New World Translation and Philippians 2:6
Today, Vol. XVII, No.2, July 1961, pp. 188-200, Henry J.
Cadbury, in a review of the then recently released New English
Bible said, "Here are examples of treatment[from the NEB]of
famously difficult passages."-italics ours.
He then quotes the NEB at, together with others, Philippians 2:5-7
which reads "Let your bearing towards one another arise out
of your life in Christ Jesus. For the divine nature was his from
the first; yet he did not think to snatch at equality with God."
Two things can be seen from the above. 1) Philippians 2:5-7 is difficult to translate and 2) The New English Bible took the Greek word 'harpagmos' in verse 6 in the active sense and in so doing agreed with a translation that did likewise that was released some 11 yrs earlier - The New World Translation.
To start a discussion of Phillipians 2:6 New World Translation proper it might be best to quote at length a criticism that appeared way back in the early 1950's by a well-known and (in many circles) a well respected scholar of New Testament Greek.
In 1953 Bruce M. Metzger wrote an article in Theology Today, 'The Jehovah's Witnesses and Jesus Christ, A Biblical and Theological Appraisal'(Later copies of the article were put in pamphlet form and were sold for 15 cents each or 8 copies for 1$). In Chapter IV 'Erroneous Translations' he says this about Philippians 2:6 NWT:
description of the pre-existent Christ in Phil. 2: 6 is given a
characteristic twist in the translation prepared by the Jehovah's
Witnesses: "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" A footnote to the first part gives
as an alternative, "who, although he was existing in God's
form, scorned . . . . " Another footnote supplies an
alternative rendering of [harpagmos] a seizure," namely,
"a thing to be seized." Paul's language is thus made to
agree with the Unitarianism of the Jehovah's Witnesses that Jesus
was not equal with God and, in fact, scorned such an equality.
That this translation is a misunderstanding of the Greek may be shown by referring to the standard Greek lexicon of the New Testament edited by J. H. Thayer. (This book is selected as an authority here both because of its intrinsic merit and because the Jehovah's Witnesses translators themselves refer to it more than once on other occasions.) Thayer explains the passages as follows: "[Christ Jesus], who, although (formerly when he was [logos asarkos]) bore the form (in which he appeared to the inhabitants of heaven) of God (the sovereign, opposite to[morphe doulos]), yet did not think that this equality with God was to be eagerly clung to or retained" (p. 418, Col. b). In similar language, Arthur S. Way, the learned and skillful translator of many of the Greek and Latin classics, renders Phil. 2: 6, "He, even when He subsisted in the form of God, did not selfishly cling to His prerogative of equality with God. . . ." The admirable paraphrastic rendering recently published by J. B. Phillips agrees with Way's translation: "For He, Who had always been God by nature, did not cling to His prerogatives as God's Equal, but stripped Himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man."
We would possibly benefit, so as to set the scene more fully with the issues that Metzger has brought up, with quoting Ralph Martin who wrote in 1959:
equal with God is again a phrase which has been taken in a
number of ways.The main issue is whether it is equivalent to being in the 'form of God', or is to be regarded as
something future in the 'experience' of the pre-incarnate and
incarnate Lord and which He could have attained but refused to do
Some writers regard the first possibility as correct in one of two ways. On the one hand, it is held, following Lightfoot, that the pre-incarnate Son already possessed equality with the Father and resolved not to cling to it. Or, on the other view, He had no need to grasp at divine equality because He already possessed it as the eternal Son of God. It is questionable, however, whether the sense of the verb can glide from its real meaning of 'to seize', 'to snatch violently' to that of 'to hold fast'; and the second interpretation hardly does justice to the structure of the whole sentence as well as to the force of 'highly exalted' in verse 9. Attempting a different approach, Kennedy and those who see as the background here the Genesis story and the temptation presented to Adam 'to be as God' (Gn. iii- 5) draw the parallel between the first and the second or last Adam. The former senselessly sought to grasp at equality with God, and through pride and disobedience lost the glorious image of his Maker; the latter chose to tread the pathway of lowly obedience in order to be exalted by God as Lord (verses 9, 10), i.e. to be placed on an equality which He did not have previously, because it is only by 'the suffering of death' that He is 'crowned with glory and honour' (Heb.ii. 9).}
Thought it not robbery is one translation of the key-word harpagmos which may be taken actively as in A[uthorised] V[ersion] or passively as in R[evised] V[ersion]: 'counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God'. Both versions are linguistically possible. The real difficulty is encountered in the question: Does it mean that Christ enjoyed equality with God but surrendered it by becoming man, or that He could have grasped at equality with God by self-assertion, but declined to do so and embraced rather the will of God in the circumstances of the incarnation and the cross?
Here once more, if the key to the text lies in the intended parallel between the first Adam and the second Adam, the latter alternative is to be preferred; and this is the generally, prevailing modern view which Stauffer believes has been definitely settled: 'So the old contention about harpagmos is over: equality with God is not a res rapta ... a position which the pre-existent Christ had and gave up, but it is a res rapienda, a possibility of advancement which he declined." -The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians : An Introduction and Commentary, pp97,98.
We can see that Metzger has not informed his readers fully enough so that such comments as by Martin regarding harpagmos "It is questionable, however, whether the sense of the verb can glide from its real meaning of 'to seize', 'to snatch violently' to that of 'to hold fast'" is admitted.Saying this Martin rejects that interpretation by Lightfoot that "the pre-incarnate Son already possessed equality with the Father and resolved not to cling to it." In saying this Martin, who is himself a trinitarian disagrees with Metger and his preferred translation of Way and Phillips! He also disagrees with those words quoted by Metzger from Thayers lexicon which interprets harpagmos in a passive sense "cling to"(which were actually the words of the Lutheran Grimm not the English editor Thayer whose additions are off set by square brackets. Grimm obviously favours that harpagmos in Phil. is passive. However, note what another lexicon says on this: "harpagmos 1. prop.,acc. to the rule of its formation...actively, the act of seizing, robbery. 2. Passively...a thing seized, hence, a prize: Phl, l.c., RV...The lexical data favour the active meaning, but as they also admit the possibilty of the alternative, most modern expositors have accepted the latter[passive]as seeming to suit the logic of the passage better. The lexical difficulty, however, remains, ... As to the usage of St Paul he seems inclined to adopt the -ma[passive,stative] form where it is appropriate...and there is certainly a presumption in favour of the active meaning here from the fact that he does not use the LXX harpagma..."-Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, Abbott-Smith,3rd ed.p.60) Again, Martin rejects the view that "He[the Son]had no need to grasp at divine equality because He already possessed it as the eternal Son of God" because such a view "hardly does justice to the structure of the whole sentence as well as to the force of 'highly exalted' in verse 9." These comments alone shows that the NWT translation of harpagmos is not 'twisted' in any way as if it is illetgitimate. Notice how Martin brings in verse 9 in how might we understand/interpret verse 6. More will be said about this, that is context, later. Martin also cites Kennedy's interpretation as one which "see as the background here the Genesis story and the temptation presented to Adam 'to be as God' (Gn. iii- 5) draw the parallel between the first and the second or last Adam. The former senselessly sought to grasp at equality with God, and through pride and disobedience lost the glorious image of his Maker; the latter chose to tread the pathway of lowly obedience in order to be exalted by God as Lord (verses 9, 10), i.e. to be placed on an equality which He did not have previously, because it is only by 'the suffering of death' that He is 'crowned with glory and honour' (Heb.ii. 9)." An "equality he did not have previously"? Could that be said of one who was God before he came to earth? And does verses 9 and 10 say that he was made 'equal' to the Father, God? Finally,Martin asks the questions whether " it means that Christ enjoyed equality with God but surrendered it by becoming man, or that He could have grasped at equality with God by self-assertion, but declined to do so and embraced rather the will of God."(italicis supplied.)
So, has the New World Translation given Phillipians 2:6 a "characteristic twist" as Metzger alleges?
Metzger is not clear what he means by a "characteristic twist" but this description probably infers that the translation by the NWTTC has offered a 'theologically conditioned' rendition. That is, the theology("unitarianism"?) of the NWTTC overode sound translation principles. That Paul's words were "made to agree" with the translator's beliefs about Jesus and not translated in the way Paul meant to be understood. A 'forced' translation. Specifically his accusation is in how the NWTTC translated the Greek word "harpagmos" as " a siezure." But is this charge correct? Metzger quotes from two translations and a lexicon that agrees with his(a trinitarian's) understanding of this very important word(and passage.) We have already seen that Martin, above quoted, shows that such a translation is quite legitimate and there are of course translations that agree with the New World Translation. Some of which are, together with their renditions:
"Your attitude must be that of Christ: Though he was in the form of God, he did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at[harpagmos]."
Have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he possessed the nature of God, he did not grasp at[harpagmos] equality with God."
"The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had. He always had the very nature of God. Yet he did not think that by force[harpagmos] he should try to become equal with God."
"Let this disposition be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, though being in God's form, did not meditate a usurpation[harpagmos] to be like God."
Notice the translation of "harpagmos" as "grasped at," "by force" and " a usurpation." This is quite the opposite of those translations quoted by Metzger that has Paul saying that Jesus did not "cling to" an equality with God. As if he had an "equality" but unselfishly laid it a side to become instead "in the form[morphe]of a slave[doulos]."-v.7. A recent translation that Metzger would undoubtedly prefer is that by The Contemporary English Version(1995)which reads here: "Christ was truly God. But he did not try to remain° equal with God." The word "remain" has a note which reads "remain:Or "become." So here the translators recognise that the word they rendered "remain," "harpagmos" can mean instead "become" so that their rendering could just as accurately read "..But he did not try to become equal to God." Are the translators of the CEV offering a "characteristic twist" in their note which supplies their readers with an alternative rendition which says not that Jesus had an equality with God but that he was not God's "equal" because he did not consider to try to become God's equal.
What can be said about this word "harpagmos." First of all it occurs only here in the Greek of the N.T.
Yet before we look
at this word we would do well to consider the preceeding verse
so as to see what thoughts were being put forward by the writer
Paul. Verse 5 says: "Let this mind be in you which
was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did
not consider it robbery to be equal to God."-KJV.
According to how this old English translation reads it would be proper for Christians to think that being God's equal would not be "robbery" for them! Is Paul saying that Christians should be of the same mind as Christ in that like Him they too were equal with God? Of course not as that would be considered blasphemous. So going back to those translations quoted by Metzger and those who agree with the NWT. J.B.Phillips says in both verses: "Let Christ Jesus be your example as to what your attitude should be. For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his perogatives as God's equal...(1960 ed. His 1972 revised version reads:"Let your attitude to life be that of Christ Jesus himself. For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his priveleges as God's equal.) But as has been shown other translations say something different in verse 6, "Have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he possessed the nature of God, he did not grasp at[harpagmos] equality with God."(An American Translation-Goodspeed.) What Paul was asking his fellow believers to do was have the same 'mind' as Christ and imitate his example. The question is in what way were mortal fleshly Christians "equal" to God? They were not. But they could be like their earthly Father Adam. Was Paul saying that Christians should not imitate Adam, made in God's image, in the way he sought to become 'equal to God'(see Genesis 3:4,5,22-24)? Remember that Philippians 2 5-10 was poetic.So many commentators see that Paul was drawing upon what Adam did, trying to be 'like God', hence trying to become God's 'equal' and contrasting his example with that of the second or "last" Adam(1 Corinthians 15:45) who although he too was in God's "form"(Gk: morphe-we will look at this word further along in this discussion)did not try to be "equal" of God but instead humbled himself and became a "slave." If this is so then a translation of verse 6 in Philippians 2 as that found in the NWT, NAB, AT and others would better fit Paul's words in verse 5. Professor Jason BeDuhn when asked what the import of verse 6 was, replied: "On Philippians 2:6,HARPAGMOS means "snatching at," reaching out to grasp something. This poem is about Jesus as the New Adam. He doesn't make the mistake of the first Adam who, being made in the form of God, snatched at equality with God by eating the forbidden fruit, which would make him "like God." Instead, Jesus takes the path of humiltiy and obedience." (Compare Ralph Martin The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians:An Introduction and Commentary,Tyndale Press,1959,p.98,99 where we can read "The association of thought is the Old Testament, and there is an implied contrast between the two Adams. Less probably it has been proposed that the temptation and fall of Satan(see Isaiah xiv)as interpreted by later Jewish writers is the clue to the passage...)Hence, in conclusion to this section we could rightly say that a close consideration of verse 5 would tend to support a translation of verse 6 as saying that Christ Jesus was not "equal" to God nor did he attempt "a snatching" at an equality." A translation that says that Christ Jesus did not "cling to" an equality with God would make it difficult to see Paul's point in verse 5.
At this point and in keeping with Philippians 2:5 for the moment, we must examine this word "morphe" translated as "form." What did it mean for Jesus to be "existing in God's form"? Does this use of the word mean that Jesus must have been God and so necessarily be God's equal? Some will say that this means that Jesus had the same "rank" or "essence" of being God.
How is this word
Job 4:16 LXX: "I arose and percieved it not: I looked, and there was no form[morphe]before my eyes: but I only heard a breath and a voice." Isaiah 44:13 LXX: "The artificer having chosen a piece of wood, marks it out with a rule, and fits it with glue, and makes it as the form[morphe in the accusative]of a man." Daniel 5:6,9,10; 7:28LXX: "Then the kings countenance[morphe]was changed...And king Baltasar was troubled, and his countenance[morphe]changed upon him...O King, live forever: let not thy thoughts trouble thee, and let not thy countenance[morphe]be changed...As for me Daniel, my thoughts greatly troubled me, and my countenance[morphe]was changed." Mark 9:2 "Accordingly six days later Jesus took Peter and James and John along, and brought them up into a lofty mountain to themselves alone, and he was transfigured[metemorphothe from metamorphoo "to change the external form"; The Analytical Greek Lexicon, p.266. morphote from morphoo from which comes morphe] before them." So Barclay reads at Mark 9:2 "His appearance changed." -compare An American Translation, Rotherham.
The above lexicon quoted defines "morphe" as "morhpe...form Mar. 16:22: Phil.2:6,7...morphoo...to give shape to, to mould, fashion,Gal.4:19"-p.273. Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich- "mophe...form, outward appearence, shape generally, of bodily form...Of the pre-existent Christ...although he was in the form of God."-p.530.
From the above uses by the LXX translators and the two definitions supplied to us by these respected lexicons we can readily see that "morphe" has to do with the outward appearance or how the outward appearance reflects the inward feelings and emotions by the aspect of the face.
Jesus was undoubtedly in 'spirit form' before he became a fleshly man on earth. By being a spirit as God is a spirit Jesus must have been, just as could be said of the other spirits, the angels, in His "form." They all having a spiritual life. So is this part of Philippians showing that as The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology says on this very subject: "But Jesus Christ does not usurp the place of God. His oneness with the Father does not mean absolute identity of being. Although the Son of God in his pre-existent being was in "the form of God," he resisted the temptation to be equal with God."-Vol.2, p.80.
So even though Jesus was in the form of God this did not mean he was "in essence" God and yet instead of seeking an equality with God he instead left the glory he had as a spirit son and came in the "form" of a man, a human servant of God(not just "in essence" a man)and in doing so put himself in the position of being able to sacrifice this life and buy back life for all of mankind.
We now have to
look at the word Harpagmos more closely. No doubt you noticed
BeDuhn's comment that this word means "snatching at, a
reaching out to grasp something."
Yet Metzger in his criticism of the NWT prefers those who have tranlsated as if this word means to "cling to." These translations give the thought that Jesus rather then keep an equality with God let go of this and humbled himself. Whilst those like the NWT, NAB and the AT say that the "snatching at" something, here an equality with God, was something he did not have but he did exactly the opposite, humbling himself.
Following is a list of words where harpazo from whence harpagmos is derived to gain the correct idea.
"It was in the days of John the Baptizer that a situation first arose-a situation that still exists-in which the kingdom of heaven is stormed, and in which those who are eager to storm their way into it clutch at[harpazo] it."-Matthew 11:12 Barclay
"Or, how can anyone get into a giant's house and carry off[harpazo]his goods, unless he first binds the giant?"-Matthew 12:29 C.B.Williams
All these occurnces of harpazo from Matthew through to Revelation is according to that listed in the Concordance to the Greek Testament by Moulton, Geden and Moulton, 5th edition, 1978, pp107,108.
What is the common element in all these
occurences of harpazo? Not once is harpazo used in the sense of
retaining something but always in a way of a change, in an
attempt at gaining something not already possessed. Is the form
of the word used at Philippians, harpagmos, used with a
different significance? The Expositor's Greek Testament
makes this comment relative to the question:
"We cannot find any passage where harpazo or any of it's derivatives has the sense of 'holding in possession', 'retaining'. It seems invariably to mean 'seize,' 'snatch violently'. Thus it is not permissible to glide from the true sense 'grasp at' into one which is totally different, 'hold fast'.
The Interpreter's Bible on this subject
"Since he [the Son] had this affinity with God, he might have aspired to 'equality' with him; he might have claimed an equal share in all the powers which God exercises and in all the honors which are rendered to him by his creatures. Standing so near to God, he might have resented his inferior place and thrown off his obedience...Yet he never attempted the robbery which might have raised him higher...But the Greek, and in English, the word 'robbery' involved the idea of violent seizure, and what Christ resisted was not merely the prize but the means of obtaining it. He refused to seize for his own the glory which belonged to God."
I would like to quote Furuli at this point:
""When a noun with ending -mos was
made from a verb, it became a verbal noun entailing the activity
of the verb. Thus, harpagmos would mean "the act of
snatching," from harpazo("to snatch"). Foerster
gives this as the only meaning of harpagmos in pre-Christian
writings. (W.Foerster, "harpagmos,"Theological
Dictionary of the New Testament,pp.473-474.) However, he also
tells us that, in time, the meaning of the word changed somewhat,
taking on a meaning similar to the related word harpagma, meaning
"what is seized," that is, plunder or booty. This
passive or stative meaning, however, is late. The aforementioned
source cites the Homilies of the Church Father Chrysostom, from
the fourth century CE, as evidnence. And he may, of course, have
been influenced by immature trinitarian thoughts of his day.
"The material which suggests a meaning other than "snatching" is sparse, and modern authorities are divided.[R.P.] Martin(Carmen Christi: Philippians 2:5-11 in Recent Interpretations and in the Setting of Early Christian Worship. Revised edition 1983 p.134)wrote that the sense "robbery" is "next to impossible" in the Philippian context. Many scholars, however, prefer the passive interpretation of a "thing seized," but from the view of lexical semantics, there was a clear preference for the meaning "a snatching" in the first century CE; according to Collange(The Epistle of Saint Paul to the Philippians 2:5-11,1979,p99.)"plunder,booty" is an "exceptional interpretation." " -The Role of Theology and Bias in Bible Translation, p263, 264.
The literal reading of Philippians 2:6 is:
"who in the form of-God existing not snatching[harpagmon] he-considered[aorist of hegomai] the to-be equal[to einai isa]to God."
Furuli examines the sentence structure
of the above in his discussion of this verse. He points out that
here we have contained a double accusative. Both harpagmon
"snatching" and to einai isa[theo]
"to be equal with[God]" are in the accusative case. One
is the object the other the complement. But the question is: Is
"to be equal with God" object and "snatching"
complement or do we have here an object "snatching" and
where "to be equal with God" is in appostion to the
object? So what did Jesus not consider? If the object was "to
be equal with God" and "snatching" is the
complement then we might translate as though he had this equality
with God and this having it was not "snatching." Or, if
the object that Jesus was not considering was the "snatching"
and "to be equal with God" is an explanation of what it
was(in apposition) he did not consider to "snatch at"
then we could translate in a way that shows that Jesus did not
think to "snatch at" an equality with God.That he did
not try to become equal with God.
Furuli next points out that where we find an equivalent construction(with hegomai-"consider"), a double accusative, "the thought is always to consider something/someone to be something, and never to consider something and then add an apposition[as an explanation]as an equivalent to what is considered."-p.269
This would support those translations that say that Jesus 'did not consider to be equal with God a snatching' as against the NWT's saying that Jesus 'did not consider to snatch at an equality with God'.
However, what if the word harpagmos is in the active rather than the passive sense? This would mean that this double accusative is different from those where hegomai is stative. The above examination of this word and it's derivatives strongly gives the case that harpagmos is to be taken in the active rather than the passive sense.This would mean that rather than just mean "to think" or "to regard" "hegomai" would be, here, "to make plans for, "contemplate" or "deliberate." So that Jesus did not just "consider" in the sense to not to 'think' or not to 'believe' but not to "make plans for" or did not "contemplate" a "snatching." This would then favour the object of Jesus' "considering" the "snatching" as we find in the NWT and others like the translation by Arthur E. Overbury; "...though being in the image and likeness of God, did not contemplate trying to usurp the perogatives of God."
Next to consider is context. When there are more than one viable way to translate a passage grammatically then context has to be considered. In verse 9 we have the word "charizomai" which has the meaning "to grant a favour" to "grant graciously." So that while the New International Version simply says that after or because Jesus "became obedient to death-even death on a cross"(verse 8), God "therefore... gave[charizomai]him[the Son]the name that is above every name," it would have been preferrable to say that God "kindly gave" NWT or "graciously gave" ("freely gave him"-F.Fenton. See Kingdom Interlinear reading.)this name to him, which brings out the meaning contained in this word Paul choose to use. Also, Jesus was "highly exalted." It is God who "highly exalted" Jesus and it is God who "freely gave" Jesus this name above all others. Notice too that this was done 'because of' (being what the NIV use of the word "therefore" rightly demonstrates is the case here.Lit.,"through-which also")Jesus' being obedient to death. It was what Jesus, by being faithful, accomplished whilst on the earth as a man that he was thus exalted and given a name above all others. (Regarding the "name" that was given Jesus. A.T.Robertson said: "What name is that? Apparently and naturally the name Jesus, which is given in verse 10."-Word Pictures in the New Testament.) Not 'because of' being God himself. God is surely the being who as the superior can confer, bestow on his subjects out of "grace," favours and authority. This evidently being so, it can hardly be different here with Jesus and shows that Jesus is not God's equal or even the second person of a co-equal trinity of persons. Quite the opposite. Looking at verse 10 we see this again. This giving of the name to and highly exalting of Jesus is not to the glory of Father, Son and Holy spirit but to "God the Father." Only the Father is said to be God in this passage.
Furuli concludes his analysis of this disputed passage in regard to the New World Translation of Philippians 2:6 "we must conclude that it is based on sound linguistic evidence and cannot be viewed as biased. We have seen that the linguistic evidence is not decisive, so theology[looking at verses 8-10 and what the rest of the Bible says]must play an important role in the translators' choice, and the NWT translators have evidently used their theology in a legitimate way."-p.275
The criticism made by Metzger can itself be dismissed as a shallow biased criticism that did nothing to analyse all the important factors involved in translating this passage. It was another criticism of the NWT that was read by many as if it proved the contentions of it's author. It did not and has no doubt been the cause of more misinformation to those interested in getting a view of the New World Translation. The above goes some way to proving that the NWT at Philippians 2:6 has not been given a "characteristic twist" as if sound translation principles have been overode by the translator's theological beliefs.
Of course over the years the WTB&TS has made comments on Philippians 2:6 in its pages of The Watchtower magazine. One such was that which appeared in a Watchtower which was a "Question From Readers" article. Basically it only brings attention to it's readers other translations that have rendering similiar to the NWT rendering
"[Question] I have
been told that the New World Translation breaks rules of grammar
when it translates Philippians 2:5,6: Keep this mental attitude
in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he was
existing in God'sform, gave no consideration to a seizure,
namely, that he should be equal to God. A clergyman in Alaska
told me this is mistranslated to hide the teaching of the trinity.
Does the New World Translation break rules of grammar in order to
his way, which indicates that, as a spirit creature in heaven,
before coming to earth and living as a man, Christ Jesus was not
equal to Jehovah God?
"The rendering of Philippians 2:5, 6 found in the New World Translation does not violate any rules of grammar, and furthermore the rendering is in harmony with the teaching of the rest of the Scriptures that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and not God himself, not God Almighty. That Jesus Christ before his coming to earth did not possess equality with God we can prove by other translations of the Scriptures. For instance, the Revised Standard Version published in 1952 reads: "Have this mind among yourselves, which you have in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped." The Emphatic Diaglott by Benjamin Wilson published about a hundred years ago reads: "Let this disposition be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, though being in God' s form, yet did not meditate a usurpation to be like God. An American Translation published by Smith and Goodspeed reads: "Have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he possessed the nature of God, he did not grasp at equality with God." The New Testament in an Improved Version upon the basis of Archbishop Newcome's new translation published in 1808 reads: "For let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus also: who, being in the form of God, did not eagerly grasp at the resemblance to God." The Emphasised Bible by J. Rotherham reads: "The same thing esteem in yourselves which also in Christ Jesus ye esteem, who in form of God subsisting, not a thing to be seized accounted the being equal with God." The Riverside New Testament translated by William G. Ballantine, D.D., reads: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not think that equality with God was some thing to be grasped." Note that none of these translations that are here quoted says that Jesus possessed equality with God in heaven before becoming a man. He did not imitate the Devil's example, who tried to make himself like God, to be equal with God. Other modern translations can be found to support the foregoing presentation. The trouble with those translations that try to make it appear that Jesus possessed equality with God in heaven before becoming a man is that they insert the small pronoun "it" into their English translations, such as the King James Version: " Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God." The pronoun "it" is not in the original Greek."
The Watchtower of 1971 pp.355, 356 also has this very interesting article concerning a catholic French version:
"Palm-Sunday Dispute in France Palm "CHRIST
is God and not an image." The amplified voice echoed around
the Gothic arches of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, covering
momentarily the reading of the Epistle. Some two thousand
Catholics present had barely recovered from their surprise when
they heard the Apostles Creed being sung in Latin. This protest
singing was quickly drowned out by the mighty organ. At that the
demonstrators left and the Mass continued. Similar demonstrations
occurred in other churches in Paris at Masses celebrated during
that weekend of Palm Sunday, April 4, 1971. The demonstrators
were not Protestants or atheists but traditionalist Catholics!
But why the protest? It involved the reading of the Epistle in
the vernacular, in French. As any practicing Catholic knows, the
Epistle read during Mass on Palm Sunday is Philippians 2:5-11. In
the 1959 French lectionary Philippians 2:6 read: "Being of
divine status, Christ did not greedily hold on to the rank that
made him equal to God" But in 1969, the French-speaking
bishops authorized the publishing of a new lectionary that was
approved by the Holy See in Rome on September 16, 1969. In this
Philippians 2:6 was rendered: "Christ Jesus is God's image;
but he did not choose to seize by force equality with God.
"One noted French Catholic scholar, Andre Feuillet, wrote: "This version . . . stirred up sharp criticism on all sides. Was it not liable to make the faithful believe that Christ is not God in the strictest sense of the word? " (Esprit et Vie, December 17, 1970) Ah, there was the problem!
"Pressure was brought to bear on the French hierarchy, who consented to revise this second translation of Philippians 2:6. However, when it became known that this third translation of Philippians 2:6 was no more trinitarian than the second rendering and that it would be read out in all the churches on Palm Sunday, April 4, 1971, traditionalist Catholics reacted violently.
"The Catholic monthly magazine Itine'raires brought out a special supplement dated January 1971. Referring to the second translation of Philippians 2:6, Itine'raires stated: "If he [Christ] refused to seize it [equality with God], it must be that he did not already possess it." And, commenting on the third rendering, this magazine said that if Christ "did not choose to claim to be the same as God," this implies that he was not "the same as God. With this the New American Bible, a Catholic edition of 1970, agrees, saying: "He did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at." In Itine'raires view, "the practical effect of this substitution amounts to heresy and blasphemy." It encouraged its readers to demonstrate their disapproval during Masses celebrated on Palm Sunday, inviting them to await the "Epistle" reading and then to cry out "Blasphemy!", "Jesus Christ very God and very man," or to sing the Apostles' Creed.
"In spite of these threats, the French episcopate stood by their third translation of Philippians 2:6. Le Monde (March 21-22, 1971) commented: "This translation . . . was accepted by the entire body of French-speaking bishops. The Permanent Council of the French Episcopate, that has just met in Paris, has ratified it; so it will stand." However, to avoid disturbances during the Palm-Sunday Mass, several bishops allowed priests in their dioceses to use the 1959 translation. Notwithstanding this concession, demonstrations occurred in cathedrals in Paris and also in Lyons.
"Oddly enough, these traditionalist demonstrators were trying to be better Catholics than the French-speaking bishops and cardinals! As good Catholics they believe in the Trinity doctrine, which teaches that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are equal within the Godhead. They were profoundly shocked by a hierarchy-approved translation of Philippians 2:6 that shows Christ never claimed to be "the same as God." They were right in saying that this translation denies that Christ is God. But the point they overlook is that Christ himself denied it, speaking of his Father as "the only true God." (John 17:3, Douay He did not teach a Trinity doctrine.
"The intriguing question is: Why did the French-speaking upper clergy feel obliged to authorize a translation that so obviously denies one of the basic doctrines of Catholicism? But that is not all. Is it not passing strange that these prelates considered it necessary to have a fresh translation made of this passage? What about all the Catholic Bibles duly carrying the nihil obstat and the imprimatur? What about the Jerusalem Bible, the Crampon Bible, the Lienart Bible, the Maredsous Bible, the Glaire Bible, the Osty New Testament, the Saci Bible and still others, all officially recognized French Catholic translations? Why make a new translation when all of these Bibles make this passage read as if Christ were equal to God, as do the English Catholic translations, the Douay Bible and the more recent Jerusalem Bible?
"This mystery is cleared up by the following remark printed in Le Monde (April 6, 1971): "The scholars responsible for this change- a change ratified by the majority of the French bishops- consider the new translation more faithful to the Greek text than the former one was [italics ours]. So now the French-speaking Catholic cardinals, archbishops and bishops find themselves on the horns of a dilemma. Either they recant, withdrawing their new translation of Philippians 2:6, in which case they will show themselves to be more attached to the Trinity doctrine than to accuracy of Bible translation, or they maintain their new official translation of this important passage, at the cost of admitting that French Catholic Bibles (not to speak of those in other languages) have mistranslated this scripture by giving it a trinitarian twist."
So have the NWT translator's given Philippians 2:6 a "characteristic twist" or have have some of trinitarian persuasion given it a "twist" themselves?
(We highly recommend a reading of Furuli here which can be found on pages 262 - 275 of his book The Role of Theology and Bias in Bible Translation: With a Special Look at the New World Translation of Jehovah's Witnesses, 1999, Elihu Books, Huntington Beach. Ca.)
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