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Philippians 2:7 Translation

I was thinking of which had the better translation of the Greek “kenow” from Phil 2:7, the NASB or ESV, “emptied himself” or “made himself nothing”…

NASB – but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
ESV – but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

But then I starting to question if either translation was better than the KJV/NKJV of “made himself of no reputation”…

KJV – But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

Regarding this translation, B.B. Warfield said in “Bible Doctrines” –

“And here it is important to observe that the whole of the action adduced is thrown up thus against this background — not only its negative description to the effect that Our Lord (although all that God is) did not look greedily on His (consequent) being on an equality with God; but is positive description as well, introduced by the ‘but…’ and that in both of its elements, not merely that to the effect ( ver. 7 ) that ‘he took no account of himself’ (rendered not badly by the Authorized Version, He ‘made himself of no reputation’; but quite misleading by the Revised Version, He ’emptied himself’), but equally that to the effect ( ver. 8 ) that ‘he humbled himself’… In other words, Paul does not teach that Our Lord was once God but had become instead man; he teaches that though He was God, He had become also man.”

“The verb here rendered ’emptied’ is in constant use in a metaphorical sense ( so only in the New Testament: Romans. iv.14; I Corinthians i.17; ix.15; II Corinthians ix.3 ) and cannot here be taken literally. This is already apparent from the definition of the manner in which the ’emptying’ is said to have been accomplished, supplied by the modal clause which is at once attached: by ‘taking the form of a servant.’ You cannot ’empty’ by ‘taking’ — adding. It is equally apparent, however, from the strength of the emphasis which, by its position, is thrown upon the ‘himself’. We may speak of Our Lord as ’emptying Himself’ of something else, but scarcely, with this strength of emphasis, of His ’emptying Himself’ of something else. This emphatic ‘Himself’, interposed between the preceding clause and the verb rendered ’emptied’, builds a barrier over which we cannot climb backward in search of that of which Our Lord emptied Himself… ‘He made no account of Himself’, we may fairly paraphrase the clause; and thus all question of what He emptied Himself of falls away. What Our Lord actually did, according to Paul, is expressed in the following clauses; those not before us express more the moral character of His act. He took ‘the form of a servant’, and so was ‘made in the likeness of men’.”

“…The term ‘form’ here, of course, bears the same full meaning as in the preceding instance of its occurrence in the phrase ‘the form of God’. It imparts the specific quality, the whole body of characteristics, by which a servant is made what we know as a servant. Our Lord assumed, then, according to Paul, not the mere state or condition or outward appearance of a servant, but the reality; He became an actual ‘servant’ in the world. The act by which He did this is described as a ‘taking’, or, as it has become customary from this description of it to phrase it, as an ‘assumption’. What is meant is that Our Lord took up into His personality a human nature; and therefore it is immediately explained that He took the form of a servant by ‘being made in the likeness of men’.”

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About theologian

I'm a child of the King, my Father who is in Heaven, by the precious blood of His eternal Son, Jesus Christ. I am married with children and currently reside in Pennsylvania. I am a Pastor with the Association of Charismatic Reformed Churches (ACRC) working as an Urban Missionary in Chester, PA. Throughout my time in ministry God has also blessed me with opportunities for formal education by which I earned my terminal degree (Doctor of Theology) from New Geneva Theological Seminary in 2013.

Discussion

5 thoughts on “Philippians 2:7 Translation

  1. These are great comments by Warfield. You should post them as a comment on my post on Philippians 2 for Steve’s benefit.

    Posted by greenbaggins | November 6, 2006, 3:40 pm
  2. Good idea, i’ll do that.

    Posted by theologian | November 6, 2006, 3:47 pm
  3. I would rather have the word rendered in the more literal sense and let context guide my interpretation — rather than let interpretation guide my rendering. I took two semesters of Greek because I was sick and tired of would-be theologs telling me the Greek said something different.

    I know in saying this I am glossing over legitimate issues, but still.

    Posted by Gomarus | November 6, 2006, 3:50 pm
  4. Gomarus,

    Do you prefer the ESV translation of “made himself nothing” or the NASB translation of “emptied himself?”

    There is also much truth to the idea of “as literal as possible, as free as necessary” – but there must be caution with the “free” part of that statement. It seems that we can have almost any excuse to render something more freely than it needs to be rendered. I guess that’s why the idea is “free as NECESSARY” – to really drive home the idea that unless it is needed a literal interpretation is the default rendering.

    Posted by theologian | November 6, 2006, 4:02 pm
  5. Although Warfield eschews “emptied himself” as misleading, I believe this is the more literal way to say it. Warfield’s argument for the paraphrase “made no account of Himself” is right on — based on good exegesis and the context. But let’s allow the Bible speak for itself and men (by the Spirit) interpret as needed.

    This is why I found myself using the NASB, or the N-A 26th (with aids). Otherwise, I would find myself reading along in the NIV, or whatever, constantly wondering what the text “really” said. However, I do like what I have seen in the ESV, in spite of any minor issues.

    Posted by Gomarus | November 6, 2006, 4:22 pm

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