： Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God."
- Mt 26:64 "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you： In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."
*He made himself into flesh…a lowly being but it didn’t diminish his godliness whatsoever. Hebrews 2:17 if a king dressed himself with a commoner’s clothing, would he really be a commoner or would he still be king?
**BTW, God and the Lord Jesus Christ are two different persons 1 Corinthians 8:6
*Which version of the Holy Bible did you read that he made himself empty? When he took on the lowly part of the servant, he was being totally obedient to God. Know ye not that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh…. Read John chapter 1: 1–14
*Yes, while on Earth, he was not God at all. He ate, drank, presumably defecated, urinated, sweated, and cried. He bled, he was not God. He was a powerful healer, but he made it clear that anyone who followed him would connect with the Father as he did and heal people.
*Not at all it’s an idiomatic expression, in that he temporarily vacated the position, of being God, i.e. he emptied himself of being in the position with all the trappings of angelic forces and servants at his every whim, while being God and king, of heaven and earth, does that make any sense to you? After all being God without anyone recognizing you as God would be a real step down would it not? It’s like saying he condescended to become flesh, and again because he did big time, I hope that isn’t to difficult, but he was still very much God.
*The Christian God is Trinity – Father, Son & Holy Spirit. All three of these “persons” of the Trinity are fully God. So Jesus, the Son of God is God. Period.